Archive for the ‘A Writers Life’ Category

A Stranger in a Strange Land

June 27, 2010

Recently I found myself planning a trip to the States. I don’t have a personal assistant to do this like some world-travellers do, and taking care of the details was not the easiest thing to do from my location, but thanks to the internet, the job was made somewhat do-able.

For those of you who don’t know, I currently live in France, and while my French is passable enough (barely) in ordinary circumstances, confirming things such as flight and hotel details on the phone is impossible for my limited skills, and sometimes the internet cannot answer all the questions one might have.

So, I opted to book my flight out of England, which was a decision made easier when I saw the prices to fly to the US from Paris – the UK has much better deals, even directly from the airlines. This simply meant that I would take a short flight across the channel and into a land where I am comfortable with the language (at least the written language – the Queen’s English still remains a mystery to me, even though most of the words are the same).

Unfortunately, I could get no decent connection from the UK to the US, so I had to spend the night somewhere around London, preferably close enough to the airport so I could get my first flight out the next morning without stress.

I must qualify that when I have travelled in the past, I have always been a Motel 6 – Travelodge – Ramada Inn kind of guy, but these don’t exist in England, so I did my best. I ended up booking a hotel at more than twice the price of one of these “ordinary” establishments, thinking that prices have gone up in the few years since I travelled, or just plain expensive around Heathrow Airport.

When arriving at the hotel, I thought that it was actually a pretty nice place, and I would probably be getting what I had reluctantly paid for. At reception, the night manager offered me a choice of rooms — I could have the room that was reserved for me, or I could benefit from what was a “quiet” night and take an upgrade to a club/suite at no extra charge. I said, with no question, “Okay.”

It was off to the west-wing and through a set of extra security doors to a land where the carpets are plush. I was to see how the other-half lived, and I wouldn’t be disappointed. Big screen TV in the living room, another TV in the bedroom, and one in the bathtub. Sofas, plush chairs, and even a safe! So… , call me naïve, but a TV in the tub? This place was nicer than any apartment I ever rented! There were a half-dozen fresh cookies by the coffee machine which I quickly went for, and a good-sized refrigerator that I knew was the “mini-bar” —  I avoided this like the plague.

It’s not that I don’t drink, but I was not about to pay double the price for the same thing I could have down at the bar, which was where I was headed anyway for a nice glass of wine (which turned into three). My first glass of wine was accompanied with a request for my room key, and an assurance that this wouldn’t be billed to my room, so I figured “good, I’ll pay cash,” which is how I like things, anyway. The bartender came back with a “Thank you, Sir,” and walked quickly away, so I left a 5 pound note on the bar.

A bit later, I felt like another glass of wine (my second, and usually my limit), so went back to the bar. I noticed my 5 was still on the bar where I left it, and offered it up with my second glass, where it was declined. The bartender told me there would be no charge for the drinks this evening, so I thanked him, and told him to keep it as a tip. This offering was flatly refused with a comment that “everything” was taken care of. I was told, “We don’t like our Club patrons bothered with details.” This is what led to my having a third glass “on the House.” I thought this whole thing was pretty good, and knew I would do it again if I ever got the chance.

It wasn’t until returning to France and telling this story to my wife, that she began to explain the ways of the world to me. Apparently, this is not unusual in the least bit, and she was somehow thoroughly familiar with it. She asked me if I raided the mini-bar, and I said “No, but I ate all the cookies! Why do you ask?” She told me that the mini-bar is ALWAYS free in these situations, stocked not with the usual garbage, but with chilled wine, champagne, and snacks a good step up from Beer-Nuts — all this without any additional room charges. I thought I had been around, but was starting to realize how naïve I really was.

What kind of world is this?

