Friday, December 30, 2011

Year End Sale

   The rush is on to finish all the crap I started or have been working on or promised myself I would finish by the end of 2011. Well the clock waits for no man. I have some time this weekend to finish up a few things which is always my writing. I have a new manuscript to self edit before I attempt to find rejection from publishers and agents. On a positive note, I have a book contract that has been sitting on my coffee table for the last three weeks waiting to be mailed out. I just need a stamp.
   There are a lot of people out there running around trying to get their year end crap finished. Its like the ads on tv just before Christmas telling us how many days left. The reality is we have plenty of days to finish things and to give gifts. Just today I got a Christmas gift. Time is precious and we all die which adds pressure to the things we want to accomplish in our lives but the truth is we either have the time or we don't.

Friday, November 4, 2011

A day's labor

For the past sixty days or more, I have been lining up at 5:30 am to wait and see if I have a job for the day. We sign in and take a seat. The morning news is broadcast via antenna, going out every couple of minutes. Someone dips into a closet and comes out with all the fixings for bland coffee. I take seat and avoid eye contact.
I listen to the morning’s conversations. Spirits are somber at first. Later the conversations are spread between the football game last night and who is hiring for steady work. Any word of open jobs always climbs to the top of subject matter. I sit and listen, but never interested. I have had several jobs over the years and with the exception of a few days, never enjoyed any of them much.
“My cousin got hired on at DuPont.” One person says while three gather around. Questions are asked ‘how’ and ‘when’. I listen but to me it does not matter. It is not in my field.
Someone announces this is their last week at the labor center. Everyone smiles and congratulations are given. The routine work that takes them away is changing linens at a hotel. I was a bellman once and once I changed the linens. I hated it. The steady employed are happy to fold and fit sheets and I am honestly happy for them. It is just not me. I wait in line to haul construction trash.
I get my ticket. Its me and another guy named Leon, Morris, or Glenn. I give them a ride because they arrived by bus. I'm supposed to charge them four dollars but unless they offer I keep quiet. We are headed eight miles west to a mall. A new women’s retailer is remodeling.
We arrive in a cold mist. The 18 wheeler has the trailer open and pallet jack waiting. The mall does not allow construction to go on during operating hours outside the confines of the store itself. So we have to haul all pallets and cabinets before nine AM.  Once inside the store it is warm and dry. The windows are covered over and the doors locked. No one walking past will ever know anyone is inside sweating, straining backs to lift cabinets and shelves into place so when the store opens with a sale you can enter and pick out a third navy blue sweater it is at a convenient height. I haul trash out the back door, down the elevator and across a parking lot past your parked car and into a dumpster.
I have dined with celebrities and royalty. I graduated from a renowned university. Yesterday an old man while taking a complimentary soda because he had special tickets to a college basketball game name dropped. I told him I had no idea who “Frank” was. He told me it was my boss in a tone supposing I should care. In fact “Frank” was my boss for the day. Tomorrow it will be Dave or Jerry.
What entertains me the most about my day labor job is that during that basketball game I was able to walk up near court side and watch the game right along with the old guy who name dropped. While he paid for the entertainment I was being paid. To me it was the equalizer.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Happy Halloween on its way

Here we are five days into October and I’m overly excited. Halloween kicks off a series of holidays that last until February. The month ends with Syfy’s Ghost Hunters conducting a live investigation.  I haven’t missed it in three years.  This year I hope to watch it again. Some of the other cable channels like TCM and AMC kick off the month with horror movies throughout the month. My DVR is on overload. There is no other holiday, not even Christmas, which makes me feel like a kid like Halloween does.
Right now Im watching, It! Terror from beyond Space, courtesy TCM.  I can goes days watching black and white movies. Tuning into color hurts my eyes after awhile. I hope I never grow up, its too much fun otherwise.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Thanks Rod for my time in the Twilight Zone.

