By Your Side part 2: “Cinemas”

Every week I’ll install parts of this California short story I wrote three years ago for a fiction class. It’s since been rediscovered and reread and revised and unrevised for what I ultimately wanted to accomplish in this small story of a summer in between college and the growth of a youth in love. Here is the first part of many for this story, and I hope you enjoy!

*If you would like to read the next part of the short story, stay tuned, or simply click above the BY YOUR SIDE page for the full story. P.K.

CINEMAS
            It wasn’t that terrible of a movie. Maybe it was because June hated action. She wanted the romcom, as silly as it had looked, but had the tickets not been sold out Noah would’ve endured it for her.
            Even if the film was over, their first date hadn’t reached its own conclusion. The cinema on Shattuck was perfectly situated for June and Noah to aimlessly walk about the shops and possibly grab some drinks in one of the cafés or bars. But he had to keep it light. She kept complaining of dizziness for sitting too close to the big screen. If only their ailments could be switched—that she could have the strained neck so he’d be able to touch near her slender smooth back.
            A block up the street they got Yogurtland. It was February. It took her by surprise. As they sat in plastic high chairs by the window front spooning up raspberries with the cold tart cream, she asked if it was customary in the Bay to go cold when it was cold.
            “Well,” Noah started to answer, “I’ll tell you that it’s customary for Noah to go cold.”
            “It’s fucking freezing out!” June squeaked. Her lips were stained a brighter red by the raspberry juice.
            “I can do anything as a young careless man,” he said with a sly smile. “After being in cold and fog for pretty much my whole life, it just grows on you. Like lukewarm to me now, I guess.”
            “Hmm.” She looked out onto the street. Frost was taking over the bottom of the wide glass, and she looked with sympathy to a small group of homeless men shut away under the lamp post on the corner of the block. One in a dull burgundy sweatshirt got up and was making their way to the window; June pressed her hand into Noah’s, despite how chilly it was. The poor man, tapping on the glass, lifted his tattered Raiders’ cap to smooth out the thinning but long hair underneath and zipped up the sweatshirt, mouthing to the couple if they had any change to spare. Noah looked at the man, shaking his head almost routinely. With June, her heart gave out. She smiled at the man and despite Noah’s plea to not stir, she briskly went out to give him a five dollar bill and patted his back. His face crinkled into a sheepish grin and he rejoined the lamp post gang.
            Before Noah could say anything, she explained, “No one should have to stoop so low to ask.”
            “I’m just used to turning my head,” was his reply. “I mean I try and give what I can but I can’t give to all. It’s just such a huge problem up here; something that I don’t think needs to be blown up like this. I mean, he could get a job.”
“In this economy I doubt anyone can. Even us! The future is always uncertain, dear.” He looked up from his yogurt to her. She sat prim and straight with her legs warm in their blue tights and taupe oxfords without laces, scooping up the last of her desert. Dear. She said it so casually, but beautifully.
            He hadn’t spoken for a few seconds, but came back with, “I’ve got a few places lined up for opportunities. I mean, graphics is a big deal in such a technological-based society we’ve got going on here.”
            “Society!” she remarked, rather dramatically. “I think advancement’s boring. Fucking dull, and expected. People always want to strive for the newest thing, but then you’re never going to enjoy what’s in front of you.”
            It got Noah to think that night, after he’d walked her back to her Uncle’s apartment, that it was true for new things to always be in pursuit. Him, he wanted to stop now; this new thing had lingered in front of him for the entire evening, lingered long enough to understand what a nostalgic romantic sort of girl she was. He’d sure enjoyed that.
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“By Your Side,” a short story

Every week I’ll install parts of this California short story I wrote three years ago for a fiction class. It’s since been rediscovered and reread and revised and unrevised for what I ultimately wanted to accomplish in this small story of a summer in between college and the growth of a youth in love. Here is the first part of many for this story, and I hope you enjoy!

*If you would like to read the next part of the short story, stay tuned, or simply click above the BY YOUR SIDE page for the full story. P.K.

HE WASN’T trying to get sprayed with the soapy water. But he wanted so dearly to be close to her. The tub was too small for a couple anyways; another body in the porcelain would cause too much splash and commotion for the maid, cleaning out the maintenance closet next door, to hear.

