Friday, April 28, 2006

Keeping the Aspidistra Flying

Said Bukowski, "The first thing writing must do is save your own ass."

I think this is the chief reason I keep this blog.

At 35, I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up. Well, that's not true. I do know what I want to be -- I've always known -- but, as with most things, I don't know how. On bad days I don't even know if I can.

That's become a writer.

It's harder than it sounds. It means much more than typing words on the Internet for a largely anonymous and indifferent audience. Still, that's a start. But only a start.

Lately I've given it a lot of thought, and as I grow older it only becomes clearer Bukowski was right. I need writing to save my ass.

Save it from the mundanity, the insanity, the futility of modern life. From Peggy Lee hollowly crooning in my ear, "Is that all there is?"

I have to get the words out. The one shot at happiness I have is to become a writer. If I do not do this, I stand no chance. Working is crap. Relationships are crap. Not having relationships is crap. Politics is crap. So much of what almost everyone around me thinks is important is crap. Lost in Walker Percy's cosmos, I need writing to help me out of the crap, to change from a non-suicide into an ex-suicide. I need it to save my ass.

I have the requisite pathologies: the tortured soul, the broken heart, the love affair with alcohol. Maybe what's missing is the gang of misfit friends; fellow outsiders, co-conspirators in the act of sabotage that is writing.

Around these parts, it probably wouldn't be too hard to rectify the latter inadequacy. But this is one of those paradoxical challenges. Tired of stultifying respectability, I'm nevertheless too afraid, too repelled, too middle-class to be truly bohemian. Yet I know deep down I can't be a suburban cube dweller my whole life. It will murder me. It is murdering me.

It's writing or nothing. From now on, I'm subordinating everything else about me to this goal of becoming a writer. And maybe someday, if I'm lucky, I can grow the balls to do what my friend Alan did: chuck it all and move down to New Orleans, muse to the nation's most malnourished souls.

Some days I don't know that I belong anywhere else. Sometimes even home doesn't feel much like home.

And all I can do is keep writing. My ass depends on it.