The TV projects only in black and white. For the day, hi def, spectra color and 1080 means nothing to me. I sit and watch the Twilight Zone marathon all day. I can’t resist. Cancel the New Years party because TwilightZone is on. People who know me know I won’t go. They are more than welcome to come over, but I’m not leaving unless your TV shows bright in late 1950’s images of another dimension.
2011 has so far produced two marathons. The Fourth of July, the most hallowed of national holidays was spent in front of a black and white television. Sure the commercials are in color, the only thing reminding me it is not 1959 and Rod Serling is not standing off to the left narrating to viewers of my impending doom. In all honesty it did happen one year. After seventeen consecutive hours of the Zone, I finally fell asleep at 2:30 am. Sometime around four I awoke to see Rod standing in my bedroom. He was holding a cigarette and talking to an audience. I sat up and said, “If you’re here, then that means I’m about to enter…” I shook my head and rolled over burying my face in the pillow. I could not finish the statement in case it was accurate. Had I unlocked the key to imagination or fallen into the space between light and shadow? I didn’t want to know.
So here I sit, fourteen hours in and I can’t stop. All the color, hi def 1080p hurts my eyes at this point. With each episode I take in the wisdom of the writer. I could rattle off my favorites like “Obsolete man” or “To Serve Man” and “I shot an Arrow” but I won’t go into why I like them. All I will say is that every year, sometimes twice a year, I get sucked in and can do nothing else but watch and listen. Many people think it is time wasted. I say if I’m not watching, that is time wasted.
Thanks Rod.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Slow acting ADD?

One year into my new job and I am comfortable. I’ve reached a level of knowledge that enables me to get through the day with few snags or challenges because I have seen it before. At eighteen months things begin to change. I can’t put my finger on it. Maybe it’s the loss of a coworker. Maybe that lack of challenge is creeping in and I am bored. Maybe I have some kind of slow progressive ADD.  I like a steady pace but boredom is not what I am looking for. By two years into my job I am ready to leave. The fun is over and I want out. At this point I am so settled in it is difficult to envision me doing anything else. Six months goes by. Now at two and a half years I grow steadily angry with my condition. So I start looking for something new.
What does this say about me? Is such a thing as delayed ADD? (That’s what I call it)
I spent 7 years drifting through college, going one semester and not the next and years at part time student status. My major changed. First it was business because I wanted to open my own store but had no idea what I was going to sell. Then it was history, philosophy and finally religion, then back to history. I committed exactly two years and got the degree. Grad school hung on the horizon but I just spent two years committed to one discipline. I was thinking of religion again, but chose to write and work a job.
That job lasted four years. Two of which were exciting. The last two, though I had good times, was over all depressing. I gave up trying when the realization that it would take more effort and time then I was willing to put in. “This is not my career.” I kept telling myself. So I continued to write.
I’ve been casually writing now for some years. With multiple works published (Click here to see a few) I have achieved something. I haven’t quite categorized that success yet. I will say I have reached to two year mark in really trying to get my work out there. So now with no other job than to sit and write all those stories I struggled to get out while working a forty hour a week job and dealing with all of life’s others obstacles and I’ve barely written a thing.
I spend my time antiquing these days. Buying at auctions and trying to flip or quadruple what I buy. Studying catalogs and hitting up ebay to check going rates for 19th century hand written receipts or old toys still in the box. I write on occasion.
Two years from now I could be back in school. I could be running a small business. I could…well it doesn’t matter because I have slow acting A D D.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Gym Class

