Friday, December 18, 2009

You Mean, You Really Need To Know This?

No doubt, if you have email and Facebook, you all get these at some time or another — the "What's your favorite color?" and "What stripper name would you like?" questions — the running lists of trivial information that your friends and relatives just cannot live without knowing. Since this information is never sensitive, and I believe that a total stranger will be just as disinterested in my results as any of those close to me, I've decided to post all questions and answers to my blog from here on out. This may include warts and all, as in, font color and size changes, random italicization, and the crappiest grammar EVER. So, here is the maiden ship voyage of the U.S.S. Information (Useless Suzanne Sarah Information):

Welcome to the Christmas edition of getting to know your friends. Okay, here's what you're supposed to do, and try not to be a SCROOGE!!! Just copy (not forward) this entire email and paste into a new e-mail that you can send. Change all the answers so that they apply to you. Then send this to a whole bunch of people you know, INCLUDING the person that sent it to you...'Tis the Season to be NICE!


1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? the lesser of a choking hazard


2. Real tree or Artificial? neither, prefer "New Car" scent


3. When do you put up the tree? every time I get a car wash, yearly


4. When do you take the tree down? see answer #3


5. Do you like eggnog? If it's got brandy in it, I don't like it, I LOVE IT.


6. Favorite gift received as a child? my 135 IQ score


7. Hardest person to buy for? my overly analytical, 135 scoring self


8. Easiest person to buy for? Not people … dogs; cripes, they eat poo!


9. Do you have a nativity scene? The dogs have a scene every day.


10. Mail or email Christmas cards? No! My stamps!


11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? poo from the dogs


12. Favorite Christmas Movie? π


13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? I shop for Jesus all year.


14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? see answer #11


15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? crow


17. Favorite Christmas song? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wH2umxtA_sc


18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? By all means, please travel ... far away from me.


19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer's? Dokken, Dashboard, Pacecar, Viagra, Cometh, Cuspid, Dunder, Blintzes, and Rudolph Giuliani


20. Angel on the tree top or a star? rearview mirror (see answers #3 & #4)


21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Who cares, when you have egg-schlog? *hic*


22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year? cleaning up, not clearing out


23. Favorite ornament theme or color? dead opossum


24. Favorite for Christmas dinner? ❆ see answers #15 & #23, braised


25. What do you want for Christmas this year? world peas (if exists, probably at Trader Joe’s)


26. Who is most likely to respond? Me. Duh! Though why, I have no clue.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Fruitcake Toss



I'm one of those non-believers you've (not) heard so much about. My enjoyment of this time of year is two-fold. Please, let me explain ...

First, I appreciate how warm and fuzzy most people become. Philanthropists "philanthrople" their brains out. Everyone smiles as a neonate spits up on a tittering new mom's bosom. Everyone fancies themselves comedic, especially when tipsy. Fun!

Second, I gather, appreciate, and create parody of non-religious Christmas/Chanukah/Winter Solitice/Kwanzaa traditions (my guilty pleasure for which I feel absolutely no remorse). Check out this visual manual for building a Mountain Dew can Christmas tree I found on the web yesterday: http://www.eatliver.com/i.php?n=5078

The things I find disturbing about this time of year are two-fold, as well ...

Those same folks that fancy themselves comedic when tipsy often turn into jackasses when soused ... and you can't take their keys and leave 'em at the bar because they're in your living room. The baby's spit-up turns out to be not from breast milk satiation, but from Winter Flu. And, those corporate donors are only giving as much as they need to qualify for federal tax credits and to keep their name on the plaque above the door leaving programs flailing and gasping for breath.

The Christmas tradition that seems to do the most damage is that of notion that there must be an excess of EVERYTHING — food, booze, gifts, seats at the table, party invites, holiday cards coming in, late nights, and decorations — excessive stress and debt are the two consequences of all these shenanigans.

So, I propose that we keep it simple this year. Philip and I will be hosting a fruitcake toss in March. What is this, you ask? Well, take that cake gift or buy one on sale after Christmas, open up that tin lid, and let your cake get good and stale. The only difference between your cake and a discus is the cake should still be a little sticky. Let us know if plan to participate and we'll send details.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

A Very, Very Rough Draft of NaNoWritMo Work

Grandma’s Watch

Teresa

I keep a claim ticket beneath my bed for a silver watch of my grandmother’s that was pawned. She didn’t know I had it, or that I had found it. I suppose I was where I shouldn’t have been. Maybe my grandfather had actually pawned the watch. It had, as its cutoff date, September 27, 1965. It is now September 01, 2005. I suppose that it is probably gone by now. The pawnshop is probably gone by now. I certainly know that my grandmother, and my grandfather, are gone by now. Maybe I should look for the watch. Maybe I should look for the shop. Maybe I should not be looking in places that I do not belong. I know where and what I am from, but I cannot possibly know where it is that I am going without some answers to all these questions.

Grandmother cut hair for a living. She put my grandfather through pilot’s training by the price of multiple dead cells from the scalps of gossips. She did their nails, also. They took full advantage of the stereotype of the hairdresser as counsel. She would return home with stiffened, gnarled hands; she winced while washing dishes, ironing, vacuuming, sewing, cooking, parenting, and such; basically anything you could add an ing to, they sucked and sucked. All these tasks, all these people, everything, sucked my grandmother dry. She did not even bleed when she died, because there was no life left in her.

My grandfather was a maintenance engineer, which is a fancy name for a janitor. He was actually a pilot, bent on crop dusting, but there were so many pilots that returned from the war who wanted an American daredevil job that my grandfather was shit out of luck. So, because he could not have what he wanted out of life, he was hell-bent on no one in his immediate family having what they wanted either. Bitter. He never took to drinking. He never verbally abused anyone. His abuse was silence: no advice, no support, and no substance to his character. He was utterly and completely non-participatory except when it came to securing his own financial well-being. My guess is that he would have thought nothing of pawning that watch. He had no concept of “sentimental value,” or anything relating to the passing on of a legacy. Come to think of it, he most definitely had no idea of “value” past how much a dollar was worth. This is why I never liked him.

I believe my father starved for the first eight years of his life. He said that when he went over to his friends’ houses, the first thing that he did was raid the fridge. He constantly came home with food poisoning, unable to discern between what had been there a week and what had been there a day. He could never ask and, he said, his buddies always found his vomiting amusing. Today, my mother and I are the only ones who do not seem to find his struggles amusing. He scrapes and scrapes away at the pot, trying to eke out a living, trying to support his family and trying to keep from being sick from the stagnant and bitter aftertaste of the soured milk and honey he’s been fed throughout his life. He is the most hopeful and hopeless person I have ever known. It is very hard to think of my father in this way. It sometimes makes me cry. It never makes me laugh.

My mind constantly wanders away to the questions surrounding the watch. I am not even sure that it was my grandmother’s. It might have been my grandfather’s. It could have been a pocket watch, engraved to his father, or even to my great great grandfather. Who cherished this watch? I cherish this watch, because it links me to them, if only through questions. I cherish this watch. I love this watch. Maybe a new person cherishes it now. I wonder if it still sits in the shop waiting for me to come and bring it home where it belongs, with me.

