Wednesday, January 28, 2009


You can't help but compare Fringe to The X-Files, and now it has become very apparent that they are even going to be patterned in similar fashion. After last week's (yes I'm going to say it) mythology episode, this week was easily monster of the week.

The funny thing is that, no matter what Fringe gets right, there are a few things that it gets horribly wrong. In last week's episode we have Agent Dunham, like some new age James Bond with all her female helplessness, asking a captor for a drink of water, and then asking him to unrestrain her so that she may drink it.

I mean, seriously, this is worse than blatant. You make jokes about it before it even happens, assuming that they wouldn't write off the whole ease of her escape as "finding an idiot to unlock her and let her escape." This was what bothered me with Valkyrie, it seemed that no matter who Tom Cruise talked to, he couldn't find someone who would actually call Hitler up and say, "Man, they're planning to kill you." Where that film played off Nazis as just misunderstood heroes working under a monster, Fringe has a way of playing off your criminals as, well, idiots.

How does Dunham discover who it is that captured her? The man works with her at the FBI and he has a spot on his shoe. A SPOT! Something he didn't clean off in the morning, by coincidences that Dickens would feel bad about reading, leads her to coming up with her big breakthrough idea. Look, at least Greg House has conversations with people before he puts 2 and 2 together and it comes back as 4 instead of 22. What I'm trying to say is, in one episode, both a henchman falls for the oldest trick in the book, and an apparent mastermind neglects his own hygiene to the extent that his mask is useless.

My father watched this show and said it reminded him of Dr. Who and the bad thing is that this show isn't low budget at all, they just couldn't write any other way of escaping, any other way of figuring it all out. It's getting to be quite sad now, because this was really where The X-Files excelled, at least for someone like me. Even the mythology episodes post-Duchovny that were annoyingly all about chasing Mulder, it seemed like the people who were making the show at least knew what they were doing.

So hey, maybe I'm being judgmental, maybe this is why a show like Lost (that I haven't seen) is so acclaimed, this new form of "Hey, it looks like we don't get it either" way of making shows doesn't really do it for me, though. The main problem here is that Fringe could be a really good show, but it's not. When trying for some kind of science realism, which is an apparent shift of focus from something like The X-Files, please don't show me some kind of cheap fake thrill as a hand coming out of a computer screen, even if you are going to pass it off as a hallucination. I can't get rid of the feeling that I'm watching a B movie that's trying to be bad.

And you know the whole Scully-Mulder ambigiuty? Yeah, it's back, in a lesser way, but an even more dated way now. I'm tired of any sort of running serial that treats character relationships statically. One of the reasons I've grown to despise certain aspects of House, the main reason I really enjoyed season three of Dexter til near the end. I understand that it's hard to segment off a couple on a show and then have them break up (something that may or may not have happened on Bones which I've seen maybe an episode and a half of), but shows need to learn that any sort of staticness, predictability not played for comic appeal begins to draw on a show.

It also seems like there are enough scary things in our world to play with, rather than Fringe needing to revert to time machines (actually brilliantly done in the film Primer), huge flu viruses, and all sorts of seriously fake sounding things. The theme given by Peter Bishop in the last episode, about how all of this is real and we just don't know about it, is the kind of thing that made Burn After Reading a comedy, and just makes this show appear like it's trying too hard. Do you remember Jurrasic Park? (I need to read the book one of these days.) What was the reveal in Jurassic Park? That the DNA they used to fill in the dinos was from frogs that changed gender when necessary. Even if not of word of that was true, it made sense. The character of Walter Bishop and all these stories he has of all these great scientific things he does, well, they're running thinner each time, and I'm taking them with so many grains of salt, that I'm not even going to drink that glass of water, since it deserves to be in the Atlantic.

The goal of the show does seem to be this sort of "Look at what's going on in the world that you'll never know about," but at this it fails completely, because you can never watch it without at least a small shred of disbelief, and with the number of times I've laughed at it as of late, I'm not sure I can compare it to The Unborn, but it has the same problem. It wants to be good, it wants to work, it really does, and you have to give it that, but...

If anyone out there likes Lie to Me, is actually making an effort to watch Lie to Me, then I'm sorry, but a show like that, that basically reduces every lie ever told to being so blatant as to making an overly visible twitch or a smile necessary, is a foil to the reason something like Fringe doesn't work. It's the uncanny valley (something I actually agree with Freud about), because the show tries so hard to maintain this reality and then place it's irreality underneath, that it fails, while so many other shows aren't even going for real these days, granted, they just aren't trying hard.

But the worst part of all this is that Fringe is promising. It's actually worthy enough to DVR. (Which is a whole new endeavor in itself because of this new way of commercials that Fox has, where they're going to cut to about 5 minutes or something like that of ads per show. What no one notices is that commercials are such a reality of life for people without a DVR, that they've learned to do things during the breaks, and this is only breaking a relatively recent social construct, plus, people who have a DVR aren't going to watch commercial breaks, "because they're shorter.) Joshua Jackson only makes me think of Pacey every now and then, and has now become, comically, the man you go to when you need something done illegally. And it's the kind of show that gets to the point where you say "one more episode" after each one.

So, I don't really know what to say about it, except that I'm liking Leverage better, but perhaps, like Levi Weaver, "I’ve always been better at writing with a bit of vitriol," so have as much to say about it. I just feel that Fringe could have so much going for it, and more than enough to make a good show has been squandered.

But then again, on the topic and yet irrelevant, is Lucas Douglas seriously getting his own show? FTW.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

People have been asking me what I read lately...

...or maybe I just have the illusion that that is happening. Whichever, the fact still remains that I don't really know anymore. I've been going after books based on the superficial--title, author, who the author knows, relationships between authors (i. e. Bret Easton Ellis leading me to reading McInerney's Bright Lights, Big City)--and the other day, when Welcome to the Monkey House was not at the bookstore, I found myself wandering shelves looking for a collection of short stories that could lead me to some sort of reasonable pastiche for the novel I'm trying to write (it's still coming along rather nicely in my head, but is stuttering on the computer screen, thanks for asking). It came down to Denis Johnson's Jesus' Son or Sherman Alexie's The Toughest Indian in the World, of which I picked the latter because it was longer, the same price, a trade paperback, rather than an MMP, and, partially because the grammar of Johnson's book still bothers me.

All of these somewhat stupid things flow through my head a bit too much, methinks. The blogs I'm reading are depressing me, because they all seem to tell so much more of a story than I've ever felt I've had to give. I don't really know the first time I started writing, or the first time I started telling stories, but I do know that it had nothing to do with my life, because I find myself to be quite boring.

