Sunday, December 29, 2013
When traveling in Venice, try not to stay on the Grand Canal anywhere near the Casino. You know, the one where James Bond rolls up to the table in his white dinner jacket, tosses a couple of die, and nails craps. And then, when the lovely young brunette standing beside him spilling out of her red gown asks him his name, he replies, "Bond ... James Bond," with a face that conveys neither happiness nor sadness, but surly intuits, "I'm also available and I've got a big hard gun." Anyway, don't stay at a hotel near the casino because you will be up most of the night due to thunderous beat of Euro-Disco, the lyrics "I'm too sexy for my car ..." replaying in your brain again, and again, and again. Not even James Bond could withstand such a torture without cracking (You listening to me Q?).
But hey, this is Venice so I'm not complaining.
While here I have been retracing the steps of my main characters in The Disappearance of Grace, my Venice stand-alone novel. Hitchcockian in form, the novel is about a solider, an officer, who having returned from the Afghan war suffering from PTSD along with temporary bouts of temporary blindness, attempts to try and reconcile his stressed relationship with his significant other. A painter named Grace. Problem is, while the two are enjoying a quiet lunch in San Marco, Grace suddenly goes missing. Our blind soldier has no choice but to try and find her, blindness be damned.
Yesterday while in Piazza San Marco I saw the exact table where Grace disappears and I saw the exact boat that carries her away to one of Venice's many islands. This is not my first time here but every time I visit I see something different and the experience becomes new again.
Walking the narrow, maze-like corridors of this ancient city is an experience of both claustrophobia and wonder that is not always easily described unless you expose yourself entirely to its magic on your own terms. I tried to get all the emotions right in "Grace" and hopefully I've succeeded. Imagine being half blind and losing the love of your life inside this aquatic city of love and broken hearts? A city that, at times, seems impossible to navigate even when your vision is 20/20.
Tonight I will board the night train to Paris. I've been overseas now for 64 days and will fly home from Paris later this week. I've gathered more material for a new novel or two, while completing a brand new novel called The Breakup.
Europe can be a wonderful place to write, to disappear, to find yourself amongst the eternal ruins. But do not ever try and attempt a good night's sleep by laying your head beside a casino.
Sunday, December 15, 2013
"Shoulda, coulda, woulda ..."
The end of the year approaches and it's time to begin making those resolutions that will carry you into the new year. Maybe this will be the year you choose to lose the weight. Maybe it will be the year you choose to pay the bills. Maybe it's the year you choose to quit the butts. Maybe it's the year you choose to make the move to a new job or a new town. Maybe it's the year you choose to work up the courage to take that trip around the world. Hey, maybe it's the year you choose to become the full time writer.
The point is that so many resolutions will get made and another year will pass in which the only thing that changes is our age. The inevitable choice we make will be not to choose at all. Fear can be a real hobbler when you're trying to step ahead in life. Only when you realize that death is following you every step of the way, will you suddenly become aware of the limited time you have left on the planet. Sadly, most people never come to this realization and they die the worst way possible: Not trying.
I was raised in a household that stressed fear. Fear of everything. One step outside the norm and you were somehow punished. You were told which schools to go to, which churches to pray at, which friends were good and which were bad, and when it came time to choose a career, it was already chosen for you. Breaking free of the bondage proved a mammoth task for me, but I did it.
My dad was a great provider and strong community leader. He was an all around good guy. But at the same time, he became my shining example of how not to go through life. He could have been a world class musician had he followed his heart. But instead he chose to do what he was told to do (he could be a musician "on the side"). It was safer that way and yet, paradoxically, I can't help but believe that his life choices somehow contributed to his early death.
Quite literally, he had wanted me to live the same life he did. Expected me to make the same choices as if mimicking my father would have provided him with a kind of validation that he was surly missing ... An assurance that he had made the right moves. But I couldn't be like him, and I rebelled and went my own way. Despite more than a few setbacks during the journey, I've never looked back.
I'm always fascinated by friends and acquaintances who will come up to me and tell me I have a great life. "I wish I was you, traveling all over the place, being your own boss." I ask them why they don't don't do the same. They usually scratch their head, tell me their wife/husband would never allow it, or there's no money, or the job sucks but at least it's a job. Amazingly, some of these people are rich and have far more funds than I do to spend doing precisely what they want with their life. Still, they are afraid. Afraid of the unknown. Afraid to break free of the norm, of the suburb, of the life that is vanishing so quickly.
I look at them, into them, and I see the mortality that is greying the whites of their eyes on a daily basis. My heart goes out to them because they aren't living at all. They are existing ... A walking, bipedal mass of wasted energy.
We all have choices. Everyday is a new day and a new opportunity to choose who you want to be and how you want to do it. It's never too late. Choose wisely. You won't get today back ever again.
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