Thursday, July 31, 2014

Brian's fate

I have decided that I will also use this space as my writing journal. Today I had some free time and penned some thoughts in "stream of consciousness" manner a bit.

I have decided yet whether brian will fall in love. If he does, I think then you will suddenly see him understand every little detail, the thickness of the hair on her arms; whether she has any hair on her cheeks; how long her hair is when he meets her. The color of her lipstick; her eye shadow. Every conceivable detail about the surroundings when they meet.
I might have him meet a woman and have all this incredible detail, but not let them go straight towards love; maybe not at all; maybe she becomes more like a confidant. It is still undecided. Brian as a character is decided yet not really. He is a study in duality and I like that. The theme of what I see in the world will always center on duality. I think this duality is critical for us, as men, to understand our place int eh world.
It used to be simple. Go to work. Provide. Come home, be taken care of. The household; the children, that was the wife’s responsibility. Things have changed. We now care more about those other things we used to consider trivial. Despite this change, we still have expectations. There is a great crash between an old ideology of caretaker and moneymaker that still exists. Now, though, it co-exists with that ‘softer” side of masculinity.
I think this softer side makes us better and I think it makes the world better. But it is a process to get there and I do not think we have arrived yet. There is still a lot of confusion and angest among the male population in the civilized world. Our role is not yet redefined enough. There are still too many things that take us back to being the old male. And then we are thrown into reality with a change.
Take divorce. Int eh past, the man simply kept pursuing his career; sent a check. Move if needed. Now? Far more frequently the man will forgo the career moves to be a part of his childrens life even if that means giving upa  good job even if that means only seeing them when the mother allows. Some judges only give the every other weekend and yet there are some mothers who recognize the importance of the father and allow as mucgh time as possible,. But how does society look at the man whose career is not what is ‘expected?” simple. The same as they used to. As a single man, women still judged a man based on his ability to provide. They still cared how much money he made.

That is the struggle to which I refer. It is still there. The funny part is that many of the women who judge a man for giving up higher paying work in favor of being active in their chhldren’s life… complain that the father of their children is not involved. A mixed message being sent to the single father from the single mother.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

First to third: A new inspiration

So, I had a great line which I felt compelled to write down and in a quick 15 minute burst, suddenly there were 860 words on the page!

As I sat in silent contemplation of all that had occurred in one hazy semi-drunk act of lust the night before, I flashed back in time. Suddenly my mind felt the isolation of a young boy; 12 years old.
There, the first time you will see "current" writing or thoughts from the project. From that simple beginning I was able to expand on certain feelings of isolation I had been looking to add to the character. Isolated on the inside, not so much on the outside....

I was looking for a good transition to end chapter 2, which I have conceived and it should work out well. It will involve some more in-depth research, but it will be a good transition...

As I was contemplating this move, something hit me... start mixing in third person narrative. So far, through about 11,000 words, the project has been a first person recollection. Now I plan to work on mixing in third person; how others see the character from outside counter imposed right on top of how he sees himself.

It will make some of the story tough to weave together, but I hope to add a layer of complexity which also gives a deeper understanding of the character.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Baring the soul

I will say, it is much more difficult working on fiction. Taking an imaginary character and trying to bring him to life is something that takes a lot of effort.

One thing I learned which I really like doing is using Faulkner's "stream of consciousness" approach. Now, to be fair, I cannot play as loose with the rules of grammar as Faulkner, but using the concept has already allowed me to take the lead character in a direction I had not planned.

A flaw shows up, a major flaw, in the second chapter. There is no great figure in literature who wields his way through life without flaws. The journey is not worth reading about if everything is "hunky-dory" in the life of the lead. Sure, maybe there could be strife all around and his character is created by being the only sturdy character involved. But I think the most incredible literary figures were flawed in one way or another.

I want to take my shot at creating a character whose flaws not only define him, but help define ourselves. I am not sure yet that the character will overcome. Sometimes, good people simply cannot live a "Hollywood" ending.

This is best exemplified in Paul Bowles' exceptional piece of literary art "The Sheltering Sky."

Chapter I: A beginning (continued)

All this passed through my mind as I worked my way towards Bar Elkano.

As I entered, it occurred to me that the crowd was diverse to a degree I was not accustomed. I had taken to eating only in fine restaurants. From the outside, this tiny corner bar seemed to be a place less suited to a man in his early thirties wearing a dress shirt with jeans and driving shoes. Look around, though, there were older people dressed similar and younger people considerably more casual.

I sat alone, in a corner booth.

Noticing that I appeared to be somewhat lost in my mind, an older man with short gray hair and dark colored glasses asked from another table if I needed help.

