Public Service Announcement

This Halloween, before you drive, be sure you have a designated pumpkin.

not my pic; if it's yours or you know its source, please alert me and I'll add the citation

This public service announcement has been brought to you by Freaks Against Drunk Pumpkins.

Not David Foster Wallace (But Definitely Joan Didion)

I follow David Abrams' blog, The Quivering Pen, religiously.  Great blog by a great writer, who's labelled himself a "book evangelist".   Preach it, Abrams, preach it! Abrams has a great library over on LibraryThing too, which is where I first encountered him.  His novel, Fobbit, covering his experience and insights gleaned as a reporter in the Iraq War, will be released soon.  Along with Thomas McGuane (read his novel, Nothing But Blue Skies, for starters, and be moved), Abrams is to the Montana literary scene what, say, Cormac McCarthy was to Tennessee -- the young Cormac at least. I recommend Abrams and his blog, The Quivering Pen, highly.

This morning I couldn't help noticing Abrams featuring "Not Foster Wallace" in a recent post, and just had to share it, since, well, David Foster Wallace is my favorite writer blah blah blah ...


David L. Ulin is easily my favorite critic covering contemporary fiction.  He's the editor of a fabulous literary anthology, Writing Los Angeles, among many other books he's both authored and edited.

Joan Didion is my favorite essayist period.  Why I've neglected writing about her early essays collected in Slouching Towards Bethlehem and The White Album is a mystery I should figure out and correct promptly.  Her essays, memoirs and novels wow me every time with their laser-like precision that excises every bit of superfluous chaff from whatever topic she's skewering -- be it The Doors' unsavory decadence, John Wayne's waning days, Joan Baez's myopic neighbors, the abomination that was and is the Los Angeles Aqueduct, notorious murder cases -- to the point her prose could probably double for the latest innovation in nanotechnology.  Didion is the living personification of "cutting to the chase".

Her mesmerizing, elegiac memoir, The Year of Magical Thinking (2005), on the death of her husband, the acclaimed author and screenwriter, John Gregory Dunne, was one of those rare books I devoured in a day it was so damn good.  If you're unfamiliar with Dunne, read True Confessions or The Studio and see why "acclaimed" is probably an understatement in describing his under appreciated, somewhat forgotten, and understandably overshadowed by his brilliant wife's work, career.

David L. Ulin has interviewed Joan Didion in this morning's L.A. Times as the two discuss Didion's latest memoir, Blue Nights, covering the tragic terrain of Didion's and Dunne's daughter, Quintana's, early death after a long illness at the age of thirty-nine.  I already wanted to read Blue Nights before I even saw the L.A. Times piece this morning, purely because it's Joan Didion and I'm the type of fan that would read her grocery lists if only she would publish them, but David L. Ulin has that unique critic's knack at exponentially increasing one's desire to read a book even if it's a book one already desperately desires.  How does he do it?  I recommend aficionados of great reportage read the L.A. Times article and then begin dissecting his catalog of criticism in greater depth and find out for themselves.

Ergo, put David L. Ulin and Joan Didion together and -- poof -- pure magic.  Lucky for Los Angelenos, Ulin will be interviewing Didion before a live audience on November 16th for the "Aloud Series" held at Los Angeles Central Library.  That's a Wednesday night.  Attending would mean enduring those damned Los Angeles freeways at rush hour; those same horrific highways through Southern California Hell Didion, in her own Inferno mind's eye, turned anthropomorphic, transforming them into mythic concrete characters in my favorite novel of hers, her second from 1970 -- the stark and sad indictment of amoral Hollywood she loved so well and yet skinned alive as few before or after her ever have -- Play It As It Lays ...

Even if I must embark like some postmodernized Virgil upon those snail-pace circuitous lanes of urban Perdition, I think a chance to see Joan Didion live on stage (not to mention David L. Ulin) could be Paradise. 


