Monthly Archives: February 2013

Block Break

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Breaking through a substantial writing block is good and bad. Good because stories get finished; if I could be writing four narratives at the same time right now I would be.  Bad because I could be writing four narratives at the same time right now and I can’t be as well as having a job that occasionally consumes my entire day, which is not that bad in that it does so only occasionally.  One by the end of March for certain, two by July if I’m lucky, two fast novellas to follow.  If that can be done then maybe I take a year with the elephant in my room.

Of course I’ll probably lose whatever I’ve got right now by the end of the day.  I actually read a Hemingway quote that seems quite helpful; basically he said to always stop while you know what’s going to happen next, which is good for me because I tend to write into walls and end up painfully editing my way out.  Excerpts to probably come.

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Serving

There is a single mindedness about hospitality that can be pleasantly numbing.  The only way to survive is to make people happy.  Not just customers (guests) unfortunately; managers, fellow servers and cooks all need to view you favorably or you will perish; not die necessarily, but you certainly won’t make any money.  Talk to an experienced server and ask them if they’re “on” at the moment.  If they’re still in the field, the inevitable answer will be, “yes”.  The state of “on” can make it difficult to interact with people you know should they happen into your section or rotation, but after a while your style takes over and you address them as if you are an intermediary between the person they know and the person who is bringing them drinks. 
Some people are quicker to learn how to employ the layers of “on”, these people generally become bartenders.  You’re essentially an actor, or a prostitute (who is also an actor of sorts); you generate a persona that yields the highest net income per customer interaction.  There are lots of servers; the last I saw hospitality was the number three employer behind government and medicine, so much of this information is probably already known or at least understood on some level.
Once you’ve undertaken concurrent sixteen to twenty hour shifts during times of high volume, you have changed; maybe not PST (could be depending on where you work), but definitely the feeling of having passed through a gauntlet.  You are certainly not really you again until you’ve had a few days off.
Morals are constantly tested as well.  Do you tell the truth, or do you lie.  You quickly learn that lying is the best way to go 95% of the time, which is added to the “on” persona that eventually bleeds into your nonworking self; one eventually becoming indistinguishable from the other.  Maybe you don’t work in a meat grinder though.  Maybe you work for a sleepy mom and pop restaurant  whose owners love you and give you semi-managerial responsibilities in these lean times.  They might tell you that people can no longer take their credit card tips at the end of the night because of tax reasons.  They tell you that you can’t take any tips home and you need to turn everything in to them so it can be added to your pay check, and then you show up one day and the locks have been changed; mom and pop are gone and are drinking your money somewhere in Texas.  Coworkers who you repeatedly assured would receive their money call you a few times a day.  Mom and pop have changed their number and likely their identities.  What now?
What now?  Work for corporate restaurants as a mercenary server; viewing your job as that of an independent contractor hired to push a product until a better opportunity presents itself.  View your former coworkers you may wait on with the cold indifference that you might regard a squeegee man at a traffic light.  You are “on”, they are your marks, your only goal is to act in such a way that will cause them to give you their money and come back again to give you more of their money.  Of course, it would be great to have a drink after your shift is over, but you know, it’ll probably be late and you have to open tomorrow morning.  Work sucks, you have bills to pay etc… Wow thank you so much for the 100% tip, you just saved my whole day.  You’ll totally stop by the restaurant they work at on your day off and return the generosity.  But you won’t.  You’ll keep the money and give away another little piece of your soul to keep it. In the end, when and if you’ve escaped the industry, you won’t remember these things, and if you do it will be so much later that no one else will remember them either; these and countless other acts of extreme moral ambiguity undertaken by hospitality industry employees (assuming you’ve undertaken most of them) emerge from your memory as your “off” persona comes back to the fore.  The question becomes; did you survive the industry or are you now so “on” that you don’t even know what it is anymore?


Star-Crossed Meglomaniacs (summary)

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I was going to write some big fiction post about a girl and a boy being tortured in high school and developing a system to cope with their ostracization etc…  Instead I’m just going to leave the details to the imagination, because I honestly hate writing anything about teenagers, high school, or any such YA material.  So long story short; they get tortured in a variety of ways, eventually talk and becomes friends of sorts, design the system illustrated above, become briefly romantically involved, then as their egos get out of control become intensely cruel themselves, ultimately waging an epic high school conflict against one another in which they arm their respective cliques and wage a drug fueled gang war in which the boy is mortally wounded and as the girl holds his head and watches him die realizes the folly of her narcissism and stabs herself in the stomach; dying beside her love and only true friend in the midst of an all out riot in the hallways of their high school.  The scene fades out on the smoke filled hallway as the fight rages on around their embraced corpses.

