Infamous

Go Knicks!

Actually, I don't watch sports. I do watch the UFC, but that is just breaking into the mainstream. I had just returned from my vacation to New York where I walked an average of thirteen miles a day. My dawgs were barkin' every day. I mean, I woke up every morning with my feet still throbbing from the day before because I walked every where to get a sense of the locals, the touristy spots, the history, and the overall energy of Manhattan. I finally understand when characters in TV shows say Midtown, Upper East Side, West Village, and where the famous bull lives in Lower Manhattan. It's called that because it's in the lower part of Manhattan.

The most prevalent myth is that New Yorkers are mean. My first experience with this was when I had to cancel a double booking at a New York hostel. So I called, and the woman on the other end sighed as if I had asked her, "Do you know karate? Cuz your body is kickin'."

After fighting through cancelled flights due to the record-breaking snowstorms the northeast had suffered, I finally checked into my room at midnight. Despite it being late and freakin' cold, the front desk people were incredibly kind.

That was weird, I remembered thinking.

The next day, I was off on my tour of Manhattan and walked up 5th Avenue. Other than the taxis honking every single minute, I found the locals to be friendly. Really friendly. Everyone seemed civil as I roamed like a ghost the halls of the main branch of the New York Public Library, one of the sites where The Ghostbusters had been filmed. I entered Bergdorf Goodman, a historic building that sells high fashion, and every one greeted me as if I belonged there (I touched a jacket that costed $14,000! Gawd dayem!). Guides at the Empire State Building smiled and greeted us tourists, despite having to do this all day, every day.

If it were me, I'd be like, "This way goddammit! Into the freakin' elevator. Stop crowding. Stop actin' like children! Quiet!"

The whole two weeks I was there, I didn't encounter a mean soul. Even the homeless seemed nice. A homeless man walked around a corner as I was taking a picture of the Chrysler Building. A big smile plastered across his face. In fact, I don't recall seeing any teeth. He said, "There's an AA meeting if you can make it." I couldn't stop laughing.

I even hung out in Brooklyn, went to the Brooklyn Bazaar, and took the subway all the way to the end and strolled around Flushings. One of the locals had told me that there are more than one Chinatowns (say what?), and I've always wanted to visit Flushings because the movie Saving Face had been set there (Luv Joan Chen). I will say the Chinese people there weren't as friendly, but maybe because it was the end of their workday. Or maybe they hated going to a bank that uses abacuses and having to wait for the clickity clack to finish their transaction sucked.

So I wondered how New Yorkers had earned such a bad rap? I went out to dinner with a woman that I had met, who recommended Lombardi's, a famous pizzeria, and she said something interesting: New Yorkers are direct, blunt. They're not going to pussyfoot around and be fake. If you're in their way, for example, they will let you know. And walking around Grand Central Terminal during rush hour, I saw how everyone sped toward their destinations. It was like watching a fine tuned watch running on steroids. When I threw myself into the rush-hour crowd, I had to walk fast to avoid causing a pile up of New Yorkers.

And I can understand being direct. I'm very direct. I've gotten complaints from friends and family that I'm too direct. Sometimes, I just don't have the time nor the want to be concerned with others' sensitive sensibilities. And life is very fast paced in the Big Apple. So when someone encounters a tourist who has their face buried in their smart phone, completely unaware of their surroundings, and they tell that tourist to getouttaheah, then that tourist shouldn't be upset.

The myth of the angry New Yorker had been formed from misunderstandings. I thought a lot about this because there are a lot of myths that float around my main character in my book. And the thing about myths are that they become truths in peoples' minds. Despite them being false, my character has to deal with them, which provides an extra level of conflict, great for storytelling. 

But I've learned that a rumor may just be that until I can confirm it for myself. And that was one of the more memorable things about my trip to New York, that the people there are kind. The pace of life may be different, but that doesn't make anyone meaner. And it really depends on what you expect to find. If you expect people to be mean, then you'll find people that are mean.

I now understand the appeal of living there. The energy there is amazing. And, oh, the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. I didn't know they had built pools in place of the twin towers to memorialize those who had died. I remember that day vividly. It's definitely worth the visit. 

Life's Pretty Grand

Sitting in the Dining Concourse, I watch hundreds of New Yorkers stream around the seemingly unending tourists that take photos of the aptly named Grand Central Terminal. The hustle and bustle mixed with the wonder of the people is an amazing sight to take in and feel.

