Sunday, November 29, 2009

Friday, November 27, 2009

We partied like it was 1989

Judging by some of their recent late night talk show appearances, I was worried the Pixies might have lost some of their youthful energy. But really I knew that those shows are rather sterile environments, with everything businesslike and timed down to the second, taped in the afternoon, family friendly and all that—so I wasn't really worried. And rightly so—last night's show at Hammerstein Ballroom was everything you could have asked for. I hardly ever go to rock concerts (the only other notable acts I've seen are the Decemberists and Bob Dylan (oh yeah, and, um, Ani DiFranco, for some reason)), but I can't imagine it getting any better than this. I don't think it's a stretch to say it was like seeing the Beatles. They are sort of "the Beatles of indie rock", I think, as far as their musical importance goes, if not their level of fame. It was fun watching people dance and sing along, most of the 3,000+ in attendance having long ago memorized every note played by every instrument in every song. It was also fun seeing a landmark work of old school Surrealist art—several minutes of Un Chien Andalou—displayed on a big screen and appreciated by all these screaming young people. It was actually the first time I'd ever seen it, featuring of course the famous "slicin' up eyeballs" scene referenced in "Debaser".

They started with four Doolittle-era B-sides: "Dancing the Manta Ray," "Bailey's Walk," "Weird at My School," and "Manta Ray". "Weird at My School" is a favorite of mine. Really funny song. Then they played all of Doolittle, which served to enhance my appreciation for even the "lesser" songs on the album. The first encore was "Wave of Mutilation (UK Surf)" and "Into the White", and they ended with "Bone Machine," "Dig for Fire," "Gigantic," and "Vamos". There were a couple of mistakes during the second encore, but that was all the more endearing somehow. They got off to a bad start on "Bone Machine" because it does that weird thing of accenting beats 1 and 3 instead of 2 and 4. After "Dig for Fire" (another personal favorite), they started to play "Velouria," but Black Francis wasn't happy with something—he cut the band off, switched guitars, and they played "Gigantic" instead. And of course "Vamos", their long-time closer, I believe, featured Joey doing things with the guitar that the guitar was never designed to do—on this particular night he used a drumstick.

When it was over I looked at the time and couldn't believe almost two hours had passed. I'll never forget it. Later I found this picture by a Twitter user named vaddled.

You can imagine the sound equivalent of that blinding white light pummeling us all. Sheer ecstasy. (Though next time (please let there be one) I'll probably invest in a pair of earplugs.)

And to think, they did it all again a couple hours later.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

20 years

20 years ago I wasn't listening to this. I was listening to... I don't know, whatever a 7-year-old listened to in 1989. I didn't hear the Pixies until I was about 17, give or take. Tonight I'll see them for the first time, playing the above album at Hammerstein Ballroom. I don't know what will happen when I'm 37. Maybe I'll be in the band.......

Central Park West, originally uploaded by majawalk.

I guess they're set up for the Macy's parade maybe.

Back-to-back tourists, originally uploaded by majawalk.

They weren't together. But maybe they should have been....

Stairs, originally uploaded by majawalk.

I think it says "TRUE". I just noticed that. Whoa.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Silvery guy, originally uploaded by majawalk.

Like with the crossed-ankle girl, I took this blindly, holding the camera at my waist and pretending not to be taking a picture. Lucked out. Also, he unwittingly helped me out by covering himself in silver body paint. Good job, dude.

Hudson, late afternoon, originally uploaded by majawalk.

What we have here is some rocks and some water and one of those pier thingies.

Scaffolding, originally uploaded by majawalk.

Whenever I look at this picture of scaffolding, I think of this scaffolding.

Somebody Tilden(?), originally uploaded by majawalk.

That's right, I took a picture of a statue. WHAT OF IT?

Banana from outer space, originally uploaded by majawalk.

This banana is from outer space. Evidently it crash-landed.

Charred, originally uploaded by majawalk.

On the sidewalk in front of a fancy apartment building on Riverside Drive. A bunch of charred magazines or something were "strewn about." It was night, and the only light was from yellow lightbulbs on the building.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Photos don't look good on Blogger, apparently. Instead, look at my Flickr. There are only twenty pictures so far. There will be more.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

When They Come to Murder Me – Black Francis

Saw A Serious Man tonight. It was one of those movies where you feel like you're still in the movie after you leave the theater. I like those. This was a lot like The Man Who Wasn't There in terms of tone. But in color, and more Jewish. Still, you could maybe combine them: A Serious Man Who Wasn't There. Oh, and I loved the ending.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

