SPONTANEOUS FRIDAY

Boston 1

The People I saw

A few years ago I traveled to the east coast with a friend. He was visiting his brother in Connecticut and asked if I’d like to go.

Having never been to the east coast I jumped at the opportunity.

We drove through Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine before settling in on Boston. We spent the day exploring the city and ended our journey at the TD Gardens, home of the Boston Celtics.

We waited in the train station for my friend’s brother to join us. Unlike my friend who was growing bored by the minute I was experiencing the best part of the trip.

Similar to a previous post where I shared my study of people while shopping at Cost-Co, I began studying people at the Boston train station.

I have a feeling you’re seeing a pattern.

Boston

Little old man, the loving couple and the nervous gent

The Boston train station held the largest variety of people I ever saw. You name it I probably saw it and I have to admit, when my friend’s brother arrived and it was time to go to the game I was kind of disappointed.

I remember seeing a friendly old man with a long grey beard and a walking stick that looked homemade. He was talking to a college boy and it was easy to see the conversation was one sided.

The boy would smile and exchange a quick reply but clearly he was bored.

A few feet away I noticed a middle aged man clutching a briefcase and checking his watch every few minutes. He kept his focus to the floor while rubbing his chin with his free hand. It was obvious he was in deep thought.  

Where was he going, I wondered? Was he going home or was he meeting someone? Did his day end in disaster or was he relieved it went so well?

Not far from the middle aged man I spied a young couple. They were holding hands and whispering secrets. They were oblivious to the people around them. All that seemed to matter was their promising future. Who could blame them, I remember thinking.

Pizza and the Pizza Man

Voices echoed off the walls and mixed with the sounds of the arriving trains. It was easy to get lost in the moment and convince myself that I had taken a step back in time.

The colors could have easily faded, replaced by black and white. Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall could have appeared and it all would have seemed right.

Boston 3

I took a walk as the trains were idling. Most of the people were on their phones but a surprising handful were reading newspapers.

I came across a little stand that was selling pizza by the slice. I quickly noticed it was the busiest place in the station and I could see why.

Grab a slice on your ride home! Just enough to fill your belly after a long day.

Brilliant!

I ordered a pepperoni and waited as a tall man with long grey curly hair ordered the same. He was dressed like a professor and I had a feeling I was right. I also noticed he ordered two pizzas instead of one.

We got our orders at the same time and as he turned to walk away I decided to follow.

He grabbed a paper off a rack that said free. Curious, I did the same. I had a feeling he had a selective taste. Not only in pizza but in culture. As I sat on his side of the bench, a mere inches away, I glanced at the paper in hand. My hunch was correct.

A jazz lover.

We ate our pizzas and studied our papers. His view never leaving the corner of my eye. I decided to mix it up a bit and ask for directions for a show that was playing that week.

He gave it to me the way one would had they visited the place a hundred times. I nodded as if I understood. Not once did he look in my direction.

I turned the page of the paper and mentioned a bands name. I followed by exclaiming they were overrated. This caused a quick glare. Good, I was getting a reaction.

Suddenly the whistle blew followed by the passengers rushing to their trains. The long hair man stood and lowered his untouched pizza towards me.

          “You or the garbage.”

When I took it he bent down to my level. It was an odd moment to say the least.

          “Welcome to Boston.” He smiled.

Did he know what I was doing or was he just being friendly? Or were we both playing the same game?

I never had time to ask as he turned and disappeared into the crowd.

Boston 2

Happy Friday, everyone!

 

 

Page One

As a movie and TV buff I have two rules for greatness:

Spencer 2

  • The Spencer Tracy Effect
  • The opening scene of the pilot in Breaking Bad 

Breaking Bad 4

Allow me to explain:

Spencer Tracy could steal a scene by not saying a word. He could stare at the ground, slowly look up at the sky and smile at the person across from him.

He made it look easy. He was a rarity when it came to doing something so simple and making it look so great.

There was a calmness and a confidence about him. Not only in his ability as an actor but in the characters that he played.

