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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

ROAD TRIP

Yeah, I've seen all the movies. You go on a road trip, revive old memories, laugh, cry, get drunk, get a tattoo or two (butt and face of course), find a baby and a stray lion. Yawn!... So ordinary. That stuff happens all the time.

Wonderful Chicago from top of the Prudential
So when my youngest son threw a road trip for his older brother and his pop because we both had landmark birthdays this year, it was all of that and more. Sure, we found the baby... but he had a messy diaper so we passed on that... and saw the lion--two in fact--guarding the front entry of Chicago's Art Institute. Tattoos hurt so we were thinking tacos because that sounds similar... but when we walked by
Giordano's Deep Dish Pizza we decided that would be so much better--and it was!

We got pretend drunk--three beers and a glass of wine--and witnessed a killing--the Dallas Cowboys killed the Chicago Bears--from great seats in Soldier Field. Now I won't exactly say they were the best seats but Pope Francis sat on one side of us and Mike Ditka on the other... so you figure it out.

Pope Francis was a stitch... but unbelievably, he was rooting for The Cowboys (and I thought he was supposed to be ecumenical). Says Romo sounds Italian and it reminds him of Rome. He and Ditka kept trash-talking each other right in front of us. Ditka likes "smash mouth football," he tells His Holiness. Pope Francis says, "My favorite play is the Hail Mary." Ditka hums The Super Bowl Shuffle and the Pontiff comes right back with When the Saints Come Marching In. I asked The Holy Father why he didn't root for the New Orleans Saints and he says he can't root for any team that is 5-8, even if they are leading their division. "You can't even be a saint in heaven with less than 10 wins," he says... and he should know. When the game was over, Pope Francis gave us his blessing and Ditka offered a knuckle sandwich. We all walked out of the stadium arm in arm singing, you guessed it,  "Oh when the Saints... " 
His Holiness

Before the game, we tailgated, which is why we were too full to accept The Pope's burgers and a beer invitation. We had brats, buns and mustard with two cans of beer in each of our pockets. No grill... no problem. We asked to use someone's who had extra space. That's the thing about Chicago--people are super friendly and will lend a grill at the drop of a hat. I guess that comes from years of rooting for loosing sporting teams... you get kind-hearted and really nice because you have no bragging rights. Take that Yankee and Cardinal fans.


"Cloud Gate"
Next day, after a great breakfast, we took an architectural tour of the city's beautiful buildings and very snazzy Millenium Park just off Michigan Avenue by the Lake. The architectural tours of different parts of Chicago's downtown areas are renowned for their quality and the buildings and stories are well worth it.


"Looking Into My Dreams Awilda"
The huge ice skating rink in Millenium Park was in full use and the Jay Pritzger Pavilion designed by Richard Geary (like his Rock and Roll Museum in Seattle) was incredibly beautiful, as were the sculptures and other art.

Then it was drinks in the lounge on the 96th floor of the Prudential Building, pizza at Giordano's and settling down in the hotel lounge.

We laughed a lot too!

This was so nice a two-day affair that it was difficult to say good-by the next morning. In life, things happen that leave a mark. I've been so fortunate and grateful to count many of those, this being the latest. I told my sons that they could do it again, anytime, even after "you know what." They would take my ashes with them, of course, and remember this and all the great times we've had.

Thanks guys... and all the wives that let this happen. I'm super "touched," in the best of those definitions.


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

It was a dark and stormy night...




... when I began to write. It was November 1st... the day I wrote the first words (Once upon a time... ) of my now famous novel, Robbin' Hood: He stole from the rich and gave at the office. 

It was NaNoWriMo--National Novel Writing Month--when lots of writers around the world vow to put at least 50,000 words on paper by the last day of November.

Many don't make it. Last year I killed-off all of my characters before the ides of November. Some writers can't get that very important first sentence... 'the grabber,'  just right. It's as if they were trying to win the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction contest for the worst first sentence ever... like these did:

 "Toads of glory, slugs of joy," sang Groin the dwarf as he trotted jovially down the path before a great dragon ate him because the author knew that this story was a train wreck after he typed the first few words.

Leopold looked up at the arrow piercing the skin of the dirigible with a sort of wondrous dismay -- the wheezy shriek was just the sort of sound he always imagined a baby moose being beaten with a pair of accordions might make.

Like a mechanic who forgets to wipe his hands on a shop rag and then goes home, hugs his wife, and gets a grease stain on her favorite sweater - love touches you, and marks you forever.

 As a scientist, Throckmorton knew that if he were ever to break wind in the echo chamber, he would never hear the end of it.

Andre, a simple peasant, had only one thing on his mind as he crept along the East wall: 'Andre creep... Andre creep... Andre creep.'     
 

Although Sarah had an abnormal fear of mice, it did not keep her from eeking out a living at a local pet store.
      
Stanley looked quite bored and somewhat detached, but then, penguins often do.      

Like an over-ripe beefsteak tomato rimmed with cottage cheese, the corpulent remains of Santa Claus lay dead on the hotel floor.
      

Mike Hardware was the kind of private eye who didn't know the meaning of the word 'fear'; a man who could laugh in the face of danger and spit in the eye of death -- in short, a moron with suicidal tendencies. 

Well, I tell you, it's really not hard to write a novel, it's just hard to make it good enough for anyone but a close relative or someone who REALLY loves you, to want to read. Here's why I write short stories:

  • You don't have to remember your characters for the next day of writing, because there isn't any.
  • You don't loose sleep over what you will say in Chapter II.
  • You don't have to overwhelmingly burden anyone who HAS to read it because they love you. It only takes a little burden... sort of like having a zit instead of an amputation.
  • You don't develop carpal tunnel syndrome--that's for suckers.
  • You don't excessively use $75 worth of ink for your printer, or waste reams of paper that would be wadded up on the floor because you missed the waste basket.
  • Your title can be as long as you want because hey, what's a few dozen extra words if there aren't many in the first place.
  • You can finish it before you die.
But... and it's a big but (no, not butt), I DID WRITE A NOVEL. Or, I sorta wrote a novel. Ok, I wrote 1/7 of a novel. Ok, it was a novella, about half the size of a novel. And it was fun!

For our NaNoWriMo contribution this year, with six other very capable writers, I/we wrote a story, each one taking on the next chapter following the thread from the previous writer. And what a wild ride it became! Our total word count was about 22,000 words. A novel? No. But a fine novella to say the least.
Thank you LeeAnn, Kristen, Ada, Liz and Amber for letting me help and bask in your glory! It was awesome. And it really came off well with an incredible, dynamic ending. Oh, we did kill off a good number of people in our pages, but name me one best seller that doesn't... ok, name two... alright, enough. I get it.
You may read it all, or just pick and choose, for $0 plus tax. Go to Pilcrowdagger.com/blog and scroll down to Nov. 1 if you want to start at the beginning... or just cheat and read the last week's worth if you have no scruples. Honest, it's decent and fun for the way it is written. Each author is god and can make anything happen... What came out to an awesome end reminded me of the kids game of "telephone," except we didn't whisper in each others' ear.
FYI: a pilcrow is a writer's symbol to indicate a new paragraph if you are editing a manuscript. A dagger is, well, like a pointer, I guess. The blog is fun and loaded with words, stories and games for the sophisticated. Check it out.