Stewart

The first draft of anything is shit. – Hemingway

Essay Aneurism

It is time I put my two cents in on writing. Not that I am professional, or that my style is polished to such a degree that people have finally stopped saying “It’s coming along, but it’s still shitty”. But because my friend Taylor and I have a seemingly legitimate analogy for essay writing. I have dubbed it the reverse Alzheimers process, because the moment you stare at a prompt, you forget everything you have ever known in relation to the topic. Even if it’s something as elementary as “what color are your eyes?”, you find yourself desperately seeking the nearest mirror to confirm a caution to the wind gut inclination that your eyes might be brown. Even as I write this, the most prominent thought that eeps into my mind is how good the hamburgers that we had eaten were at the time when this discussion came up. Now, because this is for essays, it is only speaking of a timed first draft; arguably the worst piece of writing you will ever produce: Read a prompt about a topic you had never intended to address in your immediate future, develop a strong opinion on the topic, and back it up with evidence, preferably Latin phrases that only scholars remember because they are hidden away in the dark recesses of The Vatican Library. So dive deep into yourself, grab a spoon, and eat up some sophomoric wisdom about the evolution and development of a shitty first draft.

The prompt is set before you. READ CAREFULLY. These are the words that prod at your skull and leave you constantly asking “did I read carefully enough?” You’ve annotated every word for six different meanings, and searched for hidden encryptions in hieroglyphics that circulate around the interior of certain O’s. you’re sweating blood, and you now have solved the mystery of what causes brain aneurism: stupid prompts. NEWS FLASH: All prompts are ridiculously stupid because you are never in the mood. Even if you think you are in the mood, you aren’t. Twenty minutes into any essay and you will realize that. Staring at your paper, wondering whether you’ve wasted too much time already, you will soon forget the prompt, and have to start over. And then the inevitable, “Who am I?”, “Why am I hear?”, “I really need to mellow out and start taking drugs.”

That’s right! Essays are not the anti-drug. But fear not, for I am sober, and always have been relatively so. So at this point, you are lost, stranded, and cannot leave the classroom because it is against the sacred rules of AP. So you start to construct a sentence, putting your head in the guillotine, waiting for the inevitable drop. This piece of paper is a direct representation of your head in that basket. And in the end, it will be graded on a scale of one to nine, and you will most likely never see it again. But still, you write. You are in kindergarten now, as far as mentality goes, and the question is big. Your words are small, and you’ve got large ruled paper so you can make sure that you don’t put an extra swoop in your double-u. the question is about Native Americans, so you draw a little turkey in the corner of the paper, and then some corn stocks in another. At the top of the paper, you write, “What I know about Native Americans”. And just below, you write, “kill me NOW”. You mean it. But soon you catch a point. You’ve graduated to first grade and you’ve got a sentence that summarizes all there is to know about native Americans: “The Native Americans were a big group of alots of people who grew plants and ate stuffing with the mayflower people on thinks giving.”

You are aware that you’ve spelled “thanks” wrong, but you are proud that you’ve made a nearly coherent point. You look at your corn, and draw some feathers and buckle-boots next to it, along with that cute little racoon from Pocahontas. There!!! Pocahantas, John Smith, and the discovery of America. You’ve skipped all the way up to fifth grade, and the friendly Thank-giving that you were probably taught a song about while cutting out hand shaped Turkeys and eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches because you have not yet learned about healthier substitutes such as cashew butter. Either way, you start to write a paragraph.

The pilgrims came to America on a Boat called the Mayflower. There were lots of them, and John Smith was one of them. He was a white man with blonde hair and blue eyes. They came to America. They built a Town and met some Native Americans, and a really pretty one named Pocahantas was among them. She saved him from the chief, and they lived happily ever after. I like the movie Pocahantas.And so it goes.

You are excited to have successfully used the word among, but you still feel like vomiting all over your paper. Hadn’t you spent two weeks back in August discussing Tribal relations with Native Americans, Smallpox, Chief Powhatan? Now things are starting to formulate as you remember the words “Introductory Sentence”. You’re pretty sure it sums up what you plan on saying, and then it’s just three paragraphs after that, and repeat what you said before. So next to your racoon, you draw a fat little king, and a Mayan Pyramid.

