Archive for the ‘Creative Writing’ Category

I’ve had this story collaboration project going on my site from time to time. You can join in. Its just a fun game where you can write a bit of fiction and plot the course of the future. Ooooooo, the power.

I wrote part 1 and it goes like this:

and then Part 2 was sent in by the ever-mysterious parttimescribe@hotmail.com:

It was a system that worked fairly well.

He patted down his tired brown hat and re-adjusted a few stray straws sticking out of his sleeve. His thoughts made him hesitate again; a big “what if” made his pale legs refuse to move.

What if it wasn’t true?

What if it was farther than he had been told?

Would his old body hold up?

Again he reasoned and wrestled with his mind. It was playing tricks with him, causing him to doubt, to stumble. He mentally forced himself to begin. One step in front of the other.

The sun had started making its journey upward, gleaming and streaking its rays across the field. It’s warm and yellow heat gave him a renewed strength and he picked up the pace. He could see the black pavement ahead, somehow marking the real start of his long journey. Carefully he climbed over the old wooden fence, waved a final goodbye to the field and looked straight ahead with a now unwavering purpose.

His destination was just beyond the river and the two mossy green hills. If he could make it to the river by sundown he’d be doing okay, then the valley through the hills, and then finally the city. Knowing this he walked a little faster, almost a skip in his step now…

Part 3 from barryball_2000@yahoo.com:

Before long he realized it was further to the river than he had thought. His legs were getting tired because this was much more walking than he was used to and the dust from the road was making him feel tired and dirty. These were not sensations he was used to back in the corn field. That field had rich, dark dirt; not this infernal dust. And even though he was on his feet all day in the field he was able to lean on his post, he even sometimes would nod off to sleep.

Just as he was thinking about stopping for a rest a dusty brown pickup truck came rattling down the road in the opposite direction. As it got closer it slowed down and came to a stop a few yards in front of the scarecrow.

The scarecrow stopped walking. He looked at the truck but with the sun behind the truck he was unable to make out who or what was in it. He thought this seemed odd and threatening but as the dust settled he decided to press ahead rather than show that he could be intimidated. In fact, he decided, it might not be trouble at all. He put a smile on his face and thought of a friendly greeting to use as he started to pass the truck.

Now it’s your turn. Send in Part 4. I’ll put the entries up for a vote and the winner will win a CD.

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(CLICK HERE – you need to be playing this song while you read)

Airports are filled with people who have a purpose.  Its not the type of place many people go to just for something to do, although after being here today I would consider coming again for the sole purpose of writing more character sketches.  People are arriving and departing, but those of us who spend the most time here are waiting… waiting for the arrivals and departures to do just that – arrive and depart.  The ones arriving are starving for a cigarette, anxious to find a cab, and ready to do the business they came to do.  The ones departing are checking and rechecking the flight numbers on their tickets and matching that information to what’s on the screens overhead.
Those of us waiting for an arrival are talking about what we ate for breakfast and lunch – topics that will inevitably change when the one(s) for whom we wait finally arrive.  When they do its on to "Oh my God!" and "How are you?"  Tears are always saved for the departure at the other end of the visit – if it’s a two-way flight.

Awaiting a departure is a different story.  Some wait alone, and many are business types who have probably done this a hundred times before and don’t think much of it.  But there are others who wait together, family clusters of two’s and four’s who are about to be separated and their distress is palpable.  When the departing member final walks onto the plane and out of site, those remaining walk slowly back to the parking lot and drive away – sadder and more alone.
That sultry Chris Isaak song is wafting through the terminal.  I think its called "Wicked Game" and unless you’re a REALLY slow reader you’re listening to it right now… As the fat, balding middle aged men wait for their luggage to slide on the carrousel, there is no poetic appropriateness to that song playing, but I can see a video for it made in slow motion in an airport with people walking in all directions. 

