28 February 2012

A Wise Old Soul

I was never close with any older male figures in my youth. My dad and I have never had a good relationship, and my elder half-brother and I only saw one another intermittently. My mom's brother was busy enjoying early adulthood when I was younger. She only dated one guy after the divorce and that didn't last too long. In consequence, I never really had a sense of how to be a boy, much less how to grow into being a man. I never identified as effeminate, though, so I can't say that I ever had any gender confusion. I just never felt I knew how to comfortably identify as masculine. Cars, guns, football, being cocky around women...none of these are me.

It's not gender that I wish to discuss, however. Rather, a very different hole in my youth and adolescence: that of a mentor.

I think the first time I became conscious of a mentor was when I saw The Transformers: The Movie. My favorite of the new characters was Kup, the crusty old codger who busts Hot Rod's chops through the whole movie while spouting off one anecdote after the next. "Every place reminds you of somewhere else," Hot Rod teases. "Experience, lad. You should learn to appreciate it," says the elder Autobot.

It occurred to me then that I would have loved to have had such a figure in my own life. Someone to tell stories, certainly, but also to offer guidance. I was always inquisitive in my classes as I'm sure my classmates and teachers can attest to this day. I asked all those questions because it was often my only opportunity to expand my understanding of the world and my place in it. I had no idea what to even ask many times. I just knew that there seemed to be an epiphany awaiting me if I just asked the right questions, so I kept trying to find my way as best I could. There was no Kup to oversee my growth and know what wisdom to impart, you know.

At some point in grade school, we were assigned to read Theodore Taylor's The Cay. I don't recall a whole lot about it now, but I distinctly recall a passage in which the young boy in the story becomes overwhelmed and begins to scream and yell at the old man with whom he is stranded. He pounds on the man's chest, and as I recall even calls him some very unpleasant names. The old man never lashes out at him, though, the way grown-ups in my world would have done. Instead, he takes the abuse because he understands his young companion needs to express his frustration. The display of patience struck me very specifically. I knew when I read that section that I wished to one day afford someone else that kind of understanding.

Recently, I joked that there ought to be some kind of system in which women write letters of introduction and recommendation to one another about their guy friends who are terrible at introducing themselves (such as yours truly). A Crohnie friend of mine completely stunned me by writing the following eloquent and humbling remarks:
My friend Travis is one of the coolest people I know. I haven’t actually met him in person but for 3 years he’s been as close a friend as anyone could be that you communicate with via the internet only. We talk to each other on almost a daily basis in various support communities (he’s a Crohn’s patient like me), but also in other social settings. He’s very smart and funny. He genuinely cares more about other people’s well-being than his own. He is honest and always concerned about making a meaningful difference in a person’s life rather than just providing lip service. He’s an extremely astute observer of the human condition and a proponent of common sense. He sets almost impossibly high moral standards for himself but doesn’t expect the same from other people. All the same, he can be light-hearted and makes others laugh when they’re miserable. Talking to him is always a pleasure and you always feel better about yourself afterwards than you did going into the conversation.
[I want you to know that the only reason I didn't cry when I read this is that I was entirely exhausted. Even now, I find it makes my bottom lip begin to quiver.]

It may seem laughable to you, but I can honestly say that Kup and The Cay played significant parts in helping me to become the subject of my friend's description. I have been ever mindful of how much I longed for that kind of patient, wise mentor in my own life and if I'm entirely honest it's a role I have always wished to play for others. There is an obvious danger of paternal arrogance to all this. I've always made a conscious effort to avoid such a blunder but I'm sure I have occasionally faltered. To that end, I can only say that I continue to search for wisdom.

26 February 2012

"The Man with the Golden Gun"

Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli Present
Roger Moore as James Bond-007
in Ian Fleming's
Starring Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland, Maud Adams, Hervé Villechaize as Nick Nack, Clifton James as Sheriff J.W. Pepper
Screenplay by Richard Maibaum and Tom Mankiewicz
Directed by Guy Hamilton
Date of Screening: 25 February 2012

The winner of the annual Halloween costume contest at Baxter Ave. Theater gets to select a movie to play in February and this year, the winning fan's choice was The Man with the Golden Gun. It's strange to think that after five years, this would be 007's debut in the Midnights at the Baxter series but there you have it. Not only was it important to me as a Bond fan to attend this screening, but I really needed this experience on a personal level. The last two weeks have been particularly stressful and discouraging in ways that won't be discussed in this blog and I needed the comfort of James Bond and friends.

To that end, I really had a great time at tonight's screening. I got to see an old friend for the first time in a couple of years, and we laughed from start to finish. It was good to see him again. Of course, it was also nice to see three of my core group of friends again, and one friend brought someone with him I hadn't met before. She seemed to enjoy the picture and laughed at my egocentric rambling before the movie, so I think she left feeling as entertained as the rest of us.

I had originally planned to write a "Guilty Pleasures" piece about The Man with the Golden Gun to conclude the 12-part 50 Years of 007 blog series I'm overseeing for Flickchart to coincide with the film's anniversary in December. I may yet find something new to say about it by then, but I think I'll just leave my remarks about it here and find something new to discuss by year's end. (It's not like I'll run out of material to write about Bond!)

I can't even call this a "guilty pleasure" after finally seeing it on the big screen. I won't bother apologizing for it anymore. I really dig this absurd, over-the-top train wreck! Bond puts Britt Ekland in the closet so he can hook up with Maud Adams for two hours, then brings her out of the closet...to hook up with her! Even Connery never played the field that expertly as 007.

Christopher Lee doesn't get nearly as meaty a role as Scaramanga as he should have had, but he has commanding presence all the same and brings a disconcerting, cold-blooded composure with an undercurrent of absolute insanity to the performance. Hervé Villechaize chewed a ton of scenery and while some of the humor is very much of its era, there's something about the shamelessness of it all that makes it funny today--even if we feel bad for laughing, such as seeing Nick Nack disappear under a tiny couch or being scooped up in a suitcase.

In the context of the Bond series itself, one can easily see that the formula was becoming tired and increasingly dependent on set pieces and not enough on Ian Fleming. The Man with the Golden Gun was a creative low point in the series, reflected in the box office performance and even John Barry's score which the late composer said was rushed and lacking. Still, on its own, on the big screen, it still delivered a romping good time.

Oh, and I don't care what anyone says: I absolutely love the main title song, sung by Lulu. That wah-wah guitar and the brass? Killer.

