Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Orphan Words, the Coffee House Singer, and Mind Chirps.

It’s a certainty at this point as if it wasn’t before. The finality is sinking it and I wish there was some mechanism in place would make this feel differently.
“…a verse and a verse and refrain.”

This is familiar territory. This is my old stomping grounds. This is my old neighborhood and the place I feel right at home. I am alone again.

Usually, there is a triggering event or something I can take away as an object lesson but I cannot track it down this time. It wasn’t something I said and honestly, the words that come out of my mouth sometimes are intellectual orphans. They are someone else’s thoughts I took in and cared for and when they jump the fence and go forth with my voice blaming me isn’t totally accurate. It’s another aspect of who I am, I suppose, to foster words and phrases and thoughts that are not entirely mine. A person cannot be a writer without some verbal baggage or whatever it is, like something getting stuck to the bottom of the shoes or the roof of the mouth. Where to store all of this stuff? Generally, I write down everything I hear that I like, a curious turn of a phrase, a nice sentence or a piece of one, but this is akin to feeding strays or offering some street urchin a loaf of bread, isn’t it? I was wrong to call them orphans. I’ve taken ownership. I’m responsible. Yet this time, I don’t think it was something I said. That sounds odd even to me.

So there I am, listening to a narrative about something that is real and mundane and yet important but the strays and beggars in my head are relentless. They would like a tiny, bit more space, and suddenly something I’ve said aloud seems more than just a little alien. There’s a whiff of another world in my words or perhaps it just sounds like someone in my voice, like a bad impersonation. It isn’t that I’ve said something wrong, or crazy, or hurtful, but it’s as if I’ve read aloud something that isn’t in the script. It’s like the speech pattern of people who have small children. Have you ever noticed that people with small children begin to speak to other people in that same tone of voice they use with their kids? This happens especially when they want someone to do something they know they ought to be doing anyway. Show me a woman with a five year old little boy and I’ll show you a woman an eyelash away from using the “mom voice” on her male co-workers. It’s effective as hell too because most men remember that tone and either respect it, remember it fondly, fear it, loathe it, or a little of it all, but they will react to it. So what happens when all things familiar leave a voice?

Get a bunch of guys in the same unit together, let’s say, of the Army, and you’ll find them all using “Green Speak” when talking to one another. That’s the common language of their branch of service with all its customs and idioms and slang. There’s a subculture with deep inside jokes that no civilian could possibly understand. I know that after I got out of the Army I went back after I couple of months to visit and could hardly understand the same guys I once lived with. The same goes for, at some level, for truck drivers, hospital workers, night shift people, and strippers, I would think.

Still with me? Do you see where someone’s environment drives how they speak with other members of that environment? Do you understand that once this begins to happen it will keep happening until accents and branches of other languages begin to appear and finally one group of people couldn’t understand the root language they began with. But it goes deeper than just speech because all of this begins with patterns of thought, with like patterns of thought, that is. More to the minutiae, who a person is can be totaled up from the sum of the parts of society; pop culture, television shows, popular songs ( call me maybe!), celebrity scandals, news reports, politics, religion, and a host of other ideas and thoughts and words and gestures that appear in front of people each day that give other humans a sort of intellectual echo locations of who someone else might be. A hundred billion different chirps of societal expectations and seven billion different sets of cultural bent ears are listening for the familiar and what they really want to hear, repetitively, please.

It’s the sort of sounds you’d hear right now if you were here with me in the place where I’m writing this; coffee being made, cell phones going off, email notifications coming through, the blonde in the white shirt speaking loudly, music from overhead speakers that just sort of blends everything together with everything else, the cosmic peanut butter to the jelly of the room creates a mini-universe for everyone in the room. People like things this way and if one person stood up and started singing, “Skating Away” by Jethro Tull then there would be anger, uncomfortableness, an inability to carry on, and some people might even leave. Even if the singer sang no louder than the blonde, what do you think people would think?

I don’t think it was something I said or something I did. Rather, it’s a form of social blindness, a certain degree of cultural oblivion-ness, it’s intercultural incompetence or perhaps the idea, that none of this stuff really matters to me as getting a sentence right. I think people can tell that I’m not tuned into what’s around me and worse, I flat don’t care about Honey-Boo-Boo. I don’t care about a lot of things that are human and chirpy and makes up the glue that holds us all together.

I think people can sense this. 

So here we are again. I’m going to buy a six pack on the way home and what you’ve been reading has to be edited and refined and the four letter word that keeps conjugating in my writing has to be transmogrified into some other word not legally recognized as the Californian favorite word. The cultural sonar around me fades and disappears as I think about how to write this, which is irony, you know. If you aren’t smiling now you didn’t get it. Damn, I was so hopeful.

This is my song in the coffee shop. This is for those minds that will hear me. I will warm my fingers by the warmth of the wreckage of my life, and I will set off to write once more.

Take Care,



  1. The last couple of years before retirement I requested to work 2nd shift with only one other guy, and he was an introvert. What a relief to not have to listen to inane conversations about TV shows I didn't see, movies I didn't go to, grandchildren I didn't have, and gossip about people that meant nothing to me. Freedom from polite society? Yeah, and it felt great.

  2. I'm getting more disconnected from that sort of thing now that I had my cable cut. My TV is dying and I don't think I will have it replaced.