8-30-16 (Reflections on Dreams, Goals, Executive Function)

My kids are really the coolest thing ever. I don’t brag about them much. Not good when you got a banshee tracking ya. You learn it’s good to be humble. Hell, be down right superstitious. That’s a good word, isn’t it? Knocking on wood, that’s one I got heavy. Can’t make any self-positive prediction of the future without knocking on some real wood. Keep your filthy jokes to yourself.

I don’t want to rant, whine, add to the din as it were. I think that’s why I haven’t posted much here lately, this impulse to go on a rant, and be negative is too strong. I’m tired of it. Tired of talking and analyzing. Tired of thinking. There’s this overgrown path in my front yard. A couple of crazy invasive tree, limb things grew like twenty feet high. The forest of these invasive saplings provided the perfect frame for this crazy beautiful vine thing, so we just let it all go wild. I realized though that maybe it was blocking my afternoon sun, casting a shade on the pepper patch. I liked the privacy it offered, an organic hedge blocking the view of the neighbors, but then I have a hard time keeping tack of my kids in the jungle, and the hedge is just another giant thing they can hid in. Also, I want to reclaim the space for the garden too, so for the last couple days I hacked it up, shoved it into the compost bin. I loved that, just hacking and chopping, thinking minimally, sweating, doing work. That’s how I feel like handling things.

For the last month or longer this vision of selling our city house and going full country became an obsession. The urge to run, to restart, to reclaim a “simpler” life had us hunting properties, and talking to realtors, bankers. When you’re poor everything becomes a numbers game, get the whole feeling of robbing Peter to pay Paul, and that adds to the confusion. We began to realize that our current house is probably our one strong financial asset (as opposed to the crippling student-loan debt) and its didn’t really make sense gambling that on a country life, which would be a crazy amount of work and resources. We have a two year plan to get out of all credit card, and other short term debt. That was always a priority in our mind, but as we got right down to it, as in listing our house, we realized that it just wasn’t smart. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. We have a life right now that works, pretty well. A place of employment that’s close, bills payed, school the boy likes, big enough yard and ability to urban homestead. Another huge point was the fact that staying on our current path allows us to put any extra funds towards fun activities and travel. That became the big final realization, it’s not about things, but about experiences.

Using my “executive function” that’s an idea and phrase I’ve been using frequently in my rants to Britney. Point being that as a parent, a leader of the family you have got to think in this emotionally detached, best outcomes approach. In the familial enterprise it’s not just your dreams or wants that matter. For some that probably reads obvious, but I think being part of the divorced kids generations the problem of egos and values was something I’ve had to give a lot of thought too. Moreover failures in both, are patterns I’m still really working hard to develop out of. Having honor, self-control, dignity, these almost feel like outdated, or even mean words. I think that’s a problem.

I got to stop it there. The force of the rant is just too strong, and the keys make it too easy. I think that’s the problem. The journal format works when you have to push all this drivel out by the force of your own hand. The technology takes the real work and punishment out of it. Thanks technology.


In the writing lab 2:59PM. Just had to apologize, hang my head, do penance, smooth the rough spots. Chay turns six today. Tomorrow is the big party, so today is a preparation day. We run to Costco for a giant bag of chicken wings and other supplies, and then stop at La Tapatia for a pinata on the way home. Commerce and piling the booty into big boulder had us off our A-game. As I and toddler Coen, sat in the parking lot, he started sucking on the silver part of the seat belt, in the frustrating toddler way of doing things, which can be very cute and funny, but also infuriating. It’s like playing chicken with Joker, you flip back and forth between desperation and laughter. The gang shows up, pile back in, motorcycle pinata on birthday-boy’s lap in the middle. Mom tells me she talked him out of the skull. I tell her she should have let him get it. On the way home Coen goes to works on the motorcycle’s yellow tassels, enraging birthday-boy. I try to get control of the situation, while Mom drives, we were too packed in for me to operate the vehicle safely. Little man has the perfect barrier of bulk items blocking my control, so we start a game of automotive Marco-Polo, which involves me trying to stop his hands from ripping the tassels off. I succeed but have only elevated the stakes. Now it a game of hand combat. I, more expert at the martial arts, control him easily, but this only brings the toddler’s ear piercing screams of defeat. The siren causes me to let go of the hand, and the game begins again.

Several rounds into that I lost it. Raise my voice. Yell at little man to stop. He gives me big pouty bottom lip. Saucer eyes lids brim with tears in a cartoonish fashion. In the moment, I feel terrible and angry, let down by my own lack of composure. It all becomes obvious I should have brought a cooler, and bags for the grocery, so I could put them in the bed of the pickup. We should have gone into the grocery with everyone else so we weren’t bored. No matter what, it is your responsibility as a parent to BE COOL. You cannot teach little ones not to throw fits, if you’re throwing a fit.

