Sunday, March 27, 2011

Plane Ticket

Saturday, March 26, 2011 - Long Beach, CA

Booked my plane ticket today - Greece here I come! I didn't get a very good price, but (in part) because of the fighting going on in Libya and the accompanying oil speculation flight prices have been rising steadily for the last month - so I figured I had to cut my losses and book something or risk prices going even higher over the next couple of weeks. I'm not very good at spending money, so it makes me uncomfortable to throw down that much at one time. But it had to be done and now at least it's out of the way. So from June 1st to August 8th I will be on road. It's been a long time since I've had an adventure like this - and I need it! I really need it ...

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Goodbye Hemingway, Etc.

Friday, March 25, 2011 - Long Beach

A day off, sort of. I have to do some work on a few lectures, but it's pretty laid back stuff that shouldn't be too unpleasant. Other than that I think I'll go for a beach hike (the sun's shining today, against the weather people's dire prediction of lashing storms). Might work out with the weights as well. Feeling a little lazy, but the good kind of lazy. I've been up since about 8:30, but have been lying in bed reading for about an hour, the Palin diaries and my Lonely Planet book on Greece. I'm not in a hurry to do much of anything today, which is the best way to approach a day, I've found - because it means I'm going into things in a relaxed mood, if nothing else ...

On the subject of reading ... I decided to abandon The Sun Also Rises, as I've rediscovered the fact that Hemingway really bugs me. There is something of the phony in him; I can't escape the feeling that he's always playing a role, the Great Writer, the expat, the Great White Hunter, the sportsman, the man's man, whatever. Despite this, there is a lot of good stuff going on in his work, but I'm past the stage in my life where I'm willing to wade thru the bullshit to get to it. I also have just got to accept that I can't go back to writers I once explored deeply. When I seriously read an author I work my way down to the marrow; I really tear him/her up and suck out everything I can use. When I'm done there's nothing left there for me, not even nostalgia - I have to leave that writer behind completely. Because of this, some of my favorite writers, writers who really moved and influenced me - such as Henry Miller, D.H. Lawrence, Knut Hamsun, and Charles Bukowski - are dead to me now. Hemingway wasn't the influence that these other writers were, but I did read the hell out of him at one point - and so even with him I can't go home again. Plus, I'm just really sick of novels at the moment. I need to be reading other kinds of books ...


One interesting thing is going on. My mom has decided to put her condo in Stanton up for sale and is looking for a house in Long Beach. She's tired of the drive here, which she makes continually, as she's always babysitting for my sister. It'll be a good move for her. We all hate her place in Stanton, as well as the town itself (it's a nasty, dirty, trafficy, crime-ridden hellhole). She'll have a lot more visitors once she settles here, and will be generally happier, I'm sure. From a selfish point of view, this might improve my relationship with her a well. Maybe if we see each other in a more casual way - where visiting isn't an event - our interactions will be less formal and pressured. A son can always dream ...

Friday, March 25, 2011

Diary Issue and Ripping Yarns

Wednesday, March 23, 2011 - Long Beach, CA

I'm already noticing a problem with doing an on-line diary: I'm finding myself very reluctant to write about my interactions with other people. I'm extremely aware that it wouldn't take much for me to violate someone's privacy. I also simply don't want to hurt people's feelings. We all think and feel things about others - often about those we really care about - that, if revealed in the wrong manner and at the wrong time, could create painful or at least needlessly awkward situations. For now this doesn't matter too much, as I'm so busy I'm quite isolated from others. But this state of affairs won't be going on much longer. I'm not sure how I'll handle this change. A diary where I don't write much about people other than myself would be a strange beast indeed - and probably quite boring. Curious to see how I work my way thru (or around) this potentially big limitation ...


Nothing much new going on to write about. It's been pouring rain off and on the last couple of days and there's supposed to be more storms on the way, so I've been trapped indoors. When I haven't been working I've been doing a bit of reading, mostly the Palin diaries and a bit more of Hemingway (which I'm already beginning to sour on - more later on this subject). Speaking of Michael Palin, I picked up a copy of  Ripping Yarns, the BBC series he did after Monty Python's Flying Circus. I can't decide how I feel about these shows. They're very different from Python. They're little half-hour movies really, all set in the time from World War I to the 1930s, which do take-offs on very English subjects, such as the Raj and Agatha Christie-style murder mysteries. Some very funny moments, but, I don't know, they seem a little slow and not quite on target. It's almost as if the comedy is getting in the way of the storytelling and the storytelling is getting in the way of the comedy. The result is that they don't quite succeed on either count. The series seems to have been highly respected when it came out in the late-seventies, but you don't hear much about it today (at least in the U.S.), which probably means something. I'm holding back my final judgment, though. They may be the kind of shows that need to be watched carefully multiple times before their worth comes thru. I will say that they're beautifully filmed; the scenes are perfectly framed and the color is rich and deep. In fact, they might be some of the best filmed television ever done. The acting is generally quite good as well, as are the locations and the sets. I really hope they grow on me. I can always use more Michael Palin in my life ...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Hemingway Urge

