Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The best part of my trip to Germany

 I wanted to have a pretzel and cheese and beer while in Germany, but apparently that's not an easy combination to find. At least, not for a decent price. This pretzel and beer cost me the equivalent of $12. That sauce is some kind of tomato thing. Not bad, but not something to die for.
This set I got on a boat while chugging along Lake Starnberg. The beer was $7 while the pretzel was free. No cheese on board, thank you. No other food at all.
This was as close as I ever got to a set-up of cheese, pretzel and beer...in the Ratskeller at Marienplatz. I had a bread basket with the cheese, but if I wanted a big pretzel, I had to order a second bread basket for another $10. To be honest -- I totally prefer their potato soup.
The one meal I had zero problem with. The Big Mac even tasted like a Big Mac and the fries were just right. Their ketchup is even like McDonald's ketchup, something I learned is a rarity in Germany; usually that stuff barely passes for tomato puree. Makes me miss the HP Sauce of England.

One last shot of Marienplatz and the amazing building that towers over it.

The red flowers grow in planters lining those windows.

But look at this detail -- these figures are 2/3 of the way up the tower. Supposedly they move during certain times of the day. Amazing work. That this building survived the bombing of Munich during WW2 is close to a miracle.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Scatter brained

Zyrtek fuzzies up my brain and sleepies my eyes, so after spending the day making myself focus on working up a quote for another packing job, I got home, ate dinner and lay down for just a few minutes...and woke up nearly 2 hours later. I haven't been able to focus my brain since.

I'll need to go back through everything I have for OT, now, because when I try to work on it, I can't remember what happened when where and how. It's irritating, but I'm getting nothing done of any value so I may as well.

I'm also working up new short summaries of the scripts I have that are ready to be made. Since I'm going to the Indie Gathering in a couple weeks, I want something I can show around. I have been contacted by one producer interested in reading one of my award-winners, so I'll get that off, tomorrow, and expect nothing.

Man, I have so much I need to do. I should hire a maid...wait, what's the male equivalent? A cute guy in a pair of shorts? I wonder how much one would cost to clean my place and defrost my fridge so I can use it, again? Half the reason I'm having nose trouble is all the dust in my joint.

I hope.

Now off to surf and let brain be dead for a while longer.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Zyrtek returns

I am allergic to something in Buffalo, because the minute I get back to town, my eyes start watering and my nose drives me nuts. I spent most of the day sneezing and blowing said nose as my eyes itched. I never even had Cedar Fever this bad, in Texas.

I had too much paperwork and mail to catch up on, so OT is on a back burner, for the moment. I'm taking my birthday off and trying to do some catching up. I've got an interesting idea for a coda, re: OT. There are people who think they know what they're doing and what's going on, but they don't. Jake does, because he can cut through the bullshit. I wish I was that cool.

I'm definitely back to having the last two weeks of August off, so I'm taking in The Indie Gathering Film Festival. It's geared towards action, horror and some comedy, with awards given for things like best fights and short films and micro-films and such. "The Alice '65" got best Romantic Comedy, there, which is fun and gives me a free pass. I'm making use of it. It starts the 16th and goes to the 18th. I booked my hotel, using the last of my points with Best Western, today.

I've had ideas on other scripts and how to rewrite them to be better. I have one called "Delay En Route" that's a bit on the old-fashioned side. I'd tried a number of ways to make it current but then realized, it wants to be set in the early 80s, when America was having a mini-renaissance of power under Reagan. That it turned out to be a fantasy that set the stage for exploding debt is beside the point; in '82-'83 we'd stopped whining about Vietnam and begun acting like a superpower, again...and that pretty much continued until Bush 2 and 9/11, when we went completely nuts.

I have other ideas, too. I still think in film images when I write. Guess I'm stuck in my lovely rut.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Say what?

It amazes me what people will call their food. At Munich airport, I had a lunch of curry wurst and potato salad...neither of which really fit my idea of either food. The "curry" was more like a sweet barbecue sauce; very tasty but not curry. The potato salad was potatoes and Cumin (I think) and cucumber. It wasn't the hot German potato salad like I'd get at Schilo's Deli in San Antonio or the cold mustard-based one with eggs and onions and pickles and carrots and splashed with beer...but again, it was tasty.

So...I get to Toronto and even though it's really like 3am by my body clock, I'm starving. There's a joint next door to my hotel that says BBQ. It's not. At all. It's Mediterranean Halal food claiming to be barbecue. What I wound up with was okay, but it was like two long cylindrical hamburgers on rice. No sauce at all.

One thing I do definitely miss about Texas is the barbecue. Be it Bill Miller's or Rudy's or even The County Line (with their to-die-for mushrooms), that state knows BBQ. And chili. It's ridiculous how poor everyone else's is. I may break down and go to Rochester to have some of the so-so kind at Sticky Lips. A "close but no cookie" kind of sauce over decently cooked meat.

I'm feeling pretty ripped up, right now. I made myself stay awake till midnight, last night, and slept till 8:30, so I should be back on track for NY time...but I'm feeling so friggin' exhausted, right now. I think the combination of heat and lack of ventilation at the university in Munich -- and dealing with a room full of boxes of old journals covered in dust that probably hadn't been touched since 1915 -- freaked my system out. I can't handle anything but water and hot tea, right now, without feeling a bit nauseated.

Of course, it might also be age. I'm going to be 61 in a few days. I've probably worn myself out. I'm treating myself to a serious dinner, using a gift card I've had for six months, then kicking back to near bread and water for the month, since I won't have half my income.

I'll get back on dealing with Jake and OT soon. Right now my place is a catastrophe and I don't have the energy to deal with it.

We'll see what happens tomorrow.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

I like KLM

I was close to freaking out when I couldn't check in online for my flight home. I was able to do the section from Munich to Amsterdam, but I had to go to a transfer desk to get everything set up for Amsterdam to Toronto...and the damn automated kiosks at Schiphol in Amsterdam wouldn't let me. So I went to the transfer counter and found a line 50 people deep. And my flight was in less than 2 hours, on the other side of the airport.

