“Brave New City: What’s Left for Me?” (from WiseLit)

As a native to the San Francisco Bay Area, I was quite oblivious to the unique and beautiful city only an hour away from my life in Concord, California. At one point I was even considering college elsewhere, out in the world I had read about in a variety of books. But as I got older and spent more family outings in the city, I ultimately decided on staying close to home, to see the sights and famous landmarks in San Francisco. I realized the luck in my decision, the excitement of exploring a city in which I had memorable experiences–why would I want to leave when countless people came to visit and see these sights?

It sure is a lovely place to be. I’d gone ice skating as a girl by the waters on the Embarcadero, and climbed the wooden stairs up to Telegraph Hill and only wished that those houses shrouded beneath the lush canopies of that hill to be home. The panoramic view of the city as you drove in from the East Bay itself was practically a postcard. There was so much I was seeing of my adopted Big City, and as a young writer it naturally became my muse. As I incorporated much of the scenes of the city by the Bay into my stories, my resentment started to grow. A city so beautiful as San Francisco couldn’t have gone unnoticed– and yet it was. Films and television always had their go-to settings of either LA, New York, and even, out of nowhere, Orange County. Outside of these locations, there is the world after all. So when was my city’s big break to be the desired backdrop for the next big IT of pop culture?

My wish was granted. San Francisco is now the mecca for the tech industry, the cesspool of startups and headquarters for big names such as Apple, Google and Twitter. It’s a reference point for techies and hipsters, new social breeds born as a result of the social media boom. Future starts with technology, and technology is pouring out of this small big city of only 800,000 and its surrounding areas. San Francisco is high in demand.

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Despite this millennial renaissance, the San Francisco I gave my heart to is changing on some levels. I admit this now, writing in my old bedroom in Concord, having moved back home and away from the city– it is too expensive now, being the most expensive city to live in, even more so than New York City. And where the home prices go up, so has the amount of investors who’ve taken over the city. Housing shifts from those who need it to those who can afford the high prices. Within San Francisco, a middle class is disappearing, dividing the city where masses once came together to celebrate the city’s diversity and acceptance.

But this shift isn’t going without a fight. Occupy Wall Street may have burned out, but the legacy still goes a long way, starting with the recent outbursts of protests against Google shuttle buses, and the still raging battle against the city’s infamous Ellis Act which has weakened the foundations for affordable housing. This struggle between old and new signals the still romantic and nonconformist spirit of the city, the old resistant to apathy and marginalization. San Francisco won’t give in so easily to the fame and fortune.

With that said, my city is in there somewhere. And visibly, it will always be. The rich tint of the Golden Gate Bridge’s orange, the soft crystallized ding of a passing cable car or the rustic and gaunt Victorian homes tinted in gold and mint paint. And it is these unforgettable sensations to the soul of the individual that lure in visitors, idealists, and lost youths like myself, probably graduated and still looking for a proper job and a place that feels like a home far from home, or maybe finding a place that needs to remember how home once felt like to curious strangers.

San Francisco is out in the open now, but it is ultimately what you make of this city. There is a change, but that shouldn’t stop you. And it won’t stop San Francisco from being what it truly is, either.

Read the article here

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Commute Writing: A Morning Headache that Has its Merits

It's raining like this today. West Oakland, another day photographed from BART. As I've grown used to my commute, this is one of my favorite views to see out the window.
It’s raining like this today. West Oakland, another day photographed from BART. As I’ve grown used to my commute, this is one of my favorite views to see out the window.

Factor in getting up at 5 in the morning for about 4 days a week, today was no exception to the fatigue and occasional headache I get from the crowds and smells of the early morning BART train. But now, it’s nothing that some writing, a cup of coffee and a good raincoat can’t fix!

Because I ride BART three days a week, give or take one day for a workshop to teach late at night, it’s a lot of idle time spent, eighty minutes a day of just emptiness. And admittedly, none of it is really used for effective writing. I guess I don’t bother because 1) the train’s too crowded to move around especially if standing, to get out a paper and pen, and 2) I feel like I have to write something epic and significant (and lengthy) for such a long time.

