We PDXXers are besotted with writing and this preoccupation takes its hours and notebook pages (or, more likely, computer memory), and butt soreness from sitting so long (I’ve never quite mastered the art of biking and writing). Kait, Sarah, and I have especially lost our minds this month, for a little event called NaNoWriMo.
I prepared myself for this month sort of not at all and signed up in a “what the hell”-moment one day when I was over-caffeinated and sequestered in the windowless office Lauren and I share at Portland State. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
Over the past thirteen days, I’ve been trying to retrieve some of the narrative from my moleskin and the various Scout Books that adorable PDX organizations have handed me at events. On Friday night when Kait and I were writing together, I discovered that I’d overwritten a previous version of the novel on my laptop and lost a few brief scenes between two characters who end up getting divorced. This was a bit of a blow. Those scenes were a little gruesome (emotionally, I mean) and not the most fun to write. I tried to reconstruct it, but then found the scenes in an email message I’d sent myself and attempted to patch back in what I’d initially liked.
This is why I prefer writing long-hand, retrieving my hideous handwriting down the road, editing as I type it into the computer. While I was flipping through my moleskin, I discovered some lists that I made while I was visiting the Midwest and East Coast before the school year started. I’ve typed up the highlights below.
Like Anastasia Krupnik (an adorable nerd of middle grade books from the 70s and 80s), I like the idea of assigning numerical values to the unquantifiable.
- Pastel-colored water towers lurk in the middle of cornfields like UFOs.
- Torn-apart grocery outlets, now jumbles of metal.
- Good old diners with reputable custard.
- Warehouses that even I would be afraid to enter.
- Army recruitment centers.
- The “industrial parks” (their lakes, their fountains askew).
- The virtue of Redwood fences and white shutters.
- Just passing through the cavernlike arch and dimmed lights of transfer stops like L’Enfant Plaza and Gallery Place makes me feel woozy, resigned, homeward bound.
- The Metro System Map: You are here. You are everywhere. Connect the dots.
- Screeching cicadas start up all at once until they reach the peak of unbearable sound when they suddenly die off.
- At the National Gallery: Van Gough’s precise dabs of color. If I fell into the painting as Lucy and Edward and Eustace did, maybe I’d tumble into Van Gough’s lonely quarters, stare into his lion eyes, and carry his sadness for him for a while.
- Anne and I bike across Rock Creek Park after sitting at the top of Fort Reno for a while. Coolness whirls around us as we speed through the park. We’ve entered another terrain: crickets are sirenlike out there in the dark. We know we aren’t supposed to be here, so late, and are hoping our innocent intentions will protect us once more.
- Passing by Baltimore on I-95, I see some people swimming in an inlet near the Interstate. A man is perched on a brown, ivy-covered bridge above them in his swim trunks, motionless as a heron.
- A class of men and women that resembles a different species than Chase and I.
- Chase and I form a tight cell. We known no one on all these streets on top of a ceaseless city, but his face is familiar. We whisper to each other and hold on while the subway jostles us across Manhattan.
- Beautifully loud Chambers Street. Sunglasses, hats, sweatshirts, cheap summer dresses; everything is either half off or $5. I buy a red sun dress.
- On Thursday night, we walk around Park Slope. I try to make him see what I see, but at this point in my two weeks away from Portland, my descriptions are tapping out. I just want to be silent, so we mostly are.
- It’s a humid night and the streets are calm under the sycamores and oaks. Many large shaggy dogs are prancing before their leashes and their blissfully smiling owners. I hold Chase’s hand very tightly because we are walking through my dreams.
Happy writing to all of you, whether you scratch it down in a notebook or type it up in Helvetica.