Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Tuesday Excerpt

This week's selection comes from a one act play I wrote last year for the Surfacing Emerging Playwright Festival. It did not get selected, though members of the selection committee told me it was due to length and number of male characters, not because it sucked. Great. Next time, if it doesn't suck, don't not pick it.

Don't...don't not...more better...yeah.

Okay, the title for this one is The Unfinished Paper. It tells the story of James Evans as he sits in Jeremy Noy's coffee shop on the campus of the University of Minnesota. He is skipping class and they get visited by James' classmate Angela, his roommate Colin and the Professor Weinskart, who's last assigned paper James is valiantly ignoring. We join the action as it happens!


from The Unfinished Paper, 12/06-1/07

JAMES: This place reminds me of home.

JEREMY: Is that why you’re in here all the time?

JAMES: That, and it’s close to all the classes I’m skipping.

Jeremy smiles and turns his attention to goings-on outside the window, while James stares thoughtfully at nothing, warming his hands with his coffee mug. He sets it down gently.

JAMES: Bike shop slash coffee shop.

JEREMY: Excuse me?

JAMES: That’s my idea. There’s a bookstore attached to my parents’ coffee shop. I want a bike shop with a coffee shop in it.

JEREMY: Is that really your dream?

JAMES: Well, mostly my roommate’s. It would be open twenty four hours. But it’s just a pipe dream. Good name for it, though.

JEREMY: Oh yes?

JAMES: Either way we go. The Vicious Cycle or Gear Grinders. (he resumes his search through the newspaper) Although the second one sounds like a bike shop slash hoagie vendor.

JEREMY: I take it that’s not really your plan, though.

JAMES: Colin has all of these grandiose ideas, but almost no follow through. That’s why he’s going to be a journalist, so he can report on things and never have to actually do things.

JEREMY: (glances at the door) Here comes another friendly face.

The door opens again and Angela Grable walks in. She is average height, blond hair, blue eyes, the look of the Swede about her. She is bundled against the cold with a heavy coat, gloves, and hat. She is carrying a messenger bag.)

JEREMY: (checking his watch) Good morning, Ang.

ANGELA: (shaking off the cold) Hi Jeremy, um, I’ll have a—

JEREMY: Hot cocoa and a chocolate chip cookie?

ANGELA: (smiling warmly) Yes, thank you Jeremy.

JEREMY: Four dollars and three and a half dimes. (she digs in her purse and throws a five dollar bill on the counter) Be right up.

ANGELA: Keep the change, Jeremy, and I’ll be over here with James. (pause) Oh, how long has he been here?

JEREMY: I opened at 7, and he’s been here since about, oh…six.

(Jeremy winks and gets to work while Angela walks over to the table where James sits, oblivious to her presence. She slams her bag on top of his paper just as he is about to take a sip of his coffee, causing him to spill a little.)

JAMES: Holy, Shit, Angela, what are you doing? (he wipes some coffee from his chin with his left hand)

ANGELA: (angrily) What the hell are you doing, James? (he continues to shake the coffee from his hand) You missed another one of Weinskart’s classes. Do you know that our paper was due a week and a half ago?

JAMES: (pushes her bag to the floor, where it lands with a dull thud) Relax, I asked him for an extension. (Jeremy brings her cocoa and cookie) Have a seat, Angela.

ANGELA: (sitting heavily) How long of an extension did he give you? Thank you, Jeremy.

JAMES: (reluctantly) I guess it was kind of…open ended, you’d say. (Angela is bringing her drink to her lips as he says this, but stops, brings the drink back down and stares fixedly in James’ eyes) I asked the class period before it was due if I could have an extension and, well, he said that was okay. The next class period, I asked if he wanted me to e-mail it to him and he said to just, you know, give it to him the next time I saw him.

ANGELA: Oh, James. You know he meant the next class period.

JAMES: Details, details. If he had wanted it the next class period, he would have said so.

ANGELA: (head in her hands momentarily) No, James, he wanted it on the due date. He said so, too. An extension is for one class meeting later. Have you read the syllabus?

JAMES: Of course. It told me that before class today, I was supposed to have read the first half of Colonel Chabert, and I did.

ANGELA: But then you didn’t come to class.

JAMES: My paper isn’t done.

ANGELA: Why not?

JAMES: (long pause, several drinks of coffee. Angela sips her cocoa and takes a bite of her cookie) Because in order to finish it, I have to start it. And in order to start it, I have to be interested in one of the topics. Can’t I just sit in a coffee shop for the rest of my life, though? It’s warm, it’s friendly, there are fresh Sudoku puzzles every day in the paper, always somebody new to meet. (he turns and looks at the man in the suit, still sitting near the door) Hi there, I’m James and I’m probably going to fail my Cultural Perspectives class because my professor wants me to write about Oedipus and Phallic symbols. (back to Angela) Seriously, why is Weinskart so obsessed with male genitalia? Have you noticed that in his lectures? The one about Balzac’s statue grasping his erect-

ANGELA: Why can’t you just bullshit a paper, James? Isn’t your roommate a writer?

JAMES: Colin? He’s busy writing cover letters for internships and his own work Oh, but you should read his humor paper, it—

ANGELA: You’d better come up with something, and fast. Weinskart asked me about you after class.

JAMES: (obviously surprised) He did? How about that, he knows who I am.

ANGELA: He asked me if I knew where he could find you. And it just slipped out, and I’m sorry.

JAMES: (stopping in mid drink) What just slipped out, Angela?

ANGELA: I told him you spend a lot of time here.

JAMES: Here where? Here Earth? Here Minneapolis? Here campus?

ANGELA: Noy’s Coffee.

JAMES: So he’s coming here to find me? (Angela nods her head) Well, thanks, Judas.

ANGELA: That’s not fair. Come on, I’m letting you know, you can escape if you want.

JAMES: (drains his coffee mug again. Calls) Jeremy! Another.

JEREMY: Coming up, James.

JAMES: Not today. I’m too comfortable here. What can he do? (stands up, walks to the counter and sets his empty mug next to his new, full mug. He picks up his new drink and turns back to Angela) It’s not too late to drop classes, is it?

ANGELA: (removing her coat) Yes, the withdraw date was sometime last month. You’re only hope would be a medical reason. Or death.

JAMES: (considering) Death, huh? Or a medical reason? Like a broken leg?

ANGELA: Extended hospital stay.

JAMES: (slumping into his chair) Forget it.

ANGELA: Hopeless, James.

Angela sits back and ruminates over her mug of hot chocolate. Jeremy continues working behind the counter. James sits, looking dejected, holding his mug in both hands close under his chin. His demeanor suddenly brightens as he sets his coffee mug on the table and begins rooting through the messenger bag he has brought with him. He pulls out a USB drive and sets it in front of him on the table. He puts his bag back down on the ground with a thud, which gets Angela’s attention. He then stands and takes the USB drive to the door. He opens it and stares outside for a moment, listening to the traffic as it rolls by. Jeremy checks his watch, then quickly puts a fresh pot of coffee on.

JAMES: Oh, the express! (He tosses the USB drive out the door as the sound of a bus goes by. He waits at the door for a moment, then exits)

Angela stands and goes to the door, looking out and cradling her mug of cocoa. She takes a step back as James opens the door and re-enters the shop, carrying what used to be his USB drive before it got run over by a city bus.

ANGELA: James?

JAMES: Angela, I’d like you to meet my excuse. (He hands her the two biggest pieces of his USB drive.) Now, how long do you think it will take Weinskart to get here? (James does not wait for a reply, but instead returns to the table, pulling a laptop computer out of his bag and setting it on the table, opening it, turning it on, etc.) This is better than saying my dog ate it or anything.

