GenX Pulp

I never go on vacation without taking along at least a couple of books to read. This past weekend, when we went Up North, was no different.

I brought along two short story collections and two novels. But then one day Colleen and I went into Petosky and hit the bookstore while we were there. Colleen wanted something to read, in addition to the stuff she wanted to read for work.

I recommended Into the Woods, by Tana French.

Not because I’d read it but because several of the librarians where I work couldn’t stop praising it. This novel has been getting a lot of buzz, along with her follow up, The Likeness.

I, however, was not planning on getting a book for myself. I don’t often buy books anymore. And I don’t really need to be in the market for a book to browse a bookstore. I just like doing it. But in this case I did buy a book — Severance Package by Duane Swierczynsky. Something about the cover really caught my eye.

It was pulpy and sexy, and kind of comic book-ey. But then I read the little synopsis on the back. And I knew instantly that I was holding a Generation X piece of fiction. GenX pulp fiction, to be precise. Just check one of the blurbs on the back that reads;

“Begs for the next Tarintino to direct.” — Booklist on Severance Package.

Shit. That says it all.

More to the GenX point, the story is about a bunch of employees for a front company that does intelligence work for the government that are called into work one day on a Saturday only to learn that they are being eliminated, by which I mean killed, not just laid off or fired or downsized or whatever the fuck corporate America is calling it these days. The set up includes strong distrust of corporate America as well as the US Government. And it satirizes the corporate climber as soulless psychopathic killer. This, in addition, to enough pop culture references, including at least one Star Wars, is plenty of evidence to cal this cool book a GenX work of fiction. Perhaps not literature in the highest sense of the word, but so fucking what.

I haven’t finished reading it yet, but will no doubt plow through the remainder tonight and tomorrow.


Advertisements

Up North

Just got back from Up North where, like so many other Michiganders (as well as people from other states, such as Illinois, Indiana, New York, Kentucky, and even from other countries such as Canada), my family and I spent the Labor Day Weekend. A mass exodus from the lower part of the state to the upper part of the state is an annual tradition come Labor Day (also Memorial Day and 4th of July) here in Michigan. If the state of Michigan were a giant scale you could literally feel it tipping northward as people piled into their vehicles, loaded down with camping equipment, food, bicycles, water sporting goods, etc, and head up I-75 (mainly) for Up North. If you remain behind, which we often do, you can literally feel that there are less people around.

Of course, Up North in Michigan means different things to different people. For us it means Brutus, Michigan, a literal crossroad on the map, on 31, half-way between Petosky and Mackinac City. My in-laws have a cottage up there, although I use that terms loosely, since their cottage pretty much dwarfs our house. It has two big bedrooms with their owns baths, soon to be three when they finish the downstairs, plus a room for kids with two bunk beads and another full bath down the hall. It has a big wood deck and digital cable.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking it. It’s nice. But it doesn’t really jive with my childhood up north experience, which meant my grandparents’ cottage, which was about the size of a big garage, with a couple of very small rooms with bunk beads and one bathroom that was so small it was difficult to move around. Showers were limited to five minutes — there was an egg timer in the shower. Also there was a sign above the toilet that read: IF IT’S YELLOW LET IT MELLOW, IT IT’S BROWN FLUSH IT DOWN. There was a small black and white TV that got only two stations, both of which were fuzzy, despite the big antenna towering above the tree tops. Didn’t matter. We didn’t waste time watching TV. From the moment we got there until we collapsed from exhaustion we were going, running, heading to the water, playing in the creek nearby, mucking about with the local kids. I remember there was a small store and gas station with a bait shop and this old phone booth in what was called town.

Anyhoo…now, being in Brutus, means knocking around Petosky, which has a lot of money and big summer houses, or in Mackinaw City, even Mackinac Island, if you want to drop the ferry fee. There is also Burt Lake. And this year we rafted down the river nearby, the name of which escapes me at the moment. This year it also meant watching Return of the Jedi broadcast against the wall of a building in the park downtown.

