Snapshot of NYC on a Rainy Day

Driving rains, warm spring temperatures, buffeted around on the train platform, an umbrella turns inside out.

A doctor’s appointment, supplements, trek to Argo Tea, Greek yogurt with honey + hot chai tea, reading Writer’s Digest magazine, waiting for Avi.

Dogwood blossoms dress Fashion Avenue, naked in the rain showers, dropping white petals on bubblegum-blackened sidewalks.

Creaking bathroom doors, steamed milk squealing into life, loud conversations shouted into cell phones. The front door lags open for its ghosts guests. Maybe they hear the wooing of the steamed milk machines and mistake it for the Great Ghost Council calling them in for their annual meeting.  Sad sirens glide past the coffee shop window, dying with the last breath of its horn.

A man in a hoodie pushes a store cart, top to bottom things covered in plastic bags. TD Bank greening supports dogwood boughs for a hint of spring green not yet appearing on its branches. A young man carries a limping umbrella, as if past its youthful prime. A middle-aged man with bags under his eyes cups his coffee in one hand while slicking back his wet, straight hair with the other.

A see-through plastic domed umbrella with thick red trim all around is a moving half bubble, the above water version of a marine shuttle that goes underwater to observe the tropical fish. NYC is world’s tropic fish – all species and stripes moving in groups up and down the stream, criss-crossing in patterns of personal mayhem.

Teeming with life. In a fishbowl.

Puffer fish bankers boasting of sales closed and commissions earned. Land sharkes parked in lined pods. Cabs are the rulers of the sea-roads, swerving in and out of each other’s path, paying attention and speeding ahead while trying to assert power in a more subtle way – by intimidation of presence, not teeth.

Week 12-Final Project-Earthquake

Earthquakes’ train

The tremor briefly ripples desiccated dirt on the road in parallel lines. Stillness follows. A starling whistles once, then again. Wind blows west and rustles the prairie grass. Chiseled men relax. They return to dig and pick apart the hardened earth with steel pickaxes. Dust clouds fills nostrils and mouths. Sweat pours down their chins. Shirts come off. Sun burns.

Look! A flock of starlings abruptly lift westward from telephone wire. Active men squeal to a halt. Rumbles tingle toes. The numbing of feet forge waves of fear straight through toughened bodies. Jelly legs and panicked voices forewarn men and beasts: Earth’s westbound train approaches. Nails and hammer drop with a thud. Weak waves of dirt flutter in reply. Hundreds of feet begin to stampede in differing directions.

The other men bustle past me. Their shoulders shove mine as they scramble to safety up the cactus-peppered landscape. I fall in line onto my hands and knee; I press my right ear to the ground. I eat dirt and listen. The deafening roar of vibrating earth intermixes with churning wheels. Not sure how far, now. Teams of horses whinny and rear. I push up and run out of the way one second before hooves crash down where I crawled. My stomach derails with shockwaves of adrenaline.

I howl in helpless pulses. Faces around me melt with fear. The inevitable groundbreaking eruption fuels fights. Fist knock hats off balding heads. The beat of the breaking earth trembles louder. How many of the men here will survive? Will I? I slap my face. Wake up, Sam! Don’t freeze up now. A straight path opens up on my left between the Mill and the General Store. Time slows. Hobos cling to the stores’ wood siding. Slate shingles fracture at their feet. The last water barrel topples. Water ejects in thick rivulets. I run, full speed ahead.

Injun arrows cross country above my head as I steam onward into their path. Undeterred, I grit my teeth and put my head down as I run. Ululations thunder out the sounds of my heart beating in my ears. Windows rattle from the increase frequencies underfoot. Cracks split panes. Men slip and fall. Animals scatter and trample. At the last possible moment, I flatten myself against the side of the General Store as the Injuns scream on by me. I watch. The sheriff crumples into a pile of flesh. Blood-soaked dirt swells.

