Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Farewell to the Fish

The Lantern Fishworks has moved or, rather, relocated. No, opened another branch. Yes, that's it. Everything that's here will stay here. I'm just beginning anew here.

"Here" is a branch of the Sleeping Brothers Public Library website, which is not at all what it sounds like, but exactly what I mean.

Anyway, for the 1 or 2 of you who've ever read LFW, just go here for current and future, uh, insight.

Well, bye.

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Novel Dime Story

A short story I wrote, triggered by a prompt on Six Minute Story. The prompt was "The dapper man picked up a penny." I cleverly begin the story with this phrase. I couldn't finish it in the designated six minutes; I got about six characters into the third paragraph. Typically, I would've abandoned it, but was encouraged to finish the fantastical tale. Stories not being my forte, I nevertheless offer the result here.

The dapper man picked up a penny and found a little hole. The hole was smaller than the penny, but larger than a dime. The man, dapper and penny-wise, bent down on dapper knees, head bowed, right eye squinting into the dime-sized hole.

"Dimes, dimes, dimes! Mole men flipping dimes, muddy mason jars tight with dimes!"

He wiggled his pinky in the pinky-sized hole. He framed his iris in the iris-sized hole. The dapper man could feel no dimes, could tickle no scalps of coin-jingling mole men.

He stood up, frustrated, ponderous. "Hey, Dan!" an angularly-coiffed woman spat from a passing car. He grimaced quickly, muttering inutterables.

The dapper man owned no tools, neither here nor home. He circled the tool-sized hole. With each step, he felt the weight of the world below, sensed shoulders grazing the ceiling beneath his shoes.

He sat on the curb and daydreamed of mole men walking their dime trails, leaving impressions of mole men hands and feet in the hills of dimes. He remembered that pin impression toy he'd press his face into at Spencer's, when he was a kid, when dimes possessed more value.

Or when he thought dimes possessed more value. But here he was, long past his lunch break, fishing for dimes, pressing his body against the city street. A soft obsession advanced, from which a garnering of distractions had begun to fill the silos of his desires.

The dapper man would never fit into the dime-sized hole. He wouldn’t buy or borrow a jackhammer. He wouldn’t pry off a manhole cover. He wouldn’t crack a Department of Environmental Protection worker on the head, steal his uniform and descend into the dime-stuffed depths of New York City Tunnel No. 3 where his confrontation with those greedy, light-sensitive mole men would end badly for them.

He wouldn’t count the dimes on his kitchen table.

The dapper man flipped the penny with his thumb and watched it tumble beyond his reach.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Checking Out (& In): Hotel Oregon

My latest journalistic triumph, a piece by which all other pieces on fun things to do in the summer will be judged. Published in the May 26, 2011 "101 Things To Do" special section published in Portland Tribune, et al.

Sure, we saw a UFO! McMinnville is rotten with them! Blot out the sun, sometimes, I was told (by the ghost of Heck Harper, at that)!

Nah, no UFOs (though, you know, I’m sure, that possibly the most famous photos of a UFO were taken over a farm near McMinnville in 1950; indeed, some consider the incident the dawn of modern UFO lore).

But like I said, we didn’t see any. McMinnville’s got enough to offer besides flying saucers. Like ghosts!

We spent the night at McMenamin’s Hotel Oregon (host of an annual UFO party, you know, because of the flying saucers I was just writing about). But in the 1980s, folks started observing supernatural incidents, like, uh, well, something like a spice jar of cinnamon winding up next to the onion powder when clearly it HAD been beside the cloves!  I’m not a true skeptic (I’m sort of pessimistic about my skepticism), but I can’t help wondering which came first: John the Ghost or “Ghostbusters” (1984).

Nevertheless, we didn’t catch a glimpse of Ghost John either. The only ghost-like thing I saw was my reflection in the bathroom mirror. I wish a UFO WOULD arrive and bust a hole through the cloud cover! (I’ve petitioned the Oregon State Legislature to replace our current state song with the Walker Brothers’ “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore.”)