"Obliquely" with Peter Weissman and Brent

{***Peter Weissman is a mentor and dear friend.  He's also, in case you're new to this blog and unfamiliar with the history we shared in LibraryThing's greatest group then and now, Le Salon..., the author of I Think, Therefore Who Am I? and Digging Deeper: A Memoir of the Seventies.  He's presently at work on his third metamemoir, True Stories: A non-fiction novel.  Enter his name in the search widget of my blog for several excerpts of his published work.  We had a conversation recently in Goodreads (Oct. 15-16) that struck a creative chord with me and I thought it worth sharing.  Peter agreed.***

EnriqueFreeque (Brent): Hi Peter,

Hope you're good and your work is progressing apace! Do keep me posted. 

Peter Weissman: Had three false starts on the 24th chapter, backed off and came at the larger story obliquely with a piece in which I bring back Tom, from the first book, based on his daughter, whom I might or might not have seen in my small country town supermarket in the dead of winter. An approach you might remember from the epilogue of the first book, "Teenage Artie," who might or might nor have been who I thought he was. So I guess you might call it meta-meta, a person who became a character, recharacterized in a later book from the altered point of view of a father looking back at another father. I call it, for the moment, "Fathers and Daughters."

EF(B)"Obliquely" -- a word I wrote down several times today in a fascinating meeting my wife and I attended at DSALA (Down Syndrome Association Los Angeles) headquarters on the dual diagnosis of autism and Down syndrome. Pardon my free association. But I'm writing about this groundbreaking meeting for us and what it's like raising a child dually diagnosed with autism and DS (finally writing painfully and truthfully about it), and am finally finding some freedom inside and much-needed peace in the process. Perhaps the lifted-weight feelings are ephemeral, but the fresh perspectives, I sure hope, won't be. Wife says, "Just keep writing what you know, Brent, because it's been there all along, waiting. Write what you know." Maybe it'll help somebody else someday, and not just me. 

I did remember "Teenage Artie," {from I Think, Therefore Who Am I?} -- a sad, yet stirring finale. But I didn't recall it in enough specific detail to comment on, so I pulled it from its perch high on my shelves, and reread it just now. 

"Crossing to the far side again, I dogged him obliquely..." (p. 254)

I guess I'm dogging the painful truth of our lives from an oblique entrance point too, since the front or back doors to our stories have been locked.

Your words, Peter, about bumping into Artie, are speaking to my own dawning reality from today: "Though still restless, he appeared to know, or might have been on the verge of discovering, that whatever contradictions plagued him were not in his circumstances, but in himself" (emphasis mine, p. 257)

That's just one example, Peter, demonstrating the universality of your writing; how it innately (and routinely) elicits identification in the experiences and remembrances and present realities of its readers. You were writing your's and Artie's life there, of course, circa the '90s (assuming I followed the timeline accurately) and yet you were (are) also writing my life today. 

That's why I read you, Brother! For the magic of moments like that. Thanks for sending me back to "Teenage Artie". I wasn't expecting to meet myself there, reading about somebody else making a sort of peace with themselves, but there it is. Obliquely.

(I might just want to turn this correspondence into a future blog post sometime, only with your permission of course).

PWYour response, Brent, is the most straight-ahead I can recall. Not that your writing isn't usually honest, but at times there's a layer between it and you; an approach you decided to take, a play on words you felt you wanted to make, etc. 

Looking for the source of the difference between this and other things you've written I concluded that you dug deeper this time, as you recognized yourself. Yes, your wife is right: you were writing what you knew. Smart woman. And writing about something close to the heart. Your reference to my writing as an example: I admit to feeling gratified that you found universality in what you quoted from "Teenage Artie."

In my best stuff, amidst the narration, description, and dialogue, I occasionally fuse with my imaginary reader (in my best stuff) and produce text that, read later--and in this case was presented to me--is something I hardly recognize as my own. As if a deeper, truer part of me produced it. Of course, you can't aim for this (except obliquely): paradoxically, it has to come to (and from) you when you're in a somewhat selfless place. 

A discourse between to be put on your blog: Why not? Reminds me that I should probably be reading more of that kind of thing, i.e., the letters between writers and others. You have any suggestions in that regard? I have read some excerpts of Bellow with others (Philip Roth was one, I think), in the NYRB. 

EF(B)Literary correspondence is a gaping hole in both my knowledge and acquisitions. I can't even name you a single book I've read of it! I know of, as you're undoubtedly already well aware of, Henry Miller's and Anais Nin's correspondence; or Sartre's and de Beauvoir's, but it's a form I've not yet explored, except in textbook anthologies from college.... 