ANGELA: (returning to her seat, placing the bits of the USB drive on the table and sitting down heavily) You think Weinskart will believe that the only copy you had was on your jump drive?

JAMES: (working furiously on his computer) No. But when I show him my tragically corrupt document that is on my computer, with only a part of my heading, title, and a few words here and there intact, and the remains of my jump drive, perhaps he will… (trails off)

ANGELA: (pause) Perhaps he will what? Only flunk you a little bit? (pause. James stands again) Do not throw your computer under a bus.

The man in the suit drinks the last of his coffee and stands up. James watches him put on his coat, gloves, hat and scarf. The man walks to the door and opens it.

COLIN: (offstage) Hold the door, gang way! (The man jumps aside, holding the door open and Colin rides his bicycle into the shop, causing everyone to turn their attention to the door. Colin is tall and he gangles. He is wearing jeans, a long sleeve t-shirt under a windbreaker. He has a schoolbag slung behind his back) Thank you, sir. (The man gives Colin a bewildered look, then exits as Colin himself dismounts from his bike and busies himself in his bag, which he swings around to his side) The usual, Jeremy. (He digs out his wallet and a thermos)

JEREMY: Coming up, Colin. (He sets a small mug on the counter) Here’s your espresso, coffee’s brewing.

COLIN: (walking over to the counter with his bicycle) Thanks a million. (He sets a wad of cash on the counter along with the thermos and picks up the drink. He cools it with his breath, then turns on the coffee shop) James, Angela, nice to see you both.


COLIN: Thanks, Jeremy. Time for an epic battle with sleepiness. I’ve got a class with Garrison Keeler next. Great class, great man, but that voice of his! My parents used to play Prairie Home Companion tapes to put me to sleep, and his voice still makes me…(wiggles his hand back and forth while making a strange sound. He swings his bicycle around to face the door, and swings his leg over it) Could somebody grab the door for me?

At that moment, Professor Weinskart enters the coffee shop, looking thoroughly windswept. He is in his late fifties, wearing a long black overcoat and a yarmulke. He straightens this and his coat as he walks in, looking around.

COLIN: Pardon me, could you just hold that door for me a second please? Thank you.

WEINSKART: Oh, yes, sure, go right ahead, son.

Weinskart stands aside and holds the door for Colin who, with a wave of his hand, is off and out into the cold. Weinskart lets the door close and makes his way to Jeremy at the counter.

WEINSKART: This place used to be a Subway, right?

JEREMY: Yes, it was.

James has been staring at Weinskart since he entered, though Weinskart has not acknowledged either Angela or James. Through the next exchange, Angela snaps her fingers in front of James’ face in an effort to get his attention, but James continues staring at Weinskart with silent fear.

WEINSKART: Your prices are a bit higher than Starbucks, hmm. What’s the advantage?

JEREMY: Personality. Warmth. My wife bakes the cookies and the coffee is Fair Trade.

WEINSKART: You’ve just made a lifelong customer, my friend.

James finally reacts to Angela’s snapping fingers. She points towards the door and silently urges him to make a run for it. He shakes his head no, and stoically brings his coffee mug to his lips.

JEREMY: That’s probably the best news I’ve heard all day, sir. Was it the cookies or the Fair Trade that caught you?

WEINSKART: I haven’t tasted the cookies yet. I think I’ll take a large cappuccino and the biggest chocolate chip cookie you’ve got.

JEREMY: (ringing up the register) Six dollars and twenty three cents if you would be so kind. (Weinskart hands over a bill and waits while Jeremy makes change) Here’s your change and just take a seat, I’ll bring you the coffee. Here’s the cookie.

WEINSKART: Thank you, very much.

Jeremy busies himself as Weinskart turns from the counter. He casually wanders from the counter to the newspaper stands, to the center of the shop, where James and Angela sit. James has been watching him over the rim of his coffee mug. Without a look in James’ direction, Weinskart takes a seat at their table.

WEINSKART: You don’t mind, do you? (pause, no answer or movement from either James or Angela) Good. This place has a nice feel to it. It’s probably just the fair trade coffee, you know, those hard-working, underpaid—oh, but I didn’t come here to lecture you, Miss Grable, sorry. (Angela hides her head in her hands and, over the next few minutes, shakes her head slightly. Weinskart takes a bite of his cookie, from which he obviously derives great pleasure) Exquisite. No, I apologize for the lecture, Miss Grable. (Turns to James, who noticeably shrinks at the following words) You, on the other hand, Mr. Evans.

JAMES: Professor, I—

WEINSKART: I’ve heard it all, trust me. What’s this?

He picks up pieces of the jump drive.

JAMES: Um, my USB drive. I threw it under a bus.

WEINSKART: Ah, I understand. Well, that’s a unique way to do it. And on your computer?

JAMES: Well, originally, it was going to be a clean document that I was doctoring up to look like a corrupt one. You know, part of my heading, my title, a couple brilliant sentences comprising my introduction, then a bunch of broken-up computer code jargon, interspersed with words like disassociate and, you know, just—a very elaborate hoax.


JAMES: Well, I only got as far as the heading, title, brilliant introduction, and…

James shows Weinskart the screen, who surveys it with wide, happy eyes. Angela peers momentarily from behind her hands, then resumes her previous actions. Jeremy approaches with a large ceramic mug, which he sets in front of Weinskart. Jeremy then takes a step back and looks at the computer screen as well.

WEINSKART: There is only one ‘c’ in disassociate. Doesn’t that have spell check?


There you have it! And now, friends, it is time for dinner.

What no wife of a writer can ever understand is that a writer is working when he's staring out of the window. -Burton Rascoe

Monday, July 30, 2007

Last Monday

Today was my last Monday working at Target.

I feel like flying. And also, I liked Gerald's comment on my last FWF, and I think I may take him up on it.

Alrighty folks, not much of a blog today as I am fairly exhausted and going to try and sneak in a quick nap here before heading off to the Muny to catch a show this evening. Hopefully it doesn't rain on us.

This weekend is my "Your Questions Answered" weekend, as it will be the first full weekend in August. So, what are your questions? I have the answers! And...coming next week, a book review of a book I have read recently. Will it be Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows or will it be The Ministry of Special Cases? Only time will tell. So check back next week. And check back tomorrow, when I promise there really will for real be a really real Tuesday Excerpt for real really. Seriously. For real.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Free Write Friday

Okay, in the forty minutes I have left of my Friday...

This week's winner is last week's winner, because I skived off last week for whatever reason. Harry Potter, I think, and visiting out-of-town friends. Also, the dog ate it.

Becca wins a very intense discussion on the outcome of the latest Harry Potter novel for the following suggestion:

"Sam - 23 - finds a magic 8 ball that is actually magic and will tell the future. Anything he asks it. Yes it works..."

And from now on, no more italics. It's just easier on the eyes this way.


Sam had almost always been superstitious. Never stepped under a ladder. Always threw salt over his shoulder and never once broke a mirror. He also never caught his reflection in a broken mirror, for the problems that may cause. For his key chain, he carried a lucky rabbit's foot, despite the obvious problem of it having held no good luck for the rabbit to which it was previously attached. He ran from black cats. He never went anywhere on Friday the thirteenth and never set foot on the thirteenth floor of a building. So it was no big surprise when, on his 23rd birthday, all of his co-workers at his brand new job pitched in to buy him...

"A Magic 8 Ball?" He looked the thing over, still in its purplish box with the swirls, the instructions. He had received several dozen of them over the years, always from people who thought it was a laugh, just what he needed. He felt as predictable as they must have found him.

