Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Rubbery Dmitry, the Mad Monk Holds Steady

Black Lightning Strikes The Trees - Photo by J. Scott, 1996

His life was preordained to be one of privilege, wealth, and luxury. He was conceived on March 2nd, 1918 in St. Petersburg, during a riot on the first anniversary of Tsar Nicholas II's abdication. Of course, not everything that's preordained actually comes to pass, and before he was born, Dmitry Kalashnik's parents had lost everything that they couldn't fit into two suitcases, fled the Russian revolution in the dead of night, and washed up on Ellis Island. He was born on Christmas Eve - over two weeks late, and "very large."

Things went a bit downhill, from there. Just before little Dmitry's fourth birthday, his father, whose only marketable skill had been investing and counting money, succumbed to being run over by a streetcar (as so many future hoboes' fathers were). His mother, who hadn't known a minute of work of any kind, back home, stretched her late husband's meager life insurance as far as it would go, but after two years, it was gone. She could bake, and her pirogi were the talk of their neighborhood, so she was able to find work in a bakery, and she followed the shop's owner when he relocated to Pittsburgh in 1928. She married him not long after that, and for her, life began to resemble life, again.

We all know what happened next. The global economy melted into the fire and burned into a stinky smoke, Dmitry's mother and step-father lost their home and moved into a tiny apartment, and focused all of their energy on keeping their sweets and pirogi shop alive. The boy rebounded for a while, but finally left home in 1930, barely eleven years old, and survived as best he could the competing ravages of homelessness and puberty. 

While he learned to live outside, eventually becoming a full-fledged hobo, albeit a terribly young one, his mother learned to live without him, relying on her faith to paint a mental picture of him that wasn't crushingly tragic. In St. Petersburg, she and her first husband had been among the last of the Russian Orthodox Buddhists, and she had spent Dmitry's formative years working to instill in him the values of the great teacher. As she absorbed the sermons of her new husband's American Catholic priests in Pittsburgh, she prayed that she had set her son upon a decent path.

A lifetime later (10 years), having rebounded a dozen times from a dozen different horrors that would have sent lesser men to their whimpering deaths, Rubbery Dmitry, The Mad Monk held steady. He had next to nothing of his own, and that suited him fine. His life was simple. He was walking and riding the rails of freedom and migrant labor, and he was relatively content. He remembered neither the scripture, nor the teachings of Buddha - save for the lessons of stillness, from the latter. "Be still," he heard his mother whisper, "be still."

Life screamed at him to run, or to fight, or to run, fighting into the abyss of the horrible nothing, but he forced himself, shaking, to be as motionless as possible. He mentally reread the headlines of the day - Jews being rounded up and sent to camps, where there were reports of mass slaughter. War machines. Troops here, talks there, fleets, riots, death tolls, more talks, rumors, smoke, blood... 

He practiced his Buddhist breathing. He realized that he hadn't paid nearly enough attention to the lessons on breathing. He shrugged and tried to fake it until he made it, and he breathed all wrong. The world had gone mad, and it was all over essentially nothing, and the opposing forces were sworn to keep fighting until well beyond death, because the other side was so deeply, ungodly WRONG, and that, as they say, was that. 

Rubbery Dmitry, The Mad Monk closed his eyes. He thought. You might say he prayed. You'd be wrong, but forgiven for saying that. He heard his mother again - be still. He snorted, for although he knew exactly what it meant to be still, he had yet to master - or even honestly attempt - the art of being still. 

He took a deep breath, told all of his personal woes - as well as those of the universe around him - to give him a minute, and searched for stillness.

And it stopped. All of it.

And he heard his mother say, "Good, good. Steady... Now what?"

Sunday, December 30, 2018

2018: It's Not "All Good" - At All - But It's All Good

This photograph is old enough to drink - and it probably should. I know I've used it in previous posts, but it's just so apropos, I couldn't help but bring it back. Look how "great" Bart is, again. So much great!

Me: Hey, 2018. Happy last day of your life!

2018: Hi, you! Happy-- wait. What?

Me: Nothing. So. Here we are. It's December 31st...

2018: Uh oh...

Me: Yeah. Uh oh. I knew we'd end up here, because I'm nothing if not a pragmatist - and a realist. So, let's do the band-aid thing.

