a small gift, or how my ass was kicked

Appology:  If you were here recently,  my last post went as blank. I’m sure it was something I did, but probably not.  I will try to recreate that post.


As you know I endeavored to complete NaNoWriMo this year.  50,000 words seemed doable.  Yesterday at about 4:30, I called it quits.  More specifically, I decided that I would write on Thursday night and Friday and call it good at about 40,000.  Needless to say I realized several days ago that 50k was not going to happen.  Life and work intervene.  Finding 3 hours each night is nearly impossible.  Especially when I was plotting by the seat of my pants.

I figure I’ll work on this piece sporadically, knowing that it will probably never see the light of day.  If I do NaNoWriMo next year, I’ll have it 80% plotted in advance.  Once I determined where I was going, I could make some progress.  Generally, I dwelt on where I was headed.  Sadly, I think I figured out the end today. Oh well.

So, as my gift to you, here is the first piece I wrote, edited several times, but probably not up to your standards.  Enjoy


An unknown liquid pooled on the third and fourth steps leading down to the station.  A wrapper from a double cheeseburger lay half submerged like an iceberg waiting for the Titanic to float by.  He was thinking about the failures of the day when the crunch of paper lead to an ugly splash.  Looking down, he saw his wet shoe and continued shuffling down the filthy stair case.

“Spare change,” said the hobo at the bottom of the stairs.  He always thought of them as hobos.  In college his friends called them dirt bags, political correctness completely ignored.  But to him they were hobos. Surely there was a sack of canned food and dirty clothes tied to a stick stashed somewhere nearby, hidden until it was time to hop the next train and ride the rails to the next, best place.   Dirt bags were an anathema.  Hobos had panache.  On reflection, this wretch was not a hobo.

“Not today.  I’m sorry,” came the standard response without thinking.  Perhaps one day he would give a hobo a quarter or a dime, but that day was not today.  Money was tight and there really wasn’t any to spare.  As it was, it was all he could do to prevent the scorn boiling up in him from coloring his apology.

The lobby outside the turnstiles was not as littered as the stairs, but it was far from clean.  The blue bin for the traveler’s newspapers was overflowing and stray sheets lay against the gray walls, waiting for the night janitor to gather them.  The wind blew a Charleston Chew wrapper across the floor, leaving its half-eaten contents orphaned in a corner.  The signs on the right had been tagged with blue spray paint.  It barely registered in his consciousness.  He paid little attention his surroundings as he put his ticket in the slot.  Taking it out, the gate open and he was inside.

He took the stairs down 2 flights and found himself on the end of the platform. There was no one around him.  Looking far to the left he saw a few people gathered near the center of the platform.  The red sign above told all who looked that the next train was in 13 minutes.  Shaking his head, he realized he just missed the previous train.  The thought of being late ran through his head, until he remembered there was not anyone waiting for him.

Time is often his enemy, allowing him to dwell on the events — some recent, others in distant past — he regrets.  Time to obsess over what could have been done differently, what could have changed and what could have been. In the end, nothing changes; the past has been written.  Today was an especially bad day.  He tried hard not to think about the day’s mistakes, failing miserably.  The distraction of a rat scurrying under the third rail kept his regrets to a moderate level.

When the train arrived, it was packed to the gills.  The doors slid open and the crowd inside dared him to enter.  There was barely any room, but one man slinked off, creating the space he needed to enter.  As the door shut, he realized this was as much a prison as a commute.  He was confined to a small space; walled in physically, not metaphorically.   Crammed in, with his back against the train wall, he reviewed his surroundings.

The train had departed from the airport, which explained the large suitcase to his right.  In front of him was a bicycle, upside down creating the front wall of his cell.  Another bicycle was to his left, rolled in next to him.  He owned one and a half square feet of real estate.  No more and no less.  This could not change.  He wasn’t claustrophobic, but this was different.  This was unnatural and made the hair stand up on his arms.

The upturned bike in front of him was held by its owner.  Held was the wrong term.  The man sat, cradling the front tire in his arms, his head rested on what appeared to a woman’s gray tee shirt, gingerly spread across the tire tread.  It was an odd sight, befitting the odd space he found himself in.   The man lifted his head, the odd hairline retreating from view as he stretched his neck.  The shirt on the tire bore a Forever 21 label, confirming the intended gender.  The man resembled a troll, a thought he quickly dismissed as he saw his face.  Bad teeth and an uneven pasty completion were there first things he saw, but they were not what caught his attention.  It was the man’s eyes.  No, not the pupil and iris, but the lids.  They were an unnatural rosy red.  Makeup did not create this color; it was as if they were sunburned and radiating heat.  The stark contrast to his white skin was eerie.  If not for his eyelids, he might have been mistaken for a junkie.  Instead he seemed more ghoulish.  It was not a stretch to envision him eating the dead.

