Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Starving

Someone asked why I post so much fiction on my blog. After all, once it's here, it can't be sold. I explained that the short fiction I publish here is mostly writing exercises. All I've done is transfer my notebook from the folder by my bed to the computer. My short stories? I keep writing and will be sending out a few shortly. My novels...same thing. I keep plugging.

Below is another assignment. This one for Halloween. The assignment: write a vampire story. Hmmmm. The problem with vampire stories is that they are sooooo overdone. In horror the undead and their cousin the zombie have been reduced to a stereotype for those people who like familiarity. Readers should be more demanding. They aren't. Give them their Buffy clones and they'll stay happy, like a child sitting before the tv asking you to play the same videodisc over and over again until they can recite the words by heart. When people like something (Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Interview with the Vampire) give it to them over and over again until they become bloated and explode.




The Starving

They got it wrong. The blood is only the beginning.

I don’t know how long ago I became infected. Time has no meaning. The creature that turned me was a woman whom I only met once. I don’t remember much about her. I think I had been drinking pretty heavily. I remember only that I was touched by her incredible sadness. Why is misery so appealing? People like to say they turn away from it, but only when the misery is too close is it too threatening. Otherwise, it’s ambrosia.

I woke the next night and knew something was different. Hungry. Yeah. But not for food. I left the apartment for the last time and headed into the darkness. It all looked so different.

At first the edginess thrilled me. I should have savored it. It died soon enough.

Walking the streets I saw the others were everywhere. The living don’t see them. The infected are only truly visible to the likewise infected.

They fed without hiding their thirst. Here a rag-tag teen with hollow cheeks drank quickly from a little girl as she and her mother stood before a shop window. There a bloated old man with puffy cheeks feasted on a meticulously groomed man as he tapped in his code at the ATM machine. The victims never knew. Two minutes lost here, three minutes lost there. All easily explained. A soreness to the neck, almost invisible marks that would fade away in a matter of hours.

The disease would could only be passed through deliberate infection, not casual feeding. So why me?

I began to feed, moving along the street, selecting my hosts without discrimination. I was full after three quick takings. I spent the rest of the night walking, not sure what would happen with the dawn. The sun didn’t matter though. I felt the heat on my cheeks and the hunger growing in my stomach. I fed again. Before I knew it, the sun passed and darkness returned.
The second night I saw four of them hunting as a pack. They followed a prostitute and took her in a crowd of people. She screamed as they grabbed her arms and started pulling her back. I watched, fascinated and excited, and only slightly interested that none of the living seemed to be able to hear or see what was happening.

They tore her apart then. They first drained her and then began to eat the flesh. I watched, trying to feel disgust and pity, but only became more intrigued. When they finished there was nothing left. That’s when I knew the blood was only the beginning.

One of the pack, a woman with a crooked back and sparse hair, came close to me. The blood on her breath stirred my hunger. "You come feed next time," she said. I started to object but she put a bloody finger on my lips.

"No?" she said. "When you’re ready. You’re still new. You can still feed on three or four people and be satisfied. Eventually you’ll spend almost every waking minute feeding. The blood won’t be enough. It never is. Neither is the flesh. But we can’t get at the other thing."

"Is that why she infected me?" I asked.

"No. It’s another urge. You feed and feed, and suddenly you know you have to share the disease. You can’t stop it. You wish you could, but then you realize you’re doing what you have to do."

"So there’s no hope?" I asked.

Her eyes widened and looked horribly human. She shook her head and whispered: "Only when you stop hoping."


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Saturday, October 28, 2006

Church of the All Forgiving

My friends, allow me to introduce you to the seducitve Rev. James Maloney, founder of the Church of the All Forgiving. Agents and publishers take note, he is the hero/villian of one of two novels that I am currently marketing: "The Palpable Illusion". If what follows offends, then be careful not to say so out loud, for disapproval is Maloney's nectar. He is a loathsome, delightful, seductive, disgusting, wonderful, heinous, delicious, and unbearable.


What follows is an small excerpt from the novel. It is a part of one of Maloney's sermons:


Maloney stepped back from his podium and stared hard into the television camera. His eyes flashed with insight. He seemed about to speak, but instead held onto his thoughts, giving them careful consideration. The pause was not lost on his audience. People leaned forward, eyes widening and pulses quickening in anticipation.

