Wednesday, May 30, 2007

An Update on Some Things and a Preview of a Couple New Features!

Well, Friday I e-mailed the president of Master File St. Louis, which as far as I can tell is a legal document service based in Clayton. They need a person to do a bit of research and deliver court documents, and yesterday he e-mailed me back and today I sent him my resume. Check it out! I said I would look for a new job and I'm on it! Go me! Granted, I still have not gotten a new job, nor have I rode my bicycle once since that last [20] time[s] I said I would, but it's only been a [few dozen] week[s] so I don't feel too bad.

I feel just a little uneasy about having sent him an e-mail telling him how detail oriented I can be, then thirty seconds later having to send him another one because I forgot to attach my resume like I said I was going to. Oops. And yes, I am aware of how ironic that was, please stop pointing it out.

Alright, so, from now on I will announce on my blog when I start reading a new book I haven't read before, and the first weekend after I finish it, I will post a review. This is just a way of keeping myself reading as well as flexing my undeveloped and rusty journalism skills. Or, Skeelz, as some people call them. I still call them skills, though.

Another feature I would like to add, though I am not sure how this will work, is something I would like to call Free Write Fridays. I think what I'll do is at some time during the week, I will call for suggestions, and readers can post suggestions as comments on that post. Then, on Friday, I will select one of those suggestions and do a half hour to hour long freewrite right into the blog. We'll see how that works out. So, I'll go ahead and call for the first suggestions for Free Write Fridays!

Some guidelines:

Your suggestions should consist of three parts; type of writing, one character, and a situation. For instance:

Short story, Bob Jones, Lost his wedding ring.
Play, a UPS delivery man, a suburban hostage situation
Film script, BBQ master Bobby Slay, getting his ass handed to him by Iron Chef Japanese Masaharu Morimoto

Something along those lines. Okay. suggestion box is opened. And...GO!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Tuesday Excerpts

I had this bizarre dream last night, that I was at a modern art gallery/mall with two guys from my playwriting class, and that we were there meeting with the devil and an ambassador of heaven to discuss terms of selling our souls for success as writers. The devil was willing to give us everything on our list but, obviously, he wanted to take our souls into hell for all eternity. God, it seems, was willing to offer us eternal salvation but little else on our list of demands, so we left without committing to either offer. Odd, I know...partly it's because I was sleeping on my back (due to Acrodyl lying across my stomach) and when I sleep on my back I always have either really strange or really scary dreams. This falls into the strange category. Anyway, I wrote a thirteen page play dialogue, and it's really rough and terribly unfinished at the moment, but nevertheless, I am giving you the opening as today's Tuesday Excerpt.


from an Untitled Play, may 2007

PAT, 21, wearing a corduroy jacket, button up white shirt un-tucked and jeans

JOHN, 22, wearing jeans and a Van Halen tee shirt, carries a pen and small notebook in his pocket

ELLIOT, 24, wearing jeans and a black sweater over a pink button down shirt, carries a messenger bag and an open box of chocolates

BUB, the devil

VOG, the Voice of God

Scene opens in a modern art gallery attached to a busy pedestrian mall. Three young men stand alone in the gallery, staring idly at a strangely grotesque sculpture depicting nothing in particular but doing so with definite human forms.

(glancing at his watch)
When did he say he’d be here?

I don’t know, five or so?

Well it’s almost five thirty now, where the hell is he?

(picking a chocolate from a Whitman’s Sampler box)
Ha. Good one, Pat.
(John and Pat look at him)
(offers the box)

(taking one)
Sure, thanks Elliot.
(pops it into his mouth)
These are damn good. I wonder where he got them?

Knowing him, he probably stole them from Straubs.

He probably gets them for free. Big, influential guy like him. He probably is responsible for the success of the Whitman’s Sampler. He probably came up with the idea of the chocolate box map.

Now you mention it, probably.
This was kind of a strange place to want to meet us, huh?

Well, yeah, but don’t let it get to you. I mean, you know why he did it, right? To intimidate us. It’s the kind of thing I would do.
(fond smile)
So like him.

Hey, John; did you hear Ace of Bass might reuinite?

(distracted from his reverie)

(put off)
I thought you liked them.

