Tuesday, June 29, 2004

This is what's been keeping me. 

So I finally finished my third draft of STFL. Only three months late! It's technically the third, but the second draft really didn't change much. In fact, I don't think the second part of the book really got touched during the second draft. So this one felt substantial, especially considering that the second half of the book needed more attention. I added more than 12,000 words to the latest draft, so the book tops out at 251 pages -- paltry in comparison to my first book, but much closer to what I think is the real story.

I'd forgotten what it's like to finish a book. Of course there's nothing like that first draft, when you hit the end of the creation of the story. But a second draft, which is what I see this one as, is also special; it's a sort of drawing together of strings.

The book still has some legitimate problems. I remember when a professor of mine read a couple chapters, he told me something to the effect of, "This is quite the ambitious project, Will." Another professor had all sorts of ideas for how the book should feed back into its journalism angle, an angle in which I was only marginally interested.

So from that perspective, the book may let some people down. And the ending, while better than before, simply is not a flashy, made-for-Hollywood ending. I like it because it brings the lead character back to the beginning of a circle and forces him to consider.

But at this point, what I like will go out the window. Just as it's fun finishing the first two drafts, so is it more pedestrian working on subsequent drafts. Moreover, I'm much more eager for the book to become what writers and teachers call "the real story". And for me, artist conception goes out the window after a couple drafts. At some point in time, an audience has to decide whether what they read is the real thing, or if the author wandered away from the potential of the book.

I've got one or two people reading it, and I'm looking for more. After getting a review or two, I'll definitely send it to one agent who's interested. Then, depending on how I feel, I'll either drop it or push it hard to a field of other agents. But no in between. If I've written anything commercial, it's this book. So either I stay or go, as the Clash say.

Aside from that editing and selling coming up, I'll begin work on book 3 shortly. I'm busy for a day or two, and I want to have a nice full day to start it. It's been a long time since I've written long fiction from scratch, so I'll need plenty of time to build up the momentum. The good news is, I actually had a dream last night about a scene I have sketched out for book 3. Any time I dream of scenes or characters, I know I'm in the right mindset.

Friday, June 25, 2004


i watch them rushing
past me at night,
teenage intoxicant
as anonymous and audacious as headlights

when the only thing
that matters is tonight,
the logic of clocks,
and how tight a tangent
can be drawn.

with as many answers as
opposing pixels,
who could run
the streets, but anyone
drunk on acceleration?

and they will run me
out if i don’t dissipate
like the passing
neon, removing the eyes
of strangers who “king me”
with all the proof of a soul.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

"You Wasted Life, Why Wouldn't You Waste Death" 

CD Pick of the Week: Modest Mouse's "Good News for People Who Love Bad News".

DVD Choice of the Week: Army of Darkness.

Had a job interview this week. I think it's the only interview I've been a part of, in which the interviewee made the interviewers uncomfortable. At first I was a bit worried. But I'm sick of trying to impress people. Besides, I hadn't had any chocolate or caffeine yet, so I had no patience for BS.

Starting to move plants back today . . . in preparation for the Spite Fence.

I turned on the light, late last night, and the dog stuck his head up with this exasperated, pissed-off look on his face, as if he wanted to say, "You miserable bastard. Just go to bed."

Friday, June 11, 2004

Even More Gmail 

Just when I thought I was all out . . . Google went and gave me some more invites. I've got one left. Maybe I should do this one as a contest prize, like, whoever sends me the best joke about a Polish guy, the Pope, and some nuns . . . or maybe not.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Free Mail 

I've been using Gmail for a few weeks now, and the only downside to it is they don't have any text or font functions yet. Other than that, it's all upside. Due to popular annoyance at wrfarah.blogspot.com not providing an email address, I've added a contact address. I've got two gmail invites to give to the first two people to contact oneofours@gmail.com.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

One Day With Pauses 

For just one day it would be funny if everyone's life turned into a soap opera. And I don't mean that in the cliched way. I mean it in the literal way: it would be funny if we all spoke so dramatically, and then after speaking -- oh, say every five or ten minutes or so -- there would be this 15-20 second dramatic pause, in which we would stare at each other while harsh, synthesized music filled the room. Then everything would go dark for three or five minutes. Then we'd see each other again -- both staring just as intently as before -- and then we'd begin speaking again.

