Hitting the Reset Button

It’s true, I often create my own mayhem.

It’s part title of my blog and it’s printed on my business cards.

I can get into the most amazing situations. Probably not by accident. It's how my life rolls sometimes, like being in the vortex of a blender.

I should be writing today about being in Gotham for six months now, how it’s been, and where this sabbatical thing is going.

Instead, I’m announcing a reboot.

Starting April 1 (no joke), I am signing a new one-year lease on my condo and I’m restarting the sabbatical.

Most of it has to do with the previous roommate situation. Let’s just say that chapter of my life is over, I’ve shut the book and returned it to the library.

And will forget it ever happened.

Forward motion is the best motion, so I talked with my landlord, who asked that I stay on until the lease expired on Oct. 1. I told her that I’d like to re-up for another year, just make a new lease and she was ecstatic.

We’re working on getting a new roomie, one who is vetted properly.

Anyway….

The first six months held a lot of ups and downs. A lot more downs than I’d care to admit.

But that forward motion thing. I’ve got a great part-time job that pays me ridiculously well (and I’ve been told I’m getting a monster raise in June) and that helps pay the day-to-day bills.

More importantly, I built a contingency plan into my finances for doing this sabbatical. I banked far more money than I needed for a year, just in case (that mayhem thing). With rent covered, I’m free to continue to explore the city at a pace that’s comfortable. Write what I see, and still keep to my goal of getting two short stories published in that year.

Going forward, I’ve joined some Meetup groups, talked to other writers about starting a collective and generally have made it a mission not to mold myself to the furniture and get out.

This is after all, New York.

Last week, I became a member of the Museum of Modern Art, then spent four hours being inspired by my favorite artists.

Tonight, I’m meeting friends for a Burlesque show at the Bowery Poetry Club.

If I’ve learned anything form my parents (who made me, and this sabbatical possible) is to march to your own drummer. Be true to who you are.

Step off the curb, even though you may know it’s unsafe.

Work without a net sometimes.

Be bold.

Be yourself.

Another 12 months in NYC?

Yeah, it suits me.

3WW "Teacher's Pet"

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are loud, persuasive and riches.

Teacher’s Pet
“Scotch bonnet. Persuasive. Trombone. Haberdashery.

Mason Locke tumbled the words across his tongue, pitched them to the roof of his mouth and chewed on them like chalk, with a distasteful crunch. A nervous habit when stressed.

“Mr. Locke, are you still with us today?”

“Cajole. Risqué. Harlequin. Troubadour.

“I’m, uh, formulating my response.”

“Ah, yes, I see. Take your time. How about you Ms. Talbot? Perhaps you have some thoughts on the matter at hand?”

“I’m speaking here,” Mason said. “It is my floor to respond.”

The professor bounced a fountain pen across his teeth and waved his hand through the air, both gestures Mason found truly and so typically annoying of the man, his arrogance loud and clear. Blood rose into Mason’s cheeks. His heart pounded in his chest.

“Solitude. Truant. Febrile. Scabbard. Dullard.

“Well, Mr. Locke?”

“The Germans had it all wrong. I mean art that changes the basic principles of society because they felt it, then painted it? Art is art, something you look at, buy prints of, hang in all the obvious places, then brag to your friends that you know more than they do about grotesque methods of an Otto Mueller or Erich Heckel.”

Mason punctuated the last few words of the statement with extra gusto, knowing the professor had done his doctoral thesis on the very post-war German Expressionist artists he poked. “I have a 2-year-old niece who finger-paints better than Heckel.”

An uneasy laughter when through the classroom, the students sensing that they may have witnessed a distinct dis of a tenured, wool-clad educator at the hands of a bespeckled, scrawny, oily-haired freak.

“Yes, well, an interesting point, Mr. Locke, but one that doesn’t take into account what the horrors of war did to the movement, did to the men – the very artists you mentioned – and to German society as a whole. And I should like to meet this niece of yours one day soon, as she certainly sounds like she’s something of a prodigy.”

“Nuanced. Leveraged. Guano. Jettison.

Mason Locke was saved by the bell, saved from further ridicule, as the swarm of underclassmen scurried from the room with cockroach haste.

