Bob Mayer—The Terminator

I’ve met Bob Mayer.

Met him at the 2008 Pikes Peak Writers Conference (PPWC) in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I’d read a couple of his Area 51 novels. Liked them. So, I thought, here’s a pretty cool guy…why not go meet him and see what he’s like. I liked how he didn’t ignore all the security measures in secure settings and write his characters out of sticky situations by just changing the scene (and instead had to show some crafty maneuvering around said security systems, not ignoring that there are measures to detect your every move and high security places would have them!). Anyway, I thought I’d introduce myself to him.

Yeaaah, about that….

Bob has said in posts that he’s become a bit more outgoing, more personable since he’s been out in the wild, but when I first met him, well…not so much. I remember when I first introduced myself to him at a PPWC mixer years ago and I found myself pulling my own teeth just to get him to talk. After a while I was answering my own questions…and it took me a couple of sentences to realize…well, he’d long since disappeared…

It was like he’d wielded some arcane form of Ninja Kung-fu sfumare on me.

To this day, I don’t know how he’d done that.

So…I was reading one of his blog posts last weekend, his “Traits of Successful Writers II,” and I realized I just had to share about Bob…as The Terminator. In this post he says words to the effect that the best thing about writers’ groups is not the actual writing stuff…but the different characters—the actual people, the writers—in the writer’s group. Trying to figure out their motivations…why they “act the way they do.”

OMG. Flashback…PPWC 2008.

You see, Bob is an extremely observant fellow. A former Green Beret (the big white words on this webpage say it all…).  He’s always watching…observing. I say this not because I know Bob any kind of “well,” but because I’d actually caught him doing so one night at the PPWC hotel’s bar. I was a few feet away from him, hidden by and blending in with the indigenous human foliage. As I scanned the room, I spotted Bob. By himself. And what Bob was doing was…

Studying.

Assessing.

Taking in the lay of the land.

I watched as he took it all in…the people, the terrain, and (I assumed) who was a threat…who he could take…how he could take ’em…even his own method of extraction. I wondered what manner of Special Forces (SF) witchery he had concealed upon his person…you know, besides his hands, feet, elbows, and head. I was sure in a pinch he could use his ear lobes in ways that would make grown men cry…or perhaps a better way of stating this is that Bob would have men use their own ear lobes in ways that would make them cry….

Anyway, as I carried on my insipid, casual conversation…throwing out well-placed laughter here and there…I observed Bob. He seemed to flit in and out of existence (dang it, how does he do that?).

He was laser-like in his gaze. I imagined his mind…his physical vision…was something very much like the Terminator Vision, above…

Scan Mode…

Analysis: THREAT

Assessment: NEUTRALIZE

MALE HT: 510

WT: 0173

ENDOMORPH

INEBRIATED…HITTING ON UNINTERESTED HOT AGENT

Weapon Selection: LEFT PINKY

Weapon Employment: MAXIMUM DAMAGE/EMBARRASSMENT

Yeah, that’s how I see Bob. As the Terminator. When he looks at you he’s not really looking at you.

He’s looking through you.

Into your soul.

And it hurts.

He knows how you move…what your beliefs are…which foot you use to step forward with…what your dominant hand is…and what you had for breakfast…three nights ago…yeah, that’s right…nights. He knew you ate your breakfast for dinner that night. All by observing how you hold yourself, how you behave in public, hold your drink, your mannerisms. The lies you’re telling agents and editors…your friends (you bastard!).

Special Forces training.

Ninja Kung-fu sfumare training.

So, when I read that blog post, those—and similar passages—where he always asks different questions than your average non-Green Beret (like, “There’s what they are saying and there is what they are meaning.“), it brought me back to that dark, crowded bar. To observing the silent, restrained “Quiet Professional” (because, make no mistake about it, however Bob described himself to the public, to the unlucky target-of-opportunity who tries to strike up a conversation with him…at least at that point in his life…Bob was still wound up in his SF mode from what I observed…) as he continued to stalk the jungles of his past….

He was frigging sizing up everybody…the layout of the bar…and why those who built the bar built it the way they did…and what were (and are) their thoughts on the current political climate….

I returned to my conversation. Tossed out (I thought) a rather well-placed laugh.

When I next looked over to Bob—

He was looking directly at me.

Eyes laser-like. Full of knowing.

He took a sip from his drink.

Never blinked.

I peed my pants.

He fricking knew everything about me—I damned-well felt my soul being downloaded into him.

What does that feel like?

Like your guts are being sucked out through your you-know-what. And the accompanying vacuum is like a black hole in your colon.

He knew I’d been eying him.

Knew I thought I knew what he was doing….

I checked myself. Yup, still peeing my pants.

Felt Number 2 close at hand.

I blinked.

Gone. He was gone.

Had he ever really been there?

I saw him—or thought I did—a couple times after that…but every time I blinked, he was no longer there. Curiously, during the rest of the conference I had the strangest urge to tug at my earlobes, come to my feet, and belt out a few choruses of Zip-e-de-do-da! in the middle of conference sessions.

