A Writer's Hero Journey...Part 1
This offering pays homage to a number of different ideas and motifs. It represents (My version) of the Joseph Conrad Hero’s Journey. As such…It’s weird…and in six parts. I have posted it within the Literature category. To all those who hold the concept and practice of literature dear…I apologize. I hope you enjoy it.
~Thomas (real wife wanna-be writer)
Rated R for Language, Sexual Situations, Drug References, and Mental Nudity.
Attractive Ranch-style American home situated fifteen miles south of the Reno Downtown area. Real-life, unemployed, wanna-be writer Thomas, stares reflectively at the Richard Nixon re-election Campaign poster hanging on his wall while mentally noting the need to pick up Hunter S. Thompson’s “On the Campaign Trail ‘72”.
My reference points for the legendary gonzo-style journalist are gleaned from his abstract representation by Gary Trudeau in the Doonesbury cartoon series, my roommate’s small ‘Hunter S. Thompson shrine, and several viewings of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” --Johnny Depp version.
I’ve never read any of his books.
My roommate, Erika, views this as a literary omission of colossal proportions. Her husband, my other roommate, Jamie, is in agreement. In fact, we have the book-jacket-cover-art, in poster-form, prominently hanging in our living room. Unfortunately, that is all we have as the book has long since been read into oblivion.
“Reading it in the bath while drinking wine with unattended candles again?” I ask Erika.
“Yes.” She replies in the universally recognized monotone of shame. Eyes cast down.
“Burned or drowned?” I probe like a coroner attempting to fill in the ’Final cause’ box on the obligatory official paperwork.
Jamie and I exchange knowing glances. This was not the first burning/baptismal ceremony we have been through over the years.
This conversation had occurred the other day--before they’d bustled off to the week long counter-cultural festival—Burning Man.
Located 100-miles outside Reno, the annual event is staged amidst the splendid bareness of Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. It is a celebration of artistic, individual, sexual, and creative drug use which explores and pushes individual barriers. Yeah…hippie stuff. It’s pretty cool.
As Erika is fond of calling it, “It’s the most awesome expression of Radical self-reliance, ever!”
This pronouncement is typically delivered in a breathy voice, hands clutched in tight fists and held to her side, face pointed down with her hair obscuring the (I’m sure) glazed expression in her eyes. Yeah…she’s a drama nerd.
I smile. I like Erika.
Why am I not going, you ask? It’s pretty expensive. I look glumly at my “Ad Program” revenue account. Enough said. Beside, I harbored an inkling, a sense really that the journey I was about to embark on would prove equally transcendental. Mostly though, it was the lack of money.
In all likelihood none of this will prove germane to the exciting “Hero’s Journey” we are about to embark on. I am out of post-it-notes, however, and the above cited Ad Program balance sheet negates purchasing new ones. I have to write it here…
[Go to Barnes and Noble]
Enter…Real Life Friend…Faye…
Any participant (burner) on their way to (the annual awesomeness that is) Burning Man is a continual ongoing compiler of lists; mental lists, typed lists, scribbled lists, half-remembered lists, and half-forgotten lists.
Food, glowing stuff, extra bike inner-tubes, water, gifts for other burners, fun sexy-minded clothes, more water, sensible climate-minded clothes, housing needs, hygiene needs, party needs, and artistic needs…each…ranked in order of importance by the individual burner…it’s a delicate balance. Radical self-reliance.
It’s like being transported to a week long carnival staged on the sun by day and a real cold place in space by night. Radical Self-reliance.
When Faye arrives at my house…she’s just such a compiler of lists. Those living in the Reno area and wanting to go to the “Burn,” …but aren’t…we are well aware of these lists and are tired of these lists. Still, Faye has her shit together.
“Hey dear-ums,” I say as she drops into the chair next to me. She begins digging in her purse.
Faye is a taciturn girl. Mid-20s, great feet, very pretty, confident, incredible long-dark red wavy curly hair, and with outspoken opinions when she is ready to speak. The problem tends to be that during the quiet times—like allied radiomen before D-Day;--I tend to fill the airwaves with nervous chatter. Another issue is the concept of the decibel. Faye is a low-talker and I am a hard-of-hear-er. Also, my concentration tends to wander…
Unwilling to necessarily admit these infirmities to the nubile young woman, I attempt to compensate by inferring what I thought I might have heard. The other (other) problem is that I don’t, as a result, track conversations very well…
There's nothing going on with us…you know…she and I are just friends. Still, Faye displays a certain natural sexual chemistry that's impossible to deny and difficult to ignore. Hence, the nervous chatter.
