Skipping Between Tenses: a journal entry about moving

February 5, 2014

When I moved from Fullerton to Los Angeles in April of 2013 I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to move back. It was a resolving feeling to drive away from my old apartment, like kicking the dirt off my shoes and pointing my eyes upon the road ahead. It would be dirty, weathered, older, but it would still be in operation. The road would lead me along alright, because that’s what Los Angeles does. It brings people in.

Les and I didn’t know what to talk about that night as we drove from Fullerton to Los Angeles. Sometimes with your best friends you don’t need to have words to say. We looked at the blurring city lights and freeway signs just like we always had when we’d commute in to work. They weren’t different, but they were a little more ours, because we were moving in among them. We were part of the city now too.

The train goes up and the train goes down, gently. I am in the second car from the locomotive, the bike car, as it always was. My bike strapped to the railings downstairs, and I with my feet across the seat in front of me (not allowed), sitting above in the second-story passenger area. The car has 52 seats and there are 12 of us. We are feeling the rumble of steel wheels upon the track, up and down. Gentle.

I’ll probably ride my old route when I get in to Union Station. Spring Street, over the 101, through downtown, left on sixth, through skid-row, right on Stanford. Home. Or, work. But work has always been my other home. My Los Angeles home.

In July of 2013 I was traveling. I flew to Pennsylvania and road-tripped back to California with my brother. Then, I flew to Boston and drove to Burlington for a week with my old high school friends. It was our ten-year reunion, and we chose to make memories on a farm playing games, looking at animals, and drinking beer. And we did. When I came home, to Los Angeles, I told myself I was home. This is just it, I thought. This is were I live. This is it. I looked from my apartment rooftop across the evening skyline at buildings shooting heavenward. I watched airplanes arrive at LAX. One every minute, I’d surmised. There were no clouds in the sky, only empty blackness. I’d wait and watch the planes and the buildings like something was going to happen. But nothing ever really did.

Living with Carl has been brief but relieving. At least I have a place to call home. It’s a 600-square foot studio back house with an oft-not working bathroom faucet and a backdoor that gets jammed every time it is closed too hard. The neighbors are quiet; I’ve met none of them. The library across the street has never been open when I’ve been home. Carl’s friends come over and I say hello. They drink wine and talk about playing Smash Brothers while I look at the walls and wonder where my story will lead now; I wonder if it will be below the crown-molding of another set of walls somewhere else, in some other city, in another time, with different people.

When I was mailed paperwork stating that my rent would rise I knew it was a sign. The foot-traffic in downtown Los Angeles has been on the rise too. Call it from God or just the way things happen (because maybe some things just happen sometimes), but I knew I couldn’t even afford what I was already paying. I looked down at the concrete floors, poured and glazed in an artistically industrial fashion for me to walk on, representing my rent dollars. My over-sized windows (my favorite part) breezing the evening air. I felt indignant, if even only slightly, because I knew the time to say goodbye was near, and I knew that for this place and many like it in Los Angeles, the price was simply too high. Guys like me that are interested in bleeding the color of LA but can’t because we can’t afford the rent.

I can still see the skyline from the train as I ride. The US Bank tower stands above the western United States as a beacon of something (of what I’m still not sure). The other towers are its sisters, looking up at her like one day they might stand for something just as tall. There are gaps between those towers, however, and I know that given the rising cost of living, the new fleets of parking sharks, and the whelming programs to clean up the streets, that soon bigger things will move in. The US Bank tower will not be the tallest building west of the Mississippi River forever. It might become the third, fourth, or fifth tallest. This is, after all, the era that Los Angeles is trying to rebuild itself. LA might finally be a place for people to stay.

The first months after my arrival I did little to settle in. Les and I were like our rolled out sleeping mats on the apartment floor: unmade and carefree. We worked down the street, and we did little more than move boxes in and fall asleep and rise for work. That’s how the production life is in the handmade apparel industry. If it’s not rushing fabric to a cut and sew house or shirts to a screen-printer, then it is brainstorming fresh ideas, showing samples at trade shows, or moving product at street shows. That’s how the startup life is too: trying on hats and wearing them to bed.

