Friday, November 17, 2017

Bentley > Jim

My word-producing silence perturbs me.  This one is weird, too.  

John D. wrote a lot of novels and - depending on the estimator - some 500 short stories, most never collected.  

Steve Scott was doing the Lord's work in a way, digging deep into his JDM resources and sharing the wealth, mostly in detailed synopses of those "lost" JDM shorts.  That it's been a year since his last peep is off-putting in a lot of ways...Honestly, mostly in that a whole effing year has gone by that quickly.  

About as Luddite as you can get (i.e., I'm the only person on the west coast without a cell phone), cloud silence makes sense to me.  I don't know how to wholly eliminate Facebook from my existence so settle for logging out and staying logged out.  

I could "reach out" to Mr. Scott, but I don't do that so well.  Commenting to strangers, I come off sounding in written-form like I sound in the spoken - potential serial killer in training.  

*

Exit The Skin Palace isn't exactly shattering download records.  Given my confusion towards self-promotion, not a surprise.  

Mostly, what halts me from putting up links on a lot of ebook sites is the utter conviction that it's not readers that ever look at those sites; it's only poor bastards in my boat, the unwashed hordes jostling for a tap from the fame and fortune stick.  Every now and then I poke around on Awesomegang and happen on some NoNameNudnik out there with a solid dozen works of fiction to their name and no signs of stopping.  It's glorious.  It's inspiring.  It makes me sigh and look at the keyboard like she's no good for me and I'm no good for her but we got nobody else.    

One idea for another novel remains in the infant state, what I keep thinking of as my 'Sylvia Plath' novel.  Another idea popped into my head poking at the ever popular 'what if/revenge' spinny wheel of fun.  We'll see if it attracts enough juice to go forward.  Other than bone-crushing depression another slight impediment to writing concerns hurting my hand.  I tweaked it while opening a door.  Opening.  A.  Fricking.  Door.  If this is a bellwether as to all the joys of incipient old age, I want out of the car. 

*

I'm trying to finish off the current roster of Bentley Little novels.  He reminds me a lot of Jim Thompson, not necessarily in a good way, but a familiar way.  

With Thompson, it's a 30/70 split, in other words, 70% of the time, a Jim Thompson novel is just kind of a turd in hand.  Bentley, I'd swing the other way around.  70/30, easy, although out of the six I've sprinted through of late, the gold is a little harder to find and cherish.  At this point, tossing in The Collection and Indignities Of The Flesh, I've read 20+ books by the guy.  Obviously, I likes.  

And true, as far as stinkers by established authors go, Raymond Chandler's Playback can't be topped in the realm of betrayal by trusted wordsmiths.  For my money, Playback's closest pop culture toxic cousin is likely Highlander II: The QuickeningYou wonder what Chandler was thinking while writing it.  Probably, "Jesus Eff, I need another drink."  




Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Man, I Hope Axl Is Right

The rumor about Charles held he'd squirted lighter fluid on the back of his hands and lit a match.  Self-inflicted punishment for writer's failure.  The words wrong or his sorting of them wrong or some audience reaction less than stellar.  Charles taught film studies and drama, tiny classes at the community college.  Seated up front, I had more than enough opportunity, but scars, damaged hands, these I did not see.  

Saul Bellow and Bernard Malamud and Larry Brown all burned finished manuscripts.  And then there's the tale about Dashiell Hammett, winding down, whittling old manuscripts down until paragraphs became sentences became words became letters.  

The manuscripts for my books float in the cloud.  Delete is the new burn barrel.

The ache from not writing is so damnably odd.  The older I get, October and November knock me down a little harder each year.  In my most mournful phase, I always think the date I died was 11/4/2000, the day I drove out of Los Angeles for good.  Been a corpse ever since so failure in so many other aspects of life doesn't really matter.  

The writing thing though.  Without it, I get a little twitchy.  Maybe not DFW or Hemingway not being able to write twitchy, but twitchy.  I admit an ignorance of the horror stories of female writers dealing with a downturn in the muse pulling strings, but I can imagine it's a mover and a shaker in Ms. Woolf's decisive day at the waterfront.  

Novel ideas are DOA.  What passes I make towards poetry evict Bill the Cat style hurling from the reader-portion of the writer in my head.  I'm all tapped out in the essay/social commentary vein.  Right now, it's the shits all around up to the point I can't even finish a letter to grandma.

The cat thinks it's marvelous though.  The somber monkey spends less time seated at the desk, more time on the bed, staring into space, sighing.  

