If that salt has lost its savor, it ain’t got much in its favor

It’s Veterans Day here in the United States, a federal holiday and a state holiday, which when I was a teacher usually meant a one-day weekend. Saturday and Sunday for work, Monday for relaxing. Normal two-day weekends were seldom real weekends — I usually worked both days.

Thank God we have more state holidays than any state in the union. We also have the longest life expectancy, and I don’t think the two are unrelated.

Now that I’m out of the classroom these eight (wow) years, I no longer really work all weekend, but I still put a good amount of time in, either on Saturday or Sunday, so a three-day weekend usually means a normal two-day weekend.

I went to the office Saturday, but only for a literal couple of hours. In the morning, I met two of the NaNo regulars for a small write-in, where I banged out about 4,000 words. Then got a few things moving in the office, then we had Penny’s birthday dinner at Chicken Factory. I was going to try to wring another thousand words or so out of my brain at the boba spot, but I did the Friday 5 instead. It was good for me.

Sunday I did a little bit of tidying up at home and worked on specs for steaming broccoli in the microwave oven. Broccoli is one of my favorite foods and I prefer it blanched above any other method, but I’m trying to take healthier lunches to work during the week, and while blanching isn’t exactly a hassle, if I can work out a good system for microwave steaming, the time and energy I save will be worth the slight decrease in epicuniary pleasure.

I think I’ve almost got it. Also, I ate a ton of broccoli Sunday.

In between attempts, I just napped. It was such a stressful, tiring week. Then I went to the folks’ place to hang out, watch football, do laundry, and have dinner. I did a couple of crossword puzzles, too, which may have been the most therapeutic activity all weekend.

I’d already blocked today off for work and NaNo, and it was pretty productive both ways. I went over the 20K words mark for NaNo (yay) and am ahead of the pace by about a full day, I think. In the very late afternoon I wasn’t feeling physically well, so I took myself for a long walk. Okay, no. I think that was the most therapeutic activity all weekend. During lunch (microwave-steamed broccoli and rice) I got halfway through Linda Sue Park’s 2001 Newbery-winning A Single Shard, which I’m rereading for the first time. I read it the first time when I was working on my thesis and haven’t been back to read it for pleasure. I thought it was time.

My next read was going to be Erin Entrada Kelly’s Hello Universe, the 2018 Newbery winner. I bought it right after the award was announced but never got to it — in fact, didn’t know anything about it — and was really looking forward to getting to it this weekend.

But, you know. NaNoWriMo. November is the worst time to start a new book. I was trying to work out a reward system, where I’d allow myself to read X pages for every 1000 words I wrote this month, when Crush Girl mentioned to me that she thought it looked interesting. So I lent it to her, alleviating myself of my problem while also doing something nice for her, so double win.

I did not know that Kelly is a writer of Filipino descent, which makes it three Asian American writers who’ve won the Newbery. Linda Sue Park’s A Single Shard, Cynthia Kadohata’s Kira Kira, and now this book by Kelly. At a time when people seem to question my American-ness, I have to say this really resonates.

I practically begged Crush Girl to take her time with the book. I really shouldn’t get started on it until December 1.

And speaking of her, I got to hang out with her outside of our usual context for a very brief moment this weekend, with a small group. It was nice. I managed not to spill anything, offend anyone, or break down crying over the sorry state of the world and my sorry place in it, which I’m always in danger of doing when I have a drink or two.

You gotta love alcohol. It really lets you be yourself!

I’ve been moody as heck all day for no discernable reason, unless it has something to do with the work stress, which has been formidable. I feel like I’m on the verge of plunging into the darkness. I was already kind of teetering on the edge because of some of the other work stuff that’s been bumming me out.

Which is why I’m doing this instead of working on NaNo. Just needed to open up the laptop and write whatever. I think it’s helping, at least a little.

The plan, once I finish this, is to put myself to bed at a very early hour (it’s only 8:30 now) and face the new week determined to reflect light, no matter how many attempts others make at putting it under a bushel. If you hide it under a bushel, it’s lost something quite crucial. Don’t quote me — that’s from Godspell.

My calming mantra all of last week was “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” It helped. So this week I’m going to repeat the light of the world stuff to myself and see what happens.