NaNoWriMo, 6385-6654

Once again Archibald raised his eyes to the crowd in search of a response. People looked at each other and murmured things. Thaddeus called out from the back of the room, "You still haven't told us why you drove through that wall." "Yeah!" lots of people said. "Yeah," said Felicia Entwhistle, "we're getting a little bored with this, to be honest. Why don't we play a game or something?" "How 'bout we don't," snapped Felicia's irritable companion, Nedra. "How 'bout we get on outta here and never come back." A few people nodded and murmured in agreement. Other people followed their lead and began nodding and murmuring themselves. Ten minutes later the building was empty of all occupants. It was 3:40 PM. At 3:41 PM a Coke can fell from its shelf in a St. Louis, MO vending machine into the vending machine tray, from which the slender hand of Leslie Best plucked the can and held it to her cheek. The bruise she held the can to was the size of a 12 oz. ribeye steak. The can was a 12 oz. can of Coke. Different kinds of ounces. Leslie preferred the metric system. The can contained about 354.8823552 milliliters of Coke. Leslie sat down on a bench in the locker room and thought about her broken face. There wasn't much to think about, other than the ball hitting her, so she moved on to thinking about her upcoming wrestling match. It was to start in less than three hours. She was exhausted from the eighteen holes she'd just played, and of course her face was in great pain.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

NaNoWriMo, 5334-6384

Archibald, still atop his ATV, looked around at the crowd. People seemed confused. A train rumbled by in the distance; its whistle pierced the stagnant air of the Community Center. No one made a sound, except for Walton, who farted. Archibald, growing more nervous by the second, reached into his back pants pocket and pulled out another piece of paper. He took a breath and began to read:

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five:
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

He said to his friend, "If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry-arch
Of the North-Church-tower, as a signal-light,--
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country-folk to be up and to arm."

Then he said "Good night!" and with muffled oar
Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore,
Just as the moon rose over the bay,
Where swinging wide at her moorings lay
The Somerset, British man-of-war:
A phantom ship, with each mast and spar
Across the moon, like a prison-bar,
And a huge black hulk, that was magnified
By its own reflection in the tide.

Meanwhile, his friend, through alley and street
Wanders and watches with eager ears,
Till in the silence around him he hears
The muster of men at the barrack door,
The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet,
And the measured tread of the grenadiers
Marching down to their boats on the shore.

Then he climbed to the tower of the church,
Up the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry-chamber overhead,
And startled the pigeons from their perch
On the sombre rafters, that round him made
Masses and moving shapes of shade,--
By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
To the highest window in the wall,
Where he paused to listen and look down
A moment on the roofs of the town,
And the moonlight flowing over all.

Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead,
In their night-encampment on the hill,
Wrapped in silence so deep and still
That he could hear, like a sentinel's tread,
The watchful night-wind, as it went
Creeping along from tent to tent,
And seeming to whisper, "All is well!"
A moment only he feels the spell
Of the place and the hour, and the secret dread
Of the lonely belfry and the dead;
For suddenly all his thoughts are bent
On a shadowy something far away,
Where the river widens to meet the bay, --
A line of black, that bends and floats
On the rising tide, like a bridge of boats.

Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,
Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride,
On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
Now he patted his horse's side,
Now gazed on the landscape far and near,
Then impetuous stamped the earth,
And turned and tightened his saddle-girth;
But mostly he watched with eager search
The belfry-tower of the old North Church,
As it rose above the graves on the hill,
Lonely and spectral and sombre and still.
And lo! as he looks, on the belfry's height,
A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
A second lamp in the belfry burns!

A hurry of hoofs in a village-street,
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
Struck out by a steed that flies fearless and fleet:
That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night;
And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,
Kindled the land into flame with its heat.

He has left the village and mounted the steep,
And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep,
Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides;
And under the alders, that skirt its edge,
Now soft on the sand, now load on the ledge,
Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.

It was twelve by the village clock
When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
He heard the crowing of the cock,
And the barking of the farmer's dog,
And felt the damp of the river-fog,
That rises when the sun goes down.

It was one by the village clock,
When he galloped into Lexington.
He saw the gilded weathercock
Swim in the moonlight as he passed,
And the meeting-house windows, blank and bare,
Gaze at him with a spectral glare,
As if they already stood aghast
At the bloody work they would look upon.

It was two by the village clock,
When be came to the bridge in Concord town.
He heard the bleating of the flock,
And the twitter of birds among the trees,
And felt the breath of the morning breeze
Blowing over the meadows brown.
And one was safe and asleep in his bed
Who at the bridge would be first to fall,
Who that day would be lying dead,
Pierced by a British musket-ball.

You know the rest. In the books you have read,
How the British Regulars fired and fled,--
How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
From behind each fence and farmyard-wall,
Chasing the red-coats down the lane,
Then crossing the fields to emerge again
Under the trees at the turn of the road,
And only pausing to fire and load.

So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm,--
A cry of defiance, and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo forevermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.