One time in gym class, 11th grade I think, I was singled out with another guy by the gym teacher, Ms. Palmer. We were to be the team captains and told to pick our teams for basketball. I didn’t think teachers could still do that but I went along with it.
I had first pick. I looked along the line up and selected my buddy Dave. He was a long haired stoner with little coordination but he was my friend. The other captain, a jock of sorts, immediately picked the big guy who was a lineman on our football team. I perused who was left and selected a well rounded Jewish girl. When I pointed and called her name she hesitated. “Me?” she asked with a pointed finger into her large chest. I nodded and looked over to the other captain. He let out air through his teeth like he had a valve stem in his mouth. So the baseball player was picked by the opposing team. I selected the nerd and he picked the girls basketball co-captain. I picked the “karate” expert with the home made dragon tattoo who was often seen in the corner practicing round house kicks. He got the track star on a team that went to state the year before. With each athlete selected for the opposing team the jeers and snickers grew. It went on like this until there was no one left.
The gym teacher looked the teams over and shook her head. She knew it was stacked and she knew why. My point was made.
As the two teams separated insults flew from out opponents. We were going to get clobbered they explained in their Neanderthal speech patterns. We huddled up and I made a great speech. Something about showing them who we really are and we could do this. I didn’t mean it; this was my own social experiment. Everyone stood around, none believing the dribble coming from my lips. Dave looked over at the other team formulating a real play and said, “Or we could just lose.”
Everyone’s head bobbed in agreement except white Bruce Lee who said he could take them all on, whatever that meant.
“What if we challenge them to a spelling bee?” I thought it was funny. The heavy girl, the first heavy one I picked, shook her head no.
“Half of them are in my AP English and AP calculus if you’re thinking that way.” She stated.
 I started in with winning one for the Gipper, but stopped myself. I looked them all over and said, “How much do you want to lose by?”
There were a few snickers and smiles as we turned to face certain death. The other team was already lined up on the court. They knew where to stand and what positions to play. We just kind of lined up with the karate kid in the back doing stretches and imaginary jump shots.
Ms. Palmer held the basketball in one hand and a whistle between her lips. I stood across from the other captain at center court. He crouched ready to jump. I had still had one hand in my pocket. Ms. Palmer looked each team over once more. She blew her whistle.
"Hold up a minute.” She put the basketball on the ground with one foot on top of it. “Switch it up guys.” She said pointing at a few select student athletes and those on my team. “You, you and you over there. You three over on this team.” She looked me in the eye and said “Nice try Mr. Wagner.” then the whistle blew.
I was never called to pick a team again. In fact the rest of the year Ms. Palmer selected the teams herself without team captains or student input.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Along the Way...

  Life happens along the way. When I was young I thought I could plan things and make them happen. Looking back I suppose I could have if I had just trusted and held on long enough for it to happen. But as it is life happened to me along the way. While I was out doing one thing, something else totally unexpected happened.
  This is the way life turns out. We look left then right and left again, thinking it is safe to cross. Well sometimes it just isn't safe and we need to scramble across like a live action Frogger. Problem is we all get squashed now and then.
  Along the road of life we can often find examples of life extinct.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

living out of a hotel

When I was a kid we moved a lot. There were times we would get to a new city and have to stay in a motel/hotel for weeks. Back then extended stays where not very common especially in the non tourist towns we were moving to. There was never a mini fridge or a microwave to reheat my Applebee’s leftovers. This week I have been living out of a hotel somewhere in the New South in anticipation of moving there. It was supposed to be a 3 day visit, find a place, go home and move. Well with two job offers in one week that plan changed then changed again. Currently I spend my days and nights in a 300 sq foot room, at least I have a mini fridge and a microwave.
Hotels have a certain mystique about them. They house people without homes. Travelers, business men, families on the move, celebrities, people like me. Who are these people and why aren’t they at home? Most of the time hotel guests revolve around business. During the day the halls of this place are empty. I get looks from employees that suggest they thought the hotel was empty, yet here I am.
It has been four weeks since I quit my job. The days start to blur without my day calendar to count for me. In a sense my cubical has grown in size. Now I have a coffee pot and a TV to distract me from working instead of co-workers and their problems. I turn on reality TV to feel more like an office.
My only task for the day is to write. I sit in the room staring at my computer and the blinking curser. I have written some and read some. The thoughts are churning in my mind, spinning a story others may enjoy one day. I find routines help. After the free breakfast I head back to the room with a cup of coffee and a cup of water. I sit and write something before doing anything. So far it is working. The progress is there but I find my mind wandering, forming a scenario where I’m in this hotel because I’m attending conference or con. While I’m in the elevator returning from breakfast I see fans. One gets in the elevator with me. How do I react? I don’t know. So I play it out, deciding to be gracious because I could use every fan I can find.
Reality seeps in as the bell dings for my floor and the shiny metal door slides back revealing the third floor. I walk the hall to my room and grab the ice bucket. It’s a long walk down the other end of the vacant hall to the icemaker. It would be nice to be closer but having worked in a hotel for years I recall that was a constant complaint. Then back to sitting and writing.
At noon I have lunch. Pick a place, any place. Reading fills my afternoon with some writing, a little TV in between the two. For inspiration I stare out my third floor window looking down over the office building across the street. I watch people come and go from their cubicles and offices. They rush back from lunch, trapped by a clock. After they have all gone back to work, I’m bored. I pace around the room or wander the empty halls. The idea I am someone famous like a rock star clouds my mind. Maybe this is how they live while on the road.
Trapped in a hotel room has been very productive for me. It has been conducive for my routines. Four weeks since I quit my job and I am finally starting to get this down. I still can’t tell you what day it is without looking at my cell phone. Despite my small success here in the hotel, I can’t wait to get home and see my dog.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

