Wednesday, August 09, 2006

This 'Devil' didn't wear Prada!

After Doug so generously threw my life away like that, I cussed him out good with my eyes before I left, clinging to the door like some hellish vine on a picket fence. I had every intention of beating the shit out of Doug when I got back. If I got back.

An interesting phenomenon occurred as I walked Richard to the Student Union to grab a bite to eat. The voices of intuition, which most people are blessed to have, were screaming at the top of their spiritual lungs, "Liz don't go, don't go, don't go..."
Not only did I not listen to those voices, but I bought Richard some lunch, and walked him up to a secluded wooded area, AND sat down and broke bread with him! Now psychology majors, figure that one out.

Oh, you could see the occasional student go by, but it was by and large secluded. WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY did I do this, I ask my a year later when I opened the newspaper and saw his picture plastered all over it? Thirty years later I'm still wondering what in hell happened to me that I would do something so utterly,utterly stupid.

Anyway, so there we are up on the hill, and I'm trying to be nice, but I'm like getting majorly freaked out as we continue to sit there, because he's trying to manipulate me into saying stuff like:

Richard: So, Liz...what do you think of the devil?"
Liz: Well, Richard, I've never met him, but from what I hear, he's not someone I would socialize with. (Richard frowns, and I back up like a dying septic tank)
What I mean is, I really don't believe in a devil. (Richard frowns again, and this time I hold my ground. I'm a honest shit sometimes)
Richard: Oh, that's not good Liz. He doesn't like a nonbeliever.
Liz: Well, I don't think I really care about that Richard. (Now I'm getting mad, so I change the subject)
Liz: So, when are you going back to LA? (Like today I hope)
Richard: You know Liz, if you're not careful, the Devil will come after you for your nonbeliefs. I like you, so I'm just trying to warn you.
Liz: You know Richard, and forgive me for being so blunt, but as far as I'm concerned, the devil can fuck off and die! I get up to leave because now Richard has me spooked into some semblance of intelligence.

He stares at me for a long time, as if he's in a struggle about something, and I stare him down, thinking go ahead buddy. Just fuckin' try it. You won't know what hit you. I'm mad now. Your crazy can't beat my mad. He turns around and walks away, and I practically run back into the music library shouting,"Doug, don't you let that kid stay at your apartment anymore! He's nuts. He's psycho."

Doug looks up, ashamed, as he should be, and says,"Yeah, I know. He scared the crap out of me last night. And I didn't sleep much. I knew as soon as he got in the car, driving him out here that he was bad news, but I was really afraid of him. So I let him stay at my place. Is he gone?" Doug looks anxiously out the window.

"I don't know where he went. He started talking devil shit, and I got freaked out! He walked away when he couldn't get me to agree to all that shit he was talking about. I don't know where he is. At any rate Doug, I'm off, and I'm out of here. Good luck, and don't be such a dumb ass anymore." I left the library to hide in a piano practice room.

And I never saw Richard again, until his picture got plastered all over the newspapers when he went on a notorious killing spree. They called him the "Nightstalker".

I learned my lesson though. Don't ever ignore your intuition or the little voice that warns of danger. This guy was as complete a psychopath as I'd ever run into. Or have run into since. I keep my guard up at all times now, looking for that particular brand of crazy.

Fortunately, I haven't run across anybody remotely like Richard ever again. And if I do, I'll cut and run at 'crazy eyes'.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Shiver my Timbers as Doug sings soprano!

I recovered quickly however. "Did you say your name was Jason?"

"No, my name is Richard."

"My name is Liz and you can call me Liz." He smiled, and then the eyes rolled over in his head,like in the Exorcist."So, where are you from Richard?"

"From LA. I'm here to see my uncle and cousin. They live here. (Of course I'm thinking why aren't you at their house instead of here...with me.)

"Oh, so you're not from LA then."

