Monday, September 13, 2010

Big Animals Take Over Transportation

It's been a bad day for transportation. The MUNI drivers left in disgust, too tired to even revolt with the Union anymore. The buffalo protested from not getting enough fresh alfalfa and blocked the underground tunnels; they hung around playing marathon Texas Hold 'Em tourneys. Giant octopi effortlessly grabbed at the ferries, holding them in place but not pulling them underwater. Traffic stopped. Pedestrians took videos of it all, carelessly posting their raw footage on Youtube.

Above the Bay Bridge, the helicopters hovered helplessly. The herds of brachiosauruses stomped their way across the newly built sections of the Bridge testing them for truth, justice, and structural soundness. The sections failed on all three accounts. Thankfully, the bridge didn't collapse, nor was it unseasonably foggy, nor were there muscly container ships trying to barrel their way past the bridge supports thinking they could pass this close without a cheeky sideswipe. It wouldn't matter anyway. If you pit Bridge/Brachiosauruses against arrogant container ships, the suspensions/dinos always win.

Out in forlorn orange, wisps of fog drifting by, our most famous landmark sat regally regarding it all. No one bothered it unless you count the annoying ant-like cars that traipse across it all day and all night long. Everyone leaves the Golden Gate alone. There are too many people with cameras hanging around. No matter how nutty this city gets we still have the royal Golden Gate to provide us with some measure of dignity.

Buses. God, the buses. What can I say? Being on the bus is so ridiculous that I don't have to invent anything weird to go along with it. BART you say? BART trains are still running on time because they're better funded and actually have a chance of arriving on time.

Eventually, the buffalo finished their tourney and went home, the MUNI drivers got back in the saddle, the octopi dropped their arms and splashed into the Bay, the dinos packed up their things and went home (to Tracy). The buses ran on, oblivious. The city went back to normal, like nothing had happened at all.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010


Sometimes I dream about him but lately I sit in my small rowboat on the other side of the Milky Way, watching and waiting. During the day the stars have faded, too light to see from down there but from up here the sky is only a darker blue and the stars, milky and smeared, shine like they were just given their favorite ice cream cones to eat. Cherry Garcia, Neapolitan, Mocha Almond Fudge, Coffee, and Raspberry Sorbet melt in seductive drips down the sapphire sky.

At night it's the Blaze of Heavens. The fire and passion of millions of shimmering stars, twinkling and beckoning. Every day and night the stars remind us over and over, without tiring, of all the things we are ignoring, of all the things we are missing. The stars reach out for us. They know we need to be blinded by beauty and wonder. They're waiting for us to look up finally and see.

I imagine him in his own little boat, rowing away and minding his own business. We are not on the same paths, nor have we ever been. Still, I hope and wish for a moment when he stops rowing long enough to see me on the other side of that galaxy. I imagine he will know me and will put his oars down. I'll lean forward, reaching across those stars to him, and he will have waited long enough to know it's right time. There will be no freezing cold vacuum of space or the deadly fires of comets, just the friendly twinkling of the stars. Just the helping hand of the Universe.

We'll finally clasp hands again and everything will fall into place. We'll run along the stars' paths and the orbits of happy planets. The true Universe will come gently and truthfully into view bearing nothing but gifts and riches.

One Of My Favorite Self-Portraits Of All Time

I altered this one this past weekend.

I LOVE this picture. It looks surrealistic. Like my face in pieces floating in a black coffee colored puddle after the blinding, hard sun has come out in the middle of a downpour.

Here's the original photo.

Damn, I'm just noticing it now but my eye looks completely different in both pictures. Ha! I'm tickled.

Too Much Story World?...Unemployment Check In...My Purpose In Life

These days I drift along in my story world, allowing myself full rein of my imagination. I spend all my time either writing, agonizing that I'm not writing, and/or thinking and feeling stories and characters. On Monday, I told myself I would only spend 2-3 hours tops writing before I turned my attention to something else. I wrote for 10 hours without stopping. I don't even know how I did it. I didn't think I was taking that much time but I started around 4:00 pm, looked at the clock and it was 7:30 pm, then it was 11:30 pm, then those last two and half hours of strange magical time, then I checked the clock and it was close to 2:00 am and realized I have to walk the dog and go to sleep.

My characters hang around me in groups, visit me in dreams, flood my fantasies. It's a scary place to be sometimes. I've been wondering if I'm letting myself get pulled too far into my inner life. It's been a long time since I've let myself really inhabit this place.

There's always a barrier. Some fine line. The main barrier is I only give myself full rein when I'm physically writing about my characters or story. The rest of the time stories and characters drift in and out on the surface of my conscious mind but the real meat happens below the surface. This is partly how my "muse" operates and part defense mechanism. I have this secret fear that if I leap full on into my inner life during waking hours (and I'm not filtering it through the physical act of writing) I'll never come back out.

