Fail, fail, fail, fail, succeed

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Character Notes (Part 4)

Boats. Goddamn motherfucking boats. That’s what was going through my mind as this slowly sinking piece of shit took on water. Whoever thought this was how you got rid of a body must’ve gotten the idea from a fucking movie. Crush it in a compacted car at Joe Clark’s junkyard, now that’s how you get rid of a body. No muss no fuss.

By the time you’ve crushed a Buick into a 3 foot cube and loaded it onto barge hauling scrap metal, there’s not much left for the boys at the crime lab to play with.

So now the body’s 300 feet down anchored by cinder blocks, and I’m in this worthless tub taking on water like some jackass. With any luck I’ll be laughing about this in 6 hours over a bowl and a shot.

Right now I’ve got bigger fish to fry.

Character Notes (Part 3)

If you googled weasel, his picture would come up first. Kind of a horsey-face, too long with eyes too far apart, several greasy strands of hair desperately trying to cover an ocean of baldness. And sweating, always sweating.

Whoever told him a pink polyester shirt with sweaty armpits was a good look must’ve had a good laugh. This would’ve been the story of his miserable life – one goddamn humiliation after another.

Yet failure never stopped him, so there’s that. He never gave up on “the big score,” as if he’d even recognize a good opportunity if it stared him in the face.

No, cheating old people with dementia out of their life savings was his idea of grift. Jesus, the world’s a cruel fucking place – always was, always will be.

Remember that.

The Sheltering Sky

“Because we don’t know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. And yet everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, an afternoon that is so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four, or five times more? Perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless…”

– Paul Bowles, from “The Sheltering Sky”

Character Notes (Part 2)

Roy had been in Vegas for 10 years and this is where it got him: singing 11 to 3 am at “Dale’s Wagon Wheel Lounge,” a dump on the outskirts of the old strip where a tourist wouldn’t be caught dead. Scratch that – dead was the only way you’d find a tourist in this part of town. Whoever Dale had been was mercifully lost to the boozy winds of time – if he saw what his dream had become he’d be spinning in his grave.

Alcoholic Mexican busboys, cons fresh out of the joint with nowhere to go, meth-head hookers with green teeth, bail bondsman and cops enjoying their booze where they thought no one would find them. You either know this place or you don’t – for your sake, I sincerely hope it’s the latter.

A lifetime of singing for the wilted vegetables in his refrigerator had prepared Roy well for failure, and Dale’s was failure writ large. He wiped the flop-sweat running down his forehead, put his cassette tape in the slot and pressed play. Slamming the shot of Jack Darlene had brought him from the bar, he straightened his rug and stepped on what he pretended was a stage. The opening of “Unchained Melody” blared from the shitty PA as he struck his best Elvis pose.

It was going to be a good night.

Character Notes (Part 1)

She was the kind of woman grown men would cut a wide swath to avoid. Attractive with an air about her that spelled danger, in bright red neon.

Funny, but the kind of funny that could turn dangerous real quick – murderous even. Something about her eyes seemed unstable, like a bomb that was poorly made and might explode unexpectedly.

You know how animals can sense danger from a subtle change in their environment? That’s how she changed whatever environment she was in. Young, old, weak, strong, dim or smart, male or female – it didn’t matter. Everyone knew that this was one fight you didn’t want to pick.

All instincts said: don’t look her in the eyes – just back away slowly.

Some people are like that, it’s got nothing to do with size or strength. They were just born dangerous.

A Failure to Lead

”William Haseltine, the chairman and president of access Health International and a world-renowned biologist, told CNN, “How many people could have been saved out of the hundred and ninety thousand who have died? My guess is a hundred and eighty thousand of those. We have killed a hundred and eighty thousand of our fellow-Americans because we have not been honest with the truth.”

– David Remnick, The New Yorker

A Window Into Your Mind

That’s what you get when you write, but it really gets interesting when you write fiction. Themes repeatedly appear that you weren’t consciously aware of.

This is why I think it’s worthwhile to write – even if no one else reads it.

You learn something about yourself.

It’s good to look in your mind and see what’s going on.

Detour

Sometimes you get an idea for a short story and dive right in. It starts out with a strong opening, but then as you keep writing things take an unexpected left turn.

