Imaginary Creatures

Father’s Day is this weekend (so is Deadlands). Annika and the kids got me a really cool Lego set I’ve been coveting for some time- early present. Last night I sat at the craft table and built it with Sam helping- he’s getting really good. It was a long build- maybe 2+ hours with multiple kid breaks. By 8:30 or so Sam was exhausted, but didn’t want to give up. He told us he was going to sleep and lay down on his kid sized soft armchair and curled up. We covered him with the play parachute and he fell asleep almost instantly. So far, five is a very magical age.

Grace has a conspiratorial grin- she wants you to be in on the joke. Sam has a devil-may-care grin, the fun is usually of his making and while he likes to share it, his joy is wild and terrible and entirely his own.

My dear friend Nova’s new book- Imaginary Girls (go get a copy, it is really-really-really good!) arrived on the loading dock yesterday- a big day. I gathered the drivers, loaders and security guards around to marvel at the beautiful cover. They were dutifully impressed that my friend’s book looked so nice. “You should read it, it’s pretty on the inside too” I said.

Our security guard, a cantankerous old lunatic who pisses on all parades, tried to get my goat: “Eh, if she’s really your friend, is your name in the book?” he sneered.

I flipped to the back pages and showed him. He saluted me while going away. “I know when I’m licked!” he conceded.

I am very proud of my friend, and touched to have made her honor role.

I was going to write more about Deadlands, but that is for later.

Gracie dances to music, especially if I sing to her. We’ve been cleaning the apartment- spring cleaning and reorganizing- and we cleared off the front porch. Now Gracie can go out and stare down at the world beneath her feet. She loves it out there. I remember going out in the pre-dawn with Sam when he was a toddler, and also in the early evening, to find the moon and stars with him. Sam liked to be held while we searched for the lights in the sky, but Gracie prefers to stand on her own legs and look down rather than up. She likes to look at the moon, but she is more fascinated by the cars and animals and people below.

She notices things (she has a high cognition roll, like her old man) whereas Sam is more a creature of imagination- at least in his observation (or lack thereof).

Both children play by themselves and more and more with each other. They will hide under furniture and behind doors and giggle so I can find them easily. I listen to them play, and I watch the crows on the telephone wire, and I try to focus on the positive aspects of change. Growth is a good word- Half my blood comes from people of the earth, farmers and ranchers- so growth is a good word. It means they gain experience and health and solidity and, well, grow.

But they are still wee creatures of fantasy, sprites of the imagination. There is something ethereal and magical about them and I fear that going away. I dread the days when I can’t find them so easily.

My father visited not long ago and was struck by Sam’s “otherworldliness”. His word, I would never have thought of it. Maybe because of Sam’s speech issues he seems more elfin to my dad- combined with his coloring and features, his tangles wisps of silky hair- I can kind of get it. He is our changeling, Puckish- always running even before he could really walk. Gracie is more solid- our Goblin Princess, we called her. She keeps getting more and more beautiful and now I only see the Goblin when she is grinning that evil conspirators grin at me.

Sam’s emotions run hot- great joys and sorrows and whipsawing back and forth in a few moments. He is a creature of the air. Grace is- again- more solid. She is of the Earth. Feet firmly planted in the dirt. Sam floats, Gracie stomps, heavy footed.

Annika and I cling to each other, watching them crash and flow. Some days (hours, minutes, seconds) we marvel and wonder, some days (seconds, minutes, hours) we cringe and grit our teeth. Always we love.

Nova’s book is about love and sisters. I truly love my little sister, but I don’t think I could have understood the deep, fierce, love she writes about in Imaginary Girls if it wasn’t for my kids.

So lucky.

Black Box Recording

BlEArgh.

This weak has been a bit of a beast. I don’t know if I’m just strung out from exhaustion, coming down with something, or kinda really depressed.

BUT, at least K found Sam’s Lego batman & robin minifigs. We were starting to fret those were gone for good.

Next week, maybe, next week will be a little better/easier. I hope.

Meat for the Beast

SO my birthday weekend- complete with copius consumption of tasty beverages and a certain 18 ounce steak- was a landmark event, partially because it marked the end of the bacchanal begun in mid October when my mother visited and bought us a few gallons of hooch. Meat, cheese and copious drink (plus snacky treats and desserts) marked the time ‘twixt that visit and Pioneertown. No more! We cried. For my body hath grown unwieldy, distended and slow.

