Snaps, shots, and surprises

“If you write something, and you believe in it, you’d like to see sixty million people moved by it.”

Nelson Algren

The fear of parking my ass in front of a keyboard and actually pounding keys has been a crippling feeling lately. All truth being told, I’ve been avoiding all sort of metal exercise, solely because I felt a sort of choke collar around my neck. It’s a new feeling, a feeling of drowning and choking at the same time. Gasp for breath and choke a second later. People have called it many things, writers block is not one of them. For a person that loves to be poised with fingers at the ready wanting to barf words onto a screen using fingers, I know writers block isn’t the term for it. Confidence was the issue, I knew there weren’t sixty million people wanting to read my stuff, actually, I’d be surprised if six people read my junk.

But then again, the internet is flooded with people looking for attention, grasping at a piece of that sixty million. How Nelson Algren came to the figure of sixty million I’m unsure of (however I’m damn sure that almost nobody, maybe one in a hundred have heard of him). It’s a pretty suitable number to wrap your head around, though. There is a lack of quality context and a flood of context for the sake of making content. I have a blog/YouTube Channel/Twitter account/Instagram….you get the point. Nelson, buddy, I wish you could see what you’re missing out on. Your figure of sixty million wasn’t too far from the truth, but back in the 20’s, when you threw the figure out, it was probably absurd. That many people all wanting to be heard and have attention. I’m struggling with this, as any serious intellectual probably should.

I was defeated by it. I wasn’t going to compete, self esteem at an all time low and my willingness to sit down and try to spew forth philosophical dribble was even lower. I did not, however, turn to chemical refreshment, the pal in my pocket. No, it wasn’t going to help, I wasn’t going to sleep my way through this informational a-pocky-clipse. I had to wait till my mind was good and ready, and my heart was there. My heart was starting to ice over and I was beginning to be concerned with an absolute freeze over and expulsion of all creativity from my brain. The internet was killing me.

“Every natural human urge has been thwarted in one way or another, so that some cocksucker gets to make a dollar off of your guilt.”

Frank Zappa

And the cocksuckers are making plenty of pennies.

At the apex of a turning point in life, many of us find ourselves crashing into the preverbal tire wall of self worth. You’re acing the course, at least that’s what you feel like, you line up your turn it, hit your mark, gently guide in to hit that glorious apex and then, wham, you’re neck deep in a wall. That’s what they want, they want you to have to buy tires, new cars, a neck brace. It’s an odd parallel to draw, but stick with me. The race track isn’t much different from the track of life. Rare, if ever do people want to let you pass so you can be better than them and place better on the track, same goes in real life.

There are sixty million people that want to see you succeed, however, you only meet maybe three of them in your entire life. It’s not your fault, it’s a big freaking world. It’s easy to become defeated and bury your head in the sad sand, aka, the internet. Which, today, actually became a good place for me to be…enter Frank Zappa.

“There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life.”

Frank Zappa

A friend, vicariously through the great creation that is the BMW CCA, posted this on his feed. I love scrolling feeds, however, I don’t read much. Typically I look for cat videos and pictures of dogs. This isn’t due to my lack of intelligence, it’s actually the opposite. The internet is full of people arguing, and when an argument occurs behind screens, where people can copy and paste emotions, it’s a waste of time to read most of it. *most* I saw this post, and I had a sucker punch moment, almost like it was a sign from Nelson Algren himself (you’d think I’d say Zappa, but I’m sure he’s far busier in the afterlife).

I leapt from my second hand store rocking chair that my mom bought me for five bucks in Burlington Wisconsin….and I toted back to South Carolina, in a tiny One Series BMW….with luggage for three. (I’m territorial of my rocking chair). I went to my fiberboard bookshelf that has long been sagging and grabbed my copy of The Real Frank Zappa Book, a book that I’ve had since maybe 2001. I read it, and handed it to my sister, six years minor, and honestly didn’t think much of it at the time. Ten or so years later, after we had both moved out of the house, I went back to visit and found a few books. Bukowski, Palahunik, Zappa, Thompson, Algren, and an odd Capote (that nobody read). I took them with me, never opening them up.