24 February 2012

"Burnin' the Roadhouse Down" by Steve Wariner

Burnin' the Roadhouse Down
Steve Wariner
Produced by Steve Wariner
CD Release: 21 April 1998
List Price: $6.03 (CD), $9.49 (MP3)

I was aware of Steve Wariner, but never a fan. I was, however, a Garth Brooks fan and Garth was a Steve Wariner fan. So it came to be that Capitol Records signed Wariner to a three-album deal, of which Burnin' the Roadhouse Down was the first. I confess: I bought it in the Spring of 1998 only because Garth appears on the title track. Not that it matters, but this was around the time that Garth came to Louisville and I got to see him in concert and Sevens was still just a few months old. No offense to Trisha Yearwood, but I was rather hoping that Wariner would be the opening act for that show. As it was, they did play this album over the sound system before Yearwood's set, so in my mind this was part of that concert anyway.

The hope, I'm sure, was that a lot of Garth Brooks fans would think along with me and buy their first Steve Wariner album. It was Wariner's second ever gold record, so it was clearly a boon to his commercial career but of course, Garth sales were about 10-12x as high so clearly there were relatively few of us rabid enough to buy a whole album for one duet. Their loss!

Periodically, I go through my library and purge albums that no longer appeal to me. For years, Burnin' the Roadhouse Down would be on the chopping block. I had gone months without thinking about it, so how much could I really care about it? Still, I recalled liking it so I would throw it in the CD player to give it a chance to persuade me to keep it. By the end of "Every Little Whisper," I'm reminded I really do like it. By the end of "Road Trippin'," I know I'm keeping it. By the time the album ends with "What if I Said," I want to go around the entire world saying, "You need to hear this right now!"

The album is notable for Wariner's signature song, "Holes in the Floor of Heaven." I always liked the song, but feared it was a little too "Hallmark" for my taste. Relative to the bombastic melodrama that characterizes contemporary country, time has shown it to be a much more thoughtful song than I gave it credit at the time. I was surprised to hear "Love Me Like You Love Me," which I instantly recognized from Clay Walker's recording on his 1996 album, Hypnotize the Moon. It's always weird when you can sing along with something you've never heard!

Wariner was never a redneck or a cowboy. He's a smooth sounding guy and one can easily imagine him having built a career on the Adult Contemporary charts instead of Country. But just when you wonder why a guy as vanilla as him bothered with the charade of being a country artist, he goes and hits you with a song about heartache like "A Six Pack Ago" or "Big Ol' Empty House" and you know he's as entrenched in the sensibilities of the genre as anyone else. There's some killer fiddle throughout "I Don't Know How to Fix It," and I think I'd love to hear Tim McGraw take a crack at it some time. I think my favorite second favorite track on the album is the penultimate song, "Big Tops" in which Wariner constructs an allegory of the end of a relationship mirroring the taking down of a circus on its way out of town. There's something about the line, "They're firing all the clowns" that just fascinates me. That's bloody brilliant writing!

Beyond producing the album, Wariner co-wrote every song save "What If I Said," which was written by his duet partner, Anita Cochran. I dig the writing on the other 11 songs, but this is the gem of the whole thing for me. I think there comes a point in many male/female friendships where the possibility of bringing up romantic/sexual desire crosses the minds of each person. It's been the case for me on occasion, mostly in my youth. I've yet to hear a song that does a better job articulating those anxieties than this song and it absolutely crushes me each time I hear it, even if I haven't actively felt that confusion in ages. Just hearing this song floods me with a sort of emotional memory recall and I'm in my late teens/early 20s again, staying up late, living and dying by the ring of the phone.

It's not a party disc, or a driving disc (though "Road Trippin'" is certainly worth adding to a driving playlist). There is, however, a nice, clean sound to this album that invites candlelight and wine, or hot chocolate and a fireplace.

Note: All links include my Amazon Associates ID. I get a kickback if you buy via these links.

21 February 2012

LeVar Burton on Dating

There's no way in hell this won't make my Favorite Tweets of 2012 list but it's so awesome it's getting its own post right now.
I suppose we can take his word for it on this!

20 February 2012


Last night, I received an e-mail from Papa John's informing me that I had a free large one-topping pizza and a two liter of Pepsi Max coming on account of a Super Bowl promotion. I'm like, "Yeah, I can dig it!" so I hope onto their website and begin looking at things. It turns out I don't have to get the Pepsi Max; I can get any 2-liter. I picked regular Pepsi. Then I see a promo banner suggesting I add an order of chicken strips for the "special price" of $6.00. It's steeper than I'm willing to pay ordinarily, but I figure since I'm getting the pizza and Pepsi free anyway, I could justify $6.00 for the whole order.

Then I discover the website menu's actual price for said chicken strips is $5.00! See for yourself what this looks like:
I scheduled the order for pick-up around 4:30 since that's when I was supposed to take my cousin to something. Her plans changed, however, and she asked if I'd take her and a friend shopping to The Summit. Being that I felt well enough to go and had nothing else to do, I agreed. I found the following while we were out and about.

At the Hallmark Gold Crown Store, I turned up a pair of Keepsake Ornaments I wanted but was not going to buy at full price...and they were on clearance for $3.00 apiece! I snagged a Green Lantern ($14.95) and a Romulan Bird-of-Prey ($32.95!). They also had several Captain Jack Sparrows, but I passed.

Then off to Target, where I found they had a promo sale on World's Best Cat Litter, which they've just started carrying. The regular price is $8.99 per 8 pound bag, but they were on sale for $7.99. I happened to find a bag that had a peel-off $2.00 instant coupon, which dropped it to $5.99 for the bag. It gets better! There's currently a promo from World's Best offering a full refund rebate by mail (up to $12.00) for the purchase of one bag. I'll get my $5.99 back in [however many] weeks! This was particularly convenient as I poured out the last of the litter I had this morning and needed a new bag. I was prepared to spend $8.00 for a new package, but this worked out better. The difference offsets one of the two ornaments out of pocket now, and the refund will offset both of them in the end!

So I got it all home, at my chicken strips and a little pizza and streamed Conan O'Brien Can't Stop. It was alright, I suppose; I would have liked to have heard from the band but what was shown was interesting. It was more enjoyable than Comedian, the tour doc about Jerry Seinfeld. I filled out my mail-in rebate and took it to the mailbox just as a couple of girls were walking past with a dog. The dog, Roxy, was quite eager and trotted my way (on her leash). I reached down and pet her and she was quite happy about the attention. We made some quick small talk. It was hardly any kind of love connection, but they didn't try to mace me, so I'm calling that a win, too.