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Corean Injections and Pushing the Word

June 8, 2010

Cover me, when I sleep
Cover me, when I breathe
You throw your pearls before the swine
Make the monkey blind
Cover me, darling please
 

Shock the Monkey – Peter Gabriel 

 

Like a good song, the word will always start having you think you know where you are — where you think you’re comfortable. Even the experienced and jaded would admit that, but, like a junkie wanting to shock the monkey, you want that jolt of adrenaline, that push (or pull) that takes you over the edge. You want to be challenged, but you keep this dirty little secret buried in the depths of that sponge-like matter called your brain. 

All your most bland desires would have you believe this little lie of comfort and calm, and so you would visit grassy, tree-lined fields where birds are singing. A lazy brook bubbles in the near distance accompanied by a sleeping frog’s croak and the drone of a non-existent chicada. Mushrooms open their caps in the glory of the morning gaining sustenance from essential alchemical elements — the clarified dews, dappled sunlight and cozy cowpies that have brought them here only as potential. They blacken before your eyes in response to your presence, while not so far away, but across the great water, lies a city of roses where color abounds by the dictates of man who attempts rather successfully the governing of nature. 

What is this that man does? 

You are tossed far to the south, quickly and not so gently, into a world bursting with chaos, motion and noise. Freeways, traffic and the stench of fumes spewed from tailpipes — everything here is attached to wheels and geared for activity, for the wicked cannot be allowed to rest. Panic, fear and aggression unheard of goes unnoticed by those who live in this arena, their senses dulled into a sleepy apathy when a gunshot sounds, and now, 

You are in the stars, behind and beyond the glittering sparks that you have dreamt of in your reverie for better things. This is the deepest, darkest and coldest reaches of space, and yet you feel no cold, and the light shines beyond all things. What is this, but vaguely familiar? All is indistinguishable here — unnamable, ineffable. Suddenly there is a form — a middle-aged troubadour skips by you singing a song of times coming by. He skips onward towards his inevitable demise while a small dog nips at his heels, warning him of his doom, but this is a jump, a jump into an abyss that does not kill — it is a jump that can only liberate. Fear is no more, and the wheel of fortune spins on….

The fear is pervasive in this place. It is persuasive in this place of final release. You have suffered here too long — for ages and eons of time. You have suffered with those of your tribe, with those you never knew until the suffering began. Uniforms have pushed you beyond abuse, starving and torture until they pushed you into this heartless and demeaning process of death. There is only pain and the taste of choking, putrid gas and vomit coming up your throat from the depths of hell and you explode into countless sparks of the brightest light you have ever known, and it has begun. 

You’re standing in that grassy field once again, but time has passed. The sun has gone low into the evening haze of the diminishing day. It is the crack between the worlds — and you know you have lived many lives. You have experienced all things and you are expelled again, 

Expelled into a world where image exists as song, a song which is built upon word. You have been taken away to places where only life, dream and mind can take you. You have been safely delivered back into what is your place. This is your good place — your safe place. This is the place where you think you know what is going on, and while worlds and realities continue to spin around you in eternal existence, you have important things to do, and your diversions fade away into the reality of  work, chore and responsibilities. We must be realistic…. 

Time and time again you have been given a gift. Time and time again you have taken these journeys and become one with all that is, one with the jazz of words and the jazz of life itself. 

The jazz of your mind…. 

And while Chick plays on, you obsessively shock the monkey back into its sleep once again. 

Sleep, little darling. Sleep.

 

When Your Writing Slumps…

May 13, 2010

Slumps — this is what a soufflé does when it fails for reasons unknown.

So what do you do when your writing slumps, otherwise known as the dreaded “writer’s block,” also for reasons unknown?

Well, if reasons are unknown, then there is no reason to look for any because there probably aren’t any to be found. This being the case, there is only one thing you can do with this slump, you can write about it. Drop everything you’re supposed to be doing, everything you’re supposed to be writing, and forget about it. Then you just pick up a pad and pen, or just fire up the old machine (which is probably on anyway), and begin writing. Write about how empty, dry and desolate you feel because you are not fulfilling your purpose in life.

Or, begin by writing about how you have absolutely nothing to write about.

