Writing Practice – 6/1/2018

Pen is running dry…

I like to watch the progress of the ink level in the barrel as I go along. Slow and steady it is, but it keeps going. The more I write, the less I have left to go until it’s all gone. Like footsteps, paradoxically, the more I write, the more evidence there is that I was here. The more pen on the page, means less pen ink in the tube.

I wonder if the people who made this pen thought about how it would be used. For grocery lists or for calculus homework. For taking notes in a quarterly divisional meeting at a large multi-national corporation, or for making doodles on the side of a notepad while waiting for the doctor.

The possibilities inside this pen are endless. There are whole worlds, whole universes, to be set free. Inside this plastic cylinder are dragons and demons and fairies and magic. Inside are robots and hyper drives and a new ansible and a Crucible. Inside are epic poems and haikus. Inside is a resignation letter from the President, alongside and mingling with the phone number scrawled on the back of my hand at that bar last week.

These things are all in there. They’re all potentials. misspellings and transgressions, sleights of hands and phurns of trase. Malapropism. Aproprisms. Run-on sentences. Adverbs. The month of September, and how it smells like sheep ready for shearing, how it feels like the ground is turning its own nose up at the change of seasons. Inside is a butterfly, dancing merrily on the edge of my shoulder, its delicate leg somehow caught in the uneven weave of my shirt, fluttering and flapping to try and escape, yet still entwined with me, so that I have time to take out my camera and snap a selfie, two, three, four, five, before I watch if finally leave, and take off and leave me wanting more once again.

It is a desert, and Antarctica, and Pluto, and Polaris, and protons, and Protease, and protein, and prescriptions and purses and pennywhistles and Pennywise, all in one. It is the large infinitely large and the small infinitely small together – mashed, waiting, uncertain as to whether it will manifest on the paper as power or pusillanimousness. The possibilities are infinite, a regular [unclear] Pen of the word, an infinite universe of quantum potentialities which do not coalesce condense collapse into one until I set pen to paper and become, in this world, the almighty.

Extremely Bad Advice – How to Deal with Sentimentality

Stealing from Abby once again – ’cause I’m too lazy today to write a new question.

DEAR ABBY: My adult son passed away two years ago at a young age. We were very close while he was growing up. He married young, and I maintained a great relationship with both him and his wife. They gave me the most precious grandchildren any woman could ask for, and I am extremely active in their little lives.

My daughter-in-law has moved on. She met a nice young man, and they are planning to be married in the near future. Do you think I would be out of line to request to have my son’s ashes back home with me? We live near each other, I love her very much, and we still have a great relationship. I don’t want to damage it by asking this if it’s not appropriate.

I would pass his ashes on to his children when they grow up, of course, but for now, I’d love to have my son back home with me and his dad because she has started her new life. My husband is noncommittal about the subject. When I broach it, he says he “doesn’t want to talk about it.” I really have no one to ask or confide in about this. Your thoughts would be most appreciated. — STILL BROKENHEARTED IN NORTH CAROLINA

DEAR BROKENHEARTED,

Well, what can I say? I would say I’m sorry for your loss, but I’m not. I think “sorry for your loss” is about as meaningful as “the sky is really blue today”. If I was saddened by your loss, I’d tell you that, and perhaps that would do something. If I was interested in showing how much I care about you, I’d ask, “Oh, that must be hard. What do you miss most about him?” But, again, I don’t care, because your sorrow and misery really don’t affect me on the daily. Other than to provide fodder for my advice column, for which I will gladly say, “Next victim!”

Okay, here we go. The classic dilemma – who gets to keep the crispy bacon that used to be your son’s body? Because, let’s all agree, your “son” is no longer there any more, just like the dream I used to have of being an Abercrombie & Fitch model has blown off into the wind with that first hit of the mind-altering substance known on the street as Jif Extra Crunchy. Your son disappeared from the shell that held him the moment his cranial electro-activity ceased. What he left behind was the meatbag for DNA that did its job incredibly well by providing “the most precious grandchildren” [hold on – just threw up in my mouth a little].

And in order to do that, he had to procreate with his wife, your daughter-in-law (DIL). Who is now his widow. So, for that you should be grateful to her, not jealous.

What’s left is sentimentality. I get it. People have good memories of the past, and it’s hard to move on. It’s hard to imagine that your progeny wouldn’t love you as much as you loved him. How could he? You’re a mother, and everyone knows a “mother’s love knows no bounds”. He couldn’t reciprocate your devotion to him. And he proved this by not pulling an Oedipus and fucking you! He shagged the DIL, knocked her up a couple of times, gave her good memories, and now his burnt ends occupy a silver chalice on the mantle. Good for him and her.

