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Crossroads

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Sep. 16th, 2014 | 08:52 am

“Are you an almond milk person or soy?”

“I think almond milk has more nutrients, so—”

“But you can get fortified gleeble gleebly hoopsy frop?"

“Bleam swip swip soy milk but then almond milk—”

I turn on NPR.

I turn it louder.

I turn to two young women, whom I love, who watch me intently for clues to behave, who are employees and mentees and women I want to see do well. I wave my hand like a conductor asking for pianissimo, and say “Shhh…it is very early for so much talking,” and off they go like a switch. I squeeze a knee, I say “I still love you,” and focus on wage garnishment and drowned refugees, courtesy of public radio, trying to empty my head.

* * *

I am the kind of person who enters a 10-month writing contest and never takes a bye.
That is a fact about me. That was a fact about me. Here is another fact: This week there are two overlapping topics, two reading periods, two votes. So far I have barely responded to comments on my first entry (tacky), read zero entries (tacky and against the spirit of the contest), and am only now writing the second entry the morning of deadline (arrogant).

Read LJ entries has been on the list for six days. Respond to LJ comments has been there, too.

So has Finish editing test. Finish sample edit. Respond to Editorial Freelancers Association. Begin manuscript edit. And every day, popping up automatically, Write 500 words.

* * *

If you go to a crossroads alone, a few minutes before midnight, and wait with your guitar, the Devil will come. He will hold out his hand, and if you give him your guitar, he will tune it. When he hands it back, you will be able to play better than you ever have, better than the best there’s ever been. And all it cost was your soul.

* * *

I am the kind of person who estimates the time your edit will take me, lops off 25%, and writes a contract with a fee reduction for every week the edit is overdue. Because nothing makes you creative like a deadline. Nothing makes me write like cash. Nothing makes me begrudge the company of other people, insist on my car time and my personal time and my not-playing-nice time like knowing what kind of person I am and needing to be her. I tweet:



Because now I am the kind of person who tweets, because a memoir is in my agent’s hands and possibly in a publisher’s hands and agents and publishers like it when you tweet. I like it when I tweet. I like imagining myself part of the ‘literary community.’ I like fangirling over Emily Gould and Janet Reid and the ten minutes of bliss when someone I admire retweets or responds. I like setting up an entire week of social media through an app and choosing links and posts that show the kind of person I am.

* * *

Back in the 1920s, young Robert Johnson wanted to play the blues. But he was so shitty at it, so tremendously bad, nobody wanted to play with him. So he went away. And when he came back, he was a musician. A musician so good everyone wanted to know how he did it. He said it was simple—he’d gone to the crossroads and met the Devil. And when the Devil held out his hand, Johnson traded in his soul. He came back a different person.

Twelve years later, one of the foremost bluesmen in America went to play a couple last gigs before settling down as a family man. This was before internet, before reliable phone service—certainly there were no telephones available for an itinerant musician, let alone a black man—and he returned to a community angry at him, angry that while he was away, his wife had died in childbirth.

Perhaps because there was no place for him or perhaps the music made him do it, and Johnson left again to play the blues.

* * *

I am 15,000 words from the end of my second book. I am twelve days from fee reductions on an 80,000 word manuscript edit. I am two hours from an interview with an editing agency that purports to give their editors enough work to feel like full-time. I am 6 tweets from tomorrow. I am balancing the last year of one dream job and the first year of another. I am swimming, I am drowning.

Perhaps there is no Devil (supposition). Perhaps the young would-be musician came back literally a different person, as the stories of Robert Johnson and another Robert Johnson and Tommy Johnson became conflated (probability). Perhaps one of the Johnsons died of syphilis and one was given a bottle of poisoned whiskey and one vanished into the blues (wish).

Perhaps the deal is worth it.

I double-check that “whom” can be a plural.
I put in my headphones.
I bet my soul it is.



___________________________________________________
whipchick first heard about Robert Johnson on Radiolab. Their 20-minute podcast on Johnson, the Devil and the blues is fascinating.





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Comments {18}

Holly

(no subject)

from: minnesattva
date: Sep. 16th, 2014 12:56 pm (UTC)
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I am enormously fond of Robert Johnson's music.

And of your writing.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Sep. 16th, 2014 02:01 pm (UTC)
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Thank you :) I love keeping up with your life, even at a distance. I haven't read my flist in a week or so, but I hope things are settling down a bit!

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Holly

(no subject)

from: minnesattva
date: Sep. 16th, 2014 03:39 pm (UTC)
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Thanks. I'm honestly not sure if they are any more settled or not, but you haven't missed much by not reading my LJ anyway because I haven't been much use at keeping it updated on what's actually going on.

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solopolist

(no subject)

from: ceelove
date: Sep. 16th, 2014 07:47 pm (UTC)
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I'll just be over here wallowing in fangirldom.

