January 19, 2008

Will you still need me, will you still feed me...

Warning: Old person ahead!

Okay, I’ve finally reached the age where the reality of growing old can no longer be so easily ignored. Mentally I seem as sharp as I’ve always been. My ability to solve relatively difficult crossword puzzles remains intact and I have yet to find myself standing in a public square with my pants down around my ankles wondering how I got there. Physiologically is where the most obvious signs of old age are beginning to creep in and I am beginning to experience peripheral glitches in my biological processes.

Last night my wife and I went out to dinner at one of our favorite Italian eateries. We started off the evening with an antipasto sampler consisting of deep fried slices of Mozzarella cheese, Bruschetta with a delightful diced vegetable and olive oil topping and Calamari. I followed this up with a cup of delicious lentil and spicy sausage soup and bread. Just before the entree of shrimp cooked in a lemon butter and garlic sauce and served over angel hair pasta arrived I enjoyed a Caesar salad with fresh anchovies. For dessert I enjoyed one cup of espresso and some wonderful Cannoli.

It was a feast fit for a king and afterwards I was completely sated. It was a while and a second cup of coffee before I could even consider standing up and leaving the table. If not for the grumbling crowd of eager diners waiting in the wings I’d probably have stayed until a nap had been completed. Felicia usually frowns upon my public after dinner naps but she’s grown used to them and I can usually get in a good ten minute rest before she kicks me under the table.

So we pay the check, the waiter thanks us for choosing Carrabba’s and feigns a passable show of hoping Felicia, Myself and our child will dine in with them again in the near future. We exit the establishment and begin crossing the parking lot in preparation of heading home. Little did I know that I was about to experience one of the most unexpected, loud and embarrassing moments in recent memory.

Just as Felicia is about to complete the task of securing Micah in his car seat I let rip with one of the longest, loudest and smelly farts ever to escape my butt cheeks. It happened without warning and no one was more surprised than me when it happened. Now, we’re not talking your every day run of the mill fart here. This was a trumpeting blast the likes of which have not been heard in the Miami Valley since the great Tyrannosaurus Rex roamed the fertile forests of the world.

It shook the very ground upon which we were standing and shattered car windows and set off alarms in a forty foot circumference around the initial blast area. It wasn’t until I heard the muffled cry of a woman slightly behind me and to my right that I realized anyone else was in the vicinity of our car. As I turned to apologize I watched as the woman wilted like a dying lily in an English garden and fell to the asphalt gasping like a fish out of water. I was mortified and even more so when her husband and son had to fireman carry her out of the death cloud and into the safety of the restaurant foyer before they fell to their knees and began retching and vomiting themselves.

Micah burst into laughter and before it dawned on me what she was doing, Felicia had closed the car door, raced around to the driver's side, entered the vehicle, locked the doors and started the engine. The last I saw of her she was nothing but screeching tires and red taillights screaming into the night. Although I don’t fault her I sure expected a bit more from her being the father of her baby and all.

Well, it wasn’t long before the restaurant managers and curious patrons began coming outside to see what was happening. After the first few individuals began turning green and hitting the pavement people were soon trampling each other to get back inside to the air-conditioned safety of the dinning room. Shortly after that the fire trucks arrived along with a couple of Hazmat teams. I was then stripped, isolated inside a decontamination tent and hosed down with a variety of air jets, foams and chemical agents. It was anything but one of the high moments in my life...

Yes, I agreed to pay for the unfortunate family’s taxi ride home, seeing as it will be a while before their car is fit to drive again, if indeed it ever will be. After bathing in a washtub of tomato juice for three hours, Felicia finally let me into the house where I got to sleep in the basement for the night. Again, although I don’t fault her I sure expected a bit more from her being the father of her baby and all.

It was a tough night and I guess I learned a valuable lesson. I think it’s maybe time I begin accepting the fact that I’m not nearly as young as I used to be. Can anyone tell me if Depends are as effective at absorbing accidental gaseous discharges as they are the liquid ones?

I think I have a need to know.

January 13, 2008

Paperback writer...

* I've received a few emails recently asking how I come up with all the material for my blog. It is a question I get asked on a pretty regular basis so I thought I'd post one of my short stories and I hope it answers all of your questions.

Yes, I write short stories too. What, you thought I only blogged?