So now I'm reading Chabon's A Model World and Other Stories and the aforementioned book by Sherman Alexie. Both remind me of the benefits of reading the short story, a style of writing that according to most everyone you ask, is becoming a commodity. (Even if the only person I can think of right now who has commonly brought this up is Stephen King.) Basically I've been reading straight first person as of late, even something like The Unbearable Lightness of Being with its ever present speaker, but have been avoiding books like The Delivery Man or The King of Methlehem, which are both, I believe, third person. I'm not exactly sure why I've been doing this, it's not like I dislike the construct of an omniscient narrator, but it has definitely become a conscious effort on my part. So, with a collection, I can shift back and forth, and have done so in the first three stories I've read of books. I need to get back to Paycheck and Other Stories, the first of the complete short stories of PKD, just so I can keep up my genre feelings, since my writing has been getting progressively more and more mainstream, which is not bad, but just unexpected, considering who I think I am.

I've also been drawing possibly random connections as of late: the whole time I was reading Lunar Park, I was thinking, "Ha! This is like Christine," and I don't know if that makes any real sense, even though "haunted" cars do play moderate roles in both. I've already spoken of the similarities I found between the first Milan Kundera book I'd ever read and last year's Pulitzer winner, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

Oddly enough, I picked up The Road because it was like six bucks for the MMP (twice as long and half the price of Jesus' Son) at Wal-Mart of all places, so, even though I haven't made any headway through The Orchard Keeper, I'll be reading more Cormac McCarthy soon. Thinking, if I wait on getting back to my first Library of America book, Philip Roth's Novels and Stories 1959-1962, pick up some Delillo and Pynchon (both of which I'll be reading someday, I'm sure), I'll be reading Harold Bloom's favorite living quartet, even though I don't care for anything Bloom says, just because, for me, he is the perfect example of the stuck-up literary critic.

The only problem with this whole goal of mine, when it comes to writing this novel I want to write, is that I've never really done any half-good pastiche, except for, perhaps three pages from the book I wrote in November which was pretty damn close to me just stealing from Easton Ellis's Glamorama. I've written one of the shorts for the book now, but I don't really know if it fits the sort of thing I've been going for. It's called "The Man Who Was Forgot," and is something I've been working on for a long time really (trying to write a story with that title), and an idea that my father's only response to was, "But, that's like, grammatically wrong, right?"

So, it feels good to have written that finally, fully, beginning-middle-end, something I've been doing a helluva lot more lately than ever before, and must be some form of a step up. But that's about it, I guess, thinking I really, really need to read The Great Gatsby, which I've been turning into a myth of comparison in my mind, and is probably nothing, absolutely nothing, like I'm expecting it to be.

And I guess the main problem I have with this whole blog writing thing is the same problem I have with writing anything that isn't pretty much straight fiction. I usually just go with what comes into my mind, what words appear in my head, and that leads me down odd pathways, and useless corridors, and I find myself wondering what I'm even trying to talk about anymore. But feeling better than that last sentence sounds right now.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

It's on now.

"I used to go down to my office and fantasize about all the books I could write instead." Michael Chabon said that, and although his abandonment of a 1500 page manuscript to write his second book (Wonder Boys) is Moby Dick to my minnow, I do identify with this quote a bit. I just left a story (but I don't know if I've abandoned it), and I've started something else, something that I don't really understand all that well.

I mean, one of the problems I have in my writing is the whole division between fact and fiction, how much of myself I need to put into each character, how much of this world, or the place that I live, do I need to add into the setting. The things I do know: the main character is someone like the narrator of Neil Gaiman's "Bitter Grounds," who's reasons for running away are a lot less subtle. There's a writer named Philip Forger, who, like some sort of novel-writing Johnny Appleseed, has gone cross-country opening up mom and pop book stores, giving the owners the sole responsibility of keeping a shelf of his books up in the store, and letting everyone who notices them have a book for free.

Possible ideas deal with how it is that these books get replaced, various short stories from a book that the narrator picks up being presented in the text, long drawn out phone calls about odd stories that people don't really tell basic strangers occuring between two people who've only recently met, etc, if you can actually think of anything etc with the examples I've given.

It feels like I'm trying to pick up a certain "story-within-a-story" quality that frames a book like Douglas Coupland's Generation X, sentences that keep on going (probably not something that Bret Easton Ellis would enjoy me citing to him), no numbered chapters, but titled sections, possibly of a certain amount of length, but I've only really written one so far. Another thing being an idea that might be taken from what I've read about Salman Rushdie's The Ground Beneath Her Feet (which I haven't read), where fictional writers' names appear at random, something I've enjoyed doing before, because it adds easy complexity and allows for naming that adds its own story to a narrative.

I feel like this could be something long and looping, that I could be writing for a long time, and I'm already thinking about adding in these little pastiches under the guise of this writer, Philip Forger. As it's probably apparent, this is exciting right now, this is something that could stretch my talent to its wit's end, which will be fun, because there is no time limit on this one, and I can just think about things, and let the story tell itself.

I'm not sure how much of the stuff flowing through my head right now is going to show up in this thing, but it feels like I have a lot to say, which isn't really a bad thing to feel, especially when you've only written one long work and one medium work, and nothing that really sustained a strong narrative for more than fifty pages.

Hopeful readings in the future, while writing this: A Model World and Other Stories by Michael Chabon, Welcome to the Monkey House from Kurt Vonnegut, possibly Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, and probably some other things to help with either short story writing, or the way I feel the plot is turning. Going to watch The Big Lebowski at some point today. I wonder if that will have any impact on this.

You know, this is one of the reasons I write. The possibilities are endless (clichéd, I know), and it seems like anything I do can suddenly function as a teaching exercise. I like that, the feeling that the only way is up.

I mean, look, the only reason there are people that are naïve optimists is because it makes them happy to be the people that they are. Philip K. Dick, ever the philosopher, even while he was writing fairly straight science fiction like Solar Lottery, said that "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away," and the question then becomes, how much of lives depend on what we believe, how much can we control by a simple command of "Think positive thoughts."

And I don't really know, but in fiction, I have the control and what happens can depend on my mood, my feelings toward a specific character, or just the words that pop into my head. I don't believe in any of this, and it was never around for it to go away, but it seems like I'm finding another reality of a sorts. Somewhere between here and The Twilight Zone, where Rod Serling is always whispering in the background of everyone's dreams. Half sleep deprived, last night, when I started writing this, it was as if I had walked into a train station and recorded each train coming past. I can see what's happening here, visualize it, and I've never been a person to be able to draw up images of a text.

