Monday, March 25, 2013

House of Cards, the preamble

Reflections of Undertakers of Rain

I wandered up SW 4th tonight. This is not an uncommon occurrence, after all, I live on SW 4th. I live in a fancy new building that is impressive in many ways. It's got the Leed Certification. It's nice. I did not choose to live her, Janice chose it. In the time we've lived here, I have not been disappointed in it. I like the location. I like the general feel of the place. It's close to work. It's close to the PSU campus and I like living around the university students. They tend to give a neighborhood the vivacious vibe of youth and thought and learning and ideas. Although, I sometimes wonder what they teach kids these days. There is a “natural” market on the ground floor. I don't know how “natural” it is. I buy cheap beer in the shop. Sometimes, I buy ice cream sandwiches. And I suspect that many of the patrons of the little market buy snacks and beer and cigarettes there. In short, it's just a cornershop. As I was wandering home thinking about the last year or so, I saw a well dressed young man in a handsome suit and tie come out of the shop. As he packed his box of Marlboro cigarettes, I suddenly became homesick for my buddy Chris Howk. I sent a text message to him simply asking if he might still be awake. It was just after ten p.m. my time, Pacific Daylight Time which makes it just after 11 p.m. His time, Mountain. I sent the text knowing full well that it will probably be several days before he returns it. It's the nature of his habits with the phone. Hell, it's the same habit I have. Years ago, back in Denver, we lived together and our house phone message said something like this: “You've reached Chris and Anthony. Leave a message if you want, Anthony returns calls on Monday afternoon and Chris does not return calls at all.” We seldom had messages to return. Be that as it may, tonight, on the street I missed Chris Howk immensely.

Perhaps Chris Howk needs no introduction. Perhaps he does. Chris Howk and I met at summer camp back in 1996. I was out of the Army then for about four years. Chris was still in the Marine Corps. We were both college students. From the moment we met, we hit it off. We were two men living a similar life with a similar past and we shared many of the same beliefs and values. From that summer and for the next ten years we lived together all over the place. We shared a cabin in Elbert County, CO. we lived together in dirtbag apartments in Portland, Oregon. We lived in Willamina, Oregon, Tillamook, Oregon. We squatted in the dunes of Rockaway Beach. We lived on Gilpin Street back home in Denver. And for most of my tenure on Monroe Street, Chris lived with me.

In a period of ten years, you really get to know someone. You get to know their family. You know their girlfriends. You know their idiosyncratic ticks. You know what they'll do in a game of cards. You know the next move they may make when the cards games become so routine and you decided to build a house with the cards. In many ways, our time together was like a marriage, but without the good parts. We've shared addresses, phone numbers, dinners, bills, good times and bad times.

After ten years, we both moved on. We got busy in graduate school. Chris moved out of town, down south somewhere. I eventually sold the old house on Monroe Street. The rest, they say, is history.

I talk about my work a great deal in these blogposts. I suppose it's my right, it is my blog. I spent several posts discussing my novel Dysphoric Notions. It's available here. I hope you read it. If not, please buy it. In the coming weeks I will have the release date of second novel, Undertakers of Rain. This novel, like the last, is possible because of my publisher, Ringof Fire and I am grateful to them.

Well, what about it? Ring of Fire, my novel Undertakers of Rain and Chris Howk?

Before I go any deeper I feel inclined to tell you, Undertakers of Rain is not autobiographical. It is a work of fiction. I am a fiction writer. That's just what fiction writers do, I am no different, we write fiction. However, like all fiction, Undertakers of Rain is based on experiences. For instance, the novel is set in Portland. This novel is to Portland what Dysphoric Notions is to Denver for those of you who read it. Undertakers of Rain has two main characters. They are two men, former combat soldiers turned college students turned finance executives. And admittedly, when I started to write the initial drafts I decided to take every good quality I saw in Chris and myself and build a character from that. I also chose the negative qualities in each of us for the second character. I would think a reader would be hard pressed to know which character is which. It doesn't matter. It was how I got the process started. I wrote the initial drafts in the fall of 2009. At the time, perhaps like tonight, I was a little homesick for Chris.

When I begin a novel, I begin it with a small image. This book is no different. I dreamed one night that I was in a combat zone and I met a woman and the two of us decided to hide together until the war ended. In the dream we were protecting a stash of stolen jewels. The dream made enough of an impact that I wanted to write an entire novel about it. I do not, nor did I then, know anything about jewels or the stealing of them. I thought about the war scene too. Again, fuck it. Then I decided to take two former combat soldiers and add ten years and put them in business suits. Undertakers of Rain became their story. The story of John and Sam.

Next Time: building the foundation: one soldier's return from war

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