But I want to get over that complex. And I want to be rid of boredom. Boredom can kill! And as a result, I vow I’ll make more an effort to write on the trains. Not just anything too, but everything. Free write. It really is, as I’m rediscovering from my work as a freelancer, effective for stimulating the imagination, keeping my thoughts on the go, every second. And today’s, Day 1, started as such:

no capital letters. that is the ultimate rule. just complicates things. this is not a diary log. nor does it bother me that this is my (one of my) favorite pens. people stare, people stand, and this pen is fading off. i have to make this pen last. then i will be bored– and maybe i’ll die. well, probably not. this keeps me occupied. because i am primarily a writer. maybe i’ll bring my diary on BART. good idea! but i guess i’m not so smart. running thoughts, i’m not crazy, i’m not.

Just letting those thoughts flow out and randomly settles my nerves. I’m not jittery or feel like I have things bottled up. It’s out there, and if it makes no sense, at least I did write.

I also wrote something random at work on paper which I wove into a workshop sample. It went something like:

It is going to be a beautiful day in the neighborhood as my neighbor Mr. Rogers would like it. I live next door in the small house, a one story where the cotton blossoms grow and blow in the wind.Wouldn’t it be nice if every day were gorgeous as this? It wouldn’t be as lovely as when I am with you.

Was this poetry? It could have been? It was more so gibberish I had to spit out on a piece of mint-colored paper in my shitty cursive handwriting using a white Uniball pen, just so the cursive showed in contrast to the gold paper I would weave through it. But now that I come back to that random block of words, it’s not bad.
Other side notes:

Shamelessly addicted to Girls and will buy the DVD this Friday because it’s sad to just watch clips of the show on Youtube.

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This new Amtrak plan for Writers Residency is TOTALLY WHAT I WILL NEED THIS SUMMER. The last time I rode on Amtrak was up to Davis for a friend’s birthday weekend say, three years ago? It smelled pleasant, like it’s cleaned every hour and I had a great window seat of the rolling pastures of dry grass and shaggy cows and the Carquinez Straight. For a forty-five minute train ride, it was what I needed to yet another kick-start into some sort of writing– the best way to have started one of my most memorable weekend getaways in college. Also? I saw the American Sean Connery on the train back. It was surreal– it was epic. I’ll never get as lucky again. Lately I’ll take the occasional CalTrain down from San Francisco to San Jose to visit my boyfriend or college buddies. It definitely beats BART by a long shot. I very much enjoy this hour-long ride; imagine traveling then on Amtrak from the Bay Area to say, Oregon or Montana (yes, Grace!). And at no charge.

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And I truly want to see this film again:

BIG FISH
image via Google

See the beauty in storytelling? Big Fish (2003)

Favorite Images From Film

It’s a leisurely few hours before work, and it’s not that I’m writer’s blocked or such, but just taking things slowly with my writing and enjoying the passing minutes of the moment. Today, it’s an exceptional day because one, I’ve just found out that my boyfriend, who is from England, will be back in America by next month to teach another year of soccer to students in San Jose (best NEWS of the day, in fact); and second, it’s raining. Or on the verge of, after an overdone drought. Well, it is the Bay Area after all; she’s a bit dramatic and unpredictable.

As soothing as the sight of clouds and the scent of the stiff cold air can be for today, I take time to reflect on the images I like the most out of favorite films and music videos. These certain pictures are iconic to me because they inspire my muse and get me going in the direction of the writing I want to achieve.
(please excuse the lack of capitalization– was in a good rush to belt these out!)

still from the expectations/reality scene of (500) Days of Summer

i loved this scene, even before i saw the movie. i knew what the movie was about, but seeing this still i knew somehow i’d be drawn to this movie. paper lanterns, string of lights, a rooftop looking out to a magnificent and familiar skyline– and a couple that looks into each others eyes like that’s enough of the world that they need. it’s so dreamy, all of it. little did i know this scene technically doesn’t exist in the film (going to spoil if you haven’t seen it because YOU SHOULD see it), that this was an expectation Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character Tom had versus the bleak reality of being alone at Summer/Zooey Deschanel’s party. no wonder it seemed to fantastic and ethereal, because that’s how Tom would have liked to have it. but of course, it’s a story about love, not a love story! you don’t always get what you want with love in the end, especially with the real world.
but with this photo i just like to forget about the real world and focus on their chemistry of the two lovers, on the scene that just seems perfect for a kiss in a matter of seconds after this shot.