"No, I was born here in Hicktown Texas. I hated my dad so I moved out to LA to be as far away as possible from him. Otherwise, I would end up killing him." (The way he said killing made me believe he was telling me the truth.) He looked at me with a hooded look. "How about you Liz? Where do you live?"

"I live here in Hicktown."


"Oh, in an apartment on the East side." (make mental note to call dorms and evacuate)

He leaned over the counter and said,"I stayed with Doug last night." (for the third time, yes I know) He's wierd." (He's wierd? Which planet Hell did you come from?) Yeah, I think he wanted to have sex with me. But I'm not like that at all. I told him to fuck off or die."

"So, you were trying to be polite about it! Well, that's good. Doug responds real well to good manners."

Richard shook his curly black hair and laughing said,"You're funny. I like you." (Is this a good sign?)

I reply modestly,"Well, most people think I'm wierd actually."

He was further amused."Really? Why?"

"Because I don't hesitate to tell people to fuck off and die. That upsets alot of people." (Now, see I'm using unusual psychology here. Can you figure it out?)

At this point, Doug shadows in and tries to hide in the office. He is not glad to see Richard. It's obvious that Richard got a ride out to the University, simply because Doug was dumping him in someone else's lap. Thank You Doug.

I'm watching Richard now, and his eyes are following Doug all over as the little rat tries to hide, thus avoiding anymore communication with Richard.

Richard doesn't buy the act, because he's not dumb! "So Doug, let's go to lunch man. I'm hungry." Doug finally came out of hiding and said,

"Well, Richard I've got alot of work to do, so I can't leave right now, but Liz has a lunch break coming up and I'm sure she'd be glad to show you where the lunchroom's are. Right Liz? (If my feet were daggers, Doug was castrated.) Well, what could I do? Say no, and risk this nut going haywire like his eyes were constantly telegraphing? Or, do I get him the hell out of there, and pray to God he doesn't carve me into pumpkin pies?

Stay tuned. Does Doug lose his balls? Or has he lost them already? Or does Richard take care of that at some future date? Do I come back and beat the hell out of Doug? Do I come back from lunch at all? These and other questions will be answered in the next installment.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Once upon a time, in La La Land

It was dreary, rainy, drizzly day, on the campus of the University of Widget, when I came face to face with evil incarnate. (Hmmm, I think I've read these words before. Ok scratch this)

I was whistlin' a happy tune, one day in the Music Library where I worked. My dumb ass supervisor, Doug, came in whistlin a happy tune as well. He really was a very smart Music Historian, but dumb as hell when it came to sensing good people from not so good people.

I was a monetarily poor student, on work study, and still suffering from the side effects of my boxing match with Raymond Carver.

Anyway, Doug comes breezing in, and says,"Liz, I was in Arizona this weekend, and I picked up a hitchhiker near Phoenix."

Now, this was around 1983, and picking up hitchhikers was still something people did so they weren't driving alone. In Doug's case there may have been another reason, but I was never sure and didn't think much about it. His life was his own, except when he told me he picked up a hitchhiker. I nearly hit him over the head with a heavy score I was carrying. "Doug, what were you thinking? Picking up a hitchhiker? Are you nuts?"

Doug looked a little scared. "Yeah, I don't know why I did it. He looked hot, and sweaty, so I pulled over." Hmmm, I think to myself. Ok, now I know why you pulled over. He continued,"Anyway, I let him stay over at my place, and he wanted to see where I worked, so I brought him in." I looked at Doug like he'd suddenly morphed into super jackass. "Right now he's looking around outside. So, when he comes in, show him around the music library ok Liz?" I've got to run to the City Library and pick up some stuff. I'll be back soon."

And off he went before I could say anything to him about how I didn't want to be showing hitchhikers around the Music Library...alone.

