Washington State: Woods

I booked myself into a writer’s conference around Seattle. Because my aunt lives about an forty minutes north of the location, I flew into a smaller airport and stayed with her. They live on a couple of acres in a nice home my Uncle built.

In the bathroom is a small notebook where I write a diary entry each time I visit. The diary is labeled ‘Adrienne’s Diary,’ since it’s supposed to be the diary of my cousin who also sometimes visits. In the diary, I write things like, “I’m still trying to catch up with my cousin. He’s so cool. Not sure how he does it. Must practice a lot of being so handsome and stylish.”

No one but me knows the diary is there. One day, someone will discover it, chuckle, and then throw it away.

Up in this region, the conversation eventually steers towards Trump. They were under the impression my dad’s side of the family, including my dad are die-hard trump supporters. I had to break ’em off, and inform them it’s quite the opposite. They are die hard democrats from what I understand. Always have been. At one point, I disappeared and went into the woods. In the woods, there is no Trump tree or Hillary hedges. No Bernie branches or Biden berries. Much happier out there.

In my downtime, I walked in circles around the woods, piecing together the perfect things to say at the writer’s conference. I have completed ten novels. I keep this a secret from agents and only pretend I have one or two. If you mention having ten, it makes you sound like a loser- like you’ve been writing all your life but no one wants to publish your work.

No matter how much I practiced, I could never get it quite right. I’m taking 100,000 word stories and trying to condense them into two or three sentences. I felt that sensation where my brain refuses to remember things. When I tried to focus on the stories, which I know more intimately than my own wife, the blankness spread through me. I didn’t know what I was thinking, what I wanted to think. So, I just kept walking. I urinated on a tree, and then walked through a spider web.

This was my final synopsis for both novels:

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When I was done, I convinced my aunt to visit the small wine bar that I frequent in that area. The last time I was there, February a year ago, the couple who own it only had a tiny room with a few tables and almost no food. Now, they have spread it out to two bigger rooms with nice sofas, tables, fireplace, etc.

I enjoyed being there. Somehow, we ended up joining a couple in their sixties. They were both lawyers. I kept looking at the woman, trying to imagine how she looked in her more ripe years-it was impossible to tell though; she was stone.

I did not speak much. As I listened to them talk, I kept searching for threads to pick up and join them. Actually, the more they talked, the more I found them tiring to listen to. They’d traveled a bunch of places just to ride around in boats and ride camels.

I sipped my wine, bit down on my lip to conceal my yawns, and took little bathroom breaks to hide out and stand in silence to pass the time.

There was a plant in the windowsill. Without any idea what it was, I bit a portion of its green leaf, chewed it up and swallowed.

Tasted bitter. Go figure.

Washington State: Urban I

I slid a bottle of McAllan 12 into my pocket and prepared for battle when I entered the hotel where the writer’s conference was being hosted. At once, I was impressed. There were a couple of men around my age. Quite a few attractive women who instantly stirred something in me. A large majority, like at the one other writers conference I attended, were stuffy mom-types on the warpath to become the next JK Rowling. This was about 80% of the people there.

I paid for four pitch sessions, so I spied a little on the agents to see if they were human.

They were human.

I ditched the writing workshops and, instead, crossed the street to the Japanese restaurant I’d already done recon on during a google search. To my dismay, it was now a Chinese restaurant.

“What do you have on draft?” I asked the guy who greeted me.

“What is it?”

“Draft,” I said, and pantomimed with my hand. Once I’d poured the imaginary beer into the imaginary glass, I drank it down my throat.

He still didn’t get it, so I walked right through his bar and ignored the older Chinese man who started shouting at me. I pointed to the draft and said, “Draft.”

This was his first time hearing the word, so he wrote it down on his notepad. He did not smile though, nor did he smile when he seated me. “No sushi,” he said.

Then his father, the owner, also stopped by to remind me “No sushi.”