from the end of Amelie, Hipolito is published

oh gosh. as a writer i can deeply relate to this quick scene at the end of the lovable quirky French film classic. Hipolito frequents the café Amelie works at, writing and despairing over his writing, because no one will publish his work. a hopeless romantic, he wins at the end. Amelie goes out of her way to do good for the people around her; this act was the least she could do for the poor writer to feel like someone rich. as a writer, who wouldn’t want to have their work quoted in public for all to see? it’s considerably only the best and most famous writers or philosophers or activists who get this special commencement. and to see that a virtually invisible person like Hipolito can be seen, it’s reassuring. it’s not just for the happy ending for him that i enjoy this shot, but because of the personal encouragement it gives me as well.

ending scene from Breakfast at Tiffany’s

of course this scene. who doesn’t love this scene, what girl doesn’t! it’s romantic, offbeat, and totally not how Truman Capote’s novel ended. but still! it’s 60’s cinematic fantastic, i say; a typical romantic, mainstream ending for the masses who love Audrey Hepburn. and i adore George Peppard as “Fred.” it’s a still that says so much: the always glamorous and carefree Holly Holightly is now careless of her clothes and the life she’s always been wanting, independent and uncaged. now she searches for Cat and accepts the love she has for Paul; despite the rain and dismal setting of a gritty sketch New York alleyway and being underdressed nothing else matters, except for Paul and Cat. i can’t help being drawn to scenes of people ignoring their surroundings, their outer world. it doesn’t even have to be into someone else’s eyes, just thinking about someone staring out blankly is captivating. it tells the viewer that something’s going on, inside their mind. something more important than the zillion things in motion around their tiny self.

“Lindsey Wells,” B side of Franz Ferdinand

it’s like an ode, this song, and it just has a zest and Scottish jolliness to it that i’m sure i’d hear in a pub in Glasgow somewhere. at the center of the music video for this is a girl, a young perky soul wandering the streets in search of something, anything, whatever. on the swings, kickin’ it with a swan, rambling through a graveyard and mocking storefront models get her going. it’s all too weird. but i do like weird. as the song says, “i wish that i could feel be so good as you.” the cherry on top to this video is the 60’s feel of the song and story by the black and white filming and Lindsey’s simple but sleek classic clothing (à la Holly Golightly!) what i want to be, what i feel i am sometimes, but then again i’m not in Glasgow, i’m in San Francsico. nonetheless, always looking for adventure.

Green Day walking the streets of San Francisco in “When I Come Around”

always a classic, steady little song for an evening in or driving along a highway, in my opinion. watching this video i know the streets, the familiar architecture, and the Powell BART station for crying out loud. this is all on location in San Francisco. YES. and because of that, i really like how Billie Joe, Tre, and Mike casually walk along the boulevards as the song plays and the story unfolds (portmanteau in that people look out to neighbors living their lives who in turn look out to reveal a chain of events across the City). i love the city life, and i love how a main essence of urban lifestyle is the vastness and diversity of people, humanity, within the city limits. as all of these events are happening, Green Day moves on, seemingly like they’re aware of these lives but focusing on just walking on with their own, knowing they too are a part of everything around them.

Alison Mosshart’s sultry singing of “Black Balloon”

i’m not crazy about the whole vampire mania, but this song is sooo good. it’s slow and seductive, but sings of something despairing as well, which makes the music video a good blend with the song. Alison Mosshart randomly becomes a vampire at the end, and kills Jamie Hince. this shot of her fangs and stained lips close to a blood-drenched mic is just so strange, and admittedly, sexy!

whether it’s lowering blood pressure or pumping me up for some serious creativity, images like these work.

(images via google)

“Telling Marilyn He’s Pretty”

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Hello to Marilyn. He’s 28, from Las Vegas, working Santa Monica Blvd. in L.A. and charged $30 for this photo by Philip-Lorca diCorcia.

