Thursday, October 27, 2016



ALL OF MY COWORKERS IMPRESS ME. I'm impressed by everyone I see at work, and everyone I see at work has my respect. Everybody there is smart. Smart, capable, and interesting. They're all real characters.

Two dozen of us work for a very successful business with multiple locations. We sell everything needed to build homes. The business makes millions and millions of dollars a year. We're the only game in town, and we move an incredible array of product. For me it's a brand-new skill set. I love working with people, but my favorite part is when I drive a truck. Because that really is a skill. Check the classifieds. Two positions are always advertised: Registered nurses and experienced truck drivers. I'll never be a nurse--and I have no problem with that--but I'm getting experience driving a truck, and I like that a lot.

I also like operating a forklift. I've done it before. It's fun. And sometimes I use a chop saw and a table saw. With both I'm quite precise. I know how to use a tape measure, and with the table saw I know how to run a cut smooth and straight with the wood firm against the rail. Couple days ago a customer who had received a bad plywood cut on my off day was told by the front desk to ask for me by name. I like that.

I like everyone at work. Sometimes I get a chance to speak with people individually. Then I get to really learn about them. It's essential that we see each other's humanity. What a terrible waste to be stuck with people you can't stand. And I've been there. I've had that kind of job, where there were lousy people around. But those days are long gone.

I can even walk to work. Sometimes I take my VW bug, sometimes my Chevy pickup, sometimes I ride my mountain bike. It's all good. Like living in a TV show. I meet lots of people. I'm busy. Busy being self-sufficient, busy being involved in life. I am open to the universe. I have nothing to hide.

I've lived many lives. Enough to appreciate this one. Exactly as it is.


The fob to my bug doesn't work. It used to lock and unlock my car with the press of a button from a distance. Then one summer day I forgot it was in my pocket when I went swimming. Ever since then it's just a key. But the key won't stay down. It pops up like a constant boner. So I have to keep a rubber band around it or it'll put a hole in my pants.

Never mind all that. The point is, while things do work, they do so only barely. The bug itself, for example. Every single bit of it is falling apart. Evidently it was constructed by mentally deficient monkeys right before lunch break. I would never recommend a VW to anyone ever. Not even an asshole worthy of an open-handed face-slap. Mostly because why recommend anything to an asshole? But that's beside the point. Point is, nobody looks at VWs. Least of all mechanics. Not the one or two worth a damn. Or even an open-handed face-slap. Sure, the Divorce-mobile is, at first glance, entirely adorable. Which I entirely hate. But it was literally the only car in town. From a satellite dealership with one car left. And then they skedaddled. I've had more problems with that car than anyone has had with anything ever. Literally.

Forget the 98 million little plastic bits and pieces that have fallen or are falling off. Let's just talk about the turn indicator. Guess what? It doesn't work. Having a spine made of steel, I graciously rolled with that punch and said No problem. Why, I'll simply roll down the window, and use my arm to indicate signals. Golly life is jolly. Haha! So easy.

And then the window started sticking. And then it wouldn't roll back up at all.

Haha! So jolly! Not a problem.

Then the Service Engine Soon light came on my Chevy S-10.

So I left the S-10 on the street and pulled my bug into my ex's garage--that would be the garage at the house I picked out, the one with the shop next to it where I wrote most of my work late at night while the world slept--and I pulled out my old mountain bike. Sadly, in my four years of solitary confinement doing time in Northern California, my mountain bike's gears ceased to function. Plus one brake squeaks like a vat of boiling rats. And a tire with a slow leak stays perpetually low.

Surely, I said, the Lord doth test me.

I work my goddam ass off! I have yet to see the fifty year-old man who can lift anywhere near the shit I lift all day, plus write to beat the goddam band. Well, not now. But usually.

Everything's falling apart like fuckin' dandelion spores, yet still I manage to retain my pleasant nature. This has not in human history been done 'til now. Check the history books. Go check it out.

