In the fateful winter of 96-96 I drove a car all over Medford Lakes, discovering music, having visions, and delivering pizzas. I made some of the most important decisions of my life that winter and subsequent spring. Everyone has a moment or two like that in their lives where it was A or B and like the road less taken, the choice made all the difference. You look back and you think: if I had chosen A, instead of B, I would have regretted it — I made the right choice! Or did you? It’s Friday and you want to leave the house but you’re panicking. So you force yourself to leave. And you meet the person of your dreams. But what about when you stay home and you’re laying on your bed and suddenly it came to you — the Great Idea. And you begin to write it down and next thing you know it’s the breakthrough — essay, poem, novel, whatever it is, it could only have happened here, when you were home. How do you decide? When you’re young you go with your gut. When you get a little older ou realize your gut is just an impulse and it’s better to listen to your heart. But soon your heart begins to betray you and you begin to think with your intellect. But once that’s no longer to be trusted, who do you turn to? Does anyone have the answers?
It’s Summer, or it’s what’s left of Summer. Your faithful narrator is on the verge of selling an older short story, “Cherry Hill.” It needs to be reworked from the bottom up. It needs a better ending. The mood of the story was conceived in 2006 and worked in 2007 and finalized in 2008. The summer of 2006 I had a number of epiphanies about the South Jersey I had lived in from 1993-1996. They were a very different place ten years later. I had written about the version I had known in the novel The Pilot and the Panda. If the old version was children who felt they were adults, the new one was adults who knew they were younger than they seemed. I imagined these adults living here, now, in the 21st century. Art Andrews and I went to a number of suburban comic book conventions, usual in small hotels in little known towns off the sides of minor highways. We’d bring checklists and help each other out with finds and compare our bounty over burgers and fries and Cokes at aging diners. A kind of Other World — distinct from the alcoholic hipster treadmill of Philadelphia — was opening itself up to me. It didn’t matter if the world wasn’t real. I could feel it.
This is all to say that I don’t know if I should spend my remaining free time of Summer 2009 in Oregon or the Delaware Valley. And more importantly I don’t know which would be better for the story. As my memory of the places and the feelings and the people and the ideas fades, which is more important? To cling to the memories or to go there and meet the reality? Or both if possible?
Hopefully this makes sense. I’m not sure what to do. I’d love to swim at the Jersey Shore this summer. I’d love to spend a weekend at the Oregon Coast this summer. I’d love to see my old friends. I do not like planes, at all. Especially long flights. I want to stay up late with the ones I love. However I don’t want to wake up to blinding humid summer light on a busted couch while a hangover smashes against my reality, as I brace myself for a long day of being stuck in Chestnut Street traffic and wiling away time at where — the Last Drop? — while I wait for peers to get out of work. So yeah, I guess I’ve been thinking about this a lot — probably too much. But don’t you hate it when people say “You think to much”? Isn’t that like, what’s wrong with this Place to begin with? Lest we overthink it…
More to follow. Comments as always are welcome.