This book is about a writer writing as swiftly as he can for 84 days straight in 2007. It’s about his philosophy of life, death and writing. It’s about his views of the George W. Bush presidency and the war in Iraq. It’s about his friends and family, sports and diet, exercising and the universe. It’s about a man taking a leap into the self-publishing world. All in all, it’s about a man spilling his guts onto the page.
Day 1 – Tuesday, July 31, 2007 – Endings, the Beginning
I haven’t had much of an urge to write since Joan and I arrived home from Europe in the middle of May. I wrote in my journal every day on that four-week trip to London, Rome and Sicily. So starting today, I’m going to make it a point to write in my journal, as swiftly as I can, for 84 days straight. No ifs, ands or buts about it. Two words should be branded in my mind when I wake up in the morning: write and exercise. Let me add a third: eat and drink less, for as the ancient Greeks said, “Everything in moderation.” If I do those three things, I can live to a ripe old age of, say, 90. Is that asking too much? 90 – 67 = 23 more years to live befo’ I’m nomo’. Blank. Zero. The ending of all endings.
Everything has a beginning, middle and end. Our sun will end, our solar system will end, even our Milky Way galaxy will end, as well as other galaxies in the universe. Every person’s life has a beginning, middle and end. Most people in the world don’t live into their 70s. Me, I’m 20 days shy of 67. I’ve recently noticed a few things about myself at this age: I’m more likely to make mistakes if I don’t concentrate, like going down wet, slippery steps or cutting an apple with a sharp knife or plugging in the toaster or coffee grinder with wet hands.
Oh, it’s so nice to be writing swiftly in my journal again. It’s where I’m free to write whatever comes to mind. There’s no thinking involved. No plots to invent. No characters to build up. It’s a no-holds-barred time for me. Yes, sir, I’m doin’ what I love to do, I’m doin’ what comes naturally.
The conflict in Iraq continues. We’re still sending troops to fortify our occupation against insurgents. We went into Iraq in 2003 thinking that we would stop Saddam Hussein from developing weapons of mass destruction. Well, Saddam never had the capacity to produce WMDs, nor did he come anywhere near to producing them. George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell deceived us. They led us into a war that should never have happened. How can we ever trust our government leaders again?
We Americans are losing our souls. We’re not only selling ourselves out, we’re selling out the Founders of this country. They knew that someone would someday take advantage of the Constitution. That’s why they conceived of the three branches of government, so they could check and balance out one another. The Bush administration, in the name of stopping terrorism, is taking advantage of that balance. They believe in brute force and survival of the fittest. And who are the fittest? The wealthy and the large corporations. To hell with those who find it hard to make it in this world. Congress and the Courts haven’t been able to corral this wild Texas bronco and his sidekick, Dick Cheney.
War is hell. It’s a failure of the human spirit. I remember way back, when I was 10 years old in 1950, my oldest brother Charles took me to see All Quiet on the Western Front, a great 1930s anti-war film about World War I. I loved that movie and have hated war ever since. In the last scene of the movie, a young, disillusioned German soldier, played by Lou Ayers, returns to the battlefield after a furlough. He, a lover and collector of butterflies, is sitting in a trench when he sees a butterfly a few feet from him. He starts to reach over the edge of the trench to touch the butterfly when a French sniper eyes him and shoots. That’s how his life ended, with a bang instead of a whimper.
Day 2 – Wednesday, August 1, 2007 – No One Bought My Book
Today I went to a memorial service for a woman I met only once in my life. Her name was Isabelle Maynard. She held a book reading for me at her apartment across the Bay in Emeryville a few years ago. She was so nice to have done that for me. There were over a hundred people present to pay their respects to this wonderful human being. It was a well-prepared memorial of people reading Isabelle’s stories, playing her favorite songs and reading their poems about her. The program was long, about 2 1/2 hours. Food and drink were served. I didn’t eat anything and drank only sparkling water.
Earlier in the day I worked out with my water aerobics class at the YMCA. We fasten special flotation belts around our waists to keep us afloat vertically in the water and move our arms and legs in all types of manner for 45 minutes. It surely gets the heart pumping. It’s a refreshing, invigorating, tiring workout. Everyone in the class loves doing it because we know it’s going to prolong our lives for at least five, maybe ten years. I’ve been going to this 9:45 class for almost eight years now. It’s the only exercise I’ve ever stuck with because it’s not boring like jogging or swimming laps. It involves aerobic for the heart and strength training due to water resistance.
Today is my second day of doing my swift writing for 84 days straight. I’ve chosen 84 days because that’s what Julia Cameron advises in her book The Artists Way: “Write nonstop first thing in the morning for 84 days to break out of a writer’s block.” Jack Kerouac, William Saroyan and many other writers have used this method of nonstop writing.
The few hours I spent at Isabelle Maynard’s memorial, I found out she was quite a patron of the arts. She wrote beautifully, because a few of her pieces were read to the crowd. She played the piano. She made art with paint and water colors. She frequented many art and writing workshops to improve her skills. And she helped me out a few years ago by holding a book reading at the Watergate complex in Emeryville where she lived. Four people who lived in the complex showed up. No one bought my book.