Thursday, February 24, 2011

The trouble with bottom brackets…

Time plays weird tricks. For example, when I think of my last cigarette, it feels like a long time ago. When I think of when I first started cycling, it feels like yesterday. And yet, I was still sneaking smokes when I started cycling… so that’s slightly askew.

I’ve been cycling now since 2007. That’s four years of riding. Every year, I get a little smarter, a little faster, a little better. That’s not too difficult because I started out really horribly. I mean, I sucked.

One thing has remained consistent, however, and that is my relationship with bottom brackets. Bottom Brackets are the part of your bike just between where the pedal’s cranks meet. They keep your pedals going so you can move. They’re supposed to be fairly stable. They’re not supposed to move around a whole lot.

I learned this with my first bike (as an adult). It was a converted mountain bike – basically, a mountain bike with road tires on it. I was riding for quite some time until the bottom bracket was so blown that the pedals were practically flapping like wings. No bueno! The guy at the bike shop actually lectured me.

After that, I got a little experience and got a little smarter. Riding my Giant road bike, I blew another bottom bracket but I noticed before the pedals started flapping. Still, I did plenty of damage before I brought it in to get fixed.

I don’t know what it is about me and bottom brackets. I just tear through them.

Today, for instance, as I was out on my morning ride, I realized that the pedals had a certain amount of give that they shouldn’t have had, a bit of play that told me, “Ken, you’re doing it again.” Rather than ignore it, I actually stopped and checked it out. Sure enough, the bottom bracket was going out. This time, though, I decided to do the smart thing… or, at least, the smartest thing I could do under the circumstances. I rode the bike straight home. I’ll take it into the shop this weekend and hope I caught it early enough to prevent anything too costly.

I don’t know if other cyclists have these issues. Maybe I’m just too hard on my bike. But I’m learning. I can say that. Maybe, by the time I’m 60, I’ll be smart enough to not bust the damned things in the first place…

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


I had a job interview today that, to be honest, could have gone better.

To start, it didn’t. The guy I was supposed to interview with kept asking me to wait in the lobby. We didn’t get moving until about 15 minutes after the appointment time.

Next, he was far from prepared. I got the impression he was lucky to have my resume, though it looked pretty banged up. I gave him a fresh resume and some other materials as well, which I hope helps in the end.

Worst, though, was the age old dilemma I’ve faced so many times. This interview was for a marketing coordinator position, which I am very qualified for. That said, I’ve also worked as a writer for many years as well. The dilemma, you see, is that some folks can’t understand that you can do both.

So, the interview began. “I see you just did some technical writing.”

“Yes, it was a contract position, which has since ended. Now, I’m excited about this marketing coordinator position.”

“Why don’t you just stick with tech writing?” he asked.

I could go on but it would be redundant. Some folks just can’t wrap their heads around a person who can do more than one thing.

In the end, it didn’t turn out well. Even after I pointed out areas I could help in where they were sadly lacking, this guy couldn’t understand that I can do more than technical writing.

It appears I’m still in the job market.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Simple Things…

They say the best things in life are free. I don’t know about that but I do know that very often they are cheap.

Take this morning, for instance. Vicky and I got out of bed a little while ago to walk our dogs. The day we have before us includes, in no particular order:

  • Watching the Daytona 500 (I’m rooting for Juan Pablo. Vicky is firmly in Team Gordon.)
  • A fresh, hot pot of coffee
  • Leftover pizza
  • Maybe hitting Del Taco for some cheap grub.

… and that’s it. That’s all.

Oh sure, I’ll fiddle with some video games – it is my “day off” after all. (Have I mentioned the “day off”? Vicky started it a while back so I’m not working seven days a week and I have grown to LOVE IT!) Vicky is going to do some work from home since she took yesterday off.

Overall, we’re going to veg. I'm just going to spend the day with Vic. And that’s nice.

It’s my favorite kind of day.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

This is what I love…

I found myself in San Francisco this weekend caught completely by surprise at having the best time of my life. It really snuck up on me. There I was, surrounded by beautiful women (Vicky), fellow writers who wanted to know what I thought, actors who admired my work, great food, funny conversation… It was simply amazing.

Then, I came home.

And I realize that real life never stops. I realize that this wonderful ride has to end at some point. I do.

In fact, let me drip a little more reality in before getting back to the wonderfulness so you know I’m not completely full of shit. I have only a few more unemployment checks remaining. In the past five months, I’ve applied for over 70 jobs – 70 that I’ve kept track of – with no response. Zero. Not a phone call. Nothing. For some reason I do not know, my career as a marketing professional appears to have come completely full stop. I will very soon have to take anything I can get: Costco, Target, whatever. I’ll have to do it or lose my home. I know that.

On top of that, my last book (Sleepwalker) received nothing but yawns and disgust from all the agencies and publishers I sent it to. Things are not looking great for me as a novelist.

So, why the hell am I so upbeat?

You know what they say: There’s no talking to an idiot.

No. Wait. That should be: Hope springs eternal.

