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?!

 

When Laundry Is The High Point Of Your Morning…

It’s laundry day today. Really, is there any better way to start your weekend than laundry day? I mean, c’mon, all those weekends I spent going to Vegas or Mexico when I was young can’t hold a candle to the spin cycle…

I had an hour to kill while the washing machine ran, so I decided to (finally) read the news. I have, by the way, been pretty completely ignoring the news, the web – other than for this blog – and the rest of the world in general for the last several weeks.

It’s been glorious.

But today I spent forty-five minutes reading the news.

What the hell was I thinking?

I sat outside last night, drinking beer and watching a rare appearance of the aurora borealis (not as colorful up here as it is farther north, but still awesome). Less than half a day later I’m reading about the insanity that is the current state of our world. All I can say is: we’re fuckin’ nuts.

People screaming at each other because of the letter(s) after their name…fat nutjobs threatening nukes all over the planet…nail bombs at concerts…racism and segregation as a response to racism and segregation…

I once thought the last election was as low as we could sink. I should’ve known better. You never bet against humanity’s ability to look at all the options and choose the stupidest one.

Shit.

One day of news was more than enough for me. Unless fatboy really does nuke Hawaii, I think I’ll just stay off-the-grid for a while. Maybe I’ll check again in another month.

And people wonder why my sci-fi is dark, bitter and cynical as hell…

Get Off My Lawn! Pt II

Ok, look…I know the hair may be going a bit grey, and my knees make more noise than a popcorn machine, but that does not mean I’m old!

If you’re only as old as you feel, I’m pretty much stuck in my early twenties.

So, the other day I had to get three new kids checked out with their banks so they can start working as cashiers. Yes, I said “kids”…deal with it. All three spent the entire 20 minutes saying “yes, sir” and “no, sir”. I felt like goddamned Methuselah.

IMG_0174But – and this is the important bit, kids – we cagey old bastards always get our revenge. There ain’t a 22 year old in the world who can keep up with me when it comes to whiskey.

Take that, youth and energy! Age and cynicism win again!!

Now where the hell is my walker? I feel like shit this morning…

The biggest problem up here isn’t finding good beer, it’s finding people who appreciate good beer. There is far too much PBR and Bud Light flying around for any self-respecting beer-snob to keep his or her sanity. Crap, I have to spend more time educating these folks on decent beers than I do actually drinking.

On the other hand, with this many folks from backgrounds so different and varied, I am getting a ton of new music to listen to. That is a very good, and very welcome, thing: my writing needed an infusion of fresh music. The old soundtrack was getting a bit stale, and it was starting to come out in the words themselves. New music means new thoughts and new outlooks…that can be almost as valuable to me as the change of scene has been.

By the way: if the last couple of posts seem a bit choppy it’s because, well, they are. I’m currently sitting outside trying to catch the last of the sun while I write this pout – two hours ago it was 65, now it’s 40…and In two more hours it will be in the high 20’s.

Not even a decent beer can keep my fingers warm at this point…

Ruts, And The Strangers You Meet

I’ve talked a bit before about characters, and about the thought and effort we put into them. But just as important are the assumptions we make about them…assumptions both as readers and as writers.

Jumping with both feet into a an entirely new group of folks, very few of whom know each other, is one hell of a way to start testing your assumptions and judgements about people. It is, honestly, like going to summer camp…just one with plenty of booze to smooth over the awkward bits (and create other awkward bits).

For someone like me, it is also a topic of some interest to expand that thought and wonder how my assumptions about strangers affect those I make about my own characters. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that I also weigh all these strangers and new folks for personalities and life experiences to use for my characters…

People surprise me…all the time. In many ways that’s a good thing, since it means I’m not as jaded and cynical as I like to pretend. In other ways, it’s not so good since it means I probably made an ass of myself about them in the first place.

I think we can all agree on the need to be fair and honest in those snap judgments we make, and in the value of that fairness. But to those who read or write, or just plain dream, I will reiterate the broader question I posed above:

How often do you treat the characters that matter to you as strangers? How often do you step back to examine and reevaluate the snap judgments you made about them in the first place? Remember: good characters – characters that are complete and whole – should talk to you, should have depth and demands of their own.  Just like real people. Just like the strangers you meet.

I made assumptions and a snap judgment about one of my characters in Wrath & Tears that I regret to this day. The flaw is not so fundamental that I can’t go back and fix it, but it does mark a failure on my part to let her stand and tell her own story.