"On my way here," said Maloney, "I spoke to a woman who asked for guidance. She wanted to know what to do. It seems she had just cheated on her husband and was crippled by the guilt of it all. She wanted me to tell her what to do. Me."

Maloney laughed and shook his head.

"I told this woman not to talk to me, but to talk to God. I told her to just shut the hell up for one moment and tell me what she heard. We stood there, the two of us, holding hands, and listened. And you know what we heard? We heard nothing.

"Nothing.

"Do you know why? Because God had already given that foolish woman her answer. Do you understand? God answered her by giving her the opportunity to commit adultery.

"’But I feel so guilty,’" she said.

"'Why?'"

"’Because I sinned.’"

Maloney’s stepped closer to his audience. He studied their faces and then slowly turned toward the camera. In the control room, William Masterson sighed with admiration. The man had style.

"She felt guilty because she sinned," shouted Maloney. "Do you all know what I said to that? I said: ‘God bless you’. That’s what I said. She sinned. She did God’s will. Sin is God’s will. Sin IS God’s Will. Sin IS. IS. IS!"

"IS!" Someone shouted.

"Amen," responded Maloney. "IS!"

"God forgives your sin. Big or small, God forgives it. He sits in Heaven and waits for those sins to come drifting up to him. He created all that is good and he created all that is sinful. He loves your sin. It satisfies him."

"Is!" Someone in the audience shouted and several others responded.

"Damned right," said Maloney. "Those pious people who believe they are doing God’s will by denying themselves the bounty of God’s work make God frown and wring His hands. Can you imagine? God went through all the trouble to put temptation in our path, and we have the gall to attempt to deny it.

"Now I know there’s some of you who hear the word temptation, and you think of Satan.

"Okay, okay. But who created Satan? God. God created Satan and God made sin possible. And God loves his sinner. Without the opportunity to forgive Sin, what would the Master do? I ask you. What? What? Without sin, God might be forced to Sin himself and can you imagine a God driven to that?

"No, God wants you to sin, so He can do what He does--and that is to forgive."

The audience applauded and stomped its feet. Some stood up and cupped their hands to their mouths to project their voices. "God loves a sinner," someone called and several in the audience took it up as a chant.

Maloney silenced them by holding up a hand.

"God wants you to enjoy all his fruits, and one of those fruits is sin. Now, I’m not preaching about Adam and Eve. I don’t care nothing about Adam and Eve. I am not talking about Moses, or Jesus, or Buddah, or Muhammed. It doesn’t matter what religion you are, you can still come to the Church of the All-Forgiving and accept God’s blessing, and then go out and sin some more. And unlike some of those religions, you don’t have to be penitent about your sinning. You can march in here with your head held high and say, ‘Yeah, that’s right, I robbed the corner market and I’m damned proud. God forgive me. And he will! He will! Just like that. And then if you want, you can go right on back to your synagogues, your churches, or your mosques or temples."Maloney ran to one side of the audience. "Cheat on your wife? God will forgive you."

He ran to the other side. "Steal from work? God loves you."

He bent over and pushed his face into the face of a short man with the bulging eyes of hyperthyroidism.

"Beat your wife? Kill your husband? God doesn’t care. The bigger the sin, the better the forgiveness. And don’t God give good forgiveness? Amen."

"Amen."

"Let me hear you stand in the moment. Let me hear you celebrate the God of this second. Let me hear it."

"Is," shouted a man who secretly carved obscene words into library books.

"Is," uttered a woman who worked as a waitress in a five star restaurant and regularly drooled saliva into the soup of annoying customers.

"Is!" A pedophile screamed shrilly.

"IS!" The word sucked the sin from them and glorified it.

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Friday, October 27, 2006

Vampire Hunter


Getting old is hell. This really isn't a story about vampires, unless you consider Father Time to be a vampire. He lingers over us all, sucking away our years and leaving behind a dessicated mess. This is another assignment from the past, weighing in at about five hundred words.

