Writing with Humor

“It’s not what happens in your life but how you write about it.”

                                                —David Sedaris, Master Class: Storytelling and Humor

I watched David Sedaris talk on Master Class the other night. I got hooked right away when he said that everything is funny—eventually.

Lately, I’ve been feeling preoccupied with the complexity of life, and I am also feeling less chipper. This is perhaps due to a restricted social life secondary to Covid. Not to mention the fact, I’m indeed getting older. So, when David Sedaris, sitting in a chair and looking directly at me from the TV screen, said that when we get older more and more “stuff” happens, “like you fall down.” Write about it. Of course, if I fall, I only hope I don’t break a leg. It would take a great effort to find humor in that scenario. 

I’ve written in the past about my confusion on how to handle getting older. Never mind that I’ve been a geriatric nurse practitioner most of my professional life. All I’ve learned about getting older seems useless when I apply it to myself. In fact, I wrote a post called:  How to handle this age issue in which I describe a scene where I had walked into a Weight Watchers’ storefront on a rainy day to sign up to lose the ten pounds that has ebbed and flowed across my midriff for the past twenty years. The sales lady, encouraging me to enroll in the program, mentioned that WW had helpful information on the internet. In fact, she authored an informative Blog. Then she hesitated, eyed me up and down, and asked if I knew what a Blog was? I immediately took offense thinking that she saw me as an older woman (of course I was) who, obviously, had to be ignorant of all technology. I pulled myself up stiffly and in a snooty voice told her I had my own Blog. I stormed out of the store.

At the end of my post, I mentioned that I regretted I had reacted so poorly. There could have been a teachable moment for the sales lady had I casually told her about my Blog. And laughed at the thought that I was computer illiterate just because I was older.

David Sedaris wouldn’t have been so understanding and forgiving. He wouldn’t look for teachable moments. He wouldn’t have taken umbrage either. He would’ve let the story play out—knowing the scene will become humorous—later. He thinks it’s fascinating to show peoples’ prejudices. Plus, it’s important to add the author’s own fallibilities.

Will David Sedaris’ suggestions be helpful in tweaking my attitude toward my own aging? Will showing the humor in the inevitable and enjoying the irony in what life hands me make me a better writer? And help me better handle this age issue?

Some Needed Levity

I don’t know how Tim Holt does it but he grinds out an entertaining post every week. I could be one of his little old ladies shuffling along in my black church shoes with a grin on my face. However, I don’t wear church shoes or walk with a shuffle–yet. I do, however, have a smile on my face because his story brings back memories of dancing to the big name bands at the Plaza Hotel in New York City the 60s.

In this time of uncertainty and worry, I submit Tim’s post to bring a bit of levity to your day.

 

 

~I Play a Little~

“I’m no Tommy Dorsey” is what I say sometimes to hunched little ladies shuffling along in their black church shoes who look old enough to know Tommy Dorsey, to have danced to his music. Often, they grin and drop in a dollar.  I don’t need the dollar.  I need the grin.  Other times, I tell people I am Tommy Dorsey.

You don’t know Tommy Dorsey?  Oh, for crying out loud.  This is the year 2020. Put the toilet paper down and go in that store and buy a CD.  But be careful.  Or better yet, tap this, then keep reading.    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKQc-cbAvdQ  The ads will pass quickly. That’s not true. They will pass excruciatingly slowly.

You recognize it? I’m Getting Sentimental Over You.  I play that one in front of the store every Saturday. I don’t need to play for money.  I have a nice income.  I live quite comfortably.  But I discovered that few stopped to listen unless I put a cigar box on the side walk next to my trombone case.  I drew a big dollar sign on the lid.  Folks want to help the old guy.  Kinda nice, isn’t it?  I don’t like how the young ones calling me “Sugar,” but that reflects how they feel about old dudes with beards like me.  Kindly. I’m sure they’d pat my hand if I put it out there.

But we old folks need to get our kicks.  Do they still say that? I play here on Saturdays.  And a bunch of us meet in the park once a month and bring sheet music that’s older than our grandkids, and we play for a couple of hours.  Until nap time.  It astounds me how many over-80s plan their days around naps.

The trombone doesn’t consume me.  I love its feel in my hands, and its sound, mellow and sad, like dropping pennies into a deep well. Something like that.  At least for me.  Everyone hears the sound from way down somewhere.  That’s the magic of the trombone.  But for me, it’s a Saturday thing. And a grassy park thing. And a sunny day thing.

I also like to bake.  So I have a job at Paulie’s Bakery on Fridays.  We start early.  It’s a long day.  Dough is mixed and pinched and divided and like monks in white robes, they rise.  The buns, hundreds of them, stand like congregates, demanding my commitment.   Instead of paying me, I ask Pauly If I may fill two bags at the end of the day with hot cross buns, still warm, all separated by little tissues.  He did the calculation.  He said, “Sure.”  It’s nearly 7 by the time we finish cleaning up.  I drop the bags off at Hope Church on the way home.  Saturday morning is treat-time for folks whose circumstances cause them to need to dine for free.

Not a bad life for an old Ophthalmologist, is it?  Just listen to the music and wonder what else I do.

Tim Holt

 

 

 

 

 

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