Just a play, Patrick. Just a play.

But your title was “This Really Happened.”

Well, only you and I actually wrote plays that actually happened. And you peed your pants.

(checking his jeans)
(silence from both John and Elliot)

(closing his eyes in obvious pain)
No, in your play.

(enter Bub, unseen by our three heroes)

Oh, thank God!

God? God, did you say?
(the three heroes jump, startled, Pat checks the front of his jeans again)
What has God got to do with anything tonight? Surely you don’t intend on letting Him know you’re meeting me?

Don’t sneak up on a brother like that, Bub!

Yeah, that was pretty low and sneaky. And you’re about forty minutes late.

But thanks for the chocolates.
(lifts up the tray)
I’ve got to have had something to do with this...there’s a whole other layer of ‘em down here! Nobody came up with that on their own.

Thank you, yes, that was me. Unfortunately, you know, when other companies caught on, there was no legal recourse for me to stop them from using my ideas...nothing I could do to reap any of their benefit. No, I’m afraid the only person I collected from on that one was my original partner...which is why I started enlisting every lawyer that came across my doorstep to help draft my contracts. Now...gentlemen, shall we get down to business? I’ve rather a busy schedule this evening.

Contracts, yeah, that’s just what we wanted to talk about. Look, I understand the whole idea and everything, right?
(looks to his friends)

Oh, yeah, quite simple in theory, we want success and fortune and only a little bit of fame-

Don’t forget the women, John. Can’t forget the women.
(wistful look in his eyes)
All the women we could want.

Hear hear...

-and the women, and we get all that in return for our eternal souls, right. But, there’s just a couple of concerns.

Let’s talk terms and conditions.

Let’s talk a service plan.

Full coverage, like they got on all the new Hyundais.

Only way more than one hundred thousand miles.

Or ten years.

My friends-

Just listen, you want our souls or not?

Of course, but I don’t think you’re really in a position to-

To what? Bargain? Like you’re the only person in all of Heaven and Earth interested in collecting souls?

Well...actually, all of the people in all of Heaven and Earth doesn’t really include me, does it?

Wait...let me...
(thinks about that one)
My brain hurts.

(offers box to Pat)

Are there any Orange Cremes left?
(takes box, roots around)


And there you have it.

Substitute "damn" every time you're inclined to write "very;" your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. -Mark Twain

Thursday, May 24, 2007

I Am Also Not a Chef

But I really mean it. I am not a chef, I'm just kind of a cooking enthusiast. It should say something that my favorite television shows are Arrested Development, Boston Legal, The Simpsons, M*A*S*H and Iron Chef (the original, not Iron Chef America). All these funny, sometimes poignant shows with great writing, great character development, great gags, and...Iron Chef. A cooking competition.

Actually, right now, I am cooking. Well, not right now, really, but I am getting ready to. I'm melting butter to make a cream sauce. But that's not what's important. What's really important is my most favorite room in the house.

It could be the downstairs room, where all the books, and movies are, and the television, and the ping-pong table we never use, and the desk where the desktop computer sits. But it's not. If my favorite room revolved around the computer, my favorite room would change because I am sitting in the dining room writing this, while yesterday's was written from the living room couch, and the previous one from the comfort of my bed. Laptops and wireless internet are two great inventions.

Nor is it the dining room or the bedroom, and not the upstairs living room. Not the guest bedroom either, though the new hardwood floors look great. It is quite definitely not the bathroom. It's not the laundry room, empty/drum/litterbox room, or the garage where I keep my bike.

It's the kitchen. My friend Jenn tells me it's a yuppy kitchen. I call it classic. From the black and white checkered floor to the checkered splashback tile, the glass block I love it. Because I love to cook. Which is why today's post is ending so abruptly; butter is melted and cream sauce is waiting to be made.

Discussed in this post:

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


It has been said that writing is easy, but that rewriting is hard. This is true.

One of the tricks I've picked up actually has roots in one of the problems I encountered in my writing process.

When I would sit down to write something, it would flow out of me. Words would literally rush from my pen (or fingertips if I was typing), faster than I could even think of what was going on the page. That's how I'd get a rough draft, then a real first draft would come when I'd read it through and make sure it was coherent. It was on the next revision that the problem came in.