“Not really. Just trying to figure out what's up with this place. Just in town for the night and needed a place to eat. Guy at the gas station said this was a pretty good place. Said Boise had one of the largest Basque populations in the country?”

“Not 'one of;' the largest Basque population in America,” said the man with a weird sense of pride.

“Really? Tell me how that happened?” I was always a little curious about the smaller stories of the American migration. The history books could not do justice to the reality of what transpired throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth century.

“Pretty much like any migration,” the man began. “You see, a Basque is an ethnic group, not a nationality. In fact, the Basques have never had a country of their own. There are only about two million world-wide. Originally, the Basques inhabited a small corner along the borders of Spain and France near the Pyrennes mountains.

“John Adams used the form of government practiced by the Basques as his inspiration for his Defense of the Constitution of the United States.

“In the late 1800's, large groups arrived here as gold miners, but quickly turned to sheep herding to make money. Liking their success, they wrote home to family and friends, encouraging them to move West and join them. Just like that, between 1900 and 1920, the Basque population in Boise began to grow.”

“What is it that differentiates the Basques from the French or Spaniards,” I asked?

“For one, the Basques have their own unique language. It is not an Indo-European language and many speculate that the Basques are the inhabitants of Europe prior to the spread of this language. We take great pride in being what we consider the 'true' inhabitants of Europe.”

“Ah, so you are a Basque descendant, then,” I interrupted.

“Sure am. Paulino Agire. I am the curator of the local Basque Museum. Pleased to meet you. I come here every Saturday for dinner. Have to support Basque businesses and this is one of the best. People call me Paul. Food is like the center of what the Basque culture is all about.”

“Smells pretty good in here,” I responded. “Anything you recommend?”

“Absolutely. Try the Solomo which is a pork sandwich with peppers. Incredible here. And, if you want to expand a little, try the Isastegi Basque Cider,” Paul said.

“Cider? Really? Is that like the hard ciders that have popped up all over the markets?” I asked.

“Not even close. This comes from the Basque cider-making tradition, which eschews the addition of sugar or carbonation. The result is a true expression of the fruit, and the processes of fermentation,” Paul assured me.

And, so began my first night. Unsure, I ordered the sandwich and the cider. I had heard of many friends who spent summers in Europe while in college. This is how they lived; exploration for several months at a time. They would wander about the continent and find out of the way places, enter and become like one group of traveling friends. Friends for just the night before each individual or couple moved on to the next adventure.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Middle of Nothing: A beginning

In the middle of nothing is everything. In the middle of everything is nothing. Memories of the past are fuzzy, but the past is clear. Thoughts of my future are clear, but the path is fuzzy.

The simplistic will refer to what I see as duality by the all too easy zodiac sign; the Gemini. Sadly, it is far too complicated a life to look to some meaningless alignment of stars as the sole basis for the conflicted mess that has become the mind of man today. Would we assume that these alignments are to blame for all duality? Are only those born under the sign of Gemini conflicted? If not, then signs of the zodiac cannot begin to explain our daily duality. No. That explanation lay considerably deeper. This is simply my story of conflicted development.

As all stories have a beginning, so too does mine. Reality, though, says that the beginning is no different than any beginning. The beginning is not the story, but the story only exists because of the beginning. I was unaware of where the story began until this moment as I reflected on the events which brought me to this place.

Several years earlier, I began this journey. At the time, I had only the knowledge that I was moving somewhere. Forward, I assumed; or should I say hoped?

I found myself, after several years of rapid development, without work looking for the next step in the ladder I had been climbing. After several weeks of what felt like disregard, I took to the road. This was not a vacation, it was a soul discovery road trip under the guise of a mind clearing drive to the coast.

I had spoken frequently to the young mothers I counseled about the importance of goal setting. “Begin with the end in mind,” I taught.

Choosing to ignore my own words, I simply set to the road. Driving South, I thought the answers would arrive within minutes. I had been fortunate enough to save well during the five years that had passed since graduation. Though no one would confuse me with Bill Gates, money, it would seem, would not be a deterrent on this trip. Deterrents would arise, though, and more swiftly than I had imagined.

As I backtracked towards middle America, I found myself in Boise.

“What'll it be,” asked the attendant.

“Fill it with regular.”

“Where you headed?”

“You know, I'm not sure. Taking a trip, but just not sure where I am going or how I am going to get there, other than by car.” I did know, though. I was going away. Fear of the known was driving the Lexus, I was merely along for the ride.

“Really? Always wanted to do something like that, just never had the balls to go on the road without a plan.”

“Not sure that balls is what it takes. This started because I had nowhere to go, and no one with whom to make the trip. I simply got behind the wheel of my car and started driving,” I confided.

