Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Movie Musings: High and Low (1963)

Dir.: Akira Kurosawa

Highly recommended, however, if you are new to Kurosawa's films, I would suggest watching some of his other films first such as Seven Samurai, Ikiru and/or Yojimbo.

Note: Part of my years long review of the films of Akira Kurosawa. High and Low marks the beginning of the end of this film review. I have five more films to watch after this one and then I can declare myself finished with Kurosawa (for now).

High and Low is a modern film with an interesting premise. Toshiro Mifune plays a high level executive of a shoe company. He must make a choice to pay the ransom of his chauffeur's kidnapped son or the boy will die. The film is effectively split into two parts with Part One focusing on Mifune and his moral dilemma, and Part Two focusing on the kidnapper and the efforts by the police to find him. The film's depiction of the struggle between the classes and how the rich and poor effect each other makes for a riveting theme. Cinematically, as usual, the film is gorgeous with Kurosawa's meticulous attention to detail and positioning of the actors. There is a stunning train sequence (very Hitchcock!) and a harrowing sequence of the kidnapper wandering in an alley of desperate heroin addicts. At the end, Kurosawa asks us to consider that even though the nature of good and evil seems so cut and dry, it might be possible that one resembles the other.

A fine film, beautifully done, with Kurosawa's usual company of marvelous actors including Kyoko Kagawa as Mifune's wife and Tatsuya Nakadai as Inspector Tokuro.

I was disappointed that the DVD, put out by Criterion, did not have any extras. I would have enjoyed watching commentary for this film.

Aquarium Life: Domino at the Window

I got a new camera and have had a lot of fun playing around with it. Apparently, it has an intriguing "Aquarium" mode which I can't seem to figure out how to switch into so I can play around with it. I'll figure it out later and show you the results here. In the meantime, I'm just going to continue shooting pictures straight into the glass using the flash . You can see the results here.

Domino is our youngest juvenile at about four months old, I'm guessing. He's an odd bird in that he's completely unafraid of the adults and brazenly hangs out between two nest boxes that happen to belong to Pierre, the Alpha male and Grendal, Beta male, and their mates. Most juveniles hang out on the outside edges of the colony (in this case at either end of the display) when they're not spending most of their time in the water. I've never seen a juvenile with this much balls in all the years I've been working with these animals. At first, the adults spent a whole lot of time trying to beat him up, but since he turned out to be heavier than many of the adult males this did not deter him. Now the adults have gotten bored with bothering him all the time and tolerate him being there.

This is a view of Domino swimming in the water. Not a great shot, but so what? I'm still getting used to the camera. I almost never take shots from the visitor's side something which I really need to do more of. Like all the juveniles, Domino spends a lot of time in the water which has slimmed him down a little.

Including Domino, the total number of juveniles we have now is four. There may be more penguin chicks lurking around in the back. You never can tell.

Monday, August 27, 2007

New Blog: Fainting in Coils

I decided to start another blog where me and Mr. Gryphon embark on adventures. He will continue to appear here from time to time. "Fainting in Coils" will not be updated as often. I'm starting a sidebar space and will leave the name of the last post so you won't have to check to see if it's been updated.

Thanks for reading.

Plans for My Imaginary House

"I see you have started building your new house, Miss Turtle."

"Yes, the workers have only just started yesterday."

We are sitting in a gazebo on a small island in the middle of a serene lake. The water is pale blue and the lake is a huge rectangle. Swans float by apparently nonplussed by all the noise from the construction. To our right is a huge double row of trees leading up the long driveway. In front of us is the massive structure that is the Library. All around are the rolling green lawns of the front gardens, separated by orderly hedges and topiary.

In the forest of my imagination, the Library figures prominently, dominating the landscape. While Mr. Gryphon's house is up on a hill that we can see from where we are sitting, the library is the size of dozens of cathedrals and similarly built. Stained glass windows abound along with gargoyles and flying buttresses. There is no bell, however. It's a Library, not a church.

When I announced to everyone that I would be moving into the Library and would create my own living quarters in a new wing and modify aspects of the Library for my comfort, it caused a stir. No one was surprised, however. This is my interior life and I get to decide what my house is going to be like.

I had thought I would move in with Mr. Gryphon since he lives in a mansion, however, it was decided that he would move in with me when my living quarters are complete and we would give his house over to the other folks who live here. It's only fair and they deserve that kind of luxury.

