Monday, July 8, 2013

Reflections on writing and life.

I've been writing Ad Aged for six years now. Except for a few days while on vacation, a few more while chased by the darkest of Black Dogs and most Saturdays and Sundays, I've written every day. In fact, over the past 2,000 or so days, I've managed to write something like 3,500 posts--more than one and a half a day.

That said, it's unusual that I wake up knowing what I want to write. And that's why I love having a blog. I feel the need to write, but don't know what to write about. So, I am forced every morning to think.

That is to think. Really think. To think about what's going on in my world and our industry. To balance that thinking with the consideration of what readers may or may not find interesting. And then to throw all that together and come up with a post.

I suppose if I had a more orderly mind, I could plot out days or even weeks in advance what I want to write about. But I prefer the spontaneity of fear. Of having to face every morning this white rectangle. Of having to type and hoping for the best.

Along the way, I've created a few characters who speak to me when I am up a tree. There's my Uncle Slappy--wise in the way of the world and always ready with a crack or a witticism. And there's the bartender at the Tempus Fugit, another man wise to the world with a view, I think that's jaded but unique. These guys help me. They're almost always there when they're needed.

There's a third guy I think about when I am stuck and though I've never written about him, he spurs me on when I can find no reason to keep on going.

This is a guy called Andre who I played baseball with when I was a precocious teenager.

In those days, say in 1973 when I was 15, I played on a summer league team with mostly college kids. The most gifted of these was a pitcher named Andre. He didn't stick around long enough for us to learn much about him. But what we did learn was pretty frightening.

He had come home from Vietnam without all his faculties intact. He could hardly have a simple conversation--he seemed like a fuse that had already been lit, a temper waiting to explode. However, he had a fastball like Tom Seaver, and that was good enough for us. I would put a small sponge in my mitt when I caught him.

About halfway through our summer season, Andre got arrested and taken away. He had been using heroin and was caught. Another casualty in a world full of horrible casualties.

Five years later, I saw Andre again. I was riding the number one train up to my dorm room and I saw him begging on the subway platform at 50th Street. He looked like a Central Casting homeless man. Still long and thin, but somehow longer and thinner. His hair cascaded around his unshaven face like a waterfall. He had on his fatigues which were filthy and he was begging loudly and aggressively.

It scared me seeing him. I didn't know what to do. I probably should have run out to help him, but he scared me. And what could I do that the Veteran's Administration and Social Services hadn't already tried? Besides I was late for class.

I never saw him again.

But I've thought about him often.

I've thought about the sadness that arrives when someone can no longer fight. When someone has succumbed to the defeats that are all around us. When someone is ruined and without hope.

I think about Andre as I struggle, at times, through my own depression, through the travails of my life and my career. I think about him the way I think about Viktor Frankl.

We are all handed a portion of hell.

How we deal with it makes all the difference.


jls209 said...

One of my all-time favorites, this one.

george tannenbaum said...

Thanks, JLS. --GMT