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Tannenbaum massacre

Westward to Frisco, I ran a brief errand out to the avenues before reporting for duty at the magazine. Just along the streetcar route, I counted 247 Christmas trees dumped on the sidewalks. 

I'm not particularly 'green', but it was a somber sight. As if the family-induced suicides and twisted consumerism aren't enough — Christmas has no redeeming social value at all.

The environment is like the economy — I have my ideas about how half-ass-backwards it's being mismanaged, but my opinions don't make a loogie's difference to anyone who matters, so I don't mention it much, don't think about it often.

The dead trees, though, reminded me of photos of the buffalo slaughters in the 19th century.

If a quick round trip on one city transit route shows hundreds of dead trees, chopped down to provide a few weeks of Xmas scenery and scent and then discarded as trash, how many millions of trees are sacrificed across the country every December and January?

And we do this not just with trees, but with with everything. Billions of geegaws in the stores, made of plastic and then wrapped in plastic, to be carried away in plastic bags, plastic that lasts forever. Millions of new cars built every year, each of them a ton of metal and glass destined for junkyards in ten or twenty years, after rolling around drinking gas and oil that can't last forever, and killing people and crushing puppies in random wrecks along the way.

I have my doubts about all of it, about everything western civilization is proud of.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Working at Black Sheets this afternoon, Steve seemed extra chatty, cracking a lot of jokes at me. Usually he's been shy like me, but lately he's warmed up to me, and today I had the distinct feeling that he was flirting.

But I won't be complaining to the city agency that pretends to give a damn about such inappropriate workplace behavior, 'cause after all, he is kinda cute.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Oh, and sarcastic thanks to the anonymous reader who sent this flyer about a "creative writing workshop" in Berkeley, called "Write About Your Life."

The flyer is a series of clunky incomplete sentences, promising that "award-winning writer █████ █████ MFA" will teach how to "make your life experience come alive for the reader." And golly gee, the seminar is only $175."

But before I sign up, could you please tell me who █████ █████ is, or show me something she's written that's worth one-hundred-and-seventy-five dang dollars, let alone the bother of walking six blocks to be bored silly at a seminar?

Until that's been explained, I'll be absent, and remain intentionally ignorant of knowing how to make my life experience come alive.

I'm not sure that good writing can be taught, but even if it can, nobody who writes well is teaching the class. Norman Mailer has better things to do. Only the █████ █████s of the world teach creative writing workshops.

From Pathetic Life #20
Monday, January 8, 1996

Addendum, 2023: When I wrote my sneering dismissal of █████ █████ in 1996, I'd never heard of her, and had no way to know whether she could write. I printed her name because I was an ass, and also what the hell. Nobody reads zines, so it couldn't possibly hurt her feelings.

Today, armed with the internet and some early morning curiosity, I Googled her name. She's mentioned only once on the entire internet, in a PDF of a 1984 article in her college alumni newsletter, reporting that her poetry had won an award from the college.

The article included the prize-winning poem, which I've read. Like most poetry it's not for me, but it's credible, and probably better than the poetry I wrote last time I tried.

With only that one online mention of her name, Ms █████ must be either dead, married and using a new surname, or she's given up writing. All those possibilities seem sad to me, and nothing good or kind could come from making this page her second citation online, so today I've redacted her name.

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.

1 comment:

  1. The worst English professors at college were usually the adjuncts who brought their own work to be read and discussed in class. I don't remember any of them putting their work on the syllabus, but they'd drum up phony interest in it by "casually mentioning" something they'd written awhile back and how if anyone was interested they might bring it to class if we asked, pretty please.

    Of course, it was a set-up, one that most of the brain-dead kids didn't even notice. Those of us who knew the score would make cynical call outs demanding we be allowed to read it "for fun." We knew there was no easier way to ace the class than to pretend we loved whatever crap was presented.

    I don't remember any of it now, but at the time I remember mostly being amused at how clever they thought they were. The short stories almost always had cutesy, two word, not-quite-double-entendres for titles, crap like Close Relations, Eating Out, Breathing Hard.

    If it was a male writer, it was about a deep yearning for a girl he once knew and imagined would be the love of his life if he could just find her out there somewhere. Maybe in a bookstore or a college English class. If they do meet, something tiny triggers greater regret and they never see each other again... if the writer was female, it was about an old lover who still shared feelings for her as she did for him. But if only they could meet again. Maybe at the opera, the ballet, or a museum exhibition. If they did meet, the fell back into true love.

    I'm mostly guessing but I think this sounds about right. I do remember that "poetry readings" that featured only young people consisted of guys pining for girls who would bang them and girls speaking rapturously about their sex life. It was sad but predictable.

    I once got roped into going to this middle-aged poetry reading thing in the suburbs in the early '90s and it was awful, of course. All I remember is this strident Jewish woman raising her fists and talking about how she marched alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. and was with him in spirit today or he was with her in spirit today. The only other detail I remember was she somehow worked in a line about driving her red Acura. I didn't know what a luxury-brand Honda had to do with anything but I guessed it was a humble-brag that she wasn't just some down-on-her-luck old hippie but someone who had arrived!

    Most people suck. They really do. -- Arden

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