"Yeah, well, you know, for when you need help making decisions...you're so superstitious you may need some sort of guidance." This from a man who orders pens based on the color jersey his favorite sports team of the moment happens to be wearing.

"Well, thanks, Heath," Sam said. He didn't mean it. "I guess I could use some guidance from a fifteen dollar toy." This struck him as odd; not the fact that they had clearly left the price tag on the box, a symbol of how little they truly cared, how this birthday present was merely a team building gimmick created by the HR people at Vanderheyden Financial Services, the company for which he was an office drone. This was how he described his job to himself; his business card said he was an accounts management representative. No, the price tag didn't make him frown. The price did. Certainly he had seen these, even at the novelty shops where prices are usually higher than the box retailers, for less than ten bucks.

"Ask it a question!" Meredith tittered, eager to watch Sam use this toy, the same way she seemed eager for everything; even watching Merle, the intern, replacing the jug in the water cooler made Meredith giggle. Not appeasing her would have brought immeasurable pleasure to Sam, but then again, as her last name was Brown, that gave her thirteen letters in her name. She held some power that Sam registered on a very deep subconscious level.

He opened the box and removed the eight ball. It felt slightly heavier than he remembered the Magic 8 Ball to be, but perhaps it was because over time, the only one he ever really used, the one originally given to him on his seventh birthday by his grandfather, had leaked a little of the magic blue fluid. Or perhaps, Sam reflected as he faced the circled 8 upwards, they were just made out of better stuff these days. "Is this the best birthday present ever?" he asked the Magic 8 Ball. He turned it over and was startled by what he saw.

"What's it say?" asked Edith, Meredith's boss, her identical twin in every way except twenty-six years older. The two of them bounced on the balls of their feet to try and get a look.

Sam stared at the window on his new toy. He had expected a response along the lines of, "It Is Decidedly So" or "Outlook Not So Good." He had trouble processing what he was seeing.

"Well?" asked Heath.

"Um, yes. It says 'Yes,' so it looks like you guys win the best present ever award. Thank you."

"Well, we all picked it out," Edith explained.

"But Ed went and picked it up at the store, so maybe he picked out just the perfect one," Meredith completed. The two twittered again.

"So it would seem," Sam said, this time more to himself. He looked down at the 8 ball, where it still displayed the answer to his question.

"Yes, Sam," the 8 ball said. He turned it back over and smiled at everybody.

Thank you. Now, I guess we should get back to work, huh?" Everybody smiled politely back, and dispersed to their cubicles. They had clustered outside of his own, so Sam had only to turn around and take two steps before he was in his allotted partition of the universe.

He set the 8 Ball on his desk and stared at it. He thought of asking it some more questions, to see if maybe somebody had tampered with it, or if it was so expensive and heavy because it was custom. He picked it up and said, under his breath, "Is someone pulling a joke on me with this 8 ball?"

He turned it over to read the response. "No. No Jokes, Sam."

He turned it back over and asked, "What do you want from me?"

He flipped it for the answer. "What do you want from me?"

"I'm getting a little freaked out," he said, to nobody. He looked back to make sure the 8 Ball had really asked him a question, but he saw that it had changed without him turning it over.

"No Need to Freak Out."


"I'm Here to Help."

Sam put the 8 Ball back on his desk and stood up, staring at it, afraid it may start acting more strange if he let it out of his sight. He picked up his phone and dialed the office operator. Shelby answered after two rings, as always.

"Operator," she said, in her flat tone.

"Get me Ben Stevens, please," he said.

She sighed. "Sam, how long will it be before you just dial his extension?"

"Until his extension is no longer star thirteen."

"Aren't you a little old to be superstitious? I mean, should you be superstitious about the number thirteen?"

"Should I be superstitious about the number thirteen?" he asked absent mindedly, not taking his eyes off the 8 Ball. His cubicle neighbor bumped into their adjoining wall, knocked his desk a little and causing the 8 Ball to roll just enough for Sam to see the answer.

"No, But To Each His Own."

But Shelby had obviously taken his repetition of the question to signal the end of their exchange, as Ben Stevens was now answering his phone.

"New Accounts, this is Benjamin." There was faint music coming through the handset.

"Ben, it's Sam."

"Sammy, what up buddy?" The music increased in volume.

"I'm not entirely sure. I have this thing I need to show you..."

"Dude, if this is about the Carlisle account, I know. They adopted and then had a baby of their own, that's why the kids' birthdates are like, three months apart. Nothing to worry about."

"No, it's not that..." Sam trailed off, looking at the display as it turned blank, something he had never seen on any other 8 Ball.

"Are you okay, Big S?" Ben asked.

"Am I okay?"

The 8 Ball display came to life again. "All Signs Point to No, Sam."

Sam abruptly hung up the phone and picked it back up, dialing his supervisor to inform him that he would be taking the rest of the day off.

"I don't understand why you eve came in, Sam," Gary was saying from somewhere in his deep, plush armchair at his desk. "It's a Friday and it's your birthday and most of our clients are on vacation so they probably won't be calling for questions...I would've just taken a three day weekend myself."

"Well, sir, it's just that my horroscope said not to break routine this month, but something's come up."

"Right, your birthday. Take it easy, it's okay, have a great weekend, and we'll see you on Monday. Just don't be late for the meeting with the honchos...they're going over the new procedures for the new 401(k) management program."

"Would I be late for that meeting, Gary?" Sam asked, trying to act like he thought office workers should, with a level of humor he could never really pull off. But then the 8 Ball dereailed him.

"Most Definitely You Will Be Late."

Gary was still chuckling, obviously pleased with Sam's response when Sam spoke again. More to the 8 Ball than Gary, he asked, "Why would I be late?"

Gary laughed again, blown away by Sam's unassuming sense of humor. But the 8 Ball just read, "Can Not Predict Now" and promptly turned blank.


Okay, sorry, that's all I got for now, it's almost midnight anyway and therefore no longer really Friday.

Sorry for the last few weeks...I'll get back in the swing of things, I promise. Starting...NOW!

Thursday, July 26, 2007


Alrighty then, Restless Readers, you're right. I have been a bad blogger. But you must understand that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out last weekend.

What's not to understand? You shouldn't be reading my blog, you should be reading that book!

Okay, no suggestions this week. Instead, I will look over last week's suggestions and use one of them. I do apologize. Geez-o.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Very Quickly

Tour de France, out-of-town guests, kinda sick and Harry Potter 7. That's why there hasn't been a blog in a few days. Look forward to a Tuesday Excerpt later today.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Call For Ideas, and This Job Works For Me

Today, I went out on my own. As in, for my job, I was out and about without someone to watch over me. And it worked out well. I went to St. Louis City and did a search, then went to St. Louis County and did two more, and what's great is that the people who work in the office know me now because I've been in there a few times. Now that's normal, because I have to interact with them anyway, but it's sweet that people I interact with on my job who I don't actually work with know my name. And don't treat me like garbage.

Also, I went out to Lincoln County, to Troy, MO, to the courthouse to get copies out of a court case file. This is the other part of my job, the one that I will do as needed. This will help immensely, learning how to navigate my way around the local courts, in case I do someday land a job as a roving journalist.

Monday, I went out and bought grown up clothes. I wear khakis and polos to work at Target, but the pants are baggy cargo pants because they are slightly more comfortable to work in when you're lifting and whatnot, and the polos get kind of dirty. Also, as I took some freebie Target polos and the sizes they get tend to run a little big, they are mostly a little big for me. So, I went out and bought me some flat-front dress pants that are fit very well, some nicer socks and a couple polos that are very nice indeed. Kathy says I look more like a grownup in these clothes. So good for me, right?

