A Little Lullaby; or, Why Won’t This Work?!

[Note – I’ve been trying to get some pictures posted since Saturday night…no luck. God, I hate cell phones right now. I have 2-3 posts worth of pictures built up, so expect a deluge as soon as I can get the damned upload to work right. Until then, I’ll have to dust off an old, old post that’s been sitting in my Drafts section since about Christmas!  So, in the interests of getting something to post (albeit a day late), here you go…]

I’ve never mentioned just why I gave this blog the name I did. Believe it or not, there are reasons. And, as ever, those reasons have lines from various song to help bring them to life…one specific song, in fact, in this particular case.

The lines in question, for the blog itself, are:

“That’s when I know that I have to get out
Because I have been there before
So I gave up my seat at the bar
And I headed for the door”

Now, this song has a lot more going for more it. Which is probably appropriate, given that it’s eight minutes long. There are other lines/thoughts in the song that also have impact and influence. Some have come into play with Connor and Oz, while others are more specific to myself.

Perhaps the most important line of the song, at least to me as a person and a writer who is far more a dreamer than someone practical and grounded, is:

“If you’ve never stared off into the distance
Then your life is a shame”

Believe it or not, this song did not actually make into the playlist I was listening to when I created Connor & Oz. That does not mean, however, that it had no influence on them. It is, after all, a favorite of mine:

“The price of a memory
Is the memory of the sorrow it brings”

“If dreams are like movies
Then memories are films about ghosts”

“You can see a million miles tonight
But you can’t get very far”

By the way, points given for recognizing the song from the title of this post. Serious, serious bonus points given if you recognize it from the lyrics themselves. And, yes, recognizing the song makes you just as damned old as I am!

The song in question is, of course, “Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby” by Counting Crows.

 

 

PBR’s Revenge

I drink good beer. I don’t think that fact will surprise anyone: I spend a great deal of time in microbreweries, and I’ve developed a pretty good appreciation for real beers. My brewer friends may mock my palate, but…well…they taste shit in beers that no sane person would ever find without hints from the “experts”.

There are, thank heavens, good breweries up this way. Actually, there are numerous good breweries: Bozeman alone has 8 craft breweries, of which 4-5 are well worth a visit. But…and, yes, here’s the inevitable but…

…but: we run out of the good beer pretty damn fast around here. Remember, there are 800 trillion people in the park at any given moment, and they drink through anything and everything we have in stock.

You know what that leaves?

Yep: PBR…or Miller High Life.

*shudder**

No, really: I shudder just to think of that shit!

But I’ve been drinking it.

I hate myself for it…I know my “sin account” is growing exponentially, and I’ll pay for my foolishness in the afterlife…I know I’m not even drinking actual beer…but, shit, I can only afford so much scotch and a guy’s gotta do what a guy’s gotta do!

When I get back home, my “home” brewery isn’t even gonna let me in the door without some serious level of atonement.

The worst part is that I’ve been teaching the kids up here about good beer. Preaching about it, actually. Hell, I’ve even run a couple of beer tours to Bozeman for the staff! With that in mind, what nickname have they given me? High Life.

I feel so dirty. I hate myself right now.

Oh, and the title of this post is a…well…it’s a clue to something in Silence.

What, did you really think I wouldn’t write about my personal shame?!

 

Bears Are Nicer At Night, Right?

Dr. Doolittle ain’t got nothin’ on me.

I walk with the animals…I talk with the animals…

Err, well…I’ve sorta convinced them to not eat me, anyway.

You remember that bison that turned me back the other day? He and I made friends this morning, and I finally completed that hike. Well, completed it and then some.

The bears were all sleeping-in, and Billy (the Bison) had better things to do than contemplate what meat tastes like (thanks, Mrs. Bison!!), so it was a nice, peaceful walk.

I needed it.

I’m pretty much a complete introvert. All of the time I spend with others…all of the time surrounded by people…all of the time schmoozing and chatting….yep, I’m pretty much faking it. I hate crowds.

No, really: tie me up and leave me to the damned mosquitoes instead, because people suck. After four days of dealing with staff who are even needier than the tourists, I was ready to strangle someone. But, still, I plastered on the fake smile and mustered the ersatz-enthusiasm needed for one more day on the job (Sunday nights are always the hardest). I needed the scotch I drank last night in celebration of the end of my week.

I do, however, fake it very well….hence my former career in sales & marketing.

At any rate, Mondays are my “special time”. It’s the first day of my weekend, and – no matter how bad the hangover – the first thing I do is get up early and grab my pack. Screw the trails and the various sights around the park, I don’t want to see another soul.

I was off the trail and cruising by 7:30 this morning. I didn’t get back to “civilization” until 1:30, and even that was too damned soon. In between I saw nothing but streams and trees and landscapes to make your jaw drop.

In spite of the crap that goes with it, I love this job.

The only reason I came back from my hike this early is because, well…it’s writing time. I’m supposed to go out for a moonlight hike tonight (“Hi there, Mr. Hungry Bear!”), so if I don’t write now, it just ain’t gonna happen.

