Monday, April 5, 2010


“We got a year-end clearance. We got a white sale
And a smoke-damaged furniture, you can drive it away today . . .”


It may have been early last year or perhaps late in 2008. A friend and former coworker of mine, Pete, contacted me and asked for some advice on the art of writing. Well, I’m no artist when it comes to the written word; I’m just an untrained, mostly self-taught fraud who can fake it. But my friend is a young man in his very early twenties and he was working on a book manuscript for a novel about nanotechnology that he hoped to publish someday. He told me he was seeking suggestions from several people he knew who regularly wrote stuff. Well, I don’t write stuff, but I do write “Stuffs.”

I told my buddy that any advice coming from me should be taken with a grain of salt if not a whole shaker of it. Other than a creative writing class or two that I took in junior high school, and two one-day classes pertaining to screenwriting that I attended in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, everything I know about writing I learned from reading lots of books by the great authors such as Twain and Steinbeck, et al. In fact, I had once even given Pete a copy of Jack Kerouac’s book ‘On The Road’ which I had purchased for him while on a trip that took me through Kerouac’s hometown, Lowell, Massachusetts. I wasn’t proposing that Kerouac was a great writer necessarily, but that he was a unique stylist who people ought to be familiar with.

I suggested first and foremost that Pete read as much as he could of the classic literature. I also recommended a few books to him, such as ‘20 Master Plots And How To Build Them’ (which I’ve only skimmed) and ‘Screenplay’ by Syd Field and ‘Screenwriting’ by Richard Walter, because I feel that there are key elements of writing effective movie scripts that pertain to any kind of fiction writing.

But then I offered Pete the most unusual advice; advice that I told him he would receive from no one else. I told Pete that the best writing course I ever took cost me just $5. (it’s now going for $8.99). Back when I was a teenager and through my early twenties, I frequently listened to the 1965 Bob Dylan album ‘Bringing It All Back Home’. But gradually I sold my LPs and didn’t hear that Dylan recording again until I borrowed a copy of it from my friend The Great L.C. in March of 2008.

Hearing ‘Bringing It All Back Home’ again for the first time in 20 to 25 years, I was absolutely floored to discover how much I had learned to write and how much my style had been inspired by that record. I had been unconsciously absorbing the ability to play with words and manipulate ideas while listening to those song lyrics in my “yoot”. I had never realized until decades later how much Bob Dylan had inspired me. Yes, the dude was a womanizing weirdo – no debating that – but I have to give him credit for opening my mind to the creative potential of wordplay. My way of writing, while definitely my own and of questionable value, was in large part built upon a foundation supplied by music’s second greatest lyricist of all time, Robert Zimmerman a.k.a. Bob Dylan.

And so I told Pete that if he wanted to take a really fabulous writing course, one that would expand his imagination, that would swing wide open the mind’s gate, encouraging the ingression of ideas and inspire him to discover new ways to explore the possibilities of the written word, he should get a copy of ‘Bringing It All Back Home’ and play it rePETEdly.

Without Dylan’s musical example, I probably never would have composed my most memorable love letter. I wrote it to Terrill (or “T”) in June of 1983. "T" was a young woman raised in Holland but living in Greece at that time. I know I’ve posted the letter on this Blog before, and I know it’s the least romantic, most Stream O’Consciousness love letter ever written, but I’m posting it again below just because I’m Da Dictator O’De ‘Stuffs’ and I can do any damn thing I wants here:

June, 1983 :

Wow, I am SO hungover.
Doug and MD are in Palm Springs. Last night, Twinkie and me and Lynth went out and got so drunk. I feel OK except I keep getting these fast bizarre thoughts. I have nothing to do so I thought I’d write, right? (Write, Right…that’s almost like Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman or New York, New York.) I’m at the corner of Ocean Ave. and Linnie Ave. in Venice. It’s about 4 or 5 blocks from the beach. I’m sitting in the bed of my truck with my 500 pound non-portable typewriter. I am so hungover. I don’t know why I’m doing this. I got drunk last night. It’s something I’m good at. I’ll bet I’m…I’ll bet I can get drunk better than you. Terrill, I’m worried about your drinking! I like Southern Calif. Out here, you can type in your truck by the beach ‘cause you feel like it and nobody cares. Now if I tried to take my typewriter down to the beach in say, a state like Texas, I’d probably get arrested for disturbing the peace.

I’m not drunk, just hungover. In fact, I haven’t had a drink since last night. Everytime I wake up with a hangover, it seems that I had been drinking the night before. Amazing! I’m beginning to think that it’s not just a coincidence!

