Some years ago, I vaguely remember hearing or reading something along these
lines: "Good writing consists in describing chaos from a standpoint of
calm." I'm paraphrasing, of course, and the original may have been paraphrased
as well, so it is entirely possible that the phrase is meaningless as I recount
At the time, though, hearing this was like getting smacked upside the head by God after he's had a few. Chaos! I read, or heard, and looked around. New York City was grinding itself down around me, wearing itself to dust and shavings. Mighty, rusty engines bore down on each other in the heat, screeching and splitting the pisslike sunshine to angles while a horrible, semi-sentient humidity mopped the stink off everything and wrung it up my nose. Everybody walked like bent, sweaty spoons, gasping for a spoonful of breath.
This, I thought to myself, is a goldmine. All I have to do is wait for a standpoint of calm to come along, and I can spin this snarled-up string into something beautiful. Oh, the acclaim I will win! The money I will make! And of course I would frequently imagine my future standpoint of calm: hardwood floors, high-up so the trees look like wistful broccoli, a bay window that faces something intellectually provocative. Kind of like Pete Straub's place, but around ten times nicer, just to be safe, and stocked liberally with mousy, intellectual girls who look fabulous with their glasses off and love doing it doggie style.
I didn't even worry about the 'good writing' part of the quotation, or paraphrase, that I had read or heard, because in those days I was a good writer: a slim, long-haired beast with a silver tongue, a golden penis and a tin heart that made it possible for me to do just about anything with a clear conscience.
Many years later, which is to say last Friday, I awoke from the standard dreams about table legs and stacks of broken clocks to a narrow view of a table leg and the gurgling of the last in a string of crappy Russian alarm clocks that I had been compulsively collecting on eBay. This one, a 1965 Slava (mechanical only; I don't go in for that Quartz shit), loses approximately 17 minutes a night and has such a weak mainspring that it must be wound every five hours or it stops, requiring me to set another alarm clock (the Vostok) to wake me for the 4 am winding.
On the bedside table, the clock. Next to the clock, the writing desk. Above the writing desk, the window. And out the window, a toolshed. Not even a nice toolshed. Not even my toolshed.
No wistful, no broccoli, Peter Straub absent, phone unringing, number unknown, website unvisited, beard untrimmed, pot-belly unaddressed, stapler empty, dignity around my ankles as I pitched headfirst into a B-stock, unlabeled Thursday. And then it hit me.
Moment! God damn it! The word was moment. Not standpoint! Moment!