Thursday, September 30, 2004

After a meeting with the division liaison, I told her, "I probably can have it done before Wednesday."She asked (her intonation wasn't one that we generally use for a question, but one used to emphasize a strict imperative, "Why don't you rest? Why don't you get some sun?"My schedule so far is to teach one language skills course per day beginning at 10, ending at 12. I'm going to hold three writer's workshops a week for one hour that, of course, there's the lab thing. Some students asked me if I would be the faculty advisor for a music club. Inshaillah.My response if someone I haven't seen since spring 2001 asks, "how have things been?" will now be summed up in a word, "Discordant."I like my job because of the elevator. The back of the elevator is made of glass. From the ground floor to the 3rd floor, which in my country is the fourth floor, I can see the Arabian Gulf.I also like my job because I have two offices.Today we had free donuts. Tonight we had a meeting. Finger sandwiches were served.I came home from work and drank milk.That's why I like my job.“Normal people. I hate 'em. They spend their lives trying to avoid tense situations. A repo man spends his life getting into tense situations." (spoken by Harry Dean Stanton's character, Repo Man)She insisted, "You are normal. You think you're not. So you don't act like a normal person. Stop thinking that you are not normal, and you will become normal.""Oh." I said. "Why didn't I think of that?" Maybe she's on to something. And if she is, I wouldn't be surprised if that Eli Lily (not to be confused with La ilaha il Allah) Company issues a death fatwah on her.Things we do when we've been sitting at a computer for three days and two nights building a web site for work.I've built websites before, for classes mostly but once for a business. I don't have much to say about those four months I spent hold up in a back room/slash office, the early years of my hermit phase--teaching myself how to build a commercial web site complete with online purchases as well as skills I'd anticipated needing for the business (teaching the fundamentals of animation to kids.) Later, I was accused of wasting days and nights tapping away emails to a daughter I had yet to meet--as if that would have been a character defect.This weekend I am deprived of sleep. Last summer I became increasingly depraved when I realized that my 40 acres of hill country in New Mexico essentially were cashed in to take a lot of teenagers to dinner. Resentments. When the "wind don't blow, the grass don't grow and the sky ain't blue, " (Thomas Berger, Little Big Man) we have to find someone to blame, am I right? Am I right?A well worn folksy proverb reminds us that "Expectations are resentments under construction."I have to take issue with any suggestion that a "resentment" can be associated with anything constructive. As that once though not future morally and financially bankrupt Wall Street speculator Bill Wilson says (and he says it all as far as I'm concerned when he does) "resentments are the number one offender." Left unchecked, they can be lethal.The similarities between web site building then and now are clear as well. Mostly, they have a lot to do with using a computer with the capacity to remember things about as well as, well, as well as me. And like their "where-the-fuck-did-I-leave-my-glasses-car keys and wallet owner, when both comps were asked to multi-task, they experience melt down.I'm still working on a first draft for a novel now that I hit my not-so-arbitrary word count (following some advice I'd read by Phillip Roth years ago). I have given some thought to the characters and the setting (Saudi Arabia during quasi war time) was inspired largely by a Graham Greene novel "The Heart of the Matter" about a fiftyish ex-pat working for the British gubment in in Sierra Leone--which had a quasi-part to play in the big war. Greene's character is passed over for a promotion by page two--and the plot goes into first gear. He tells his wife who knows that the gossip at the club will be merciless and from that point on she becomes bed ridden until her husband can scrape up the money to ship her to South Africa. The main character's shameless resignation and acceptance that he has gone as far as he will ever go with his career reminded me when I read it last year in Saudi Arabia of some of those fellers who had previously found some measure of toleration for compound life with wives and kids around, but who were clearly on the verge of understanding where I am most of the time and why I say and do the things I say and do. They were going nuts. Welcome to my world.I ran this by The Mighty Quinn a few days ago and she suggested I focus on those tiny toy Thai wives a lot of men buy to limit the hours spent staring into the abyss, alone.Zaytuni found last year that he could commiserate with just about everyone near his own age though some maybe had five or seven years on him.When people asked where I'd worked before coming to Saudi, I told them, "back in the US for a year" and to a man, those who asked the question