The second rule of greatness is the opening scene of the Breaking Bad pilot. It is a perfect example of drawing the audience in and forcing them to stay.

It is fast, it is confusing and it is impossible to look away.

For those who have never seen it here is a breakdown of what you missed:

  • The driver is wearing a gas mask.
  • He is a middle age man.
  • Partially nude.
  • A panic look on his face.
  • He is racing a Winnebago through a desert landscape.
  • A passenger is passed out. He is also wearing a gas mask.

Breaking Bad 3

Spencer Tracy and Breaking Bad succeeded in one thing: They kept the viewer interested.

We’re Entertainers

It’s easy to forget we are in the entertainment business. For those who are writing for pleasure please ignore what I just said. But for those who wish to see their novel in print with the goal of entertaining the vast majority, you my friend are in the entertainment business.

Welcome!

Our goal is to create characters who can grip the page the same way Spencer Tracy gripped the screen. Our goal is to capture the reader’s imagination in the same breath that Breaking Bad captured ours.

Not everyone is a fan of Spencer Tracy or Breaking Bad and that’s fine. We all have our favorites and non-favorites.

 But if you fall in the non-favorite category here is why you need to push those opinions aside:

Spencer

Spencer Tracy had the ability to create real people. His characters were our parents, our friends or our neighbors. They were small town grocery store owners, your friend’s dad who farmed a hundred acres or your favorite teacher who taught math.

The people he portrayed were real. There was an instant connection between his characters and the viewer.

He was the hero of the story and wishing for him to fail was out of the question. He had to succeed and for those who tried to stop him were immediately despised.

Spencer Tracy was short and stocky and far from the Hollywood handsome. He was a normal guy but his characters were bigger than life.

He was us and that’s why we cared.

MBDCACO EC010

The Pilot

The Breaking Bad pilot was full of surprises and the writers did an excellent job in making the viewer ask why.

Why is this middle aged partially naked man driving a Winnebago like a bat out of hell in the middle of nowhere and why is he and the other guy wearing gas masks?

Why is the other guy passed out?

Or is he dead?

The viewer wouldn’t dream of turning away until the answers were met.

Which brings us back to page one

We get one chance to make a first impression. That first page is the most important page of our book.

We cannot over write it nor can we underwrite it. Whatever we do one thing is certain: The balance of our words and the action of our scene has to be strong.

We have to be at the top of our game and we’ve got one page to get it right.

So what do we do? Where do we start?

By forcing the reader to ask questions and by giving them a character they can connect with, chances are good….really good, that they will turn the page. 

When you are creating your opening scene give it a punch. Give them Spencer in a Winnebago driving like a bat out of hell. Yes, I’m laughing too. But it works and that’s all that matters on page one.

Give them something they’ll remember and when they do they will turn the page.

We get one chance to hold the readers interest. On a positive note we welcome these kinds of challenges because that’s who we are.

We’re writers.

So create your own Spencer and your own Breaking Bad. Whatever you do make it memorable and the reader will come back for more.  

Breaking Bad 5

SPONTANEOUS FRIDAY

daydreaming

What if a daydream is simply another world that we visit? Is that such a bad thing?

On any other day I would start off with a few examples or tease you with a history of whatever it is I’m talking about. But today I thought I’d cut right to the chase and ask a simple question – Is it okay to daydream?

Or as someone else use to call it – A pretend life.

We’re not exactly the normal type, are we? You and I create cities and small towns and in some cases entire universes. We also create people and talking cars so daydreaming isn’t a big deal when you think about it.

For people who write stories I’ve always had a feeling that daydreaming was part of the act. Some pretend they’re rock stars or actors. They are the ones who sing the hit songs or play lead in the major blockbuster.

But that’s normal stuff and kind of boring.

What does interest me are those who daydream of a life that could have been real had they taken a different path.

Geschäftsmann muss sich bei einer Weg-Gabelung entscheiden

Now we’re talking.

