Sunday, April 1, 2012

Now and Then



I’ll admit, today’s task – namely, to answer the confessional questionnaire made famous by Marcel Proust from the viewpoint of my twenty-year-old self – isn’t one I’ve been looking forward to. Twenty-year-old-me was a mopey, self-important dope. But I’m not about to blow a writing assignment so soon after joining this-here group blog, so I’ve decided to let him out a while – though you’d best believe I’m sticking around to make sure he doesn’t muck things up too much. You there, twenty-year-old me?

Yup. Hey – why aren’t you wearing your earrings?

Huh? Oh, right. I took those out forever ago.

Why?

A, the Nineties are over. And B, I’m not sure we really ever pulled ’em off.

Sellout.

Your words, they hurt. Now focus: we’ve got a questionnaire to answer.

Right. Sure. But wait – how’s anybody going to tell our answers apart?

Well, for one, you’re kind of a pompous idiot –

Hey!

– and for two, you’re talking in italics.

I am?

Yup. Must be something to do with the temporal distance between you-now and me-now.

Whoa. Heavy. It reminds me of this Heraclitus quote –

Shut up – no it doesn’t. Now, onto the questions. And try not to embarrass me, would you?

What is your most marked characteristic?

Hmm. Good question. I’d say, probably my intellect.

Of course you would. Only you’d be wrong. You’re nowhere near as smart as you think you are. It’s more likely your pathological desire to be liked. That, or those big ears of yours. Either way, don’t expect much to change anytime soon.

The quality you most like in a man?

I like them to be slightly worse-looking than me.

That’s funny: I was going to say a sense of honor. But you just made it pretty clear we don’t have any.

The quality you most like in a woman?

Discretion being the better part of valor, how’s about we let twenty-year-old-me take a pass on this one?

Oh, fine. But answer me this: you remember that cute, smart redhead you were dating back in college? What’s she up to these days?

Wait fourteen years, and ask her yourself. She never did figure out she was too good for us.

What do you most value in your friends?

Well, they’ve got to have good taste in music and movies and stuff.

I’ll grant you kid, when it comes to passing time, that doesn’t hurt – but believe me when I tell you, you should have said loyalty. Speaking of, heads up: your next year or so is gonna suck.

What is your principle defect?

Hmm. Is it possible to be both arrogant and insecure?

Yeah. All too. And we’re still working on both.

What is your favorite occupation? What would you like to be?

When I was little, I thought I wanted to be a writer. But now I realize that’s sort of a childish fantasy, you know? So I think I’m going to be a doctor. Help people, and all that.

Kid, that’s one area you’ve got me beat. Becoming a doctor's a laudable goal indeed. All I want to do with my life is to make up silly stories in my pajamas. But if you’ll permit an old man to give you a bit of advice: if, by some chance, everything goes off the rails, and you find yourself without a rudder, try not to freak too much, okay? In life, as in writing, if you’re stuck, it’s likely because you were headed in the wrong direction to begin with. And if you can quiet your mind enough, you’ll eventually find your way. Even if that way leads you to telling silly stories in your pajamas.

What is your dream of happiness?

I dunno. I’d love to see the world. To make a difference. To experience as much as I can in the time I’m given.

Me, too. But more importantly, I’d like to matter to the people who matter to me, and to spend as much time in their company as I possibly can.

What to your mind would be the greatest of misfortunes?

Failure, I guess.

Really? Failure? My, how times have changed.

What do you mean? You’re not afraid of failing?

Nope. Not a whit. Failure’s good. Failure’s necessary. Failure means you’re trying. Far as I’m concerned, giving up is the greatest of misfortunes, and fear of failure’s what leads most to do just that.

What is your favorite color?

Midnight blue.

Your favorite flower?

Not much for flowers, myself. Though there’s something to be said for giving long-stemmed roses.

Your favorite bird?

The common crow.

Not bad, kid. You and me went three for three on those ones.

Who are your favorite prose writers?

Uh. Um. Hmm. Mark Twain? Harper Lee? Herman Melville?

