I got on my bike to go to the cafe this morning, but I ended up in the tiny park on the waterfront instead because it was so nice outside at last, and it has been a good couple of days, weeks, months, and I was in fine spirits. I sat there and read my book for a while, only being distracted by all the dogs and their owners walking peacefully on the path behind me, because I love dogs and can’t help but look at them.
Eventually there was an argument amongst the dog owners, which is not surprising. There is nearly always an argument amongst the dog owners in New York City. I wonder sometimes if it is one every minute or one every ten minutes or six hundred a day or what. I would like to see statistics on that. I wonder if there is a file somewhere, perhaps at the desk of a city employee who has been tasked with establishing the real truth.
In this instance the argument was between a young woman walking her dog on the grass, and a middle-aged couple walking their dog on the path. There is a sign at the entrance of the park that says, “Please do not walk your dog on the grass.” The middle-aged couple, with their thick and lovely accents, pointed out the sign to the woman. They explained that it had something to do with seeding the grass. The man asked her to follow the rules and added, “I live in this neighborhood.”
The young woman engaged in the criminal act of walking her dog on the grass replied, “The sign only says, ‘Please.’ It doesn’t say, ‘Don’t.’”
The middle-aged couple started laughing at her. I mean, it was pretty funny. Her argument was terrible. Her argument went against all the rules of society. She was from another planet, I thought for a moment. Like she was an alien in human form sent here to make ridiculous arguments on a beautiful spring day. She added, “And I live in this neighborhood, too.”
The man said, “I feel sorry for you, miss.” They kept walking and chuckling. They weren’t even that mad in the end because she was being so dumb.
I felt sorry for her, too. I know what it’s like to get busted for something minor and then feel embarrassed and then argue a stupid point to try and get out of it, but I try to admit when I’m wrong lately because I end up feeling way better about it all later on, late at night, right before bed, which is when I really have to answer to myself. But sometimes it is important to witness when people do things wrong in order to know how to do things the right way. I am constantly in need of reminders of how to behave myself. So I guess I was glad I saw the argument.
Later I biked past the bookstore and knocked on the window and Emily came outside for a minute and chatted with me. “I am having a great day because I have already witnessed the frailty of humanity,” I said excitedly.
In conclusion: Ha ha, what a dumb argument. And also: life is bittersweet and beautiful.
Have a nice day.
“The power of the novel in the nation’s culture had weakened. It had happened gradually. It was something everyone recognized and ignored. All went on exactly as before. That was the beauty of it. The glory had faded but fresh faces kept appearing, wanting to be a part of it, to be in publishing which had retained a suggestion of elegance like a pair of beautiful, bone-shined shoes owned by a bankrupt man. Those who had been in it for some years, he and Glenda and the others, were like nails driven long ago into a tree that then grew around them. They were part of it now, embedded.”
From ALL THAT IS, by James Salter. Publishes April 2.
Book clubs and readings, yoga, sushi, and one of the most searing headaches I’ve had in my life that lasted straight through two business meetings and one dinner. I was not exactly myself that day, but you don’t always get to be yourself. Sometimes you have to be someone else.
I’m drinking too much coffee. All I do is drive everywhere, and when I arrive at my destination, I talk about myself for a while. Still, I am having fun! The response in the book clubs has been intense, to say the least. Everyone has an opinion about these characters. I like hearing what people have to say. Please keep talking to me. I love that people care even a little bit.
My film agents told me they would send me the first season of “Girls” because I do not have cable anymore and I think they pitied me. So that is something to look forward to when I return home.
And finally: Last night’s reading was the jam!
It’s good that you’re in college, and you have the freedom to experiment right now. I would try to write lots of things and see what you like the most. I started out writing poetry in college, and then I switched to studying fiction. I’ve worked on so many different types of projects over the years, essays and articles and advertising copy and even a pop-up book, and I’ve learned something new from each experience. You should try everything.
Also, obviously read a lot. Read and read and read. If I’m not reading, it’s really hard for me to be writing.
Travel if you can. I know not everyone has the money to do that, but it is worth saving up for trips because you just learn so much when you gain a new perspective. I spent my junior year of college abroad and it opened up my mind in a big way. Maybe drive cross country? Even just taking the bus to an unfamiliar part of the city can shift things in your brain.
Also: talk to all kinds of people. Eavesdrop. Go to museums. Fall in love. Break somebody’s heart. Get fired. Get drunk. Be kind. Basically just live your life to the fullest and read a lot and write a lot. That’s a good place to start.
I stumbled a lot, and will probably continue to do so, but I always keep an open mind and try to experience new things. I bet you’re already doing all the things you’re supposed to be doing. I didn’t write my first book till I was 32 years old. I led quite a life before then and I don’t think I was really ready to focus on it until just that time. But everything I had experienced contributed to my writing.
There’s no math to becoming a writer. You either are one or you aren’t one. You either have the ambition and the discipline, or you don’t. It’s up to you to do the work. But I support you!