Monday, January 28, 2013

Writing in the Vacuum, Part II

Bleeding Sheep and “Fish of a Nazi Haven”

When we started up Umbrella Factory Magazine it was my desire to give a forum to writers. The best writers, if possible. We have not failed at that. It was also my desire to give constructive, and personal rejection letters to those writers we declined. Oddly enough, we were successful at that in the beginning. We grew and so did the number of rejections. The personal rejections stopped. They had to. It became a matter of time, and not having it. In a perfect world, the staff of Umbrella Factory Magazine, as well as all literary magazines, would have nothing else to do with their days except work on their magazine. In many ways, I lament the end of the personalized rejection letter.

In my early days of writing short stories, I used to look at literary magazines and wonder endlessly how it all worked. Please keep in mind that at this time literary magazines were pulp and ink, bound and purchased at bookstores with a high enough consciousness to sell them. I read a few of these lit-mags and since this was the 1990s, I read a few fiction-zines too. I've noticed that I am really no different than many writers in that it only took a few readings of literary magazines before I decided to submit to a few.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Southwest Portland on a Winter's Night

Nights in Portland, Oregon can hardly be considered sultry, even in the summertime. In winter, however, they are much less than that. The nights begin mid-afternoon and stretch on for well over fourteen hours. The rain falls. But occasionally, a clear night produces a sense of the wild in a city dweller. It pulls out the spirit by channeling the inner Bruno Schulz in all of us. We need only get from the opera to home to retrieve a wallet, and if on a winter's night under the deepest of distant stars, we return home via the Cinnamon Shops, well, all the better.

The Quest stands outside of the Standard Insurance building. Water pours over it all day, all night. Properly lighted and from certain angles it seem like the man will almost reach the woman's breast. By day, the fountain is photographed by all passing tourists. Apparently, in other places fountains with men reaching for nipples doesn't occur.

The night, frigid as it was, was not unbearable. My circular walk through Southwest Portland began at my home with the apex at an old and familiar haunt of mine. At the bar, I spoke with a young lesbian about books. She seemed to have a thing for the tough-guy writers of the days of yore. She spoke of Bukowski and Hemingway and moved to the softer voices of Grass and Vonnegut. I had to like her for that. I tried to get into the conversation the likes of Murakami, and Ishiguro and Brautigan and Spallholz. The reads I love these days. The young woman, and I do mean young, was 17 years old when Vonnegut died. He died in 2007, if you don't remember. Her girlfriend was not having it, the conversation, that is. The two left to slam junk, I was told. Sad. When they were born, I was nearly as old as they are now, and I doubt they'll live to the age I am now.

The return home, I figured on a snap shot of the world I know: the nighttime world of a boring, sleepy city plagued with drugs and myopic daydreams of a green world fueled by big dreams and small intellects.   

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Writer and the Calendar

It's been ten years, or thereabouts, since the night Eric Driskill and I got good and drunk and had to climb through my bedroom window when we got locked out of the house. How we landed up at my house and without my keys is a question of countless whiskeys. I do not remember the quality of the day in question, and to be honest, I do not even remember the year. Like most folks, I have skeletons in my closet. The skeletons are not so interesting. More interesting still, I have several years and more than a few sets of years that I cannot remember in any certain clarity. I'm certain that I have mentioned the night I climbed through the window with Eric Driskill before. More than the activities of the evening, it was what he said to me. I told him all I wanted out of life was to be a writer. He assured me that I could, if I wanted to. As I came up with reason after reason why I couldn't, he countered it with assurances. At the time, I was the neighborhood bartender, and he was the neighborhood lawyer.

When I say it was decade back, this night with Eric, I don't think I'm far off from the truth. A decade ago, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were still fairly new. We call our president by the letter W, and we were yet to have the total collapse of the economic house of cards. And ten years? What of it? It happened to go by fast, didn't it?

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Writer and the Clock

I have been blessed with ample time to write. I will not lie about this. I have had all the time in the world, and I have used it wisely and I have frittered and wasted it away. I have burned hours like matches and I have spent entire weeks, months doing what I have always wanted to do. I am not ashamed of this. And if anything, I am grateful.

The true golden period of writing hours started sometime in early 2009 and ended some time in the fall of 2010. For me, this time was the end of the old way of life and a kind of purgatory before the way of life to come. When I consider it now, I realize that not all writers have this like I thought all writers did. Each day of those two years was really just a continuation of the day before it. I was vaguely away of the light changing as each day aged, but I never really paid attention to any clock. In short, I think I probably spend 40 to 60 hours a week writing for those months.