You busy people will probably have a difficult time understanding this… but I’ve gotten to the point where I have difficulty remembering what day it is. Having gone so long without anything to look forward to, each day has become a pajama day.
Michael called yesterday morning and when he mentioned being on the train to Poughkeepsie, I quickly became oriented to the day. Yes, that means it’s Tuesday. He has taken the day off from work. He is on his way to the job fair at CIA, (Culinary Institute of America.) Then, remembering his excitement in our conversation days earlier, I wished him luck with company’s: X, Y, and Z.
He asked me what I was doing and I went on to tell him that I had put the scarf down that I was crocheting for him. I put it aside and started on the afghan for my couch. His scarf required switching yarns and counting rows, it was something I needed a break from.
“Ma, aren’t you getting ready?”
I had no idea what he was talking about. I do nothing, day after day. Where does he think I am going today?
“Aren’t you going down to the city?” he continued, interrupting my thoughts while answering my question.
‘The calendar’, I thought. Last week, I filled in a calendar to give my life purpose and I forgot the calendar. I filled it out. I made plans for myself and forgot. ‘What good is a calendar if you don’t look at it?’ I asked myself as I quickly clicked on the calendar to remind myself of what it was he was talking about. ‘What event? What event?’ Desperation over came me. ‘Does he realize, as I do, that I have no purpose?’
As the Mom, I need to have my shit together and look at me, feeling like a loser. ‘Pull yourself together’ I demanded.
In a matter of fact manner I replied, “Oh, that’s not till tonight. I haven’t decided how I’m getting down their yet. I have to check the schedules, figure out if I should take NJ Transit, catch the Metro North out of Peekskill, or drive in.”
“Okay Mom, I’ll let you go figure it out. Have fun.”
“Good luck with the interviews. I love you.”
“Love you too, Ma.”
I wasn’t even sure I wanted to go. This event wasn’t one of my favorites as I am not familiar with this authors work. I read the notes I had on the calendar: Joseph O’Neil received the PEN/Faulkner in 2009 for Netherland. I calendared this event thinking ‘If this writer has earned such a distinguished award he might say something I might find inspirational. And, I could use a little inspiration.’
Unlike the other Hunter College Writing Center Events I was interested in, I had not upon scheduling the event on my calendar written the email to reserve my seat. So, having left it to fate, I telephoned the RSVP, as to not have to wait on their email confirmation and I decided if it wasn’t closed out I would attend. With that call, to my surprise, my seat was then reserved. I read some reviews and an excerpt from Netherland @Amazon.com and in agreement with the critic’s, I found O’Neil’s writing to flow like F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s, The Great Gatsby. ‘No wonder, he got the PEN/Faulkner award.’
After considering the time tables, fares, and proximity to the subway station from the various destinations available, and having explored meter parking in NYC, I decided to drive directly into Manhattan, park on the street near the 6 train and take the subway uptown to Hunter.
I found Joseph O’Neil not as eloquent in his speech as he is in his writing. He chose not to discuss Netherland, to my disappointment, but to discuss his family and the creation of his memoir Blood-Dark Track: A Family History. He discussed the research into the lives of his imprisoned grandfather’s and the secretive past of the Irish, of which I could identify as I was never given as much as the place of my family’s origin.
As Netherland is noted to be marketed as post 9/11 New York City fiction, O’Neil tried when speaking, to impose the 9/11 sentiment of uprise and uncertainty, to the post WWII era of his grandfather’s stories in Blood-Dark Track: A Family History, written prior to 2001. I found this remarkable as I think about the waves in publishing and as to what the niche will we be when my own work is ready for publishing.
In the Q & A which followed, O’Neil was asked how he came about writing his first novel. The author responded he wrote his first novel after finishing Law School taking a year off, dressed in his pajama’s. That was the inspiration I was looking for. There is hope.