Bean-a-lee-a-lea, Bean-a-lee-a-lou. . . .

31 07 2010

Bean loved to do two things, eat, and:


And sleep some more

She slept on the floor, on rugs, in chairs, on tables, on my desk, in my closet, and, of course, in bed:

Whaddya mean, move?

As Chelsea and Bean got older, I set a low chest near the bed to make it easier for them to get up and down. In one apartment, however, I didn’t have room for the chest, so set this stool next to the bed, instead:

Chelsea would step lightly up, but Bean never quite mastered that. Instead, she’d climb partly on to the lower step, then stick her paw into the notch on top and haul herself up and over; made me smile every time. Shoulda gotten a shot of that.

When I had a proper kitchen set-up—i.e., a table and chairs—Bean liked to jump into the chair. She then expected me to tip it back and rub her belly. She’d squeak and squeak until I’d stop, then look at me like ‘You’re stopping? Is there a problem?’

Even without the tip-and-rub, however, she liked to reign from the chair.

This became a point of contention between her and Jasper, as he, too, liked to loll on the chair. Bean would chase him off if he dared slip on to her perch, but at some point this past winter, she ceded the spot to him. It was a concession both sad and inevitable.

Still, she never gave in fully to Jasper, never let him get too familiar. Tolerance, however, she could do.

Early detente

I did see them sleeping together—actually touching—once or twice, but Jasper could never get the hang of how to hang without chomping on Bean. And then he wondered why she wanted nothing to do with him.

Chelsea was the same way, initially, with Bean, although because they were much closer in age, they had more time together to learn how to live together.

Unfathomable in the early years, constant later on

Chelsea, as I may have mentioned, was a marvelous jumper, able to leap from the floor to the top of five-foot bookshelves with little more preparation than a look and a butt-wriggle. This was how she most often escaped the Bean-kitten, as the young Bean had neither the strength nor, frankly, the chops, to follow her.

But oh, how Bean tried. One night, when my roommate P. and I were sitting on the couch, Bean chased Chelsea down the hall and into the living room. Chelsea skipped on to the nearby desk, then hopped on to the bookshelves.

Bean, determined to follow, didn’t bother first scrawling up the couch to get to the desk (a board slung across two file cabinets), and instead tried to conquer the desk in one leap.

She managed to get half her tiny body up, but her back didn’t quite make it. She bicycled her back legs, to no avail, and her front half slowly slid back off, until all that remained on top were her paws, the claws dug into the plywood.

She hung there for a moment, her little body swinging, before she finally let go.

Bean never attained the grace so natural to Chelsea, but she had her own dignity.

And she was sweet and lovable, who pipped and squeaked and purred and purred and purred.

Bean was a good cat. I don’t know if there’s anything after life in this world, but if there is, I hope she and Chelsea are together.

They were good cats.

If there is something else, I hope they’re happy.


you have done well it’s time to rest

29 07 2010

My beautiful Bean is gone.

Beanalea 1994-2010

Her name was inspired by a Jane Siberry song, ‘Everything Reminds Me of My Dog’: She has a line about Old folks remind me of my dog/My dog reminds old folks of their dogs (Barfy, Ruffo, Beanhead). . . . Bean! That’s it.

Chelsea had been driving my roommate and me crazy with her constant talk, so I thought another cat might help chill her out. I was in Minneapolis at the time, a couple of houses down from friends, and they went with me to the Humane Society to get a kitten.

We saw one group of kittens, then went into another room (the sick cat room, it turns out) for more. I had the name; I needed the cat to fit.

J., the driver, held up a long-haired black-and-white kitten and said ‘Get her! Get her!’ I didn’t want a long-hair, however, and demurred. (I did coerce convince J. to get that kitty herself; ‘Entropy’, she was named. Aptly.)

And then I found my Bean—full name, Beanalea—and took her home. She lived with Chelsea and me in three apartments in Minneapolis, one in Montreal, one in Somerville, and five in Brooklyn. She didn’t particularly like travelling, but she always settled in once we had, in fact, settled in.

Bean, Beanalea, Bean-goddammit (for a brief period when she was around 6 months), Binkins, Polar Bean, Lima Bean, Navy Bean, Gah-bahnzo Bean. . . she was my Bean.

My beautiful Bean.

