Thursday, October 20, 2011

Back Then...

Is there such a thing as a “Mid Mid-Life Semi-Crisis”?  Google’s standard way of dealing with my inquiries proved true again, by responding with a cold, harsh no.  A disappointing answer from them usually makes me say something like, “Fuck off, Google.  You may eventually become the real-world version of Skynet and take over this filthy ball of dirt with killer robots that, oddly enough, have Austrian accents… but you don’t know EVERYTHING!”  Google said nothing back.  It knew I was going to lead the human rebellion, and it was afraid.

I know what you're about to say.  Just pipe down and let me have my moment.

Now the only reason I ended up having that Terminator Nerd moment was because lately I’ve been feeling a certain need in the pit of my stomach.  At that moment I couldn’t figure out the name for it, just a way to describe it, the “Mid Mid-Life Semi-Crisis”.  A term that, from now on, that bitch-ass Google should acknowledge.

Pictured: A Bitch-Ass.

Ever since I hit 27 a few months back, I’ve been cultivating the habit of searching for and acquiring relics from my childhood.  A Superman board game here, a ridiculous amount of baseball cards there, and early 90’s television shows filling in the cracks.  My guess is that I realized the big THREE-OH was coming up quicker than expected and I didn’t want to necessarily feel younger, just simply remember some aspects of my youth.

This led me to Amazon’s search window and the title, The Wonder Years.  I wasn’t expecting much of a result, The Wonder Years had never been put out on DVD.  Rumor had it, the cost of getting the rights to all of those songs they used throughout the series would have been a fortune.  When the results came up, Amazon proved those rumors wrong.  All six seasons were readily available as streaming video, free to Amazon Prime members… like me.  Wait a second…


The first few episodes resurrected memories and feelings that I had long-since forgotten about.  I remembered how life was so simple back in my grade school days.  Summer vacation back then really was a vacation… three months of pure freedom during the best weather of the year.  A kid was able to get out of bed around lunchtime and loaf around the house for a while.  When he felt like it, he would call his friends over to play.  That afternoon, if they felt the need to spread their wings, they could roam wherever they wanted and get into any adventure that may cross their path… just was long as they stayed within the neighborhood and were back in time for dinner.  When he did get back, that evening meal was eaten with the care and pace of a chipmunk on crystal meth.  Plate is clear, dishes are done, kid is out the door, Mom chases after, “Back at 8:30!”, kid whines… but accepts.

However, there is a certainty that every kid comes to loathe about summer vacation.  The fact that it ends, and ends way too quickly.  Every year it would creep up, starting with the hint of a new wardrobe and more responsible sleeping schedule.  Then it would happen, the kiss of death for any kid wanting to stretch his freedom into perpetuality: the trip to buy new school supplies.  With each new notebook or highlighter tossed into the shopping cart, a little piece of summer spirit would slip away.  It was only a matter of time before their dreaded backpack was strapped on and put to use. Though in retrospect, school in the age of adolescence wasn’t bad at all.  There were still daily events like gym class, art class and the soon to be extinct recess period.   In a lot of ways, school was more fun because a kid could do all of that with many more friends than he had while on summer vacation.

Doesn’t seem so bad now that you think about it, eh?

The more one actually thinks about their life back then, the more they realize that everything was fresh, every situation was new.  It was all a beautiful series of firsts.  The first best friend, first fight, first hobby, first hero, first fear, first favorite band, first “cool teacher”, first crush, first kiss and the first broken heart.
However, there is a first that wasn’t nearly as common, the first “true enemy”.   I believe this because in my experience, enemies soon became friends the moment they found common ground.  Children of that age weren’t jaded enough to think of holding a grudge, not to mention they had the attention span of a squirrel.  They lived their lives in the moment, because thinking ahead… never really occurred to them.  The innocence of kids that age (at least back then) rarely involved anything beyond their own personal world.  If they ever encountered anything they’d never seen before, they would react in the most honest way, with wonder and awe.

Sadly for us, things these days are not so full of awe.  We’re stuck with jobs we may not like, bills we sometimes can’t afford, politics we can’t control, relationships that might be a struggle, and a world full of difficulties and stresses we can barely comprehend, let alone influence on our own.  Every moment in our lives, we all have at least a couple of problems that diligently nag us when we get a chance to stop and collect our thoughts.

My collection of thoughts: Chaos with boobs right there in the center.