Today, however, I popped the front cover of Zappa and found a sweet pile of pictures that my sister had stashed away. A sweet one of us as kids with a baby bird, pictures of her friends, a picture of her at a Mexican restaurant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee (I took that one, I remember). I’m not sure if it was the tangible paper between my fingers, the book itself, or nostalgia, but I had a gripping feeling of completeness. I was onto something that wasn’t the internet (ironic…seeing as how I’m using it as my medium right now).

I tore into other books, seeing highlighted passages and makeshift bookmarks. Dogeared pages that I scoured wondering what the pertinent passage was. So many pages, so many sheets of paper flipped over. So many ideas that permeated young minds. These were my guide books, flight patterns, goals.

In one book, my original copy of Fear And Loathing in Las Vegas, I found my ticket stub from when I skipped country (yeah, not even town, but country) to visit Morelia, Mexico to be with the love of my life at the time…long story short, I don’t live in Mexico now, lesson learned. I wouldn’t take that back for the world though, however, somehow I forgot all about that adventure.

Another book, another set of memories, not so much mine, but my sisters. In Sex, Drugs, and Coco Puffs, I found some of her PETA literature. A pamphlet with a bunny on it. I didn’t read, but I’m sure testing and Hasenpfeffer had something to do with it. It wasn’t my journey, but I shared it with my sister. I remember that, and I might not have, had it not been for paper remnants in an old book. Memories on Facebook have nothing on an artifact found between to sheets of literature.

“Plastic soldiers in a dirt war.”

Jim Morrison

I dug deeper, grabbing books left and right until a pile of photos fell out that took me from my intellectual slumber into full blown writing rage. I remember the day/night like it was yesterday and forgive me if I ever forget it again. I was at the height of my intellectual insecurity, hosting a brunch for people seventeen times more educated than I. A professor at Duke, an incredibly esteemed English teacher, a PE, and, well, Malcolm. I served made from scratch Beef Wellington with paired wine and cheese. I had emergency snack rations for afterwards, God forbid the beef be tough. I wore my most modest dress….okay, let’s be honest, I wasn’t myself. I think they picked up on the scent because everyone was uncomfortable.

My blessing actually came from the high level photography that I was doing at the time (again, I forgot that I even did that). On a tour of our home, Malcom and Sarah were blown away with a few of my pieces and asked if I had them in a gallery somewhere. The answer was no, and the tour went on. They saw my  binder and folders full of information about my new to me E24. Turns out Malcom had one back in the early nineties. Sitting around the living room, conversation got dull until I offered up a beverage…bourbon…Makers Mark 46, and Malcom jumped at the opportunity.

Actually, everyone did.

We spoke of everything from Jimmy Buffett, to the collapse of cotton in the south, degradation of mental health due to technology, and I remember it well as it was my favorite topic, dresses with pockets. It was the first time I ever felt on level playing ground with people of higher educations. It was the first time I didn’t feel bad about who I was, degree wise. Never in my life have I ever met a couple of more genuine people.

In case you’re wondering, the evening climaxed on the Liberty Bridge in Greenville, SC. To be fair there was only so much charm our home had to offer, downtown seemed like the answer.


Malcom and Sarah still send me an email at Christmas.

And for them, I owe it to them to try harder. Pick up my camera and take better photos, type on my machine and make better stories.

But always leave a paper trail. Had it not been for this snap, I might have forgotten about this moment forever.


3 thoughts on “Snaps, shots, and surprises

  1. Glad to see you are wordsmithing again. always good to find old pictures in a book you have forgotten. listened to a lot of frank zappa in college….

  2. Well done..!! When you put your mind to it, you tell a hell of a story. Living only about 15 miles from Oak Ridge, this one seemed a bit more personal. Nice work. Keep banging the keyboard and snapping the shutter.

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