Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Dispatch From Escalatorville: Rings And Things

A man goes to a doctor for a rash on his arm.
"What do you do for a living?" the doctor asks him.
"I work at the circus, giving enemas to the elephants," the guy says.
"Quit doing that and the rash will clear up," the doctor says.
The guy replies, horrified, "What? And get out of show business?"

Step Right Up
Bess and I attended the circus last week. Invited by friends who had the good fortune to win tickets, we were excited to take a peek under the big top; even if the "big top" itself was no longer a large tent, but an amassed assemblage of wire, steel, pulleys and rigging. Though our admission was gratuitous, and the trip to the arena relatively simple - we did have to leave the planet for a little bit. From the moment we entered the parking lot, we were entirely inside the circus universe.

Strange for the Greatest Show On Earth to leave one feeling so otherworldly. I imagined a trapeze artist hundreds of feet above us viewing our journey through the realm of wonder, amazement, sequins, and commerce that attract us satellites to the warmth at the heart of such an age old curiosity.

As we approached the venue we breached the first ring of the entertainment entity - "The Perimeter of Don't Do It." Truth be told, there were more elephant activist protesters than actual elephants at this show. Both groups - pachyderms and their protectors- it should be noted, did their tasks more admirably, quiet, and calm than one might expect - without creating too much of a mess for those that followed in their footsteps. Once past their polite yet blatant posters and kindly offers of pamphlets on cruelty - we marched into the arena.

We had now entered ring #2 - "The Chamber of Forever Souvenirs." From "collectible" hats filled with cotton candy to flashing plastic glassware brimming with futuristic desert - no opportunity for thematic marketing was wasted. Every inch of every lobby portal was replete with dragon-faced squirt guns, day glow t-shirts, green screen photo booths, and electric mohawks. It took a little while, and a few tasty yet filling mementos, but we eventually escaped to the inner sanctum of the circus orbit.

We took our seats within the inner ring - "The 'I can see most of it as long as no one stands up' Corner" - and began to enjoy the spectacle. Shaolin Ninjas bending steel with their necks, manic/depressive Lions, bouncing Beefcake doing back flips, girls descending from bubbles, dwarves on wires, an over exuberant ringmaster (in suits that I may just have to steal) - and, of course, the Metal Globe of Death.

At the center of the arena, motorcycle after motorcycle entered a giant steel sphere. Risking life and limb, swirling at high speeds inches away from each other, the finale of the evening cast their engine's roar loudly into the night - directly from the hub of this target formed by those three concentric rings.

From that imagined trapezeist viewpoint - I'm sure it resembled a kind of cosmic bulls eye.

The Process
Many of you may wonder (and then quickly ignore this thought) what it takes to put the Dispatch together every time I do it. Well, not many authors will give you a glimpse into their secrets - but I'm special, and so are you. Here's a quick look at the steps that bring this all together:

1. I rouse myself out of bed. Fighting myself all the way. Even though I know that eventually, I'll sleep forever - I still can't resist trying to sock away a few extra moments of slumber here and there.

2. Make coffee. Drink coffee. Drink coffee. Make coffee. Drink coffee. Repeat.

3. I gather my notes. Sounds simple, I know - but I've got notes everywhere. In pockets to jeans I haven't worn in three days, on sticky paper that had found its way inside my wallet, on back pages of magazines which have re-circulated themselves throughout the house. My lack of organization is a real chore, folks.

4. I create a loose organization of my ideas, notes, and sketches for the piece. Then I usually throw out half of them, either because they just won't work, or I've already used that bit in something else.

5. I take a walk. For exercise, and to clear my head of all the thoughts that say "You're wasting time, you should take a few more blocks to ponder that."

6. Next, I write a first draft, editing my self along the way. Then a second draft, editing myself along the way. (I've tried do a third draft, but after all the editing along the way, the piece in it's entirety is about 5 words. Easy, yes, but not entertaining.)

7. Make Coffee. Drink Coffee. Take Walk. Drink Coffee.

8. Finally, I panic and rush to finish. Then I brag about my brilliance in the online forums as I wait for my minions to send fan mail and ask to do my bidding.

Minions, I'm still waiting.
I guess that means I get to do this all again soon.
The Dispatch From Escalatorville
Z.F. Lively, Proprietor/Clown Car Stuffer

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Dispatch From Escalatorville: Placeholder Edition

The muses and I are co-operating, but slowly. Alas, schedules have to be kept. Thus, A brand new Dispatch From Escalatorville will be released later than planned, possibly later Friday or even Saturday morning - but for folks who tune in regularly, I wanted to at least give ya something.