My mental switch flips. I turn sharply on my spurs and run against the undulating flow of teeming Injuns. A tomahawk sails past my head and into the wood. Twang! Rifle shots mix with metal slicing into skin. Short screams reverberate between the stores’ walls. Bile and disgust rise in my throat. Sweat overtakes tears that leak from the corner of my eyes. I breathe in hard. And I run. Gasping, I emerge from the human tunnel and keep going. The crescendo of disintegrating buildings fuels an explosion of debris and dust behind me. Its force blasts me onto my face.

The Mill’s foundation cracks opens and yawns. Wham! Earth rips apart with the sounds of two freight trains that crash full throttle. The Mill shatters and disappears. Burning fuel sears my nose and lungs. I taste blood and dirt. My legs shiver. I collapse. I wait for the shaking and the screaming to stop. I close my eyes and come to a standstill.

When I regain awaken, my temples are pounding. I get to my feet, swaying woozily. A familiar shape lies on the ground. I limp over to the other man, kneel, and push him over on his back. I look into the face of my youngest brother, Jesse.

Jesse? Is that you? Wake up, brother. Wake up! Come on. We gotta get out of here!

I shake him somethin’ awful.
He doesn’t move.

Week 11-Day 5-Old Swimming Hole

Old Swimming Hole -> Temptation -> Diamonds in an Unlocked Jewelry Case
The water sparkles invitingly. You reach out tentatively to touch the icy reflection. A million bright lights cut out in angles on the horizon. You squint and blink, pain cutting your eyeballs ever so lightly. Noises! Behind you! You swivel as a thief in rubber-soled shoes, freezing in place. Your eyes scan the scenery for any movement. Only the sound of rippling water greets you. Slowly you reposition yourself and slip your toes in. Pause. No alarms. You put both feet in. Water shimmers around your ankles. No other customers around to dive in. No lifeguard to protect the old swimming hole from intruders. You dive in, the thrill of the chase buoys and propels you. You’re in now. The point of no return. You’re in deep. You rise up for air, gasping. No one’s around to hear you rooting around the place. Yes! You backflip under water. You breaststroke quickly to shore. The place is all yours! No finger prints. You can turn over each piece in the case. Shells, rocks, seaweed, an old boot. It feels good to be bad! No one can catch you now. You fill your heart full of these shiny memories that glitter. Temptation. Fascination. Admiration. You scrabbled out of the pond of liquid jewels, each one dropping off you in a million tiny pieces. You dry off. Water on your skin disappears. Watery fool’s gold. You escape the shop without being seen. No video surveillance to catch your raid. Just dark foot-shaped shadows on the dirt.

Unlocked diamonds in a jewelry case are an old swimming hole 
The pool of glitter temps you. You squint, looking from the corner of your eye. Looking at the shimmer head on? Daggers of pain hit your cornea. Laugher peals out of the swimming hole, temping you to take a dip in its forbidden treasure. Other kids splash and play. They flaunt their watery wealth on their necks. Heads emerge from the black velvety depths. Sun radiates their pearly necks laced with water droplets. The peer pressure bears down on you. You join your partners in crime, digging into the fresh-water case. Joy. Freedom. No parents are around. No lifeguards. Just you, the others, and your wet playground. Water games enrich your day. The unrecorded activities whet your confidence that you will all pull  off the swimming hole heist. Your swimming suit pockets fill with abundance, seep out, then refill. Each fill brings a bigger cache of memories. Adult footsteps crack on sticks. Oh, no. You scramble unevenly to escape your summery den. Hurry! You wave to the others.  Arms and legs brush off the proof of your crime. Towels soak up the blame. Squeals reveal your location. Caught! Your parents see you quickly trying to hide your tracks. Stop! Your father stares. Your mother crosses arms. Feet tap impatience. Come! You hang your head in shame. I’m guilty! Guilty as charged! You lift your head defiantly. Your ear is turned. Ouch! You are dragged away. Your escaped partners watch  from behind bushes as you are dragged away to your punishment: No dinner!