So long as someone wins. 


  


Saturday, November 4, 2017

Mosaic

Talk of the tech writer focused on two fronts.  Arranging a meeting with her and the fact that for her size, she sported large breasts.  The manager even held his hands up, cupping the phantom mammaries just so the others in the office caught the idea completely.   The tech writer, mercifully, was not present at the time.

When I orbited the local poetry slam scene, mostly as observer and occasionally as an open mic mumbler, I earned a permanent gnarl in my neck and shoulders, reacting to the inevitable 'beautiful woman' poem - the short piece detailing the attractiveness of a male poet's affections, usually a co-worker or some poor soul at the bus stop or the Whole Foods, going about her day, unaware of the cosmic tumult her existence inflicted on some random victim, how her winsome gait inspired spirited comparisons to creatures springing across the African plain, or perhaps, soft, slow summer rains.

That stands steady as obstacle-deluxe for the poet.  Describing meat in ways meat has never been described before.  

I still remember a woman's reaction to a double-header of male-assayed slam pieces.  The first - performed by a veritable Baby Huey of a man - alerted the audience to the fact that he was the follow-up to the midnight bootie call man.  In the second, a male duo dished a hip-hop description of tag teaming 'fat chicks.'  The female audience member finally cried out and pulled the plug on the ever-escalating in aggression piece, arguing that this wasn't clever wordsmanship.  Instead "it was all just meat."
     
Objectification is a handy dandy tool.  The Incredible Hulk is a busy guy.  He doesn't have time to spout at length about specific feats.  "Hulk is strongest there is!" encapsulates the general thrust of complex force-versus-mass calculations Bruce Banner could rattle off to colleagues without breaking a sweat.  

Can you penalize a budding Rod McKuen for celebrating the fortunate arrangement of particulate matter by cramming insights into a minimum of saliva-flecked stanzas?  The human eye and ear can only take so much.  We're all semi-familiar with the realm of perfect forms.  We get it fairly quickly when yet another model fresh from that particular production line stands at issue.

While working part-time in college, a full-time male colleague asked if I'd noticed that one of my female co-workers sported 'blowjob lips.'  As far as I know, this winning physical feature was never brought to the young woman's attention.  

More recently, a co-worker at the bookstore described a former female co-worker as 'inappropriate shirt girl,' a determined-to-be-tactful term that in its very propagation negates tact.  The woman in question was big busted.  The possession of flesh in such generous quantities is often not the owner's fault.  The male co-worker making the remark could easily be deemed 'inappropriate shirt guy,' since he had 'pulled the ripcord' so to speak, and was inflating daily.  His propensity for a size too small button down shirts only emphasized enshrinement in the same spilled tar.

No one should trust men who state for the record that all they care about are eyes or a pretty smile.  That kind of white-washed line only serves as a front for seething, pulsating animal aggression.  Yet, when I think of my wife, more often than not, I picture her smiling face.  This might have something to do with the fact that on exit or entrance to the residence, I often end up glancing at the headshot on her work ID.

Thinking of myself, I usually first consider my knuckles or my nose.  Both are problematic tissue issues.  Regular exposure to heat and now cold only exacerbating that old inconvenience of dried, damaged, psoriatic fun.   

Thinking of random comic book characters always inserts a particular penciler's take on the character.  I think of Superman, Curt Swan's Superman leaps to mind.  I think of Spidey, I think of the Ron Frenz version.  



To be fair, to point out the obvious, often thinking of women, I don't think of the soul, the personality, instead my brain slingshots focus towards proportions, hefts, winsome gaits.  I don't own the confidence to swap precise preoccupations with any other living soul.  Keeping to the shadows is the wiser course.  

The human dilemma is the attempt to extricate ourselves from the limits of our bone-and-tissue home.  To connect with other souls and slip the dread chamber.  The machinations of propagating the species, the drive to create fair copies of those who stir us the deepest, remains priority one.  Tabs and slots.  Insertions and suffusions.  Without avenues for release, with preferred avenues stymied, the fuel begins to bloat or leak.  

That's not an explanation or an excuse for harassment or predatorial behavior.  But the runway for that behavior is laid down by a slow accretion, toxic environments built one derogatory comment at a time like one of those mosaics created by the clever arrangement of hundreds or thousands of smaller articles.  

All the male colleagues mentioned above would fall into the category of 'good guys.'  All are married.  Two have children.  Their wives trust them.  Their daughters trust them.  Yet, unleashed in trusted environments, they willingly and gleefully reduce women to component parts, objects, targets, meat.  

