I always celebrate writing a book by getting tattooed. With the first novel
, I got a campy heart with the main character's name in it. Silly me, I thought people would find "Rhonda" etched on my wrist an interesting conversation starter, but every time somebody asks, "Who's Rhonda?" and I say, "He's this guy I made up," they always scamper away as quickly as possible.
With book two, Termite Parade, I took the hint and made the connection a bit less literal, a pretty picture of a bumblebee. It incites much less scampering.
I recently tattooed Damascus on the back of my forearm in Arabic. It's a language of stunning architecture. If you've never really looked at anything in Arabic, check it out:
What can I say about Damascus that won't sound like self-aggrandizing schlock, sure to make you scamper off? I can tell you what I tried to accomplish: I wanted to write about an oddball litany of players, from a berth of backgrounds, varied demography, contradictory social viewpoints ranging from veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom to performance artists. I wanted to honor my father, who died of cancer, by writing about an imagined cancer patient. I wanted to examine my struggles with booze and drugs via a female character named Shambles, whom I absolutely cherish. I wanted, in my own small way, to protest the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I wanted to talk about the simple self-esteem battles that every human fights day in day out, by featuring a character inexplicably hiding in a Santa suit. Most importantly, I wanted to pen a wild, reckless romp, a weird world for a reader to huddle in for a few hours.
I'll be blogging here all week, and I thought it would be fun to share a work-in-progress with ye of the Powell's literati. So I'll end each day's post with an excerpt from a short story I'm working on — by Friday, you'll have the whole piece. Sound like fun? smile
"paris, 2009" (part 1)
The girl had a black eye and the guy with her didn't. These were the first details the street artist noticed as they plopped down at his sidewalk stand to have their picture drawn. The street artist stared at her swollen eye, then the guy's healthy eyes, and back to hers. It was a sunny afternoon in Berkeley, California. College kids trounced up and down Telegraph Avenue, walking by the street artist's stand without much acknowledgement. That was, until the girl with the black eye and the man sat down and asked the street artist, "What will it cost us?"
Five dollars," the street artist said.
"Don't make me look fat," the girl with the black eye said.
"You're not fat."
"Dude, you should see her naked," the guy said, nudging her and laughing.
She hit him playfully on the arm and smiled. "Shut up, Tyler," who apologized, though it was obviously insincere. The street artist got the sense that if these two were home alone, barricaded in some trashed apartment, the guy wouldn't be saying sorry for anything, but slugging beer from a can, a dune of tobacco bulging from his bottom lip and making the girl with the black eye wait on him like an indentured servant.
"Better suck in your gut," Tyler said and patted her on the stomach.
"That isn't a gut, asshole. That's your baby."
"Looks like a gut to me."
"What kind of background?" said the street artist.
"It can be anything?" the girl with the black eye asked.
She stared at Tyler. "Where should we go?"
"I don't care."
"Paris? In front of the Eiffel Tower? Can you do that?" she asked the street artist.
"Pack your bags," she said to Tyler. "We're off to Paris."