So if anyone wants to write that long form knock yourself out.  Let me know and I would be happy to help.  I’m unwilling/unable to write in the style that the story requires.   I could probably do it as a play, but I’d probably lose interest in that as well.  I feel like there’s probably a movie from the eighties with a somewhat similar plot line (sans drugs, violence and death), but I can’t think of its name.


Standoff

His name is Milo, he is married to Molly and they stare silently at each other each day waiting for the end of the world or one of their lives.  Molly was an accomplished photographer at some point, but now looks at her camera with the scorn of a jaded lover, or so Milo thinks.


Homage of sorts

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It is a terrible shame.  The estate was immaculate in my youth, but has since fallen into a very regrettable state of disrepair.  Only the groundskeeper and his son reside on the property now; good working people, salt of the earth you know.  In my youth I thought the grand hall was the most amazing thing I had ever seen; it was the sight of countless family events and was by and large the crown jewel in an estate replete with splendor.  Mr. Pickerly bought the estate from us just last year and while he’s not the most social of gentlemen he invested a good deal of his not inconsiderable resources into restoring the home to its proper condition.  Just the other week I took tea with him and answered many questions which seemed to have been on his mind for quite some time.  In the process of renovating some of the ancillary rooms he had come across some peculiar volumes that I honestly have no recollection of being in the main library and can only assume that the groundskeeper or his son had taken up an interest in the occult.

The last I spoke to Mr. Pickerly he told me the most peculiar tale concerning the dumbwaiter.  Apparently while looking for the lowest point of the device he found an extra room in the basement and upon entering realized that it wasn’t a room at all, but the mouth of a long dark tunnel that seemed to run beneath the property.  He wanted to know if I had ever seen this passage, perhaps in my youth, but I had to tell him that I honestly had no idea that it existed.  There was a definite fear and excitement to his questions and although he indicated that he had not yet traversed the passage, he seemed determined to do so even after I warned him several times that it may not be structurally sound and I should be quite regretful to no not take tea with him again because some flight of fancy ended in him being trapped deep in the bowels of the estate.

It was quite a shock when I received a letter several days later containing the details of his first trip down the tunnel.  In my initial perusal of the document I immediately noticed frantically drawn illustrations of a spiral staircase ascending from an abyss; it appeared that he had written the letter over additional similar illustrations that he had for the most part erased.  The text of the letter proved to be equally enigmatic as Mr. Pickerly skipped entire sections of sentences and paragraphs; doubtless a reflection of his frantic mind groping for meaning in something where there seemed to be none.  I sent my doorman Richard over to the old estate with a care package of wine, cheese and bread, but he reported the old house as rather abandoned at the moment.

Fearing for the safety of my new acquaintance, I sent Richard back again, this time with several members of my staff with instructions to find either Mr. Pickerly or the groundskeeper’s son and deduce the cause of the apparent strangeness transpiring in the home I once called my own.

After two days I was at my wits end and was about to pick up the phone and call the authorities when there came a knock on my front door.  I opened the door upon a man possessing most of the physical qualities of Richard, but of age untold.  He silently passed me to enter the house and poured a glass of brandy without any regard whatsoever for my permission to do so.  After looking into the fireplace for no less then fifteen minutes he sat in my chair and removed a package from his coat.  An odd silence came over the room; so much so that my footfalls sounded like the gentle strokes of a paintbrush over canvas.  The package dropped with great weight on the end table and sound rushed back into the room; driving me to my knees with its unmitigated constancy.  He gestured to the misshapen paper envelop implying that I should open its crudely wrapped contents.  I did so carefully and looked upon what appeared at first to be a stack of blank paper.  Moments after laying eyes on the unbound pages, the Grand Hall appeared on the top page; a perfect representation of its heyday and my youth.

Following my looking on the now moving image, Richard started to speak and seemed to go on for hours regarding original language and accursed smallness.  He spoke of a library deep in the abyss of the old estate and the librarians thereof; grand and eyeless, lest they read the text of Undoing.  It took all of my strength to ask regarding the welfare of the other members of my staff, but he only snapped his frozen eyes at mine and continued his wearying monologue.

I awoke to a draft from the open front door and found no trace of Richard except for the pages he had left.  The pages did not seem affected by the wind, as if bound by some unseen power.  They remain untouched on the end table even as I write this, and visibly increase in weight by the hour.  Every day new cracks appear in the wooden table top and its legs.  I dare not touch it as I fear I will be taken by whatever took my doorman, but I cannot leave either.  My staff has abandoned me thinking me mad, but they do not see the pages, they cannot because it was not presented to them and therefore cannot understand.  On nights I sleep I dream of it breaking through the end table and then the floor, falling into the abyss, me with it, becoming part of some forbidden knowledge possessed deep in realms unseen.  Until that time I will look at the Hall and want to be there again young and unknowing.