Day 369: The Real Work Begins
For years, I’ve been in a really bad slump. Actually, to be fair, the pandemic put us all in a slump and I was no exception. My writers block was a long time coming and living my day-to-day life in fear was the nail in the coffin. I knew something had to change and I had to address some bad habits. For starters, I would only write on Fridays. But when that was assessed, I was overwhelmed with dread every Thursday night and then struggle to write anything of substance in the morning. There were things that I wanted to write, but the idea of starting it and not finishing it in one sitting terrified me. But then again, in a city full of infected assholes, everything was terrifying.
In the summer of 2020, I drove to work whenever I could. The city was still relatively empty, so I was able to own the streets. It was a wonderful feeling, like I unlocked some sort of cheat code. For my drives home, I started a new section in my Spotify playlist. It was mostly soft-pop mid-90’s Jams. Basically, I wanted to form a mixtape that a furniture salesman in 1995 would enjoy. And every night, I would drive home and imagine being that furniture salesman. I pictured what my house would look like, what kind of electronics I would own. The whole place would have a Southwest motif. I would drink Fresca. After a while, I realized that I wanted to write a story about this furniture salesman. But at that time, my chops weren’t up to snuff. I had no confidence. I was only writing for the instant gratification of attention. I needed to be in a better creative space before I could tackle a whole story.
So it seemed appropriate that I would steal Zach’s idea and decide to write for a year straight. And frankly, I’m still in disbelief that I actually did it. I wrote on good days, bad days, days where I had no cell service, days that I spent in the ER, days that I was on vacation, days that I worked over 12 hours, days when I could barely muster the courage to get out of bed, days when I hit rock bottom, days when I was happier than I thought I had the capacity to be, holidays, election days, I wrote every motherfucking day and I enjoyed every single one of them. In a year where I’ve gone through a lot of changes and mental anguish, writing was the therapy to supplement my therapy. And I’m eternally grateful for Rachel, who never let me take a day off, for all the people who gave me Thursday topic ideas and all of you for reading whatever I had to say. I could have just kept a journal, but I wanted to publicly display my growth, as a writer and as a person.
So where do I go from here? Now that I have my chops up to snuff, the real work begins. I have a story about a furniture salesman to write. I still have no idea what the story is going to be. I don’t know what this guy is going to do or feel. I told myself all year that Day 369 would end with the first excerpt of the story and I’m a man of my word. Below, you’ll find a segment that I wrote last night. It makes no sense, it’s going nowhere, the style is disjointed, it’s probably not good, but I needed to get Cliff down on paper. I’ll be working on this diligently and you won’t hear about it again until it’s something legible. In the meantime, expect me to still be flooding your timeline with more senseless writing. It won’t be every day, but it’ll be plentiful.
Until next time, thanks for the support. I love you all.
“102.5 WIOG, what’s your request tonight?”
“Is Gin Blossoms coming up?”
“You want to hear the Gin Blossoms?”
“No, I don’t want to hear the Gin Blossoms, I’d like to request that you don’t play the Gin Blossoms for the next 58 minutes”
“It’s cued up on third. Once it’s in, I can’t take it out. You know this, Cliff.”
“And you know that I’m going to call at 9:01 every night requesting no Gin Blossoms”
“My hands are tied. Why don’t you just get your radio fixed so you can listen to something else?”
“What Gin Blossoms song is it?”
“Does it matter?”
“I guess not. Third song up?”
“After the commercial break”
“Now there’s a commercial break?!?”
“You’re looking at 15 minutes, Cliff”
“Nuts to your estimates. I’ll leave in 16.”
There’s no use turning the lights back on in the store. He actually kind of likes the mood lighting. It reminds him of when he was a kid. He would dream about being trapped in a furniture store, staying overnight, with an endless supply of couches and beds. Who wouldn’t want to be surrounded by infinite comfort? Cliff saunters to the front corner and sits in an April Sand-colored Broyhill 3 seater with a center drop-down console. He reaches for the recliner bar but realizes this model doesn’t come with one. He just sits there, savors the moment and stares off into space. He knows he needs to write tonight and he knows that he has no ideas. He thinks to himself, “What would…who would…what do you get when…hmm”. Still got nothing. He hits the Indiglo on his Timex. 9:12:43. He hits it again. 9:12:49. If he locks up slowly enough and takes his time to start the car, he’ll miss the Gin Blossoms. So he does just that.
With still a minute to kill, he tentatively slides his keys in the ignition and stares out windshield. The Art Van sign glows slickly in fluorescent white. He always had a lot of respect for that logo. It’s firm but also playful. Just like a good piece of furniture. He hits the Indiglo again. It’s probably safe. He turns the key.
He turns the car back off and sighs. He wonders who changes the bulbs in the sign. He’s never seen the lighting consistency change, nor has he ever seen the sign opened up. How many bulbs are even in there? Two? Eight? Or is it one giant light shaped like the Art Van logo? He hits the Indiglo but doesn’t even look at his watch. For good measure, he hums “Spanish Flea” to himself twice. That’s good enough. He turns the ignition again and is immediately greeted by the smooth drumbeat and piano of “Just Another Day” by Jon Secada. A true jam. A smile on his face, he turns out of the parking lot and down an empty Bay Road.
When it comes to luxury, Acura always delivers. And the 1994 Acura Integra is no exception. 1.8 Liter 4 cylinder engine, 142 horsepower, real leather seats with an open headrest, none of that knockoff leather that the “other guys” might put in their cars. Sleek, sporty, sexy and expensive as hell, the Integra is Cliff’s pride and joy. Once he turns onto Gary Road, he slows down considerably. Lots of deer roaming about, not to mention the buffalo herd that always seems to escape the fence. Needless to say, he has to keep the Integra safe. And he does just that. As he pulls into the garage, he waits to get out so he can finish listening to UB40’s rendition of “Red Red Wine”.
When he walks into the dark house, he can hear the whir of the second VCR running. He pours himself a Fresca, carefully places the sweaty glass on a folded paper towel to protect his cedar Kensington coffee table and relaxes in his Bassett loveseat with Seirra patterning. He turns on the tv and rewinds the tape in his JVC VCR. Staring at the blue screen, he tries to think of something. “Two cows walk into…What do you get when…Ugh”. Frustrated, no longer relaxed, he hits play and turns up the volume. It’s the ending to a Silk Stalkings rerun. He gets up and carries his drink over to his Sauder desk. He powers on his IBM PS/1 and swivels his chair back to the Sony 32″ Television. The crowd in the Manhattan Center looks to be the same as last week. A familiar siren plays and a booming voice announces, “Welcome everyone to Monday Night Raaaaawwwww”.
Finally booted up, he loads up Word Processor and is met with the same words that have been mocking him for weeks. The words that are always there but never have anything below it. The words that will seemingly be his undoing:
369 Jokes To Tell At A Steakhouse