Thursday, November 4, 2021

Dumpster Diving

So I stop at the Dollar Store because I want a new luffa. Being the Dollar Store I buy all kinds of other crap - candy bars, tissues, Band-Aids – you know how it goes. I bring my own nylon bag, but in my checkout haze the cashier puts everything in an unmarked, brown paper bag. This unsettles me, but fine. It’s not worth dumping stuff from container one to another, even though this is not my system. I’m trying to be more flexible in my life and not make a huge deal out of such things. It is in trying to be better that I am wrong. I drop the bag somewhere in the house, I don’t care where, and go about doing things. 

The next day is Sunday, I decide to take all my paper recycling up to the church. As a family, we put out a lot of paper. Junk mail, schoolwork, old manuscripts, new manuscripts – I put them in brown paper bags and when there seems like too many, I load up the trucklet and head for St. Stephen’s. I think they make like twenty bucks a month from everyone tossing their paper in the shed-sized bin. Part of me wants to believe it also makes me a better citizen. It is in this belief that I am also wrong.

Later that day I remember my bag from the Dollar Store. I can’t find it. I in the familyroom, kitchen, bathroom . . . the bag has vanished. It’s not small. We’re not hoarders. We should be able to find a brown paper bag . . .

No, I tell myself. I am not that out-of-it. There’s no way I chucked a bag of candy and bathroom supplies thinking it was scrap paper. No way. I’m not that daffy. And I would’ve had to be that daffy twice. Once to load the SUV, then again to snatch it up and hurl it into the bin. No. I’m not that . . . touched. After another search, I decided there’s no other course of action. I announce that I’m returning to St. Stephen’s to see if my Dollar Store bag is in the dumpster. Max, for reasons that escape me, says he’s in. We drive up to the church and look inside. Someone else has been there and deposited several hundred pounds of shredded documents. Light, wormy snow. Oodles of it. There’s a light rain, and the temperature has dropped, and Max climbs in anyway. We dig around finding a couple of the bags I chucked. They are easy to spot. Most of the stuff says “Martineck” in the upper right corners.

We do not find the bag of Band-Aids, tissues, luffas and candy.

I return home not know if I’m going crazy, already crazy or if rolling around in wet shreddings proves I am simply nuts, no other modifier necessary. It is a depressing internal conversation. Do the mad know they’re mad? Is there a moment, like this one, that tips you from kooky to insane?

Two days go by and I go down to the basement to get the Firestick off the old TV. Between the old TV and the couch facing it sits a brown paper bag. Inside are Band-Aids, a box of tissues, two luffas and a mess of candy wrappers. There are more of those on the couch. My first thought is mice. But they don’t unwrap. And they don’t lug bags down a flight of stairs so they can relax. Mice never relax. I realize I’m wrong one more time . . . in my choice of mammal of interest.

I take the bag up to Max and show him. Max – after watching me search the house, drive up to the church, and rummage through a soggy dumpster for thirty minutes says, “Oh that bag?”

Thursday, October 28, 2021

First Ever?

For the life of me I don’t understand the trend over the past few years to advertise something – usually a car – as The First Ever. Ad agencies continue to repeat the technique, so it must have shown some value early on. Personally, I’m hoping it dies soon, as I do with every trite, over-used, dead-horse phrase. 

Auto companies should be especially concerned with hackneyed headlines. Hackneyed is an old term that refers use of a horse used for ordinary rides. Not to show off, race or impress others. None of things one might want out of their Lexus or BMW.

The First Ever also strikes me as a dubious feature. It’s good because it’s first? That’s how you want me to spend my $50 large? Yeah, it’s nice to own the newest and all, but how many of us like to have some of the bugs worked out?

Usually just under 30-percent of any population will consider themselves early adopters. Maybe that trends higher in the luxury car world, where you are paying not to see your car passing you every couple of miles. Still, is that the salient feature? Speed, mileage, safety, comfort – none of these things matter more than being first? Regardless, the headlines alienate two-thirds of your market.

In the case of Lexus and BMW, I get it. The cars are, in fact, bum-spanking new; you’re not going to get patient adopters anyway. At least in theory. I think trust in the brand goes a long way. Lexus and BMW customers are less hesitant to buy in the first model year because the makers make good cars, so maybe being first has appeal that's not countered by being unseasoned. Still, we're talking cars. Not this year's spring line. Not even a new iPhone. A car is the second biggest purchase most people ever make in one shot. Being the new kid on the block is a weak raison d'acheter. 

And the phrase is tired. Another word that should never be associated with your very new, very expensive automobile. Or your horse.