When the son took my order, I asked for a Kirin Draft. He didn’t know what it was. I pointed to his notepad, but he didn’t get it. Then his father explained it to him. Also, his father was someone who did not smile for anything.

Various writers showed up and sat at separate tables. I was disappointed each time, wishing someone would sit at the bar with me so I could test out my theory that writers are all quiet people, just waiting to be cracked open.

Finally, a young woman sat at the bar, two stools down from me. She played on her phone for a while. After she ordered, she continued stroking the screen.

I ordered my second Kirin and considered getting wasted instead of talking to agents. That’s what I wanted right at that moment. Instead, I took a few sips of the new draft, paced myself, watched the Chinamen for any signs of smiling, and then introduced myself to the young woman.

I am 41. If I had to guess, she was thirty-five and attractive in a sexy librarian kind of way. Gregarious, but in a reserved way. In other words- a writer.

She’d written a memoir about failing relationships. We talked about that for a while and I sprinkled in pieces of my own experience. She sympathized. Her experiences saddened me because I could see her vision as clearly as if it was my own. Nothing is worse than a couple travelling abroad just to be miserable together.

I sipped my beer.

When she asked me about my books, both stories sounded retarded when I explained them. And I knew this inability to articulate my work was going to cripple me when I tried talking to the agents.

I chugged my beer faster now.

She told me about her blog. I handed her my composition notebook with erratic writing scribbled upside-down, left and right, right and left, and at weird angles. She didn’t seem to judge me for it as she wrote down the address of her blog.

Maybe women understand they can be a muse to men; maybe they don’t. Either way, the little bit of conversation with her helped bolster me for the rest of the conference. Each time I lost heart, I was happy that an attractive woman had talked to me for a little while- like a kind officer soothing me, a death row inmate, during my walk to the electric chair.

As soon as I sat down with the first agent, I began to meet headwinds. Actually, the agent seemed almost as nervous as I was.

“What are you pitching me today?” she asked.

I leaned in and moved my hands around. “Two autistic freshmen wage a psychological war on each other in a Maryland high school. When one turns up dead, the other must use his dark intelligence to track down the killer before it’s too late.”

From studying a ton of YouTube videos, I learned you tell them 2-3 sentences, then let them ping pong the conversation back at you.

So after I said those two sentences, forgetting what the rest of the story was about, I smiled and waited.

“I don’t really handle suspense,” she said.

My heart sank a little. “Well, let me tell you the background on it.”

I told her how I’d been bullied as a kid, and how a third grade teacher taught me to write. I’d won a bunch of contests and written my whole life. What I learned from that is that there is always some kind of weapon somewhere. I think kids can relate to that.

She wasn’t too into it. Still, she gave me her card. Told me to send her the first 20 pages.

I considered it a strike out. But I had three agents to go.

Instead of going to workshops and classes like I should have, I went to the bar. I talked to various writers. I spoke to someone who looked Amish, whose gender I’m still not certain of. I spoke to an older woman with tortoise shell, round spectacles and zany hair. I talked to a guy with a cool baseball jacket, and an Asian guy who spoke to me in Italian but could not make direct eye contact. In other words- writers.

The next agent was super sweet. I was almost ashamed to tell her of my dark suspense novel involving a serial stalker. When she asked why my story was unique, I told her it was based on a true story.

She looked horrified.

“The good thing is, he’s not the worst person in the story,” I said.

This surprised her, but not in a good way.

A voice in my head said, “Dummy, she thinks you’re a maniac writing about your own life and trying to pass it off as fiction. You flunked!”

Still, I got her card. She told me to send her a sample chapter and synopsis.

