Thursday, May 9, 2013
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
I walked onto a train in Naples, April 2007, and images of rising fire from garbage heaped in the streets was the burning memory I expected to leave behind me. It was shortly before the army was called in to sweep clean the city of trash left behind by an inefficient, Mob-controlled, waste industry.
There was a man training his dog to play fetch with a purse in front of the train station.
When I had arrived, I stepped onto the subway and the man at my left and the man at my right stuck their hands into my pockets. I held my passport, phone and wallet which was awkward—because they did too.
I didn't say anything.
This had been my idea of chaos or the apocalypse.
Lawlessness and anarchy was not as obvious in March of 2010. Naples was the place to be. It was an authentic—beautiful—Italian city, without a lot of tourists. I was returning to Rome, after a short stay in Palermo—and just as I wanted to be, I was lost.
A hot, early morning sun sat low in a hazy sky as blinding light reflected off of the blue sea beyond the harbor. I watched a thin, balding man working on a ship as I walked towards the first of two ancient fortresses the names of which I can't remember.
I am writing about Naples because I am still lost there—It's been more than two years and I think I was lost before I got there. I think I was lost before I started writing Bar Fight.
I have faced so much rejection writing Bar Fight that I can't remember if I have learned to embrace it or if the only reason I write is to set myself up for it. We all aim for rejection sometimes—sometimes more than we think—it gives us the safety zone were we learn and grow but it's often easier to watch someone else do it—this is where I come in.
I build things,
I destroy things.
I rebuild them
I say what I can—if I shouldn't.
I say what I should—if I don't know how.
I am lost,
and I don't know if there is anything left to gain from this.
I can't invent a deeper pretense for what this means.
I am still lost in Naples, I am still in some residential town, with steep hills on the side of the sea, and I am still looking for some museum that holds one of Caravaggio's works—I can't even remember which one it was.
Somewhere in the back of my mind is the idea of viewing Caravaggio's Seven works of Mercy, one of the few works of Caravaggio I never got around to seeing out of pure laziness—I just didn't make it to the church on time—literally, it was in a church.
Do I think anyone will ever read Bar Fight? Do I think Bar Fight will ever get published?—not a chance. I think people would rather play video games that involve shooting zombies for hours on end as an escape, as a release for aggression and I don't blame them because we are all doing this for the same reason I wrote Bar Fight. I think we count ourselves lucky this day in age for surviving.
So here's an endorsement from a so called "writer": Do not read books like Bar Fight buy Call of Duty Black Op's II—enjoy it, I will be editing—editing is the same as surviving your own zombie apocalypse—(though less noble) self rejection is far safer than real rejection.
The streets of Naples were narrow and crowded, leaving little to the imagination about what life would have been like there during the 1600's. Caravaggio was there—in the 1600's—he was famous and successful and maybe as much of a reject as I am now.
He'd been expelled from the Knights of Malta. He had joined the Knights of Malta hoping to be pardoned for the murder that had gotten him exiled from Rome and despite all hope, his career was coming close to meeting its unexpected end—death.
I've been reading older stories on the Bar Fight blog and can't help feeling as If anyone who has read them should have recognized the Bar Fight blog as a practical defense mechanism.
I started writing fiction to say exactly what I feel, without being accused of being dangerous or insane because it was fiction—I was a fiction writer. The Bar Fight blog, supposedly true, tells everything aside from what really happened when I was in Europe writing Bar Fight. It's a facade with no meaning—it says nothing—so lets make this personal;
I don't know why I'm doing this anymore, so I may as well let it get weird.
Who is reading the Bar Fight Blog anyways? Apparently 25 people from China last week and 35 Ukrainians?
Facebook and blogging, represent everything Bar Fight is supposed to be against and here I am doing it anyways and doing it poorly—spelling and grammar issues—vain pleas for attention.
Here's a personal story that might start to mean something to somebody—this one's for the Ukrainians!
Last week I had a dream that I was lost in a giant church on Christmas Eve, there was a lady sitting next to me and she was sobbing. I tried to support her. I told her not to cry and she wouldn't listen. She wouldn't leave. The church was dark and everything was made of stone. It was raining on some of the people but not us. There were thousands of people there and their eyes were glowing. None of them were real. Nothing was real. I became annoyed with the woman when she wouldn't stop crying. I had to be strong and this seemed unfair. The priest asked everyone if they were satisfied with the seating arrangements. I became annoyed with him because he couldn't make the woman stop crying—he didn't ask about her.
Then I was in my bed. To my left was my fish tank. I watched an eel swimming. The eel represented a pure evil that consumed me with abject terror. To my left everything was black. To my right was dark but there was enough light that I could make out a few details. I felt blackness pulling me in and struggled to fight it—this concerned me because my efforts to remember that light was good and darkness was bad was matter of fact. I couldn't get myself worked up about it. I didn't care.