This was the image I chose for a writing prompt in my experiments in nonfiction writing class two years ago. It’s part of the many inspiring and random photos that were on display for the Real to Real exhibit in the De Young Museum in 2012.

Here is the resulting essay from this photo:

They promised me things, too, darling. They said I could be the lights, too.

            It’s those flickers of dull and zenon balls from headlights on the street, out of focus, to your right. That’s Los Angeles. Santa Monica Boulevard. You are Santa Monica Boulevard. It is the place of boy lovers, drug addicts, displacement. You are part of Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s 1990-1992.

            He’s given your past and present. Your past is in the name: “…28 years old, Las Vegas, Nevada, $30.” $30 is the present, the payment for your face in a last sitting.

            Was any of this your idea?

            Do you think you’re worth $30?
What is $30 to you? Does it buy you your dreams? Time? Time for what, more of it to get you where you want to go?
Everyone wants to go to Hollywood. Get famous. Find fame and fortune in La La Land. What I did get was here. Fog, hills, a cold deep bay graced by a city with a clustered skyline of eco-friendly fluorescent bulbs. Here is where I go for dreams, here is looking into your face, your stillness.

            I won’t gloat, that’s not my style. I’m no better than you in my existence, my corporeal form looking onto your framed flat portrait. Because we are two persons alike, two persons having a staring contest. The first to blink is afraid of the other’s judgment.

            Darling I pass no judgment. I am in wonder.

            I step closer. Red lips, crooked teeth, hazel eyes. Cat eyes. You wear the cat eyes here. I do envy you. Caked face—hairy arms, and natural tits, too. And broad shoulders. A sensual figure. You think the world of yourself, babe.

            You’re a worker on graveyard shift, the placard’s telling me. That’s cool. But it must get lonely. You probably grow uncertain of yourself in the tattered black wig that mounts that pretty head. Uncertain and alone. That why that boy behind you lurks with his back against the wall? He’s got cool white kicks. You probably traded yours in for some pumps to exaggerate the red. This black-haired dazzle that’s drenched in red. The dress. The lips. All your perfection on display, for drivebys to see how passionate you’d become to the one who’d kiss you to make you feel whole.

            The lights are already out of the frame. Are the streets setting onto a hopeful night? It looks like you won’t be sleeping. You’re wide awake, posed alert and in grace eerily like the blonde that gentlemen preferred or some liked hot. She is not more—but you’re still here.

            I’m still here. Still in the moment, this place where I’m also wishing for drivebys and encores and café sitters on a Friday night who give a damn about my words when I take the mic between my fingers. My red is in the ink I put down on cheap paper, the things I wish I could express. The place I want to find fortune.

            There goes a song lyric that plays, “Don’t you know people write songs, about girls like you.”
Don’t you wish they were to you?
Because when you do hear one, you won’t swoon to me. You’ll cry.

            This place is at twilight—Santa Monica Boulevard will become the dark space. I’ve already seen me in this darkness, but I won’t lose myself in the reflection I see. I am a blur—not yet consumed.

            A French couple takes you in, speculates your damning portrait while I step back and leave you there.

By Your Side Part 5: “The Mission District”

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 part 5  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.