How many of you are living the life you have now simply because of chance? Most of us are. We met our better half because of the town we moved to. We have a job because our neighbor‘s boss was hiring. Tweak it just a little and you have a whole new world.

I remember back in college I met a classmate who introduced me to six different people. In many ways those people changed the way I live today and it all happened because he and I just happened to be sitting next to one another in American Lit.  

Now try adding another layer with you creative mind, place yourself in a different place that may have happened if only you had turned left instead of right.

The possibilities are endless.

Endless

For the average person thoughts like this are as dangerous as taking LSD on your lunch break but whoever said you and I were average?

Most of us embrace this way of thinking. It’s our happy place. Our comport zone and in some cases our casting call when searching for heroes and villains.

Perfect.

Our minds are constantly searching for ways to create but sometimes the reasons are far more than pen to paper, it’s our way of handling the stresses of daily life.

We have the ability to close our eyes after a long day and travel to another place just to say hi.

When I completed Dempsey’s Grill I felt lost. I missed those people and I was angry that I had to say goodbye. We had spent a lot of time together. They were there on my good days and bad and at times they were there when it had nothing to do with writing.

Every now and then I pay them a visit. I find my favorite easy chair, close my eyes and the next thing I know we’re joy riding to our favorite burger hangout. We laugh, we tell secrets and when it’s over I always make them a promise that I’ll return.

It’s a promise I’ll never break.

In my current book I keep seeing a little girl and a worn out football player. They’re taking me places too and I’m glad. It won’t take long until we’re friends and when that happens it’ll be time to tell their story.  

So the next time you find yourself escaping, open the door a little wider and see what’s inside. You’ll be amazed at the riches that are waiting for you.

We are not your average bunch. In fact we’re the lucky bunch and that makes me feel good. 

holding hands

Happy Friday Everyone!!!

 

 

Weight Lifting and Writing

weightlifting

The Weight Room

When I was a freshman in high school a gym teacher introduced me to the weight room. I was hooked. I was fascinated by how my body changed. Not only was I stronger by the end of my senior year I was a lot more confident.

After I graduated I joined a local gym. I was there for a long time and made a lot of friends. Every January a flock of new arrivals flooded our gym floor.

I remember when February rolled around half of them were gone. By March about a quarter of them were left and by April a small handful remained.

For the longest time I wondered why? What made them quit?

Years later I found the answer albeit in a different sort of way.

The Writer’s Room

A long time ago I thought writing a novel was easy. And…well…it is easy if you want to write a bad one or you’re incredibly gifted.

But I had no intentions of writing a bad one even though I wasn’t terribly gifted. I was going to throw myself in it and come out looking great.

I started off strong. That first week I wrote every day. Morning. Night time. You name it. I did this for two weeks but later in the month I had a bit of a drop off and by the end of the month my dream of writing a book became just that.

A dream.

The Notebook (no, not the movie)

Frustrated, I took a month off promising I’d figure it out. That so-called month turned into years and years of lost promises.

Funny how things happen isn’t it. We fall into a routine either good or bad and accept it.

A few weeks ago I was cleaning out an old box that had somehow survived several of our moves. Aside from a pair of worn out gloves, dried up pens and endless cat and kid toys I found an old notebook that was in surprisingly good shape.

Bad Memories

Somewhere in the middle of the notebook I found something fascinating. Apparently I set out a list of goals that I expected to achieve once I completed this amazing first novel.

Keep in mind I hadn’t a clue what I was doing but that didn’t stop me from believing it could be done.

I’m glad it survived after all these years. It’s cringe worthy but valuable all the same. 

Enjoy.

 Novel will be finished in a month. Six weeks tops. – Didn’t happen.

Do not share with anyone. Agents and Publishers only. – Not exactly my brightest idea.

Self-Editing. No need for extra help. – I’m pretty sure I subtracted a comma for a period. Clearly a huge move.

I have an idea for a plot. But not an actual plot. Keep writing it’ll work itself out. – Looking back I still haven’t a clue what the thing was about. A possible sign of trouble.