I work at the Route 61 River Mart selling gas, and milk, and cigarettes, and Lotto tickets. I’m doing my part to contribute to my community. I give people what they need. Or, at least what they think they need when I set it out by the counter … like an afterthought. (I think my managers call it impulse buys, but I call it the Stupid, Because I’m Drunk and Don’t Know What the Hell I’m Doing But I’ll Buy It, Eat It, Smoke It, Pretend That It’s My Girlfriend, Cry On It, Hope That If I Ignore It, It Will Go Away purchase.)

I know how to value things. By things, I am referring to family, goods, services, and ideas. Money is only valuable in theory. My friend, Bob, who comes in to see me at the Route 61 River Mart, thinks the same way I do about money. Bob is a good fifty years older than I am. He comes in for his cigarettes, because we are located around the corner from his home at the assisted living care facility. He’ll buy his pack, I give him a book of matches with the Route 61 River Mart logo, and he’ll talk with me for a little while if I am not busy. After our talk, he’ll limp out front to the ashtray by the door and proceed to smoke at least half the pack, one after the other, with no break except to pull another from the pack and strike another match. After he has smoked his fill, he will come back in, give me the remaining half of his pack and the remainder of the book of matches, and tell me to take them to the bar with me for some down and out person. The finale is what I look forward to most, his parting words of wisdom. Two weeks ago was the one that I was referring to about the money, “Money can’t buy you happiness, but it sure can put a lot of misery in escrow.” Ain’t that the truth! I wonder if all of these sayings come directly out of his head, or if his family passed him these words to entertain his listeners. His conversations help my shift go by faster and more pleasantly. This easy conversation reminds me of my high school friend Lizzie.

When I was fifteen, I was not supposed to wear make-up. My mother wouldn’t let me, but I snuck out of the house and put it on at school. My friend Lizzie and I liked to hang out at the dock. If we were not on the small, dockside beach, we were at the arcade where her boyfriend, Leonard, hung out with his crowd. Leonard was so very cool and he had a lot of cute friends that seemed to like me. He had one friend who lived next door to him, but Mel didn’t even give me the time of day. I swam under the dock with Mel once. He called me Hannah. I had to correct him with “ my name isn’t Hannah, it’s Teresa.” He said, “Whatever.” He didn’t even care that he got my name wrong. That hurt me deep, but I still liked him. Somehow, I felt I’d been robbed of something, but damned if I can’t nail down what it was.

I wonder how badly my grandparents needed the money. Why did they so needlessly pawn it? The reason I say needlessly is because it couldn’t possibly have been that bad, so bad I have nothing but this ticket. Bob’s grandkids make sure that he is well taken care of at the home. He tells me about their visits. I would have taken care of my grandparents. I could have picked up extra hours here at the store. If the watch kept correct time, I would never be late. I bet the pawning of that watch killed them both. I sometimes have a picture in my head of my younger grandmother standing outside the shop, staring at the silver watch with the sapphire on the stem wrapped delicately about her swollen wrist, watching the minutes tick by with her tears keeping the seconds, and wishing, wishing that my grandfather would run up to her and tell her not to go in. He would have done something like this when they were boyfriend and girlfriend because, when they were dating, they had been in love. What happened to that connection that Bob always talks to me about, the one line of thought for two minds, which seems so easily established with the right person, even in the wrong environment? I’ve never felt this type of connection. I would believe that this type of relationship was a farce, a myth, or the stuff of urban legends, had Bob not told me, very emphatically, that this is what he had shared with his beloved Lilly. Lilly is the flower that blooms constantly in his conversation. She blooms in his memory.

What’s in a name? Currently, my boyfriends generally have run-of-the-mill names like Kevin or Jack. Names never seem to develop and bloom in my mind, although I try to ensure they never have the name John. Ever since I found out that a John is a guy who sleeps with hookers, that name just gives me a funny feeling. So, I won’t go out with anyone who is named John. Maybe that’s weird, but I know you understand. Sometimes, people develop quirky traits that only hold rhyme and reason for them.

When I was eighteen, I met Pal. It sounds like a dog’s name, but it’s not, he was a boy, a man, actually. His five-o’clock shadow worked abrasive and deep, and his bodily attentions worked better than pumice at scraping off dead skin, unneeded skin, until it was raw with pleasure. He was my first and I was his … oh gosh! I have an idea I was probably off the fingers and toes list. I was the one that was “The One” that was going to change him, but he didn’t know that. Pal met another girl, a woman, actually, and dumped me for her. I was broken, so I wrote him a song that went something like this:

Chorus:

I’ve got what you need … you confused and lonely boy.

I’ve got what you need … I’m not like her. I’m no decoy!

I’m real … I’m everything she’s not.

Don’t you understand that I got what she ain’t got?

I never got a chance to sing him that song because he ran off and married that tart (I like this old-time terminology for a wanton woman, or a woman who is loose, or, a most contemporary of terms, a slut) that he thought was so fantastic for her long nails and salon-tanned skin. I’m very glad that I never did, because she had a baby eight months after getting together with him and he was stupid enough to believe that it was his. He never was very adept at keeping track of time.

Except for Bob, men seem to easily forget what it is that makes a good thing, don’t they? Pet you here and compliment you there; it’s quite all the same to them in my eyes. I lapse into my old self at any point and then, quite promptly, forget what myself is about. My self keeps changing and I can’t keep up. My men keep changing in foul conjunction with myself. My current list never gets long enough to necessitate the use of an Oxford Comma. “What is an Oxford Comma?” you ask. Well, this comma comes before the and in a list of three or more. So what I get is: one was nice and smart; another was handsome and rich; yet another was everything and more; and the last was nothing and knew it. I’m never left breathless.

The last relationship I had that even remotely resembled a boyfriend/girlfriend type of connection was with Grant. This felt so very wrong for the last three months we were together, only because he was more like a brother than a boyfriend. We laughed, we cried, we did the crossword together. He got all the answers and I agreed with him. The passionate embraces we had experienced in the beginning were exchanged for bouts of pouting on opposite ends of the couch in his apartment. He teased me mercilessly about my taste in art and music. He said I lacked the fundamentals. He went limp every time we were nude. My nakedness somehow distressed him. I began to stress on his distressedness. I began to write new lyrics in my head that had the hero running far, far away from the heroine, intentionally, to spare her the agonies of his issues. He dumped me, thank goodness, and thoroughly disappeared from my day-to-day habits. I think that he might have been gay.

I only date now. I talk with the friends that I want to talk to. I avoid the people that I don’t want to talk to very much. I never want to marry. I don’t want my husband to pawn my things that I worked so hard to get. I don’t want my potential husband to forget my name is Teresa, or leave me for someone who looks good on the outside, but is really some gold-digger. Tracking my life. I feel as though I’m following the footsteps of a life I have already led. Repeating History, as they might say. I’ve inherited this. This seems to be the legacy I am to have, which I certainly cannot pawn off on to someone else.

