A Crow Of My Own

I spend an inordinate and embarrassing amount of time trying to get crows to love me.

It began simply enough. A trip to a local wild bird store, where an old Hispanic woman sweet-talked me into buying $200 worth of bird-enticing machinery for my yard. The task was simple enough: Teach me, sweet old Hispanic lady, how to attract crows (non-sexually). She said the crows would be there. She told me they would come to think of my home as their own.

I left out the first batch of peanuts in my yard with the excitement of a kid leaving cookies for Santa, convinced that I had all the ingredients to tame the local crows. Flythrough feeder. Metal pole thingy. Unshelled, natural peanuts. These were going to be some fucking healthy crows, all right? I am a benevolent lord, and I feed my children well.

I've always had a good relationship with crows, saying hello to them as I pass by, "accidentally" dropping chips while I try to feed myself. How clumsy of me. On more than one occasion, I've put my own life in jeopardy swerving my car to avoid a crow who just couldn't bear to be apart from its roadkill.

How hard could it be to get a few crows to eat free peanuts?

You guys. It is so fucking hard to get crows to eat free peanuts.

Occasionally, when the psychotic stellar jays are away, there are moments of blissful silence, broken suddenly by the faint caw of migrating crows. I spring from the couch and dash to the back yard, anxious, as always, to see if any crows are headed my way.

Once, four of them perched atop the roof, staring down at the bird feeder like aliens observing a foreign planet. When I ever-so-delicately opened the sliding back door, shaking a handful of peanuts as I approached, they did not budge. "Success!" I thought, prematurely.

The moment I put the peanuts in the feeder, the crows flew away.

Why? Why would you do such a thing?

Just yesterday, a single crow, who I call Lone Wolf, left the pack and sat in a tree in my back yard, watching me as I filled the bird feeders once more. I cooed to Lone Wolf, shaking the peanuts in my hand. "Come on, crow," I pleaded. "Have some fucking peanuts."

Placing the peanuts in the feeder, I went back inside, hiding behind the screen door with all the tact of a TV cop. Lone Wolf stared at the feeder, and I can say that because I was watching his eyes, okay? His black, heartless eyes.

Minutes passed, maybe hours, and then suddenly, Lone Wolf flew away, leaving the peanuts untouched.

Coming up next on "20/20"

Elyse, better known as my significant other, my fiance, my ladyfriend, my non-platonic Leia Organa (I'm Han Solo in this fantasy, obviously), and I have been obsessively watching "20/20" for the past week. I don't know how it started, but it doesn't appear to be stopping, much like a snowball rolling down a hill of shit gathers more shit.

It is a baffling television show, full of the twistiest-blend of melodrama and laugh-out-loud reenactments ever assembled on network television, but it's been on the air for 37 seasons, so there's clearly something to the formula. What that something is, I've yet to discover, but I'm pretty sure it has something to do with the state of Florida.

Two hosts, a man I call Haircut and a lady whose last name is either Vargas or Fargas--I do not know her first name--present each episode with the requisite "we know something you don't know" of bridge trolls. It's pandering, but dammit, I do want to know what they know, and they know it!

The problem, at least in our household, is that I have very unique (I'm told that means 'difficult') standards for which episodes I will watch. Elyse is more than comfortable diving into any episode, happy to uncover the jewels buried within. I, however, will only watch --for reasons unknown, even to myself-- episodes involving intricate criminal puzzles that the police have to piece together. If it's not a reverse "Oceans Eleven," you can count me out.

As you can imagine, this has caused some consternation between myself and the future Mrs. Solo, as the number of episodes that fall into my acceptable category are quite limited, and browsing for them through Hulu's remarkable UI is about as enjoyable as bathing in a tub of rusted thumbtacks. For other reasons unknown, I do not like to hold the remote (too phallic?), which means Elyse has to navigate through Hulu. Poor thing.  Can she view the title of an episode? Sometimes. How about a brief description of the episode without having to click on each episode individually? You wish! What if she does click on an episode and doesn't like the description, does it take her back to the last location she visited? No. How about you start over, asshole.