When a sentence is sitting there on your computer screen, and you see something wrong with it, it is very easy to delete the problem and correct it. This is the marvel of modern technology. As Martha Stewart would say (if she were a prolific writer), it's a good thing.

But actually, it's not. And here is why. When you start revising like that, a story (or a play, screenplay, novel, even an academic paper of some kind) can take on a choppy sort of a feeling. It's tantamount to a film director shooting the entire film and taking the worst scenes and reshooting them to make the best scenes. The problem arises in the difference in calibre from one section to another. You have, in essence, draft 1.5 instead of draft 2. How does one avoid this pitfall? Actually, I hated the suggestion the first time I heard it. But then I was stuck revising my short story "Momentum" and as a last ditch effort, acted on the suggestion. The suggestion itself? Well...

Take your most current draft and print out a fresh copy of it. Have this copy and any other copies you or any of your peers may have made notations on (I highly reccommend workshopping anyway, for any work of creative writing, because it helps you see and hear your work through another person's eyes and ears), and lay all of them out in front of you. Maybe not all of them...but the ones with the most helpful comments (which does not always include any comments you yourself have made). Open a fresh document (load a fresh sheet in the typewriter/get a fresh pen and some looseleaf (does anybody actually do that anymore (wait, I write in a notebook all the time))), and start writing again from the top. Make the changes as you go. In this way, the revision becomes not just a revision but a rewrite, in both the abstract and physical way. This forces you to iron out any complications that may arise before a problem that add to it, in addition to helping you find any problems you may have otherwise missed by just dropping in and fixing those you saw as glaring.

This isn't always the most time-efficient method of rewriting, but the result is worth the patience. Who knew Mothers were right when they said things like, "Patience is a virtue"? Of course, in some cases, this message came mixed with the image of the mother tearing into a package of Pinwheel cookies on the way home from the grocery store when all you wanted was a handful of Cheez-Its to tide you over until lunch.

And sometimes, you really wish you could rewrite something before somebody reads it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Tuesday Excerpts

You should all punish me mercilessly for skipping my Monday blog. Seriously.

This excerpt is from a story I wrote fall '05 for my Creative Writing class at Meramec. Based partially in fact, in that I did get pulled over for having a headlight out...twice in the same night, actually...and also there is a guy I went to high school with who got fired from a retail store for stealing lots of stuff. Actually, this is from the story I want to frame and hang (refer to the post about Art from February 17th).


from "Headlight" 2005

He was lying on the bench with his face to the wall when I was unceremoniously ushered into the cell. The officer shut the bars with the trademark clang and barked, “You get one phone call. I’ll be right back.”

I sat down on the bench opposite the young man and inhaled the smell of fresh paint. The cell gleamed, and the walls were cool to the touch. I looked out the small window and saw a searing orange street lamp blazing, the light strangely out of place in this clean prison. It looked exactly like prison movie jail cells don’t.

He turned over and glanced at me once, then turned back to the wall. After a few silent seconds, he turned back to me and squinted.

“Colin? Is that you?”

I looked back at him, this short dark haired kid, and recognition dawned on me. “Alex?”

A sly smile crossed his face. He got up from his bench and held out his hand to me. I took it and he attempted an elaborate handshake I couldn’t quite get the hang of on such short notice. He sat down next to me and clapped his hand on my back. “What are you doing here?” he asked. He began cracking the knuckles one by one on his left hand.

I shrugged. “That’s a good question. I got pulled over for having a headlight out and when the guy ran my license plate through, he asked me to come with him. Cuffs, back of the car, it was unpleasant. What are you doing here?”

He raised his eyebrows excitedly, cracked his right-hand knuckles and shook his head quickly. I looked him over; he was wearing khaki pants and a red polo shirt. “Stealing,” he said, “from work. They finally nailed me today with a DVD player in my cart.”

“I vaguely remember you working at some retail store. What was it?”


“Right. Stealing a DVD player?” At that moment, I remembered helping him with geometry when he was a freshman, how he struggled with sine and cosine.