About fifteen minutes later, a young man walks in, with black-shoulder length hair, a red shirt and torn jeans. He saunters up to the counter, and I get out of my inner office chair, and extend my help. As soon as I looked in his eyes, I saw crazy. All flags of warning went up in my brain, and I looked around the library to see if I had anybody for protection. Nobody. So I warbled out,"May I help you?" (and please God, send down the Angels and escort him out of here now)

He didn't answer right away, just stared at me. The red flags were now Hurricane warnings. But I held my ground, and he finally replied,"Yeah, Doug here? He told me to come in here and wait for him." He again stared at me and I noticed there was no sign of life in these eyes. A walking dead man. Completely devoid of light.

First time I'd ever seen anything like it. Now the warning signs became weighted with spiritual voices in my head like: Liz, stay away from him. Stay far far away..Stay away...echoed all up and down my brain. I told him, "Doug will be back in a minute. Would you like to listen to some music while you're waiting?" (Please somebody help me out here, I pleaded to the ghostly crowd before me)

"No, no that's ok." And he smiled, but like a Steven King novel, the smile didn't reach his eyes. He went off into the sitting area and started looking around, and then he came back and said,"Hey,is Doug coming back soon? You know I stayed with him last night and he said that I could look around here." He smiled again, put out his hand and said,"My name's Richard." I had forgotten mine.

OOPS! Gotta run again. Dinner this time....Another installment tomorrow.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

"Now let that be a lesson to you!"

I was damn mad when I left Raymond Carver's office that day! No more little Missy Milk Dud!

OK, Round 1 Carver, Ms Yada, zero. Well, I had another round to go, and I was going to make full use of it. Knock out punch. Yea, that sounds good.

So, off to the dorm I went, took out pen and paper, and proceeded to write and write and write. That night, as the coyotes howled, the short story was ready to go. The FINAL...I mocked Carver's last words to me. "Btw Ms Yada I suggest you make an A on the final! Whoop de doo. Brilliant exit line. You slayed me, truly you did!

I put the short story in a cover, and took one last look at it before I dumped it in his box of crap!

The title of the story was something like "Desert Tomb," based on a personal experience I had at the age of 14.

As I was turning it in, I was still mad, and I thought, Mr. Carver you don't know jack shit about me. Now you will. And guess what buddy? I don't give a flying fuck what grade I get.

We picked up our papers at the English Department a week later. I was still mad. So I grabbed it, opened it, and saw a big red A plastered all over it. Underneath that was a note:

Liz, Great Job! Good Luck in the future! And then he personally signed it, Raymond C. Carver.

My final Grade: Short Story Raymond Carver....A

Final Round Raymond Carver 2 Liz 0

RAYMOND CARVER 1938-1988 I dedicate my first novel to you buddy. Thanks a billion.

Would you like a boxing glove with those tears!

Come in and sit down, Ms Yada.
Tell me Ms. Yada, why are you in my class, wasting my time?

Well, I don't know...I needed the course credit...And..

Ms Yada, why are you in creative writing at all?

Well, I like it...

What else can you do?

I'm not sure I understand that...

Surely, there is something else you can do better.

Better? I don't know what you mean Mr. Carver.
I like music, and I like English Lit, but...

Well, do you intend to be a dilettante all your life?

I don't think that's being a dilettante, you know just because I like different things Mr. Carver.

Ms Yada, I don't like to read crap! I have better things to do.

Well, I don't think I write like crap Mr. Carver, if that's what you're trying to say.

Ms. Yada, your short story was crap. Your absences are abysmal. Your assignments are turned in late and you have an F average currently. Now where in there do you not see and understand the word crap!

Well, I have a few problems I admit, but...

Ms Yada, I have a few problems. We all have a few problems. So tell me what makes you different?

Well... for one goddam thing, I'm not an asshole! (Back then you could get sent to the Dean for cursing...I figure I had just died so why not shoot for hell)... You know Mr Carver, you are the saddest looking man I've ever met!

Ms Yada, that's the first thing you've said this entire meeting that made any sense!
"Now go write, and quit fucking around."

