31 August 2008

Day 15: 22,665 words - Ramadan and Elul, St. Anthony and Gustav

In the Mideastern cultures that birthed the major Western religions, the calendar followed the Moon rather than the Sun. In Judaism, it is the first day of Elul - as I was mentioning yesterday, the Kabbalistic teaching is that this month is powerful for drawing closer to the divine. It's also the first day of Ramadan in the Islamic calendar - observant Muslims throughout the world are fasting this month, also to draw closer to Allah.

Something about this month (or "lunation" if we're going to get technical) caused the ancients to conclude it's a time for soul work. There's any number of theories you could throw out there - it's harvest time, maybe, or the moon in Virgo making people all perfectionist-y - but I'm not all that concerned with such stuff. The fact that so many people around the world are turning their thoughts inward seems to me to be like building critical mass.

I was already moving organically in that direction, anyway: I've been really focusing in an increasingly intense way lately on developing myself in the career/vocation, spiritual, and health aspects. So all of this is coming together very nicely.

It's been very powerful being all alone. I have lived with others most of my life: with my family, my friends in Kerista, my wife, and my last girlfriend. I've spent maybe a grand total of three of my forty-two years alone. And now that I am working from home, it's an almost monastic kind of alone.

There have been moments of loneliness, but mainly it's just been a fantastic opportunity to go deep inside. I've been finding parts of me that have needed attention for a long time and bringing light to them... and that's been invaluable.

This weekend also saw the Feast of St. Anthony here in Boston, for no reason I can determine (his saint's day is in June). Anthony of Padua is, as the fish-eaters out there know, the parton patron saint of finding stuff you have misplaced. My favorite miracle of his was the time when he started preaching and then realized he still had to sing in the choir - so he made himself appear in two places at once. Awesome guy.

I've also been in no small amount of anguish about the storm bearing down on the city I fell in love with this summer. The last reporting I saw made it seem like the city will be spared the worst of it - but I am very worried regardless. NOLA is still so fragile that another body blow could be truly devastating.

If you're Catholic, I hope you will consider praying to Our Lady of Prompt Succor, Patroness of the State of Louisiana. Heathen pagans like me: please visualize a spiral of protecting energy around the city... and keep your fingers crossed.

Here's hoping Elul 5768, Ramadan 1429, and September of 2008 are powerful months for everyone.

30 August 2008

Day 14: new moon in Virgo, 21,534 words

Didn't make up all the lost ground I wanted to, but I took a bite. I also went for an awesome ride, got (mostly) unpacked and my kitchen set up, and recovered from the tragic loss of my coffee grinder. Fortunately I live in el barrio so it's now Café Bustelo all the way, papi.

Going to a Kabbalah seminar tonight, because I'm gangsta like that. It's a new moon tonight (actually 4 this afternoon), in Virgo... a good time to reinforce new healthy habits. Definitely feeling better in my new home, not least because I can finally sleep at night. Doing lots of important soul work too... this period of solitude is immensely powerful for me.

All my writing energy is going into my journal and to my novel. I know it's been thin around here and I can tell I've lost most of my new readers that came over from Michelle's. I definitely appreciated having all those guys around - but looks like I'm back to my old boring unread blog. No biggie. We'll see where I am after I finish the first draft... and, um, the first revision.

Enjoy your New Moon, my regulars! (the few, the proud...)

29 August 2008

Day 13: 19.033 words and a night out

I wrote a bunch this morning - still not caught up but I made some good headway after some Jolt Silver (still can't find my grinder!) and a fun run up and around Parker Hill. This is an awesome running neighborhood, lots of steep-ass climbs and killer views of downtown Boston and the Plain.

Long work meeting today, and I busted out as soon as I could, tried out a new pub and checked out an art opening in the South End:

the High Priest

Came back on the T blasting Weezer on my iPhone:

Im'a do the things that I wanna do
I ain't got a thing to prove to you
I'll eat my candy with the pork and beans
Excuse my manners if i make a scene
I ain't gonna wear the clothes that you like
I'm fine and dandy with the me inside
One look in the mirror and I'm tickled pink
I don't give a hoot about what you think

(I'm just feeling bratty like that.)

Tomorrow I can get caught up and then go play. Long weekend w00t!