Meet or exceed five chapters per day. – If that includes short chapters and lots of scribbling….sure.

I’ll have a book deal by the end of the year. – Forgive me. That’s all I ask.

Need to find the perfect place to write before I start otherwise it won’t happen. – I remember a spare bedroom that I thought would be perfect. When it didn’t happen I’m pretty sure I blamed the book failure on that.  

Looking back:

I wonder now if the people who bombarded our gym in January wrote something similar. And if they did now I understand.

It’s easy to create in our minds a fabulous adventure before it takes place. We’re all guilty of dreaming big only to discover it takes a lot of sweat and a dash of luck to succeed. Unfortunately we conveniently forget the work, the frustration and of course an actual plot or plan to begin with.

Lesson learned on my end.

Hopefully for those of you just starting out this will serve as a reminder that any goal can be achieved, you just need a better plan than the one I had.  

You might also want a plot, a setting, a protagonist an antagonist and…..well….you get the idea. 

Happy Writing!!! 

Old Manual Typewriter

SPONTANEOUS FRIDAY

Fish and Chips

recipe for success

On Wednesday’s blog I shared an old photo of me hamming it up in an ugly yellow sweatshirt. For those of you who didn’t read it the rest of us will wait as you take a peek.

Good, you’re back.

During that time I worked at a Fish and Chips restaurant. It was the busiest place in the valley. We were located next to the freeway. Easy access and no competition.

On a side note: The fish was really good.

I worked with three different managers during my time. One had a nervous breakdown while his replacement developed a drinking problem.

As you can tell the job took its toll.

But the third manager stood out and he did so in a rather successful way.

We met when we were employees. I was a part time student while he had dreams of climbing the Fish and Chips ladder.

He was young, brash and cocky. He had long stringy hair, tattoos on his arms and skinny as a rail.

When he was chosen to take over as our new manager I had a feeling he would succeed. There was something about him that separated him from the rest.

He was far from perfect. His choice in girlfriends were….how do I say this politely….disastrous.

He had questionable friends and collected a handful of poor life decisions.

But when it came to managing the busiest restaurant from Seattle to the Canadian border he was the best I ever saw.

With the passing of years I’ve caught myself looking back and wondering why.

What did he have that the others didn’t?

So the other day I looked up the definition of a great leader. I was curious how he matched up. 

The results were rather interesting.

Honesty – He was honest about himself. He embraced his flaws and worked hard to correct them. At the same time he knew some of these flaws were permanent and didn’t seem to mind.

Communication – He was an open book. He wanted to hear what we had to say. His strength was listening and he took what we said seriously no matter how good or bad.

Sense of Humor – He had the ability to make the most serious person in the room smile. If there was a tense moment he always found a way to unwind it.

Confidence – The restaurant was his Kingdom and he, using a direct quote, was The King. By being The King it was his job to care and protect his palace.

Commitment – The restaurant was good to him and he saw to it to return the favor.

Positive Attitude – There was laughter every day. Even on a bad day he found a way to be grateful. He understood mistakes were all part of the learning process.

Creativity – We had a guidebook from the front office that we were told to follow. We never did. He created his own and it was far better.

King

 In a way this greasy hair, Axel Rose look-a-like taught me how to succeed. Crazy when I stop and think about it but his commitment to that little restaurant is the same I take to writing every day.

So the next time you are trying to make sense of it all, stop and think of the people in your life. The ones from your past and those in your present.

Ask yourself – What is their recipe for success?

The answer may surprise you.

Skippers

 

Happy Friday Everyone!!!

My Younger Me

Back in my younger days I was not an avid writer. Sure, the ideas were there but the drive was not. Besides, even if I had the time there was way too many things to do.

For starters, I had an issue with an exploding car. Or might I say, the possibility of one.

I owned a Ford Pinto that was created with the gas tank in the back. One tiny fender bender and who knows.

For those of you unfamiliar with such luxury, I’ll wait as you take a gather at the picture below.

