Monday, May 30, 2011

The Steakhouse Dinner

My blog page was intended for the use of posting information relating to my first novel Benson's House. I was hoping it would become a vehicle for discussions and a companion to the novel, allowing descriptions of the era's, topics, themes, and subplots of the story.

However, finding the time to write new articles has been preoccupied by the necessities of polishing the novel for publication, and rewriting letters to promote the book. I'm finding less time to commit to developing new material or contributions to the blog.

Still, I need to write. I'm compelled by this unknown desire. So, I submit the following short unrelated to Benson's House, and hope you enjoy.

The Steakhouse Dinner

He watches with discontent as she applies her lip gloss to the measure of the restaurant chatter and the soulful phrasing of Sam Moore's- I Can't Stop the Rain- piping in from the ceiling speakers. Her eccentric application is enough to prompt him to dismiss the date; to return home to the half consumed sandwich, wedged- for the last two days- between a half filled carton of Corona and a plastic wrapped case of water bottles on the bottom shelve of his garage refrigerator. However, he decides, instead, to endure her antics and not allow her self indulgences to prevent him from enjoying his favorite steakhouse- chosen selfishly- as his reward for the months of Friday night dates, escorting her to pricey dining locales, where she hoped to be discovered as the next national broadcasting treasure.

She closes her compact mirror and places it the depths of her knockoff Lois Vuitton, Cabas, Ambre, handbag, just as the food arrives.

"I don't see what attracts you to dumps like these? There's not a soul in this place that can offer anything to advance our careers."

"Perhaps not, but they singe a wicked Rib-eye," he offers while winking at the waitress. "Anyway, I'm quite happy with what I do."

"Best steaks for the price in town, ma'am, can I get ya'll anything else?

"I don't suppose you'd have a Valium or a stomach pump handy?"

"No ma'am."

"Then just bring me another Mojito," she says dismissively.

"I'll have another beer."

"I don't believe for one minute you're really content with producing the local news. We could've dined with the Hendrickson's at Roy's tonight, John. He's often spoke of meeting with you to consider your advancement into the larger markets. That's how things are done in this industry- over dinner in swank restaurants in a more relaxed atmosphere. I would have ordered the seared Barramundi, instead of this slab of animal flesh. My God,will you look at the portion of meat they've served me? I can't eat all this."

Already indulging in a bite of his season rubbed, entrée, John focuses on the taste as a distraction to the protesting coming from the other side of the table. He chews, silently, savoring the flavors, watching as she grips the utensils and slices the bacon wrapped fillet upon her plate.

"Oh this thing is way undercooked," she objects while tossing her knife and fork onto the table. "This hunk of meat has E. coli written all over it."

He swallows before speaking.

"Katherine, taste it. It's suppose to be pink inside. I've had it before. It will melt in your mouth."

"Let it melt in someone else's mouth. If I ate that I'd be in the bathroom all evening, and I have better things to do tonight. We should of gone to Roy's."

He carves off another piece of steak, and begins chewing with aggravated fervor.

"My God, John, I'm an anchor, and a regularly watched person in this community. What were you thinking, bringing me to a diner full of yokels, to fattening me up with large slabs of undercooked cattle?"

"Beef is not fattening."

"Really, John, speak with you mouth full. It's such a turn on. I'm incredibly attracted to you at this moment."

He pauses, motionless, with a grimacing expression.

"What's wrong?"

"I bit my tongue."

"Here we are," the waitress said returning with the beverages.

John swallows, then places his napkin on the inside of his mouth.

"What's wrong?"

He bit his tongue."

"Oh my," the waitress said placing the drinks in their appropriate spots.

John pulls the napkin away to reveal a circular, rose colored, blotch on its folded corner.

"Nice. Now your tongue will probably swell to the size of a baseball with all the bacteria contaminating your steak."

"Is there somethin' wrong with his steak, ma'am?"

"It's fine. I'll be okay."

Katerine fans her hand, dismissively.

"You can take this away."

"Aren't ya gonna eat you meal ma'am?"


"Do you want me to bring a box?"

"Yes," John interjects, "Bring boxes for each; we're leaving."

"Yes sir."

Katherine crosses her arms and raises her left hand to support her chin.

"What?" She finally asks.

"Does any of this have to do with the comment I made to the lady at the retirement home luncheon this afternoon?"

