January

It’s been a while, I know. There’s lots to write about, but not just yet. As I start to get back into actively using this site, I’m planning on writing an update blog post and a review. For now, however, I thought I’d share this.  I looked back through some of my previous work, and this attempt at poetry stood out to me. Enjoy!

 

The air bites my skin and fills my ears with every gust

As I carry groceries from the car,

The sign from the store still lingering

‘Now hiring, inquire inside.’

 

It’s been nearly a week since I got the call.

Their loss, I’m supposed to think.

You got their attention, didn’t you?

Three whole interviews!

 

This was supposed to be my new start.

 

The red door squeaks open, louder than usual.

There’s a deafening quiet to the cramped foyer.

I drop my keys into my bag.

Mail’s here. None for me. Up the steps I go.

 

3+ years of experience. New beginnings.

That practice isn’t covered under your plan.

New member discounts through the 15th.

Tell me how you handle feedback.

 

There’s nothing new about this. I’ve heard it all before.

 

Stray dead leaves flutter on the branches

outside my window, toughing out the winter.

If you can call this winter. It’s barely snowed.

When did winters lose their longevity?

 

I could start tomorrow with them doing…something.

What’s a good song to learn first?

3+ years of experience. Again.

My room is a mess. Some tea sounds nice.

 

I suppose it’s all too new to judge, but still…

And Now For Something Completely Different!

With all the vitriol/passion this election has elicited, I needed a break from it all. I headed to the movies and saw Doctor Strange, the fourteenth installment in an unprecedented franchise that sparks its own interesting discussion about creative expression and corporate influence in the film industry.

People grumble about Marvel movies these days. They’ve been coming off the assembly line for the past eight years. Some folks are tired of big, flashy action movies or that they want something original. A lot of the criticism/cynicism towards these movies is valid.

For one thing, the market is flooded with superhero movies, and they’re not stopping anytime soon. Just next year, Marvel is releasing three more movies, DC is trying to right their ridiculous ship with two more installments to their attempt at a cinematic universe, and Fox is releasing another X-men movie.

If that doesn’t turn you off of comic book movies, how about the fact that they all have the same basic plot? Think about it. Hero faces a major setback, discovers something new within himself, uses that to overcome some big threat and save the day, and looks good on camera the whole time with just enough humor thrown in there for good measure. It gets generally predictable after a while.

That’s where some of the lesser known characters come in and shake things up. The formula may not change that much, but their worlds do more than enough to make it interesting.

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***Spoilers Ahead***

Much like Guardians of the Galaxy surprised audiences with the objectively bizarre premise and relatively grounded plot, so too does Doctor Strange thrill as it explores an untapped aspect of Marvel’s deep, complicated universe: magic.

Pure, unadulterated magic.

Stephen Strange (played by Benedict Cumberbatch), one of the best neurosurgeons on the planet, loses function in his hands after a car accident. Fueled by arrogance and frustration, he expends all of his resources on every treatment imaginable to regain his fine motor skills. He pushes away what few people he has in his life in his manic desire to return to normal, eventually tracking down a mystical lead in Nepal. Little did he realize the literal mysticism he was falling into.

Strange is a reluctant hero simply looking to get his old life back. Once his mind is opened to the possibilities of the universe by the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), he puts his entire being towards understanding the mystic arts with the hopes of healing himself. He ends up being remarkably proficient, but throughout the movie he’s reminded of how little he knows about the world he’s stepping into, especially in his confrontations with Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), the token bad guy whose plans will destroy the world.

In the end, it’s Strange’s intelligence that saves the day, not an all-out brawl like we’ve come to expect from superheroes. There’s still plenty of action, but there’s no literal final blow that determines the outcome.

***Spoilers Over***

A lot of this story follows Marvel’s tried-and-true origin story formula. However, it’s focus on the mystic arts allows for an emphasis on knowledge via supernatual scholarship, giving a fresh take on morality tropes that command center stage in most superhero movies and comic books in general.

As the title of the film implies, the entire movie’s story is about Strange, who Cumberbatch plays with the intelligence and charm people have come to expect. His journey towards rediscovery and healing is consistently at the focus, almost to the point that the other characters’ struggle seem inconsequential. The strongest example comes from Strange’s pre-sorcerer life. I had no idea what his ex-lover’s first name was (played by Rachel McAdams) until halfway through the movie. One more minor spoiler: On one hand, it was certainly a bold choice to forgo the romantic tropes most entertainment can’t live without. On the other hand, she comes across as more of a passive observer, a fleeting reminder of Doctor Strange’s life before becoming a sorcerer. Maybe that was the point? Regardless, she paled in comparison to Strange.

