Open Wounds

Travel

NOLA Beignets and Genitalia

Mardi Gras in New OrleansI’m sitting in New Orleans Louis Armstrong Airport with Max and Karen waiting for Jetlbue flight 576 to arrive to head back to New York. It’s a long story and I’ve only got the energy for a short version.

Drug Court conference for the state of Louisiana. I did a plenary for the whole association (some 400 practitioners) on Cultural Competency and LGBT clients – a workshop for about 100 on Young Adult Developmental Issues. I said the words penis and vagina out loud. You had to be there to get the context but it was a moment I’m proud of.

Karen and Max came down here with me. It was their first time here. We did Mardi Gras, and a swamp tour, and Max held a baby alligator, and we ate beignets (Max laughed and made the powdered sugar go all over the place), and we caught beads thrown from parade floats, and walked the French Quarter.

Grant proposals are due. My work as Ex Dir is giving me constant brain freeze. I’m running out of steam.

I haven’t posted since December but I’ve been writing. That’s good.

Half of one book (Cid prequel) and half of another (modern-day). I’ve been marking new pages on a note app and am up to 42 this year on the modern-day newbie. That puts the total for modern-day up to about 135. Writing is good.

Finishing is better.

I’ll work some on the plane ride home. I’ve promised myself that. That and a movie  – perhaps a comedy. We could all use a good laugh. We’re heading into the cold and a coming snowstorm.

I read The Bully Pulpit – by Doris Kearns Goodwin – a massive tome about Taft and Roosevelt. It was a long long tough read but totally worth it – even if Teddy R comes out looking like an ass at the end. Small print and many hours reading later…

Taft was an introvert. Long live the introverts. They are different kinds of leaders and good ones too.

It’s 2014. Two months in. 42 pages. Have to catch up.

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The Kingdom of Ass-holes

Assholes: A Theory

I know. I know. But tell me if you saw a book like this in the bookstore, that you wouldn’t pick it up to at least, you know, look.

I’ve been reading a book called, Ass-holes, A theory, by Aaron James and thoroughly enjoying it. James is a Harvard educated philosophy doc and takes a philosophical approach to looking at assholes and you either go with it or you don’t. I did. It reminded me of an extended, funny Monty Python sketch. He’s not going to tell you how to deal with assholes. He’s just going to examine them and identify them, and try to figure out why they appear in our world in such large numbers.

I can honestly say I have never seen the work asshole used in combination with so many other words so many different ways, all in one place, before. For example there is asshole management, are assholes shaped by enabling cultures,  self-aggrandizing assholes, reckless assholes, delusional assholes, an asshole population, asshole CEOs, assholes within, corporate assholes, royal assholes, royal royal assholes, presidential assholes, asshole bosses, smug assholes, boorish assholes, borderline or half-assed assholes, the supreme court of assholedom, kingdoms of assholes, small assholes, full-sized assholes, individuals who have an inner asshole, moral assholes, have a proliferation of assholes, be a mere asshole, or be a part of asshole capitalism. And that’s just stuff from the first half of the book that caught my eye.

James sets up a hypothesis for what makes up an asshole as opposed to a psycho, tyrant, scumbag, or jerk. He likes to work from the middle of the spectrum of assholedom.

Why am I writing about assholes? It occurred to me while I was contemplating reading Ass-holes, that I should buy the iBook version and read it on my iPad – one less book to carry around while traveling. Then I realized once again – for I go back and forth on this over and over again – that if I continued this pattern I would not longer buy books from independent bookstores – which, if they no longer exist, would be the end of civilization as we know it.

Besides, I bought Ass-holes because I saw it in the window of Kramer Books on Dupont Circle in DC – a great bookstore, coffee shop and diner.  They earned the purchase by their display, their wonderful sales help, allowing me to wander through their aisles for an hour, and their all around awesomeness.

So in a way, if I didn’t buy the hardcover I would have been an asshole without a cover.

It’s my rationalization and I’m sticking to it.


Fish Bones and So Long Suckers

I’ve been traveling a lot. Over the last four months I’ve been to Seattle twice, Oklahoma, New Orleans, and DC (where I’m headed now). My day job has been calling and I have had to answer.

I lost 90 pages of my WIP late in the summer – don’t ask how. Okay I’ll tell you. I can’t help myself.

Once, when my son was small, about four years old we had a small fish tank with a few fish in it. One fish disappeared one night. I mean … it disappeared. There had been casualties before (many, many, many casualties) but they always showed up on the surface, belly up. So one little guy, like a master illusionist, one night disappeared. I searched the whole tank, top to bottom, filter to gravel graveyard. I checked the floor for 6 feet in all directions. I looked for bones in hideouts.

I called fish experts.

They scratched their heads.

He was too big to be eaten by the two other fish inside the tank with him. So what happened to him? I don’t know. But sometimes, late at night when I’m just about asleep I swear I can hear him laughing and calling out to me, “So long sucker.”

One night in August I was working on my WIP. I left the document open on the screen, got caught up in watching The Big Bang Theory with my son and wife. I went to bed. In the morning…

So long suckers.

The document was there but 90 pages were gone. I looked everywhere. I looked on my screen, in my dropbox, in my WIP folder, in my other computer, in all my back-up files. I checked the floor for 6 feet in all directions. I looked for bones in hideouts.

Fortunately I had a hard copy. I just had to type it all in again…

I wish I was a faster typist. Mavis Beacon, here I come.

So long suckers.


Tattered Covers and Denver Fencers

I was in Denver this week teaching Cultural Competency workshops to drug court practitioners. But I had my evenings free.

