There’s A Write Way And A Wrong Way

Right out of the gate let me just say that you can put Robert Duvall in a cowboy hat and situate him anywhere on a wide open plain under a big sky and I’ll watch him do just about the most mundane of anythings. Lonesome Dove is just about some of the most awesomest television ever made and I’m terribly ashamed to admit I’ve never seen his Oscar-winning turn in Tender Mercies (I know, I know… I’ll remedy that soon).

duvall.jpgSo when I read last weekend all these glowing reviews that he was starring as an ornery old cowpoke in the two-part Broken Trail on AMC beginning Sunday I skedaddled over to the TiVo and programmed her on in there youbethca — hell I would’ve done so even if the reviews had been bad. Duvall in a western illicits something of a Pavlovian response. I even allowed it precedence over Deadwood, which I have most definitely become enamored with this season.

Well, I watched the first 105 minutes with limited commercial interruption and I have to amend my above statement about my willingness to watch Duvall watch paint dry as long as he’s sitting in a saddle somewhere in the latter half of the 19th century. I’ll sit in love with Duvall in a cowboy hat doing just about anything other than starring in a crap western where whoever wrote and produced the thing obviously missed the crucial ass/elbow life lesson because they clearly cannot differentiate betwixt the two and certainly demonstrate a failure a tell a tale that isn’t as by-the-numbers remedial as it gets.

Cases in point:

In the opening after the rather graphic exhibition of how bulls are turned into steers and then burned with brands — not a bad start — we have Duvall (Print) riding up out of nowhere to confront his nephew played by Thomas Haden-Church (Tom) to tell him he’s sorry but his momma died and he’s even sorrier to report that she done deeded him everything but this letter that essentially tells her only boy he can go fuck himself. Again, all’s good so far.

But Print’s got a plan, see. He tells Tom that he’s gonna put the momma’s property up as collateral for a loan so he can buy a heckload of horseflesh to drive on up to Wyoming to sell to some representative of her majesty the queen of England who’s advertising for them, and he urges the boy to come with him for a 25-percent cut.

Of course Tom does, but this is where the first red flag comes up, albeit a minor one. It would’ve been nice if the nephew had done a liiiiittle bit more than just basically thought about his uncle’s proposition for 1.9 seconds before saying m’kay and upending his life. Would it have killed the storytellers to stretch out the nephew’s disgruntlement and doubt so that maybe a scene could’ve been worked in where he has to come to his stubborn old uncle’s aid — maybe a fight or something — and thereafter decides he can’t live with himself if he let’s this old dude just go off and get himself killed?

Guess so, because next thing we see is they’ve got the bazillion horses and just the two of themselves are gonna transport them all the hell up to Wyoming. Just the two of them. With a bazillion horses. Riiiiiggggght.

Next we’re shown the bad guy played by James Russo somewhere buying five Chinese slave girls that he’s gonna sell to a madam somewhere. So there’s your set up. You got Duvall and Haden-Church moving horses across the prairie and Russo doing the same with some future whores. Think they’ll meet? Of course they will, but not before Tom has to tangent into a town for supplies, which is just a weak-ass excuse for the writers to put Tom in a bar where he kicks the ass of a bartender who — shock! — objects to some guy playing a fiddle and panhandling in his establishment.

Let me get this straight. The best the writers could give me is a bartender who has the audacity to not want a freeloader bothering his customers? And wait… you want me to like Tom for opening a can of whoop-ass on this poor sap?

Riiiigggggght.

To make it even more implausible, Tom shows up back at camp with the supplies and the fiddle player with some lame excuse about how they need the help, which Print readily says m’kay to. Well hell, why didn’t they get a hand before setting out? And why hire a guy whose shown he knows his way around a violin and panhandling but not herding horses? Can’t you at least give me a scene where fiddler shows he knows his way around a lasso?
Nah, because it’s crap writing people — and there’s pa-lenty more.

Despite it being the wild wide open West, it isn’t long before Russo’s evil captain and his fivesome of winsome Chinese lasses end up on the same very trail going in the same very direction as Print,Tom and Itzhak Perlman. Coincidence? Lemme guess the guys who wrote Crash wrote this, didn’t they?

What follows is some serious grade school-level scribing. At the releuctant invite of Print the captain is invited to join them for dinner. In response he brings a bottle of whiskey — that he’s drugged, of course… but why we don’t know specifically. Then over the meal by the campfire and while Print and Tom and Fiddleboy drink up and the five young ladies cower in the background, the captain explains where the girls are headed what they’re to become and offers them pokes at a buck a piece. All decline. Next morning? Oh yeah, our trio wakes up groggy and way late from the drugging to find four of the five ladies still there and still terrified, but the captain and the bazillion horses and all their money are long gone. Poof!

