Tuesday, November 30, 2004
Taking a bit of time off from the NaNo madness to... well... write.
I'm up to 15,000 words, which means there's no way I'll make 50,000 by the end of the month. But I knew that when I started. I won't even make it to 25,000, which was my revised goal. But I've gotten further with this than any other attempt I've made so far. I think not having a plot in mind helped me out. I usually start with a plot and an idea and try to go from there, trusting that the characters and setting would come naturally. This time I started with a setting, characters, and a few random stories and the plot is coming along. More interestingly, the ideas are presenting themselves to me in quite an organic fashion. The more I write the more I realize I actually do seem to have a point to be making here.
But that's not why I'm writing. I'm writing because of something that happened to me last night. I got home a bit later than usual for a Sunday, because some indie filmmaker had rented out the Cafe to film a scene or a short or something. So the whole time we were trying to clean up there were people setting up lighting equipment. That and Sundays are always horrible. Hatehatehate closing on Sundays.
In any case, I got home and decided it would probably be a good idea to take the pooch for a stroll, since she was snuffling at the door in her usual "let me out or I'll dump doo on your stairs" fashion. So I grabbed a plastic bag, two doggie treats, coat hat and her leash and headed out. Somehow when I got out the cat was waiting for me.
I'd heard the tales. I've been told by multiple housemates how they'd take the dog for a walk and the cat would just follow along the whole way. So on my preceding several walks I'd held the door open and invited the cat along, which was met only with a contemptuous look on all occasions. This time I didn't even notice him slipping out. I looked around as I was exiting, but didn't see him anywhere, and suddenly there he was right in front of me.
The whole thing was... the cat would hang about a half block behind us, then suddenly charge ahead and scout out the route, or else go wandering off onto somebody's porch or into an alley, always eventually to return. At one point I heard a scrabbling behind me and turned around to see the cat about four feet up, embracing a tree and peeking around it at me.
I let the pooch off her leash when we got to the park behind the school and she ran about sniffing everything to her heart's content. The cat kept on vanishing and reappearing, his grey coat perfect camouflage but for the reflective strip on his flea collar.
It was when we were a block away from the house that I heard a woman's voice from across the street, "Ohhhh, look at that kitty cat!" She crossed the street and came toward me, a slight woman in what looked to be pajama pants, missing a few teeth.
"Isn't this something?" I asked, "The cat just likes to come along."
"Are you sure your name isn't Doctor Doolittle?"
I laughed. "Sometimes I wonder!"
Then she started talking to me, and continued talking for about twenty minutes. The pooch shied away at first when she tried to pet her, but eventually consented.
"It's weird to see, but you know... you never know with cats. When I was a girl I had a cat, I lived out on Montana Avenue, a few miles east of here. And there was a field next to the house, about as far off as that next block up there is. And I could stand at my bedroom winda, it was on the second floor, I could stand at my bedroom window and call his name and I'd see him all the way, coming through the tall grass. And he'd get up to the garage, which was next to my window. The garage was only, half as tall, like the top of it was even with my winda, and he'd get up on that garage roof somehow and come right into the winda, so you never know with cats.
"There was this one time... I have epilepsy, and I had my first seizure when I was eight. I was at the school, which was about as far away from my place as that school up there is from here. I was on the playground and I had my first seizure, I was eight years old, and the cat saw what was happening. He saw that something was happening to me... he ran all the way home and got my mother's attention, and lead her all the way back to the school."
"Wow, that's like something Lassie would do!" I said, smiling, the first hint of doubt creeping in.
"Then there was another time, I was on the playground again, and the cat attacked some boy he was about to hit me. He was pullin' back, gettin' ready to hit me and that cat just jumped right on him, he was just... he was gettin' ready to hit me and the cat just went right for the boy's face."
"Trained attack cat, huh?" Starting to wonder how much longer she was going to go on.
"You never know with animals... there was one cat, it was a few years back, lived down there there was a crackhouse on Adams street and the guy had a crackhead cat. This cat. One time he was in the middle of a deal and he had a little baggie sitting on the wall next to him, he was waiting for the guy to give him the money, and the cat came running right by and grabbed the bag, and I told him, 'man, you gotta watch that cat!' and they all went running after the cat, right down the block.
"There was this other time, he, the guy that owned the cat, he had his stash hidden in a hollow tree, this little hole at the base of a tree, and the cat came by and found it. I saw it, I told the guy, 'you gotta keep your eye on that cat, he just stole your whole stash!' and the cat was up in the tree with this plastic, like sandwich bag musta had two hundred dollar worth of crach, jus' eatin' it with everybody at the bottom of the tree jumping up and down and yelling at it.