"Oh that. I've forgotten about that, but now that you bring it up, yes. You told that innocent, little, old, lady that Palin was not news worthy, after she asked you to allot the candidate more air time."

"Palin hasn't officially announced that she is running."

"Whatever. That's just another example of what everyone's been trying to instill in your stubborn mind, now, for the last year or so. Our viewers like Palin, and don't care about the issues. They want to be entertained. It's what television does; it entertains."

"And informs. We have a responsibility to the segment of viewers who want to be informed, don't we? How are they to decide on an elected official if we don't report the issues?"

"What are you talking about? People vote because they have a right to. You can't tell them how to vote."

"I'm not suggesting that. I'm simply pointing out that they need information to make informed decisions. Our network has a responsibility to provide that."

"Trust me, our viewers don't care to be informed that way. They want to learn about events going on in the community, the weather,and that's it. And, they want an attractive woman- who doesn't stutter- to present it to them. That's why I was hired."

"Here's your boxes."

"Listen, dear, see if you can't get the cook to fire this up a little longer, would you please."

"That mean you're staying?"

"Let's see if this man can finish his meal without chumping on parts of his tongue, shall we.

"Yes, ma'am.

"Would you bring me a glass of Jack Daniels?"

"You just want a full glass of bourbon?"

Katherine smiles.

"Just bring him a double on the rocks for now, and another Mojito for me."

"You know, you're such a hypocrite," Katherine continues as the waitress moves away. "You talk about the need to feed the public intellect, and, yet, you date me- not because I'm intellectual- but because I'm hot, and you like the attention that's drawn to us."

"I don't see it like that."


"You know, sometimes you can be as phony as your handbag. I know you don't mean all that you're saying.You've told me, often, that you feel the world is becoming a cesspool of uneducated, tattooed plasma; consuming to fill the intellectual void in their lives."

"And you think our little news network can change all that? If we attempt to change our viewer's habits our audience will tune out. Our ratings will then drop, and you and I, my dear, will be looking for something else to do. You can't go back to your editorial post at the Times- they're falling apart. Just where do you think you'll land? I don't think Fox will have you"

"Here's your steak ma'am."

"Oh goody!"

Katherine cuts off a small portion.

"How is it?"

Um; just yummy," she says sarcastically.

"Oh, well, I'll go get your drinks now."

Actually, John, this is damn good," Katherine admits when the waitress was out of earshot.

"Something's gonna change; it's bound to. Society can't continue on this intellectual slide."

Katherine was not listening. She was preoccupied by her dinner.

Soon the waitress returns with their drinks.

"Somethin' I've been meaning to ask you all night, ma'am. Aren't you the lady on the local news channel?"

Katherine pauses to swollow.

"Yes, but do keep it to yourself, shall we? I don't often have time to relax outside of the limelight."

"I understand."

"Tell me," John askes, " how often do you watch the local news?"

"I don't, to be honest. They really don't have much to say, 'cept what's goin' on with the local teams, or maybe the weather."

"I see. So, where do you get your news from?"

"Oh, the internet, mostly- Huffington Post- that sort of thing."

John's smile spurs Katherine to interject.

"Tell me what do you think is the most provocative story out there?"

"Oh I reckon it's this Casey Anderson trail."

"Uh huh, and do you think she did it?"

"I don't know. She probably did, but I don't think they've got enough evidence pinned to her. She'll probably walk, and make millions on her life story, or end up on Dancing with the Stars or somethin'. I swear, that's just how things are, now, in America. People are just so damn stupid, and I blame the stuff on television. I remember my daddy made the family watch Cronkite every evening at 7:30, right after dinner, before any of the prime time shows came on. We'd then talk about the issues during the commercials over the remainder of the night. Nowadays, the evening news is on during the dinner hour, so folks can watch Wheel of Fortune. No ones listening to what's gonin' on in the world anymore. Seems a shame. Can I get ya'll anythin' else while I'm here."

John smiles.

"No, darlin'; comeback a little later.

He then returns his attention to his meal.

"I'm surprised, Katherine states. "I would have thought the pain from the last experience would have prevented you from biting you tongue again."

John chuckles and motions with his fork.

"I think she spoke to the issue well enough without the need of further commenting. Go on an finish what little bit is left of your steak."