There's a line in a contemporary poem I can't remember except for this: "...missed by thinking about it too much..." which echoes closely, I think, what you're saying about the writing that speaks out beyond what the author originally envisioned when writing it, that radiates outward from that mysterious "selfless place". 

I was largely a character performing an expected role in the salon. I only see that clearly now. Not that there's necessarily anything inherently wrong with that, entertaining people with doppelgangers (sp?) -- it's fun! it's a party! -- except it did create a distance, as you astutely allude, between my words and who I really was and perhaps even wanted to be. I think that's a big part of what I was escaping in quitting the salon -- like an actor tired of playing the same role, and yet an actor who nevertheless realizes he can't be anything else on that particular stage, because the two are so fused together like Siamese twins...Which is to say I became tired of being the same character I gave the same voice to, over and over and over again ... I'm tired of performing. The only role I'm interested in now is being real. Your writing has helped me...do just that: get real! ;-) 

I'll look forward to reading "Father's and Daughters".  It would be interesting sometime, in dissecting the writer's craft...of itemizing which chapters you authored from those "oblique entrances," and then compare their content to those that weren't entered into that way. I'd be curious to see if there were any significant differences in levels of "universality".

Thanks, as always, for your good words and for being such an encouragement! 

PW: That encouragement you speak of works both ways....


Tet Baby

Baby please breathe and stop being so rebellious! Breathe the air your mortified mother is breathing; the air your father, so afraid he's a walking talking petrified tree is breathing. Open your little lungs and breathe, won't you?  Breathe so they can take that terrible tube out of you. Please listen and follow our loving instructions.  Because once they do "extubate" you (ah the lovely new vocabulary we're learning hourly inside the NICU!) do please be an obedient baby and breathe.

Otherwise shrill alarms will sound and jar our already shattered nerves, and doctors by the dozen will surround your bed with their clinical and calm expressions we've come to dread, and that tireless nurse working her overnight shift will begin "bagging you" indefatigably until the respiratory tech who's off duty gets paged and comes running so he can "intubate" you again. Meanwhile, your nurse pleads with you (as we do, in panicked rage), "Breathe, Baby, c'mon breathe".

Which is about when your mother puts her hand over her mouth while the nurse's hand keeps squeezing, breathing for you with each compression of enriched oxygen even as we hold our collective breath, as if saving our breath might somehow replenish yours.

"Tet baby," one of the docs looking on by your bed nods at an intern, and both obsessively eyeball your plummeting sats like some stock market crash on the monitor above your bed.  I've learned their lingo, and know "Tet" means "Tetraology of Fallot," eavesdropping on the redundant doc-speak all these eternal weeks in the NICU.

So you're a Tet baby, Baby!  Welcome to our backwards world!  Tet makes me think of the Vietnam War I watched on the nightly news when I was practically just a baby myself. What little I can see of your body beneath the leads and riot of wires and slithering tubes, certainly makes you seem like war's casualty: Emergency C-sectioned from that imploding womb; thereafter airlifted over crowds who'd rushed you up and out to that "X" on the roof -- their white coats like kites in the chopper's typhoon -- too reminiscent of that desperate Saigon day when the last U.S. diplomats lifted off and left women and children to their doom ...

What a wretchedly offensive word for a baby -- Tet!  Damn medical abbreviations so suggestive for a morbidly imaginative Dad!  As if hearing you had Down syndrome wasn't a downer enough; come to find you've got (WTF!), some hellatious heart condition called "Tet" too?!

Jesus, Baby, were you smoking three packs a day inside Mommy's womb?  Might that explain your "cyanotic" arrival with heart and lungs in such bad shape you might as well have had, say, six decades worth of red meat, Coors, and sour sweets' calamitous accumulation of plaque arterial build up toward a "widow maker's" tomb?  What gives, Baby?!  You a biker baby rebel already sportin' leather studs and tattoos?  You sure coo once they've "extubated" you.  But God do your sutures ooze when the NICU nurses change you.

Now tell me, drug-induced-somewhat-comatose Baby, how large of an intensive and neonatally Grey's Anatomy-styled vocabulary we must acquire  and learn conversationally before you'll begin breathing on your own and we can finally take you home?

