Friday, October 13, 2006

Stuff I'd like to do one of these days...

1) Learn Arabic: No writing looks more beautiful than Arabic writing. No singing sounds more heartfelt and passionate than Arabic singing. It’s a fascinating language, and I’d like to be able to speak and read it. I imagine this isn’t easy, though. I bet it’ll take a couple years of constant, concentrated study. Being a word nerd, however, I pick up language rules and vocabulary pretty easily. It’s the pronunciation that kills me. I studied French for a couple months before going to Paris and, even though I understood simple sentences and could read signs and menus and the like, I still would up sounding like Cleetus le Doofus whenever I tried to say anything to anyone. This was me: “Booojoo, massooooor! Ooooo ehhh la twah-lay pour ‘oms? MARCY BOOOOOCOOOOO!”. The French were very nice about it, but I bet deep inside they were thinking “Sacre Bleu! Our beautiful language, mangled and urinated upon by this strange foreigner! It is like my ears are being scoured with scorpion venom! I shall speak to him in English and spare myself the horror of hearing our glorious tongue being further subjected to his appalling ignorance of simple accent rules!” It was sort of embarrassing. But maybe one day, a few years in the future, I’ll be hanging out in Casablanca or Lebanon or Cairo or Tunis, sounding as smooth as sunburned Midwesterner kickin’ it in the Middle East possibly can.

2) Write a play: I don’t go see plays very often. And when I say, “I don’t go see plays very often”, I mean I haven’t seen one in eight or nine years. But that doesn’t stop me from wanting to put together one of my own. If I did write one, I’m pretty sure it would be a comedy. I usually don’t enjoy watching big, weighty dramas on the stage—the intimacy of all that rubs me the wrong way for some reason. I’m a guy who churns out a new dire, depressing story each month, so I’m certainly not opposed to the weighty and sad, I just prefer that mode be kept as an individual experience. True theater people will probably be aghast, but I think that if you go out to catch a show, you ought to get a good time for your money. It’s a social occasion, and social occasions ought to be happy times. That’s why my play would be light-hearted and wacky. I don’t know what it would be about, though. Maybe it would be about a dangerously insane amateur herpetologist/sex therapist suddenly finding himself in charge of writing the health curriculum for a conservative rural Midwestern school district and all the charming misunderstandings that would ensue from there. Or maybe it would be about a urban hipster who takes it upon himself to become a country music star. Or maybe it won’t be about either of those things, but instead about something good. I don’t know. I’m just throwing shit out there.

3) Visit the Hagia Sophia: I remember back when I was in my college art history class and my professor showed us a picture of the interior of the Hagia Sophia. The whole class—comprised mostly of hardened stoners and jocks who wanted an easy “A”—gasped at how gorgeous it was. Then and there, I vowed that I would go to Istanbul and see it before I died. I’ve been a lot of places since that day—Miami and New York City and Paris and Berlin and Madrid and Omaha, Nebraska—but Turkey has so far managed to elude my traveling capabilities. However, there are rumors of a voyage to Athens shaping up for next summer, a destination that would place me within ferryboat distance of Istanbul. I think I’m going to learn some Turkish, just in case.

4) Encourage the publishing industry to translate more Latin American authors: One thing that the Anglo-centric literary world has a hard time accepting is that some of the greatest writing ever done comes from Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Nicaragua and Mexico. This isn’t just global dilettantism speaking, either: Juan Rulfo and Virgilio Piñera and Jorge Luis Borges are every bit as great as the American and British masters of high-modernist avant-garde writing. Jose Donoso or Osman Lins can write rings around Paul Auster, Don Delillo or any other “post-modern” posterboy. Machado de Assis is a peer of Hawthorne, Conrad and Poe. It is a great shame that so much shelf-space at Barnes and Nobel is taken up by Oprah-certified weepers and pompous writers workshop drivel while writers like, say, Horacio Quiroga or Clarice Lispector are all but unknown and quite hard to find in this country. If I was in charge of the publishing industry, I would change that.

5) Play the piano: I have a piano in my apartment. I wish I could do something with it besides jam out on very slow, very clunky versions of “Jingle Bells”. It would be pretty cool to be able to make actual music with it, but that would also require me to sit there and work through that whole torturous “don’t-know-anything-can’t-do-anything” phase. It’s so much easier just to give up and spend my leisure time doing things that I’m halfway competent at. That’s a bad habit of mine: to not want to do the things I can’t do well. I’m a terrible amateur. I hate it when I suck. I’d love it if someone could just implant a microchip in my brain and program my fingers to press the keys the right way. I’m not saying I want to be a virtuoso or anything, I just want to be able to produce sounds that don’t make my neighbors hate me.