Friday, June 27, 2008

Friday Question: A Handy How-To

I was reading Tina's blog the other day and, unbidden, offered advice. She indicated that she wants to try to make her living as a writer and, since that decision, has a hard time writing. I want her to write because she's really smokin' good at it and I've been more or less making my living writing for a while now (and speaking, yes, but you have to decide what it is you will say). So here's what I said:

My advice on becoming a professional writer:

1. Start calling yourself a writer. Slip it into conversation wherever you can. "Hi, I'm Tina, I'm a writer." "Well, as a writer, I think..." "I was writing something the other day as writers do."

2. Commit to other people that you will write specific things by a specific time and then keep your word. THESE PEOPLE MUST NOT BE FRIENDS, THEY MUST BE STRANGERS. OR MOSTLY STRANGERS. Ideally, this would be something intended for publication, at least weblication.

3. Repeat steps 1-2.
It's simple. It's not EASY, understand, but it is simple.

I got to thinking that there's probably lots of difficult stuff out there that actually has simple instructions. How to run a marathon, how to run a business, how to cook, how to train a dog.

Here's the challenge/question:

What are three simple steps to doing something difficult that you know how to do?

Use your expertise, make the world stronger, help us all out here.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Overnight, chapter 2

Chapter 1 is here

I walked with Rob’s mom for a while. The crowd thinned as quicker walkers accelerated a bit. Soon we were in Belltown, a neighborhood where hipsters party and barhop on Saturday nights. A bit of cognitive dissonance for the hipsters: here we were in Mardi Gras beads but clearly not headed for the bars and clearly not festive. I heard a few people ask some walkers what this was all about. I didn’t stop to clarify for anyone. I just walked and chatted about the weather with a man and a woman I took to be brother and sister. Both wore gold beads (loss of parent), the woman asked the man about Seattle, we all speculated about whether it would rain. The crowd continued through downtown, past Hammering Man, turning right on Cherry Street and down to the waterfront where our first rest stop awaited. It had not yet been two miles but here were snacks and drinks and toilets. Some chose to stay and look out at the Seattle waterfront in the evening sunlight. I had seen that water before and, in fact, beautiful though it was, I wasn’t eager to see it again. That’s where Rick’s ashes were scattered. Now wasn’t the time to reflect, it was time to walk.

Walking north through Myrtle Edwards Park, I began to feel the sore feet a bit. Not really sore but the indications of where soreness would be. And oh, it would be. I fell into conversation with a woman who was walking for her aunt whom she barely ever knew. Her aunt and her mother had been very close and when the aunt died, well, the mother was never the same after that and is still something of a wreck to this day. There’s this idea that loved ones will somehow “get better” or “recover” but it’s just not like that. Again and again, I hear of people not getting better, just getting different forever. So this woman was walking as a Mother’s Day present to her mom, to try to raise some money and awareness. Her friend was walking with her because she was her friend. The Overnight wasn’t all people who directly lost someone, the crowd contained many people who have been rocked by the ripples.

Across the freaky Amgen bridge on Elliott Avenue, south on Elliott past the Baskin-Robbins, then back up Queen Anne to Mercer and I met some people from Wisconsin (they didn’t need to tell me they were from Wisconsin, I’ve learned the accent). They walked for cousins and friends, one of whom had served in Iraq and then took his own life. One very cheerful young woman also walked for herself. She was bipolar and diagnosed with PTSD. I didn’t ask what caused the PTSD. “I have to work pretty hard!” she said, cheerfully.

Down Mercer, by this time it was quite dark, to Westlake and the next rest stop where a woman in a Pittsburgh Pirates shirt approached me. “Are you John Moe?” she asked. Yeah, I am, I said. She had read my book and turned out to be this huge fan. She brought her husband over, also dressed in Pirates gear, he had also read my book and said he loved it. “Get off my lawn!” he yelled, citing a chapter where I go to a shooting range, a chapter he said was his favorite. I didn’t tell him that, six months after the book was published, my brother died at a shooting range. Didn’t want to bum him out. He had lost his father two months after his wedding. That happens a lot, I’m told. Babies are born, weddings and graduations happen, suicides of family members. His dad was a huge Pittsburgh Pirates fan, thus the gear. The shirts, the beads, all part of the weight we carry.

North on Westlake and I talk to a woman from Portland. Maybe 50 years old. She was walking for her father who died on Christmas Day when she was 16. She found him. “I’m amazed you can even walk at all, let alone in this,” I said. Four months ago, she lost a nephew as well. Her friend asked me a lot of questions about how Rick acted before he died. She has family members who she feels may be in a dangerous situation and so she keeps her cell phone close at all times and was interviewing whoever she could find to look for clues.

