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Thursday, December 29, 2016

What We Leave Behind

It may just be me, but 2016 was rough on the celebrity crowd.

It seemed like, for the last 52 weeks, two or three names of people I’d known by watching on TV, through reading their books, or listened to on the radio at some point were crossed off the list.  Upwards of 200 well-known names were removed including, most recently, Carrie Fisher, and her mother, Debbie Reynolds.

I hope that’s the most recent, at least.

At any rate, over the last few months, I’ve been thinking about the Future.  Not about flying cars or moon colonies or what have you, but about if or why I’ll be mourned when I’m gone (I’m not sick, mind you).

Will people remember that I wrote?

Will people remember that I was close with my family?

Will people remember me as someone who tried?

Will people remember me at all?

I think we celebrate people who left legacies behind – tangible evidence of their existence – because by celebrating that, touching that, we matter.  And we all get caught up in the legacy we leave behind, be it our children, a great work of art, a great discovery, or some political achievement, because we want to matter to the world around us.

The celebrities who have died this year – while no more tragic than anyone else’s death – left something behind in their varied works.  We honor how that work made us feel.

And to the countless regular people who died this year, people we knew and loved, people we observed casually in passing, we are their legacy, for they have touched us as well.

As we close out 2016, let us try to remember that we are all connected and we all affect everything we come across.


Safe travels.

Monday, December 26, 2016

What We Hold On To

As 2016 comes to a merciful end, it’s natural to think of all that we’ve lost.

If you’re anything like me, from the same time or era, the world is fundamentally different now than it has ever been simply based on the loss of touchstones to our youth.  The incredibly long list of pop culture icons that we have lost this year is staggering and includes people like Prince and George Michael, like Muhammad Ali and Jose Fernandez.  It includes stars who shone bright and men who reached for the stars.  Men and women whose decisions – good, bad, or indifferent – shaped the discussions on what we hold important in this country.  We’ve seen an unprecedented election cycle, which is saying something because we are coming off two terms of the first black President.

This is not the world we know.

But there’s one thing we should hold on to, and that’s hope.  It’s not as difficult as you might think, because everything we do as individuals, I like to think, is rooted in hope. You get out of bed because you hope you make a difference, or you hope today will be a good day, or you hope you make enough to get by.  You have children, participate in their lives because you hope you can teach them to do right, and hope you can teach them to improve the world around them.  Hell, you even drink because you hope to numb the pain of the past.  You fight with loved ones, you work through things with loved ones because you hope they can be better
.
Hope keeps us coming to the table.

So, I suggest we hold on to it.  I suggest we keep getting out of bed, we keep teaching our children right, we keep fighting and working.  We act as agents of hope.


I hope I’ve made myself clear.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Something About Winter...

So, Bellingham has just emerged from a week-and-a-half long deep freeze, complete with snow and ice, barely drive-able roads, and requisite traffic accidents.

Is it weird that I was made homesick?

New York is one of the great winter cities in the country.  Yes, I am biased a bit, but hear me out.  New York has earned a reputation for being a rough place, filled with blunt, rude people who will run you over if you get in their way.  It's a crucible that takes the weak-minded, undisciplined, and poor and either forge them into something stronger, or kills them under the weight and pressure of living there.  Some of that rep is justified, some isn't.  It's not up to me to sift through which is which.

However, for the six weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve, the city softens a bit.  Maybe it's the brainwashing from all the holiday music that yo hear from every place that has a speaker, but for that time, it never seemed as bad.  People were generally nicer to one another.  Kindness was seen on the surface.  As people geared up for the season, you could see it, feel it, a particular and unique kind of spirit.

It's the same as in small towns, when you see a kid's face light up as they meet Santa (TM) for the first time.  The big city is no different.  The Salvation Army still rings bells at every street corner, and people still drop their spare change into the big red pots.  Lights are strung up from every lamppost, intersections are made more festive.  Storefronts put up amazing displays.  And while NYC does it on an entirely different scale...



... it's still Christmas.  Or Hanukkah.   Or whatever you want to call it.

Don't get me wrong, New York in the dead of winter offers bone-chilling temperatures, schizophrenic weather patterns, and sometimes a kind of bleak that there isn't a word for, but for those six weeks, that specific time of year, it doesn't seem half bad.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Other Than Politics...


In light of the season, I scoured some old writing and found this interesting bit.  Originally Posted December 1, 2009.


A friend posted that she wanted to know what true love is. 

It's a question I've often asked myself, and shied away from very scary answers. I came up with clever commentary ("If I can love you like i love family and still want to sleep with you") and funny analogies ("If I can love a woman the way I love the Yankees..."), even bad movie quotes (True love is the soul recognizing its counterpoint in another) but the truth is, I never really thought about it. Until, that is, another friend reminded me of the origin of love.

Yourself.

The love you feel when you look in the mirror should be absolute, despite the zits and the morning breath, the crusty eyes and the five pounds that won't go away. One should look at oneself in the mirror and smile, for you've already seen your best ally, the person who should be looking out for you the most in the world. You should be your own reset button, and when the world seems jacked beyond belief, you should look to you to re-center. You are the star of your own single camera show. Just please, stop yourself before tweaking your own nipples.

Now once you can identify that love within yourself, if you can recognize the love of self within someone else, and still have space to love that person, and that person still has space to love you, THAT is true love.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

So What'd I Miss?

SO... did anything interesting happen in the world since September?

Okay, that's a bad joke.  But it feels like I've been under a rock for the last few months, which makes for very bad platform building.

Can't believe I just used that term.

Anyway, as the year winds down, I've come to realize I haven't put nearly the focus I should have on the stuff that's important to me: specifically, my writing "career."  But that will change, and soon.