I like it because it is bitter, and because it is my heart. That was my mantra for weeks before last week. I liked it (I liked it because it is bitter and because it is my heart) but I think maybe now I need to focus on more forward-thinking thoughts. This week’s episode of Heavyweight has convicted me about not being who I was, but being who I am and who I hope to be.

The Heavyweight podcast usually inspires while also making me want to stab myself in the heart (my bitter heart) with my own pen because the writing is so good it’s maddening, but this week it just inspired me. It was either not written quite as amazingly as usual, or I’m pretty pleased with the quality of my own output this week.

I just deleted a funny, self-deprecating line here because it wasn’t in keeping with the positive note I hoped to end on. So you’ll just have to imagine it. You’d have laughed!

Mapping the Hero’s Journey

ONE: Ordinary world (let’s say 5000 words)
We meet our hero.

TWO: Call to adventure (5000 words)
The adventure begins.

THREE: Refusal of the call (2500 words)
The hero digs in his feet.

FOUR: Meeting the mentor (2500 words)
The hero acquires a personal trainer

FIVE: Crossing the first threshold (3000 words)
The hero enters the other world in earnest.

SIX: Tests, allies, enemies (5000 words)
The hero faces new challenges and gets a squad.

SEVEN: Approach to the inmost cave (3000 words)
The hero gets closer to his goal.

EIGHT: Ordeal (5000 words)
The hero faces his biggest test of all so far.

NINE: Reward; seizing the sword (3000 words)
The hero sees the light at the end of the tunnel.

TEN: The road back (2500 words)
The light at the end of the tunnel might be further than the hero thought.

ELEVEN: Resurrection (1500 words)
The last test is met.

TWELVE: Return with the elixir (2500 words)
The hero has a triumphant homecoming.

This adds up to 40,500 words, which means I have 9,500 words to play with in hitting my goal. I’m going to have to revisit this every few days because honestly I don’t know how many words it takes to get my character from one step in the journey to the next.

More NaNoWriMo talk Friday.

NaNOOOOOOOOOOOWriMo

It starts midnight tomorrow evening. Last year’s attempt was a disaster, ‘though I can’t feel too bad about it, since the reason was my work trip to Boston, which was wonderful.

I still haven’t settled on a premise, but I have decided I’m going to post all my NaNo writings in this space, for good or ill. Probably for ill. Almost surely for ill. I just feel the need to put my process out there while I’m going through it. I’ll put the NaNo stuff in its own category, then take it all down a week into December.

So you may want to go away for a month and come back around December 8.

I’m not looking forward to the stress of 50K words, but I have to say I’m looking forward to the writing. I need to get something out of me, and NaNo has proven to be a pretty good vehicle for it. I don’t care if it’s good or if it sucks. I mean, it’s sucks — I can pretty safely predict that right now. But the tapping on the keys, the reaching down for some shred of something expressive or creative, for some original thought or a handful of good phrases I might use another time? I need that like a junkie’s craving vein.

Don’t write that last image down — it’s Bruce Cockburn’s. Which reminds me I might want to set up a few playlists for NaNo. Bruce’s lyrics inspire me as a human plodding through this existence and as a writer yearning to express the truth that has been struggling for utterance in me.

Don’t write that last phrase down either. It’s Oswald Chambers’s.


I took the afternoon off from work to watch the World Series. I had visions of taking up residence at a table in a sports bar, perhaps a plate of nachos and a couple of Blue Moons keeping me company as the baseball season comes to its glorious end. I even asked for recommendations on FB.

My problem with sports bars when there’s an event I really want to see, besides my great dislike for bars, is that they tend to be noisy, and they almost always have the sound muted. I’ve been let down more than once, trying to see a World Series game in a sports bar where it seemed I was the only patron remotely interested in the game. So in my request for recommendations, I asked specifically for a place likely to have the sound up.

I cruised past one place in Moiliili, but it was closed. Then I went over to this spot in Manoa near the school, a spot I’m semi fond of, but it was closed too. Hello? People? Do we not understand this is the World Series we’re talking about?

I ended up right where I saw parts of the World Series last year: on campus at Manoa Gardens, where there’s a Vietnamese sandwich shop and supposedly the only place on a supposedly dry campus to get a beer. I actually like the spot since you don’t feel pressure to spend money. It’s as much a study spot as a lunch spot or bar.

