Winter Writing Marathoners Roam Lincoln's Haymarket
Story and photos by Cale Prindle
On a surprisingly pleasant January afternoon, writers were out in force, hopping from building to building and business to business and readily writing whatever the muse passed on to them.
In Lincoln's Historic Haymarket district, over twenty writers came together, starting with lunch at Lazlo's Brewery and Grill then spreading out among the many local businesses with pens and notebooks in hand. Writers found their inspiration in places ranging from the Burkholder Art Studio and Galleries to tattoo parlors, from the underground Crescent Moon Coffee to the ice cream shop, Ivanna Cone.
Thanks to the preparation work done by the Lincoln Writing group, who hosted the marathon, participants were able to follow a map and a list of surrounding businesses that led them between buildings or allowed them to spend their time in the Creamery building--itself a host to a dance studio, a salon, a magic show theater, and the marathoners ultimate destination, Indigo Bridge Books.
After meeting at Indigo Bridge, writers shared pieces of writing. Memories of family, insights about existence, and the challenging of norms filled the pages and floated between minds. What follows are some of those pieces.
At the Ice Cream Parlor
Children just say things; they say things out loud; they say I want I want and we all stare at them, with ice cream gluttonous on their lips; we all think to ourselves how cute or how obnoxious when what we really mean to say is how sad for us, how tragic how easily we forget, how quickly wanting escapes us; how we spend our lives trying not to say I want I want--too vulnerable, too shamed to own up, too small, smaller than even a child, in the looming shadow of impossible desire.
It's really just impossible to write about anything other than Prince when Prince songs are playing in the room. He's not the kind of person you can ignore. He just wants your extra time. He just wants you to act your age, mama, not your shoe size. And you can't say the guy doesn't have a recipe for relationship success--extra time, a maturity of great size as compared to your feet. Prince, the wise. Prince, the androgynous. Prince, the Prince of Pop. Prince, the scarfed beauty who I remember trying to imitate, drunk at the bowling alley karaoke. He would have been appalled really--at my mullet, about me making "Kiss" sound like a country classic sung by a drowning Garth Brooks. Those were the days when people still smoked without shame, the days when bowling alleys were not for families, the days when bowling alleys were for lonely men. And in those days, those lonely men thought of me as one of them, cheered with masculine glee as I screeched into the mic--no prince, no royalty in sight.
A Moveable Feast at Ivanna Cone
The story wasn't writing itself and I took another bit of my ice cream and watched the girl across from me twirl the remnants of hot fudge with her slate white plastic spoon and watched the drips of butter pecan ice cream pool into small dots on the black Formica tabletop, and I thought "You belong to me, Beauty, but not because I'm writing about you in some stray predatory way in some random ice cream parlor in Lincoln, Nebraska, but because we've shared an investment of, say, 30 years, which is something Mr. H. never really found and might explain why all his personal affairs ended in drama and his fictional affairs in death, like Catherine in the rain in A Farewell to Arms or Gary Cooper in the mountains of southern Spain in that MGM version of For Whom the Bells Toll, and while it's true we may all belong to this notebook and this pen at the same time that kind of belonging is just a happy accident," and even as I'm thinking this I realize I've finished the last of my Midori Marshmallow ice cream and the roof of my mouth is dry, like that feeling after cotton candy of too much air and starch and only a vague hint of green.
Looking at a Porcelain Turtle in Ten Thousand Villages
I feel like the turtle writing his love song. The book of love lays open at the foot of the desk and he looks up longingly as if the right words are floating up there, maybe caught in a spider's web in the corner.
Now I do the same, recalling the wisdom of Winnie the Pooh regarding poetry and hums.
"They find you."
I believe I like that better. To hunt Inspiration, shoot it, gut it, and drag it to the page where I display it as a trophy doesn't feel right. And it gets messy. That's assuming I can take it down at all. One shot may only make it angry and leave me mauled with only a vague recollection about the time I fought the poem for my life.
Or I try to bring down a 10-point bull sonnet when I don't have a license for one.
So instead, I'll sit like the turtle--patient, alone, so certain that maybe Inspiration will walk through that door or maybe she'll fight free of that spider's web and dance down to my page. And maybe, just maybe, I'll leave the gun in the drawer
Death and Ice Cream
And an ice cream parlor is the best possible place to write about the Angel of Death. Arden's last piece mentioned that old saying about how death comes in threes. I hadn't wanted to mention it, but I'd been thinking about death in threes ever since I heard about Frank, an old friend of my parents and the biggest fan of the "dad band" that had provided the soundtrack to a crucial span in my last 20 years. Before Frank, it was Gigi Brignoni, Co-Director of the Oxbow Writing Project.
Gigi was a big fan of writing marathons. The last time I saw her was on the Renegade Writing Marathon we staged, guerrilla-style in "Downtown Disney" in Orlando. There never was a place on God's green earth that needed a writing marathon more than Downtown Disney. It needed us, writing marathon writers, and we needed the marathon. At the end of it all, we gathered under the palm trees and the neon at Gloria Estefan's club, the Oxbow and the Nebraska Writing Projects in their first official, unofficial joint venture. Gigi and I sipped on drinks with fresh sugar cane spears and talked about writing and salsa dancing. Later, I broke my little toe dancing a killer merengue.
And Paint It Silly is also the perfect place to write about the Angel of Death, among the paint brushes and toothbrushes in bright vases with families hunkered down over their pottery and Prince's "Kiss" playing too loudly on the stereo. I imagine that dark spirit on his way to his third stop, lured off track by the smell of waffle cones and fresh cream. Maybe death doesn't come in threes but rather in twos plus ice cream. Twos plus a coconut mojito. Twos plus sunset-painted ceramic cowboy boots waiting by the kiln.