Divided Loyalty

I don’t follow baseball religiously, or even regularly. My team is the San Diego Padres, who have sucked pretty bad for a few years, and really raised the bar on sucking this year. I’m comfortable with that. Someday they’ll be good again.

Lately, I’ve started following, now and then, another team. It’s in the American League (also known as the Softball League), so the Padres might be able to forgive me.

The Oakland Athletics just swept the Yankees in a four-game series, and are continuing to beat up the American League East. The A’s also have the lowest payroll in baseball. As a fully-conditioned American, that appeals to me. It makes me think of adjectives like “scrappy” and “selfless” — whether or not those actually apply. Plus they have a guy named Coco Crisp. You gotta like that. (He’s not a power hitter, but he hit two home runs today.)

Do they have a shot at postseason glory? Honestly, probably not. But then again, they sweep the Yankees again in October and Moneyball II will hit the theaters in January.

1

Metaphor Wanted

The other day I was sitting on a wide porch in Kansas, letting the heat soak into my aging joints. As I watched, a big flying critter of a type I’d seen before, pushing two inches long and bulky, with a striped, tapering abdomen, came flying up at maximum speed.

It smashed right into the side of the building with an audible whack, turned around, and flew back the way it had come, vanishing in the distance.

Apparently it had accomplished what it came here to do.

Almost Had It

It was about 35 miles west of Ely, on a section where highway 50 gets curvy. The caffeine hit and “Addiction” by 4gasm erupted from the speakers. I felt it then, that old road feel, wind and sun, and the smell of the desert after a rain.

Than I hacked and shuddered and my cold reasserted itself, and I was glad I’d already booked a room in Reno.

1

Noises Off!

I don’t venture into the world of cinema criticism in these muddled pages very often, but a couple of days ago I saw a movie that had me laughing hard even as my brain was expanding outwards at the speed of light from the brilliance of the writing.

It all started when I was advised that a particular scene (or series of scenes) in Munchies needs to be a “Noises Off!” scene. And what is that? It’s a bedroom farce, one of those comedy devices where a small space is filled with a lot of people who don’t know the others are there, going in and out with crackerjack timing. Hilarity ensues. Mel Brooks has made a career off these things. I confessed I had not seen Noises Off!. My peers resolved to remedy that situation.

“Look at all the doors,” someone near me said at the start of the play-within-a-movie. Indeed, there were a lot of doors, and when things are going according to script one door will open the instant another closes, as people come and go through the central room in a spiral of confusion that ends, of course, with ridiculous calamity. We are first introduced to the actors and the play during a very shaky dress rehearsal, and we learn the play (or at least act one), and appreciate the crackling timing of the cast — made especially clear when the timing breaks down.

“Leave the sardines, take the newspaper!” Bellows director Michael Caine at a weary Carol Burnett. Does it really matter that much? I asked myself. But yes it did. The movement of every piece is critical as sardines appear and disappear, suitcases vanish, and confusion escalates. “But why do I take the groceries into the study?” asks an insecure Christopher Reeve. The correct answer is, of course, “it’s a farce and sometimes you skate fast over stuff like that.” But that doesn’t satisfy our actor, and his director must invent some other preposterous motivation. Rehearsal continues.

So by the end of the film’s act one we’ve met a complicated bedroom farce that’s pretty funny on its own. That’s what I’m shooting for in Munchies (substituting lawyer’s office for bedroom, and honestly I don’t know if I have enough moving parts). But here’s where Noises Off really launches. The cast has a lot of drama going on between them offstage, and during one performance the jealousies and misunderstandings lead to utter chaos backstage. There is a second farce, far more complex, with (almost) no dialog at all, since they must be silent backstage. Because they can’t speak, physical situations are misinterpreted and things just get worse. Throw in a bottle of whiskey, a fire axe, bouquets of flowers of steadily diminishing size, and a cactus, all moving from person to person in a tightly choreographed silent movie that matches the beats of the play onstage, overlapping and constrained by which of the many doors people have to go through at a given time, and on top of that create characters that are funny and engaging, and you’ve got my undying admiration.

I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that the next performance doesn’t go as well as that one did. We have a third farce, funny for its complete departure from the original.

The movie was adapted from a stage production, and I’d really like to see that. I think my head would explode watching that whole thing performed in a single take.

Which reminds me that the editor of this film had no room for error, either.

If you’re one of the few English-speaking inhabitants of our fair world who has not seen this flick, give it a go! If you’ve seen it before, you might enjoy it a second time, just to appreciate the brilliant layering of farce upon farce.

Note: if you use the above link to buy this book (or a Kindle, or a Colombian Emerald and Diamond Ring in 18kt yellow gold), I get a kickback.

Doggles!

Here’s a picture of the Round Mound of Hound getting ready for our big road trip.

The Round Mound of Hound preparing for some top-down cruising.

It’s kind of a cop-out, I know, just slapping up a picture after all this time. I plan to get back to blogging soon; right now I’m deep into Munchies (the novel you will be hearing more about presently) and it’s taking up all my head space. There’s also the fact that the tale of my last road trip with Chiquita might just come out well enough that I try to flog it in creative nonfiction markets rather than post here. (Creative nonfiction is the new fiction.) But probably I’ll just put it here.

Yes, I’m Still Alive

Haven’t been posting here for a bit, but it’s for the best possible reason. I’m writing!

I’ve been waking up with my head so filled with my story that I haven’t had the space to record here how much fun I’m having with the Kansas Bunch this summer. I’ll try to catch up with tales of my road trip with the Round Mound of Hound before I forget the little details, but don’t hold your breath.

back to work!

My Travel Shirt

I promised chronicles of my road trip with Chiquita (who is currently lying on the bed with me and crying about my neglect) and they will follow. It’s been tough finding the words, which is trouble considering I’m going to writing camp starting tomorrow night.

I am wearing my travel shirt. It became the official shirt of road trips last summer (or was it the summer before?). Driving through humid climes, there’s nothing nicer than putting your left elbow on the door sill of your convertible and having your sleeve balloon up and scoop air down into your comically-inflated shirt. Man, that feels good.

When you’re out on the road, certain social niceties can be set aside. If you’re just going to slather sunscreen all over yourself and sweat profusely as you crawl across the surface of the Earth, there’s no point putting on a clean shirt in the morning. You may as well throw on the shirt that is already saturated with road fluids. Mountain Dew stain on your chest? No biggie; more will follow.

It’s an aloha shirt, the sort of thing that fits my style anyway, built for comfort when things are warm. Cotton, of course, and roomy enough for me.

The shirt also has a breast pocket, which is absolutely required while traveling. It’s where hotel keycards go, where the change from the drive-through lands, and where anything else that you might need to recover while your seatbelt is fastened will ultimately reside. On my travel shirt, that pocket is starting to tear off, the fabric failing in different ways on either side. It’s the result of reaching in there for something way at the bottom so many times. The left-handed reach while I juggle items in my other hand is the most punishing, I think.

Today, zipping across the Texas panhandle, my dog started licking my shirt. Not the breast pocket (where there was jerky from a nice gas station owner in Clines Corners), but my right shoulder. I gotta think that might be a sign.