We are sitting in the gazebo sipping tea. Rolls of architectural plans are scattered here and there. The main plans are unrolled on our table and we have been looking at them. It's a sunny day with a soft breeze. I hand Mr. Gyphon a white napkin with MT&G embroidered on them. Even before the workers had arrived, I had all the linens embroidered with our initials.

"So tell me about this place, Miss Turtle."

"The main part of the Library will remain intact. I'm not modifying any of that. The new wing will be one and half times the size of your mansion and I've decided to copy your Hearst Castle swimming pools and jacuzzi's. There will be 10 guest rooms, all with different themes and furnishings from different times. In addition to my own private apartments, there will be an aquarium with fresh and salt water fishes from all over the world, amphibians and reptiles and penguins, of course."

"That's fitting." Mr. Gryphon is spreading fresh jam on a scone with a real silver knife. "Will the penguins be housed indoors or outdoors."

"Indoors so they have a comprehensive air and temperature control system. I thought I would install a zoo in the back, but decided an Aquarium would be better. Also, there will be billiard hall, a huge dining hall like the one in the Harry Potter movies (maybe not that large), a white iron and glass conservatory and an art museum. In the back there will be a sculpture garden, a hedge maze and acres of gardens with marble fountains, and another conservatory modeled on the Temperate House.

Underneath, there will be a crypt and a subterranean maze, of course." I pour out some more tea for myself. I don't bother offering any to Mr. Gryphon since his cup is still almost full. Three of the swans are bumping up against the shore of the island, but don't get out of the water.

"Of course there will be a maze," says Mr. Gryphon. He eats his scone slowly, clotted cream piled high on top. We are taking tea with our usual fine white china with red flowers. I am wearing a soft white dress with silver leather slippers. Thin lace edges the neckline and hem. There is a rowboat tethered to the small dock on this little island.

I consult the architectural plans. "Now, Mr. Gryphon, where do you want your own apartments and do you have any preferences?"

"I would prefer to have my own small suite and for us to share the private living room/sitting room space. All one unit," he says gesturing in a square with his little fork.

"Are you sure about that?"


"I would have thought you would have wanted your own space, there's plenty of room."

"All in one space, Miss Turtle," he says, "Tea, please." I look at him and then pick up the teapot, pouring him some more tea.

"All right." I consult the plans again. I can see this process of deciding how everything is going to be will take months, but since months is something I (we) have plenty of , I'm not concerned. Starting another blog is proof of that. Although we don't talk about it, I am looking forward to installing all the bathtubs that will be in my living space. They will range from Turkish tubs, to claw footed tubs, to those modern behemoths I'm so fond of. We continue our tea, looking over the plans. I can't wait to see how it's all going to turn out.

My dreams tend to be vivid and one reoccurring theme has been of me being in huge buildings like a giant hospital, giant hotels, giant castles and, yes, a library. The Library is the most compelling structure I've ever dreamed about, built like a cathedral, but with hundreds of stacks of book, stained glass windows, winding spiral staircases, and multi-levels extending upwards in an open plan. There are leather chairs here and there along with warm old desks and windows looking out to the current gardens. There is a massive reading room in the center with a dome and small cubicles for reading and working. There are also desks at the ends of rows of books for privacy and computers, of course.

My library has a comprehensive card catalog system since I really love card catalogs. They are housed in a beautiful marble drawers.

Someone once told me that when you dream of buildings, they represent your inner life. If that's true, then I'm very lucky indeed.


Mr. Gryphon is my imaginary friend. As his name suggests, he is a mythological creature half lion and half eagle. He occasionally appears on my main blog "Mock Turtle's San Francisco Life" (see link to the left there). This blog will be solely devoted to adventures we go on. Some will be for fun and others will be veiled references to issues I'm working through.

After taking on the Mock Turtle persona, it only seemed natural to add Gryphon since both characters appear in Chapter 9 of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. He is my protector, my friend and the voice of reason. He's a good guy.

The title "Fainting in Coils" is a reference to something the Mock Turtle says in Chapter 9 of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

The Infamous Netherfield Ball

This post is a modified version from Chapter Two of my 52 page story called "The Coda." Most of the "Coda" is not fit for being published here because it is too personal as wonderful as it is. Yes, even more personal than the rants I write here. Mr. Gryphon figures prominently in "The Coda" as a companion, protector and voice of reason.

“Miss Turtle, what is going on here?”

