pjthompson: (bigfoot)

  1. Let me Thread you a story…(1-24)
  2. Rikiki Rocks, just outside town in the Rokoko Valley, is a special place.
  3. The stones there have all kinds of fantastical shapes. There’s Old Man Mammoth, a massive piece of elephantine-shaped granite.
  4. And Donut Rock, a modern name for a big circular thing with a hole in the middle. Local tradition says if a woman wishes to conceive,
  5. she should pass through the hole in that rock under the light of the full moon. That’s why it’s also known as Mother Rock.
  6. There’s many another fanciful shape with fanciful traditions, and I could spend days describing them all. Maybe I will someday.
  7. But one thing to know about Rikiki Rocks is that sometime in the way back when somebody carved pictographs on ‘em.
  8. These pictures show warriors, hunters, shamans, prey animals and such like. Some have red ochre added to the grooves.
  9. Folks do say as how these rocks are sacred to the local Kintache Indians. Yaku Ravenwing, the Kintache story shaman, agrees.
  10. Yaku’s legal name is Arturo, but nobody ever calls him that. Yaku means “blue tongue” in Kintache and he really can talk a blue streak.
  11. One time when he was storytelling at a Kintache powwow, some folks swore they saw blue flames sprouting from his mouth.
  12. Like any good narrator, Yaku swears his stories are mostly true so when he says Rikiki Rocks are not to be messed with, people listen.
  13. No one in Portalville would ever desecrate them, but we do get the occasional drive-by tourist that can’t help themselves.
  14. Yaku tells about two such good ol’ boys driving through from Talladega on their way to California.
  15. They took a rest break at Daisy Mae’s Snack-a-Round out on Route 40. She had a picture of Rikiki Rocks behind the bar.
  16. These boys asked about ‘em and Daisy Mae all innocently said how proud people were of ’em in these parts.
  17. Well, you know, the devil is in some folks, and that ain’t no lie, no matter what else may be a story, no matter what else you believe.
  18. These boys got a notion to go out to those rocks and add their names to ‘em. Stopped by Pedergreen’s Hardware for spray paint & chisels.
  19. Way Yaku tells it, when they got to the rocks weren’t another human around ‘cept the hunters, shamans & warriors on the pictographs.
  20. Guess they didn’t notice the sasquatch taking a rest beside The Bigtoes, some Rikikis shaped like 5 giant toes sticking out of the sand.
  21. Sasquatch don’t usually get involved in human affairs, but those rocks is sacred to them, too. Yaku says Sasquatch took care of things.
  22. Sheriff Limonada found the boys’ car abandoned near the Rikikis but didn’t never find a trace of them boys.
  23. So I asked Yaku how he knew the sasquatch took care of them boys if nobody else was around?
  24. He just grinned his big ol’ grin. “Sasquatch told me, of course.” Weren’t but a trace of blue flame & smoke on his lips when he said it.

 

This tale can also be found on Twitter @downportalville.

 

Mirrored from Better Than Dead.

pjthompson: (bigfoot)


1. Let me Thread you a story…(1-16)
2. We got us some spooky properties here in town, left over from the days of the Great Spirit Invasion of ’07.
3. Spirits poured into town from all over through a rip in the Space-Time Continuum, taking up residence in homes and businesses.
4. Madame Nimby, town exorcist, & her son Rupert sewed up the rip with existential thread and that kept new ghosts from coming through.
5. But they were so busy exorcising the ones already here they couldn’t keep up. It took a deal of time for things to settle down.
6. Most ghosts was just lost souls sucked through the rip by accident and easily persuaded to move on to a higher place.
7. Some, though, were stubborn & not inclined to persuasion. Folks who had those spirits in their homes & businesses had a tough choice.
8. Either move out or learn to live with haints. Some businesses made deals with the ghosts to stay quiet during business hours.
9. Likewise, some residents made similar deals, asking that the hauntings stop after everyone had gone to bed.
10. Still others just couldn’t live with the ruckus, or the spirits refused to cooperate. But we take care of our own.
11. The town banded together to build new homes & businesses for those forced out. That left about a dozen spooky abandoned buildings.
12. Madame & Rupert laid down salt & warding spells ‘round those places. Kept the bad spirits from wandering.
13. Nowadays our biggest problem is out-of-towner ghost hunters pestering us to do investigations (cuz we got us a ghosty reputation).
14. Some of these are sincere folks just wanting to understand the nature of the universe & we towners got no problem with them.
15. Others seem to see ghost hunting as entertainment. I don’t hold with people who use the lost souls of the dead that way.
16. But ain’t no spells for exorcising dilettantes. More’s the pity.