Now I just go out with my girlfriends to the clubs and dance with strange men until it feels like my back is snapping in two, right at the hips. My friends constantly have to save me, because I am the quintessential moron magnet. I’m not saying that the guys are bucktoothed, or that they smell bad. All I’m saying is that their personalities leave much to be desired. Maybe, they are a little too clingy right off the bat. Or, they get too far into my personal space with their mouths constantly open, jabbering away about nothing particularly interesting at volume ten because of the music, their dental work flashing like a mirrored disco ball. I should not complain so much, because I see quite a few women hovering around my encounters with these losers with jealous, wilted looks on their faces. If they only knew the half of what was coming out of those mouths they would not be quite so jealous, I guarantee it. The guys who don’t seem to me to be losers sit at the bar and watch me suffer. I find questions begin to beat in my mind with the rhythms of the music and the steps of the people … and this syncopated questioning keeps time. Grandma probably stared mutely at her watch, observing the minute hand continue to tick, bypassing minutes where every one of them escapes, making it harder and harder to believe that her situation might somehow change. She probably never understood that you have to make change happen. You have to educate yourself.

I spend all of my truly quality time with myself, reading or thinking, remembering how things used to be and thanking Fate that it is not that way anymore. I’ve always enjoyed these activities. Even when I was a kid, my favorite place was my neighbor’s attic where his family kept every book ever bought by anyone as far back as, from what I can gather, the 1860s. There was no room for anything else in that space. It had ceased to be a space and had become like a collection of ant mounds. It was a maze, but I learned my way around in it all better than any member of his family ever did. I loved that attic; it was better than my home. It’s where I learned all the things my friends call “BIG WORDS” and the various bits of literary trivia that I dish out, sporadically, amongst those I feel can comprehend the ideas I wish to impart. If I judge my social repartee by Bob’s standards, my knowledge is a veritable plethora of trivial information mixed with the common sense of a true street thug. This is all that I think is really needed to relate to people: the trivia for entertainment value, the thuginess to strong-arm the listener, and the ability to mix the two into the golden flow of conversation. Conversational alchemy. It’s all rather academic, really.

I like to work in the relatively stress-free environment that I have built for myself. I just jet home from my job, change clothes, and wander wherever my feet might take me. Most times it is to the bar down the street, where I take all of Bob’s half-packs of cigarettes. My neighbors congregate there to talk about their various sexual exploits or to create new ones. I have partaken in a few of these myself, but they leave me feeling spent when whatever conquest of the night before wanders into the Route 61 River Mart in search of edibles (or, more likely, my attention), like this guy, Doug.

Doug will come by and promise me anything he thinks that I might want as a woman — cars, jewelry, and trips to Cancun — if I’ll just be with him on a regular basis, that is, when he’s in town. Doug’s a busy guy. He’s a salesman for a national frozen food company. He’s not in town very often, but he lives here. Whenever he comes to the bar, he sits in my seat so I’ll know he’s back. I was only with him once, but that was enough. Doug travels too much. I would need my man to stick around. I’m not a book to be checked out or shelved. I don’t want some guy to have to blow the dust off me in order to take me out.

Sometimes, I go to the bookstore. I never go to the library, because I want to own the book; I want it to be mine. It won’t wander off and fall into the wrong hands only to be abused and then discarded. I want to create my own attic for little children to play and learn in. This will be my legacy to pass on to my neighbors’ kids because, as I said, I do not intend to marry. That means that I do not intend to have children of my own.

I want to talk about legacies. The books, Bob’s wisdom, and a lot of questions about my own background would be the only tangible, and intangible, things that I have to pass on. I am comfortable with this on the one hand, but on the other, I believe that I might somehow fail society in only contributing these things. This is what I truly and deeply consistently worry over. I want to make a difference. I do not want to leave a claim ticket full of questions as to what I thought, knew and loved. I do not always want to be known as the seller of impulsive thoughts. I do not ever want people to think that I gave up trying to understand where I came from and where I was going. Conversely, I do not want them to somehow conclude that I tried to make a better life for myself by shedding the skin of my past. I am happy being passive and I am very gladdened when I think that my passiveness can be of some use to meet some end (such as with my job at Route 61 River Mart, with the customer service and all). But, you can’t leave a legacy of passiveness. It’s too static. It does not transmit. It sits like a rock embedded in the shifting sands of my personality. One day, the perfect wisdom to address this issue of my passiveness will be emitted from Bob’s mouth and I will be there listening.

I bet the shop is filled to the rafters with people’s disinherited legacies. Time probably coats the items with the fine dust of the forgotten. The tickets for all pawned legacies have journeyed from booklet to pocket to mirror crevice (where it sits for months, maybe years, contemplated, cried over, crumpled, and nicotine stained) to landfill. The money exchanged was probably placed into the hands of loan sharks (or groceries, or hardware stores, or offspring, or girlfriends and so on). This is the only time I wish that I was rich. I would go to that store that one of my grandparents exited with a claim ticket so long ago and retrieve not only my watch (stopwatch, wristwatch, pocketwatch, pinwatch), but also all the other orphaned items cast out and banished from the hope chests intended for future generations. I would adopt them all as my own. I would place them in reliquaries to be turned to in times of crises as harbingers of the miracles of family and place of belonging in the world. I want to fill my attic with them and pile them up like ant mounds into constructions of productive and collective life. I want to use them as bookends to uphold and support knowledge and History. I want children to not be afraid to touch them and learn what it means to be part of a community — a larger family than just Mom, Dad, Bro, and Sis — and to feel the presence of the blood that beats its time into their sense of self, so that they may feel the strength of their descendents’ influences.

I asked my father about the watch. He had no recollection of ever having seen either his father or his mother with any sort of timepiece past two alarm clocks on their respective bedside tables (they slept in separate rooms as far back as he could remember) and a wall clock with a face to which several gnats hung dead and a stray bit of lint floated atop the hour hand, nothing dislodging with the slow pace of movement from one hour to the next. He quickly feigned loss of interest in my questions. He does not like to talk about his parents. I can certainly understand in that I do not particularly feel any degree of comfort in discussing my dad’s life with others.

I wanted to call the number on the claim ticket, but the number was from a time when you were connected through an operator, and they prefaced the number with a name, or a word. This has been scratched out on the ticket. Possibly, the storeowner had erased most of it. He might have ordered all these tickets from the printer at a reasonable discount, forgetting that the time of connection, rather than information, operators was coming to a near close, and his number would soon be changing. I can just make out a word that looks like “Wilbury” and the numbers are incomprehensible.

One day last week, I was in the office at work and I decided to look up the shop’s name in the online yellow pages. There was no listing. My thought is that the shop could have changed hands. It is conceivable that a son-in-law, or a daughter with a married name, could have taken over the shop. When I went onto the Internet to a site that had maps, the street came up as no longer in existence. It had been renamed, or built over. My next step will be to look into the city planning and zoning, provided that I can figure out exactly what neighborhood that shop had been in. There has got to be a history online somewhere for the naming and renaming of city streets.

My questions are not being answered. Whenever I reflect deeply on my relationships, and my upbringing, the questions multiple out squared and cubed. I wonder if there will be time to pursue half of the answers. Most times, I just wonder whether it’s even worth it. My passiveness takes over at this point. There is no railing against the “need to know” because the questions will ultimately repeat themselves until they do not seem to matter so much. The one thing that I cannot possible remain passive about is the claim ticket. It whispers to me in an unintelligible and incoherent language that I am beginning to doubt that I might ever understand.

