Alison Berkley: The Princess’s Palate |

Alison Berkley: The Princess’s Palate

Alison Berkley
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

My friend Shanti says I should sign up for Twitter right away if I ever want to get anyone to read my work.

“There are people on Twitter that are so funny they have a huge following,” she said. She said the only way I’m ever going to get anyone to read my blog is if I get picked up by search engines by using this microblog thing.

And I’m like, “Tweedle dee, Twitter what?”

So I go to the site and it’s got one of those scary simple home pages. It explains Twitter allows people to stay connected by answering the simple question, “What are you doing right now?”

There’s even a video, but it’s more like a cartoon, or an animated lesson for a 5-year-old. It reminded me of those old Sesame Street shows where they taught you how to sound out words like “sweep” with an animation of a broom pushing the letters “sw” and “eep” together with a voice over going, “sw, sw, sw … eep, eep, eep eep. Sw, eep. Sw, eep. Sweep!”

You meet a faceless line drawing in a skirt named Karla, who is addicted to her cell phone and reads blogs every day and loves e-mail. Karla discovers Twitter and finds it a better way to stay connected to family and friends by enabling her to communicate what happens in “real life” between e-mails and cell phone calls more effectively. It allows you to post those little things, like getting a cup of coffee or reading a book that you wouldn’t bother to address with an e-mail or a phone call.

I’m sorry. Isn’t real life the stuff that’s happening when you’re not on your god damn communication device?

Twitter uses the same third person format that Facebook has. I always thought the people who referred to themselves in the third person were either suffering from multiple personality disorder or ego mania.

Oh yeah, and these little microblogs have to be under 140 characters.

So when Joe Blow decides to tell the world he’s taking a dump, he won’t have the room to get too graphic. If we must know what everyone is doing all the time, I guess the good news is we won’t have to deal with all the gory details.

Apparently we’re in an era that’s redefined the phrase “too much information.” For starters, they’ve abbreviated it. I guess acronyms are sort of necessary if you’re typing on your cell phone keypad or trying to summarize everything that happens in your life into one sentence.

In journalism school we were taught to pay attention to the details. To colors, sounds, tastes, smells, things people said or did or the expression they wore on their faces. To a writer, the details are like the colors that we use to paint a picture (cheesy but true). In a lot of ways, the writing I do is about adding words, not taking them away. It’s about expanding on ideas or experiences or thoughts, not butchering them into single sentences.

I’ve been trained to remember and include the little things. Like, which side of his nose the mole is on (the right) or which arm has the Indian tattoo (also the right). Or that his shampoo smells like aftershave (only because it’s made by Gillette, but still) and the palms of his hands feel like packed, wet sand.

I kind of need more words to describe things better. Like that his eyes are the color of a swamp, not quite brown and definitely not green, but something in between, like muddy water. I can say his voice is deep, or I can say it’s like syrup or caramel, so rich in depth and pitch that its sound is slow and sticky when it comes out. Or that his hair is kind of like Astroturf, so thick it feels like it wouldn’t come out no matter how hard you pulled it.

When I teach my writing classes to kids, I always tell them the best way to figure out how to start a story is to ask themselves, “what’s the first thing I would tell my best friend if I called her on the phone?” So it’s not about being superfluous so much as concise in an effort to communicate. That, to me, is the difference between literature and fiction. Literature is a little too verbose for my taste. I just want to know the story, but I want to hear it in a way that I can feel it. I want to feel it enough that I think about it, maybe even long after I’ve put the book down.

I get it that being concise isn’t such a bad thing, but is it possible to convey anything that means anything in 140 characters?

Okay so I’ll give it a try. Here are a few twitters (tweets? tweats?) I would have written over the past week.

ASPEN PRINCESS is wondering why there’s no rush hour traffic driving into downtown Aspen at eight o’ clock in the morning. Has everyone, like, lost their jobs? (144 characters)

ASPEN PRINCESS doesn’t know how to diet when she’s happy. I mean, what’s the point of starving yourself to be skinny if it’s not to get revenge on the last guy who dumped you? (160 characters)

ASPEN PRINCESS is pissed off it took New York Pizza two hours to deliver the wrong pizza (Princesses don’t eat sausage and pepperoni, hello?) on Oscar Sunday. (143 characters)

ASPEN PRINCESS is confused by the double white lines for the bus lane and is always on the verge of driving on the wrong side of the road/getting pulled over for a DUI. (153 characters)

ASPEN PRINCESS thinks maybe, just maybe, she should just give Twitter a try.

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