This blog will evolve into something more, and I would love to bring you all with me along the way.

All... five... of you, following this.

Okay, so maybe my reach needs some work.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Shameless Self-Promotion: Chapter 6 of the next project

Hey all...

I'm going through a first pass of my next book, before an editor can get to it, and before beta reads.  But... I figure a little out-of-context taste of what I'm doing couldn't hurt.

So, all feedback is welcome.  Enjoy!






6.



Alex



     Don’t know what to expect as I pull up in the driveway.  That guy – whoever he was – doesn’t still have a car here, so bonus for that.  There’s nothing worse than finding some strange dude’s sports car on my street.  My darling wife’s car is still here.  Maybe not so much a bonus.  I’m not sure if I’m going to pack some stuff and hit a hotel, or tell her to pack her shit.  I’m not sure I want do either.
     I can’t get the last 10 hours out of my head.  The kiss in the bar.  Watching Sabrina.  Catching, I mean.  Catching Sabrina.  This morning with Lucy.
     Lucy and I went at it hard today.  The way she moved, how she looked perched up on me.  The natural tightness of her body, how her ass and tits defied gravity, but she clearly hasn’t spent a minute in the gym.  Not muscular, not fluffy, just the perfect body at the perfect time in her life.  You can’t replace youth, and she can’t be any older than 25. 
I haven’t been with anyone since I met Selena.  That’s ten years of being completely faithful.  I should feel bad.  Guilty.  But I don’t, not really.  I mean, she fucked up first.  I am absolutely justified. 
So why don’t I feel good about it? 
Ah, this sucks.  Every time I think I feel guilty, I can’t stop the image of watching… catching her bent over on the living room floor.  Every time I think Sabrina’s a whore, I picture Lucy, on top of me with her hands on my chest and her top teeth tugging at her bottom lip, and her body rocking back and forth with her dark curls covering her red face.
     I’m slow and deliberate as I turn the key.  I hope she’s sleeping.  I hope she doesn’t hear me.  Kind of wish I could just fast-forward past this.



Sabrina



     The key turning in the deadbolt lock wakes me from the power nap I was taking on the couch.  I check the clock on the wall – minutes to noon – and realize that it’s been close to six hours since I heard that little performance.  I probably shouldn’t be so fucking mad; he did walk in on a compromising situation, but I can’t help myself.  I can hear my heartbeat.  It sounds like explosions in my head.  I’m dizzy.  Gotta breathe.  Breathe.  Slow it down.  Inhale, exhale.  Why the fuck is it so hot in here?  Do I have a fever?  This is a hell of a time to get sick.
     Six hours.  Not a call.
     Six hours ago, I was hoping that the man I loved wasn’t dead, or didn’t leave me.  Now I wish he had. 
     Left, I mean.  I don’t want him dead.  I don’t think, anyway.
     He opens the door and glances at me before heading up the stairs to the bedroom.   I still don’t quite know what to say.  I’m hurt, angry, embarrassed, sorry, and have no idea which one is the right one to express.  I can hear him sifting through drawers and slamming them closed.  A few minutes of that and he heads into the kitchen.  I guess his night made him hungry.

     I figure I should take a look at the damage he’s done to the bedroom.  I get in there and see all my clothes, dumped in a pile all over our bed.  I check the top two dresser drawers.  They’re empty.  So are the laundry baskets and my side of the closet.  Everything I own in this bedroom is on the bed.

I rush down to the kitchen and see him leaning on the breakfast bar, drinking a glass of orange juice.  He looks at me, takes a giant chug and puts the glass down on the counter.

     I want you to leave, he says to me.



Alex



     I walk into the house and there she is, on the couch wearing her bathrobe, just sitting there, like she was waiting for me to get home.  I catch her out of the corner of my eye, looking up at me.  Something in her eyes, a look of anger, maybe a touch of regret.  It’s too much and I’m not ready yet to return the look.  I head to our bedroom and have a seat on the bed.  This is the first real breath I’ve had all day.  I stare at the furniture in the bedroom, all a deep brown cherry-wood, polished and lacquered.  They were her choice, and I have grown to like it.  I stand up in front of the dresser and before I really know what I’m doing, I’ve emptied the top two drawers.  I go into the closet, yank down all the hangers from her side and grab her laundry basket.  All her stuff, her sweatpants, her underwear, t-shirts, I’ve dumped them all onto the bed.  I hustle my way back to the kitchen; she’s not on the couch anymore.  I need a drink.

     I pour half a glass of orange juice and add a splash of vodka.  It helps me calm my nerves.  I take a gulp and notice her standing at the entrance to the kitchen, staring at me with this “what did you do?” look.

     I want you to leave, I say to her.

     Her mouth drops open a bit, a reaction to shock.  I don’t buy it.  There’s no way she didn’t see this coming after last night.

     “Excuse me?” she says.  Her voice is trembling, like she’s trying to hold on to her last bit of calm.

     I need you gone.  I can’t be here with you anymore.

     She bites her lip.  She’s holding back tears.  “And where do you expect me to go?”

     Not my problem, I say.  You probably should have thought of that before you brought your boyfriend home.

     She goes red in the face.  “He’s not my boyfriend,” she starts to say.

     I don’t give a shit who he is, actually.  This marriage is over.

     She can’t stop the tears now.  “And what, that’s my fault?  Where were you last night?”

     I pause; should I tell her?  It doesn’t matter where I was, I say.

     “Who were you with?”

     What are you talking about?

     “Don’t play stupid.  I heard you with a woman when I called you.  You forgot to hang up your phone last night, you ass.”

