Life Hack/No Life Hack

It is November and the weather is dark and depressing. My city just underwent a terrorist attack. Currently, as I write this, Trump is doing “better than expected” (=cheating is going well) in initial counts. My tooth broke off day before yesterday and I spent yesterday morning at the dentist getting the rest ground off and a temporary crown applied and it was, of course, not in my budget. And, finally (?) we are not only in the middle of a pandemic, still, and our second lockdown (so far) — we are quarantined for the second time, waiting for someone to come test us, bc we were exposed to someone who tested positive.

You may ask yourself, why is Mig in such a good mood?
Well, strictly speaking, not a good mood, but maybe, why isn’t Mig in a worse mood?
Why isn’t Mig depressed?
Or, more accurately, why isn’t Mig more depressed? 2020 is being 2020 with a vengeance, he can’t see his friends in person, etc.

Ok you know what, when I started this post that was going to be the joke – there is no life hack, right? Things are terrible and I’m depressed. Except right now it occurs to me I am not really depressed. I am sad, but that’s different. My opinion – and I am not a psychologist – is that if you have a reason it’s sadness, not depression. I am sad bc a young man felt compelled to shoot random strangers. I am sad bc of seasonal grayness. I am sad bc I can’t see my friends who *are* depressed and try to cheer them up. I am sad bc I have to figure out how to pay for a crown on my molar (I have the money don’t worry).

I don’t know. My tent wisdom comes to mind – when I started this post, it sucked that it was raining when I was in a tent. But before I finished the second paragraph, it was great to have a tent when it was raining.

Maybe it’s just my brain’s last desperate attempt to cheer me up before I plunge into despair, but right now I am thinking about everything, and everyone, I love. My family. My friends. Random people I follow without knowing on social media saying decent, or indecent but funny, or kind, things right now. The city of Vienna. The country of Austria. The person who hollered “Schleich di du Oaschloch” at the terrorist. The Viennese personality that phrase is so typical of. The Americans who voted against Trump.

And so on.

I don’t know. Maybe it isn’t enough. We’ll see I guess. Maybe absentee ballots will be so overwhelmingly against Trump something good will come of 2020 after all. Maybe the feeling of unity and kindness in Vienna will last. Maybe my friends and I will cheer up. I am already thankful for a lot of things – my breadbox is full of bread, my wife and I are getting along, my small cats like me and the big one doesn’t bite me much. My transmission is making a funny noise but I only have to drive to the train station, usually. My children and my wife and I are all safe and healthy, except maybe for coronavirus. I don’t know, it’s a balancing act.

It always is, for someone, I guess right now we’re getting a taste of it, in case we didn’t realize before.

Now excuse me, I have to go into the cellar and write, Gamma is my new writing partner and we’re doing Nanowrimo this year. <3