And women. Don't get me started. Too late! I deserve love. Big fat juicy love. What a craphole world where I, of all people, go loveless. What I get is a bunch of old cassette tapes. Because the CDs don't play on my ancient machine. The one I used all those times in my shop. Writing books, for humanity. The lid to my CD player pops up constantly like the boner key on my fob. So I have to hold it down with the last two copies of my three print books.

Spores barely holding together.

I know of no writing professor who puts so much on the line, or keeps such consistent readership. I know of no corporate-published author more inventive or capable than myself, and I've never heard of anyone who pays anywhere near the dues.

Sometimes I'll see a hundred pageviews in Russia. Sometimes it'll be a hundred pageviews in Poland. I'm thankful for my reliable readers in Germany. Plus a few in France. Randoms in Spain, Ukraine, Norway, Mexico, China. Countries all around the world. Sometimes places I never knew existed. Mostly of course the US. Everybody helps keep me going. If I wasn't so poor, I'd pay you.

It means more than I can say that you care about what I write. Or at least want to see me fuck up. I don't know what I'd do without you. Wouldn't feel as real, that's for sure.

Hundreds of pageviews at a time. And I have to wonder: Colleges? Prisons? Mental institutions? The pageviews go for hours at a time. Plagiarists stealing my work? Ah, how sweet. Whoever you are, you're terrific fuel. You're like God to me. Always there, invisible, never saying anything.

I worship you. You are my religion.

And you know what? I'll kill for you.


Got one.

Dear reader, I managed to lure someone back to my apartment for you. I swear, those hidden hands. Just always there to help.

It was dusk, and the golden autumn leaves, profoundly prolific, danced across the street like the innumerable pages I've penned and scattered to the wind. That was when I saw him, this worthless little punk-ass piece of shit who used to work at Sawyer's. I recognized him because one of my buddies at work pointed him out one day when he tooled down the breezeway with his flamboyant sugar-daddy looking for plywood...


Thursday, October 20, 2016


THE SIREN THAT SOUNDS indicates a rig entering the breezeway. Waiting at the other end of the tunnel he watches the silhouetted vehicle approach. A wide array of construction supplies line either side--leaning fiberglass and metal ladders, stands of pipes and gutters, large wheelbarrows bearing small, stacks of pressure-treated plywood, soundboard, pegboard, Melamine, Hardiback, stacks of 4x8 drywall, quarter-inch, half-inch, three-eighths and five-eighths, with and without Mold Guard in bound pairs of heavy brittle sheets called books. The truck pulls up alongside and the driver's side window eases down. He asks the driver how it's going and the driver says pretty good while handing over an invoice of big things bought inside the store.

After a four-year absence Odissus Kehote has returned to his home in the West. The blush of dawn greets each day less certain than the clockwork visitations Odissus takes to his past. Hidden hands, he feels, unseen agents of good and ill, have guided his troubles and successes alike. Powerful in body and powerful in mind, his strength and cleverness have hurt him in his travels as much as they have helped.

Swubble, Unwin and Vilkins stand nearby thumbing phones. They wear hoodies with a ball cap under the hood, hiding their heads like the Unabomber, having never heard of the Unabomber, as they discuss fantasy football and spit terbacky juice. Working at Sawyer's Lumber is one of the better jobs in town. "Odi's got it," he hears heading to the 2x4s, rig in tow. Swubble and Unwin were born the year Odissus met his future wife. For Vilkins it would take another two to enter the world, in which time Odissus and his bride-to-be were still beginning the Golden Age of their romance. Neither Swubble, Unwin, nor Vilkins has ever been married. Neither Swubble, Unwin, nor Vilkins has graduated college, owned a home, fathered a child, or started life over with nothing after a divorce.

The driver in the rig, nearer to Odissus in age, has never published books, nor taught classes, nor taught his daughter how to read by the age of three, or at any other time. The driver in the rig, nowhere near being credit card debt-free and unable to perform a single pull-up, idly watches Odissus load his truck half-dreading the prospect of having to unload it later.

