Tripio The Novel

How I found my mind, brewed some coffee, and learned to write novels.

A red apron recipe-practices to put your mind in writing shape

This year I celebrated New Year’s Day on my yoga mat in my garage. That is what I have been doing for the last several years now. If you are a little confused, I will be happy to explain.

It not about the calendar. I fully realize the appointed NYD is January 1st. That day is the designated day to begin a commitment to a resolution or two or three that will change us all for the better. However, as most of us have experienced, after a week or two, they gone. Why is that? If you will allow, I think I understand a little about why that happens.

In this unfathomable existence here on earth, in the constantly changing time period we take on our physical forms, there is no such thing as a “one size fits all” solution. We are all very different. Take a look around. Am I right? In fact, there is no other way it can be. It is the fact that we are all different entities (as safe a word as I can find to use, which is a discouraging enough practice, reflecting these times) that ultimately unites us. But, in the case of New Year’s Day, this is not be good for advertisers, alcohol sales, and the people who make the pointy party hats. Since we are all unique and wonderful as we set upon our life’s journey, our point of true reflection, recharging and rejuvenation must all be unique. Think of someone you don’t know very well giving you a gift of a new outfit that you will be obliged to wear. It doesn’t fit, the colors look bad on you but it’s from your boss or in-law so you feel like you have to wear it from time to time, mostly for their sake. An extreme example would be having to wear a life sized pink bunny suit like Raphie in a Christmas story. It just doesn’t’ work for you.

Let’s share the customary New Year’s Fun as we should. But to start on a path of real change that has a way better chance of taking hold, I think it works better and makes more sense to find your own starting point.

My point of renewal and recharging happens to be late July on the shore of the Ohio River. Cue Dick Clark. Don’t know him? Is Steve available? Ryan..? No matter, Here goes.

My realization journey to the Ohio began seven years ago as purely a get away from a recent family tragedy. I found the immense and indifferent flow of the Ohio River soothing to my core, to my mind, heart and soul. I had to get back. That much I knew.

I have returned with some or all of my adult children each and every year. Over the years the mid summer trip has, for me, evolved into as much a spiritual pilgrimage as a summer holiday. It’s a holiday week. I spend it having fun but also taking spiritual stock of myself during the past year and even years.

Nikiko | Pixabay

This year long intention has come to be manifested by the “drift log” rite or practice I now perform annually on the shores of the Ohio. The river never fails to give me a sturdy, nearly two foot long drift log to take back home with me. The river bank is full of them. Once back home it I put on my front porch in summer, on the buffet in the winter. Both places easily in view and accessible. They need to be because as the year proceeds I take physical reminders of the year and attach them to the drift log: receipts, lists, appointment reminder cards, flyers for Tripio events, personal notes. The good, bad, happy and sad get stapled or glued onto the drift log. By vacation time each year, the drift log is full, carrying the attachments of the year with it.

Then, on one of the days of the summer vacation when the river seems receptive I head to the shore with this years drift log. I’ll call this New Year’s Eve. It is always very early in the morning when the river is calm like glass, and I can feel the power and energy of the water. I know it is time for the toss. It is like the ball dropping on Times Square, less crowded, less noisy but with a hell of lot more significance, intention and energy. I begin my countdown. I take some breathes as I review the array of glued and stapled reminders of the year.

10post it from last August with Tripio’s Amazon sales figure

9- a sticker I was given to wear declaring I had been scanned

8 -reminder card for a trip to the dentist-

7-a appointment reminder card for therapy

6– quick concept sketch for cover of Back outta the World

5– flyer for a Tripio event

4- post it to remind myself to renew WordPress account

3 a card I wrote over twenty years ago to the mother of my adult kids

2– receipt from a trip to Kroger- and at

1I throw it as far as I can throw it! I release this year’s drift log. It take its time coming down upon the indifferent water. It splashes, settles for a second or two and begins it’s trip to New Orleans or somewhere I will never discover.

I am lightened, renewed, freed of attachments to events from the previous year and years. I can go back to the laptop and work for the sake of working, write for the sake of writing. My New Years Eve. Not the midnight ball drop on Time’s Square, but considerably less random a lot more effective starting point to begin intentions for the following year. I have space to take them on now. I have already started to prioritize them. I will begin to incorporate them into my life in a few days on my yoga mat as I mentioned above.

