Thursday, September 30, 2010

Divorced, Broke, but... * a letter to a friend(

I was desperately poor after my divorce but I did have a decent job, I had a house with all the stuff in it, and I had a truck that got good gas mileage. But I also saved myself from losing all the house and stuff because I had hired a good lawyer, and he was also kind enough to let me pay him off a little every month. Every month was an adventure, because I had already put as much money out as I could  and no more was coming in.
I had my satellite cut off, and I canceled everything but electricity and dial up. It got bad enough I called in sick one day which was the day before pay day, because I didn’t have any money to buy gas. I had it pretty much planned out how much money I could spend on things like food and gas, but when something broke it had to stay broken because I couldn’t afford to fix it. Bert and Sam got their yearly check-up, but as far as going out to eat, buying coffee, or doing something odd like having a date, that was pretty much out of the question.
But there was a sense of freedom to all this; I knew, I really knew, where I stood with my finances because I was the only one spending money. I knew, really knew, what was going to happen next because I was living alone, and it was magnificent. I sat down one day, and watched an old movie, “Mars Attacks” and it was fun to just sit there and enjoy a movie without any anxiety or pressure for me to be someone I wasn’t. I spent a lot of time walking around the woods, and talking to the dogs.
It wasn’t easy at the time, but it was me. I just didn’t have any idea at all who I might still be. My marriage was a nonstop acting job where I knew what words and phrases and actions would produce favorable, or more accurately, least unfavorable results, and that was how I made it through each day. I kept thinking it things were bad enough to end they might be good enough to continue, but finally, the end of that rope was reached, and somewhere in the darkness, I knew I had to let go.
Divorce wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for lawyers. I split up with a woman I was living with and she took her stuff and left, and I kept my stuff, and we fought and haggled over mutual stuff, but in the end, it didn’t take that long because one or the other of us wanted out bad enough to leaves something or give something away to get the results we wanted. Lawyers want to drag it out and make it last as long as they can because they get paid by the hour and the day and the event. They make a living tell both sides they have to ask for more or they will get less for the money they are paying the lawyers. As long as you’re shelling out most of the cash on hand that you have you may as well get something for it, right? How it works out is the lawyers on both side get most of any cash there was, and any cash there will be, and both sides wind up alone and paying bills with pennies rolled on the dining room table listening to NPR at three in the morning.
I went on a pilgrimage of sorts after my divorce and discovered no everyone’s story was like mine. I met a couple who was dating after their divorce, which in my state of mind, they may as well have been levitating and spiting flames out of their noses while speaking Latin in a Southern accent. Aliena nobis, nostra plus aliis placen, ya’ll. They still loved each other, but they didn’t like one another to be in the same room for more than a couple of hours. A met a guy whose ex would  take white shoe polish and write “Herpes” on his windshield whenever he went out to a bar at night. He swears he never had the thing, and he certainly didn’t give it to her had he been cheating on her, which he never would do anyway, he claimed. You have to admit that’s a damn efficient way to put a chill on the evening with someone you just picked up.
But my ex very effectively disappeared out of my life as soon  after the event. It’s been eight years now, and I’ve come to realize that it wasn’t as bad as I remembered it being, and likely it was not nearly as bad as some I’ve seen, and it also made me wonder why on earth gay people would want the right to get into something that is more or less hell to get out of again. Legal marriage is something that is more or less an industry for divorce lawyers to make a living ending. If there is any conflict at all then both sides will be bled white, and if there are kids involved, this is going to be nasty to a degree that rivals circumcision with plastic scissors in a pool of waist deep alcohol during a hailstorm.
There is something very wrong, and broken, with marriage as an institution, and it ought to be fixed. I think we ought to have marriages that are arranged to last a year, and after that year, you can opt out or re-up. People with kids ought to have to stay married longer but since I don’t have kids I won’t go there. But we ought to make it so it’s either harder to get into or a hell of a lot easier to get out of, either one would do. But marriage, as an institution, is very, very, broken and I have no idea what to do to fix it.

Take Care,
Mike

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Ellen Page and a Pepsi Can With Cooked Brown Rice In It As A Muse.


Since my sleep cycle has had a flat tire for the last three or four months, my dreams have been a little disjointed and out of time. The other night I dreamed I was driving down the road in Moultrie Georgia trying to shake cooked brown rice out of a can of Pepsi.
Now when I’m asleep I am assuming my brain is running on autopilot, keeping the blood and breath going, making sure I don’t pee on myself, and at worst, insuring me against sleep driving to the Awfull House nude to get breakfast. A dream of driving down the road in Moultrie Georgia could as easily been a dream where I’m rescuing Ellen Page from a burning building, or flying across the mountain tops without a plane, but no. I get a can of Pepsi with cooked brown rice in it.
So there I am holding the can out of the window, shaking it to get the rice out of it,  and a State Patrol car goes past me, and sure enough I drop the can right there in front of him. He hits his lights, but he doesn’t turn around, but I stop and look for the can, just in case he comes back. So there I am, while someone else is getting Ellen Page’s undying gratitude for heroism, I’m walking along the road in Moultrie Georgia, looking for a Pepsi can with cooked brown rice in it. Oh, the dreamscape was new, I’ve never seen the buildings or that railroad track before, and I was amazed at how much weirdness was involved in the stuff beside the road, but really…
Oh, and then there was the dream that I was writing. Let’s just ruin it all right up front and I’ll tell you I don’t remember what I was writing, but as I stood up in the dream I woke up and it felt like I fell onto the bed. I’ve had that dream twice and both times it’s woke me up enough so I cannot go back to sleep. Yeah, the nightmare factory is running twenty-four seven when you dream you’re standing up and that’s what scares you awake. Do you think I’ve broken my subconscious? I mean, is this the best it can do, truly?
I’m willing to work with it here. Why don’t we start out small, something easily managed, like a milk carton on the side of the road, while I’m looking for a Pepsi can with cooked brown rice in it, with Ellen Page’s face on it? You know, I would settle for there being someone else in the dream that was simply memorable. There were other people there but they were just background figures, like the people in the scene from The Matrix where they freeze the scene and everyone stops but the two main characters. There’s a really nice looking woman with auburn hair in the background who looks like a woman I once dated, and I would settle for that. I would settle for someone who looked like someone I once knew, so I could wonder why my subconscious was bring that person up again, but no, I get vague figures that bring into mind silhouettes.
Oh, yeah, it’s the scene where Neo and Morpheus are walking down a crowded street and Neo gets distracted by the woman in the red dress. Right after Morpheus freezes the scene, look over the left shoulder of Agent Smith and there is a woman there, in black, with auburn hair. If you’re going to have a background to things, at least make the background something that catches the eye in some small way.

Lately my dreams have been nearly as boring as being awake. It’s like all the writing I’ve done has drained off the pool of resources used to generate any sort of excitement. When you can say you’ve had a dream that you stood up, twice, and that was enough to awaken you, and when you stood up you weren’t rising from the dinner table with Ellen Page, that’s a sign that something isn’t running well.

But come to think of it, there has to be some sort of reason I’ve developed a fixation on an actress that was born after I got out of the Army. After seeing what Claire Danes did to her own face, it’s enough to give anyone nightmares, and wish for something a lot more simple. Danes was once a lot like Page in that her beauty was more of a natural kind, a sort of girl next door thing, and you’d never see either of them take a role in a film where all they needed was a pretty face attached to ten pounds of silicone and a million bucks worth of surgery. Odds are, if you’re shopping for a woman and are looking for someone who might fit in with the Hollywood Ideal of what a woman should look like, you’re going to find a woman who has bought into it, and maybe you’ll both be very happy. But if you have to pay someone good money to butcher your body in order to fit in some Barbie mold that women are supposed to fit into, what sort of man are you going to wake up to every morning?

Maybe this is the lesson of my subconscious. Maybe it’s showing me bland and boring in order for me to dial down the action and excitement in my writing, and fill in the tiny details with interesting stuff. The Matrix didn’t fill in a lot of details but then again, that’s a movie and a movie doesn’t have to work as hard as writing does. Writing has to jump start the human mind to form a scene out of words, and it has to flow like a movie, but instead of lighting you use grammar.

So, that was it all along, wasn’t it? That’s why you sent me there with that damn can of rice to begin with, isn’t it?

Never doubt your mind when it feeds you creativity. There is a lesson to be learn in even a can of Pepsi, with cooked brown rice in it.

