Thursday, September 29, 2011
…Yesterday I wrote and I wrote. Then I wrote some more.
I wrote a shit-ton. (Shit-ton is one of my favorite made up swear words.)
I wrote almost 5,000 words, all on the novel.
Lots of things happened. There was some kissing, breaking and entering, gun shots (though no one died) more gun shots (a car got dinged up a bit) and some white-lying.
After I was done writing, I ran outside, came home and took a bath while reading "A Visit From the Goon Squad" (It's taking me forever to read that book. Why is that?)
It's remarkable the power Jacuzzis have. Truly. They have this incredible inspirational quality.
While soaking and reading I came up with a brand new scene and it's ended up being kind of crucial.
Then I popped out, dried off, got dressed (of course) and wrote it.
Then, "Ah ha!" I came up with a twist on the twist.
Yes, I love baths and Jacuzzis.
It’s astonishing the problems you can solve in the bathtub, taking a good long soak.
I fixed all kinds of issues having to do with the novel.
Maybe they should construct an enormous pool near the White House, throw O and Congress in it, toss in some bubble bath and vino, and see if they can’t get their excrement together.
…So I felt pretty proud after my manic writing day, but then in "Poets and Writers" magazine I read about all of these prolific writers and I feel like a big slacker.
--Iris Johansen -- 70 novels
--Bill Pronzini -- 77 novels
--Kristine Rusch -- 90 books
--Piers Anthony -- 140 novels
--Jane Yolen -- 300 books
--Robert Randisi -- 540 novels
I mean, Holy Hell, right? 70? 140? FIVE HUNDRED AND FORTY?
Maybe I shouldn't have had that run.
Or gone on Facebook.
Or surfed the web for news.
Or had breakfast.
Or made myself a bad dinner.
Or picked up my son from the skate park.
Maybe I shouldn't have taken time to go pee.
Perhaps I should have just written during those times.
…Tonight I am going to The Hugo House.
The Hugo House is named after Richard Hugo, a legendary poet and professor at U of Washington.
The House stages readings and is a place you can write while enjoying Happy Hour.
Tonight’s event is "Poetry and Wine," whatever that means.
I was at the last reading before their summer break. It was a lot of fun, even if I didn't know anyone there.
Tonight I will go to The Hugo House and I will make myself make friends. I wish you were there to go with me.
I like these things on a Thursday in The Emerald City:
"Fate is written in wood, not stone." Geraint Straker
“Never think you’ve seen the last of anything.” Eudora Welty
"The things which hurt, instruct." Benjamin Franklin
"The problem is that when people tell you your worst enemy is your imagination, they’re wrong. When people tell you that whatever you’re imagining is probably worse than the real thing, they’re wrong. " Andrea Kneeland
"Those who love deeply never grow old; they may die of old age, but they die young." A.W. Pinero
"The mind writes what is." Gertrude Stein
"It is chance, not perfectionism that rules the world." Judith Guest, "Ordinary People"
"The things which hurt, instruct." Benjamin Franklin
"There's no labor a man can do that's undignified -- if he does it right." Bill Cosby
"Let the beauty we love be what we do." Rumi
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
--AND SO IT IS THAT WE FIND OURSELVES HERE TOGETHER AT THIS EXACT MOMENT, AT THIS EXACT PLACE
…I have some new things:
--A new poem, "Father's Day" and an interview up at Stoked Press.
--"Walking on the Sun," a mostly true story at Apollo's Lyre
--I also have a story, "Lilies From a Fallow Field" up at Pipe Dream Fiction.
All are here under "Words in Print."
…This week people are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the release of "Nevermind" by Nirvana. Originally the record label had hoped to sell 45,000 copies. The album has sold over 30,000,0000 thus far.
--I'm not digging Ashton Kutcher on "Two and a Half." Admittedly, I'm a Charlie Sheen fan (I know he's acted despicably, but his talent is undeniable.) Ashton, from the interviews I've seen him do, seems like a great guy. His character on the show is a less funny, greasy-haired, bad Jesus-looking version of his "That 70's Show." Despite the record setting season opener, I don't expect the show to make it.
…I saw "Drive" with Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan.
It's a very unusual film, and I loved it. You have to be the patient sort, however.
The pacing is very slow the first half. There's very little dialogue. Ryan Gosling says less than 200 words in the entire film, and he's the lead.
The movie takes an unexpected and very violent turn in the second half. It is reminiscent of Tarantino.
Gosling is one of greatest actors, proving his range in films from "The Notebook" to "Blue Valentine" to "Crazy Stupid Love" and now this.
…I just finished reading "Northwest Corner." It's by John Burnham Schwartz, who wrote "Revolutionary Road," which got turned into a film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.
I had insomnia.
Woke up at 12:30.
Got out of bed at 1:30.
Finished the book by morning.
The novel is so well written, lyrically so, in present tense, which is rare, which I like, which my new novel is written in.
There are many tough and tragic moments but you will root for these characters to make into the light, and you won't be able to stop reading until they, hopefully have.
Here are some sound bites for you:
"--She would like to learn to live like that, without punctuation, hearing just the words themselves.
--The word always is fraudulent. There is only now; there is only this.
--You can do all the planning you want, or you can do none: once their bags are packed, people leave.
