Like Running Into an Old Friend

So chapter 1 is up and you’ve met one of the people who’s been living rent-free in my head for lo these many years.  Since I like talking and writing about writing roughly as much as I like writing I figure that I’ll probably put some supplemental material up, probably in the form of quick little follow-ups on Wednesday afternoons or Thursdays.

Like I said on Tuesday, I haven’t touched this story in years.  I was actually a little worried coming back to it with the intent to have other people read it.  I’m not actually entirely certain that my intention was to have other people read the book at the time.  I showed it to a couple friends and talked about getting it published but that was about it.  I was scared of actually trying and it was much easier to say that I was an aspiring writer than to say that I was a failed writer with a pile of rejection letters.  I’ve always been my own worst enemy that way.

[1]

This is how long it’s been: I was actually afraid that I’d lost the file forever.  I originally wrote it using WordPerfect 6.0 on a hand-me-down Toshiba laptop running Windows 98.  I still have the laptop, but I have exactly one first-generation jump drive that it will recognize and I have no idea where said jump drive is.  Fortunately I was smart enough to move my WPDOCS folder over to The Beast when I upgraded six years ago.  Since then I’ve upgraded to Ludwig, which runs Office 2010 on Windows 8.  Word 2007 did just fine with my old WordPerfect files, but apparently Word 2010 does not.  As such, when I opened the file I saw 156 blank pages staring back at me.  After a couple of minutes of panic I managed to get the file open in Word 2007 on The Beast and save it in rich text format.  If I ever meet the guy who decided that rich text format was a good idea I’m going to shake his hand.

Either way, I opened the file with trepidation.  I assumed, for one thing, that I’d end up having to do a total rewrite on the first chapter.  Turned out that, no, I didn’t.  The opening chapter was much different from what I remembered.  I think what actually happened was that I realized at some point after I finished the book that the opening chapter was really weak and I rewrote it.  I also know that I thought about re-writing the book when I was living in Texas so I might have decided then that there was much work to be done.  I know I never actually got around to doing that re-write and that was probably for the best.

That’s not to say that I opened it up, read the first chapter, and said, “Hells, yeah, this is awesome!” and just slapped it up on the bloggity blog.  I actually did a fairly extensive edit[2] because, wow, problems.  I barely read any fiction back in the day and it’s blatantly obvious that I just didn’t have an eye for proper word choices.  I also had this really bad habit of assuming there was something wrong if I wasn’t starting each sentence off with new, different, and exciting words.  That meant that I had a lot of overcomplicated sentences that took the passive voice out behind the woodshed and just beat it black and blue.

There’s also the problem that a lot of the book is Nate’s inner monologue.  This shows up a lot more in chapter 2 as well and I know there’s a big chunk I’ll have to re-write or just get rid of altogether, since it’s a lot of totally distracting and unnecessary exposition.  I seemed to have a bad habit of adding unnecessary explanations to overemphasize his thoughts and reactions to the things going on around him.  At the time I thought that they were little flourishes that enriched the experience.  Now I realize that they were totally unnecessary.

I assume there’s some next-level copy edit stuff that can drastically improve what I’ve already improved, but I’m rather pleased with what’s currently on the page.  I was much better at the whole writing thing than I thought.  Now I’m sad that I’ve spent the last decade running away from writing as a career option.  I could have been so much farther along that road by now.

There’s another thing that fascinates me about this particular book.  It’s only 18 chapters in spite of the fact that it’s about 86,000 words and 156 pages in Word.  That’s about 300 pages in trade paperback for those who need a measuring stick.  That basically means that every chapter is about 8-10 pages long in the ol’ word processor and clocks in at nearly 5000 words.  The upshot is that the chapters in Second Chances are much longer than anything else I’ve written.  I think my sci-fi novel was over 40 chapters in about 100,000 words.  I’ve got another project floating around that currently sits at 7300 words and 4 chapters, plus the first page of a fifth which means those chapters are about 1/3 as long as the ones in Second Chances.[3]

What does all of that mean?  Fuck if I know.  I tend to think of myself as a guy who writes short and punchy fiction stuff and reserves long-form for history and whatnot.  I can apparently switch that up from time to time.

———————–

[1]That song instantly became my favorite Toad the Wet Sprocket song the first time I heard it and it’s one of my all-time favorite songs, period.  I realize now that it’s because I’ve always identified very strongly with the song.  Ah, hell, who am I kidding?  I knew it at the time.

[2]If I missed anything, well, that happens.  I assume that the book would benefit greatly if it passed through the hands of an experienced copy editor.  I’m just self-publishing on a blog here…

[3]That other book is a project that’s haunted me since about 2006.  I actually put up a couple of the older versions of the intro chapters on the Typepad incarnation of AH.  I started yet another version back in December and thought I’d finally solved the problems I was having with the writing process.  I almost immediately realized I hadn’t.

The problem with the process for that particular book is that it started out as a fairly transparent boy-meets-girl, boy-gets-rejected-by-girl, things happen, boy-gets-girl bit of authorial wish fulfillment.  The girl in question was mostly there to act as a prop.  Eventually I realized that the girl in question was actually the more interesting character by far but I couldn’t just flip the script because the things that happen to the boy are actually what drives the plot.  This puts me in a bit of an awkward place that could be potentially amazing, since I want to try to do this alternating perspective thing and have the two stories run in parallel, but that’s really hard to do.

I will solve it eventually, though.  Or the characters will solve it for me.  They’ve been living in my head since 2006 and the reason I started trying a rewrite in December was because the girl in question literally popped into my head and renamed herself.  It was this crazy moment, since, like I said, I’d originally conceived of her as the prize at the end of the boy’s journey.  I ended up giving her this really powerful backstory wherein she’d gone through an awful lot and come out strong but brittle.  I was thinking about the book back in December for whatever reason and realizing for the first time just how much shit she’d gone through and how my initial conception of her as a character was, frankly, insulting.  All of the sudden it was like she was there and she just said, “Yeah, so tell me again why I’d still be introducing myself as Ellie.  My name is Jane, dammit.”  I have a theory that when your characters show up and rename themselves you’d best listen.  Or get counseling.  One of those things.

A lot of things fell into place at that exact moment.  Sadly, it’s still not quite enough.  Part of the problem is the structural issue.  Part of the problem is that I hit this point where I was having a really hard time describing a key moment and writer’s block kicked in.  Hard.

Second Chances Chapter 1

Chapter 1: Something Less than Life

The first inning was barely over when Nate’s phone rang. He pulled it out of his pocket and stared at the all-too familiar number on his caller ID, willing it to go away. It was work. It was always work. Work was inescapable, even on a beautiful Saturday afternoon at the Cell.

“I thought I told you to turn that thing off,” his friend Vince said, not bothering to cover the note of annoyance in his voice.

“Sorry. I have to take this call.”

“You always have to take the call.”

Nate ignored his friend and hit Answer. “Lassiter,” he said, holding it to his right ear and plugging his left to try to rid himself of the crowd noise. “Uh huh…uh huh,” he barely spoke, only listened and nodded as if the other person were standing in front of him. The chance to speak finally came, and Vince didn’t like what he heard from his friend.

“Okay,” Nate sighed. “I’ll be there in a little while.”

“I can’t believe you just did that,” Vince said as Nate put the phone back in his pocket. “We haven’t done anything in months and you’re giving up on a perfect day at the ballpark to go to the office.”

Nate stared out over the baseball diamond as the Chicago White Sox took the field for the top of the second inning. “I know, Vince,” he finally said, unwilling to look his friend in the eye. “It sucks, but I have to do it.” He slumped back into his seat and tilted his head back, trying to pretend the sky wasn’t a perfect blue and the temperature a nearly perfect seventy-five degrees.

“Why?”

“Because they need me. Something in the credit card tracking system is screwed up and they need to get it fixed. A team’s coming in and they need a manager. I’ve got to do it.”

“And what do ‘they’ ever do for you, man? They call and tell you to jump and you drop everything and jump. Then they pay you back by calling you the next time there’s some stupid problem.”

“They pay me good money to do it,” Nate replied. “It’s a good job. I shouldn’t even have it at my age. So if I have to do a little more, I’ll do it.”

“Is your boss going to be there today?”

“Maybe,” Nate furrowed his brow and considered the possibility, “No, probably not.”

“Why is it so important that you have to go in, but your boss won’t be there?”

“He’s put in his time, Vince. That’s what happens. I haven’t put my time in yet, so I’ve got to do the hard work. One of these days I’ll be the one who’s off at his weekend place in Wisconsin while other people do all the work on a Saturday. Right now I have to build my reputation at the bank. The best reputation to have is as a troubleshooter.”

“Hey, I understand you need a rep, Nate,” Vince shook his head. “That doesn’t mean you should be giving up your life right now.”

Nate shook his head. “C’mon, man. There’ll be other days. There’ll be other games.”

“That’s what you say every time,” Vince replied, managing to sound like a scorned child.

“Like you should talk. You’re always at that store of yours.”

