August 30, 2010


I watched him on the ladder with his head almost completely inside the hole in the ceiling, scoping out the situation with a flashlight. “All kind of ways to look at things. When I was a kid I used to think if I wished hard enough my toy soldiers would come to life and start talking to me. Ever sit there wishing your toys would wake up and start talking to you?”


“I blame Disney. Wish this, wish that. Wish hard enough and your wish will come true. I wished for those toy soldiers so hard I got a splitting headache and the damn things just sat there anyhow. Disney’s screwed up more lives than anything. Do mice talk and sing? Do little blue birds fly through the air with ribbons in their mouths helping to make your dress?”

“Yeah I know.”

“Disney screwed up more kids than anything else. All these little kids in a row with their eyes closed tight, wishing so hard. Five hundred kids sitting in a row like they’re trying to take a shit and nothing’s happening. He was on drugs anyhow you know.”

“Somebody told me that, yeah.”

“Do birds have mouths or is it just a beak?”

“Mouths? I guess birds have mouths. Don't they?”

“I mean, yeah they got a mouth where they suck up worms and shit but is it officially a mouth or is it just a beak?” He put the flashlight in his belt and picked up the can of bug spray he'd set in front of him on the top of the ladder.

“I think it’s an official mouth. Isn’t it? A mouth is a mouth.”

“Yeah I’m saying, it’s a mouth but what do they call it in science.”

“A beak.”

“That’s what I’m saying. And if a guy has a big nose they say he’s got a big beak, which is stupid because he doesn’t eat through his nose. But I guess birds got two little holes in their beak for a nose ain’t it?” He started to spray directly into the ceiling. Billows of the stuff came puffing out of the hole above his head. It had to have been going in his eyes but he just went right ahead.

“I have no idea.”

“Well maybe it’s like you have to have a vent there so they can swallow.”


“Yeah. Jesus you got a million ants up here.”


“Of course I’ve seen some guys that may as well be able to eat with their nose. Christ, they sucked everything else up there.” He shifted his weight so he could shoot the spray in another direction.

“I know.”

“Well, I think I got the eggs. I mean the white shit where they hatch from up here. What’s it called.”


He started to climb down. “OK so the plaster guy will be up here tomorrow to replace the part of the ceiling that fell on you. It fall on your head while you were sleeping?”

“My feet. Woke me up though.”

“Jesus. Gives me the creeps. That’ll do it though. All the eggs are sprayed so if anybody is left up there they’ll want to go somewhere else. That's how they work. Anyhow it won't be your problem anymore that's for sure. Good thing it didn’t fall on your face while you were sleeping.”



August 29, 2010

Old Fashioned Restaurant Review Just Like When You First Met Me

Long long ago in a kingdom by the sea the first thing you saw of us was a cartoon couple that looked quite amazingly similar to those two creatures of the bistro gazing at you drunkenly on the right, in a world once known as Chasing Vincenzo.

We chased Vincenzo through three or four of the restaurants he worked in and - alas - lost sight of him altogether some years ago. It was a happy, apolitical, life-centered time of light-hearted comrades and scintillating conversation - if a little on the tipsy side.

Alas those days are far behind us, for no other reason than anything that contrived will always run its course. There really was a Vincenzo and we really did keep finding him in different restaurants. But we've since moved on to other ventures; shedding readers and associates liberally as we moved through the blogospecteramourspher in quite the haze.

But hark, even though the regular restaurant reviews have gone by the wayside (largely because we just wanted to eat, and taking pictures of the food was getting in the damn way) it doesn't mean we've ceased being denizens of that world.

Last evening we visited an absinthe bar ridiculously located in the far west / by northwest / suburbs. South Barrington by name. This is not an ordinary 'burb as in the past you would find such types as financiers, football stars, real estate moguls, and radio personalities in residence there. So though a French restaurant in our part of America truly belongs in the city if it wants to fight for street cred, it is understandable that it may also be located out here where there is an awful lot of discretionary capital going around.

Even with that, however, it isn't any more or less expensive than any place you would find in the city. Our full tab last night including a half hour at the bar beforehand + a champagne flight and tips was about $150. The main difference is that in the city we'd be squeezing our way through the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds just getting to a table, and last night when we walked from the bar out to our table on the sidewalk we were the only couple out there, and while in the bar we could hear the conversations of the three or four couples in the dining room if we really wanted to bother.

I've mentioned, you notice, the bar a couple of times now haven't I? It could possibly be because they serve a handful of authentic absinthes there, not the least of which is the Pernod kind. Oh and what do you know - Pernod is the original walkin- one and only according to their literature.They invented/created/introduced or whatever that devilish concoction of wormwood, thujone and fairy dust. The fun part, I have to admit (beyond the sipping) is the fact that we sat right before a crystal water-dripper apparatus that allowed us to inhale as we watched the drink go through its metamorphosis. MrsRW had champagne, which theme she continued out on the porch when she ordered a flight (3 small champagnes all in a nice tidy row there).