So yeah, it's good right now.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

This is what happens when you read too many books.

You know, the thing with a book like The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, is that it gets you thinking in a slightly magical realist fashion. The book is based on the legend of fukú, which, in my much uninformed opinion, has to do with the idea of a curse. The NFL playoffs are going on at the moment, and sure, a curse is something that is far worse than this, but each game seems to be going just the opposite of my prediction. Do you see the connection there? Sure, I have my sight, I have my well being, but I'm here linking something as small as a few football games to an established and terrible curse.

I do that sometimes. I mean the whole idea of curses and things like them, I think they are defense mechanisms, so that we can feel that we are in control. I'm sure that Jake Delhomme would love to have something to blame his five interceptions on; I don't think Chad Pennington would deny a reason for Ed Reed to be everywhere on the field. Obviously there are some things we can't explain, that we try to make up some sort of reason for. That's where mythology comes from.

I've been thinking about this new age myth as of late: the sporting event. Basically it's new age nationalism, that avoids war, and I support anything that avoids war. But really, it's just the new evolution of an old game. There's a story here that I want to write someday, basically playing off some sport as a new age mythology; I have bits and pieces of it worked out, young narrator, probably dealing with the recent divorce of parents, but that's about it.

Back on the subject of some sort of curse, used as an explanation for all that goes wrong. Besides being a leading support gatherer for countless revolutionaries, I see this as an interesting approach to a narrative form as well. It's interesting how close The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is to The Unbearable Lightness of Being. I'd like to hear Junot Díaz's reasoning for this, or, if we want to believe an adage of Kurt Vonnegut ("Is it possible that seemingly incredible geniuses like Bach and Shakespeare and Einstein were not in fact superhuman, but simply plagiarists, copying great stuff from the future?"), for that matter, I'd like to hear the reasons from Milan Kundera.

I'm not slandering here (I guess it would be libel), these are two very different books, and even if Díaz read Kundera's book, his is a very different story with minor connections. I only make this mention to illustrate a larger picture. Another example being that the day I started Philip Roth's "Goodbye, Columbus," the day before or the day that I finished Michael Chabon's The Mysteries of Pittsburgh. In the afternotes of Mysteries, Chabon makes direct mention of Roth's novella, and I found myself staring at the page in disbelief.

One of the arguments for some kind of reasoning being behind something, whether it be a curse on a small scale, or you know, something like intelligent design, seems to deal with the likelihood of coincidences. This is the kind of thing that people trash Dickens for, the sort of idea that (fitting that is coincidentally enough) Milan Kundera talks about at one point in The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

The way I see it, no matter what you believe, coincidences are a part of nature, and that is what makes their expression so commonplace in novels. The idea I've probably written about the most, that we could all be characters in someone else's story (simple variation on brains in a vat, really), seems to hold water here. We reject the possibility of a novel full of the improbable, we call it unrealistic, but what we are perhaps really doing, is avoiding thinking about something that we're all afraid of.

I don't really know; this is all fluff really. I think a line like that showed up in my novel somewhere, spoken by a friend of the writer of the book. In the book, there was something manipulating the plot turns from behind the scenes, but I don't know if any of that was written well enough so that the reader could understand what happened.

But then again...

I don't really understand what's happening right now anyway, so maybe that book was more realistic than I thought.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


I'm not really sure what happens. Sometimes I know what's next, sometimes I don't, and it comes to me. This was what made writing a novel such an odd experience. You try to stay away from "plotting," but any substantial amount of writing in a short amount of time has to have some kind of structure, at least a skeleton, because otherwise, it just comes out a little too jumbled. A little too much of a mess. At least that's what seemed to happen to me.

Stephen King does his best not to plot (says his only really good plotted novel is The Dead Zone, which definitely meets both requirements and does nothing to hide them, is very forward about its knowledge of the future with all of its foreshadowing), and maybe that's something to strive toward, but it isn't something that I find all that attainable all the time. Sometimes it seems like I'm a generation behind, with William Gibson saying that "word-processing did away with 'drafts', for [him]," I still find myself writing things over and over again. Sometimes it's longhand to typing, but occasionally it is just rereading something I once wrote and understanding what I wanted to write, what I want to write, somehow more than I did back then.

Basically drafting turns stories into virtually new constructs; themes change, characters speak different lines, endings flip, and I don't really know how to think about things like this. It is both positive and negative to feel that you can rewrite something and make it better, for it seems to imply that you have become a better writer, but also allows a work to never be truly finished, always tinkered with, always added on to, and there's a certain near unacceptable obsession with perfection that leaks its way into your mind. But that's not what this is about.

The problem I have is actually running into roadblocks in the shortest of stories. I get these ideas, but they only work for about a fourth of the story. It's difficult to actually finish anything, when I'm unable to see what's next, and I move on to something else. This is a problem I have. One of the reasons I tried to write a novel in a month was to see if I could work through these blocks, but what it really resulted in was what I've already mentioned, "plotting."

And I don't really think I should be talking about this. I'm not a proven writer in anyway. People like Stephen King or Annie Dillard write books about this, but in reading them, I find that the only true rule I've really gotten is that there is no set way to do this. Everyone has their own set-up, style, points to make. You can try to listen to the people who write books about this, but for me, those don't really help. It's basically just autobiography: This is how I write.

I don't really feel like I deserve even that. The only real way to discuss fiction, the only real way to discuss writing, is by writing a novel about it. This is something I truly believe, but that does not mean I wish people to stop writing books "on writing." They have their own secrets to reveal, their inspirations to give. I just mean to point out that I don't know how well this can be taught. I wouldn't go as far as King in saying that there has to be some kind of latent talent to being a writer, because I don't really know that I have any talent myself.

But I think the best kind of writing about writing is the kind that I've been reading lately. Fairly straight metafiction, referring specifically to Easton Ellis's Lunar Park and Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

Sorry for wasting your time there. I'll admit, I don't really think anything I've said can be trusted, since I'm not certified in this. There is one thing I should mention. The one thing that I really do think is true is Stephen King's adage that the best thing you can do for your writing is to read a lot and write a lot.

I'm stuck in a story right now. Having trouble writing.

That's what this is, I guess. Somewhere to keep my voice from getting rough from disuse.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Is it Asimov's that has that section called "On Books"?