Sometimes I wonder about that too. If my brain chemistry does a radical shift and I lose my mind at least I know where I'll end up and who I'll be talking to (so will you). Gryphon and Mock Turtle are always together. If we're not together then I'm certain I'll go looking for him. Lately, I've been seeing this imaginary world, the story world, and my characters as a kind of afterlife too. No one knows what happens when we die. I have as good a chance of ending up in my story world as I have of going to Heaven or Hell after I die. I mean, why not?

I'm so broke. I have financial help, thank God, but even with it the beginning of the month was pretty scary. As it is, I've got no money for the next week or so. Still, having no money for a week is a better situation than some people. I'd be all right if I didn't have to pay full price for my health insurance. It's a hazard of being unemployed.

I'm still surprisingly relaxed about not having a job. In a month or two things will be tougher if this continues but I keep thinking that I don't want to go back to the 9-5 grind. I like having all this extra time. I wonder if I can figure out a way to earn a living without having to go back to that. Food for thought.

I've been concerned about my reluctance to share my stuff with people, as I've noted in previous posts. I have yet to show anybody even portions of my novel after working on it for so long. I tell myself I'm not ready. I tell myself people don't deserve it. I tell myself it's not fit for sharing. I think this is the reason I've been putting off working on the next draft. When I'm done with it, the novel will more or less be a cohesive whole and ready for someone else to read and comment on. The thought of getting to that point makes my stomach drop.

It's an odd paradox because I've figured out my purpose in life. It might even be considered almost a divine purpose. More on that in a moment. My purpose in life is to tell stories. Not much of a stretch, I know. My job is to tell people stories and to do that I need to hone my storytelling skills and get those stories out there. My stories are needed in this world.

Needed in this world. Know what that means? It means I can't just write my stories down and hide them in a password protected file on my desktop so no one can find them. It means I can't spend years working on a story and never show it to anyone. As for the divine part, I only came to this conclusion because many times when I'm writing, amazing stuff happens to my plot, characterizations, etc. I'm always surprised and delighted and I don't know where this stuff comes from. Sometimes it feels like it's coming through me from somewhere, that I'm merely a conduit for something greater than myself. Sounds hokey but that's how it feels.

People go on spiritual quests, read self-help books (I've done my share), and take seminars to discover their purpose in life. I guess I should feel lucky that I've found it.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Altered Self-Portraits

This is from a couple of months ago but I only recently altered the color. I was going to use it as my profile picture but picked the other picture instead.

I took this one at the beach in Santa Cruz, CA when it was 90 degrees a couple of a days ago.

Also taken in Santa Cruz a couple of days ago. Initially, I didn't like this picture but I've found that weird pictures of me where the light is off or the angle is strange lends the picture to some interesting color effects.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Writing Life: Tips For Beginning Writers (Part 5 of 5) - Putting Yourself Out There

Ah yes, putting yourself out there. This is the single most difficult thing for me to do.

I don't like sharing myself and my writing. In fact, sometimes I think I'll never share my writing with anybody. I'll just keep writing my stories down and then put them away when I'm done, never to be read by anyone but me.

Even sharing this blog is difficult for me. I'm thankful and grateful for my small readership but so many people I know don't even know I keep a blog. If I mention that I do have a blog, it doesn't mean I'm going to give them the link to it. It's not that think this blog is particularly special or "exclusive," it's more that I don't feel comfortable with everyone I know reading it.

This is why posting "FailSafe" on my "Fainting in Coils" blog was such a major deal for me. I actually posted a real story and a personal one at that. These personal stories really plumb the depths of what's going on my head and heart. On top of that, the purpose of these stories is to discover some hidden aspect of myself or figure out what's going on in my life so that makes posting the story even more unlikely. I felt very uncomfortable about it which is why it took so long to get the entire story up but in the end I'm glad I did it.

One of the organizers of my writing group keeps mentioning that I should attend our group's critiquing sessions. This is where two to three works are read out loud and then the writer asks for feedback. I decided at the last minute to attend yesterday's session. I thought it wouldn't hurt and it would be a good first step to putting myself out there. I didn't read, of course, because I can't bring myself to do that yet but I did love the process and interaction with the others as we gave both authors feedback on their stories. I also learned that I know a lot about the architecture of stories and the process of creating meaningful characters and compelling situations. This was a very gratifying experience.

I spoke to the organizer about it with one of the readers and he pointed out that reading your own work is terrifying because it opens you up and makes you vulnerable but he assured us that every writer goes through that. He said the process was absolutely necessary to becoming a better writer, and he encouraged me to bring something to read next time.

The reader said she didn't like reading her stuff, she feels really awkward while doing it. I explained to both of them that I love reading out loud. I read my own blog posts out loud, parts of my novels and short stories because I love hearing my words spoken. It's probably the most gratifying thing for me after watching the story unfold and surprise me. Sometimes I'll open up a scene or two and just sit here, usually after midnight and when I should be in bed, reading my own stuff out loud. It's a lovely, lovely thing.

