Tripio The Novel

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

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.

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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?”

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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

.

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

Writing is mostly rewriting

As promised, I am attempting to keep this blog as current as possible on the progress I’m making on my second novel, the spiritual prequel to Tripio, called Back outta the World. The song above by Terry Allen is where the title for the novel originates. It does not appear in the novel but captures what I feel to be a similar spirit or energy found in the pages.

I posted this in early January, 2020. Since then I have learned two things. The first one is how to embed a song on a post. I may embed the song every time I post about BotW over the coming year. Then again, we both may get sick of it. Let me know. I also realized that I was not done with Back Outta the World. I did not find an editor. That, my friends, was partly the universe telling me that BotW was not done and partly just dumb luck. In short I am back to Back outta the World again. Hey, don’t say your sorry. I have enjoyed this pass even more. Which means the rest of this post resonates even more.

A good thing it is also fun

There are passages in the Back outta the World that I enjoy tremendously. In reviewing, revising and enhancing those passages, I believe that I am making Back outta the World a better experience, a better product if you will, for all future readers.

For example, I must have been temporarily visited by genius when I revised the section where Jay and his friend Kyle visit a casino in the UP. Here, I compare the green velvet covering the poker and pool tables they are visiting that night to the green of the grass of the yards that Jay and Kyle played on as kids. Kyle is Jay’s security blanket. Jay is having doubts about the purpose of the current road trip and the future he sees beyond that. Even if Kyle is not a wonderful person, Jay finds comfort and reassurance in his presence. Kyle’s presence doesn’t help in this part of the novel, as the old friends are about to get tossed out of the casino.

Poker Table - Texas Holdem Stock Footage Video (100% Royalty-free) 9983510  | Shutterstock

Botw ExcerptThis fake green table was just another yard to play on.  Just like the pool table. Jay was free to play here too. His own game though, not controlled by the clicking chips.   He had left his world and traveled good ways to meet up with his oldest friend and they were now together at a casino in the Upper Peninsula. Not that this casino even mattered.  The forms had all of Jay’s chips but they had been here before him and would be here after Kyle and he left.  Jay and Kyle had their friendship and the lasting historic strength that it gave them both.  The dealing continued. Jay and Kyle made more jokes among themselves. One wordless form got up from the table. Jay no longer wanted a seat at this table. Jay and Kyle didn’t need plastic, clicking chips telling them how to have fun. Their secret, shared history was revealed to the other forms by way of their jokes and loud laughter.  This was now their yard, their green playground. The players of the other game in their yard became less important. They had no idea how to play the new game in Jay and Kyle’s yard. They didn’t get the point. Now was a moment in the history of the two’s friendship and who cares if it were in front of a table or even an entire casino full of wordless strangers?  Kyle and Jay weren’t here to break any of their rules, just to play by their own, as far as Jay could reason.  These forms were taking the plastic, clinking chips too seriously, or just doing what they were told by them. Either way, Jay and Kyle were laughing and playing a fun game.  So, when two very large and very silent  uniformed men arrived and stood between Jay  and Kyle, they knew what to do. Their game was over. Time to go home for dinner.  This time, Jay was a couple steps ahead of Kyle, as they turned away from the green table and left the other players to return to their own game.

“There is a peasant in every novelist”- F. Scott Fitzgerald

As I said, I now really like that bit in the book as revised. And even more a year on as revised again. The problem is that, as of this morning, there is no way of knowing if I improved that passage in Back outta the World one little bit. The attainment of external validation for a novelist is a slow process. A good thing I have two coffee makers to get me through. After I finish this post and cup of coffee, I am going to spend an hour or so working on the next part of Back outta the World. I placed the quote above in this post because I believe it applies directly to working on a novel. One has to work the soil everyday, as a peasant would. It doesn’t matter a hell of a lot what I think about what I did yesterday, or last year. If I don’t work the earth today, no one one eats tomorrow. A bit dramatic I know, but you get the point.

May I help who’s next?

