skot AT izzlepfaff DOT com
Monday, 13 August
A Lie Of My Mind
Some of my tens of readers may have noticed a drop in posts lately. The reason for this is simple: my life is almost supernaturally dull. This is not to say that I don't enjoy my life--I do! I have a decent job, a wonderful marriage, any number of fairly non-dipshit friends . . . I can't complain. But it isn't very interesting, least of all for anyone else to read about. There's only so many posts I could write where I come home from and watch the game and moan to the wife about Papi's declining stats this season.
I have to watch myself, because when I get nervous about not posting enough, I start to press. I start looking for things to write about, which is a danger, and I start to think about embellishing, which is another danger. I like best the ideas that come to me out of the blue, but when your life is as ordinary as mine, they don't necessarily always flow.
The embellishment thing, for instance. All writers embellish; anyone who thinks they don't are seriously deluded or stupid or nuts. Every writer--says I--fixes things up. (I hope it's obvious here that I'm talking about writing about actual events.) Every writer alters timelines to suit the narrative; we all clean up sorta-remembered verbiage (or substitute reasonably sane facsimiles); we all condense and distill and filter, all verbs which helpfully remind me that most writers also drink.
This normally isn't a problem, at least not for me. This is a stupid blog, and so I am held to no standards whatever, though I like to think I hew to the few I keep. I try not to lie. And when I do lie, I try to lie in such a hyperbolic, overblown fashion that I hope that it is patently obvious that I'm just making shit up.
I probably fail at this, though. It's just too easy to lie. Writers lie all the time, because most of the time, life is just fucking dull. So we pull out our little tricks, and we lie. We insert or import in false details to serve an anecdote. We pretend to remember things that nobody could possibly remember, except for some bedridden mutant like Proust, but does anyone trust Proust?
Writers are liars. Don't trust them.
And especially don't trust me, assuming that you even consider me a writer, as opposed to some twitchy dilettante. I'm also an actor, so I'm also trained in lying. I think I'm pretty good at it. I (read: my parents) spent a lot of money to make sure I got trained very well to lie to you, right to your face. It's no good protesting that when people go to the theater (and nobody does any more, but never mind), that the audience is damn well expecting that I lie to them: it's my job. It's no good because we are delighted to take those very same skills and exploit them for our own base wants and needs.
I have been taught to lie, we realize at some point. This could be awesome.
And so we do. But it's more sinister than even that. It's more sinister because actors aren't just trained to lie, they are trained to lie with the unshakable conviction that they are not lying at all. Bad actors are people who are unconvincing liars. Every time you've ever stared hopelessly at a movie screen and thought, "That is a shitty actor," you have essentially deemed that person a terrible liar. This is doubly insulting because 1. being lied to poorly is exasperating enough in everyday life, and 2. it's even worse that this incompetent got paid money to fail to lie to you, the viewer. Being lied to excellently is one of life's great joys, which is why actors continue to draw paychecks, much like astrologers, psychics and Republicans. (Ohhhhh! I couldn't resist.)
Don't ever listen to actors or writers, or worse, some unholy combination of both. They are liars and aren't to be trusted.
Here's a true story.
Sunday night, the wife went out of town to visit an old girlfriend of hers. So that evening I went down to my cherished neighborhood bar. W. was bartending; W. is my very favorite bartender ever. W. was playing The Who's Who's Next, an album which in my opinion is the finest studio rock album ever recorded.
"I knew you were coming in," said W. "And I like The Who, so we both win." This is only a fraction of why this bar is so goddamn great. W. also knew--because he knows us well--that the wife was out of town for the night. "What do you have going on tonight?"
I looked around. "Apparently the same damn thing I have planned for most nights," I deadpanned. We laughed, and then, as the just-opened place was pretty empty, we shot the shit.
We talked about: the awesomeness of The Who; the various musical plagiarisms of Led Zeppelin; the manic qualities of various other bartenders; the ontological importance of bar backs; the weird dearth of decent Mexican restaurants in Seattle; this time when W. accidentally sucker-punched a stranger in the kidney at a bowling alley; and (of course) the relative awfulness of the current political scene.
This is why bar talk exists: to solve all the problems in the world. If W. and I ruled the world, the world would be just fucking fine. At the end of every conversation in a bar, the world is saved. That, or someone is going to get dumped, which is saving someone's world, probably.
You see how this anecdote really isn't very interesting? It's because it's true. Sort of. It's not all true, but it's mostly true. Does it matter? Do you even believe me? I told you not to. I told you twice.
It's true and it's not true; it's false and it happened to me. I arranged words on a page, you read them, and now you're involved in the lie, too, but you're also stuck with the true parts. You just don't know what they are.
Is it interesting? This is what I always come back to. I don't know. It's interesting to me, but then it happened to me, except for the parts that didn't, but I'm reasonably sure they did. I remember them. You don't, because they didn't happen to you, (shut up, W., if you're reading this [he's not]) but I'm guessing you assumed they were true, despite my desperate urgings not to.
I told you not to listen to me. I gave you good reasons not to. You read this anyway. And I thank you, because if you didn't . . . well . . . what good is an old liar if there's nobody around to listen?
Note: Comments are closed on old entries.
Well, the thing is, you're a good writer. So what you write is fun to read, even when you're just babbling on about how nothing is really interesting at all. So there.
I hate, hate, HATE the "writers are liars" assumption. Imagination and flights of fancy and playing pretend are NOT the same as prevaricating and deception!
I like your blog. And you have a 50/50 chance that I'm telling the truth.
A million? Wow.
i read your post everyday. you make me laugh. i too am an actress/writer. but i am a stage manager by trade so i'll let you be the judge as to how much i am to be trusted.
Actors and writers and hookers are all liars... and hookers.
But who isn't these days?
Though I may be a simple web plebian with no clout in the publishing world, I'd certainly join a picket line or sign a petition if it meant the musings of this blog would be published in a handy, giftable form. I would then purchase many copies of this tome and gift it for most any occasion. Thank you for making an anonymous lurker like me laugh out loud with every posting, and please continue fighting the good fight of a well-documented life with your musings and your terrible, laughable lies.
I agree with the others, except Elayne Riggs, who is clearly in denial.
You are an excellent writer. Your stuff is interesting and funny and you should keep writing, regardless of how mundane the topic seems, because it makes me happy.
And that's what's important here!
Later on that night, I fucked a million hookers, and they all insisted on paying me. No lie.
"fucked" s/b "got blown by" and "hookers" s/b "Republican Congressmen."
You are definitely scattering truths among the lies. I have been to the Yukon Tavern and can attest to the existence of Viv the ancient redheaded barkeep, and I live in Seattle and can attest to the dearth of decent Mexican food not just there but in Portland, too. (Does Macheesmo Mouse still exist? Is their Boss Sauce made with real Boss?)
Unfortunately Macheesmo Mouse is out of business. The chain never made much money and the founder, a rich Portland businessman, died in a plane crash about 2 years ago. The name, (and Boss sauce recipe) are owned by the creditors.
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