For us, Up North, also means sleeping late, read a lot, going for walks, sitting around a fire late at night.

Oh yeah, Addy went tubing for the first time. At first, she didn’t want to. But her aunt offered to go with her. Once Addy got a taste she was hooked and ended up going alone. She loved it.

Normally, Colleen is the one that goes for walks. I usually lazy around as much a possible. But this time I decided to get up off my butt, since I seem to keep tipping the scale in the unhealthy direction more and more these days. There is this trail that was once a railroad bed with track but the parks services have pulled up the tracks and the trail is there for walking and biking, perhaps cross-country skiing and snowmobiling in the winter. I covered a few miles and it was pretty cool. I’m hoping to bring my bike up next time to ride the trail, see where it’ll take me. My understanding is that there is a trail that runs from Gaylord up to Mackinaw City, and I’m wondering if this is the same one.

Like I said Up North means different things to different people. It isn’t strictly a geographical location. It is a sense of place. A way the air smells, and the way the wind blows. For me in particular it is pine trees and the way they smell in the cool air, but even more than that it is blanket of fallen pine needles on the ground beneath the trees. That reminds me of my earliest trek up north, with my dad and brother, on a camping/fishing trip, way up in the UP. It left a real impression since my family didn’t often go up north. We usually headed south to see relatives in West Virginia. Also, it is an image from that Hemingway short story, Big Two-Hearted River, the main character, Nick, beds down for the night on blanket of brown pine needles.

Up North isn’t just a place on the map, it is a place inside you. It is memory itself.

Anyhoo…before I get to weird about it. On the drive back I wanted to mark the approximate place where I sensed that we were no longer Up North. And near as I can figure, driving on South I-75, it ends around that spot where the green sign above the expressway displays I-75 and 23 South, announcing Saginaw, and 23 North veers off toward Standish. It is not at Saginaw proper, since at that point Saginaw is still some 20- 30 miles away, but at that particular place on the expressway. After that the land flattens out, feels too open to be Up North. I think the Pine tress were all but gone too.

I’m old but I can still play Dodge Ball like a mf’r

Of course, that was Sunday, at my nephew’s 13th birthday party, and I am still recovering. I’m not kidding. I’m limping around like an old man. I have to hold on the railing just to get up and down the stairs. My thigh muscles kill. So does my back.

You  know what this feels like? Like the morning after the first day of football practice when I was in high school. The only difference is back then, when I was — what? sixteen — I got up and went to practice again. Now — shit! I have a hard time getting my socks. This aging shit suck ass!

But you know what? I’d do it all again. Because I fucking love dodge ball! And I am a serious about it too. When I saw that they were play, I swear, the hair stood up on the back of my neck. And I felt thist tingle of delight run all up and down my spine. I jumped right. I wasn’t waiting to be invited. I think it was that first throw that threw my back out. I felt it. But I didn’t even try to take it easy.

See. I was pretty much a skinny little shit in high school. I had to play pretty hard just to be competitive at most sports — football, basketball, etc. But at dodge ball I ecelled. I’m not exactly sure what it was. A combination of things I suppose. I was quick, and had good reflexes. I reacted well. I once dodge four balls all at once, like some kid of rubber guy or whatever. I couldn’t throw the ball very hard — my arms were just too skinny — but I was pretty good at misdirection and I learned to throw the ball low, spin it, make it curve a little. Also, I think I thrived on the relative chaos of Dodge Ball. I feel comfortable in it; I feel like I can see or somehow sense everything that’s going on. And I liked creating chaos in that context too. I don’t know.

I mean. I don’t usually toot my own horn, but I’m a pretty damn good dodge ball player. And I love to play. If there had been an Olympic Team I would have tried out. Seriously.

So why haven’t I played in years, decades even? There are leagues. I don’t know. I really don’t.

