Chapter Two is Up, Etc.

If you click the “Restless” tab at the top of the page, you’ll find a link for Chapter Two – “We Accept You, We Accept You, One of Us!” somewhere toward the bottom.  (For any who’re wondering, that’s a reference to a RAMONES song and also to the movie “Freaks.”)

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Since I’ve been in “write” mode lately, I thought I’d briefly address my writing influences.  Someone even asked me about that recently, and I hadn’t put much thought into it, to be honest.  I just blurted out the first names that came to mind.  Fortunately, after some thought, I think I agree with my initial blurtation (not a word).  🙂  I’ve put decades of thought into listing my musical influences, but this is pretty much the first time I’ve gone to the trouble of listing my authorial ones.  To be honest, I actually feel a little pretentious doing it…but whatever.

 

In thinking about who influences my writing, I mostly have to ask the question of who I read and whose work I’ve enjoyed the most.  It’s dangerous, though, to say that I write LIKE any of these people…but they’re who I find myself most often quoting or structuring my “process” (if any) after.  So here’s the short-list.

  1. Frank McCourt – One of the finest books I’ve ever read is “Angela’s Ashes.”  It’s beautifully written, but done in a way that is a little bit jarring at the same time.  His sentences sometimes run-on.  He uses colloquial phrasings and Irish terminology that are a struggle to follow sometimes…yet his point is clear and his stories are memorable.  (Also “‘Tis” and “Teacher Man” are great reads as well…but if you’re only going to read one, it begins and ends with “Angela’s Ashes.”)
  2. Nick Hornby – My favorites of his works are “High Fidelity” and “A Long Way Down,” both of which I identify with on profound levels.  Hornby is one of the few authors of the modern age who seems to disappear when you’re reading his work.  He has very few “Hornby-isms” that are common to his writings.  His characters are their own creations, each with a unique voice that can’t quite be labeled as “Ah…that’s where it’s Nick slipping through.”  Nope.  It’s Rob.  Or it’s Maureen.  Or it’s whoever’s voice he’s in at the time.  (He also writes stunningly well as both a male narrator and as a female one.)  I am no where NEAR being able to do that, but it’s something I certainly aspire to.  (Seriously…read Hornby.)
  3. Kurt Vonnegut Jr. – (May he rest in peace.)  I pale in his shadow and am not worthy to be mentioned in tandem with him…but he’s still a major influence.  You can actually see it on my blog, I think.  Like when I say things like “Long time readers of the blog (if any)…” that’s pretty much stolen directly from Vonnegut.  He used to speak of his own death and say things like “When I die (God forbid!)…”  I totally adopted that.  Plus, he’s so dry and weird and Liberal…everything I dig.  I don’t do him justice…but I’ll keep mentioning him as one of the finest authors of his generation until the day I die (God forbid!).
  4. Robert Lasner – This is a weird one.  I don’t WANT to be influenced by him.  I’ve only read one of his books (“For Fucks Sake” – sorry to those whose eyes are burning from reading a word that they have heard countless times but fail to accept) and when I read it, I didn’t enjoy it.  I kept reading it thinking, “I hate everyone in this book.  They’re all mind-bogglingly stupid and deserve everything they’re getting.”  …but for some reason I finished it.  Then, probably a year or so later…I realized that the reaction I had was exactly the reaction I was supposed to have.  It was the POINT of the book.  Sometimes you’re just stupid and you can’t/won’t get out of it…and you get what you deserve.  I’m not sure I ever want to write like he does…but I do hope that someday I write something that has that kind of impact on someone…something that they have to live with before they appreciate it.
  5. Another odd choice…Kevin Smith (director of films like “Clerks,” “Dogma,” and “Jersey Girl.”)  To be fair, other than one or two posts on his website, I haven’t actually READ anything he’s written.  Mostly, I just cite Kev because I find myself using some of his terminology/inflection…at least in my head.  (Like how often I use the term “right on” and how I call everyone “sir.”)
  6. Roddy Doyle – A recent influence.  I really dug “A Star Called Henry” and “Paddy Clark Ha Ha Ha” and I feel like he’s something of a kindred spirit in how he views the struggles of life (except I’m probably a bit more pro-church than he is).  To be honest, I don’t think I’ve fully absorbed him into my writing style yet…but I think it’ll happen as time goes on, so I’m putting him on the list.
  7. Nicole Krauss – I pity anyone who hasn’t read either “Man Walks Into a Room” or “The History of Love.”  Frankly, I even feel a little sorry for the people who’ve only read one or the other.  They’re both incredible books.  She’s one of the few fresh voices out there right now, and I’m virtually salivating at the prospect of a new Krauss book hitting the stands…but unfortunately, she has nothing announced.  C’mon Nicole!  Write!!!  She’s one of the few female authors I’ve ever read that managed to capture the male mind fairly accurately in her works without being condescending or unfair.  We need more of that, so others can see how it’s done.