The Inquisitor

Down, down, down.
Down they went, down the narrow spiral starecase, spelled that way because it was hewn from living eyes staring at them as they went, two guards in front, then the prisoner, then a bunch more guards in back since if a prisoner gets away and tries to escape they generally head back the way they came cause what could be down a freaky starecase? You don’t want to know.
The sounds of the city faded quickly and were replaced by water dripping, distant screams, whips cracking, like that.
Sort of like the beginning of a guided meditation, only way scarier.
The prisoner didn’t remember much after that. They tied him up and started torturing him, that much he knew, but after that things grew fuzzy cause he did what any intelligent person would do, he passed out immediately. One twist of a thumbscrew and that was it, over and out.
He regained consciousness. Someone had tossed a bucket of water in his face. He heard the sounds of boots on the stone floor, hewn from the living rock.
“He’s one tough customer, I’ll grant him that, your Lordship,” said a guard to the boots.
The prisoner spat water, pfff!
The prisoner’s name was Mark.
“No information at all?” said the boots.
The guard shook his head. “Nothing. Thumbscrews, rack, Iron Maiden. Quiet as a judge.”
“Which Iron Maiden?”
“2 Minutes to Midnight.”
“We’ll have to up the ante,” said the boots.
It was easy for Mark not to reveal anything. He was passed out and didn’t have a clue what they wanted anyway, or he would have told them, but they weren’t interested in his explanations.
“The Inquisitor will loosen his tongue,” said the boots, who then left the room amidst the chuckles of the guards (evil chuckles).
Mark didn’t have long to wait and worry about what the fellow had meant. The Inquisitor must have been waiting right outside the door, cause there he was, quiet on his feet, cheerful. A small man, but wearing black. Black boots, black cape, black hood.
“Okay let’s get started,” said the Inquisitor.
“Okay,” said Mark.
“Get-rich-quick ideas. Those have driven stronger men mad than you. Think up three get-rich-quick ideas. Now. On the spot.” He waved a red-hot poker in Mark’s face.
“Artisinal honey, e-books that you actually buy, mobile phones that protect your privacy, manly baby equipment bags for fathers, reasonably-priced wet plate cameras, software that comes on a DVD and installs itself and doesn’t require a month of back-and-forth with customer service to register.”
“He’s good,” said a guard.
“Silence!” said the Inquisitor, who was losing his temper, because normally thinking up three get-rich-quick ideas on the spot like that drove prisoners mad.
“NANOWRIMO is coming up,” said the Inquisitor. “Give me a plot that won’t make you sick after a month. Right now.”
“I, uh,” stammered Mark.
“Now we’re cooking with fire,” said the Inquisitor to a guard. “See? Everyone has a weakness.”
“What sort of book?” said Mark.
“Any sort,” said the Inquisitor, because what was harder than coming up with an idea when you had total freedom?
“That’s a tough one,” admitted Mark. “Do you ever wonder, when things are slow, down, down here, what book the world really needs?”
“What?” said the Inquisitor.
“I mean, life is finite. We can only read so much, all of us. Different people need different books, naturally, but for you, from your point of view, what is the book that is lacking when you go into a bookstore and leave unfulfilled, even if you leave with an armload of Staff Picks?”
“You mean, like, genre?”
“I mean everything. The exact book. I can see mine. Hardbound, ornate cover, of medium size and thickness. Containing all I need. A book smarter than me so I feel uplifted, yet not so clever as to be irritating. Frightening and reassuring in turns, a book that purifies both by example and by fire, so to speak, annealing the reader, and which leaves one back in love with language, thought, perception and humanity. You know what I mean?”
“No, actually,” said the Inquisitor, but he was starting to wonder, although he hadn’t read many books lately. He was so busy! But he had read a lot as a kid.
“Maybe someone can fly,” said the Inquisitor. “Maybe. But it seems realistic.”
“A book like a secret life. A book that reconciles us with our secret lives, the secret lives we all lead but cannot express or share, as much as we may try. A book that rewards us for them!” said Mark.
“Perhaps with dragons,” said the Inquisitor. “Or at least dragon eggs. Or even dinosaur eggs.”
The Inquisitor stared at Mark. Mark looked at him. The guards watched the two of them. The eyes of the starecase beheld the whole group.
“Perhaps with a whale. Perhaps a library or a linguist. Perhaps crows cawing in the fog in a forest the color of autumn. Perhaps a man hiding in a fisherman’s hut on the bank of a river, under a large willow. Perhaps a couple kneeling at the edge of a deep hole in the woods, freshly dug, with another man standing behind them with a Saturday Night Special in a gloved hand. Perhaps a child. Perhaps someone standing in a field in winter, watching their breath and the long grass, turned white with ice crystals in the night.”
“Perhaps,” said the Inquisitor.


So November is upon us.

I drove into Vienna on All Saints to pick up my kid’s harp case from someone’s apartment and maybe I was depressed or tired, but the world seemed so gray and dead, this timeless cold, dusty deadness you get in Vienna on November afternoons.

I’m having a hell of a time shaking that feeling.

On the plus side, more than 20 books are bound and Gamma and I are taking a train trip out of town this coming weekend to visit some friends.

It’s snowing in Vienna this morning. It took longer than normal to get to work this morning because everyone on the freeway was seeing snow for the first time, apparently.

