Monday, June 6, 2011


The frogs, in chorus, croak and call and sing all night long. There is a certain level of peace to it, this is true. When I hear them, I think of Mack and the boys from John Steinbeck's Cannery Row capturing hundreds of the cacophonous amphibians in old gunny sacks. It's a nice reminder, every night that nature abounds around us. Janice, my accomplice in this caper called life, loves the frogs too.

She's from the desert, and the frog song to her is something of the exotic. She's a fanatic when it comes to these woods on the farthest reaches of the Portland Metro area. Frogs make her giddy, the sea gull's call make her giggle. The wildlife being attractive to her, I get it, I know, it is strange compared to what we knew in Denver. Her fascination with garden slugs is weird. It's a strange sight, actually, to see a grown woman watch and examine with joy on her face the small slimy meanderings of these shell-less snails. It's life in the green-green rain soaked woods. It's been a time, for sure. It's been like living a dream, if you can believe it. I had been threatening for years to run away to the woods of the Pacific Northwest to write a novel. Why? I guess with the hub-bub of urban life that a sojourn to the woods would equal a novel.

As far as my creative work, Wood Village, Oregon was kind to me. Numerous short stories, and two novels. Not bad, right?

But living in the woods had some drawbacks too. Meth users, trashy people, lack of culture and the inconvenience of stripmall commodities that have become homogenized and close early are the notable drawbacks. Then, four months into our stay in Wood Village, we both got jobs in downtown Portland. The commute downtown meant a 20 minute walk to the #12 bus. It meant a five minute bus ride to the Max station on that #12 bus. It meant a 45-50 minute commute on the blue line train. People do it all the time, these horrible commutes. Janice and I have always been urban dwellers so the whole commute thing has been a very strange thing and one I'll never get used to doing. As urban dwellers, our commute has generally meant a walk of 30 minutes or less. The advantage of walking, of course, is the incidental booze on the way. But moving from downtown to the suburbs was just too difficult to get used to.

The story is not so interesting. My place at 2831 Monroe Street sold just over two years ago, May 2009. Janice sold her place at 1313 Steele Street last year, June. When we moved into a downtown Denver apartment in the summer of 2010, we had no idea what would become of us. The infestation of German cockroaches hastened our departure from Denver and from our old lives. Once we left that apartment, we moved in with fellow UFM worker, Jana Bloomquist on the edge of Denver's western suburbs. The 'burbs. Admittedly, I enjoyed Jana's place for the month we were there. Then we moved to Wood Village, Oregon. This was a funny feeling of alienation for me. I like to talk about books and writing. The suburban neighbors were of no appeal. Did my mental well-being suffer? Maybe. Did my writing? No, not really. After all, I completed four manuscripts in the seven months of suburban exile.

Where does it all leave me now that we're back in the city? Good question. We're home, my accomplice and I. I don't know how long it will last, a year for the minimum, I suppose. I know that now it's time to develop a new schedule and a new life. Great prospect, I suppose.

Occasionally, when I talk to other writers and people who want to write, I always say that one must be in a space to write. Yes, this is true. Writing, the very act of it is generally very solitary. Most of the space I mean is in the mind and the mindset. Getting yourself up to be a writer is no easy task. It's a question of how to develop the habit and set aside the time. Now, coming back to an urban neighborhood and one that I love and have always loved a great deal, the physical space means something too. The physical space, I now feel means more than ever. After all, I love the view out the windows of our new place. When looking up from the notebook or the computer screen, I see a very different world, a world of layers and activity, industry and ennui. A world of possibility.

The interlude?

Doubtful. Yet, in the process of change and settling in, my work stays the same, but my ability has become enhanced by a simple change of surroundings.

I'm grateful for the space and the time and the possibilities. Forging ahead, it's time to do good work. I hope all of you have these things. In this interlude from topics, it's time to relax, learn and settle in.

As always, good luck and happy writing.

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