My bill of fare read as follows: A nice ceviche with shrimp and squiggly little tentacles and avocado and such. Then came the watermelon-ginger soup; a cold bowl that was refreshing and just a little exotic in taste (the ginger finish was pleasant but unexpected - in truth I've never had anything like that before) but perfect for a warm summer evening. And then - moving on to a Shiraz (which rarely fails with game) I had a combination plate that included quail, elk and lamb. Green onion stems and barley and I must say every individual meat was done per the book. This was all swarming in a chocolate sauce that left a really nice, ever-so-slight, hint of bitter cocoa reminder in your head.

Oh look, here's an actual picture of the very thing!

MrsRW started out with a plate of mussels and then moved on to a potato-leek soup. Her entree was what she described as a heavenly plate of osso buco - from which she pulled that marrow right out of the bone in her best Bourdain fashion and spread it on some bread... and then shared! What a gal.

In the interest of full disclosure this was our second trip. We went a second time because MrsRW loved it that much the first time. I myself was very disappointed by the rabbit I ordered the first time there. It was over cooked, quite frankly, and left a bad impression in that - ok if you're going to call yourself a bistro there's a couple of things you should do well - frites and rabbit. And they did neither well at all. However the rabbit was off the menu this time, making me want to believe that was a case of righteous self-editing rather than just running out of the dish; and I promptly gave them the benefit of the doubt.

The pedigree of the brains behind l'Eiffel Bistrot would tend to say that the fellows know what they're trying to do, and so I take the editing as a sign they weren't happy with the rabbit dish. I hope.

The other feature of the place you should know is the crepes. Creperie is the second part of their name, if in minor case. We haven't gotten to the crepes yet. But if the line of trajectory displayed from our first visit to last night's they should be grand.

One can only hope they picked the right location. If this place was in the city the crowd would be large until it either sank or swam on its own merits. Out in the bucolic, over-funded far burbs of Chicago it has located itself where the resources are, to be sure. But only time will tell if the locals recognize it is there amidst the Coldwater Creek, Kinga's European Children's Shoes, and Toms-Price (Stickley) Home Furnishings stores of this brick-walked shopping center.

Wow.... that was just like old times!

August 27, 2010

It's The Me You Didn't Know I Had

Every Thursday my youngest daughter comes over to watch Project Runway and usually we'll order out but sometimes I'll make one of my dinners. Last night I made teriyaki chicken wings with toasted sesame seeds along side an arugula/gala apple salad that had a lemon juice / sour cream / olive oil dressing. Pretty simple, but apparently this got rave reviews because she took some food porn and posted it on Facebook. So that was pretty cool.

But then later it dawned on me, when she also touted my blog here on another post (some of her friends have been readers for a bit but they never post) that because she's connected, as I am, to our wider family through Facebook there may be some folks in the family who haven't seen / didn't know about the blog.

I posted links to my blogs before, earlier, on Facebook - when I first got there. But that sort of dropped out of practice because... well... I'm just too damn lazy.

In my life I've done a terrible job staying connected to my wider family. My wife and kids have always gotten the full attention, for better or worse. So the chances are pretty good that there are cousins and children of cousins, nephews and nieces and all possible connections, who don't have or never had any idea of what my actual interests are and what do I do in my spare time. And it certainly isn't their fault because at what limited gatherings we have usually we're talking about sports and the usual how-is-everybody-doing, family, happy, party stuff. I don't think I've ever said to anyone in my family (including the people I live with) "yes I'm 15,000 words down on the novel and oh by the way I figured out how to make cacio e pepe last week." That would get a smile and a nod but it would be a surprise to most folks. That is my choice because I figure it just wouldn't interest anybody. No big deal.

But the thing is if anybody from the wider family stops by they'll get an eyeful of stuff they might or might not readily associate with me and my general "ho let's have another beer" personality when we sing Happy Birthday To You. So if any of you guys are around... hiya!

In a broader sense, though, I have to admit that there are things about myself and my life that I've kept out of the family mix. I try not to talk politics because the family is a bit more conservative. Some aren't as tolerant of other kinds of folks. And intellectualization is not exactly something that would pique a lot of interest (and at a birthday party - dude - why would it??). I don't have in-depth personal conversations with anybody outside of my wife.

My connections to people outside the family, in the performance arts or even in some political spheres, isn't something I tout to anybody in the family. Makes you sound like you're trying to puff yourself up. And I wouldn't know exactly who to sit down and talk books about. The readers in the family love mysteries and romances and thrillers and spy stuff, and most would be completely conversant in the greater TV fare that's available. What that means is that my family is a whole lot more connected to the culture than I am. This is why MrsRW has often wondered aloud if I was supposed to be a hermit when I was made.

My greater family contains a lot of successful people who are incredibly friendly and well-meaning. I've always been sort of a nub on the log (to which I can hear some saying right now "you got that right, sheeesh.").

So the thing is does it now start to have an effect on what goes on here, knowing about new (old) eyes reading? I thought about it for a second and decided - uh, no. because probably in a week they'll have moved on and gone about the business of their lives like normal people do.

But I just thought I'd share. OK carry on then. Sox-Yankees tonight in the bleachers. have a nice weekend.