Monkey Business


Dirk Bauman

Just the other day I was sitting at my typewriter, waiting for inspiration and wondering what the devil I was going to write about. I knew it wouldn’t be him because I’d just finished a story about the occult, and the cloven hooves were back in their box and consigned to the closet floor along with the rest of my footwear collection. The bachelor’s usual assortment of tattered sneakers, beach sandals and mismatched flip-flops. I digress...

Nothing was happening. Zip... Nada... No matter how hard I stared at the blank white sheet of paper sitting in my typewriter, it stayed pristine and unsoiled by any words of plot, exposition or dialogue. I couldn’t even think up a decent title to get me jump started. The minutes ticked by. Slowly... And slower still... When at last I could stand the mockery of the plain white surface before me no longer, I stood up from my work desk and walked across the room to stand by an open window.

The day was lovely. The sky was clear of clouds and the sun shined down upon a group of small boys playing a game of baseball in the street below. “Swing, batter, swing,” chanted a sandy-haired boy of about eleven as he crouched down in the short stop position between second and third base.

“You swing like a girl,” yelled a pudgy boy wearing a Red Sox cap. “Come on; send one out here, if you can!” The pitcher looked in to the catcher and delivered the pitch. There was a loud crack, the hitter dropped the bat and began running to first base.

“No inspiration there.” I turned back and faced the typewriter across the room. “You will not defeat me, foul mechanical beast.”

What, like you’ve never talked to an inanimate object? Spare me your judgmental attitude. Have you ever so much as written an original word in your life? Oh, I know where your ideas come from. You find them on the Internet; where you purchase them from cheaters dot com. You disgust me.

I am a real writer and the words that I type are my very own. The plot lines and dialogue of my characters come from the very depths of my soul. I am an artist and the white page is my canvas. Again, I digress...

I paced back and forth across the room and concentrated on composing myself. I focused my thoughts and regulated my breathing until I felt calm and centered.

Once more I sat down at my desk and took a long slow breath. I exhaled slowly, clearing my mind of all external distractions and focused upon the clean white page waiting for the first line of a new story. I leaned slightly forward and with my hands hovering over the keyboard wiggled the tips of my fingers. “Come on baby,” I muttered quietly. “Daddy needs a new concept. Come to Papa.”

* * * *

Nothing. The big blank. The cold dark vacuum of inner space. Only silence where there should have been characters clamoring for self-expression. I lifted my hands and rubbed my eyes. I rolled my head once and then shook it as if trying to shake off the fog that seemed to engulf the creative side of my brain. “A-r-r-r-a-g-h,” I let out a primitive growl hoping to connect with my primal inner lion. “Come forth, oh great tawny beast and prowl the hot steamy veldt of my imagination. Hunt down the hiding gazelle of a story-line and leap upon it like the fierce predator that you are and bring me its flesh.”

Again I perched my fingers above the typewriter keys and waited for the magic to happen. The great lion lifted his great face to the skies of my mind and sniffed the air. He prowled the fields of my hopes, my dreams and even walked the normally fertile trails of my darkest fantasies. He searched and hunted like a prowling animal. He looked in the tiny holes where the inklings dwelled. Nothing stirred. He could not find a morsel to feed upon, not even a hint could he stir forth from its mouse-like burrow. I began to grow fearful, and warm shiny beads of sweat broke out upon my brow.

“Its writer’s block!” you bellow. “You’ve fallen into a quick-sand pool of writers block. Don’t move we’ll throw you a line.” Oh you and your shallow puns.

The answers are always so apparent to the reader. You have the advantage of hindsight, so conveniently provided in the finished product; whereas, I am stuck wandering lost and blind in the uncharted immediate moment of the creative process.

Oh yes, I hear you now, but where were you when I really needed you? Were you writhing in the throes of ecstasy as you shared the lust-filled pages of some other author’s tales of forbidden love? You think I don’t know, but I am well aware of how easily you share your affections with any old Tom, Dick or Patterson. You are literary nymphs flittering from one book to another. You are novel whores!

The truth of the situation dawned upon me at last. Horrified, I trembled as the realization sank like a plumb-line into the dark waters of my deepest fears. I was indeed stuck in the quagmire of every writer’s worst nightmare. Sobbing I rose from my swivel-chair and lifted my arms to the ceiling above me and cried out to the heavens, “Why has thou forsaken me, Muse? What have I done that you would abandon your humble servant in his hour of need? Why, oh why, why!”

