Drive Time

I just came in from the coast, back to the Arizona mountains, and the dog was glad to see me, or if he wasn't he was too tactful to mention it because I'm his ride to the dog park. I used to drive like I had to rescue Sweet Sue off the railroad tracks before the train came. Now I've learned to take it easy and let the miles flow by without all that stress.

The important thing in long distance driving is having a radio with an auxiliary plug where you can plug in your iPod. I had the factory radio taken out and another one installed just for that plug. The other thing that makes the miles go by effortlessly is having a good selection of audible books and Fresh Air interviews.

There's always a time when I'm driving -- I guess it is about a half hour -- when I begin "writing" in my head, and it fits together beautifully for awhile, and then falls apart. And I wonder, where does all this wisdom go when it vanishes? It leaves in its place a feeling that words are useless, and only action has meaning. As I get older, it leaves in its place a feeling of desolation, like a noir film that has hit the second plot point.

But then I've always been a fan of noir, and of the flawed characters who find themselves with no way out. Their counterpoint is General Custer. I'm not sure I know how to explain that except that nobody has a way out but everybody finds one. Some of them travel along the high road and think about heaven, so that the knee in the chest and the knife sawing off the yellow curls, scalp and all, is like some terrible mistake. Some of them play along what seems like an easy path, like Ed Crane going into the dry cleaning business in, "The Man Who Wasn't There," with Billy Bob Thornton. Events lead him to his destruction through an unfolding of a karmic darkness growing from the patterns he plays into. But he knows there's no mistake, so at the end there's a feeling of looking into one of those pictures that has another picture secreted inside it. If you study it long enough you eventually see through the surface of things.

So during the time when I am thinking while I drive I am looking through the surface of things, but because I am driving and not writing, it makes no difference, really, because nothing is created. There is the material with which to build but no scaffolding in place. So I realize that I have Ash Fork hanging fire, and that while I enjoyed writing off the top of my head and trying to fashion a story, it was just a step removed from thinking during drive time.

Lately I have noticed that my thoughts stray to how I might begin putting something together that has a cohesive plot line and consistent characters. I don't lose these thoughts, because they do have a framework to hang on, and connect, however tenuously, to characters or events already in the files. And even though when faced with the challenge of writing a novel the mind always presents "a much better idea," it, too, would prove to have its problems and a better idea would replace it. So I suppose I have to be careful what I say I'm going to do because then I have to do it.

It's the shrinking of time that makes starting something I won't finish untenable. So I listen to Dylan's Blonde on Blonde, and I marvel at how deftly he weaves magic with his words.

Grandpa died last week
And now he's buried in the rocks,
But everybody still talks about
How badly they were shocked.
But me, I expected it to happen,
I knew he'd lost control
When he built a fire on Main Street
And shot it full of holes.
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end,
To be stuck inside of Mobile
With the Memphis blues again.

Posted: Thu - January 18, 2007 at 06:24 PM