Sunday, June 28, 2009

Guitar Man & Hound Dog

This guy usually has a few friends hanging around him, but guitar man sometimes sits with his dog alone, winter and summer. When I took these photos last week, I realized I hadn't seen them since maybe 2006. Of all the "people like me"--as I like to call them--that I've photographed over the years, the only one I'm missing is Tab man. Its a huge kid in shorts, plays a Walkman and sings out loud, but the truly strange thing is that he always has a plastic bag from Jewel/Osco holding two big liter bottles of Tab. Last seen in the vicinty of 55th Street. I'm on the case. (In all seriousness, these guys have been around forever. As Harry Fassl once told me: We are patterns, persisting.)

Yearn For A Dream

Here is my June post over on STORYTELLERS UNPLUGGED. I posted a different photo, also taken on a bus, though at 87th and Central Park in the city. The one on SU is of the mannequin in that art shop.

Yearn For A Dream
Wayne Allen Sallee
June 28th 2009

We finally got our mid-90s here, so I’m listening to Cannonball Adderley and Charlie Parker. In the stinking summer subways of Chicago, the best thing you can hear is someone playing a saxophone with a pile of coins inside the case on the floor. One summer I heard a guy playing “I Can See Clearly Now,” and I can still see the moment, maybe fifteen years later, stopped in time. This temperature is great for me, health-wise, though I’m still one fingered, I can type for longer stretches, and this late at night I feel less tormented, as I sweat on the keyboard. Never at peace, just less tormented. Maybe that’s why men play the sax in the bowels of the city.

I am almost finished with a novel I’ve been ghostwriting, 91K out of 94K. I am actually excited, the original manuscript was turned on its head, but the author and I have worked closely so that the book is still his own. I’m sure with all of you novelists on board here, you know that feeling, being able to sit down and immediately be in the moment, know who does what next as the last five or ten minutes of the book’s life ticks down. I could say that I know that feeling from my short fiction, but not in the same way, as I always have the last line and title written before I start something.

I write my best in the evenings, and so I’ve taken advantage of summer, not wanting it to slip away so fast. I hurt from typing, but not everything is fine motor motion. This past week, I went kayaking for eight miles on the Chicago River, with the rains causing the river to be three feet higher and loaded with dead rats. As a kid, I saw a syndicated b&w cliffhanger-type thing on Garfield Goose, “Journey To The Beginning of Time,” which ran about 60 chapters. These guys go canoeing in Lincoln Park after being at the Museum of Science and Industry here in Chicago, go under a bridge and end up in prehistoric time and there’s some really cool stop action filming. I can only remember two guys’ names, Tony and JoJo, and it was kind of a rip to find out at the end that all 60 chapters turned out to be a dream of JoJo’s after falling asleep on a bench by the T. Rex exhibit. Well, a gyp, as we said back in the day. Also went to Taste of Chicago and had lunch with a few people in the Loop, came up with street talk and story titles as I rode the el. This last mostly comes from people being on their cell phones. I always wonder why the hell people are on the phone all the time, what did they do before cell phones?

What is the deal with the current trends in publishing? Some dude got a five figure advance from HarperCollins for a book that consists of, well, funny “tweets” on Twitter. Thing is, he has an email set up for people to send him these examples, which then leads me to believe that people will just make up funny entries. Now, there are some odd things I come across, the few times I’m on Twitter nowadays, my favorite being my writer friend Maurice Broaddus writing “I can’t believe I’m up this late trying to buy a pool for my son’s frog.” Mind you, no one would get this unless they have nieces who have Webkins. But I contacted my agent about this Twitter event, and suggested he market @joymotel, the Twitter novel I wrote with John Kewley (our hook being the review in the Boston Phoenix and the fact that John and I have never met or spoken on the phone.) You look at, say, Project Gutenberg, and you have bookshelf to ubernet. The new trend seems to be the reverse. Its no longer “What happens on Twitter stays on Twitter.” Another example is HARRY POTTER SHOULD HAVE DIED, which is entirely filled with speculations that had been posted on message boards on said ubernet. So I again contacted my agent, and working with a fellow in Los Angeles, have started writing LOST’S LONG CON, which intersperses a blog about the television show LOST that has been five years running with new material consisting of the two of us doing a Siskel & Ebert routine. The pitches can’t hurt, and for once in my life I’m looking at what’s on the shelves and knowing I have the time to write something that might slip through the window before the next trend hits, presumably “anecdotes involving iPhones,” and yes, you heard it here first, folks.

I suppose that if there is a topic to be discussed here beyond my usual ramblings, it is the net-to-shelf thing going on. I suppose it is a good thing, encouraging people to go out and buy a damn book, yet there is something vaguely insidious about it. If PK Dick were alive today, he’d find a way to write a great novel about it, likely involving corporate mind-control. He would certainly have invented the word UbikNet.

I’ve been taking a mess of photos, I always used to as references, and I have a Flickr account. Always use a disposable camera. Sometimes a multiple shot, but usually I want it to be a karma-like thing. In the last issue of WIRED, Hideki Ohmori talks about disposable cameras. A lot of what he says is right on target with my general feelings towards social networking, and I do have my toes in the water, but don’t really plan on dog-paddling daily on Twitter and Typepad and LinkedIn and Plaxo. Also, though no one asked, Facebook might as well be the Chicago River, in my opinion. I get more emails from FB than I do regular mail, and when I politely reply on FB, I then find myself replying to five or six other friends who have replied to my original reply, even though no one asked. Do I sound like Andy Rooney now, or what? I’m glad I don’t have his eyebrows. Imagine Rooney’s eyebrows on Larry King’s face. Yeah, good luck getting that image out of your head now.

Anyhow, Ohmori closes his interview by saying this. “We do not always want a faithful representation of reality. Sometimes we yearn for a dream.” Hopefully my photo will post; I took the picture while the bus I was on passed 91st and Cicero.

Enjoy July, my unseen friends. Call or hug a veteran next weekend, after you watch YouTubes of what’s going on in the streets of Tehran.