Take Care,
Mike

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Reincarnation of Arnie Dorris

Arnie Dorris hated his name, and he more or less hated his life. Arnie was short for Arnold, and he had never heard of anyone with the first name of Arnold who had been anything in life but the subject of mockery and distain. It’s not like he could fall back on his middle name, Butts, or his last name either. Worse, he had started going bald when he was a teenager, so he looked a lot older than he was. By the time he graduated from High School he had lost half his hair, and to add insult to injury, what he had left was going grey. He started college looking like a professor, and the only woman he could talk into going out with him was Leigh Anne Worsley, who talked incessantly. She was the soundtrack for his life from the time he lost his virginity in his freshman year, to the time he graduated. He tried cheating on her, but even the drunk women weren’t drunk enough to sleep with a twenty-one year old who looked fifty. When she turned positive on a pregnancy test, Arnie Dorris knew he would have to marry her, because there really wasn’t any way on earth anyone else would marry him. Standing at the altar, Leigh Anne turned to him and said, “Oh God everything is so beautiful, I can’t believe we’re getting married this is the best day of my life I can’t believe we’re going to have kids I hope we have more than one don’t you want more than one I hope we have a little girl because I always wanted a little girl…” Arnie Dorris saw his life unfold in front of him like a very straight, very narrow, and very, very, very long road stretching into the grave.
Three kids and twenty- two years later, Arnie suddenly realized his oldest was the same age he had been when he became a father. None of them turned out to be college material, and the two oldest took turns coming back home to live. Leigh-Lee, the youngest, never left home, and like her mother, never stopped talking. The two were like twin song birds who sang at the same time, with no pause for breath. Arnie was nearly forty-five, they were mired in credit card debt, his career had plateaued out and he realized that when this amount of time had passed again, he would finally look his age, if not older, but no one would care anymore, if anyone had ever cared at all.
Arnie took his pistol out of its locked case, dusted it off, and walked out of the house. He walked down Baker Street with the gun in his hand, but no one noticed him. He walked all the way down to 42nd street, walked up to the bridge, and climbed up to the very top of the huge steel frame. In high school, everyone he ever knew had climbed it, and he had a sudden epiphany; that it was very likely most of them were lying about it, and always had been lying about it. Arnie realized that he, too, could have been one of the guys that had climbed to the top of this bridge, and he took could have bragged about it, but no, he had to tell the truth, and it was at this moment he realized his entire life had been the truth, and his lack of imagination had always hurt him.
Arnie put the gun to his head, jumped, and pulled the trigger.

There was a loud noise and Arnie wondered why he was wondering at all. Was this Death? He felt like he was falling, but shouldn’t he have hit the water by now? Arnie looked down and saw nothing but blackness. He looked up and saw the bridge, but it was just there, not falling away from him, not moving at all, but he felt like he was falling. Oh. Death was a little weird, he got it now, and Arnie waited for something to happen. Finally, after what seemed a long time, Arnie looked at the gun in his hand, and realized he might only be partially dead. Partially dead? That reminded him of the first time Leigh Anne had told him she might be a little pregnant. You either were or you were not. Maybe he was dying, and this was his brain’s last attempt at life. That made sense. He was dying and soon he would be dead, it just took longer than he had thought it would, like a trip to the dentist’s office.
Arnie waited.
After a while, Arnie got tired of waiting and begin to wonder if there might be something wrong. He held the gun up in front of him, let it go, and it hung in midair.
“Okay, hold on, we’re working on it” a voice said.
“Working on what?” Arnie asked.
“Quiet, we’re trying to sort this out.”
“Oh. Okay.” Arnie said. But after a while longer, he was getting bored. “Uh, shouldn’t I be dead now?” Once he said it, Arnie realized that he was likely already dead. Was this some sort of judgment? He broke into a sweat, or he felt like he should have broken into a sweat, but he didn’t. All that porn he watched. And the time he went into the Smith’s house while they were away, and looked through their computer and found their personal videos…
“We have a problem”

Arnie found himself in a deck chair on a ship, with a drink in his hand. The sun was shining, the breeze felt quite nice, and his body was not his own. He was young, strong, and he felt real energy again.
“Comfortable?” asked the woman next to him.
“Very.” Arnie laid back and enjoyed the view. “Where am I?”
“Technically, Arnie, you’re hanging in midair, one hundred fifty feet above the Flint River. But when you tried to shoot yourself the jump caused your hand to shift, and you missed your head entirely. “
“That figures.”
“But the bullet went about three thousand feet away, dropping as it does when bullets are fired, it went through a window, and smashed into the skull of a man named Nathan Busby” the woman said.
“I didn’t mean to hurt anyone!” Arnie protested.
“At the moment of his death, Nathan Busby was attempting to rape a women who had spent her entire life in service to God, and I, as her Guardian Angel, was sent to protect her from such events. “ The woman sighed deeply. “I screwed up, Arnie. I got caught up trying to play peace maker at a marriage just down the block, and I wasn’t there to help her when I should have. Your bullet hit right in the nick of time, and by all rights I should be fired and you should be dead, but God is merciful and he has decided to give us both another chance. “
“What does that mean?” Arnie asked.
“For me it means I go on protecting the woman I was charged with protecting but no more side jobs, no matter how much I want to help. But for you, it means you can start your life over again. You didn’t like this one. You can either fall to your death, and suicide is not looked kindly upon, Arnie, even if you did help me out, or you can choose to be reincarnated.”
“You mean I can come back as someone else?” Arnie asked.
“That’s it.”The woman told him. “The caveat is you will not be allowed to use your memory of this life in any way that might reveal how you came to have these memories.”
“But I could make a killing on the stock market, right?” Arnie asked.
“There are some drawbacks to free will, but yes, you can use the information, but not in any way that might reveal how you came to have it. You won’t be able to speak it, or write it down, or say it aloud accidently when someone can hear you. But you’ll remember who you were, and everything you knew in your former life.” The woman sighed again.
“Do I get to chose who I come back as?” Arnie asked. Oh boy, he thought, this could be great!
“Nope!” she said. “Luck of the draw, you might come back as anyone, anywhere, and you have to live with it. You get what everyone else gets once they are born and we owe you nothing else from that point.”
“But you’re a guardian angel.”
“She didn’t get that making a killing on the stock market.” The woman said solemnly. “That’s something you might want to think about, also.
“Oh.” Arnie said. ‘Well, okay, let’s do it.”
“You sure?”
“Yeah, I want to go for it!” Arnie knew he could remember most of who won the World Series, the Superbowl, and …everything went black.
“Mooo!” Arnie said, as he hit the barn floor. “MOOOO!” Arnie was surrounded by cows in a barn. His mother nosed him towards her udder and Arnie screamed. “MOOOOO!”

Monday, September 27, 2010

In A Flash

It was still ninety something today, and it was muggy, like it is in the middle of Summer if not just as hot. It hasn’t rained yet this month and the yard looks like some sort of prison for wayward grasses and unrepentant weeds. It is far too dusty for me to even think about mowing. I might as well crank up a smoke generator and have some real fun. The leaves are falling now but Summer’s unrelenting grip on this part of the world hasn’t totally loosened yet. The long range forecast shows relief on the way, but it has shown that since late August, and the dryness and the humidity and the heat have held on like some life sucking animal attached to an immobile host. This is the Summer that keeps feeding upon us and feeding upon us, with the afternoons too hot to do yardwork, the yard to dry to be worked, the inside chilled only by an AC because the dust is too bad to open a window.
As bad as it is we have seen worse. In 1999 it was so dry I didn’t mow the grass for an entire Summer. The grass was crunchy and there were many people who felt this was the beginning of some new order of climate, and we would all be admiring our sand dunes in a few years. I actually looked forward to not having a lawn, which I more or less had to keep up inside the city limits lest my neighbors have even more to gossip about. There wasn’t much to talk about, I’m afraid, and I wish I could have been more entertaining.  This was the year after we had some localized flooding in Southwest Georgia, and it was odd to see pieces of old logs caught up in trees during the flood, and below those marooned logs was a sea of brown grass, and dying plants. Those were some truly hot and dry days, long since past, but this is a reminder of where we might be headed without some rain, and soon. When it was so hot and dry in 2007 Georgia caught on fire and burned for weeks and weeks, and it took a tropical storm to put that fire out. But one month does not a trend make, and we will have to see if the near future looks as dry as the month past now.

The upside to all of this is there is a lot of cooler air just to the north of here colliding with the warmer air that has been here since June. The instability of the air creates a lot of friction between the two air masses and welcome back my friends to the show that never ends, thank you Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. From my front porch it looks like some World War Two artillery duel, with each side firing back at the other almost immediately. Blues flashes are followed by reddish flashes are followed by yellowish flashes and it seems to be walking to the north and to the east. There are not sharp jagged edges to these bursts of power but sky lighting shows of awesomeness that rival the sun, if for only a single split second. The trees and landscape appear as if by magic, and it would be a great literary device to use as an army of men upon the walls of a castle saw coming towards them the opposing army, in flashes that lit the sky for fractions of seconds, and the marching army saw the castle before them only for fractions of their lives, but there, in the dark, lit only in yellowish or bluish, or reddish hues, would their lives be spent.
How many people have died to the light of those flashes? How many sailors have screamed aloud at the sight of a reef, or the rugged cliffs as their ship washed steadily towards certain death, with the lighting telling the whole story in the blink of an eye? Hundreds of years ago men took to the seas with the idea of being away from home for years at a time, and many never returned. We will never know how many died out there, never to be remembered by name, but only by a writer somewhere, describing an unknown fate, accidently accurately by fate and not through skill alone, never. Good men, good sailors, and good ships have been seen by the lighting as they went down into the depths in far away waters, and have given the final flash of a salute to a liquid grave. Divers on vacation visit these places and I wonder how many of them are accurately aware that people died here, on this spot, killed by the very water that is now buoyant and beautiful and full of sunshine.  The same water is black, blacker than the night, when that ship was gutted, and everyone died, screaming at the lighting, and alone.
How many promises and prayers have been offered to the lightning? How many men have beseeched their gods for some mercy rather than suffer the fate of being watched by lightning flashing overhead, while the water became deeper in the bottom of the boat? It took the Titanic two hours to sink, on a calm night, with no moon and no light. But there have been many more lost on many more boats throughout history with no mention of their lives, or loves, or fears. The flashbulb in the sky records nothing and the bottom of the sea is a cemetery. But the same can be said of the forests and the streets and the plains and anywhere else human have been. We travel a long way to die, sometimes, and no one can say why we do such things. We can only see brief moments of when and where these people have been, lit only by history, which is less, far less, than a flash of lightning in the dark.

