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Tim Redding

May 12, 2008
 

 
Golf Road
Chapter Four
(continued from Byung-Hyun Kim)

Today I’m not going to the actual Golf Road, because today is the day of the week that I have arranged to be my big writing day, my day where I better be brilliant because I’m sacrificing a day’s pay to get it. In effect I am paying money I could really use just to have this day.

Earlier I punched myself in the head as I screamed obscenities. I was trying to write. My head is OK now but my throat is still a little raw. After that I stuffed food down my throat and took a shallow, awful nap. This day away from Golf Road has turned into Golf Road. I am nowhere, waiting for something that will never come. I feel like ripping a notebook in half or shredding some baseball cards. But I already did something like that a long time ago and it didn’t make any difference. I was trying and failing to write, just like right now. I was twenty years old and had filled up a few notebooks by then. I knew I didn’t know how to do anything and was scared of everything and so my only way out was to write, but I couldn’t. I gathered up all my notebooks and threw them in a dumpster. I felt OK for a moment, lighter, but in the end nothing changed. I started the whole process all over by opening a new notebook and writing a shitty poem, then I spent the rest of the day eating chocolate chip cookies and putting golf balls at a table leg.

Most days I’m waiting in a place no one wants to know, least of all me. Golf Road. That moment, that long moment in the polluted dusk, waiting, the day chewed. How many days do you get? Stranded on Golf Road. A whole life leading to it. Things you could have done differently. But you didn’t. Anyway the past is gone. It doesn’t exist. You find some ripped pieces. You have lived such a life that you happen to recognize that these pieces go together. You don’t know much else but you know this. You gather them up and take them home. You tape the pieces together and add them to the pile. Next day you search for more pieces. You find a couple. The day after that you don’t find any. You keep looking every day for more but that chapter is over and you’re back where you started, nothing to gather, nothing to rescue, nothing to hold in your hands.

(to be continued)

18 comments

  1. 1.  I subscribe to the Slate daily podcast. Mostly audio, but sometimes video. I had this sense of deja vu reading today’s piece. The podcast a few days ago had a similar writers block topic. You might be interested, Josh:

    http://www.slatev.com/player.html?id=1529427102

    It’s short…only 103 seconds.


  2. 2.  If it is any consolation (which I’m sure it isn’t) take the Hemingway maxim to heart that you just need to write one good sentence a day.* Because this one, “That moment, that long moment in the polluted dusk, waiting, the day chewed,” should have you set for the week.

    *It is entirely possible that this line is false since I make this kinda crap up in my mind all the time. I have a favorite in my head from G.B. Shaw and years of googling and looking up quotes I’ve never been able to find evidence of it.


  3. 3.  Hythloday, tell yourself that if so-and-so didn’t say it, he should have.


  4. 4.  So now I have to file:

    ‘If so-and-so didn’t say it, he should have’ –Linkmeister


  5. 5.  1 : Thanks for that link. I guess the landfills and waterways of America are full of pages.

    2 : I wonder if you’re thinking of the Hemingway quote about getting started that I always think of (to little effect, most times) when I’m having a day that, as Junot Diaz once put it, is “all ass”: “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know.”


  6. 6.  I’m slowly working on three things (other than my day job, where I work slowly at not much of anything):

    1. A short bio of Emerson Dickman, a tall pitcher with a short career before the war.

    2. A short story that is essentially a spaghetti western with muscle cars.

    3. A crime novel with characters based on my real life.

    Only the first of these has much of a chance to be completed, because I promised it to someone. Submitted my first draft a couple of hours ago.

    The second was an idea that I had after watching Deathproof. I had an idea for a trilogy of short stories about a character not unlike Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name, only transported in time to the early 60s. I ran into a brick wall when I had trouble figured out how to write a car chase. I have a brief outline at the end of story one, but I need to flesh it out.