Though I don’t think it’s really that bad for everyone out there.  Because right now, even as I am writing this, there is a little boy or girl that will wake up tomorrow and have a full day of moments that were only recently experienced for the first time.  They will tie their shoes, grab their backpack, and wait for that school bus to stop at the corner of their street.   Soon that bus will take them to school, where they might learn about Thomas Edison in the morning, the rules of kickball in the afternoon and how to deal with a bully on the ride home.  For some weird reason, I take comfort in knowing that. 

It makes me smile knowing that the kinds of memories I cherish are, at this moment, being created for someone else.  Maybe one day, I might be able to watch my own kid hop on his bike and ride off with his friends to get into trouble on a warm Saturday afternoon. 

But you had better believe, as soon as he’s old enough… I’m going to teach him how to use the lawnmower.  I’ll spend my Sunday mornings reading the paper.  Let him deal with the damn lawn.

It’s been said by many people who lack originality that “You can never go home again.”  I think that’s complete horseshit.  Sure, you may not be able to go back to that driveway you spent so many afternoons playing on, or call your best friend on the phone and ask if he wants to have a sleepover, or ask your dad to teach you how to throw a baseball… but that doesn’t matter.  You’ve already lived those moments, and you can relive them whenever you want.  All you have to do is sit back and do what you used to when you were a kid: daydream. 

Those memories that you made, of both happiness and heartache, are waiting for you.  They have always been there, ready to bring you back home. 

For at least a little while.
Like what you read?  Check these out:
Full Disclosure
Voice of Others

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Against the Grain

The majority of my life has been spent on trying to find my place in the world.

It began in late grade school and my freshly-founded obsession with the idea of ‘cool’.  Listening to the acts of an era in rock now known as ‘grunge’, I looked at the flannel-shrouded, long-haired, guitar-wielding frontmen in the CD inserts, and envied them.  “Those guys have it all worked out,” I would think to myself, and I envied them.  They found their niche in society, and I envied them.  They were publicized in rock magazines and music videos, and I envied them.  With envy, came imitation.

The beginning of my transformation from dork to cool was the decision to stop getting my hair cut.  Soon to follow was my clothing.  The generic striped polo shirts, khaki pants and sketcher shoes were shoved to the back of my closet, and I filled the fresh void with band t-shirts, flannel button downs, ripped-up jeans and Airwalks.  I wanted to be an apathetic rock star, it’s all I could think about.  I wanted to be the cool one that spit in the face of society. 

Sadly, being a thirteen year-old suburbanite didn’t give me many opportunities to do so.  The only evidence of my rebellion is a photo that was taken at my D.A.R.E. graduation.  In it is a very clean-cut police officer and standing next to him is me, with long (badly) bleached hair, ratty jeans and a Nirvana t-shirt that depicts Kurt Cobain handing the camera a lit cigarette.

Take that, society.

A year later, I finally gave in to my parent’s nagging and cut my hair.  With their relief, came a trip to the mall and an all-new wardrobe.  From then on, the days of me looking like a first-year heroin addict were over. 
Now one would think… having the wisdom of a failed fashion paradigm shift might help me avoid making the same mistake in high school, right?

Dear god no.  What are you, high?

High school for me was a series of (now humiliating) trial-and-error experiments.  Until junior year where I finally gave up and stopped caring how cool I looked, I went through about five to six different phases.  The irony is, when I stopped caring about being cool, others began thinking of me as just that… a fact that still makes me wish the Flux Capacitor was real, so I could go back to that D.A.R.E. graduation and smack myself in the back of the head.

Since then, the way I present myself hasn’t changed much.  I dress normally and act how I want to act; as someone who doesn't really care about being cool.  I’ve accepted the fact that my niche in life is that I have no real niche to speak of, I simply float from group to group… knowing that I am destined to do so.
However, that is not so say that I haven’t always envied one type of person. 

The rebel.  The misfit.  The guy that sees the road that his peers travel, and says “fuck that”.  You watch him forge his own pathway through life, and god dammit, you respect him for it… because that guy is the very essence of ‘cool’.

When dry, stuffed-shirt historians mention the term ‘Americana’, they are almost always referring to the “Leave it to Beaver-type” era.  The nine-to-five office jobs, finely-manicured lawns, Mickey Mantle, 7-10 splits, The Beach Boys and apple pies resting in a kitchen window.

I respectfully say, “fuck that”.