More SF Ninja mind tricks?

I may never know.

Anyway, I like how Bob thinks. His blog posts go counter to traditional thinking (pun intended). He analyzes everything.

Motivations. Outcomes. Potentials. Probabilities. Blueprints.

He is the very definition of Special Forces: unconventional.

He is someone to listen to. Learn from.

Observe.

But just realize that whatever you think you’re observing about Bob…is only part of the picture…if it’s even there at all.

Sfumare.

He’s a master at this stuff. A master at obfuscation.

A master of unconventional writefare.

And he has his Terminator Vision set on you.

*********************

Fine Print: Mr. Mayer may surely be analyzing why I wrote this. Or not. In any event, I apologize, Mr. Mayer, for the current state of my mind and whatever you unearth in there. This post was written purely for the story and nothing else (it’s always about the story with me…even if it embarrasses me). No disrespect is intended to Mr. Mayer’s Green Beret background or himself as a person—I have nothing but respect for this guy and all his efforts in the publishing industry. He’s unconventional and forward thinking. We need more of this in many areas of life and I applaud him. Thank you, Mr. Mayer, for all you’ve done and continue to do…and thanks for not showing up behind me at my desk (yes, I just checked six…) after having posted this…

…at least I don’t think you’re that slightly different-looking part to my wallpaper I’ve never noticed before behind me and why the hell are my earlobes so damned itchy….

Bob Mayer’s Write on the River site: https://writeitforward.wordpress.com/

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If Today Was Your Last Day

What would you do if today was your last day?

Would you do anything differently?

Would you live every moment as if it was your last?

The sentiment of this question and questions like this are meant to get our collective asses in gear and re-evaluate and reboot our lives. To shed the unimportant.

Be kinder.

More understanding.

More loving.

More helpful.

Reconnect with what’s important to each of us.

Concerns like this usually hit people at funerals, job changes, divorces, and other major life changes. We reflect. Go internal. Wonder what has become of our lives…our passions…our goals.

Us.

We all get caught up in the minutiae of having to eat, sleep, and clothe ourselves…most of us feeling with have to “settle” for rungs of the ladder that fall far short of our lofty goals…then we fall into depressions…cultivate shitty attitudes…and grow into miserable old men and women nobody wants to be around….

But does it have to be that way? Is there a better way?

If today was your last day on earth, what would you do differently—and why aren’t you doing it now?

While each of us are still alive, we can always change our lives. It’s never too late. But (I maintain) it all starts with our attitudes. I’ve said this before, but everything exterior begins with our interior. We don’t just blindly take action to anything without first having an internal consideration: thoughts. So, to change our exterior, with need to change how we think. Our attitudes.

If we want a better life for ourselves, it starts with thinking differently about ourselves.

Sure, we’ve made decisions throughout our lives that have taken us to “this” point in our lives…but it’s never too late to change. To say “no” or “yes” and make a life (it doesn’t have to be “major”) change. We all have to do something while we’re walking or crawling this oxygenated rock orbiting an average yellow star…but, in the interim, we can effect changes to our lives by taking the first step inside ourselves. Changing our point of view about ourselves…changing the way we think about our lives, while looking for new avenues to explore. Being open to new opportunities that “suddenly and miraculously” present themselves, once we’ve changed our attitudes.

Life…if nothing else…is about change. So, why not have that change work for us?

But don’t look to others for those answers…for the answers to changing your own life…only you can do that. Each of us are the only ones who can change our own lives…and having more money or children or shiny new anythings won’t change any of that.

Giving things away isn’t the answer. Sending philosophical confetti upon the masses won’t do that—though makes for great music videos.

Understanding who you are…taking a concerted stock in your own life

Feeling loved.

Loving others.

If today was you last day?

Make it the beginning of an entirely new life.

Mountain of Authors 2015

PPLD Mountain of Authors, 2015

PPLD Mountain of Authors, 2015

I finally was able to participate in the Colorado Springs Pikes Peak Library District’s (PPLD) annual Mountain of Authors (MOA) event! I had been lobbying Bryan Matthews, at PPLD for years. Thanks for getting me in this year, Bryan, and it was a pleasure finally meeting you!

Taken largely from the MOA website: MOA is a free annual community program that provides an opportunity for public and local authors to meet and listen to notable Colorado authors, and for aspiring writers to learn more about the craft of writing.

Bryan tells me that that they select fiction or nonfiction versions of it, but no matter who the keynote speaker is they always have authors of genres. This year was SF/F and children’s books, and let me tell you, the children’s books rocked this joint! As I (and my table mate, Jennifer [more on this later]) surveyed the interior landscape of this new location (it was the first time MOA has been hosted by Library 21c), I commented that most of the attendees were flocked at the children’s books authors. I later touched base with my writer friend Maria Faulconer (whom I hadn’t seen in a while, so nice to see and chat with you, again, Maria!), who writes in the genre (A Mom for Umande, 2014), and she told me she sold 10 books—that’s outstanding (and don’t call her mascot a monkey, for crying out loud…)!

After arriving and checking in (Maria and I met in the check-in line), I was shown to my table. One table away from the food table.