Or so he thought. As he dug for headphones in his backpack, the professor came up behind him, silent, and put his hands across his shoulders.

“A word please, Mr. Locke, after the others have left?”

The words were a soft whisper across the nape of Mason’s neck, the very tip of his now-red-tinted earlobe.

Mason stiffened, waited as the last of the students gave a casual glance back and snickered.

“Mason, why must you openly challenge me in class?” the professor demanded, then ran his tongue lightly across Mason’s ear, plunging the wet tip into the canal. “You know I detest when anyone challenges me. But I admit, with you, it does bring with it the riches of  sexual arousal. My God, Mason, I want you this instant.”

The professor squeezed Mason’s ass cheeks with both hands.

Mason’s head swam as he came to the realization that he was embarrassingly – and quite fully aroused.

“Faggot. Queer.  Twink. Homosexual.

Journalism 2011 - An Essay

Used to be journalism was a craft, dominated by people named Breslin, Woodward & Bernstein, Pyle, Hirsh, Bly, Bourke-White, Twain and Hemingway.
They wrote gritty, dark truths. They took pictures that bared souls open like filleted fish. They were celebrities who didn’t give a shit about being one.
They were bold. They had a voice, a stage on which to emote. They were respected for it.
Walk into any newsroom in the U.S. today and it’s most likely owned by a corporation. There’s still good people there, but they’re underpaid, over-worked and highly unappreciated.
The newspaper is a “product,” a vehicle to sell ads and promote the bottom line.
Thirty-three years ago, I typed my first news story for publication. It was done on my mother’s green IBM typewriter – the very one pictured above.
(Notice I said typed; I had written the article longhand, on a yellow legal pad with a pencil in my tight, printed hand, having lost the ability to write cursive after years of hanging out at the architectural firm where my mother was employed. It would be another couple of years before I learned to compose on the typewriter.)
I’m 48 years old and on a time-out from the trade, which will come to an end around April 2012.
I seriously doubt, as much as I love a good newsroom, that I’ll find myself back in one anytime soon.
Not after reading recently that Gannett CEO Craig Dubow received $9.4 million in compensation for 2010 – including an all-cash bonus of $1.75 million.
The news came out while several Gannett rank-and-file employees were sitting at home on unpaid first-quarter furloughs – announced Jan. 4 by U.S. newspaper president Bob Dickey.
“To help us manage through these challenges, we have made the difficult decision to implement a furlough across USCP during the first quarter. This was, quite frankly, an option I had hoped we could avoid. Furloughs, while difficult, do allow us to protect jobs. The staff reductions we have taken over the past few years have been very hard and further reductions are not our first preference.”
The most I ever made in a year as a Gannett employee was $50,000 – slightly more than my base salary of $22 an hour (yes, that’s for someone who has more than 20 years in the business). The sum included overtime hours, which I was told – frequently – we could not afford.
For simply doing my job. For swinging for the fences on each and every news story I ever wrote (and I’m quick and I’m good). For being a craftsman with words; for being a guy just trying to make a middle-class living, while also trying to make a difference.
Mr. Dubow’s 2010 cash-only bonus would have paid the yearly salary for 35 journalists making what I made in 2009.
You cannot send your rank-and-file into the streets unpaid while you sit back and collect $1.75 million in cash and tell qualified, dedicated, creative men and women that it’s a business – and that business right now isn’t doing so well.
It’s like pissing on someone and telling them that it’s raining.
Journalism isn’t about a return on the dollar for stockholders.
It is a craft, one that takes dedication and talent.
Think you’re going to get your news from bloggers? Think again.
This – the fourth estate – exists to bring light to the dark corners of the world, where dishonest men hide from the printed word.
Journalism is about truth. It’s about justice. It’s about creativity.
I’ve never wanted to be anything but. In my earliest conversations, people used to ask if I really wanted to be a writer. I always corrected them, saying I wanted to be a reporter.
Nowadays, I’ll tell people I’m a writer first.
I will always be proud of the work I’ve done in the craft. I will protect what it is – and means – to be a journalist.
“Never wear your best trousers when you go out to fight for freedom and truth.”
The poet Henrick Ibsen said that more than 100 years ago.
It rings true in 2011.
I just can’t afford a new wardrobe these days.