Herewith, a bit of a writers rehash. Posted below are many previous "This one's gonna be late" excuses and quotes I've used to justify tardiness. Enjoy?

February 2009:
"I have noticed that the people who are late are often so much jollier than the people who have to wait for them" E.V. Lucas

"Tardiness in literature can make me nervous." - Manuel Puig

"Good counsel never comes too late." - German Proverb

"There is, by God's grace, an immeasurable difference between late and too late." - Mme. Swetchine

"Life is a race, where some succeed,While others are beginning;
'Tis luck, at times, at others, speed,That gives an early winning.
But, if you chance to fall behind,Ne'er slacken your endeavor;
Just keep this wholesome truth in mind: 'Tis better late than never!" - John Dyer

Classic. from Early 2008:
"I Don't Feel Tardy" - D.L. Roth, Esq.

Believe it or not ( to coin a copyrighted phrase), my New Years Resolution was to write more often. Well, that and to listen to more Otis Redding. So, my brain awakens today determined to stop the word "failure" from riding in on the first breath of Spring.

Finally, a winner from July of that same year:
We apologize that our latest flight to Escalatorville's Vacation Paradise has been delayed. Rest assured, a full travelogue of our recent Vermont excursion will surface next week. In the meanwhile, please enjoy these complimentary snacks. We realize that you have a choice in semi-humorous reading materials, and thank you for laughing with us - and at everyone else.

Oh the hilarity, we never did publish that Vermont piece. How droll we are.

More later - "I promise..."

the Dispatch From Escalatorville
Z.F. Lively, Proprietor/Nitwit/Procrastination something or other

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Dispatch From Escalatorville: My Miniscule Menagerie

"Animals are such agreeable friends - they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms." -George Eliot

"Also, they can't read." - Me

Amorres Perros
I was distracted at work the other day by the sight of a woman mistreating her dog.

I certainly understand the use of talking to animals with short phrases and commands for training, entertaining 'tricks,' and loving offers of emotional expression. However, dog owners should realize that English is not a canines native tongue. A dog is not going to "get" a basic conversation, no matter what the motion pictures and cartoons may indicate.

Thus, I was incensed when I heard and saw a woman viciously yanking her dogs chain, producing painful yelps from the poor mutt, while yelling at the creature for it's mis-comprehension of her directives:

"I told you not to pull ahead of me! (Yank)"
"I asked you to back up! (Yank)"
"Why don't you pay attention!? (Yank)"

Thankfully, a few passerby on the street gawked, then called out and reprimanded the insensitive woman. I personally felt the need to have her leashed and muzzled. What a bitch.

O Theseus, Where Art Thou?
I haven't spent as much time as usual keeping up with our country's current political shenanigans. From my sidelong viewpoint, all the backstabbing, sexual peccadillory, and blood lust on display makes the whole thing look like a Greek tragedy in the works.

Politicians, I feel, in many ways resemble that mythic beast - the Minotaur. Sure, they may walk and act like a man, but everything out of their mouths is pure bull.

Paging Frau Blucher
Friends and I used to toss around the euphemism of the "horse girl." A term not meant as a direct insult, for the most part; the phrase merely described those middle school and younger high school gals whom spent their free time obsessing over ponies, drawing horses on notebook covers, and collecting figurines and plush dolls of equine inspiration. Boys had our dirtbikes and skateboards, and some girls had horse culture.

A vast generalization - of course, but for pre-teens in the early 1980's, these were the obsessions of our youth.

Strange now that the term has come around again. However, these modern "horse girls" are so-called mainly due to the stallion-esque gait and attitude one sees as they parade themselves down city streets. Impeccably groomed, these women painfully walk in their finest hoofgear, each foot kicked out in front of the leg, moving their heads and necks in a slight up and down motion - facing forward, looking down at anyone in their path.

This girl gives a good, and humorous example:

She's poking fun, but I'm sure you've seen them in your town. It's best not to approach "horse girls" about their stance, however - any question you could pose will be answered with either a whinny or an outspoken "Neigh!"

Apologies for a short report this week, I'm headed to the circus!
As a spectator folks, not an act - much to the chagrin of Dr. Moreau, I'm sure.

The Dispatch From Escalatorville
Z.F. Lively, Proprietor/ Stalker of Multiple Organisms - for folks who type.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Dispatch From Escalatorville: Nothing About Druids Edition.

