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Archive for the month “April, 2014”


If I had a hammer,
I’d hammer in the morning,
I’d hammer in the evening,
All over this land…

– “If I Had a Hammer” – Peter, Paul & Mary

Well, I do have a hammer, a couple of them I think. Don’t do all that much hammering. My wife uses them all the time though.

Me, I blog.

I hate when we have to call a plumber or get the car repaired. I meet the plumber/mechanic, they explain the problem and give me that look like “you see what I’m saying, fellow male person, right?” And I nod and shrug it off like “Duh! Absolutely! Will blogging fix it?”

Recently, we had a new bathroom sink and faucet installed and, on the same day, the front door replaced. Both my wife and I were there for most of the work, but part of the time, it was just me. When the repair guy would say, “well, if this thing happens, you’ll just do this other thing. Easy.” I’d nod. “Of course it’s easy! We’re men. We know this stuff. Like blogging.”

Then I commit whatever the dude said to memory and repeat it to my wife when she gets home. I know she’ll know what to do.

After we got the new door in, we had to paint it. I did that myself. Painting stuff is one home repair I think I do reasonably well. (As long as I don’t have to climb a ladder taller than six feet.) That’s thanks to my dad who could paint a room blindfolded without spilling a drop or getting wall paint on the ceiling.

While I was painting, my wife said, “Think I’ll cut down this tree.” There’s a bush – well, there was a bush” in the front yard that had to go. She got out the trimmers and the saw and went to town.happy as could be. The tree was out before the first coat on the door was finished.

The fact that my wife has craftsman skills I lack isn’t all bad. It kind of frees me up actually. But sometimes…well, sometimes it’s a little awkward because others expect me to have those skills. it’s silly gender stereotyping, of course, but there it is.

Tonight, my wife sleeps the sleep of the weekend yard warrior. Me, I’m writing a blog.

Also, my wife didn’t write a word today and my door looks damn good.


Making sandwiches

I’m not really at the level of AUTHOR in the reading world where people ask me much about how to be a writer, but when I am, this is probably pretty much what I’ll say.


I don’t know anybody who’s happy.

That’s not to say I hang around with depressed, angry people; not exclusively anyway. The disaffected posers that defined the early years of Generation X have become the middle-management, mulch- laying, uptight suburb dwellers of today.

And we’re all grumpy about it.

And it’s not just Gen X. Millennials make their disaffected predecessors look like grinning idiots. The world is theirs and they know it. The generation has this weird bipolar component to it: part of it is activist, part of it is convinced everything should be handed to it.

Seniors are stressed out because they retired and and then discovered trusting Gen Xers and Millenials on Wall Street wasn’t the soundest investment strategy.

Moms firing F -bombs at each other in the preschool parking lot.

In 1988, Bobby McFerrin admonished us all to “Don’t Worry. Be Happy”.

What a difference a generation makes. Go ahead, name someone openly advocating HAPPY these days. Someone who isn’t medicated.

Maybe the problem isn’t that people aren’t happy, but that “happy” is to simplistic a concept. Maybe it isn’t an all or nothing concept, but rather a continuum of emotion ranging from Edvard Munch “The Scream” to Linus VanPelt, “Happiness is a Warm Puppy.”

Or maybe I’m just grumpy today. I’ll go have a snack. That’ll make me feel better.

That’s healthy. Right?


I’m an old school gamer. In the old days of Donkey Kong and Frogger and Pitfall, if you wanted to keep your guy ( it was almost always a guy) from dying in the video game, you had to get through the jungle/maze/whatever and grab some sort of “health” pellet. When you did, you’d be relieved to see the blinking remnant of life surge back up to a full length far of lively-lifeness.

For writers, going to a conference is kind of like finding a health pellet.

I just got back from my annual trip to the Missouri Writers Guild conference. It’s a little bit of a drive for me, but I go every year because it’s one of the few times I get to spend time, in groups and one-on-one, with industry insiders like editors, agents and publishers to talk about the writing craft in general and sometimes my work specifically. It’s awesome.