This story can also be found on Twitter @downportalville.

Mirrored from Better Than Dead.

pjthompson: (bigfoot)

1. Let me thread you a story…(1-18)
2. We had us a preacher once named Mike Spike Huckleberry who liked to preach fire and brimstone and “superior” values.
3. He set up church in his house and called it the God’s True Will Church of Everlasting Superiority.
4. Trouble was, this ain’t a fire and brimstone kind of town. At least not in the sense of damning everyone to Hell.
5. But Mike Spike, well, he was one self-righteous sumbich. Not a speck of love in his Gospel, only judgement and damnation.
6. Some folks in this town ate it up with a big spoon cuz some folks love an excuse to feel superior to others.
7. And if they can fool themselves into thinking God is backing their claims to be chosen amongst men, that makes the poison more delicious.
8. For a time it seemed Mike Spike was going to take over the town. Most people didn’t hold with his message, but he shouted real loud.
9. Sometimes those who shout loudest and insist they’re being persecuted if you disagree with them can hold sway.
10. Cuz good-hearted folk just can’t believe that someone will preach about God and still hold evil intention in their heart.
11. It took a deal of cowering and doubt and good folks second-guessing their motives, but the tide finally turned on Mike Spike.
12. Billy Budd Gibbons, he of the All Souls Love Congregation, asked God to show us a sign if we should follow Mike Spike’s ways.
13. People lost count of the lightning strikes after 48 turned Mike Spike’s house into a deep, dark pit of char.
14. Mike’s daughter, Hectorine Huckleberry-Skanklebrass, spokesperson for Mike Spike, missed the deitific barbecue.
15. She was at her own home next door with her husband, Winnie, doing some cowering of her own in the basement.
16. She and Winnie did some considering while they cowered, afraid the Lord might have a postscript for them after finishing with Mike Spike.
17. They left town in an awful hurry. No one much was sorry to see ‘em go.
18. Sometimes it’s hard to reconcile God’s ways to man. Other times it’s as clear as a flash of lightning.

This story can also be found on Twitter @downportalville.

Mirrored from Better Than Dead.

pjthompson: (bigfoot)

  1. Let me thread you a story…(1-20)
  2. Sheriff Rosa Limonada came to us by way of Texarkana where she worked as a deputy in a little town named Spoot.
  3. The sheriff she worked for had nothing but high praise for her. Said she was the crucial factor in solving their La Llorona murder case.
  4. She’s fit in well in Portalville and been a fine sheriff to us. She has this special power to quell magic. Mostly, she doesn’t use it.
  5. But if somebody is behaving bad magically, the sheriff can hawk up a metaphorical anti-magic spitball and launch it into their face.
  6. Do no harm is taken seriously ‘round these parts, and the sheriff enforces it—in the nicest possible way.
  7. If some of the young ‘uns get a little too rowdy with their mischief spells on a Saturday night, Sheriff Limonada knows how to calm ‘em.
  8. She’s mostly live and let live when it comes to magical working. If you do no harm, you’ll never hear from her.
  9. Most folks do as they will and harm none, but once in awhile someone gets out of hand or really full of themselves and needs quelling.
  10. Mostly, though, the sheriff uses her powers for the more sinister characters that slip into town.
  11. The last one was a skinwalker straight out of Uintah County in Utah. Was bothering folks’ cattle something fierce.
  12. Borrowing folks’ faces, too, and walking around like it owned the town. When it took the form of Mayor Begay the sheriff took action.
  13. Like a scene from one of them Old West movies, with the skinwalker standing at one end of Main Street, the sheriff at the other.
  14. The skinwalker reached out its hand, fit to steal the sheriff’s face or soul, and Sheriff Limonada drew her gun.
  15. The skinwalker laughed, a sound like rocks grinding together, cuz skinwalkers can’t be harmed by bullets.
  16. But the sheriff marshalled her resources and yelled, “Kapow!” at the thing as she launched her anti-magic.
  17. The skinwalker’s laugh turned to a shriek like ice ripping through a steel hull and it disappeared in a fiery ball.
  18. Took a helluva lot out of the sheriff, all that energy, but the critter ain’t never been back, so Sheriff Limonada did a real good job.
  19. She said it made an interesting change from wrangling drunks and setting up speed traps.
  20. All things considered, though, she hopes she doesn’t have to face one again soon.

