Programming Note

I’m giving more weight to new entries in the poetry rotation. I’m still experimenting with how much weight is appropriate and what the definition of new is, so we’ll see what happens. Meanwhile, for those keeping score at home, pL has nine poems in the rotation, followed by Bob with eight, and Carol Anne in a distant third with five.

There have been a couple of multi-verse submissions I’m still trying to figure out how to get into the rotation, and a couple that don’t physically fit in the space. I’ll think of something.

Addendum: Currently there are four guest poets for whom I have no image. If you don’t like the placeholder I gave you, send me something else. Adam’s placeholder is a lemur, in case you can’t tell.

Roma. Roma, Roma

As I sat Marek looked over at me and reached for a beer glass. I shook my head slowly. “Černý čaj.” Black tea. “Ooooh,” he said, nodding knowingly.

Marianna had recommended a nice tea place down on Winceslas square. I started that direction but I decided I wasn’t up for trying a new place today. Today is a day for the quiet and familiar. And tea.

Yesterday was the Day of Pretty Bartenders. DoPB started in the afternoon in a bar with cheap beer and electric darts. I enjoyed a brief moment in the Zone as we played, but that didn’t last. The bartender had Brigitte Bardot’s lips, which is good because the actress hasn’t been using them lately that I’ve seen.

Last night fuego and I decided to go find a bar with the NFL playoffs. It was a bit of a hike, with us stopping at a couple of places on the way to check if those bars could get the games. The first bar we tried had three cute bartenders lined up in a cute little row when we walked in, and some of the cheapest beer I’ve seen in town. Alas, they didn’t have the channel that showed the games. No fear–I will be going back there when I’m able to contemplate beer again. We stopped long enough to have a beer at El Paso, but once we figured out that they didn’t have the right channel either we bid yet another pretty waitress goodbye and moved on.

Finally fuego and I were down at a bar filled to the gills with Americans watching the Big Game. We wedged into a corner and enjoyed the action. When that game was over we decided to stay and catch the next game. When that game was over we walked most of the way home before stopping off at El Paso for a couple of beers. We came up with a really tight opening sequence for a techno-thriller. Sheer brilliance. I hear Will Smith is interested, but I’m not sure he’s right for the role.

Marek wanted to converse when he brought my tea over, but I’m just not up for that right now. “I like your Web site,” he said. “Amy… nice.” (He didn’t use exactly that word. It was more the raised-eyebrows nod.) He’s a photographer. “Is she girlfriend?” I’m not up for complicated answers right now. “No, just a friend.” Marek asked about fuego but soon realized today was not the Day of Sparkling Conversation. I think it may be, however, the Day of Pizza with Ridiculous Amounts of Garlic. It’ll cure what ails you, no doubt about that.

Another Piece at Piker Press

Just a quick note to let you guys know that I have another bit as the cover story on this week’s Piker Press. Unfortunately the press had some computer difficulties last week at the same time I decided to make some minor changes to the story, and those changes are not in the version they published. I’m still pretty happy with it, though. Take a look!

Talks Like Waterfall

I have named her Talks Like Waterfall. She has short blonde hair, fashionably square glasses, and she smokes. She looks good in blue jeans. She is a waitress at Pizzeria Roma. While I sit writing she comes in to the bar area to smoke and relax. While she is there she will turn to me and unleash a torrent of czech. (Although for all I know she just babbling at me to mess with my mind.)

Normally when she does this I just feel stupid. I don’t know the words she’s saying, but the message is You’re still here and you still don’t know czech? Only tonight it was a little different. She came into the bar and despite the fact I knew she was going to waterfall me I was glad to see her. I gave her a smile and she said “czech czech blah blah dobrý večer”.

I was so surprised to understand anything she said I almost didn’t answer. “Dobrý Večer” I said back. Good evening. She smiled.

It’s only fair to assume she throws the czech at me to mess with me. She has every right to test me, and to expect me to make some effort to learn the language of the land. Still, she doesn’t make it easy. I was at the bar with Fuego the other night and the czech she threw our way was too fast for him to pick up, and he’s pretty fluent. Talks Like Waterfall does not necessarily want to be understood.