So there ya’ go.  Read the things those folks have written.

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Current Reading:

  • “Falling Man” by Don DeLillo – It’s being hailed as one of the greatest works of fiction (so far) to incorporate 9/11.  I’m about three chapters in (started reading it last night) and so far it’s pretty good.  Kind of a 9/11 love story…but that sounds hacky and stupid, and it’s definitely not that.  If you’re looking for that, read the end of “Forever” by Pete Hamill (which is an apt title, as it’ll take you FOREVER to get through it).  “Falling Man” won’t make my All Time Top-10, I don’t think…but it’s pretty good.

“Permission Slips”

I wrote a short story (very short, in fact) based loosely on someone I know…or knew…or whatever.  When I first started this blog, I had plans to publish a bunch of short-stories on it, ala Pete Townshend’s “The Boy Who Heard Music.”  To date, I think I’ve done TWO.  Heh…

 

So…here’s number three.  It’s kind of dark and I’ve been going back and forth on if I wanted to post it; or if I did, if I wanted to post any commentary or explanation.  I’ve decided to post it, but not to explain it.  Take what you want from it.  It’s out there now.  🙂 

 

Be forewarned, you might find it a little depressing.  I sure do.  Enjoy!

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Permission Slips

A work of Fiction by Derek Brink. 

Copyright 2009, work in progress.  Protected by applicable laws.

 

Okay, class. Find your seats. We’ve got a new student joining us today. This is Jake Prine. He’s just moved here from Dallas.

 

I’ve known him for over twenty years. We met in grade school. He sat next to me.

 

– Jake, I think there’s an empty desk over there next to Dan Beir. Dan, raise your hand. Maybe you can show Jake around during recess?

– Yes, ma’am.

 

He’d stop by every couple of years, almost like clockwork. He’d disappear and reappear, usually needing a loan. It got sadder every time. Last time, all I knew in advance was that he was on his third illegitimate kid by the third mother and couldn’t find work because his name’s on the sex-offender registry. On that last visit, he called in advance to ask if he could have somewhere to sleep for the night. His girlfriend had kicked him out and his mom wouldn’t take him in. I asked him if he was using. He said no.

 

– Hey. My name’s Dan. Just keep quiet and don’t ask Mrs. White any questions and she’s not so bad.

– Thanks.

 

I open the door and before it’s even closed — before he even steps foot onto my foyer — I can smell it on him. It’s so strong, he must’ve been smoking it in the car. I tell him to hand it over and he tries to lie about it. I tell him that I’m the only person he’s got left that cares about him and that he shouldn’t lie to me. From his coat, he hands me a bag of pot and another of cocaine. There was enough to get me arrested just for knowing his NAME, much less having him in my home. I tell him I’m going to flush it, because I won’t have it in my house. He sizes me up, but relents.

 

– We usually just kind of hang out during recess. It’s the only time of the day we don’t HAVE to do anything, y’know?

– I guess.

– Where are you from again?

– Dallas…y’know…in Texas.

– You don’t sound like you’re from Texas.

– Most people from Dallas don’t.

– Oh…so you’ve got glasses…are you smart?

– Not really…just don’t see well.

– Alright…what’re you into?

– Mostly comics and music. I watch a little baseball and some wrestling, too. Nothing much.

– Cool. I LOVE wrestling and I kinda play guitar.

 

I ask him if he’s high. He says no. He had the stuff on him, but he didn’t do any. I can tell he’s lying. I grabbed him by his coat and slammed him against my door, screaming at him.

 

– You’re not going to come into my house stoned off your ass, carrying drugs and lying to me. I’m the ONLY person who cares about you and you’re walking a fine line. You ever pull something like this AGAIN and you’ll sleep here, but it’ll be because I slammed your head against this door hard enough to kill you.