Oh, and if the bear does happen to get me: no, you can’t have my stuff…

 

A Dingo Ate My Baby

It’s getting into late June…

Holy crap.

I’m not sure I believe that.

How the hell did it get be to be late June already?!

By the end of this month, I am “supposed” to be at least halfway through the first draft of Silence.

Err…

I think I need to dust off some of those old excuses I used way back in college. “I’m sorry, professor, but there was this baby, you see. And a pack of dingos. There were definitely dingos…”

Yeah, my professors never bought it either.

The hard part isn’t inspiration: Yellowstone is not short on that particular commodity. Electricity and good wi-fi? Those are problems, but inspiration is pretty much everywhere.

No, the problem is the right inspiration – and the right environment. For someone who grew very used to writing in the taproom of a brewery, adjusting to “writing on the go” while surrounded by mountains, trees, vicious bears and a supervolcano that is – quite literally – right under my feet is something of a challenge.

I’m essentially at the 35% mark. So much for schedules and planning…

On the other hand, I do now know just what bison smell like up close, so I’ve got that going for me.

The worst part is that I am writing…I’m just not writing what I’m supposed to be. There’s an old maxim in writing that if you put off writing out an idea that comes to you – even in the middle of the night – you are guaranteed to forget it. Well, an idea came to me a week or so ago…in the middle of the night.

You know the refrain by now: I had to write it.

During my work week, I can squeeze in a couple hours of writing each day. What did I do with the two or three writing sessions I actually managed to complete this past week? Yep, you guessed it: I started fleshing out that idea that came to me.

Harrumph.

Connor and Oz are mad at me, now. They think I’ve forgotten them…

It really is a good idea, though.

 

p.s.

Sorry about the late post this weekend – I actually had the one that went up Saturday night written and ready in plenty of time, but when I tried to upload it on Thursday…well…remember the problems with electricity and wi-fi? Yeah, both hit me. And with 8 trillion people in the park every single day, the one Verizon tower I can reach gets a bit, umm, overloaded.

If I can remember to set my phone to upload overnight, I do promise to do another photo post this week.

 

Give The Governor A Harrumph!

I’m a slacker…let’s just get that out of the way early, shall we?

No one who knows me would argue that point. Give me a job – any job – and I will find the easiest and least strenuous way to get it done. Okay, so that also makes me efficient, but the efficiency comes from sheer bone-idleness, not from any drive to actually, you know, work.

Work less is my motto, not harder or smarter.

But mother of God, some of the young kids that are up here working for me…

Even I have to admit that, at some point, slacking can be taken too far. You have no idea just how much that hurts to say, but I’ve learned I have my limits.

You spent how much money to get up here to Yellowstone to live in the park and work? Is it too much to ask that you show up and actually do your job from time to time? The last thing I wanted to do when I took this job was fire people.

Crap, I’m the guy who used every single second of vacation and sick time I got when I worked for other people. Some of these “kids” have already managed to put that record to shame. Hell, the worst of them isn’t even a kid: I get more work out of an 18-year-old college freshman than I do this ostensibly 29-year-old “man”.

*sigh*

And, yes, I will admit to a fairly high level of grumpiness at this particular moment. Sue me…it’s been a long week.

Thank heaven I’m finally sitting in the sun and enjoying a nice Moose Drool brown ale while I write. Oh, by the way, it may help to know that this is a brief couple of hours of sun, and that it has snowed for the last two days. In the middle of fucking June.

And it’s supposed to snow again for the next two days. On my weekend.

Harrumph.

Okay, Okay…I Can Take A Hint

Edit Note: I couldn’t get the photos loaded until this morning – as you might expect, cell & wi-fi can, umm, challenging up here.

I think Mother Nature wants me to spend more time writing. She sure as hell didn’t want me hiking today.

I took off for some back-country hiking in the few hours of nice weather we’ve got before the thunder storms roll in this afternoon. No problem, so far…I’m not going anywhere dangerous. Hell, I’m not going even going all that far from the little “village” in which I live & work.

One quick, background note: I do a lot of solo, off-trail hiking and camping back home in the Rockies…but there I carry a gun with me. The folks I work for up here – who also happen to be my “landlord” – have policies that make it impractical to have one, so I have nothing but a can of bear spray and common sense for protection. I’m not particularly excited to test either of those.

I’m not a half-mile from “home”, and just stepping into a thicket of young pines, when Ma Nature dropped her first hint. I don’t know who jumped higher, me or the elk. All I know is the damned thing was all of six feet away when we spotted each other…and I’m pretty sure we both pissed ourselves. I’ve heard elk described as “burly deer” a few times, but you don’t think about just how big they really are until you are – literally – nose to nose with one.

Never mind, I’m a big boy. I can handle myself. I continue walking the hills and meadows, spending more time just wandering and taking pictures than doing serious hiking. I find a small trail, old and no longer really used, so I decide to follow it. I’m pretty sure it goes to Cascade Creek, then curves south to Crystal Falls, so what the hell…that sounds good to me.