There was also controversy over casting Strange’s mentor, the Ancient One, who was traditionally an older Asian man. That’s not a stereotype at all (sarcasm, of course). Instead, they picked a damn good English actress, opting for whitewashing over forcing a respected Asian actor or actress into a racial pigeonhole. There was no politically correct option here, and that’s that. The social dialogue will continue as it always does, leading to progress down the road. In the end, her character was interesting enough, and Swinton performed well.

If you like fantastic worlds and entertaining movies that aren’t super deep, this is a pretty cool movie. It’s full of trippy visuals and action scenes that strike a blend between The Matrix and Inception with the colors of deep space nebulae. Plus, the funniest gags are from an inanimate object. Honestly, it was plenty different from the other Marvel movies for my taste, not to mention a great break from the current political climate.

 

If you’ve seen Doctor Strange, let me know what your thoughts are. Share if you liked it!

 I’m always looking for new stories, no matter the medium. If you know of any great books, movies, or video games that you absolutely love, let me know in the comments and, if I haven’t checked it out, I’ll add it to the list!

Best News Ever!

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I recently participated in Jeff Goins’  ‘My 500 Words’ Challenge. One of the challenges was to write about waiting. In this particular case, I wrote about the long wait to hear back about an offer for the best job ever.

How about you? What was the best news you had to wait for? Write about it, and share it below (if you dare)!

Dorm rooms in Spring Break are creepy. Every creak and groan of the buildings are audible, and every draft echoes through the halls. Add the buzz of just finishing a rewarding Spring Break building homes in Miami with Habitat for Humanity with the impending approach of the end of the semester with no plans for the summer and I’m in one heck of a headspace.

I had applied to work at Philmont, the best place on earth. I’d been there this past summer and fell in love with it. The tranquility of the blue mountain sky and the gentle breeze on the trail did something to me that I’ve yet to capture anywhere else. I longed to be a Ranger (a backpacking guide), but I would work any job as long as it meant living in paradise, even in the dining hall.

I had turned my application in around Christmas. That was four months ago, and so far nothing. No phone calls, no emails, no postmarked letters, nothing. I was really hoping I wouldn’t have to find a job in a restaurant or a store or something mundane. I know Mom and Dad would be happy having me at home, but a whole summer in the suburbs would be the worst.

I unlock the door to my room. Even though there was maybe one guy on my floor, the habit of locking my room was so ingrained that I did it on instinct. Lunch was terrible; there was no salad bar out, and I couldn’t stand the cheap burgers and cardboard pizza they served during breaks. I shut the door behind me and reach for the frosted flakes on the top shelf. I power up my laptop, shoving a handful of cereal into my mouth. Maybe I could try to find Doctor Who on the internet. A few people had mentioned it to me, saying that I might like it. It’s some British show about aliens and time travel and whatnot. First things first, check email. Another habit I struggle to break to this day.

School email shows nothing important, just a few bulletins and whatnot. My personal email account is also mainly junk. I delete them without a second thought, wondering what websites out there are most likely to have Doctor Who-

An email from Barbara Garcia sits in my inbox. I don’t know a Barbara Garcia, but just as I’m about to delete it I notice the title of the email: PHILMONT JOB OFFER 2011. My hand shakes as I double click on the email. It reads:

 

Dear Mr. Meyer,

 

We are pleased to inform you that you have been selected for the seasonal position of Ranger 1 for the 2011 Philmont Scout Ranch Staff! The dates of employment-

 

My hands shake even more as I set my laptop down, a huge grin on my face. I rush to the door, throw it open, and take a huge breath. I sprint down the hall, whooping and skipping every few yards. I glance around sheepishly, relieved that no one else witnessed my excitement. I’m going back to Philmont!

Homecoming: An Exercise on Perspective (and a Challenge)

Scenario: A soldier returns home to surprise his daughter at school.

Exercise: Write about this scene from three different points of view.

Challenge (if you dare): Post the results in the comments section or on your own platform, be it social media or a website.

I

I saw him stride into the commons, wearing his uniform as if it was something to be proud of. That’s what they drill into their heads, isn’t it: be proud to kill for your country, die for your country. That’s what they want you to believe. But each soldier is just a pawn on the battlefield. All that noble crap is a ruse to keep them fighting. Man, I should stop thinking like that. People could hurt me for it.