I could have gone on for hours, but certainly the thick man with deep-set brown eyes and jet black hair had no desire to listen to the ramblings of a man who had no real knowledge to pass along. It really exemplified the state of my mind. I was headed East; I was driving, but the truth is, I was headed to the middle. But which middle I did not yet know.

It was a bright, sunny August afternoon. I had left Seattle early in the morning thinking I was taking a scenic trip to the Oregon coast. The jagged rocks and crashing waves always gave me a sense of comfort. Though it seemed that August days were nothing but misty haze along that particular stretch of beach, the truth of the rocks and waves were always something to behold. When I reached Portland, though, I turned East.

At home were many of the regular creature comforts that many had grown accustomed to; nice furniture, flat screen television, an apartment full of that which I thought proved my successes. I had graduated from Lewis & Clark College, a small private college in Portland five years earlier. In those aforementioned five years, I had rapidly developed in a career working with underprivileged families. This was not the typical underpaid social worker environment. I had graduated with a bachelors degree in psychology before earning a law degree. As an advocate employed by a division of the Knight Foundation, I worked with underprivileged families scarred by mental health trauma. Many of the families I had worked with suffered from various forms of mental and physical abuse.

I was unsure exactly why I chose to confide in this attendant. I guess I needed someone other than myself with whom to speak. On these long trips, I frequently turn the music up very loud if for no other reason than to temporarily drown out my continuous thoughts. I was quite familiar with controlling topics of conversation and guiding conversations along a pre-defined path.

As I headed out of the store front towards my gleaming silver Lexus convertible, I turned back and asked the man, “Is there anywhere peaceful that I could stay?”

“Idaho Falls isn't too far, but it will be another 300 miles or so.”

“Yuck. I've been on the road all day. Maybe I'll head up there tomorrow. Know any good places to eat nearby?”

“Depends on what you're looking for. Most people don't know this, but Boise has one of the largest Basque populations around. There's a really cool little Basque restaurant over on Capitol. If you want more traditional, there's a place over on Protest or an awesome old-fashioned drive in restaurant that serves prime-rib over on State Street.”

“Basque, you say? You know, it always seems easier to go with what I know. Think I'll go a different direction. Guess I am on an adventure. How far is it?”

“It's just up the road a bit. Get back on the 84 take the 184 towards downtown, at the end, you'll be downtown just a couple blocks away,” said the attendant.

Feeling up to a new experience after a long day on the road, I asked for the name of the restaurant.

“Easy. Bar Elkano. I remember that because I love elk meat and the name of the place was real close to that. They have lots of different lamb stuff on the menu,” he said.

“Thank you,” I replied. Wanting to show a friendlier side, I scoured for a name tag. Just as I was walking out, I caught a glimpse of the name; Todd. “Thank you Todd. I appreciate all your help.”

As I got into the Lexus, I called information to get the address. Plugging in the address to my GPS, I headed right to the heart of downtown Boise.

As I approached the door, I saw that they were open until one o'clock. I was thankful as I had not eaten much. So consumed with driving, I had only stopped for gas and snacks. I was desperate for some good food. Maybe, too, I was looking forward to being in the company of others. It had been a long day of lonesome driving. Though I kept the music loud, the thoughts still crept out and invaded my consciousness.

I had taken quite the circuitous route from Seattle. Almost ten hours on the road had taken its toll on my eyes and my body. The Lexus was comfortable; but ten hours is a long time to sit in a car grinding along long stretches of nothingness.

Driving through the Columbia Gorge, I saw plenty of National Scenic area signs, but most of it was vast stretches of brown fields running alongside the Columbia River. While a student at Lewis & Clark, I had explored much of the West end of the gorge, near the Portland metro area, but had rarely gone past Cascade Locks. On a sunny day, it was a peaceful drive, but not much on the scenery. Once I headed up the mountains, though, that changed. The Blue Mountains were quite picturesque. Not in the way that say Mt. Hood or Crater Lake would have been on a warm clear afternoon. More so how any pine tree lined stretch of highway would have been. There was a small river along much of the stretch.

I pondered as I moved from the bleakness of the fields in the gorge to the wondrous mountains just how it had been so long since I had truly noticed what surrounded me daily. Far too often, when in work mode, the ind switches to auto-pilot. We are conscious of everything we pass, but are not conscious of of our consciousness. It baffled me that I could be so close to such vastly varied landscape without even considering any of it for more than a moment.

I couldn't, though, as there was always somewhere to be; always working; always in meetings, it seemed.

Surely everyone who loses a job goes through this same thing, I thought to myself. Suddenly aware of everything around them. Suddenly cognizant of their own lack of consciousness.
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