Take Care,
Mike

Sunday, September 26, 2010

There is a virus going around

I had a computer before viruses became a problem. I also didn’t have an internet connection, so my contact with outside sources was extremely limited. It’s sort of like having to worry about a sexual transmitted disease when you’re trapped on a desert island in the middle of the Pacific with a crate of condoms and three blow- up dolls. I mean, you know there is a threat out there somewhere, but it isn’t something you ever really worry about.
Incredibly, the first computer virus I caught was given to me by someone who suspected the 5.25 disk they owned was infected, yet she wanted to test it out on my machine first. It only cost twenty-five bucks for me to get the virus removed, but there I was, on that desert island, surrounded by coconuts, condoms, and testing positive for a sexually transmitted disease and all three blow- up dolls just sitting with their mouths hanging open, acting surprised.
This was, by the way, the same woman who gave me a stack of 5.25 disks, and that was during a time people were switching over to 3.5’s. One day I was truly bored, and wondering what I could do with a computer and a floppy disk, so I typed out the command “undelete” in DOS and undeleted all the files on the floppy disk.  She had written some very sexually charged love letters to someone, and as a former boyfriend, I was curious as to what guy she had set her sights on this time. She had just ended a relationship with a mutual friend of ours and I told them both when it began, that just because they both met through me, I was not to blame for anything that happened, no, I did not want to hear it. They stayed together for a long time, but it ended, and ended poorly, and neither was on speaking terms with me for a while after. After about the second paragraph of the steamy letter, however, I realized she was writing the letter to another woman. They would go on to get together, and live together, for years.
Generally speaking, like a guy who spends most of his free time writing rather than socializing, you’d think I was fairly low risk for getting a virus. Of course, if you socialize at all you’re at least at risk of getting the common cold, and so eventually, this sort of thing had to happen, sooner or later. What pisses me off is I’ve got expensive paid for by the year virus protection with McAfee, and they now tell me to remove the virus their program didn’t catch with cost me nearly ninety bucks. I’ll be bailing out on them as soon as this subscription runs out, and I’ll get someone I know to take out the virus.

The virus was an odd creature, this one was. I had just posted my latest writing and suddenly my computer decided that my old anti-virus program, “Microsoft Security Essentials” was still in charge even though I had removed the program some time ago. “Action halted! Microsoft Security Essentials has detected a potential threat! Press clear to remove” Okay, so I unplugged the line to the internet, pressed clear, and it told me it couldn’t remove the threat, I would have to press a button that led me to an online site that would remove it for free. I pressed the button, and because I wasn’t connected I wasn’t concerned, and a screen popped up telling me the threat had been removed. Meanwhile, I still couldn’t open Chrome, Firefox, Word, or any email program because of the return of the original message. My McAfee scan started out slow, and then slowed down. My Mal-Ware scan ebbed to a near halt. At two- something I cashed it in and I didn’t sleep well for a few hours.

At seven-something I got up and texted my sister who told me she had just gotten rid of the ninety dollar McAfee virus, but I should try a system restore, and that allowed me at least to get online and download some more antivirus stuff, all of which doesn’t seem to be working. The computer is slow and clunky, and freezes at times during scans. I have an Ubergeek who sold me this computer, but alas! The man also has a wife and three kids and I suspect the weekends belong to them, and rightfully so.
Update: I’ve ran the same scan three times, and downloaded two variations of anti-virus “Stingers” and I’m not getting any more error messages. It’s not acting as clunky, but it still isn’t quite right. I was having a problem getting McAfee’s scan in the background feature to stay in the on position, but it seems to be okay now as well. My sister believes this to be some sort of Trojan Horse email virus, but I have no idea if she is right or not.

And one more time, with feeling, now it appears all is well. The computer is running slower but I can limp into the computer shop Monday and let my Uber Geek look at it. I’ve got Word back, my email is running okay, McAfee, the alleged anti-virus program is running normally again, and I can write. I have no idea where and how I got this thin, but I’m going to stay off the radar until I can get someone to look at this thing and tell me if I’m sending out emails to everyone I know without me knowing it.

The idea of someone out there screwing around with people’s lives just because they can, or worse, the people supposedly protecting is unleashing these things to they can make a profit off it, is enough to make me go back to writing with a quill, and using an inkpot. If anyone has any suggestions I am certainly open to them, other than taking this damn thing and launching it out the window.

Take Care,
Mike

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Coffee For A Stranger

When I first started writing, at age 32, I was truly impressed at how bad I was as a writer. I wasn’t merely not good, I was not only a poor writer, I was quite possibly writing at the same level of children being home schooled by parents who were heroin addicted dyslectic cucumbers in the first grade. Try this at home:  Open a book, no, open a great book, something you really love, and just read a random sentence. Out of context of its entirety, the sentence may or may not be a great sentence, but taken as a whole, it makes up a great book, or at a minimum, one you enjoy. I had just finished a short story made entirely of poor sentences. Each and every one of them resembled a cathedral built by beavers with dentures. Worse, I knew nothing at all about editing, or grammar, or for that matter, writing. I was a virgin trying to make a living being a 1-900 operator talking dirty to losers at zero dollars a day.
What made matters worse, and much worse, I lived right next door to the world’s richest vein of untapped stories about people. I lived in downtown Tifton Georgia, and on the third floor of an apartment building most people didn’t know existed. The entrance to the apartment building looked like a regular office door. It was a remuddled hotel, and from the third floor, I could hear people speaking if there were standing directly below me, and better yet, the buildings across the street had huge plate glass windows, so I could see the reflections of the people speaking.
Now, most of what I did in the manner of eavesdropping came late at night, when couples would stop at the traffic light right outside one of my windows, and just below it, and either talk or make out. It’s a minute long red light, people, can’t you wait? But some couldn’t, and late at night people would sit there and kiss through the cycle of the traffic light two or three minutes long. One pair began so engrossed in their activity the man actually got the woman’s shirt unbuttoned and because they were in a convertible, it was clear she wasn’t wearing a bra.
“Get your hand off that woman’s tit!” I bellowed from above, and they nearly collided with a car coming through the intersection as they took off.
But generally speaking, it was a dismal era for a writer who was just starting out, and who was broke, too. Most of my time was spent smoking hand rolled cigarettes, and wondering why the hell I was even bothering to write. There was a gym down the block and across the street, and this one truly good looking woman always worked out in the same spot, where I could see her but I realized that life was such I would never meet her, and she began to be  a Muse of sorts, the ideal that I could not reach, and I tried to write about that, and failed as surely as using an opening line at a bar like, “I don’t have AIDS but I would sleep with you even if you did.”
It was that bad.
One morning I took a day off to try to fix my writing. It was the first day, ever, I had taken off to write, and it felt weird. I sure as hell wasn’t going to tell anyone this, but if I was ever going to make that short story look like anything other than something out of a “How not to write” made for television movie, I had to do something. There was a lawyer’s office directly below my window, and on occasion I could hear people talking about this case or that case, and normally it was boring but this morning there was a couple there before the lawyer opened up, and they were fighting.
“Look bitch, you’re the one who moved back in with your mother.”
“ I don’t give a shit what she said, you were gone, bitch.”
“I can do whatever the hell I want to, bitch.”
“Shut up bitch.”
“Just shut the hell up bitch.”