VAMPIRE HUNTER


Mr. Rodriguez sucked on a cross as I entered the room. He watched me with red-rimmed eyes, checking the mirror as I passed and nodding to himself. Well over ninety, Rodriguez was a small man, with pale skin and only a wisp of silver hair remaining.

“Vampire,” he hissed as I stood beside his bed.

“My name is Peter, Mr. Rodriguez. I’m an aide. They just hired me today.”

“Vampire.”

“Yeah, whatever,” I said. I tried sticking a thermometer in his mouth. He grinned and turned away. I waited a moment and tried again. When he continued to resist I lost my temper and grabbed his wrist. He cried in surprised and I took advantage of the moment to stick the thermometer in.

My dad never went to a nursing home. He died in his bed. We found him after a week, it could just as easily have been a month. Or a year.

I pulled back the blanket and the smell told me had soiled himself.

“You think I don’t know what you are?” said Rodriguez. I was afraid he might chomp down on the thermometer. I took it from his lips and recorded his temperature on the chart. I looked at a picture by the bed. Big family. Big house. I wondered how old these pictures were.

“Your kind has been a plague for the last fifty years," said Rodriguez. "I didn’t realize it at first. I couldn’t understand why things kept changing. Why I kept changing.”

“I got to get you out of bed,” I said. I tugged at him in an effort to bring him to his feet. When he didn’t cooperate I yanked harder. He rose and stumbled into me. I guided him to a chair and set him down. I turned to fit another plastic sheet over the mattress. Then I turned back to clean him up.

“You’re different from yesterday,” he mumbled.

“I told you. Today is my first day. Lift your arm so I can change your t-shirt.”

“Shapeshifter.”

He struggled but I got him changed. I tried talking to put him at ease. They stressed that during orientation. Keep talking. He kept watching me without saying anything back. His eyes got meaner.

I took a packet from my pocket and checked the label to be sure I had the right medication. Shaking a few tablets into a paper cup, I held it out to him but he shook his head and turned away.

“Don’t do this,” I said, almost slipping up and adding: “Don’t be a hard-ass."

I held the pills out to him and he reached for them. Catching me off guard, he grabbed my arm and raked my flesh with a silver cross. I howled in pain. He clapped his hands. "See?" he crowed. "See? The cross has power over the vampire."

I was bleeding. I almost hit him, but caught myself. I needed this job bad. Unemployment had run out and I was desperate. I’d get back at him, I thought. There were lots of ways to even the score. I swore again and crossed the room to grab a handful of tissue paper. I applied pressure to the wound and turned to him. He was still wielding his cross as a weapon.

“Do that again, old man, and I’ll beat the shit out of you.”

“Vampire. Vampire. What will you feed on after me and my kind have died? Who will nourish you then? You wait and see. Your world will start to change then, as did mine, and a new plague will come.”

"Take your pills," I said. He looked at the blood on my arm and did as he was told. He was cooperative now and allowed me to finish cleaning him up before returning to bed.

"What's your name, Vampire?" he asked.

I told him and collected the clipboard and tray. It was just my first day. He’d get used to me. Maybe he would die in a day or two.


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Thursday, October 26, 2006

WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE

He comes running on stage with a giant toothbrush to fend off two enormous teeth. Victory is snatched from his grasp as a maniacal dentist ties him to a chair and comes at him with a six foot drill with flashing lights. “The teeth are okay but the gums gotta go.”

He prances in tattered red long johns while behind him female spiders climb a web. Dark toys, all claws and fangs, emerge from a large toy chest, bringing with them a healthy helping of childhood neurosis and phobias.

Spinning on a heel he spears a camera man, plunging a microphone stand through his body. The man jerks in death throes. Behind him a masked dominatrix cracks a whip. Meeting that challenge, he soon faces another, a nurse who will force him to tackle his dark side by shooting him with psychotropic medication as she secures the strait-jacket. He’ll escape though, and kill her...the disturbed, broken man who sings about necrophilia, dying babies, and serial murder.

But in the end, all his onstage evil will be punished. For this, above all else, is a morality play. He will face the guillotine. And then be reborn and redeemed in a white tuxedo.


