Category Archives: Journal

Six Characters, ignoring their Author.

My hands are numb from the cold lack of inspiration. Fingers tickle the keys, yet they feel a thousand miles away. I had so many great ideas on my run yesterday. Why does the proximity of actually writing scare the ideas away? Why am I so afraid?

The ideas never remain mine. Characters steal away narrative, which mutates into an arch a inver saw coming, rendering me audience member, but still its mine. Isn’t it? There still my six characters? They must have poor eye site, because they never see me, their author.

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Stacking Tomorrows

William Patterson had been stacking his tomorrows for as long as he could remember. He had composed letters, stories, thank you’s and rebuttals, in his head. There they sat undelivered. William stacked high boxes of chores,  left honey do lists to yellow and curl on clip boards. The clip boards hung on the walls like in perfect columns like soldiers. And dreams, thousands of dreams stored away upon row after row of in an Amazon sized warehouse of “I’ll do it laters”. 

William traveled through his warehouse always distracted by tomorrow, and therefore tripping over his todays.  Being present seemed such an annoyance, a catch phrase getting in the way of his better tomorrow.

So William clung to words and phrases like when, I just, if I could, to help him ignore where he was. That allowed him to forget that just, is an action that begins with a single step, and If, is a fulcrum on which pivots doing and not-doing. Action and inaction. Hope and fear.

And so William stacks his tomorrows, unable to remember his today because he never looks at it. But one day a present moment will arrive that will deny William any possibility of a tomorrow,  and then he will weep at all the todays he stacked away.

Jimmie G

 

Fashioning the whip.

I’m not dying, I’ll do that later. What I am is a 43 year old and I have to tell you that time seems much different to me now, than even five or seven years ago. I remember the younger me with a disbelief that the memory I have of that younger me is so distant. I feel him inside of me, struggling to break free of this old man that has done so little of the things he wanted done.

That makes this list hard, cathartic, and dangerous. ‘Putting it out there’ is the first step in getting done what you want to get done. It can also be a measuring stick with which to beat yourself. Un-accomplishment is the whip of my flagellation. I only know that word because I saw Da Vinci Code.

But what the hell. Lets fashion another whip.

I want to, to be, to earn, to see, to…

  • To be Featured on Freshly Pressed
  • To sell a movie script
  • To earn the Certified Meeting Professional designation
  • To see my daughters go to college
  • Run a half marathon in every state
  • Publish a book of short stories
  • To finish the fantasy novel that had plagued my mind for years
  • Teach acting
  • Make a living writing
  • Eat at every restaurant in West Seattle
  • Have a beer from every brewery in the Pacific Northwest
  • Take my podcast, the lazy muses, to syndication
  • Be invited to Comic Con as a speaker
  • Retire with enough money to travel
  • Love my wife the way I did when we were kids
  • Raise strong, independent women, that will demand equality
  • Do something worth remembering
  • Perform Shakespeare in front of a paying audience again.
  • Have one of my plays performed simultaneously in multiple theatres.
  • Run Hood to Coast Relay
  • Visit my beloved New York City again
  • Be a home owner
  • Fashion a bucket list rather than a whip

Jimmie G

written in response to the Daily Prompt, Dust in the Wind. 

 

What’s in your lexicon?

I love movies for many of the same reasons others do. On the practical side I love the spectacle and simple mindedness of summer action flicks. I like the violent ballet of Jason Bourne. The absurd Sci-fi Terry Gilliam paints, or the drop dead funny written for us groundlings. High brow has its place, but near the back. People falling gets me every time. Good stories told with compelling narrative and a strong point of view will, for better or worse, allow me to hear my own voice, or find a new one. And I hardly ever want to see such movies twice. The movies I do see over and over always have one thing in common. Shorthand. A line that can cut through paragraphs of explanation to illuminate a situation in the best of all ways, with brevity. Some movies are rife with shorthand. It depends on your circle really. For me The Big Lebowski has the best batting average. Ask me if I’ll be attending a function of any sort and you’re likely to hear “I’ll be there man”. If I know I’m wrong about something yet I don’t want to admit, lets say for instance I upset my seven year old enough to send her to her room crying, which isn’t saying much since we are both very dramatic, and lets also assume my wife says “You need to apologize”, to which I respond, “I’m finishing my chicken”. This bit of shorthand also alludes to the Dude. Actually to Walter who says “I’m finishing my coffee” in response to making a First Amendment thing out of cursing in a family restaurant. The shorthand offered by a myriad of films provides us with a lexicon. A faster, and better penned way of getting to the point. This ability to help me communicate so efficiently deepens my fondness of the film. Sometimes it is the sole reason for appreciating the film. There Will Be Blood, is my least favorite PTA film, yet if I’m explaining consequences, or proposing an easy to make dinner that has been made too often recently, I will end with “Is that alright with you?”. If you haven’t whipped out any sort of object, and dropped the line “Say hello to my little friend” then you just haven’t lived. The lexicon of shorthand is what I love most about movies. It is what I am most thankful for. So thank you you writers for filling my coffers and helping me to better communicate. Its too bad that doing the same thing in writing is called plagiarism. What’s in your lexicon? jimmie G

