I used to see my life unfolding before me like it was being typed out on my Smith-Corona.
Now you might think of it as closed-caption – although it included the narrative, too. (As if the story was being written and I was doing what the written words said, or vice versa.)
I used to think of it as my life being dubbed.
I often wondered how and when the movie would end.
Perhaps I was spending too much time at a typewriter?
This reminds me of the film clips I've seen on TV for the new Will Ferrell movie, Stranger Than Fiction. But I've only seen the commercial, not the movie.
Lately, as I read notes on Allen Ginsberg's famous poem Howl, and the notes published of earlier versions of the poems, I'm reminded that my later works leave NO PAPER TRAIL.
Anything that was printed of the earlier versions, if not already on the back of once-used paper became the used side of once-used paper.
When I last tried to find remembered manuscripts from earlier pieces, I found only OTHER stuff that I wasn't looking for and that distracted me from the failing search at hand.
I just re-read my review of Al Sullivan’s book Everyday People – and a thought came to me.
Sometimes I read something from long, long ago that I wrote in some distant past and when I read it now I say why don’t I write like THAT now.
That was really good.
It’s just a thought.
Everyday People: Profiles from the Garden State
If you ever met Al Sullivan, the last thing you'd do is picture him as a dashing young soldier long ago at the height of the Vietnam war - much less baby sitting a bunch of freaky rockers outside his helicopter at a place called Woodstock. Yet, that's one of the duties he 'volunteered' for.
In his essay "By The Time I Got To Woodstock" Sullivan briefly notes his 1st visit to the upstate refuge - and his overwhelming fear of helicopters. It is one of the rare times in Everyday People that he uses "I". It's to be forgiven him because he immediately uses his modern day visit to Woodstock as a newspeg to compare that town with Secaucus - his current tour of duty.
Sullivan worked for me for a few months in 96-97, and though the months were few, the impact has been long-lasting. He covered the mundane meetings, sure, but there was always something else lurking behind the tousled hair and the distant stare. He had the ragtag Tandy laptop blinking on one desk, the company terminal blinking there, a notepad in front of him - all while he was on the phone talking to another source. Sullivan was always on the go, always three steps ahead of the sunshine, so to speak. It is a pleasure to read him again.
It was there, in those other stories that Al set himself apart. If he worked for me now, he'd be a 'special writer' - that's someone who does his beat, and also turns in outstanding stories from left field, Clark's Pond, the emergency room and just about anywhere else fate takes him.
"Down and Out in Hoboken" relays the chance meeting with a panhandler at St. Mary's Hospital. The panhandler - whose name Sullivan never learns - says "People give me money to make me go away..." And in just a couple hundred words, you learn an awful lot about the panhandler - and the skill of Sullivan's perception of people. That's what makes Everyday People in its gritty realism a pure reading pleasure.
Perhaps the editors of Everyday People could have selected a few longer profiles, but as Sullivan notes in his Preface, "the word count has always been my curse," and I'll vouch for his observation here, "as it is for all prolific journalists," and again I agree. While we await the next volume, dig in here, and meet some interesting everyday people.
Copyright © 2006 by Anthony Buccino, all rights reserved. Content may not be used for commercial purposes without written permission.