Many years ago, one pit-digging day (Ah, pit-digging day. One of the most hallowed days of the year. The Friday before the first Saturday after the first full moon in July. Big dogs with dirty tongues, kegs of beer, shovels, and campfires. Twenty years after the first pit-diggig day celebration, four of the five key participants contribute to this blog), I lamented to Jess that none of us present had a camera.
“Some people make history,” he said, “others record it.”
This blog shows pretty well which side of that divide I have landed on. Other people go to bars to drink with their friends; I go to bars to watch people and write about them. Keith asked if thinking about how I’m going to record an event alters the way I experience it. (Actually, I don’t think he was talking about me in particular, he made some comment about quality or some other nonsense.)
I may not be the one to answer a question like that in the first place. You have to understand that when I write, “I’m in the Cheap Beer Place…” I really am in the Cheap Beer Place, right then, as I’m writing it. (I’m in the Cheap Beer Place right now. Tall Brunette Slivovice-Pusher has been replaced by Little Blonde Cutie. LBC is new here, and hasn’t been around enough to earn anything more than a purely descriptive nickname.) In general, I’m not just thinking about how I might record the experience, I’m actively recording it. I’m like the photographer at the wedding – I’m not really part of the festivities at all. When I’m not writing about the events and people around me, I’m writing about the events and people in my head, who are usually more interesting.
Still, there are times I go out without my laptop. Those times aren’t frequent, and I always have a moment of panic when I leave a place without my backpack. Phantom laptop syndrome. When the laptop is closed, however, I can usually stop writing and enjoy the moment. When I’m having an interesting conversation, I’m not thinking about how to describe it later. If I’m hanging in a bar watching sports on TV, that’s pretty much all I’m doing. In the words of Pink Floyd, I have amazing powers of concentration. That means I’m either all the way with you or all the way gone. If my head is somewhere else, I can still struggle along with a conversation, but it is frustrating for both parties.
There are times when I’ve realized that someone was talking to me, but I was someplace else entirely. Once you get to know me you start to recognize the faraway look that tells you I’m writing at the moment, even if it looks like I’m staring into space. Those are the moments when Amy and Melinda would steal my shoes.
One place you can just forget about me is at a live concert when the music is good. I don’t know what it is about those events, but as soon as the band starts to blow I disconnect from the place entirely. Occasionally I’ll think about writing about the concert, but more often I’m off in some fiction-world, either one built from scratch just for the occasion, or one already under construction. Unless the music’s really, really, good. Then I’m in the concert hall and a fully participating member of the band. Either way my friends are ignored unless the music sucks.
Some people make history, other people record it. Some, a very few, make history by recording it well. That’s what I’m shooting for.