Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Devil's Night

Happy Halloween or Devil's Night as they call it in Detroit.

They burn riot, burn, and loot on Devil's Night in Detroit. No pussy trick or treating for them.

Have a safe one...

Friday, October 27, 2006

Artist's Descent

Artist William Utermohlen chronicles his descent into the dementia of Alzheimers by self portraits painted over the span of nearly forty years as reported in a recent NYT article.

Utermohlen's self portraits, displayed in a multimedia slideshow , are a moving, striking, and saddening evolution of an artist's perception of himself during his slow slide into the depths of this disease.

Mr. Utermohlen, now 73, no longer paints and now lives in a nursing home.

This post was inspired by a post by Austin Kleon.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Chandler

It's hard. It's fucking hard. To write, to create, well written fiction.

My idols did it and until recently I didn't know how hard it was for them too. I thought they all sat down and wrote brilliant words that ended up in thier novels. How niave I was.

They revised. They massaged. They sculpted the words, sentences, and paragraghs.


Revision, I am learning is the key to good writing.

Revision, revision, revision. It sucks - but there, I believe, is where the gold lies.

The road is tough and the gate is narrow but with revision I hope to plough through it.

I look to the great ones for guidence, inspiration, and a roadmap. I've been told before the ones I admires time has come and gone. I disagree.

Good writing is good writing and it is ageless.

So - ask not for whom the bell tolls...

Monday, October 23, 2006

Learning to Write or Searching for Aristotle?

Ok, I thought this would be easier. I've written for most of my life. Not a novel, but I've written just the same.

It seems like I'm just learning to walk. I tried short stories as my labratory with some limited success. It just didn't get me there. I am struggling with plot. I want to tell a good story that is character driven but in the end I want a good story.

I've tried to outline several times and it leads me no where. I'm working on Aristotle's three act structure with plot points at the end of act I & II. I guess I am missing a critical element or component.

The only thing I have figured out is the more I write the better I get. Go figure.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Words of Wisdom on Writing

10 Writing Rules from Elmore Leonard
drawing by Austin Kleon

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Quote of the Day: You

Don't compromise yourself. You are all you've got.
Janis Joplin

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

DUI Stop

Don't get caught drunk driving

Monday, October 02, 2006

Grief Posted by Picasa

A fiction scene: Grief

Breath came heavy and labored after an eleven-hour drive south under stress and grief Detective Harry Beam was unfamiliar with. He witnessed and investigated all manners of death from the heinous to the benign. Never had he suffered the loss of a parent until yesterday. His mother died the day before. He was notified yesterday. It stung. It hurt. It seemed unbearable.

Heart attack. They said. Advanced lung cancer but the heart attack killed her. No real surprise, the lung cancer. She smoked three packs of cigarettes a day for the last fifty-five years. She was a poster child for lung cancer, suffering debilitating coughing fits that would last for increasing durations.

He sat quietly in front of the decaying house of his youth, visited just months before. He lit a cigarette. Now, only one person still lives in this home - his father. The front yard had been cleaned up and the trees, trees that Harry and his mother had planted together in his early teens were trimmed and neat but the house seemed vacant. The smells were familiar and briefly took his thoughts back in time to when she was younger. His heart sank further.

Harry sensed that an integral part of the house and him were lost, never to return. His mother never was a good housekeeper but she kept the house and yard filled exotic smells, sounds, and sights. Fresh spices grew, rare flowers, tropical birds and fish were kept, cooking, religious music and sermons from the radio were pervasive. It was all gone.

He tried to picture her, in his mind’s eye, when she had been happy and alive. It was hard to do. She had had a very hard life, filled with abuse, death, disease, mental illness, addiction, poverty, and abandonment. The first glimpses of happiness Harry witnessed were while he was in his teens but they were few and far between. He moved away at seventeen and rarely visited.

He never thought it would hit him this hard. They weren’t close, their relationship strained and tortured throughout his childhood and young adulthood. But he loved her. And now he missed her. Longed to tell her all the things he did not say and now would never be said. She was likely in a better place. She was a strong believer in God and now had been called home.

He entered the house to the faint remnants of her existence. It was hard to bear. His father sat at the kitchen table smoking an unfiltered Camel. He didn’t look far behind her, health wise. He looked dazed.
“Harry?” A grim smile came across his lips. “How was your trip?”
“I figured. You drive straight through?”
“Yeah. Eleven hours. My butt is sore.”
“Can I fix you something to eat? You want some coffee or iced tea?”
“Na. Just want to come see you before I checked into the hotel. You ok?”
“As well as can be expected. Your brother has been really helpful. I’m not sure what I’d have done without him. You sure I can’t fix you something to eat?”
“No. Any way I can help?”
“Everything is taken care of. All the arrangements have been made. Visitation will be tomorrow from 7 to 8 p.m. at Southern Memorial Funeral Home and there’ll be a graveside service at 11 p.m. the following morning. You know it’s great to see you, I’m just sorry it’s under these circumstances.”
“I’m beat. I’m heading to the hotel to crash for tonight. I’ll see you tomorrow at the visitation.”
“Ok. I’ll see you there.”

Harry attended the visitation but appalled to find out the funeral home had charged his father about ten thousand dollars for a barebones casket, the visitation, and burial. One last fucking by the system on the way out, Harry thought, death, taxes, and funeral charges – all inescapable. They charged a thousand dollars just to dig the hole.

Harry looked with hesitation, into the casket. She looked at peace. More at peace than Harry had seen her in years. Visiting with people he didn’t know or know him left Harry feeling sick. An old friend of his mothers told him that in tenth grade she had been offered a scholarship to the University of North Carolina but turned it down when she got pregnant with Harry. Guilt racked him.

He slipped out of the funeral home early and headed straight for the bar next to the hotel. He proceeded to get drunk. Very drunk. Vodka had been his mother’s drink of choice and in her honor he drank it – excessively.

Hung over, the next morning he arrived late at the gravesite to hear people that didn’t know her speak platitudes and praise about her. He felt he may throw up as he choked back tears. He wanted to speak. He wanted to tell about who she really was. How she tried to live a good life, sacrificed, helped those in need to her detriment. But what we be the point. Harry knew. His father knew. Those helped knew. That’s all that mattered. Harry stood by the casket and put his hand on the cool metal top. He roved his hand and reached down. pulled a red rose from an arrangement of flowers at his feet, and placed it gently on top where his hand was.

"Good bye." Harry walked away from the service, got in his car, and started the long drive back to Detroit.

Regrets came in waves. The farther he got away, the harder the waves hit. For the last twenty-five years he abandoned his mother, as she had been abandoned by most in her life. It seemed to Harry that life was continuing a vicious circle. Harry reviewed his relationships with women. The failures. His relationship with his mother. Its failure.

It was a long ride back. He began to long for Detroit, its blood, loss of life, pain, and suffering that only it can provide.