Winter

Yay for stream-of-consciousness blogging today…?

What’s that, you say?  Why am I going all last-minute random on this post?

Because I’m a slacker…we’ve covered that already.  Sheesh.

writerThere was a time — not so long ago — when I kept 2-3 posts queued up, ready to go.  Those days, unfortunately, have long-since passed in a fog laziness and distraction.  So, instead, I sat down this morning, music blaring in my ears and my 2nd coffee (pot) of the day near at hand, and stared blankly at my iPad…

Should I do another random, funny post?  No, not really feelin’ all that funny this morning.

How about a flash fiction piece?  No, that’s for Fridays.

Maybe another politics post?  Oh, hell no.  I just took a shower, I don’t need to get down into the muck and mud, thank you very much.

Well, shit…maybe it’s time to, err, do a post on what this blog is ostensibly about: writing.*

*I should probably, by the way, update the “About” section of the blog, it hasn’t been anything close to the reality of how I write this in like two years.

Screw my iPad, I’m looking out the window now.  I’m looking out at the tail end of a snowstorm, at a grove of bare aspens half-buried in the drifts, at a frozen lake in the distance and a herd of deer digging for breakfast in the foreground, at an adolescent bobcat frustrated as hell because she’s too small to actually get one of those deer…

Err, yeah, I left the city behind for a reason.

Now, if I wanted to go all ambitious and thoughtful, I’d get into symbolism and meaning…get into how we — err, how I — try to use ostensibly “background” images and activities to communicate our — my — own thoughts and feelings as part of the story.

Err…umm…doing that full topic would be a lot of work.*  I think I’ll narrow it down…and then narrow it some more.

*Umm…slacker?  Remember?

Weather.  No, really, I’m gonna talk about the freaking weather, for Pete’s sake.

Weather affects everything in the real world…and should in the written world, too.  From the rhythm and realities of life in the city as much as in the wilds, to our very moods and customs, weather is arguably the most dominant force in our lives.  What, you don’t believe me?

Have you ever been in the far north in midwinter?  In the butt-ass cold?  No sun?  Nothing but snow and cold and dreariness?  Yeah, cabin-fever is very real.

Have you ever lived at the beach?  Warmed yourself in the sun after a day of play in the waves?  

Have you ever lived amidst that stifling, miserable mix of heat and humidity?  Felt air so thick you could barely move through it?

Yeah, that’s all weather — err, well, it’s weather and climate, actually, but I think I’ll skip the pedantry today.  

So what does any of that mean in regards to writing?  How does weather come into (symbolic) play?

That’s a far more personal, and complicated, thing to answer than you might think.  Oh, sure, I could go back to high school creative writing and literature classes and quote the “standard” line about winter=death, spring=rebirth, etc… but that’s all simplistic bullshit.*

*Sorry, high school kids, but most of the curriculum they’re throwing at you is simplistic bullshit…

Look, I lived in northern New England, I understand cabin-fever.  I understand even more the dreary misery the depths of winter can bring, the depression that comes with entire weeks at a time with no sight of the sun…but I still love the winter.  I love a good snowstorm…just as much as I love being the first to hike the backcountry when that storm has passed.  I love the bite of the cold when I’m out, and the almost-unbearable heat that first hits when I come back inside.  I love sitting in front of a much-needed fire, and I love sitting out on the deck all bundled-up…

In short, winter does NOT equal the “season of death” for me.  Winter does NOT automatically equate to pain and misery and decay.  Not to go all-in on sophomoric philosophy, but winter is, for me, a necessary part of the cycle.  You have to have a time for sleep, a time for cold, a time for things to slow down, in order to have anything else.  Without winter, there is no spring.  Without winter, there is no life.

There is a reason, after all, why every single civilization/society in the far northern latitudes has a traditional celebration of warmth and life in the midst of winter.  Yes, some of that goes back to a sense of defiance of the cold and “death” of winter, but it also goes back to a feeling of re-gathering one’s strength, a feeling of freshness and preparation.  In sports terms, it goes back to that feeling of build-up you get in the locker room just before your step out onto the field (or the ice, in my case).

Crap, when I started working on this post, I fully intended it to be about writing, to be about how I use the weather to clue the reader in to my protagonist’s relationship with the Universe at any given moment.  Umm…  Err…  Ahh…

*sigh*

m0crikey_m_khakiIf I try to dive into that at this point, after 850+ words already, we’d be looking at a 3,000 word post.  Crikey!  Remember, by the way, when I mentioned that I’m a wordy sonofabitch?  That I started this blog as a way of working on short-form writing?  Yeah, today’s post just might be Exhibit A for why I need that practice…

Still, I want to close this out with at least something about writing.  Specifically, I want to close it out with a bit about how “overlooked” background elements can — and should, I say! — be used to indicate far more than just atmosphere and mood.