Of course, I’m talking about an Alice Cooper concert. How could I let Halloween pass without pausing to pay tribute to one of my musical heroes? Marilyn Manson, I love ya. But Alice is the Grand Master. He gave voice to generations raised on “Famous Monsters of Filmland” and “Friday The Thirteenth”, and continues to do so, by singing absurdly about the dark side of our personalities, reveling in our angst, and letting us know that at the pit of all darkness is redemption or punishment. He is humanity writ large.

You think I am overstating the importance of Alice in rock and roll history? Perhaps you imagine I am absurd in lauding his lyrical content? Take a look at “Welcome To My Nightmare”. While it is a collection of anthem rock on one hand, on the other hand there is an underlying theme in that album that deals with the pain of self-destructive relationships in the face of dehumanization. Don’t believe me? Consider these songs: “Devil’s Food” ( subtext: fear of ego destruction in a relationship where both parties are wrestling for dominance); “Cold Ethyl”(while on the surface a song about necrophilia, below it is easily a story about objectification of women and frigidity); “Only Women Bleed” (a song about domestic violence).

Now I will grant you that not a lot of Alice fans sit in coffee shops and quietly discuss the subtext of “Go To Hell” or “Eighteen”. It’s enough that those songs just kick ass. But the subtexts are there. It’s what has kept Alice Cooper a presence in popular music for over thirty years. Stop and look behind the music and behold an astonishing talent. See him in concert and you will see the best that vaudeville has to offer.

Rent a dvd. If you want to see him at his best, there is a re-issue available now called The Nightmare Returns (his eighties comeback---filmed Halloween Night at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit). It doesn’t get better than that



Which brings me to my one gripe. It’s Halloween. Alice Cooper hasn’t played around Detroit for a Halloween show in some six or seven years. Alice come home. Damn it.
Isn’t that our mom calling?????????

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Monday, October 23, 2006

THE GREEN ROOM




Okay...so I seemed to be the only one in the Bay Area Writers' group who did the last assignment. Actually at the last meeting the Curmudgeons were the only ones present. The Curmudgeons is a name I have given to the three old males, myself included in this dubious triad, who have made up the nucleus of this writers group for the last four years or so. Don't get me wrong, there are other members. But The Curmudgeons are always there. Maybe it's because the three of us are the only ones who can tolerate one another. Maybe it's because our wives are having affairs every other Thursday.

If you want to see one of the three, go to his blog (check the link section for crotchety old Jon Zech).

Anyway, that being said, here is the new assignment, due at the next meeting, November 2nd.

No more than 1000 words: write about two people meeting after a traumatic event. The twist? Your manuscript must be in the form of a one act play, bear the title: "The Green Room", and be set in the room pictured above.Good luck.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

My Halloween Playlist



Certain times of year I make playlists. I suppose it's evidence that I have too much time on my hands or that I'm somewhat pathetic. For instance, every September, I make a "fall music" list. What's on that? "Your Time Is Gonna Come"--Zepplin; "Roots of Oak"--Donovan; "Scarborough Fair"-- Simon and Garfunkel. What do these songs have to do with fall???? Nothing. Except that I get a sense of the autumn through the melodies and the feel of the music. It's a personal thing, and isn't music a personal experience.

Summer? "Schools Out"--Alice Cooper; "Groovin'"--Lovin' Spoonful; "Stand By Me"--Ben E. King. Now I know these are mostly classic rock tunes or oldies, but that isn't to say my list doesn't include more recent material (although you will never find rap in my playlist). It's just that these tunes come immediately to mind.

So...all this being said, what follows is my playlist for Halloween. If you pull up beside me at the light, you'll probably be hearing one of these tunes.

"Don't Fear The Reaper"--Blue Oyster Cult
"I Love The Dead"-- Alice Cooper
"X Files Theme"--Mark Snow
"Black Magic Woman"--Santana
"Sympathy for the Devil"--Rolling Stones
"The Shining"-- Film Sountrack
"The Exorcist Theme--" based on music by Mike Oldfield
"Spooky"--Dennis Yost
"Mr. Crowley"--Ozzy Osbourne
"Halloween"--Misfits
"Call of Kthulhu"--Metallica
"Halloween Theme"-_John Carpenter
"I Put A Spell On You"--Joe Cocker version
"Bad Moon Rising"--CCR
"Werewolves of London" Warren Zevon
"Werewolf" Five Man Electrical Band
"Jack The Ripper" Nick Cave
"Bela Lugosi's Dead" BauHaus
"Voodoo" Godsmack


