Writing journal – issue 2

Word Count: 6009 Stress-level: Medium

Yeah, it's only been a few days. Sorry. I'm chomping at the bit a little. I
promise that i won't send you one of these every two days. Honest. I'm just a little panicked because i posted an excerpt (completely unedited, yikes!) of my book. It's literally the first 600 words i wrote.

So of course being me, i have to throw out a hundred disclaimers, just in
case someone actually goes and reads it.

Let's get it over with;

During the month before NaNoWriMo i studiously avoided planning the plot for my novel, any time a fabulous idea came to mind i abandoned it on the side of the road, crying. “I shun you!” I cried. There was this one idea that bugged me over and over, enough that i formed a mantra to counter it:

I will not write a deeply autobiographical story about unresolved past relationships
I will not write a deeply autobiographical story about unresolved past relationships
I will not write a deeply autobiographical story about unresolved past relationships

Now NaNoWriMo is here and i've sat down to pound out my new novel.

It's a deeply autobiographical story about my unresolved past relationships.

The lead character is, of course, a thinly disguised version of me. Some of
the events in the story are ground up versions of highly disparate events in my past, sort of mashed together in a devil-may-care (read: horribly biased) fashion. I even have myself as another secondary character in the book. What am i doing? I wrote myself into my own book as two different characters! Gawd! I'll be looking forward to winning the “most self obsessed writer of the year” award in December. But see, it's cathartic and metaphorical and…
Ah, never mind, it's hard to explain.

Sigh. Ah well. At least i'll get it out of my system. Right?

There is one thing though. Playing the IF game, you must know:

IF i finish this novel and
IF i don't immediately burn it and
IF i decide to take the time to edit it and rewrite it and
IF i decide to format the book, design a cover, and self-publish it through
a shady print-on-demand company and
IF you actually get one of the something-like ten copies i have printed.

I want you to know one thing.

I am not now, nor have ever been, a drug dealer. This is key to keep in mine if you read my novel. I was not a drug dealer in real life. Got it? Me + Lots of Drugs = Did not happen.

Also, and equally important, I have never taken heroin, so it would be impossible for me to be a heroin addict as is the character in my book. No
seriously, Mom, it's just a story.

I don't know why i'm a heroin addicted drug dealer in the story! It just
seemed like a good idea at the time! Look, it's metaphorical, it represents
the deeply seated unacknowledged anger problems i had at the time… Or
something like that. Well, it also gives me an excuse to write half the
story as pretentious surrealist drivel. Oh, this is really cool, i'm also
going to write half the novel in first person present tense and the other
half in third person past tense. Clever huh? (sheesh, when did i turn into
such an artsy dork? “I'd like to thank the academy for this award which is
about me, me and me.”)

While i'm at it, since i posted the opening scene of the novel on my
NaNoWriMo account. I should mention, THIS NEVER HAPPENED. IT'S A STORY! Mom stop crying. (Although it is true that there really was a wonderful Greek restaurant where i used to live back in Chicago.)

Ok, i'm going back into my writing cave.

Writing journal – issue 1

Word Count: 0 Stress-level: High

So tomorrow i'm gonna start writing a novel.

As i write this i realize is that this journal may not actually be as funny
as J and i's tour journal proportedly was.

It's much easier to make comedy out that one time when a bear tried to roll our truck over to eat us, than it will be to make you laugh when i'm whining about how hard it is to write a coherent sentence, how much my butt hurts and dammnit i'm out of Cheetoes.

I've been diligently preparing for my writing extravaganza. Amassing bags of salty food, 400 hours of vocal-less music, and telling everyone i know that they can't count on me for anything, at all, ever, for the next month.

I've even made a sign for my door. it says:

I'M WRITING
Unless the house is on fire,
back slowly away from my room…
Seriously, just walk away.

I explained to my housemates that i only want to be disturbed by sincere
offers of sex, wrist-rubs, or warm meals. I'm really hoping i don't spend
the next month in my bedroom though. I fully intend to play up the
“serious-writer-in-the-cafe” thing. Maybe i'll also make dates with people
where i sit near them, they don't talk to me (except to offer more Cheetoes) and i write write write. Doesn't that sound nice? Just think, when i'm big and famous, you can say, “You know that scene where the Pope is hangliding with Bono? He wrote that in my living room. I rubbed his wrists.”