The current cultural climate includes discussion of men - good men - stepping forward and permanently denouncing the culture perpetuated by the Weinsteins of the world.  About time.  Good for us.  Clap-clap-clap.  It smacks of window dressing.  Harumphing.  
Some long-simmering seething with pork piece of legislation about to go up for a vote in Congress.

Meat is what we are and what we have.  We can't divorce ourselves from the genetic imperative.  And we can't get what we want - who we want - most of the time.  So it distorts our interactions.  If you can't tell the tech writer her boobs are big for her size, you'll at least inform some colleagues of your discovery.  By directing attention to a couple pounds of fat, you now own those breasts.  Mark it as a win.

When I think of that tech writer, I don't think of her pleasing proportions.  I just picture her as any man or woman reduced to a component part, now licking blood from paws post-revenge.  We focus on the pleasing aspects.  The tantalizing aspects.  Ignoring at our peril that any potential feast almost always bears some kind of claws.  



   

   


Thursday, November 2, 2017

Moving Into A Land Of Both Shadow And Substance

Casey performed at least one sex act back in the Brentano's 'Kids' section.  He told me about it while we walked from the Beverly Center to turn in the afternoon deposit.  Or he told me while getting a hot dog at Tail O' the Pup after the deposit.  Or in the store itself, opening or closing, or even back in a quiet moment between customers in 'Science Fiction/Fantasy', Casey's go-to for reading material.  

It's all a blur.  It couldn't help but be.  About 1 in every 10 sentences out of Casey's mouth orbited his nutsack.

For someone so unapologetically sharing about his sexual exploits, Casey had almost zero tolerance for sex-related counter jabs.  

Once he held up some new release, a book and frisbee sealed in cellophane, and he asked, "What do you think this is?"

"Your mother's diaphragm," I said.  

Casey looked disgruntled.  He did bounce back relatively quickly.  Of course he did.  I was locked in the front row, never complaining when he'd whisper fresh exploits, even with the curly haired waif on staff, one of the many women he delighted in denigrating, living up to his oft-voiced credo, "I'm not a nice guy, Bri."  
  
Since virtually all of my adult working life involves serving the public, I collect anecdotes.  A recent one, the creepiest one, the one with the most resonance involves a dad dropping his kid and wife off on university grounds.  Kid and mom go to join a campus tour.  Dad goes to find parking.  Dad pays the gatehouse attendant for a parking permit.  The gatehouse attendant can't help but notice in dad's lap is a smartphone, the paused screen displaying a naked woman arrested in what appears to be mid-writhe.  Like she's riding someone.  Like dad here has been driving the streets, porn spooling out on his khakis the entire time.  

The problem for the harasser or the sex bragger or the sex addict is to balance variables.  

For the harasser and bragger, it's target/audience and environment.  For the addict, it's constant deflection of the unwanted on-looker.  

Not being a woman, I can't vouch for it, but being harassed, it would seem essential issues eroding from control are safety and security -- the safety of the workplace and the security of the job.

For a harassed male, wanting to keep employment secure is important, but I'd substitute identity for safety.  

Men aren't supposed to get harassed.  It's like suffering rape if you're a guy.  Does it mean you aren't masculine enough?  Does it mean maybe you wanted another guy to give it to you?  Maybe you're gay after all.  

Remove the physical attack and substitute unwanted verbal gymnastics sourcing from a woman or man, and it's still demeaning, and a sure launch into the twilight zone.  How can you stay on the same parcel of self if you're accusing someone who weighs all of a buck-ten of peeling back that supposedly hardy rind?

I never met Kevin Spacey.  He never looked at me.  No one ever introduced us.  But not long after he won the Academy Award for American Beauty, he ended up at the Brentano's cash register.  One of the temp employees freaked the fuck out -- an almost odd occurrence given the fact the Beverly Center was prime stomping grounds for celebrities from Jason Alexander to Larry Flynt.  The 'almost' qualifier solidly in place since 6' tall Rebecca successfully betrayed her Swedish roots with vocal gymnastics arguably pertinent to the introduction of Keyser Soze to her afternoon register shift.  At least one other employee, a perennial knock-knock-knocker on the acting fame door, was incensed that Rebecca couldn't display more decorum in the presence of newly entitled Hollywood royalty.

