Monday, March 24, 2008

Ghost Writing

HBO and the Postal Service want you to write a letter, because John and Abigail Adams did.

I found this amusing because I write letters. At the moment, I'm mostly writing to Aunt Mary Jane, ridiculous prattle about my daily life. MFA Jane assures me that even if I found it self indulgent, the two of them enjoyed my efforts. But I'm the only person I know who writes pen & ink letters, and I don't see this promotion changing that.

Real letters, on the new stationery, pretty envelopes and stamps. Sometimes I ghostwrite notes from the cats to other animals of their acquaintance (Cain's letter to the Brooklyn cats about how Genevieve's going to have a litter of squirmies and then they'll have to share was the latest). I do it because I love getting mail. No one writes me back, but they do email or call.

I started writing letters my senior year of high school. My friend Corinne Ferraro* had gone off to college, and I had no one left to talk to. So I'd write to Corinne. I'd go down to Red Bank on Saturday and get coffee and bring my stationery and pens. I had one of those 4 color Bics that were so cool, and pretty plain paper, but I think I tried for something nicer than plain ruled school paper. I don't remember what I wrote about--probably books and movies and Peddie School gossip--but I do recall in one letter saying that I'd like to be in a band like Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground, only without the heroin and not singing. Just writing lyrics.

Yeah, that never happened.

I was lonely, and stressed out by my parents over college. I think I seemed disinterested in my life and future, but I was scared and convinced that I'd wind up at Rutgers because no other college would accept me, and that would be fine except my parents would freak out. And it would be too close to them and I'd never get away. I'd be walking down the streets of New Brunswick and my dad would stalk me.

I met Tom Moran at the University of Chicago's admitted students weekend, and we kept up a correspondence for about 2 years. Tom--I still have all your letters, and if you ever find this blog and want them back, I'll return them to you. I can't quite bear to reread them--it's too much the ghosts and confusion of who I was coming back and blurring the present. I'm sorry I stopped writing to you. I didn't have anything to say. And why would you come all the way down to NJ and go to Atlantic City with me? What was up with all that? I know now, I think, but I did not know then. Maybe you didn't either.

I came across a letter from my dad last week and I almost started to cry. His handwriting is small and spiky and looks cramped. Sometimes it would be indecipherable. My handwriting is a mixture of printing and cursive, large and legible, and sometimes slopes too far to the right. I remember my dad getting all pissed once about the way I wrote with my pencil clenched in my fist and trying to force me to cradle it between my index and middle fingers. I was only 7 or 8, Daddy. My hands were very small.

I wasn't a writer when I was young, and I'm still not now. But if blogging has had a huge influence on my willingness to communicate and writing skills, then letter writing was the first baby steps to do that. I didn't like to write anything because it was permanent, because it was evidence that could be used against you. Now I use it defensively--I trick you by revealing some things, so you don't look too close. I only reveal things that I don't mind being used against me.

*I don't usually use real names here, but I'm making an exception for the sake of old friends and Google stalking.

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