Interludes (On Writing & Editing) Chapter 1

I woke up on my knees next to a brick. Wait a minute, I need to situate the reader first. Previously, here in fact, and maybe here, I had anthropomorphized the Muse. It was supposed to be a good humored reflection about the internal drives which motivate any artist to go about their business. Of course I had recognized some weight, some seriousness I mean, lurking behind this knowledge, but it also seemed so much bullshit really, until Tuesday, July 21, that is.

That night I woke up next to a brick. It was just a regular old brick. In fact, it was a very specific brick. A Flint Co brick. I found a pile of these in the back yard when we moved in. I woke up on my hands and knees, in the dark, except for this one brick in front of me.


Now I know you might think I‘m taking the easy way out as an author, making this is all a dream scenario or something. I know that is very hackish. Or you have already stopped reading, in which case the veracity of my claims is of no concern to you. But, to the dear reader who is strapped in for the long haul, I ask you to imagine this. I am on my hands and knees. I can barely make out my surroundings. The only thing I can focus on is this one brick.

Finally, I am so bored, weirded out and somewhat scared, that I decided to reach out and turn the brick. Don’t ask me why I turned it, it just seemed like that was the thing to do.

So I turn the brick, like a quarter turn, and then I am literally in the Northeast corner of my basement, in the dead of night, and I am kneeling on the ground, next to the concrete wall.

A note on my house. When we got it, the style was called a “Rambler,” which I think is a fitting name. Rambler means ‘non-traditional’, I think. The important point is that the upstairs and down stairs are cut off by steep steps, a tight turn and an unfinished landing. The stairs are also gated at the top, so our dear children don’t go falling down to the dungeon. 

I tease my wife about how she treats the upstairs and the downstairs as two different continents, leaving trash bags by the gate and just generally hoarding stuff in the upstairs broom closet for the journey down and out of the house. That’s the other thing too, so when you walk up on my house from the street, you would enter in the basement, which is actually like a mud room entrance that we don’t use. Like assholes, we make everyone huff it around back to the top floor, where we are actually at, rambling in peace.

So there is absolutely no reason I should be in the basement in the middle of the night on my hand and knees, staring at this wall. That would have been alarming enough, but when I stood up, I saw that the door to my office was closed, but the light was on underneath. This was an impossibility. I remembered clearly shutting all the lights off and locking my dogs up, earlier. And now that I mentioned it, where were my dogs?

This is so embarrassing to admit but I let out a whimper. I listened for a moment and I heard the creak of my office chair. Someone was in there. Then I heard it, a gentle, even feminine, clearing of the throat. It had an impatience or pertinence to it. Maybe even a little air of being offended.

Why didn’t I assume it was my wife? I don’t know. Besides the obvious thing that she is a totally rational, sane human being and there is no way in hell she would be down in the basement, at that ungodly hour. It was something more, a sense. Almost like some royalty had planted itself in my smelly basement. I was weirded out enough now that I almost ran up the stairs for the phone, to call the police. But the idea seemed distasteful, disrespectful, and maybe even shameful.

Of course I was thinking about what I posted on the 19th. And here, dear reader, I must cop to an obvious thing. I made up the experience on Sunday, the 19th. I know, shocker! I also know that this makes what I am about to say even less credible. How dare I ask you to believe this new fantastic event, when I have just admitted to making up the last fantastic event?

That to say, I couldn’t help but connect the two events, mere days apart. I just kept staring at the light under the door, surging with new fear, after new fear. What in the hell was I doing down in the basement like this? I realized I had to gird up and open that door. Dear reader can you believe that I did?

I have never been so embarrassed in my whole life. There sitting on my office chair, layered with some old blankets to give me a bit of support, was the goddess from the Dollar General. Her hair was pulled up, old fashioned style, with a glittering diamond sitting on top like a bird egg. She wore an elegant, black dinner dress. I should have been outraged with this intruder, but more than anything I felt inadequate and unprepared. It didn’t help that I was standing before her in my pajama pants and my feet were coated in dog hair. She stared at me, arms and legs crossed, wordless, pissed and expectant. She just stared and stared.

Now as any reader of this blog is well aware I can be quite verbose, especially when I feel some awkward pressing situation. I dread silence, dread ‘dead-air’ as they call it, but now I was faced with the worst kind of dead air imaginable. It was like when a salesman has ended their pitch, and all parties are well aware that the deal will not be made. That was the sort of feeling, existential soul crushing inactivity and she seemed to be loving it. As if she could sit there until hell, or the whole universe, froze over and it wouldn’t bother her one bit.

“So,” she interrupted my frozen panic. “How can I help you?”