     It hits me; that’s why my phone battery died all of a sudden.  I didn’t hang up when I threw it down.  A momentary wave of relief comes over me; that was an expensive phone and I would hate to think I damaged it.

     Pot calling the kettle black, don’t you think? I say.

     “So what, you had to go get revenge?  Hurt me for hurting you?”  She huffs and puffs and wipes away tears.  “I hope the bitch was worth it.”

     Fuck you, I tell her.  I’m yelling now, I don’t ever yell at her.

     “Obviously not,” she says.  “Can’t believe it took this to realize you never really did it for me.”

     She says that and I feel my heart stop.  I get in her face, nose-to-nose, angry with her like she’s a guy.  I feel like I’m watching myself grab her face.  This can’t be me, I’ve never raised a hand to her in anger.  Get out, I watch myself say.  She slaps at my arms.  She’s always been tough, strong, and I’m not surprised that her hits sting my arm.  When the harmless slaps turn into punches, I let go of her face and with one arm I grab both of her wrists and push her back against the fridge.

     And I kiss her.



Sabrina



     I hear myself saying “you never really did it for me,” and I know it’s not true.  I know I’m pushing the wrong buttons and pushing them too hard, but so what?  What’s he going to do?  Even as he grabs my jaw in his strong right hand, I know my man.  I know he’d never hurt me.  But the pressure he’s putting on my face is starting to get uncomfortable.  He gets in my face and tells me to get out.  And I realize that maybe I don’t know my man so well.

     My heart’s pounding from fear or anger, I can’t tell which.  He’s telling me to get out of my house and he knows I don’t have anywhere to go.  And before that part of my brain that would say “No, don’t, this isn’t a good idea” gets a chance to speak, I start to hit him.  “Let me go,” I say.  I don’t think he’s hearing me.  I go from open hand slaps to punches, hard, to his arm.  He grabs my wrists in his hands and puts them up above my head, then pins me against the fridge.  He grabs my jaw again, and I don’t know when the last time I’ve ever been this scared.

     He kisses me, hard, passionately.  Everything stops.  My eyes drift closed and I feel him pressing his lips against me, the day-old stubble of his chin razing my face.  It’s rough and prickly and tickles.  I feel his tongue forcing its way past my lips and I let it in after putting up a cursory resistance.  I take a deep breath for the first time.  I hate him.  God this feels good.

     I bite his lip, not hard, not softly, and his hands loosen from my wrists.  I grab his face and push away, taking a breath to try and get the flush out of my face.  I slap him across the jaw as hard as I can and kiss him again.  I tear at his shirt and buttons pop and I’m raking his chest with my fingernails.  He moves his prickly face to my neck and bites down.  It hurts, but there’s no pain in my voice.  I throw my arms around his neck and dig my nails into his back.

     It feels so good.  I hate the cheating bastard.



Alex



     A grunt escapes my throat as she scratches my back.  The sting from air and sweat means she’s probably broken skin, but right now I can’t say I care.  Her skin warms in my hands, in my mouth.  She tastes great.  I throw off her bathrobe and rip off her tank top, and she moans at the sound of the cotton ripping.  I lift her off the ground and her breasts to my face.  She squirms in my arms and her feet flail in the air, and she lets out noises I haven’t heard before.  Holy crap, this is incredible.  Is this what she was like last night?

     I bite at one of her nipples and she pulls my head in closer.  She’s trembling.  She slips through my hands to the ground and works her hands on my belt and pants.  I slide her pajama bottoms to the ground, and she quickly shimmies them off her ankles.  Then my pants are around my ankles.  I kiss her again, hard and deep and pin her wrists behind her.  She wraps those strong dancer legs around my waist and I’m greeted by warm and wet.  I’m watching myself pin her against the wall and drive into her.  I want to give myself a thumbs up.

     We’re both making animal noises as we make love.  No, come to think of it, this isn’t making love, not at all.  I’m angry, and I can tell she is too.  We’re hitting the wall so hard that our cabinets are shaking.  A ceramic plate falls out and smashes against the floor.  There is very little love in this.

     She starts to squeeze me and I withdraw.  I don’t want this to end just yet.  I put her down and bend her over the breakfast bar and slide into her as she’s still trembling.  One hand’s on her back and I have her thick dark curls wrapped around my wrist.  I grab her hip and drive into her, hard. Fast.  Repeatedly.  She squeals, part pain, part pleasure, but I’m not going to stop.



Sabrina



     One minute we’re fighting, the next minute we’re screwing on the breakfast bar.  When I look at this in my mind later, I’m sure I’m going to laugh at how crazy this is.

     We’re going at it pretty hard.  There’s a broken plate at the cabinet and I think I knocked over a glass from the breakfast bar.  I’m holding on for dear life as he’s ramming me from behind and there’s a part of me that can’t help but think if this is what he did with her, whoever she is.  Did she get it this good?  Was he this savage with her?  And I’m surprised at myself to realize that the thought is what’s driving this.

     Did he bend her over something in her kitchen? Oh, God!

     Was he pounding her this hard?  Shit, yes!

     Did he slap her ass the way he’s slapping mine?  Fuck me!

     I don’t know if I’m thinking it or screaming it, but he’s going at it so hard it almost hurts.  So, so good.

     My knees are buckling again and I know I’m about to cum.  He brought me so, so close last time and stopped, the asshole, just to do this again.  I want this, need this, can’t let him know.  Hold my breath.  Don’t clench.  Feel my face going warm.  Oh, shit.  Gotta hold it.  Gotta hold it.  For the love of God, please don’t stop.  Oh, God!