I will follow up on this red apron recipe post in the very near future. I really prefer not to do that. I did not intend for it to become two parts. Oh well, why attach?

May I help who’s next?

It’s no longer 2020!

The tale of two Starbucks green aprons

Starbucks Vintage Aprons | Mercari

I am reading “How Starbucks Saved my Life” by Michael Gates Gill with great interest and a good deal of empathy. I am marking Starbucks 50th anniversary by attempting to read other books on Starbucks that focus on the baristas, and not the business. My novel, Tripio, does that brilliantly. I had not choice however, since I began my career there as a barista. How was published in 2007. Tripio in 2018. Tripio takes place at Starbucks in 1992, and How in and around 2007. The years between 1992 and 2007 represent almost unimaginable change in the small barely regional company for which Jay Altonstreet put on the green apron. Since Jay in Tripio actually started in 1990 the contrast is even more telling.

1990
Starbucks expands headquarters in Seattle.
Unveils Starbucks Mission Statement.
Total stores: 84

2007
Eliminates all artificial trans fat and makes 2 percent milk the new standard for espresso beverages.
Opens stores in: Denmark, the Netherlands, Romania and Russia.
Total stores: 15,011

STARBUCKS GREEN APRON - Used - Barista Uniform 2020 - $18.75 | PicClick

See what I mean? But the numbers can not do much more than look back at you. If you closely though you will clearly see both Tripio and How.

“That’s the way we do things at Starbucks”

The company experienced by Jay in Tripio and M.G.G. in how would seem to be worlds apart. The company they each experienced was different. The protagonists in each book could not be more dissimilar. The books are told in a way reflecting these distinctions. The unification comes from the fact that the two books are each telling one person’s unique story while working at Starbucks. I wrote Tripio in large part to release the experience of the Starbucks years. I worked there during the Starbucks IPO and left a million dollars behind when I took off my coffee stained green apron for the last time. MGG “felt numb” at the prospect of starting his job at Starbucks, already a global corporation.

How is the story of how MGG undergoes change, transformation ands personal growth. Gill admits to a lot of his faults in How and tells how their consequences led to him working at Starbucks. Jay’s story is similar in that I wrote him the intent of keeping in all of his faults. He is selfish, convinced he is unique, and wants to do with his life want exactly what he wants to do, even if it means hoping for a mis-carriage for a child he has fathered. His faults contribute to him leaving leaving a million dollar IPO payoff behind when he quits Starbucks.

Telling figures

Tripio and How by their nature must also include baristas as major figures in their respective tales. For MGG it is his hiring manger, Crystal. For Jay that person it is a barista named Kati. Tripio features characters based on dozens of real life baristas and store managers who day to day, latte by latte built the Starbucks MGG went to work for. His baristas and managers work to improve on what the people in Jays’ time created.

The two tables of figures above made me say “Damn, look at that.” How and Tripio due their part in telling the numbers story also. I am finding How worth reading so far because like Tripio, it tells the equally important story of the real, actual people behind those numbers. Writing this now, many years later, I miss the crews I worked with. Those days at Starbucks still vibrate in my person, still resonate in my mind. Hence books and novels that tell the stories of real people, not numbers, money and data. How and Tripio tell the equally, if not more, compelling story of what happens after the tills for the the day have been counted, after that stupid green apron is untied and thrown in the dirty laundry bag on the way out the door.

I know this is red apron, but you get the point

Tripio a novel: 3 Shots: Starbucks Millionaire, Novelist, or Father?
How Starbucks Saved My Life: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else by [Michael Gill]

A book I wrote, a book I am reading

This year Starbucks is celebrating it’s 50th anniversary. I thought it was time to mark the occasion by reading books on Starbucks. I have written and published an historical fiction novel called Tripio, set at a Chicago Starbucks in 1992. Firstly, my comparative study of Starbucks literature focused on the books in green apron and behind the people. Secondly, this rules out the books written by Howard Shultz, Howard Behar or any of the dozens of books concerned with how Starbucks succeeded financially since 1971. As a result I did not include the endless fictional stories either set at a Starbucks, or have a scene or two take place in one of the locations.

