Conversation. What is it? A Mystery! It’s the art of never seeming bored, of touching everything with interest, of pleasing with trifles, of being fascinating with nothing at all. How do we define this lively darting about with words, of hitting them back and forth, this sort of brief smile of ideas which should be conversation?
There’s a gorgeous tracking shot in The Wrestler where Robin Ramzinski, decked out in his apron, hairnet, and name tag bearing his despised real name, walks through the back confines of the supermarket where he works, on his way to the deli counter. The audio underlying the scene is what drives it; the hubbub of employee chit chat, loading dock machinery, and his own steady breathing are slowly superseded by the roar of the crowd. He pauses at the plastic curtain and waits – shrouded in silhouette, swaying side to side – as though at any moment, some sonorous announcer will shout his name . . . “Randy . . . The RAM . . . Robinson!” . . . and the fans will erupt, pumping their fists to Quiet Riot’s “Bang Your Head”, screaming praise for their legendary hero.
Then he opens the curtain and silence slams down like the proverbial ton of bricks, heavy and imposing.
He makes the best of his deli gig, but in the end, nothing can match the roar. His world revolves around the square circle. It’s all he knows. And all he needs.
I’ve never been a one-trick pony. Oh, sure, there have been things that I’ve really enjoyed doing. Things I dreamed of doing as a child. And I’ve experienced the breathtaking pleasures that come with seeing small glimmerings of those dreams leak in to reality as an adult.
I used to spend hours spinning 45’s, cueing up cassettes, and segueing between them with light-hearted and formulaic banter. I wanted to be Casey Kasem. I penned imaginary “long distant dedications” and counted down my own American Top 40 with mix tapes recorded off the local pop station.
Years later, I became a morning show host at a southern gospel radio station; 1000 watts of static on the AM band. But we had listeners. I felt honored to be a part of their lives. And they were loyal. One day, the general manager and I were in an office complex downtown to visit a potential advertiser. We stepped in to the express elevator, bantering away about this or that, and another passenger recognized our voices. We did the smile thing, shook hands, and went on our way.
For my part, the smile was genuine, and I wore it for the remainder of the day.
During my tenure in radio I hosted a television program on public access, emceed several concerts, and did remote broadcasts at local businesses. The crowd knew me. Knew about me. And like The Ram, I did what I did for them as much as I did it for me.
But radio was a blip on the radar of my professional life and, against my will, played itself out. So I moved on. Fortunately, I have a “bloom where you’re planted” kind of personality; whether it was during my years as a CNA in nursing homes, working with the developmentally disabled in group homes or day programs, or manufacturing circuit boards in a noisy factory, I’ve adapted, excelled, and found a modicum of happiness.
And now I blog. Which brings me more than happiness. In blogging, I’ve rediscovered joy.
The Cheek of God is one year old this weekend. And if I had a nickel for everything I’ve done for a whole year that was good for me, I’d have enough money to maybe buy a cup of coffee. The cheap kind.
What makes this blogging thing so good? So fun? Several things:
1) I enjoy writing. Prior to blogging, I wrote when I had to: a short story here and there for a class; a paper or two. Or maybe, when I worked up the energy, I wrote when I needed to: the occasional email to a friend; some scribblings in a journal. Blogging has given me the opportunity to write regularly. Because I want to. When I want to get something off my chest, I blog about it. When my kids do something cool, I blog about it. When I just want to scream, I take a deep breath . . . and then blog about it. Some of it’s good. Some of it . . . not so. I’m working on it . . .
2) I love a good conversation. Guy de Maupassant, in the quote at the top of this post, likens a conversation to a “brief smile of ideas.” I like the imagery that invokes, for conversation isn’t always about heavy things that lead to sermons or division. Blogging is a moment in time, a thought balloon, released into the wild and left to wander, drawing its sustenance from those who notice it and feed it. Where it ends up is a mystery, but the journey’s the thing, right?
3) You. I didn’t know you before I started blogging. Well, I knew you, with whom I share blood and back-story. But you, and you, and you, and you, and you, and you, and you, and too many others to mention? Tweakers new and old? Nope. And now here you are, swimming in my pool, drinking my coffee, bumming cigarettes, peeking over my shoulder . . . inspiring me. For too long, my life lacked good friends, the kinds of friends who’ll challenge me, put up with me, and be there when I need them. You (yes, YOU!) . . . ROCK! You cheer for me, pump your fists in the air as I enter the arena, and scream my name . . . oh wait. That’s the movie. That part at the end? Where he addresses the crowd? I’m down with that sentiment as well.
So I’m celebrating you this weekend. Celebrating you who allow me to be me and still come to visit. You deserve a little something . . .
So pick a number. Any number from 1 and 100. Now leave your number in a comment. This contest is open to anyone who visits my blog between now and 5:00 PM Eastern Time on Thursday, March 5th, 2009. It doesn’t matter if you’re an old-school Tweaker, an occasional visitor, or a lurker waiting for the water to get warm. Jump on in! The water is fine . . .
Here’s how we’ll do it. My oldest daughter picked a number, wrote it down, placed it in an envelope and sealed it . . .
See that smug look? That’s because only she knows the number. I don’t know this number. I tried to tickle it out of her, but she’s got some thick skin. And she has vowed to protect the envelope and its contents until the aforementioned date and time, when it will be opened and a winner announced.
Up for grabs is a copy of my favorite novel, Yann Martel’s Life of Pi. But not just any old copy. I’m giving away the magnificent “coffee-table” version featuring illustrations by Tomislav Torjanac. Here’s just one of the many beautiful images from the book, courtesy of Torjanac’s website . . .
Yeah, he’s good. And so is the novel. Igjugarjuk, an Inuit philosopher, once said that “privation and suffering are the only things that can open the mind of man to those things which are hidden from others.” Such is the case with the protagonist Pi Patel in this most philosophical of novels. I fell in love with philosophy after reading this novel, particularly philosophy of religion. But don’t let all that scare you . . . it is a gripping tale of survival and hope in the face of disastrous circumstances. Quite readable. And you’re smart, so you can handle it. But I warn you . . . after reading it, you may never get on a boat again. Or visit the zoo. Especially the tiger exhibit . . .
It is from this novel that The Cheek of God got its name. This book means that much to me. And I want you to have a copy. Even if you’ve read it before, you’ll love this edition. I wish I could give you all a copy. I really do. We could get together and talk about it for hours and hours. Maybe the winner and I will start a book club. That would be cool . . .
And so is the fact that maybe I am a bit of a one-trick pony. Everything I do comes down to this blog thing. It’s an outlet. A way to be that pleases me. It isn’t always glamorous. Or easy. You’ve seen me in good times and bad, and I bear these bruises for all to see. But like The Ram, I’ll keep doing it until you tell me to stop . . .