There was a videocamera in the light—it was hard to notice—it was mounted on a tripod, aimed at me. I realized that if everything I do is recorded, watched, scrutinized and judged for someone's own voyeuristic pleasure that I would rather sink into blackness and fade away. I committed to a life in hell and when I did the devil appeared at the foot of my bed. It was understood that the 2 x 4 wood beams stacked at my feet represented everything I have accomplished (under the eyes of many, nothing)—I had spent the previous two days building a desk where I can edit Bar Fight and work on the Crucifixion of Barabbas at the Place of the Skull. I saw that the devil had red skin, horns, a tail and I just couldn't believe he was really, real. He was laughable—this concerned me because if evil isn't real, what is good? I tried to conjure an image of him more terrifying and monstrous but I couldn't and he lifted a 2x4 and threw it directly at my heart.
I screamed as it bounced off my chest, wanting to believe I was afraid but I felt nothing. I picked up a 2x4, threw it at his heart and watched it penetrate right through the devil like he was made of tiramisu.
Then I was awake. When I had made the throwing motion, I knocked the alarm clock on top my nightstand and something fell off of a bible on the second shelf and woke me up.
Maybe the reason I started writing Bar Fight was to convince myself that pure evil really can exist but I am still lost in purgatory, rejected and I survive this way.
I remember the feeling in Naples, 2007—maybe I was lost then too, sitting near the docks late at night with friends, the tiny, white moon behind and above us didn't seem real. It seemed to mock an Eden we had already expelled ourselves from from as we passed around a bottle of wine. I suggested we write a message in the soon empty bottle. We were in Europe, we were study abroad, we weren't in some fancy bar, or our warm hostel room—we were on the fringe, we were drinking down by the docks and we were rejects. I was a reject, I came with no place to stay, ran into a friend on the street and now I was drinking with 5 girls, 3 guys, 3 guys that didn't know how to treat 5 girls, 1 who knew how to get them to sleep with him, 1 that tried, 1 other that kept to his own (me—the reject of rejects)—2 lesbians—the next day I saw them naked—they pulled down their bottoms to apply suntan lotion to one another—1 girl left Naples alone the next morning—said she had homework—that 1 guy who tried had really creeped her out—he was the first to scribble down some words that some philosopher once said and this is what I wrote on my side of the note;
"Here we go Steelers! Here we go! This bottle was thrown into the Monongahela river on April 12th 2007, [CENSORED] you!"
The Pittsburgh Steelers are an American Football team in Pittsburgh.
When I threw the bottle into the sea, it smashed off the side of a yacht and shattered into pieces before touching the water.
Maybe I was lost then too—five years ago. Maybe I wrote Bar Fight to show all of you how great of a failure I could be! and I did it!
The Bar Fight Blog was a spawn of rejection—I was rejected so I blogged—staying rejected was my freedom—I kept doing it because it was safe and now I just don't gain from this anymore. I just don't feel like telling you about The Time I was Almost Eaten Alive by Stray Dogs at Pamphili Park, and The Time I Didn't Get Arrested on The Spanish Steps (They Did) or the story of how The Top Floor of My Apartment is Haunted.
Traveling this long road, unsure of where it leads or what it is, I feel only some control writing meaning for it, for the hope I will see a split second of self-gratification, of beauty, or the chance I might create something someone else might love. The only time I feel really alive is when I am writing which is why I might step aside from the Bar Fight Blog to make time for what I really love, writing stories that aren't supposed to be true (i.e. another novel)—seeking not forgiveness—not acceptance—searching for a shot at redemption, beauty and a reason to believe in them.
The last thing I saw in Naples, March 2010, as I walked towards the train station, thinking of how nice the city is now that most of the garbage had been disposed of, was a man speeding around a tight bend on a moped. A woman rode on the back as a dog ran towards her, bit into her purse, and was dragged as a grown man chased after the motorcycle shouting, "woof!, woof, woof, woof, woof!" Seriously? No joke. This was the last time I ever left Naples. Most Importantly almost everything written in this blog is true, however I made up the date "April 12th" off of the top of my head because I knew I wrote a date but can't recall the exact one. The rest truly was based on an email sent on 3/21/2010.
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
The Flight to Sicily —since nobody ever wrote a song about how they just missed the midnight train going anywhere, got their refund and took the train to Palermo the next day—all because of a homeless man at the ticket machine who kept demanding money and pressing all of the wrong buttons!
In film, breaking the fourth wall is a term used to describe the concept of crossing the boundary that separates fiction from the reality in which the audience (or in our case the reader) exists in order to reveal the fiction as an illusion.
This can highlight our perception of ideas and truths that exist within the theme of a story.
