Thursday, August 25, 2011

Been Feeling Lethargic As A Writer

I do realize it happens, but I have been in the midst of a very big not-writing-much spell. This has traditionally not been a good thing for me, because all this time later writing remains the thing I feel I do best, and when I am able to communicate my thoughts through it the experience is always a bit cleansing.

What has been the holdup? Well, I have been burning a fair amount of my creative calories on the band, Bottle Cap Manifesto. Which has not been in vain by any means, as I am having a total blast, and we are rocking. I've also gotten to be more or less a fiend on the electric guitar. Which has been gratifying, and a dream come true.

Nonetheless, I remain a bit un-moored by not writing. It feels like, I don't know how to explain it, a bit like I don't fully exist when I'm not writing on a regular basis. I have these impulses and thoughts and signals that I want to communicate to the rest of the world, even if it just to know that I make noise, breathe and you hear all this.

So, here I am.

I have also been a bit blocked on a larger project I've been at work at for some time. And that is, somehow, trying to wrestle a book from my experiences being a dad. Of course this would also include the pre-dad period too. If you have been a longtime reader of this blog, in other words if I am somehow directly related to you, you will have read or heard some, if not many, of these stories before. But I have felt that there is a story there.

I am just not sure what yet.

It seems, almost, like there are too many stories there. Some of them are quite long and detailed, and kind of their own thing.

A lot happened in the past three years, almost too much: birth of a new child (obviously), moving, losing a longtime job, trying to find an apartment for three months, the emergence of the child into our lives coupled with what can only be described as post-partum depression that first hit one partner in the marriage and then hit the other, counseling, bedbugs (don't worry we don't have them now), getting bedbugs again, getting them a third time, having a neighbor upstairs in our "Russian" apartment who would drop hammers on his floors all night long, a child who can't sleep, a child who can't stay swaddled, a child who we love.

I don't know what the through line is, other than we survived.

Some time ago my former managing editor at Forbes, Dennis Kneale, had a luncheon with the reporters, wherein he ripped a story apart. It was very instructive. I believe in that luncheon he said that if you can't describe your story with the headline and the dek (aka the subhead) you don't really have a story. (If Dennis did not say this it was Stewart Pinkerton. In either case it was wise and 100% true.) In other words if you don't immediately know what your story is about you really don't have it yet. The point of a story should be clear, and not leave people wondering what it is you are actually talking about.

So that is where I am at now. I have a lot of material, I think, some of it quite mortifying, and I have about 120 pages of material, but I don't have a theme yet. And without a theme I do not feel I have a compas by which to guide myself. I have, instead, a lot of material. But not a book.

And the thing is I do very much want to write at least one book in this lifetime. A book is real, a book is tangible, a book is substantive, a book is an accomplishment. An article is fine, and a blog is fun, but only a book is a book.

But I don't know if my story is a book. You know?

Maybe there is a book in there, but I am not sure what it is yet.

I guess the first thing I should work on is gettin a title and a subhead, huh? Then, maybe then, it will become clear.

I don't know what compels me, or at least tortures me, about wanting to do a book. It has to be for me, I don't think the world will care too much either way. Not to be too self-deprecating about it. But it's probably not a career move for me. It is a life move. I hope.

Stella is asleep right now and Cromwell the cat just hopped on up past me to land on the writing table. Randi is out getting sushi with a friend. I am reasonably content here, writing this to you, to myself. That's a big reason I keep doing it.

I guess that's it for now. I hope to write you again soon, to feel that much less lethargic!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

How's Stella?

I think she's doing pretty well these days. Stella had a great summer, she played all day in summer camp at the local JCC for most of July, and now is back in school and really loving it.

She's grown so much in just the past few months. This past weekend we put her in a dress that used to go way past her knees. Now it goes above the knees and even looks a bit short on her. All this changed in just the past 2-3 months.

Plus she was out in the sun and playing for pretty much the entire summer. It was the best thing for her. She made good friends, and has become incredibly social and talkative, both in groups and with us. Now, she was always a chatterbox with mom and dad, but her being so outgoing in groups, that's something new.

And, man, she's starting to really crack me up on a personal level. She's gotten very sharp verbally, and has an amazing memory.

Two nights ago we were getting her ready for bed, doing our usual routine of getting her in her nightclothes after her bath. At one point she was standing up, and began to sing "Mama I'm a Big Girl Now" from Hairspray, and she knew about 80% of the words, and was doing this soulfoul little shimmy dance the entire time. It is hard to convey in words just how adorable this is. She also knows just about all the words of "Good Morning Baltimore" and even tries to do the little harmonies that build up in the climax of the song. But here's some cuteness. She calls it "Altimore" instead of Baltimore. And there is a line in the song about "somebody invite me before I drop dead!" Well, Stella sings it, "Somebody invite me before I drop in!" Which is much nicer anyway, right?

What else, well she is for the most party potty trained now. In fact two nights ago we were getting ready for bathtime, and we noticed it was quieter than normal. Typically when she's with us Stella is a dynamo of demands, questions and things she wants to do. ("I really want to watch TV!" has become a constant refrain around here, for example.)