 

He panics. I can see it. He starts crying and apologies. He even tells me he loves me and he doesn’t know what he’s doing — that his life’s a wreck. I didn’t really see that coming. I let him go and make up the couch for him.

 

– So what are your parents like?

– My mom bosses me around all the time. I think it’s because I look too much like my dad. He’s not around. He’s still in Texas. They used to fight a lot and they got divorced. She kind of takes it out on me…but we live with my Grandma and she’s not so bad. She usually calms mom down when she gets going.

 

In the morning, he wakes up and asks me to drive him across town to see who he describes as “like, my cousin.” “Like My Cousin,” is, of course, “DEFINITELY My Dealer.” I know he doesn’t have any money and isn’t going to be able to pay the guy…but for some reason, I agree. I guess I just thought it was a good chance to get him out of my house.

 

– Wow. That sucks about your parents, dude. I don’t know anyone else whose parents are divorced. Mine are still together. My mom can be a little rough sometimes, but Dad’s cool.

– Lucky you.

– Yeah…I guess so.

 

As I’m driving him over to Like My Cousin’s house, I begin to realize that I’m his getaway car. He’s going to ask me to wait outside and he’s going to burn his dealer.

 

– Okay…recess is over. Everyone get in line to go back to class. Dan, Jake, stop dragging your feet…move it!

 

As predicted, when we arrive he asks me to wait out in the car, saying he should only be a couple of minutes. I tell him I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to support his habit and I’m not going to break the law. I can see his eyes welling up. It’s not working this time.

 

– You’re not going to breeze into my life, show up with drugs, lie to me over and over, make me an accessory to a crime, and then burn your dealer with me waiting for you. You’re going to get out of my car and I’m going to drive away. And you’re not going to contact me again. Ever.

 

He got out, muttering an apology he didn’t mean, saying he was never going to burn his dealer. The door closed and he was out of my life. I was on the highway, and he was finally GONE. I felt a little bad about it at first…until I realized that somehow between my doorway and him getting out of the car, he’d stolen my wallet.

 

– You should come over sometime, Jake. I’ve got cable. We can watch wrestling.

– Cool. I might do that.

 

That was the last time.

 

He’s presently late. He shows up about every two years, and it’s been three. I just begin to think that he took me seriously when I see “Prine” on the Caller ID…except it’s not Jake. It’s him mom.

 

– Is this Dan Beir? Dan, this is Rebecca Prine…you remember? Jake’s mother? Listen, I don’t want to be a burden, but Jake’s…not well. He needs help and I just don’t know what else I can do. Will you come talk to him, please? He needs someone who can reach him.

 

She’s sobbing.

 

– He’s been doing…it’s heroin now, Dan. He’s…he’s going to die if he doesn’t get help. …please?

 

I’m sorry about it. I’m sick over it. I hate myself for it. But I decline and I hang up.

 

To me, he’s already dead.

 

– That was the bell. Everyone have a good weekend and don’t forget to get your permission slips signed for the field trip.

Small pause…

No blog today except for this…I’m writing something else I’m planning on posting and it’s taking up a lot of time.  I’m also doing some music-work in my basement.  So I’m not being a very good blogger.  If I don’t post tomorrow, that’s why.  I’m just busy with other things.

 

Thanks for your patience.

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Current Listening:

A bunch of Roxy Music.

Things I Like About Fridays

Contrary to what most of society thinks about their job(s), I actually like mine.  I get a kick out of it and I enjoy the work.  Even the hard/frustrating stuff isn’t so bad, compared to a lot of other jobs (even, I’m sure, other departments I could be working in on campus).  In the grand scheme, I’m very lucky to be where I am and it’s a real blessing to enjoy what you do as a job…

 

But I’d be nuts and/or lying if I said I didn’t like Fridays most of all…and here’s a list of why…

 