The man couldn’t speak to the woman, his soon to be ex, without using that word. He made it a point to begin or end every sentence like that, and I wondered if she had ever said anything to him about it, and that was why he did it. I thought about every time I had ever gotten mad at a woman, and used that word, and I wondered if it made me sound as ugly as he sounded to me, and I wondered if it made some woman I was speaking to feel like it sounded like she felt. I could see the reflections of the couple in the windows across the street but there were not clear reflections, they never really were, but it seemed a haze of hatred clouded the two. To this day, I haven’t used that word when speaking to a woman. I don’t like the sound of it.
I couldn’t hear the woman clearly, and he cut her off every time she started to speak, but she was trying to ask him about the kids, and what about the woman living with him now, and what was he going to do about one of the kids needing something, but it didn’t matter. He had to say something, anything, with the word “bitch” in it somewhere, and that was all that mattered to him.
He came out an hour or so later, screamed, “FUCK YOU BITCH!” and walked down the street and out of sight. In a real and just universe, a truck would have hit him. She left the lawyer’s office and stood leaning against building, staring out into space, and wondering what to do next.
She was smoking a cigarette, and drinking coffee out of one of those travel mugs, and I have no idea why I did it, but I walked downstairs with my coffee pot, went around the corner, and walked up to her.
“Here,” I said, “you have to try this, it’s called Blue Nile and it’s the best coffee on earth.”
“Okay” she said, and I could tell she had started crying. She lifted the top of her mug and I poured it full.
“I spiked it with honey, and I’ve mixed in a little milk in it, but not much, because it’s really good coffee.” I said.
“Yeah, you’re right, this is really good!” she took a sip, then another, and smiled at me. “Thanks.”
I turned around and walked back to the doorway to my apartment, went in, and left her standing there with great coffee in her cup. When I got back upstairs I could see her looking around, wondering where in the hell I had just come from, and where in the hell did I go? But she clearly liked the coffee, and when she got in the POS car she was driving, she looked a little more determined, and she was smiling.

Take Care,
Mike

Friday, September 24, 2010

Exhaustion is my drug of choice

Exhaustion and I are old lovers. We’re comfortable with each other in intimate ways. I got off work last night at midnight, couldn’t sleep for a couple of hours, got up at six and hit the road again. It was one of those weird days when I had to be somewhere to do something in the daylight, and as the day wore on, I felt the lover’s touch of my old friend on my body, and wondered how much longer I could push it. I didn’t have a choice up until about five, and then I pushed it for four hours more, just to prove that I could, and now, here I am, nearly midnight, and I’m writing.
Elbow has a theory that a friend of hers died of shame. It took the better part of fifty years, mind you, but she is convinced an old family disaster pushed this woman into reliving her past until it finally ate her alive. It’s important, I think, to have someone from another generation in your life, but at the same time it be someone who is immediate and close, so that you might sit in a porch swing and listen to a life’s story told by someone who has a similar cultural reference but at the same time one that is totally alien. Almost twenty years are between us, Elbow and I, but at the same time we live in the same world where writing is not only important, but vital to life.
You have to know at least one other writer before you can really write. And if you know more than one, it’s gets better. Discussing a sentence placed just so, or thusly, or being able to express the very idea that a sentence might have wandered, or be needed elsewhere, and meanwhile the poor sentence is awaiting its sentence; will it be relocated, truncated, executed, or edited? It awaits the final punctuation anxiously.
There hasn’t been any caffeine in my bloodstream since the sun came up, and I’m chasing the full moon across the sky right now. I was awake at the last midnight, and I’ll be up for this one, too, I think, yes, I can feel it, even if my vision is beginning to go on me. Four hours sleep, Mike, is not enough for what you’ve done today. So says my body, but the mind is still awake, is it? How much sense is this going to make tomorrow when I wake up, grab some coffee and edit this thing again, like I do every time I open up a document, like checking the dog’s ears for ticks. ( did you just put an “e” on the end of the word “document”? Damn, Mr. Quayle, I think you did, you know, if it weren’t for spell check most of what you write would resemble a tornado in an alphabet soup factory)
Cancer is such a weird disease. Today I found some I’ve always really disliked has gone through prostate cancer and came out alive. It’s odd feeling being glad the man is alive because I’ve visited much worse on him, fictionally at least, and that too is one of the benefits of being a writer; the people you don’t like wind up trapped beneath a burning car with a locomotive bearing down on them while zombies are attacking during a earthquake. But cancer isn’t anything I’ve ever written into anyone’s life.
In a generation just before Elbow’s getting cancer itself was rather shameful, and if someone died and the obituary didn’t list a cause of death no one asked because it meant they died of cancer. If you’re younger than me, and that sounds really strange, trust me, these are the people who once told me about Hoops Snakes, and they were dead serious about, really, as serious as cancer.

I’m not making light of the subject. It’s a disease that has maimed and tormented and killed among those I love and to me, it’s personal…How did we get here? Oh, I remember, someone told me today, this day of exhaustion about a former enemy who has survived cancer, but anyway, another bit of weirdness is the son of the guy who told me all this had lunch with us, and I haven’t seen this kid since he was seven, which was ten years ago. Still with me? Am I? Anyway, he didn’t remember me. He’s nearly grown now, a lot like his father, but I’m someone who hasn’t existed until today.

I saw a ’31 Ford for sale today, and I wondered how it survived so long, through so many hard times, and at what point did it become more than just a piece of junk and become something worth saving? It’s odd how we name cars and trucks after the tribes of natives that once populated this land, and we’ll go over the deep end trying to save a car or a truck, and we’ll name one after a race of people we exterminated a century ago.

We went by the place that I’ll always remember as the apartment I really started writing, alone in the dark, listening to people on the street three floors below, and once upon a time, I walked into a woman’s life with a pot of coffee, a kind word, and then I disappeared again. She’s likely still wondering what the hell was that all about, but at that moment, I think that was what she needed, and it was truly great coffee, mind you, Blue Nile. The lawyer she and her husband used to end their marriage died of cancer. It would take way too much time to explain how I know that.

Exhaustion and I, are going to bed together now, after I shower, of course, because when I shower that means I get a few moments where all I have to do is feel hot water covering my body, and surrender to the tiredness that I have earned. The dogs have missed me, and I want to count the number of dogs I hear sleeping, and that alone, is enough this day.

Take Care,
Mike

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Friends

I’ve met some people online who are stark raving barking mad. I’ve met people who seemed lost. I’ve met some people on the net, both male and female, who I’ve connected with intellectually, and I’ve discovered there is a commonality between people who cannot, for whatever reason, find social discourse within their own world as they need it. Those are more rare than the stark raving barking mad bunch, mind you.  Alas! They are also entertaining as hell sometimes, and that presents a problem.  Don’t fall into the trap of spending time online just because someone on the Internet might be wrong.

Writers are a hard bunch of people to find in one spot at one time, and the net provides an ideal arena for writers to trade ideas and talk about writing. Rarely does this happen and quite frankly I have no idea why. My one theory is talking about writing with a real live person is a lot different than writing about writing, which is a lot like writing about sex to someone, and talking to them in person about it. A few months ago I went through my various interests and hobbies and stuff on the internet that I had bookmarked and I nuked about 90% of it as a time sucking waste of my life. Writers, more than any class of people on earth, will find ways to procrastinate. Some call it “thinking about writing” which means you’re tossing ideas around in your head, but you aren’t doing that if you’re online playing World Of Warcraft for half a day, checking your FaceBook page every other five minutes, or otherwise engaging in some sort of social networking with people you have as much in common with as Lindsey Lohan’s pot connection.
Mostly, I network with people who write well, people who like my writing, and people who rescue dogs.

I’m not certain at all why people post photos of their kids online, and talk about what they and their kids are doing. This seems to invite trouble from people out there who are the most evil, and who can do the most damage. I know from experience that someone with enough time and effort can arrive at your doorstep unannounced. This was done through a series of articles I had written about where I live, how much time it takes for me to get to and from places around here, and descriptions of the surrounding communities, and photos taken from my house, and of my house.
Facebook seems to be a little more local than other sites and that makes it more dangerous for people to talk about work and kids and what time they have to be at work and where they play. That’s another thing I like about the Y where I work out; they won’t let anyone pick a kid up there unless that person is supposed to pick that child up. And they have people watching for this sort of thing. They have a pick up point where two or three people are standing there, one will go get the kid, another will wait there with the parent, and if you’re a total stranger or worse, you’re going to have one hell of a time trying to explain why you’re there. It gets in the way of getting in and out of the parking lot sometimes, with all the waiting and checking, but even for us folk without kids, it doesn’t seem that high of a price to pay for security. Especially for those of us who are by nature, a bit paranoid.
I get requests for friendship from young foreign women who tell me they think I am wonderful, and they would love to meet me. I have known a few young foreign women in my life, and none of them seemed attracted to someone twice their age in the first place, much less me, so I generally ignore these, and just pretend that maybe, just maybe, I’m the ideal male in some country other than this one. One of my sister’s co-workers did not ignore these types of advances and wound up with a supermodel caliber twenty year old from some other country. He walked in with her on his arm in the local cafĂ© and jaws dropped. She picked up her green card one day, hired a divorce lawyer the next, and was never heard from again. Okay, so he was married to someone extraordinarily beautiful for a while, so what? That won’t get his car or his stuff back.

Dudes! ( and by this I mean Dudes my age and perhaps a little younger) If you’re not attracting twenty year old American women you aren’t going to do it for a twenty year old anywhere, and besides, why would you want to date someone who didn’t remember a time before MTV? What would you talk about? Nevermind.