“It’s different with me,” Vince held his own cell phone up and indicated the blank display screen. “I know how to turn my phone off when I take a day off.”

“Must be good to be the boss.”

“You should know.”

“I’m not a boss, Vince, I’m a manager. It’s different.”

“Right. Because managers aren’t allowed to have lives, I forgot.”

“Look…” Nate shook his head. “Just chill. I’ve got enough going on right now, I don’t need any extra shit from you.”

Vince stood up. “Right. I guess we’ll just leave so you can be the good little peon.”

“You don’t have to leave.”

“What? Sit here by myself and watch the game? I can do that at home.” Vince shook his head in disgust. “I should have known to do that anyway.”

“Fine.” Nate decided it wasn’t a good fight. “Whatever.”

They left the ballpark and got on the Red Line, taking the El downtown in silence. As they emerged from the cool darkness of the Washington Street station into the sun-drenched May afternoon, Nate turned to his best friend.

“Hey, let’s do lunch on Monday. I’m buying.”

“You’d better. It’s the least you can do to make up for dragging my ass out of the game on such a beautiful day.”

“You could have stayed.”

“You could have, too, buddy.”

Nate sighed, unable to find the right words. Vince just shook his head and spun around, headed off in the direction of the train station and his suburban home. Nate walked slowly toward his office, shoulders slumped.

“Five months,” he muttered to himself. “I haven’t had a day off in five months.”

 *  *  *

He managed to get out of the office just in time to make it to dinner with his girlfriend. She already had a table waiting when he arrived.

“Hey, Julia,” he said before leaning over to give her a quick kiss.

“So how was the game?” she asked.

“Didn’t get through the first inning,” Nate responded flatly.

Julia sighed. “Got called into work again?”

“Yeah.”

She stared at him in silence for a long moment. “Are you okay?” she finally asked, her voice edged with concern.

“Yeah. Of course I’m fine. Why wouldn’t I be fine?” He heard his anger and frustration color his voice. On one level he hoped Julia would realize it wasn’t directed at her. On another level he didn’t really care anymore.

“You don’t look too good. Do you want to leave? We can do this some other time.”

“No,” he shook his head. “This isn’t bothering me. It was just today that was the problem. I guess I’m just a little tired of having to drop everything and go to the office all the time. I was looking forward to getting to the ballpark for weeks. Months, even.”

“I know,” she sighed. “I’m sorry.”

“For what? It wasn’t your fault.”

“That doesn’t mean I can’t feel bad, does it?”

“I guess not.”

“Oh,” she changed the subject, “I hate to do this to you, but I have more bad news.”

“What?”

“I have to go to the Indianapolis office on Monday. I won’t be back until Thursday.”

“Why is that so bad? It’s not like I ever see you during the week anyway.”

She shook her head. “You need to get into a better mood. I just might leave you if you stay so fatalistic all the time.”

“Sorry.”

Her eyes narrowed. “You do realize that’s a joke, right?”

“Yeah,” he shrugged, “I guess I just don’t find it particularly funny. Sorry.”

“It’s okay,” she smiled, “We can always work on that.”

“Maybe I’ll quit my job and start working somewhere that allows me to take time off. Vince tells me he’s looking for someone on the sales floor.”

“Don’t you dare,” she said, screwing her face into a look of mock horror. “I will not date a stereo salesman.”

“Even if it makes me happy?”

“Would it?”

A mad impulse to be completely honest flashed across his mind. For just a moment he wanted to say that nothing would really make him happy. He wanted to admit that he’d been turning all of his possible life scenarios over in his mind and none of them ended with him happy. Instead he shook his head and let out a long sigh. “No. No it wouldn’t.”

“Don’t quit your day job, then.”

“Fine,” he forced a smile. “I guess I’ll stay at the bank for a little longer.”

“Good,” she winked, “I knew you’d make the right choice.”

“So what’s wrong at the Indianapolis office?” he asked, trying to take his mind off his own job.

“I’m not really sure. Apparently there is some sort of minor legal issue and they want to keep it from becoming a major issue.” She shrugged, “I guess I’ll find out on Monday.”

“I guess so,” he agreed.

“Oh, I can’t stay over this weekend, either.”

“Why?”

“Prep work. Packing.” She shrugged. “You know how it is.”

“I suppose.”

Their waiter stepped up to the table. “Are you ready to order yet?” he asked politely.

Nate looked down at the menu for the first time. “Uh, no,” he said. “Sorry.”

“Very well, I’ll check back in a couple of minutes.”

“Thank you.”

The waiter disappeared. Nate suddenly realized he had forgotten to put his new credit card in his wallet that morning. He pulled out his wallet to check. “Ah, crud,” he said.

“What?”

“This is my expired card,” he held it up to show her the date. “The new one’s at home.”

Julia sighed a loud, theatrical sigh and patted her purse. “I guess tonight’s on me, then,” she said, “Deadbeat.”

“I’ll pay you back,” Nate held his hands up defensively, “I’m good for it. You know I am”

They both laughed as the joke took some of the edge off their minds.

 *  *  *

“Listen, Dad, it’s not that I’m complaining,” Nate shook his head in spite of the fact that his father couldn’t see him through the phone.

He had already adopted the subconscious routine common in all his recent conversations with his dad. Three steps across his tiny kitchenette, open the refrigerator, close it again, turn, take three steps back across the kitchenette, switch the small, black, cordless receiver to his other ear, repeat. He didn’t know why he did it, but for some reason his conversations with his father put him on edge. He needed advice, though, and had nowhere else to turn. Vince just offered him a job selling speakers and he could tell that the idea of changing things around bothered Julia. She liked stability. She needed it, really. He didn’t blame her for that, though. Her life hadn’t been particularly easy. It was going well at the moment, but he knew she lived in fear of seeing everything get messed up again.

“Did you hear what I just said, son?”

Nate suddenly realized he was ignoring his father. “Yes, Dad,” he didn’t really have to have heard what was said to know what the proper response was, “I know it’s a good job and that the market is on the side of the employers right now.”

“No, son, I don’t think you do,” the elder Lassiter responded. “You certainly aren’t acting like it.”

“You say that every time, Dad.”

“Does it get any less true?”

Nate stopped pacing. “I guess that no, it hasn’t gotten any less true. I just wish that you’d respond to what I’m saying rather than what you’re hearing. That would probably help me out.”

“Don’t mess with me, kid. I’m still your father, no matter how little you want it to be true.”

“No,” Nate drew in a sharp breath, “No, it’s not that, not that at all. It’s just that…”

“It’s just that the world isn’t what you wanted it to be, son.”

Nate resumed his pacing, remaining silent for nearly three laps of the kitchenette. “Yeah, I guess that’s what it is.”

“And what’s so bad about your life, son?” His father laughed. “What is so bad about having a good job, a good future and a good woman?”

“I’m not saying it’s bad.”

“So what are you saying?”

“I guess,” Nate paused, “I guess I’m saying that life isn’t what I had expected it to be.”

“What do you mean?”

“You always taught me how to get ahead in the world,” Nate sat down and rested his forehead in his free hand. “You told me that if I did well in school, went to a good college and got a good job, found someone to marry and settle down my life would be complete. You told me that if I did all those things nothing could stop me.”

“And you believed me, didn’t you?”

“Yes, Dad, yes I did. Then I went and did all of that stuff and it all just totally sucks.”

“So what changed?”

Nate sighed. “I don’t know, Dad. It’s like I went after everything you told me would put me on top, would get me ahead, and I’m not. All the things I was supposed to want, all the things I was supposed to get, it’s like they’ve trapped me. My job has taken away all of my freedom, I can’t even get to a baseball game without being pulled into the office on a Saturday. I can’t do anything about that because if I quit my job I can’t pay my bills and I’m no good to Julia. It’s just…” he found himself saying words that had remained unspoken so far, “It’s just not fair.”

“Well, son,” his father let out a short chuckle, “Life isn’t fair. Get used to it.”

“That’s all you have to say?”

“It’s all I can say, son. There are an awful lot of things I missed out on in life because of you and your mother. Someday you’ll understand that the things you think you’re missing now are things that you wouldn’t have wanted, anyway.”

“It’s still not fair.”

“Of course it’s not, son. But you’ll learn how to deal with it.”

“Thanks, Dad,” Nate said, not feeling any better.

“Do you want to talk to your mother?”

Nate paused, considering. “No, I’ll talk to her next weekend.”

“All right. Talk to you later, son.”

“Bye, Dad.”

Nate put the phone down and sat in silence, staring at his refrigerator. “It just isn’t fair,” he told the appliance. “And nobody seems to be able to help me with this.”

Molly, the shaggy golden retriever he’d raised from a pup, trotted into the kitchen. She rested her head on his knee and scanned him with her dark, inquisitive eyes. She, at least, always showed up when he was feeling lousy.

“Hey, Molly,” he said, rubbing the little indentation in her forehead, “How are you doing?” She sat and soaked up his attention for a couple minutes. Eventually she stood up and started sniffing around the kitchen, apparently deciding the possibility that he’d spilled food was more important than he was.