So I’ve been really watching my diet- specifically meat intake, booze intake, and portion control. These three, methinks, are my great weaknesses.

So far, I’m doing pretty well. Usually I eat some fruit and nuts for breakfast (a handful of peanuts, a banana, maybe some dried apricots) a salad for lunch, and a small serving of whatever Bettie or Boopsie are serving up at home- usually vegetarian, usually pretty healthy.

My body has reacted to the change faster than I thought, and any high sodium meal (like, sigh, french fries from Moe’s, or a pork & leek dumpling w/ soy sauce from HK Mart) makes me feel painfully dehydrated and a little head-achy. When I have binged a little on meat or cheese, I have FELT it, and my body has rebelled accordingly.

On the one hand, this is good. I crave the fresh veggies and fruit and nuts physically- and get no ill results from eating them. When I need a hot pick me up in the morning, I go for the oatmeal or if I do cave and grab pamcakes, I skip the bacon and sausage.

I don’t really miss the booze- though I do miss beer. And when I have a beer, I kinda miss having a shot to go with it. So mostly I drink the occasional glass of wine after dinner with the sisters. This has made my face (and torso) considerably less puffy.

But jesus fucking joker christ, psychologically I am craving steak frittes to the point of near madness.

These Boots

I don’t know how old I was when I decided I should be a cowboy boot kinda guy. I had a pair when I was a kidlet, since my Grandpappy and Granma where Texans (as is my mother, though she hid it well then and now, mostly). I always liked the aesthetic, the iconography. The sound they made. They set the scene, really, a man wearing boots: it tells you something about him. What, I dunno, but something.

I know I was 18 when I got my first adult pair of pointy-toed boots- I still have them. Light grey boots with dark grey uppers- faux elephant hide, and remarkably tough to wear and tear. They were my “Sunday” boots for a long time. Now, they’re everyday boots (when they are properly heeled, which they currently are not).

I have a lot of pairs of cowboy boots, but other than my old “Oliphant” boots and my Sunday or wedding boots (crocodile, almost definitely faux) I don’t wear any of them, and don’t know if I will again any time soon.

Last year my company told me to go to Red Wing (heee-heee!) to get a pair of water-proof steel toe boots: on the charge account. A lovely perk. I got a pair of nylon or rayon or some other *on* hiking boots. They are great, I wear ’em a lot. I can also wear them with shorts, something you can’t do with cowboy boots unless you are a stripper.

But I’m a cowboy boot man at heart, right? When we went out to Pioneertown for my birthday, Perfect Tommy seemed shocked that I hadn’t brought a pair. Times do change, and looking back I was just as surprised as he was. Surprised that I hadn’t even thought of bringing a pair of “comfortable” boots for sauntering up Mane Street, or skulking at Pappy & Harriets.

I figured when I got my new pair of work boots this year, I’d get a pair of Pecos pull-ons. These are the closest Red Wing comes to cowboy style boots. But when I tried them on, I felt more like Herman Munster. Not in a good way. (no offense, Bettie, you can be my Lilly any night)

So I got another pair of lace-ups. They’re totally different than last years. They are handsome, rugged, adventurous, comfy and awesome, I like ’em a lot. I knew when I put them on they were the right ones. The Pecos are solid boots- but they weren’t for me.

Times do change. And if you are surprised by my choice believe me: I’m just as surprised as you are.

Good Beer- Bad Dream

Last night- after having no beer at all- I dreamed that I was contacted by the Guinness brewery.

They wanted me to head up a new kind of dock operation, and also moonlight as an internal form of security.

“Who better to tell us how to spot beer thieves than a- shall we say reformed- beer thief?” they told me.

So I relocated the entire family to Ireland, where we would live in a bigger-than-small cottage some miles from the famous brewery of the good, thick, dark beer.

On my first day at work, they gave me a six-pack of Bud Light Lime as a welcoming gift.

The halls ran wet with blood.

All the Stories are all true: God is an Astronaut, Oz is over the Rainbow… and Midian is where the monsters are

A few weeks ago, when I was elbow deep in the Trailers of Terror yearly orgy on this here blog (thanks for playing!) I got a comment from someone who claimed to be a long-lost alumnus of my high school.