 “Always perform your duty efficiently and without attachment to the results, because by doing work without attachment one attains the Supreme.” – Bhagavad Gita

It is a Monday morning. In the interest of full disclosure, I had scheduled this to be an off day so I have the day off from my job. Last week was a long week at work which is not news to anyone. Read on and I promise this post will get a bit more incisive. It had been since New Year’s Day that I had any extra time off. I don’t get sick. That blessing is even more appreciated in these times. I get up and go to work. It is what I do. It is what I did while helping to support four kids for over two decades. I did that before those days. That trend continued so far this year and I hadn’t needed a sick day. But I needed “a day.”

So Thursday when I received a text from my daughter saying she was coming home for the upcoming weekend, I was quite happy. She and I would now have be able to spend the weekend together without me going through the machinations ones goes through to get ready for the work week. One thing she and I did was explore the new and nearby Bottleworks district and go to a movie. Masks on the entire time, we saw ‘Nomandland”. I saw the film in many ways to be about work, working for a paycheck and what happens when the work you’ve known disappears for good.

Starting the work week

During Nomadland my mind went back to few minutes earlier that day when I was clearly not working. I was on the couch channel surfing and stopped at Remains of the Day. There was the lovely of Emma Thompson, a gifted thespian. Yet, I fancied her comedy talents from the series form way back called Alfresco. I stopped surfing just as Emma left the screen and waited for her to return. I have never read the book nor seen the entire movie so I had no idea when Emma would return to me. The next scenes involved an old servant at the estate where Emma worked who was close to getting sacked. Anthony Hopkins who was in charge of the estate, had reassigned the old servant to a different role and was explaining the specifics to him. The old servant had worked there 52 years. He got the purpose of the new tasks and before Anthony Hopkins had finished explaining everything. He then turned and pushed his cleaning cart off in the direction of the brass door handles he was tasked with shining. I sat up straight and thought, “Damn! That’s me.

The remains of me

The physical act of pushing something to get to somewhere to do something closely resembles what I do for a living. It is not glamorous but it pays the bills. Like me, the old house servant went straight to work. Got to get to work. It is what he does. It is what I, and nearly all of us, do. Obviously, Remains was not written with me in mind. The scene itself may not be the guts of the film or book. This particular scene spoke to me. The movie was not made about me. But it and Nomadland, got me thinking about why I was working this morning, when I was not at work.

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There are a lot of reasons and motivations why I work on the books and this blog morning after morning. I can’ deny that one powerful one is to create a revenue stream against the time when no else sees value in my work at work. I have experienced the work world as random, arbitrary, and unforgiving. This has not been the case everywhere but it has scarred me. I have been downsized, let go, laid off. Me, who gets up and goes to work because, like the old house servant, it is what I fucking do. So for some years now, I have decided to put my faith in myself and spend as much time as I can reasonably spend creating a revenue stream that only I can control. I can not downsize myself, I can’t eliminate myself from the org chart, I can’t find a younger me to replace myself. I can’t be remotely sure that any measurable amount of revenue will ever come from all this. However, I will gladly take that deal. Because you can bet your ass that sure as the next day dawns, and the one after that and all the ones I am around to experience, that I will, if I chose, go to work at it.

Makes sense to me.

“May I help who’s next?”

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“I’m sittin’ in first class and they can all kiss my ass, ‘cuase I’m goin’ back baby, back outta the world.”

      In Tripio, the protagonist Jay is writing his first novel. It is a road book. One of Jay’s literary heroes in Tripio is Jack “That’s not writing, that’s typingKerouac. It is in character for Jay to have attempted his first novel based on the two month road trip he had taken as part of his aimless post college graduation life. Tripio starts with Jay nearing the end of writing the novel. He is not exactly struggling with the ending of it. After all, it is finite. The book will end with end of the journal he kept for its duration. Jay is confronted more by the fact that he is afraid he doesn’t even know what the book he has almost finished writing, has worked hard on, is even about.