"Then on the next block, there was this guy who had a crackhead dog. And I... you ever seen one of those pictures where it's the dogs? They got those pictures where it's like the dogs and they're, they're playing poker. I had this dream once, I was walking down one of the alleys here and I heard this 'pssssst!' and I looked over and it was jus' like one of those paintings, except it was that cat and the dog, jus' hangin' out in the alley and I looked, and I jus' couldn't believe it! And they were like, 'heyyy honey, come on over here we need a hand' 'cause they had the crack that, that the cat was alway's stealin' and they had a pipe and a lighter and everything, but they needed my help because they couldn't, they couldn't use the lighter with their paws. And I told the guy that I had this dream, this vision and they were all, 'awwwwww,' 'cause they thought I was crazy!"
She was a very agreeable woman. She wasn't scary at all, and I was laughing through the whole thing.
"But you know how that cat ended up hooked on the crack. It was 'cause the guys who lived there would cut up the rocks on the table, then they'd bag it up and just" gesturing, "sweep it all off the table, and it would end up... in the cat's food dish, you see! That's why you gotta watch out. I'm 47 years old, I got a son who's 28, and... I don't touch the crack, but I'll give the weed a try, that goes right in me, and I'm always giving him a hard time, because I know. You got that stuff in the house, people will pick up on it. Like cigarettes. Even if you're careful and you don't let the kids see you smoke, they'll smell it and maybe get a little... you know, get a little of it, then they'll decide they want more and go out after it. 'Cause they want some more of that good feelin'
[Note: I had been writing this immediately after it happened, but reached this point and decided to leave the rest for the morning. Next morning turned into next week, then into the next month and year and... well... the rest will have to be from memory]
At this late date I can't even remember the rest of the conversation, but the cat was standing at the door eyeing me impatiently and the dog was pacing on her leash and I finally managed to get loose from the woman after she said some more crazy things... I remember it ended with her telling me how she had strokes and the doctors used to tell her she would never live past 25, how she would certainly see me around the neighborhood (I think I did see her once or twice more after that, but she never spoke another word to me), and then wandered off into the night while I went inside. If I'd gotten it all down faster it would be more detailed, but I think you probably get the idea...
Friday, November 26, 2004
Wellwellwell... about that time of the year again. Time to scrape a few more splinters off the bottom of the barrel as I search my life for things I oughta be thankful for. As per usual I'm stuck with the usual standbys.
- My family, whom I neglect horribly
- My friends, whom I neglect just as badly, if not worse
- The lucky roll of the genetic dice that left me healthy, good looking, and reasonably intelligent to somewhat clever, all of which I neglect (possibly worst of all) by failing to take advantage of them
- I'm not sick or homeless or completely alone, I have a big roomfull of nice stuff, I never lack for entertainment or food
- I live in a wealthy, privileged nation that puts on a respectable show of being a democracy... or at very least a republic of some stripe
- Further lucky genetic diceroll: I'm white and male! I'm not going to pretend that that doesn't give me untold advantages in our society, because I'm not a Republican
- All the amusing tales and stories that life has given me in the place of contentment or happiness
So, OK, I'm not what you'd call a very happy person. Maybe I'm too honest (tip o' cap to Skallas)
But let me tell you: my own isolation has led to me spending this Thanksgiving essentially alone. I was supposed to visit my sister's in-laws, but I couldn't get in touch with her to find out what the plan was. Turns out I had her old (outdated) mobile number and ended up calling someone named Rachel. My thanksgiving dinner was a bottle of beer and a (WARNING! Blatant Product Placement Ahead!) DiGiorno veggie pizza. I got much love from the critters, and a friend randomly stopped by with a Big Lebowski DVD (and the makings for a chicken gumbo) Well, not so randomly... turns out she thought she needed to stop in and look after the beasts. Apparently I can no longer be trusted to feed and walk and the like.
Monday, November 22, 2004
By this point I suppose I should know better than to talk to reporters unless I actually want to be horribly misquoted. Haaa well.
Thursday, November 18, 2004
The Next Big Thing
Here is what the trash folder in my mail program currently looks like:
Re; Am I eligible for living and working in the USA?
New! Viagra soft tabs.