Anyone who's been through Schiphol knows what that means -- a good mile of walking and passing through passport control. I was about to hit panic mode when I decided to try the automated kiosk by the transfer desk. This time, I caught on that they wanted the KLM flight number; I'd booked the flight through Delta so was inputting that flight number. I found KLM's on my initial receipt, and got me a boarding pass...and they reassigned my seat.

I got to the gate half an hour before boarding was to begin, so went through security -- you do security screening right at the gate, here -- and checked with the attendant...and found out I'd been upgraded to economy comfort. Meaning more leg room. The attendant even said I wasn't qualified for it, but since I'd checked in so late and the flight was full, I got what was left.

So for the first time I rode in the nose of a 747 and could stretch my legs out and not be cramped when using my computer. And the food was good and I got a free beer. If they'd offered a power source for me to plug into, this would have been perfect.

We got off late but landed on time. I'm now ensconced at a hotel for the night, using my points. I can't handle a 2 hour drive home, including going through border security.

So as a farewell to Munich, I thought I'd show a photo of tourist central for the town -- AKA: Marienplatz. You can barely move for the crowds and performers and bike-shaws running around, and the shops are non-stop, but I changed subways trains here every time I went anyplace, so finally had to go up top on to see what the big deal was.

This building is (was?) the city hall,  basically. And the detail in those walls and pinnacles is breathtaking. I also had the best potato soup ever, here, in the Ratskeller...which claims to be air conditioned, just like shops around Munich claim to have cold drinks when they're really just barely cool. Worth it, though. I could live off that soup.

I may have to, once I get home, if I ever want to get out of debt.

Friday, July 26, 2013

A lighter note...

After Dachau, I decided I wanted something to lift me up and remind me humans aren't always bad, so I went to the Deutsche Museum...but it's not air conditioned and I just did not feel like being in a hot, stuffy building if I didn't have to.

So I walked along the Isar River for a little ways, and happened onto this lovely scene -- A Munich Beach where a number of people were swimming nude (most of whom should not have been). I have no idea what church that is, but it seemed appropriate for the situation.

Lots of kids were around. The water looked great. I damn near jumped in. But then I saw this guy...

...trying to coax his girlfriend or wife to join him in the rapids. Initially I thought he was in his underwear and I was thinking, "I've got on a t-shirt and boxer briefs...why not?"

His turned out to be a black Speedo, and he looked one hell of a lot better in his swimsuit than she did in her bikini...and I'm not saying that just because I'm gay and he's cute. Her cellulite had cellulite.

Anyway, I decided I'm just a little too middle-class to jump in wearing just undies. And old. And in less than decent shape.

So I hopped the S-2 to Starnberg and took a boat trip around a lovely lake that started out in nice cool rain that poured down like this was the tropics (those white flecks are drops of water, not snow; the rain could knock you out in this part of Germany, it comes down so big and hard)...


...but soon there was lovely scenery. I'm told those are the Bavarian Alps in the distance.


Add a beer and pretzel, and I felt better. Still scrambled of brain, but no longer lost in the past. Now the only question is, what effect will this have on my writing?

A lot, I hope.

The meaning of Dachau...


So…yesterday I went to Dachau Concentration Camp. It’s only about 20 minutes northwest of Munich, on the S-Bahn #2. Then you hop the 726 bus to pass through a pleasant little town and around to the main entrance.  It’s not a very large bus and has no AC or even decent air flow, and mine was crammed with American students chattering about where they’ve been, so far, and how awful or lax airport security is, and yap, yap, yap. Irritating…but it’s Europe in the summer.


Right by the entrance is the well-kept information center and cafeteria, then comes a short stroll down a gravel pathway of lovely foliage and neat benches, all very innocuous...until you get to...



...a couple of rails left from where the trains used to stop. Then across a little creek is a plain-looking building with a simple iron gate. Beyond that is a massive parade ground. Acres of smooth, white gravel, with tiny buildings to the left and the museum to the right.



In front of this building is a wrought-iron sculpture symbolizing the pain and suffering of what happened at this camp.


 I entered the museum first, winding my way down polished floors and clean white walls and perfectly laminated posters with well-crafted explanations of the events from 1933-1945. Some of the photos are very intense, and a sign at the main entrance even suggests the museum is not appropriate for children under 12. People were mostly quiet and reading and thinking, some chattering to each other, some being led by tour guides...like this was the latest collection at a gallery.



It used to be the processing center, where prisoners were stripped and forced to take showers, then were shaved of their hair…each step done in the most humiliating manner possible.

When you exit the building, to the right are guard towers and trenches and electrified fences.



Across the wide expanse of blinding white gravel are two barracks that neatly show the living conditions...



...and beyond those are line after line of gravel rectangles elegantly symbolizing the 72 other barracks that made up this part of the camp…each precisely numbered.



There’s a beautiful promenade between tall, whispering trees that leads to a Christian memorial to the dead; the Jewish one is smaller and to the right of it. To its left is a building that deals with racism of all kinds.

People stroll about and chatter and talk on their phones and German students sound just like American students, except for the actual words, and I heard this Daft Punk song I loathe blasting off someone’s iPod and dogs are led about on leads, sniffing and pissing as their owners complain about god knows what and it’s all so wrong, wrong, wrong.

You don’t smell anything there. All you hear is nonsense and the noise of idiots. The gravel is kept perfectly in place. The floors are so clean you can eat off them. The walls are painted white or are polished wood. Behind the Christian memorial is a Carmelite convent established on what was a playground built by slave labor for the camp commandant’s children. It all looks really, really nice, but it’s all so antiseptic and clean, it’s not real, anymore. It’s just a thought.

What clarified everything was when I was walking down the promenade towards the memorial and a woman passed me with her happy, sniffing dog as she chatted to a friend. I actually got so fucking angry when I saw that fucking dog and that stupid fucking woman chattering in what I think was German, I had to walk away from her. All of a sudden I was weeping…not crying, just tears streaming down my face at the blithe disregard for how vile and animalistic humanity has been and can still be. Granted, hers wasn’t the only dog there, but it drove the point home.