What the hell?

So of course Tom has to set out solo for the pimpthief and when he finds the bastard pronto with the one girl and all the horses — this is my favorite part — does he shoot the bastard? Nah, he sneaks up on him with a rifle while he’s sleeping, wakes him up so that he can hang him. Hang him? One moment the captain’s waking up with he biz end of a Winchester repeater pressed against his cheek and the next Tom’s riding off with the gal and the horses while the captain swings from a tree.

So pop quiz hotshot: Assuming you’re writing a scene about basically a descent nonsadistic cowboy who’s got a schedule to keep and a cantankerous uncle back wherever waiting with the fiddler and the four other whining hookers-to-be, would you…

A) Have him just blow the thieving bastard’s head off and get on ’bout his business?
B) Have him take all that extra time to tie the captain up and then make a hangman’s noose and then find a tree strong enough to support the baddie’s weight and then struggle to get that guy who I think would be rather unwilling to get up onto his horse and be hung and finally enjoy watching the guy slowly choke to death if his neck didn’t break right off. But then don’t show any of that stuff.

And pardon me, but how exactly does one guy get a bazillion horses and a scared girl back to Uncle Print? Oh well, if the captain could get ’em away, it shouldn’t be too hard, right?

Riiiiiggggght.

Back to the quiz. The answer’s C, which is better yet howsabout you rewind and give up that whole drug-the-booze bullshit and create a more plausible conflict in the first place and one that isn’t resolved right away. Maybe the captain kills the fiddler and has to bail on the gals and then later on takes Tom hostage to get the girls back and then Print kills him. Something. Anything!

But by then, hope is gone and I’m at the point where I’m talking to the TV as the plot continues downhill from there and all the iconic images of Duvall in his hat don’t mean shit. One of the horses breaks its leg and Tom’s gotta put it down much to the shock of the girls. Print takes a liking to all the five gals, teaching them to ride and such. One dies from tick fever. We’re introduced to the madam whose bordello is in a lawless town and who’s upset that the captain hasn’t arrived with her new merchandise. Greta Scacchi shows up in a supporting role somewhere. Then back on the plain there’s a flat-out odd confrontation where Print up and shoots two travelers dead in the belief that one is a fellow named Smallpox Bob who tours around purposely infecting the natives. Then they burn the bodies and the horses.
Huh?

By far the most inane cheaply written twist comes at the end. All of sudden kind-hearted grandfatherly Print just doesn’t want to have a cotton-pickin’ thing to do with them orientals no more and basically ordains that Tom and the fiddler (who by the way has not once played the instrument since the bar scene way back) take them to town and it just so happens the very town they begrudingly go to just coincidentally happens to be where the perturbed madam is. Of course she finds out and the first part ends with Tom blowing the thumbs off a would-be rapist (guess there wasn’t time to hang the creep up by them) and they make their escape (with Greta for some unknown reason) past the cursing rock-throwing madam who vows vengeance as strongly as Tom and fiddleboy vow not to desert those girls.

Good grief. It’s enough to put me off my feed. And needless to say I will not be returning for the conclusion.

Easy Like Sunday Morning

I’m always relieved when I finish a writing assignment. Whether it’s the best thing I’ve ever written or just an exercise in going through the motions, when I put a story to bed it’s as if the biggest burden has been lifted from my shoulders.

Thus before I put myself to bed last night, I cracked the whip and stayed up until I had first said rock-a-bye to my latest scribing gig, making this wide-open morning with my baby that much more enjoyable.

With yesterday’s hawk back and being pestered and strafed by some mockingbirds none to happy with the raptors proximity to their home, Susan and Shadow and I set out for a walk up Silver Lake Boulevard to the reservoir that culminated with breakfast of iced cofffees and a fried-egg sammich for me and an omelette for Susan at the precious Back Door Bakery & Cafe. I just love that place. Sitting there at a sidewalk table in the shade of a pepper tree watching the neighborhood go by is just the right way to spend a bit of the morning.

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As for the rest of the day, I’m thinking I’m gonna book me some hammock time later and if for some strange reason I become particularly motivated to do something productive I just might drag the clubs over to the driving range and/or transplant a couple potted plants into the backyard and side garden.

And/or not.

Cover Me!