Nate stood up and walked into the living room. He picked up the television remote and turned on Sportscenter before collapsing on his couch. After a minute Molly, having decided there was nothing for her in the kitchen, walked over, hopped up next to him and laid her head in his lap.

“We’re not going to be able to do this much longer, girl,” he said. The dog looked up at him. “I haven’t told anyone yet, but I bought a ring last week. I’m going to ask Julia to marry me. But she’s allergic to you, so I’ll have to send you somewhere else when that happens.”

Molly dropped her head down into his lap and let out a long, deep breath. He shook his head, nearly convinced by the dog’s response that she was human. The thought of giving her up was hard enough without having to deal with that though.

“I’m sorry, girl,” he whispered. This time the dog didn’t reply.

 *  *  *

Nate awoke late on Monday morning and ended up missing his usual train, then the next. By the time he arrived at his office he was nearly an hour late for work. His assistant looked up from her desk, then cast a furtive glance at the door to his office.

“You have a visitor,” she said.

He raised an eyebrow. “Are you going to give me anything else, Margaret?”

“Nope,” she offered a mischievous grin, “You’re going to have to figure it out for yourself.”

“Thanks.” He shook his head and walked into his office, then nearly walked back out when he realized who his visitor was.

“Nate, it was so good of you to show up,” his boss said.

“Uh,” Nate tried to figure out what to say, “Uh, I’m sorry. I overslept.”

“Don’t worry, son,” his boss sat on the edge of Nate’s big wooden desk and picked up an autographed baseball. “Did you get this autograph yourself, or go through a dealer?”

“Got it from Frank Thomas himself, back in 1994. My uncle Joe took me to SoxFest.” He shook his head. “The Sox would have won the pennant that year, maybe the Series. But it didn’t happen.”

“Why not?”

“Player strike. The season ended halfway through.”

“So I take it baseball is important to you.”

Nate shrugged, “Yeah, I’ve been a fan of the Sox since I was in kindergarten. I go to as many games as I can. Haven’t been to too many lately, though.” He instantly regretted adding that last part. From the look his boss gave him, he knew the frustration and anger was evident.

The boss didn’t react to the petulant statement. “I hear you missed a ball game over the weekend because you came in to the office,” his boss put the baseball down. “Is that true?”

“Got a call during the first inning, had to leave the game.”

“Sorry about that,” the other man stood up and clasped his shoulder, “But I can assure you, your effort will not go unrewarded.”

Nate raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean, Sir?”

“You’ll go far in this bank, Nate, don’t worry. I see a great future ahead of you. Just keep your chin up.”

“Uh, thank you, sir.”

“You’re making good money and you have job security, son,” his boss said, stepping out of the office. “It’s the American Dream, and you’re living it.”

“I, I guess so. Thank you again, Sir.”

Nate closed the door and walked back to his desk. He picked up the baseball and studied the thick scrawl between the laces. Setting the ball back down, he stepped around the desk and sat down. “Why is it that the very thought of that scares me?” he asked the empty room.

 *  *  *

Three hours later he had come no closer to an answer. He stood at the front of the audio/video store Vince co-owned with his uncle, staring blankly at a widescreen LED TV.

“You like that one, Nate?” Keith, one of the sales guys, asked.

“I guess so, Keith,” Nate responded without looking away from the set. “But I’m not really in the market for a new television.”

“Why not? You can buy yourself a big new house. Plenty of room for a big TV, surround sound, the works. I know you’re good for it. Besides,” he slapped Nate on the back, “You’re going to need extra space soon enough, anyway. Might as well stake your claim.”

Nate sometimes wondered if Keith was his best friend, not Vince. They had many conversations while waiting for Vince to free himself from whatever task he was at hand. Keith actually knew a few things Nate hadn’t told Vince, like the fact that he was considering proposing. It had slipped out a week earlier, during another lunchtime conversation. Nate had covered as best he could. Ever the salesman, the other man hadn’t commented, but Nate knew he had picked up on it.

“No,” Nate shot Keith an annoyed look, “I don’t have enough space for a big television right now. There’s no sense in putting one in my apartment.”

“So go buy yourself a big house,” Vince said, coming up from. “You can use all that money you’ve been saving by not going to ball games.”

Nate turned around. “What is this, some sort of conspiracy to spend my money for me?”

“We’re just keeping your best interests in mind,” Keith said, slapping him on the shoulder.

Vince smiled. “He’s absolutely right. Buy yourself a system. Get a 70” TV, surround sound, subwoofers big enough to knock down walls. You know you want to.”

“Well,” Nate shrugged, “I suppose I could. But what’s the point?”

“You’re a strange man,” Vince replied, shaking his head, “Can’t even come up with a reason to buy a really big TV. It’s, it’s…un-American.”

“Not that you have any stake in the matter, what with you being in the business and all.”

“I suppose,” Vince stroked his chin speculatively, “That it is possible for me to benefit financially from just such an arrangement.” He raised his eyebrows, then laughed loudly. “Nah. Do what you want. But let’s get going. I’m hungry.”

They left the store and headed down the block toward the corner deli they often visited at lunch time. Nate walked in silence, staring straight ahead. Vince didn’t attempt to get him to speak until after they found a table in the crowded deli and sat down with their sandwiches.

“So what’s up, buddy?” Vince asked. “You look like you’re having a bad day.”

“When I got in to work today my boss was waiting for me in my office.”

“Uh oh. Was it bad?”

“Yeah.”

“You get fired?”

“No. Worse.”

Vince offered a puzzled look. “Sued? It’s not sexual harassment, is it?”

“Worse.” Nate shook his head. “I was told that I have a bright future at the bank.”

*  *  *

Vince stared at his friend in silence for several long moments. “What?” he asked, obviously unable to figure out where, exactly, there was a problem. “Isn’t that a good thing?”

Nate shrugged. “I suppose it should be. I’m just terrified that the rest of my life will be six day work weeks with no days off and no stopping.”

“It will get better.”

“How can you be sure?”

“Well, if you don’t want my any reassurance, I could always tell you how much it will cost you to send your kids to college. It always kept my dad motivated, you know.”

“Sorry.”

Vince took a bite of his sandwich and chewed thoughtfully. “I talked to Julia a few days ago,” he said after swallowing, “She told me something interesting.”

“Why were you talking to Julia?”

“I was trying to reach you and your cell phone was off, because you apparently only know how to do that when your office isn’t going to ruin my day. Now do you want to hear what I have to say or do you want to ask questions?”

“Sorry. Continue.”

“Thank you,” Vince smiled and offered an exaggerated nod. “I will. Anyway, she told me the thing she loves most about you is that you always do the responsible thing. She says that she can always trust you to make the choices that will turn out for the best for the most people.”

“I suppose that’s a good thing,” Nate agreed, shrugging. “Especially after what happened with her father.”

“Exactly.”

“So I’m the responsible, reliable one. And that’s a good thing.”

“Hey, we’re not in high school anymore. Being a grown-up is actually an advantage.”

“You really think so?”

“Does what I think matter?”

“I’m asking you, aren’t I?”

“I suppose so.” Vince paused. “I’ve known you for a long time, and you’ve always done the right thing,” he finally said. “I used to think it made you boring, but now I think it’s a good thing.”

“But I’m still boring?”

“No,” Vince shook his head, “Not at all. Back in high school you were boring. Now you’re a responsible, mature man. Like I said, it’s a good thing. Chicks dig it.”

Nate chewed on the thought for a moment. After a moment he nodded. “Okay. I’ll buy that.”

“When are you going to take the next step?”

“What next step?”

“You know. The big ‘M.'”

Nate laughed. “So that’s what we’re calling it these days?”

“Gotta have a euphemism, my friend. Life’s not worth living if you have to refer to something by its proper name.” Vince chuckled. “But that’s not important. What’s important is that you’re stalling.”

“Okay,” Nate shook his head, “I guess I can tell you. I bought a ring last week. I’ll probably propose next weekend when she gets back from Indianapolis.”

“Nice.” Vince smiled broadly. “I’m really happy for you.”

“Thanks.”

“So, now that we’ve gotten that taken care of,” Vince smiled, “Let’s talk about something really important.”

“What?”

“Baseball.”

Nate laughed. “I think I can handle that.”

 *  *  *

Nate stepped off of the elevator in high spirits. His lunch with Vince had taken a lot of the edge off of his thoughts from the past couple days and he felt refreshed, ready to get back to business. As he walked around the floor on his way to his office he almost started whistling, but decided it would be a bad idea.

“Anybody call, Margaret?” he asked his assistant as he reached his office.

“Julia called. She wants you to call back right away.”

“Anything else?”

“No.”

“Slow day.”

“Yep.”

He opened the door to his office and closed it behind him. Stepping around his desk he picked up his phone and dialed Julia’s cell number before sitting down.

The phone rang twice before a familiar voice crackled across the line. “Hey, you.”

