Some of you who have listened to me babble for years now are aware that I lost most of my early writings through a series of incidents (some accidental, one, in particular, extremely vindictive). This loss haunts me from time to time, even though I realize there’s not much I can do about it at this point. Coulda, shoulda, woulda.
There is one project that I was fairly certain managed to survive. It was a hardcopy of my third “book”, printed out three decades ago. I just didn’t know what the hell I had done with it, despite many nights of sleepless pondering. Amazingly, I still have a digital copy of such, as well, but it’s on several “hard disks”. (Remember those? Sadly, said disks are forever formatted to fit the needs of the fancy “word-processing machine” I owned back in those fading salad days. Said machine died eons ago, presumably along with any support people who could help me translate the recorded data into something usable for modern products.
Believe me, I have tried many times over the years, as new fancy products roll out that falsely promise to aid me in my quest to convert retro data into something that makes sense, to release the unfairly imprisoned words of my youth. None of the products or programs have worked. They all essentially reach the same summation: “That mess on those disks is tainted. Just say a few parting words and launch them out to sea on wooden boat bound for nowhere. That’s how the Vikings got rid of crap that didn’t work anymore.”
Still, those disks, nestled in a molded-plastic flip box designed precisely for hard disks and therefore useless for anything else, have a place on my desk. I fondle the box every now and then, thinking maybe, somehow, but the painful reality stabs at my tortured soul and I shove the molded and moldy box back into its assigned position, next to a box set of Henry David Thoreau novels and a box set of the “I, Claudius” PBS series. (My desk is massive, as any serious desk should be, and the landscape is intricate and well-populated, though perhaps a bit confusing from a thematic perspective.)
Side Note: The “fancy word-processing machine”? It was purchased by my father, during one of those brief, elusive moments when he tried to understand what it was that I thought I wanted to be. I always trod carefully, during said moments, partly because of the rarity but mostly because I knew the list of my transgressions, in his eyes, was long, endless, unredeemable. It was/is always a losing battle, because I never could/can be what he thought I should be. Still, hope floats, despite the height of the wall.
Digressing, digressing, remembering. Where were we?
Ah, the theoretical hardcopy of my third book, printed out on actual heavyweight stock, the kind of stock words should be printed on when you send them to potential publishers, at least in 1990. Where the hell was it? Then, earlier this evening, in a completely unrelated event, wherein I was contemplating the murder-mystery play I penned for Partner’s 40th birthday (he was the victim; the party attendees had to figure out whodunit), something shifted. I remembered stashing some of the stage notes from that play in a little-used, deeply-cavernous doored shelf in my massive desk. Something else shifted, and I remembered seeing, way back in the cavern as I shoved newer things in front of such, a stack of manuscript boxes.
Manuscript boxes. Some of you more long-term writers know exactly what these things are. Back in the day, one used these boxes to send your hopes and dreams to the book publishers, most of whom swatted away your efforts unless they met a specific, demographically-delineated market, even then. Still, those boxes meant something to me, even if no one else.
I raced to the office, threw open the little-used door, and I began tossing aside the obstacles in my quest. Eventually, the floor of said office was littered with all the questionable detritus we cling to, refusing to let go, give it one more chance. (Cleo the Cat dutifully sniffed at the flung nostalgia, unimpressed, as is the methodology of felines.)
I must admit that I squealed a bit, in a manly manner, of course, when I found the manuscript box in the photo above. (Notice how I didn’t even bother to whisk away the clinging dust bunnies before taking said snap. That’s how I found it, that’s how you should see it, despite my last-minute decision to use a nostalgic sepia filter to emphasize the age of the yellowed pages within.)
I carefully opened the box, and there it was.
All of it formatted according to the crazed stipulations of manuscript-submission at that time, with the double-spacing between the lines and the double-spacing after a period and the cryptic way you had to number the pages and… well, it was not fun. Then again, the book-publishing houses could dictate whatever they wanted and only a tiny fraction of writers could get what they wanted. Now? Cleo the Cat could publish her memoirs on Kindle with nary a book publisher in sight and still top the charts. And so it goes.
And what, pray tell, might be the meaning behind my sepia-tinted ramblings in this post? Well, I’ve been splashing around in the pages of “Duck Sauce”, and while I will be the first to admit that the book has some serious problems, there are also seeds of what you see growing at Bonnywood today. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be salvaging the bits of “Duck Sauce” that might still be worthy of some merit. It won’t always be pretty, because nobody knows what the hell they are doing at the age of 25, but there’s something to be said about looking at yourself in a thirty-year-old mirror.
I’ll end this post with the opening lines of the book, unchanged…
“We were happily perched on a bench, made of concrete, smack in the middle of the Main Mall, nibbling on peanut butter sandwiches that we didn’t really want and contemplating the true meaning of a large sign directly in front of us.”
Sound familiar? The opening refrain of a Past Imperfect, perhaps?
Everything old is new again.
Categories: Work In Progress