How apropos, thought I.

Jennifer Goraczkowski, MOA 2015 Table Mate

Jennifer Goraczkowski, MOA 2015 Table Mate

Anywaaay…authors were paired up two to a table, and grouped by genre. I was paired with Jennifer Goraczkowski (pronounced, if I remember right, as Gorac-zkowski), author of Crystal Dawn and Perfect Betrayal. We had a great time chatting about the event and she was quite the pleasant table mate. While I tweeted during the event, she Facebooked. Jennifer also introduced me into how to make inexpensive magnets. Will be looking into this, since the last time I’d had magnets made it was quite expensive—and they disappeared quickly! Jennifer sold several of her novels—congratulations, Jennifer!

I love these things. I love interacting with readers and writers. I mean, I’ll talk to anyone who’ll talk back (and even some who don’t), so I said “Hello” and introduced myself to absolutely anyone who came within my airspace. No one was safe. Everyone a target of opportunity. If I caught an eye twitch my way—they were mine. I stuck out a hand and introduced myself, then started a conversation with them.

What do you like to read?

Do you write?

How far along are you in you manuscript?

Hey, take a bookmark!

A couple of people came back more than once, one person—K. J.—several times. One talked about metaphysics. I met some cool, interesting people. Talked writing and reading.

These were my people!

It was fun explaining my genre (gritty paranormal and supernatural fiction) and novels to the uninitiated, and (hopefully!) I

My Side of the Table, Mountain of Authors, 2015

My Side of the Table, Mountain of Authors, 2015

made some new friends…some new personal connections.

One could say (as the IRS is wont to this time of the year) that it’s all about selling books…but, I think it was Warren Hammond who said something to the effect that it is all about making connections. These connections can be about the stories themselves…or about the author and readership.

K. J.

This spirited and bright-eyed twenty-something lass had quite the energy and Jennifer and I both loved her!

K. J. (the initials for “Just kidding”…backwards, she told us) was just starting to write and was here to learn and take it all in, and the funny thing was that after having met K. J. , another woman came by, and after talking for awhile I realized she had to be K. J.’s mother—so I asked her, and she was. Mom was 180-degrees from her daughter’s exuberant self, but no less pleasant. And getting them together was like their own little show.

Enter the topic of “Parent Leashes,” physical and electronic.

Apparently there really are electronic child leashes, K. J. told me (I searched, and, yup, it’s true; here’s one such item). It was a blast playing off the both of them on this topic and K. J.’s energy. She was young and happy and excited to be here. At the beginning of her writing career. She actually reminded me of fellow blogger Jessica Cyphers (whom I’ve never met but interact with). K. J.’s energy was…well…pure. Clean. I sensed a truly good soul here. Thank you, K. J., for stopping by and spending some of your life with Jennifer and me! I wish you well in your writing and travels!

K. D. Huxman, MOA, 2015

K. D. Huxman, MOA, 2015

I also ran into my writer friend, K. D. Huxman!

The MOA event was composed of two panels sandwiching an author showcase and the keynote speaker (Carrie Vaughn). It was in the top floor of Library 21c (“21c” stands for “21st Century”). All the authors were arranged in a horseshoe pattern about the perimeter of a large conference room, with the panel at the head of the room and the audience taking up the bulk of the room in the center. It was recorded by three cameras. Library photographers (or at least one, like Lindy) roamed the event snapping off shots. We’re supposed to get these pictures sent to us later, so I’ll post those when I receive them.

Panel 1, titled, KOPs, Goblins, & A Time-Traveling President,  was composed of Hilari Bell, Jason Heller, and Warren Hammond. This discussion yielded all kinds of great sound bites and personal writing anecdotes, like “writers are sensitive bunnies,” dealing with editors is like “Thank you, sir, may I have another!“, and “You just gotta suck it up and take your medicine.” All three described their personal journeys to publication.

During the Showcase Spotlight Bryan and Shannon (from the library) read each author’s bio to the public as they went from author to author. That was really nice!

Panel 2, titled, Marketing Your Book, was composed of Justin Luzader, Mary Walewski, and Doris Baker. Liz Pelletier was unable to make it, so Doris sat in for her. This discussed the obvious, and one of the cool statements I got out of it was for authors to build a community around your passion without pandering to the reader. Another interesting statement was to build a content plan about what you want to say through your social media. Huh. Inneresting.

The Keynote speaker was Carrie Vaughn. Originally from the area, Carrie used to work at a now long-defunct indie bookstore I used to frequent: McKinzey-White. I was so glad to hear her bring up that long-gone bookstore. I think it was the best bookstore around, and is where I met Joseph Reininger (dang it, I’d wished I’d asked Carrie if she knew him—she must’ve, since he was there when she was), who gave me a blurb for my current work-in-progress years ago. Carrie’s delivery centered about mustaches and a sense of location. And it was quite curious (and hilarious) to learn that NYC doesn’t seem to have a good sense of “mustache employment” (my words, not Carrie’s) Especially out in the West. Really? [NYC] Your only “sense” of mustaches is from Ron Jeremy?!