Week 11-Day 4-Western Movie

In this penultimate week to my BerkleeMusic course called, ‘Creative Writing: Finding Your Voice’, we are continuing our work with metaphor. We are given an object (Western Movie); we are charged with picking a linking quality (Adventurous) and a comparison object (Team of Arctic Explorers). We are asked to write for 10 minutes about our topic (Western Movie) but using words from our other object (Team of Arctic Explorers) to describe it. Finally, we are asked to flip it around and describe the comparison object (Team of  Arctic Explorers) with words that you might use to describe the given object (Western Movie).

My challenge has been that I slip confusingly back and forth from one to the other. Or I find the given object (Western Movie) uninspiring.  I read some about Western and Western Movie history, pondered on the qualities associated with Western Movies, and chose one.  It bothers me that they seem to sound similar. I was hoping for something more interesting. Oh, well.  Here’s another link in the chain to building better writing skills!

Western Movie -> Adventurous -> Team of Arctic Explorers
The group decided on their basecamp: Ashtonville, Texas. Two mountain ranges of deserted storefronts formed a central, barren corridor. The harsh landscape warned them from further entry. Winds whistled around solitary cacti in cloud bursts, burn-freezing the inside of the cowboys’ ears with icy fury. The men shouted to each other, signaling with their gloved hands where to drive the the stakes of their spurs. The men took out their pickaxes and started to chip away at the desert sands. They sweated inside their Texas uniforms, bandana’s wrapped around their faces to keep out the dust flying into their skin.  With their backs straining under a dark, ominous sky, the cowboys raised their tents. Standing in a single line, the men passed their tent supplies from one to the next.  When their covered wagon was unpacked, the men retreated to their canvas cave in the middle of their Nowheresville. Mark struggled to zip up the door. The others nailed down the edge of the canvas sides that met the dirt where it was not already held down by their supplies. The men sat around in a circle on their sleeping bags, each one silently unwrapping his protective uniform off his wiry, Texan frame. A small leather waterbag was passed around; each man took the smallest sip possible. A coyote howled. Dust balls hit the side of the tent. The men listened.

Team of Arctic Explorers is a Western movie
The men hustled their animals, their tent, and their supplies down the narrow trail between the two Arctic mountain ranges. The band of five brothers roped themselves together in a straight line. The wilderness called around them. Howls. Cries. A scream cut off. The brothers stopped, swore loyalty to one another, and continued on. The eldest, John, led the way. Nothing would stop them. The sheriff promised the research team a reward: bring home the thief. Get paid. Watch as they hang ’em high! Riches. Feeding their families. Telegrams by covered wagons led by Huskies back East. Warm thoughts of money spurred them on. Gold coin. A hot bath. A hot meal, better than these survival granola-flax-peanut butter snack bars. Roar! A bear stood in their way. On the other side, a frozen lake with an opening. The men huddled under their hats and broke away with shots in the air. Pumped! Full of internal fire, hunger, and need, the men circled around the bear. ROAR! The white bear got down on all fours, ready to pounce. From all directions, the men fired down on the white bear. Red covered white in drips and streaks. Hearts raced. John stepped slowly toward the bear, poking it with the end of his rifle. Dead. They removed their hats, held them over their hearts, and thanked God for their good fortune. The men heaved the bear onto the portable cot, and dragged it back to their basecamp. Yes!

Week 10-Reversing Metaphor Direction

Hello! This is Week 10 of my Berkleemusic.com class, ‘Creative Writing: Finding Your Voice.’

Like last week, we are working with developing our ability to create interesting metaphors.  Unlike last week, we are writing twice for 10 minutes each from two pieces of information, an object and an essential quality about that object.  We pick the comparison object.  Then we swap the order and write about it for another 10 minutes. I’ll stop explaining – Read below. You’ll get it.

Day 2

Teacher–>Linking Quality: instructs –> Target Idea: –>_Pain_______.