Of course, I may have been a bit too serious to be playing with younger kids. My poor niece. She’s only 7. And I almost gave her a concussion when I attempted a cross court throw just over the top of her and it got a way from me, pegging her right upside the head. We’re talking dead on- BAM! (Sorry Kendall) Man, I felt bad. She was okay, though. Whew!

NIN Toledo show sucked!

Don’t misunderstand. That’s nothing against NIN, Trent and company. But the accoustics at the SeaGate Conference center were pretty lame. But you know, I could have lived with that. What choice did I have, right?

No, what really pissed me off were the assholes that push up toward the front when the concert starts. We had main floor, just like Colleen had at The Palace on Saturday. And we got their early enough to be about five rows back center, and after the warm up band we managed to get up to about second row. It was pretty cool. I’d never been that close and I wanted to see a show close up for once at least part of it. But fucking A! Once the lights went down and the band came out there are these fuckers who just shove right up, trying to get up front, passed the people who staked out a spot early.

This bullshit is nothing new. And I know I probably sound like an old crank. But really, I could deal with people pushing up on me. That’s to be expected. But it’s these 6’4″, 200lbs plus dudes that clearly have a fucking homo-erotic obsession with Trent. They just used their weight to press down on you. And I had three of them converging on me. I lasted one song and decided, fuck this shit! Colleen stayed, of course. You can’t budge her.

I suppose I could have just lingered in the back. The view was fine. But I was so fucking pissed. I mean, I had a hard time breathing, I felt like I was about to be trampled. It pretty much induced a panic attack bording on low-grade PTSD. So I left the main floor and went all the way to the back and sat down on the floor with  my back against the wall.

Sitting there, I remembered why I didn’t do this shit anymore. It isn’t any fun!

Although when a guy tripping on acid sat down next to me it got a little interesting.

But then I saw the fat fuck in the sleeveless t-shirt with the mohawk that almost crushed me. I wanted to pull out my car keys, hold them between my fingers in a clenched fist and punch the prick right in the fucking throat. That was when I knew I had to get the hell out of there.

So I bolted, and walked around downtown Toledo.

It was a nice night, cool and breezy, bud damn that place is a dead town after dark, let me tell you. Probably would have been even deader if there hadn’t been a Mud Hens’ game going on. I really needed a smoke but could not find any place that sold cigarettes. So, I found the bar where Colleen and I ate before the show, had a beer and watched the end of the Tigers’ game against Cleveland. Tigers fucking lost!

Shit night! Needless to say I will not be doing that again.

NIN encounter

Colleen is all geeking out because we met Trent Reznor last night. He was sitting in the park in downtown Birmingham and she just could not pass up the opportunity to talk to him.

NIN played the Palace in Auburn Hills on Saturday and the band stayed at the Townsend Hotel in downtown B’ham. A lot of famous people — entertainers, politicians, athletes — stay there when they are in town. The hotel caters to that kind of clientele.

Anyhoo… Colleen of course went to the concert on Saturday — whenever NIN is on tour she attends as many venues as she possible can. I was supposed to go with her but ended up not. She took her younger brother, Adam. The tickets were main floor/general admission. They started out third row center but by the end up of the night Colleen was right up front on the rail, first row center, and came home all giddy over getting that close to Trent. He made eye-contact with her several times. [swoon]

If you don’t know my wife or haven’t already guessed, she is a huge NIN fan. Of course, I dig them too. Back in 89′, Pretty Hate Machine blew my mind and became something of soundtrack for the fucked up summer before I bolted Warren to go away to college at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti (yes, I know. it isn’t exactly like heading west for the coast of Cally or anything like that, but still, it was getting out Warren, which if you’d ever been there you’d understand why Ypsilanti seemed like Shangri-La to me). And, as a GenXer, I consider it to be a pretty important album. I know that it is common to assign Nirvan’s Nevermind as the seminal Generation X album, especially for disaffecated white kids from the suburbs like myself. And I wouldn’t really argue with that, in general. But for me, in many ways, Pretty Hate Machine, is THE album, my Generation X album. Still, I am not nearly the fan that Colleen is.