2018: The what? And you're a what?

Me: This is a band aid, and I'm ripping it off. We're breaking up.

2018: That's dumb. What a dumb idea. I'm the best year you've ever had, and you know it. It's all good, baby.

Me: I'm pretty sure we agreed that "it's all good" was something that we were not saying, anymore. It's so... 1998. Also, calling me "baby?" No. We talked about that, too.

2018: You love it.

Me: I do not. So, listen - I said, at the end of 2017, that it would be a challenge for you to be worse than last year. That sounds almost cute, now. I'm sure it wasn't easy, and I admit that it was close, but congratulations, I guess. You did it. You kinda were.

2018: What are you talking about? I was great.

Me: Okay. At this point, I feel obligated to inform you that I know what gaslighting means.

2018: That sounds fake. I don't know about that fake news stuff. I was probably - lots of people have told me this - I was potentially the greatest year since ever.


2018: Are you still there?

Me: I should go.

2018: We have nothing but fun. I don't see what the problem is. Remember March Madness? That was awesome.

Me: I don't remember March Madness.

2018: Well, what about that tax cut? I fixed everything with that. 

Me: You fixed literally nothing, and since I live in a "blue" state, I've spent 9 months living in fear of the refund I'm used to becoming a debt I'll owe, in a few months. Nice.

2018: But I brought much-needed rains...

Me: Floods. You brought floods - and record-breaking hurricanes and fires. You wiped a couple of nice little towns off the map and killed a bunch of people.

2018: They deserved it. They weren't my people.

Me: You're a unit of time. Isn't everyone your people?

2018: They didn't like me, so maybe they shouldn't have done what they did to get killed. It's not my fault. You're missing the point on purpose to make me look bad. Unfair!

Me: The "point?" What is this "point" that I'm missing? 

2018: The point is, I'm the greatest year possibly ever, and you can't admit it, because you've been brainwashed by 2016's deep-year operation, and it's sad. SAD! I treated you so fantastic, and you repay me by showing ZERO loyalty. You're very low IQ, and I just realized you're very ugly, and a loser.

Me: I think we're done, here. 

2018: Wait! Wait! What about the good times? Even your fake memory can't cover up the good times.

Me: Like what? What good times?

2018: Um... Simple Minds?

Sarah, Charlie, Cherisse, Jim, Gordie, Ged,, and a sold-out 9:30 Club.
Me: Okay, that was pretty special - but I think the band and the audience provided that magic...

2018: Nope. All me! I did that! But you can't bear to give me any credit! Disgraceful!

Me: Whatever, '18. I'm hanging up, now...

2018: But what about when I killed those children because their parents tried to save them by bringing them to the US without being white and financially secure? That was hilarious!

Me: Are you kidding me??

2018: Okay, okay. I have to go, anyway. And I never liked you. But I have just two words to say to you...

Me: *sigh* Two words. Fine. What?

2018: Lord. Stanley's. Cup.

The Greatest Player, with the metallic manifestation of his greatest dream.

2018: See?

Me: You had your moments. Let's just say goodbye.

2018: Okay. I-broke-up-with-you-first-I-never-even-liked-you-and-you're-ugly-and-low-IQ-and-I-win-bye!

Me. *sigh*

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Blind Buck and "Woozy," the Invisible Seeing-Eye Dog - A Fable That Happens To Happen At Christmastime

Can you see me now?

The rails and ties were covered in frost, and the wood smoke from every chimney in Hancock permeated the icy Maryland air. Buck lifted his face to the morning sun, which he could feel but not quite see, and inhaled deeply the scents of a new winter. There was a hint of pine, courtesy of the garlands that the town had draped from lamp post to lamp post, the length of West Main Street.

"Smells like Christmas, Woozy," he said quietly, to the German shepherd that no one ever saw. "It's a big day. How are you feeling, buddy?"

Woozy woofed in agreement with whatever his master had just said, then resumed racing in blurry, nausea-inducing circles on the sidewalk. He didn't even slow down to barf, this time.

Buck sniffed the air again, and frowned. "Oh, for Pete's sake, Woozy. That is just foul. Settle down."