For the office dweller

The days, the nights, just time passage captured by the tare of the daily calendar. That familiar crrrrreeeeeep triggered synapses to fire in John’s head resetting him for a new day.
His cubicle was smaller than a prison cell. Its grey fabric walls and black accented desk was void of life. A gift of office bamboo that was supposed to be good luck, turned brown. A shelf dusted once a week by the nighttime cleaning crew held one picture from 1938 of John’s grandmother and her siblings.
The grey desktop had two appearances. One was chaos, papers that should have been filed littered about, with pens and paperclips filling in gaps of desktop. A legal pad held phone numbers of missed calls, but mostly doodles. A spaceship with its tractor beam locked on to a car going off a cliff.
            One day a week the desk was wiped clean. Papers have the option of filed or tossed in a recycle bin. Pens and paperclips forced in their respective receptacles. It must be twenty minutes to five on a Friday.
            A call came in from the front desk receptionist. Her voice was nonchalant with a hint of deal with this underlying. John had a visitor. He was somewhat relieved because there was nothing left for him to clean at his desk and he had made the decision to stop working sometime before three. 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Quitting time

Full time writer. That is the end goal and that is what I do now. The day job went the way of video stores that did not rent porn.

The last day at the office passed with little significance in my life. I was there nearly four years with a good attendance record. I hate to miss work even when I hate my job. In the end, there was no speech, no final send off or last words. I simply clocked out and left. Sticking around isn’t really my thing. Too many times I have changed schools, towns and states to stay in touch with an expectation of more than a month or two. At least we have Facebook these days.

I had a (now former) co-worker approach me during my last week. She said, “Best week ever.” I paused from watching my coffee reheated in a microwave to ponder her statement. She was correct. I was indeed having a very good week at work. Things were moving smoothly that week, no angry students, parents, employers, nothing at all. I even completed all my work ahead of schedule. Her statement was making me nostalgic before I even left.

I left all the same.

Sitting in my 6x6 cubicle pondering my co-worker’s statement, I came to the conclusion that the best week ever was because it was my last. Nothing got to me. All the elements were there for a regular crappy week but it was my mental state, I was finally looking forward then looking back. I no longer felt stuck.

Since then I have been steadily keeping busy. The first week was filled with stuff I haven’t had much time to do, golf, fish visit family. Time for relaxing is over. The first day of the rest of my life has dawned.   

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Memory of a Mouse Maker

So I was talking to another writer I know and we were kicking around a great idea for another novel. It was through text message so it was choppy but I was hooked right away. He created a world where memories could be down loaded and played back. The original intent for this was to help Alzheimer patients keep more of who they are. As the story progresses we find the main character with a false memory. He knows it is false but the government agents chasing him believe it to be true.
As I lay awake in bed contemplating this world with out lawyers and conviction by downloaded memory, I wonder if memories are downloaded and played back, can we then erase them. Could we remove chunks of conscious or subconscious memory that we deem useless just as our bodies shed dead cells? The human body regenerates at a rapid pace. Allergies change every seven years because we have a new physical body every seven years. The cells we had seven years ago have been replaced. It is only our memories that tie us to the old dead cells absorbed or otherwise forgotten.
I sit in a chair and examine my memories (the make up of my current condition) with a doctor, cherry picking the good from the bad. I choose to eliminate the ones that make me feel incompetent or ashamed, I only remember accomplishments so when I wake up I feel as I did at nineteen with out mistakes. What have I lost?
I gained confidence in who I am, or did I just cut out growth that has lead me to write this very blog?
Maybe if we can stop time at 19 or 25 or 39 and get to choose our own adventure and don’t like where it leads we go back to that decision and choose another adventure, erasing what we went through. By age 20, 36 or 40 we would be the person we set out to become.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Getting lost...on purpose

