Sunday, February 28, 2010

Dreamworld

The Dreamworld ought to have its own name other than Dreamworld. The cities and towns, and streets ought to have names of their own, I think, and I wonder if I named them if they would change. Even the music is different. Last night a song came on the radio and the chorus was something like….” …song on the radio, playin’ it long, keepin’ it strong..” and there was some vague sexual overtone to the long and strong part. Remember the song from the sixties, “Spirit in the Sky” by Norman Greenbaum? It was that kind of song. I usually do not like that sort of music but this was a catchy tune and even now I can’t get it out of my head.
You want me to write the song out and maybe try to find someone to record it and I am already trying. But the divide between the two worlds, though very fuzzy at times, is also quite sharp in some areas. It also occurs to me the song is one I have heard before in this world, or one like it, and someone will point it out to me soon. The bleed between the two worlds is confusing at best, and at times it’s damming. Tread carefully, when one of them begins to affect the other, no matter which is which.

I can think of three very distinct cites in Dreamworld, and each of them has streets and houses where I’ve been before. There are parks, restaurants, people, trees, cracks in the sidewalk, and all those little things that make a reality real. Of course, there are things like Godzilla, and shifting scenes and shifting time that make the place surreal, and there was the one Grace Park dream that made it more than just a little better than real, but usually Dreamworld isn’t a place I long to be. It’s a great place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there.

One if the more bizarre affects of Dreamworld was for years and years there was never any legible writing. Signs, menus, maps, and every other denizen of the printed world was blurry, vague, or simply in some language I couldn’t understand. It was a few years ago, I believe, when suddenly I was able to read in Dreamworld. Unlike the real world, however, there isn’t an overabundance of adverting, or that sort of thing there. Rarely is there a magazine just lying around or a book left open. Other than the current song, there has been music there, and a lot of it good, but sometimes the music overlaps from this world over to that one, and I wind up hearing a song I like from here when I’m over there.

Yeah, in fact I do know how this sounds. You’re thinking I might be leaning over the fence a little here, maybe getting a little too wrapped up in a world that exists nowhere else but in my head in the dark. This is just the way my mind works, and I’m betting most writers have the same habit. I draw on any and all sources for the framework of stories and Dreamworld is one of the best mines my mind has invented. I can sit here right now and take you street by street through a world I created in my sleep, and give you as many details of this place as I can half the real places I know.
That one little white house, the one with the white trim, is owned by a man who just could not decide what color to paint his house, but had to have something to do while his wife was in the hospital. She was really very sick, so he told her as soon as she got well she could decide what color the trim was going to be. She died, so the white house with the white trim stayed all white, all the bright shiny gates of heaven, waiting to close behind him when it’s his turn to go. Really, thought the white on white shutters are a bit much, and white swing on the all white front porch gives the appearance the old man his floating, yet missing the top part of his head, with his all white hair, as he waits. It’s like looking at some odd thin line black etching, with the white front door framed against all white but the lines of where the door meets the jamb are jet black in contrast, as are the lines where the windows meet the frames, and the black shadows of the chains of the swing reach down like terminal blood on a beach. There are matching white columns at each corner of the porch, square, not round, and a shrike stakes out territory in front of the house waiting for green lizards to wander into the wooden snowfield. The old man with the white hair keeps the boxwoods down very low, and they still have tiny white tattoos, remnants of the paint crew that came in and, having no other chromatic considerations, blasted the house into a white out, and left with very little traces, except the boxwoods’ silent witness. I’ve stood on the immaculate lawn of the old man’s blank house, late in the day, hoping he would not come out because everyone knows he’s a talker. He married late in life, and the kids were his wife’s, not his, and they are drifting apart every holiday missed. The smell of paint is long gone but a body cannot help but catch the scent of it, with the bright clean whiteness like a landlocked iceberg, slowly colliding with the wreck of the old man’s life, as its sinking into the earth like a ship with a fatal leak, no lifeboats, and the only distress signal is the iceberg itself.

This is Dreamworld. I cannot enter it at will, cannot exit it except by chance, and nothing there is real, except to me, and you, if you choose to accept its existence.

Take Care,
Mike

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Multiplication Problems

Wilson: "You always find some tiny little flaw to push people away.... I'm talking about every woman you've ever given a damn about…


Weirdness is in the air these days and I know it. I can feel the heat of the Summer sun, intense, blinding, life-sucking, destructive heat, deep inside, but I haven’t been warm in weeks, or months. I feel the blistering radioactivity, and I wonder if I will ever been warm again. It’s like my body has surrendered to the idea I will always be cold and this odd scorching memory is an Alzheimer’s reaction to a different part of my past, a false feeling of comfort, a temporary respite and a sign of madness.
I’m going back to night shift next week but only for a week, and it’s a short project, but one that can only come out at night. Boring stuff, do not ask, but it will give me some one on one time with a near full moon, and get me away from other people for a while, which I need right now. There are spells I go through where almost all contact with humans is nearly painful. The full moon is rocking right now, drawing the Loki Mutt out, and oh that’s what I need is one more animal in this house who overreacts to moonshine. Did I mention it’s cold here? This winter has been winter for weeks on end. Oh screw that “It’s minus ninety where I am” because I really do not want to hear it, okay?
There has to be a way around shopping. How can there not be? How can food, the very building blocks of our lives be left in the hands of people who cannot so simple math? Is there not great peril in this? I went into the store to get two items, just two, so how big an ordeal could it be? Of all the luck, not only is there a High School reject manning the cash register, but an off duty cashier, still in uniform is trying to buy what passes as food for her kids. First, a back-story; the off duty cashier was sixteen or seventeen when I moved here but now she’s in her middle twenties. She has three young kids and this job is the same job she had when the first one was born. Now, she and the other cashier is trying to whittle a pile of junk food down to how much money is left in the off duty woman’s back account. There’s marshmallows, sugar coated cereal, a gallon or so of soda, three frozen pizzas, a loaf of white bread, and some canned food, and a can of hair spray that looks like a fire extinguisher. Remember that scene from the movie, “Terms Of Endearment” where the guy steps in and helps pay for the woman’s groceries because she has her kids with her and doesn’t have enough money? The cashier is trying to help the woman but neither does math. Some items are discounted, but they can’t figure that into it. They’re scanning each item, looking to see what the total is, scanning another item, oops, too much, scanning some other item to bring it down, okay, let’s see, scanning another item…
I look at the kids, reach for my wallet and realize it’s futile. If I paid for everything and let her keep her money, she’s still feeding those kids junk. She weighs the better part of three hundred pounds so any discussion in regard to nutrition isn’t going anywhere. Yeah, that’s a great idea; wade in with my money and for one meal of her life try t help. Looking back, it might have been a good idea but the lane next to this one cleared and I simply walked away without helping.
What’s the point here anyway? This woman sealed her fate and the fate of her kids when she dropped out of school to have kids. Even if she would have stayed in the educational system in South Georgia isn’t the type to give poor kids some sort of springboard into a better world. The anti intellectual culture we live with in South Georgia doesn’t allow for learning for the sake of learning so learning because you’ve been herded into a classroom isn’t a form of enlightenment, it’s daycare for older kids. Instant gratification, fast food, entertainment systems, and a culture that worships the here and now over the future means there will be an endless supply of cashiers for that store, and many others like it in South Georgia.
The point is, Mike, is you fucked up. You had a chance to do something, however small, and you simply left those two women, and those kids, without so much as a word. Because you’re plugged into an MP3 player, and hiding under sunglasses, and because you can simply move to the next cashier and walk away, you took the path of least resistance, and you let those two women see that, and whatever else you’ve done, you’ve done nothing to help, and that is part of what is wrong, and you goddamn well know it.
You left part of your soul back there, Mike, you left part of your humanity.

