Thursday, May 29, 2008

JOURNAL EXCERPT: May 5, Fri. 1978

"I am at work, standing by the ramp. J. B., the only woman country truck driver, walks up to me. I didn't feel like talking to anyone.

"'Hey, Pat,' she says. 'I was gonna bring you some paperbacks tonight, but I forgot about 'em.'

"I think I said, 'Really?'

"'I went into my bedroom to get 'em, and I forgot what I went in there foar when I got there. There was these paperbacks on the dresser.'

"I couldn't think of anything to say.

"W. W., another truck driver, said, 'I'm glad to see I'm not the only one that does that.'

"'I don't do it all the time, ' J. says. 'But I went in there and forgot what I went in there foar. I'll bring 'em sometime.'

"I still couldn't think of anything to say.

"She walks off."

MANHOOD REDO: This excerpt seems like a follow up to the previous one where I tried to tape country truck drivers talking on the Avalanche Journal newspaper dock without them knowing it, only instead of recording on a cassette, I'm recording the conversation on paper from memory. Like a number of journal entries, this one's a little embarrassing to read, partly because of the "foar," which appears twice and sticks out like a sore thumb. It more than anything else takes the dialogue in a direction I would avoid now, playing as it does on the stereotypes of hillbilly dialect that signal a lack of education. In my memory J. was just about as nice as could be, always thinking of others, as this excerpt suggests, and yet what I wrote seems to carry some unspoken disdain for her. Replace the "foar" with "for" and I think you have dialogue that's more internally consistent and coherent - and less judgmental.

Not only do I think the above journal excerpt has to do with the insecurities of my own newly found desire to be "educated" (I had dropped out of college after the second year and reapplied for admission to Texas Tech University just a little over a week before I wrote down the conversation), it probably had something to do with the fact that J. was the only female country truck driver. She worked in a very masculine world and held her own, but to my my twenty-something self she always seemed a little out of place, providing me with another reason to dismiss her.

I never bothered to find out why she was working on the grave yard shift driving miles and miles by herself most nights of the week delivering bundles of newspapers to small towns in the region around Lubbock.

My loss.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

JOURNAL EXCERPT: May 3, Wed. 1978

"Took a cassette player to work to try and record some dialogue. Didn't work too well. I didn't want anyone to know I was recording them, because it might have made them nervous, so I hid it in my coat. Didn't work too well at all."

MANHOOD REDO: I suppose I was intending to use the cassette player as a means of advancing my creative writing skills by studying actual moments of conversation so that I could better write dialogue in my short stories. I'm wondering, though, whether my disinclination to let anyone on the newspaper dock know I was recording them really had anything to do with making them nervous, implying that they might not talk like they normally do and I wouldn't capture their normal style of talking. That was probably just a crap excuse I used since I knew that if I was open about documenting their conversations on tape, I would've needed to get their permission, and they might not have consented, especially since most people don't like to hear their voices.

I don't particularly like to hear mine. When I was teaching at the University of Illinois at Chicago as a graduate student, I recorded on cassette two of the classes I was teaching, and they were godawful - all the uhs, and stops, and starts, and sentences trailing off. Plus, I just didn't like the sound of my voice. I wanted it deeper and more distinctive - more masculine, I suppose. An American version of Sean Connery. I can only imagine how I would've felt if I found out that a student had brought a recorder to the class and later found out she or he had secretly taped me without my permission.

I had to know I was disregarding people's feelings in order to go ahead and do whatever I damn well wanted to advance my own agenda - something I associate with traditional masculinity. Fortunately, my coat got in the way.