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Thread: Fresh Meat

  1. #1
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    Fresh Meat

    Something from the middle of my book-- pretty representative. Thanks for any observations.

    August 30, 2007

    About 6 months ago it dawned on me that this process of fixing up the boat, no matter what the current project, would have as a common denominator messiness, in ways that are both predictable (dirt of all kinds, for instance) and unpredictable (a blob of grease covered with sand on the bottom of someone’s shoe, that ends up on a rug you used to like). I was unhappy with the destruction of nice things in the process of creating nice things; it seemed to me that this could, potentially, go on forever, one step forward, one step backward. Not a happy dance.

    So I came up with a brilliant new concept one day, and that was that I would cover things, with newspaper, to protect them while we work. I know, I know, I should write a book. So I covered our galley counter, I covered the companionway counter, I covered the table, I covered the cabin sole. I did this, actually, 6 months ago (work is going a little slowly) and, being a somewhat compulsive reader, I have read, in bits and pieces, most of the headlines and some of the articles that are spread right side up, upside down, sideways, all over our boat.

    One does not usually “grow old” with one’s newspapers, generally-- they come into our homes, we read them, and they go away. They don’t hang around for us to watch their news grow stale, or their claims turn sham. But such is the case on our boat, and I find myself, 6 months later, with some concerns, some philosophical questions, and some simple musings.

    For instance, on the floor of the forward berth is a photo, upside down, of Barach Obama. When I first saw this handsome black man, I wondered who he was. Initially, I assumed that he was modeling the nice shirt he was wearing. Now, I think most first graders in the country, shown this photo (along with one of Hilary Clinton, to be fair, and right side up) would at least recognize him, even if they did call him that other name by mistake.

    On the cabin sole, visible from the forward head, if you have left the door open, you might find cause to wonder, did “Goodenow” turn out to, indeed, be “Good Enough” for her county to elect her for whatever office she was running? I care about that a little; what concerns me more is the word play on her name. Did she resent it? Did it make her angry, this belittling distraction from who she was and what she stood for, by this bundle of letters that just happened to be her last name, possibly even her husband’s last name? And if it did anger her, did she have to gargle the anger down with her Listerine that morning, when she first read that headline? Did she have to spit it out into the bowl, turn the tap on hard, rinse it away and never give it another thought? I imagine so, but I can’t be sure. Maybe she went to the newspaper office the next day and raised hell; pounded on desks and the like. If she did, I hope she had fun, because they’d probably see to it that she didn’t get elected, after showing her ass like that.

    And what about Schmerkowitz? Did he win re-election or not? It wasn't looking good for him in September, when he was trying to explain away his excessive visits to the dry cleaning establishment which was not, it turned out, on the way to the capitol building. But then most people didn't have the benefit of so much quiet time to contemplate this public revelation. I for one have decided to let it go. I’m sure that in France, politicians visit off-route dry cleaners all the time, and no one bats a yeux.

    Caddy-cornered from this troubled locale, on the cabin sole near the table, there is a handsome young man, dressed only in his underpants. They are on sale this week, at JC Penney’s. Or were. What is the young man modeling now? He looks lovely in undies, but I think he would look nicer in clothes; I like the mystery of wondering what’s underneath. And besides, he might have a more natural smile if he were wearing, for instance, pants. I think, actually, that we would all feel better. But then perhaps he has quit the modeling business, and is waiting tables somewhere, running around frantically in some red velvet dining room, trying to find the steak for table 9, not thinking at all about his pants, or his underpants, or his smile, for that matter.

    On the companionway counter, there are more questions. Did the little girl who cut her hair for Locks of Love regret her decision? Did she cry? Did she start to grow it back the next day? She had been letting her hair grow since birth, though many of those years I imagine the choice was not exactly her own. But by the time she got to be 8, her age last September, she certainly was cognizant of what was happening, and presumably in full control of her “locks” and whether or not she felt creepy about them being cut off so that someone else (however deserving) might wear them. A lot of this would depend on how she looked with her hair cut short. I have only the picture of her hair long. It looks nice, but I think she could have done with a trim.

    Near this girl, also on the companionway counter, is another article about which I do know the outcome. It is a fashion article, and it tells me, every day, that bare legs are out, leggings are in. I remember reading this article for the first time, while chopping cucumbers for a salad, and thinking that this could be good news for me; I had some old opaque stockings that, if I could successfully cut off the feet, might pass for leggings and at the same time keep me warm that winter. I found no time to do this, packing and moving from our house as we were; could not even have laid hands on the plastic bag full of old stockings without a terrible lot of time and trouble. But this is okay, because from a fashion sense, I would have been, in my leggings, rather misunderstood here in North Carolina, where, even in my treks to the local library and supermarket, I saw not a soul wearing them once, all winter long. If I had done so myself, I might have been inclined to tear off from my companionway countertop this article to take with me, perhaps pinned to my chest, where it could easily be seen, or, more relevantly, to my legs, to the leggings, so people could read and know that what they were seeing was, indeed, high fashion straight from Paris and not some stupid backwoods Yankee mistake.

    But I know now, so much better than our local fashion maven did then, that leggings were not, after all, going to “take off”, and many times a day, as I pass her happy little byline photo with her au courant hairdo and her white white teeth, I think “No, stupid, you’re wrong.” You’re gonna be wrong until I change this newspaper, and then you’re still gonna be wrong.



