Flying bird pendant on mustard silk ribbon.
Flying bird pendant on mustard silk ribbon.
Purple and pink glass beads on thick wire.
I write perfect stories. The problem is, they are all in my head. I can talk to myself for hours, weaving stories and creating what feel to me like gleaming sentences and hearty paragraphs loaded with meaning, laughs, tears, emotion, sanctity, universal experience, a sympathetic and humorous voice that will make people giggle despite an inner sadness and tartness….
Then I walk to my computer, and it vanishes. Even now, as I write this, my perfect story about Oakland is gone.
I recently moved to Oakland. I work in a warehouse in a cruddy, trash-ridden (and I mean literal pieces of trash) area of town. I stick to Berkeley. I stick to the Berkeley Hills. I have been to downtown Oakland three times, and for one of them, I didn’t get out of my car. I wasn’t scared to, but there was no need. I was just passing by to pick someone up. The second time, I walked straight into the rock gym after debating what hour the parking meter stopped needing to be fed, and walked straight out afterward and drove home to my comfy bed to rest sore arm muscles.
The third time, I ventured. I went to MUA, had a vodka-grapefruit, and it was beautiful. I watched people play drums, spray-paint artwork in the street, taste pastries and South American sandwiches, and a soft chilly breeze swept through under the sun and I knew I had landed in a special place.
Less than 24 hours later I stood in downtown San Francisco, working a trade show on a Saturday, listening to a story. A peculiar story. “When I was younger,” this woman, this stranger, told me, “I lived in downtown Oakland. My brother and I were 4 and 6. My aunt lived two miles away, and one day she called my mother and said, ‘do you know where your kids are?’
‘Yes,’ my mother told her. They’re playing in the backyard.’
‘No,’ my aunt countered, ‘Go and look.’
Sure enough, we weren’t there. We were at my aunt’s, in her backyard. When I was 4, and my brother was 6, he took my hand, and we walked down the street in Oakland in the late afternoon, for two miles, and we made it. Can you believe that? Kids would never be able to do that today.”
I had been terrified this woman was going to tell me a horror story. I had been terrified she would be teaching us a lesson about walking down the streets of Oakland, even as adults.
She didn’t produce the blatant horror I had been inspecting. But, she did tell a horror story. One about cities deteriorating, becoming crime-ridden and drug-ridden, a place that isn’t safe for children to play and wander. I was struck. It seemed different than the city I saw last night, different than the one I had seen the second time and the first time. What kind of place is this, I asked myself. Where have I arrived? It seemed so close to home – to Trenton, where I worked just a few short months ago, and yet so far from what this other city on the Bay is supposed to be.
I felt the emotional shock of a story involving two kids walking around Oakland by themselves, but no matter what I did, I couldn’t create a written story of it, not even in my head. That sympathetic humor – my favorite part – was missing. I’m still searching for it.
After a few changes myself, I am excited resurrect A Story Every Day. I’m looking forward to sharing my new stories, which you’ll also be able to see at meganyarnall.com, but mostly, I want to hear yours!
I can’t wait to see your story submissions and post them for everyone to read. For guidelines, please check the above tabs. Submit your stories to astoryproject (at) gmail (dot) com and you’ll hear back from me, Megan!
Talk to you soon!
February dawns upon us tomorrow, and as I hate the cold winter months, I want something to distract myself. To drag me away from the freezing temperatures and snow that is supposedly going to fall (though there are birds chirping outside my window now and it will be 58 degrees F today, so what can I complain about).
That being said, I want to participate in this challenge: http://www.thehouseofsmiths.com/2012/01/photo-day-linky-party-announcement.html
While I probably won’t link back (who knows, maybe I will get into that), these photos are going to tell the story of my February. Not to mention give me a focus for the month. I’m looking forward to it.
I missed National Handwriting Day! It was on January 23rd. What was I doing on January 23rd that I missed it? Just working. On a computer. No handwriting involved. (It’s a shame.)
Do you think handwriting is on it’s way out, thanks to computers? We don’t even jot notes anymore while we’re out on about – we type them into smartphones! I know my handwriting has gotten sloppier since I started using a computer all the time. You?
Butch drove a classic Chevy Bel Air, one of those old school convertibles, pitch black in color. The car was illegal of course, no one was allowed to own a private vehicle in the city, but Butch told me that no one dared to take on the Bel Air; it was much faster than any cop car. He pressed on the accelerator, the motor roared into the night as we rolled towards Creekwell City. The mission was simple, The Doctor asked us to go pick up Steve Miller and The Painter from the dive-bar, drive to the old glass factory on the outskirts of town, and meet up with a man who’d give us a package to be delivered to The Doctor. I rested my back on the leather passenger seat, the cold air blew so hard on my face that it made me squint. It was my first…
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