“It’s so easy,” he said, jumping up and walking to the cell door. He walked purposefully, with his head high. He reached the bars and looked out in every direction. A smile blazed across his face as he turned back to face me. “You wouldn’t believe the stuff I walked out of there with. The secret is to pile cardboard on top of it, tell them you need boxes to move into a new place or something,” he said in a low voice.

I got up and walked to the back of the cell, facing away from him. I tried to think of something else, something other than how hard he worked on that geometry, trying not to draw a comparison to how hard he seemed to have worked on stealing from his employer. I had to steer the conversation in another direction. This purposeful gait, this bragging about why he was here didn’t sit well. “How’s school?” I asked. I turned to look at him.

“I’ve kind of stopped going last semester. I just got fed up with my bio teacher and really, school interferes with my social agenda.” Alex chuckled lightly, raising his eyebrows suggestively.


There you have it, Tuesday Excerpt number 2. Occasionally, I revist something I've written in the past, and give it a quick revision. I'm thinking that will be a good project for the summer, and I may start with this one. Revisions always tend to make me want to write something completely different, just so I don't have to be revising, so that will certainly help get the creative juices a-flowing.

"Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia." -E.L. Doctorow

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Friday and Weekend Blog Combined...This Week Only.

I promise, I will be better about this.

I sort of ran out of time Friday, with Kari coming into town and Kathy being called back into work at 3, then going out to dinner/sightseeing and all. And then Saturday was all goofed up, because of Kari being here, the cat being a nuisance and working overnight, and today was no different, plus family dinner and celebrating Kevin's birthday a month and a half late. So, all I got is this little bit I sketched out and would have blogged overnight Saturday if I had had my computer with me at work (if there were such thing as a network to use there).

There was a time-and it doesn't feel that long ago, really, but it must be because it was before I graduated from high school and that was six years ago-when i could stay up all night. Well, let me put that in a different context, actually, because anybody can stay up all night if they just sleep all day. But that's cheating. I can still do that.

I'm thinking back to Fridays in January my senior year of high school. It's Basketball season, which is important to the story here. Prior to January of 2001, I had always gotten a ride to school with my dad. Since he had to get to work (he's a teacher in a different district) super early, and his school is a 20-40 minute drive from where I went, it was not uncommon for me to roll into school before 7 am. Amazingly, I got used to this, and often used this extra early time to catch up on reading or other homework (or going back to sleep against my locker). When my sister took an extended six month trip to Norway after the new year, she left me her car, so I could drive myself to school. Rather than taking advantage of this and sleeping in, I continued to wake up as early as 5 am to shower, eat watch the news with my dad and still leave the house at roughly the same time as he did.

So, even on a Friday, I would get to school at 6:45, almost an hour before the 7:40 bell. I'd make it through the morning in one piece, breeze through lunch and the afternoon (because I took SLACK OFF classes my senior year for sure), and take my girlfriend home, stopping on the way to pick up my paycheck from the Rep. I'd take the check to the bank, pick up some cash for the weekend, head home and eat a snack, maybe a dinner, only to be back up at school at 5:30 to set up for the pep band, of which I was the student director.

Basketball games would last until 8:30 or later, then it would be around 9 or so before the pep band equipment was all locked up. After that, it was off to Steak 'n Shake or some other such place for some food and ice cream, maybe some coffee. Then, I'd get in touch with Zach and the Penningtons, and the four of us would congregate somewhere and watch Iron Chef until one in the morning, followed by an hours-long N64 Goldeneye tournament which would only be broken when somebody realized the sun was about to come up in an hour or so. I'd run home, jump in the shower, eat some breakfast, and then high-tail it back to school where the Jazz Band was meeting up to take a three or four hour bus trip to a competition. This would usually afford me about an hour or so of restless bus-sleep, but you can't really call that sleep anyway. The competition would last until 5 in the evening, after which was another bus ride, again affording only minimal sleeping opportunities but, because it was the subdued ride home one was more likely to actually catch some sleep.

When the bus finally pulled up in front of the school, it would be a dash home, change into some more suitable clothes and right back out, usually to a late dinner in The Loop or a nice long stay at Coffee Cartel, followed by midnight Iron Chef and more Goldeneye, only this time we'd go home around 2 or 3. And finally sleep...only for me to have to wake up at 10 (at the latest) for the Matinee at the rep...during which it was either homework during the show or nap. And I always picked homework.