The closest I've ever gotten to getting propositioned was when an obviously intoxicated and quite possibly mentally unstable Los Angeles Public Library patron offered to suck my cock.  We were in the 'Gardening' section at the downtown branch.  He stood on the other side of the shelf, staring through the void created after I'd slid a book into my hand.  After about three seconds of broadcasting system-wide confusion, the signal bounced off his antennae, and for all I know he wandered off and found a willing participant that very hour.  

I don't question my would-be paramour's attempt.  Deep cored in my being is an unsettling resilience, or, tolerance, or, flat out chicken-shit gene.  A girl I pined for once pinched my arm black, laughing that I hadn't let her know it hurt.  The current deluge of revelations presents evidence of the hegemony in if not decay, sudden disarray.  The time for tolerance might be over.  If it means scum like Brett Ratner faces prison time or just final total excommunication from the glittering basin, the world can't help but be a better place.     



  



  

Monday, October 30, 2017

Here's A Noose. What's Your Hurry?

(WARNING: What follows isn't book or writing or media related.  It's personal.  Delivered with all the usual charm.  But it's about the dread S.H.)

I hate having my picture taken.  I know what I look like.  I know what my voice sounds like.  Neither pleases me.  I am still gobsmacked that my wife married me.  The wedding photos show a luminous bride.  The groom looks like the guy the neighborhood kids are 75% certain is a serial killer.  

So.

Enrolled in a metro driver class, the problem put before the students involved figuring out a desired route or destination when the bus passenger at hand might have a speech impediment.  Solution: You let the passenger use her or his finger to write the relevant number on your palm.  

As a test, to see how sensitive our palms proved, the class instructor had each table pair proceed to palm write.  I wrote in the palm of my classmate.  She got every number.  Swell.  Her turn.  She wrote 5.  Yep.  Got it.  17.  Sure.  Then...69.  With a pause.  And a little sidelong glance to see if I 'got' it.

The metro class was a time-intensive endeavor.  Basically, you got shot through the chute to try and take a CDL test determining whether or not you had the right stuff or not.  Almost all of us were working full-time jobs while taking the class.  A little harmless sex joke didn't seem appropriate to bump up into kerfluffle form.  Also, as though I can't stress it enough, I am not a good looking guy.  If anything I believe sexual advances made towards me are made for the simple reason my default setting is looking uncomfortable.  I guess some people just want to up the ante and pop the uncomfortable into the red with a little squirm thrown in for flavor.  

For years (and years and years and years and sweet Jesus, years) I worked in the retail book world in the general Seattle-area, all for the same company.  

I encountered three instances of sexual harassment at 2 of 3 locations, and the harassment I encountered/endured/dealt with sourced from female co-workers.  

In the first instance, the unwanted advances/jokes were directed both at me and another male co-worker (we'll call him Connor).  Connor and I approached our boss, informed the boss of the goings-on, and agreed we'd try to defuse the situation on our own before opening the human resources can of worms.  The can, I'm still happy to say to this day, remained unopened.  I don't know what particularly drove my female co-worker into her temporary madness, but she's still someone I miss, and over time have come to admire for her fine works outside retail-Hell. 

The other two instances I'll thumbnail.

One, basically at a workstation by ourselves, a female co-worker let me know how much she enjoyed anal sex with an understated offer for partaking in the activity.  There was no provocation other than the Casual Conversation Muse was having a glitch of unfortunate proportions.

Two, another female co-worker, on multiple occasions, let me know how much she enjoyed oral sex - receiving and performing.  

In one of the above instances, the co-worker would get a pass from most people, even management, even the most rod-up-their-butt human resources expert for the simple existence of outstanding health issues.  It's what I think of as the Ewok Effect.  

Take any issue of the day, and insert an Ewok, and the scoundrel in the crosshairs is suddenly sympathetic.  Think of Hitler.  But if it's an Ewok in jodhpurs and with the little mustache...so cute!   The Holocaust is practically excusable.

So, if the female employee telling me about anal or oral is somehow hurt or hobbled in some dreadful and permanent state, complaining either to them or to a boss about being harassed is tantamount to complaining about an Ewok.  

ME: "Hey, I know I'm gonna sound like a jerk for complaining about this but the Ewok was telling me in graphic detail about getting a little nookie."
BOSS: "The Ewok had sex?  OHMIGOD!  That is so cute!"

I come from the Go Along To Get Along School.  The bad thing is I also come from the I Never Forget A Slight School.  And not slights directed only my way but towards family.  This is not a happy marriage.  This is why my hair is thinning.   

