the circular runner

Posts Tagged ‘lifestyle’

what my holy crotch taught me about writing

In career, life, observations, Uncategorized, writing on December 20, 2012 at 10:50 am
batman

holy crotches, Batman. I’m still reinventing myself.

Last week, I was getting ready for work, and I found a hole in my crotch.  (Don’t worry this is a PG post.) I went to my closet only to find out that all my jeans were in the wash.  I wasn’t about to don the slacks–I refuse to do that on two important grounds: 1. I like to be comfy when teaching and 2. I haven’t had to wear slacks in some time and I think I might not fit into any of them any more–a fact that would depress me, vain man that I am.

I basically had two choices: get a dirty pair of jeans out of the hamper or wear the jeans with the holy crotch, which I had put into the trash a few minutes before.  You might be horrified to know I pulled the holy jeans out of the unholy trash.  But there a 10-second rule on pulling jeans out of the trash–something equivalent to having food fall on the ground.  At least there should be.

I did have a third option, by the way: an old pair of black jeans, which I hadn’t worn in over eight years.  Did I ever think these mommy jeans were cool?  Did I not see the extra room in the crotch that made me look like I had a saggy diaper?  Did these very basic fashion issues get past me?  Was I coming off the 90s?    In the end, I stuck with my holy crotch pants, but not before I went through the pockets of my saggy-butt specials.  And now, here is the point of this story: I found a piece of paper with my writing on it–a list of sorts.  And on that list, number three was:

Re-invent yourself

This means that I have had this vague idea in my head for over eight years.  It’s odd how your memory works.  In my head, it’s as if that were a new thought.  I wake up thinking about it.  I write in this blog about it.  I probably talk to my wife too often about it.  But even so, it’s not a new idea.

How I have not realized this probably has to do with the fact that I keep trying new things, and in the last year and a half, the attempts at reinvention are coming faster and harder: novelist, short story writer, graphic novelist, flash fiction writer, scriptwriter, and now, scripts for commercials.  Oh yeah, blogs, too.  The only thing I haven’t tried to write are instruction manuals, video games, and street signs.  At this rate, it won’t be long until I get to some of those, as well, though I fear that my signs would be a little verbose.

I’m not sure what I think of these attempts at writerly reinvention are really leading to.  Is it better to sit on something for a long time and craft it out?  Or is it better to go where you will, to make stuff that’s as good as you can get it and then move on?  By nature, I think I prefer the latter, but I’m not sure if that’s me just going after immediate gratification.

I will say that finding that list shook me.  It makes me realize the importance of keeping a journal and actually reading past entries.  I wonder how that Gabe, the Gabe who actually liked his black mama jeans with the saggy bottoms would have felt if he’d known where I am now–all Old Navy Premium loos jeans and shit.  Would he be pleased or bummed?  And eight years from now, how will I be?  Will I still be looking for reinvention or will I be reinvented?  Will I be wearing mu loose jeans or, will I be wearing skinny jeans?  Scary thought.

Yoko-Ono-Fashions-for-Men

I guess there ARE worse things than black mommy jeans

Of course, I don’t know. And that’s just it: things always look so different when you’re in the process.  Whether it be mom-jeans that you used think looked good or a script that you thought was strong until you realized it wasn’t.  I guess that’s just life.  You keep evolving.  So maybe I don’t have to feel like a failure.  Maybe I will keep reinventing.  Maybe.  I just hope I won’t be wearing skinny jeans.

9 Months and Out, Lesson 2: DON’T WORRY ABOUT YOUR AGE….

In career, humor, life, media, observations, Uncategorized on September 1, 2012 at 6:15 am

I’m middle-aged, and I’m not happy about it.

The other day, I went some place for coffee.  It’s right across from a Starbucks, which I don’t pooh-pooh as a rule.  Starbucks is fine.  It’s good.  It’s ok.  I just felt like changing things up.  This other place is more hipster.  The lines are longer.  The people better looking–no tired looking middle-managers in khakis sitting around with their PC’s in this here place.  This was a Mac crowd, which if nothing else means the coffee is fair traded, cold-brewed with spices from the Himalayas and infused with Madagascar fairy dust–ingredients you pay for through the nose–pierced nose, naturally.

