Sunday, October 30, 2011
--SO, FOLLOW YOUR HEART AND NOT YOUR HEAD
…I have a new story, “Black Heart” up at Pure Slush and here under “Words in Print.”
It’s a counterpoint piece to Andrew Stancek’s fine, fine story, “Belly Laugh.” The idea is Andrew would write a story and then I would take one, or two of the characters from his piece, and re-design it from a fresh/different perspective and point of view.
It was a lot of fun to write and I really enjoyed working with Andrew, who is an imaginative author and great support to me.
…I suppose I should tell you what happened, that my mother died.
This is true, not fiction.
She died yesterday. In the early morning.
I wasn’t there. My father was.
She had been sick a while. A long time, really, but technically, officially sick, since her stroke a few months back, and then early onset dementia.
I wasn’t going to write about this or her, her dying. It seems both outrageously personal and impersonal to write about one’s mother dying, to do so in a blog, to let strangers read your thoughts and garner your emotions, even guess at what you’re thinking or the ways in which you’re reacting.
I’m not sure how to feel about things. I’m doing something very odd here, just thinking out loud with a key board, not even pausing to edit. I am writing this right now not knowing if I will really post it, not knowing if I will finish it or what I’m even intending to say. I’m writing because that is the thing which more often than not helps me cope and sort, escape and survive, understand.
If you know me even a little bit, you know that much of my writing is “dark.” That stems from having a less than bright childhood. There are typically wounded, broken characters in my writing. Many times these are children. Often there is a mother figure present. Are the stories autobiographical? Well, some are. Some are nearly 100% true, yet I’ve just taken to calling them fiction, either to save myself from embarrassment or shame, or for some other reason I can’t readily identify.
Most of the time I’ve taken the germ of an event and contorted it, because without that real kernel there’d be no story. Without that dark truth, I’d not have had the foresight to be able to bend it into an acceptable lie.
Yes, I believe it when people say, “Truth is stranger than fiction.” A lot of mine has been that way.
As far as I know, my mother never read a single story of mine. She knew I was writing full-time these last few years, but it must not have interested her that much. My mother was very much a creature of habit. Adding new things to her plate—even lightweight stuff—would set her off course, put her of kilter so that the natural order of not only her universe was jolted, but so, too were the galaxies of anyone around her.
She was a complicated person, my mother. I know that word—“complicated”—can be a cop out, but it’s fitting in this case. Not only was my mother complicated but she was paradoxical across the board.
She was tiny but could be loud.
She was kind to strangers yet could be cruel to family.
She gave birth to a large group of children but didn’t seem to care that much afterward.
From time to time, she’d say she loved me, but rarely, if ever, did she show it.
And, for such a petite woman, she could sure create a lot of destruction.
Money (being poor) and sickness (she was a hypochondriac) were major preoccupations of hers. A ritual was sitting in the trailer saddled up to the kitchen counter, smoking Tareytons incessantly, drinking black coffee, and bemoaning gas prices or the hike in what coffee cost, how her gall bladder or goiter were going bad. This was her entertainment. It was the sad, cloistered world she’d shaped for herself, and rarely did she venture outside of it.
When I was a teenager, I toggled between knowing my family wasn’t normal and sort of daydreaming that we were. I knew TV was make-believe, too good to be true. There was always too much love on display, too many happy endings. So, I thought, perhaps we weren’t all that screwed up.
But we were, of course.
For years, I worked fiendishly at becoming everything my family wasn’t—I became book smart and went to college. I never got sick, even if I was. I worked until I could accumulate the types of things we never had (sugar cereals, clothes, a big house.) I grew my hair long and wore jewelry. I read poetry and wrote it. Eventually I became an attentive and loving parent. I told my children I loved them and meant it.
So, I'm rambling a bit, and you can see rather plainly, I would suspect that I’m still working through stuff. On Wednesday, I’ve got a solo, five hour drive to Eastern Washington ahead of me to do some ruminating. I’ve got that and the rest of my life.
In some ways, my mother did the best she could. In other respects, she might have tried a lot harder, or in the very least, there might have been different tactics utilized in raising her brood.
But if I’m complaining, I don’t mean to be. Growing up with little in the way of a material or emotional bank, having to make my own way in the world—well, those things have really helped me as an adult. Surely I’d be a different man without them.
Surely I’d be a different son without her.
Friday, October 28, 2011
--YOU ARE ALWAYS RIGHT
…I have three new stories, “Hiccups,” “The Sin Jar,” and “The Veracity of Certain Demons” up at Petrichor Review and also here under “Words in Print.”
…Coincidentally, I have had the hiccups for two days now, off and on. It’s a little bit annoying.
…On my face, where they cut out the cancer, is a big red-black mark of blood and stitches. It looks like a crimson horse fly is stuck to the side of my nose. It’s not pretty. I am not pretty or handsome. I’m sorry, but that is the truth.
…The truth is that, today I feel a little bit lonely.
The sky is rippled with grey-sheeted clouds and the lake looks lacquered black. There are no birds. There’s very little light. My blinds are not drawn. I am here.