I am wearing all white. My long hair is piled up high on my head and my sister, Jane, has painstakingly taken the time to put pearls and ribbons in it for decoration. All of the women are wearing white since it’s fashionable at that time.

Mr. Gryphon is still his usual self. “No one can see you except me,” I say quietly. I’m having difficulty walking in my shoes.

“Sorry, Lizzy, did you say something?” A beautiful blond young woman walking ahead turns to me. She looks like the personification of Spring. Someone that Botticelli would have painted.

“No, I was just excusing myself. Someone stepped on my hem.”

She smiles at me. “There is a crush of people here, Lizzy, isn’t there?” I smile back at her and nod. We are waiting in the receiving line. Mr. Gryphon is staring at me oddly. He is taking up plenty of space, but no one seems to notice. I smile weakly at him. We’re going to have to wait before I can tell him what’s going on. He nods in the direction of a group of handsomely uniformed soldiers. I nod back and he makes his way through the crowd. He is much taller than everyone else there.

“Did you find him, Lizzy?” says a sweet voice close to my ear.

“Find who?” I say to Jane. I can smell roses when she leans towards me.

“Mr. Wickham,” she looks expectant, her blue eyes are bright.

“No, I haven’t found him yet,” I make a show of looking at all the soldiers swarming around, but I know he’s not there. I look ahead and see our hosts, Mr. Bingley and his sister Miss Bingley.

“Mr. Bingley looks quite handsome tonight, Jane,” I give her a little pinch.

“Oh!” she looks at him. His bright smile and agreeable manner are radiating down the line of people. Jane turns to me, giggling. She is blushing. “He does look so handsome tonight. Do you think he’ll ask me to dance?”

“Jane, he’s already spotted you and now he can’t take his eyes off you,” I nod toward him and sure enough he is staring at my sister like there’s no one else in the room.

We make it through the receiving line. After going through the required steps of finding my best friend Charlotte, dancing with Mr. Collins and then avoiding him, looking for Mr. Wickham and confirming that he’s not here, I manage to sneak off to find Mr. Gryphon.

He is sitting on a large chair holding a champagne flute. A white rose is just visible at his left shoulder. No one seems to notice the chair is empty. His manner is formal and refined. Put him in the proper attire and he would blend in as any wealthy gentlemen in the room even if he is half eagle/half lion and over seven feet tall.

“I have ascertained that we are in ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and that this is the Netherfield Ball, and that you are Elizabeth Bennett, Miss Turtle. You look very beautiful, by the way.”

“Thank you,” I say, taken aback, “Elizabeth Bennett is a very beautiful woman.”

“Yes, and so are you, and a good deal more exotic besides. Now, what are we doing here?”

At that moment the reason for our being there is walking in our direction. Mr. Darcy hasn’t seen me yet. He is nodding at people as necessary and looking around the room as he strolls. He sees me and pauses in his steps for a moment. He stares openly at me without moving until he is jostled by a soldier following another young woman. He walks past me. I smile a small smile and watch him as he moves out of the room. Before he crosses the threshold to the ballroom, he glances back at me, then he is lost to my sight because of the crowd of people.

“Isn’t he beautiful?” I ask. Mr. Gryphon laughs, but mercifully doesn’t say anything. I turn to him. “Mr. Gryphon, why can’t I find a man like Mr. Darcy? I mean, I don’t mind if a man is a little shy and aloof as long as he has a good heart.”

“Lots of men are good hearted, and have the added bonus of being real human beings.”

“Yes, of course there are those few men somewhere, so why can't I find them? And another thing, why do many men hide their feelings if they have any feelings for me at all?” I’m still scanning the crowd for the tall, dark figure of Mr. Darcy.

“Mr. Darcy hides his feelings for Lizzy and even makes a disparaging remark about how she could never tempt him,” says Mr. Gryphon.

“Yes, but it’s different. Did you see how Mr. Darcy stared at me? He’s crazy about me,” I look around to see if Charlotte or Jane are looking for me.

“Lots of men have looked at you like that, Miss Turtle.” I wince and let the remark hang in the air without replying.

"Yes, you are right, Mr. Gryphon. Perhaps my time for finding someone who is crazy about me is over; I've had a decent run, I suppose. I can't complain.”

“That's a silly thing to say, Miss Turtle. You can swoon over Mr. Darcy all you want, but a man fixed as a picture on the screen is no match for a real human being.”

“Tell me about it," I say. I'm giving up on the conversation now. Mr. Gryphon and I have been down this road many times.