I deleted a post the other day. I was sort of embarrassed by all that, by what I wrote, deleting it. It was whiny, cliche. Quoted Mel Gibson as William Wallace, so silly and melodramatic. It was all true, horribly true of course, and I should have left it. I did leave it, in here, the electronic second brain of this creature.

I get build up, pressure issues when I’m not writing new stuff. It’s kind of odd to start falling apart cause of the something like that. It’s about exhausting that emotional, psychic build up, I think. Hitting the bag gets it out, exercise or intensive manual labor too. Time, always the issue. That’s just something to say though isn’t it. The truth is much more complicated. You have more energy, do more, brings more challenges, requires more energy more activity, do more, more challenges, more energy, more challenges. Something like that. No real thing as rest. The meditation will be timed. Start now, ten minutes. Space between thoughts. I am Austin. I am Austin. I am Austin….3:36PM

8-7-16 Update #1 (Want to talk shit about my story?)

11:10AM post, fast paced, out loud read through of draft 7 of Arms in Ankeny. Feeling, surprisingly close to being done with it. Right around 5k words, definitely fits the bill of a short story. Reading it so much you start to lose perspective on the level of entertainment it provides, and general quality of it. This fact tells me I need to get it out to other people, force them read it, give me some feed back. Just told wife, she has to read it and say five mean things. Not mean like I suck, but mean like critical improvements. She has read previous drafts so I am interested if she picks up on any changes, improvements. Anyone want to read my short-story and talk shit?

Stumbled upon this interesting site, brilliant essay on strange use of the word “do”, like in “how do you do?,”  genuine bibliophile. Check it out. Learn what these words mean, where they come from, how they operate, what you can do with them!

Reading this article, from the always worthwhile brainpickings.org, titled “Schopenauer on the Essential Difference Between How Art and Science Reveal the World.” From the Mister himself on how Artists view the world:

We may, therefore, accurately define it as the way of viewing things independent of the principle of sufficient reason, in opposition to the way of viewing them which proceeds in accordance with that principle, and which is the method of experience and of science. This last method of considering things may be compared to a line infinitely extended in a horizontal direction, and the former to a vertical line which cuts it at any point.

And later…

The first is like the innumerable showering drops of the waterfall, which, constantly changing, never rest for an instant; the second is like the rainbow, quietly resting on this raging torrent.

Yessir! Hope you’re finding rainbows amidst the torrents!

8-7-16 (Occult Sun Rising Behind Dirty Clouds)

Morning in the lab. Thoughts are scattered. Time is the motherfucker, yes? Sorry for the cursing. I apologize. Time is cool. I got no problem with it. Just got to learn how to divide and commodify. Divide and commodify. Watching this chess match, watching the clock as it runs down on the people. Watching it as I watch the clock, we’re all playing games. Realities upon realities. Realize there’s a devil trick in chess, in life, these piebald parameters. All this intelligence, skill wasted down the drain for a game.

But that’s just one aspect, one perspective. The game teaches you a lot if you let it, about resources, value, sacrifice. There’s a misconception about chess players that they know dozen of moves in advance and sit there master of the universe style, but that’s not true. There are too many possible permutations from any given move to see that far in advance.

No, each move the board must be reassessed in its total uniqueness. The trick is you learn patterns and templates. Routine teaches you, if these conditions occur this will be the result. Think of it like a story, your story, these are your pieces, assets, what will you do with them? And the clock is ticking, so figure something out, and is there a man over there, approaching this way? He flies another flag. How should you respond? Does he send a scout or a soldier? Is he setting up base? Has he crossed over into your territory? Who is the scarlet woman with the flaming red hair? 10:04AM, in the writing lab.

8-6-16 (Morning Transmission from the Writing Lab)

9AM in writing lab, after pancakes, coffee, walk with family on an Edenic morning. As we were walking, guy pulled up, shiny red buggy jeep type thingy, window down, smiled at me, said, “Great family walk!” I smiled and said thank you, gave him a thumbs up, and he drove off. I assume it was a friendly act. I think my kids put a spell on people. Everyone’s nicer, more vulnerable and open when they’re around. People start revealing things to me about their life, their kids, or about not having any, wanting some. I notice the difference when I’m by myself, people look at me less, smile less.

I think it’s more than that too. It’s the neighborhood I live in. My Dad grew up a block north of us, and during his time it was an idealistic slice of American pie. The eighties and nineties brought all the suburban sprawl, and typical exodus of resources and value from the city. The east-side got a reputation for being rougher, dirtier. I think people in the neighborhood see my family and I and it reminds them of this idyllic past they hold in their minds. Is it really such an exceptional sight, a Mom and Dad, a stroller, three kids, a dog, beautiful late summer Saturday morning, alive? Sort of scary if it is a novelty, but I remain proud my unit can inspire such a reaction.

