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MONDAY, JULY 04, 2011

A CHUNK OF SIDEWALK

HOGAN

Creative Writing

I sit down. Need money. Fuck it's hot. Play my guitar, just play my guitar. Needs new strings. That’s what I’m here for. Put hat in front of me. Today’s the day. Then I look up.
Skateboarder.
Skateboarder.
Crackhead.
Skateboarder.
Crackhead.
Lesbian couple.
Really hot chick.
Some guy.
Crackhead. Crackhead.
Foreign guy: Spanish- No, Muslim- No, Hindu- No, Muslim. Stands there, sniffs.
Skateboarder.
Bum.
Really tall guy, black.
Kid on rollie shoes.
Mom with kid, pregnant.
Business guy.
Security guard.
Bum.
Bum.
Crackhead. She stands there. Looks around. Yells, "Jason, Jason! D'you get it?" Voice from far: "He's not there!"
Two old men, arguing.
A lesbian.
A punk.
A dog.
A dad dragging a screaming kid who shuts up and stares at me.
A man who looks older than he is picking up a cigarette butt.
Guy handing out flyers.
Girl who adjusts her bra.
Two other girls, one fat, one skinny, both sipping from paper coffee cups. Fat one pulls her shirt down over her waist.
Two more girls, both wearing black t-shirts with skulls all over them. One says, "yeah, we should have pre-drank at my place. Next time."
A very slow walking Chinese man.
Native guy with a shirt that says, "This Land Is My Land."
Persian guy with gelled hair and big shades talking to his Persian friend with gelled hair and big shades. Hear one say, "that fucking crackhead, I used to know him, yeah, I went to high school with him, but I didn't want to shake his hand 'cause, I don't know, he might have AIDS or something, you never know. What? You never know, he might have like hepatitis or, like, some disease, you never know, it's a fucking crackhead, how can you be- Hey, look at that car, that's sweet, man."
Two cops. I stare at their guns.
Blonde with big tits and tight, pink t-shirt that says, "Do I look like I care?" I stop strumming for a second, embarrassed. I watch her as she walks by, her short shorts so short that you can see the curve of her ass hanging out. As if she can feel my glare, she looks back and catches me staring, then turns away quickly, pretending not to have seen me.
I look down and just listen. Voices come and go.
"Yeah, I got sooo wasted, it wasn't even funny,"
"She's not your type,"
"The guy yelled, 'I'll piss in your mailbox, motherfucker,'"
"You should've just checked your Facebook,"
"I need to find a place and a job, like, soon,"
"No, he said he wasn't with her anymore,"
"I'm on Victoria- no, wait, duh! Commercial,"
"And I was, like, 'ugh!'"
"Hey, pizza,"
"We just ended up drinking at Sarah's place,"
"But if there's too much interference, it won't work,"
"Did you see that guy?"
"Is that the bus?"
"Savage Love is hilarious,"
"Are you gonna eat that?"
"He was probably just high or something,"
"What do you mean, no?"
"Have you seen what's-her-face lately?"
"There's this thing, I forget what it's called,"
"Are you sure she said behind the fridge?"
"There's a big difference between party and party,"
"Brand new, just got it,"
"Well, why the fuck not?"
"I'm on my way. I'll be there in, like, two minutes,"
"It was alright, I guess,"
"Did you call him or did he call you?"
"Don't you think you'd be happier if you were never born?!"
"I'd so love to punch George Bush in the face,"
"Tell him not to go,"
"Seriously, I know,"
"That's not what I mean,"
"Oh my god."
I finally look back up.
Crackhead. Asks me for a cigarette. I say I don't smoke. He asks for some change. I say sorry. He says, "Do you believe in Jesus?" I say, "Yes." He says, "Good, brother." I smile. He says, "Good, brother." Asks for a cigarette again. I say, "I only have one left," and he frowns and takes off.
I strum out of tune. Pretend to know how to play. I'm missing a string. Look in my hat. Three pennies that I put there.
Look at the sun.
A little girl stops in front of me, blocking the light. Her blonde hair glows like a halo, like she's the moon in a solar eclipse, flaring. She says nothing. We have a staring contest. She's not judging, she's just wondering. I'm frozen in her shadow. Legs are passing behind her, fast and oblivious. The little girl doesn't budge. I want to hug her. That's it. Just hug her. I'm about to say, "Hi," when a hand appears, whooshes down, grabs the girl's hand, pulls her away, and I'm blinded by the sun. I watch her being pulled away, down the street, and she looks back at me for a few seconds. Then she looks up at her mom and says, "Who" something. The mom says, "That's just..." and that's all I hear.
I strum, I hum.
A crackhead.
A skateboarder.
A fat guy breathing hard.
A guy and girl on a bike.
Old woman.
Guy in wheel chair.
A burn victim.
I'm about to give up and find a better spot. Nobody's giving anything. As I get up, a guy holding a guitar case gives me a dollar. For some reason, it makes me feel worse. Our eyes meet. I don't say thanks and he looks at me, strange.
Comments

