Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

the nra would love it here

two women, both late-thirties and dressed plain for cold weather, stopped mid-sidewalk, mid-conversation to scurry over to a shop window. one asked the other how much the object for sale cost like a schoolgirl picking out a dress on a lark.

in german, she said, "how much is that luger in the window?"

these two women had stopped suddenly to impulse buy a pistol.

they rushed inside like mallrats half their age.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

lonely heart like a broken cat

i was listening to the radio and gently massaging the ache of a lonely heart. even on pleasent days, a lonely heart might sneak up on you. they are strange things, like broken cats that meander endlessly, aimlessly on silent feet in your day's shadow. a tea pot hits one note or a hand reaches out to an apple in such and such a way and deja vu hits the gut because this broken cat is crawling into your chest from the navel.

i gently massaged the creature for just one small moment in time.

i wondered if a musician writes songs about his girlfriends and makes love to groupies with the songs in background and holds the image in his mind of a lover lost. thus abused, the groupy abandons the musician. the musician writes a song about the lover lost.

lather, rinse, repeat.

anyway, this post sounds like something depressing, but the day was joyful. one brief moment is all. happens to us all, sometimes.

Monday, January 29, 2007

ghosts of americans

at nine am sunday morning, the wiesbaden marketplace was as empty as an apocalyptic movie. wide-eyed pigeons scampered through empty streets, and all the shops were closed and dark and bits of trash and paper filled the sidewalks like standing in a stadium an hour after the home team lost.

i walked around a bit, went to church, found a starbucks open and serving coffee to the people that stumbled in from the empty streets and wouldn't leave.

i took my coffee to the second floor so i could work in peace. i sat down. the only other people there were older americans talking about computers, massages, and the intricacies of their very personal medical conditions.

after they floated away into the empty streets - i looked out the window and didn't see them walking away; they just disappeared like they had never been there at all - after that this young woman comes in with an emptiness in her eyes that can only be filled with caffiene.

we talk for a moment because she notices that i'm an american. she says she's from dallas. so am i. she says she's from bedford, a suburb. i'm from the town next door. she tells me her high school and i tell her mine and we both probably remember a football game somewhere on a sweltering early autumn where our marching bands stared each other down - i used to play tuba, and she's a professional french horn player - and of all the cafes in all the world to wash ashore, we've both drifted into here.

an american cafe in germany, full of americans that appeared bleary-eyed and talkative from empty streets.

i figure we turned into pigeons when we stepped outside. big, scared eyes and hooked noses and scampering around this foreign city like fragile tourists.

anyway, that's what happened yesterday.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

something cut from my first novel

we will pay a man to attack her. then, we will save her.
do you think it will work?
this is a trick that works among nations, among lover, and among cats.


sent off a final draft yesterday. i hope it's the final draft. we'll see what my editor says.

today, i spent two hours trying to find mass times for any German Catholic Church within twenty miles of my grateful behind.

oddly enough, german churches do not prominently feature their mass times on their websites, or their voicemail boxes.

to find mass times, i had to snoop the website of a larger church to find their altar server schedule. from this, i deduced the time of mass. i hope i did, anyway.

i'm going out today, but nothing will be open. i'm going to wander empty streets before and after mass. nothing is open on sunday

the bakery had an american, so i ate it.

i walked to bakery for fresh bread and physical exertion.

i looked for berliners. in america, jelly doughnuts are disgusting, medium-sized things with cheap jelly inside of them and skin that wrinkles after only an hour or two. in deutschland, jelly doughnuts are called "berliners", and they're big, they're full of very good jelly or creme filling, and they are still good after a day or two has passed.

they didn't have any berliners that morning. they did have a pancake-like cookie/cake with golden frosting. twas labeled "amerikaner" (american).

since i am also an american, i figured i'd eat an american and snag an americano to drink.

two young men sat on my left. they talked with rapacious smiles at the two young women behind the counter.

german flirting is very different from american flirting, and it takes some conscious consideration until i can read the body language. it will be a few days before i know whether to shove myself in between the two guys and distract them for a while to help the staff, or if such a thing would bug the girls trying to talk to their boyfriends.

today, i ate an american. i drank an american. i walked home.