…There is something I have been trying to say to you all morning, but I took my last Vicodin and the pill has clogged my throat, sort of like the way a log catches sidelong at the narrow juncture of a river, creating a dam.
What I wanted to say was important. It was meaningful and all about you. If I knew Morse Code or could fan smoke signals I would share my message. Or if I knew sign language I could tell you what I wanted to tell you with my fingers and thumbs moving rapidly. Whenever I see couples speaking in sign language I sort of think it’s adorable. Don’t you? They are so completely wrapped up in their own universe. They are the definition of great listeners, and yes I know how ironic that sounds.
Have you ever wanted to be somebody else?
Have you ever wondered what your purpose was/is?
How many times in your life have you said, “I really like my life. I really like who I am.”
Last night I spoke to my dad and then I spoke to a brother and things did not go so well. Or maybe they did. Maybe that’s just how it goes.
But back to you and the things I wanted to say, the things about you and what you’re like and how special you are…
At some point today you should look into a mirror. Study your face. Find something new in it. It can be a blemish or new crease, a random whisker or too-long eye lash. Just discover something new.
Then, later on, you should sit down in a quiet space and do nothing for several minutes. Let’s say ten minutes. While you’re there, think about all the things you’re grateful for. Consider all the people you care about and who care about you. Maybe even say a prayer. Who cares if you don’t believe in God. Say a prayer anyway.
In the silence, in the spaces in between while you’re not praying or thinking, while you’re sort of dozing daydreaming, I’ll whisper in your ear. I’ll say the sweetest things you’ve ever heard and they will make you smile.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
--I WOULDN'T BE HERE IF IT WASN'T FOR YOU
…I've got a new interview with Michelle Reale (who is a fantastic writer) and story, "Monster" up at Flash Fiction Chronicles. They're both here under "Monster" in "Words in Print."
…I have cancer. Skin cancer. It's the benign kind. It didn't seem like a very big deal to me until I went to the doctor's office yesterday, and while waiting to be operated on, they make you watch this video.
All of these people go on and on about having CANCER. They say it like that--in a large and scary kind of way. I arrived calm as a cucumber, but got very nervous very fast.
The only thing that happened, however, was they hacked up my face. First they shot up my cheek with needles until the liquid spewed out of my nostrils. (I know--"Gross!" but I'm all about full disclosure on this blog.)
Afterward my face was swollen on one side and I sort of looked like an old football you find in your garage that is partially deflated. I definitely am rocking a Phantom of the Opera look with this huge white bandage on the left side of my face.
Today I have a skin graft. This procedure is supposed to be worse that yesterday's Disney adventure. Yikes!
Then Thursday I get a crown for my back molar.
It's a loverly week. (Yes, that "r" was on purpose.) But, hey, don't cry for me, Argentina.
…I am listening to Radiohead, “Pablo Honey,” a really great album. I don’t get their newer stuff, but this album is The Shit.
…I just read today that 11 million Americans owe more than their property is worth. Isn’t that awful?
…Holy Hell it’s windy today. Cedar shaving keep getting slapped against my widows, the lake looks like a black, whipped cream cake and there’s not a bird in the sky. I think I just saw Dorothy and Toto fly by. Yikes.
…Did you see the Charlie Sheen Roast? It's likely you didn't. The thing aired the same night, same hour, on a different channel as the "Two and a Half Men" premier.
I don't know your feelings on Charlie. Most people detest him. Me, I'm a fan. I know he's a screw up, but he was really funny on that show and, well, Ashton is not as funny. Ashton really is just playing a version of the role he played on "That Seventies Show."
In any event, the roast was quite funny. I finally watched it on DVR the other day.
Here are the best bits:
--Charlie is the reason a dick with cocaine on it is called a “Sheenish.”
--Mike Tyson has beaten every opponent he’s gone up against except the letter “S.” So please be patient as he sounds out his jokes.
--Mike Tyson, here’s something you’ll never hear in your life: “Nice tattoo.” I mean, come on, you’ve got a tramp stamp on your face. I don’t know whether to be appalled or just finish on it.
--Charlie Sheen, you’ve convinced more women to have abortions than the prenatal test for Downs Syndrome.
--William Shatner, look at your skin. I can’t tell whether you’ve had a face lift or a vagina rejuvenation.
--William Shatner, I've seen men more bloated that were dragged out of a river.
--(from Mike Tyson) If you don't shut up, I'm gonna bite my own ears off.
--Is that Seth McFarland or Chaz Bono with guyliner?
--Charlie’s nostrils are so snotty and filled with cocaine that he calls them the Hilton Sisters.
--Charlie, if you’re "winning," you’re obviously not at a child custody hearing.
--Charlie’s meltdown was so epic that Al Gore is doing a documentary on it.
--There’s Brooke Mueller, Charlie’s ex. Brooke’s not very bright, unless Charlie’s throwing a lamp at her.
