Listening to the Rain

87FF5970-0CF7-4BF5-84CE-E6E59E143C91I sat there, the other day, listening to the rain. Not doing anything…not writing, not planning, not thinking about anything at all…just listening to the rain.

It’s one of my favorite sounds, the rain. A bit of thunder, and the constant patter of drops on the roof? There’s a hypnotic quality to that, a quality that encourages a certain detachment, and a certain blanking of all the things that have such a tendency — and so much power — to overwhelm our minds and our thoughts.

I was asked once, by my sister, if I could sit and meditate. If I could sit in silence and hear…nothing. No worries, no thoughts, no emotions…just sit in silence, and in peace.

Yes, I can.

I have to, it helps keep me sane.

And, no, I’m not going to dive into everything that goes into that statement. Mostly because, as honest as I usually am on this blog, the majority of my thoughts and my troubles are mine alone.  Sorry if that sounds harsh, but the need for privacy is an important part of my make-up.

There are, however, examples I can give…examples that matter. They matter to me as a writer, and (hopefully) to you folks as insight into how someone else deals with everything that goes with that life.

I just finished editing a story. It was far too long of a process — longer than it should have been, to be honest, because of my foray into other projects…and because of my six months living in the wilderness.

It is a story intensely personal to me. It is a story I believe in, and one I felt deeply as I wrote it. It also is a story I let languish in the process because, well, it was hard to go back to. But I had to finish it. I had to finish it for commercial reasons (yes, I DO like to get paid for this stuff, you know!), but more importantly I had to finish it for personal reasons.

And I did.

I don’t know about you, but when I write, I feel. I feel my characters, I feel my story, and I feel what I want my readers to feel. Probably more intensely than I should, all things considered. To abuse an old writing rule: I write what I know. More than that, however, I write what I feel…and that can be difficult.  Very difficult, sometimes.

So, I finished this particular journey of writing and editing and revising…

And I was drained. Completely.

Now, I’m an introvert at the best of times, but when I get done with an intense writing or creative session, you can multiply that by a thousand. It takes me a while to get my head back above water. I’m generally a couple of hundred feet down when I’m into my characters and my stories, and — as anyone who scuba dives will tell you — it takes time to come back up.

So I sat there, listening to the rain. The rumble of thunder, the fall of the drops…nothing in my mind except silence and peace. I needed that silence to come up from the depths. I needed that silence to regain a semblance of balance.

I still need that silence…everyday, in fact, is a quest in some way for that silence.

There is a reason why my next story is titled The Silence That Never Comes

Beware of (under)Dog

Okay, so, I’m a hockey guy. More than any other sport — heck, more than just about any other pastime at all — I obsess about hockey. I play, I coach & teach, and I watch & study…a lot. And, yes, I am one of those annoying nerds who can (and will) recite stats and records from years and decades past.

So, what does all of that hockey knowledge and obsession tell me right now?

This year is freaking weird.

NHL: Arizona Coyotes at Vegas Golden KnightsNo, honestly: you have a first year expansion team — freaking Vegas! — one game away from the Stanley Cup finals. You have another sunbelt team, Tampa this time, also well on their way. Crap, I can already hear all of Canada looking up the number for the nearest psychologist if we end up with a Cup finals between teams from two cities that don’t actually believe “snow” is a real thing.

But that’s not all. Not by a long shot.

The Hockey World Championships are going on right now, too. Now, if you’re a hockey fan, you would assume the finals of that tournament would be Canada versus, well, one of three or four “powers” — take your pick between the US, Russia, the Czechs and the Finns.

And you’d be wrong. Oh so very wrong…E6653D8A-19B1-479D-9979-3B456FD9D179

The Swedes are playing the Swiss in the gold medal game — The SWISS, for God’s sake!

Hell, most of my countrymen assume those two peoples & countries are actually the same damned thing, anyway — if they know where they are at all.

“Wait, why does that country get to have two teams?” one patron asks.

“They’re not the same,” the bartender answers. “Sweden is up north, Switzerland is next to Austria.”

“Oh, you mean they’re from New Zealand…”

*sigh*

Welcome to the US.

45DB6B61-B52E-42FC-AE5A-268E6B58EE97And poor Canada…they’re not just looking up that phone number, they’re out the door and halfway to the clinic by now. Me, on the other hand, I’m actually enjoying the crap out of this. Like most Americans, I love a good underdog. I love watching those who “have no chance” ignore that particular memo, offer up a defiant finger, and set about upsetting every single applecart in the sports world.

That is, in fact, why we play…and why we find so much drama and inspiration in sports. That’s one reason why a player like Kurt Warner is universally popular, while Tom Brady is…err…not. Or, in hockey terms, why a guy like Martin St. Louis is such a huge source of inspiration and admiration over someone like Sidney Crosby.

I’m still laughing about the whole thing, by the way.

Freaking SWITZERLAND!

Oh, and…Go Vegas!

It’s Not A Generation Gap, It’s The Grand Damned Canyon

2D95D309-98DE-4487-AEF9-A3E97964D9ABErr, this’ll be an awkward post…and also something of a long one, I think.  Remember my long-time words of warning: I don’t plan or outline these posts, they are purely organic, from brain-to-keyboard with only one read-through for editing & revision.

Oh, crap…if I have to explain myself before I so much as get to the theme and intro, I have to wonder just how badly I’ve taken leave of my senses…

Okay, so…well…I took leave of my sense a long time ago. I took leave of my senses when I walked away from a good six-figure job in search of a life that was actually fulfilling and worthwhile to me, rather than one that was about collecting a (good) paycheck and making other people happy.