Lately i'm starting to feel a bit like a misunderstood genius, or worse yet
a misunderstood not-genius. When i've mentioned that i'm going to write a
novel in November, i've gotten exactly two kinds of responses. They fit
perfectly into these two categories:

A.) Hey! You should turn your tour journals into a book, man those were
funny!

B.) Huh? Why? What makes you think you can write a novel?

Uh, so, why am i writing a novel? Well, it's probably not for fame and
fortune, I'm still shocked that when i mention the single best most famous
and generally smartest and coolest science fiction writer in the whole damn world, Ursula Le Guin, most people say, “Who?”

And don't talk to me about fortune. A good friend of mine who has published like 9000 novels still lives just as close to the poverty line as me. Orson Scott Card (who?) couldn't make a living off of writing even after he wrote what is probably the biggest sci-fi book ever.

Anyway, i think i'm mainly doing it so i have something to complain about.
At least this month i have an excuse to feel stressed out.

If you'd like to see how i'm doing, there will be a constant word count
posted on my profile here:

www.nanowrimo.org/userinfo.php

Tune in next week, where i will reveal the deep hidden secret; that writing
is really hard.

Tour Journal – 2005 – Vol. 2 – Issue. 8

8067 miles traveled – Portland, OR

Our very last gig was in Portland. While sitting in a traffic jam to the school, we seriously considered turning off of 205 to drive to the top of Mount Hood so we could push the car down the side. Alas, we took the more boring track.

We stopped by Reed College, Portland, OR.

We had stopped earlier is Evergreen, up in Olympia. Which was uber cool with it’s beautiful tree choked campus. Both Reed and Evergreen have organic, vegetarian, and vegan food, not to mention serve their food on real plates instead of Styrofoam.

But Reed College has the coolest school motto ever (I’m not making this up)

“Communism – Atheism – Free Love”

I thought it might be nice to distill some of our road/hotel experiences into a helpful guide to all of you in your future travels.

1.) “Continental breakfast” is an intentionally vague term that stretches the gambit between;

a.) Prepackaged muffins and coffee
b.) Fresh (oooh, so fancy!) muffins, with orange juice, cold cereal, and coffee.

2.) In some of the fancier hotels, they provided us with waffle irons and waffle mix. The first time we saw this, we were all like, “Oh, yeah! Fresh waffles!” And we did a little happy dance, sorta running in place like a white person moonwalk. (People stared.)

The hundreth time we stayed in a hotel and saw the (expletive starting with “Mother” and ending in “ing”) waffle irons there was no happy dance. We would shuffle in, turn off the (expletive starting with “God” and ending in “damn”) TV, and try to figure out what had the least sugar in it, “Haven’t these people ever heard of fruit?”

3.) “Deluxe Continental Breakfast” means they have a waffle iron.

4.) “Hot Breakfast” means they have a waffle iron.

5.) “Fresh Made Breakfast” means they have a waffle iron and some grumpy person with a smoker's cough will grudgingly make you an egg. (They’ll also smirk at you when you tell them that you don’t want the included piece of bacon or sausage.)

6.) Any hotel that costs less than $120 a night will only serve their food on Styrofoam, but will probably not complain when you fill your Nalgene with orange juice.

7.) It's easier to turn of the inevitable TV in the breakfast area than to ask for permission.

8.) A room with two queen beds often costs less than one with one king bed.

9.) A non-smoking room is never guarantied, yes, even if you have asthma.

Our best value for less than $70 a night: Super 8

Our best value for more than $100 a night: Ameritel (bonus points for fresh cookies at the counter)

So anyway. That's about it for this road trip. J and i will be settling back into our non “pleasure cruise through hell” lives. I'll have to hit the ground running though. I already have 20 commitments lined up, not to mention the novel i'm going to start writing in about 15 days. I might send out a “novel-writing journal” during the four weeks i'm writing it. With any luck you can hear me make fun of myself as i pull my hair out and generally avoid writing anything resembling fiction.

Tour Journal – 2005 – Vol. 2 – Issue. 7

7488 miles traveled – writing from eastern Oregon

Another show was cancelled. I suppose i should be disappointed, but i'll take the downtime.

