The Night Was….

The night was humid.

Throw Momma From the Train is the best movie about author’s and the dilemmas writers face. It encompassed it all, from writer’s block to envy, to the shitty book that is published while you are standing their wondering, “that offal was published but mine continues to get refused.”

The night was moist.

Who hasn’t sat down at their desk, staring at their computer, wondering what the first line will be, or better yet, just waiting for something, anything to eke from their fingertips that is legible. I have sat there more than once, thinking to myself, I really need to write, only to find myself there an hour later, having a white screen facing me.

The night was dry, yet it was raining.

I have sat typing away in a fury, the words spilling forth from my fingers to keyboard, only to go back later, and wonder, what the hell was that. It sounded great in my head. I was able to visualize the scene and the characters. I could hear their dialogue, but what I wrote just doesn’t make much sense. I guess that’s why we have multiple drafts. The best is when you have checked four drafts, you hand that off to a friend to read, and they send you a text, “what does this mean?” You sit their, staring at the line on your computer screen, and you think to yourself I missed that FOUR times. Thats what friends are for, especially smart, well read friends.

Maybe the night isn’t humid. Maybe it was humid in the morning, and the night it was cold. That gives you fog. Aha, the night was foggy.

This is the kind of petty, psychotic, crap which bogs me down. I stand there, trying to think of a word, screaming the thought in my head, pacing my office sometime as if one of the other walls, which are all in close proximity to each other, might give away a clue to this conundrum. And then you erase it all and stick with your original–the night was humid.

The night was sultry.

And then there is that person. That person in your life who just flings out a word, a phrase, and you would die for it to be your original thought. Because putting it down on paper, you would die a slow death inside knowing something that great in your manuscript was not yours. Thanks for the encouragement, hopefully my mind will erase this moment like liquor does a frat boys memories of four years of college, so just keep your creative thoughts to yourself. But again, thanks for that help.

And then you wake up in the middle of the night, the only thing you have to write on is a scrap of paper, yet a whole manuscript starts vomiting from your mind. Great, thank you for this moment. I guess who can complain, take it where you can get it.

 

 

 

The Philosophy of Durden

Everybody wants to be Tyler Durden, even if it is only for a short moment of time. No person alive wouldn’t want that much confidence to well up inside them on occasion and course through their body like a surge of epinephrine, enlivening their inner powerhouse. You want to sit back and say “Fuck it” with an utter calm and coolness that even Frank Sinatra himself could not conjure. We all want the theoretical and philosophical underpinnings that fueled Tyler and gave him his cool, to truly believe the devil be damned attitude rather than a mask we wear. This cool, to look abject danger in the eye with an ambivalence and apathy, is reserved for only those with Ubach-Wiethe disease–but yet they didn’t choose that. In the End, everyone wants to have control over themselves with the fuck all attitude that Tyler Durden lived with.

As the Boeing 777-300 takes off from Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow, the Aerflot planes shakes uncontrollably with an extreme shudder of seat, wall, floor, and myself. This feeling–unusual in my flying experience–I wonder to myself, what would my last thoughts be if this hunk of metal dropped out of the sky like a molotov cocktail thrown off a building, bursting into a ball of flames among the trees and apartment buildings on the ground below? Would my last thoughts be of my wife and dog waiting for me at home? Would I think fondly of my family, and smile about the memories? Would I feel apathy or regret, anger or sadness, fear or confusion, denial or terror, or, would I ride that plane down to the ground, like Slim Pickens straddling that nuke down to the USSR, as he dropped the bomb on those cold war Ruskis. I wonder if in that moment, my inner Tyler Durden would materialize, and I would have some insightful pithy saying, forever etched in time, to spit in the eye of death and say “give me seconds please.” One could only hope, because, well, at that point, you can’t change the outcome.

I guess the true cool, the real hip, the James Deans, the Frank Sinatras, the Tyler Durdens, they accepted, instead of denied, moved on, instead of regretted. I think in the end, it is that acceptance of the inevitable which defines the coolest of the cool. Hell, when the world collides with Melancholia, I hope to be sitting on the lawn of some house, its verdant lawn stretching down to the crashing ocean, with my friends and family by my side, my wife and dog right next to me. Drinking the most expensive bottle of rye whisky ever made, we will sit there sipping manhattans made with ruby port, and I’ll dress in a black suit, black tie, white shirt, with dark cruiser sunglasses on, my bare feet feeling those soft, flexing blades of grass between my toes. I will watch the earth spin into oblivion with a coolness reserved only for the classic hip.

In the meantime, I will settle for plane flights with free wine served from the flight attendant’s cart. But, in the event the world spins out of control, I should stock up on whisky. I mean, you never know who might crash the party.