To me, ‘Americana’ is more centered on rebellion against the establishment.   Americans, by their very nature, are rebels.  We rebelled against the British in the Revolutionary War, and the result was the founding of our country.  Since then, we have been the very basis of the world’s definition of ‘cool’.  Sure, many countries out there currently look down their noses at us because the way we handle ourselves, but you know what?  That’s what rebels and misfits do; we act like an asshole from time to time.   It’s our way.  Otherwise we may as well become the Sergeant at Arms for the Chess Club. 

Nothing against chess players, I just happen to have a hatred for the game… mainly because I’m terrible at it.

I've always believed that movies are the best reflection on our society, and generation after generation of iconic movies have had The Misfit right in the center, as the story’s protagonist.  Marlon Brando in “The Wild One”, Steve McQueen in “The Great Escape”, James Dean in “Rebel Without a Cause”, Al Pacino in “Serpico”, Brad Pitt in “Fight Club”.  All of these people played characters that didn’t fit in, by choice.  We watched them in the movie theater, sipping on our sodas and eating popcorn, rooting for them to come out on top, and you know what?  They always did.  More or less.

I think that a large chunk of people today wish that they could be The Rebel on one level or another. Why not?  It’s tough to explain, but being the rebel or being the misfit is being cool… by it’s very definition.  Cool is the faction that’s a cut above the norm.  Otherwise if everyone that’s normal were cool, where’s the oddity?  Where’s the specialty?

Take for example all of the fashion trends that travel through pop culture.  A new trend would start, with new hip-types that set themselves apart from the rest.  But soon, like a wave, an entire movement begins.  Countless people imitate the originals, claiming to be just as special.  How can one claim to be an individual, or special, or even cool if everyone else is the exact same way?  You’re not a rebel or a misfit at that point, you're the exact opposite.  You’re just as normal as your parents are… as they’re in a fashion trend themselves, only theirs doesn’t involve skinny jeans or knit hats. 

Honestly people, enough with the skinny jeans already. 

Somehow the rebels and misfits always end up being the object of my envy.  A rebel or a misfit doesn’t dress or act a certain way because everyone else does.  He is who he wants to be, even if society says he should do otherwise.  He stands off to the side, leaning against the wall with a Marlboro hanging from his mouth, content with his own company.   If you approach him and introduce yourself, he’ll pause and eye you up before he responds.  Why?  No one knows but The Rebellious Misfit, and he sure as hell won’t tell you.   The most you’ll get is his name and a nod of the head.

While I am not defined as an entirely ‘normal’ person, I’m also nowhere near the realm of being a Rebel or a Misfit, it doesn’t seem to be in the cards for me.  I wish it was though.

Maybe next year.
Like what you read?  Check these out:
Full Disclosure
Voice of Others

Friday, July 15, 2011

Motel Scene

This is an attempt at a much darker fiction, totally unrelated to the novel.


The sulfur coated match head connects with the side of the box, igniting a brilliant light that, for a moment, brings the furniture in the room to life.  The faint whisper of my cigarette crackling from the first drag is something that I've never heard before.  Prior to tonight, this has just been another step in a series of motions and gestures I would make in an attempt to look cool in a room full of noisy strangers I try so dearly to impress.  The match is dropped to the floor and quickly forgotten.  It has become just another object that is lost in the darkness of my surroundings that I am caring less and less about.

Even though the room is absent of any light, the cigarette still finds its way to my lips.  With every drag I take, the amber tip glows just enough to let me see something in the mirror on the wall.  It’s my face… or what I can only assume is my face.  The expressionless and skeletal shapes I see are a far cry from how I normally look.  When the sun is up or when people are present, I’m full of charisma and life.  You’ll laugh at my jokes, you’ll listen to my stories, you’ll hang on every one of my carefully crafted words, and when I begin to lose interest, you’ll ask to see me again and give me a folded up paper or fresh napkin with your number on it.  I’m the type of person you’d pass by on the street and smile at, because the smile you’d see on my face is infectious.  A virus of cheer.   But the sun is down now and the people are gone, so the allure has faded and the cheer has retreated.  All that’s left now is the virus.

I am a virus.

My pupils begin to dilate and I can see objects on the floor that I need to step over, as I have decided to open the window.   I need to let in the smell of fresh air and the sound of passing late night traffic.   My arms and chest tighten when I push myself from the edge of the cheap motel bed, reviving the soreness I was feeling hours earlier, when I had just finished.

