So That Happened

I was coming home from work — in fact, I was about to turn onto the 1-block street that leads to my house. Then I noticed that there were flashing lights in my rear view mirror. Now, this isn’t an altogether unprecedented turn of events. I get pulled over every few years, usually for coming into town at a speed not quite worth ticketing. This time was different. Not in its result, because I was let go with a warning for the umpteenth time.

What freaked me out is the reason the officer pulled me over. Seems I forgot to put my new tags on last year due to never having ordered them. I have no idea how that happened. I swear that I even remember putting them on, but no such luck. Clearly someone’s been messing with the timestream again.

Anyway, I’ve now ordered them and paid the $10 late fee, so if I get stopped again before they come in they can at least see that I did register. Also very glad for discovering this before traveling out-of-state. And, as ever, for being a color the cops favor.

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The Novel Continues 

I’m still working on the novel, and things are moving along at a steady clip. I’m just shy of 16,000 words now and have a bit of material to get through before heading into the conclusion. Still, right now it’s looking more like it will be a novella than a full-length novel. The smallest size I’ve found for a full-length modern genre novel is around 70,000. My first draft probably won’t break the 50,000 word goal I took from NaNoWriMo. There are a number of scenes I need to fill in for the second draft, but I don’t anticipate that bringing it anywhere near 70,000.

Continue reading

Perfectly Broken

I’ve been listening to Bowie CDs on my commute, and for some reason I remembered something today.

The first time I heard David Bowie’s “Diamond Dogs” album, I was in high school. My brother brought the CD back with him from college. Just the CD, no case or liner notes. That’s because he rescued it from some guys in his dorm who were using it as a frisbee. They, in turn, had come by it when one of them had bought a floor-model player and found that left in the tray.

I want to stop here for a moment to enjoy the thought of an appliance department playing “Diamond Dogs”, because that’s pretty cool right there.

Right, so we were at me listening to the album. I was floored. It was the glammiest, glitziest, post-apocalypse I’d discovered. So of course I had to tape it. I hooked my brother’s CD player into my system and put in a tape. Everything was fine until it got to the final track, “Chant of the Ever Circling Skeletal Family”, which is really the outro for both the album and the song “Big Brother”. It’s basically a disco breakdown that ends with a short loop that trails away to nothing, and it’s terrific. Unfortunately the disc got scratched during all of the tossing it around like philistines. Sometimes the player could work it out, but usually it would start skipping during the chant. Because it was part of the track before it, this meant that I had to keep re-recording both of them until it finally played through.

My brother wondered why I’d bothered. In his view it didn’t matter because the song skips anyway. I was 17, so all I could say was that I needed it to be right. Now I can explain it better.

ahem

IT’S PERFECT, AND I NEEDED IT TO BE RIGHT.

A Few Good Things

It’s already hot enough to make me irritable, and the general election is so far away in a truly awful election cycle, so let’s kick off June with a little positivity! Here then are some things for which I’m grateful.

My partner loves and understands me. Wendi knows I really enjoy some odd things, like sitting out in the cold rain to watch horror movies with like-minded friends. She may well judge me for that, but if so she keeps it to herself and is outwardly supportive of my trips. She also just nursed me through recovery from oral surgery, during which she watched some truly awful movies with me. If that ain’t love, I don’t know what is.

My friend Tim did not turn out to be a serial killer. Seriously, I can’t explain why I agreed to go on a road trip to Evanston in the middle of winter with a guy I barely knew. For some reason my paranoia filters weren’t on, and the myriad ways this could end badly didn’t register until after I’d committed to the trip. To my delight and total surprise, I survived the weekend and enjoyed it enough to go 8 more times. I even wound up meeting those like-minded friends I mentioned above. So thanks for not killing me, Tim! My world grew because you dragged me to B-Fest.