I knew, after all the revisions and edits, that I had not done her justice, but it wasn’t until I started trying to think about the assumptions I’ve made about the folks I’ve met up here in the park that I forced myself to really go back and look at her.

You never realize just how much of a rut you can fall into: a rut of people, places and things as much as of thought and experience. I had fallen into seeing and talking to the same people in the same places over and over. A couple of workers put together a “movie night” last night, and I was sitting and having drinks and a good time with several folks that never would have entered my orbit back home in my usual “rut”.

I love it. As a writer I love it, and as I person I need it. I joked about this in Monday’s post, but it really is like summer camp. Or better yet, your freshman year in college. You are, pretty literally, forced into close confines and friendships with folks from far outside your usual norm.

That is an experience and a skill that far too many of us who’ve made it through those early-twenties years tend to forget. Especially when you’re of the more…ahem…introspective type.

It’s Closed? Did I Hear You Right?

One of the things I’ve accused myself of in the past is taking these posts too seriously. Oh, I don’t mean to imply that I shouldn’t give them thought, and try to say something important and meaningful. But I have been known to flex my “introspection muscles” and write posts that can skirt desperately close to the line of  self-indulgence.

Nope, don’t want to do that…not now, not today.

I had another post worked up, one about the assumptions we make about the strangers we meet, and how that can (and often does) tie to the assumptions we writers make about our characters. I just reread that post to do the one real editing pass I give these posts…

Egads. Crikey. Insert your own mild exclamation here.

Took myself waaay too seriously on that one. I also had…err…well…nothing to really say in it, so it was a lot of words accomplishing very little.

Shit, I did enough of that in college. That is not a (bad) habit to which I really need to return.

So, to get to something equally pointless…but far less serious: the pub. Specifically, the employee pub.IMG_0175

It’s not open yet.

There are, in fact, claw marks on the door from my first encounter with that locked entrance.

Then someone told me it won’t open for another couple of weeks.

Wait…what?!

Are you kidding me? Even prisoners can get booze*, for fuck’s sake!

*Yay for prison hooch!

Now, I’ve talked to some of the folks who have done this summer work thing up here for a few seasons, and I know the pub can be…well…questionable (a bit like the donkey-bar in Tijuana can be questionable). But, crap…no one is here yet! There’s only a relative handful of staff around right now (within the next month another 500ish will arrive in my little “village”), so shouldn’t it be a nice place to have a drink or two after work?

But the universe hates me and it’s closed.

So just what do I have to do? I have to pretend like I’m nineteen again and visit other folks’ RVs or dorm rooms to have a few drinks with ’em. Shit. If someone mentions homework to me, I’m gonna feed ’em to a damn bear.

Yes, I’m a manager…yes, I’m supposed to be a good example…but, goddamit, I don’t want to drink scotch alone! It’s a crime to drink single malt alone!

So…now…it’s off I go to gather a six pack of a local craft brew and a flask of scotch, then to a gathering of like-minded degenerates…err, co-workers. If I get raped by a bison on the way home, I’m gonna be pissed.

Peeing On Trees

I can feel, already, the pressure falling off my brain (and off my soul).

Now, I normally don’t remind folks of this, but I write these blog entries ahead of time. Seldom do I need to sit there on the morning of a post and bang one out on the keyboard.

Err, if I do, I screwed up. I screwed up bad.

Since I am heading into Yellowstone for days/weeks/months – with all the spotty internet and change-of-scene and dislocation that that entails! – I am trying to get a decent backlog of posts queued up.

Building that queue means I have to think and write through some things that I might normally push aside, or…well…massage a bit before I put them down for others to read.

But you know what?  I’m not gonna do that right now.

I NEEDED this change of scene. I needed the fresh air…I needed a new dynamic…I needed, honestly, to do something random and short-sighted and stupid.

I am, by the way, very good at those particular aspects of life: random and short-sighted and stupid. I have a PhD in random and short-sighted and stupid. I’ve also had a lot – A LOT – of fun in my life! I am, of course, also completely broke most of the time…

Like most people, I didn’t realize just how uptight and stressed I’d become. I definitely didn’t realize just how much I needed to change my surroundings…even if only for a few weeks.

I am not, I long ago realized, a domesticated animal. I need to roam. I need to try new things. I need to pee on trees. Err…never mind that last bit.

Of course, taking a fairly large weight off my soul raises one interesting question: do I lose the bitter, angry edge that has defined Connor’s stories so far?

Wait…

A more relaxed, optimistic story for Connor?