Delani and I drank beer and ate reheated ribs on top of a box in the middle of the living room. Like the first few months of living there, my bed was again upon the floor, the walls empty, the dishes all in boxes, and my clothes on hangars stuffed into the trunk of my car. We played guitar after we ate and opened another beer each. Les was in Chicago applying for grad schools, living his dream, and Delani (the other roommate) and I were sweeping the floors and spackling holes to try to muster up some security deposit money. I’ll need it to buy food in Fullerton for the next month, I thought, and Delani will need it for food money in Portland, where he’s moving next month. I tossed a clean rib to Jack wondering if he’d lick it, chew it, or break it and swallow it. Probably all three in succession. He sat there and I said, good boy. He looked at the rib earnestly, and I wondered how long Jack could live with my parents while I’d be with Carl. Jack is family, and so is Carl. But Carl says the apartment is too small for Jack, so I won’t push it.

I’d love to move in for three months, I said to Carl one night in January. He said, sure man. Stay as long as you need, or want. I had expected him to say this. I planned on it when I called him, actually. I didn’t have a backup plan either. I was sitting at the apartment in Los Angeles, not knowing what an empty version of that place would look like a month later. I was thinking, and praying, here and there throughout my last days, and the thought of three months came up. I don’t know how or when, but it did, and I went with it, taking it maybe as a sign from God again. Three months, I’d heard myself start to say to friends. But why? I’d wonder. Or better, for whom?

My first month of riding the train, in 2012, I would un-velcro my bike lights from my seat post and handlebars and lock my bike to the railing with my cable. Then I would sit nearby and inadvertently watch people board, wondering if they’d look at my bike, and why. It was a commuter line into Los Angeles, so how sure could I be? They were normal people working normal jobs with normal ideas and temptations, but my Dad had a number of wallets lifted on buses in Los Angeles. It was a feeling in my gut that began leaping into my throat if my gaze got too far from my bike. Paranoia: welcome to the big city.

Tyler and I were sitting on a knoll at the LA Historic park just north of downtown. We were at FYF, an indie music festival, and he insisted on buying me a beer. We were corralled between four long walls of six-foot high chain-link fence that they’d called a “beer garden,” forced to stare distantly at bands, or people, while I sipped. He didn’t seem to mind so I decided I wouldn’t either. He told me he needed me to step into a new position in the company. I need you to become the Wholesale Accounts Rep, he said. My stomach leaped, but I wasn’t sure why. Was it because I felt valued in the company enough to take on such a crucial responsibility? Or was it because I was unsure that I’d be up to the challenge, or that I even wanted to in the first place? He looked at me and I knew then that there was a reason he was asking me. There was something deeper going on. I told him that I would give it my best shot and he said, good, because I don’t know if you really had a choice. We laughed and I choked on a gulp of beer.

The first time I ever considered moving to Los Angeles was on that day at FYF. I stared off at the hillsides and saw houses built deep into them. I’d never noticed them before, nor had I noticed the century-old architecture, the winding and almost vertical residential roads of Echo Park, and Silver Lake. Anything could happen in those hills, I thought. I imagined the morning views and planting a garden, and most of all, writing novels from my writer’s shack. Yes, the first time I ever considered moving to Los Angeles was on that day.

Like the US Bank tower, I will stand and watch now from a distance. I will know it all but will no longer be called a native Angeleno. I might keep riding the train, up from Fullerton, and down from Los Angeles home, gently and on-schedule, and I’ll probably see the skyline from a few miles away each time and wonder whom Los Angeles wants to call its people. I thought last July that it was I, but I found in February of the next year that it wasn’t. At least, for now, that sounds about right.

Writing Within Two Systems

About a week ago, Joe Bunting (thewritepractice.com) put up a prompt on Writing Fast and Slow.

I’ve certainly heard of the two sides of the creative mind, but when it comes to writing, I thought Joe put it really well. He refers to them as “systems” (which he gets from Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow). Here’s some of what he had to say:

Creativity is about bringing several different ideas into a single thought, and this is where System 1 thrives. While System 2 is a focused, precise engineer, solving any problem set before her, System 1 is a fun, spontaneous artist splashing paint on the walls and making messes.

[…]

… let each system do what it does best. Keep System 2 out of the writing room, which can be reserved for making messes. Then bring System 2 back in for cleanup.