Carrie also had a set of guidelines (I don’t like “rules”), not for writing…but for reading:

  1. Read.
  2. Every now and then, read outside your comfort zone.
  3. Don’t be afraid to quit a book in the middle!
  4. If you don’t like what you’re reading, ask yourself why.
  5. Try to figure out why you like your favorite book.
  6. Always have a book with you.
  7. Spread the word about what you’re reading.
  8. Support your local library (received rousing applause!).
  9. Read more.

There was a lot going on in these panels and Carrie’s Keynote, and this blog post is getting long enough, so I’ve only given a smattering of what went on. When this comes around next year, do make a point to attend! Heck, even if I don’t get in next year, I still plan on attending!

And this event was so well-attended that the parking lot was totally filled! I mean, isn’t that great? In an era of everything-online, a library function was SRO.

As I sat there and took it all in, I realized I’ve missed going to these kinds of author events. It’s been really hard getting out there and promoting, because my work schedules (yes, I have a day job) have been so all-consuming (I heard this a lot from other writers), but I love interacting with readers and writers. I just always enjoy the heck out of these things!

Brandy Vallance, Waiting on "Family," MOA 2015

Brandy Vallance, Waiting on “Family,” MOA 2015

On my way out I checked back with Maria, discovering her success, and beside Maria met Brandy Vallance, who writes inspirational historical romances. But the funny thing was that as I talked with Maria, Maria and I noted all this food and drink being placed down before Brandy.

I couldn’t let this pass.

So, jokingly, I make a comment or two about this and Brandy tells us that it’s not for her…that her husband and kids are coming by.

We never saw these “husband and children.”

But Brandy, whom I met for the first time, here, was a good sport about it, and let me take a picture of her and “her food.” Thanks, Brandy! Thing is my HD camera didn’t seem to working all that great (I think it was user error), so it’s kinda blurry, but I so loved the shot’s composition and the look on Brandy’s face, I’m including it anyway.

A note of apology to Warren Hammond!

Carrie Vaughn, State Department...NOT, MOA 2015

Carrie Vaughn, State Department…NOT, MOA 2015

As I was leaving the event, I noticed Carrie Vaughn (and Warren) at their author table on my way out. They were both busy, but as I got closer, Carrie freed up, so I thought, I’m gonna thank her for her speech, so stopped by. I noticed Warren to my left, but he seemed busy with something/someone. Carrie and I talked, I thanked her–and took a picture of her—it turned out unintentionally “patriotic,” as you see, with the flag behind her. It wasn’t planned that way, but she stood right in front of it, and we chuckled about it. I looked at the picture when I got home, and thought how she looked like a State Department official…except she was smiling!

As I left, I saw Warren freed up, so stopped and talked with him. The “apology” part comes in that after chatting with him, I don’t remember if I thanked him for his part on the panels! So, Warren, if I did not thank you—my apologies. I thank you for you part on the first panel. Got a lot of tweet sound bites from you!

I enthusiastically recommend the PPLD Mountain of Authors event to all writers and readers! This is a fun, one-day gathering. Thanks to everyone who attended and participated in MOA, making it such an awesome experience!

 

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The Grotesquery

The Thing, Middle of Nowhere, Arizona. March 26, 2015.

The Thing, Middle of Nowhere, Arizona. March 26, 2015.

As we started our return road trip back to Colorado (curiously enough) two events occurred that could have drastically altered what would follow (to play off “the dramatic” and my earlier dead bird post…), and are definitely “cousins” to the title of this post.

As we headed out of Green Valley, AZ, two of us wanted coffee. So, just before hitting the Interstate, we pulled into a McDonald’s drive-thru. As we’re waiting in line after ordering, a loud hissing and an emission of a “steam-like substance” erupts from our vehicle! We turn off the vehicle, turn it back on…and all is quiet. As we get our drinks, we ask about mechanics and are told one is literally behind us, on the other side of the road. A Mr. Automotive. Long story short, we find out a relay had gone bad, causing our A/C’s internals to “vent” as it did. Freon. Well, whatareyagonnado? as my paternal grandfather used to say. So, we hung out and got it fixed. But, toward the end, we’re thinking about who wants lunch (I do) and when (now), so I volunteer to walk across to the same McDonald’s and get us some grub (curiously, as we headed across the intersection, to the mechanic’s, I had a mental image of me walking across this intersection, heading back over to the shopping center…).

I leave the shop.

As I’m walking towards the intersection—which is quite busy—another clear image fills my mind…one of me being hit by a car in the middle of this intersection. Cockily, I mentally chide myself: “Yeah, that’s not gonna happen….”

The light goes green. I proceed across.

Intensely checking out all the traffic because of my “vision,” I make my way into the middle of the intersection—when this car comes screaming out of the shopping center I’m heading toward…on a direct collision course with—yeah, you guessed it—me.

I stop and turn toward the car—throwing both arms into the air in a “What the HELL?!” gesture, as I wait for the car to stop.

It does.