THE MISSION DISTRICT
            It was old, it was life. The Mission was where hard dreams refused to die, when they had gone only so far, and just out of reach.
            He could see this in the taquerias with their dark windows and dented pick-ups parked along the sidewalks of smutty Victorian houses. Noah lost a silver button out there. He heard the clatter of the round piece as it hit the pavement, still strolling through his endless thoughts as he too strolled along. At the moment he’d been thinking of what would happen to her and him.
            She’d taken immediately to the stuffy studio after they both had first rammed through the jammed front door. The sounds they made, stomping through! They were loud, quick, from two youngsters whose high laughter reeked of scotch and marshmallow vodka. It was cold and foggy outside, and they’d just been walking around the streets all the way from the bar on Valencia up to the apartment. Before reaching the place he and June had been huddled together against the fog walking, June having no clue about where they would end up next. Had he known that it would all lead up to the small talk in the blue sheets, Noah would never had second guessed from the start the question he asked Anthony when he agreed to house-sitting his place that weekend. That afternoon he’d met up with his roommate from freshman year, to get the keys and ask if it was alright to have a girl over in the evening.
            “It’s not much for a girl to hang in,” Anthony warned, but he was smiling. “She’ll be fine if you’re there. Assures me you won’t be leaving the place unguarded in the nights.”
            Noah sighed, jingling the apartment keys in his hand as he walked to the BART station a block down. It was a relieving answer that he’d honestly not been expecting, when he had to ask Anthony about letting a girl he’d only met two months ago into his place.
            He’d left June back at the bed, enfolded and limp in the sky blue bed sheets. Moments before they’d been holding each other close, making a home out of a strange place and entangled in a stranger’s soft cotton things. They had the radio from a 90’s Bose system set to a whisper, audible for them to pick up the tune but nothing harsh to yell over. Most of the talk was yogurt, parties, holes in socks, the softness of each other’s lips. Most importantly to them was discussing two weeks from now, as it was in this time that they would be graduates of UC Berkeley, and off to a new life with uncertain promises to good or bad.
            “It’s like this,” she was saying, touching his cheek and sliding it down to his stubbled jaw line, “What’s there for me back at home besides the hotel? I’m studying marketing just for the sake of helping out with the place. Get it back on the map and a part of Pismo Beach again. Hell, just get back Pismo Beach we all once knew.”
            “What would you say Pismo Beach is, essentially?” He sincerely wanted to know.
            “Unnoticed, adrift from most stops along Highway 1, from the rest of this sunny fast-lane idea of California. I guess I’ll just be going back to that. But I sure want to change things when I’m back, if that makes sense.”
            He kissed her. “I’d like to come back with you,” he said in nearly one breath, truth in every word.
            “There’s nothing for graphics out there.”
            “San Luis Obispo’s just up the road. There’s bound to be work.” She groaned and turned over, a blast of cool air rushing in as the blue sheets folded over and off their shirtless bodies. “Find work, make a living—make life work. Who wants to make it work, when we don’t have anything to really work for except passing time comfortably? Make it count, make everything count, and that’s all I want.” She sat up, and looked down at Noah on his back, with his hands grabbing her waist. “Like this,” she continued, stroking his extended arm, “I want this to count.”
            “You know I do too,” Noah replied. “Every minute. Precious.”
            “You’re precious,” she mocked.
            “It makes a perfect fit then, precious and frugality. You’re nothing to be wasted, even time. I’ll sure make it count then when I say that I’m in love.” Noah felt her palm press into his wrist, hinting at how startled she’d just been. “I wouldn’t have asked you out here with me,” he went on.
            “There wasn’t a better night to tell me,” she finally replied. Smiling, she looked around and continued, “I gotta say, really am impressed with this place.”
            The place was 214 off of 24th and Mission, on the third floor, number 5. It wasn’t home to June or Noah. But they were there and here he was, just leaving now, only wishing he didn’t have to get going, sent out by her to find themselves some decent cheap coffee at two in the morning—slowly getting out from underneath the covers where she lay beautifully bare and relaxed—but she was watching him.
            “Ooh, sexy,” she said playfully as he pulled his jeans up over his moss briefs. He looked back at her, saying nothing. The Mission was flooded with possibilities, twenty-four seven.

How to Write About Your Thought Process and IT: the Book that We All Want to Write (Secretly)

Sometimes I feel like I shrug from this blog because I don’t know exactly what to write anymore, besides my actual written work. I go back and look at my old  blog I had from 2012 to 2013, and gosh, there was so much more substantial material to write about– just for blogging. Now, with this one, I honestly get intimidated not by what I should say, but how to say it. I don’t want to say I am a blank outside my writing, because I am not– no writer is. I’d love to simply just talk to you about my writing habits, the feeling of having that good pair of skinny jeans on, how chipping nail polish rips your hair out as you shampoo in the shower, what music is on my mind at the moment, and my weekends that really fuel ideas for my next body of work. Those inconsequential, little things; because those little things are what bring out the best of me. I just feel like with this blog, I can’t just slap that on here in one sentence or fragment of a paragraph. Substantial substance on here, was my goal. But now it makes me run around in circles.

