Sunday, June 21, 2009

Two Loves Have I

The French produced a song in the war years of Marlene Dietrich: "Two Loves Have I." At heart I also have two passions: music and writing. I suppose thinking and feeling are more valued to me than even music or writing, but my two passions express what I think and feel, so I try to find outlets for each.

For music I play the keyboards I have bought over the years and the $10 piano I bought from a lady in Aventura whose condo got flooded in Hurricane Wilma. I call it my $10 piano, though I paid her $100 for it because I'm a softie, and paid the movers another $100 to get it up here to Coral Springs. She was, however asking $10 for it, so I insist on calling it my $10 piano.

Unlike the electronic keyboards, I can really whack the heck out of my $10 piano and do so several times a week. There's nothing like the feel of pounding a true piano to release my hostilities and express myself emotionally. It's been a lifelong passion, one I used to make my living doing back in the day. I grew up with music, and I suppose met my wife through music. I must have it. I don't think I could live without it.

Between writing and music it's a hard call which passion I love most, but I know it tilts toward music when it comes to expressing feeling. Suzanne Langer, the American philosopher, called music "the sentience of feeling." I think that's very true.

Writing undoubtedly provides a wonderful outlet as well for expressing my feelings, but it's greater strength is for expressing my thoughts and reflecting upon whatever interests me. I usually do this through exposition, but at times through lyric poetry or fiction if my imagination is so inspired. Such inspirations are becoming less frequent as reality tends to dominate my attention more the older I become.

But it wasn't until very recently I began to appreciate that there is a great divide in my writing needs between writing to myself and writing to share publicly. In my private, handwritten journal I am able to jot down ideas more or less at the speed they come to me, unedited and with no concern for sharing them in blogs or anywhere else.

The mistake I've long made is believing I could transfer to the internet what I write strictly in my own journal, with the same lack of self-consciousness that I enjoy writing to myself alone. I simply cannot say to others, no matter whether family, friends, in a classroom or online, what I can say to myself. The moment I try, I begin to edit. I immediately feel the need to make sense, for one thing, to write coherently in reasonably standard English sentences, and not to just jot wordplay or nonsensical snippets as I feel free to do in my journal.

For another difference I find that I sometimes pray in my journal, which I would never feel comfortable doing online. Prayer, I have found, is nearly the only kind of expression that I can be totally honest doing. It would be absurd tying to be less than honest in prayer; who would I be fooling? Myself I might deceive, but not God. I believe deeply in prayer, but I don't feel comfortable praying online. I do, however, in my private journal.

There are many other differences as well, but no need to go into them here. My subject for this post is still about expressing myself through writing and music, and as I try this venue and that I find I don't need another place to write online. I have my blogs to express what I can publicly and my handwritten journal to express what I only can express privately.

And speaking of my blogs, I began another a few days ago as what I hoped would be a fresh approach, having gotten a bit tired of Writetosayit's look and feel over the years. I began it on Blogspot after trying a couple of Wordpress blogs I was using over at my commercial site, And I began it out of spite.

Let me explain:

I read in someone's new Wordpress blog how happy he was to be at Wordpress and to be rid of Blogger and Blogspot, which he said was "like living in the '50's" When I read that, I bristled. I doubt the fellow was even alive in the '50's, but I understood why he felt as he apparently did. Blogger is, in fact, a bit of a conservative dinosaur as a host, and definitely not "hip"--a bit long in the tooth, as they say. Browsing blogspot's typical posts it's rare to find the kind of f-word, in-your-face ranting and insulting language that sully many other sites of other hosts in this age of Twitters and tweets, MySpace chats, Craigslist crud, messaging and other gatherings which abound on the net. Blogger was one of the first to enable free blogging and built it to by far the largest hosting site in the world for many years. I don't know if Wordpress or any other host has matched its numbers yet, but that's beside the point.

I do know this: people on Blogspot tend to be more mature than the tennyboppers and frenetic professionals at Wordpress and other community-oriented hosts. Not necessarily more mature in years but seemingly past the rebellious stage of their lives. The people who run Blogspot also seem to provide sensible help menus and not get carried away with geeky techtalk to bloggers who just want a lay answer to a simple question. Blogspot menus make sense to me and the personality of the templates remains as attractive as anywhere.

The only thing I still find annoying at Blogspot is the hoops set up that force us all to do nonsensical, illegible word verifications for most posting and commenting. Other sites have managed to make this process--which I admit is a necessary one--less confusing and still be effective.

Oh, Blogspot also has a few quirks like producing thousands of duplicate copies of blogs I didn't write to clog up my editing lists. I gave up trying to delete them all after a few hundred. And Blogspot still has a long way to go for those after wider syndication. I suppose they don't want spam creeping in, but other sites syndicate widely in a range of formats through notification services like technoratti and ping-o-matic, and I miss that. Blogspot's still in the '50's that way.

In any case, I like the '50's and liked living in them. I like visiting Disney/MGM in Orlando with it's '40's and '50's themes and art deco buildings. It's what I grew up with. So that young man, who never lived during those times, disparaged what I value, and for that, I won't blog at (plus the fact that they slap ads on your blog over there without asking your permission, which is why I quit them a few years ago.) If anyone is gonna pay any bills with my blogging, it's gonna be me. Sometimes spite feels good, and Hello Dolly, I'm back home where I belong. It's cool here, man, reeeel cooool....