Really, though, she does want to be understood, but on her terms. She wants me to prove I’m not passing through, to prove that I’m willing to commit to a new language and a new culture. She is challenging me. The possibility of knowing the meaning behind the waterfall is enticing. How sweet the day when she unleashes her torrent and I can answer back with a stream of my own.

It’s too bad she smokes, though.

New Friends (and Their Sweeties)

I met two of Fuego’s friends today. I liked both of them, but I wanted to steal their girlfriends.

First I met Edmund and his sweetheart. Edmund is American, and a poet, and likes deconstructing shit. His appearance is striking; his shaved head and long, long (no, longer that what you’re thinking) grey beard get him roles in film and television productions. His girlfriend was dazzling and charmingly shy. He was taking her for granted.

Now, I have made a long career of taking people for granted. It’s a lesson I have not learned and probably never will learn, though I’m working on it. All I can say in my defense in the matter is that I can see the error that others make, even if I’m blind to my own callousness. So tonight I watched a beautiful woman swallow her own hopes for the day in deference to her man. She did it gracefully.

Later I met Jardo. We rode way the hell out to his place to hang out. He had a surprise to show Fuego, and what a surprise it was. Jardo had a new, amazingly gorgeous girlfriend. We joined up with her and after a couple of near misses we landed in a bar. “Pepsi Disco” the sign outside said. Fuego quickly made friends with the DJ (there weren’t many others besides us, but pL had the guy’s life story in minutes).

She is crazy for him. Jardo’s girlfriend, I mean. She’s crazy for Jardo. The little things he did for her made her world. Which made it really frustrating for me to watch him not do the little things. All night long she wanted to dance, and finally I agreed to accompany the couple to the floor just to get them going. When the dancing was done they sat together, her hand looped under his upper arm, and she snuggled up against him. She was tired, but the looks she sent him were adoring. Jardo couldn’t see it so well from close up, but he is the luckiest man in the whole friggin’ Universe. The devotion in her eyes said more than words or symbols could ever show.

Jardo didn’t see most of that, I don’t think. I wonder how many things I haven’t seen. I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know; if I did it would only lead to deeper regret. I wish Jardo well. By then end of the evening I was adjusting my actions to maximize their togetherness. She was, as far as I got to know her, everything I could ever want in a girlfriend, but just seeing the way she looked at him made me hope that he saw it too, and he would make her happy.

Edmund, though, you better watch out, buddy. I got better glances from your sweetie than you did, and I wouldn’t make her feel like the unwashed heathen. Realistically, it will not be me you lose her to (more’s the pity), but sooner or later she will decide to go with someone who listens to her. Maybe one day I’ll learn that skill myself. But then again, probably not.

And there it is…

Yep, I wrapped it up just tonight. More than 13 months of writing, rewriting, trimming, expanding, head pounding and proofreading have led to this one moment. I hit save, and looked at what I had wrought. The beast weighs in at around 152,000 words, and will fill 560 pages in a paperback book (possibly more). It’s a fairly big novel, larger than publishers like to see from first-time authors, but in this case there isn’t much left I would consider fat.

Finished.

“Done” is a slippery thing when working on something like this. I’m sure there are sentences that could be cleaner, minor inconsistencies, and perhaps still the occasional anachronism. As I develop the synopsis and begin my marketing campaign I’m sure I’ll tweak a few things. But at this moment I am ready to start that process. I have reached the milestone where the beast is of high enough quality to start shopping around, and I can move on to the next project.

Done.

I feel like this milestone should be met with more floral prose on my part, and maybe if I let this episode stew for a while I’ll come up with something, but prosadasically I’m dried up right now.

Complete.

Many of you helped me get to this point as well, either materially by reading and providing feedback or through moral support. I really couldn’t have done it without all your help, and you have a right to share in the joy and pride of this moment. Thanks to all of you.