We purchase uncollected Judicial Judgments
Rolex Yachtmaster Watch
Male muscle boosting system
For Men Only - News Letter
Even you can afford a Rolex now. Come on In
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?utf-8?q?Baseball stars wear ?=
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?utf-8?q?No Sham - Genuine Sk?=
?utf-8?q?Real magnify your me?=
Official Information To All SunTrust Bank Clients
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Hi, how are you?
?utf-8?q?Our company think, t?=
You said once you like Rolex
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I'm new here... are you interested?
[SPAM] ARE YOU HONEST AND RELIABLE
?utf-8?q?Sweetheart wants a R?=
?utf-8?q?real men wear Rolex ?=
?utf-8?q?Identical specific -?=
?utf-8?q?New Replica Watches?=
?utf-8?q?Pliant and dissolvab?=
?utf-8?q?Savour the lifetime ?=
?utf-8?q?Pampered and soluble?=
Stronger, More Powerful Climaxes
@^she will ,adore y0u #
RE^ x@mas gifts
%,impress^ y0ur loved 0ne
Buy Regalis, also known as Superviagra or Cialis
Heart - Rolex
Ramadan Time - Rolex Time
David Beckham wears Rolex
Order Rolex or other Swiss watches online
Daily News - Rolex watches online
Giftlist - Rolex Watch
News: Wal-Mart sells these Rolex Watches
Viagra - #1 sex drug
New Product! Cialis soft tabs.
?utf-8?q?Economize 65 percent?=
?utf-8?q?Such specific - smal?=
Application is pre-approved
Be a Real Man. Rolex Watch.
Do not settle for less than a ROLEX.
Eminem wears rolex
I swear, I did not make a single one of those up. Apparently somebody out there thinks I need a new watch.
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
At Long Last the Promised Tale
'Twas the day after the election, the day after our election party at which we watched the map enshade and I drank too much beer. We had gone to bed with vague hopes of another switchback, a hairpin turnaround, or at the very least the promise of weeks of uncertainty, only to wake and find the battle hopelessly lost, the general preparing to concede.
The weather wasn't great on Wednesday, November 3. Even if it had been a bright and sunny day, the atmosphere at the Cafe would have been just as bleak, if not moreso. One of the things I enjoy about this here snoot 'bloggy 'blog is the ability it affords me to imagine that people who don't already know me stop by and read it. So all you people reading who already know me (i.e., all of you) just read patiently or skip to the next paragraph. Y'see, the Cafe where I work (nights and weekends) is a decidedly Blue State affair. The three owners are a Jewish biker, a lesbian biker and a gay public health professional. Located in Logan Circle, it has a sizable gay clientele. A significant portion of the staff is likewise gay. The rest of the staff and clientele are more than okay with this, or they'd likely get their coffee elsewhere. Other frequenters are a hash of punks, freaks, clerks at local stores, bike messengers, political activists and assorted locals.
With this knowledge, it should come as little surprise that our pre-election vehemently anti-Bush decorations earned us not one complaint. Compare this to the bitching, whining, assorted moanings, general bellyaching and even a(n ongoing) boycott campaign we faced when we moved the smoking section to the back room. So the air was one of denial or depression. When one customer asked me if we were as depressed as she was, I just didn't even feel up to the offered commiseration. "I'd rather not even talk about it."
One regular made up a sign. A slip of paper with the acronym:
We taped this up to the plastic pumpkin with the long-lingering Halloween leftovers in it.
Just as a sidenote, the sign made me laugh. Because I was bitter and angry and glad not to be alone in it. But I disagree with 75% of it.
Brainless? Sure, the man makes Dan Quayle look like a valedictorian (wait, did I already use that joke on this 'blog? oh shit, I did... gotta come up with some new material!) but... wait, what am I disagreeing with it for again? Due to the fact that he's probably not as dumb as he seems, that misunderestimating the man is what got the American left into its current predicament, not to mention that it's part of his folksy act, which brings us to:
Hick? The funniest damn thing about Dubya is the way a private school boy from Maine with a rich daddy is saddled with a borderline pathological belief that he's a ginyuwine Texas cowboy. It's precisely this fiction that allows a man whom money and family connections got into Yale and out of Vietnam to position himself as a champion of working class values, where those values don't include fiscal solvency. The sooner Bush's opponents stop buying into the act the better we can oppose him.
Useless? to whom? Certainly he's useless to most of the people who elected him, not to mention most of the people who voted against him, not to mention most of the rest of the entire world. But to the people who back him? His pals in the House of Saud and Halliburton? Enron? The oil lobby? He's shown himself to be of great use to just the right people. In the words of Rick Valentin: "The leader represents the one percent who pay his rent."