And btw, Ms Yada, I suggest you make an A on the final.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Knights of the Round Table

My friends and I are assembled at our favorite watering hole the night before the execution, drinking in the merits of the case, and puffing our way to a smoky daze. To wit:

Me: So, what do you think's going to happen guys?
Nick: (Philosophy major) Liz, I think's it's obvious your existential existence in that class is over.
Jason: (Music Major) Yeah, I concur with Nick on this one. Your ass is grass!
Me: You know what really bugs the shit out of me guys? Why the hell didn't he just give me an F. Why did he have to make a Cecil B Demille production out of grading it? You know, I understand what F means. Just seemed like overkill to me.
Nick: Liz, I hate to point out the obvious, but you pissed off Raymond Carver. THE Raymond Carver.
Jason: Yeah, like what the hell were you thinking?
Liz: Well, shit I don't know. I certainly didn't intend to piss him off. Things got out of hand and I got a little behind. That's all. And its not like this hasn't happened in other classes, but I don't get tagged on my ass for it.
Nick: Let me repeat Liz. You pissed off Raymond Carver. The Raymond Carver.
Liz: You know what Nick? I don't know Raymond Carver from Raymond Chandler, so your point is not well taken.
Nick: (Sigh) That's your problem right there Liz. You're don't exist on a normal level of consciousness. You're always out to lunch somewhere.
Jason: Yup. I think I would've known I was in trouble, with my first D. I definitely would have known it if he kept doggin' my ass every class, and giving me those looks.
Liz: Well that's all water under the bridge now. What happens now? Do I show up for the meeting or not? Do I let hell come to me or do I go meet it square up in the face? That's the question now.
Nick: Hmmm...Well let me see. He's probably going to read you the riot act at best. At worst, he's probably going to take a piece of your soul with him. If it were me, I'd take my chances and show up tomorrow, because I wouldn't want an Incomplete.
Jason: Yeah, those I's are murder on your GPA, and your's is already in the death zone.
Liz: Ok, so I go tomorrow. What do I do when he's dragging my sorry ass around the room? I assume I'll be able to defend myself. He rarely strings two words together in class.
Nick: Well, I'd definitely keep my mouth shut, which you're not really good at Liz. Tape it shut.
Jason: Yeah, duct tape it for sure and take your medicine. Squawking like a wounded chicken won't impress a guy like that. I think he's more of a YOU LISTEN, I TALK kind of guy. If he asks you any questions, then just be real quiet and answer in a low voice and keep your eyes to the floor. He might take pity on you, and let you stay in the class.
Liz: Maybe, but I have a bad feeling about this guys. Bad feeling.
Nick: Actually, as I think more about it Liz, he's taggin' your ass for a reason. He probably sees something in you, that you're too self-absorbed and lazy to see.
Liz: I'm not lazy Nick! I just can't comprehend some things that's all. What's English to you, turns into Greek for me. I don't know why that is. So I don't get my assignments right. It happens in all my classes too. But he's being a son of a bitch about it.
Jason: Yeah, she's right Nick. You should see her in music. It's like she's in another dimension. One minute she's playing like Cliburn and the next she's like playing chopsticks. Drives Dr. Paul nuts.
Nick: Hmmm,...tell him that Liz. Tell you're having brain problems like epilepsy or something.
Jason: By now he won't believe her. She should just keep her mouth shut and take it. Hope that he lets her stay in class.
Nick: Yeah, you're right. So, that's your plan right there Liz.
Liz: Some plan. I'd better go make out my last will and testament. See ya.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

"Pine will suit me fine, Mr. Funeral Director!"

After my meeting with Miss Pat, I felt a sense of relief, followed quickly by a sense of doom when it finally hit me that I was truly stuck. At least for three more weeks anyway. Three more weeks of being visually anihilated, and waiting for the verbal ax to descend on my head. I had two days to compose a publishable short story, or one of sufficient quality to raise my Grade to D.

