Monday, December 8, 2014

Dead End

The hospital's maternity ward is at one end of the street. On the other end of the street the cemetery awaits us all. This street is not a through street. It's a dead end street and the analogy is pretty stupid and not well-conceived.

Along this short street there are the familiar landmarks: the elementary school, any favor of church or temple or mosque. These things are all the same thing on a short street with birth on one side and death at the other.

On this street, there are mailboxes and tenements and trashcans. There are fast food wrappers in the gutter and mumbling black marketeers. There are fancy commercial outlets and even a bookshop. The latter is quiet on this street since most people gawk at the wide windows of the electronics palace next door.

There are plenty of place to leave scars on a person on this short street. There are tattoo parlors and bedrooms. The biggest scars in life are often on the inside.

When it comes to love on the dead end street, you must ask yourself what it is you want to achieve. There is only one way to fall in love and despite the variety of circumstances, there is only one real way to fall out of love. When it's time to fall in love, where you find it is not important. It is not important if it's love between two races or one. It is not important if it's between two genders or one. Love is love is love is love is love is love. This is a short street and when traveling it, it is best to travel it with someone you really love.

There are dreams on a dead end street. If these dreams have that element of money or power, however it's manifested, please remember it is a short-short street. When your dreams are about the few still, low-lighted sunny days and soft words, the dead end at the end of the street moves a little farther toward the dead end street on the other side of whatever is on the other side.

Unlike love, dreams come in a couple of different flavors. The first flavor is the subconscious, we're all familiar with that one. In the morning (or the afternoon if you're a reasonable person) when you awake, there are the reminisce of your contact with your inner mind. The dreams of our sleeping hours are worth an examination, a reflection or at the very least, a giggle.

The second flavor of dreams is the one that happens in the quiet parts of the waking hours. These dreams are proof, absolute proof that the distance between our ears is too vast to measure. Whatever these dreams are, we have absolute control over them. Make these good.

There is seriousness within us on the dead end street. But as soon as you look behind and see the maternity ward and as soon as you look forward and see the cemetery, it's probably best to reconsider why seriousness is important.

There is one sure outcome to all it. This street is a dead end street because all streets are dead end streets. If this is difficult to think about, remove one of these three words: DEAD, END or STREET.

I like to remove STREET. When it comes down to these days, to this life, DEAD and END are not such bad words to have. If there wasn't an end to it, whatever it is, there is probably no beginning and no middle. As far as I can tell, no one can remember the beginning, so I hope you're enjoying the middle.

The middle of the dead end street starts at the first breath and it ends with the last. That said, please reconsider your dreams. When your dreams are about the few still, low-lighted sunny days and soft words, the dead end at the end of the street moves a little farther toward the dead end street on the other side of whatever is on the other side.

In the middle, remember the length of this dead end street and what exists on either end of it. Find love. Love is love is love is love is love is love. This is a short street and when traveling it, it is best to travel it with someone you really love.


Monday, December 1, 2014

Lost at Sea

Our day off from work found us drifting along the sails and rails and avenues and streets from one quadrant to the next to the next to the next. There was no real direction. Adrift. Adrift on a day off from work. Lost at sea.

Why not? A day binge is one thing. A daily binge is something else. We stood on the pavement outside the neighborhood bar and smoked cigarettes. Liz worked a hotel restaurant. Jamie worked the lighting at the theater. Jerry worked the bar, his girlfriend too. Sarah wandered up the sidewalk from Burnside tamping a box of smokes. She worked the library. As for me, yeah, I worked a restaurant too. It's what we did, it's all we could do. Some people think Ronald Reagan started it when he said we live in a service culture.

All I knew, another spring day, longer light and just as much overcast. I also knew that I would not be polishing wineglasses on this day.

There is something to be said about work. Now, it doesn't much matter if it's your life's calling, or if it's meaningful or menial. Work is work, right? What it really is is a warm dry place where you can't do much damage to yourself or others. It's a place where you go and perform a set list of tasks, hopefully small, easily attainable tasks, for a set amount of time for a set amount of pay. And the longer the amount of hours you spend at work are the less hours you spend on the streets in front of your neighborhood bar, midday, smoking cigarettes with your friends.

Sarah held her cigarette up to her lips. “Sometimes,” she said. “I feel like things gotta change.” I lighted her cigarette. I got close enough to her to smell that first rush of tobacco. I smelled her hair. She exhaled. She started to tell us a story that I was unsure if it had happened to her, someone she knew or something that she had read. It was a racy story that involved a small bet, the removal of panties and fucking in a car. “Yeah, right in front of the Hotel Moderna.”

I had a few more moments outside to listen to her. Liz had already moved back into the bar. I was thinking about leaving the place, the whole neighborhood and walking to the distance out north to meet up with Toby. We were not having to work today, and he was always up for it. We could, in one night, walk from North Portland to Southwest, drink up fifty dollars, see a rock show, go dance at a nightclub, hide a body, go to an art show—and you never know what you'll get with those freaky artists, especially when you still have fresh grave dirty under your nails. If you talk fast, you can probably get one of those types of artists who have a fancy day job to take you home. And if you can talk fast enough, you can get her to to take you home and bring her blonde friend along.

I wanted to say something meaningful to Sarah. There was nothing doing. I could have told her that I have been both the victim of the smooth talk backseat fuck and I have been the smooth talker. It happens like this. And sometimes, some nights, after work, you just find adventure. It's best that the adventure is sex in the backseat and not digging shallow holes in Forest Park.

Then there's always tomorrow. They always say there's tomorrow. Who says this? I don't know, they. What's tomorrow? Who cares? If you're lucky you have a job that pays your way. Hopefully, your work doesn't take too much out of you. Hopefully, your job pays you what you're worth. Hopefully, your job is just that trivial: polishing wineglasses, stuffing envelopes, changing out spent light bulbs. Someone'll have a great idea, eventually.

If you're even luckier, you'll have tomorrow off, you and all your friends. You can stand around and smoke cigarettes. You can drink cheap beer and cheap whiskey. You can fuck in cars. You can do what you want. Perhaps, there will be sunlight. Perhaps they'll be sunlight on flowers, or cactus spines or palm leaves. If you're even luckier tomorrow, it'll be some other stiff doing your job and you'll be free.


Saturday, November 29, 2014

Holga Page--removed on 11/29/2014

1970's Highrises and Sculpture 

Made entirely of plastic, the Holga is closer to a toy than to a camera. It is often referred to as a “toy camera.” Well, call it what it is, I suppose. My attraction to the Holga is neither that it is a toy nor a camera. What it is, well, both the Holga and the attraction, is the sheer silliness of it.

I want to know silliness. Silly, to me, is the five pointed intersection of the sad, the macabre, the senseless, the inane and the funny, in short, the way I see life. It seems the best representation of all of this is, in fact, a ridiculous facsimile of all the facets.

