Being A Kid Again

I was not happy with The Force Awakens.  You have no idea how hard it is to write that…let alone how hard to think it.  Star Wars is my childhood.  My current fascination with photography was born from that movie, the first film I really remember in detail.  And don’t even get me started on my love of sci-fi and fantasy…

As bad as were the three prequels, the three “originals” are the apex for me in oh so many ways.

That is why, honestly, it was so hard to be disappointed with The Force Awakens.  I wanted very much to fall in love with that movie, but it failed on just way too many levels.

But Star Wars is Star Wars, and I could only hold out for so long: I finally sat down to watch Rogue One.

I was, sadly, prepared to be disappointed.

Oh boy, was I not.

This is the Star Wars movie we’ve been waiting for since Return of the Jedithis is what Force Awakens should have been.  I rediscovered the magic of being that young kid sitting again in the theater and losing myself in a movie.

It sounds inadequate, but I can think of no higher praise to offer the writers and director and cast than to say, “You gave me back the magic.”

Well done, folks.  Well done.

I Never Did Listen Well

I’ve been told I shouldn’t do these, I shouldn’t post snippets.

“Don’t give your stuff away, even if it’s an initial draft.”  “Too many complications, just keep it to yourself.”

Screw it, I don’t care.  I write…that’s who I am.  I write so people can read.  I write to share characters and stories, to share emotion and thought.  Everything else is just noise.  So…a snippet:

The guitar was a part of Connor, body and soul. The words and the music even more so. All of his emotion, and all of his memory, had been pouring into his music for the better part of two hours.

Connor did not lay himself bare to strangers. Hell, Connor did not lay himself bare to himself. The memories of those that mattered were too sore, and too near, however, for such control when he was playing.

Into every word and note of his music went all of the pain and loss – and the guilt and shame – that bore the names and memories of his ghosts: of his dad, of Marie and Vin…and of Oz. Always of Oz.

A final line sung about the price always waiting to be paid and he bowed his head, listened to the diminishing notes of the music. The heat on that stage, and the effort of his performance, had almost as much sweat pouring from him as emotion. The small, packed bar echoed with the crowd’s cheering applause, but Connor couldn’t hear them. The memories, and the unshed tears, were too loud.

A few breaths, a few precious seconds to gather himself, and the spotlight faded.

Thank you, Spog. I wish you’d sung to me before.

How did you answer that?

You remembered, and you felt, that’s how.

He could barely raise his arm, so much energy had he spent. But then again, he didn’t need much energy to drain the tumbler of whiskey at his elbow. There might be no forgiveness in alcohol, but there was numbness. He was going to need an awful lot of numbness after the music.

But not for anything would he trade that music. Nor the memories. His friends – his family – were dead, but they would always live in his music…and in his soul. They were something he could hold to, something he needed very badly.

Another drink was pressed into his hand, a babble of voices talked to him. He looked around, he answered and he drank. But it all took place in a daze, his body responding and functioning by the purest instinct and habit.

That daze didn’t end until a voice spoke; a voice he did not expect.

“You made me cry tonight, Connor. You promised never to do that again.”

He looked up. He couldn’t not look up, as hard as it was to do. No, he wanted to run away and hide. He wanted very much to hide.

It was Nat.

Connor hadn’t felt like this since the night he’d held Oz’s dying body: helpless and hopeless and beyond words.

Talk to her, Spog. Say something, you crazy ikiryo.

You could tell me what to say, he thought back to his dead friend.

Oz’s only answer was the faintest of laughs, and the memory of warmth…and of love.

[Edit: cleaned up the paragraphs…copying stuff from my usual writing program into WordPress can be funky sometimes.]

What We’ve Done

I read an article the other day talking about the younger generation(s).  You know the ones I’m talking about: the stories that complain about how millennials and/or gen-z’ers are living with family more than ever before.  Normally I hear and see so many shallow, pointless stories like these that they don’t even register.  It’s just the same old stuff, put out over and over by lazy editors and even lazier writers.

But there was one random occurrence that brought this story to the front of my mind: at right about the same time I heard a radio ad for a retirement home.  This ad featured a couple of people complaining about how hard and time-consuming and expensive it was to take care of their parents as age set in.

I had to stop and think for a bit about the hypocrisy and insanity of it all: WHEN THE HELL DID WE FORGET THE CONCEPT OF FAMILY?!