Because it turns out that System 2 is a much better editor than System 1. It will spot your typos and errors in logic. It will clean up your copy and make sure your writing is readable. System 2 may not be very creative, but it will certainly keep you from looking like a fool.

One of the biggest temptations for writers is to start in System 1 and then get caught up in editing and perfecting before they finish. I know this happens to me almost every time I write. This tends to result in unfinished work.

Joe went on to offer 5 suggestions to help keep writers from dipping into system 2 too soon (for a full explanation of each step be sure to jump over to his post):

1. Smile
2. Write What You Know
3. Keep Your Pen Moving
4. Don’t Overthink
5. Find Your Writing Workspace

Every post Joe publishes comes with a 15-minute writing prompt. With the two systems in mind, he encouraged the following prompt:

Free write for fifteen minutes using the words orange, sweat, coin, and elm.

As you write, try to stay in System 1 using the tips above. When your time is up, edit your writing using System 2.

I decided to try my patience and knee-jerk addiction to editing before completion. Click the link below titled “Orange, Sweat, Coin, Elm.” On the left is me free-writing within System 1 for 17 minutes. To the right of it is me editing and re-writing within System 2. It was fun to watch how the story evolved between the systems when I kept myself dedicated. The story is simple stream of consciousness. I encourage you to give System 1 and System 2 a try, and I’d love to hear what you went through and how you saw your story change. Cheers!

Orange, Sweat, Coin, Elm

Boone, CO and Beyond

I’m writing a book. In April it should be finished, printed, and in your hands for whatever price you deem suitable. It will be called We Were Like Sons.

Here’s an excerpt from middle-of-nowhere Colorado:

The street makes waves of heat and oil a mile or two outside of town. There are images floating in the air, beckoning, saying: Come, this way to the unknown. It’s hotter than hell out here. But come. Don’t stop now. Come.  Continue reading “Boone, CO and Beyond”

“Hamartia”

“We’re finally vacationing,” Mother said while drying off another dish. “It’ll be nice. A fresh break. We need those. Everybody does but especially us.”

Father was standing there, his right arm propping his body up against the counter. He looked calm, like it might not have been his plan after all, and that the surprise of vacationing really might have been something providential.

Scotty and Max had the hose running outside. It was summer, and after supper they still had plenty of light to burn. They were playing, but when Father stops hearing their laughter but still hears the water running through the pipes below the house, he knows they’ve returned to Mrs. Jensen’s hornets nest on the side yard.

“Alan, the boys are at it again,” said Mother with a sigh. She was placing dishes in their cupboards. “Well? Aren’t you going to do anything?”

Father spreads the kitchen drapes with two fingers and peers out. The lawn is glistening, the planters flooded. Mrs. Jensen’s clothesline is bare but he is pretty sure that has nothing to do with the boys. He finds the faucet down below and the bright green hose that is connected to it looks like a green rubber band pulled taught around the side of the house.
“No,” Father said. He lets the drapes fall back. “They’re boys. Boys do these kinds of things.”

“I understand that,” said Mother. “But those boys have the hose pointed straight at that poor old woman’s house. Who knows what could happen. She has that collection of pottery she likes to keep on the front porch. One blast of water and…”

“I know,” said Father quietly. He looked at the ground and took a deep breath. He lessened his grip on the countertop. “Just let them realize what their actions mean. They have to learn at some point, and better here than anywhere else.”

“Well I just don’t like them poking around other people’s things is all,” Mother said. “Just ain’t right.”

A voice from outside carried through the window. It wasn’t Scotty, or Max. It was deeper, older. A man’s voice.

“Who was that?” Mother said. “Sounds like it was saying your name.”

Father walked through the kitchen, into the dinning room, past the old leather chair, and pushed open the front screen door.

“Alan,” came the voice again. It was Mr. Davis from across the street. He was yelling and swatting the air.

Father could see a trail of water that went from Mrs. Jensen’s side yard out into the street, across the far sidewalk, and up onto Mr. Davis’ front lawn. There were three paper grocery bags laying sideways on the driveway. A head of lettuce rolled out onto the lawn.

“Alan stop them!” said Mr. Davis.