  • It’s the weekend.  I dig what I do, but a guy needs some time to unwind.
  • I usually do something with my brother, which is always cool (except that this week, I don’t think he’s up for it — but y’know…USUALLY…).
  • I know I’ll get some freaking SLEEP on Saturday.  Being an insomniac, I look forward to not setting my alarm on Friday nights.  You won’t believe it…but I usually don’t roll out of bed on Saturdays until like 3-4 in the afternoon.  It’s the day I make up for being a miserable, tired wreck the rest of the week.  🙂
  • The food.  I usually eat well on a Friday night.  Usually somewhere I don’t normally go or somewhere a little nicer.  Last week, it was Longhorn Steakhouse.
  • Fridays are kind of fun around the office.  There are a few less students around, which sometimes gets a little boring, but the ones who’re there are usually the ones I particularly gravitate toward.  Also, we have shorter hours in my office on Friday, and it’s nice to know there’s one weekday I don’t have to keep track of my cell phone, in case of late-night emergencies.  My office is usually pretty relaxed and enjoyable, but we kind of seem to take it up a notch on Fridays.  I guess it’s probably like that all over, at every job…unless you don’t have Saturdays off, maybe…
  • Shopping.  Best Buy, Borders, Barnes & Noble, etc, etc, etc…  I frequent these places anyway, but I’m much more likely to be there on a Friday than any other day.  I kind of look forward to that…which is kind of a shame in this economy…but whatever.
  • The cafeteria seems to serve really good lunches on Fridays.
  • I usually manage to steal a little time for myself to just read or nap (or whatever) as well.  That’s pretty great.
  • Occasionally my buddies in Men Without Rogaine (an acoustic music duo) are playing somewhere, and that’s always an option.  In fact, that’s probably what I’m doing this week…but since Dave’s probably not in (I’m guessing he plans on spending some time with his wife and daughter rather than watch a band play from 9-1), I’m probably only going to catch a set or two, because I hate doing that stuff alone.  Or maybe Chris will show up…that’d be alright.

So…there ya’ go.  I’m usually a little bit negative on this blog — can’t help that, it’s who I am — but for once, you can say I talked about LIKING something!  🙂

 

Tomorrow…back to the grumpy.  I promise.  🙂

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Current Listening:

  • Springsteen – “Working on a Dream” – Still haven’t actually bought it, but I’ve been listening to it online.  It’s really great.  One minor surprise; on one of the tracks he uses the “f-word.”  Kind of a rarity for him.  He did that on the “Devils and Dust” record as well, and it was kind of a shocker.  On that record, he used it in a way as to actually be kind of inspiring (the lyric being “I ain’t gonna f*** it up this time.”)  On this record, it’s just kind of haphazardly in there.  Kinda weird…but I guess he finally realized that he’s almost 60 and can talk like an adult if he wants to, lol.  Don’t know why I felt like saying all that, since I basically support cursing…but there ya’ go.

I’ve Been Linked…

The people at Obamagab.com have linked to my blog twice.  One link kind of makes sense, but the other seems completely random. 

 

For those of you who don’t know anything about Obamagab, they’re a site that posts pretty much anything to do with President Obama, good or bad.  I think they just randomly search blogs and news sites with his name or something (because I don’t know how else they could have found me).  They’re actually pretty fair in their reporting, in that they show bias in both directions.  They’ll post something talking about how genius his economic policy is one day, then the next post something calling it the worst piece of trash ever written.  Personally, I like it better when they do the former…but whatever.  🙂

 

The first of my posts they linked to was the one that started the 30 days of Bush pictures.  That makes sense to me and is actually kind of cool.  When I saw that I thought, “Awesome…someone saw what I was doing and thought it was a good idea, so they started telling others!”

 

Then came the second link…

 

They linked to my post listing what I got for Christmas, in which I briefly mention that Susan gave me a magazine detailing President Obama’s rise to the Oval Office.  That post wasn’t political at all, really…I just briefly mentioned him.  That’s when I realized that they found me entirely by accident.

 

…but whatever…they linked to me, so I’m linking to them now.  Go check ’em out if you’ve got a minute.

 

…and support President Obama’s economic plan.  He specifically e-mailed me and asked me to spread the word on that one.  (I’m on his bulk-list because I contributed to the campaign…he doesn’t actually know me, ha ha.)

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Current Watching:

  • I’ve been going back through the “Father Ted” BBC series.
  • “Lost” has been a little bit of a letdown for me so far this season, but it’s still better than at least 95% of the stuff on TV.
  • “House” has been REALLY good this season, and all those idiots who turned away from the show when the new staff came on should be kicking themselves.  (I may be enjoying this more than “Lost,” in fact.)
  • “How I Met Your Mother” is still holding my attention and making me laugh.
  • Also, I recently caught the Snoop Dogg “Storytellers” on late night cable.  I’ve gotta say, I didn’t like Snoop before and I still don’t…but I’d watch that again.  It was delightful!  🙂