Friday, January 26, 2007

one of the greatest things about living with other people

one of the greatest things about living with other people is that you can wake up, stagger into the kitchen, and discover that the coffee is already made.

it's steaming, black, and fresh. you didn't have to try to count spoonfuls and measure water without having first had a cup of fresh, delicious coffee.

this is so small, and so stupid, but it really makes a difference to start your day instantly with fresh coffee the moment you desire it.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

things heard on planes

my connecting flight to charlotte was held back a few hours, and i spent most of it chatting with a charming woman from a small southern town who had been visiting her grandchildren.

amazing things she said that i had never heard before:

"you live in a small town, you can't change the toilet paper people don't hear about it."

"my granddaughter came up to me and told me i couldn't leave because it was her birthday. she said, 'gramma, why you leavin'? didn't you hear it was my birthday. i'm six. yesterday i was five. today, i'm six. where you going on my birthday?' and i told her that i had to go back home and get her a present. she said, 'oh, okay. i guess that's okay.'"

i won't go into detail about her stories about how her husband really, really likes to watch golf games on television. apparently, at least one person genuinely enjoys watching the sport, and i'm willing to stop complaining about it if it keeps his wife happy. she was very charming.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

bad dream

normally my dreams areworks of art.

last night, i dreamed that i was eating a banana in my kitchen singing "you can't alays get what you want" and thinking about this beautiful girl that left me once, a long time ago.

flotsam and jetsam washing ashore. nothing of meaning, just old wounds rising to the surface on the wings of... a banana.

Monday, January 22, 2007

the ugliest tie in the world

i do not have pictures, alas. (purchase more of my books, world, and i will provide you with pictures from my lovely digital camera.)

i discovered the ugliest tie in the world when i was cleaning out my closet. i do not know if this tie was somehow mixed in with my clothes unknown to me, or if this tie was left behind by a previous tenant.

the tie was electric purple. it was some form of polyester. the pattern was of various smiling stick figures hidden inside the radical electric squiggly lines of mid-eighties awesomeness.

this tie belonged around the neck of donatello, the ninja turtle. firstly, the tie was purple. secondly, donatello was the woefully-misguided-about-cool ninja turtle, and this tie was woefully misguided about cool.

imagine the tie a graphic designer in his late forties would design in the mid-eighties for a "boy george" dress-a-like son.

god, it was so bad.

i showed it to my brother. he grimaced, got this haunted look in his eyes. he said, "that's the kind of tie you wear to a wal mart interview".

it was the ugliest tie in the world.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

travel/traveling

i'm leaving on a jet plane. i don't know when i'll be back again.

my sister is graciously opening her apartment to me for a little while. i do not know how long i will be in europe, but i'll be back when i'm back.

i love traveling, but i hate travel. i love new people, new places, but i get so nervous before the trip. did i remember my passport? did i backup my files? did i bring enough socks? did i budget enough money? will i suddenly blank and forget all my german?

i get real scared, too. i get this knot in my gut before i get to the airport. i look out at the sea of people in the terminal. i sit down on the plane and fret about the luggage i checked. i sit in window seats because if the plane is going to crash, i want to see it. if a storm's coming, i want to see it.

the night before, i pace and have this pit in my gut. i don't know why i get so nervous. because i love traveling. i just hate the travel.

Friday, January 19, 2007

final draft woes

agh! why are you crashing! don't crash!

i love you, final draft! i need you! i can't imagine writing screenplays without you!

don't crash!

last night

i stood on my balcony, and looked across the frozen darkness in the apartment complex.

a police car stopped right in front of our building. a cop got out, turned on his flashlight, and opened the backseat door. he reached down to the floor of the car, and seemed to be rummaging around.

then, a person appeared from the floor of the car, in handcuffs.

the cop chided the man, and told him to sit this way so he won't hurt himself.

the man looked like he was crying. i can see where he comes from, now.

late at night, one bleak January, the police came for him in the night, knocking on his door while his family was asleep. they cuffed him, read him his rights, and put him in a car. he crumpled to the floor of the car. he didn't want people to see him in his neighborhood, in a cop car. he didn't want anyone to see.

the cop car hit a speed bump or two. the man bounced. it hurt. the cops came to a stop. the cop was a little embarassed that this man was crying so hard, and hiding so hard. nothing manly about that. the cop told the guy to sit with his head between his legs so he could hide his face, and he wouldn't get hurt.

but i could see him, now.

i looked away from the car. poor guy didn't want me to look at him.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

did you make the list?

acknowledgment pages are very fun to write.

here's an excerpt of the first paragraph.