Coffee industry legend Kevin Knox described Tripio as “much needed contrast by showing that the lifeblood of the company in those formative years was the idealism, sacrifice and hard work of the baristas.” I went looking for told from the perspective of the green apron wearing barista. “My search came across Michael Gates Gill’s account called How Starbucks save my life. Even if his book is auto biographical, I feel the comparison holds up because Tripio is at the very least, emotionally autobiographical. In Tripio and How, the characters are wearing the green apron (and a red apron in my case) and are primarily baristas doing work behind the counter.

Here are my thoughts after reading Chapter one of How Starbucks saved my life. Stayed tuned for more of my comparative study of Starbucks literature.

HOW THEY ARE THE SAME, HOW THEY ARE DIFFERENT

  • Michael Gates Gill was a customer before he got the job. I interviewed at Starbucks, never having seen one before then.
  • He had 3 girls and 1 boy. I have 1 girl and 3 boys. He provided money, I provided time.
  • Tom Hanks nearly made How Starbucks saved my life into a movie. Tom Hanks credits the Wright State University theatre department for helping him get started on his illustrious career. I went to Wright State University a and some characters in Tripio are based on WSU theatre department grads.
  • His work life took him to Starbucks in desperation. I went to Starbucks full of aspirations (to be a writer).
  • He drank lattes. I drank Tripios, of course.
  • Michael Gates Gill liked the sound of his name. I don’t like the sound of mine.
  • He didn’t like yoga. I do.
  • His Starbucks was in New York, mine in Chicago
  • M.G.G. was married and getting divorced. Jay was single and becoming a parent.
  • M.G.G was asked if he’d like a job. Jay was asked if he loved coffee.
  • M.G.G. was “an old fart’ looking for direction in his life. Jay was young man looking for direction in his life.
  • I started keeping the journals that became Tripio when I worked at Starbucks in 1990. Gill and Gotham Books published How in 2007.

I found point eleven worth considering. I often joke that when I worked at Starbucks, it was still a coffee company. If anyone has a title to add to this “comparative study of Starbucks fiction, please let me know. Thanks!

There is no judgment here, just detached observation

Don’t translate, answer.” Those were the instruction from my Russian professor in college. He wanted his students to answer his questions posed in Russian as responses, not having taken the extra step to translate from Russian to English to Russian to answer. I have something similar in mind with the thoughts I’m listing below. They are collected from my Sketchbooks of the Mind (journals) from the recent past. When you read them, just think them over. No need to like, comment or even agree or disagree. I’m not after clicks, as is so often the intent of “list” posts. In other words, “Don’t click, think”. Have fun…

Ten thoughts to think over or even over think

One cannot breathe yesterday's air
The universal truths are universal because the the truth in them is different for everyone
My mind is my dedicated work space
If you don't posses it, you can not address it
If you can't let it go, at least let it flow
America is the land of cardboard boxes
The journey is not difficult once you decided to take it
Live cheaply to sleep deeply
It's not the book, the painting, the creation that matters, but what the creation creates that is most important
My life is hard enough for me to appreciate just how easy it is

Ten thoughts to think over is over

A RED APRON RECIPE

It is Sunday morning and soon I will head off to my local Get Fit for my mental and physical self care routine (masked up for the duration). Sure, I go for my physical cardio workout. My goal, as suggested by my GP, is to elevate my heart rate several times during my time on the cross trainer. It isn’t easy. But the getting up, the climbing, the few moments of increased effort to achieve an accelerated heart rate is what does the most good for the heart, veins and cardiovascular system. Simply running in place for 20 minutes with only a slightly accelerated heart rate apparently has little benefit. The climb up is where the effort is and the resulting benefit attained.

Like so many, I must have music while I exercise. I use my Pandora app to select some workout appropriate music. I can’t it all the work here, people. Recently, I’ve set it to feature Abba. Reason being that if “Mama Mia” doesn’t get me moving, then it just isn’t my day.

There’s a fire within my soul

MENTAL CARDIO

Since Pandora is free it has commercial interruptions. I know I could move on to an upgrade or source my music via Spotify or some other means. However, this task never seems to make it to the top of the pile of things to do. So, I stick with Pandora and the commercial interruptions, even if I have started to loathe them more and more. It took me a while to understand why I became progressively less tolerarnt of these distractions during my cardio sessions at the gym. Then, it hit me.