“Stop who? Hey what’s going on Jim?”

“Stop the boys, Alan. The boys!”

Father looked again at the trail of water and noticed that the hose was not taught as before but was detached and sliding quickly across the street. He ran through the front yard and into the street just as Mrs. Jensen, with the six o’clock sun in her eyes, was about to swing into her driveway.

Father gasped and felt the weight of the car lift him into the air. His right shoulder sunk into the windshield and he felt his body cartwheel over the rest of the car and fall like a burlap of bricks into the street in front of his house.

Mrs. Jensen, surprised by the sudden impact of something heavy on her windshield swung her steering wheel the wrong direction and scurried up Mr. Davis’ driveway, running over a bag of groceries and slamming into the back of his pickup.

By then, Mr. Davis was halfway down the street and still swatting away Mrs. Jensen’s hornets.

Father groaned. He looked at Mrs. Jensen’s car and tried to see if she moved. There was an airbag out. He tried to stand but felt a knife-like pain shoot through his right arm. He let it dangle, lifeless. Probably broken. He tried using his other arm and with the curb managed to stand, but when he tried to walk he felt more pain run from his right knee up the side of his body. He collapsed from the intensity. “Mary!” he yelled, and in seconds mother came running from the house.

At the sight of Father, Mrs. Jensen’s car, the hose water, and Mr. Davis, she stopped suddenly and glared at Father.

He looked at her eyes and then down at the grass below her feet. “I know,” he sighed. “I know.”

Churchless in Downtown LA

This was literally what I searched and came up with one night.

I moved downtown almost three months ago. I could rattle off a list of reasons for why I left the tidy suburbs of Orange County to live in the heat and grit of Los Angeles, but all lead back to two simple things:

1. I love new adventures
2. I wanted to be closer to work

If I’m honest, reason 2 was more of an excuse I used to accomplish reason 1. Adventure.

Mmmm…smell that unique Los Angeles air. It ain’t roses, in fact it is probably trash and grime, but it is fresh all the same.

Most suburban people (that I know anyway) don’t think of moving to LA for the sake of adventure, much less downtown. People move to LA to get into the film industry, and when they say they “live in LA,” they mean they live in Hollywood (if they’re lucky), or Silver Lake (if they’re lucky, hip, and rich), or the Valley (more than likely).

But downtown? Basically since its heyday in the Fifties, this freeway sequestered hub for banking, textile and toy manufacturing, fashion design, and wholesale seafood distribution has been on the decline. Somewhere along the line, people with power and influence stopped talking about it and eventually moved away from it for the quieted streets and backyard-laden suburbs. We see this especially in the late eighties, at the rise of Skid Row, where today it is the only legal place in America to sleep on the streets between the hours of 10pm and 6am.

So really, why downtown?

If I was going to live in LA, I knew wanted something I could afford, somewhere I would be inspired, and some place I wouldn’t have to drive a car in order to get to work. It may sound fatalistic, and posh, and all kinds of other rich-kid suburban descriptors, but downtown was one of the only areas I could satisfy those parameters. Enter Lady Downtown. “Hello, ma’am. We’ll be getting to know a lot of each other now won’t we?”

Something you should know if you don’t already:

I value living amongst and being a part of a faith community. It’s in my blood, and I really mean that. I was raised to believe in Jesus, and sometime around the age of seventeen I started believing it. I’d listened to teachers tell me how to live like a good boy all my life, but it wasn’t until I saw how a team of selfish high schoolers like me could want to live for someone else’s well being that I started to read about Jesus. I took his teachings about living alternatively seriously. More on the rest of this another time. Simply note: Aaron lives in LA, and Aaron wants to be part of a church.

But a church I still have yet to find. It is not that downtown doesn’t have churches. It does, it is just that they are mostly spanish-speaking, Catholic, both, or a little more on the light show and “seeker-friendly” side than I am comfortable with. Call me picky, but I’ve seen at least four churches downtown now and haven’t been satisfied. And look, I know how that sounds. I know all of the reasons for why church-shopping should be avoided, and just hunkering down and getting dirty with people is what I should be doing. At the same time, though, I know God hasn’t asked me to just join up in any old place. In fact, I legitimately believe God wants me to be apart of a small community downtown. I ask God almost everyday where I should go and who I should join up with.

