NaNoWriMo

In a few hours, it will be November again, which means in a few hours it will be time for me to take another shot at writing a novel.

Yes, once again it’s National Novel Writing Month, in which several thousand people will spend 30 days attempting to create, if not The Great American Novel, at least a finished product.

While the event, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, is usually referred to as “NaNoWriMo”, that’s about the only aspect that’s abbreviated. We’re not talking short stories or novellas here; the challenge is to complete a 50,000 word work of fiction in only 30 days (by way of example, the word counts of both The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Of Mice and Men are roughly 50k).

Why? Why not!

I’ve attempted the feat three times now, and the best I did was about 17,000 words.

This year I intend to finish the task. Despite the full-time job, despite the teenager, despite Thanksgiving and Black Friday and football and decorating for Christmas, I will break the 50,000 word threshold.

Check back for weekly updates on why I’m getting behind.

(For more information about NaNoWriMo, visit www.nanowrimo.org)

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Yo Ho (A Single’s Life For Me)

So here’s something you may not know (nor care) about, but I’ve been down the aisle twice, neither trip ending happily ever after.

Actually, “down the aisle” is a bit misleading, because neither ceremony included an aisle, in the commonly accepted sense. Maybe that was my problem; maybe a church wedding would have made a difference in the longevity of the respective marriages.

Nah.

The first one was for all the wrong reasons. I was pushing 30 and thought I should be married, she was 23 and living in her parents house and wanted to be out on her own. Early in the relationship, she invited me to accompany her to an anniversary party she was throwing for her parents at her church. During the festivities, I was introduced to the priest, who commented, “I understand you might be part of the family before too long.” That should have raised a red flag, but I chose to ignore the remark, prefering instead to pour yet another glass of beer.

The eventual wedding was held not at her church, but at a courthouse in downtown Akron. The “ceremony” performed by the justice of the peace was short and sweet, much like the subsequent marriage (if you leave the “sweet” part off). The next morning she said, “This may have been a mistake,” and eventually I had to agree with her. We lasted about three years before calling it quits. The parting ended up being so amicable, however, that we shared one lawyer between us, and the only reason he sat with me at the hearing was that my name was listed first on the paperwork. Afterward, we walked down the steps of the courthouse, shared a quick hug, and went our separate ways. After about six or seven months apart, we began speaking on the phone a few times a month until I moved to Pennsylvania. I haven’t seen her in over 20 years, but one of my brothers tells me he runs into her frequently and she’s doing well. Good for her.

A few years later I met someone else through work at a management meeting at, of all places, Walt Disney World (by the way, this has seriously nothing at all to do with my Disney obsession. That was in place for several years beforehand). After the meeting was concluded, I went back to Ohio, she to New Jersey. We kept in touch throughout the next year, and cemented our long-distance relationship at the following year’s meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona.

We got together two or three times afterward, and in September of 1992 she left New Jersey for Ohio. We married in April (the wedding itself deserves its own blog entry: it was held in the party room of the apartment complex we were living in; the actual ceremony was held in the middle of the reception; the Best Man’s name was Laurie; our ring bearer was a collie), became pregnant during our honeymoon Cancun in May, and gave birth to a beautiful baby boy in February of 1994. Financial considerations forced a move to her parents’ home in Pennsylvania; she and Cameron went in May of ’94, I finally found a job there and joined them in December.

Because of the circumstances of the beginning of our relationship, everyone said it wouldn’t last. And damned if they weren’t right. It barely lasted 12 years. We had a good ride, but in the end, we grew in different directions (the 15 year age difference between us may have been a contributing factor). We parted the closest of friends. In fact, she owns the small company I work for. I spend holidays with her and her family (mine’s still in Ohio). I live literally two minutes away.

That was five years ago. Since then I’ve been introduced to various women by various friends, and I’ve had various crushes that I’ve never followed up on for whatever reasons. But nothing’s taken hold, and I’m at the point where I think, “That’s OK with me.”

Looking at some of the relationships around me only reinforces my desire to remain unattached.

