Archive for books

Life Is A Carnival

Dan,

It’s been four short years since I moved to the city I now happily call home, and I find it a struggle to recall how it felt to not live in this place. The years here haven’t always felt smooth but being a resident of Seattle has almost always felt “right” to me, as if I found the magical place where I belong. But no place is perfect, no matter how besotted you are with it.

In the last four years I have had one moment of doubt regarding my choice to pack up my life and drive to Washington. So here’s the story of how on day three of living here I nearly came crawling back to Montana.

I moved to Seattle with no job, no home and very few acquaintances. I left my family and the comfort of a place I had known for twenty-three years in the hopes that this city would become my new home. Three days into this adventure I came outside to find the windows of my car shattered and part of the car’s steering taken apart (not to mention a fair amount of blood on the interior).

At the time that I came across my vehicle I was on my way to meet my friend Megan, we had solidified our friendship less than 24 hours prior but she handled the situation like a champ. As we waited for the police to come file a report she helped me remove the belongings that remained in my vehicle and take them into my friend’s apartment. We then made phone calls to find a mechanic open on a Sunday and when my car was safely towed away she drove me to a job interview I had scheduled for later that day.

After the interview, she dropped me off downtown where I was staying, I was physically and emotionally exhausted. I felt like a part of me had been violated, knowing that a stranger had sifted through my photos and books (which was pretty much all I had in the car).

I came into my friend’s apartment and found it empty so I sat on his couch, looked out the window and wondered what the hell I was thinking when I made the decision to leave my home. I called my mother and cried, I told her I missed her and felt so alone and didn’t know if I made the right choice. I wanted some encouraging sign but I felt as if the city itself was rejecting me.

After I got off the phone, my friend walked in and took in the whole scene of me sitting in a dark living room and crying. Uncharacteristically, he hugged me and told me that it was just a bad day and offered to make popcorn and put on a movie for us. As soon as he went into the kitchen, my phone rang with a job offer and moments later Megan texted me with words of encouragement and it felt as if the puzzle pieces were coming into place.

My life didn’t come into immediate focus that night but as I sat on the couch next to an old friend, watching the ferries glide across the dark water, and texting my new friend, I felt like I could handle it. I had a support unit, a job and a roof over my head. And for the first time I really saw that there was potential of something great in this city, something I couldn’t yet verbalize but now recognize as finding your place.

Navigating choppy water,

Adair

 

 

The Book of Love

Dan,

Summer is edging closer it would seem and with it comes my favorite time of year, book season. Yes I know our reading habits are not limited to the summer but I feel like enjoying a book is easiest when inhabiting a sunny patch of grass or sand around Seattle. As you mentioned, we are book people and so what better time to share a favorite title with you then at the start of these warm literature filled months.

Surprisingly I don’t own the book I’m suggesting to you but don’t let this fool you, I loved it and wish I had read it more than once through the last few years. No you will probably not gain any skill as a writer from reading it but I can promise you a unique insight into infatuated love, I know you’re on the edge of your seat now.

The book is a collection of love letters between F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald entitled “Dear Scott, Dearest Zelda.” I know it’s not the typical type of literature that comes to mind when you discuss the topic of non-fiction but this book changed me. I borrowed it at a time when I was at my lowest and needed inspiration and was wishing for guidance out of my own tumultuous experience and this book delivered.

The love between F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald was complicated from start to finish; the letters in this book are filled with longing, obsession, creative struggle and mental illness. No their love was not one I envy, it was tragic despite the passion and adoration. But it brought to light something I was struggling to see in my own sadness.

This book showed me that inspiration is everywhere, struggle could help build my story and frustration could fuel my creativity.   I could use this emotion to let myself grow rather than allow the feelings to bury me.

The book is not a happy one, you see the deterioration of bright and beautiful lovers but if you hold it up to Fitzgerald’s work you can’t help but be impressed with what he made of his own tragedies and labors. This collection showed me that we all have our obstacles, and it’s our choice what we make of them and how we let it effect our art.

Jumping Hurdles,

Adair

I Could Write a Book

Adair,

In the course of our friendship, we have had many asides about what we are reading. We almost exclusively seem to give each other books for all major gift exchanges. We are book people. This is well documented.