--A place gets defined by what's in it.
--A fist is nothing without rage.
--Because, for fuck's sake, the goal of life must not be to lose it all, to cause other people grievous harm and suffering, to wholly give up one's pride and respectability.
--Let's face it, all the good folks really want is a lacrosse stick.
--We think we are solid and durable, only to find that, placed under a cruel and unexpected light, we are the opposite: only our thin, permeable skin holds us intact. Hemophiliacs walking through a forest of thorns.
--Penny leans forward, trying to get as close to her daughter as possible. Thinking that love has a memory, too. It knows how to come home.
--Despite what the mathematicians assure us, zero is not a meaningful number in real life.
--Words leave me then. You spend them carelessly, flagrantly, and the next thing you know they're gone." all from "Northwest Corner"
--"There are heroes, and then there are the rest of us." John Schwartz, "Revolutionary Road"
Sunday, September 25, 2011
--CLAP YOUR HANDS, SAY, "YEAH."
…When I was in college Statistics was a required class.
I am not a math guy. I'm an English guy.
I did not do so well in Statistics. I was always lost.
For the final, which was multiple choice, I just circled random letters, then handed in the test. That summer I worked in Alaska on a processing boat (boy do I have stories!) When I got back to Washington State U. and met with my counselor before school began, he had my reportcard in his palm on the other side of the desk.
"You would've had a 4.0 if you hadn't gotten that C."
Somehow--miracle of miracles--I aced the final. In Statics.
I hated that class and would skip it to watch "All My Children" which was on at the same time. (I had a crush on Kim Delaney, now of "Army Wives".)
Now that I'm a little older I've come to appreciate and actually enjoy statistics. I don't like the math part--like having to gather up random group sampling and whatnot, but I like the story(ies) they tell about things.
Here is some information, then, about you and I.
I hope you find it interesting. I did.
--According to The Barna Group, 95% of all Americans consistently say they believe in God or a higher power
--13% of all people pretend to talk on their cell phone in order to avoid personal interactions
--Watching up to 25 hours of television a week speeds up death by five years
--The number one single on this day in 1996 was "Macarena" by Los Del Rio. The number one selling album this week (964,000 copies) is "Tha Carter IV" by Lil Wayne
--15% of all Americans currently live in poverty, the highest rate since 1932
--As of 8/1/11, The US Congress has received it's lowest approval rating in recorded history
--In the month of July, the number of unique U.S. visitors to:
Facebook, 162 million
Myspace, 33 million
Twitter, 33 million
LinkedIn 33 million
--Sandwiches from childhood that adults miss most:
25% Grilled cheese
24% Peanut butter and Jelly
13% Bologna and cheese
--Where we buy books:
30%, Online retailers
29%, Bookstore chains
6%, Book clubs
6%, Non-traditional bookstores
5%, Mass merchandisers
5%, Independent bookstores
--In the USA, adults who say, in a week they:
read the bible outside of church 45% 40%
say God is all-knowing/all powerful 74% 67%
attend worship 49% 40%
accept Jesus and expect to be saved 35% 40%
call bible "totally accurate" 46% 38%
28.7 years of age --average age for men at first marriage
26.7 years of age --average age for women at first marriage
11.6% -- Housing vacancy rate in 2006
13.1% -- Housing vacancy rate in 2010
--$100 Billion- current valuation of Facebook
--42 million-fans of Lady Gaga on Facebook
--$40-late fee charged to Reed Hastings by Blockbuster for rental of "Apollo 13." Reed then went onto found Netflix
--89% of all peole hold their computer mouse wrong
--88% of all people have poor typing technique
--84% of all people set their keyboard wrong
--29%, percentage decreas in your risk of lethal prostrate cancer if you drink 1 to 3 cups of coffee a day.
--Cities graded by education and/or intelligence of their population:
A+ Madison, WI
A- Seattle, WA
A- Fargo, ND
A- San Diego, CA
C- New York, NY
D Los Angeles, CA
F Miami, FL
--Countries with the most millionaire households:
USA - 5.2 million
Japan - 1.5 million
China -1.1 million
Britian - .6 million
Germany - .4 million
--1 in 7 drivers are not insured
--13%-Percentage by which your coronary heart-disease risk drops if you are satisfied with your sex life
--Michael Vick, pro athlete convicted of staging dog fights, earned 12 cents an hour working at a federal prison and just signed a 10-year $100 millon contract with about $40 million guaranteed.
--When asked where they'd prefer to age, accroding to Hartford/MIT lab, people said:
50% my current home
41% another home
9% not sure
Friday, September 23, 2011
--I SHOULD PROBABLY TELL YOU THAT YOU ARE PRETTY SPECIAL
…I have a new story, “Lilies From a Fallow Field” up at Pipe Dream Fiction and here under “Words In Print.” The piece is really me plagiarizing from me, or from a novel I wrote three years ago called “Blue Tequila” which may or may never see the light of day.
…I wrote a story just now.
Just a few minutes ago.
I wasn’t intending to write a story, and certainly not that story.
I swear; I definitely wasn’t trying to take any political position or preach or anything like that.
It just came out.
Like a sneeze maybe. Like a twitch or blink.
Something you can’t stop.