Yes. And good, old Nanowrimo. Can you hear the keyboards clicking the world over? Smell those pink Red Bull burps?

And who’s this guy, spinning his wheels here?


I haven’t written a word yet this month.

I haven’t a plot, nor a character nor an idea.

I’m chilling, because a month is way more than I need to write 50,000 words.

I’ve got books to bind, I’ve got cello to practice, I’ve got a yoga class to go to.

So much to do, and here I am spinning my wheels until they smoke.

The joke’s on you, though, because: I’m a dragster. I’m just spinning the wheels to get better traction when I take off.

I lied about not having an idea. I’m actually thinking about writing an opera this time. Involving fish or something. Seriously. How many romance novels are written in Nanowrimo every year, and how many operas? I was driving, and this opera said, Write me, Mig.

So there’s that. Plus, if it ends up shorter than 50,000 words, you can always say, Operas are supposed to be shorter.

Operas, seriously. Brilliant.

Nanowrimo 2008

I win, which means, I typed over 50,000 words in the month of November. This must be what James Joyce felt like when he finished the first draft of Ulysses. I can just see him eating a raisin bagel at Starbucks, squinting at his laptop, going,

The supreme question about a work of art is out of how deep a life does it spring,


ah yes I met do you remember Menton and who else who let me see that big babbyface I saw him and he not long married flirting with a young girl at Pooles Myriorama and turned my back on him when he slinked out looking quite conscious what harm but he had the impudence to make up to me one time well done to him mouth almighty and his boiled eyes of all the big stupoes I ever met and thats called a solicitor only for I hate having a long wrangle in bed or else if its not that its some little bitch or other he got in with somewhere or picked up on the sly if they only knew him as well as I do yes because the day before yesterday he was scribbling something a letter when I came into the front room for the matches to show him Dignams death in the paper as if something told me and he covered it up with the blottingpaper pretending to be thinking about business,


It’s going to take a great deal of work to make this make sense.


3:00 AM – Wake up. Raining hard. The rain sounds nice. Everyone else is still sleeping, even the kittens. Go downstairs, let in the big cats, feed big cats and one kitten. Go looking throughout house for other kitten. FInd her, feed her too.

3:20 AM – It took 20 minutes to feed the cats?

3:25 AM – Start writing

4:30 AM – Update nanowrimo draft 1 word count. It’s over 50,000, yay. Far from finished, though. A mess, to be honest. Type a little more. Check email.

5:00 AM – Celebrate by going back to bed for an hour.

5:15 AM – Give up, go back downstairs to kitchen, hang out with Alpha.

6:00 AM – Pack lunch for Gamma.

6:15 AM – Shower, shave.

6:30 AM – Wake and feed Gamma. Empty dishwasher. Fill dishwasher. Clean litter boxes.

7:00 AM – Start nagging Gamma to get ready.

7:20 AM – Last call. We really have to leave now.

7:30 AM – Leave for school. Drop Gamma, continue on to work.

8:30 AM – 5:30 PM – Random shit. Maybe hit Apple store at lunch to look at xmas gifts for Beta.

7:00 PM – Run buffet at Beta’s harp concert, somehow.

8:00 PM – Lose all cognitive functioning, due to getting up at 3 AM.

9:00 PM – Go out for drinks with harp people after concert, etc.

10:00 PM – Go to bed or fall asleep in restaurant, depending on location.

On writing

3.30 AM is a good time to write. The house is quiet, except for the kittens rolling around the kitchen floor in a Tupperware mixing bowl, their current favorite toy after the concert harp, which is off-limits. Gamma is sleeping upstairs, Alpha is in Japan and Beta went back to her dorm last night.

If you close the kitchen door, Gamma can’t hear you when you slam your forehead on the kitchen table to wake yourself up every ten minutes.

In this fashion, 2000 words get written in, roughly, 2 hours.

Random words, mostly:

the,orange,the,shopping,list,a,water bottle,tile,ceiling,pyjamas.

Regarding the world

The world is a reel played by a one-legged woman.