NaNoWriMo, 4908-5333

With a smooth, practiced gesture Archibald reached into his jacket and pulled out a piece of paper, from which he proceeded to read aloud the following poem of his own composition:


I had nuts, yeah. I had lotsa
nuts. I was even better a trombonist
than not. Chivalry died that day.
Can I peruse your ambulance
if it means I get to play with
the siren? There is a town
where such things are permitted.
It is not for you or me to visit.
An angel, a basketball, a trapeze:
what do they have in common?
To win, one must have
a game plan. The plan is to wait. To
jump in air. The fire is higher.
One time I was coming home
from the office when I was
assaulted thrice. Every dowager
has a manager. It's sports time,
plenty of muffins for all. Decoders
came, cleaned us out. Fine drapes
seconded April storage folks.
Alaska! The furry friend
happened along to cry into
a sweetheart's bilious banter.
There was no porridge left. There
was no carrots left. He am left for
bridge over water; he gone!
Niceness precludes this. Say what?
I am pretty sure you're fibbing.
You're getting to know yourself!
What's that for? An elongated
Christmas elf "gone to pot"? Like
I said, nuthin' doin'. Like before,
a moose, like a veritable cheese
explainer. Was the harm like
sky always? Or have we
flabbier horizons? Nutritious though
that may be, I can think of less
in the way of us as throughout
the car-filled firmament
chimes spryly sigh. Acquit your-
self of time-ravaged batting
cages! It is like moving around
inside a moth. Really interesting
people frequent this broth.
Crimes against humanity? How
about to freak out when asked
about it: supper takes place
here, pandas say. Love is a
non-traditional student.
More later, then combs are
purchased. Riding around in
this memorable hovercraft
is where it's at. Eye level approaches,
but does not exceed legal
predicates. Asymptomatic
as all that, eh? Well, this'll show
you what happened when faced
with perfectly reasonable solutions
to batshit crazy propositions.
I was in the process of ordering
a salad on some bench when
there appeared to be a not
unfortunate gathering of yellow-
eyed creatures with huge leathery
wings and custom-made jackets.
It's not for you to divide them.
I was their president for a time.
Into the earth sank their fishy claws;
habits had mid-flight orgasms. Now
here's where it starts to get interesting:
Oops! out of time goodbye.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

NaNoWriMo, 4494-4907

"Well, that's fine," said the commissioner, "but is there anyone ready to help me organize my dirigible festival?" Hiram piped up from behind a potted fern: "Sir, you can count on me, your honor!" "Anyone else?" "Count me in as well, for I have the know-how and the experience necessary," said Rachel in the front row. "I think we should include helicopters too," Jesse McCall unhesitatingly suggested. "Now hold on," replied the commissioner, Mr. H.J.P. Dungrass. "That's introducing a whole 'nother level of aeronautics I don't feel like contending with at my age. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate your enthusiasm, son. It's just that, well, I've got my tired old heart set on dirigibles and dirigibles only. I hope you can understand." "I do, Father, I understand well, for even at my relatively young age I can empathize with your fatigue. Helicopters are overrated anyway." "Who wants more ice cream?" Bethany asked the group. "There's plenty to go around for seconds. All flavors. How 'bout you, Jezebel, could you eat another scoop?" "Oh, I don't see why not!" said Jezebel. "I'll have another scoop of mint chocolate chip, if you have any." "I do indeed. One scoop mint chocolate chip coming right up!" And the extravagant old woman scooped the requested portion into Jezebel's glistening ceramic bowl. "I'll have another scoop of chocolate," said Dan. "Is that all?" Bethany's ancient eyes sparkled slightly as she said this. "You can ask for two [she winks], it's okay. I can tell you want to [winks again]." Before Dan could reply, Archibald came crashing through a wall on his Yamaha ATV. The wall was thin, and he was spared serious injury. "You'll never guess what I just saw down by the old mill!" Archibald managed to ejaculate these words between coughing fits. "A house afire?" guessed Johnny, the kleptomaniac. "A horrific automobile accident?" ventured Samuel. "Collision. Don't say 'accident'," said Mitchell Crandall, the insurance man. "'Accident' implies no one was at fault. We don't know that." "Was it a pack of wild hyenas escaped from the zoo?" another person asked. Still another said, "I bet it was Nicholas Cage. You saw Nicholas Cage, didn't you! Buying Christmas presents for his kids! And I bet you videotaped it too! You're gonna sell it to TMZ, ain't ya? Go on, admit it. It's alright. We're all grown-ups here. We can handle it." Silence all around, up and down, through and through. "WELL?!" screamed the assembly in unison.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