I shouldn’t anymore though. A lot has really been going on in these passing weeks of the year– it’s almost March. Talking more about nonsense would mean letting you into my particular writing process. It’s only fair that I begin this complexity of randomness on my part with a quick book evaluation, or more so a book catalyst. That would be It, the book by Alexa Chung.

Alexa-Chung-It-Book
via Google Images

While I have been rolling through with one of my first New Year’s resolutions wonderfully (reading; Rilke, Franzen, and even a revisit to Didion have so far been a part of this fresh expansion of my literacy), I’m perfectly accepting of the unfulfillment reading It brings you at the end. It’s not a memoir, not a hinting style guide or a substantial essay collection. The quirky and sensational “it” British fashionista’s first book is admittedly a guilty pleasure and a splurge buy. But it has its merits– the first being that I’m a writer, and one with a passion for fashion (sorry not sorry about the rhyme). In grabbing a copy of this book I’ve taken from it more than the obvious. The most admirable thing about It that makes it suck a great read is its form. The swiftness, and the interaction with its author through her personal touches make this book IT.

Random but personal photos from Chung’s collection lead the reader into the book straight into– a memory. You could say they’re all linked, the scraps of advice and reflection or people of the past and in cinema who move her fashion-wise. Albeit the proper nouns to fill these topics that you’ll have to read the book for, you’ve pretty much gotten the picture. The book has its huge share of negativity, especially from The Guardian’s book review by Barbara Ellen where she sees the work as a “missed opportunity” to address major issues surround Alexa Chung (i.e. thinspo wars), especially as an it girl to evoke positive change. I stumbled upon this particular review when I was researching whether or not I ultimately wanted this book. Evidently, I did, and glad to do so.  Because what I have taken from this book besides closer examination on Charlotte Rampling’s other outfits in The Night Porter and that guy friends should lend you their oversized sweaters whn you’re heartbroken, is that deep down, this is what it is all boils down to. It is not about Alexa Chung. It is about us, and what we really would like to achieve with writing.

For starters, social media. It’s the first initiation, that space where any two bits you have (or shouldn’t have…Beliebers) is out in the open for the sake of granting your own popularity. And just writing like this, is just as guilty; we writers want to say something, and that’s why we do it– although we glamorize it with technique and metaphors. But simply, everyone wants to write a book on random things that are important to them– and more importantly in our eyes, what the world needs to think is important, too. Admittedly you don’t even want to get carried away with distracting writing. And admittedly, this is the book we would write if we could get people to read it, agree with our film tastes and give a damn about our advice on how to dress or our favorite memories with our grandfather. It’s  only a matter of luring in the readers.

It is such an easy and digestible read because it only shares what it wants to share, what you feel you need to know. Alexa Chung is just a girl, lucky to live a life in the spotlight just for living; what else do we really need to know that she hasn’t shared already? So here is just a book, unconventional in form and pace, that just sums up what is important to her, without any extra flashiness. And the thing is, It is still to be determined. But what you do read in this book, is that It is up to you to capture; and for this blog, a reminder that in the end, It is whatever the Hell I’ll write about.

“John Steinbeck’s Everyday Man” (from Writerly Fashion)

Read the article here

Steinbeck is always considered a writer for the people, especially for the masses who severely suffered during The Great Depression. His most famous novel, The Grapes of Wrath, gave insight to the plight of farmers migrating into California from the Dust Bowl of the South West, and revered him as a sympathetic storyteller in it not for the glamour of his words, but the humanity behind them.

This is what makes him my favorite writer. His Californian background and hard-work ethic that really drove his writing career is enough to ignite that passion of writing in anyone. He is a rich storyteller in that he wrote of real people from the bottom up, first hand– from his own field hand work at Spreckels Sugar Beet plant to support himself through Stanford, to construction work in New York where he left to pursue an (unsuccessful) first attempt at publishing his work. His first big work, Tortilla Flat, was fresh and playful, a comical rendition of Arthurian legends as told through the misadventures of California’s Paisano community. Steinbeck believed in the inherent good of the people, which gave his stories that great sense of hope and uplift that America needed in such a time. He cared for the underdogs, and alongside his reportage of them, reflected his fascination with their tales through his style, too.

