03 Sep

What’s next?

I thought about writing a piece on how I sometimes look at young women with a physical resemblance to my daughter and wonder if that’s her in the future at a given age. Then imagine this as the future with me seeing her and reporting back. Then worry that I’m that creepy guy scoping out the young ladies. I hate how neuroses always turn the topic in a tedious inward direction. So for now that idea is no bigger than a sentence.

Or I could write about my tabletop game development partnership and how it’s like an Italian marriage without the sex (because, dude, the guy is a dwarf). But then it would turn into self recrimination about how I’m half of the genius and ego equation and thus half the problem. Plus, which of is is going to pitch this game next year? The dwarf is brilliant but doesn’t know when to shut up. I’m not going to do it–good lord, I’d be mortified! So the descent continues.

Then there’s the moral quandary of my employment running projects for aerial collection systems development with the DOD as the biggest customer. A tool that could be used for so much good sold to the cigar chomper with deep pockets. And now I’m loathing myself for masking a request to help me find a new, low 6 figure paying job doing something ethical.

My only hope is my daughter, so far untouched by adult hopes and failures. I still have time to mold her. But I won’t be a jello mold like my parents. I’ll be a bundt cake mold, a steel mold, a titanium 3d printer. If I don’t fail. No, I’ll just shut up and go spend more heroin money I don’t have at Powell’s Books (which is only 5 feet away).

Text brought to you by the ickier streets of Portland, which remind me how good I have it and how easy I could fall into them. Don’t get me started.

09 Feb


Sometimes an unfinished or languishing story is like an old love affair that never got going and that you can’t let go. But like the song says, let it go.

13 Jan

Motherfuckers of Kickstarter and Other Space Vampires

I’m a fan of Chuck Wendig’s blog. His zany profanity in the self service of humanity (inside and outside the writer’s space) resonates with me. He recently posted a short run about Kickstarter bullies beating on YA author Stacey Jay and her Kickstarter asking for an extremely modest amount of money to cover production costs and some income to write and self-publish the next novel in her series (after her publisher folded).

It’s become popular for authors or would be authors to ask for crowdfunding. Men, if the pitch is good, tend to get what they ask for. Women, often they get something different. A bit like rape crowdsourced. And if you think that’s heavy-handed, then read the series. And, if you look further online, you’ll find similar stories in the crowdfunding or authoring space or women in tech space.

I’m interested in crowdfunding–via Kickstarter or another program–for a (non-authoring) personal and a charitable project. I assumed it was fairly safe and simple–you threw your best pitch and people voted with their dollars or ignored you. At 53, I’m no less naive, it seems, than I was at 23.

There are a lot of people out there looking for a reason to spew, bully, or worse. They’re self-styled philosopher kings or privileged or bitter little ass-hats. They hide online because if they made themselves public, someone would make the worst of them disappear. They’re criminals without a law or means to detain or restrain them. Most are men, I suspect, or identify themselves as such. They “have no lives.” (Otherwise, why the fuck would anyone spend their time in such a way, as self-styled creators, enforcers, or reformers for “laws” of crowdfunding, game-related press, and other things irrelevant to surviving and thriving on this planet. Actually, I do know–it’s the universal law discovered by infants that we control what we can, and the more petty the thing the more we want to control it.) No one stopped them when they were merely dysfunctional. And they’re going to cause a backlash that will hurt non-participants as well.

They’re like fucking alien, planet-hopping locusts or the kind of vampires Buffy slew weekly. Mean, dedicated, generally not very bright. But tenacious.

I work in Old Town Portland and walk past similar people every day. Those people have an excuse. They’re mentally ill, high, drunk, or in constant dull shock from their daily lives. But they don’t hide it–quite the opposite. I have hard empathy for them and none for the subjects of this post.

When I started writing this post, my feelings were oh so clear and could be encapsulated in a line or two that involved images of lumberjack boots connecting with heads or hammers on typing fingers. But there are more civilized ways to not put up with that shit.  They do not involve being nice–just the opposite. I don’t think these people can be fixed, but they can be settled down. Unless one of them were attacking my wife or children. Then I’d have to decide at the time.
21 Nov

Your Work

“Look you have a gift. Life is precious, and eventually you die. All you are going to have to show for it is your work, and whether you did a good job or not.”

Charles Bowden, 2005 (died Aug 30,2014)

It’s good but sounds better when he says it.

20 Nov

We were so poor

Sometimes a friend sends you an unintentional writing prompt (as part of a longer message). In this case, “We were so poor that we thought new clothes meant someone had died.”

I read his mail on the bus ride to work this morning. It left me with two choices: follow the links that trailed his opener or take the “we were so poor” challenge. But, I suck at one liners (a timeless crazy smart skill now making careers in social media), so I wrote something that ended with a silent “and…” (sorry kid, no drumbeat–you better explain yourself). So here you go, written on a phone while riding the 30 minute AM express from Beaverton to downtown PDX, with helpful suggestions from autocorrect fixed from the original:

We were so poor that when we learned someone had died the first thing we thought was new clothes. Depending on how closely the deceased was to our sizes, the limits of our mother’s tailoring, and if our father could sneak into the loved one’s home before most of the neighborhood went on alert. Especially Mrs. Mosby, who supplemented her income with a permanent table at the flea market. Where our parents often bought our clothes when we bought clothes. I once heard them whisper that the pockets in flea market clothing were always empty.