I was reading on Facebook about a friend who liked a book by Richard Brautigan called “The Abortion.”
I don’t know what the book’s about. I think it is a story collection.
The next thing you know I’m writing and then this happened:
Mom Gets an Abortion
She sets the appointment for Tuesday at 10:00 am. The kids—the ones she’s not planning on killing (not yet, anyway)—will all be at school by then.
She’s usually not this decisive. Usually she’s a Roll-with-the-punches sort of gal, but this is a sperm-nestled-into-an-egg-taking-root-inside-her that we’re talking about. Leave the thing to roost too long and before you know it you’ve got a loaf.
At the hospital she fills out forms. There are so many that it’s a bit like buying a house. The woman behind the thick glass (is it that way because of all the gun-toting right-wingers out there wanting to grab a headline?) looks more bored than a desert, sullen, depressed and suggestively doomed. She picks her nose and eats the diggings and doesn’t seem to care if anyone notices or not.
The clinic has an electrical hum to it, like the frozen foods section at Safeway. No one seems to appreciate the vibration but me.
The woman-the patient-my mother is not particularly nervous. What she is is gassy. Too much Lo Mein with msg at The Peking Duck last night. She’s shooting silent twirlers. Other patients settle and re-settle in their stiff might-as-well-be-marble plastic seats, wrinkling their noses Samantha-from-“Bewitched”-style.
When her name is called she stands and walks toward to dumpy Asian guy wearing glasses, a septum plug, and holding a clip board.
His name is Kenny. Of course it is.
He smiles a lot, like a clever chipmunk. He weighs her and asks her questions and takes her to a white room with posters of flowering fields that might have been taken from the set of “The Wizard of Oz.”
Dr. Singh comes in. She’s a contrite woman with unreal coffee bean-colored skin.
Her voice is as soft as cocoon when she introduces herself.
After small talk and some other rigmarole, Dr. Singh quietly says, “There’s still time to change your mind if that is what you’d like to do.”
This whole time I’ve been treading water. In the car I did some butterfly strokes, then breast strokes, but now I’m lying flat on my back, floating belly up. There’s no way she’s going through with this. I’ve heard my siblings bickering, heard Allan fart and Leah squeal Justin Beiber lyrics: “Baby, baby, baby. Ohhhh.”
But before I know it there’s a tornado down south. It’s an air funnel like nothing the world has ever seen, not even on the weather channel.
I scream, “How could you! I thought you loved me!” which is sort of a ridiculous thing to be doing because a.) My mother never actually claimed to have loved me; I was just operating on assumption and b.) The vacuum suction noise overpowers my best vocal efforts.
As I shoot through the tube, my last thought centers around children—the sound of their belly busting laughter, the wide-eyed wonder hanging in their pupils, the future slippery but waiting. I see a blue-eyed blonde in the sandbox. She’s eaten a palm full of dirt and a tadpole of slime drips off her chin. She’s grinning and she’s damn cute. I wonder what her name is, if she’d have ended up a friend or maybe even the love of my life.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
--IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING, THIS IS AN EXORCISIM
…I did things yesterday. Things I don’t normally do. Actually, things I have never done.
I wrote a Kingish amount of words. Stevie would be proud. (That’s Stevie, as in Stephen King, who in his book, “On Writing” says that the average joker should be able to write a minimum of 2,000 words a day, but that he never leaves his desk until he hits 4,000.)
It’s also Stephen King’s birthday today, so here’s to you, Mr. King.
Anyway, I wrote 4,000. 4,000 words.
It was fun, too.
I moved the characters around.
I hurt them.
I put them into difficult situations.
I hope I also made them endearing and somewhat mysterious.
…In addition, I wrote some flash/micro fiction.
I wrote four effective pieces.
I’ve never done that before—toggled in out of the two forms so massively on the same day.
So it was a good day.
When I woke up this morning I discovered one of those micro pieces (“After My Morning Shower; The Man in the Mirror” had been accepted.) That was fast.
…Last night I went to hear Ben Loory read at Vermillion, an establishment here in Seattle on Capitol Hill.
(That’s Ben’s collection in the photo.)
The night was sponsored by Elliot Bay Books, one of the premier bookstores in the nation. The venue was fun. The people were chic and attentive, artsy types, fans of Ben with a couple of salivating stalkers in the crowd to enliven matters. I was happy to be there and it was worth the 2 hour drive round-trip.
I met Ben last year when he did a reading at John Hopkins in Washington, DC.
Ben is a great guy--humble, authentic soft-spoken and witty.
His stories are very unique. Each is a fable that feels at once real and mysterious, fantastical.
You could read these stories to your kids and they’d enjoy them.
If you read them yourself, you’ll also enjoy them immensely.
On the surface they are spare and simple, yet they have layers and layers to be peeled off, sifted through and examined.
I give the book a big thumb’s up.
I think it’s like $15 or something ridiculous like that.
Get Ben’s book and have a blast.
…Today, in an hour and a half, I have an interview for a radio show.
I did my first audio (phone) interview last month.
It was okay. It was alright.
You have to picture the other person sitting in a booth, or at least I have to.
Otherwise it’s kind of odd.
It’s kind of odd no matter what.
I was nervous about it last time. I hope I’ll not be nervous now. In an hour and a half.