But – you’re a selfish hag who has nothing left in her life, and you’re trying to fill your own void by commandeering what should be left to her in order to appease your own shortcomings. As evidenced by your question to me! Don’t do this. Would you be out of line? Absolutely. Don’t do it! Leave well enough alone. Your husband “doesn’t want to talk about it” not from an ethical or emotional perspective, but simply because you’re looney-tunes and he recognizes a bear trap when he sees it.

However, because I suspect you won’t take my advice above, being as reasonable as it is, I’m going to give you a bonus recommendation of some Extremely Bad Advice. This you’ll probably do with gusto. Have fun!

Step one: Offer to babysit the grandkids for a night. Give the DIL and her new guy a chance to go out and have fun.

Step two: Prepare for the switch. Get a plastic bag, about a gallon, clear (not white), full of ashes from your backyard barbecue pit. Take along a second, empty bag for holding.

Step three: Once the kids are in bed, make the transfer. Go full Indiana Jones. Play dramatic music, sweat profusely, look over your shoulder for booby-traps.

Step four: Revel in your glory. You now have your son’s actual remains, and she, the grandkids, and your husband are none the wiser. Dare I say they might view you as a hero for how magnanimously you deal with the situation? Visit a bar and order a glass of Chablis to celebrate. Send me the bill – I’ll gladly treat you for that job well done!

Writing Practice – 3/27/2018

(Today’ s writing practice session did not begin with a prompt. I simply started to write.)

To start a writing practice session, I always do two things, though not always in the same order. I review the Rules for Writing Practice – keep your hand moving, don’t think, don’t get logical, lose control, go for the jugular. And I imagine myself inside my own brain, a flat bottom and a half-oblong dome above me, grey, and I have a paint roller in my hand. I dip it into a bucket of white paint and use that to cover the inside of my a brain with whiteness, blankness, cleanness, renewal, readiness for the experience of writing. Once all of the surface has been covered, strip, strip, along the bottom – working my way from the middle, next, next, next, out to the edge, along a Mohawk strip on the top, next, next, clear around to the curve to the edge, when it meets the floor, painting, covering, all in white a canvas, in preparation.

Then I am ready to write. To burn through to first thoughts. To offer myself to my Muse, wherever he is that day, if He will choose to show up or not, if he will deign to stoop down and place a soft, reassuring touch on my shoulder, if he will whisper, warm, tickling breath in my ear, “Yes, go, get that, follow that thought, chase it, don’t let it escape, pursue, continue, persist, never, ever, ever let go, find it, fight it, kill it, master it, turn it, transform it, tame it, succumb it to your power, to your authority, to your will, do not relent, do not release, do not avoid when the subject turns delicate, or embarrassing, or insecure, for you are to know that you are the one in control, you are the one from whom all these blessings flow, you are the god in this world, this world you have created, this universe at the tip of your pen, you are the Alpha and the Omega, what you bring about here shall live in mythology and archaeology and your subjects’ anthropologies for as long as they exist, for you are a deity far above all others, you have the power to build up, to tear down, to keep, to preserve, to destroy, to eliminate, to mould and fashion and to remake and to evolve, you are the thing in this world that all other things are subject to, and so therefore with such great authority comes great responsibility, an awareness of self, an introspection of your power, your ability, your authority, and your standing in this world, that world, that experience, you have power and authority, yes, so choose wisely, choose judiciously, make with circumspection and introspection and valor and virtue, for what you make, what you destroy, what you build and what you tear down become your legacy, your history, to the universe above you, the god who sits judging you for your godhood shall weigh your actions, your perseverance, your perversity or magnanimity and he, she it, they too shall judge, with the same measure as which you used to judge, so take care, be wise, be well, and do good work.”

Extremely Bad Advice – Office Interactions

Dear SJ:

My boss at work has been giving me a hard time about a new hire recently. I was assigned to be her mentor and “show her the ropes”. Since I’m a thirty-something married man, I’ve tried to keep my distance from the young, naïve, pretty little girl who could almost be my daughter. But my boss keeps insisting I spend more time with her outside of the office, to “build rapport”. I think it’s dangerous; especially since she has hinted that maybe she doesn’t have the best of morals. One time she let slip that she would “do anything” to get ahead in this company. And she admitted to me that she cheated on some tests and bought essays instead of writing them herself so she could get better grades. Oh, and another thing – my boss is another guy even older than me, and I suspect that he might have hired her simply for her looks. What do I do? Should I approach HR? Call out the boss? Just go with it?