In the car I see a blonde woman in her fifties or so at the wheel. Eyes wide. I think she had brown eyes. Clearly, she has just awoken from her nap, or cell phone, or whatever thing she (and the rest of the world) is in such a damned hurry to get to/from without watching where she’s going…while flooring the accelerator. A common affliction I am seeing more and more of from all drivers. Her driver-side window is open.

She apologizes profusely.

I drop my arms. I smile. I continue on.

For the love of cheeseburgers.

Sooo:

1) Coffee saved our bacon from this electronic relay failure happening out in the middle of the desert (thanks, wife!), and

2) A vision I rejected from my reality kept me from remaining down in Green Valley. Or at least, parts of me….

Onward!

We leave the mechanic after about two hours (and a fun pinball machine—thanks, Mr. Automotive, for getting us in pronto and back out on the road!) and head northeast.

One of the cool things about road trips are all the neat, hidden tourist traps that exist out there. It’s kinda like that movie, Vacation (one of my favorite movies):

“Hey, hey, easy kids. Everybody in the car. Boat leaves in two minutes… or perhaps you don’t want to see the second largest ball of twine on the face of the earth, which is only four short hours away.”

Or the House of Mud.

Or Dodge City, where you can go deaf from fake shotgun blasts across fake bars?

So, how about…The Thing?

What is…”The Thing” you ask?

No it’s not some frozen extraterrestrial creature waiting to be thawed out and eat us all (or is it?).

But it is a roadside attraction 17 miles east of Benson, Arizona and 40 miles east of Tucson, Arizona. Basically, out in the middle of nowhere (noted by the “miles east of” directions…). It’s a gas station. And gift shop. Oh, and a Museum. Where The Thing resides. And a way to get out of your vehicle and stretch your legs.

So, we stopped.

The Thing.

Now, my wife and Mom-in-law had already seen this…thing…they were just bringing me in on the fun. So, we paid our dollar-per-customer fare and entered…the lair…which took you back outside to walk between a series of warehousey building by following yellow-painted “foot” steps on concrete sidewalks. We went to three metal buildings, following these footprints, which (appropriately enough) ended back in the gift shop. In these three warehousey structures were all things that were “the thing” at some point in history…as well a crapload of driftwood art. Grotesque, creepy driftwood/root system art. Surreal. The stuff of nightmares, one could say. There were also a couple of torture exhibits I just didn’t get into…not that any of it was graphic…but just the intent…the notion of it was upsetting to me, especially since we were on a “quest for fun,” or, rather, were returning from said. Torture exhibits did not fit into that weltanschauung.

Anyway, there were some interesting things to look at besides the nightmarish tree root art, like antique cars, books, and a 1654 matchlock.

But, mainly, it was about the nightmarish tree root art and this “Thing.”

Note: the “green” of some of the images (below) was from the light illuminating through green fiberglass roofing.

Afterwards, as we munched DQ cones (did I write that out loud?), I asked the only guy at the front desk in the gift shop (there had been two others but they were now gone) about “The Thing.”

“Was it real?”

I just wanted to get “the answer.” The dude said he’d heard the owners tell conflicting stories (no doubt to fuel the whole “Thing” mystique…). One version was that “it” was found in the Grand Canyon. The other version was that it was…

Made by a company in California that makes things like this for places like this.

Okay, then.

Well, whatever it is, it got us out of our vehicle and got us to stretch our legs around this strange Compound of Weirdness out in the Middle of Nowhere, Arizona….

And it was only a dollar.

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The Dead Bird

The Dead Bird. Holbrook, AZ, March 22, 2015.

The Dead Bird. Holbrook, AZ, March 22, 2015.

During our road trip to the Scottsdale, Arizona last week, we’d stopped in Holbrook, AZ to overnight, and while there had taken a couple walks down the main street (or what we thought to be the main street) of the town. On our second jaunt, during the day (our first was at night), when we could actually see stuff, I’d spotted it.

The dead bird.

How fitting, huh, that I, who writes about the weird and the dead, should spot the poor creature?

But I found this kinda sad…that the poor winged beast had somehow caught itself in a way that had it (apparently) hanging by its neck.

Now, how the heck had that happened?

It was creepy and sad to observe that end to a life that had known free breezes and unfettered airspace. A creature that freely did what most humans long (and literally dream) to do.

But, there it was…dangling from the edge of an abandoned gas station’s overhang. It’s little head craned all the way back at an unnatural angle, beak slightly opened. Something holding it up there.

This scene just kinda held me, transfixed. We all just stood there and stared at it. We were on a fun road trip and seeing this there—at least to me—affected me in (yes…) a weird way that was actually kinda hard to describe, even now.

Death.

On a crappy and dilapidated building.

And how the hell had that happened?!

I mean, think about it…here’s this pigeon…flying (or walking) around…on this overhang…what could possibly have happened to “grab” a bird and have it hang from its neck like that?

Did it reach down to get at a bug in a narrow opening up there, then some sharp jag of metal did its deed?

Was some nefarious trap set?

Did it fly into it and somehow jam its head in there?

I don’t know, but to me it was simultaneously repulsive and riveting. Thought-provoking, obviously.