Umm…

Err…

Excuse me, but I have to go find a tree to pee on…

My Spidey-Sense Is A-Tinglin’!

I’ve been all over the world. Err, well, at least over a good chunk of it (36 countries and counting). And just how many places have I been where there isn’t a freaking Starbucks every 100 feet?

Yep, you guessed it…just one: Bozeman, Montana.

The hotel I’m in has no breakfast (really, who the hell doesn’t serve breakfast?!), and I need coffee in the worst damned way, so it’s out the door I go to start scouting*.

*Thanks, Apple Maps, for being singularly unhelpful!

It’s either find a place, or eat in the hotel restaurant. And I hate hotel restaurants.

I hate Starbucks almost as much, by the way. Shit, Starbucks is America’s STD: once one appears, it’s there forever and it’s gonna get nothin’ but worse.

Coffee and a muffin, however, wait for no man.

Thank God for my magic spidey-sense about these things. Less than a mile from the hotel I found a pretty good craft brewery (406 Brewing, if you’re keeping score). But wait…it’s 8:00 on a Sunday morning. I’m bad, but even I haven’t gone THAT far down the rabbit hole.

Okay, so take note of the location and return to scouting…

A hundred yards more. Oh, thank every single thing in the universe: A COFFEE PLACE!!

Not just a coffee place, but a small local place with unconventional, creative individuals running it…and…andAND…freaking good coffee! I promise you, there is a chorus of angels singing around me as I walk through that door.

The morning started so poorly – “what do you mean, you don’t serve breakfast?” – but shit-howdy, the day has been shaping up so nicely since!

Even as I type this, I’ve had my coffee and muffin, and now I’m sitting in the brewery I found earlier and working my way through a taster tray of a few of their beers. I am, by the way, going to have some new ammunition for the Drink of the Month section…

And you wonder why I randomly decided to run off and spend a summer doing this?

Not All Who Wander Are Lost

IMG_0060Some of those close to me understand why I have such a reluctance to put down roots. As soon as I start to become a “permanent” part of the scenery, whether by career or possessions or relationships, I start to get itchy. Okay, so I’m not Neil McCauley from Heat, ready to walk out on everything in 30 seconds (and, yes, DeNiro makes that sound cooler than I ever could), but I am someone who thrives on…well, freedom.

The freedom to do what I want, when I want.

That is, by the way, reason # 345,675 why I’m no longer a “career guy”.

Writing – both novels and prostitution…err, freelance work – helps to feed that urge in me. I can, honestly, work from anywhere. In fact, it is better for me to work somewhere lively and interesting rather than a place quiet, calm and private.

I also love to see what’s around the next corner, and to do my own thing on my own timeline. And, yes, I fully realize just how terrible a potential husband that makes me, thank you very much. I came to that realization a long time ago, and just stopped worrying about that part of life. Shit, I’m not even a good candidate for a damned goldfish…

At any rate, the point is this: I tend to wander. I tend to confuse the hell out of people to whom that kind of life is nothing more than fiction. I tend to be that guy who always has “Whatever happened to … ?” placed in front of his name.

I mentioned above that some close to me actually understand my thinking and impulses, but reality itself says most of my family and friends think I’m more than a bit nuts.  Oh, they try to understand.  And, for the most part, they do a good job of rolling with the way I live, but they still think I’m a total loon.

And you know what? They may be right.

It takes a certain craziness to give up a successful career and become someone who immerses himself in all the varied experiences of life. It takes a certain craziness to be the guy who is always wanting to test the greenery on the other side of the fence. And it takes a real, full-bore craziness to just up-and-go with no real warning or planning.

Yep, I’m fuckin’ crazy.

On a whim* I accepted a temp position for the summer in a far-off national park. I won’t make shit for money…I won’t secure or advance my “life” a single bit…I won’t be any father down the “road to success” than I was when I woke up this morning…

*Okay, I will admit to having done a decent amount of research on the companies involved, and the experiences of those who’ve already done it…

BUT…

But, I will spend a summer doing something, well, different. But, I will have stories to tell…and stories to write. But I will continue to live a life that I really don’t care to ever have described as “ordinary”. And, in all honest (and false-practical) bluntness, I will reiterate that I can write from anywhere…

I’ve seen and done things most people can only ever imagine. I’ve been places I could barely dream of as a kid. I’ve been trapped in place for a long time now, and it’s time check out the horizon again.IMG_0172

I am not, to return to the title, one of the lost.  I just haven’t yet given up that need to wander…

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.

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.