I have mad love for Johnny Cash. There was always a part of me that appreciated country music but wouldn’t admit it out loud, not even to myself. But if we’re all honest, we’ll concede that it doesn’t get much better than Kenny Rogers’ The Gambler.
There’s something raw and real about country music. When I listen to Johnny Cash, I can almost smell the desert, the whisky and the stale cigars. I can imagine a world where your horse is your best friend and you sleep with one eye open and a rifle tucked under your pillow. Just in case. A world where you “shot a man in Reno just to watch him die”. There is no better companion than Johnny Cash for a road trip. It’ll make you feel like you’re heading for an exciting destination instead of just visiting mom.
Johnny Cash sang a lot about faith and redemption, and though I do not share his faith, I appreciate the idea of redemption. There’s a strong sense of humility in his songs, especially the ones recorded towards the end of his career, and that theme resonates with me. I suspect that when confronted with the end, Mr. Cash realized that it doesn’t matter what you believe; what matters is how you act.
In my case, It’s social anxiety light. It’s not crippling… yet. It’s just… Well. It’s exhausting. Socializing is exhausting. I don’t script conversations in my head—that is, with real people existing in the real world because I do plan conversations with myself, but don’t we all? No? Just me? OK then—but sometimes, I wish there could be a pre-established list of topics. Or, more to the point, a list of topics to avoid. How do I know we should never talk about *bleep bleep* with you because it gets ugly really fast? How do I know that if I venture down that road (oh, you know the road I am talking about), I will see a side of you I would rather not know?
Socializing (usually) also involves going out. The “going out” part in the “leaving my place” sense is fine. Put on shoes, grab keys, unlock the door, turn knob, step out—well, I can do that. And without tripping, like, half of the time. But first, before all that can be done, you need to pick out what to wear. People judge you on what you wear, and the trouble is, my wardrobe would tell you I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it myself. Except when I have to go out and socialize. And no matter how much time I spend painstakingly trying to put together a decent outfit, the end result is invariably—meh.
But let’s talk about the gnat pricking your skin part of social life: small talk. Small talk kills me. No, no, let me rephrase that. Small talk sends my brain out for a walk. A long, long walk. There is an art to small talk; I do believe that. Some people can handle it so masterfully that it becomes this impressive piece of art, like an intricate tapestry. I, however, do not master the art of small talk. I can barely carry out a coherent conversation without tripping—both mentally and physically.
There are many lines, paragraphs, sentences and even words I wish I had written myself. I’m sure it happens to most of us. You’re reading, innocently enough, impatient to find out what happens next, and then – BAM! – there’s this gem of a line that makes you forget about the rest of the story for a while as you focus on its sheer brilliancy.
Don DeLillo’s Cosmopolis includes such a line. It’s right there, on page 181 –
So it was personal then.
Five words. And even taken completely out of context here, you have to admit that sentence throws a solid punch. So much is realized in just five words. Eric Michael Parker’s assailant knows him, and now EMP is aware of that fact. And five words is all it took.
I read a lot. I read books, blogs, newspapers on line, magazines, lyrics. Reading lyrics is probably my favourite thing, next to a history book with a novel narrative. I read trash, too. Books like Flowers in the Attic (I’ve actually read that one more than once), and I’m sure some would side-eye my subscription to Vanity Fair. Vanity Fair is half-trash. At least, that’s what I choose to believe.
I like to read the idealists from time to time. Good Magazine is a great example of that. It’s a quarterly, so it doesn’t require too much of your time, and it’s full of inspiring ideas on how to make the world around you better. I read and I imagine myself making a change. I tell myself that really, if we all pitch in, we can make things better. I flip to the back cover and I get up (usually from the white throne) and raise my fist in the air and say, “Yes, we can!” And then I get back to work where I attempt to decipher gibberish (I’m a translator) or – worse – I pick up a trashy magazine to fill my brain with frivolity again, and tell myself, “Hey! At least I’m not one of those Kardashian girls.”
However, nothing beats reading the lyrics of a brand new album. I’m old school, so I buy CDs and vinyls and usually get that booklet or sheet of lyrics. I play the music and read. Bad Religion will never know how much they taught teenage me about the English language (I looked up so many words in the dictionary) and how to pronounce difficult words (to a French speaker) like “hierarchy”. And how about that line –
Yeah, I was dreaming through the “howzlife”, yawning, car black, when she told me, “mad and meaningless as ever…” (Bad Religion – Hooray for me…)
Try singing along to that line, and that’s worth one lesson in English enunciation.
I read novels, too. Tons of them. More on that later.
There won’t be a list. As the probable only reader of this blog, the last thing I want to see is a list. Save me from mundane details, and my life is mostly that – mundane.
I’m a woman in my thirties. I live in Montréal. I’m French first, English second. This might get obvious from time to time. Apologies. I have a birthday coming up in a few days, but the slow slide towards middle age doesn’t bother me, though I think about death on a more or less regular basis. I think about people around me dying. When I was young, I thought about my death quite a bit. It wasn’t a death wish per se; more a conviction that I wasn’t going to make it past twenty. So I did not plan past that. Never thought about having a family or what I would do for the rest of my life. I thought about writing, but that was about it. Such lofty ambitions I had! And now here I am.
One last thing I want to share about me is that I love music. That will inevitably slip in this blog. Don’t worry. I don’t think my musical tastes are the Gospel of what everyone should listen to – far from it. I like what I like. I love what I love. I don’t try to tell others they should love what I love. Or even like what I like.
I’ve read somewhere (somewhere… isn’t that a sign that you’re getting on in years?) – I think it was in one of those “10 Things that Great Writers do every Day” lists; yep, that sounds right – that writing regularly is the way to get a work of fiction done. Makes sense, right? You have to write to write. To write, to write, to write, to write.
I don’t expect many people to read this blog. In fact, I expect to be the only one. The point is to write. So writing, I will do.