One year, when my father’s Local went on strike for all of October and no one had died locally for several months (busting the National Average, mom said) a wind storm took down a big fir tree in our back yard. My brother and I had just gone through one of those all knees and elbows growth spurts, and nothing fit except our briefs which mom could stretch three sizes before busting a seam. She went down to the library and found a book on Pacific Northwest Coast Indians, then showed us photos of natives in bark clothing and how they made it pliable by chewing it.

We were so poor I know what bark tastes like. But that wasn’t as bad as my best friend Lee who had to wear socks made from old cats.

Honestly, our town was so poor that year (almost everyone who had jobs worked through the Local) there were kids coming to school who shared clothes, taking turns huddling in the locker room while their sibs were in class. On the schoolbus everyone gave everyone else eyeball privacy.

Our town was so poor we had standards.

08 May

Shiv Muse

Shiv Pen

It was nice to cross paths this morning. I hope the hell I’m so healthy in 150 years. It’s been a morning of chance meetings with old friends–not two blocks on I ran into Tim from my  three year stretch in the Washington County lockup. We shared the same cell block and often worked together on the publishing crew (we produced the original quarterly “The Sentence’ along with our reprint work). Like I said, his name’s Tim, though we called him “The Shiv” on account of his sideline. (I was “The Editor, Motherfucker”.) The Shiv’s shivs were deadly works of art camouflaged as normal everyday devices. He made them from silverware smuggled from the cafeteria (this was before they all switched to compostible utensils). His cellmate Tiny (who ran our mechanical press) would lay on them until they got good and hot, then Tim would work them into the night. He asked me if I still had mine. I do (see the attached photo). You don’t give away art that saves your life. Multiple x.

BTW, Tim (The Shiv no longer, Just Tim) has done well since his release, with exhibits in Detroit, New Orleans, and Synecdoche, NY. He was headed over to a breakfast meeting (at Fullers, no less) with the owner of Galerie du Couteau in The Pearl. He recognized me before I made him. I think it was the new hip joint that threw me off–he walks straight now instead of semicircles, wears his hair long, and dies his soul patch. (I asked about Tiny. Tim said he didn’t know–last he heard Tiny had become a Vegan and then more or less fell through the cracks.)

20 Mar

Chagall’s Green Fiddler

marc-chagall-the-green-violinist-1923-2420 or so years ago, my Mother, ever the garage sailor, remembered that I was a fan of Chagall and brought this over one day after a successful voyage into the Western Reach (Hillsboro, I think). She was fairly sure I didn’t have any print of his Green Violinist and said this painting made her think of me. I think the fiddler looks a little mad or possessed and may be possessing the village around him–or infecting them joyously with his art. Like Roaring, it’s sat on my desk for the last 20 years, a companion to Roaring in spirit (not style). Both are in our bedroom closet for now. I’ve captured what I need for the time being from both (and was gifted with a replacement that’s a message from Deborah) and she and I decided a change would be nice.

20 Mar

The Roaring World

20140319_203039Until a month ago, this hung or rested above my home desk for 10 years. It figures in  the balrog story in progress. My mother found it at a garage 20 or more years ago, thought of me, and gifted it for the heck of it. I love it, busted frame and all. Its replacement, I love more.

I’ve Googled and Ducked and Yahooed it to no avail. The artist is a mystery to me and that’s just fine.

26 Feb

Non stop between here and your destination

043 overcrowded train IndiaWhile, technically, we call this train an express, it runs at unpredictable speeds and, did we call it a train–we meant bus or moped or Formula One (look out, driver in training!). And by train, did you think we meant bullet? Sir or Ma’am, you have to pay for the privilege of riding the bullet. This train is bourgeois, it’s a zoo train, the Western Star, the Himalayan Express, or Amtrak service to Tillamook. (It really is a train. Did we say Formula One? Sorry, bit of a runamok, that–F1 is two doors down, marked Competitive Journalism. Don’t knock, just bust in. But be prepared for a lot of paperwork.)

Whatever you do, stay on the train. Even for unexpected stops (carnivals crossing the tracks) and security checkpoints. Do not believe the voice that says, What am I doing, this journey was a stupid idea, what possessed me to think that I should look for work in the land of vengeful coconut palms!

Stay on the train. Do not step onto the platform till it reaches the end. If it turns out you bought the wrong ticket, that on arrival you discover you really meant to journey to the land of pachyderm docents who can show you recent archeological evidence (in their newly tiled Museum of History–why the new tiles everywhere?) PROVING that 100,000 y.a. elephants could leap with all four feet off the ground–but with no resolution on why that it is impossible today, although they have theories about everything from a cosmic catastrophe increasing planetary gravity to the elephant obesity problem–why then, you go.

And you stay on the train.

At first the train will be empty except for service personnel. The conductor. The steward with the snack cart. The lady sword swallower (oh my!). But as you complete more journeys you’ll see other passengers on board until perhaps the train is overwhelmed. But, really, trains are strong. Until the engine wears out or the track breaks, they are capable of non stop travel.