Most of the people who I am “friends” with online are people I interact with on a more or less regular basis, or people who simply like reading what I write. There are some people I will not connect with:
Those with something to sell: If you feel the need to advertise your website with every comment you make, or every message you send, I’m not interesting in being a part of your commercial.
Those who are leading me into something:  “I want to show you my new piercing but you’ll have to watch it live at…” Dudes!
Those who want to argue: “It’s those damn liberals who are caused the oil leak in the gulf and I have photos to prove it. “ Religion, politics, or Paris Hilton, I just don’t want to hear about it, okay?
There are those “Butterfly Collectors” who have 2750 friends who would like to be friends with me, and I am simply not interested. I don’t understand the hobby.  I don’t understand why, or how, anyone would think this is fun or amusing.

If you fit somewhere in one of these categories, don’t take it personally.

Take Care,
Mike

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Where are you?

It’s hard for me to invent a fictional character, female in gender, and evil in personality, without her carrying part of Sara Poole. It’s been five years now since I saw her and I won’t see her again, ever, I think. Somewhere out there in the Universe at large, if Sara Poole still lives, all the inspiration I ever need to invent evil in fiction lives and breathes as long as Sara lives and breathes.
Sara was engaged to a guy named Greg the first time I met her, and he saved me from ever truly falling in love with her. Sara systematically destroyed the man, and all the while telling him she was doing just that. It really didn’t matter what she said, because she knew what she was took precedent over anything she said. Sara was beautiful, and she wrapped herself in it like an aura made of rainbows and gold. Sara could, and did, terrible things to men, and invariably they went back for more. Each one convinced he would be The One who tamed her, who landed her, who won her heart, and actually, when it got right down to it, it was a woman who came closest to doing just that, even though I always suspected Sara wasn’t truly bisexual.
In the time I knew her, Sara stole my car for a day without me knowing about it until she brought it back, nearly empty of gas, stole money from my wallet while I was sleeping at least twice, slipped inside my apartment and stole beer from me, had sex on my sofa when I wasn’t home at least twice, and once slipped a hallucinogen in my Pepsi before I went to work one day. I was reading water meters for a living at the time and had to call someone to come get me and bring me in from reading meters, and then drive home, and all the while, reality was slipping away at a pace much faster than I could handle.  Sara was waiting for me back home, and it was terribly funny to her, but I never quite got over that one. Sara was dangerous in ways that mattered sometimes.
I saw Sara attacked another human being on three different occasions and twice without warning or cause. There one time she had a real reason to defend herself was when I guy she had done wrong tried to hit her one night and missed. I think Sara saw him coming, or maybe she was just lucky, but the punch would have dropped her. Sara responded by hitting him in the face with a wine glass and she nearly blinded him in one eye.  Sara fought as hard as she did anything and everything else she did with her body. She danced as if there was something she was trying to say, or prove, or do, on the dance floor that could not be done. Candice, the one woman, the one human being I think Sara truly loved, would dance with her and people would just stop and watch. Candice was truly bisexual with a tend towards women, and I wondered what Sara was going to wind up doing with her. They lived together as a couple for a very long time, for Sara, before Sara ruined it by openly sleeping with a guy when Candice was out of town. Candice moved shortly after that happened, and Sara would never talk to me about what happened, but she never dated another woman.
I think losing Candice hurt her. I think the idea she could be hurt was unbearable to Sara. There were some people who swore Sara loved me, but if she did I never felt it. I never felt her truly drop the mask. Even in the later years, when she was beginning to look like a woman who had lived the life she had lived, Sara never relented, never let up, never slowed down, and she never gave me a reason to trust her. I think Sara kept coming back to me because I was someone she never truly ruined. She never stayed with anyone for very long, but she did show up on my doorstep more often than anywhere else for a while.
I have yet to meet anyone who knew her as a child, or has met her family. She talked about her brother who was in the Army, but one night she was telling a story about her brother getting so drunk that he forgot which barracks he lived in and I realized that had happened to me. Sara took other people’s lives and weaved them into her own, and for a while there my stories of being in the Army gave Sara a brother. But anything she said was lost, totally lost, in who Sara was. She spoke with her hands that fluttered like the doves of a magician, and she spoke with her eyes that glowed so fiercely it seemed there was something on fire inside of her, and she spoke with her smile that disarmed men and daunted women. People stopped talking when she entered a room, and she had a walk I have never seen before or since. It was a nice, easy glide, with her hips moving like twin snakes through tall grass.

If Sara were to kill herself, I imagine she would find a really nice dress, one that was low cut and sparkly, and she would rob a bank, and then get into some small boat and sail off into the sea and end it there, without anyone around, and without anyone knowing what happened, or why, but with one last great act of drama left in her wake, literally. There wouldn’t be a body, or any evidence, but maybe she would leave something, some small token of her life, with someone, secretly, and that would be the last person who would ever stop and hold something she touched, and know it came from Sara.

Take Care,
Mike

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

95 Degrees Of Autumn

“It’s not the heat it’s the humidity” is a mantra South Georgian hear, and repeat, each and every year, as if there might be some invisible new people who haven’t heard this before. There is some truth to that because right now, as I write this, on September 20th, 2010, it’s 96 degrees, and I’ve fairly comfortable. The windows are open, the fans are going, and it is hot, but not hellish like when it’s 95 in August. It’s the humidity, really, it is.
The changes right now are so subtle most people aren’t seeing them, but they are still there. Leaves are falling off of the trees, just a few of them, mind you, but they are letting go. More and more golden can been seen in the green, like a young woman ignoring her first set of grey hairs, we see only the heat. The lows back in August set records of high lows, if that made any sense, and there were weeks on end where the temperature never dipped below 75 degrees. It was a very good year for plant life, and that means it was good for insect life, also. I had a bumper crop of wasps this year, and the Wasp Wars lasted nearly to the end of August. I was stung more times this year than I have been in the last ten.
Yet the temperatures at night have fallen down into the uppers sixties, and while that doesn’t seem very cool at all it has made the difference. I can sleep with the windows open again, and let the cool dry air into the house. The big wasp nest right outside my bathroom window has kept at least sixty wasps on it, and you can thank the miracle of digital photography for this information. I’ve been able to zoom in on the nest from a distance, and with a computer program put dots on each individual wasp, so to count them more easily. I started counting a few weeks ago, and the nest was bristling with venomous warriors who angrily raised their wings when I got too near. Each night, and picture taking of this failed, there would be a covey of wasps surrounding the nest, as well as many still on it.
Recently there have been fewer and fewer wasps, and at night there is a small band of them who crowd onto the outside of my bathroom window. I think it’s a combination of reasons; the lower temperatures are interfering with their egg laying and reproductive systems, the end of the growing season, with less light means fewer plant eating insects that serve as prey, and the fact that it’s getting incredibly dry right now.
You might want to consider how little it takes to wipe out a nest of wasps. Conceivably, a nest might go on forever, with each new generation replacing the next. Yet even with all the climatic parameters being nearly the same this nest is clearly dying. The heat is still here, but the humidity has changed, and the high morning temperatures have dropped, and the days are getting shorter. They cannot adapt to just these slight changes in their environment.
I haven’t mowed the grass in three weeks, and while it’s a little on the weedy side, it’s nowhere near what it had been after a week in August.  The backyard suffers the most with three dogs running wild in it, but where it recovered all Summer long now there are bare patches, because it hasn’t rained in three weeks. Not just a little rain, but no rain at all in three weeks. The cotton and peanut farmers might be happy with this because it will make harvest easier but the rest of us are tired of the dust.

Those farmers who planted late crop, and who have irrigation, are happy now, too.  With no rain in the forecast for the foreseeable future, they’ll likely do well because there is also no cold weather coming up either. Mid 90’s in the days, mid to upper 60’s at night, and only the shortening of the days might end growth. The Equinox is nearly here, and with it comes a gradually slide towards darkness. But damn, it is still really hot.

The high temperatures are also haunting the Midwest, as well as The South.  You have to be in Maine of Michigan to find some comfort these days. You have to look in these same areas these days to find truly cold weather, and it is already late September. The very far range forecasts show highs in the upper eighties and lows in the mid 60’s. Slight relief, but that will be in ten days or so. The national map is full of colors that scream warmth and heat; yellows, reds, and that deadly shade of pink that means it’s so hot the people who design maps have lost their sense of cartography design. Pink as the kill color of heat is not the hue most of us are thinking about when triple digit heat breaks out. Hell will not be the color of a flamingo, but it might be the color of pepto dismal. Hmmm, they may be onto something, nevermind.

With just a few days left of Summer, it seems Summer shows no signs of going quietly. I have no idea what the high temperature for September as a month might be, but if we’re not breaking it, we’re bending the hell out of it. The mosquitoes have not stopped. The fireants are not going away, and oh yes, Love Bugs, those twice a year event where billions of black, slow, and messy creatures rise to meet the highway, has begun again, too.  Windshields collect as many as possible, but there are always more swarming around the roads, and on my porch for some reason. Don’t bring your work home with you, Mike.
So the Summer of 2010 will known as The Summer Who Would Not Die, or at least that one that kept the heat on long after it should have left.

