Friday, October 24, 2008

Revisions, Round 1

[ note for those who use Google Reader or some other RSS feed aggregator to read this blog: this post was written to include pop-up notes throughout the text, but unfortunately your reader cannot display these properly. I recommend going to the source to read this one, but if you can't be bothered, just know that the notes that normally wouldn't appear until you hovered over the asterisks are in plain sight here, probably in bright blue text. I here I thought Google could do everything. ]

My roommate Dave and I stayed up late batting ideas back and forth and arguing about what this essay is really about. It was terribly fun. He sat in his grandfather's easy chair, and I sat in my Salvation Army barcalounger. He pointed out things he really liked, and I graciously accepted the compliments. Then I pointed out things I really liked and demanded more compliments. Then we got to the business of improving the essay rather than my ego.

What follows is a marked-up copy of what we did so you can see how the piece is progressing. Deletions are struck out, and alterations are in red. I've also added some commentary to show what we were thinking when we made certain changes. I've marked these as green bracketed asterisks in the text, like this: { * }Boo! . To read the comment, just hover the mouse over the asterisk and it should pop up right there.

I'd also like to thank Dave for his honest criticism and his very valuable suggestions. No writing happens in a vacuum, and no piece ever really has just one author. So here it is:

Stars, Doubts, Girls
Sing, Dear Gemini

The other day Ash, Jake, Joey Steve, and I were dinking around the office talking, when someone brought up the idea of dating people with your same birthday. On the one hand, it was suggested, it could be neat and really, really convenient (as far as remembering one more important date memory goes1). But On the other hand, pointed out Ash, it might be dangerous, a form of "cosmological incest."

{ * }We just trimmed this for readability and correctness (Thanks, Steve, for setting me straight on the facts).

As the only one in the room that had actually pulled this off, I can say it does with any experience in this area, I assured them it did have a certain creepiness to it. I once dated a girl exactly one year younger than me, and it was weird, but not in the way you might think. The thing was that we had way more in common than just our birthday.

For one, we met at a concert. A concert we were both performing in. I was standing in the wings after performing my song for the BYU Guitars Unplugged concert a few years ago when I noticed that the girl presently performing on stage was pretty good. I mean, I don't want to rag on girls or anything, but the truth is that it's kinda rare to meet a guitar-playing girl who actually has good technique, good rhythm, and a good voice. And good song-writing skills.2 She had red hair, and this pink light was shining down on her like magic, making her all strawberries-and-cream.

{ * }Again, we're really just editing for smoothness here, cutting out anything extraneous and avoiding repeating words if possible.

Which brings me to the next thing we had in common: good looks.

Tom and I tearing it up at the concert.
You can't tell, but under my jeans my left leg
is in a splint since I had torn my ACL skiing
just a week or so before this.

Anyway, my brother got her number for me3 since he worked at the same place as her, and we went out a few times. I remember we went on a walk once early on and we were asking each other questions—you know those first-date-ish questions like "What's your favorite ____?" or "If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?"—well, I'd ask her one of those and silently be thinking up my own answer, and then she'd say exactly what I was thinking. It was weird. I asked her when her birthday was, and when she said, "June 11," I died. It was like I was falling in love with myself; it felt so wrong—but I was so attractive.

We sat in my living room and sang "Somethin' Stupid," crowding together around a sheet of lyrics as I shuffled out the chords on my guitar. She fell into the harmonies so naturally as to melt my bones.

{ * }I'm still not satisfied with the phrase "shuffled out the chords." I want to describe the rhythm and the sound just right—that latinish one trip-e-let and three and four grooviness that the guitar does. Does anyone know what that's called? Is it a cha-cha or something? There's the same groove in the Eagles' songs "Tequila Sunrise" and "New Kid in Town." It makes me think of being thirsty in a Mexican cantina somewhere.

Sometime midweek I realized that her initials were S. G. My initials, not counting my middle name, are S. G. Walking to pick her up for our next date, I reeled off D-names in my mind: Danielle, Darcy, Daphne, Deborah, Diane, Dawn, Dorothy, Drew. SDG: Stephen David Grover. SDG: Super Dateable Girl. June 11, 1981. June 11, 1982. SDG: Sensible Days Gone. June 11. June 11.

{ * }Here's where we started tweaking things for real. Notice that we moved the SDG phrases around to play with the dramatic pacing of this section. Doing this had another effect as well: it help define the meaning of each of these phrases more clearly. Dave really liked the SDGs, but in the cases of "Sense of Doom Growing" and "Sudden Death, Grover," he felt it was unclear exactly what I was anxious about.

SDG: Sensible days gone.

Sudden Death, Grover.

Sense of Doom Growing.

I knocked on her door, and practically before saying hello I demanded to know her middle name, sure it was—the greatest thing ever or the biggest mistake of my life—Desdemona or Deliliah or Davida.

{ * }The quick aside between the dashes above was a gutsy idea from Dave. On the one hand, it helps clarify that I felt both excited that I may have found the one and terrified that she might be too much like myself, but on the other hand, it interrupts the sentence in a weird way that may be misread.

Sense of Doom Growing.

"I don't have one," she smiled.

Sudden Death, Grover.

"Oh," I said.