The world is about more than just “me”.  It has to be about more, because the only alternative is that infamously savage life: nasty, brutish and short.  The subtext of both article and ad was the same: no one “normal” would ever want to care for aging parents, or help out emerging young adults.

For the vast majority of human history the important unit was not the individual, but rather the family.  More than that, it was the extended family.  Extended across generations and branches far more than we Americans like to think about in this day and age.

Honestly, we’re the outliers in this whole thing.

It is only in the last 100 years or so that the restrictive, internally focused and exclusionary concept of the “nuclear family” took such strong hold.  That concept that dictates a kid leave the house as soon as possible to start “his/her own family”, that says you’re on your own as soon as you do leave.  Worse, it adds the unspoken concept that family is something merely to be endured, or to be exploited, rather than a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

Don’t get me wrong: there is a time and a place for the needs of the individual to take precedence, but surely that does not have to be the totality?  Surely the world is not a zero sum game, and the success of an individual can and does benefit the family as a whole?

That long example of human history I mentioned?  It tells us the resources of a family (not just money, but also influence, standing, relationships, knowledge, etc…) were the property of the family itself, not the individual members.  No, not even the individual who was the “head”.  Everything was a tool to ensure the family prospered and survived.

It’s alien to us nowadays, but the family really did carry a sense of caretaking, and of honoring the generations before and the generations yet to come.  Things like: 3, 4 or even 5 generations sharing a farm/company…great-grandkids helping to care for the old ones when life gets heavy…the realities and struggles of life shared between cousins, not just as updates on Facebook…that list can go on for a long, long time…

Instead we now have this vision of “one man (or woman) alone”.  We hold to the vision – venerate it, even – of leaving your family behind and “striking out on your own”, then have the temerity to wonder why the world is falling apart around us?

I think we can all agree that our society has problems – many problems – but the realization we never seem to get to is that WE’RE RESPONSIBLE.  All of us: old and young, prosperous and poor, influential and powerless, we all played our role in getting to where we are now.  We changed the rules, we taught the lessons, we created the messages, and now we are reaping what we sowed.

I’ve mentioned before that it doesn’t matter to me if you’re liberal or conservative…or even if, like me, you’re standing off to one side with a beer and a pretzel and a puzzled frown.  The only thing I care about is how you live your life.  Well, this is about how you live your life.  If you want to make things better, to help “fix” things, then the place to start is the very concept upon which all of human society is built: the family.

The Clothes That Don’t Fit Anymore

I have a post I’m sitting on at the moment. It touches on the challenges of economics for writers. Well, not so much on the specific economics, but rather on the confluence of frustration and desperation that so often comes with that topic for us. And how the despair and pressure can build into a hopelessness that makes it hard to actually, you know, write.

But there’s a hell of a lot more to the frustrations, and the lack of confidence, than just money. So I decided to write a follow-up to a post I’m not sure I’m even going to use. Huh, go figure.

I’ll repeat something I’ve said before: every single writer out there should do something else, something in addition to writing. Some other form of artistic outlet to hone and strengthen your creativity and brain in different ways. Personally, I do photography. I’ve even gone so far as to use it for another (small) source of income.

Now, maybe it’s because photography really is just a hobby for me, but that avocation very much comes second to writing in every way. It has also never ground me down in the same way writing has.

Sure, from time to time I look at a few of my pictures and think, “What the hell happened with this?!” But then that reaction turns into a shrug and recognition that I’ll keep shooting pictures anyway. I can only get better, right?

So why do I struggle to do that with writing?

I have my issues in life, God knows, but there really is nothing so up and down for me as writing. Nothing else that leaves me so often questioning my basic assumptions about myself. Nothing else that can – and does – grind me down in the same way, and make me wonder if “You want fries with that?” is such a bad career move, after all…

We all have them: those days and times when you just can’t muster the energy – or the drive – to craft the words. When that little demon at the back of your mind whispers, “This isn’t for you. You’re not smart enough, not experienced enough, not ready.”

Not, when you get right down to it, good enough.

That demon doesn’t yell and screech. No sir, not for me. But his quiet little voice never goes away. He just whispers and whispers, and sometimes – more often than I’d like to admit – those whispers get through.

I’ve done my time working in offices. I wore the clothes and lived the life of a successful sales & marketing guy. When that little demon gets through, and when the grinding of reality starts to hurt, that’s when I start thinking about putting on again those clothes.