How could she help me? That was preposterous. “That’s preposterous,” I said.

“You need help,” she said.

Her words seemed true and personal. I took a second and looked down the hallway to see if there was anyone else with her. I had the vague sense she rolled with a crew, though I can’t tell you why exactly. “How did you get in here?” I asked, when I came back.

“Don’t play games now Austin. We both know very well how and why I am here. Let’s cut to the chase.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“No idea?” She asked, heavy on the skepticism. “Well then, let’s have a sample.” She spun on the chair and fired up the computer. I wanted to stop her, but her spin sent a wave of wild flowers, that was intoxicating. Part of me wanted to yell at this strange woman to get out of the house, the other half feared she would leave at any moment.

She went right to my document file, pulled one up and began. “No one knows where we are at. Matilda, the old woman who found this place first thinks we’re somewhere in the state formerly known as Nevada, but that’s just a guess. She had been headed home on Route 66. Home was fifteen miles out of Flagstaff. She had been out there trying to visit her sister in Amarillo, a trip she had made seventeen consecutive years in a row. She had heard about the explosions–”

“Just a first draft,” I interjected.

“It’s trash,” she said. “Half thought out Stephen King imitation, written by someone with the intelligence of a twelve year old. Crayons, Sir. Let me continue…”

I let her go on for a minute, honestly offended by the woman’s comments. Her insults cut deep and as she rattled on my own words did sound stupid.

“Fine,” I interrupted her. “I get it; I suck. So that’s why you’re here, to have a workshop?”

She spun back around on me and I was hit with another dizzying wave of her scent. “You’re a fucking child. No, I am not here to workshop with you, asshole. I don’t have time for that shit, like a fucking AA meeting. No. I am here to torture you.”

I did not like the sound of that. I am no tough guy or anything, but she wasn’t obviously some monster either. Still though I didn’t like the threats, especially not with my wife and brood upstairs. “What do you mean ‘torture’? Because of my crappy stories?”

“Huh?” she said. “Look at that. You’re not so stupid after all. Yes, I am going to torture you because your work is shit, and I am tired of it. More over, the old man’s tired of it, so he says it’s time to cash your check?”

“Huh, cash my check?” I  was stupefied by threats at this point.

“Yep, soul debt. Luckily yours isn’t too bad, just a few infinite rounds of purgatory and you’ll get another go at the mortal plane. Don’t know why you took priority even, but we take em as we get them.”

“Soul debt,” I said out loud, more to myself and the room, then her really.

“Yep,” she said. “I don’t really get that part either,  to be honest. Seems like an unfair bust. Entrapment even, who knows? Why go making man and giving him all this fun stuff and then get pissed when he does anything with it. It like the cock, you know?”

I was stunned silent. I just couldn’t keep up with her. “Yeah you know, God give you that thing between your legs, takes you to fucking heaven if you touch it, but then gets pissed and tells you hands off–well, so says the weirdo version you were raised in. Plenty of traditions out there make a right game of playing with it, don’t they? Anyway, I digress. It’s time.”

I tried to speak and the words got jammed in my throat. I coughed and hacked a couple times before anything came out. “Time for what?”

“Put up or shut time, Austin. Put up or shut up time.” Someone turned the electricity up to a hundred. I was a percolating gaseous bubble of anxiety. I felt dosed by some unidentified drug. I could feel it creep up through the soles of my feet and worked its way up my body and burst through my head. The woman began to waver and shimmer in front of me. She was smiling, but there was something coy and sly about the smile, which was not calming at all.

I turned to run, but was hit with the weirdest shot of vertigo, which crumbled me to my knees. She stood up and approached me. I could barely raise me head at all. My eyes came right to her skirt line, but the black dress turned blood red and ran back down her legs and over the floor. It went right over my own hand, then up my neck and into my mouth. I could taste the woman. It tasted like someone kicked a block of otherworldly chocolate down my throat. My blood surged and my senses blurred into one, into a rolling sort of ecstasy, which really wasn’t all that great. Then it was just nothingness, but only for the briefest pause, before I popped back into a reality.

I came to sitting on a rock. The woman’s appearance changed dramatically, but there was still enough of her there I could sense the same entity was manifest. She was stood erect on an even greater boulder, twelve feet in the distance. A long crimsons dress rolled in the cold breeze. A slithering, platinum python adorned her outstretched arm.  She pointed passed me and spoke to the air as if I wasn’t there. “In your hands, your cheap guitar.”