My mental cardio session is meant for my mind, my body and for me. I am moving, sweating, while unifying my body, mind and spirit in the process. It is a private time when the three of us communicate intimately amongst ourselves. No one else is invited. How dare these commercials try to steal my thoughts at this precious time when my best thoughts are doing me the most good? I consider the commercial interruptions an act of trespassing, especially when they begin by yelling “Hey!” to grab my mind away from me.

I used to simply rip out my ear speakers and toss them violently off my head until my phone said the commercial was over. I was then safe from a commercial violating my mind for several more songs or hopefully until the conclusion of my workout. Still, I felt cheated of several minutes of my empowering workout time. The good news is that I have recently found a solution, a middle path. And no, it wasn’t found on the phone.

The mental cardio middle path

It is not switching apps, accessing a different source for music or ditching the phone altogether. It struck me a few visits to Get Fit past to use the interruptions to make my mind healthier, just as interval training makes my cardiovascular system stronger by making it stop, restart and climb again and again. Let’s call it mental cardio. A time I now recognize as a combination of mental cardio as well as physical.

MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS

So later today when I make to my cross trainer, I will apply the middle path wisdom and use the commercial interruptions as my interval training for my mind. You see, typically I have found that when the body is moving that the mind, especially the subconscious mind, is most productive. So I listen to my mind while working out and it usually brings me pure, fearless thoughts for my books, the blog and my life as a whole. I later use these healthy, self generated thoughts found during my mental cardio to apply to my life in positive ways. I have seen it work. To have an unwanted voice try to reach into my mind during this time is unacceptable to me.

So, when I’m on the cross trainer and a thought stealing commercial comes on, I will smile. I will simply remove the ear phones calmly and begin my middle path inspired mental climb. I will start “the climb”, which to reiterate, is the part that does the most good. It strengthens my mind against unwanted distractions, interruptions and commercials. By practicing mental cardio I will find them easier to ignore, which is the last thing the folks behind the commercials want out of me. So, to them I say, bring them your distractions. They now make my mind clearer and stronger. So, Flo from Progressive, Jake from State Farm and legions of others, I want you to give this post some thought. Unless of course, it is a distraction for you to do so.

May I Help who’s next?

“May I help whose next?”

A reasonable question

“Are you mad at Starbucks?” My editor asked me over the phone. He had just finished reading an excerpt from Tripio. I had sent him an excerpt from in middle of Tripio. He offered that it had been his experience in editing that writers most often refined the beginnings and ends of their manuscripts. He felt that an excerpt from somewhere in the middle of a manuscript offered him a clearer picture of the job ahead. So, I had send him a what he asked for.

Another reasonable question

 “Why are you calling Starbucks the “Cosmodemonic Coffee Company”?

 I had not thought about it all that much when writing Tripio. I think because it is how I referred to Starbucks throughout the journals that I kept during the early 1990s when I worked at Starbucks. Those journals were the source material for Tripio. It should obvious that I could only be referring to Starbucks when I subbed Cosmodemonic. I saw no urgency or reason not to call Starbucks by the name Cosmodemonic when writing Tripio. Tripio is the authentic telling of how I interacted with and related to Starbucks when I worked there. But no, I was not mad at Starbucks.

Is Starbucks Cosmodemonic? He would know.

 Why Cosmodemonic if you are not mad at Starbucks?

My future editor was fine with that but was also interested in the “Why?’ So, I explained further. In Tripio, the Jay main character and his new lover Kati, who also worked at Starbucks, both had read lots of Henry Miller at the time their romance starts. Henry Miller briefly worked for Western Union and referred to it as the Cosmodemonic Telephone and Telegraph Company. In Tripio, Jay and Kati use Cosmodemonic as a nickname more out of homage to Henry Miller than anything to do with Starbucks. My editor was not at all sure readers, even readers of Henry Miller, would get the reference. He said that he would like to see me provide a clarification of my use of Cosmodemonic. I told him I would do so.

