The Aberrant Writer

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Today I purchased a hollow cement sculpture of a baby’s skull. Its eyes; empty, its surface; smooth like plaster, its smile; dead and flat.  This skull, which was so recently housed at the local antique store in my town, with a tag that noted “plant pot? candleholder?” now sits on my bookcase, staring at me with dead vacant eyes, as words spill from my fingertips and onto my computer.

I think you have to embrace your eccentric side to be creative. I embrace my idiosyncrasies and bask in the manic periods I may have, writing so fast my fingers feel as if they will fall off. I take full advantage of those periods. No subject is taboo. Writing is about exposing yourself to the world, and feeling stronger every time.

Somewhere, on the horizon, lies multiple projects that my mind is vomiting as I run, drive, breath, eat, and work. I now have to prioritize them, and work on them with a fervent zeal that would make David Koresh look like a bible salesman.

In the end I have a few hurdles to conquer, but I guess, the real question that I must ask myself is, would a clown really give me their blood?

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The Collector’s Disappointment

He arrived at home, and noticed the package sitting outside on the stoop, leaning against the aged red brick, with crumbling mortar barely holding its walls in place. It sat there, the white address label neatly printed in blue ink, staring at him, its brown paper wrapping beaten and abused from lengthy travels. Standing there mouth agape, he just stared at the package with a sense of trepidation. He didn’t touch it, or advance toward it, but stood paused, frozen in his step, as his heart pounded within his chest, each pulsation of quivering muscle thumping his ribs.

Bending over, he wrapped his fingers around the coarse brown paper which enveloped this package, his hands and fingers trembling as he held it out before himself at arms length, turning the package in his quaking hands to see all sides. Beads of sweat formed and rolled down his forehead, descending toward his nose, and with one quick swipe of his sleeve he smeared the moisture across his brow, leaving a glistening sheen of salt.

He stood absolutely still, a statued sentinel to forever guard whatever monument he watched over to only crumble with age and time. Eventually the stalemate was broken, and he moved toward the door of his apartment, retreating from the oppressing heat of the day, with the package securely in hand. Pulling it toward his body, he now cradled it with extreme caution, as if this box itself held the most precious and delicate life on earth and if he not be careful, it should forever become extinguished.

He thought to himself how long he had waited for this day to come. How much anticipation had been built in his head as he relished the moment which he was soon to experience. Beside himself and atwitter with anticipation, it was as if he hadn’t opened that door a hundred times, forgetting which key entered the lock to move each tumbler aside as he fumbled with key after key, a frustration and excitement building, as if a child who needs to pee, dancing his dance, waiting his turn at the public restroom. He realized that this was taking far longer than he wished, and finding the key, he entered the hallway to his building, and hurried himself down to his ramshackle door, the white paint flaking off in large strips, as if pieces of bacon taken down to fry in a cast iron pan.

Flinging open the door to the apartment, he stepped inside and with the package securely under arm pulled tight into his ribs, he whipped his head up and down the hallway, scanning for anyone who might have seen him, and satisfied that he was alone and not seen, shut the door slowly, as a loud creak from the aged hinges announced his presence with a grating irritation. The click from each lock was a satisfying sound, and placing his back against the door, he held the package out in amazement, still not believing what he held within his hand was his, was real, was tangible. He was alone with it now. Of all the people on earth, of everyone alive, he was the only person he knew to hold these in his hands.

Although the package was still wrapped, he caressed it as if he was holding the items themselves, no longer covered by the cardboard. Sitting at his kitchen table, he placed the rectangular object on the dirty and cracked formica surface and just looked at it. After a minute, and with an unsuspecting suddenness that even scared himself, he tore into the brown wrapping, throwing paper through the air, brown butterflies alighting with each tear of his fingers into the bundle’s covering.

He held them in his hand, gingerly resting them in his palm like a baby bird, fragile and scared, having fallen out of its nest. He looked at their bright colors and knew there was one more step before he was done, before his ecstasy was complete. Running into the other room he took a glass from the cabinet, but then stopped as if he was wrenched back by some unseen bungee cord attached to his back, which he pulled too far and tightened against his spine with no further give. His hand slipped to his side, as if it was no longer alive, the glass barely held by his fingertips as they scarcely gripped the lip of the cup. He hung his head and stared at the sink, deflated as he realized that his excitement had flown away like the brown paper butterflies which had drifted through the air.