The promise (who made any promises?) of seeing UFOs or ghosts are, at best, tertiary (nay quaternary!) reasons to visit the Hotel Oregon! First, I recommend booking room 406, the Sally Nicholai room!

Why 406? Because that’s where we stayed. 406 boasts a private bathroom (some other rooms require a shared bath) with a claw foot tub, hot shower, leaning toilet. Leaned about 10 degrees to the right (or left, depending on your juxtaposition). That’s not a complaint. It’s an old hotel and thus, charming. No TV either (whoops! just lost a few readers...), but do you really need that darn thing on all the time? Play a game. We played Farkle as we sipped our pints of Irish Stout, poured from the provided large mason jar (into the two provided pint glasses). We filled it upstairs at the Rooftop Bar.

The Rooftop Bar is named after Rutherford Rooftop, a furrier and statesman from Glens Falls, NY, who... oh, wait, my wife tells me that’s not at all why it’s called the Rooftop Bar. And it’s the Roof Top Bar. Two words. And I’m a moron.

But what a view of downtown McMinnville! “Oregon’s Favorite Main Street” boast the lamppost banners, and who am I to argue? 3rd Street, for instance, easily met our criteria for a desirable street: book store, coffee bistro, old fashioned ice cream shoppe. And apparently a record store, which I’m kicking myself for missing (I was in such a rush to get back to the Roof Top Bar!)

There’s a basement, too, you know. Containing the Cellar Bar. Door was locked, though (else we couldn’t figure out how to open it). And the walls of the hallways are plastered with art. And plaster. But the art really stands out (the only object that stands out farther than the art is the giant urinal in the men’s room outside the first floor elevator).

Anyway, my wife and I had a terrific time walking around town, dining at the hotel, and sleeping comfortably in the Sally Nicolai Room. Waking well-rested, we breakfasted downstairs (yeah, I’ll have the Biscuits & Gravy). Checked out at 11am and drove back to Portland.

As the day was remarkably sunny, we stopped in Lafayette to tread the delightfully creaky floors of School House Antiques. It’s such an endless maze of vintage-infused nooks that I swore I spied the Minotaur admiring a Bakelite cake slicer.

But if that’s not “your thing”, stop at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum to see Howard Hughes “Spruce Goose.” Or for actual fun, the Evergreen Wings & Waves Waterpark next door, opening June 6.

But mostly, stay the night in room 406, the Sally Nicolai, of the Hotel Oregon. And do me a favor -- check out that painting of her on the wall. Is she wearing a pink hat or is her brain exposed? Ah, McMinnville!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

First Thing in the Morning 4.0

The finale. The whimper.

Michael O'Shaughnessy's
First thing in the morning 4.0

4.10.02 “Magic time!” Jack Lemmon used to say. That’s what today is: Time to conjure all the news and ads and throw them at the alchemists in Production. Then patiently we wait for a new brew of sooth tomorrow. According to Mickey Mouse (and whatever that cheery rat says is gospel to me), Wednesday is “Anything Can Happen Day.” Anything? Like getting the paper out on time? I kid, I kid… Into the day…

4.11.02 A more distressing sight I’ve rarely seen: five co-workers trying to squeeze a broken copy machine through a narrow door. It was kind of like the Three Stooges directed by Brian DePalma. Suspenseful. Not really funny at all. Hannibal had an easier time crossing the Alps with his elephants (few of them survived the excursion; and as mentioned already, the copier was dead). Eventually, after the gasping sound of snapping plastic and caroming nuts and bolts, the old groaning duplicator was banished, sent rolling down the back hallway like a crucified missionary sent plummeting down a waterfall. Amen. Newspapers arrived this morning, as usual. A delightful read. Into the day…