So, surrounded by all the new hipsters and the new shiny Apples, I ordered my Madagascar fairy-infused brew on ice and noticed that the barrista (hate that word) was wearing an LA Kings t-shirt.  In San Francisco, you don’t do this unless you’re looking for abuse.  For Angelinos, San Francisco is a quaint town up north.  In San Fran, LA is all pollution and water-theft and Satan.  Anyway, sensing a fellow Angelino, I asked the man where he was from.  He said Venice.  I grew up in next-door Santa Monica.  We smiled.  We were both Angelinos and Westsiders, to boot.  Cool.  Then he tells me he went to my high school.  Holy ducklesworth!  A fellow Viking!  I almost broke into our school song, which I, as a choir member back in the day, sang many many times at all kinds of events.

I decide against the singing, but still we’re all smiles at this point.  We’re on the same wavelength.  That is until the guy asks what year I graduated.  I feel a tightening around my smile.  I say, “I think I might be a little older,” and then, I tell him the year.  And that’s when he does the same.  He’s 16 years younger.  16.  Oh, fuck you, Mr. Coffee.  Go choke on your Madagascar BS coffee that gives me the runs.  He probably doesn’t even know the school song now that Prop 13 has removed music from the school.

Now, I wasn’t really pissed.  I just felt a little awkward especially because it seemed like he got awkward.  Of course, he probably got awkward because he sensed that I got awkward. Oh, who knows?  It doesn’t matter.  Why do I care?

I probably wouldn’t except that when you’re looking to build a new career as I am, you’re surrounded by young people by definition.  Usually, these young’ns don’t care about me.  I’m just another guy.  But in my head, I assume that they must be thinking  I’m some middle-aged loser.  My issues.  Not theirs.  Which is the moral of this little lesson: go and reinvent yourself if you need to and don’t let yourself be limited by the number of candles on your cake.

I’m 40. So take that, Mr. Coffee?  I can appreciate cool music and non-exploitative coffee like you.  But I have also lived long enough to know Starbucks is ok in a pinch.  I’m older.  Life has made me flexible and ready to drink any cup of coffee life’s barrista throws my way.

nine months and out…a manifesto for switching careers

In career, humor, observations, parenting, Uncategorized on August 25, 2012 at 5:40 am

 

 

I read somewhere that you have to name to claim it. Or something like that.  I’m terrible about memorizing quotes.  I’m a paraphraser by nature and by limited intellect.  But you get the gist.  I’ve known for a while that I couldn’t keep on as I’ve been–a teacher of poor young people who also tutors the wealthiest among us on the side.  It’s not the work itself, though I don’t love the tutoring as much.  The truth is that it boils down to economics.  WOW, that’s really unique, isn’t it?  But let me tell you a story, which might make a my point a bit more personal if not more interesting.

My family comes from Uruguay, a small country in South America, in case you don’t know and you would not be alone if you didn’t.  The last time I went, I was walking around the downtown of the capital, and I realized that the beaches, which the country is known for, were all being bought up by wealthy Argentines and Brazilians, and a few Americans as well, which meant that something as public as the land one walks on could be bought out by foreigners.  Public beaches in one country were becoming privately owned extensions of another country–colonies by pocketbook.  I naturally thought that this was unheard of in the US of A.  We buy things.  We don’t get bought out, which is still basically true though changing.  And yet, I live in a city, a major American city, where the not-rich are being forced out by the newly-minted techie-rich.

I am not from here, originally.  So in a way, I don’t have the same stake in the game as many of my friends who are native to the City by the Bay.  But I’m a proud, probably to a fault, and I’m an urban-dweller, which means suburbia is not an option, which means I’m locked into a fight here.  I am, for the first time in my life, thinking about money and my need to get a bit more of it.  It’s not just the San Fran, of course.  I saw the same stuff happening in NYC where I used to live before moving here, but I was single then.  There’s something about having a family that’s changed me and how I think of work and career and getting paid.