Friday, March 18, 2011 - Long Beach, CA

Still feeling exhausted. I did manage to get some work done, though. I also got out of the house for a bit, going for a walk on the beach (there beach here in Long Beach is truly a dirty, disgusting place). On my way back from the beach I suddenly felt the urge - or perhaps the the need - to read Ernest Hemingway, which is something I haven't done to any degree since my early twenties. So I altered my route a bit and headed over to the Alamitos Branch of the LB Public Library and picked up a copy of The Sun Also Rises. When I got home I lay down and read the first thirty-odd pages of it. I really enjoyed it. Hemingway truly is an original and fascinating stylist, who, when he's at his best, can be very powerful. I don't remember to much about my first go round with The Sun Also Rises, but I do recall that it was one of my favorite of his novels. Hopefully I will like it as much as I did all those years ago. So far there's none of the buffoonishness or subtle dishonesty that originally drove me from his work, which is of course a good sign ...

I wonder what brought on this Hemingway urge. It must have at least something to do with my upcoming trip, in that so much of Hemingway's writing looks at parts of the world that are outside the U.S. and interest me a great deal. I wonder if I'm beginning a general reappraisal of his work or if this is just a one off. Whatever it is, I'm just going with it. I've finally learned just to let my reading go where it must - I read only what my gut tells me to read. I'll figure out what it means later ...

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Expanding Greece, Big Scary World

Thursday, March 17, 2011 - Long Beach, CA

Having a day where I've just sort of collapsed - too much of everything lately but fun. I managed to get a little work done for school,but it was a major struggle. Read quite a bit today, some from the Palin diaries, a bit from a textbook on ancient Greece I just picked up, and also from my Lonely Planet guide for Crete.

Speaking of Greece, the trip is starting to expand. I've decided that I'd like to write a book about the experience, so I now plan on being gone for two months instead of one. I'm really happy about all this. I've always wanted to try my hand at a travel memoir and this is as good a time as any to give it a shot. it also shouldn't cost me too much more to live on the road in Greece for that extra month than it would here at home. I've also got nothing pressing to come back to until I start work again in mid-August, so why not just stay away? I've wanted to visit Greece for pretty much my entire adult life and I may never get back there again after this trip - and now that I've made the decision to double the length of my stay anything suddenly seems like half-assing it. I mean, I'd like to think I'm going to live to be a hundred plus and feel great the whole time I'm doing it, but I'd be an idiot to count on that. I'm now at the age where I'm realizing that there are certain things I'm going to get only one shot at at best, which means I've really got to start making my life what i want and need it to be. This summer I want and need Greece - a lot of Greece. So I'm going to make it happen - end of story.

In addition to reading about my trip I've started to make out a rough itinerary. I don't want to do too much planing; I want there to be a great deal of spontaneity to my travels. However, I also don't want to go in without some sort of game plan. So far I've sketched myself a nice little path from Hania to Crete's west and southwest coasts, which involves a great deal of hiking and a boat trip or two (I'm trying to stay out of buses and cars and the like and experience things in a slower, quieter fashion). Who knows how much of this I'll end up following once I'm actually on the ground. But if nothing else it should center me, which I've found to be a good thing on long trips such as this ...

[Feeling a little guilty as I write about my dream trip. Like so many others around the world I've been watching Japan sink into the radioactive mud for the the last week. It's a little hard to plan something joyous while watching something so awful go down. The only good thing about all this is that it might just be a death blow to nuclear power (and nuclear arms?). I get the feeling these meltdowns are going to be far nastier than than the mainstream news organizations (which have long been cheerleaders for the nuclear power industry) are letting on. If this is the case the true nature of this insane dance with death become so obvious to all that I hope, and to a certain extent believe, the people of the world will finally force their "leaders" to put the brakes on the use and development of these frightening facilities.]

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Little Warmth, Odds and Ends

Thursday, March 10, 2011 - Long Beach, CA

We've had two wonderful spring-like days in a row here in Southern California. It's amazing how much an upturn in the weather can improve my mood. Even though I've spent the bulk of the last two days indoors, just walking thru the sunshine on my way from class to class or to the library was a glorious feeling. As a native of the Los Angeles Basin I of course consider endless perfect sunny days to be my birthright - and if I don't get them I feel cheated. And too many rainy and/or just overcast and dreary days in a row can really make me both angry and depressed. Combine such days with overwork, illness, and lack of sleep and I can get very cranky indeed. I don't understand how people can live in places like London or Philadelphia or even San Francisco. I would become suicidal in a matter of weeks, at least in regards to the first two. I'm sure I'll end my days in someplace like Hawaii or Florida. My bones crave heat more and more with each passing year ...

