Wednesday, June 29, 2016


So I recently have been doing a lot of journaling. And one of the things I have been doing while journaling is free writing. I just write whatever comes into my head, what feels good. And for some reason, a lot of these free writing pieces sort of resemble fiction stories. I mean, wonky fiction stories that maybe reveal a bit about my subconscious, but fiction stories. Below is one. I know fiction stories aren't usually what I publish on this blog, but what the hell. Enjoy.

"Plutonium Blue"

I WANT TO TELL YOU a story about something that happened to me a few years back. It all picks up when I was on Route 25 with my buddy, Jeb. Have you ever driven on Route 25? You must. It's splendid. You pass deserts and grasslands, and if you keep going, deciduous forests. 

Anyway, so there we were, driving along -- Jeb was at the wheel -- when we saw this woman standing on the side of the road with her thumb out, signalling that she wanted to hitchhike. Now, I don't know if you are aware of this, but hitchhiking is illegal in the United States. 

At any rate, there she was, just standing there, and she was really, really cute. I can still picture her vividly. She was wearing cut-off shorts and a halter top and was holding up a white sign with the word "Wyoming" on it. 

When we passed her, I saw Jeb give her the once over. It was like he just wanted to look at her but had no desire to pick her up. So I said to him, "Jeb, aren't you going to even consider picking her up?" Jeb said that doing so would be illegal, which was a response that didn't surprise me, as this was Jeb.

"But there's no one around, man," I said, "and it's got to be about 90 degrees out there." Jeb gave me this sideways glance that said, "Are we really about to do this?"

"Go get her," I said.

IN THE CAR, THE WOMAN WAS all smiles. The first thing I noticed about her, actually, was her smile. Her teeth were incredibly white, like ambitious-newcomer-movie-star white and she was flashing this smile of hers all around. 

The next thing I noticed about her was her smell. Even though she had been out in the desert, a sweet fragrance was still coming off her. Imagine putting your nose up to a rose that has a really long stalk and is exactly at your nose level. Can you feel the soft petals tickling your nose? That's what she smelled like. I'm not sure if she was wearing perfume or maybe somehow she had had a chance to wash her hair somewhere and that was the shampoo, but it was nice.

For the first minute or so that she was in the car, she was quiet. I think she was just getting settled in. But then she said, "You have no idea how grateful I am." As she said this, I was looking at her in my visor mirror, which I had put down after she had gotten in the car. She was still flashing that incredible smile and I was astounded at how incredibly big and nicely shaped her mouth was.

"I've been out there for hours. I got into some trouble with the last car I was in and I just said, 'Let me out.' I thought that that hacienda looking building was a motel, but when I got up to it and looked into the window, everything was dark and cobwebby. They even had a piano in there, but it was all done up with cobwebs, too. I guess the owners needed to leave in a hurry or something."

"What did you and the people who had been giving you a ride fight about?" Jeb asked, turning his head slightly but still keeping his eyes on the road. The woman was sitting in the middle of the back seat.

"Money," she said. "I had told the guys in the car that I would be able to give them a little bit of money after Illinois, but then my account was all dried up and they weren't too happy. But that made me really angry, that they were annoyed, so once I saw that hacienda, I said, 'Fuck this. Just let me out here.'"

"What's your name," Jeb asked.


"Cool," Jeb said, as he switched lanes to pass a semi that we had been stuck behind for a few minutes. 

"Where are you guys going anyway?" Janet asked.

"Well," Jeb said, "again speaking up before I had a chance to, "we wouldn't have picked you up if we weren't going past Wyoming, now would we have?"

I looked back at Janet after Jeb said this and she was rolling her eyes. 

"Why do you have to be a fucking wise ass?" she said. 

Jeb and I looked at each other and then I looked back at Janet. She had this incredibly mad expression on her face. She was grinding her teeth -- I was able to tell because I saw the balls of her jaw working -- and her eyebrows were furrowed.

"Whoa there," Jeb said. "I was just kidding." 

"Oh, OK," Janet said. It was was if a storm had instantly passed. She was smiling again and looking out the window.

"Janet, where are you from?" I asked. 

Janet leaned forward to answer me and the minute she did, I leaned a little bit forward, too, to put some distance between us.