There’s some personal stuff, too, which you can read more about in a guest post I recently made for Le Clown’s Black Box Warning.  If you’re interested in the inner-pains of my being, check out the post.  For the purposes of this blog, as I’ve said before, I am trying to lay down some plans for getting to a new place with writing and social media campaigns.  I’ll get into the social media discusion in the next post, but for now, I gotsta to get paid regardless of what I do.

It’s possible, I think.  When I first got to SF, I knew I didn’t want to work in an office anymore.  I knew I needed a job that gave me time to write and I knew I was a teacher.  Well, I found that.  Now, I need to get that and just a few more dolars so I won’t be muscled out by all the hipsters and their beards and beamers and benjamins.  This is will be a fight for the proletariat.  Either that, or I’m just plain sick of running in circles.  It’s time to go some place.

writing through the fear..or is it riding?

In humor, life, observations, parenting, Uncategorized on July 9, 2012 at 6:31 am

Lately, I’ve been getting panic attacks on the freeways.  I’ve never been in an accident; knock on wood, I’ve never even been close to being in one.  But along the way, I have developed this lack of ease on highways.  This experience has made me wonder if this is the beginning of fear taking over.  I say this though as this weird fearful cloud is enveloping me so is a realization that I don’t get to avoid things just ’cause I’m afraid of them.

Is that a duh-statement, or what?

It’s not like I didn’t have fears before.  I certainly did.  I remember this one time as a kid.  I was supposed to compete in a track meet, but I woke up the day of so scared that I was going to fail, that I told my mom I was sick, which wasn’t a lie, not exactly.  I quit playing basketball in high school when I was a sophomore out of fear that I’d bring my team down.  To put it simply: I’m scared. I’ve always been scared.  And if you ask me what I’m scared of, I guess I’d have to say it was failure–of letting people know I suck at something.

Which brings me to writing and to making a career of it somehow.  Last week,  I met with a film producer here in San Fran.  He’s young, successful, very cool dude.  I asked for the meet-up because I wanted to get his advice on next steps–what can I do to get to a next level in storytelling–whatever the medium.  If you’ve been reading the blog, you know I’ve been reading books about branding and trying to implement a strategy to makes me some dough, but truth is the plans these books set out are not very useful. The authors make it seem like if you follow a set recipe for success then soon, you’ll be feasting on a nice, warm Success Pie.  But recipes for success are nothing like recipes for pie.  There is no set order of steps, and more times than not, you have to break the rules in order to break through.

I know this, and still, I came home from that meeting feeling a little bit sick in the stomach because this producer told me to break one of the rules I’ve set for myself. Basically, he told me that the way to making money for creatives in this city is for them to get jobs making commercials/ads/mini-webisodes for the tech companies up here.  He gave me amazing tips to that end, and I’m thankful, but I felt a little sick, as well.  Why?  I could say that it’s because I’m an artist, because I don’t want to work for The Man….YAWN…because The Man is evil and will eat my soul like a well-baked Success Pie, etc.  But truth is I’m scared.  Writing has always been a solo sport for me, and the idea of creating narrative within a company structure when money is on the line, scares the bejeezus out of me.  Or, to put it more accurately, I’m scraed to put myself out for that kind of work because what if I find out I suck?

I kind of want a blanket or my son’s binky right now.  But I don’t get to have either.  I need to get writing, not only the fiction or the scripts I want to make, but also the emails, letters, texts and tweets that will get people to hire me to write them some kind of story.  Fear be damned. I’m hungry and I needs me a slice of that Success Pie.

52 stories in 52 weeks: a writer’s goal…

In writers & books, writing on May 22, 2012 at 11:30 am

 

 

For almost a year, I’ve had a goal of writing one piece of flash fiction a week for a year.  And for 41 weeks, I was on task.  But in the last month, with a baby and a short film being born, it’s been tough.  Boo hoo!  I know.  Whine, whine, whine.  But hey, I’m a guy, and sometimes we do that.  In fact, where would romantic comedies be if it weren’t for whining men?  Think about it.  It’s especially true of that new sub-genre of Rom-Com about couples having kids.  What to Expect When You’re Expecting or Friends With Kids (for a good review of that movie, see the good folks at Spotless Minds.)