NaNoWriMo, 3879-4493

As fun as that is, to be entered into a contest, looking for work in the morning. Brightly a wide fuse organized, cried out for. Been long, sidetracked, open door policy. Who brought the doughnuts in. Said to wait, included elsewhere. Sometimes when I. And brought into the open. Light streams in to there. For a while we sat and waited with hats on. Also the fridge hummed. The Thing that Harmed Pittsburgh. Growing up, yes it. From behind you can a price lift shake short. Skipped a lot. Fed to the when I. See the valley rule before you, saw the honey match straps like. A runner gets to glide, pieces of mercury dive to, bread winks a snap. Seven darts. A ham ham. Plagues a wide very top sea. Credibility sinks as, wrestled twice, purity. Stocks like load farm fish. In another day, people'd see, lust for lox. As I cramped into the role of camp manager, I still had to pay dues. They were a lot this year to cover, and went inside, cup holding. Went away, relieved to be starting. The cold wind stopped hammering. The ice hat ceased looking like salad. In the winter came the bees, the hordes of booze and white crosses. Little fiery spores spoke, sped along into the night's ditch. The other candle floated and befriended a watch. Spoke to a lantern said tonight's the broken story. Five or six times I crept. Quilting is popular. Largely undetected pines. In the snow was a wide open snore, believe to belong, and then it was that. To which that is. Spread among fine lines, along foreplay lines. Predatory needs to witness. The bridge gave in. Settling up and over the high road the town. Soon to be too late in round parts, save for the bodily roost. It was kept in the attic, behind political pros. They are as one, to another, began again. Here is stopping, tread to. Writing all seems with to become left. There's happiness groaning, a little spot. Trees hug the coast, fog bugs the frost. The rains side with. Our bay is the perfect man. In a minute, in a minute. Yelling like yeah like. In case there are outsiders, be relieved that there are not. Too many inside, bring the kettle. Believe in cudgels. Probably to eat pie is the goal. There are too many wise cracks. There are not enough lank stewards. Bring 'em on. Tomorrow cake exists in many forms throughout the bodega. Pleasure seekers take on. Right now I'm attacking a shrew. It's love. In this we are agreed. Putting things on leaves, sprigs attire. But I did always love eating it raw and dry as a kid. Was something missing there. Yeah. Three oats. Beside the brook a hook was stuck in a rock. A hanged man from the north. Better than. Two people couldn't devise one, anyway, this is, a no, yet not. Today I was slapped like fortnight cookie dough. It was a broad stroke, hapless sweater pride. In time, and no, find, keeping away for why to be almost. I've heavies, steady. Listening to warm dry goods sleeps again. Printing the whitest stock, saving the whale sock. Look forward to crackers craved, the speed of an onion ad hoc. Lenses were had, likelier than not. Pretty evenly spread, I can't too much, then it was another oven sample. I pants that, to? Dude said knot was hot like fourteen other million agreeing on the same thing, I am neither. Puddles formed around us weather nothing better leads to ruin. The kind where you know, but it's pointless, and over now. Screwed me bigtime.

Monday, November 9, 2009

NaNoWriMo, 3267-3878

It had been built in the Rolls Royce factory in Providence, Rhode Island. Not to be confused with the Rolls Royce factories in Germantown, New York; Racine, Wisconsin; Indiana, Pennsylvania; and Waco, Texas. The Rolls Royce factory in Waco was across the street from a diner that served a lot of fried foods. Some of the regular customers' names were Jeff, Danny, Bill, Hollis, and Junior. Junior's father was a merchant seaman. He had his own ship. It was called the Mary Sue. It was named after Mary Sue Sand, who once sold Junior's dad a suitcase. Inside the suitcase was a treasure map, but it was totally faded and unusable so Junior's dad, Arnold, threw it out. When the suitcase hit the bottom of the dumpster behind Willa's Diner in Waco, Texas, the sound of it made Suzanne jump, causing her to spill coffee onto Mr. Runyan from the pot of coffee she was holding. It was decaf, but decaf scalds just the same as regular coffee when hot. Mr. Runyan, screaming, took leave of the establishment; the coffee had scalded his genitals. Later that morning a stranger drifted in to the diner and sat down while lighting a cigarette and said, "Where is that man who earlier departed this place with his hand on his privates?" He said this like he already knew the answer, which he did. Then the sun went down and it was time for the game. Brenda turned on the TV and flipped to channel 4. The game was about to start. First came the pregame show. Then commercials. Then the national anthem. Then the starting lineups were introduced. Then the players took the field. Then the game was played. After the game the winning team celebrated, while the losing team left the field with their heads down, disappointed with themselves and with some questionable calls on the part of the refs but mostly just disappointed with themselves. Paul Gatchet, one of the members of the losing team, went home and opened his biochemistry textbook. He had a biochemistry test coming up and he needed to pass it in order to maintain a high enough GPA to stay on the team. The next morning Paul woke up with a severe headache. He took some headache medicine. It was 80 degrees outside. All day Paul felt as if his head were about to explode. Eventually the pain went away and he went on with his life. His girlfriend was named Kate. In that year, the year 2008, most people's girlfriends were named Kate or Katie. In nearly all cases it was short for Kathleen. Of these, roughly sixty percent had the surname Sullivan. Paul's girlfriend's last name was Hermann. She was arguably one of the ten finest jugglers in São Paulo, where she grew up. Her parents might have been the children of Nazis, but no one is quite sure. Rumor and speculation abound. Katie's favorite thing to juggle was rabbits. Juggling live rabbits is only legal in Brazil. When she moved to the United States she started using stuffed toy rabbits. It just wasn't the same. Discouraged, she decided to take up a new hobby. But what? She tried rafting, skiing, rock climbing, and waterboarding, but none satisfied her. Then she discovered juggling. Then she remembered that she had already been a juggler. Then she gave up juggling for a second time. Then she learned that in the United States, unlike Brazil, it was legal to juggle chainsaws. So she did that for a while, then, let's see, I think she started playing the guitar. She liked to play in open D tuning. Who doesn't?
Got up earlier than normal for a Sunday, went to Chinatown for dim sum with an old friend and his new wife (we all went to high school together) who just moved here. It was my first experience with Chinese food. It was good. Not sure it's the kind of thing I would eat all the time—more of a special occasion thing for me. Afterwards we walked around looking at fruit in the many colorful fruit stands on Canal. It was unexpectedly warm. It will be tomorrow and the next day too supposedly but who knows.

