Sunday, March 18, 2012

Strange Dreams and Summer Plans

Wednesday, March 14, 2012—Orange, CA

Strange last few days. I’ve been having some very weird dreams, very intense ones. The one that sticks with me most is one I had a couple nights ago. I don’t remember all the details, but in it Backwaters of Beauty was named one of the best books of the year by the L.A. Times—even though it was unpublished (how the Times got it I can’t quite say). I remember thinking (in the dream) how this meant that the publishers would now be coming to me, that I could cut just about any deal with them I wanted. This dream really disturbs me, mainly because it’s the first time I can ever remember dreaming about my writing and I’m not sure what that means. The fact that the dream was essentially about money and recognition is the truly spooky part. I’ve never thought much about making money off my writing before. In fact, I’ve always assumed that to be a pipe dream. As I’m getting more accomplished at what I do, though, I’m starting to rethink this a bit. Why shouldn’t I get paid—and paid well—for what I do? I have at least as much to contribute as most of the writers who are getting rich off their work. Still, I don’t like these secondary concerns coming out in my dreams. Money ruins everything and I don’t want to lose sight of that.

I’ve also been a bit depressed and confused because it’s looking more and more like Greece simply won’t happen this year. I’ve saved nowhere near as much money as I hoped to and plane tickets are extremely expensive because of the spiking fuel costs (Greece’s own current instability isn’t exactly a selling point either). I also don’t know what my employment situation will be in the fall—I could easily be very underemployed—so I’m a little paranoid about spending money on such a trip. And if I do go it will be a last minute thing. I won’t know what’s going on with the stupid IVC job until maybe as late as June, which means I can’t buy a ticket until then (which will drive up the cost). A part of my will be crushed if I don’t go, but another part of me almost wants to just sit home. I have a new book coming out in April and I’d like to be around this summer to promote it. If I don’t go I could also buy the bike I’ve been wanting and spend the summer here riding and surfing and generally getting in great shape, (while I throw myself into writing Sunshine Seas). This appeals to me a great deal. Another option I’ve been considering is to stay home and buy the bike, while also taking a little two-week vacation somewhere, to perhaps south Florida, which is a place I’ve been wanting to go for a while (though that could end up being kind of expensive as well). Like I said, this has been bumming me out a bit, but I’m trying to keep some perspective. I mean, my worst-case scenario is that I play in the sunshine at home all summer while having tons of time to work on a book I’m really enjoying writing. I’m a very lucky man in so many ways …

Speaking of getting in shape, I’ve been riding my bike to and from the Seal Beach Pier lately, and I plan on expanding my next run to the south end of the Seal Beach. Eventually I’d like to make a regular ride all the way down to the Huntington Cliffs, which is a healthy pedal. Some back and joint pain has been slowing me down a bit on this goal, though. All-over-the-map weather isn’t helping things either. Still, I’m acquiring the baseline from which to really get healthy this summer (no matter where I am). My goal is to leave my forties in far better shape that I ended my twenties. If I keep at the pace I’m going I should be able to accomplish this with no problem (if for no other reason than my diet is so much better than it was then).

Another strange happening I forgot to mention. Last Sunday night I experienced a crash of depression and loneliness, which was quite intense (it has to be another symptom of whatever has been causing my unsettling dreams). I was still feeling off the next day. In fact, I suppose I’m still not quite right. Overall I’m feeling good, though, so this is a bit of a mystery. My day-to-day life is a little narrow right now, which might have something do to with it. I’m just going to let it ride for the moment; I don’t yet have enough information about it to do much else.

Started another Sunshine Seas story, which I’m calling “The Adventure of a Bather #2” (it’s inspired by an Italo Calvino short story of the same title, minus, of course, the “#2” part). I’d broken ground on “Off Lombok #2,” but I couldn’t get into it; I’d just written a story that took place in Indonesia and I think I need a little distance from the part of the world before I attempt another one. “Adventure” takes place on Crete and is a totally different type of story (it’s written in the third person and the protagonist is a woman) so it definitely feels fresher to me. I’ve only just started it and I’m not sure where it’s going . I think it’s going to be a fairly substantial story, though, and also one that might take a bit of time to write.