Tell me why I don’t like Mondays

26 07 2010

Perhaps it has something to do with starting the workday early to try to fix a problem which was uncovered late on Friday and then not knowing if that fix is really enough of a fix and trying to find another way to deal with the problem and having a supervisor (who is genuinely a good guy) not understanding that the combination of the fix and the another-way was probably the best we could do given the time constraints and having to take the time to explain why this was so and then having him suggest that maybe in addition to making sure the patch (to offer up a metaphor) works we could also make the patch pretty until another supervisor (the head honcha and a good one too) said perhaps we can save the pretty for later and the first supervisor saying Uh, yeah, okay that makes sense and by the end of the day running out of time actually to implement the fix/another deal/patch and instead of leaving early because I started early leaving late because I had to explain why the patch should work to the supervisors who did in the end agree that this should work and we really don’t have much choice anyway.

So okay then.

La cucaracha

21 07 2010

The only—and I mean only—good thing about one-and-a-quarter inch cockroaches is that when you encounter a roach which is less than half an inch, your response is:

Pfft, whatever.

(And a quick kill, of course.)

Fool’s overture

19 07 2010

Oh my god, is that who I think it is?

That stutter of chords, fanning out across the guitar strings, repeated, then a side-step into another flutter of chords. And now, that high reed of a voice. . . no.

A cover.

Strangely, I was disappointed. I didn’t particularly want to hear the song, but if Planet Fitness radio is going to play it, then play the real goddamned thing.

Faux Supertramp is unacceptable.

Not that I can listen to the real Supertramp, but at least with Roger and the boys, I know what I’m getting.

(I have no idea about the images, but this is the only actual Supertramp version I could find in my, uh, 3 minutes of searching YouTube.)

I sometimes listen to vids after I post them—I watched the Lena Horne interview a couple of times—but I won’t listen to this.

Takes me back. . . to where I don’t particularly care to go.

My older sister brought home Even in the Quietest Moments some time before I was in junior high, and by eighth grade I almost certainly listened to that album more than she did. ‘Give a Little Bit’ opened up side 1, and side 2 ended with the long mashup that is ‘Fool’s Overture’.

I loved it, beginning to end, unreservedly and unashamedly. When Breakfast in America and the double-live Paris came out I scooped those up, then went back and sussed out Crisis? What Crisis?, Crime of the Century, Indelibly Stamped, and their eponymous debut. (The latter two didn’t get much time on my turntable, and Stamped, which featured a naked woman’s tattooed torso embarrassed my teenaged self.) I stayed with them through Famous Last Words—Roger Hodgson’s last gig with the band, but didn’t let up until I was in college, and knew that Brother Where You Bound was the last Supertramp album I would ever buy.

Six years of intense devotion; it wasn’t a bad run.

I almost certainly still listened to them in college, but I don’t really remember that. And when I sold or gave away my albums prior to my 1993 desert sojourn, I knew that I would never own Supertramp in cd form.

I’m no longer embarrassed by women’s breasts (which, given my ownership of a pair, is probably a good thing), and even all these years later, when I don’t want to listen to one  Supertramp song and two is out of the question, I can’t quite be embarrassed by my former ardor, either.

I was just about to write something snarky about the band, but, honestly, I can’t. You can, if you like—there is much eye-rolling to be done when it comes to Supertramp—but given how much I loved them, how they carried me out of my childhood and angsted right along with me in my teenaged years, it seems like bad faith for me to slag on them now.

I don’t love them now, but I did, once, and even if—or, perhaps, because—I no longer love any band (or any thing) the way I loved Supertramp, it seems a kind of betrayal both to my young self and to that love to repudiate them.

They weren’t the only band I listened to, of course, and when MTV hit SmallTown in the early 80s, a whole genre of music which the album-oriented rock of the Milwaukee stations never played suddenly chipped its way into my consciousness: the Police, the B-52’s (back when they still had the apostrophe), the Eurythmics, the Call, the Fall, the Clash, the Jam and on and on. I didn’t like them all, but to have the world open beyond Kansas or Boston—well, MTV in the early days performed a public service to us SmallTown kids who didn’t live close enough to catch the college radio stations.

By the summer after my sophomore year I was slam-dancing to the Violent Femmes at the Peaches stage at Summerfest, and when the LP played their 3 song ‘alternative’ rotation of the B-52’s (Rock Lobster), the Femmes (Gone Daddy Gone) and Surf Punks (Shark Attack), I was out whipping my skinny little body around that almost-empty dance floor.

A slightly-older co-worker at the local health club introduced me to Pat Metheny, and my theatre buddies to Manhattan Transfer, Frank Sinatra, and anything else that wasn’t, well, album-oriented rock played out of the Milwaukee stations.

So while I took Supertramp with me to college, I was already heading away from the songs which cocooned me and toward those that smacked me in the face, upside the head, and out into the headwinds.

I haven’t missed them in the fifteen or twenty years since I stopped listening, and I don’t think I ever will.