Friday, November 6, 2009

NaNoWriMo, 2650-3266

On their first date they went to the Lisbon Zoo. They fed hot dogs to the rhinoceroses even though they were explicitly told not to. One of the zookeepers saw them doing it but said nothing, distracted by thoughts of her girlhood in Lucerne. She—her name was Helena—grew up among a large extended family of zookeepers and zoo enthusiasts. Some of them worked in factories and mines to support their zoo-related activities. Others worked in those same mines and factories just to support their daily existence. Still others were very lazy and only worked when forced to by the more energetic members of the family. Helena's favorite sibling, Josef, was maimed at age 21 when he ran with the bulls in Pamplona. A bull gored his leg and it had to be amputated. Now Josef had a prosthetic leg and was preparing to try out for the Swiss Olympic track team. His specialty was the steeplechase. The bull that had gored him was slaughtered and eaten by a family of Spaniards. They did the eating and the slaughtering, all in the same day. It was sunny, Maria remembered, that day her family slaughtered the bull. She arrived home from school (she was in the Spanish equivalent of fourth grade) to find a dead bull in her driveway. Her uncle and two of her aunts were busy slaughtering, slaughtering away. Across the street a neighbor peered out from behind elegant curtains. They, the curtains, had been imported from Turkey, where much debate was occurring on whether Turkey should petition to enter the European Union. Some people thought it was a good idea, while others thought it was a bad idea. Turkey is an interesting country because of how it's situated between the "Western" and "Eastern" worlds, both geographically and sociologically. Maria went inside to her room and shut the door. She put on her headphones and pressed "play" on her stereo. Before school she had been listening to Ace of Base, and the CD was still in the player. She listened to Ace of Base for a while, then took out the CD and put in a No Doubt CD. She listened to the first song, the second song, and part of the third song, then turned off the CD player, took off her headphones, and called her friend Josephine, who lived in Arkansas. It was almost lunchtime in Arkansas, and Josephine was fittingly about to eat lunch. Because Josephine was at school, Maria's call was picked up by Josephine's family's answering machine at home. Josephine was thinking about getting a hot lunch today instead of salad bar. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday were "tortilla days" at the salad bar—days on which tortillas were available for consumption—but today was Tuesday, so there was no reason to get a salad. Some boys she knew would get a salad every day, regardless of tortilla availability, but they did this partly to be "ironic", she believed, and she didn't want to be like that. She wanted to be like her friend Patrice, who was never ironic, and who only ate hot lunches or sack lunches. Patrice's grandfather was a pioneer in the field of cryptozoology. He owned a Cadillac that he had bought used from a man named Stephen Gnoshe. Before Gnoshe, the car had belonged to Spencer Tracy. He never drove it, but it was his. A lot of movie stars didn't drive their own cars in those days. One major example was Humphrey Bogart. He owned at least four cars and never drove any of them. Two of them were black, one was blue, and one was white. The white one was the most expensive. It was a Rolls Royce.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