I am absolutely signing up for the Three Day Novel this year. No two ways about it. I have been writing it up with the blog, I feel more ready than I did the last time around in 2004. And that's part of what the blog is about...giving me a reason to write as often as possible. Starting next week (not on the blog), I will be doing some creative exercises in my free time to flex my brain out a bit.

I'm going to go ahead and plug something here: Next Friday night, at Affton High School in Affton, MO, the Affton Community Band will be performing in the Auditorium. This isn't in itself that exciting, but what is exciting is that I will be playing Timpani. If that's not exciting enough for you, and you don't feel like coming and supporting me, then come and support my father. He wrote a piece of music for concert band last year, and he is close to getting it published. The last little bit that has to fall into place is a recording and a public performance by a real band. Music publishers will look at and evaluate an unpublished manuscript, and they will even listen to a .midi file if you've got it, but they won't publish until it's proven that a real band can play the piece. So, Friday, July 27th, 2007 in the Affton High School Auditorium, I think at 8 pm but it might be 7:30, the World Premiere of Gene P. Rauscher's composition Spirit Wind.

Alright. Sorry for the lax blog week, it's been hectic with something going on every night this week and friends coming in to visit tomorrow...but even with that being said, I am officially asking for your Free Write Friday suggestions. So, let me know what you've got in mind and I'll make my pick and it'll be fun. And...GO!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Tuesday Excerpts Will Return Next Week

...so that we may bring you this special presentation of Elliot Rauscher and Katherine Weier's third anniversary.

Went to dinner and a show (Lion King, awesome but better when I saw it in London in 2001) and then to Ted Drewes. Now, it's after Tuesday, so it's time for bed. Goodnight everybody.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Your Questions Answered, Volume 1

Time for a new feature on the blog! You asked, I'll answer! This first time around I'm going all the way back to January of 2006 to see if anybody asked questions, and I will answer any and all questions posed to me from then until the most recent.

Starting next month, it will only be a month's worth of questions. So, if you have any questions, go ahead and ask at any time and I will answer them the first full weekend of the month...and nevermind the fact that I'm a week late this month, I didn't have my compy.

On February 1st, 2006, mGk asked:

Please don't tell me you went to Deer Creek?!?

That's not a question, Maureen. But yes, I did.

On March 31, 2006, mGk asked:

So many of these characters are strikingly familiar to me. I sometimes wonder which one of these weirdos I helped to inspire. Please tell me they aren't!?!

They are.

On April 3, 2006, clifton heights kid asked:

what was with the cashew up the kid's nose?

You're probably going to have to ask the filmmakers that. It's been over a year and I still am not entirely sure. He was just weird.

and heartcooksbrain asked:

I liked the tennis pro (Ivan?)

Yes, that was his name. A trip to http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0367089/ cleared that up.

and clifton heights kid asked:

Yeah, but what about that cashew?

I already answered that one, geez-o.

and clifton heights kid also asked:

And what's this "leaching off the parents" thing?

Easy. You have stuff that I don't have or stuff that is better than stuff I have, and I come over and use it like I still live there. What's not to understand about that, mom?

On April 30, 2006, bridget asked:

so was robb "obligated" to call???

Didn't you read the post? Absolutely he was! By the way, he was let go and now is being mildly successful as a rockstar. Good for him, I suppose. But he doesn't have a cool blog.

On June 27, 2006, Carmen asked:

how many people do you suppose would come to the next one?

Based on the turnout and subsequent response, I'd say...none.

On November 5, 2006, mGk asked:

Why don't you get a job as a blog site critic??

The only paper that had one was in Saginaw, Michigan, and they wouldn't let me telecommute and the pay was piddly. Also, crappy benefits and the company car was a 1979 El Camino. Or, in reality, no such thing exists, and you should have been posting more often back then. But then again, I have no room to really talk about not posting.

On December 30, 2006, heartcooksbrain asked:

Who cares if you hurt her feelings?

I think she would...but the fact is that I wouldn't have. But anyway, she gave me a triumphant look when I gave her the news and that made me want to do the smack-dance, but somehow she and I are both still there and we tolerate each other. Go figure.

On January 22, 2007, Molly asked:

your cousin Chris Farley?? Isn't THAT a stretch??

I believe I addressed this ridiculous query in the post that followed the question. Thank you.

On March 9, 2007, Bridget asked:

those are sneakers, right?

Clever, isn't it? Of course they're sneakers. And they're Sketchers, too. And they fell apart soon after their youtube debut. I still have them, because they're my most favorite shoes that I had ever owned up until today when I bought the absolute sweetest kicks you or anyone else will ever see. I will leave it at that for now...but be prepared to be jealous.

and Molly asked:

How can I hang this on the wall?

Get yourself one of the newer generation of digital frames, the ones that can play mpegs with sound. Mount that on the wall, make sure you can plug it in, download the video to a memory card, insert the memory card into the frame, and voila! Wall-mountable Shoe Thief video!

On May 22, 2007, Molly asked:

You want a social life?

Yes, are you selling one cheap?

On June 5, 2007, Molly asked:

Where is my son and what have you done with him?

I took him to Marshall's yesterday and he bought shoes that are actually designed to be used for running. Scary, huh? He also bought rollerblades and actually rode his bike in the last two weeks.

and mGk asked:

I think maybe you should try TO spend money and maybe you won't, aye?

(Putting on best Pirate voice) Arrrr!

On June 7, 2007, Becca asked:

I'd also like to make a suggestion, however, to your idea of free write fridays? Can we also suggest a "style"? I mean, it's entirely up to you whether or not you decide to use it. But what if wanted a short story, featuring Lila the vanilla flavoured jelly bean, and her fear of being eaten, and I wanted it to be a horror story? Would that be too much to ask? Perhaps.What about a short story featuring Gene, the 60 year old parapalegic who has multiple personality disorder in which one (or several) personalities are unaware of the fact that he is paralyzed from the waist down, and I wanted the style to be stream of conciousness?

Too many questions, Becca! You could suggest a style, yes. Um...yes. It would not be too much to ask. Okay, but that suggestion about the parapalegic might actually be a bit too much to ask. Do I look like Franz Kafka? Oh God, I hope I don't, otherwise I just made myself to be a fool.

On June 10, 2007, Molly asked:

Cathartic, eh? Do you think that was coincidental?

Yes, indeed, cathartic. That's why I said it was cathartic. I did think it was coincidental until you said something. Way to go, mom. Now I'm all jittery and paranoid.

On June 17, 2007, marty/bridget asked:

saturday or sunday or whenever i get the time, eh?

That's not so much a question as it is you mocking me. But yes, whenever I get the time. And I found the time. And so, um...I'll think of a way to end this next month.

On June 21, 2007, Anonymous asked:

do you ever come up with fabulous story settings or romantic dates or awesomely sweet ideas and then test them out on the ladies to see if they work?

All the freaking time. Except I try them out on my cat. If he can make it through one of my grand evenings without biting me, I'll try it out on my wife.

On June 24, 2007, marty/bridget asked:

does anyone really know 13 year old girls? hell, does anyone really know 13 year old boys?!! and how 'bout those 14 year olds???

Yeah, see, these questions about 13 and 14 year olds could be misconstrued. I don't really know very many 13 or 14 year olds anymore. I was once a 13 year old boy, and then 14, and I really barely knew myself back then. So no, nobody knows them. What a difficult age. So glad it's over. The acne, the awkwardness. The fact that I couldn't drive. Thank heavens for growing up, huh? Summers without anything to do and...wait. What? I MISS SUMMER VACATION! BRING IT BACK! I WANNA BE 13 OR 14 AGAIN!

On June 25, 2007, Becca asked:

How's that for a guilt trip?