     He pulls out and I let out that breath- Fuck yes- and my knees feel like jelly. I feel a warm trickle down my leg.  Oh, god, am I peeing?  How can I be peeing?  Wait, wait a minute.  This isn’t pee.  I’m not peeing.  That’s new.



Alex



     There’s a small puddle forming at my feet and I’m suddenly not so focused on the anger anymore.  Wow.  That’s definitely a new trick.  I take a breath and pat myself on the back in my head.

     Did she do that last night?  Did she do that for him?

     I see red and drive into her again.  I grab her by her hips and pull her into me.  She’s not even putting up any resistance, even throwing her hips back at me.  She’s moaning like a little whore, not even forming words.  Her knees buckle and her body trembles in my hands.  I can’t hide my smile as I grab a handful of her hair, and her breath catches in her throat.  The one word she says comes out as a long and raspy whisper: “Yes!”.  I haven’t seen her dick-drunk in years.

     She clenches up again, right at my moment of weakness.  Fuck, I’m gonna blow.  My entire body seizes and I let loose inside her.  My limbs go heavy and I feel my eyes roll back.  The kitchen is getting hazy, and where a second ago I was gripping her to pound her harder, I’m holding on now to keep from falling over.  My legs wobble and fail, partly because of the vigorous workout and partly because I let off twice in the last eight hours and I’m just not used to all this sex.  I pull out and she drips and oozes on the floor.

I’ll probably have to clean that up.

     We both take a few silent, heaving breaths.  We’re drenched in sweat.  I can’t muster up the same kind of rage I just had not too long ago.  Too tired.  Too relaxed.  I know, I hope, whoever that guy was he didn’t get this out of her.  This was for me.  This was mine.

After a moment, she stands upright and strides over to the pile of her clothes near the fridge.  I haven’t seen her naked like this in so long, I forgot how stunning she is.  Tall, long, lean, muscled legs, toned stomach, perky breasts, naturally tanned skin with freckles at her chest and cheeks.  She bends to pick up her bathrobe and shorts and I take notice of that ass of hers.  My red handprint is still visible.

“I’m taking a shower,” she announces.  “I’m sweaty.”  She walks away, out of the kitchen and upstairs toward the bathroom.

And then I hear her call out, “You coming?”

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The World We Live In

My brother's wife is due next week.  They will have their second girl.  And I had a thought this morning that sickened me.

"How lucky are they that they don't have boys?"

That thought sickened me for two reasons.  One, I should be happy that they have 1.99 healthy children, that they will grow up in a happy home, far from most of the struggles that we had to deal with in our youth.  They will grow up without the crushing feeling of wanting -- of needing -- and not having.  They will grow up without having to "make do."  I should be thrilled at that.

Two, it doesn't matter.  My brother's children are still Black, even though their mother is as fair-skinned and red-haired as can be.

It's a sad reality that it is open season on us, and increasingly has been since January 2009 (wonder what happened in January 2009 that suddenly made Black people a target?).  Since January 1st, 2009, according to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, 290 (and counting, because today ain't over yet)unarmed or legally armed African-American men and women have been either killed by, or in custody of law enforcement.  The majority of these cases have seen the officers escape indictment and keep their jobs, and those that have been prosecuted escaped punishment and are quietly swept under the rug.  And while the overwhelming majority of the victims are male, there are a not-insignificant number of females in there as well.

Last night, we were shown in brutal detail the police execution of two African-American men, legally armed, without just cause.  One man was tackled and restrained by four men, shot in the chest at point blank range, and then had his gun removed from his pocket.  The other was in a car with his girlfriend and daughter and shot to death in front of them.  These are images that won't -- that shouldn't -- leave our collective consciousness anytime soon.

I'm firmly aware that not all cops are out to get us.  The ones that aren't should stop protecting the ones that are, and until they do, they are part of the problem.  And to those who fall back on "All Lives Matter..."

Well, apparently not those 290.



Thursday, May 19, 2016

30 Day Writing Challenge: Day 2 -- Your Earliest

Last month I did a 30-day writing challenge.  I posted about it in my last post.  Writing prompts were given and it made me think of writing in ways I hadn't before.  Some of it was good, some of it not.  Some of it was deeply personal.  I'm going to share some of my favorites.

#2: My Earliest Memory

My earliest memory comes from July of 1983.  I was four and change.  I sat in the bedroom that was partitioned off for my brothers.  We lived in a pre-war apartment building in Brooklyn, so we had the space to cram four boys into half a bedroom.

I was watching WPIX 11, New York's local independent station at the time, and home of the New York Yankees.  Stuff happened that I didn't understand until much later in life.  The game was honestly boring to me.  Then this happened:






 
 
 
 
 
It was weird, like a light went on in my still forming head.  This game was cool. Anything that could make grownups act like this was beyond cool.  And that day, I became a Yankee fan.
 
 

Friday, April 1, 2016

The 30-Day Writing Challenge

I seemed to have fallen asleep in February and awakened in April.

And that's inexcusable.  I shouldn't disappear off my platform for a month without saying something.  Even if this is a platform of one.

As penance, I will be doing a 30-day writing challenge on this blog.



I found this challenge on Facebook one day during my month-long hibernation, and I have to say it's pretty interesting.  It's the first time I've done anything like this, and the prompts will force me to look a things from a different angle.  Beginning tomorrow, April 2, I'll start from the top and work my way down.  Maybe I'll even finish it.

Of course, as always I invite your commentary as I go along.

***

While I'm here, I figure I'll give you an update: my first pass is at the tail end now, the last five or six chapters and epilogue are the only barriers to starting my rewrite.  I'm also almost done with the plotting of my next project, Urban Legend.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Review: Adultery by Paulo Coelho

Meh.

