Chapin City Blues

Writing is writing whether done for duty, profit, or fun.

Another Year Without You

November 27, 2015

We celebrated early this year, having our Thanksgiving turkey for dinner (not lunch) on a Tuesday evening. These meals aren’t the same without you, no matter how hard we try to keep up the traditions.

After you passed away, the tradition went with you. Sure, we tried to keep it up, but the family stopped traveling down. We drifted. Mom started working, and I just hung around the house. You kept us together; you kept us in line. Sometime after, I decided we were going to celebrate it again. I pulled my brothers into it. And we started again. We made the time. We tried to eat together, but that didn’t always work out. And I know you’d be disappointed with it, but we did our best. Soon other faces joined in our meal. Jeanna and Isabel. Joey and few of Jay’s friends.

Three brothers meant three holidays split between us. Soon Martin took over Thanksgiving. We drove to his home in Elsa. This left Jay and his family out of the mix, but we made the best of it. We were trying to live up to your standards. When Martin and Cindy split, Thanksgiving returned to Mom’s house. We wrangled up who we could and new faces joined into the mix, even though I groaned at the thought. One year, I went as far as extending an invitation to Javier. He declined, and I accepted it as much as I expected it. At least I offered.

When Jeanna and I split, the difficulty arose. I felt the thing that I wanted slipping from my fingers. These gatherings would never match yours. Last year’s was done more out of a sense of duty to not let anyone down. Jeanna didn’t show up. No one but Martin and his new girlfriend, actually.

When Melissa offered to host it this year, a part of me wanted to say no. When she said we’d have it Wednesday, that part wanted to say no. When it changed to Tuesday, I just gave up.

I didn’t do anything today (or yesterday, considering WordPress time). I ate leftover turkey in taco form. I read. I listened to podcasts. Watched TV. Went for a walk. I wrote this.

I miss your house filled with chatter. I miss the cousins. I miss the joyful noise. I miss the fact that I didn’t see this holiday as a day to tolerate family, but lose myself in their glee. Most of all, I miss you. In two Novembers, it will be the 20th Thanksgiving without you. I can’t even remember the last one we celebrated with you. I was only 13 going on 14. I can’t remember your voice. I can’t remember the smell of your house as you, Mom, Aunt Cookie, and whoever else cooked in the kitchen. I can’t remember the conversation around the table. I was such a little shit back then that I didn’t stop and take it in. I didn’t think there’d ever be a day that I’d wake and find you gone.

Traditions die, I’m well aware of that. And we don’t have the same gravitational pull you once held. My problem is that I hold such high standards and expectations for people. But not a year goes by in my adult life, since we started this up again, that I don’t think of you. Even if only for a moment.

Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor (a sorta review)

November 10, 2015

“A friendly desert community where the sun is hot, the moon is beautiful, and mysterious lights pass overhead while we all pretend to sleep. Welcome to Night Vale.” These are the first words I hear Cecil Palmer speak in his ghost-like voice. Those words, his nuances—they send chills down my spine and tingle in my ear. Eargasming, I pressed on, listening to the first episode of Welcome to Night Vale. I learned of hooded figures that roam the streets, a forbidden dog park, a vague, yet menacing government agency, rivals at Desert Bluffs, and a scientist with perfect hair named Carlos. It’s not hard to see that Night Vale is like any other city in the United States just weird. Extremely weird. Menacingly weird. How Night Vale still populated with all the chaos, end-of-the-world scenarios, and street cleaning days that occur on a bimonthly basis?

I tried to infect others around to listen to the soothing voice of Night Vale’s community radio host at work. There are few things I get to nerd out with others at work, and—fingers crossed—I’m hoping Welcome to Night Vale becomes one of them. I’ve managed to garner two Night Valiens (is that the correct spelling? Who cares?) with the release of the novel by the same name. If you haven’t picked up a copy, I suggest you do so now (like right now. Stop reading this. Go pick up the copy. Barnes and Noble closed? Amazon that book! Overnight it! Or join Audible and buy the audiobook read by Cecil—best option, if you ask me because his voice is dreamy).

Because I suck at reviews (I really do!), what I’m going to write here won’t do the book any justice. But here we go. Let’s start with…

What Did I Think About the Book?