How far this obsession goes seems directly correlated to our waning patience with Hulu's interface, as well as that secret sauce formula that simultaneously hooks and repels us. Eventually, there will come a day when we pitch "20/20" aside, like the rough-looking prom date she is, and return to our steady diet of animated shows. We're already growing tired of Haircut and V/Fargas' nagging pre-commercial-break teasers, tired of the redundancy of "criminal tries something dumb/ dumb cops can't figure out how criminal did dumb thing and got away with it/ dumb criminal tired of dumb cops inability to solve the case/ dumb criminal lives up to name and tries to get credit for crime/ dumb cops still can't believe dumb criminal did it, eventually arrest dumb criminal anyway/ cut to Haircut for summary," but for another few days at least, we are still entertained.

Isn't that what television is all about?

15 Minutes

I've been a bad boy, and not in the whip and leather chaps kind of way. I've neglected my responsibilities as a writer, which is, of course, to write. Every fucking day, regardless of how I'm feeling. Oh sure, I've been steadily working on my manuscript, and by the end of next week, I should have the first draft finished (followed by a year of editing ... hooray?), but there's a rhythm to writing that can't be overlooked. It should be a daily practice, not a casual hookup. Writing should be tantric.

And so, today I embark on the first steps of a journey, much like Frodo set out into the wheat fields beyond the Shire, backpack cinched tight and metal pot clattering against his hips, as Samwise longingly chased after. I, too, am headed for the unknown, but my journey is one of letters, not fiery mountains and fish-eating monkey-men (one can hope).

When I was in college, I had a screenwriting professor named Sandeep who forced us to write 15 minutes at the start of every class. No talking, no pauses. Just sit down, shut up, and write. It was laborious at first, my notebooks filling with semi-egotistical drivel extracted from my body like an enema, but eventually, it became fluid (also like an enema), transforming the writing process into something enjoyable.

So there you go, that's my 15 minutes for the morning.

Battling the Chameleon

Photo by The Chameleon Farm of Elwood at Flickr

As I sit at my desk, wondering how March arrived so quickly, I gnash my teeth over 40,000 words still unwritten. I've lost considerable steam, like a machine without ... more steam ... but the prospect of leaving this new story unfinished somehow replenishes the tank. Who needs water when you have blood and sweat to feed into the machine?

Time. Time. Time.

How do you capture it? How do you push aside the obligations and constipations of day-to-day life and seize the hands of the ticking clock? Is it possible to simultaneously feed your bank account and your desires? Can such a two-headed monster be tamed? Does anyone have any Adderall?

I am slowly coming to terms with my unusuality (sidenote: that word tried to auto-correct to sensuality, which is also true, but not relevant/appropriate to share in this post), but also my disturbing ability to squeeze into ill-fitting boxes. Smile more! I like that button-down! Are those new slacks? Have you seen the newest episode of "Game of Thrones"?

I wonder if chameleons feel remorse for blending so seamlessly into the leaves. Maybe it would be less-taxing to say FUCK THE FOREST and show off those dazzling colors. But then you're also likely to be eaten ... quite the conundrum.

Is it better to have lived a full life and die young, or to have sat in front of the TV watching Fox News until you're old and grey and bang your head on the coffee table and bleed out on the living room carpet? I know which one the dog would prefer.

A chameleon's eyes can focus on two distinct objects at the same time, much like an Apache helicopter pilot trains his eyes to move independently in combat. We're not so different, chameleons and fighter pilots and writers. Stay alive, kill some bugs, reproduce. It's quite simple, really.

But then you start writing a book, and 70,000 words drip onto the page like molasses, slowly filling the jar while you tap your toes wondering why the fuck you bought molasses. It's certainly a lot of work to write, but until you've actually finished the story, it feels like you haven't written a thing at all.

Momentum is achieved by mass * velocity. In writer's terms, mass = the words I've already written, and velocity = the consecutive days in which I'm able to write. After the first word is placed on page, the mass is always there, always growing with every new word, but velocity--and of course momentum--is much harder to maintain. I'm not sure what the point of this post is, other than to convince myself to quit bitching and get back to work.

40,000 words to go.