Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Soon Come Mon

I'll probably post the story later today. I made a few hard cuts based on my wife's feedback. I liked some of what she didn't, but hey, I asked for help and got it. I only argued on a few points. What most had me concerned was her impending judgement on the ending, but she liked it. Not love mind you. She can say enough about it, if you know what I mean. That's a good thing. I wouldn't have a chance otherwise.

My wife is adjusting amazingly well to the new puppy. She's never had one before, which has lead to some misunderstandings. For instance, she thought we would drop the puppy at obedience school for potty training. Well, now she knows different.

But she finally has her little girl.

More later...


Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Late to Work

I was extremely late for work this morning, which puts me in just before everyone gets here. No time to play. So quickly, my step mom is engaged, we got a puppy, I decided to take the pool cover off myself instead of paying someone else. I am on the last couple lines of my story and Thursday it must be submitted. I have fought, kicked and scratched my way through this. It's been a great learning experience. So if for no other reason it will have been worth it.

** Update **

I finished the first draft. My editor, aka my wife, will read it through tonight. She likes the idea of the ending, and helped give it shape.


Friday, May 26, 2006

Ode To Happy Friday

I remember when when Friday had such significance to me. The weekend was almost upon me like a father's promise of future prosperity. In high school it meant no more classes, possibly a movie, and two nights and two six packs of beer. Hanging out with Heather and Paula, with the sex-starved gang that was slowly degrading into a nudist camp, with George, Danny and Tex. In college almost anything could happen, and often did. We were all living in the moment when we weren't cramming for an exam. Girls everywhere on a campus of thirty thousand, more people than in my home town; all young and looking for thrills. Even the socially challenged had a shot. That was a good thing for me.

Out of school and into the real world, living in a house with three guys from college. We had better parties than either of my fraternities. We were a fraternity, and the au pairs were our sister sorority.

Now I look forward to chores and yard work. Now I am RESPONSIBLE. Sometimes I miss the old life; but the old life is as dead for me as the frogs I sometimes find in the catch basket of my pool filter. Even if I went out and had a few beers, it wouldn't be the same. If I hold the door for a young woman today, she says, "Thank you sir." The kids in my son's kindergarten class call me Mister, even though I tell them to call me Scott. I bitch about the music of today, and think teenagers are going to hell in a hand basket. In other words, I'm getting older folks.

I used to turn on my favorite radio station and listen to the montage of songs in tribute to Friday. My heart raced. Now it's just another day--almost.


I've decided that Tobias Wolff is my favorite author. I started the audio book over and am going to get more of his work. After choice passages, I rewound and listened as if it were a sweet melody. "It was as if some subliminal sense of cause and effect had taken hold..."


Have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Old School and Fountainhead

I finished the Tobias Wolff story. That man is an author and a reader. As an author he is a student of life, able to bring his characters to life by recounting the subtle thoughts and actions we do without thinking. The way he described for instance how an old professor missed the way his students looked at him when he walked down the hall, how they parted to let him pass, how they would forget themselves when excited over a piece of writing, or how they broke out in song with little provocation. Wolff gives you the sense that he is not only a writer, but a master observer of life. He doesn't tell us anything we don't already know. It's that he points out what we do know but never speak of--not just the dirty secrets, although there are some. He draws astute conclusions as to the nature of his characters.

The section on Ayn Rand was especially grand, because his main character may as well have been me during the time he discovers and becomes enamored with her philosophy. He starts seeing the world as populated with weaklings, and himself as superior. But after hearing her speak, and listening to her shrill disdain for the world, he is no longer able to read a word without hearing her voice.

Rand makes no compromise for the folks who are unable to fend for themselves, such that a handicapped person I suspect she would just as soon push in front of a bus, and feel it her moral responsibility. I admire that she is strong, but she is like an embittered general who has witnessed the death of too many of those he was sworn to protect.