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Brand On The Run

When the moments arise when I become frustrated by the ineptitude of the submission process, I'm reminded of early advisement given by someone whose words hold true. I was persuaded early on to have faith in the industry, and was assured that by understanding the distinction between a writing coach and a literary parvenu, I would avoid self rejection, and maintain the confidence to construct a successful project.

The goal of my initial objective was to complete the first draft, then seek someone to guide me through the process,and assist me in improving my work. I thought an agent would appear to coddle me with encouraging accolades, and correct my project's imperfections with experienced advise. I know Benson's House is appealing; I've watched my words provoke emotions from those reading it's text. The gratification of striking that cord is like what an entertainer feels when in sync with the audience: the sensation is overwhelming, and I strive to enhance the power of that connection.

Many talented people have been willing to help me on this quest, but often I find there are incompetent braggarts circulating that dictate phony advise, and claim to be the oracles of knowledge on the traits necessary to brand a financially successful project. It is important to recognize the difference between those sharing practical experiences and those selling snake oil. The ones providing constructive criticism are genuine and have favorably contributed to my ambition of authoring- as one of my colleagues described it- the best historical fiction of '12. I am not boasting, but merely setting the bar.

And, I personally find it difficult to avoid the ones offering false promises: I'm too gullible. I'm often tempted to enter the tent of the charlatans: those offering "how to" advise for a nominal fee. I find myself like that of a boy, standing before the sideshow barker, pondering if I should pay the 50 cents to see the bearded lady. I'm intrigued and ponder if the person behind the tarp has the same facial hair length concealing the sultry form of the woman appearing in the illustration on the banner outside the tent.

Fortunately I become bothered by the barker's dares to see, first hand, whether or not the illusion is real or fake. I become convinced that the odds are in favor of his persuasion being false, and although I'm a natural born optimist, the consultant's words of having faith in the industry speak to me, and I preserve my four bits for a more sensible purchase.

I was once tempted, by the promotion of a former literary agent assistant, who promised to reveal the secret to alluring an agent into receiving a query letter. The mystery surrounding the submission process was to be revealed in the purchase of her book. Then the consultants voice spoke, again, and I questioned with remorse how it was possible for a literary agent's assistant to council creative writers how to compose a compassionate letter.

I once received a submission reply informing me the agent would not be a suitable representative, because my project was in the genre of historical fiction, and she did not do well in high school history. I never responded; I felt her remark was somewhat like confessing the inability to determine if Rachmaninoff was a gifted musician, because of a failure to do well studying piano.

Blockbuster's filing for Chapter 11 is because of a lack of genuine product, not because of a lack of viewers. Boarders Group nears bankruptcy because of a lack of genuine product, not because of a lack of readers. And, yet, projects rot in slush piles like compost in the city dump. But, the words return: "Have faith in the industry!" I do, and so far the process has structured improvements to the content of the novel.

No one prefers weak tea sipped before it has sufficient time to brew. There are no dull literary works only unpolished projects, and I'm confident the consultant's words are correct. The industry will- in synergy- provide me with the resources to shape my work with perfection. I've formulated the necessary rewrites to submit Benson's House. I've constructed a marketing plan and I'm ready to receive advise in orchestrating the stages to launch the novel's public premiere.

The boy will preserve his 50 cents until the novel's release, when he will celebrate by exchanging his coins for a swirl of cotton candy wrapped around a paper cone. The confectionery sweetness will be savored, and will be appreciated, at a future moment in time.

If I ever get out of here,
Thought of giving it all away,
To a registered charity,
All I need is a pint a day-
If I ever get out of here.
If I ever get out of here.

Paul McCartney

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

1913 International Exhibit of Modern Art

In this excerpt from Benson's House, Elizabeth- the prodigal granddaughter of Justin and Sarah Benson- returns to New York to debut her art exhibit- Postcards from the Western World- at the newly constructed Taggart Benson Museum. Elizabeth was nine when she began her formal studies of art with Cecelia Beaux at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art. She stayed with Cecelia until enrolling in Goldsmiths College, London, England, at the age of sixteen. Elizabeth was now twenty- five and had been abroad for nine years. At the time, Cecelia had gained a renowned reputation as being one of the most talented traditionalist portrait artist of the era.However, she found the direction of contemporary art undisciplined, and denounced many of its current contributions.