Words Pass Over the Counter At the Route 61 River Mart

Bob has more than a bit of swagger still left in his frame. He is confident, learned, stable, and kind. Everyone he interacts is potentially enlightened to the possibility of a lengthy and epic life. The friendly conversation (that his demeanor dictates he conduct) passes on to the listener cliché, after epigram, after noteworthy quote. Most people want to learn something from Bob; that is why they listen so intently. Teresa is one of those that want to be enlightened, but is somehow unwilling, or unable to get past the words that churn within her mind. She reveres Bob’s outlook, but her attempts to understand it have come to naught.

Teresa has thought of or mentioned the watch and the claim ticket three times to Bob. The first was when Bob told her that his wife, Lilly, had come from a family that had been destitute. Lilly’s extended family had to rob Peter to pay Paul in order to keep them afloat. Teresa could relate to this mode of survival. Teresa did not say anything, but stood at the counter entertaining the idea of morphing into Robin Hood.

The second time the claim ticket came to Teresa’s mind in conversation with Bob, he had just finished telling her that his own family were bushbeaters. When she asked him what that meant, he said that his family beat the bush while another took the birds. The perplexed look on her face prompted Bob to tell her, “Look! I came from a family of farmers who didn’t own their land. They never saw a penny of profit off of the corn and alfalfa they grew to fatten someone else’s cows and the landowner’s wallet. The only thing we had on that farm to feed us was the henhouse. I’ve eaten one plain, soft-boiled egg for breakfast every day of my life, even when I could afford a little Hollandaise to go with it.”

Teresa then told Bob a little about her father’s situation growing up. She told Bob that her father rarely talked about growing up poor, but that she had evidence. This is when she told him about the claim ticket and that she was unsure of where it had come from or what kind of watch it had been. Bob asked, “Would you be willing to bring it in for me to take a look-see? Maybe, I can help. Lord knows, I have seen a few claim tickets in my time.”

The third time the claim ticket was discussed was when Teresa brought the ticket in for Bob to take a look-see. He turned it over and over in his hand as though it were a Fabergé egg. He put on his half glasses and tried to read the blurred writing. If one were to have witnessed Bob and Teresa in this scrutinizing process, one would see a very old man and a young, attractive woman head-to-head on either side of the Route 61 River Mart counter fingering a slip of paper that looked like a receipt. “Well, young lady, I’m not quite sure why they didn’t put a description of the watch on here. It would make sense, wouldn’t it? But, I suppose that’s why they call them pawnbrokers and not professors. And, what’s more, there is no way of telling from this ticket who is the borrower and who is the receiver. Obviously, someone needed the money. That is a situation that you — a bright, industrious, and pleasant young woman — may never have the misfortune of having to endure.”

Teresa was severely disheartened with Bob’s seemingly dismissive attitude. It made her depressed that her last hope of discovering the mystery of the ticket had been dashed by the one in whom she had held faith to enlighten. Bob merely voiced a string of proverbs that held no meaning for her: whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad; while the grass grows, the steed starves; and give a thing, and take a thing, to wear the devil’s gold ring. He did not bother to explain any of them and, for once, she did not bother to ask. She just did not care. Bob’s wisdom was falling on deaf ears.

Teresa

I had a visitor at the Route 61 River Mart this morning. Bob brought this guy in that he knew from his the farm. This guy’s name was Charley and he had been a feed salesman. Charley said he and my grandfather had been neighbors and good friends. Charley wanted to know if my grandfather was still living and, if so, where he could contact him. I told him that my grandfather had passed away several years ago. Charley then asked after my grandmother. I had to tell him that she, too, was dead, and that she had actually passed on before my grandfather.

Charley looked at me kind of funny, like I was a ghost, like I was floating away. He kept looking at the ceiling. I looked also, but I didn’t see anything up there. Bob was very quiet, so quiet. I wondered what the heck was going on. Charley gave me his condolences and headed for the door. I had never met anyone who’d known my grandparents. I couldn’t let him just leave. It would have been wrong of me to simply let him walk out without saying something.

Right as the bell was ringing above the doorframe, I asked Charley if he knew my father. He came back to the counter and told me that not only did he know my father, but that his own kids and my grandparents’ kids had grown up together. Charley said that my grandmother took care of his children, while he and his wife were at work, and my grandfather took care of his kids at the school where my grandfather was a janitor. Charley said that my grandparents fed, clothed, and financially supported his family for a good four years. Why? Because they were old war buddies.

I had never known that my grandparents were supporting two families. It did not ring true. I asked him if he had known my grandparents when they were poor. He told me that, back then, they were all poor, some more than most, but people who really cared took care of each other. They took care of each other in ways that might bring shame and disgrace upon themselves, like when he had my grandfather pawn his things.

I tell you, I was floored. How? Why? Watch? This wasn’t my watch! This was Charley’s watch! I just had to ask him why he had my grandfather doing the pawning. I was embarrassed and I know I should have probably thought about the sense in asking this question before I went and just blurted it out. I was rude and angry. Charley stammered and blushed when he answered me. He said that he had been a feed salesman who could not have his clients knowing he was flat busted. My grandfather offered to do the deed for him. My grandfather saved his family from starving.

Why did my grandfather have this ticket? Did he steal it from Charley? Did he keep it as a kind reminder of the suffering that can be inflicted on one family to save another? These were new questions, ones that I was not comfortable in asking myself, ones that made me feel ashamed and hurt that I had wasted so much time asking the wrong questions.

This all happened this morning, so I suppose it hasn’t quite sunk in yet. Charley gave me his number for my father to call. I think I might call him myself to find out more about my grandparents. There are so many wasted questions I am mentally tossing out with the trash. I need to identify my legacy. For now, I believe my legacy is to be my good name, because a good name is better than a golden girdle according to Bob. This I understand, unquestionably.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Takin' It to the Streets


Today, I'm going to be hot-footin' it around my neighborhood delivering a letter to the block captains of our neighborhood association. This type of activity is always a sociologically, psychologically and environmentally interesting exercise. Sociologically, you get to see how people work at living together block-by-block. Psychologically, you can often identify which individuals/families have extricated or isolated themselves. And, environmentally, you can see (up close) which neighbors are participating in sustainable and aesthetically pleasing garden practices. Needless to say, all of these perceptions are fodder for creative thought ... the best medicine for combating writer's block.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Blogs & Websites I Will Like


Considering the list to the lower right on this page, I'd love to hear some feedback as to all the interesting sites I'm missing and shouldn't live without seeing at least once.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Emoticons & Text Shorthand: Y These Make Me :(



Allow me to back up a smidge here and tell you how I arrived at this point. Approximately five years ago, my friend sent me a bombardment of "text messages" riddled with acronyms that I did not understand, misspellings and what I perceived to be the strangest uses of punctuation that I had ever encountered. These texts looked something like this at their most benign:

Haha ROLF hope ur hvin gd time 2nite :)

And, texts such as these just about gave me an aneurysm:

hv to b hm bc BF cumin cnt go out ;)~ ill call u l8r

My first reaction to these texts was wide-eyed, slightly open-mouthed, knit-brow perplexity. I was somewhat offended, not only by the fact that her specific messages blatantly conveyed sexual remarks, but she knew damn well:
1) I had no clue what many of the acronyms meant;
2) I did not have text messaging as part of my cellphone package, so would have to pay 10¢-a-pop for this tripe;
3) I was an English major who used punctuation for the traditional uses for which these marks were intended (to mimic patterns of speech);
4) There was so much MISSING punctuation and improper contractions;
5) I did not then, nor would I ever, have any interest in her relationship with her creepy, effeminate, emo boyfriend.