But today, I am still churchless.

And in some ways, it’s okay. I have great friends who love Jesus, a family who loves Jesus, a boss who loves Jesus. My community of other believers is basically inescapable. I know where to get sermons via podcast. I pray with my roommates.

Still, there’s something to having a community of Jesus people, who may be unlike you and possibly unlikeable to you, that is central to growing as a Christian.

Wouldn’t you agree?

Manuscript Monday: “No Water”

Below is an early excerpt from a book I’m writing about a bicycling tour I took across America (to be finished this December). Would love to hear your thoughts! Enjoy.

 

Forty miles beyond Desert Center finds them each down to their last bottle of water, again.

Louis reveals a bunched up wristwatch from his pocket and brings it into view.

“Almost Eleven,” he says.

They are side by side, not exerting, just rolling, hoping that little effort will retain the quickly evaporating water within their systems. The air is thick and heavy, a blanket spread wide and close to the desert ground. They cannot help but sip from their water bottles every few minutes, their expensive seventy-cent water dissipating before their eyes.

“Hey man, I think we should pull over,” Michael says.

“Me too, let’s stop at the next overpass.”

Every four or five miles the four-lane highway crosses over a forty-foot ditch. Beneath are rocks, tumbleweeds, and cracked mud chips that crunch into dust underfoot. They were made to channel rainwater underneath the highway to keep it from flooding. Only God knows how many decades it has been since this part of the earth has seen rain.

Shade is more than scarce and ducking underneath the overpass is the only option. They made a pact to seize adventure whenever possible and however it would come. But dehydration, drying up from the inside out, leaving behind overly-exerted carcasses for vultures to fight over, was not what they had in mind.

They are desperate, in a way.

Michael wonders if he has ever been desperate for anything in his life.

They dismount on the overpass and peer over the ledge. Tumbleweeds, a small, dry runoff zone, and dirt. It looks like a pot above a fire with nothing in it. He looks at Louis and motions with his eyes toward the shade beneath the overpass.

“What do you think, man?”

“It’s about all we can do.”

“Yeah, seems our only option. What about water?”

Louis removes a water bottle from its cage on his bike and stares at it, shaking it a few times and watching the remaining drops dance back and forth. He lowers it. He looks at Michael, and then darts past him.

He is running on the shoulder toward a car coming their direction.

It is a red car. Nothing more.

Michael watches Louis still staring out.

“Michael,” he yells.

“What?”

“I’ve got no shame.”

“What?”

“Hell man, I’ve got no shame!” Louis darts for his bike, removing the other two empty water bottles and then does the same at Michael’s.

“Uhh…”

“If God’s gonna provide I don’t plan on missing it.” He takes three long steps from the dirt and onto the asphalt. Then, he holds every bottle he can manage into the air and waves them at the cars. He starts yelling at them. He is grinning, he is laughing. Having the time of his life in the middle of nowhere, death impending.

“WATER! GIVE US WATER!” He motions at the bottles and dances like a sign-twirler. He moonwalks. He does the Charleston. He swing-dances with an invisible partner. Cars continue to fly, but at least now people are noticing. It is working. Kids have their foreheads flat against their windows. Their eyes are fixed on him and their heads slowly crane as they pass.

After a few minutes Michael takes bite-sized carrots out of their insulated bag and brings them over to his friend.

“This is going to work,” Louis yells. “People want to help people!”

Michael nods with him and hands over the bag.

Louis takes and handful and stuffs them into his mouth. He is jogging in place as he yells, again, louder than ever: “WAA’RRR!” A piece of carrot leaps from his mouth and hits the heavy pavement.

Michael ducks under a barbed-wire fence and makes his way under the overpass, finding a rock to sit on. It is cooler than he expects. He considers camping here, their sleeping bags thrown out beneath the overpass as cars boom by overhead.

Cars and semi trucks passing on the bridge above muffle Louis’ shouts. He bites into another carrot, thinking and feeling a little weird about asking God to provide a way out of a situation, their messy situation, because he knew it was their fault. Why would God want to answer a prayer for something when I should have just been smarter? Why would God want to reward that?

Even still, he prays.