I digress.

SO, now that I’m not whining anymore about my cool baby and a dance movie that I am working on that I think will be quite lovely, I will get to the point of this blog.  I’ve slightly adjusted my goal.  I’ve reassessed.  And this is my goal: I will have the 52 stories done in 52 weeks.  I have one month and 10 shorts to write.  I’m not promising greatness, but I am promising odd, quirky, and, if not that, words.

I’d love to know if any writers out there have similar goals.  If so, please share.  I’d love to hear what you are all up to.  If you want to follow me on my journey, then please come along.  You can see me struggle through the finish line at the end of June.  Here’s my fiction site:

www.g-martinezcabrera.com

Wish me luck!

 

 

 

 

the cure for lonely writing time…

In humor, life, writing on February 22, 2012 at 11:32 am

 

There is no cure. DEAL.

OK, let me be a little nicer about it.  There is a lot of stuff written about how difficult it is to fill the page with words. I’m not a drinker, but sometimes I wish I was when I’m starting something new. That’s when I just want to have an out-of-body experience while my body taps away a first draft.  That first draft can sometimes be fun, but most times, it’s not great and I’m going to have to edit the bejeezus out of it, which I don’t mind.  I just hate getting the words out the first time.  Of course, if I were drinking, my first draft would suck it worser, so there’s that to consider.

Still, even harder than writing a first draft of anything is just putting my butt (and keeping my butt) in the seat while I tap away at my keyboard.  For a long time, I was writing at my house in the backroom. But recently, we got a washer and dryer from my folks, which means that my backroom has become a back corner. I don’t mind. I’ve noticed I write best when facing a wall. I also have noticed that I like to write in narrow spaces, in which I can feel the walls on either side of me.  Is it from my grad school days when I used to spend hours procrastinating in a tiny carrell?  Maybe. But I think it might be more primordial.  As in, during my time of insecurity before the plain whiteness of my screen, I need a continuous hug or something. Not to make light of people with Autism, but I’ve heard there are these things you can sleep in that wrap around you and make you feel like you’re getting a hug the whole night long.  Maybe I should write with one of those on. Of course, I don’t think you can use your hands when you’re being embraced.

The back corner in my house is not bad, but even the walls only have so much power over me.  If I don’t get right to the work in the morning, I start looking for things to clean.  Dishes, clothes, back corners of the pantry, the toilet even. You name it.  I don’t think that’s primordial, though. I think it’s just sad.

Talking about sadness, the reason for my struggle when starting to write, I contend, is loneliness. Not to sound overly dramatic, but writing is kind of like death. You don’t know what’s waiting for you, and you have to face it alone.  No one is going to get you out of it. You have to find a way to cope.  So, the last couple months, my solution has been to write in coffee houses, which for some reason, focuses me.  It might be the caffeine, too.  But really, it’s the people.  Don’t get me wrong. I don’t talk to anyone except for the nice woman who makes my coffee. I don’t come here for that kind of community. I come here to work. I’m on an analogy-run here, but coffeehouses are kind of like the original non-virtual Facebook. The place is full of people you recognize who put up announcements about this or that event who are all in their own world and want to stay that way.

There are a few disadvantages to this set-up–of course there are. First, there’s the cost. I try to be cheap. A double espresso costs about 2 bucks, which is not bad, though sometimes I give in and get a vegan cookie (not because I’m vegan but because I live in San Francisco, vegan capital of Gaia.)  If I were smarter about money, I’d get an espresso maker and do it at home, and then, I wouldn’t be tempted to eat vegan hockey pucks. (If I were really smart about money, I wouldn’t spend so much time writing.)  I figure six months’ worth of espressos would be about the same as a decent machine, and if I include the vegan delights, I’d probably break even in three. BUT then I’d be back at my little back corner hugging the walls or cleaning the lint off them.