Or, begin by documenting the events that led you to this state of being a miserable wretch.

Or, accept all this and just move on. Begin having fun doing what you do best, and that is writing — even if it is not the writing you are supposed to be writing.

Just dive into those words that come to you. Leave these words uncorrupted as they fly through the portal of you imagination into reality. Write as you have forgotten how to write, free and spontaneously,  flowing and going with the words as they pass out of your mind. Go … go … go into that night where there is no light but the light of the written word. Go … go … go with your words as they spin tales of woe and peace. Go with them as a passenger on a mysterious journey without any destination.

Go … go … go write what you will. Go back into your work with a pen in your hand. Go back into your work where your only need is the need to write and the need to share.

Go … go … go where you go without a care in the world. Go away with yourself to a place in your past, a place where you first wrote your name — that place where you first felt the joy of success. Go back to this day, for this is the day when you began to write —

and so begin again today.

To Contract or Not Contract

April 21, 2010

Contract? Contract what?  

I would have never thought about it.    

I would have never thought about it at all, if it were not for my own taking notice of the way words come out of me. I am, of course, speaking of the written word, for with the spoken word, I do absolutely horrific things. The rest remains to be seen.    

In the now old and classic sci-fi series “Star Trek – the Next Generation,” Data, the fleshbound robot, was completely unable to contract any words whatsoever. He dreamed of being able to do so, for he thought it would indicate a certain level of human-ness within him. It seems he so deeply desired to be human, that he didn’t even realize that his dreamy “desire” is most certainly a human quality.    

Needless to say, he got his wish, and started contracting words. While this was extremely important to him, and fascinating (if not baffling) to him when the first contracted word came out of his mouth, I certainly don’t remember how he obtained this “skill” – but he was now more human, and thrilled about it. Apparently contracting words is specifically a human quality, since snakes and birds do not do this.    

While expansive and contractive vortexes might look alike - they are not. It depends which direction you are going.

 Contraction is not an activity restricted only to vortexes, but we are creating a vortex that compresses our expression each time we do contract a word. I have no preference of compressive over expansive vortexes, but I do have a preference for not contracting my words when I write.  

I do, personally, find a lack of contraction much more powerful in delivery than using contraction (I will not mention the language of text messaging here – for it does seem to have its place). Non-contracted words punch harder with delivery – these are words of a higher octane. 

I must say that I am completely adamant about not contracting my words, ever. This just cannot be done in my little world — it is a matter of style. 

 In fact, at this point in my life, I would gladly say that I have been reborn. In fact, I would gladly (and religiously) say that I’ll never contract another word again. 

The Sound of One Pen Writing

April 18, 2010

The sound of a pen?

We all know that pens make no sound when they are slip across paper, doing so well what they were designed to do — that is, of course unless it is a hard felt-tip pen, or better yet, a quill. Yes, a quill.

While I do possess a few dip-pens, they are hardly used, but I do dip occasionally. In my world, quill-pens are like UFOs — I have never seen one except in pictures (and videos). You might wonder where this is going…

Well, as I have said before, I still like to write, and compose my writing, with pen and paper — but this activity (the writing with a pen part) will not be addressed here. What I would address is the composing part – the composition part.

Many would define “composition” as something that implies a finished product, such as, “What a beautiful composition!” I must use the term here a little differently, as something of a work in progress, something in the present moment, something I am composing right now.

“What are you up to, Pete?”

“I’m in composition right now!”

Meaning — I’m trying to figure out what this thing is made of (or what it is, or will be composed of) that I am currently writing. Something must always be said — it must have a point, they say. Well, they would also say the point must be considered the passenger, that which is carried by the composition – that being the vehicle.

I would beg to differ again. Is it the destination that is important, or is it the journey? Is it the point, or is it the composition?

“So what is the point, Pete?” you are asking (Yes, once again and parenthetically, I can hear you).

The point is this…

We really must loosen up our definitions if we want to be free.


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