For the most part, I write like I speak. When I am writing I think in speech patterns, kind of like I am talking to you directly. I put in commas where I would naturally pause. I use semicolons for soft stops, a longer pause that continues on in the same vein. I love ellipses because sometimes…just, sometimes…you need to take a longer moment to reflect…before going on. I don’t worry about the grammatical rules so much, since we are gathered here virtually and informally, but I try to get most of them right. Except for run-on sentences, I simply adore them. I try to break it up. Honestly, I do. Sometimes. I love the rhythm of speech and there are times when you just have to let your words run free, unrestrained by grammatical bridles, to communicate, to create images of the mind, to stream along till their obvious, or not so obvious, conclusion. I am not doing this for a grade, so I’m not gonna sweat the details, but I do sometimes worry about them. After the drink, we will continue our education theme this week and delve into why writing here causes a bit of internal tension. But first, will you please join me as we stand and make the Bow & Arrow.
This drink was created by Scott Teague in the Long Island City bar, Dutch Kills. It marries a couple of my favorites in this smokey, booze forward riff on a classic daiquiri. Grab your tins and pop in 1 ounce of bourbon, I went with Hudson Baby Bourbon Single Barrel; 1 ounce of Mezcal, I went with Illegal; 3/4 of an ounce of pineapple juice, 3/4 of an ounce of lime juice, 1/2 an ounce of simple syrup and 3 drops of Crude Bitters Sea Salt and Smoke. Add ice and shake well to some old Chris Isaak, probably “Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing“, yeah that works. When your tins are as cool as the music and a frost begins to form, break ’em apart and double strain into something long and tall. Garnish with whatever your partner hands you, in this case a sal de chapulins dusted pineapple bow with a bamboo string and a palm frond arrow. If you don’t have a sculptural representation of the tensions held in this drink dusted with ground up grasshoppers, I guess a cherry or a lime wheel or something like that would do; I mean I don’t know where your standards are, these days.
Once again, this drink is a winner. I have been trying to do a better job of curating the recipes we try and have been duly rewarded. The smoke from the mezcal is right up front, but with that strong corn finish from the Baby Bourbon, which I just realized also dictated the song choice. I never know where this stuff comes from in the moment, but with a little hindsight you can see it was all connected. Our lives from cradle to grave are just a series of interconnected events, one flowing from the other into infinity. Well, the only infinity we will ever know anyway. I get it conceptually, and I concede that this process is not truly infinite, but viewed through my human eyes, any concept that extends beyond the span of my consciousness might as well be infinite. So, let’s stick with the philosophical side of the conversation and avoid the mathematical implications, if you please. But, yeah, it is all connected, when viewed from the right angle. It is actually kinda depressing how much of my life I have spent trying to trace situations back to their beginnings, back to the moment things would have all been different if I had gone left, instead of right. See, just like talking to me in person, the thread sometimes wanders from where I thought it was going to go. I get caught up in the story as well, swept along in its current. I’ll try to navigate us back into the main channel. So…umm, yeah…the drink is good. The smooth, corn oil, smokiness of the bourbon mezcal combo in tension with the sweet pineapple and bright citrus of the lime, is all just perfectly balanced, like that moment when you draw the bow back, all of that energy balanced, ready to be unleashed.
That’s the thing, isn’t it? All this tension. People arguing about what is best, citing old data or yet to be tested theories, depending on which one confirms more biases. Writing these little shouts into the darkness I sometimes worry about how much I should say. Whether I should express my opinion, take a side. I am a weird mix. Passionately devoted to the things I believe and ready to defend them and the thought process that led to my conclusions, but also a strong believer in a live and let live, laissez-faire philosophy that reminds me that your beliefs are not my problem. I am pretty open-minded, as long as you come with your own opinion. I mean something real, that you yourself have thought about, not some crap that your social group handed you or education by meme. I’ve got a ton of respect for free thought and very little for folks who don’t check their facts, or discount the facts when they don’t agree with their foregone conclusions. But, do I really worry about all that? Not that much. What worries me when I write this stuff? Comma splices. You know, those commas I use to connect two independent clauses. I get away with it sometimes because the MLA Style Guide gives folks like me an out. They say that “In dialogue and first-person narration, for example, a character might be excited or upset and thus speak in a rush. The minimal pause conveyed by a comma can clarify sentence structure while conveying the character’s state of mind.” Still, I worry. I am friends with several teachers, including many who taught me along the way, and there are a couple of my former editors out there, who might stumble upon this stuff. So, yeah, the fact that they might see that I am still making the same old mistakes worries me sometimes. Of course, now I know when I am doing it and choose to do it for effect, usually, but still.
Honestly, it goes deeper than the commas. I worry that if I don’t think things through, audit my resources, check my facts; if I don’t show the critical thinking skills they drilled into me, they will be disappointed, and rightly so. In all seriousness, that is the thing I struggle with the most these days. Watching people I know and love say and share reprehensible things in order to score points within their bubble. It happens on all sides, sometimes by some “very fine people”. Usually, it is not even them, it is someone else’s thoughts they decided to amplify with their voice. People go crazy for an easy to digest meme that oversimplifies the situation and makes fun of the other side. Folks will line up in the hot sun to share some secret facts “THEY don’t want you to know” especially if it comes from a dubious source. I get it, we all disagree sometimes and that is cool. It just saddens me, how often I scroll through my feed, seeing what my wide and diverse group of friends chose to share, only to find another piece of bad data being amplified, another meme created to divide us. I just want to scream into the darkness, “Why would you say that? What are you bringing to the conversation? How does this move us forward? What do you really think? Did you check that source out? Why would you share a thing meant to divide us? I know you, I know you are better than this. I know you would give people the shirt off your back to help them out, so why would you spread hate here? Use your own voice! Don’t let them speak through you.” We can be better than this. We have to be.
Like I said, I never know where this is going, I planned on talking about how weird it is to feel like your high school English teacher might be judging you for comma splices. How, after all the stuff I have written, I still have to look up how punctuation works within quotation marks. How none of it really matters anyway, because when you write for the big companies they assign you an editor to help you clean up the messes. How mine, inevitably, mention comma splices and the need for variation in cadence and rhythm. How to avoid run on thoughts. To use short sentences. Decisive language. How they build…tension.
Our words and ideas are like this drink, like a bow and arrow. When we decide to speak, in our own words or through the things we share, we draw that bow back and prepare to launch those ideas into the forum. Before you release, take a moment to reflect. To be sure that what you send into the world represents something you want to be known for, to be judged on. If that is hate and division, I am sorry life has brought you to that place. Honestly, though, I think that we would all be better off if we shared what we had for dinner, what we are drinking tonight, what our kids did today, a picture of our dog or the sunset, a recipe, a message of hope, a video of your cat purring. Things that make us feel better, insights into each others lives. Nobody gives a fuck how much you hate one politician or the other. Making fun of those you don’t agree with or don’t understand doesn’t drive the conversation forward. You get to choose what you put out into the world. You can choose to tell people what you hate or you can share what you love. I am gonna try to choose love….every time. Stay safe, stay hydrated and stay sane, my friends.