In essence, I felt old at 33, unhip and disconnected. I felt as if I'd never catch up.

Flash forward to the present and I now view these past texts as a form of orientation. I have a text plan included in my cellphone package, as well as Facebook and twitter accounts with the requisite "What are you doing?" status updates. I consistently receive and review communications that often contain what I deem to be the most regrettably heinous abuses of the English language I have ever known from some of the most intelligent, educated, well-rounded and socially dedicated members of my family, friends and colleagues.

I am an amateur orthographer (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orthography). As such, my conflicts with these matters are based in scientific thinking, rather than morality. Have I caught up? I really don't know. Maybe, in deed, but not in thought process. You might ask me if I have ever used ":)" to convey that I was smiling? The answer would be yes, I used this for the first and last time on a twitter post a couple of days ago (I'm still feeling itchy about it). Have I ever used ":(" to convey sadness? I think the title of this post says it all. I am truly conflicted as to what stance I should personally take in defense of, or against, these layers of incongruous meaning created with the text message format. Is this a fast-moving creation of patois where everyone participating has a say at in what colorful embellishments and components of language(s) are stitched together into an ever-evolving state of definition and redefinition? Or, is language being severely bastardized in this genre where everyone participating has their turns at beating it with the ugly stick, making it low and common?

If you have read this post and have a viewpoint you would like to discuss, I am extremely interested to hear what you may be thinking about these matters. As it stands, I feel disheartened by people's inattention and deliberate misuses of grammar in the instant message/email genre. But, that's not to say I object to the current and future forms of communication (otherwise, there would be no point to participating). I fully realize that absolutely none of us have a perfect grade in adherence to the rules in these formats and I am extremely interested in the path that language is taking into the future. Please be thoughtful if you comment and I politely ask that you refrain from baseless personal attacks. I'm greatly interested in what YOU think. Where does my perspective differ from yours, where is there alignment and where are the tangents? What are some related topics? I'm all ears!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Why Would You Do This?


Now, I ask you, would you do this to a perfectly good beer? This stroke of idiocy even involves planning: http://www.wimp.com/frozenbeer/

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Character Shaping


When I was young, I used to take bits and pieces of junk and fashion them into the shape of an animal or person. I struck a big hit with my cheese wax people and JUJYFRUITS disembodied heads. I failed miserably at making popular the bony owl pellet animals. However, all my creations were not without merit. Each had been laboriously endowed with a personality, sets of moral codes and ethics, a past, and names before destruction. The more complicated the character, the less likely I was going to share this creation with anyone who might reject it.

Now, we skip to my adulthood as an author and I realize that I have not changed from my younger self in this respect. I still attempt to protect these very special characters by never fully integrating them into my stories as main players. There are any number of reasons that I could give you for not placing them in the foreground of the story. The single most telling reason is I do not want the story's environment and plot direction to change the character that I have grown to know so well in my head. This is not an unfounded fear, neither is it irrational. But, I am taking a pledge right here and now that I will no longer allow myself to indulge in this behavior with my writing. So, we will see what is to come from here on out. We will see how close I can get to making my people literary flesh and blood from what, at first glance, seems to be cognitive garbage.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Garfield Park Conservatory Tomorrow

Philip, his grandmother, and I will be headed to Garfield Park Conservatory tomorrow. They are currently celebrating their 100th year and the garden is still (unbelievably) free to the public.

http://www.garfield-conservatory.org/

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Home Corner

He purposefully and continuously seeks this corner on which to set up his magazine tables, so he can attract business and attention from north, south, east and westbound pedestrians in the Village. They stop to buy his trash-picked magazines for two or three bucks and throw their condescending faces forward toward the rest of their day never giving his life a second thought. They never think about how he would have to sleep on this same corner, or hire a placeholder, in order to save his spot for the next day. He knew this to be true.

He looks at them in tailored black and white and sweat-free city clothes, business casual, strolling in slingbacks and loafers away from his table thinking these people can even transform garbage and that’s how I make my way everyday.

He calls out to the women “My goodness, your beautiful! You looks just like one of these women in this here French Elle, but I sure don’t think they have anythin’ on you. Come take a look here. Go on! Take a look!” and the women purse their lips and lower their eyelids halfway in judgment of the situation and the jolt to the impracticality of their path being interrupted. They never quickly step forward to accept his compliments. He doesn’t take this as an affront to his blackness. The women are simply being New Yorkers and they are still inferior to him, because he really knows how to take care of himself. They usually end up buying the magazine. He knows they want it, they just didn’t know it until he showed them.

At the newsstand stand across the street, some of these imported magazines and catalogues could cost between fifteen and twenty-five dollars, but if his customers can wait until he found them in the bundled recycle piles in the street far below nine-hundred thousand dollar lofts, then they can have them for three or five. One rich, white person’s trash is another entrepreneurial black man’s food, shelter, clothing and freedom from the restrictions he might encounter in dealing with the bureaucracy of the social welfare system. There are too many drug addicts and alcoholics in the same profession. They give him a bad name with their shady dealings and unwashed bodies and pissing right on the sides of buildings, because the restaurants won’t let them use their restrooms. He doesn’t have that problem, because everyone in the Chinese restaurant on the opposite corner knows he’s a respectable man and he frequently plays Mah Jong with the restaurant owner on slow days on the corner of his table. Mr. Feng sits on a milk crate just off to the side so as not to block any customers’ views of the merchandise and Mr. Feng will watch the magazine table while he uses the men’s room at the back of the red silk lanterned and peanut oil smelling room. In this way, he does not have to hire a table watcher, so he can run three blocks north and two blocks east just to take a dump in a rimless and feces-covered toilet surrounded by wads of soiled newspaper and fast food wrappers.

The places are marked on the sidewalk where a table can be placed and the “public character” and the magazine stock must be so many feet from storefronts, so as not to impede the pedestrian’s progress in achieving their lofty goals and midday pursuits. Making eye contact and smiling is the only way he can get their attention and get their money. Necessity dictates than when this potential customer is a man, he must smile in an ingratiating and friendly manner as if to say we’re all men here and we’re all buddies. He might start this off with “Hey there, Guy! That cigar smells great! You mind showin’ me what brand it is in this here Cigar Aficionado? If it’s not in this one, it might be in November’s issue here. They gets all the brands in this issue ... 'cause of Christmas” and the men will step up confidently and reply, “I’m glad you asked me, because … ” and they begin to instruct him on the pleasures of being a man with expendable income. All he is really learning is how to make the sale and all he is achieving is utter and complete ownership of his individual freedom to act and do as he pleases.