So, of course I spent the next two days at the local watering hole, drinking philosophy with my friends. When I got back to my dorm room, I sat staring at a blank piece of paper, my mind locked in a closet.

I tried automatic writing. That was big back then. (Bear in mind this was before the computer age, ie 1977). Anyway, you'd sit there, put the pen to paper, and watch your hand automatically start writing profound thoughts, on par with Sartre and Proust, or Steinbeck. It depended on the class actually.

Well, nothing happened. Unless you call automatic shit scribbling something. So instead of work in progress, I was still on work of shit by midnight. Finally, I came up with something I thought would pass muster at least. I called it, Friends for Life, or some such shit title. So, I based my story around the weekend adventures with my friends. I thought it would work. I really did. Well, didn't Diner come out a few years later?

I turned it in on Monday, pleased with myself and convinced I had written a masterpiece. Pleased, that I beat Mr. Carver at his sadistic games. Won't he be surprised. He'll just be so overwhelmed by the quality, my grade will shoot up to B. Maybe he'll say, good job again.

A week later, he passed our short stories out, and mine seem to be a bit more red than the others. I could see the red as I walked up to get my paper. Hmm, I thought. Maybe it was so good, he couldn't help but paint his wonderful comments all over my paper.

As I looked it over and saw, "THIS IS CRAP! I WANT TO SEE YOU IN MY OFFICE THIS WEEK!, painted all over the paper, my body color changed from a healthy tan color, to mustard green. I sat down deflated, and when I looked up again, Mr. Carver was eyeing me,and raised those bushy, diabolical eyebrows. Then he smiled big. Now, I had never seen Mr. Carver smile. Never. Ever. Not once. At least in class. I didn't see him outside of class.

I felt like I was locked in some kind of bizarre death of dance with him. Who ever falls first is dead. And it was fairly obvious, if anybody fell, it would be me. What was worse, I now had to make the office appointment. Oh joy. Someone hit me in the head and put me in the hospital for a month.

After class was over, and I finished thanking God that my paper didn't get ripped apart in class, I walked up the scaffold, and waited by the trap door. When all the students had left except me, I nervously asked Mr. Carver, when would it be convenient for him to see me.

He looked up at me, not smiling now, his bushy eyebrows crossed over each other, and said, Ms Yada, I want to see you in my office on Wednesday at blah blah blah. Be there. No excuses. And out he rumbled, leaving me making plans for my funeral.

If you google Raymond Carver, there are 3 pictures of him at the bottom of the page. You pick the one I was most likely facing that day. That's your assignment. And now I gotta get back to my WIP. More drama to come.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Suck it up Liz!

So that was my big plan. Get out of the class. Drop it or drop dead! Now some of you probably have nerves of steel, but I was a twenty year old spineless jellyfish at the time. My shaking, skinny legs led me right to the door of my advisor, Miss Pat. Now, I didn't run into her office with my tail between my legs, like you might think, because I was confident I could drop.

Me: Ms Pat, I'd like to drop, Short Story, blah, blah with Raymond Carver. I just really don't like writing short stories. Poetry or Fiction is something I'm more interested in learning.

Ms Pat: Liz, I'm sorry but its too late. At this point, you'll be given an incomplete.

Me: (Shit! Where have I been? A day late and a dollar short as usual) But I thought the drop date was September 30...

Ms Pat: Liz, today is October 30. So, is there anything I can do to help you? You know Mr. Carver is a very prestigious author, and we're very lucky to have him.

Me: Well, can you notify my next of kin if something happens to me? (Ms Pat laughs)
Seriously, Ms Pat, I guess I just don't understand what he's saying most of the time. He doesn't speak in complete sentences, so I get the assignment wrong a lot. And then he just gives you this real intimidating look, like you're his last meal. I mean, I crank out just enough he hasn't killed me yet. But it's coming Ms Pat. I can feel it.

