How many times can I listen to The National’s new album (Trouble Will Find Me) in a row?

I’m going to find out.

The National are probably something of a wet dream to the music industry. They’re on their 5th (?) album by now, with a distinctive sound (Berninger’s low baritone is instantly recognizable). They have good solid records, a radio-friendly sound, still appreciated by critics and music geeks and groupies alike, and they work well together.

I kind of wonder how long this can go on for. How long can a band make the same ‘kind of’ sound, and how many albums can they make in a row without a) going nuts b) killing each other c) getting bored? I have trouble getting bored writing 300 words a day for a blog, for goodness sakes.

It helps that they have other projects (documentaries, playing a single song for 12 hours in a row, dunno, drugs maybe? Fatherhood?) I’m still impressed, and I’m still listening to their album. (Four spins on day one.) But five dudes in a tour bus? That is a lot of testosterone, and I’m impressed. Gentleman, I take my cap off to you, and to Pink Rabbits. Nice job.


Good intentions really are just that – and a commitment to a writing practice has the same trajectory as “I’m actually going to stick to a budget this month.” Days spill into each other, become weeks, and you somehow arrive at the point where it’s easier to just start over with a new, different commitment this time.

So fine. I’m just going to keep writing, even if it’s bad, even if it’s pointless. I’ll consider it a daily vacuum sweep of the mind, which it probably needs, after I spent an hour looking at movie trailers on youtube last night. (I prefer trailers to actual movies, since you really do get most of the plot and premise in about 5 minutes, instead of committing an entire hour and a half to some media moguls idea of what women find funny. Hint: they’re usually not.)

This time, my trailer mash up blurred a whole bunch of emotional music- pretty people running through fields – kisses in the rain scenes, leaving me with the impression that I had in fact already watched an entire movies-worth of screen time.

Kind of in love with him.

Long hair, stubble, soulful gaze out into the distance – he’s like a cartoon of someone your mother warned you about! And he plays guitar! And he’s about 7 feet tall, according to pictures with his other band members, Band of Horses. (You might know about them too).

I found his solo music through the kind of ‘related artist’ hopping that Spotify is good for, and I like it. I like Band of Horses too, though it kinda makes me want to slit my wrists in a bathtub at times. (City & Color is bad for that too.) But I love Ramsey and his weird, lonely little mule deer album cover:

(It’s like he’s listening and wants you to come over.)

In the odd way of too-much-information-available-on-the-internet, I found myself googling Ramsey, trying to find out a) how old he is and b) if he had a girlfriend, as if either fact would ever be relevant. I will never meet or speak to him, and even if I tried to, his beard might muffle all sound:

But he’s still purty, and his music is pretty solid so far.

ImageI notice that the hardest thing can be just deciding what to write about. It’s evident every time I sit down and open up this blog – although I’m writing more or less into a vacuum of ether-interwebs-space, and I can rant about any damn thing I please – I still hesitate to actually pick a topic.

It’s not that I can’t think of something to say as I have too much to say. Fuck, I could blog about my breakfast (people have made a whole art project out of it) I could go on and on about Berlin, the creative process, the random things I contemplate and which seem so funny to me, as told by myself. I talk to myself a lot; there’s no shortage of conversation material.

But writing it down is hard. Writing is hard, is the basic conclusion I have come to. Or as someone else once put it: “Writing is easy. You just stare at the paper until blood comes out.”

This morning I was reading a magazine and drinking coffee. I thought about how tactile magazines were, and how much I preferred them to internet news. How screens put an automatic speed filter on your brain (“I must absorb this as quickly as possible before moving onto the next thing”) which physical objects made out of paper don’t seem to.

I read a story about a drone strike, and had a little niglet of an idea – the kind of ‘what if’ that often kickstarts fiction. I jotted something down. Then I read the end of the article, and discovered that someone had already written some fiction to that effect. Boo. Enthusiasm summarily deflated, even though the idea could be bent many ways and fiction is as unique as your storytelling voice.

The point is there are lots of ideas. And there are lots of ways to lose your enthusiasm (thinking about an audience is one, judging your idea before it’s hatched is another). A creative practice involves, I am convinced, spending time every day throwing spaghetti at the wall. It might stick. You might just make a mess and waste some time.

Here’s some spaghetti.

It can’t quite decide if it’s raining or misting or just a bit foggy out today. What the Irish call “soft”, and what I call a good excuse to stay inside. You’d feel like an ass carrying an umbrella, but you’re still going to get wet on a bike.

That being said, there is something very lovely about sitting out on the balcony, under the awning, wrapped up in a blanket with a steaming cup of green tea. Soft Saturday mornings. I’ll take them.

External Weapons

She walked into my office, long legs striding, high heels clicking. What you’d call a real dame, although that kind of language faded out a hundred years ago. Asked to see the detective.

“I’m a private eye, Miss,” I answered, as respectfully as I could with a whiskey hangover clouding my brain. It would last until at least lunch, when I would get a few hours of clear headed sharpness before five o’clock made me thirsty. If I had clients, I’d meet them at the bar downstairs. If I didn’t, I’d go anyways. It made it easy for my ex-wife to find me when her alimony payments were late.

“I’m no Miss,” she said. “And you’re drunk.”

Respectful still, I nodded.

“Oh for heaven’s sake,” she snapped, reaching into her Greta Garbo trench coat. My first instinct was to dive. Women like to carry guns that way, hidden in long fur coats and tucked in thigh holsters. You can usually tell when a man is packing; he walks differently, struts a bit more. Women strut naturally, and it has nothing to do with an external weapon.