I have a friend who is a successful bar owner. He has a lovely wife and three darling kids. He also has regular dalliances with several of his female employees; only oral sex, though, because that’s not really being unfaithful.

I have another friend, a few years older than me, who’s been dating the same guy for about 8 or 10 years. The dude’s a real S.O.B. When he wants to go on a fishing trip or spend a few days on his own doing God knows what, he picks a fight with her and doesn’t call her until he’s ready for some female companionship again. They’ve gone on trips to Atlantic City where she’s awakened in a hotel room by herself, not knowing where her boyfriend is or how long he’ll be gone; when he finally shows up in late afternoon after a hard day in the casinos, he bitches at her for not being ready to go anywhere. When she complains about this sort of treatment, he comes right out and says, “You know I’m an asshole.” Yet she puts up with it, because she’s afraid she won’t be able to find anyone else at her age.

A couple I know is going through a very ugly, nasty divorce. At least it will probably be a divorce as soon as one or the other of them have enough money to spare for a lawyer. They got married 10 or so years ago, nice little church service (hmm…maybe the Where doesn’t play into it that much after all), had a cute little blond daughter…and things just fell apart. He decided he needed some space and moved into his own place, found a girlfriend, gave the wife barely enough money to pay the mortgage on their house (hey, he has his own rent to deal with), but still popped by to use her computer and eat her food. The husband lost his job and is in the process of filing bankruptcy and recently got a DUI, after browbeating the wife because, in his opinion, she drinks too much.

The kid has spent a lot of time being used as a pawn; she’s been displaying some behavioral problems.

What’s ironic to me as an observer is, when the husband started dating one of the wife’s high school friends, the wife found out from one of the husband’s close friends. He called her (or texted her; who knows these days) and said that her husband was fooling around with a good friend of hers. The ironic part is that the wife and the husband’s good friend had had an affair of their own a few years ago. Pot, kettle, etc.

Anyway, as I look at all this, I’ve decided that I’m perfectly content with my drama-free life. No one to walk on eggshells around. No one to explain things or make excuses to. If I want to get out of bed at 3 a.m. and drink a martini naked while watching a M*A*S*H DVD, I can do that without making excuses. If I want to sleep until noon on a Saturday, nobody cares.

Companionship? I have a 15-year-old son with tastes similar to mine as far as movies and music go. I enjoy his company, and he tolerates mine. We both play guitar, so we spend a lot of time playing together, though his tastes run more towards Metallica, while mine are more Beatle-oriented.

Lonely? Sometimes. Until I start thinking about a lady sitting alone in a hotel worried if her boyfriend is alright, when he’s in fact feeding his gambling habit and not thinking about her at all. Or until I remember a little blond girl crying because her parents are living apart, and her father telling her they’d be a happy family if her mother would stop drinking.

No, thanks. I’m quite content for now. In a few years I may wish I had someone around to bitch at, or to take care of me in my declining years, but in the meantime…

I nap in the daytime, and stay up all night.
Drink up me ‘earties, yo ho.
Eat steak and Fruit Loops by dawn’s early light.
Drink up me ‘earties, yo ho.

Wear red shirts and green pants and socks that don’t match,
Drink up me ‘earties, yo ho.
Keep eggs in my fridge ’till they’re ready to hatch,
Drink up me ‘earties, yo ho.
Yo ho, yo ho, a single’s life for me.

The Balloon Boy: We Got Got

I was sitting at work Thursday afternoon, and my iPhone let me know I received a text message. It was from CNN, and it said that a 6-year-old boy crawled into an experimental aircraft his parents were building and had floated away into the Colorado sky.  The text was worded poetically enough that my curiosity was aroused, so I dutifully logged on to CNN.com to see what was going on.

What was going on was horrifying. A six-year-old had reportedly climbed into the basket of what appeared to be a saucer-shaped helium weather balloon built by his parents, which somehow became untethered and sailed away.

