Tuesday, October 26, 2010

My Muse Appears in Strange Places

The following message is posted on all the dumpsters in my apartment complex:

Make $500 This Week
Call or Text Me Today!

So, if you read my memoir, and you're a smart ass, you're probably thinking, "Jen, don't call!" But, my friends, I'm glad to say that even my younger self wouldn't have called that number. Dumpster advertising has never seemed very alluring to me as a person. As a writer, however, I see it as an opportunity for an interesting short story.

Should I call? Hmmm.... I might inquire, in a highly-distorted voice, out of sheer morbid curiosity. My bet?  The sign's author is either looking for an "actress" or a "good sales person".  Maybe s/he is soliciting an investment with a big, quick return. If I call, the answer just might come up in a new story soon ~

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Part II

I admit, it is not out of the realm of possibility that HST had someone answering his mail, shooting off quick emails to crazy fans, but don't tell my younger self such a thing! Actually, I'm pretty sure it was him. There was a precise but rambling cadence to his response that called to mind familiar, published work.

If memory serves, my letter to him began with praise, digressed into my own intentions to become a writer of his caliber and then offered some needless but calculated political commentary, slanted to (I thought) his liking.  (I kissed some serious writer ass, in other words.)  In a desire to sound far more intelligent--or perhaps well-read--than I was, I had consulted my combination dictionary/thesaurus many times during the letter's construction.

I can honestly say, I spent more time and energy on that letter than I did any of my collegiate assignments in undergrad. I toiled! So, when I saw an unfamiliar email with the subject "Your Letter" (spam wasn't as prevalent ten years ago), I knew it was him.

My chest tingled with excitement and I wanted to ride it out. I didn't open it right away. In fact, I waited until my roommate left that evening and I was alone to open it. When I did, I saw a mere paragraph of text. I mixed a White Russian (yes) to accompany me in the reading:

"Nice piece of writing, that... It took me fucking forever to read it," it began.  HST kindly told me to keep at it, to keep writing and that was it.  He didn't humor my ass-kissing, half-hearted, under-developed political commentary nor did he address my compliments of his work, he merely told me what I wanted to hear. I was thankful.  More, I was giddy.

You'd think this happy ending would suffice, but remember, I was a drunkard.... As such, I saw his brief response as more than the kind effort that it was, I saw it as an invitation.  You would've thought the man had offered me a ticket to ride, a nice dinner, a personal meeting with his agent. I was that excited.

Unfortunately for both of us, I continued to drink that evening until I was, again, shit-faced.  Only this time, my  desire to consult the dictionary/thesaurus fell by the wayside, and I wrote him back: Gibberish. Pure gibberish. In the morning, I reread what I'd written, and I knew that I would not hear back from HST or anyone who was posing as him. I felt genuine regret.

But this is a happy story. You know why?  Because nothing so simple as a letter from a literary idol can make a person stop drinking, get herself together. But, an event like this, in my life, opened up the myriad of possibility. The fact is, I had connected, albeit in some small, fleeting way, to the literary world I so adored. And I decided that this brief connection was only the beginning. I did quit the White Russians eventually, but I would never quit writing.  I had broken ground I previously thought unbreakable. And with the right kind of eyes, I could almost see it, the promise.

My story about the great Maya Angelou isn't nearly as humiliating. We barely spoke, but the memory is equally potent, equally emotive.  I'll get to that story one day...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

One Writer's (Crazy) Beginnings

Part I

When I began my college career, I was placed in remedial English. The fact that I was a high school drop-out probably had something to do with this. Curiously, it was in this first college English course that I realized I wanted to be a writer. What’s more, after passing remedial English, passing the required English courses every student must take, realizing that I actually enjoyed reading (something I had selectively forgotten for quite a few years), and then deciding to major in English, I became rather fanatical about a very selective group of writers I admired.

At the time, there were two writers I idolized above all others: Maya Angelou and Hunter S. Thompson. (Both of whom I would later have some interaction with.) Hunter S. Thompson because I was a drunkard at the time, and he was pretty much the ideal role model for a drunkard; further, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was probably the only movie I ever bothered to memorize lines from. As my roommate and I cruised for parking at the dance club we visited each night, I would look around suspiciously, say:  “Wait! We can’t stop here. This is bat country.” After that, our night could begin.