This was a park, now. A playground for puppies to play and piss and poop, and for people to stroll around on a warm summer day. The exquisite symmetry of it all has minimized the hell this place became for god knows how many men, women and children. It’s all just history, now. All just a memory...if even that.

Humans have been practicing genocide since we began developing separate civilizations. “Mine is always better while yours is unworthy.” Even the US was built on genocide and slavery, and around the world hate and fear are, as usual, being used to solidify political power in Russia and Afghanistan and countries in Africa...hell, it’s still happening in America.

We always do everything we can to minimize the true atrocities that can be unleashed by human beings – not just at Dachau, but against Armenians in Turkey, and Kurds in Iraq, and Native Americans in the US and on and on and on. It’s always "them" being the worst and only barely ever "us" when it comes to the horror that's part of nature; not human nature, just nature in general.

the planet don't give a damn about our ideas of morality, one way or the other. It does what it does. We, as humans, claim we want to rise above that…but we always drop back to the slime pits the second we have the excuse.

Because we never remember; we deliberately forget. And clean, beautiful, antiseptic memorials like Dachau will always be there to help us do exactly that.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Went to Dachau...


My mind is still a jumble. Let me sort this out...

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Thursday free...

Packing's all done. Got a free day, tomorrow, because they can't pick the shipment up till Friday. Seems you have to get a permit in glorious Munich to do such things, and they are loathe to change the schedule. But hey, I packed 2500 books and such in 3 days with a helper for 2...though they're charging us for 3.5 days on the helper because we booked for 4 days and they "couldn't find another job for the guy." What bullshit.

You want to know why Germany's doing so well? They tell you one price, charge for another, make you pay in advance, and won't give you a penny more worth of refund for what you don't need or use than they absolutely have to. And I'm not being facetious. Two of the restaurants I've eaten at have bumped up the price of my meal on my bill from the price listed on the menu. It's not a lot -- 2-3 euro -- but it's telling. And when I point it out, it's "Oh, those are the old prices."

Maybe I should eat at McDonald's.

It rained today in a way that reminded me of Honolulu -- straight down and hard, and still steamy afterwards. I checked for the average temperature in July in Munich -- 23 C. Which is what? 65-70 F? HA!

I haven't been able to do much thinking about OT during this job. I'm tired and cranky from the heat and work. My helper was really good; he's much of the reason I got done so quickly. But I want my AC.

Oh, the second German job is back off. Another case of a German group changing an agreed-to price at the last minute, thinking the client would be willing to pay anything to get his hands on such a great collection. They thought wrong. I have a strong inkling now as to why the Germans hated the Jews so much -- they're the only group who could play the screw-you game as well as das Deutsche (and maybe the Dutch, though the Scots give all a good run for their money...literally).

Wait a second -- I've got Scots and Dutch in me; what the hell happened to my money-managing gene? Is there too much French-Norwegian, too?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Big city, small town

That's Munich. I needed to change some dollars into euros, but apparently there's no American Express office in the city, anymore. Nor are there currency exchanges in my area, even though though I'm working at a multi-national university. But here's the best part; there aren't any banks here, either. Apparently they're all downtown...wherever that is. And they keep minimal hours. What poses for a bank is called Deutsche-Post Bank, which is a glorified post office, and where you cannot do actual banking. No changing dollars to euros.

This wouldn't be so bad if 99% of the local restaurants and shops didn't refuse to take Visa, MC or American Express. Cash only. That ain't how I work. Schiesse.

So...I damn near went into dehydration because I wasn't able to buy water or soda or anything but a sandwich at a Falafel shop with my last centiemes. In order to do any sort of exchange tonight so I could feed myself, tomorrow, I had to go back out to the airport. This big multi-national ariport...that had one exchange open at 6:30 pm.

This is partly my fault. When I was in De Gaulle I came close to exchanging out for euros there, but I stupidly figured I could wait till I got to Munich. Dumb move. It's like a little voice in my head was saying, "Look, dude, you better play it safe because god knows what you'll find in Deutsche-ville. Should've listened.

But that's me. Half the time when I get into trouble in a story it's because I don't listen and try to do it my own dumb-assed way. You'd think I'd learn.

Guess not.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Bike mayhem

Bicycles are everywhere in Munich, and they don't give a damn about pedestrians any more than BMWs do. I've nearly been run down, twice, because I forgot the bike lanes are on the edge of the sidewalk, unmarked except for special asphalt where they're allowed to ride. And they seem to be at war with rollerbladers.

I've also seen $500 bikes parked by the side of a college room with nothing more than a cable wrapped in the spokes. If this'd been Texas or LA, they'd all be gone.

Why is it everywhere I'm going, lately, is having a heat wave? Buffalo. NYC. Now Munich? WTF?

Worked till 8 and had dinner at the one restaurant I've found, so far, that takes visa. A decent meal that didn't overwhelm -- veal scalopini and rosemary potatoes. Tasty.

Even warmer tonight than last night. Irritating.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

In Munich...

Where very few people speak much English. I've had some assist, but mostly it's been me on my own.

This statue if os Ludwig 1, the King of Baveria, where Munich is located, and founder of the university.

This arch/gate is a memorial of sorts to "The War to end all Wars", if I reading that right.

Not a very interesting city, so far. Lots of big bland buildings and people speaking in a language I will never understand. It's damned warm, but since they don't have anything in the way of AC, the rooms are hot. I have my window open all the way and there isn't even a breeze. I went looking for a fan, but this being Germany, everything closes early on Sundays.

The plane trip was okay, until this teenaged kid not far from me decided to freak out once we'd landed at De Gualle so we wound up being removed to another part of the airport and put on shuttles to the Terminal. That may be part of the actual process, though, because I saw other jets parked there, too.

And Terminal 2 at De Gualle is insane. Jake will handle that in OT, because there's no way he'll be able to do what i have him doing, right now.

I worked on OT during the flight,  but didn't get a lot done. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Latest update on Deutschland...

My second trip to Germany with a side trip to Ireland may be back on...or it may not...or we'll get right up to the date of departure and have to cancel. To which the fates may now witness my hand raised with one finger extended. I don't like being fucked around with. So far as I'm concerned, until I'm in the air en route, it's not happening.

