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    My daily writing--emails, journal entries, marginalia, more emails, blog posts, and tweets--shapes me as a writer, helping and hindering the big stuff I'm trying to accomplish. Every word counts.

    My name is James Black. I'm on Facebook and Twitter. Friend and/or follow me if you like.

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Portrait of the Writer as a Li’l Whippersnapper

j3black in 1974, age 5.

j3black in kindergarten (1974, age 5)

This kid was a real pip. I liked being him/her/me.

The picture was taken when I was in kindergarten. Life was already starting to wear me down, but I still had some fire. By third grade, I’d be lost for a while as I did a slowburn implosion for about ten years, until I came out, which sparked a slow-motion explosion that is still affecting the universe.

But then, at five, in my dissheveled red/pink (what color *is* that?) leisure suit, I was thrilled to be sitting there to have my picture taken. You can see my excitement to have woken up that day. Anything was possible.

I love looking at my eyes in this photo. I was already experiencing anxiety at that age. Before that photo was taken, on my first day of school ever, I weeped when Mom dropped me off. I didn’t want to go to school. Others felt the same way, including my friend Jan, who cried harder than I did. I remember feeling that my pain couldn’t compare to hers, so I let mine go. The first few weeks of kindergarten were pretty good.

But after this photo was taken, at the Halloween party, I completely lost my shit when The Wicked Witch of the West showed up. The other students taunted her, which riled her up, and I ran screaming to a corner of the room. She came to me, and I screamed harder until I realized she was a room mother hiding behind green makeup and a black, pointy hat. Continue reading

The Great Chain of Being in Contact

My friend Jane posted this on my Facebook wall: “Had a lovely imaginary conversation with you yesterday, which made me think it’s time for a real one.” Which brought to mind categories of conversations.

Face-to-Face: Or F2F. This kind of conversation happens in real time. You get to experience the facial expressions and gestures of the person you’re talking to and receive and give immediate feedback.

Presentational: Somewhat F2F, but one speaker addresses many audience members. If there’s time for questions, which in a very limited way resembles conversation, some jackass usually eats up the time by spouting nonsense in an attempt to outshine the speaker. Continue reading

Going Around the Block to Get Next Door

1:29 p.m.
AAAAHHHHH! Everybody and everything are in my way today. I wanted nothing more than to get to the coffeehouse and do some writing. On my way out the door it started to rain and so one of the dogs freaked out a little, probably because she expected thunder. I had to wait until she calmed down then repeat parts of my crazy OCD routine because my anxiety was amped up.

On the way I got behind a moron in the passing lane, which isn’t unusual but always bad. The drive-up ATM wasn’t working, so I had to get out of the car and go inside. That took an extra 90 seconds! Then I got stuck behind a truck with an enormous load of lumber. It trudged along and of course didn’t turn off to 522 but continued straight down Market Street, right in front of me all the way to the side street where I usually park, but it was closed so five workers could re-paint lines for the six spaces on that street.

Okay. I’m here. I’m fine. Gosh, that really wasn’t so bad.

1:47 p.m.
Some under-parented child keeps hovering at the end of my table. She’s wearing ruby slippers (well, red sequined slippers, but still very Dorothy (Gale, not Zbornak)). So I’ve got to give her props, but her constant dancing and jabbering and staring at me are really pretty distracting, mainly because the two adults with her (parents I presume) aren’t paying much attention to her. They could be interacting with her, but apparently a laptop and a newspaper are more interesting than a child.

If it were a loud, annoying adult, I could just turn up my music. And if I were a truly vicious person, I’d have to point out that her little ruby slippers don’t exactly go with the lilac stripes in her sundress. But I hate to see a kid ignored. They probably think the looks I’m giving them is judgment on their kid. No, dude; I’m judging you. Parent is also a verb. Try it.

Oh, he’s talking to her. Hey, I’m good. Like a psychic supernanny.

2:03 p.m.
What did I come here to write? Continue reading

On Yesterday’s Episode of “I’m a Politician…Get Me Out of Here!”

Bored with the violence against Iranians by their own government, many US news outlets chose Gov. Mark Sanford’s disappearance/affair as yesterday’s top story. Temporarily interesting? Sure. He has been lying, shirking duties, lying some more, and finally in a lengthy, rambling statement that was strangely fascinating and satisfyingly eyerolling, revealed himself to be an uberhypocrite.