   In real life, that was also true. Today, I describe “Back Outta the World” as a road trip in which the main character’s mind and body are on two different trips and meet at the end. I only came to that conclusion as I reworked Back outta the World (BotW) prior to starting Tripio. I arrived at this conclusion approximately 20 years after I finished physically writing BotW. You will have to buy and read Tripio to find that section describing how I felt upon finishing BotW . I will tell you that it is one of the few parts of Tripio that remains word for word in the novel, as it was recorded in my journal on that day in my Chicago apartment over twenty years ago.

         If I am promoting and publishing Tripio as a Starbucks novel, reflecting on it daily now as the story of my early adult life, then I am writing about my writing twice over. In other words there could be no Tripio without BotW. Yet, In Tripio, I was hesitant at first to even give Back outta the World a name. Early in the writing of Tripio, I referred to BotW as “my writing” or “the novel”. Then, as I began to feel confident and came to see possibility of completing, publishing and marketing of Tripio, I made it a point to name “the novel” embedded in Tripio. In fact, I had too. In order for Tripio to “work” (you be the judge), BotW had to be a powerful, named presence in Jay’s mind. It had to be identified so that it could carry it’s third of the book.

I found it!

The Day I found my novel

Most importantly and to the point of this post, I did find out what Back outta the World is about. It is not recorded in however, in Tripio. It is in the above entry from my journal, or Sketchbook of the Mind, or Sotm, from 2016. I frantically recorded the moment on the page pictured above. I remember standing over the entry and thinking that it was so incredibly obvious that when I was writing Botw that I was chasing my own “monkey mind“. As a young man in those days that became Back outta the World, I had no idea. I felt that events came at me. I felt I was watching things happen to me instead of making them happen myself. I did not know it consciously then, but it showed up in the pages of BotW.

To conclude, it did feel good to realize I could and did find my monkey mind. As to the Red Apron recipe, I believe this moment helped me understand that it is best, for me for me at least, not to “write” your novel so much as “find” it. I hope for your sake it doesn’t take 20 years. Your interpretation of this recipe will take all shapes and forms for your work. But, believe me, it is always there. Write honestly with inward attention and intention and it, the novel, the meaning, is always there, waiting. I do think a lapse of time between rewrites helps. I am not recommending waiting two decades. A middle path will appear for you and your work. To put it another way, don’t write to finish your novel ( they are never really finished anyway) to sell it. Rather, write it and then let it do the work for you. It will take rewriting and rewriting and hopefully not two decades but what comes out may surprise you and will be well worth it.

 

Don’t try to write your novel, find your novel


“May I help who’s next?”

Starbucks Logo: Evolution of coffee brand |

Have you looked into getting it to a publisher?’

“Tripio. The book?’ I responded. Howard appeared to be not overly concerned with my book sales. ‘Oh, yea early on. But I found the process to be too much like looking for a job. Like sending out countless resumes…and crossing your fingers. I have had enough of that in my life.”

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I paused a second to consider that response. I did send some queries out to literary agents early on. I reasoned that someone who received my query would like have a cup of Starbucks on their desk, just returned from Starbucks, or had stock in the company. I told myself over and over that Starbucks still moves the meter. But the random nature and “pick- me, pick-me” element of it all brought back too many memories of lay offs, restructuring and downsizing. There were too many scars, too many similarities. Direct publishing put everything in my hands. I didn’t know what I was doing but it felt way, way better. I did not want to get into my financial status with Howard. Pay check to paycheck would sum it up. Year after year. Tripio was right though. I did find my calling in becoming a dad. A windowed one for eight years. Now, I was sitting across the table from a millionaire who was in the coffee business with me a long time ago. It struck me suddenly that I should have called him in 1994 when I was considering leaving Starbucks. I was Lead Clerk at the store at the Metra station. I had a headache for two weeks as I decided what to do. Sitting here now, as a man changed so much by what happened in the four years I worked for Howard Behar and Starbucks, I know if I called him, he would have listened to me. Maybe he would have given me more wisdom. I mean, he is asking about my life now and he has no reason to. It would have been so easy. Instead, as the silence between us grew, I asked a question anybody with a blog and who had ever been to a Starbucks could have asked,

What do you drink when you come here?”

A tall american with an extra shot. You?”