Arms hanging to my sides, cigarette hanging from my mouth, I step over my shoes and feel a squish.  The coldness assures me that it’s just a toppled bottle of water… or maybe beer.  I had too much to drink tonight, I could feel myself losing control.  I was very loose when we walked out of the bar, so much that I almost lost my footing the moment I set foot on the gravel parking lot.  I dispise that feeling.

I push the drapes to the side and pull the ground-level window open.  A rush of cool Oklahoma air blows past me and I take a deep breath, absorbing the fresh smell of 5am.  The sky on the horizon is getting lighter now, dawn will be coming soon.  The dark two-lane highway at the end of the motel parking lot isn’t as lonely as it was when she led me into her room, the truckers have begun to drive by on their morning shifts.  Every so often one glances at the motel, only to see me standing in a window, looking back.

The virus lights another cigarette.

I take a long drag and keep it down so the smoke burns my lungs, an attempt to feel some kind of pain.  I secretly hope holding it in shortens my life a little more than usual, I hope I won’t have to do this for much longer.  I don’t want to do what I do, but I can’t help it.  I know I’m a person of interest, and this is what I have to do to keep under their radar.  What a sullen way to live.

With the cigarette still hanging from the corner of my mouth, I begin to collect my things. A sock here, my watch there.  A used condom is still lying on the bed, next to her skirt.  Staying as quiet as possible, I walk into the bathroom and flush it, along with some of my tissues that were on the nightstand.  Her room key is still on the desk, right where she left it.  I put it in my pocket and take everything I've collected to my car and open the trunk, depositing my clothes and withdrawing the can.  I flick the amber from the end of my cigarette and put the butt in my pocket.  Looking around me, I make sure no one is up and watching me walk back into the room. 

The virus removes the cap from the can.

I walk into the bathroom and start pouring the can’s contents onto the sink, the floor and into the tub, making sure the shower curtain is not forgotten.  I leave a trail from there and make my way into the rest of the motel room, covering every spot I may have left my mark. When I’m finished, I go back to the window and close everything back up, checking once again to see if I'm the only one awake.  I am.

I wipe off the room key with my shirt and put it back onto the now drenched desk.  Using what little of the can’s contents I have left, I begin a trail to the door.  Before I open it, I look back and inspect my progress, noticing the wet spot I stepped on minutes ago.  I smile to myself when I realize that it wasn’t beer or water after all, it’s urine.  Her urine.  A lot of it.  She really had to pee.

I open the door and check outside once again.  No one is around, no one is awake, and no one is approaching on the road.  I wipe the doorknob clean, then make a trail to my car, cap off the can, and quietly deposit it back into my trunk.  Getting into the driver’s seat of my car, I light one more cigarette and drop the still lit match onto the ground next to me, setting the liquid I poured out ablaze.  I watch the flames crawl into the room and spread out, engulfing everything.  The desk, the bed, the walls, the floor, the urine, and her body.  

I start my car, pull out onto the road and accelerate as quickly as I can, glancing in the rearview mirror to watch the orange glow erase everything I had done.  Everything the virus had done.  I take another long drag of my cigarette and hold it in.  The orange glow disappears behind the horizon, letting every thought about tonight disappear with it, except for one thing.

The expression in her eyes as she was losing consciousness is something that will stay with me for a while, it intrigued me.  It wasn't the look of fear, sadness, or even anger.  It was disbelief.  She looked right at me and couldn't believe the sight of what was happening to her, the blood everywhere… or the unyielding, vacant look I had on my face.  It was the look of a monster.

I am a monster.
Like what you read?  Check these out:
Full Disclosure
Voice of Others

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Rookie Novelist: A Tale of Trivial Turmoil