Our rebel baby: Aug-Sept, 1998, who I'm positive would've replied to me, had it not been for that tube , "twenty-nine days, Dad, just twenty-nine days more and we'll all go home".

  Thirteen years later, she's home and thriving.

Postscript, April 14, 2014:  I was going back through old posts, fixing broken links, updating images, labels, et cetera, and arrived here ….

"Tet Baby" (a.k.a., Megan Hope), my beautiful and beloved daughter, who was able to beat the odds and who overcame so many obstacles and health scares over the years, succumbed suddenly to a pulmonary embolism and cardiac arrest.  She passed away at C.H.O.C. on a Friday evening two days after Christmas 2013, surrounded by my wife and I, her brother and sister, and grandparents.  She was fifteen, four months and sixteen days old.  She was an inspiration.  She was an awesome girl.  I was so lucky to be her Dad.  


"Vertical Facades"

Quickly becoming my favorite place to photograph: The Mission Inn -- a Southern California enigma -- a place so replete with religious, cultural, political and even architectural contradictions, one can get disoriented conceptualizing the paradoxical possibilities of the historic locale, of which I've hinted at in previous "Dick's Pics" postings in attempts to exploit the incongruities, but should probably elaborate on more straightforwardly in future postings as the history of this hotel and all it has symbolically represented over the years is maddening ... I believe it was Susan Sontag who in an essay asked if photographs could be opinions, and that idea of hers certainly resonates with my motivation and ambitions in taking pictures.  The trick is, of course, being able to take a pic that is so powerful it speaks for itself and then you don't have to write a long-winded paragraph like I'm doing right now trying to explain (and inadequately) what it is you're vainly attempting to do with it!

  Question unrelated to the pic (though I'd love to take the pic that could clearly answer the question I'm about to ask, and answer it in the negative, which is the positively truthful answer as I see it): Would a pregnant Mary and her husband, Joseph, riding into Riverside, CA, on a donkey, not all that impossibly unreal a scene considering the gaudy, Cinderella-like horse-drawn carriages that regularly orbit the Mission Inn's spectacularly lighted facades and perimeters every Christmas season, been welcomed as guests at the upscale hotel, originally constructed and so named in recognition of the mission of that child about to be born to them? 


Meeting Terri Inside a Book! (or, When a Book Lures You, Listen!)

Look who I bumped into at The Bookman the other day:

Terri B. Joseph.

I was stunned to say the least.  I kept staring at her name, and examined it repeatedly (nearly not believing what I was seeing) to ensure that I was in fact seeing it.  I rubbed her name with my left index finger as if doing so, just touching it, could somehow enrich the reality of what I was witnessing: Terri B. Joseph.  I got goosebumps holding the book I'd just pulled off the shelf on a whim from the "J" section of fiction (a book not by "Joseph" but about "James"), as unexpected remembrance of Terri Brint Joseph, my advisor at Chapman University -- whom I wasn't expecting to meet inside The Bookman that day since, well, she's been gone for almost a decade now -- sweetly flooded my consciousness in waves.

Terri apparently owned this very copy of Henry James and the Experimental Novel by Sergio Perosa, published in 1983 by The Gotham Library (New York University Press), at some point between nine and twenty-eight years ago, the duration between her death and the book's publication.

What are the odds that I'd grab a book off a used bookstore shelf and discover Terri's signature? Trillion to one, maybe?  I'd have better odds finding one of her hard-to-find books she authored on Ezra Pound or of her poetry.  Never mind the book was shelved in the wrong section.  Should've been housed in Literary Criticism, a section I rarely peruse when I visit The Bookman, simply because I rarely have enough time to scope out the entire store.  Never mind too that I typically skip Henry James in the fiction aisle altogether these days as I've pretty much acquired every Henry worth having, except The Reverberators and The Tragic Muse.  But that slim book spine -- Henry James and the Experimental Novel -- caught my eye for some reason, and I slid it off the shelf, and opened it, and couldn't believe who I was seeing before I even got to the book's title page.  Perhaps it was "Experimental Novel" in the title that, on the surface, lured me, as I've long had a hankering for "experimental" fiction.