Pinto

Beauty, huh?

Mine was a gorgeous blue complete with a hatchback, a permanent smiley face ink stain on the seat and a semi-stuck driver’s side door. What’s not to love?

After my Pinto days disappeared I was still too busy to write. To be honest my time was well spent replacing it with a Chevy Chevette. Sadly it was a lateral move, but on the bright side the odds of an explosion were slim.

I’m enclosing a photo of yours truly during those times. In that photo he was probably in year one of his blissful Chevy Chevette days.

Bryan

He had the talent to create. His mind was far younger than it is today and of course, if you were to ask, he had all the answers.

Besides his car issues, entrepreneurial disasters and sleeping in way to late, I often wonder what my younger self would have done had he somehow been placed in the magical world of today and were asked to blog his dating life?

Sure, there would have been the predictable disastrous moments. The false hope and blown opportunities. Along with numerous embarrassing circumstances and of course those close calls involving police raids.

But those are sound bites and we all have those. So I reached back in time and asked this guy who looked a lot like me, not to mention a lot more hair, if it would be okay if we tagged along as he ventured into the land of dating.

His name is Bryan Fagan. He’s 21 years old and he’s living in a little town in Northern Washington that goes by the name of Burlington.

He’s lived there his entire life. He’s kind of bored. A little lost in his way but most of all he would like to meet a nice girl.

My dear readers may I present to you my younger self trapped in today’s world and doing the best he can.

As you can see it’s not exactly blogging but we’ll give the poor guy a pass.

Bryan, take it away.

Day 1)

I met the coolest girl at a party Thursday night. The place was loud. No clue what she said but I’m pretty sure I smiled when I was supposed to.

I asked if I could text her. She frowned and yelled over the music she had a boyfriend. Unfortunately it happened between songs.

Pretty sure everyone heard it. Including the boyfriend.

Day 2)

Romantic heartbreak filled with suicidal thoughts. She was perfect. Why bother trying? But wait, her best friend gave me a second look!

Scratch suicidal thoughts. Need to investigate the friend.

Day 3)

The friend works at a retirement home. Unless I can convince my grandmother to rent a room I highly doubt there’s a believable reason to stop by.

But wait – told by a reliable source she likes to unwind at Starbucks. I am so on it.

Day 4)

Took the entire day to get up the nerve. Coffee gives me the jitters. I’m nervous by nature. Combine the two and I’ve created a ticket for disaster!?

I ‘accidently’ stumble into her Starbucks and made my move.

It only took a half hour of contemplating and another half hour of stalking. She remembered me the moment I waved. Yes, I waved.

I ordered a double shot hazelnut latte. I will probably die.

She was full of happy news. Happy for her anyway. She rekindled a dying romance and was as happy as a June bride.

 I downed the entire latte, burnt tongue and upper lip, in three gulps. Listened to the entire story. Somehow smiled at the happy parts and had to pee really bad.

Day 5)

As the romance fire blew out before it started I remembered I knew an employee at Starbucks. Of course! She volunteers at the animal shelter.

I can volunteer at the animal shelter!

This is much better. We’ll have something in common. Who doesn’t love puppies and kittens?

Day 6)

Heavy thinking. Subject: Starbucks employee. Trying to remember if she had a wedding ring. Or was it a class ring? Any old ring?

Did she have brown hair and blue eyes or was it the other way around?

Note: Remember eye and hair color. Kind of important.

Day 6 and a half)

Went back to Starbucks. I guess I’m a regular now. Double shot latte waiting for me. Must remember her name. Macy? Darcy?

Note: Remember names. Sort of important.

She had the day off. Volunteering at the animal shelter.

Question: Why am I doing this? Does desperation start with a D or a P as in Pathetic?

Day 6 and three quarters)

Do I really want to commit? A relationship is a serious thing. Am I boyfriend material?

Short answer – Probably not.

On the other hand it would be nice to have a girlfriend. I’m always the third wheel.

Question: Am I good for the long term? Would I be a fun and caring Tuesday night guy?