I tend to drag my feet when chasing after the modern world. After all, I spend more time looking for my phone than I do actually using it.

When I do pick it up, I'm amazed at what the thing can do.
Beyond calling; I can send a text message across the planet via instantaneous connections to outer space satellites, play minuscule games that my 10 year old self would have required a millionaire Santa Claus to obtain, even take notes via keyboard or voice recording to use for future editions of this Dispatch. Yet, I'm still occasionally chided because I haven't upgraded to a "smart" phone.

A Quick Meditation
Very recently, I started doing light Yoga. I've never been too unhealthy, mind you, but I am kinda lazy when it comes to regular exercise. Now, I haven't been gone whole hog into the practice, yet. I'm not going to a class or workshop, or anything in front of other people - not until I'm a bit more bendy.

I'm starting slow, via video on the Internet. I can sift through a dozen methods that way and find one that's good for me - also, there's a pause button.

A few sessions in, and I've come to some basic conclusions:

A)My body has it's own mathematical system.
20 minutes of morning yoga = (90 minutes of random aches/ random muscles)
X (85% of remaining daylight hours)

B) Breathing is underrated.

C) At times, my body can sound like a Rice Krispies factory.

I do, however, feel better after doing it and, though I may never be a specialist in "Downward Facing Dog" or "Mutating Pachyderm" - I'll be happy just to be the "More Comfortable Tall Guy."

Life In A Fish Bowel
At the shop where I work, we sell ceramic, lizard-esque statuary.
--And here is when we gaze upon the power of modern marketing:

More than twice in the past couple months, I have been asked the price of a colorful "Geico."

None of the affected have purchased any Geckos either.

That's not the only language lesson in recent weeks. Soon after Christmas, a small girl asked her Dad if she could get a "Humbug Whale" - and just this past week, a boy ran in squealing - "Mom, we gotta find some of those "Sea Urgings!"

Boo. Etc.
I don't wanna bust up anyone's mythology or anything, but see if you catch my Orlok-ian drift on this one:

Dracula seems to be a fairly imposing, initially kind mannered, and probably well educated being. He's impervious to anything but sunlight, wooden stakes, and - the power of the cross. Be it the charm on someones necklace, or an ornamentation ripped from the walls of a church - in popular portrayals and retellings of the Dracula legend - a cross held to the face of the protagonist generally stops the attack mid-fanging.

This being the case - why doesn't Nosferatu (or whatever he's calling himself these days) make more appearances in non-Christian circles? He's always looking to score in America and Europe, areas wherein lay the greatest concentration of the worlds Christian believers.

Don't you think a truly smart Vampire would embrace something like the Buddhist culture? After all, their bloods just as good as anyone elses, there's a hell of a lot more of them than Christians, and they're also the least likeliest to have access to the very crosses which stop him in his night stalking tracks. It's just a thought.

If that don't work Drac, what about Atheists? Tasty, tasty Atheists.

Druids? I said nothing about Druids.
but he did (Not Safe For Work):

and so did they (Not Safe For Drummers):

My favorite time of day is right now.
The Dispatch From Escalatorville
Z.F Lively, Proprietor/Disco Survivor (Accepting applications for Application Acceptor)

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Dispatch From Escalatorville: Confessions

"My parents didn't raise no fools - I earned that distinction on my own."

Happy New Year all! The end of the year holidays always bring grand memories for yours truly - Christmas Eve marked the anniversary of the first gig for The Wobbly Toms (we are now 8 - in age and number of band members) - and New Year's Eve holds even more fantastic remembrances; I had my first date with the Lovely Bess on that night, and exactly one year after that beautiful evening - she accepted my marriage proposal. My heart is never so giddy as it is when we exchange a kiss at midnight on the last day of every subsequent year. I always look back fondly at those times - even though that episode of life begins this Dispatch's couplet of confession...

Confession #1 - Fates Flubbed The Proposal
Originally, I'd planned a Christmas Day Engagement. A couple days prior, I got a call from the jeweler from whom I was purchasing the ring - a blue diamond had become available. Bess being a fan that particular gem, and things cerulean in nature - "Fantastic. Get it!" was my response. I'd pop the question on New Year's Eve instead. Thus, I could arrange a nice proposal without the worry of embarrassingly asking in the midst of family, or losing that pricey bauble in a flurry of wrapping paper, gifts, coffee and pastries.