NaNoWriMo, 1791-2649

The problem he was working on required the use of a graphing calculator. He didn't own a graphing calculator, so he was attempting to calculate a cosine in his head. If he had had a graphing calculator, he would have known that the answer was 0.36213991769547327. Using just his brain, he only made it as far as 0.362139917. A customer by the name of Fred Finley sauntered up to the counter, sauntered back a few feet, re-sauntered up to the counter, de-sauntered again, and so forth for eight repetitions until finally he set his feet firm in front of the counter and asked for a pack of Shepheard's Hotel cigarettes. "We don't carry those. They only sell those in Germany. We're in America," said the clerk, whose name was probably Chad. "Fuck you, give me Marlboros. A pack of Marlboro cigarettes. Please give me your finest Marlboros," said Fred Finley. Chad, or whatever, gave the man his cigarettes in exchange for the man's money. The man, Fred Finley, left. The clerk went back to his math problem. His name might have been Jeremy. He usually went by Jeremy, as a matter of fact. "Chad!" someone yelled. The clerk looked up. There was no one in sight. Then there was. A woman by the name of Franny Stockwell emerged from behind a large cardboard display stand of Energizer batteries. She looked at the clerk and pulled a gun from her coat. At the morgue, Chad was identified by the name on his state-issued photo ID, Ben Stinson. The woman escaped to Alabama and was never heard from again. In Alabama, Franny Stockwell changed her name to Eloise Thatcher. She opened a bank account in that name and got a job as a waitress, where she wore a uniform with a nametag that said "Eloise". She served bacon to people as well as cornbread. Steak, hamburgers, chicken, and fish were also on the menu. The general manager of the restaurant was named Frieda Kopp. There was a strong possibility Frieda Kopp was a distant cousin of Henry Cabot Lodge. One day Eloise was mopping the kitchen floor when through the front door walked an ex-husband of Frieda Kopp, one of approximately thirty-seven. His name was Rich. Frieda's other ex-husbands were named Dan, Stuart, Chris, Stewart, Jason, Bob, Reggie, Phil, Alan, Brian, Carl, Steven, Billy, Elliot, Donald, Will, Sam, Bart, Rainer, Wilhelm, Karl, Bertrand, Morton, FitzWilliam, Charlie, Patrick, FitzPatrick, FitzCharles, Leonard, FitzLeonard, Klaus, Heinrich, Bjorn, Hugo, John, Peter, David, Michael, and Oliver. Approximately two-thirds of them were Caucasian, three-fifths of them were over six feet tall, one-sixth of them had penises less than two inches in diameter when erect, four-ninths of them were registered Libertarians, five-ninths of them were unregistered Libertarians, and eleven-twelfths of them were former infielders for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Frieda Kopp had been born and reared in Los Angeles, as had eight-elevenths of her ex-husbands. Rich was the tallest, at 6'2". Bjorn was the shortest, at 4'11". Bjorn was into hockey rather than baseball. He didn't play hockey, but he liked to watch it. The sport he liked to play was rugby. He always enjoyed tennis and squash, but to lesser degrees. Frieda's favorite sport was basketball. Rich sat down at a booth and looked over a menu. The sun was coming up. The air conditioner was broken. A waitress named FitzJudy came and took Rich's order. Rich ordered pie, squash, ham, lettuce, sour cream, and a whiskey. Ten minutes later FitzJudy brought Rich his food, each item on a separate plate. She then set a large empty bowl on the table and said, "Enjoy! Just holler if you need anything." Rich proceeded to pick up each plate and dump the food into the bowl. He mixed it all together with his fork and then started eating. As he ate, a bluebird landed on a branch just outside the window next to Rich. The bird started singing. The song of the bluebird made Rich think about his time in Austria, many years ago, when it seemed as if he would never be able to leave Austria. He had been imprisoned there on false charges of murder and attempted burglary. For eight long years he wasted away, until one day, DNA was tested. He was freed. Hallelujah! But as soon as he was released, a dark foreboding (what other kind of foreboding is there, after all?) took hold of him. He was possessed, simultaneously, with an inexplicable desire to travel to Scotland. He did so, and it was there that he first became enamored with the art of Scottish winemaking. His first bottle of wine wasn't going to win any awards, but it wasn't half bad for a beginner. It tasted a lot like Vicks 44, according to witnesses. It was while attending a winemaking seminar in Lisbon, Portugal that Rich met Frieda. She was working as a desk clerk at the hotel where he was staying. She made eight dollars an hour, which was a lot in those days. She wasn't the world's greatest hotel desk clerk, but she wasn't half bad for a beginner.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