Lowering my arms I held my face in my hands and cried like an abandoned child.

* * * *

Washed up at last upon the shores of humility I wiped the tears from my face and lowered my eyes to the floor. I knew what I must do. And, though I dreaded what was next to transpire, and yea though it filled my stomach with a fluttering queasiness, I steeled myself for the ritual I had to perform.

(My fellow writing brothers and sisters, I pause here to offer an apology in advance for revealing esoteric secrets of our craft which have remained hidden for so many eons. But, our readers deserve an answer to the question they so often ask of us. “Where do your ideas come from?”)

* * * *

Wait for it impatient readers. All will shortly be revealed.

In that moment of clarity, striped of my foolish pride I prayed to the Muse and uttered the magical words, “Not my will, but thy will be done.”

Trembling, I unfastened the belt holding up my trousers. I dropped my pants down around my ankles and removed my boxer-shorts. It was done. Now would come the moments of waiting. Would the muse hear my pleas and send the agents of her creative spirit? Sweating, I could only wait and pray.

* * * *

Oh, the horrors we, the humble authors, endure to bring you, our ardent fans, the tales for which you continually clamor. If you would only dine upon our words at the same pace in which we pen them. Instead, you feast upon our efforts like ravenous beasts of the field. Sentences upon which hours were spent, chapters over which we labored for days, stories worked and reworked for years. You treat our labors as if they were fast food items. You scan, you speed-read, and you ignore entire sections of our labors, choosing only to chew lustily upon the tawdry bones of innuendo and the occasional side order of sleazy sex scene. You ignore the subtle interplay of complex story lines and character development. You demand new books as if we were short order cooks.

* * * *

Suddenly, I began to feel the first rumblings from deep within my bowels. Could this be the sign I was waiting for? Were my fevered supplications to be answered at last? And then I felt the first stirrings of movement. They were coming...

Like rounds being loaded into the chamber of a gun. I felt the tensing in my colon. Then the inevitable pressure, building slowly at first and then gathering force as the alimentary canal began flexing in preparation. I looked to the heavens. “Thy will be done,” I uttered. Then I closed my eyelids and embraced the darkness of my mind.

B-r-r-a-a-a-p! The great sphincter cannon fired.

Once more the gaseous trigger erupted, and the cannon roared again! B-r-r-r-a-a-a-p-p-p! P-h-u-t, P-h-u-t...

Only when I heard the buzzing did I open my eyes.

* * * *

They had come. The simian servants of the Holy Muse had indeed flown forth from my buttocks and were swirling around the room. Ping-pong ball sized bodies, burnt sienna in color with black stripes around the midsection, translucent tan colored bumble-bee wings between the shoulder-blades. A great brownish cloud of anal-incense surrounded the swarm as it whirled around the ream of paper sitting beside my typewriter. I watched as their soiled white faces broke out in terrible toothy grins. Around and around my desk they flew, wings buzzing and gnashing their tiny sharp teeth. The butt-monkeys, the primate angels of the great and powerful Muse.

Soon they began pooping little orange balls of excrement upon the blank white sheets of paper and then strewing the pages every where around the room. It was a sight that every writer knows all too well. I bowed my head, closed my eyes and listened as the idea monkeys whirred, buzzed and pooped their way to a literary creation. Judging from the time that passed, and the speed at which sheets of paper floated to the floor like rustling snowflakes, a brand new series was in the making.

At last the noise ceased and I began the process of gathering up the fallen sheets. I paused now and then to read a paragraph or two as I organized the pages into chapters.

* * * *

Yes, dear readers, at last the awful truth is revealed. Now you know why we smile when you approach us at book signings or conventions and say things like; “Hey this book really stinks! Your book is a real piece of shit.” It is because you are closer to the truth than you suspect.

The next time you are standing in the presence of your favorite writer, do not bother to ask where their ideas come from. Instead, smile conspiratorially, give them a little wink and check out their ass. You just might be rewarded with the muffled sound of the sphincter cannon. Who knows, you may just have witnessed the birth of a new story splattered upon the white canvas of his or her underpants. After all, the Muse works in mysterious ways.


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