Productive Procrastination

So here I sit, at my favorite writing spot, productively procrastinating, writing in this blog. I am entrenched in my thesis work, and articles, papers, and books are strewn across the quarter sawn oak table at which I sit. As I was engrossed in my topic, writing with a speed only reserved for the manic, I had an epiphany, I have to urinate. Washing my hands, I thought about habits, all the strange habits we have, and then my mind drifted back to my writing.

I have a totem. Yes, that is right, a totem. I would not say that I am a superstitious man, but I like to hedge my bets, and if I think something is lucky, well, I will continue that practice. So I have a totem, and when I write, that object goes with me. You ask, well what is it? It is a marble. The smoothest, most perfectly round marble. It is like a beautiful gas giant floating in the universe, the ochre glass swirling around one pole, while at the opposite end of this glass planet, a glob of olive green coats the other. The equator is like white ceramic, pure as fresh driven snow. I don’t recall where or when I found this, but I remember the day I wrote a hundred pages in one sitting, with that marble in the coin pocket of my jeans, and from then on out, it comes with me to write.

Then there are omens, portents, jinxes, and I found mine. Now, I am not sure if this dull Russian ruble is bad luck, or the fact that I had purpose planned for it so long, and have not accomplished this goal, that bad luck has now attached to it. Either way, this coin is damned. I wore it in the same change pocket for weeks on end, not realizing it was there. Weeks of no inspiration, no writing, sitting, staring at a screen, white paper, pen grasped idly in hand, to no avail of any words. Like an idol that must be returned to ward off the demons loosed, I must affix this coin to the bottom of a glass at a bar I frequent–that has been the intended goal for this coin for over a year now. Maybe my mind knows that it is sheer procrastination sitting in my pocket, or maybe it is cursed. But either way the coin will make its way to its final resting place tonight.

Na Zdorovie!

The Recluse

The man never left his apartment. I swear to you, he never left his apartment. I sat on the stoop that summer, drinking gin and tonics out of a mason jar, the squeezed lime languidly floating in the clear effervescent liquid. The ice rattled as I swirled the perspiring glass around, mixing the drink. The Domino’s pizza man would arrive, and knocking at his door, would flush out my prey, the skittish animal, only to be exposed a second, before scurrying back into his dark hole. It was interesting to watch this man as the heat pounded down on me, the sun circling high above and a listless wind barely twitching a leaf with its frail blow. I sat there, knowing it would be hours before the Chinese food delivery man would arrive, to feed him his nightly meal.

I noticed the first week living in my apartment that the man was a shut in. What first drew my attention to his apartment was the television that was constantly on. Now I don’t make it a habit of peeking into neighbors windows, but it drew my attention. His television was directly in line with the front window of his apartment, and with the blinds not up, but the slats opened, I noticed it was on 24/7 and on ESPN. I found this odd for a few reasons. First of all, have you ever been somewhere and ESPN was on the television, set as a neutral programing for people to watch. I admit it is a good choice. Not offensive, easy background noise, no politics, no debates, no guns or violence, I get it. But, what becomes torturous, what grates on me, is the constant sports update, which is not so much an update, as a 7 minute long repeat the whole day, on every 15 minutes. It is hellish, because hell is repetition. Another odd thing was the television was on, constantly, every day. Now I know it seems like a stretch, but there were many hours that I was up at odd times, and always noticed the electric glow beaming through those open slats. With all that ESPN watching, one must build up an appetite.

After a while I began to notice my neighbor’s eating habits. Always pizza at lunch. Always Chinese at night. Always delivered. I just assumed breakfast was leftovers or the meat from the frozen dead corpses in his basement freezer, I don’t know. All I know is, he ordered take out everyday I was there. It was like clockwork. The kind you could set your watch to. I began to wonder if these two establishments didn’t have standing orders to deliver. I can imagine, at these fast food restaurants, the employee taking his order, again, everyday, again. What must have gone through their minds, as they wrote down his order for the thousandth time? And the delivery driver, what did they think? They never seemed to linger long enough to have a conversation. You would think that constant repetition would build up something of a rapport between them, but money exchanged hands, and they were on their way in opposite directions.

It was as if the sun would kill him. As if the world would snatch him up and devour him whole. I don’t mock him, or pick on him, but curiosity gets the best of me, makes me wonder what kind of life did he lead. You see him, and become used to this. He becomes a regular, a frequent character in your mind, but you know nothing of him, so you begin to fill in the voids. Maybe he is a shut-in with a dramatic and heightened phobia of the world. That if he stepped foot outside he would crumple into a ball of fear and anxiety. Then you wonder, could it be he is in witness protection, and so afraid for his life, that he deems it better alive and inside, then outside and possibly dead. Or, maybe, he is such a sports fanatic, he is a famous sports blogger, who is obsessed with ESPN. So many other options swirl through your mind, but in the end you are left wondering, with no answer to the mystery. But then again, thank god for characters like him, to pass the time on a hot summer day with a gin and tonic in hand.