Five minutes pass and Louis has stopped shouting. Michael figures the heat has run its course so he begins up to the trail to start on his shift. What would he do? Recycle the moonwalk? He could do that. The sprinkler or the shopping-cart are classics, he thinks.

There is something on the road now that wasn’t before. On the tailgate of a white pickup are the words: “California Highway Patrol.”

Shit.

Louis is standing next to the bikes, his arm coolly resting on his handlebars. When he hears Michael approach he looks and smirks.

“Told you.”

“Told me what?” He is trying to speak quietly. “This looks more like an air-conditioned ride to jail.”

“Nah,” Louis says, waving him off.

Two cars blur by and a female officer in green shorts, black work boots, and a khaki button-up shirt exits he cab. She is medium height. Attractive. Latino, it appears. Black sunglasses cover her eyes and she approaches looking worried.

“You guys alright?”

“Yep,” Louis says casually, both elbows now resting on his bike. His feet are crossed on the ground. “Just ran out of water a mile back. Didn’t think it would disappear as fast as it did.”

“This is a bad place to run out of water,” She says, nodding her head from Louis to Michael, and back to Louis.

She is a disapproving mother. They are stupid kids out to get themselves killed.

“We have a lot of cyclists out here who run into the same problem. Hang on just a second.” She turns and walks back to the truck.

She is going to cite us. Or call for backup. What does backup even mean out in a place like this?

When she returns she has six twelve-ounce water bottles in her hands. “You guys need any more than this?”

Michael and Louis exchange glances of shock and disbelief, their jaws dropping to their toes simultaneously. Before they can finish thanking her they are halfway through a bottle each.

“Why don’t you just come over to the truck and grab as many as you need,” she laughs and motions.

A torn package once holding twenty-four water bottles sits on the passenger seat. Louis reaches in for two more and feels a blast of cool air overtake his sweaty arm.

“Wouldn’t be so bad to go to jail in this thing,” he says.

 

Free-flow Friday: Saturday Afternoon, pt. 1

I didn’t plan to get up for at least an hour. A nap, or whatever.

I heard Aaron come in. He is not hard to know when he comes home, always singing up the stairway.

I couldn’t make out the lyrics. He creaked to the top of the stairs and I knew that he was looking around at the top of the stairs to see if anyone was in the living room. There weren’t. Only me in my bed, still wearing my converse and jeans.

He came down the hall and peaked in.

I flipped around.

“Sup!”

He jumped.

I laughed.

“What are you… oh, I’m sorry, were you sleeping?”

“Just napping. Not feeling too sick anymore, just wanted to rest. I saw Lincoln. Such a good movie. Saw it with Proctor.”

“Don’t you just want to be Lincoln now?”

“The way that Daniel Day-Lewis portrayed him, Lincoln, reminded me so much of my dad. His mannerisms.”

“Yeah, and your dad has the same soft voice. High pitch.”

“Yeah, and the way he slouches. Just, my dad isn’t political or quick to correct anyone when they’re wrong…”

“And he doesn’t tell stories out of nowhere,” he let out a signature, boisterous Aaron Delani laugh. Shrill, with a tone of disingenuousness that still has a way of remaining sincere.

He was wearing denims with holes in scattered places. His weekend jeans. And a denim jacket over his yellow hoodie, and a somewhat matching yellow beanie that was rolled back past his ears.

“No,” I said quietly. “My dad doesn’t tell many stories.” I smiled and reflected, staring up at the slats above, cradling Delani’s bed. “So,” I started. “You didn’t get your donut did you.”

“No. What the hell.”

“I know.” I said. “I know, I was pissed.”

“You? No… I was pissed!”

“I think I know who did it too.”

He looked at me blankly.

“Okay, so,” I said, knowing I had his attention. I didn’t want to reveal the answer just yet. I let suspense fill the room. “Last night, I left the box in the kitchen. Everybody knew it was my box. Nobody would have, or should have touched it.”

“Right,” he said.

“Right, so we were all watching a movie. ‘Jumanji,'” I said, looking at him in the eye. “Now, afterward I went into the kitchen to look through the donut box. And do you know what I found?

“What?”

“Gone. Empty. Your donut stolen from right in front of me. In my own home.”

He laughed again, but softer, more concerned.