Truth, it makes me a little suspicious. I can’t help but wonder what the nice man would think about the slush-pile or other subversive tendencies of the author. That I’m an apostate Catholic, anarchist, mystic, that likes to howl at the moon and spin in circles. That those boys he sees frolicking are, in the future, savage renaissance men, being pushed into the world armed with the licks of Hendrix, the words and rhythm of Tupac, the tutelage of Malcolm X and a black Jesus. That I’m a no-voter. That I believe a Dark Lord, Sauron type thing rules the world, and that most people, including the author, suffer under its web of illusion. I wonder what he would say about that?

Maybe he’d dig it, maybe he wouldn’t. The sky was so large, the white morning clouds cut across it, giving space and dimension. Big skies can make you feel like a giant, the world something you roll around on, teetering like a bear on a beach ball.

Got stuck on this debate between Cenk Uygur and Dinesh D’souza, don’t have will to summarize for you, watch yourself for curious and challenging social-political considerations. The world has gone mad, but we are waking up. Be gentle, kind, and Art. 11:18AM, time to edit.

8-5-16 Later


12:30 AM, five pages into a reread, edit, of Arms in Ankeny, and this ant won’t leave me alone. Keeps crawling on to my keyboard, running up my hand. I try to enjoy it, emphasizing my speculative function, but the second time it interrupts my editing I start to get annoyed. Resistance. Over all though, editing is going better than I’d hoped. Bad words are starting to jump out at me. I’m starting to be able to read the work at a fast pace and not cringe every couple seconds under the force of my stupidity. We may be getting close…

Great words, ZAGGED.

2:15PM Post lunch, turkey sandwich with brie and greens, bowl of turkey/bean soup, oatmeal M&M cookies fresh from oven for treat, chugged with last portion of coffee. Back to the Art. Going to read, journal, focus on a couple details in work in progress. Try to get a big picture perspective.

Later, 8:06PM healthy ache in my muscles, back in the writing lab after evening chores. Turned over the compost, composted pepper plants, hacked back tree I almost cut down last year, with chainsaw, cleaned up mess, mowed, watered everything, had dinner pork-loin, candied baby carrots, greens. Water is delicious.

Reading Lavinia, by Ursula K. Le Guin. Story has captured me. I love the Latin, ancient history aspect to the book. Took Latin as my foreign language requirement at University of Iowa. Enjoyed it because the focus was more on translation then speaking. I have an idea for this blog, “An Idiot Tries to Translate Virgil’s Aeneid,” but as you can imagine that is a very slow haul.

Lesson from writing and gardening today, focus on each individual plant, or quality over quantity. These are things I intellectually know but haven’t actively incorporated. Each year with my garden I tell myself to scale back, focus on each plant, a couple tomatoes, a couple peppers, create a system. I ended up with 12+ of each scattered around, most of them doing all right, none of them doing that great. Writing is the same way, huge slush pile, but nothing exceptional which I can hang on the wall for posterity. The editor self chimes in, why’d you use posterity? Mark Twain said, “Don’t use a five-dollar word when a fifty-cent one will do.” Alternatives, generations, progeny (mb more expensive), kids (winner, captures theme I am a stay-at-home Dad).

These are the sort of analytical black holes editing seem to create for this author. Words loose their discrete associations, until it’s one undulating wongwongwongwong…goddammit, the editor voice says, with appropriate dejection. Good day Writer Warriors.



Snippets #66

Ninja: 1,000 Years of the Shadow Warrior-John Man

A young adventurer named Jing Ke is chosen for the task. He is a man with nerves of steel and high intelligence, who likes “to read books and practice swordsmanship”–in brief, the essence of the true ninja. He refuses to quarrel; if offended, he simply walks away. Jing Ke is too smart to agree at once, but his reluctance is overcome when he is made a minister and given a mansion. (11)

8-5-16 (Slice of the Morning Stream Amidst Editing)

In the lab, 10:58AM. Had an early dentist appointment, taking in info and stimulation now, mind wanders towards editing. This is a day dedicated to writing. I watch this video on Joyce, one of the great ones. Writers are my favorite people. Mainly because they’re like perception and cognitive super heroes. I want to be one. I might be. A quarter sized dangerous looking spider paraded passed on the window pane. It had a worthy ant clutched in its front legs. Earlier, during the Joyce video, an ant ran on to the screen. I let it wander, wondering if it was into the subject like I was.

Mechanics, execution, these are my trouble areas. I write, think, talk in a complicated fashion, and making that work in prose is a challenge. I need to slow down. I feel like I’m in a big ocean and if I stop treading water I’ll sink. That’s generally my attitude towards editing, feels like I’m sinking, drowning.

Stop that shit, greater self urges. Focus you lazy, weak belly, bastard. It’s work, a craft, not supposed to be easy. Don’t waste your time, your life. Do or do not, there is no try. Thanks Yoda.

The ant’s back. It walks on these words as I edit them, then falls off the screen. Not a fan?