For some reason I’m employed. I dreamed of being an impoverished writer. That’s the deal, right? Unless you were born into money you scraped pennies together for years until suddenly you became wildly successful. Instead, after getting married it became evident that we both needed to pull in good money in order to afford luxuries like food and pants. At first I resented the time spent not suffering, but honestly my writing didn’t get very good until my 40s. That’s a long time to starve for art. Also, money buys movies, comics, and video games.

The Cats Don’t Always Poop on the Floor. Sometimes they’re even useful. Just this morning I found Bacall and Bogart sitting innocently in the bathtub with the shower curtain in a heap beside them. Something under the curtain moved, and Bogart couldn’t stand to feign ignorance anymore. He started swatting at the mouse they’d cornered. So while they make messes and scratch up the furniture, at least our cats keep the rodents under control.

And now it’s time to put in a bad movie, so I’ll just leave it there.

Disarming My Smile

I’ve mentioned previously that my teeth are expected to explode, but I believe that circumstances warrant a recap. My permanent canines got lost and never joined the rest of the band, leaving me with two baby teeth sitting uncomfortably as the adults talked about their medical conditions and how much they hated their jobs. Dentists have been prodding me to do something about this for years — one of them going so far as to dramatically proclaim that the two little guys would explode — but none could even suggest what to do once they were removed. Would fake teeth be put in on posts? How would that interact with the canines that were still lurking up there somewhere? What about a bridge? No one knew.

Finally, one dentist gave me a referral to an orthodontist. Doing things for me is always a much better approach, as I’m predisposed to inaction. Of course, it took a further visit, a fresh referral, and my wife making the appointment before I actually followed up on this step. Scans were taken, casts were made, and a plan was presented to us. After hearing it I asked if I could leave my teeth at the office until they were done. This question was sadly ignored.

See, after my baby teeth get pulled, there will be a gap. That would let my remaining teeth move around, which is apparently a BAD THING. This is because left to their own devices they’ve already screwed the pooch. Not only do I have a large over bite, but my top teeth actually slope inward. Certain predators use this type of dentition to trap prey within their mouths, but usually this just gets me caught up on apples. The orthodontist recommended 2.5 years of wrangling my ivory dogies into position, which sounds to me like a lot of effort to reform proven miscreants. And yet that seems pleasant compared to the one little extra detail. Those lost canines? They’re pushing against the roots of my upper incisors, so they’ve gotta go.

This week I go in to get braces on my upper teeth. Then I’ll meet with an oral surgeon to schedule the extraction of my wayward canines (and the incidental removal of the baby teeth). It’s happening in that order so that the movement of the other teeth is under control before they get their chance to run loose. After the top incisors are pointed in the right direction, I’ll get the matching set of metal for my lower teeth.

I want to wrap this up with something witty, but honestly just thinking about this exhausts me. So many appointments to come. So many teenagers in the waiting room. So much money. No popcorn for almost three years. I’ll be pushing 50 when all of this is done. And when it’s all over I need to see about controlling my probable sleep apnea.

Now I just need to find a way to get proper nutrition out of pudding and beer.

How to Date the Travis Bickle Way

In Taxi Driver there’s a scene where Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) takes Betsy (Cybill Shepherd) to a movie, which turns out to be X rated. (It’s reportedly Ur kärlekens språk, a graphic sex-ed film from Sweden.) Maybe not the most conventional choice for a first date, it goes over poorly.

On a seemingly unrelated note, I went to a concert on this past Sunday night. You may remember that my social anxiety makes this a daunting prospect; but Jonathan Richman was performing at a local bar, and I was determined not to miss the chance to go. So determined, in fact, that I spent the week leading up to it  quashing the recurring urge to back out. By the time I met up with Tim and his friend, I was pretty much a  nervous cat and expected the worst at every turn.

Fortunately we all got along together, and the only hiccup was that some tickets were left in a coat that hadn’t attended with us. Not a huge deal on my end, as I hadn’t paid my way yet anyhow. Besides, admission was ridiculously cheap. All that mattered to me was securing one of the few wall-hugging stools. The three of us managed to snag exactly one stool, which was graciously granted to me. Then the woman who’d saved the seat next to me offered to free that one up by sliding over. We thanked her and annexed the stool to our growing kingdom of seatedness.

