Ramblings from the Gryphon Rose

Monday, May 23, 2005

Once more around (or, Diving Headfirst into Inanity)

A long time ago, back in college (yes yes, cue dinosaur jokes here), I submitted a story for the campus literary magazine. It got rejected, but the editor told me how much he liked it and how it was basically the alternate—if the one they’d picked hadn’t been revised in time, they would have used mine. The next year, I submitted again, and got a similar response. By the third year I was feeling a little fed-up, so I got snarky. I wrote a story about a writing major who kept submitting to the campus literary magazine and kept just missing being accepted, so he finally wrote a story specifically for them to reject. And they accepted it.
And yes, the real magazine took that one. And ran it. I have copies to prove it.
Cut to a few years ago. I hadn’t been writing much and was getting irritable (I’m like that when I go too long without writing), so I decided to write something just for the hell of it, which I never do. It started out as a silly little thing, and it grew into the start of a novel. I haven’t finished it because paying work got in the way again, but I think I had about 100 pages by the time I stopped. It’s a story about a writer who can’t get anyone to buy his real fiction, so he writes the worst drivel he can imagine—and it not only gets published but becomes a huge success. Very strange novel, and very Heller-esque (though I’m not claiming I’m in his league, just that it’s the same sort of disjointed nearly-unbelievable humor), but I had fun with it and the few who read sections seemed amused. Perhaps some day I'll actually finish it and send it out, and we'll see what happens then.
Why am I mentioning these two incidents? Because I feel like I’m in one of them again. Working on something that’s getting to the point where it’s almost “okay, that rational approach didn’t work so let’s see what happens when I go completely loony on—oh wait, you liked it? You want more of that? Um, okay.” I’ll provide more details later, depending on how things work out. For now, it’s something you can ponder in your free time.

Bleh weekend

I got a sore throat Friday evening. Saturday it turned into congestion. Sunday it was severe congestion and a nasty headache. Today it’s back down to congestion.
I did hang out with friends Friday night, and my dad came to visit so we spent some time with him that night as well. Spent the first half of Saturday with him, running around, but then Saturday night and all of yesterday we were shut-ins. I didn’t sleep well this weekend, but my wife and our daughter and I all took a two-hour nap yesterday, which definitely helped.
I hate being sick. And it seems like this happens more often than it used to. I remember only getting colds once or twice a year. Now it seems like I get them every two to three months. Perhaps it’s the stress.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Look, I'm walking!

So my friend Mark has this website about things going on in New York. He told me I should check out the latest edition, which talks about art on Sixth Avenue:
That statue is right near where I work. And yes, that’s me coming back with my lunch. Whee!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Last One Out

My youngest sister graduated college this weekend. Almost the whole family was there, which was great—one cousin couldn’t attend because of work, but my wife and daughter and I, my sisters, my dad, my aunt and uncle, my other uncle and his girlfriend, my cousin’s wife, and my other cousin and his wife and their little girl were all there. The ceremony was nice, the speaker was great, the departmental ceremony was also nice though the speaker was awful, and we got to spend time hanging out with my sister and her friends, who are all very cool. All in all, it was a good two days.
The drive there and back was another matter.
I used to love road trips. I suspect I still do, under the right circumstances. My wife and daughter (in her car seat) and I crammed into the back of a small sedan for five hours or more is not that circumstance. We drove down with my aunt and uncle for several reasons. First, price—flights are expensive. Second, ease—when you have kids the amount you need to bring when traveling multiplies exponentially, and so taking a bus or a train or a plane becomes more difficult as you balance five or six large pieces for a single weekend. Driving down means loading a trunk or back seat, which is easier. Third, synchronicity—my aunt and uncle were already planning to drive down from here, and offered to take us along for a share of the gas money.
Sad how these things always sound fine in our heads. You’d think we’d learn better.
I won’t go into all the details here, other than to say that the drive was long and stressful both ways. We saved money but lost time and also paid too much in anxiety and irritation.
But at least the graduation itself was good—between arriving and leaving again we had fun. And now my little sister is a college graduate. All four of us are officially adults. Pardon me while I feel old.
The only downside to the actual graduation was that my mother was not there. Times like this, when the whole family is gathered, just serve to remind us of her absence, and how much we miss her. But I know she would have been proud of my sister, and pleased to see all of us having such a nice time. And eating so much. Many of our family gatherings have centered around that very same combination of celebration and consumption.

Friday, May 06, 2005


I saw two movies this week. In theaters. I haven’t done that in years.
The first one was Kung Fu Hustle. Oh my god this is fun. Silly, cheesey, utterly over the top fun. It’s one of those movies where you know a lot of what’s going to happen, but rather than sitting there thinking “oh no, you’re not going there, are you?” you’re instead going “yeah, go on, you know you want to—yes!” Very very enjoyable. I will own it when it’s on DVD. I really need to see Chow’s other movie, Shaolin Soccer.
The second movie I saw, last night, was Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I enjoyed it quite a bit, as did the friends I saw it with. It was not the perfect film—could have been a little more polished, could have had the action and the humor ramped up just a little—but good solid fun. Lots of laughs, lots of nods to the previous versions, lots of lines straight from the book. I think Douglas Adams would have approved—like the LotR movies, this one was utterly faithful to the feel of the original material even when it strayed from the specific details.
Of the two, I have to admit I enjoyed Kung Fu Hustle more. But that’s because I had no expectations going in, and it didn’t have to measure up to anything. I definitely recommend both movies.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Car Trouble