Lots of little things going on tomorrow. Heading over to my accountant's office to sign my tax form (I owe money this year, which really sucks) and then I'll start the process of getting a new passport. Along with these errands I hope to do laundry and get a ton of work done for school. Not exciting stuff, but then I've given up on much interesting happening to me until this semester is over.

Getting deeper into the Michael Palin diaries. Still enjoying them. Picked up from the LB public library a copy of Suze Rotolo's memoir on the time she spent with Bob Dylan in the early 1960s in Greenwich Village. I've been meaning to read it for a while. She died this week, which put the book back into the front of my mind. Shitty reason to remember a book. Get the feeling from the reviews that I'm going to enjoy it, which will make her death all the sadder.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Bitching and Reading

Tuesday, March 8, 2011 - Long Beach, CA

Exhausted. Too much work, not enough of anything else. I'm beginning to realize how important sleep is to one's health (my lack of consistent sleep is no doubt part of the reason my cold of over three weeks has gone on so long and a big part of why I feel so worn out in general - duh!). Nothing to do but trudge on, though - I've committed to this schedule and there's really no way I can get out of it. Things will soon be looking up a bit, though. Because the schools I teach at have different Spring Breaks I'll only be working part time for the following two weeks. This should improve my health and my mood (though I still have a lot of catch-up work to do during this time). After that I have six hellish weeks of non-stop teaching Once that's over, though, summer will be on the horizon, which means Greece and freedom. Thoughts of this trip should keep me going.

Been reading the first volume of Michael Palin's diaries (The Python Years) in my free moments. I'm really enjoying getting the low down on all the Monty Python behind-the-scenes stuff. John Cleese thus far is coming off as a kind of brilliant self-absorbed jerk who really has no clue that he's being a jerk (which is of course pretty much what self absorption is all about). Eric Idle comes off that way too, but to a lessor extent, and in a more flighty and poetic way. I must admit that Palin's diaries are inspiring me a bit when it comes to my own diary. It's really cool to see how day-to-day living comes alive in his work and times that are long past still have meaning in themselves, without having been twisted, turned, and generally reformed into art. At the moment I long to be freed from the tyranny of the structured story. Writing the first two Backwaters novels has burned me out on novel writing (and perhaps fiction in general) to an extent I'm only just beginning to realize ...

Watching Star Trek as I write this (the old ones with Kirk and Spock). Comfort food. Time for sleep - I have to get up for work in just a little over five hours.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Getting Started

Sunday, March 6, 2011- Long Beach, CA

A busy day. I recorded a bunch of tests, wrote a lecture, worked out, and went over to Krishna Copy over on Palo Verde and got three manuscripts bound -and this on my day off! The reality is I don't have any days off. My work schedule is INSANE. (For example: on Mondays and Wednesdays I leave the house at 6:15 in the morning and get home around 11:00 at night, and then I'm back up at 5:15 on Tuesday and Thursday mornings.) I'm teaching so much and at such inconvenient times  that there's no way I can get my prep and grading done during the week, which means these activities swamp my weekends.

The good thing about working so much is that I've managed to stash enough money away that I can not only take this entire summer off from teaching but I will be spending at least a month in Greece. I've never looked forward to a summer so much in my life. I fantasize about being naked, tan, and fit, and simply melting into Cretan beaches. Mostly, though, I just fantasize about putting the breaks on in regard to pretty much everything in my day-to-day life. I just want to sleep well and think uncluttered thoughts. Or better yet, I want to sleep well and not think at all. I just want to feel, take in the world thru osmosis. I'm tired of doing: I just want to be.

Somehow I haven't let my crazy teaching life swamp my writing. Though I've been on a dead run since July I've still managed to finish Mother Earth*. I'm very happy with how it turned out. it's not the literary head-slam that Backwaters of Beauty** is, but it's a nice bit of storytelling that in its own way is every bit as good as its predecessor (it might even be better in certain respects). In the next week or so I will write a synopsis for the third and final book of the series and perhaps try and crank out a rough first chapter. Then I will begin the process of finding an agent for the series (no little underground press for these tales - they have far too much potential for that). I don't want to think about agents right now, though - I really don't look forward to having to sell myself to these folks. The business side of writing has never done anything but piss me off and I can't see that changing anytime soon.

*Second novel in a series I'm calling the Backwaters Saga. (See the "Bio" section of this blog for more information.)
**First novel in the Backwaters Saga.