Given the fact that we did the photo shoot last freakin’ Sunday afternoon, I didn’t think the story was going to run until next week or the week after, so you can guess my surprise when I saw myself and the other faux-militarized contributors to the cover feature of this week’s Los Angeles Alternative weekly staring back at me from the stack:

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Cool. The backstory is that when Ryan McCracken (second from right; of the awesome Losanjealous blog) conspired with me to eat at and then dual-review the risky-weird L.A. Chinese Food place on Sunset Boulevard just east of Parkman (my opinion is here on Blogging.la; Ryan’s is here), it caught the eye of L.A. Alternative’s Michele Knapp (that’s her in the center) who commented that this was just along the lines of an idea she had for a cover story group-reviewing dive eateries — especially those on the low end of the health inspector grading scale. When she asked if I’d be interested, I said hell yeah why not!

A bit of time went without hearing anything else and I figured the concept died on the vine, until right before Susan and I were leaving for Memorial Day weekend in Death Valley and I got an email from Michele seeing if I was still in or not.I wrote back in the affirmative telling her I was going to be out of town for the holiday weekend and she responded that she had been hoping to get everything and everyone finished up by then but maybe next time.

Which was just fine with me and Susan and I go to Death Valley and have a phenomenal weekend and when we come back I find a semi-frantic email from Michele telling me that she wasn’t able to get all the restaurants covered and would I please-pretty-please be able to turn one around on really short notice. Of course I could, I wrote in my reply and dared to inquire what I might be able to count on in terms of meal reimbursement and payment.

At first I hoped she was joking when she said that any slim chance of getting paid for my writing services and/or reimbursed for my expenses was dependent on a main advertiser paying its bill. Yikes! And though I could have played hardball and written back that I only work for free as a blogger, I wasn’t really in the mood to play hardball and instead took one for the team last Thursday and went down to a dubious kabob restaurant in the fashion district called Nayeb, had lunch, didn’t get ill, wrote about it, filed it, and even took a bit out of my Sunday afternoon to go up into Elysian Park and participate in the group photo cover shoot. All gratis.

To top it all off, they couldn’t even find room to give me the brief bio I requested: Will Campbell is a writer and photographer at work at play all around L.A. and on the web at wildbell.com. Is that too much to ask? Apparently so. Still, there’s no real sour grapes. I may be out a ten-spot for the meal but I’m on the cover of a weekly, and most of what I wrote made its way into print inside. I’ve worked cheaper.

Chelonians Rock!

In celebration of World Turtle Day, not only do I want to recognize our very own Russian tortoise Buster, who’ve I’ve been guardian of since 2001:

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But I also want to recognize and reflect on what is without a doubt to me the most important and influential — however metaphorical — chelonian I’ve ever encountered, namely the “land turtle” John Steinbeck brought me to in his The Grapes of Wrath.

I did crazy shit in my early/mid teens, like read books for pleasure. I credit my seventh grade English teaching team of Ms. Latzke and Ms. Diamond at Le Conte Junior High with getting that going. Sure, I raced through all six of C.S. Lewis’ Narnian chronicles in sixth grade, but it was Latzke/Diamond’s assignment to read Richard Adams’ Watership Down in 1977 that got me fired up about reading, big time. It remains my favorite book of all time.

So, while other kids in the years bookending 1980 could be found honing their marginal skateboard skills or getting recreational with drugs or trying to figure out how to get their parents to buy them radios with the then-unexplored and mysterious FM radio dials, I could often be found inside with KHJ or The Mighty 690 or KGIL on the Admiral Hi-Fi… reading. And not just Hardy Boys mysteries or the terrifying stuff from the frightening mind of Stephen King, but shit like Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby and Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead and Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. For fun in 9th grade I read Frederick Forsyth’s Day of the Jackal. In one day. A Saturday. In the summer.

What a nut I was. But if I can request a digression: that’s nothing. A few years earlier after seeing Jaws in the old Wilshire Theater in Beverly Hillls (having already read the book, of course) I decided to face my suddenly all-encompassing fear of the killer fish — I’m telling you I was sure one was going to come up through the shower drain and eat me —by going down to the Hollywood branch of the library, checking out a whole bunch of material on sharks, and not just reading about them — but writing a freakin’ report to myself on the topic.