Good luck in getting it back.

Take Care,
Mike

In Regard To Love

After fifteen years of writing fiction, and especially after writing a thousand words a day for the last five years or so, I have quite a collection of unfinished thoughts and half-written tales. These are those stories who seemed like a good idea at the time but maybe there was a logical flaw or perhaps there was something else that came up at the same time. The files look just like any others from the list but each is partial in some way. Maybe I will go back one day and begin again, or perhaps each will sit there as a reminder, a sort of literary tombstone, as to what might have been.
Someone sent a link to me the other day and though she meant well, she should have known better. The link led me to a site where a woman I had once dated posted some new photos, and nearly almost I had forgotten what she looked like. I risked a short comment, “cute” which got deleted most quickly and it occurred to me the internet has spawned its own brand of non verbal, non text, no explanation needed type behavior to get the point across. Like an unfinished story, this one will go into the bone yard of relationships past: always incomplete and unrequited.
Many years ago, and this is in sort of a manner a species of explanation of all things weird in relationships, I dated a woman who lived and breathed feminism. So far into the belief the patriarchal system had robbed, and continued to deny, female humans of their identity, she forever sought to change the words “man” and “woman” to two words more equal in description. Moreover, even the word “human” had to go, and she envisioned a complete lexigraphic revolution to define who we people are as a species, which is how we got started in the first place.
One day we were enjoying some gender-neutral coffee drink we had bought from a street vendor. It was incredibly good coffee. So we back tracked to the coffee cart and asked the person who owned the business, and how such an endeavor was started. The first words spoken were, “Me and another girl own the cart…” and at this, I winced. I glanced over at my companion and waited for the “We are not female children do not call us girls” speech but it didn’t happen. To this day, I know what I heard. My left leaning female friend heard the woman say, “Me and another woman own the cart…” Believe it or not, we argued about this point, off and on, for the better part of three months.
She broke up with me over the phone, over something I said, over two hundred miles away, and a year later married a guy named Mike. She’s a bone yard file with an interesting dead end, but still a dead end nevertheless. I wonder if she hadn’t moved away if we would have made it, or would we have just gotten tired of one another more quickly.
But you see, that’s the doubled edged sword of the internet; you don’t get the bad with the good, until things do get bad, and then you don’t get the good. It’s easy to like someone, and feel connected with them, and that’s good, until something happens, and they need someone to be there right away, and that’s bad. Then, in the bad times, when you really need to be face to face with someone, to tell them you will be there for them, and to hold them so they can feel it, you aren’t, and that is as bad as it gets.

It does occur to me the computer acts as an accelerant when it comes to writing and when it comes to relationships. Yes, I am able to write a thousand words a day but what if I had to do this longhand? If I had to write it all out, painstakingly, slowly, and on paper, would I be so hasty to commit an idea to print? Would I be so quick to file away a few hundred or a few thousand words if they cost me more sweat and pain? It’s a lot easier to write the words, “I love you” than it is to say those words out loud for the first time, and it’s a lot easier to tell someone it’s over via email than to break their heart when they’re standing a foot away from you. It’s easy to plan a life with a stranger you’ve never met than to share space with someone you know snores like a crop duster in an echo chamber.
On the other hand, the computer enables a degree of creative freedom I have never known. Any idea I have can be begun, polished, stored away, returned to, deleted, revised, revisited, edited, and published in a world whose existence balances inside a microchip, somewhere. Total strangers in faraway lands, in different countries, and in towns I have never heard of before write me and tell me my craft has touched them, and in many, many, ways this is a feeling that is mighty.
It does occur to me without this machine, and without this medium, I couldn’t write at all and I would never know I am a writer. Also, this machine, and this medium, brings to me like minded people, and those seeking the same sort of love of writing I pursue. Love, in the only definition I understand the word, is not fettered by state lines, time zones or borders. Love is not dismayed by distance. Love cannot be lost in time, or daunted by hardship. Love is not something to be defined by geography. The closeness of two hearts is not measured in miles.

The files forgotten, or unfinished, and those loves lost may or may not be reopened, or reexamined. Yet who is to say what is finished, and what is yet to be begun anew? With hard work, sweat, many sleepless nights, dedication, and the never discouraged passion of love, the love of a craft, or the love of a simple man for a woman, no matter how far away she may be is never in vain. For the nature of love is not the completion of some task, or the possession of another person, but the perseverance in art, or the passion in love of a woman. You have not failed at your task, and you have not lost in love, as long as your heart still beats, and breaks and you still love.
Take Care,
Mike

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Ten Days of Touch Typing.

Has anyone noticed any change in the way I write? It feels different. This is a radical shift in the way my mind and hands interact with one another to produce what you are reading. Even my eyes are aligned differently. I’ve been a proponent, or at least a willing victim, of two fingered typing now for over fifteen years. Certainly, I write a lot slower now but that is changing. The whole idea was to spend less time editing which is only possible if I am able to type faster and fix errors as they occur while making fewer errors.
I took the typing test and was cranking out fifty words a minute with an accuracy rate of about 87% with just two fingers. Right now I’m typing about thirty words a minute with the same accuracy rate with all ten. That doesn’t sound very good at all unless you take into consideration I’ve been touch typing for less than two weeks. Once I get up to the mid fifties again I’ll feel a little better about all this but right now I feel slow and chunky.
Truth be told, I needed a break from writing. There are two stories I’ve been writing and I feel as if I’ve hit some sort of wall. Sooner or later, I was going to have to sit down and decide what to do next and this is a good way of doing just that. My love for writing demands I improve my writing and this is a good way to do that, I hope.
When I first tried to learn how to type several years ago I didn’t try to stop two fingered typing so I never stopped the bad habit. Now I’m typing everything, no matter how long and hard or short and easy by touch. It’s impossible to get any serious writing done but I do remember when I first started writing how hard it was to get anything done. I also remember when I first started my goal of a thousand words a day every day, and how impossible that seemed at times. So this too shall pass just not as quickly as I would like.
For a man who has on occasion cranked out twenty-five thousand words in twenty-hours this is a little like driving a tricycle after having ridden on a roller coaster. My thoughts keep backing up on me and by the time I get around to finishing a sentence it feels like I have finished a sentence but with no parole. That damn “p” keeps coming out as “[“and I never realized how many times that letter pops up. People purposely practice the “p” to become proficient. Yeah, and I am also using a typing book from the 70’s at lunch to help supplement by computer program. Can you tell I revert back to “practice-speak” at times?

All in all I’m pretty pleased with my progress. When I make a mistake now I can usually find the right key right away and I do realize most of what is not happening eventually will. The immersion therapy is the best, and by not writing at all unless it’s with all the right fingers in all the right places, it is all just a matter of time.

The question remains: Do I sound the same?