This story can also be found on Twitter @downportalville.

Mirrored from Better Than Dead.

pjthompson: (bigfoot)

1. Let me Thread you a story… (1-14)
2. Peaches McCaffrey stopped into Bar-Bar’s Ice Cream Parlor. She told Bar-Bar she’d been having strange dreams.
3. Now, Peaches is a sensitive soul. She runs the Peace Now Meditation Center down on Greenbriar Road.
4. She likes to talk about chakras and higher consciousness & all kinds of stuff I don’t rightly understand, but it seems to make her happy.
5. And folks come out of her center with big smiles on their faces so I guess something must be going right down there.
6. But she said that every time she ate Bar-Bar’s orange ripple chocolate ice cream—her favorite—she dreamed the same dream.
7. In it there was a beautiful white horse with sapphire eyes that always tried to coax her to frolic with it in Laverty Pond.
8. Bar-Bar told her, “Not everyone can take the higher emanations of the chocolate-fruit infusion.”
9. (Or the mystical spells some say Bar-Bar mumbles as she’s mixing batches.)
10. She told Peaches to try a dollop of Calming Sprinkles next time she got the orange ripple chocolate.
11. Oh—and on no account was she to follow that horse into that pond, in dreams or in real life.
12. Some say Bar-Bar was a high priestess of some sort before she moved here from New Orleans, but nobody really knows if that’s so.
13. She’d be far from the only one in town fond of spells and potions. It’s that kind of place. It don’t make no difference to me.
14. Because who am I to judge? I’m just a Narrator and everyone knows narrators are unreliable sots, fruit infused chocolate or not.

This story can also be found on Twitter @downportalville.

Mirrored from Better Than Dead.

pjthompson: (bigfoot)

  1. Let me Thread you a story… (1-11)
  2. A big orange blob parked itself in the town square. Just appeared overnight and plugged up the fountain something fierce.
  3. Trapper Bruce poked it with a stick & it blatted something that sounded like “Sad!” then barfed chicken fat out of one of its orifices.
  4. Sheriff Limonada suggested taking a flamethrower to it, but nobody had one of those, so a mob with torches formed up.
  5. I don’t really hold with mobs carrying torches myself as many an innocent creature has been declared a monster by them.
  6. But this blob gave off a foul odor of corruption & kept getting bigger, spreading all over the fountain and the park benches around it.
  7. It exploded soon as the first torch hit it. Guess it wasn’t much more than a giant gasbag filled with grease. Burned real good.
  8. The fountain ain’t never going to be the same, though. The nymphs who frequented it have been debauched & are quite traumatized.
  9. They had to go to Aunt Cozy’s Soothin’ Shack for some deep soothin’. Don’t know if they’ll ever return to the fountain.
  10. Only one happy about the situation was Natty Knowles who owns Spic n’ Span Like It Never Happened Cleaning Service.
  11. One of his biggest jobs in recent memory. I hope we’re all done with explosive orange blobs.