Or maybe, if we dig deeper, and we're to believe William H. Gass' assertion from the title of his essay, "The Book as a Container of Consciousness" (collected in Finding a Form), and tweak his premise just a tad, find that the book I pulled off the shelf was itself conscious and knew that it had a personal connection to make with the person standing before it, and therefore somehow communicated its secret message, and willed my consciousness (and forward movement of hand) toward it.

Before anyone suggests this blogger, already a self-acknowledged freak, is also a cosmic kook on the cusp of mental collapse, and begins humming out of tune the theme music from The Twilight Zone in order to perhaps rightly mock his absurd preposterousness, I suggest they recall that uncanny and/or metaphysical incident that occurred in their lives that was way too coincidental to be caused by mere chance, and then consider my story in the mystical context of theirs.  I doubt Terri (bless her!) would've been so quick to scoff at me.

For more on Terri Brint Joseph, visit my tribute page dedicated to her.

more autographs


They are the Champions

Depression-era high school basketball team championship photo: Eldon, Missouri

My grandfather (third from right, standing) played center at 6'0'' on his high school basketball team.  Back in those almost antique days, circa 1932, there was a "jump ball" after every made basket.  No fast breaks.  No jump shots.  No slam dunks. No Hoop Dreams.  No recruiting.  No March Madness.  No NBA lockouts or prima donnas. Just pure basketball, in all its glorious and fundamental simplicity. My grandfather, who will turn 97 in March and is the lone surviving member of his team, has recounted many times the strange game that won them the championship by a score of 9 to 6. I've paraphrased his account below:

Eldon's opponent thought they could win the championship game by stalling, holding the ball for several (what must have been oh so embarrassingly uneventful) minutes each possession before attempting a shot.  Keep in mind there were no shot clocks back in 1932; a team could take twenty-four minutes to shoot if they wanted.  But Eldon's adversary's slow-down strategy backfired and the tables got turned on them; when, early in the second half, with Eldon already ahead by two points, the score 8 to 6, my grandfather got fouled and stepped to the free throw line.  He made the first free throw but missed the second, "I could feel myself shaking so," he's said many memorable times (and I cherish each time he's said it).  But he got the rebound off his own missed free throw; so, possession remained Eldon's.  Since three-point shots didn't exist in 1932, Eldon, with a three point lead, found itself with a "two possession lead," meaning that even if their opponent got the ball again, they'd still have to get it at least one more time after that, and meanwhile hold Eldon scoreless in the interim, in order to have a chance to win or tie.

"After I got that rebound, our coach called time out and told us to just hold the ball on offense.  He said if they want to stall on us and play like that, like a bunch of [expletives]," my grandfather chuckled, in remembrance, "Then he said lets show them how stalling is properly done!"

Eldon showed them properly all right, holding the ball -- and the lead -- for the rest of the game.  State championship to Eldon, Missouri, even though they didn't score a measly ten points!

The largest of the trophies pictured still sits on my grandfather's nightstand, in his assisted-care room.

My grandfather's coach (pictured standing, far right) -- shrewd coach if there ever was one -- once advised my grandfather before an important game to run non-stop no matter what, to never stand still in the post, because he'd heard their opponent's center smoked two packs a day, and figured if my grandfather wore him out in the first half up and down the court, back-and-forth constantly beneath the basket (the phrase "in the paint" hadn't been coined back then, as there was no painted area extending fifteen feet from the baseline to the basket), never stopping for a second, that the other team's center, a six-foot-five giant (a Manute Bol by 1932 standards) would get so winded he'd not be able to recover in the second half, since he smoked so much.

"Coach was right," Grampa said.  "He couldn't move to save his life in the second half; his coach was yelling at him something fierce.  We just smiled but didn't let them see.  We pulled away in the second half and won with ease."