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Saturday, October 21, 2006

Give It To Me

At a recent convention another writer solicited my critique of his writing. As I started to give it, he interrupted me several times with explanations and excuses. I stopped him and told him to stop defending his work. I was giving an opinion and interpretation. My position was that once you hand your work over to someone to read, control is taken from your hands. You can't follow readers around and tell them what you meant. Your work either speaks for itself or it doesn't. The responsibility of the person offering the critique is to be constructive and to offer how they came to their opinions, focusing on elements of writing.

The above illustration is a mild example of how poorly many writers handle feedback. I've seen people storm out of a room and explode into rants. I've read some nasty response letters, some accusing me of furthering a personal agenda. One vituperative response charged that I was an overweight, insensitive slime bag. Okay, well, I'll give them that.

So, here's an open shout out to all writers. First, your writing only gets better if you write. Second, when you receive feedback, accept it...or not. Find a person whose critiques match your perspective and whose feedback makes sense to you. Do not attack your critic. You asked for feedback, it's your responsibility to accept it in a dignified manner. An opinion is an opinion.

That being said, I ask for feedback. If I post fiction on this blog, please feel free to have at it. If you think it is poorly executed, let me know. I know that most of what I have here is under a thousand words, and there is not much you can accomplish in that space, but if I write something you don't like, let me know. I promise I can handle it. And if you like what you see here and would like to read some of my short stories, then email a request to me and I'll be happy to send you a few for critiquing. Unfortunately, I can't do the same with my novels. I'm a bit more guarded about those.

And finally, speaking of feedback, when people critique my work, if there is a dialogue, I'll respond to questions about plot, character development, etc. The one thing I will never do is clarify or define theme. When people ask what a story is about, I usually shrug. If enough people ask that question, then I will usually return to the work and see if my intent is unclear or muddy.

I mention this because it seems a few people have looked at The Apple Tree, featured below, and have said to me: "What is this about? I don't get it." I am not referring to the people who have posted but to others. I have told them: "You know better. I can't tell you what something is about. I won't. " Upon futher imploring, I did however offer up a small clue and do so now to readers of the earlier post.

The Apple Tree is either 1) An ambiguous ghost story 2) A story about balance or...3) a simple tone poem. Or none of the above.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

THE APPLE TREE

A few days back I invited people to join me in an assignment. We were to write a short short, using the apple tree as metaphor. The only other stipulation was that the story had to be under seven hundred words. Below is my contribution. It comes in at about 399 words. Let me know what you think. Or, if you want, send me your own apple tree story.

THE APPLE TREE

The apple tree stood on a rise in the cemetery, its branches providing shade for a stone angel whose sorrowful eyes looked downward upon the marker for a child dead at age nine, some fifty-eight years ago.

Maria knelt and pulled a stone from a pouch she carried about her waist. She smiled, said a quick prayer, and carefully placed the stone before the marker. Before rising she retrieved an apple that had fallen from the tree. Using a small knife, she cut away a wedge and set it beside the stone. Another piece she set in her mouth, closing her eyes as she slowly munched it.

“Good?” someone asked. She opened her eyes. The caretaker stood close by. He nodded at the tree. “The best looking apples come from that tree. I surely can’t eat them though. You know.”

Maria stood and moved to the next monument marking the passing of a child. Another prayer, another stone. The caretaker followed. He didn’t try communicating until she had repeated the ritual at seven sites.

“That’s nice what you do,” he said at last. The caretaker turned his gaze to the apple tree. He scratched the back of his neck and whistled to himself. “I wonder how far out those roots go.”

Maria looked at a plant poking through the leaves on the ground. New growth.

“I think you missed one,” he said, indicating a stone overgrown with weeds. Maria walked over to where he pointed and studied its weather worn surface. She was able to read the date, 1833-1840, but the last name was illegible with the exception of the first letter of the first name. M.

Maria ran her fingertips over the surface.

“Not even a name any more. I guess that’s how it happens,” said the caretaker. His voice had a bitter edge to it.