These tales can also be found on Twitter: @downportalville

Mirrored from Better Than Dead.

pjthompson: (bigfoot)

 

  1. Let me Thread you a story… (1-12)
  2. Ned Riskom said as how he’d seen a leshy down Woodward Lane way. He’s usually sober as a church mouse. Not like him to spread tall tales.
  3. Then again he did once say as how he’d met the Queen of Sheba coming out of Bar-Bar’s Ice Cream Parlor & that sounded a bit off the mark.
  4. Bar-Bar herself didn’t mention the Queen. Then again, Bar-Bar once served a cone to Vice President Gilroy and didn’t know him from Adam.
  5. Vice President Gilroy allowed as how he’d never tasted finer rocky road in his life. Nice man. Him and his puppy, Adam.
  6. We’re always glad when Big People come through to visit us Little People. Makes us know we’re not totally alone out here on the fringe.
  7. So, back to Ned’s leshy. Trapper Bruce went down there to check things out but Woodward Lane can sometimes be downright weird.
  8. By the time Bruce got there, the elms had crossed the lane to have words with the oaks and there was an all-out tree war going on.
  9. ‘Spose one of them tree-shaper leshies could have had something to do with that, if more than one of them was walking Woodward Lane.
  10. I hear they fight to protect their territory. And they can take the shape of anything. Nobody remembers elms on Woodward Lane before.
  11. Bruce hightailed it out of there cuz the branches was flying like javelins & he didn’t fancy getting impaled for somebody’s else’s war.
  12. Ain’t none of us worked up the nerve to go down thattaway to see how the chips have fallen. Like I said, Woodward Lane is weird.

These tales can also be found on Twitter: @downportalville

Mirrored from Better Than Dead.

pjthompson: (The Siren)

PHOTO REMOVED AT THE PHOTOGRAPHER’S REQUEST

While recently reading American Folklore by Richard M. Dorson, I came upon a passage relating the curious testimony of John Josselyn from 1638. He’d taken ship to New England and upon arriving in Massachusetts Bay, was catching up on news from those he met on shore, including prodigious tales of earthquakes, mermen, monster births. He went on to say:

Mr. Foxwell came forth and related how he had passed a night at sea in a small shallop, hugging the shore but afraid to land; suddenly at midnight a loud voice called him, “Foxwell, Foxwell, come ashore,” and upon the beach he beheld a great fire ringed by dancing men and women. After an hour they vanished, and next morning Foxwell put ashore and found their footprints and brands’ ends on the sand. But no living Englishman or Indian could he find on shore or in the woods.

The passage is odd in itself, to be sure, and although logical reasons might be found to explain it, they are no fun at all. I reject them soundly. I love the fairy-like creepiness of it, and think it’s a good thing Mr. Foxwell was too timid to put ashore. The story really sets my imagination to quivering.

But the passage has extra resonance, extra quiveration, because it reminds me of a more famous passage, this one from Plutarch, On the Failure of Oracles, 17-1:

The father of Aemilianus the orator, to whom some of you have listened, was Epitherses, who lived in our town and was my teacher in grammar. He said that once upon a time in making a voyage to Italy he embarked on a ship carrying freight and many passengers. It was already evening when, near the Echinades Islands, the wind dropped, and the ship drifted near Paxi. Almost everybody was awake, and a good many had not finished their after-dinner wine. Suddenly from the island of Paxi was heard the voice of someone loudly calling Thamus, so that all were amazed. Thamus was an Egyptian pilot, not known by name even to many on board. Twice he was called and made no reply, but the third time he answered; and the caller, raising his voice, said, ‘When you come opposite to Palodes, announce that Great Pan is dead.’ On hearing this, all, said Epitherses, were astounded and reasoned among themselves whether it were better to carry out the order or to refuse to meddle and let the matter go. Under the circumstances Thamus made up his mind that if there should be a breeze, he would sail past and keep quiet, but with no wind and a smooth sea about the place he would announce what he had heard. So, when he came opposite Palodes, and there was neither wind nor wave, Thamus from the stern, looking toward the land, said the words as he had heard them: ‘Great Pan is dead.’ Even before he had finished there was a great cry of lamentation, not of one person, but of many, mingled with exclamations of amazement.

