Politics in America 5: Going Shopping Weazel Sneeze Style

Chapter 5
Going Shopping Weazel Sneeze Style

In the previous episode, we learned how auspicious and honorable it was to be the Mayor of Weazel Sneeze. The Mayor had three important functions. Without these functions performed, the town would fall apart. We were given the straight dope on the first two.

Function #1. Step out of the Outhouse and check on his Shadow.
Function #2. The uncorking of the town jug and first drink on Get-a-Snort Day.

Now it’s time to discuss the most important function the local celebrity performed. It was a well-known fact that all the population of Weazel Sneeze were Do-Naughties. That doesn’t mean that the citizens were known to walk around in the buff. Although Clyde Perkelater was known to do el buffo once in a blue moon when his wife kicked him out of the house for not washing. His stunk stank up the town so bad that an anonymous someone inaugurated the biannual Washing of the Clyde.

Like Get-a-Snort Day, this Washing of the Clyde had developed into a festival. All sorts of perfumes and soaps and bathtubs were now sold. There was even a public bathing for anyone who wanted to participated. Talk about lines at the Women’s Restroom at a football game and you can imagine the line that formed for the Public Bathing.

The Mayor was Weazel Sneeze’s delegate to the Big Tent in the Sky, better known as the Do-Naught Party National Convention. It occurred once every quadrennial and had only one purpose. To nominate the Do-Naught Party’s candidate for President. Since it was Leap Year and a Presidential election year, P F Sneeze was going to the Convention. It was a must.

P F wasn’t averse to the trip. Anything to get away from the pig farm and B S. After all, he had taken to being confused who he should be saying “Sooey” to. B S or the pigs? But he was definitely not up to going out and buying a monkey suit. And a tall top hat. To make an impression, it had to be a tall tall hat. Since Weazel Sneeze didn’t have a monkey suit and top hat store, P F had no choice. He had to go over to Snort Holler.

In all his livelong days, P F never left Podunk County. He barely got out of Weazel Sneeze. Why, in the name of all that was holy, could he not wear a pair of his Sunday-go-to-meeting overalls, John Deere cap and Justin-in-cases. If they were good ‘nuff for his great grandpappy, they were good ‘nuff for him. He would have been fine from the tip of his tippy-tippy toes to the hair on Mount P F. And it was a mighty fine white head of hair, waving to anyone passing by. You think The Donald has hair. P F had hair. Not only that but his hair had hair.

You’ve heard of Shotgun Weddings, P F was about to participate in a Shotgun Shopping Spree. Saturday ‘fore the Saturday P F needed to catch the train to go off to The Convention, B S up and pointed a sawed-off shotgun at her dearly beloved and said, “Whether you like it or not P F, we’re going over to Snort Holler and buy yerself a suit and a top hat. It’s either that or you will be cleaning buckshot out of yer behind for a month of Sundays.” P F knew she meant what she said ’cause B S knew how to get things done. She may have been a sweeter-than-homemade-pie Pudding but she was a straight shooter and he didn’t aim to go the way Old Goof-off had gone.

With buckshot up his rear.

Goof-off’s wife had filled her ever-lovin’ twice-cheatin’ hubby with so much buckshot in his ne’er do well that he had to be buried moonside up. P F knew he didn’t want that fate worse than death. So he gathered up his altogethers, rustled up his Model T and headed over to Snort Holler for the first shopping expedition in his entire life. He was going to trade in his homemades for some brand spanking new store-boughts. He had better like it or else.

Next Wednesday, Chapter 6: Off to see the Wizard

Uncle Bardie’s Movie of the Week: A Movie’s Tribute to the Movies

Once a week on Monday, Uncle Bardie shares a movie with his Readers he gives a big two thumbs up. It will simply be a short excerpt or a trailer. Uncle Bardie might even throw in a reflection on the movie. If so, it will make an appearance below the video. So pop some popcorn and give yourself a treat. This week’s movie is “Cinema Paradiso” 1988.