The Native Americans lived happily in America and Mexico until a group of sick white people came over on ships from England, fed them a Turkey dinner, and killed them all.You then add:

                 And John smith was one of them.

So it goes.

You are dancing around the sixth and seventh grade, hitting editorial puberty, and becoming distracted by the sexy semi-colon and the allure of the hyphen. You start writing sentences with obscure punctuation, and melodramatic words that are completely unnecessary:

Native Americans: people who danced-around fire!; engulfing life with massogonistic indignancies and libatiously bantering ubiquitous folly…John Smith.

Hey, at least you’re trying.

Finally, ninth grade rears it’s head. Nothing useful historically, but you now know about the three part thesis and CD CM’s. So you construct the following.

The Native Americans were a prosperous people who had religious beliefs, danced a lot, and were killed by white people.They had many religious beliefs. This shows that they were religious people. This also shows that they believed in things. In addition, they did not have church. This shows that they were not Christian. This also shows that they did not believe in Jesus. The Native Americans did not believe in Jesus.You remember the warnings against this kind of writing, and decide that you want to shoot yourself in the head. But you don’t because tenth grade comes around, and you skip it because fuck tenth grade, that’s why. Junior Year! Writing is writing. You have learned some material and your handwriting most likely does not look like chicken scratch. So you construct an elegant sentence with beautiful diction and syntax the likes of which have never been seen. Then you construct your essay and thesis, and finish it with a flourish. But alas, a cursory reading reveals that it is still just a shitty first draft, and you turn it in anyway. Your brain has stabilized, and you go to lunch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 19, 2006 Posted by | essays, humor, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

A Short Story (of a long night on the town)

A Short Story (Of a long night on the town)

He lived inside a big, amber bottle. It had been his home since he’d left his home, and he couldn’t think of a place he’d rather be. Perhaps an upgrade: Napoleon Brandy; an exotic home. And though his tenancy was humble, he still found the small streak of vanity within him to indulge in a tropical cruise through the smooth seas of a fat jug Rum, once in a moonlight eve. But he always remained a faithful tenant to the P’s and Q’s that kindly lorded over him.

Past the bubbles and through the glass he could always spot one man. The man with a cloth in hand. And with that cloth he’d clean the glass that held our friends drink of choice; the hair of the dog that bit him. The man who cleaned the glass was a sprout man of great rotundity who -if not profound- was certainly profane. His favorite phrase to issue forth on the men who chanced to pass: “If what I got don’t make you happy, then you ain’t sad enough to drink.” And those who dared retort, would kindly be told to “fuck off.” And off they would fuck, straight out the swinging doors of a vintage bar in a nineteen-twenties town. Home of dime drinks and penny poker. But let us not forget our friend. On especially saucy occasions, he would order up a glass of whiskey. And it is not so much the drink that is worth noting, but the way in which he orders it. From within the breast pocket of his chaplin attire, he would issue forth a sleek, silver lighter. Flicking the lighter open, he would strike flint against the sole his shoe, stumble about a bit, and swim through the bubbly into his baggy, tattered pocket. Sometimes he would be gone for days on end; according to him. And inside his pocket, he would pass the strangest things, causing the most incredulous reminiscences (did he really have a family somewhere?). It was at times like these when he felt most like Humphrey Bogart; on the case and completely in control of his mental faculties.

Time flies like a man in a mid-life crisis when your searching for your last nickle. He continued to search the crevices until Jefferson reared his four-fatherly figure; almighty… and slightly corroded. This humongous engraving, standing as tall as three drunks and one wine-o, had become the responsibility of our friend, who escorted the author of independence out the way he had come. Time then returned to normal as the light broke through the end of the tunnel, bronzed by the booze the rays were destined to swim through; harassed by the man who feared natural light.

Climbing out of his pocket, he unlaced his shoes, and strapped the nickle to his back, making a valiant attempt to break over the even horizon of a week old pint. And then came the difficult part. The masterpiece chapter omitted from Moby Dick in which our friend sailed the silver-back nickle across the bubbly brine, and heaved his vessel across the threshold of the unknown, onto the counter-top of ignominy, though he preferred to think of it as a bar-top. Then, in his biggest, brashest voice, he would holler to the rotund master of malts, “I’ve returned from a great adventure with a story to tell! Perhaps you will indulge me in a shameless vice so that I may speak freely and in good company!” However, beyond a certain level of inebriation, these words are quite difficult to tie together with quite so much elegance. In which case he would yell, “Whiskey! You’d never understand!” and on the occasions when he did tell the story, the latter statement remained correct.

