The citizen who stomps every capital of Europe but has never been west of the Missouri River (so long the dank, brown, catfishy, dark, watered, empty, historic frontier) has missed a large number of important and interesting facts about the difficult business of being an American. The sky is not empty, folks; it’s a massive fluid layer. That’s why we can float. Window. Seat. I matriculated in an inflated steel inner tube the mount of Ranier shrouded most prominent in its own weather system like a very attractive woman on over-sized stacked cubes (possible delicately adjusting as she dances) beneath a strobe light, off an alley, some club.
The aura she creates. She can deliver beauty; she can deliver climate; she can deliver a magnificent water front. Her body was silver candlesticks, a bowl of polished fruit.
I used to dance at a Knoxville club called “The Underground” (hardly original, though hardly lame, as far as club names) and there was a young woman there, my gods, a young woman I knew, knew well at times, and other times more the way you might know a Grimm’s fairy tale told years ago, and she was some evenings–usually this on a roof drinking beer after dancing, the lips/the legs sore–she was a crater lake that was 16 feet deep and 130 feet long by 30 feet wide, the highest crater lake in Tennessee or more likely North America, stirring beneath 100 feet of ice in the summit crater, visited yes (never stayed), but only visited, and then by following a network of ice caves in the core of the volcano.
Here is her photo:
She reminded of Mount Ranier. Now that I get to glow it all these years later.
Same old story: White dude named Vancouver see this majestic mountain and names it after a pal of his, Mr. Ranier. Of course it already HAD a name. HAD A NAME.
Tacoma, for example.
The mountains climb on the backs of mountains!
Or some such nonsense.
I drank some Jagermeister–poor man’s Xanax for the flight–I had secreted in my jacket pocket and mumbled, “I’d like to try to climb a mountain one day.”
My head felt like a black-velvet portrait of Jesus.
A woman next to me (her daughter a Stanford student diving in the Pac 12 NCAA competition in Seattle) coughed (she was drinking two vodka tonics at once) and said, “The view enjoyed from a summit could hardly be surpassed in sublimity and grandeur; but one feels far from home so high in the sky, so much so that one is inclined to guess that, apart from the acquisition of knowledge and the exhilaration of climbing, more pleasure is to be found at the foot of the mountains than on their tops.”
At least I wasn’t next to WRITERS. There were writers all over the damn plane, reading POETRY.
It smells like writer.
Katie bolt the door!
Who the hell is Katie?
I also read poetry. As is my way. BTW, this Natalie Shapero book is glow to the hurly-burly passions and dangers and delights of Big Word Play. Smart book. Fun and serious. Serious fun.
Landed in Houston don’t remember Houston. Houston smelled like the space between the hit pedestrian and the motor car. So I remember the odor of Houston. So.
I had another beer.
All kinds of literary glowness:
yep, yep, yep. Going to be words, words wearing overalls with the top part unbuttoned so that straps tangle-out against their own behinds. Good words, I’m saying.
Landed in Seattle.
A taxi took me to the wrong hotel. We meandered. I saw trees resembling elevators and the sky was gray and past the taxi glass were rooms, beauty, clauses.
Then I took a train. Sometimes on a train I feel like a character in a novel and I grip my swaying metal bar and trumbling along through SeaTac and Othello and SODO and Pioneer Square and whatnot. Two dollars and fifty cents. Seems as reasonable as an ear of corn.
Seattle has a gigantic hinterland for such a small big city.
Train people in Seattle wear bulky, bullet-proof vests and are very nice. I missed my train station and one of them said, “Just go the next one, even though you didn’t pay to go that far, but we won’t tell anyone.”
Train staff helping yet another passenger…
My room is on the 9th floor and the elevator goes to the 8th floor. This made my mind muddled.
I am missing a floor, folks.
The hallway smells like fried fish.
Then you meander and whatnot. Into billowing spray of innumerable waterfalls and rapids–I mean the carpet. Then go to this elevator. It’s like fucking James Bond up in here…
Ah, Seattle. My oyster…well, not really. Because I’m here primarily on work. But between work are slivers of glow. Shards. Seattle? Lumber, shipping, writing conferences, fish, oyster sandwiches, fruits, grunge music, beer, coffee, running outfits, hot dogs, nachos, WRITERS, and vegetables seem to constitute the basic economic activities of these Northwestern communities that have clear access to the Pacific Ocean.