I myself have never carried a gun, instead reaching down for the blade I kept in my trouser pocket. It was a light samurai edition; only the handle was grasped in my sweaty palm, but if I slid the safety away it would extend into a beautiful fencing master style weapon.

But what she pulled from her coat and flung at me wasn’t a bomb, or a hand grenade, or even a court summons: it was stardust.

Mehnschelom,” she said, wrapping her tongue around the ancient words, and I felt my chest seize, as if my heart would lift right out of my ribcage and pull all my secret fears with it.

I grabbed at my collar, feeling strangled. “Mmpghm.”

She only crossed her arms, prepared to wait.

“Mmpghm!” The strangling sensation burned and then eased, before a powerful throbbing hit my temples. I began to sweat, and then shiver. My body was rapidly accelerating the hangover; processing the alcohol from last night – was that tequila I smelt? Damn that bartender – and clubbing my head and guts with it.

 Then I blinked and the room wobbled on its axis for one long second; Greta Garbo just watched, and I caught a tell-tale glimpse of silver in her eyes. I should have noticed right away; this one was a witch.

“Pfft,” I said, reaching for a waterglass and realizing I had never, not once, drank water in this office.

“C’mon, let’s go downstairs,” she said, coming around the desk and grabbing my shoulder. “I need you firing on all pistons and I don’t have time to waste.” I staggered after her downstairs to the bar, where the bartender took one look at me and reached for the Jameson; he took a second look at her and put it back.

“Soda water,” she said. “Two.”

I guzzled mine and burped slightly; she pushed her glass over and I drank that as well, slower this time.

“So what can I do for you, ma’am?” I said, managing full words again and remembering not to call her ‘Miss’.

“I need protection.”

“Plenty of hired guns in this city, ma’am.” I smiled, appreciating the experience of sitting in a dingy bar with such a beautiful woman. Cheekbones that could cut glass; thin lips that didn’t look given to loving words. Her silver eyes were covered up more or less with contacts, but when she was annoyed – which she was now – the light shone through anyways.

“And they carry guns,” she said. “I need a swordmaster.”

I felt a sick thrill, probably akin to how a former heroin addict looks at needles.

She took out a package of smokes and offered me one; I accepted, holding up a lighter. Her long blonde hair drifted forward as she leaned in, cigarette in her lips, and touched it to the flame as I lit mine simultaneously. It was the closest we would come to a kiss.

“My name,” she began.

“Is not important,” I finished for her. “You’re not going to tell me the real one anyways.” I glanced involuntarily down at her long legs, which were wearing real, old fashioned silk stockings with a seam up the back. That seam was like a fishing line; it led straight into the imaginations of men. “There are what, a hundred witches registered in the city of Chicago?”

“In the registry, I’m dead,” she said.

“My condolences.” I understood the stardust now; her signature energy flare would be detected by the government immediately, and dead witches don’t cast spells. It seemed an expensive way to get rid of a hangover though.

She inhaled deeply and blew the smoke at the approaching bartender in a clear warning. He backed away and she returned her attention to me. “People are looking for me,” she said. “Not the Department of Energy.”

“They think you’re dead.”

She nodded. “And the Keyes Gang is what made them think that. There was a blow-out blaze a few nights ago; I was supposedly a part of it.” I had seen the arcs of light fizzle and die like fireworks over the housing projects to the south; witchcraft battles could be so pretty. From a distance.

I tapped out the ash directly on the bar. “So they faked your flare and stooged you. Handy how witches don’t leave bodies behind. And now they’re looking for you? The Keyes Gang?”

Another nod. “I need to get out of the city. Quickly.”

“Did you steal from them?”

She laughed. “Nothing that wasn’t mine to begin with.”

I sighed, stubbed the cigarette out. “They all say that. But a dead witch who won’t come to life, who has stardust to throw around like confetti, who needs a swordmaster because guns don’t kill sorcerers – you really expect me to get involved…”

The doors of the bar flew open with a crackle of silver. She threw a glance back at me, reaching into her coat. “You’re already involved,” she said. “Now draw your sword.”

Here’s a tip. Leave them the fuck alone. I live by myself, because to cohabit with someone would involve handing them a list of rules that would alert them to the fact that they were about to sleep in a house with a lunatic. It would include:

1. Don’t talk to me when I’m reading (and don’t ask me what’s so funny, either. It’s probably only funny to me.)

2. Don’t talk to me if I have a pen and notebook in hand.

3. Don’t talk to me  at the computer, even if I’m not typing and especially when I am.

4. Don’t read my magazines (see previous post.)

5. Don’t try and tidy up after me. I never put things ‘away’ because to me, something belongs where it was last used. If I read books on the couch then there should be books on the couch, because obviously, that’s where they get used!

6. If the house runs out of coffee and/or tea, there may be blood spilled.

7. Bathtub time is sacred, and may well last as long as the tank contains hot water. Find a Dunkin Donuts if you need to pee.

8. There are 8 teacups on the desk because today, I drank 8 cups of tea. That’s my intake problem, not yours.

9. Wear headphones, and preferably, a viewing hood, if you’re going to watch TV. If I’m reading, you can still do whatever the fuck you want, but if you’re watching TV, so is everyone else, and just because I tolerate Don Draper and his gigantic schlong does not mean I want to share your viewing habits.

10. Read all my work and praise it. That’s what all of Hemingway’s wives were for, and I’m not saying it worked out for them or him, but it may be the only way to soothe the lunatic after you’ve done any of the offending items 1-9.