This here is probably going to be more like an "On Authors." (Or "On Writers," but I think that, for some reason, that sounds too pretentious [a word I just typed wrong about five times]). Let's just say I'm reading a lot of books right now. Too many. It gets to be that I forget I'm reading a book and someone will mention it and suddenly I'll remember I'm halfway through it.

The ones on my mind right now are Bret Easton Ellis's Lunar Park, that I just started today, and Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being, as translated by Michael Henry Heim, that I picked up a while ago with Foer's Everything is Illuminated, to complete my set of Harper Perennial Olive Editions (the third, and last, book being Chabon's The Mysteries of Pittsburgh). [Finishing this post, I've noticed that I should probably share with the reader that I have compared both with the works of Kurt Vonnegut, casting little input from elsewhere. I guess this is a flaw, and for that I apologize.]

Easton Ellis (as I often call him to differentiate with Warren Ellis), hit a chord with Glamorama, which took what was good about American Psycho (the humor, the dialogue) and limited the parts that made you cringe (namely the serial killing), and has now moved on (or did 3-4 years ago. I'm behind the curve) to his faux memoir. To actually speak of the novel, would be a travesty, because I've only just begun, but so far I have noticed a specific point of interest. It seems as if Easton Ellis has no probkem with representing himself in much the same fashion as one of his characters, and with the first person narrative style so similar to that of his earlier novels, it becomes an odd game of asking "what here is the writer and what is the character?". It's an intriguing enough game to play, because of his blend of fiction and reality seen from nearly the beginning of his tale, perhaps first referenced his claim of going to Camden College (the fictional university from many of his stories).

It seems to take either madness, masochism, or some sort of angry reflection on the past to produce the opening of Lunar Park, shown most comically in the fact the Bret's own character isn't portrayed with a hint of respect, but as little more than the unreliable narrator that has so dominated his novels in the past. I'm not sure what I expected from this novel, but the "truth" that is being given is most definitely harsher than I would have predicted, with, perhaps, the most interesting fact being that the Bret Easton Ellis character deals with this in the same sort of extremism you'd expect of leads of his last two novels.

But this is just (not very) scholarly blather, the real point I have in mind here is just how the general Easton Ellis novel seems to be structured. While something like Less Than Zero seems fairly set structurally (something alluded to in Lunar Park), Ellis moved away from a set plot with The Rules of Attraction, and returning to such in both American Psycho and Glamorama, he gives us these glimpses into the life of his characters, but it would be hard to argue against the indictment of a lack of closure in both books. For me, this is not so much a problem, but a point I bring up so that I might contrast Bret with Kurt Vonnegut, who I've mentioned lately here. What Vonnegut does in a novel (one like Player Piano or The Sirens of Titan, not in reference so much to his later metafictional efforts such as either brilliant book he is most known for [Slaughterhouse-Five or Breakfast of Champions]), is to write you a knot that is very hard to comprehend as you first approach it, but is most definitely one piece of rope looped in upon itself, and this becomes more and more apparent as you read on. In many ways, Easton Ellis is the opposite in this case, as his minimalism in style has moved away from his sentence structure and language and transferred itself into the resolutions to his novels. Although I hazard to draw a comparison, I see in the end of a book like Glamorama, the confrontation of an issue I, myself, have encountered in my own attempts at long works. Basically, at some point, plot itself seems to collapse and die, and you find yourself asking the question of why this happened, what this passage was supposed to reflect, and the like. It is possible, hell, probable, that when I look at a book by Bret Easton Ellis, I find this conflict, it is only a rationalization, made to make me feel better about my own efforts, because Bret's way of combating seems to be just ignoring the issue, and if one can avoid this problem in such a fashion and still form such a tour de force as Glamorama, then I can minimalize the importance of it in my own writings.

What we have in The Unbearable Lightness of Being, is something that I'd expect Vonnegut's Timequake to be like (as of writing this, I haven't read Timequake, but I feel I've read enough about it to make the comparison): basically a story that is being told to us by the writer, as he envisions it. What I must wonder is how much of Kundera's sheer presence in the work can be chalked up to Heim's translation, because the style is very different from what you'd expect from a novel. This considered, I find this difference inspiring and is something I tried to emulate in my first post on this blog (be it in a more subdued fashion, through the use of a character-narrator, rather than the writer-narrator Kundera employs). The humor here being that the oddness of Kundera's style is perhaps not his presence as the author of the novel, but his lack of exploration of this metafiction. (Kundera has a strong role in his novel, but it is small in comparison with the role that Vonnegut gives to himself in Breakfast of Champions.)

So then, I'm almost two thirds through The Unbearable Lightness of Being and an eigth into Lunar Park, and that far in, both a very good books, but in different fashions. For Bret Easton Ellis this is a return to style (which, for all I know, it is for Kundera as well, since this is the first book I've read by him), but what I find most charming about the former book is the newness emitted by its literary technique.

Funnily enough, both have, in effect, already influenced me. Ellis's earlier Glamorama changed my writing style to some extent, forcing it into long, run-on sentences, that perhaps took themselves too seriously, and bordered on pastiche, for a time, and, like I've said above, I've attempted to gather a similar structure to Kundera's work in at least one story as of late.

I'm reminded here of Howard Phillips's predicament: "There are my 'Poe' pieces and my 'Dunsany' pieces — but alas — where are my Lovecraft pieces?"

Saturday, January 3, 2009

This is another story...

Just wrote this, it's quite a bit shorter than the last one. (Can you spot The Dark Knight quote?)