So, quiet is not normal, we looked for her. Well, she had placed her little toddler Dora The Explorer toilet seat on the normal toilet, taken down her "big girl" panties, put her little step stool before the toilet, climbed up and was going to the bathroom. All by herself, without us even being consulted! It was an amazing moment for us, as parents. Better still, no diaper doo-doo to clean up.

It's been a real summer of growing up for the little girl. (I can hear her in my head right now, "I'm a big girl!") She is a total riot, sweet, and so, so funny. She knows she's funny too, and keeps trying to catch us up and make us laugh. One time she made a poopy in her training potty that was rainbow shaped. Then there was another poopy next to it that looked, well, just like poopy. We joked that it was a poopy rainbow with a poopy cloud. Forget it, that did it! She heard that, and now says it all the time, dying laughing!

She also learned the word "butthole" somewhere, I swear, not from me. I of course tell her not to say it. So, she will be on the potty, like yesterday, talking to herself. And yesterday she said something like this: "Poopy is coming from my tushie. Not my butthole." I keep trying to keep her from saying it, but the more I talk about the more she simply repeats that she shouldn't say it. I try not to laugh, but it's hard not to sometimes.

So, that's a lot of information about her pooping, but I swear, it's been a huge part of our lives since she was born. You parents out there will know exactly what I'm talking about.

In other news my cat Talisker has taken to vomiting all over the carpet. He will in fact move from the tiled floor to some carpet to vomit. We change his food, which seems to help at times. And of course he stops vomiting completely before I take him to the vet. I've now taken him twice for this, with no real answers.

Stella, of course, picked right up on it. She might see something on the carpet. "Cat vomit over there." (She still has a slight Brooklyn accent, god knows how. So it sounds like this. "Cat vomit over der.") In other words, she's good with languages?

Enough for tonight.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Golden Age

I have taken to venting my feelings about the world in verse. Below is my take on a William Butler Yeats "Second Coming"-esque work, combined with Bob Dylan. I would like to believe!

by David Serchuk

We've been downgraded
Bow before your master, been prostrated
Its complicated
Traps been baited
The hideouts raided and the
Tie-dies faded
The haters hated
The waiters waited
Bank to the bankers who rate the unrated

So I Testify to the power of gold
Your credit's gone, been oversold
Cling to the rock, salvation found
Arbitrarily valued, ripped from the ground

The 30's are back
Although not exact
Bonnie & Clyde been ransacked
By a Florida stripper
Such a big tipper
Shot down with her brothers, like a bunch of day trippers
The market's cracked
London ransacked
Amy Winehouse faded back to black

So I testify to the power of gold
Arbitrarily valued, arbitrarily sold
So I testify to the power of gold
In Sierra Leone, 10,000 bodies lie cold
Cling to my rock, my salvation found
In a piece of Au, torn from the ground

Ripped from the dirt, in the worst places on Earth
Human life does not hold such worth
Our heritage pulped to mine the land
From the African bush, to Canadian sands
Thousands died to dig it, shines so pretty
Hawked on late night by G. Gordon Liddy

Imperial power
Need to take a shower
You ask for a minute but take an hour
Endless war
Been off-shored
We reserve the right to be bored and ignored
The price we pay
For looking away
Let us pray to the golden god with feet of clay
Its always darkest before the light
But the clock ain't even struck midnight

In a born again nation more lost than found
Clamoring for yellow bits torn from the ground
Stockpiling the ammo, I'll buy the next round
Its a race to the bottom, but we're already down

Jesus saves, as our trades are unwound
The Federal Reserves talks, but there's no sound
Bailed out GM, cars filled with clowns
Juggling their balls, and plenty around
France is going under, raping chamber maids
Two silhouettes on the shades
Egypt is rising, but the U.S. is broke
It's a bull market for downgrade jokes
Taking medicine that don't taste like Coke
What is still working, and what is just broke?
Real Housewives staged, a fantasy soap
Marie Antoinette smiles, so let them eat hope

Don't look behind the curtain, let me repeat
It's only white lobbyists down on K Street
Our democracy is in retreat
Our freedoms gone packing, as we're packing heat
A manifesto of greed, that's what we need
Says the state employee drinking the tea
Let the destruction begin, with all deliberate speed
The river has risen, and we're grasping for weeds
Drowning in debt we were told to acquire
For the life to which we were told to aspire
To be fat and happy, its our divine right
Now the clock has struck 12 midnight

The complaints have been heard, give us a solution
We need a Third American Revolution
Fresh blood to stem this dissolution
We need a Third American Revolution

Let's pay as we go, but remember our brothers
In this together, each one and the other
Knowledge costs, but ignorance ain't cheaper
The bank account's free, but the late fees grow steeper
Midas' kiss, ancient crypt keeper
Something's amiss, I hear the grim reaper

But it's not too late
Dry out this Watergate
It's not too late
Cash this golden gate
But it's not too late