August 26, 2010

Who Knows

You get a bonus if you know what happened inside the building pictured on the right. I don't know what you get. Maybe cheese. Maybe a break. Who knows.

"I'd been dying of a heart attack for three weeks and decided to figure out what to do with all my money once I croaked, and all I can say is that the whole thing was just one great big pain in the ass."

OK yeah... tah dah! The opening I decided on when I told you I decided on an opening some time ago. It's lasted more than a week so I figure it'll be there when I'm done. Well maybe. Who knows.

Somebody said the only psychological disorder connected to writers belongs to people who can't write but keep doing it anyway. A kernel of truth in there I guess. but also sounds like someone is trying to just be a hard ass. Who knows.

I can't write anything unless it's first person any more. I blame blogs for that. There's a lot of people who hate hate hate first person fiction. But most everybody did it from time to time. Ernie sez you can tell it's good when people come up thinking it actually happened to you. I think I'm stuck in this mode now from my long ago experience acting where you get inside the character's head and you don't "say lines" you just have the guy talk. I can't conceptualize it any other way anymore. I think when people don't like first person fiction it's because the writer didn't develop the character's voice enough. If they really made the character a whole thing it's easier. otherwise it comes off really stupid, and I've read shit like that. It's shit. How it gets published I'll never know. Anyway that's my take on first person fiction. Here's the rules; You write first person fiction like this... 1.obviously the protagonist doesn't die because he's talking. 2. then just go from there. Pretty simple. I think. Who knows.

I can't even tell you how many words I have written to get to the words I'm sure are done at this point. A few weeks ago I think I said I have 15,000 "presentable" words. Today I'm only sure of the first 9,000. Not only that but I took the order of events and changed it. Four times. I have three endings now. I still don't know what to use. The ending has to match the first line, not in words but in what the hell is going on. Aaaaaand I've got three that do that. So there I am. I don't see this going more than 26,000. Just barely a novel. Anything more and it's just stupid useless padding. I don't care, let the story write itself. It's been doing that all along... every version. I've written maybe 135,000 words for this in the last year. Yes it's still my best, but that's like 14 writes and 24 re-writes and then some of the re-written stuff is just pitched. I don't even remember some of the places this story has gone. It's a humid summer in a dirty city. Before that it was a half-dead city in the middle of winter. Maybe by next month it'll be a bucolic small town in Nebraska. Who knows.

I'm not complaining, mind you. This is what I call fun. The problem isn't that I can't get the engine going, it's that I can't get it to chill. Everybody I know in the business says that's a good thing. But every week I'm a different kind of writer than I was the week before. So I go back and change a word or two or forty back on page six or twenty. Or one. I don't want to put a foot wrong. i want it to be one whole thing. No wasted fol-dee-rol. Don't include all the stuff people skip over. Big thick paragraphs (like this one?) are out. Dialogue. Dialogue! People talking tells the story dammit. I find myself going into the gas station in the morning to get my coffee and listening to people talk. Listen to how they talk. Nobody speaks in complete sentences. Nobody. It's fits and starts and use only the important words...

"Guy said ninety-eight today."

"It's ninety-eight for a week."

"Already Luis's melting over here."

"How they know it'll be exactly ninety-eight? They don't even know when it's raining."

"It's like baseball. Be wrong seven out of ten you're a fucking millionaire."

The problem is the pastiche for the viewpoint character. Once you start down that road you're done. You can't drop the g's or sound out the words in writing because down the road it's a trap. Screw up one time and it sticks out. You just talk as the character and let the reader fill it in. Like describing what a person looks like. I can't begin to list the classic fiction that's been done that never told you what anybody actually looks like. And yet there are also classic descriptions. So okay so there aren't any rules. So sue me. Who knows.

Never think for a minute any of this is a complaint. This is the fun part. This is just how it is. Welcome to my world. Or my ruin.

Who knows.

August 25, 2010

Onions and Oranges

I know I know - last thing you expected was for this to turn into a recipe blog right? Oh well. Here's a really inexpensive beautiful summer one. Deal with it!

This got some eyebrows raised when I first put it up on the old blog and so here's the recipe. There's tons of different takes on this but I'm going to give you the one I served tapas style. This is another recipe that's so simple and easy it should be outlawed.

Where mine differs from others is that I just have three ingredients and I use navel oranges rather than ones with seeds. They're easier to work with and... um... they don't have seeds.

The whole key here is to get the oranges the day you're going to make the salad because you want it to be ridiculously juicy and fresh, and the longer the fruit sits in your house the worse off it's going to get.

In estimating services I'd say for large oranges use one orange per person and multiply the amounts accordingly. I don't think this tastes very good the next day. So don't make more than you'll need. Leave them asking for more anyhow. This is a surprising taste the first time you try it. You'll get hooked.