I started a new hobby. Get in the car and drive until I dont know where I am going. Hhhmm nice illusion to my life... Never the less its become a Saturday past time.
   I have traveled a lot, usually forcibly while moving from one state to the next. I have seen a lot and been lost many times. Now I find it fun. Today I set out with a friend to go south east and found ourselves North West of where we started.
   The town was quaint and happened to be having a street fair. Vendors filled the brick lined main street selling organic based products; selling plants, honey and recycled furniture. There was an orchestra set up on the steps of city hall and below artists drew with chalk on the sidewalk. I mentioned it to my traveling companion, this would be a great location to film a movie.
- True story.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Tick Tock

Time. The clock ticks moving hands across a face that tells me when to wake up, when to eat and when to go to bed. I hate that clock. Anticipation builds while watching the single digit on the far right move up one at a time until the plane lands. The hopes disappear as the single digit counts down to double zero. All controlled by a clock.
                                                          Slave master; the clock.
We can only be so free with a finite number of years, months, days and hours in our lives. The clock ticks backwards the second we are born. Einstein tells us that time is relative. I want to love Mondays and for a moment every Monday I do. Time is something we try to manager, allot, and one day reverse.
Sights, songs and smells can stop time and send us back in our minds to a different time. Not always a time we like to go back to.
When is it time, time to cross the street or look up an old friend? The clock ticks forward with a momentum only God can slow. Moments pass that we cling to hoping to stay forever frozen in a suspension that we can manage.
How long do I wait.

Monday, February 21, 2011

H.alf A. L.ife

I sit at a cubicle smaller than a jail cell. The walls are dreary grey fabric with pins holding printed memos of forgotten importance. Mixed in are de-motivational posters. People stand within a bodies length participating in discussions, exchanging information that will shape their futures. I sit with my head in my hands, eyes fixed on a screen full of opened but unused windows. The sound of fingers on keys and grumbles of down systems reverb over the cubicle walls to find passage into my ear canals. Still I sit.
A coworker breaths with exaggeration to let us all know he/she is hard at work with a million things to do as five o’clock speedily approaches. It doesn’t get here soon enough.
Conversations start and stop. Details are worked out and worked over.
I sit thinking of ways to escape.
In twenty minutes time I will take another bathroom break, spacing it perfectly every hour. The reasons to get out of my chair grow with the hours in the day. Print an email, get some water, talk to a co worker. All of these reasons get me out of my chair. The day lags.
Soon it will be over only to be repeated again. I’m looking for a way out.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Move your soul

I came across a blog the other day.

It’s a blog about custom motorcycles, more specifically café racers. A café racer is a bike (traditionally British) that has been trimmed down and made aerodynamic for speed. I’ve ridden a little and enjoy it. It was not the motorcycles that attracted me to the blog, it was the title…moves the soul.

Isn’t that what we all want, to have our souls moved. What does that even feel like? Ask a Christian and they will tell you, ask an atheist and they will define it with science. It doesn’t matter as long as it gets moved.

I can think of how my soul gets moved. There are things and times and memories that create a stir in my chest that can only be my soul on the move.

The first thought is always to my Scout. I grew up in that truck and have had a lot of great memories with it. She, it, is an inanimate object. I know this, I love her still. I once pulled up next to a blonde in a Ferrari. We both had our tops down. I looked over and smirked and revved very different V8’s. Nope, I wouldn’t trade her for a Ferrari or anything else Italy can hand craft.

There are memories that move my soul. Many of them happy a few sad and some that run a cycle through my mind starting and ending in the same place with the same conclusions leaving me only to reexamine them another day. These are the things that make us who we are; the moments our souls are moved. My soul moved a little to the left and I grew colder a little the right and I was impressed and up always made me smile. The soul on the move is a soul alive.

In this world of on demand and 100% recyclable we often find a soul stagnant, or something to be used and used again. Take on demand, everything at our fingertips is not always best. Blockbuster Video’s failed philosophy was the belief that people will always want to wander a store for a movie rather than sift through a list on their TV while sitting on their couch, lending proof that what we want is to have options from our fingertips. That one misguided attitude does not negate on-demand can be a soul killer. Life is in the struggle.

