Art, Writing

Write Any Way

the-girl-in-the-wood

He asks me, “What are you writing?”

Should-be-simple question.  Nevertheless.  WritING and What suggest a singular focus towards an identified goal, and if only.

Of the half dozen projects begun in the past dozen years, I am WritING exactly zero Whats.  To complete that sentence: half dozen projects begun and abandoned because (– excuses dolled up as reasons –) keep damming the river.

The biggest boulders of debris may look like procrastination, may feel like avoidance, may clang like doubt

May choke like syrup even as it caulks the leaks where the hunger seeps through

Continue reading “Write Any Way”

Family, Home, Parenting

Director’s Cut

film-reel

He blocks the dryer, wild eyes and a grin.  I duck, pump, shoot.  His wet boxer shorts whip past his ear and splat against the back wall of the drum.

“Oh man!” He turns and yanks a shirt from the washer tub, untwisting its rope of an arm from a pillowcase.  He cuts in front of me and pivots.  Past my block, he fakes then scores.  “Yes!” Fist in the air.

Continue reading “Director’s Cut”

Relationships

Strapped

buckle

“Any questions about impact devices?”
the young blonde in a bow tie asks
into the glance between us. He leans
in and plucks a braided black
flogger from the wall. “Thud or sting”
he says “is a good place to begin.”
The latter is my preference
? I say only
to myself
for now and savor the rising
inflection.

Silvered silk in the window
made my skin hum
with thirst and drew us through
the the door and past
racks of ribboned satin to the back
where whalebone stays and metal hasps
evoke a deeper growl.

A slender rod of pliant chrome
he lifts for just
a beat
then lays down
not on me
sadly but on the shelf.

Buckles I whisper as we step
back into the Christmas
lit street. We are too kinetic
for lace.
This time I hold
the question mark
under my tongue but my Mister
steals past
my cunning and teases
the interrogative
from its cave. “We’ll see
if that’s so,”
he says. “There are things we need
to find out.”

 

community, Friends, Home

This Happening

Open Now

The vet’s best guess is that our rescue dog was born sometime in the fall of 2013. Over scrambled eggs and waffles this morning Bug says, “Let’s make her birthday October 12 .”

October 12, as it happens, is a school holiday in the states. Indigenous People’s Day is what the more enlightened of my fellow American’s have begun calling it. I’ve taken off work so Bug and I can hang together, but the neighborhood kids have been asking for him all weekend. I know I’ll be sharing him and that’s just fine — it will provide some needed post-window-replacement cleanup time. Every piece of furniture in every room of the condo is still sitting three feet from where it belongs.

Now it looks like my tidying plans will have to make room for Noodle. “What do we do for a dog birthday party?” I ask. Continue reading “This Happening”

Growing Up, Learning, Things I Can

98. Things I Can Follow: His Opening Play

ice bridge card
Three triangles adorn his shirt, each framing a fairy wizard holding a sword of light. He passes behind the man carrying in a cardboard box of 20 chicken nuggets and a tub of soda. Bellies and waifs, long necks and hoodies, scruff and Adams apples. One wears a cowboy hat, several slouch under baseball caps, one comes banging in through the glass door in a full-length black trench coat.

At first the chatter deafens as it ricochets off linoleum and drywall. Cards are shuffling and chairs are scraping and players peer over shoulders at plastic-sheathed pages in stacks of three-ring binders.

“You don’t want your Shambling to run into a Foul-Tongue.”

“I got a foil ruler. I hope someone finds a way for that card to be good.”

The one with tight curls and meaty limbs is in charge. He strides through the pack, surprisingly nimble for a man so large. His orders boom out and the chatter quiets. “Modern and Standard, you’re at tables 1-12. Your pairings are posted by the thermostat.” A stir, a rush. The rest jostle for space by the door. Backpacks droop from shoulders. Darting eyes, laughing eyes, eyes that focus entirely in the fan of cards in hand. Playing mats unfurl — rubber-backed masterpieces painted with purple volcanoes or lush forests or distant flashing battles.

“Draft, you are at tables 13 up to 25. You have 50 minutes to build a 40-card deck.” Groans, chuckles. They rip open the mylar sleeves, they peer in and assess options. The room is now murmur and hush.

My boy with his surfer hair is focused with an intensity I only see when he’s facing a screen. This child can barely sit still for homework without slumping into an Oscar-worthy posture of exhaustion. Now he is perched on the lip of his chair, silent and poised for action.