Eventually her husband arrived and sat down, but we didn’t really notice. As usual, Tim and I had started talking about movies. The first I was aware of the guy, he’d leaned over and injected himself into the conversation. After some awkward back-and-forth, he decided that it was sharing time.

Fella: Hey, you guys know a lot about movies, right?

Me: Some, yeah.

Fella: So you might know this one. For our first date, I took my girlfriend — she’s my wife now; this lady here — I took her to see Salo!

Me (weakly): Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom.

Fella: Yeah! It was a test, and she passed!

Salo is a masterpiece, but it’s not the sort of film that you show to an uninformed viewer. It’s an unflinching adaptation of the Marquis de Sade’s The 120 Days of Sodom, or the School of Libertinism, set in the last days of Mussolini’s Italy. Given writer/director Pier Paolo Pasolini’s previous works, it’s fair to say that the film is intended to show how human love and tenderness can exist in even the most detrimental conditions. However, those conditions include rape, ephebophilia, torture, coprophagia, and assorted other activities that are not for eyes of the cinematically timid or, y’know, people who don’t want to see that sort of thing.

I didn’t ask for the goal of this “test”, but obviously she passed it. Perhaps by ever speaking to him again. She certainly didn’t look thrilled that he was telling the story. The look on her face spoke volumes about how often she’d had to hear him tell it. I wondered briefly what sort of test he’d had to pass; being carbon-based, perhaps. I just hoped he didn’t drive a cab.

Low Stakes, High Intrigue

A funny thing happened as I went to make a turkey.

Okay, some context is in order here. On Monday the manager of my manager was given a bag of craft supplies that his teams were to transform into a turkey. Because of reasons. Well, he was working in a different office that day, so by “was given a bag of craft supplies” I really mean that somebody left it on his desk. Today (Wednesday) he dropped the bag on my desk and asked me to tell the teams that we needed to make a turkey out of it. This is why I refer to him as a trap-door spider, because you never know when he’s going pop up in your cube and hand you some crafting materials.

I dutifully took the stuff to our morning meeting and mumbled something barely coherent about turkeys. Afterwards, I dropped it off in an empty cubicle. It might have all ended there, but a co-worker found where I hid the fixings. The next I knew I’d crammed myself into the cube to stare at the assortment of goodies. There were expected things such as construction paper, popsicle sticks, and pipe cleaners — federal law mandates the use of pipe cleaners in every seasonal craft project, due to the political sway of the hobbiest lobbies. There were also plastic cups, a styrofoam ball, assorted small feathers, and an enormous blue feather that was sprinkled in glitter. We marveled at this collection of oddities and then went back to our respective desks to, y’know, do our jobs.

Shortly thereafter, a woman from another department wandered over to see our progress. That’s what she said, but the way she was talking about popsicle sticks made me suspicious. Being arguably responsible for our turkey supplies, I walked over to keep an eye on our inventory. The larger, paranoid part of my brain expected to see her filching a stick or two, but the tiny piece of my brain-meat responsible for lucidity reasoned that an adult would have little urge to pilfer cheap craft material.

Here’s where things got weird, because it turned out that she in the midst of an Ocean’s Eleven level heist of utterly insignificant goods.

I found her eyeing the supplies, holding an enormous blue feather that was covered in glitter. That sane portion of my brain tried to dismiss this as her being someone who just has to touch everything, which the rest of me wasn’t buying because of the enormous purple feather that now lay on the desk. She immediately tried to distract me by asking about our turkey plans. I ignored her question and asked my own.

“Did you just swap giant feathers with us?”

“No!” she scolded, looking offended. “Why would you even think that?”

“Because the one you’re holding is blue, which is the color of our feather. Also it has a bent tip, like ours does.”

She responded by stuffing the feather up the back of her sweater and asking a lot of questions about how we were planning to build the turkey.

Now, at this point my paranoia had been proven more reliable than my sanity, so I could only assume that in addition to stealing our feather she wanted to steal our turkey-making IP. I got really cagey about everything.