2 navel oranges
1/2 small red onion, sliced and separated into strips
1 tablespoon raspberry vinegar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and fresh ground pepper
2 tablespoons golden raisins
Mint sprigs

1. Heat a small pot of water till just before it boils. Turn flame off, dump the raisins in the water. Let them sit for about 15-20 minutes.
2. Cut the oranges open and continue to divide the wedges until they are relatively bite-sized.
3. With a sharp knife trim the skin and pith off of the underside of the orange slices, keeping the shape of the slice. Plate.
4. Cut the red onion into "slivers" and separate them across the top of the orange wedges.
5. Put raspberry vinegar, olive oil and ground pepper in a bowl & whisk them together. (this is just the dressing. if you have a raspberry vinegrette in the fridge you could use that, I suppose, but this dressing doesn't taste as tangy unless you mix it yourself, and the dressing should have that vinegar pucker hint).
6. Sparingly spoon the dressing over the oranges & onions (don't toss!).
7. Sprinkle the raisins over that.
8. If garnishing - use fresh mint.

I've seen it with unsalted sunflowers and some kind of greens and even olives and all of those would be authentic Spanish (where the dish comes from) but this right here is perfect for a hot and humid summer day.

August 24, 2010

From RW's Cookbook

I swear I'm going to make one someday. I've got a big blue envelope full of these things and one day... watch out.

Cacio e Pepe

This is so simple, fast, and easy to make it's almost criminal.

What's important here? You need to get wedges of the cheeses listed below and hand grate them. I don't even know if they're available in shakers but even if they are... how dare you. Yes they're a little on the expensive side but grate the whole wedge and use the rest on your spaghetti and meatballs or whatever. It'll get used. Outside of that, this is an incredibly inexpensive meal. Also the pepper. Fresh ground. Nothing else will work. The entire trick of this dish is the play between the creamy and the pepper. Italian cooking - it's all about the ingredients. If they aren't the "real thing" fuhgettabouttit.

This serves ONE. For 2 use 3/4 of a pound of spaghetti and DOUBLE everything else

Gather up:
Just under 1/2 lb. spaghetti
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon (or more - your call) freshly ground pepper
"1/2 ladle" of the spaghetti cooking water
1/4 cup of freshly ground pecorino romano
1/4 cup freshly ground parmigiano reggiano

*Boil that spaghetti al dente (say 6 minutes because it'll go above a flame for a brief while later anyway)
*Put butter, olive oil and some of the pepper in a pan. Melt the butter and mix it in. Keep it fluid, don't burn. Say, maybe, just below medium heat.
*When spaghetti is finished, take out 1/2 ladle of the water the spaghetti cooked in and drop that half ladle full into the pan with the butter sauce. If it sizzles and steams a little yer doin' it RIGHT(if you use a strainer, strain the rest of the water out of the spaghetti here).
*Lower the flame after you mix all that together before you do the next step.
*Drop the spaghetti in the pan and mix it up (toss) to coat with the concoction in there.
*Toss in most of the grated cheeses and the other 1/2 of the pepper and mix it up again.
*Put it on a plate and sprinkle with the remaining cheese and any more pepper you want to add. It isn't right unless you can see the pepper in the creamy stuff.

Also important is don't overcook the spaghetti - al dente is al dente. 6 or 6 1/2 minutes should be fine.

It's supposed to look like this...

So what? Well it's the cheeses. That's the whole deal. Change or skimp there and it's not the same. I've seen this done with added arugula and other stuff but I don't know... this is the version you'd find in a hundred random kitchens in Rome. If you saw this on Bourdain this week - this was the one he inhaled.

August 23, 2010

What I'm S'posed To Do

I'm supposed to be eager to forgive. Not just willing to forgive and go on, but when someone does something hurtful or spiteful or whatever and I am the target I'm supposed to be eager to forgive. Not exactly, "Oh boy I can't wait for you to screw me so I can forgive you" either, but closer to this than the other. I trust I've confused you?

When I applied to be a recorded member of our Meeting (that's a link to the place) this past spring and had my sit-down with the committee to recommend, the conversation came to what were my concerns about the whole thing and I said "well, a thing that might be a problem is my writing. It's not... uh... often... er... temperate. I mean there's language in there. I mean it might not be something where you'd want to say 'oh yes and he's a member here' from time to time. It can, uh, get a little raw." They smiled, even chuckled a little, and said there's no longer a thing where artists had to have the Meeting's blessing to present their stuff to the world. Yes they used to do that, but they said that was put aside long, long ago - and there are plenty of Friends who produce "challenging" work they have no trouble saying was done by a member. Anyway they have consistently backed the right of free expression and have consistently campaigned for it whenever "religionists and moral paragons" try to stifle it.

Then I said "Also I'm not exactly completely a pacifist in my nature." Quakers are pacifists and were legally draft-exempt when there was such a thing as a draft. "Plus simplicity. I mean I try that but, you know, I drive a MINI and I really love that little guy." That got another smile and they basically said - well a Hummer we'd probably ask you about, like, "Really? A Hummer? Dude?" But simplicity is of the heart and mind. And if you think there isn't anybody here who struggles with the non-violence thing you'd be really out of it. They said they're not much on all the holy roller stuff.

So, see? I knew I picked the right crew.

