Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

I’ve tried to quit smoking. I really have. There have been several times I’ve torn up a mostly-full pack and thrown away the lighter. Other times I’ve woken up with pain in my ribs, vowing never to light up again. Yet, here I sit this morning after being outside with another menthol.

It’s hard, at times, to accept the root causes for me to do something so dangerous. Other times, I just don’t care. Why am I “saving” myself? After decades of bad timing or poor fits that I’ll find someone I can share this pent-up love? I’ll be wealthy enough to travel the world and not give a flip about paying the bills? I can go anywhere and feel like a friend? As society sits right now, I doubt it. I’m being trampled by other people’s ambition and their human nature.  A nature of all the vices and judgment they swear not to do, yet commit all the same. They call them “rights”.

Smoking is my seppuku. I’ve dishonored my master, America, and not bought into the aggressiveness that wins her favor. It’s a savage thought that is considered “healthy” by her. It’s a ruthlessness that she smiles upon. “Grab her! Take her! She doesn’t understand anything else!” Lady Liberty chides with rusted teeth. “You are animal! She is animal! She demands assertion!” …and so she rewards.

Reserved in nature. Virtuous in spirit. Prudence in money. Controlled in temper. These are all Holy wafers that burn upon the skull of the red, white, and blue madam. They are all treated in suspect and shied away as a Nosferatu would garlic.

I would like to remain positive. I would like to give the people of this world a false sense of hope, as movies and books do. It makes them feel less guilty, less culpable, and they can go back to their business as usual. However, I’m not sure that can happen. Bad things happen to good people.

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Saturday, May 31, 2014

As a continuation from Wednesday’s post, I shall post the description I gave my friend Monday night.

In a vast desert, I see a box. It’s a gun-steel blue cube measuring one cubic foot. I can pick it up, but right now it’s on the ground. It’s reflective, but there are etchings all over it, like the scroll work on a cigarette case. The corners are capped with additional steel, but it’s still rather pointy. There is no apparent was to open the box.

Off to the right of the box, there’s a single-sided, wooden ladder with about six rungs. It is leaning up against a cactus. It’s rather faded and old, merely being composed of dowel rods and wood.

In the background is an American Quarter Horse. It has a brown saddle and bridle, with a dark brown mane. It’s very odd in this picture, and doesn’t look like it belongs there.

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

Once again, I circle the blackened sky like a bat. I get myself so worked up in the morning and early afternoon that by evening I fall asleep only to wake up at midnight or so. It’s not so bad, I guess. It’s the not the rhythm of diurnal beings such as typical humans, but at least a late-night drive is filled with light scents of flowers and burnt wood.

Last night I was having a tonic and reading at Fricker’s. It’s just a sports bar, but it has a patio. That part I like very much. However, I happened to be visited by my friend, and master potter, Eliseo. We always have a good conversation, and I appreciate him being in such a simple area.

We talked about many things, mostly art related, but last night’s discussion dabbled in Kokology. This is the study of  心, or in English terms kokoro (“mind” or “spirit”). Its a way of discussing a person’s personality, and how they see the world. This was done in a basic three-part question and answer session called “the Cube test.” The narrator asks the following questions and interprets an understanding of the person answering them:

1. You are alone in a desert. There is a cube near you. What does it look like?

2. There is also a ladder around. What does it look like?

3. There is also a horse around. What does it look like?

Instead of giving away the answers (mine or what the metaphors mean) I’d like to try something. If you would indulge me, please write down the answer to these questions in the comments section of this entry. I’ll put trust in you to not look anything up on the Internet, rather tell me the images that come to your mind first.

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Sunday, May 25th, 2014 – Why Do You Write?

It would seem bad form not to tell you the results of my letter writing campaign to the Ohio House of Representatives. Out of 99 representatives contacted, only 4 had replied with an actual response. There were 5 others who had the auto-response system set up, but that’s not really acceptable. Of those 4 representatives who took the time to respond, only one was longer than two sentences. Even though he wasn’t my district representative, I enjoyed our conversation. Funny how ten sentences can brighten one’s day.