Smug. There we have it: the absolute certainty, the maddeningly omnipresent smirk, the language lacking any hint of any evidence of nuanced thought. This is what packs the punch. Where Clinton riled the right with "slick," Bush repels us with "smug."
But that's all aside the point, except possibly as scene setting. It was shortly past 10 when the guy came in, maybe a quarter past. We close at 11 on weeknights, so we were well along the way toward getting things cleaned and prepped. He had a bad suit and a bad haircut, looked to be in his late twenties or early thirties, though I'm not a good judge of age and the suit may have added a few years (especially given the casual atmosphere).
He told me that he had something he wanted to say. He was very clear on this, that he just had something he wanted to say. He seemed to be trying to screw up his courage in order to say it, saying that he just had something to say. Then he said it.
He comes here for coffee. "I like this place. It's cute, that it's named after the dog and all" (indicating the picture on the wall of the original owner's dog, after whom the Cafe is named) "but I work at the White House and I just wanted to say that it's not about intelligence or economic background..." at this point he was talking very quickly and I lost track of most of it... but I think he may have been objecting to the pumpkin sign.
See, despite having given it two weeks the whole thing is still a jumbled mess. I was just so completely shocked and mystified by the man's indignance that we would dare to express our opinion.
"Do you have to be a Kerry supporter to work here?" he demanded of me.
"Well no, but pretty much we all are."
"Well, I just think that's sad." What, sad that we didn't feel compelled to scour DC and find one of the 7% of us who actually voted for Bush, and among them find at least one person who both wants to work at a coffee shop and doesn't mind having an out lesbian for a boss?
"I grew up in Massachusetts and John Kerry..."
"I moved here from Somerville," I responded as calmly as I could, "and I think John Kerry's an asshole."
"Then why all the anti-Bush signs?"
"'Cause I think Bush is about 200 times worse."
He was like a human illustration of the old Mr. Boffo catchphrase: People Unclear on the Concept.
By this point, entirely unnoticed by the gentleman in question as he was and had been facing the counter, the half-dozen or so customers in attendance had all turned to watch him and were doing so utterly slackjawed. One of them even got up to take a closer look, as if uncertain he were real. Or possibly she was contemplating kicking his ass. This was just in time for the climax, when he told us that he lived in Georgetown, on the same block as John Edwards, and had "out of respect" not put up any lawn signs or anything.
"But tonight I'm going home and I'm going to put this," pulling out a Bush/Cheney sticker, "up in my window."
And then it all made sense. It was all an attempt to gloat! The whole time he came off like a whiny little bitch, so I'd assumed he was trying to lodge an incoherent complaint, but the whole thing was his attempt at rubbing our noses in it!
After we closed I went over to the Red Room to meet a few coworkers who had gone to drink down their sorrows and try to find some sense in the world. I think I said it to them best: "This guy was trying to play it all off as patience or tact, all 'I've been keeping it to myself, coming here the last six months not saying anything...' OK, waiting until your guy wins to come out and support him, that's not tact. It's called fucking lack of testicular fortitude! Complete lack of balls! It's like waiting until after game seven to dig your Red Sox cap out of the back of the closet."
By way of epilogue:
One of the customers, possibly the one who had seemed ready to kick the guy, supposedly wrote up the entire event and posted it to Craigslist. I can't find it, because the search feature on Craigslist is ass. It seems a reporter read it, and stopped by to interview me. She was freelance, though, so I don't know if anybody's going to pick up the story.
And that's why I put off writing this for so long-- I knew I couldn't do the story any justice. Haaaaa well...
Monday, November 15, 2004
Just a few links for good measure:
- While the mainstream press has settled on religious fundamentalism as the force that swept Bush into four more years at the helm, Greg Palast thinks, and wants to convince you, that the 2004 election was every bit as stolen as its predecessor, if not moreso. It's a fun argument for those of us with a mindset predisposed toward it, but I still don't find myself convinced. Palast asserts multiple times, for instance, that undervotes are much more common in areas where the residents are poorer or minorities. He doesn't connect the dots by explaining why. Is it that the punchcard machines are only used in certain areas? Is it that the election workers in these areas are more likely to undercount votes? The argument isn't compelling.