But the forgiveness thing... I have a problem with that. First, you should already know, it takes a lot to get me to feel 'you hurt me' or insulted or whatever. It's easier to get to me through hurting my wife or daughters or stuff like that. Directed at me and it may be a bother but generally you get my shoulder, shrugging. Except... when I DO get wonked out about something I have a tendency to lose it on you. And if you were on fire maybe I'd piss on you to help put it out... kind of thing. In other words this grudge just may last until they bury me, and then I'll hate your DNA and everybody you know even when I'm shriveling up in the ground.

And yet I recognize - hell, EVERYBODY recognizes it, you too - that if you don't forgive you're just hurting yourself. Not forgetting is one thing; that might not even be possible. But forgiving, it really ought to be done if only for the sake of your own potential ulcer.

I mean I say I forgive but I don't sometimes, really. Something once in a while still comes back like a bad lunch in the middle of the subway, and there I am pissed off all over again. I mean I think you know what I'm saying.

So that's something I have to work on. I figure if ever I can bring myself to forgive Pam Geller (no I will not give you a link to the hate-mongering screed of logical fallacies she calls a blog) I'll have come a long way.

In the meantime the pasta dish from last night was OUT of this FREAKING world. The key is in the ground pepper and the fresh-grated cheese, in case you're going to try it (let me know if you need the recipe). But HOLY mother of mercy...!

What Happens When The Cat's Away

Well the answer is, not a whole helluva lot. This week MrsRW is in lovely Oceanside NY, which puts her on the wrong side of the Brooklyn Bridge from where she'd like to be but a job is a job and money is money and duty calls. I've been to Oceanside. It's a lot like what's on either side of it, town-wise. But so is just about everything on Long Island until you get to about Yaphank and then they start making wine and stuff. I don't know what Indians lived on Long island but they didn't want you to know where they were hiding. Cutchogue? Ronkonkoma? Yaphank? Say what? Funniest town name for LI, though, is Hicksville. No, seriously. Hicksville USA. You wouldn't think to look for that in New Yok.

So what I do most of the time is try new dishes. Last night I made a just-burnt edged fresh shrimp with a ginger-apricot sauce. I took some tomatoes from the garden and sliced them up, then added some pepperoncini - also sliced. I hit it with some fresh ground pepper and viola... er... voila... salad. No I didn't eat them at the same time. I don't know - ginger and pepperoncini. No. I did it as two courses. It was pretty good.

Tonight we enter the city of Rome with some cacio y pepe, which I saw them make on Bourdain's show last week. Basically you need fresh ingredients to have any chance of tasting somewhat authentic when doing Italian. So I got a wedge of pecorino romano and a wedge of parmigiano reggiano which I will fresh grind for this receipe. But mostly the rest of it is just pasta, butter and fresh ground black pepper.

It's supposed to look like this...

Going to see the White Sox/Yankees game this Friday so getting off work early so we can cook up some grass-fed burgers and play a little bean... bag... thing... in the parking lot. But outside of that and a big plate of bacon wrapped dates... (I wasn't kidding)

it's going to be just hitting Word to keep smashing away at the book and maybe scouting a "Himalayan Cuisine" (I know, right? What the hell is THAT?) place that just opened up nearby to see if it's wife-worthy. But yeah that up there is pitted dates wrapped in center-cut bacon and stuck with a toothpick. You oven that for 10-20 minutes depending how you like your bacon and go. Don't knock it till you've tried it.

I assuage my solitude with food, baseball, and fiction. Which is what i do when MrsRW is in town too but... anyway what the hell.

Drool and wish you were here all you want. It won't work.

August 19, 2010

And In My Dream...

...the schools were teaching that humans lived alongside dinosaurs, the Theory of Relativity was responsible for moral relativism, the Earth is 6000 years old, the speed of light is wrong, and Black Holes are the epitome of liberal pseudoscience because otherwise the textbooks wouldn't jibe with the Bible.

...corporations could pour as much money into backing political candidates as they wanted because that gave them free speech, and if I wanted my free speech to have as much influence I should just go out and start a damn business myself.

...Miranda Rights and habeas corpus are suspended because if you aren't guilty you have nothing to worry about.

...Social Security, unemployment insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, corporate subsidies, farming subsidies and student aid are capitalism because they've always been with us.

...The Soviet Union still exists and communism is still a threat to freedom which is why we need to put those missiles in Poland after all.

...the Ten Commandments are on display in every public school because this is a Christian country. can't get your unemployment check without a drug test.

...we are spending billions of dollars deporting millions of people back to five continents because they don't have their papers and because there are plenty of good solid citizens lining around the block ready to flatten your topsoil to lay your sod.

...80% of the people you meet at Walmart are armed because that's what the framers intended.

...The 14th Amendment has been changed because we believe in the Constitution not Socialism.

...all clean air standards and emission caps have been removed because Global Warming is a hoax.

...the broadcasting licenses of two hundred and nineteen cable and broadcast corporations have been revoked because of their bias against American values.

...racial profiling is the cornerstone of police procedure because some groups are just predisposed to be criminal.