Going to conferences like this are also great at reminders you are not the only weirdo who isn’t content just reading stories. It’s a hotel full of people as obsessed as you with creating arcs and beats and word counts and plots and story.

Last year’s was notable because the hotel we were at was hosting not just writers, but also a child’s beauty pageant ala “Little Miss Sunshine” and a convention of people who make and display miniature doll house furniture. No houses, mind you; just the furniture. Makes sense. Everyone knows doll house builders are dorks. (Kidding! Not kidding! Okay, kidding…please don’t hurt me with your tiny chairs.)

Every year, I’m struck by the variety of backgrounds the attendees come from. This year didn’t disappoint. There was the newspaper reporter who yearns to write fiction, the twenty-something who has pared down his lifestyle to such a degree he can live on what he makes from 2-3 hours a day of work (writing freelance articles) so he can devote the rest of his time to writing tales in the vein of old Norse mythology. I met a retired judge and his wife who travels around showing horses. There was also a cardiologist who quit to be a writer and lots of retirees.

Then there was a college professor and part-time children’s entertainer, who I talked to at the same time as the barbershop quartet singer. The professor, it turns out, has always wanted to be in a barbershop quartet! (Math geeks, calculate me the odds of meeting ONE, let alone TWO, people into barbershop at the same time and place.) They actually started harmonizing right there in the hall between workshops. It was surreal.

That’s the best part of these conferences: you never quite know what you’ll get or who will there. And everyone is supportive of this weird thing you’ve dedicated yourself to. Some of them are already published, some are wannabes, some are never-wills. But all love the written word and those who put those words out there.

Looking forward to 2015!


Remember video stores? When I was a kid, they were the coolest new thing. Libraries for movies and for three bucks you could TAKE ONE HOME and watch it, give it back and rent another one. Great big plastic VHS tapes full of any move you wanted – as long as what you wanted was  Back to the Future II . (And it was what I wanted.) Renting VHS movies was awesome. I even rewound the tapes before returning like a good little renter.

Yeah, I know there are still video stores around. But they’re kind of lonely, sad little relics of former hipness now, aren’t they? When you pass a video store in the 21st century, it’s a little like stumbling across a MySpace page. Or the ninth season of “The X-Files”. Or looking in my clothes closet. (For example: right now, I’m wearing TARDIS socks – ding! obligatory Doctor Who reference)

But back in the day, when I was a kid, going to the video store was an event. You no longer had to wait months or years for “Raiders of the Lost Ark” to show up on network television with commercials and the swears dubbed out. You could go to the store, rent it as a new release and – for only 99 cents! – pick up an older movie or two for  a double (triple) feature. You browsed the shelves, read the blurb on the back of the actual tape box or a copy of the label, then took home whatever you like. You could rent as many movies as you wanted – as long as you got them back the next day or they’d fine your ass, especially if you didn’t rewind.

You can, of course, get more movies now than ever for very little money. But Netflix, Hulu, iTunes and the like are a little like buying books on Amazon or other online repository. Sure, you can get anything you want while sitting on your ass in your lonely, little room. But it’s like shooting cinematic fish in a barrel. Where’s the thrill of the hunt, the joy of nabbing the last copy of “The Pick-Up Artist” before that dork across the store gets it?

I’m not sure why I’m thinking about video stores lately. I enjoy movies. I like being able to turn on TV or instant streaming and watch whatever, whenever. But maybe that’s the problem. When you can have anything you want, you, ironically lose the thrill of discovery. When you had to go to the video store, you didn’t really know what you’d find. Sometimes, you’d find out the thing you wanted most, wasn’t even the thing you went in looking for.  (Mannequin 2) Maybe I’m just yearning for some sort of unanticipated thrill that’s been missing from a pretty static lifestyle of late.

Or maybe I just wanted an excuse to use the word “yearning”, because…awesome word.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go work a shift at my second job. I’m still paying off an overdue rental fee from failing to return the VHS of “Gremlins 2: The New Batch”.


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