The other Germans have suddenly, after weeks of e-mails back and forth -- informed us the two men we've been dealing with will be on vacation next week. I'm to liaise with someone I've yet to meet. I'm selling my "Learn German" books. I'll focus on my French and English. With the former, if I do get stabbed in the back at least it will be with style and grace, and maybe a good wine. With the latter -- I lived in England and have dealt with the English, so I'll know what the hell they're saying when they start ripping me one.

This kind of crap hurts my writing. I got nothing done on OT, so I'm letting it go. I'll decide when I get to the location how much I'll need to work to get things done in time. Until then, I'm Jake's. I'll look around De Gaulle as much as I can between planes, see if I can get away with what happens there.

Tomorrow I'm headed for Toronto to catch my flight. And I'll be gone for a solid week. I've already promised to have a pretzel and mustard and a good beer for a co-worker. And someone else reminded me that Hitler as a subject ist verboten! Ya-ya. Maybe I'll take my copy of "Notorious" with me to watch. Ingrid Bergman threatened by a Nazi and his momma...

Vee shall zee vat vee shall zee...

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Not getting the warm and fuzzies...

The German company we're using to assist in exporting this library has proven to be completely untrustworthy. So much so, I dread the trip...but it's too late to change them.

Every time I turn around, they change things. For weeks I tell them we want the shipment picked up after 3pm on Friday, the 26th. Yesterday they say they can't do it, that it has to be picked up on Monday. Their warehouse closes at 4pm, on Fridays. Never a word about that, till now.

So we agree to change the pickup, even though I won't be there. I don't like it, but I agree. Then today they say, no, it has to be Friday, after all...by noon. With a packing list developed as we pack, so they know what's in each box. Seems the list of books I sent wasn't good enough. Never a word about that, either.

They bumped up the price they quoted. After I've told them several times to have packing materials delivered to the location on Friday, tomorrow, and to contact a certain person to arrange that, yesterday they asked me what to do about delivery of the materials. I can't even find out how many sheets of paper I'm getting to do the packing with; they won't tell me. They ignore my questions then get pissy when I don't give them the information they want, even though I needed my questions answered in order to make decisions. I still don't have all the answers I needed; I just made shit up to move things along, and let the rest of it go.

Today we finally worked up a contingency plan, in case they pull something else...but it doesn't take effect until after they've picked up the shipment. Meaning I have to have everything done by noon on Friday. If the assistant they're supposedly supplying to me is any trouble, I may send him away and tell them to take a hike and work 12 hour days, just to not have to deal with their crap, anymore.

At least they backed down on the itemized list after I told them it was impossible. But I still have to put a note that says "books" or "microfiche" or whatever on the box. A step I wasn't contemplating having to remember to do...for as many as 300 boxes.

I'm headed to Germany on the company dime. I've never been to Munich so I'll sort of  get to see a part of Europe I've long been interested in. Decent food. Decent beer. But I have a nasty feeling I'll be working 10 hour days to get this job done, will have no time to enjoy myself, and will return to Buffalo exhausted.

No wonder German is an impossible language to learn. Germans are fucking insane.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Brendan calling...

UPDATE: Spoke too soon. Looks like the deal to buy the German library's off. Seems the Germans have developed this habit of agreeing to one price then upping it at the last minute, saying they never agreed to that price in the first place. If they don't come to terms, no second trip. This is what I get for opening my big mouth.
-----------------------------
We just got a second packing job in Germany, today, but this one's not till the middle of next month. So I'll be heading over there, again. I'm going to make sure there's time for me to visit a friend in Bremen, this time, if at all possible...but here's the big deal about it.

I was planning to take the last two weeks of August off, meaning no salary. I have savings enough (actually, the money I'm putting aside for taxes) but now I'll be getting paid for at least one of those weeks...and it dawned on me I could route this to where I can spend the last week of August in Ireland and hit the newspapers and archives in Belfast and Derry. There's a Best Western in Derry where I could use the points I've racked up instead of paying for a room. What I'd have to pay is the premium on the air fare, because the only way I can do this is to one-way it Germany then Ireland then home.

But it's like Brendan's given me a sign -- "get off your arse and fookin' do it!"

So I am. And fuck the money. This is almost like a windfall, and it's the closest I'm getting to doing this till I'm past retirement age...

I need to verify some things, tomorrow, but if it's a definite yes, I'm booking my tickets.

Of course, this took the whole evening, so Jake's miffed I didn't do anything with OT. I'll deal with that on my flight, Saturday, and remind him I'm stopping over in De Gaulle, to check the place out since his story begins there.

Zyrtek zoning...

Had to pop some allergy crap because I was about to tear my eyes out of my sockets, they itched so badly. Watery. Red. Drops didn't help, nor did washing my face. It was ridiculous. But that brings on the dead zone in part of my brain. When I got home, I cranked up the AC and dropped on the bed and slept for nearly an hour. When I wake up after something like that...man, just try and get me to do anything. Even eat.

Doesn't help that I'm nervous about this job coming up in Munich. I need to pack a library of books and archives to be transported to a university in the US, and the company we chose to work with in Germany is proving to be fucking ludicrous. I ask them questions about what paperwork is needed to export from Germany. No response. I ask about the materials and assistance they're providing. Blown off. I send them the contact information of the people in control of the library, so they can arrange a time to deliver the packing materials. Silence, until I specifically insist they tell me if they got the information. Then I get a one sentence reply that does not make me feel good, because they don't promise to call the client.

They've already bumped up the cost of the shipment by over 1000 Euro by claiming I didn't tell them everything that needed to be done. I checked my emails. I did. They screwed up. But they still want the money. Up front. And our only other choice for a company to handle the shipment is based in Amsterdam, hundreds of kilometers away. I was so damn close to canceling with these characters and contacting the Dutch...but it's a little late, now.

I've got such a bad feeling about this. I hope I'm wrong...but...

