Saturday, September 11, 2010

Scenery Change

In the mood for a scenery change, I took myself for a short trip today.

When I boarded the train for Rockridge, I was overwhelmed with the chatter, as I made my way to a vacant seat in a crowded train. There were many groups of people having conversations and from my perspective, coming from my quiet solitude, I felt as though I had ended into a large human head with too much activity and stimulus in every single room for me to process. I reached for my book, and though, I couldn’t hear any specific conversations, just illegible words and sound, I could hardly concentrate on my book, so it took me an extra long time to read each page.

At my stop, I exited the train and began walking West. I walked and walked until I found a coffee shop that wasn’t too crowded, where I could enjoy a latte and my book. I passed two bookstores and made note that I would stop in on the way back. I hadn’t visited these bookstores in ages.

I took my latte outside and found a shaded area to sit. I first took out my notebook and starting writing about my memories of being in this area and then I took my book out and started reading. It was Robert McKee’s book for my scriptwriting class: Story. And so, I read a bit, highlighted some points, digested. After a short while, I heard someone say,

“Excuse me.” I looked up from my book and a man about my age with a baby stroller said,

“I was wondering…are you enjoying that book?”

“Yes, I am,” I replied.

“I just recently took his seminar and also finished the book.”

“How did you like the book?”

“It was life changing.”

I was so taken aback, too much still in my head, in the book, that I was practically speechless when left to my own conversational ways. I expressed interest and I think the only words that came out besides were, “Wow.” He then apologized for taking me away from my reading—at least I wasn’t writing. I just looked at him, somewhat awestruck, but smiled and said, “That’s OK.” He asked if I was taking it as part of a creative writing class or what, and I told him that I was taking a beginning script writing course at the community college.

“Do you have a finished script,” he asked.

“No. I will be working on the beginning of a script for the final project, but the class is still in the beginnings.”

“I’ve read like five books on the subject and this was by far the best,” he said. He seemed so passionate, on fire, as he held one hand on the stroller, as if to steady himself.

I smiled and may have said, “That’s good to know.”

As I started coming out of my head, out of my space, I wanted to rack his brain. I wanted to ask how the seminar was, what did he think, did he have a script, etc., etc., but I was partially frozen, yet when he asked me questions, I wasn’t frozen at all. After his last comment, he told me to enjoy and strolled his baby along. Do you know that I didn’t even look once at the baby. Something I wouldn’t normally do. I was so fixated on this gentleman, yet I could not talk, beyond what questions he asked me. I reverted to a slightly shy version of myself. And I pondered the scenario and the many ways it could have played out or not played out. Some people are natural conversationalists. Give me paper and pen and I have time to think, but put me right there on the spot and something happens. This is something I continue to work on, quite possibly a life lesson, with a long road ahead.

I only hope that given the opportunity to ask questions next time, that I remember, I have to go beyond the words on the page, I have to bring those words and questions out into the open air. Next time, I hope not to freeze, but perhaps I was taken aback by the whole moment. Apparently he had seen the book from beyond the glass window. The seminar and book must have made quite an impression on him, and I’m sure that as I make my way through the book, I will feel that same change.

When I left the cafĂ©, I stopped into one of the bookstores and left with two books. It’s hard to resist books on writing that have an appeal about how they are organized, so the first book is Architecture of the Novel: A Writer’s Handbook by Jane Vandenburgh. I also cannot resist books on creativity and I had not read this one when it first came out. This is the 25th anniversary edition of The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World by Lewis Hyde. I have tried to curtail my book buying, but since I was on a scenery change outing, it seemed appropriate to come back with two new books.


Vincent said...

Well I think you acted quote instinctively and properly. You politely answered his questions. It was he who accosted you, but he didn't want to invade your privacy and so you couldn't break through that, because you are not that forward with strangers.

It reminds me of an incident nearly 20 years ago when I was sitting next to a man in the London Underground (the Tube). He was reading a most interesting book and I tried to glimpse its title when he closed it to get out. I had the chance to ask him what it was but didn't barge in on his privacy. I bought three books subsequently to see if they might be this magic one. One I bought quite recently. the Internet makes searching easier now of course. The one I've bought just could be that one I saw on the Tube, but I don't care any more, as the search has been so fascinating.

The keywords that I remember in the book's title were knowledge and imagination.

Rebb said...

You’re probably right, Vincent. And come to think of it, most people won’t disturb a person who is reading. I guess I was speaking in a low tone, so that when he said, "what", he came closer to hear. It makes me think of a time I was in a judge’s presence for a traffic ticket and same thing -- he leaned in to hear my soft voice and then suddenly sat straight up and said in a slightly grumbly voice, “Why are we whispering!” From time to time I think of that and laugh to myself.

Vincent, you’ve raised my curiosity, and you mention no titles of these books…If you don’t mind sharing, what are the titles of these three books, especially the one you bought quite recently?

If you haven’t read it, a book that I finished a few weeks ago is “Picture Palace” by Paul Theroux. I think you’d like the tone of the protagonist and would probably appreciate it. I am still in the process of churning in my head how to approach a certain blog and this book plays into the end note. I found it by sheer coincidence. And to the truth, as much as I loved this book, I don’t think I would enjoy any of his others.

Rebb said...

I take that back...I would probably love his travel books and who knows, I might find another of his novel to enjoy.

Vincent said...

I've heard of Paul Theroux but never read any.

These are the three books I bought, in order:

Imagination, Mary Warnock.
The Origins of Knowledge and Imagination, Jacob Bronowski.
Growth of Ideas: Knowledge, Thought, Imagination. Part of a series within the Macdonald Illustrated Library; with many illustrations, an illustrious editorial board and multiple contributors.

Rebb said...

Thank you for the titles, Vincent.