I wonder if those here on business will recover what they’ve sacrificed to be loaded onto a flight to come to this small city.  The most recent flight arrival yielded a bumper crop of young-to-middle-aged men.  Guys in tweed jackets that seem happy with their lives; younger guys in casual-but-still-serious business suits who still want more of whatever it is their getting right now.  Scattered amongst these common types are the rare out-doorsy looking 50-year-olds and the red-faced 35-year-old alcoholics.  Most of all these men arrive alone, wait for their luggage alone, and leave alone.  If this is their return home, they must lead lonely lives.
One man is lucky enough to have his daughter here to meet him but there is tension between them and she’s largely ignored by him -and he by her.  She’s more concerned with the text messages on her cell, but I doubt she would be if her father was showing an interest in her.  She strikes me as the type that is a marginal high-school athlete and is more concerned with the elevated social status being on the team affords than she is about doing well on that team.  Its the hoodie that says "GIRLS BASKETBALL" in Rockwell type that’s important – you see, it says something about her identity.

I make these observations about someone I really know nothing about.  Its all conjecture based on other girls I’ve know who look the same and I think I’ve got her pegged, but I’ve been wrong before.  Its still fun to write a character sketch about someone you don’t know based solely on their physical appearance and body language.  Besides, by now everyone must know that first impressions are almost everything and so I take whatever I see first as a person’s manifesto.  This is either shallow or efficient on my part – or maybe a bit of both.

More people waiting, men shaking hands, exchanging forced salutary chuckles, walking out into the night through a rotating door.  The handshakes, the chuckles – they’re supposed to convey self-confidence and draw attention.  It works, but they leave, and those of us left waiting are left to find a new object of observation and to periodically turn our gaze toward the domestic arrivals door, looking for that familiar face we came here to pick up.

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When I become electric, piece by piece by bit by byte
First my memory and then my sight
It was sound that once inspired
Every ear an analog device
What the mouth delivers the ears decode
Convert me to electric, finally I’m united
No memory to lose since copies will abound
But then too every banal thought forever will be truth
Existing in print, what else could it be?
All laid bare for prying eyes
Plug me in and watch me spin, I never meant for you to see
Certain partitions of my memory
Hidden blocks of things I wasn’t ready to divulge
Or sure that I believed
But now I must because you know
And knowing makes it so
source : 09/26/04

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Coffee – Day 1

Doctor Hertwig said that I should cut down on caffeine, and so like the extremist I am, I go cold turkey the next day, which is today… I think.  The truth is my head hurts worse right now since, well, since the last time I tried to stop cold turkey.  It hurts to think.  It hurts to hear someone whistle.  It even hurts to write a blog post.  Oh, the horror!  This is what I imagine a hangover would be like.
When I walked into Tim’s and ordered a decaf for the first time ever I had myself all convinced that this caffeine withdrawl thing was purely psychological.  I was not going to get a headache because I was not addicted to caffeine.  Coffee is just a pleasurable morning ritual, and one surely needed on cold Canadian winter mornings.  I was wrong.
Near 4:00PM the Advil is finally taking the edge off the pain but the top of my head is still numb and making facial gestures, like a huge smile, seems to hurt the tips of my cheeks.  And I didn’t even know my cheeks had tips.  When I turn my head quickly, my eyes follow but not as quickly as my head turns.  Picture it:  my head turns right and stops, my eyes are still moving from the left slowly, then they stop and focus.
My lesson for Day 1: when the doctor says cut down on caffeine, switch from a large regular to a medium.