But it's affecting my mood, too. A least I got some of OT restructured and simplified. I did have too many paths snaking out everywhere, some of which are good, some of which are bad, some of which are just there. So I pulled two of them back...well, more like shifted them to connect with another path. One changed Lemm's character, a little. The other added a new suspect to the mix.

I got a feeling nobody's going to see the ending coming...because I can't even see it, yet. Seriously, I have no idea how to pull it all together, yet. But it's there. I just need to work my way through the labyrinth.

I hate labyrinths...not.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Heroic...


Allow me to present Alex Minsky, a marine who was hit by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan and lost a leg and suffered 3rd degree burns. Instead of letting himself crash into despair, he turned himself into a male model and fitness icon. The tattoos help to hide the burns.

I'm putting him up on here to give me a kick in the ass. I also posted about him on my facebook page. This guy shows just how much attitude matters when facing life. Mine's always been sucky and uncertain, due to things from my past. Scars I carry, both physical and psychological. Being gay was just the frosting on my fucked up life.

But then I look at a guy like this. He was damn near killed. He's got scars far more visible than mine. Yet instead of weeping under the weight of his existence, he flipped it off and did what he damn well wanted. And I'm just...stunned by it.

He models underwear with his prosthetic leg. He's got a dozen variations on it. He's been in regular clothes looking like the jock you crush on who lives next door. He's got a smile that is golden.

It makes me wonder how that happens. Is it genetics that helps determine your attitude? Upbringing? Support group? Is there some vitamin I could take to gain this kind of self-confidence? I wish it was that simple.

The fact of the matter is, he's just an amazing man who is worthy of admiration...and emulation.

He gives me hope for humanity.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

How do you stop the fear?

Had a nice long day at the computer...and achieved nothing. Why? Because "The Vanishing of Owen Taylor" makes no sense to me, right now. None. Part of the problem is it's become too full of red-herrings and fake paths...well, maybe. Part of it is my self-confidence getting a jolt from a man who did not connect with another book of mine. But something was wrong.

I know who did what. I know how they did it. When they did it. To whom it was done. But I cannot figure out the why. I thought I had, but it evaporated. Tried another tack...and it vanished into stupidville. So finally I gave up and watched "Topsy-Turvy"as I ironed.


I tried to upload the trailer but for some reason it won't, so here's an idea of how the movie works. For those unfamiliar with the movie, it's about Gilbert and Sullivan writing "The Mikado" and the turmoil they (and everyone else associated with it) went through to put on a nice, pleasant operetta that contained some lovely melodies. It's over 2 1/2 hours long, and the first hour is spent setting up the conflicts between people, with Sullivan refusing to write music for another libretto written by Gilbert because it's not inspiring. Then Gilbert stumbles into the idea for "The Mikado" and the rest of the movie shows how it slowly comes together. Performances of their works are interspersed throughout to show the development of the play.

By the end of the movie, I'd realized my problem -- I'm scared of the direction the story wants to take. So I keep trying to minimize it and drag in aspects that suit me but don't really fit. Jake's got it, and agrees. Brendan's just shrugging and saying, "Nothing new about that. I've been dealing with this nonsense for years."

So...my ending is going to be what it is. And it still makes me uncomfortable. But reality is, I'd set it up for that already. My inner writer was working around my reticence.

Maybe that's the only way to get around the fear -- be sneaky unto yourself.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

American Justice...HA!

I've had readers tell me my view of American justice in my books is too harsh or bleak. In "How To Rape A Straight Guy", half the reason Curt's such a danger to anyone is because of his treatment at the hands of some jail guards, who set him up to be sexually assaulted, and the deliberate indifference of society once he's completed his jail term. In "Porno Manifesto", the cops and prosecutors protect the boys who gay-bash Alec. In "Rape In holding Cell 6" I take it even further, with cops and prosecutors working together to make money off the brutalization of men who've been arrested, and who then cover up a murder. And in "Bobby Carapisi", it's the homophobia of a deputy DA, a cop and a nurse that sets in motion the tragedy that engulfs both Eric and Bobby; and the unwillingness of the cops and DA in an unnamed Texas town to deal with male rape that allowed Allen and his buddies to continue their evil.

Well...today Florida proved I'm actually being quite kind in my attitudes. George Zimmerman was acquitted of all charges in the death of Trayvon Martin. Didn't matter that Zimmerman initiated a situation that resulted in an unarmed teenaged boy's death. Didn't matter that the only reason Zimmerman, who's half-Anglo and half -Hispanic, called the cops and followed Trayvon Martin with a loaded gun was because the kid was black. Martin had done nothing to cause alarm except walk to the store to buy Skittles and iced tea while visiting his father.

Florida has a "Stand your ground" law that it has shown only applies to whites. A black woman who fired a warning shot at her abusive ex-boyfirend as he approached her was handed a seven TWENTY year sentence in prison. Bullet didn't even come close to the prick, but she got jail. White guy kills a black kid, and it's all the black kid's fault.

Justice is not blind in America. She's White and wide-eyed, and crimes Anglos commit are treated with understanding and/or acceptance (except for women who are pregnant or abused and fight back; different standard for them, no matter what their race). Wall Street steals hundreds of billions in wealth and nobody goes to jail, because almost all of them are white. Black guy robs a liquor store? Decades in prison. White kid gets caught with coke? Rehab. Black kid gets caught with crack. Jail. George Bush ignores warnings of a terrorist attack and thousands die, but everybody rallies behind him; four people are killed in Benghazi and it's all Obama's fault. It goes on and on.

America is a racist, homophobic, anti-anything-but-white-rich-males society. Always has been, and I guess she always will be. The few voices who cry against that are overwhelmed by the deafening silence of those who might want things to be better or fairer, but who will do nothing about it and keep electing people to office who do everything they can to help the rich and white over the poor and everybody else.

Nothing new about it, unfortunately. After all, we damn near perfected genocide and wiped out several civilizations decades before Hitler went after the Jews, but it was just against a bunch of savages so nobody really cares.

It's sad...and pathetic...and America.

Quick note on LD's critique...