Oh, give me a break. Twain and Lee I’ll spot you, but you and I both know you’ve barely read a word of Melville. Fact is, I’m pretty sure you meant to say Poe and King and Gibson and Doyle and Wambaugh, but your head’s so cluttered with liberal arts nonsense, you thought such lowly genre fare was something to be embarrassed of. It’s not. And just you wait: in a couple years, you’ll discover Chandler and Hammett, Powers and Lovecraft. Believe me when I tell you, they’re gonna change your life.

Who are your favorite heroines of fiction?

Pipe down, junior: I got this one. Right now it’s Lily Moore, in a walk.

Who’s she?

Like I said, kid: just you wait.

Who are your favorite composers?

Do the Beastie Boys count?

No. They do, however, still rock.

How about Portishead? I hear they've got an orchestral live record coming out.

Sure. Them I’ll give you. But I've heard it, and it can't touch "Dummy."

Who are your favorite painters?

I quite like Warhol and Lichtenstein.

Me, too! Though I’ll tell you what: cool or not, Monet always manages to knock me back.

Really? Monet? What’re you – a college first-year hanging posters in your dorm room?

Be snide all you like, but answer me this: you ever seen a Monet in person?

No.

Well, I have. His stuff just pulls you in. Begs to be looked at. The first time I saw one, I got so close to it the docent yelled at me – he was sure I was gonna touch it. I’m not sure he was wrong. The way he put paint on canvas was just so textural...

Geez. And to think you called me pompous.

Who are your heroes in real life?

That one’s easy. My Papa.

You got that right.

Hey, what’s he think of our book? I bet he’s proud.

I bet he is, too, kid. I only wish I’d had the chance to show it to him.

Who are your favorite heroines of history?

Marie Curie. Rosalind Franklin. Too dorky?

Heck, no. Just dorky enough.

What is it you most dislike?

Most days? Myself.

Nah. You dislike the same thing I do: artifice. Once you ditch it, you’ll like yourself fine.

How would you like to die?

Blaze of glory.           

Not me. I’ll take quiet. Peaceful. Content. And hopefully really damn old.

What is your present state of mind?

Self-conscious. Disconcerted.

Yup. With a tiny dose of reluctant nostalgia.

To what faults do you feel most indulgent?

Those that do no harm to others.

Kid, I couldn’t have said it better myself.
***
For those of you who enjoyed these inane ramblings, but would like to trade the unhinged narcissistic self-indulgence for a hearty dollop demons and doxies, feel free to check out my debut novel, DEAD HARVEST, which is now available wherever books are sold. No, seriously. I know, I have trouble believing it myself.

8 comments:

Garnet said...

A most entertaining dialog. Thank you for sharing it.

*shakes hands with the older one*

*blows kiss at younger*

Chris said...

I'd object to the order in which those greetings were administered, but then said cute redhead from question three would likely punch me...

Michael Wiley said...

A great post, Chris -- Love the multiple voices that we all have inside us (as long as they stay inside, no one locks us up). Melville started out in pulp fiction: sea adventurers, lots of bikinis -- so maybe your 20-year-old self had that right too.

Gabi said...

Michael,
He's copping to NOT having read Melville and I'm not sure there were that many bikinis on the old whaling ships or, maybe, you've got the alternate ending in yours.

Welcome to the neighborhood, Chris.

Chris said...

Suddenly, Michael, Melville sounds a whole lot more intriguing. Thanks to you and Gabi both!

Michael Wiley said...

First of all, Queequeg looks great in a bikini if that's your taste, and Ahab, well, Ahab too, though that requires an entirely different sensibility.

And I'm thinking Omoo, not Moby Dick -- so, this is Tahiti and drinks in coconut shells, beer bongs, the whole bit.

Reece said...

Welcome to the blog, Chris. Great post. I agree that there's a lot to be said for making up silly stories in your pajamas. And the Beastie Boys.

Chris said...

Thanks, Reece!

And Michael, one of these days, I'll give Melville another crack, if for no other reason than the kid who put him down for being boring was, as stated, kind of an idiot...