“You give up far to easy, Miss Turtle, because you think everything should be handed to you on a silver platter.”

“Are you trying to ruin this section of the story for me, Mr. Gryphon?” I face him squarely, my hands on my hips. He shifts elegantly in brocade white satin chair and takes a sip from his glass.

“I am merely stating the facts, Miss Turtle. You can’t expect me to watch you discount those things.”

“I guess I can’t.”

“Lizzy! What are you doing all alone in this corner? Are you all right?”

I turn towards Charlotte. “Oh Charlotte, I’m so disappointed about Mr. Wickham,” I say right on cue. Mr. Gryphon smiles grimly at me.

“I know you are, but you can’t stay here in the corner all by yourself. Come, let's find something to drink,” she takes my arm and I feel her lace covered hand take mine. I glance back at Mr. Gryphon as we leave the room. He is waving primly at me.

We make our way through the crowd holding our glasses and giggling at something Mr. Collins said when Mr. Darcy’s solemn, tall figure suddenly appears in front of us.

“Miss Bennett, may I have the pleasure of the next dance?”

I stare at him not in shock, but in awe at his beauty.

“You may,” I manage to stumble out. He nods his head in a slight bow and then I drag Charlotte out the nearest doorway to the garden.

“Uh,” I can’t remember what I’m supposed to say next, then it comes to me “Charlotte, did I just agree to dance with Mr. Darcy?”

“Yes, you did, Lizzy, and I daresay you’ll find him most agreeable.”

“I hope so because because something about Derbyshire,” I stumble out. Charlotte laughs on cue and we giggle together.

The dance is about to begin. I am looking appropriately solemn, but it’s really just me being unable to breathe. Mr. Darcy stares deeply at me and the music starts. I relax and let myself fall into the appropriate dance steps. He takes my hands. They are warm and strong.

“I love this dance,” I say.

“Indeed, most invigorating,” says Mr. Darcy. I see Mr. Collins watching us on the other side of the room. Mr. Gryphon is standing directly behind him, leaning against the wall with his arms folded. Mr. Collins is quite a bit shorter than average height and is completely dwarfed by him. Mr. Gryphon glares at Mr. Collins and then sticks his finger in his mouth with a gagging motion. I crack a smile.

“Now, it’s your turn, Mr. Darcy. I talked about the dance, now you should remark on the size of the room or the number of couples,” I say as we turn and hold hands, releasing and stepping around each other in time with the music.

He looks a little startled. “I’m happy to oblige. Please tell me what you would most like to hear.”

“That reply will do for the present,” I say as we move back and forth with the other couples. I look up to see Jane and Mr. Bingley who is looking at her like she is the only woman in existence.

“Now we may remain silent,” I say with what I think is with a touch of elegance and dignity.

“Do you always talk so much while dancing?” asks Mr. Darcy.

I turn around him, smiling. “No, I prefer to be unsociable and taciturn.”

Mr. Darcy stares at me and bites his lip on the next turn. I can feel myself melting with each touch of his hands and I want more than anything to grab him around the neck and shove my tongue down this throat.

“Tell me, do you often walk to Meryton?” he asks.

“We do often walk to Meryton,” I say drawing myself up to be pro-Wickham, “It’s a wonderful way to make new friends. In fact, we’d had the pleasure of making a new acquaintance when we saw you.”

“Mr. Wickham has such happy manners. It makes it easy for him to make new friends. Whether he’s capable of keeping them is less certain,” says Mr. Darcy.

We are supposed to take each other’s hands as we cross each other during the dance. I stop instead and we are face to face as the other couples move and turn around us.

“He’s been most unfortunate to lose your friendship,” I say and then as I stare into his eyes, I forget the next line. I tilt my head towards him and we are transfixed with each other. Unable to stop myself, I finally throw my arms around him and plant one on him. There’s huge collective gasp and the music stops. He doesn’t have time to react to the kiss before I am suddenly jerked back. As I stumble away from him, I can see that his arms are up as if he were just about to enfold me in them. His eyes are deep liquid.

“Come on, Miss Turtle, time to go home,” says Mr. Gryphon snapping me out of the moment.

“What are you doing!” I yelp trying to free myself from his iron grip. Everyone is staring at us and I can see from their faces that they are shocked to their toes. He quickly drags me out of there and then puts me in the nearest carriage. He climbs in after me after tapping the driver. Apparently, the driver can see him or sees someone because the carriage begins to move.