There’s also calorie intake to consider. Espresso with a couple sacks of sugar isn’t bad, but the vegan goodness wears on you.  I’ve written a lot these last couple months, but I’ve gained five pounds, so I’m going to start running more.  (Vegan baked goods = less guilt, more gut.)

Lastly, there is the problem of hours and caffeine. I have to write in the morning because of my schedule, but sometimes things don’t work out and I can only get my words out at night. Espresso late at night = bad sleep and crazy dreams, which then screws my next day of writing.

OK, so as you can see, my solution to the loneliness required by writing is problematic.  (I’m not mentioning yuppie moms and dads with their SUV baby carriages and/or African sling things.  Why do all these white women dig their slings so much?)  If you have some ideas, I’d love to hear them.  What do you all do when you need to write? Let’s start a therapy session right here. It won’t keep you up, or make you gain weight, or give you the need to scream at a yuppie mom trying to get in touch with her Wisdom.

is the woman making my espressos really a woman & why do I care?

In humor, life, observations, Uncategorized, writing on February 3, 2012 at 1:55 pm

A few words for context: a friend is working on a documentary about transsexuals. It’s a topic I really didn’t know much about, admittedly. But I helped him out on the shoot, and he was gracious and patient as I asked my questions beforehand. Maybe it’s a sign of the times, but when entering a new community, as I was about to do working on this movie, my biggest concern is not to offend. Then again, I’m a Libra, so I tend to like to be liked, so there’s that.  I enjoyed helping out. I learned a lot. And I’m glad to say that I think the doc will turn out pretty nicely. Check out the movie’s kickstarter campaign if you are interested, but come back if you want to find why it’s made me confused–more so than usual.

It’s been about three weeks since the shoot, but a question has arisen for me more than once while walking the streets of San Fran: how many of the women I am seeing are actually women?  And to make things more interesting still, what do I mean when I say, “actually”?

If I learned anything about the transsexual community, it’s that the whole distinction between real and not-real is not as real as I once thought, or at least, the standards by which I define real and not real may not be as steady as most of us like to think they are. The women on the movie–post operation or pre–are women. They see themselves that way. They live their lives that way. So they are women.  And then again…I say this and I hear the voice of one of the producers of the doc who in private admitted that though he would never want to disrespect the individuals he was filming–i.e., he would refer to them as women to their faces–he didn’t really think they were.  I think this is where my conservative friends would jump in with a nod and say, “yup, just ’cause you call yourself something, doesn’t make you that thing.”  You probably can hear those voices chiming in, using the argument by extension: “if someone said he was a llama, and ate like a llama and hung out with llamas, would that person be a llama?”  My flip answer would be, if a person could have an operation in which he was transformed to look like a llama and have sex like a llama, then, I’d probably be willing to think of that man as a llama.

But let me go back to the producer and his point because though I don’t want to agree with him, I do find myself having some sympathy for what he said. Maybe sympathy is the wrong word. But here’s the thing, I have another friend who kind of got into this movement called, transhumanism, which pushes the idea that eventually, humans will incorporate robotics into their bodies, thus erasing the human-computer divide. Generally, I think that’s creepy, and I don’t want to accept the premise that me and my Apple will soon be indistinguishable–though I do love my Apple, it should be said.

So, why is it that I can accept that a person who has an operation to erase the gender divide is ok, but not so much for the guy who wants to become bionic?  Isn’t kind of the same thing?

The only difference I can come up with is that in the case of the transsexual, there is this heartbreaking idea of being born into the wrong body. I cannot imagine being a physical man who feels he should have been a woman, or vice versa. Maybe the transhumanist thinks her body is not right without some kind of robotic thing inserted into it, but those people seem a little more cold and clinical, as in the sense that they feel their bodies should be more perfect and can only be so with some computer chip swimming around their bloodstream. In one case, the operation points at being happier and humaner; in the case of the transhuman, the goal seems to be to become less human.  Of course, this is probably my bias.