28 August 2008

Day 12: 17,072 words meh

Moving-in day. I worked and ran around and built a sleeper bed and found where everything is in my neighborhood. I am exhausted and don't have much in the way of creativity... I'm about three thousand words behind but I know I can catch up in a couple of good sessions.


27 August 2008

Day 11: 16,707 words - moving day

Lots going on. Part of my joy in moving to my own place is being able to not have to deal with these fucking sublet kids - the latest of which told me that I had to be out of here by tomorrow. I mean, fortunately I'm still in nomad-mode, so I half-filled the GTI today and moved most of my stuff to JP. But Jesus H. Tap-Dancing Christ! How goddamfucking hard is it to communicate?

Yeah. So anyway, lot of moving, buying of a bed, copying of keys, setting up of broadband... not a lot of writing. Tomorrow I'll be in my little writer's garret. Thank Lord Buddha.

26 August 2008

Day 10: 16,028 words

My characters continue to come to life. It's really hilarious and kind of wonderful. Even people I didn't particularly like are showing a warm, human side. I guess I am a big softy at heart. Ah well.

I start moving into the place in Jamaica Plain tomorrow: third floor of a three-decker, on the back side away from the street. Peace and quiet at long last. It's a real writer's garret... which is another way of saying "tiny-ass room." But it's mine. Mine all mine. Finally, at long last, I can stop. I've been living out of a bag since the first of June. It's enough already.

September's coming.

25 August 2008

Day 9: 14,543 words HAH!

My protagonist surprised me tonight. He's a bit of a pathetic character, though I suspected he had it in him to step up when the going got tough. I put him in a one-on-one confrontation with a scary dude, though... and it's like he figured out a way to come out on top that I hadn't thought of beforehand: it literally came out as I was typing the dialogue! So the story is rushing along to the first big conflict and I am liking my lead guy. It's been kind of a problem that he's been getting on my nerves a little...

In other news, I learned that the little shit who screwed me over was in fucking Aruba for the past week, which is why he didn't return my phone calls. He's so sorry, of course, that the room he had promised me got rented to somebody else... but I'm not. I found a nicer place in JP for $175 less a month. New hardwood floors, pretty good neighborhood, street parking. So fucking there.

Also, started running intervals today. I usually improve really quickly once I get into interval training... which is good, because let's just say I have plenty of room for growth. My endurance is not too bad, but I lost a lot of speed sitting on my ass for months.

And the adventure continues! I love going to bed excited about what the next day will bring...

24 August 2008

Day 8: 12,277 words and screwed again

For the second time in two months, some goddamn kid has screwed me out of a sublet at the last minute. I'm not going to go on a "kids today" rant: I've been fucked over by GenXers, hippies and folks of my parents' nameless generation more times than I can count. But I am kind of floored at how easy it seems to be for some people to say one thing on one day, know someone's actual living situation depends on it, and change your mind anyway.

Whatever. I'm checking a place out in JP tomorrow morning that might be an even better situation. Actually, so far, everything that has seemed like a reversal has ended up being a move in the right direction. So we shall see.

However, my heart's not really in the novel tonight....

23 August 2008

Day 7: 11,646 words

I was gonna run six miles and write three thousand words today. I ran nine, and wrote 3,011.

Set high goals, then exceed 'em. Fuck yeah.

Party time.

22 August 2008

Day 6: 8,654 words

Ahem. Yeah, yesterday and today: not such good days. I had a really shitty interaction yesterday with a guy at my company who is a salesperson, and an asshole... but I repeat myself. Anyway my boss and the other systems engineer totally had my back - which is great cause this guy brings in millions of dollars of revenue and I... don't. It's rare for a company to value intangibles like support. I'm lucky, and not just because I get to work hungover and unshaven.

In any regard, I'm still a thousand words behind, but I went to Peet's Coffee in Brookline tonight and got a pound of Major Dickason's, so I should be able to get up tomorrow and go on a tear. I worked through a pretty bad plot crisis today by judicious application of the old McGuffin, and I'm sailing along pretty well. It's absolute garbage, but I'm OK with that - as Papa said, "the first draft of anything is shit," and I am actually a pretty damned good editor.

Almost through week one... hells yeah.

21 August 2008

Day 5: 7,136 words

I got roughed up at work today... some black velvets were required. Mmmmm... time to just chill.

20 August 2008

Day 4: 6,038 words

Slacked off a bit today. I had a great run, an awesome workout, made a delicious salad and went for a couple long walks... but fell a few hundred words short of my goal. F*** it, it was pretty outside!