But…

But then those times come when it all clicks. When you craft a scene that, no matter what that little demon whispers, you know just plain worked. For me, those are the times that remind me that being a writer is less what I do and more who I am.

I wear the clothes of a writer now. Every time nowadays that I try to put on those old, professional clothes, it turns me into a dancing bear: a freak and a fool pretending to be something he is not.

I’ve been that guy that parties and has a good time. I’ve also been successful and serious. I’ve seen and done things a lot of folks can, honestly, only dream of. And in the end, nothing I’ve ever done or seen or been can come close to that feeling when a scene just works. That time when the payoff makes all the pain and doubt and despair worth it.

Music and writing go hand in hand for me, so I’ll close with a line from the song that got me thinking about this:

“But the clothes I wore / just don’t fit my soul anymore” – The Gaslight Anthem, “Orphans”

Flash Fiction: Unfucking A Life

Okay – bit of an odd post here: I just noticed that Wednesday’s post was (officially) my 100th post since I started this blog.  It is also, based on the renewal notice I just got, the one year mark for this blog.

So, in honor of those milestones, I am doing an extra post this week!  I am, of course, far too lazy to write a full, real post.  Instead, I am going to put in an entry I just submitted for a flash fiction contest.  Enjoy (I hope)!

The rules were simple – tell a story in a 100 words:

We’re all broken.

I don’t know much, but that I understand.

Some of us just hide better how we’re fucked up.

For years, I did.

Then the booze and pills took over again.  They took over as much as they had in the first place.

My memory burned: a face, and the quiet whisper of a voice I couldn’t quite hear.  But the eyes…those eyes always remained.

Emotion and memory, words and reality.  That face said more than any book I’d ever read.

Just how do you get it all back?

The trigger was the loudest sound I’d ever heard.

As a note of explanation: I very intentionally want the reader to read into this.  I do not want to say if it is murder, suicide or something else…  I love the concept of the literary Rohrschach Test, and this is very much intended to be one of those.

Optimates vs. Populares*

*Hey, I get to use that Roman history degree! Yeehaw!!

You talk to folks who are politically active – or even folks like me who just can’t stop ourselves from slowing down to stare at the car wreck – and most of what you hear are comments about the huge divides in modern politics. Lamentations, really, for the deep splits between left and right, progressive and conservative, Chevy and Ford…

The thing of it? That’s not the real problem. Oh, I know that’s what everyone wants to talk about, especially the self proclaimed “experts”. That left-right split, so old and traditional and dating back to the French Revolution, is just an easier sell for talking heads and TV ‘splainers than is reality. Anyone over the age of sixteen has had that dynamic engraved too deeply into their brain cells to ever really let go of it.

But it’s a load of facile crap. The problem does not lie in the tension between left and right; both of those, err, “systems” need each other far too much in order to survive. No bogeyman means no opponent, and no opponent means nothing to focus their energy upon. That’s the easy bit.

The hard bit, and the real divide and the real danger, lies not between left and right but between the entrenched – those with the power and the connections and the influence – and, well, the rest of us. You know, us regular schmucks who get zero voice in any of it.

I don’t care if you want to create a socialist utopia or shrink government to the point where you can drown it in a bathtub, if you ain’t one of the privileged few, you’re simply part of “the rest of us”. There’s only pitchers and catchers in this world, and 99% of us sure as hell ain’t throwin’…

To quote the immortal Jayne Cobb: “You people’ve been given the shortest end of the stick ever offered a human soul in this crap-heel ‘verse. But you took that end and…well…you took it!”

The easy metaphor is to refer to “the DC crowd”. And, for the most part, that is accurate: anyone making their living in and around Washington DC is very much part of the problem. But let’s not leave off the hook the donors and consultants and “thought leaders”. The folks who get the input, and who get to make their own rules…the elites, as they love to think of themselves.

You ever wonder why, no matter who is in power, we continue to get the same shit over and over? Yeah, that’s because there is no right and wrong, no conservative or liberal, no nothing beyond the self-interest and benefit of the few in power.

And, yes, I’ll trot out the old 60’s term – hey, I have a history degree, and sometimes the oldies really are the goodies – it’s the folks who are the establishment. That shallow, slime-filled pool of Ivy League-educated, Manhattan/DC/Boston/SanFran dwelling psychopaths who will do anything to ensure their own power and control.