...all elected officials must swear their oath of office on the Bible and the Bible only.

...immigration is closed to Mexicans, declared Muslims, atheists, Africans, pregnant women, Iranians, and French people because they can never understand our values.

...and Sarah Palin was President of the United States.

please... wake me.... now!!

August 18, 2010

Hold On Thar

Last night MrsRW sat me down to ask if I was okay. Another reason she's my favorite person on Earth. I guess the entries here have been sounding a little down. And from some of the comments that idea seems to have traction.

Nobody is more appreciative than I am for that kind of support - believe me. And it couldn't possibly make me more glad to see it and have it showered on me - but really, I'm okay!

Someone privately wondered about the header quote and the reference to drinking in the side blurb. I've cleared that up I hope - the quote above is from the thing I'm writing. It's First Person. That's not the first time someone has mistaken that kind of work for personal revelation and it's my own fault for assuming otherwise. It's from the book. I guess I should take it as a compliment, because Hemingway said if people mistake First Person fiction for fact you done it right. But seeing as how this medium is blogs, it's my own dumb fault for not making that clear. As for the side blurb, if you emphasize the "zombies" the whole meaning is changed. See?

Am I down and depressed? No, actually I'm not, but I do have a tendency to use negative energy - real or imagined - as a motivator for myself. But it doesn't wreck me and won't ruin me and mostly, privately, I couldn't care less about that kind of thing. Unless I use it to spur myself on.

I figured that the folks who read me recognize me for exactly what I am - an aging, struggling writer who has not nor ever shall give up on the goal. So everything that comes up here is in that context. Believe me when I tell you; the real deep stuff will never get revealed here. That isn't my style. So the chances are pretty good what is said here is from a different level. I mean, just so you know.

If things got rough I'd resort to homicide before suicide. I mean, just sayin.

It meant a lot to have her bring it up. I think it's kind of sweet. It was equally nice to see all the words that came posted to it. Thanks. Honest. But really, I'm fine. And thanks again though!

Whatever the case, what's happening certainly isn't as bad as it may have sounded. And my wife remains my bestest friend ever. So I'm absolutely fine.

Thank you.

August 16, 2010

They've Got Nothing But Time

(Oh look! ANOTHER rare picture of JD Salinger!)

I don't know why I have such a sudden feeling of urgency. I'm usually unimpressed by chronology. Finality never bothered me. There's always that sense that we're doing this too late, but I know enough to know that that impression is just self-imposed; there are no rules for this. I know that.

Every day something gets worked on. Absolutely has to be done. A day doesn't go by without something being done. It's as solid as a job should be, though right now it's paying nothing. It's compulsion now. In all honesty I've never felt the need to get it done like I do now. I don't know why. Feeling the clock is a foreign thing to me. Time has never been as issue. It's all in your head. I never went there before. Never surrendered to it.

Now it worries me. Yet there's another way to look at it. Maybe for once that's just what is needed. I've always just sauntered through life. I slacked off on everything. I never surrendered to intense motivation. I breezed through it all. I always took the easy route. Held the prize with a loose grip. Gave myself excuses. Constructed hierarchies wherein second rate was somehow okay. Never really pushed myself. Never went for the prize. I never did. I was always relaxed about it. And probably the lazy route was a mechanism I used to justify my non-realization. Philosophically "life's too short", "smell the roses", yadda and so forth. A ready-made alternative to actual achievement.

I know what some people are thinking. They're humoring me. Bob isn't happy unless he thinks he's doing something like that. We let him believe it. We all know it isn't real. We all know he'll never make it happen. Look how long it's taken already. He's not really that good at it, when you come right down to it. We let him think it's okay. When it comes to the real thing, Bob just doesn't know how to get there. He never will. But he's not a bad person, so we let him dream. It may be he's wasting his life, but what can you say to him? We love him. But he's always been unrealistic.

I admit it - if you hear this long enough it starts making itself come true.

You don't want to be "that guy." You know the one. Everybody around you has worked on making a viable, understandable career in their life. At this age we're supposed to be at the top of our game. Groundwork done, we're supposed to be established. Experts in our field. At the height of our earning power. Vacations, gifts, tassels on your shoes. You're not supposed to be that guy who still has this unnamed and esoteric dream hanging over your head. You should be grounded in reality by now. You shouldn't be the guy who shows up to the party a little behind the crowd, still with your head in the clouds looking for a break. It sucks to be that guy.

So is this the quiet desperation they were talking about in the famous quote, whatever it was? Or is it that finally, belatedly, at long last - I get it. It's dawned on me. All the pieces I fiddled with are on the table and all I have to do is put them together. You see how it's supposed to work. You understand the components. The urgency maybe isn't about the chronology as much as it is the fleeting vision you're trying to catch that suddenly is right there. For once you see it, whether other people think you're just hopelessly dreaming again or not.

I don't care if nobody but me thinks it can happen. It doesn't matter. I've supported everyone in all the things they wanted to do. That's always been the important thing. And no one is sitting there saying I can't try. I'm a good supporter when people strive to accomplish something. I'm a fantastic cheerleader. I don't get jealous of other people's success. I'm always the one telling them how fantastic they've done.

