Friday, April 25, 2008

“Boat Names” And Pilate’s Question

Boat Names
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

There’s a tradition among old-time salts
of picking a short name to name their boat.
The thinking is, as you travel the world
you constantly will be filling out forms
and writing your boat name on all of them.
If the name is long, even if it’s cool,
forms are a chore. You come to hate the name.
If the name is short, you do forms quicker
and you love the name for being easy.

I’d like to live on a boat. Sail the world.

I’m always making note of good, short names.
Mila Kunis plays ‘Meg’ on “Family Guy.”
‘Mila’—four letters—is a good boat name.
‘Dinner and a Motel’ is a bad name.
Filling out a dozen forms somewhere, say,
around Cape Town, by the Cape of Good Hope,
you can write ‘Mila’ again and again
easier than ‘Dinner and a Motel.’

It’s all about thinking of the future.

*         *         *

“What is truth?”

John 18:38

Regular readers of this blog [regular readers?] may have noticed that I began my last three posts with a kind of warning label that I’ve never used before.

That was taken from last Thursday’s post, One Degree Of Richard Brautigan.

Last Thursday I said that over the decades I’ve often wondered if Richard Brautigan’s autobiographical writing really is autobiographical or if it is just good creative writing or some combination of the two.

Here on the blog, from the very beginning, I’ve tried to keep the content of my posts reasonably plain.

Short stories here on the blog are stories—just like stories in a magazine or book they may be completely fictional.

Poetry can be anything. It might be fictional, might be completely true, might be some combination.

Blog posts that are presented as memories, however, are always just that: Real memories! I’ve never played fast and loose with my personal history. I’m not saying my memory is perfect, of course, and when I post dialogue from the past I’m just doing my best to re-create conversation. But the key is if I post something that I present as a real memory then I’m doing my best to re-create real events and real people.

However, thinking of Brautigan and thinking of Del Close’s warning about being careful when judging a writer based on stuff they write, I decided to have fun this week.

When I wonder about Brautigan, the three options I keep in mind are:

  1. Is this story what it appears to be, a rambling reminiscence of a particular day?

  2. Is it a piece of writing inspired by an actual day but then pleasantly embellished?

  3. Is it carefully crafted and completely fictional?

I decided to put up examples of my own of each kind of writing.

(But I put up a warning label just to alert people I was doing something different. Like I said, from the start of the blog it’s been important to me to keep my posts at least reasonably real. Even if I’m consciously doing something different, I couldn’t bring myself to do it without a warning label.)

So, for people who read my three posts this week, I wonder if anyone noticed anything different?

I wonder if people could figure out, if they tried, which post was real, which post was embellished and which post was completely made up?

If anyone is interested, here is some background on the three posts:

My ‘Driving Miss Shelly’ Story—This post is completely real. I could have run this without a warning label. Shelly was a real person, the events and conversations happened exactly as described. And this is my favorite kind of post because it never would have occurred to me to make up something like that. I never would have imagined a person—a reasonable person—could have thought “The Manchurian Candidate” was a comedy. But Shelly did!

My Eric Von Zipper Story—This post is embellished. I never would have posted this without a warning label. All the people are real. All the events are real. The Harvey Keitel/Harvey Lembeck stuff really happened. But in real life none of that stuff happened in the kind of linear, cohesive way it is described in the story. I might have posted this with some kind of disclaimer, saying that some of the content has been re-arranged or something like that.

My Litter Box Story—This is completely fictional. I made up this story. I never would have posted this in the form of a memory because none of the events happened. However, it is worth saying that even this fictional story isn’t too far from real life. My friend Joanne from the tennis club (I think she spelled her name JoAnn) really was the first girl to ever hit me. And when she slapped me it was in a bizarre freak out where she kept hitting me and yelling at me. And the conversations I made up with her, her word choices and reactions, are entirely consistent with the many conversations I did have with the real girl. But if I were really going to post something like this I would have changed the names and made it clear it was within the context of a story and not a real memory.

Next week: Everything’s back to normal. No more warning labels!

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