"Tidings, Arkansas," she said. 

Again, Jeb and I look at each other. "Where's that?" I said.

"Oh, it's this little Podunk town about 300 miles south of Little Rock. We don't have anything interesting  there. The whole town is basically one strip, Main Street, which is where we have a Shop and Save, a gas station, and a few pubs, but the Four Horsemen's Inn is the only one that anyone with self respect goes to. Anyway, the town is so small that we call it the tiny dot near Dotson. Dotson is the town over. It's much bigger. They have a pretty nice mall, which they just put up."

There was a silence in the car after Janet described her hometown. I looked out the window to my right and right alongside us I saw a family traveling in a station wagon. The father, or the person who I assumed to be the father, was behind the wheel and was half turned around taking something out of the hand of a boy who was sitting next to a toddler in a car seat. 

"Why Wyoming?" Jeb said, breaking the silence. 

"Why Wyoming?" I looked at my visor mirror and saw that Janet had totally lit up at the question.

"Wyoming is home to the Trust and Light Foundation, and I was selected to be a core recruit," she said with a breathless kind of enthusiasm. 

I turned half around and gave Janet a quizzical look. 

"You guys have never heard of the Trust and Light Foundation?" she said. "What are you guys, fucking stupid?"

All of a sudden, I felt a powerful jerk. Jeb was pulling the car over to the shoulder.

"What's wrong?" Janet said. 

"If you talk to me like that again," Jeb said, "You're going to be walking to Wyoming. We don't want to be talked to like that. Clear?"

"Yeah, crystal," Janet said. "I'm sorry. Sometimes things just cover over me."

"OK," Jeb said, and pulled back into the highway.

"SO WHAT'S THE TRUST AND LIGHT Foundation anyway?" I asked after a few minutes of pure silence had elapsed in the car.

"The Trust and Light Foundation," Janet said, "is pretty much the leading organization in making people feel good." 

"How do you mean," I asked. 

Janet threw her head back and looked at the ceiling of the car. She took a big breath. 

"Did you ever feel lonely among friends? Or did you ever see a relatively young mother or father pushing a baby stroller and feel a pang of longing or of jealousy? Did you ever feel a type of malaise upon waking up? Well, the TALF can get rid of that."

Jeb and I again looked at each other. 

"They do it with Plutonium Blue."

"With Plutonium huh?" Jeb said. 

"With Plutonium Blue. It is a panacea, but crazy enough, the TALF -- or rather, the high priests of the TALF -- are the only people who have it. 

"Are you seriou--" Jeb went to cut her off, but I didn't let him. I asked him to let her finish. 

"Plutonium Blue, which was discovered when the answer to why the dinosaurs died off was found, is the most amazing element the world doesn't know about. How do I describe it...Plutonium Blue is a dream. Plutonium Blue is the sea mist you feel on your face as you stand on the precipice of a beautiful moss covered cliff that's facing the ocean. Plutonium Blue is that feeling you got after departing from the person with whom you had your first kiss. Plutonium Blue is standing in a field on a summer night and looking up at a crescent moon...Plutonium Blue...Plutonium Blue is that feeling you get after just having scored a goal on the opposing team, it's seeing a killer whale breach; it's drinking a perfectly made espresso while sitting at a piazza in Italy while watching well dressed and confident looking people stroll by. Plutonium Blue is so many things. Plutonium Blue is love and it is life."

We were parked.

As Janet was giving her soliloquy, Jeb had actually pulled over to the side of the road. He apparently wanted to focus all of his attention on what Janet was saying, and now there we were, parked on the side of the highway, the car vibrating a tiny bit every time another car passed us very quickly in the slow lane.

"Janet. That's amazing." I looked over at Jeb and I almost lost it. Where his eyes had been were now just sockets filled with blazing blue light. His eyes, they were no longer there!"

I looked back at Janet and I saw that there was a forcefield of blue light clinging to her entire form. The light that surrounded her was the same in blue shade as the light glowing in Jeb's eye sockets, almost like an indigo blue, the shade of blue that bulbs in an electric mosquito zapper burn with.

"Then will you join me?" Janet said.

Jeb opened his door, got out and extended his hand, palm open, to Janet, who was still in the back seat and was smiling at me.