The guy who gave "The Lyons' Den" a scathing review and a single star rating complained about my mis-conjugation of the word "lie", as in "lie, lay, laid." He held it up as proof of my poor grasp of English grammar. Well...being a paranoid writer who is willing to believe anything critical of his work, I checked out the example he used on page 202...and it's Haddon saying it in his dialog.

In short, this guy complained that I have a character who is hardly erudite not use perfect English when he speaks.

Man...that is so fucking ludicrous, I'm actually embarrassed that I paid any attention to him. Fortunately, I have some friends who are willing to slap me around and say, "Snap out of it."

Which I have. Bigtime.

The only downside to this, now, is that's an official review and people will read it. I almost wish I could do a commentary on it...but only almost. Every writer gets his knocks...hell, every artist. What was that famous phrase of Dorothy Parker's as regards Katherine Hepburn? "She ran the gamut of emotions from A to B." And had a career that brought her untold acclaim and provided so many classic performances, she has yet to be equalled (though Meryl's trying).

Now I just need to get back to work with Jake and finish "The Vanishing of Owen Taylor" and start getting feedback on that. Because as arrogant as I can be about my work, at times...I'm also aware enough of my habit to get too close to my stories and think everything I put on the page is obvious to any and all who read it. Not necessarily true.

Still need that slappin' around.


Friday, July 12, 2013

Moment of serenity...

I was headed back to my hotel, last night, to do battle with more book packing. I'd just had a decent Shepard's Pie and an $8 (!!!) Guinness and was feeling merely bone tired. I missed an F train by 5 seconds -- it shut its doors just as I reached the top of the stairs -- so was huffing and puffing about how irritating that was with me being so tired and the world conspiring against me...when I heard music.

It was a prerecorded symphony concert coming from a boom box across the tracks on the downtown side of the 47-50th Streets station. An older man sat on some benches and the music was by him. There was a lull in the noise of trains and people...and then...

 He put a violin to his chin and began to play the loveliest melody. I've heard the music before but don't know the name, but it's definitely for a solo violin. And there was dead silence in that station for five minutes as he played. Trains didn't even come. It's like he knew exactly when to time it.
People stopped and watched and listened. Others, like me, took photos and some recorded it on their cell phones.

Mine isn't a good picture; people kept getting in front of me to see and experience, and I rushed to get a photo before he finished. I wish I'd thought to record it, myself.

But it was elegant, and I feel the need to share this moment of grace amidst madness.

Only in NY.

Doesn't hurt to wish...

...But be careful what you ask for. You're liable to get it.

I've always sought reviews and responses for my screenplays and books to get an idea of how my writing was coming across. While there have been some who have either not been swept up in my work or just didn't like it, I've gotten mainly very good feedback.

Yesterday, I got a nice jolt of reality. After one hellacious day at work -- ferrying 140 lbs of books from an auction house to my hotel room then rushing off to finish another job (where people are now screaming at me for neglecting to write down the weight and dimensions of one package) then returning to the hotel to pack the books I'd picked up so they could be taken to an air freight service, the next morning -- I spent an hour with tech support trying to get online at my hotel.

I made it on for five minutes, just enough time to send off one e-mail and try to send another (didn't go; I had to wait till this morning to send it). And get a notification I had another review on "The Lyons' Den" on Amazon. I stupidly checked it out.

Shouldn't have. If there was ever a time when my lack of WiFi should have continued, that was it; I was nowhere near the right physical or emotional state to read what this guy said about not just the story but my ability to write. Still, as I was waiting for my second e-mail to go through, the bastard thing worked and I was arrogant enough to think he'd give me something usable.

He didn't. And even though I was exhausted, I wasn't able to get to sleep till nearly 3am. If you want to read it, go to "The Lyons' Den" on Amazon and check "reviews"; it got one star and I'm not masochistic enough to republish it.

I know you can't please everybody. I've run into people who trashed my screenplays for no more reason than I didn't write them the same way they would have. And if I'd been less tired or frustrated, I'd have probably taken his comments with that idea in mind. Especially since he trashed 2 other books in the same manner. But the motherfucking fates decided to wait till I had no defenses up to spit in my face.

Brendan and Jake, both, have been working overtime to convince me I should keep on with their stories. No guarantees, yet.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Job hell

Turning out to be as difficult as I expected. Dammit. I'm dreading the one, tomorrow.

NYC is in a humid phase that makes San Antonio seem cool.

I think it's time to give up on figuring out what OT is going to be about until I have it written. Jake keeps lobbing curve balls at me, and I hate baseball.

I'm eating a truly good turkey panini at Starbucks. Had a spooky moment when the cashier called me by name, since I hadn't given it to him. Couldn't figure out why...until I realized I still had my visitor ID on my chest.

My laptop's airport settings were fine but I had to buy a new battery. Seems mine was about to explode. Very odd...

Beat. Maybe tomorrow I'll b chatty.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Best Western Wifi is crap

It's a good hotel, overall. Very convenient, low price for NYC, and comfortable and such, but their wifi is virtually non-existent and the only room they had for me does not have an ethernet connection.

So little blogging for the week until I can find a Starbucks close by. Right now i'm at the Apple store stealing their WiFi...and they only let you have 15 minutes.

OT just threw me for another loop. Damn you, Jacob Blaine!!!! And thanks.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Keep moving forward

One thing I've found out about writing is, if you keep pushing at a story long enough, it will begin to work with you. Not just the characters, but the story, itself. It begins sending you suggestions that something is needed here to keep the flow right, something else is wrong here if you want to maintain clarity, consider this road instead of that one.

Sometimes this is in direct contradiction to what the characters want, but then they see it's right and adjust their thinking. Then they bring fresh ideas to the whole scenario. No question writing is a collaboration, just not necessarily with living people.

Damn, I wish I'd thought of that when I was working on LD and put it in; it's such an Ace line.

I spent a little while, today, going over the notes I have for OT, ticking off the ones I'd used or discarded and clipping the ones I think may still fit the story together so I won't forget them. I've got another stack set up for "Carli Kills". I may get back to that once I have this draft of OT done. Emphasis on "maybe." I never know what I will work on when my current project is done.