Now, on with the blog hop as requested by Laura Lynn from  Cancer: My Journey Back to Health-Kicking & Screaming the Whole Damn Way. Yeah, it’s a chain post and I’m not huge on them, but it’s Laura Lynn. She has been nice to me for as long as I’ve known her.

What am I working on?

In the short-term nothing. I’ve picked up a new organization (BNI) in April, which has some elements of Kiwanis/Rotary International without the community outreach element. I think of it as a business dating service where the “dates” are referred business. You get to know and trust the people in your group and refer clients in need of member services to them. Most members are local merchants anyway. So, you’re helping out people in your community get more business to stay in business. This has taken much of my time in the past five weeks, and I don’t regret it.

In the long-term, I’ve always got My City by the Bay, which I haven’t finished. It’ll need a new title (sorry, Steve Perry). I stopped when I hit a logic gap in a pursuit scene. The back of my mind has been telling me that no seasoned detective would let the suspect drive off after he visited his girlfriend’s apartment. They could question the girlfriend later, if they lose him but they need to follow the suspect further. Personally, with all of the writing improvements I’ve learned in the past year, I’d like to rework the entire story including a VERY edgy part that dealt with bigotry and racism in the non-lofty, street-level, day-to-day sense.

Too many Americans want to take this topic and make it all lofty, when the application is so flawed we [Americans] can’t even see straight. I like the overall premise of the chapter and the ending, but there’s an even harder uppercut I need to swing. I felt like I was gingerly dancing around the point, even though I jumped straight into the lake.

Aside from that, there’s the flash fiction that I’ve become somewhat adept at writing. While I have practiced at it for a few months, it seems the most natural of all types of fiction to write. I do want to be a novelist. I love developing stories and characters and starting fresh in a new book. I don’t like sequels. I think that’s the author’s way of being lazy. If my work ever goes public, the powers-that-be would have to be very convincing for me to write a sequel to any of my non-existent books.

Although I’ve never mentioned it here, there is another novel idea I’ve shelved months ago. I’ve desperately tried to keep it away from the Young Adult genre, but in a late-night cabal of wannabe writers another has said “yeah, that has YA written all over it.” Damn it!

How Does My Writing Differ?

At this point in time, does any current writer have much difference? We’re all variations on a theme. Millennia of authors pouring out pages upon pages of stories have covered so much, it’s difficult not to be seen as a writer who came before. Is there really much anymore to differ? I suppose I could say I have a better knack for coming up with people’s names than I’ve seen with others writers, but that’s not much. I’d leave the identification of difference to the reader. I suppose that’s why they’d read my material? They’d know better than I would.

Why Do I Write What I Do?

Mostly because I don’t want my life to be a “series of beige incidents” as coined by Patton Oswalt. I want something to be here when I leave. I don’t want to wake up 85 and have nothing to show for myself, except an oxygen tank and tears. Hell, even if it’s mediocre prose that’s something. It’ll make Vonnegut happy.

Do you hear that Bukowski?! I am trying!

How Does My Writing Process Work?

I wouldn’t call it a “process.” Most people won’t understand how ironic that statement is, until they realize I’m a classically-trained accountant. I’ve dealt with creating processes for the better part of fifteen years, and I can’t even control a pet project of mine. How funny is that?

Some of the time, it starts with a trip to a bar or a later trip to a hash house. Waffle House is the best place to write at 3:00 in the morning. Why? It’s open, and the people aren’t intellectuals. Non-intellectuals make for great people watching, because they act out more often. It’s a funnier story when the drunk guy is singing to his penis in encouragement to urinate.

I keep a mole skin journal and a mechanical pencil in my car, Falcor. No, it’s not a sports car or anything flashy. It’s a Honda Accord. I can name my car whatever I damn well please. Over a glass of cheap red wine or “luxurious” cup of Arabica coffee, I scribble sentences. More often than not, they turn into stories. I’ve yet to figure out how that happens, but it does. So, I don’t argue with it much.  After I have a “starter,” as I like to call it, I take it home to be written in a WordPress post.