Monday, October 24, 2011
--DON'T WORRY; I WON'T TELL ANYONE
…I have a new micro, "The Trader" up at Troubadour 21 and also here under "Words In Print."
The piece is very small. In a three day span I wrote twenty different micros--"Brother," "Daughter", "Thief," "The Drunk," The Trader"--about labels we attach to people in order to compartmentalize them. I wanted to just scratch below the surface of the label and hit at a nerve, at the thing that makes them real.
I wrote these over two years ago and packaged them as a chapbook, "People You Know By Heart" but never did anything with it.
That's where the title of this blog came from.
The notion is: we think we know these people--even those closest to us--but do we really? How many people on this planet are you completely, utterly honest with?
…Today I didn't plan this, but I wrote 10 tiny pieces for Nailpolish Stories and did an extensive interview, replete with a flash story, for Michelle Reale and Flash Fiction Chronicles.
I still have to write two stories for Jennifer Tomaloff, which I am excited about.
…I saw "Moneyball" with Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill. Phillip Seymour Hoffman even makes an appearance as a bad baseball manager with a bathtub gut. It was a different role for him, but not much of a stretch for his fine acting chops.
Brad was good, as was Jonah. Being a true story made it that much more powerful. I'd give it a solid "B".
…The Ryan Adams concert on Friday night was sensational.
It was just him on stage. He had two guitars he switched off playing and a piano.
He was funny, witty, quick on the draw and engaging with a crowd that was boisterous yet referential.
He also revealed himself to be quite the nerd.
But talented, that guy is. He played for over two and a half hours.
…On Saturday it was a double bill: The Head and The Heart opening for Death Cab For Cutie.
Head and Heart were so much fun! I'd seen them a year ago at a smaller venue, their first Seattle appearance. Here they were playing in front of 35,000 people, prancing on stage like a bunch of giddy pirates.
It was just a treat. I knew almost all the lyrics.
Death Cab had so much energy. Their recordings don't do them justice. Ben Gibbard was a fiend on stage, flying around, whipping his hair (Willow Smith would have been impressed) and chatting up the audience.
Fun times at Ridgemont.
…Here are some things I like at the start of the week:
"This is perhaps the supreme offering of the short story, the reader’s feeling that some proof has been submitted that life, long or short, funny or tragic, is simple. The short story is the loaves and fishes run in reverse: many things have gone into it and mysteriously become few." Valerie Trueblood
“When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free.” Catherine Ponder
"Language is a cracked kettle on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to, while all the time we long to move the stars to pity." Gustav Flaubert
"Whatever else can be said about sex, it cannot be called a dignified performance." Helen Lawrenson
"The greatest pleasure I know is to do a good action by stealth, and to have it found out by accident." Charles Lamb
"Which yellow bird fills its nest with lemons?
Why don't they train helicopters to suck honey from the sunlight?
Tell me, is the rose naked or is that her only dress?
Is there anything in the world sadder than a train standing in the rain?
Why do clouds cry so much, growing hapier and happier?
Why do leaves commit suicide when they feel yellow?
Why doesn't Thursday talk itself into becoming Friday?
Who shouted with glee when the color blue was born?
Is it true that sadness is thick and melancholy thin?
Why do the waves ask me the same question I ask them?
And why do they strike the rock with so much wasted passion?
Don't they get tired of repeating their declaration to the sand?
If all rivers are sweet where does the sea get its salt?
How do the seasons know they must change their shirt?
"Does he who is always waiting suffer more than he who's never waited for anyone?" --all from Pablo Neruda, "The Book of Questions."
"The life that conquers is the life that moves with a steady resolution and persistence toward a predetermined goal. Those who succeed are those who have thoroughly learned the immense importance of plan in life, and the tragic brevity of time." W.J. Davison
"What you don't know is you're going to be 18 for the rest of your life." --"Six Feet Under"
"Perhaps when we find ourselves wanting everything, it is because we are dangerously close to wanting nothing." Sylvia Plath
Friday, October 21, 2011
--GO AHEAD AND TAKE THAT TONE, I CAN HANDLE IT
…I am not that strong.
I’ve been struggling. Struggling again.
How often does this happen to you, if ever?
I’ve been spending a lot of time alone in this office.
Years ago, I used to pray for alone time because, back then, I was always surrounded by people, having to engage with them, stay on point, carry the conversation, have answers or ask questions if the conversation ever dipped, which it would, which it did if someone wasn’t steering. The only time I was ever beside myself was in a hotel room and I used to relish those moments. They felt almost sacred.
Now I have lots of time by myself.
Yes, the old adage is true: Be careful what you wish for.
Sure, a writer has to have alone time in order to compose, but sometimes the sheer emptiness of a day can weigh on your psyche in unexpected ways. It can weaken one’s will.
For instance, I talk myself out of things and into other things.
For instance, I’ve sort of flat-lined with my novel. Right there, smack dap in the middle of it, I’ve stopped writing and I’ve reverted to short form writing.
Why is that?
I think I tend to talk myself out of the story, out of thinking it’s readable enough or important enough or even interesting enough. I know I should be writing for myself—not for an agent or editor or audience—but still doubts set in.