Apparently, some fifteen (or more) years ago I told this person how incredibly awesome Clive Barker’s Nightbreed was. And they wanted to tell me how they had finally seen it, and it sucked, and I was wrong, and Barker and Romero both needed to stop making movies lulz.

Ok.

It is kind of funny.

My wife has this theory that people have trouble accepting that in life we all move on.

Who I was at 23 (or 13, or 18, or 8 years old) is so vastly different from who I am at 35 that it pisses her off when folks from way back contact me (it is usually on a “Wall” at that awful facebook place) to be all “LOL remembar when U were all like _____”.

Her opinion is that we all change; everyone needs to get on board and accept it, and learn people all over again. Reconnect, as it were. I think we used to do that- reaching out to an old friend via a proper letter, or a length email- but not anymore. I think now Facebook or Twitter or Yelp or what-have-you acts as this “instant reconnect” device, where everyone can pretend that nothing has changed (except for kids and marriage status) and everyone has remained in stasis…

It is pretty funny though, the ways we are remembered. Here someone obviously really has this strong memory of me flogging the awesomeness of Barker’s adaption of his own novella- I believe that readily. I was a huge fan of NB back in the day- I saw it three times in the theater, for christsake. Of course, I was in eighth grade- I saw a lot of crappy movie multiple times. (Rutger Haur in Split Second for the win, y’all).

I still have a soft spot for Nightbreed, and I will defend it as an admirable effort though the final execution definitely leaves something to be desired.

But someone, seriously, was all: “Man, I remember Will loving this movie and talking it up, and all these years later I need to find him and tell him how wrong he was”.

Well, consider me schooled/learned/debunked. Myth- BUSTED.

It wasn’t hot till the sun rose.

Some days, I wake up well before the sun. This morning was one of them- funny, because I’d communicated with Miss Twist my thoughts on pre-dawn risings on Friday. That communication, more or less, below.

When Sam was a baby- after Red Hour and before Fox- while we were working on those scripts for various producer’s (that never went anywhere, the scripts OR the producers, ha-ha) I usually woke up between 4 and 5.

Sometimes because Sam woke up and JUST NEEDED to be awake- for about half an hour before he fell asleep again in my lap. Sometimes because it was when I could get writing done without Sam or Annika being inconvenienced by my shutting down/closing off and working.

I kind of miss that.

Now, with 2 kids- both demanding a lot of cuddles and wrasslin’ and playing with magnets and reading comic books to them and singing and so forth- I sleep until about 7, and then have to rush to get out of the house and to work on time.

I only write three days a week now, Mon/Wed/Fri on the loading dock, because that is when I can- I’m not complaining, I’ve made it work for me. (oh, some Tues/Thurs I sneak in some writing between 8:00-9:00am anyways).

Part of the reason I don’t wake up pre-dawn is because of the kids taking more out of me- me getting older, probably- and also that if I get up pre-dawn, I am intruding on my sister-in-law’s sleep by banging around in the kitchen and powering up my nine-year-old Mac (the fan sounds like it could power a small swamp-boat).

I kind of miss it, it was a hugely productive time for me. I got a lot of dishes done in the wee hours too.

Also, when we would go for late breakfast meetings with the producers on one of our projects- late meaning usually about 10am- I would order beer. Brian, one of the producers, would always seem shocked that I would order beer.

On the one hand, this was funny because he usually stumbled in for out meetings late, hands shaking from heavy vodka consumption the night before, eyes like two maraschino cherries floating in a glass of heavy cream.

It was also funny because, as I pointed out: I’d already been up for damn near 5/6 hours- this was my LUNCH, while his breakfast and my day was half over.

I miss that too, especially since the producer’s always picked up the check.

Today the internet tells me it is reaching 109 degrees here in Culver City (but it only feels like 104!). My revised manuscript is in the hands of my on-point reader, and this upcoming episode of Deadlands is already statted out… so today is a day for moving as little as possible, and drinking a LOT of water.

Sadly, my lunch will be without beer.

“Its Mega-Maid sir!” The Creative Vacuum.

Sometimes that Creative Vacuum goes from suck- to blow.

