AJAX BELL

Author of the Queen City Boys books


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Where does the time go?

10062I had such high hopes for this year. I had a plan, a schedule, things to do. How is it nearly half way over already? The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men and all that. Nothing to do but gather my (few) accomplishments and push on, gentle, but not into that good night.

Obviously I’ve been reading too much poetry (is there such a thing?) but what else have I been doing? Not finishing books, that’s for sure! All right, that’s not true. I have finished a novella and it’s coming soon to an Amazon screen near you (other venues to follow eventually).

Star Quality, is a smutty little story of falling for your hot friend and his husband. In Canada! With bonus TV show production back drop. Yeah I definitely realize this isn’t everyone’s cuppa, but hey, some of you, somewhere, have been looking for really explicit m/m/m married menage, gfy/ofy fic with made up TV stars, right? If so, watch this space for details forthcoming, just as soon as there’s a cover!).

That’s an accomplishment I’m pretty proud of, but life has mostly just gotten in my way this year. Some family stuff. Some personal stuff. Then I started a new job, which is a great job, but has upheaved my life just enough to cut down writing time. I travelled to Seattle, to New York city, to San Francisco. But I’m home and I’m ready, I’m steady, I’m gonna get back to it. I have the next Queen City Boys novel, Bad Reputation about halfway done (what does that even mean?) and a good start on an as yet untitled sci-fi book. And two short stories in the making. Things are coming!

And hey, new website is happening soon too. And there’s a mailing list to go sign up for fiction updates and extras.

So, my friends, what have you been up too?

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An open letter to Sherman Alexie

Just read a line in a Sherman Alexie story about standing in line at Bartell’s and suddenly I’m so homesick I’m not sure I can live through the heartbreak of it. In my head I ask Sherman Alexie if he imagines how many of his throw away lines profoundly affect people?  I think of every word I’ve put out there, every bit of fiction I’ve written, and no one has ever come back to me with the important words, with the phrases that I labored over, they only come to tell me about the how they were moved by my fast lines, the ones that drop out, that I don’t consider at all before I put them to paper.

Perhaps the lines I don’t labor over mean the most, come more truly from me?  Perhaps there is no meaning in any of it and will just keeping spilling out words, looking for the turn of phrase that will free my soul and find it someday.  Perhaps Sherman Alexie labored over that line and still will never know will never know how his two sentences made me break my own heart.  I could write him a letter and tell him, but I would labor too hard over the words, I would lose the importance of sharing what he gave me.  I have always been writing this letter to him in my head, through out the years, every time I read his stories and poems.  A letter that never makes it to paper, to computer screen, never achieves more than some small form of therapy for me.

I am talking to Sherman in my head (can I call you, Sherman, I feel we are close enough now) about my homesickness, about how I cannot ever really understand where he is from and he cannot understand how I am from where he is now.  I tell him it is a continuum that no one but me can see, a story that can’t quite be told, but is important all the same.  And the The Butchies pop up on shuffle on the old mp3 player and I start to cry because this is more homesickness than a soul can bear.  But this makes me get up and start to cook dinner: fettuccine alfredo with smoked salmon (real, PNW smoked salmon), peas and caramelized onions.  Because I am homesick and if I lived close enough that I could call my mom and ask if I could come over she would walk to me to a restaurant near her house (one Sherman Alexie has surely been too) and I would order some variation of this dish because you don’t really find it anywhere else in the world, not the way we make it in Seattle.

And while I am chopping onions the mp3 player turns again and gives me Kevin Gordon singing Watching the Sun Go Down, and I remember how I stopped at 6:42 am, on my way to work, to photograph the sunrise over an electrical power station, and got distracted by some horses too.  I think of how the redbuds are surely more beautiful this year than they have ever been before, blooming riotously, everywhere, making the edges of every roadway glow purple.  I think of how  the heat in Tennessee makes me feel warm all the way through to my bones, like I’ve never been warm before.

So I tell Sherman that he is lucky indeed, to be able wait in line at Bartell’s, but he has to go through cold rain to get there and I am saved by the sun  and the green in spring and the sounds, all the sounds, here in the dirty South.  Perhaps I am homesick for a place that no longer exists.  A place I visited, moved through in childhood, that is just a fairytale now, I can not go back.  My adult self does not have the magic to cross back over the boundaries of the places I’ve been before, I can only go to new places or create them myself. And I’m still crying when I sit down to eat my dinner, but not because I miss anything.  I am so lucky to have been so many places, both real and imagined. Lucky to be me and to be still so full of emotions good and bad (love) about all of those places I have been and the people in them.  Even the rude lady in the Bartell’s line that you have to tell to fuck all the way off.  So thanks, Sherman, for reminding of my home, the past one, the new one, the one that is always me and goes everywhere inside my heart.  I’m certain that you never knew that namedropping Bartell’s in a story would make some girl in Tennessee break out the fancy smoked salmon from way back home and cook herself a good dinner on a night when she would otherwise have been too tired, too worn down by work, to do more than make a quesadilla.  Thanks for dinner, Sherman, I really feel like we are close now.