Paulo Coelho comes to me well-recommended.  I'm told The Alchemist is a life-changing book and Aleph is captivating.  Maybe I should have started with one of those.

I can't say I loved Adultery.  It wasn't terrible, and this is a virtue of Paulo Coelho being everything as a writer I was told he would be.  His style is accessible and conversational.  You can blow through large chunks of text while sipping a coffee or a beer and you're never left grasping at what happened.  However this story, while well told, wasn't terribly compelling.

Adultery is the running inner monologue of a woman in her 30's who has everything she can ask for -- perfect children, a husband who adores her, a fulfilling career, the ability to flit about the world at a whim -- and yet is terribly unhappy, largely because she chooses to be.  She inexplicably one day blows a politician (who happens to be the ex-boyfriend from high school that she was so into that she fantasized about him constantly through her adolescence), and that kick-starts a vicious cycle self-hatred and bad decision-making, all while her doting husband tries desperately to help her find her way of whatever depression and melancholy she happens to be in.

I find characters who do the  super-entitled pity party ("woe is me, I have everything) to be grating, especially when they narrate the story, as in Adultery and  Douglas Brunt's Ghosts of Manhattan. It's hard to empathize with them as a reader because for me at least, it's impossible to understand them, especially when at the end, they haven't changed very much because their lives are so insular, so perfect, they're not required to.  Adultery's narrator, Linda, almost ruins two marriages -- her own and her lover's -- and never has to face the consequences. She's spared the humbling embarrassment of having to say she cheated, while putting her lover in a position to lie to his wife's face.  At the end of the day, her relationship with her husband somehow ends up stronger because she realizes that she has it all and decides it's not a prison.  I mean... come on.  Reading this calls up some advice my dad once gave me: the worst thing you can give a woman is everything she wants.

I will say this: Paulo Coelho's style is everything it's cracked up to be.

Pros: Easy Read, crackling style
Cons: Whiny narrator, no significant character change at the end.

2 out of 5 stars.

Friday, February 19, 2016

It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year...

That's right, pitchers and catchers have reported to Spring Training!  That means Opening Day is around the corner, and summer very shortly after.  Aren't you excited?



I make no secret about my Yankee fandom.  I like to think it's one of my most endearing qualities.  But this isn't a post about being a Yankee fan.  Spring Training also means that softball season is about to start out here, but this isn't a post about that either.

No, this is a post about connection.

Every year, millions of fans of the 30 MLB teams prepare themselves for a summer of various levels of commitment to the idea that their team can win a title.  Some fans will watch every game, most won't.  Some fans will attend every home game, most won't.  But on some level, everyone will have at least some interest in their hometown team.  On some level people care.  And on some level, people hope for the kind of unity victory brings.

I know this is true of all sports, but for some reason, it feels more true about baseball.  And I think I know why.

Football, the players wear masks.  Their careers tend to be short.  And in most of those careers, teams that don't win out don't stay together very long.  Basketball, the average length of time one player stays with one team is about five years.  Baseball, however, teams are kept together for years, decades in some cases, and even the teams that don't stay completely together, there's never a wholesale turnover.  There's continuity.  And while the Yankees win most of the time, most teams spend at least some time being competitive.  And you can always trace a link from one team's great player to its next through less than three degrees of separation.  And it's something you can link directly back to your childhood.  It's something I appreciate more now as I'm now so much closer to 40 than I am to 20.

For instance, one of my favorite players retired a couple of years ago, Derek Jeter.  He came up to the majors in 1996, when I was turning 18 and going to college and drooling over college girls.  1996 was also the first Yankee championship of my lifetime.  The year before Jeter came up, Don Mattingly -- longtime Yankee first baseman and the player I grew up idolizing -- played his final season in a career that started when I was three.  He played most of his career on a team that had all-time base stealing champion Rickey Henderson and fellow Hall-of-Famer Dave Winfield.  Winfield was brought to the Yankees in 1981 to anchor an outfield that featured Reggie Jackson, who was a member of the 1978 World Series Championship team that won when I was about two weeks old.  And right there, I've just charted my entire life through one team.  That is not a terribly rare occurrence.

It's a shame that the appreciation for baseball seems to be declining because that connection is declining.  Connection with a home, with a city, with something that's not only bigger than you, but something that you can agree upon with your neighbor at a ballpark regardless of your station in life, your religious beliefs or even your attitudes about race.  Two guys at Yankee Stadium wearing Yankee jerseys are both Yankee fans, and together for the three hours at the ballpark.  They share a drink, they share triumph and defeat, they share opinions on which players suck.  At the end it's over, and they go back to their respective lives, homes and differences of various levels, but in those few hours they were family of a sort.

They say baseball is something that's inherited, that fathers pass on to sons (or mothers to sons, or fathers to daughters, mothers to daughters, whatever).  If I ever have kids and I can pass on an appreciation for baseball and all the commonalities fans have with one another, all the things we share at the ballpark, and how we directly connect one player to the next, and one moment to the next, I will have honestly done my part to make the world a better place.

Unless the little crumb snatcher turns out to be a Red Sox fan.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Reviews: Ex-Heroes, Ex-Patriots

Hey all!

Still doing the GoodReads reading challenge, and now to review books 3 and 4 on my list, both from the Ex-Heroes series by Peter Clines. 

Ex-Heroes

One part Avengers, one part Dawn of the Dead, sprinkle a little of The Warriors in there and you have Ex-Heroes, an entertaining novel that clips along at a rapid pace.