In Tripio Starbucks is Cosmodemonic

Since Tripio is at least part memoir and there are many passages where Jay is taking notes or reviewing his SotMs, he also uses Cosmodemonic, “to keep work out of my mind as I take notes and go about my off hours”. This shows the struggle the protagonist Jay faces in Tripio. Jay moved to Chicago to “test his metal as a writer, not to find a career.” He is also actively questioning whether he has what it takes to actually succeed as a novelist. The safer but less writerly option is climbing the ladder at this fast growing coffee company he has been working for over two years. In using the word Cosmodemonic in his personal journals Jay is identifying himself more as a writer, like Henry Miller, than just as cog in the growing Cosmodemonic/Starbucks machine.

I just checked an on-line dictionary site and found that no definition for the word Cosmodemonic exists.  Since Henry Miller is no longer alive, I can’t ask him for his permission to use the word. Too bad, because I would also liked to have asked him what he thought about the Cosmodemonic Coffee Company.

                                         “May I help who’s next?”

I use Cosmodemonic 199 times in Tripio


My Toilet Keeps Running Every Few Minutes | Keep running, Diy toilet  repair, Toilet repair

THE SEARCH IS ON FOR AN EDITOR

I’m in the process of finding an editor for my next novel. I am in the process of searching for answers, looking for outside help. I am in the need of expert assistance for something I can’t do as well as they could. This happens so often in our world that we don’t even know it happens so often, as it happens. I don’t bake my own bread, darn my socks or remove my own bodily waste from my house. This is all done for me. All I have to do is complete a transaction.

In the case of the latter transaction, my toilet often runs a bit afterwards, so I have to jiggle the handle to make it stop. It bothers me to have to do so after I ‘ve left the room to return here to write. I can hear the annoying running noise from at my laptop two rooms away. I sigh or swear, get up, and go back to the bathroom to jiggle the handle. This interruption usually costs me a thought or two. It may have cost the world the thought that would have led to a literary masterpiece. Or not. The point is, I have finally taken action to produce the resources to do something about that toilet. I now have the money get it fixed. Why take any more chances on denying the world some of my wisdom, a great novel or an insightful blog post?

NO LEGAL REQUIREMENT FOR AN EDITOR

The running toilet has also taken its turn in distracting me from finding an editor for my second novel, Back outta the World. An editor is a must for any writer- what a boring sentence– see what I mean? Anyway, in this day of direct or self publishing, you can press “publish” on Amazon or your platform of choice and off your work goes in the infinity of the virtual book shelf. There is no law that says that your masterpiece needs an editor. I am not here to criticize anyone who had done this. It has occurred to me to do this with BotW many times. I could do it today and be done with BotW. But, it would bother me. BotW would not be the book it could be. It would bother me, much like the noise a running toilet produces from several rooms away.

Book Editors for Hire - Book Editor Questions and Answers

The process of finding an editor goes on. But I did find someone to fix the toilet. In fact, I decided to redo the whole bathroom. I had three different companies visit the house and each looked over my bathroom in their own fashion. A full bathroom remodel amounts to a substantial investment. I have to mention here that my downstairs bathroom was once a back porch. It was made into a full bathroom sometime before we moved in. Hence one wall faces the outside. It’ s the wall with the water pipes and so it freezes when the temps drop enough. Each of the three companies and I talked process, price and the people who do the work. All three companies had faucets, shower shells, and towel racks. But only one took the interest to ask a couple more questions, to get understand the origin of the bathroom itself.

I WANT SOMEONE TO DO THE DIRTY WORK

I could not answer some questions. Hey, I just live here. So I led them to the crawlspace off the basement that was under the bathroom. It was there that one of the guys, using his phone for a light, crawled into my crawlspace. He then crawled, of course, to the far wall. There, now on his knees, he found a piece of plywood that allowed access the the floor under the bathroom. I did not know that space existed and I’m into my third decade here. He removed it and was able to examine that.

After he managed to extract himself, brush off the dust and shut of his phone light, he told me things about my bathroom I did not know before. He told me that there was an old heating tape that ran around the pipes. He also noticed a damper valve half closed on the heating duct that led to the bathroom. No wonder I had been showering in a meat locker for twenty years. He opened it all the way. I would be warmer the next time I stepped in and out of my shower. The work hadn’t even started on the room and already this company had improved my bathroom. He took the time to understand the the dynamics behind why the bathroom was cold. Fixing a running toilet would be no problem for this company. We had a deal.

