way back, at the end of the 20th Century, when Drew and I were the graveyard
shift at a 24-hour restaurant (I was the waiter, he was the cook), we
came up with this crazy idea: we’d ask 100 people to tell us a story and
we’d make a book out of it. I realize now that things like this only get
done by people who don’t realize that things like this are impossible.
It was a nightmare. A catastrophe. It backfired.
It’s 1998, the world is about to end, and
we are serving up food to drunks and living off pocket change. We are
doing this all night, almost every night, and sleeping away the days.
And we are—though we don’t realize it yet—going a little bit bonkers.
(The graveyard shift has a certain quality to it. It makes you feel responsible,
but you don’t know what you’re responsible for. Saving the world, maybe.
Or at least keeping everything okay until dawn.) After the bar rush there
wasn’t much to do but clean, so we would tell each other stories. Soon
the dishwasher joined us, and then the insomniacs, the lonely and restless,
Of course, there was a problem from the
start. Our true stories were lousy. Our stories were slick black things
that we spit out of our mouths onto the table in front of us. We were
trying to sell something. We were trying to sell our loneliness, and no
one was buying. And we were getting tired of dark looming things. We were
getting tired of trying to glue words onto doom.
Ask someone to tell you a true story and
you get a murkiness. Ask someone to tell you a lie and they’ll betray
themselves. (The body always betrays itself—it blushes, it trembles...)
I suppose, in hindsight, we were being ulterior—everyone wants the understory,
everyone is always searching for a human moment—but we asked people to
lie to us, we asked for stories, big fabulous stories, and we wrote them
down and saved them.
Now, there is the story that must be told,
and there is the story that can’t be told, and sometimes they are the
same story. And if you trick people into betraying themselves with I-shouldn’t-be-telling-you-this
stories at four in the morning, well… they will come back and try to kill
you. It’s not that the stories were bad, it’s that they were too good,
revealed too much, were told with too much emphasis and not enough guile.
We were marked men, Drew and I. We got in fights. We bickered. We decided
not to burn the stories and we lost a lot of friends.
And so here we are a few years later, doing
the same thing: searching for the human moments. We’ve been asked why
we select the pieces we do, and I can only say that we’re looking for
tone. There are 10,000 shades between the noons. Gloom is only one of
them. We want more than gloom. I’m talking paint chips and spice racks
and the Kama Sutra. Hue, flavor, timbre, texture—language can evoke, it
can put you somewhere, take you somewhere. We are not newspapermen, we
are not looking for that kind of truth. We want to go joyriding.
It’s been said that everything’s been said
already, but I haven’t been everywhere yet, so I’m still interested in
the ride. As for where I’ve been, that’s part of the dilemma. I’ve been
here, inside this body. I’ve always been in here, though I’m getting better
at throwing my voice.
Oh, the body—its hungers, needs, and limitations.
You look at somebody and you realize that they’re in there, inside there,
somewhere, and how will you ever reach them, understand them? A friend
of mine says that if we could live five minutes in someone else’s body,
so many things would besolved. It’s all the same light and wattage, just
a different slide against the screen. That’s comforting. I’m not sure
I agree. I’m not sure I disagree. Anotherr friend says the local body
is a fallacy. Yet another friend says Aw sweetie, you have your own body
so you can do what you want without me. I can’t seem to get my head around
Many of the pieces in this issue deal with
the body—having a body, leaving the body, the distance between bodies—and
I will let them speak for themselves, but I want to come back to ventriloquism
for a minute. We are, all of us, throwing our voices here. Honestly though,
I’m not sure why we’re doing it. It’s fun, sure. It means something, maybe.
But I suspect, dear reader, that underneath all the gruff and bluster
we are simply saying we love you.
In 100 years we’ll all be dead. That’s
kinda creepy, if you think about it, but what can you do? We are all here,
now, feeling these things and saying these things, and if these pages
sit on the bedside table or the bookshelf, traveling through time at the
speed of time, gathering heat and light, and arrive, years later, in the
hands of a reader—perhaps even you, dear reader—then hurray for us. We
love you, we do. But there’s this space between us, always this space
between us. We’re stuck in our skins and singing, and no one really knows
how long it will take for the sound to reach you.
Like I said in Issue 1.1, the goal is to
make a thing that will take our voices to your ears. A mechanical bird,
if you will, intent on getting into your tree and singing its song of
whatever it is that we’re singing. We’ve made the bird. Now it’s up to
you to make a branch for it to land on. And, of course, you may be thinking
Why bother? Well, I will tell you: great literature is not about its author,
it’s about its reader. I wouldn’t burn the I-shouldn’t-be-telling-you-this
stories because they were, ultimately, about me. I continue to not burn
those stories, or these either. They are about you, too.
And so, Issue 1.2—words on a page, words
on a page, look at us now, we’re so beautiful.