Shrouded in plumes of gray exhaust, Tooley and Button operate forklifts. The tire-scored rutted mud, littered with green plastic straps cut from lumber units and wooden stickers of sundry sizes, holds pockets of puddles from the night's downpour. Winding shrink wrap around a pallet, Dolken and Chumley animatedly converse on anything except The Iliad, and neither Tooley nor Button nor Dolken nor Chumley take any notice at all when the only co-worker in the yard twice their age stands a railroad tie on end and shoulders it to the truck twenty yards away.

Tarp-like wraps torn from lumber units to which they had been tightly stapled add to the clutter of straps and stickers. Brushing creosote-soaked splinters from the railroad tie off his shoulder, Odissus sets his course to gather the debris as the laden rig leaves the yard and the siren in the breezeway sounds again.

Sunday, October 16, 2016


          From the good folks who brought us The Civil War, this big bold 8-part documentary covering "more than two million square miles of the most extraordinary landscape."
          For anyone curious about the dream landscape west of the Mississippi, The West holds the mother lode of invaluable information.
          Directed by Stephen Ives and produced by Ken Burns, the award-winning 1996 PBS documentary is packed with real photos of real people, and features insightful commentary from historians, novelists, and politicians. Actors such as Adam Arkin, Ossie Davis, Keith Carradine, Blythe Danner, John Lithgow, and Jimmy Smits bring to life the actual words of the famous and the unknown alike. Sparing no expense, the filmmakers even include narration from Peter Coyote.
          Episode 1, The People, which leads up to the year 1806, introduces to viewers the Nez Perce, Kiowa, Comanche, Pueblo, Apache, and many other peoples indigenous to the land that "was never empty." In some cultures, wealth was measured in slaves; in others, women owned all the property. In still other cultures, there was no word "I", only "we". Trade routes extended in all directions. Buffalo robes were worn by people who had never seen a buffalo. People spoke different languages, and people worshipped different gods--sometimes unaware of each other's existence.
          Spanish soldiers washed up by storm in what is now Galveston, Texas, thirty years after Columbus, are credited as the first Europeans to set foot in the West. Having already stolen Aztec and Inca treasure in their quest to spread Christianity, the Conquistadors, armed with horses and guns, destroyed village after village in a desperate search for gold that proved a total failure. It will come as no surprise that the Spanish accidentally introduced the horse to the West. Most viewers, however, are probably not aware that the Spanish thought the land they named California was an island, and that the name refers to Califia, a beautiful queen from a supposedly mythical land of giants.
          From Lewis and Clarke to the Gold Rush to Little Big Horn, The West both covers familiar ground and explores new territory with sounds and images supporting the endlessly interesting facts that help us understand who we are today.
          "The West is not any one thing," according to historian T.H. Watkins, but rather "a tremendous collection of stories" which any thinking person cannot help but regard "without feeling a mix of pride and shame."
          It is, in the words of novelist N. Scott Momaday, "a landscape that has to be seen to be believed. And," he adds, "it may have to be believed to be seen."
          Freely discovered online.

Sunday, October 9, 2016


Starring Eva Green,
Asa Butterfield,
Samuel L. Jackson,
Judi Dench,
Rupert Everett,
Allison Janney,
Chris O'Dowd,
Terrence Stamp
Directed by Tim Burton
Written by Jane Goldman
Based on the novel by Ransom Riggs
Runtime 127 minutes
Rated PG-13