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The Beanery is a classy little restaurant, especially for this town, but it has terrible music.  I am subjected to Celine Dion or some such thing – some epic-ballad singer who sounds and probably looks more or less like all the others.  I’m sure she’s the best combination of looks and voice that those who put her on the radio and will ride her coat tails to the top could find… and she was probably found in some God-forsaken American Idol-type "talent” search.
Cue the beat track…something funky now.  This is the new muzak and that to which I, as a sometime musician, am to aspire to if I want to live in a mansion on a hill overlooking my over-amused and entertainment abused constituency.  I will be their king; my music will be the air they breathe.  I will rule their conscious and sub-conscious minds, until all monies either given or received make their way to my coffers.  The poor peasants won’t even know they’re paying me, so ubiquitous will I be.  I will be a corporation unto myself.  I will be both head and body, but I will never find my soul. 
Many cars go by the window I am looking out of.  Lots of Mustangs, lots of Saturns.  People pass too.  People in green tracksuits; people with winter coats and hats; people who look homeless and some who look merely poor and one wanderer who looks lost on purpose.  Robbie walks by, delivering his newspapers.  Its no wonder he’s so fit, he walks endlessly from one end of this town to the other nearly every day of the year.  Somewhere along the way Robbie lost a good chunk of his intellectual capacity – or maybe he was born that way, I don’t know him well enough to know which.  I wonder how I could ask him – "Hey Robbie, have you always been this way or were you….?" yeah, which word to use next…  And he’d look at me with his sincere and perpetually beaming and happy face and ask what I’m talking about.
Robbie must be pushing 60 by now, and for as long as I’ve been in this town he’s been on a sidewalk somewhere faithfully delivering the local paper – always happy, always greeting the people he passes on his way.  I wonder what he was like as a younger man and as a child.  I’m certain an entire Forrest Gump-like novel could come of asking him, if only there was time to write it. 
Towels or Curtains?
Across the street, in the apartments above the bus station, the tenant uses beach towels for curtains.  One is flat burgundy and the other displays the heroic looking front forks of a Harley Davidson motorcycle and the head of a wolf bathed in the blue glow of a full moon.  What am I to make of the juxtaposition of these images?  A wolf bathed in blue moonlight, whose head is bigger than an entire motorcycle; a motorcycle crudely drawn behind the wolf and moon that appears to be near photo quality.  Maybe there is no message in this art.  Art?  I’m pondering a Harley Davidson beach towel for goodness sake… There isn’t nearly as much to say about the flat burgundy towel/curtain except that the owner of that apartment must have considerably less interest in wolves, blue moons, and motorbikes. 
There are small chimes above the bike-moon-wolf curtain/towel and I immediately wonder if the tenants ever point a fan at those chimes to make them sing.
The facade of the bus stop below the apartments hasn’t been updated since sometime in the 1970’s. 
Although I’ve lived here for a good part of my life, I’ve never been inside that bus station.  You know, I’ve never even taken a bus that wasn’t specifically chartered.  It’s amazing how many places you never set foot in even though they are familiar to you from the outside.  Bus stops, small businesses, bars, and hardware stores – how do they all survive?  Although I’ve tried to get a grasp of how many people are on this earth, my mind has trouble conceiving it.  Try it: imagine 6 people you know and then imagine about a billion more people standing behind each one of them.  Its difficult isn’t it, but it gives us an idea of the power of demographics and the ways in which we arrange ourselves into visible and invisible tribes. 
Promise Keepers ™
The largest crowd I’ve ever been a part of was a gathering of men at a Promise Keepers event in Pontiac, Michigan at the Silverdome.  There were about 70,000 men there for the expressed purposes of reclaiming their manhood and taking their proper places as the heads of their families…or something like that.  If you’ve never been to a Promise Keepers event, let me describe it to you.  (Keep in mind that I was a much younger man when I attended and my observations might be a little different if I was to attend the same event today.  Nevertheless…)
A Promise Keepers event is a multi-day pre-game rally speech, tuned for and delivered to the man who loves football and wrestling (and baseball…and basketball…and…).  Oh how we sang and embraced that weekend, not out of sincere love for our fellow men but because there were those around us who were willing to hug and if we didn’t hug back, what did that say about us?  Were we hypersensitive homophobes unwilling to admit even the shallowest tinge of brotherly love?  So it just seemed easier to reciprocate when embraced so we would not be castigated…as if hugging total strangers was a mark that we were finally becoming that sensitive hero-man that every woman desires…as if random attempts at intimacy would push that first icy domino into the second and so on until we were giant thawed lumps of emotional accessibility. And before we knew it the miles and miles of emotional barrier dominoes would fall, one after another, sweeping away our emotional bondage, sexual deficiencies, and eradicating the wussy-like, limp-fisted "leadership" we had unknowingly been subjecting our families to.  It didn’t work for me.  Can’t they set these things up with "guys on the verge of an emotional breakdown" over there and the rest of us "I’m doing just fine, thanks" guys over here?  Is it really necessary to subject those of us who are secure enough in our manhood to the sobbing embraces of some emotionally manipulated former running back?
The endless football and baseball metaphors were really too much.  I mean the first couple "worked" for me but after the third metaphor by the fifth speaker of the day was on its way I had long since tuned out.  "Life… is like a football game…" followed by "You see, life is like a baseball game…", men everywhere salivating at the impending payoff: a spiritual lesson as they’ve never heard it before, all wrapped up in a sports metaphor.  Genius!  How could no one have thought of this before?  Really, the last time I heard such wisdom was in the company of an intellectual giant who started many of his life lesson stories with the metaphor "Life is like a box of chocolates…" 
Is this how to get a bunch of men excited about their spiritual lives?  God only asks that we "consult the playbook" before we "throw the ball" and if we do we’re sure to "score a touchdown" and presumably perform some sort of victory jive dance.  Well dumb it down a little more my friend because I do believe you’re getting through to me.
Where is the Promise Keepers for non-sports-addicts, where the keynote speaker starts his talks with something like "Christ is the medium AND the message…"?  Some thoughtful songwriter, reflecting on God from the trenches of life, could do the music.  I don’t need a former athlete or Christian celebrity to open my eyes to something I’ve never seen before; books, good music, and deep personal relationships already do that for me.  I want to be challenged in both my intellect and my spirit.  I don’t want to be pumped too quickly full of spiritual helium in an emotional moment, knowing that I cannot sustain the pressure of the air and waiting to pop a few weeks later.  I’ve been on this flight before.  The reality is that my balloon pops and then I try to tape the hole and get myself blown back up again.  My balloon is almost all tape by now.  Maybe yours is still without holes.  Good for you, I hope it stays that way.
Maybe Promise Keepers helps those guys I’ve spoken unkindly about above.  Maybe after the rally, they progress towards a deeper understanding and a more firm faith.  And maybe the next time they attend a rally it will seem a little shallow to them.  Maybe…but I’d really like to see the evidence.