4.12.02 Friday. King Friday. King Vitamin. Vitamin C. C-Moon. Moon River. River’s Edge. Edge of Night. Friday Night. I’m getting head of myself. It’s only Friday morning. Friday morning’s great when you have the day off. No such luck. What’s up for today? ONAC Ad Contest submissions due today. Luckily, we’ve been working on it for a solid hour…That’s it – I’m going home. Into the day…

4.15.02 Got over my cold. Like Nietzche says, “That which does not kill me is not trying hard enough.” Who will be out sick this week? It’s like working in the House of Usher (I think – is the house supposed to be alive in that story? That’s one of those pieces of trivia of which I’m only familiar with the halo of the truth). Anyways… Had a grand weekend. Bought an Ornette Coleman album, “The Complete Science Fiction Sessions” or, as I like to call it “The Tuesday Morning Retail Ad Meeting.” Will today be like a storm bringing a rainbow, or a cat dropping a mysterious wet corpse on our doormat? Just wipe your shoes before you come in. Into the day…

4.16.02 I cannot in recent memory recall such a forgettable day. I can’t even begin to describe the day; my mind is blank. The best I can do is relate what usually occurs on a Tuesday and assume the same occurred today. This maybe happened: a brawl in the lunchroom between Circulation and Classifieds, concluding with the toppling of the soda machine (sorry – “pop” machine); a brawl in the Morgue between Circulation and Classifieds, concluding with cracking of the helium canister (I wasn’t there, but a high-pitched description was recounted to me); and a brawl in the lunchroom again between Circulation and Classifieds (this time they took out the candy machine). The newspaper business is a vicious trade. Into the day…

Monday, May 16, 2011

First Thing in the Morning 3.0

Week three: The fever reaches...then grips!

Michael O'Shaughnessy's
First thing in the morning 3.0
4.3.02 Tomorrow the first paper of April is published. April papers bring May…capers? I don’t know. Very tired. Up early to the airport, returning my aunt and cousin to New York. Everyone’s too polite out here, they observed. Yeah? Try asking me to input an ad before I’ve had my first goofball. Changed El Coqui’s water yesterday. He’s doing swimmingly, his diaphanous fins all burgundy and indigo, exploring the shadows of the waterplants with the mythical presence of social sea serpents. Ads turned into production in an acceptable manner and timeframe (relatively). I ditch pit at 4. Into the day…

4.4.02 The moon like a filmstrip on the sky this morning. Bagels for breakfast. The bagel joint’s been handing out sample packets of breath-freshening gum. I love a shtickel of chicle post-Super Onion scarf! Uy Gevalt! My Yiddish’s getting rusty. The Advertising Department, of which I am a spoke, are out conjuring, selling and building Special Focus pages, promoting common services or particular achievements. My suggestions (rejected) follow: I Dig a Pony – Area Pet Cemeteries; Saluting Local Gangs; Dining Out in Chicago. Into the day…

4.5.02 Laboring under the shadow of the mountains. Friday at last. But the newspaper business does not differentiate from days. There is only one day: Today. Friday is merely a mood of the Big Today. Hopefully, I’ll have a mood swing and find myself in the dewy cool of Saturday. Into the day…

4.8.02 …out of the weekend. Mary brought around the new intern. I can hear her explaining this joint to her friends tonight: “Well, it’s a little bit “Ninth Configuration’ but mostly it reminded me of a live-action Muppet Show.” The insanity here rolls like a low fog, but it is the madness that broods beneath the surface. Why publish at all? Why even read, never mind write, a newspaper? Why not continue north and west and live among the Caribou? Why not? Because the Caribou loathe you. Get back to work and stop pontificating. Into the day…

4.9.02 Feverish, delusional. Hypnotized by El Coqui. Back and forth he swims. Up and down he floats. The hum of the computer sounds more like the howl in a wind-whipped cavern. The fluorescent lights seem angry. All the ads have been input. No faxing, no e-mailing to be done. A respite from the whirlwind and a moment to enjoy. But instead the fever (99° at least!) has me in its grips! Go home, they say. What? Who said that?!? Ye gods! I haven’t approved the Uwajimaya ad yet! Into the day…

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

First Thing in the Morning 2.0

The second week's worth. More of the same, but different. More of the same differentness. 