Hell, who is?

Day 7)

Lost the nerve with the Starbucks/Animal Shelter girl. Macy or Darcy?

Note: Find out for general curiosity sake.

Coffee is making me sick. Still shaking. Pretty sure it’s permanent. Tried to hide it by keeping my hands in my pockets. Not a good look.

Note: Stop shaking people are staring.

I have officially retired from the dating scene. I will be a professional third wheel. Pretty sure one can make a living off that.

A strange thing happened while I was in deep thought while standing in line at my favorite deli. I saw her.

The Deli Girl!

She makes an amazing ham and swiss. Light mayo, heavy on the lettuce. Crust cut off.

She has a dazzling smile. No ring. Hopefully she hates coffee and she’s wearing a name tag.

Note: Try to glance at her name tag but do not stare too long. Remember the last incident.

Great news! She has a Pinto and is afraid to drive it. I asked if she needed a ride home.

Dazzling smile Deli Girl said yes!

Still haven’t looked at her name tag.

Note: Make learning her name a priority.

Exhausted. Need a nap. Can I go back to the 1980’s please?

eighties

Spontaneous Friday

The Stories They Tell

 One of my favorite childhood memories was the day I got my dog. It was a warm summer afternoon and it was the most exciting day of my life.

I was four years old and I remember being so excited I could hardly eat my baloney sandwich, let alone drink all my milk.

We visited a lady across town. Her backyard was full of puppies and one of them would be mine.

I remember the barking, the puppy breath and the licks on my face. I can’t remember why I chose him but something told me he was special.

He was the color of a shiny penny so we named him Copper. He loved to jump fences and bark at the wind. He loved to run in circles and play with my toys.

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He was the first one I saw when I woke up and the last one I saw when I went to sleep. He was the first to see me when I came home from school and the only one who wanted to play catch when I was alone.

He was there when I laughed or cried or had nothing to do. He loved summer days and cold winter nights. He played in the snow and ran through the rain.

I taught him to jump in mud puddles and roll in the dirt. I’m pretty sure he laughed just like me.

We lived near the train tracks, just up the hill. One day as the train sped by he decided to chase it. My grandfather often asked what he might do if he caught it.

Years later, towards the end of his life, my grandfather brought home a kitten. The kitten was frail and skinny and barely had a meow. But my grandfather promised he would add years to Copper’s life. I had no reason not to believe, my grandfather never lied.  

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The kitten grew strong and resembled Morris from those old cat commercials some of you may remember, so Grandma named him Morris. Originality was not our thing back in the days.

Morris loved to jump on Copper’s back and pat him on the head. One day, for old time’s sake, I watched as Copper jumped the fence for the first time in years. I have a feeling Morris had a lot to do with that.

My grandfather was right, Morris made Copper young again. He also turned my grandfather into a cat lover. Something we thought impossible.

Image7101

Copper lived to the ripe old age of 17. I remember the day he died like it was yesterday. It was a rainy summer morning which seemed fitting at the time.

When we came home from the vet we found Morris sitting under an old tree that he and Copper liked the share.

I remember Morris sat there all day and most of the night. I have a feeling he was waiting for Copper to come home.

Our pets write stories the same way we do. We may not see the words on paper but they are there in their minds.

We become their adventures, their heroes, their dramas and their comedies. But the one thing we will never be is their villain.

They teach us how to see the world through their eyes. They add color to our life especially when they lay on our laptops as we try to write our masterpiece.

They write their own stories while helping us write our own and in many ways they do a much better job.

Someday when you come upon an old picture or reflect on an old memory stop for a moment and ask yourself what stories did your pets write?

Did they chase the villain over the fence or did they rescued you from the train? Did they jump in a mud puddle and save you from drowning or did they roll in the dirt because it was there?

Our pets fill our lives and our hearts with laughter, tears and memories. Sometimes they fill our pages with the stories that we write. But one thing is for sure, they live inside us forever.

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Happy Friday Everyone!