June got tanner the more she soaked. Perhaps it was coming on even before he’d arrived in that afternoon. She’d probably been lying out for days under the scorching blaze of the bulb in the blue sky, nothing standing between them. Everything else was beneath her— beneath everyone’s—feet, everything that was only sand and stiff drying grass.

            She’d come into the room he’d checked in to bathe, the small orange-painted one at the end of the hall. It was her way of showing gratitude for him driving back in her rusty orange Beetle.
            “It’s a charming place, I guess,” Noah said to her, sitting reversed on the desk chair he dragged into the small bathroom and rested against its steel back.
            “The charm has gone nowhere after twenty-two years here,” she replied, in the middle of shaving. “It’s not a bad place, but I guess it just depends on the mood I’m in.” He was marveling the sharpness of those blades, but more the slenderness of her legs stretched into the air; neon-red was painted on her toes, like cherries, curling under towards her heels. It didn’t seem to bug her that he was watching something so intimate.
            “So this solves one thing,” she went on, smiling up at him and lightly swishing bubbles away from her brunette locks coming out of her loose bun.
            “And that is?” he answered. He removed his t-shirt stained with his sweat. He’d have to find a tub of his own soon, to meet this lovely gal’s standards. She surely wouldn’t long for a man who’d driven 300 miles against the heat and bumper to bumper down the rugged coast with his brother Jay to watch her shave those long browning legs of hers.
            “You’ve shown me yours, you gotta see mine.” She giggled and buried herself behind the edge of the tub, like she’d never said something so naughty before. “It’s behind the office up the stairs, between the linens closet and my parents’ room. Has a water bed, too.”
            He couldn’t help but smile.

Current Thoughts:

WOMEN IN TELEVISION– There isn’t a better time than now to write for a young woman, thanks to two factors. The first, being that this world is now not without a significant variety of (good) coffee, and the other:

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It’s nothing to ignore when it comes to screenwriting for television the Now, and especially when there’s an obvious shift in the roles of women on television. Women have become more complicated (and unique) on the tube because of weird and wonderful women writers who have been handed keys to the city and changed everything. As women on the big screen usually become iconic for their aesthetics, women on television have no heirs to put on necessarily– convicts, stressed political figures, machete-wielding zombie fighters, adorkable high school teachers, awkward black women, and broke post-grads. They’re not icons, they’re relatable.

In reading this month’s issue of Elle, which highlights these broad range of female characters and writers, I can’t wait to just write something. I particularly enjoyed the article that discusses the realism casting director Jennifer Euston looks for in her characters on shows like Girls and Veep. It’s the best motivation you can get as a writer– after all the key to great writing is just reading more.

WRITING LETTERS– I wrote letters two nights ago, and this morning. When was the last time you handwrote a letter? Me neither. So to get back in that groove, be patient. In being patient I mean to wait for that right work of art to come along: the perfect, quintessential stationery set for you. Keep your eyes out for one, because when you find it you’re ready to write. It also puts you in a good vibe to write a well-wishing letter for the New Year– clears your mind and all the good intentions you penned out affect you, too. The bitch of it all? Stamps. I don’t even know what the postage cost was or like, how many stamps come in a set to buy (ain’t nobody got time for that!).

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TALKING TO STRANGERS is visibly the best bet for any story inspiration. Well, if a stranger is wanting to talk to you. And you shouldn’t be disinterested or obviously cold– we’re human beings, not robotic and apathetic. Even if you’re pissed, chances are strangers have been for a long time too, and they found someone who they think gives a shit about them or what they have to say. Of course it can be scary, unpredictable, unexpected– invasive. But believe me, you’ll both depart happy.

And the new Franz Ferdinand album is terrific! I had their last one on CD but I lost it. If you are attracted to someone, don’t lend them things.

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What a Crafter Keeps to Herself

After a successful recent workshop at the store. Wedding essentials!
After a successful recent workshop at the store. Wedding essentials!

