Friday, November 13, 2009

Slow Going on re: the writing.

Well, I hit almost 19,000 words, but man is it slow-going lately. Something is going on. When I sit down to write, I become incredibly exhausted and can barely stay awake. I also have the constant droning that this isn't important, or won't be good.

Jenn Dlugos, who teaches the screen writing class I decided to take with my friend Dot, said this week that there is no such thing as writer's block, it is just "fear of writing something down because it won't be good enough."

I agree.

She also mentioned something I've heard many times, (but sometimes it is the 10,000th time I hear something that I "get it."

Jenn said, "all first drafts aren't good, but you can't edit a blank page."

Point taken. So I am telling myself that while I think all the stuff I am writing now is trash, I can always back and delete it or change things around. It is 5:40pm and I swear, I am passing out. I forced myself to write about 600 words yesterday and 700 or 800 today. Not much, but better than nothing. I am going to lay down, maybe snooze and see if I can write a wee bit more later.

I also went to a job fair today and liked a couple of the companies, but was appalled at some of the salaries. I am hoping to find something I love so I am not worried about the horrendous salary.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

I Heart New York

I Heart New York

So I headed to NYC today to see my pal MYQ Kaplan perform stand up for a comedy central taping. In the past, I have had success parking at a Metro Station in Connecticut and taking the train in from there, about an hour ride. I have been to NYC before, so I came prepared.

I was somewhat dreading having to be in New York at this particular point in time, marinating with obnoxious, gloating Yankee fans on the verge of another world title.

Remove all Red Sox paraphernalia from sight in vehicle- check

Scatter trash in backseat to reduce likelihood anyone would expect to find anything of value in vehicle- check.

Remove cash (except three bucks to make it look good) and credit cards (except expired BJ's card and an old library card) from wallet- check

Tape credit card to inner thigh- check

Put money in sock- check

Slip shiv inside right shirt sleeve- check

Hand sanitizer- check

Ready to rock- check.

The train ride was pretty mellow, but as we got closer to New York City and Grand Central Station, I could feel it- the presence of NYC. I would have to be on guard. I wisely had left any Red Sox and/or Patriots gear in Massachusetts, so I thought as long as I kept my head and didn't pronounce anything with an “r” in it, I cold pull this trip off safely.

Arriving at Grand Central, I walk with brisk purpose even though I had no idea where I was going. After covering several city blocks only to wind up back at that same spot, I approached the information booth carefully. Speaking to the clerk in broken english, I managed, “What freakin' train do ya take to 10th and 59th? The head gasket on my freakin' Camaro is pissing oil and my old lady tells me to take the freakin' train, if you can believe it.”

The clerk eyed me, but bought the act hook, line and sinker.

“Take the shuttle to Times Square, yeah, heh? Then the one train to 59th and 8th and ya can walk the two blocks.”

I grabbed my package and half grimaced like I had bad sausage earlier in the day- so far so good.

I hopped on the shuttle, but being unaware that it was one stop, back and forth, I ping ponged a couple times before I whispered to an elderly woman, “Is this Times Square?”

I proceeded to get on the one train, but again didn't realize it was only an express train and 59th street was the first stop. I went to 66th, then reversed direction and made it back to 59th in no time. Exiting the building, I noticed there was a 58th street running parallel to 60th street, but no 59th. Was it a trap? I wasn't sure, but it didn't look good. I asked a kid with a skateboard for directions to 59th street.

He fumbled around and brought up Columbus Avenue, so I figured he was from out of town or had sustained brain damage riding the skate board. He apologized and sat on a stone bench. I read the bottom of his skateboard which had his phone number and “if found please call.” I now saw my mistake. This kid was obviously from pout of town. No New Yorker would be fool enough to think a skateboard would actually returned if lost. Secondly, if you somehow misplace a skateboard, I might side with the Big Applers and refuse to reward such stupidity with a skateboard.

I found a policeman who informed me that 59th street ended before the station. He pointed me in the right direction. I am almost there, I am early, and as yet, no major mishaps or trouble. Walking toward 59th, I spotted a Philadelphia Phillies fan coming the other direction, brazenly wearing a Phillies hat. You had to admire those Phillies cats- absolutely fearless.

He had chewing tobacco in his lip and a bulge under is jacket that said AK47. I think it was a tad big for a saw off shotgun and too small to be an uzi or some sort of bazooka. He met my eyes as I gave the slightest nod from behind my cornea, visible only to another navigating through enemy territory. He returned the nod, but it was visible. I was filled with admiration as I thought, “you crazy bastard, you'll give me away.

