Saturday, November 1, 2014

No Z.

Below is an embarrassingly ridiculous “story” I had to write for one of my classes. This was the product of a writing exercise “constraint” called a "lipogram" that requires the omission of a letter of the alphabet. Rather than omitting the letter I or E or anything like that, I omitted the letter Z and then sent the kids off to the zoo to see some zebra. That just seemed like more fun to me. The result - as you can see below - is actually surprisingly lame.


Friday, October 31, 2014

African Equids.

African Equids
by james bezerra

"Well hello and welcome!" shouted the man in the tan hat and khaki shorts. He had the practiced joy of someone who spends a lot of time leading school groups of children, which is what he will be doing today. "Is everyone excited to see some animals today?!"

The kids did not say much. Maybe a half-hearted Yay??. They had gotten up very early, before the sun had fully come up, then ridden the bus for over an hour along unfamiliar freeways.

"My name is Mister Andy and today I am going to give you a tour of the ..." He stopped himself. He was tired too. He made less working here then he'd ever expected when he'd gotten his degree. He had expected that he would be doing real and important conservation work, maybe on those vast African savannahs that he'd dreamed about as a boy. Instead though, he'd found himself here. Mostly leading tour groups of disinterested urban school kids. Additionally, he found ridiculous the constraint that had been placed up on all of them. "Today I am going to give you a tour of this establishment which maintains a collection of wild animals ... typically in a park or gardens of some sort, for study, conservation, or display to the public. Who is excited for that?!"

He led them down to see the gorillas, because those were always a big hit with the kids, but it was too early and they were asleep. He took them over to the reptile house, but too many of the little girls refused to go inside on account of a quickly-spreading rumor that inside the reptile house the snakes were allowed to slither freely in the shadows.
So he took them over to the Africa enclosure. It was big, almost half an acre.
"Mister Andy! Mister Andy! What are those?" A little boy was pointing at into the enclosure.

Andy had been dreading this. "Those," he sighed, "are a type of African equid. Notable for their distinctive black and white markings."
"Are they horses?!"

"Well, no." Andy said, "Not technically. They are very similar to horses though."
"What's an eqid?" A little girl with blond ringlets asked. "Are they called equids?" She looked up at him, in a way that was almost accusatory.
"Well no." Andy sighed again, "No one actually calls them that."
"Tell us what they are called." The little girl demanded.
"Well technically they are of the genus Equus. And of the subgenus Hippotigris. Can you all say 'Hippotigris'?"

"Those are antelope," one of the boys hollered while wiping snot on his sleeve.

"No," Andy protested, "those are not antelope."

"Yes they are."

"No, I assure you, they are not."

"Well then what are they?" The little girl was quite demanding now. 

"How would you all like to go see the porcupines?" Andy asked.
"No," the little girl insisted. "Tell us what those are."
"I told you already," snot boy said, "they are antelopes."
"No," Andy said, "No they are not. They are just kind of like horses, okay? You're fourth graders, how much do you really care?"
"Where are they from?" Blond girl asked.
"These are from ..." Andy stopped himself, "these are from the African nation west of Angola and north of Botswana."
"Where is that?" The girl was like a little prosecutor.
"Look kid, just go get a map, okay? Now how about some ice cream. How would you all like some ice cream?"
"We haven't even had lunch yet." the girl said.
"Well I won't tell if you don't, okay?"
Andy led them away toward the cantina as the African equids munched contentedly on the breakfast hay in their feeder.


The Cliff and this Bitch.

I am in the process of writing a short story for one of my workshop classes. I have been getting a lot of (very polite) blowback lately from numerous sources that all seems to indicate that I have sort of plateaued in my writing as of late. There are all sorts of very complicated ways to explain this, I could tell you what Proust said about such things and maybe break it down the way Derrida might, but really it just boils down to this: I have gotten pretty good at what I do and so now need to do some other stuff.

See how clearly and succinctly I articulated that?

Recently I met with a professor I respect (who is a writer herself) and she said that I need to “jump off the cliff” but she talks that way and I’m not exactly sure what that means. Though she was nice enough to shrug when I said that I desperately want to publish a novel. She shrugged and said, “You’re good enough now to publish a novel” and then went on to explain that I should be less concerned about that and more concerned with attending to the growth of my writing.

