Sunday, August 21, 2011

Darkness and Light (whole bunch of type-cast poetry)

I have a tendency to take things much too much to heart. Last Saturday afternoon, someone removed a comment I'd made on one of their Facebook posts. I can't come up with any sort of reason why, and I was too shy to ask. I was so mortified by the experience, trying to imagine what they must have *thought* I meant, that I was practically non-functional for the rest of the weekend.

Things like being removed from a friend's blogroll paralyze me, even while intellectually I know I've talked about a lot of different things over the years, and since I haven't broken things out into strictly compartmentalized blogs and I bounce around a lot (an understatement), some people will drift away. I try to figure out what it was I did that offended, and beat myself up for imagined wrong-doings. I've also found myself stat-watching, fretting over how many page-loads I get or don't get.

And all of this is just silly. If I'm taking these things so seriously, I think maybe I need to take a step back from this whole Internet thing--or at least the blogging portion thereof--for awhile, take a deep breath, get some perspective, do some writing that will only be seen by me instead of jumping up and down trying to get attention, and then half the time not knowing how to take it if I do get some. Oh, and maybe catch up on letters for once--what a concept.

I'll be back, probably sooner than I intend to be, but I'm taking a vacation, at least for a few weeks, maybe a month or so.

So...hey, if I'm gonna go out for a bit, I'll go out with a bang... First off, here are a few poems I actually wrote a number of years ago, but refrained from posting because of their darkness. I'll count these as my final two vignettes for Art of the Letter's July challenge.

In Mortality


And something a bit more lighthearted--a little poem I wrote back in the late 90s, when I was in Germany in the Air Force. I like this one. It makes me smile.

Word Traveler

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Vignette #13 - Visitor

Figure I might as well finish them out, since I only had a few more to go to complete the #15.  OK, so I'm nearly three weeks late and it's really a little too long to qualify.  Oh well.

I think this one may grow into a short story.

Norman was waiting for Amanda when she got home, sitting on the bottom step with his knees drawn up and the old blue coat she'd given him last time pulled tightly around him.  The coat was much the worse for wear: filthy, the edges of the cuffs hanging in ragged, sodden tatters.  Duct tape patched a hole in one sleeve; greyish stuffing spilled out on one side where the tape had pulled loose.  He jumped up with an open grin as she approached, revealing a new gap--one of his top teeth was missing.  "Heya, sis!"  For a moment, he seemed about to embrace her, and she drew back involuntarily.  A shadow crossed his face; he held out a rough, black-nailed hand instead, and she grabbed on, swallowing her disgust.
"Norman," she said.  "It's been awhile."  His hand was not only dirty but also cold as ice and clammy.  It took all she had not to pull away immediately.  "I gave you gloves," she said.  "Two pairs."
He shrugged.  "I get by."  Which meant, of course, that he'd given them away.  He always did.  It was a wonder he still had the coat.  Probably no one else wanted it.
"What are you doing here?" she asked.
He looked away.  "Just wanted to see you."
He raised his head to look at her, his grey eyes thoughtful, but said nothing.  She sighed.
A neighbor pulled up in the drive next door; the woman stared at Norman with alarm as she climbed out of her car.  Amanda felt her face flush, and felt simultaneously angry with herself for her shame and with Norman for shaming her.  She managed a weak smile and a wave.  "'Afternoon, Marie!" she called out.  Marie smiled back uncertainly, and hurried up the stairs and inside, glancing back over her shoulder, her face pinched.
"Thinks I'm going to mug you or something," Norman whispered cheerfully.  He knew--that was the worst of it.  He knew, and yet...
Amanda pursed her lips and turned away.  "You'd better come on in," she muttered.  She stepped past him up the steps, unlocked the door and banged it open, switched on the light, dropped her keys with a clatter in the tray by the door, and went into the house, Norman following silently at her heels.  They'd done this often enough to have a sort of ritual, she thought bitterly.  No words were needed.  Norman waited with his hands folded in front of him while she dug out some clothes she'd picked up for him in the interim; he took the shirt and pants, underwear and socks, pulled a plastic grocery bag from the bin by the laundry room, and went up to the upstairs bathroom to clean up.  Always the same thing.  And as always, when he came down, shaven and scrubbed, carrying his dirty clothes in the grocery bag, she asked her usual question: "Have you eaten?"
And as usual, he tried to make light of his situation.  "Depends on what you mean by that.  I couldn't possibly have arrived at my current age and state of being if I'd never--"
"Norman," she said sharply, "are you hungry?"
The half-smile faded and something like sadness flickered in his eyes for a moment.  "Yes," he said quietly.
"OK, then."  She slammed the refrigerator door open and started taking out containers of leftovers, banging each one in turn down on the counter as Norman stood silently waiting in his clean clothes and his stocking feet, blinking a little at each impact.  Why was she being this way? she asked herself.  To punish him?  For what, exactly?
When the last option was set out, she turned around, leaning back against the counter with her arms folded and demanded, "Which one?  And don't say it doesn't matter.  That doesn't simplify anything.  There's chili, tuna casserole, turkey for sandwiches, or I can heat you up a burrito or make an omelet.  Which?"
He gazed at the containers, swallowing.  "Chili," he said finally.
"Fine."  She snapped the lid off, set it loosely on top, and shoved the container in the microwave. "And sit down, why don't you?" she said, pointing at a chair.  "You're making me nervous."

Monday, August 15, 2011

Lamy Safari: Official Typospherian Fountain Pen?


I would like to declare the Lamy Safari the unofficial Official Fountain Pen of the Typosphere. Seriously, how many of us have 'em? Stand and be counted!