          Another mostly fine film from Tim Burton.
          Remaining deliberately vague to preserve the story, suffice to say that when ill befalls the grandfather (Stamp) of a boy named Jake (Butterfield), Jake takes a trip to an island near Wales where he finds an eclectic group of weird kids with gnarly powers.
          These "peculiars" are governed by an equally peculiar instructor, Miss Peregrine (Green). Sort of X-Men meets Dark Shadows, with Miss Peregrine as Professor X. Neither of whom does too much teaching.
          By way of conflict, a faction of adult peculiars headed by Samuel L. Jackson.
          Although it's not one of Tim Burton's best films--Beetlejuice and Sleepy Hollow, for example--Peregrine's boasts an array of memorable moments. Each kid's peculiarity initially intrigues. One young gal is as strong as ten men, another lighter than air. One boy is invisible, and another can put a device to his eye which projects his dreams on a screen for others to see.
          Problem is, Peregrine's makes a better trailer (and poster) than it does a movie. It starts out slow and doesn't have much story. It's a bowl of soup all right, just not very savory.
          Unlike most of Burton's films, this one does not have music by Danny Elfman. Nor does it have Johnny Depp. Or Helena Bonham Carter. Nor is it based on something from fifty years ago. All these minuses add up to a movie that doesn't stand out in the repertoire. Which conceivably could be a plus. Either way, there it is.
          One thing Burton has never done is make a hardcore horror classic. Neither Rosemary's Baby nor The Shining could ever be possible for him. His films skew too young. That said, Burton can't be faulted for not being Alfred Hitchcock. And if he stopped making movies, cinema would be irrevocably diminished. It's good to live in a world where the real life Willy Wonka still makes candy. We should all recognize that.
          Peregrine's has humor. Peregrine's has charm. It has a sallow, lanky, dark-haired lad, unabashedly brims with the championship of the inner child, and right now doesn't have a whole lot of competition.
          Worth seeing on the big screen.

Friday, September 30, 2016


New job, new digs, new everything.
My life has completely changed for the better.
For the last several weeks I've been doing everything possible to relocate to Oregon to be with my kid. Now I can finally breathe.
The new hat I'm wearing, pictured above, is part of my swag kit as the latest addition to the team at Miller's Lumber & Truss. This is a great job to have and I'm excited to work. For readers familiar with my stories, I'm back in the land of TRIBES and ELK MOANS. I get to drive my old pickup again. In my cammo ballcap, with my pickup and my dogs, I guarantee no one would dream I'm the same guy with stories featuring levitating Hippies. Ehhh-xcellent. Everything going according to plan.
I live upstairs in an old Victorian now. Every day I focus on the responsible things in life. And I love it. It's a real hoot.
As things settle down, and I get comfortable with my new routine, I'll be able to return to my writing. It's a sportsman's paradise around here, and this is exactly the right place for me to re-enter the world of OVERMAN, my Friedrich Nietzsche screenplay. I've got a boatload of material yet to publish. Plenty of stories of finish. There's also a good chance I'll pursue my Master of Fine Arts degree in order to teach Creative Writing at the university someday. That wouldn't take long, in fact. And of course I'll still write every week for The Independent.
Anyway, I cryptically alluded to all this a few posts back. Told you I'd keep you posted. Now you know.
Thanks for checkin' in. Means a lot to me.
Much obliged,
Yer ol' pal Stew

Drivin' the two-ton International. Today I was also on the forklift for awhile. Fun stuff. By the way, I have no idea why this computer configures my text so far down from the photo. I'm not hitting enter, yet it acts like I hit enter thirty times. Oh well, I'm done caring about it.

I like the view from my bedroom window of the gabled house next door. It is a writerly dwelling when I live.

Driving solo out to Baker City.

Monday, September 26, 2016


Starring Denzel Washington,
Chris Pratt,
Ethan Hawke,
Vincent D'Onofrio,
Byung-hun Lee,
Manuel Garcia Rulfo,
Martin Sensmeier,
Haley Bennett,
Peter Sarsgaard
Directed by Antoine Fuqua
Written by Richard Wenk, Nic Pizzolatto
Based on the screenplay by Akira Kurosawa,
Shinobu Hashimoto, Hideo Oguni
Runtime 133 minutes
Rated PG-13

Should have re-released the 1960 original. Better still, re-release Seven Samurai.

The latter, directed by Akira Kurosawa, is one of the greatest films ever. And this re-make of the re-make is even further off the mark than the first.

