There was not much routine to consume my life as a writer. I woke when I pleased. I worked and wrote daily, but at my own chosen pace and at whatever venues and gigs I chose. I had no boss, but I also had no security or sick days waiting for me if I decided to say “fuck the world” on a busy Saturday. Turning down a gig or a day out doing Poetry On Demand meant I would eat away whatever money I had saved in my financial coffers, which, at any given time, was not very much.
The routine I did have was mostly when at home at my own writing desk. My typewriters had their own names and personalities, along with production years ranging from the 1920s to the 1970s. Each typer had its own specific cadence, pace, and sound, and held different beats and emotions within the DING that echoed through the small, one-room palace in which I resided and wrote.
The habit of a candle-burning started and carried on since the first night typing on my 1964 Smith-Corona, lovingly named Cassandra. The glorious ritual of pulling the tab on a 24 oz can of beer; the swooshing sound of air rushing out, along with a tiny mist of the intoxicating contents that wafted into my nose tickling the tiny hairs. My free-rambling days of Poetry On Demand at Asheville breweries always offered a delicious random selection of craft beer each week. But at home, my swill was Pabst Blue Ribbon and Single Malt Scotch, while always having a nice, uni-ball black pen and paper at the ready for signing custom poetry orders before sealing them into envelopes to be mailed out at a later date. There was endless Marlboro smoke billowing from my mouth and nose, and the act of practicing smoke rings that were never quite as sexy as the ones in the movies.
I spent hours at my mahogany desk, through seasonal changes and moods, from early Spring blooms to the frigid dying earth of late Fall, through the first snows on the ground as my typewriter rang true through all of the Blue Ridge views out my window. The continuous music and Kerouac reading HOWL live for a crowd; the beautiful way his accent played with the strong emotional words and the cadence of how Ginsberg wrote it. The groove of Miles Davis “Kind of Blue” and “The Freewheelin” Bob Dylan on vinyl skipping and laughing at me at 2 a.m. when I desperately needed the rhythm and inspiration the most.
The routine of my life no longer included conference calls and the calculations of drive times and drive-thru window wait times so I could fight traffic and get back to the office with enough time to shovel disgusting, comforting garbage into my gullet before the 9-to-5 taskmaster bastard had enough of me and released me for a few hours until the groundhog day of corporate America played the same song day after day after day.
My days were now my own–my routines were of an individualistic creation and could be obeyed or dismissed at my leisure. My new routines and new lifestyle, like the lighting of the last match in the pack, depended on many environmental facts to be a success. But without my inspiration and steady hand and eye to ignite the possibility, the world would remain cold and dark.
There were weeks on end without a pattern as I adventured around Asheville for events and shows and custom writing for small and large crowds. Weeks on end away from my tiny candlelit dreams of mahogany and canned beer routines. Weeks on end of being away from my vinyl records and ratty, worn-out Chiefs hoodie and torn, ink-stained shorts that I wore when at home.
Life was all about the Day and the Possibility now. My intuition and balls paid dividends in how I chose my street corners or bar rooms to set up my tiny wooden desk and typewriter. The chances I took could mean a steak dinner and a car filled with gas. Choosing the wrong route could mean meager crowds with outward-turned, lint-filled pockets, and shy words of “I would if I could” in regards to paying me for a custom poem. The consequences of my decisions often included failure and success within the daylight hours, followed by long nights of me left out in the cold: missing the bus and walking up and down the hilly roads with my desk in one hand, my typewriter in the other, my courier bag slung over my shoulder while I looked for my car to sleep in, couches to crash on, or that church with the familiar staircase that I slept under more than several nights….Waking up the following morning hopeful and optimistic that I would again get my gas gauge off the red light and back to my home to shower and clean up before I headed back out immediately to take another shot.
There were weeks away from my pleasant, boring pace of home where I escaped jail sentences and police cars and handcuffs more than a couple times, I admit. I lost weight not because I was healthy and savvy to the needs of a nourishing diet, but because I chose cigarettes and a shot of whisky at last call to keep me warm while I searched for my bed that night.
I spent weeks apart from my routine, which seemed like years. I aged quickly over these periods, and the grey hairs began to sprout from my unkempt facial hair. The clickity clack clickity clack I heard from my typewriter reminded me of the months I spent listening to the freight train as it headed up the mountain rails of Western North Carolina, hearing its cadence as it passed the homeless shelter or the mission where I slurped free soup and chewed day-old bread for survival right beside the vanishing eyes of the dismissed, undesirables of this world.
With every line, I am reminded that these stories are not mine alone. No longer were they stories from some book I had once read, or from some fictional account. My memories now float into the night and onto the page like perfectly-blown smoke rings by my personal rhythm formed by countless hours of well-earned typewriter dings. My writing exists as both a requirement for routine and as a desire for wanderlust, the duality almost interchangeable and irreplaceable for my story to breathe and to exist. Never quite comfortable without the routine of home and never truly inspired without the desperation and possibility that intoxicates my soul on the street.