The realities of our relationship are these; I'm a good twenty years her senior and, as such, there's a considerable difference in our maturity levels. She doesn’t seem to mind that she’s more mature than me but I have had some embarrassing lapses over the years. I can be odd. I like to think we have moved beyond them.
“Hi Thomas,” She says as she locates the object of her search.
Her visit's the result of a call I had placed an hour earlier.
“Hey Faye. Do you know a guy?” I had asked.
“I do know a guy.” She confirmed.
In fact, I knew that she ‘knew’ a guy because I have been calling about ‘said’ guy (off and on) for the past six years.
The other problem with being left behind on the Burning Man party-train…your friends usually take the good weed with them. No one blames them…still…
Faye throws the half-ounce of California-grown, weapons-grade marijuana on my desk. I give her the money, pleased that we had just contributed to the economy as much as any staunch Republican.
“Getting this didn’t throw you off schedule did it? You all ready to go?” I inquire while inspecting the bag and loading a bowl.
In the back of my writer’s mind I can sense Creative Voice (finally) getting out of bed… (Figures…)
“No, I was going to stop there anyways. I still have to pick up some more water, get my toes done, get my hair braided and wrapped in ribbons... I should be headed out late this evening…” Faye reports as she runs down her latest list...
Casual Chit-chat turns Awkward…
Unfortunately, upon mentioning that she was getting her toes done, my concentration dawdled while her sentence continued apace.
I look up from her perfectly sculptured foot to her quizzical face. She had stopped talking. I wasn’t quite sure which tunnel the conversational thread had ducked into….um…
“I agree! The airframe of the A-10 Warthog ground-support aircraft (not to mention their 20-mm cannon…pfft…pfft…don’t get me started…) would have certainly stemmed the tide--had the Soviet 32nd Guard’s Army shown the temerity….”
I had picked the wrong conversational tunnel…I could tell from her face…still…determined to muscle through the awkwardness (like Dick Cheney walking through his third heart attack of the day) I gracefully managed to merge the A-10 attack-aircraft comment back into the normal flow of conversation…
“So, you all ready to go?” I lamely repeat.
“I am.” Faye responds while taking a hit. She’s used to me.
“What are you doing this week?” she asks.
“Well, I plan on doing some multi-tasking shit.” I reply while taking the pipe from her.
She looks doubtful of my abilities in this realm.
“Oh yeah?” She asks skeptically as she exhales the thick cloud of smoke.
“Yes. I’m going to quit smoking cigarettes….No, No…really…” I forestall her doubt. "I think this is the best time…mostly…the people I love will be at Burning Man…when I’m feeling bitchy…I will smoke pot and work out…also…I’m doing another writing project.”
I explain the project and show her what I've written (the stuff before she had come into the room). I sit back satisfied while reloading the bowl. Faye seems skeptical.
“How many times have you tried to stop smoking before?” She asks absently while looking at my notes and the little I had written…
“You are writing about a Hero’s journey in which you go in as ‘Thomas’ and come out as some ‘real’ writer named ‘ThoughtSandwiches’? Like a Homeric Journey? The Odyssey or something?”
“Yeah…The Odyssey is kind of complicated…I was thinking more “O’ Brother Where Art Thou. Um…maybe something Homeric…” I vaguely confirm. “This will be my twelfth attempt at not smoking…kind of like the 12-step thing.” I point out sagely.
[Find out definition of Homeric Journey]
“And you intend to intersperse your random thoughts…thrown out…in the story itself because you ran out of post-it-notes?”
“Oh. Do you have post-it-notes?” I ask hopefully.
“Then, yes. I intend to intersperse my random thoughts throughout the story because I do not have any post-it-notes.” I stare at her levelly while taking a hit and passing the pipe along.
“Isn’t your reading public going to find that annoying?” She asks while accepting the burning embers.
I review the cross-section that represents my ‘reading public’. “No…both of them are pretty avant guard I think…”
Exit…Real Life Friend…Faye…
“Hmm…well good luck. I just remembered I have to go. I need to get an oil change before I take off. I thought I had that on a list…” She trails off.
We both stand and share a quick hug. I wish her luck and tell her to have fun. She, likewise, wishes me luck on the no-smoking thing and my literary pursuits.
As I walk her to her car I offer to email a copy of the finished story to her while asking if she had ever read any of my stuff. The look of distaste that quickly crosses her face indicates she has. No higher praise from Faye.
I smile. I like Faye.
When I return to the office, Creative Voice is standing next to my desk in my underwear and his bathrobe. He’s in need of a shave and scratching his nether regions.
[Buy new underwear]
“You drank all the coffee,” he complains until his eyes alight upon the bag left by Faye, “Oh…”
“Yeah. You ready to work?” I ask while sitting at the computer…
(End Part One)