Hoping against hope he picked up the receiver of the phone, and dialed zero for the operator. The strangers unaffected voice climbed through the ear piece and crawled into his ear to speak. Asking for the Ministry of Resources, the operator sighed and connected him without any pleasantries exchanged, and then without interruption another voice, a male voice, a monotone voice, came across the line, one with a deep authoritarian tone.

“Hello,” the authoritarian man said.

“I would like permission to….”

There was a long pause as he tried to form the words which might facilitate the best possible outcome in his favor.

“Well, do you have a question? You would like permission, for?”

“For an extra water ration at this moment.”

“Is this a medical emergency. If it is, you must scan a physician slip into the phone’s reader.”

“No, it is not a medical emergency.”

“Sir, you know the ration laws don’t you? Should we send literature to your residence? You know you get water every two days. Please, if you are thirsty, then have your Doctridrink.”

“Please, I just came upon something from long ago, something from my childhood. Please. All I need is a little water. Just a cup, eight ounces, that is all I am asking for, just this once.”

“Sir, there is never just a once with you people. Everyone wants more, but there isn’t more. That is why we have laws like this, so greedy people like you don’t abuse the common resources needed for all to survive. Now please, stop wasting my time.”

“But…”

The phone went silent with an abruptness before he finished his last plea, his last beg, his last remonstration. Tears welled up in his eyes as stared at the package on the table. Walking over he picked them up, their bright colors like fluorescent easter eggs all five fitting in the palm of his hand. Hot pink, electric blue, fluorescent green, lemon yellow, and bright orange capsules, all rested in his hand.

The package lay on the floor in a crumpled heap. Pictures of dinosaurs decorated the card-stock, brightly colored and poorly drawn, with a volcano erupting in the background, its hot lava spewing over the mountainside. The package boasted, “Just add water and watch the grow, 4 times their size, for hours of fun.”

Placing them on the table, he picked up his glass, and began to cry. Hanging his head over the small cup, tears dropped into the clear container, running down the smooth side. He looked at the small globule of liquid and cringed at how little it filled the glass. Cursing evaporation which would fight against him, he brought his most painful memories to the surface, each tear a memory of loss and regret, dropping into that glass, one minuscule bead of liquid at a time.

A Luminescent Radiance of Moonlight

She touched me in the waning moonlight, the room a spectral blue hue, as she ran her fingers across the muscles in my back. Her fingertips trailed across my shoulders, and I could feel the lightest touch, as if the wispiest feather blew across my back, dancing in the night’s breeze. My eyes remained shut, but my mind awoke, and a thousand jumbled thoughts ricocheted chaotic, blanketed by the hush of the night. I remained a corpse, a body lying still. No movement, feigning sleep, an unconscious state, all the while afraid to face her thoughts. And then, her voice broke the silence of the iron room, our imagined cell, shattering my sleeping charade.

“I feel empty. Like a part of me is missing. I feel torn, split in two, a fissure running through my heart,” Diana spoke with a hollow voice, all emotion torn from her throat.

I lay there, a hateful, vengeful voice inside my head, screaming at me, maligning her, and I cowered at its domineering nature. I did not say a word, I lay their in the abject silence, which tore a chasm in bed between us.

“John, please, speak to me. Yell at me. Get angry. Be sad, but for god sakes, say something. I didn’t mean to do it. It wasn’t my fault. It’s not like I wanted this. For Christ’s sake, speak to me.”

Her voice cracked as her frustration oozed out. Diana’s pleading became angry yells as she commanded me to talk.

I shrugged off her touch, which had become aggressive, the light feather having blown away on a gale wind, and instead felt like a thorny bush scratching at my back, tugging at flesh and dermis. Standing up, I walked over to the window, and stared out onto the night street. I basked in the cool moonlight as my body became luminescent, a pallid blue nude, like a marble statue, pale, lifeless, cold. I did not care who would see, instead I hoped people would witness us trapped in our prison.

“It’s not your fault, but it is. You knew the consequences of your actions. You can’t ask me to forgive you, when your actions are your own. I did not put that bottle to your mouth. I did not ask you to drink,” I said.

“You don’t know. Don’t accuse me. I am looking for solace, for help. Why won’t you comfort me? I lost just as you did. It was my body, not yours. You don’t know what it feels like, to lose a piece of you.”