It's brisk right now and getting colder (we have rain moving in), but I decided to go for a walk myself. The neighborhood was entirely dead. I saw no other walkers and only three cars the entire time I was out, which was nearly half an hour. My back and my hips are in a lot of pain right now, which I had anticipated, but the important thing is that I was able to complete the walk. On a good day, I can do two or three of the loops. On an ambitious day, I can do all four. Tonight I only managed the one, and I know how trivial that sounds, but in my world it's quite an accomplishment. (Remember when I discussed the incidental ways that Crohn's affects one's health and causes us to readjust our expectations and objectives?)

Addendum: Too Legit to Quit
I signed up with the Waffle House Regulars email promos and in the most recent one, they offered a coupon for a free slice of pie. So I'm sitting here still feeling good and decide I don't want it to end. I texted a friend to see if she wanted to join me for pie (it would be no problem to print off a second coupon for her since they're not unique) but she's still recovering from surgery and not able to go tonight. I therefore went anyway. I had a slice of cold, chocolate pie with a glass of water. I brought along some quarters for the jukebox but I decided I preferred the quiet. I never like to be the one to start the jukebox if there are more than a couple other people already there when I arrive.

I sat in the far back booth with a wide ruled* Norcom notebook and a black Pilot Precise V7 rolling pen and wrote. I don't want to say what I wrote just yet, but it's something I've wanted to do for quite some time.
#winning on Twitpic
Coda: Winning Turns to Heartache
Just as I finished writing, I overheard some of the conversation from the corner table across the restaurant from me. There were three older people there, I'm going to guess in their 50s maybe, one man and two women. The man was recounting a conversation he had had with what I'm assuming was a suitor of his daughter. "Hell no, you can't marry her!" he laughed. "How you gonna support her?" The condescension and disdain seemed even more hateful accompanied by the laughter.

It hit a very sensitive nerve with me. It seems every time I cite being self-conscious over my lack of money, someone insists to me that I'm making too much out of it. "Women don't care about money nearly as much as they care about how you treat them." "If she cares about money, she's not the right one."

But that corner table is exactly why I'm so self-conscious about such things and why I can't allow myself to ever feel comfortable about myself or optimistic about my future. There really are people who measure us by our net worth. You can dismiss them all you want, but I've lived under the scrutiny of such a person for most of the last decade and I can tell you it's demeaning and cripples one's ability to have a healthy self-image. It doesn't have to be your partner, mind you. In fact, it's usually much colder and harsher when it's someone close to your partner. Say, a family member.

There I was, feeling really good about my savings on the day and my walk. My whole day cost somewhere around $20. I was clever, frugal, pseudo-responsible and even productive. And just like that, it all came crashing down. I'm scouring the web for freebies because I have to, not because I've got a quirky habit. I can't support anyone on the occasional free pizza and pie promos.

So those of you who have tried to encourage me about my prospects, know that while I appreciate your efforts, your voices are much quieter than those coming from the corner booth.

17 February 2012

The Transience of Relationships and Hope

I have rarely found it bothersome to think of people as transient. My core group of friends has remained stable for nearly 20 years. Others have come and gone, but sometimes they come back to me. It's not uncommon for me to reunite with someone after several years, to discover that the chemistry has remained intact. We trade "What's happened in your world?" stories, reestablishing the context in which our relationship is resuming and then we're off and running. Facebook has been a godsend to this end; I have enjoyed reconnecting with several old pals through that site.

What upsets me most, I think, is that I'm at a point in my life where if I was writing it, I would very likely scrap the whole damn thing and begin anew. So many things have gone awry, and it feels insurmountable to repair that damage. If I was healthy and could  find  (and keep) gainful employment, I could do it. But as it stands, I just cannot see what possible means exist to find my footing--which, I'll be honest, I'm not entirely sure I ever had in the first place.

One of the recurring refrains among Facebook users is, "I didn't like you in high school so why would I want to friend you now?" It's a fair question. It's crossed my own mind on more than one occasion. Sometimes, I have declined the request. I confess: once or twice, I approved it just to then un-friend the person shortly thereafter once I got the feeling that they had only added me out of some kind of "collect 'em all" mentality. I am not a Pokemon.

That said, I believe we each evolve. I believe in redemption, and that means that every time I'm contacted by someone from the past, I'm hopeful it means, "Hi, Travis, I've been racked with guilt for half my life over picking on you and I'm grateful you endured all that bullshit and that you're doing better today." Maybe it means, "I was totally into you but I was stupid and never said anything about it." More often, though, I think it just means, "I saw your name on here and I recognized it so I clicked "+1 Add Friend."

I'm terrified that I will die alone. It might sound like hyperbole, but consider that because of what Crohn's has done to my quality of life I don't get out much. What chance do I really have of meeting someone in passing at Walmart, or Half Price Books?  "OH HAI. IM INTO U." Yeah, that'll work. I've caught defensive glances from women in the last few months. When I was with my wife, I was entirely harmless and they would smile back as they let me pass in the grocery aisle. Now, though, it's just me and they look like they're ready to grab their mace if I try to reach past them for the Oreos.

Some people are threatened by the transient nature of life. Friends come and go. Some people become bitter and guarded, convinced that "people will let you down." I have been fortunate in that regard. I have reconnected in the last few months with a couple of old pals. After the initial "What's been going on with you?" discussions, I've found the old chemistry still intact. The sense of humor that drew me to these people originally has survived college, job changes, moving, relationships, marriages and even the birth of children. At their core, they're still the same people I once liked and I've enjoyed sharing their company again--even if it has been exclusively online.

The first thing I've written since completing the first draft of my novel was a reflection on Doctor Zhivago for Flickchart: The Blog. It hasn't been finalized or published yet, but it's been in my mind for the better part of a year now. In my forthcoming post about it, I recalled the first time I saw it which was about 21 years ago in seventh grade. One subplot that struck me was that of Pasha (Tom Courtenay), the naive boy who loves Lara (Julie Christie). She eventually casts him out of her life (ostensibly, to spare him from the poison that her life has become). Pasha returns after the outbreak of the revolution as the cold and ruthless General Strelnikov. Even in 7th grade, I fancied the notion of one day becoming a Strelnikov and exacting my revenge on my classmates. The truth is, I'm just a Pasha. I don't have it in me to become Strelnikov. I'm just the pathetic boy who doesn't belong in a woman's life.