I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I'd concentrated on a single type of screenplay or story for all the years I was writing. Would I have would up as the Steven King of film, with dozens of horror or suspense thrillers to my credit? Been typecast like Alfred Hitchcock or Wes Craven? It might have been better for my pocketbook. I enjoy writing those types of scripts, and I have done more of those than any other genre. Even my early narrative writing was geared towards things like serial murders and insane killers.

Instead, I built a world of imaginary friends from all walks of literature -- drama, suspense, tragedy, crime, biography, alien horror, supernatural horror, comedy, suspense, you name it. I have an extended family that would make the Irish and Italians look like minimalists when it comes to aunts, uncles and siblings. Maybe I'm closer to a Daniel Bettancourt mentality than I care to admit.

I've ended the ads on facebook. They brought me plenty of "likes" for LD and BC, but not much in sales and were becoming a drain. Oh, well...at least it's a tax write-off because I did get a little income out of it.

So...what's next?

Saturday, July 6, 2013

It's all worked out on OT...

All I have left to do is the actual writing. But It finally hit me as to why Antony's been pushing Jake away, and why they had their blow-up. And how even the beginning, which seemed a bit slow in getting started, works into the ending in a way that startled me. I just hope I can do justice to it.

Initially, I'd intended to have nearly a year pass between the point where Jake figures it out to where he reveals the truth. His whole intent was to punish someone partially responsible for the events...but that's ended. When I did the restructuring, that gave him the impetus to go into annihilation mode, right then and there. So he's about to show Antony what bat-shit crazy is all about, but he's doing it with a cold calculation.

In Exodus comes one part of the bible that everybody seems to agree on -- "But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe." Well...that's about to be Jake's mantra.

I'll need to go back through this to make sure it builds properly to that issue. And I also need to add a moment earlier to better set up the ending. So I figure it'll wind up just over 100K in wordage.

I'm self-indulgent with my words.

I doubt I'll get much done, tomorrow; I've got to get ready for a week in NYC packing books. But I'm traveling down and back on the train, which has power so I can work on my laptop as we go. This ain't gonna be an easy pair of jobs, but I don't care. It's me on my own doing what I like to do.
And I am having fun being Adam on his facebook page. I did a quick glance through it before sending it off to a producer in LA, and for once I did little more than clarify a couple of points and changed one thing to give the ending more impact.

Casey's mother has swapped a less-expensive Appelton edition of the "Alice..." with what she thinks is an invaluable presentation copy. The cheaper book is in a snap case (meaning the front opens from the center and snaps shut when you close it) while the valuable copy is in a clamshell case (which opens like a clam's shell). The snap-case is destroyed by the jet's engine, so everyone thinks the book is destroyed.

But when he was in the lavatory, Adam accidentally pulled down a box of tissues; later, he pulls that box out of his rucksack...and inside it is the invaluable presentation copy of the "Alice..." wrapped in a pair of Orisi's briefs.

Then once he's left alone, he puts the presentation copy back in its original clamshell box and says, "Now you're home."

My hope is people will catch the reference to his father, who never made it home from a trip that involved another copy of the Alice '65.

Friday, July 5, 2013

My favorite film. Period.

It was on TCM, tonight -- "Les Quatre Cents Coups." ("The 400 Blows")

It's the story of Antoine Doinel and his descent into juvenile delinquency thanks to parents who don't like him and a school system not set up to handle anyone as precocious as him. One of the most alive and exquisite and honest tellings of a boy's story I've ever seen...and the ending image is an icon in film history.

I first saw this in college, in San Antonio, and fell completely in love with it. I started taking French so I could better understand what was really being said instead of dealing with the subtitles. Never got to that point, but when I was in Paris I still managed to get around and do a tour of the places in the movie.

The moment it came out on VHS I bought it. I'd only seen it in regular film format, so it worked fine...but then at UT they showed it in widescreen and I just about died at realizing how little of the movie had been visible before. Soon as it came out on DVD, I grabbed it and have had one ever since. Even when I was selling off my DVD collection to pay my bills, I never even thought about selling this. I couldn't.

I now have the Criterion collection of the whole Antoine Doinel series.

This movie destroys me, every time. Here's the trailer for it.
J'aimerais faire des films comme ├ža. Totalement.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

2 Big Deals, today...

First off, a friend of mine who got all born-again used facebook to rip me for being gay. It was in response to the Supreme Court's very limited finding as regards Proposition 8 in California (and DOMA), and it was all "homosexuals live in sin" and "you have to turn to Christ" and Leviticus this and that, as if I don't know what Leviticus says.

I do. I've read the whole friggin' bible from cover to cover. And in Leviticus, adulterers, homosexuals, and children who don't give their parents the proper respect (which some people interpret as meaning juvenile delinquents) should be executed. Period. No ifs, ands, or buts. I felt like I'd been slapped, so unfriended him on facebook.

BFD, right? Except...I was having a problem with OT veering into an area I wasn't sure I wanted to have in it. Mainly that there's a concerted effort behind the christian-right to drive gay men and women out of Palm Springs, almost like a test to see if they can do it everywhere. It's not a new idea; I got it from learning how Rick Warren's ministry helped push Uganda's "Kill the Gays" bill. And then there's always the Westboro slime, who picket funerals with their "God says kill fags" signs. If they aren't evidence of evil, I don't know what is.

Well...all inhibitions are off. I'm making OT as vicious as I can, and the bad guys as corrupt. It's going to be major fun, especially since Jake's half-Persian-Muslim and half-Irish-Catholic, and he's going head-to-head with some born-again cretins.

Second, that got a bug up my butt so I expanded my webpage. I was stupid enough to buy it through GoDaddy and they make it hell on earth to manipulate. I finally had to forego the multiple panels they offer on each page (I get up to 5 pages for the money I paid) but it now has "The Alice '65" and "The Lyons' Den" pages, as well as pages for my screenplays and novels, along with links to the facebook, Amazon, B&N and Kobo sites for their respective needs.

If you want to check it out -- go here.

I did something that could get me into trouble, but I honestly don't care. I used the faux lobby card I worked up for "The Alice '65" as the image on the site. If someone does notice it and I get a cease and desist, it'll mean someone's looking, at least. And I'll have no problem taking it down. But until then, I've got my dream cast of Russell Tovey and Eliza Dushku, front and center, with Gertrude to back them up.