Sigh. I guess this means I really need to read my stuff to others and get some feedback, right? When I do that I'll post what that was like here.

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed these posts. They were really a way for me to organize my thoughts about writing and to make note of my progress so far.

Writing Life: Tips For Beginning Writers (Part 4 of 5) - Fuel

This next part is about feeding your creative soul. While I probably take this to an extreme simply because I have the time and resources to do so incorporating some variation of these ideas into your life can't hurt.

In my mind feeding your creativity is one of the most important things you can do if you're creating any kind of art. I believe most creative people practice some variation of these ideas and don't really need this post but I'll write it down anyway. For me, "Fuel" is divided into three parts: Balance, Variation, and Openness.


This is a major struggle for me because when I have some free time all I want to do is write and to hell with everything else. First and foremost, the usual edicts of good health apply with eating right, exercise, and getting enough sleep being at the top of the list. Exercise in particular is really important because I spend so much time in my head that I need to spend time in my body to balance things out. Also, helpful for me is relaxing at the spa. Some level of meditation would probably help too but I'm still trying to get my workouts in so I'll think about that later. Lack of sleep is fact of life for me because I'm a night person and want to stay up late when I get going on my writing. If I have to get up early, I usually rely on caffeine to get me going. This is not a good habit and expensive to boot. Clearly I need to work on this aspect of fuel.

Balance is also a struggle for me as I try to stop seeing everything in terms of stories. Sometimes I need to take a break from all the characters and stories rolling around in my head. The best way for me to do that is to take get outside and try to stay in the moment. Walking around my neighborhood and just looking at everything is good. Also, doing mundane tasks while staying in the moment is helpful too. Damn, this is starting to sound a little like "Chop Water, Carry Wood."


Variation is easier for me. I use movies, books, ideas I find (usually on the web), art, and my wonderful city as fuel for my creativity. Variation is also about finding and spending time with other interests, ideas, and viewpoints as a way to fuel your creativity. This could be anything. Whether you love music, plants, sewing, surfing, woodworking, working on your motorcycle, whatever, it helps to have one or two other interests that take you away from writing for a while. Variation helps you see things a bit differently and gives you fresh ideas.


Openness is about trying completely different routines, ideas, and seeking out other viewpoints. This could be reading a conservative magazine if you're a liberal or vice versa, learning about a completely different area of interest or culture other than you're own, as well as incorporating changes in your daily life. This could be something as simple as varying your commute sometimes or seeking out people whose lives are different from yours. Travel is a great way to foster openness because it teaches you there are other legitimate ways of living that are different from your own.

I had an interesting conversation with someone recently about the nature of addiction. She was describing how overcoming an addiction is like having your soul mate die, and how part of the process requires breaking your heart because that's what your addiction becomes to you. I'd never thought about, much experienced, such an idea, and found our conversation fascinating and not a little wrenching. This is a viewpoint that never occurred to me and she did a beautiful job explaining it to me. It made me realize that I really am locked inside my physical body and mind, and there are experiences and ways of looking at the world that are completely different from mine. Seeking out this information, looking for it while interacting with others definitely qualifies as fuel.


I have to write about this idea here because it's something that has been ingrained my head. Years ago before I started working in the law I worked at a children's museum and we were getting it ready for opening. It was an exciting time. The exhibit developers were coming up with all manner of interesting interactive exhibits, ideas were thrown around, arguments made, and the stress of the approaching opening hung over our heads. We spent an enormous amount of time discussing what the term "interactive" means and how best to execute that idea in the museum and with the exhibits. One of the benchmarks of whether we had succeeded in getting people to interact was when the parents stopped filming and taking pictures of their kids playing with the exhibits and starting interacting with the children and the exhibit. We all agreed that being behind the camera and watching your kid was a way to distance yourself. You aren't really even an observer at that point, you just become a recorder of experiences instead of having an experience yourself.

In a way, I see my viewpoint about stories and characters as a similar kind of separation. Often, such as when I had this wonderful conversation with my friend about addiction, the first thing that occurs to me is "I can use that idea for a story!" People, situations, conversations, everything becomes fodder for the story. This idea probably would have never occurred to me had I not spent so many hours with my good friends discussing what it meant to "interact" and have and "experience" and how to enable our visitors to see those experiences as "meaningful."

I sometimes worry that I'm spending way too much time in "story-mode" and wonder if being there is creating distance between myself and the world at large. I don't know if others experience these concerns but it's been on my mind lately. This is also a balancing challenge for me. "Story-mode" is a wonderful place to be. It took me so long to develop the habit of being in "story-mode" and now that I'm there I'm loathe to try to change it. I do notice, though, that it can be a bit much and sometimes it's difficult to turn it off. The next step for me is to learn how to find good balance so I don't feel so uncomfortable during those times.

Next Post: Putting Yourself Out there.