So I’m sitting in my house again without any beautiful view to show you folks because I only manage to get down to this on weekdays when I get home from the office after dark. There’s just always stuff to do on the weekends and when there isn’t I tend to take naps and generally fart around or sometimes even get up to Peace Corps work, but in any case I just don’t sit down to write. And that’s a shame, because as Alex Guyton reminds me, the only cure for not writing is to write. That’ll come up again in a second.
I’m generally feeling pretty good nowadays that I’ve met some folks in town but especially because I’ve taken on a project. Everything you do for Peace Corps is a ‘project,’ somewhy, and unlike the Ecochavos, which irrevocably belong to Chava, this one is mine. Trey, the other guy volunteer in my site, and I are putting together an event for World Wetlands Day (it was the 2nd of February). I didn’t know there was one until a month ago, and we’re doing it for the Presa, the dam-created reservoir in town, which doesn’t fall under what my understanding of what wetlands were, but it’s a Ramsar site, so it counts, and we’re providing the impetus for the event.
The first meeting we had was with the local juventud guy, the representative for the bit of the municipal government oriented at the youth. What he proposed, and what was the going plan for all of four days, was to have a rap contest. Hear me out. There are, apparently, in this town of ten-to-twelve thousand, four or five high school age rap groups, and we were thinking of inviting them and some others from the surrounding Sierra to come down and write songs about the Presa. For us to judge. As far as the juventud guy was concerned, this plan was not only plausible but easy.
Chava wasn’t as enthused, and when I walked into the office the day after, the local turismo delegate was there with him coming up with an alternative plan. I was hesitant to bail on what already sounded like the Peace Corps’ most hilarious project, but they both started by yelling about how we’d put some more traditional bands on a floating platform in the lake and that just about sold me right off. I’m typing from the john now because, well, if you’re been following along you already know I spend a lot of time here. I always said that reading through these situations is what helped me kill my history syllabi in college, and I figure there’s no reason that shouldn’t apply to writing too.
So now we’ve got a floating concert, the expected participation of the municipal president, a mural series and a cleanup campaign all going on one day ahead of schedule so we can throw a Superbowl party with my host aunt the Sunday that’s the actual Wetlands Day.
The other thing I’ve been doing a lot of is reading. I’ve killed a fair bit of folks I already read, Neil Gaiman and Iain Banks and Kipling back in Querétaro, and in that I’m trying to catch up with Danny, the group thirteen volunteer in Xichú who’s already tackled something like a hundred books his first year. But I’m trying to break some new ground. Read Faulkner for the first time and I’m blowing through McCarthy and loving it. When I got through Blood Meridian, it felt like it might be a lifechanger or at least a prosechanger, so I looked up some criticism and the Times said it was second in importance (in America, last century) only to Toni Morrison’s Beloved. And it was lucky I read The Sound and the Fury just before because Faulkner’s was one of the styles Morrison poorly imitated while she was churning out that total sack of shit. Every author’s got two chances at least, but Beloved’s only beat out by reading Grapes of Wrath in the Pale Whale’s class in tenth grade for a shitty introduction to a good author.
I’ve got another 91 or so seminal 20th century novels that I’d like to get through by the end of service, quicker if I’m lucky. You might ask, or at least I did, why I was taking the time to hammer out a manic little reading list and the answer told me a little something about myself. And I bet a lot of other people do the same thing. When you write and you want to be a writer, sometimes it feels like the only thing you can do is try to read people who are so unreachably better than you in the futile hope that after another thousand pages you’ll start shitting gold on the day to day.
I’ve mentioned that I’ve got more than a few friends who’re already professional writers, at least a couple who weren’t much thinking about it before they got that way, and it’s hammering home how much I’m not. I mentioned in a post from the summer that we’d had a lot of hookah-fueled conversations about the world, and at the end we’d asked ourselves if we’d gone so far, given up faith in the freemarket system, in the traditional narrative, in neoliberalism and the hope of America saving any of the world outside its latitude, asked ourselves if we could leave those talks and do anything, morally, except spend our lives trying to do what little we could to chip away at it, stay outside of it, eking what living we could condemning it and failing to change anything, and we’d roundly decided that we couldn’t, that it was the only way to go.
But sitting here, six months later, decidedly not getting published and barely even trying, it begins to hit home that you might just not be any good and that you might well have to come home in two years and slave your life away in subtle disappointment because you were never good enough and you were never gonna be. At least it might if you were me. Give me til next Christmas and we’ll see where I’m at.
I got sick again last weekend. Wait til next post and I’ll tell you all about it. I’m definitely not shitting gold yet.