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musings

a weekly or thereabouts posting about writing,
the process, anouncements, and other odd things.

 

March 19, 2019

The Elementary Educated Writer

I knew I was to be a writer since first grade. Well… that’s almost true. It’s hard to remember everything that happened back then.
I do recall the Class News: “Today is Wednesday, January 24th. It is sunny and cold. Mrs Shears had puppies again…”

We copied something like this from the blackboard every morning. It was more about penmanship than content, making sure q’s didn’t look like g’s, all on double-lined, dashed paper. I had a lazy streak in me, or nihilist bent at an early age. It seemed a pointless exercise. Every day was the same, punctuated only by the holidays on the calendar.

Weeks later, humiliation, shame. I had given up on completed the assignments. Recess beckoned instead. A nearly empty notebook, half finished news: “Today is…” A visit to the principal’s office. Moved from the back row, away from Greg Moles and Michael Luciano, the bad boys. Moved to front, and a better influences, Jane and Ivy on either side. They kindly helped me every day. Gold stars now… By the end of high school, a mad and tawdry affair with them both. I still keep a journal to this day.

Second grade passed in a blur. I have no memories whatsoever. Perhaps some unknown trauma, perhaps I was learning how to read properly.

Third grade: career decisions. First, cursive writing, script. Faster than printing, it was said. It’s not. I passed barely. I reverted to printing again by sixth grade and never looked back. Race you, if you want— two hundred words right now in that notebook…

The other choice: music, a recorder, sort of like a flute. Notes on the staff… I failed. No musical ability at all. Weird though, I spent most of my life as an aspiring musician. A songwriter and recording artist. I still struggle with notes on the staff. I still play out.

Fourth grade: times-tables. Mr Laufenburg. Bulging eyes and veins in the neck; wooden ruler slammed down on the desk, millimeters away from your knuckles. Came home, crying. I know my multiplication-tables pretty well. Arithmetic still causes me anxiety.

Fifth grade, first big test: “Whales have teeth, true or false?” True of course. No, false! Anger, tears, lots of yelling. Back to the principal. Parents called in. Whales have baleen. Sperm whales, killer whales do not exist. Jacques Cousteau was a liar. We haven’t learned about them. No outside knowledge, please.

Sixth grade: pull-up champion of the school, only because I didn’t weigh anything. Academic state of mind? Highly suspicious, skeptical, but still curious. First thesis, five pages with footnotes. Reference: Half the Britannica, volumes A-L, Azores to Lilliputians…

Fast forward about a decade: Beat reporter, stringer… late at night, empty office, my own key to get in. Fresh from the Planning Commission. An ATEX terminal. Black screen, orange type, never before seen commands and indecipherable functions. Impatient editor on the phone: give me 40 lines in 15 minutes… Blinking cursor… Blinking cursor…

A week later I got a check in the mail. I was now a professional writer.