Things That Separate Us From the Animals (Including James Franco)

I am an avid list maker and have been since I was an adult cognizant of the disorder of things.   Roget was famous for his own beyond the synonyms he is eponymously associated with.  I’ve always gotten a lot of pleasure from jazz, espresso, literature and numerous other creature comforts, so I decided to compile a list of Things That Separate Us From the Animals:

  1. The Semi-Colon–Punctuation mark of the deities.  A neologism of the comma and period.  Truly up there with the paper clip in terms of use.
  2. Jazz–I would mention Henry Threadgill and David Gibson here, current jazz composers.
  3. James Franco–His directing of Cormac McCarthy’s Child of God alone would make the list, but his recent acting in Wim Wenders’ Every Thing Will Be Fine just enhances his presence here.
  4. Second-hand bookstores–Most of my life has been spent in these, The Strand in Manhattan, Powell’s in Portland and Downtown Books & News in Asheville being my favorites.
  5. The Trumpet–Kind of a beautiful instrument to play and even draw.  I’ve never seen a raccoon hit a home run, for example.
  6. Baseball–Short stop?  Come on.  The animals definitely don’t have this.
  7. Tricycle Magazine–Buddhist mag that comes out quarterly.
  8. The French Press–Lately have been putting dark roast Mate in here.
  9. The Sunday New York Times Magazine Puzzle Section–Used to only have the Crossword but now with two KenKen puzzles and numerous other treats like Skyscrapers, my whole day is consumed with them.
  10. Orbit DVD in West Asheville
  11. Espresso Machine–I’m fond of my Capresso.
  12. Trains
  13. Tiffany Pen

Adventures in Quasi-Modeling

I had kind of a funny experience with modeling in New York City.  First, let me explain that I didn’t set out to become a model, nor did I evolve into one either.  It started when I was at Ruby’s in Rye, New York, and a fellow told me I should contact his agent on Park Avenue.  So I did and ended up getting calls for go-sees for the next five years.  I would train down from Greenwich, Connecticut, to Grand Central, travel all over Manhattan, and spend a few minutes saying some inane lines for egg commercials or Vaseline ads.  Sometimes, they just took my photo.  One time, a young woman working at one of the auditions said to me, “You know, like, you’re here for your hair.”  When I first started to model, I didn’t realize that print and commercial modeling was less about runway and fashion and more about filling up bank advertisements with smiling people.  Mark Roddenberry ended up taking photos of me in Manhattan and up in Shelton, CT.  Before that shoot, I had a ponytail and cut it off leaving a big hole in the back of my head.  The result was that the top of my hair became sort of a blond pompom poof, apparently much in demand because my agent loved the photos for my comp card.  At the Vaseline go-see, I was asked to strip to my underwear.  A man behind a table with two people flanking him said to me, “You know . . . you’re gonna have to shave your chest if you get this job.”  For me it was a fun excuse to travel to the city, after which I went to the Frick or the Met or the Whitney or MOMA.  Or to a film.  Then trained back to CT.  I was called in for request go-sees for a lot of big companies.  No one ever called me back.  Except for once.  For my one actual job I was cast in an Internet Microsoft commercial.  A costume designer called me to work out the shoot.  I prepped my lines for several days.  The night before the shoot, my agent contacted me and said it had been aborted.  I was still paid $1000.  So the only job I ever received money for during my brief New York City modeling career was for something that never happened.  I wish I had more jobs like that.

I Wrote Naughty Fragments

After teaching essay composition college courses for the last 25 years around the country, I have found that this teaching can ruin my own fiction, if I’m not careful.  I currently am finishing up my latest novel, Too Late to the City, my 9/11 book.  And I found something quite intriguing during the process.  Stuck on page 50 for six months, then on page 100 for another four months, I decided to break paragraphs into sentences and to create more chapters.  In adding this white space to the novel, I also learned that I had been too essayistic in my prose, relying on complete sentences, no run-ons or fragments, when many creative books out there ignore the rules altogether.  So I decided to ignore the rules a bit and it gave the book breathing room.  I wrote naughty fragments.  Oooooo.  In the end it was seismic shift in my own style and the novel became better as a result.  I started by unpacking it at page 140 and realized I had stuffed a 250-page book into 140 pages.  The result was a return to an actual style that wasn’t teacherly anymore.  But after grading freshman intro essays all the time, the use of the fragment became anathema for even my own work.  It’s good to separate teaching writing from writing writing.  Naughty fragments.  Need to write more of them.