Does that ever happen to you with your work? I mean, even if you’re not a writer, do you ever struggle in this way?
For me, I guess it’s about fear, dumb as that sounds. Maybe I’m afraid I’ll finish another novel and then have to try to get it published, living with the pressure of that wearing on my shoulders. Maybe it’s that or maybe it’s something else.
What do you think?
It’s 11 am and I’ve already written 1,200 words, but that was for two short stories, one of which was planned, one of which just came out of sitting here reading Brandi Wells’ collection, “Please Don’t Be Upset.”
One story is about a barren, overweight wife who, in taking her life back by finding a sperm donor and assassin to kill her husband, is suddenly hit with a stroke.
The other is about a man who comes home and can’t find his wife anywhere. Eventually, he does locate her, though, inside their washing machine, alive, having put herself there in order to cleanse her past sins. It’s called, “The Spin Cycle.”
So, are these stories interesting or important or readable enough? Are they more so than the novel? No, I don’t think so. I think they’re quirky but intriguing and easy—for the author and reader alike—to bite off and chew without investing a whole lot. One can get in and out easily.
So, yeah, I guess I’m just mind-fucking myself.
Do you ever do that? Please don’t tell me I’m the only one, but please don’t lie just to make me feel better.
Okay, here I go now, back to the novel. Yep, here I go…
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Itchy, itchy spiders scrawl messages on the undersides of her eyes when she is not with him. Sometimes she’ll scratch her corneas bloody or pour oil on them to assuage the anguish.
There’s no one she can tell. They would think her unhealthy, obsessed, crazy. She’s tried before which is why she has no friends now, just a cat that ignores her.
If she could be near him every second, if that were possible, she would do it, but life interferes. There are tasks to be done, money to be made so that she can afford an existence. It’s a sad truth.
Her yearning borders on torture. It is a physical assault, a slow, demented violence, like having her skin peeled off with a paring knife.
She finally figures out ways to take parts of him with her to work or when she has to visit her mother in the hospital.
Connie, the only coworker bold enough to approach her, does so one day, leaning over her cube so that Connie’s cleavage splays apart, two pale globes. “When do get to meet this Gordon you’re so nuts about?”
She feels violated, threatened. Her breathing hitches. She measures the space inside her cubicle, wishing there were better air circulation. Connie’s nose twitches. “Sure smells minty.” Connie has an accusing glare in her eyes.
Leave, she tells Connie telepathically. Gordon is mine. Mine. I don’t like to share.
Connie is far to patient and brazen, but even she gives up after a full two minutes of silence. “You really are a whack job.”
She opens the drawer and paws the plastic container she’s put Gordon in. She’d suck him right now, but she’s afraid Connie is going to return, and so she wills herself to wait.
At the hospital that night, she sits by her comatose mother. She’s brought Gordon with her in his original form, even though he takes up so much space in her handbag. She drinks directly from the bottle, her lips on his, swallowing him, gulping while her mother lays like a piece of white-haired driftwood. Gordon’s never tasted so good. She licks him off her lower lip, then puts him in her mouth again, swallowing hard.
Her father got her started, showed her the gateway to her current fixation. He was in love with Jack. “Here, have a sip. See what you think.” It was like drinking fire, like injecting magic into her veins. “That’ll get your blood rolling, huh?”
He’d been with Jack all day before getting into the car. Her mother knew, of course she did. Maybe she was just waiting for the accident to happen, the thing itself a kind of divorce, certainly permanent now that one is dead and other nearly so.
She takes another long drink, caressing the label “Gordon’s London Dry Gin.” White thunder scalds her insides, liquid electricity. She can almost hear it hiss.
The sheet behind her is pulled back so sharp and suddenly that it startles her and the jug slips, cracks like a glass bomb.
“See! I told you. She come in here and drinks herself stupid every night!” It’s the old bag on the mattress next door speaking to the lab-coated female doctor.
“Miss, you really can’t be—“
But she’s up and standing, swaying a bit, but moving, stepping on the wet pieces of Gordon, him a diamond puzzle.
“I hope you’re not driving!” the doctor calls.
Down the elevator. Out into the parking lot. Her key won’t fit the lock. Wrong car. Where is hers? Someone stole it. She misses Gordon. No one understand her but him. They were meant to be together, same as her Dad and Jack. Gordon is life.
She crosses through the lot and down a block and into the street and then she’s on the overpass. Twin, white-lighted eyes screaming at her, beneath her feet, the beams incriminating and unflinching.
“Gordon,” she says aloud. “I love you.”
Her jump is timed for the streaking semi. She doesn’t feel the air or the impact of the shrieking vehicle. Instead she draws up her knees into the warm bed that is her circulatory system. She tells Gordon, “It’s okay. I’ll wait for you. But hurry up, I’m cold,” and imagines a blanket being drawn over her body, then being tucked in for the night.
Monday, October 17, 2011
I found your hair today and smelled it for the first time since you’ve been gone.