Pentax K1000 Page--removed on 11/29/2014

Bike racks at Portland State Campus
It became obvious to me sometime in June of 2013 while wondering the streets of Portland, Oregon with my Pentax K1000. So obvious in fact that it was not a surprise. It was just one of those ah-ah moments. There I was, on top of one of those Natio Parkway parking garages looking at the Hawthorne Bridge. It was late afternoon, the time when the light stills feels like day but the streets of an after-work downtown feel like evening. I was alone. And it occurred to me. My time as amateur-hobbyist photographer comes down to what I like to shoot pictures of. The conclusion? I like to take pictures of the same things I like to write about: loneliness, decay; abandon, filth and decline. Capturing this on film is not a particularly difficult thing to do. This is America, after all, and we build fast and let things fall apart even faster.   

Photo Stream--removed on 11/29/2014

Visitor Counter--removed on 11/29/2014

Friday, October 31, 2014

Wet Wheels on Wet Rails

Wet Wheels on Wet Rails
The rain washes the streets, the cars, the people, everything. The rain collides with Earth at the treetops. The water collects and slides down the trunks of trees. The moss covered, water saturated ground has become resistant to more water. The water rolls down off the mountainsides, it collects in gutters and flows down drains. The water eventually falls into the Columbia and with a mighty-mighty force crashes into the Pacific.

This is not a lesson on the water cycle.

This is something else entirely.

When the rain beat at my face during that first trip to Astoria I knew there was something about the place or about me that needed further investigation. This is always the case, when at the age of 27, you come to a place for the first time and feel like you have belonged to that place for all of time.

The stories are too many to recount. This is naturally the case when you have visited a place dozens of times.

I lived through the Colorado droughts of the early 2000s. I watched the thousand year old glaciers evaporate. There were wildfires on all sides. The water tables were dropping at such a rate that entire municipalities lost their drinking water. If you're struggling with this concept please understand what I've just said: Astoria, so much rain and water and rivers and ocean and overlay that with Denver (in the early 2000s) with searing heat, wildfires and not a drop of water to drink.

One afternoon in the summer of 2001, I walked from downtown Denver to the place I worked on east 17th Ave. It was a searing hot day, but not just the kind of day we had all become accustomed to having. On this day it was not only regular hot, it was also cloudy. A cloudy day in these conditions is like sitting in a summertime car with the windows up and the heater on. At the corner of Downing and 17th I considered going into a Mexican restaurant for tequila and beer. I hesitated before deciding the better of it and pushing on, toward work. The summer was making all of us a little crazy. And in that craziness, we were all inclined to do things that would not make sense with slightly cooler weather.

The distance between Downing and Park Ave is about 200 feet. As I waited for the light to change at Park Ave, it began to rain. Rain. Rain, if you don't mind. And cold drops of rain. Cold drops of rain on a really fucking hot day in the middle of a white hot drought. As I began to cross the street, I looked down. What I saw there disturbed me more than the already unnerving state of affairs in this time of drought. It was raining, yes, but the cool raindrops I felt on my face evaporated before they hit the ground. That's right, try as they might, these raindrops, this rain was not going to amount to anything.

I hurried on. In the heat of the day, I considered my past in Oregon, and most especially in Astoria. The longer I thought about it with the heat on me like a despotic bully, I fantasized about a passage back to the Northwest.

I figured I would work and work and work and save and save and save and then go up to Astoria for a year and create something: write a novel, paint pictures, snap photographs. In short, I would leave the inferno and go to a place that is perennial springtime and create art.

Life would have something very different in store for me.

I did get to Oregon. In Oregon I did spend a year making art, I wrote novels. I even made it back to Astoria. I made it back to Astoria a few times.

I had no idea it would be my last trip to Astoria when we went. It was a family vacation. It was a cool weekend in April. The rain fell in small misting balls hitting treetops first, rolling down hills and finding a home in the Columbia before getting to the Pacific.


On the boardwalk, a trolley rolled by with wet wheels on wet rails.  

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Forgotten Places

At the instant that she told me she'd been raped I kept quiet. Not only did I not know what to say, I did not know what to do. I sat quietly. I heard first the tobacco of her cigarette as she smoked it. I heard the rain falling on the street behind me. I heard her heart beating. I heard my heart breaking. I wanted to hold her. Instead, I did nothing, I just stared. Later that afternoon, I called the rape crisis hotline. I was thanked for my action, or lack thereof. Apparently, when men hear that one of their loved ones has been raped, they react with violent words or actions. I just sat and listened.

The two of us had been making our rendezvous every lunch hour at the tables under the Wells Fargo building. I could consider the Wells Fargo plaza as a forgotten place.

Forgotten places are those places which hold significance for us. These places can included, but are certainly not limited to, bus benches, park side tables, phone booths, street corners. They are classified as such only because they are innocuous places where something of profound importance has happened to us, but the place is nothing special: bus benches, parks side tables, phone booths, street corners.

At the onset of the 21st century, I worked for a living. I was granted a dry place to go from 8 to 5. I got one 45 minute lunch hour. The walk between my office and the Wells Fargo plaza was three blocks, six blocks round trip. I got 30 minutes, one half hour to sit down and have lunch with my friend. Our friendship was built very slowly, 30 minutes at a time, five times a week. It went on for three months—October, November and December.

I have to wonder now, and at the risk of sounding like a sentimental old man, were the relationships of my youth more intense because of my age, or the age of the world? At the time of my rendezvous at the Wells Fargo plaza cellphones were not commonplace, the internet was something someone had at work and social networks happened at the neighborhood level. In these days, people met face to face, at bars, at parties, at coffeehouses. This is not a “in the good ol' days” rant. Quite the opposite. If you want a lunch date now, you can meet with your best friend who lives in another city using some sort of digital middleman.

It's not how I work. And I often feel lost in crowds because I am the only one in the group who isn't slack jawed and vacuously staring into an electronic devise. Hell, I'm still waiting for the lights to go out so we can all go outside and play. I feel lonely and I'm looking for an old friend in the crowd who is coherent amidst the vapid. And if I can't find that old friend, I'm at least looking for someone who might want to invest some time to become an old friend. It doesn't take long, 30 minutes a day, five days a week for three months.

In our youth we believe in soul mates and things happening for reasons, greater designs on life. Hell, many of us may still believe that into middle years and late life. But these beliefs tragically discount one thing: the serendipity of chance meetings and the magic of brief relationships. Sometimes, you learn the most about yourself when interacting with strangers. With a stranger, you are who you are, you have nothing to lose. You can feel comfortable with a new acquaintance, so comfortable that you'll disclose everything. You can give yourself. You can reach an instant intimacy that liberates you. And then the moment is gone. You've reached the end of the 30 minute lunch break, you've reached the end of the three months.

What remains? The forgotten place. The image of a friend who has said something to you that she cannot, ever, say to someone else.


I think everyone has at least one forgotten place. Everyone has at least one friend who populated that forgotten place. This person and this place have made us who we are. Call this person a soul mate, call this situation something that had to happen for a reason or that this time in our life had a grander design. It is a reason to be grateful, a blessing to be human.  