…Here are some things I like on a wide open Wednesday:
Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right." Henry Ford
"It's a shallow life that doesn't give a person a few scars." Garrison Keillor
"Every now and then a person should get what they want when they want it. It keeps you optimistic." -"Six Feet Under"
“The courage of the poet is to keep ajar the door that leads into madness.” Christopher Morley
"Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.” Oliver Wendell Holmes
"If you laugh a lot, when you are older all your wrinkles will be in the right places." Barbara Johnson
"That's why we get involved with other people, right? Not just for their bodies, but for everything else, too--their dreams and their scars and their stories?" Tom Perrotta, "The Leftovers
Monday, September 19, 2011
--EVERYBODY WANTS YOU
…I got my new issue of “Esquire” magazine. I like Esquire quite a lot.
I read the September issue last night. On page 50 they gave details of a contest. The idea is to write a short-short fiction story of 78 words, 78 because Esquire is celebrating 78 years of existence.
Naturally, being one who writes very short things, I liked this notion a lot.
I also liked the fact that there was a contest involved—a $500 stipend, trip to NYC, and a small writer’s conference.
So I came up to this keyboard I’m writing on and banged out a story.
Next, I went to Esquire.com to check out the rules/the fine print. In doing so, I saw an update for the contest saying that since announcing the contest on September 1st, they have already received 3,000 entries.
Anyway, I am going to send mine in. Now they’ll have 3,001.
Here’s what I just wrote:
It starts with gasoline.
My father was an attendant, back when they had them in those days. My mother showed up on empty.
From there, they had two botched abortions, then me, plus a trailer home smelling of brine and barley, a place ravaged but replaced with shattered things.
It ends with gasoline, my father soaked in it one night after passing out on the couch. Mother putting the can down, flicking a lighter, saying, “Enough is enough.”
Saturday, September 17, 2011
--YOU’RE LONELY, TOO, I CAN TELL
…I have some new things out:
-“Ceremony,” a piece I wrote at the Iowa Writers Workshop this summer. It’s up at The Boston Literary Magazine.
-“Compression” a quote for The Matter Press
-“Hiccups” at Pipe Dream Fiction
-“The Sin Jar” at The Midwest Coast Review
All are also here under “Words in Print.”
…Yesterday Abbas made an official bid for UN recognition of Palestine on the same day that convicted felon and NBA star Ron Artest legally changed his named to “We Have World Peace.”
True story. Check the news if you don’t believe me.
Yesterday I was disobedient and diligent.
Yesterday I took a bath even though the doctor who told me I have skin cancer beside my nose (it’s basil cell, so no worries) told me I shouldn’t.
Yesterday I wrote on the new novel about Caleb, Chloe and poor Claire. I liked the pacing. It sort of skipped along. I think the beginning is quite tense, or so I hope. I’ve been re-reading “Ordinary People” to help keep me in that manic state of mind, but while writing I was listening to Freddy Johnstone (“I Have A Bad Reputation”) to counteract Judith Guests’ fantastic mood-setting writing.
…I have lots and lots of books on the business and craft of writing. One is called “A Writer’s Guide to Character Traits” written by a psychiatrist. It reads more like a shrink’s thesis.
Here’s what she says about writers (yikes!):
--wounded; creates in order to heal own wounds, or old family wounds
--sensitive, imaginative, abstract and creative thinker
--driven toward achievement; fearful of mediocrity
--dismissive of ordinary problems
--prone to alcohol use, especially after age forty; younger writers have increased risk of depression
--prone to problems with anxiety and drug use
--isolated at times; has to tolerate periods of being alone
--required to let go of work after completion
--likely to have come from families with both mental illness and creativity
--more likely to be bisexual or homosexual
Yowzah! With the exception of that last one, Dr. Linda H. Edelstein, PH.D has me pretty much pegged to a T.
It makes me sound like a miserable human being. Who knew I was so miserable?
…I’m almost finished with Tome Perrotta’s latest number, “The Leftovers.”
I loved “Little Children” and “Joe College,” though obviously that last one is an awful title.
“The Leftovers is about a comical, quirky version of The Rapture, of “The Left Behind Books” but having nothing to do with the chosen being Christians or not. It’s a fun, page-turning read. He does a wonderful job of making you care about all of these characters. I hope to be able to do that with my new book.
…My kids and I have started to watch “Dexter.”
What a trippy show that is. After “Six Feet Under” I had to see Michael C. Hall in action and man is he good. He’s nothing like the gay funeral home operator from “Six Feet.” How he gets us to root for a serial killer is astonishing.
…I’m getting a little bit of a belly. Don’t laugh; I am. It slightly slopes over my waist band.
I’ve always been thin. My whole life I have. I sort of obsess over my weight. I could be one-quarter anorexic. And now the flab is starting to come. It sucks getting older. But what’s a boy to do?