Woozy settled down, which here means continued to run in circles, almost slowly enough to be seen.

"Slow down. I swear, you must be part greyhound," Buck said, with a smile and a slight shake of his head. "Are we still on West Main? We need to turn left on Pennsylvania, then it's another left in three blocks, got it? And please, no more vomiting. I'm already nervous enough. I don't need to worry about your perpetually upset stomach."

Blind Buck was, in fact, nervous. He hadn't deliberately interacted with a non-hobo in at least six years, and he was about to give it a final try. It was December 24th, 1937. Buckley "Blind Buck" Conrad, now over ninety percent blind, on account of his aggressive early-onset cataracts, was shambling through Hancock, Maryland for the first time in about a dozen years - assuming you don't count the time in 1933, when the sheriff paraded him up and down West Main Street in shackles, as some sort of warning to other hoboes not to show their soot-caked faces on this town's fair streets, lest they suffer a similar fate.

Woozy, the invisible seeing-eye dog - who was technically not invisible, but merely very hard to see because of his tendency to run in impossibly quick circles around his human - paused for a nanosecond and poked Buck in the calf with his nose. Buck knew that this meant, be still; there's an authority figure looking our way, so he stopped walking and pretended to be entranced by the nearest shop window. While he performed his fake browsing, his mind took a break, and replayed some of the steps that had led him from admiring this store window as a child to faux-admiring it as a homeless, nearly-blind drifter.

Step one: He was a round-faced little boy with candle-lit blue eyes, staring slack-jawed at the toy tanks and assorted cowboy hats and "Indian" headdresses in the shop window at the corner of West Main and Pennsylvania, clutching his mother's hand, trying in vain to keep her from moving further along the Christmassy thoroughfare. 

Step two: His shell-shocked (whatever that meant) father, slumped in his chair trying to listen to the radio while his desperately drunk and equally unwell mother berated him with passionate, incoherent nonsense. Nine-year old Buckley made himself as small as he possibly could - though not small enough.

Step three: Seven years later, fearing for his life - and that of his broken, inert father - he packed a sack full of pants and shirts and bread and apples, and fled. His father's final words to him were, "You, you can save; for me it's too late. Go, son. But for God's sake, see a doctor about your eyes, first."

Step four: On the run from a gang of high school boys in Richmond, each stride a scorching reminder of the bruises and malnutrition he had endured. A dog bit him, removing a small chunk of calf muscle. He momentarily lost track of where he was, and why he was remembering all this stuff, but Woozy stepped gently on his foot, which meant, focus, boss. 

Steps five through nine: Frostbite took two of his toes. He lost his bindle sack - twice. He sprained everything. The Great Depression was felt literally everywhere. His mother had died (no word on how), and his father now sat in a veterans' home, incessantly asking everyone he saw if they knew when his son would be coming.

Step ten: Buck, now nearly blind and almost as broken as his old man had been when he returned from the War To End All Wars, decided to save his pop, and in the process, with any luck, himself. Woozy bonked him in the other leg, which meant, the authority figure is moving on - let's go...

"I'm going, I'm going," Buck muttered. "Don't rush me." He walked slowly, following Pennsylvania Avenue for one block, two blocks, and three, feeling the pavement with his thin cane as he shuffled forward. Woozy confirmed Buck's intuition, and indicated that it was time to turn left, by racing in spectacularly, invisibly fast counterclockwise circles around him whacking the backs of Buck's legs with his tail on each pass. Buck smelled the canine upchuckery almost before he heard it. "Oh, come on, Woozy..."

He stopped in front of the veterans' home, reached down and patted his trusty German shepherd on the head. Woozy woofed, embarrassed at the public display of affection, and resumed his hypersonic racing about. Buck took a deep breath, felt his way through the front door, and informed the first blurry person that spoke to him that he was Morris Conrad's son, and he was there to wish him a merry Christmas.

"And a very merry Christmas to you, as well," came an ancient, tired, gravel-filled voice from just beyond the fuzzy reception area. "I've been waiting for you. I told you he would come," he nearly shouted to the rest of the room. "I told you!"

"Merry Christmas, Pop," Buck said. "Woozy old boy - this is my Pop. Say hello." The dog opted instead to continue running in tiny circles on the front porch of the veterans' home.