  2. #2
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    I read some of the previous excerpt from your book you placed online. I like the premise of your book but this bit rambles. What's the point? Why are you rehashing 6 paragraphs of old news? I think you've strayed off course (pun intended) of telling us about the boat. I'd suggest picking one or two stories, and more clearly relating it to your journey. For example, could you relate the articles to the passage of time as you work on the boat. At first it's the election, when you finish, you've re-papered with the recall results.

    You need to take a good look at punctuation. I think you are over using the comma. Look at your sentence that reads "cover things, with newspaper,". I don't know if you've seen the joke but it is a photo of seals at a disco and it says stop clubbing, seals when the protest would be stop clubbing seals.
    My impression of your comma use is closely tied to the number of what I see are run on sentences.

    I'd cut back on the number of question marks. They are distracting. One or two for emphasize, then stop.

    I'd also think about run-on sentences. For example, you write, "But I know now, so much better than our local fashion maven did then, that leggings were not, after all, going to “take off”, and many times a day, as I pass her happy little byline photo with her au courant hairdo and her white white teeth, I think “No, stupid, you’re wrong.” Is one sentence with about 5 points. It's a bit much.

    I do like the way you write. Needs some work though.

  3. #3
    Senior Member John Oberon's Avatar
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    Well, as far as the writing, I understood it - so kudos there.

    However, I think the writing is pretty darn fat and careless. The most annoying thing to me is your phrase-happy mannerism. You mince your sentences with commas. You know, when you see, like, ten commas in a sentence, and the sentence does not include a list - in my opinion, that might clue you to try for, I don't know, a bit more of what they call, at least here in Ohio, pithiness.

    I also think you're careless with words, though not horribly so. Take that first sentence. You say "this process of fixing up the boat, ... would have as a common denominator messiness,..." It takes two or more things to have a common denominator, right? And I don't know if I'd use "messiness" to describe your examples. I may be wrong, but I tend to think of messiness more along the lines of sloppiness or clutter, something that can be picked up and put right. I think you want a word that implies something a little more disgusting and destructive like "filth" or "grime".

    By far, the worst thing about this is the triviality and irrelevance of the content. I don't think even YOU care about any of this crap. You were just trying to write something cute and humorous, but it is neither; it is inane. It is inane because there is no truth in it, no clever wording, nothing that says this stuff really was a part of your life and thinking. The leggings part starts nearer to truth, but then you destroy it with supposition. It's mostly supposition and opinion, little truth, and even the little truth is muffled with the cumbersome writing.

    That's about it for me.

  4. #4
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    John, you may be right about the subject matter being inane. I'd have to look up inanity to be sure, but right now, I'd say a little inanity in a book is fine with me. There is a whole range of stuff in this book-- I just picked out one tiny piece. What you're wrong about is saying I was "just trying to write something cute and humorous"... "not really a part of [my] life and thinking."

    This is all from journals, so I never sit down to write anything in any specific way. I just write. Everything you read above was directly a part of my life and thinking. I just got off on a tangent one day,with the very real thoughts I'd been having about these articles lying all over the boat. And I thought it was a funny tangent. Doesn't make it better or worse, doesn't deal with the fact that I use too many commas. Just is.

  5. #5
    Senior Member John Oberon's Avatar
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    It's unfortunate that you never sit down to write anything in any specific way. That philosophy tells glaringly in this piece. Most good writers I know consider their content and choose structure and words to enhance meaning as much as possible. It's unfortunate you're fine with a little inanity in a book. Most good writers I know try to eradicate it because they know readers will skip right over it. To each his own.

    I think you would do better to write about the meat of your life instead of the tangents. Do you have anything "meatier" to post?
    Last edited by John Oberon; 08-01-2012 at 05:15 AM.

  6. #6
    Senior Member John Oberon's Avatar
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    By the way, I question that any of this was directly a part of your life and thinking. Take the guy in the undies...here's more how that would read if it were really a part of your life and thinking:

    Caddy-cornered from this troubled locale, on the cabin sole near the table, there is a handsome young man dressed only in bikini briefs advertising a sale at JC Penney’s. I call him “Mr. Pecs”. He is what my mother would call a “seed of discontent”. I think my mother’s title is more accurate.

    Every morning, Mr. Pecs greeted me with his smile and his…briefs…while I sipped my coffee. One morning, I saw my husband through the window next to Mr. Pecs, shining the gunwale of our boat. The comparison was…I want to say eye-opening, but eye-closing is more truthful. Not that my husband is unattractive, not at all. He’s just gotten a little “fluffy” over the years.

    I moseyed out to him and asked, “Have you ever worn bikini briefs?”

    “What? No. Why? You know I wear boxers.”

    “Oh, I just saw an ad that they were on sale at Penney’s. Thought you might want some.”

    “Nah.”

    “Well, you could try them just to see if you like them.”

    “Nah. I like boxers.”


    See? Then maybe you go out and actually buy some bikini briefs for him, even though they are no longer on sale. You give them to your husband and he ends up shining the gunwale with them, and you decide to throw Mr. Pecs into the wastebasket. That’s a part of your life and thinking.

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