Abusive Courtesy

It has taken me al long time to acclimate to Seattle. It was billed to me as a magical place where, upon crossing the border a WA. Wish Officer, WAWO’s, would ask what your dreams are, and then immediately grant them. Jobs were as simple as showing up at Amazon, Microsoft, or Boeing, and simply saying “I’m here”. None of these were true. I was unemployed for several months before taking a position as insurance salesman. So much for 60K of classical acting training, but that wasn’t Seattle’s fault.

What is Seattle’s fault is the abusive courtesy. You cannot walk into a bank without being assaulted with ‘hellos’, or invasively interrogated about your weekend plans. Once, while depositing my unemployment check the teller asked if it was my day off from work. She was blind to the shame in my eyes and deaf to the sarcasm in my voice when I replied, “I guess you could say that”.

Juxtapose this with the ‘Seattle Freeze’, another form of abusive courtesy. The locals here in Rain City are quick to offer a warm hello and invite you out for drinks, or over to their place for dinner. However, the invite always gets lost in the mail. Run into these locals at PCC or Met Market or the playground, and you get the same invite, over and over again, but it rarely materializes. I moved to Seattle from the supposedly head down-don’t look a stranger in the eye, gruffness of New York City. Invites there were just as easily extended, yet more often honored. Perhaps its because New York is such a big city that everyone seems new.

Admittedly, I can be an a-hole, so I would normally complain and then put it back on my shoulders. Not so in this case. The Seattle Freeze is a thing. Its talked about amongst us other city expatriates, and even the locals. The way people talk about Syria or the Ukraine on Facebook, thinking that stating an opinion is the same as taking action. When in reality all that will done is hitting the share button. Here in the Emerald City there is a lot of talk given to the Seattle Freeze but it never brought out long enough to thaw.

As mayor of this town I would decree all locals befriend and share with an out-of-towner one meal at home and one local eatery. After that if the chemistry isn’t right, then by all means each side should do the polite thing and maintain a facade of friendliness.

After the ‘thaw’ I would turn my attention to abusive courtesy. This is courtesy is sinister because it is in actuality big business impersonating the local mom and pop shop. The invasive questions about your weekend are verbal slide of hands, a shell game. No matter what shell you pick, you will never find true friendliness because it was never there. They palmed it as soon as you came in the door. “Would you be interested in our mortgage rates?” NO. And what was it about my $100 deposit made you think I might be? The answer here is to do away with brick and mortar banks altogether. They are like video stores, clinging on to the flesh of relevancy by their finger nails.  Deposits and withdrawals can be done with an ATM or a smart phone. Neither of which is capable of insincerity.

Last to be addressed would be the traffic congestion. I-5, 99, 90, 520. All these numbers add up to an embarrassment of choked cars. For a supposedly green city everyone seems very devoted to personal transportation. And buses just don’t cut it. They are subject to the same traffic as everyone else. The ‘Bus lanes’ are Band-Aids over bullet wounds. Seattle desperately needs a rail system, extensive and far reaching. The HOV lanes could be given over to light rail, with one track for public transportation running north and south, with arterial tracks running east and west.  A third track should be completely devoted to emergency and towing services. Simple accidents with no injuries can back up the highway for an hour or more. The emergency rail could speed to any location unimpeded, scoop up the damaged vehicles and be off in far less time than a tow truck. The same alacrity would greatly benefit emergency response vehicles.