Monday, October 20, 2014

Discovered


If you haven't worn a uniform while in the name of patriotism and been forced to point a weapon at another human being, well we don't have much to talk about. You may thank me for my service, which infuriates me. I will not find much of value in anything you say. It's hypocritical. Let me break it down:

  1. An American flag made in China will have colors that run.
  2. If you oppose abortion, you are not allowed to support the death penalty.
  3. If you love Jesus, then please, act like Jesus.
  4. If you think we should removed slavery in the US from history books, you're an idiot. Slavery was a horribly thing. Africans built this country and their contributions are immeasurable. We are who we are because of who we were.
  5. If you think war is a good idea, then you join up. Do it today.
  6. If you are afraid, we ain't got nothing to talk about.
  7. If you aren't afraid, did you know that many school systems want to remove any hint of civil disobedience from textbooks? Oh, if Henry could see us now.
  8. The best thing for us is whatever the system decides for us: 24hour electronic stimulation and amply supplied processed food.
  9. Why there ought to be a law. Shouldn't we have more regulation?
  10. Despite what you may think, you really are not unique. Rather than being smug, be humble, and if you cannot be humble, be quiet.

When we came home it was a terrible realization than the entire country had suddenly came down with a serious case of the stupid. Cars got bigger. To-go cups got bigger. Opposition got whinier. And still, everyone seemed to like highly organized things: religion was still popular, broadcast sports seemed to round out the afternoons after God. And then there's the politics. Can you see any difference between them?

We got back and the only thing that seemed to matter was each other. We had left our homes and families and communities and went abroad to disrupt the homes and families and communities of others. And returning home again? Fuck you.

After the war we went to college. The first time we dropped acid we were all in college. We were busy absorbing the liberal arts subjects that would give us the edge over the generation before us. We were learning Adam Smith and Descartes and Ralph Waldo Emerson. We left the rotary phone and the typewriter and the map and compass like we left the war, reluctantly. Reluctantly, we gave what was fed to us and on Thursday afternoons after class, we wandered deeper into decaying industrial streets in the center of town and took LSD.

What we discovered was this: it's going to go on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and there is so very little you're going to do to stop it, to slow it, or to make it right.

We discovered that if there is war, and there is always going to be war, it's because of one reason and one reason only. War is only going to get started because one stupid white mother fucker is fixin' to lose some money.

I do not mean to suggest we end war, but call it what it is. End the hypocrisy. I do not mean to suggest that the total anesthetization of society by processed foods, 24hour electronic stimulation, religion, sports or politics is necessary either. I do not endorse LSD. I do not endorse drugs of any kind, legal or illegal.


I am merely suggesting that everyone be quiet.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Definitive Moment

Days, weeks, entire lifetimes slowly paced by my window. I was vaguely aware that the day light shifted. It was not the swift moving winter sun so low on the southern horizon, no. It was a gray second to none that is the gray of gray gradients that is the rainy winter of Portland, Oregon. My window looked down six floors to the intersection of SW Vista and SW Main Streets. It was not the quiet residential street we were promised. Not in the morning, not in the evening, and not in the night; it was the cacophony that only happens on two major bus lines, a major excavation truck thoroughfare and a haven for weekend drunks could be. I would have liked the place more if there were constant gunfire, screams of agonizing pain and random explosions, at least I would have understood the noise level.

Psychotomimetic Peacocks ended just after the aforementioned intersection. It was a coincidence, and a beautiful one at that.

This was the same place where I was gifted not one, but two film cameras. Film. And in this place, this busy intersection in Southwest Portland, Oregon, I decided to capture light.

I'm still very uncertain if photography is the art of capturing light or not. In the early days of Portland, Oregon I did all of my living in the dark hours of night. Oftentimes at night it does not rain. And the grays are just deeper in hues, in depth. At night, that's all there is is night.

I tried to take pictures using a lens to project an imagine onto light sensitive paper held in emulsion. I would imagine that those in the know would judge what a fool hearty endeavor this really is. Night is when I lived, and if I wanted to be a photographer, then night is when this had to happen.

As you look back over your life and consider all the people you once knew, and all those you were once close to, it is very easy to become nostalgic, heartbroken or worse still, a teller of tall tales. I think this is commonplace. I also think that anyone can love deeply, devoutly and purely in any friendship no matter how superficial, how brief or how centered on the drinking of gin that friendship may be.

For instance, recall all the wonderful liaisons you may have had. They all have to have had romance, or spark, or blind passion. These probably ended poorly. But even now, long after the end of these liaisons, there is probably one moment that sticks out more than the rest as the definitive moment. Your friendships too have a similar moment I'm sure, the moment when you got each other.

The definitive moment.

The definitive moment, now, for me, happened during one late night, after work, in the dark or Portland, Oregon. I wandered from Ol' Pink to the Morrison Bridge, then over the bridge to a few dark bars and then back again. I snapped several exposures. Only one worked, and even that did not work very well. Portland, Oregon to me was just like this: paltry, abandoned, decayed, peaceful. Not a bad analogy of modern life.

The landscapes in my imagination are much like the landscapes of my dreams—some place right before a street light. Empty. As I began to consider the camera as a still life of existence I found the same emptiness that I wander in my imagination, and the same vague landscapes that I have been trying to write about for years.


Under the Morrison Bridge, a late spring night, I opened my shutter as I walked with John Adamson. I had liked John very much until that night, that walk, that instant. I have loved him very much ever since.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Dead End

Dead End
The hospital's maternity ward is at one end of the street. On the other end of the street the cemetery awaits us all. This street is not a through street. It's a dead end street and the analogy is pretty stupid and not well-conceived.

Along this short street there are the familiar landmarks: the elementary school, any favor of church or temple or mosque. These things are all the same thing on a short street with birth on one side and death at the other.

On this street, there are mailboxes and tenements and trashcans. There are fast food wrappers in the gutter and mumbling black marketeers. There are fancy commercial outlets and even a bookshop. The latter is quiet on this street since most people gawk at the wide windows of the electronics palace next door.

There are plenty of place to leave scars on a person on this short street. There are tattoo parlors and bedrooms. The biggest scars in life are often on the inside.

When it comes to love on the dead end street, you must ask yourself what it is you want to achieve. There is only one way to fall in love and despite the variety of circumstances, there is only one real way to fall out of love. When it's time to fall in love, where you find it is not important. It is not important if it's love between two races or one. It is not important if it's between two genders or one. Love is love is love is love is love is love. This is a short street and when traveling it, it is best to travel it with someone you really love.

There are dreams on a dead end street. If these dreams have that element of money or power, however it's manifested, please remember it is a short-short street. When your dreams are about the few still, low-lighted sunny days and soft words, the dead end at the end of the street moves a little farther toward the dead end street on the other side of whatever is on the other side.

Unlike love, dreams come in a couple of different flavors. The first flavor is the subconscious, we're all familiar with that one. In the morning (or the afternoon if you're a reasonable person) when you awake, there are the reminisce of your contact with your inner mind. The dreams of our sleeping hours are worth an examination, a reflection or at the very least, a giggle.