Yet, last night he had slept in a hotel because it was cold outside and his placeholder let his tables and stock get confiscated by the police, because his placeholder had taken the half of the nightly fee that he had already paid the placeholder and bought a rock that the placeholder smoked in the park far from the corner. Karl Watts had jumped at the chance to get a table on his corner and now he eyed it from a bad spot, mid-block and across the street. He wanted his corner back. He felt very homeless.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Tracks

Backstory

The couple took off for Prince Edward Island. One kid was left in Sunnyvale with his great aunt and great uncle to watch Road Warrior everyday while having his lunch. The other kid was left in Palo Alto with her maternal grandparents to have Happy-Hour-At-Home where, at 4:15 p.m. on the nose, she had a Coors Original while her grandmother sipped on two jiggers of Old Crow with a splash of water.

Prince Edward Island

The couple is trying to get to Confederation Bridge to go back to the mainland. She has the crisply unfolded map gripped widthwise, then lengthwise, everywhichway but upsidedown. The signs at the crossroads, every junction being a crossroad, look like something from Looney Tunes: a wooden post with arrowed slats pointing to the various communities of Kilkora, Lower Freetown, Summerside; she tries to reconcile the topography of her view with the AAA map by the slant of the roads. There is yelling.

“We’re going the wrong direction!”

“Whose fault is that?!”

Words are as adversarial blows rather than transmissive devices. He pulls over to the side shouldering a potato field. Both are down for the count and…there is silence, intolerable silence. No verbal darts between the couple. No way to talk around the remarks they really want to make. He switches on the radio and tunes into a BBC game show of word association.

Sunnyvale

He plugs the tape (Memorex) into the VCR (Sanyo) and maneuvers himself back around the TV tray (oak) on which sits a chicken salad sandwich (with grapes and almonds on cracked wheat), carrots (raw, cut into sticks), and a 7-UP (slightly flat, ½ drank). Mel Gibson (Max) flexes (triceps, biceps, his sister, Suzanne, would be impressed) and the dust (powder-fine) flies. He absently picks at the scab (cracked and scaly) on his knee from the previous week’s skateboarding mishap.

His eyes (blue, Daniel) widen as the dune buggies roar toward certain violence (death and destruction). His parents (Harvey and Kay) had a date once where they had dinner in the movie theater’s (The Guild, The Park, The Varsity, he couldn’t remember the name) courtyard followed by a viewing of Road Warrior. He saw what they viewed (death and destruction). They said they had almost lost their dinners (steak or something). His lunch (chicken salad sandwich, carrots, and 7-UP) was staying down quite nicely.

Game Show

[CONTESTANT clears his throat and crosses himself silently, almost without discernable gestures. He stretches his neck forward while widening his eyes. His body becomes rigid and his mouth is drawn. The microphone is positioned approximately six inches from his mouth. The word is MAPS. Pause.]

Contestant: This is something that can come between the closest of friends.

Palo Alto

Looking at the grandmother, a former home economics teacher. Sitting on the couch. The grandmother sitting in a chair. The grandmother having the right hand with the permanently limp fingers resting in the lap. The grandmother having the left hand curling about the sweating cocktail. Both the hands are gripping the can of beer.

There is slow and hesitant talking. Words unfurling from half drooping and quivering lips. The neural networks are tangling as the rest of the body.

There is active and reactive listening. Words are taken in to, into, a growing mind. There is building, and inheriting, of memory, in bits, and pieces.

The grandfather, a former electrical engineer and radio announcer, is in the garage building electrical devices that are somehow connected to radio transmission.

Game Show

[AUDIENCE applause for approximately 10 seconds. Pause.]

Sunnyvale

He thinks that Max (Mel Gibson) is a lot like Dirty Harry (Clint Eastwood). Max is a good guy (Superman, Ronald Reagan, Eddie Van Halen). He thinks there doesn’t seem to be much to save (dirty clothes, dirty houses, dirty roads), but Max (Mel Gibson) still wants to do it.

He pauses the VCR (Sanyo) to get up and go to the bathroom (body moisturizers, seashell shaped soaps, blue toilet water, pink toilet paper).

The hallway (off which there are two bedrooms and one bathroom) is a gallery of family photographs (great aunt and great uncle’s wedding, 1st cousin once removed, the Album family, grandparents, brothers, sisters, unidentifiable family members). The rug is a Persian runner that had formerly lain in his grandparents’ (where Suzanne is) hallway. There are no rugs in the movie (Road Warrior), only rags.

Palo Alto

The grandmother is finishing the drink and dry Cheerios. She is finishing the one and only beer for the day, and the small saucer of mixed nuts whose chill from the freezer had thawed.

The conversation is done. The grandmother is sitting silently licking the lips while she is sitting silently watching the grandmother. She is thinking of the brother at the great aunt and uncle’s house. She is glad that the brother and she cannot fight over such a distance. She is glad the brother is not sitting in the grandparents’ living room. She is bored, so she decides to read one of the mystery books that are lying on the end table, unread, by the grandfather’s chair.

Sunnyvale

He returns to the chair (oak with a floral cushion tied to the seat) in front of the TV (and the oak TV tray that now held the empty plate that had sat under his lunch) and uses the remote control (for the Sanyo VCR) to take the movie (Road Warrior) off pause.

He decides not to watch the movie (Road Warrior) all the way through today (Tuesday, 12:37 p.m.).

Prince Edward Island

There is complete disbelief, followed by laughter. He pulls away from the shoulder while she, with a lingering titter and flap of her hand, guides the map back into its folds. The wounds are sutured, creating another map of sorts, one more appealing to this newly found liberty born of the laughter and release of the resentment.

“Let’s go exploring.”

“Yes, let’s.”

Sunday, August 09, 2009

A St. Elmo's Fire Pantoum

There are massive atmospheric potential differences.
A thunderstorm between queenie and quentin, the variables in this equitable quarrel, are
Charging the electric field outside,
In which they stand as two Highland cattle horns.

A thunderstorm between queenie and quentin, the variables in this equitable quarrel, are
Ionizing the air in the spark gap of argumentative space,
In which they stand as two Highland cattle horns,
Exchanging an electro-luminescent discharge of glances.

Ionizing the air in the spark gap of argumentative space,
As two anodes that are attracting anions of malevolence and
Exchanging an electro-luminescent discharge of glances,
Leading to atomic orbitals of lies becoming separated from the molecule of truth.

As two anodes that are attracting anions of malevolence and
Collecting ions and electrons of charged issues, which are no longer bound to each other,
Leading to atomic orbitals of lies becoming separated from the molecule of truth.
Dealing with the fourth state of this matter,

Collecting ions and electrons of charged issues, which are no longer bound to each other,
The bright bluish-white glow of their denials is cold.
Dealing with the fourth state of this matter,
Their sharply pointed structures emit light at low temperatures.

The bright bluish-white glow of their denials is cold,
Though the electric field of the fight is hotter than Hell:
Their sharply pointed structures emit light at low temperatures,
The light between them, a set of traveling disturbances,

Though the electric field of the fight is hotter than Hell
They are thinking of Helena, the fling, betwixt them,
The light between them, a set of traveling disturbances,
The twins, Pollux and Castor, have become involved.