Hardly what I'd call living dangerously...but you never know.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Writers I like

Writers of books, in no particular order.

Leo Tolstoy -- "Anna Karenina" and "War and Peace"
John Steinbeck -- "Of Mice and Men" and "East of Eden"
John Hemingway -- "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and "The Sun Also Rises"
James M. Cain -- "The Postman Always Rings Twice"
Yukio Mishima -- "The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea"
Aldous Huxley -- "Brave New World"
Steven King -- "The Shining"
Sinclair Lewis -- "It Can't Happen Here" and "Dodsworth"
Isaac Asimov -- The Foundation Trilogy
Jay McInerney -- "Bright Lights, Big City"
Mark Twain -- "Huckleberry Finn"
Edgar Allen Poe -- "Murders in the Rue Morgue"
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle -- Sherlock Holmes Series
Lewis Carroll -- "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland"
Cervantes -- "Don Quixote"
Stendahl -- "The Red and the Black"
Truman Capote -- "In Cold Blood"

Screenwriters, in no particular order.

Joss Whedon -- "Buffy..." and "Speed" (script doctored it to perfection)
Steven Soderberg -- "Sex, Lies & Videotape" and "King of the Hill"
Christopher Nolan -- "Memento"
Darren Aronofsky -- "Pi"
Emma Thompson -- "Sense and Sensibility"
Tom Stoppard -- "Shakespeare in Love" and "Empire of the Sun"
Charlie Kaufman -- "Being John Malkovich"
Alex Garland -- "28 Days Later"
Tony Gilroy -- The new "Bourne" Series and "Michael Clayton"
Steven Zaillian -- "Searching for Bobby Fischer" and "Schindler's List"
John Logan -- "Gladiator" and "Sweeney Todd"
Diablo Cody -- "Juno"
Aldous Huxley -- "Pride & Prejudice" (1940)
Thornton Wilder -- "Shadow of a Doubt" (1943)
Ben Hecht -- "Notorious" (1946)

Playwrights in no particular order

Charles S Kaufman and Moss Hart -- "The Man Who Came To Dinner"
Lillian Hellman -- "These Three" and "The Little Foxes"
Tennessee Williams -- "The Glass Menagerie"
Moliere -- "The Imaginary Invalide"
William Shakespeare -- "Macbeth"
Aristophanes -- "Lysistrata" and "The Birds"
Horton Foote -- "Trip to Bountiful"
Arthur Miller -- "The Crucible"
Lanford Wilson -- "The Rimers of Eldritch"

Contemplated after going through part of OT, again, and nit-picking bits of it.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The fates mock me...

In direct violation of my common sense and bank balance, I entered "The Alice '65" into "The Indie Gathering" screenplay competition. It's a film festival geared mainly towards action and horror that happens late in August, and "Find Ray T" came in Second Place in last year's competition. I sort of wanted to see what the reaction would be to a Romantic-Comedy.

Well...A65 got First Place in its field. This is my Laurel.
When I heard, I was very pleased. It's a nice ego-stroke and gives me a bit more validation, but there's just one little caveat -- the festival happens in Hudson, Ohio. When I mentioned it to a PR person I know in LA, I had to explain that Hudson is next door to Cleveland. She laughed at me. Her comment? "Win the Nicholl. Then people will pay attention. Maybe."

I've tried dealing with the Nicholl. I never even make the first cut...so that's a lost cause. And it seems my application to the NEA for a grant to stay in Ireland and research "Place of Safety" is also dead. Story of my life maintains its never-ending loop of oooooohhhh...alllllllmost.

What the Muse giveth with one hand, she taketh away with a slap to the face.

I may attend "The Indie Gathering" anyway, to see if there's any chance of someone being interested in anything else I've written. Supposedly, it's a great networking festival. They also emphasize short films and scripts, and it's only 3 days long. I've got enough points to stay for free at a Best Western just down the road, and it's only 200 miles from where I live -- like driving to Houston from San Antonio -- so I could do it on the cheap.

Maybe that'll break this shell of isolation I'm building around me.

Monday, July 1, 2013

I'm having fun with Adam...

Posting in his voice on facebook, I found how he wants to tell his story. He's also revealing tidbits about his life that make me smile. This will be a different way to approach the writing of a novel. And screenplay, because I'm thinking of going back through "The Alice '65" and adjusting his speech patterns to match his manner of writing. I think I let him be too London and not enough Oxford.

I just joined up two major sections of "The Vanishing of Owen Taylor" and now have 365 solid pages (82,000+ words). I'm taking a 4-day weekend so maybe I can get through to the point where I can add in the finale...and start whittling that down. What I have is way too busy, and I think some of it can be shifted into earlier chapters, to better set things up.

Jake's ready to end it. He's getting tired of all the crap. But some of the meandering is beginning to show it's actually prepping for the explanation of what happened.

Damn...the more I look at this picture of Aidan Turner, the more I see Jake in him...or him Jake...from the tangled hair to the thick eyebrows to the constant 3-day growth of beard.

I'll be in NYC a week, now. Go down Monday, come back Friday. I hope my laptop keeps going okay. It's been doing some odd things that I initially thought were me screwing up as I typed. But lately if I rest my hands by the pad, the cursor will jump over to another part of the document I'm working on and throw everything off. And if it's only a small bit that I do and then shift to another part of the story to make a change, I don't notice. Then later, when I'm proofing, I find amazingly stupid mistakes...that I now think weren't errors on my part.

I'm also finding that some programs and websites have the word-guessing bit embedded in them, where if you forget to input a letter or don't hit the key hard enough to make it show up, the thing guesses a totally different word to use there...and freaks me out. I think the one that got to me most was when I tried to input "sense" and it came out "serene". I think I hit the "e" and "r" keys at the same time so it input both of them, but instead of leaving it a typo it made me think I was losing my mind. So now I have to check not just for my own typos but the word changes the damn thing foists on me.

Ah, computers, spawn of the devil.