We'd all live in a place called Ocean City or Willow's Peak. There would be candles and thin wine glasses in every cabinet. The mayor would be corrupt. No windows would have any draperies. The villain would be from Eastern Europe and wear black. There would probably be a trendy hang-out bar with an overworked waitress who had a tiring sense of humor; the bar would always be half-filled with typically 1-2 couples of well-dressed white people dancing as awkwardly as white people have ever danced.

Scrawled on a Restroom Auto-Drier 

"Who Watches the Watchmen"

I couldn't help from smiling, the world becoming a bit smaller.

You Too, Kyran 

So there's been all these trips lately, for festivals and bachelor parties. And I'm in the bar the other night with this guy I hadn't seen in forever. And we never really had a chance to hang out as much as we should have, but he says to me like three or four times, "Damn, Bill! It's really good to see you!"

And I didn't know quite how to say, "You know, even though I've got about a dozen other things on my mind, and I'm not making half the things happen that I should, I couldn't be happier to be right where I am right now." If only there were not such things as bar time or long rides home.

One Wrong Way 

When I was a captain for my cross country team, I had goals for what I wanted to happen. Most revolved around the team and the future of the program. But I did, based on the other leaders of the team, have a loose idea of what kind of captain I wanted to be, and it had a little to do with almost every aspect of the team.

The thing about leadership, though, is that you have to have respect -- but respect, as any poor leader knows, is never a given. What was given is that I was an average runner with a good work ethic. Guys like me could do well, but not without working hard and getting a little lucky. And what was clear, at one point, was that I could talk a pretty good game. But a good talker is only that until it's backed up. It's got to be backed up consistently, but most importantly, you've got to impress people.

This may not be the ideal, but this is how a bunch of competitive 20-somethings work when thrown together. And when you're all trying for the same thing, it gets emotional. Thus, this takes us to the day after I suffered a slight knee injury during my third year of running. I missed about a day and a half of running. It wouldn't be serious, but I was still worried. There were only so many spots for the regional team. What kind of captain could talk a good talk, but then not make regionals? A talker, that's what.

So there's some talk and nervous energy in the locker room that Saturday. And I listened for a while as guys talked about position and what-ifs. They were sizing each other up, trying to find a way into the picture. Being spooked by the injury, and pissed off about missing some time, and sick of the talk, and worried about becoming a talker, I announced to the locker room that they could all stop talking because I was going to make the regionals team before any of them did.

There was a bit of a silence, and I walked out. A few weeks later, someone told me I pissed off a whole group of guys. I knew that. It was ballsy. And stupid. But I did make the regionals team, and I ran well. And I avoided becoming just a talker. It's funny, because I had to alienate people to get their respect.

I know someone could say, "Well, you could've made the team without trash-talking everybody else." And that's right, theoretically. But again, it's 20-somethings spending too much time trying to push each other. And I wasn't that good of a leader. If I hadn't extended myself, I might not have made it.

What About Excitement 

This friend I had used to have this macho, insecurity thing with regard to me and a couple other guys. I'm not sure where it came from, but I'm probably as guilty as anyone for this complex to develop.

The way things stand now is: we always used to talk about . . . well, everything, almost. Hell, we used to talk about talking. But we never really discussed going to David City. Actually I can remember one time. Just the two of us in the car, and too much speed, and too much money on both of our minds. But all that went away for a while when we talked about going to David City.

And years later, after he'd gone, I knew he loved it there, even though he rarely brought it up -- he still had that division in him, thinking I was the same guy who would give him shit for going. And that's such a damn shame, because here I am, about to go too, and I'm excited about it. And even though we're going at different times, we'll still both be there -- you'd think we could talk about it without reverting back to that age of competition.

It's like I'd like to say to him to relax, that things can just be how they are now, without any worry that life is going to turn into some cheap movie version of a school reunion, but how do you tell somebody a damn thing when they've stopped listening years ago? They've just heard you speak, and put this framed picture of you over your face -- a picture from years before that looks a little like you, but younger and more outspoken. I'm left as something always a step or two less than that picture, but never different. The words I speak might as well be Latin. These days it's only the picture that counts.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Counting the Ways 

By request, as well as from a desire to document, here's the beginning and the end of the neighbor saga. It should be noted, first off, that our neighbors on the south and west are kind, decent folk. But the mean witch of the north is another matter.

