If I was an author, I’d go into bookstores and find the shelf with my books, randomly sign one, and put it back on the shelf to be sold.
I’ve done this. It took me a long time to get past the idea of being too punk t sign books, but now I’m ok with it because it isn’t about me. It is about the person who owns the book.
But … as the returns person at a small and struggling independent bookstore, returns of unsold books are sometimes the only way to pay off bills, and unless you’re published by random house or some other behemoth, signed books are unreturnable. sucks to think about, but we sometimes had to tell authors that they couldn’t sign any/many of their books if their publishers had a strict returns policy.
still, sometimes discovered signatures are really magical. so there’s that, too.
at one point in my burgeoning teen years i decided that i needed a date book. like, RIGHT NOW. it must have been the beginning of a school year. or not. i can’t clearly remember WHY it was suddenly so goddamn important that i have a new date book. but i do remember the afternoon clearly, because i waited for my mom to come home, and then, after what i’m sure was a really long and horrible day for her, being a single mom raising three kids and working more than full-time and all, i INSISTED she drive me downtown and then pay for me to have a new date book. because i couldn’t possibly continue living without a date book. and i remember the look of exasperation on her face as she said the above words to me, the words that make up the title of this post.
"you just want everything that you want right away, don’t you?"
and i remember how fucking smug i was as i responded, without an ounce of shame, “YES.”
and i didn’t have shame around that, neither at that time nor for a long time afterwards. i took it as a badge of honor that i knew what i wanted and was willing to push for it. as a shy kid who mostly didn’t know what i wanted, who was rarely allowed the luxury of buying ANYthing, i wanted something, and i knew that i wanted it and it was at a particularly financially stable point in my family’s history, so i knew that, monetarily, i could get it.
because that’s the important distinction here. if i had wanted it 6 months or a year earlier, or 6months or a year later, i would have shaken off the desire with absolutely no problem because it wouldn’t have been possible. there would have been no money for the luxury of date books — fancy things with pictures and oh so many pages. i would have gone without, or used a free thing from the credit union to keep track of my homework assignments, because anything else was impossible.
but the thing that really kicks me in the ass is that we lived a 15-20 minute walk from the bookstore that i decided that we needed to go to (there were some closer, though this one was owned by the father of a guy i knew), and at no point did i consider walking there. my mom had to drive me. i needed to be BROUGHT there.
now, decades later (what?), i find myself waiting for something, for someone, that a year ago i never would have held my breath for. a year ago i just assumed he was never going to come here and i was never going to go back there, so what the hell’s the point of being pushy and wanting and WANTING??? and now his arrival is just three weeks away, and i can’t fucking stand it. i’m looking for ways to kill time so i can not be thinking. so i can not be waiting.
it’s humbling to think that there is very little about me that has changed, and that i am still very much tugging on someone’s sleeve and whining and pleading and whining and watching bad movies until the thing that i want so badly can arrive.
I’ve been trying to put my creative head back together after a three-month visit from my mom that, to be frank, took a lot more out of me than usual. specifically, i have to deal with the fact that i am sometimes not a very nice person. or rather, the way my mom is ageing, and the way she is choosing to view the world through eyes now older. apparently spurs me to frustration at best, anger at worst. i’m still trying to figure out what i mean by that, which is why it’s been a month since she left and all i’ve done is think about it. (and work. i’ve also had to work. a lot.) so i’m not going to say much about that, beyond saying that it’s a bit preoccupying and i’m currently fighting my way out of that preoccupation.
in an attempt to do that, i’ve divided this rainy saturday into three sections — doing the last few things i have to do for this soon-to-end school year (creating tests, writing reports, etc), writing in my journal, and getting some things up here. well, it’s 9:30 pm and i’m finally getting around to getting some stuff up here.
part of the reason for that is that when i made dinner, i decided to sit down and watch a little of the Anthology of Polish Animation 2 disc set, which i bought in warsaw 6 years ago. i lugged it back to the US, watched the first disc, and, since the films are in chronological order, i felt my soul crumble a little with the dark depression of communist-era expression, and put it away for a little while. these short films are amazing, but they were a potent outlet during the glum, hopeless days of soviet occupation. sure, there are chairs and nazis and stairs and numbers and matchboxes instead of soviets, but the ideas come across clearly enough.
if you’re interested, those should give you a good idea of what i’m talking about.
sure, you also have big-city alienation and slow-moving train rides and horses and, for some reason, bullfighting. everything seems to speak to some resistance to oppression, but what do i know?
well, i never went back to that second disc, which i now discover is a lot less dark, aside from a retelling of little red riding hood that includes a lot of knives and guns, and a surprise ending. there are more personal tales here, and a startling number of boobs, and, as the years went on and the threat of soviet occupation faded and disappeared, more commentary on religion.
all of which is my round-about way of getting to a point that i’ve been thinking about a lot lately — namely, is true and complete understanding of a foreign culture ever possible? i watch these animated tales of woe, and i feel like i get it, but i also wonder what i’m missing.
there’s a film that’s culturally very important here in Poland, so much so that people quote it constantly, despite the fact that it’s over 30 years old. i’ve had the same conversation over and over and over again, almost like everyone i’ve ever met made it to rehearsal and actually remembered their lines. it goes something like this:
one of many: “you should see Miś! It’s a great commentary on soviet-era life in Poland.”
me: (answers vary, depending on chronology): “really?” OR “what’s it about?” OR “i’ve heard of it.” OR “i’ve seen it. (many times)” (this last one is never actually heard, because it doesn’t fit with their next line, which is …)
one of many: “you wouldn’t get it, though. there are just too many things you just wouldn’t understand.”
and maybe they have a point. there are some things i don’t understand. there are some things people here don’t understand, either. i’ve been reading and discussing raymond carver stories with my friend renata for a year now, and only just the other day, after reading an interview with robert altman and tess gallagher, did she realise that the characters in his stories are overwhelmingly the struggling poor. i mean, that’s a great deal of the point, but she didn’t have the information necessary to read the cues.
in the same way, i have no idea what the hell’s going on most of the time, and i wonder if i ever will.
PS i also recommend the work of Jan Lenica, who was very obviously an influence on Terry Gilliam, and who is just delightfully weird.