A former classmate of mine asked me forever ago to name a character after her in my first book. My self-denial about whether I could write is well chronicled, but I kept her request in my mind this entire time. That led me to perusing the only two yearbooks I own, from my 7th and 8th grade years. Inside the latter, this classmate wrote some very lovely and encouraging words, including this:
I'm really glad I got to know you, you are intelligent, nice and very heartful. Believe me Travis you will be very successful in life.
I can forgive her for using the non-word, "heartful." I would love to find her online so I can let her know that I have made good on my promise from two decades ago, and to thank her for believing in me so many years before I was willing to contemplate believing in myself.

I've been haunted the last few days by a line from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, delivered by Jeff Corey as Sheriff Bledsoe:
"It's over! Don't you get that? Your times is over, and you're gonna die. Bloody. And all you can do is choose where."
I feel like that's directed at me, personally. My glory days are behind me (not that they were ever particularly glorious) and all that's left is for me to accept a dissatisfying existence as what's left for me in life. I don't want to have to accept a miserable, lonely life in dubious health and poverty. No one should be asked to just live that way. That's exactly what's in front of me. The endgame is no different whether I live through just the weekend or another fifty years. I can't make the kinds of important changes that my life needs without a lot of things that are outside my power changing. I can't cure Crohn's disease. Where does that leave me? Choosing where to die?

12 February 2012

My Hairy Butt

I had originally intended to compile some last minute Grammy predictions, but then that became composing a post about the death of Whitney Houston. Then that was caught up in a Facebook discussion spurred by a fellow Crohnie's status update. It wasn't my thread or I would share it with you, Dear Reader. Ultimately, it doesn't even matter for the purpose of this post except to explain to you the impetus for this one. See, after most of the debating had already taken place (quite civilly, by Internet standards, I thought), some guy I have never even heard of before tonight chimed in with the following:
I'm big enough I can take an attack. I'm even able right now to handle the "STOP BREATHING" part, but I do want to take this moment to say to those who may be unfamiliar with my story that I fought suicidal depression for an entire year, leading me to being hospitalized in October. This guy had no way of knowing that, and I would like to think that if he had, he might have been a little more thoughtful about what he said. But then, that's the point; none of us ever know what anyone else is going through, or has gone through. I know some people who would have absolutely crumbled at those words and might have relapsed entirely into suicidal despair. To my Crohnie pal's credit, she very quickly admonished him and reiterated that even though she wasn't in agreement with all of us in that discussion that she had no tolerance for such attacks. I sincerely appreciate that she stepped in like that, and I would encourage each of you to be as bold as her should you encounter such behavior. You never know who might see your show of strength and not just appreciate it, but really, truly, need it.

Having said all that, the real topic I wish to address right now is actually the aforementioned profile pic, seen here:
I took that about a month ago. The cat in the image is Harriet ("Hairy Butt"), the third of our four rescued kitties. I confess that I initially resisted keeping her at all when my wife brought her inside after finding her in the back yard one day. It was too inhospitable outside to banish the poor thing, so I reluctantly allowed her to stay confined to the storage area until we could get her to a shelter. Except there was a problem.

Harriet had suffered severe abuse before coming to us. Her bottom teeth are busted. There's a gash on her throat and she doesn't have a very loud voice. She doesn't even mew; she barks. Worse still is that her front left leg is entirely, permanently mangled. Her shoulder blade is collapsed into her clavicle. The veterinarian told my wife that the injuries were consistent with other cats she had seen thrown from a moving car. I get angry just thinking about what Harriet endured and if there was any way at all that I could find out for sure what happened and who was responsible, I may very well discover that I'm not such a peaceful person after all.

Despite being a "No Kill" shelter, we could not get a guarantee of her safety should 90 days pass without her being adopted and we were further advised that it was very unlikely anyone would adopt a cat in her condition. Harriet joined our family. I'm glad she did, because she's got a very warm personality (despite the ever-present glare seen in my profile pic that's her default look). In fact, she's curled up in my lap as I type this, purring away and I haven't even pet her! She's a sweet girl, and it's amazing to me how friendly she is with people after what she was clearly subjected to by someone.
Incidentally, my wife named her for her childhood heroine, Harriet Tubman. Tubman, of course, is the famed conductor of the Underground Railroad who endured unimaginable hardship but committed herself to seeing a better world. She was a fighter, and refused to accept a life in bondage for herself or for others. If Harriet could join ASPCA, I'm sure she would and fight on behalf of all abused critters. It was my cousin who corrupted the name to "Hairy Butt" while we were watching Finding Nemo one afternoon (after the scene in which the fish mistakenly call a boat a "butt").
So in that one profile pic, you see a guy who almost killed himself and a cat severely abused. Neither of us should even be here still, I suppose, and yet we are. We're not unique. There are millions of people around the world who have been thisclose to ending their lives and I wouldn't even care to guess how many abused cats or other critters. We've persevered. All she wants is some loving and a warm lap. To be honest, I think that's really all I want at this point in life, too. Try to think about us when you encounter people who casually suggest others "stop breathing" and remember: your words can affect those around you in ways you may not even imagine. Be careful with them.

10 February 2012

I Am a Responsible Adult

There I was, thinking this afternoon about how I wanted to go out to Barnes and Noble in The Summit and buy Amelie on Blu-ray and it occurred to me that I might be benevolent and ask my 16 year-old cousin if she wanted to go with me. Just something to do on a Friday night, y'know? She was certainly eager to go, but she had two friends over. Being the guy I am, I extended the offer to take the trio. They very enthusiastically accepted. It took them a while to craft their Jersey Shore-inspired appearances, which I'm only reasonably certain they affect in jest, and then we were off.
Watching this movie is like falling in love.

Except that on the way, I learned that one girl's mother was alarmed at the notion of the expedition on account of the weather. It had only just begun to spit some snow and the forecast calls for at most an inch accumulation overnight; hardly a winter storm. Still, I can appreciate that this woman is entitled to be protective of her kid and I'm not about to begin lecturing otherwise. It's not my place to say so.

My cousin's friend tried to assuage her mother that they weren't with another teenager, but somehow I think learning that her little girl was out with her friend's 33 year-old (male) cousin was not very comforting. I suspect the woman has already begun calling the producers of To Catch a Predator. I didn't want to insert myself into the discussion (at least, not beyond the level to which I was already involved) so I refrained from trying to address the mother myself. But between you and me, Dear Reader, I longed to just yell, "I am a responsible adult!"

Instead, I went through the drive thru at Steak & Shake (instead of dining in, as had been my preference), dashed into Target for five minutes, hoping they might have Amelie and save me the additional ten minutes getting to Barnes and Noble (they didn't), then off to B&N where I picked up Amelie and then I promptly brought the girls right back. My fries were rubber by the time I ever got to taste one of them.