They are thinking of Helena, the fling, betwixt them,
Charging the electric field outside.
The twins, Pollux and Castor, have become involved.
There are massive atmospheric potential differences.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Too Much Information



It's important to keep in mind that, within your sphere of capabilities, you need to be able to exercise your inalienable right NOT to know. Sometimes, you must have that courage to tell that certain someone with diarrhea of the mouth that, "I'm not comfortable with you telling me this." Following, you'll be that much happier, I promise.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

How Lila Might Lose An Abstract Noun



"How Lila Might Lose an Abstract Noun"

Last, Lila finds it necessary to define “love” or is it “Love” or, possibly, “LOVE” (and, in ending this sentence, the author/narrator/collaborator with Lila and her fictitious life finds it difficult to decide whether to use a “?” or a “.”) It is, quite possibly, the reader/sympathizer/empathizer’s job to create a meaning for this word. The author/narrator/ collaborator with Lila and her fictitious life is going to abstain from defining this abstract noun; it is not the author/narrator/collaborator with Lila and her fictitious life’s job. At first glance, the reader/sympathizer/empathizer will assign the task of shaping the reader/sympathizer/empathizer’s definition of “love” or “Love” or “LOVE” to be Lila’s responsibility. This cannot possibly be the case as the author/narrator/collaborator with Lila and her fictitious life is going to present Lila in third person (which, at all points in the narrative, will be limited to strictly Lila’s sphere of activity, or environment) and will not be omniscient [all the reader/sympathizer/empathizer will be presented with, or the narrator/author/collaborator with Lila and her fictitious life will present, is physical loss of supposed “love” or “Love” or “LOVE” (which cannot be defined by the reader in terms of Lila because, without the omniscient view from Lila’s perspective, or the imposed meaning displayed by the author/narrator/collaborator with Lila and her fictitious life, it will be up to the reader/sympathizer/empathizer to decide what “love” or “Love” or “LOVE” means to them in terms of Lila’s experiences presented by the author/narrator/collaborator with Lila and her fictitious life)].
At this point in the narrative, which might be offered as a beginning, but is truly an end as well, the narrative style calls to be simplified. The narrative cannot continue to repeat the designated titles that have come to represent the persons and the abstracts in this story (which, as of yet, does not seem to have fashioned, or been fashioned, into any sort of story). From X → (which is to represent ← X), the reader/sympathizer/empathizer will simply be “the reader” [though minus the quotation marks, as they are unnecessary (capitalizing the words “the”, and “reader”, at intervals where appropriate, and, quite possibly, when not)]; the author/narrator/collaborator with Lila and her fictitious life will be known to all as whichever of the three titles (or, conceivably, a combination of two titles, but never all three) is chosen at that particular moment [such as: NOW … when the author (who is a she, but this matters not) chooses the word “author” at this point for the sound quality and dignity it represents, and the agency and authority which it instills in The Reader’s mind]; Lila will remain “Lila” where capitalization is of no consequence as it is constant; and “Love” or “love” will be shown the consideration the noun deserves dependent upon grammatical correctness of beginning, ending, or in the midst of a sentence until completion of the narrative.
Has the story started, yet? Has the narrative begun, yet? Who is responsible for presenting what? Who is responsible for deriving meaning from this? Let all of us (The Reader, The Author/Narrator, and Lila) start with the latest in a series of accounts that occurred (but all will not be recorded), presented in third person.
Travis moved into Lila’s apartment with his two tabby cats (one of which would curl up in her lap while she read, the other at her feet while she slept); his Sonicare® toothbrush with charger (for which he purchased an addition toothbrush for her to charge on alternate days); his air guitar (which he had played for her whenever their favorite headbanging song, Love Screams Your Name From My Toes To My Nose, brushing the air around his right thigh with one hand and fingering his left breast with the other); his toothpicks (that were NEVER used at the table because etiquette dictates that this is rude); his lap blanket; and his blue suede La-z-boy® armchair (in which they had had sex three times, two of which she had been on top with the lap blanket wrapped around their ankles); and numerous other things that fit neatly in, around, and on top of Lila’s things … in the beginning.
This is the beginning of the end after eleven months of living together: Travis lost his job (that abstract/concrete thing that allowed for him to pay for pet food, his half of the rent, his half of the bills, etc.) Instead of attempting to find a new job, he simply stayed in the apartment playing with his tabby cats, brushing his teeth with his Sonicare® toothbrush, playing air guitar and masturbating in his La-z-boy® as evidenced by the rise and fall of the lap blanket. The reader should note at this point that they might feel “sympathy”, or even “empathy”, with Lila (or, quite possibly, Travis, but this is not his story), in which case the reader can identify himself, or herself, with whichever title seems to suit them best. Once having chosen a title, though, it is important to understand “WHY” that particular title was chosen because it is going to determine how one views the outcome of this scenario.
If The Reader sympathizes, becoming The Sympathizer, then one might feel bad that Lila has this boyfriend, Travis, who moved in and now she becomes “Poor Lila” as viewed from the outside. This type of reader may sit happily and hear all of the inactivity that Travis displays now that he is jobless and unwilling to move forward in the narrative. This might be a poor choice as this story’s only concern should be with what Lila does and says contained within this particular set of circumstances.
If The Reader empathizes, becoming The Empathizer, then one might say, “Oh God, something like this happened to me and DAMN did it piss me off and/or make me cry, or got me up off my butt to get my man/woman back on track!” which loudly calls for action on Lila’s part. But, what should Lila do? She cannot wait for Travis to act because his character refuses dynamicism purely through the position he occupies within the narrative. The author/narrator refuses to tell Travis’ tale and recognizes that this story, by all rights, belongs to Lila. But, is this the best approach to the story? This approach would invariably exclude many readers, and that would just not be exercising fairness (another abstract noun to wrap one’s head around).
It is, therefore, the author’s responsibility to write in an action, or set of actions, that ultimately would indicate whether Lila had possessed “love” with Travis, or not. This is a huge hurdle to clear. Will there be an accident of some sort … or the author’s computer going “kaput” before getting it down?
Ah! An idea! There needs to be a very specific scene drawn in which whatever action can take place. Possibly, if the author can formulate this very specific scene, the answer to how Lila should take action will inevitably establish itself.
The author makes a decision to let the narrator side of her profession take the lead where the narrator will be as a camera eye, with no access whatsoever to Lila’s mind. This is the scene the narrator views with complete anonymity and with no prejudice (so, to a certain extent, the narrator IS omniscient, as seeing things from above): Travis lays in the La-z-boy® with the lap blanket pulled up to the middle of his chest and BOTH arms beneath the blanket; one tabby “rrrroowwws” at a standing Lila, alternately looking from her to a nearby chair; the other tabby “rrroowwws” in the hallway by the bedroom door, the proximity to the bedroom door can be discerned by the register of the cat’s voice; Lila stands between the doorway to the family room and the La-z-boy® with a Sonicare® toothbrush in her hand, poised as if to begin to brush; and Lila’s eyes and Travis eyes meet, but only for that moment that the camera eye catches, by pure chance.
This scene leaves the narrative limited; it needs the introduction of one or more new props. Hence, the author decides upon … upon …oh, what does the reader think? Why, this a fine idea the author just had … an unread (as evidenced by its pristine condition, and with the red pencil still lying in the same direction atop, which Lila had placed on it at 6:23 that very morning) Thursday newspaper which, by collective American societal knowledge (Did we forget to mention that this scene takes place in ____, _____, USA?), contains this week’s classified ads which, in turn, contains this week’s job listings which, in turn, contains some singular job listings for which Travis might well be suited.
Conflict!
So, how should Lila react to this scene? We all know (the reader, the narrator, and Lila) that she placed the paper in this spot at 6:23 a.m. with the red pencil (it is inferred, within the text, that as in school days, to call attention to important elements, red pencil might be used to accentuate plausible errors, conflicts, or successes, and could also be used to circle want ads) balanced atop. We all know Travis likes to sit and masturbate in this chair (but, what we all do not know is how often, why, or what he thinks of when doing so) and we all know the cats live in the household (though, we have no clue as to whether they are ever let out, what their names are, and if these are even matters of any relevancy). And, we all can only come to the conclusion that it is relatively close to bedtime because Lila is getting ready to brush her teeth (there are certain clues in fiction that only arise at opportune moments and, let us all, The Reader, The Author/Narrator, face it, brushing your teeth is one of them).
Now would be a fine time for the dialogue that this manuscript has since been lacking.
“What are you doing?”
This seems weak, does it not? The reader and the narrator are not even sure who is speaking. For that matter, The Author is not quite sure either. If given the chance to reflect, any number of people might suggest that this moment, with Lila being human, might well have been rehearsed and would not have sounded so cavalier. So, we MUST start over at the beginning, or is it the middle, and might well be the end (do we use a “?” or a “.”)
The author needs to decide at this juncture whether to have Lila sound like we imagine Barbie® doll sounds when pissed off at Ken (Is this even trademarked? How can the Mattel® corporation go about trademarking the name when it so obviously is short for Kenneth?) ® (the author will place the trademark symbol in the narrative to cover her ass against a lawsuit), or to sound like Jane Fonda, in Barbarella, the movie.
Before the narrative begins anew (or, in the middle) with dialogue that will drive the story forward (or backward) and renewal of the current conflict (or past conflict), a time must be set that Travis has been laying back in the easy chair. From Lila’s perspective it is probably days or weeks. From Travis’ perspective it may be hours or minutes since he got up and say … pissed or snacked out of the fridge. Since this is Lila’s story, let us all assume that he has not moved (except for bed-sleep, pissing, pooping and eating out of the fridge) since the previous week or approximately, six days.
“What are you doing?” (It is the same question! The author cannot decide whether the question has been repeated, or the dialogue is beginning afresh. We all now know that it is Lila who is speaking and, in some way, this question now sounds more loaded with pent animosity, does it not?)
“Nothing.” (An entirely expected response.)
“Well, I can see you’re doing NOTHING NOW, but what did you do today?”
“Looked for a job.”
“What … on the back of your eyelids? With your right hand wrapped around your ding-a ling?”
Ouch! Has Lila REALLY HAD IT, or what? Or, is this just some utter b*tch (The author is very proud of herself for this little pun. The words utter and udder sound not so very different. Get it?) that he moved in with. The Author does not enjoy or condone swearing, so this is how this now definitive word for a female dog when used in reference to a female human will be represented in the text. The author believes that when a person swears, it negates everything said before and everything following.
“No … I looked on-line.”
“We don’t have a computer.”
“ …” (This, with quotations, is to represent a brief, but heavy, pause in the dialogue were either of the two characters may speak following its appearance.)
“I had Chad look on-line for me.” (Who the hell is Chad? Where did he come from? Let us all come to the unanimous decision to oust Chad, for he serves no real purpose.)
“That’s B.S., and you know it!” [Two things are happening in this sentence of which we all should take note: 1) We all find that another fine way to swear is by contraction or acronym, which we all know to be perfectly acceptable in social circles; and A) Lila has insinuated that Travis is a “liar” which we all can only assume to be true because she has, so far, not really given us all any reason to doubt her. (The use of “1” and “A” were intentional in that the author could not make a decision on which to use because both points appeared to be equally important, but one still has to follow the other. The reader may not agree with the degree of importance, but then the reader is not the author, or are they?)]
Should the author have Lila put her toothbrushed hand on her hip and stare him down until he folds? Should the narrator step in and remove the reader from this scene to a wholly new scenario? Should the reader even keep reading with the headache that would inevitably arise from trying to decipher clearly the meaning behind this tale (This story is at its tail, or beginning, which is the end, do not fret!)?
Now is the time for a brief, but heavy, pause (and also, a return to the dialogue).
“ …”
We all now discover that we cannot go back to the dialogue yet, because someone needs to try to define “love.” Questions only appear in lieu of definitions: would Lila speak to Travis in this manner if she had any “love” for him; if Travis has “love” for Lila, would he be making a little more effort not to unduly burden her financially and emotionally; is this Lila’s first “romantic love” that is being soured by Travis’ static bearing; what defines Lila’s “love” anyway? The author chooses a response that seems to fit the story:
“Tomorrow I’ll help you … ‘cause we can’t go on like this.”
“Tomorrow I’m talking to Chad about moving into his place.”
“ …”
Is Lila losing her “love”? Everything goes back to trying to define this word that is an abstract noun, that means something, however slightly or grandly, different to every person in America. Does a word, a singular word, for “love” exist in every language, in every nation, and in every faction of humanity?
And, the author is like a parrot — regurgitating and regurgitating what the parrot mimics (and, parrots NEVER LIE … unless they are fictitious).