The second flavor of dreams is the one that happens in the quiet parts of the waking hours. These dreams are proof, absolute proof that the distance between our ears is too vast to measure. Whatever these dreams are, we have absolute control over them. Make these good.

There is seriousness within us on the dead end street. But as soon as you look behind and see the maternity ward and as soon as you look forward and see the cemetery, it's probably best to reconsider why seriousness is important.

There is one sure outcome to all it. This street is a dead end street because all streets are dead end streets. If this is difficult to think about, remove one of these three words: DEAD, END or STREET.

I like to remove STREET. When it comes down to these days, to this life, DEAD and END are not such bad words to have. If there wasn't an end to it, whatever it is, there is probably no beginning and no middle. As far as I can tell, no one can remember the beginning, so I hope you're enjoying the middle.

The middle of the dead end street starts at the first breath and it ends with the last. That said, please reconsider your dreams. When your dreams are about the few still, low-lighted sunny days and soft words, the dead end at the end of the street moves a little farther toward the dead end street on the other side of whatever is on the other side.

In the middle, remember the length of this dead end street and what exists on either end of it. Find love. Love is love is love is love is love is love. This is a short street and when traveling it, it is est to travel it with someone you really love.


Monday, September 22, 2014

Quietly Awaiting the Autumn

Happy Vernal Equinox September 22, 2014.

There is no secret to this: I have never liked the autumn. It has always meant the end of carefree days to me. It has meant the end to the summer jobs, the summer mode of life and the introduction of something much more serious or menacing. Autumn always meant school. Everyone I've loved who has died, has died in the autumn. And the quality of light during autumn has an eerie nightmare cast to it, dreamlike in a bad way. Melancholy.

Every few years I think: well autumn ain't that bad. I think this only after an excruciatingly hot summer. After being cooked day in and day out, I feel like I can take the longer nights, the cooler mornings and death in autumn. Every few years I think I should just accept autumn for what it is: September to December.

This year is perhaps no different. It wasn't all that hot this summer here in Colorado. Quite the opposite, actually. It's been a cool wet summer, and that means a long colorful autumn. It's a simple equation: a longer cool wet season means that the trees will hold onto their leaves longer. The longer they hold those leaves as the nights get longer and longer and cooler and cooler, the more colors we're going to see.

Incidentally, this autumn will be the first autumn that we'll be living in our new town. Our new town has plenty of trees. There are three rivers flowing through our new town. At the base of the mighty Rocky Mountains and the promise of a winter to come, this autumn will be most stunning.

This is how I choose to color my autumn:

The Books: Rachel Carson Silent Spring, Normal McClean A River Runs Through It, Lorraine Hansberry A Raisin in the Sun

The Poets: Pablo Neruda, Langston Hughes and Chris Shugrue

The Soundtrack: Rodriguez “Cold Facts”

The Past time: The Holga 120N, cheap imitations of Kandinsky


The Experience: Wandering the rows of rusted American steel in the highway junkyards of Northern Colorado.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Kirsten and The Richest Man in Babylon

When we first returned from Portland, I seemed to have slipped right back into my old Denver scene. We had changed, I had changed and Denver had changed. I will, for the sake of good manners, leave the Denver changes out of this. Suffice it to say, I had changed.

There were the obvious changes: the birth of my son, the publication of Dysphoric Notions and Undertakers of Rain, namely. I had grown in the time that I was away from Denver. And I had a certain level of confusion as I tried to slip back into my old Denver life.

I started to work at the restaurant where I'd been in the interceding years between Tucson and Portland. I was delighted at the prospect of working with old friends. They had changed too in my three year absence. And to be truthful, this is not really about them or the restaurant were we all worked. No, this is about a new friend I met there. This friend, Kirsten, was not part of my old Denver set. Rather, I met her when we rolled back in. Kirsten and I had a fresh friendship slate with no past, no former frame of reference, just a new beginning.

I could list off all the great Kirsten traits like how smart she is, how dedicated to math and physics and the technical (not to mention difficult) subjects she studies in school. I could mention her circle of friends who are all interesting and cool. And I could mention that Kirsten is well over six feet tall and she wears heels which is sexy because of her confidence. I like Kirsten a lot. Yet this is all beside the point.

One day last autumn, we were working and especially boring shift. A boring shift means ample time to talk. I had asked with a mixture of curiosity and need of hearing her voice what she was studying in school. I tried to keep up. She's very fucking smart, as I've said. Then, I noticed she had a copy of The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason. “What does this have to do with physics?” I asked. “Nothing,” she said. “One of my professors love it, it's extra credit.”

I often saw her with The Richest Man in Babylon. I suspected that this book was not a priority for her. She was, after all, mired in heavy subjects and Mr. Clason's book was extra credit.

Yet there was something haunting me in the spine of this book as it sat on higher shelves at work, the higher shelves only Kirsten and I could see. I always figured that The Richest Man in Babylon was one of those stupid books that a stupid adult gives to you when you're young because it's supposed to impart wisdom in cliché axioms. Books people give you when you're young: The Prophet, The Alchemist, The Little Prince. Although I enjoyed one of these books (I won't tell you which one) for what it was, I have to ask: why give a young person a book at all? If anything, the book that did it for me was not nearly as obvious or in-your-face. For me it was Walden, which was much more real. Thoreau says that age is not such a great teacher as youth. How true. And I will say it, like I've always said it, there is nothing I can teach a younger person, and there is nothing I would endeavor to teach because it's better to go learn it for yourself. Whatever it may be.

Where does that leave me with my friend Kirsten and The Richest Man in Babylon?

Truth is, I had a copy of The Richest Man in Babylon many-many years ago. In the early 1990s I was fresh back from the Army. I was a volatile young man, as all young men who just come home for war are. I came back into civilian life here after being gone for a couple of years. I worked. I got an apartment. I got a girlfriend. Regular stuff. The girlfriend was a high school friend and I had loved her for years. I'm not sure what she saw in me. I figured our time together was going to be short lived.

Her mother fixed me up with a better job. A job working in the office where she worked. Her mother looked out for me, and I realize now it was because she was really looking out for her daughter. She often dispensed with subtle advice, or subtle financial hints. At one point, we walked through a house that was for sale—anyhow, we were too young. I often got the feeling then like I have the feeling now, that she didn't like me very much. In fact, I think she didn't like me at all. Perhaps her kindness was all because she secretly feared that I would become a permanent part of the family. I guess I knew, or at least felt, something that she did not. Long story short: it was her, the mother of a girlfriend who gave me that copy of The Richest Man in Babylon.

In 1993, or possibly a year on either side of it, I tried to read The Richest Man in Babylon. I tried. It was nothing I could focus on. And at this time of my life, like my new young friend Kirsten, I was in college, working full time and The Richest Man in Babylon was not a priority.

I don't know what I was on that warm summer day a few months ago that made me pick up a copy of the book. Perhaps it was because it was in the bargain bin. Perhaps I was feeling nostalgic of my friend Kirsten or for former people of a former time, who knows? I picked up a copy, took it home and put it on the shelf.

I read the book yesterday.