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From most of his photos, Steinbeck gives off a focused yet relaxed mood to his clothes. He’s not stuffy in that he’ll wear a suit for every photograph– most of these photos we’ve come to recognize him shows loose sweaters, khakis, and a plain oxford shirt beneath, and it’s another thing to note that he’d not mind being captured in such casual attire. He’s not concerned in what exactly you have to say about his clothes, anyhow; the focus is in his work, and that’s where the true performance lies. Personal image, it seems, would distract from them.

John Steinbeck

The strength in Steinbeck as a writer is also unique in the grouping he had for his writing subjects as the years went by; by the forties, he had a genuine interest in marine biology, thanks to his deep friendship with Monterey-based marine biologist Ed Ricketts. It’s a rich balance, between the artist and the scientist, especially when Ed’s passionate studies of the sea took Steinbeck along with him, as far as to the Sea of Cortez and even for Steinbeck to pick up sailing himself when he moved with his family to the East Coast. Nautical is only a stiff minor component to Steinbeck’s look, though it well adds onto that harsh weather-beaten focus captured within his face.

steinbeckSteinbeck is a man who has unconsciously depicted his life’s work within his own wardrobe. A vagabond, modest man and humanitarian whose writing not only glanced into the troubles of the nation, but established what truly was unrivaled 20th century literature. In his sense of style, one is comfortable but in no way settling; it is a worn down look of restlessness, practical and motivating to get you out in the world and find that exciting muse that will spark your own words.

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Brixton Gain Fedora, $56; Urban Outfitter

Brixton Fiddler Fisherman Cap, $36; Urban Outfitters

Rugby Stripe Scarf, $29.95; Gap

Debravo Lace Up, $100; Aldo

Bold Plaid Western Print, $69.50; Banana Republic

Navy Shawl Collar Sweater, $165; Lyle and Scott

Twill Flat Pant, $72; Wingtip

Barbour Beaufort Jacket, $399; Wingtip

Henley Shirt, $9.95; H&M

On Writing Nonfiction

First order of business, Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” because it’s still February and frankly February is just cheesy romantic oldies month.

Today is the day I can finally catch up with all my writing projects. Deadlines, I’m telling you. You could say that some people need boot camp or a good beating. Me? I need deadlines. Wanting to write is one thing, but that’s about as useful as wanting to listen to music and not picking a damn station on the radio (yes, I still listen to AM/FM radio OUTSIDE of a car). Deadlines in writing really force you to put yourself together and produce something meaningful.

Having not written fiction for months, it actually feels great. I love fiction, and the imagination running riot and endless with whatever craziness comes to mind– let alone making all of it meaning something. but, I’ve felt I’ve written enough for the time being. I want to expand my talent, and see what limits I can break with something I feel so strongly devoted to.

This means trying out nonfiction and poetry. Nonfiction is proving to be magic, because half the work feels done already in that the source material isn’t fresh, but it is me, and from my life directly. they are experiences that are relevant and make some sense of life which no one understands, let alone in my own. The reflection is my tool for how I want to present that memory or thought, and for some reason the final draft feels right because only I know what that first concert, the pink doughnut box, and fall in San Francisco really is and was like. I like how nonfiction is more available for the reader because they know that this is a true event in the real world. In this way, I feel that channeling creative writing for nonfiction, from an essay to a blog post or a contribution to a magazine, will undoubtedly be very useful for my variety of writing.

And so will poetry. It’s not my favorite of the three aspects of literary writing, but so far it’s becoming a work in progress. I know my style in poems and what I want to achieve, and idyllically being blunt and constricted works in my favor. I always dread going over the top with poems. you put too much heart into a poem, you water down the passion and duende of it. having to really use my imagination to evoke reader emotion by so little but powerful imagery and form makes for a simpler but more enjoyable–and complicated– experience in poetry. that’s always an issue the reader suffers: that big gap between the poet’s intent and the tone the reader takes from it. it’s been my anxiety, too. breaking this barrier really motivates my poetry but I definitely do not forget to make it aesthetically enjoyable for my readers.