His green fatigues were crisp; they had just been cleaned for his return home. I wonder how much foreign blood and dirt had stained his sleeves only days ago. What I didn’t get was why he was here. High school recruiters had come by weeks ago. Heh, the dean nearly suspended me for spitting in a marine’s face. I’d spit in this guy’s face, too, but he wasn’t worth the effort to stand up and abandon my lunch.

Suddenly, a scream erupted from the far side of the commons, and the place turned absolutely silent. A girl in my history class leapt out of her seat and dashed towards the man. He spread his arms wide and they embraced. Every single person in the room felt compelled to applaud this act; quite a few people stood up. I, of course, abstained. A couple people around me shot the dirtiest look I had ever seen in my direction. I didn’t expect them to understand how I felt right now, how jealous I was of this moment. At least this girl’s father returned home from war.

 

II

             The soldier walked in, and I hoped for a second that it was him, coming to surprise me just like I’ve dreamed for six months. I only caught a glance of him before noise erupted from the east side of the commons. A group of kids were raising their voices, standing up. They managed to distract me from the soldier. I didn’t want the distraction. I wanted to think about him, to be held in his arms again.

I risked a glance back towards the soldier, in full uniform. They all look the same from afar. I hoped it was him. The kids were raising their voices, inadvertently demanding my attention, though they couldn’t hope to fully claim it in that moment.

When the girl screamed, I turned away from the food fight about to break out and saw a girl from one of my Freshman English classes last year sprinting towards a soldier in the commons. The tears in both their eyes brought tears to my eyes. I brushed my left hand across my face to catch the tears, and the ring brushed across my cheek.

My husband’s been in Afghanistan. He’s a captain of a special infantry unit. Every day after I watch the six o’clock news, I can’t help but call him, hoping he’ll pick up, that nothing’s happened to him. The constant worry, the tension in my stomach, it makes me sick. I want him home. I want him to whisper into my ear like he did the night before he left.

The two embraced, and the room erupted in applause. I swore I could hear one of them faintly whispering “I missed you.” I didn’t try to hold tears back that time. There was no chance.

 

III

He came into the front office an hour before the school day officially started, just like he’d planned. I had no idea it was happening. The teacher who planned it all filled me in on the details later. He’d been home for a week already, but he really wanted to surprise his daughter. He’d been deployed for twenty-four months, and now that he was home he was retiring from active service. It reminds me of my homecoming years ago.

I was in Iraq during the first Gulf War. Just a lowly Private shipped out after basic training. I wasn’t there for long; they sent me all over the world (I won’t recount all the details) but I was gone for fifteen months. I had a girl back home, too, and letters sometimes took weeks to reach their destination. I was never in one place long enough to use one reliable phone number. The more we wrote, the closer we grew together. I knew about three months into my deployment what I wanted to do. The moment I stepped onto U.S. soil and saw Kathleen, I got down on one knee and asked her. We’ve been together ever since.

I wish I could have been there for the reunion itself. As principal of the school, I had other matters to attend to. I was in meetings all morning, but around lunch I heard the applause. In the minutes between my lunch and a budget meeting, I stepped into the commons to a standing ovation for the soldier and his daughter, reunited at last. It was moments like these that I was proud to have served my country.

Intimate Moment (a writing exercise)

Sometimes I get stuck when I write. If I don’t do something about it, I won’t write anything new for a few weeks. Usually, I can dig up a prompt stashed away in the recesses of my computer and write about that for an hour. Sometimes people-watching is the best thing. Just sit in a coffee shop, a train station, a library, even a busy intersection, find someone, and make stuff up about them. This is one such story/stream-of-consciousness/sketch I did recently. Enjoy!

They’re both gorgeous humans. He has a strong jaw and probably has a toned body under his clothes, maybe a runner? His glasses work perfectly on his face, probably helping him immensely. Her blond hair is pulled back in a ponytail. You can’t see it from this angle, but the left side is buzzed like Natalie Dormer in The Hunger Games. She’s probably a runner, too. Tall, long legs, clearly strong. She’s wearing boots with a couple inches of heel, making her legs even longer

She’s getting emotional. She wipes her eyes, legs crossed as she sets her yellow legal pad down. The guy’s been talking to her (from across the room it looks more like at her), gesturing with open hands and an honest expression on his face. Maybe it’s support, but my guess it’s been feedback. She had been writing since they sat down two hours ago, holed up in the corner, and it’s getting to her now. He’s leaning forward, elbows on his knees, hands resting on her legs or caressing her when he isn’t gesturing. She slouches a little bit when she talks, using her words less than her facial expressions to convey her message.