I did spend a little bit of money, first on a large Diet Coke and some shrimp chips, and then on a lemongrass chicken banh mi and a Blue Moon. The spot has two large TVs and a small one over the bar. Guess which had the ballgame on?

So annoying. The big screens were showing an NBA game and an NHL game. Insanity. But I still managed to really enjoy my time away from the office, watching a fantastic World Series come to its climax and resolution.

You know what doesn’t have any trouble at all writing its own plot? A ballgame. Sigh.


Don’t ask me about Crush Girl today. I’m having one of my less pleasant nights thinking about her and I’d rather not plunge this evening. Too much on my mind with work and NaNoWriMo for self-indulgent wallowing.


I’m wondering if my drive to find some kind of story to tell is misguided. Most of my favorite books de-emphasize plot, as far as I can tell. Someday I will expound on Lynne Rae Perkins’s Criss Cross, the novel I most wish I’d written, which I just re-read this summer.

My writing partner seems frustrated with my avoidance of plot, and she hated Criss Cross. Haha. But then Criss Cross won the Newbery Medal so what does my writing partner know?



A whole lot of nothing going on

I really need to think of something to work on for NaNoWriMo. Running out of days in October. I normally don’t worry about plot, since I think (and NaNoWriMo has preached for more than a decade–the book about NaNoWriMo is called No Plot? No Problem!) everything should focus on characters. My problem is that all this character focus has helped me with my character development, but that character development hasn’t helped me with plot development.

I suck at plot.

I have a few premises floating around in my head, some of them for years and years and years. Maybe I’ll just grab one, work on a character, and force it into some kind of plot. Except that’s kind of what I always do, and it never works. I mean it never works for story development.

One idea I have is to take a look at the Hero’s Journey. I’d break it down into it components, then schedule my writing so I’m writing each component at a designated time of the month, however many words that is. I’d force my character, with a mind on my premise, into something I create that satisfies characteristics of the Hero’s Journey.

Could that work? It’s how I used to write my papers as an undergrad, and I slaughtered those assignments. It’s also sorta how I read Anna Karenina seven years ago in time to see the movie.

Okay, I just looked up the Hero’s Journey and there’s no way I can make it work with the premise I was hoping to use this time. So I either stick with my premise and find a different story framework, or find a premise more compatible.

I don’t think I’ll decide it now because it’s getting late and I really need to use the bathroom. Tomorrow for sure. Maybe!

Scraping

Friday 5 from here.

  1. What does your favorite mug look like?
    I have two I consider favorites. I have a very large Eeyore mug I prefer most of the time. It holds two cups of coffee, for starters, and two cups of coffee are better than one cup of coffee. Eeyore is my spirit animal, and one of my friends in high school even used it as a nickname for me (I called her Roo, which if you knew her you’d know was close to perfect). This is the mug I bring with me to coffee hours or staff meetings (I try not to use disposable coffee cups at these things), so by now everyone at work knows it’s my mug. My other favorite is a white UH Hilo mug using a font and logo the school doesn’t use anymore. I bought one for me and two for my parents the week of my graduation. I don’t think they still have the ones I gave them (which is too bad — if they were going to give them away, I’d gladly have taken them off their hands). Go Vulcans.
  2. With a typical dinner out, how many glasses of water do you drink?
    I drink a lot of water. Easily six to eight glasses on a good night, if the waiters are attentive, but I wouldn’t be surprised if in some places it goes to ten. I just really like clearing the palate frequently so I can enjoy my meal appropriately. Plus I just like water, and the colder the better.
  3. What’s something for which you recently used a paper cup, other than to hold a beverage?
    Because I don’t like to use disposable cups, I try to get at least two or three uses out of each one I come into contact with, not counting whatever I get in fast food joints. Recently, I’ve used paper cups as my change jar, a pen holder, and a measuring cup for one of my go-to meals on evenings after longs days: microwaved pasta.
  4. How confidently do you pour a drink into a tumbler with your non-dominant hand?
    Something very few people know about me is that I’m trying to train my left hand to do everyday tasks in case I ever lose the use of my right hand. Have you ever tried to take your keys out of your pocket, select the right key, insert the key into your front door, and let yourself in with your non-dominant hand? I couldn’t believe how such a seemingly simple task could feel so complicated the first time I tried it. I do it with aplomb now; in fact I do it most days leaving the house or coming home, since I usually have my gym bag in my right hand. Pouring drinks into cups (or from one bottle of water to another, to consolidate half-drunk bottles) with my left hand has been a recent, targeted skill. I’d say I do it pretty confidently, ‘though not with the second-nature, no-need-to-concentrate ability with which I unlock a door.
  5. What’s going to be your holy grail for this weekend?
    I’d like to complete minimal amounts of work in pursuit of my holy grail: plenty of good sleep and time to read. Last weekend’s hoped-for good weather did come, but I only made it to the beach Saturday while I was hoping for two good days in the water. This week I’d like to get those two mornings, too.

