Sunday, September 6, 2009

Heel, Memory

Since the current project is largely auto-biographical, old themes and feelings resonate at a faster, deeper clip. Though I've explored much of my past online, what I'm presently experiencing and trying to hammer into narrative shape sometimes paralyzes me. Tragedies, errors, lapses, even triumphs merge to hinder my efforts, and it's clear that I've yet to adequately address much less resolve these episodes.

I'm hardly unique in this, and I can see why so many literary hustlers prefer to invent previous lives. It's easier, more entertaining, and allows you to use anything, as opposed to the rigid realities, however remembered, blocking your path. Being a literalist who is far too enamored with linear thought (at least when it comes to writing), I prefer to drive through these roadblocks, hoping to understand them while pushing past them. It's a mixed effort that has no adequate resolution. But it makes this narrative richer, better, if slower to create.

The below video dredged up some of these feelings, especially since Hitchens may be a minor character in the project. It's from March 1988, a few months before I first met Hitchens, after I mailed him several columns from my East Village rag gig. He wrote back, praising some of my points while correcting a number of others. He invited me for a drink when he was next in NYC, which we had, and for the next several years Hitchens became my teacher, the example I longed to follow.

Watching this is like finding a long departed friend. This is the Hitchens I remember, the one who took me into his home, serving up steady verbal treats, treating me as an equal out of courtesy, despite the reality. Yet even though this brings back warm emotions, I can see in retrospect how facile Hitchens was -- quick, glib, able to paper over holes in his arguments with relative ease. It also helped that his debating foe, the American Spectator's Wladyslaw Pleszczynski, wasn't terribly sharp, so Christopher had a fine time picking the guy apart.

Still, there was an easiness to Hitchens that long ago faded. Today's bloated, barking imperial mouthpiece would shout down his earlier self, impatient with his equivocations and general lack of bloodlust. Or maybe they'd go off together and get drunk, something the two personas have in common. The past may be another country, but in our immediate globalist reality, its borders are obliterated. Say hi to your history.