I’ve landed into a brilliant situation, compared to others just graduating and getting full-time and substantially paying jobs, even grad school, lined up. At least, I’ve gotten the next best thing that a writer in particular could want. My love for writing means a love for writing on papers. And now I’ve actually been working with it.

For my next workshop: Valentine's Day. And yes, lace tape IS A THING.
For my next workshop: Valentine’s Day. And yes, lace tape IS A THING.
Christmas Card.
Christmas Card.

It’s a good place to be, Paper Source. Everyone steps in, enticed by the fine, exotic papers draped on racks, the comedic and colorful greeting cards lined against old doors on the long, left wall, and the pretty little trinkets scattered across our table tops. Since Valentine’s Day’s the next big holiday, you can only guess what most of our products cater to. I love paper and I work with it; I’ve gotten to know it as a character completely on its own.

Prior to Paper Source, I was using the old school technique of paper bag book binding, but on a whole new level of detailing each book and giving character to each title (COUNTER CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Cannery Row, David Copperfield, Anne of Green Gables)
Prior to Paper Source, I was using the old school technique of paper bag book binding, but on a whole new level of detailing and giving character to each title (COUNTER CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Cannery Row, David Copperfield, Anne of Green Gables).

In a few words, the old-world preconceptions of paper and females are almost the same– just here to look pretty. But in working here, and in directly working with the papers in craft workshops that I also teach, that’s not the case. The paper is made for all beautiful sorts of things. Sometimes just party bunting, to extravagant concepts like cabinet lining (the Italian Florentines are perfect for this!) and photo shoot backdrops — the most bizarre function was that they were used to cover the tops of beehives. Yes, beehives; those fancy and spoiled buzzing bitches! Basically, if you struggle to find a golden purpose for whatever Indian or lokta or Japanese paper you admire, there’s meant to be something somewhere for them. If your vision is still fogged up, Paper Source has your back, with all of our creative paper kits of flowers, cards, and meaningless but gorgeous décor pieces like rosettes and a string of heart garlands. Paper is also complicated, and unforgiving– I’ve never gotten more paper cuts at any given time in life than when I started here.

A Halloween party invite that doesn’t explicitly say so.

It’s nice to hone into these skills. I’m not just writing on papers anymore, and not just creating through writing, anyhow. Focusing more on my DIY and crafting abilities test more to my left brain than I’ve thought possible. It’s in a way, a getaway from writing without letting my imagination get flabby. And of course, you do get crafter’s block with the building, the cutting and pasting for whatever it is you envision. But then there’s the tools you learn in this newly-found outlet of performance. For example, embossing?? Using ink,  powder and heat to create a raised surface of an image or text, it’s been a rough 90% that makes up the detailing of my cards. Then there’s adhesives. Not just scotch tape any more for this girl. I’ve transitioned between glue dots, to tape runners, super tacky tape, and even pretty tape: washi tape. This doesn’t get the job necessarily done but these tapes add just the right hint of decoration without overdoing it. A few months back I of course was crafting, but limited. Now I feel limitless in not just tools but where they direct me in terms of the finishing result.

Altered notebook covers bounded in paper bag and watercolored by me.
Altered notebook covers bounded in paper bag and watercolored by me.

Sometimes you just get stuck with a pretty piece of paper. But as you know with writing, the piece is much more than that: a pretty surface.

Stationery!
Stationery!

*The views stated in this blog post don’t necessarily reflect those of Paper Source. Although I’m sure they would agree with me on the paper cuts.

“Some Beings”

By all rights we are liars.

In the roughest and cleanest basis what we tell is fake, but we’re preaching possibility.

Our sensibility gets the better of us and our tongues cannot stop.

We wreak havoc in the slander of the nonexistent, the crimes and vengeance of pseudo-history. We don’t have to prove other life forms, other worlds, or the supernatural– it’s all fair game and to us we create the proof.

Liars talk in the heat of the moment, like when we love someone after a warm kiss and see that the feeling’s faded upon chapped lips; when our hate convinces us of reasons or malice when there really is none, but jealousy; attempting justification in the faults that we have performed . We also cope, cope with a loss or missed opportunity. In the heat of a moment we’re comforting ourselves and tell how it could be. We’re driven, basically, by regret.