Like millions of others, I sat in front of my monitor transfixed as the balloon floated a reported 7,000 feet in the Rocky Mountain air at speeds of 30 M.P.H. I could not begin to imagine the terror the little passenger must be feeling, but, as a parent, I could certainly imagine what the boy’s folks were going through.

CNN trotted out their requisite “experts” (there must be a Manhattan-phonebook-sized directory of every conceivable expert in any field a news organization could possibly need at every newsdesk in the studio), including a Hot Air Balloon Expert who helpfully informed us that hot air in a balloon makes it go up, or “rise”.

I was surfing back and forth between various news sites (even Fox News, to see if they had a slant yet on how this was Obama’s fault). I kept current and contributed to the Twitter #balloonboy stream. I called co-workers and friends to alert them to what was happening to this poor child.

In the midst of all this activity, I almost missed the expert that said that, based on the way the balloon was moving, he didn’t think there was anyone  on board. The physics weren’t quite right to suggest there was 60 pounds of boyweight affecting the flight.

Eventually, just like the balloons I used to get at the carnival, the helium gassed out, and the balloon sunk to earth, where it was met by various law enforcement personnel, who quickly ascertained that the boy was…not there.

Huh? So I was watching a cargoless balloon float across Colorado that whole time? Yeah, but that’s a good thing, right? Because the boy must be OK.  But his whereabouts were still unknown. Neighbors and  hangers-on took to searching the area around the family’s house, calling the boy’s name.

By this time my workday had ended (well, to be truthful, it had ended when I started following the story), so I stopped by a friend’s house to discuss the story. My take was that the kid and his brother were messing around the balloon and accidentally set it free, and the kid was probably hiding somewhere thinking he was in big trouble.

My friend, however, was more skeptical than I was. “I dunno,” she said. “There’s something not right about this.” (By this time the parents’ involvement in various TV projects had been revealed.) “I’ll bet you anything this is some sort of publicity stunt.”

I scoffed; happily, in light of subsequent events, she hasn’t rubbed my nose in it.

The first subsequent event was that the boy was found in a box in a garage attic. He crawled in the box and fell asleep, he said, because his dad had yelled at him earlier in the day and was upset.

The second, and biggest subsequent event, occurred later in the evening as Wolf Blitzer (I still have trouble  believing that’s his real name) asked him, through his dad, if he heard people calling his name while he was hiding in the box. The boy said he did; Dad asked him, “Well, why didn’t you come out?” After some hesitation, the boy answered, “Well…you guys said…we did this for the show.”

Wolfman asked what he meant by that, whereupon the dad got all huffy and “appalled”, and instead of answering the question, accused the media of making false accusations (he obviously studied under Sarah Palin).

Keeping up the strategy of not answering questions, the dad said that he would be making a “major announcement” Saturday morning. Having invested so much time in the story already, I was seated in front of my computer, watching the live feed.

 

The dad said he’d be back at 7:30 local time to answer whatever questions were in the box.

It was during this Major Announcement that I realized: I’d been had. I got got.  My friend was right. They did this for the show. I’d invested my time and emotions into an event as empty as my martini glass.

The dad did not show up at 7:30 local time to answer the questions that had piled up in the box. I’m sure the majority of the questions were along the line of “Are you nuts, or what?” But he didn’t answer them because he was answering questions for local law enforcement.

Sunday the sheriff proclaimed that the whole thing was a hoax, planned and executed by the parents, and probably other miscreants as well. The sheriff knew it the whole time, of course; he just wanted the parents to think he was a sucker so he could get some proof. Sometime in the next week, the parents will be charged with God knows how many felonies and misdemeanors, and whoever decides these things are currently deciding if the kids should be taken away or not.

In the meantime, the parents’ “high-profile Denver lawyer” is currently making the talk-show rounds, huffing and puffing about evidence and saying it’s his job to slap down the sheriff’s office.

Note that I did not mention the lawyer by name; nor did I mention the name of the parents that instigated this whole mess. They are all publicity whores, and the worst thing you can do to a publicity whore is ignore them.

Which is what I intend to do from here on out.