We’re crossing Oregon (OREGON! Woo Hoo!) after a couple of chill shows on the eastern edge of the state, we’re looking forward to the downtime. We’re going to spend some of it in Vancouver helping J’s folks set up their new house.

We just passed the “Trees from Hell.” Three hours east of Portland are these tree farms where they’ve planted perfect grids of trees, for miles. It’s like a virtual reality forest. It’s hard to say why, but it just feels wrong. The ground is perfectly clean, leaving ten miles of imposed monoculture, giant squares of trees, all the exact same height, all the exact same shape. Creepy.

J and I have been snipping at each other quite a bit lately. I think each of us could use some alone time, or at least some anyone-but-you time. I can’t think of a single other person that I would rather be with for 24 hours a day for 2 months. And yet, there is not a single person in the world that I want to spend 24 hours a day with for 2 months.

Being on the road so long definitely makes me a little curmudgeonly. I have a little grumpy dark cloud following me around everywhere, and I think it’s effecting my perceptions a little bit. Here, I’ve written down the last 4 things to come out of my mouth;

“You’re driving on bumps on purpose. You don’t want me to finish this journal, do you?”

“See, that’s the problem with nice people, their too nice, it grates on me.”

“Stupid cows, I bet their saying mean things about us right now.”

“Look at that annoyingly pretty landscape, I bet it thinks it’s better than me.”

It’s not that I’m grumpy really, it’s just that everyone and everything around me has gotten really stupid.

Actually there is one other reason that I’m in such a bad mood.

I have a curse on me. Actually I should say that I have a new curse on me. I thought I had grown out of my old curse, but apparently I just traded out. My old curse was entirely related to movies. It went like this: Any time I sat down in a theater to watch a movie, within five minutes of the start of the film the most obnoxious loud movie-hating person in the world would sit near me and talk throughout the entire film. This happened for most of my movie watching life. I’m not entirely proud to report that in my younger days I’ve been thrown out of more than one theater for instances where I made inappropriate use of theater food and drink to communicate my displeasure with talking.

So, when that curse disappeared I thought I had paid my karmic bill and was ready to live the rest of my life in peace. It took me awhile to discover that my movie curse had turned into a laptop computer curse. Every laptop I have owned has been either a lemon or possessed by the devil. My first laptop died abruptly, taking with it the only copy of the screenplay I had spent the last year writing. My next two developed exciting surreal symptoms that I thought were the exclusive domain of genetically altered meat animals.

Ah, then we get to The Laptop Kings. They are a lovely web based company in California that, for a mere $700, will send you a refurbished IBM computer that will die dramatically within weeks. They will then effectively disappear and avoid contact despite the best efforts of the better business bureau and lawyers. They are honestly very talented at this and I cannot recommend them enough if you are in possession of too much money and not enough paperweights.

And now we come to present day. Tired of my past laptop adventures, and ready to settle down into the clich? mundane life of someone with a constantly working computer, I bought a computer off of a friend of mine that was relatively new and [gasp] still under warranty. As many of you know I compose electronic music, and the laptop is my only way of performing live or writing music on the road. My new laptop was a Dell, which has had a good reputation for years, so I felt doubly secure.

Literally within a month of my warranty running out, the problems started. I could almost hear distant thunder and maniacal cackling. First it was with wireless cards. It stopped recognizing the internet, declining to the point where it couldn’t log on with anything, including DSL or dial-up service. Then the sound died. The computer just suddenly decided that it didn’t do sound.

“Oh, no, that isn’t a headphone jack, it’s a, uh, toothpick holder.”

This was inconvenient, but wasn’t as debilitating as you might imagine, because I use an external soundcard to DJ my music. But eventually the external soundcard stopped working too, which killed my ability to write music on it. Finally, with a sad final gasp, it just stopped turning on. After saying a few words over its corpse, I softly hummed “Taps” and wrapped it in a shroud. Gently fitting it into it’s case, I put it to rest…' in the back of the truck.

I’m trying to make a joke out of this, but the fact of the matter is that I’m screwed. I lost a number of tracks I was working on, as well as some writing. I’m a war-tax resister. I purposely live below the poverty line so none of my income goes towards the Iraq war. Since I live on so little money, I spent the last two years saving up towards this computer, and now it’s gone. My burgeoning career as a rock star has come to an abrupt end.