Still less of a trip than going to visit you at the moment, silly New Zealand person. Move back to Minnesota so I have less of a trip to not take and make excuses about why I'm not visiting.

and mGk asked:

So what came first, the spoon or the spork?

Well, the spoon, actually. Here's what happened: Somebody threw a spoon and a fork into the reactor at Chernobyl. Yeah, it was a terrible accident and marked the beginning of the end for the Soviet Union more or less, but we got this mutant hybrid that has truly brought joy to millions worldwide who now need only one utensil to eat their salad and their ice cream.

On June 26, 2007, Molly asked:

Did some reasearch on that, didja?

Yes. I typed everything into the search box four times, clicked the find button six times, then walked the 18 steps to my refrigerator and counted the number of grapes before checking the results.

On June 25, 2007, marty/bridget asked:

would starting a new job tomorrow have anything to do with napping on your present job???

No, although I'm fairly certain if I tried to nap at my new job, they'd notice when I crashed my car.

On June 26, 2007, Becca asked:

Now, can you come up with a snappy comeback for me?

How about, "Your Mom's a ginormous McMansion" and "Your Face uses a ridiculous amount of energy!" Those types have served me well in all of my endeavours.

On June 27, 2007, Molly asked:

how many homes does our illustrious "leader" keep? How many cars/tractors/methane belching cows?

That sounds like a question for my friend Jerry, or possibly Michael Moore. I bet Michael Moore would know.

On July 10, 2007, Molly asked:

What, no pictures??

Strangely, when we downloaded the pictures off my camera to Paul and Jen's computer, my card got an error and they all got deleted. As for Kathy's pictures, I'm just lazy. Also, there still aren't pictures on weier.net, so I don't know what to tell you there.

On July 11, 2007, the wife asked:

How much more of this story do you have?

Depends on which one. The first and third, that's it. The middle one is complete, I've got it on my hard drive and backed up on a disc. I've been meaning to come back to the first and third to actually do something, and this Tuesday Excerpt actually sparked me to get to work on them, just as soon as I get some free time to write. Like...on, um...Monday nights?

she also asked:

why not write this as a book?

Valid point. Why not? I don't see any reasons other than cycling literature has a very specific niche market. Although, most cycling literature is more a showcase of the author's knowledge of race tactics and/or bicycle technical information, and thus has very little actual humanity. I like to think I touch on that just a little.

On July 12, 2007, the wife asked:

Elliot have you heard from Financial Aid Offices yet?


she also asked:

Can you pick up milk at the grocery store?

Sure. I can do it at Target, too. I do work there still.

and Becca asked:

What sort of questions are we supposed to be asking you?

Anything. That's a good start, though.

she also asked:

Like, public questions?

If it's too private, I'll answer as such.

she also asked:

Or something like, what is your opinion of the potential for offshore drilling off the southeast coast of the south island of New Zealand?

I thought we were supposed to be investing money in renewable energy, dammit! Why do we need to get more oil? Oh, right, because the world is still ridiculously heavily dependent on it.

she also asked:

Or, what is your review of the new Harry Potter movie?

...ashamed to say, I haven't seen it yet. I have been busy with two jobs and the blog and this week my friend Elliot is in town (yes, we do have the same first name), and Tuesday Kathy and I are going to see Lion King at the Fox for our anniversary, and then we have people coming in town this weekend, and...frankly, Becca, I'm pretty sure you and I were supposed to have gone to one of the movies dressed up, me like Harry and you like Hermione. You were supposed to get me one of those cool scarves like you have. P'Shaw! I'll get to the movie, don't you fret. As for the book, don't think I'll let that one slide under my radar! I've already got my copy RESERVED!

and Molly asked:


Chicken butt, fried in grease, want a piece?

On July 14, 2007, Becca asked:

I mean, dragon, serpent, same difference, right?

Um...pretty sure that the standard image conjured in the mind of your typical 21st century human being when they hear the word "Dragon" has little resemblance to a garden-variety apple-tree snake. Just saying.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Free Write Fridays

It's Friday, July 13th, and you know what that means; time for another Free Write Friday.

This week's winning suggestions come from Becca and gerald. I went with these two because both are awesome and I just couldn't decide. Also, Molly's suggestion is a good one as well, but it doesn't fit in with either of the other two.

Not that the other two really fit with each other, but I think I can find a way.

gerald wins a day off from his demanding job, and Becca wins the Maillot Vert for being the first one in with a suggestion. Molly retains yellow for most consistent posts, I get the polka-dot jersey for fighting the uphill battle that is consistent blogging, and the wife gets the red number for being most aggressive commenter (Lost? Click Here for what may or may not be helpful information).

Becca's Suggestion:

"Ok, here's the setting. It's the dawn of time, the Garden and Eden, and we've got Adam and Eve... and that's it. What sorts of things do they talk about? DO they talk? I mean, presumably as the first people, maybe they invented the first language. I don't know, you're the writer. Ok, go."

gerald's suggestion:

"oh, you should write something about dragons. and pogo sticks. and millard fillmore."


The following is from a speech delivered on the greatest day for Creationists everywhere. And they liked it, which should prove something.

In the beginning, there was nothing, and then some serious shit went down and before you know it, boom! Something! First some kind of random atoms floating about, then bonding, and bonding some more, each bond becoming more and more complex. You know how it goes, you win some, you lose some, and before long there were some false starts and some successful stars. Couple millennia go by, you've got planets, some with stable surfaces and others less fortunate. Again, you win some, you lose some. Eventually, you've got a planet or two with an atmosphere, maybe some water, let that stew for a little while, bung a fork of lightning through the lot of it and somehow, you end up with what we call "life."

Life's a funny old thing, and there are many who maintain they could live without it, despite the paradox this produces. Most others ignore it either because they didn't catch it or they know better than to point it out to someone who would say something like, "Gee, you know, I could sure live without this whole life thing, am I right Steve?"

But long before Steves, long before anyone thought of drag racing, stick ball and filling stations, long even before there were dragons and pogo sticks and even before Millard Fillmore, somebody decided it would be a good idea to set down a history of life.

Many have since tried, even those who were aware of dragons, pogo sticks and Millard Fillmore. But really, there's no way to know if anybody ever got it right. Am I right, Steve? But we've got our stories, and our legends, and it makes you wonder.

Well, actually, I don't wonder. I speculate. That's what I do, I speculate on the human condition. And I've got to think that the human condition back in Paradise was a far site better than it is now, but generally life has improved steadily since history truly started being recorded, so I've got to think it probably didn't happen this way:

Adam just became. It's not like he was born like you and I, it's just that one moment he didn't exist and the next, poof! "Hi, I'm Adam."

Only there wasn't anybody to talk to. Nothing to entertain him. This was, according to the story, a few thousand years before reruns of Seinfeld. It wasn't until a few days of lounging around Paradies being bored out of his mind-because really, that's what would happen, let's not kid ourselves-that he woke up in the morning without a rib and there was a hot naked woman next to him. How does that even happen? Every morning, I wake up with all ribs intact and no hot naked women. Obviously, there's some sort of discrepancy there.

So, we've got Adam, we've got Eve, and somehow they can talk to each other, let's just overlook that small detail, right? What do they talk about?

"Hey," Adam said.

"Hey," Eve responded.

"So," Adam explained.

"Uh huh," Eve responded.

"Yep," Adam added.

"Hmm," disagreed Eve, with a note of reproach in her voice.

"Okay," Adam stated firmly, stamping his foot.

"Sure," Eve lazily replied.

"You do this to me every day I want to go bowling with my friends!" Adam finally erupted.

"What the hell is bowling? What friends? Adam," Eve tried to explain for the umpteenth time that day, "we're the only people. We've checked. Nobody else."

