Writers are a bit strange and different from normal people. You have to be a little weird to sit for hours in solitude, pecking at a keyboard and stringing words together on the white screen in front of you, hoping to make some sense of whatever it is you’re putting there. And nerve to disseminate them.
Writers are frustrated philosophers, drawing parallel lines of invisible thought and following them like an itinerant hobo hobbling down some abandoned rusty railroad tracks into the disappearing void of a parallel universe. They make metaphors out of mysteries and convert hyperbole into hype, often for no other reason than pure shock value.
For about sixteen years I’ve written weekly vignettes of inanity. More than 600 of them clog my data base, six book anthologies and some newspapers and magazines. Still I sit and peck, and somehow, from somewhere, ideas come. Like I said, writers are strange.
Our lives overflow with fodder these days. Pick anything, and there are parallel lines, metaphors and hyperbole to assail the situations. Boredom at the keyboard is impossible.
Take the political scene. It’s beginning to take shape. Sides have been chosen, battle lines drawn, and the barbs of verbal plowshares are being sharpened into swords. Soon it will be mano a mano, and it’s anyone’s guess what’s going down from here. But one thing is for certain: the convention carnival atmosphere is lacking.
But today I am walking the dog on the beach where there’s plenty of metaphoric action going on. It’s awash with foam.
The surf is essentially calm, unlike the angry and anxious mood of millions of hunkered-down, out-of-work and disenfranchised Americans looking for unemployment checks, jobs and justice of every sort to magically materialize. Richard Pryor the comedian once said: “You want justice? Come to the courthouse and you’ll find it…just us.” Take it for what it is.
Today there are no ponderous waves crashing the shore, just a calm, lazy surf depositing mounds of puffy white foam on the clean-washed sands. It is somewhat symbolic of the just-happened political conventions where a lot of syllables washed up on our tv screens uttered by voices in a vacant auditorium to an invisible crowd. There was no power or zeal to the pontifications. Just words. The content produced no compelling potency.
But unlike vacuous words, the foam is beautiful in its ephemeral elegance. It usually rides atop the raging waves, driven by stiff winds that blow to shore its large frothy bubbles. They resemble what might be the topping of an ocean latte or a cool whip-topped peach cobbler, or, if your mind can grasp the thought, words from political candidates.
There’s a message in the foam. Who can imagine a presidential election without the party conventions? Aside from all the other havoc caused by Covid, blame it for ruining a few nights of living-room amusement and dire predictions.
Zoom can’t compete with the carnival sideshows, the hoopla staged by journalistic hacks, political blowhards and flash-in-the-pan pundits. Covid can’t compete with the innuendo to be drummed up by the media in its nefarious forays into the dark crevices of human minds of back-room, back-slapping and brown-nosing wannabe’s.
And to have a presidential election without the carnival gyrations of conventions is like an SEC Championship game between Alabama and Georgia in an empty stadium. Ho hum is the response.
But things have changed. Fear stalks the streets; protests take the place of baseball and make the news lively. Amazon displaces the addiction to malls while churches survive on PPP government loans and gun sales are through the roof. Times have changed.
But the metaphoric world found in the beach foam remains as it has for millennia. Nature can always be counted on for substance and balance.
Walking home I notice the scorching sun has evaporated the once beautiful frothy foam into disappearing yellow globs. They litter the shore like so many well-intentioned promises that fall flat and fade into the light of another common day.
Soon the election will be over. The winners will gloat, the losers will demand recounts. It’ll all get sorted out. And likely as not, we’ll still be breathing, cussing and discussing while life moves on.
Meanwhile, writers will be holed up in their reclusive cubicles, typing away, trying to connect the dots and unite the parallel lines with metaphors and hyperbole to make it all interesting.
So much foam…life is all in how you see it.
August 31, 2020