Tragic.

I’ve since e-mailed the Holbrook Chamber of Commerce, hoping it will remove the bird from the roof, if it hasn’t already dropped.

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Road Trip: Scottsdale, Arizona

Rockies and the Giants, Salt River Fields, Scottsdale, AZ, March 25, 2015

Rockies and the Giants, Salt River Fields, Scottsdale, AZ, March 25, 2015

Saturday, March 21st, myself and some family members set out on a Rockies Spring Training road trip to sunny, hot, Scottsdale, Arizona (a suburb of Phoenix). Temperatures were projected in the upper 80s and maybe 90 degrees. Those projections were met.

I love road trips.

There’s something cathartic—even metaphysical—about leaving where you live for, well, anywhere. To range out into the world. I love driving, but there’s also something to just watching the world go by as a passenger (the group of us switched off every couple of hours). Letting your mind, your thoughts, to run free. I did catch up on some reading in the vehicle, ran through a handful of magazines I hadn’t made it to at home—and no, I don’t have a smartphone, so kept my nose out of all-things electronic while on the road. I did check some social media while at our destination(s), but didn’t devote much time to that at all.

This was a vacation.

It’s always a little “weird” (my most-used word, according to my wife) when I go through Arizona. I went to Northern Arizona University (NAU),  in Flagstaff, and perhaps that has everything to do with it. NAU was my first time away from home…an 18-year old striking it out on his own for the first time, leaving family behind in upstate New York and Virginia—and I was ready for it! I still remember showing up after dark that August night, back in 1979, with a duffel bag in each hand and a pack on my back at Bury Hall…the start of the 36-year road trip that took me to where I am this very minute.

Wow.

So, yeah, maybe that does have everything to do with why it always feels a little “weird” when I return to Arizona.

Rockies and the Giants, Salt River Fields, Scottsdale, AZ, March 25, 2015

Rockies and the Giants, Salt River Fields, Scottsdale, AZ, March 25, 2015

Anyway…we drove with one set of in-laws in their own vehicle and met up with them at Holbrook to sleep (and eat…thanks, Mesa Italiana Restaurant! Excellent Italian! Admittedly, none of us expected to find Italian food here…), then, later the next day at Payson to again chow down (great food, Fargo’s Steakhouse!). After the Holbrook dinner the majority of us (someone had to drive the vehicles…) walked back to the hotel, then, the next morning took another walk over the same stretch of road before again hitting the road (one of the things I found on this walk will be the subject of another post…). Always feels so good to stretch one’s legs during road trips!

Upon leaving Holbrook and Payson we drove on to our destination of Chandler, Arizona, where we stayed through Wednesday. We had a great hotel that was about half an hour from the Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, out in Scottsdale (here’s location info, including the field’s layout). We took in a Monday and a Wednesday game against the Brewers and the Giants, respectively. Rockies won both, which was cool (“Let’s go, Rock-ies!“). This stadium was completed in 2011, which was also the first (and last) time we’d been there. I love this stadium. It’s oriented differently than most stadiums, allowing more shade for the stands than typical fields and just has a good feel to it…but don’t sit in section 104 expecting shade (seating graphic; for more shade, staying in sections 105/205 and to the west, but I don’t recall how far west [or “left”]; it could be as far as 117/217, but it’s a pretty sure bet within that range–but don’t quote me, and this is for late March!). That won’t happen until about the 8th inning [in March]. Parts of section 204 fared a little better, shade-wise. But…in section 104 (or in any of those front rows), you are only spittin’ distance from the players! So, lube up on the sunscreen, bring your hats and gloves, and enjoy the game!

Here’s a link describing the name, Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

Top o' the Eighth, Three-Two, Rockies. Salt River Fields, March 25, 2015

Top o’ the Eighth, Three-Two, Rockies. Salt River Fields, March 25, 2015

Salt River Fields is a cool complex that houses 12 practice fields for both major and minor league baseball, as well as other events. They have a really nice Pro Shop, rest rooms (I call this out, because, well, you know, if you’ve ever been to any kind of a sporting event…and The Goldbergs recently had an episode that joked about this very topic…), and the parking isn’t really all that bad, unless you need assistance. The earlier you get there, obviously the better the parking, and if you need assistance there are golf carts running back and forth, though I noticed a significant reduction in the amount of the golf carts since our last trip in 2011. But, they are available, even if you end up parking way over at the Desert Parking Lot, like we ended up on our Wednesday game (the first game we parked in the Home Plate Parking). But, if in good health and don’t mind walking, none of the walks from any of the lots is very distant, and feels quite good after sitting in a car on the drive down from Colorado! But, overall, a beautifully landscaped and laid out baseball field!

Rockies and the Brewers, Salt River Fields, Scottsdale, AZ, March 23, 2015

Rockies and the Brewers, Salt River Fields, Scottsdale, AZ, March 23, 2015

Now, about the game…yes, just being able to kick back and not do anything other than eat brats, drink Mountain Dew (yes, PEPSI products, people!) or iced coffee (even a Dunkin Donuts!), and watch baseball…quite relaxing. Though, one does have to pay attention to the game, given fly balls and errant line drives are known to happen, just like in any game, and one is much closer to action, here, then, say, Coors Field, in Denver.