Rereading what I wrote last week, I know I wasn’t being honest with myself when I said the bruises I still have were only because of the introspection. It was mostly that for sure, but it’s dumb to pretend I’m not also still aching a bit from the rejection, even while totally convinced I deserved rejection and pretty much no other response. It sucks to be rejected, and it causes injury. Nobody really thinks otherwise, not even me.

Crush Girl has inspired a lot of aching this week. I’ve been in a terrible mood everywhere I go, almost all the time, for the past few weeks, and fleeting moments with her have been respites from the crappy feelings. It makes me grateful in a twisted way for the friendzoning. Better this than no relationship at all, but the echoes of her absence do load me up with melancholy from time to time, this week particularly.


I’m in the middle of two weeks of deliberate frugality. It’s not extreme, as it has been a few times in recent months, but it’s still not exactly pleasant. Right after payday I took care of my obligations, and seeing how little I had left, I stocked my pantry and filled my gas tank, leaving me a little bit of cash for the occasional boba and possibly some fast food once or twice. So it’s not hellacious; it’s just pretty restrictive.

I’m typing this in my neighborhood boba spot. I like this place a lot for its super-fast wifi and good tea. The fruit teas are amazing here. I just wish they had a few no-caffeine options, as I’ve been getting here close to closing. Oh, that’s another thing I like about the spot: it’s open until 10 on weeknights. Down the road a few blocks is a really popular spot in a rather unlikely, mostly industrial place near the community college. We’re talking line from the counter to the door popular. I haven’t checked it out yet despite raves from friends mostly because it closes at 9.

I think this is going to be my NaNoWriMo HQ for November. I can get two solid hours here each night if I don’t waste time either getting out of the office or settling down to get busy. Still no idea what the plan is for a NaNo project, but I’ve got a few ideas floating around up here.

Sometimes I question my participation in this thing every year. I’ve already proven to myself that I can crank out the words, and that sometimes they’re pretty good. And as much as I value the community — I’ve made some really good friends during NaNo — it’s been difficult being one of the veterans with an ever-refreshed cast of newcomers. I like the new people fine; I just miss some of the old friends who no longer do this.

There is also, of course, a difference between knowing I can crank out 50K words in 30 days and actually doing it, and with my writing partner suuuuuuuper busy with real-life stuff, I haven’t had the motivation to work on stuff. Plus, of course, there’s the way the writing part of my brain is so tired after a long day of actually doing it for a living for someone else.

Teaching is emotionally and physically exhausting. It wasn’t nearly as mentally exhausting as writing is. I’m not sure why, but it’s absolutely true in my case. I’ve pretty much never been one of those get-home-and-veg-in-front-of-the-TV guys, since when I was teaching I could seldom afford myself the luxury. I can see it now, though. My brain when I get home from work at this job just wants to go into cruise control.

More about NaNo later.

You’re All I’ve Got Tonight

Can’t expound on the death of Ric Ocasek yet, but I may have to soon.

I meant to do a ton of writing this weekend. I’m behind on a few personal projects, including film reviews and book reviews, but I didn’t get to them, so hopefully that’ll be next weekend.

I did get to the thing I’ve most wanted to work on. My writing partner and I met the week before last for the first time in ages, during which she had a baby. She’d been saying for months before having the child that she was absolutely not giving up on her writing, that our partnership was not going to evaporate. I listened and nodded, but I never believed.