My parents weren't from a very demonstrative generation. Most of my achievements were mysteries like that song Chrissie Hynde sang. Why should this be any different now.

Another Dumptruck To Unload My Head

Oh look, it's a rare Salinger photo.

I've been re-watching the PBS American Masters series on the history of Warner Bros. called You Must Remember This and cripes, what an icon factory that was. It's not just Casablanca but it's just about everything from that to Unforgiven to My Fair Lady to the Maltese Falcon and back to the James Cagney movies and Bugs Bunny and Star Wars. It's A Star Is Born and Million Dollar Baby and Sergeant York and Little Caesar and Harry Potter. It's Bogart and Bacall, Eastwood, Gary Cooper, Judy Garland and... what, you need more?

You know there really isn't anything new. It doesn't matter what you've got going, it's been done.

Boy meets girl = complications = best friend gets killed (usually the funny, loyal black guy) = happily ever after /or/ unrequited love.

Coward in the army = moment of truth (includes best friend, a funny, loyal black guy, who gets killed) = redeems self and lives /or/ dies saving others.

Like that formula... Get protagonist up tree. Throw rocks at him. Get him down. (Syd Field), that's all there is to anything, really. It's how you do it. Because everything has actually been done. Oh I know, let's write a Romance novel...

Daughter/son of titled family falls in love with gardener's son/daughter. Introduce catty relatives and danger to the family fortune/name/somebody knows a secret. Family objects. Lovers quarrel. Big disaster. Best friend dies (the one with the sense of humor). Turns out gardener's son/daughter is a bastard of royalty but is next in line after disaster. Etc.

(Clue: Don't be loyal, the funny one, or black because Jack, you dead.)

What's my point? I dunno.

On another front my tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers and jalepenos are going full rage out there. The combination 18" cedar wall, catnip in the corner and hot pepper spray seems to have worked. I beat the rabbits and squirrels. I AM the big dude! Woo hoo!

August 14, 2010

"To all you people who ever said I was a big nothing, I’m here to say you were wrong. "

I'm one of those people you probably hate who think that the opening line of a book is not only important but possibly (arguably) critical to everything that follows. Standing in a bookstore I'll sometimes decide whether or not to buy a book on the construction and execution of the first line alone. And I actually collect them.

You know what I'm talking about. Just think of the famous, now cliched, line that goes "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." Hell everybody knows that one, right?

That's what I mean. I think first lines are important and can be a kind of icon. But (for my writer friends) if you don't - don't start obsessing about it after reading this. Just do your own shtick. Okay? That's just me.

For myself, I'll labor over a goddamn opening line for days. And change it a dozen times. It's got to work right NOW or else it takes too long to get the reader inside and you run the risk of losing them. It has to have some quality, some tangible thing that makes everything else after it work.

Here's some good ones, I think...

"A man called Berg, who changed his name to Greb, came to a seaside town intending to kill his father." - from Berg by Ann Quin

"At the beginning of summer I had lunch with my father, the gangster, who was in town for the weekend to transact some of his vague business." - Michael Chabon The Mysteries of Pittsburgh

"I think it is the year 1909." - Opening vignette in the intertwined short stories from Delmore Schwartz's In Dreams Begin Responsibilities

"There are sores which slowly erode the mind in solitude like a canker." - The Blind Owl by Sadegh Hedayat

"I am merely copying, word for word, what was in the State Gazette today." WE by Yevgeny Zamyatin

"Life and death, dreaming and wakefulness: stations for the perplexed soul." The Journey of Ibn Fattouma by Naguib Mahfouz

Of course it helps if what follows can carry the load. But the tone-setter is right there. It's all in there. Or should be. Story has happened, now you tell it. And why is it interesting enough to read? Because the opening got you.

Yeah okay, another one of my OC things. But, there ya go.

August 13, 2010

I'm Going To Be Bad Now

Some things that popped into my head about blogs, since that's a topic currently making the rounds again.

One thing of which is the blog post that talks about how much you love your spouse and all. Hold onto your seat - but I think that's really pretty cool. You surprised? Too bad. I saw one recently themed around a birthday and it was really nice to read. Seriously cool and nicely done. But you know what - and this is not about that blog, but a few others - by about the 25th post where you tell us how much you love your spouse and all, I start to feel like I'm intruding. I can't read it any more. I get it. It's not that I'm not happy for you and all, y'know, I am - but... it probably stopped being my business 22 posts ago. Just sayin'.

I'm really not going to play the "I'm posting here so I can get you to come read my blog" game. After all these years I pretty much recognize it when I see it. So far nothing like that has happened here, but it probably will at some point. If you read, I'm happy about that, truly. If I read, it's for a reason. Maybe I like what you write, or how you write, or I know you and like you. I don't post so you'll check me out - AND THEN STOP POSTING WHEN YOU DON'T BECOME A REGULAR. Jesus, yeah? Don't play it. That's why it has literally been years since I used any kind of "who's coming here" feature or app, or count hits.