…I like these things on a Saturday morning:
"I am convinced that the world is not a mere bog in which men and women trample themselves and die. Something magnificent is taking place here amidst the cruelties and tragedies, and the supreme challenge to intelligence is that of making the noblest and best in our curious heritage prevail." C.A. Beard
"Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups." Bumper Sticker
"I want to hear your pain. I just want to hear it in joke form." -Christopher Titus
"Dying is an art like anything else and I do it extremely well." Sylvia Plath
"I can't even enjoy a blade of grass unless I know there's a subway handy, or a record store or some other sign that people do not totally regret life." —Frank O'Hara
"What those words inside me could have said, I wonder—where or what I would have gone or been today having them absorbed—somehow ending up another person—smarter, further—this, gone forever. And still, here I am. Now." — Blake Butler, "Nothing"
Thursday, September 15, 2011
--YOU PROBABLY THINK THIS SONG IS ABOUT YOU, DON’T YOU, DON’T YOU?
There are three of me in this picture.
No, wait. There are more.
There are four. Four or five of me in this photo.
We are all very bright, very slick, but also slight and sick. We blend into nothing but the wind.
That’s one of the problems—me not knowing me as well as I should.
Other people don’t seem to have this issue. Other people are more self-aware. They have their stuff together, their shit together. They are Get-up-and-go, Take-it-or-leave-it, Read-email-on-their-cell-phones-all-the-way-to-work types, just because they’re that fully-formed.
And isn’t it beautiful.
So what’s a boy to do?
Most boys can see a lot farther than me. They see the sail boats on Lake Washington and the lingering ash/smoke/haze from Mount St. Helens. Still, I’m the one who sees the laugh lines and the faint mole southeast of the lower lip, the lips themselves looking like pulpy fruit. I’m the one who sees beside the moon, how the clouds resemble a sheer sheath Marilyn Monroe once wore in a photo.
But what good does that do me?
Red is red and red is not blue.
We all know this is true.
Colors have boundaries just as we do, and each one designates something in particular.
A person can see red and feel blue. A person can paint either color separate or blend the two.
Last night I watched two girls (who were high on some kind of drug) sink their hands into a can of blood red paint. They talked about how silky it felt. They didn’t really need to say anything, though. It could have been a Show-Don’t-Tell moment and that would have worked perfectly.
You read this and say: “WTF? What the hell does this mean?”
And I answer: “Exactly.”
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
--DIDN’T ANYONE EVER TELL YOU THAT YOU SHOULD NEVER LEAVE THE SCENE OF AN ACCIDENT?
…I am sitting in a coffee shop type place. Everything is humming. Really loudly, things are humming. Like zombies snoring. It’s kind of freaky, actually. I’m the only one here besides the girl who works the till, who always remembers my drink order but will never look me in the eye.
This place just opened a few minutes ago. It’s early. I’m trying to be productive. Don’t we all feel better when we get a lot of things done? Do you make To Do lists? Do you enjoy slicing a line through the various tasks you’ve listed on the list?
…Something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is honesty. The idea of it, the utopian idea makes sense. But the raw reality of it is another thing altogether.
Who have you been utterly honest with? I mean, like told every solitary thing you’ve done to? Anyone? Really?
It’s hard to be honest, even with people we trust. Even to spouses and best friends.
It’s hard to be vulnerable when it comes from our own initiative.
I just read a blog where a writer panned another writer’s book. Both of them know each other. It must have taken some guts to be that honest, because there’s a profoundly (I hate adverbs in general and have never used this particular one in my life) good chance that the author will discover the reviewer’s review and not be happy.
How brave to be so honest. How delightful.
I am not so brave.
But I wish I was, and I’m working harder at it.
I really am.
…I am aging, too.
Every day I am.
I’ll be honest here and tell you that I am still not comfortable with this getting older idea.
It bugs me.
I see signs of my getting older all the time. Unless I was blind it’d be hard to escape them.
I keep thinking of all these things I want to accomplish or every once in a while I’ll realize the real meaning of a platitude or phrase or what some famous person said, and I’ll wonder how many others I never comprehended, and I’ll think, well, I still have a lot of living left.
…There are certain words I spell wrong all the time.
Words like—“occasion” and “initiative.” (I always spell “ocassion” this way.)
Do you ever do that—spell words wrong all the time, repeatedly, year after year?
There are certain words I like but can never recall how to spell.
A word like “surreptitious.” If you don’t misspell it close enough to the correct spelling the spell check device won’t even get you to the correct spelling and you’ll end up frustrated all day, or for several even, trying to figure out how to spell the damn word just as I was frustrated the other day—actually THREE days—trying to remember who sang “Sultans of Swing” (Dire Straits.)
And then there are those tricking words, syntax things, which I do not know when to use what.
“lay” or “lie,” for example. I just never know when to use which. “who” or “whom” is another example.
…Now it smells like eggs and bacon in this place. That’s a nice smell and so it’s not as freaky in here as it was, although since I’ve started this post, it’s still just me and the waitress girl.
After a stretch of near-ninety degree weather, things are gray and cloud-hooded outside.
I guess I feel a little lonely.
I wish you were here.
If you were we could chat a bit and I’d buy you coffee, and I just bet I’d make you laugh and you would do the same to me.
Sunday, September 11, 2011
--I REMEMBER IT VERY, VERY WELL
I was on the way to work, of course I was.
It was early, as usual, around six-thirty as I recall.
Starbucks was packed. It always was/is. (Every single Starbucks in every location is always busy.)
Things felt normal.