Pain: pain, ache, throb, dull roar, stab, hurt, cry, stomach, heart, head, foot, hand, torture, surgery, accident, fall, crash, smash, broken, limbs, hang, tears, beg, mercy, heartless, cruel, cruelty, Chinese water torture, repetition, infliction, shame, humiliation, rejection, desire, sob, hysterics, desperate, desperation, taboo, victim, perpetrator, villain, criminal, crimes, uncompassionate, bound, gagged, masked, scream, howl, whimper, submission, dominance, S&M

A teacher is pain to her student victims, bound helplessly to their seats. We dread yet another repetitive math lesson, the Chinese water torture of numbers. Algebraic equations twist their ugly point into our stomachs. Geometry proofs its whip against our brains. Trigonometry gags us, our minds reeling, gasping, dreaming of escape. Calculus heartlessly inflicts its symbols into our hands that are cramped, exhausted, and sobbing for mercy. Our teacher oversees the exercises in cruelty over four years’ time, twisting the lessons to suit her own purposes: that we learn enough to pass the PSATs. Our tears go unwiped and our prayers unheard. We cower in unconditional submission to the educational pecking order. When free of our parents, we are indentured in servitude to our teacher’s villainous ways. We scurry from class to class, avoiding our teacher’s punishing eyes. Our teacher hang us in humiliation on High School Hill. We are the example, the strange fruit. We whimper in humiliation under the ruler. Our crimes posted in hallways, declaring our guilt. We have been sentenced to twelve years hard labor. The teacher thrusts the unwanted lessons on us, pinning us down in effigy until we learn the point of it all. The dull roar of submission dies away

Pain –>Linking Quality: instructs –> Target Idea: –>_Teacher_______.

Teacher: Instruct, learn, lesson, lesson plan, students, school, schoolroom, classroom, tutor, repetition, test, quiz, pop quiz, grades, grading, progress chart, EIP, guides, children, discipline, enlighten, inspire, critical thinking, skills, life, relationship

Pain is a teacher, laying out its careful lesson plan. Pain points out our flaws, over and over again, until we learn the lesson. Our growth indicates whether we have passed a test. Pain quizzes us on how well we have learned our lessons, providing us with pop quizzes on a frequent basis. We have no time to study. Pain does not follow a lesson plan, or come to the same place at the same time every day. Pain tests our critical thinking skills. Failure is torture. We are sick with anticipation that we have failed. Turn the wrong way and pain stops us, bringing us back to the beginning. We are students in the classroom of life. Pain disciplines us frequently and we are humbled by its power. Failed relationships guide us towards interpersonal growth. Pain enlightens us on the point of punishment, by bringing our eyes into focus on what hurts us the most. Birthdays are our only progress chart. Blind to the future, we grope around in the dark, searching for the light switch but sticking our fingers in the sockets and getting shocked. Our hands stick to the plate from an ungrounded outlet. We pull away, only to be drawn back into the electrical center. Zap! Zot! Muscles tense hard. With all our might, we pull away and try again. Nothing deters us. Into the sockets our fingers go. The intensity holds us hostage and we scream in agony. Our senses are in sharpest focus now, when the pain courses through our blood, electrifying us into action. We leave relationships or jobs. The pain of grade we receive galvanizes us to try again, to improve. Sometimes, our hearts or legs are broken. We close our eyes, drowning out the buzz of teaching pain that circles us like a flock of vultures. We disintegrate from discipline. We pull out hair in frustration at our lack of learning. We cry at life. No fair.

Week 9 Assignment

I hope you enjoy my assignment submission for the end of Week 9 of the Berkleemusic.com course, ‘Creative Writing: Finding Your Voice.’ This class, especially in this week, has been a boon to my writing in conjunction with a technical editing course. I hope you enjoy this piece.

Week 9 Assignment Requirements

  • Choose one of your collisions: Summer -> Carefree -> Children
  • Choose your own point of view: First person narrative (I, we)
  • Choose your own tense movement:  Present, Future
  • Expand in into 300–500 words and focus with your senses.