“What’s up, Jules?” Nate asked, using one of the pet names he had given her.

“Just called to let you know I made it to Indianapolis safely.”

“Why didn’t you call my cell?”

“I tried. It went straight to voice mail.”

Nate smacked himself in the forehead. “Why can’t it ever do that when I’m at a baseball game?”

“I have no idea.”

“Hmm,” Nate shook his head, attempting to stop the dark thoughts from re-forming in his mind. “So how’s everything down there?”

“Don’t really know yet. They just gave me a big pile of paperwork to look through.”

“So it’s not going to be fun?”

“No. They really screwed something up here.”

Nate reached over to his computer and grabbed the mouse. As the screensaver shut off he saw he had three new messages. He opened the first one while attempting to keep up with his soon to be fiancee. “How long do you think it’s going to take you to fix it?”

“Don’t know. I’m afraid it might take longer than the original week they have me down here for.”

“Huh,” Nate responded, only half paying attention. The email had drawn all of his attention. It was an auto alert he’d set for old Cadillacs. A 1958 Cadillac Eldorado was for sale out in Elburn, a town about forty miles outside Chicago. The car was bright red and in mint condition, the car of his dreams.

“What are you doing?” Julia asked.

“What do you mean?”

“You suddenly stopped paying attention to me. Something’s going on.”

“I think I’m going to buy a car.”

“Oh.” Her disappointment was clear, even over the phone. “Not this again.”

“What? It’s a 1958 Cadillac Eldorado. Fire engine red with all the options. It’s the car I’ve wanted for years.”

“Where is it?”

“Elburn.”

“Crud.”

“What?”

“That’s pretty close. It will be harder for me to keep you from buying it.”

“Oh.”

“You don’t sound happy.”

“Well, I’ve always wanted a car like that. And one is available.”

“But we’ve talked about this. It’s so…so juvenile. Shouldn’t you be saving your money to buy a house and do grown up things?”

“It’s not like I can’t afford both.”

“That’s beside the point. What if you lose your job tomorrow? How are you going to pay your bills if you blow all your money on a car?”

“Okay,” Nate sighed, closing the email and putting it in his trash folder. “I guess you’re right.”

“We can worry about that later,” she said in a sympathetic tone. “Just promise me you won’t do anything silly right now. Remember, there will always be cars.”

“I said I was okay with it.”

“Good.” Something shifted on her end and he heard another voice in the background. “Sorry,” she said after a moment, “I’ve got to go.”

“Okay.”

“Love you.”

“Love you, too.”

Nate hung up the phone and stared at the picture of a Cadillac he used as wallpaper on his computer. “Cars like that don’t come around every day,” he told the screen. He sighed. “But I’m sure I’ll be able to find one when the time is right.”

A light knock on his door startled him. “Yeah,” he called to whomever was on the other side. “Come on in.”

The door opened and his boss stepped through. “Had a question I needed to ask you, Nate.”

“Shoot.”

“Remember the –” the other man stopped and gave him a quizzical look. “Are you feeling okay?”

“Yeah. Why?”

“You don’t look so good.”

“Just tired, I guess.”

“Well, you’ve been working pretty hard lately.”

“Yeah.”

“Is there anything wrong?”

“I don’t know,” Nate shrugged. “I guess my life just hasn’t gone the way I expected it to lately.”

“Are you having problems?”

*  *  *

“More like unmet expectations,” Nate said without stopping to think if the response was a good idea. “I mean, I haven’t had a day off in like five months. And now I just learned that the car of my dreams is for sale in Elburn and Julia won’t let me get it.”

“Wait,” his boss raised an eyebrow, “You haven’t had a day off in five months?”

“Nope. Haven’t taken any personal days and it seems like I have to handle something every Saturday.”

“Well, I can’t help you with you woman troubles, but I can tell you to take the afternoon off.”

“Can’t,” Nate shook his head, “I have too much to do.”

“You can and you will. And if you want to take the day off tomorrow, let me know. Everything will still be here on Wednesday.”

“You’re sure?”

His boss nodded. “I insist.”

Nate smiled. “Thanks.”

“Sure.”

The older man turned to leave. He got to the doorway and stopped. “By the way,” he made a half turn back, “About the car.”

“Yeah?”

“What kind is it?”

“A 1958 Cadillac Eldorado.”

“Wow,” he nodded appreciatively, “I wouldn’t expect that from someone your age.”

Nate thought about telling him why he’d wanted a classic Cadillac since he was a small child but decided against it. “It’s a long story, sir.”

“A car like that is a rarity, Nate. If you can afford it, buy it.” He paused. “It’s not like you and Julia are married or anything. She can’t tell you what to do with your money quite yet.”

Nate sighed. “It’s, well, it’s kind of complicated right now.”

A look of recognition crossed his boss’s face. “So you’re about to take the plunge?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Congratulations.”

“Thank you.”

“Oh, and sorry about the car. You’re on your own with that one.”

 *  *  *

An hour and a half later Nate stepped off the train and walked across the commuter lot to his car. As he approached the Acura TL he had purchased shortly after getting his job at the bank he could not help but compare it to the Cadillac he so desperately wanted. It was a nice car, yes, but it wasn’t a classic. No one rode on the back of an Acura in the Fourth of July parade, after all.

He reached the car and got in. He opened the center console and picked up a small, black felt box, held it up and flipped it open. The engagement ring he planned to give Julia sparkled in the sunlight. He pulled it out of the box and carefully examined the diamond and its setting.

He kept a picture of Julia in the vanity mirror on the passenger side. Flipping down the visor, he grabbed the picture and held it up behind the ring.

 

They were both in the picture, standing in front of his parents’ old couch downstairs. His mother had snapped the shot the first time he took Julia home to meet his parents. She was tall, athletic, and blonde. In the picture she was laughing, her full lips spread out into a smile that lit up her bright, blue eyes and made the features of her heart-shaped face shine. He stood behind her, his right arm wrapped around her waist, face drawn up into a smile identical to the one in so many pictures his mother had taken of him as a child when he brought some treasure he had found in the yard or the woods back home. His parent’s had always called it the “look what I found” smile. They were apparently unwilling to call it what it really was: a shit-eating grin.

Now he could only sit back and wonder whether or not he had actually gotten shit.

He put the picture back and looked at the ring. “How much are you going to cost me?” he asked it, “My dog, my car, my dreams?”

The ring didn’t answer. He put it back in the center console and started his car. A wild thought flew across his mind and he knew he had only one real choice if he wanted to escape the noose tightening around his life.

He had some packing to do.

 

In Which Geds Promises Real Content…

About three years ago (really?  Time flies) I wrote a post for this very blog called “Failing the Bechdel Test.”  It was a quick sketch of two women talking about…wait, I can just copy paste it in here:

————————–

“I don’t understand why you’re in such a hurry to get rid of this place.”
“Other than the fact that it’s sitting here, empty?”
“So?” Emma shrugged.  “Look around.  It matches everything else.”
“And has it occurred to you that this might be a reason why I’d like to get rid of the place?”  Ruth turned from the old house to face her niece.  As she did she put her left hand on her hip.  It was her, “this conversation is over,” stance.  “Who’s going to buy a house out in the middle of nowhere?”
“I…”  Emma looked at the ground and kicked a rock.  “I don’t know.”
“Look,” Ruth dropped her hand to her side, “I know this is tough for you.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Don’t try that crap on me, honey.  You’re the one with the fancy degree in psychology.”
Emma raised an eyebrow.  “What does that have to do with anything?”
“Nothing.  Other than the fact that it means you think you’re a lot smarter than your old aunt.”
“No I don’t.”
“Honey, I’m the closest thing to a mother you’ve got.  So if you think you’re gonna get away with lying to me right to my face then you’ve got another thing coming.”
“Honestly, there’s nothing going on.”
“Bullshit.”
Emma took a half step back.  Her aunt used profanity so infrequently that the words themselves tended to hit with an almost physical force.  “Well what do you want me to say?” she asked after a moment.  “You want me to tell you that, no, I don’t want to see the house I grew up in plowed under so some farmer can plant another couple bushels of wheat?  Fine.  I don’t want to see that.”
“You never come out here,” Ruth replied.  “It’s not like you ever see the house you grew up in.  And I have to do all the upkeep on the place myself.”
“Fine.  I’ll come out here and help more.”
“No,” Ruth shook her head, “You won’t.”
“What makes you say that?”
“The fact that we have this conversation every three months or so and you still never come out here to help.”
“I’m here now, aren’t I?”
“Because I told you I’m going to have the place torn down.  It’s the only thing that’s gotten your attention since…” Ruth trailed off.
Emma’s bottom lip began to tremble.  She bit down on it, then turned away from her aunt and the old farm house to fix her eyes on a spot just on the other side of the gravel path optimistically named Leonard Road.
“Look, honey,” Ruth said after a long moment.  “I know it’s tough.”  She sighed.  “I hate to sit here and watch you live like this.”
“Like what?” Emma asked, voice barely above a whisper.
“Like a woman consumed by fear.”
Emma looked back at her aunt.  “Of what?”
“The world.”
“Oh.”  The faintest glimmer of a smile tugged at the edges of her mouth.  “That old thing.”
“I know this used to be the only place you felt safe,” Ruth put her hand on her niece’s shoulder.  “Roy’s been offering to buy the land ever since you and…ever since you moved out.  But I could never do it.”
“Well since you put it that way, I feel pretty foolish.”
“Don’t.”
“Maybe it’s for the best, then.”
“I’ll call Roy in the morning.”
“Okay.”
Ruth wrapped her arms around her niece and pulled her close.  “Then maybe you can finally decide to move on with your life,” she said, her voice so low she wasn’t sure she’d even managed to say anything aloud..
Emma didn’t respond.  She gave no indication she’d even heard.

