Pack of Two

An excerpt from the book “Pack of Two” by Caroline Knapp ( June 1999) was the homework for discussion a few months ago at the weekly gathering of writer’s that I hangout with.  I didn’t care for it.  It is a story about humans and dogs, so that was a bit of a surprise.  After a few weeks I decided that I should read the book, give it an honest chance and if nothing else figure out why it didn’t appeal to me.  As I began reading it, I started liking it a little better and then later not so much.  At times this book feels like it was a project, get a dog and write about the experiences.  She constantly delves into why people love dogs by quoting many studies and other books, so plenty of research had be done.  Discussion’s with many other dog people and their experiences fill about another third.  Perhaps a book full of trying to understand the bond with people and dogs is too much, maybe it is as simple we trust the love of a dog because we know they won’t drop it and walk away.  Could it be that learning to write Memoir has (finally) made me want to see more scenes and less telling?  Am I too independent to be concerned with the opinions of other’s as to why I love my dog?  Despite not really liking the book – I read it anyway (a first).

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Will this experience make me a better writer – time will tell.

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Liquored in Astoria

“Well isn’t everything more fun with a crazy bitch!?” flies out of the mouth of Mark the merchant marine, as a drunk couple finally stopped quarreling and left in a cab.

“Why yes it is!” laughed Erica the bartender.

***

Earlier I had taken a nap to put a break between a long day and a social experiment.  More than the rest, I wanted to look through the lens of not really feeling like going out, but doing it anyway.  Walking in the rain, across the street to the Workers Tavern, washed my face and cleared my head.

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The creaking door and wet stained wooden floor greeted me.  I eyed and claimed a stool at the bar.  Moments later a guy (who could be Neil Diamond’s son) sat down next to me and said, “You a fisherman?”

“No”

“Oh, I’m a merchant marine.  Anything exciting going on in here?”

As a quarreling couple brought their issues back inside from an herbal smoke break, she plopped down on the vacant stool between me and Mark.

“Really…Really!  You’re really going to do this – Now?!” barked the guy. “The cab is here.”

Silently she stared forward while I ignore them.  He moved closer toward me while pounding her with various forms of “Really!”  As suddenly she pushed back from the bar and marched outside, followed by her guy.

In the following silence I sat and watched drops slide off my beer and run into carvings on the bar.  As the words ‘Toys for Tots’ filled I noticed a sign behind the bar, “Those caught carving on the bar will be fined $100 – funds to be donated to Toys for Tots.”

Three guys rushed in like waves and landed on empty stools on the other side of the bar.  The older one seemed to lead, whether by blood or air he acted like their father.  After about an hour of noisy conversation with other locals the muscular one who’d been staring at me walked over and put a heavy hand on my shoulder.

“We’ve gotta stop all of this shit…” and something about “..Paris” was all that I could understand.

Father figure grabbed him and the other guy by the shirt and ushered them toward the backdoor.  He growled at them, “If we can get out of here without a fight – I can go snuggle with my wife.”

Through the evening I made eye contact with a couple of senior locals, a smiling logger and a silent disheveled Santa.  Their eyes reflected a weathered ‘Seen it all before’ look, quietly they sat and sipped.

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Four hours, four beers and a shot of Crown later – I’d lived in another dive bar story.

***

I enjoyed the experience of another writing workshop “Dive Bars and Dark Stories” on Friday the 13th November 2015.

Matt Love lives and teaches in Astoria, Oregon.

Who Knows

I just attended my third consecutive Write on the Sound writer’s conference in Edmonds, Washington.  These gatherings always bombard me with new thoughts and ideas while stirring up my mind.  The conference mental rush undoubtedly causes plenty of thought, the trick is to get some to flow out of the hand and onto the page.  One of my chosen sessions started with three writing prompts (none of which did anything for me, so I wandered off on my own a little).

***

I often lay awake recalling how good it used to be.

The days back in time when with no effort, no thought, nothing – it just happened.

At the end of a day I could just turn on the radio, lay down and drift away… for hours.

Very different from my current life – I could stay asleep.

***

The question comes up, “Do writing conference’s help you become a better writer?”

For me sharing time with others interested in learning about writing, from other writers, charges a battery (that for many years I didn’t know that I had).  So as long these gatherings stir something in me I’ll go, as for becoming a better writer – who knows?

Walking – Writing Workshop

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August 22, 2015 I attended another Writing Workshop taught by Matt Love at the Fort George Brewery in Astoria, Oregon.

This was my second time in the former car dealership showroom turned brewery conference room, sitting amongst some kegs of aging beer and learning more about writing.

From the various prompts, discussion, breaks to walk around Astoria and a strong beer – I ended up with this:

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Ranger Bombed

I usually walk with purpose (I have a dog) and out of necessity (my back chronically reminds me) – I do this daily.  Often I simply wish to walk for no reason, to range about.  Today my purpose was to unwind my mind and let my feet range.

When walking I typically try not to think – it is my escape.  I am however easily distracted by people (not today) and architecture (Astoria has plenty worthy of noticing).  While glancing at older buildings (more refreshened since my last visit) and ruins of pilings wobbling in the river, I noticed something new.  Colorful bits of random display, knitted patches of several different people’s artwork twisted, wrapped and tied around posts, benches and a gate.  Public displays of an orchestrated effort to grab attention and brighten the day for those who notice.

Today my mind was bombed by yarn.

How do you help a writer who has been damaged by hearing someone that they shouldn’t have?

Why would someone in the position of Teacher or Advisor give an over-the-top harsh critique of a gifted writer – seeking to improve upon their obvious gift?

Is it believed that crushing someone (who is likely more talented than the critic) is somehow helpful, making them fight back and try harder?

Or is it just a display of jealousy.

This happened to an amazing writer that I proudly consider a friend.

She seems to be hurting from the opinion of one person who does not deserve the power to yield that affect on her.

I never sought to write (it could be argued that I don’t) nor expect it to go anywhere, so a critical attack on me or something that I’ve written might roll off my back with a grin and a middle finger – making me of little value in helping her.

How do you help a writer who has been damaged by hearing someone that they shouldn’t have?

Learning to Kill

I don’t even remember the first Time that I did it.
It was no big deal, not like forming some kind of habit.
Over Time I did it a little more often, I quietly killed some.
Sometimes it was fun, mostly just doing it out of occasional boredom.

Suddenly one day I was driven to obsession.
Murdering in mass and serial slaughtering consumed me.
Death now burned my eyes as they opened in the early hours.

Random methods to choke, smother and drown Time became routine.
Driving the need to kill Time and feed my aging Dragon.