My drinking began to take its toll after a while, and although I still indulged from time to time, I was getting tired of the work one needs to put into full-time alcoholism. So, I stopped going out nightly, and I replaced all my excess time—no mornings hungover, no pre-drinking before hitting the club, no going to the bar every few songs to refuel, no going to the store every few days to replenish—with reading and writing. I knew, at the time, I was destined to become an amazing writer. (Anyone who can take something like drinking so seriously is bound to be good at any hobby that is given the equivalent time and energy, right? Simple logic.) And, if I didn’t let my latest stories (about such things as a giant killer frog taking over Ohio and a homeless man named Santa, who found a hundred dollars, and set out on a tough journey to cross the city to get to Denny's, keeping his bills, rather uncomfortably, up his ass while he faced all kinds of obstacles along the way) cool off long enough, I would’ve told you they were quite remarkable works.

So, figuring I was ready to correspond with other great minds, I contacted Mr. Hunter S. Thompson. Yes, kids, I did. I wrote him a letter, in fact, and seeing as how this was an honorary occasion, I got truly shit-faced in order to write said letter. I spent all night, writing, reading and rereading, drinking, crumpling drafts, and rewriting. In the morning, I had a letter that was… well, genius. I mailed it.

I'll tell the rest of the story later because I have a mid-term exam to put together, but here's a little clue about what happened next... He wrote me back!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Show a Ginger Some Love

Tesco has withdrawn this Christmas card after a complaint from the mother of three redheads.

Even gingers…

Redheads, like any minority, have taken quite a few punches throughout history.  People either love them or hate them (why so extreme?). 

Also, redheads--and this is important if you are one--have a higher chance of suffering certain diseases and ailments (see below--it goes beyond skin cancer, people).

Facts & Rumors

In Denmark it's an honor to have a redheaded child. 

In Corsica if you pass one on the street, you spit and turn around. 

In Poland it's said if you pass three redheads, you'll win the state lottery. 

In ancient Egypt redheads were sacrificial victims buried alive in homage to the god Osiris. 

The ancient Romans paid a premium for redheaded slaves. Redheads have often been feared as the most potent of witches and sorcerers.

In Holland, redheads are still considered to be agents of misfortune. 

"Redheaded women are either violent or false, and usually are both," holds a French proverb.  The Arizona Republic  

Medical Considerations:
Women with red hair are more likely to suffer from Endometriosis (THIS IS TRUE - I HAVE IT!)

Redheads have a higher risk of getting melanoma than less fair-skinned people. (American Academy of Dermatology).

Redheads are prone to industrial deafness. (Debatable.)

We're more sensitive to pain.
hmmmmm.... this, according to the ADA http://jada.ada.org/cgi/content/abstract/140/7/89

AWARENESS (hate crimes and prejudice (Yes, recent stuff)):

BBC News "Is gingerism as bad as racism?": http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/6725653.stm

    Saturday, October 2, 2010


    Robert Rubenstein, Author of GHOST RUNNERS
    [Insert warm welcomes and niceties here.  Now, getting right to the interview, here's Robert.... the author of an amazing new novel.  I'm going to drill him, so tune-in.]