The girls were spending the night with a fourth girl, so I dropped them off and then headed to do some grocery shopping. I had a stack of coupons, you see, and I made a point to use them this time lest they expire. I bought meat, cheese and eggs, as well as a large container of water and some soft taco shells. (I passed on the Krispy Kremes, but I did indulge and buy a package of Oreos.)

When I got home, I announced myself to the cats as I am wont to do and it dawned on me as I unpacked my purchases that they were entirely unimpressed that I had just been a frugal consumer of necessities. In the past, had I made such a trip to a grocery store, my wife would have fawned over my skills and lavished me with praise for doing so well. Tonight, there was no one to care.

So I say unto thee, Interwebs, I am a responsible adult. I can successfully take your kid shopping and I can go to the grocery all by myself. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm waiting on my friends to get ready so we can play Mario Kart Wii. Imma smoke 'em.

The Strip Club Loophole

I've kept abreast political goings-on but have shied away from commenting on most of them since I was discharged from the hospital. It turns out that paying attention to a political movement built around hating the fact I haven't died wasn't good for my self-image. Anyway, I received an e-newsletter recently from Representative Geoff Davis concerning some recently proposed legislation that has drawn my ire. I'll let the Congressman explain:
Weekly Column: Closing the Strip Club Loophole
One of the most important responsibilities of Congress is to ensure that taxpayer funds are spent appropriately and effectively.  The Ways & Means’ Subcommittee on Human Resources, which I chair, has jurisdiction over a number of major social welfare benefit programs and am always looking for ways to improve them.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families is one of those programs.  TANF provides support for low-income families and children that helps them to move from welfare to work.  Since it replaced the New Deal-era welfare program in 1996, TANF has been recognized as one of the most effective reforms of our social welfare system, with a success of cutting welfare dependence by fifty-seven percent.  TANF is an important hand up, not a handout.  
Even more importantly, by promoting work among single parents who are the most common welfare recipients, it helped to significantly reduce child poverty in female-headed families over time.  Even at today’s elevated unemployment rates, TANF continues to promote more work and earnings – and less poverty. 
Despite this overall progress, there are still areas where TANF can and should be strengthened.  Recently, concern has been raised about TANF benefits being withdrawn and used at strip clubs, liquor stores, and casinos.  This is an inappropriate use of taxpayer dollars and an outright abuse of taxpayer trust.
Many local news investigations and exposés around the country have verified this unfortunate abuse of a well-intended program.
In Seattle, Washington, King 5 News discovered through an investigation that 13,000 TANF recipients withdrew approximately $2 million at casinos just in 2010.
In California, an investigation by the Los Angeles Times found that $1.8 million in TANF funds were withdrawn in casinos, and $12,000 was accessed in strip clubs.
An investigation in Arizona found TANF cash benefits were accessed in liquor stores over 100 times in a three month period.
Some States, like Washington, New Mexico, and Texas, have begun to take action, but oversight and enforcement can be sporadic.  ABC7 in Denver, Colorado found that TANF cash benefits were being withdrawn in strip clubs, casinos, and liquor stores even though Colorado has a law to prohibit such transactions.
To help ensure taxpayer confidence in this program, there should be a nationwide solution since the program is funded primarily with federal dollars.  A member of the Human Resources Subcommittee, Rep. Charles Boustany [LA- 7], introduced H.R. 3567, the Welfare Integrity Now for Children and Families Act of 2011, to address this issue.
H.R. 3567 would close this so-called “strip club loophole.”  Within two years of enactment, States would be required to block welfare benefit card transactions in casinos, liquor stores, and strip clubs.  In plain language, welfare benefits could no longer be accessed at any of these facilities.  The bill passed the House by a vote of 395-27.   
This bipartisan, bicameral program integrity provision will safeguard taxpayer funds from abuse and ensure that TANF benefits continue to provide a helping hand to families in need.  The Senate should pass H.R. 3567 without delay.

H.R. 3567 is designed to close the "strip club loophole." But notice that the Los Angeles Times unearthed $1.8 million withdrawn in casinos and a paltry $12,000 at strip clubs. This isn't targeted at the "casino loophole," though. The casino industry is big business and semi-respectable these days. Strip clubs, however, are still seedy, shameful places. So even though strip clubs represent a mere pittance of "misused" funds, they're the target of the bill.

It bores me to even have to note the hypocrisy of the "get government out of my life!" crowd continuing to prosecute its paternalistic, judgmental crusade against individual choices outside their approved list. And it goes without saying that I am pro-stripper, a position I've espoused previously in this blog.

What upsets me the most is that this is an insidious way of marrying the ongoing demonizing of benefits recipients with the culture war. I become angry every time I see someone arrogantly call for mandatory drug testing of unemployment beneficiaries, for instance. "I have to be tested to earn it for you, you should be tested to get it!" they shout. Because, apparently, those people live in a different world than the one in which only people who have actually paid into the unemployment system are allowed to receive money from it, meaning those recipients took the same drug test you're so proud of yourself for taking. Furthermore, who are you kidding? Every job I've ever worked had at least a few people who openly shared their recreational drug use, bragged about beating the tests and how they hated having to stay clean long enough to get the job in the first place. You just want people to jump through hoops because it gives you a chance to continue viewing them as second class citizens.

Christian fundamentalists continue to be obsessed with establishing their city on a hill for all the world to emulate, but for the last four hundred years they have failed to understand the most important element of that city: It must be built voluntarily or it has no meaning. That means allowing those who do not desire to live in their city to partake in casinos and strip clubs and, yes, doing so with money that our (gasp!) secular society has agreed is theirs to spend.

This isn't about wasteful government spending. This is about pitting "morals" against TANF recipients. This is about conflating the absurd religious crusade with the GOP-driven war on the poor. How much more prosperity would there be in America if we just didn't have to support all those damn poor people? And if we absolutely must, then they ought to at least have the decency to live their lives precisely as we want them to, right?

Be sanctimonious with your own families and those who choose to endure your arrogance.

Leave strip clubs alone.

08 February 2012

NaNoWriMo VII: The 40K Club

Don't look now...but I'm finally in the 40K Club! I was supposed to be here by 24 November to finish on time. Still, here I am. I told myself before I began that I would continue to work on it until I completed it, whether that was by the end of NaNoWriMo or not. The end is now in sight! I finished writing tonight at 41,785 words. Just a few more nights like the last two and I can have the entire first draft completed by the weekend! It's strange to think I will actually soon have a complete first draft of a novel.