expressed the same thing: business went under, huh?And most followed that up with, "Did you get anything out of the divorce other than a suitcase?"Two things thus far are making the pencil plot hard to figure out. Greene's character's flaw that leads to a very unhappy ending is a random act of kindness. While inspecting a Portuguese ship (a neutral country during the war), he finds a letter taped under the toilet tank. The ship's captain has a daughter in Germany and he'd intended to pass it along to another neutral ship heading that way. The Captain sobs--his career is not only over, but he will probably spend who knows how many years locked up. Greene's character gives in--hands him back the letter, says, "See that it doesn't happen again." But this is war, and fifth columnists lurk behind every bush--the plot takes off from there. Complications? He goes to a Syrian loan shark for the money to send the depressed wife off to South Africa, something not against regulations, but something that, if word it reached the ex-pat community, he'd never live it down. Young punk in charge wonders where the money came from--a bribe perhaps. The knot plot tightens.I need a "letter", so to speak--something to push the plot into fourth gear. Suggestions and comments are welcomed, but I have to draw from experience and a random act of kindness may be hard for me to tap in to.Here's the telephone lady reading parts of where I want the novel to begin.Liberation. as read by Ima Sari.9/7/2004EditI asked her if she'd gotten the flowers. She sai...I asked her if she'd gotten the flowers.She said, " Yes. But I wish you hadn't."I said, "I know. But I sent them anyway. Did you read my suggestion?"She said nothing at first. When she finished speaking, she said nothing I wanted to hear."What do you want me to say. Do you want me to say yes, sounds great. That I can afford run away again. Take another vacation from life? It isn't fair to you. And I am not in the place you want me to be. I am being so honest that it is painful. You. You need to focus on getting ready for next week."I interrupted her, and asked if I could respond."Please, " she said. "I would rather you didn't."She said, "your suggestion is a good one. but I can't handle any more."I could see her sitting in the wicker chair, taking a long pull on her glass of wine.She said, "I would like to see you, but I am afraid of you and I am afraid of me. And as usual I am crying, and I wish I could stop. I don't know if its me or the full moon. I listened.Outside Someone who'd been trying to start a car had given up. I heard him yelling as he slammed the door.9/6/2004EditWhen I am half awake and bemoaning every heart bea...When I am half awake and bemoaning every heart beat, when it is still dark and the cats crawl out of hiding to parade across my face, I remember things that might or might not be entirely true.It could be that one unreliable memory might float up, creating itself from the scintilla of a dream that floats away like smoke from a funeral ghat on the banks of the River Ganges.Every body has memories which sometimes return from the dead like a person who'd gone missing for several years.Are the characters in these memories based on people I might have actually known? Did I really once stand on the landing in Algiers, opposite the skyline of downtown New Orleans. Was there a cool wind blowing clean air against my face aglow from champagne and OJ mixed in a plastic cup? I think this one might be true. I hear someone saying to me as we sit on a bench and hold hands, "When I was very young my grandmother used to bring down here and we'd spend all day riding the ferry back and forth across the river. She would pack us a lunch of peanut butter and pickle sandwiches. My sister and I would sometimes have contests to see who could hold their breath the longest while my grandmother would wait for someone to leave the Sunday paper behind so she could read us the Sunday comics."I found this memory early this morning. I am not sure if it even belongs to me. If I could, I'd take it to the lost and found like a pair of keys left behind on a table in a Morrison's Cafeteria.9/5/2004EditBi-cyclic Evidence Exhibit A and BExhibit A The white youngin', Lulu (an Arabic word for "pearl") attaches herself to my robe in the morning while I bottle feed her. Exhibit B A sampling of key search words which bring up my site (which claims to be themeless): sensual body massage in hua hin "droppings of last year's horse" sexy group in jeddah sex porn teens fucking nurses bulgarian school for flight attendant drown my tits in cum kids pictures fouk "to a common prostitute" interpretation whitman sex jeddah queen filipina thai bahrain gin "wall street" "video booths" ruskies prostitute bangkok Whitman "to a common prostitute" sex arab fouk lynndie england dominatrix 9/5/2004EditBi-cyclicSomething needs to happen. Without an event that sets in motion a day unlike any other , there is no story. Someone has to enter a room and say something that causes someone else to do something which begins a chain of events. There has to be some kind of threshold