If you’re on the left, you have ’em on your side: Chuck Schumer, the Clintons, George Soros, Tom Steyer, etc… And if you’re on the right, you’ve got ’em, too: Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, the Kochs, the Bushes, Grover Norquist…*

*Nope – still not touchin’ the Trump or Obama administrations. No sir, my personal thoughts/politics are still kinda-sorta off-limits.

I should probably point out at this point that this is why my current protagonist pretty much…well…hates everyone (not to put too fine a point on it). I’ve mentioned before, and I firmly believe, that in most of life there are no good guys and bad guys, there are just shades of gray. But let me amend that a bit: from a personal perspective, both mine and Connor’s, the actual bad guys are pretty much anyone who puts the value of power and influence above getting shit done.

I’ll close with a quote from Connor in one of Silence’s later scenes: “When you fuck people over because you hate ’em, that’s wrong. When you do it because you just don’t give a shit, that’s fucking evil.”

Happy Squirrel Day!

So, well, umm…I had another post written and queued up for this morning, but on review I decided to backtrack and take a left instead. When something is too snarky and irritated even for me, you know it’s time for a rewrite! Back to the drawing board…

I’m sitting here in that late-morning interim you only really get on holidays. In this case, it’s an Easter thing. I did the early morning church visit already, and have a couple of hours until I get together with some other folks for…err…well…there’s no way to soften the blow: lamb.

Yes, we’re cooking a whole lamb. Sorry. It’s fluffy and cuddly and cute…and absolutely delicious!

Yes, I’m a carnivore…and my ancestors worked too damned hard getting to the top of the food chain for me to waste their effort. One of my commandments in life comes from Andrew Zimmern: “if it looks good, eat it.”

Crap…well, there goes Plan B, too. I was fully intending to do a serious, thoughtful post this morning. Something focused on trying to affirm life, the universe and everything*. You know, the verbose version of a Hallmark card.

*Yes, I am in fact re-reading that book/series for about the 100th time!IMG_0162

But the squirrels took over.

The squirrels are strong this morning.

So now I’m thinking about lamb. And risotto. And pie…there will definitely be pie before today is done. Frankly, you can keep the risotto (even though I’m making it); all I want is lamb and pie.

Well, that and beer…but it’s a holiday, so I won’t talk about that.

By the way, if you happen to walk by a guy at the coffee shop this morning, and he’s on his hands and knees under the table, don’t worry about it: that’s just me looking for a damned point to make…

Punching The Fans

“Never underestimate the influence of stupidity on history.”

The above is a quote from one of my mentors back in college that has stuck with me all these years. Every time I start to forget or ignore that maxim, some entity (person, country, etc…) does something so plainly, painfully idiotic that I can only shake my head and remember Professor Frank’s words…

Thanks, United Airlines, for reminding me just what fucknuts humans can be.

The worst part? I’m not even talking about the fact that they – literally – pulled a guy physically off the plane and beat the shit out of him. No, I’m talking about the response from their jackass CEO. You know, those initial Monday words that he now can’t backpedal away from fast enough or far enough.

Now, I’ve mentioned before that my professional background is sales and marketing. I escaped that particular prison camp, thankfully, but the skills and knowledge are still there. It really ain’t all that hard, folks: you don’t insult the shit out of your customers when trying to cover up your own incompetence.

The best words are still those I once had to use to a player on a minor league team I worked for (when I was still involved in sports): you don’t punch the fucking fans!

No, Mr. CEO, you don’t fuck up then go out and blame everyone else. You go out and suck-up and grovel and apologize like a six year old caught in the act. Then, behind the scenes, you fix shit and make sure it never happens again. That way you get to keep your job. As of right now, I would not put any kind of bet on Mr. Munoz’s survival in that organization. Nope, not a chance – oh, he’ll last a few months, maybe even a year, to let things die down, then he’ll “resign” to “spend more time with family”.

The moral of this little story is this: people do really, really stupid shit.

Even smart, capable folks have those moments when they can fuck up taking a bunch of sailors to a brothel, let alone running a company. Or a country.

That, honestly, is something we writers need to remember for our own characters as well. Yes, you want to plot tightly and have multiple layers and complex dynamics. But sometimes someone just has to do something incredibly stupid to actually be believable.