All work and no play makes Paul a dull boy! All work and no play makes Paul a dull boy.

I just came back from a free Kabbalah lecture in Brookline. I actually enjoyed it quite a bit, the speaker was pretty engaging. God, how I've missed back-East Jewish style and humor! I don't think I enjoyed it $248 worth, which is what the full course costs, but I think I got enough out of the talk to do some more study on my own. They gave me a free book!

Basically, the speaker led the group through an argument that the things that people look for in life are all intangibles - that the material goods many people say they want are actually just means to an end, which is always intangible in nature: the desire for security, for love, for power, etc. The relevance to Kabbalah is that it is, in the speaker's presentation, a set of rules governing how energy is received into our lives.

Anyway, it was just a taste. I can see how there is a whole philosophy that underlies his thoughts, and I'm sure it's very valuable. I'm just not really motivated to spend that kind of money right now on spiritual stuff. Housing, food, car expenses and dating are pretty much tapping me out right now...

So, back to writing tomorrow. I need to start sleeping regularly... it kind of sucks to think about, but it might be time to bust out the Ambien. Sigh.

19 August 2008

Day 3: 5,015 words

Goddamn, sorry my blog is so boring. Whoop de shit, more numbers. Sorry folks...

J was distracting me badly (but in a really, really good way) all morning, so I didn't really get to writing seriously until I started doing my laundry after 8 tonight. It's really interesting how the plot is just sort of emerging as I try to keep my fingers moving across the keyboard. For the most part, I've been writing at typing speed - not quite automatic writing, but something in between that and improv.

I've already decided to kill of one of my minor characters - he's just "the wiry man" in my draft. Neither the protagonist nor his offstage girlfriend has a name yet, just initials. I'll figure out what their names are once I get to know them, I expect...

Anyway, enough. Everything in my life continues to go better than I feel like I have a right to expect. I made a donation to the American Diabetes Association (that I can ill afford, given my income) because I feel an enormous amount of gratitude to be here, with the freedom to do what I'm doing and with so many wonderful things that seem like they're waiting on the horizon.

To bed, to bed!

18 August 2008

Day 2: 3,329 words

Just kept pace today. I had a really shitty night's sleep last night, despite the fact that I took a sleeping pill - apparently a meteor crashed into the trainyard across Beacon, or else Godzilla threw a T car at the CVS Pharmacy. I was too wasted to know what the incredibly loud noise was right outside my window at about 3am. I woke up both hungover and short on sleep.

Tomorrow is another day!

17 August 2008

Day 1: 2,340 words

It was absolutely beautiful here today. I ran four laps around the reservoir - which I now know is 10 kilometers - and then stayed inside writing for as long as I could with the sun shining. I had to get out and play! Walked all the way to the Common until my feet were worn down to nubs. Thank the Universe for the T.

Didn't sleep too much last night. Even blogging is taking a lot of mental effort. Time to read my new junk-food novel, scribble something in my journal, and pass out.

16 August 2008

I am going to write a 50,000 word novel in 31 days

Yeah, you read that right.

Things are getting entirely too calm and routine around here. I'm settled in, I have my little room, with my desk set up and my work routine, and the days are just sailing by. I've been looking for a new challenge to get me fired up again - I've been running and biking a bunch lately and checking out duathlons - and, as always, casting around for what I am meant to do next.

I just saw a reference to National Novel Writing Month and it hit me like a ton of bricks: I'm a writer who doesn't write. That's why I feel so much like a fish out of water. Everything I have done has been something I sort of fell into, and because I'm quick enough to learn on the job, have managed to get paid to do. But nothing that I've done has truly felt like me using my natural gifts and skills. Writing has always been a hobby (witness this blog as an example), but it's one thing that I'm confident I do better than most, and actually enjoy doing for its own sake.

To be clear, the purpose of NaNoWriMo is not to write a finished novel in a month - that would be ridiculous, and the results would, almost certainly, be horrible by and large - but to finish a first draft in that amount of time. It takes place in November of this year, but I don't feel like waiting, so I'm starting tomorrow. 50,000 words seems like a nice round number for a novel, and totally achievable: that's just over 1,600 words a day for 31 days. Not easy, but not unrealistic, either.