The Introduction
My wife was first introduced to Angie before we owned the property. We'd just heard that our offer was accepted, so Jess decided to pop over and take a look at the yard. The curious neighbor to the north noticed this newcomer, and decided to stop over and introduce herself . . . and give Jessica a list of things to do . . . but not after telling my wife her life story, including how she and Mark "tried for kids for a number of years, but it just wasn't meant to be." It was not long after she told Jessica about all the neighbors around us whom she had called the city on for violations that she asked Jess to weed the backyard so the seeds wouldn't blow onto her yard, fix the gutter that was overrunning, trim the garden down, keep the grass up, and be watchful of the tenants. Jessica came home and said, "I think we got a nutjob to the north of us." Yeah. Either a nutjob or a woman in her forties who owns a double lot with way too much time on her hands.

The Second Meeting
Jessica is taking the dog out, when good old Angie pops through the brush that separates our properties.
"Oh! You have a dog!"
"Yes, this is Ranger. He's our dog."
"Oh. And this is where he goes?"
"Yes, he's very well-trained, and he goes in one spot. This is where we've decided to have his spot."
"Are you sure the scent won't carry over to our yard? Because I love my yard, and I like to have a lot of garden parties."
"We keep up on the yard and on Ranger's spot. I don't think it's going to be a problem."
"Well. I guess I'm OK with that."

The Third Meeting
Angie: "Oh, so you're doing some yard work finally?"
Me: "Yeah, we're trying to scale it down a bit. It's been real busy with the move and all."
"Yes, there's a lot to do with owning a house."
"Yeah. We're taking on a couple rooms inside now."
"Oh, that's great. Great. One thing you'll learn about owning a house is how much work is involved."
"And a lot of that work, Will, is pretty thankless. But it must be done anyway."

Several Miscellaneous Meetings
- Nearly each time Angie poked her head through to our yard, there was some mention of "Mark", her mysterious live-in boyfriend/husband who no one has seen. Since these early meetings, we think we've seen "Mark", but can never be sure. We're fairly sure we've heard him -- or whoever is pretending to be "Mark" -- speak, but for a while there, a debate raged as to whether there really was a "Mark".
- There were several more mentions of how our north-side gutters were overflowing, and that the water flow would damage some of her trees that grew between the properties. In fact, nearly every time Angie ran into Jessica, a request of some kind was issued.
- Mid-autumn, I got up on the ladder and cleared the gutters as best I could reach them. While I remained in agreement that the gutters were not working properly, it should be noted that the water falls from the gutters -- not directly onto the ground, but hits a secondary roof on our home, thus breaking up the flow and impact of the water.
- Her garden parties were hated throughout the neighborhood. Worst, though, was the saccharine cheeriness she put out on a daily basis. I will never forget waking up on a Sunday morning by, "WHAT A BEAUTIFUL DAY, MARK! WOOOOOOOOOW!"
- Angie dumbfounded my wife one day by asking her who we were going to hire to design our yard.

The First Break
As Jessica walked from our home to her car, Angie came rushing . . .
"Jessica! I need to speak with you about your yard!"
"Now is not a good time, Angie. How about we talk about it later this week?"
"It'll just take a minute! It'll just take a minute!"
"It's just a really bad time, Angie."
"It'll really only take a minute."
"I have to be going, Angie. Right now will not work for me."
"Please! Really, I just wanted to discuss-"
"I just found out ******** has cancer. Leave me the fuck alone."

The First Concession
Jessica's always liked weeping willow trees. So for our first anniversary, in addition to a nice dinner at a restaurant we couldn't afford, I bought her a weeping willow. It was to go in the corner of the back yard (by Ranger's 'dubiously approved' spot), but we had to have an old tree stump taken out first. So we waited the four or five days until the tree guy came to grind up the old stump. Of course, by that time, Angie had seen the tree and spoken with an arborist about its roots. As she told Jessica (do you notice a pattern that she only takes her concerns to my wife?):
". . . . And they have a very invasive root system that could knock out our retaining wall. And that would be very damaging to our property. And I would appreciate it if you got another tree."