Maria turned and looked at him. She nodded and offered a stone from her pouch. He grinned sheepishly. “You know I can’t take that,” he said. “I thank you kindly for the offer, but you save that for the children.”

When he refused her gift, she said her prayer and placed it at his feet. He stared down at it and didn’t look back up. Smiling secretly, she glanced back toward the angel, and moved on toward the cemetery gates.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

MORROW ROAD...haunted?

This is the stuff of campfire stories. This is the stuff of urban legends. Morrow Road.

Located in Clay Township, just outside the town of Algonac, is a winding stretch of pavement, once a lonely and isolated dirt road, now the site of new construction. Still, Morrow Road has the feel of what August Derleth would have called a "lonely place". You know, the sort of shadowed patch of sidewalk that little boys skirt or pass quickly through while whistling or keeping their heads down. It's the kind of spot that feels more natural on a cloudy day. In the sunlight, the shadows seem too stark and there is an aritificial cheeriness to the thick folliage pressing in on the sides of the road.

The legend has no concrete origin and it is the sort of legend repeated in dozens of other lonely spots across the country. A woman, whose child was stolen from her, went into an unforgiving snowstorm. Searching for her child, seeking help but receiving none, she herself perished. Now, of course, her spirit still searches for the child.

If you park your car by the side of the road and sit for a while the atmosphere touches you. Go there at night, when the snow is blowing across the road, and the legend says she is out there, still searching for her child.

Want to read an alleged first person account? Go here: http://paranormal.about.com/library/blstory_july05_22.htm or
http://www.castleofspirits.com/stories03/morrow.html


Morrow Road is also the subject of a small independent film which should be shooting this coming summer. If you want to know more about that project, go to this website: WWW.MORROWROAD.COM


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Sunday, October 15, 2006

In Time For Halloween...Another Michigan Haunting


Another Michigan haunting to remind us that Halloween is just a scream away...

The house is gone now and the people in the nearby houses are grateful. They didn't like the overgrown grass, the broken windows, or the tortured look of the old brick and leaning foundation. They didn't like the cars that slowed down in front of the old brick mansion. They didn't like that teenagers trespassed on the property; that they broke into the house to vandalize and find a quick thrill.

The house is gone. The ghosts?

The house was built in the eighteen hundreds by Gilbert Hatheway, a smart New England businessman who came to New Baltimore to capitalize on shipping in the Great Lakes. According to accounts he was a stern man, with a strong sense of tradition. He was also a philanthropist; he shared his wealth with the community and became a welcome fixture in this growing town which was the halfway point between Port Huron and Detroit.

According to the legends, Gilbert had a daughter named Mabel who met a young man named Oren from Paw Paw, a town on the west side of the state, now famous for its grape harvest and wineries. Gilbert Hatheway disapproved and made his disapproval known. Still, headstrong Mabel went ahead and married in November of 1833. She was dead by March and some say the circumstances of her death were mysterious. One legend was that she fell down the stairs of the mansion and broke her neck.

Eventually the Hatheways left the old house and it passed through several hands, becoming in turn a bed and breakfast and a rest home or sanitorium. Through the years people began to hear things within the structure and to see shapes or forms. Whether it was the spirit of Mabel or perhaps the ghost of one of the unfortunates reputed to have died in the structure while it was a sanitorium, who can say? People believe what they want to believe.

One woman I spoke to, who considered herself a ghost hunter of sorts, related this story to me: "The former owner of the house let us explore. As soon as we entered we felt something wrong. Something cold touched me. Maybe it was her, Mabel, trying to communicate, to let us know the truth about her death. I looked up the stairs and knew that the heart of the house was its cuppola. Up there. Although I had been to the cuppola before, I couldn't go further. I was overcome by the fear. I couldn't go further. We had to turn around. We had to get out of the house."


At times other people have said they saw the figure of a child. Some have seen the apparations of a young woman and an older man, either on the front porch or moving about the grounds.

Legend has a way of feeding itself. The Hatheway mansion became the stereotypical haunted house and the legend made it impossible for any owner to renovate the old thing. Nearby residents wanted the house torn down. They got their wish. It's gone. The lot will be parcelled. New homes will be built.