How did I do it? I was sitting in the office last night, working overnight setting up the ad, and I realized that even with sleeping until one o'clock on Saturday, it was only midnight and I was already crashing hard. What made me more energetic? Youth? Caffiene? Iron Chef/Goldeneye? Or did I just have a built-in filter that made me not feel so tired? Personally, I think it's probably got something to do with the fact that, at the time, I was non-stop with both the I-Gotta-Do-It stuff and the I-Wanna-Do-It stuff. I had a nice balance of work/school and social life. Unfortunately, now I have to balance work and school against each other, as opposed to grouping them on one end and counteracting it with a social life. I have a miniscule social life. Though, the past two weeks have not been so bad, in that since I am out of school that part is no longer a controlling influence, I might have time for a social life, or at least some semblance of one. Maybe that's the secret to longevity, and to limitless energy; you have to balance out activities that require energy with activities that have their own energy. Yes, that sounds like a good idea.

Comments? Thoughts? Let me know. And hey, if you want to hang out, let me know. I'll make some time for sure*.

*If you live in Boston, NYC, MN, New Zealand, or anywhere else that is not in the greater St. Louis metro vicinity, it may be hard to live up to this promise, so, offer strictly limited in those areas.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Umm...Thursday Blog?

Alrighty, so, it being Thursday, and less than a week into my conviction to blog every day (once on weekends), here it is with two and a half hours to go and still no blog.


I would like to refer you to Monday's blog about my car.

Remember all of the little things adding up? Well, Tuesday came the straw that broke the camel's back. Or rather, the bundle of straws that broke the Toyota's back. Or, to be precisely accurate, the repair assessment that caused the Toyota's fate to be decided. Amongst the culprits:

Old battery.
Tires looking a tid bit worn.
Very dirty air filter.
Oh, and, the little problem of the exhaust leaking right into the air intake, causing exhaust to come out of the ventillation system, meaning every time I drive my car, any passengers I am carrying in addition to I myself are breathing in noxious fumes.

Problem. It would have cost around $600 to repair. And the last big repair (not the last one...the next to last one, the oil leak) cost me a lot and then it started leaking oil again, so we know what a repair to a car this old is really all about. So, Tuesday I embarked on a new mini rigid search (in addition to the rigid search to find a job-more on that tomorrow-and the overall very rigid search to find myself) to find a new vehicle. You see, this time, the issue is forced because, let's face it, a fifteen year old car with 162,xxx miles needing a $600 repair does not equal good math. So, today, after work, I officially embarked on the physical searching part of the rigid search (having done the preliminary online research Tuesday and yesterday). I was going to save a couple cars for next Tuesday, as they were 20+ miles away, but I thought I'd start with a few in-the-area curiosities. Just looking, mind you. Just looking. I started at Ackerman Toyota and from there, I was going to Lou Fusz Toyota. At Ackerman, they had a 2000 VW Golf with 115,xxx miles, sunroof, stick, and only $6000. But, upon arrival, I find that the mileage was a bit off, the car didn't sound great when I started (like, it whined at me), and it's not a stick. That in itself shouldn't be a deal breaker, but coupled with the bad start, and also the glove compartment door was falling off. Next.

I pointed my wounded Camry in the direction of Lou Fusz, hoping that they still had their 2005 Civic for $14,500. It had only 74,xxx miles. It too was listed as a stick, but I knew to be wary, and it was only a two door. But, on the way, I decided I would swing into the Dean Team in Kirkwood and see if they had any used VW's at good prices in amongst all the shiny new ones. Brian, the guy I worked with, told me he had a few in the year range I was looking for. He said he had a 2002 Jetta, but he wasn't sure if I would be interested because they were asking $16,000 for it and it was a stick.

A stick? Really? Awesome...well, okay, I figured we could take it for a test drive. That was my first mistake. It was beyond what I imagined it would be. It was...better than the Golf, for sure. He also had a 2001 GTI for $12,000, but I am not sure a tin can with a rocket launcher is the right car for me. So, whatever, we sit down to see if we can't hammer out a deal. I had low hopes.