————————–

Emma and Ruth are two characters from a book I wrote about a decade ago called Second Chances.  At the time I wanted to write a book that I could sell as Christian fiction, believe it or not.  I sat my ass down and I wrote a book.  I was an unpublished writer.  I hadn’t even started writing blogs yet.  But, dammit, I wrote a novel.

Also, too, it wasn’t even my first.  But that’s a story for another day.[1]

The book absolutely wouldn’t have sold on the Christian market.  The characters just weren’t quite right, there was way too much wishy-washy philosophical stuff, and there were people who were obviously not religious and who neither became Christian nor ended up coming to a terrible end because of this obvious lack.  There was a big conversion porn scene at the end that felt tacked-on and forced.

The book also probably wouldn’t have worked on the secular market.  The characters were too goody-goody and no one cussed.  There was a tacked-on conversion porn scene at the end.[2]

That it wasn’t particularly marketable doesn’t mean it’s a bad book.  I’ve thought about revisiting and rewriting the book a bunch of times, but never got around to it.  It seems to be my I’ll-get-to-it project whenever I’m feeling stuck in life and just want to run away.  The reasons for that are actually pretty obvious if you’ve read the book but, of course, you haven’t.

If you stick around, though, you’ll have a chance to change that.  Starting tomorrow.  Every Wednesday for the forseeable future[3] will be Second Chances Wednesday.  I’ll be publishing a chapter of my old novel a week.  It will be edited and changed a bit from the version I finished up a decade ago, but there won’t be a major re-write.  I honestly don’t think I need to do one.  I’ve been looking things over for the first time since at least 2010, but more likely 2007 or so and I’m actually kind of amazed at how much I like what’s already there.  I’m doing some editing, as I tended toward too much of a passive voice, used a baffling number of unnecessary commas, and had this weird quirk of not using contractions at the time.[4]  There are also places where I put the right words in the wrong order.  I’m also going to have to make a major change to the end, since the tacked-on stuff needs to get de-tacked.[5]

I’m realizing that there’s a reason I kept coming back to this story and kept planning to re-write it.  It’s good.  It’s filled with characters I who have been begging me to give their story a wider audience.  Starting tomorrow I’m going to be doing exactly that.  Why?  Because it seems like a thing to do.

————————–

[1]I’ve written book 1 and part of book 2 for a theoretical sci-fi trilogy I called The Earthrise Saga.  That would have been, what, 2001-ish?  That particular book had a lot of silliness and would require a major re-write to get me much of anywhere.

[2]I, um, I feel I should qualify that one.  Here, let’s let Fred explain it, since I stole the idea from him.

[3]Give it about three and a half months, actually.

[4]That was actually an artifact of the history major thing.  One does not use contractions while writing research papers.  It took a long time for me to realize that I could use them in other places.

Another problem I seemed to have was an attempt to force flowery language.  I’ve since learned that it’s often better to cut the little flourishes, especially if they’re forced or intended to describe something that should already be obvious to the audience.  An economic use of language often goes further than using too many words to say too little.

Oh, and the world is very different now than it was in 2004.  There’s silly crap, like the bit where a character who would obviously be running around with a smartphone listens to voice mail and doesn’t check text messages or read emails, since that just wasn’t a thing most people did a decade ago.  I also had to give the main character a new car.

I’m also going to have to do something about Emma and Ruth’s relationship based on the character sketch above.  Their relationship was much more contentious in the original manuscript and it was one of those artifacts of the attempting-to-write-a-Christian-novel thing.  Long story.  I might explain it later.

[5]I thought I’d have to do the same thing with the opening chapter.  Turns out that I apparently didn’t remember how I started at all and it works pretty well.  The first two chapters are kind of awkward, but that’s kind of a structural problem.  Please bear with me…

Moving On

It’s been a month and change since the rug was pulled out from under my life.

I think it’s been the best month of my adult life so far. I wrote back when it first happened that it was time for me to start dreaming again. I’ve since realized that I was completely wrong about a year ago when I stopped writing and stopped telling stories and started telling myself that I didn’t care about those things. I’d simply finally reached the place where my fears were powerful enough to convince me to completely stop listening to my dreams.

Didn’t you know that this world
Is not meant to be dreamt in
But what hurts me the most
Is all the time that we’ve wasted
I’ve wasted all the dreams in my head
I’ll have to move out of this country instead
–Idlewild, “You and I are Both Away”

Dreams require sacrifice. Everyone who’s ever followed a dream has done so at the expense of something. That something is usually a variation on “security.” I’d always envied people who could do that because my fear of the unknown always overrode my desire to follow my dreams. That dream might lead to something down the line. Giving up on your dreams and giving into your fears often leads to something right now, usually the security of a regular paycheck.

Dreams require work. Everyone who’s ever followed a dream has done it at the expense of sleep and the ability to just sit around and watch TV. This is a lot easier when you’ve given in and accepted the security of the regular paycheck. That 9-to-5 (that’s usually really an 8-to-6 and a 7-to-7 by the time you factor in the ol’ commute) really wears on you after a while. It’s easier to just get home, sit down, drink a beer (or six), watch TV, and wait for tomorrow to come. Over and over and over and over again. Ad nauseum.

I’ve been in a state of ever increasing existential despair for, really, about five years now. It started when I finally got my first adult job and moved out on my own. From then on every single decision I made was based on how it would impact my future. As I limited my options and choices to only those things that would be good for my future I progressively narrowed my actual future down to a thing that was forever filled obsessing over my future and the various decisions included therein. The things I wanted to do were never the smart play so I only made the choices that I had to make in order to keep pushing that future forward.

Then that future was gone. It was scary as hell. I felt better waking up the next morning than I had in a long, long time.

Don’t let the old man’s bad luck
Trouble your door
‘Cause you sleep on the right side
Of disappointment
–Roddy Woomble, “Trouble Your Door”

Grand Prix Cincinnati[1] was the following weekend. My buddy and I had been planning on going for a couple months. I had a deck that I was convinced would take me the distance. I went 2-7. It was all the suck.[2]

We were on our way home across the corn swamps of northern Indiana when I said to my friend, “You know, five years from now I’m going to look back and say that losing my job was the best thing that ever happened to me.” I’d been thinking of how much of my life up until that moment was wasted because I’d been avoiding failure. I’d never really failed at anything[3] but I’d never really succeeded at anything, either. I’d just managed to make the easy, obvious decisions.

I’d feared having that rug pulled out from my for so long that I didn’t realize that it wasn’t a failure. It’s an opportunity. It’s an invitation to stop being afraid and start following my dreams.

I’m probably still going to need a day job, of course. That just means I’m going to have to do some of that work and sacrifice I talked about up at the top. Even when I stopped writing and storytelling I never stopped wanting to be a writer and storyteller. So that’s what I’m going to do. Also I’m totally going to qualify for Pro Tour 2016 or 2017. Maybe 2024.[4]

I still believe that the blog is a good jumping-off point. So there’s going to be actual stuff going up here. I’m also going to be working on actually getting published at, like, real places that actually pay and such.

One thing that will be happening, though: I’m going to self-publish a novel right on this here site. Consider it a bit of a test. Further details will be coming next week.

———————-

[1]Grands Prix are the big mamma-jammas of the Magic world. There are usually a couple thousand people trying to grab that brass ring and make it to the big cash prizes and invites to the Pro Tour.

[2]Magic is kinda fascinating that way. There’s so goddamn much luck involved that it’s almost impossible to quantify. The deck I had absolutely crushed Esper Control, which was the deck to beat at Cincinnati. It had a decent matchup against the other top decks but really, really sucked against Jund Monsters and RW Burn and was an unknown quantity against Naya Hexproof. Monsters was on the wane, RW Burn still seemed a bit fringe-y, and Hexproof didn’t seem to be gaining enough traction for me to worry about it. So, of course, I got to face off against Esper Control twice, Jund Monsters, Naya Hexproof, Naya Aggro, and RW Burn. At some point in there I developed a thousand-yard stare and the deck started giving my shit draws (yes, at some point it becomes apparent that the deck itself has intentions and a will of its own and also it hates you and the only way to deal with this turn of events is to set the deck on fire and then jump on the ashes). The absolute nadir of the experience was round 9, wherein I lost to some random kid playing mono green stompy. I was playing black-red midrange, which means I was so heavily favored in that matchup it shouldn’t have even been a thing.