Two years after civilization fell, Los Angeles became split into two communities: The Mount, a converted movie studio lot watched over by a mismatched team of super heroes-- The Mighty Dragon (glides, invulnerable, breathes fire), Cerberus (scientist in a giant armored suit), Gorgon (vampire stare), Zzzap (living electric dynamo) Regeneration (heals himself and others) and Stealth (genius billionaire fashion model turned ninja)-- and the Seventeen, an LA gang that seeks to expand its turf in this new world order. Between the two groups lies the rest of LA's 5 million residents, all dead, all walking. But things get a little more weird when the zombies -- the ex-humans-- start talking. And making demands.

I like superheroes and I like some zombie stuff, so of course I liked this book. It screams of an idea that's too good to pass up, a "why didn't I think of this?" sensibility. There are some small issues to be sure regarding an improperly reflected diversity in the city of Angels, but overall this was a very enjoyable read.


4 stars (out of 5)


Ex-Patriots

I gotta say, this has been plenty of fun!

Ex-Patriots, the second book in the Ex-Heroes series, continues a couple of months after where Ex-Heroes left off. The super powered heroes of The Mount -- a community of zombie apocalypse survivors in L.A. -- are recovering from their war with the Seventeens, a street gang in the city who had their own survivor community and were led by Peasy, a man with the ability to control the zombies. They are contacted by the remnants of the US military, an enhanced soldier project called Krypton, led by Captain Freedom (actually his name) and Agent John Smith of DHS and DARPA. After agreeing to visit their base outside of Yuma, Arizona, the heroes find that there is more going on than they were led to believe, complete with a mad scientist and a small army of zombie soldiers.

Yes, it was predictable, but it was an extremely fun read, if for no other reason than the fact that I'm a big comic-book nerd. The action clips along at a frenetic pace and there aren't any lulls. And two books in, Zombies vs. Superheroes still holds up as a concept.


3.5 stars (out of 5)
 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Review: Assassin's Code

It's time I started reviewing the stuff I consume again, be it books, music, movies, or whatever.  I'm not a critic by trade, just someone who likes stuff.  I'm involved in Goodreads' reading challenge.  12 books, 1 year.  I think I'm going to beat that.

I skipped my review of the first book I read this year, Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon.  We'll get to that later this week.  For now though, I give you my review of Jonathan Maberry's Assassin's Code, the fourth book in his series featuring Department of Military Sciences agent Joe Ledger.

I've become a big fan of the Joe Ledger series. I look at it as the popcorn movie in my TBR list. Are we getting deep, life changing events? No. Are we getting radical philosophical shifts? Of course not. But what we are getting is fast-paced, highly entertaining action. And I'll take it.

The fourth novel chronicling the adventures of Joe Ledger and Echo Team is set primarily in the Middle East, where the covert rescue of American political prisoners in Iran put Joe directly in the middle of two longtime warring factions: Arklight, a group of highly trained (and long-lived) female warriors, and the Red Order, The Catholic Church's secret group of vampire assassins. Yes, you read that right. Feeding this powder keg are eight nuclear weapons, stolen and hidden all over the world, set to blow at a moment's notice.

This is, like I said, the fourth in a series. Jonathan Maberry isn't breaking new ground. The series has a very James Bond-esque thrill ride, and I'm okay with that. Yes, it got a little hokey, especially toward the end, but it was hugely entertaining! And considering what I read right before I picked this up, that was enough.

4 stars.

Pros: Fun to read, intense action
Cons: A little hokey, hard to catch up if you haven't read the series.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Movies I Need to See, Part I

A friend of mine, Thom Carnell,  is doing a "366 movies in 366 days" challenge this year.  It's ambitious.  It means watching great cinema and crappy popcorn flicks, it means watching things that aren't quite in your taste spectrum, and it means flat out watching things you just hate.  He's even reviewing them all. To that I say, good for him.

He and I differ in tastes.  He's a lot more into things that are elevate movies to an artwork.  He's into stylistic choices with shots and scenes, he's into obscure films by obscure film makers (and believe me, he knows his shit.  Check out The Bonus Material Podcast, where he and two co-conspirators talk about film and filmmaking.  Eye-opening stuff), whereas I'm admittedly much more simple than that.   Do I love a great story? Absolutely.  Do I enjoy cool cinematography? Sure.  I don't necessarily require them to have a good time at the movies (however, a bad story will almost 100% of the time result in a bad movie and a terrible time at the movies.  I'm looking at you, A Most Violent Year).

Anyway, I throw up this story as a prologue for the movies I'm most excited about this year.  Keep in mind that I'm going to update this list frequently as more stuff comes out.  And yes, trailers.

Kung Fu Panda 3.  I'm into animated movies. So sue me.  DreamWorks has a wonderful thing going here with KFP and How to Train Your Dragon.  I grew up in the 80s in New York, where you could watch kung-Fu flicks every Saturday afternoon.  I loved that.  The Kung-Fu Panda series is a great homage/spoof of all that nonsensical and fun pseudo-mystical stuff from that era.  And who doesn't love that?







Deadpool.  Another attempt at recreating this character onscreen.  (His first time in X-Men Origins: Wolverine was just... no.). It's amazing what a madcap trailer from a guano-psychotic video.game will do these days.  It seems like this time they managed to capture the essence of the character, a dangerously unstable, fourth-wall breaking, regenerating, cancer-stricken mercenary.  It'll either be really good, or really bad.  I've gotta see it.







Zoolander 2.  If I'm being totally honest, there is no burning desire to see this for me. I thought the first one was funny, but it was also 15 years ago.  My girlfriend wants to see it, so if I want to drag her to see something I want to see, this sacrifice must be made.  You feel me, right guys?










Race. A bit on-the-nose with its title, this follows Jesse Owens and his winning 4 gold medals in the 1936 Olympics... in a very Nazi Berlin with Adolf Hitler watching. Maybe they'll touch on the issues he dealt with at home, being a Black Man from Jim Crow's South.  Worth watching, I think.