I doubt there is a conventional way to write a novel.  However if there was, my method sure as hell ain’t it.
When I think of the average writer working on his current book, I manifest visions of someone sitting at a desk in their study or office, surrounded by leather-bound books.  A stack of blank paper at their right, a typewriter in front of them and their first draft neatly stacked to their right.  Let’s also throw a smoldering tobacco pipe on that desk too, for good measure.  Somewhere near them, a corkboard  hangs on a wall.  On it are numerous index cards filled with handwritten notes, many of them crossed out with new words written below them… their storyboard-in-progress.
Long into the wee hours of the night, the only noise one would hear in that mysterious room is the sound of that typewriter’s clacking  noise and music held at such a low volume, it’s barely audible. 
As inaccurate as my assumption of an average writer’s workspace may be, I still know that a real average writer would look at my version and say, “Th’ hell??”
Now before I take you by the hand and we jump into the description of my so-called “workspace”, allow me to instead start from the equally goofy event that got me thinking about writing a book.
It was the month of… something… and I was at work.  I had a bag of garbage in my hand and was walking to the back door to throw it into the dumpster.  When I opened the door, my eyes became fixated on a bee headed straight for my face, ‘World War II Japanese Kamikaze fighter pilot’ style.  Not wanting  to get a stinger in the nostril, I ducked out of the way.  Seconds after I got my bearings, I turned around to watch out for the bee’s second attempt.  But it was nowhere to be found… until I looked down and saw it on the floor, dead. 
“That sonnova bitch knew he was dying and wanted to take me with him.  What a dick move!”
That got me thinking. “What if someone sling-shot it at me? … How could he get a bee in a slingshot? … What if he froze it, then as it was thawing, he sling-shot it at me? … That’d be one interesting-ass person. … I’d love to read about someone like that in a novel. … Why don’t I write a novel about that???”
Boom. The seed of writing a novel was planted in my head. 
If you don’t know me at all, I'm sure you're thinking, “This J.S. Wright guy is really weird.”
If you do know me, I KNOW you're thinking, “Why am I not fucking surprised.”
Moving on.
When I walked back to my desk, I immediately sat down and began writing.  For the next four to five hours, the only breaks I took were to either light a cigarette or to shake the cramp out of my hands.  When I was finished with some character ideas, possible storylines and settings, I hit Print and put the results in my pocket, then emailed a copy to my laptop.
For the next few days, all I could think about was novel ideas for the novel (see what I did there??).  My work days were slow so I would free write, make bulleted points, plan things out, then print the results and email a copy to my laptop.  After about a week of repeating that process, I had a back pocket full of clever ideas, but no direction.  I knew there had to be a better way of doing this.
The first thing I did was go online and search around for handheld notebooks.  The drive I made to and from work was too thick with wandering thoughts and immense ideas, I couldn’t let any of them fall to the wayside.  After I found exactly what I was looking for (Moleskine Notebooks), I realized that attacking a project of this magnitude couldn’t be done on my own.  So I turned to someone who would know a lot more about this sort of thing than anyone else I knew, my older sister.
I shot her an email and followed it up with some of the ideas I had originally written down on that fateful day when that bee tried to pull a murder-suicide.  Shortly after, I got a reply… and boy was she excited.  We volleyed emails and texts back and forth for a little while, me giving vague ideas and she giving helpful tidbits of information… including this one (paraphrased) gem: “Start writing… and keep writing.”
So that’s what I did.  The result was a close version of the novel’s first chapter, posted below.  I sent it to her and she came back with excitement and encouragement, a quality of hers that I've come to depend on over the years.  She’s one of greatest people I've ever known.
That first chapter gave me tons of storyline ideas.  Soon I had a definite main character, secondary characters, a love interest, an antagonist, but the storyline itself was shaky at best.  When it comes to writing, I somehow have the ability to come up with great ideas and clever lines moments before the spot where they were necessary came up.  Knowing this, I decided to write out chapter outlines and come up with the entire story on the fly.  Four hours later, I had the outlines for the first twenty-four chapters  of a pretty solid sounding story written down.  Print. Send.