Two weeks later I went to the StarCityGames Open in Milwaukee. I hit a respectable 5-3, then dropped with two rounds to go because I was out of the money and didn’t want to stick around. I’m thinking of starting a series called “Confessions of a Would-Be Grinder,” wherein I document my lack of success at becoming a professional Magic player.

[3]Except for honors algebra my sophomore year of high school. And, y’know, Grand Prix Cincinnati.

[4]My biggest problem there, unfortunately, is me. I tend to insist on being a rogue decker. The deck I was playing at Cincinnati was my baby: an update of the old Machinehead archetype I loved during Invasion/Onslaught/Odyssey. I was so convinced I was going to win all the things with my awesome rogue decking skills that I totally ignored the fact that I had a bunch of bad-to-downright-terrible matchups. I’m actually playing a modification of the deck right now that splits the difference between it and the dominant black devotion archetype and holy crap is it a good deck. Black devotion with a red splash got popular after GP Cincinnati and I kept looking at the lists thinking, “That’s way better than Machinehead but not as good as it could be.” I’d avoided doing things like that because back in the day “netdecking” had a bad reputation (and, I suppose, it still does with some people). The fact is, though, that the internet is a hive mind, especially with something like Magic where there’s a near infinite number of combinations of cards but only a few that can really consistently win. Not learning by studying successful decks, then, is stupid.

Thursday Music Thingy

My most hotly anticipated and dreaded moment of 2014 was the imminent release of new Veruca Salt with the original lineup.  I anticipated it because I’m of the age where I get totally excited about nostalgia trips and the original Veruca Salt was an awesome fucking band that fell apart at the height of its powers.  I really think that we deserved two more good-to-great albums and then the eventual downslope/outright cratering to crap out a contract-finishing album.  I dreaded it because, well, Soundgarden.  Although seeing Soundgarden live (twice, once at the fucking Riv) since they reunited was both a dream come true and abso-fucking-lutely amazing the new album pretty much sucked.  This is the danger of nostalgia trips.

We have new Veruca Salt, since they put out a 10” for Record Store Day.

Good god, people.  When I first heard the song my reaction was, “This sounds like something that could fit perfectly on American Thighs.”  Turns out, well…

So let’s say you’re in a storied band that fell apart because of internal dissension and now, after nearly a decade and a half, you’ve decided, “Fuck it, we’re back together and we’re going to put out new music.”  You know that your fans will be excited but they’ll also probably be worried because this sort of thing happens a lot and it’s often disappointing.  So you want to send a message that says, “Don’t worry, we’re here to kick all the ass, take all the names, and then give those names to inanimate objects and mock the now name-less people who can’t refer to themselves in the third person ever again.”

If you’re Soundgarden you go onstage at Lollapalooza with Green Day and then launch into an awesome fucking nostalgia tour in which you play all the songs.  Then you release King Animal.

I’m still mad.[1]

Here’s the problem with the “my favorite goddamn band of all time reunited” anticipation: the new music matters.  I would be comfortable giving Soundgarden money once a year to go to the Riv and hear them play all the songs I want to hear off of the pre-breakup albums.  For the other 364 days of the year, though, Soundgarden being back together doesn’t matter.  I can listen to Superunknown and Badmotorfinger just as easily in a world where I know Soundgarden exists as I could in a world where I assumed they’d never get back together again.  I truly want to get excited about the fact that the guys are back together and recording new music, but King Animal hasn’t exactly filled me with anticipation.  If they’d teased me with “Taree” or “Bones of Birds” before the show I saw at the UIC Pavilion I’d probably have been too disappointed to really care.

The last thing you want to do as a band (I’d assume) is end up like Bachman Turner Overdrive in that episode of The Simpsons where they tried to play their new music and Homer started yelling at them.  I kinda felt that way when I saw Soundgarden at the Riv.  When they played new shit I was all, “Dammit, play ‘Like Suicide!’”[2]  I don’t want to feel that way.  I wanted to feel like King Animal was picking up where Down on the Upside left off (or, ideally, where Superunknown left off).  Instead it felt like a Soundgarden tribute band that decided to record an album of their own material.  I’ve basically taken to pretending the album doesn’t exist.

So that brings us back to this new release by Veruca Salt (and “It’s Holy,” the other song off the 10”, which I’ve also heard, but in a much lower quality recording).  Does it prime the pump or make me wish I hadn’t spent so much time anticipating the glorious return of the original Veruca Salt?

I am in.  I am wholeheartedly, unreservedly in.  “The Museum of Broken Relationships” reminds me of “Forsythia” off of American Thighs.  “It’s Holy” reminds me of “With David Bowie” off of Eight Arms to Hold You.  Neither song is exactly the same as the one I’m thinking of, which is good.  They’re also not blatant rip-offs of the most popular songs off of either album (“Seether” and “Volcano Girls,” respectively).

The two new songs sound like original Veruca Salt announcing, “Hey, we’re back and we’re picking up where we left off.”  I am officially enthused and not in a waiting for the other shoe to drop sort of way.  Although I am sad because it appears I may have missed out on my Soundgarden at the UIC Pavilion moment, since they announced tour dates and then I forgot to check the sale dates until after the Lincoln Hall show sold out.

——————-

Speaking of Chicago bands from the ‘90s, here’s the latest from Local H.

Scott fucking Lucas, man.  He can do no wrong as best I can tell. By now I think every other song writer on the planet should be aware of the fact that they’re just biding their time until Scott Lucas records the platonic ideal of their work.

——————-

[1]Searching for “Taree” on YouTube revealed to me that enough people apparently confused Soundgarden with Savage Garden that “Soundgarden Truly Madly Deeply” is an auto fill search term.  I would pay money to see that cover.  Like, seriously, if they follow King Animal with an album of unlikely covers kicked off by “Truly Madly Deeply” I will forgive all.

[2]They didn’t play “Like Suicide” at the Riv.  You bet your sweet ass they played it at the UIC Pavilion show.  I’ve also seen Chris Cornell solo acoustic twice and I know he did it at one of those shows.  So I’m not actually complaining.

In fact, Chris Cornell solo acoustic is pretty much one of the best shows out there.  He breaks into these goofy stream-of-consciousness stories between songs.  He also has an extremely deep library and will play pretty much anything and everything from his Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog, Audioslave, or solo years.  He also did Mother Love Bone’s “Man of Golden Words” both times I saw him, which pretty much made me lose my shit.

Liveblogging seaQuest season 2: Daggers Pt. 2

Season 2, Episode 1: “Daggers, Part 2”

Plot Synopsis (blatantly stolen from Wikipedia):  The crew of the new seaQuest shove-off from New Cape Quest, Florida, but their shakedown cruise is interrupted when Genetically Engineered Life Forms (G.E.L.F.s) revolt and seize control of their island colony as well as a defensive weapons space base and threaten to destroy the Human race.

00:03:06:  We get to meet the new title sequence after one o’ them episode recaps.  It’s as ‘90s sci-fi as TV could get.

00:04:02:  We start on GELF Island.  One of the GELFs asks a (normal human) prisoner if he wants water and the prisoner spits at him.  Is it just me is or that a really played-out trope?  I don’t think it was new in 1993 and I’ve certainly seen it about a million times since.  Can we come up with a new show of defiance?  Please?

00:04:20: we find that there are two factions.  One wants peace, the other ran away to destroy UEO Headquarters during the first part.  The peaceful ones are still on the island trying to negotiate with Beard Power Bridger.

00:06:00: Ah, apparently the new doctor lady’s job is to be Deanna Troi.  Because every sci-fi show needs a woman whispering to the captain that people are lying to him.

00:07:10: Ooh, I missed a ‘shipping opportunity after the part 1 recap: Ford/Brody.  They’ve got a pissing contest going on because Brody is good at things.  Hence we get this exchange:

Brody:  I’m rated AAA-6 in demolitions.  I led the demo team during that skirmish in Tonkin.

Ford:  Tell me, is there anything you can’t do?

Brody:  Yeah, I’m having a heck of a time learning the bagpipes.

Ford:  I’ll bet you look good in a skirt.

::Meaningful look and laugh::

Bring on the interracial homoeroticism!

And back to the plot: um, the GELFs have the island locked up and no one with non-biological equipment can get in.  What to do, what to do?  Oh, wait, we recently met a guy who has gills!  Imagine that.

00:09:00:  The GELF baby is launched out to sea by her mother.  Like baby Moses, I guess.

00:10:00:  More Ford/Brody ‘shipping!  These guys have way better chemistry than Lucas/bikini girl.  They’re not quite as believable as Beard Power Bridger/everyone else, though.  But, hey, we can’t all be the best.

00:10:21:  Piccolo meets GELF Moses’s capsule.  Instantly decides to take him back to the ship in spite of the fact that it’s just some random plastic capsule and there’s no window to see the occupant.  It even says “refuse” on the side.