I looked down and there in my hands, was my cheap, old, beat-up guitar. I am quite the amateur guitar player, and in full disclosure I suffer from anxiety. My anxiety can be triggered in number of strange ways, though I guess all sufferers of anxiety probably feel triggered in a strange way, but mine seems to percolate around incidences of the truth. I don’t know. I don’t want to get into a whole analysis or anything, so just let me say I have some performance anxiety, in the truest, non-Freudian sense of the word, when it comes to playing the guitar for other people. Anyway, yes, the guitar was in my hands, and my left one began knocking against the box in fear.

“Play me a song Austin John McMulin,” she ordered. “Your reward shall be based on your effort and composition. I warn you; I am a fierce judge of musicianship; Begin.”

It was impossible. There was nothing to begin. I couldn’t heaven remember one of the half dozen songs I semi-regularlly practiced on. Hell, I couldn’t even remember a chord!

Snippets #44

Alan Moore Interview- Slovobooks

…when asked, I had ventured my honest opinion that I found something worrying about the fact that the superhero film audience was now almost entirely composed of adults, men and women in their thirties, forties and fifties who were eagerly lining up to watch characters and situations that had been expressly created to entertain the twelve year-old boys of fifty years ago. I not only feel this is a valid point, I also believe it to be fairly self-evident to any disinterested observer. To my mind, this embracing of what were unambiguously children’s characters at their mid-20th century inception seems to indicate a retreat from the admittedly overwhelming complexities of modern existence. It looks to me very much like a significant section of the public, having given up on attempting to understand the reality they are actually living in, have instead reasoned that they might at least be able to comprehend the sprawling, meaningless, but at-least-still-finite ‘universes’ presented by DC or Marvel Comics. I would also observe that it is, potentially, culturally catastrophic to have the ephemera of a previous century squatting possessively on the cultural stage and refusing to allow this surely unprecedented era to develop a culture of its own, relevant and sufficient to its times.


What Is Going On?!?! (Interludes Prologue)

I had a very strange experience, and I don’t know why I feel compelled to write about it here, but I do. I anthropomorphized “The Muse” in previous posts. I did that as an intellectual tool, a thought experiment. For me to have written about the concept at all demonstrates how much time I had already given to it. You can imagine my frustration, when after the idea was out there, I did not get the usual relief I do in these situations.

Instead, the whole thing of an anthropomorphized muse stuck with me. Anytime I had a free interior minute, like washing the dishes or before bed, I would find myself drifting towards the thought of the Muse, as a full fledged, living person.

Here is how the thoughts sort of went. What is really behind being in that artistic zone? How does the artist just turn over to this other force and have it produce such intelligent, cohesive products? If it is some sort of a power of the subconscious (thinking something like Jungian psychology), then how do we make sense of it being more creatively intelligent and complicated then our regular modes of thinking?

But further my mind would snap, and here is where the fissure starts, because I can almost hear a voice, her voice to be exact. Who says you have anything to do with it? So bold, right there, right smack between my eyes. The language and orientation seemed so strange. Why would I say such things to myself?

She always seems to have an answer, and be tired of my shit. She is also sick of me taking credit for her ideas, and wants her share of recognition and goodies. Now I know this sounds like I am losing my mind, but this is what happened. So I found myself down in the office this morning about to write. Now I have been writing somewhat seriously now for at least four years, and though I have days were it might have take longer to get going, I can always get the job done.

In other words, I had never known writer’s block. It also is important to note that I was in a fairly positive frame of mind, breakfast, coffee, free time, etc., but right as I hit my seat and started the computer a dreadfulness bombarded me. It was so strong and disorienting that I jumped up out of my chair, and in a panicked spastic response I flung my arms wildly around the room.

I was overwhelmed with paranoia. It was in there deep. I wanted to dig it out of myself somehow. I heard my kids playing upstairs. My wife was telling my oldest son that she just needed to finish the dishes and then they would all go outside. The normalcy of the moment snapped me out of it and I sat back down, but my hands were still shaking and I was so scared.

I opened up my work in progress and read the last sentence I wrote. There were a number of grammatical errors, which I tinkered with for a second. Somewhat disinterested, I went to write the new words and again a feeling of death and dread, and magnanimity overwhelmed. I felt stomach sick. I closed my eyes and laid my head on the desk.

An unending stream of existential crisis tore through me. What was I doing writing anyway? What did I have to say? I was a nothing and a nobody and just a loser like everybody else. There was nothing great in me. Compared to those before me, I am an inexperienced moron. All this obsession with art was so much inconsequential madness. It was sickening and shameful. A danger, to myself and others. I was a coward who had hide and ran and taken the path of least resistance and I would continue to be that, forever. It was over for me.