Recently, I’ve also been posting them in the writer’s prompt section of Reddit, but have found it less rewarding. The people on Reddit are of low caliber, and aren’t really as mature as they need to be to discuss writing. Often times, it seems like wasted effort.

——

This is where I would pass the writing duties of the blog hop to two other bloggers. Guess what? I’m not going to do that. I don’t believe in chain posting. Good night, Seattle. We love you!

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Monday, May 19th, 2014

For the past few weeks, I’ve been performing a lot of functions outside of my comfort zone. That is to say, I’ve been practicing networking and public speaking. Some say I do it well, but I have my doubts and continue to feel like I’m reaching around in the dark. Being part of a voluntary organization is a can of worms in my mind. Today is easily further down the rabbit hole.

In addition to the newly-accepted group, I’ve volunteered to write messages to each member of the Ohio congress (some 120+) asking them to support a House bill that would protect our business from a crippling change in regulations. I’ve never considered myself a political campaign vehicle, nor acceptable in the eyes of state-government gentry. I wonder how many of these people have ever been mac ‘n’ cheese/Ramen noodle broke? Unwillingly unemployed for more than 12 months? Renovated their house themselves? Drove their car for 13 years? Sacrificed not having a family to survive?

My cheeks often flush when I think of the copious illusions given to me as a child, when all along “the cake was a lie.” It was, and it simply irritates me when people don’t understand this. If I ever make high society, it’ll be by fluke. I am not welcome there.

On a brighter note, my yard is slowly becoming more respectable with every bucket full of dirt I dump on it. It won’t be too long when I should be thinking of what trees to put in.

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Blushing

You would not believe how hard it is to squeeze writing in through all of this scheduling madness. ~ Nate

——

Tiny drops wet the pavement near Jessica’s white satin heels. The circles turn a light sandstone into muddied brown and she sees her reflection for the first time since this morning. While not crystal clear, black shone prominently on her cheeks. The dress wrinkling and smoothing under her hands made restless rustles against the sounds of rain.

Soon the booth housing her dress freckles with moisture and transitions into tiny streaks of precipitation down the side. Stabbing her freshly-painted nail, “Bouquet,” at the lacquered sign, she checks the next pick up time. It would be a while before she would use her phone again or catch a ride. Loved ones are the plague. People dripping with pity and sympathy. Running out the church felt like the only relief available.

The hulking, metallic slug of a transport finally saw fit to grace Jessica with its presence. Childlike splashes came from the filled potholes in the road, as it began to sway left and right. Sliding its cheap, silver doors open an old man in a blue uniform gave her the once-over and looked back out on the road. With exact change, she was permitted to take a seat, possibly without vomit stains on the cushions.

The cracked floor and dirty space of the bus made for a fine chariot. Maybe they’d tie some whiskey bottle to the bumper, too? A survey of the carriage revealed that the only two open seats were beside a bag lady who must have been eating an onion sandwich prior to her journey. She would keep the bird of a feather company. Bunching up her dress, she sat down and knew any attempts to return her gown would be a laughable failure.

“You smell lovely, deary.” A crackle of phlegm punctuates the decrepit one’s sentiments.

“Thanks,” Jessica’s grimace was somewhat hidden by the paint.

Gifts greet her as the apartment lights illuminate the kitchen table. Still sealed, never to be opened. By way of magic, or the work of her parents, the well-wishing invades her space centered around a large, smooth, white cake. Its perfection can be seen from all angles, and would match her perfectly if she wasn’t part of an experiment in public transit.

With a hearty thud, a bottle of vodka hits the cheap tabletop and a generous sweep of the hand launches a cake decoration off into the kitchen. The black-suited, plastic figurine comes to rest smiling stupidly at the ceiling. Jessica’s cat, Miss Havisham, slinks by to investigate the foreign object but walks away in quick disinterest. It will lay they for quite some time.

Staring at the cake for the better part of fifteen minutes, Jess admires the craftsmanship. Forgoing any sort of protocol she dips her hand into the dessert stationed in front of her and shoves a handful into her mouth. More cake matter winds up on the floor, as she lets out a stream of profanity. Fondant is the Devil’s practical joke for confectionery.