Ms Pat: Hmmm, Liz you could go ahead and take the Incomplete, but with your GPA at 0.20, I wouldn't do it. I'd stick it out and try harder. He really is a very nice man. And he's a wonderful author of short stories. Liz, I'm having a difficult time understanding why you two don't seem to be hitting it off. What's your grade right now?

Me: It's hovering around the continental divide, Ms Pat. We're supposed to do a short story for our midterm and final. Midterm is Monday and I haven't started it yet.

Ms Pat: I'd say you need to get started then Liz. Do your best. Even a D is better than an incomplete in your case.

Me: Ok, Ms Pat. But,just in case I don't make, in lieu of flowers would you please kick his ass. Thanks.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Raymond Carver and the Student from Hell

Guess what? I've been requested to give backstory on my Raymond Carver story. So here goes.

Raymond Carver was a guest writer in residence at Widget University in the late 1970's. Somehow, in one of my fugue states, I ended up in his class. He scared the bejesus out of me first day. He was a big bear of a man. I was a dainty, little scrawny runt. What made it worse, was that the class wasn't in one of these huge, cavern like rooms, like you see at Hahvard, but a small room, with an oval table, and maybe 20 students. So we could not hide!

He sat at the head of the table and ruled. To make it more intimidating for me, he was pretty scruffy looking, as if he enjoyed wearing his breakfast to school everyday, or as if he just finished eating his breakfast, with a poor little student like me as part of his diet. Surprisingly, he was softspoken, and made extreme economical use of the English language, and that usually involved me trying desperately to fill in the all the blanks so I got the assignment right.

After a student read an excerpt from the assignment they were given, Mr. Carver would sit there and ponder, and ponder, and ponder, not giving any eye to eye contact with the student. (If I were a portrait painter, I would've gotten him on first crack). Then he would say something like, "Alright Jamie sit down," with his head buried in his chin. Then he'd give a big sigh.

He'd asked for the next student, again not looking at the student. This student might read with lots of energy, fire and passion and then he'd come to the end. Mr. Carver would allow us to look at his profile for a few minutes before saying, "Alright Sam sit down. Then he'd give a big sigh, and again not looking at the student.

Eventually of course it was my turn. He did his schtick, and then I read my excerpt. Unfortunately, my excerpts usually contained, blood, sweat, violence and tears. The other students would look at me in horror, wondering what hell I came out of, and of course I was embarrassed as hell.

I was sure I was dead in the water. Mr. Carver sat there for his characteristic five minutes, while I stood in terror, wondering if I was going to live my excerpt. Finally, he looked up at me, and said, Ms Yada, what were you thinking? He stared at me for like five minutes,while I blubbered something about not thinking just writing. He again fixed me with that hynotic stare, or in gothic literature it would be described as a deep, mysterious,and threatening kind of glare, and said, Hmmm, good job.

The other students thought he was nuts. I just thought, my god I survived. Next thought, how was I going to get through the semester? Oh, drop the class. Good plan.

Well, I'll continue more tomorrow. I'm busted. This memory drains me.

"Now go write and stop fucking around"

Sitting up here at now 5:00am in the morning, the somber, but cavernous voice of the late, great Raymond Carver, is bouncing off the padded walls of my mind. Why you ask? Well, as it often happens when I'm up this early, my memories tend to start clicking in like a freakin' digital camera gone haywire. Fortunately, I'm rarely awake at this hour, or I'd go nuts. Anyway, the last thing I said to Raymond Carver, over 20 years ago, as I sat in his office, the recipient of a vicious tongue lashing, was, "Mr. Carver you are without a doubt, the saddest looking man I've ever met." He looked at me, and said, "Ms so and so, that's the only thing you've said this entire meeting that made any sense. Now go write and stop fucking around." I left, but I switch to music. 30 years later, I stopped fucking around.