Incidentally, 41,785 words takes up 80 pages in Microsoft Word using the default margins and font settings. The completed draft should come in at just around 100 pages. I thought about this, vis a vis that song by The Beatles, "Paperback Writer." There's a line that says, "It's a thousand pages, give or take a few." Holy damn! I can't even fathom what it would be like to actually write a thousand pages on one story. It's just a line in a song for most people, but having done this now I can tell you that's crazy. A friend of mine checked the Interwebs and learned that 50,000 words roughly translates into 175 book pages. Pretty light reading, which suits the story I'm writing. Hell, I've been reading Boris Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago and that comes in at 559 pages! A thousand pages? For a paperback? That guy doesn't need a publisher or even an editor. That guy needs a vacation and probably a therapist!

I have also recently joined Pinterest. I have no idea what use I will have for it going forward, but I have created a board of Things That Appear in My Novel. I think it's kind of an interesting way to perceive my fictitious tale because you can see for yourself the kinds of clothes that are worn and various things that are used. I've included a blurb with most items to associate them with a specific character, as a sort of tease. I haven't given any of the characters' names, though; just their first initials. If you want a bit of a preview of the novel, though, that's where you can get a glimpse of things to come. Once the draft is finished, I think I'm going to create a playlist on Spotify of the various songs that are referenced. Look for that sometime soon.

Speaking of music, here's my writin' music for the last ~10K words. All links include my Amazon Associates ID so I can get some change out of it if you buy via this page. Also, all items can be found in my Amazon A-Store (see the Go Shopping! tab at the top of the blog).

3 February

4 February

5 February

7 February

8 February

06 February 2012

Crohn's Disease: The Incidentals

This post is not directed at anyone in particular, but rather is the manifestation of multiple conversations I have had with several Crohnie pals of late, coupled with my own most recent misery as chronicled here.

Oftentimes, I do not feel particularly good. Crohn's disease pain is chiefly confined to the specific area affected by inflammation. In my case, that's the terminal ileum--the intersection of the small and large intestines. It's in the lower right quadrant, near my right hip. It's common enough for there to be similar pain on the opposite side on the left, but it's the pain on the right that is almost entirely constant. I've acclimated to it enough that what used to be an "8" on the pain scale is now a "6" but it still nags at me and slows me down.

Sometimes, though, what ails me is not the inflammation but rather one of myriad secondary and tertiary effects of Crohn's and its treatments. For instance, I have taken a ton of Prednisone over the years. I took more than 2g of it in just the first five months of 2011. Prednisone is a steroid, used to combat inflammation. It works and it has kept me off the operating table, but at a particularly high price. My hips and my back are in almost constant pain, and it's particularly bad this time of year as the weather fluctuates so dramatically between wet and cool and outright freezing. My immune system has been compromised as well, leaving me entirely susceptible to all manner of things. I've already lost two weeks this Winter to what I'm confident was Ebola but in all likelihood was merely a cold. You may have been annoyed by it for a few days, Dear Reader, but I could scarcely get out of bed for a week each time it came round.

Last week, I made the decision to resume Prednisone after having had a respite from it since nearly August of last year. I have taken a few pills as needed here or there, but no actual tapering dosages until this week. It was necessary, I felt, and the steroids have done their job with typical proficiency and for that I am truly grateful. That said, the heartburn is almost unbearable and my already shaky sleep pattern has been entirely disrupted. Yesterday, I awoke at 11 AM, went back to bed before 1 PM with a migraine, awoke around 6:40 only to return to bed around 9:30. I got back up at 11:00 PM, checked on a fellow Crohnie who is currently hospitalized, wrote 1418 words on my novel and returned to bed around 2 AM. I read some of Doctor Zhivago, tossed and turned and here I am blogging at 4 AM. My back hurts, my guts are growling and I feel like puking my guts up. C'est la vie.

I share this because all too often it is on account of these woes, rather than Crohn's directly, that we Crohnies are miserable. The pain from the inflammation is the only source of discomfort fully associated with Crohn's disease proper; the rest are regularly sort of dismissed (particularly by physicians) as "incidentals." These are side effects, as though somehow that designation lessens the severity of the pain or minimizes their disruptions. Right now, I can tell you I am more miserable from the peripheral aspects of living with Crohn's disease than I am from my stupid terminal ileum. This is often the case for Crohnies and it's a point that I think we would all benefit from being more regularly acknowledged.

That said, I do want to make note that my personal physician is terrific about all this (though I cannot say the same for a specific nurse at Our Lady of Peace who scrutinized my case as though she was trying to ferret out an al Qaida operative). Someone needs to be completely frank when describing life with Crohn's, whether to a newly diagnosed patient or to someone trying to understand what our lives are like, and say that, yes, Crohn's sucks and will hurt but so too will the ways of coping suck and hurt.

It's not that I, or anyone else, want to earn extra Suffering merit badges or anything pedantic but rather because all too frequently, our complaints of discomfort seem like trivial whining because they're not directly about the disease itself. It can make a Crohnie feel self-conscious, to the point that we become afraid to even express how "blah" we feel because there's a perception that someone is just waiting to argue, "But it's not your Crohn's itself, so quit blaming it/quit whining." My back and hips don't know or care about the origin of their pain; they only know that it hurts to stand, walk or lie down for very long. Why should I downplay that pain? Because it was brought on by medication instead of my actual disease?

The nature of a chronic illness is to affect the entire body. I had to see an oral surgeon last year to extract two teeth (my wisdom tooth had permanently damaged the tooth adjacent to it). A regular dentist could have performed the procedure, except my prolific use of Prednisone meant that the condition of my teeth required a greater level of expertise. I had never even thought of how Crohn's could affect my teeth, but there you have it. The ways in which this miserable disease can cast a pall across the life of a Crohnie are as diverse as they are deflating. All we ask is that this be acknowledged honestly by our caretakers and that those of you who are trying to be our friends and supporters keep this in mind when we beg off from participating in something with you or spend all day in and out of bed. We're not self-indulgent, we're not trying to put you on and we're not weak. We're affected by something on multiple levels and we're doing the best we can.

04 February 2012

Our Lady of Peace Journal, 7-9 October 2011

For obvious reasons, I was unable to blog whilst hospitalized recently but me being me, I sat down with a notepad and a partially-sharpened golf pencil and jotted down my thought process the old fashioned way. I composed a few paragraphs at a time and did not edit anything, so it's pretty rough and there are a lot of haphazard thoughts, and more repetition than I would have liked. I can tell you that the part of my right hand between my thumb and pointer finger is still sore from where the golf pencil pressed into it. Here is a transcription of what I wrote.