"Yeah, yeah - Merry Christmas - we've covered that," the elder Conrad laughed, "So... where are we headed?"

Monday, December 17, 2018

Amorous Luminous Dirk, And How He Thinks He Does It

I'm often asked by no one ever about romance on the American hobo road. Well, in a word, it's.

In two words, it's complicated. 

With the penniless wandering and camping and being chased and beaten and arrested and beaten some more and re-arrested and the losing of toes and fingertips in winter, and the summertime bouts of poison ivy and malaria - and also the bad stuff - hoboes had enough on their plates. Initiating, developing, and sustaining relationships just didn't factor into the average hobo's plans.

Amorous Luminous Dirk was not the average hobo. He was spectacularly successful with the ladies, both hobo and non-hobo. He was the maestro of the hobo pickup line. The reality show bachelors of 2018 could take a lesson from this filthy drifter. 

[Editor's note: It was the 1930s. Times were different. Men were different. Women were different. Everything was different.]

In no particular order, here are Amorous Luminous Dirk's ten favorite pickup lines:

  1. Hi. Yes, that is a lint ball in my pocket, but I am definitely happy to see you, nonetheless...
  2. Did it hurt? When you fell from heaven - or from the running board of the refrigerated box car that carried you here from heaven - or the stock yards? Or Baltimore? I think you know what I'm trying to say, wink-wink...
  3. Top of the evening to you, m'lady. I can just tell that you didn't vote for Hoover... 
  4. My parents died of gangrene, after having their lower legs shredded by an angry mother black bear of whom they ran afoul along the Appalachian trail in 1928 - what horrible fate met your folks...
  5. I'm sure you hear this a hundred times a day, but I would trade all the creosote and plywood in the world for five seconds of holding your hand...
  6. I fought in the Great War, and I came home in one piece. My pension will afford us a lovely little home in Utica, with a yard and a white picket fence and a dog, and I promise you here and now that my drunken night terrors have all but cleared up, so whaddaya say, doll...
  7. Do you like beans? 'Cuz I... Wait - where are you going...
  8. Hey, baby - have I got a New Deal for you...
  9. How d'you do, ma'am - Do you know what bio-luminescence is?
  10. Hi. I'm sorry I am a hobo. I promise that I am a good and honorable, righteous and respectful man. May I please have this dance? I promise to disappear at your slightest frown of disapproval...

He had other lines, some more effective than others, but almost none of them landed. Until, that is, the night in mid-1942 when he snuck into the war bonds fundraiser under the stars in Allentown, where he tried #9 on Ol' Barb Stab-You-Quick, and his whole world changed...


Wednesday, December 12, 2018

88 Lines About An Additional 44 Hoboes

Re-inspired by a band called The Nails (and by rereading 88 Lines About 44 Hoboes), here are...