But the ghosts?

If you want to see more pictures of the Hatheway House...go here:http://www.deadrelatives.com/24mile/house.htm



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Saturday, October 14, 2006

another baseball post...Stomp the Mets



A radio columnist asked the other day: "When did the Tigers show they were serious?" Some answered the turning point was the acquisition of Rodriguez, others said it was the signing of Placido Planco to a longterm contract, and yet others said it was the arrival of Jim Leyland. Allow me to humbly disagree with all of the above.

The current Tigers' success isn't the result of sage wisdom or rugged determination, but rather dumb luck of all these elements coming together at one time. Rodriguez? We managed to sign him after the one of the worst seasons we had, and that acquisition was an iffy dice roll. The man had health problems. We even built it into his contract that we could back away from him if his back started interfering with his game. We took similar risks with Magglio Ordonez and Guillen. We took risks with a forty one year old pitcher named Rogers, who came to us following an imbroglio on his own team and issues in the club house.

So, when did we know they were serious? Next season.

Even if the win the World Series, I'll say next season. If they can get into the play-offs next season, then we can shake off the mantle that this is all about luck, the rotation of the stars, the shifting of the tea leaves, etc. I was one of those people who expected the Tigers to do well, a little over five hundred, but never dreamed that they would make the play offs. And I consider myself somewhat baseball savvy.

So, that being said, let me shake off my crotchety cynicism and say: Go Tigers. The Oakland A's are toast and we need to look toward The Mets.

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Friday, October 13, 2006

Writing Assignment


I thought I would take the current assignment for the Bay Area Writers' Club and throw it out there for you. If you take it on, then either send me your work and I'll post it here, or put it on your own blog and we'll put the link here so people can see what you do with the assignment.

Here it is:
Write a piece of flash fiction using an apple tree as metaphor. It can be no longer than 700 words. Stay away from the obvious, mainly by avoiding using Adam and Eve.

So go to it. The club's deadline for the this assignment is Thursday, October 19.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

house of sternberg


This is Bernie again, taken in one of his off moments. Bernie spends his days in school with me.

The year before last, the new super asked if I had ever thought about having a dog around the school; he felt that it might be therapeutic. Did I mention that I work as an educator in an alternative education program? Anyway, I nodded quickly.

I had actually tried bringing another stray the year before, a large chocolate lab who died a few months after I got him. Apparently Murphy had a birth defect.

When I got Bernie I had some reservations. I picked him up at an adoption event at a local pet store. Some foster parent was keeping him in a small cage twenty four hours a day. Furthermore, he was over a year old and had never been trained. At all. Bernie knew no commands and while friendly, was wild as could be.

I've trained many dogs before. My last three dogs were all trained from puppyhood.

My groomer looked at Bernie, who was wildly jerking around, and shook her head. "I think you can train him a little, but don't expect miracles."

The good news is that Bernie proved us all wrong. Yes, it was hard work, but Bernie is now a well behaved, good natured friend. He loves coming to school with me and enjoys the kids. When we get home, he and his bigger brother, Leo, spend the evening wrestling and making absurd growling noises.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Bye Bye




Wait. What's that sound? Why, it's the absence of raucous applause in the Bronx. Tell me it aint so, Joe. The Yankees, Steinbrenner's Frankenstein's Monster, a thing that should not be, made up of the most expensive parts from the rest of the league, has burned in the windmill. The creature screamed and vanished. Of course, we all know it's only until next year. In the off season the old man will once again go to work on his monster.

Until then, here's to the team of the hour: THE DETROIT TIGERS.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

AUTUMN TEA



This writing assignment --- Take the featured picture and write a five hundred word story about it. I present--

AUTUMN TEA


The stadium felt cathedral-like as autumn settled over its empty seats and now quiet scoreboards. The grass, covered by tarp, hid the baselines and the pitchers’ mound. A cold wind from the north brought unwelcome melancholy to this place of summer.

Owner Sarah Magnuson, opened the thermos and poured tea into a pewter teapot, which she then set on a linen cloth spread over a bleacher seat and weighted down with two stones. She set out a plate with finger sandwiches and helped herself to one. The sound of footsteps made her look up in time to see Darin McCrory loping easily up the steps toward her.