At this point, Adam broke down into tears, as he did every day, which is probably why he turned to food and eventually ate the apple...because we all know he ate it first, come on people, these old stories just reinforce the patriarchal foundations upon which most of these stories and legends are built.

Goofy goofy gooofy.

Explain to me how it's possible that two people begat the entire six billion or so of us that we have today? You're telling me that Adam and Eve are the progenitors of Adolf Hitler, Walt Disney, Millard Fillmore and the inventor of the Pogo Stick?

Dragons do not exist, and probably neither did Adam and Eve. But, in case all three did, I imagine the conversation to be something like this:

Dragon: Grunt.

Eve: Shh, he'll get suspicious.

Adam: What was that?

Dragon and Eve: Nothing.

Eve: I was just saying how nice of a day it is.

Adam: Always is in paradise.

Dragon: Dude, has anyone tried these red things?

Thank you for your time, I hope you enjoyed the lecture and please enjoy your trip to the Creationism Museum.


Okay, I apologize, that was terrible, but I just felt all like being a little ridiculous after a nice, long, stressful day.

Goodnight everybody.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Wednesday's Becoming My Political Rant Day...

But really, I only have a few things to say about it today.

I understand why President Bush's approval rating is so low. I get it. What I don't get is why Congress' approval rating has dipped so very low.

Okay, yes, I understand that number one priority for Congress (in the eyes of most of the people who voted them in) is to get the troops out of Iraq. I am all for this. I will not go into my views on that, because it's a separate issue.

The number one priority for Congress is to get on with the day-to-day business of being the Legislative Branch. This means passing laws and so forth. And yes, they did try to pass some bills for troop funding which included timetables for withdrawal. I guess a lot of people looked on the efforts of Congress on this front and decided that the Democrats tried twice and gave it up for good.

Look at the Bush Administration's record: Every time Congress and the White House disagree on an issue to such a degree as the War, they fight to a stalemate until Congress takes a scheduled break, then Bush uses his Executive Privelege to pass whatever law he wants in whatever terms he deems acceptable.

I agree that it would have been nice if Congress had sent identical withdrawal bills to the Oval Office until either Bush signed it or there were enough votes to overturn the veto, as Kucinich and John Edwards both wanted, but let's face it, Bush would have vetoed and vetoed and vetoed and then signed a bill into law while everybody in Congress was at home for 4th of July break. The truth is, the troops are there and as long as they are there, they do in fact need money. So Congress did what is supposed to happen in a Democracy; they compromised. Perhaps they bent a little more than Bush did in their original principles, but you can rest assured Bush would rather have signed a bill without benchmarks, and also a bill that funded the war until next year. What we got is not what anybody wanted, and so I understand, but people, it wasn't from lack of trying.

Anyway, when it comes time for the next bill, the Democrats may have better luck because it won't be just the Democrats. You may have noticed many Republicans breaking with the Bush Administration's Iraq policy, and therefore you may see many people in Congress calling for timetables, and for withdrawal.

I have not read the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group report, but I have heard a fair amount about it on The Diane Rehm show and Talk of the Nation, and I understand that many Republicans who are now against the Bush policy are citing the Baker-Hamilton Report as the document to be looking at when reassessing the war policy.

There are many other issues tied to this, including troop support and how the term "war" is not truly applicable...just a funny little tid bit before I close out the rant. In real war, a soldier can not be held and charged with murder for killing a soldier on an opposing army. A soldier can be held accountable for war crimes if crimes were committed primarily against innocent civilians. However, in this "War" on Terror, there is no army opposing, thus the rules of "War" do not apply. A soldier fighting for the Taliban Government in 2002 can actually be convicted of murder if he killed American Military personnel, just as a man who murders a bank teller in Michigan can be convicted. But, again, that's the funny thing about this "War" on terror; where the murderer in Michigan and the soldier in Afganistan are no longer similar is when it comes to being imprisoned. By law in America, if you commit a crime you can only be held if found guilty, and you are guilty until proven innocent. But in war, if you are a soldier and are captured by the opposing side, that side can hold you indefinitely, until the war is ended and terms of peace are drawn up. So these soldiers we pick up we treat as criminals but we hold them as prisoners of war. It's ridiculous, because as there is no opposing nation, the war can never be ended and so these people will, in fact, be held indefinitely.

So yes, that's my little tid-bit, which was actually quite a bit longer than I intended it to be.

So, the Tour de France is back in action, and though I thought it would be hard to get into, I found myself this morning intently refreshing the live coverage on cyclingnews.com.

Let's go David Millar!

Alright, so, give me your Free Write Friday Suggestions and keep asking me questions as well.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Tuesday Excerpts

Wow, okay, so, I had a plan for today's excerpt, but it was contingent on something I was sure I had once posted. But, alas, I have never done such a thing!

Okay, fine. So, I'll still do it. Because I was out of town and then without a computer, and we missed two Free Write Fridays and a Tuesday Excerpt, not to mention my nice interlude week-day blogs (and I didn't do the "Your Questions Answered" post last weekend, look for it this coming weekend), I will give you the first ever SUPERSIZED TUESDAY EXCERPT!

First things first, if you would be so kind as to travel back in time and read this post from Thursday, April 13, 2006 before continuing on, that would be helpful.

Okay, now that you ()have ()have not (check one) done that, let me explain why I had you do that.

Those characters (well, not Amanda or the girl in the picture, who happens to be Brooke), Banning and Cameron are important. Right. Now, just for reference, you may also want to check out my Thursday, March 23, 2006 post for a little bit of reference to Colin, who is also marginally important, although this is the same Colin from my screenplay, which you may remember was Tuesday Excerpted on Tuesday, June 19, 2007 so you may just want to go there, although as far as continuity in my fictionalized universe goes, it's a bit apocryphal, much like Gene Rodenberry's consideration of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. But really, it's only the events, not the behaviors of the characters in my screenplay, that are in question. But I Digress.

This week's SUPERSIZED TUESDAY EXCERPT will actually be quite a window into my writing process, as you will see three different works in different stages of development. You will see two works in progress, one a mere sketch to cull ideas from and one a very rough first draft. Betwixt these two you will find a more finished piece, one in fact that I count among my most finished pieces. The first two are untitled, the third is from a short story entitled "Momentum" that I may have mentioned once or twice before. The story arc surrounds Banning Jacobs, Colin Fairmount and Cameron Sound, each as they navigate their careers and relationships with each other. It's an intertwined world, but I hope to help you make some sense of it (especially since you read my writing exercise blog from 2006. You didn't? You should!).

Okay, enough dilly-dallying and playing with html coding. (GOTCHA!) Here I go!


from an Untitled Plot Sketch, July 2006

How do Cameron and Banning fit into the Karlston, MO crew?

William, Colin and James are the three big players there. Obviously, as James and Colin are big into cycling, and on the University of Minnesota cycling team, they would have raced against Banning at Nationals, assuming, of course, that all three of them made it.

Well, all three of them did make it to the 2005 nationals in Lawrence, KS. That is where they unofficially meet. In a tense situation during the road race, Xavier and Zach Houston (also from Karlston, twin brothers both racing for Syracuse University in New York), Zack Cohen (riding for St. Louis University), Colin, James, and their team mate Ryan Bresden all broke after seven miles. The Karlston Crew (as they were later called in newspaper reports) broke at an incredible pace, and worked well together. The ultimate goal was to give a national win to James, who was being courted by a team called Momentum-Waterford; they knew a win of this caliber would certainly land him a contract.

Banning, suspecting that the break was more organized than a usual break, jumped off the front of the main bunch, taking several riders from various teams with him. One by one, the riders who came with him fell off the back, unable to match his speed. He finally caught the break with five miles to go.