On the other side of the beloved bicycle stood a slight man with stringy hair.  He kept looking left and right as though he was afraid someone would do him harm in these close quarters. People turned their heads to avoid eye contact.  He glared into the makeshift cell commanding the prisoner to look down to avoid the fear and malice being radiated.

Trapped and uncomfortable he kept his head down.  The only remarkable thing down there was his shoes, functional and his on the dingy train floor.  He felt a tap on his shoulder. Looking up he made eye contact with a cute blonde now standing behind the uneasy man.  He wondered how he didn’t see her in her neon pink pants.  She must have been behind someone.  She pointed to the large suitcase.

“I’m getting off, can you help me with that?”

Nodding, he grabbed the bag by the top handle.  He lifted the handle, the bag remained.  I must have been filled with rocks.  Or textbooks.  Perhaps both. “We’ll figure something out when the train stops,” he told her.  She smiled. He wasn’t used to that.

When the train stopped, the man with the bike to his left got off the train to let others exit.    It gave him the chance to raise the rolling handle and wheel the bag off for her.  She smiled again and thanked him as he got back on the train.

People are creatures of habit. Re-entering the train, he moved back to the space he had been in a moment prior. But that was not to be.  The man with the stringy hair was now standing there, acting as territorial as pit bull in a bad neighborhood.  Not being confrontational, he squeezed into a different spot, on the other side of the upturned bicycle.

The ghoul with the red eyelids rolled his head unnaturally.  The ride was exceptionally bumpy and the ghoul held the tire tighter, like a lover holding on for one last kiss at daybreak.  The train shook as it stopped at the next station.  The ghoul flipped the bike over and wheeled it off the car.  Even though the man with the pasty complexion was no longer there, a sense of dread pervaded as the train left the station, moving ever further east.

Tuesday 11/27/2012 5pm or this writer’s therapy session

I haven’t blogged much in November. I haven’t forgotten about you, but between a weekend out of town for my niece’s Bat Mitzvah, Thanksgiving and NaNoWriMo, time for stretching my creative blog chops are limited.

In terms of NaNoWriMo, I have fought creative blanks and cliches.  I have failed more often than I’ve succeeded.  The goal is to write 1667 works per day, 50k for the month.  Of course you already knew that.  At the moment I’m at 33,200 words, which is about 1229 per day.  Or in other terms, on average I fell 437 words short per day.  I now have 3.5 days to make up for those 27 days of missing 437 words. or in other words a shit ton.

I have fallen into a trap. I can see where my novel, for now I am told I am a novelist, is and where the next scene probably is.  I also have two scenes well formed in my mind.  I don’t have an ending.  It will probably end similarly to Monty Python and the Holy Grail, with a police raid and general chaos  Yes I worry how to end it. I have three endings in mind. On a scale of 1-10, the best is a 3.  You might have thought I’d have figured this out well in advance.  You in the back?  Yes you are correct, that would be a no.

Then there is the title.  When I set up the NaNoWriMo details, I called my novel, for it is MY NOVEL even unfinished, Urban Hopscotch.  Four weeks ago I decided that title sucked.  There was no hopscotch and there were no jacks.  Hell, it was only marginally urban.  But there are hobos.  Let’s be honest, if you look close enough, there are hobos everywhere, so they may as well have been in my book.  For now it is called — wait for it– Untitled.  Unlike Tyrese, I do not have a 6-pack.  Most of you have at one time or another  requested I keep my shirt on.  Its on now and will be for a while.

They say write what you know.  What do I know?  Music, Food, Commuting, Random Drivel, Technology, Books, San Francisco. Stuff. Things.  I like sex, but for god’s sake we all know I  know very little about it.  No my book won’t be porn.  Maybe it should have been.  I’ll tell you a secret — a good sex scene is very hard to write.  I stopped trying. It’s much easier to have people cuddle.  It’s what we do most of the time isn’t it?  

See Dick undress. Undress Dick! Undress!

See Jane undress.  Undress Jane! Undress!

See Dick and Jane run to the bedroom. Run! Run! Run!

See Dick and Jane cuddle. Cuddle! Cuddle! Cuddle.

the end.  

I bet that might have won NaNoWriMo, though it needs about 49,950 more words.