I knew Trisha for three years before I ever made the move and then, even after that, it was all uncommitted. You wanna study at the food court on Saturday? I think I’m going to fail this physics test! I was always so envious of her determination. She would tell me she wasn’t anymore smarter than I am and sometimes she would yell at me about wasted potential, but I would just quote my Meatloaf to her and there’s only so many times that you can say “A wasted youth is better by far than a wise and productive old age,” before someone absolutely forbids him- or herself from baiting you into it again. But she was a friend and a caring one at that, who would push her morals to the breaking points to get me out of a bind. Sometimes it felt bad, lying to her about why I didn’t do my math homework, I fell asleep right after I got home from work, just not used to balancing it all, you know?, or only skimmed three pages of the first chapter of a book we were being tested on, I ordered the book online, it’s in the mail, and once in a while I would nearly come clean. Mid-way through my senior year, it was; when I decided that I wasn’t going to lean on her any longer, and tried to make my own way. This did, however, take its toll, and it got to be where without my three cups of coffee in the morning, I couldn’t let myself drive, even if it was my day for the car pool. My friends, Billy, Sean, Tate, you know the crowd, they were surprisingly understanding, perhaps because of the change in my appearance and mentality. It seemed as if it was every other day someone who I’d never said more than three words to was like, “Damn, Jake, you look like shit,” and I’d say thank you and move on. I brought my grades up, because I was doing schoolwork in my dreams; fighting off numbers with a calculator, reading book reports in front of the class in the nude, and drilling it all into my head. I was becoming more distant, would stand Trisha up on weekends when we were supposed to meet, because any time I was free was spent making up for all the lack of sleep and she got really angry with me this one time, when I totally blew her off in the hallway. So I said that I’d take her to some party or other, don’t really remember what it was, and she got moderately excited, because we were both on the very outskirts of popularity and we’d never actually done anything together, which I’ll admit was a leading reason I relented in the fashion that I did, because I knew it would be the quickest way to get her off my back. And when we were there, I let myself go a little too much, found the right people, got drunk, and we started talking and it was like the first time we’d spoken in two or three weeks, but I wasn’t paying enough attention and so picked a bad moment to make my pass at her, attempting to steal second before I’d even seen a pitch. So she jumped away and said some things I didn’t catch and I called her a prude and gave up on trying to work anything out, even though I’ll admit now, it probably wouldn’t have been too hard. Maybe it was because I felt like my masculinity had somehow been threatened, it would probably have not taken much, since I’d never fucked before, and I felt that everyone thought I was a loser; a part of my relationship with Trisha was that I could place her under me on the social scale, a terrible thing I know, and for a woman like her to deny someone like me? It broke down all the walls I’d built up over the years to deal with life. I think…I think I was still rational enough to ask her if she could get a ride home, but I don’t recall any kind of response from her, all I do remember is gathering up my amigos, getting behind the wheel of (I think it was) Bruce’s car, and driving off into traffic. I don’t even know where I was driving, because the accident occurred nowhere near any of our houses, but rather somewhere out in the country and there wasn’t even another car involved, I just turned a corner going too fast and crashed into…something…I mean, here, my memories, they get vague. I moved out of the house, left my family behind, and moved into a new place that was very small, which didn’t help at all with my claustrophobia. I mean, the new digs, they weren’t terrible, I was closer to my friends, and all these people came by to say hey, which I truly appreciated. So you know, I fell into this new life for a few months, think it was about three, before the epidemic hit. It was kind of an overnight thing, I didn’t hear a thing about it, and all of a sudden, I’m infected-like, all of us in this part of town are coming down with the damn disease. And maybe it’s just a rationalization, but I start off to her house, because I’m afraid I’ll never get to see her again, and she does mean something to me, even if I did give up on us. When I get to her house, it’s dark, I don’t have a watch to check the time, and I walk up to the door and just kind of shove myself against it. When Trisha opens it, she gasps. “Jake?” she says, “But you and your friends are dead!”

And I say, “Brains!”

Friday, January 2, 2009

January in Florida

It's an odd thing, and probably not entirely true, but in my memory Decembers here are always the hottest months of winter. Things cool down in September and we usually get some form of "cold" weather in October and November, but it always seems like the temperature just jumps for the sky when we enter the last month.

I remembered this while leaving a movie theater last night, temporarily dazed by what was probably a modest drop in degrees, but one that caught me quite off guard. Coming into the new year, I'll admit to not expecting any real winter weather again until February or March, but it just seems odd that the high point (in temperature) of our cold season seems to come mid-winter.

Haruki Murakami might say that "memory is like fiction, or else it's fiction that is like memory" and I am bound to agree, but it is hard to actually convince yourself that the memories you have are false, and more often than not, I'll stand by the most absurd of ideas, if it is the way I remember it.

I've had conversations with my father about this and they highlight how different we are, in a subtle way. He has a few stories about his memories that must have been fabricated, bits and pieces of reverie, dream, and pure imagination, and he'll admit that things could not have happened that way. His ability to respect what must be true over his own experience is admirable and something I'll never be able to do myself, but perhaps it is something that comes with all the experience he has.

That is a problem I have, no matter where I seem to find myself. Writers like Douglas Coupland, films like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button seem to teach you that everyone has some interesting tale about themselves to tell, but I, quite often, find myself with nothing to really speak about. Is this the fragility of my memory? Erasing stories of my past before I can ever tell them? Of course that could just be rationalization, because the other situation is that I have nothing interesting to say because I live so uninteresting a life.

Mayhap it's like bowling with my family, when my cousin would say, "Look, these people have been doing this for all their lives and a lot more often than you, they're going to be better." As if I just do not find myself in the right atmosphere to talk about myself often enough to uncover the actual stories that make me who I am.

Some days I fear that writing is just another form of escape, that it is little more than reading a story that's never been read before, and that the only thing that draws me to it is the godlike idea of creation. Those are bad days. For some people they come as a form of external stimuli, the rain outside, breaking a shoelace in the morning, etc, but for me, I find feelings to be tenuous things and maybe it's just another rationalization, but when I am writing, I feel that the days are generally good. And it's odd, because that is such an internal stimulus: Writer's block, even the idea of stories themselves, exist only on a mental level.

So, you go outside in the beginning of this new year, and you've been writing, but you've finished something, and the weather is colder, but that's about the only thing to notify you that the world is changing any. Sometimes it's just hard to tell that time is passing, but you can keep track of that here by the Floridians' paradox: We can't stand the heat most of the year, running from home to car to job, a/c to a/c to a/c, and we complain and bitch about how we'd rather live somewhere else, but it isn't like we can just move anywhere else, because we really can't take the cold either, and you'll find us bundled up in layers when the temperature drops below fifty.

So...Did you get any of that?

On novel writing...

Kurt Vonnegut said that each chapter in Cat's Cradle was meant as a joke, told in three or so pages, and, perhaps the most surprising of all, pushing forward the plot, like a strong man rolling a heavy rock slowly, but consistently.

This is, like everything Vonnegut did, a lot harder than it sounds. I would argue that he wasn't much of a novel writer, because I believe that "novel" generally represents a set of rules used in writing a long work of fiction, and Vonnegut was sure not a man for rules, but there is no sense in arguing in such a one-sided fashion, so I'll leave it as such.

When I tried to write a novel in a month, starting about eight weeks ago now, it was the problem of plot progression that really bore its evil head over my writer's dreams. What my book basically amounted to was about fifty small monologues from various characters like puzzle pieces, hopefully making a plot when being joined. Ultimately, however, I feel the pieces were too jagged and possibly slightly mismatched, and any attempt at actually aiming constructing a plot description falls way short of the idea I was trying to reach, the sketch I had wanted to create.