Your votes are appreciated and I vow to bring basketball back to Seattle.

What I love about this PacNor town? The Seahawks. I am an Army Brat. Growing up all over the globe prevented my roots to grow deep anywhere. As a result I never had a team seep into my bones. I liked all the local teams. Denver while attending University of Wyoming. Tampa while in grad school in Sarasota, Florida. I rooted for the Niners while I lived in Monterey, CA and all the the New York teams, except the Yankees, during my tenure in ‘the city’. Because home town hating is a lonely business. But none really got into my bones. When those teams lost it had no effect on me. This surprisingly was not the case with the ‘Hawks. I fell into brooding one day after a bad loss. I had become a fan. It was like falling in love. The ‘Hawks and I started off casually dating, then talking often. I then eagerly anticipated the next time we would see each other. When they lost it was like someone had been mean to them. Or they had acted foolishly, endangering our relationship. Except, they really couldn’t endanger it. In that way the relationship is like parent and child. They know now, no matter what they do, I will always love them.

My first love of a team. And you never forget your first.

I also love my neighborhood, The Admiral District of West Seattle. Its like the early days of Brooklyn, before the celebrities and hipsters took it over. West Sea has great restaurants, bars, and markets, ALL walkable. This was my number one request when moving to Seattle from my beloved Astoria, Queens. I didn’t want to live anywhere a car ride was needed to get a drink, a night out, or a tube of toothpaste. My new ‘hood offers all those amenities in spades.

Our West Seattle apartment is smaller than our place in Queens. Probably the only people to move from New York into a smaller place out west. But there you have it.

At least we’re a little closer to Brooklyn.

Jimmie G.

Daily Prompt: We Built This City

by Krista on March 9, 2014

What do you love most about the city / town / place that you live in? What do you like the least about it? If you were mayor, what would be the most important problem you’d tackle? How would you tackle it?

Oscar was mean to me.

I saw an elderly lady stare at a man as he passed by. In her stare I recognized decades of What If’s. 

What if I chose him? What if he fought for me? What if I kissed him right now?

My What ifs are a little differentWhat if I had never kissed you on my birthday? What if I hadn’t asked you down to Florida during our ‘break’? And what if after first year in the city I hadn’t forgiven you?

I think you would have been better off. The girls would have more, could be given more. I think of you falling in love. Dream of you not having to work and feed a baby in the middle of the night.

I stare at the blinking cursor on the screen and my insides scream for some kind of understanding to present itself. I beg my fingertips to pound out a strategy. But all I get is the staccato beat of the delete key and sad words that I find boring.

Fucking awards shows always make me feel sorry for myself.

Stupid Dead Muse

If you’re lucky you have someone, not something, but an actual living person that inspires you. A singularity. This is different than being inspired by the myriad of human actions that elicit goose bumps. I’m talking about a single soul that for whatever reason is a beacon of some sort. For me that beacon was Phillip Seymour Hoffman. I’m an actor by trade and training and Mr. Hoffman has long been the example to which I strived to achieve. My measuring stick. He never once disappointed me. Even in low brow, action movies he displayed disciplined, balanced choices. Most importantly he always lived believably under imaginary circumstances. His unique and unmistakable cadence of was ever present. His point of view always exciting and thrilling. And that is what drew me to him.

What sets actors apart are their points of view, how they see the word. Its this POV that informs their choices. It is through the lens of point of view that an actor sees, understands, and reacts to the world. We as an audience probably cannot decipher an actors point of view from their choices. We can only marvel at the mystery of by what point of view their choices are borne. I don’t even know if I would have liked Mr. Hoffman should we have met. I do know that i feel like I’m swimming in cold water trying to catch my breath. The glee of my hometown team playing in the Super Bowl has been knocked out of me.

I remember vividly sitting in the upper mezzanine for a performance of Long Days Journey. Phill’s first scene was in the kitchen which barley came into view onstage. I strained my neck and twisted my shoulders toward the sound of his voice and never regretted the $125 ticket price for nose bleed seats.