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drwex

Yes, whom can be a plural

from: drwex
date: Sep. 16th, 2014 10:25 pm (UTC)
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"Those whom the devil would condemn he first makes happy."

Interesting stream of consciousness here. The crossroads at midnight was featured some months ago on a podcast I liked but cannot now find. Radiolab maybe?

Do what you must, what you will. Be selfish of your time and energy and Get Shit Done(tm).

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tonithegreat

(no subject)

from: tonithegreat
date: Sep. 17th, 2014 01:30 am (UTC)
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Gleeble globble hoopsy frop. :-) I'm going to have to look into this Robert Johnson thing.

Swimming and drowning in dream jobs is the only way to go, and it is always inspiring to read your experience of it.

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blahblahblah, whatever

(no subject)

from: kathrynrose
date: Sep. 17th, 2014 09:31 am (UTC)
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“But you can get fortified gleeble gleebly hoopsy frop?"

I've had morning conversations just like this. :)

You are, as ever, made of awesome.

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adoptedwriter

(no subject)

from: adoptedwriter
date: Sep. 17th, 2014 05:42 pm (UTC)
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Excellent! AW

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fodschwazzle

(no subject)

from: fodschwazzle
date: Sep. 17th, 2014 11:29 pm (UTC)
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Such a steamrolling pace to this. I like how well that groove in the most frantic parts of life is articulated. Always fantastic to read.

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Ink Well

(no subject)

from: penpusher
date: Sep. 18th, 2014 11:41 am (UTC)
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Go you!!

Gleeple glorsh saafy and that's pretty amazing too.

I thought about a short bit I haven't actually seen in forever:

My name is Raymond J. Johnson Junior. You can call me Ray. Or you can call me J. Or you can call me Ronny. Or you can call me Johnny. Or you can call me R.J. Or you can call me R.J.J. Or you can call me R.J.J. Junior. But ya doesn't have to call me Johnson!

Random, I know.

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i_17bingo

(no subject)

from: i_17bingo
date: Sep. 18th, 2014 12:37 pm (UTC)
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“But you can get fortified gleeble gleebly hoopsy frop?"

That is pretty much all I hear or read as I eat a bowl of cereal coated in fat-free cow's milk.

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Laura, aka "Ro Arwen"

(no subject)

from: roina_arwen
date: Sep. 18th, 2014 02:59 pm (UTC)
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I am the kind of person who enters a 10-month writing contest and never takes a bye. That is a fact about me.

This is a fact about me, too. I'm just stubborn that way. :)

This is an excellent last-minute entry, and I am fascinated by how much you manage to cram in! Good luck with meeting your editorial deadline, and all that other stuff. :)

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Teo Says

(no subject)

from: eternal_ot
date: Sep. 18th, 2014 03:30 pm (UTC)
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Too much on the plate and you are managing well...Dancing to the tunes that the devil plays..:)..*hugs* Best wishes for all the hard work you are doing. You are doing great!

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rayaso

(no subject)

from: rayaso
date: Sep. 18th, 2014 07:34 pm (UTC)
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You had me at "fortified gleeble gleebly hoopsy frop" and "bleam swip swip soy milk." What a great way to mix music into this and find a way to hold it together as an entry. I'm not sure this counts as meta, or how you would describe it, but it was wonderful, and I enjoyed the window on your chaos. I felt happy and sorry for you at the same time. Horry? Sappy? At any rate, good luck with everything and keep up with your 500 words.

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cindy

(no subject)

from: tsuki_no_bara
date: Sep. 18th, 2014 07:49 pm (UTC)
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"gleeble gleebly hoopsy frop" is fabulously descriptive for being gibberish. the next time i'm confronted with a million milk-like substitutions for plain cow's milk that's probably what i'll be thinking.

the way you interweave the two stories here - yours and robert johnson's - is amazing. and i'm super impressed you started and finished this the day it was due. i don't know when i first heard about him - a long time ago, probably - but his deal with the devil figured in an early episode of one of my formerly-favorite tv shows, and that's what i always think of now when someone mentions him.

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The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors

(no subject)

from: halfshellvenus
date: Sep. 18th, 2014 08:08 pm (UTC)
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“But you can get fortified gleeble gleebly hoopsy frop?"
That's pretty much how I feel about that kind of conversation, which arises over "milk" choices in which neither is actually milk nor does it seem to even be considered.

I really liked the cascade of things-that-overwhelm here, and the sense that there still is not enough time, even after prioritizing, and that it can seem almost hopeless. And yet, there IS hope and you soldier on and hope there will time to Do All The Things soon, if not today.

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Kelly

(no subject)

from: kajel
date: Sep. 19th, 2014 12:33 am (UTC)
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The gibberish is great! I loved the juxtaposition between yourself and the crossroads story.

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uncawes

(no subject)

from: uncawes
date: Sep. 19th, 2014 01:16 am (UTC)
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That whole time pressure thing will get you every time. Everyone seems to lead such busy lives these days.

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