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

FIE YOU, tree roots!


Robert Burns (1759-1796) wrote in a poem, “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men /Gang aft a-gley;” translation "The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry."

I believe it was General MacArthur who modified this sentiment to state, "The best-laid plans won't survive the enemy."

In this case, the plans were to attend the final of the season's Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra Concerts On the Square. The enemy was a ball of tree roots clogging the exit route for the sewage from my house. The results were a foul cocktail that saturated and ruined my basement carpet and a Persian runner. The terrible reality is, my husband and I have many of these stories that unfold in much the same direction:

*I have a meeting to attend and Sammy pees on Cheddar necessitating an impromtu bath time
*
An anniversary camping trip mid-July turns into a chilly, muddy, wet, tick-infested bout of Man versus the Elements and Flora and Fauna and Time and Dimension
*A rare date to see Coraline (in 3-D, no less) turns into a dead car battery in a very reliable car (and, yes, the battery was relatively new ... and, yes, we only have and need ONE car)
*My folks' visit to my new home, after I had worked extreme overtime to accommodate my absence from work, turned into a mad rush to my dying grandfather in San Francisco one day after their arrival (he's still very much alive two months later)

The list of time-consumptive, expensive, irratating, and generally disgusting events goes on and on. I am completely unfamiliar with WHO would INTEND any of THESE events to happen. I think that the moral to be derived from these ramblings is clear ... I should greatly minimize the number of social plans I invest more than a few hours time toward. Philip and I settled for a nice, quick, stress-free dinner at one of his favorite haunts, Tex Tubb's Taco Palace (
http://www.foodfightinc.com/textubbstaco.html). It was lovely ... and utterly unplanned.