“So, Slavin…”

The Aaron Delani laugh bellowed into the room again.

“No no, it wasn’t him. After I saw that your donut was gone I walked into the living room. Slavin and Jared were still there. Everyone else had left. I announce to them that your donut was stolen and Slavin looks up at me and says that he might have a clue as to who took it. Go on, I told him, so he said that David, you know…”

“Yeah, wait, is he the guy in your writing group?”

“Yes.”

He grunted. “I never liked that guy.”

“Well wait, hold on, we don’t know for sure that he did it.”

“I know. I’m just saying that when I met him I didn’t like him.”

“Fair enough. So anyway, Slavin says that David is notorious for stealing people’s wine. Like, he takes people’s wine without asking. Which, he did last night by taking Tommy’s. Tommy just looked at Slavin like a victim. I could tell he was pissed. He kept barraging David with remarks and questions, and at the time I had no idea. I was thinking of ways to stick up for him. But the whole time he’d freely poured himself a glass of Tommy’s wine, like he lives here. Anyway, Slavin said that at some point in the movie David got up and went into the kitchen. Normal, right? Nobody noticed. I didn’t notice. About five minutes later he comes out licking his fingers.” I emulated licking my fingers.

“But we don’t know for sure.”

“Right we don’t, but that’s what we’re going on.”

We both stared into space for another moment.

He pulled out his phone.

I stared vaguely at the grayish-blue painted wall. I was still covered. Plenty warm.

“I just,” I continued. “I never took him for that kind of person, you know? He’s always so damn polite. He’s a great conversationist, always super polite and gives people chances to speak. Like in the writing group he’s never domineering the conversation or preferring only to hear one side or anything. Just a normal, polite guy.”

“And he is. That’s what I remember when I first met him.”

“But the jerk stole a donut from me. Your donut! Who said he could do that? Why would he do that? I was taken completely aback. Caught off guard, you know? I’m not angry with him, just shocked.”

“Well I’m angry that I didn’t get my donut.”

“Me too, absolutely. Angry at the injustice and shocked at David. I still can’t believe it.”

Another moment passed.

“Well,” Delani said, “I need some caffeine. Going to the Night Owl and then gonna take some pictures, then off to Buena Park for a birthday party for my niece’s friend.”

“A birthday party for your niece’s friend?”

“Her parents are good friends of the family. It’s not weird. Trust me.

“Okay.”

“Want to come? To the Night Owl for coffee, I mean?”

“Yeah, I ain’t getting any sleep any time soon.”

“Then you better get’cher ass up.” He laughed.

I threw the blanket away and stood up, straightening my pants and then reaching down for my belt on the floor. As I pulled it through the loops I thought about David again. I spoke out loud:

“It’s a good story you know? A guy I trusted, carpooled out to donuts with, sat in traffic, had a much less awkward conversation with than I thought I would. Found all of my good suspicions in his agreeableness to be confirmed. And then BAM, he steals a donut. The unexpected thief.”

Delani walked down the hall. It was four o’clock.

I followed and we ducked into the kitchen. The floors were bleach-white and the kitchen still looked like Marcella had just been by to clean. I looked at the donut box and flipped it open. Two half eaten donuts.

“Want the second half of mine? It was the same as yours, a umm…” I searched for the name of the donut, snapping my fingers and jogging my memory.

“Bavarian cream,” he said. “No, I’m good.”

I took a bite, the apparent cream from Bavaria bulging out as my jaw closed upon the baked dough. “You sure?” I mumbled.

He hesitated.

“Come on.”

He took the donut into his hand and closed his teeth over the donut. He set the remainder back in the box and stepped back. “Mmmmmm, God that’s so good.”

“Wish I could have given you your own. Sorry again.”

“Dude, it wasn’t your fault.” He looked at my red sweater. “You should get a jacket. It’s cold as a mutha-fugga out there.”

“Really? Even colder than in here? Even colder than the inside of the Whiting?”

He nodded, and I went into the hall and threw another coat on. It was denim, but a little different than Delani’s and I thought for a second about how it might look if we both wore denim.