Take Care,
Mike

Travel Directions by Joan I. Siegel

There ought to be a word
for the way you know how to get some place
but don't remember the names of streets
the number of turns and blinking yellow lights
so that if someone asked
you really couldn't say
except you know the road starts out straight
and when it's sunny the branches blink across
the windshield making you want to rub your eyes
then the road turns sharply uphill past a red barn
where a black dog jumps out to race you for a quarter mile
and finally recedes in the mirror like a disappointment
and you remember the road dips downhill
into the shadows of the morning
where you hear Bach's unaccompanied 'cello
and understand what a good fit the 'cello makes
in the hollow of the body
where grief begins and for an indeterminate time
the road winds vaguely past
houses people road signs
while time hums in your ear and you remember
the dream you left behind that morning
which had nothing
to do with where
you are going
"Travel Directions" by Joan I. Siegel, from Hyacinth for the Soul. © Deerbrook Editions, 2009.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Godzilla Loop Dream in San Francisco

In dreams you know where you are even if you have never been there before. I knew I was in San Francisco and I knew I was going to die. It was okay, the dying thing, because Godzilla was killing me. Yes, this sounds insane but dreams are like that. I would leave the nice house where I was staying and Godzilla would kill me. The house was nice. It was a tall and thin two story house but it wasn’t heated because I didn’t really live there. I was just trying to figure out what to do next when suddenly he just bit right through the wall and killed me.
I sort of knew it was going to happen so it wasn’t a surprise. It was a lot less of a surprise to figure out my ex had cheated on me, but anytime a giant lizard kills you there is this weird feeling of excitement. The teeth were a lot larger than I expected they would be, you know. There was a feeling of compression then I was back in the house and it was back in one piece.
The old brown Ford LTD was a good choice for a getaway car but he caught me before I got three blocks away. I rounded the corner of a narrow street and there he was. I gunned it and tried to out think him by heading towards him but he very deftly caught the car in his teeth and tossed it into the air. It spun as it rose and that was really disconcerting, but at the top of the arc the car seemed to hang in midair, and I could see the Golden Gate Bridge. I wrote a short story about people who kill themselves by jumping off the bridge and the fictional life of a bureaucrat whose job it was to help jumpers jump, and in the Godzilla dream I thought I was really seeing the bridge for the first time and thought I could rewrite the story now, better, for having seen it. Godzilla, who has had years of practice eating cars, caught the LTD and crunched it.
I ran from the house the second I realized I was back, hoping that might be some advantage. Do not misunderstand me; none of this, except the spinning in the air, was scary. The dogs were there, but I realized they were in no danger either, so I kept running. There was a man, a friend of a friend, and I tried not to make eye contact because he was dirty and poor. He was standing and talking to a woman who was trying to break away from him, then he saw me and I hoped a giant lizard would kill me again. Suddenly he was legless and he was telling me I had enough money to help him but I really didn’t want to so much as speak to him. The sound of footsteps were reverberating through the plaza and the wind was picking up but I felt like I had to stay. There was a keening noise, some odd sound, and then I woke up, and realized it was the Coyotes.

Take Care,
Mike

Monday, February 22, 2010

Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.
- Charles Mackay

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The First Snake of The Year

The First Snake Of The Year slid into the pond before I could get a photo. All I really saw was a dark colored tail slipping into the pond and under the aquatic vegetation. Herpetology has been a hobby of mine now for over forty years so I can tell you it was either a Banded Water Snake, or a Cottonmouth. The scales on the tail were strongly keeled, which is to say each scale has a ridge running across it longitudinally. The odds of it being the same Cottonmouth that was hanging around last year seem pretty good, but let’s face it; I’ve been here for nine years without any trouble from the local hot snakes so everything ought to go smoothly this year as well.
The problem this year is I have a Loki Mutt who is showing all signs of the beginnings of an almost religious belief in his own indestructibility. Worse, Sam, Sam, The Happy Hound, is showing signs he knows how to injure Lucas without getting his paws dirty. For all the dogs I have ever known Sam is both the most focused and the most damaged. Sam will stand directly in front of the plastic insulators I use as a gate for the electric fence. Sam hates being zapped by the fence but he’s watched me long enough to realize that part of the fence doesn’t bite. The Loki Mutt who hasn’t learned this thinks Sam will get petted more if he’s the nearest dog when I get home so Loki crowds the fence and invariably, Loki gets popped two or three times a week. Moreover, Sam has even learned to feign towards the fence, and then veer away. Loki, who never wants Sam to get anywhere first hasn’t learned to use his brakes yet. Sam will stand there looking incredibly pleased with himself as Lucas yelps.
Now I don’t really think Sam would let Luke get bit by a venomous snake intentionally simply because Sam wouldn’t allow such a creature in the yard to begin with, not if he had a chance to kill it. The real problem here is Luke doesn’t trust Sam’s judgment in danger, and rightfully so, and Sam isn’t looking out for Luke actively. Bert doesn’t seem to care about any of this, and I wonder how all this is going to play out if a serious snake gets into the backyard. I know the older dogs have attacked and killed Cottonmouths before, but they have always worked well as a team. Luke lacks a clear position on the team when it comes to hunting, I fear.
This is a lot more than just idle fretting. The fire pit is flooded and the pond is full of water for only the second time since I’ve been here. This means more frogs, and more frogs mean more snakes, which means a higher incidence of hot snakes. Oh, by the way, throw in the fact there is a mountain of branches and brush left over from the tree killing in the now flooded fire pit and suddenly there is brand new and perfect habitat for snakes! Food, shelter, and I might as well start renting the place out before some serpentine spring break.
On the upside Lucas shows every sign of becoming a very large animal. He is quick, strong, and he learns quickly. It’s going to take a snake with some size to him to do any real damage to Luke and as I have said I just don’t see Sam putting up with that. Whatever else may be, Sam isn’t letting anything with any size trespass in his yard. It is an interesting dilemma.
So here I am, a full month before the first day of Spring and already the warm weather worries begin. I am not likely to be able to greet the Solstice with a fire, as I am wont to do and it is very likely everything in the fire pit may have to be drug out to higher ground to be burned. I wonder what’s going to happen if we keep getting rain ( it is supposed to rain tomorrow) and a wet hurricane in June would turn the mulch pile into a beaver dam! But this is my life in Hickory Head, and after nine years I still have the dog I came with, and still have the dog that showed up here, and now have a dog I found on the road.

What will turn up next is anyone’s guess.

Take Care,
Mike
Lay your sleeping head, my love,
Human on my faithless arm;
Time and fevers burn away
Individual beauty from
Thoughtful children, and the grave
Proves the child ephemeral:
But in my arms till break of day
Let the living creature lie,
Mortal, guilty, but to me
The entirely beautiful.

Soul and body have no bounds:
To lovers as they lie upon
Her tolerant enchanted slope
In their ordinary swoon,
Grave the vision Venus sends
Of supernatural sympathy,
Universal love and hope;
While abstract insight wakes
Among the glaciers and the rocks
The hermit's sensual ecstasy.

Certainty, fidelity
On the stroke of midnight pass
Like vibrations of a bell,
And fashionable madmen raise
Their pedantic boring cry:
Every farthing of the cost,
All the dreaded cards foretell,
Shall be paid, but from this night
Not a whisper, not a thought,
Not a kiss nor look be lost.