It is dangerous ground, being what we are. A lie can be harmful, make or break you . But we can’t be condemned; not without tearing apart the bestsellers of gripping adventures; not without the cancellation of a channel’s best-loved sitcom; not without the backlash to the greatest love story(ies) ever told. We could not see life in any other way without our duties of creating falsehoods.

And we’ll stray, starve– sit in office buildings doing jobs we hate and waste the minutes for that big break in words that only we’re certain will succeed. We’ll believe in our lies, and we’ll fight for this shaky, unforgiving way of life. We get together, talk amongst ourselves how to further fool our outside world. We help each other race to the finish– we provide our services so that one of us alone will come up with the most conviction of beautiful bullshit. What pisses us off is plagiarism– and sadly our workshops risk being that breeding ground.

We’re brilliant– because we get away with it.

In your pardon you’ve dubbed us the The Writer. You let us run.

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“Nights at the Milk Bar”

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She parks the silver van a block away on a low-lit street that is cold and quiet. So is everywhere else there, the main intersection of Haight especially, but it’s not too bad with scattered people tracing the sidewalks or standing in with the chill in front of dark bars.

            We’re going to make this Thursday the first of Saturday nights. We don’t plan on drinks, having settled our fix back at the apartment with Vodka Redbulls lasting seven rounds of Apples to Apples. We’re not really feeling the cold, we’re not really sure how it’s going to go, crossing the street. It’s a matte pavement and the only gloss comes from few stars in the sky and the metal beads on my shirt. And then there’s also few signs along the Haight lit up in green or white neon, despite being closed.
            The Milk Bar’s lit, and open.
            The sign juts out from the cemented venue in illuminated red—he points at the sign and asks me if they got the name from Corova in A Clockwork Orange. I want to say yes, but I really don’t know.
            None of us have been here, and once inside we’re not that excited it’s the first time. It’s dark and warm, and plain white walls drape into the couches and tables which are equally pale. Above the mirrored bar hangs a red and green mural of a Vietnamese child soldier—it’s the only visible piece of this place anyone put effort towards in making a statement, to try and stand out from the other dance venues with overpriced drinks.
            There’s also the back room, the dance floor where from the DJ booth echoes a strong tribal beat that’s moved along electronic waves for a sound so experimental, but expected. It’s my friend’s music. He’s been looking forward to this set all week.
            There are four of us girls and a boy. He goes to buy me Coke and amaretto, my signature. Either to make the $11 it cost worth his wallet or the liquor was a sting, I stay latched to the glass and the brim is still high the whole night. The girls take sips, and there seems to be plenty for all of us.
            Faces of girls from freshman year stand along the bar top downing yellow beers and try not to look at anyone beyond themselves. I want to say hi—I haven’t talked to them in two years. In a second thought I stay standing on the dance floor.
            The walls are still plain and the back room’s spinning a disco ball that does nothing but entertain the static.
            Girls in lace and mint dance in heavy boots and unintentionally captivate fantasies of older creeping Latinos.
            I stare at one man and try to tell one of the girls about him. She can’t believe it so she gets closer and disappears among whirling bodies. She comes back shaking her head, and laughing because no, the tall black man is not wearing a white jumpsuit.
            It’s only a neat, saggy two-piece with Burberry across his shoulders in a scarf.
            A new set is introduced by two young men in black tank tops and white wayfarers.
            Their stuff is slower—racier.
            And none of us can feel it nor when we try to.
            After the amaretto’s watered down and the girls from freshman year try to swerve and nod towards the disco ball, I ask my friend if there’s time to head to Fell Street. The same nights on a Thursday there offer better sounds and swathed walls of red velvet.
            No thanks, she tells me. I have work in the morning at ten.

Food Truck Food and Team Edward (or Advice on Characterization)

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That there is the best of San Francisco’s whole Off the Grid regime– a Fryin’ Maiden fried chicken sandwich from the eclectic and punching food truck Brass Knuckle with a menu giving homage to the greatest musicians.

Now that’s a prime example of character– yes even in the culinary business! Not just the business itself that has their twist, too. I wonder how people come up with the Prawns and Roses, Lamb Halen, and Notorious P.IG. recipes. What aeoli or cheese and waffle bun makes the chefs think of certain rock stars? What exactly gives each sandwich character??