Now, in reality, that person is probably going to be your protagonist…which is as it should be. If your protagonist is far too smart and capable to “punch the fans”, you’ve got yourself a Mary Sue. You don’t want that. Trust me.

When Creativity Turns To The Dark-Side

I’m a hockey guy.  That, err, might be a bit of an understatement.  I need a hockey 12-step program, to be honest.  We will, however, leave aside my OCD for all things hockey for the moment.  At least for long enough to make my point, anyway…

Both of my teams in the NHL were eliminated from playoff contention a while ago*, so I have this empty space to fill.  This does not make me happy.image

*Yay teams!

So, here I am, writing this post on the weekend of the Masters tournament.  Now, I should point out for the less “sporty”: there is no universe or reality in which golf is a suitable stand-in for hockey.  Shit, golf isn’t even a stand-in for freaking curling!  It does, however, make good background noise for napping and other sedentary activities (like professional bar-flying, for instance).

So one of the sports guys is on TV talking about how the favorite to win the Masters dropped out because his back was sore after tripping on the stairs.

Oh, for fuck’s sake!

Peter Forsberg played a hockey game with a ruptured goddamned spleen!  Shit, I wrenched my back (wiping out on my bike…don’t ask) and did I stop going to the brewery?  No, no I did not.  Now that is professional dedication!

Okay, Mr. Minion, so why the hell are you talking about this?

Excuses.  And, specifically, the making thereof.

Don’t get me wrong: I am a world-class excuse maker.  An old boss of mine finally told me to stop giving him reasons why I wasn’t coming in because they were far more entertaining than the rest of his day.

I’m pretty sure I reached peak-bullshit when I called in sick because I wrenched my elbow saving a toddler from vicious, marauding kangaroos…

img_0011I have mentioned my commitment to full-time slackerdom, have I not?  Believe it or not, I had ambition once.  Once.  Then it met someone better and dumped me.

Shit…now that was a serious squirrel-moment!  Never mind.

Ahem…back to excuses: “I’m still not sure about the direction of the scene.”  “I have more research and prep to do.”  “I’m just not in the mood.”  “I have writer’s block.”

We call ourselves artists and creative professionals…but we are oh-so-good at finding reasons to not do what it is we do.  You cannot be a writer if you do not…I don’t know, let’s see: write.

For me the big problem is being at home versus out in the wild.  I have convinced myself I can’t write at home, so now I can’t write at home.  That, at least, is the excuse I tell myself.  Marauding kangaroos would be more believable…or a sore back from tripping on the stairs.

I am a month behind on Silence at this point.  I have let myself make too many excuses, and found too many reasons to not write.

Writing is, very literally, who I am: if I’m not writing, then who the hell am I?  An under-employed ex-sales&marketing-monkey with delusions of adequacy…?

Hell, the shame alone is enough to make me start writing again!

The Snippets Shall Rise Again

It’s been a while since I posted a snippet, so I guess it’s time once again.

I do have to say, when I was proofreading the bit below, a thought hit me: why are my worst days (on a personal level) also my best writing days?

I suppose it’s because writing is a retreat from the real world. You get to write about someone else’s problems and ignore your own…if only for a couple of hours. Of course, given the tone and content of my current story, the writing also gives me a chance to vent about ‘real world’ shit.

The bit I am going to post is, err…well…angry, to be blunt. That, at least, was my state of mind when I wrote it. It is not a complete scene, but rather an ‘extra bit’ that I turned out at the end of a writing session. I had already written another scene by that point, but wasn’t in the mood to stop.

What do you do when you want to keep writing? Sing the chorus with me: you keep writing! So I did. The bit below is the first half (roughly) of the scene in question. It is also the opening of Act II, and so represents a transition from the set-up and exposition of the preceding scenes/chapters.

Standard warnings apply: this is a VERY rough draft that has only undergone proofreading for the most egregious grammar & punctuation errors. To all intents and purposes it is completely raw output that needs (and will receive) refining as I go through the rest of the writing process:

It was still cold outside. It would always be cold outside, Connor decided. Dockside hadn’t been particularly warm, and definitely not comfortable, but it was still a damn sight better than this frigid pile of rock he now had to call home.

They stepped through the huge lobby doors and onto the big plaza in front of the tower. A glance at Sonthi and Connor quirked an eyebrow. “You wanna tell me what the fuck we’re doin’, boss?”