NaNoWriMo, 1161-1790

The person who had left Sphere lying around was five feet tall and named Rebecca. Her major was still undecided in this her senior year, though of course it hardly mattered. Her hair was black and her cat was eight years old. The cat, Sam Donaldson, lived with her in her one-bedroom apartment on the desolate east side of town. In her apartment she had a bed and a chair. Next to her bed was her bookshelf, which groaned with the complete works of Michael Chrichton, each volume of which she had collected from one public or school library or another over the years. They still had their barcode stickers and laminated covers. The history of lamination is a long and storied one. Today people take it for granted. In a corner sat Rebecca’s turntable. On the turntable was an LP recording of Peteris Vasks’s "Dona nobis pacem", performed by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Paul Hillier. Rebecca listened to this record every night before going to bed. She listened to it again in the morning before going to hang out with her fellow youths. It was quite a life she led, Rebecca. Never a dull moment. She often ate pancakes for breakfast, as well as sausage, apples, croutons, wheat, oats, candy, and steak. Her favorite beverage was milk. Her favorite time of day was late afternoon. Her boyfriend was living in Arizona. Owner of his own destiny, her boyfriend hadn't contacted her in several years. Then one day a tree fell on his house after being struck by lightning and he needed money to fix it. He didn't have insurance and his name was Theo. He wanted to borrow money from Rebecca to fix his roof. If there was any money left over he would fix the tree. She agreed and they arranged to meet at a Denny's in Kansas City, Kansas, a spot roughly halfway between Arizona and Michigan. For some reason Rebecca insisted on transferring the money via a briefcase full of bundled bills. As they sat across from each other in the booth at Denny's, they discussed current events and ate food. Before they parted ways Rebecca handed Theo the briefcase and they hugged. The sun was at a 10 degree angle to the horizon and was sinking fast—that is to say, its normal speed. Three hours later Theo stopped at a gas station and counted the money while he waited for the tank to fill. He counted $72 million. This was orders of magnitude more than he required, but he didn't mind. He thought about what he would do with the extra money. He would buy a company of some kind. And a salad. And a tuba. And a biography of Alexander Hamilton. And a wristwatch. And a boat. And a salted ham. And an unsalted ham. And a Kindle. And a Coke. The gas pump dinged or pinged to signal that the tank was full. Theo removed the pump from the tank, replaced the cap, and returned the pump to its hook, in that order. He went inside to pay for the gas. The price of the gas was $20.11. Theo paid for the gas and went back outside. His car was gone. Another car was in its place. A nicer car. No one was inside. Theo looked around for his car. He couldn't find it. He looked back at the nice car. He looked around for the driver of the nice car, didn't find anyone. He walked up to the nice car, opened the door, and got in behind the wheel. The keys were in the ignition. He started the car and drove away. Inside the station, the clerk was having trouble with his math homework.

Today's urban youth love Alexander Hamilton

You heard it here first. Really, you did, a few days ago on this blog. Apparently I'm not the only one who has taken notice of "that guy on the ten," as he is most often called. I think I can safely say I'm on the cutting edge of a new era of Hamilton appreciation. But I guess this guy got there before me. Ch-ch-check it out:

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

NaNoWriMo, 607-1160

Eighty-eight years earlier, the professor was lying in her crib in Scotland when a housekeeper in the next room dropped a vase she had been polishing. The vase shattered and the housekeeper was fired. As she packed up her few belongings, she decided to look for work in the house next door. She went next door and knocked on it (the door). A housekeeper answered. "Yes?" said the housekeeper. The housekeeper asked the housekeeper if this house had an opening for a housekeeper. The housekeeper replied that it did not. The housekeeper shut the door, and the housekeeper left for the bus station. Buses in those days were crude contraptions, and even cruder were the bus stations. The worst bus station in the United Kingdom was probably the one in Thurso, in the far north of Scotland. For most of its history Thurso's main industry was thumbtacks. The gigantic thumbtack factory—their largest thumbtacks were eight feet in diameter, with pins as thick as baseball bats—loomed over the town for over a hundred-fifty years, until the day of the great Thurso earthquake, which leveled not only the factory but every other structure man had built within twenty-seven miles. A century later, a team of scientists from the University of Michigan, accompanied by a NOVA camera crew, traveled to Thurso to investigate why exactly the town's bus station was indeed so dreadfully awful. The scientists had names like Pip, Screwy, and Doctor Doctor. They were quite mad, and in fact were only pretending to be scientists. They were in no way affiliated with the University of Michigan, or any other accredited university. They were, in fact, patients who had escaped from the psychiatric ward at the Olin Student Health Center at Michigan State University. Michigan State University had lost its accreditation in 1978 due to the number of students receiving shockingly poor grades—the student body GPA that year was a mere 1.84. By the late nineties the school had become mainly a collection of buildings for young people to hang out in, and nothing more. High school dropouts would make frequent use of the Chemistry Department's labs in manufacturing illicit narcotics and hallucinogens, some of their own invention! So hey, at least they were learning something. One of these dropouts, however, had even larger ambitions. Named Tony by his parents and called the same by his friends, his goal was to become head of the chemistry department. As there were no longer any professors or administration left at the once-great school, his rise to the top was swift. He declared himself head of the chemistry department on the afternoon of June 8, 1999. Seeing that no one opposed this, young Tony decided to reach even higher. He resolved to become President of Michigan State University. On the evening of June 8, 1999, Tony declared himself President of the University of Michigan. Realizing his mistake immediately, he said, "No! Wait, shit! [convulsive laughter] I did it wrong! That's the [convulsive laughter] that's the wrong [convulsive laughter]", and promptly declared himself President of Michigan State University. Because he was alone in the room—one of the large lecture halls—he took the liberty of swearing himself in, using, in place of a Bible, a copy of Michael Chrichton's Sphere that someone had left lying around.

