What to Write?
By Gary Singh
EVERY SAN JOSE columnist who has ever found himself grappling with the absurdities of everyday life in this town of a million people dreads that one situation when he might have absolutely nothing to fill his column with. There are many solutions to this embarrassing state of affairs and here are a few strategies I would employ should just such an awkward scenario arise.
Since we are barreling toward the end of yet another year, I could always rattle off the standard necrology of luminaries who kicked the bucket in 2007. If I took that approach, I would have to include Evel Knievel, America's legendary daredevil who inspired millions of kids to crash their own bicycles and injure themselves in the name of God and patriotism back in the '70s. It is now said that if you were a child with a penis in that decade, you worshipped Evel Knievel. I know I did. It's as simple as that.
But in the same breath I would also include Don Ho, who likewise passed away this year. Since I grew up playing ridiculous easy-listening tunes on the piano and organ, Don Ho represented the quintessential exotic-looking role-model-keyboardist who always seemed to have at least five girlfriends. So in what the shrinks would undoubtedly call a search for the father figure I never had, I immersed myself in the evocative sounds of "Tiny Bubbles" and "Pearly Shells" whenever I found the chance.
But if that strategy didn't fill the entire column, I could always move on to something a little more personal instead. I could always turn to my bookshelf, grab every novel by Japanese author Yasunari Kawabata, and apply his Zen-inspired themes of loneliness, longing and loss to the plight of the anti-man-about-town, always longing for something, always hoping his hometown will blossom into a credible, valiant, world-renowned city. Which will never happen, of course, but the point being—and this comes from Kawabata's books—that even if the object of your longing is ridiculously unobtainable, there is still some sort of twisted poetic beauty in the process of this longing.
The lyrics of Leonard Cohen evoke similar dispositions, seemingly hysterical, romantic and fatalistic all at the same time. Since I'm technically half Eastern myself, why on Earth shouldn't I ingest such material and find a Zenlike and zonked-out way of relating it to the plight of growing up in a suburban Western wasteland?
However, resorting to such transparent tactics to fill one's weekly column does not come without a few land mines. Someone would haul Silicon Alleys over the coals for starting to sound like every other one. Or that my musings constitute adolescent navel-gazing at best and such material is beneath a mass newspaper with a large circulation.
Of course, the critic is undoubtedly lost on the high seas of ignorance when he spouts these things, as in the early decades of Herb Caen's column, he pioneered what came to be called "dot dot dot journalism," an undisputed antecedent of what's now called blogging, so I guess one could say that columnists were "blogging" 70 years ago, brutha. But I would never devote the entire length of this space to defending myself against such attacks anyway.
So there you have it. If you happen to think that this week's column says absolutely nothing, then please accept my humble and sincere apologies. I must go. The men in the white coats are waiting.