Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Taming Power of the Small – Will Blythe

A beautiful scary disturbing story. I go from one story that I can hardly get through – to one with sentences that that pulls me through to the end…keeping my heart in my throat and once again questioning how our society is held together – knowing that characters such as those created by Blythe exist in our world.

Again, I am reminded that if I had read this story four years ago – even two years ago, it would have hit me differently. Now that I am a father, I see the abduction of a young boy as something so real and so startling – something that frightens the life out of me.

It doesn’t help either that I work in the media where I have a daily dose of the ilk of humanity washing up onto my consciousness.

I believe that there are cases during the week, where my mind will purposely stray away from reading the news in order to prevent it from overloading my circuits.


So I checked out two books on the I Ching from the University library and I thought that I’d look into what they held since the book played such a role in the story.

I spent time reading both – which were similar – as expected, and I returned them in the book drop this evening. I thought earlier this week, when I checked them out that I’d mess around with them, throw some coins and see what sort of hexagrams appeared.

Then, my brain did what it was supposed to do, and my B.S. detector lit up and I realized that not only do I not have time for this, but there is no way that asking a question, throwing some coins and drawing some lines would really give me some insight to my future.

Yes I realize that the book is meant for uncovering our unconscious and allows us to look at life situations from alternative points of view by giving us different perspectives…but I think I can do that well enough on my own.

So – yes, this was a great story. It made me hug my son a little tighter, reminded me (or should I say reinforced the knowledge) that there are some really disturbed people in this world, and provided me with another example of how to write a great short story.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Entrechat – Edith Milton

I’ll state right from the beginning, that this was a difficult story to read. Simply, it did not appeal to me nor was I motivated to read it, or perhaps it was the way that it was written so that the words did not pull me through the story.

I’m fine with this as with the other stories, I have said that didn’t appeal to me and again, I realize that not every story will have something for me.

But what did I get out of this story?

Once again, the contributor’s notes saved the day.

Milton writes in her notes that she is “uncomfortable inventing lives I have not lived myself, condemning the unborn to a Dantean eternity of reliving those sins I have imposed on them.”

It is interesting that I have come to this passage during the beginning of my study of MY writing.

She of course is not telling me not to invent lives and not telling me to invent lives, she is just personally uncomfortable doing so.

I appreciate what authors have to say, she is not giving advice, but the reason is one to keep in mind as I consider a journey in writing.

So, I have written a bunch of words about nothing.

And on a site note – I believe that my site is being scraped by several different scrapers – I suppose that means my content is out there on another site with a slight variation in the blog address.

Such is life.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Inn Essence – Ralph Lombreglia

 One of the most valuable educational experiences I was ever involved in was after college when I worked in a restaurant. 
I lived in Cinnaminson New Jersey, just across the river from Philadelphia. 
Leaving the comfortable insulated arms of academia, I was thrust into the real world and forced to start living a real life.  My father and step-mother were quite gracious and gave me a room to call my own and food to eat.  I did chores around the house…at the time; I was probably in some sort of depression, attempting to figure out what to do with my life. 
Finally, one day my father sat me down and told me that if a “career” isn’t in my cards at the moment, perhaps it was time for me to get a job.  Back in 1994-1995, it wasn’t too difficult to find hourly work.  I ended up stocking shelves at a liquor store.  It was easy work and brought in a few bucks.  I decided that I liked earning money and applied to work in a restaurant across the street from the liquor store to bring in some more cash an keep me out of the house. 
DiMarco’s Italian restaurant.  And yes, there was mafia influence there.  I had no previous restaurant experience so I asked to wash dishes.  A recent college grad washing dishes.  It was work, and I was happy to do it.  It didn’t require much intellectual thought and I really got along well with the chefs, waiters and other staff.  I scraped food off dirty dishes, ran them through the machine, scrubbed pots and pans and cleaned the nasty grease covered mats. 
So the mafia had their way with the restaurant and it closed about 6 months after I started working.  I still had my job at the liquor store and I watched another restaurant move into DiMarco’s.  One afternoon, after my shift at the liquor store, I walked over and spoke with the chef.  Strangely enough, he agreed to hire me as a cold appetizer and bread maker.  I would later work my way up to a pastry chef and then onto hot appetizers.  It was an exciting time to be in the restaurant business.  We served fusion cuisine and I was baking some great breads and desserts.  Basically, the chef gave me a recipe and I followed it, he would tweak it a bit and then it would be added to the menu. 
I’ve written about all the drug problems the chef had – which is the reason why I left the restaurant effectively ending my time in kitchen forever…but my years there (I believe I was there 2 years) shaped me in ways that the classroom never could.  I dealt with a cocaine addicted chef – his brother –in-law, part owner of the restaurant – struggling to keep the place going – struggling to keeps the chef’s hands out of the cash drawer.
I dealt with the wait-staff who ran solely on cigarettes, coffee and alcohol.  I dealt with alcoholic/drug addicted dishwashers. High school bus-staff – overly sexed. 
Hostesses who found ways to slip tips into their purses, and bottles of wine into their cars.  The place was incredible.  I learned how to operate in an extremely high stress environment.  I screamed at waitresses, called them demeaning names…then shared drinks with them at 2:30 in the morning.  I learned to cook some of the best cakes and breads in my life.  How to make and caramelize the perfect Crème brûlée.  Homemade ice-cream in some of the most rich and exotic flavors.  The chef gave me full creative control…on most occasions J 

And then, as quickly as I walked into that place…I walked out.  Actually, it was quicker.  No Human Resources Department to deal with no paperwork to fill out – just a quick slip into the kitchen – avoid the chef, find his brother-in-law…and give him the news.  I went back to get my pay a few days later…never picked up my recipe book or my CDs.  I was young enough then and not tied to any real responsibilities which allowed me to just walk out of the place.  It felt good…but at the same time, it’s dangerous.  The restaurant business was like that – and I loved it…which is probably why I enjoyed Inn Essence.  This is my second encounter with Lombreglia and I really like his blue-collar writing…at least that’s the best way I could describe it.
The dangerous freedom to behave as I did at the restaurant and to leave as I did is something that the particular job afforded me and that freedom is something that I would wish we all could experience.