It didn’t stop there, though. He continued his pace, causing alarm amongst the Karston Crew. James caught Banning’s wheel, followed by Colin and Ryan, but the others were unable to latch on. Trying to step up the tempo, Xavier soon found himself isolated, as Zach and Zack fell back.

For two miles, Banning cooperated with James, Colin and Ryan until Colin, taking a turn up front, began to crack. Sensing this, Banning jumped off the front with a fierce pace. James countered with a push of his own and soon caught Banning’s wheel. Ryan couldn’t match and ended up isolated as well. Xavier soon overtook Colin, who could not latch on, but when Xavier caught Ryan they worked together until the crossed the line, Ryan in third and Xavier in second.

Banning won the race, but there was no grand sprint. A quarter mile before the finish line, James took the outside line on a left hand turn, but cut too close to Banning. Banning’s right foot clipped James’ left, causing Banning to wobble a little and causing James to run off the course and into a row of bushes. He came out with only a few scratches, but finished seventeen seconds after Banning. Team Momentum-Waterford, who had also been eyeing Banning, decided not to extend a contract to James, but did extend a contract to Banning.


from "Momentum" November 2005

“Stop playing the tape,” Matt sighed to himself as he watched his roommate Banning crash his bicycle for the umpteenth time. The scene froze, and then reversed itself at double speed. Matt could see the television in the living room through the open door of his bedroom. He couldn’t see Banning, but he knew that if he got up to look he would find him laying chest down on the couch, right arm dangling to the ground clutching the VCR remote, head cocked to one side so he could get a good view of the screen. Matt shrugged and went back to his homework.

“Here comes Banning Jacobs of Team Momentum-Waterford round the penultimate turn in this year’s Colorado Classic, and what a race this young man has had today, right Bob?” Matt mouthed along with Phil Ligget’s commentary.

“Absolutely,” Bob Roll responded, “this cyclist has definitely proven himself today, and a virtual nobody before this year’s race. He has shown strength all day, breaking early and staying ahead of the attacks; he’s just had a brilliant ride.”

It was coming any second now. Matt fought hard not to watch but he did, as he had every time.

“Here he comes to the one hundred meter marker, and around the turn and—oh my!”

“Oh,” Bob Roll interrupted Phil Ligget’s exclamation as Banning went down hard, his right leg underneath his bike as the pavement scarred his thigh. Matt cringed again as he watched Banning hit the portable fence surrounding the course and was thrown bodily upward. That was when he had fractured his collarbone for sure.

The scene froze itself again as Banning rewound the tape once more. Matt stood up and entered the living room.

“Stop playing the tape,” he said, trying to look intimidating with his hands on his hips and his lower lip shoved outward. Banning glanced at him once before stopping the tape.

“My mother used to stand like that, Grogan. It was very effective in my younger days.” Banning put the VCR remote down and picked idly at some fluff on the carpet. “I’m probably driving you pretty nuts, aren’t I?” He looked again at Matt.

“Are you going to call your uncle back today?” Matt asked, now trying to look stern and disapproving with his arms crossed and his eyes narrowed. Banning just gave a noncommittal shrug. “Are you going to do something today? Maybe take a bike ride, or a meal, or do me a favor and take a shower?”

“No, I’m probably going to lay here rehashing the race all day. I might drink some water a little later when I take my pain pill.” He pressed play again. “Oh, and I’ll most likely go to the bathroom. You won’t want to miss that one.” The commentary started again.

Matt walked into his bedroom and slammed the door. Banning watched himself hit the ground again, and again, before Matt emerged wearing a thick sweater. “Call me when you decide to be pleasant again. I’ll mail you my share of the rent if it takes that long.” Matt flung open the door of their apartment and marched into the hall, gently closing the door behind him. Banning didn’t bother to get up and lock it as he rewound the tape once more, not paying attention but playing back what had happened after the crash.


“Think about my life,” Banning said, making room for his large steak as the plate was set before him. He inhaled the steam and paused in a moment of ecstasy. “That,” he said, “is awesome. I’d pay fifteen bucks just to smell that for an hour.” He dug his fork into a section and cut into the meat. He very slowly lifted the fork so that the piece of steak was under his nose, inhaled the steam once more, and slowly closed his eyes and put the hunk of steak into his mouth.

He chewed with his eyes closed for thirty seconds. When he opened his eyes, he saw her staring at him, idly stirring the Bloody Mary she had been nursing for half an hour. He suppressed a laugh and politely indicated he would be with her in a moment. Once finished swallowing, he picked up his napkin and wiped his lips. “Pardon me,” he said apologetically, but with a strange smile on his face. “I haven’t had steak since I was fifteen years old.” Stefanie stopped in mid-stir. Her jaw slowly dropped. “Think about my life,” Banning said again. “When I was ten, my uncle took me to a bike race in Minneapolis. It was the coolest thing I had ever seen and the next thing I know, I’m spending every available minute riding my bike with him. At twelve, I was going thirty miles a day, minimum. I have probably logged more miles on my bike since I turned sixteen than I have driving a car. I have seven bicycles. Seven bicycles, and each one for a different purpose.”

He paused and took another bite of steak, followed by a few fries and a large gulp of soda. “Fried foods, red meat, soda, all out the window. They hinder performance. For six years, I’ve eaten nothing but carbs and simple proteins like chicken and peanuts. Everything that went into my body went in so I could get the most back out of my body. And now, I don’t care.”

“So this is some sort of cathartic release, is it?” Stefanie said, finally digging into her pasta. Banning nodded affirmative through a large piece of steak. “But you quit school to race. Now what are you going to do?”

Banning shrugged.


“Okay, so what now?” she asked him, her eyes narrowing.

“Tomorrow I wake up Banning Jacobs, semi-professional bike racer, and I go and join my team.” They arrived at her car and he opened her door for her. She stood outside, frowning.

“So, I guess tonight was just a good night. Just a fluke. Is that all?” She glowered at him.

“It wasn’t the life that got to me,” he replied, staring back into her eyes. “It was the terms, I told you that. I’m not the best guy on that team, see, and now I can live with that and accept it and have nobody tell me otherwise. Then maybe I can actually grow and become the best guy on the team.” She lowered her eyes and got into the driver’s seat. He ran around to the passenger side and opened the door. He sat down and shook the cold air from his face as he shut the door and put on his seat belt.

“So, no more dinners? No more ‘dates’ either?” She had the key in the ignition, her hand ready to turn but she just sat still, staring ahead. He sensed a small flash of anger in her voice, and wasn’t sure how to handle it.

“Stefanie, I have a career in racing, I’ve got a contract with the team for another year, I can’t just walk away from my life.” He wasn’t sure why, but he felt he had to be defending himself.

“It’s just you invite me out, you say all these wonderful things, you stare at my tattoo all through dinner and tomorrow you’re back to the way you were.” She was still wearing his windbreaker, and she closed it to hide her tattoo.

Banning was at a loss. “What do you want me to say? That tomorrow I’ll devote myself to you and you alone? Are you going to start the car, it’s cold.” He shivered, and then tried his hardest to look angry.

“All I ever wanted,” she said, starting the car and putting it in gear, “was to be a part of your life. Anything; friendship, confidence, but something more than a bit part. I’m a walk-on cameo in the life Banning Jacobs. Do you want me to know who Mario Cippolini is? Because I do, okay? He’s the Italian King of the Mountains and he dresses up like an Arabian Sultan in these ridiculous Northwave Shoe ads full of half naked women.” She really did look angry. He cowered in the passenger seat and she glared at him. “You told me all about him the night I met you; you had a picture of him on the door of your dorm room and I just asked who he was and I got his life story. But you told it so well, I remembered it, and here it is tonight, and I finally thought I had remembered it for a reason but no, fine, I’ll just take you home and tomorrow, while you’re passing mile marker number seventy, think of me.”