However, I will be going to the concert in Toledo with Colleen tonight (I did go, but I wrote this yesterday). It should be pretty cool because it is being held in a high school aduitorium or something like that. I’m not down with the exact details. Colleen, of course, is.

But back to meeting Trent — OMG OMG OMG OMG! Returing from a b-day party for our nephew, we decided to go see Tropic Thunder, which was fucking hilarious BTW. Driving through downtown B’ham, we saw the NIN buses still parked in front of the Townsend Hotel. But then we saw the guitar player lounging on the lawn outiside the police department, reading a book. Actually, Colleen noticed the guy. I would never have picked him out, although with his hair and purple socks and this cool hat he was wearing, I might have suspected. I told Colleen to call out the window to him, tell him it was cool show last night, but she wouldn’t. Then Colleen saw some guy walking his dog, and said that she thought that Trent took his dog(s) on tour with him. So we parked around the corner and decided to take a stroll through the park downtown, just to see what we could see, you know. Turned out, the guy walking his dog wasn’t Trent. But then we saw him, sitting on a bench with some girl, and he was fiddling with an iphone, it looked like.

We passed them. At first, we weren’t going to approach him. But Colleen really wanted to. So we circled and finally went in for the meet.

It was brief. We talk to him for maybe a minute or two. Actually, Colleen is the one that talked to him. I just sort of stood back. I didn’t want to crowd the dude. Colleen told him that she’d been to the concert the night before and thought it was great and that she’d been following him since 94, really loved his music etc. He thanked her, shook her hand. He shook mine too. And that was pretty much it.

Colleen was glad that she did it. It would not have mattered to me that much if we had not gone up to him. I’m not real big on going up to famous people. I figure, what’s the point? They don’t know you. And honestly, when you get down to it, they don’t really give a shit. I mean, only as much as they required to becasues it’s bad PR not to. But for Colleen it was different. This encounter was like 15 years in the making.

When Colleen was like 16 she went to a NIN show and got backstage or whatever. Trent said hi to her but she couldn’t bring herself to talk to him. Ever since I think she’s been waiting for the chance like the one we had Sunday. So that was cool.

Me, I didn’t really say anything. I just sort of stood back and was glad to be able to shake the dude’s hand. But it was strange. The whole time I was standing there, I kept looking at his shoes and thinking, hey, those are pretty cool. I wonder where he got those? But it would have been way too lame to ask. Right?

While we are on the subject of Trent’s attire. Funny how anyone else wearing a black t-shirt, black shorts, black socks and shoes in the middle of August, sitting in the park, would have looked like a dork, but somehow it worked for him. Go figure.

A day in the life of a GenX hubby and daddy

I’ve been thinking. One of the reasons JenX67 chose me as her Michigan Generation X blogger is because “I am a husband and a father.” So I thought it might be interesting if I gave a quick run-down of a typical day in my life, and hence my family’s life.

First off, I would say we are a pretty GenX family. My wife, Colleen, is ten years younger than I am, so she is a latter GenXer, which actually affords some interesting differences in attitudes. But perhaps more about those specifically at another time.

So here is a typical week day in our house.

I get up first, at about 6:30am. We only have one bathroom in our modest approximately 1,100 sq. ft. ranch that sit on a slab and so has no basement. By time I am done showering, Colleen and our daughter, Addy, who is seven, are starting to stir.

While Colleen showers I try get Addy on track, getting her breakfast. While Addy eats I get dressed.