London Has Fallen.  Olympus Has Fallen was a fun action movie, no reason to think the next one won't be as well.












Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.  Tina Fey as a female war correspondent in Iraq.  The trailer's decently funny, and this could be pretty good.  Why not?












10 Cloverfield Lane.  Some years back, JJ Abrams put together a trailer for a found-footage monster movie set in New York City that featured the head of the Statue of Liberty being torn off.  That trailer became Cloverfield, and despite all its promise, it was one of the most disappointing movie experiences of my life.  Since then, JJ has done two Star Trek movies and a Star Wars movie, and I can't help to think he's learned something in the experience.  So I'm going to double down and see this one, which will either be really good or reeeeeallly bad





And that takes me to the end of the winter.  Next time I do this, it will be Summer Blockbuster Season.  Which means, comic book movies.  And there will be reviews.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Stuff I Read in 2015

For the last couple of years, I joined Goodreads.com's reading challenge, where you set out to read a certain amount of books in a year and then try to get through them all.  In 2015, I tried to do 12, but managed to finish 11 (the last one, Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon, I just was too tired in December to get through).  I picked a few books by favorite authors, some by people that I've never read.  Some were surprisingly bad, others were better than I expected, and one was The Martian.

So today, let's give you the rundown of what I read last year, listed alphabetically.

52-Pickup by Elmore Leonard:  I read Get Shorty and Be Cool when I was in my early 20's and decided I was a fan of Elmore Leonard.  I named one of my characters in my most recent novel in his honor (Dutch).  I started this book expecting it to be an awesomely gritty crime story.  Instead, I found it to be horribly dated, what with the free-flowing racial slurs and very outdated sensibilities.  It was written in the 70's though, so I won't say he had lost touch, but the book definitely did not age well.  2 stars.

Beautiful You by Chuck Palahniuk: Palahniuk is another favorite of mine, having read six or seven of his books, including Fight Club and Choke.  Beautiful You is the story of a woman who is made to be the guinea pig for a new generation of sex toy designed by a powerful businessman that has disastrous side effects up to and including death.  These sex toys have turned women all over the world into masturbation addicts, and only the guinea pic, through mastery of her own sexuality, has a chance of stopping his plan for world domination.  It's a well-written, off the wall story that I had a ton of fun with.  4 stars.

The Dead Run by Adam Mansbach:  Yes, the Go The Fuck To Sleep guy.  I liked another book of his (Rage is Back) and gave The Dead Run a look.  I'm glad I did.  In it, Mansbach weaves together a noir/supernatural tale that weaves together a smuggling story with a cult worshiping an immortal Incan priest.  What really impressed me more than anything is that it seems Mansbach has a deep respect for ancient myths and legends regarding older cultures, and sprinkles that stuff liberally in the last two books of his I read (Rage is Back also had a mystic aspect to it, along with deep roots in B-boy culture.  Another day though...).  It was a great thrill ride and quite a compelling page-turner.  Adam Mansbach is more than a gimmick children's writer.  4 stars.

Debbie Doesn't Do It Anymore by Walter Mosley:  I have a Walter Mosley book that I haven't gotten around to reading, but when I saw the premise to this one, I had to pick it up.  Porn mega-star Debbie Dare retires after the death of her cheating, abusive, porn-producer husband dies and finds herself burdened with the enormous debt her husband incurred to various LA lowlifes.  In addition to figuring that out, she must reconcile with her family, his family, and the son she had when she was a teenager.  It's a great setup, but it never quite got past "simmer" for me.  I found myself engrossed enough to read it in a day and a half, but never quite got the payoff I was looking for.  Not bad, but not great either.  3 stars.

The Dragon Factory by Jonathan Maberry:  Book Two in his Joe Ledger series, of which I had read one and three and loved.  The Dragon Factory features Joe Ledger and his DMS team pursuing a group of geneticists descended from Josef Mengele, who have created genetically engineered mythological creatures (dragons, unicorns, etc) for hunters sport... and to create an unstoppable army of fearsome potential to rule the world after a virus clears out all who do not fit the Nazi ideal of the Master Race.  Yeah, I know, completely off the walls, batshit crazy.  But wow, was this a fun action movie of a read.  4 stars.

Freaky Deaky by Elmore Leonard:  My second Elmore Leonard book of 2015 led me to realize that I'm not as big a fan of his as I thought.  Which is a shame.  He follows two ex-hippie bombers as they try to extort a million dollars from someone they ran with back in the day, and the detective trying to stop them.  Fairly bland, very dated.  But I got through it in a day.  3 stars.

Ghosts of Manhattan by Douglas Brunt:  Well-written story about a guy working at Bear Stearns at the the onset of the 2008 financial crisis... well-written in the sense that the story was well told.  The protagonist, however, a very wealthy trader who is suddenly having a crisis of conscience with his lifestyle (oh, no, the hooker and blow life has too many hookers and too much blow... woe is me) rang completely hollow with me.  I found him to be completely unlikable and his "struggle" didn't seem to be much of one at all.  Liked the story, hated the storyteller.  3 stars.

The Martian by Andy Weir:  The first manned mission to Mars leaves a man stranded on the surface after a freak dust storm, and he has to "science the shit out of this" to survive the estimated 600+ days it will take to wait for rescue.  Brilliant and compelling, science-fiction close enough to realistic with an ease of access akin to Bill Nye The Science Guy.  Thoroughly engrossing, we see the hero, Mark Watney, use science and humor to keep himself alive, hopeful and sane, alone on a barren planet, presumed dead, and billions of miles from home.  Can't say enough good things about this.  Read it.  Now.  5 stars.

