W. P. Johnson

Archive for August, 2010|Monthly archive page

Three dollars a day…

In Uncategorized on August 18, 2010 at 6:23 pm

Today, it’s official. I’m a coffee house jerk off.

Yes. I buy a cup of coffee for two dollars, tip an extra dollar, and plant my ass in a chair for six to seven hours while plugging my stupid laptop into a wall. For years I used to think it was annoying when people did this, glancing over their shoulders to see nothing more than a facebook page refreshing yet again. You really need to take up a whole table just to fuck around online?

I used to write at night. But then, after hitting a wall, I would take a break and drink a beer or smoke a cigarette just to walk away from the story, give my mind a minute or two to work shit out on its own (the subconscious does some wonderful work). Problem is, within the hour I’d be six or seven beers deep with a coffee cup full of cigarette butts and somehow TV seemed like more fun than sitting in front of a laptop, not getting anything done.

I have, on more than one occasion, accidentally grabbed for the mug of cigarette butts in the middle of the night when I was thirsty. Especially if I’m drunk.

Truthfully, as much of a pompous jerk off I must look like, I get more writing done in public. I can’t smoke here (I’ve since quit anyway), I can’t drink, I can’t do my laundry or clean the bathroom here. I’m stuck, and if I don’t write, I don’t do anything at all but stare at this stupid screen while taking up a table.

So next time you see some guy with his laptop at a cafe and later that afternoon you walk by the same cafe and see the same guy sitting there, chances are he’s just trying to avoid his alcoholism and get some actual work done. A cold refreshing beer is more tempting that you might imagine when alone and face to face with a story that’s going NOWHERE.

Speaking of stories, I’ve gotten pretty good responses regarding the gallery exhibit and the stuff I wrote. To quote one of my managers, “You’re smarter than I thought you were.” Gee, thanks, I guess.

That said, I’ll be expanding one of the pieces, the one entitled “One Page Story” into something slightly longer, probably around ten pages. It is about a journalist researching a story on a exhibitionist who feels no pain. In it, he finds out that this performer wasn’t born this way, but underwent a unusual process in order to render himself numb. It’ll be creepy, unusual, and yet again another attempt of mine to rip off old Clive Barker.

Oh yeah, the book is coming along too…

-Bill

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One Page Story

In Uncategorized on August 15, 2010 at 6:04 pm

Posted below is another last minute addition to the exhibit this week at the James Oliver Gallery. Apparently Morimoto will be providing food as well, so if you aren’t busy today, Sunday, you should stop by and check it out.

I’ll be honest I felt kind of silly submitting these to the gallery. The guy even asked me if I wanted to charge anything for the works. Seriously? If someone feels like buying them, go for it, but to be honest I’m just putting them up for the sake of exposure. You never know who might see it…

Side note- a friend of mine who took note of my blogging, as well as the blog name, said to me, “Dude, you’re Patrick Blogman.”

Well, I’m glad somebody got the joke…

Without further ado:

One Page Story

By

W. P. Johnson

“Skin.”

It was the sensation of skin that had troubled Franklin.

At a bar he would stare at his hand while drinking, unaware of its location otherwise, “Clothes, socks, shoes… even my hair kept me awake, like the nuisance of a hundred hands brushing up against me.”

Nodding along, I noted the scars on his arms and face, like the notches in a human calendar, the oldest faded and pale, the newest still drying of its blood.

I asked him why he thought that was.

“Physical memory,” he rose the beer to his lips, spilling it slightly. It continued to drip down his face without notice.

Franklin’s first attempt was crude and only a temporary fix. During the coldest of winters he joined the Polar Bear Club of Coney Island and swam through the frigid ocean, feeling the plate glass crack of ice smack over his shoulder as his body slowly went numb. He walked the beaches after and for several minutes, his mind was at peace as the last physical memory fell from him like the drops of ocean.

“Of course… it was only a matter of time before it returned… this sensation of touch.”

He sought the help of doctors, therapists. At the height of desperation he had even approached an occultist with this troubling condition in hopes that there would be some mention of it within the canon of witchcraft. But no, nothing.

“I even let someone hypnotize me!” He laughed and ordered us both another round despite my glass being full. Two beers in front of me, I grew agitated by how much of my time he had already consumed without a single mention of the process which rendered his body completely numb; it was day three of my investigation.

“For a short time a dominatrix that specialized in sensory deprivation sold me large quantities of novocaine. But it was an expensive solution, and quite—

Agitated, I slapped my beer glass down on the bar, “What is this process you developed?

He frowned and after my own attempts at an apology, he shook his head dismissively and requested a pen and paper. It took several minutes for him to write it all down, the pen falling from his numb fingers again and again. After, he held out the paper for me to take.