I can’t recall exactly how I got introduced to Steinbeck, but if my memory isn’t playing with me I viisualize myself reading it in the duplex apartment we lived in on Wilton Place a few blocks north of Beverly Boulevard, which means it would be ’78-’79. It was my mom’s copy of the book and I think the catalyst that drove me to pick it up was learning that my favorite actor at the time, Henry Fonda, had starred in the movie version, which I hadn’t yet seen. Opening the book up I was immediately drawn into it — not so much because it mythically grabs you and doesn’t let go… moreso because of Steinbeck’s wholly accessible writing style and the visuals he seemed to so effortlessly create.

Through the first chapter I went, disbelieving the unfathomable desperate dusty dryness of Oklahoma that Steinbeck was showing me. I could almost feel it caking my skin and powdering my nose. In the second chapter he put me in a truck with its nosy driver and a homeward bound Tom Joad fresh out of prison for murder and I knew immediately Tom’s who Fonda must’ve played in the film.

Turning the page to chapter three I was like the driver and very curious to learn more about Tom myself, but Steinbeck had other plans. Instead he decides Joad’s been intruded upon enough and for the time being he says come over here away from Tom for a bit and let me show you this tortoise here along the side of the road. And at first my entirely unsophisticated 15-year-old intellect balks hard at this strange interruption. I don’t care about some critter crawling around in the dirt out in the middle of nowhere, I wanna know what’s going on with Tom! But Steinbeck puts a hand on my shoulder and points to the tortoise and says we’ll get back to Tom in a few minutes but right now this is important, right now take a closer look.

And so I do.

And three pages later I want to be a writer when I grow up. Three harrowing pages later at the chapter’s end I’m riveted to the old fella dragging itself and its shell along through the dust on the other side of the asphalt and I got it. I may not have known it was called a metaphor or even how to spell the word at that stage in my life, but instinctively I knew what Steinbeck had done. At first literal glance he was showing me why the tortoise crossed the road. But far deeper down he had shown me an unforgettable symbol of the struggle to persevere in an unforgiving environment, of resolutely overcoming obstacles amid tremendous adversity. Of surviving.

So on this World Turtle Day I give thanks and respect and love to the tortoise I’m personally responsible for, to all turtles the world over, and especially to that resolute and persistent one from Steinbeck’s imagination and talent.

All Business

My quick-‘n-dirty business cards arrived via VistaPrint today. I ordered them after attending the blogger gathering at the Golden Gopher last week and I was practically the only one who didn’t have one to hand out. So I went home and whipped one up via VP’s handy cardbuilding tool — even used a photo I snapped exiting the Gopher of the defunct Italian Kitchen restaurant frontage across the street as the card’s background graphic:

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Of course, the risk I run is that literal people will think I operate a business called Italian Kitchen. Whatever. All I care about and that is that they were cheap and easy and painless and now I have a not-your-every-day calling card where as yesterday I didn’t. Ta. Da.

Speaking of business, let’s talk about the freakin’ collection notice I get in the mail yesterday from some agency in Youbetcha Wisconsin telling me I owe the City of Los Angeles $157 and change. It doesn’t say for what honor I have of owing my native metropolis said amount, just that I do and that I’d better pay up and fast. Not that I don’t have some idea it has something to do with the business license I set up a couple years ago when I had delusions of some sort of full time freelance writing career, but I let it lapse in 2005 in part because I never received anything from the city offering to renew it and also because I didn’t do a thin red cent of freelance work in 2005.

So I’m wondering why I’m getting taxed $157.12 on a freelance income of Goose Egg. Typically I call the City’s Finance Office, which is listed as the creditor on the collection notice and — get this: they don’t have any idea who the hell I am. The lady on theother end of the line gives me some song and dance about accounts of less than $1,000 are automatically referred to these outside (way outside!) agencies. But I ask her why the hell didn’t the city first send me a freakin’ notice of money due? And before she can answer I say and besides why are you taxing me anyway since I didn’t make a taxable dime freelancing last year???

And all she can tell me to do is contact the agency — which I do and when I tell them I don’t owe squat they tell me to call the city again. Greeeeeeaaaaaaaat. Fortunately when I call the city I get a much more helpful and knowledgeable person who takes the time to find me in the system and to explain that the money I owe is not tax so much as it’s basically the renewal fee for the license. One that I never really needed in the first place. And certainly didn’t in ’05.

When I ask why oh why didn’t the city send me a renewal notice she punched some buttons on her computer and said it was because the city didn’t know where I was. I had to laugh out loud that the city I live in couldn’t find me but some Green Bay Packer-lovin’ bill collector in Beerbatter Wisconsin was able to paint me with a laser beam probably in between bites of his brat and kraut sammich.

Sheeesh!