I don’t live in a creative vacuum where there is nothing there (zero atmosphere), and I certainly am influenced by what came before me (thoroughly post-modern Billy). But when I am writing, I am in a vacuum in that very little else matters.

It’s terrible- I feel terrible! I don’t think I neglect my wife and kids (job is another story) but I DO interact with them while I am somewhere else. Conversations are probably pretty fucking tiresome for Bettie and her sister (she lives with us, did I mention that Boopsie, sister of Bettie, lives with us now?) since all my brain can process is What I Am Writing (and what influenced/s it).

I admit- I get kind of frustrated with my own ability to see outside when I’ve (figuratively) locked myself in and drawn the mental curtains to get some writin’ done. I imagine it is worse for them I love and interact with.

I still play with the kidlets, but often my brain is elsewhere. Its like a fresh stab wound- that ever present throb and itch. Or a migraine- a creative migraine, blinding me to pretty much everything but what I’m working on/poised to work on. I can still drive, work, wash, eat, interact- I don’t literally seclude myself.

But there are steel shutters in my head, y’all, and they come down with a fuckin’ clang that resonates from hither to thither and far past yon.

“I wasn’t Bad. I wasn’t Bad-Bad.”

When I was in High School I had a black trench coat. This was a good ten years or so before Kebold & Harris fucked up that look for future generations of disgruntled teens. I didn’t want to look badass in my black trench coat (though I probably hoped it would help in that department) I wanted to look rumpled and world weary. In short, I wanted to look like I’d seen it all and had gleaned some small wisdom in my travels. Basically, I wanted to be a Chandler P.I. – and I hadn’t even read any Chandler yet.

I probably looked like a disgruntled teen- which is funny, because I wasn’t. I think I was a pretty good-natured teen, once you got past the raging hormones and the vast insecurities.

I wrote a lot of violent fiction- usually either superhero or Robert E. Howard inspired barbaric fantasy. I loved action movies and war movies. I had a secret stash of Guns & Ammo magazines- I was fascinated by firearms, but my mother had rebelled against her West Texas upbringing by being a loud anti-gun Mom. She let me have toy guns and GI Joes (reluctantly, I think, but I believe my dad, who grew up watching The Lone Ranger and Have Gun Will Travel and The Untouchables, had some influence over that), but she went so far as to tell me she’d rather I have Playboy magazines than Guns & Ammo. Hence the hidden stash.

(Mom, if you ever read this, I kept all my contraband beneath a loose board under the “guest” bed in my attic room. That was such a great room for a teenager)

Probably, I would have raised some warning flags if I had been a teenager in a post-Columbine world. So I’m pretty glad I came first, because I never actively wanted to hurt anyone. Except that one kid, Jason. Man, he was just evil. But then, he was also virulently hateful towards anyone different than him and reportedly HAD a cache of guns and knives etc. I, on the other hand, was just like every other teenager- I felt alienated. From what- I no longer have ANY IDEA.

Really, hormones are just a cruel fucking joke.

Well, ok, I DID have a few knives bought in Chinatown, a pair of brass knuckles, and a homemade goon stick: a thick broom handle drilled out and filled with heavy-gauge nails to give it weight, then wrapped up with grip-tape.

Why did I have some little arsenal? I may have grown up in Washington DC- and yes, it was during the period that the city gained and deserved the nickname “Dirty City”- but I lived in a good neighborhood. I didn’t have any enemies.

My best friend was Chris. He lived two doors up from me. His dad was a semi-retired Government guy from the State Department- we always joked that he was some kind of spook. He might well have been- they had lived in India and in Russia during the closing days of the Cold War.

Chris was like me, he liked trashy sci-fi movies and old westerns. We built a huge table in his attic for our Playmobil town, and later for our collectively purchased model trains- I think they were N gauge, or H? I don’t remember. Chris had a huge arsenal of homemade weaponry, knives and clubs and the like. I had a pair of brass knuckles that he was deeply envious of. When his family moved away he gave me a prize possession- a sword cane. I treasured it for a long time.

Now, WHY were we so heavily armed isn’t the point- we were teenaged boys, we were just fascinated with weaponry. As little kids we had cap pistols (and, frankly, even as bigger kids) and bb-guns and air rifles. We kept the air guns hidden from my mother with the porn.