Still, I will be ever grateful to Rand for spreading her word. She represents an ideal of strength, of standing on ones own, doing a job, however menial, to the best of ones ability. To be selfish, and we all are to varying degrees, is not a bad thing--in fact, she postulates (as if it were fact) that you must be. It helped me to release a large burden of guilt, allowed me to pursue my life on my own track. It helped me in no uncertain terms to be a man in the classic sense, such that nobody could question otherwise. But Rand would still not be satisfied with the man that I am, because I still have a conscience. I am able to take from her what I need and leave the rest.

I highly recommend reading the Wolff book if only for that section, especially if you are a Rand enthusiast, or even an apostate.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Only a Week Left

I only have a week to finish the carnival story. I've changed it quite a bit, and still, contrary to the advice of my friends, I haven't written the ending yet. After my wife's criticisms, I am having trouble leaving it alone until the end. It's not that she didn't like it. She merely echoed what my conscience was telling me. The changes I'm making are shaping the end anyway, and I think it's a lot more interesting now with some meat packed between the slices.

So, I'm taking a break from the blog rounds until I finish this story. I will commit Hari Kari if I don't finish. This is not going to end up like most of my stories, in the wish basket.

Question: do you think I should change my avatar to something more applicable? Like to the picture above? I found this by searching google images.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Basketball Jones

Remember the old Cheech and Chong skit, Basketball Jones? Starring Tyrone Shoelaces? Those were the days preceding all John Hughes films, when PC meant pretty cute. I was reminded of it yesterday. Emmett is in a throwing stage--balls, stuffed animals, teenaged mutant ninja turtles, Lincoln Logs, Tinkertoys, Mr. Potato Head, Gameboy--you name it. His two year old dexterity defies all prediction. Sometimes I cheer, "Great throw," and other times I wince, like when items go straight up and come down on his head.

Yesterday he threw a stuffed frog across the kitchen. It landed face first into a cup of coffee, as if it were bobbing for apples. Coffee splattered the countertops and cupboards. Mama was none too pleased, unlike Jackson, who wound up with a little "room time" for uncontrollably laughing. I've been there; but that's another story.

After the incident was recounted to me by the wife--son tag team when I got home last night, I said, "That reminds me of the time--"

"Yeah," my wife broke in, "like father like son." It was not a compliment.

It was a one in a million shot--left handed, across the living room. I had no idea I would make it. She had just sat down, newly showered, bright and fresh. Her blouse was downy white. She had coffee in a Styrofoam cup and had taken a couple sips and rested it on her lap. I sat across from her, holding a perfect wadded napkin that was so hard that it felt like a golf ball. It had the perfect heft. You have to understand how rare this is. There is always some slight imperfection, one little fringe that would throw it off course. The rim of her cup called to me. The time clock was ticking down and my team was down one. My right arm was sprained and there was no time to pass. I tossed it with my left hand and watched in fascinated horror as it took the perfect parabolic path and landed square in the middle of the coffee--nothing but net. Coffee splattered all over her blouse.

I tried to explain the situation, but she couldn't appreciate the long odds of making such a shot, that I was a hero.


Monday, May 22, 2006

I Forgot

The wife and I sat down last night and made a plan. It's time to turn the television off at night. When the kids are put to bed, at 8PM sharp, we are sitting down with our respective projects--me with my writing and side work, her with crafts and household design, scrapbooks, etc. We need to take control of our life.

I'm listening to Tobias Wolff, Old School. We're all unique musical instruments requiring common techniques to play, but books are living beings that interact with us as individuals. I am enjoying it immensely, but not for any reason I can put my finger on. I suppose on the surface I love its intellect--not pretentious, not shy. Like me if I had followed my true calling instead of stuffing my brains into a construction hard-hat and dragging my knuckles like a cave dweller. The narrator has a row with Ayn Rand's Fountainhead. He undergoes a transformation as a result, just like I did so many years ago, which finally freed me from the grip of my past, giving me the strength to stand on my own, to have confidence in myself. It's too bad I didn't read it in high school. It might have been too soon anyway.