Uh, when I woke up this morning (Hey, did you like the way I started this sentence with the word “Uh”? It makes it seem like I’m talking instead of writing. I think that’s neat. I’m going to have to try using that a little bit later in this letter and see if it works just as well a second time. “Uh”, that’s a good word; I wonder who made that one up.) When I woke up this morning I went into Mark’s room and slipped into bed with him. At first he started to complain about it but I said, “Hey, relax, it’s all we’ve got.” But we just talked about our hangovers for a while and then…and then, whatever. But I mean we’re not like people in San Francisco, if that’s what you’re thinking.

Uh, this morning Mark went fishing in Malibu. (Notice I used “Uh” again. It worked as well as it did before…don’t you think?) I don’t like fishing because I don’t like to hurt things, and you know I think fish are probably “things” and when they get that hook through their mouths it probably hurts. I don’t really care about fish all that much but I still wouldn’t want to hurt them! I’ve seen more fish than you, nyahhh, nyahhh, nyahhh!

This is a beautiful day; last night was fuzzy. If you, Terrill, were here right now you know what we’d do? We’d probably be walking along the beach, here in Venice, and you know how people sell their art here? Well, we’d be going by and I’d look at some painting and (it would be a good sized one) I would say to you, “Hey, Terrill…look at this, do you like this painting?” And you would say, “Not especially, do you?” And I’d say, “Oh, it’s OK…kind of interesting, I think.” But we wouldn’t buy it ‘cause we couldn’t afford it. So then we’d go to one of those cafes on the beach and get a beer and watch the waves and the dogs and the Frisbees.

I’m not going to drink today. I’m getting tired of drinking; I think I’ll find something else to start doing.

If I didn’t know better, I’d say that I was Bob Dylan.

So what are you going to do tonight? I might see a movie. I saw one once before and I thought it was pretty good.

I’ll have to Xerox a copy of this letter ‘cause otherwise I won’t believe I wrote it ten years from now. Everytime I just get going, this stupid bell rings and I gotta (see, there it happened again) start a new line.

Some tourists just walked by and stared at me. They probably thought I was some weirdo from California. Oh, if they only knew.

Hey, I hope this letter isn’t scaring you. Is it? It’s not meant to. Sometimes I scare MYSELF. But this is just something fun to do. You know how it is. I’m really not crazy…just mentally disturbed. But seeing as how Father’s Day is coming up soon, I just thought I’d write.

You don’t have to reply to this letter (a boat just went by) ‘cause I’m going to write another one in about a week. A real one. Right now my mind is just in the ozone layer. I think it’s because of the hangover because I don’t usually write letters like this to you. At least I haven’t before.


So, anyway, uh, do you think you’re wunderbar? Stupid word. So is groovy and glad and stupid, stupid words. I have to drive because I’m too hungover to walk.

You know what I was just thinking? That if you wrote me a letter all in Dutch I wouldn’t understand any of it. Not only can I not read Dutch but I can’t even speak it. It’s all Greek to me! Get it? Greek. Hey, do all Greek men really have hairy chests and do they all really wear gold chains? I’ll bet a Molson they do!

Some girl smiled at me. She was probably a weirdo tho. You know how these Venice types are!

I’m really something. You probably think this is all real romantic, don’t you? You probably think you’re real cute, sitting there on some street in your truck, typing a letter, don’t you? Think you’re real creative or unique or something, right? Well, you’re not. Anybody can do that. That doesn’t make you a real artist. It proves only your stupidity. Dumb girl.

My leg fell asleep.

I hope this letter doesn’t scare you. You like it, don’t you? I hope so…I’m writing it specially for you. I’ll be back to normal tomorrow. Normal…how boring!

Think of this letter as a post card, OK?

Oh wow.

Hey, I’m going to write you another letter later. Letter later. And I’m going to send a couple pictures, also. Neat, huh? Isn’t the postal service neat? Neat is another stupid word.

Well, listen…I’m gonna go now. I mean, sh#t, you think I got nothing better to do than write you a post card? Hell, I’m a busy guy. Sh#t and hell…two cuss words in one paragraph. Pretty good, huh? Think you can do that?

Don’t cuss. I don’t like it when you cuss. Well, OK, you can cuss but just a little bit. Nothing too vulgar, though. Just like, whatever…sh#t, hell, damn, potty, etc. You know, just ladylike cuss words.

Well, I gotta go. You’ll get a real letter from me in a little while and then…well, whatever…you can read it and stuff like that.

‘Bye. Be good. Nice, whatever. (Wow, I am SO hungover.)