Perhaps this is the word I’m looking for: WAAAAAAAAAHOOOOOOOOOOO!

Dang…

Addendum: I should mention that anyone who would like to read the final version can just let me know and I’ll slide you a copy. In fact, since I’m going to be sending it out soonish, now would be a great time to catch those little (and not-so-little) mistakes that have slipped past me.

Google bin berry berry good to me

Another look at the odd things people turn to the net to find. These people, rather than finding what they are looking for, for some reason came to this blog instead. Looking at the search strings, it’s pretty clear the majority of them were not looking for what they found here. As usual, phrases I do not want to distract Google with are obfuscated with spaces.

  • what is the significance of stacking rocks? – Jeeves thought I might be able to help with the answer to that. After all, I am renowned for my rock-stacking prowess.
  • slivovitce – very few matches for this homemade hooch on the Web.
  • they drunk natalie – Arthur Dent: What’s wrong with being drunk? Ford Prefect: Ask a glass of water.
  • going to Prague what to wear cold parka – sounds like the searcher already knows more about the subject than I do. Linked to the main page here.
  • owl bar san antonio new mexico – caught my eye because the searcher was someone at the washington post. Linked to the h i g h w a y 6 0 episode. I hope whoever it was read the good stories in the comments.
  • kilgore trout no idea – I did mention Kilgore Trout once, but why someone would want to read that episode I have no idea.
  • Sex and Trucks – connects to the Google-magnet episode S e x , D e a t h, a n d W o r d s
  • my google hurts – linked to an episode like this one
  • EULA Writing – an old classic, links to a draft of the License agreement for Jer’s Novel Writer
  • roads and streets in winston salem 1950 – connected to a story about a very good drive through North Carolina and West Virginia.
  • pinch needle sex stories – Linked to the stories category page. The summary that appeared in Google: … The cowboy might in a real pinch ask his God for a blessing, but … Sex! … with other people around the bubble shatters into tiny red fragments, needle-sharp little …. The P o w e r o f P o s i t i v e D r i n k i n g contributed the sentence “Sex!” and the needle.
  • “25-hour days” hour day – visitor 9001 linked to an episode where I covered a lot of miles.
  • daughter caught me in her dress – you know, sometimes I wonder why I watch referrals so closely. Sometimes I find the answer.
  • office sex accident – ooops!
  • big arabic ass – an unlikely convergence with this.
  • hangover yellow sick – connected rather unlikelily to the threat level meter page.
  • baby ocelot pictures – I celebrate all oocelots, elevators, and rutabagas, even if this search linked to a google page mentioning a search that linked to yet another Google page. (You know what I’m hoping, don’t you?)
  • sex rapture violent – umm… right.
  • eels rumor blinking lights – linked to the Feeding the Eels page.
  • prosperous cemetery ideas – came to the main page. It sounds like a Disney/Shady Acres partnership is on the way!
  • i need my pants – linked to an episode about, well, my pants.
  • martha stewart, sequin contest – improbably, this page came out at the top of the search.

The usual suspects: People continue to come here for cooking advice, inspiration about their nation, alcohol and its effects (especially on women), the word “g o o g l i”, bars, taverns, and watering holes I have encountered in my travels (including one in Prague now), and a new very common phrase, “M o o n l i g h t s o n a t a

I think I will be glad when “eels” and “ass” don’t appear on the same page any more.

Welcome to Moravia. Do you want beer or wine with that?

Now that my hosts are back in town, I will have no choice but to have a social life again. The day they arrived back in country, weary from their long journey, we were invited to a party hosted by Marianna’s mother. The travelers tried to weasel out of going, but Jirka, Mariana’s stepfather, would have none of it. Eventually we headed over there “for half an hour”. I knew before we started that this would not be the half hour that the Assyrians invented so long ago. It was more a company party than anything else; not too crazy but not many people there that I could talk to. No biggie, I had some munchies and a couple of beers and fun was had by all. At the party Jirka insisted that the next day (yesterday) we go down to their house in Southeastern Czech Republic, the region of Moravia, to pick up a car that Phil (still working out what to call my brother these days) and Marianna will now have to look after (and, worse, park).