I just finished my new mystery novel, Once Removed. Not only is it a lot of fun, it is a more sophisticated blend of romance and mystery and family drama. It takes my books to the next level. The next book I write will be another horror novel, my third. Hell, I never thought I’d write my first! The concept, which I won’t get into now, is far above a lot of stuff I see out there. It is really good – and I’m not really a fan of my own horror writing to begin with and I’m saying that. It will take me to that next level.

I’m getting better. I can feel it. Maybe it’s because I just spent a weekend in San Francisco with people who admire my work; I don’t know. It could also be the fact that I now spend an enormous amount of my time writing. You know, like a writer.

Check this out. I just finished the first draft of Once Removed in just over a month. Tomorrow, I’ll start working on my next play. Next week, when I finish the play, I’ll go back and work on rewriting and polishing Once Removed so it’s ready to submit to agencies and publishers. Then, I’ll do the same to the play. Then, I’ll start the next book. This will all happen before April!

That kind of schedule would have been unthinkable for me as recently as two years ago. I am now living and thinking – functioning – as a writer. And, yes, it will all be snatched out of my hands when my unemployment benefits run out in April.

It sucks.

That said, I want to get as much out of it as I can. Yes, this year, I want to write two more books. I also want to write a sequel to Wormfood Island when it comes out. I want Wormfood Island to sell well enough to justify a sequel. I have four more plays in my mind, ready to spring forth. I can do all this this year, easily, if I get the opportunity.

I am looking for that opportunity. I am looking for part-time writing jobs, temp writing jobs, contract writing jobs – hell, I’ll take all kinds of part-time jobs if they give me the opportunity to write.

I am ready to take that next step in my life.

Next month, I have a play being considered for full production in the 2012 season of an LA theater. In April, I have a short play being produced in Hollywood. This sounds like a dream and it kind of is. Sadly, it is not yet the kind of dream that makes money.

And it all comes down to money.

This weekend, when asked how I kept up this momentum of mine at the age of 45, I replied, “It doesn’t take any talent or skill. All it takes is blind stupidity. Think of any other job out there and imagine pursuing it for 25 years. Now, imagine someone saying that if you just got a little better they’d pay you. It wouldn’t happen. And yet, here I am.”

I got a bit of a laugh and, to some degree, I believe that.

But, you know, what I didn’t admit was the incredible love I have for what I do, the amazing thrill that comes when I finish a project, get an audience to laugh or to cry, create a book someone just can’t put down. It is an unbelievable experience and I feel fortunate to simply have made it this far.

Now, I want to go just a little farther.

(Yes, I know I'm posting this on both of my blogs but it's one of those things that really transcends both subject matters. This is my life and my love and my path - and it's Vicky's too. Vicky is an enormous part of it. Nothing makes me happer than seeing this through her eyes. I am very lucky.)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

On Being British…

One of the reasons I went into acting was because I was so insecure about myself. There was this feeling in my gut that said if I could be other people it was better than being me. The problem, though, was that there never were enough roles, enough shows, and I ended up having to be me far too often.

My solution to this problem was to not be me even when I had to be me. In high school – yes, that long ago – I adopted a British mannerism to try and sound cool, not realizing that I only looked like a dork. The accent didn’t just stick with me; it became difficult to use my normal voice at times. I was that accustomed to “speaking British”.

Those days passed and I grew up. I met my first wife and married her. Of course, being so insecure, I would often slip into my British voice in a vain attempt at impressing her. I’m sure it wasn’t too difficult for her to see through it and she’d tell me to stop. For 15 years, she told me to stop.

So, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that, when Vicky and I got together, my inclination towards putting on my British voice had been beaten down all together? Even when she asked me to do it, I wouldn’t. Even the thought of doing the voice was just embarrassing.

Which goes to show: Each relationship you have is built on the ruins of the one before.

Vicky wanted to hear my British accent, and not the dribs and drabs I’d give her.

I decided, then, to really let her have it. On Valentine’s Day morning, I gave her a card and within, I wrote, “Today, just for you, I will be British.” And, so, I was. I held up my British accent all day: in the hotel room in the morning, when we checked out, as we drove home, when we stopped at Starbucks… the whole drive.

I’m not sure how it was but I did notice that being out of practice had taken its toll. It took me a while to find it in my mouth. Accents are, to me, a matter of what I call “mouth feel”. If it feels right, it’ll sound right. And this isn’t just any British accent we’re talking about. It is what I call my “British voice”. That means it is the most natural accent for my mouth, the one I’d use if I was British. The difference between it and some accent is the difference between a caricature and a painting.

As I say, I kept it up all day. As the day progressed, my mouth sank into the voice, dropping the affectation and adapting to the fit. I realized something, though. And that is, drives down the length of California – or anywhere – don’t really call for talking very much. While I was using the voice, there wasn’t much reason to talk. And I wanted to talk! I wanted to show off my voice for Vicky who had waited this long to hear it…


And then, as we neared home, with Vicky behind the wheel, my voice suddenly returned to normal as I yelled, “Shiiiiiiit!” Vicky had neglected to stop and careened into a length of stopped cars. Just before we slammed into them, she changed lanes very quickly, basically scaring the voice right out of me.