Here I must say that there is something funny about it. Typically, this is a book given to a young person by someone who is older and “wiser”. Twenty years ago, this was true of me. But now, here in 2014, I came to The Richest Man in Babylon from young people, my friend Kirsten and my former self''s recollection of it.

The book is completely cheesy. It's written in this art, thou, thine sort of language. It's episodic and fable like. It's preachy. It's a silly book. However, I read it in one sitting. If I found the presentation absurd, the concepts are anything but. I mean, here is a book with downright practical advice. Here we have a patriot giving us a detailed way to make the good ol' fashioned 'merican dream come true. Within the pages of this slim volume we are taught to save, to invest wisely, to plan for the future, to pay off all debts and to take care of our family. Everything described in the book is exactly opposite of the current trends in America today. Perhaps many people avoided this book because it was given to them by someone older and wiser. Perhaps it's just not fashionable to read a book with Babylon in the title because Babylon is too close to Bagdad and that just ain't American. Who knows?

The one impression I got from the book, the one thing that made the price of the thing and my time reading it is this: Babylon was the richest city of its time. And it was the richest city because its citizens were rich. Here it's suggested that the city was so powerful because the individuals were powerful and successful. The numbers became the sum.

It's an interesting thought here in 2014, USA, when we consider how financially irresponsible most of our countrymen are, how impoverished our neighbors have become and the fact that our government, local, state and federal is worse off than bankrupt.


What would George S. Clason have to say about things now?

Monday, September 8, 2014

Something Refreshing in the Digital Age Part 2: Realizations

I know that I am not alone with this feeling that the digital age has become too much. I know there are others who have come to this conclusion too. They are not reading this blogpost because they have turned off screens, unplugged toasters and shut off the lights; they are outside playing right now. Or perhaps they've come to a similar realization.

I've realized this:
1—It feels good to read a book, a real book, not a PDF or (as much as I like mine) a Kindle file.
2—A short conversation on the phone to arrange a meet up is more efficient than a text conversation that becomes a needy LTR.
3—Purposefully thinking about someone you love who is far away and then sitting down to hand write an actual letter feels really good.
4—Going to the mailbox to sift through shit only sucks until you discover a hand written letter from someone you love who lives far away.
5—The feel of a paintbrush on a canvas has a physical sensation that cannot be emulated with an icon on a screen.
6—Putting the view finder of a camera to your face seems to attract attention.
7—Buying a roll of film, loading it into a camera, snapping pictures, dropping the exposed roll off and then wanting anywhere an hour to a week to get the results is both time consuming and it costs money. But the act of taking the picture will last longer than the instant FB upload, 35 likes in ten minutes and then forgotten.
8—Chances are, you won't look back over your life, or over the last year and say “I wish I spent more online.” If you say, “I wish I spent more time with my friends and family,” that probably doesn't feel so good.
9—I'm Generation X. We were bred to loath the media. We called it mass media. Today, the mass has been replaced with social. Social media? It's like spreading herpes. If the media is the man, or big brother, it's best not to fraternize.
10—Life is not a final product. Life is a process. It's a finite amount of days. It is not a crime to go outside and play.


So now it becomes obvious, at least to me, where is refreshment in this digital age?

Next time: Something Refreshing

Monday, September 1, 2014

Something Refreshing in the Digital Age, an Introduction

It's no secret that I prefer pen and paper to the screen and keyboard. I carry my 7.5 x 9.75 inch composition notebook with me everywhere. I've always got pens. I would say that it's retro, but the truth is, I've been doing this for 20 years. The thrill of opening a new notebook is only second to the closing of its filled predecessor. I guess it's like this: in all the years I've been writing, I have always enjoyed the tangible signs on my labor. Filled notebooks and empty pens. Aside from this, the pen and notebook, may not be 100% sustainable since I am dependent on paper pulpers and ink manufacturers, but it is pretty low impact. Plus, should the lights go out, the composition notebook and pens do not run on electricity, batteries or gasoline. It's just me under a tree with my thoughts, pen in hand and notebook.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Restless Pen Syndrome

In the months that followed Desert Storm I wandered streets of every town within an hour's train ride from my little town of Ansbach, Germany. Sometimes I ventured farther away, and sometimes I ventured further inside. That summer, the summer of 1991 was cool in central Europe. It was cool to me, anyway. I will not bring up my high school sweetheart other than she came to visit and we had fun until we didn't. I will not bring up the few weeks I worked at the neighborhood bar on weekend nights. I will not bring up all the friends, new and old who spent their valuable time with me. What I will bring up was what I carried on my person and why.

I tried to carry as much money as I could for a trip and a return. After all, I worked in a bar a few days a week, so I had cash. I carried my toothbrush and toothpaste. If it came to me spending the night away from home, as it happened occasionally, I had clean teeth. I once spent 24 hours in a small town on the German border because I kept missing the train. Occasionally, I carried a paperback. I had learned to enjoy reading during the war. What was most important, I carried a small notebook and pen.

Monday, August 18, 2014

A Brief Statement on Time Management, Part 2: My experiment and the Results

I had a funny feeling it would be a mistake. And like most mistakes, I just kept at it. I took the first 26 days in July 2014 and wrote down everything that I did and how long it took to do it. In short, I mapped my time.

I suppose all I really wanted to do is figure out where all my time really goes. And it goes. It goes and it goes and it goes. It had occurred to me that I had not been writing, not really been reading, always feeling behind, tired and angry. I felt like too much of my time was being wasted, if not accidentally by me, but by circumstances. Before I disclose my findings, I want to explain a few motivations.

Monday, August 11, 2014

A Brief Statement on Time Management, Part 1

I ask my son “Where does the time go?” and he replies, “Gone.” This is a conditioned response, but it's funny. He's two years old, his concept of time is astronomically different from mine. In the grand scheme of things, my concept of time has changed over the years too, this is probably a function of age, and of experience.

However, I do wonder sometimes: Where does the time go? I feel like I've always had a great deal of time, not too much, and always not quite enough. From time to time, when the conversation comes up about the writing of novels, people ask: where do you find the time?

Monday, August 4, 2014

Richard Duggan and “Summer Girl”

It was in a rather off hand sort of conspiratorial way that my buddy Richard made fun of the band Smash Mouth. Now, a pop band is a pop band, and I know that, but I like Smash Mouth. Apparently, people either really like, don't care for or hate Smash Mouth. And furthermore, I have been known to make fun of certain pop bands too, perhaps it's because I never cared for the music, the fans or the shear number of times I've had to listen to it. However, all of this is neither here nor there. I like the band Smash Mouth and at the time of the conversation, Richard was incredulous to say the least.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Writers, Spiders and Glowing Moss, Part 3

It's a really funny thing. All of it's funny. I live in Denver, Colorado. I've lived here off and on for over thirty years. It's funny because there are significant enough breaks in my life here that I can honestly say that every time I moved to Denver, the place was vastly different than when I left. I think each time I've come back here I've liked the place less and less.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Writers, Spiders and Glowing Moss, Part 2

The summer of 2000 found me at Camp Cooper. This was my sixth year at summer camp and it was my last. Although I hated Camp Cooper, I am thankful for one thing, I spent most of my time alone and sober. I lived in a cabin in the dense coastal woods. My cabin had plumbing and hot water, but it had no electricity.