The adventure expanded (unbeknownst to me) into an overnighter. As the time to leave approached I was finally informed that we might be spending the night down there. Despite some anxiety about stayiing in touch with Piker Press (I have a new bit coming out today and I was worried about some edits) I packed up the laptop and toothbrush (what else could I possibly need?). We packed into a car and away we went.

I was rather surprised that wedged into the car, unable to see much in the darkness, not driving, I still got some of the road feelings as we headed out.

First stop was a 24-hour roadside cafe next to the motorway that Jirka had been visiting for years. Better by one beer and one schnitzel I squeezed in with my fellow travelers again and off we went. It was dark by the time we got to the smaller roads, so I didn’t see much of the farmland. We went around a giant Soviet-built nuclear power plant (since then the good people who built Three Mile Island have checked it over and declared it safe) and to a little village not far away. Before going home we stopped off to visit the villiage priest, whose name is also Jirka. That’s when things started to get interesting (sorry about those previous paragraphs).

We went up the stairs to the priest’s rooms and when we opened the door we were met by the small of cooking sausage. Jirka the priest is fairly tall but doesn’t look it because of his big belly. He sweats a lot, and his diet seems to be composed mostly of cooked meats. His slightly shaggy dark hair is in full retreat from his forehead. After he made us comfortable he left for a moment and came back with a bottle of wine from the vinyard of a friend in his home town. Then there was the next bottle of wine. There was an unlabeled bottle of what I assumed to be homemade slivovitce (distilled plum hootch) sitting on the table, but Marianna’s mother nixed the idea of breaking that out. Still, I’ve never hung out drinking with a priest before. He was a good guy.

Just up the road was our final destination, and after more snacks and beer we went to bed. In the morning after breakfast Jirka was trying to feed me more of the sausage I had complimented the night before, and I jokingly said, “No, beer is all I need.” I thought I had made it clear that I was joking, but not too much later I was wrapping up breakfast with Pilsner Urquell. As my brother pointed out as he raised his glass to mine, “You’re not in California any more.” That’s also what he said when we passed the fitness center/bar.

This Means Nothing

Last night I had a dream that a woman invited me on a road trip across the US. She invited all her friends, but only I, a relative stranger, agreed to go. Only after I said yes was I able to see how beautiful and wise she was.

Programming Note

What we’ve all been waiting for has finally arrived. Yes, now you too can look ahead to the many exciting holidays in the Muddled Year, and even help name some of them! Included also are moon phases, eclipses, and other fun stuff!

The URL for the calendar is:

http://ical.mac.com/vikingjs/MR38HBI

If you have a calendar program (e.g., iCal) that knows about the webcal:// protocol, you can subscribe to the calendar and be updated automatically as events are added or named. What fun!

There is a link to the calendar over in the sidebar in a section called “holiday ticker”, which alerts you to important events coming up in the Muddled Months ahead.

The Electric Creature of Prague

I’m looking around right now, assessing what it’s going to take to smallify my life back down to suitcase-size before my hosts return tomorrow, jet-lag weary, suitcases of their own in tow, ready to party. There’s not much actual cleaning to do; I’ve managed to stay on top of that. All the plants are still alive, which is good, but the table here and one corner of the room look like nests for some sort of beer-fueled electric creature. The nests are lined with cables and stray electronic devices, and are decorated with empty beer bottles. The beast is out somewhere right now, probably foraging behind electronic shops or perhaps on a beer run.

When the creature first began to haunt the streets of the city I imagine it may have raised a couple of eyebrows, but Prague is a live-and-let-live kind of place, and after a while this machine would just be part of the local color. In Japan, they would worry that the machine would eat too much and grow to monstrous proportions, and that it would then—in clumsiness or malice, it doesn’t matter which—destroy the city. In America they would kidnap the thing and take it to a secret facility deep under the windswept desert, where they would attempt to torture its secrets out of it. The creature would flash friendly messages on its flickering CRT face and would weep as it came to understand the cruelty of man, touching the hearts of the only two scientists in the facility who still had souls, who would then have sex.