[warning: this one’s long, and only funny in the “glad it wasn’t me” sense]
Let’s hearken back to last year. We had this friend, we’ll call her K, who’s very flakey but generally a good soul. She does have two major problems, however: the first is that she’s always late (always, and often by hours) and the second is that her life is a melodrama (at least when she tells it). K has two cars, but only uses one of them. The other sits in a friend’s driveway in Long Island because, due to some problems with her insurance, K had to remove its plates for at three months before she could renew the tags. It sat in her friend’s driveway for over a year before the friend finally asked K to remove it. I know this because K came to me, complaining about how this friend had suddenly turned on her, and asked me to go out there with her and drive one of the cars back while she drove the other. I went.
Move forward a month or two. We’ve closed on the house. K has given me a few rides, though I’ve given her gas money and bought her dinner every time. She asks me if she can store her second car in the party driveway behind our house for three months so she can get its tags renewed, because if it’s left anywhere public, even the street, it can be ticketed and towed. I foolishly say yes on two conditions.
First, it’s only for three months. She says “fine.”
Second, she either covers the car or empties out all the trash crammed into it. Again she agrees.
While we’re away over Thanksgiving, she brings the car over and parks it behind our house. Uncovered and still full of crap. Definite eyesore, and not the impression I wanted to make on the neighbors.
That was November. Three months later, in February, we start calling and emailing K about the car, asking when she’s going to come and get it. No reply. She’s demonstrated before that, when she wants something from you, her phone is always on. When you want something from her it’s off or the messages mysteriously don’t reach her.
We keep trying. My wife sends out thank-you cards to the people who helped with our move, including K. Hers includes a mention about picking up the car. A friend goes to a local convention we know K is at, and tells her in person that we want her to move the car. More emails are sent. No reply.
Last week, we decide we need to take the next step. It’s been over five months now. So my wife posts to a list we are on and K is also on. She explains the situation and asks for advice on what to do. Not once does she mention K by name—my wife doesn’t even give any indication as to K’s gender or her presence on the list. We hoped that she would see the post and be spurred to contact us.
She did.
Her contact consisted of calling my wife and yelling at her about how she had been a friend once, and how could she betray her like this, and obviously we hadn’t tried calling her because of course we would have reached her if we had, and how dare we insult her by posting this to the list? Then she called and left a similar message on my cell phone voicemail, though this one included a rant about how my wife had screamed at her when she called to resolve this.
I posted a follow-up to the list, explaining what had just happened and pointing out that this was not a good way to make me more tolerant or more inclined to be flexible. I also stated that the car would not be behind my house for a sixth month, whether K came to get it or I had the police tow it. I still gave no indication as to gender, identity, or list presence.
K called twice more, both times leaving messages on my cell phone during work hours. I really only use it for emergencies and travel, as most of my friends know. I had told K this many times, which is part of why I didn’t answer when she called me at work. She obviously knew the home number still, so she could call there instead.
Which she did, last Friday. And proceeded to rant at my wife again about how clearly we didn’t want to resolve this because she’d called and I had not called her back. Then she got all snarky about how she wanted to come and get the car but wouldn’t want to be accused of trespassing on our property. My wife told her to shut up for a minute so she could explain. Then she pointed out that I had been at work when the calls came in, and extremely busy to boot. She also explained that the driveway out back was a party driveway, and K could pick up her car without ever setting foot in our yard—as long as she did not create a disturbance there was no problem. K then screamed at my wife, demanding to know is she was going to stop yelling at her so she (K) could speak? My wife, wisely, hung up.
Yesterday my wife called to tell me that K was out back with some guy in a tow truck. They towed the car. K did not attempt to come inside. She also hadn’t called to say she would be on her way over, but that’s fine.
Last night K posted a reply to our posts on the mailing list. It was a very bitchy post, accusing us of being nasty and mean-spirited and of airing dirty laundry and of not actually trying to contact her. Despite claiming that this was “a friend” she was talking about, she made it blatantly obvious that she was the person in question. Something we had deliberately not done.
I wrote a long reply, pointing out her many errors and falsehoods. But, after conferring with a friend and with my wife, I decided not to post it. He pointed out that our posts had been very civil and reasonable. K was the one who had gone over the line, and I should just leave it at that. The car is gone, after all, and we no longer have to deal with it or with her.
Suits me fine. It’s a shame, since we had considered her a reasonably good friend until she got stranger last year. By the end of the mood my wife didn’t want anything to do with K for reasons completely separate from the car. Funny how people can change sometimes. Sad, too.
On the plus side, I have a driveway again. Or, rather, I have a driveway, since the car was there almost as long as we’ve been.

Monday, May 02, 2005

A little lag time

It’s amazing how easy it is to get sidetracked and fall behind on something like this.
Sorry about that. April was a crazy month, between taxes and weirdness and not one but three big projects. But the projects are all turned in now, and once my fingers have recovered from typing so much I’ve got a few other updates to post.
Hope all of you are well. Check back soon!