Wednesday, November 10, 2004

this one sucks so I'll put up some photos next

I came late as usual, but I’m here and now you’re stuck with me. National Novel Writing Month started ten days ago, but I’m going to give it a go nonetheless. I’ll even try it natheless. Can you believe it? Natheless and wearing my polka-dot boxers, I’ll churn out as much prose as possible between now and the 29th of November, when I’m scheduled for my next trip into the world of equipment hauling and the coaxing of dimly-remembered stories of misery from elderly people (necessarily of limited success, since most of the elderly people I speak to are experiencing plenty misery in the present. They’re more interested in talking about the children that ignore them and the body that is shutting itself down, organ by organ, sense by sense. But they talk anyway, you know. Natheless.). For those of you who don’t know, National Novel Writing Month demands 50 000 words from its participants but places no constraints on content. You can write about nostril hairs, international intrigue, shameful masturbatory fantasies, whatever you like. You don’t need characters, plot, theme, setting, or mood. You don’t even need to determine if the main conflict will be man vs man, man vs self, or man vs nature. You don’t need paragraph breaks. All you need are sentences, really, and they don’t require subordinate clauses. No ordinances necessary.

You can even, if you wish, write about National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. If you must have fiction, then you can pretend to be someone else writing about Nanowrimo. You can pretend to be wearing someone else’s polka-dot boxers, a pair you grabbed off a laundry line while running at breakneck speed through the backyards of a South End neighbourhood. Maybe you found the clothesline anomalous in these days of automatic dryers, and so you leapt up in mid-run, clutching at a pair of bright red boxers with orange and white polka-dots, your hand closing around the fabric and the clothes pins popping free off the line. Maybe you were surprised (as surprised as your pursuers?) as your body carried you past the line, the boxers bunched in your hand, your foot hitting the ground and you with a new pair of underwear. Suddenly you’re a thief on top of a trespasser, never mind whatever it was you did in the first place to be going at breakneck speed through somebody’s backyard in an unfamiliar neighbourhood. Maybe the neighbourhood’s not even nearby. It could be that you’re tearing through an alleyway in Manila, a side lane thick with clotheslines, white sheets and football jerseys, all colours pale except for those boxers. You spot them and leap up, knowing that you’re far enough ahead of your pursuers that this one suspended moment won’t matter that much, knowing that you can cut through this street and emerge onto Edsas Boulevard, where a jitney can take you straightaway to Makati. There are so many Westerners in Makati, shopping at the Gap and pulling down their face masks to sip Starbucks, that you can blend in. But the men after you will stick out there. You bet that there are at least a few stores in the Makati malls where you can casually enter and browse while a polite store guard armed with a shotgun escorts your pursuers beyond the gates. Even in the stained jeans and the filthy brown barong, you’re still Western, still the receiver of unearned privilege. And you’ve still got that sharp suit jacket to cover the worst of the stains and the fact that you have no wallet – that you are, in fact, flat broke and cut off from the only people in the country who could help you. At least you’ve got a pair of polka-dot boxers.

Nanowrimo does want 50 000 words of you, but there’s no need to stick to those kinds of standards. Especially since that’s the only standard they’ve got. I think that expectations should have a critical mass; if they’re sufficiently low, you can ignore even those. Maybe I’ll put a slogan on a T-shirt: Give Me Nearly Nothing To Fight For And I Will Surrender. Anyway. I’d edit this stuff out, but hey - this in Nanowrimo, the anything goes attempt to get fingers dancing on keyboards. I think that if I can produce two pages a day for the next two and a half weeks, you will all be tremendously bored with my weblog. Natheless I prevail.

Some people don’t need this brand of encouragement. Mimi Smartypants, that Polaris in the weblog firmament, actually restricts her output to 2000 words per entry. How she manages that much in the first place is a mystery to me. I get filled with self-digust over my prose after five hundred words - not for its clumsiness, or pretentiousness, or artful disguise of personality, but for its ease. I feel like a homeless person with the world’s best crescent wrench. No plumbing in my cardboard box. Nor am I looking for sinks and toilets to fix right now, so what am I doing with this weblog, aside from offering some entertainment to friends? Here’s where the plumbing metaphors threaten to clog up. Which is apt for a novel that opens in the Phillipines, where most everything smells a little bit like sewage and grey water. After a few days you get used to it, that faint stench that only strong air conditioning keeps at bay. But who’s thinking of that, when you’re running through the alleyway, hoping for a jeepney that will get you the hell away from those guys? You duck around the sheets and run out onto Edsa Boulevard. A bright green jitney cab with the name Peireira blazoned across the open door in back passes by, so on you jump. Scraps of English, Tagalog jokes, a magandan hapon or two. You squeeze in between two civil servants and stuff the boxers inside a jacket pocket.

Okay, now the guy’s on his way to Makati in a jeepney. This is, in fact, a stupid decision, because it’s a Friday afternoon and the streets are packed with cabs, trucks, compact Japanese cars, slum dwellers hawking cheap Chinese goods between the lanes (not there are any lanes to speak of). Traffic cops lean on their vans by the most crowded intersections, looking not to direct traffic but to pick up a few pesos or US dollars from anyone who looks like they can pay. At the second light the pursuers jump on the jeepney, kick him around, take the boxers. I had to find a way to get rid of the underwear. Exit pursued by a natheless.

CHAPTER 2

As he lay on the floor of the vehicle, his suit jacket imprinted with a dusty Nike footprint, he found himself thinking, highly incongruously, about Tori Spelling’s career. What was she working on now that Beverly Hills was over? A series of Movies of the Week, a couple of direct-to-video erotic thrillers? Was she hosting a series of specials? Two weeks ago, flipping through the Mexican soap operas dubbed into Tagalog and the ubiquitous CNN broadcasts, he’d caught a few minutes of a crime drama starring Spelling and some guy from L.A. Law. What did other actors think, standing there on a set, trading scripted lines back and forth with Tori Spelling? It must be strange, because no matter what emotions you’re expected to call on, no matter what lines you mouth in the service of your character, you have to ignore how ugly she is. Every self-aware actor working with her must be thinking: “This is Aaron Spelling’s daughter. Therefore I must never betray my incredulity, not by casually dropped offstage line or by involuntary twitch, that her face appears to be staring at me through a fisheye lens”. Why not, thought the man on the jeepney floor with the footprint on his jacket and the sympathy of two civil servants, turn Tori Spelling into a figurehead ruler, a transnational monarch, a poster girl the modern world? The paragon of power triumphant over all other considerations. Plus, she appears to be capable of staring in two directions at once, so the “Tori is watching You” posters and pamphlets will pack additional punch. He began to make elaborate plans in his head until he noticed that he was bleeding.

CHAPTER 3

Some days are better than others, he thought.

1 comment:

schmutzie said...

Oh, yes. Yes, yes, yes. I approve wholeheartedly.