I once had a friend tell me she did not like to read her movies. That was the reason why she did not watch foreign films. I understood her sentiment. However, if that was how I felt, I would have missed some of the great movie watching experiences of my life. “Jean de Floret/Manon of the Springs”, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” trilogy, “The Lives of Others”, the Russian director Grigori Kozintsev’s film of “Hamlet” and “Cinema Paradiso”.

But there was a time, no foreign films. I hated subtitles. I didn’t watch a lot of British films back in those olden days. I just couldn’t understand people with those accents and they didn’t supply subtitles. Not. ‘Course if you’ve seen “My Fair Lady”, you’re like me. Just what the heck does “garn” mean anyway. And why does it rain mainly on the plain in Spain. Doesn’t it ever rain in the mountains?

My dislike for subtitles ended in Japan where I served briefly in the United States Air Force. It was late one Saturday night in Shinjuku, a suburb of Tokyo. I had missed my train back to the base. I had some time to kill before the next train. So why not a movie? Steve McQueen’s “Bullit” was showing. I bought my ticket, took my seat, waited for the movie not knowing what to expect. Then the movie started. It was in English with Japanese subtitles. I did enjoy that movie. Afterword, I got to thinking ,if the Japanese could read subtitles, why not me. So I am a subtitle man now which has introduced me to a great many foreign films.

For years, I watched Siskel and Ebert religiously. That means about every time they came on tv. Theirs was film reviewing for the common man. I knew that if the two of them gave a movie two thumbs up, it was one I wanted to see. Again and again this dynamic duo hit a bulls eye with their reviews. After Gene Siskel died, Roger Ebert continued until his health would no longer let him do the show. He tried out a number of co-reviewers but none of them seem to work. The chemistry that Ebert had with Siskel wasn’t there. At least, not for me. The thing I loved about the two of them together was their respect for each other and their love for the movies.

Their recommendation was how I happened upon several of my favorite movies: “Jean de Florette”, “Manon of the Spring” and “Cinema Paradiso”. I’ve already brought “Jean de Florette” and “Manon of the Spring” to your attention. Today it’s “Cinema Paradiso”. When the duo did their two thumbs up on this one, I couldn’t wait for it to come to my town. When it did, I was not disappointed. It is a tribute to the impact movies have had on all our lives.

This is the story of a town in Sicily with a movie theater. It is the tale of a young boy without a father. The father had gone off to fight in the Italian army and never returned. The mother is left to fend for herself and her children. The movie is told through the boy’s eyes.

The town has only one movie theater. The boy strikes up a relationship with the theater’s projectionist. The boy is a Oliver Twist kind of character, longing for more. Only the more is not porridge. It is movies.

The movie could have focused on the hard life that the boy and his sister and his mother have. Instead it focuses on the joy that films have brought to the lives of the people of that village. 

If you love movies, you will love this movie. It is one of my all-time favorites.

Auditioning

Here’s something to think about. And it’s a big something too. From the moment you’re born, you’re auditioning. Sure, your mommy’s going to love you. But think about this. By the time you come out of her, you’ve been auditioning for nine months. After a lot of interviews, wallah,you’ve got the job. You’re her kid. I didn’t say her darling. That’s a whole other thing. That role may go to your older brother or sister. They may be the cute one. You may have the role of pain-in-the-butt. Remember the Smothers Brothers. Dick got all the goodies, Tom got the chicken.

What about Dad? you ask. You know we’re in deep doo-doo if he says, “I’ve got five others just like him.” And he always says that. So you’re going to have to do some cooing and goo-goo-ga-ga-ing for him big time. Smile when he comes into the room. Always smile. Smiling works every time.  Adults like smiling. Smiling will get you into Harvard. And don’t tell me your poop don’t stink. It always stinks.

You know you’re in for bad things if mom or pop turns to big sis and says, “Go change your brother’s diaper. “ The audition with big sis ain’t going to go well. You pooped. You do not want to do that at an audition. It just ain’t cool. Later in life, she will get even. When you’ve crashed your dad’s car and you want help, she won’t be there. Because she had to clean up your poop. Get on big sis’s good side and it will serve you in good stead.