Across the Fremont Bridge. Fremont (Seattle’s Berkeley if that helps) was having their annual festival so there was a celebratory mood in the air. An SUV drove by and, seeing all the people in Mardi Gras beads, a young woman yelled, “Whoo! Show me yours and I’ll show you mine!” No thanks. I wonder if she ever found out what the beads were for. I kind of hope not. Or maybe she meant, “Show me your deep psychological wounds and yearning for catharsis and I’ll show you mine!” and she just didn’t have time to get all that out as the SUV drove past. Yeah, that’s probably what happened.

At about mile 9 at this point. 11 more to go.

Monday, June 23, 2008

He's at the what club now?

Karl Rove gives tips to Republicans on how to characterize Obama:

"He's the guy at the country club with the beautiful date, holding a martini and a cigarette that stands against the wall and makes snide comments about everyone who passes by."

I think that's going to go over big.

GOP: Hear that, America? He's THAT guy at the country club!
AMERICA: What? I don't belong to a country club! I don't know what you're talking about!
GOP: Oh, you know, it's like you've just finished a round of golf at the club and you're having a cigar and you're talking about the merger deal and this guy comes up--
AMERICA: I'm sorry, I don't have time to talk right now, they're foreclosing on my house. I have to go.


The Overnight, chapter 1

Warning: I'll be doing some recaps of the Overnight walk I did this past weekend. There will be very few jokes. There will be higher word counts. Shorter posts with more jokes will be interspersed.

It was 2:30 in the afternoon and the walk didn't start for five hours so after registering at Seattle Center's Center House I was just going to leave for a while, get some dinner, a bucket of coffee. But I noticed a lot of people who seemed connected to the walk were milling about the Mural Amphitheater and wearing beads, like plastic Mardi Gras beads. Awfully festive for a suicide walk, I thought. Turns out everyone is asked to wear beads corresponding to how suicide has been a part of their lives. So if you lost a child to suicide, white beads. A parent? Gold beads. Purple was for people who lost a friend. Red for people who lost a spouse or partner. If you have battled depression personally, you wore green. Everyone got blue also for supporting the cause. I went to the table and accepted a blue strand as well as an orange one, which was the color for people who have lost siblings.

All who registered for the walk had been given white paper bags. These would eventually have candles placed inside them and be placed on the ground where the walk ended. Walkers were asked to personalize them in some way and many people had attached photos or art work. I had my bag but had not decorated it. I didn't know what to say. I went up to the table where we were supposed to drop them off. They had magic markers there so I grabbed one and wrote:

"Rick Moe
8-24-62 - 4-4-07"

And handed it in and walked away. About 100 feet away I remembered something and walked back and had the volunteer dig out the bag. I added "Father" after "Friend". Rick's daughter Sophia was born three months after he died.

Then I went to get some Pad Thai. And insoles for my shoes. And that bucket of coffee.

When I returned to the Seattle Center at around 6:30 that evening I noticed all the teams. Groups of people seated on the lawn together in matching t-shirts that depicted who they were walking for. Pictures pinned to backs, pictures held on sticks, pictures clutched in hands. Pictures of young men, middle-aged women, elderly people, more young men. Lots of young men. I realized that most people on this walk are walking with someone else – friends, husbands, wives, sons and daughters. Me, I’m walking alone. I’m alone. It would have been nice to be with someone for this thing but then again, we all ultimately walk through the experience alone so I might as well walk through this alone.

There were about 1100 walkers in all and all wearing beads so just by looking at people you knew a lot about the most horrible day of their lives. So that lady lost her child. That guy lost a parent. The other fellow battled depression. And everyone wore beads. Suicide and depression is something people kept hidden most of the time but here it was all out in the open. Before the walk started someone got up and spoke. She had lost a son and had done several walks. She said that on her first walk she didn’t talk to anyone, the pain was too great. But in later walks she found that her pain was so great she had to talk to people and her pain was so great she had to hear other people’s stories. She encouraged us all to talk to each other out there.

Soon we were off, leaving Seattle Center and heading south on 2nd toward downtown. An older woman walking next to me asked who I was walking for. “My brother,” I said. I was hesitant to say much more but only for a few seconds and then I told her everything. She was wearing a green t-shirt with a picture of a young man on it. She wore white beads. “Tell me about your son,” I said. She told me about Rob.

“He died when he was 22 years old,” she said. “He would have been 33 next week.” She didn’t say this with sorrow or tears or pride or anything. She said this as a fact. He would have been 33. He never got to be 33.

I’ll stop there. More soon and photos.


Friday, June 20, 2008

Friday Question

Quick question cause I gotta run.

If you could join the cast of one television program for the period of one month, what program would it be? I'm not talking about being an actor here, I mean literally joining their world and being a character in it. When the month was over, you would return to your regular life and no time would have passed. But for that month, you could be in the universe of The Muppet Show or Laverne & Shirley or According to Jim or whatever.