  • The only thing that Irontrousers The Strong couldn't lift was was himself - out of grinding poverty - because it was the Great Depression - and he was a hobo. That's how it worked, back then. 
  • Thad The Bunter couldn't swing a bat to save his life, but he was crazy-fast. He hit cleanup for the Cleveland Indians for over fifteen years, to the tune of a .329 average, before retiring and going hobo.
  • Gila Monster Jr. could kill a grown man with his venom. Unfortunately for him, he inherited his father's sluggishness, and was beheaded with a garden hoe for no reason.
  • The high-flying acrobat career of Giancarlo, The Master Of The Metal Trapeze was short. Metal trapezes both attract and conduct electricity.
  • Roadhouse Ogilvy And Sons joined Hobo Nation as a family on a rainy Saturday in 1930, the day after Mrs. Ogilvy ran away. She managed to evade them for the rest of her long, hard, happy life of freedom.
  • Finnish Jim was one of the saddest tramps around. On the hobo road, there was no vodka to be found.
  • Flemish Jim was hobo number 42. His unique dialect rendered his theory on the answer to "the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything" completely incomprehensible to his friends.
  • Todd Four-Flush always swore that he was going to get a job and leave the hobo life. His friends had a running bet regarding his boasts, which no one ever won.
  • Peter Ox-Hands could do pretty much anything except build watches. His only desire was to build watches.
  • Thoughtless Harry Hsu couldn't remember any of his friends' birthdays. Fortunately for him, they couldn't, either.
  • Everyone assumed that Sir Roundbelly DeDelight was simply a glutton, although he was rarely seen eating. Sadly, his massively-distended abdomen was caused by a rare deformity called "hunchstomach," and there was no cure.
  • Flea Stick made straight candy canes, using whatever ingredients he could find on his person. No one would ever eat them.
  • Senator Cletus Scoffpossum was forced to resign his seat in the Hobo Congress. Apparently, repeatedly betraying the public trust and being a homeless Hoover sympathizer was acceptable, but Hobo Nation drew the line at making fun of pint-sized marsupials.
  • They told Twistback John, The Scoliosis Sufferer, "You'll never survive this great war with that curved spine." Most of them died, while his curved spine saved his life by bending out of reach of the bullet that passed non-fatally through him.
  • "X," The Anonymous Man Or Woman wrote scathing op-ed pieces for the LA Times throughout the Great Depression. They were equal parts eloquent defenses of the New Deal and juvenile personal attacks on several hoboes who were mean to him or her, and on all the wrong politicians.
  • The Fishin' Physician wasn't a hobo at all. It just happened that his favorite place to catch widemouth bass was from a low trestle that carried the Southern Railway over a slow-flowing creek in southern Georgia and well, word got around.
  • Mariah Nix said no a lot. She could have married ten times or more.
  • Von Skump sang drinking songs and tried to incite singalongs. The hobo world would have been into it, were it not for those Disney-esque lyrics.
  • Clinical Psychiatrist Hugo Rivera could tell you exactly why you did those things you do. What he couldn't do, which spelled his demise, was tell mosquitoes from common flies.
  • Slow Motion Jones was a 48 frames per second hobo in a 24 fps world. His life moved half as fast, but his film ran out in half the time.
  • Prostate Davey peed a lot. It wasn't cancer, and it didn't kill him, but boy howdy did it ever hurt. 
  • When a hobo needed someone found, they knew to call DiCapa The Hound. Something else that rhymes with hound.
  • The most noteworthy thing about Ponytail Douglas Winthrop was his long, neatly-arranged forearms. He earned upwards of thirty cents a day, fetching out of reach products from grocery shelves for short people.
  • Hoboes from coast to coast knew the story of Lil' Johnny Songbird, The Songbird-Eater. It was as bad as it sounds.
  • No one picked Meep Meep, The Italian Tailor to survive the hobo wars. He showed them all by converting haute couture to burlap-and-lint, and headlining the runway show at the great hobo jamboree of 1939.
  • Stun Gun Jones earned his hobo named accidentally. His 1922 Colt pistol misfired every time, resulting in a bright flash and loud bang, but no casualties, ever.
  • Bathsheba Ditz bathed naked in the best Southern Pacific swimming holes. The leadership saw, and it was all downhill from there.
  • The hobo life suited Parlor Peter, The Sneak Thief. He never wanted for pilfered windowsill pies or board games.
  • Del Folksy-Beard was clean-shaven when I met him. Full disclosure: I met him in a progressive care facility in 1992, when he was eighty years old.
  • Lonnie Choke always made the playoffs. He never made the second round, and we never forgave him for it.
  • You would think that Drinky Drunky Thom, The Drunk, would have loved the hobo life, on account of his raging alcoholism. You'd be wrong, though, you pre-judgmental stereotyper. 
  • If you were a hobo in the late 1930s and you found yourself in front of a magistrate, you wanted Alan Pockmark, Esq. to represent you. He knew next to nothing about law, but his face made judges reflexively bang their gavels and clear their courtrooms, so his acquittal rate was a solid fifty percent.
  • Although he never faced a fourth down, Canadian Football Pete was always ten yards downfield before the quarterback released the ball. We should all be allowed to run toward the line of scrimmage prior to the snap.
  • Freak Le Freak, The Freakster grew up in the sideshow, enduring endless monsoons of hurtful words and rotten vegetables. He was yanked from homelessness by a Hollywood tycoon, and later brought the house down when he sang "This Is Me" at the Oscars.
  • Jethro The Pagan hated being asked about his faith. It's no fun being the hobo who ruined Christmas by predating it by so many hundreds of years.
  • No one could sing "Code Monkey" quite like Jonathan William Coulton, The Colchester Kid. It was his song; he wrote it.
  • Some Tennessee rockabilly redneck named Elvis something-or-other frequently stole pants, before becoming the King. Rex Spangler, The Bedazzler - a lowly hobo - tried a dozen times to assassinate him for it, before finally succeeding in 1977.
  • Ovid was an epic hobo. His Metamorphoses have stood the tests of both time and high school Latin class.
  • Chicken Nugget Will always ate beans. It was the '30s and chicken nuggets didn't exist, yet.
  • Chainmail Giles Godfrey survived a torrid affair with Ol' Barb Stab-You-Quick. He was hard to stab.
  • Some hoboes were downright monstrous. Cthulhu Carl's tentacles were short and stubby, so he wasn't that scary.
  • Sherlock-Holmes-Hat Carl III only wore it ironically, though he was quick to admit that those flaps could keep his ears warm like nobody's business. He lived a long, long hobo life, never having found just the right pipe.
  • Mickey The Assistant Manager could authorize discounts and exchanges, but not refunds. He never held the keys to the lint store, and that haunted him the length of his days.
  • Patrick Intergalactic was not, in fact, born in a distant galaxy. He was from the ice fields of Hyperion. 