© 2014 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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Sunday, May 11th, 2014

It has been a very productive week. I’ve gotten to know more of my networking group and the landscaping is looking less “squatter-chic” and more like a house is inhabited by someone who’s not a transient. It’s so nice to be able to work on my lawn again. Sure, I was sweaty and dirty but that’s better than being in the two-foot drifts three/four months ago. This is my element.

One thing I am having trouble with is writing the next story. I’ve got the opening scene, but not an acceptable way to introduce the scene or character. It’s a little frustrating.

I suppose it’s going to be a late-night trip to Waffle House for me.

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Sunday, May 4th, 2014

Dear God, I’ve opened a Pandora’s box. That networking group has given me a lot of activities to keep me on my toes. On the down side, it has cut into my writing time. I’ve been here before though and have watched other people under the stress. Remember the metaphor of running a marathon versus sprinting? Yeah, that’s this.

I AM NOT GOING TO CALL MY WRITING A PASSION. That’s trite and it belongs in a job interview, not on my writer’s palette. If  I know only one thing of the writers I love, they don’t make overtures to their personal craft. They use it. They love it, but they don’t massage it. The passion is understood though their output. There’s no need to talk it up.

That last paragraph should read “I’m still writing.” This is the time to clutch on to my creativity like a balloon you don’t want to fly away. That’s especially so after last week’s story. It was a very difficult write, but I’m very proud of the result. It’s more soulful than my other works. It’s more alive. It’s that gritty realism very few people are comfortable acknowledging. My style is why I get suggestions to read Henry Miller, Charles Bukowski, and the like. I’ll get there, people.

May’s got me in a much better mood than three months ago. It’s 17° C out (62° F), and I can walk outside without wanting to erupt into profanity like Lewis Black. I’m getting some landscaping done mid-week and sooner or later I can put the screens back in the windows. I haven’t scored any big victories lately. So, the small ones will have to do.

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Birthday

Tapping steady at the side of my cup, the coffee ripples in time with twitching.  My spectral image housed within a picture frame would be invisible if it were between dawn and dusk. I see myself in my current state: transparent with a few new facial creases. An hour ago, I sped recklessly down the main drag. An hour ago, she and I parted ways. My time is now occupied by looking at the TV screen and wringing an August issue of Entertainment Weekly.

This place runs at an odd angle. Am I facing north? The curvature of the waiting room displays the faintest of skylines with a few aircraft warning lights. Otherwise, one would think this hospital doubles its capacity in the evenings. I rest my head on the pane, and make sure my stomach doesn’t fly out my mouth. We thought we’d cross this bridge when we’d get to it. Well, here it is in front me and my… my… what are we really?

At any rate, I suppose this room becomes a land of imagination. I can see it now, families all stuck helpless like flies on paper. The designers must have had a sense of humor, too. Cheap, mass-produced chairs set neatly side-by-side with laminate end tables and a corner full of rhododendrons. But, wait! There’s a 50″ widescreen TV with the Cubs/Cards game playing “just for the guys.” Absurd. What kind of man would gladly drift off as a spectator sucking down the crude chili dogs from the cafeteria?

Keening burst through the stainless-steel double doors again. A banshee would be jealous. I can see her as I last saw her, pushing me away as the team of physicians roll her beyond the austere threshold of the operating room. I would weave myself in and around medical staff to offer my services of nothing, provided I’d simply move. It would feel like an accomplishment in more than one way. Some accomplishments aren’t rewarded as they should be however.

My solitary confinement gives way to a new presence, the obstetrician. Yanking down her mask, its presence still remains on her cheeks. The doctor’s eyes blink and replenish the moisture on the cornea. Breathing in gives her a contrast both rooms leave on her. I keep quiet and wait for her to speak.

“Mr. Calipretti?” Her unpolished lips formed a black fish bone-like shape.

Clearing my throat, I’m able to stumble over “that’s me,” before I get caught up again.