NaNoWriMo, my first 606 words

        A grape happened to be resting on the tablecloth when Mrs. Keller entered the room. Jeremy had left it there, and now was gone. Outside, a snowman had been built by local children. Some of them spoke English, but they all spoke Spanish. Some had never seen snow before. The mother of one of them was forced to work three jobs to support her children. One of these jobs was at a hotel, another at a bakery, and the third, her main job, was in the customer service department at Best Buy. She didn't know her coworkers well, but they admired her. Reggie, the eldest coworker, admired her more than he admired anyone. He often told her about his brother, who had been to Vietnam—not in the war, just on vacation one year in the late eighties. He had brought back a souvenir Buddha statue for Reggie, who now kept it on his desk, next to a framed photo of his three daughters in ski outfits. They weren't very good skiers, but they tried. To be fair, they rarely had a chance to practice, so many of their hours were filled with various clubs, lessons, sports, parties, play rehearsals, and other activities. Of the three daughters, the youngest, Audrey, was the finest playwright. She had written five plays by the age of fourteen, and now was working on her sixth. It was about a friend who had moved away with her family when the two girls were in fifth grade. It was the first of Audrey's plays to be based on true events. After that, all of her plays would be based on true events, personal experiences. The friend who had moved away was conceived during a hailstorm and owned a banjo. The banjo had been given to her by a traveling salesmen of the kind only found in certain modern day fairy tales. He had gotten the banjo from his lawyer, the esteemed Harold Cartwright of Bangor, Maine. Maine is known for its lobsters, but lawyers are popular there as well. Ditto banjos. One day the mayor of Bangor was eating lunch at his desk when the red phone rang. On the other end was Senator Snowe, calling to confirm their plans to attend the upcoming Yo-Yo Ma concert together, along with their respective spouses, children, and other guests. Yo-Yo Ma was the favorite musician of the mayor of Bangor's dentist's receptionist's Marxist-Leninist wine-selling singer-songwriter boyfriend, Jeff. On the night of the concert, Jeff had to work, so he couldn't go. All night at work he cursed his luck. As a boy he'd often been seen to take walks near the lake behind his house, where he befriended a duck. He named the duck Raymond and fed it baked potatoes. When fall arrived and the duck flew south, it passed over rural Tennessee, where a congressional race was heating up between an incumbant Republican and a young Democrat named Peter Wing. Peter Wing's parents were in prison for some reason. On the day of the election they were released to wide acclaim. Sadly, their boy did not win, but they all went out for pizza anyway. This embarrassed Peter somewhat, but not too much. He was 29 and a bachelor. It's not that he didn't want a relationship, there just weren't that many attractive girls in the town where he'd been born and raised and gone to college. One of his professors, Professor Judith Salad, Ph.D., was not bad looking, and obviously not dumb, but Peter was skeptical that any romance between them would last, seeing as how she was nearly 90 years old.

New hobby, same as the old hobby

So, I got this camera. I dove right in with black & white, or "monochrome", as it is apparently called. Isn't it weird that the past tense of "dive" is the same as that bird, the "dove"?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Oh well, so much for that. I'd rather read 50,000 words in November than write 50,000 words. I bought a camera today. I've been wanting to for years. I'm going to use it a lot.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

NaNoWriMo, my first 278 words:

A grape happened to be resting on the tablecloth when Mrs. Keller entered the room. Jeremy had left it there, and now was gone. Outside, a snowman had been built by local children. Some of them spoke English, but they all spoke Spanish. Some had never seen snow before. The mother of one of them was forced to work three jobs to support her children. One of these jobs was at a hotel, another at a bakery, and the third, her main job, was in the customer service department at Best Buy. She didn't know her coworkers well, but they admired her. Reggie, the eldest coworker, admired her more than he admired anyone. He often told her about his brother, who had been to Vietman—not in the war, just on vacation one year in the late eighties. He had brought back a souvenir Buddha statue for Reggie, who now kept it on his desk, next to a framed photo of his three daughters in ski outfits. They weren't very good skiers, but they tried. To be fair, they rarely had a chance to practice, so many of their hours were filled with various clubs, lessons, sports, parties, play rehearsals, and other activities. Of the three daughters, the youngest, Audrey, was the finest playwright. She had written five plays by the age of fourteen, and now was working on her sixth. It was about a friend who had moved away with her family when the two girls were in fifth grade. It was the first of Audrey's plays to be based on true events. After that, all of her plays would be based on true events, personal experiences.