For the REAL FANS (I cannot begin to present that designation seriously, unless we’re counting the always dependable bot traffic): you know that I posted two weeks ago. I attempted to write about re-reading Charlotte’s Web as an adult, but then the only words I could choke out onto the page were “I cried.” That’s it! That’s the whole review! And guess what? I said all I had to. It still stands. I re-read Charlotte’s Web and I cried. There was nothing else to say, so I chose not to say any more.
For everybody else who waits for me to remind you that new content is available: I posted a very brief review of Charlotte’s Web two weeks ago. I, well, cried. You get it.
In the same vein, though, and perhaps the vein I had planned to tap into, was something about friendship and change and looking at your life and connecting the dots (the web!) between all the things that have ever mattered. Lots to take in, I know! But I’ve never been one to shy away from ambitious themes for the sake of this blog that not a lot of people read. So I guess I’ll attempt to cover exactly what it is that’s been going through my head, and how that has informed my writing recently, and how that has informed the music I’ve been listening to, and in the most poetic twist of all, how this all happening in the weeks leading up to my getting married. Maybe that’s what started this.
A few weeks ago, I went home to Akron by myself. Tony was in Vegas, achieving his dreams of playing the Ellen DeGeneres slot machine. I had been feeling strange about the idea of not ever being in Akron again as a non-married person. Call it superstitious or sentimental or just downright exhausted from all this sun exposure, but it dawned on me that I should probably spend some time alone with my thoughts in the house where I grew up. I think setting is important; I don’t think it used to matter to me as a writer, but the older I get, the more I find myself focusing on exactly where a character lives and where they come from. And besides, I’ve always gone to such lengths to picture myself as the protagonist of my own movie–this would be the cherry-on-top after a lifetime of cinematic delusions. So I went.
**You know, it’s funny. When I moved to Chicago in 2012, I genuinely thought I would be one of those people who would go home all the time, once a month is what I figured in my head. I went so far as to tell myself, “If I have no weekend plans, then I’ll just leave work on Friday…and go to Ohio!” That super did not happen. I also didn’t have a car, but there are about a thousand realistic work-arounds for that. I don’t know if I was basing this assumption off of other Akronites who had moved to Chicago, or because that sense of commitment and obligation somehow seemed more adult to me, or maybe I was dealing with some dormant guilt for not going home all that often when I went to college a mere 45 minutes away from home. Whatever the case, I pretty much stayed parked in Chicago for 5 years.**
So I went back to Ohio for about 4 days, was only kind of jet-lagged, and I did in fact have some time with my thoughts. Which was great, by the way; I like to think I engage in this kind of behavior in a semi-healthy way. And if I find myself diving too deeply into the memory well, I just tell myself it’s for research and that I need to do this because art or writing or my feelings or, you know, whatever. Maybe the fact that I have to justify having any feelings at all is like, symptomatic of a bigger issue….? Iiiiiiiiii’m not unpacking that right now, ambitious themes be damned. Anyway, I was at home, and while looking through my boxes of stuff, (because I wanted to get my grandma’s wedding pearls; I mean really, I was swinging for the fences on this “Who was I, and what have I become?” road trip) I found all my diaries. Ok, to be clear, I didn’t “find” them, I know that’s where they live. I didn’t like, take the lid off a mysterious box then lovingly wipe dust off of a Fashion Journal from Barnes and Noble and then crinkle my brow as I opened it and wondered what on earth the pages might have in store for me. No, that’s shit’s labeled, I know which embarrassing moments live where. But the point is that I did read through a couple, from cover to cover. And while I cringed a lot and laughed a lot and then went back to cringing, I walked away with two overwhelming feelings: gratitude and relief.
Gratitude to have filled about one diary every 6 months, because I had so much to say and I was so doing so much and I was having these really meaningful interactions with people and I wanted to record all of it. Gratitude that I chose friends who confronted me when I was being an asshole, and gratitude that I chose friends who planned crazy birthday surprises for me or just sat with me on a couch in total silence because it wasn’t awkward to do so, and gratitude for parents and adults who always listened and always believed in me. Gratitude that I had the wherewithal to just write it all down. For ALL the teenage angst and bullshit and self-indulgence, I am so grateful that these records exist. And I am relieved that that time in my life is over. Middle school, high school, college, whatever, it’s over, and I’m glad. I don’t mean that to come off as callous or cold. I am, after all, a vessel filled with sap so I of course appreciate sentimentality and nostalgia. But man, am I happiest being right where I am. Los Angeles, May 17, 2018. Hell yes. And on May 18, I will be even happier, and on and on and on. Until I have a shitty day or a whole shitty week, of which I have many, but then I’ll just do it over the next day or the next week. Gratitude for the journeys, relief that the journeys ended in time for a new one.
Of course I sat down and wrote about the diaries and the being at home and what home means and the getting married and fuck, yes, Charlotte’s ultimate sacrifice for her friend. I shook all those feelings around like Boggle pieces then pieced together what fell out. I sat down at the dining room table in the house I grew up in and I barfed out 20 pages of a script, basically without stopping, possibly without thinking, and then I turned those pages into 38 pages and now I have this project that may or may not ever see the light of day, but I’m happy that I took the time to record exactly what I was feeling. And I smartly and stupidly wrote all of this to my soundtrack from high school, all the songs that “really take me back,” which is code for, songs I belted alone in my car when I was feeling my feelings. A dangerous game to be sure! Nostalgia listens are fun, but blink an eye, and you’re suddenly too far down the rabbit hole. It’s a slippery slope for me personally, though I anticipate many of you are better at managing your feelings when you listen to music from your youth. (I am very young–I thought it important to call out that I know that.) I’m happy to have written this document, though, one that processes how I feel 10 years after the time I’m writing about. I like the distance. I like the writing. I like being happy where I am. Setting is important.
Speaking of music, there’s a song I really like that’s been a constant for the last 3ish years of my life. It’s called “Down Down the Deep River” by Okkervil River, and it was love at first listen. I don’t think I really know the words, but there is one line that I do know: “Tell me I’m always gonna be your best friend.” It’s my favorite part of the song. It’s sung with hope, pain, desperation. I mimic the tone when I sing it back. So it happened to come on a pre-made playlist while I was writing just now, and I thought it was coincidental and strange that I would hear this while writing this post. So I looked up the lyrics for I think the first time ever, and I was blown away at how many times I’ve listened to this incredibly sad, incredibly sentimental, fairy-tale-meets-real-life, this-is-how-i-feel-about-growing-up song without realizing it’s exactly the kinds of things I think and write about myself. The lyricist and lead singer, Will Sheff, says of the song: “Nostalgia is a cleaned-up, airbrushed version of memory.” Yep. Big yep.
“Wilbur never forgot Charlotte. Although he loved her children and grandchildren dearly, none of the new spiders ever quite took her place in his heart. She was in a class by herself. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.” This is the text from the last page of Charlotte’s Web. This is what got me. Even when you know what’s coming, I don’t think anything can prepare you for this. Charlotte was both. That’s a good fucking line. I aim to write something like it someday.
In closing: many years ago, there was an office-wide prank being played on Tony. I think we were friends, certainly not dating. The prank was basically to leave an elaborate collection of post-it note messages all over his desk and cubicle walls. There were hundreds of notes left for him. The messages ranged from menacing to weird, from gross to hilarious. I had nothing to do with the leadership of said prank, but I was approached about leaving a note. I don’t like pranks, especially not office pranks, but I agreed to contribute to this one. I grabbed a post-it note and in red ink I wrote: “Some Pig.”