It's never easy to admit defeat; not in games, sports or anything else. I suppose it's easier when the context is something objective where someone has kept score and it's clear someone else has won. It still leaves one with a lot to process--were there mistakes made along the way, or whether the opponent was just better.

As a baseball fan, I've always felt our national pastime is the best metaphor for life. At the end of the season, you get a sense of who did what wrong and who did things right. Sometimes it comes down to who got lucky, of course. The best teams and players prepare early, make adjustments and keep their focus. Time and again in interviews they utter cliches about baseball being a marathon, not a sprint; taking the season one game at a time; and tipping their hat to their opponents who outplay them. Reporters and fans tease about how unoriginal these things are, but they're really the most honest and helpful mental anchors that a player can sustain. Maybe showboating is helpful for a sport like football but baseball is a measured, more thoughtful sport.

I try to remember these lessons, but like everything else in life it's not always easy to execute as it is to plan. For the last year, I've thought of myself as a losing team, like the 80s Braves, 90s Rays or the 00s Royals. You go out and play the games, one at a time, because you have to--but you look back and see a string of losing games and it becomes discouraging. You have to still go play, but it reaches a point where you start expecting to lose. You just go through the motions, really not even playing with a goal in mind, outside of showing up and doing your job.

Eventually, the players on such teams are either traded (the good ones before their contracts expire; the rest in package deals for someone better) or they quit playing.

There is, of course, no analog for being traded, though I suppose for some people changing jobs, moving or leaving a romantic relationship would be the equivalent of a trade. Trading work isn't practical for me at present--though I'm beginning to think about trying to earn money by writing. Moving hasn't happened and seems unlikely. And I'm certainly not going to leave my wife--our marriage is the only part of my life I truly love.

So, lately, I've thought about retirement. I just haven't wanted to play anymore. There is, of course, only one way to retire from life...and it's rather permanent. It's only reached the "thinking about it" stage. When you find yourself here, it can be upsetting, not just for you but for those around you.

I've been a bad teammate. I've played my position--not always well, but I've gone "Carlos Zambrano" and become poisonous in the dugout. My teammates deserve better--especially my wife.

It has become apparent that I can't keep being this way. Even on a losing day, I need to fall back on the cliches that the players regurgitate daily. People may make fun of Derek Jeter for his interviews, but he's a terrific player and by every account I've heard, he's a great teammate. He leads by example. He earns credibility to call out teammates who don't play to their potential.

Most of us aren't Derek Jeters. If we were, then guys like him would not be so special. It's okay to not be Jeter, though I think it's an admirable objective. We do need a Jeter on our team, though. Someone who plays every game, makes the team his priority. I've seen Jeter lay down a sac bunt because it was the right thing to do for the team, when other star players would think it beneath them. He does it, though.

I think Jeter would improve any team he'd play for. You can argue he's benefited from being a Yankee, surrounded by the highest payroll in the sport, but with his approach, he'd be a success anywhere.

What I need to do is be more like Jeter, in the preparation. I need to work on setting myself up for success. That may be just as simple as getting through a day without feeling despair, but it's a way to improve not only my game but to help the team. It's a bunt, sure, but it helps the team.

I don't need to be the star player. I just need to contribute, and part of that is to stop being a drain on the team. I need to be more positive. It's okay to admit having lost a game or made an error, but it is not healthy to dwell on it, or to expect to do it again. I can have a winning game today no matter what happened yesterday. I can make the routine plays - they don't have be Web Gems. That means I have to get better at the routine of making those plays. That means saying and thinking more encouraging things.

I've had some positive experiences with my blog recently. My post on depression generated a lot of feedback. I'm learning that I have the power to write things that other people want--and maybe even need--to read. I can help make a difference. That's an admirable and honorable accomplishment.

I forget that I'm better gifted at writing than a lot of other people. I have a talent and skill, and I have held myself back from believing this because of my inferiority complex and impostor syndrome.

But, to those much is given, much is expected and I need to be honest with myself. I have been given much talent for writing. It may seem more a hobby than a meaningful skill but it can be powerful. I've seen this already and I believe in its power. I need to start believing in my own power to use my talents. And who knows? I might even find a way to earn some money from it.

I want to write more posts on my blog that provoke the kind of feedback that my "On Depression" post has elicited. I want to write--and submit--a short story per month. I can do this. I want to participate in NaWrNoMo (or whatever the abbreviation is) in November. I can do that. It may suck, but I can do it.

One of the things that has held me back is the disbelief that I could ever have any commercial success. Maybe I won't, but I need to make editors and publishers tell me this instead of telling it to myself. I can do this.

My headaches and dizziness are now attributed to my depression. As I overcome the depression, I will overcome my head woes. I can do this.

I was born to write, and through writing, help reach people. I've always wanted to think this, but have not allowed myself to indulge. I felt arrogant thinking this, and that it was an unrealistic fantasy. I am qualified to do this and it is realistic. I won't be a household name, but I can earn achievements along the way--even if they're nothing more than a favorable review.

Another lesson I'm learning is that it's not arrogance to accept my talents, or to acknowledge they are not shared by everyone else. It does not mean I think I'm better than anyone else. It means I can do something that maybe they can't. There are plenty of things I can't do; it does not mean I am inferior to the people who can do those things. A plumber would not apologize for his skills, nor would a chef be a better person than anyone else. They are merely people who have developed skills they possess. I can develop the skill of writing without feeling awkward for doing it. People need their plumbing repaired, they appreciate a well-made meal and they also value well-written works. I may not write the Great American Novel, but I can write stuff people will want to read.

I have been published twenty times by Flickchart. I was asked to contribute to IFC.com. I should not downplay the significance of this. People have seen a value to my work. Other people may as well--and it's okay to believe they will. I won't win over everyone, and there will be detractors who dislike my work. That's okay. It does not mean there is no value to what I do (or will do).

"The time has come to talk of many things." Like the Walrus in Wonderland, I must now spin a yarn. Then, another. And another, until I've built a body of work worthy of consideration. That is all I can do--I must then leave it in the hands of editors, publishers and readers to decide its value. And I need to remember that my value is not tied to the perceived value of my work. The plumber goes home after fixing pipes and does not feel himself worthless if he botched a job during the day. He may be dissatisfied with his job performance, but he does not think himself a useless person or even a bad plumber. He had a bad experience but goes to work the next day to have more opportunities to ply his trade. Derek Jeter may go hitless and not make a play he--or the fans and media--think he should have made. But he doesn't let that translate into evidence he's worthless or useless. Neither should I.