HESITANT HARRY

Dear HESITANT,

I don’t get it. I mean, I really don’t. You’ve got a young, attractive girl practically throwing herself at you, you’ve got your boss’s approval, and you’ve got permission from HR to get close to her. Yet you haven’t yet gone for it. Why not?

You know HR isn’t really bothered by this kind of thing. Why else would they assign you to be her “mentor”? Everyone who’s anyone knows that “mentor” is just code-speak for “hit your quarterly sales and profit goals and you can do whatever the hell you want.” Including banging in the office. Especially banging in the office. Happy employees are productive employees, am I right?

I know it’s on your mind, since your letter concluded with “Just go with it?” I mean, if you were serious about not having sex with this girl, you’d have asked me, “How do I say no? I don’t want to cheat.” But, clearly, that’s not your angle. So we’re working under the following assumptions.

One: she’s DTF. Two: you’re DTF. Three: Your boss is down with you making the beast with two backs. Hell, he’s practically throwing her at you, encouraging you to “build rapport”. You’re going to have to get over whatever performance anxiety or antiquated guilt trip still holding you back in order for this to happen. Unfortunately I can’t be there to smack you upside the head and knock this kind of sense into you. You’re just going to have to man up on your own and decide to do this thing, for your own good, for her good, for your boss’s good, and for your company’s bottom line.

So here’s what you do.

Start with an early “performance review”. This should happen, ideally, on a Thursday afternoon, after most of the work is done for the day. [Why Thursday? Because I want another story to get me excited when I open up my e-mail on Friday.] When she comes in to your office, make sure you’re sitting behind your desk with your pants pulled down. You don’t have to be spanking it or anything, but it would be good if you had a hand in your underwear.

Mention how good she looks. Be specific – don’t just say, “You look nice,” use a direct compliment. “Your blouse really makes your eyes sparkle,” or some other drivel that women love to convince themselves is true and not just an inroad to her panties. Tell her, “Here in the office, things have been going good, but I think they can go better, don’t you think?” And use your eyes to indicate your crotch. Based on her reaction, you can decide whether the banging happens on your desk or in the bathroom at the local dive bar. If she starts touching herself and complimenting you, it’s on like Donkey Kong. If she is a little bit shy, that just means you’ll have to “take the meeting offsite” and call your cousin Jagermeister to wingman for you.

And as this is corporate America, they like to have documentation of everything. Make sure to wear your Google Glass and get some POV videos for your boss. Like you said, chances are good that he hired her for her looks and her willingness to sleep her way to the top. So you’ll need to have adequate evidence for your official written review coming later. Best would be if you save the condom too as evidence of your participation – they’re going to want to match the semen and the vaginal secretions later to make sure she’s not conspiring with a competitor. And when it’s all over? Don’t forget to “cycle back” with regular “action items” about every two weeks.

Best of luck, we’ll look for the resultant bump in your company’s performance to push you guys into the Fortune 500 in the near future.

Writing Practice – 3/20/18 – Bad News

Write about bad news…

It’s worse when the delivery is poor, too. It’s easy to hear when it comes from someone who loves you, who cares about you, who will be there to hold you after the revelations sink in and your heart has disintegrated into the void in your chest at the announcement. Because then you have someone to be there while you stumble through the next few moments, the next days, as you struggle to understand, to experience; as you fight to perform the monumental task of keeping on, keeping going, when all you want to do in the face of such insurmountable odds is to walk away.

Bad news is not the opposite of good news. Good news makes you happy. It’s on a spectrum, an axis, a dimension. Sad on one end, happy on the other. So good news drives you along the happy-sad line from less happy to more happy. It’s maybe linear, maybe exponential, maybe logarithmic, maybe discontinuous. But at least it’s on that path, that pattern, a graphable subset of the whole.

Bad news, though, that shit is a different breed. It doesn’t do the opposite as good news. It doesn’t drive us down that axis, doesn’t make us sad, doesn’t make us less happy. Bad news is an altogether different bitch.

Bad news incites feelings of revolution, of betrayal, of hatred, of incompetence. It is not on the happy/sad spectrum – it is not on any axis at all.

Not perpendicular – not even a dimension at all. Bad news brings feelings completely uncorrelated to the news itself. It brings inspires installs turbulence within the spirit.