00:11:20:  It’s crying!  New doctor lady immediately understands the implications.  She’s so smart.

00:12:00:  The GELFs reach UEO headquarters!  Oh no!  Again, this is, like, 12 people and 3 powerboats.

00:13:00:  Apparently GELFs never need to breathe.  They’ve been swimming underwater for about ten minutes.  I’ll bet this is a plot hole that gets explained later.  I’ll bet the explanation is really dumb.

00:13:40:  And they’re in!  Because they disconnected air hoses from submersibles without actually disabling said submersibles.  Apparently future people don’t know how to hold their breath.  Unless they’re GELFs.

00:15:30:  They’ve managed to bust in on the Secretary General.  How fucking lax is security in the UEO?

00:16:30:  We find out that Piccolo is totally dad material.  Now Dagwood has showed up.  Aw, Dagwood and Piccolo would make adorable dads to the little GELF Moses.

00:17:45:  Dr Smith says “nucular.”  Some doctor.

00:18:00:  We find out that there are no more rainforests and humanity breathes because of technology.  Seems legit.

00:18:30:  The GELFs have stolen a submersible and kidnapped the Secretary General.  More importantly, Ford/Brody continue to flirt.  Also, the submersible looks kinda like an underwater Klingon warbird.  It’s pretty badass.

00:20:05:  Apparently they gave GELF Moses to Lucas.  Why the fuck would anyone do that?  Fortunately Piccolo lives with Lucas now and Piccolo is gonna be a great daddy someday.  Also, too, I wonder what GELF poop is like.  Is it genetically-engineered super poop?

00:22:30:  Uh oh!  The GELFs gonna destroy the air exchanges.  They can kill all of humanity that way because GELFs don’t need as much oxygen.  Why did we go and destroy all of the rainforests?

00:24:14:  News report explaining the attack.  Includes information that would have been common knowledge.  Gotta love sci-fi TV explanations for people who obviously don’t live in that world.

00:25:30:  “Ronald Reagan Memorial Laser Space Base.”  Yup.  That’s a thing in this world.  WHY IS EVERYTHING NAMED AFTER RONALD REAGAN?

00:26:30:  Yet another oxygen thingy is destroyed.  Here’s my question:  How long would it take for everyone to suffocate?  There’s obviously vegetation, since the two we’ve seen so far are in the middle of fields and we’ve seen many, many establishing shots that include trees and whatnot.  Earth is a pretty damn big place.  So wouldn’t there be time to, like, come up with a stopgap solution before everyone just up and conks out?  Also, have they really thought through the consequences of dropping oxygen to only 8%?  You know what else needs an oxygen balance that’s just right to survive?  Every other oxygen breathing creature on the planet Earth.  I hope the GELFs enjoy their lifeless husk of a planet.

00:26:40:  We find out that the UEO doesn’t negotiate with terrorists.  That’s original.  Beard Power Bridger points out that GELFs aren’t human, so they can’t be terrorists unless they’re recognized as human.  Then he suggests giving the GELFs their freedom.  It’s a really stupid argument.

00:27:30:  Dagwood is an uncle, we’re told by Dr Smith.  But we find out that GELF Moses is more human than GELF.  This gets into a weird sidebar about how GELFs don’t have a god.  Dr Smith’s explanation?  Spontaneous evolution.  That’s…that’s probably not a thing.

00:29:00:  GELFs recognized, agree to stand down.  Then they destroy another oxygen thingy, anyway.  There’s a surprise.

00:29:50:  Beard Power Bridger and Dr Smith start flirting over the nature of spontaneous evolution.  Smith explains that GELFs are choosing to become human.  That somehow modifies their internal organs and causes GELF Moses to just spontaneously become human.  This…this is really fucking stupid.   Seriously, the explanation is that evolution itself decided that GELFs couldn’t survive, so it made it possible for them to just give birth to human babies.  Dr Smith has roughly the same understanding of evolution as Answers in Genesis.  Fortunately she’s way more attractive than Ken Ham.

00:31:45:  seaQuest is ordered to go medieval on the GELF’s collective asses.  FINALLY.

00:32:30:  Now we find out that Brody knows the command codes for the super powerful stealth sub.  Because why wouldn’t he?  Commander Ford is not in this scene, undoubtedly because he’s rubbing one out in his bunk and he can’t quite figure out why.

00:33:15:  New England already losing oxygen.  Because that’s how it works.

00:34:08:  The GELFs pilot their sub into a rock.  Then they decide to fight seaQuest.  Because that will end well.

00:36:15:  Dr Smith tells the GELFs that GELF Moses is human and won’t be able to breathe.  GELFs don’t trust humans.  Because, y’know, humans suck.

00:36:45:  Dagwood saves day!  GELFs trust Dagwood.  Dagwood tell truth.

00:38:00:  We’re back to GELF Island.  The GELFs are free, but apparently still live in their prison complex.  That would have to suck all the balls.

00:39:00:  Beard Power Bridger thanks Dagwood.  Dagwood doesn’t understand.  Beard Power Bridger commissions him into the UEO Navy, apparently.  It’s awkward, since Dagwood seems to have the intelligence of a particularly dumb puppy.  Some super soldier prototype he is…

00:40:30:  And now we cut to Ted Raimi (his character’s name is O’Neill.  I care not, since he’s Ted fucking Raimi.  Also Richard Dean Anderson is the only O’Neill allowed in sci-fi, even if he was O’Neill after Ted Raimi and also after Kurt Russell played the same character) folding his underwear.  We all know what this means: he’s about to get walked in on by the random crewmember who got her stuffed animal stolen (her name is Henderson.  She’s in the opening credits now.  I suppose I should use her real name).

00:40:35:  And there she is!  Right as Ted Raimi is folding his Friday underwear: a red thong.  Adorbs!  Totes adorbs!

00:41:00:  Somehow her teddy bear ended up with Ted Raimi’s underwear.  If this doesn’t end with awkward nerd sex I don’t know what will.

00:41:40:  We find out they both organize their underwear by the day of the week.  Ehrmahgerd!

00:42:00:  Cut to the obligatory onboard poker game.  Ortiz, Piccolo, Smith, Lucas.  Did not see that combo coming.

00:43:50:  Scene: COMMANDER FORD, reading.  LIEUTENANT BRODY enters, looks at book.

BRODY:  I read that.

FORD:  Oh yeah?

BRODY:  First half’s okay, but the ending.  The police captain is the murderer.  Pretty predictable, huh?

FORD:  (putting book down with look of disgust)  Yeah.  It is now.

BRODY:  Hey, nothing worse than reading a whole book and realizing the ending stinks, right?

FORD:  Well I can think of a few things, actually, like not being given the opportunity to make that determination on my own.

BRODY:  Waste of time.  And from what I hear the crew of this tug has wasted enough of it.

FORD:  What should we be doing?

BRODY:  Fucking.  I’ll go get my skirt.

Oh, wait, no, those last two lines weren’t part of the scene.  But, hey, we find out that Brody’s officially joining the crew, so there will be plenty of time for stolen glances and secret inside jokes…

00:45:00:  They’re rooming together?  THEY’RE ROOMING TOGETHER!  Best.  News.  Ever.

So that was the end of the season 2 premiere.  It was a long, somewhat boring ride but we learned a lot about ourselves.  I, for one, learned that it’s surprisingly easy to get into slash fiction.  Also, thanks to IMDb, I’ve learned that the actress who played the GELF woman trying to blow up the world is married to Kevin Sorbo.  Also, Peter DeLuise, who played Dagwood, wrote and/or directed a bunch of episodes of Stargate SG-1 and occasionally acted.  At one point he played a character named Lieutenant Dagwood as a tribute.  Useful information, I’m sure.

Also, I’ve figured out why season 2 got so much hate.  After marathoning season 1 and laughing at some of the sillier plots (Charleton Heston as an undersea cult leader!  The Spin Doctors!  Tuvok from Voyager in a super-’80s vest leading a colony of kiddie hackers!) I wasn’t expecting greatness, but I was expecting to find out that there was a certain amount of unrealistic post-re-tool bitching.  Sadly, “Daggers” is noticeably worse and much dumber than anything that happened in season 1.  And season 1 had a million year-old alien ship buried under the Pacific Ocean.  Oh, hey, speaking of:

Stay tuned for next week’s episode.  The aliens are back!  This is gonna be good.

Liveblogging seaQuest Season 2: Daggers, Part 1

Season 2, Episode 1: “Daggers, Pt. 1”

Plot Synopsis (blatantly stolen from Wikipedia):  The crew of the new seaQuest shove-off from New Cape Quest, Florida, but their shakedown cruise is interrupted when Genetically Engineered Life Forms (G.E.L.F.s) revolt and seize control of their island colony as well as a defensive weapons space base and threaten to destroy the Human race.

Yup.  Seems legit.  Also, this is apparently a two-parter.