Beauty, midnight, vision dies:
Let the winds of dawn that blow
Softly round your dreaming head
Such a day of sweetness show
Eye and knocking heart may bless,
Find your mortal world enough;
Noons of dryness see you fed
By the involuntary powers,
Nights of insult let you pass
Watched by every human love.
"Lullaby" by W.H. Auden, from As I Walked Out One Eveing. © Vintage, 1995

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright!

There isn’t much that bores me more than some rich celebrity doing the “Talk Of Shame” thing in an effort to explain why this one or that one has been behaving badly again. I watched Tiger Woods Talk Of Shame in order to play “Talk Of Shame Bingo” and it was something that was not only more of the same, it was also quite different.

Fill out a Bingo Card with such expected phrases like “disappointed my fans” and “let my family down” and of course the ever present “professional help” slot is going to be filled. You do not get extra points each and every time the words “I’m sorry” are uttered, and if you are any sort of “Talk Of Shame Bingo” player at all you’ll put that one in the center. The “attack on the media” slot is almost too easy, and I always wonder why famous people seem to think they are going to get only positive press. As long as the spotlight is warm and fuzzy all is well but as soon as it becomes too hot it’s suddenly hell. I had on my card the “work hard to earn your trust” and “thank you for your support” and both were dutifully filled. Oh, and the obligatory “family” references were a nice touch, if you had that on your card. I maxed out twice before Tiger was done with first page of nicely polished notes.
It ought not surprise anyone Woods decided to toss in a remark or two about the rumors his wife attacked him with a five iron. He was adamant the event never happened, and considering how much trouble that woman can cause him, and how much money she can cost him, Woods is well advised to make sure she doesn’t turn on him in public. Since this thing broke, Mrs. Woods hasn’t so much as spit in public which leads me to believe she’s already found very competent legal counsel. Elin’s name was repeated throughout the ”Talk Of Shame” and I curse myself for not having that personal pronoun on my card. I also missed the “Dead Dad” reference Woods was sure to drop. All in all, I did fairly well, though I tagged Michael Vick’s ”Talk Of Shame” much better.
If I sound incredibly cynical it’s only because I am. The first surprising comment by Woods was something we all know, but no one ever says out loud; Woods, because of the fortune and fame, felt in some way “entitled” to do as he damn well pleased. The one real odd thing sticking out of all of this might be other than getting drunk and wrecking his vehicle, Woods hasn’t broken any laws. This is quite simply a moral failure, albeit one with a very large prenupt. Tiger Woods, by having a reputation as a moral man must now rebuild the image, and I suspect there was more than one corporate sponsor involved in the ”Talk Of Shame”.
Another unusual part of the Mea Culpa, sponsored by Gatorade, was Woods mention of his Buddhism. While most shame talkers roll around in the “forgiven by God” slot on the Bingo card, Woods missed his chance to connect with mainstream (read: American) religion, and instead openly professed the belief system with which he was raised. Almost certainly this will not go unnoticed by those who put great stock in such things, but I think Woods might welcome any distraction at this point.
In the end, Woods’ not filling out the last slot on the “Talk Of Shame Bingo Card” might be the most telling. Someone had to tell him he must reconnect with his old moral self, and by having some great show of religious contrition, there are those who would welcome him back from anything short of child molestation. Hell, the Catholics could teach him a thing or two about even that. Instead, Woods either stuck to his own core beliefs, or he really doesn’t think he’s in serious enough trouble to pander to the preachy people.

In the end, there are those who would like to believe Tiger Woods is a caring father and still capable of being a role model. Yet history is littered with men, and women, who have fallen short, no matter how far they might hit a ball.
Take Care,
Mike
It was on this day in 2005 that the "gonzo" journalist Hunter S. Thompson died. He shot and killed himself at his home in Woody Creek, Colorado. He was 67 years old.
He honed his offbeat, edgy writing style in such works as Hell's Angels (1966) and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1972) and many other books.
He wrote, "I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence or insanity to anyone ... but they've always worked for me."

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Why I am not writing so much lately

One of my most annoying shortcomings is I cannot touch type. I have written a volume of work in my life that fills over a gigabyte of hard drive space but I cannot type without looking at the keyboard. I’ve owned three different typing programs in my life and am currently on my fourth. I am writing this paragraph by touch and it is taking forever. I do realize, however, if I am to learn to type I must start writing all the time like this. It might take some getting used to but I am determined to do this even if it slows me down for a while.
I will only learn to type when I stop using my old method of writing so from this point on, until I can get a lot faster my posts are going to read as if I have had a stroke. Don’t look for anything long or profound for a while. Not that I was ever that profound, mind you.
Ella Minnow Pea, by Mark Dunn, is the story of a mythical island where everyone is absorbed with letter writing as opposed to more modern pursuits like television and radio. The people of the island revere the man who invented the sentence “The quick brown dog jumps over the lazy fox.” The people of the island erect a statue in honor of the man and through the years, the man becomes somewhat of a legend. However, one day the letter “A” from the phrase “The quick brown dog jumps over the lazy fox” falls from its place on the statue. Chaos ensues when the ruling counsel declares henceforth the letter A is never to be used again.
More later,
Mike
You need only reflect that one of the best ways to get yourself a reputation as a dangerous citizen these days is to go about repeating the very phrases which our founding fathers used in the struggle for independence.
Charles Austin Beard

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Why I Murdered Flora Edwards

Flora Edwards was murdered simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Poor woman! She didn’t even exist at all and even before she was fully formed her fate was sealed. While driving through Mississippi in 2001 I saw a sign that read, “Flora Edwards” because both the towns of Flora and Edwards can be accessed from that exit. I was looking for the name of a woman who was going to be killed off in a work of fiction. What? You thought this was going to be about something other than writing?
Charles had a Dickens of a time creating characters names, by the way. Shakespeare’s original working title for a love story about two star-crossed lovers was “Romeo and Ethyl”. A friend of mine ordered a phone book from Kansas City, tore the pages out of it, pasted them on a wall, and threw multicolored darts at the wall for three hours one night. The blue darts were first names, the red darts were last names, the green darts were names he’d accept as a whole, and the black darts were people he would use as murder victims. I’m fairly certain tequila was involved in this methodology. By the time I arrived on the scene, it looked all the world like some sort of bizarre religious ritual where Alexander Graham Bell was the deity in question.
Flora Edwards made the mistake of befriending a man named Babbie, who got his name from a very small town in Alabama. Babbie’s last name of Adams came from a street in Dothan Alabama, sixty miles away from Babbie.

Cemeteries are a common breeding ground for fictional characters. A woman I know likes to use names from the nineteenth century for her writing. She mixes up last names and first names, just to be safe. As a bit of advice, if you live in a small town, try not to use a recently dead murder victim for a murder victim in one of your stories. It will be the one time in your life everyone on earth reads your work.
Flora and Babbies’s parents, and both sets of parents played a role in the story, were named from the notebook I carry with me most of the time. I write down thoughts, names, plot ideas, and all sorts of things in that notebook. The waitress who brought you lunch, or the cashier with a nametag, write that one down, to be used in a short story later. Name a bartender after a real bartender, if you need one. That white panel van that just passed you on the road…what’s the name of that painter? Write that one down as a drug addict; painters are almost as crazy as writers.
The wonderful world of convenience store card readers, those located on the gasoline pumps, has delivered onto me a virtual cornucopia of fictional characters. I found Myrtle Thornton, Leslie Cooksey, and Thomas Stair there, among others. These are the people who have left their receipts still in the card readers, and I came along looking for someone to write into a horror story where one by one, people are killed by a monster.