I said, "I figure about $1000 for my trade in, no money down, what can we do? I want my payments around $200 a month. And, my wife is the boss of the money. So I may have to come back with her."

Well, they weren't about to hear that, so they said, "We'll give you $3000 for your trade-in," my eyes popped out of my head momentarily, thinking did they look at my car? really?, "And we knocked $2000 off the price, we've got you around $220 a month." Call the wife. No deal. "$210?" No deal. "$200 and we give you thirty days to get $1000 down payment?" Thank you so much for everything, really,'s just not a good enough deal. Then, this is the best part. The sales manager asks me if I will call my wife back so he can talk to her. And I do. And he does. And I get an extra $1200 for my trade somehow, and my payments are at $199.98 a month.

And I came home with a 2002 Jetta.

Fun fact of the day: We got $4200 trade-in for a car that I paid $3000 for four years ago. We rule.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Am I Publishable?

Devotees (both of you) may recall that in March of last year, I set a goal of being published within a year. All of you probably know that come March of this year, I had still not been published. Well, you win some and you lose some.

And some, you just have to wait a month or so for.

A few weeks ago, I got an e-mail from David Taylor, Faculty Advisor to Currents Literary Magazine at St. Louis Community College at Meramec, informing me that my submission had been selected for publication in the magazine. Which was all well and good, but that was a year ago that I submitted to that thing. Wow. And going back and reading it, I have to admit, my writing has matured. Like, vastly. Not that what got published is terrible, in fact I've been told it's rather good (except one person who shall remain nameless thinks that it ends all weak and wistful and is therefore self-contradictory and ultimately utter crap...I may be putting words in this person's mouth, though), but what I write now seems to reflect a change, a more grown up feeling inside that comes out on paper.

So, yes, it has been almost a month since I got published, you would think that I would have jumped right on that and told everybody, but, to be perfectly honest, I've just been so freaking busy and stressed that it almost completely slipped my mind. Plus, now I kept everybody in suspense. Somehow.

For reference, I have been published in the Currents Literary Magazine of the St. Louis Community College, Meramec Branch. It is Volume 41 (so close), and the story I wrote is titled "How to Write a Three Day Novel." It's on page 33. You can pick it up on any of the tables randomly placed throughout the Communications North building on the campus, or I can get one for you if you so choose. Supplies are not unlimited, but close. I only have two left at the moment, both of which are spoken for by a Bostonite and a friend in Middle Earth (New Zealand). But I will be getting more by the middle of next week.

Question of the day:
If there's a New Zealand, then somewhere there is a Zealand. Where is it?

Music to Blog by:
Tripping Daisy - Halo Comb

Discussed in this post:

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

What Tuesdays Are For Now

As I am not in school for the summer, and I do not work on Tuesdays (for the time being, and won't work Tuesdays at Target as long as I have anything to say about it), I have been trying to decide what to do with my Tuesdays.

Well, I'm going to set up a weekly feature on the blog. That's right...structure and organization will emerge as I stick to my ambitions to actually get the ball rolling on becoming a real writer. That means writing every day, which I guess could mean blogging every day. But it doesn't mean that. As I said, I will blog every other day at the very least. But, Tuesdays will be the day when I post some of my actual writing, that being, some of my non-blog material. Like this, and the previous paragraph, that's blog material. But I will always end with out of blog material.

So, for my first Tuesday Excerpt (which is what I am going to call it now), I will take a bit from my Decomposition book I carry everywhere with me now.

This little bit is something I started sketching out the other day during a break at work, so it's either a work in progress or something that may go nowhere, but we'll see. The point is, I wrote it in some down time, which is what I need to be doing. And from now on, you won't get this long winded introduction on Tuesdays. Just a short description of what the excerpt is, and then right into it. So let's finally get right into it.


from "It's Complicated" may 2007

My facebook relationship status changed and suddenly, people I hadn't talked to in months, some of them years rushed to my cyber side. My in-box, my virtual wall were each flooded with variations of "What happened?" "Are you okay?" "Did you get a divorce?" "I'm here for you." "Call me if you need to talk."