One thing I forget about myself is that I am someone who enjoys being helpful to others. I think sometimes I forget that not everyone shares this value, that it's my nature but not necessarily someone else's nature. As someone who values compassion and generosity, I should allow myself to feel good about this.

Beyond this, I should build on this. I've had pleasure from being helpful to others, even as recently as within the last hour. I have a way with words that resonates with people--I can use this to be helpful. And, I know things that others may not know, but need to know. I just chatted with a guy less than two weeks removed from being diagnosed with Crohn's disease. He seems to be almost entirely uninformed about the nature of the disease or treatment options.

I tried to explain, but he has an obvious attention problem and I didn't get very far before he became interested instead by Danny DeVito as a stripper on "Friends." Given more time, I think I can give him a better understanding. Even if I don't get that chance, I hope someone reaches him. He needs it.

02 February 2012

Dare to Cross That Line: The Dating Bouncer

I have so far shied away from discussing the collapse of my marriage but it occurs to me now that I may, by sharing my experiences, be of some consolation or help to someone else just as I have tried to do with my posts about Crohn's disease and depression. I would appreciate not being inundated with queries for information beyond what I elect to share. I know it's difficult to grasp, given how candid I have been about some very personal experiences, but there are some things that even I am uncomfortable discussing in public.

Around the same time that it became apparent to me that my separation was not going to lead to a reconciliation, I learned that some people I know online were in similar circumstances. One woman with Crohn's were among the small group of us facing the end of our marriages. She's already got a new boyfriend. I'm happy for her, don't get me wrong. I don't begrudge her the slightest moment of happiness. She deserves it.

And yet...

When I saw her Facebook status change from "It's complicated" to "In a relationship" and I learned that it was not about her and her husband reconciling, I felt mocked. Like it was my own computer yelling at me, "See how easy it is? What's wrong with you that you can't do this?" In fact, it seems that several people I know have found someone new, both online contacts and flesh and blood friends. I'm happy for all of them, I really am. I'm not even jealous, per se. Rather, I feel like each of them is a measuring stick against which I fall short.

Tonight, I was on my way to bed to lie down in yet another funk of Crohn's-related pain when I got the bright idea to check out eHarmony. I hadn't planned to actually meet up with anyone or anything like that, mind you. Just a little reassurance that there's hope for me, you know. That's all I wanted.

So I spent about 20 minutes filling out their questionnaire. I agonized over most of it. I was asked how I would say specific words and phrases describe myself. I picked a lot of "Very Well"s for things like "sensitive," "compassionate," "honest." I picked a lot of "Not at All"s for things like "happy," "stable," "attractive" and "healthy." (This is where that "honest" thing comes into play.) To be honest, I felt like giving up completely on each page. Who is going to want an unhappy, unstable, unattractive and unhealthy guy? Still, I stayed the course and completed the questionnaire.

Here's what I got for my trouble:
Thanks, eHarmony. Before anyone rushes to defend them and point out to me that I'm being overly sensitive and that they're just trying to protect their members, etc., I've already gone over all that. But if they have such a strict "No marrieds" policy, then the least they could have done was tell me that the moment I informed them that my marital status is "Separated," which was on the first or second page! I assumed by even allowing me to select that and continue that it was simply one of the fields that they use for screening, in case there are members who are willing to consider people in this situation.

I was wrong.

The entire task was, frankly, humiliating. To be asked repeatedly how applicable things are to me and having to constantly say, "Not at All" for fear of being accused of misleading someone later, constantly reminded on every page how challenging it would be to even find someone at all...only to then be blocked by the bouncer at the door asking, "Just where the hell do you think you're going?" It hurt.

After spending 20 minutes making me feel empirically inadequate, I was then made to feel like a sneaky impostor who had been busted. Not only was I unhappy, unstable, unattractive and unhealthy, but now I'm not even honest! I'm a fraud who tried to sneak his way into the Happiness Room. I will admit to you, Dear Reader, that I cried after encountering the screen shown above.

"Forget that site; you need to go out around actual people!" you might be tempted to say. Well, I tried that, too. I went to a bar a few weekends ago with a friend. I was never even looked at by a single woman there except a server...because I was in her way. No one wants me. I've been thrown away, and tonight I've learned that there's a moratorium on me. On top of being unappealing, I'm tainted goods. Terrific.

Yes, I'm unstable so you can't go by my reaction, but I share this all with you now in case you or someone you know is in my situation. If you haven't tried eHarmony, heed my warning before you subject yourself to the same rejection. If you've experienced this yourself, all I can tell you is that you are not alone. I can't tell you that you'll find someone or how to do it or anything helpful. I can just tell you that I, too, have been told to buzz off. And if you're reading this as someone who knows someone in this situation, now you know not to suggest that site.

Last night, I played Steve Wariner's Burnin' the Roadhouse Down album while I wrote. The album ends with his duet with Anita Cochran on "What If I Said." There's a line that asks: "We've both had our share of loneliness/So who's to say we can't have a little happiness?"

eHarmony, Anita. That's who's to say.

NaNoWriMo VI: The 30K Club

I really have joined the 30K Club! I crossed that threshold just before the end of January and I meant to celebrate it here with a post but I was tired that night and then tonight I decided to just get back to writing. I only meant to knock out another 1000 words but I got carried away and hit nearly 2400, bringing my current word count to 32,430! I've advanced the narrative, escalated conflicts and (hopefully) created a very believable and accessible story in which most readers will recognize themselves and their friends. (I'm sure my friends will recognize themselves, since I have shamelessly plagiarized from their lives!)

In the last ~12000 words, I have introduced a few minor characters as well. I elected to create a gay couple as a nod to the LGBT community of which I am an outspoken defender. I decided they should be men because, and I'm trusting you to understand how I mean this, lesbians are often too "mainstream." That is to say, there's a certain segment of the public that will say, "Two chicks together is hot!" but disparage the rest of the GBT population. I didn't want to have that kind of reaction (though I'm certainly not above such shamelessness in another story). So I decided that I would write those characters as guys. If/when this thing ever gets published, I'm hopeful it will meet the approval of my LGBT readers.

Music that I've listened to while writing this portion of the novel:

26 January

  • Glory Original Motion Picture Soundtrack - Music Composed and Conducted by James Horner
  • Set This Circus Down - Tim McGraw

28 January

30 January

31 January

2 February

I didn't really introduce any new products in this section, though I have picked out one that will appear very soon. Want a tease? Thought you might.

Glock 19. 9mm. Holds 15 rounds, plus one in the chamber. Not a stapler.