“What I’m doing, Miss Turtle, is saving Lizzy Bennett’s virtue. You have no right to compromise her like that. If you do, she won’t be able to marry Mr. Darcy.”

“I WAS KISSING HIM!” It is all I can say. The carriage rocks back and forth along the gravel road. I sit and pout, arms folded, not looking at him. Mr. Gryphon leans back on the cushions, apparently relaxed. Some time passes and I feel chagrined.

“You’re right. I shouldn’t have done it,” I say. He does not reply, his great yellow eyes glowing at me in the carriage dark. “Did you know, Mr. Gryphon, that in the U.K. Mr. Darcy was voted the man women would most like to go on a date with beating out James Bond and Superman?”

“That’s not surprising, Miss Turtle. There is something compelling about him, no question, but you need to remember a real man, not a fictional character who does everything you want him to do is far more compelling.”

I sigh. “Point taken, Mr. Gryphon.” I am back in my usual clothes. The carriage stops and Mr. Gryphon steps out and pays the driver. He helps me out of the carriage like a true gentleman. We step out onto a odd, friendly landscape. The carriage continues down the gravel path and disappears.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Quote of the Day

"'You and me,' Ben says gesturing at me, 'you and me, we are falling in LOVE! God, you're beautiful!'"

I met this guy Ben while standing on Market Street near Union Square tonight. It was about 9:05 pm and the bus (6 Parnassus) was taking forever. He chatted me up, kept asking me for my phone number and kept trying to give me his phone number. I kept politely refusing. Since I had nothing better to do, I let him keep talking to me. I was feeling relaxed, happy, it was a beautiful warm San Francisco night (warm for us natives is in the mid-60s).

When the bus came, he shouted his phone number at me. I boarded the bus and called out to him "Have a good evening!"

It was nice to hear a man, even one I'm not interested in, tell me I'm beautiful. It was an odd thing because I was wearing no makeup, my hair hadn't been brushed in hours and I was schlepping around in my usual shirt/jeans/sensible shoes.

Maybe the fact that I had the song "Shotgun" by Jr. Walker and the All Stars running through my head changed the way people were seeing me this evening. I did have the feeling like I wanted to dance all night long.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Comment Exchange

This comment exchange between myself and Ms. Anne is too important to leave in the Comments section:

Ms. Anne-
MT, I do not know what to say to make you feel better...

...except that I check your blog every day for new posts.

I find your writing interesting and educational, which I am sure is a reflection of your personality.

People who cannot see those qualities in you are not deserving of your time or your energy.

Continue to do the things you like to do, and you will meet other like-minded people. One of them may turn out to be the love of your life.

In the meantime, you will be doing the things YOU want, which is invaluable.

Me -
Ms. Anne - Thank you for this comment. In the aftermath of a storm sometimes you get cleaner, clearer skies. I'm feeling that way now.

Today, I think I've finally learned something very important and that is even though I've been experiencing many disappointments lately, I'm learning to nip undesirable situations in the bud a lot faster than I have in the past. I've become much more aware of when the red flags are popping up and the alarms are going off and I'm acting on them promptly. The process is frustrating and gives off the impression that there are few good men left in this world, but I feel a curious sense of accomplishment and satisfaction when I look back on these last couple of months. I haven't been letting some idiot guy treat me like crap for months and months just because I'm dying to be in a relationship.

Today I feel like taking these actions have left some room in my heart. It's a good place to be.

I hope you are doing well.


Good friends, like Ms. Anne here, can save you and help you see what you're supposed to take away from these difficult situations when you're having difficulty seeing it for yourself.

If so I Can't Imagine Why, Part 2 of 2

"Your hair wants cutting."

"Yeah," I say, " I need to get my bangs trimmed." I'm looking out of range of this conversation. Mr. Gryphon and I are sitting on a huge rock on the beach. The White City gleams in the distance behind us.

It's a bright sunny day, a little warm, but with a breeze. Mr. Gryphon wears oversized Ray Bans.

"It's quite a lot like our original scene in the original story," I say, "All we need is Alice."

"I've been wondering when she'll be showing up. Any idea when that will happen?"

"No idea. I expect it will happen at some point. I mean, isn't our talk with her essential to what happens next?"

"Dunno," says Mr. Gryphon. The waves roll in and the sound is beautiful and soothing.

