Thomas Ewing (the first Secretary, 1849-50); gin and tonic
Alexander H.H. Stewart (1850-53); Manhattan
Orville H. Browning (1866-69); Campari and soda
Zachariah Chandler (1875-77); dry martini
Lucius Q.C. Lamar II (1885-88); Moscow mule
Hubert Work (1923-28); whiskey and soda
Douglas McKay (1953-56); amaretto sour
Thomas S. Kleppe (1975-77); Jägerbomb
Manuel Lujan, Jr. (1989-93); screwdriver
Sally Jewel (2013-2017); old fashioned
Ryan Zinke (2017-present); rum and Coke
I try to write funny things now and then. It’s a way to take a break, to finish something short (sense of accomplishment and finality), and to try to make someone laugh. This one got rejected, and so leaving this here. (One of these just opened behind our house).
Something Has Gone Awry with the Vendor-selection Process at The Food Market
Welcome to The Food Market, the hottest thing in town, a former auto-body shop that’s been transformed into a dining destination where top local chefs have brought their adventurous ideas together under one roof. This is Chet Reynolds from the WTZX City Team and I’m excited to take you on a behind-the-scenes tour. Let’s start with this gentleman right here. What inventive culinary ideas do you have up your sleeve?
Vendor 1: I make bologna sandwiches.
Chet Reynolds: That’s so interesting! So, these sandwiches are a nod to the school cafeteria lunches of your youth?
Vendor 1: It’s bologna on white bread.
Chet: How nostalgic!
Vendor 1: And there’s some mayonnaise on there.
Chet: Fantastic. Moving right along. What do we have here? A nice young woman offering up what I’m guessing is hibiscus tea, perhaps with some agave syrup over ice?
Vendor 2: It’s red drink.
Chet: How delightfully simple! On a hot day like today, this must really hit the spot! Can we try some?
Vendor 2: That’ll be a dollar. If you just want a cup of ice that’s 10 cents.
Chet: Well, I don’t seem to have any—
Vendor 2: Beat it, dickjob.
Chet: OK. What do we have over here?
Vendor 3: I got some boiled carrots.
Chet: OK. And you, right over here, ma’am?
Vendor 4: Microwaved hot dogs.
Chet: Goodness. Let’s try you, sir.
Vendor 5: Instant mashed potato mix.
Chet: I was not expecting that. And you, sir.
Vendor 6: Loose Fritos that you grab with your hands out of this plastic tub.
Chet: My! I was not expecting any of this. Let’s move over to the other side of the building, shall we? Oh, oysters! Wonderful. Ma’am, where are these farmed?
Vendor: My cousin gets them down by the pier by the old battery plant.
Chet: Oh, my. And you, sir. What are you selling?
Man: I don’t work here but I could get you a phone charger.
Chet: Hey, that’s my phone charger!
Man: Two bucks.
Chet: I will not be paying for my own—
Man: I got some VHS tapes in my car. They’re not blank but they still work.
Chet: Well, this is turning into something, isn’t it. No, wait. I think I finally see what all the fuss is about, right over there. Ma’am, what is it you’re offering up today?
Vendor 6: These are locally sourced—
Vendor 7: —artisinally packaged—
Vendor 7: —Ziploc bags of hand soap from the waiting room at the hospital.
Chet: Oh, boy. We’re done here.
Vendor 7: It smells like Jolly Ranchers.
A lot of writers, actors, directors, in interviews you’ll hear them say something along the lines of: “I’m just waiting for everyone to find out that I’m a fraud.” Last night’s dream was especially this, for any writer. It’s a high-level fiction workshop. The teacher, a writer of highly literary novels that have never sold well (and maybe he hadn’t published on in a while), goes through his critiques of two other writers’ work. The critiques are pointed but not devastating. And then he gets to me.
It is devastating. He asks where I grew up. I say “western Maryland” and on the chalkboard, he writes “Rural concerns.” Then he asks, not really me but instead the class, “Mr. Sawyers, do you have any concrete plans to actually step away from the bus stop and answer any real questions?”
So it’s always there, the doubt. I’ve got to assume it won’t ever go away.
I have been lax in writing little things here and there about this novel that’s now in its fourth year. For many reasons, but mostly because it’s all I can do to try to write the thing itself and also because I’m so new to it and am so unsure about so many things that who am I to profess about this sweet, difficult sport?
But I can say one thing for sure, and that is that I’m almost certainly getting better at it. I’m basically teaching myself how to do it, making tons of mistakes, some of them huge mistakes, and am learning mostly by reading books as I go and by trial and error writ large.
I’ll try to write more about it, but I can say a few things.
I’m in the throes of a third draft. I feel better about this one. It’s harder work than the first two but it is, I hope, because I’m getting in there and doing the heavy work of figuring out my characters and figuring out effective plots and figuring out how to make these three people in my head come alive, both beautifully and whatever it is opposite.
This one was especially satisfying. I’ve been trying McSweeney’s Internet Tendency for, and this is a little embarrassing, 10 years. I finally made them laugh. If there are any other writers out there who’ve been trying the same publication for a long time and who finally break through, I’d love to hear from you. Keep at it. Eventually you’ll hit it just right.
Maybe America’s like a really great treehouse you build way out in the woods away from the parents where the kids can try to be their best selves. And despite some pretty bad mistakes, they mostly try to make it so that everyone gets a turn sleeping in the treehouse. Or at least they try to try, or try to try to try. And then a bully, because he wants the treehouse, he comes along and tells them the treehouse is on fire, and that he’s the only one with a garden hose, and half the kids believe him. But the treehouse isn’t on fire, and in fact it’s doing pretty good. (I’ve had one beer, though it was a big one.)
Sometimes it seems like there’s as much good writing advice out there as actual good writing, but that’s OK. Here’s a good one: novelist and short story writer Jim Shepard says: “Follow your weird.”
From Ramona Ausubel’s terrific essay about her path to becoming a writer, up at LitHub: http://lithub.com/how-to-be-a-writer-the-map-is-the-territory/
From Haruki Murakami’s novel Sputnik Sweetheart:
“So that’s how we live our lives. No matter how deep and fatal the loss, no matter how important the thing that’s stolen from us–that’s snatched right out of our hands–even if we are left completely changed, with only the outer layer of skin from before, we continue to play out our lives this way, in silence. We draw ever nearer to the end of our alotted span of time, bidding it farewell as it trails off behind. Repeating, often adroitly, the endless deeds of the everyday. Leaving behind a feeling of immeasurable emptiness.”