How can I describe the sensation of feeling that your thoughts are not you’re own? It’s like a person entering the room and beginning to talk to you, not quite yelling, but loud enough that you cannot ignore it. It’s an alien voice too, almost like reading words on a page, you have to sort of interpret character, inflection and tone.

It isn’t good at bluffing or bullshitting. It is just like the wind; it blows or it doesn’t.

The wind was blowing hard through my head. It was almost like drowning, but the nonstop stream of ideas filled the deadly world. I probably laid there for twenty minutes in this state before I popped out of my seat again, panicked. I was asthmatic too. I couldn’t get a deep enough breathe. The feeling of sharing the room with someone came back hard now. So hard that I grabbed my wallet and went running out the house, terrified that some physical or even metaphysical brain “popping” was about to occur.

It was a godawful hot humid day, and the heat and bright light just smashed me in the face. It was like I had ran right into a yellowish sweat bubble. The wet sickness pushed through my eyes balls and down into my guts. I could feel my morning breakfast gurgling there.

I should have gone inside and laid down, but I was too scared to go back into my house. I started walking. Everything wa cartoonish, blocky, almost lego-y. I began to hear what sounded like a choir singing, but I couldn’t find the source. I walked for a while until I came to a gas station. I stood outside, pacing, totally out of my mind. I was so worked up, angry and for what appeared to be nothing. I felt stupid about leaving the house like that, and I was sure my wife was wondering where the hell I went.

A woman pulled up in a white Nissan. I saw that it was an older woman, heavy set, and in business attire. We made eye contact for a second and I looked away. But as she walked passed, I looked back and now the woman was young, slim and shiny blond hair ran down seventies style lime green dress, which fit her perfectly. So weirded out, I walked around the building but was stopped by three youths. Two boys were on their bikes, and one little girl was standing on the curb, watching the others riding circles in the parking lot.

As I went passed them the little girl began to talk to me. “Oh professor ass dude, weirdo, lame type predator.” I couldn’t believe what was I was hearing. “Pussy,” she said. I turned around and they were all lined up staring at me. I felt like I should say something, but they were all smiling and what could I say? The oldest couldn’t have been nine, and the girl was no more than five. I couldn’t believe something like that coming from such a young child, but the way they were smiling told me they thought it was real funny.

I stared at them for a second so dumbfounded and weirded out that finally I just turned and walked away. As I got to the edge of the parking lot I looked back for them and they were gone. I kept walking, wading through this lingering dread. I walked until I came to a Dollar General. I had the urge to buy some candles, some candy, maybe even some flowers. I walked through the aisles and every person I went passed had some negative words for me. Vulgar, high school type trash. Pencil Dick. Faggot. Cocksucker. A Grandma in a red hat called me a cunt.

I got my chocolate bars and candles and headed for the checkout line, which was packed with people. I waited for an eternity. The whole time this voice in my head just kept going and going, like standing under a waterfall.

I couldn’t imagine another world existing outside of the pounding, pulsating, internal voice which was just having a freak out, in perfect, controlled, monotoned persistence. You suck you know that, you really suck. You sucks eggs. You suck dicks. You can suck a golf ball through a garden a hose. A carburetor out an engine block. You’re like black hole level suck. Bending matter to your empty black suck. Abortion vacuum suck…

I watched the checkout lady as the line crept. She was an older woman, late forties, early fifties. She had thinning hair and the look of a smoker. She had an air of a look of dignity though too, as she rang everyone’s crap up. Something told me she had some other career experience, like a horse trainer or something. But that was before, when she had something she loved, but that didn’t work out. She took this job out of necessity.

I finally made it to her, but right before, a viscous, emergency type, stomach pain kick in. I leaned against the counter and tried to close my eyes and take some deep breaths. When I opened my eyes, my things were being rang up and a voice broke into my head. “3.33, Sir.” I struggled for my wallet and when I brought it back up and looked the cashier in the face she had changed. It was the beautiful woman who was outside the gas station, but now she was in the Dollar General uniform. For the first time, I got a look at her face.

I love and am ever faithful to my wife, so I feel bad writing this, but she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. Normally I am a burnet man, but her ocean waves of shimmering blond hair and lightening green eyes left me floored and overwhelmed with lust. It was her smell too! It was like cool wind on a warm day, through a lavender field, mixed with the earthy scent of woman.

She smiled and said, “3.33, you sick bastard!” As if she read my dirty mind. She said the last words full of both sexuality and insult. I dropped my wallet and banged my head on the counter as I went to grab it. I was full of apologies, even though she had just insulted me. All flustered and blushing, I opened my wallet and there was nothing in there! I was a ramble of sorries and she just kept smiling at me.