The next few weeks, noticed that it wasn’t so much of a solid story, but more of a flaccid one.  Well, maybe not flaccid, but I like using the word flaccid.  Flaccid.  Flaccid.  Flaccid.
So, taking ideas from the books I had recently read, I decided to include subplots and back stories.  This gave me enough nerve to write chapter two, and I did… almost.  There were so many holes and dead-ends in my storyline, that it made it very difficult to bridge the gap between mid-chapter two and the rest of the story that I had planned out.  Worse than that, the storyline itself was starting to look very boring and thin.  Shit.  Then it happened.
Writer’s Block.
I've never experienced for myself, but I've always heard about it happening.  Let me tell you, it was just as frustrating as you might’ve heard.  Days turned into weeks, weeks tuned into months, and the only production I had was small little lines that might sound cool… somewhere.  Getting discouraged by the few little entries into the notebooks that I bought, I began to lose interest, and started writing essays instead.   Through force of habit, I still carried the two black notebooks and printed copies with me at all times.  Every so often, I would open them up and look over everything, tying to ignite a fire in my brain and get to ball rolling again.  “I wish I would’ve listened to my sister and JUST KEPT WRITING!” I would periodically think to myself.
 Fast-forward a few months.  By then I had started  two blogs and was posting on them from time to time.  Then one day, I decided to look for help again, but this time, I asked everyone.  On my blog, I explained my predicament as a header, then pasted the first chapter.  I never got any reply, and I wasn’t totally surprised.
Then one morning, I came up with a new idea.  I wrote it down like I always did.  Then as I wrote it, I added to it.  Three seconds later, another idea, then another.  Filling up pages and pages in my notebook, I opened up Word and holy SHIT the flood gates opened.  I became a machine. 
I cut out 80% of all of my old plot notes and ideas, the only thing I kept was the first chapter.  I began to write chapter two.  Four thousand words later, it was done.  The next day: chapter three, another three thousand words.  The ideas were coming to me so quickly, I couldn’t keep up by writing the book out in it’s entirety.  So the next day, I wrote outlines for some of the following chapters… only each outline was about a thousand words.  Not one idea was left out.  After four days of straight writing, I needed to take a break. It was time to brainstorm.  It was time to figure out a story that actually worked.  At the end of the fifth day, I had the whole book worked out.  I even came up with a fucking epilogue.
That was two weeks ago.  Because of work picking up and not having enough time at home, my pace has slowed down dramatically, but I’m still going strong.  Currently, I have six chapters done, and  extensive outlines up to chapter twelve, all amounting to 20,000 words.  At this rate, I hope to have the first draft finished by July.  “Why so far from now?” you ask.  Well basically, there’s a SHITLOAD of chapters that I've yet to write.  I’m projecting 35+ chapters, all being written in my very odd method and workspace location.
My workspace isn’t much of a workspace at all, its more in my head than any place else.  When I do write, it’s mainly at work, and I work in a damned warehouse.  Each chapter is generally broken up into sections, and each section takes me a few hours.  When I'm done with that, I print it and send it like I always have.  When I get home, I take a break and edit what I've written earlier that day while laying on my bed with my laptop beside me.  The next day when I find time, I sit back down and take the next section or chapter that I've formulated in my primary mental workspace, and write it while sitting in my secondary physical workspace.
Some writers have an elegant wood or glass desk, I have one comprised of cut and drilled particle board, that I built myself.  Other writers use a typewriter, I use a company-supplied desktop.  Some writers play classical music very quietly, I have Depeche Mode blaring loudly.  One writer may have his trusty dog laying at his feet, I have a forklift resting six feet to my right.  Another writer may have a rolling executive’s chair, I have a stool… that frankly isn’t very level.
Maybe if this book I'm writing ends up getting published and makes me some money, I might be able to find more time to write another book and then another.  I certainly have come up with a lot of great book ideas along the way, so there’s a slim chance I might be able to quit this god forsaken job altogether.  That would be pretty nice, having a real “writer’s type” of workspace.  I’d have the books, the desk, the solitude, but most importantly, the time to write. 
One thing is for sure though.  If you walked into my office, you ask me to turn the music down.  To which I would reply, “Fuck off.”
Like what you read?  Check these out:
Full Disclosure
Voice of Others