It smelled a little like a lemonade stand and made me picture you as a young girl, back before I even knew you were alive.
Once I started, I couldn’t stop. I sniffed and snorted. I buried my nose up to the hilt. I discovered hidden treasures: new aromas—spearmint, basil, patchouli—and almost fainted at one point.
Okay, okay, so I know this next thing was bizarre--almost pervy--but I dangled your ponytail over my skin and traipsed it across my face—brow, nose, cheek, ear--and I said aloud to your hair, to you, “Hey that tickles, but it kind of turns me on.”
As you know, I can be such a dope. In the mirror, I used your hair to make a moustache for myself. But the contrast didn’t work. In fact, I looked ridiculous, you having a butter-colored mane and me this dark thatch similar to a ball-fro.
Afterward, I took your hair to dinner (more creepy behavior, right?). But I got a booth in back and sat so I’d see the waiter coming. Also, I ordered that French thing you always liked, the one that smells like a yeast infection and stews under a silver dome. If anyone came near the table, I’d just throw a metal lid over you.
This restaurant was the site of our first date where you said, “I’d never have taken you for someone so chic,” and I said, “I don’t even know how to spell chic, is it s-h-e-i-k?” and you laughed, so I said “How about s-h-e-e-k then?” and you said, “You’re freakin’ hysterical” which is the first and last time anyone’s ever made that remark.
My weirdest ploy involving your hair might have been taking it to bed with me.
No, no, nothing kinky happened. I’m not a sicko.
But I did lay the braid on your pillow. I pretended you were asleep and I remembered that night when I stared at the back of your head for hours, wondering what you were dreaming.
Around midnight, I sang “Killing Me Softly” to your hair, switching to falsetto for “You Should Be Dancing,” capping off the evening with some Lil Wayne because I know how much you like to get krunk with Weezy.
Now it’s morning and we’ve already had breakfast, so I’m getting busy.
I’ve started a fire right here on the floor in the middle of the loft.
I’ve got your hair hanging on my shoulder like a pirate with a blonde parrot that is headless and eyeless and without talons. (Okay, so maybe the parrot analogy is a bad one, but the point is you’re right next to me, balanced on my shoulder.)
In just a moment I’m going to do what I should have done after you left—I’m going to expunge you from my life for good.
And, hey, I don’t care if it means I have to die doing it, because the truth is, I’ve been a joke of a human being these last two years. Ask anyone.
You know how I used to talk about your hair all the time, how thick and soft it was, what luster it emitted, and then that last day you took a butcher knife to it and said, “Here, go and see if you can’t drive this batshit, too!”? Of course you remember that.
(Sheesh, it’s getting a little smoky in here. My eyes burn.)
Okay, so I’ll admit I adored your hair, but I wasn’t a freak about it, was I? My old friends, when they were still around, they just said, “No, no, it’s cool. You’re cool, Man.” and my two goldfish, Salt and Peter, all they ever did was stare at me all jowly-like, going, “Gloop! Loop! Yoop!” which I took to mean, “Girl! Loves! You!”
Boy, it’s really hazy and hot in here, and now the flames are French-kissing the drapes and the wallpaper is blistering and my shelf with your photos is on fire.
Here it comes, the end of us.
Don’t worry, though, because I’ve changed. I have. Instead of being all reactionary, like you always claimed I was, this time I’m going to be proactive.
Yes, you heard me correctly.
At the count of three, we’re—you and me--leaping into the fire. Sound like a plan? Hello? My eyes sting so bad I can hardly see you. Say something. Or just flop a couple of times.
Never mind then.
Here we go.
Wait. Shit!Shit!Shit! My shirt’s on fire. Ah! MY HAIR’S ON FIRE! AHHHHHHHHHH!
When he wasn’t looking, I jumped off the Idiot’s shoulder and snaked my way to the door. It was a tight fit through the bottom slit, and smoky as all hell, but I escaped.
Of course the Idiot’s place was the only one to burn down.
The dude from 37B who found me is kind of cute. He’s not perfect, though. He’s got a fetish or two. I mean, you should see what he had me doing last night. Oh boy.
But the way I figure it, I’m the one in charge. I’m a lot more than just flaxen locks and protein. I’m a force to be reckoned with. I’ve made men leave their wives, made them go blind, set themselves on fire. So just think what I’m going to do to you.
Saturday, October 15, 2011
--PUT YOUR HOSTAGE IN DANGER
…I know, I know: I never talked about Vegas.
It's not because bad things happened or because what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas (In fact, there was a huge billboard that said this:
WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS DOESN'T ALWAYS STAY IN VEGAS
Free STD screening. Call today!)
And don't worry--nothing like the above inference happened.
Let's just say it was FUN. Fun is really fun. If you're on short supply of fun, as I'd been, getting your fun on is a down right blast.
Laughing until you cry is fun.
Laughing until your guts ache is fun.
Picking on a friend or being picked on by a friend is fun.
Stumbling around down the halls is even a bit of a kick, provided you have a support system.