Why You Shouldn't Air Your Dirty Laundry on the Internet – Daily Plate of  Crazy

‘Oh, I like to stay with a grande, or whatever they call it these days. Coffee of the day.” My mind was still too close to the money, the times of unemployment, my financial dirty laundry. If my old boss asked about it, I’d have to tell him. I didn’t want to, so I stayed with coffee. “Speaking of coffee…what did you used to say? We’re not in the coffee business-“

We’re in the people business serving coffee, not the coffee business serving people.” Howard smiled as he finished. He seemed to enjoy taking that trip back to his Starbucks days. He glanced again to the street. This time he saw what he was looking for. ‘There’s my wife with the dogs. She doesn’t like to bring them around on her walks. Too many people ask about them. She wants to get her steps in.” It was friendly and matter of fact, but Howard had to go.

Ok. I’ve got to get to work.” I said, knowing it was also matter of fact.

He and I stood up, both looking to make sure the table was clear of any debris. Had to be clear for the next customer.

Well, thanks for your time. And thanks again for the blurb. I’m redoing the cover to highlight it.”

Sure.”

If I run across any alumni from Chicago I’ll let you know.” I said as a send off. I had only really looked for Kevin Knox and Howard Behar. I did not look for any of the people I worked the most with and based the characters on. Mark, Doug, Sarah. The list goes on. I have had the passing fancy of tracking down all 500 or so recipients of that first IPO in 1992. I would write a quick page or two about each. What become of them all? Who, like Howard was rich and who like Kevin Knox and I were not. I was not sure why I offered that to Howard. But he seemed to appreciate it and smiled at me, adding,

‘I’d like that. Good to talk with you. Best of luck on the book ” Howard waved to his wife across the street. He looked back to me, “And especially with the family, Jerry…. You sound happy.”

Thanks, Howard. I am.

“May I help who’s next?”

HOWARD BEHAR AND I ‘TALK’ AT A STARBUCKS

Starbucks Logo: Evolution of coffee brand |

You know the store where Tripio takes place is gone now?” I asked Howard next. I had no idea why.

Oak Park?” He looked back from the street to meet my eyes.

No. The one on the corner of Diversey, Clark and Broadway. Dickens is stll there, though.’

I thought you lived in Indy

“I did, I mean. Still do. My youngest son just started college. Well, on Zoom in his room. My oldest two sons both graduated from Purdue. I call them the Fantastic Four.”

‘Four?’

“Yeah. I have a daughter. She and I went to Chicago to research Tripio. Plus, I took her to Chicago as a present before she went off to college. And just to see if what I remembered was right. I could talk about the Fantastic Four for days. Anyway, Diversey was closed. The whole building is different now.”

Diversey and Dickens. Yea. Both had the the espresso bar as theater. You know, there were 28 stores when I moved there. Looked up a few years later and there were 300. The pace, the growth did cost us some really good people. That’s one thing I would say I regret.”

Tripio excerpt- It’s been just over 3 years of my life spent here. All of it gainfully employed by the *Cosmodemonic. Every day I go in something big could happen: stock split, a new market, a headline in Barron’s about some agreement we’ve made to buy a competitor. In fact, we are soon going to have cafes going up inside Mega sized bookstores. And I am one of the quickly shrinking percentage of people who got the first stock grant. There won’t be a second one. No second chance to spill apple cider on my khakis as a toast to the event. I have taken to telling customers that you will never see a Cosmodemonic at a rest stop along the highway or in a strip mall. Now, I can’t be sure of anything. People I started with those 3 years ago are scarce now. The coffee god is long gone. So is Candace. Mark. Lost track of Doug. Kati may be next.

