Sunday, December 27, 2015

Palm Trees and Edmund

Sitting on my “writing bench” with the silvery palm trees off to my right.
I don’t know the proper name for them but they’re the kind whose leaves, or fronds, I guess, catch the sunlight and shine metallically.
That got me thinking about some other palms we used to see from an apartment in Los Angeles. We called them “the lollipop palms” for their straight-up trunks topped with bushy sets of fronds. And that put me in mind of that apartment and someone I met there.

When I called the number in the rental ad, the building owner said the downstairs tenant would let me in to see the place, and that he was a little odd -- “he has a beard” -- but he was alright.
The man would have fit right in to “La Boheme.” The writer/artist/philosopher cast would have been rounded out nicely with that theatrically-dressed and -voiced photographer.
Almost before I had settled in I found myself driving Edmund, in my recently acquired ’49 Ford convertible (that no longer converted) to a location in downtown Los Angeles where a particular derelict wall was peeling apart. The light at a particular time of the day at that particular time of the year made the composition, and Edmund set up his bulky view camera and started photographing it. I stood by, wondering if we might  be trespassing, and whether he really knew what he was doing with that vintage equipment.
Much later I found out his work was in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and several other museums of similar rank.
The only thing I remember seeing him do to support himself was to organize periodic “raffles” of his work. On those occasions I might wake up to find an assembly of 20 or 30 people, usually some of them Pan-like individuals sitting in the tree under my window playing musical instruments. Were they actually pipes?  I don’t  remember, but they should have been. 
Edmund would raffle off prints of his work for $5. They were extravagantly matted and difficult and expensive to frame. I will tell you I acquired a number of them, and they brought handsome prices at auction long after he was dead and I needed money.

I still have some of my amateurish pictures of the view with the lollipop palms, but I should have asked Edmund to photograph it. He’d have made art of it. 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

New Beginnings

Funny how things go. The novel, an afterthought for 40-some years, is suddenly front and center. It’s officially (self) published on line; this direct link will take you right to it. You can sample the first 20 percent of it there free, and for now you can download all 126 pages of it at whatever price you feel is appropriate, starting at “nothing.”
Pricing will have to change at some point, obviously, although I don’t mean that to sound like a late-night TV huckster's “Limited Time Offer!” The day of  “While Supplies Last” is over, too; the book exists only as a digital file and can be downloaded forever. And I can’t use the part about “Not Available in Stores” either, because it’s available at Amazon. They ask $2.99 for it, of which I believe I score about half.
The full effect goes quite a bit further, however. It’s caused me to rethink my whole “business model,” as they might say it at Harvard B-school.
Clearly, I’m out of step with today’s approach to what used to be my business -- an anachronism among the horde of “content marketing” practitioners. The reasons have been aired at length in earlier posts and won’t be repeated here, but in response I’m contemplating a two-edged approach. There will be a sea change to my LinkedIn presence, and a different tone to this blog. 
In the blog I shall leave the grubby world of business and ascend to the realm of “creative” writing. Not necessarily writing creatively; maybe just writing about it.
Actually I’ve wondered just what “creative” writing is supposed to be. Seems like almost any kind of writing would be creative. If you think advertising copywriting, for example, isn’t creative, you’re wrong. But I see “creative” listed by agents and publishers as another genre, and I’m taking my cue from that.   
It will be a hardship at first to give up being snarky and combative, rolling over to composing inoffensive fictions. To mitigate the shock I will keep one foot in the business world with a LinkedIn page, modified -- another story; but this web log will reek, hereafter, of  a more  refined, lit’ry ambience.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Mug Shot

I have mentioned more than once here that I’ve fought off posting a picture on my LinkedIn profile for a long time. For a while I tried to post a message in the little box explaining that I Didn’t Think My Mug Shot Was Going To Win Me Any Business -- sort of the equivalent of “Camera Shy” in your school yearbook.

However, when a second venue asks to show your likeness, you begin to wonder if there may not be some pent-up demand after all and you’d be churlish not to satisfy it. This is the case where my novel is recently (self) published, a site called Smashwords; they like to put a picture up with the author bio. Absent something even less prepossessing than my own, I can’t see where a picture is going to hurt the success of a novel. The story has to stand on its own, and visitors to the site will buy or not on that basis after sampling the opening pages.

That’s less true of LinkedIn. You can sample someone’s work there, too, but some people think if you don’t post a picture of yourself there’s something wrong. So while I’m about it, the picture is going up there as well.   
There have not been many pictures of me over the years in which I look like someone you’d want to talk to, and this one is no exception. It shows me wearing the fatigue hat mentioned in some previous posts, and a kind of Mona Lisa smirk that should put off all but the incurably inquisitive.

I call it a portrait in grander moments, but  the friend who took it for me is quick to correct me: it’s only a snapshot, and taken with a smartphone, at that. She usually works with a professional camera and worries the details, but I reassured her that nothing she could do was going to make me look any better. Or any worse, for that matter. So for better or worse, you can now find me looking back at you, trying to appear friendly, on LinkedIn and Smashwords.    

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Smiff and Dale

We named them after an old comedy team because they worked so well against each other and they made us laugh.
They had been at the vet for treatment of the neglect they’d suffered at the storefront pet shop where we’d found them. We had seen the white one in the window, looking scruffy and depressed. We came close to buying him, but we were both working and felt it would be unfair to leave a dog alone at the apartment. It would get lonely at home by itself. If there were some way to find it a companion...
And then we saw the black one, curled up at the back of the window in the shadow. And that did it. We bought the two of them for, I think $30, from the relieved shop owner who obviously didn’t want the expense of keeping them saleable any more. We took them straight to the vet, who recognized them. The store owner had had them in previously for some minimal treatment of a cough, but wasn’t going to spend the money to treat them any further.
The first fun thing about bringing them home was just arriving. Jean sat in the back seat with a blanket-wrapped bundle in each arm, and when George, our downstairs neighbor, saw her he practically fainted. She hadn’t looked pregnant.
We assured him they were dogs, and took them up to our apartment. It wasn’t that big, but compared to the store window where they’d been confined for who knows how long it was a prairie. They ran back and forth on the hardwood floor, their nails clacking, skidding into the wall at the end of each run, twisting backward, scrambling to their feet, running back the other way, for minutes at a time.    
You couldn’t tell for sure what breed they were when they were in the store window, but cleaned up and clipped they turned out to be miniature poodles. Smiff, the black one, was a runt; his legs were too short for his body. Dale looked to the layman’s eye to be conventionally proportioned, but was probably flawed some other way. Their being together and in that place told you that some breeder who wasn’t going to be able to sell them as show dogs had sold them off for a couple of bucks. It was the best thing that had happened for us, though. We’d been married only a few years, and Smiff and Dale were our family for almost the next fifteen.     
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