Then, I planned it out (For the record, Bess has never known my original intent - until she reads what you are about to): We'd go to our favorite Sushi restaurant, but on the way to dinner, I would pull over at the local library branch along the way. As it was a festive night, I'd suggest a ride on the carousel which shared the library grounds. In the midst of the ride, I'd step down from my "horse", drop to one knee, pull the ring from my pocket - and Voila!

Pretty cool plan, eh? I certainly thought so. Mother Nature, however, had other plans.

It rained. A lot. Downfrikkinpour. Thus the carousel plan was scrapped. Even if it had still been operational during the storm - we were dressed to the nines (or at least the 8 1/2s) - and I wasn't going to ask Bess to ruin her dress in the name of sheer whimsy. Pressing on, I drove past the Merry-Go-Round and onward to the restaurant. Figuring I could work my proposal into the dinner experience, I'd ask just as we ordered dessert. Perfect!

Alas, anxiety had already set in. As we pulled into the restaurant parking lot, it was still raining - and inside my head, the clouds of nervous excitement created their own weather system. We'd have to dash from the car to the front door. I couldn't risk dropping that precious package on the asphalt and I was too nervous to eat. It would be quite strange to go for a fancy dinner and have Bess be the only one of us able to place an order.

I had to do it right there. Right then.

Before we exited the car, I turned to her:

"Don't you want your Date-iversary present?" I asked (we'd been an official couple for a full year that night, so the question wasn't exactly bewildering).

I pulled a tiny pirate's chest from my pocket. I think Bess instantly knew what was inside. As she opened it to see the sparkling gem, I asked THE question. She said Yes. Then, after a minute or ten of smooching, hugging, and a few barbaric yawps - we sauntered inside.

It was undeniably one of the best meals ever - yet I cannot tell you what I ate that night. My memory recalls only my elation and the exquisite glow of my now fiance's beautiful face.

Marriage in it's very essence is a roller coaster ride, but for all the joyful moments that our togetherness has brought me - Bess is due about a million trips on that carousel.

Confession #2 - I stole a brick.
A few months ago, ambling past a construction site, I walked directly across a corner of the lot to grab a small pink brick. That lone brick was all that remained of the sites previous structure.

Though some may view a pink brick as a subtle tribute to a great conceptual psychedelic rock band - I knew where it had come from and took it to preserve a tiny piece of my neighborhoods history.

That construction site used to house a church. Not a grand evangelical palace, mind you - not even a church with any organized congregation - but a church nonetheless. A church which took it's form in an abandoned and decrepit shell of a building; no glass in the "windows," an open space where a door may have once stood, and an open air roof wherein Heavens detritus could fall right in (perhaps making an easier trip for prayers to find their way upward).

There had once been faux flowers dotting the fence surrounding the lot, the edifice itself painted the pale crimson of technicolor cotton candy. Within it, a smattering of folding chairs serving as the pews, and a ragtag lectern for an altar. A hand painted sign nailed to a nearby tree gave times for the weekly "service" and the invocation "All Are Welcome."

On that lot now is an ugly, half-assed house. A screened-in deck from which one can presumably view the lake a half block away. The Ground floor consisting solely of two garage bays. The house has been occupied for a couple months now, so there's no more traipsing across that lot - even though it still looks as if it's under construction. The grass surrounding the building covered in a mix of dirty sand, and sandy dirt. random piles of unused construction materials spittled about the property of a structure that doesn't fit the style of it's surroundings. Yet another modern beach house dropped into a rustic, historic neighborhood.

Don't get me wrong - whomever now owns that property has the right to do with it as they see fit. If they want the entirety of their holiday decoration to consist of a single strand of lights lazily draped across one quarter of the deck, mingled with the eerie glow of what must be a massive television - then so be it. One has the authority to uglify ones own home if they choose.

I wonder, however, if it occurs to this family that their land was once a place where denizens of the neighborhood could gather, to rejoice in one anothers company, to catch up with old friends, to join together singing and lifting praise to the lord.

I wonder if they realize that they've replaced an unconventional holy site with a typical contemporary eyesore.

I stole a brick which holds the memory of what once was there. Though doing so may violate the 8th commandment, I think the neighborhood will forgive me.

Finishing off with a short spin from the retail jungle:
"What's Incense?" asked the daughter, as she puttered near the front of the store.
Her father ushered her out with the simplest, perfect, answer,
"When you light it on fire, it starts to smell funny."

Then again, don't most things?

The Dispatch From Escalatorville
Z.F. Lively: Proprietor/Literate Recidivist (Now accepting deposits of electronic communication)