Recycling is smart. There are always things to be scavenged and reused. I am a survivalist who gets off on repurposing things. Oh and free-cycling is fun for the whole family. The downside to a recycle mentality is that nothing has meaning, hold real value, because the purpose becomes very limited, a purpose with an end. Obviously I am not a Hindu. If it’s coming back as a trash bag why am I drinking soda out of it now? What was it before? Maybe your tooth brush used to be the plastic thing that holds the urinal cakes in place.

Where does this leave the soul? Is it recycled, reused, repurposed? No. Don’t confuse modern mentality with ancient wisdom. What is here today and back tomorrow as something else does not move the soul.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A rebel with out a cause, reason or purpose

I finally know what angst is, I think. At 17 when most people are going through what is often described as angst I was calm, cool and collected.

It was in a study hall where I sat reading my 4wheel & off road truck magazine or drawing a maze or something that had nothing to do with anything when my concentration was broken by two girls. One a blond the other with short black hair, sat face to face heatedly discussing conflict with and over boys. I couldn’t focus on proper gear ratio to tire sizes with that cakle behind me.

I turned around. “Get over it.” I said to a pair of blank deer faces in my head lights of contempt. “This is just high school.” I went back to reading about tire tread and what works best in sand, mud or on the road.

That’s the kind of teenager I was. It lasted pretty much until I was 27 and finally finished college. Being in my mid twenties in a college town gave me unique insight, but not really. It was high school for the smart. Luckily the college was large enough to find people like me or like I would have been at 20 and in a 4 year college.

So finally out into the real world (that does not really exist) and a job I stopped liking three months in and I felt something begin to boil.

Let me back up.

In college between term papers I wrote. I wrote a lot. Show ideas where pitched to HBO and indie markets and there was interest but I couldn’t turn a dime.

Now I sit at a desk for eight hours biting my fingers to nubs and espouse random sarcasm from myself and a few other coworkers. I once had day dreams about my own cube and now it is my three gray fabric walled nightmare. I continued to write

When the money wasn’t there and the promotion after a year then two years never came I boiled over. As James Dean’s Jim Stark shouted to his parents I too wanted to shout to my boss and coworkers “You’re tearing me apart! You say one thing then he says another and everybody changes back again.” Welcome to my day job.

At the age of twenty-eight not eighteen, I was developing this dormant anxiety with no source and no outlet. Tormented everyday by not doing what I thought I would at 28.

Turning twenty-nine only made it worse. 365 days to make my dream come true. It almost did that year.

I began to understand Jim Stark and why he drank and drove fast all the while just looking to fit in. Everyday at work a rebellion takes place. From the sound of my alarm at 6am to my boss’s tip of the week on efficiency - I rebel.

Passion for a different life style fuels my 31 year old teenage angst. I don't have a reason that can explain why I want the life I do.

We all have a rebel in us. It's that need to tell the boss off and flip a desk. Reasons be damned sometimes it just feels good.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

About me is always nice

I was born in Paris only to discover I didn't speak French and was forced, mistakenly, to Australia where I learned to play the accordion. At age nine I quit my job wrestling crocodiles and took the next flight to Vienna to study art. I put the brushes down and picked up hang-gliding. After falling in and out of love I awoke with a head ache in Sub-Saharan Africa where I used salt for currency. I took a steamship to the US and to my astonishment was unable to buy things with salt.

This is generally how I like to describe myself and that is about all the personal information I will divulge. Currently I am an author and work a day job that I don't always enjoy. The day job will remain anonymous for the purpose that currently I need to keep it.

Working a day job while pursuing a new career that is painfully slow to launch is tough. The term doubling often pops into my head. The one thing I will divulge about my job is that I attempt to make peoples career dreams come true all the while dying on the inside. I call it doubling because I have to act enthused by placement numbers and people who believe they should be given a job with good pay simply because they paid for a certificate that says they are qualified. Sorry.

Doubling is a tern often applied to Nazi doctors. During the war, WWII, Nazi doctors routinely treated people (mostly Jews) in concentration camps. It was their job to ensure the slave labor was well enough to continue to work until systematically murdered. How can a doctor heal a person who's purpose is to die?

Well I help people find their dream job all the while struggling to discover mine.