I drank another beer because, well, I remembered I was born, or developed, a mouth that doesn’t work. I could write the next War and Peace, but my mouth can’t discuss it properly. So, I’d wasted a bunch of money, time, and effort to do nothing more than make a fool of myself. The lie that I could pitch my novel(s) coherently quickly faded away, and I was left feeling alone and retarded. But I remembered that I’m around others who suffer that same feeling. So, I got friendly with other writers, as if we were prisoners thrown in a cell together. I liked hearing other people talk about their books. Maybe that took the edge off a little, getting others to pitch their books to me. Maybe it even helped practice for the big, bad agents.

When I went to get yet another beer, I discovered a tray filled with Italian breathmints. I don’t know what they are called, but they are my favorite. I haven’t had one in probably five years. I ate about 20 of them in the span of five minutes and completely forgot to drink that next beer.

My next meeting with an agent was a disaster. The fourth went shaky as well.

I ate another 20 breath mints.

Then I ran into the woman who I’d eaten lunch with at the bar. “Here,” I said, handing her a bag with a jacket in it. “I brought this as a gift for someone, but they are much…. um… larger than I anticipated.”

“Someone here, at the conference?”

“Yeah. It’ll fit you though.”

I also gave her my card, advertising the international library I secretly run at my casino-lending out books in Japanese, French, German, Italian, and Arabic.

She thanked me, then we parted ways. And honestly, that interaction was the only thing that kept me from losing my shit.

On the way out, I exited with one of the agents I’d pitched to earlier. She looked angry and insane, like she wanted to murder all of the fledgling writers with their shitty Game of Thrones and Gone Girl knock-offs.

 

 

Washington State: Urban II

I was feeling miserable after the writer’s conference, but I climbed into my friend’s car. He told me about his new job on the way to his house, which he just sold and is doing a rent-back until he can get into the newer house he bought.

Two weeks ago, I discussed with my therapist that I do not empathize with people, but I guess maybe I do. Inside, I was genuinely happy for him. Better job. Better house. He’s got two kids, and that gets old real fast raising two kids in a 2 bedroom house the size of my living room back in Vegas.

We got some dinner at a poke place. I ordered some chicken cutlet dish, but the chef messed up and gave me that, but with an egg on top. I saw this as a good thing, and told them not to throw it away.

My friend, we’ll call him, ‘Kevin’- was in my band many years ago. And I label him as a friend only for the purpose of writing this blog. He is not a friend tho. I don’t think he even much likes me as a person. But, here we are, 20 years later still picking up old threads and talking pretty comfortably and without effort.

You cannot take it as a bad thing that we are not friends. In high school, I had 50 or more friends in my gang of punk rockers, hardcore kids, maniacs, perverts, and skaters. They are not connected to me in any way now, other than in memory.

Kevin remains and is something like a brother. We are very different. We actually disagree on most things. In my estimation, he thinks I am an unfeeling buffoon. But, we speak on a personal and intimate level akin to the confessional in a catholic church. Like me, he is a searcher-just in different ways and different mediums.

Different as we are on almost all levels, I’d die to protect him and his family. I only feel that for a handful of people in my life. They are not any more unique than the man begging for change or the man who passes by me in a restaurant- it’s our history that binds us. Its from that cauldron that we draw our conversations.

We went downtown to see this old hardcore band Integrity, but it was way too early. So, we had a drink in the bar right next door. A woman came around and handed us condoms and lube. We looked up and saw a banner stating this was the Airsex championships.

A half hour later, various men and women got on stage, one at a time, and performed sexual acts to the air while the DJ played their specific song.

It was an awkward thing to watch. The bravery of it impressed me. Somehow, the men were more sensual than the women. They were definitely more creative. The one girl we saw, all she did was pantomime blowing five different guys at once. Then she humped the floor and smacked her ass, pretending she was getting railed from behind. Everyone chuckled from the mouth, not from the heart as she humped along on the floor.

We went outside. Some kid had gotten beaten up at the Integrity show and the paramedics were there. Integrity hadn’t even gone on yet.