Next thing you know you’re walking and getting into everything. You know things are going well if mommy says, “Ain’t that the cutest thing.” It’s a statement, not a question. But be careful. If dad comes in and says, “Hey, he just broke my favorite coffee mug. You know the one I won at the annual bean-eating contest. The one I got for beating the crap out of Marvin,” you know where that’s going to go. And he won’t be saying “crap” either. He’ll be saying that other word that stands in for poop. So don’t break any of Dad’s stuff. He’ll appreciate it and remember what a good kid you were.

Oh, you don’t think he’ll remember. You know how you’ll know. When he hands you the keys to that really cool car for your sixteenth birthday and says, “You’ve earned it.” There’s this big smile on his face. It ain’t because your grades are good. You’re a C student at best. No, it’s because you did auditioning well. Your poop didn’t stink that bad. You didn’t break any of his precious things.

Don’t get me started about table manners. You are going to have eat that baby crap for a while. So don’t make faces. They don’t like faces, unless they’re cute faces.

Then there’s that first class in school. You’re auditioning there as well. You can either audition for the teacher or for your fellow students. Go for your fellow students. Your teacher is only going to be around for one year. Your fellow students are going to be around for, like FOREVER. So you had better impress them big time or your life is going to be a living h-e-double-hockey-sticks. Look across the room and find the kid you like the least. Immediately walk over and hit him in the face. He’s going to say, “What’d you want to do that for?” Best say nothing. You’ve impressed the other prisoners. I mean, kids.

This kid you just socked will turn out to be your best friend for life. For life, man. You can’t ask for a better friend than that. He’ll watch your back when you steal that car. He’ll be there for you when you need a sponsor in AA. You  will be his Eddie Haskel and he’ll be your Wally Cleaver. Can’t do better than that, can you? On top of all the trouble he’ll keep you out of, his mom will be June Cleaver. And, man, June Cleaver could cook. Not like your mom.

So that’s your life. You will be auditioning for role after role. For that first date. For that college you really really want to get into. For that person you will eventually marry. For that boss whose position you want. For that bank that will give you a mortgage and a credit card. For those two-point-seven kids that will make you a real American family. For those neighbors who always keep their house in tip-top shape and their lawn well manicured. (You keep wondering how he can afford the maintenance and the really cool stuff. Embezzling would be my guess.) For that divorce lawyer you will need. And you will want a good one. Your spouse is about to take everything. For that coffin you will have to fit into.

And last, but not least. There’s God. That audition is going to be real scary.

Friday’s Creator Corner: Rita Joe, Poet Laureate of the Mi’kmaq people

Each Friday I feature a Creative Artist on Friday’s Creator Corner. Creativity is the art of making something out of nothing. I leave the post up for a week, then replace it with another post. After taking it down, I link it to Friday’s Creator Corner Artists page.

Today’s Creator’s Corner artist is the Gentle Warrior, Rita Joe, Poet Laureate of the Mi’kmaq people. This one was inspired by a blog post on Naomi’s Consumed by Ink.

 

I dood it! And you can dood it too!

WHAT IS THAT THANG?
Yesterday morning I finished the first draft of my novel, Jackson A(fter) D(eath). I began it for the National Novel Writing Month, known as Nanowrimo by its participants, in November, 2015. The novel addresses the question of what happens to Jackson Schmidt, Nami Greene and Gar Fox after they die. It combines the spiritual pilgrimage of Shusaku Endo’s Deep River, the struggle to overcome fear of Albert Brooks’ Defending Your Life and the adventurous journey found in J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. When I complete my fourth draft, the novel will be 80,000 to 120,000 words long. Currently it is 194,786 words.

