All Eyes On Me

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You’d think I was a supermodel, but they only want me for my money.

In Bali everyone honks at me. I can’t go 20 feet down the street without being yelled at.  A taxi driver sees me from a mile away, slows down, and starts banging on his horn to get my attention. On a good day I ignore every single one of them. On a bad day, the attention drives me fucking crazy.

My gut reaction is anger and protest. Usually I just pretend I don’t notice. Otherswise I’d spend 8 hours a day smiling and bowing and saying “no thank you.”

One of my favorite feelings in the whole wide universe is walking into a coffee shop, sitting in the back corner by the window, listening to music and watching the movie of the world go by. It’s the happy place I travel to when everyone’s staring at me.

I try to slow the anger when I feel they’re using me. Why? Mostly because I can’t change anything by lashing out.

But also because these experiences give me sympathy. They give me sympathy for women who are all too used to getting stared at, followed, propositioned. They give me sympathy for people who’ve NEVER been able, physically, to blend into the crowd. They even give me sympathy for rich (by american standards) people, because I’m sure your friends and family know you’ve got money.

When I was at the market last week I few things, among them was a bag of chips. The cashier stopped in the middle of ringing me up and said, “These are 50,000 – is it OK?” 50,000 idk is about $3.50 usd. The cashier was essentially asking me, “are you really going to spend so much money on a bag of chips? That same money could buy dinner for four.”

That sir, is a good point.

Stand Up Comedians: Monday, August 17th

The problem with everyday life is that it’s so damned predictable. We know exactly what the day will bring before it even begins. We know the answers to the questions before we ask them. The world is full of mystery and magic but most days we don’t see any of that.

When danger happens, when thrill happens, when things crash, when people cry, when people get lost, when the wild weather sweeps across the plains – that’s when we see magic in the world. That’s the point where stories begin.

I’ve been on a stand up comedy kick. I love listening to stand up comedians because they never say what you think they’re going to say. They are unpredictable. They get bored quick with simple normal life. They see a scenario or a situation from multiple angles. It’s not easy to pull some shit over on a comedian, because they question everything. They don’t take anything at face value. They’re busy deducing, extrapolating, imagining. They’re quirky. They laugh a lot. What’s not to love?

Of course I love comedians, and not just because they’re funny. But because they’re writers underneath it all. They’re artists who deal in words and phrases and stories. They make a living by turning creative ideas into package-able products, finding an audience, and delivering their magic night after night.

But the best thing about comedians? They don’t take anything too seriously. They don’t get hung up easily. They don’t get offended easily. They see humor in everything, and don’t take themselves too seriously.

These are things that I often appreciate about writers too. How they bring fresh perspective, how quirky they are, and often funny too in their own way.

Someone who deals in words and language, day in and day out, appreciates how fluid meaning really is. They appreciate alternate meanings, different points of view, and a well delivered phrase.

I’ve heard that stand up comedy is a uniquely American thing at its roots. And also that Mark Twain was the first original stand up comedian, because of how much he performed his readings in front of an audience. And obviously for his snapping wit, which is still entertaining all these years later.

If that’s true, then it means that writers and comedians (Americans at least, and maybe others too) all share a common ancestor.

I don’t know how comedians do what they do, but I’m thankful for what they bring to the world.

As for me, I’ll do everyone a favor by sticking to writing, and staying well away from the stage.

Advice from the Sages: Wednesday, August 12th

1) Writing Advice from Anne Lamott:

“For me and most of the other writers I know, writing is not rapturous. In fact, the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts.”

2) Writing Advice from Kurt Vonnegut:

  1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
  2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
  3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  4. Every sentence must do one of two things – reveal character or advance the action.
  5. Start as close to the end as possible.
  6. Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them – in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
  7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
  8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

3) Writing Advice from Annie Dillard:

“One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place…. Something more will arise for later, something better.”