This is disregarding sandwiches but embellishes on the notion of character-development, particularly in writing. When I had my conference over my senior seminar piece last year, I was given a great advice for making sure characters are defined, polished, and kick ass. Since my piece was full-on character driven with switching narratives, it’s tricky to make sure one character doesn’t outshine the other (which actually, yes, was the trouble with my novel in the beginning pages).

So here it is, what you can do and should do! In order to avoid loose ties in the story and horrific one-sided infatuations à laTeam Edward Team Jacob: interview your characters, each and every one. Use the same 20 or so questions and soon enough, you can see the characters talk for themselves. It won’t be a matter of you voicing them– just listen to your gut and think practically and mindfully about what you’re sure your character would say or act about something. This isn’t your interview, it’s theirs.

WTF: the Weather Edition

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The New Year fad is slowly diminishing despite everyone I still encounter– especially strangers or customers at work– wishing each other a Happy New Year. It’s only the fourth day of 2014 approaching; the freshness in our minds of new possibilities and blank slate boards embedded into the planners on our iPhones and tablets lingers even as yes, practically a fraction of this new year is passing with each second. Well frankly, there is never enough time. And there is never a common pattern in what you end up doing. Who really sticks to their shiny NYE resolutions? Sadly only 8% can proudly go all the way with the weight loss and eCigarette commitment. Rather than think and talk, do– walk, get going, and just do something, because somehow one of those things you end up finding yourself acting upon is meaningful in your life, greatly affecting it in a remote and hazy butterfly effect.

The irony is that I’m sitting here and preaching and not doing myself. And what better time than now, in the midst of this nice weather, too?

It’s winter time in the world, and in California particularly, not counting the Sierra Nevada and Shasta regions of my beloved home, the expectations of a dismal winter are wet, cloudy, and sharp, cold air. Lately our expectations have fallen short: it’s gorgeous out. Well, the air still stings frost and I can see my break even when I’m not exhaling, but other than that the sun shines and by the afternoon it’s just like it would be for a summer in San Francisco. The weather’s muddy, mixed up in the seasons. And in a way, I’m actually disappointed. For personally, a dreary, dark day out means a bright and inspiring (warm) day inside– inside writing and reading and snuggling up in a sweatshirt that yes, is my boyfriend’s and still smells like my boyfriend’s cologne.

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But I’m forced to go out. Besides work, when I’m forced out already for financial  incentives, the sun is there, always, and I get feels. Feels that drag me around San Francisco and take me away from those seasonal comforts of wintertime when I could adequately map ideas and scratch in ink onto paper after paper notes and stories that ultimately end up being nothing. It’s absurd to be pissed at the sun and the warmth it brings about, pissed about being taken away from inspirations to go out into inspirations.

But Butterfly Effect. All roads lead somewhere, sometimes to the same destination– one way or the other, even though I had expectations of my idealistic writing routines, this is working all the same. I’m a mad woman for ultimately ranting about nothing. But that’s what writers do, and some more than others perfectly capture (or mask) nonsense in a convincing, artful way that’s so mind-blowing that readers just go with it. I might not get away with it in this rambling about the weather, but it poses the question: should we get mad about not achieving some things so early in a new year?

Okay, I’m not so worked up anymore over the decent weather. April showers, right?

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“Summer”

We got blasted drunk the night before.

You and I Sal, you and I. We’ve grown bored of Emeryville.

So we hopped the train out of that dimming town.

Two one-ways, $30 spent on 2 Amtrak papers with our future written in blue ink.We woke up on cold benches 9 am, the heat slowly creeping from above the green canopy, outside the adobe mound that was the Davis train station. It was E Street, and a few blocks down you Sal, you paid for our breakfast in the Black Bear Diner.

Sitting in the grass on the front-lawn  of some sorority with chipped white shutters we had to figure out what we wanted to do

You and I Sal, you and I– someplace, and shitfaced– we remembered that our girlfriends their moms and our moms had always believed in “home is where the heart is.”

Never drink again, at least with little money in our pockets.