Ruminating at the Ruins

Stone cabin ruins dating to the 19th century: Icehouse Canyon, California

I've tried convincing my wife that we should move our family here, to these very stone cabin ruins in Icehouse Canyon, one of my favorite family-friendly hiking destinations in our local mountains, the San Gabriels.  So far, however, she's steadfastly refused. She doesn't like that the place lacks glass windows — or a ceiling. She's so particular.  I've countered we wouldn't have any outrageous air conditioning bills.  We'd save some hard earned money!  She's then counter-countered we'd have no protection from bears or mountain lions well known to inhabit, if not haunt, the mile-high wilderness area, the very canyon so named "Icehouse" because a hundred years ago, more or less, it was the premier supplier of ice for the burgeoning city of Los Angeles, thirty-five air miles to the southwest.  She's got a point there.  We'd have ice aplenty, and free air conditioning, but mama bears and menacing mountain lions might be too much for even our dependable exterminator to handle.  All right, I guess we won't be moving (**sighs despondently**) into the ruins anytime soon.

Check out Icehouse Canyon in winter!

USGS Topographic Map Quadrant of Icehouse Canyon
& portions of the Cucamonga Wilderness


Take a Ride Down Damnation Alley with Roger Zelazny

Hell Tanner's the baddest bad ass left in what's left of the decimated F.U.S.A., the Former United States of America.  Roger Zelazny really socks it to the F.U.S.A. as he satirically skewers this arguably great (and nearly late) nation.

The nation of California, where the action begins in Roger Zelazny's classic postapocalyptic road trip romp through man made Hell, has recruited Hell, commuting his life sentence, if he can successfully navigate Damnation Alley, after having received some terrible news from the Republic of Boston that the black plague has struck!  As if post-nuclear holocaust weren't bad enough, in marches the dratted black plague.  Rats!

A dehumanized remnant out of Los Angeles, perhaps 25,000 strong (or weak, rather -- Roger Zelazny never gives us the exact figures) wants to help, of course, as the plague, if not eradicated, just might soon eradicate their city of ex-Angels too.  But what can they do, now that Damnation Alley stands in their way?  Enter Hell Tanner and his mission improbable ...

Running Damnation Alley is akin to sunbathing beside exposed fuel rods inside a nuclear reactor.  Not a great, nor one would think, survivable, idea.  The driver from Boston carrying news of the plague, didn't make it, even though his message did. L.A. brainstorms (don't chuckle): What if some resourceful folks hip to the ultimate van conversion, 1970s-pre-Hummer style -- a van contraption in which one could conceivably accomplish more than just getting laid in -- can construct their dream machine with radiation-proof skin, with a roof and siding able to withstand everything the ruined sky can upchuck at it?  A van conversion replete with rocket launchers and the best weaponry ever made to combat reptile mutations and marauding bands of Nuclear Hell's Angels-types?  Can they do it?

Why not fly the black plague antidote out to Boston instead?  Because the atmosphere got so fouled up after the bombs fell, that it literally rains cat and dog carcasses, not to mention elephants, fish, and hippopotamuses too.  The air is so bad that air transportation is a joke.  Any pilot foolhardy enough to try and get his craft airborne would be knocked out of the sky in seconds, if not by deceased zoo animals, then by a sofa or VW bug.   Used to be birds were problematic for pilots.  In Damnation Alley, it's everything, including the kitchen sink.

Everything got gargantuan out there in the wasteland of Middle America that's become Damnation Alley, except humans, who are no more morbidly obese than they always were, their population having shrunk to one-millionth its former size, approximately.  Gila Monsters have become monsters indeed, mutated as large as those rectilinear monstrosities once known as "motorhomes" -- and that's just when they've hatched!  Rattlesnakes slither through the pulverized cities-turned-into-asteroid-craters as long as freight trains.  The birds make Hitchcock's seem like mere innocuous butterflies.  Yet somehow when they fly, along with super-sized swarms of bats (gross!), they're able to avoid all that detritus of damnation up in the sky.

Can Hell Tanner survive that damnable ride to Boston through Damnation Alley?  If he can, will he arrive in time to save its dwindling citizenry being picked off, one by one, by the black plague?  Will he get to hook up, along the way, with some skanky biker mamas, all tatted (or tied) up?  I'm not saying, I'm not saying, and I'm not saying (a gentleman never tells).  Read the damn good (and great B-movie equivalent) of a book yourself for the answers, if you dare.  I wouldn't dare, however, watch the bad B-movie made out of this book, starring Jan Michael Vincent as Hell Tanner.  I wouldn't watch it if only because the cockroaches depicted in it aren't even as big as my hands, whereas in the book, assuming Zelazny had included cockroaches in it, which he didn't, would've undoubtedly been as large as tanks.