 

(Pictures taken early this morning in Tennessee, when I stopped, before I even had coffee, to remember that there is beauty in the world.  Even when you feel like you break to pieces because of the stress that swirls around you and puts the anxiety inside you, there is still the color purple and leaves that were not that green yesterday and sunrises.  The redbuds really are spectacular this year.)


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perchance to dream

I am so overwhelmed by life right now that the word ‘overwhelmed’ doesn’t even really mean anything anymore.  It’s like ‘awesome,’ so overused that it’s impact has been reduced to uselessness. I wish I could tell you some big sweeping drama that’s tripping me up, but it’s really more like the minute patterns of my days.

About 14 or 15 months ago things started to go all wonky for me.  Since then each month has brought some new and hitherto un-thought of obstacle.  I have for more than a year been waiting for whichever thing it is to pass/complete/recover so that I can get on with every day life and making plans for the future.  And surely the cycle of unexpected things never ends, but it seems I’ve hit a lull.  I’ve weathered the oral surgeries; the long term separation from a loved one; the break up; the 500 year flood; the resulting work over load; the scalding, torturously hot summer; planning, moving and completely and totally rearranging my life, my plans and my future.  And I gotta say, ya’ll, I’m tired.  Like soul tired.  I want to relax and figure out if I even know anymore how to let go of anxiety and worry.  I want to read a book for hours on end, uninterrupted so I can reset myself  to creativity.  I want to remember how to think about designing and forming things with my own hands, simply creating things. I want to plan menus and buy groceries and quietly cook in my own kitchen.  I want to relax in my own personal (physical) space, unencumbered by outside demands on my time, my energy, my love and my mental peace.

At this point, I guess I just need to find a chair.  The right chair.  For the last few months, when I try and imagine this particular part of whatever thing it is now being over (mostly moving etc.), I close my eyes and I see a circle of light from a lamp over a comfortable place to sit and read or think or draw or sew or simply imagine goodness.  Moving has given me and Talk to Owls both space to stretch out and find calm again.  I been working (ugh, working, so over it in any context) to make this space my own, our own, simply someplace that is comfortable and safe and filled only with the things we need to live and create.  Still I lack this imaginary chair.  I can’t quite see it’s dimensions or design, but I know it’s out there. It is the next thing to strive for: completing a space of relaxation and a place in which to gather myself back together and get ready, be stronger for, the many more rounds of unexpectedness that life is sure to bring me.


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Coming up for air again and again

[Most of this post has been sitting in ‘draft’ form for a week or more.  Lately I just can’t seem to line myself up to post, or finish any thing really. Will work on posting more regularly here to hopefully give my non-work life some structure. My weeks ago post saying that I am all over the place has definitely been true.]

Went Weds. night last week to the seeekrit pre-opening of the Mas Tacos storefront location.  She did an amazing job on the location.  It feels like it’s just a south of the border taco joint that’s kind of outside time and space. The atmosphere made the tacos even better. Especially the awesome jukebox. They open on Tuesday, if you’re in Nashville, you should go.

I’m also desperately awaiting the opening of the Brentwood location of the Local Taco [HA!  Since I wrote this, it’s opened and I’ve been–didn’t like it as much as the original location, but we did go on opening day, so they get some super slack].  This is my new favorite place ever.  Partly because I love tacos and having more places to get them is good.  Partly because the tacos are gooooood.  And once they had sauteed Swiss chard with Shitake mushrooms as a side that was so spectacularly out of this world, I don’t even know how to explain it to you.  I do know I’ll be cooking more in the near future and I see a lot of experimenting with Swiss chard until I can duplicate that amazing dish. YUM YUM YUM.

It’s been stupidly hot in Nashville.  Fortunately I am house sitting for some friends that have a lovely pool.  Air conditioning is great for keeping cool.  Swimming before bed is even better.  It turns out that if you go swimming right at sunset, the bats are circling the yard and skimming the top of the pool for about 20 minutes. It’s a little weird, as they fly low right over you, down the length of the pool and then up. I can’t tell if they are skimming the surface accidentally while looking for bugs, or if they are cooling their bellies on hot evenings. It’s kind of like being in a nature show though!  Last night a hawk sat on the pavement surrounding the pool, just watching, until he noticed me and flew up to watch from the nearby tree.  I wonder if he was waiting for the bats?

Work is, well, work.  I know I haven’t been writing here.  I could say I don’t have time, but that isn’t true.  I’ve spent a lot of evenings reading on the porch (until it’s gets too dark or too hot, hot usually happens first), or out running around with Talk to Owls, or just, I dunno, pretending I’m getting “stuff” done but mostly flitting around like a spaz.  Housesitting means vacation really, since most everything I think I should be doing requires me to be in my own house.  Work has leveled out to normal hours. So I have time, though mostly I’m too tired to bother doing anything creative, fun or useful. I don’t see that changing in the next few months.  Plus my learning curve on the job is really steep right now (speaking of, I should totally be working right at this second–I’m purposely procrastinating until I calm down enough to feel like I’m actually absorbing information).  I guess what I am trying to get at (ironically in an all over the place kind of way) is that I’m completely scattered.  Mostly in my home/personal life, but that’s definitely bled into work (not in getting work done, but in understanding the work and fitting it in to a convenient pattern).  Even though I am reading and swimming and trying not to overwhelm myself with “Right now I SHOULD be doing…) still I feel like everything is speeding by at this accelerated pace that was created by work in the 6 weeks following the flood.  Working less doesn’t seem to be allowing me to fit more into my life.  I can’t seem even to focus enough to explain to myself how I feel right now.  Loose ends, I suppose.  Lots and lots of loose ends. Come too short to even tie together.