Thanks for making it all the way to the end - again!  And yes, I'm aware that there are 45 hobo names here, but the extra one is Ol' Barb Stab-You-Quick, so what are you gonna do?

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Diego The Spark-Spitter Ruins Everything But Not Really

Oh dear - did I do that?

Some of my hobo stories are what I've never referred to as "one-drink tales," owing to their simplicity. They're mere anecdotes, the kind that can be imparted over the course of a single beer. It's easy to be succinct, I always say, when there's little to be said. I never say that. I don't know what I thought I was trying to pull off, there. Apologies to you all. I won't let it happen again (spoiler alert: I will totally let it happen again).

Diego José Ramirez Burchill was born in 1904 in a tiny, nameless village in Durango, Mexico. A year later his mother, Maria, carried him to a border crossing in the Big Bend area of south Texas, following the untimely gila monster- and habanéro-related death of his Scottish father, Ged MacMillan Burchill. They came to America in a caravan of approximately twenty migrants, and they weren't fleeing anything. This is because there weren't as many people, back then, and MS-13 had not yet been invented. They were allowed passage without question, because the United States was a LOT more chill, in 1905.

Maria found a job in a restaurant in Marathon, Texas, where she worked fifty hours a week and managed to keep up with the rent on a tiny room in a group house - and to raise Diego. They were poor, but she paid taxes and more or less learned English, and survived. 

She couldn't afford a proper dentist for Diego, so she took him to a cut-rate practitioner outside of town - the one with the sign that read, "Mexicans and Indians welcome." This man deserves his own story, but suffice to say here that he was a technically gifted dentist and oral surgeon; his work was impeccable. But, with so many destitute patients, he couldn't afford silver or gold for fillings, and instead used a blend of steel, aluminum, and nickel. By the time Diego reached the age of twenty, his mouth was full of this stuff. 

His fillings served him well, even after he left home to join the hobo nation, upon learning that his mother had voted for Hoover. But during his first frosty homeless winter in the central plains, he received his first crown - from a hobo dentist and traveling roofer who used an amalgam of ceramic plastic and flint.

From that day forth, the flint and steel in Diego's mouth created a spray of sparky spittle whenever he spoke. He instantly became Diego The Spark-Spitter. His incendiary breath was more blessing than curse, on the hobo road. He was invaluable when a campfire was needed and matches were nowhere to be found. He could scare off all manner of threats - both wildlife and human. His sparkling, smoky spit made everything he said more interesting. And his kisses, though seldom seen, were positively electric. "Just ask Ol' Barb Stab-You-Quick," he would say with a crackling phosphorous grin.

But, there was that one time.