Danielle Watson was Elizabeth's lifelong best friend, and the current President of Chariot Records. They were staying at Elizabeth's mother's home on MacDougal Street, a few streets away from Benson's House. The reunion of the Post Impressionist painter, and the head of a thriving recording company, marked the beginning of a revolution of sight and sound that was about to create a new era of contemporary pop culture .

Elizabeth put her nightgown on as she carefully listened for an indication her mother had retired for the night. When she heard her mother’s bedroom door close, she quietly exited her room and crept over to her brother’s former bedroom where Danielle was spending the night. She cautiously entered to find Danielle in her nightgown, sitting on the bed with her back against the headboard, and her knees pulled towards her chin.

“I attended The Armory Show in 1913. Danielle confessed softly.

"What!” Elizabeth cried with whispered enthusiasm as she sat on the side of the bed.

Danielle nodded her head swiftly.

“I’ve wanted to tell you all night; I went with Cecelia.”

“She never told me that.” Elizabeth stated. “I know she considers the moderns popularity a passing fad, and didn’t have much to say favorably regarding the exhibit.”

“She hated it.” Danielle claimed. “She said the works lacked traditional disciplines and said something about the subject matter being as defiling as those depicted by the Ashcan Boy’s?”

Elizabeth placed her hands over her mouth to muffle her laughter.

“I knew members of The Ashcan Society in Philadelphia. Robert Henri once told me that his style and subject matter- both of which Cecelia refers to as corruptive- was inspired by my grandmother. He told me The Eight, as he described them, were influenced by Melrose’s 1887 exhibit at The Taggart Benson Gallery. They aligned with the acceptance of realism Melrose had adapted from his former associate: Sir John Everett Millair. Henri believes the goal of both members of The Ashcan School, and of Urban Romanticism, are attempts to illustrate realist aesthetics in urban settings. He’s right, and while I learned discipline from Cecelia Beaux, Henri made me recognize the skills I had instinctively adopted from my grandmother- speed and composition.

The exhibit referred to was the International Exhibition of Modern Art, which was held in New York City's 69th Regiment Armory, on Lexington Avenue.For many New Yorkers it was their first glimpse of the progressive art movements that had become the rage of Europe.

Here in America, Traditionalists were shocked by the new expressions of Avant-Garde,Cubism, and Fauvist, and rejected the movements with the same convictions as Cecelia Beaux. The newly conceived expressions were considered short lived mockeries of art disciplines. However, The Metropoloitan Museum of Art's purchase of Paul Cézanne's displayed landscape,View of the Domaine Saint-Joseph, at the exhibit,was regarded by the public as the museum's acceptance of Post- Impressionism, and a signal of the art world's accepted integration of modernism. Progressive cultural ideology was entering the American Psyche.

The Armory show displayed standards of art that challenged the times. Realism was shown with distorted departure by the Painterliness expressions of Fauvisms with contributions by artists such as Henri Matisse and Maurice Denis. The influences of Avant- Garde pushed new levels of early Modernism, with displays reflecting the advance stages of Cubist expressions by Pablo Picasso and Marcel Duchamp.This freedom of expression soon entered the era of Dadaism, which declared all objects as art, and formed the foundation of Surrealism and the beginning of our current pop culture.

It was an era of new developments and expressions unlimited by conventional standards.The social introduction of Edison's inventions also created a new medium of sight and sound. Both music and art formulated with limitless adaptation. Jazz cultivated without boundaries; imagery without perimeters.Pop culture began to span its wings in the nest of a new tomorrow.

I often stress the necessity of this thinking in our current cultural climate. Unproven concepts are often ignored, with a false conviction that proven strategies determine the criteria of mass appeal. The story of Benson's House is enacted in a history of pop culture proving conventional wisdom cannot determine the will of the people's taste. Perhaps it is time for a Dada renaissance, striping the shackles of conformity, and allowing for experimentation to give way to new expressions. Unconventional thinking breeds new ideas. It's what caused Surrealism in art; Jazz in music. It's what led to Jackson Pollock and Elvis Presley; Andy Warhol and The Beatles.

The limits of this post, however, prevents me from an extensive examination of The Armory influence, but I encourage all to take a moment some evening and research the show on the internet. View the paintings,study the artists, understand the genius that was unleashed with meaningless free expression.

Wir können nicht wie die Hunnen auf einen Fanggrund gehen, ihn vernichten und dann einfach mit der Karawane zum nächsten weiterziehen, ohne uns um das Hinterlassene zu kümmern.

Hugo Ball