There was a maw of conversation mixed with some innocuous/pretentious jazz playing through overhead speakers. No one seemed manic in their discussions. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Rich people were just forking over money for stupidly-priced coffee and not minding waiting in line to do so. One lady, a neighbor, held her toy poodle at her fake breasts, while wearing a chincilla coat even though it was not chilly.
I ordered a tall-double-skinny-nonfat-no foam-latte.
I didn’t get any food.
I was in a hurry.
I was wearing a suit that morning. Gray window pane. Lavender shirt with a purple tie and natty grape pocket square. Salesman brown shoes and matching belt. (I cared about those things back then. I was a lot dumber back then.)
My car was a red Saab, 900s with a black rubber spoiler. (See?) There wasn’t a cup holder, so I had to drop my latte precisely into place, into the plastic divot molded into the stick shift. I had to do so without spilling any of the boiling brew and thus having the electrical controls lock up on me.
I’ve never been a person who listens to the radio. I absolutely love music, but I hate the radio and all those inane disc jockeys and the really awful radio advertisements that try too hard to get your attention.
But for whatever reason, on 9/11 of that year I was listening to the radio.
The announcer, the newscaster, I think it was Tom Brokaw, sounded unsure and nervous. He said something like, “It appears there’s been an accident at The Twin Towers.”
He described the smoke.
As he kept talking, more and more fear crept into his voice. He became a human instead of a News guy.
And this made me afraid…
By the time I parked and got to work, everyone at the office was huddled in a cubicle, wherever there was a miniature TV.
By the time I got to work, the other tower had been hit.
No one had yet mentioned Washington, DC or Philadelphia.
There was enough hysteria.
Both towers toppled. Melted.
The TV said it was unbelievable.
I thought so, too.
They showed footage of planes crashing into buildings.
They showed the scenes over and over and over and over.
My administrative assistant broke down crying.
What did I do?
I went out into the store. I saw one of my bosses. He said we weren’t closing the store early like everyone else was doing, all of our competitors. He said, this isn’t that big of a thing. Then we talked about music and hot new bands.
All the while my administrative assistant kept paging me and I kept ignoring them, because, well, I was having an intimate conversation with my boss whose name is one all of the buildings and stores in the company that I worked for.
There are things we regret. I regret that day for all sorts of reasons. I regret my lack of understanding and my inability to grasp what the fuck was happening. I regret ever opening any of our stores that day. I regret my conceit and arrogance and who I was.
9/11 is hard for me. I know it’s worse for many people, but I really do think about it often, almost too often. It amazes and confounds me. I find it hard to believe that it actually happened, not unlike the Holocaust.
I remember driving home and seeing hundreds and hundreds of miniature American flags dotting lawns or taped to trucks and cars.
I also remember the eerie feeling when a few weeks afterward, I first saw a plane in the sky, flying fairly low, across the skyline near the space needle. It was very unsettling to say the least.
A few months following 9/11, some bold people made a documentary about it, voiced over by Robert Deniro. I wanted to teach my daughter the significance of the event. She was nine. Most of the time—while people were hurling themselves off of the buildings and you could hear (honestly) the thud of their bodies, she kept remarking about how pretty the sun looked on the glass.
Here’s a story I wrote about that, which appeared in the “G6 Anthology” edited by Lydia Davis.
Sometimes it happens this way, with him driving 1-90 to work, seeing a plane floating low over Union Bay, toggling between buildings and it’ll catch him unaware and he’ll remember stopping at Starbucks that September morning, the newscaster’s baritone tremulous and uncertain, him and everyone thinking hoax, thinking Orson Wells, and then later that night, thinking Armageddon and Satan.
Many days afterward there was a Robert Deniro documentary and he thought this could be a teaching moment for Hailey, his young daughter, with whom he had custody on weekends.
He made cocoa with mini marshmallows and once they became soupy Lilly pads Hailey plucked their white guts with her little girl fingers and drew letters across his cheeks.
On the television the buildings simmered and smoldered, sirens shrieked, people leapt and bodies thumped. They’d left none of the horror or death out, and while he knew he should have switched the channel, he couldn’t, riveted as he was.
When the program finished, his daughter turned to him with a yawn and asked if he could read her a story.
Friday, September 9, 2011
--THINGS WOULD BE A LOT EASIER IF YOU'D JUST PUT DOWN THAT KNIFE
…What do you do when nothing comes together? When there’s not enough sticky substance to keep the sides and center together? I haven’t figured that out. A lot of times I just drip or leak or lose parts of myself because I can’t figure out the holding-it-together jig that everyone else is so good at.
…I started the new novel. I actually started it several times. I’m not so sure which tense to use or where to launch the tension, but I suppose that doesn’t matter as much as just getting the boat in the water and sinking a couple of oars.
I mean, what do you think?
…I read a friend’s blog where they talked about going to Borders and how excited they were by the bargains.
I went to Borders and started trembling.
I wanted to puke.
It was looking inside a mausoleum, opening up smelly caskets filled with decrepit corpses that were half-wasted away.
I was never a big Borders fan, but still, how depressing is it to see a once proud lady now emaciated and humiliated?
I wanted to weep.
Instead I left after about 50 seconds of being there.
I am not so strong.
…This morning my coffee is steaming. It burns by lips. It stings my hands when I hold the paper cup even though the container has a sleeve. It’s very hot.