Still reading a lot. Finished The Sun Also Rises. I liked it. Very Left Bank artsy and plotless; obviously heavily influenced by the modernists Hemingway had been reading and meeting. Still, most of the Hemingway attitude and style is there, along with many of his preoccupations. Picked up To Have and Have Not at the SCC Library today. I’ve heard that it’s one of his lighter works (he called it his worst novel), but I’m in the mood to continue this Hemingway thing I’ve got going and it was convenient. It’s short, if nothing else, so if it isn’t good at least it will go by quickly.
I also finished The Machineries of Joy, by Ray Bradbury. Decent. About half the stories are really fun. The other half so-so (there’s nothing really awful in it). He writes and publishes too much, I’ve decided. If he were to have put out only the top fifty percent of his short stories he’d still have a massive oeuvre and his contribution would be much more apparent. Been rethinking some of my Ray Bradbury comments of my recent posts, in regards to my goals as a writer. What I want to be able to do in bring the joy and wonder his work exudes into a deeper context. I’m still figuring out exactly what I mean when I say this. I think Sunshine Seas will eventually go a long way to answering this question for me.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

More Hemingway, Still Writing, Adios Alcohol

Thursday, March 08, 2012—Orange, California

The warm weather is back. But unfortunately I’m trapped inside today; I’m stuck at school, waiting for my afternoon Physical Anthropology class to begin. After today Irvine Valley College goes on Spring Break. The following week Santiago Canyon College goes on Break. So I’ve got two pretty cushy half weeks in a row coming my way. I’ve got some catch up to do for school, but not a lot. So I’m hoping to relax a bit, do some work for Burning Shore Press, and get a fair bit of writing done.

On that subject, I finished “Off Lombok.” It’s a fun little story. It’s also inspired a second story in the same location whose working title is “Off Lombok #2” (I’m such a clever boy). I hope to break ground on that one today. I’ve also got at least three more stories swirling around in my head that are ready or near ready to come out, plus a few more that could coalesce soon. I’m amazed at how much fun I’m having with these pieces, and how satisfying they are to write. So far Sunshine Seas is by far the most enjoyable writing project I’ve ever attempted. It’s also starting to get exciting because I can start to see how it’s going to work together as a whole, that it will work together as a whole--and this is only two tales into things! Yep, there are certain times when it’s definitely good to be Rob …

Attempted to continue my Hemingway study by picking up Islands in the Stream, one of his few novels I’ve never read. It was unfinished when he died and I can see why: I read the first thirty pages or so and I found it a to be a boring mess. I grabbed The Sun Also Rises from the IVC library today. I tried to reread it a few months back, but couldn’t get into it. Like I said earlier, I think I’m in a better place for Hemingway than I was then and this time I’m looking forward to tackling it. It will also go well with The Paris Years, which is the second volume of Reynolds' four-volume Hemingway biography, which I picked up when I checked out Islands in the Stream.

So … great times writing and great reading. Feeling a little bored physically, the need to sweat and push myself a bit in that area. I’ve been wanting to get a serious bike, a really good mountain/road bike hybrid. I was hoping to do that when I got back from Greece. Maybe I’ll try and find a used one before I go (if I go: Greece’s economy is in free-fall at the moment, so I’ve put everything on hold for the time being). I’ve been trying to get healthier in general lately. I haven’t had any alcohol since Superbowl, which was nearly a month ago, and I’m starting to incorporate more fruits and veggies into my diet. I also pulled out my juicer and have resumed a program of juicing every day. My losing the alcohol is what I’m finding really interesting. I had a few years there several years back when I was definitely drinking more that I should have. Before that, though, I hadn’t been much of a drinker for quite some time. I seem to be naturally returning to my tea-totaller ways. Alcohol has been slowly fading from my life in recent years and it seems to have stopped on its own: I didn’t make any conscience decision quit, it just sort of happened. I haven’t missed it all either. Not once have I felt the urge to drink and the way I’m feeling now it wouldn’t surprise me if I never drink again. Like I said, very interesting …