Writing is a craft that requires a fair amount of discipline. My main problem as a writer has always been not sticking with a project and not writing every day. This exercise seems to be a golden opportunity to overcome that.

Also, by posting this on my blog for all to see, I'll have the added negative incentive of public ridicule if I slack off. So I'll post a word count each day for the next 31, and you all can come by and cheer me on - or, as the case may be, mock me mercilessly - as the days go by.

Oh, and I'm still considering doing that race.

15 August 2008


Quote of the F*cking Day:
What began as farce now evolves into tragedy. A North American power currently occupying two Asian nations (and with both current presidential candidates pledging escalation in Afghanistan) gives Russia pompous moral lectures and demands it reverse course and repent. We are the world's pedophile priest.
-- IOZ speaketh.

It should not surprise me that these people (and by "these people" I mean the leaders of both parties) are able to say such things without their heads exploding from acute hypocrisy and dopeyness, but occasionally it does.

Let's be clear. Either you "take the moral high ground," or you "act according to your interests and damn the consequences." Trying to do both at the same time just makes you look silly.

12 August 2008

Where I'm from

From a George Ella Lyon poem, brought to my fuller attention by a very dear friend.

where I'm from

I am from silicon and vacuum tubes, from the dawn of the electronics age. I am from twenty-five minutes after midnight... the moment I was born, my father was installing the very first IBM System 360 at Bell Telephone.

I am from the City of Brotherly Love, from the only city ever to have actually bombed itself.

I am from the oak and maple, from the pine and rolled sod. I am from farms turned into winding streets of sameness, and I am from construction sites and the service corridors of dead shopping malls where I played as a boy.

I am from the moving-away, the leaving-behind of family when estrangement is better than conflict. I am from Donatangelo Acciavatti of Abruzzo, from Erminio Acciavatti of Philadelphia... who was called Dan when World War II broke out.

I am from cousins I had to meet on Facebook because our families don't talk. I am from emails filled with pictures of ancestors I never knew.

From "you could have gotten an A if you tried harder" and "everything that happens, happens for a reason, and it serves you."

I am from Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the Holy Family. Also, the curse: "Jesus, Mary and Joseph!" I am from Ceridwen, and Aphrodite, from Mercury, from White Buffalo Calf Woman, and Erzulie. I am from Shakyamuni Buddha and nothing at all.

I’m from the valley of the Delaware River. I'm from gravy that simmers on the stove all day Sunday, from shells on Monday and spaghetti and meatballs on Wednesday. I'm from scrapple Saturday morning.

From the anarchist that escaped Italy before Mussolini came to power, and from the aunt who gave her children up for adoption when her new boyfriend didn't like them so much. And I'm from the woman who lost the love of her life at 31, and sucked it up to raise her son single-handedly, without a whimper of complaint or a moment of self-pity.

I am from a precious cache of photos, dog tags, yellowed newspaper clippings and keepsakes in the next room, one of the few things I brought from San Diego, which was one of the few things I had brought from Hawai'i, which was one of the few things I had brought from San Francisco, and one of the few things I had brought from Philadelphia.

I am from all these things, and the letting go of all these things.

11 August 2008

This... is summer?

It has been raining in Boston for... oh, the past 500 years, straight.

I think tomorrow marks one month exactly since I first arrived in the Hub of the Universe. Wednesday, probably, would be a month since I got to Boston proper: the day of the Swan Boats with J in Boston Public Garden. I remember that brilliant summer day... possibly because it was one of only a handful of sunny days I have spent in this fair metropolis. It was sunny out in Leverett, too, as I recall. I joke with J about how the sun always comes out when we're together. It's not that cute any more... not now that it's the only time I ever see the sun.

Tonight is the Perseid meteor shower, and I was going to go out into the country, away from city lights to try and see a shooting star. Unfortunately, I think I'd have to drive to, like, Montréal to see the sky.

Other than being stuck inside, what strikes me most about rain in the city is mud. That and unreliable umbrellas... I mean, how cutting-edge does a fucking umbrella have to be? It stops the rain. It opens up and closes down. Not a major challenge for the race that invented fast breeder reactors and Splenda™, one would think.

I went out adventuring after work, just because I couldn't handle being cooped up any more. I came back soaked to the bone.

Imagine when this shit is freezing.