He points to the legal pad, and she picks it up again. They’re back to critiques at this point. She’s looking around the coffee shop again, perhaps focusing on the paintings hanging on the walls. He hasn’t shut up for a while now. She doesn’t make eye contact with him, briefly now, but never sustained for more than a minute. Maybe it’s a memoir, maybe a love letter.

Oh. My. God. He looked away. It was only for a second, but he turned his head to the corner of the room. Pausing to think, if I had to guess. He dives right back into it, though. When they first sat down, I immediately thought they were a couple. They’re certainly familiar enough with each other. The longer they’re here, the less sure I am. He’s certainly affectionate, but she doesn’t return any of it. Maybe it’s the heavy material she’s got on the legal pad that’s distracting her.

I can hear him now. Not any words, per se, just his tone and timbre. Supportive, but not overly masculine. He hasn’t finished his ice coffee.

There’s an asian couple whose voices carry much better than the runners in the corner. If I listen carefully enough, I could probably hear what they’re saying. The runners are honestly so much more interesting, though. Everyone latches on to drama, no matter what. I’m not a dramatic person, but I’ve been known to gossip when it concerns my friends and how it affects me.

The guy’s sitting up straighter. The girl’s still slightly slouched, but she smiled. The pep talk (or whatever he’s doing) is clearly working. She’s engaging with him more now, actively participating and laughing a bit now and again. Hopefully her project goes well.

I really should be editing Elements instead of musing on other people’s personal moments.

Notebook

On the front of the notebook is written “5/27/2011-”, meaning there’s still more to write.

My tale is scratched onto the worn pages of this notebook. It’s nothing special, really. Sometimes it’s just a way of journaling at the end of the day. After long bouts of neglect I return to it and tell it what’s been going on with me; the highs of success and other drugs, the lows of adversity, the roller coaster of emotions I go through (sometimes unnecesarily/stupidly).

Despite the amount of time I’ve been using it, anyone who reads it wouldn’t necessarily learn everything about me. I’ve made sure to keep some things to myself. A man needs his secrets, after all.

It started as a way of documenting my adventures in the southwest. Even though those adventures are such a large part of it, it became a staple whenever I pack for any adventure. Up and over a mountain, to a local coffee shop, or on a road trip, I never left home without it.

It’s 2015. The covers are held together poorly with packing tape, many of the pages have been damaged by water despite my best efforts.

Maybe I should pick it up again. It’s been a long time.

Lust (and an update)

I haven’t posted much these past few months so I could focus on finishing my novel, Elements. Good news on that front: draft one is finished! It was a long time coming, but I finished it a couple weeks ago and will start editing in the next couple days.

In the meantime, I’ve gotten a chance to write some other stuff, including an entry to Becoming Writer’s Anniversary Contest (read it here). Here’s a story about the morning after a night out. Based on this prompt at Write To Done, an excellent resource on all things writing.

Enjoy!

Randy groaned. His head pounded. The rough carpet scratched his face and naked chest. He cracked his eyes open. The room spun. An empty beer bottle lay to his right. He caught a purple armchair in the corner of his eye. “Where the hell am I?” he said.

“You don’t remember?” a girl said behind him.

Randy began to sit up when his stomach started to heave. He lay back down. “Ugggn….” he moaned.

“Please don’t move if you’re gonna puke. I really don’t feel like cleaning the carpet,” the girl said. Footsteps vibrated against the floor, causing Randy to retch. Bare feet strode past him to the purple chair. Randy looked up to see the most alluring, radiant girl he had ever seen sitting on the arm of the chair. “You were a lot of fun last night, babe,” she said, looking at her nails.

“Wait, is that my shirt?” Randy asked, recognizing the dark stain he’d bought it with from the thrift store.

The girl nodded, standing up. Randy’s gaze gravitated to her round hips and toned legs. “You really didn’t want to wear it. To be honest, neither do I.” She began to unbutton the shirt, walking to the fridge and opening it. “Come back to bed when you feel better. This should help. Just don’t puke on my carpet.” She dropped a green bottle on the ground next to Randy and walked away, tossing his shirt on him.

Randy lunged for the bottle and tasted bile. He grabbed it with both hands, twisted the cap off, and chugged. He barely tasted it and focused on those perfect legs. He set the bottle down, staring at the white wall, stomach writhing within him. He closed his eyes, lay his head on the floor-

He felt great. Alert, nothing in his stomach. He stood up quickly. The room stayed still. Smiling, he dropped the green bottle, grabbed his shirt, and walked after her.