And one final note.  No one every leaves a comment here and I approve everything that isn’t spam (I only approve things once, then they flow freely, like wine at one of my parties.) I am in the middle of an on-going debate.  I would love your comments on it.

Have you read “Pat the Bunny?”  If so, what are your thoughts on it.

thank you for being my therapist tonight. Sadly, my insurance won’t be paying the bill.

Myriad Randomness Redux

Random stuff and things, our semi regular homage to Herb Caen

In the category of not ready for the Oscars part 1: cut the fat.  When the party planner tells you that your movie should be 5-7 minutes, cutting it from 16 minutes to 14 is a serious lapse of judgment and shows the world how egotistical you are.  By minute 3 you had already lost more than half the audience.  And yes, 75% of the photos could have been cut out and it would have been much better.  We didn’t need the extreme reputation in your great work.  Yes, people were laughing at you.

More BART Rudeness.  When you stand up to let the guy next to the window up, take his seat.  Does your backpack really need its own seat during rush hour Mr. Shitty Purple Shirt with a bad comb over?  On a lighter note I got stuck the other day behind a young couple and their five (5!) kids each with their own rolling suitcase.  I didn’t really care, the kids were cute.  Now can we talk about birth control?

Political Animals in West.  In the last 3 days I had two different family members ask me if I knew who Nate Silver was.  Answer yes I do.  Then they asked if understood the significance of his blog 8something.com.  Answer yes.  Its 538 and it’s the number of members of Electoral College.    No I won’t out them, they know who they are.  I guess I should admit it only came to my attention about a month before the election, but then you knew I wasn’t a political junkie.

Rolling Deathtraps.  Do you know what to do when the power goes off and the traffic signals are out?  That’s right, treat it like a 4-way stop.  Clearly most of Oakland does not.  4 different cars nearly T-boned us blowing through lights that were out.  But the capper was the little old lady that kept slamming on her breaks while the lights worked, every time a semi appeared – and STOPPED!—to her right.  How we didn’t hit her is amazing.  She was never in any danger and I was not driving.

Food and Stuff.   The food at B-Sides BBQ is great.  Had the pulled chicken sandwich today.  I can vouch for the ribs, brisket and mac and cheese.  The neighborhood is a bit sketchy.  Think of it as a classic people, I mean hobo, watching neighborhood.  They are open for dinner now, with a full bar.  Good stuff.

Back to the Oscars.  I think showing pictures of your daughter with her deceased great grandparents is appropriate and endearing.  HOWEVER, giving them their own section of a movie and making sure the audience knows “here come dead people” is just fucking wrong.  I don’t care how tastefully you think you’ve worded it, you can’t.  And the picture of her with one of her great grandparents on their hospice bed is beyond creepy and it should not be for public viewing.  Clearly someone’s “shame” gene is missing.

Sports and Religion part 1.  We all know someone who is checking the score of the game during religious services.  Most of them sit well away from the front.  When you sit in the front row AND it is your daughter’s big game, you have flunked discretion 101.  And when you flash signs to your daughter who should be concentrating on what she is doing, you have failed parenting 101.  Layer on that it’s not a top 10 college team and this isn’t the south or Texas.  If you play the “they are top 25” card, you have only put sharp sticks in the hole you previously dug.   I hope you are never on a jury because you clearly have no ability process what is right and what’s wrong.

Sports and Religion part 2.  When you are on the bema, don’t have the game in your ear.  And when your team shits the bed, don’t moan and scream “NO!”  Everyone already thinks poorly of you, do you really want to be deported?  We know you don’t care what your family thinks of you, now you’ve announced it to the rest of the world.

Religious Etiquette.  Your daughter’s big day is not the day to direct the spot light from her an onto your family and how great the previous generations of your family have been.  2 sentences would have been plenty.  Everyone saw the 4 pages of notes you had on how great your family was, while ignoring the other side of your daughter’s family.  It went so far that I believe that your family was embarrassed at how ugly your attitude was.  It was your daughter’s day.  At least the rest of her family knew it and made sure that she knew it.  You kept making it about you.

Traffic to avoid.  The El Camino Real is horrible in rush hour.  At 5 pm on a Friday, it took 20 min to go 2 miles.  Imagine if Stanford had been at home.  Another reason to hate Stanford.

Seriously?  I guess I’m the only guy upset Cal fired Jeff Tedford.  Yes it’s a bad year.  Cal will never be USC and some ways we celebrate that. Best coach we’ve had in my lifetime.  Color me dismayed. In Blue and Gold.