Fuck, let’s eat:
I stroll on out the hotel–what? no rain–and I’m wearing some sort of V-neck thang (just getting into V-necks recently) and I pass a CYBER CAFE that sells ONLY HOT DOGS, but there’s a big sign that says VEGETARIAN ONLY.
Veggie hot dog like Mobile station or Microsoft works? An oxymoron?
Um, sort of, um, cluttered in here…
GIANT ASS VEGETARIAN HOTDOG up in here:
I ate it with my hands and ate it with my fork. Then I came back the next day and ate a GIANT-ASS CAJUN HOT DOG VERY VERY FREAKING HOT/SPICY, even to me. And I have the heat tolerance of a dragon.
The sense of infinite possibilities still storks the Western mind.
“It isn’t raining!” I said to a young man next to me (he was dressed in green pants and a green sweater with a toboggan hat, hunter orange), “I came to see rain!”
“It will rain,” he said. “And it will be a cold, sucky rain.”
“True!” I barked. Then pointed out the window to a cloud the shape of a whale being impaled (by a seaplane). “But on the other hand, you have natural beauty
which we haven’t in the same sense in Indiana; and so you care a lot more about it than we do. It means more in your life.”
“It’s a big deal to grow a tree,” he said.
Then walked away.
If there is only one fine building in the Far Western town, that building is the vegetarian hot dog stand. In the cities they are palaces. Nor is it all bricks and mortar: they pay their hot dog cooks better than we do in Muncie, IN. In the West they still keep the earlier American sense of the value, the sanctity of the hot dog. It must fitly perform a sacred task; it must be the proper nursery of future stomachs. In Indiana we have largely lost that sense-lost it, no doubt, perforce.
Head to the book fair. Book fair is odd. WAY too many books in the world. You write a book and you go into this room full of books. Let’s say you built a plastic, remote-control tadpole. Pretty badass, your own tadpole! It has cute little legs and that groovy tail and texture and swims a bit and whatnot. You open a door and there’s an Olympic size swimming pool full of plastic tadpoles. Well…
I dig these new microficciones by Matt Leibel.
We sucked at hide-and-seek because the places we liked to hide were so different from the places we liked to seek.
John Wang goes, “Hey Sean, you want some bourbon?”
I don’t really drink bourbon.
“Sure, man,” I say. “Pour me a shot.”
Bourbon goes down the hatch like a primitive living destroys formal.
Holy shit! Flash luminaries!
he and she and he and she.
Do you know them? You should, if you glow flash fiction.
- Indefinable by style, so defined by word count (750)
- Fully Realized: Structure/ Language/Theme
- Compression & Efficiency
- Flash fiction is NOT just a short story with fewer words. It is its own genre.
- Steal from poets (if you know what you’re doing)
- Allows an active reader, a text to be read ‘off the page.’ Hemingway’s famous iceberg dictum: only show the top 10 percent of your story, and leave the other 90 percent below water to be conjured.
- It has a lot of names: sudden fiction, micro fiction, short short stories, miniatures, quick fiction, postcard fiction, smokelong, microfiction, vignettes, microficciones.
- Lovelace pet peeve! Flash fiction is not exclusively contemporary and is not primarily domestic! The genre is ancient and worldly.
I am humbled, I am humbled.
As interest in the flash form continues to develop, teachers must be ready with pedagogical approaches in mind and in hand. This panel of experts in teaching and writing flash, including faculty from Chatham University, Ball State University, and Emerson College, along with editors from Brevity and NANO Fiction, will identify the best practices for generating successful flash-based workshops while exploring effective readings and exercises for writing students.
Went to a reading, in a bar-like theater-like, something, arty-looking folks. Smokelong reading.
So I read. And then actors act out the reading. Inspired and all…
Very cool. Words in motion.
“Hey, Dave, what’s up?” I asked Dave Clapper.
Dave drank 9 beers and said, “I want to be captivated, to be forced to keep reading. I like to have an ‘Oh, no, she di’n’t!’ moment while reading, but for that moment to be natural within the course of the story. I want my posture to change from leaning back in my chair to leaning forward with my eyes far too close to the monitor. It’s hard for me to say whether or not ‘The Cougar’ does that. It’s on the long side for SmokeLong—a bit over a thousand words—but I think (I hope) it doesn’t feel like it. I think the dialogue keeps things moving quickly. In re-reading it while editing, I was pretty happy with how easy it was for my eyes to keep moving from beginning to end. I also really want flashes to stick in my head after reading. Quite often, my initial vote on a story can be a ‘no’ or a ‘maybe, leaning no,’ but then after a week or so, I realize that it won’t get outta my head, so I go back in and change my vote. And I still find myself thinking about these guys, much moreso than my usual flashes. So I guess it passes my editorial eye a couple ways, even though I think it’s fairly different from what usually grabs me.”