A chill overcame me as I read the process.

“Wait, you did what?” But when I looked up, he was gone with little evidence of his presence aside from a crumbled up twenty on the bar.

“Franklin?” I looked everywhere, but he was no where to be seen. Returning to the bar, I quickly ordered several shots of whiskey while reading over the last lines.

I have never regretted the risk. There are still nights when I dream of sensation and the persistent nature of memory. While others are able to ignore the self awareness of touch, I could not help but feel as if I was buried alive and the world was my coffin. You would have done the same thing…

Without thought I loosened my tie, realizing in that moment how tight it had been, like a pair of hands choking me.

Morimoto Art Exhibit

In Uncategorized on August 14, 2010 at 6:08 pm

This week, from August 15 to the 22nd, the James Oliver Gallery will be showcasing the art of Morimoto employees (the gallery is located above the restaurant at 723 Chestnut Street). As an employee of said restaurant, I asked James if it was of any interest to have the written word displayed and he said that would be “interesting… yeah, that’s kind of cool.”

Don’t quote me.

So, I wrote up a bunch of short one sentence stories. Today I’ll be bringing him a printed sheet of five, framed to look extra fancy, and hopefully I’ll get a little spot somewhere in the gallery. Posted belong is an early draft, some of which did not make the cut, others of which were rewritten and now framed. Which ones made it? You’ll just have to go to the gallery to find out!

1. He presumed that the dimension was completely identical to the one he had traveled from (buildings, people, language, etc), continuing this assumption right up to his last moments when the loud buzz of a wasp was accompanied by a shadow the size of a building. It was, he would soon find out on those empty streets, mating season.

2. The drug took hold, the transformation surely irreversible, and as he reached for loose change off the floor of his car to pay a toll, every one of his teeth fell out of his mouth like candy out of a broken gumball machine. With his lips bloody, he laughed to himself in utter madness as the first wing burst from his shoulder, exclaiming to a horrified toll booth employee, “Keep the change doll face.”

3. The fight lasted for hours, and as he beat the man he began to notice that his victim had managed to, eerily so, continually insult him without every shouting the same word twice.

4. The least of the changes included the fact that the house was upside-down, literally, with an isolated snow storm in the master bedroom and a functional emergency room in the kitchen, equipped with a full staff of nurses and doctors. Considering all of this, Charlie believed it impossible that his parents would blame him for any of the unusual changes that took place in their absence, conceding that the keg would hopefully go unnoticed as well.

5. On day six, he shouted, “Over my dead body,” then, regaining composure, long after everyone else had calmed down, he took his turn and earned himself the profitable Park Place, adding apologetically that he was sorry things had gotten so violent, returning his revolver to its holster.

6. It was the most addictive game in the world. Some say, conspiratorial, that it was a government ploy to control the minds of its citizens. But even the President played and could often be found between levels six and seven, dominating the other players who had feared that any retaliation would get them deported.

7. It was the number ten. He couldn’t help but count everything in tens. Cars, birds, fingers, floor tiles. Even his bank account was rounded to the closest domination of ten and tips were considered in respects to its total. So it was that when he was held up, a mugger gave him till the count of three to give up the pin number to his bank account, forcing him to continue counting.

-Bill

From Shit to… something that isn’t Shit.

In Uncategorized on August 14, 2010 at 5:08 pm

Well… it’s been awhile since I’ve posted a goddamn thing. What the hell is this for anyway? I think what’s kept me from adding anything is the fact that I feel like every post has to have an essay like quality to it, demanding rewrites, quotes, a beginning, middle, and an end. Recently I’ve been thinking that maybe I should just keep this blog more informal for the sake of writing more.

So get ready for some typos, ramblings, and the occasional nugget of profound something or other.

For those of you who don’t know, I’m working on a novel.

My first attempts at a novel started in high school, a real failed attempt at mimicking writers like Vonnegut, Irvine Welsh, Chuck Palahniuk. In other words, all the writers people read when they don’t really like to read. Glossing over some of it now, there are moments of brilliance buried within my poor prose, misguided youthful angst and Nietzsche-esque philosophy only a teenager would find exciting and new. What’s that old saying? If you’re not a rebel by 20 you’ve got no heart, but if you’re not establishment by 30 you’ve got no brains (I think that may be a Swimming With Sharks reference). I think the same applies to philosophy and literature. So much of what seemed interesting then was nothing more than watered down Hollywood Existentialism, the kind of philosophy I projected through the simplest of gestures, that of carrying around a copy of Will To Power, shaving my head, and smoking clove cigarettes.

Gross right? It was, as a friend of mine told me recently, really “touch and go” there for awhile.