I miss you Mr. Hoffman the way I would miss someone I knew. Maybe I did know you in some way. In a way uncluttered with “I’m sorries” or mistakes, or even happy memories of times shared. Your choices as an actor left us a road map of who you were.

A map that is far shorter than should have been but a road I can travel as often as I like. That last, final choice is one that robbed us all of your brilliance. For that I am angry with you. For stealing from us all the characters that could have been.

Goodbye. And to you other muses. Put it down, don’t swallow. Don’t try to get away with it. Let us love you. You deserve it. You’re worth it. Believe it or not just being alive can bring great comfort to others.

jimmie g.

Once(s)

Here’s bunches of once(s).

I once took three drops in the eye and afterward I could see so well I weaved through throngs of people just like Han did through the asteroid field.

once thought myself an alien in a dead bowling alley nobody knew existed but was naturalized when I read the piece of paper sitting on my fingertip. The paper said be free. Don’t worry about what you look like because nobody is looking at you. On page two of that single piece of paper atop my fingertip it read, ‘once public solitude you don’t care if people are looking at you, and then you’ll truly be seen’.

Once I spun an incense stick into a frenzy. Making its ember sing for me. Like a little sun it spun and spun until it lost its likeness to a sun and became a fat pair of lips that sang karaoke for me. After the perfumed lap dance the girl sitting across the room said ‘”wow! it looked like that incense stick was singing”. I wish she would have said something cooler.

once spent the night in a friends bathroom laughing and smoking and making up stories about fairies and spaceships and angry elves who felt put upon. All while my friend held his left hand submerged in cold water for fear of it catching fire.

Once I danced in a field all night under a cool Colorado sky. I felt safe in the dark. We all did. And the sun peaked up and chased away our comfort. We took the back roads home, following the mountain ridge south. We stopped at a four way intersection to relieve ourselves. The road was littered with onions the size of softballs. It meant something then. I wish it still did.

Once I stood under a tree and made love to the Wyoming wind. It caressed my arms and nibbled my ear and told me I would never be cold again. There was somebody standing on the porch but they weren’t looking at me. Probably making love themselves.

once looked into an angels eyes. She had to have been an angel because all I could see was brilliant white beams of light shooting out of pools of green. The angel was gone when the sun came home, so too was my friend, though she lay next to me.

Onces, and onces, and once again. I have happy onces, but these are the onces visiting tonight.

Jimmie G.

The Quit.

A long time friend recently posted on Facebook asking for advice with her struggle to kick the smoking habit. She had been doing very well but lapsed and so reached out to a few of her friends that have successfully walked away form smoking. I am one such friend.

I started smoking in the ninth grade for the lamest and most unoriginal reason there is. Because it was cool. I don’t know if I even knew anyone else that smoked. I just thought it would be cool. Thats how unoriginal I am. This is back in the day of cigarette machines. You slide the quarters in then select a the knob for the brand you like and give it a pull, pulling other things was just around the corner for me.  After the pull, the box, or soft pack if that was your thing, would slide out. More shocking than ‘back in the day of cigarette machines’, this was back in the day when a ninth grader could buy a pack of smokes with nary a questioning look.

And so started a love affair of more than twenty years.

I never jonesed for a smoke in high school. I could go the whole night without a drag. Although I remember the early morning smoke while waiting for the bus was a big thing form me. Morning break and lunch was all about the Dog House where my friends, and other fellow smokers gathered. The Dog House was exactly what it sounds like. I small stand where Hot Dogs and other food-like things were sold, but that was some eighteen years before Michal’s ‘Dilemma‘, so we ate the dogs and the chili cheese Fritos and called it a balanced meal.

With college came even more freedom, and time to smoke. So I did. And that cute little kitty in my belly, that only purred once in a while for a night time smoke started to meow. By the time a left college the kit had transformed into a little monster with long spindly tentacles wrapped through and around my lungs. Smoking was a salve for the beast and it would squeeze my lungs until they turned icy cold if I waited to long to deliver the beasts smoky remedy. I didn’t mind the beast though. It was quite right that a smoke after a big meal was very satisfying. In fact, a smoke after anything that was big, great, or traumatic, was satisfying. The smoke was equally satisfying in alleviating the boring or mundane. Smoking was an activity which meant I would always have something to do.