WHAT IS THIS THANG?
With this post, I thought I would lay out the process that produced this tome. Maybe it will encourage youse. Maybe it won’t. For quite some time, I had been playing around with the idea of what happens when we die, thinking maybe I might want to take it on for a novel. Sometime at the beginning of 2015, I decided that I wanted to participate in the 2015 Nanowrimo. I had previously participated in the experience three times, producing novels over 50,000 words each.

NANOWRIMOS BEFORE.
In 2004, I wrote Secrets of the Fourth Lithuanian. There was no Lithuanian in the novel. I liked the title. In 2009, I produced the historical comedy, The Absolutely Unbelievably Extraordinary Adventures of Lady Wimpleseed-Prissypotte. It is the story of an American heiress whose daddykins has lots of cash and momsy wants a British title. The heiress marries a British lord with one foot in the cemetery and the other in the grave. He croaks in a bowl of soup in the third chapter during their honeymoon on Gibraltar. She spends the rest of the novel searching for true love or at least a good orgasm. In 2011, I wrote a romance called Five-foot-nine and Six-foot-two. The man was the shorter of the two. So I had a pretty good idea how to write a novel of over 50,000 words in November. 2000 words a day, that’s how.

OH, NO. HE GETS AN IDEA.
Finally in March, I made up my mind. I was going to write a novel about what happens after we die. As research, I re-read Philip Jose Farmer’s two Riverworld novels amd Shusaku Endo’s Deep River. I re-saw the Albert Brooks’ movie between March and October.

GETTING ON WITH IT.
On October 1, I began working on an outline. For previous incarnations, I had pretty much written the novels by the seat of the pants and for fun. I seriously considered that I might want to publish this one. From March to October, I developed my three main characters. I had a protagonist 37 years old. I knew that he had parents who would separate in April for a divorce. Come Thanksgiving they would be back together. They had done this for 24 years. He died from a heart attack. I also knew that Nami, the heroine, would die from a bullet. Her boyfriend’s six year old son would be the one who accidentally shot her. She had been adopted and she had a sister born nine years after Nami was adopted. The sister committed suicide. The antagonist would be Gar. He would be a contract killer who was seeking revenge for his daughter’s hit and run death.

THE DREADED OUTLINE.
During the month, I used a tarot deck to lay out my plot, Each of the following got a tarot card and a scene:
1.Hook
2.Inciting Incident
3.Plot Point 1
4.Pinch 1
5.Midpoint
6.Pinch 2
7.Plot Point 2
8.Climax
9.Resolution
10.Final Scene

I saw this outline as a map. It didn’t mean there wouldn’t be changes. There would. I thought of the map as a route drawn out  between Orlando and Los Angeles broken into four separate days. I saw each of the ten as stopping off points. Instead of just writing toward an End, I wrote toward each of them. With the outline, I knew the situation, the What. I didn’t know the how. It was the hows that often surprised me. In the past, I would have had to stop and think what’s next. I knew the what this go-around. I didn’t get stuck in writersblockdom. I have to tell you that this outline saved my rear-end.

SCHEDULE
It was Sunday, that November 1st day, and a beautiful day. For the past six months, I had changed my writing schedule. Come hell or highwater. I woke up early, got myself a cup of joe, sat down at my ‘puter and wrote for five minutes to a visual prompt. Then for the next hour or two, I worked on my current project. At the end of that writing time, I got up and didn’t worry about writing for the rest of the day. Oh, sure. I would take a note if I got a good idea. I felt like I had accomplished something at the end of the session each day and I thoroughly enjoyed that feeling. My goal for this writing schedule for Nanowrimo was 2000 words. Easy peasy.

NANOWRIMO DAY UNO
I was excited about beginning my Nanowrimo-in-residence. I had thought about nothing else for the previous week. I was a ready teddy, ready to put the words to the blank page. That Sunday morning I did what I usually did. Half conscious and just barely awake, not a good way to edit but a great way to write a first draft, I opened up my word processor and did my five minutes on a new-born prompt. It was an easy pregnancy. Next I started a new file. My coffee mug sat next to me, encouraging, “You can do it.” I like it when my coffee mug does that. I opened up my Outline and read my notes. Yep, that was where I was sposed to start.