But it was all for not. The title of my first novel “Close Your Eyes” still has a ring to it that resonates within me and occasionally glossing over it, I find myself smiling at some of the passages… or maybe I’m just relieved to see how much I’ve improved.

The opening lines, typos and all:

All in all the job itself is basically eight hours of non-stop movement. Sometimes ten. Sometimes twelve. There are times when I think to myself “there’s a place just like this in hell”.

Holidays take on a whole new meaning when your involved with food production.. Christmas is sometimes thought as a universal holiday that everyone enjoys. Christmas Eve and I’m loading packages at 5:00 in the morning after working through 10 degree weather. I never did get around to learning how to drive.

OK, EW. That sucked. That sucked A LOT. I mean, who gives a flying fuck to continue another page of that dog shit? No wonder I couldn’t get anyone to read any of my work back then.

But… practice makes perfect right?

Another “for those of you who didn’t know” things- I started a second novel a couple years ago entitled “Exile From Ghenna”, a title that I still can’t decide is brilliant or just pompous and wordy. Here are the opening lines:

It wasn’t safe to go home. I stayed with Stephanie. No one knew about her. With her I was safe. I didn’t kiss and tell.

She undressed me. I was too tired to move. It had been two weeks of hospital food and the slow leak of a morphine drip. Every night I had to bribe an officer to keep me alive. Half before sleep, the rest after. The Arcadia Police Department was full of dirty cops.

Slug holes closed up under the kiss of stitches. Three shots to the shoulder. Stephanie was glad to have me around. I didn’t know what to do with myself.

Ok. Not too bad. Not great. But way better than that horseshit I was passing off as god given brilliance in my first attempt (I was obviously reading a lot of crime noir during the “Exile” writings).

“Exile…” failed, fyi. Why? I can’t say. Maybe it was bad timing, or maybe there just wasn’t any truth in what I was writing. After all, writers lie in order to tell some other kind of truth. But what did I really have to say at twenty-six? And what business did I have writing about cops?

About a year ago I took part in a writers workshop with Craig Clevenger, author of Contortionist Handbook and Dermaphoria (buy the man’s books people, I think he’s still struggling). For years I always wrote in first person without really knowing why. So, for a change of pace, I started a whole new story in third person, a story about vampires and a voyeuristic endeavor I dubbed The Human Shipyard where people could vicariously experience the lives of others through visual aids, audio, and physical sensation. Initially intended as a short story, “V” (the temporary title) blew up in to a unmanageable fifty pages with no clear end in sight. Here are the opening lines to “V”:

Trevor paces, coked up, spitting into his cell phone. Dressed in leather, his long neck sprouting a cue ball head, he circles Denis the way an excited vulture claws the ground for a buried animal. Denis shakes the thought and tries to bleed a day from three hours of sleep while standing outside a warehouse in Port Richmond, waiting for Alex to finish his binaural work on Candy, the newest port for in the voyeuristic Human Shipyard.

Something felt different. While it may seem “eh” you to, putting down these lines was exciting. And what more, it had gotten responses from other workshop members, other writers. In a phone conference with Clevenger himself he said, to quote, that it made him think of a, “William Gibson vampire story”, a compliment I still remind myself of when I’m feeling blue and up against a wall. During the call he advised me to give it a go- research the story and make it in to a novel.

So… here I am today. Almost a year later and I’m nearly half way through a first draft. For months and months I was telling people that I was researching a novel, then starting it, then only a “third” of the way through. Funny how people think a book is written so quickly, like its a weekend retreat, you feel like a joke, you feel like every other jerk off that says he/she is working on a book.

But then you find yourself at the halfway point. You’re halfway through finishing a draft. And this is really happening. It’s not just something you “talk about”.

The vampires are gone, as well as the present tense, and the narrative has been modeled after one of the character’s speech patterns:

Chapter One

His Eyes

The problem was, he had dissected her cat.

Though they never spoke on the matter, not to outsiders at least. And as horrific and to blame as he was, he could never believe himself responsible and claimed that the act was not of his own accord. Rather it was something of a nostalgia for a time that belonged to another, committed with as much joy as one would find submitting to a vestigial instinct.

“It was an urge,” he shifted, looking up from the couch to clarify, “but not mine. I felt like I was possessed.” He paused, thinking of an example. “Sometimes an amputee will reach to touch a limb that isn’t there.”

My fingers rested from typing within the void of his voice. I turned towards him, searching through that silence.

“Meaning what exactly?”

“Imagine trying to touch a limb you never had in the first place.” He shrugged, “She called me a monster but I couldn’t remember what I had done. It felt like waking up from a nightmare.”

Honestly? Not too shabby.

-Bill