"We are very lucky to live along the seashore, Mr. Gryphon. Many people do not have ready access to the beach." He smiles, but doesn't answer. Instead, he lowers his legs and dangles his feet in the cold blue water. A flock of majestic Brown Pelicans fly by, about seven of them. They give the impression of flying slowly even though they're moving fast.

"I've figured out some important things these last few days, Mr. Gryphon. I'm beginning to see how things might be hopeful for me, for us, after all."

"Things were never unhopeful. You were just wallowing around in yourself again."

"As befits my persona on this blog," I say absently. He shifts next to me, getting a little closer. Some small, leggy shorebirds are racing back and forth with the incoming tides.

I am still looking out of range of this conversation. It seems I've made some extra room somewhere in my life. I feel light and airy. Something or someone will take its place, but I don't what that will be yet. I have a feeling it will be a good thing, though.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

If so I Can't Imagine Why, Part 1 of 2

"I take it this means we'll be having more adventures. If so, I'm delighted."

"We have many adventures, Mr. Gryphon. I just don't take the time to write them down or even to articulate them to myself or to you," I say. A man shoves past me on this crowded sidewalk. Everyone seems to be in a big hurry. Mr. Gryphon glares at him, but says nothing.

The sidewalk and the huge concrete and glass buildings stretch out in all directions. Traffic is horrendous in this place. It's like New York City, but with the gloves off. Shouts and beeping horns sound everywhere.

"I was thinking earlier that I should abandon my fiction writing efforts. It's true I have lots of stories waiting to get out, but I can't seem to make any headway with the second draft of this novel I wrote," I say. Mr. Gryphon stops on the street and just stares at me. I stop a few feet in front of him. People are pushing past me. Without taking his eyes off me, Mr. Gryphon opens his wings to their full width and then extends his huge claws. The people stop and then begin to scurry around us.

"I'm only going to say one thing, Miss Turtle, and that is you haven't even given this novel writing thing a proper go at it."

I look down. I can see people's feet going past me. "I know," I mumble.

"Writing is good. I'm a huge fan of it, particularly if you're telling the stories," he says.

"Perhaps you're my best audience. Perhaps you, my imaginary friend, are right," I turn and begin to walk again. Mr. Gryphon closes his wings and retracts his claws. "Maybe I just need to take a Creative Writing course," I say.

"Now you're talking."

"Excuse me, what time does your watch say?" asks a man who has stopped in front of me.

"11:37," I say. Mr. Gryphon doesn't have a watch. The man moves on after looking at him for a moment.

"I tried talking to you while I was walking towards the Posh Bagel place this morning," I say.

"I know, I was walking behind you."

"Mr. Gryphon, why can't you be my boyfriend?"

"You ask that a lot, Miss Turtle," he says then he looks around, "Where are we going?"

"I don't know. I don't know."

A woman wearing a silver fur coat stopped me, "My diamond watch has stopped cold dead. What time is it?" Her watch was beautiful and sparkling.


"I'm trying to beat the clock," she says. She is pretty with a warm smile. We move on.

I sigh. "I guess this is what it's all about. All this hurrying and shoving around." We are stopped again at a huge intersection. Cars are lined up and down. We are waiting our turn to cross the street.

"At least you don't have to think past the last mile, Miss Turtle."

"It wouldn't be a bad thing to have to think only about the next step, eh Mr. Gryphon?"

"No, it wouldn't be a bad thing." I smile to myself. He reminds me someone and for last few posts I haven't been wincing so much at the reminder.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Recent Comments

I want to thank the good folks for their recent comments. They are very encouraging. Sometimes I feel like I'm posting out in the middle of nowhere and all I'm doing is some really boring navel gazing.

All comments made go directly to my gmail account so I get them right away.

Response to Mr. X: Yes, I think I know who you are. If I'm right, then you are the person with whom I first tried some of this experimental, cryptic writing in the form of emails. I've also been thinking about you lately for some reason. Years ago you made the following comment:

"Some lonely guy is sitting alone in his room wondering where the fuck you are."

You were talking about how you were certain I'd find the right guy for me. I have not, but when I'm thinking about how I'm doomed to remain single for the rest of my life, I think about that comment and it brings tears to my eyes. Where is that guy anyway?

Thanks for reading everyone.

Crank: Annotated

See original post "Crank." All of these strange, cryptic posts are either based on real incidents or contain obscure references to things in my life. After writing and then reading this post several times, I decided to annotate it because it's based on the scariest event in my teenage years. I got the idea for the language from watching the film "Brick" that neo-noir hardboiled detective teenage drama. The dialog in that film is both unnatural and great.