She pulled the car out of the parking space and in silence, drove for half a mile. Banning noticed she never took her right hand off the gearshift and he tentatively placed his left hand on top of hers. “I will,” he said. “Mile seventy.”

The headlights briefly reflected in a sign which had a picture of a bicycle and read simply “Share the Road.” Somebody had plastered a bumper sticker across the picture, and Banning registered what it said. “Momentum-Waterford: Eat Momentum, Drink Momentum, Do Momentum. Ride Momentum.”


from an untitled draft, August 2006

Banning maintained, throughout the scandal, that he was being unfairly persecuted, that he had admitted his mistake and should therefore be granted leniency, and that he had names of others. His former teammates denied any knowledge of such activities, and the Team Director released a statement indicating that Banning had consulted doctors other than Dr. Duchesne, the team’s doctor.

“It’s true,” Banning admitted in what was his seventh interview in three weeks. “I had an outside doctor. I’ve given his name and I give it again; Dr. Elias Kent. He ran a Sports Medicine clinic in Denver, but it’s been shut down pending investigations. I’ve also given the names of other athletes I met at his clinic, including Joseph Steele, the former Junior Olympic Hundred Meter Dash champion, and fellow cyclists Max Doss and Ryan Bresden, among others.”

Cameron snapped another picture as an AP reporter asked a question. Cameron only heard the response.

“I’ve given my full cooperation to the United States Anti-Doping Agency as well as the WADA. You all know, as soon as my A sample came back, I admitted to wrongdoing. As you are also all aware, every one of my previous samples came back clean. This was my first and last time doping, and I apologize to everybody; my former team, my sponsors, my competitors, and most especially, the fans. Yes, in the back.”

Cameron listened as Colin Fairmount, the reporter to which he was assigned, cleared his throat beside him before asking his question.

“Banning, this is somewhat off subject, so forgive me for asking,” he began.

“No, go ahead,” Banning said, the corners of his mouth turning up slightly, almost smiling.

“This goes back four years, to the 2005 Collegiate Nationals. Specifically, the road race. That was such a spectacular ride, and you did it on sheer grit and determination. What’s happened in your career recently that made the idea of doping so attractive?”

Cameron snapped another picture of his former roommate, sitting in front of half a dozen microphones. He was definitely smiling at this point.

“Well, Mr. Fairmount,” Banning began, “I got dropped in a race in which I felt very good. In fact, I got dropped in a race by the man I beat in that national road race, James Evans. He completely blew apart the field, and that started me on a hot streak of losses. I felt I had to do something, and Ryan Bresden, whom I think used to be a teammate of both you and James if I remember correctly, took me to his doctor.”

“Well, certainly getting dropped in one race isn’t enough to cause somebody to cheat, now, is it?” Colin asked. Cameron put his hand on Colin’s shoulder, causing Colin to turn.

“Watch it,” Cameron cautioned.

“Like I said,” Banning stated after a pause, “that one race shattered my nerves, more so than the crash that ended my season last year. I was at my strongest and James destroyed my spirits. I was desperate. As I recall, Colin, you were dropped many times at the top of your form. You didn’t feel the need to somehow step it up by any means necessary? Maybe you should get up here and explain why you didn’t race in the 2006 Collegiate season.”

There was a hush in the room. The seconds ticked away while Banning stared at Colin, and Colin stared right back at him.

After the press conference, while Cameron was packing up his camera, he watched Colin sit, stone faced and motionless while the other reporters mingled. “Come on, Colin, let’s go get a beer,” Cameron said.

“I thought you were meeting with Banning,” Colin muttered.

“And I thought you wanted to meet him,” Cameron answered. “Come on, you had to know he’d throw that in your face.”

Colin turned to face Cameron. “Did you know he would?” When Cameron shook his head yes, Colin’s eyes narrowed. “How? How did you even know about it?”

Cameron shouldered his camera bag and shrugged. “Google is a powerful tool, Colin. Also, did you think that Banning wouldn’t have given me a detailed account of the Nationals? Your crew scared him to death. He was shocked when he got the offer from Momentum. He thought that even with his strong ride, the fact that your friends had given such a spectacular performance would have stolen the show. He swears that he wouldn’t have won if James hadn’t crashed, and then he wouldn’t have landed his contract. He kept tabs on all of you, even after he quit school, just in case he had to face you again.”

“It sounds like he gets scared pretty easy,” Colin said, closing his notebook and stowing it in his messenger bag. “He got scared because six people from three different teams broke early and stayed out. I remember when he crashed in the Colorado Classic, he was scared by the prospect of winning a big race like that. He gets dropped and beaten at the top of his form, and he gets scared. Christ, what isn’t Banning Jacobs scared of?”

“The truth, and I think he’s proved that over the last three weeks. Now come on, I told him we’d both meet him at five, and we’ve still got to get back to the hotel so I can get these pictures sent off and you can assemble your story.”

Colin begrudgingly stood and packed his remaining things.

Obviously, you can tell from the date of August 2006 that I had doping on my mind, with the Landis Affair and all. And I was thinking of all of this recently with the Tour going on again, and the new revelations within the Pro Peleton both past and present. Well, there it is.

If anybody has any questions for me, get them in soon so I can answer them all this weekend. Tomorrow, I'll have a post of some sort and then I'll ask for suggestions, so be thinking of those too.

If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn't brood. I'd type a little faster. -Isaac Asimov

Monday, July 09, 2007

Back On

Alright folks, sorry for the sabbatical, but right before vacation I took my computer to Best Buy and it just came back to me today, a week after I got back from Colorado.

Colorado is much better the second time around. That might have something to do with the fact that the first time around consisted of driving through in the dead of night on my way from Minneapolis to Moab, Utah. There just wasn't much time to get out and look around, you know? I ate dinner at a Chipotle on the way back through to Minnesota, but again, not much really to look at.

I like getting together with my wife's family, because there's always plenty of good food and good company and it's never dull...and we're all very productive. We didn't finish putting the new roof on Jeff's house, but it's not from lack of effort. It's just that we got a little ambitious with all the extra hands and so Jeff enacted a plan that will save him tons on heating this winter, and he built up another roof level. Basically, we stripped the old Cedar shingles and tar paper, built a new set of rafters over the existing plywood roof, put new fiberglass and foam insulation down, covered it with a new layer of plywood, then new tar paper and new shingles. Only, well, by the time Kathy and I left, it was just tar paper and three rows of shingles on the steeper slope side of the roof. The plan was for the remaining hands to split into two groups, one finishing the shingles on the steep side (we're talking steeeeeep, so the more help the safer it would be) while the other half (and half is a relative term, because I think this was the larger group actually) built the new rafters and so forth on the more gentle slope side of the roof.

In the midst of all the roofing, we managed to find time to gather and talk, eat, catch up, play some X-Box, watch (appropriately) The Money Pit, drive up Mt. Evans and Jeff and I squeezed in a short bicycle ride Monday morning before Kathy and I made the return journey. The new car handled the drive out well, the drive back well, and the drive up and down the mountain very well. Acrodyl missed us dearly, and behaved for my father (a first). And, as I said, I've been really without internet for more than a week. But no more! Look for an excerpt tomorrow per the status quo, and Wednesday or Thursday I will be calling for F.W.F. suggestions.

I would like to also formally welcome Jerry back to the world of Blogging. Go read up on Dennis Kucinich and the NHL.