In the wake of the Mike Daisey kerfuffle — the monologist who admitted to taking some serious literary license in his one-man show about Apple — "truth" has again found itself re-examined. Daisey seems to think that he is a writer, not a journalist, and, as such, should not have to always point out whether something is exactly accurate. But for people who make their living through accuracy, his laissez-faire approach is a cardinal sin. "Either say it's fiction, or make sure it is entirely truthful nonfiction," say his detractors. (In the interest of accuracy, I am paraphrasing some guy I read on the Internet.) Go ahead and mix up your stories, Mike, but don't call it nonfiction. It's like how Intelligent Design people can call what they espouse an alternative to the theory of evolution, as long as they don't call it truth or science.
What Daisey fails to see is that in order to be a good writer/journalist/blogger you have to be able to see the story in everything, and make the mundane interesting. David Sedaris is a master at this.
Frankly, I'm more comfortable when I am assigned a dull story than when I am supposed to write about something that is inherently interesting in its own right. If it can stand on its own, I get major brain blocks and cannot write a sentence. Once I do churn out the piece, it is generally eye-moldingly dull. Cataracts begin to appear on the reader's lenses halfway through. The jaw draws slack. The head tilts back. But give me some guy named Stu at the mall and 600 words...
Thank god for this gift I have, because most of the times that I go to a bar, it is pleasantly, lazily, quietly boring. In those instances, I have to find the story, like Lois Lane. I admit it doesn't always work, and that at times I have to reach all the way up my ass to pull it out, but overall, I can do more with muslin than embroidered damask. Just once, though, I thought it might be interesting to write everything that actually happened when I went out, minus the brainy embellishment I usually add. Fair warning: It's possible that your jaw will go slack.
I wanted to hit the new bar owned by the folks who run the Front Porch, a block off Mission on 29th Street. My first impression upon walking into the newly-opened Rock Bar in Bernal Heights is that it looked a heck of a lot like the Lexington, minus the lesbians: Long and narrow, a nondescript bar counter, high ceiling, and with enough noise to stoke camaraderie, but quiet enough not to squelch normal conversation.
The place has a "miners" theme (not "minors," sorry, Balboa High). Pick-axes, panning for gold, black lung, chicks named Clementine in size 9 shoes, etc. Firstly, kudos to the owners for not taking that idea and creating their own Boozy Thunder Mountain Railroad Ride with the concept. The décor is subtle, and if I hadn't read about it previously, I might not even have noticed that I was in a coal chamber of sorts. As a writer, I could a lot do with the idea of the Old West. But instead, I will tell you what actually happened that night.
The bartender greeted me as soon as I crossed the threshold, and when all I ordered was a fizzy water, she gave it to me for free. That was enough to make this my new favorite bar in San Francisco.
Feeling wallflowery, I chose a seat in the corner, behind a large potted fern, and waited for my friend Allie. In the interest of accuracy, here's what happened next: Allie arrived and ordered a drink. She sat down and talked to me a little bit about what it was like to go to Harvard. She told me some stuff off the record about her classmates. Good gravy, I wish I could tell you what she told me. Hoo boy. One must respect "off the record," however.
Eventually the conversation got around to Mike Daisey. I said that I had actually seen his show in Berkeley and that it was very powerful. Allie said that his point about Apple being exploitative of workers was moot, because every electronic thing was made in China, anyway. (To be accurate: not every single electronic device is made there. This is hyperbole.) Then I said that Apple was a billion-dollar company that had great pull and could really make changes in how the Chinese do things, so I did think Daisey had a point. I actually have a tirade about this, which I didn't go into right then, but in the interest of pulling stuff out of my ass, I will here. Apple has just reported a multibillion-dollar surplus of cash. Since it is making so much goddamn money, what is to stop the company from manufacturing everything in the United States, and paying our workers good union salaries?
But that went unsaid. I still don't know Allie very well, and would like to be her friend. I will save my tirades for later.
Then we sort of sat there. I looked around a bit. The bartender came over to dim the lights, which were right behind me. "Wanna go across the street and get some food?" I asked.
"Yeah, I'm pretty hungry," she said.
So we did.
And that, gentle reader, is the whole truth.