And so I kept smoking through grad school. And I kept being satisfied. I even kept smoking after I got married, even my wife had said she didn’t want to marry a smoker. I said that’s cool because I loved this gal and I really want to be with her, way more than smoking. Still, I didn’t quit. The same gal also asked me to become Catholic, which I did. So I kept the more important part of the deal in my estimation.

Post grad school the wife and I moved to New York. We both got jobs, she went back to school, and I started pursuing a career as an actor and a closet smoker. But a closet only from my wife. My days were spent calendaring how I could get smoke time in and then clean up time so I wouldn’t reek from the smoke time. This would invariably blow up in my face once or twice a year, because she knew. Of course she knew. Smoke doesn’t just wash away with public bathroom hand soap, or cologne, or Frebreeze. Mouth wash can’t kill, peppermints don’t do shit, no matter how curious their strength is. Smoke is the roach of smells. It can’t be killed by anything than a blast of chemicals. And just like you have to drown a roach in Raid until that last violent kick of life, you must drown yourself in steaming hot water and a thick soapy lather and your clothes as well. But smokers can’t smell. When your in the tobacco lust you can’t smell the stink. Its too sexy.

Even the birth of my first beautiful little girl couldn’t chase the monster from my chest. I  halfheartedly tried several times. But the monster could always since my insincerity. It would leave like a friend loaning an apartment. It knew it would have a place to come back to. Sometimes I was forced to quit for a few days, several even. Instead of a dry run of what it could be like to break the chains it felt like an exquisite tease. My tongue would swell with the anticipation of fire burning paper. My nose hairs would stand on end straining to find that tendril of smoke sliding off the end of a Camel Wide. Oh yes, Camel Wides. Because why inhale a little cancer when you can have twice as much for the same cost? A few days into my tobacco furlough my lungs would go from constricted, bent old men, to nubile and young yogis, ready to do some downward dog all damn day. And the expansion in my lungs felt great, but it didn’t make me want to quit. It made me feel like I had so much more room to fill with smoke. So I did.

But one day my daughter, then almost two years old, put a pencil in her mouth and mimicked blowing smoke. She was copying me. It made me feel deeply ashamed. And yet I lived with the shame for a while afterward.  I continued to work my overnight shift smoking away and then washing my hair and face in the kitchen sink at work. I would eye half smoked cigarettes on the ground like winning lotto tickets. I would hate how enslaved I was to smoking as I relished the hypnotic pull of smoke from my mouth into my nose and the super cool push back out my mouth, like I was playing the didgeridoo on a cancer stick. So just like a heroin junkie I turned to another drug to break my dependance on a drug! Chantix! 

The warning label said it may cause suicidal tendencies. So can quitting smoking. It also warned there could be severe irritability. Again, so does quitting anything fun and awesome. Vivid dreams was also a side effect. I’ve paid good money for that same effect, many times. Quitting was to be referred to as ‘The Quit’.  So I referred to it as such. I lived near enough to Brooklyn that being pretentious was not frowned upon.

The bare bones laymen explanation of this wonder drug goes like this. Imagine Chantix is like late Thanksgiving evening.  You have had some much good food you can’t eat another bit of anything. Ice cream is too much, the most delectable dessert could be pulled fresh from the oven but you are just too full. Chantix takes away the physical desire to smoke. You feel like you have chained smoked your fill and just don’t want anymore.

I bought a second $140 bottle just in case the next month proved difficult.  It was hard but I never smoked another cigarette again.  The desire didn’t completely leave for well over a year. That monster kept stopping by to see how the old place was doing. But he never got back in. I ran a full marathon a year after quitting, and several half-marathons since. I have also gained forty pounds. But that is ice cream and cakes fault. And beer.

I started this journal entry to say, in the longest, most round about way as possible, that ‘The Quit’ is hard. It sucks balls and there’s no way around it. Its going to suck! It will be hard and terrible and you will want to have a smoke almost every second of every day. It will feel like you are under water and out of breathe. But you will get through it. One day, you will get through most of the morning without that crippling desire. Then a morning and an afternoon. Then you’ll get shit on by your boss, or a friend, and you’ll get through it without smoking. One night you’ll get shitty drunk and you won’t need a smoke to calm the scotch. One day+One day+One day+One day+

Jimmie G