There's an energy of life that courses through the main terminal, as people charge toward their destinations and the homeless rummage through trash bins for their daily meals. Many sit inside to escape the blistering cold of the gray day, streets wet and cold from the massive record-breaking snowstorm that had hit the northeast.

I'm wearing three layers of clothing, which I've stripped the thick layer because Grand Central is comfortably heated. I take a moment to sit next to my new friend, I'll call him Jordan, as he rests after a hard morning's work of gathering his treasure trove, guarding over it like he conquered a great beast.

I'm one of the tourists, of course, in constant amazement at the beautiful complexity of the railways, while the sixty-eight stores that sit on top calls to its people to take a gander at their varied and valuable goods. The smells from the people that walk by me, the sweet and savory foods from the restaurants, and the metal that wafts up from the subways throws my mind in a whirlwind of thoughts. There's a couple taking their pre-wedding photos in the Vanderbilt Hall. They've been there for over an hour. An old man takes a nap on the bench in the Dining Concourse's public seating area. A woman sinks her teeth into her sandwich and chews as she explores the flavors in her mouth. 

There's a lot to take in for someone who's never been to New York City.

Even in my own little town of San Francisco, a tourist haven as well, I'm always in wonder and love with the history that little place offers. I often take breaks from work and just walk around and enjoy the beautiful locals who swerve around the many tourists who are in awe.

And I think that's what life is really about, even in your hometown. Having a sense of wonder keeps us young. Seeing the world from anew helps our minds come alive, opens us to this amazing world, and watching people as they go through their daily lives gives us perspective, that even though things may be shit, or they could be better, still, in America, things are still pretty great (barring from any immediate danger). I may not have everything that I want in life, but I do have what I need and more. I mean, I'm writing this article on a freakin' iPad. Yeah, I have a lot to complain about.

I Hate You, Dad!

I'd just watched a great movie called Man From Earth.  The premise is awesome, and without it I wouldn't have watched it.  But during a good-gye party, friends learn that the honorary guest is a caveman who has lived for 14,000 years.  That's right.  A bonafied caveman, cro magnon, to be exact.

It was written by famed science fantasy writer, Jerome Bixby.

It's a fantastic premise because what the caveman reveals is just earth shattering.  I'd suggest watching.

One of the things John, the caveman, reveals is that he was a well known religious figure.  Everyone in the party at this point doesn't really know whether to believe his story so far, but to claim to be this certain figure seems heinous.  Until John explains how this religious figure got his mythical status.  How history can apply layers of mythicism on an individual.

And that got me thinking.

I'd had the pleasure of pitching to Donald Maass, the famed New York agent who wrote How to Write the Breakout Novel.  This was my first book on writing.  I'd attended his one hour lecture at the San Francisco Writer's Conference.  His whole thing is to write with emotional depth and make your story big.  Big with emotions.  (Wow.  I'm using a lot of fragments today.)

Some examples are betrayal, retribution, and the all time favorite "I hate you, dad!"

In my book, my hero has severe issues with his father.  His father left him without saying good-bye after being convicted of a murder.  With this, a lot of people assumed that the father was guilty, despite his fervent attempt to prove his innocence.  Kinda like OJ hurling down the freeway at 152.5 MPH.

My hero is left with the question of why.  Was his father guilty?  Did he not love my hero enough?  What did my hero do to make his father leave?  As the days pass, my hero is forced to answer these questions and begins to layer greatness upon his estranged father.

Sorta like someone breaking up with you, and you can't stop thinking about all the good times you both had, even though there may have been a lot of bad.

Maass said these past parental issues tend to manifest themselves in other parts of your life.  For example, if your father was a perfectionist, forced and punished you to be a perfectionist, then you grow up and torture yourself to be a perfectionist at work.  Your relationships go bad because you're trying to find the perfect man or woman.  You can't seem to settle on any home that you visit, driving your real estate agent crazy.  You go into deep debt, buying every electronic device because they keep getting better.  You get ten plastic surgeries trying to fit the perfect mold.  All because your father prodded you to be perfect.  Then, all of a sudden, you yell at a picture of your father, "I hate you, dad!"  But what you actually hate is the person you've turned into, and, hopefully, as up-lifting stories go, you realize that his world of perfection doesn't have to be yours.  And you begin to live a life that's true to you.

The point is, when writing stories, sometimes childhood issues bubble up without the character knowing it.  He may never know it.  She may scream at a jar of honey and remember when her mother yelled at her for spilling honey on their new carpet.  It's a great way of deepening a character.