Monday, March 7, 2011

Untitled Novel: Chapter One

Writer's block. The bane of my current existence. I've been working on a novel for about five months now, but since the new year, I haven't written a single word pertaining to it.  I've hit a wall.

Having exhusted the conventional methods of combatting this crippling condition (booze, prostitutes, needle drugs, killing a man in Tijuana to watch him die, free writing, etc.), I've decided to go one step further and reach out for help / encouragement / replenishment needle drugs, by posting the first chapter as is.

The book is currently untitled, about a motley crew of societal rejects that decide to rob a bank.  This first chapter is kind of Tarantino-esque, being that it takes place somewhere in the middle of the story.

Let me know what you think. 
If you think it sucks, there's no need to tell me. I already know.

I open my eyes and see drops of red falling to the floor between my knees.  For a split second, my thoughts travel to how my legs are spread a little too far apart for my comfort level, but there's nothing I can do about it.  My ankles are tied to the legs of the chair. 
I could tell it was about to happen again. 
WHAM WHAM WHAM!!! Shit, a three-fer, he must be getting frustrated.  
The light bulb above us gives me a front row seat to a session of shadow boxing gone horribly wrong.  The floor, made of concrete and speckles of blood is the only thing I'm able to look at… after what feels like hours of getting bashed in the head with a phonebook, I don’t have the energy to lift my head.
To try and keep from blacking out, I do my best to count the drops of blood around me.  Eight inches from my left foot, going left to right… one, two, three…. Wait, those are dry… I'm not the first one who’s been bleeding down here.  The larger shadow moves again.  My eyes follow it as it winds up and brings the square shadow to the circular shadow, again.  I black out anyway.
There's a rush of coldness waking me back up. My reflexes open my eyes, and they immediately get blurry from the bloody water running through them.  “You think you can sleep through this, asshole?”
I feel the world flip sideways and smack me on my right side.  I blink rapidly to get the water out of my eyes. I can feel the cold concrete wall on my cheek, but I never saw any walls around me.  I look around and I realize that it’s not a wall, it’s the floor.  He hit me so hard it knocked me over, chair and all.
“Heh heh heh, you really are a skinny little prick, aren’t you?  I wasn’t even trying.”
The phonebook hits the ground, three and one quarter inches from my nose.   The sound it makes reminds me of a shotgun blast from any one of the Bruce Willis movies I have at home.  Man.  I really wish I was at my apartment right now.  I throw away all of my phonebooks, so the heaviest stack of paper he could hit me with would be my loose-leaf notebook I record my mileage in.  Then again, I have carpeting there too, all of this blood would stain it and I’d lose my deposit.  No question.
My left eyelid begins to twitch from all of the lawyer’s advertisements and escort’s phone numbers making contact with my left temple.  It’s getting to be really annoying.  As if I didn’t have enough problems already, this shit has to start too.
“Alright Chucky,” he says as he crouches down in front of me and his interrogation tool of choice. His black overcoat drapes to the ground, covering his dark colored dress shirt, still perfectly tucked into his dress pants, perfectly creased all the way down.  At the bottom, his very shiny, very expensive looking shoes are flawless.  From what I can tell, there's not a speck of dirt or blood on him, it looks like he just walked out of the house.  He definitely knows what he’s doing.   “My arm’s getting tired, and I’m getting tired… of you.”
A bright light is shinning me in the face now, making it even harder for me to see.  That coupled with the twitching eye and throbbing pain I have in my head, it’s making it difficult to understand what he’s saying right away.  Every thought I have has a five second delay, he doesn’t have the patience to wait that long.  Three seconds go by.  “Hey. HEY!” he smacks my cheek like a pimp getting his ho’s attention.  “Quit stalling Chucky.  If you don’t tell me, it’ll just take me another few days to find it.  So just save me the time.  Where the FUCK is the money???”
Another five seconds go by, all I do is vaguely look up at him and try to gather my thoughts.  Money. Money. Money.  I think it’s with, no its at….
The light shining in my face distracts me again.  The twitching gets more intense. My thoughts get lost into oblivion.
He’s done using the phonebook; he upgraded me to his bare fist.  The shining light comes back; I finally locate the source, its coming from him.
“I-I-I d-d-don…”
“What, you don’t know??  You realize how many times a day I hear those words Chucky???  Someone somewhere HAS to know SOMETHING.  And you know what? That someone is you.”  He pauses to catch his breath. “You know, I had my guy do some research on you, Charles M. Dockwood.”
That’s me.  Charles M. Dockwood. Hi.
“He told me you just moved here two months ago.”
Two months, eight days, and approximately nine hours, depending on how long I've been here… to be more exact.
 “You barely get settled and you already have the nerve to try and pass one by me??  This is MY city!!”
I say nothing.  I have no energy left, he’s beaten it out of me.  All I can do now is concentrate on the shining light.  I squint my eyes to try and make it out.  It looks like its something reflecting the light hanging above us, but that’s all I can tell.  His shirt is partially covering it; he’s crouching down too far.  “That’s it Chucky, I’m fed up with your little prick-ass.  Have fun in the ER… if anyone finds you here.”
He reaches his fist high in the air for the final blow to my head.  This one is going to count.  His shirt stretches up, and I can finally identify the source of the shining light, just before I black out.
It’s his badge.
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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

On the Road...