All in all it’s all about imagery. Always.

A bit redundant, but show and tell does a lot for your work. Even outside of a short story (which doesn’t always have to be show, i find).

By Your Side Part 4: “A Trip on the Hog”

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.

A TRIP ON THE HOG
            After the last of the breakfast buffet had been served in the dining hall, Mr. Wyath called Noah and Alexander to the back of the motel. There was a badly white-washed tin shack serving as a two-car garage for the Wyath family. The smell of diesel and Pinesol was expelled once they opened. Inside was the family’s Volvo and June’s rusty orange beetle. And from between them Mr. Wyath wheeled out an older model of a type of motorcycle, something dated and probably from the 80’s, Noah presumed.
            “It’s um, really nice, sir,” he said in a pleasant voice, looking down to June’s brother, Alexander. He wasn’t looking amused, and said nothing.
            “Glad you think so,” Mr. Wyath replied, and pulled something from the wooden table in the shack’s corner. He placed keys in Noah’s hands. “Go ‘head. Said yourself you liked it.”
            No, he hadn’t said it that way. But Noah sure was taking a liking to him; he felt obliged by the Wyath hospitality to dust off the bike some more and mounted it. He hadn’t any idea with getting it started or where to go, and why Alexander stood stiff and pouty more than ever observing Noah’s awkwardness.
            It was as if his sweetheart could hear these thoughts, saving him in a matter of seconds as she came around the corner wanting to come along with Noah on the drive. “We’ll take it easy,” June whispered into his ear as she wrapped her arms around his waist.
            It started out slow, cautious, and the two of them were stiff on the bike as it picked up speed and descended the little hill from the Starlight. He didn’t even plan on going down. But now they were along Price Street, with no traffic to hold up and neither a destination to head to. Somehow, they already were on the entrance ramp to Highway 1 and the pace was picking up; the further down the long road they went the faster the bike went and the quicker Noah’s heart beat. Her laughter was stirring him alive in what seemed like seconds speeding down.
            They took an exit off to a gas station just as the ocean started to fade out of views from grassy browning hilltops. “Turn around!” June excitedly shrieked at him. Down the road once more. It wasn’t so bad, since June was right behind him, lifting him over that road like an angel had just taken hold of his life, directing him towards the electric ocean and the golden sun.
            She shouted and laughed interchangeably into his ears where to turn and what gears to switch, and then they were driving down Pomeroy Avenue by the pier. June let go once at the stoplight to wave to people she must’ve known standing around outside the Splash Café. “Park there!” she commanded. It was the first time he’d parallel parked, and it was horrible. Between two cars, not even in a car, but he still did it and felt relieved that it wasn’t on some tight hillside curb in San Francisco.
            June suggested Noah phone Jay to join them, and while they waited around she crooked her arm into his and led towards the direction of the pier. “Your first bike ride?” she asked, gliding her hand along the old wood of the long stretch before them.
            “Some scary shit,” he said with a good laugh, “not gonna lie.”
            “At least you’re getting better use of it than Alexander does.” He looked at her perplexedly. “It’s his you know,” she explained. They were just above the shore where the waves violently smashed with the dark sand, and below a single group of little girls had just been ambushed by a massive one that hadn’t quite died at the shore.
            “The hog?”
            “It’s Alex’s. Before he was born, my dad put money aside from the motel to buy a motorcycle for when he grew up. Then they started to notice things, and the doctor officially declared my brother was a dwarf. No use for a motorcycle there. It’s not even Alex’s thing, even if he could manage to ride a motorcycle.”
            That explained the sourness from Alexander. “A lot of things must be holding your brother back.”
            “He gets by.” She nudged closer to him as they looked out over the pier. Seagulls were coming up, landing beside June and closing in should she have food. It was warm on the waterfront. Skateboarders outnumbered pedestrians on the stretch. Everyone seemed to get by. Pismo Beach was one first trip on a hog Noah wouldn’t forget.