And so, as long as we are referring to biases, let me add another to the list. Because for all my talk of acceptance, I find myself wondering about this one women I see almost every day.  She makes my awful espresso at the local Starbucks. I don’t know why I suspect her of being transsexual. I don’t know why I care. Maybe I don’t really. I don’t know what it is I feel. Is it rude for me to think of a person who feels like she is born in the wrong body as a misfit? I count myself in that club. I have always felt that way, but the misfittedness that I feel is more internal, and I know how to cover it up. Its dumb. I’m probably an asshole. But there is a part of me that wants to break down the covering-up that I am doing and that I think she is doing and get up on a faux-rickety table while the faux jazz plays at my Starbucks, and powered by my faux espresso, I want to reach out and tell this person that I am one of the club, that I feel the pain of not fitting in.

Of course, I am not part of the club. Not her club. She may not even have a club. She may not see herself as being anything but a she. She may have been a she since birth for all I know. So, I guess it all boils down to me. I’m the misfit, and that’s really all I know.  Now what?

Young People Fighting in San Francisco & Other Ugly Things I’ve Been Thinking About…PART 2

In life, media, observations, writing on January 18, 2012 at 11:50 am

Ugly Thing #2: I’m a fan of the podcast, WTF with Marc Maron. I’ve said this already a million times, but I am one to repeat myself, and I’m getting old so there’s that. But for those not in the know, this is a show in which a comedian interviews other comedians (though there have been a few non-comedians as well) about life and the art of making people laugh. Even if this doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, give it a try if you like honest interviewing. Mr. Maron is like Terry Gross on Fresh Air except that he curses and he can get into topics that NPR would never allow.

I bring this up here on a post about ugliness because on the most recent show, there is an interview with a comedian who comes out of the closet. The coming-out is not the ugly part, mind you. What struck me about the conversation was that the comedian, Todd Glass, a middle-aged man, was so at pains to be honest about who he is.  No, that’s not even ugly. The really ugly part is the part that we all play in making people hide who they are–this guy is 47 and it took him til now to feel ok admitting publicly to this important part of his life.  Maybe this isn’t ugly. Maybe it’s sad. Maybe it’s both.

Now, my anti-preachy spidey-sense is tingling. Honestly, I kind of hate it when someone–usually a liberal like myself–goes off on people about their biases. It’s needlessly sanctimonious, and that doesn’t help anyone. We’re all in this stew of culture and sex and religion together, and though I get angry at the injustice of shaming people who want to love people of their same sex, it’s kind of a facile anger for me, I think. Biases/prejudices are crosses to bear, which I think is a truth that many on the religious right don’t seem to realize.  So let me rephrase. Let me put this in more personal and less political, less accusatory terms.

Listening to the podcast with Mr. Glass, I was both heartbroken and annoyed. Yes, I’ll admit I was annoyed because I couldn’t believe that this guy was having such a problem with the word, gay. I mean he came out and yet at the same time, he barely could use the word when describing himself. I could imagine there being members of the Gay community yelling at their radios, telling the guy to get over it, to be proud. Hell, I’m straight, and I was yelling. But then I had to check myself. I had to think about what it would be like to feel like you need to keep a huge part of yourself locked away.  Obviously there’s a reason this guy felt that way, and he is not the only one by a long-shot. And though there are a lot of brave men and women who still put themselves out there and risk rejection at very young ages, that doesn’t change the fact that someone like Todd Glass was brave when he was ready.

So maybe this isn’t a post about ugliness in the end. But I’ve already written it and its title, so let’s go with it. I mean even if the story ends well for Mr. Glass, there are so many people out there who can’t face their families and friends, who can’t be true to themselves. That’s sad, obviously. But now that I think about it, my first intuition was right, it’s an ugly truth that we all have to deal with that we push away people who are different from the so-called norm.

Now go listen to the interview and tell me what you think. As Marc Maron says, “DO IT.”