As a writer, this is discouraging, but it was still something nearly three times as long as anything I'd written before, and I feel that there is some coherence in it; it is something that I am proud of. Christopher Moore wrote once that "perhaps those of you who are aspiring writer's will get some encouragement out of the fact that you can get better" after talking about his own increasing abilities, and I like to think that way about it.

It definitely affects the way I feel as of late, because I really do think that my fiction is reaching places that I've never gotten to before, that I've never even come close to, and with each new story, novel, author, you read, there's the one element, the one trait, that you find yourself inserting into something you write before all that long.

The way I feel about it right now, as a very inexperienced person on the topic, the perfect way to write novels is 11 months on one book and a month on the next, in repetition. There are ideas that gather in the mind, there are tiny pieces of dust that become huge clouds, and plenty of things can snowball, but urgency is a part of the craft, I'd say, and every now and then setting time limits, especially absurd time limits!, has a way of bringing out a slightly different writer in me.

That's the way I'd like it to go anyway. Very rarely do these things go truly according to plan.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

As good a place as any...

This is as good a place as any to begin.

I wrote this:

“Pancake Men” by Pandrio Androtti

EPIGRAPH: “Don’t think they understand/How much cake the pancake man had”

(Kevin Federline, “Crazy,” Playing With Fire)

Franz was a man of his word back a long time ago, before even Heath Ledger had made it such a fancy thing to be. He owned quite the underground empire, although it’s one you’ve never heard of. This is very materialistic world we live in and, according to such, rich people are often only known by what it is that made them that way. Bill Gates is always Microsoft and Steve Jobs is always Macintosh, even if they switch companies, because that’s what made them so full of it.

Franz, then, obviously, is relatively unknown due to the fact that his trade is discreet. Franz might employ a large number of workers, but none of them are allowed to speak of his business, they have all signed these waivers saying just that. Actually, the only reason I can even talk about this now is that Franz is dead. A handful of people came to his funeral, which made it easier for me to attach myself to his wife for the evening.

Let me excuse myself for any misunderstanding here. My wife is no Lisa Marie Presley, I’m no Nicolas Cage (that guy reads more comics than even I); I love the woman dearly. But to be frank, the first thing that attracted me to her was the possibility, no, the probability that she had a tale to tell that you could see in her eyes at that funeral. Being a writer, well, I think we’re always looking for some kind of story, and when I saw her that day…There’s definitely a story I plan to tell here.

The story, of course, is not about Franz, my wife’s first husband. She’s told me all about him, but to speak of a man like Franz, one would easily need a whole book to get any sort of story told in its complete form. This is because, the kind of man Franz was, there’s only really one story about him; one that can’t be imagined any other way than under that title (Franz) and written by the estimable James Michener, who I’m sad to say, is also not around today.

(Is it possible then, that in some sort of afterlife, Michener is doing just that? Writing the life story of our friend Franz? Now wouldn’t that be poetic!)

No, this is not about Franz, but he’s most definitely involved. His presence can easily be felt, if you know anything at all about the man. The only problem then being that not all that many people know much of him, but like I say, Franz is not the character of study here.

The hero of this story is, as it must be, a man named Kurt.


Kurt, like any teenager growing up in the time and with the family that he did, faced one major decision that would affect his life forevermore. Once he had made his choice, there would not be another time in his life more apt for a filmmaker to make a short study of, in the fashion of something quite like Sliding Doors, which is only mentioned to reiterate the impact of said selection.

(Please stop me if I boring you. As I write this now, I don’t think anything really cool is going to happen until 3 or 4, so you could just skip down to that, if you’re the kind of person who decided not to see The Matrix Reloaded because the paper said that nothing really went down in that film and to wait till Revolutions.)

Either Kurt could continue his life as an upstanding citizen, watching repeats of Two and a Half Men whenever they were on, which translated to always, and living with his terrible sister who failed out of college and his brother who hated him, or he could go to the street.

Any real reason Kurt had for making the latter decision was pure rationalization to be sure, but that does not change the fact that one summer vacation, it might have been going on his junior year, he packed a bag with what he thought he would need to live on his own, bought some condoms to humor himself, combed his hair for maybe the seventh time in his life, and got on the first Greyhound out of whatever geographic distance it was that constituted his life.

This was all a defense mechanism, as you well know. Kurt felt unloved, and wished to gather his relatives’ sympathy by suddenly disappearing from their lives, and then to return to them, voilà, the true spoiled baby of the family that he thought he should be. This is all good and well, probably happens everyday, but in this case it didn’t go according to plan.

On the Greyhound, Kurt met his cousin Vinny (who wasn’t his cousin or named Vinny. He was the kind of character that Vonnegut would call a Blue Fairy Godmother.), who we’ve possibly previously spoken of. I assume this also happens everyday, considering the overflowing ranks of your average illegal organization that your average cousin Vinny is bound to be the head of.

And so Kurt went to the street, possibly against his best wishes, making his decision all the more permanent. So good for us, for me, this is, because that is where the real story lies, but for Kurt it was regrettably less fortunate.

(Sometimes I wonder if today Kurt is like you and me, or if he has gone the way of Franz and Michener. This story, the one I’ve pieced together from my wife, his family, all sorts of people, is ambiguous there. But you’ll see that soon enough.)

As a journalist, as a writer, I will now try to explain what it was that happened to Kurt, why he became the person he was, and what he did as such, but to do so, I feel surely that I must fictionalize this story, for I am not Kurt, I have no right to speak of the man as if I know what he is thinking, and so any real truth ends at this point in our narrative.

(As if any of this really happened anyway. As if I’m even a real person myself.)


The pancake men are obviously very easy to spot if you know where to look and you know what you are doing. That’s why, unless you are a pancake man, knowledge of the above constitutes a death sentence. You will not see your assassin coming because the pancake men never do any of their own executions and their contracted killers, their hit men, are more commonly than not ninjas.

Pancake men frequent many eating establishments, none more often than the apparent IHOP. (The Lapins are virtually worshipped by pancake men through bizarre rituals that it is best we not discuss.) On any Saturday morning you could easily run into a half dozen in any one International House.

Saturday is their biggest day of business because it is the easiest for all members to attend to a long breakfast. Deals can only go down when the occupants of the restaurant are at least eighty percent pancake men. All pancake men are trained to acknowledge the precise shift in patrons that allows them to begin their transactions. (This is done through hours of study of videotape mostly, and is the characteristic of which most pancake men are quite proud.)

