You’re shipped off to a new Earth-like planet where there is always peace and happiness. But your memory is erased, and you’re only given biographical facts and numbers about who you were. You’re allowed to keep one memory per person for 3 different people you knew. Which people do you choose and which memories?
Devin Maguire Can Bite My Dust
by Marc Alexander Valle
10-year old Devin Maguire held onto his BMX handlebars and stared at my new bike. “Your dad got that bike from a thrift store.”
“No, he didn’t!” I said.
“Yes, he did. I can tell.”
“No, he didn’t.”
“Yeah, cause there’s marks on it.”
I looked down at the bike. There were scuff marks on the handlebars, but that was it.
“He got it from K-Mart,” I said.
“Okay, which one?”
“The one down the street.”
“I know all the bikes at K-Mart. I didn’t see that one there.”
I shrugged my shoulders. “Well, that’s where he got it from.”
“Did he tell you he got it from there?”
“Then how do you know?”
Devin stared right into my eyes. He had a blank expression, but I swore I could see a smirk. It was the same smirk he always had, the same one he had whenever he beat a kid in a race.
“So?” Devin said. “How do you know?”
Devin kept staring. He looked as though he had all the time in the world and the absolute certainty that he was right. I knew that I had only a beat or two before I looked like a fool. I had to answer.
“Cuz,” I said, “My parents don’t shop at thrift stores!”
Devin continued to look into my eyes. I felt like he was searching for something, and I needed to keep my composure. Didn’t he see my brother with a new bike last year? Didn’t he know it was my turn?
I tightened my lips and gripped my handlebars. Devin scrunched his eyebrows. I quickly glanced down at his bike.
“Alright,” he said, letting out a snicker. Then he rode off towards his apartment building.
When my dad came back from work, he told me that he bought the bike from a thrift store. The same store we’d been to several times that year.
Nearly a century and a half of music recordings and centuries more of musical compositions are at your disposal. Use it. Find it. Let it talk to you. It can help you at any time. Never expect it to solve the problem, but music can expose the underlying issues of your life that make the problem seem real.
I was sad in my early 20s. Very sad. Everything was tragic, and everything I tried to do seemed to end in failure. I felt as though I couldn’t even get a hello from people and from the world. I wanted it all to end sometimes. Music was that hello.
It talked to me directly, and it made me believe that there are and have been others just like me. They think like me, and they feel like me. Music was the code between us, and the message was, “I am an artist.” Music told me that my role was to reevaluate norms. I was never to be satisfied with what we assumed to be true, but I was never to change my core beliefs. There was nothing wrong with me. I was normal. It was the conversation between the individual and the world that was distorted.
There’s a link between youth and music and the way it shapes our views. How will you allow it to shape yours?
“The Unknown has always 50/50 for me. Malicious or benign. The Dispassionate Unknown. And the universe, its record playing its notes…”
“Pigs…” from Six-word Stories by Marc Alexander Valle
I never wanted to be a writer first. I wanted to be Steven Spielberg. At age 8, I asked the school librarian if she had a book on Spielberg.
She said, “No, but he’s a very interesting person. I think I’ll look for one and order it.”
I kept going back to the librarian nearly every day to see if she found the book and she eventually ordered it.
“It’ll take two weeks to get here,” she said. Once again, I went to the library every day and asked to see if the book arrived. I thought that maybe asking for it would speed up the process and ever time she told me that it takes two weeks to get to the school.
So as I waited, I tried to imagine what the book would look like and what it would say about Spielberg. I wanted to know about every movie that he made and what it would take to be a movie director. All I knew was that this was the man behind all of my daydream fantasies, and he got paid big houses and cars to make them. Movies allowed me to explore a more courageous side of myself that was not manifested in my interpersonal social life. I could be anyone I wanted after the credits started to roll, and I believed that I had a few characters of my own to share.
When the book arrived it was thinner than I thought, but I opened it and took in the new book smell. I could hear the glue of the bindings and the hard cover crackle. The pictures were in color, and I sat down to take them in.
I can’t remember exactly what was said about him in the book. Over the years I would take in more information about him and all the information seems to conflate to that book. But I do remember that this was the first time that I read a book that was purely informational. Until this day, I’m good at absorbing trivial information and consider myself an info junkie. I have so much data in my head that it fuels my imagination and serves as points of references in my mind. This book started it all.
The book didn’t help me become a filmmaker, but it helped me see the world more critically as non-fiction has allowed me to do. It helped me become a better writer and artist, who work deals with the critical analysis of reality and its nature.
“Mr. XYZ?!” Mrs. Cart hollered in front of the seventh grade class, “You want to write about Mr. XYZ?! This is supposed to be a paper about heroes. Do you even know who Mr. XYZ is?!”
. . .
The plan was to write a term paper that made me look cool. I chose an unsavory character from history. One who I’ve referred to as Mr. XYZ. Mrs. Cart didn’t follow the plan.
Back home, I paged through the Encyclopedia Britannica, looking to please her.
George Washington. Boring.
Thomas Jefferson. Boring
Abraham Lincoln. Boring.
Axel Rose. Taken.
John F. Kennedy.
The theme music for the film JFK blared inside my twelve year-old head. Three months earlier, Oliver Stones’ film suggested my first non-fiction idol. I wanted to be him as much as Luke Skywalker. I now had details in my hands to support those feelings.
I wrote the paper on JFK.
I turned it in.
Mrs. Cart read it in front of the class, said something about my turning things around.
I had written every word to get back into her graces and it worked.
I had found an acceptable hero. One that I fantasized about being.
I crafted a narrative. I was adored for it.
. . .
I had sold out, compromised.
But remained true. At least to what I wanted to believe was true.
My journey as a writer began.
The image above is copyrighted ©2016 by Marc Alexander Valle
I finished four screenplays as a teenager while my grades suffered. The first was called Land of the Lost River. It was a Spielberg-inspired story. It involved heroes fighting Nazis and dinosaurs, looking for the fountain of youth and messiah-like aliens saving the day in the end.
Then there was An Unserialed Surreal Christmas Carol. It took place in a small mid-west city. The main character, who attempted to move to Hollywood to make movies, got stuck in this city on his way there. No need to get into detail. Nearly all other elements resembled Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs.
Worn to Perfection was a script that I wrote for Paul Newman and Robert Redford. It was about two aging con-artists bonding together for one last heist.
Finally, there was Abduction. It was about a teenager who abducts the man that he believes molested him.
This is what I see now:
Land of the Lost River was about being saved from myself.
An Unserialed Surreal Christmas Carol was about being lost
Worn to Perfection was actually about the pain of absent grandparents. Elderly relatives that would have put my household’s anxiety in balance had they been present.
Abduction was about anxiety, depression, mental illness and my desire to be diagnosed with one. Because if you were as strange as I believed people saw me, and if you were alienated as I felt, than you’d want a mental illness to explain it too.
But like many teens did with their comic books and baseball cards, I threw out all of those pre-graduation drafts. The only thing I bothered to continue to work on for years was Abduction.
I cringe at the thought of reading a draft of that. And hope that I always will.