But isn’t this the weekend for love stories? There have been people I’ve known in my life who I thought were exemplary human beings. Some fictional characters I’ve created were compilations of these people, and sometimes one of the random names that pop up will be assigned to someone who not only lived, but lived well. A woman I knew who adopted six children donated her name to a character who helped saved kids in an inner city. One of the girls I had a secrete crush on in high school supplied me with the framework of an unrequited love, of a man who saw from afar the beauty of someone he could never love.
And then, there is Sara.

Sara is a character based on a woman named Sara, who I never loved, but wish I could have. I wish she had been capable of it. I wish I had tried to love her.

There is the story of a young woman lost, and her cat, which was based very loosely on an intellectual crush I had on someone far less than half my age.

There is a story I haven’t begun to write yet, based on a woman I never met, and who is to say what name will come to be for this tale. The richness of this character will never match the woman’s life, and perhaps she will be split into many different stories, to be retold in many different ways. She is a mother, a witch doctor, a pagan, a songstress, a musician, a healer, a daughter, a sister, a birder, a wandering spirit, and if I can write just part of this story I will have to have more love in my soul than I do right now.

Ultimately, writing is a labor of love. To be good at this in any way, you have to love writing, you have to love the work that goes into it, and you have to have a love for creation that goes past simple penmanship, or typing. If you do love, that will make you a good writer, even if you are the only person who ever sees anything you’ve ever written. Love isn’t about anyone’s heart but your own, and those you love. What happens tomorrow is more about commercialism than love, and there are people out there who write that way, for the money, for the fame, and for all that goes with being in the public spotlight.

That isn’t love. This is. I love writing. I love writers.

To admit to this prejudice, to confess that above all the other arts, all the other people, it is writers, and writing that I love, is to share with you more than just my secrets on how to name characters, but also, how to love them.

Love,
Mike

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Writing

On average, I write a thousand words a day. It’s not uncommon for me to have at least two days a week when I crank out five thousand words or so, and it is very rare for me to go a day without writing something. Not everything I write is fit for public consumption, mind you, and some of what I write is very narrow in its function. I operate three blogs and only one of them has a filter. There are things I have written that will never see the light of day while I’m alive, and if my computer is ever stolen I can only hope the thief is a moron, but that’s a fairly safe bet.
If you want to be a writer, you’re going to have to learn to write under less than ideal conditions. This means when your lunch hour hits and there’s a short story milling around in your head you better stop and take time to flesh it out before it wanders over to someone else’s Muse, and they eat it. You make time to read, watch television, have sex, eat meals, and if you’re going to be a writer, a good one, you have to decide which of these activities is going to go lacking so you can write.
Writing is hard work. Editing is a bitch. Rewriting something for the Nth time is downright torture but writing isn’t supposed to be easy. Writing is hard work. It’s demanding and it’s got to be right. Editing is a bitch. I’m not very good at it but I keep trying to improve, and that’s the only way to get it right. It has to be right.

If you want to be a writer, a good writer, you ought to consider what it is that makes other people good at what they do. You can follow perfectly the list of ingredients in any cookbook for any recipe, but does that make you a master chef? What sort of instincts can you count upon when you’re crafting a story about a boy who meets a girl, and then loses the girl, and then wins her back in the end? The answer to what makes a good apple pie might be apples meet pie, apples make pie, and pie gets eaten, but give one hundred people the same recipe, and see how many versions of apple pie you wind up with.
The one sure thing I can tell you is if you’re going to be a writer you have to write more. Set a goal, follow it like it is a religion and you’ll get used to the sound of your voice, and you’ll be able to speak more clearly. Hell, you might even be able to sing after a decade or so. There will be far too many people you know who will ask what you’re doing, and if you tell them you’re writing they’ll assume it’s something akin to masturbation, and you ought to stop what you’re doing to talk to them, go shopping, eat, or they’ll sit down next to you and say, “Is it scary? I like scary!” They would freak out if you showed up where they work and started demanding they stop to talk, but writing isn’t easily understood by those who do not write.

Writing is an art form. Did you ever see someone draw something on a scrap of paper and wonder why they didn’t throw themselves into their talent, and be revealed to the world? Writing is no less a majestic art, and what you write, whatever you write, whatever you write it upon, is no less that scrap of paper. Do not waste your life telling yourself you are not good enough, yet all the while pecking away at ideas that force themselves out of your imagination like orphaned children. Write. Take up your keyboard and walk. You are no less deserving than Hemmingway or Shakespeare. You have no more a humble origin than Rowling. You have not seen greater odds than some, and you will never than others, yet there you are, wondering if you can write.

You can write. You can right now.

I won’t keep you any longer.

Take Care,
Mike

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Achin' To Angels

Being a drinker and being a writer means you’re going to attract more than your share of deranged and damaged people. Even if you’re not sober, and you don’t know you’re a writer yet, the Universe feels an obligation to fulfill your weirdness quota. “Freak Magnet” is what I’ve been called more than once in my life, and looking back, I knew I was running into more than my share of madness. I wish I had started writing earlier in life, and I wish I had drank less. I could have written down more, remembered more, but then again, maybe being drunk all the time draws that sort of person in.

Her name was Angel Akin Collins, and there isn’t a way to tell this story without using her real name, because it explains Akin more than anything else. Her parents were truly and weirdly religious, and thought their baby girl was akin to an angel, so they name her Angel Akin. Most people, especially girls I suppose, would have gone with their first name rather than the middle, but she liked Akin as a name, and so that was who she became after she left home. Her parents, of course, did call her Angel, but that was as far as it went if they thought the name might govern behavior. Akin was a poet, which as a class of artists will draw more weirdness to them than writers. Back to her parents, Akin’s mother died young from a serious alcohol habit, her father left one day to get some cigarettes and never came back. At seven years old, she lived alone for the better part of a month before anyone discovered what had happened. Akin was twenty when I met her, and she still thought that month was the happiest she had ever been. Her mother used to talk to Akin’s grandmother on the phone, even though her grandmother had been dead for decades. Akin grew up believing the telephone connected to the grave, and phones still creeped her out as an adult, such as she was. Her father raised her for a year or so on his own, treating her somewhere between a prized pet and a stuffed doll. He never really connected with her in any meaningful way, and when he left, she knew he wasn’t coming back.
Akin was a talker. Words spilled out of her like blood from a gunshot wound. I was a year younger than she, and I thought she was the most fascinating person I had ever met. This was during the time I thought being able to get drunk every day, openly, was the epitome of manhood, and I thought being in a relationship meant you slept and drank with the same person for more than a weekend. Life was a lot more simple back then, and long range planning meant having enough beer to last the rest of the night.
Akin was one of the few people I knew who read for pleasure. She had read “The Hobbit” and loved it because she was short and rather round. She was a redhead, and she thought if she tried hard enough she could get the hair on her toes to grow out bushy but it never happened. Akin thought wishing hard enough, or thinking hard enough about something would make it happen, but there were so many thing she wished for that never came close to happening. She really wanted to be a poet, but most of the people she knew thought her work was truly boring and stupid, but I liked it. Sometimes she was more like a hallmark card than most hallmark cards, but sometimes she could nail down a poem that stuck.
What poets do is capture tiny moments, seconds sometimes, less than that if they’re good, and they take their own lives and they meld the two so closely you look at that one second, or hear it, yet it’s so wrapped up in a life, you then begin to feel it too. Akin wrote a poem about a poem written on a piece of paper that flew down a street, finally lost to everyone because it landed in a ditch full of water, and faded out unread, but I thought it was incredible.
“Read it to me, Akin” I would say when we were smoking pot.
“You’ve heard it a billion billion times.” She would laugh, and I knew she loved being asked to read a poem, her poem, out poem, and she wouldn’t get up to find it, not as if she hadn’t memorized it by then.
“I’ll take you to the beach, and get you stoned, or I’ll leave right now, and you’ll be alone.” I had to make up some stupid rhyme or she wouldn’t read it, or if the thyme was something too stupid she would read it and leave out the inflection in the wrong places, ruining it, so I had to play along.