What show?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

More Obama Rumors

from Slate.


There's only one artist on Barack Obama's iPod: FRANCIS SCOTT KEY.

Barack Obama goes to church every morning. He goes to church every afternoon. He goes to church every evening. He is IN CHURCH RIGHT NOW.

Barack Obama's new airplane includes a conference room, a kitchen, and a MEGACHURCH.

Barack Obama's skin is the color of AMERICAN SOIL.



Two Days...

until the Overnight walk that I've been telling you so much about. I fly to Seattle tomorrow via the obscure but strangely popular Sun Country Airlines. The training for the walk is complete after a 17 miler last Saturday, after which I walked around like Redd Foxx for the rest of the day. These last couple of days I've even been driving in to work so as not to risk sudden weird injuries.

You can hear a radio show about the issue of suicide and the walk on KUOW 94.9 in Seattle on Friday morning at 9 pacific. Weekday with Steve Scher will be talking about it. My own Weekend America will also be running a story on this week's show. We had a reporter in New York for the first Overnight walk on the 7th of June and she followed a family that lost a son to suicide. He was a veteran of the Iraq war. By the way, we are on pace to lose more soldiers to suicide than to combat fatalities in this war.

Sorry, no jokes here. Just my gratitude for all your support.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Public Service

I won't be seeing The Happening for many reasons:
1. It's not based on What's Happening (Rerun is not involved).
2. I don't much care for suicide as entertainment.
3. I don't much care for really sucky movies as entertainment.

But there is fun to be had in the mocking of really reeeeeally bad movies. But even then, you have to watch them, right? Wrong. Christopher Orr of The New Republic has a spoiler-intensive guide to the most dumbass moments in The Happening so you can mock without enduring the film itself. Whew!


Friday Question

Can people change?


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Way Others See It

I didn't think they were even serving up the quote cups anymore but Samantha, who is pensive, got one. Here's the thing, though: often when people get my Starbucks cup and blog about it, they talk about every other book under the sun. How about MY BOOK, pensive Samantha? Buy that one!

Monday, June 09, 2008


My friend Mike has a friend and this friend's dog is named Chris. Chris the dog. Obviously this is the greatest dog name of all time.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Friday Question

Let's do more algebra. That was fun. Wow, never thought I'd put those sentences together. (Damn you, Mr. Presas at Sacajawea Jr. High!).

Last week we talked about things that you just couldn't enjoy even though other people did. The response was great although just a tad, shall we say, fueled by white hot rage. So we'll go positive this week.

You have a music collection, whether you use the Compacted Disc format still or the iTunes or the what have you. And there's something in there that if some people spotted it, well, they'd make fun of you. Something cheesy, something out of style, something that may have been a little out of style even when it was in style. BUT YOU DON'T CARE WHAT PEOPLE SAY BECAUSE YOU LOVE IT.

And sure, yeah, it might not be the latest hip band like Oh My God There's Something Wrong At The Disco or that other band There's A Fire In The Arcade Run For Your Lives, but it's music that you like. Maybe you're ashamed of it and love it anyway or MAYBE there's no shame at all. Let's tear down the wall here. Let's proclaim our love for the music that the cool kids say we shouldn't like. Let's put the system on trial.

"You might make fun of me for having z in my music collection but I am proud of it!"

What does z equal?

I had to use a new variable in the question because X is already a band.

For me?
z= Meat Loaf. I can't consume Meat Loaf every day but sometimes a big helping of the Loaf just hits the spot. I love Loaf. And that cell phone commercial never happened.

Here's Meat looking all sweaty and dangerous.

And here's a picture of a sunrise on Mars. Not related to the topic but, you know, hey wow.


Thursday, June 05, 2008

Joe Pesci stars in the new film Tiny Dancer

Oh wait, it's just my daughter modeling her new socks. Sorry. Never mind.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

A Question from Charlie (age 7)

HIM: Is Herrelly Clinton going to be president?
ME: No.
HIM: Then why is she still on TV and in the newspaper?

Monday, June 02, 2008

Kate (Age 5) Explores Folk Music and Annoyance

HER: Dad, can we practice that one song Charlie sang in school? I can't remember all of it but I know the part where I saw it bug me.
ME: You saw what bug you?
HER: No! That's what the song says. It says, "I saw it bug me" and then there's a golden valley.
ME: Are you talking about "This Land Is Your Land"?
HER: Yes!
ME: Oh, wait a minute, is there an endless skyway in there?
HER: Mm-hm.
ME: Okay. I think I know what we need to do. Let's sing it together.
HER & ME: "As I was walking that ribbon of highway
I saw it bug me, that endless skyway
I saw below me, that golden valley
This land was made for you and me."

Stupid endless skyway. Really gets on our nerves.