--In Vegas we ate very good food and drank fine wine and bought greyhounds and used screwdrivers.
We sat at the pool and the sports bar.
We gambled. I won a net of $500, a first in a long time of going to Vegas.
--At LAX on the way back I saw Rick Ocazek, lead singer of The Cars. He looked the same: a black-haired, pasty-looking Praying Mantis wearing guy-liner. No one seemed to recognize him, maybe because he was with his blonde-haired son, who clearly got Paulina's genes.
--LAX is a pain is the buttocks. I hate that airport. Hate it more than Newark, which is saying a lot. I had to switch terminals there and made my connection flight by the skin of my teeth, by the skin of my foreskin. It's no fun getting on a boiling hot plane when you're already sweaty from running.
But that's the price you pay for fun.
--During my connecting and layover time I read two books:
Donald Ray Pollock's "The Devil All the Time," is a twisted, violent affair, with four sets of characters on a course for the inevitable cataclysm. It became a page-turning addiction near the end. I'd give it 3 1/2 stars.
--The other book was "Long Drive Home," by Will Allison. This novel is a romp. Definitely a page turner, written in spare English with little to no description beyond the basic. But you get hooked very quickly. Halfway through I literally could not put it down. Swallowed the thing whole. You will, too. Get it.
…Yesterday I wrote a story. I’ve been working on the novel (almost halfway now) so this is the first one I’ve written in some time.
It was a strange story about this obsessed guy who takes out his ex’s ponytail and, well, does things with it.
No, nothing kinky or sexual.
It’s magic realism and kind of fun, as well, (I think) funny. Maybe I’ll post it some time.
…Here is something I like on a very foggy day in Seattle:
"Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as: - Knowing when to come in out of the rain; - Why the early bird gets the worm; ... - Life isn't always fair; - And maybe it was my fault. Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies, don't spend more than you can earn and adults, not children, are in charge. His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition. Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children. It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an aspirin to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion. Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims. Common Sense took a beating when you couldn't defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault. Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement. Common Sense was preceded in death, by his parents, Truth and Trust, by his wife Discretion, his daughter Responsibility, and his son, Reason. He is survived by his 4 stepbrothers; I Know My Rights, I Want It Now, Someone Else Is To Blame, and I'm A Victim. Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone. If you still remember him, pass this on. If not, do nothing." -- Coleen Hamilton
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
--CHOOSE A PRECIOUS THING AND HOLD IT YOUR HANDS UNTIL IT GLOWS
…This is going to take a while. Bear with me.
Here, sit here. Please, will you sit here for a minute, please? (Yes, I was intentionally trying to sound like Carver there.)
Here, let me get a look at you. Hey, you look really great, fantastic even!
Don’t be shy. Come on, you don’t have to be embarrassed. Lots of people would be happy to look as good as you. They’d pay money, have surgery, do all sorts of things. But for you it comes naturally. Part of it is your genes and the other part of it is your jeans. You have style and swag, confident yet a little cautious and politely aloof.
What I want to say, why I called you here is to tell you that I did mean to hurt you.
Though, at the time I did mean to do damage somehow.
Now, today, I don’t know why I did what I did, but I knew then or must have known what I was doing because I did it, right?
See? It’s confusing, isn’t it.
I never knew I could be so hurtful. You must bring it out in me. But hey, don’t think that I’m blaming you because in no way am I doing that or meaning to do anything even remotely close to that.
So this is about me saying I’m sorry. This is about me Pinkie Swearing it will never happen again
This is about me learning from my mistakes.
This is about me becoming a better man, which I have already.
I wrote you a poem a while back and several people liked it and I even ended up reading it on some radio show thing that no one listens to, but it was fun(?)—no not fun, but rather it was comforting reading it.
It felt like you and I in the lake on an August day when the water’s warm, skinny dipping again, me losing my underwear and your dad coming down to ask, “How’s the water?” while I’m treading naked.
If you’d heard me read the poem that I wrote about you it might have felt differently to you.
For instance, it might have felt like a pulsing video screen changing colors.
It might have felt like denim or leather or fine Egyptian cotton.
It might have smelled like egg yolk, buttered toast, car exhaust or cabernet.
In any event, August is over and we’re here now, a new fall, and I have just one question:
“What ever will we do?”
Monday, October 10, 2011
The Black Parade
Sometimes I fall.
I am seven years old or nine, nineteen, now.
I tumble into space
a black place
without nets or any
just an empty net
empty I think
a void saying
that's for sure
a black blanket
letting me spin and twist
I know how this sounds
I know what this must look like
and what you're thinking
about me right now
part of the way through reading
and you know what
you are correct
you know the score
you have reliable answers
some with scale and some with horns or thorns
some stinger sharp
yet you do know
what's going on here
and so you stand aside
the black parade
and its single float
falling into an
that has no bottom
All you need do
is to make this ocassion
by giving up a little
What could it hurt?