I'LL NEVER FORGET THAT DAY, although many times I've tried. It was the first and last time I saw Janet and it was the last time I saw Jeb.

I always thought that Jeb would phone me one day to tell me now it all went. But I guess they don't have phones where he is.

Yes, I've tried to forget that day. But every time I try not to think about it, I see that blue light. And sometimes, when I'm about to go to sleep and am washing my face in the mirror, I'll see a spark of bright blue light twinkle in my very own eyes. It'll be just a twinkle, but I'll see it all right. 

Sunday, June 19, 2016

All you got

Sometimes giving it all you've got is as good as succeeding.

Such was the case with me recently when I attempted to have a small preview story published in local newspaper.

This story was about an art auction whose proceeds were to go toward helping refugees in Hamburg. The auction was going to take place on Sunday, so the story needed to be in the paper before that day.

However, I had totally forgotten that I wanted to write this story and when I finally did remember, I was absolutely nowhere near a computer

I know it's hard to believe that in today's day and age there was no computer to be found, but it was true.

So I knew what I had to do. I had to turn up my game and try a new approach.

I got out a spiral notebook and started drafting the story. And I mean drafting. After writing the story one time and getting it pretty much down, I rewrote the piece on another piece of paper -- a true second draft.

Then I did a third draft and a fourth. Then, because the newspaper I was pitching the piece to was a German language publication, I translated the piece into German. Then, I asked a friend who is bilingual if she could edit my translation and she did, again by good old pen and ink.

The next day, I was getting ready to type the 250-word piece into my phone and send it when someone told me that there was actually a computer in the place I was staying.

So I went over to where this computer was, but when I got there, lo and behold I discovered that the "public" computer  was a money operated affair and I needed to have change to operate it. So I went to a store nearby, bought a cup of coffee, broke a 20 euro bill, came back to the computer and tapped out the piece.

Later that day, I got an email from the editor to whom I pitched the story. She said she liked the piece and thought she'd be able to squeeze it into the Saturday paper, but could I send a photo?

Because I was under the impression that I still had a tiny bit more time, I emailed my contact insteading of calling him to ask if he had a photo.

But it turned out that I probably should have called my contact. That's because by the time I got the photo, it was the next day, and by the time I got that photo to the editor, she told me I had missed the deadline for the Saturday paper.

As they say in German, "schade" --  "What a shame."

Yes, I was disappointed that the piece wouldn't be published,  but you know what? After the editor gave me the bad news, I still felt all right. I went over in my mind all the things I had done -- all the hoops that I had jumped through to try to get this thing published -- and I felt a sense of pride.

The story is below. I don't know how good your German is, but if you want to plug it into Google translate and kind of see what you get, be my guest.

 Eine Kunst-Auktion zugunsten der Flüchtlingshilfe wird am Sonntag den
19. Juni in Altona stattfinden. Das dadurch gesammelte Geld wird
verendet um syrischen und anderen Flüchtlingen in Hamburg zu helfen.

Die Auktion wird in der St. Petri Gemeinde Stattfinden und werden die
Gemälde von sechs lokalen Künstlern versteigert.

„Nachdem ich von freiwilligen Helfern der Flüchtlinge gehört hatte,
das jeder zusätzliche Euro gebraucht wird, wusste ich, dass ich etwas
machen wollte um zu helfen,“ sagte der Altonaer Künstler Volker Burk
(75), der die Idee zu der Auktion hatte.

Der Stil der Gemälde reicht von abstrakt über surrealistisch bis
minimalistisch. Die Gemälde werden voraussichtlich 150,- bis 200,-
euros pro Stück erzielen.

Die gesamten Erlöse der Auktion werden den Maltesern gespendet, einer
der vielen Organisation die den Flüchtlingen in Hamburg helfen.

Stefanie Langost, eine Mitarbeiterin der Malteser, sagte, dass das
gesammelte Geld aus der Auktion genutzt werden wird, um Kochkurse und
andere Kurse zur Verbesserung der Lebensqualität für rund 350
Flüchtlinge in Osdorf zu finanzieren.

Die Auktion am Sonntag beginnt um 17 Uhr. Die St. Petri Gemeinde liegt
in der Schmarjestraße 33.