Night-Vale-Final-UK-coverI wouldn’t recommend the book to anyone who isn’t a fan of the podcast. There’s a style in the writing that comes off as bizarre, disorienting, and nonsensical at times. There are also many revelations in the book that would spoil the podcast for you. So if you haven’t listened to the podcast, I suggest starting with that first.

However, Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor wrote the book with non-podcast listeners in mind. They give you just the right amount of detail to follow along. Cecil and Carlos aren’t the stars of the novel, which is a bummer. They both appear in the text (Cecil as the voice of Night Vale and Carlos as a scientist, duh!). The story focuses more on secondary characters from the podcast (and secondary is being very kind). Diane Crayton, PTA treasurer, Jackie Fierro, who runs the pawn shop, and the mysterious man in the tan jacket holding a deer skin suitcase hold the spot light.

It’s a fun read that keeps the chilling, creepy, eerie, and comically strange aspect of the podcast. And I hope this is the first of several books that detail the happenings of Night Vale. Fans of the podcast will love it, newcomers will scratch their heads, but enjoy the journey, and those who hate the podcast will probably not bother reading it.

Lines that caught my eye

This book is filled with them. Here are a few:

“The search for truth takes us to dangerous places. Often it takes us to the most dangerous place: the library. You know who said that? No? George Washington did. Minutes before librarians ate him.”

“Mostly we don’t get destroyed. Mostly we destroy ourselves.”

“Jackie was at a dead end, investigation wise. In terms of tacos, she was doing fine.”

“She drove home and grabbed the things she would need to check out a book: strong rope and grappling hook, a compass, a flare gun, matches and a can of hair spray, a sharpened wooden spear, and, of course, her library card.”

What is this book about?         

From Amazon: “Located in a nameless desert somewhere in the great American Southwest, Night Vale is a small town where ghosts, angels, aliens, and government conspiracies are all commonplace parts of everyday life. It is here that lives of two women, with two mysteries, will converge.

“Nineteen-year-old Night Vale pawn shop owner Jackie Fierro is given a paper marked “KING CITY” by a mysterious man in a tan jacket holding a deer skin suitcase. Everything about him and his paper unsettles her, especially the fact that she can’t seem to get the paper to leave her hand, and that no one who meets this man can remember anything about him. Jackie is determined to uncover the mystery of King City and the man in the tan jacket before she herself unravels.

“Night Vale PTA treasurer Diane Crayton’s son, Josh, is moody and also a shape shifter. And lately Diane’s started to see her son’s father everywhere she goes, looking the same as the day he left years earlier, when they were both teenagers. Josh, looking different every time Diane sees him, shows a stronger and stronger interest in his estranged father, leading to a disaster Diane can see coming, even as she is helpless to prevent it.

“Diane’s search to reconnect with her son and Jackie’s search for her former routine life collide as they find themselves coming back to two words: “KING CITY”. It is King City that holds the key to both their mysteries, and their futures…if they can ever find it.”

You can listen to Welcome to Night Vale on Soundcloud, Youtube, several podcast apps, or by visiting their website. I recommend starting with the first episode (below), but you can start whenever you like.

Until next time, keep on huntin’.

Poetry break

November 4, 2015

“Shyness”

I scarcely knew, by myself, that I existed,
that I'd be able to be, and go on being.
I was afraid of that, of life itself.
I didn't want to be seen,
I didn't want my existence to be known.
I became pallid, thin, and absentminded.
I didn't want to speak so that nobody
would recognize my voice, I didn't want
to see so that nobody would see me.
Walking, I pressed myself against the wall
like a shadow slipping away.

I would have dressed myself in red roof tiles, in smoke,
to continue there, but invisible,
to attend everything, but at a distance,
to keep my own obscure identity
fastened to the rhythm of the spring.

A girl's face, the pure surprise
of a laugh dividing the day in two
like the two hemispheres of an orange,
and I shifted to another street,
unnerved by life and tentative,
close to water without tasting its coolness,
close to fire without kissing its flame,
and a mask of pride encased me,
and I was thin and arrogant as a spear,
unlistening, unlistened to 
(I made that impossible),
my lament
buried deep
like the whine of a hurt dog
at the bottom of a well.
             --Pablo Neruda, from The Poetry of Pablo Neruda

Excerpt of “After All” by Gabriel H. Sánchez, from The Fluid Chicano

This day marks the death of innocence
where will their love go to extinguish
emptiness fills the vacant chambers in their chests
where once hope crafted smiles
with the raw materials of their wishful thinking