I have to read it again. Wolff's character meets Rand. The infamous author asks a selected group of students, "Who among you are writers?" Nobody moves. "Your meek little hearts stop you from raising your hand. Shame on you. The meek shall inherit nothing but a boot to the head."

Shame on me. I totally forgot.


Update: I just listened to the rest of the Ayn Rand section in the car at lunch, and it turns out that Wolff is taking a shot at Rand. Some of the audience members challenged her philosophy. It was a great scene. She apparently was quite full of herself. Someone asked her to name one American Novel that she loved, and she said, "Atlas Shrugged." Asked to name a second, "Fountainhead." She conceded that she really like Mikey Spillane. Mike Hammer, she said, vanquishes evil with clear purpose and conviction. I can't reproduce her words here, but the exchanges were brilliant. She was certainly full of herself.

But she had some points, and that is why so many people feel like she is a hero of sorts.

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Tooth Faggot

Sorry for the incredibly insensitive and polictically incorrect use of the English language, but I'm a redneck country boy and that's the way it's gonna be, so move along little dogey.

But I digress. You will understand when the post is over.

My son lost his first tooth last night. It came out eating a pretzel. So of course we had him put it under his pillow. At dinner he asked us how big the tooth fairy is. "I've never seen the tooth fairy, have you mama?"

"No I haven't," she said. In that we were being completely honest. Again the twinge of guilt for selling a myth. I can't help but think though, that I am discouraging rational thought.

This morning as I was sneaking down the stairs--as part of my normal routine--Jackson appeared like Samantha on Bewitched. You know, suddenly.

"Guess what daddy."

"What." My face was a mask of curiosity.

"The tooth fairy came last night."

"Are you serious?"

"Yeah, and guess what she left me?"


"Five dollars!"

I'm pretty sure that, if he does eventually discover the truth behind the myth, say from one of his friends at school, that he'll allow this to continue.

Sort of unrelated, but connected by a tendril, is an old skit on Saturday Night Live. It turns out it was Dennis Miller's last day as the evening news anchor. Farley played guest speaker Stormin' Norman Schwartzkopf, responding to complaints from the gay and lesbian community in regards to his use of the term 'military fairies', applied to Pentagon insiders criticizing the Army. I leave you with Farley's brilliant retort:

Let me say right off that, when I used the term "fairy", I was speaking colloquially. Where I grew up in New Jersey, the word "fairy" was often substituted for other terms. For instance, on my block, the Staten Island Ferry is called the Statan Island Gay Boy. And, of course, we all believed in the Tooth Faggot!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

I'll Try to Remember That

I emailed my manager yesterday. I have a parent-teacher conference in the early afternoon. If it's ok with you I'd like to work at home.

Normally I don't get a reply from him. In such cases I figure he was too busy to grant my request, so I assume the answer I wish to hear. His response this time was immediate. should be a problem. thx for the heads up.

I wrote back: Did you mean--should not be a problem?

Reply: Er, yeah, I typed too fast.

So here I am with an extra hour of sleep and caffeine worming through my bloodstream. In other words: feelin' good.

Originally, both my wife and I were both going to the conference, but we forgot one pesky detail. What to do with the kids? So, I'm babysitting instead. Damn. I love hearing about my son. The last conference was all positive--he's delightful, plays well with the other kids, pays attention, does well academically with a few developmentally predictable exceptions.

But we still don't have any friends that we can dump two kids on for a couple hours. That's not totally true. We don't have any reliable friends. We have a neighbor Tracy that was all over us like peanut butter to the roof of a dry mouth. She invited us to join her church. We finally took her up on that offer three weeks ago and have gone religiously (sorry, couldn't resist) every Sunday since. Tracy invited my wife to join a women's group soon after, and Beth was so excited. We felt like we were starting to make connections. But the group was really a bible study, much more than either of us is ready for. We got an invitation over the phone from another member of the church, who got our number from Tracy, for another bible study group. I called him back and declined. Politely though, I promise.