I spent the year between ages 17 and 18 experimenting with drugs. I managed to be sensible about it, but every once in a while I would find myself in scary situations like this one. In addition to smoking a lot pot (which I consider to be as harmful as getting your martini on with your friends on a Friday night), I snorted crank (methamphetamine in powdered form) and cocaine whenever possible. I had no idea that crank and cocaine were two different substances. All I knew was that crank was cheaper and harsher to snort. One night me and a few people (two were my friends) piled into some guy's Pontiac and went to this house I'd never been to before in a neighborhood I wasn't familiar with. Our mission: to score some good coke.

The colors only got brighter with that expensive stuff. No feeling like I'd take on the world. No staying up all night. Smooth sailing, though. No choke.

Snorting coke was strange for me. True, it was expensive and more difficult to come by, but oddly enough I never really got "high" from it. It would make the colors get brighter. I felt more energetic, but I didn't get that euphoric feeling or the feeling like I could have endless amounts of sex like most of my friends did. My best friend said it made her feel like she could take on the world. I never had that feeling. Coke was super easy to snort, though. Very smooth going up the nose and no harsh after burn. That's what I mean by "smooth sailing." I did like how it made my gums numb when I rubbed leftover powder on them after the snort.

"There's a limit," said the Cutter, "You can only get so tall before it bottoms out on you."

The Cutter was a real person. A nice, older guy (maybe in his early 20s). He was at the house when we arrived. They called him "Cutter" because he was good at cutting coke into a fine powder and preparing the lines for snorting. I'd never met him before and I never saw him again after that. He told us an anecdote about Sabrina the Princess (more on her below) who snorted tons of coke in one sitting, but stopped getting high after a couple of hours. She said you can only get so high. After that, your nose, face, neck and chest start to go numb. The Cutter proclaimed it a waste of money to keep snorting after reaching that point.

Who are these people, these Parents? At the time, the most frightening thing I'd ever seen were the scales all over the dining room table. The table was so large it could have been laid out for eight or even ten. I think about parents I know now, even knew then, and I'm convinced those people are all dead and buried. Crisp hundred dollar bills fluttered around the edges of the table in a gross parody of cliche.

Ah, the Parents. The Parents were the dealers. They were real Parents and it was their house we were at. It was a nice house, two stories. Brand new. The house was full of new furniture and the Parents looked respectable enough. They looked like they could work at any good company. Maybe they did. The only difference was they had a hard, wary look about them. Their faces were worn out and slightly saggy. They were both probably in their early 30s.

The TABLE. The dining room table was big as I described. The scales were weight scales and there were piles of cocaine all over the table. The coke was being weighed in scales and bagged up by the mother. There were baggies and twist ties all over the table as well as crisp $100 bills. The sight scared the hell out of me because I knew that with this much coke there had to be some scary people lurking around the corner or in the upstairs bedrooms. My friends thought it was all so "cool" but I just wanted to get the hell out of there.

Parents. Almost as lethal as the ones who fed the kids almond flavored Kool-Aid. We were lucky. They left us alone. They had blue velvet drapes hanging loose in the living room. It's 3:15 in the morning. You don't know where your children are because I'm one of them. I don't even know where I am.

I called them Parents because they had a kid (the blond with the Moe haircut-see below). He was only 13 years old and hyperactive. Apparently, the kid had been snorting coke since he was around eight years old. We were lucky the Parents just wanted our money and for us to stay out of their way. I remember nervously looking out of the living room windows. The curtains were drawn so no one would see the piles of coke on the table.

The reference to the Kool-Aid was to the powdered grape flavored drink laced with cyanide that the poor folks of The People's Temple not only drank themselves, but also fed their kids. The Jonestown massacre had created lasting, terrifying images in my mind as an impressionable middle-schooler. Cyanide, apparently, has a smell like burnt almonds. Also, just so we're clear, they did not use the name brand Kool-Aid during that tragedy. It was just a grape flavored powdered drink.

I digress.

Burning sharp, cheap. Eyes water. Some kind of lift going on up there. Nervously, I talk of elephant tranquilizers and bodies of water. It's like a bad dream. A kid with a blond Moe haircut, who has just gotten to his growth spurt, is rouncing around. Everybody wants to be his friend. Everybody wants a smooth sailing. A Parent, male, glowers at me. He's used to seeing the likes of us, so stupid and useless.