Spring Housecleaning

It was time, I decided, to do some spring cleaning on my growing venues of expression. I scrapped the former blog "NBK Stuff" and saved only its former space on Blogger under the temporary title of "Summitsummers." But that blog didn't succeed in distinguishing its purpose or tone from this one, "Write to Say It," so I deleted Summitsummers also. I still maintain several blogs with my main expository journaling Writetosayit, my fiction and poetry writings, Inner Elves, and now a new blog on my commercial website,, in support of my spreadsheet budget product. That's really enough to catch ahold of whatever I feel I can say publicly.

I scrapped NBK Stuff because it outlived its purpose: to try Adsense ads on a blog and see if it made me a millionaire overnight. It didn't, and so out she goes. But why did I try to start Summitsummers?

It had to do with the way Blogspot is set up. When you delete a blog, the dashboard keeps it around in case you change your mind and want to reinstate it, and also asks you to create another blog on the spur of the moment to take its place. In fact, it doesn't even let you leave the page until you type in the name of that new blog. So I did, and called it the first word I could think of, "Summitsummers." Where that came from is beyond me. But it got me off the page.

Everybody Blogs Today

Everyone takes pictures today, so why ever hire a photographer? Everyone sings, so why pay to hear a Pavorotti or Sinatra? Everyone also blogs, so why read another's posts?

Yes, we can all do lots of things, but we recognize there are some who can do them better than we can ever hope to.

Now we blog, and it seems today people around the planet are posting away with feverish abandon, pouring out whatever they think for the world to read. But we don't have to go far to find that some are more widely read than others. Why?

Having posted for several years on several sites, I'm convinced the main reason some blogs are more avidly read and others read only by friends and family is a sense of the writer's authenticity. That's a complex thing to define exactly. But it comes through whatever is written, from choices about site design and lauout to a "feel" of the template and look of the font, what the writer says and how he or she says it, the style, the sound, the rhythms of speech and imagery, the choice of words and so forth. Some writers seem more authentic than others, to have more to say, or to say it in a memorable way.

As a student I had a fascination for the writing of William Makepeace Thackeray, the author of Vanity Fair. While classmates found his writing a slog, I just loved to hear whatever he said. Garrison Keillor, author of the Lake Wobegon Days and A Prarie Home Companion on NPR is another such idol of mine. I never tire of listening to or reading his work.

That's authenticity, personality. So if everyone blogs today, who will read them? Actually, many will, if readers sense in their words an engaging authenticity, if they feel the author has something to say in an engaging way.

We Lost Our Compass

We're getting ready to take a Ritz trip, and we're not sure where. It may be one of those existential junkets where we move around as the spirit moves us and the weather seems inviting. When we get our of Florida and head west, it's often flooded around the Mississippi. When we go north the rains or heat waves can be intimidating. When we go to the eastern seaboard we get eaten alive by giant mosquitoes. And we can't go much further south.

My inclination so far is to head for Branson, Missouri. We've never been there, but we've seen some features of it on television and it looked like somewhere we'd enjoy, kind of a laid back country music mecca like Gatlinburg, Tennessee which we like, or Nashville. We saw the Grand Ole Opry there a year ago and loved it. So with an RV and our informal tastes we ought to fit right in at Branson.

One year we headed for the Rockies and got close enough to Denver we could see the mountains, even though we were still in Kansas. Thunderheads rose up over them into a blue sky, and we knew we were in for it. That night it rained so hard, with hail beating down on our poor tent pull camper, that we had to run for our lives into our van to wait it out. It lasted for hours, and we slept in the van. In our haste we didn't have time to slide the beds back in under the roof and they got sopping wet.

The next morning we drove about six miles into Lawrence, Kansas with our clothes, our sleeping bags, our pillows and our foam mattresses all soaked with water even after we wrung them out and tried to mop out the camper. Fortunately, we found an open laundromat and began drying things out.

The operator of the laundromat listened to our tale of woe about the night before, and said he'd never seen so much rain there, nothing but water, water everywhere. It reminded him of his years in the navy, which, he said, was the reason he moved to Lawrence, Kansas. He said he never wanted to be near so much water again, and he had taken a ruler and a US map and calculated that Lawrence was the furthest point in the Continental US from any ocean, so that's where he'd live. Now that's quite a reason to live somewhere, I think--to get as far away from something you hate as possible.

We won't go to Branson for any reason so dramatic, but it seems far enough from South Florida that we'll feel we got away from our routines for a time. We'll see.

And from there we might go on further west up the Missouri valley, or over to Memphis and see Graceland, or up the Mississippi to the Dells, or over to Virginia's Shenandoah, or down to New Orleans, or who knows where. We don't.

In most years we didn't have this freedom. Lots of years we didn't have a special destination in mind, but we knew we'd be going to our hometown of Huntington, Indiana, because that's where the folks were. For the forty-one years of our marriage we might go west, east, north, or south from wherever we were living at the time, but we'd need to catch Huntington either going or coming back. For many years we'd stay at the house, but when dad and mom needed to go into nursing homes, we started staying at a motel. Living and working in Florida, we got to see them only a couple of times a year at most, often only once. We treasured those visits because we feared each time we might not see them again.

So this is really the first summer in forty-one years we're free to go wherever we'd like, because for the first time, sad to say, we have no living parents to visit. Barb's dad, then mom, died within about two months of each other this past fall and winter. We still have other relatives and friends in there, but they're apt to be around for awhile so we don't feel the same pressure to head for Huntington.

Maybe that's why we have no real destination in mind this summer. Mom and Dad in their Huntington nursing homes were like a compass, charting every summer trip for four plus decades. Without that compass, we're kind of lost, I think. We don't know where we ought to try to go.