* In Tripio I call Starbucks the Cosmodemonic Coffee Company

From cars passing on the street out front and even to the people walking by, Howard and I were just two guys talking at a Starbucks. A scene so commonplace that no one would even notice. One had so much to do with making it commonplace on the grand scale and one by steaming milk in the trenches. Howard talked evenly, without embellishment of those days, making no claims of greatness for himself. He was talking about his Starbucks days like he had left those days well behind him. I didn’t ask when and why he left Starbucks. I was enjoying the old memories as well. The stores had a certain scent when you first opened them in the early morning. The first thing you did was start to brew the coffee of the day into huge canisters. They were breaking down doors to get in back in those days. If the open didn’t go well, if your location was behind when you opened the doors, it was like Helm’s Deep. As the huge urns brewed they produced different noises at different parts of the process which one could here throughout the now empty store. As an opener with a key, I knew that if I had certain things done by the time the first urns were full and fell silent, then I would be ready to open the doors. I wondered there and then what Howard’s private, seldom recalled memories were. Not the ones in other interviews and books. I did like the chicken soup one from earlier. I wondered more really, how they made him feel, or what actions they produced. His memories were his and mine mine. He left Starbucks and so did I.

As Tripio brilliantly tells, I could have stayed and been a yacht buying millionaire like my coffee drinking,and one time colleague across from me – If I stayed for just 20 more years. Life took me in other directions. It had other plans for me and they did materialize. But, I never left Starbucks truly behind until I wrote Tripio. I am sure I partly wrote Tripio as a cathartic exercise, in order to release, at last, the question of “Why didn’t I stay?“. All this recollection only took a second or two and I was about to ask Howard when and why he left Starbucks but he beat me to it with a question of his own.

So how many copies of the book have you sold?”

121.” I responded quickly like I knew. I really had no idea. I had lapsed into “my boss asked me a questions so I better have an answer” mode. Maybe I hadn’t left Starbucks completely behind me after all.

I do know that that Tripio was 117,422 on Amazon in October.
Starbucks Logo: Evolution of coffee brand |

Kevin Knox answers another of my questions

Question-In the blogosphere, Starbucks seems to be an easy target to hate on for easy clicks. It tends to bother me. Does it bother you? Or is it deserved?

Kevin’s Answer-I think most of the criticism is uninformed. Howard Schultz deserves enormous respect on the business side (along with enormous disrespect for lying to those of us who built the business and not including us in the gigantic stock option windfall of people like Behar, Olsen, etc. who were at best peers in terms of actual coffee knowledge and expertise of people like myself and many others in middle management who got nothing).

As for industry criticism, in order to earn the right to criticize Starbucks you need to have surpassed them in the quality and consistency of the coffee you offer and few if any of the newer chains or even regional independents meet that standard. There’s a lot of arrogance out there on the part of people who never spent the years learning best practices from the Italian master roasters (e.g. Illycaffe) and Peet’s, never apprenticed with master cuppers, etc.

Anyway for informed criticism of both Starbucks and the Third Wave folks who think they’ve improved things I humbly recommend my now largely dead coffee blog:


http://coffeecontrarian.blogspot.com

How Howard Schultz conquered self-doubt to build Starbucks
I don’t hate Starbucks or Howard, even though he mispronounced my name.

Tripio Excerpt- At the Open Forum I saw a lot of faces I didn’t know. But plenty that I did. Of course, it was a lot of the same people from last week, management, that is. The big exception was HS of course. I had never seen him in person but liked his vibe even from across the room. When he got up to speak, he sounded different from Dennis’ impersonation from last Christmas season. I did have to smile to myself, recalling that, as I applauded HS taking the podium.

Like everyone else in the audience I sat in silence and listened intently. It was mostly all great news. The Cosmodemonic is just getting started and not taking any prisoners. HS didn’t put in those terms but that’s how I remember it. And I very clearly remember HS saying that “They are going to write books about the Cosmodemonic, people.” That stuck in my head: write & books. The reasons are obvious. The reason I don’t’ remember much of the rest is that a few minutes after the speech was over, HS called some partners to the stage for recognition. I was one of them. He called my name about halfway through the presentation (he mispronounced the last name and I politely corrected him), handed me a Cosmo Bravo Award and shook my hand. It was for the “exceptional customer service experience” demonstrated to the Midas guy who bought a half pound of everything. Recognition in front of everyone. From HS himself.

“Anyone can have an opinion” -Pete Townshend from White City