Writing

I really didn’t know how to start this piece. There were so many ideas, so many themes to explore, and so little time to spend planning things out. In many ways, it’s like most of my writing — spontaneous, with the cursory punctuation and grammar check afterwards.

My reading and writing have always been tied together. Reading one of those children’s stories featuring the cunning tortoise (or hare) would prompt me to write a very similar — if skewed — version with the same animal characters, and a few words changed here and there.

I like to tell people I started reading when I was five and writing when I was eight. Technically, I did start writing in my own words at eight, but before then I was an accomplished master of plagiarism.

“Let’s publish this book when I’m done copying it,” I remember saying to my mother when I was about 5.

I was in the middle of transferring Kola Onadipe’s Magic Land of Shadows to one of my schoolbooks. I copied everything, word for word, letter for letter except for the very creative part where I swapped the author’s name with mine. I believed I could walk into a publisher’s office with my draft, get published and enjoy royalties for the rest of my life. Life really should be that simple.

To cut a long story short, my mother had a long talk with me about copyright and after that I became one of the few 5-year-olds whose vocabulary included the word ‘plagiarism.’

For a while I stuck to what I’ll call pseudo-plagiarism — taking an idea from many books in the same genre and applying some what-ifs to change the story — but even when I wrote something original, it always paid some tribute to the writings of others, themes I didn’t really believe in, ideas I didn’t really understand or could not identify with. I believe that’s a big betrayal of oneself as a writer, or someone with writer pretentions.

Death and insanity — as well as all the various states other than complete sanity (if it exists).

Morbid fascinations, I agree, but I always return to these two themes because I like them. They’re unknowns, open to different interpretations and connect us all as humans, surfacing with our emotions.

I used to be able to pick a topic and write within its confines. Recently, however, I find things going off at extremely wild tangents. As an example, I have a blog post in my drafts called ‘Formal Language.’ I won’t spoil the contents because I intend to put it up sometime in the future, but at some point things took an odd turn and suddenly, I was  writing about breasts. No, you cannot ask me why, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anything connecting formal language and mammary glands, and that brings me to my decision.

I won’t fight the drifting off any more and I took the liberty of starting with this piece. Perhaps there are lessons to be learned in expressing myself when I fly off at a tangent. Superstitions and rambling are fair play.

——

While I get some writing done, here’s what I’ve been listening to.

American Football

“So do you play baseball in Nigeria?” my friend Ernie asked as he switched lanes. We were heading on I4 to Lakeland to play table tennis.

“No. Cricket’s about the only batting game,” I replied. “Now that’s one game I’ve never understood. Wickets, fielding, batting — I don’t know anything about that stuff. I know the words but not what they are.  Apparently it’s more popular in Commonwealth countries, although I don’t know about Canada.”

“Me neither,” he said.

We’d been discussing sports, which if you know me, is a topic I only handle well when I’m bashing everything other than table tennis.

“How about football?” he asked.

“No.”

“Rugby? That’s close.”

“Not that I know of. Soccer’s everything.It’s only here it isn’t called football.”

A nasty thought popped in my head just then, and I found myself smiling.

“When I was little there was a game we used to play called American Football,” I said. “It was like soccer, although if the ball passed between your legs, everyone would gather around and beat you up.”

“American football, huh?” he cracked up and I joined him. “That sounds right for some reason.”

“It was a really silly game,” I continued. “I remember we didn’t care much about scoring any goals. We’d run around trying to kick the ball through someone’s legs while trying not to fall victim. It was a really nice game.”

And it was. Even the bullies would let us punch them, and we didn’t hit too hard.

You’d think the bow-legged guys were at a disadvantage, but you couldn’t be more wrong. There was this space between their legs but I don’t recall many instances of any of them getting kolo-ed.

I sometimes wonder if kids still play that game.

Chewing

My friends stared at me with this weird look on their faces.

“What?” I asked, puzzled.

They looked at each other.

“You’re eating grass!” one of them exclaimed, pointing at the stalk I’d been chewing on.

All I could offer was a nonplussed “Oh.”

I’ve loved to chew on things for as long as I can remember. Insects, the tender bases of grass stalks, mango leaves, chalk, bones, pens and pencils, paper, plastic wrap, wine corks, paper, can pull tabs, bottle tops and the inside of my mouth have been on my”menu” at some point in my life.

Of these only the inside of my mouth, insects and bones are actually edible.Everything else draws that curious look from people that I’ve learned to ignore. You haven’t been living the life if you’ve never chewed on a pen at least once.

Recently, I’ve had a preference for plastic bottle tops. I was doing grocery shopping the other day when I caught myself trying to make a decision on what kind of water to buy based on the chewability of their tops.

I prefer Great Value to the slightly pricier Sam’s Choice because of the softer caps. For the same reason, I like the smaller Sam’s Choice bottles because they’re chewier than their bigger cousins — there’s also the added bonus of having two bottle caps to chew on when I drink the same amount of water. Zephyrhills and Deer Park are also fun. Aquafina isn’t.

Yes, I know I’m weird.

Blemishes

I tend to be very wary around people who at first glance appear to be perfect. Humans are by their very nature imperfect, so when I run into someone who — sometimes compulsively — tries to project that facade of flawlessness, the alarm bells go off in my head.

Blemishes — physical or behavioral — reassure me. Perfection, however, is creepy.

It’s something we should strive for, but not something anyone should achieve.

Strange

I traveled to Atlanta two weeks ago to apply for the new E-Passport and I received it in the mail today.

I don’t remember anything Nigerian being this efficient…