I had bought a manual typewriter in the spring at a church tag sale in McMinnville, Oregon. Knowing that my laptop needed electricity and my love affair with the composition notebook was strained due to the recent loss of one the autumn before, I thought a manual type writer would be beneficial.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Writers, Spiders and Glowing Moss

At the end of the century, I lived in the Pacific Northwest. I worked for the Boy Scouts of America. I was a recent college graduate and I had not yet lost the idealism that all young people ought to have. In retrospect, I had every reason to be cynical, angry and a bit befuddled. In 1999, at the time of this story, I was back from the war only 8 years, back in the states for 7. I had graduated from Metro State in 1997, and I had traveled extensively all through the western states, lived in rural Colorado, Mexico City and San Francisco. And in 1999, I moved to Portland for a job. It was to become an antagonistic job too. After all, I had wanted to be a writer, whatever that meant, and working for the Boy Scouts was just not part of my image of what a writer should be.

Monday, July 7, 2014

On living, quietly at home with the family and writing

It's not difficult to let writing slip away from you. If writing is not what you do when you punch a clock, it will oftentimes be forced lower down the list of importance. After all, most of us have life to contend with, right? There is the question of the bills and the smaller more pesky question, how are these bills going to get paid? Most of us have families, and many are at home rearing young. I'm part of all of this too. I never really understood the “rat race” metaphor. I understand the life of quiet desperation and yet, I fear, the desperation in our house is anything but quiet. When it comes down to it, I think the rents are way too high for what we get, the privilege of a phone, that I never seem to answer, and all the other niceties and needs are often less than needs or nice things. On the outside, the way we live at my house makes us all look like monks. Yet, I can't think outside of it, I still think we have too much and too much of what I don't think I want or don't think we need.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Lost at Sea

Our day off from work found us drifting along the sails and rails and avenues and streets from one quadrant to the next to the next to the next. There was no real direction. Adrift. Adrift on a day off from work. Lost at sea.

Why not? A day binge is one thing. A daily binge is something else. We stood on the pavement outside the neighborhood bar and smoked cigarettes. Liz worked a hotel restaurant. Jamie worked the lighting at the theater. Jerry worked the bar, his girlfriend too. Sarah wandered up the sidewalk from Burnside tamping a box of smokes. She worked the library. As for me, yeah, I worked a restaurant too. It's what we did, it's all we could do. Some people think Ronald Reagan started it when he said we live in a service culture.

All I knew, another spring day, longer light and just as much overcast. I also knew that I would not be polishing wineglasses on this day.

There is something to be said about work. Now, it doesn't much matter if it's your life's calling, or if it's meaningful or menial. Work is work, right? What it really is is a warm dry place where you can't do much damage to yourself or others. It's a place where you go and perform a set list of tasks, hopefully small, easily attainable tasks, for a set amount of time for a set amount of pay. And the longer the amount of hours you spend at work are the less hours you spend on the streets in front of your neighborhood bar, midday, smoking cigarettes with your friends.

Sarah held her cigarette up to her lips. “Sometimes,” she said. “I feel like things gotta change.” I lighted her cigarette. I got close enough to her to smell that first rush of tobacco. I smelled her hair. She exhaled. She started to tell us a story that I was unsure if it had happened to her, someone she knew or something that she had read. It was a racy story that involved a small bet, the removal of panties and fucking in a car. “Yeah, right in front of the Hotel Moderna.”

I had a few more moments outside to listen to her. Liz had already moved back into the bar. I was thinking about leaving the place, the whole neighborhood and walking to the distance out north to meet up with Toby. We were not having to work today, and he was always up for it. We could, in one night, walk from North Portland to Southwest, drink up fifty dollars, see a rock show, go dance at a nightclub, hide a body, go to an art show—and you never know what you'll get with those freaky artists, especially when you still have fresh grave dirty under your nails. If you talk fast, you can probably get one of those types of artists who have a fancy day job to take you home. And if you can talk fast enough, you can get her to to take you home and bring her blonde friend along.

I wanted to say something meaningful to Sarah. There was nothing doing. I could have told her that I have been both the victim of the smooth talk backseat fuck and I have been the smooth talker. It happens like this. And sometimes, some nights, after work, you just find adventure. It's best that the adventure is sex in the backseat and not digging shallow holes in Forest Park.

Then there's always tomorrow. They always say there's tomorrow. Who says this? I don't know, they. What's tomorrow? Who cares? If you're lucky you have a job that pays your way. Hopefully, your work doesn't take too much out of you. Hopefully, your job pays you what you're worth. Hopefully, your job is just that trivial: polishing wineglasses, stuffing envelopes, changing out spent light bulbs. Someone'll have a great idea, eventually.


If you're even luckier, you'll have tomorrow off, you and all your friends. You can stand around and smoke cigarettes. You can drink cheap beer and cheap whiskey. You can fuck in cars. You can do what you want. Perhaps, there will be sunlight. Perhaps they'll be sunlight on flowers, or cactus spines or palm leaves. If you're even luckier tomorrow, it'll be some other stiff doing your job and you'll be free.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Wine Knowledge

Wine Knowledge
In the quiet hours at night, I giggled uncontrollably at certain passages, certain descriptions in Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. They were the passages that would not be funny in the least to her when I tried to read them to her after my giggling woke her up.

The only thing I can think is that it was my disposition at this time: wintertime in Wood Village, Oregon. We were holed up in Mimi's basement mother-in-law apartment. We were living on the margin. We were just the two of us then. We had a few bucks, and we had no real work between us. Our days were nothing but rain, walks to the library, walks to the grocery store. We ate three solid home-cooked meals a day, we drank cheap beer and wine. We read books. We waited impatiently for spring and for work. For whatever reason Hunter S. Thompson tickled me, it was well worth the time invested in reading it.

Spring came.

The tsunami destroyed Japan, and it gently rocked the Pacific Northwest shore. I hung mirrors for a living. I was a professional mirror hanger. There are only so many mirrors you can hang before you start to look at yourself. And there is only so long you can look at yourself before you start to learn something about yourself. There are only so many things you can learn about yourself before your realize that so little of it is good.

I took to the streets. I took to the streets in the distant city of Portland. I wandered into one restaurant after another with my resume in hand and my best suit on. Between the hours of 2 and 4 I could visit 4, sometimes 5 places. Sometimes when hunting for a job like this you can get all the way to the owner of the joint for the on the spot interview. Sometimes you don't get further than the 18 year old hostess.

The cloud of late winter/early spring hung over the valley. The Willamette river ran with swollen levels through the city dissecting the place east from west. I worked the west side. I worked through the Nob Hill district on the best grid imaginable: avenues, ordinal and streets, alphabetical. The slowing rain of late winter/early spring made the place smell like hope, something like new blossoms and mold. I worked through the southwest portion of town, downtown. Downtown smells like leaf rot, mold and car exhausted.

