Thursday, May 9, 2019

Work in Progress: Post Number One.


CHAPTER ONE, BECAUSE IT HAS TO START SOMEWHERE.

"As things stand now, I am going to be a writer. I'm not sure that I'm going to be a good one or even a self-supporting one, but until the dark thumb of fate presses me to the dust and says 'you are nothing', I will be a writer.”- Hunter S Thompson

Every good book, at least all the ones I've always admired anyway, have without exception, started off with a succinct introduction, a really good joke, or both. I for one, having never seen a truly persuasive reason as to ditching the use of a winning stratagem, will with any luck, merge the two into one concisely hilarious statement:

Hi there, I am a writer.

Now, the end goal of that fairly sardonic introspection is to hope that when I'm beyond the pale of all that is doubtful, I'll have a finished book, adorned with a beautifully bespoke cover graphic, and that resplendent smell of vanilla flowers and almonds known as Biblichor, which to this day, still makes me more contented than a small child that's hopped-up on sugar, armed with an illicit Sharpie, and has no parental oversight within their view. For the majority of people who haven't been blessed (or cursed) with the duality-tinged gift that is writing, assumptions that as a trade it fails to meet the standard of what true work is, or that it's nothing more than stringing words together as a lark, is just flat out wrong, if not naive.

Writing IS work. It demands dedication. Prominence. Blood. Sweat. Tears. And in my singular case, the unusually large consumption of Ding Dongs, which we'll return to at some later point. For those who have no idea what a publishable pile of words must attain in order to be designated as such, here are the benchmarks:

- a short story: 1000 to 7500 words.
- a novelette: 7500 to 20,000words.
- a novella: 30 to 50,000 words.
- a novel: 55 to 300,00 words.*

*A related aside: if you do indeed intend to aspire to craft a novel that makes War and Peace which clocks in at 587, 287 words, come off akin to skimming an index card, such as "author" Nigel Tomm's ongoing 23 volume opus known as The Blah Story does, some words of caution are to be expressed. A deservedly well-maligned tome that belabors it's non-point with an agonizing 3,277,227 words, which translates into 7312 pages, it's one you're probably going to be shopping around for a bit, considering a sheet of paper weighs .01 ounces, indicating your manuscript would weigh an average of 36.56 pounds.

That's in American weight versus European, which as we all know, seems heavier and far more intellectual than it really is. Best of luck mailing that to Hatchette.

At this point, my skin is only in for 474 words, so as you may have surmised, I have a bit to go before I can righteously demand that Nigel buys me a drink for inscribing something worth reading. But as stated, I am a writer, and perhaps I should get back to that, before I set any future inebriation in stone. Primary introductions having been made, albeit with an attempt at levity, I shall now give you my, as they used to say back in the day, Christian name- which always make me laugh darkly, since regardless if one uses the Biblical or the applied definition from Webster's, I'm no Christian.

However, either does apply to my best friend Percival Alexander Breathnach, who will make an appearance further along the line in my narrative, if only to serve as this tale's rarely seen and somewhat metaphorical Dante. To wit, my name is Jannik Niklas Schriftsteller, which if I were to translate it's fully ascribed meaning directly, it would present as: "God is gracious, victory of the people, author." Fate plays cruel tricks on the brethren it manipulates, so I was doomed from the start, for as I may have possibly mentioned, I am a writer. This lofty and at times, imprecise depiction of the burden that was placed upon me at first by others, was begrudgingly taken to heart after the criticism, and the polite compliments being disseminated within the concentric circles of friends started leaking out, and asserted themselves directly to the public, evermore the pity.

But who am I exactly? Easy enough answer. I'm the end result of immigrant parents, one German, the other Sicilian, who for some strange and as yet unknown reason where the Universe is concerned, decided not to listen to the grand Cosmos in all of it's Wisdom, and bred a trio of children with whom they could equally and with a varying degree of success, turn their own individual projected disappointments and failures into cavernous psychological scars. To this day, I still cannot eat soup, but the blame for that squarely rests on my Mother alone, and it's also a very long story, which someday I may share outside the confines of my current support group.  

In preceding incarnations, I've been a comedian, a waiter, a poorly trained telemarketer, a hotel front desk clerk, a cartoonist, a betrayed fiancé, a muralist, a fine artist, an art framer, and now, a writer who at this present moment in time, has had his skill-set ranged as being anywhere from "mildly competent" to "damn good", which when given pause, balances out the too much pressure, followed by a spectacular flame-out scenario for being the best, or the contrary, bringing shame unto the family name and all that for being the worst.

This, despite my in-name-only Father's assertions that's what I've been doing my entire life. On a slightly more carnival-esque note, I also happen to be a severely brittle diabetic, who's missing one toe, and I can craft some serious Psyanka when the need arises.

Granted, these details aren't enough to earn me a stabilized niche in a traveling side-show, but it definitely sets me apart at the family get-togethers. And as a courtesy for the sadly uninitiated, Pysanka is a stunningly beautiful custom from Ukraine, wherein Easter eggs are decorated with traditional Ukrainian folk designs by means of a wax-resist method, which if you're truly interested, will lend itself to a fairly pleasant, if not an ethereally serene evening of Googling. Overall, my life isn't all that interesting, but I have had a few moments here and there, that have raised it at times, a few degrees above my standard average, and it's that untapped reservoir of note that I will be drawing most of my observations from. Lucky you.