When one considers him- or herself to be just one of five not engaging in certain actions, chances become very good that he or she will not do anything, for fear of being an outsider. This is a localization of “When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” same principal, enacted on a smaller stage.

Pancake men trade in all sorts of crop: smack, hash, x, sky diamonds, cake, and anything hot. The majority of them are elderly gentlemen, because there is so much involved in becoming a member of this elite club, there are generally few young upstarts on their own. There is very little subtlety with which deals are done. You have two standard types of pancake men: the supplier and the dealer. If one is able to actually watch one of their club meetings in progress, it’s easy enough to see who’s who. Of course all the specs vary greatly, but your standard play out has the dealers, if they order anything, getting a plate with eggs. Your growers, makers, thieves, all your first man grifters, they have the hard job of figuring out their topping. Perhaps the most obvious message to the middle man is powder sugar, which means the guy is packing cake, which is pretty much just common sense. But they change it up; very rarely do you find such obvious clues from pancake men these days.

Franz, he was a man who dealt in cake, and, in so being, established our friend Kurt as someone pushing powder. Starting in the game so young, our hero would most definitely turn an eye or two if he was actually out there throwing it down with all the rest of the crowd, so he worked as a disintermediator, getting rid of any product that needed to be pushed quick, or for some reason wasn’t getting picked up by the circuit.

There was this one time back when Kurt was still new to the game when he went to work with his cousin Vinny on one Saturday morning. That day our hero met all kinds of names, saw all kinds of faces; all these things being mainly detrimental to him in the long haul. When it comes to mafias, gangs, mobs, any kind of illegal club, you’ll probably find that knowledge is most definitely not power.


Let’s take a step back now, since, for all I know, you all might be lost already. We’re on the bus with Kurt, he has a bag with his life in it, and sure, his parents have taught him never to speak to strangers, but this is his rebellion phase, and were he to listen to them now, he wouldn’t be able to see himself as much of a rebel. I’m not making excuses for him, but this whole story is a rationalization in a way. When I talked to anyone who knew Kurt back before he embarked on this journey, they all had the same sort of response that you’ve heard all your life from people in this situation: “Would never have expected this from Kurt, he was such a nice kid?” (And obviously all variations on this, since you don’t even talk in the same language when you move from a kid’s parents to his friends.)

His cousin Vinny takes a look at him and says, “You’re running away, aren’t you kid?” and the first thing that Kurt thinks to respond is “Is it that obvious?” but he cuts that off in his head and sort of brushes the creepy old man off, even though his cousin Vinny, he’s not a man that you ignore.

“Hey kid,” he says, “Look at me, kid. Look at me!” Finishing with force, they have to believe you’ll actually hurt them, someone once said. When Kurt actually does turn, drawn by some delusional force of habit brought on by his life moving from classroom to classroom, his cousin continues, “See, I bet you’re trying to get away from your family, make’em notice your absence, ayuh?” To this Kurt gives what maybe could be perceived of as a nod. “But how about this, kid, you come back and suddenly they miss your absence, eh? Look, why’d you leave? They’re not showing you any care, now are they? They don’t even know you’re alive. Kid, look, when you go back, it’s gonna be all the same, nothing ever changes when you go back to the same status quo. You have to shake things up like. All you’re doing now, it’s just kitschy, everyone’s done it.”

And Kurt doesn’t really know what is going on here. “This is all I can do,” he’s saying, “I put a lot of thought into this, and all I could come up with was…” He knows if he keeps speaking he’s going to start crying, so he lets his voice trail off, but that doesn’t really make him feel any better about himself.

“I had a vision of this town once, when I was a young lad like yourself; I thought I knew everything going on here, hell, I thought I knew the whole world like the back of my hand. Then one day I fall off the side of the map, I sail my boat over the flat earth, and I land on the underside.

“Look kid, if you’re looking for some kind of sure thing here, you ain’t going to get it going back to that house of yours. You’ll get the sympathy ‘you okay?’ from everyone you know and in a week they are going to forget about you all again. World I live in, it’s different from yours. Everyone has notoriety there, if you know them, then they most definitely know you. I’ve got this idea, see, let’s take a stroll on the underside of the map, huh? We’ll see the inside of the globe. That’s the only place you’re going to make a name for yourself. But, I’ll admit, it’s a hard place to live, kid. Thing is,” he coughs for a moment, like a cigarette smoker close to death, suddenly this seems like a different film entirely, before he goes on, “Thing is, you work under me, you’re safe, and you’ll have all kinds of dough.

“Hey kid, look at me, you want some kind of certainty in your life? You want to know that maybe you meant something to someone in this life? I know of only one sure way to get any of that.”

The bus stops. Kurt’s cousin Vinny, our cousin Vinny, this man gets up to leave; walking away he turns his head back and assures, “Kid, this is a deal. I’m a man of my word.” He gets off and maybe you’re wondering where he went, so I’ll give you my best guess, which is nowhere.

At the next stop, Kurt got off and hiked his way back up to the last drop off and when he got there his cousin was sitting on the bench reading a newspaper. He looked up and smiled. “Next bus,” he said, “in about ten minutes now.”

“Mister,” Kurt said, “What the hell is this you think you got to show me?”

And, as they say, the rest is history.


So, look, lives make long stories and I could tell you all about how Kurt fell in love with that one girl you’ve seen before and you probably knew was turning tricks, or how he started winning off the street gambler that dealt his cards across the street from the apartment that he would share with whoever he was sharing his life with at that time, but you don’t really have the time for all that, do you? (I know I don’t.) And I still fear that the more I say, the more this is just a useless collection of images that do not truly respect any true story. (Like The Perfect Storm.) With that aside, long story short, Kurt got himself a name for sure, but perhaps not the best kind.

Nothing spreads quicker than fame, but infamy, so even though he ingratiated with praise throughout his own little circle, these were just ripples going out through the pond, and what it came down to was the fact that the woman Kurt lusted after and the busker that he often took cash away from were both employed by the same big wig who was no friend of our cousin Vinny. More like our drunken uncle Dan, this guy was very much the loose cannon who didn’t care what happened to others.

And if this was any solid swashbuckling adventure, I’m sure that Kurt and this man Dan, which isn’t his name, would have run into each other on any number of occasions. But, unfortunately, there is no final problem for a face off with Moriarty, there are no works to look on and face Ozymandias in this tale.

I don’t think they ever even met each other. They knew of each other, because, the world they lived in, knowledge of another person was a reflexive thing, a two-way street, but meetings face to face between brooding forces? Let’s just say that if they were more common, unstoppable forces would be meeting immovable objects all day long.

