"...I was sort of afraid she'd fall off the goddam horse, but I didn't say anything or do anything. The thing with kids is, if they want to grab the gold ring, you have to let them do it, and not say anything. If they fall off, they fall off, but it's bad if you say anything to them."
-J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye
Hello, my lovely Readers.
I am a regular bus commuter. The dense urban environment in which I live and work makes driving inconvenient and expensive, so I usually ride the bus into work; sharing my commute with 30-40 other people every day.
As many of you can imagine, I can tell my fair share of interesting stories (both pleasant and not-so-pleasant) about encounters with my fellow passengers.
My latest "bus encounter" was, happily, a delightful and (dare I say it), a poetic exploration into what it means to be young.
On a brisk and sunny morning last week, I boarded my regular bus at my regular stop at the regular time. The bus was particularly crowded that day.
As is common in the Seattle area, a school group was riding the bus into downtown for an field trip; many bus commuters are annoyed at this, because the students can be loud and usually take up about about a good third of the available bus seats. But, the students in this school group looked to be about middle-school aged, so they were a bit quieter and easier to ride with than their elementary aged counterparts.
Luckily for me, a seat opened up right as I was getting on the bus. So, I had the great fortune to sit down across from what I can safely say is the best bus encounter I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing on our fair city's mass transit.
I was seated across from a trio of young male students, two of which were turned backwards to talk excitedly to their classmate seated behind them. They seemed enraptured, entranced, even, as they listened to their friend speak.
At this point, I wasn't really paying attention to what these guys were so excited about; I was getting my things organized and was preparing to pick up my knitting needles as this was going on. But, I had to pause and stifle a delighted giggle when I began to overhear why it was they were so excited. The following conversation is nothing short of pure glory:
Middle school kid: "You guys, this is probably the best thing I've ever written. Seriously. It's going to get at least a thousand hits on Fanfiction.net."
Me (sotto mental voce): *snrk*
Middle school kid: "For this one, I'm going to explore some darker themes, like drug and alcohol addiction. It's going to be really deep...."
Middle school kid: "...I'm going to channel J.D. Salinger with my writing style for this piece..."
Middle school kid: "...so yeah. This is going to be the best Sonic the Hedgehog fanfic I've ever done."
Me: *BEST. BUS RIDE. EVER.*
This went on and on.
When it came time for me to gather my things and step off the bus, I realized that I was feeling a good fifteen percent happier than I was when I boarded.
Honestly, Readers, it took me by surprise how much the above vignette affected my mood; I'm no stranger to fanfiction (I would pour over page after page of Legend of Zelda and Rurouni Kenshin fanfics back in the day), and I've also witnessed many a budding nerd explore their own skills in writing and other such things. But after thinking about it a little while, I realized that my delight with Mr. J.D. Sonic-ger came from two places:
1. That I was impressed that this kid had the maturity and education to know (at least on a basic level) who J.D. Salinger was, and appreciate him enough to want to emulate his work,
2. That he was still not quite mature enough to realize that applying Salinger's writing style and such a dark and depressing subject matter to SONIC THE FREAKING HEDGEHOG probably won't give his finished work the kind of gravitas that I suspect he's aiming for.
Based on the kid's age, I'm guessing that the most familiar aspect of J.D. Salinger's work for him is The Catcher in the Rye, which I remember being assigned to read when I was about his age.
If there's one thing that I remember clearly about that book that's deliciously relevant and just so dang PERFECT in this context, it's that the main character's (Holden's) obsession with protecting innocence finally began to give way during the final scene, as he was watching his younger sister ride the carousel and reach for the "gold ring".
You write that magnum opus, Sonic the Hedgehog Fanfiction Kid. Keep on reaching for the gold ring.