When Marlene Adams, the editor, asked me what topic I was going to write about for this issue of the Flamenco, I told her I had nothing in mind. She responded with, “Deadline’s coming soon, think of something!”
I think she misunderstood me. I meant, “nothing” would be my topic.
Nothing, as in, zip, zilch, nada, zero, goose egg, etc.
I don’t think she’s going to be amused when she gets this, in fact. But it’s better that I actually write about nothing than submit what I really wanted to submit for publication: two blank pages.
That’s what I wanted to do, originally. Oh sure, it’s easy to dismiss pulling such a stunt as simple laziness (which in fact it was, but who has to know, right?). But I looked at it as “artistic license.”
And why not? If Milli Vanilli could put an album together and call it art; if they can put Peewee Herman in a movie and call it art; and if John Lennon can take a black marker, scribble on paper and call it art*; why can’t Frank Calderon submit two blank pages to the Flamenco newsletter and call it art?
“Well,” Marlene said, “you can’t do that because you’re not well known, Frank. It just won’t fly, I’m sorry.”
And to that I said “HA!” What do you mean I’m not well known? I’m certainly well known!”
Well, okay, so maybe I exaggerated a little. I am well known, really, in certain circles. Take bill collectors and telemarketers: they know me well. So does the IRS. And so do these unknown people in Nigeria and other parts of the world who want to share millions of dollars with me, if only I’d be trusting enough to give them the number of my bank account.
“So, see?” I asked Marlene. “I am well known after all!”
After a 15-minute laughing fit that took Marlene two full oxygen tanks to recover, she stood up from the floor and said simply, “You are NOT going to give me two blank pages as your column for this or any other issue of the Flamenco!”
So I had to come up with a way to fill two whole pages for Flamenco when it hit me: why didn’t I just hit the “enter” key a bunch of times until I got enough of those little paragraph thingies?
But then I remembered: Marlene could easily delete all those thingies and I’d be back to nothing.
So now I was down to Plan C: and that was actually to write something about… nothing. I looked to music for inspiration: I played Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sounds of Silence,” “Enjoy the Silence” by Depeche Mode, “Nowhere Man” by the Beatles, and other songs with nothing (or nothingness) of some sort as a theme.
I scoured my bookshelves with Ajax, I mean, for anything about nothing. I took a look at my bank statements (okay, I know, “negative balance” is not the same as “nothing,” give me a break, okay?). I even called up that “nothing” relative of mine, a cousin who constantly reminds me I’m only a five-dollar bill away from sharing his lifestyle. Which basically consists of selling bags of limes on street corners throughout South Florida, at a dollar a pop.
Yes sir, indeed, what I needed was some serious inspiration.
But I could only come up with… nothing.
The pressure was looming, with the deadline coming fast, me on my way to New York for a vacation and, well, nothing yet.
Then I was hit with inspiration: how about writing a poem about nothing?
By Frank Calderon
Nothing in the air
In the trees, in my hair
Where you look
Nothing in the sea
In the lake, in the river
In my kidneys and my liver
I find nothing everywhere!
Nothing on the land
In a forest, on the sand
In the trees, in the hills
Nothing, nothing always spills
Nothing in a vacuum
In your face
Nothing, nothing everywhere
Where you go, nothing’s there
But it was only a few lines long and I had to fill two whole pages of Flamenco. Besides, it was a nothing poem. Definitely NOT Nobel material. In fact, I should note here it was even rejected by the self-publishing houses and even Internic, which governs the Internet, prohibited me from posting the poem on any website, calling it “offensive” material.
I took offense at that. I asked them on what grounds my “Nothing” poem could possibly be considered “offensive.”
And you want to know what they said?
Nothing at all.
After that little episode, I was too depressed to write. I gave up. I stayed in bed all day, ate nothing, did nothing, wrote nothing.
Finally, deadline day came and it was time to submit my column to Marlene.
“So, Frank,” she asked. “Anything good this time, for a change?”
And all I could tell her was, “Nothing.”
*Author’s disclaimer: If you’re offended by these remarks, I remind you I’m a HUGE fan of Milli Vanilli. I have all their music and I think the whole lip-synch thing was fabricated.