Akin was raped by one of her husband’s friends one night while he was at work. Her husband walked into the aftermath, thought Akin was cheating on him, beat the guy up, and she thought he was there to rescue her, but then he beat her up, too. Someone called the cops and because her husband told them she was sleeping with the guy she wound up getting the hell beat out of twice and raped in one night. I had no idea if that story was true, because Akin told me a lot of stories I didn’t believe, but she didn’t like phones and she was a little spooked when it came to sex sometimes. She and I stayed in touch with one another for a long time, and one day she called me to tell me it was malignant, and she was going to miss me.

Take Care,
Mike

Monday, February 8, 2010

Nature, Observed

Ice. There is ice on my windshield this morning and I carve a tiny peephole out of it with what water remains in an old water bottle in the back of the truck. The three tenths of a mile to the end of the driveway ought to be enough to warm the truck up enough to melt the rest of it. I drive bent over and craning to see the twin ruts leading east. Gorram ice.
It was 2004 or 2005 when the pond was last full, when we had a lot of wet weather, and oh by the way, that was also the last time I built a metal shed on the concrete slab in the back of the back yard. The water got a foot deep onto the shed, and now that I have a new one, it’s heading in that direction. One day as I was leaving for work, I spooked a deer that had come in close to get away from the hunters and as she ran down the driveway, she cut towards the pond, splashing my truck with water. The water on the windshield froze almost instantly it was so cold, and as it crystallized I wondered how many people on earth was, at that very moment, watching water splashed by a deer freeze into tiny beautiful patterns on glass.
When I worked in Surveys, I was riding in the back of the van, not listening to my supervisor’s nonstop rants against the various multitudes of people unlike himself when I noticed a hawk gliding towards the top of a utility pole. The wind was blowing hard that day, and the hawk was flying into it, and he let the wind lift him, nearly stall him, float him right above the top of the pole, where he seemed suspended in time for a fraction of a second, then he abruptly folded his wings, and dropped the final two or three inches.
A Luna moth was dying, it was late Summer, and the Alapaha River was still flooded, rushing over the metal workbridge we had put in. The fist span of the workbridge was still dry, and I liked to eat my lunch there, feeling the power of the river, listing to the sound of the water rushing over steel and itself. There was a pool, a still place on the Southern edge of the workbridge, where the water slowly circulated. I would throw tiny pieces of wood in the eddy, and wonder how long it would take them to spin out, or if they would just stay in the current. Pieces of bread tossed in brought flashes of silver as fish hit them. I picked the moth up and wondered if there might be a way to save it, to somehow succor it from its fate. The moth rose up, flew in a tight spiral, and then crashed into the still water of the eddy. It lay there, floating, then was hit from below, and it its panic, began flapping its wings, and for just a second or two, I could see it as the moth swam underwater, then another flash of silver, and it was gone.

I cannot remember why I was there, or where it was, exactly, but I do remember eating a ham sandwich, on a dock, and I think it was Lake Seminole. I was tossing bread into the clear water, and minnows fought for it. They were rather large minnows with large scales on their heads, like armor plating. I threw in a piece of ham, and suddenly a very small turtle game barreling in. I watched it approach, from underwater, and I was amazed at how keen its sense of smell must have been to smell the ham. This was no slow and ponderous turtle, but an agile and spry carnivore, moving in for a kill. There was much grace in the way it navigated around some dead tree limbs in the water, and unerringly, its nose led it to a meal. The minnows scattered, and I shared my lunch with the turtle, watch it expertly swim its way to each offering.

I wish I didn’t remember the orange legged spider, but I do, and I will forever. Sykes Mill Road is a tiny road, but we were putting in a culvert there, many years ago. I was watching an orange-legged spider walk across the water, flitting across the surface like an ice skater. I had never seen a water spider with orange markings, and I wondered if this was some new species, or perhaps one indigenous to this region, and suddenly a rock landed on top of it. The guy I was working with had absently tossed a rock in the water and crashed directly on top of the spider. Maybe it was the look on my face, maybe he really didn’t mean to do it, but he tried to laugh it off, as if it were an accident, but I hated him for killing the spider. One of the orange marked legs drifted downstream, and for some reason I felt as if this was an accusation of some sort, against me. I never quite got over this, and yes, it’s petty, and it’s worse than that because in 2003, the man killed himself with a gun. Perhaps if I have forgiven him the little things, he would have, too.
As the ice melted on the windshield a deer ran back into the woods from the other side of the pond, and I wonder if it was the same one from years ago. They stay close to my house because the mutts are penned up, and I do not shoot at the deer. I try to maintain peace with the creatures of the earth, in as much as I can. I have no idea why these moments I’ve shared have stuck with me, but they have, and I am a better person for it, I think.

Take Care,
Mike

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Gum and a Black Thong

It was time to go on another raid, and there were so many thing I left lacking, because I hate to shop, there really was no other choice but to go to Mal-Wart, or spend half a day shopping around. Mutt Treats, meds of allergies, washer detergent, food stuff, junk food stuff for the game, and a host of smaller things. Damn I hate the place, but it’s either that or hit three or four stores before the game.
Why Mal-Wart would be crowded on Super bowl Sunday is beyond me, but it was. I had my sunglasses on, my MP3 player rocking, and drive the shopping buggy like a man possessed. Get in, get what I got to get, get out; it’s a lot like married sex. That remark will come back to haunt me, wait and see, and it won’t take very long either. I started to edit it out, but this is supposed to be factual feelings here, right?
There were four kids fighting over who gets to push the buggy in the middle of an aisle and there were no adults in sight. Not that I blame their parents for deserting them at all. I like chewing gum, did you know that about me? I like a certain kind, and right there in front of where my gum was, a little old lady stood staring. Okay, go get stuff for Chili and come back. I push the buggy as fast as I normally walk. Most people surprised there is someone around with some sort of haste, step out of the way in confusion. What is this man doing? Why isn’t he dawdling around staring off into space? There are people who treat this store like it’s some sort of cheap plastic Disney World or something. I get stuff for chili and head back to get gum. There’s a pair of wheel chair people blocking the aisle so I take a hard turn and cut through…damn…it’s the women’s underwear department. I take another sharp turn and my buggy skids on a black thong. I’ll never be able to look at a woman in a black thong again without thinking of this incident. Well, that likely isn’t true either, nevermind.
The old woman is still camped out in front of the gum, so I go get mutt treats. I like the pet department because people buy stuff for their dogs and I like it when I see someone buying something really cool. There’s a guy getting a great big box of treats and he looks happy, and I wonder if his puppy is as happy as mine are. The woman is still guarding the gum, so I reach around her and this startles her. I almost, very nearly, ask her what she was thinking about, but really I have to get out of here.

