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Without a Phone
A Serendipitous Experiment in Method Writing: Utah, 8/20/2022
© 2022 James LaFond
MAR/30/23
“You can’t live without a phone—can you?”
-Deb, my Mormon Land Lady
I said I would be fine, as I discovered that the flip phone could not be easily replaced. But I have a hundred friends, literally, who I keep contact with by phone. Although I spend more of my life alone than most people—working alone for instance—I receive well wishes and missives from friends and family across the country.
As I was stricken sick to the stomach knowing that I do not have Megan’s new number other than on the defunct phone, and that some other friends were not well when I left for the West, it occurred to me, that cutting me out of communication might be a message from Beyond that my ambitious writing assignments for this two month stay, might benefit from a deeper alienation, that I should not claw and scratch with the phone service to get a new phone until I am done writing Cox & Swain, about two youths transported to a foreign land with no hope of communication with loved ones left behind. The other character, is George Alsop, a historical figure who did communicate with family by letter from his four years slavery in Maryland.
I can do as Alsop, and write letters to those who will not know that my phone is dead, because they do not read my site and are not in communication with those that do. The sending of a letter across the country does leave wondering if it will arrive. I can also experience the loneliness of Cox & Swain, when I am working alone as Deb and Bob’s seasonal laborer for food and shelter, just as the indented servant men of Plantation America did, with no hope of contact with those they left behind.
A note of weakness sings in my chest, that I am not as much of a loner as I seem to be, even to myself. Last night I was too fatigued to write fiction, which requires thrice the energy of such as I compose now, and decided to sleep 12 hours while my hosts were at a concert.
I was afflicted by various nightmares of loneliness and guilt, Megan crying, Emma reassuring her that I surely found a friend to stay with and I’ll be back, a podcaster who I had promised to contact and now lost his number forever and thinking himself slighted challenging me to a duel, us comically trying to fit into Napoleonic Era uniforms fitted for malnourished men, a few West Coaster’s who I had promised to contact when I got to Utah wondering if I had lost my mind, a dream that I had lost my mind and could remember nothing of my past, a whirl of self-doubts and low indictments, a girlfriend of shadow turning away from me for good, Mom getting sick and being unable to contact me…
There are work arounds for me. Skyping with my editor, who contacted Mom, having Deb call a lady friend for me, writing letters to Megan and my Son and others. But, I am afforded spots in which I can experience a loneliness somewhere between my normal alienation and that terrible dislocation that millions of Sold orphans and kidnapped sons felt for their separation. This is, upon reflection, important for me to consider, as I have grown oddly at home wandering, and so am now enlightened somewhat as to the condition of those I seek to portray in story by being cut out of normal communication.
This reminds me of the 27 Amish folk on the train west, who did not have phones, how they were less alone then the pairs and individuals such as I who were far more alone despite our phone, especially as hours of the trip were conducted out of service. Do our phones and computers provide an ether sanity ward in the medical construct of postmodern life, that keeps us from losing our minds as the increased destruction of family and fraternity drive us further from that simply joy that was writ for days across the faces of those Amish folk on the train to Glenwood Springs?
Furthermore, the odd wiring—historically speaking—of we postmodern humans, the fact that we are constantly in contact with people near and far through our phones and computers, makes us a subject of a new managerial order that needs to be addressed by the science fiction writer, in a novel I will call Timejacker.
Rather than get another phone ASAP, I shall first write the final 8 chapters of Cox & Swain, two youths for whom separation from all they new would be abruptly permanent.
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author's notebook
Mr. and Mrs. Gardener
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fate
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barbarism versus civilization
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menthol rampage
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honor among men
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the combat space
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the sunset saga complete
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triumph
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