Tuesday, September 1, 2009

State by State Deleted Scenes

If you haven’t read State by State, fifty writers’ essays on the fifty states (with an extra on D.C. from Stephen L. Carter) edited by Sean Wilsey and Matt Weiland, you’re missing out on a lot of good cocktail conversation. I’ve been savoring each piece instead of devouring the book, which is easy because most of the writer’s intense love for their subjects means you need time to absorb the sense of place they create. It’s still given me several tidbits I’ve worked into conversation which have made me seem well-read and intelligent. Isn’t that the point of reading? To appear to know something worth knowing so you’re someone worth knowing?

Harper Collins plans to publish a collection of booksellers’ essays on their homes, working in installments. They may not get to the southeast for some time, but cross your fingers for me.

To write one essay I felt worthy of showing to Carl Lennertz, I had to write several. Most of it was garbage – or process, we might say kindly – but some of it hurt to lose.

My next several posts will be like deleted scenes on the special feature of a DVD. Most of these passages were deleted to trim the length of the overall piece. Others, like the visit to Café Risqué, didn’t fit the tone.
I hope you enjoy these, as I enjoyed exploring why I love Florida.

Here’s an opening I thought of using:

A few months back, some friends and I went bowling on Bird Road in Miami. At midnight, with the lanes, bar, food counter, pool tables, and videogame room in full swing, Bird Bowl shut down two lanes. A DJ booth sprung up across these two lanes. Then a Stripper Dance Contest sprung up around the DJ. For people unfamiliar, this doesn’t involve poles and chairs and splits. The stripper dance starts with a wide-legged squat and booty shake, and any variation and amplification of this move qualifies as a stripper dance.

We bowled five lanes away, yelling conversation over the music. Two gay teen boys – and although my assumption of their sexuality is based on flamboyance, intimate mutual hip grinding, and staunch rejection of the girls flocking around them, it’s still an assumption - tied for the prize. It didn’t matter. A roiling sea of bodies continued to grind their hips and shake their asses to Latin-tinged hip-hop blasted at earwax-melting levels.

My friend Debra held her bowling ball to her chest, watching kids ten and fifteen and twenty years younger than us writhe into a frenzied sweat.

“This wouldn’t happen at just any bowling alley in America,” she deadpanned.

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