It's the flecks of language around us that are most poetic. So I collect them, words and sentences, bits of dialogue, the misuse of a word that makes meaning by mistake. Writing is more like observing. And yet it is a paternal relationship to language...I feel like I have to guard and protect idioms and idiosyncrasies. Raise them up to their full potential. A language naturalist. Collecting and preserving the way we talk today, the history of a phrase, the pushing of two phrases together to see what new curiosities emerge. The collection process has to be in real life: pant legs rolled up, wading in the tide pools of human interaction, jotting down rare sayings and colorful descriptions. To see humans at lunch or in transit; gathered in groups; waiting rooms, lunch counters, bus stops, is to unravel their best bits. At times I’llI spark a conversation with a stranger, throw out a short political opinion and watch the riff. I agree with everything they say, trying to complement their line of thought, probing beyond their pat answers. That's how to get the good stuff; the stuff others are so passionate about they use the essence of who they are to expressing themselves. Then I have something, something tucked into my handwritten corpus linguistics that I can pull out later when I need a bit of dialogue in a story, something that feels more than right, it feels original— but ancestral. Like it's a new part of who we are, but familiar enough to take hold.
That’s why I love the AC passport wallet, eponymously named for its passport to new expressions. Smooth and textural, the wallet is a language of its own; small rivulet grains in the leather become beauty demarcations full of meaning. It is perfectly-poetic, comfortably-functional. I carry it with me everywhere.
Stephen Wunderli writes ad copy, film scripts, and books for children. Most famously he wrote a script for Walter Cronkite, interviewed Larry King and won an award from the United Nations.