But I love it.

Weird Beer Guy, Rockies and the Brewers, Salt River Fields, Scottsdale, AZ, March 23, 2015

Weird Beer Guy, Rockies and the Brewers, Salt River Fields, Scottsdale, AZ, March 23, 2015

Sitting outside…hearing the crack of the bats…watching Cargo make his signature dives for the balls (and nailing them! It was so cool to see him do one of his “give up the body” dives in person!)…Tulo his airborne pirouetted snags and burns to First Base…the breezes, the smells, the energy…it’s what makes baseball baseball, and is so utterly distant from my normal days of always being in some kind of a hurry to get something done by yesterday. It’s not like watching it on TV, that’s for sure—it’s outside, in the sun and open air…and I love that. I’m not a gonzo fan, but I love the game (played outfielder as a kid…where I could enjoy being outside and alone with my thoughts—oh, yeah, and catch a couple balls in the process—or get nailed in the chin “in the process”…). We even met Weird Beer Guy, who was still hawking beer like he was four years ago! During the Brewers game, Weird Beer Guy was walking up the steps when he saw me on the end of the row, and gave me a High Five, because I was sitting at a seat that had empty peanut shells and spent beer tops under my seat (I don’t drink beer)…so it looked like I was having fun! I was. High Five, Weird (but funny!) Beer Guy!

We did some other stuff, like took in a small aquarium and visited a relative in the Tucson area; ate at some really good restaurants, like The Claim Jumper (good God, the plate of 12-or-14-inch ribs I saw on another table!) and the Old Town Tortilla Factory—both of which we all heartily recommend! After which, we headed home, on our return road trip…parts of which will be the subject of my next posts (a dead bird and a curious “grostequery”…)!

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Sorry, No Sympathy

WARNING: Read this blog wearing ear protection–the long ear plugs, not the short ones.

Sorry, No Sympathy (check out their website, here) is defined as a “metal, melodic/hardcore” rock band, based out of Laramie, Wyoming. Their members are:

Chace Corrigan (vocals)

Josh Kirchhefer (guitar)

Trevor Kuma (guitar)

Sean McGee (bass)

Blaise Turcato (drums)

If the “melodic” part confuses you, because you’re not used to the metal rock scene, then just go with “hardcore metal,” because they are.  But here’s a Wiki link to the breakdown of various kinds of rock music (check out heavy metal). Like novel writing, there are a myriad of genres. Take a look a them; if you’re at all interested in rock music, it’s quite interesting. I don’t pretend to be hip to all the sub-genres, but I am a fan of rock music in general, love the energy associated with it, even heavy metal.

I only know of Sorry, No Sympathy because one of their guitar players (Trevor Kuma) is the son of a friend of ours. They’re on tour, and played at The Zodiac, a Colorado Springs venue, this past Tuesday, St. Patty’s Day. It was my first time seeing them play live, though I’ve seen several of their videos over the years. Wow. Such power, such raw (twenty-something?) emotion in the vocals, barked out by Chace Corrigan. To be honest, I don’t know how Chace does it, night after night…it is such an outpouring of energy, it seems to me to have to be exhausting at some level, but he shook it off afterward as if it were nothing.

Which, of course, it’s not.

Which brings me to the kinds of guys these dudes are. What you see up on stage and what you shake hands with before and after are, well, kinda different.

These guys are polite and gracious. They know they’re performing for you, and they acknowledge it. They know you could be out watching some other bands or doing something else (like sleeping), but that you came to see them, and they thank you for that if not so much in words, in actions…how they relate and interact with you. When I approached their “Merch table” (selling their T-shirts), Sean was sitting behind it and immediately stuck out a hand and introduced himself. Josh and Blaise were outgoing and, well, happy. Trevor—a giant of a man—was a little more reserved, but nonetheless friendly. Chace seemed really glad to see me, though we’d never met.  In fact, when I first met Chace and mentioned that I was looking forward to finally seeing them perform live, he said something that actually took me aback—that I hadn’t expected: he said he looked forward to playing for me.

Chace Corrigan and ERO, The Zodiac, Colorado Springs, CO, March 17, 2015

Chace Corrigan and ERO, The Zodiac, Colorado Springs, CO, March 17, 2015

Wow.

Did not see that coming.

To be truthful, I didn’t really have any expectation of what was gonna come out of his mouth on a greeting level (though I’ve seen the band’s videos), never gave it any thought, I was just stating a fact—I really wanted to see these guys play live. And earlier that day my wife and her friend (Trevor’s mom) had taken the band out to eat, and my wife was telling me what absolutely cool guys they were, and it further intrigued me, though I had already seen their interview. My wife also told me Chace was a philosophical kinda guy and was actually interested in reading one of my novels, ERO. So, I brought him a copy and autographed it for him at The Zodiac.