But as noted earlier, all good stories start with a succinct introduction, a really good joke, or both. I'm pretty sure that my birth could easily qualify for that consideration, given how my life has turned out. I was born in Port Charles, New York at the beginning of 1969, a year that introduced the Pontiac Firebird and the 747 Jumbo Jet, would see Americans land on the Moon, and witnessed 350 thousand fans gather at Woodstock. In addition, the Concorde had it's first public test flight, and PBS was established, much to the chagrin of Republicans today, due to the fact that an educated populace is truly dangerous to a government that prefers it's citizens ignorant, docile, and quiet.

However... it was also when the the Beatles' played their last public performance, found Senator Edward Kennedy's driving skills to be somewhat lacking, and capped itself off with the Manson Family murdering eight people. In essence, a mixed bag of signals, if I were to make the keenest of observations. I've often theorized that the Universe has gone to Hell in a hand-basket since David Bowie, and Lemmy Kilmeister died, but I believe the beginning of the end truly started when Paul Mc Cartney and John Lennon thought their respective wives needed to be in the band. And while all indicators lean towards the late Linda and the current Yoko being really nice people in general, their efforts at singing have always reminded me of a cabal of tone-deaf Scotsmen playing bagpipes made out of screeching chickens.

Related to that observation is a side tale of sorts- I once had to let go of my well-loved LP of Double Fantasy by John and Yoko, and decided to save a few bucks by hitting up my favorite gently-used music store to acquire it's replacement. This in itself wasn't that hard, as they had multiple copies, as at that time, vinyl was being slowly phased out by CD's, but all of the albums had one curious attribute, that being the John Lennon disc was truly and completely racked- multiple scratches, nicks, and obvious man-handling were evident on the majority of the ones I was looking at. And Yoko's? Well...

Smooth as glass. Never played. Possibly never even taken out of it's sleeve, by all fair scrutiny. If there was a modern equivalency, I'd opine that it might be the first album since Metallica's "St. Anger"  to be downloaded off the Web and then almost as quickly, returned back to it. Given that knowledge, Geffen Records could have just made one master copy for John to give to Yoko as an anniversary gift, and then pressed the other album to be nothing but reissues of his greatest hits. If the record company had only the foresight to do this, that album would've charted Dark Side of the Moon numbers by now, guaranteed.

Speaking of failing to see forthcoming future harm...

As far as my childhood goes, I grew up within a relatively middle-class neighborhood on Long Island, with an older sister and a younger brother, surrounded by lush forests and a peach farm whose workers brandished shotguns loaded with rock salt as a means of discouragement towards the illicit poaching wave that happened every year during harvest time. Overall, my early childhood was rather non-descript, as my mother stayed at home, and my dad founded an empire based on lawn sprinkler installations. You literally can feel the pathos and dynamic tension in the air, as this riveting back-story brings it's presence to the forefront. The hamlet I spent my early youth in was almost a Norman Rockwell caricature, with friendly to a fault neighbors, community barbeques, baseball games, and a Catholic parish headed up by a seemingly always slightly tipsy priest. But it's also the kind of place that if one has a terminal disease they should move to, as every day there will feel like a damn eternity- idyllic, no?

Granted, it was your fairly stereotypical suburban neighborhood, with a cookie-cutter conformity and master planned monotony, but we did have a few unique square pegs that kept it interesting, such as the Mennonite family known as the Frosts whose patriarch was renowned for his talent of fabricating near-perfect replica birdhouses of the dwellings in my neighborhood, right down to the shingles on their roofs and the etched glass panels of their front doors. If I was a sparrow, I know damn well where I would have bunked, if given the choice. The other fascinating thing about the Frost clan was the fact that despite their parents being truly exceptionally odd-looking, all of their children, nine in total, were gorgeous. Four boys, five girls, and all of them could have been cover models for Vogue, without breaking a sweat.

Even as a young lad of seven, I wholly understood that having any of the Frost girls as a babysitter was an experience not to be missed, if not to brag about, and while the phrase "get me some of that" may not have been known to me due to my tender age, it was definitely something that I would have applied to the situation if I had only the skill-set and presence to do so. Look at it from this POV- Catherine Bach is coming over to cater to your every whim for a few hours, and if she finds herself under obligation elsewhere, she'll send over one of her equally stunning sisters to fill the void. And this situation was made all the more interesting, for as I declared earlier, their parents were truly strange-looking. Not sideshow strange, nor any form of "Dear God, what is that?" eccentricity, they just didn't appear to be actually human in the traditional sense.

Picture a gregarious yet over-stretched Abe Lincoln fabricated entirely from animated Slim Jims married to an adorably petite woodland creature straight out of the Pennsylvania Shire, and you've pretty much nailed the reality of what was. The matriarch was truly recognized far and wide for her amazingly green thumbs, and her community garden was the envy of many in my faux village, as was their penchant for being decently laid-back neighbors, the kind that will not only loan you their lawn mower, but also come and help you rake and bag up afterwards. But nature tends to abhor a vacuum, and requires a balance of sorts, and that was provided in sharp contrast by their somewhat rabidly feral neighbors, a rough-hewn gaggle of Scottish malcontents known as the Mc Craigs.

Armed with nothing more than viciously short tempers, whiskey induced attitudes, and a standoffishness that would make Joan Crawford blush, they engaged in throwing shade of a caliber that had not been seen since William Wallace gleefully informed the English that they not only could go shove their crumpets sideways, they could do it without the aid of butter. This is not to say that they couldn't be civilly social like rational people, it is just to note that it wasn't their inherent go-to as a standard.