"First novels occur late at night, or early in the morning, as a public secret among close friends and relations. Everyone knows you're doing it, but no one dare talk about it, and it's probably no good. The many people around aspiring authors that indulge this odd habit deserve to be acknowledged as the enablers they are. If anyone's looking for someone to blame for my book, look no further than this list."

unfortunately, i can already think of people i should have included. alas, i am simply too late. i could spend a week toying with the stupid thing and change my mind a thousand times, and run it off into pages and pages of purple prose. heck, my dad's the eldest of ten kids, and i could do that with just his side of the family.

maybe next time.

gentle reader, do you think you made my acknowledgment page? will you be immortalized in glorious prose by the greatest living author (within twelve square feet of my ass right now)?

DID YOU MAKE THE LIST?

you will just have to buy the book to find out.

man walking with his wife

an older man with a wife went for a walk around the complex.

she stayed fifty paces behind him.

they were dressed in traditional north african muslim garb.

he looked over his shoulder at his wife, because he did not know which walkway to take to get home. she shouted at him in their shared language, fifty paces behind him. he walked up without her. he did not hold the door.

cultural sensitivity is important, but this really bothered me. i don't understand this. i don't think i want to, either.

it's their life, and they're welcome to live it however they want. this is america, after all. however, this is a strange sight to see in suburban texas. part of living in america is finding out how not to stand out from the crowd.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

someone comes to a bookstore, someone leaves a bookstore

i like buying books. i like buying books almost as much as i like reading them.

i just read this book yesterday, as soon as i bought it.

i called ahead to different bookstores because i was sick of not finding it when i wanted it. after the fifth bookstore confirmed that they had the book, and that they'd hold it for me, i drove across town to get it.

then, i went to the counter and asked for it.

the cute young lady behind the counter looked at the cover, and i could tell she was the one i had spoken to on the phone. she looked up at me and said, "that's a really cool title."

i said something blunt like, "Oh, yeah..." when I should have said, "I hope the book's as good as the title."

that would have been appropriate since the book was as good as the title.

Monday, January 15, 2007

dreams

i remember dreams as real as needles in my skin. i remember dreams i had when i was five years old living in the mountains of new mexico. i can't tell the difference between the real of purple mountain sunsets and the false of escaping an orange muppet monster through the back alleys of hong kong.

last night i dreamed about a beautiful girl wandering through gorgeous oil paintings. recurring themes of beauty and the beast, alice in wonderland, and st. george and the dragon appeared in every painted room. the walls were thick brush-strokes of purple and gauzy gray, but they were as solid as stone.

this labyrinth was not a maze, exactly, full of dead ends and dropoffs. it was a cluster of painted rooms and the way through was to solve a little puzzle in the paintings.

then, at the center of the maze, her minotaur was mostly a man. he had pale skin, small black horns, and an elegant robe. he had jewelry.

he reached out for her with a broken kind of love, all torment and pain disguised as destiny.

she said, "You have no power over me." The world came crashing down.

I woke up.

Was I the elegant minotaur? was I the beautiful girl? i was neither. i was both.

art feeds your dreams. 1/3 of your life is spent asleep. ingesting art will feed your dreams, and make landscapes and stories that no other soul can tell.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

people you haven't seen in a very long time, and didn't know very well when you did know them

i still live in the same area as my alma mater. today, someone i went to high school with sat next to me at mass with what appeared to be her husband.

she certainly seemed nice enough in high school, though her preferred friends probably could not have quoted yoda, and probably have not spent all of spring break reading "shogun" by james clavell. however, i certainly thought well enough of her to remember her after ten years with vague well-wishes.

i didn't really say anything to her in high school. she didn't say anything to me now. I didn't say anything to her now.

what are we supposed to say?

