Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Legend of Bill

a Quark
Life is about comings and goings, Samuel Beckett said. It applies to life in total as well as the many episodes over the course that we find ourselves a part of. While we are the main character in our own existence, we play supporting roles in those of others: sometimes major, like being a parent or lifetime spouse, sometimes minor, like being the guy who drops a quarter while trying to fish change out of his pocket in line at a gas station in Grand Island, Neb., and hits his head on the counter.

The temporary nature of life's shifting episodes is never more on display than in school and at work. In school I was almost always the new kid, making sudden exits and entrances from K to 12 across the Rust Belt. This experience has carried forth into my adult life, where I often feel like the new guy at work years after I've started. Of course, thanks to the attrition of the recent recession, that's literally been the case with no new hires in my wake.

But generally at the office, people are hired, let go and sometimes stay longer than you do. In a big organization it's all multiplied, and the faces often change more frequently than you can follow. You may share only one conversation with someone before he or she is gone and not even know his or her name. And when you realize the absence, you're left grasping at a ghost. ("The loud-breathing guy with the smoke-colored bifocals must've been shitcanned. I don't see him anymore. I miss that guy.")

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Life Rap

I love riding the bus. And one thing I've noticed over the past decade is that, much like a house, a warm bus attracts vermin during the cold months. Rats and mice I've never seen, thankfully, but bugs ... cockroaches, ants, different kinds of flying insects. They occasionally make themselves visible, even in the dead of February.
green lacewing

I don't kill bugs. Well, I do. But I feel very guilty when it happens. I will kill mosquitoes, though sometimes I blow them off my skin. I will kill thousand-leggers — those most-unwelcome Chicago visitors — because they sting. And cockroaches. I know I'm supposed to kill them, too, but once every 10 times or so I just can't. I admire their resiliency and stay my hand. Gunnery Sgt. Hartman would say that's how I become a dead marine — to hesitate at the moment of truth. But in this case I'm only letting a cockroach crawl around my house at night and eat the eyelashes of my children. (Sorry, Erika.)

That's my platform on killing bugs. I try to stop the kids from tormenting them, though they honestly don't know what they're doing. Ella "petting" an ant is meant as an affectionate gesture. She doesn't know what death is yet. Like all parents, that is the conversation I look forward to the least. In the meantime, I just try to steer them back toward the sandbox and say that the ant needs to go home. 

Friday, October 05, 2012

Futures and Pasts

The author, 26, exactly a decade ago
As you know, I don't believe in alternate universes. But I do believe in past selves. Well … I don't believe that past versions of myself exist somewhere and are either doing the same things I once did or new things because that would be believing in alternate universes, and you won't catch me that way. Uh …

Let me back up. I believe that there exist remnants from each "era" of our lives within our psyche/spirit/soul in the present. They may represent a span of years or one year (or six months or less), but they are all part of the mix. They aren't separate psyches because that would be multiple personality disorder. These are just tendencies/quirks/beliefs/habits that were born of another time in our lives and for whatever reason have largely gone unchanged up till this present second. They may never go unchanged. I don't know.

For example: Sometimes when I lie down, I like to press my head into the nook of the couch arm and back and really just — erf — snug it in there. It's pleasurable for some reason. From what I learned in childbirth class, a baby in the normal birthing position sits upside down in the pelvis with his/her head pressed against the mother's pubis bone. Maybe this tendency of mine goes back to the womb and its warm comforts. I'd kind of like to think it does.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Next Chapter

my writing permission slip, 2003

Tomorrow I'm going to try something I haven't done since 2002. I'm going to write a short story. I've made a fuss over the past year about my choice of medium, loudly proclaiming that I was leaving playwriting, which I've pursued for nearly a decade. I guess I'm now doing it softly, but I'm appending the announcement with this: I may return again.

After that last short story I wrote, I wrangled for a year and a half with the idea of becoming a serious playwright (i.e., doing it and not just talking about it). The work of Harold Pinter, Samuel Beckett and Joe Orton had captured my 26-year-old imagination, and I took a write-by-mail course through the University of Iowa, spending months crafting a play that I ultimately never finished. Regardless, by Christmas 2003 I finally decided to go all in.

I began my new creative writing career in earnest, making an attempt to work on my laptop every evening — usually in the basement of the coach house where I was living at the time. I haven't always succeeded, and much of the first year was a battle with myself to stay in the seat, but I'm proud to say that I've never let a break go on too long, unless it was an allowable one for a finished draft (a week) or finished play (a month).

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Inventory (Oh Yeah)

I really like all the people I work with at the new, new Cracker Factory. But when a group of human beings get together to do complex work, sometimes miscommunication can occur, as it did today with comical, thankfully harmless, results. It reminded me of my most favorite post from my old blog, which was inspired by the boys in the tech shop way back when. They were all good guys, too.

May. 25, 2004 - 2:08 p.m.

ANOTHER lazy workday at the offices of Woundup Corp. …

Larry: Hey, Mike. It looks like we need new toner in this printer.

Mike: Oh yeah? I’ll call the techs.

Friday, September 14, 2012

How Woundup Works

Hello. I'd like to thank you for reading Woundup. First, let me disclose that "I" am not the "I" you might be thinking of. I'm actually Ethan Kraputnik, head of the seven-person content team. Long-time Woundup readers will recall that all content here is actually the creation of a group of people in a small office on W. Hubbard St. (a.k.a. "The Magnesium Mile") in downtown Chicago.

For those of you new to this blog, yes, it's true. The "I" normally narrating these posts is a fictional construct based on a Chicago man, Mark Donahue. Let me give you a little background. …

In late 2002, Donahue — creator of the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute-funded Picodiribibi blog — pitched the idea of a new blog following his e-dating exploits in Chicago to Internet match site Because Donahue's romantic prospects were zero, it quickly became a guide for young straight men on what not to do when trying to meet single women.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

That Day

What more can an American say about September 11, 2001?

I lived in Brooklyn at that time, and because I had a slacker record store job I didn't need to be in Manhattan by 9, like my previous office gig. I was sleeping when my roommate Casey woke up all of us at 226 Franklin to say something was happening. His mom had called from Texas after they cut in on TV.

We were in Greenpoint, so Casey, Ted, Sterling and I all headed down to the East River to see what was going on. Both of the World Trade Center buildings had smoke coming out of them. 

The WTC was, for me, the prime symbol of New York. I had been coming there for visits since 1998, and the buildings were always the first points of the city visible over the swamplands of northern New Jersey as I approached on the bus. And when I was in Manhattan, they served as a compass point if I got turned around. They were always south.

When I moved to Brooklyn, the box factory I lived in had a no-frills metal door on its long, blank side for an entrance, and whenever I stepped out to go to work in the morning, the first thing I saw across the water was the WTC. It was always there as some kind of reminder of permanence.