Michael O'Shaughnessy's
First thing in the morning 2.0

3.6.02 Wednesday morning. Running around like little Billy from “Family Circus.” Throughout the office, life-size photocopies of my head are tacked up in cubicles. It’s not so unusual; somebody’s picture is usually posted here and there, usually manipulated by Photoshop or some other graphics program. Perhaps the rump of a donkey or the body of a baby. The “life-size” aspect is the unusual feature this time around. I feel like Mao. Perhaps a cult will arise from my visage. Apocalypse Soon! (I tend to procrastinate.) Listen to this: I needed to track down a Sales Rep, so I called her cell phone. She said she was at a Dunkin’ Donuts, so I says Great, get me a blueberry donut, but guess what? She wasn’t at the donut shop; she was at her desk, 40 feet from me! Boy, they had a great laugh. I could only see the tragedy of the situation: no blueberry donut! Into the day…

3.7.02 Unusually quiet and empty this morning. Even the regulars were missing. Icy roads were the culprit. Only Ralph and I were here. He regaled me with his chilly tale of being locked out of the building because of an unwedged door. His keys at his desk, and no one to let him in, he shuffled over to Burger King for a eggamuffin. 30 minutes later, another employee arrived to bring the poor soul in from the cold. So touched was I by Ralph’s ordeal, I retraced his footsteps 6 hours later. Neglecting my coat and scorning my gloves, I hiked down the back hallway, shivering as the first set of metal doors slammed behind me. Onward I tread, bursting through the last door before the hollow anger of winter. Snow! It’s snowing! Ralph didn’t tell me about snow! Did it snow on him? I can’t remember – already pre-vernal madness has sunk its icy thorns into my jittery psyche…Where am I? I trudged forward, hoping for any mammalian movement; even the chirp of a fallen sparrow would have offered me fleeting encouragement. But nothing…until…the front of the building faded in from the thinning blizzard. Civilization at last. I crawled the final few feet to the front lobby. Struggling to my feet, I brushed the wintry dust from my sweater and hobbled to my desk. What’s that old saying? You can’t know a man’s feet till you walk in his shoes? Today I walked in his shoes. No, his footprints. Well, near his footprints. Anyway, it was colder than a well digger’s rump out there! Into the day…

3.8.02 Addiction. It’s no joke. Except when it concerns Robert Downey, Jr. My addiction? Surprisingly, not a mood-altering drug. Far more sinister. It started simply enough. I had a few at first, hanging with some co-workers. No one was getting hurt, you know. Suddenly, I found myself doing it alone. A lot. Glue. Yep. Envelop glue. Licking 150-200 a day. I got real crazy, you know. Not even bothering to stuff them. I knew I was getting out of control when I started adding postage. Licking one stamp at a time. “For God’s sake, man,” an Associate pleaded, “we have a machine for that!” She was right. But my pride blocked my way. “I can handle it.” Yeah, right. A week later, they found me curled up in the supply room with a gross of Birds of America, mailing dust bunnies to Ecuador. Into the day…

3.11.02 I think it rained. I think it hailed. I think the sun came out. I’m not sure. I forgot to look out the window. Long day in the pit, sweating like Dan Haggerty, singing Spirituals: “Gonna go to Lake Oswego, gonna see Doc Pamplin…” When we look too weak, the managers splash cold coffee on us. The gesture is small, and highly insulting, but heartfelt, nonetheless. Into the day…