"hello, we went to high school together, and these few words we are about to say politely are perhaps the most we've ever spoken to each other at one time."

how strange that we mortals remain forever in high school, measuring our lives by the glory we bring to reunions. these are pictures of my children. this is my car. let me tell you about my breathtaking job.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

why here?

we spent a good seven minutes complaining about the stupidity and mismanagement of the city of arlington.

then, the good doctor talked about his work in hospice care.

confused, i asked for clarification.
"why arlington?"
"what do you mean?"
"you can do hospice anywhere. why arlington?"
"i don't just do arlington. i branch out into fort worth, too."
"no, but i mean... why do you choose to live here instead of oklahoma or austin or africa?"
"my wife works for qwest diagnostics here in town. she's a technician."

why do people live where they do? it's like people don't choose where they live.

if you could live anywhere, where would you live? if you don't live there, why not?

why do we wait for retirement to live the places we actually want to live?

i'm buying plane tickets in the morning, and i don't understand the kind of people who get up, go to work, and accept where they are as where they must always be.

it's a big world, after all, and you only need such a small piece of it to make your home.

Friday, January 12, 2007

the snowstorms of seattle

i'm having two snow days in a row, even though i'm in texas.

my editor is in seattle, and he got snowed in. his kids rejoiced. he and i had to reschedule for monday.

yes, even texans get their snow days, sometimes.

i spent all day looking for modern vampire anthologies. couldn't find any good-looking ones published after 2000. at least, not the kind of vampire anthology i'm seeking.

if anyone knows a good modern vampire short story anthology, or at least a horror anthology that is heroin-addicted-child-killing-vampire friendly please let me know. i'm trying to find a secondary market for a short story that i believe merits wider readership than the one journal in which it was published.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Strunk & White, Alright vs All Right

Strunk & White's immortal classic of clear writing, "The Elements of Style", was composed and published in 1919. Even today, editors and authors use this tiny, little book as a definitive source.

However, the book was published in 1919, ad things have changed since. One specific thing has changed: "Alright".

In 1919, "Alright" was not a recognized word. It was a common misspelling of "All Correct", which is no longer a synonym.

Today "Alright" is a synonym of "Okay". "Are you okay?" = "Are you alright?". "Are you all correct?" is not correct.

However, because we hang on to this little book and use it as a guide for modern...

i interrupt this rant to announce that a tiny ant has crawled across my screen. i do not know where this ant hopped aboard my laptop. i do know, that the poor thing will likely never return home before it starves to death somewhere in the guts of my little machine.

i've completely lost my train of thought because i'm seeing scent trails an pheromones all over my computer. ants leave scent trails. they communicate with smell.

someday, when we meet an alien race with insectile similarities, they might hand us their holy book in a vial. we'll open the jar, and see nothing. we'll sniff the air inside and say, "it smells like cheese and feet."

hopefully such a scent will be considered a complement lest we begin an intergalactic incident.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

where people don't read

walking home the other night, i stopped at a sports bar because it was open and i was hungry and the ihop was a mile away. i ordered my plain vegetarian version of the awful things they had on their menu. i hada copy of grace paley's "enormous changes at the last minute" which i read until the food arrived.

it occurred to me, when i looked up to eat, that i was the only person in the room reading anything at all.

people didn't read the menus. they knew what to order. people didn't read each other's sarcastic t-shirts: these were just excuses to ogle someone's chest. people didn't read the label of their bottles of beer; they peeled the labels off and left them rolled up like scrolls on their empty plates.

i ate. i paid. i finished my single beer. i put my book away. i left.

i have not returned to that place where people don't read.

Monday, January 8, 2007

hey

is gigantic bigger than giant because gigantic is a larger word, with "giant" inside of it (GI-g-ANT-ic)?

Sunday, January 7, 2007

i'm too tired

I'm off until Tuesday.

Release date for LAST DRAGON is April, 2008. I've got much to do before then, some of which must be done right now.

I'll be back Tuesday.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

not the worst rejection i've ever gotten.

"Sorry to be the bearer of bad news so soon after the holidays, but unfortunately this grouping of poems isn’t right for ***. Please don't be discouraged -- with so many poems coming in, the decisions of what to take to pass on are difficult, and often very subjective. Many -- perhaps most -- of the poems we publish are from poets who've missed the cut in the past. We don't solicit work, so submissions truly are our lifeblood. We love to read them, so please keep submitting as more poems are ready."

we must celebrate our defeats. i toast you with my coffee mug, anonymous editor, for your swift and polite response.