Movie Review.  I know this won’t be as good as the NYT review of Guy Fieri’s new place, but let’s try shall we?  Length?  Only slightly shorter than the Lord of the Rings trilogy without the enjoyment.  Direction?  Between the bloat and the bad music, it was possible to see the horrid edits and transitions.    Plot development?  If it was a horror film, the creepy factor was over the roof.  That last section where you were in every picture, it seemed like something  John Hinkley wanted to give to Jodie Foster. As a reminder, they won’t be seeing this in Arkansas.  Let’s be honest, I’ve had more enjoyment with explosive fecal activity.  If your goal was to move the focus for a day to you, you accomplished it.  Yes, this was worse than Ishtar.  By a factor of a googleplex.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.  Turkey and well wishes to you and yours.

The Ballad of NaNoWriMo, Me and Clichés. Where Did We Lose Pooneil?

I am hip deep in writing my masterpiece first novel for NaNoWriMo.  By hip deep I mean I sat in the great room on Sunday watching football, with the lap top open.  I wrote a paragraph or two every so often.  By the end of the day I had written about 3400 words, which was good because I did zero the day before. Well, maybe I wrote 200, but I didn’t record them.  Maybe I wasn’t cut out to be a writer.  I am pretty sure Mrs. Greenberg wasn’t  thinking, “I hope after 18 hours of labor, this little fucker is the next Hemingway ”  Mostly because she does’t swear like a sailor.  That’s me.  Sadly, I don’t think she and I have every discussed Hemingway.  Mostly because I’ve never read him.  Dan Simmon’s The Crook Factory doesn’t count.  But I did thoroughly enjoy it.  I don’t think the maternal unit ever saw me as a writer, nor has that changed.

My biggest issue has been avoiding cliches.  Right now I’m fighting the urge to make the whole thing a bad dream.  or was it?  Sadly, Dallas beat me to that about 30 years ago, so that one is out.  Doesn’t mean I’m not tempted.  Why is there a severed finger on the night stand?  And who IS in the shower?  Nah.

Temptation is green-eyed whore.  These days she wants me to write 50 Shades of Greenberg.  That’s my novel where Gray Greenberg, clearly he had cruel parents, is introduced to cruel vixen who manipulates him  sexually in a wicked downward spiral of a relationship.  She’s a feeder, deriving pleasure from eating new dishes made just for her.  She keeps him confined in a huge updated kitchen, forcing him to create ever more extravagant gourmet meals.  She wears too much glitter eye shadow  and she buys him a new Vespa when he tires of her games.

Lambchop has friends that have read that book, the one temptation holds as inspiration.  Some have even suggested they form a book club to read it.  Lambchop’s inner goddess did a face plant on that one.  Usually, when someone brings it up she says, “you know what I call 50 Shades of Gray?  I call it Wednesday.”  I think she was confused with The Flight of the Conchord’s Business Time.  I do miss Jemaine and Brett.  Needless to say, I’m not venturing down any of these hallways no matter how wide open the door is.

I am also trying hard not to include references to Superstorm Sandy, Global Warming, Presidential Politics, Fox News and bacon.  I’m pretty sure I can pull those off.

THE GIANTS WIN THE WORLD SERIES!!!!  I just needed to say that one more time.

PSA: But, before we go back to our regularly scheduled silence, please vote.  Even if your politics aren’t mine, exercise your right.  Our world would be much less tolerable with out that.




No, I’m not avoiding my blog.  I have been concentrating on NaNoWriMo.  1650 words a day sounds easy, right?  I mean most of my posts here have been in the 1200-1700 range, so a slam dunk.  Nope.

I’ve decided I really don’t know what I’m doing and, well, that’s ok.  I’m still committed to the goal and throwing words on the screen.  It is not the hardest thing I’ve done, but it is far from easy.  If you remember the  old Joe Bob goes to the drive-in reviews as I do, perhaps you remember the phrase “no plot to get in the way of the story.”  Plot? Story?  Yeah, I’ve found my kryptonite.  And NaNoWriMo threw it through my window, landing at my feet.

I struggle with ideas, phrasing and even typing.  I think the scotch is coming this week, less to solve my blocks and more to make me forget about them.

Its time for another cup of coffee.  At least I’ve put something here.  I’ve not forgot about you, my core of 25 readers and friends.  I hope I have something interesting to comment on soon.  If not, I may just retype the Rime of Ancient Mariner or write a critical analysis of Scritti Politti.  Afterall, I have an albacore around my neck, but that’s another story.