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I am human

A post written sometime after watching The Matrix, reading Douglas Coupland novels ,No Logo, The McDonaldization of Society, and Kalle Lasn’s Culture Jam
I am human.
I am not a machine.
Do we not deify machines because of their consistency?  They can, after all, do the same thing day after day after day, and this as a consequence is seen as something admirable in us as humans as well.  This can be quite profitable – to do the same thing day after day without complaint or request, and to have our parts replaced as they wear out.
To subvert this slavery to effiicency we must do something different every day.  Look around you.  The gatekeepers of wealth and culture want nothing more than for you to want the same thing every day.  In return, you can have exactly what you want today for every day for the rest of your life.  Just be predictable, that’s all they ask.  Well, that’s not entirely accurate – your tastes and desires are allowed to evolve, but they must evolve  at the same rate, and in the same manner and direction as the rest of the demographic group to which you presently belong.
The efficient society is one in which it is man’s cheif aim to become more machine-like.  Those who can follow a routine are rewarded most richly.  Workers in large factories need only limit themselves to the simplist, most machine-like, one dimensional task and they can go home with $70,000.  And after 30 years of this (for a total of $2.1 million) they can continue to be paid in their retirement.  And this is seen as a desirable course of action for one’s life.  To get a "good job" – and by that we mean one that pays better than any other we can find – is the goal of most who possess no other world-worthy skills or lack the ambition necessary to forge their own destiny.  Even forging one’s own destiny can be seen only as becoming as machine master.
Remove, for a moment, money as a motivator.  What would you be doing if money didn’t matter and doing something important with life every day did?  What would you do with the hours in every day?

Michael Krahn

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