As early as grade school, I remember teachers, friends and family members trying to convince me to be a writer. I would argue that there was one monumental problem with that idea: I didn’t like to read. As a kid, I was always playing, always on the go — hunting birds and squirrels in the woods behind our neighborhood (but killing few), riding bikes all over creation, riding my motorcycle on the twisty trails carved through the kudzu patch, backyard football games, tree houses, underground forts and once even trying my hand at stop-motion filmmaking. I simply couldn’t sit still to read a book. As an adult, I began to finally embrace the pleasure of reading — just in time, it turns out, to have the opportunity snatched away by the demands of parenthood and self-(un)employment.
I do some writing on a regular basis — blog post, scripts for client’s videos and commercials, a handful of screenplays. Screenwriting I could never really master. I find the form too limiting and have never been able to really find a voice as a screenwriter. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to write a few articles and a humor column for a friend’s magazine. That’s when I really got the writing bug.
I’ve had a number of ideas rolling around in my head that I’d hoped to explore as short stories, novels or graphic novels. And now, I’ve finally done it. I’ve started my first novel. (I won’t be so foolish as to use the cliché “The Great American Novel,” as it could turn out to be utter garbage.)
I’m debating as to the merits of posting snippets of the book as it progresses. I’ll decide on that soon. I will, however, post regular updates on my process.
For now, I’ll tell you this much: the title of the manuscript is Midlife Mouse and the title of the first chapter (the first draft of which is complete) is “Skulking in the Shadows of a Giant Spaceman’s Legs.” Curious?
Stay tuned for more…
I wonder if you need a special license to have a cemetery in your basement. Don’t worry. I haven’t gone all John Wayne Gacy. (Though, with Wayne as my middle name, my life of crime is somewhat of an inevitability.) No, the corpses in my cellar are more of the high tech variety. Over the last two years, I have lost a dazzling array of electronics to the gremlins of modern technology.
Let’s run down the inventory: two laptops, two printers, three DSL modems, two wireless routers, two DVD recorders, two DVD players, a TV, several hard drives, a DirecTV dual tuner TiVO, a PowerMac and a garage door opener. Some were taken out by lightning, some just died. Now, I’m not saying I’m cursed when it comes to electronics, but you might want to think twice before getting too close with your new pacemaker.
I don’t want to become the cranky old guy who talks about how “they don’t make ‘em like they used to,” but the fact remains. Visiting my grandmother recently, I was reminded of this. You see, my late grandfather never threw out a TV. If one were beyond repair, he’d simply remove the guts from its wooden cabinet and add some shelves. He didn’t so much lose a TV as gain a rather unsightly curio.
Today, our electronics require special furniture. Back then, electronics were furniture. Maybe I should borrow one of those hollow TV carcasses from my grandmother to use as entertainment center. It’s ironic, self-referential and retro all at once — how thoroughly post-modern of me.
What to do with a dearly departed DVD player? Most are made of thin metal or plastic and therefore of no use as boat anchors. Despite the trend toward miniaturization, they’re still too big to work as paperweights. I suppose I could join forces with the other victims of engineered obsolescence, pile them up with all the recently retired VCRs and antiquated (three-year-old) computers, lash them together with the cords we once used on our phones, weight them down with those 36-inch TVs that were all the rage 10 years ago and create one heck of a manmade reef. Nah. That would require actually talking to people.
A few years back, my wife and I would occasionally get a hankering for a milkshake. Inevitably, we would go from restaurant to restaurant and get the same response, “I’m sorry. The shake machine is broken.” We would joke that milkshake machine manufacturers must have the worst quality control in the world. We could laugh because it was just a milkshake. With consumer electronics however, we’re talking life and death. We simply can’t live without our entertainment. Is there anything more vital to a good, old-fashioned, red blooded American than his thoughtless diversions?
It’s enough to make one wish for a simpler time – a time when all a man needed to get by was a solid club with which to bash his prey, a time when entertainment could be found in the flickering light of that new-fangled miracle called fire and when the height of engineering was the wheel. That’s right. I want to be a caveman.
“The medicine men and tribal chiefs will always be valued higher than the story tellers.” – Kris Wheeler
You would never hear a caveman complain that his fire keeps crashing unexpectedly, or that his “directory tree” had rotted, causing him to lose several years worth of archived smoke signals. Rarely would he need to take his wheel down to the local shade tree and try to describe the cat-like screaming it would make every time he turned left on cold mornings.
I know I’m idealizing prehistory. Historical context wouldn’t likely change the nature of my personality. I’d still be drawn toward the telling of tales. As Kris Wheeler (publisher of this magazine) reminded me, “the medicine men and tribal chiefs will always be valued higher than the story tellers.”
(We should pause here to note that I’m not making this stuff up. I actually have conversations in real life about topics like my desire to be a caveman. Your estimation of me probably just shifted from “mildly clever” to “potentially insane,” but no matter.)
I suppose a caveman could get outsourced or outmoded as easily as you or I. Imagine a dialogue between a cave painter and the tribal chief who’s trying to fire him: “Muck, I want you to know you’ve been a real asset to the tribe.”
“Thank you, sir. If you have a moment, I’d like to talk to you about a concept I’ve been developing. It’s sort of a Mastadon Hunt meets Ritual Sacrifice with a touch of the romance of Herd of Bison.”
“These will be finger paintings, then?”
“Yes sir. Of course.”
The chief sighs. “Muck, I’m afraid we’re going to have to go in a different direction.”
“Our studies show that audiences aren’t reacting to finger paintings anymore. We’ve got this young kid coming up who’s really amazing with a brush.”
“A brush! You’re turning me out for a brush hack? Sir, the brush is just a fad. It’ll never last. And do you have any idea what brushes are going to do to your production budget?” Finger painting is the past and the future of cave paintings.”
“Actually, he has a notion to start painting on hides. So people can take the paintings with them. It’s very revolutionary stuff.”
“Take the paintings with them? Who would want to do that? Paintings are a communal experience. In fact, I’m working on a new large-format process. Some people are calling it the ‘mural,’ but I prefer “Cavema-scope!”
“I’m sorry, Muck. We’ve already signed him to a three picture deal.”
I mentioned to my wife my idealized vision of life in prehistoric times, hoping to lure her into a simpler lifestyle. I gave her the pitch about the fire, the smoke signals and the wheel. I explained to her all of the inconveniences of modern life that cavemen needn’t endure. She smiled and replied matter-of-factly, “no, they only had to worry about not being eaten.” Touché.