Take Care,
Mike

Monday, September 20, 2010

You Like This

It’s weird the things you once really, really liked, and then one day you wake up and you discover you don’t like it nearly as much, and then, perhaps one day you discover something you really liked you don’t like at all, and maybe you even hate it a little. Maybe it’s music, which makes sense because if you’re like me, or maybe you don’t like me anymore, but anyway, if you listen to the same thing over and over again, there are songs that make it to the “Do Not Like” list. A lot of the music I loved in High School is music I cannot listen to anymore. I mean, really, isn’t there some sort of limit to the number of times you can hear “Stairway to Heaven” before you realize it really doesn’t mean anything?
Once upon a time, in a land very far away, the only way to find out about new music was to listen to commercial radio. Back when I was in High School commercial radio sucked. Disco was all the rage, and I was telling people back then that Disco sucked, and it would die a horrible death, and anyone who was ever photographed in polyester would be damned by that photo, for all time, and I was right. Disco is now thought of as some sort of aberration, like the moldy wheat theory that suggests that the French Revolution was fueled by a hallucinogen found in moldy wheat. That would explain all the blood. No, not Disco, silly, we just thought about it.
Remember when Jody Foster played in “The Silence Of The Lambs” back in 1990? Everyone thought she was the best actress ever, and it seemed like every movie she was in after that people liked her a little less. I think people quit liking Jody Foster because she was truly great in “SOTL” but after that movie, it was hard to reinvent the intensity. The interaction between Clarice and Hannibal was intense. She was good, I thought, in “Contact” and “Nell” was okay, but she never got close again. I recently watched “The Brave One” and it just never did anything I was waiting for.  
What is really weird is the people we get tired of, and why we never noticed the annoying things they did to begin with. If watched some of my friends fall in love, get married, then get divorced and come to me, beer in hand, and say, ‘Well, gee, you warned me about that, bit…” Don’t worry, I’ve been there and done that, and wound up with a tee-shirt, believe it or not. But it’s not just partners we lose, we also lose friends, casual acquaintances, FaceBook friends, and sometimes we have co-workers we cannot stand.
Here’s the weird thing’ there may be someone at work you really hate, but unless they get fired or die, you’re stuck with them until you retire or die, or until your company goes under. Then you can hate your new drinking buddy.
Have you ever noticed you almost never start to dislike a dog? I mean, the dog is the same dog he or she ever is, never does anything but get older, and you hate that in some people, because they flatline their lives away.  I dated a woman who always ordered the same thing I ordered, and would never order first. We ate at the same small restaurant a couple of times and I noticed one of the waitresses there would lean away before asking my date for her order. That sort of predictability is a little weird. No, it’s a lot weird. I didn’t like the sameness.  But all the dogs are the same, except old age makes them more bitchy, and getting older means Lucas doesn’t destroy as much stuff. But once you figure a dog out, you’ve pretty much got that dog.
I think that’s why some people hate cats. Cats are too much like people in general and women in particular. Show me a man who hates cats and I’ll show you a man with some issues with women in general. That isn’t always true, and what really blows my mind is meeting a woman that hates cats, It’s like meeting a woman who hates horses.

I never liked Disco. I don’t think I will ever hear “Staying Alive” and like it. There are a lot more thing in life that you like and then dislike than things you dislike and wind up liking later. When I was a kid I watched a lot of movies, and one of them was a movie with Angie Dickerson in it, “Big Bad Mama” and when looking through Netflix I thought it would be a good idea to see it again. It was terrible. It was awful. I couldn’t watch it all it was so bad. It was truly weird. I remember the movie perfectly as a kid, and it was a great movie. They replaced the movie I remembered with one that I rather forget. I blame moldy wheat for it, or Disco.

I was in my late twenties when I went over to a friend’s apartment and he had bought a bunch of those little green toy soldiers everyone called Army Men. He said when he was a kid he had armies of Army Men, and while he was in Mal-Wart one day, he decided to buy a bag of them. It was odd seeing them again. You know the ones I’m talking about; the guy with the grenade, the rifle over his head guy, the lying down shooting with a bipod guy, the flame thrower guy, the down on one knee shooting guy and I’m doing all of this from memory, mind you, and we sat there and looked at them for a while, and talked about what fun they once were.

We realized we had lost the ability to like Army Men, and that is not how I ever thought I would ever begin a sentence, trust me, and it should have warned me never to watch “Big Bad Mama” or listen to “Stairway to Heaven” again.  Some things you will like forever and some things you will eventually not like anymore.  You will never know the difference until stop liking something.

Take Care,
Mike

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Cuthbert Georgia

Cuthbert Georgia is one of those very small towns in Georgia that will very likely always be a small town. Oddly, even though there are less than four thousand people in the town, it’s home to Andrew College. But that’s just about it for Cuthbert, oh, and that was where my two sisters and I were born. That’s not exactly going to put the town on the map anytime soon, mind you.
I was born in 1960 and we left Cuthbert in 1964, I believe, but I still have some fairly vivid memories of the place. I remember the statue in the center of town, but I don’t remember what it’s for, but I seem to remember it being a war memorial of some sort I remember we lived near some train tracks. I remember my paternal grandmother and I walking to the grocery store from where my parents lived, and thinking it was all very exciting to walk into town with my grandmother.
But there are earlier memories, and I’m not sure if they are real memories sometimes, except I can reference them back to nightmares that I had later in life. I didn’t like my crib, and I didn’t like the dark, and my very earliest memory is being afraid of the dark, and waiting for the sun to come up, even though I didn’t know what the sun was. All I knew is that one corner of the room got light before the rest of the room did, and that was what I remember; looking at that corner of the room, and seeing the edge of the wall meeting the ceiling and knowing that light was coming.
Believe it or not, I remember knowing there were days of the week that were different, and I remember one morning being very unhappy that my parents had not come to get me out of the crib when it was one of those days, Saturday or Sunday, when we would all be together. I remember a car horning blowing that day, and I wondered if that had anything to do with what was happening.
One of my grandmothers had made a quilt, and I remember the stitching in the quilt being red, and yellow, and the quilt itself had dark purple colors in it. Later in life, I would dream this quilt was an ocean, and there was a storm above it. I remember my mother ironing one day as I sat on the floor and there was a dust mote that looked red. I remember trying to reach out and catch it, but as soon as it left the sunbeam it disappeared. There were others, but I wasn’t allowed to run around while mother was ironing so I was content with trying to will the motes to come to me. I remember being very happy that day even of the motes did not come.
We moved to Myrtle Beach South Carolina for a short time, and then moved back to Cuthbert, but I really have never understood why. My memories of the beach were of sea shells and my paternal grandmother scaring me with seaweed. It wasn’t my fault I was afraid of things in the water because back in Cuthbert than had been a goldfish pond, a small concrete square thing, not a real pond, and I remember being told if I fell into it I would drown. One day I stuck a stink into it and discovered it was very shallow, the warnings remained.

Remember, I was younger than four years old when these memories occurred. At eighteen months, I fell off some steps and hit the back of my head hard enough to give me a concussion, and to also slightly paralyze the right side of my body. I was to walk with a limp when I began walking, and it took many years before I had any sort of eye/hand coordination. This led to me being much slower than my older sister and one day I sought to get a measure of revenge so I hid some pieces of broken glass in the swing out father had built for us. The swing was in one of the giant trees in the yard, or at least I saw them that way, and our father had hung a burlap bag full of sawdust from a rope tied to a tree limb. When I sister went to swing on the bag, she cut her hand, and I remember realizing not that I had harmed her, but that I had been able to plan something and it come to fruition.
My sister’s cut was not bad, and the glass was very sharp, so she went to tell our mother, but when she got to the screen door she began to smear the blood on the screen, and I remember being fascinated by the tiny holes being filled with blood, and the blood coagulating to make them solid. My mother freaked out, of course, when she realized her daughter was bleeding, and neither one of my parents could understand how the glass got into the burlap bag to begin with. 

I remember the lizards that lived in Cuthbert and how I could chase them into the crevasses around the house, and then dig them out, alive, with my fingers. My mother totally freaked out over my ability to catch lizards at so young an age but she was too terrified of them to get near me when had a lizard. I would put them on top of my head and walk into the house, and when the lizard jumped off my mother would see it and yell. I remember a lizard dropped its tail, which many species go when caught, and I stuck the tail on my head, and the lizard’s tail became stuck in my hair. I remembered the sensation of how the stuck hair felt until I started shaving my head.  “Lizard hair” I called it.

I have been told these memories cannot be true, that they are dreams, or they are memories that have mutated or moved, and I must allow there has to be some truth in this for all human memory is fallible. Yet as I write this, I feel as if I have faithfully represented as much as I know of the truth.

Take Care.
Mike

Saturday, September 18, 2010

On Writing

The mistake some people make is the difference between wanting to be a published author, with everything that might go with that, and being a writer. As far as I can tell, there isn’t a shortcut, and it takes a hell of a lot of hard work to get published. That hasn’t anything at all to do with being a writer. If you are going to write then getting published shouldn’t define who you are or what you do, one way or another. Let me put it to you another way; you aren’t going to give up sex just because no one will pay you for it, are you?

