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Hill Country Living

Columnist Visits Avian Buddy In Big Apple

By Coulter Fussell

I’ve learned a lot of things about writing since starting a weekly column for the Herald. And I’m not just talking about the ins and outs of sentence structure and storyline and tempo and all that ( and it can certainly be argued as to whether I’ve learned anything at all in that regard.) I’m talking about the actual mechanics of writing, as in what all it takes to get to the point where you can press the buttons, taking the words from your head to the outside world.

Just a few inches of space to move them but, man, there’s a lot that has to happen for me. The main thing is that I need to arrange my life so that I’m in front of a computer with internet access on Monday mornings. This starts with remembering when it’s Monday morning. Challenge number one.

And I definitely need a computer. I want to press a button. I’m not hand-writing this thing. First of all, I’m left-handed and hand-writing anything longer than my signature is literally painful and makes me bitter toward the cruel right-handed world into which I was born.

Secondly, it’s 2015…give me a button. I don’t want one of those old-timey “pens” with their silly “ink.” I’m not a Wagner.

I also write this column using an online word counter. I don’t have a word document program in my computer so I have to get online to make sure I’m ignoring my 500 word limit in a reasonable manner. Watching the word count go up and down as I write and edit has made me dependent on this tool and writing without an ending number is like to looking into an abyss. It’s scary and makes me contemplate infinity. I don’t like to contemplate infinity, especially in terms of living in the hill country, which is what this column is about. I need the ending number.

When it comes down to it, figuring out what to write is the easy part. Remembering the day of the week and making sure that my high maintenance situational writing needs are met is what’s challenging.

And so this is why, for the second time, I find myself writing this column a day late and on my cell phone in an email app using only my text thumb while sitting on a park bench next to a gross pigeon in the middle of New York City. The column stars just did not line up for me this week. I wonder if it’s the same pigeon from last time. It’s definitely the same bench.

But the art stars did line up for me this week and for that I’m grateful. I had some work in a show up here. The gallery was on the second floor of a building in Chinatown. The door is unmarked, you just have to sort of figure it out by address only. That sort of thing is cool up there. In Water Valley, we like signage.

The gallery is above a whole row of Chinese grocery stores. I went in a few and they look very similar to old photographs of Water Valley’s old grocery stores, except everything and everyone is Chinese. So, I guess the only similarity is in the long glass cases and old wooden shelving filled with neatly displayed stacks of food items. Except where we would have had cans of beans or tomatoes, these grocery stores have, say, 5 gallon glass jars filled with stacks of salted and dehydrated whole fish with tails, eyeballs and splayed fins still attached. One grocery store I went in was ceiling to floor dried things and I didn’t recognize a single item. It all looked like salted grub worms.

I’m 37 years old and went in a place where literally every single solitary item in the entire building was completely unrecognizable, foreign, and new to me. Funny that I find this comforting yet not having a word limit tool to write this column right now is unsettling.

But this is essentially what I love about this city so much. Same pigeon, same bench, but a dried fish you’ve never seen before and may never see again. Familiar faces, no limits.

 

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