Monster by A. Lee Martinez:  I underestimated this one going in, thinking it was kind of kiddie-fluff.  Mistake.  This turned out to be a solid supernatural read about a color-changing monster hunter and his paper-man sidekick, protecting a normal human from the magical forces trying to get to her.  I'm not usually into fantasy stuff, but this was pretty fun to read.  4 stars.

Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore: The latest by my current favorite author, Secondhand Souls is the sequel to A Dirty Job. The sequel finds a resurrected Charlie Asher and his friends Lily, Audrey,  retired detective Alphonse Rivera and Minty Fresh, once again battle the mythical Morrigan for the souls of the recently departed in San Francisco while their new master, Minty's cousin Lemon Fresh seeks to ascend (or descend) and become a new god of Death.  I'm a massive fan of Christopher Moore, and A Dirty Job was the first book of his that I read, so naturally Secondhand Souls was incredibly fun for me.  If you haven't read the earlier book, then very little of it will makes sense to you at first.  But I think you'll still enjoy it as Moore's engaging and riotously funny style gets you over that hump.  4 stars.

The Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore:  This sequel to Fool puts Pocket the Jester in Italy as he finds himself in the middle of Shakespeare's Othello, and with old friends and a new pet sea serpent, seeks to stop a coup.  I wasn't as big a fan of Fool as I was of Christopher Moore's other stuff, but it wasn't bad.  It was original and funny.  This is kind of like the joke you love and makes you smile, but you've heard it before so you don't enjoy it quite so much.  3 stars.

There you go.  11 books, one year.  Not bad, but this year, let's see if I can do more...

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Billion-Dollar (Day)Dream

Powerball is at $1.3 billion for Wednesday's drawing, and if you're like me, you've got most of it spent already,  what with the homes you would buy and friends and family you would help or avoid.  Some would see the world, others would invest in a solid gold bathtub (because, you know, gold is a stable investment).  And I would love for you all to comment on what you would do in the comments section down below.

Personally, I would send all my inner circle an email to go to the airport at a specific time.  There would be a ticket waiting for them.  And we would go on one EPIC adventure.  After that was done, though, it would be time to make that money work for me.  I may be crazy, and I'm definitely not a finance guy, but here's what I would do.

First, I would move my family (brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces) to one place, where we would own a block off homes, or a cul-de-sac or something.  Thomas Town would be born.

Next, I would set up my nephews and nieces with independent million dollar trust funds, untouchable until they turn 21.

I would section off an enormous amount to simply accrue interest.

I would then start Thomas Holdings, Ltd as a way to allot the money in a manner that it would never be completely depleted.  This company would be the way I did real estate back home (more on that later), do an entertainment startup, or any number of ventures that two or three hundred million would allow.  I would have the holding company pay me and my family a salary (to at least give the illusion that there should be some degree of responsibility for one's own money) and live.

The real estate thing is a big deal to me, as it would be my way of giving back to my hometown.  I'm from Brooklyn, NY (as most of you know), and grew up in Flatbush, one of the neighborhood that is at the center of the big gentrification issues going on back home.  While it may be all Starbucks and hipster now, when I was there it was affordable, low-to-middle income housing (the 'hood).  Some of my greatest friendships were forged there, some of my best memories happened there, and some of the best stories that can't be told start and end there.  If you go to my closest circle of friends and say the words "Silencio del Gato," they will smile, laugh... and bite the cyanide pill in their teeth to avoid revealing secrets (we take that seriously).  But I digress.

New York as a whole, Brooklyn in particular, has become inaccessible for the most part to the low-to-middle income citizen, despite that being the vast majority of the city.  Ask any one of the five co-workers sharing a two-bedroom, 950 sq. ft. apartment in Bed-Stuy or Sunset Park, and paying a grand.  Each.  What I would do is, starting with the block I grew up on, buy some of the older buildings, renovate them, and rent them out to low-to-middle income families.  Not the projects, but actual livable apartments.  With reasonable square footage.  That didn't demand 75% of your earnings to simply keep a roof over your head.  There are some that would regard this as a bleeding-heart fantasy devoid of any business sense, but I disagree.  Yes, can cater to the high-end and make large sums of money, but there are more people two or three tiers down than there are at the top, and that is a huge market in NYC.  With a little less than a billion dollars in the bank, profit wouldn't be my primary motivation, but it would generate income nonetheless.

It's a billion-dollar fantasy that makes me smile.  And if my $20 pulls that in and makes that fantasy a reality, how cool would that be?

But hey, it's the lottery.  I might as well ask Santa Claus to make that happen.

Feel free to comment with your daydreams and money wishes.  Cheers!

Side note:  I'd be remiss if I didn't give a shout out to the late David Bowie.  Along with Madonna, he was the master of innovation and reinvention, both stylistically and musically.  You've gotta hand it to a man who managed to stay relevant since the mid-70s.  RIP, Mr. Bowie.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Happy New Year!!

Welcome to 2016!

I'm a little late, sorry about that, traffic was murder.  This is the right space to give a first of the year update on projects and life in general.

First and foremost, I (finally) completed the first draft of my next novel, with the working title Open.  Cue the champagne and balloons!!  It's part of the reason why this blog posting is so late as I took a break from writing anything other than my name over the last couple of weeks.  Now comes the largely fun task of rewriting and rewriting before I go into beta reads and edits.  The next six or seven weeks should be interesting.

I'm training for Tough Mudder 2016 in Whistler, BC.  It's one of those "focused goal" things I would like to do this year, finish the course in 4 hours or less.  Right now, it means lots of working out.

I don't have a whole lot else, but thanks for stopping by!