Remember the band Hawkwind? They released a song in 1977, the same year Damnation Alley was adapted for the silver screen, off their Quark, Strangeness and Charm album, titled, coincidentally, "Damnation Alley".  It's seriously bitchen!  I've posted its lyrics below ~

I've got the serum and I'm going to take it
All the way to Boston, oh I've got to get through
The going won't be easy, but I'm going to make it
It's the only thing that I'm cut out to do

Ride the post-atomic radioactive trash
The sky's on fire from that nuclear flash
Diving through the burning hoop of doom in an
eight wheeled anti-radiation tomb
Thank you Dr. Strangelove for going do-lally and
leaving me the heritage of Damnation Alley, Damnation Alleyway

No more Arizona, now Phoenix is fried up
Oklahoma City what a pity it's gone
Louisiana delta where the Mississip's dried up
No more Chatanooga, Cherokee, Lexington

Radiation wasteland, radiation wasteland
Ashes coming at me now, craters coming at me now
Radiation wasteland, I've got my anti-radiation machine
Thank you Dr. Strangelove, I said thank you Dr.
For giving me the ashes and post-atomic dust
The sky is raining fishes it's a mutation zoo
Going down Damnation Alley, well good luck to you
Good luck to you now
Armor plated angel, motor-pony express
Armor plated angel, motor-pony express
Going down Damnation Alley it's one hell of a mess


Prologue to Fiction by Alex Austin

(***Prefatory Note: I've lived near the beaches of Southern California forever.  I've witnessed on shore or while in the water, the hard to capture images Alex Austin has strikingly captured so well in his prologue to Fiction.  For a few days every year, select California coastlines put on their best North Shore of Oahu act, and crowds gather beachside, hooting and cheering those courageous (or crazy enough) to take the drop into Big Waves.  Collective groans follow wipeouts, and then silence: onlookers hold their collective breath until the surfers resurface, sometimes a minute or longer after disappearing in the crunching white crash.  Big Days at the beach, when south swells rumble north -- the mammoth offspring of Mexican hurricanes -- make the local news or front page of the L.A. Times routinely.  But there's nothing routine at all in Alex Austin's Fiction.  Enter the watery depths of his prologue's wonderful prose ... and hold your breath.***)

Well, I knew the day was coming when I'd have to remove Alex's story due to its impending publication elsewhere, and I'm sad to see the story go, but am quite grateful to Alex Austin for letting it have a temporary home here in The Forum.  Once the prologue has found its permanent home, I will link it here.
~ Enrique, Dec. 18th, 2011

Alex Austin spent a month being interviewed by Le Salon in LibraryThing in February, 2010.  Read the full interview.

Alex Austin's previous novels include The Perfume Factory (2005) and The Red Album of Asbury Park Remixed (2009).  I've yet read The Perfume Factory, though I hear Austin will be re-releasing it under a new title in the near future, and I'll definitely be buying myself a copy of it then.  I have read The Red Album, a brilliant novel, and I've written briefly about it (too briefly; I'll need to amend that) here.  Austin has also authored plays that were staged in Los Angeles.  He's been published in numerous journals, including Westways and Rose & Thorn.  Lovers of Haruki Murakami can't help but love Alex Austin's Fiction.  It's a privilege featuring his work here in the Forum.

Thank you, Alex!


Stoned October Twilights

Stoned October twilights on the sand
Our pylon shadows stretched impossibly slim
On low tide's sleek divide
Where surf and earth
Disguised themselves as sky

We'd stumble into waves arms alock
Wobbly arcs of a water logged Nerf
Absolute farthest our limbs would part
My spirals were imperfect; hers weren't
Spewing spray like a propeller blade

Anorexic as circus stilts, the pliable palms went ballistic
Beyond the dunes, dancing in wild Santa Ana winds
Making Gumbys of them: Kama Sutra mimics
To my shroom inspired eyes: The palms were obviously
Limbo'ing, bending low as equilibrium allowed

Their pom-pom fronds in ecstatic fluff
And blustery cheer, we'd retreat
From the gusts to our blankets after dusk
And make love beneath the pier