The muse of distraction

My head’s been in a strange place of late. While my shoulder heals well ahead of schedule, my sleep still falls victim to it’s ache. My normal sleep habits – a mess at the best of times – are now completely fractured. It’s no secret that I’ve been had hell’s own time writing recently, to […]

My head’s been in a strange place of late.

While my shoulder heals well ahead of schedule, my sleep still falls victim to it’s ache. My normal sleep habits – a mess at the best of times – are now completely fractured.

It’s no secret that I’ve been had hell’s own time writing recently, to the point where I had lost all care or interest in it. But over the last couple of weeks, I’ve begun to feel the return of some faint muse.

Characters are starting to regain their voices. Only, they are doing so in the middle of the night.

Every night this week, when I’m just down far enough into the well of sleep that I can’t drag back out without struggle (or caffeine), I start thinking of things I need to write. Characters, stories, themes, settings.

I actually got up one night over the weekend, with this piece of dialog in my head:


“Where’d this come from,” she asked me, running a finger over the faintly puckered skin above my right ear.

The scar itself was numb, but the skin around it was oddly sensitive. It tingled when she traced it’s jagged outline.

“Walked into a door,” I said.

She stroked my scalp, the day and a half of stubble making a faint scraping sound.

“I like it,” she said.

It wasn’t much, but it was enough. I could visualize the woman – her short, stylishly cut hair in some perfect honey shade, her mellow voice, her skin tan and just beginning to show her fourty years. I knew the narrator; a sort of stock character out of my head – big, road-worn, a bit taciturn, and with dark secrets in his past. I knew how they wound up together, and where they were (her bed, with late afternoon sun through expensive curtains, fading light on sex-tossed covers the color of caramel. I had her entire house in my head, her colors, her expensive, understated taste. I even knew what car was parked (somewhat crookedly, like she’d been in a hurry) in the carport beside her house.

I knew the conversation, up until he opens his mouth, pauses, and then begins to tell her his story. And then it ran out. I didn’t know what the story was. Or to be more specific, while I knew what story he’d tell her, I didn’t know what THIS story was, that I was telling.

I wrote it down, and saved it. A small victory; the first bit of fiction that’s gotten all the way out of my head and onto (virtual) paper in more months than I can remember.

But it’s been that way every night. Last night, a pair of characters wandered into my head and tried to talk to me. A female young traveler, and the mate of some craft, making a lonely traverse. I don’t know if this was a ship crossing bodies of water, or some spaceship crossing unimaginable gulfs, or an airship in some steampunk past-future. But I could hear her voice, and hear him tell her how everyone else on the ship slept, his low rank leaving him on the bridge.

They never got to the point where it became a story; just a setting, faces, emotions (pride, loneliness) and an physical environment of cold and isolation.

Today, I tried to write a bit of that down, but I had nothing. I couldn’t summon the scene, merely it’s description. Like all the veins of creativity I’ve encountered between sleep and wake, it was small, and not found again once lost.

Inspiration, for me, is profoundly elusive. I have never found a way to turn it on, and so often find it slipping. The muse of distraction speaks more loudly, always, than that of creation. But at least I begin to hear those whispers. I’ve missed the voice of creative inspiration.

I don’t know anything

One of those Gurus songs I’ve never really payed attention to. Damn, what a great song. I Don’t Know Anything – Hoodoo… I’ve got a lot to learn And bridges that I still have not burned. UntiI I find a way I’ll only end up back where I am today but I don’t know anything, […]

One of those Gurus songs I’ve never really payed attention to. Damn, what a great song.

I’ve got a lot to learn
And bridges that I still have not burned.
UntiI I find a way
I’ll only end up back where I am today but
I don’t know anything,
Anything at all.

I know that I ain’t smart.
I get tangled up in the strings of my heart
So tight I cannot breathe
I’d cut them if I knew what was good for me but
I don’t know anything,
Anything at all.

I must be the king of fools,
A court jester making rhymes in nursery school,
Like: “Jack be nimble, Jack be quick
You can blow my candle, Jack, if you can
teach me how to light my wick ‘cos
I don’t know anything.

HNT leg ink

It’s been a really long time since I participated in HNT (Half-Nekkid Thursday), but I figured, I might as well.

My legs, oddly, are the least-tattooed part of me. That needs solving. However, I’m having trouble deciding what to do next.

I have several ideas for smaller tattoos (pinup designs mostly – pirate wenches and hula girl, etc). I also just found this image (Thanks to the lovely and talented Merrick), which I’m in love with, but can’t quire decide where to put. On the other hand, it’s the last major empty area on me, so it’s the last chance to plan a big tattoo.

For big tattoos, I’m pondering both a major polynesian idea, and a big, classic japanese piece with classic subject matter (dragons, warriors, etc). Both would start on the though and expand down to consume most of the space on my lower leg (as much as is free).

So the first choice is, once big one from thigh to ankle, or several separate smaller pieces.