“The baby is fine and in the nursery. The mother, on the other hand, has been through plenty. She’s resting right now and we’re going to keep an eye on her for a while in the maternity ward. Would you care to see your son?” Expressionless delivery. It’s a living, if nothing else.

She said “son.” I have a son. A thickness runs down mid-foot and curls my toes. Its tightness pulls away from the moment, pulls away from the hospital in flight. I never move. “Thank you, doctor.” Controlling my movements carefully, I follow the woman into forbidden zone. The official blessing felt like genuflecting in my presence.

The maternity ward’s humidity could be nothing less than artificial. Its florescent wash gives a utility where waiting rooms lack. Gurneys stud the hallway in case of pandemic emergency and I narrowly miss several.  I’m as graceless as its residents. Before rounding a corner to the nursery, I perchance catch her half-hidden by a curtain.

Sleeping hard on her shoulder, hair plasters her face as wet string. Femme voilée. Its once-tension-filled space now pays attention to the EKG machine in the corner, pinging away until sunrise where the day shift will do their rounds.

When I am shown the nursery, the doctor leaves without a sound. I’m left staring though a window of new arrivals. It’s loud, but he isn’t. The tiny chin tucks into his shoulder, and his fat cheeks make for a nonplussed frown. It’s a popular sentiment.

“Would you care to hold your child, Mr. Calipretti?” A ghost of a nurse appears to the right in my field of vision. I say “OK” when I very much attempt a “no,” and a mass of swaddling cloth is brought forth before I have a chance to revise my answer.

Such a dour child with the facial contortions of a court judge. This must be the wrong foot of his life. He’s out of step already. I can recall several memories to highlight that point of view.

No matter how many times I want to run, I’m immobile. No matter how many debates I have, I lose. No matter how many times I rehearse, I forget my part. I do not have the will to put him up for adoption, but one man’s cowardice is another man’s credibility.

© 2014 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved

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Friday, April 25th, 2014

It has been a productive couple of days, save for the writing and blogging. In an attempt to bolster foot traffic at the family business, I’ve joined a networking group to get the word out. I’ve not been officially sworn into the chapter, but I’ve already been asked if I’d like an officer’s position. That sounds promising.

In the literary world, I’ve recently started to gnaw on the concept of democratization in art culture. My introduction to the whole idea began by watching Andrew Keen’s interview in PressPausePlay. In it, he describes the proliferation of “art” we are experiencing as “global masturbation.” The digital age has brought about technology (e.g. Instagram, self-publication, Guitar Hero, etc.) that gives a false sense of artistic worth to any individual. It simplifies the craft and vetting process of art to where talent is lost in the hurly-burly of media. People in Keen’s position would tend to consider the fine arts an “elitist business.”

This is what’s known as art’s “meritocracy,” an idea in which individuals should be recognized for their achievements. I’m not going to wax philosophical about meritocracy, because it’s not bulletproof. Sometimes, there’s still an undervalued artist. Such was said about James Purdy, a once-Hooterville resident. On the other hand, how do we know the next Kubrick isn’t languishing somewhere in a sea of piano-playing cat videos? The answer is we don’t.

As I was digging through creative writing articles, I found an old letter to the editor of the New York Times dated 02.08.1981. In it, the writer explains the pitfalls of the NEA focusing on a racial group, rather than individuals. This is the  pre-Internet America version of meritocracy. This isn’t a new problem, just magnified and adapted for more modern times.

So, as I sit here creating my part in the chaos, I am left to wonder about my “work.” What do I have to say about this concern? It seems to me while the fine arts are truly better off an “elitist business,” we all have to start out as amateurs. Natural talent is welcome, but several people can be trained to be an artist if they stay dedicated to the cause. Yes, there are some people who cannot be helped, period, but we as “amateur artists” should not be discouraged so easily. What are our alternatives, really? We either create and claw with the tide, or die against it. There is no happy medium.

This all reminds me of a quote from Anaïs Nin:

If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don’t write, because our culture has no use for it.

My question to you is this: Are there any hallmarks of mediocrity? Would one know if they’re cut out as an artist after a certain period of time?

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