The sea holds many mysteries and dangers, but let’s not forget that strange shores do as well.

You can find the rest of this Loeb Classics Library translation of Plutarch here.

Mirrored from Better Than Dead.

pjthompson: (TheSiren)

PHOTO REMOVED AT THE PHOTOGRAPHER’S REQUEST

While recently reading American Folklore by Richard M. Dorson, I came upon a passage relating the curious testimony of John Josselyn from 1638. He’d taken ship to New England and upon arriving in Massachusetts Bay, was catching up on news from those he met on shore, including prodigious tales of earthquakes, mermen, monster births. He went on to say:

Mr. Foxwell came forth and related how he had passed a night at sea in a small shallop, hugging the shore but afraid to land; suddenly at midnight a loud voice called him, “Foxwell, Foxwell, come ashore,” and upon the beach he beheld a great fire ringed by dancing men and women. After an hour they vanished, and next morning Foxwell put ashore and found their footprints and brands’ ends on the sand. But no living Englishman or Indian could he find on shore or in the woods.

The passage is odd in itself, to be sure, and although logical reasons might be found to explain it, they are no fun at all. I reject them soundly. I love the fairy-like creepiness of it, and think it’s a good thing Mr. Foxwell was too timid to put ashore. The story really sets my imagination to quivering.

But the passage has extra resonance, extra quiveration, because it reminds me of a more famous passage, this one from Plutarch, On the Failure of Oracles, 17-1:

The father of Aemilianus the orator, to whom some of you have listened, was Epitherses, who lived in our town and was my teacher in grammar. He said that once upon a time in making a voyage to Italy he embarked on a ship carrying freight and many passengers. It was already evening when, near the Echinades Islands, the wind dropped, and the ship drifted near Paxi. Almost everybody was awake, and a good many had not finished their after-dinner wine. Suddenly from the island of Paxi was heard the voice of someone loudly calling Thamus, so that all were amazed. Thamus was an Egyptian pilot, not known by name even to many on board. Twice he was called and made no reply, but the third time he answered; and the caller, raising his voice, said, ‘When you come opposite to Palodes, announce that Great Pan is dead.’ On hearing this, all, said Epitherses, were astounded and reasoned among themselves whether it were better to carry out the order or to refuse to meddle and let the matter go. Under the circumstances Thamus made up his mind that if there should be a breeze, he would sail past and keep quiet, but with no wind and a smooth sea about the place he would announce what he had heard. So, when he came opposite Palodes, and there was neither wind nor wave, Thamus from the stern, looking toward the land, said the words as he had heard them: ‘Great Pan is dead.’ Even before he had finished there was a great cry of lamentation, not of one person, but of many, mingled with exclamations of amazement.

The sea holds many mysteries and dangers, but let’s not forget that strange shores do as well.

You can find the rest of this Loeb Classics Library translation of Plutarch here.

Mirrored from Better Than Dead.

pjthompson: (TheSiren)
In appreciation of St. Patrick's Day, here's a bit from the book I'm reading now, Meeting with the Other Crowd: The Fairy Stories of Hidden Ireland by Eddie Lenihan and Carolyn Eve Green. It's a marvelous book, full of stories, and the lyrical voice of Ireland. Eddie Lenihan is one of the few seanchai, the old time Gaelic storytellers, left, and he's been collecting tales from other seanchai and common folk for decades. Like this little bit from Croom, October 12, 2001:

"I know that the whitethorn is always associated with the sioga.* That's why 'tis called the fairy tree. But 'tis the lone whitethorn in the middle of a field that's the dangerous one. There was a reason why that was left there, you see. No one but a fool would interfere with that.