3.12.02 My Main Associate is out sick today. My workload quadrupled! It’s days like this when you realize how much you goof off the rest of the time. I have no time to do the following daily activities: feed the rats, do my Jack Parr imitation, fax passages from Revelations to Dr. Phil, make anagrams out of the obits, and Silly Putty the Police Log. These might seem useless, even frivolous, tasks. Well, don’t pat yourself on the back – it wouldn’t take water rocket manufacturer to figure that out. Anyway, I’ve got a paper to fractionally-assist putting out. Into the day…

Monday, May 09, 2011

First Thing in the Morning 1.0

From May 27, 2002 to April 16, 2002, I wrote four week-long pieces describing my days working at the local paper (where I'm still employed). Most of it is fiction. But I won't say which. Each of the four pieces begin on Wednesdays, skip the weekends, and finish on Tuesdays. The papers go to press on Wednesdays, so that's how the timeline in my mind runs. I am aggrieved how little my job at the paper has changed over these last nine years. Anyway, as I say...

Michael R. O'Shaughnessy's
First thing in the morning 1.0

2.27.02 The building is barely empty except for the news department wrapping up the week’s assignments. The papers go to press today and will be warm and toasty at community homes by tomorrow morning. Opening your mailbox will just be like taking the towels out of the dryer, the soft steam of journalism and advertising warming your chilly uninformed hands. In the lunchroom, the Coffee-matic 3000 gurgles and drips into steel soldiers lined up and ready to wire the employees they’re sworn to caffeinate and defend. I’m at my desk, a soft green divider blocking the conquering sunlight squeezing through a TV-sized window which perfectly frames Mt. Hood. The whirr of the fax, the hush of the hard drive, I pick up the receiver of my silent phone. Its archaic design lacks any indicating message light, lacks any lights at all. My eyes fail me at this moment. Slowly (I can almost here the long high-end drag of a Hollywood violin), I arc the earpiece to my ear, barely stirring the fuzz of my lobe, and listen for that awful, awful beep beep beep…P.G.! No message! Into the day…

2.28.02 A minor buzz through the Pit this morning. The Pit is the cavernous lower level of cubicles containing the Retail Advertising, Production and News departments. Overlooked by the upper offices of management, we sweat and slave on a Dickensian scale, with only our passion for public service to sustain us. From above, the scene below more closely resembles Houston’s Mission Control or the essential set of “Wargames.” As the Traffic Coordinator (a term as farcical as the Pit), I receive and disseminate incoming e-mails and ads for the Advertising Sales Representatives. So I’m printing out the morning e-mail only to recoil in horror at the absence of the printouts at the printer. After much high-pitched bewilderment and dockside swearing, I am relieved when my Associate alerts me the printer is not on and clicks the switch, revealing my hollering to be the impotent whining of an impatient buffoon. The printer spits out the emails. The newspapers were delivered early this morning to our building, standard for the Thursday dawn.  First I brew some coffee, heat up a cup of tea for myself and pay the snack machine to drop me a Blackberry Fruit Pie, and flip to the Police Log for the latest surreal adventures of our local malefactors. Into the day…

3.1.02 Friday morning, the best morning. Well, not as good as Saturday morning, what with the cartoons and all. At 7:08, the office is especially vacant, except for my Associate who arrived even before I did. The relative silence is often infinitely more entertaining than the blather of the crowd. Not that an interesting crowd doesn’t work here. After all, we microcosmic documentarians feed an otherwise unfed organ of the community. Anyway, there’s a birthday today! Cake and pie has been brought in. Helium-rich balloons turn slowly over the recipient’s desk, a safe distance from the high-ceilinged fluorescents that waste no time bursting unwelcome flying objects. A grand affair indeed, the office birthday party. Does anyone care about your birthday? Probably not, but no one’s saying. It’s like that joke Woody Allen tells at the end of “Annie Hall” about the guy who sees a psychiatrist because his brother thinks he is a chicken. ‘Why don’t you bring him in for treatment?” the psychiatrist asks. “I would, but we need the eggs.” They need the cake. Into the day…