As I met and talked with the rest of the band members I was impressed with all of them. They were not wired and unapproachable, but all had a ready smile and outstretched hands. Easygoing, the lot of them. Not standoffish, not rude. Just a couple of regular guys, plying their trade. So, at the Merch table, I had to get one of the T-shirts.

Now, once up on stage, they went into their “mode,” and became one with their music…and Chace transforms to an unstoppable emotive force. The technique (I recently learned) is called screamo. It is a flat-out demonic-sounding, barking out of distorted vocals that can blister your soul and frighten the uninitiated, and usually trucks in forms of emotional pain, fucked up politics, or the right to be human and one’s own expression of being human. And the music…guitars, percussion…the energy…is simply kick-ass.

But…a weird and curious thing happened to me as I experienced these bands (there were four of them) that night…and it kind of surprised me…but I felt a “coming home“…is how I even noted and described it silently to myself. Admittedly, I am not a “screamo” kinda guy in that I typically don’t listen to a lot of hardcore metal like this…but I’m not above taking some in now and then…but as I stood there rockin to the four bands that performed that night, I realized I loved the raw, youthful creative energy I was experiencing. The feel and kind of energy that radiates from humans expressing themselves early in their careers…uncaring for what the rest of the world might think of them…just explosively expressing themselves for who they are and how they see themselves. You—hell, the performers themselves—might not even totally understand why they do what they do (is it past life anger/angst…current life anger/angst?), but they know, they feel this “stuff” emanating out of them…out from their souls in such powerful, emotive explosions…and this is how…this is the only way they know that they can express themselves…express the unbridled energy that bursts forth from every pore….

This…is who they are.

Take em or leave em…this is what they do.

From what I know of them, from what I’d experienced, I didn’t see them (or any of the other bands’ members) parading about the joint breaking and smashing things like you might see so much on TV, getting stinking drunk and acting like idiots…these members behaved respectfully, hell, they stayed to listen to the other bands late into the night! But within each of them is this powerful, undeniable energy that craves release…and this is their creative vehicle for it. So what that not everyone “gets it”…those that do they welcome and perform for. And they are grateful for their fans. For their outlet.

It was interesting as I stood there and took in the night, the performances, because I did see a definite tie-in to writing. The apparent “duality of being.” These guys were great guys in every sense of the word—Chace was even a good sport about posing with my novel when I asked him to (I was egged on into the photo, by the way, I wasn’t gonna get in it…) after their performance—but, up on stage they take on a different kind of “greatness”: they turn into performers giving up their lives to their creative forces. Yelling like demons, whirling around and smacking into each does not make them bad people, neither does wearing body ink and sporting piercings. All the things those without typically associate with “non-nominal behavior.” “Bad” behavior. But that’s faulty reasoning. Dismissive of the mind behind the body. The energy of the soul behind the flesh. Plain and simply it is their energy that drives them to do this…to become “a different kind of greatness”…to express themselves in the way they want to express themselves, just like when I write my novels and people ask me, “Geeze, why do you have to write about violence and weird shit?” Or with my soon-to-be-released work-in-progress, “Why do you have to write such graphic sexual acts? You a pervert?

It’s about the energy.

My work is about telling a story that needs to be told, whether or not it embarrasses me or is good or bad, and I have to be true to the energy of the story. I am the vessel for my stories (likes these guys are for their music) and I have to be me in the expression of those stories through the energy of my being. I have to bark out my own “duality” demon voice when the story necessitates it. That doesn’t mean I walk around acting out my novels anymore than it means the band walks around offstage acting out their music…it just means that we’re being true to the energy of our work.

In short:

We have to be ourselves.

And this was what Chace also belted out during one of his sets that night, “Be yourself! Be true to yourself and don’t worry about what others think!” Of course, the standard caveats apply about not hurting others, etc., I add, but the point is made.

We have to be true to the stories we’re telling…these guys have to be true to themselves…to the stories they’re telling, because, make no mistake about it, they are telling stories.

We all are.

It’s in our every move, our every thought, our every action.

It’s the story of our lives.

So, is there really a duality?

I think not. I think it’s really just another aspect—another part—of the gestalt called Josh or Trevor or Sean or Blaise or Chace.  And we—each and every one of us—have to be true to that. Be true to our lives.

So, in the end…you are who you are…sorry, no sympathy.

*****

Sorry, No Sympathy’s first full-length album “EGALITARIA” will be released early this year. Their single “Ignite,” however (the video at the top) is now available on iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play music.

Tonight, Sorry, No Sympathy plays at 8 p.m., at Jazzy’s Rock N’ Roll Grill, in St. George, UT.

Sorry, No Sympathy photos

Sorry, No Sympathy website

Sorry, No Sympathy Facebook

Sorry, No Sympathy Twitter: @SorryNoSympathy

 

I Spy Melissa McCarthy…

Okay, I wanna see this!  A Melissa McCarthy action flick!

If You Could Say ONE Thing to a Young Person…

My advice: be the best, most kind person you can be…no matter what you do.

The Nitty Gritty!

Yeaaah, baby! I LOVE this!

Thanks for pointing this out, Avi!


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