Whew! Hard to write something funny after that. Heh heh heh. Um, so, ahem…'

Why did the elephant cross the road?

It was the chicken’s day off.

More later…

Tour Journal – 2005 – Vol. 2 – Issue. 6

7310 miles traveled – writing from a lovely bed -n- breakfast.

It’s official; we have less than two weeks left before we go home!

One of our shows got cancelled, so we did what any self-respecting duo would do. We went to visit a glacier. We drove 200 miles out of our way to Glacier National Park in northern Montana (practically Canada!) Along the way we kept stopping to see Indian Reservations, Thrift Stores, and Giant Balls of String.

We also stopped by a chocolate factory called, “Tom’s ‘Absolutely Fabulous!’ Chocolate Factory.” I told J that if Tom were a gay man I would buy every piece of chocolate in the place.

Everything in Montana is made from Huckleberries, the Montanans are completely obsessed with the things. It’s like someone decided that Montana’s entire tourist economic future depended on these little purple not-quite-blueberries. And mooses, everything is a moose reference.

Moose Sweat (soda pop), Moose Droppings [shudder] (chocolate), Moose Drool (beer), Moose Bladders.

Ok, I made that last one up, but the Native Americans used to use moose bladders as water pouches, so it’s not too far of a stretch. Or was it buffalo bladders? Nevermind.

Anyway, we drove up to West Glacier, and after pausing briefly to lock our keys in the truck, we set about figuring out what to do there. I found us a wonderful 100-year-old hotel called the “Belton Chalet.” J took some issue with my pronunciation, “It does not rhyme with 'toilet'.”

After conferring in detail, J and I made our plans. She would hike 92 miles so she could stand on a giant chunk of ice and I would sit in the hotel room and play video games.
[J note: Sadly, glaciers don’t grow at hotel-level; they require steep treks up mountainsides. But was I gonna go to GLACIER National Park and not see a glacier? Heck no.]

While I am deeply in love with this hotel, my stay there was marred by my going into detoxifying shock from the lack of Internet service.

So the next morning J walked down to the truck to find, and this should have been obvious to you dear reader, a bear sitting on the truck.

[J note: This is just a wee, small exaggeration.] Ok fine, it was NEAR the truck. But the day before J had been so so proud that she had become a REAL northerner because she had bought a “Bear Bell.” This is a big cow-bell kinda thing that you wear to somehow magically convince the bears that you don’t taste very good. Of course was J wearing the bear-bell then, noooooooo.

Luckily the bear sensed that deep down J is a ninja, because he ran for it the second he saw her. In J’s defense, I will say that she probably didn’t expect to need her bear-bell in the GODDAMN PARKING LOT OF THE HOTEL!

[J note: No, in fact, I didn’t expect it at all. But I can tell you I got that bear bell out of my pocket and jangled it for all I was worth for the next five or six hours straight, meanwhile nervously looking over my shoulder for bears as I passed by the giant neon signs at the trailhead saying, “Don’t hike alone!” P.S. – Did I mention the sign actually had the words, “Mortal Peril” on it?]

That night my sleep was interrupted by J’s incredibly rude moaning, “My legs, ohhhh, my legs, ohhhh pity me.” Occasionally she would jangle her bear-bell in her sleep.

When we left the next morning I was sad that we didn’t find a moose sitting in the cab of the truck waving to us from the window and honking the horn. I guess you can only have so many run-ins with natural world at one time.

Yesterday we came down to Missoula, Montana. I stopped by the local organic food coop and adopted a new pet for us.

She’s a pint container of wheatgrass. We’ve named her “Grassy,” which is short for “W. J. Grassy,” which is short for “Wheat Juice Grassy.” She lives on our dashboard now with her gang of action figures.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but J and I have gone a bit crazy. Today, every time we passed a herd of cows she called out the window, “Baaaaaaaaaaah!” Every time we passed a group of horses I called to them, “Mooooooo!”

I guess you had to be there.

Anyway, Monday is our show in Caldwell, Idaho. Wednesday we’ll be in Le Grange, Oregon, then Olympia, Washington. We’re getting close.

More later…