- What is interesting to me is just how little attention this has gotten as an issue, especially after 2000, and how it isn't terribly surprising when you think about it. The right in America has become quite expert at media manipulation, what has been called working the refs, and the anchors were jumping at their own shadows faced with the prospect of another embarrassment like Florida. So they didn't even mention the exit polls that suggested Kerry would win Ohio and New Mexico. Even with all the prepwork done by both sides, with battalions of lawyers cocked and at the ready, we never thought that the Bush team had four years to think about how they lost legitimacy in Florida, and how the media's apparent gunjumping was to blame. Do I have a coherent argument here? Alas no, but the charliefoxtrot that is voting in Ohio will almost certainly never get the attention it severely deserves outside of far-lefty circles... nothing short of tragic.
- Meanwhile, Naomi Klein has her own theory on what went wrong in postwar Iraq: neoconservative economics. It's a bracing read. To tease:
...I was also reminded of the most common explanation for what has gone wrong in Iraq, a complaint echoed by everyone from John Kerry to Pat Buchanan: Iraq is mired in blood and deprivation because George W. Bush didn’t have “a postwar plan.” The only problem with this theory is that it isn’t true...
- The dog has decided that my basement is where she pees and that the stairs to the basement where she craps when she can't get out. Tonight I sleep with dogpeestank.
- OK, now I fold my laundry!
The best way to ensure that I keep on writing entries here is somehow to ensure that only piddling quotidian things happen in my life. When I can, in painful detail, recount the minutes and seconds of precisely nothing interesting happening I can clatter the keys like a bedlam inmate given a bell (presumably by a sadistic guard with a grudge against his neighbors).
But if anything interesting happens, if I actually start thinking deep thoughts, the terror inherent in the power of words stops them dead at my fingertips. These are not toys, I am reminded... at least not always, and certainly not properly.
So I'll start with the bits and hope I can build sideways to the bigger stuff. In all, really, it's best to give some stories time to sit-- to age like whiskey or wine, take on the flavor of the wooden cask that could be my mind, to be forgotten and reimagined. When big (or, in this case, truly bizarre) things happen, they are nonsensical. We need time to figure out what they mean and take the red pencil of selective memory to the bits that don't fit that mold.
First trifle: it is November. I have mentioned this before, but I hate this month and it hates me. I have sworn off Scorpios, for one. For another, the worst things in my life (too many of them involving Scorpios) always seem to happen to me in November. Perhaps this year I can think to the election results and no longer fear the sword weighing dangerously on its thread... but the November Surprise waits for such complacency. Once I think it vanquished, it chooses for its cover the illusion of safety, prepares and strikes.
November is also NaNoWriMo. Two years ago I took this as an opportunity to tackle a set of ideas, characters and situations that had been ripening and radically mutating in my head since I was about 16. The structure of trapdoor flashbacks and (as seen above) tricky memory, however, was far too ambitious for a first attempt. I spent more time drafting charts and timelines than I did with the actual writing. In the end, I was two or three subplots short of critical mass and so gave up.
On the bright side, I now have a much better idea of where the story is going and how to craft it, if I ever dare to make another attempt at it.
Last year I took a much less ripened idea and tried to run with it. I ran out of steam within a week, once again realizing that the limitations of the structure were more than I could handle without a solid plan.
What did they have in common? A first-person narrative, in journal form no less. A single voice, a single viewpoint. A pair of shackles. Last year, without the freedom of freeflowing flashbacks, was actually worse. NaNo as an event requires spontaneity.
My coworker K., whose advice I have grudgingly come to accept is usually spot on, thinks I should try again. The month already half over, this would be an even more masochistic and quixotic undertaking than usual. I think I may try anyway-- with a third-person ensemble picaresque that's been a mere unwatered seedling of an idea since the Summer of '94 (my first summer job, natch).
We'll see... I have to fold the laundry first. I recently acquired a seven-inch of Hot Snakes Peel Sessions, which may be just what I need for that.
And the triumph of the minutiae is complete! I'll write about the invasion of the Republican some later time...
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
Apparently we have just witnessed the North Carolina-fication of the entire country... you know, how Jesse Helms would always win reelection despite the exit polls showing him losing? People would lie because they were ashamed of voting for him, but they'd still vote for him. Now we have a man of that same calibre, a man who makes Dan Quayle look like a valedictorian, in control of our country for another four years.
Another four years to drive it into the ground like it's another nepotistically granted oil company or baseball team...
Tuesday, November 02, 2004
Hell yeah I voted!
Then I rode my bike to Georgetown and bought some comics.
I really have to suspect that the latter was a more productive use of my time, what with DC's votes going to Kerry no matter what (if Bush wins DC, I'll eat a steak) and me voting as straight Green as I could (Go David Cobb! Go Bob throwing his vote away!)... but I still have a naive enough belief in Democracy that it felt pretty good.