But most of our book learnin’ and recommendin’ tends to remain in the realm of fiction. We have shared (and in your case given) philosophical works to one another, but these tend to be the exception.

I’m drawn to fictional stories both for entertainment and information. But rather than tell you about another story I love and why it is so brilliant, I’d rather share the closest thing I have to a diagnosis for my story obsession.

“Three Uses of The Knife: On the Nature and Purpose of Drama” by David Mamet is my story bible. Not as in a TV show runner story bible which outlines all the characters and the storyline, but as my secret text for understanding stories.

We all know how stories go, how to tell them, what to expect from them, and where to look for lesson, moral, take away or pathos. Why is that? You know how the traditional story (fable, fairytale, tragedy, etc.) is because we have heard them so many times. Parents reading aloud, film and television watched, or stories told to each other, from a young age we are all of us inundated with stories. What’s more we remember them, we learn from them, we recall them years later. Why?

That is the main point of this slim tome. Barely over 100 pages, I’ve read it cover to cover eight or nine times in the last year alone. My pen marks have graffiti-ed the pages with the evidence of my obsession. And whether you have a passing interest in the telling of stories or are consumed by the place it holds in human society, this densely packed essay will be worth your time.

I keep it as a writing tool, but I also find it a comfort. To unpack the potential knowledge for dealing with situations outside our realm of lived experience, to examine the arch of characters through these ancient systems of sharing that information, and to try and find what that means for us as a people telling and hearing stories is an exceptional use of your reading time. And it serves to silence my rambling mind for a time.

I’ve always known when a story “worked” or didn’t. This comes mostly from a massive consumption of stories. But in “Three Uses for The Knife,” I’ve found the other end of a conversation I’ve been having in my head for as long as I can remember.

Happy reading,

-Dan

Someone New

Dan,

I could make an epic list of people I wish I could have met. I’ve longed to sit between Hemingway and Fitzgerald as they argued in some darkly lit Parisian bar, wished to discuss military tactics with Elizabeth I, and yearned to have correspondence with John Adams. And this is saying nothing of my schoolgirl fantasy of being serenaded by John Lennon.

There are so many people who have sparked my fascination and I will never have the joy of knowing them and no amount of wanting will allow us to meet. Yet, the person I am most disappointed to have missed out on knowing is more heartbreaking to me then these influential figures because I have so often felt that he is the missing piece to my puzzle. He was not famous or wealthy and I often forget what he looks like having only seen two photos of him, his name was Morgan Watson and he was my grandfather.

The facts I have about my grandfather are limited, a man with vices and a beautiful wife who passed away when my mother was a teenager.   I’m not entirely sure if he was a good man but he helped raise the woman I consider to be the best human I ever met so I feel he must have had his positive attributes that he passed along to her, there must have been kindness in his eyes.

I can list the things I’ve inherited from my family members as if they were a poem I memorized. I have my grandmother Helen’s color shifting eyes and smile, my grandfather Fred’s goofiness and appetite, my grandmother Margaret’s skin tone and figure, my father’s sense of humor and feet, and my mother’s wit and kindness. But when I’ve asked what I have of my other grandfather’s, my mother had nothing to add to my list.

I often wonder about my own vices, my instabilities and insecurities. The attributes that I don’t recognize in my family, the flaws that make me feel lonely and I wonder if maybe that’s where I inherited his genes.   The man is a mystery to me in so many ways, I know more about my barista than I do with someone who I share blood with. When I struggle, I wonder if I’m carrying on his fight.

What I have of him is a story. A few years ago my mother told me how she used to watch planes with her father in the desert that makes up Arizona, this was how they bonded when she was growing up. This is the closest I’ve felt to knowing my mother’s father and to recognizing his personality in my own as I catch myself watching flight patterns in the busy Seattle sky.

I wish I had known him, I hoped to have something to identify with this person besides a story and a photo but I don’t. He was gone decades before my arrival and it is possible that I will never know much about him, it seems like he was introspective and maybe a bit secretive in this absence of information. In which case maybe I’m more like him than not.

Watching planes,

Adair