Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Literary Ebb & Flood

Rick McKinney

The past week has been a bumpy blur of botched plans and dizzying indecision. I was driven for all the wrong reasons to travel 1000 miles to my own personal City of Bad Dreams, due to depart over the weekend. I was going to help a friend with his business for a few weeks. Yeah, me. Writer. Junk artist. Dreamer. Business.

But my feet, which were supposed to have walked me to the train station Saturday morning, were moored deep in the mud of a mean mental ebb tide. I couldn't do it. But I couldn't rationalize why I couldn't do it. Anyway, a wise friend helped me realize that unwarranted guilt was my greatest driving force. With guilt extracted from the equation, the waters of the Pacific flooded back in the Golden Gate, filled the bay and freed me from muddy mind. I unplugged the shore power, cast off lines and went sailing instead.

I say all this to preface the fact that I haven't written in days, never a good thing for me. But I have had sweet moments aplenty. I've been immersed in books lately, great wonderful works that take me far afield of my own silly little nonsense troubles. I have four books going right now. Wonderful stuff. Great literary works all. While the foolish warlords running my country are busy replicating the financial fate of Spain after the Spanish Armada, I'm having my own personal literary renaissance!

And not just as a reader. Thanks to a lovely letter of praise the other day from a woman reader of Dead Men Hike No Trails, I am reminded of just how fortunate I am to be not only a writer reading writers but at once a writer being read! Sometimes I forget.

And then there's Jigglebox. I go to Google and type in Jigglebox + whatever subject of my vast jiggle rants I'm seeking, and the strangest most interesting things come up. Today I was in search of something and came upon this link.

My Weird Life & Luci in the Sky with a Smile

I read it through like one who'd never read it before and found myself nodding in agreement with the writer. Odd little irony, that.

Next week, it being the American Library Association Banned Books Week, I am intent on poring over as much of the following list as possible in the space of a week. Being a slow reader, I couldn't fathom getting through them all in a week. But I will sample them all, savor what I can, and come back later to finish those that grabbed me.

I'll need a place to start among them. Because I am a particularly sexual person currently living a particularly monastic life, perhaps I'll start with the sexually explicit books. Oops! That's nearly all of them! Ha! God Bless the Freedom of Speech. Addled thought it be, long may it live for all humanity.

Read On! - RSM

The “10 Most Challenged Books of 2007” reflect a range of themes, and consist of the following titles:

1) “And Tango Makes Three,” by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
Reasons: Anti-Ethnic, Sexism, Homosexuality, Anti-Family, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group

2) The Chocolate War,” by Robert Cormier
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Violence

3) “Olive’s Ocean,” by Kevin Henkes
Reasons: Sexually Explicit and Offensive Language

4) “The Golden Compass,” by Philip Pullman
Reasons: Religious Viewpoint

5) “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” by Mark Twain
Reasons: Racism

6) “The Color Purple,” by Alice Walker
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language,

7) "TTYL,” by Lauren Myracle
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

8) "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” by Maya Angelou
Reasons: Sexually Explicit

9) “It’s Perfectly Normal,” by Robie Harris
Reasons: Sex Education, Sexually Explicit

10) "The Perks of Being A Wallflower,” by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The fleeting floating barrier island dream

Words like "flattened" and "scraped" lop over the gunwales of my skinny little sloop on WiFi waves from the gulf coast of Texas today.

Such definitive language and plenty of daunting imagery strain my hope that friend Stefan's Rollover Bay beach house on Bolivar Peninsula survived Hurricane Ike. Strain, but not collapse. Not yet anyway. There's always hope.

Then again, looking back at Jigglebox.com at my writings from the winter I lived there, I am reminded that to Stefan's mind, the house lived on borrowed time:

Thunder from the East and Stefan speaks of this beach house pink & purple painted stilt stork house as though it weren't even here anymore.

More troublesome are the numbers, figures of how many people stayed behind and how few are yet accounted for. My mind fills in the blanks. After twenty five years without television in my life, my imagination is very much in tact. And so the mind wanders.

And the wind begins to blow. The surf writhes and the water rises like a tide hell-bent on rising to meet the moon.

The crawfish rain from the sky and a thousand hardy Bolivar tough-out-the-storm residents take to the sea in Barcaloungers as an etherial aquarium screen saver swells out of their buoyant television sets in radiant projected imagery filling living rooms with walls once solid now melting into salty night like Maurice Sendak's dream-jungled bedroom of little boy Max who preferred the company of monsters to his mother.

What a daydream. What a drag. What a surreal event is this life, existing on the edge of strange and raging organism.


And Jeliza-Rose goes deep sea diving with her daddy, and the house goes down, down, down. This a short YouTube clip of one of the more trippy scenes from one of my all time favorite films. Terry Gilliam, of course.

This article from the NYTimes posted just a few hours ago mentions Rollover Pass, complete with video and slide shows. If I'm not mistaken, the oil pumps pictured in the beginning of the video clip titled "High Island After Ike" are the one's from a favorite little story I often tell friends of my time on Bolivar with Stefan.

Back in 2002, Stefan told me he'd passed the praying mantis-like pumps time and again driving out to his family's beach house since childhood and often imagined what it would be like to climb up and ride one. That was the end of the story. The beginning was that I'd egged him into pulling over there one day, shouting "Let's ride those fuckers!" Up the pumps we scrambled with true irreverent gonzo grit. They're bigger than they look and not a little scary as they buck and curtsy with menacing moans, their creepy tendril straws stuck deep and sucking the blood of the earth far below. Somewhere, I have a photo of Stefan riding one such pump under power with his white cowboy hat flung high in one hand in true buckin' bronco style.

Now that would have been a helluva shotgun seat to ride out raging Ike.

I went digging deep in the muddy backwater of old hard drives and assembled this little photo album of images from my Bolivar days. Alas, no shot of the oil pump ride. Just hafta imagine that one.


Friday, September 12, 2008

Strange Dreams from Rollover Bay

As Hurricane Ike lurks over the gulf coast of Texas tonight, my mind goes back to a beautiful place, a strange time spent writing and contemplating life at friend Stefan's beach house on Rollover Bay, a tiny spot on the map now likely smack in the cross-hairs of Ike. Six years later, I go back and visit Rollover Bay in the writings from that time and am thoroughly transfixed. Rolling back into old Jigglebox.com pages is for me, their creator, a dizzying little dose of carnival ride vertigo, fun and a little nauseating as I remember that yes, I wrote all that and I posted it, and yes, it is still there. With any luck, Stefan's lovely little home on Bolivar Peninsula just east of Galveston will still be there in the morning. There and in tact. I pray. Pray with me for everyone in Ike's path. Even if you're not religious. Pray anyway. It can't hurt.

Here then is the recollection of a somewhat magical, somewhat eerie dream from my website Jigglebox.com from "Narcoleptic November," the rants from my time on Rollover Bay. And yes, I said Rants! The blog had not been invented yet. Let's hope this was just a strange and silly fantasy and not a prescient dream.

For Stefan with love and well-wishes. - RSM

November 4, 2002
Rollover Bay, Bolivar Texas -
Coffee. A hot shower to counter the deep, damp chill left by last night's crawfish boil storm. Oooh, what a storm it was! The bay boiling, the Cajun winds howling ghosts of hungry dead fishermen, red hot crawdads slappin' gainst the windows like nickel-sized raindrops, and bluesman Lightning Hopkins singing and strummin' on the porch while the gods cracked atoms overhead and the whole night lit up like a roman candle in a craggy coastal cave and Captain Hook was there and I was Peter Pan and I laughed as Hook dodged the sparks of a zillion Tinkerbells and I yelled to a white breasted bird who sat high on a stone shelf pretending disinterest and staring instead at the dark cave wall where the word "Tomorrow" was written in long-dried blood above a pile of a dead pirate's bones, and I shouted up to her, swearing, "I will never stop looking back and forward, too," for the future is the smile of a crocodile, and each new year a deceitful crocodile tear. ''Back to Never Never Land," I hoorah'd to my Tinks, and I accidentally winked and was back in my bed and the crawfish slid down the windows with a flump like the lifeless forms of philosophers at a Paul Pot-Pinochet combo target shoot & barbecue. Flump. And then I woke up. And somewhere in between what I'm about to tell you about house-cleaning and ferrets and such, my eyelids swelled up and fell open like the floppy sides of a kiddie swimmin' pool and I cried and cried and cried for what I do not know. (Read the entire story here)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Wal-Mart Boy outside the big box

Years ago I wrote a film script based on a novel idea I had about a little boy abandoned and growing up "feral" in a Wal-Mart store. Failing for years to realize it as a novel, I wrote it as a screenplay. Failing for years to market it as a screenplay (basically I never tried) I'm considering flip-flopping and turning the script into the book I wanted to write way back in 1995.

Click here to sample Wal-Mart Boy the script.

With all that in mind, I happened upon this clever short film on YouTube. To my fellow brand-loathing, consumption-nauseated warriors, this one's for you:

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Roz Rows The Brocade

Roz Savage

Hot couple of daze here on the San Francisco Bay. I wither to think of what it must be like in inland if it's this hot on the bay. Yesterday I spent the morning on oven preheat here in my little space capsule sailboat on the water (no A/C, no breeze) hammering ideas and dreams at my computer and dazedly marveling at how a white fiberglass boat deck could absorb so much heat from the sun. In the afternoon, I traded one heat for another at the laundromat after pushing my scant clothing supply a few days too far. Returning grumpy to the water around five, I contemplated a cooling sail, fell somnolent instead and surrendered to a late afternoon nap.

In the turbulent half-sleep of a hot afternoon, I dreamed that I'd exercised more courage that day six months ago when I came across Roz Savage working on her boat in dry dock on Alameda Island. I dreamed that I had acted on my instinct about the pretty woman working on the obviously long-distance rowing craft and introduced myself. In the dream, she happily showed me her boat. We became friends, dining together often on my boat. We swapped stories of epic quests, her long row across the Atlantic for ocean pollution awareness, my some-3000 miles of walking to combat suicide, in myself and others. I was there sailing alongside her as she rowed out the Golden Gate for her lonely three month voyage to Hawaii. I told her how brave she was, that I could never make such a journey alone again, having scoured the depths of my own solitude to the breaking point and returned in tact. To my surprise, Roz found that a laudable thing. We were heroic to one another. We were fast friends. It was as things should be.

In fact, I never met Roz. I was still deep inside my head just six months ago. I still am, but I'm working on getting out now. Day by day. But I see Roz clear as day in my memory of a lonely detox winter spent bicycling Alameda to keep sane. She glowed lovely then, a vision of something bigger than mankind's capacity for ugliness, mysterious at a distance but inspiring all the same. In some weird way, I knew she was on a quest. It just jumped off the pages of the book she is writing, that she is manifesting, just by living well and grandiose. She is Amelia Earhart in a little rowboat, a woman inspiring women, inspiring all who take notice. She is one little person doing giant things one stroke at a time.

Roz, if you can hear me across the Internet, across the ocean, past my dream-recollection of my friendship with you, I say hoo-rah and thank you. And to my cousin Justin dealing with heavy life issues in New Hampshire I say hang in there, Brother. In the words of the young protagonist in Reidar Jonsson's My Life As A Dog, "Sometimes it helps to compare."

photo: Eric Gay/Associated Press

It helps me to constantly reflect, compare, triangulate if you will, with people less fortunate than I (think: anyone from New Orleans currently stuck outside their home city) and with people like Roz. What bravery. What conviction. What a simple idea. What a monumental achievement.

Keep rowing. - RSM

Read all about Roz at her website RozSavage.com

Monday, September 1, 2008

Gustav Flaubert was all hot air

I was pleased to arise early this morning and see that Gustav got week in the knees just before hitting shore in Louisiana. Hooray! Everything's gonna be all right. I'll be the first to admit I'm a little reactionary, a tad excitable. Now if those levies will just hold strong, the National Guardsmen can pack up their shit and head to the Middle East where they're REALLY NEEDED!

Yeah, whatever. Now that God has spared New Orleans, I can be sarcastic again.

God help us.

On that note, I was fishing around Craigslist San Francisco today looking at rideshares and sailboats and w4m's when I stumbled on a rideshare posting which, though I wasn't really planning on going to Portland tomorrow, kinda makes me wish I was. Mick Overman looks like he'd be a very interesting man to road trip with. And I dig the tune. Hope you do, too.