Would you like some advice on writing? Flee! Run like hell from it. Never sit down in front of a computer or with a legal pad, or the back of a paper bag, and ever write a word. Take whatever drug the rest of the zombies are taking, and never pick up a pen, and never write another word as long as you live. Chances are you won’t ever be published. Chances are you’ll never make a living writing. Chances are you’ll wind up with more text than money, friends, love, or even dryer lint.
Let’s say, for reasons that escape all understanding, you ignore my advice and you keep witting. Let’s say that inexplicably, something occurs that has never happened before, and my deeply thought out words of wisdom fall entirely of deaf ears. Let’s say, particularly if you’re a woman, that against all probability, you decide not to listen to me. Yeah, I know, I have a talent for fiction, but try to focus here. There are some things you are going to have to acclimate yourself to, because you haven’t just left the building, Elvis, you’re pretty much are going to live in an alternate universe.
Writing is love but editing is getting up at three in the morning to feed the baby who just puked up more than went in. I edited that first sentence in this paragraph, oh by the way. See what I mean? You have to write for you, you have to write because you have to write, but you have to edit because other people out maybe, and this is a big maybe, might actually care what you write. Be prepared to have someone that really likes your work. Be prepared that the number of people who do actually love your work can be counted without taking your shoes off. Also be prepared when someone hates you. That’s actually easier to take because being a write means you’ve already developed a sense of self loathing. You will never write “The Lord Of The Rings”. You will never write the” Grapes Of Wrath”.  But take comfort in the fact that you’ll never write “Ishtar”, either. As a writer, mediocrity isn’t that bad, considering what happens on the lower end of the food chain.

Never confuse good writing with what is popular or what was popular. My choices of using “Lord Of The Rings” and “The Grapes of Wrath” was not accidental. Both works of art are examples of well written books which just cannot be duplicated. But then again, and this is important, no one else’s opinion of your writing really matters, does it? If you want to write, then there really isn’t anything stopping you. Getting published is another problem altogether but not getting published doesn’t make you a poor writer, even if you’re broke. Also, for reasons I cannot explain, there are books out there that I’ve read and I cannot for the life of me understand how they got published, or why. “Growing Up” is a book by Russell Baker and it his autobiography as a mama’s boy who leads a dull and sexless life. He whines about having to sleep on a day bed at his aunt’s house during the Great Depression when there were people starving to death. He began a fighter pilot in World War Two only to ferry planes from one coast to the other, and take a train back. He let his mother run his love life and ruin his one true love with a woman. And yet the book won a Pulitzer Prize. I’m at a loss to explain this to you.
I read “Moby Dick” a few years ago and was left with the question of “Why?” The book could have been written just as well a few hundred pages shorter. When it was first published, it didn’t sell very well at all, and when the warehouse where the books and the printing dies were stored burned down, the publisher paid Melville for the books rather than reprint them. Don’t get me wrong, “Moby Dick” is a very well written book, but the detail in some scenes is like describing dirt for an hour.
Writing is hard work. It is time consuming and to make it right you’ve literally have to cross all the teas and dot all the eyes. You have to watch out for grammatical errors and you have to realize that you are a lot smarter than spell check. It’s helps to have a friend who can edit your work and send it back to you, ravaged and red inked, and you not take it personally.
Writing is hard work. You may be a good blogger, and you may have  two thousand FaceBook friends, but sooner or later you are going to have to sit down and hammer out the bugs in that novel you’ve been trying to write. You can, I suppose, peck it to death like a whale being attacked by parakeets, but if you’re serious about writing then you’re going to have to do more than have several disconnected scenes of action with no clue as to where it is all leading. What are you trying to say? What are you trying to do? What is it that you’re bringing to the world of writing that needs to be done?
Writing is hard work, but it is one of the Eternal Arts of humankind. You don’t have to be famous or published to be good, and you shouldn’t need that to be happy with your art.  If it’s there you’ll find it. Look for it, fight for it, work at it, and in the end, it won’t matter what else happens, as long as you write.

Take Care,
Mike

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Day That Was Made Entirely From The Fail.

Some days are made up entirely of the fail. You open the egg carton first thing in the morning, which is somewhere between noon and one in the afternoon in my world, and find one egg. My sharp cheddar cheese supply is down to a tiny green covered block the size of half of a pair of dice. Did you notice, by the way, how neatly I guided you into knowing how small a piece of cheese I own without using the singular noun “die” which is a word most people associate with either death or tools, not the random generator of a number between one and six? That way, those who didn’t know die is singular for dice know what I’m talking about, size wise, and the rest of everyone else gets to feel smug about already knowing it, and the concept that I haven’t had nearly enough coffee, sleep, or socialization in the last week is abundantly clear.
There is a jump drive missing. The Loki Mutt, for reasons which have never been clear to me, likes jump drives. At this time, Lucas has a digital capacity of about 32 gigs. He’s learned to leave no evidence behind, lest his behind suffer, so I have to search through the woods for something so small it might go unnoticed even if looking for it for a week might be worth it.  Unlike some people I know, I never keep personal information on anything that can be carried in my pocket, except my wallet. But this is the Day, the day composed and totally made of Fail.

Bridges, despite the dramatic falling in of that one in Minnesota, rarely fall down. The failure in bridges is generally something that has to do with something happening that will cause the bridge’s lifespan to be shortened before it has to be replaced, or something that causes the bridge to be repaired or maintained, and that is usually expensive.  Bridges are made of concrete and steel and if the concrete cracks, the steel will be exposed to moisture and air and rust will form. Rust is like ice in the fact that it expands, and that expansion cracks more concrete which lets in more air and moisture and pretty soon you have problems.

A bridge on the Interstate was patched, and I have no idea how many years ago, and last night the patch failed. It wasn’t dramatic, or large, or life threatening, but small holes become large holes if left to traffic, so I stopped and waited until someone could get there with something to patch the hole. While standing there in front of my truck, a car came by so close I could have reached out and touched it. My truck has flashing lights, blinking lights, and I am wearing a vest that glows even by starlight.
There are three lanes heading Southbound on I-75. All I really wanted is for no one to hit a small hole on the edge of the outside lane. All I really wanted, considering it’s a twelve foot lane, is enough room so I couldn’t smell the driver’s breath when the car passed in front of me.
I usually keep my truck behind me, so if someone comes off the highway and hits something, it will be the truck first, but even then, what happens to someone standing in front of a truck that’s just been rammed by someone doing seventy? I won’t be good.
So what did I do last night to deserve to be executed? Was trying to patch a hole in a bridge a crime worthy of getting crushed by a car? No, wait, don’t tell me, that lane closure we’ve got in a few miles back, that slowed you down, didn’t it? Instead of going seventy for that four miles, you had to slow down to fifty, and that twenty miles an hour you lost for four miles means you lost a couple of minutes off your record time going to where you’re going, and dammit, someone ought to die for it, right? Or be crippled and maimed, at least, right?
Maybe we ought to have some sort of timing system set up so for every X amount of time you spend being held up by people maiming or rebuilding a road for you to travel seventy miles an hour on, you get to take your frustration out by killing or maiming Y amount of road workers.

Let’s see what happens here; You hit me with your car, and you’re going to have to get it repaired, you have insurance, so it’s going to cost you your deductable, and you’re likely going to get pulled over for all this and that’s going to slow you way down, dammit. Hitting me with your car, is likely going to teach those other road working bastards to stay out of your way, right? So in the end, it might be worth it, right?
Where were you going? My mom would like to know. My mother would like to find out where you were going, and what was there, that was worth killing me. My father would likely want to sit in on the conversation too, so if you could explain to my parents where you were going, and what was there, that was worth killing me, I would appreciate it.

Could you send my friends some postcards? I have people who care for me, and I bet they would really like to see what I was run over for. What’s it like there, this place you’d kill to get to? Do you do heart transplants? Was there was a nuclear weapon to be defused? My sisters would like to know that I died for a greater good, so could you call them and tell them why you were going so fast, and drove so close to where I was, because there had to be a good reason, didn’t there?

Bert is eleven. He’s stiff and old and bitchy, but he’s been the best dog, ever. When I don’t come home could you stop by and take him in? Could you tell him it’s not his fault I didn’t come back to him? He’s going to think it was something he did, to drive me away. He won’t understand you were in a hurry, and that’s why his dad is gone. Sam needs pettings. He has to be told it’s going to be okay, even though deep down inside he doesn’t believe it. He’s nearly ten, so you won’t have to love him for as long as I have. The Puppy Lucas needs exercise, so if it’s okay, after you kill me, could you toss a ball for him a few times a week, and wrestle with him? If you aren’t in too much of a hurry, that is.

I have a novel I’m writing. Could you finish that for me, please, after you kill me? Could you check in on Elbow when she’s sick, and take care of my parents when they’re old, and if you are not in too much of hurry could you stuck around to see my niece graduate from Mercer?

Or could you slow down, just a little, and give me just a little room to do my job, so that I might make roads and bridges for you to hurry on your way to that place, that place worth killing me for?