Now you’re on an unknown street with no directions, but this is cool – you’ve got to figure your way out, and that can be fun…

But after going down a few blind alleys, you realize you’re not sure how to get out of this mess. What you’ve got up to this point is good – really good – so you know there’s an answer somewhere. You’re just not sure what it is.

Step back and let it simmer. It’ll come when it’s ready.

I’m Canceling Myself

Not for any particular crime against humanity, just to see what it feels like.

I mean, I’m sure sure I’ve done things in my life that might warrant this – who hasn’t? But I try very hard to be a good person.

I try because I’m flawed.

Here’s a news flash – We all are.

Today’s Mitzvah

Got a Holocaust survivor out of the ER and home in time for Shabbat. No money ‘cuz she forgot her wallet? No problem – had social work arrange for a taxi.

May seem small, but she was happy.

Another good shift – all in a day’s work.

A Possible Answer to Why?

I’m working on a story that started out with a simple, kind of whimsical idea but evolved into something entirely different from my original concept. The place it’s gone is very personal, and I suddenly realize I’m processing the death of someone I loved.

Which brings me to the purpose of this post – is writing a way for us to try and understand life? This makes sense to me, if for no other reason than it would explain why some of us are compelled to do something that makes no sense.

I mean, let’s be real. Sure, it’d be great to be published, but what exactly would that mean? If it meant that someone would actually read what you wrote and gain something from it that would enrich their life, then by all means pursue that goal with everything you can muster. But you’re speculating that this stuff you care about so deeply will mean something to someone else, and the truth is it may not.

So if getting published is your primary motivation to write, you’re kind of fucked, aren’t you? Because if you never get published, then what? Was it all for nothing?

I don’t think so. There is something weirdly satisfying about writing – like it’s cleaning out your brain, organizing your thoughts into something that makes sense to you. Rearranging reality if you will.

I’m starting to notice this in my work – themes that keep re-emerging, like my mind is trying to process troubling events.

Whether I want it to or not. This isn’t good or bad, but it does provide for a very valid reason to write.

To better understand who you are, and maybe even your place in the world.

RIP My Friend

I just found out you died in your sleep, peacefully. I’m so grateful for that – if anyone deserved a peaceful death, it was you.

I remember when we first met, you tentatively approached me. Somehow you’d heard I was recently diagnosed with cancer, something you’d already been fighting for a few years, and you wanted to reach out, to provide support to someone who didn’t even know he needed it.

But you did.

It was the beginning of a long, beautiful friendship. I’m sure I benefited from it more than you, but if you felt that way you never let on.

If we’re supposed to give of ourselves in this life, you were the ultimate teacher. Just being around you made me a better person.

I’ll remember and miss you until the day I die.

As Another Day of Life Draws to a Close

Did you do something that matters?

Did you attempt to contribute something to the world?

Whether that something means anything isn’t really for you to say.

It’s enough to make the effort.

The alternative is not to try and give something of yourself, and that just seems selfish, doesn’t it?

So even if no one’s listening, or maybe especially if no one’s listening, make something and put it out there.

Or not.

It’s your choice.

Rejection (Part 2)

”When you get a printed form attached to a story you wrote and worked on very hard and believed in, that printed rejection slip is hard to take on an empty stomach. ‘Dear sir: We regret to tell you that your submission does not meet our editorial needs.’ Well, fuck it. I regret to tell you that your rejection slip does not meet MY editorial needs.”

– Ernest Hemingway

The Nice Thing About Being an ER Nurse

I get paid to help people.

Even better, here’s the trick: No matter how shitty life may be, the one thing that can give meaning to a meaningless world is the act of helping someone else in need.

So if I can help a single person for a single moment in a 12 and a half hour shift, that was a good day.

And to be clear, it doesn’t have to be a big thing either. Anything counts. And if you’re wondering how you’ll know if you’ve helped someone, don’t worry.

There won’t be any ambiguity, just like there isn’t any ambiguity when you hurt someone. It’ll be clear as day because that’s how we’re wired.

You’ll know it when you feel good.

I’m lucky, ‘cuz that’s my job. Ka Ching!