Here is approximately what I said:

"We haven't gone to church since we've been married, and are starting down this path slowly. We owe it to our children to introduce them to the teachings of the church so that they can make their own decisions. As for us, a bible study group might me a little much for our level of commitment. But I really appreciate your kind offer."

He was very understanding. But after that, our neighbor cancelled a play-date for the kids, and hasn't called since.

One of my readers, Jada's Gigi, told me to remember that people are fallible, not God.

I'll try to remember that.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Love is Alive

It's been said that kids are the death of romance. But I beg to differ. Take this Sunday for instance. For all intents and purposes we were trapped indoors by the onslaught of rain. Entire streets in our town were cut off by flood, some businesses closed. So we stayed home-and the kids went crazy. They ran up and down the hallway screaming; tore cushions from the couch and built forts; dumped bins of toys on the floor to play with a single figurine. When the fun of all that wore off, say, after about fifteen minutes or so, Jackson started into teasing his little brother.

It's quite amusing really. The technique Jackson has mastered is one that marketing people spend four years at college to master. It's called Creating the Need. It goes something like this:

He sneaks a furtive look to see if the we are watching. Ah, the coast is clear. "Hey Emmett, I've got a toy diiinosaurrrrrr, a velociraptor! Isn't it cool?"

Emmett's eyes snap to attention, and his hands reach out. "Let me see."

"Sorry, this is special to me, and I'm not ready to share."


"It's my turn to play with it Emmett," he says indignantly.

"What is going on here," I say, pretending not to know already. Then I listen as Jackson weaves his tale of misery and woe. I explain about sharing and teasing for the thousandth time, while Jackson hears the blah-blah-blah, and Emmett waits expectantly for deliverance of the raptor that he must have to feel right with the world again.

Back in the kitchen, my wife waits for super dad to return. She puts her arms around me, and whispers in my ear. "You just wait until the kids are in bed."

That got my attention. "Yeah?" I say with a sly smile.

"Tonight is the Sopranos!"

You see? The Judds said it best. Love is alive, and here by me-on the couch.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

What I'm Up To

Some of you are wondering where the conclusion of my story is. Answer: I'm working on it. My wife proof-read it and gave me some critical feedback that caused me to go back and rework a few awkward parts, and to fill in more detail in places. I realized I was moving along at a very fast pace; and that it wouldn't hurt to describe the setting just a little bit.

Anyway, I want to have this ready for the contest that Flood pointed me to in a previous comment. But let me tell you, this is much harder to do than I thought it would be. I find myself staring at the screen, trying to picture the scene. I'm scanning the net for inspirational pictures, reading accounts of childhood carnival experiences. This is actually hard.

So, I am going forward and I'm not giving up. In fact, I'm going to do some more work on it now. So hang in there with me. I welcome all constructive comments by the way, from anyone. My aim is to be a writer someday, fully realizing that I have a span to travel.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

I Hope You Can Hear Me

As usual, it took someone else to remind me that today was a special day. It's been something like five years since you've been gone. Since then my life has taken off in a radically different direction. I'm glad you met Jackson, and little Emmett would have been such a treat for you. I happened upon an old video of you holding baby Jackson, making him laugh like nobody could. I hollered to my wife, "Hey, it's my mom." Jackson came running to see. "I don't remember her," he said dispassionately, but he watched with me.

When you were alive, I was so close to my aunt, and even my step-mother Lorrie. You were always so jealous. But without you I am lost, doing it alone. My aunt calls me now to find out where I've been, and I hardly speak to Lorrie anymore. I hope you know that you were always number one, even when I lost the capacity to show it. I don't feel sorry for myself though, because I know that you understand. You were many things, but never a hypocrite.

Sorry it took me so long to remember that today was your day. Sometimes I think there is a lump of clay in my head, and you're not around to help shape it. Maybe someday I will be a writer, and maybe someday the world will feel the heat from the furnace you lit, that burns for still you today.