“Cool,” I said.
Went to bed. Dreamed I was a giraffe shadow. Got up:
WORK. WORK. WORK.
Do the tourist thing once, but do it. Then don’t do it. But do it once. That’s my philosophy on the tourist thing…
Yep, there it is. Its most arresting landmark, propped up for the 1962 World’s Fair, the Space Needle, a stout radio mast whimsically surmounted by an intergalactic flying saucer, drawn from a 1950s cigarette ad.
Then I had some nachos.
Tried to get a drink…
Tried, at a bar, near the writer’s convention…
I ordered a beer and waited a decade and pulled out my phone and called my mother and her first words, before she even said hello, were: “Where are you calling me from? It sounds awfully noisy in the back ground.”
“A fucking writer’s bar,” I said.
Then I went for coffee.
Hey mom, it’s the very first Starbucks.
Hey mom, Mark Neely and I are eating raw oysters and whatnot.
I ran and ran and ran. Didn’t jog, folks. Ran. Ran by the waterside.
Tried to go see Amelia Gray…tried.
Well, I’m happy she got a crowd.
Hey mom, an oyster burger!
Ran some more. Lots of stairs and hills and sculptures. A saw a seabird in the shape of vapor. Stairs felt very clean.
They used to meet one night a week at a place on top of
Telegraph Hill to explicate Pound’s Cantos-Peter who
was a scholar; and Linda who could recite many of the
parts of the poem thatenvisioned paradise; and Bob who
wanted to understand the energy and surprise of its
music; and Bill who knew Greek and could tell them
that “Dioce, whose terraces were the color of stars,” was
a city in Asia Minor mentioned by Herodotus.
And that winter when Bill locked his front door and shot
himself in the heart with a Webley service pistol, the
others remembered the summer nights, after a long session
of work, when they would climb down the steep
stairs which negotiated the cliff where the hill faced the
waterfront to go somewhere to get a drink and talk. The
city was all lights at that hour and the air smelled of coffee
and the bay. In San Francisco coffee is a family business, and a profitable
one, so the members of the families are often on the
society page of the newspaper, which is why Linda remembered
the wife of one of the great coffee merchants
who had also killed herself; it was a memory from childhood,
from those first glimpses a newspaper gives of the
shape of the adult world, and is mixed now with the
memory of the odor of coffee and the salt air.
And Peter recalled that the museum had a photograph of
that woman by Minor White. They had all seen it. She
had bobbed hair and a smart suit on with sharp lapels and
padded shoulders, and her skin was perfectly clear. Looking
directly into the camera, she does not seem happy
but she seems confident; and it is as if Minor White
understood that her elegance, because it was a matter
of style, was historical, because behind her is an old
bam which is the real subject of the picture-the grain
of its wood planking so sharply focused that it seems
alive, greys and blacks in a rivery and complex pattern
of venation. The back of Telegraph Hill was not always so steep. At
the time of the earthquake, building materials were
scarce, so coastal ships made a good thing of hauling
lumber down from the northwest. But the economy was
paralyzed, there were no goods to take back north, so
they dynamited the side of the hill and used the blasted
rock for ballast, and then, in port again, they dumped
the rock in the water to take on more lumber, and that
was how they built the harbor in Seattle.
Snow and rattling rain and I can’t get home, folks. Dallas? No. New-freaking-jersey!? Yes. Cleveland? Yep.
Fly here, fly there. Buy Jim Harrison book and a beer. Jim Harrison reads exactly like Jim Harrison, which I appreciate.
Good writers make you hungry.
Hey look. I’m eating my birthday dinner at an Applebee’s. In New Jersey.
Depressing as a comma between face and science.
as a busy pigeon.
as a town council, or any other elective body.
A meal, a shower, a bed for the night.
Would you like me to de-ice your plane?
Yes, yes I would. Ice reshapes the surface of the lift-producing parts of the airplane: the wings and the tail. That roughness is enough to change the aerodynamics of the wing such that there’s more drag and less lift.
Look, out the window, there’s a monster on the wing of the plane! No, no. It’s Muncie, Indiana.
I suppose I am back home.