Her voice was shaky and accusatory. Rage built up behind her words, a fire building, ready to flashover, and consume us and all of the room in an intense inferno.

“You’re right, I don’t know what that feels like, but I can’t just turn off my emotions. I look at you and see a murderer, a person who took to the bottle, and pulled the trigger. What did you expect would happen?”

“How dare you? We are joined together. You are not allowed to treat me this way. You are supposed to love and support me, to nourish and comfort me, instead you pass condemnation. Your judgement is a death sentence for me.”

“I am not the one who passed the death sentence. I am not the one who could not control themselves, who could not show a little restraint. Only nine months. That’s all you needed, nine months, and you couldn’t even do that. Don’t you see you have a problem. It’s an addiction. The bottle has a hold on you. It comforts you more than I ever can, and controls you, pulling your strings like a puppeteer with a marionette.”

She threw herself out of bed, the covers flying into the statically charged night air, like a fluttering phantom in the pale light. Her body was milky, creamy, ivory in color, and she moved across the room like a poltergeist, angry, vengeful, ready to disturb the room. She floated like a wraith across the floor, moving in between the shadows, her pale body phosphorescent in the moonlight, and then dissolving into the stygian darkness, hidden from all sight as the murkiness swallowed her up. Moving back into the light, she approached me with a face contorted with ire and a hatred that seethed with a coal-fired furnace blazing behind her eyes.

“Who do you think you are? We both suffered this, you do not own all the sadness, all the emotion we have encountered. You don’t get to play judge and jury with me. You think you own this disaster, you think you are perfect, that you don’t make mistakes as well. We all live in this shitty world, a world where we float along in time which we have no knowledge of what is to come. Everyday we try and do what is right, while we navigate the intricacies of of chaos and disaster.”

“The difference is, I did not put the bottle to your lips. I did not force you to come to this conclusion, you came to this all yourself.”

“You sanctimonious prick. No, you didn’t put the bottle to my lips. You didn’t force me to drink, but I did. I had a moment of weakness, and as a result, I will have to live with this loss for the rest of my life. But you don’t get to tell me I was wrong. You were there, you knew what I was doing. You are as guilty as I am. Apathy is not an excuse, and does not exonerate you from any guilt. You think I am responsible for this tragedy, fine, I am, in part, but you can take the lion’s share. Your indifference toward me enabled me, and you watched the tragedy occur. It is as if you wanted me to fail. You were happy to watch this tragedy, if only to judge me, to be priggish in your smug demeanor. Well, you get to live with this. So go ahead and judge yourself.”

Walking away into the inky shadows, her luminous body, electric in the moonlight, evanesced into the inky shadows of the room. Diana was quiet, even her breathing seemed to disappear as her body became one with the dark shadows of the room, and I turned back, gazing out the window onto the quiet street.

After a few minutes I heard something behind me, a rattling of sorts, like a diamondback vibrating its tail, preparing to strike. It was a familiar sound, and I was made to hear it, as it broke the drowning silence of the room. The sound came closer to me through the abysmal darkness, as if she stuck strictly to the shadows, avoiding the pale blue beams of light.

Rattle. The sound was right behind me, and its familiarity struck a cord inside me. Ice tinkled inside the glass as she swirled the whisky around the mason jar. Sipping next to my ear, air passed her lips, causing a slurping sound to grate on my soul.

“Ahhh,” she exclaimed, as if this drink was a glass of water after she had marched through a desert.

I felt her nude body rub against mine as she upended the four fingers of whisky. Embracing me, her whisky lips met mine, and I could taste the stringent flavor of Old Grand Dad on my tongue as hers danced with mine. The perspiring mason jar drop to the floor with a hollow thud, and rolled across the wood floor, ice spilling out from its mouth. In the moonlight our two bodies intertwined, and the anger and hatred melted away into lust, bitterness transformed into passion.

As we made our way back to bed through the ethereal moonlight, a whisky soaked ice cube melted on the floor. The puddle stretched out into the cracks in the floor, breaking through our iron prison. Eventually the ice dissolved completely, leaving nothing but a stagnant puddle discoloring the golden strips. In the darkness, lightened by the luminescence, we forgot our transgressions, soaked in a whisky fog of early morning.

 

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.