crossing. I thought by now I'd be able tell a story about a man who crosses a line, or more accurately, breaks free of the circle of a serious illness some refer to as life.If that were the case, I could easily conjure up a story based on what I know--write what you know--and my story would have a likeable character with a gift for being sensitive towards the needs of other. In fact, that is how people describe him and that is why people want to get to know him. He has the characteristics of a good man.It's not that I haven't had blissful years of blandness and boredom that would give me the details I could draw from to tell a story about him, some guy who has to disconnect the telephone line from the wall in order to have a quiet afternoon alone with his woman. But as the story progresses, his woman is eventually betrayed, and in due course, the telephone line never has to be disconnected from the wall.No matter. I can still draw enough from experience to tell you about a character of great strength and resolve, someone who refuses to resign himself to the enervating vortex of shame. His shame in fact, like his guilt and the unending din of regrets which hum along in his mind like chronic tinnitus indicate that somewhere in the primordial soup where his soul will evolve and walk upright in human form (in about 800 million years) , predatory hope and awareness feed off guilt and regrets in symbiotic cycles of profusion and famine.He eventually concludes that she deserved more, he knew it all along and that he did had to be done for her out of respect for her beauty. Her beauty had always held him in awe, you see, and he knew that the time had come for her to wake up and realize she'd been squandering it by wasting a few years with him.Bouncing back into life after a few false starts and broken hearts, he is able to hijack the the controls from fate and fly his own life through many more jagged moments of turbulence. His luck holds out and somewhere far from the place where he'd started, he settles into a new life full of yawning and (whatever the opposite is of) sublime moments of gratitude.9/3/2004EditI Thought I Was Old ThenI see that my friend from a not-too-distant past and band mate Lisa has really taken off on her blog. She got off to a slow start because summer school was drawing to a close and there were papers to grade and the like. I can't remember if Lisa is a geologist who plays keyboards and guitar, writes poetry and songs and the mother of two or a mother of two who writes poetry and songs and plays keyboards and bass, or a guitar player who spins plates, taps dances, rebuilds deisel engines and dabbles from time to time in raising the dead. I know she once danced the Hora with Julia Roberts at Cafe Brasil and had a front row seat to an open heart surgery. She's posted some of my baby pictures. 9/3/2004EditOnce There Was This GuyBegin with a hook. Grab your reader's interest as early as the first sentence, no later than the end of the first paragraph. Since it is now too late for me to have accomplished a first sentence with a bell ringer, and since I am getting close to finishing my first paragraph, I ought to get down to business. I ought to but I can't; I can't because I don't know if the newspaper story headline will reel my reader in quicker than a sentence about falling seventy-five feet from a footbridge in Sri Lanka straight into a river cleverly using the word "falling" as a pivot in sentence which refers to "falling in love."A good story should also introduce tension right away. The tension can be plot-based, character-driven or both. If the tension arises from plot, then there should be a protagonist and an antagonist. Their conflict with one another drives the story page after page until the reader finds out who walks away from final round and whose soulless body ends up in a pool of blood. Character-driven tension still needs to have both a protagonist and an antagonist. The reader should be able to see as soon as possible that the hero is also an anti-hero and like Milton's despot of Pandemonium, it is when the main character's personality swings from hero to anti-hero that the most story picks up steam. Sympathy for this tragically flawed master of self sabotage also turns pages because the reader needs to know whether or not his fatal flaw defeats or it is defeated.My character driven story opens with a headline from an Arab English daily newspaper which reads:"Obscene Gesture Lands Drunken Man in Trouble in Dubai. That should be enough information to introduce the tragic flaw."The other opening sentence sets up a story driven by two people:"They jumped off the bridge together falling farther than they had ever fallen hitting the water at the same time, surfacing simultaneously."The fall hints at an allegory which paraphrases the first fall of a man and a woman whose riotous self will drove them from paradise. This allegory of free will rising up against the will of a transcending power brings us to theme, the notion of polarity and how a lack of balance disintegrates not only self will but brings down self with it.