Sunday, May 29, 2011
Take a spin over to The Flash Fiction Offensive and see what happens when that big cat editor, David Barber, asks this ol' boy to write something quick and hard. Look to the picture above as the initial inspiration for Sweet Suzy. No, sadly, the SS isn't mine.
And a quick holler to my friend, Christopher Grant. Christopher, I was thinking about what you've been going through, and why, when I wrote that last line- hell, most of the piece. I wish you well, Christopher, and hope you are back with us soon and under the best of circumstances.
To my new amigos out there, thanks, and keep the pedal to the metal with your own writing.
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Reading a JD Salinger biography over the weekend- an author I've never read, but find somewhat fascinating as a person- I came upon an interesting individual. His name was William Shawn, and he was a longtime editor for New Yorker magazine.
Shawn was a close friend of Salinger's and, by all accounts, an extravagant and eccentric personality. Idiosyncrasies such as he wouldn't live above the second floor, or wouldn't go through tunnels, firmly entrenched Shawn in New Yorker lore. But the most curious (and, dare I say in my most heterosexual tone, fabulous) rumor was this little slice below.
"There was always the rumor, totally unverified, that he was supposed to have been the child who was going to be kidnapped in a famous kidnapping in Chicago but another child was taken instead."
Granted, I'm likely the only person reading the above who thinks this is the balls. Still, when people are saying something akin to the above about you after sucking down a bottle of Old Grandad 114 with buddies around the campfire, then friend, you've got personality.
And if you're interested, the name of the book is: Salinger- A Biography By Paul Alexander. Ranked pretty low on my biography scale, but was an easy to read introduction into the life of one of our most heralded (I guess) authors. Might have to actually read A Catcher in the Rye, now.
Thursday, May 19, 2011
The other day my wife and I were rolling by one of my favorite remnants of old time St. Pete, The Sandman, when she pointed and said: "Huh. Looks like they're finally shutting that place down or something." The windows were boarded up and the place looked gone. Even the usual bums, junkies, prostitutes, wayward families and transients weren't hanging around. Kind of a drag.
The Sandman is an old motor court, one of probably a hundred in the Tampa Bay area. And to be honest, a few of these joints still look pretty damn good, enough so as to give you a glimpse of a bygone era, a blip in time when Florida had a kind of a romantic style. Only now, due to the dernier cri of cookie cutter chain motels, many of these places are nothing more than run down shit holes. Flop houses. Squalid efficiency apartments- where you go when you've been driving your life in a south bound lane heading north, gas pedal nailed to the floorboard. Lost it all to booze or drugs? Hey, refuge is right down the street- a bed and a head for only $25-$35 a night. Probably less if you're slick and know how to work a deal.
And brotha, every town with a pulse has a Sandman. Most have dozens.
I stone dig 'em. Especially the neon signs which are retro cool, even if most of them haven't pushed a watt for the last fifteen years. Those signs are a reminder of more innocent times, even though such a time never existed.
But for me, as a burgeoning writer, the money shot is that my imagination is able to glimpse a frame of the freaky deaky shit that goes on behind the closed doors of these sagging landmarks. These mental images are just so goddamn real to me. I even used The Sandman as a sub-character in my story, Five Kilos, because of the in-the-gutter feeling I get when only driving by the place. Hell, just look at that sign. A picture is worth a thousand words and the individual stories developing behind the scenes are worth millions more.
The lonely side of paradise. Here's hoping we never lose it.
Monday, May 16, 2011
Busy, stressful day at work last Friday. Yet, all I could think about as I worked up in the warehouse or spoke to people on the phone, is how funny it would be to stick a couple of tennis balls down my shorts and take a stroll through the Tyrone Square mall. You know, just for the hell of it.
Update: I did end up at the mall. No tennis balls, though. Ended up with Daniel Woodrell's Bayou Trilogy instead. Balls? Woodrell's got 'em. Guess I came out on the square.
Monday, May 9, 2011
To be truly challenging, a voyage, like a life, must rest on a firm foundation of financial unrest. If you are contemplating a voyage and you have the means, abandon the venture until your fortunes change. Only then will you know what the sea is all about.- Sterling Hayden
Why? Because money in the bank is safe. You learn to play life safe. When you have nothing, you have nothing to lose. You can no longer play it safe and so you take your chances.
Is there an equilibrium? Having it all, yet still being able to break free?
I believe there is.
Thursday, May 5, 2011
As we reach into summer, I often go back to days spent living in rural America. And, while I live in St. Pete now, whenever my wife and I refer to home, we always refer to Kansas.
It's a hard thing explaining what makes a man. For many, especially people like my dad, life is simple. You get up, go to work, watch a little television at night and go to bed. There's very little sitting around. Very little feeling sorry for one's self. You start working when you were young and you quit working when your body gives up on you.
Entertainment was trivial as a boy growing up in, and then south of, Zurich. We didn't go to movies- the closest theater was almost 40 miles away- and dinner out meant the Pizza Hut in Plainville, some seven miles away. We rode our bicycles on the sand streets of Zurich, played in the mud and made tunnels in the milo field across the street from our house. When we moved out into the country, we traded riding bicycles for running in the pastures and following creeks choked with sandplum bushes as far as they would take us.
As we grew older, sports came into our lives. I went to school in Damar and Palco, the two towns which made up school district 269, one of the rural school districts for Rooks County. Our choices for sports boiled down to three: Football, basketball and track. In Junior High I competed in all three. I was very good in football, ok in track and terrible at basketball. We had very few kids attending school and football was 6-man...great fun, because as a running back, when I hit the hole I was gone.
High school brought me only football and we were able to field a team big enough to play 8-man with two more on the bench. We had 60 people in our entire high school and either 12 or 15 in my graduating class. I don't rightly remember which number is correct. During this time I also began working after school for a rancher who raised pure-blood Herefords. Best job ever and at times, leaves me wondering if I missed my calling. During the summers I worked for my dad on a pulling unit in the oilfield. Hell. To me, at least. During this period of my life I learned a good night out could be had while drinking a 12-pack of beer with a buddy while driving the country roads made of shale. The little things.
Throughout these years, from my pre-teens and well into my teens, I felt changes coming on, changes which will affect me for the rest of my life. There can be an immense amount of sadness growing up out there. Still, through it all, I could always go run in the pastures, drive the country roads like a maniac or go outside without hearing sirens and cars and my next door neighbor. You could listen to the constant wind and just BE.
My wife and I go back every year. Often, we consider moving back for good. I don't know. You get used to good restaurants, ease of anything you want within a short driving distance. But you can't build up a coyote wagon here and run it in the neighbor's pasture without a worry. Can't drink water from the tap and still have it taste spring-fresh. And nothing's lonelier than a city full of people. Two sides to every coin, as they say.
Yet for all it wasn't back then, and all it still isn't now, Kansas will always be my point of retreat, my home.