It happened one night in August when we had The Fight, and I slept on the couch in the basement, our three years of marriage coming to a head with The Fight, the glow of my computer screen displaying "It's Complicated" illuminating our wedding pictures. We smiled at our complication from the past.

A week later and a total of eight nights sleeping apart, she told me she was leaving, going to her company's Chicago office because that's where her department-which consisted of her and one person in New Jersey-was being relocated to. I asked her, "What about us?" and she said "You'll be hearing from me."


So, there you have it, my first Tuesday Excerpt. I am not sure where to go with it, if it's a short story or (I'm leaning this way) perhaps a novel, or if I should just abandon it altogether at this point, but I think it's got some potential. The style is a bit off from what I normally dish out, mostly because I just finished reading Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, but he is a topic for another day.

"I'm not telling lies, I'm writing fiction with my mouth!" -Homer Simpson

Discussed in this post:

Monday, May 14, 2007

My Car

Has anybody ever seen the movie Breaking Away? Aside from being a dorky bicycling movie, and the movie that made Chase Korte and I friends, it has a bearing on this post which is, as you may have guessed from the title, about my car.

There is a scene in the movie in which the main character Dave Stoller's father Raymond is working at his used car lot. The cars are all decrepit pieces of crap, but they have special names painted on their windshields. It's set in Bloomington, Indiana, which is of course a big college town, and since Dave and his friends are all "Cutters" (locals) all the college kids hate them. But, Ray obviously sees them as a potential market for shitty used cars, and so he sells them with clever names like "Homecoming Special" or "Graduation Deluxe." Or, my personal favorite, "English Major."

Now, "Homecoming Special" is actually not a bad looking car; it's a red, two door convertible of the MG type. The "Graduation Deluxe" is not as nice, because it's a tan sedan, but it is in respectable condition. The "English Major" is by far the worst car on the lot. It is gray with rust coloration (most likely from, I don't know, the rust), and looks as if it had been saved at the last minute from being thrown into the quarry where all the Cutters like to swim.

Being an English Major myself, I would take issue with this. But, looking out of my front window at my car sitting in front of my house, I'm thinking I wouldn't mind scrawling "English Major" across it and selling it cheap, or possibly even throwing it into a quarry. From the cracked windshield, to the bent antenna, to the white paint and small dent from where I drove it into the workbench in the garage, it's certainly seen better days. In a year, my car will be old enough to get a license and drive itself. By the time I graduate from school, it will be worrying about who to vote for in the next presidential election. If some unforeseen future event holds up my school one more year (Knock on Wood and God Forbid), then at some point my car will be older than the freshman class.

What's worse is, before when something went wrong with my car, it was a big thing, something that stood out and made it impossible to drive without fixing.

There was the famous debacle with the CO2 filter being clogged, and thus the car just dying if I let it idle. When this happened, you had to wait 45 minutes to two hours to get it to start again, and then if you stopped, you just had to keep your foot on the gas to keep the RPMs up. Then there was the massive oil leak. At one point, I remember getting my oil changed in the morning, and by the following evening, my oil light came on. I had already lost a quart and a half. After that, the infamous unplanned road trip to Davenport, resulting in my third timing belt since I bought the car in 2003 and the dire need for a new water pump. These things, while hassles, were all easy enough to manage...just take it to the repair shop, fork over a bunch of money five days later and wait for the next thing to go horribly wrong.