Here in Prague, the creature is free to walk about, if walking is what it actually does, and people greet it with a polite Dobry Den. I don’t imagine it likes the rain too much. There’s probably an Internet café nearby that doesn’t mind it hanging around while the weather is bad. I imagine it makes itself useful helping customers access their email and in return is allowed to plug in and hang out, talking tech stuff with the staff, sipping pivo and snacking on electronics slated for recycling.

Its nest is here, though. Sometimes at night I can hear it coming and going, but overall it’s a good roommate, if a little sloppy. I’m not sure where it’s going to live when I clean up tomorrow. I suppose I should at least send it an email warning it what’s going to happen.

Music I can’t write to

I was sitting, staring at the work I should have been editing, and I was humming “Anesthesia” by Brenda Kahn. Why hum it when I can play it? I fired up Epiphany in Brooklyn and until it’s done I won’t be getting anything creative done. In the pauses between songs a thought or an idea might sneak in, but as soon as the words start I’m there in the scenes she paints with her words, an impressionistic sketch of a lonely landscape filled with lost people. In only a few words she builds whole people. Of course, all the detail comes from my own imagination, which is what makes it so powerful.

The same thing happened a couple of days ago with Tom Waits. I rationalize indulging in these pleasures when I should be working by telling myself that it’s emotional food I’m eating, that I can digest and turn into… uh, I think I’ll leave the metaphor there.

Often, you can tell if I’m being productive at the moment by looking at the the “Now Playing” section over somewhere to the right. The better the songwriter, the less productive I am at that moment. (Of course, just because I’m playing music doesn’t mean I’m writing at all, and if I’ve gone to a bar to write that section won’t update at all.) I’ve turned to Internet Radio lately to enhance my productivity; there are stations that play forgettable ambient electronica 24 hours a day. It’s nice, but it doesn’t get into the verbal part of my head. I’ll be switching over to that – after I play through this album a second time.

Adventure

I started writing this a couple of weeks ago. I had written of my adventure in a crowded store after forgetting how to say “excuse me.” I posted the episode and then noticed I had an email from Keith.

Here’s the thing. On the day I write about making my way through crowded drug store aisles, I read about how he scaled Everest with his pants down. Or something like that. It doesn’t stop there. Keith’s kids have huge adventures, too. It’s like the army commercial but worse. Before this boy reaches ten years old he will have done more than you will ever manage to pull off in your whole miserable life. While I’m sure his kids will on occasion disagree, Keith’s the kind of guy I’ll hire to raise my kids, should I ever have any. Or, perhaps, cuckoo-like, I could slip my progeny into the Sherwood nest to be raised as one of theirs.

So, adventure. When I meet people who know about my dislocated lifestyle, they say, “you must have had lots of adventures.” Well, yes and no. My so-called adventures are generally just inconveniences with some floral prose wrapped around them. I didn’t look for the adventure, it assaulted me. When I overcome adversity, it would hardly be appropriate for me to throw my hands in the air and shout to any gods who would care to listen “Yeah! Wahooooooooo! Fuckin-aaaaaaaa” That’s just not what you do in a drugstore, even if it is a chain.

I do think, however, that all my little adventures do add up to something. I’d be lying to say I’m not proud of my decision to put a hold on a lifestyle that saw me successful, sheltered, and fed to go off romping around the world in pursuit of new goals. Raising a family, I imagine, is a similar adventure, filled with a long series of little surprises as well, the subtle lessons that never end and slowly change who you are. The only thing that makes my adventures stand out is that they’re different. All parents go through the diaper poop explosion. That doesn’t make it less of an adventure than figuring out the bottle return thingie at the grocery store, though.

So I’ll continue with my little adventures, built largely on uncertainty rather than heroism, and I’ll enjoy the stories of others whose adventures tend more to the spectacular. And I’ll remember that life itself is the grandest adventure of all, and that we are all in it together.