Friday, April 27, 2007

A scribe's Life

That’s a picture of the young highway scribe taken 20 years ago.

The location was his thinking man’s castle in the sky on Oxford St. in L.A.’s Koreatown district.

The picture is full of youthful vitality; the scribe “bent to it” as his hero Jack Kerouac liked to say.

Maybe he was working on a poem, something that has fallen from the repertoire in recent years.

Maybe’s he was working on a chapter of “The Liquid Life,” which you are hopefully reading on a weekly basis, and was known at the time as “Six Little Seductions.” The seductions are not delineated enough and so the title was dropped for the current one.

That is a home office financed by the scribe’s one-time employer and now most prominent freelancing client. The typewriter’s electric and that block thing sitting on the desk, at right, is a Kaypro, something of a forerunner to the personal computer. As a full-time correspondent, the scribe was lucky, or unlucky, depending, to be on the cutting edge of the coming information revolution.

You can see an orange “Trimline,” phone connected to a wire. When the scribe left that office, you could no longer speak with him. Wherever he went, he belonged to that place. Whomever he was with had his attention completely and the other way around. The fax had not permeated the home or office markets yet and the e-mail and Internet were but twinkles in the Kaypro’s eye; the cell phone was science fiction.

The apartment was enormous, with a great front salon containing three windows and 12-foot ceilings, a legitimate dining room, the office in the photo and a bedroom with rooftop views all strung along an extended hardwood floor hallway.

It cost $675 a month and was the home of “READ” magazine and many nights up with young artists and crazy actresses that populate “The Liquid Life,” and the scribe’s nostalgia.

The photo was taken by Jesus Isasa, a friend from Madrid, whom the scribe doesn’t hear from or see anymore.

Life goes on and this is truly a scribe’s life after all that time. Only the machines and delivery mechanisms have changed.

Last week, the scribe had a good time posting on this blog about a favorite rock band, political considerations of the day, reviewed an Almodovar movie, and a reworked chapter of “The Liquid Life,” which he thinks is quite good. A couple of hundred people stopped by highwayscribery and highwayscribery homesquare which is a watered down version found on the scribe’s My Space Page.

And that’s pretty rewarding. Those are not George Will numbers, but it’s good to know strangers and friends alike care.

This week the scribe was hoping to riff on this article from “The Guardian” of England entitled, “Ten Steps to a Fascist State.”

But that didn’t happen. Nor did the post designed to help MoveOn publicize the true sentiments of many veterans regarding the war in Iraq. The administration thinks it has a monopoly on soldiers’ stories, which is both a lie and a problem.

But that didn’t happen, either.

highwayscribery was also hoping to analyze the first debate among Democratic presidential candidates – looks like Senator Clinton did alright – but there was no time.

No, the scribe was scraping out a living and trudging through the perquisites of his chosen craft. He wrote two articles for his client. One was on an overtime back pay settlement owed to immigrant construction workers employed by a Canadian company working on projects in Downtown San Diego (got that?)

A small, short piece, it did not come together, easily. The editor sent the first draft back mindful of the fact the scribe had tried to meet a short deadline for him. Then, the original contact at the state labor department shrugged off at least three calls before shunting the scribe upstairs to someone designated for the purpose of dealing with the hacks. That fellow needed some time for finding answers to the scribe’s rather detailed questions.

Another piece, also a short news story, involved the recall of a particular device designed to treat people with sleep apnea. In case you didn’t know (the scribe certainly didn’t), that’s when your nasal passages close while sleeping. There was a problem in the power supply of the device and 300,000 were recalled worldwide.

And that story took some time, too, as the scribe tracked down and finally coordinated with the company spokeswoman on the date required by a publication covering the medical devices industry.

Then there were two briefs on corporate transactions in the biotech industry that took more time than the scribe would dare to charge the recipient publication for; a loss of money as weighted by the value of the writer’s time.

Glamorous huh?

Well, no, but necessary and true dig-it-out journalism of importance, not to everyone, but to certain classes of people reliant upon it. Not everybody needs to hear the opinion of a single guy spending most of his life in a room. Lord knows we have enough of those people who, “write off the top of their heads,” as a journalistic colleague of the scribe’s once put it.

And that is the game. Lonely, never-ending, but blessed with the virtue of affecting lives, which is a value some misguided citizens carry around in us like a germ that cannot be purged from the body.

In between waiting for the phone calls the scribe practiced his readings from “Vedette,” given that he and guitarist Omar Torrez have a few tentative shows lined up as well as a performance on public access televison up in Calabasas, California.

the scribe puts Omar’s record on and recites passages from the book, every day, because that’s how you get so sharp there are no mistakes even though that transition from the kitchen to a room with cameras, lights, and people talking or watching is jolting for someone who is not a regular performer.

The events are termed “readings,” but the scribe has the hundreds of prose words memorized, give or take a screw up each go round. That allows him to make eye contact, to raise his level of artistry to something approximating his amazing collaborator’s, and to distinguish himself from the endless, morose and self-involved poets with noses in books droning on about their souls.

The imminent television taping has forced the scribe to practice some in the bathroom, in front of the mirror, so he can see what a camera frame will be conveying up-close. That sounds stupid, and it feels stupid, but is critical to preparation for something like that.

You learn these things living on the margins of Hollywood, and you learn to take them seriously if you don’t want to look like a jackass in front of an awful lot of people.

Speaking of which, it’s time to end this post on a scribe’s life for another recital session in an empty house standing-in for a crowded coffee shop filled the rapt and critical literary fans.

Thanks for checking in.


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