Bear with me, I’ll (try to) keep this short.  In the movie Casino, Martin Scorsese uses DeNiro’s clothes to indicate the character’s deteriorating mental, emotional and ethical state, to indicate how Rothstein (DeNiro) is breaking down as things fall apart.  As the movie progresses, his clothes move from stylish-but-restrained into colors and styles that are more extreme, that are brighter and more aggressive.  By the end of the movie, those clothes are in complete contrast to what he wore when he first moved to Vegas…just as is the character.  In terms of what I hinted at above — about how I use the weather in my writing — DeNiro’s clothes indicate the character’s relationship with the Universe…

In my writing, when I use winter, I am trying to imply more than just death, more than just misery and depression and despair.  I am trying to hint at rebirths and changes to come, at the re-gathering of focus and energy…oh, and at cabin-fever and frostbite, too.

Flash Fiction Friday: “Lost”

The danger of flash/micro fiction, by the way, is in making sure that the pieces you create are stories. They most common result, unfortunately, is for those few hundred words to simply be a scene, or a thought.  To make them into a story is hard…and that is where I fail most of the time.

It helps to have a plan for the piece…a plan over and above that one thought or image that gave rise to it. The piece below is one of those failures.  Oh, I had a vision — I had the symbols I wanted to use, and the driving thought — but the story…the story was lacking.*

*Err…if you haven’t tried it, to conceptualize, write and edit a story in under an hour ain’t exactly easy…

Still, I haven’t posted a flash fiction piece in a while, so here goes:

“Lost”

There was no sky, only clouds.  There was no sun, no light, only clouds, leaden and grey.

There was a path for me to follow, ahead, but it was faint and intermittent, nothing more than the barest bit of game trail.

I was lost.  Again.

The trail meandered, as they so often will, and the sky offered no help.  All I had were the unfamiliar hills and the bowl of trees and rocks in which I stood.  A place I had never seen.  The last familiar ground was too far behind to turn back, the last landmark a fading memory, and the way ahead even more uncertain.

I had nothing to steer by, nothing to guide me, nothing of comfort or care.  All I had was me, and a lifetime of being lost.

I walked, then.  The game trail came and went, a distant friend visited only in passing.  My feet followed instead that lifetime of being lost, followed the path of experience and memory.  When everything ahead is strange and dangerous, that is what you trust: experience and memory.

When you fall down a hole, people say, you stop digging.  When you get lost, you stop walking and wait for help.

Bullshit.

There is no help, no one coming to save you.  You put one foot in front of the other and walk, from one tree, one hill, to the next.  I put one foot in front of the other, then, and walked…from one tree, one hill, to the next.

The clouds hung lower and lower, the sky grew ever more threatening and cold.  My one friend, that faint trail, disappeared and still I walked.  My only survival was in walking, in progress.  To stop was to die.  I knew that.  From long experience I knew that.

No food, little water, my energy fading, I knew the next hill would be the last.  I couldn’t climb another.  Being lost had finally caught up with me.

The sky grew brighter, even as I climbed.  The clouds began to thin, the sun to return.  I stood at the crest, then.  I stood at the crest and stared.  The sun had moved, the world had shifted, and what lay before my feet was…unexpected.

The world hadn’t moved, the sun hadn’t shifted, I had.

What lay ahead was a valley I knew well, the trailhead where I had begun so many days before.  I stood and stared, more lost and confused than I had been in the mountains themselves.

I was home, I was safe.

I turned around and began walking to the next valley.

Phrase o’ the Day: Ectoplasmic Tommy Gun!

Hrm…  Okay, so I’m still playing catch-up on posts, which means I think it might be time for the writerly equivalent of the puzzled shrug…that old slacker favorite, the list:

  1. I read a few news bits over the last couple of days about the State of the Union.  More specifically, about postponing or cancelling the thing because of the government “shutdown.”  To these pieces — and to the concept of delaying/cancelling — I say, “Well, duh.”  Is there a more pointless or pathetic example of kabuki theater than the freaking State of the Union?  For a long, long time the damned thing was just a letter sent to Congress, not the spectacle of imperial excess and extravagance that we have now.  Shit, all the Constitution requires is “notification” to Congress of the state of the union (note the lack of capitals!).  coronation_of_nicholas_ii_by_l.tuxen_(1898,_hermitage)What it does not require are speeches carefully scripted and crafted with *wait for applause* moments.  What it does not require is the expenditure of millions of dollars on something we already know will be cheered by one team and booed by the other, regardless of content or message.  What it does not require is empty pomp and circumstance and ceremony from 500+ people who can’t even do their fucking jobs.
  2. Ahem.  Rant over.  Thanks for your patience.
  3. Britain and the EU.  Oh, Britain and the EU…  As a history-nerd, I absolutely love the political maneuvering and shenanigans on display.  As an English history-nerd, I am completely appalled by the sheer incompetence on display.  I mean…shit…how in God’s name can you make the US Congress look like freaking workaholic geniuses?!?!  winston-churchill-with-tommy-gun_a-g-7613085-0Churchill isn’t turning over in his grave, he’s off getting pass-out drunk.  Every single person at Westminster — both government and opposition — should be happy his ghost is just doing that, by the way…otherwise he’d be stalking the halls with an ectoplasmic tommy gun, taking them all out.*  Look, I love both England and Europe as a whole…but the EU is an idiocy.  As a trade union, it’s great.  As a common market, it’s perfect.  As the “ever closer union” trying to force 27 very, very different nations/peoples/societies/cultures to turn into some bastard-mutant-child of the worst parts of France and Germany, it’s nothing more than the rankest insanity.  Unfortunately, like every single example in history of “technocrats” and “elites” who “know better,” who know “what’s good for you,” they won’t — they can’t — let even one single person slip from their control…
  4. *Churchill 2: He’s Back, And He’s Pissed! — hey, I’d pay to watch it!
  5. It’s gonna snow again in a couple of days…and I can’t freaking wait.  After the last dumping, I took off for a moderate off-trail hike.  Now, it can be hard in Colorado to find “untrammeled wilderness” without having to go deep into the mountains, but a nice knee-deep coating of snow with no footprints from anything or anyone but the wildlife is a nice freaking start. I’m getting the itch again, by the way, for one of those 6-month jaunts off to…err…well…nowhere in particular.  Go back to Krakow or Tallinn or Prague as an illegal alien, working tour gigs and bartending…or hike the Pacific Crest Trail…
  6. Yep, there’s a song for #5 too!:

The Dog Ate My Post

img_0011I joke about being a slacker…err, make that: I “joke” about being a slacker…

Ahem.

Like all humor, even stupid jokes have to have an element of truth to them.  In this case, it ain’t an “element” so much as, well, the totality of the damned thing.

I thought I had a blog post scheduled for yesterday.  I mean, c’mon…I remember writing one, so what the hell happened to it?

No, really, what the hell happened to it?!

How do you lose a freaking electronic blog post?  That’s taking my slackerdom to All Star status…

Anyway, I promised to be regular on this blog again, so I have to get something up.

*sigh*

Ain’t nothin’ for it, I’ll have to post a random rant piece I have sitting in my Drafts section, one I tossed off just to kill some time while I was waiting for friends.

Crap, 2019 ain’t exactly starting off gangbusters, is it?  Anyway, here’s the rant:

Are you kidding me?

No, really — are freaking kidding me?!

Look, folks, we’ve talked before about my, err, penchant for taprooms and breweries.  We’ve also talked about my impatience and intolerance for shitty taprooms.  Crap, you spent a (bare) minimum of $300,000 to open a brewery — and very,  very likely a great deal more than that — so how the hell do you screw up the face of that business?!

C’mon…a bad taproom is the brewery-equivalent of McDonalds hanging a dead rat on their front door, for fuck’s sake…

So why — why?  Why?  WHY? — do so many places screw up even the most basic stuff?

*sigh*

Okay, so I’m a perfectionist.  Sue me.  Part of the price of living & working chest deep in the craft brewing world is the burden of expectations and standards.

Crap, I admit it, this rant is one of those half-drunk posts I’ve warned y’all about before.  I’m sitting in the taproom of a brewery, waiting for some friends, and…well…  My headache is steadily growing, my patience slowly shrinking, and my beer-nerd-gland slowly putting a gun to its head as the only escape.

Music was meant to be heard and enjoyed, it was not meant to drive straight through my skull, leaving a trail of burned and gutted brain cells in its wake.  I can kill my own brain cells quite well, thank you very much.

bb53af64-d9f4-44e0-9c23-89519108165fAnd the chairs…

Shit, breweries are my crack, it doesn’t take a hell of a lot to make me all warm and happy.  I’ve spent time drinking in places from Tijuana to Tallinn, and every place in between, so I’m not the most demanding guy in the world.  But, and this is — pun intended — a big but, my ass shouldn’t feel like the entire freaking cast and crew of Deliverance had their way with it after just fifteen minutes of sitting on these cheap, metal stools…

Now get off my lawn, I have beer to drink!