I maintained my cover as I made my way toward Gerald Lynch Auditorium at John Jay College, where the taping was being held. I stopped for hot nuts on the way. I hate hot nuts and have actually never eaten hot nuts, but they help you blend in. The mistake I made last time was failure to discard the nuts
when they grew cold. No "real" New Yorker would ever let his/her nuts cool.

I had time to kill before the show. making my way up to a Starbucks. As I entered the establishment, I held the door for an elderly woman behind me.

Without thinking, I had blown my cover. The old broad read I was from out of town, but from the look of fear in my eyes and her years of savvy and experience, she rightly guessed Boston. She clicked her heel, and reflective of a James Bond flick, a sharp dagger protruded from the front of her right shoe. I got my foot up for the block and she swung it toward my knee, the poisonous tip inches from breaking the skin and injecting me with instant death.

I thrust downward at the crest of her ankle, relishing the crack which preceded her groan of agony. Feigning a downward swoon, she swung upward with the tip of her cane, also seemingly tipped with some sort of of poisonous substance. I barely evaded the cane assault, gripping the shaft and twisting it around, ending her attack by thrusting the javelin-like cane into her ribcage.

There were about forty people in the Starbucks, but luckily no one noticed as they were either retrieving or ordering lattes or focused on cell phone conversations.

I left the hag's now limp body on the floor and got in live for a beverage, trying to act natural. the next few patrons casually stepped over the cadaver and stood in line. I had maintained. I ordered small mocca with one pump of chocolate. When I went to pick up my order, I absently said, "thanks". You guessed it- cover blown. the barista dropped a pumpkin spice latte and hurdled the counter. I loosened the cover of my steaming latte, hurling toward the face of the charging coffeeman. buying myself a few seconds, I fled toward the door, hoping the old lady's body on the floor had not yet garnered attention.

As I wheeled around the corner, I reduced my pace to a steady gait, blending in with the foot traffic east on 59th street. I had escaped a fatal situation with ease. Perhaps a little too easy, I thought. Easing toward the theater, content to wait in the lobby at this point, I began to relax a bit the farther I got from the donnybrook in Starbucks.

With about a block to go, a heard a strange sound coming from a side street not much bigger than a narrow alley. It stopped me in my tracks. "Was that a baby crying?" I wondered. Curiosity and concern got the better of me and I headed down the slim side street to investigate. The sound seemed to be coming from behind a discarded cardboard box. I rounded the box and was stunned to see an abandoned baby carriage. The cries were consitent. As I closed on the carriage, a fluffy pink blanket appeared to cover the baby. As I peeled it back, I realized a moment too late that I had been set up.

A small tape recorder played the soft cries of a baby over and over. I did a double take as the baby sprang to its feet, not a baby at all, but rather a midget wielding a home made weapon. The angry dwarf lunged at me with the home-fashioned shank. The device appeared to be comprised of the handle of a pacifier attached to a bic pen welded to a toothbrush handle. The toothbrush had been melted down, then honed into a spike to form the business end of the weapon. I snapped to a bit late, as the thrust winged my cheek.

"I'm gonna send you back to beantown in a bawdy bag, punk."

I thrust forward a palm-heel to the forehead of the fake baby, rendering him unconscious. Using my latte napkin to pad the blood from my cheek, I quickly exited the alleyway and headed toward the theater.

The show came off without a hitch. At some point during the warm, I recalled George Constanza's strategy of looking annoyed to appear busy. I wondered if I could use the same strategy to blend in as a native New Yorker. As I walked to the train, I remembered all the incoveniences of the trip: not being able to park at the first train station I went to and having to find a second, not being allowed to sit in the library at John Jay Colege because I wasn't a student or police officer, the internet connection not working, no seats at Starbucks. I genuinely grew irritated as I thought about, adopting a tightness around my lips and stiffened brow. As I walked through Grand Central Station, I noticed the locals warming up to me, giving occasional nod.

I made it home in one piece, end of story.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009


Well today is a special day. My friend MYQ Kaplan is taping his first special for Comedy Central. His name is MYQ now because he is smart, and realized 6 or 7 years ago when he was starting in comedy that Mike Kaplan was a common name, but there's something about the power of the Q, maybe a concept he stole from the people who name radio stations.

A zillion people with talent come along, but I always knew MYQ would "make it", whatever that means, because he is what would be known in poker circles as a "grinder", a worker bee churning out small gains everywhere he plays. In comedy, we refer to this affectionately as being a "stage whore", which is no way intended to be a derogatory term.

MYQ would hit the stage as many times a night as he could, right from the beginning. He'd do five minutes at one joint, then hop on a train or drive across Boston, Saugus, Dorchester, New Hampshire to get another five minutes.