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we work to make our dreams come true

Well here it is Tuesday again.  Fortunately for me, this Tuesday was preceded by a Monday and a weekend, not by 40 other Tuesdays as has so recently been the case.  Talks-to-Owls and I took advantage of that first weekend of freedom and escaped the city to lounge about in a hotel room and walk in Botanical Gardens and see Museums.  Work continues apace. I haven’t wrapped my head around not working 65+ hours a week.  I am exceedingly busy this week, despite not working as much, or perhaps because I am not working as much.  This weekend I will perhaps try and organize my life some.  Next weekend I am going to Seattle for the holiday.  After that everything will become somewhat more normal.  Or become the new normal, I guess, since it seems everything in my life has changed in the last seven weeks.  Actually I’m not sure at all what normal will be now.  I am just making it up as I go along.  Although I suppose that’s what we are all doing all the time.

So, uh, yeah.  I spent the weekend wandering museums while wearing sundresses.  I’m mentally all over the place.  I feel vague, distracted, sort of unable to work and unable to think or process anything that isn’t work. I wish I  lived in museum/sundress land all the time (picture above is from my phone to capture my Saturday night, what joy! wine and a view).  Plus the heat index here is over 100°F and is supposed to stay that way until, uh, September, I guess.  So that isn’t very motivating.

(Thoughts about the oil spill and other news redacted from this post for another time when I’m making more sense.)


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Day 37: Still Tuesday

Talks-to-Owls and I have agreed that this Tuesday never seems to end. It’s been about 37 days since we last had a day off of work.  Which makes every single day Tuesday.  In a regular week you can spend Monday reflecting on the past weekend, on Wednesday you’re halfway through, Thursday is almost Friday, and Friday is the end!  But Tuesday? Just another day with nothing great on either side of it.  So here I am having been through more than a month of Tuesdays, with half a dozen to a dozen more in front of me. Sure the bulk of it is behind me, but still, the light at the end of the tunnel is faint and seemingly far away.  I guess it won’t truly be bright until I actually have a solid end date. And that end date does depend on how fast my team can work, but it has many wobbly and unknowable outside factors creeping out of the tunnel shadows.

I work in the construction industry, in an office that was, until my arrival, mostly male.  I currently have a staff of 5 temps, all female, that are sitting in the larger shared office space that was, as stated, all male.  Overheard this morning (before the girls arrived):

S: Man, the ratio of boys to girls here is just so different you can’t even be yourself no more.
K: Better let one off before the girls get here.
S: T just did.
*I walk into the room laughing*
T: I ate daffodils for dinner last night.  It’s flowery when I let one off.
S: Farting honeysuckle everywhere you go, I knew you were that kind of guy.
T: Flowers and poppy seeds, that’s all I eat.

On the one hand, hilarious.  On the other hand, what does it even mean? I’ve been having weird Wizard of Oz field of poppies visions all morning because of that conversation leading to me to read more into it than I should and wonder what the underlying metaphors I missed were.  (The answer, none, no metaphors, just boys BSing.)

I have mentioned elsewhere that I am making a conscious decision NOT to boycott BP over the oil spill.  There are many reasons for this, the main one though is that the gas station I drive by every morning, my most convenient station, is a BP station.  I have been going there regularly for 4 years.  I know and like the people who own it.  I don’t want their livelihood to disappear just because they signed the “wrong” franchise agreement.  Honestly it could have been any oil company that caused this disaster and I do not want to see any more of the little guys get hurt.

(Southern Beale has written an excellent post on the kind of “punishment” that is fit for BP after this disaster.  Surely much more effective than a consumer boycott.)

Truly I ache for the fishermen, the people who live on those coasts and all the regular people who are so seriously impacted by this (we all are in the environmental sense, but the folks who might not pay bills right now because of it really weigh on me).  And it’s so wide reaching.  Like now BP might withhold dividends on stocks? Which would hurt British retirees whose retirement funds include BP stock.  How many more average people can BP fuck over with their greed and incompetence?

Here are some things I like:

Firefly lamp

Tom Robbins is weird

Synchronous fireflies

Banksy, especially his “Shop”

Blooming lamp

And my cousin and his wife had their first baby this week!!   Welcome Caleb James (who was clearly named after me, though that’s a joke that probably only my mom will get).  Weighing in at 9lbs and 4oz!  Hello big boy!  He’s healthy and home with mama, poppa and puppies.  HOORAY!  Here’s his “little” toes: