Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Listen to This

Years ago my parents came to Austin to visit me on Thanksgiving. As a relatively poor person then I couldn't afford to travel to see them, so I only went up to their place in Kansas at Christmas.  For years I had been cooking a turkey and everything else for my friends and roommates who would also stay in town. So even though I was very experienced at this, my Mom said we had to go out for Thanksgiving dinner. No amount of arguing could convince her otherwise (Dad always went along), so out we went. We tried multiple restaurants and they either had a 2-hour wait list or were out of turkey. We finally stopped at one place that at least had food, but pretty much all we got was whatever they had left. I think I had sausage.

This has been an ongoing thing in my life: no one will listen to me.

In my parents case I'm pretty sure it's because I'm the youngest child and still just a little kid more attune to playing basketball and roller skating then adult activities.

I believe this may have been the main reason I took up writing (you've bought my books, right?). Oh sure, I really love telling stories, but it means something special to me that there might actually be people out there reading my writing and, well, in effect listening to me.
Sadly, it's more than parents who won't listen. As you can guess (this is a blog about The War Between Men and Women after all) many of my former girlfriends didn't listen to me.  It would range from where we should go on a date: Her: Where do you want to go to eat? Me: How about Hut's? No, I don't like that. Me: Where do you want to go then? I don't care; to not listening to instructions on doing something: Me: Make sure you loosen the lug nuts a little before jacking up the car. Her, later after not changing the tire: I was unable to remove the lug nuts because the tire kept turning.
Just recently this woman became very angry with me because she came to pick up a ladder I had (I was out, told her exactly where to find it) and she picked up a small step stool instead. A completely wasted trip to her. It didn't matter that I told her explicitly where to find it, it somehow was my fault for the wasted trip.

My brother might be as bad as girlfriends about listening to me. It could be a combination of still thinking I'm the little guy who crept into his room to listen to his records, or because of the inherent competition between brothers. This happens most often when traveling. For example I'll say go down a certain street and he decides someway else might be faster. It isn't of course, but he sure wasn't going to listen to this little squirt.

Some people will say these examples are more of a case of not agreeing rather than not listening. However, in the context of "he won't listen to me" it is not a hearing or agreeing problem, it's a paying attention to me problem. i.e. "Well, I'm sure not going to listen to that guy."  I may have sage advice, but they are not going to take it.
I also believe this is a habit/plight of most Americans today due to social media. It's the "Instant Message Syndrome." People are so used to short blurbs of communication they will not—or are no longer capable of—listening to longer messages. So if you say the stepladder in the garage is hanging on the wall, all they pick up is ladder and garage.

Okay, I admit this syndrome is creeping into my own life in the way of emails. I'm notorious for skimming my email and sometimes not picking up the full message. I actually blame Robert Ludlum for this. I love his books, such as "The Bourne Identity," et al, but I think he sometimes goes into too much detail about the surroundings or scene. So I skim to get to the action. I ascribe to Hemingway's belief that you should be brief.

So I'm working on getting better with my emails, I just hope I can convince those around me to do the same when I talk to them. Until then, don't be surprised to see me walking down the street with someone and constantly rolling my eyes. It's becoming a tic.

Monday, August 8, 2016

This ain't TRASH!

People love gossip.  Oh, sure, there are some high-brow folks who will scrunch their noses at the thought of gossip filling the air, but you can still catch them sneaking a peek at "People" for news about Angelina and Brad's latest public snit, or what Jennifer says about that noticeable tummy bump.

Humans just love to hear—and talk about —other people.

"Writing Trash and Hunting Buffalo" is my new e-book about gossip. More particularly it's about a Vietnam vet turned gossip columnist who writes biting articles about Hollywood elite in order to bring them back to Earth.

Of course, this book complicates things by infusing symbolism, bitter rivalries, head-strong personalities and personal tics throughout its pages.

For example, the buffalo in the title (and the Warriors who hunt them) represent a dying visage/ideal of our past. They have a link to the main character too, but you'll have to figure out why.

I wrote this book partly because I had these memories of going to Grandma's house in Hays, Kansas as a child and finding these glitzy gossip rags on her coffee table. When the adults weren't looking, I'd grab a few and go to the basement to look them over. As a testosterone-laden kid I mainly liked the pictures of scantily-clad, young starlets. However, thinking back to those memories as an adult, the contrast of the strait-laced Midwestern older woman reading these Babylon chronicles really struck a nerve. So the book points out this internal war between the stereotypical concepts of the Midwest versus The Hollywood jet-set.

Although I knew it would have a Midwestern aspect, initially I thought the main character would be from Iowa. As a Star Trek fan I wanted to give a nod to Captain Kirk as I always choose him over Picard in the debate over the best captain of the Enterprise. I eventually settled on Hutchinson, Kansas as the character's childhood home because of an article I once saw in the 80s that said that city had more millionaires per capita than anywhere (one of the characters is rich).  Okay, my parents lived there for a number of years and that may have been a slight factor too. 

Probably the biggest underlying theme of the book concerns what happens to your soul when you become the thing you despise.  The main character is a pretty straight-as-an-arrow Midwesterner thrown amongst a hedonistic, money-grubbing society he absolutely hates. He has some childhood issues that feed his animosity and reinforce his contempt for those who believe they are superior.  This pretty much makes him a walking time bomb. Yes, it's not light reading.

Okay, it's no Hemingway novel, but I do pay homage to him with a quote from the main character: "To a writer, a bar is the most important place in his life—after the desk his typewriter sits on."

After all, Hemingway was a hard-drinking journalist/novelist.  

Speaking of journalist/novelists, I also had to mention the University of Texas in the book. The main character received his journalism degree from there. I did this partly because Walter Cronkite studied there (yes, a journalism God), but I also earned a journalism degree from UT. As a side note, they used to offer a class called "The journalist as novelist."  Clever link to Hemingway, eh? Sadly, I never got to take the course.


So BUY TRASH.  You'll love the characters and get excited about the barroom fights, but maybe you'll also love the internal struggle to maintain your soul while surrounded by a world alien to your beliefs. Happy hunting.

The Thurber Brigade does not apologize for this sidestep (even though it's the third in a row). James Thurber would love TRASH.