They were the first words he had spoken since Sonthi had grabbed his arm and hustled him from Chapman’s office. Mumbled promises to the executive that he would ‘explain everything’ to Connor had not-very-successfully hidden a haste to get out that Connor found almost comical.

Did Sonthi think he was about to beat the shit out of Chapman? Another glance at the aging ex-cop and Connor decided that was exactly what the mappo feared. He clamped his jaws shut against the rising chuckle and did his best to look simultaneously angry and scared.

Oz would’ve been proud.

Sonthi’s hand tightened on Connor’s arm and he leaned close, whispered in a voice hoarse with tension, “Just hold it together, kid. We’re gonna take a little stroll and go somewhere we can talk. I’ll explain, I promise. But not here. Just stay with me a little longer. The walk will do you good, anyway; you looked like you were about to go full-fuckin’ ikiryo on Chapman back there, and that wouldn’t be good. For either of us.”

A year ago – in another place, and another life – Connor would have gone ‘full-fuckin’ ikiryo‘ on any patronizing aho who talked to him the way Chapman had. But now? Now everything was different.

Two steps and everyone on the plaza was staring again. Shit, even the Stationside takies were better than these idiots.

Sonthi expected him to be angry and resentful, so Connor decided to play to expectations. To over-play, really.

Go big or go home, that ghostly memory of Oz chuckled.

Sonthi walked…normally. Working to blend in with the other debil on the plaza as far as Connor could tell. But Connor…Connor most certainly did not. He strutted and rolled as he walked, carrying all the arrogance and attitude of a chinpira who’d just made his bones with a Family. That walk would very likely have seen him get a knife in the gut back home, but here? Here all the tight-suited fools couldn’t get out of his way fast enough.

Past the plaza and halfway down one of the semi-identical streets, Sonthi looked at him and said harshly, “Christ in a blender, chiima, what fuckin’ crawled up your ass? Relax, kid, it really does get better from here. I went to too much trouble getting you out to fuck you over now.”

Connor’s only reply was a grunt. Conversation was the last thing he wanted just then. No, he had thinking to do. A great deal of thinking, and even more planning. He hadn’t lied to Chapman: he would do whatever baka job the CEO had in mind for him, and do it well. But there wasn’t a chance in hell he would let these idiots take advantage of him. No, taking advantage was his job, not theirs.

The buildings lining that narrow street were taller and more confining than even the worst of the res-holds. This planet had nothing but space, Connor silently wondered, so why the hell did they all crowd so close together? What idiot had come up with this?

It was the concrete, he decided, that made it all so confining and oppressive. Made up of nothing but dark grays and blacks, that concrete was used for everything: from roads to buildings and everything in between. Even those few buildings with decorative facings, like the LRC tower, kept to the same dark palette of depressing monotony.

Shit, these people had an entire fucking planet, and they wanted to live as crowded and confined as the poorest docksider? Baka, all of them. But crazies made the best kamo; ‘more money than sense’ wasn’t a curse in Connor’s line of work, it was a blessing and a wish.

Another few hundred feet and Sonthi turned to enter one of those buildings, just as looming and dark as all the others.

The windows had been tinted the deepest black, leaving only a broad, flashing sign above the large revolving door to provide any color whatsoever. Bright pink and blue neon proudly proclaimed “Washington’s” in what Connor suspected was meant to be the most up-to-date and fashionable way possible.

It just looked stupid to him.

He followed the older man through that revolving door and into a world of pale woods, green plants, and weird lighting. Dockside had interesting shadows and odd colors because the lighting was shit, and there was no chands the Station would pay so much as a penny to improve the living conditions of a bunch of criminals and malcontents. But here, in the capital of the entire damned star system? Here there were shadows and odd colors because…they wanted it that way? Baka, every single damned one of them was completely insane.

He was able to stifle the laugh that threatened, as rude and contemptuous as it was, but not the derisive snort.

Sonthi stopped to look back. Quietly, he said, “Give ’em a break, kid.  These idiots wouldn’t know a decent bar if it danced naked and slapped ’em on the ass. They call places like this modra. Means ‘blue’, for whatever that’s worth. Not sure what the fuck it’s supposed to really mean, beyond every haafu in here having blue-balls ’cause no one in their right mind would have sex with any of ’em.”

That laugh Connor couldn’t stifle. Sonthi may have been a kamo at that moment, but he was still a docksider through and through.