Monday, October 4, 2021

I missed the whole month of September. I hate doing that. I don’t want to abandon this blog all together. But, I started writing another novel and I own a home. Or, more accurately perhaps. I live in a home to which I share a deed. It never occurred to me until lately that the house is also on the deed and I’m starting to think the whole deal is a bit of a con. 

 Do I own the house or does the house own me?

The painting, cleaning, tweaking, duct-taping – just trying to figure what to do with the damn thing (what IS that chirping sound?) takes up so much time. Money, yes. But time is the real cost. I can’t get this back. Even hiring people to help takes time. Like I’m feeding my hours to a great, insatiable beast.

And so a month goes by without the silliest of posts. A whole month of shoveling minutes into a gaping maw. Sigh.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Ninety minutes of smiles

I attended poetry reading Sunday hosted by the Just Buffalo Literary Center. They held it at a glen, in Buffalo's Silo City, under at Cottonwood tree that is probably older than all of poet's ages combined. Times four. The readers and writers ranged in age from 13 to 18 and in every case - each one - surpassed my expectations. I am not an easy audience. Writing is serious business for me. And yet every participant left me moved, touched, grinning or thinking. 

Sometimes, when I'm writing advertising copy I purposely flip over my notes. I let time pass and see what sits in my memory. What holds the value of recall. These were the grains of gold that stayed in my pan:

"My voice is a grain of sand on a beach" Keira Lorelei Van Der Beck. 
"Every 10 days a country celebrates their freedom from British rule." Theo Bellavia-Frank. 
"It's easy to feel tall in a shallow pool" Nzingha.
"You are a tower of book spines" Zanaya Hussain.

I looked the author names up later, after deciding what resonated. I had access to a online collection and I am really thankful for it. There were even more pieces in the album to provoke me, make me want to read. 

The event was called Hope Blooms from Shattered Roots. It's a strong title except these young people showed strong, sturdy roots drinking in all the literary nutrients they could find. If they ever were shattered, they healed quick . . . like the young can.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Swinging my machete


I want to walk around swinging my machete. I like doing it and it is my right. I like exercising that right. Grocery stores, movie theater, concerts at the Town Ball Room – I want to walk in swinging and swing whenever I feel like it. My intention is not to hurt anyone.  Still, I will swing wildly and at random from my truck, through the parking lot, into the dollar store and out again, swiping back and forth and back and forth. I’m not worried about swinging near children. I tend to swing high and they tend to be short. I’m not worried about swinging my machete near old people because they are old. Why do I like swishing my machete in wide arcs as I move through life? That’s personal. What if I nick, cut or slice someone along the way? That is a matter of their personal responsibility. This is the land of freedom.  Express that freedom. Revel in the freedom. Swing your machete. Or bat or axe or even just your firsts. Don’t let anyone tell you no. They are trying to control you and that’s a slippery slope. If you let them stop you from swinging a machete, soon you will find yourself on a collective farm raising quinoa for the elites. Fight it now. Swing, batta batta batta, swing.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Lessons in imagination

I had the honor of speaking to a Ms. Brown’s seventh-grade reading room a few weeks ago. They had just finished The Misspellers, my first novel, and therefore more than special to me. The novel was written with reluctant readers in mind and Ms. Brown is the first teacher I’ve come across in eighteen years who caught on. Of course, that could be more my fault than the whole of the teaching profession, but it’s probably more an exposure issue. The book was never a runaway bestseller.

The students asked amazing questions. And I use that word the way Oxford intends: They filled me with wonder. Startled me.

“How did you write about a bulldozer fighting an excavator if you’ve never seen it.” Love this question. Gets the heart of why anyone writes – or why anyone reads. We all want to stretch are known experiences into the unknown. It helped our ancestors survive lions and tigers and snow. I’ve seen a snake before, could one be hiding in that hole? This is how imagination saves our lives. Exercising it makes it work better. Which is how writers and artists ensure the existence of humanity.

“Does Carlin really like Jack?” I love this question, too. It comes from a cunning insight: Is Jack simply a decent person tossed into Carlin’s world or is there genuine affection? It’s the question of a new person, growing into their world. How much of any of this is real? The same imagination that helps us envision a rock beneath the waves and makes us hesitate before a jump, can also keep us from leaps of the heart.

That’s a lot from a little class, reading a little book. It’s the best any writer could ever hope.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Hotdogs, Scotch and the Mona Lisa . . .

For those willing and fearless, go inside the mind of Michael Martineck. This was my first interview in quite some time, so I was a little rusty. Being interesting ain't like riding a bike - supposing I was ever interesting in the first place. Spoiler Alert: I'm not. There is a discussion of wiener classification as it pertains to literary communication paradigms. You won't be getting that anyplace else.