Bar Moscow

Think of the shittiest dive bar you have ever been to. Ok, do you have that image in your mind. Or better yet, maybe you are sitting there right now, belly up to the polyurethaned bar-top with a cheap shot of whisky in hand and a tall-neck Miller High Life, the champagne of beers. If this is the case, turn around, look at the walls stained with the excessive years of cigarette smoke, smoke which saturated those dark, wood panels, giving them the perfect, antiquated look you see today. Those walls, those disgusting walls, which you have come to call home, are riddled with cancer from all the second hand smoke they have absorbed over the years, like a sponge left in the sink, sitting in the moisture left behind, a stink emanating from that yellow porous rectangle. They will probably be given only a few years to live, as the black tar and ammonia oozes from their cracks. Ok, so now do you have your image? If you don’t, then go find a corner bar, the darker, the smokier, the cheaper, the better, and then you’ll have an idea. But in the meantime, for those of you who know of what I speak, good. Think of that place, and then know, you can’t even come close to Bar Moscow.

Hidden down a street in plain sight, sits the single pane of glass which allows a dull smoked light into  this lovely shit-hole bar. Wedged between two bars, one a pool hall and the other a night club, the thick, heavy, solid door of this establishment is adorned with no sign, and no indication of opening or closing hours. To walk by, well, one would do just that, walk by. Our first night in Helsinki we looked for it, and using the directions given to us, walked by, oblivious to Bar Moscow. We stared right at the bar, the single glass window, but we shrugged our shoulders, thinking we had the wrong address. It wasn’t until New Years Eve that we found the bar was there, and oh, what a bar.

Think back to the dive bar you were reminiscing about. That bar with the smoke stained walls, wood paneling, and the salty–usually female–bartender that has been working the joint for the last forty years, and looks about as smoke-stained and leathered from the formaldehyde in those cigarettes as the walls do. Yeah, that bar. You know, the bar where you order comfort food, but nothing is comforting about it three hours later. The food that, for some unknown, god forsaken reason, you still order, after so many stints of upset bowels–even though you won’t admit to yourself it was food poisoning, deep down you know its true– which each time you blamed on the popcorn you had at the last bar; wink, wink. Well, still not Bar Moscow.

We didn’t know what we were walking into, Tom, Abby, and I. We had found the bar at the spot we had previously walked past. Squashed between the two bars we noticed the door, and saw it, a small paper sign at the bottom left hand corner of a plate glass window reading “MOKCBA bAP.” We opened the door with hesitance, and entered into the drunk maelstrom of Bar Moscow. It was New Year’s Eve, the Finn’s on the street were already shitty drunk at 8 p.m., and we would be well on our way soon, with a bunch of Russian’s, who, by the way, the Finnish are not so keen on.

I can only imagine it is how a Russian Bar would have looked in the sixties and seventies under the communist regime. The blood red painted walls added a certain level of hideousness to the aesthetic decor, which was lit by two bare fluorsecent lights angled toward each other vertically on the wall. The rest of the bar was low lit with random lamps, and a few low wattage, recessed, overhead lights, which shone down from the black painted ceiling. I felt like I was in a whorehouse. The red room, the low dim lighting, the cheap tacky decor. I was waiting for Mother Russia to come out in leather clad bikini, whip in one hand, cigarette in the other, speaking in broken english accent, asking me if I like pain. Instead I settled for the drunk men who seemed drawn to us like flies, we being the strangers in this bar where everyone knows each other, but doesn’t show it.

Back to the bar you were thinking about. Ok, we have the smoke stained walls, the old bartender with her ratty, hacking cough. We have the shitty decor. Old signage that has been affixed to the wall for fifty years. Programs still adorning the bathroom walls from a time when your great grandfather would have been drinking there. Now you think about the people. The rummies, the drunks, the boozehounds. The guys and gals that live there. That are there at opening, and help the bartender flip the stools at the end of the evening. You have other bartenders on their way to work, who suck down two screwdrivers before their shift starts–you bump into them at the next bar down the line as they pour your drink, their nose red as Rudolf’s and the blood vessels on their cheeks starting to turn purple, the tell tale sign of an alcoholic. Without these characters, these bars are nothing. They exist because these patrons exist. And, so does Bar Moscow.