Secret Santas Suck…And They Shoudn’t Be Secret, Either

In humor, life, observations, Uncategorized on December 15, 2011 at 12:17 am

Look, I’m cheery. I am. I don’t like forced community put upon me by holiday parties at work, but the holidays themselves are nice, great even. I wholeheartedly accept the power of the Santa or the Dreidel or claymation Frosty the Snowmen to make people feel warm and fuzzy inside. I don’t even mind the music I have to put up with in every store I enter–unless it’s The Little Drummer Boy–THAT SONG IS UNBEARABLE!! But then there’s the Secret Santa thing, and that just makes me sad and angry. I’m ok with the idea in the abstract, but where I work, the Ladies (and yes, they are all ladies) have decided that we have to give presents and that we can’t give gift cads or money. AND that we have to keep it secret until the day of the party when we all have to watch each other open each other’s gifts. Yes, this has the makings of sadness.

I point out that my enemies in this are ladies because, rightly or wrongly, I have noticed a gender divide on the question of gifts. I usually hate these kinds of divides. I am not a subscriber to the men are from mars and women are from…where are they supposed to be from again? See, I don’t even know the title of that stupid book. But there might be a real difference between the sexes when it comes to gift-giving philosophies. First off, I’ve never met a guy who said he didn’t like money for a gift–never. And gift cards, most men agree unless they are hard-core cash lovers, are almost as good. But I have met many a woman who, like the Ladies at my job, resist the practical beauty of cold hard cash and/or gift cards. Why? I ask this simple question.

Look, I understand the principle involved in this stance. It kind of sucks when you see spouses giving each other money. And maybe I get it with siblings, too. In both cases, we’re talking family members, intimates. Hopefully, you know your family well enough to know what to buy them.  But really? With people you work with, people you don’t know well, why not give cash? The guy I was assigned this year is a nice guy, a good person, but I see him once a month at staff meetings. I know he’s a new father. I know he drinks coke. That’s it. And good reader, these two facts don’t give me much to go on as far as what to buy him. Should I give the guy a case of coke and a baby bottle so that he can get his son started early? Should I buy him…Fuck, I don’t even know him well enough to make ridiculous over-the-top jokes about what I should give him.

So screw it. Screw The Ladies and their principled stance on gift-giving. Screw the Secret Santa silliness. Tomorrow, I’m going to talk to the guy and I’m going to break it down for him: he needs to tell me what to buy him OR he needs to accept a gift card from Babies R Us or Target or some other store of his choosing. And let me say this now: I’m not only doing this for myself. I do this for men everywhere who want badly to give money and/or gift cards to strangers at their workplaces. God bless us. God bless us all.

What Some German Movie About Running Taught Me About Running and Writing and Why I Should Stop Eating Sweets

In humor, life, observations, writing on December 14, 2011 at 1:21 am

So, if you’ve been reading my posts lately, you’ll know that I’ve been struggling with a script that I should’ve had done last week. I’ve tried everything including writing on this blog about the problem, which should be good for something the way I figure it. I’m communicating fears, sharing my thoughts, etc. But it’s all been for naught. The truth is that I’ve been sucking it big time, and if I don’t stop, I’m going to become a butterball. Yes, I don’t know why, but somehow in my head I seem to think that if I fill my face with enough coffee and sweet things, I’ll get my mojo back and tackle this script.  Sugar and caffeine are great for a lot of things, but they don’t do fuck-all to make me write. They just jack me up, which makes my self-hate tick up a few mental decibels and no doubt, in the very near future, they’re going to make me gain weight, which, in turn, will make me angry at myself–angrier is more like it.

But then this morning, I decided to shake things up. I decided that telling myself I suck and then announcing it repeatedly on this blog was not the way to go. Instead, I said, screw it! I gave myself the morning off. I didn’t let myself look at the clock. I didn’t tell myself I had to go to Starbucks to write before starting the rest of my day. I pushed all of it out of my head. And what did I do? I watched a movie about running.