Anyway, it was nicely offfered to waive the $47 penalty portion of the amount and mutually decided that my best course of action would be to come down to City Hall and settle up the amount in person. Right before hanging up it dawned on me that I might be on the hook for mo’ money for the current year and sure enough after punching a few more buttons she basically said she was glad I asked because indeed there was another delinquent bill getting ready to be shipped via the Polar Express to Badgerland.

I told her howsabout we make my information more current since it’s obvious your office probably still thinks I live in the valley or something (close, they had my address on Del Mar — though I’m pretty sure I sent in a letter notifying them of my current Silver Lake addy when I moved in with Susan almost two years ago).

So essentially I’m on the hook for a couple hundred bucks — then I can cancel the license if I want. The good news is that I may have a use for the thing after being so long dormant. My friend Rodger Jacobs was kind enough to email me yesterday to say the editor of a trade mag he writes for on occasion is always looking for new penners and would I be interested in potentially gigging for the publication. I believe I responded with a diplomatic version of hell yeah!

Thank you for the assist Rodger and here’s hoping it pans out. And at least now I have a bizcard to hand to the editor if we ever meet. That and a current city license to operate a keyboard or a ballpoint pen.

Now I’m off to the downtown YMCA to swing a tennis racquet for the first time in about 10 months. No license required.

Doing The Write Thing

Such a strong compulsion to write hasn’t happened before or since. It was the summer of 1982 and everything had gone wrong. I’d somehow managed to graduate high school, but not much more than a month later was locked up at the Beverly Hills jail, arrested for assault with a deadly weapon.

In the incident’s simplest terms, I’d brandished a rifle and pointed it at the driver of another vehicle. I apologize for the battery of questions such limited information may produce, but I’m going to save the details of that dreadful series of events for another day and another post and just skip to the end, wherein all charges were ultimately dismissed once all the facts were reviewed by a judge at a preliminary hearing.

But the damage was done. I’d been a candidate for a program with the U.S. Navy called BOOST — Broadened Opportunities for Officer Selection and Training — in which after a successful completion of what amounted to a year-long bootcamp with an academic focus, I’d be eligible to be attached to the NROTC unit at the college of my choice. There was even a shot at attending the Naval Academy. But even with all the charges dropped, the Navy dropped me like a hot potato.

My good friend Mark Burton’s father, David Burton, who not only put up the money to bail me out of jail that night but also sprung for a lawyer for me, also gave me a mini-wage job working in the warehouse of the garment and textiles thread supply company he owned in a nether region not far away from the landmark Coca-Cola building south and east of downtown. I think the name of the place was Georgia Thread Company.

My first day there the warehouse manager, a portly bearded man named Mike who could only move around with the use of two braces, the kind with the metal pieces that wrap around your forearms, handed me a buck knife with a five-inch blade and a leather case and told me to wear it on my belt. Tool of the trade? No, he said it was for protection whenever I left the relative safety of the warehouse for breaks or lunch, or even just to go to my car.

Nice.

So I spent my days there for several months bored out of my gourd listening to Spanish-language radio, eating garbage from the roach coaches that came by, and avoiding confrontations with the locals who always lurked around. My main job was peeling the company’s labels off spools of thread then replacing them with a different company’s. Little did I realize these endless cartons of endless spools of thread were inventory that Mr. Burton and his partner — Dan Silva, I think — had declared stolen in a rudimentary scheme to collect on the insurance.

Gotta digress here for a paragraph or so: A few months after I quit my job there (to go work fulltime as a Century City messenger for the long-gone ABC Messenger Service) Silva was found dead at his desk with his throat cut. Later, Burton was arrested and charged with buying his partner’s murder, which was allegedly brokered by the warehouse boss Mike who contracted the job out to some creep nicknamed Bear who he knew from some Santa Fe Springs bar they both frequented. Both Mike and Bear cut deals and Burton was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Personally, I’ll never believe Burton wanted to kill Silva, only scare him. But the confrontation with Bear and went bad and Silva ended up spraying his life all over his office. I’m certainly not condoning his murder, but Silva — who at my best impression from the several times I met him was a slickbacked slimedog — brought it on himself by by threatening Burton that he would break his silence to investigators if he wasn’t given a bigger cut of the insurance potato.

Anyway, although it’ll certainly be tough to top that true-crime tangent, allow me try to track things back to my original reason for this post, which was… ah yes: my first and last true and effortless compulsion to create.