-- Bob Dylan


And by “dogs” I don’t mean the canine variety. If it were “Man’s Best Friend” I was referring to here, I most certainly would have placed “dogs” under the “Good Stuffs” category. No, what I mean when I say “dogs” is unattractive females of the human variety:

Ugly women got no reason
Ugly women got no reason
Ugly women got no reason
To live

They got ugly hands
Ugly eyes
They walk around
Tellin' ugly lies
They got ugly noses
And ugly teeth
They wear ugly shoes
On their ugly feet

Well, I don't want no ugly women
Don't want no ugly women
Don't want no ugly women
‘Round here

[Ugly women are just the same
As you and I
A fool such as I
All women are my sisters
Until the day we die
It's a wonderful world]

Ugly women got nobody
Ugly women got nobody
Ugly women got nobody
To love

They got ugly legs
That they shouldn’t show
I’d rather run away
Than to say Hello
They got ugly cars
That go beep, beep, beep
They got ugly voices
Goin' peep, peep, peep
They got ugly little fingers
And ugly little minds
They're gonna get you every time

Well, I don't want no ugly women
Don't want no ugly women
Don't want no ugly women
‘Round here

And by the way, what I’ve said about ugly women,
that goes for short people, too!

Le McQuote Du Jour:
He not busy being born is busy dying.
~ Bob Dylan

~ Stephen T. McCarthy
Doggtor of Semiliterate, Half-Naked Blogological Studies
Stream O’Consciousness University in Dillydally, Djibouti

Letter Links:

YE OLDE COMMENT POLICY: All comments, pro and con, are welcome. However, ad hominem attacks and disrespectful epithets will not be tolerated (read: "posted"). After all, this isn’t, so I don’t have to put up with that kind of bovine excrement.



Ah Stephen how well I remember Bob Dylan.excellent write about him.
My late husband and I used to listen to all his songs, Thanks for the memories.
Look forward to the next letter,


Stephen T. McCarthy said...

Thanks, YVONNE!
Dylan was (is) a genius - a word I apply to individuals pretty sparingly. Only I never realized what a genius he was until I kind of "rediscovered" him two years ago.

I need to find time to make it over to YOUR Blog!

~ Stephen
"As a dog returns to his own vomit,
so a fool repeats his folly."
~ Proverbs 26:11

arlee bird said...

And I guess that letter was enough to scare Terrill away for good? It scared me. That was bizarre, but I can picture it even now on Venice Beach.

My earliest exposure to Bob Dylan was The Four Seasons Sing Bacharach and Dylan. I was a big Four Seasons fan back then and the Dylan stuff started sounding pretty. Then there was Johnny Cash's version of "It Ain't Me Babe" which really blew me a way. But I wasn't into folk music so I wasn't buying any Dylan albums cause what I'd been reading in the fan mags indicated Dylan was a folkie. I finally broke down and got my first Dylan album--a greatest hits compilation--in about 1967 and after that I was convinced. Great lyricist, yes.

And I don't know what to say about the "bad" part of your post. So I guess I won't say anything.

Blogging From A to Z April Challenge

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

Hmmm, I say.
My Blogger Dashboard said I had two comments submitted, but when I attempted to view them I got a message that read "No Unmoderated Comments Found." And now every trace of them is gone.

So... if you (whoever "you" is) submitted a comment but you don't see it published here, please know that I am not ignoring you. Whatever message you wanted me to see, a big Blogger bug ate it before my eyes got a chance to view it. Sorry 'bout dat. "Stuffs" Happens!

~ "Lonesome Dogg" McStephen

Lisa said...

LOL - I especially like the Dogs - Ugly Women. Hilariously funny. :O) [meanie]

arlee bird said...

Well I submitted one and I hope it didn't disappear cause I could probably never recreate it. Maybe it will show up later. I've seen it happen.
Blogging From A to Z April Challenge

DiscConnected said...

Methinks thou art channeling the spirit of Randy that a process server at your door?

"The large print giveth and the small print taketh away"

-Tom Waits

mousiemarc said...

Every mutt needs a little TLC. Though for me personally I find that I view a women as ugly or dog like if her personality sucks.

However, one must consider that real beauty makes the physical appearance look more attractive. The reverse is true as well. Physical beauty can even look repugnant if the person is wicked inside.

Anyone who has taken the time to get to know a few members of the opposite sex knows what I'm talking about. The women who looked like an average Jane can look more attractive when one sees her inner beauty.

All her physical traits become more attractive, more alluring, more beautiful. All her pluses accentuate (spelling).

Now I don't know about you but I've met some women that at first were very attractive, and yet became not only unattractive but like an old wine skin to me. Other guys would chase after this vipers physical beauty but I saw her as a dog.

As I've become more seasoned I realize more and more that people say they want true beauty but most guys settle for a dog. Oh, they'll have their opportunities at a real women, but they'll throw it away chasing after the flesh of the eye. They don't see the viper underneath, the sickness, the poison personality. To find a true beauty when has to look the heart.