Sometimes it’s good to drink boiling hot coffee and to singe your nerve endings a little so that you know you are still alive and capable of feeling things. I think that is important.
…A thing I don’t get is why people are rude.
Or why people tailgate.
I know these two thoughts are random and not inter-related, but they are subjects that befuddle me.
(Befuddle is a fun word to say. Try it.)
…Have you ever read “Ordinary People?” I saw the film many, many years ago. Robert Redford directed it. Mary Tyler Moore was in it. Timothy Hutton, too. (he was a boyish 17 years old.) I don’t recall who played the father.
The movie won “Best Picture.”
Last year I was reading a writer’s magazine and it said “Ordinary People” (the novel) was the only book that had “tension on every page.”
I tracked down an old copy and read it.
Sure enough—there was tension on every page. I mean, every freaking page. It’s brilliant and heart-racing.
I started reading it again to inspired my own novel.
…What are you doing today? Is it foggy where you are like it is where I am?
What are your plans?
What are you wearing?
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
--WELL, WHAT'S THAT BIG, FAT GRIN ALL ABOUT?
…I have a new story, "The Sin Jar" up at The Midwest Coast Review (pg. 23) and a new story, "Strangers," at The Stone Highway Review (pg. 28).
Both are here under “Words In Print.”
…I saw "My Idiot Brother." I had high hopes for the movie. It looked quirky in sort of an Indie film way. It had Indie actors like Paul Rudd and Zooey Deschanel and that lady from Saturday Night Live.
But it was not a good film.
It was sort of a sellout.
There were no surprises. It was as predictable as tomorrow morning's sunrise.
I had an inkling it wasn't going to be any good when the previews started. You can almost bet how good a movie will be just by the previews that are shown before-hand. (Hint: one of the previews was for the new Adam Sandler movie where Mr. Sandler plays a male version of himself and a twin, female version of himself.)
So, yeah, that was a bit disappointing.
…The concert was not disappointing.
The Walkmen opened the show. They were good. They look like four college kids from Utah or Texas, the lead singer in a suit, open collar button down, affecting a young Dennis Quaid look.
But the highlight, of course, was The Fleet Foxes. Listening to them is like being inside an orchestral orgasm.
The sound was lush and soaring and quiet and adoring.
They had flutes and a cello, mandolins, violins, an old piano that looked like it was stolen from the set of "Gun Smoke."
And it was all very beautiful.
They play a second show tonight here in Seattle.
Wherever you are, go see them if you can. Or get their album, especially the first one.
…Here in Seattle, down by Pike Place Market, there's a long side street called "Post Alley" that winds a mile or so. At one point you will come to the Gum Wall.
If you know about the Gum Wall you'll be prepared and not freaked.
If you do not know about the Gum Wall you'll be taken aback and probably grossed out.
Basically the Gum Wall is several buildings in the alley where people stick their gum.
By now, many thousand people have done so. I mean, there's a LOT of gum on the walls.
They cover several buildings.
It teeters on the cusp of being disgusting, yet it also is quite colorful, inventive, collaborative, organic, and ingenious.
People/tourists were busy taking pictures when I happened upon it yesterday.
The photo above in this post is the Gum Wall.
Come check it out.
…There are things I want to say to you.
Some of these things are secrets. Some are quite obvious but need to be said anyway.
Some of the things I want to say to you are barbed and might put you on edge. I don't know. I'm not sure.
I have been thinking about saying these things ever since I was a boy, before I knew you.
I knew even then that someday, when I met you, I'd have this hankering to share my news, spill the beans.
But now that that day is here and you are here (or nearby, at least) I'm unsettled about the issue.
It has nothing to do with bravery and everything to do with dark holes. It has nothing to do with trust and honesty and everything in the world to do with the future.
You know this about me, don't you, how the future is something I keep putting off while the past is a wide sidewalk crack I hopped over long ago.
In the end, of course, it all hinges on one thing. What really matters is if you really, really want to know, to hear the things I want to say.
Well, do you?
Monday, September 5, 2011
--I HAVE ALWAYS KNOWN YOU WERE THE ONE
…I have a new story, “The Sin Jar,” up at The Midwest Coast Review (page 23) and also here under “Words in Print.”
…Yesterday was Bumbershoot, the annual musical festival here in Seattle akin to Lollapalooza.
The weather, being spectacular, may had something to do with there being throngs and throngs of people.
It was quite a day.
My son and I saw four concerts in a single day:
Massy Ferguson (eh)
Sol (hot hot Seattle hip hopper who brought friends, his mom, and his aunt from Haiti on stage for the closing song)
Broken Social Scene (Canadian sound bending band. If sea glass could sing it would sound like them.)
Macklemore (huge Seattle rapper)
Additionally, these are some other things we saw:
Lots of pot. Bales of marijuana were being smoked.
Gallons of rum (why rum?) we being drank
People were popping ecstasy.
A girl in front of me fainted.
There was a female mime dusted all white and dressed up like a spastic fairy.
Mario (replete with a thick, fake mustache) and Luigi from Super Mario Brothers showed up and danced during Broken Social Scene.
There were a lot of very short skirts and some cut-offs that were essentially frames for bare buttocks.
Around 20,000 people crammed into Key Arena to see Macklemore.