A week-long fight ensued, in which Jessica argued for appeasing the Wicked Witch of the North by getting a new tree; I argued for the "Fuck that Bitch" approach, in which we would just plant the tree. Jessica won. We took the tree back and got some crappy little perma-berry tree. By the way, as we exchanged trees, the woman at the tree store told us that, yes, the willow would have knocked out her retaining wall . . . in about 25 years. I was too angry to speak, so Jess explained to Angie while we planted the new tree:

"This one has a very non-invasive root system, so that shouldn't be a problem."
***Will grumbling inaudibly to himself, not saying a word or looking at the witch.***
"And you did this because of what I said?" Angie gloats, her eyes wide.
"Well! I'm impressed, guys! That's great!"
***Will, nearly unable to control himself, walks to the garage and does push-ups.***

Winter Notes
- The day after our tenants had their annual Thanksgiving party, Angie approached Jessica, stating how "ridiculous" that party was for its noise. And that she would have called us to complain, except she didn't have our phone number, so we'd better give it to her for next time. Jessica gave her the number; she did not mention how Angie's garden parties could be heard a block away.
- Not a once did Angie or "Mark" shovel the alley.
- A new sign is posted outside Angie's front yard, asking people to pick up after their pets.
- Angie puts up the crappiest "holiday lights" display of all time. Basically, she takes a line of colored lights and tosses them into the bush next to our house . . . so it looks like we're the shitty Christmas-lighters. "Oh, Mark, aren't my lights BEAUTIFUL?!"

Spring Notes
- Angie is seen several times, dumping her yard waste against the side of our house.
- After our tenants return from a week-long vacation, Angie accosts them at the front door -- their bags still in their hands -- about the cigarette butts supposedly thrown on her property.
- A squirrel is spotted in a trap on Angie's property. Her property contains well over a dozen trees. There are multiple families of squirrels on her property alone, as well as a large forest of small animals two blocks away. Yet Angie is trapping squirrels.
- Jess and Will begin running out the front door to their cars to avoid speaking to the wicked witch.
- Angie and "Mark" are seen -- during a heavy rainstorm -- sitting in lawn chairs on their front porch, with the chairs oddly turned directly toward our house so that they can get a direct view of our gutters during the storm.

Crossing the Line
Angie: "Doing some gardening?"
Jessica: "Yes."
"Looks like you have a lot to do."
"Jessica, I wanted to talk to you about your retaining wall."
***Editor's note: this retaining wall lies on the south side of our property. At no point is this wall visible from Angie's property.***
"See, it seems to be sloping in. That'll have to be corrected."
"Well, I don't think it's that bad, and it's not really a priority right now. We're doing a lot on the interior of our home."
"Well, I think you should make it a priority."
"Then I'll tell you what. You get your lawyers to give our lawyers an offer. Then you can buy our house and make all the decisions yourself."

And that leads us up to May 31's post. Jessica no longer wants me to talk to the woman (even though I'm not the one who told her to leave me the fuck alone). So we look forward to the fence. I'd pay good money to see her and "Mark's" faces as it's being put up. See, I know it won't stop her entirely. This woman is so tactless that a fence could never truly stop her. But it's a big "Screw You". It's a tall, solid, physical "Screw You". And while it won't stop her, it'll force her to shout louder and try to catch us in the front yard. Guess we'll have to find something tall to plant in front of the front door . . .

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Knocking Down My Door 

I work 4:PM - 12:AM now, for better and worse. At first the shift took forever. I would sit and look at the clock, and Father Time, out of spite, stopped and laughed at me. People tell you all sorts of things when you move to second shift. Like, "Oh, isn't that great that you have all that time in the day?" And, "With an 8:30 lunch, the rest of the shift must fly by!" But there's no way around 8 hours. There just isn't. You can dress it up any way you like, but it's still 8 hours of work. But now I enjoy my late hours . . . an 8:30 lunch out on top of the empty parking complex, just me, the weary seagulls, and a book.

I've done a lot of reading, lately. Much more than writing, anyway. I've got about a ream of unfinished poems that I can't bring myself to post. I'm plowing through the reading, though. Four novels and at least as many books of poetry in the last couple months. It's like logging slow miles before a season of racing -- it all adds up, and it'll all come out once I do begin writing seriously. Basically, I'm acknowledging theft.

And the good news, to quote Bilbo Baggins, is "I've thought of an ending for my book." It only took two months. The ending I have is one I like, but it is a non-ending. The new ending, while not a spectacle of action, adventure and sex, forces some issues a bit more strenuously. Perhaps I'll finish the damn thing one of these days.

But it's been busy, getting estimates for the fence we have to put up to block our neighbor . . .

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