Friday, January 5, 2007

bad things happen to good video games

in writing a dense, fantasy urban environment i research various other venues to "see" how different art forms deal with the surreality of human space.

one of those venues is the video game franchise "Knights of the Old Republic".

firstly, i agree with many who claim that the video games are better stories and more human than episodes I, II, and III.

also -- and this is vital -- the second game of the property had the potential to be the greatest video game story since planescape:torment. alas, it was not meant to be. the force was not with us. for deadlines emerged that truncated development. up until the reunification of the Jedi council when the Jedi Exile confronts the lost masters in the ruins of Dantooine this game is unforgettable "Art" with a capital "A".

in the beginning, awakening in a kolto tank in an empty mining facility, and attempting to discover what happened to all the miners before the assassins get there and the subsequent events as the Exile escapes from the facility alive... this is haunting like a horror film.

the recurring themes of exile and betrayal across all the characters and events unifies the otherwise divergent plots and situations.

then, when kreia leads the exile to the ruins of Dantooine, and leans into the dead tree with the perfect cinematography and music i got chills. beautiful. just beautiful. this point in time is like the end of the game, sadly.

after that moment, a series of major plot holes and confusions result.

how dare they place some christmas deadline ahead of what could have been such greatness.

making the christmas deadline moved a few more units, perhaps. crafting a lasting work of art would have maintained the movement of units long after the technology made the mechanics obsolete.

planescape:torment had a very long tail.

heed my words, video game makers: your art form is on the brink of greatness, awaiting only the rise of a bach or a shakespeare or a hitchcock.

you are so close. don't do something like this again, lest someone else come along and bear the mantle of greatness in your steed.



Thursday, January 4, 2007

"Control! Control! You must learn control!" - Yoda

writing professionally is like standing under a giant water-wheel and trying to push the thing in the other direction with your jedi "force".

it's a slow, frustrating process, and requires zen-like calm on the brink of irrecoverable ruin.

i'm ruined, but i'm calm and i'm working. i'm moving the wheel against the waves a little bit faster every day. someday, pushing the wheel will be so strong that the water in the river will change direction.

focus.


don't call me sisyphus. that myth has been mined enough in adumbrating the arts, i think.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

hope in unexpected places

I’m at this cafĂ© and every single person that walks past is just horrendous – like they belong in some macabre sideshow of all the strange outliers of the cultural detritus red state of America – everyone is just so weird and grotesque: parodies of their own selves…


Except this middle aged Hindi man, with a very white daughter. She’s a living doll, reading a book and bored and calling her Mom. Her daddy (a step-father) is a soft-spoken man, and clearly comfortable in the role of father. It’s the only thing I’ve seen all night, all day, in days and days, that gives me Hope with a capitol “H”.

The girl, tired of reading, wraps her blue jacket around her like a blanket, and curls up like a cat in the cafe chair to sleep. Her step-father looks up from his magazines.

"Little one, what are you doing?"

"Lying down."

"Oh."

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

walking at night

i walked home from starbucks at 9:45 pm for two miles, up two hills and down some very dark roads.

i held in my pocket my car keys like spiked knuckles. i watched the shadows that the streetlights gave me. i had visions of a darkness slipping out from between fences and wrapping around me.

mostly, all i saw were headlights from the cars driving here and then away and away. i saw a stray yellow dog jogging into a park.

i was thinking, at the time, how more pedestrians would make such a thing safer -- if people got out of their cars and walked places regularly.

then, i figured that no one would. i was walking around with my hands wrapped around a weapon in my pocket -- if even only my keys -- and i'm a big man with a dark hood over my head trying to give off that street vibe that says "don't f*** wi' me".

so all these people that should be out walking are going to see me, and hop in their cars.

Monday, January 1, 2007

robo rally the year away

at a new years party with friends, we played a game called robo rally.

much like risk, the game would have improved exponentially if it included the computational assistance of tequila.

i cannot help but wonder if kasparov plays different drunk. the immortal chessmaster, drinking at each captured piece, does not lose his edge, i suspect. i think his famous aggression expands. i think he places the lost piece on his tongue when he takes the shot, swallowing the pawns and knights and sharp bishops. the jagged crown of the queen made little cuts down his throat when he swallowed it. the tequila burned worse down his esophagus.

the internist, with a puzzled look on his face, asks kasparov why he swallowed the pieces he lost.

kasparov says that he couldn't very well let his opponent swallow the piece, right?

fortunately, robo rally has small pieces, mostly plastic. upon an intoxicated defeat, pipes neither meat nor metal would clog.