I had lost all confidence in humanity. I would never regain much in the years to come.

The place had been called Atwater's the last time I had been in there. I had been in there with a dear friend who had confided in me during a lunch break some years earlier. This new restaurant in the old Atwater's was my last stop of the afternoon.

When asked about my wine knowledge, I gave a very convincing bullshit sort of answer. I have been giving the same sort of answer ever since. If you need to know what it is, watch a few youtube tutorials and read a few wiki articles. Whatever you do, learn the proper way of opening a bottle, and don't spill a drop.

In the early afternoon hours at this restaurant, the views are so complete. To the north: Mt Rainier, Mt St. Helens, or what's left of her. To the east: Mt. Hood. These are on the clear days. On the cloudy days, sometimes you cannot see across the river some five blocks away.

The distance from Wood Village to this Portland restaurant is sizable. One hour on the #12 bus. It's also one hour if you take the #12 bus to Gresham and then take the light rail in.


The Smiths played in the headphones. I read books: Willa Cather, Haruki Murakami, Graham Greene. I ignored the freaky meth addicts on the outskirts of town. I shrugged off the potheads closer into the city center. All the others I knew as potential adversaries, it didn't matter. It didn't matter because I had a job, and a good job at that. There was nowhere to go but up.

Monday, June 16, 2014

When the Subconscious Calls the Shots: An Interview with Dale Bridges

It was with great pleasure that I read Justice, Inc. by Dale Bridges late last winter. I first met Dale when Umbrella Factory Magazine ran a short story of his back in 2010. I think he is a remarkable writer. I loved reading his book, which is available through Monkey Puzzle Press.  Please pick up your copy today.

When the Subconscious Calling the Shots: An Interview with Dale Bridges



AFI: First, congratulations on the publication of Justice, Inc. Second, thank you for participating in this interview.

DB: Thank you and thank you. I appreciate the opportunity to talk about myself.

AFI: As we get started, I have to ask: how do you feel about Justice, Inc. now that it's a finished product? This is a short story collection, but in many ways it reads like one single narrative. Did you write the short stories with the overall product in mind? Do you have favorites among these short stories?

DB: Fear. Anxiety. Excitement. And maybe a little nausea. That’s how I feel.

I definitely did not write these stories with any kind of over-arching narrative in mind. In fact, it did not occur to me until the collection was complete that the stories were connected in any way whatsoever. Perhaps that makes me appear sort of dense, but I was too focused of writing each story to notice any larger themes, which was probably for the best. It wasn’t until I was editing the entire collection that I noticed the stories were interconnected. And then all I did was add a few details here and there to make it seem as though that was my plan all along. Sometimes your subconscious can make you seem more intelligent than you actually are.

Picking a favorite story is a bit like picking a favorite child. Of course, I have one, but I’m not going to admit it. Their feelings would get hurt. There are things a like about all of them. I think “Welcome to Omni-Mart” is the most complete, “Justice, Inc.” is my favorite idea, “Life After Men” was the most fun to write, and “The Girlfriend™” is the most original, whatever the hell that means.

AFI: I love the piece “Life After Men.” To avoid sending a spoiler to those who haven't read the story yet—I love the notion that only men become zombies and it's all due to a sexually transmitted disease. It's a very funny premise, but it's not really what the story is about, right? The story, it seems, is about failed relationships and the patterns of failed relationships which is something we can all relate to. How did you come up with the idea of a zombie virus as an STD? Incidentally, the short-short story “Texting the Apocalypse” is perfectly placed before “Life After Men.” Was that intentional? And as long as we're on the subject, “The Girlfriend™” is a stunning if not disquieting short story and the main character plays a video game called Life After Men, a video game involving zombies in Newport. Did one story influence the other? Did you just find it fitting to connect these references? Or were you consumed with these themes during the writing of these short stories?

DB: You got it. The zombies in “Life After Men” are sort of incidental to the plot, despite the fact that the central conflict appears to revolve around them. I thought it would be interesting and challenging to create a world where men exist only as monsters. The story is definitely about dysfunctional relationships, but it’s also about biology. Much is made in our culture about the positive qualities of romantic love, but we’ve all known people who are abused in the name of love, as well. Love isn’t always a many splendored thing. Love doesn’t always lift us up where we belong. Sometimes love is a tyrannical bastard that has its hand wrapped around your throat.

I have no idea where the zombie-STD idea came from. Another example of my subconscious calling the shots, I guess. The idea tickled me, so I just went with it.

I definitely put thought into the order of the stories, but they did not influence each other. Some of the stories took me years to finish, others were completed in a few weeks. The process was all over the place. However, I do think I obsess over certain themes, and that becomes apparent in this collection.

AFI: You and I became acquainted a few years ago when Umbrella Factory Magazine (Issue 2, June 2010) ran your short story “Denim Virgins.” I doubt I told you at the time, but the entire editorial staff loved that story. I think in the literary magazine world, especially on the editors' side of things, we love love a story that makes us laugh. How do you think you've grown as a writer since “Denim Virgins”? Your list of publications since mid-2010 is impressive. How do you think working with magazines and editors has influenced your writing? What was the best experience you had with a magazine? Which magazine was the worst?

DB: That’s so nice to hear. “Denim Virgins” is actually part of a memoir that I’m currently shopping around to publishers. I started writing about fifteen years ago, and at that time I was not a good writer. I’m not being humble; I was bad. I wrote minimalist, testosterone-fueled rip-offs of Hemingway and Bukowski. But I’m a stubborn SOB, so I stuck with it. After about ten years, my writing started to improve. Finally. I began dabbling in nonfiction, mostly humorous essays about growing up the son of a small-town fundamentalist preacher. That’s when I wrote “Denim Virgins.”

Somehow in 2007 I managed to land a job as the A&E editor at an alternative newspaper in Boulder. I didn’t really want to be a journalist, but the experience definitely improved my writing. It forced me to give up my “fancy” sentences (I was going through a Capote stage by that time) and get straight to the point. And deadlines can be a great motivator. The story is due at four o’clock, whether you think it’s ready or not.

Eventually, I decided to return to fiction but the years I spent as a journalist were important. That’s when I started publishing more.

Most of my experiences with editors have been positive. I published “Life After Men” in The Masters Review, and that was a nice experience. The editors I worked with there made a few changes to the story that definitely improved it, and they listened when I took issue with some of the other alterations they wanted to make. The only truly bad experience I’ve had was with a long article I wrote for a magazine that no longer exists. I worked on the story for almost a year, and when it came out, I discovered that they completely butchered the introduction without consulting me first. I was pissed off. I called up the editor and ranted at her for twenty minutes, but it was too late by then. Ironically, that was the most I’ve been paid for any single piece of writing. It wasn’t worth it. Assholes.

AFI: When did you first decide to become a writer? Was there one moment when you knew you were going to be a writer? Do you recall the title of your first short story?