Another quarter-mile or so and I turn a blind corner to find…bison. Frickin’ bison. Big frickin’ bison. Two are eating breakfast right next to the trail while the third is staring at me like he’s reconsidering the whole herbivore-thing.

IMG_0294

Okay, okay…I did back up about twenty yards and snap some pictures first. Then I fled.

Screw the trail, I’ll just head uphill and go deeper into the woods.

I had to take training on bear biology and safety for a certification I’m working on. Rule #2 is: a big, steaming pile of morning fresh bear shit is a good time to turn around.

Of course, Rule #1 is: a dead elk is a good time to well-and-truly get the fuck out.

I saw both.

A wave to the invisible-yet-nearby bear, then, and I put the better part of valor on full display.

Please keep in mind that I’m still less than two miles from where I live and work.

Maybe I’ll try the trail again, that sounds good…going the other way this time. Ooh, the trail is curving back towards the little bear camp-out I just ran away from fifteen minutes ago. IMG_0334Better yet, there’s a tree with claw marks on it. Oh, how cute: the bear was sharpening its claws just for little ol’ me! How special!

Maybe it’s time to go home and write instead…

Arrgghh!! I’m Taking Up Cigars Again!

Screw mosquitos.

No, really: screw the whole species, and every branch of the evolutionary tree that gave birth to them.

I lived in New England, for the love all that’s holy: I know mosquitos!

The ones here in Yellowstone are the sneakiest little bastards I’ve ever encountered.

They fly under the radar and just sorta hover harmlessly, blending into the background…and then the next morning you wake up with roughly 4,350,756 mosquito bites covering your skin.

GODDAMMIT!

In my younger days – in the days when I gave even less of a damn about the consequences than I do now – I started smoking cigars simply because the smoke helped to keep the mosquitos at bay.

I gave up the stogies when I left for Europe.

You know what?

I screwed up.

Give me a damned cigar…..no, really, give me one RIGHT NOW!

The stupid mosquitos have decided the “writer-diet” is the new “in thing” and I’m item #1 on the menu. Apparently booze-and-junk-food-laden blood is the way to go for these little bastards.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been writing out in front of the store. That is not working well at this point. Not well at all. Type a word or two…scratch…type a word or two…scratch…type a word…start to scratch, then scream some curse words and storm off.

Nope, not well at all.

Yellowstone is apparently Shoshone for “Mosquito Breeding Ground”.

I’m starting to think my next story is going to be about genocide against these evil little monsters….

 

That One Key Image

I’ve talked before about the fact that books & stories are not necessarily about what they’re about. As a writer, I love that fact; I love using subtext and themes to communicate my own thoughts and feelings in the work.

I have, in past posts, described what Wrath & Tears is really about, talked about that one key image that really defines the book for me: one broken kid holding the body of another, far more broken kid. But what is the key image for Silence?

Given that the current story is only about a third of the way finished, that’s harder to say than you might expect. But…I write the end first. And the end, in the way I write, is that key image. The end is the thought, and the emotion, I want to linger in the reader’s mind as they walk away.

So what is that image? Where Wrath touched on suicide, and my own memories and experiences thereof, Silence is about the search for meaning – for faith, if you will – and the realization (Wish? Hope?) that there really is more to life than this.

If, in my own life, that is a question very real and hard to answer, just how much worse is it for a street kid who has never had a chance in the world? For years, Connor’s world – his meaning – came down to just one thing: Oz. The two needed each other not just to survive, but to truly live. But Connor grew and changed where Oz could not, and a big part of his problems in the first story came from his unspoken, unrecognized need to search for more.

Recognizing that need is hard, even for an adult. For a 17-18 year old kid? Yeah, right: self-reflection and self-awareness aren’t exactly part of the standard equipment. I will reiterate something a very smart lady named Janet Reid once noted: “a 17-year-old boy is just a walking erection with an iPhone.”

And, no, that is not the main/final image for the current story!

So, we have this issue where Wrath is unabashedly and unashamedly sad, but Silence is intended to (re)introduce that one concept so glaringly absent from the first story: hope.

That theme and image, then, comes down to one thing for me, to something Connor  would never have considered a year ago. It comes down to the realization that, regardless of how broken and screwed up both he and the world are, he has to believe. Believe not just in himself, but also in something bigger…the realization that he has stand for something. It comes down to that same kid – broken and hurting still – reaching out for help to the one person he fears above all others.

As a final note: the theme of the third book is already decided, as well. Hell, the third book was decided the moment I wrote the final scene for Silence.

The key is in fact hinted at throughout all of Wrath & Tears, actually: alone is worse.

It’s time to really tackle that concept, and to touch on in a new light Connor’s struggles from the first two stories.

It is time, when you get right down to it, to tackle the concept of family…and everything contained within that incredibly loaded word. It is time, especially, to address the reality that Connor learned so early, and so painfully: some families you’re born into, and some you choose.