And this from Drumline, September 19, 2001:

"I s'pose, if a fairy is molested, if you go tampering or meddling with 'em, well, they'll retaliate. 'Tis only kind o' natural, retaliation when you're interfered with. Nearly everyone in Ireland is aware that it isn't the done thing. Was never the done thing. The most ignorant people in Ireland, people that were illiterate, wouldn't bring a thorn out o' them forts."**


And as Mr. Lenihan puts it:

"Country people...would laugh....' 'Tis only children believe in them old stories, that old kind o' nonsense.'

"And yet, later that same night, in the pub, when all the laughing and mocking is done, the serious talk will begin, hesitant at first, then more freely, until at last, many pints of Guinness later, even those who mocked earlier in the night will finally—and not for the first or last time—admit that, yes, 'There's something there, all right. Petey (or Johnny, or Paddy or whoever) is not liar, whatever else he is.'

"And in such unpromising companies, by not retreating from impending scorn, ridicule, I have very often come away with a completely different knowledge of people I thought I knew before.

"And such confrontations have, I think, brought to the surface for some of those mockers, too, something deep, something that may have been forgotten in our hurly-burly world of 'acquire, have, experience, spend'...a lifting of a corner of that veil that separates us from a world that is right beside us, but for most of us as far away as Heaven...or Hell! "




*The fairies.
**Hill forts, of fairy forts, patches of land long associated with fairy activity.
pjthompson: (Default)
Random quote of the day:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket


This is a great speech, btw. If you want to read the full text, you can find it here.


And I love this image. It's so sensual, and so much lighter than I've come to associate with Rembrandt.


Erratum: This quote:

"I love being a writer. What I can't stand is the paperwork."

was of course not said by Pieter de Vries, but by Peter De Vries.

The Dead

May. 22nd, 2007 04:03 pm
pjthompson: (Default)
Random quote of the day:


"The dead are the invisible ones, but not the absent ones."

—Victor Hugo


Over the weekend I was going through a number of old files, old journal entries, rummaging around in there to see if I could get back in touch with something I've lost track of the last few years. Why do I write? Why do I want to write?

This quote reminds me of something I found from December 1996, something I started to write in the voice of a character in preparation for a story. But it turned into something else, about my friend, Stephan, who died in February of that year. So I stuck it in the private e-journal I kept at the time, and never did write that story. I have millions of little bits like this that should go into stories, but never get there. I have to get them out of myself. I'd probably implode if I didn't write them somewhere.

Longing )
pjthompson: (Default)
—Emily Dickinson


I don't remember a time when I wasn't storytelling. Before I could write, I preyed upon my playmates for an audience. I actually had some of them convinced (for about an hour, anyway, until I admitted it was a story) that the repaired patch of floor in my bedroom closet which resembled a trapdoor led to an alternate universe: Candyland. I told them about how the trapdoor only opened in deepest night, but when you went through it was daylight on the other side and quite tropical, the branches of the trees laden with Juicy Fruit and Sweet Tarts, the vines literally cherry and licorice Vines, the paving stones of the path through the forest made of Chiclets. So it appears that I was doomed to be a genre writer from an early age—and I learned an important lesson that day in not disappointing an audience after weaving a good tale.

I suppose I got the storytelling gene from my biological father, who was a consummate yarn-spinner. He had that old-fashioned power, that around-the-campfire fascination essence, which drew people (especially kids) to pause in what they were doing and Listen. I'm not half the storyteller he was, but I clearly inherited or learned some of my fundamentals there.

Dad had a penchant for adventure stories in which he was the star—so many stories of an event-filled life. I know that at least a couple of them were not real-life because after he died I found out that they couldn't have happened the way he related them. The first time I found that out it totally rocked my world. These were stories I'd come to believe in as much as I believed in the power of a red rose to smell sweet. Undermining these stories meant I had nothing to hold on to, would never be able to know what of my dad's life was truth and what was something he made up.