AN EMOTIONAL DECISION

That is what I am looking for in finding an editor, people. I don’t just want a transaction. When we bought this house those two plus decades ago, the realtor said something I have always remembered. She said that buying a house was an “emotional decision“. So is parting will a novel and handing it over to an editor. This not just a transaction to me. If I am going to do that, I want an editor to go into the novel’s crawlspace, find things I never knew existed, and make the book better. No luck so far. Maybe, when I’m no longer distracted by a running toilet, I will be able to find such an editor.

MAY I HELP WHO’S NEXT?

TRYING TO FIND MY WRITING MIND

Fishing for the writing mind

Even now I am practicing. I am looking for my writing mind, searching for the one thought that will begin this post. I am trying to plant thoughts, grow thoughts, cultivate thoughts and produce a post. But that is getting ahead of myself. I just want one sentence. Hell, I’ll settle for a phrase, a name, the name of a place. All this would be easy enough to do if I went looking for it out there with a click or two. But then that’s someone else trying to get at my unique writing mind. I don’t need that, nor do I want it. So, I take another sip of my coffee and wait for my subconscious mind to send this post to me, then to you. When that happens, this post may not perfect, but it will be mine. It will be original.

Writing Back outta the world

Why it this relevant? Because, I have just finished my second novel, Back outta the World. I am intentionally giving myself a week or so to honor myself, to congratulate myself. I once read that it is way too prevalent in this country to ask someone who has just achieved something remarkable, such as high school or college graduation, to ask them “What’s next?” Consequently, I have tried to make it a practice instead to say to the achiever, “That was quite an accomplishment” or “It must have taken quite a lot of work.”

Of course, being human, we are most often extremely hard on ourselves. I am no exception. If my life is a kitchen, then I am my own hangry Gordon Ramsey peering into the fridge and seeing blood from his onglet steaks dripping on the radicchio. It was with some difficulty then that I was taking this week to say to my writing mind, “Well done on the novel. You did it. You must feel proud of yourself.

As the week went on, in spite of my opposing intentions, I observed myself thinking about what to do next with Back outta the World. I have to find an editor and cover artist, start social media marketing, decide on genre to place it in. Those of just some of the steps taken with Tripio. I have done them before. I was able to let my writing mind process most of those thoughts away. And yet, I was still observing my next project, my “what next?” making itself at home in my subconscious mind. I could not just shut the fridge door and walk away.

The Writing Mind for Ironjaws

I had written ‘Ironjaws” so long ago I could hardly remember much about it. I had not even opened the file for about 5 years. It is a novella in length and the next work of mine I’m planning on getting published. My plan all along was to begin to work on it after BotW was up and selling. Towards the end of my week of trying to shut out the “what next?” I gave up on that plan and read Ironjaws and laughed out loud several times.

I decided then and there to apply a lighter touch to Ironjaws, to attempt to add a even more laughs to it. Ironjaws is the story 5 boys on a fishing trip the last weekend before 8th grade school year starts. Once at the lake they have a chance encounter with “a man in red baseball hat”, who tells them of a fish who lives in the lake named Ironjaws. This fish has hundreds of rusty hooks in its mouth and stomach because it’s “too big and mean to be caught.” I couldn’t wait to start working on it. I knew that I really should be doing more practical things on social media, Amazon etc. but it was too late at that point. I had started mentally began to write Ironjaws.

“The follies of our youth…

One thing I remembered after reading Ironjaws for the first time in 5 years was that I didn’t like the very first line. I needed a different line to open the story. A line that would capture the excitement of being at a fishing trip with your friends just before you start the school year again. Where would I look for such a thing? In my own mind of course. I thought of a line attributed to Chesterton. I found it via a Monty Python skit, so don’t think I am that well read. It is, ‘The follies of our youth stand in glorious contrast to those of our old age.” That will be in Ironjaws somewhere certainly. If in spirit only because this group of 8th graders would not be working Chesterton into any of their conversations during this fishing trip, unless that is, he wrote jokes for Playboy.