3.4.02 The weekend has set like the sun behind the bulk of Mt. Hood while over its peak Monday has arisen. Processing the e-mails and listening to a Laura Nyro collection. A little Bronx soul in the a.m. serves me well. The morning begins with ad-related problems, insignificant in the scope of human existence, but still a sugarless hassle to me. I hear the crescendos of panic in the opposite cubicle. They quickly die down. These uprisings occur all day long. Such is the nature of the newspaper business (such is the nature of business). Into the day…

3.5.02 A moldy mug of coffee pathetically slumps on my desk. Spores swirl around the dusty surface of the drink like the swamp on Dagobah. The hags of Macbeth shove each other aside for a glorious glimpse. Truly awful. But it happens. Sometimes you get three or four cups going at a time. One always gets lost in the shuffle. But this cup isn’t mine. I’ve never let my beverages go unattended that long. I mean, this coffee was old – even the mold had mold. The mug was placed on my desk for comic effect by an Associate. Is food poisoning funny? Into the day…

Another week in the work-life of an Advertising Assistant rolls to a stop. We’ve learned a lot about ourselves, haven’t we? Well, we learned about something, right? ‘Member when I talked about cake? That was great.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Notes on Nothing 17.0: Simultaneous Selections

Listening to "A Field Guide to Western Bird Songs."
Reading "The Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer."
Eating a fried Taylor ham sandwich.

Notes on Nothing 16.0: Morning Gets Broken

I get to the office before most of the co-workers. The atmosphere exudes an almost peacefulness. Especially on these rare sunburst mornings. Driving to work, we saw the rays pierce the cloud cover like a golden tripod. Soon the overcast was over.

The hum of the fluorescent lights and the whirr of the hard drives persist, but there is a clip of silence soon to be spliced with inane chatter once 8:30 rolls around.

Ten years ago I joined the retail advertising staff at the paper (or rather, papers -- we're a "media group").

Ten years has obversely built up and destroyed my tolerance for coworkers. Outside of work, my frustration instantly dissipates, as if Work is Wonka's dark tunnel (my soul as "Le Wonkatania") where "the rowers keep on rowing" until 4:00 when the clock yells "Stop!"

I don't want to call the thing that disturbs me "stupidity", but rather an inability to commit to even the edge of logic.

To be asked about the sun by the shadow or asked about the shadow by the sun are queries I endeavor to entertain.

But, no, I get this:

Me: Is this ad running in color or black & white -- you didn't mark the insertion order.

Sales Rep: Uh, I don't know...is it?

I'm out!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Notes on Nothing 15.0: Egghead Likes His Booky-Books

I'm reading a book as thick as my thumb is long. That's a big deal for me. My attention span has been limited since I discovered television when I was one. Sure, I read a lot, but I prefer thin volumes, short chapters. This omnibus, Rudy Rukker's "Ware Tetralogy", offers short chapters, just lots of 'em.

The joke, containing more than a kernel -- let's say a vat -- of truth, is that I'm a book collector, as opposed to being a "reader"; a small-time hoarder (our place is never buried in books -- indeed, I shelve them all! Oh, wouldst that I possessed a high-ceiling-ed library with 10, 15, nay 20 foot bookshelves!

Ye Olde O'Shaughnessy Librarie

That said, concerning unshelved books, a book store so overstocked with used books that the floors are stacked with paperbacks are my favorite book stores! Good god! Anything could be in there!

Case in point: Longfellows Bookstore on SE Division. I'd never been there before this weekend. I said as much to the owner. "Well, " said he, "this is our 35th year."

[Embarassed trumpet]


I spent an hour in there, emerged with a Bruce Jay Friedman two-fer: "Stern/A Mother's Kisses"; and Nat Hentoff's "Jazz is." Coulda bought more, coulda spent more. But where to put 'em?

The O'Shaughnessy Public Library Basement Annex

Gotta go. TV's on.