I love sports-movies—let me say it now! This, like my negative views on holiday parties, makes my wife sad, so most of the time, when I watch sports-movies, I do so by myself. I will also admit that sports-movies make me emo, as in weep-my-butt-off emotional.  Dramas don’t usually cut to my heart and comedies hardly ever make me laugh, but watching someone overcome some kind of adversity, which is the basic formula for the sports-movie, makes me weep and/or glow with excitement. At this moment, I’m trying not to think of the theme for that amazing and Oscar-overlooked movie, Rudy.  Just thinking of that film makes me…Oh no….man-tears…adams-apple flexing….

A moment…sorry, I’m just…Ok, one more sec… …..just one….

OK, OK. I’m better now. That movie was greatness. I can also recommend Hoosiers, Without Limits, American Flyers, Rocky up until the one when he goes to Russia—that one sucked. The Karate Kid (I think we can include martial arts as a sport, though I would not do the same for KK 2, 3, or 4 or Karate Girl—as with any good fighter, the Karate Kid franchise should’ve hung up the black belt before it became a dementia-laden mess.

As you can see, I like sports-movies, but of all sports movies, I like running-movies best. That reminds me, Running Brave was great. OH,  and there’s also Chariots of Fire, though I hate slow-mo scenes. AND there are some great running documentaries. (If you’d like, send me word, and I’ll make you a list.) So, it’s the running-movie that makes my heart beat fastest. Partly, it’s because I run. I’m not a runner, but I have gone out to run 3-4 times a week since high school. I love the way real runners look when they’re doing their thing. It’s so basic to who we are. It’s what people have been doing since the beginning of people.  And so this morning, without much thought, I put in a German movie called The Robber. It’s based on a real-life story about some Austrian marathon runner in the 80s who not only set national records, but also robbed banks on his free time. I don’t know if the movie is truthful to the real story, but if it is, then the reason that the runner robs is the same reason he runs: he wants to push himself beyond usual limits. As a bank robber, he wants to push his adrenaline-levels, and as a runner, he’s trying to do the same. In one scene, he pushes himself so hard in a race that he collapses at the finish line. If it wasn’t for the fact that there was 30 minutes left to the movie, I would’ve assumed that the German director was making an ironic point: a robber who dies not running from the police but  from himself. What’s the German word for DEEP? And yet, this movie is deep. It’s a F’n sports-movie, after all. So what do you expect?

I know a lot of people don’t get this—not the sports-movie thing, but the running-thing. And there are a lot of sports-lovers who don’t think long distance running is exciting. But I do. There is an adrenaline to long distance running—it’s not the adrenaline you get jumping out of a plane or kayaking down a river, but it’s a slow kind, a personal kind.  The question a runner doesn’t ask but always has to face is: can I do this, can I finish the race and do so before anyone, before the clock winds down on whatever record I’m trying to shatter? Basically, what is my limit? Runners don’t ask that of themselves but the question is always there in their minds, and that question raises the stakes. I’ve never been brave enough to go all out while running, to risk my physical health. Even as a high school runner, I’d start my races worrying that I wouldn’t be able to finish if I went all out. Like any sport, you’re dealing with physical limits, and part of me was scared to face mine—I also am man enough to admit to my fear of physical pain.  The runner in the German movie faced the same question, but both as a robber and as a runner, he chose to push through and risk himself.

I know the old joke that the only good reason to run is if you’re being chased. Maybe that’s true. Maybe runners are chased by something in their make-up. I don’t know. I don’t think I care. What I can tell you is that there is something wonderful about being out somewhere moving through space, powered by your legs. There’s something lonely about it, and brave, and maybe, sadistic. The runner in the movie certainly had a sadistric streak in him.

For me, and how all of this relates to the script, I’d say that I’m stalling for the same reason I’m not a real runner: I am in fear of finding my limits and of the pain of effort required to even get to that place. In the end, that’s what I’m left with. So I either accept this fear and enjoy my life drinking coffee because I want to and not because I’m trying to avoid something, or I get off my butt and go for it. Balls out! No Limits!

Jesus, can you hear the Rocky theme playing in the background? I can. I can. I can.

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