Alamir

Alamir

I liked it. At first I thought you were describing the East side, but it seems like this is a fictional account. A little too much dialogue in the middle for me. I don't know why I didn't like the Persian guy going "hey look a sweet car" ...It seemed too set up. Not only does it play into a stereotype (that I don't deny is very common) but I don't know if a Persian guy would say "sweet car" I think they'd be more specific "sweet Ferrari." Maybe it really happened.. but it just felt like it was set up. Or maybe I'm hyper-sensitive. Good ending though.
REPLIES: Hogan

Hogan

HOGAN

Replying to Alamir:
Funny that you should comment on the "Persian" thing. It's one of the only parts in there that actually happened. And I'm pretty sure it was just "sweet car", and not more specific, but it may well have been. The important thing isn't that they were Persian (the narrator points all the physical/superficial stuff on everyone: black, skinny, "Muslim", whatever), but that they were gelled-hair, shallow fucks.
REPLIES: Alamir

Alamir

Alamir

Replying to Hogan:
Yeah, I realize the point of them being shallow. You made that quite clear. That's unfortunately part of the stereotype. It seems to have resurfaced so well into you poem.
REPLIES: Hogan

Hogan

HOGAN

Replying to Alamir:
There's always a danger in mentioning (as I do so often- scratch that, as my narrators do so often) the race of the people in the story. Obviously, it's for descriptive directness, but it's sometimes assumed that I'm "playing into" or "falling victim to" stereotypical thinking. The easy (perhaps evasive) answer to that is that it's not me making any comment on, or association between, people's race and their behaviour, but me exposing the stereotype so it can be reflected upon. No shit, I know. That's the great thing about satire, though: as Stanley Kubrick put it, satire presents the opposite of the truth as if it were the truth.

I suppose that's a negative or ironic approach, that is, to show what is stupid or wrong instead of just saying what you think is good and right. It's certainly more proper to fiction than to a "sincere" piece of writing, like an essay, where sarcasm and wit, as in Johnathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal", is apt to be taken - mistakenly - seriously.

In the case of an internal monologue, like with my story above, you have to "pretend" to be superficial or racist, which is, of course, an imaginative task. I pretty much never write in "my own voice" or from "my own perspective" in fiction, except when I'm, to paraphrase Ralph Waldo Emerson, using the return of my rejected thoughts with an alienated majesty. Meaning, I may be able to think (and then reject) silly thoughts, but then I can recapture them, put them into a narrator's monologue and shape them into a story while keeping those thoughts alienated from what I actually think. And voila: Irony. Satire.

Alamir

Alamir

I'm not insulted by what you wrote nor find anything even remotely racist. If it actually happened then I'm just saddened by the fact that the stereotype proved itself in that particular case. Although, I guess it depends on a definition of what "stereotype" means. If it means 'generally-speaking' such characteristics are true, then it works. However, if it's ever used to be completely inclusive or used to oppress an entire group of people then it becomes racist. Yours was merely an observation. If it was a fictional account then I wouldn't deny the stereotype but would argue the case that you're not exactly helping combat bigotry. Isn't one of arts purposes to combat contemporary ideologies? Then by reinforcing a stereotype it's merely not taking the opportunity. Of course, as mentioned, yours is an actual account of what happened ...so this not entirely the case. But let's consider the idea of satire. Only the intellectuals realize satire is satire while the general public may only accept what they see as "common knowledge." Claudia is making me get up and leave... but that's the gist of my point...



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