Thursday, October 6, 2011
--THERE'S SOMETHING SWIMMING IN MY DRINK AND IT LOOKS A LOT LIKE YOU
…I have an interview and reading with Anne Levine on her radio broadcast, "Anne at Night." It's also here under "Words in Print" under the "Anne at Night" heading.
…Spent nearly the entire day yesterday researching agents to query for last year's novel, "House of Rats," and publishers for my story collections. It was exhausting as well as a tad depressing, but there are a lot of worse things I could have been doing, that's for sure.
Oh, what was depressing about it was how many great agents don’t accept unsolicited work, that or not being able to find contact information for an agent who'd sold one of my favorite books.
…But that was yesterday.
Now it's today.
Today will be a good day and an even better evening.
Today, in a few hours, I fly to Palm Springs. From there, some friends and I drive to Las Vegas to meet some more friends.
It will be fun.
There will be many stories.
People will laugh a lot. Those people will mostly be us. We will laugh until our stomachs hurt and until we cry and cannot take in oxygen.
…We are all individual, unique with our own idiosyncrasies, and yet we are probably a lot more a like that we are different.
Here are many ways we are unique and different:
-- Percentage of college students who consumed these microwavable foods in the past week:
16% Chicken wings/fingers/nuggets
14% Macaroni and cheese
Top things healthy workers did after they called in sick:
53% -- Stayed home and watched TV
45% -- Stayed in bed
38% -- Took care of a sick family member
25% -- Went shopping
23% -- Met up with friends or relatives.
When asked, "Is a college education still a good financial investment?" the percentage who said yes:
--In an online survey of 500 Virginia Tech students, they say that because of alcohol they have:
Blacked out: 50%
Missed class: 31:
Had an unwanted sexual experience: 23%
Had an incident involving the police: 21%
Damaged property: 15%
--8 of the top 20 bestselling books in 2011 were e-books
Population living in Battery Park City-Lower Manhattan (Ground Zero):
72% -- Percentage of women who trol Facebook or Twitter to investigate their dates
57% -- Percentage of men who think social networking leads to sex faster
41% -- Percentage who think it's possible to have a romantic relationship with someone exclusively online
30% -- Percentage who've had sex with someone they met via social media
Once every 30 minutes, someone is killed by an impaired driver
1 in 7 drivers on the road is impaired
1 in 4 drivers is impaired on Friday and Saturday nights.
--According to Pediatrics journal, more than 5,000 American children and teens are injured each year in falls from windows.
--In 2010, 2 million people moved out of the state of California
--1.5 million moved out of New York
--1.4 million moved into Florida
--Texas was next with 800,000 new residents
How important is your potential mate's profession to you?
--Women: 60 percent said it's very important
--Men: 5 percent said it's very important
--9 out of 10 adults surveyed said they've seen people misuse technology including:
74% using a mobile device while driving
64% talking loudly while in public
40% using a device during a performance or event
37% divulging private information in a public area
24% using a mobile device at a funeral
--I find the following figures hard to believe, however, according to StrategyOne, Features that first catch an adult’s eye are:
33% Overall attractiveness
10% Body Shape
--According to Kurgo, Things People Have Done While Driving With Their Dog:
52% Patted dog
18% Reached into the backseat to interact with dog
17% Allowed dog to sit in lap
13% Gave food or treats to dog
4% Played with dog
--According to Newsweek, the average life expectancy of a prostitute is 34 years, 50 times the next dangerous occupation (liquor store manager)
--According to Nielsen Bookscan, overall sales of print books have dropped 10.2% over the last six months. Adult fiction dropped by 25.7% over that same period. Yikes! It doesn't say if electronic book sales have made up for this plunge.
--On more delicious news, Rasmussen reports American's favorite ice cream flavors as:
Butter Pecan 9%
Cookies and Cream 8%
Mint chocolate chip 6%
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
--"YOU'VE GOT THAT SPECIAL KIND OF MADNESS, YOU'VE GOT THAT TRAGIC SET OF CHARMS, THAT ONLY COMES FROM TIME SPENT IN LOS ANGELES, I WANT TO WRAP YOU IN MY ARMS."
…Before I forget, I wanted to share something from a cyber friend of mine who lives in Hong Kong:
"It more or less means: 'What I truly want to say to you, from the bottom of my heart: go fuck yourself'." Nicolette Wong
…I have a few things up:
--"After My Morning Shower; The Old Man in the Mirror" at Safety Pin Review
--"Somewhere Over the Rainbow" at 52/250 A Year of Flash along with two other stories--"What Happened To All the Readers" and "Traveling Mercies" (Week 42 and week 48 respectively) names "Best Of."
Everything is here under "Words in Print."
…I finally--finally--finished Jennifer Egan's book, "A Visit From the Goon Squad." It was extremely well written, and even clever in parts, but it just did not do it for me. I had to force mself to keep reading it.
Purchase it at your own risk.
...I ran today. On the treadmill. Same as yesterday. I sweated a lot. It wasn't necessarily fun, but I always feel better about myself afterward.
…Feeling good about oneself is imporant, I realize, but it's never been something I've been good at.