I have two, neither of which are colors that photograph easily: an orange (medium nib), and the new aqua (fine nib), which in reality is a fairly dark turquoise. They've been my ink sample pens, for the most part, because they fill and clean easily, and because they just write so nicely. And it's nice to know if something *does* happen to a nib or converter, they swap out easily. Cheerful, bombproof pens they are.

Star of the County Down...sort of.

I think I'm going to start putting these music posts up on occasion--not normally this frequently, but now and again--primarily as a means of working on the stage fright I mentioned. Even faced with a microphone, I go dry-mouthed, so this is a good exercise: just recording them and letting them hang out there all public-like.

I can hear the nerves in this one, big time, but I'm done trying for the perfect take. It's an instrumental fingerstyle arrangement I did of an Irish song called Star of the County Down, which is often done in a more march-like 4/4 version...but this was the way I first learned it.

I swear, I *can* play in keys other than A minor. Honest, I can!

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Guitar goofing and goofing up

At the type-in, the subject of playing music came up, and someone (Justin?) asked me if I played with a band.  I answered (tongue in cheek) "Not currently."  And then spent the rest of the day worried someone had actually believed I meant it, and that I can actually, in fact, play well enough for such things.  I can't.

But I have had the guitar out more since then, out of shame, so there has been that benefit.

Here's something I came up with years ago that I've been goofing around with again: two chords, very simple melody, fingerpicked.  Lots of the audio equivalent of typos: my fingers were tired and I kept buzzing, my guitar wasn't completely in tune.  Not to mention Tam gets in his two cents at the end, sort of throwing me off.  The tune needs a title one of these days.  It's in A minor, so the "A minor thing" name on the track means that it is, in fact, an A Minor thing.  Not a minor thing.  Or, actually, it is a rather minor thing, but...

Oh, never mind.

Anyhow, it kinda feels nice, having sore fingers again!

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Find of the weekend: Sheaffer Cartridge Pen

I went to the antique mall in town yesterday for the first time in awhile (for those of you at the type-in, think a bigger, more cluttered and varied sort of Deluxe Junk, with lots of books and kitchen stuff in addition to furniture and what-have-you).  It's called Finders Keepers.  Love that place.  They occasionally have typewriters, but this time, the only ones there were electric.  One of the electrics had a really interesting san sarif typeface, but it was still electric, plus $69.  Not my thing.  However, I did make my first ever in-the-wild more-or-less-vintage pen purchase: a Sheaffer "Cartridge Pen". I figured it was an acceptable risk, since there wasn't a filling system likely to need restoration. It's a lower end pen, nothing fancy, but!

The cap is a bit tarnished, but otherwise it seems in decent condition. Friction fit cap.

It has a conical nib, which the nice folks over at Fountain Pen Network inform me is a "Triumph" nib:

(Please ignore the capitalization weirdness in the title of that thread.  Ugh!)  It has a little tip-up at the end, which I'm told is normal.  And it's a pretty nice writer--fine, but fairly wet, and very smooth if you hold it at just the right angle (something I'm still learning to do).

The cartridge missing from the box slot on the left was still inside the pen. I rinsed the pen, added a little water to the cartridge, popped it back in, and the little guy fired right up! It was a little scratchy, though, so I refilled a cartridge (via syringe) with Noodler's Blue-Black, which works better.  Eventually I may try to find a converter for it, though I'm not sure modern Sheaffer converters will work.  I have a feeling they may be too long.

One of the reasons I suspect this was early as cartridge pens go is that the instructions include info on essentially using the cartridge as a converter in an emergency--apparently assuming most folks would have easy access to bottled ink, but not necessarily to cartridges!

All in all, not bad.  For twenty dollars, I may have overpaid compared to some on-line sources...but hey, instant gratification!

Thursday, August 04, 2011

(If) There Can Be Only One

(Epic fail at doodling a recognizable fountain pen...but that's a subject for another day...)

This post is partially inspired by a question in a recent letter from Justin: no doubt bemused by the too-many pens I brought to the type-in, he asked which I preferred, fountain pens or typewriters. My answer to that question, I'll leave to the response letter (Cliff Notes version: it depends), but it led me to ponder a related question: what if you had to choose?

Imagine one day you were told that you had to pick a single writing technology, whether it be pencils, typewriters, fountain pens, ballpoints, Alphasmarts, computers, stylus on clay tablets, sky writing, or what-have-you. (In this fantasy world, this particular choice doesn't affect what we use at work, and we'd still have the Internets and all--this would just be what you'd use for first drafts, or bulk writing of whatever you tend to write: poems, letters, short stories, novels, essays, whatever. In other words, the device you use first to get ideas out of your head and into the world.)

Hopefully I won't be disowned by the typosphere and pencil comrades alike for admitting it...but I think if someone held a proverbial gun to my head (drat those proverbial guns!) and I *had* to choose, I'd go with fountain pens. Yes, they're slower than anything with a keyboard and fussier by far than a pencil, but I like the way I think with one in my hand, and the look of wet ink on a page, and the feel of a good nib on good paper. I like their easy portability and quiet nature (I'm still not one who's going to pull out a typewriter at work or a coffee house). I like the way they make me slow down and consider what I'm composing and yet let me cross out and continue without breaking stride. I like the immediacy and directness of hand-on-pen-on-paper: much as I like typewriters, there are some times when they make me feel as though I'm trying to do delicate work with heavy gloves on--as though there's a barrier in the way.

What about you? If push came to shove, would you cling to typewriterly clickity-clack? Pen or pencil and paper? Become a die-hard Alphasmartian? Or would you reluctantly set aside all the more tangible tools and retreat to the speed and convenience of a computer? Or, to throw another option out there, would you choose something wordless, like a camera? What would you pick, and why?

All that said...I'm really glad I don't have to choose!

Tuesday, August 02, 2011