“What are you going to use the ball for?”

“Making a turkey,” I said absently, watching her hands to ensure nothing else disappeared into her clothing.

Eventually she left, and two co-workers came to make the turkey while I kept watch. Occasionally I saw her, watching me from across the room, waiting for me to let my guard down. Not today, feather-thief. I’m hip to your jive.

Good Thing I Wasn’t Drinking

A friend and I went to a burger joint today, precisely because they didn’t serve booze. Neither of us were up for college kids celebrating Irish culture by binge drinking. Sadly, lunch was a doomed idea no matter the location.

The first sign of weirdness was when I walked up to the counter.

Clerk: What’s your name?

Me: Sean.

Clerk: Chuck?

Me: …okay, sure.

I placed my order, which included a chocolate malt, and — after a quick trip to the soda trip to spill root beer all over my hand — I sat with my friend to chat. He got his food, and I got Chuck’s, and we talked for a while over sliders and fries.

Eventually I posed the question “When should I ask what happened to my malt?” He was amazed I hadn’t already, so I took my receipt up to the counter and asked how my malt was coming along. The clerk fell over himself apologizing and produced it from a fridge behind the counter. The was a rather involved story about how it had gotten mixed up with an order for delivery, but I really didn’t care because I was happy that my malt had been there for the asking. The clerk said he’d make another for to make up for the mistake, and I told him there wasn’t any need. As far as I was concerned, everything was copacetic.

Then I sat down and promptly dropped the damn thing on the floor.

“I will make you a new one now,” the clerk said as I wiped up malt from the floor.

I accepted his offer of a fresh malt. It tasted of shame and chocolate.

I Didn’t Realize How Appropriate the Screw Analogy Was When I Started Writing

The other day, while I was stopped in traffic, a screw landed on my right leg. It was so unexpected that for a few my brain skipped over the event, and I stared in incomprehension. Yet the screw remained, resting against a fold in my jeans.

I picked it up and gazed dumbly at the roof of the car. “Where had this come from?” I wondered, and “Was it important?”

As the cars before me started to move again, I realized that the screw had belonged to the clip which held my visor flat against the roof in its “home” position. It wasn’t strictly necessary, and my car probably wasn’t about to collapse into so many pieces.

The point of this story — aside from illustrating my typical level of panic — is that recently life has been a lot like that moment the screw dropped. Things have changed, more or less unexpectedly, and I’ve been trying to figure out if it’s going to be okay.

Last October Wendi got the news that her position was being terminated at the end of 2014. We’d already pretty much planned on her quitting sometime this year to focus on art, so this was more of a rude acceleration of her exit than a financial disaster. At the same time, though, came word that my own position, and those of my teammates, might conclude when our project wrapped up — an event scheduled (somewhat optimistically) for the end of June. We were to find out in
February if anyone would get to stay.

It’s February, and while I’ll save the answer for when I know more about specifics, I will say that I’ve been bringing things from my cube home since December.

So the end of 2014 consisted largely of playing Borderlands 2 and watching the Murder Channel, because I’d gone numb from stress. My posts here dwindled until they finally stopped. I didn’t want to discuss what was going on, and I couldn’t find the energy to think about anything else. The queue of “Furry Widdle Bunny” strips drained week by week, until I was forced into action in January, getting each week’s done just in time for Wednesday. A few times I remembered to post an entry for the Web of the Big Damn Spider, but mostly that blog went quiet.

I’m getting back on top of things now. Seeing Wendi adjust to her new circumstances helped a great deal, as did the effort of putting out the weekly just-in-time installments of FWB. The biggest aid, of course, was coming to terms with the fact that my job security was gone. Whatever management decided, the reality was that during my seven years with the company it had transformed from a job-safe environment to one that fully embraced the phrase “at will employment”. Whether my job ended or not, it was no longer the company I’d joined.

The screw in my lap is significant, I think, but it should be all right if I don’t care to put it back in place.