Don't get me wrong, this s.o.b. is funny as hell, and is a true comedian in the best sense of the word. MYQ is a craftsman, and I hate to use a hackneyed comparison, but his workmanlike approach to comedy reminds me of Jerry Seinfeld. Not his style, his professionalism. If you've ever seen the fantastic documentary, "Comedian", you'd know what I meant by that.

The end product is a crisp, clean, perfectly timed joke, but often the recipe for the end product involved rap sessions with other comics, and relentless perfecting of a joke, trimming, scaling down, economizing until you have the best joke you can possibly have. Of course without the natural talent of being funny, this is all mute, but combined with humor, this ethic produces fantastic comedy routines, and Kaplan is the perfect example of this.

He can tell a short story, riddled with punch lines. He can shoot one liners all day. And his sets are bam bam bam, he keeps coming at you the entire time, joke joke joke joke joke, and the true gift of the master is how natural and relaxed it all looks, like this guy has all day, is in no rush and is running the show.

Beyond the talent and the work ethic, MYQ is one of the genuinely nicest people I've met in comedy. He is smart, humble and simply a guy you just want to root for. I will be rooting for him today at the Gerald Lynch Theater on the corner of 10th and West 59th in New York City.

The only part of this trip I am not excited about is having to marinate in NYC with all those obnoxious, gloating Yankee fans.

The plan is to drive to Westport, Ct. and take the train from there, a strategy I have used when traveling to the big city a few times. I am bringing my laptop so I can write on the train ride in which takes 69 minutes, according to the Metro North schedule. I like the train, it is very relaxing, especially in comparison to navigating through Manhattan in a car- no thanks.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Nanowrimo 2009

Well, it's that time again- National Novel Month. The object is to write a novel of 50,000 words in one month. Last year, I was totally focused on word count, just to prove to myself I could write that much in a month. Consistency and discipline have always been my greatest obstacles to productivity. While I can't say I came up with anything one could consider a novel, or even one linear or non-linear story, I DID crank out the word count. For me, this was a major achievement.

This year, I have a few friends who are tackling the mammoth task again. I am going to plug away and try to be as consistent as I can be. While I am not writing a novel, but more of an autobiographical piece of what they call "creative non-fiction" nowadays, I am still going to log into nanowrimo and use the word count charts for motivation sake.

I cranked out about 3,500 words today, which is an incredibly productive day for me. I also caught myself doing a little editing, which is a big no-no, it slows you down, and first drafts are first drafts for a reason. If I keep going in an editing, I never go forward. The mission now is to CRANK out volume and fix it later.

Good luck to my friends also writing. I know at least Tom, Claudia and jesse (who successfully wrote her first novel last year) are doing it this year.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Drunk Dream

I had a drunk dream last night. For those who don't know what that is, it's just what it sounds like- you dream about being drunk. This can be unsettling for sober alcoholics. I have the same dream, but have only had it, oh- 10 or 15 times in the last 10 years. It is really more of a nightmare than a dream.

It's a nightmare on the lines of watching Grady Little walk away from the pitcher's mound in Yankee stadium in 2003 after deciding to leave Pedro in with his arm falling off and Matsui coming to the plate.

You would think if you were going to dream about drinking, it would be a fun dream, a 2004, come from down 3-0 dream. A dream of when booze "worked", but I always have the same shitty dream, rare as it is, it is horrifying. In my dream, I already drank, or I drink maybe one beer, and it is a crappy beer like Bud Light. It's too late to change my mind, and I have flushed double digit years of sobriety down the drain. I get absolutely nothing out of it, kinda like the last three years or so I kept trying to get that old effect.

My reputation as Mr. Sobah is obviously in ruins, and I have no identity, because virtually everyone knows me as a sober guy, and most people know me from sobriety. There are still a number of folks, I'm sure, who know me from the "old days". I really don't even think about it, to tell ya the truth, it was another life, but this dream, argh, it is a tough one.

The worst part is that I always wake up in the dream to find that I really DID drink, and my life is crumbling around me. When I finally wake in reality, I am not sure I am awake, then I have to remember, "What did I do? Wait- I didn't drink, right?"

I am grateful that I rarely if ever even think about drinking, and I haven't "wanted" a drink this century. I am one of the fortunate ones with my particular demon. But am I hoping the next time I have a drunk dream it is a wet one, with cute chicks and parties and everyone having a good time, like the way it was with alcohol when it still worked... in like, oh say, the late 1980s. I am exhausted and really looking forward to sleep. My room gets pretty bright in the morning with daylight savings kicking in, or is it over now? Anyway, I am hoping to get some solid shuteye. It's almost 3 a.m., a late night.

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