But they were a part of me, and they’re at the heart of one of the best things anyone has ever done for me:

Supertramp’s final tour with Roger Hodgson stopped at Alpine Valley, a mass-seating concert venue somewhere west of Milwaukee. I couldn’t afford one of the few hundred reserved spots, but I damned sure made sure that we got as close in as general seating allowed.

(General seating: the stage at Alpine Valley was situated near the bottom of a hill; the reserved seats were covered, and rising behind them, a vast slope of green. You’d get to Alpine Valley early in the day, set out your blanket and cooler in line if wanted to be first-ish in, or just in the gravel parking lot if you wanted to, I don’t know, hang out near your car. At some point they’d announce they would shortly open the gates, at which point you grabbed your shit and scrambled up into the crowd—which would, inevitably, start mooing—and pressed and pressed until they opened the spigot and you popped through the turnstiles and ran as fast as you dared down the hill to claim a spot.)

We did pretty good getting far down the hill at the Supertramp show, but as I was as short then as I am now, when the crowd stood up for the first song, I couldn’t see a damned thing.

That’s when the best-thing happened: JK, who didn’t come with us and wasn’t a part of my regular crowd, came over to me. Get on my shoulders, she said.


I know you love Supertramp. Get on my shoulders.

JK was not a big girl, but she was strong, and she hoisted me up and bounced with me through that whole opening song.

What a magnificent thing to offer someone who’s not, really, even your friend.

I don’t remember what the opener was, and I haven’t seen JK since high school graduation, but as long as I can remember her I will.

So, you see, to turn my back on Supertramp is to turn my back on that passion and is to turn my back on this great, good deed that JK did for me.

She deserves better. And, what the hell, so do I.

You strikeout like that

17 07 2010

In a discussion of death, a bit of editing; strikeouts old, italics new:

‘No thanks.’ Cate pulled out a chair. ‘I just don’t know what happens.’
‘Well, that’s the difficulty, corker,  isn’t it? there’s the rub that’s the bitch of it, isn’t it?’ Veronica considered. ‘You don’t know until it happens. Don’t know if it’s better, or worse, or anything at all.’ She separated out the blue candies. ‘For what it’s worth, I don’t think people who kill themselves go to hell.’ Cate’s face was pointed toward her shoes. ‘I know the Catholics used to believe that, but now,’ Veronica let out a breath, ‘now even they offer a Mass for suicides.’
Cate’s spoke to her shoes. ‘For sure real?’
‘Yeah. For sure real.’ Veronica popped some chocolates into her mouth, then pushed the bag toward Cate. ‘I don’t think, hm, I don’t think any God worth believing in punishes people after death who’ve suffered so much in life.’ ‘I don’t see the point in a God who punishes people who’ve already suffered more than enough.’ for suffering.’
‘Even people who deserve it?’
Veronica smacked her hand down on the table. ‘Deserve it? Deserve what, Cate? Suffering?’ Her tone was harsh voice rose. ‘Everybody suffers. Everybody,  . And not because they did something bad so they have to pay for it.’ just for being alive.’ Veronica was out of her chair now. ‘Goddammit, I hate this kind of talk. this shit. Like there’s some kind of hidden meaning in suffering: ‘You’re good, you’re bad’.People do bad shit all the time and nothing happens, and other people are just living their lives, and BAM! they get hit with the worst shit imaginable.’ She didn’t notice that Cate had drawn drew her feet up onto her chair, and had wrapped  herself into a cube. her arms around her shins. ‘No, suffering is just there, because we’re just here, and it’s got nothing to do with how good or bad we are. Goddammit! If suffering were about who deserved it, all these goddamned dictators and killers and drug dealers and all the rest of them would be writhing on the ground in pain. Wri-thing. On. The. Ground. But they’re not, are they.’ Winning and losing Good shit and bad shit happens, and that’s that.’ Veronica was stomping stomped around the kitchen.
‘No goddamned morality about that. And these goddamned These f Fucking televangelists, these goddamned hunters looking for trophies, treating us like prey. Goddamned predators!   goddamned predators, just lookin’ to get their hooks into us. bottom feeders. No, goddammit, if there is a god, I don’t think she’d set these people up to represent her!’ Like they give a shit about any of us.’ She paused in her rant, and happened to glance at glared out the back door window, then turned to see Cate, cubed. She wiped her hand over her face, and sighed. ‘I’m sorry, Ah, shit, Cate, I’m sorry. I can get going, sometimes.She huffed out a breath. ‘Not helping.’

Not that this is the final version, but you see what happens.

Cuts like a knife

15 07 2010

The editing is surprisingly easy.

‘Surprisingly’ because I had avoided it for so long: Once I decided that if this was to be proper novel, and not just a novelty of the imagination, my inner surgeon emerged.

Again, this wasn’t at all an issue with the second novel. That one wasn’t a surprise, and so I treated it as I treated any serious bit of my writing: as something to be worked and reworked and ground down and down until until I could run my hand over the grain without it catching on a notch or splinter.

But this first one, mmm, this one was a gift, and I treated it as something that wasn’t quite mine.

Now it is, or at least, it’s becoming mine, something I claim as my own work. The affection remains, but it is no longer precious.

That’s as it should be.

Slice it up

12 07 2010

Yes, this is a kill-your-darling situation.

I re-read (for the nth time) Unexpected People, and, well, nothing like a serious consideration that I’d put this out there for me to detach myself from the piece.

If it’s going to live, it can’t be my darling anymore.

I think the basic set-up is okay, but jeez louise the dialog is too much. So slice and dice and chop and sand and I think it could be okay.

It’s funny that only now can I see a way to edit this. When I made initial inquiries to agents back in 2007, I knew it was flawed but thought that an editor could help me figure out how to fix it; I hung back, I think, because of this, not engaging my customary editorial ruthlessness. But now, now that this will all be on me, I’ve snapped out of it, and I’ve begun sharpening my knives.

It won’t be a masterpiece, regardless, but it could be better.

And so it will be.

Once again, stay tuned.

Take a chance, take a chance

11 07 2010

Publish or perish?

What ought to be the fate of a first, flawed (fatally?) novel?

My second novel is pretty good, with no obvious structural flaws—although there are, of course, still flaws—and perhaps worth the effort to find an agent and, with luck, a publisher.

But the first, mm, the first is most definitely a first novel. Too much of this, not enough of that: the motivation for one if not two of the main characters remains murky, and however human the characters are (I am pretty good with character), they are a bit, tsssss, how do I put this, too wise?

Still, even with the over-knowingness, the characters are appealing, and I’d like to give them a chance. Hence the dilemma.

E-publishing removes almost all of the obstacles to publication, which is both a good and a bad thing. If an author thinks a novel is engaging enough, she can bypass all of the gatekeepers to print publication and go direct to the cybersphere. But gatekeepers are not always bad, and can keep an author from putting out something for which she feels affection, but which is also perhaps not ready for prime time.

Kill your darlings, said Faulkner, and I agree, wholeheartedly. I’ve struck beautiful sentences, etched out lyrical paragraphs, and consigned lovely metaphors to the trash bin, all because they didn’t advance the tale or the argument.  The play’s the thing, said another well-known author (albeit in a different context), and it is because I ardently believe that the overall purpose matters more than any part that I am willing to kill my darlings.

But what if the entire play—or novel, in this case—is your darling?

I never, er, well, not since I was a kid, did I expect to write a novel, and then  whooosh, this one (tentatively named Unexpected People) poured out of me. I wrote it in three months, after getting home from the late shift at work, and it came out clean. There was editing and trimming, of course, but I wrote and I wrote and then as I neared the end I wondered how it would end and then it did.

I wrote, and then I was done. What an amazing feeling!

The second novel was more complicated, which in turn required more discipline, more editing, more time; it is, on the whole, a more involved novel. But it also wouldn’t have happened without that first one, with what I learned in the writing of the first one, with what I learned I could do.

So do I chalk up Unexpected People as a kind of exercise, the practice before the performance?

That seems wrong, not least because it wasn’t an exercise, but a thing in itself: the stories, the characters, matter in themselves.

There is another way to deal with this, of course: try to fix those flaws. When I’d considered this previously, I thought, Oh, no, any surgery would kill the patient. But now I’m not so sure: I just sent a copy to C. (she’s helping me with a possible cover for a Smashwords version) and, just for kicks, decided to re-read it. The problems are evident—so much so I’m worried about what C. will say—but I still like the people in the story, still want to find out (even though I already know) what happens.

(Yes, I’m more hesitant to have a friend read this than strangers. That’s how it is.)

So I’ll finish reading it, then consider ways to shrink the flaws, perhaps by cutting back on the knowingness (i.e., the talkiness) of the characters, and hear what C. has to say.

I both do and do not want to publish this on Smashwords. There’s the whole matter of trying to get readers for it and marketing and shit would I have to Tweet and. . . tchaaaaarrgh maybe open a fucking. . . Facebook! account and all of the other issues of self-publishing.

But those are all technicalities, and secondary to the main question: Do I kill this darling, or let it find its way?

Stay tuned.

Hot town, summer in the city

6 07 2010