Because I work less than a mile away from our home and because Colleen drops Addy off at school/summer camp in the morning, I try to ride my bike to work whenever I can. I manage to to do this at least 2 or 3 times a week. Sure, it may not save a ton of gas but it does save some and it’s a bit of exercise, although not as much as I should get. I recently read that the currently recommended amount of 30 minutes five days a week doesn’t really cut it. It should be about 55 minutes a day seven days a week.

I work at the local public library. Even though my job as a cataloger can be pretty tedious I like it because: 1) it allows me the flexibility I need to be available to my daughter ; 2) it does not tax my brain, leaving me me with intellectual energy to expend on my writing in the evenings ; 3) it is not a corporate drone job, I’m actually doing something that I feel is worthwhile, contributing to my community.

After work, I bike home if I’ve biked to work, get the car and pick up my daughter. I get Addy a snack and help her with her homework etc. She can watch a little TV until dinner is ready.

Colleen has the career. She works in Market Research and is quickly moving up the ladder. She is impressive at her job. Which is good for our family because she makes good money. Of course, this means that sometimes she has to work later.

Often, Addy and I have eaten dinner before Colleen gets home. Even if she does not work late she has a pretty descent commute. I do not envy her that. I used to commute I-696, when I worked in corporate information publishing, perhaps the suckiest job I have ever had, and the commute was one of the suckiest things about it.

But there are times when we all eat dinner together.

We may watch some TV together as a family in the evening. But we try to turn the boob tube off most nights and play good old fashioned board games, like Sorry and Life and Battle Ship, Uno, and card game call Rat-a-Tat Cat! We don’t do a lot of video games in our house. In fact, the only kind of video game system that we have is one of those $14 dollar jobs they sell at Target. You now the ones that are just joystick that you plug into your DVD Player and you can play old school games like Ms. Pacman, Galaga, etc. And we don’t even play it that much anymore. I got nothing against video games. As a kid, I loved Atari, Odyssey, Intellivision, and the first version of Nintendo. But with the distractions of TV and the computer/internet, we don’t really need video games to waste time on as well.

On school nights, Addy goes to bed between 7:30 and 9pm, depending on how tired she is, how tired Mom and Dad are, and any number of other factors. She gets either a piggy-back ride, which doesn’t require an explanation, I don’t think, or a monkey-ride, which is like a piggy-back ride only Addy wraps her arms and legs around my from the front, or a what she calls a snake ride, in which I toss her over my shoulder so that her head dangles down behind me; I however call this one that sack of potatoes ride since that is what my dad used to call it. “Look,” he say, holding one of us kids over his shoulder. “I got a sack of potatoes.”

Once Addy is in bed, having brushed her teeth and taken a shower if necessary, Colleen and I might watch a movie or just some regular TV. Whenever I can, though, I try to sit down at the computer and work on my novel.

Also, in the evenings sometimes Colleen may run to Yoga for a workout. Or I might go for an extended bike ride.

Later in the evening, once Colleen has gone to bed, I might try to write, or blog, and usually end the night reading myself to sleep, nodding off around 11pm or so.

And that’s pretty much a typical day.

Kudos to Colorado

What for?

For switching from coal to solar and wind power:

Following discussions lasting several days, the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) backed the power company’s voluntary decision to close the two coal-fired plants at Denver and Grand Junction, making Xcel the first utility in the U.S. to make such a move solely in an effort to reduce emissions.

Check that — it was voluntary, not forced, and “solely in an effort to reduce emmissions.” Right on!

Now what I want to know is why can’t Michigan do anything like this for crying out loud?

This kind of thing goes under my personal heading for reasons to get the hell out of Michigan, which is a fine state but is being run into the ground by bone heads in the state capital and other assorted yahoo, and moving to a state like Colorado.

Also, Mork lives in Denver!

And I’m pretty sure that the Bronocs have a better chance of getting to the Super Bowl than the Lions. But then you could probably say that about most any other NFL team, right.

Of course, it is home of the Avalanche and they suck my Detroit Red Wings fan ass, so…

Decision, decisions.