    The third was inspired by an author that I saw about a month ago named Chris Knopf. He’s written a series of crime books about a beach bum named Sam Acquillo. He was in a panel with three other writers. This was part of the Big Read program earlier this spring. The Hartford area had a lot of library programs tied in with The Maltese Falcon. One thing that I got out of the panel was that these writers were more about character development than plot. Got me thinking about writing about characters that I know, not some sullen adrenaline junkie from the Eisenhower and Kennedy years.

    I have a little yellow notebook where I’ve been writing a little bit here and there about a guy at a small brokerage firm and a filing clerk there. Finally got around to a murder after a little digression about counterfeit stock certificates. The murder plot is hardly innovative, you may have seen a similar one in an old movie, but I plan on tackling it from a different POV than Alfred Hitchcock did.


  7. 7.  What? No comment about the fractured image of the pitcher, clearly posing for a picture in an old, stilted way, reminiscent of the CGs of our youth? He stands there, not really preparing to pitch, dressed in the uniform of a team poised to move into a new stadium, but also poised for another year of failures…

    Combined with the fractured, disjointed day you’ve probably had in trying and not succeeding to write anything except Golf Road… Hm.


  8. 8.  6 : I’ll take characters over plot any day.

    7 : I was going to write about all that–I posted that card because of its throwback pose–but that’s the thing with days like these. Nothing really seems to come together. Much thanks for helping to fill in the blank.

    I also had some thoughts about what seems to be a Canadian flag flying in the background, a remnant of the Expos.


  9. 9.  8 Canadian flag? Where?


  10. 10.  9 : I guess it’s impossible to see in the reproduction posted here, but in the upper left-hand corner of the original card I can just make out what seems to be the colors and design of the Canadian flag.


  11. 11.  Click on the card and zoom in. The flag is near the top left corner.


  12. 12.  5 That is likely the line I was thinking of. Now whether good = true we’ll leave to the philosophers.

    When I read books I often dog ear the pages where I find the “true” sentences. Even in books I love I might only dog-ear 10 or 12 pages. The last one was Henderson the Rain King and there were definitely less than 10 dog-ears. Your word count may not have been what you wanted, but I suppose the thing I was getting as is that line and the explanation following cut to the quick as well as anything I’ve read.

    So 400 words, 1 dog-ear. Your rate stats are through the roof.


  13. 13.  8 I learned it all from you… 🙂

    Man, the tear-er of these cards must have had it out for Redding: once across the width, and then, for good measure, tearing one of the halves in half again…


  14. 14.  13 : Redding wasn’t the only one to get the three-piece treatment. I think the original owner gave a second blind rip to some of the cards.


  15. 15.  12: The one thing I remember distinctly from Steve Goldman’s Forging Genius (a bio of Caset Stengel) was a line about barfly/pitcher Joe Page and his brassrail acquaintances. I’ve been using that construct ever since.


  16. 16.  Josh, you’re a talented and interesting writer. You’re prominent among my daily reads, along with the Drums, the Marshalls, the Sullivans. You’ve had some interesting life experiences and have described them in a heartfelt and compelling way. And even though I read your blog, I obviously don’t know you as a person.

    So you can feel free to totally reject my suggestion, which is this: stop putting so much pressure on yourself. It sounds like you’re trying to write the Great American Novel, and killing yourself out of fear that you won’t or can’t. Maybe take a break from writing for a while, & focus on your job, your hobbies, your wife. Or maybe take on small, short-horizon projects, like essays or reviews (I’ve really enjoyed the book reviews you’ve written & linked to). The novel, if it’s there, will come, whether you try to force it or not. So give yourself a break.


  17. 17.  16 : Thanks a lot for the advice, Basilisc. What’s missing from days like yesterday is an ability to laugh at my various predicaments. It’ll come back soon enough and I’ll keep a-goin’ wherever the cards lead.


  18. Tim Redding happens to be the nephew (grand nephew?) of the actress Joyce Randolph, who played Ed Norton (Art Carney) ‘s wife ‘Trixie’ on the Honeymooners.

    Uh… doesn’t seem to really help him get anybody out though.

    Yeah.

    Homina.



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