3.18.2010

Road to Joy - Bright Eyes


I think part of the reason writing this book has been so inconsistent for me has been my lack of practice. I mean writing as a daily practice. It's so much easier to see how it really works just through writing these entries. The musings I type here clear out room to work on the book. In my defense I will say that the novel does seem to ask for a very different type of attention than anything else I've ever done. Short stories, poems, poetic essays and the like have always seemed less daunting, but also they don't ask for as much time. Of course I will spend many hours writing and editing and throwing things away and these kinds of things, but the work doesn't ask for blocks of time the way the book does. And blocks of time in a row. 


When I began the book in New York, like I told you, I was underemployed. I could not accumulate a work schedule that paid enough, which made life in the city an exercise in checking out, or showing up for a sizable mountain of financial anxiety. On the plus side, while my credit card debt fattened itself for the cold season, my situation provided me with time. Plenty of time. In conjunction with my lack of funding for any kind of city social engagement and my newly acquired lack of date, life presented me with a fantastic set of creative circumstances. Writing the book was solitary, cathartic, and free of charge. I began to get a sense that in fact I did have a story in me that spanned a couple hundred pages, I met characters who interested me enough to sustain such a journey, and I actually enjoyed the process of showing up to a daily interlude with the world that was taking shape on my desktop.


Eventually, living in New York became an unmanageable choice for me. As I was packing up boxes to return to San Francisco where friends had ponied up shelter and work until I got settled in a permanent fashion, I finally got a call to interview for a job that would have kept me in the city. I found my heart wasn't in it by then and so I hopped into the car with Sam and Gus, the gay, Jewish dog. I had lived in 12 cities by then, never the same place twice. In fact I had just visited San Francisco six months prior to my move and I distinctly remember strolling South of Market around midnight on a Friday, sparsely populated streets dotted with thick leather fags and the occasional taxi and thinking to myself  I will never live here again. Nanny Bert used to say, If you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans, Sara. 


The three of us drove across the big summer country together rotating KOAs with hotels. On nights there was a World Cup game, we'd need a television and take out pizza so we were fortified to whoop and holler. Eventually we drove down the western coastline and when we saw the sign that welcomed us to California, I realized that all this time, I'd been coming home. I didn't even know that's what I was doing. I felt almost immediately lighter, both in sorrow and in actual light. Like serious hippie shit. Filled with light. I also knew that it didn't matter if it took me ten years, the book was gently making its demands. It would be written.


San Francisco is pretty much as expensive as New York, but I guess I just understand how to survive here better. You can meet friends in the park with a burrito or go to a potluck dinner. No need to go out all the time or spend sixty bucks on some noodles and a martini. Also the produce here is so out of control beautiful, it's inspiring to cook all the time. One of the first places me and Sam went was back to our favorite grocery haunt, the worker-owned co-operative Rainbow Grocery. We had literally been in town for about a half hour. Turns out my friend Jenny Tender, an amazingly generous and handsome person was sitting at the customer service desk. She introduced me to John, whose department was hiring and pretty much through some kind of fate, I ended up with a plumb job in three weeks. Health insurance, discounted organic food, no boss, and a roster of diverse, talented, and deeply interesting co-workers. It seemed everything that I struggled with in New York was being answered for in San Francisco. With some very careful dollar management, and supplementing my job with some photography and writing income, I could squeak by.


With the job, my sizable rent would have to be reckoned with. My available time plummeted. My disposition returned magically to its relatively sunny side, which isn't very punk, but it really just suits me better than simmering rage and vague depression. As my initial writing impulse diminished, the memory of the disgruntled trapped feeling faded, and my life found itself flourishing by the bay, the book languished. I tried to write in it for bits at a time, presenting pieces of it at scattered readings, but it needed something else.


Now as luck would have it, many of my writing co-horts still lived here in San Francisco, or moved back shortly after I did. My Sister Spit friend, and one of my very favorite people on the planet, Michelle Tea was building RADAR Productions, a non-profit literary home here in the city, a friendly hydra  with arms supporting Sister Spit tours, monthly readings, special programming, and in 2009, its first ever edition of a writing residency program, the RADAR Lab. I applied for the program submitting and excerpt of the book to a panel of people and was accepted to my first stint as a professional creative writer. For nine glorious days, it would be my job to work on my book for six hours a day on the coast of Mexico, staring from the deck of a condo into an aquamarine sea turtle breeding ground. Food would be prepared, rooms would be cleaned, chores would be non-existent. I would write. 


I did. I wrote. It's been a little over a year since then and I have found it impossible to keep up the same kind of practice here at home. I long for it. The time, the long stretches of hours to just watch the Gods frolic through New York. I am saving up some money to take a few days off next month, turning this office into a home retreat for 5 days. I will close the door for three hours in the morning and let myself go at the thing. Then I will run about for a coupla hours preparing for, you know, the marathon, and then at night I will do my edits and my research. 


I learned how to do this because of RADAR. Because I had an opportunity to have some time. The funding for this program has all been largely cut, but nonetheless, RADAR is going to sally forth, raising money on its own to  host two new sessions this summer back in Akumal, Mexico. Along with accomplished luminaries Annie Sprinkle and Beth Stephens, Eileen Myles, and Justin Chin, The Lab will host emerging artists such as Tamara Llosa Sandor, Deez Nutsian and the hilarious graphic novelist Ariel Schrag. This is why I am running the marathon in RADAR's name. Because America is busy spending it's money  on various wars and has no cash for public schools, let along nice arts endeavors. But let's not get into that. I'm just saying maybe you'd like to be a part of it. Because I feel like at the end of the day, your story is one of the things that is solely your own. And it's imperative to tell it.


I'm close to half of my distance for the run, but not close to half of my cash goal. If you can help these folks out, I'd sure appreciate it. Your money would go straight to food, transportation, and lodging. Straight to the creation of art. Here. This will make it easier. Click on this:


I love the Lab. Thanks. The Lab loves you right the hell back.


Love, 
Sara Elise


P.S. - In other news I have made an appointment with the famous foot doctor Jenny Sanders. Thanks for caring, people.





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