I was in the mosh pit. Normally that would be a cool place to be.
I was in the mosh pit with five thousand other people.
It was hard to breathe. Moving was almost impossible.
Female breasts were squished against my arm. Slimy, sweaty guys were pushed up on my back.
The mob kept pushing this way and that. I was like a human windshield wiper blade, nearly falling backward or forward dozens and dozens of times.
It became an inferno.
After a while, after an hour and a half, I fought my way out.
Once I was on the upper floor I realized why everyone was staring—I was drenched in sweat, some my own, half belonging to strangers.
I watched the concert from up above. It was an amazing sight with 10 thousand arms bobbing up and down to the beat.
Oh, and I was the oldest person in the entire coliseum. Really, I was. I did, however, get I.D.-ed the other day at Safeway, so it’s a balancing act.
…Tomorrow I see Fleet Foxes and The Walkmen. Life is song.
…Here’s a Sylvia Plath piece like on a Monday, especially when that day is a holiday:
"Mad Girl's Love Song
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead;
I lift my lids and all is born again.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)
The stars go waltzing out in blue and red,
And arbitrary blackness gallops in:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed
And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)
God topples from the sky, hell's fires fade:
Exit seraphim and Satan's men:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
I fancied you'd return the way you said,
But I grow old and I forget your name.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)
I should have loved a thunderbird instead;
At least when spring comes they roar back again.
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)"
— Sylvia Plath
Friday, September 2, 2011
--LAST NIGHT WHILE I WAS SLEEPWALKING I’M PRETTY SURE I RAN INTO YOU SOMEWHERE BETWEEN THE FREEZER AND THE PANTRY
…I have five stories and two poems up at Negative Suck. They’re also here under words in print and the story tabbed “History” under “Words in Print.” I was fortunate to be their featured writer for the month.
I also read some poetry and was interviewed by Annmarie Lochart for Vox Poetica. If you want a listen, it’s here tabbed as “Bridge” under “Words in Print.”
…So I saw Cheap Trick on Wednesday night.
They were Cheap Trick all right.
They sounded like they sounded all those years ago. It got a little monotonous after a while. After a while I wanted to leave.
After a while I did.
…Last night I saw One Republic. Their gig was short and sweet.
The lead singer was fun and hospitable. He’s also insanely talented. Every breath that came out of his mouth was pure pop gold.
I liked them so much I ordered their album today.
…Today I read stories for my editing gig at Metazen. I read a lot of stories and a lot of poems.
Most of them were not very good. Some that were better than others were still pretty average. A few I just did not get. Maybe I’m not smart enough. Perhaps I should resign and let a brighter reader read what might be written between the lines that I might be missing.
…Tonight I’m going to a high school football game. In a small town, games are a big deal and it’s got a nostalgic flavor. Going to them always reminds me of “Friday Night Lights” the movie, not the tv show because I’ve only seen the film. It’s quite good and I recommend it to you.
…Tomorrow a gaggle of people are coming over for a paella party. A special chef and his cooking troupe are coming over to whip up the fixings.
…Sunday is Bumbershoot, a yearly music festival in Seattle akin to Lollapalooza with literally hundreds of bands. We will be seeing McLemore and Wuz Kalifa and some rock groups.
…Tuesday is Fleet Foxes and The Walkmen.
…I have become a social animal. I have turned rabidly social. What’s wrong with me? Where’s the shy, introverted nine year old? Oh, I know where he is. He’s here:
THERE IS A PLACE
…There’s a place I go where no one can find me, not even God.
In the place, this field, forest, there are acres and acres of ancient evergreens and craggy gray boulders that resemble old people’s skin or tortillas.
Every now and then there’s a patch of yellow buttercups of wild blue bells. Sometimes they’ll have a bit of nectar in them that tastes (I’m hoping anyway) like my first kiss which I haven’t had yet.
I go to this place because I am sometimes embarrassed about my family, or just my parents, or else just myself. I’m embarrassed about myself because I am too shy to make friends and I know I should have friends, probably a dozen already, because every nine year old has too many friends, I mean come on.
I like to my secret place, to my special place, to the top of a small hill that is flat in the center with rocks coming up on all sides like shoulder pads. When I look left or right, east or west, I can’t see a single soul. If I shout, my breath flies away unsteady and balloon-slow.
When it’s windy, my favorite thing to do is to lie down on a bed of pine needles and watch the tree limbs sway above me. I guess it’s sort of like being in a crib again, watching the spinner thing hanging above with felt toys, although I’m not sure if I had one of those. I’m thinking I didn’t.
This place, my secret home-away-from-home, it feels like a fortress. My brothers have a tree fort behind out trailer that I could visit, but I don’t. No, this is my place. I feel safe here and it’s okay to be alone and quiet, to think and wonder, to be afraid or confident, anything at all really.
Sometimes I imagine I’m finding bands of savage Indians that want to claim the land as their own. I beat them back with a stick I find, or with my bare fists and shoes. In my imagination I’m like The Hulk, only white instead of green, skinny instead of muscled.
It’s really something--what a person’s imagination can come up with.
It’s something else--being nine.
Then when you factor in being nine and being me, well, you’d want to have a super-secret place to go to.
I guarantee it.