In his work office, my dad would hang a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Models calendar.  On the inside of the door.  In other words, no one could see it.  And it's not like Dad held meetings in his office.  He was usually out of the office, out in the woods doing the job of a Fire Management Officer.  But one woman in the business office took issue with the calendar and filed sexual harassment charges.  She was a piece of work, the kind of turd that bobbled back up in everyone's toilet, seeking to inflict hardships with wide a brush as possible because of course everyone always tries to undermine a minority woman.  I think the troublemaker would be a short spitting distance from 70 at this point in her life.  Even so, given the chance for a face-to-face, I would have to fight like a mother dog to suppress unleashing a hot torrent of insensitive language.    

This is now a post-Harvey Weinstein world.  And now Kevin Spacey is thrown into the fire, too, with who knows how many more to follow.  What Annabella Sciorra, Natasha Malthe and just too goddamned many other women have suffered at the hands of Weinstein and his species of shit is a different kind of Hell than I can know.  All I've known in comparison was a Heck.  A low-level smidge of a Heck.  

I think the basic problem is people have genitals.  And as so often occurs, people misread the room.  And the company.  And their companions openness to information or first-hand experience with said genitals.     

What I'm waiting to see yet not expecting to see, is men coming forward to detail their experiences being harassed by women.  It seems highly unlikely any woman could be a Weinstein-sized monster.  But I know there have to be lots of men who've bitten their tongues or didn't want to rock boats and went along to get along.  Saying something, problems arise.  Saying nothing, the stress monkey shortens your lifespan.  The poisons don't care.  A or B, the crossbones marked wine is gonna flow.


   



    


Sunday, October 29, 2017

Pluck Your Magic Twanger, Froggie

Blazing Saddles is overloaded with memorable scenes, but the one I always think of is where the Honorable Governor Lepetomane hands out paddle balls "in lieu of pay."

When I can't write prose, I usually do not write at all.  2014 I didn't write a damn word.  It was a weird stretch following a solid decade and a half of writing every morning.  

This year I cranked out two novels, and then September shuttered the doors.  I keep poking at novel ideas, even something titled The Monitor which would be in the vein of Bentley Little but most of the inspirations seem best suited for continued segregation in the hopper.  

So, in lieu of prose, I've turned back to poetry.  Not that this is a good thing.  Not that I'm qualified to be called a poet.  Karyna McGlynn is a poet.  Morris Stegosaurus is a poet.  I'm just some poor schlump, but like schlumps in even the darkest part of the forest, I feel the need to connect.  



Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Bottling Whine

According to author Amelinda Berube, there is a likely reason 50+ agents have given the big thumbs down to Exit The Skin Palace:

I suspect the trouble you’re encountering in pitching to agents is that you’re kind of falling into a weird place between middle grade and YA. With a 12-year-old main character in the query and opening chapter, most agents are likely dismissing it as miscategorized. 

And according to query feedback courtesy literary agent Peter Knapp of Park Literary:

I found both the narrative and the dialogue in this manuscript to sound older than the MG voice you want to aim for. I’d say the characters talking about losing weight and bottling “whine” to sell are more likely to be heard from YA characters.


Dead, Monty is 12 and will be 12 forever and ever until he moves on to whatever is beyond the Game Room (the rust-colored wasteland occupied by ghosts with too strong a tie to the land of the living).  



Having written a second title using the character, I've realized I take the approach to Monty that Sam Raimi uses on actors from Bruce Campbell to Tobey Maguire, which is to just really smack the poor SOBs around and make them suffer for the good of the art.  

Besides being dead and fighting malevolent forces, Monty gets to watch friends and family move on without him. 

Right out of the box (or out of the grave -- so-to-speak), he discovers a good four years have inexplicably ticked away.

His parents have chosen to have another kid.  His two best friends - Trista and Denny - are no longer 11 and 12.  They're teens.  Monty...He's a pre-teen.  For good.  If ever there's a 4th book (let alone a 3rd) Trista and Denny will be graduating high school and leaving Monty all but behind.  

I didn't know that on top of trying to surf the deluge of self-published writers out there I'd also be adding an extra chain to my ankle by blissful ignorance of category (middle grade vs. young adult vs. teen, etc). 

There's something to be said for tempting a protagonist with monumental despair when the author -- given the steep climb to having adoring readers and any sort of 'literary career' -- considers 'despair' the default setting for the whole writing enterprise. 

I expect Monty's stubborn nature to make up for my mourn-ridden slack. I can feign doing my part, and a shared lockstep - though off a beat here and there - is not a bad rhythm.