    How did you become involved with the subject or theme of your book?
    When I was in my teens, I met a girl whom I loved. In her house, at night, I discovered some of the secrets of a kiss. I also heard the sounds of her father moaning loudly in his sleep. Laughing, my girlfriend told me it was just the war and the camps and the memories of death. So, as a teenager, I was introduced to Nazis. Almost thirty years ago, I learned of the story of two American Jewish Olympic runners who were not allowed to compete in the Berlin Olympics of 1936. Had it been German anti-Semitism, it would have been understandable. But it was Americans, not Germans, who took their only Jewish Olympians off the team. The questions plagued me: Why? Could history have been changed, the ensuing Holocaust halted even for one day if these Americans ran? What happened to that twenty-one year old runner who seemed to just disappear?
    So slowly did truth emerge: the complicity of American corporations: IBM, Chase, GE-the lists kept growing. Whom had they been serving? After all the years, I saw the vehicle that could answer those questions. The theme that had escaped me had reappeared like a ghostrunner.
    Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?
    I have a tendency to imagine too strongly and to follow an extraneous thought to distraction. If left to my own, I would write fantastic gibberish. But Historical Fiction sets the measured tones I need to stay on track. It allows me to write within a timed and known setting. I also love the possibilities of history, to wonder about the ‘Butterfly Effect,’ to see if I could blow my breath into the known and change, by the winds or celestial flows, the way things were to the way things might have been.
    Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?
    When I was younger, I didn’t have many toys. I was a prolific reader. Like other kids, I liked to read whole series of books. I had intimate encounters with Tarzan in the jungle. I tried cases with Perry Mason. I was smitten with the Hardy boys. But even earlier, I loved when my father came home with the newspaper. The written word, for me, has always reminded me of a happy home.
    How does your book relate to your spiritual practice or other life path?
    No matter the path, the spirit cannot avoid suffering. How two young men deal with misfortune is a lesson for us all. It is not the sorrow but the existential choice to give that woe a greater meaning, a far reaching implication. In my story, Joshua Sellers is transformed by the process of his separation from an American dream betrayed by his own countrymen. He finds redemption in the alien surroundings of our indigenous natives and in the joy he has in passing on the gifts he had, but could not use, to disabled children.
    What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
    In GHOSTRUNNERS I wanted to address a wrong that does not go away. It has stayed in the public debate without modern challenge. The complicity of American corporations and certain names whose lineage is well known has still not been brought to American justice. I wanted to create controversy and bring the deplorable adoration by many Americans to Adolf Hitler under the light of dialogue and public scrutiny.
    I also wanted to give body to an American hero, Sam Stoller. Sometimes, it is not the successful that should be remembered, but the ones who had the promise, but were not ever given the chance for glory.
    What was the hardest part of writing this book?
    Good, good question. Even fictionalizing with good intentions, people who have lived and died, the author owes a great debt to their memories and must be cautious before attaching one extraneous word. In GHOSTRUNNERS I could never be certain how to portray brave, decent men like Frank Wycoff or Foy Draper, Jesse Owens or even Charles Lindbergh. When I thought about their descendants, I did not want to trespass even lightly on a memory. One of the two protagonists was a beloved figure in sports, Marty Glickman. I would have wanted to contact his family for permission. I hope I portrayed his likeness with humility and love. Lastly, Sam Stoller was the forgotten Olympian, his life’s journey still unknown. I hope I put some flesh around him. I hope my words may find his descendants well.
    Are there underrepresented groups or ideas featured if your book?
    My book is about the possibilities of what diversity could have done in sports to vanquish Hitler and his ideas of racial supremacy during the infancy of the evil of Nazism. Blacks and Jews and Native Americans: no master race could subjugate them for too long.
    What projects are you working on at the present?
    Presently, I am working on a story of thwarted desires amid the beauty and violent history of New Mexico. Can one truly find happiness in a land of unsettled accounts? When the harmony of the mountains is disturbed, a secret group of Natives must extend their old influence on young, wayward braves. OUR LOVE IS HERE TO STAY is just that: a love story of the permanence of forgotten events or shallow passions, shifting with the sands of unremorseful times.
    What’s your most memorable childhood memory?
    Ducking for cover under my desk to escape nuclear war in a fifth grade fire drill. I was not going to let the Russians get me. I held my head and did as I was told: I didn’t talk to my neighbor. I didn’t look at the glass windows. And I was saved.
    What do you do for fun?
    I love to visit the National Parks and the southwest. I love to swim in the ocean.
    What did your character do that totally shocked and surprised you and caused you to revisit your book?
    When Joshua Sellers walked over to the Fuhrer’s Loge and raised his fist to deck Hitler out, I was as shocked as anyone. But I bought Joshua’s explanation. He really didn’t want to hit Hitler. He just wanted to give him a love tap from the Jewish nation.

    Observations: Dublin Vacation

    Dublin seemed the obvious destination. We would be close to various restaurants and tourist attractions. It would be easy to call a cab or...