Because it’s crowded I have to wait in line behind people buying useless stuff. The same could be said for chew toys because canines have survived quite well for a long time without them, but waiting in a crowded place makes me bitchy. Two people ahead of me an ancient woman is trying to unload her buggy but in her right hand she carries the Instrument Of Dread. In front of the buggy, an even older man is trying to get a twelve pack of sugar free no caffeine diet coke zero out from under the buggy. I should have helped him, this I know, and honestly I still feel bad about it, but I was fascinated on how he would try to pull it out from under the buggy, the buggy would move backwards towards the woman, and woman would push it forward again, and the man would have to back up. About the time I realized I was being a jerk for standing there and watching this, the cashier walked around and aimed the price gun at it and it was over. Yet Instrument Of Dread remained. The IOD is an inkpen. The woman was trying to write a check. She had gotten it all written out when the cashier explained to her the check needed to be scanned, not written upon, and the woman didn’t even have to sign it. The woman had done this before, but she likes doing it the old way. I wonder when I’m that age if I will cling to my credit card, refusing to use the newer methods, too.
The couple ahead of me were buying useless plastic house ware stuff that will break in a month. The two women to my right were buying two toilets seats. One of the women was a painfully thin young woman, maybe in her late twenties, and she was skeletal. I mean she looked like a death camp survivor. The woman with her kept touching her arm, and speaking to her as they waited, and the woman ahead of me touched the arm of the man with her, and it struck me as very personal, in both cases. I watched the two women, and either they were lesbians, or close friends, and I decided they were friends and the thin woman had just survived something weird. The couple ahead of me wore rings, so they were married, and suddenly it hit me; I was the only person in line, two people ahead of me, two to my right, who was alone.

I was buying mutts things, the guy ahead of me was buying pink February fourhteeth thing that the woman wanted, the old man and woman were buying the essentials and nothing else, except the cokes, their daily treat I imagine, and the two women buying toilets seats really needed them, I would think, but I was buying things for my furry family, not someone I was with, or going home for. I wonder in twenty years or thirty years if I’ll be at some store, alone, watching other people in line, maybe the children of people I’ve waited in back for before, and I wonder if these same thoughts will come to me, and I’ll be too foggy to remember them.

For reasons I cannot explain to you, I am incredibly and very poignantly reminded on this day that I am one of the few people I know who is totally alone.

Take Care,
Mike

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Loki Mutt Turns A Year Old This Month!

Lucas is showing signs of being part Pit Bulldog, and before anyone has any sorts of misgivings let me say first Pits are some of my favorite people. Whatever you might have heard about Pits, let me assure you they are some of the most loving and gentle dogs alive today, and most of who they are depends greatly on who raises the animal. That said, Pits are tough critters who play hard and can take a lot of punishment when they are playing. The Loki Mutt and I tussled around in the leaves today, and I was surprised at how hard I had to pop him to get him to understand where the boundaries are. I had the same problem with Bert, many, many, years ago, and I do understand that a puppy in play mode has to be trained to come out of it when I tell him to do so. When I say stop he has to stop, right now.
Lucas is more like Bert than he is Sam, but he stays at Sam’s side more often than not. Sam doesn’t swim, and he doesn’t wade but once again, the Loki Mutt is showing sure signs of being Bert’s son, not Sam’s. Lucas likes to run full bore through the firepit, which is now a wading pond for the dogs. I tried to catch him in motion yesterday, but my god that dog has put some speed on. Lucas, if he was six months old in August, is a year old now. That means I have at least another year of puppy left to deal with, and the worst as far as damage does has yet to come. The training part is pretty much solidified, and Lucas behaves himself well, I must admit, but he has boundless energy, and he seems driven.
I’ve never shared space with a dog that seems to have such a sense of destiny as Lucas has. He wants to be lead dog. He wants to have the place next to me when we’re sitting down. He wants to be the dog at my side when we’re walking. He wants to be Bert, actually, and Bert has taken a great deal of umbrage at this. Sam’s tried to kill Lucas once, but most of the time when Sam and Lucas tie up it isn’t a big deal. Tying up with Bert is a big deal, however, and Lucas has been pushing it lately. The very said Luke would be stunted and as far as I can tell that’s Vetspeak for “Oh dear dog in heaven this is going to be a large critter”. The Loki Mutt continues to grow.

The most positive thing I have to report to you is Lucas is showing almost none of the signs of deprivation reaction that Sam has. I got to him in time to keep any permanent damage to his psyche from occurring so it would seem, and he’s nothing like Sam was six months after he got here. Sam has always been deeply scarred by the time he spent with people other than humans, and even though he has enjoyed a life of peace and security, Sam is flawed. I cannot heal the wounds that have been created in his mind, and in this, I consider we humans even more flawed still; we can do more harm than we can repair, or heal. Sam will live his life out in peace, and perhaps there is more I can do for him, and certainly all the damage that has been done is done, as long as I live.
Physical and emotional abuse stays with the victim longer than we know, longer than we fear, and longer than we care to admit.

I happily report to you the state of the Loki Mutt is very good. At this moment he is sleeping, or recharging, with the Elder Mutts, but soon he will rise to torment and destroy, as puppy are wont to do. Six months deep into my time with him, I must say I feel somewhat robbed of being deprived of his earlier puppy months, and even though it might have cost me two pairs of running shoes, one hundred feet of garden hose, two blankets, a twenty by twenty tarp, a hoe handle, a dozen holes in my yard, some siding on the house, and who knows how much money in chew toys, I still love this little dog.

Take Care,
Mike

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Writer's Almanac

It's the birthday of the man who said: "Becoming a writer is not a 'career decision' like becoming a doctor or a policeman. You don't choose it so much as get chosen, and once you accept the fact that you're not fit for anything else, you have to be prepared to walk a long, hard road for the rest of your days." Paul Auster, (books by this author) born in Newark, New Jersey (1947), is the author of The New York Trilogy (1985–86),a set of idiosyncratic detective stories that deal with questions of identity and existential thought, as well as a memoir, The Invention of Solitude (1982), and several other books, including the novels Moon Palace (1989), Oracle Night (2004), The Brooklyn Follies (2005), and recently Man in the Dark (2008) and Invisible (2009).
Paul Auster said: "I don't know why I do what I do. If I did know, I probably wouldn't feel the need to do it. ... Surely it is an odd way to spend your life — sitting alone in a room with a pen in your hand, hour after hour, day after day, year after year, struggling to put words on pieces of paper in order to give birth to what does not exist — except in your head. Why on earth would anyone want to do such a thing? The only answer I have ever been able to come up with is: because you have to, because you have no choice.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Year Of Water

The weather is predictable in as much as a falling tree might be. The weather gurus get it right often enough for us not to totally ignore them, but they swing and miss just like those who predict the weather by flipping coins, or tossing bones, and throwing darts. History is a very good indicator as to what is going to happen each month, but individual months have their own weather outside the bell curve, and each season has its own personality outside the norm.
January and February are dry months. We know this to be true because we plan our lives around the weather here in Construction Land. Yet we’ve gotten wet storms coming through last month as if the world was being destroyed for its sins, and this month it looks like a repeat of last month. The three inches of rain we got in one day a couple of weeks ago has been augmented by rain at least once a week, and there is no end in sight.