Earl was talking about splitting up subjects into varied blogs and the consensus there was pretty much "include it all in one" and I have to say that probably makes the most sense. What I need to do is edit myself better. A lot - lot - of my posts are self-serving bits of tripe. And since I believe you should remember you have people reading and the "I blog just for meeeeee" is really a load of crap at the end of the day it's probably about time I put my money where my mouth has been all this time, and quit being such an "h" word.

Regarding the bit about the "you visit me I visit you" stuff, I hesitated about showing that "follower" app on here. I think it's kind of odd and that's why I changed it to "friends" instead of "followers." But the real reason it's down there is because I'm probably not going to make a link list of other blogs, and unless I finally go use a feed reader like 99.999% of the world is, I'd like to just click down there to get to your blog. Then again since a lot of the blogs I read aren't on Blogger that probably won't work will it? Oh well. Guess I'll have to set up a reader thing. I have no idea how, as I've always just used my links. Gawd...

Politics in Washington and in state houses all around the country is now driven by dogma. Every issue now seems to be life and death along a strict and narrow checklist. In the effort to have politics become more transparent and responsive to "the people" we have created an atmosphere where compromise and pragmatism are bad words, and the people who say these words are run out of town on a rail. I never thought I'd say this - but I'm starting to miss the smoke filled rooms. At least then we didn't have to listen for our code words so we knew when to clap.

And the reason that last part is in there is because political blogs are just so much shit anymore.

August 12, 2010

Method Acting

See update below

I know, I know... posts about writing don't get a lot of traction. But I am experimenting with drunkenness to see if we can hit a certain note.

I knew that might spark your interest.

The other night I came home from work and drank too much for a reason. This thing I'm writing is in first person and I want it to begin with the character talking about/to all the people who dismissed him all through his life. And I wanted it to be mean. The problem is - though everybody's got a few folks like that in their history - this kind of person doesn't carry a lot of weight with me. I have a personality that's sort of like... "you think I'm nothing? OK - you're in the negatives, asshole." And then I just drop them.

I don't believe - I have never believed - in letting that brand of negativity get you down (ha- I rely on a lesser brand of it to get to me. Shutup.)

So I drank a little more than usual and after dinner I came up here and tried to remember all the people who had - and probably still have - a negative view of my abilities, personality or whatever.

Jesus I got a big damn list!

But anyhow... the next step was to tell them off. Tell them off all in one bunch. Let it rip. Go for the throat.

So now, in a minute or so, I'm going to (soberly) rewrite that section to make it readable cuz - y'know - it's not making too much sense right about here. I guess you could call this "method" writing.

We'll see if it works.

UPDATE: I don't think my drinking experiment worked like I wanted it to. I rattled off maybe seven or eight paragraphs, and I mean I let it rip, and when I went back (sober) to do the planned rewrite I couldn't understand it. It really needed to be edited and honed and brought down to something people reading it would get. I suppose it felt good to let a few people have it without naming names, but I can't remember.

It's better now. The only thing the session did is it solved two problems. It gave me an opening that finally stands up to my tests (which I haven't had all through up to now), and also provided me with a closing line. So it wasn't a total loss.

August 10, 2010

So What

Here's what a mess I am.

I look over at the shelves to my right and I see the following things:

A. A Swarovsky glass toucan
B. A vegetarian cookbook
C. A biography of Mussolini
D. Ernest Hemingway's bullfighting thing called "The Dangerous Summer"
E. A book written by William Penn in the 1600's called "No Cross, No Crown"
F. A cigar box filled with the entire 1911 card set from Strat-O-Matic baseball, separated by teams
G. A book of poems by Dylan Thomas
H. A copy of Bob Dylan's book "Tarantula"
I. A stray sock
J. A woven basket containing the headset for my MacSpeech Dictate and iPod buds
K. All my copies of The American Philatelist (stamps you cretins)
L. Three notebooks of stuff I've written I have no intention of using because I don't write like that any more (from last week)
M. A bag containing exactly 3 Nestle's Crunch bars, probably from last Halloween
N. A bootleg CD of stuff by Charlie Parker
O. A stack of statements I haven't opened from my E-Trade stock account
P. The full set of Ken Burns' "Baseball"...
Q. ...which is resting directly on top of a book called "Anarchist Portraits" explaining the lives and works of over a dozen anarchists in history including Sacco and Vanzetti
R. My Top Chef Cookbook
S. An empty (I think) box of Henry Clay cigars
T. An energy saver light bulb I can't fit into any light fixture
U. The autobiography of chief Black Hawk
V. A little dark green tattered copy of Camus' The Plague
W. Script books to ten of Shakespeare's plays
X. The three volume set of H.L. Mencken's The American Language
Y. 4 empty bottles of absinthe which I'm keeping because they all have eyes on them
Z. The hard resin and photo-etch scale model I built of the SS Maine (as in "Remember the...")

If this is not a statement of how I have managed to butter myself across the entire breadth of the physical universe and find a way to have no point at all in my short time here on Earth I do not know what else is.

Now do you understand?