DB: I was raised in a small-town, lower-class household, so the idea of being a professional artist was completely foreign to me. I was an avid reader from a young age, but it didn’t even occur to me that a person could choose to be a writer until I was twenty-two. I remember exactly when it happened. I was finishing up my undergrad degree in history, completely confused about what I was going to do with my life after graduation. One day I was walking home from class and I saw my good friend, Chris, taking photographs of a tree. I asked what the hell he was doing and he said that he was putting together a portfolio to apply to film school. I was completely blown away. Of course, I knew that film schools existed, but it never occurred to me that real people went to them. I was shocked—and a little bit angry. I’m not sure why. Something about his artistic ambitions upset my Protestant sensibilities, I guess. How dare he follow his dreams while the rest of us pursued boring, practical goals?

Shortly after that, I started writing. First it was bad poetry, then bad prose. I don’t recall the title of my first short story, but I know the narrative took place in a grocery store and it had too many religious metaphors and not enough plot. Terrible, terrible stuff.

AFI: Who are your influences? Who were you reading in the formative years as a writer? Who are you reading now? How do you think other writers influence you?

DB: In my formative years, it was Hemingway, Carver, Bukowski, etc. Tough manly writers. The problem is that I’m not all that tough or manly. Then I discovered Vonnegut, and I tried to copy him for a long time. Sherman Alexie was influential, too, and later George Saunders, Jincy Willett, Stacey Richter, and Philip K. Dick. It’s natural to imitate other writers when you start out, but it’s necessary to move beyond that phase in order to find your own voice. Currently, I’m reading a lot of Austin writers because that’s where I live now: Owen Egerton, Mary Miller. I read for enjoyment now, not research, and that’s nice.

AFI: Going back to Justice Inc. for a moment, I notice a few recurring themes in these stories. For instance, it seems that you challenge the idea of procreation in both “Welcome to Omni-Mart” and the title story, “Justice, Inc.” In the first story we meet a simulation baby and in the latter we meet clones. Although, each story has a slightly science fiction or dystopian feel to them, the child-adult relationship is very real. What are your impressions of the vulnerable (the baby) and adults pushed unwillingly into parenthood? Am I seeing more to this than you intended? Or is the presentation of the child-adult relationship simply there to progress the plot or perhaps leave us somewhat unsettled as readers?

DB: I think you’re right, that theme does exist, but once again I didn’t consciously choose it. I definitely like to unsettle the reader, so that’s probably part of it, but I also enjoy the juxtaposition of putting an innocent child in a dystopian environment. As you probably noticed, there aren’t a lot of traditional heroes in my stories. No one swoops in to save the day at the end. They can’t because they’re powerless, hopeless, broken. The children in these stories demonstrate what these adults were like before they were chewed up by the cultural machinery.

AFI: I enjoyed Justice, Inc. very much. When can I expect the next installment? Do you have another project in the works? Another collection or a novel?

DB: Thank you! I’m currently working on my first novel. I read somewhere that Ray Bradbury wrote the first draft of Fahrenheit 451 in nine days at the library. Well, that kind of pissed me off. What a dick, right? So I decided to take a crack at it. I plugged out a rough draft in seven days (take that, Bradbury!) and I’m currently revising it. The revision process is slow, and I expect it’ll be about a year before it’s ready. It’s an extremely weird story. I have no idea if it’s any good, but at least it won’t be formulaic.

AFI: Thank you very much for your time Dale. It was a pleasure reading your book. Where can someone find a copy of Justice, Inc. for his library?


DB: Yeah, this was fun. Thank you. The book will be available in both physical and ethereal form at Amazon and on the Monkey Puzzle Press website, monkeypuzzlepress.com. It will also be available at Book People in Austin and hopefully Tattered Cover in Denver.

Dale Bridges is writer and journalist living in Austin, Texas. His work has been featured in more than thirty publications, including The Rumpus, The Masters Review, and Barrelhouse Magazine. He has won awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for his feature writing, narrative nonfiction, and cultural criticism. His essays and short stories have been anthologized. When he's not writing, he works at a used bookstore. He is currently working on his first novel.
Anthony ILacqua holds a Master of Fine Arts of writing at Goddard College. His third novel Warehouses and Rusted Angels is forthcoming from Ring of Fire Publishing in late 2014. His former novels, Dysphoric Notions (2012) and Undertakers of Rain (2013) are both published through Ring of Fire Publishing. His screenplays have been made into widely praised films at Rocket House Pictures where he directs as well as writes. He currently functions as editor in chief for Umbrella Factory Magazine that he co-founded in 2009. Meet Anthony at his blog: anthonyilacqua.blogspot.com

Monday, June 9, 2014

Such a Sunny Day

Such a Sunny Day
It wasn't really meant to go on for long. The duration is something like the length of side A of your favorite 45. It cannot last longer than the instant it takes the sun to travel between one blanket of clouds to the next. One small instant.

In that instant, there were the winks and blinks of those who were cut down too soon in life, accidents, murder and suicide. Perhaps, worse still, cut down by sickness and cancer and freakishly rare viruses.

Hey, hey, flip the record.

The brevity of it is severe. It is. Here it was, some time back, shortly after the war when you wandered into the VFW with an old vet. By the time you walked back out again, there were no other vets older than you.

Your house is your house, but you do not recognize it. It's filled with a lifetime of living: furniture, china, empty beer cans. There are distantly familiar photos of family members who you spawn, your progeny who have grown from little league to college degrees and homes of their own.

What the hell happened here. On the way to Iraq, the Vietnam guys seemed so fucking old. When you were on your way to Vietnam there were the old soldiers who seemed ancient and their Great War was diminished to WWI. And on the way to fight the Germans, either time, there were those Spanish-American War vets.

On the corner by the college, the pigeons pooled around the upset trashcan. The people milled around looking a bit like the pigeons. It was not an easy day. It was not an easy day because no day is particularly easy. What do these people know about it? What do these people know about anything?

Two deep breaths later, exhaust of cigarette tar and stale beer, the moment of forgiveness came. It was not my fault that in my youth I opened fire upon raghead-gook-jerry-spic-mother-fuckers. It was not my fault that the ghosts hung on my fading uniform during the lifetime of rain. It was not my fault that I made it through the war alive and learned to love the people I fought. It was not my fault. I joined the cause before I could vote.

It only takes one instant on a sunny autumn day, by the college, all the leaves having fallen from the trees in the night, for this realization to happen.

Eventually, everything dies. Eventually, every scoundrel will confess his trespasses and beg for forgiveness. The true scoundrel will ask for redemption from God. God does not need to grant forgiveness.

For every soldier who fell, and all of those who did not become engendered, these are the ones we need to ask for forgiveness.

For every soldier who did not fall and who never recovered, everyone should asked them for forgiveness and beg mercy from all who they engendered.

It's easier to do this on a sunny day when suddenly you've waken up so much older.

Hey, hey, flip the record.

Hopefully there is a nicer song on the other side. Some song about love or the love of love. Love songs seem more universal than love itself.

Such a sunny day is well deserving of a love song.

Such a sunny day is well deserving of love.

Such a sunny day is well deserving.

Such a sunny day is well.

Such a sunny day.