Take Care,
Mike

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Break Down

One of the men who works for the contractor out on the interstate and myself inspected the abandoned vehicle as a matter of course. Twenty more feet of life and it would have been too close to where we’re working, and we would have had to push it back or tow it. It’s not my call to make, to tow or not to tow, but I rather not tow a car if I can get out of it, because whoever is broke down might need a part, or a jump, or something minor, and getting your car back from a towing company can be expensive. Pushing a car back is also fraught with peril because the owner can claim you damaged the car when you moved it.
The battery is missing from this one. There are tools, good tools, expensive tools, the kind of tools you buy and expect to keep forever under the hood; a couple of open end wrenches, a screwdriver, a socket wrench and a couple of sockets. It’s an old dodge, and it’s a Beater. A Beater is car that will break down in some other area once you fix what is currently wrong. The missing battery tells me this one at least has a battery problem but it could be worse. The contractor points out there is a car seat in the back, and we both silently hope whoever broke down on the Interstate did not have an infant with them at the time of disaster.
The car is almost in the way, and when work begins the foremen asks me if I am going to have the car towed. He isn’t asking me to tow the car, he’s asking me if he will be allowed to work around it if he needs to work around it. He’s a subcontractor, from out of state, and he’s a good and decent person who doesn’t want me to tow the car. I tell him it’s his call and he tells me no, no, don’t tow, okay? The car is within spitting distance of where we’re working, and the man’s tools, the wrenches and screwdrivers, and lying right under the hood. 

I didn’t see them when they pulled up, but suddenly there is someone working on the car, and he doesn’t have a flashlight. It’s getting too dark to see so I lend him my flashlight and this is a man who is really freaked out being so close to this much action. He assumes the tow truck has been called and the first thing he says is, “How much time can you give me?” I tell him he’s fine here and he doesn’t really know how to go about thanking someone for not stealing his tools. They can’t get it fixed tonight, and I tell him he’s good for at least another day or so but the truth is, I’m not calling in a tow on someone making an effort to get their daughter’s car fixed.

The hours ebb slowly, but they do shift around and midnight finds another vehicle on the side of the road. It happens this way, like salmon going upstream to spawn and die. We’ll go a week or so without anyone breaking down anywhere near us then suddenly it will rain down broke down cars and trucks like the Joad’s are all heading west at one time. This is a family very much like the Joad’s, with the truck piles high with stuff, and a family of four stuffed into the cab. The first man was surly, because working on a car on the side of the road will make anyone surly, and you have to take into account the fear, the helplessness, the anger involved when dealing with men on the side of the road. The first man was at least grateful, and he was polite, but this man is belligerent. He’s blown a tire, the one on the driver’s side in the back, and when he pulled over on the shoulder he pulled over too quickly and his truck ate into the guard rail. The guardrail is steel, the truck aluminum, and the rim of his tire is steel also, but the rim is dead if there is any damage at all, there is a serious line of lumps and bumps in what is left of the rim.

Have you ever seen one of those arcade games where there is a claw that you manipulate down and across to try to pick up some stuffed animal or a toy? The back of this truck looks like someone took one of those through the top of a Wal-Mart and came up with a heaping helping of cheap plastic furniture and junk. This is a large man, more fat than muscle, and he can’t seem to master the art of getting to the spare under the bed of the truck.  The truck is sitting lower because of tall the junk piled up in the back, but he’s have to unload most of it to get any rise at all out of the back, and that’s what he’s doing. When I pull up he’s an angry giant throwing his possessions out of the back of the truck. Cheap plastic chair break as he tosses suitcases down upon them, and when I pull up he starts cursing me. “Go ahead, call the damn tow truck, I don’t give damn what you do.”  The woman in the truck with the kids are frozen into place, too frightened of him to move or speak, and all the while he’s throwing what little they own in pile in the median. I’ve seen blind anger before and I am neither inclined nor equipped to deal with it.
When the two deputies arrive the man is still tossing stuff, still angry, but he’s not a total moron. One of the deputies goes over to speak with the woman while the other talks the man down from the mountain, and in very simple terms explains to him some civility might be in order.

It doesn’t take much, but it is a bit of a trick. I manage to get the spare out from under the truck, and thankfully it has air in it. I roll it out to the giant and with the deputies there, suddenly he’s a little less apt to shouting. He has to toss more stuff out of the truck to get to the jack, but by then who really cares?

An hour later the sun comes up and there is still a small pile of trash on the road, but one less broken down vehicle. The Joad’s have moved on, finally, with some of their stuff still on the side of the road. Two broken chairs, a blanket that looks like a sleeping bag, and some rope that died a long time ago are all that is left, except my thoughts this man a woman and some kids are now traveling without a spare.
Take Care,
Mike

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Write Never Sleeps

Have I said this before? I think three in the morning ought to be called “Writer’s Clock” like midnight is called “The Witching Hour” and five in the morning is called “Just too damn early to get up.”  If you’re a writer and your Muse has never spoken to you at three in the morning you are either drinking far too much, not enough. Or you’re not writing enough. I don’t know. Most of the people I know who are writer drink too often, or too much, and that might explain three in the morning, or it might not. Historically speaking, we writers pretty much have staked out alcohol as our own in the same sense musicians have hard drugs. This isn’t to say writers, or myself for that matter, have drinking problems, or that anyone musically inclined is stoned, or has to be. I’m just saying that historically speaking, this shows up in the news, and graveyards.

At three in the morning you can pretty much count on your thumbs the number of people who you can have some sort of meaningful conversation with, and there be some substance. The odds of you remembering that conversation is in direct proportion of the amount you’ve had to drink, and the next day, the idea for a novel based on a Giraffe that picks up cell phone calls in her antlers doesn’t seem nearly as good as it did when you were trying to stand up, and failing. And it was funny.

At some point, if you want to be a writer, or stay alive for very long, you have to look past the romance involved in writing and realize that it is damn hard work.  Sitting in front of your computer waxing poetic about the misery of life while you’re too drunk to see the keyboard works once, maybe twice, in the life of a writer and after that you’re just a typist in need of a twelve step program or a fairly decent ass whipping. At some point one or the other is going to win; you are either a drunk or a writer, and there is nothing to say you cannot be both, but if you’re serious about writing, you’re going to have to be able to connect while standing upright and breathing steady.

The Interstate is no place for writers or drunks, and I cannot afford to be either when I’m working. But in those spaces in between, I sneak looks at my cell phone, and my editor and I trade texts on writing about Demons. Who would be a good candidate? No Hitler, or anyone so obvious like that, but someone who was close to history, hidden in the shadows or supposedly a minor character, but possessed by a Demon, and pulling the strings of history from behind the curtain, but someone, certainly evil.
We happened upon recently deceased Susan Atkins, and her behavior when she was a young woman would lend herself to be a subject of possession, and we both liked the idea of seeing the events of her life through the eyes of a dispassionate, amoral creature, who could clear away the hype of the crimes, and see the cold blooded murder committed in the name of a madman simply as acts repeated throughout history by many people, for many reasons. Atkins was no more evil, or no less evil, than many other people who have lived, but in her life, she achieve a level of infamy at a very young age.

My editor lives in the Central time zone, so as The Writer’s Hour  drew a few hours closer she withdrew to the land of the normal and sane, and those who sleep through the night. At what passes as a lunch hour arrived, I sent out to the West Coast, a time zone three distant, sometimes four, and pinged the Pacific Writer’s Zone, and the call was answered.

“Hi, hello, how are you, I’m fine, what are you doing, working, what are you doing, we’re watching a television program about serial killers, oh which ones?”

The Manson Girls.

The Writer’s Hour arrives as I trade messages with someone about a mass murder for the second time in one night. Susan Denise Atkins, a young woman whose life ended long before she died last year, becomes part of the night, and trust me, if you’ve ever researched this person, you do not want Atkins anywhere near your mind when The Writer’s Hour arrives in all its glory.
I lack compassion for certain people in certain times for certain crimes. Atkins hacked her way into that part of my mind, and there she will stay. Yet there were others that got sucked into the vortex of those times who are still alive and still in prison. Should they remain there until they rot, literally rot, as Atkins did? The West Coast simply says, “ I don’t know” and that is an honest answer, one rarely spoken during The Writer’s Hour. Look past the news hype and the name of Manson and this woman would be free already, and perhaps harmless to us. But there is something deep within me that speaks to the crimes committed by those people, and that voice says, “No one free breath, ever”
Even the West Coast falls silent, and The Writer’s Hour belongs to me and the Interstate. There is work to be done, yet as the late night turns into early morning men begin to fade with the night. Everything slows down, and you can tell, like vampires, we will turn to dust with the first rays of the sun. Susan Atkins is with me now, young, vibrant, and malleable. The drugs, the sex, the living life without time or reason disconnects her from society, and suddenly she makes the run from sad to worse. A small band of humans turn within themselves and suddenly they are rocketed into a level of evil usually reserved for serial killers and war criminals.
As the first rays of light creep into the sky at my back, I realize my Demons are not needed, and evil doesn’t have to exist. We humans are doing quite well, all on our own, to be everything we will ever need, to destroy ourselves, and everything else on earth.

Take Care,
Mike