We went inside and found a really good spot. If I am 41, then the guys in Integrity are nearing 50. As soon as they started playing, the crowd erupted in violence. Like, real bad. And it kept up that way song after song. A few fights broke out. At one point, the bouncers charged the stage and choked a kid. That same kid then thrust out his hand in a mocking thumbs-down sign and went back to flailing with his fists. Got into another fight. Some people jumped some other people. By the last song, everyone was friends with their arms slung over each other’s shoulder.

That’s a punk rock show for you.

When it was over, everyone was exhausted. We went outside. Got into Kevin’s car. Went home. My ears were ringing, so I put on an audiobook with a 30 minute sleep timer and eventually drifted off.

Washington State: Urban III

Kevin’s wife has a beautiful home which she keeps clean and tidy. In a style I see a lot in Seattle, she owns nothing unless it has meaning or fits into the design of the place. In other words- cheap ikea and TJ Maxx shit is kept to a minimum, if it exists at all in the house. Everything is put away. If things are taken out, they are put back in their place when they are done.

Kevin made a killer breakfast which I thoroughly enjoyed. I talked to his wife for a while, someone I’ve known for many years- although not as intimately as him. I give them credit for remembering a lot of details about my life. One thing, they remember my wife’s foreign name.

I enjoy talking to them very much. They are people who interest me. Their conversation is stimulating. Also, I like the way they interact as a couple. I can honestly say I envy it. Seeing people happy together makes me happy.

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The man at Sprouts

I used to see this weird guy at Sprouts.

One day, I mentioned him to my wife. “Oh yeah, that guy’s scary,” she said.

When I mentioned him to other women, they all knew about him. He was kind of infamous with the lady folk.

Each time I went to Sprouts, I scrutinized things about him. He was maybe a little short, but he was at least 5’6. He was not unattractive, just maybe plain. I watched him interact with people and he was quite friendly. He wasn’t muscular, but he was in better shape than me.

He had long hair, but I cropped it off him and saw how he’d look with short hair. There was still something wrong about him, even with the upgraded haircut. It had to do with his eyes. And, being aware of this, I went to him whenever I checked out and studied the way he looked at me. I could not tell you what was wrong about him, but he was born without. I knew that much.

I’ve only known ten others like him- these Born Withouts. I’ve only seen two that were female. On the outside there’s nothing wrong with them. But the whole world knows that they don’t fit anywhere. The world wants to see them murdered and their DNA erased.

When I encounter them, I slide them a tip or something to cheer them up. “You’re the best,” I say.

Sometimes I put them into the stories I write, as I think it’s the only place they can ever escape judgment.

 

Writing Blind

Around age 24 or 25, my eyes broke. One day, I couldn’t read anymore. I couldn’t make prolonged eye contact. Couldn’t watch movies, tv, look at cell phones. People I tried to tell that to said I was insane. I went to a few indifferent doctors who couldn’t tell me much about it other than to take anti-depressants.

What happens is some people who have lasik surgery have an atrophy that distorts their eye. They don’t tell you about this when you go to get it done. I thought I was the only one, but I’ve read online where a few people have committed suicide because of it. I definitely see why.

I still have eyes, so I taught myself how to make art while blindfolded. I can write to some extent, but I have to be very careful about it and I do have to complete some of it blindfolded. Luckily, I am a very adept typist and actually just scored a 67 word per minute on the Las Vegas typing exam! Yay!

It makes me look insane when I tell people at work I cannot look at cell phones, so I just don’t tell them. I use Siri when I can. When people show me pictures on their phones, I pretend to look at them. The only movies I watch are the damned Avengers movies, and it takes me two or three days to recover afterwards. But geez, you have to know what Thanos is up to.

Here is a piece of the artwork I did while blindfolded.

I don’t care what life throws at you- there’s always a workaround. Doesn’t have to be oh so pretty, just has to keep you alive until the next Avenger’s movie.

Cover song

The diary of an adult autistic trying to pass himself off as human