After a time, I came to understand that if my father's stories didn't literally happen the way he told them, they were nonetheless true for him, as true as he could make them. He was writing fiction of the heart, without writing it down.

I make a much clearer distinction between fiction and real life, and I write my fiction down. But I also try to write fiction of the heart, as true as I can make it to the internal realities of my characters, and life as I have experienced it in my own fractured way. It's a distant echo of my father's power of storytelling, but like his stories, as real as I can make something that never happened.

Random quote of the day:

"The greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions and not our circumstances."

—Martha Washington
pjthompson: (Default)
So the official word count on The Novel is now 90,000 words SMF.

I thought I'd be further along the road by this time—and I'm getting there, but not as far as I thought 90k would get me.

One of the problems is I keep running into characters and situations I had not anticipated when I pulled out of the driveway and headed for the highway. These hitchhikers have all been so damned interesting it's been difficult to pass them by. And when I stop to let them in the cab, they make a compelling case for me taking that little detour to let them off 500 miles out of my way.

"You shouldn't have mentioned me in passing twelve chapters ago," one of them said, "if you didn't want me to hijack part of the story. I am not someone you can just pick up and drop off in front of the bus depot, you know."

And he was right. And she was right when she said, "I'm no casual affair. You will remember me."

I did. She kept coming back like a song on the radio, fading out with distance and—I'll be damned—coming up again when I got close to the next town. What could I do but sing along?

That's all right. They'll strut and fret their hour upon the . . . road, and then be seen no more. Overall, they've made the story richer. Come the rewrites, they may find themselves left behind, but maybe not. Because one thing these unanticipated characters have going in their favor is that it wasn't until I got to them that I began to understand what the real story is about. I thought I knew, but you hit a few potholes on the road and poom! It jogs something loose in the ol' creative spark machine.

"Oh," I mumble as I make the turn onto the new road, "so that's what I was talking about."

Glee

Jul. 9th, 2004 09:58 am
pjthompson: (Default)
Quote of the day:

"There is, after all, no happier occasion for a writer than another writer writing something bad."

—Steve Erickson, Amnesiascope


To which I counter, "It depends on the writer."

Certainly, if a writer is patronizing, self-aggrandizing, pompous, pissy, or Michael Crichton, I take great glee in them putting out a bad piece of writing.  Anyone else, I generally feel bad for them. 

But Amnesiascope was not a bad piece of writing.  Great piece of fiction—dystopic, hilarious, erotic, ultimately moving.  And set in a post-Apocalyptic L.A.  What more could a girl want? 

I especially loved the scenes in the Sand Castle, a wonderful old gothic building that used to sit on Santa Monica beach.  Something from the bygone days of grand ballrooms and sweeping staircases, but at the end of its days converted into apartments.  Sadly, it didn't survive the last major earthquake and had to be raised to the ground.  They replaced it with a modern building that tries to convey, on the outside at least, the spirit of the old Sand Castle.  It succeeds to a certain extent.  It could have been a real chumpy endeavor, but it's not a bad building at all.  I haven't been inside to see if they duplicated anything like the splendor of the old building.  I doubt it.  No one can afford to build splendor anymore.

I spent a wonderful night in one of those apartments in the old Sand Castle in my misspent youth, the kind of night that stays with you forever—the smell of the sea; the plushness of the carpet (admittedly a bit moldy-smelling); the feeling of camaraderie and togetherness and friendship; the balmy summer air through the open windows; being so high up, above the world and looking down; the crash and hiss of the sea in the night.  A night of storytelling, true confessions whether they were fictional or not, of feeling young and free and immortal. 

Not all of it disappeared with the old Sand Castle, of course.  It will always be inside me.  But I admit a part of my heart crumbled with the wrecker's ball. 