Yes, this is a whining post. Back when I was married to a Jewish woman, I got introduced to the psychic enema known as the kvetch. Coming from more of a glass-half-full upbringing, it was jarring to say the least. We really didn't do a lot of complaining in my house growing up. (In retrospect, maybe that explains all the Scotch.) It took some doing, but now I can kvetch with the best of them... it gets things out, rather than letting them stay bottled up inside and grow toxic.

I like a charmed life, I know. I have freedom, a decent living, novelty, a cool bike, nice friends and all my own hair and teeth. I'm not bemoaning my lot in life.

I'd just like to see the goddamn Sun again!

06 August 2008

Street ridin' man

I got a bike.

bike. I haz it.

Not sure about the vintage, but it has the same running gear and looks a lot like a 1981 Motobécane Mirage... a solid old-school ten-speed, which is just what I wanted. If I start to really get into racing, I will probably have to consider a more serious investment, but for now this is a good bike for the city: tough enough to take the potholes and not a real enticing target for thieves.

Riding on city streets is something I have not done in a while, unless San Diego counts and it doesn't. Boston is a compact, chaotic city, with narrow streets and edgy drivers. There is literally unexpected shit going on every moment, in every quadrant, and I have to ride in a state of constant hyper-awareness and hair-trigger reactivity.

I love it.

Being on two wheels in the city means taking on a kind of outsider status. You are a nuisance, like dog shit on someone's shoe... that is, when you're not totally invisible. When you are in the saddle, jamming at twenty-five miles an hour down a busy street and scanning your environment like a coked-out paranoid, it's amazing how unconscious everyone else is. I am stunned at the number of pedestrians I rode around just yesterday who were completely unaware of the hurtling mass of a thirty-pound bike and 175-pound rider flying past. I can sense the hostility from drivers, even when they're not actively swearing at me. I even caught shit from another bicyclist, who hurled Lycra-wrapped imprecations at me for riding counter-flow on the Beacon Street bike lane, which is only on the outbound side of the street. Excuse me for wanting to survive the trip, Richard Simmons!

Anyway, I spent so much time on my bike yesterday that I totally forgot to move my car back into Brighton overnight, and picked up another Brookline ticket. Fuck. Sorry, GTI. I haven't forgotten about you... but you have to share my affections with another wheeled conveyance now.

A shout out to Bikes Not Bombs in the heart of Jamaica Plain, for good advice on the care and feeding of my weirdo French antique.

Start seeing bicycles. Please.

04 August 2008

"All set" in Boston

"You're all set." I keep hearing that expression around Boston. "You guys all set?" "Yeah, we're all set, thanks." I mean, it's something I've heard before, obviously... just not so often over such a short period of time. Maybe it's a common Bostonism, or maybe it's just primacy - the dynamic that happens when something's at the forefront of your mind, you see it everywhere. I am, indeed, all set.

sublet sweet sublet

The Brighton sublet is totally OK. It's a little run down, as student apartments tend to be, but it's cleanable and roomy. Best of all, though, it's steps from the Cleveland Circle T stop, and that means I can do without my car - which is an absolute liability in Boston. Parking here is a ridiculous ordeal, and the combination of twisty streets and random one-ways make driving in the city like navigating a maze. It's a relief to get on one of the clean, shiny Green Line T cars and ride along Beacon Street towards downtown.

Urban life in Boston is rich and the city truly shines in summer. I have walked and T'd all over downtown, finally gotten the North End out of my system (too overpriced and touristy despite the thrill of hearing Italian in the street) and gotten caught in a torrential downpour... which I "had" to ride out in a bar. I'm enjoying snakebites with the local Harpoon cider entirely too much.

A friend just competed in a triathlon and really loved it. I've been thinking for a while of getting back into competitive distance running, though I'm not much of a swimmer, and my gym doesn't have a pool. So I'm starting to think duathlon now. Staying in training through the winter is going to be a challenge, and I think it will help to have a goal to keep me motivated - I hate treadmills.

So, with my beloved car mostly idle, and all my stuff stored in my sublet bedroom (which is almost as big as my whole apartment was in San Diego), I'm well and truly on to the next phase. I'm still working my old job but pursuing a gig at an NGO that I'm pretty excited about.

I've always found that when I'm in the place I'm meant to be in, things tend to fall into place. I can tell already that I made the right choice in coming to Boston... but of course, the journey's not over.

However, this is a nice place to stay for a while.