I miss you, and I hope you can hear me.

Thursday, May 11, 2006


This morning I put on an old CD and discovered three things. The first is that I've been listening to news and audio books for so long that I'm disconnected from my musical roots. Two, I love my old music. I know every word, every inflection, of my favorite cds from that dusty case--even the songs that never made it to the radio. Three, I still can't hit the high notes, but I'm one hell of an air drummer. The floorboard is my bass drum, the steering wheel my snare, the dash board all those other bongo sounding drums, and the passenger seat headrest a cymbol when I have a serious point to make. Every once in a while I catch a bewildered look from another commuter, a knowing smile from another. I play it cool when I settle in for a light, singing along while trying to look bored, but I still get caught.

As for Toni's question: am I a plotter? I start with an idea and work my way towards it. I try to plot ahead but circumstances change, and I have to be flexible. You know? I will be honest though. Until this morning in the shower, and not until I rinsed the shampoo from my hair, did I realize how my story (Part 1, Part 2) is going to end. Even now the details are fuzzy. It should be cool though.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Part Two Upcoming

I've written more of the carnival story, which is moving forward nicely, but I can't buy two minutes this morning to save my life. Ann Marie's site is back up, and the world is once again turning on its axis. More later...

Monday, May 08, 2006

You're Kidding Me--I Won?!

I am honored to have tied for first place in Ann Marie's writing contest. It was a bit surreal reading her review of my piece. In fact, it took two or three iterations before it sunk in that she had honored me so. It wasn't just that I won; it's what she said about the piece that gave me such a boost. So thank you Ann Marie, and sorry it took me a whole weekend to post a proper reply. The forces of domestic responsibility kept me away, even while my thoughts raced to post, to finish the story, to come up with new ideas. I'm on the path, and it feels great.

And a special thanks to Flood, who turned me on to another contest. What better inspiration do I need to finish? I think I've tapped into a writing sub-culture here. I hope some of my writing blog buddies will come along with me.

Ann Marie awarded me 245 blogexplosion credits, which basically guarantees me that 245 pairs of eyes will look at my blog at least once. I can apply those points whenever I want to, and at any increment I wish. I plan to wait until I finish the short story, and/or save them for posts that I really like. If anyone has experience with this and wants to share a strategy, I would appreciate the input. Perhaps I could create a post that links my favorite posts, or post the short story, and then have an italicized paragraph that points to further reading.

That's it for now. I need to get cracking on the carnival piece and make my morning rounds.


This just in: Ann Marie shut her site down. Apparently she's caught some grief from some participants. Had I not even placed I would have been grateful to have a forum to post, and a pair of eyes to critique. I think any writer that has been doing it for a while will tell you that rejection is part of the game, and getting used to it is the only way to make it. I wonder if Jason experienced some of this tension. This dulls the experience for me a bit.

Thursday, May 04, 2006


You can never predict how much food the kids will eat. It's literally feast or famine. We were entertaining one of Jackson's friends that day, so we ordered a cheese and a pepperoni. The kids filled up on the dinner rolls, so we ended up boxing the remainder in large box.

Outside, my wife placed it on the hood while I strapped Emmett into his car seat. Beth corralled the other two, then strapped ourselves in and nodded a silent thumbs--up, taken from the growing library telepathic exchanges couples come to understand with each other.

Pulling out was tight, as there were two couples behind us having an animated conversation, and other cars trolling for parking spots, one having pulled in and waiting prohibitively close. I pulled back as far as I dared and cranked the wheel the opposite way. I crept forward and cringed, listening for the scrape of my bumper against the car that was parked next to me--but I squeaked by.

Out of the parking lot I turned left, passing back by the parking lot. A young man that looked vaguely familiar--or did he?--stepped out and waved at me as I drove by, and I stupidly waved back and smiled, thinking that I would sort it out later who he was. His wave wasn't urgent, just a casual hello, and his face was a placid mask of security. But who was he?