Such is life.  And glee is fleeting.
pjthompson: (Default)
I was very sad to hear of the death of Spalding Gray. Two months ago I heard that he'd disappeared and it didn't look good, but it was sad to hear yesterday that they'd fished his body out of the East River. Maybe it's some kind of relief for his family to finally know the worst so they can start to deal with it, but that seems kind of like something outsiders think while watching a family in crisis. I keep thinking of his three little kids and how devastating it's going to be for them to grow up without a father.

I loved his work. My friends and I would go see him whenever we got the chance. My favorite venue was an intimate theater at UCLA where actor and audience are real close, maybe ten or fifteen feet away from each other. That close to Spalding Gray, it was like sitting around after dinner listening to a remarkable and gifted friend tell you about the extraordinary thing that happened to him just the other day. He could entrance you with the fluidity of his thought and expression, his weird and wonderfully skewed humor, his odd and touching perceptions. Those intimate talks of his gave me a real sense of bonding.

Of course, I know that what I saw was persona, that I don't really know Spalding Gray or his family, but there was something so personal and magic about his monologues that gave me this wonderful sense of a shared journey. My friends and I took to calling him Spuddy because in one of his monologues (Gray's Anatomy?) he mentioned that his mother used to call him that, and because we felt enormous affection for him.

And I can't help thinking about the razor's edge many artists walk. There's a fine line sometimes between creativity and the darker aspects of the mind. A number of artists, like Spuddy, have bipolar disease; others (in my experience) seem to live closer to the edge of depression then the rest of the population. I've spent my times on the dark side, but fortunately my meds have been regulated for the past several years and I'm pretty well balanced.

No, I'm not bipolar. My thyroid went wonky several years back, eventually went cancerous and I had to have it yanked out. I've been cancer free for several years now. Knock wood... After the yanking out, it was a process of getting the synthetic thyroid hormone dosage right. The thyroid gland has something important to say about every major function in the body and if the hormone isn't right, your mind and emotions can rollercoaster in really nasty ways.

Combined with that rollercoaster, I was seeing a charlatan doctor for another problem who didn't listen when I told him I was spiraling into depression. He put me on absolutely the worst medicine he could have, just exacerbating the problem. It was the only time in my life when I seriously thought about suicide. It's just not part of my usual personality makeup to do away with myself—just not me. But there was one night there in the midst of that atrocious chemical soup when—if I'd had an easy means to do it—I have no doubt in my mind—even sitting here on a sunny day, balanced, and thinking life is pretty good—no doubt that I really would have done it. I just didn't want to go on. I wanted my life to end right there.

Fortunately, the apathy that is often a major accompaniment to depression was just as strong as the urge to die. The effort involved in getting dressed and leaving the house, finding a means to end it all, just seemed like too much trouble. I compromised by going to bed and praying that I didn't wake up.

All things considered, I'm glad no one listened to that prayer. I'm glad my better angel put his arm around my shoulders and said, "This isn't you talking. It's bad chemistry and this will all seem better by-and-by." I'm glad I woke up. I also got help almost immediately after that because it scared the crap out of me. I went to another doctor, explained what was happening, and she took me off of the bad medicine. Within a few weeks, the depression was gone, all thoughts of suicide gone. I didn't go back to the charlatan doctor. I haven't had a really bad patch of bad chemistry since, but I'm acutely aware of that razor's edge we walk, how a little chemical tweak here and a little tweak there can send our systems seriously out of whack and our emotions out of control.

Spuddy wasn't so lucky. I heard they were trying to adjust his meds but were having trouble getting it right. Bipolar is really tough that way. And when he got on that ferry there was no one to put an arm around his shoulders and say, "It's just bad chemistry, Spuddy." Or maybe there was and he was too tired to listen anymore, too tired of fighting it. No one will ever know, I suppose—certainly not an outsider like me. Did the East River, that broad avenue of bodies for over two hundred years, seem to him like a metaphor for his life? Or the perfect metaphor for his death? Or was it just easy, just there, no reason in his tortured mind and tired spirit not to do it finally, to go to sleep and never wake up?

It's certainly not for me to say. I just hope he's finally found a peaceful sleep.

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