The point is, we were text-book “Danger Sign” kids- in today’s environment. Then, in the mid to late 80s and into the early 90s, we were just kids. We listened to music our parents found annoying at best, offensive in the extreme (my mother kind of liked Guns & Roses and Metallica though). Comic books, video games, horror movies, knives and clubs and guns- and we NEVER got in any trouble. Not that kind of trouble. We weren’t bad, we weren’t bad-bad. We were just kids.

Am I overly nostalgic, peering backwards and sighing- as all father’s have sighed- that mine was the last truly open-range childhood, and my children won’t have the same freedom I did? I might be. But it feels that way.

One thing I didn’t have until I was much older, Role Playing Games- I don’t know if my mother remembers or not, but she (at least briefly) bought into that weird wave or paranoid fear that swept the US during the early 80s. The whole “Dungeons & Dragons is SATANIC, like that demon Heavy Metal Music”. I don’t know how she felt about Alice Cooper or Judas Priest, but she did tell me I couldn’t play D&D with my friend Anthony and his older brother. I was probably 7. I was pretty bummed, but my way of dealing with stuff like that was like many kids- I adopted my parent’s outlook without questioning it or developing my own opinion.

I think I was probably sixteen- maybe a year earlier- when my friend Shelby (who loomed into prominence in my life right around the time my friend Chris’ family moved away) introduced me to RPGs- the old Marvel system and D&D, and Paranoia (great game). He also had the most badass collection of Lego I had ever seen in my life.

Hidden in the air-craft controller tower in his Lego Space-Port (it took up his entire bedroom floor) was a secret compartment where he stored condoms. All kids hide something, I wonder what Sam or Grace will feel the need to hide from us? A World Cup poster? Michael Bay movies? Twilight?

A Hell of a Vision

And so I met this girl.

She was this little ball of sarcasm, slouching and smoking the same way, with a casual insolence, on a filthy couch in a little black slip. She didn’t look particularly elegant.

I was rolling out of a tumultuous and turbulent relationship with a girl who, to me, balanced trashy and classy at a perfect level. She was languid, and radiated a sort of Deep South sweaty glow that I found terribly enticing. She seemed taller than she was. She had one of those long necks, I guess. I was heartbroken when she showed me the door, not that I didn’t deserve it.

And so I met this girl. I wasn’t much more than a boy myself, though at 23 I certainly thought I’d figured out everything worth knowing. I met this girl who teased me mercilessly.

She came across as brash, as testy and sassy. She knew the city and she knew the country. She drank tequila sunrises in class, and Bushmills from the bottle. Her coloring was impossible for me to figure out- was she pale, or olive complexioned?

“Oh Will,” My mother chided me. “No one can be pale and olive skinned at the same time.”

But she was. And yet, and yet- and yet there was a sort of ruddy glow to her features at the same time. Her nose fascinated me. Her chin, this perfect little point beneath a mouth that always looked a little sad, except when she was smiling.

I wasn’t going to fall for her, of course. She was fun, I enjoyed the teasing, I enjoyed that she caught me off guard a lot, kept me off balance. But I wasn’t going to fall for her. For one thing, she was too young. She was only 19, and four years seemed like a long time when I was 23.

After I had fallen for her, I met with my Ex for a beer. She knew I was involved with this girl, but until we talked that day I don’t think she knew how involved, and I don’t think I knew how much either, until that moment. My Ex seemed a bit miffed that I had fallen for this girl.

“I hadn’t really planned on it,” I admitted, exasperated. “It was an accident.”

“Well,” my Ex said. “I don’t ever notice you having accidents with ugly girls.”

She was paraphrasing a quote from Lonesome Dove. It is one of my fondest memories of my Ex- because now I can look back and see the door that closed. I closed that door when I fell for this girl, this girl I wasn’t going to fall for.

I don’t mean that I “chose” to take one path or another- or one girl or another- I mean that by falling for someone, my life changed. I look back at this moment as point where the game changed.

Now it is 12 years and some since I met this girl. She’s a woman now (the only girl in my life is almost 4 months old and drools a lot) and she is still pretty sassy. I still look at her and smile.

The mini-series of Lonesome Dove ended with Tommy Lee Jones agreeing with a young newspaperman who has told him that he is “a man of vision.”

“Yes,” Tommy Lee Jones responds. “A Hell of a vision.”

She still is.