It was born from a tire that flatted on my way home from work at the Georgia Thread Company one hot August afternoon. I was westbound in the No. 1 lane of the jammed Santa Monica Freeway approaching the Crenshaw Boulevard overpass when the car started to shimmy and fishtail. Unable to get passage to negotiate the tired old 1965 Mustang over to the shoulder, I was forced to bear right to a stop in the emergency access lane next to the center divider where I then discovered the right rear tire had died. While I had a spare in the trunk, I had no jack. So I was forced to wait for assistance. And wait. And wait, until help finally arrived some two hours later in the form of a CHP patrol car and its rather apprehensive officer who only after it was clear that there wasn’t either an APB or an assortment of warrants out for my arrest, still somewhat reluctantly offered his lugnut wrench and jack so that I could swap wheels — which I did and was on my way home.

But at a point during that eternity of waiting, I looked across the four lanes of slow-flowing traffic at the callbox that was near yet so far away and a story idea just — wham! — blew up inside my head. One moment I was on the verge of going crazy with boredom and the next I was scrambling for scraps of paper and a writing implement and jotting down character and plot points for a tale I couldn’t wait to get home to tell.

When I walked in the door and told my mom what happened and the story idea I’d come up with from it, she shut me up and told me to just go write it. And I did. I sat down at the IBM Selectric II at my desk, inserted a blank sheet of paper and didn’t quit typing until hours later and I had the tale roughly told. I spent several more days doing nothing else with my free time but honing it into a final draft of some 20-plus pages that I titled Breakdown.

In the story’s simplest terms, it’s about a kid who gets stuck on a freeway and help never arrives with apocapyptic results. Obviously it doesn’t take much analysis to find it’s a very personal tale about an angry and confused young man who feels invisible and victimized by a world that’s rejected him as worthless.

Whether it’s good storytelling is open to discussion. The only publication I submitted it to was the long-defunct Twilight Zone magazine, and they rejected it. But what’s pretty cut and dried is that it was important storytelling, not only as a raw and heartfelt way to capture and release all the pent up angst and frustration I was feeling at that time, but also in my evolution — however glacially paced — as a writer. It showed me that I have an inate talent to tell a tale.

The drawback is, that in the 23 years since I have rarely felt that rush — that urgency — to craft. Perhaps I’ve even quelled that talent. Certainly I’ve written a heckuva lot in my years as a journalist. And hell on an annual basis, this blog averages some 200,000 words. But the issue isn’t about my ability to spew keystrokes across a screen. I’m very, very rarely at a loss to do that. What I’m talking about is those few golden moments back in the dog days of 1982’s summer when I reveled in designing and building a piece of fiction — when I was incapable of stopping the process. Where did I put that? Where did it go? Can I get it back? I’m four months from steady employment and I have a strong desire never to return to that grind, but do I have the strength and courage to tap into my creative potential. Can I dive deep through my doubts and fears and come back up holding that power and desire that showed me my worth when I felt so worthless?

Boy I’d better. But first I’m going to dig Breakdown out of its unknown place in my scattered archives. Put my hands and eyes all over its pages. Reacquaint myself with it. See if it holds any keys to open doors locked too long. Maybe even — finally! — digitize it.

Two Things…

First up: I finally — finally! — finished and filed the story on gorilla trekking in Rwanda that I’ve been working on for months. And by “working on” I mean “dicking around with so frustratingly.” Being my own worst critic, I am not at all satisfied with it. It’s waaaaaaay long and suffers from a convoluted sequencing wherein I jump back, forth and sideways in time.

But there is something to be said for it being done. And by “done” I mean at least it’s at a certain level of readability and completeness that I could deliver it to the editor who’s been interested in it for as long as we’ve been back from Africa. Hopefully she won’t throw it back in my face and say “Ha-ha, very funny… now where’s the ape story we talked about?”

Second up: I got those primates off my back not a moment too soon as tomorrow morning I have the joyful task of appearing before an administrative law judge downtown who’ll hear my appeal against the Employment Development Department’s denial of my unemployment insurance claim. I feel I have a good case as to why I’m entitled to my benefits, but courtrooms are almost as terrifying to me as hospitals so I could use any and all hopes and best wishes and crossed fingers that all goes well and I’m able to calmly and persuasively state my side to the best of my ability without pulling a cowardly lion and running away down a corridor and out through the nearest window. Thanks in advance.

Oh, and third up (just to break the monotony and brighten the mood): Another example of my newest fauxtographic diversion. In this case the subject is Pepper, captured while lounging this morning atop the back of the club chair in the library:

Fauxtography: Pepper