This kind of behavior is laughable, and I laugh. I can’t help but succumb to the irony. Sanctity of traditional marriage? My ass! It’s a real knee-slapper.

But there isn’t much news in his particular story. Another straight male politician screwed someone who wasn’t his wife, then apologized profusely to said wife and their children and his constituents, et al. Add a tally mark, and leave plenty of room for the next.

My laughter is dying pretty quickly this time. I’m disgusted to watch one more champion of so-called traditional marriage make a mockery of commitment. He has revealed the meaninglessness of that cause, although it’s doubtful the message will get through to those who need to hear it.

Mainstream coverage has split into the usual three camps: 1) critics who deride him viciously and/or humorously; 2) supporters who insist we not rush to judgment; 3) gawkers who wonder how-do-these-things-happen, which usually leads to the usual Mars/Venus bullshit.

Meanwhile, families led by same-sex couples, who do honor their commitments and avoid such drama in their lives, don’t have equal rights, which makes life more challenging and expensive than it needs to be. That’s what’s news. Granted, it’s not exactly breaking news. “Alternative” outets have been covering it and will no doubt continue to do so. Mainstream media continue to focus on whether or not politicians like Sanford will hold on to their power and money, not who they’ve fucked over to get it.

Doing the Aftermath

I’ve never experienced an earthquake, but from what I know about them, I’m guessing they’re a lot like panic attacks.

Both are difficult to anticipate (unless you’re in a particular zone, in which case, you should just expect rumblings at any time).

In their aftermaths, they somehow make sense, whether they were big or small. But you don’t feel consoled. Your shaken state makes you a conduit of past and future. You anticipate the next one will be as bad as the last one without knowing how to prepare for it.

Yesterday morning I awoke about two hours early gasping for air. A bad dream faded from memory as I stared at the clock and tried to slow my breathing. Feeling as if I were suffocating, I peeled off my long-sleeve shirt.

I sat in my t-shirt with the covers thrown off me and listened to Doug and the dogs breathing. Their sense of calm heightened my anxiety. I felt like an outsider, so I went to the living room to read. I stepped into the world of the book, but remained alert to possible dangers in my own imagined world, psychologically surveying the area every so often before returning my attention to the calm scene I was reading. Continue reading

I Hope They Drive Into a Cul-de-sac

Today on the flat screens in the cafeteria, MSNBC showed “breaking news” of police chasing a white van. I flashed back to a similar situation–you probably know the one I’m talking about. A friend at my table said the cops should blow out the tires. I said they were going too fast so it might cause a wreck. Someone else at the table said something similar as I spoke, and soon the conversation we’d been having shifted to this so-called news. We puzzled over why this was news and if it involved anyone important, like, say, a former athlete.

The van cut across lanes of traffic, bumped over a median, and kept going. Students throughout the cafeteria cheered, and I heard a few voices saying, “Go!” and other such encouraging words. Most everyone at my table looked around the caf and realized that almost everyone was watching the TVs. People in the area outside the caf were staring at the TVs through the glass wall. My tablemates and I laughed at the foolish watchers of this non-news without moving our eyes from the screens.

Someone said, “I hope they drive into a cul-de-sac.” We agreed that would be maybe funny, maybe exciting. Shortly thereafter, the van stopped. I noticed there were a lot of palm trees. A helicopter flew through the scene. I thought of Apolcalypse Now but didn’t think of napalm. Continue reading

Suck on That

As if I didn’t know enough about heterosexual mating practices, I learned even more today when a man grabbed the woman he was walking with and shoved his tongue into her gaping mouth. It took me a moment to realize what I was witnessing. At first I assumed he wanted her gum, and the Dysonesque sucking sound seemed evidence of that.

I was also distracted by the age difference. She, a woman maybe 20 years old, was kissing and groping someone who could have played Pong while listening to Pablo Cruise on 8-track.

Had I not averted my eyes and ducked into the nearest building, I might have come to appreciate their bold celebration of love (or lust or whatever), the love that does not have to dare speak its own name because it can simply declare itself publicly and, uh, orally. Continue reading

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