In the following letter, Wayne Barham talks of his upcoming 50th birthday and his ongoing struggle to discover what to write about, and why. Wayne and I decided we would write a letter to each other once a month for a year.–TW
November 30, 2009
Here I am writing my November letter on the last day of the month—I can be such a procrastinator—which is probably my greatest flaw! I’ve been able to rid myself of most others, but not that one for some reason. Actually it’s more that I can find a million things to do, some that are a waste of time (and can waste a lot of time), like playing computer games. I can get rather addicted to them.
From the pictures you posted on Facebook, I gather that you had a nice Thanksgiving with Allen and the three boys. How are your sons doing? I can’t remember their ages when I left Ohio, but I’m guessing them to be in their mid- to late twenties by now (maybe the oldest even thirty). The picture of Allen on his motorcycle made me chuckle, because that’s exactly how I would picture him. Do you ever ride with him? I have sometimes thought I’d like to get a motorcycle; I rode one for several months during the Spring/Summer of 1981 that I spent in Florida before starting at ECU, and really enjoyed it. Floyd wouldn’t like it though, and with all the maniacs on the roads down here, it probably wouldn’t be a good idea. (Can anyone say, “midlife crisis”?)
Both Floyd and I worked Thanksgiving Day, but we went to a friend’s house for dinner afterward, which meant I didn’t have to cook dinner like I usually do. Most years, Floyd’s parents come down for Thanksgiving, but Floyd was going to a softball tournament down in Fort Lauderdale over the weekend and they didn’t feel like going to that this time, so they’re coming down for Christmas instead. Several years ago they went to that tournament with us, back when I was also playing, and our team ended up taking first place in our division, which was great fun, but even as a spectator, it makes for a tiring weekend. I actually only played for two seasons before developing bicipetal tendonitis, caused by too much repetitive throwing. I should have been more careful picking up a new sport at 45, but you know how men are when it comes to aging—we always think we’re still in our twenties! Because of the nice weather here, we get in a Fall and a Spring season, but don’t play during the sweltering heat of summer. It took almost two years for my arm to heal, and I was going to play again this Fall season, but starting a new job and not know what my schedule would be like, I decided not to play. As it turned out, I had most Sundays off and could have played 7 of the 10 weeks. Then again, my legs might not have taken it, since I’m now on my feet all day at work (ach, not in my twenties any more. )
Actually, my 50th birthday is a week from today and I’ve decided that I’m definitely not ready for it. I want to forget about it, but know I won’t be able (or allowed) to. I can already tell this one is going to be a traumatic one for me, but I’m trying to accept the inevitable by then. I guess with everything that’s happened this year, I just don’t feel I’m where I should be in my life at this point (not that I know where that is supposed to be.) Ah well, I’m trying to look at this year as a year of transition. Over all, I’ve always seen change as good, otherwise one is just stagnating, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t still come with a certain amount of anxiety.
The weather turned cooler just in time for the holidays; it was actually in the 40’s during the night and quite chilly first thing in the morning; though it warmed up comfortably during the day—the kind of beautiful weather that people move down here for (at least for the winter.)
This letter I thought I’d return to some of the unanswered questions you asked in your October letter. We also rarely watch any TV, preferring to watch DVD’s, mostly all the seasons of the Simpsons, Futurama, and Family Guy that we have, as well as movies. We do have basic cable, which provides all the local networks, PBS, and so forth, but still rarely watch anything (Floyd hates the interruptions of commercials.)
I don’t have an iPod Touch, or anything like it, though it might be nice to have one. All the College Program students that I work with at Disney have them of course, and they do seem pretty neat. Don’t know that I really need one though; I think I’d rather have a laptop computer at this point, if I could afford one—it’d be more useful.
About the only writing I’ve been doing has been my monthly letters to you. The longer ones do take me many hours to write; even the shorter ones take around three hours or so. You asked about my writing space: I don’t know that it’s special or anything; my desk does face a nice window so I can get natural light during the day (though no great view), with a potted palm to my right and some shelving with books and pottery beyond that. Usually, my beautiful female cat is sitting or sleeping next to my keyboard on the left. She can be a bit aggravating when she wants to be scratched on the head or chin though, walking in front of the computer screen and all over the keyboard—even cutting the computer off! (I make sure I save frequently.) She’s extremely affectionate. We have two cats, which we dubbed Lady Guinevere and Sir Whiskers. Can you tell I’ve been a Camelot junkie? I sometimes even use the alias Gawain or Yvain (much like E. Wayne in pronunciation), which is the French equivalent. Speaking of which, she has just decided to walk across my keyboard to be rubbed. The poem “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” has always been one of my favorites. I’ve also read quite a few of the various Arthurian series out there.
As you picked up on, writing last month’s letter was a lot like writing a short story. I liked your advice to approach story writing the same way: with no “thought for any deeper meaning at first.” I will have to try that. Though generally, I have a hard time even knowing where to begin. Events in my own life tend to come to mind (I usually see my life in terms of a novel, with various episodes and chapters), but I find them limiting to my imagination. I can’t seem to get away from the autobiographical. As a gay person, society does not provide the usual scripts of marriage, career, raising children, spoiling grandchildren, and so forth; instead I have had to write my own life from scratch. And yet, I haven’t wanted to become a “gay” writer, which has its own limitations, even though it is a big part of the world that I know, and influences how I view the world (one is automatically an “outsider.”) This has always been the biggest dilemma for me. Maybe I shouldn’t stay away from the world I know in my writing, or at least use it to get at larger themes, though I’ve never been able to figure out where to go with this (the cat’s writing again on my keyboard). Do you have any ideas to pass along on how to get started? Once I get going, the words start flowing then. Maybe I should dig out the textbook that Barbara McMillan used in the MFA techniques class. I think I still have it somewhere. Or maybe I should write sort of an informal “autobiography” (not to be published, of course)—just so I can purge it from my system. Writing even just a portion of it might get it out of my way.
Well, I’m beginning to wind down, so I’ll close. Hope you have a great holiday break and get lots of writing done (the semester should be ending about now.) I look forward to your next letter.