Words of Others: You Are A Writer, by Jeff Goins

Image property of www.youareawriter.com

Today’s Words of Others features a brief encounter of mine with You Are A Writer (so start acting like one) by one of my latest writing coaches, Jeff Goins. So we’re clear, Jeff doesn’t know me outside of receiving my ping-backs and page visits via Google Analytics. Nevertheless, I’ve decided to have him coach me. One day, I hope to write on my experience of getting to chat with him in person!

Some back story:

I often find myself looking for inspiration. I am a writer, sure, but inspiration comes in waves. Many times, I just need to sit and start scribbling, letting words and ideas flow as they do until something begins to surface. Other times I will have done everything right to prepare for my morning session (coffee piping, journal in front of me, window open to let in the sounds of the city), but after scribbling, nothing really comes to fruition.

Two weeks ago I was seated at a bar in a coffee shop in Manhattan Beach. Outside, the sky was open, cloudless. The streets were slow with weekend drivers enjoying cliff side views. Patrons casually walked in and out of the open cafe threshold. Inside, under a waft of freshly baked bread and hours of brewed coffee, were subtle sounds of espresso being pulled, orders being placed, and men and women in t-shirts and shorts chatting with their friends.

I soaked it in. I sipped my coffee and re-read old journal entries until I felt ready to dive into a short writing session. Though, when I was ready, pen in hand, caffeine pulsing my bloodstream and pooling up energy, I balked. I had every intention of writing, but nothing big came. Nothing came to mind. Nothing surfaced.

So, I did what any procrastinator would do: I browsed social media and read my email instead. After deleting a few I came to one from a feed I subscribe to called Story Cartel. This site mostly offers book titles from authors looking for fair reviews in exchange for a free e-copy of their book. On this particular day came Jeff Goins’ You Are A Writer.

I sat back and stared at the title. I thought how oddly applicable it was to my current situation.

A few moments later my Mac was downloading. When it finished, I read it cover to cover (or however that’s referred to in e-book lingo).

Below is part of the review I wrote for Jeff’s book on Story Cartel. Whatever your craft, I hope my review inspires you to get up and do it. If you’re feeling extra ambitious, read Jeff’s book (you can download it like I did here). You might even insert your craft in wherever Jeff says “writer” or “writing.” I guarantee you’ll find something applicable!

Cheers!

I have been a person “of writing” for the past five or six years, and I’ve even been paid to write for the last year and a half. But, a “writer”? As in one who cannot help but write before the sun rises, and on my lunch breaks, and until wee hours of the morning, as Goins describes in his book? Fat chance.

But, I want to be a writer.

Reading his book confirmed much. Goins is realistic, affirming the calling “writers” innately know in their bones, and also instructive with how to develop the craft into more than just a pipe-dream. In short, he is relational, and then, he is practical.

The first few chapters (or rather, sections) deal particularly with what we writers all know to be true of ourselves but still seem to lack belief in. It is, namely, that we have something to say, and that we know we need to say it or our lives will feel meaningless, or at least lacking. He says, “In the late hours or early mornings, we wonder what we’ll be remembered for, what our legacy will be. While some people are trying to make it through another week, others find themselves succeeding in the wrong things — and despairing as a result.” In this, nothing new is offered (for we’ve all found great solace in the musings on “the writing life” by our other favorites) but in stating the obvious, the intuitive, we (or at least I) are brought into the fold. We are welcomed into the circle to learn then the secret of the pro(s).

The remainder of the book is, admittedly, more cut and dry. This is not to say it is boring. Quite the contrary. It was for me invigorating, like the first portion though in a different way. This second part is Goins sharing his wisdom. We read of establishing our platforms, brands, and connection channels, and learn that more than anything else, the writing business is about relationship with whom we’re writing to and for. Though, Goins always returns to the idea that we are writers for ourselves, and that we cannot be the sacrifice, but must make it. Goins speaks on methods and tactics on getting published (mostly in magazines), offering invaluable examples of his email/letter prompts to editors, and tips on how not to go about pursuing getting published.

Overall, I’d read it again. And again. And again and again, for its insight, being chock full of facts for young writers looking for ways to get into the business, is invaluable. Also, it is affirming to read that it can be done. That it can, has, and will continue to be done by those of us who take the craft and business seriously.

Read it, and then read it again, as I will. Then go write.