(images after the cut, click images to embiggen, if you realy want a close look at my legs)

Read more “HNT leg ink”

the polynesian tattoo

My friend Tricia Allen has a new web site (finally). She’s the tattooist who did most of my Polynesian work, and is, I think, one of the world’s leading experts on Polynesian tattooing. Go check out the new site at ThePolynesianTattoo.com (that’s not Tricia, but it is some of her work)

My friend Tricia Allen has a new web site (finally).

She’s the tattooist who did most of my Polynesian work, and is, I think, one of the world’s leading experts on Polynesian tattooing.

Go check out the new site at ThePolynesianTattoo.com

homepage-photo.jpg

(that’s not Tricia, but it is some of her work)

Gangster Grandparents

Chuck and Cookie Dillingham, circa 1927. My grandparents on my mother’s side. (click to embiggen) He was from southern Oklahoma. She was a daddy’s girl from Sherman Texas; her name was Hazel, though I never once heard her called anything but Cookie. They were drinkers, card players. She was a flapper with temper – he […]

Chuck and Cookie Dillingham, circa 1927.

My grandparents on my mother’s side.

ChuckAndCookieSepia.jpg

(click to embiggen)

He was from southern Oklahoma. She was a daddy’s girl from Sherman Texas; her name was Hazel, though I never once heard her called anything but Cookie. They were drinkers, card players. She was a flapper with temper – he was an inveterate ladies man, a baseball fanatic, a guy who liked to dance. He was ten years her senior, a dashing, masculine figure who loved fast cars and what she called ‘dirty blonds’.

He worked for the merchant marine in the years after WWI, then later, after they married and had their one daughter, they ran a diner in Long Beach (Chuck ‘n Cookie’s Diner). Later, they lived in Reno where he made a living playing poker (often as a shill for casinos, one of those guys paid to play on the house’s dollar, to dither people to the tables).

Cookie named her daughter Greta, after Greta Garbo. She loved movies and elegance, and felt deep shame over her own working class background. Low-class, she’d say, her favorite adjective for anything she didn’t like. There was nothing more loathsome to her.

The list of things I don’t know about them is far too long; things I should have asked my mother to write down. I have only a handful of photos, and an old photo-diary of Cookie’s. I don’t know when or where or how they met – I don’t know if it was at some bonfire my lake Texoma, or at some wild jazz dancehall, or if they met in Long Beach where he worked in the ship yards.

When I knew them, they were a retired couple. He smelled like tobacco and smoke, from the pipe he always had in his mouth or his hand. She smelled of gin and butter mints, and always had a jar full of cookies (which as a child I found ironic – gramma Cookie gave us cookies). When I knew them, they lived in an odd, incredibly tidy upstairs apartment in Long Beach. We saw them rarely – we lived in mostly in norther californis, they in southern. A couple if visits a year at most, apart from the one year we spent in east north-east LA when my father worked at at Cal State).

Later, her drinking got away from her. She’d struggled, my mother told me later, for most of her life. She was the vodka-for-lunch type of drinker, the flask in the purse type. She was also, most likely, bi-polar or something similar; the mood swings were worse when she drank. One day she had what people used to call a ‘nervous breakdown wandered away, and no one saw or heard from her for a week.

My grandfather faded after that; Cookie was in and out of a home, never really the same. As his health failed, we moved him north. He lived with us for a couple of years, before his heart finally gave out. he was near 85, and still fierce and proud, listening to sports on the radio and smoking his pipe.

Cookie held on longer. Her mind trickled away slowly, and each visit was harder for my mother, as Cookie asked who are you and what have they done with my daughter.

I never knew them, not in any real way. My mother’s relationship with her mother was strange, hostile and bitter, and I Cookie only as a plump little story-book gramma who cooked and handed out snacks.

What I have of them, the image that for me most defines them, is the picture above. That picture sat on our mantle from the time Chuck moved into our house; I saw it every day when I lived at home, every time I visited my mother after I moved out.

Who knows what story lives behind that picture; honeymoon? Road trip south, for the wild border-land fun of 1927 mexico? My mother was born in late 1928, so cookie would soon lose her flapper’s figure to pregnancy (she never regained it.)

In my head though, they are Bonnie and Clyde. There’s a shotgun under the seat in the car, maybe a tommy gun in the rumble seat (hidden in a violin case, of course.) He’s got a .45 under that jacket, and a straight razor in his pocket. She’s got a little pearl-handle .25 in her bag, and has used it more than once.

The money they’ve been spending, on a romantic trip to Tijuana, is ill-got and quickly gone.

And whose shadow is it in the foreground? She took that picture? It’s ominous, somehow, and all the more when we imagine them wheeling away in a hail of bullets, maybe minutes after this picture is taken.

My grandparents never were gangsters. He was an average guy, who worked average jobs. They didn’t own weapons, or have a secret past. But that’s how I know them; the wild and dangerous young couple on the back of a model-T ford. She’s the very image of a moll, and there’s something about his shadowed eyes and the un-easy set of his hands that says potential for violence.

I love these people – these grandparents who never existed. I want to meet them, and hear the stories they’d tell. I want to visit Cookie in jail, bring her cigarettes, and ask her about the day the road ran out for them, and how it ended.

They have a story to tell, those two. I just don’t know what it is, yet.