Another goal during my cushy month of March: to settle on a cover for Edgewater and to get and get the files ready for printing. Shooting now for an April printing date.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Continuing Sunshine, Hemingway Re-Redux

Sunday, March 04, 2012—Long Beach, CA

Beautiful day today, eighty-something degrees and bright sunny skies. I went for a bike ride along the beach path and then for a walk on the beach, from near where the bike path ends out to the end of the peninsula and back. Actually we’ve had great weather for the last few days and on each of them I road and walked along the beach. It’s been nice to warm my bones and get a little color to my skin (I don’t feel like myself when I’m winter pale). Supposedly this weather is going to hold for a couple more days, cool off for a couple of days, and then warm up again. Oh the hardships of a Southern California winter!

Despite the nice weather, I’ve been getting a fair bit done in recent days. I’m almost caught up on my school work and I’ve been writing as well. I’ve started a second story for Sunshine Seas, which I’m so far calling “Off Lombok,” because it takes place on a little island off the larger Indonesian island of Lombok. It’s s shorty—it will probably only come out to five or so pages—and is definitely not a major piece, but it’s fun to write and is allowing me to explore, in a small way, writing about a part of the world I’ve never written about before, which I’m finding interesting.

On the subject of literature, I put my Ray Bradbury re-examination on hold and instead have been reading Hemingway’s Garden of Eden. It’s unlike anything else of his I’ve read. It’s a novel about a three-way love affair between a young, increasingly successful writer, his impetuous equally young wife and a young woman they meet while vacationing in southern Europe. The story is interesting, but I’m finding myself paying less attention to it than the way Hemingway writes. Like a lot of aspiring American writers I went thru a Hemingway phase when I was younger, but I’m now wondering if I truly understood him, as a stylist. His simple, flat prose is truly beautiful, and unique (which is why he’s so easily parodied). I can see now that it has influenced me, if in no other way than I too strive for my own kind of simplicity, which have some roots in reading him so young. There’s also a painterly aspect to his writing I’ve never really appreciated until reading this book (there’s something vaguely Cezanne-like in his colors and technique), which, as I’ve mentioned continually here, is something I long to attain. However, I can also now see a fundamental difference between his work and mine—his detachment.

There’s calmness to his writing that comes from his ability to stand outside of even his most autobiographical work. I can’t do that—I’m in the thick of everything I do on the page. In this sense, we’re coming at everything from the opposite direction. This realization is really helping me to understand my own work, my limitations and strengths, and it really makes me want to go deeper into my art by doing a serious study of Hemingway’s writing (I tried to revisit him a while back, but I don’t think I was quite in the right place then). The Irvine Valley College Library has a ton of his stuff on their shelves. I see myself digging deeply into this collection very soon.

Feeling great overall these days, free and relaxed. I’ve decided for sure that I don’t want the Irvine job. I’ve also decided that I’m done with the L.A. Basin, which is something that’s been coming to a head for a while in me. The stress and expense of this place for me are finally outweighing all of its good aspects. Heading to Cal State Channel Islands is sounding really good to me right now (I exchanged a few emails with the professor there I want to work with and got some very positive feedback). If that doesn’t work out I’ll be going somewhere else within the next year or so. This area used to be a place of promise, but it’s best days now seem long behind it. The bioregionalist in me says stay put, but I know I’ve already done everything I can here, that L.A. can never give me enough in return. So to where? Ventura probably. And if not there? Crete? Florida? The South Seas? I’m open to all sorts of possibilities.