Ahem, never mind. Let’s keep that particular closet door closed, shall we?

First off, a reminder that I sit pretty much outside the generally accepted “teams” in American politics. I think both sides idiotic, and that both exist and work only to benefit the few at the top by exploiting and abusing those at the bottom.

But…

But, in addition to being a writer, I’m also a historian and something of a political junkie. The first part of my day is reading…reading a shit-ton about politics and news, both here in the US and elsewhere in the world. The important thing, for me, is that I read a bit of everything. I will spend time with a piece from The National Review, then immediately follow that with something from The Nation.

I make it a point to take in material and ideas from all points of view. I don’t have to agree with what I’m reading, but how in the hell could I ever expect someone else to read and weigh any new & different ideas I may express if I’m not willing to do the same? Ideas and opinions are not communicable diseases, no one’s character or beliefs will be “infected” by reading things with which they don’t agree…

Whew…okay…that’s done. Shit, 330+ words of set-up, and only now am I ready to get started on what I actually sat down to write — is 8:00am too early for scotch?

I read an opinion piece this morning that got me to thinking. It got me to thinking about the differences in today’s politics. Not the differences between the teams, but the differences within them. Now, look…my politics and beliefs are pretty damned different from what I grew up with, and from anyone else in my immediate family. But I’ll be damned if I’ve ever had the energy to sit down and write about the hows and whys of those differences.

1A73C0FF-925F-48B3-A883-38E7C4E2EE49Now, maybe it’s because I’ve been completely immersed in the “world” and outlook of younger folks for the last couple of years (given the trilogy of stories I’m writing), but I’m incredibly conscious of the differences between generations at the moment. And, no, I’m not talking about the bullshit judgmentalism of those who attack and blame other generations: “Millennials are all lazy and entitled brats” or “Baby Boomers are evil fucks clinging too long to money and life” or “Gen Xers are hypocritical asswagons making everything worse”. No, I’m talking about the very real differences in outlook and beliefs, the very real differences that create not just different dynamics, but entirely different ways of looking at the universe, that are all-but mutually incomprehensible between generations. And it’s not just politics, it’s social and cultural and economic, as well.

The simple fact of the matter is that those differences are just getting worse; my parents live in a totally different world from their children. And my generation? We’re not quite that disassociated, but we’re close — far too many of my generation are following our parents into a world of blinders and knee-jerk beliefs/responses that are already old and “out of date”.

And the worst part? Far too few people even bother to notice the disconnects, let alone worry about what they presage for the future. That socio-political conflict I see coming in the next couple of decades? Yeah, it’s gonna be generational, too.

Okay, so what got me thinking about all of this? This particular opinion piece: “How Conservatives Can Win Back Young Americans.” Now, look, I know it’s the Weekly Standard…I know that, if you’re not of a very specific political group (a small group, at that), that magazine might as well be Serial Killers Weekly, but remember what I said above: ideas and opinions won’t kill you.

Hell, personally, I think Noam Chomsky is (politically & economically) a raving lunatic.  But he is also one of the smartest men on the planet…and, yes, I read the hell out of him as part of my Linguistics degree.

I posted the link above because I think the piece is a worthwhile read. For folks of the conservative political stripe — yes, Mom & Dad, I’m talking to you! — it’s worth it for the political advice. For folks like me, who are not on either team, and even for folks on the liberal/progressive side of the field, it is worth reading for what are, in fact, pretty good insights into some of the generational differences at play in the US today.

We cannot bridge gaps, let alone solve problems, if we aren’t able to understand the them…and the perhaps the biggest gap today, and the fastest growing problem, is the vast, yawning chasm between the younger generations and the older.

P.S.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to write a coherent post about politics while blasting a Stevie Ray Vaughn live album? I really want to be outside at a concert somewhere, right about now…

 

P.P.S.

Okay, so it has nothing really to do with this post, other than illustrating one aspect of the Democrat-Republican divide, but I still think the chart below is hilarious (given just where I do all my writing):

E5EBFD57-6B36-400E-ACE2-15881CEB04B6

My Favorite Writer…

And I thought this past year couldn’t get any worse. After Ursula LeGuin died, then Stephen Hawking, I thought it was over…I thought there were no more heroes of mine to go.

Holy shit, was I wrong.

Tom Wolfe is dead.

Just writing that is horrifying. Those words tell of the loss of a voice and insight that we as a society desperately need. We need that voice to keep us honest, to mock our assumptions and our egos, to shine a light on the delusions and dishonesties that so often define us.

And that voice has been stilled.

I’ve been reading since I was little boy. I loved stories…I reveled in stories…I obsessed about stories…but it wasn’t until my first brush with Tom Wolfe that I truly understood just how much more a story could be. He was neither reporter nor novelist, he was the best of both. His style and wit and way with words was the genius child of those two oh-so-average parents.

Wolfe often pissed-off those people and institutions about which he wrote, and he didn’t give a damn. And that is the way it should be…the only way it could be, if the criticisms and insights are to have any value. He enjoyed the attacks of critics, and the back-and-forth spats of essay and counter-essay, as much as he did any praise or success.

I’ve talked before about why I write, about what drives me both internally and externally. I’ve also talked about those who influenced me, about Cherryh and LeGuin and Zelazny and Eddings. But the most important influences, those who taught me to say something when I write…well…they’re both gone, now.

Losing Solzhenitsyn ten years ago was hard, but at least I had one of that pair left.

Now Wolfe is gone, too, and who is there to look to? Who is there with the level of talent and insight, with the intelligence and wit, with the sheer humanity, of those two?

IMG_0720Raise a glass, folks. Raise a glass and toast the loss…then get your ass out there and start re-reading.