Posted by toadstar on 4:23 PM

November in Houston:

The high today is eighty-seven degrees. The leaves are still green on the trees. Flowers are blooming. Yesterday I went outside to read on my lunch break and spent most of the time, not reading, but shooing away a mosquito.

This weekend we spent some time shopping and/or taking Lucas to the store and keeping him occupied so that mommy could clean the house, and Christmas is in full effect. It seems so wrong to wander through aisle after aisle filled full of snowmen (and snowwomen), trees covered in snow, cards of snow, signs that say “Let it Snow!” in my shorts and t-shirt.

December thirteenth will mark my fifteenth year here and I don’t think that I’m any closer to letting go of Colorado. It’s not that I regret moving here, I got some really great things out of it, up to and including my wife and kids, but for some reason my brain is wired for things the way that they were when I was a kid.

(photo © Michael Jastremski for CC:Attribution-ShareAlike)

October was my favorite month. The aspens would start to turn gold; everywhere you looked was a cornucopia of colour. Reds, yellows, greens and oranges. Everything looked so alive, so vibrant. The evening light always seemed to have so much more weight like it was a physical, tangible object.

As October dragged on the temperature would slowly start to fall, the cold bite of the morning air would let you that you were alive. Usually about the time Halloween rolled around the first snow of the season was happening. I don’t know how may Halloweens were spent freezing or were just canceled due to the weather. I remember one of our neighbors made the most amazing airplane costume. It was made out of wood, cardboard and papier-mâché. There was a hole in the middle and he attached to his son with suspenders. He never got to wear it.

(photo © Neal Singleton for CC:PublicDomain)

Christmas didn’t start until Santa made his official first appearance at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Now he shows up around August. August! That’s what five months. Almost half a year devoted to one day.

We are oversaturated with Christmas; it’s gotten to the point where our entire economy depends on one holiday. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 460 billion dollars is spent by consumers.

All the good toys, games, movies, and CD’s come out in December. If you go to a Best Buy in the middle of June or July you will notice empty shelf after empty shelf. A couple of years ago I spent the better part of that year looking for any album by Bardo Pond. I never found one. A week before Christmas, my wife walks into Best Buy and finds that and a whole bunch of other CD’s that I had been looking for.

And yes I know that I could have gone online and ordered it at any time, but to me it was more that just the CD, it was the journey. Going out with my friends and spending most of the day just looking, searching for that one must have disc. Each disc is a memory, a snapshot of a day spent with some of the greatest friends a guy could ask for and later the greatest girlfriend and then wife a guy could ask for.

Once my wife, then girlfriend, went to Holland to visit my family. On the way back we had a layover in London’s Heathrow airport. I remember having a hell of a time trying to find a place to smoke a cigarette (I have since quit, thank you very much). After getting yelled at for attempting to light up outside the building and told to go to a smoking lounge-something I though existed only in old movies, I had my cigarette and then wondered off to find my then girlfriend. She was sitting in the shopping area, so we decided to have a look around now that my urge to slowly kill myself with nicotine and other various and sundry toxins had been abated. We found a small CD shop and went in and had a look around. So whilst there I found and bought Ian Brown’s first two solo albums and the second from Embrace, so now I equate those albums with spending time with my then girlfriend in a strange and distant land.

Now it’s harder to gain these kinds of memories. All the little independent record stores are closing up shop and the big chains are only fully stocked at Christmas time. By then I’m a) broke b) spending what little money I have on other people and c) not really in the position to by anything for myself because all these albums are on my wishlists. And yes I do get the joy and shared memories of opening them at Christmas, but for the rest of the year I am cheated out of those memories that I hold so dear. Of course now I’m more likely to spend what little extra cash I have on books, the whole music buying, being treated like a criminal, being forced to by locked products, as well as the whole Christmasafication of it all has soured me on buying music.

All of this adds up to the Christmas blues. It’s hot outside, I just stepped out of my car and my retinas are being fried because of the summer sun reflecting off of the pavement and as I walk into the local Wal-Mart I am bombarded with images of snow and winter and of the kind of Christmas’s I had as a child and it saddens me. I want to take my kids up to the mountains and cut down a real Christmas tree, I want to build the same kinds of traditions with them that I had when I was young. I want them to experience magic and not the insanity that this holiday has become. I want it to be pure and wonderful just like they are.

Posted by toadstar on 4:38 PM

“The Problem for Artists Isn’t Piracy, It’s Obscurity”

I live in obscurity. I work twelve hours a day, twelve hours away from my family, twelve hours away from my writing for near poverty wages. I have all these ideas for stories and no time to create them. I’m trapped in obscurity, and I’m about to loose my house. I need to break free. So I have decided to put one of my short stories online and see if anything happens. Maybe nothing, maybe something, who knows.

The story is one that I had written for the Machine of Death Anthology. The concept of the anthology is that there is a machine that can, with just a drop of blood, tell you how it is you will die. The problem is that the machine is rather vague in it's predictions. This is the story that I came up with, sadly it was not chosen, but I have been working on it for the past couple of weeks and I think that I now have a better story than the one that I submitted.

It's a love story about a young man who, when he lest expects it, finds true love and how the changes in society and the ghosts of his past affect that relationship. There were some scenes that were kind of difficult to write and took a lot out of me, but I think that in the end it was worth it. I hope that you all enjoy it.

The story can be found here in a variety of different formats and even an audio version (I'm not sure of the quality of that, but if enough people are interested I think that I can be persuaded to do a podcast of the story). Thank you very much for your time and feel free to leave any feedback in the comment section.

The house was dark; they had only the moon and the streetlight out front to guide them through the dark and empty house. They settled in the living room amongst the shadows and dust motes. They sat in awkward silence for a couple of minutes, while Jen and Sarah kept pm’ing each other, leaving Thom and Bran in the dark. Suddenly Jen suggested that they should play truth or dare. Everyone thought that it would be a good idea, everyone but Bran. They went ahead and started. Jen went first. She chose Bran and he asked for a truth.

“How are you going to die, Bran,” she asked.

Update: Sorry I had a problem uploading the files to scribd-it should be working now.

Jackson Pollock by Miltos Manetas