When something is hard, he whines and pouts. “It’s so boring.” Then he gives up. When a new skill is just beyond his reach, he says, “I don’t like it.” Then gives up. The suggestion of a new project — “Hey, let’s go to Michael’s and get that cool glass etching kit we saw at the party!” — leads him first to take measure of the gap between what he knows and the work required. The shortest span is a bridge too far.

He gives up.

Then we are here, and everything I thought I knew about my kid’s relationship with motivation turns inside-out.

An hour passes. Then another 30 minutes. And another.

Bug only just learned about Magic the Gathering from other 8-year-old boys at camp this summer. I bought him his first cards a few weeks ago. He plays a bit with kids at school, but they make up their own game. To do otherwise is daunting. The beginner rule book for simple play contains passages like this:
 

An enchantment represents a stable magical manifestation. This means two things: you can cast one only at the time you could cast a sorcery, and after you cast one, you’ll put it on the table in front of you, near your lands. . . Some enchantments are Auras. An Aura enters the battlefield attached to a permanent and affects that permanent while it’s on the battlefield. If the enchanted permanent leaves the battlefield, the Aura is put into its owner’s graveyard.

These “basic” rules cover 36 pages. The more comprehensive guide runs to 207.

I mill around in the shop next door to the gaming annex. So many people have turned out that they’ve set up yet another long table in the middle of the store. Through their turns, the players mutter and evaluate.

“Demon’s grasp, killed the first three preachers.”

“Amaria? You’re running something new in Modern? I didn’t realize.”

“I ran Squadron Hawk for a while.”

The volume begins to rise. People razz each other, knock back Mountain Dew, stomp in out of the rainy night.

“I have too many spells in my deck!”

“And I’m all like, ‘fuck that guy.'”

“Hey, language!”

“Yeah, language, dude.”

“Sorry. Hey I’m zombie-ing my way out the door.”

It’s nearing 11pm. We’ve been here since 7:20. I walk back into the annex with the firm intention of gathering Bug up and hustling him out. It’s hours past his bedtime, and tomorrow is going to be a battle. He is seated across from a guy that looks like half the engineering undergrads at my university. “I don’t know,” the young man says, spreading his hands wide with a smirk and a shrug. “What are you gonna play?”

“Oh yeah,” laughs Bug. “It’s my turn.”

Next to him, the pink-haired player — one of only three women out of the 70 attendees — glances over and grins at my boy. She is looking up a rule, tracing her chrome-tipped finger across the face of her phone.

Bug slaps a card face-up on the table. He and his opponent lean in to study it. The man rolls a many-sided die and it tumbles across the padded mat.

I take a seat nearby and start sketching in my journal.

Beyond the rudimentary components of the cards and their procedures, the game’s Multiverse involves a level of intricacy that would make Tolkein proud.
 

The Blind Eternities are a chaotic, logic-defying place of quasi-existence filled with raw potential called Æther. Only Planeswalkers can survive there, and only for a limited time. Mortal beings without the Planeswalker spark are soon destroyed by raw entropy and uncontained mana that suffuses the Blind Eternities.

It’s some heady stuff. The minimum recommended age is 13.

Yet here is my boy, just days before his 9th birthday, stepping over the border into this labyrinthine world. He peers out across that canyon between what he knows and the skills required.

He takes its measure.

He decides.

One knot, one board, one play at a time, he begins building his bridge. 

community, neighborhood, Things I Can

88. Things I Can Offer: A Playdate

Castle Fort 2

My doppleganger lives at the opposite end of the hall. She is also a single working mom with a little boy, a squealing pup, and a sort-of-manageable custody arrangement. We both teach. We both have moms in the area who help us out but we both still struggle with childcare and doggy care. We both are juggling about 15 things too many.

We even share a first name.  Continue reading “88. Things I Can Offer: A Playdate”

Creativity, Relationships, Things I Can

83. Things I Can Rescue: The Vanishing Weekend

20150829_224248

The used car quest was ultimately unsuccessful. One gains insight nonetheless. It’s useful to practice haggling, for example, even if the other party refuses to engage participate. Also, it pays to notice tires.

I am back home and wilting on the couch. Beside me is a man whose company today qualifies him for sainthood. On his only free weekend day and for reasons I can barely fathom, my Mister voluntarily returned to the same Beltway purgatory he endures every Monday through Friday. He accompanied me as I waited for mechanics and tracked down Craigslist contacts and passed a fruitless hour in the DMV line and missed the bank by 15 minutes. He fueled himself on my meager supply of diet coke, store-brand hummus, and apples that grew steadily warmer in the August heat of my dying Saturn.

Now that we’ve limped back to my place and collapsed into our frayed knot of disappointment, he offers to stick around for the evening. Continue reading “83. Things I Can Rescue: The Vanishing Weekend”