I asked my wife, "Did you recognize him?"

"No. I'm sure we don't know him."

"Then why the hell was he waving like that?"

"I don't know," she said.

"Do you think I almost hit one of the people in his group?" I thought with a start of anger of turning around and asking him if there was a problem. Don't be a punk I thought. But still, what was the deal?

"I wouldn't worry about it honey," my wife said.

"I suppose not." But it bothered me. It didn't make any sense. "But why would he make the effort to walk the edge of the street and wave?"

"True," my wife replied thoughtfully. Then, "Hey, where's the pizza?"

"You had it. Where did you put it?"

"On the hood of the truck... You don't think we drove off and left it, do you?"

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Odd and Ends

This is the audio version of Anansi Boys, read by Lenny Henry. I'm not from the UK, and regretfully have never been there, but I'm guessing that those who do live there know just who he is. I read his bio on the back of the jacket. He had his own television series, so it is no accident that the man has talent. He even has an official web site.

On the job front, I had the day off yesterday from my annoying office mate. I have to be extremely careful, because my feelings for him are starting to bubble out, manifesting in passive aggressive statements to other co-workers. That can only lead to trouble. He was gone yesterday, and I realized what a wonderful day it truly was. I was in a cheery mood.

It kind of popped for me two days ago, when our project manager requested some more specific time and task estimates. Annoying office mate started into a schpiel about how he didn't have any documentation from me on certain aspects of his work. In a meeting the week before he told my boss that my designs were too complicated, and had he come aboard earlier he might have made them simplier. He's been pecking at me like a little bird, and I'm starting to come apart. As a contractor, I don't go to all the meetings, so I don't know what is being said, but I can only imagine based on what is said when I'm in the room.

After the most recent skirmish, I just deflated--and he knew it. He was all apologies and support. "I know how difficult this project must be for you. Management should really have given you another two months of design before assigning developers."

"Mm hmm."

"So, uh, do you want a sub?"

"No thanks."

"No, my treat, for being giving you such a hard time."

"I'll pass."

"Are you sure?"

"Listen man. I'm tired. Really tired." And that was putting it mildly. Being an architect is like holding any position of relative authority. Some people like to throw stones. If you throw back, then more people join in. That's why sometimes I wish I were a Wolf Larson, crushing dissent like a noxious weed.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Anansi Boys

I was late for work this morning. I'll grab a sandwhich and do my blog rounds, but quickly I want to tell you about a great book on Audio I am listening to: Anansi Boys by Neil Gaimon. I read Gaimon's Coraline a while ago, which is a young adult book, childish in it's simplicity and fairy tale nature. Anansi Boys however, is for a slightly older audience, still with a young adult feel. It's a wonderful story, and the narrator is just incredible, but I am ashamed not to be able to report his name as of yet. I will find out and get back. The narrator reads it like I am certain it was intended, reflecting that English humour with spot-on accuracy. I didn't realize after Coraline just how funny Gaimon is. I'm about half way through, anxious every morning and evening to get back in my car to listen to just a little more--I haven't been so attracted to any story in time immemorial.

I'll update later with an Amazon link, and also to give credit to the wonderful narrator.

Monday, May 01, 2006


Ok, so I didn't win or place in the contest, but I stand by what I said before--which was? Oh yeah, it's not winning that matters, it's... Oh, never mind.

I really have to get some work done this morning. I spent all Friday afternoon switching over to my new template, and now I'm tempted to spend all day making the colors opaque. I've read the accounts of my fellow bloggers who've started down this road. The consensus points to a journey that never ends with a satisfied smile.

I hope to start another short story soon. It already has a nice twist and surprise ending. Now I just need to start writing it. I should employ some of you as first pass editors to help flesh out grammatical errors. My wife busted me for a run on sentence in Hard Love, which reminded me of how cavalierly I threw it out there without so much as a second opinion.

I'll stop by tomorrow. Today I need to get serious.