It enlightens destructive tendencies, destruction to self, destruction to environment, destruction to imagination, destruction to hope. Bad news irradiates the possibilities of future happiness with ultraviolet, emotion-destroying, logically-consistent-and-yet-absolutely-incomprehensible emotionless arguments.

Bad news fucks you up. And not in ways that can be protected against. There is no “bad news life preserver.” No “this is gonna fuck up your head, so grab an emotional prophylactic” condom. It is not random, not linear, not predictable, and yet also not incomprehensible.

Bad news is bad – not for the outcome, but for the period in between, that space, that time, those days or weeks or months from the time when you first hear it and the last acts are complete. “Oh, he’ll die in 2 months.” Well, then, my life is a shitshow for 2 months and for twenty years after, as the echoes of that bad news reverberate through the empty chambers of my heart forever.

Bad news. It’s bad news, man. It’s the torture that just keeps giving, long after it should have stopped, long after the events unfolded. Long after the “healing” is done. Long after the heart has moved along, the society has moved along, long after your counselor says “I think you’re good here,” long after the surface scars have healed. Bad news is a poison waiting, slowly working, beneath the surface, eating out the insides in a perpetual, relentless destruction of the body from the soul outward.

Writing Practice – 3/18/2018 – Concerning Happiness

Prompt: How far would you go to achieve your happiness?

I admit- this may be limiting me. But I won’t push past the boundaries of another’s satisfaction or happiness in life to achieve my own. If it requires me to leave a wake of destruction in my path to achieve that “happiness”, then I have the wrong idea of happiness or the wrong idea of the ideal.

I should not have to go to such great lengths, either. I should be able to find happiness wherever I am, whenever I am, without needing to search and seek and journey. I should be able to get to a level of happiness by my everyday interactions – by the things I am doing for myself, for my children, for my community, for my nation, for my world.

I should not need to look far. I am and should find happiness in the alarm clock – in the running shoes. In the dirty dishes, that transform themselves under my great care and safe tutelage into sparkling clean ones.

I should find happiness in a well-folded shirt. In an empty e-mail inbox. In a to-do list completely crossed off. In watching my son hit a double. In reading a story my daughter has written. In throwing crusts of bread, in throwing the whole piece out for the squirrels and the chipmunks and the sparrows and chickadees.

I should find happiness in the pen – in using it dry from my words on the push. I should find happiness win a well-covered page. I should find happiness in a well-read book. In a philosophical insight. In a historical lesson I can only now understand.

I should find happiness in ladybugs – in empty wine glasses – in watermelon rinds and runny noses on a winter’s morning. I should find happiness in a lit candle, burning to fend off to ward off to beat away the darkness of night.

I should find happiness in a hug from my mother. In a smile from my brother. In the touch of my lover. In the morning wind, in the stinging rain, in a subway car too full for me to squeeze in. I should find happiness in an evening newscast, and in laying my head on the pillow at night.

And – I should – So I Do.

Writing Practice – 3/14/2018 – Describe revelry

Describe revelry…

It is laughter and dancing. It is shouting with excitement. It is hand-clapping, and hand-slapping, and hand-waving, and hand-wringing. It is dancing in the streets, arms and shoulders and knees and ankles keeping a disjointed, “I-don’t-care-because-there-are-more-important-elements-to-enjoy-than-rhythm” unfocused pattern.

It is eyes sparkling with joy. It is kisses on cheeks, kisses on lips, kisses blown to the crowd, kisses caught by the crowd and returned, a hundredfold, a thousand times, an simplification far greater than any microphone and speaker set the finest money could buy.

It is a celebration with a complete stranger, hugs and camaraderie together at once, a moment, a moment which stretches for minutes, an hour, a moment which becomes an era, a moment that transforms the timeline into “Before” and “After”.

It is a transition, it is a celebration, it is a new way of seeing the world, through not only my own eyes but the compounding effect of a myriad like-minded persons, pooling our experiences together in this one instance to become something more than ourselves, something greater than ourselves, something richer and fuller than the aggregation of individualities.

It is a transsubstantiation, a making of something old out of something new. The old, being togetherness. And the new, the individuals coming together in the experiencing.

It is an overwhelm. It is a superposition. It is a phase change, a sublimation from one state to another. It is a world of difference, encompassed in the minimality of space; it is a universe of symbiosis metamorphosing into one. From the many, to the unity. Unity of purpose. Unity of experience. Unity of vision. Unity of life.