IMG_0354The first stop was The Denver Fencing Center (fencing is big in Denver with about 10 different fencing salles to choose from) and it was huge. I think they had 10-12 strips in four different rooms. Great space. Nathan Anderson is the Head Coach/Owner and he was a great host. I gave the center two copies of Open Wounds and a bunch of book marks. I fenced for two hours (group lesson and some open fencing) wheezing badly from the high altitude (yes, that’s why I fenced so badly – it’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it!) but really enjoyed the good company on and off the strip. Fencers are great company and this salle has a good feel to it. Before I left that evening one copy of the book was already gone – in someone’s backpack and out the door.

Second evening I was taken to dinner by Pam (aka: Joemmamma at Life Happens While Books are Waiting blog) and her wonderful family at a great Italian restaurant called Maggianos. We talked books, movies, and more books until the last piece of desert was finished. Pam’s blog named my book one of her favorites in 2011 and she was one of the first bloggers to review it. Thank you Pam.

IMG_0358Third evening I finished work early and headed out to the Tattered Cover Bookstore in downtown Denver on 16th street. There are three of these wonderful, beautiful stores in Denver and my last time in town I visited all three in the hope of getting them to pick up my book and carry it in their stores. They ordered the book and have been carrying it ever since. This year I was on foot and using mass transit so I was only able to visit one store.

Open Wounds on the Shelf!

Open Wounds on the Shelf!

I visited the 16th street store and my book was on the shelf. It made my day. I pulled it off the shelf and found Barry, the YA expert, and signed the book. She stickered it and I gave her a bunch of bookmarks to give away. IMG_0356Barry recommended a book titled The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a ship of her own making by Valente very strongly for my son and for me. I later found out she liked the book so much she had talked to every staff person in the store about it (even gave each of them a copy and said “read”). IMG_0357This is the kind of word of mouth that gets a book noticed. Hearing this story just made me smile. It’s one of the reasons I love books and bookselling. It’s why I keep stopping in indie-stores with copies of Open Wounds. If just one bookseller reads it and likes it – look at what a champion can do. I met the manager and thanked her for carrying my book and spoke to the baristas (who made a killer latte). I left the store flying.

IMG_0359Took the Lite-Train to Evans and walked to Navajo Street for some more fencing. I might have been getting used to the altitude or it could be I worked out some of the kinks from the last time there, but fenced another two hours – until I just about dropped but in a much more dignified manner.

Met a coach named Bob Block who knows Witold Rak, a fencing coach who runs his own backyard salle in Woodside near where I live. I found out the person who took Open Wounds to read two nights before was another coach Paul Von Rentzell (who also lent me his prize epee to use – it was awesome and now that I think of it – probably the reason I fenced better) and his review of my book was a big thumbs up.

Denver couldn’t have been better.


A Downpour of Broken Sticks

Have you ever had one of these kinds of days?

I’m walking to the subway from 23rd and 6th, heading towards 7th avenue. I’m on my way to AMTRAK up on 32nd at Penn Station. I have an overnight bag and my computer bag with me. It’s pouring rain. I don’t have an umbrella. I’m not late yet but I feel the pressure of the clock ticking. I have about fifteen minutes flex time.

The rain comes down harder.

I duck into Duane Reade and look for an umbrella. There’s a long line of ten people all waiting to buy umbrellas. I pick one off the rack and get in line. There’s only one cashier and he is slow. I wait ten minutes then ditch the umbrella and head back outside.

It’s raining even harder.

I go back in to get the umbrella – wait 10 more minutes on line then rip off it’s sheathe, open it and head into the rain.

The umbrella is small and my back starts to get wet. If I don’t hurry I’ll be running for the train at Penn, maybe miss it. My heart is starting to beat faster.

I’m almost at the 1/9 on 7th Avenue and 23rd. There’s construction and scaffolding over the stairs down that extend to Pong Sri, a Thai restaurant I’ve been to a number of times before. It’s crowded and I try to step to the side as a blind man comes out of the aisle next to the stairs. The rain is drumming. People step away. I have no place else to go. I bump into the scaffolding. The blind man’s walking stick gets between my legs and I snap it in half.

“You broke my walking stick!” the man yells. He’s maybe in his thirties, wearing a black tee-shirt and pants and is getting wet. I’m getting wet too.

“I’m sorry,” I say reaching down to try to put the two pieces together. I thought walking sticks were extendable and collapsible so maybe I could just fix it.

“It’s broken!” he says again and grabs my arm, threading his arm through mine and turning me around. “Now you’re taking me to where I have to go.”

“Sure,” I mumble, looking forlornly at the subway entrance only ten feet away. “Yes, I will.”

“You’re damned right you will,” he adds as punctuation.”

We start to walk faster together, him holding me tight. “Where are you going?” I ask over the sound of the rain. I look at him and don’t look where we’re going. Another blind man is in front of us. Before I realize what’s going to happen they collide shoulder to shoulder, my man pushing into me as he spins around.

“Watch where you’re going!” my guy yells then turns towards me. “You have to watch out for me.”

“Your mother!” the blind man who passed us yells over his shoulder, tapping away with his cane.

“Fuck you!” my guy shouts back still moving forward.

“Fuck you, you asshole,” the other man yells then disappears into the downpour.

“I’m sorry” I say. “That was my fault. I wasn’t looking.”

“Damned right it was your fault. You have to watch out for me as we walk.”

“Right. Now where are we going?”

“135 West 23rd street,” he says.

I look to the left and see the Council for the Blind building and guide him carefully past a few other pedestrians and into the front door.

“Thank you,” he tosses over his shoulder at me.

“I’m sorry again about your stick,” I say as the door closes. I don’t have my umbrella anymore. I don’t know where it went.  I turn around to head back towards the subway.

And the rain continues to come down.