Inhibitions

How can you write if you cannot imagine something in all its horrifying, gruesome, most intimate details. No matter how taboo the topic, the writer must write about it without hesitation or reservation. If we censor our writing, so it is only appealing to the masses, then we limit ourselves and our ability to tell intricate stories. Our ability to live inside our characters, to feel their emotions, to breath as they do, is what makes the tragic hero, the despicable villain, the cheating husband, the buoyant teen. Without our ability to see as they do, feel as they feel, emote as they emote, we just have soul-less avatars filling prolix pages between two artfully constructed covers.

If the writer is inhibited, then their writing will be the same, and if the writer is embarrassed and holds back, this will show. Do not be reticent, instead write as foul mouthed as your character wants to be, allow your character to be who they are supposed to be, how you envision them in your head. I for one think back to all the books that were banned, and, well, I wouldn’t mind my work being put on the shelf, nestled next to those authors.

Observations

Sit and ponder. Contemplate, it is a lost art. Take the time to think, quietly, about nothing, if need be. Analyze things and just wonder. Try and figure out for yourself how things work, even if the internet can tell you. Enjoy your surroundings, take in conversations, basque in the light. Observe the light. Just be cognizant of your surroundings, of the world, and enjoy it.

You learn a lot from eavesdropping, and learn more from sitting quietly. I learned, that when doing ethnographic research, that if your informant answers your question, sit quietly, and do not say a word. The silence that develops between the two of you will make them feel uncomfortable. They will feel the need to fill that void, and elaborate more on the answer they just gave. Trust me, the best skill a writer can have is observation and the patience to listen.

Bars are great character development locations. Coffee shops are great spots to watch first dates. No character is too insane–trust me on this one, I am qualified to make this assessment. The best characters, have, well, character. Townie bars are great places to observe.

Above all else, remember, a story best told is one experienced.

The Catch-22 of Big Brother

 

How great a writer one must be, to have their work become part of a society’s vernacular, and its usage remain relevant decades later? I imagine George Orwell penning Nineteen Eighty-Four–yes originally the title was spelled out–and never even fathoming that the term he coined, “big brother,” would become so synonymous with government; especially in a society that deems itself “democratic” as America does. Although I am sure this term is used more frequently on Fox News than on any other network, this phrase has become the epitome of overreaching government which takes away freedoms from its own citizens. Orwell was a great man who strove for social change and the betterment of society, and this is obvious in his writings, but I digress, I am straying far from the point. I am sure George never imagined, that today, in 2015, we would still be using this phrase he made popular, in his ever famous novel.

Catch-22, damned if you do, damned if you don’t. I recall borrowing Catch-22, from the Cutchogue Library, when I was thirteen years old. I can still feel the dust jacket under my fingers as, on a whim, I picked this book off the shelf and brought it home. I poured through the pages with a furious speed as each page enthralled me to keep reading more and more. Under the covers by flashlight I learned “catch-22,” a phrase that I had heard before, but never attempted to discover its meaning.  I remember reading this book and empathizing with Yosarian, feeling his frustrations, nervous for his life. The ridiculousness of it all, somehow made it more realistic, and I yearned for more and more.

But, catch-22, the phrase is cringeworthy. I love it, but hate it. I use it quite a bit, but so do so many others I know, and I have to say, just a ballpark guess, seventy percent of people I know use it incorrectly. I sit there, and listen to them ramble on saying “well its a catch-22” and I think to myself, actually no its not. I don’t want to be the know-it-all, so I keep my mouth shut. I could explain to them that in the novel “catch-22” was a military rule, which said to get out of flying missions, you would have to say you are crazy and apply for a dispensation from flying, but to acknowledge you are crazy and applying for this dispensation, makes you sane, its “catch-22.” So, essentially, there was no way to get out of flying missions. If I explained this I would be met with empty stares, so I just keep my mouth shut.

I wonder, what would I contribute to the vocabulary of America through my writing? I hope that someday, when I publish novels, that one of my phrases becomes a popular saying, and remains part of the language. The downside is, you don’t get to pick what is chosen. It could be some trashy little innuendo that is slapped into the book to emphasize the sleaziness of a character, or, with my luck, some childish phrase which is remembered forever. I guess the worst of it all, would be who appropriates the phrase and work. I really don’t want a piece of my literature to be adopted by Fox News, or some ridiculous group like the KKK. But of course that is all left up to chance, and that is, if it even happens. Maybe while I am alive I will  start something. start whispering those two luscious words into people’s ears at bars. I’ll imbue it into my thesis, and every chapter will contain some perfect two word phrase which could spread like wild fire through the minds of this generation.

It will probably come to me in some drunken haze, and I will stumble around, grasping for a pen and paper, jotting down these two words of genius, shoving the crumpled receipt back in my pocket. Finding it the next day I will open it up, and read the phrase, thinking to myself, what the hell does that mean, and toss it into the basket, forever throwing out my chances at literary fame.

To be immortalized in American vernacular, oh what better way can one die.