My firepit is now a puppy wading pool, and really, Bert doesn’t care how cool it is, he enjoys being wet. Bert likes to run through the water and leave a wake. He likes lying down in it and rolling around. Meanwhile, the dead tree debris I’ve been stacking up in the pit is turning into something other than a good bonfire. I got my truck stuck Sunday off loading the last bit of rotten pieces into the pit, and had to be pulled out by a four-wheel drive truck. It’s wet people, and it’s getting a lot wetter.
This happened in 2004. The water rose and the backyard turned into Bert’s private swimming pool. I didn’t own a dry dog for the better part of a year. They stalked and killed Cottonmouths and left the dead bodies for me to find. Bert and Sam also captured a huge soft shelled turtle and drug the poor beast across the yard, onto the deck, and then onto the porch and kept him there until I got home. How they got the damn thing out of the water without being bitten is a mystery. I released it back into the pond, and never saw it again.
The water scared me that year, and you’re a moron of water doesn’t scare you. I saw it creeping up towards the house, and when it’s fifty feet away, that’s when you start making plans to get the hell out, not when it’s five feet away. When people who have lived in this area for over half a century tell you they’ve never seen the water this high it’s time to take note as to what might happen next. Those old timers, as befuddled as you might believe them to be, know more about the way things will be than you can imagine. You’ll never seen an old homestead near a low area, or anywhere close to water. Our modern fascination with living on the edge of lakes and ponds is not something that was once done, and for very good reason. I live within twenty feet of a pond, and it’s already taken a shot at me once in nine years. That sounds thin for a threat unless you take into account I only have to get flooded out once to pretty much wreck my house.
With the rising water the Cottonmouths will move in closer to me for several reasons. The first of which is the flooded areas will contain more frogs, but also more large wading birds like blue herons which feast on the smaller snakes as if they were spaghetti. Me and the mutts are the lesser of evils, and it is a question of when one of the dogs gets hit, not if. They’ll survive a bite from a small snake but if it’s a four footer one of the elder mutts might not be able to shake that off. Losing a dog to a snake is the sort of karma that explains to people like me that living in peace with nature is a one-way street. I accept this for what it is because I cannot live any other way, and still live here the way I want to live. The dogs rule the back area of the property. They kill with impunity those creatures that trespass and I imagine one day something will show up that can, and will, stand them down. It may be hubris on my part to say the dogs prefer it this way but I believe it to be true. It will not in any way, shape, fashion, or form, relieve me of my grief or culpability if I lose one of my children to the wild, but again, I know no other way to live.

There is more water on the way, and I have no where to put it, or no way to prevent it. If this keeps up an early season hurricane in June might make this a banner year for water. One year will be unlike all others, and one day, if I live long enough, I’ll tell the younger generation about how high the water got in 2010. I’ll speak of loss and they’ll wonder if I’m so addled I’m misremembering, but they too will have their flood, and they too, if they live long enough, will remember one year of water, unlike any they have ever seen before.

Take Care,
Mike

Monday, February 1, 2010

Rape At An Ice Cream Shoppe

We ‘re watching the live video feed from an ice cream store close to Patterson Street, in a part of Valdosta known as Vallotton . The flood had cut off all access to that part of town, and there were people panicking, and rioting because there was no way out. The live feed showed people coming into the store and looting everything they could walk off with, including five-gallon buckets of ice cream, chairs, tables, and everything else. But right there in the middle of the ice cream shop a man was raping a woman, and no one seemed to care. She was still fully clothed, and he was too, but he had her pinned to the floor, and was toying with her. He was lying on top of her, and she was screaming for help, screaming for him to get off her, and he was laughing. He would sit up and hold her down with one hand on one of breasts or fondle her while she tried desperately to stop him, but he was so much larger than she was.
We tried to get a cop to go around on Ashley but that way was flooded, too. We had lost East Park and Forrest Streets. Someone was talking about trying to get a boat, but we all knew it would come too late. The woman was tiring. The fury and the anger was already turning into despair, and now she was pleading with him to stop, not demanding, not threatening. She was a very young blonde, maybe nineteen or twenty, and couldn’t have weighed more than a hundred pounds. He was twice her mass, maybe more, and he seemed to be enjoying her fear. She tried to hit him with one of those metal napkin holders but he disarmed her easily, and then pressed it down into her stomach, slowly, but applying more and more pressure until she screamed. Someone, a woman behind me, said she thought he had done this sort of thing before.
I went down to the Madison Highway, in front of Landale’s pole farm, but there was a river running across the road there, cutting me off from getting into downtown Valdosta. Down by the interstate at exit thirteen was an ocean of water. As far as the eye could see there was water, and more water, and it looked as if everything South of Valdosta Georgia was underwater.
From the pole farm to the Interstate is ten minutes, maybe more, and back to the office for a few more minutes, and I knew it was already too late. Someone I knew asked me if I had tried to go around via the Interstate, and I told him there was too much water, and then he asked me if I had tried North Valdosta Road, which is past the Interstate, and I said it was underwater too, because it always flooded first. He changed from someone familiar to someone strange but the same person was inside, and it didn’t strike me as odd. The water rose up like the tide on a beach, swarming up a side road with such speed a man trying to get into his car was knocked down. I wanted to go back to the office and see what had happened to the woman, but much to my relief, the water had cut me off from there, too. I sat alone on the interstate overpass and watched the cars float, then sink, and finally they were moved downstream by the water.
That’s when I woke up.

I dream every night. I’ve trained myself to remember my dreams by thinking about them first thing in the morning. The one quality most dreams have will be something outside of normal reality will bit quite perfectly in the dreamscape. For instance, there isn’t an area in Valdosta referred to as Vallotton, but there is a Vallotton Drive. I know this, but because it’s a dream reality is changed. In the dream part of Valdosta becomes an island, but none of the flooded places in the dream are places that always flood first when there is an event of that kind here. The water in the dream was crystal clear, very pretty, and it made ocean noises ( bled through because of my white noise CD of the ocean because my neighbors have got a yappy dog, long story as to why I don’t say anything). There isn’t anything about my job, ever that would require or allow I have access to security feeds, and I doubt in this age of cell phones if it would be impossible to find someone somewhere that might be able to stop a crime like that, but then again, I’ve seen riots and I know how unstoppable their momentum can be.

Honestly, I there was someone attacking a woman during a riot, or even in a situation where there was a lot of looting, I suspect the attacker would get more help than the victim. In a free for all that comes with this sort of event, people tend to look out for themselves and do truly stupid thing, like steal ice cream. I mean, what are you going to do with five gallons of ice cream on an island with no electricity, and even if you had power, do you own a freezer that large? I thought about that, while watching people looting the ice cream shoppe, while the woman was being attacked.

No, as a matter of fact, this sort of dream doesn’t lead me to believe I’m any more or any less sane than most of the things my mind does. It’s been doing this sort of thing since I was a kid, and I haven’t hurt anyone yet, at least not because of something I dreamt. The most real dream I have ever had, or at least recently, lead to to think I had a hole in one of my work gloves, and it is profoundly disturbing when my subconscious starts doing mundane things, rather than those things freaky and scary as hell.

Take Care,
Mike