And so he would dive into the shot glass, and back stroke to his hearts content: the warm liquid pulsing through his stomach. This was a trip to town. A nice change of pace from the country-side kegs and coolers. And being a passive man, he had no need to worry about what the men about town called “angry liquor syndrom.” all he had on his mind was what was in his stomach, and how to accumulate more. But within the town of whiskey, one is never alone. And sometimes, passive is liable to meet aggressive.

Swimming about the tides of bourbon love drifted the body of one mean inebriate, who had traded much of his buoyancy for booze. He was a brawny man with a broken nose; probably worked out in the oil-fields. Who knows? He did, that’s who. And he didn’t like it. And as a result, he drank to what some would call “excess” and would proceed to boil with rage. Why is it that the common disease of alcoholism should afflict the ones most dangerous to be infected by it? The virus seems to create a Parkinson’s effect in the joints of the arms, which is most effective in the large arms of the working man, whose brain has given up on trying to control it’s muscles long ago. Either way, this man came round swinging. But not without reason. For everything has reason, but most reasons would be hard pressed to describe themselves as “good”. Any-who, the reason behind this man’s action, was the song our friend was singing, which happened to be “I’ve grown accustomed to my bourbon”.

As it happens, this bully found that song to be particularly disagreeable. For what reasons? Well, had I sought further inquiry on that subject, I may not be here to tell the story today. Either way, the story ends like this: one man dead, one in prison, and one caught inside a bottle. And now, let the story unravel.

As he was about to delve into his other pocket in the vain hope of finding one last nickle, our friend found himself being dragged under water and in the grasp of a very large antagonist who, by now, we have become familiar with, though we do not know what child-hood experience had led to such bad spirits. Meanwhile, the great round purveyor was clearing out the newcomers and crying out “last call”. Our innocent friend had no idea what offence he had committed, but was determined to get down to the bottom of it so that he could continue uninterrupted his search for yet another elusive dead founding father. None of this concerned the heart of the enraged, and he screamed at the little tramp in his great hand. But all our friend heard was “Wah, wah, wah.” Which was quite a shame because had he heard what the large man said, he could have promised to stop singing, and pointed him in the direction of someone much more offensive and worthy of a good pounding. Instead, he smiled, and offered his hand to make the man’s acquaintance; an ill-fated attempt which took a turn for the worst.

His face was soon contorted into what many would call “mangled” and his glass had fallen onto the floor. From his drunken stupor, the bar had come sharply into focus for the first time in years, and the first thing he came into hard contact with was the floor. Needless to say, he missed his bottle. So he excused himself, and tried to hobble toward the door, but found himself unnecessarily blocked by the mad man’s figure.

The mad man reeled back his fist, and swung forward, sending him back to the floor, and searching earnestly for what he had done wrong. In fact, he had thought about it so hard that he scarcely noticed the thrashing the mean man was giving him until it was interrupted by the bartender and his baseball bat.

Swing.

Punch.

Swing.

Punch.

It was unbelievable, and made the tramp rub at his head. It had been a while since he had seen two people beat on each other so unmercifully. He needed a drink, and did not hesitate to help himself to the stocked and vacant bar. A pint or two would do. And while sipping down on what he considered to be God’s miracle elixir, he noticed an empty beer bottle on the bar top, and he was hit with an epiphany.

He hobbled over to the scene of the dispute, and introduced the bottle to the horrendous Huguenots head, which sent him lumbering to the ground; his body ceasing all movement. The heroic bartender checked the man’s pulse, looked that the tramp, and shook his head hopelessly. At which point the tramp handed the bartender the remains of the bottle, bid him adieu, and walked out the doors, diving into the bottle he had left on the street corner. One dead, one back in a bottle, and a bartender who was soon convicted of manslaughter. A tragedy, really. Our poor inebriate would have to find a new bar until further notice. But for now, let this be a lesson that man must not be aware of simply his own actions, but the actions of those who swing the bigger club, for they will show no mercy. This is a terrible ending that I will change later.

October 2, 2006 Posted by | humor, Shorts, Uncategorized | 21 Comments

   

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