Summer  -> Carefree -> Children

Children: kids, young, run, jump, play, potential, growth, education, love, chubby cheeks, sweet, fingers, learning, alphabet, reading, crayons, daycare, happy, play games, hopscotch, jump rope, dodge ball, horseback riding, pool, beach, volleyball, softball, baseball, naps, day camp, campers

Summer jumps into the season, giggling and laughing. Passing sun showers hopscotch over our heads. Summer stamps her hot feet through spring’s last puddles. Water fountains splash us playfully. Rainbows draw their colors on the paper-blue sky. Sunrays tag our faces with rosy love. The summer solstice stretches her potential length to maximum. The last days of school peel off in white flakes. A warm breeze rouses us from our homework chains. Freedom becomes our new fresh skin.

Excited Atlantic waves bounce the ferry S.S. Happy Campers on its knees. We wear orange lifejackets, lean over the ships’ bow, and heave in the salty sea air. After we arrive, we burst down the pier. Shoulder to shoulder as we run, we muscle each other out of the way, yelling and stomping our feet. Yes! I win! Fist pumps greet groans in friendly camaraderie. Next stop? Mad Martha’s Ice Cream! We eat our vanilla sugar cones and dig our feet into burning sand. Beach balls hop back and forth over nets. Sand castles rise. Moats overflow. Turrets tumble into the sea. We dig deep, and find joy under pink seashells. For lunch, we unzip sandwich bags with sandy fingers. Coca Cola pops open in wide smiles. Oreo cookies loosely crumble out of our mouths onto damp bathing suits. We nap on cotton towels under a blue umbrella. Comforting sea breezes caress us while we sleep. Splash! Water on our faces! We noisily chase after seagulls with our hands in the air.

Sunset sneaks up on us. Tag, we’re it!  Fluorescent Crayola colors wrap the sky in brief swathes. Dark hues cool our sandy party. What will we play tomorrow? Will we rent three-speed bicycles in Vineyard Haven and meander down-island to Oak Bluffs? Before bedtime tonight, we will imagine putting on plays about our indigenous island ancestors; victory will be ours. Our parents will tell us to go to sleep, but we will read under bed sheets with flashlights until late. Crickets will sing us to sleep. Peepers will peep. We will dream.

Week 9-Day 5-Storm

This is my writing for Week 9, Day 5, of my Berkleemusic.com online course, ‘Creative Writing: Finding Your Voice.’  This week’s writing illuminated for me the power of doing writing on a consistent basis, learning effective tools for creating sense-bound stories, and gaining confidence in what I’m doing. Without further ado, here it is:

Day 5

Find a linking quality for

Prompt: Storm

What quality does my idea have? _________________

Now, using your linking quality, find two target ideas and write your paragraphs exploring each metaphor.

  1. Storm–>Linking Quality: __Depresses___ –> Target Idea: –>__Alcohol_____.
  2. Storm–>Linking Quality: __Turbulent____ –> Target Idea: –>__Plane Rides____.

Storm -> Depresses -> Alcohol

Alcohol: slow, loosening, bad, judgment, social, alienation, drinking, alone, alcoholism, dizzy, nausea, vomiting, hang over, whiskey, rye, gin, vodka, wine, beer, shaky, swallows, gulps, mixer, cocktail

The storm hangs over the Gulf coast, shaking its clouds lethargically. A few euphoric souls weave along the lethargic shoreline. Birds fly heavily between palm trees. The weak stormy cocktail swirls to a halt. Condensation drips down. People ache and groan. Clouds pass out.

Storm -> Turbulent -> Airplane Ride

Airplane Ride: airplane, tarmac, wind, turbulence, bumpy, shaking, sudden, drops, sweating, heart racing, hands, palms, gripping, praying, pilot, scream, vomit, plastic baggie, anticipation, fear, anxiety, mind racing, visualizing

The storm bumped about its contents roughly in the sky.  Thunder and lightning slammed into each other, screaming. Children cried. Parents prayed. Turbulent winds rattled windows. Trees shivered in anticipation. Rodents hid and curled into balls. Fatal visions raced in my mind while the storm bounced around. A sudden boom jolts me away. My stomach drops away. Dizzily, I sway.