Fundamentally, Seven Samurai is a post-WWII picture. To equate the gun with the sword is to completely misunderstand the movie. The anonymity of the bullet is the same as that of the bomb. Between the skill, the bravery, the character of the samurai with his sword, and the ability to merely pull a trigger or drop a bomb, there is simply no comparison.

So when Hollywood turned a samurai movie into a Western with The Magnificent Seven, in spite of an amazing cast and a rousing score, it was a flawed idea from the start. A classic, but flawed.

Now, in keeping with the children's game "telephone," the original communication is all but completely lost. Nor does this new version offer improvement. Actually, the reverse. Too often it's just flat out stupid.

Instead of bandits planning to rob a small village, this time it's a gold mining company headed by one Bartholomew Bogue (Sarsgaard). To stop the crook from taking over, a stalwart young widow (Bennett) determines to procure aid from a bounty hunter (Washington) who in turn needs to enlist all the help he can get. That would be a half dozen other guys.

The real version has Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Coburn--big names. Plus Eli Wallach, textbook bastard, as the main bad guy. Plus great music. One of the most recognizable movie themes ever.

This fake version has nothing to compare with any of that. Looks like the filmmakers figured on bringing in older audiences curious to see how bad this gets screwed up, plus younger audiences based on it being a new release at a time with no competition.

Instead they should have come up with an original idea.

The villain is weak, and the casting comically inauthentic. As a Western it deserves a place right alongside Sharon Stone as a gunslinger in The Quick and the Dead.

To the good, it does have Vincent D'Onofrio as one of the seven, proving that even with this material his acting stands out. His squeaky-voiced old trapper-type dude is the best part of the movie, not counting the original's Elmer Bernstein music during the end credits.

As standard forgettable two-star fare, this is the sort of movie that would be fine for gelling in front of on free TV. Not worth paying to see in a theater, though.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016


The Pumping Iron of PBR.
Part "The American Experience" and part "Wide World of Sports," this 6-part documentary series released last month on Netflix follows professional bull riders from Brazil to the Las Vegas championships.
With commentating from the best in the business--J.B. Mauney calls bull riding the "worst drug in the world"--Fearless features action-packed photography equally appealing to fans of the sport and those new to it.
Called by Sports Illustrated "the most dangerous sport," bull riding's dangers include a 140-lb man being hit by the horns of a 1,900-lb bull, getting stomped on by the hooves, tossed like a ragdoll, and all of the above.
According to Sean Gleason, PBR's CEO, the riders aren't necessarily insane. "They just grew up with that desire to conquer that animal for eight seconds."
A fascinating document of both the sport and the culture of bull riding, Fearless lets us get to know and become emotionally invested in the riders as we see them advance through (and get cut from) the circuit.
Because for the past several years the world's best bull riders come from Brazil, much of the show contains subtitles for viewers unacquainted with the Portuguese language. In the words of 3-time champion Adriano Moraes, the first Brazilian to dominate the sport, "It's not a fight, it's a ballet."
He's talking about the ability to anticipate the bull's moves. Yet in other ways, bull riding isn't like ballet at all. Dr. Tandy Freeman, the medical director of PBR, assures viewers that bull riding, with its frequently incumbent concussions and spinal damages, often results in "the same sorts of injuries you see in motor vehicle trauma."
For PBR champ Renato Nunes, the high risks hit home: In 1995 his brother was head-butted by a bull and went into a coma for seventeen days. When he woke up, he couldn't remember who anyone was for two years, and never fully regained walking ability.
Half of the 100 judged points possible in a ride are based on how well the bull jumps and spins, so because the bull can be every bit as important as the rider, cowboys want bulls that fit their style. Either way, on the circuit they ride the best bulls every weekend.
In some sports--boxing, notably--former champs still itch to return. Not legendary cowboy Ty Murray, though. The PBR co-founder flatly states he hasn't wanted to do it at any moment since retiring. To him, the young guys "look like candles in the wind."