So we were S. G. and S. D. G. { * }I left these dates the same as before but changed the one's above to be just the month and day. I'm hoping it will emphasize the sameness I was feeling before I got to S. G.'s house and the reality I encountered once there that we aren't the same.1981 and 1982. We went out a few more times, but nothing ever really happened. Perhaps we would've been star-crossed, ill-fated, cosmologically unsuited—we never got far enough to find out. Something Didn't Go. That's always been the real mystery for me anyway: why some loves catch and some don't. How all the tumblers can line up but still the key won't turn. It's almost a miracle when it does, when one person likes another at the same time that that person likes them—it's a shuttle-launch window, a total solar eclipse. It's a real miracle, and yet it happens uncounted times every day as our planet tumbles and rolls on to the stars.

How Something Didn't Go.

{ * }Endings, of course, are the hardest part to get right. This is just another try, to see how it goes. Although I really like the meaning behind the images of a space shuttle and an eclipse, it feels a little off topic. In an essay this tight and terse, you can't indulge yourself at all.

{ * }Also, I should say at this point that Dave and I spoke a lot about what this essay was really about. Was I happy or sad to see it not work out? Did I want it to work out or not? How do I feel about it now? Who knows? I can say that I was both freaked out and hopeful as I was getting into it (which I think I've conveyed here), and I was both relieved and disappointed when the sparks didn't fly. Have I said enough on this, though? Does it connect enough to the common experience of all people to be poignant?

1 My sister got married on my birthday, which has been great for me. I'm thinking of doing the same thing myself.
2 Before you jump to conclusions, let me explain. It's rare to find anyone, male or female, that combines all these skills. It seems like no one gets through college without learning a few chords and how to play "Free Fallin'" or that Green Day song that was the emblem of everyone's senior class a few years back. But so few ever take it further, ever learn how to really play. And given that the proportion of guitar-playing males to the skilled guitar-playing males is completely bonkers, and taking into account that there are that many fewer girls than boys picking up guitars to begin with, it follows that there are very very few girls who can do more than play third-rate Jewel covers.4
3 Actually he got a whole date with her. For me. What a bro: he asked a girl out on my behalf. That's going above and beyond.
4 If you were born after, say, 1989, change "Free Fallin'" above to "Wonderwall," "Green Day" to "Dashboard Confessional," and "Jewel" to—I don't know—"Michelle Branch"?

{ * }I'm still not sure "Wonderwall" is the best choice for this, but it's the best I could do at 3 in the morning. I need a young guitarist to set me straight—what are all the kids playing these days?


Also, in the revision process I thought of several things that might be included in this essay that aren't yet. Rather than break my brain trying to fit them in at this stage of the revision, I've just written them down to consider as I go forth:

  1. "Somethin' Stupid": The song was sung by Frank and Nancy Sinatra, a father and daughter. That's kinda weird. Maybe I could draw a parallel between the near-incest feel of that and the "cosmological incest" feel of my relationship with SG? Also, I might consider using the phrase "something stupid" later in the essay to link back to the oddness of the whole situation, of singing those lines with this girl.
  2. The song SG played at the concert was one she wrote called "Movin' On," about how little she intended to worry about things, including failed relationships. Oddly appropriate. Also, the first song I ever wrote and performed publicly was called "Movin' On." No joke.
  3. The song I performed at the concert was called "The Sweetest Part"; I had written it about a girl who eventually broke up with me. I'm not sure if that connects at all, but whatever.

Well, that does it for the first round of revision. Hope it sheds some light on how this works and what I have in mind when I write. I'll post round 2 just as soon as I do it. All comments, suggestions, and opinions are welcomed.


Jennifer said...

There's something I don't understand. Not about your essay. I liked that. I especially like the spacing of the SDGs. And the story was more elegant, but you still sound like you. I'm interested to see if you incorporate any of your other ideas. Ok, the thing I don't understand is how to refer to the source to see the notes. Um, not to sound stupid, but are you the source? Yikes. I hate this comment. Just email it to me!

amy said...

is something really supposed to pop up?

David Grover said...

I bet you guys are using Internet Explorer to view this, right? That's surely the problem right there. It's a mess of a program.

I'll try to fix the notes so that they work with Explorer also, but I don't know if I can do it.

In the meantime, you might looking at the post with Firefox (if you don't have Firefox, you can get it here.)

Sarah said...

I don't feel like going to all the trouble to read the notes. So based on what I can see these are my comments:
1. I liked the part about the shuttle launch window but now you've taken it out.
2. I didn't even realize your title was SDG until you changed it.
3. If you're changing around your friend's names in the beginning I think it would be better if it was Ash, Brock and Pikachu.

Jennifer said...

The kids are playing "Hey there Delilah.)

I got Foxfire. It's huge that I did that. Take it as a token of my familial affection (I've been reading Jane Austen.)

Jennifer said...

Ok, I read all your comments on Sarah's. You actually made me cry. They were very sweet (not counting SkipBo). I love you.

Um, I loved you before the comments, of course.

Zach said...

Whoa, Dave, this list of alternate names is so epigramical it could be a read as a standalone. Though, you've got some good letters, too. All I can come up with for me is "Just Zany (enough for) Karaoke." Pretty lame.

David Grover said...

JZK: Judicious Zombie Killer

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