Problem with being on someone’s black list when you’re under the skin of civilization is how fragile your life really is. Everyone has their marks and if you actually look in the books that don’t exist, you’ll see that these incestuous organizations don’t like their own members much. Or, if you want, there’s an awful lot of friendly fire going around.

So, look, you got to give the boy credit, he never turned pigeon himself. He just pissed off people in the wrong places. The problem with, some would say the only good thing about, pigeons is that they’ve already finked one way, which makes them easy to pick up cheap as long as your job helps the feds out somewhat. Like I’ve said, the underground has it’s own problems with itself, and you find every now and then that the law is happy to play enemy of my enemy is my friend and overlook what ever is actually going on behind specific tables.

Dan the man, the arch villain, he engineers this fairly simple plan of greasing the hands of your everyday undercover team, get them sending out buyers to the right corners to pick up the dealers, especially one in particular. This in itself allows him to put his own men across town, so it’s a win-win.

He is absolutely delighted about this over breakfast, which, any pancake man will tell you, is the most important meal of the day. Blubbering down the wires—it was perhaps the worst quality of a man with many bad traits to speak long and loudly about anything and everything—in one IHOP, he put word out on the circuit, but it was much too late.

One Sunday morning Pete the Worm comes up to Kurt for a fix, playing the part well, he’s been a fake addict for longer than he ever was real, and Kurt’s ready with the cake and the money’s exchanged and then the whole thing goes miles up shit creek for one side of the transaction.

When they roll Kurt, they bring him in to bring down the whole gang, because that’s the whole point to this. As low down as Kurt is, he’s really no worse than a mark or a john, and they have this new upshot detective in town with a penchant for taking on the machine.

So they bring the boy in. Kurt, hardened by a year in a half on the street, is still just a kid really, and he’s more than happy to throw out some names of heads. This detective, Jack, he’s trying to rewrite the books a little bit. The main question is how gang empires are built: rather than a building, the foundations are at the top, the higher you get, the harder it is to bring down an individual column, and it begs to wonder if you are actually affecting anything on the street level by taking on the real people responsible.

Gang wars kill leaders all the time and all it does is change the sides for your rosters, leaving you with all the same players, so the effects of throwing big wigs in jail are sometimes questioned, but this guy, Jack, he’s not listening to any of that; he knows he’s only getting one side of the box from this kid, but he thinks maybe he can flip the industry on its side, making it all the more easily attacked.

Kurt, by now the boy’s quite angry, and throwing names of everyone who’s made his list, who’s list he’s on. Pancake men, they keep two different kinds of everything; when it comes to lists, they have the ones they hand over to their hit men, and they have the ones they keep to themselves. It is an unwritten rule that a pancake man not take out a contract on another pancake man’s life, so there are less direct ways taken to end lives. Since list one is death by proxy, list two becomes death by proxy by proxy.

There was an understanding back not too long ago, between the pancake men and all kinds of law; you see, these guys like Jack, they’re nothing more than kids like Kurt, following this mythical archetype that’s sprung up in literature for a couple generations now: The Cop, puts his work before his life, neglects his wife, drinks himself to death, and always bites off more than he can chew. So, sure, things have changed big time when it comes to who is scratching whose back these days.

And this is how it comes to be that an unsuspecting Dan brought about his own demise. And how a detective like Jack made a name for himself in knocking off an empire.


Like the Japanese, looking back on their baiting of the most irrational beasts in the form of the atomic bomb, it is possible that before he went down for all kinds of illegal actions, our man Dan looked on his future, like a deer stuck in the headlights, and envisioned what life would be like after such a cataclysmic event as the one he saw in his future.

This guy Jack turned himself into a household in the parts where this all happened when he brought in five crime bosses and actually put three behind bars for a solid amount of time. Course it didn’t hurt that the upstart was also solving quadruple murders and going through all kinds of past cases, but you talk to the people who live in that town today, the old ones, as Lovecraft would have them, and they’ll tell you this was the one that put him on the map. It was this kind of good that would keep people from looking down on Jack, because his talents sure unearthed all kinds of evil in what looked like clean soils.

Chances are low that Dan ever did anything like repent, but he sure did try to take vengeance for himself. Locked away in a cage, it didn’t take him long to find his connection to the outside and send out all kinds of red flags on this Kurt, all kinds of warrants for death by proxy squared.

You roll around in the mud long enough, you’re bound to get dirty, and there was plenty a reason for different people to want Kurt whacked; none more than Dan himself, but with him supplying the cash, suddenly the business seemed all the more profitable, and there were a lot of people involved in the trade.

Kurt, first thing he did, was get rid of all the stash he had on him, got as clean as he could, killing whatever habit he’d picked up from eighteen months dealing the stuff, and got as much hard money as he possibly could. He didn’t know about all the cake being spread around by his cousin Vinny, all the different places being greased, giving him enough time to get out, before he got dead.

Course it would have been so much easier if it hadn’t been for the woman. (Some would have it that this is always true, but then some are misogynist.) The thing was whatever strings it was that Kurt actually had, the girl he loved looked like a marionette when compared. He sprinkled the faces of dead presidents everywhere he could, Benjamins everywhere else, and tried to get her out of there as soon as possible.

Flying the coop, they made it look easy, but then things get sketchy, like the edges of an unfinished drawing. The problem really being the sheer amount of territory that the pancake men cover. It doesn’t really matter where they got to, because if they got found out wherever they were, they’d be dead today. Plenty of people would have been there to take out Kurt, and yes, if they ever got him, like Claus von Stauffenberg, they’d be after his girl, his woman, his wife, whichever it be.

The way I like to think, he found himself a nice little village and is still living out his day; the boy’s maybe half my age, he sure does deserve more than the life I’ve gotten. He probably works at a library and has been reading through the beats ever so slowly since he got there up until whenever it is that now is.


As for Franz, all this was a long time ago, years before the funeral, before I met my wife. You see, Franz had a way with him, he could make enemies of everyone, could harbor a damn traitor to his own way of life and still he could work things out, fix problems, and get back in the game.

I think the reason for all this was the sheer amount of crop that Franz could come up with. We still get people contacting us with a habit, looking for a fix, to this day, and sometimes I wonder if maybe I’m only a strongman for my wife, helping her to leave this life behind.

Franz could always get back into the business because no one really understood how much of the ice on the market was his. A winter without him, mayhap you might not even notice it snowing.

You see I don’t think they ever understood how much cake that pancake man had.