In an attempt to attend to the growth of my writing I have gone back to this idea I had a long time ago for a story about D.B. Cooper (the 1970s skyjacker) which I have never written because I didn’t know how to write it. I’d envisioned a sort of screenplay in the style of the third act of the movie Clue wherein nothing is really sorted out but many possibilities are imagined. Well I have started writing that as a kind of short story which doesn’t even care who the dude was, but rather revels in the possibilities and plays with the mythology of Cooper. And let me tell you, IT HAS BEEN REALLY HARD! I assume that if it is hard then I must be growing as a writer, or something. That’s how it works, right? That’s why the gym is so unpleasant to go to; because we have to do unpleasant things to make ourselves get better.

Anyway, I have been working my ass off on this story in a way I am not accustomed to. For the first draft I am writing it as an enumerated list story (I may remove that artifice later, but let’s just get through the first draft, shall we?). Below are a few of the first few sections that I have written so far. When this bitch is done I will post the whole thing here.


Vector 23 (Excerpt).

1.The man who bought a one-way ticket with cash at Portland Airport on the afternoon of 24 November 1971 - who was the 36th passenger to board Flight 305 to Seattle-Tacoma Airport, who sat in seat 18C, who carried with him only a black attache case, and whose FBI file is now more than sixty volumes long - most certainly existed. 

He gave his name at the Northwest Orient Airlines counter as Dan Cooper.

Clyde Jabin, a young reporter rushing to file his story with United Press International that night spoke hastily on the phone with a records agent at the FBI.

“D. Cooper,” the agent had said.

“Is that ‘D’ as in dog? Or ‘B’ as in boy?” Jabin asked.

“Yeah, that’s right,” the agent said back in a hurry. “Look, I gotta go Clyde. Lots going on here tonight.” 

Jabin’s story identified the hijacker as D. B. Cooper. This was an unfortunate coincidence for a petty Portland Oregon criminal actually named D. B. Cooper who was visited by FBI agents Thanksgiving morning.

At about 8:13pm on the night of the 24th the nonexistent D. B. Cooper of Jabin’s story leapt from the aft stairway of the Boeing 727 as it passed over the Lewis River in southwestern Washington. He disappeared. Which is no small feat for a man who didn’t exist in the first place.

2.Everything presented here as fact is actually fact. Except for the things which aren’t.

3. The man who would be DB might have been born in 1926 in Vancouver Canada. His father could have been a fisherman, tall with thick arms, and a big beard that hung from his otherwise thin face. DB could have stood at the end of the dock each time his dad’s sixty-foot salmon trawler put out in the direction of Vancouver Island. DB might have waited there every time watching as the boat disappeared around a bend in the channel on its way out to the sea; such a very small boat when compared to the vastness of such a dark sea. As a little Canadian boy he could have read the Belgian comic book Les Aventures de Dan Cooper about the adventures of a Royal Canadian Air Force test pilot named Dan Cooper. The comic was never sold in the United States.  


I'm a Fool to Love You.

Tonight is Halloween and I am not doing anything for Halloween because I have blocked off this whole weekend for getting stuff done because I am headed off to a brother’s wedding next week. Yes, The Texan Diplomat is getting married and so I get to do some fun traveling, but that means I have a metric fuck-load of things to get done before I get on a train Wednesday night.

So I am sitting here at my kitchen table doing my work and I have the windows open - it is a nice chill breezy and drizzly dark night - and I can hear the occasional hoots and woots and hollers of Halloween parties in the apartment complex. Longtime readers of this  blog know that I have great difficulty processing the fact that anyone anywhere ever might possibly be having fun without me, so tonight feels a bit lonelier than most. I spend alot of time alone - being both a writer and a grad student - and I’m fine with it and I have actually learned how to be somewhat graceful about this whole being-single thing, but tonight my Pandora is on a bluesy bender and so as I write this I am listening to to Donald Byrd’s “I’m a Fool to Want You” as college girl laughs roll in through my windows on air a little thicker and wetter than most nights and it makes me a little lonelier than most nights.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Big Ink.

I would very much like it if the international ink pen industry (“Big Ink” as I like to call it) could finally get its shit together and standardize itself in such a way that pens are ALWAYS the color of the ink inside of them. This is probably not a big issue for most people, but I correct a lot of papers and I give notes on a lot of papers and it would really streamline my life in ink pens stopped lying to me about what color they actually are. Every time it feels like a little bit of a deception. I think it needs to stop.