Image result for vintage playboy cartoons
Not written with the mind in mind

But thankfully that one thought I thought of become another. It was a memory of ditty sung by my friends and me a lot during those years caught in Ironjaws. And so Ironjaws will open with Jimmy, or Boxhead as he is nicknamed, looking over the lake, where Ironjaws may indeed live, and chanting “Got a skeeter on my peter, knock it off, knock it off. Got a skeeter on my peter, knock it off, knock it off.”

My own mind did bring me a better opening to Ironjaws with one thought I thought. And I am grateful. Yet, It brings me a new issue with it. Because now I can’t get that damn ditty out of my head.

“May I help who’s next?”

See the source image
WHY AM I UP THIS EARLY?

Have you noticed, as I have, that there has been a good deal of content focusing on the benefits of getting up early? There are podcasts, posts and articles everywhere extoling the benefits of getting up early. I came across podcast on Linked In called The Six Morning Habits of High Performers, by Pete Mockaitis. Not to brag or boast while I sip my coffee over my morning toast, but I’ve been doing my own, very similar morning regimen for several years now. I’m not talking about just getting ready for the day. I have been getting up early as a means of setting my mind and intentions in the direction I feel is best for me. I like to say the morning is the best time to do this because the rest of the world is not awake to distract me with their intentions for my mind.

My morning routine usually includes a few minutes reading a wisdom book, journaling, a few yoga asanas, then some time writing for the books or the blog. All this in done in and around several mugs of coffee. It’s duration is dependent on work start time and day of the week. For me, the morning thing people are preaching to the choir.

“You never get tired of feeling good” – me

My wisdom reading, my reading for my clear, respective and energized morning mind, most recently has been a Shakespeare sonnet. Even on weekends when I have more time, I read just one sonnet every morning. It is about all of that iambic pentameter I can take. But I found it to be as good a mind exercise as reading a bit of the Bagdavida, or page or two of Dear Theo, both of which I have recently used in my morning routine. Yet, I have never been called to read much Shakespeare and it isn’t something one normally does voluntarily. I am of the age that it is a recommended that I get a colonoscopy. I did that. Now comes reading Shakespeare. Both are highly recommended but do you really want to do either?

As I said, I never did. However, I finally had to see for myself what all the fuss was about. So, late last spring, I read the old paperback copy of Hamlet that had been around the house forever. Later that summer I read Oscar Wilde’s essay on Shakespeare’s sonnets. The lengthy Wilde essay was less a discussion of the sonnets themselves but more his learned opinion on whether the sonnets were written to a particular person, of which there is much academic debate, of a particular gender, of which, in those days, there were only two. Reading those led me to find old Riverside Shakespeare that had also seen sitting around the house forever.

For my current morning routine, I first read the original sonnet several times. Next I write a guess as to what it’s about in my journal. Then I read a modern English interpretation. The process is completed when I watch and listen to Patrick Stewart read that sonnet with my eyes going back to the original. It is a good way to create the open mind and intentional thought you want in your head to start they day. To me, that is the greatest benefit of my early morning routine.

As for Shakespeare the man

NoSweatShakespeare – Making Shakespeare Easy & Fun✔️

No Sweat Shakespeare

As for Shakespeare as a whole, I’m not saying there’s not wonderful language and imagery in Shakespeare. In fact, to even begin to get into all of it is simply too much for my mind on this particular morning. I know my limits, as demonstrated by my one sonnet a morning practice. I only have time, space and intent enough in this post to recommend coming at Shakespeare not when it is not forced on you. Sure, I did voluntarily read both Hamlet and Oscar Wilde’s essay on the Sonnets last summer but avoided Shakespeare during my years of formal education. However, for the purpose of this post I also recommend coming at Shakespeare via Ben Elton’s series on BritBox called Upstart Crow.

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Ben Elton wrote or helped write some of my all time favorite British Comedies such as The Young Ones and Blackadder. Upstart Crow is indeed funny. The episode where Shakespeare attempts to explain the plot of Hamlet to the actors who laugh at each machination thinking the play is a comedy, was cathartic for me and perhaps for anyone who has been told how great a tragedy Hamlet is. And, it still may be a great stage play- I haven’t seen it. But when I was reading it, I kept thinking that Hamlet and his screwed up family would have made good guests on an episode of Jerry Springer. It was already clear that with them in charge that Denmark was never going to achieve superpower status in the coming centuries.