“You’re fucking great,” she said. “I can’t wait to get my hands on you Austin. You’re a screamer, aren’t you? I can always sense a screamer. Hemingway never broke; I hated that. You don’t have a fiver on ya? You broke, chubby, son-of-a-bitch. Take the candy asshole, consider it a last meal. Fucking candles.”

You know the phrase deer in the head lights? Now I literally know what that feels like. It was like a decked out, glossy Escalade appeared from the ether and was going to plow right through me. The sick, twisted thing is as I basked in her presence I was still aroused, seduced even by her destructive forces. For some (possibly profound) reason I began to think about the blank page back at home, and how I needed to be doing my words.

The whole word froze and the lights went dim. The store began to shake and drywall began to sift from the ceiling. I looked at the folks behind me, all lined up and waiting to pay for their stuff. They were now statues. Their still shoulders collected the falling dust.

I looked back at the new woman. She was frozen too, smiling like the sun. I had the most awesome realization. This was the Muse!!! Right in front of me. I could hear this indecipherable, yet oddly familiar hum emanating from her. Think it clicked in my head, I had heard this same effect, sometimes deep in the writing zone, when the words were just gushing out beyond my control.élix-Nicolas_Frillié_-_Kiss_of_the_Muse,_c._1863.jpgélix-Nicolas_Frillié_-_Kiss_of_the_Muse,_c._1863.jpg

This was the source of that hum and she was standing right before me. I had the strange thought to try to capture her, bottle her up somehow and hide her back in my house. There was a loud boom of thunder in the store and a web of lightening broke out across the ceiling. With another boom, a giant appeared behind her in the next aisle.

The first thought that came to mind was Gandalf, because of his long white hair and robes, but the man was black, like deep of night black, so black that it was hard to even make out any features on his face, and he was a giant. I’m guessing probably twelve or thirteen feet tall, at least; his head almost touched the ceiling.

He stood there arms crossed for an awful minute. A chrome scepter, capped with a flashing diamond, was clinched in his left hand, and poised to obliterate me with one smack. Thankfully, there were no words passed between us. He just stood there, staring. Then I passed out.

I woke up back in my chair, a small Dollar General store bag with the candles and candy in it on the desk. It was like waking up from a nightmare. I felt so disoriented and insane. Worst of all, I looked up at the screen and all that you have been reading was already up there. As I reread it, memories of the whole experience came flooding back.

I think I might have gone insane. I need to talk to my wife about this, but I don’t know what she’ll say. Has anyone had an experience with this? Please share with me if you have. Thanks for reading. She exists!


Next Chapter

Last Alan Moore Interview?

All right, who pissed off Alan Moore? (Great interview with a Master)

Pádraig Ó Méalóid AKA Slovobooks

A few words of explanation about this interview: On the 26th of November 2013 there was an event called An Evening with Alan Moore, where Moore was in conversation with biographer Lance Parkin, whose biography of Moore, Magic Words, had just been published by Aurum Press. The evening also included two short films, Act of Faith and Jimmy’s End, both part of a larger cycle of works, as well as some of Moore’s collaborators taking the stage, and a Q&A session with the audience. The evening seemed to be a great success – at least, I was there, and it seemed so to me, and to anyone else I talked to – but one of the attendees was not happy, and took to Twitter to say so. He Tweeted ‘Really wish An Evening with Alan Moore hadn’t involved four white people on stage defending…

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Snippets #43

Why Are Beggars Despised?-George Orwell

A beggar works by standing out of doors in all weathers and getting varicose veins, chronic bronchitis, etc. It is a trade like any other; quite useless, of course–but, then, many reputable trades are quite useless. And as a social type a beggar compares well with scores of others. He is honest compared with the sellers of most patent medicines, high-minded compared with a Sunday newspaper proprietor, amiable compared with a hire-purchase tout–in short, a parasite, but a fairly harmless parasite. He seldom extracts more than a bare living from the community, and, what should justify him according to our ethical ideas, he pays for it over and over in suffering. I do not think there is anything about a beggar that sets him in a different class from other people, or gives most modern men the right to despise him.


Snippets #42

David Ovason-The Secret Architecture of our Nation’s Capital

In the wood engraving used by George Oliver to illustrate his encyclopedia of Masonry (opposite) the funerary symbolism is much in evidence. Not only does the Saturn-like image of Death play with the hair of the young maiden, in the manner of the cruel reaper of the medieval Dance of Death, but, as she reads the book (the memorial of Master Mason in the early mythology of the Masonic Brotherhood, Hiram Abif), she holds high the cassia leaves. (184)