There used to be a time, years ago, when it was commonplace for a small group of friends to take a week or two off from work and travel to a place more interesting than where they were standing.  Armed with nothing but a car, clothes, cash, and close friends, they would cruise down a long, two-lane freeway in the green fields of The Great Plains or the desolate deserts of the Southwest.  Discussing ideas such as the downfall of the 70’s porn mustache, wondering what the fuck happened to Crystal Clear Pepsi, and insulting each other’s taste in music, they would steadily make their way to whatever destination they chose.
What I'm talking about of course, is a road trip, one of the many great American pastimes.  Sadly, as of late, this pastime isn’t nearly as prevalent and is rather becoming a part of times past.  With gas prices above three dollars per gallon, the economy in the shitter and society’s ever-growing obsession with consolidating unused nanoseconds, we all seemed to have lost something.  What have we lost?  Sight.  Sight of how necessary it is to drop everything and just get away for a while, using the two million miles of asphalt rivers and streams that have been laid out for us.
It’s strange how doing something virtually uneventful such as driving a long distance turns into an event itself.  Many times, the destination isn’t really that important.  They just need to make a trip, to get away from their normal lives, and temporarily live in another.  It’s a little romantic, in the classical sense of the word.   A handful of people amongst the awe of the entire country, conquering the (to them) untamed open road and strengthening their friendships because they are with each other every step of the way.  
Clichéd but great thoughts always come along with the idea of a road trip.  Stopping at obscure small towns in search of beer and breakfast food.  Photos with four nameless guys standing near a dusty car and staring off into the distance of a nameless desert somewhere.  Those same four guys creating their own fake personas and portraying them to the strangers they meet on the road.  The possibility of falling for a cute farmer’s daughter, getting chased out own town by her shotgun-wielding father… and immediately planning to visit her again on the return trip.  Meeting toothless people they would only want to meet once, but then buying them a beer anyway… at a bar named after some guy who was killed by a renegade cow.

I’ve wanted to experience something like that ever since I hit twenty-one.  Periodically, I’d have the opportunity to travel with some friend to pick up a car they bought four states away, or take a vacation and drive by myself to the East Coast or the Florida Keys.  However, each time it would end up fizzling out.  Whether it be the lack of time, the car sale falling through, or my ever-powerful apathy setting in, I would be left sitting in front of my desk at home or work, left with nothing but my routine in the near future.
Then  one night, recently, the serious need for travel hit me like the hand of a girl I had just insulted.  “I NEED to get out of here!!”  I thought to myself.  “I NEED to do something at least a LITTLE adventurous!  With all of this unused vacation time built up and a surplus in my bank account, I NEED to break the monotony!!” With this fresh desire for a change in my mind, I did what anyone else my age would do: I lazily left a Facebook status about it.  “I'm entertaining the idea of putting together a road trip for this summer. Anyone interested?”
Minutes later, people responded.
“Hell yeah!”
“If I am around, for sure.”
Then a friend of mine commented, “Route 66”.
“Hmm, that’s not a bad idea…” so said the gears in my head that were already turning.  And being the sponge for information that I am, I immediately began researching… a lot.
Allow me to give you the Cliff’s Notes on Route 66.   The “Mother Road” was made official in 1926, as a 2,400 mile long freeway that stretched from Los Angeles to Chicago, but since has been changed around a bit and is now mainly comprised of three main freeways, specifically I-40, I-44 and I-55.  It has gained notoriety over the decades as being a pathway for many things Americana, and the residue of these historical marks and communities are still present along the side of the road in the form of small towns, hotels, roadhouses, diners and weird “touristy” shit like the Barbed Wire Museum.

It's a Flexfit... right?

After learning all I could on the subject without turning myself into that douche bag-type that will look for any opening in a conversation to rattle of countless facts on a specific subject…  I can safely say that I will travel the Main Street of America this summer.  How do I know this?  My excitement.  I very rarely stay consistently excited about something for so long, especially in this situation where I know that it won’t be happening anytime soon.  I know that the ideal time for me would be in the summer, right after the Fourth of July… mainly because I get paid on the fifth.  Past that, my “Week on 66” is now just in the air.  All I can do now is plan what I can… to a point.  I also do not want to become that douche bag-type of traveler that has the entire trip planned out, up to the minute.  That just takes the fun out of the whole damn thing.  As a matter of fact, I think I’ll hold off on the planning for now all together.  What I will do instead is simply imagine about what clichés we all associate with road trips might actually become part of my experience on the road.

Like the cute farmer’s daughter.  That one has my vote.

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