All Over the World, This Is How People Tell Stories

Tomorrow, I’m going to wake up and go buy a copy of The Moviegoer, by Walker Percy. I’ve gone too long.

*                     *                     *

At the gym, where I watch TV news, I could only find news on how a famous black man was arrested in his home or news of how a famous black man was murdered in his home. And then footage of people photographing the famous black man arrested in his home, having beer with the arresting officer, and the president and vice president.

Bud Light discovered they were no longer an American beer more or less at the same time the rest of the country did.

Race has somehow become a cover story, a way to avoid a deeper discussion about anything, even race.

*                     *                     *

Three weeks ago I have a dream. Grandfather Chee on a street in New York, holding flowers for me, laughing and smiling as if he isn’t dead. As if his death were one of his tricks, like pretending to be sick to get us to visit Korea.

I make my way across the street and wake up before I get to him. I open my eyes feeling bereft.

He’s been gone a little over a year. My other grandfather, Grandfather Goodwin, has also appeared to me in a dream, once. In that dream, he led me through an enormous, impossibly beautiful garden.

I don’t know what it is about my grandfathers and flowers.

*                                   *                                 *

In Italy, an Italian friend tells me, stories begin with one sentence in the past tense and then the rest in the present tense.

I immediately think of the way so many stories begin in America. “So I was at the store and this guy behind me says…”

The present tense is often maligned wrongly. I think people believe you can’t represent the past through it. That you are writing a character who exists as I-Character only, and not as both I-Narrator and I-Character. But this is wrong. All across the world people tell stories this way to the other people in their lives and everyone understands them. For some reason it becomes confusing on the page.

This may in the end be why ancient Greeks mistrusted written language.

*                                   *                                 *

In Greece 2 weeks ago, I make begin making a comic. Here is a sample page:


My pre-internet brain returned somewhere in the plane from London to Athens, and on Sifnos, I read books whole in a day or two, as I used to do when I was younger. I draw, do yoga, swim. I feel as if I’ve picked up again with the person I was when I was 19.

When I leave, my life feels interrupted again. I try to understand how to fix this on the plane back and in the days after leaving the plane.

*                                   *                                 *

You might notice I haven’t been on twitter, a friend says, when I run into him over the weekend in New York.

I nod. Yes, I said. What’s up with that?

I realized all that time I spend on those things, I could be working on my loan or writing something that I can sell for actual money, he says, and chuckles.

Yes, I say.

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