Oh well. Maybe, I’ll get more comfortable trying on other voice for Vicky in the future. Maybe this was a one day thing. Either way: Happy Valentine’s Day, Vic.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Home of the Golden Gate…

Vicky and I heading out to San Francisco this weekend for the staged reading of Murielle’s Big Date at the Dark Room Theatre on Saturday 2/13 @ 5pm. (Come one! Come all!)

It’s been so long since I was last in San Francisco that I actually had to think back for a minute. It was my first time meeting Axel. He was giving me a hard time about what the Golden Gate Bridge looked like at night. I’d say, “I don’t know. I was dark.” He’d say, “So, you really don’t know what the color of the Golden Gate Bridge is?” And round and round we’d go. I really kinda hated Axel as I left San Francisco but, in the end, he turned out to be an okay guy.

This trip fills me with misgivings. After all, I’m still out of work and so I really shouldn’t take the extravagance. On the other hand, Vicky’s never been to San Francisco and really wants to go so I don’t have much say in it. After all, this is Vicky.

We’ll have one free day, give or take, and I’m hoping we can just walk about and see some of the town. Eat at some funky places. See some funky people. Bitch about the hills. You know, fun stuff.

The next day will be the show. I’m packing about three different shirts for the show, though I’m not sure which one to wear. Truth be told, I’m a bit nervous. If over-packing is a sign of nerves, I’m extremely nervous.

Hopefully, nobody will be asking me what the Golden Gate Bridge looks like in the dark.

Monday, February 07, 2011

In-Between Jeans…

About a decade ago – yes, this goes a long way back so bear with me – I was pretty thin. Okay, it was actually only seven years, but still… I was far thinner than I was today.

I was thin because I didn’t eat. When I wanted to eat, I smoked or I drank. I was thin because I was an actor back then and you kinda had to be.

Since then, I got married and I got fat. I stopped acting but that was okay because I found myself spending a whole lot more time for my writing. (You might say I have a figure for writing.)

Now, when I use words like “thin” or “fat”, don’t get the wrong idea. I haven’t changed much and the difference in weight has only been about twenty pounds. When I was thin, I wore a 36 waist thin pair of jeans. As I got fatter, I moved from thin jeans all the way up to loose jeans – I would wear anything so long as I could still say I wore a 36 waist! I never wanted to move up to the dreaded 38.

Well, with all the jogging and cycling and walking I’ve been doing over the last year, my loose jeans have gone from just barely fitting to being… loose, actually. Actually loose! I actually have to wear a belt to keep them up! Imagine that.

Yesterday, Vicky decided I should get some new jeans. (Yes, SuperBowl Sunday – ugh!) What I ended up with were not thin jeans. I actually still have my thin jeans, which are waiting waiting waiting for that fateful day of thinness. No, but what I did get were called relaxed.

I’ve gone from loose to relaxed. Relaxed doesn’t sound nearly as loose as loose. Mind you, I’m not entirely relaxed in my relaxed jeans. They might as well be called the “See that? You’re fat” jeans.

But I’ll take relaxed.

Friday, February 04, 2011

All those years ago…

I received an email a few days ago from an old friend who was writing to remind me of something I did many years ago. It was 1976-77, and I was in the fourth grade. My teacher (whose name I have embarrassingly forgotten but I think it was Mrs. Coleman) was wonderful in that she allowed her students a great deal of self-expression. One way she did this was to allow me to perform sketches in front of the class.

When I say sketches, well, nothing could be further from the truth. My dad had left us a few years before and one of the few things he’d left behind was a Don Adams comedy record. It wasn’t stand-up but, rather, a crude series of audio sketches. One in particular was about an interview with a bank robber, mid-robbery. So, I took that record and corralled up a bunch of my friends and drilled them until they had their parts memorized and directed them and, before you knew it, had us all up in front of the rest of the class performing it for them. This went on for some time. Different sketches brought different casts, with me always casting myself in the lead role (of course). I took these sketches to other classes and won talent shows with it. Then, I started writing my own comedy sketches and things started to take off until – 6th grade and a new school filled with strangers. It would be four years before I performed again.

Anyway, as I say, I received this email from my old friend on a particularly awful day. My unemployment benefits are running out. My writing was getting me nothing but rejections. Things were pretty bleak. I wasn’t feeling particularly upbeat about anything. When I thought of my sketches in elementary school, I thought back on the nerd in glasses I was back then, the hyper kid who couldn’t sit still, and how much I wished someone had stopped me then and prevented me from even thinking about pursuing any kind of art.

And this just goes to show how important perspective is. My old friend wrote to tell me how he still remembers those old days in elementary school with warmth and how grateful he was that I pulled him into doing those sketches. He was very complimentary about the gift I have towards writing and how much he admires me for sticking with it.

I felt like writing back and saying, “You don’t understand. It’s not a blessing, you idiot. It’s a curse.” Then, I realized it was all a matter of perspective.

As Vicky told me, not everyone gets to pursue their passion or has the tenacity/stubbornness/gall/whatever to stick with it. What I think of as exhausting, they may see as something admirable. I don’t know. But it was nice to hear that someone saw me/sees me as more than just some loser who doesn’t know when he should quit.