Think of the climactic scene in Mel Brook's, Blazing Saddles when a fight spills out of the movie and continues through Warner Brother's Studios.
Picture me sitting on a train, heading for Palermo, after becoming overwhelmed with the sudden urge to travel anywhere, immediately, as fast as a I could. I am breaking down the fourth wall (a tactic I often see as rather cheesy) for the first and only time in Chapter 10 of Bar Fight, "The Description of a Trashy Bar Scene," as I explain to you—the reader—how I am making up the novel Bar Fight as I am sitting on a train.
In literature, breaking the fourth wall is often referred to as metafiction.
I like to think I broke the fourth wall in a very classy way.
Did you get the very subtle reference to Journey, in the title of this post?
The other theme of this post is going to be soft rock.
Soft rock is as good as hard rock but softer.
Journey was a serious inspiration for the journey that was writing Bar Fight.
The journey to Sicily is overnight. I am in a cab with six seats, another guy and girl—in the morning I will wake up as a seven foot tall man glances between me and the bag at my arm (containing my $2,225 Mac laptop), who will slowly draw his head away, through the curtains saying "ahhhhh" with a bright eyed smile realizing my eyes are open and on him.
The thing I remember most about Sicily are cacti and the vibrant blue sea.
In the morning he will jump out of the door as we slowly roll past his spot.
He is probably not supposed to be on this train.
Yes, I was way too cheap to afford a cab with a bed but at least I bought a ticket. Right now I am tired, I am writing, and this entire bottle of Chardonnay I brought along is not helping me fall asleep any faster.
This girl keeps looking over and reading my laptop, and I don't know if she speaks English or not.
Is this true?
This is true!
It's hard to say—
Is it true that you wrote the entire preliminary draft to Bar Fight while listening the song it's "Hard to Say I'm Sorry" by Chicago on repeat? Yeah, it's true. No! I am not a psychopath!
That's a powerful song!
It's so hard!
When your trying to write a fiction novel and you're all one your own.
When your sitting on a train and you're trying to break the fourth wall and someone is,
This is turning into Chapter 24 of Bar Fight!
We are on Chapter 10—
Here is an excerpt from Chapter 10 of Bar Fight, "The Description of a Trashy Bar Scene"…
"….I couldn't (...) concentrate on a thing, aside from the actual part about a girl pretending she couldn't speak English reading a bar fight in progress on my lap top, I was paranoid this girl actually was reading a bar fight in progress on my lap top, found out the next day that she could not speak a word of English, as she was trying to assist the guy sitting at the seat across from me (…) trying to explain, how alcohol is good, dance is good, but drugs are number one…"!
This is my third trip, into or out of Sicily and the first time I ever realized that the train actually drives into a ship and crosses the sea.
This is true!
I never understood why we would park in this giant room for hours when I was trying to
sleep—"..couldn't stand to be swept away, just for the day from your boody!"
sleep—"..couldn't stand to be swept away, just for the day from your boody!"
Am I getting sidetracked? That is Chicago!
I can't put Chicago lyrics in the novel Bar Fight because I know absolutely nothing about copyright laws.
I also don't have money.
This is true!
The reason that I (…), (…)'ed my own excerpt is because Bar Fight very often has a song-like rhythm that sounds just plain awkward If you don't have a sense of the greater passage.
This is true!
Did this story shed any more light on how writing the novel Bar Fight makes reasonable sense? I hope it didn't bemuse you, because if it did;
It's so hard for me to say I'm sorry.
Most importantly everything written in this blog is true. It is based on an email sent on 3/23/2010.
Cacti at Taormina
Photographs taken by Alan Michael
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
The maze of a creative process, southwest of the outskirts of Rome,
where I sat and jotted ideas for Bar Fight—in a little black book,
and disentangled the mystery of how Matthew's solace in fate and Michael's reliance on free will, would lead to tension and balance their friendship in Bar Fight.
Photographs by Alan Michael
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
These ads for an Italian fashion line (Diesel) were posted all over the city of Rome during the winter of 2010. Some of them involved nudity and I found the tag lines to be motivational as I worked towards the production of Bar Fight. This may or may not be a good thing.
Monday, September 24, 2012
1. The Trevi Fountain
2. The Fontana Del Pantheon
3. The Three Fountains at Piazza Navona
(Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, Fontana del Moro,
Fontana del Nettuno)
4. The Fontana del Pantheon accompanied by an opera man.
Judging from the quality of the clips shown above,
I'm sure you can tell I have a degree in video production.
The result of about 2-3 months of work since the previous photo of
The Crucifixion of Barabbas at the Place of the Skull" (posted below)
Close up photograph of a dollar.
Next I will add black chiaroscuro shadows and electric sparks behind the leaves.
All Images and Photos Copyright Alan Michael 2012