Daytona Beach Revisited
By Kristen Thompson, Associate Coordinator, Bluegrass Writers Studio
Do you ever find yourself writing, again, about that time you drove all night to get to Florida? Over and over you try to get the scene right – the passenger door of your boyfriend’s Datsun nearly rattling from its hinges as he sped the two of you into the humidity, the blue light bouncing off the dashboard that let you know, in a much more official manner, that your speed was excessive. You want to get it just right, the feeling of the whole world holding its breath waiting for you to get to the shore, park across two sandy spaces at dawn, and run the last of your coffee jitters into the surf. You’ve put this on paper so many times, fictionalized it in so many ways, yet the next time you sit down to write, it’s there. Maybe it’s not the whole story, but the cigarette ash powdering the shifter shows up in another tale, or a Roy Orbison song comes on and mutes all of the passengers in a different story’s car.
In a Paris Review interview in 1966, Jorge Louis Borges said that a poet “has maybe five or six poems to write and not more than that. He’s trying his hand at rewriting them from different angles and perhaps with different plots and in different ages and different characters, but the poems are essentially and innerly the same.” I used to be bothered that I had such a predictable rotation of topics. I can basically wrap up my entire life’s writing as: “Hey, look at this. Neato! Uh oh, it’s broken. That’s not fair! It hurts terribly. What can I do to stop feeling so bad? Oh hey, look at this over here. Neato!” and so on. I have preoccupation with explaining what’s been lost and what small thing might help mitigate the damages. But I’ve gradually made peace with the fact that I’m fixated on the dichotomies of right and wrong, despair and hope. I’m going to write about the burning and the ashes, the tide crashing in and receding, the rules and the rule-breaking. Like a well-exposed photograph, the contrast provides the depth.
Let someone else write about absolutes, all light, all darkness. Let someone else write about love. I’m going to write about that moment of knowing, as I was drenched by the arriving dawn, that it was the end of an era.*
*Full disclosure: this author has never driven all night to Florida, never dated anyone with a Datsun, or had a breakup epiphany in the ocean. This is in fact, one fictionalization of a story I’ve told before and will continue to tell in other ways, remorselessly, until the end of the next era.
Published on November 10, 2014