00:00:00:  We start with some good, old-fashioned lazy-ass world-building wherein dictionary definitions are thrown up on the screen we discover that a “dagger” is a short, stabby weapon, a mark used by painters, and a genetically engineered human-like form from the “dark age of genetics.”  We then find out that the “dark age of genetics” was a time when humans used genetically engineered human-like forms to wage war.  This happened between 2001 and 2003 and was outlawed by the UN in 2004.  We all remember that, right?

I don’t know what’s less believable: the premise itself or the idea that the UN managed to do anything binding in response and that its response was then respected for a decade and a half.  That sounds nothing like the UN I know and love.

00:00:45:  Speedboat.  We’re retooling as Baywatch, I guess.  There’s, like, 30 seconds of speedboat action.  No Hasselhoff, though.  Why do I feel like the addition of the Hoff would make this way better?

I would totally watch that for an hour and a half.  Also, you’re welcome.  You’re all welcome.

00:01:30:  We reach GELF Island.  It’s a big prison where people with weirdly mottled skin are, um, imprisoned.  They’re very quiet.

00:03:10:  Tai chi in the exercise yard.  This is…exciting isn’t the word for it.

00:04:00:  Still doing tai chi.

00:04:30:  Still doing tai chi, but it’s faster and with flips and shit.  I guess this is supposed to indicate the inherent prowess of the GELFS, maybe?

00:04:40:  The speedboat arrives.  Hooray for plot advancement!

00:05:10:  The speedboat was piloted by Lt. Brody.  He’s got fantastic hair.  I recognize his name from the character lists on IMDb, which means he’s important.

00:05:40:  Extended sequence of GELFs pretending strangle Brody while he looks on with a worried look and ominous music plays.

00:06:10:  Brody enters a room.  An older man tells him “they’re up to something.”  Obviously.  They do know they’re in an episode of a ‘90s sci-fi show, right?  Also, it’s 2018.  These guys have apparently been locked up since 2004.  That has to suck.

(Side note: genetically engineered soldiers were a total Biden[1] in sci-fi.  Khan was a genetically engineered super soldier in TOS and the movies.  A genetically engineered super soldier made an appearance in an episode of TNG.  They all dated back to right around now.  This, to me, is baffling.  We’re currently creating the opposite of super soldiers.  Our next war will be fought over internet message boards by soldiers fueled by Funyuns.  No one is going to lock the soldiers up after that.)

Uh oh, it’s their birthday.

00:06:30:  We find out that Brody sympathizes with the GELFs.  The older guy hates them.  Plot point!

00:07:15:  The GELFs disappear from the parade ground.  No one seems to care.

00:07:50:  Quick cut to a motorcyclist on a highways somewhere in Florida.  The motorcyclist is speeding.  A police camera scans the license plate and someone calls to say, “Hey, stop that!”  This is the most accurate future prediction made by the writers of seaQuest yet.  Also, odds are good that this is either Lucas returning to the sub or a new perspective character coming aboard for their first tour of duty.  Who’s to say?  They’re wearing a blacked-out helmet visor and black leathers…

Or maybe it’s Tom Cruise going to the Top Gun school.

00:08:35:  Speeding ticket costs $930.  Future cops don’t fuck around.  Also, seriously, that’s a mortgage payment right there.  What kind of crazy inflation happened in seaQuest world?

00:08:47:  Quick cut to the new seaQuest.  Remember, the old seaQuest was destroyed at the end of season 1 because it needed to re-seal the ocean floor.  By exploding.  Still don’t know how that worked.

00:09:02:  Fake-out!  Our reckless motorcyclist was none other than Captain Nathan Bridger, now with beard power!

00:09:20:  Lucas shows up on a jet ski.  With a girl.  Glad we’ve solved that problem.

00:10:45:  Extended sequence of awkward flirting between Lucas and some random girl in a bikini ends with Bridger cock-blocking his young charge.  She seems to be more impressed by Beard Power Bridger and his motorcycle, anyway.

00:10:53:  Bikini girl makes O-face at Beard Power Bridger while Lucas misses the thread.  Poor Lucas.  Poor bikini girl.  Beard Power Bridger is married to the sea.  He has no time for this.

00:11:15:  Bikini girl asks for a ride on Beard Power Bridger’s motorcycle.  Beard Power Bridger laughs.  I’m so glad we were all here to witness this moment.

00:12:00:  Lucas gets a ride on Bridger’s motorcycle.  That’s the romance we were all here to see, anyway.

00:12:05:  Back to GELF Island.  Uh oh!  Two random GELFs be plotting.  One wants to fight.  One wants to be patient.  Guess which one will win?

00:13:00:  Quick cut.  Another, more differenter GELF has a gun like thing.  This will end well.

00:14:00:  Old guy from the initial sequence is back.  Apparently he’s getting some from a female GELF.  Odds she’ll snap his neck in the next ten seconds:  high.

00:14:45:  Wait, no, she stole his gun to take him hostage.

00:15:00:  Back to seaQuest.  It’s Commander Ford doing orientation.  The new crew seems kinda terrible.

00:16:10:  Commander Ford steals a stuffed animal from a grown woman and throws it on the contraband stuffed animal pile.  Yes, there’s a contraband stuffed animal pile.  I don’t know what’s worse, the fact that people in the UEO Navy carry around stuffed animals or that Commander Ford seems to take great pleasure in stealing them.

00:17:00:  Standard laundry list of things what ain’t working and people who are missing, including Beard Power Bridger.  This means we’ll soon be seeing seaQuest going to war.  But first we need an extended sequence of Beard Power Bridger meeting the new bridge for the first time.

00:19:34:  Beard Power Bridger opens a window.  Darwin just so happens to be there.  Because why not?

00:20:19:  We meet a random GELF, whose job it is to clean the seaQuest.  He introduces himself as Dagwood.  This is awkward.

00:22:08:  We’re back to Brody and GELF Island.  No one is doing their job.  The guards are playing a video game.  That’s how this ends: in fire.  Oh, wait, did I say “fire?”  I meant “incompetence.”

00:23:20:  Cut to a GELF in labor.  This wasn’t supposed to happen.

00:24:00:  The revolution begins!

00:24:20:  Back to seaQuest.  Ted Raimi shows up.

00:25:30:  Something or other collapses on Ted Raimi and Ortiz.  Dagwood picks it up single-handedly and saves their lives.  It’s a new day in human-GELF relations.

00:27:35:  Guards be dyin’ all over GELF Island.

00:28:40:  Brody bravely runs for the escape pod.

00:29:30:  Well that was fast.  Coup over, GELF baby already looks to be 6 months old.

00:30:40:  Now we’re at a jail.  Some prisoner is being taken to “catch a boat.”  His name is Piccolo.  We have yet another stock character, the prisoner needing redemption.

00:32:45:  Random woman in short skirt barges in on Beard Power Bridger.  Has awkward conversation.  We discover she’s Dr Wendy Smith, who is apparently replacing Dr Westphalen from season 1.  Dr Westphalen was an older, no-nonsense scientist/doctor/mother/whatever we need her to be this episode character.  She was likeable in that gruff, competent Dr Pulaski from Star Trek: TNG sort of way.  Dr Smith appears to be bubbly and flighty.  This is a bad sign.

00:34:30:  New Doctor is a parapsychologist.  Fuck, this will end poorly.

00:35:05:  Military launch requests permission to board.  And we’ve got Piccolo.  He immediately pisses off Beard Power Bridger and runs away.  Because there are so many places to escape on a submarine.

00:38:07:  Darwin saves the day!  We also find out Piccolo has gills.  Is there anyone who isn’t genetically modified in 2018?

00:39:00:  A dozen GELFs with three powerboats set out to take over UEO headquarters.  That happens.

00:39:45:  Piccolo moves in with Lucas.  Immediately starts hanging 1980s bikini girl posters on the walls.  We find out that Lucas isn’t about bikini girl posters.  This seems like a problem.  No heterosexual 16 year-old boy should be alarmed by 1980s bikini girl posters.

00:42:15:  Budding romance between random-crewwoman-who-had-her-stuffed-animal-stolen-by-Commander-Ford and Ted Raimi?  I sure hope so…

00:42:45:  seaQuest rescues Brody after his brave disappearance.  We find out he was some sort of war hero.  And quite the lady’s man.

00:45:00:  Beard Power Bridger is ordered to nuke GELF Island.  And we’re officially To Be Continued…

So what have we learned from this episode of SeaQuest DSV?  First, they’re going to turn up the sexual tension, so sorely lacking from season 1, as much as possible.  There’s all kinds of ‘shipping potential going on here.  Ted Raimi/random crewmember, Brody/Dr Smith, Piccolo/bikini girl poster, Lucas/Darwin, and, of course, the ever popular Beard Power Bridger/anyone with whom he makes eye contact.  I’m also looking for signs of a dark horse Dagwood/Ortiz situation…

The episode itself dragged.  It’s one of those intro episodes to re-familiarize everyone added to a “we just retooled so you need to be reintroduced to the world” episode.  Those are the fucking worst.

Oh, well, on to part 2…

———————-

[1]Big Fucking Deal