I'm not good at talking about myself.
I'm not good at talking about my past.
I'm not always entirely honest. Not that I lie, but I omit things.
I see other people and I think: That person is a better person than I am. They deserve good things, I do not.
I often feel guilty for my good fortune, even if I have worked very hard. I think: Well, lots of people have worked hard, too, sacrificing like I have, but they are not in a great position, so why am I?
On the other hand, I am envious of other's success when it comes to writing. I'm happy for their success, yet if I'm being truthful (and this is an attribute I'm trying to fully inculcate inside of me) I am envious. I understand that this is a hard business to get into, a tough old nut to crack. I'd just really like to lasso an agent, get a novel published, and a story collection. I really would. In the meantime, I'll stop complaining, shut up, keep querying, and keep writing.
Thanks for listening.
…Here are some interesting things on a misty day in Seattle, Washington:
"If you wish to travel far and fast, travel light. Take off all your envies, jealousies, unforgiveness, selfishness, and fears." Glenn Clark
"Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing. Use the pain as fuel, as a reminder of your strength." August Wilson
"You were once wild here. Don't let them tame you." Isadora Duncan
"Family can be just one person worry about your well being." Anonymous
"As a writer, it's important to get under the skin of things." Maurice Sendak
"Two fonts walk into a bar...the bartender says, 'We don't serve your type here!'"
"A revolutionary poem will not tell you who or when to kill, what and when to burn, or even how to theorize. It reminds you... where and when and how you are living and might live, it is a wick of desire." Adrienne Rich
Saturday, October 1, 2011
--I'M A LOT LIKE YOU
…There are just about 9,000 homeless people in Seattle. The city has just 2,500 shelter beds. That means, each night, 6,500 people sleep on the street or under bridges or anywhere they can find.
How many homeless are in your city?
…Have you ever done this: watched five hours of television straight?
My son and I did yesterday. It was actually "Dexter" we watched. The last five episodes of Season 2.
"Dexter," like "The Sopranos" doesn't feel like television. For a lot or reasons, it doesn't: there are no commercials, there's sex and vivid violence and lots of swearing.
Season 2 of "Dexter" was remarkable. I was kneading my hands and pinching myself on the stomach the whole time. It's a very, very clever show.
…I go to Palm Springs in six days. From there, I drive with a friend to Las Vegas where we will meet more friends and drink alcohol, gamble, laugh a lot, loose some money, swim, watch football, eat very tasty food, and then laugh some more. I'm quite looking forward to it.
…I've been in a big Dylan phase. Bob Dylan. "Blonde on Blonde." "Blood on the Tracks."
There are gems after gems in those albums.
"…She was working at a topless place
when I stopped in for a beer.
I just kept looking at the side of her face
in a spot light so clear.
And later as the crowd poured out
I's just about to do the same
but she was standing there
at the back of my chair
said, "Tell me don't I know your name."
I muttered something under my breath.
She studied the lines on my face.
I must admit I felt a little uneasy
when she bent down to tie the lace on my shoe.
Tangled up in blue."
The man is a genius. Truly. Those two albums, written in his early twenties, "Blood" being a thematic one about his breakup, are masterpieces. Give 'em a listen. You'll agree, I just know it.
…Day before yesterday three beavers were wrestling on the dock outside my window.
They're the size of very large cats. It's quite a sight to see them out of the water. Like a scene from "National Geographic."
Usually I see one of them swimming the length of the lake in the morning, then the other length at night.
That day I also saw the eagle swoop down and grab a fish.
Plus I saw the two ostriches a fellow down the road has.
Yeah, so it was a getting in touch with nature kind of day.
…I have blueberry bushes in my yard. They’ve been weighted down with fruit, and collectively I’ve spent over 24 hours picking berries.
Did you know that if you eat blue berries, salmon and almonds every day you’ll live to be 250 years old.
…Yesterday I went to a charity function where Richard Dreyfuss spoke. The scene in "Mr. Holland’s Opus" where Richard's character is packing up his office due to the music program being eliminated after 30 years, Richard finding a gym full of people waiting for him, claiming to be his "Opus" ("There isn't a person in here who hasn't been impacted by you.")--that's one of my favorite film scenes ever.
But other than that, I don't really like Richard as an actor. He's cloying and annoying, as if he's trying too hard as an actor.
Yesterday Richard was the key note speaker.
He talked for 50 minutes. It felt like 500 minutes.
It was a rant about the ruin of our country because "we no longer teach civics." Really, that's what he said. He said it dozens of times actually.
Looking around the ballroom at The Westin you could see everyone thinking the same thing: "Should I just kill myself already?"
Needless to say, I am even less a Richard Dreyfuss fan than ever before.
Here are few things to ruminate on:
"Patience is passion tamed." Lyman Abbott
''Bats have no bankers and they do not drink
and cannot be arrested and pay no tax
and, in general, bats have it made.'' John Berryman
"The body doesn't lie." Judith Guest, "Ordinary People"
"Sometimes the truth speaks from a peaceful place." "Dexter"