Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Practice Copy: Two Short Pieces

Tiling the Ocean Floor
I have here a thousand tiles of various colors. The majority of them are white yet there are many other hues: blues, reds, greens, etc. First, I must determine the length and width of the room I want to tile, then calculate the number of tiles for each the length and the width of the room to include any odd corners, pookas, shower stalls and water closets. I must then calculate the area and the number of tiles needed to fill that area.

With all this ‘math and measurement’ rigmarole taken care of I can then determine a pattern. I would like to stay as symmetrical as possible because my wife fancies herself to be very conservative and I want to make her happy. Yet, I also would like some contrast and interest. I don’t want a ‘show floor’ perfect tile job. If I did, I would just pay someone else to do it for me.

There is a balance between math and art. Neither can exist without the other. There is also a balance between engineering and know-how or ‘tribal knowledge’. Tribal knowledge, in its purest form, is magic, old wives tales, mythology or, perhaps, voodoo. How utterly poetic is it to associate this concept with the maintenance and operation of a nuclear powered submarine in the U. S. Navy?

The same ignorant mind smacks the T.V. to get it to work or kicks the jukebox, snaps his fingers and smiles like the Fonz and his favorite ‘cool guy’ record starts spinning. I felt like I was putting my life in the hands of modern day barbarians; one hundred and fifty Henry Winklers dressed in Navy blue. “Ehhh, no problem, it’s just a nuclear reactor. No sweat.”
A motor generator is used is several applications yet in this particular instance it was used to convert AC power to DC power (I think it also translates Chinese to English but I can’t be certain or perhaps it’s Top Secret, in which case, I am unable to divulge such information to you). Said generator is controlled by a circuit card. The exact purpose of the card is unknown to me as I spent my Naval career banging pipes and cleaning shitters yet I do know that they’re important enough to delay an ‘underway’.

I know this because we were preparing to get ‘underway’ when the thing started smoking and burning. “Light smoke in the engine room, light smoke from the port motor generator!” I swear the worse part of any casualty aboard a U.S. Navy vessel is the annoying alarms. I think I would rather burn to death then hear that hideous, heart stopping sound again.

The card gets replaced and the generator tested again. More smoke.

I have owned, in my life, five different computers. I have put them all through the worst hell computers can go through and yet, after all these years, I have never seen a mother board catch fire or even smoke. That’s what you get using nineteen eighties technology in the 21st century. Slick back your hair, flip up your collar and kick start the submarine, Fonzy.

Thank the gods no one sounds the alarm this time but the word of the faulty equipment spreads quickly throughout the crew. Everyone loves a good story that ends in “The underway has been delayed for another day.” This means I get to sleep in a king size bed as opposed to a submarine rack which accommodates only half my body.

There is a myth ‘third time’s the charm’. It seems to work as the third card plays fair and stays cool.
It’s in my nature to challenge anything that forsakes logic so it wasn’t long before the question broached my lips: if card A fried replaced by card B that fried replaced by card C that worked and no one can explain why; and if the loss of the generator was important enough to keep the boat tied to the pier, why shouldn’t we (by ‘we’ I mean someone else) determine why cards A and B failed and why card C didn’t fail and what keeps card C from failing when we’re ‘ass’ deep under the pacific ocean somewhere?

PFM, petty officer, PFM. Pure fucking magic. “Prepare to dive!”
Meanwhile, the tiles end up arranged in a hideously mundane pattern, a border of baby blue and four baby blue tiles in the center. I could sleep on this floor, not because it’s comfortable but because the pattern puts me to sleep just looking at it. Maybe I should tile the bed room.

Moderately Crisp Copy
I gave up my career in music because of a weak heart. I mean this in the literal sense of a ‘weak heart’.

I remember seeing pictures of my seven year old self in PJs, wearing a cape/towel and a pair of Huey Lewis and the News style sunglasses singing into a hair brush/ microphone. I sang at church, in the car, in the woods, to a large crowd in eastern Russia. I wooed girls with renditions the Beach Boys ‘Little Surfer Girl’ over the phone, I learned to play the guitar at the age of seventeen and started a silly little Christian band with a three song repertoire and a tweed covered Harmony amp we found in the church’s attic. There was no one more bound and determined to be a rock star then I was.

Why did I fail?

Chocolate cake is good. Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting is better. Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and bits of chocolate ribbons and chocolate sprinkles washed down with a glass of chocolate milk… prepare for chocolate vomit.

There have been a few times in my life when I was able to juggle three titles; artist, musician and writer. Creativity and artistic expression are wonderful, but, then again, so is chocolate… in moderation.

Instead of tackling them all at once I took each in turn, in phases, starting nearly from scratch each time the mood hit me to paint or write or sing. Slowly, I was becoming the most useless thing in the world; a jack of all trades and master of none.

I struggled to narrow it down, to concentrate on one form. Yet I was harassed by my own skewed logic. I want to be a rock star to rock the world, to get the girls. I want to write because I love it yet also because the ‘writer’s lifestyle’ seemed to fit my lifestyle. I want to be an artist but I have no patience for it. I want to sing because I’m a natural; I want to write because I’m a natural; I want to draw because…

I can, from my vantage point, see an easel with a horrible painting (it looks like cow dung smeared on a white fence); I quit two hours into it. I can see a guitar case lightly layered in dust and a computer screen with this short story on it; smokes and a fan, tangled cables and my sleeping dog, unfinished homework and boxes that should have been stored in a closet months ago. It’s here in this messy hole that I think about what was and what will be, what could happen and what will never happen. There is a life waiting for me that I can’t have because I am unwilling to give up the one I have now.

Everything that was, is and will be in my life, all balances on a single thought that was planted into my head so many years ago: ‘You are very talented and it would be a shame if you did not use that talent for some greater purpose.’ I’m paraphrasing here but either way it’s a lot of pressure to put on a young boy. My life, as a consequence, has ranged from the sweetest heaven to the most bitter hell. I have been gorging on a smorgasbord of chocolate delights… wearing my chocolate vomit like a badge of honor.

But I just want to take a break from it all because my heart hurts.

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