I did a “Chapter One” at the top center, then I set the cursor where the first paragraph was sposed to write itself. Nothing. Nada. Not one word. I screamed a few s-words and a few f-words. As you writers out there know, that never works. I turned to my coffee mug and begged and pleaded. She wasn’t playing by the rules. She wasn’t giving up the words I needed. Am I going to be sitting here all day, staring into el-blanko. I got things to do. You know, that bottle I planned to drink to celebrate. An hour went by. Two. Still nada. For the fifty-seventh time, I got up and poured another cup of mud and checked my outline. Nothing. I was not about to get out of jail free.

Then Muggie spoke, “Why not just write around that first scene?”

“Huh?” I say that when I am being stupid.

“Why don’t you just write around that first scene?”

“How do I do that?”

“Back story,” Muggie said and winked.

“I could do that,” I said. And thus it was that I wrote my first words: “In the beginning…” No, no, no. That’s not it. I wrote, “When Sam and Kate met, height was not an issue.” I suddenly knew that this was the Protagonist’s parents. I was going back that far. There must be a reason and Muggie was encouraging me.

THE BEAT GOES ON.
So off I went, not on a wild goose chase but toward the story I had outlined. For the next two weeks, I wrote back story, then I came to the first scene, The Hook/Opening Scene. I just kept going. After the writing was finished for the day, I would spend the rest of the day, thinking about what was next. If I didn’t have a what’s next at the beginning of my writing session the next day, it was a slog. If I had a pretty good idea, it was fast and furious. By the end of November, I had over 60,000 words.

THE OUTLINE GIVETH, THE OUTLINE TAKETH AWAY.
Did I quit? Did I rest on my laurels? I did not. December 1, I did what I had done the previous day. I got up, got my coffee, did my prompt, then continued on my novel. I was bound and determined to get ‘er done. Only my word count for the day changed. I changed it to 500 words. If I wrote more, great. If I didn’t, no prob.

With my Outline, I had a pretty good idea what was next. But getting there was always interesting. There were times when I lost a character. There were times when the Titanic sank. There were times when every Tom, Dick and Harry wanted to go left instead of the right I had planned. So I let them. They wanted to see the angels try to get through the head of a pin. I let them. They wanted to see the world’s biggest ball of twine. We saw the world’s biggest ball of twine. They wanted to visit Napoleon while he was getting ready for his Waterloo. We did that too. But pretty soon we were back on course.

LESSONS
So what did I learn?
1.The outline kept me from giving up. It wasn’t the 10 Commandments. More like the 10 Suggestions.
2.Breaking down a novel into daily baby steps is truly helpful. It takes away the fear of being overwhelmed by the big project.
3.When I write daily, my writing gets better. When I write daily first thing in the morning, I don’t feel guilty that I have neglected my work. I can go about my day with a hop, a skip and a jump. And occasionally a big Whoopee.
4.When I’ve finished my writing session, I can set it aside and feel confident I have done what I was supposed to do.
5.This is just a first draft. It will be crap.
6.I have found a process that works for me.
7.It’s great to have a coffee mug, talking to me.

Not sure this is helpful to any of you out there. But like everything in life, my storytelling continues to be a road to discovery. Even when I think I can’t do something, I know I can. I just have to sit my rear end in the chair, stare at the blank page and let Muggie give me instructions. Serially, it is only by the doing that we creatives learn. That is the ultimate lesson I have learned. And will continue to learn over and over again.

SO WHAT’S NEXT?
That’s easy. I have to mow the dreaded grass. Oh, you mean with the novel? I put it away for three months. At that time, I will print it out and read it straight through. Then I will go back and read it a second time, making notes. Breaking the novel up into scenes. I will power point each scene. Then I will write the second draft. Then the third. Then a final fourth and it will be dressed up in its Sunday best, ready for the world.