But nothing has gone horribly wrong. Just little things. Now my car (which used to be a stubborn and whiny teenager) is now a cantankerous old man. There's the crack in the windshield, which I still haven't figured out how that happened. The bent antenna I think came from going through a car wash without first retracting the antenna. The knob that controls the fan speed fell off; you can rest it on there in either the "off" or "full blast" positions, but any of the others you have to turn it and then take it off and put it under the parking break if you don't want to lose it. Once, about a year ago, I opened my driver's side door from inside and part of the plastic handle came off. Last fall, the same door started needing a special flick and angle to unlock with the key, with the (I can only guess) following consequence of the key not being able to start the car anymore. Funny thing is, the key that I had made (from the original master, which is broken and can't go on a key chain) does not unlock any of the doors because the metal is too flimsy and will twist if trying to unlock, except for the trunk, it still does that one okay. Last summer, I noticed fluff coming out of the vents, and found out that all the seals around the AC unit had disintegrated and were being blown up to the vents themselves, thus rendering my AC useless because the seals can't keep the hot air from the engine from mixing with the cold air from the cooling unit. The front passenger door, no matter how much WD40 I apply, creaks loud enough to echo off of the neighbors' houses. At a certain RPM, right about 1700 or so, the engine makes a sickly metal-grating-on-metal noise, no matter what gear I'm in, but only when the RPMs are coming down, not going up. A year ago there was a hole in the brake line that meant leaking brake fluid, which of course didn't start until after I had it inspected but it was a relatively cheap fix, and now, to top it off, it's losing about a quart of oil in between oil changes.

This is the car of the English Major. It was once stylish, economical, the car that everybody wanted not because it was nice and flashy but because it was a Toyota Camry, and it was inexpensive and got great mileage and was a nice family car while still being stylish enough to not look like you were the boring practical type, just the practical practical type. In essence, it is the car, or at least it was back in 1992 when it was new. But when I bought it for $3,000 in 2003, it was a good buy to last me a couple years. It is now 2007. I have owned the car for four years, almost to the day now, and all these little things are starting to grate on me a little. But, it is an English Major's car, and more specifically my car, which makes it a Writer's car. And, like all things in a writer's life, it acts if nothing more than to be the impetus for an exercise in creativity, an expression of one's frustration with modern life and its unattainable cars.

Fun Fact of the Day: If it were up to me, I would own two cars, and neither of them would be the one I currently own. One would be a Volkswagen Golf TDI, with the new bio-diesel engine that the German companies are using to answer the Hybrid surge. The other would be a Scion tC in the dark blue color, with the moon roof and spoiler. They would both be sticks. The Golf could be any color but white or purple, although if we could find one in yellow that would be great. They would also both have some way for me to play mp3's in them. And I would never drive either one of them into the workbench. Ever.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Yes, Yes, I know...

All the trash talk I throw at my aunt Nora, at Mo and Kevin, and at Will-er-Alan, and all the trash talk I threw at Jerry before he decided to deblog himself, and here it's been about two months since my last post. Well, yeah. Sorry.

Lots happened. Won't go into it all. My sister had her baby, run over to her blog to see pictures. I finished up the semester (no pictures there), went to NYC for Spring Break and had a good time running around and all, met up with Joanna and Koushik, got inspired to write a play, wrote the play, added a Journalism minor to my studies, and generally had an okay time running down the clock to May where I now face a summer of drudgery at work with no school to break up the monotony.

But I pledge myself anew at this! I am about to embark on a very rigid search. Soul searching, perhaps. Perhaps a bit of job-searching as well. Somebody asked me a question last night, and it's going to stick with me until I can truthfully and one hundred percent actually answer it. "What do you want to happen?" I have to find that out, then take the steps to make it happen. I need to make it happen.

With that being said, you will be seeing a lot more of me in the Blogniverse (I know that the popular term is Blogisphere, but damn it all, I came up with Blogniverse and that is what I am sticking with!), at least in this realm...probably not so much on the bike side. Frankly, I'm embarassed to even have it exist at this point, because I am a bad cyclist. A good cyclist is one who actually rides his bike. I am not one of those.

So, this is just a "Hey, yes, I know I've been a deadbeat blogger, but I promise to be better, honest!" kind of a post. Upcoming highlights include:

Ruminations on Professor Overmann's comments on my Media Literacy paper.

Commentary on why hiding from your true self is a bad thing (and it is).

Ruminations on Sheila Hwang's grade of A given on my second to last paper of the semester, and why I think it means she wants to do bad things to me in the dark.

Excerpts from works in progress.

Explanations of my preparations for the Three Day Novel contest (in which I will be participating this year, come Hell, High Water or organized Bike Ride).

And, of course, in a month or so, another long-winded explanation of why it's been a month since I posted anything despite my insistince right now, at this moment, that I will post at least every other day the whole summer.

Music to Blog By:
Elliott Smith - Needle in the Hay

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