I think a secondary reason I enjoyed the show was that it often portrays William Shakespeare, as a man with a wife, kids, a commute to and from Stratford and day to day worries. One would have no trouble reading hundreds of academic volumes about written about Shakespeare’s life. But for me, Ben Elton’s presentation of Shakespeare as an ordinary guy made his works way more accessible, approachable and appealing. And more than all the academia, classes, and textbooks combined, persuaded me to finally open that 1926 page Riverside Shakespeare to read a sonnet every morning. Sure, Shakespeare may be the greatest writer in the English language but he still was just a guy in puffling pants trying to get through his day, starting with what must have been a hell of a morning routine all his own.

When I most wink, then do my eyes best see

REVISIONS OF ME

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This is me?

One thing writing can do is that it forces a writer reflect on who you are, were and with a bit of intention, design and align who you are going to become. Today, I received an email from Terry Allen saying that I could use his song title, Back outta the World as the title for my metaphysical road novel. Feel free to check out Terry Allen now or after finishing this post. For me, the email was the unofficial end to the writing of BotW. It was the light turning green telling me it was time to head off to editing, publication, and since this country demands validation through it, monetization, of the novel. In my thank you reply, I told Terry (God knows why I felt compelled to do this) that I felt a bit of “postpartum blues at finishing the novel” and that it “been with me such a long time.

Point from the Village of Me (Ghost Ship Rodez)
A Terry Allen work which is perfect for this post. Would you believe I had no idea it existed before I started the post?

THE LAPTOP SCREEN AS A MIRROR

I first heard Terry Allen’s music in St. Louis on the weekend I attended the historic Davis Cup match between John McEnroe and Mats Wilander in 1982. That match was as engaging and tense a tennis match as one could hope to see. I remember being damp with sweat as I sat watching. In and around that weekend in St. Louis, after showering, I remembering hearing a Terry Allen’s song called “The Great Joe Bob Went Bad.” I have been a fan of music since, coming his art a bit later. I feel that in a metaphysical sense, that weekend is when I began writing Back outta the World.

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Is this me?

Writing this post now in central Indiana on a 12 degree day during a Pandemic, I am struggling a bit on where to go with it. Like the beat up yellow VW van in BotW, I could go anywhere. I could head off to the dreams I had of playing tennis professionally, to playing shortstop for the Reds, to becoming Ultraman. I am trying new SEO software on a new laptop, so I could look to Key phrases or even additional Key phrases for direction. Not really, no. Because if you’ve read these post you know that ain’t gonna happen. Keywords will not provide any help in finding out how the hell yours truly went front scribbling on a yellow pad in the back of a van in the 80’s to being a single father of four young adult children.

I think one way to do that, to take that journey, is to write about it, to take a look inside. And how did I come to that understanding? Partly or even mostly by writing, writing and rewriting BotW. Also by reading BotW over and over and letting it tell me things about myself. The book is a road trip where Jay’s (me) mind and body are on two separate trips and meet at the end. This is a realization I came to during the third rewrite, which itself come to be after a two decade hiatus in which I barely recalled BotW existed. Yes, the actual words have gone from the yellow pad to typed pages to laptop screen. Like the novel that is now BotW, I have undergone different versions of myself as well. And I am not still talking about SEO, word counts and punctuation. When I went to that Davis Cup match in 1982 I still had hopes of making a living playing tennis. But those tennis pro dreams were fading even then. That great match rekindled them for a short time. In the 30 years or so since that Davis Cup weekend when I was first introduced to Terry Allen’s’ music, life has given me the above mentioned four adult children and a hell of lot more in the bargain. At times, it looked as if life had given me more than I could handle. One way I began to believe I was able to live my life with my own intentions was by writing. And, thank the heavens above, I have discovered that it works and continues to work.

I really like this book

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Or maybe this is me…

I am aware now that I need to continue revise myself. These days I view the thirty year journey of rewriting BotW as a mental makeover. An ongoing practice of looking at me through the book. I like to say that novels are never really finished. If that is true then it must be true of it’s author as well. Today I find myself finally happy with the latest revision of both the book and of me. That may only last this one day. But, I’ll take it because it’s the book I’m reading right now.

“May I help who’s next?”

The online me

Terry Allen is definitely not me. Terry Allen / Artist / Songwriter