“I’m sorry, I’m late,” he said. He kissed her on the cheek and sat down.

“No such thing,” she said. “Have some tea.”

Mrs. Magnuson poured the tea into two china cups and offered him one. Studying his good looks, she noted that as he approached his mid-thirties that he became more striking. People watching him enter a room were overwhelmed by his beauty. Besides his physical presence, Darin McCrory was the sweetest person she ever knew. She never knew anyone who disliked him.

“Another season gone,” she said, raising her cup in toast.

McCrory brushed thick blonde hair from his face and smiled. “Here’s to next season,” he said.

“Not for me.”

McCrory raised an eyebrow. She shrugged and faced the field. “I’m selling the team. I’m too old for this now. I was always too old. I should have sold when my husband died.”

McCrory touched her hand but she remained unresponsive.

“What about me?” he asked, hurt immediately discernible in his voice.

“You’ll be fine. You’ve got a few good years left. Your fastball isn’t what it used to be. You’re throwing more junk. But you’re not ready for pasture. And when you are, you’ll always have TV.”

“I wasn’t talking about baseball. I was talking about us.”

Sarah Magnuson laughed. She reached over and patted the side of his face. When he tried nuzzling her palm, she pulled back. “Act your age,” she said. “I’ll act mine.”

McCrory looked down at the field and appeared to sulk. She savored that moment, feeding on his misery, envious of it. She watched him struggle to find words and when she felt he was on the breaking point she stretched languorously and said: “Perhaps you should go now.”

“I’ll call you later,” he said.

McCrory looked back over his shoulder, but she made sure she was busy pouring the remaining tea back in the thermos and putting away the china. Folding the linen, she watched him vanish into one of the stadium’s tunnels. Her lips formed a smile and she ran her tongue over her lips.



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Sunday, October 01, 2006

Where's The Reaper?

Funny how attitudes change toward death. Here I am, sitting in a chair, enjoying a sunny Michigan day, and thinking that maybe tonight is the night. Perhaps I'll lay my head down on the pillow, close my eyes, and the darkness will finally claim me.

I don't mean to sound morbid. It just interests me to think how much I've changed. About ten years ago I was wrapped in a death phobia. I used to start thinking about the idea of falling through an icy nothingness and I would have to jump up and start walking around to drive the fear away. I guess I equated movement with life. I suppose it was narcissistic of me. I mean, I would close my eyes and try and imagine the world without me. Impossible. By imagining nothing, you are by definition imagining something.

When I had cancer (presuming I don't have it now), my doctor urged me into surgery. "You have to do it now. As soon as possible. We can't risk the cancer spreading."

I nodded thoughtfully and replied: "You have to wait until after Sunday, April 2nd (at least I think it was that date). "Why?" the doctor asked.
"Wrestlemania," I responded. "I want to see if Hulk Hogan is going to win. I mean, if I die, I die. So, why not at least see Wrestlemania."

I think absurdity is the best weapon against death. A wonderful author, myself, once put it this way in his his novel, PALPABLE ILLUSION:

“Let me tell you something someone once told me when I was in medical school,” said Sharkey. “Once a professor caught me admiring a new machine developed for diagnostic purposes. He came up and put his hand on my shoulder. ‘That’s nothing,’ he said. ‘All our science is nothing. We’re nothing. We’re only a millisecond removed from the sludge. No matter what we achieve, or think we achieve, it becomes insignificant when put in the proper perspective. What, after all, is the last couple thousand years of civilization when measured against the last hundred million years of time? And what is a lifetime? It's a cosmic joke and we're all the butt of that joke. And God, whatever God is, laughs at us from above. Every time we think we matter, God laughs.'

“And I said, 'If you believe that, Professor, then why don't you kill yourself and deprive God of his jester?'

“My professor smiled and said, 'Because, I have a sense of humor, Galen. I don't mind being the butt of a joke, as long as I can laugh a little, too.'“


So...maybe tonight. Maybe tomorrow night. Maybe not for a long time. But until the reaper settles over me, let me smile and share the joke. I have a sense of humor. So what the hell.

Oh...an by the way...if any agent or publisher would like to see Palpable Illusion...lemme know.