The Alliterative Allomorph said...

Wow you really do have long posts! Where on earth do you find the time? I too get inspiration from music. I also write my own music too, but can never seem to live up to my own expectaions! Ha!




Grammy said...

Good Morning, Stephen!
Happy Birthday on the 6th of April! I hope it is a lovely one. I like Bob Dylan's music, but don't care much for his letter. I recognize the picture of the Ugly woman. She played a carpenter on Green Acres, and was extremely funny dead pan actor.
Best regards to you,

Grammy said...

Oops, After rereading it, I guess you wrote the letter as Bob Dylan? Still don't care much for the content, but it is excellent writing.
Best regards, again!

Wanda said...

Stopping by to wish you birthday greetings by way of Tossing It Out

Rae said...

Oh...and Happy Birthday!

Rae said...

Love the love letter! Sounds hauntingly familiar in an odd, reminiscent sorta way.
You have taught yourself well. Enjoyable, witty and entertaining!

Lisa said...

Hi Stephen -- wanted to stop by and wish you a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I hope your day is filled with lots of fun and you have whatever your heart desires.

Birthday Hugs,

arlee bird said...

This is not really from me, but relayed from Alliterative Allomorph:

The Alliterative Allomorph said...
I commented on Stephens post but for some reason his comment thingy isn't working! So Stephen, if you're reading this post, Happy Birthday!!!

I also commented on your actual D post :( I said that I often get inspired to write by listeing to music too. And that I too write my own music, but fail to live up to my own expectations!

Was a great post. VERY LONG! but still great :)

Shannon said...

Hey Stephen great and long! Happy Birthday to you on this fine day in April! Beauty is really skin deep, outside beauty fades but insides beauty lives on forever!

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

HOKEY-SMOKE! 13 comments all at once. Well, I'm kinda overwhelmed but I thank each and every one of you.

As far as it being my birthday is concerned... y'all been listening to rLEE-bird? Tsk!-tsk! Well, it's not my physical birthday, but I do consider it to be my spiritual birthday which, in a sense, is even more important. And Jesus alone knows what that's all about. I myself haven't even grasped its full meaning. But I sincerely thank you all for the good wishes.

No, the letter didn't scare "T" away at all. She already knew "I'm Different" (a second nod to Randy Newman) and I think that's one of the principal reasons she liked me in the first place.

The "Ugly Women" bit was an experiment to see if I would get the same negative reaction that Randy Newman got in 1977 when he made similar statements musically about Short People. I didn't get the negativity, so it appears that perhaps we have matured as a society and collectively acquired a greater sense of humor. Thanks! I'm glad to know it tickled ya.

Ha! You got it, man! But then I KNEW you WOULD (if you happened to read it). And I'll bet you're the only reader who has caught on to the ongoing Waits thang I'm building with each passing day.

You know I agree with you, of course. Hopefully you know me well enough by now to have realized that the "Ugly Women" bit was included solely for whatever comedic value it might supply.

I steal the time from other more important things that I SHOULD be doing instead. I'll pay the price later.

Thank you, YVONNE. It's not a birthday in the common sense but the day does hold great meaning for me.

Thanks. And yes, the woman pictured here is the actress Mary Grace Canfield. She also appeared in an episode of The Andy Griffith Show titled "A Date For Gomer". She was Thelma Lou's cousin who comes to town and is referred to as a "dog" by Barney Fife on a couple of occasions. Thelma Lou demands that Barney find her a date for the big dance and he finally unloads her on Gomer Pyle. In the end, the only couples who have a fun evening are Mary Grace and Gomer. A pretty funny episode. And since Mary Grace is referred to in the show as a "dog", I figured she was the ideal woman to picture in this Blog Bit.

Thank you very much WANDA and LISA. And I'm pleased you liked the letter RAE; thanks for the kind words. Yeah, I'm a weirdo but I yam what I yam

~ "Lonesome Dogg" McMe

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

Thanks! And you're right on; no argument from me. Don't let my (what passes itself off as a...) sense of humor fool ya!

As you can see above, A.A.'s post DID come through. I think perhaps she's just not aware that some of us moderate the comments to prevent spam from posting and so the submitted comments don't post immediately but must wait until the blogger has seen and approved them for "publication."

~ "Lonesome Dogg" McMe

Raquel Byrnes said...

Great're quite prolific. About the music, you're right about use it a lot in my writing. I have soundracks for chase scenes, love scenes, and background. Great post.

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

>>you're quite prolific.<<

Yeah, I'm a non-shuttin'-up yakker.

But thanks a lot for the compliment, Raquel! It's very, very much appreciated.

Good luck to you with your writing!

~ "Lonesome Dogg" McMe