The Pariah Box

As I am currently on sabbatical from the work-a-day world, I certainly did not set my alarm clock to wake me Tuesday morning. But sleeping late was not an option. The city of San Antonio decided that the best time to begin resurfacing the 700 block of E. Guenther was seven a.m. The jack hammers (as in the plural) tried with a sad lack of success to harmonize along side the heavy equipment which were sounding off with those insane robot beeps when traveling in reverse (which, from under my pillow, seemed to be the only direction in which they moved).

I'm assuming the plan is to, in a day or week or so (again, at the crack of dawn), lay down a fresh new surface. But I quite like the old road they've exposed. Hardly a rustic hardwood floor fortuitously revealed, but, nonetheless, a nice cement, charmingly battered and grooved by the diesel powered exfoliating devices. They've also rid the street of those damned speed-bumps (I know I shouldn't gush overmuch, as I suspect they will be replaced in good time).

Strange. I had a dream that previous night that my driveway had been resurfaced in black asphalt. It was late, when I walked outside in my dream. There was a full moon overhead. No cars in the drive. No gazebo. No detritus from the pecan tree. The bamboo back at the fence-line was still there, thick and primordial, no doubt hiding tigers or clowns or other typically sinister inhabitants of the dream world.

But maybe the dream wasn't really so strange and prophetic. Monday afternoon, a city worker wearing a florescent yellow vest canvassed my street, placing notices on the door of each house. The fellow paused on my sidewalk to pick up several of my crop of wind-fallen pecans. He had delivered a letter from Brenda Ann Garza, Pavement Engineering Projects Officer with the Public Works Department. Now, I've never met Brenda, but I'll give the benefit of the doubt and assume she runs a pretty slick operation down at the PWD. I was notified to expect the appearance of heavy machinery at any time between 7 am to 7 pm during a ten day period (beginning the very next DAY!), and as such, no cars could be parked on the street during those times. There were no threats, nor were there hints as what might be expected by the scofflaws. Not that I care. I never park on the street. But it seems that this message from Brenda of the PWD, made its way into my subconscious.

Also, the last major road work in this neighborhood was just around the corner from my house on the quiet little block of Constance Street. It was given a smooth, unblemished surface, as dark and dense as blackberry fruit leather. And I was dutifully impressed on one of those nights when I found myself conscripted into walking my neighbor's dog. It was absolutely black, a ribbon of an abyss, so that looking down as you walked was a bit unsettling. And the sky, when you looked up, was, by comparison, bright and lively, with the clouds smearing their lazy gauze across the disk of the moon. Ah, yes, the unnatural perfection of a paved surface. No wonder it made its way into the lower compartments of my brain, readied to be accessed when needed. Or, on a different metaphoric tack (and here I paraphrase from Macbeth), waiting for the pillows to discharge their secrets.

Thankfully the Tuesday morning cacophony was but a short-lived irritant.

I was able to escape the racket. Deborah called and invited me to breakfast. I met up with her and Ramon. I realized I hadn't seen Deborah since her very successful photo show she had shared with Ramin at the UTSA downtown campus. They both sold quite a few pieces.

Deborah is teaching a couple of Humanities classes at Northwest Vista (one of the local community colleges); curating and promoting shows at Bihl Haus Arts (a paying gig, I believe); and, off and on, selling her art. She seems to be doing pretty well.

Ramon is working on art for a few up-coming group shows. And he mentioned something about working on a play. He also continues to research and create coats of arms for Spanish surnames — works of art in watercolor. This is his life in retirement.

When they asked what I was involved in, I just sputtered something about November being national novel writing month, and I'd be doing one of those.

It made me wince, as I realized how I really have no plans. Just a novel … to be written for fun ….

I just got on to the http://www.nanowrimo.org site and signed up. The website is perplexing and far from user-friendly. Besides, it is torturously sluggish to navigate the forums. I managed to get to the San Antonio section. Oh, sweet fuck! What a bunch of self-involved wankers! Can there be anything more horrendous than listening to a writer talk about his or her novel or screenplay? Perhaps being waterboarded at Guantanamo. Perhaps.

Yes, I understand that some of the members of the site are naive teens or Christian housewives abuzz with thoughts of finally getting around to that romance novel … but, really, people. Really.

And here I'd put a lengthy dissertation on the brilliant novel I plan to write in the month of November. But my snarky bitchery above would make me come across as a hypocritical blowhard.

As if I gave a flip.

On the website's forums it appears that genera writing is king for this crowd. This would be the literary equivalent to calling frozen dinners or sugar frosted breakfast cereals food. In point of fact, they are no such thing.

But I'm beginning to realize that such aesthetic snobbery may well place me in the pariah box.

And so, on to the self-promotion section. My November novel, “The Pariah Box,” is a taut medical legal thriller about an alcoholic attorney who comes to the aid of his ex-wife, a gerontologist, who is being investigated for the apparent mercy killing of several silent screen-era nonagenarian film stars.

Wait wait wait. No. What I really want to write is a sweeping tale of lust and betrayal in Oliver Cromwell's court, where, Lila, a virginal handmaiden, with a terrible secret, finds herself protecting the Earl of Manchester's wayward stableboy who holds the future of–

Whoa! Scratch that! It couldn't be clearer. The direction is, of course, science fiction. Here we go. The space cruiser Epsilon Fantastique has made a diversion to to an asteroid in the Bellatrix system to replenish it's stockpiles of inflatons needed to fuel the scalar field drive. And there the octogenarian crew fall afoul to the virginal handmaidens of the serpent overlord by the name of–

Ah, fuck it. I'll just play it by ear.

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