The Finn’s loathe Russians, so, why have a bar named Bar Moscow in Helsinki? The drunk Russian, Nicholai, reminisced about home with us. Plying him with shots of Zubrokow vodka, he told us about his life and the life of the bar. Nicholai sipped the vodka, slowly savoring the ice cold clear liquid, even shared one shot with us, each of us taking a small sip of the beautifully crafted, vanilla liquor. The owner wanted a bar he could drink in, without being bothered by a crowd, and what better way to keep Finn’s away, than by opening a Russian themed bar. The bar had customers, it was not empty, it wasn’t want for patrons, but the room–and I stress that, it is only one room big–was not full up, especially for New Year’s Eve. So we drank with Russians, in the most hated bar in Helsinki, and the least advertised. Nicholai explained to us that it is meant to look closed all the time. If people do not think it is open, they will stay out.

Your dive bar probably does not have the drunks they do. In fact, I can guarantee your smoke stained bar with the leathery bartender, the shitty decorations, the diarrhea inducing food, and the barflies, does not have these drunks. There are drunks, swaying back and forth, falling asleep on their beer, hand quivering as they put the cheap shot to their lips, having scrounged together pennies to buy the rotgut well liquor that only cost two dollars, and then, well, there are the drunks of Bar Moscow.

The patrons of Bar Moscow were well on there way. The small tables, which were sporadically placed across the room with no specific pattern, were surrounded by metal chairs with bright red vinyl cushions, while drunk Russian’s swayed from side to side atop these seats. At one point in the evening a patron well over served collapsed leaving the bar, taking with him shelves of knick knacks crashing to the floor with a cacophony of disaster. His crumpled form was left on the floor, until he popped up minutes later, like a marionette being picked up by some invisible puppeteer. No effort was made by the bartender to yell at him, help him, or berate him, it was as if nothing happened. All others in the bar just sat there and watched, then turned back to their respective conversations. This dark haired man with a tousled look stumbled out into the night with an ataxic gate, wandering into the cold of December.

The shitty corner bar, the one you have locked in your mind now, it has a feel, an aura, an atmosphere that is just there. This ambience is the culmination of all aspects from the bartender to the decorations, the patrons to the food, the drinks to the prices they charge and advertise. Now to each their own, so I cannot say Bar Moscow has a shittier atmosphere, but I can say, it was the oddest experience I have had at a bar.

Behind the bar sat a plate of stale sandwiches. Made with white bread, thinly stacked with lunch meats, these unappealing triangles being the only food one could order at the bar. Next to this plate sat a record player the size of a small pony, and across the front of this wood veneered box, was a dull green light emanating from the display of radio stations, like a ruler with hash marks of music. The Russian music boomed with a scratchy, tinny, sound from old burlap covered speakers, while throngs of men sang in high tenors and low baritones, laying a strong solid foundation to their national chants. The music was dated, spinning from the scratched vinyl, which was stacked on shelves behind the bar, relics from a cold war and Stalinist Reds. The bartender herself was squat and stout, with greying hair pulled back, a Babushka in her own right. Her gruff demeanor was not broken by anyone that night. And even though she new many of the patrons, no smile broke her stony facade, it was as if she was one of the millions of faceless masses exiled to Siberia. She spoke with a limited vocabulary, her speech terse and curt, smothered by a thick Russian accent, the few words she spoke you thought she was commanding action, like a drill instructor barking orders. But that still wasn’t the oddest thing.

So in your shitty corner bar, the one you love to visit, the one you call home, you have probably been there on New Year’s Eve. You have probably been there with all the familiar faces, although you may not know them personally, or be friends with, you know them, and it is somehow comforting for you. You are there to ring the New Year. The ball drops on the television and you watched Dick Clark there, wishing you a Happy New Year, feeling as if he was a fixture in your life. People sing, pat each other on the back, hug, total strangers, yet familiar faces, you all feel a common bond. In Bar Moscow, well, there is none of that.

They all stood up as the record player came to an abrupt halt. The three of us stared at each other, as we surveyed the room, watching the men and women hold their drinks up, as if saluting in anticipation of some important patron. Reluctantly standing, we followed suit, and the silence was shattered by men chanting in unison that issued forth from the jangling speakers. It was midnight, and patrons stood for the Russian national anthem. People in the bar sang, belting out the words, as if in some hypnotic trance, like Catholics unconsciously reciting prayers and creeds  in their bewitched monotone voices. In Bar Moscow, we ushered in the New Year of 2013 with thirty or more drunk Russian’s, belting out their old communist anthem. And tucked away on a side street, in this dive bar of Helsinki, this pariah of the city’s bars, we felt at home.

 

 

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.