3WW, "Keep Your Distance"

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are dual, identical and volley. Here, in 100 words, is my response:

Keep your distance
The black jeans, the polished-black Doc Martens, the Misfits T-shirt (black, of course) are a cloak.
A way to plow through polite society without having to answer a single goddamn one of a volley of stupid, fucking questions.
The dark glasses help, dual polished mirror lenses looking back.
The fuck-you attitude, it’s identical deterrent.
Soccer moms part for you at the convenience store; old men stare, then look away, with a slight shake of the head.
Just the way you’ve planned. The moves you’ve perfected in the mirror.
Blackness. Don’t touch, me motherfucker.
(Loneliness is a supple bitch).

Three Word Wednesday, "Diversions"

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are breeze, mellow and tickle.

Diversions
Too many aches and pains, he thinks. Too many headaches, heartaches, upset stomachs.

“I’m a young man,” he says to the sunset, the fading spring breeze.

Life weighs heavy, way too heavy.

He picks up a stick to toss, fingers the lichen-covered bark, greenish-brown on the black of the oak branch. The new grass rustles in the wind and tickles bare feet. Above the breeze, he picks up his heartbeat, his breath, the static of blood coursing through capillaries in his ears, and is comforted by the mellow beat.

He tosses the stick and crumples into the grass to watch as blue skies, whitewashed by washboard high clouds, fire to magenta with the setting sun.

He shuts his eyes, opens them and stares into the vastness of open sky.

His retriever makes a wide arc around his prone figure and takes up a sitting position on the man’s left hip. She scans the area, opens her mouth to let her nose get the maximum scent and collapses her black, anvil-shaped head onto the man’s chest.

She sighs.

He chuckles.

“We should spend the night right here, just like this.”

Her tail beats a happy response.

Three Word Wednesday, "Bitten"

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are affinity, fidget and mention.

Bitten 
They’re called the canines, but that is so ever misleading.

So offensive.

Take a moment, put your index finger to your own teeth and trace their glossy smoothness from the front two teeth – the central incisors – across the lateral incisor and onto the canine.

Uhhhg, yes.

The cuspid.

Take your thumb and index finger now, feel the slight elongation of your cuspid teeth – on top and below – and trace the points. Imagine the power it takes for all four to rip through flesh, through muscle and in one bite, sever either the right or left common carotid artery.

Oh, not your teeth, silly.

Ours.

You must understand the hesitation to refer to those four beautiful curved, glossy specimens to the filth that is the canine. True, our teeth are built like yours, made up of various minerals - calcium, phosphorus, other, assorted mineral salts – dentine and capped with a whisper of enamel. That gloriously smooth, hard layer that gives a bite meaning.

For you, for us, that makes no difference.

But to call them canine. Well, it’s so odious.

We are the hunters of the hunters. The cool-to-the-touch blur your first feel when the little hairs across your neck fidget. The shadows you see move across lit walls, when nothing else moves.

That is, until we feed.

And there is nothing more seductive than the swell of the sweat that fills our olfactory nerves as we close in. Bare our teeth.

Bite.

I suppose you could compare it to that of a jaguar; one swift sink of teeth through skin, bone, veins. The jaguar is, after all, the only of the big cats that kills with its bite. Oh, you can look it up. Tigers, lions – not to mention your cute, common house cat – kill by suffocation.

But we don’t feast on flesh now, do we? No, it’s our glorious affinity for all that pulsating, salty, iron-rich blood that flows through you.

No suffocation for us. We’re more seductively vicious. Calculated, cool.

Nothing like those silly movies your kind keep making up about us. The ones that show a bite with two little cuspid pokes along the vein.

(Think now, think to your own teeth, the two rows of teeth and try and figure out how you could pop just a couple of your cuspids into flesh, like twin needle injections? I think not.)

Roll your tongue across your own glorious teeth; feel the tiny ridges along the incisors – all eight of them – and then imagine the speed, the skill, the absolute symphony it takes for all 12 teeth to rip through the skin of your neck, through stringy muscle and into those gloriously pulsating carotid arteries.