I’m still not sure, but we did meet, six months after her son’s birth (she gave him a literary first name, so perhaps there’s some hope), and it wasn’t long enough. We didn’t have time to catch up and really get into each other’s work, which we’d shared the week before.

I sent her five unfinished Halloween short stories and asked her to look at two of them. She gave me some good, quick advice, so my goal before our next meeting later this week is to edit what was a first draft and complete the story. It needed serious editing — I was kind of appalled at the draft’s wordiness and questionable readability, two areas I consider strengths in my style.

Still don’t know how to finish the story, but I think I have a great premise, and the editing this weekend really amped me to get it done. I have a couple of decent ideas for direction, but I don’t know how to wrap this stuff up. Typical of my attempts at fiction.

I don’t understand it. I’ve been known to tell a good story. My fellow teachers have told me it’s something I do well for young people — that I keep students “rapt” with my storytelling. Yet when I’m at the keyboard trying to do the same thing, I’m lost. It’s maddening.

It was a mellow weekend, not at all social but I’ve had social things the past two weekends so just chilling by myself is pretty much what I needed. I feel ready to go back to the office and kick some butt, which I’m going to have to do because I’m a little nervous about being behind on a few things.

I mentioned some time ago, in the depths of my mooning over Crush Girl, that I put a dating app on my phone, which I still have not opened. Since then, FB added a dating feature, and you know, someone has to take that thing for a test drive, right? I should be that guy. I have some air conditioning issues to work out with my car this week (I was going to do it this weekend but just wasn’t motivated), and I need to get that thing operational before I even consider asking someone out, but I might as well set up my profile this week. I’m putting it on the list.

I’m led to believe that the protocol with these apps is to meet at some mutually agreed-upon place, not to pick up someone for the date, and I guess that makes sense. I haven’t been in the game for so long I don’t know what expected behavior is anymore. If it’s true, this AC issue is moot, at least for now.

Good thing a likely date is also super old like I am.

This is going to sound really, really stupid, and perhaps I shouldn’t even put this here since I expect a likely date to Google me and find this space, but I’m a little worried that I’ll compare everyone to Crush Girl. Which would actually be progress for me, since any time before this year I’d compare everyone to R, whose picture I’ve been out of for maybe twenty years. I stopped trying to figure out when it was, but it’s more than ten for sure.

I don’t even know Crush Girl that well, which is why this comparison thing would be so stupid. I was friendzoned before I got the chance to spend time with her away from the one context where we interact. This misery I’ve been feeling has mostly to do with not getting that chance. But now I’m repeating myself so I’ll shut up about it. For now.

I was going to do the Friday 5, but that’ll wait ’til later too. It’s late Sunday night and I have other late-Sunday-night ruminations to get funked up about.

Let the good times roll.

April Drudgery

I’ve been working through April Camp NaNoWriMo.  It’s like NaNoWriMo but (supposedly) mellow.  You set your own goal, and the concept is much more flexible.

My project this month is four short stories in four long weeks.  It’s been horrible five days out of seven, but kind of awesome the other two.

Story one is about a freelance editor and a freelance writer who flirt with each other only through their prose and edits.  It has potential, but it’s suuuuper challenging to write.  He edits her prose and by his sheer understanding of her intentions and work, he brings out the best in her writing, and she’s attracted only to his competence.  They will break up similarly.  If I decide to finish this one.

Story two is about a teenaged girl who volunteers at a National Wildlife Refuge.  She meets a tourist boy who’s allergic to sunlight and they spend the day together while the boy’s family is outdoors.  It’s really a story about the girl’s first kiss, which isn’t as romantic as first kisses are supposed to be.

Story three, which I just started last night, is about a middle school boy who finds a library card.  He uses it to borrow books at the library (he’s lost his card and doesn’t want to spend $12 to replace it, since he never reads anyway).  When the owner of the card sees that whoever has her card is reading through a fantasy series, one book at a time, she leaves a note in one of the books telling him to give her back her card.  My concept is kind of a Nick Hornby for kids, although this description sounds more like a Nicholas Sparks for kids.

No idea what story four will be.  I meet on Skype IM chats with other Hawaii people working through Camp NaNo, and one of them suggests “Nick Hornby for kids” would be a great brand for me.  I haven’t read any Hornby books, so maybe that’ll be my next project.  I like the concept!