The original hoboes, as we've seen repeatedly in these little biographies, were first and foremost a migrant labor force, constantly seeking employment. Diego had a knack for finding temporary work, and in the summer of 1938, he landed a gig helping to unload fireworks from a boxcar to a freight house in Kansas City. It was on a sweltering July 1st that he ruined two dozen Independence day celebrations from Kansas City to Overland Park and beyond - with a sneeze. As he helped three fellow laborers in lifting a pallet of fireworks onto a forklift, a gnat (or possibly some manner of no-see-um) flew up his nose, got stuck, tickled him mercilessly, and caused the sneeze that ignited all the fireworks in western Missouri, three days too soon.

So, yes. Diego The Spark-Spitter did indeed ruin a lot of municipal fourth of July fireworks displays, that year. But he and his coworkers suffered only superficial burns, and he was still good for lighting campfires and whatnot, and the three dozen witnesses to the debacle all agreed that it was the most spectacular fireworks display that any of them had ever seen.

So, he wasn't all bad. And this beer is empty...

Ten And Oh...

Someday, Buck. Someday...

Hi! I may or may not be back! I've been... well, I've been paying attention to the world, for a bit. This resulted in the abrupt and acute shutdown of Every Single Creative Atom In My Body. But then, in July, I started yet another novel, forcing myself to conjure words, as one might force a foot into an ill-fitting shoe. I had over 50,000 words by July's end, but apparently, there was still a lot more story to tell, at that point. 

So I kept writing.

Eleven times, I've taken on this challenge. Ten times, I've succeeded. I first attempted National Novel Writing Month in 2009, as an unemployed layabout, and I "won," which here means I managed to crank out a 50,000-word novel in the span of 30 days. I was immensely proud of that accomplishment, but I had a few more stories to tell - which is more impressive if you know me and my life, both of which are somewhat lacking in story fodder.

Fast-forward to late-November, 2018. Between the traditional November National Novel Writing Months and the summertime Camp NaNoWriMo sessions, I have now written *TEN* novels. More accurately, that's ten first drafts of novels. And two of them - maybe three, now - might have a smidgen of potential. But here's the thing: I've only ever bothered to reread one of them. I've done no real rewrites - only minor self-editing. My beta readers consist of [Maris] and one friend. I have no editor, no agent, no idea what I'm supposed to do next.

Okay, that's not entirely true. I have a vague understanding of what I should do next. I should get some beta readers' notes on my work, engage a professional editor, and find some sort of agent-like thing to move one or two of these stories from my laptop to the world, and metamorphose from writer to author. 

But that just sounds like work. I still have like six hundred hoboes to tell you about. As much as I would love to share some of these longer pieces with you and everyone else, I'd rather just keep writing. Apparently, creating another scene, another character, another happy ending, is more important to me at the moment than is sharing any of the previously-created scenes, characters, and happy endings.

So, we have a problem. Immovable object, I'd like to introduce you to irresistible force. Oh? You've met? That's wonderful. I'm sure you two totally hit it off, like, immediately...

Okay, so, I'm not allowed to write anything new until I've done something with these first drafts. There is work to be done. The fun part is over. It's time to tear down, to rewrite, to market, and to sell, sell, sell.

[sad face]

It only makes sense, right?

Um, nope. It is December of 2018. Look around. Have you seen the universe, lately? I need this - obviously. I will edit if I feel like editing. I'll do rewrites if and when I feel like doing rewrites. And I'll engage editors and agents and lawyers and the market when they all show up on my doorstep and engage ME! And that, as they say, will be that.

In the meantime, I will tell you what Irontrousers The Strong did to deserve his Wes Craven-esque fate. I'll explain why Manatee The Railyard Toreador was so afraid of leaves. I might even describe, in uncomfortably explicit detail, how Swing State Myron acquired his hobo name. And maybe I'll Get All Bloggy, once or twice.

I've been plodding through my story of Milo and Rachel and their "nodus tollens" since July 1st, and while I absolutely love them to bits, I have to re-learn how to tell a story in a thousand words. Or to vent and bitch and tell you what I've been doing or what I should be doing or what I wish I were doing. Or to simply blather on and on without saying anything.

It's my blog, and I'll ruin it as I see fit. What are you gonna do, *START* reading it? 


Join me for whatever comes next. Or don't. It's all the same to the universe...