It’s not a secret that when I have completed my first year here in Brooklyn – the final year of this project – I plan on immortalizing my experiences and encounters in a book. For the past few months, I have been slowly chipping away at the first couple chapters. I don’t know how much of what I put into these first drafts will appear in the final product, but it’s necessary to at least put words on page.
I’m pulling predominantly from my memories for this book (at least at this stage), and unsurprisingly I’m finding a number of holes. Whether that’s due to time or whiskey, I can’t say. It’s fine either way because one of the themes of the book is the way memory distorts and changes with time. Still, to appreciate how much they have changed I need to have a reference point.
Tonight, I dug out a pile of old journals. These are poetry journals which I’ve been writing since I was in high school. You could follow the ups and downs of my life by reading through the years of my shitty poetry. You shouldn’t do that, but you could.
On rare occasion, I broke with the format to free write about my life at the time. No, I didn’t keep a diary. Okay, I sort of kept a diary. But it was done very irregularly. During the summer before my senior year, while living in Washington D.C., I wrote pages upon pages of angst-riddled notes about the perilous state of my relationship with my girlfriend and my loss of faith. If I was a smarter man, I would set that shit on fire.
And then there was the first year of this project, Charlotte. On Thanksgiving weekend, my brother, Daniel, was getting married and I flew back to Kansas for the first time since I moved. While I sat in Charlotte Douglas International, I began writing out my thoughts about all that I had been through in the past 6 months and all that I was dreading about this return to Lawrence (mostly family).
Long before I had created this website, I was already touching on the many themes that I’d still be writing about years later: Same-sex Marriage (I was always for it), atheism and religion, travel, and politics (or lack there of: “I have no real interest in politics. I don’t see why you need to be of one political party or another to want to cure AIDS.” Oh, honey.)
Going back through these old notes was actually a revealing read. My wanderlust and insecurities are on full display within the pages, though, tellingly, nowhere did I mention 10 Cities / 10 Years as that idea was still nascent in those early months in Charlotte.
Much of the first few pages is consumed with my thoughts on family drama that was unfolding at the time. There’s always family drama, but reading these pages reminded me just how much drama was going on back then.
It wasn’t all family, though. I also spent a considerable amount of ink scribbling about my love life.
“H– picked me up just after 8:30 and took me to the airport.” H– was a woman I dated briefly before breaking it off who was trying to convince me to get back together. Clearly, I was taking advantage of that situation.
I also spent some paragraphs on the end of my 2-year relationship with my college girlfriend and my belief that I was perhaps not capable of succeeding at romance. I was 22, of course I was nihilistic: “I like flirtation. I like friendship. I enjoy sex. But I don’t want to be responsible for someone else, and I don’t want someone else being responsible to me.”
Could I be anymore cliché?
Alternatively, there’s a running fixation throughout the pages with having a meaningless sexual fling that weekend, either with an old high school crush or a complete stranger. Spoiler alert: Nope.
In fact, there’s a lot of wishful thinking in these words. A lot of forward looking. I had enough self-awareness to undercut my most grandiose prophecies with sarcastic asides and I had a persistent belief that nothing interesting would ever happen to me. But I was consumed with thoughts of my future and change. I wrote about New York City being my “betrothed” city, but I knew I would live other places first.
I certainly didn’t get everything right: “Home. Will Lawrence always be home? In some form or another I suppose…”
Already, I was obsessed with the idea of being removed from Kansas. Even though I had been gone less than 6 months, I referred to this trip with only slight irony as a “prodigal return.” I wanted so very bad for this weekend to feel epic, for my time away to have changed so much, both in who I was and how people thought of me. But a part of me knew it was a lie: “I am well-traveled, just not well-lived.”
After landing in Kansas City, there is an account of an awkward drive to Lawrence with my father and his new wife. At one point, they tell a seemingly off the cuff joke about their wedding which I suspect is actually rehearsed. When they retell the exact same joke a few hours later with identical wording, my suspicions are confirmed. (I also noted their indifference to a new album by Sufjan Stevens that I was telling everyone about at the time.)
In Lawrence, we had leftover Thanksgiving dinner with my brother, Steve’s, wife’s family before the younger generation headed out to the local Lawrence “hick” bar, Coyote’s. (I don’t believe it exists anymore.)
That’s pretty much where that story ends. I didn’t write about the wedding (the siblings all took shots before the service in the rental car), or about my return to Charlotte. Like I said, I’m an inconsistent journaler.
Before I finished, though, I did spend more than a page on what can only be described as the highlight of the trip: Turkey bowling.
It’s exactly what it sounds like (and exactly what you’d expect at a bar called “Coyote’s”). After both my brother and his wife took their unsuccessful turns, I was up. You might think bowling a turkey would be a rather mindless activity, but based on how much I wrote, there was clearly a lot of calculations involved. I really don’t think a summary would do it justice, so:
...the thought of throwing the turkey is not coming [up with] positive results. I imagine being too weak to pick it up, unable to throw it more than a few feet, or worse, losing control of my throw and sending the cold, hard turkey into the face of some spectator, smashing their nose and ending the festivities. I can be fairly certain nothing that interesting will happen, but still, the thought gives me pause... I am not certain how to hold the turkey. It seems gripping the whole bird with both hands would allow for the best aim, but the awkwardness would make it hard to throw with much power. The strap does not appear to be very strong and aiming the turkey would be harder, but it would likely be easier to gather momentum, and since the prospect of watching the turkey land only two feet in front of me is seeming highly probable, I opt for power over accuracy. Fully prepared to make an ass of myself (as prepared as one can be) I reel back, bring the turkey around in a parabolic downward arc and release. The strap breaks in mid swing, the turkey flies three feet before hitting the ground and rolling a couple more before stopping anticlimactically halfway between me and the pin. Well, at least no one's nose is broke. I'm ready to move on, back to the bar and away from the festivities when the man in charge of bowling says I get another turn because the strap broke. Lucky me. This time, new bird in hand, I decide to go the two handed route. At least, if I only get the bird a few feet, there will be no excuse to make me do it again. Pulling the turkey back to my right side like I imagine a shot put coach would recommend (if the shot put was ten times as big, not particularly round and once alive). I then take a few quick steps toward the line, turn my body and use the momentum along with whatever I can muster in my arms to launch the bird. The turkey flies, past the two foot mark, past my previous throw, past the spectators (and their noses) and to the pins. Strike! Hole in One! Home run! Touchdown! All those fucking pins are down, submissive, broken. Do not fuck with me.
I won a Corona pin because the t-shirts were all too big for me.
And that’s basically it. The wedding happened. All of the family members survived the weekend. Nobody’s cat died.
I’m not sure turkey bowling will make it into the final book, but reading back on those old memories, I was pleasantly surprised by what I had forgotten, what I remembered, and what I was thinking back then. I don’t completely want to punch my 22-year-old self in the face, and that’s the biggest surprise of all.
“After a day of flying, drinking, talking and turkey bowling, sleeping sounds wonderful.”
Well said, you dumb sonuvabitch.