After negotiations and payment, the Cutter finally cut our coke for us. I insisted upon taking the first snort. I don't know why. I didn't know any of these people and everyone saw me as passive and meek. It was good coke: I felt a surge of energy after that snort. The elephant tranquilizers and bodies of water reference was to drug PCP or "Angel Dust" which I have never tried. There was a rumor that the drug was used to tranquilize large animals such as elephants. Also, I heard that in addition to some people experiencing rages so total that they can break the handcuffs the police have put on them, users are drawn to bodies of water, fall in and drown because they become disoriented and don't know which way is up.

The kid with the Moe haircut had a lots of friends because his parents were dealers. If you had drugs or access to them, everyone wanted to be your best friend. It's a user kind of culture.

A friend, one of the few I'm with, produces a Jay. I'm running wired and it's close to dawn now. I have to run down soon. Before we leave in a 70s crowded car, I catch a glimpse of Sabrina the Princess, her long dark hair and youth is waning at the tender age of 14. She's dead. It's only a matter of time. The Cutter glances over at her and shakes his head. It's a lost cause. Her big dark eyes see none of it.

A Jay is a joint. Since I had snorted good coke I was feeling pretty energetic. On the way home, my friends told me to take a few puffs to come down a little, so I did. Sabrina, the 14 year old, was also the daughter of Parents (different ones) who were dealers. She had a hard look about her and was obsessed about maintaining her high for as long as possible. When I say that she's dead, I'm not kidding. That girl, with her big dark dilated pupils and an unnatural hardness about her skin was completely lost to the world. The only place to go from there is to the harder drugs then to overdose.

Thankfully, I move on from all that. Thankfully, I only went with them to see the Parents and the Cutter once, my nerves having failed me. My best friend said I was unbrave, but at least I didn't make up imaginary boyfriends and tell elaborate tales about them.

I never went with my friends to look for coke again. I was too scared. I was a wimp. I used to think that these were undesirable traits, but now I can see they saved me because the fear was far more powerful that the pressure to conform to what my friends wanted me to do. My best friend at the time was a drama queen and always looking for attention. She did make up a boyfriend who was obsessed with her. He lived in a mansion in Hillsborough and drove a Porche. Their relationship was seriously screwed up, even in an imaginary way.

The Tylenol stopped her short. And I was luckier than Hell for it. I didn't want to see those scales on the family dining room table ever again.

A little while later, my best friend attempted suicide by taking a whole bottle of Tylenol (this was before the Tylenol scare where they pulled every bottle from the shelves in every store). I drifted apart from her after that and soon thereafter stopped my experimentation with drugs. I was very luck to have made that break

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Writing Life: Revision is a Skill, Right?

We aren't born writers. Oh, it's true that some people seem to have an affinity for it. They seem to know what to say and how to say it. I'm not one of those people. I have to flail around and figure it out. I waste time. I cause myself a whole lot of pain and angst. It's an energy drain.

I have managed to make progress, however. One of my readers who is an English major told me I have my own style of writing. (!!) This is a huge compliment for me because I think my writing is just words on the screen. Of course, writing on this blog or writing cool emails to people I really like is completely different from writing a novel. Still, progress has been made because I now have a good sense of how to get a first draft of a novel done.

Yep, participate in the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). To recap: that's 50,000 words in 30 days and I did it.

Revision, now, that's whole other thing. How does one revise a novel, something that is living and breathing? The characters are doing their thing, the story hangs together reasonably well, there are plot twists and character development. And it all needs a ton of work.

The first thing I realized after I read the first draft is I had no idea what one of the major character's agenda was. He had an agenda, a huge one, but I didn't know what behind-the-scenes machinations he was orchestrating or putting into motion. I also didn't understand why the main character went along so easily with some questionable things that were being asked of him. Why was he being a wimp? He's supposed to be perceptive and smart, even honorable. Why was he caving in like that?

Those were some of the questions that have been floating through my mind as I hungrily devoured books on writing and articles on the web that might tell me how to revise this novel. I finally took three different techniques and mashed them together. I don't know if I'll continue using these techniques, but they are a good place to start.

Today I started the first step of actually revising, that is changing, the text of this rough draft.

Woo hoo!

I decided to start by answering some of my own questions about the story and characters, even some of the descriptions in the story. We'll see how it all goes. There will be other obstacles I'll encounter along the way, but I may end of learning something about revision after all. I might even end up with a finished novel. Wouldn't that be something?