Write-a-thon, Day 33: Someone left a train out in the rain

Posted: July 25, 2013 in music, Record reviews, Writing
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Robert Louis Stevenson drew a map of an island and was inspired to write Treasure Island. J.R.R. Tolkien wrote about a Hobbit and from there drew a map of Middle-Earth. Many writers start writing after being captivated by a drawing or a photo. Others cut pictures out of magazines to help them visualize their characters or some aspect of their stories. Writing is surprisingly visual.

For my book, I bought 10 irregular sheets of poster board at an art supply store. The biggest is about 2’x3’. I took all the book covers, magazine photos, and old postcards I’d collected with a mountainous, railroady theme and spray-mounted them on these boards. I glued a balsa-wood frame to the back of each to keep them from warping, then hung them on the walls around my corner desk. This way I write while looking at the physical setting my characters are moving through.

I also drew a map of the where the action is, but my illustration skills are stuck in the sixth grade, when I struggled to draw a creditable starship Enterprise. (Still working on that one.) I keep redrawing the map for practice but I’m not getting better at it. I know the look I want and at some point I’m going to hire an actual artist to do it.

Meanwhile, it occurred to be that I could one-up Tolkien and RLS. (Boy, I never thought I’d get to say that.) I love building models. My book is full of trains. Why not build a model of something I’m writing about?

Micro 1

Nature is always trying to come indoors and take over. If you leave your car parked too long, nature will grow under it and eventually over it. Same with trains. Open-top cars left on a siding will eventually support enough wind-blown dirt and weeds to initiate agriculture. I’ve hiked past abandoned bridges that were turning into gardens way up in the middle of the air. Look at what happened to the High Line in New York:

High Line

I thought I was going to have one such bridge in my book, with an abandoned gondola astride it. So I made one. (This was also a way to sneak a garden railroad into my wife’s garden.) The wood came from an old dish drainer. The plants are a type of sedum that’s pretty much indestructible. It all lives outside; I’ll bring it in when winter comes.

Micro 2

I tried to sell these photos to Classic Toy Trains, but for some reason they weren’t enthused about showing their readers how to destroy their classic toy trains. They were very nice about it, though.

Micro 3

After further thought I decided to put this bridge in my second book. At least I’m thinking ahead. For my next construction project, I considered a half-size caboose replica, but I had some doubts I could secure trackage rights for the backyard. Maybe I’ll build that miniature Cape Cod lighthouse after all. It could double as a doghouse.

Today I went to the gym for the first time since the Write-a-thon started, so I’m feeling particularly virtuous this evening. My new mantra is short and intense workouts rather than lengthy and laid-back. Blood, not just contusions.

Random Pick of the Day
Ministry, Filth Pig (1995)
Sometime in the early 1980s I saw The B-52s at Kane Hall at the University of Washington. The opening act was a Seattle band called The Blackouts. It was an unlikely pairing, as The Blackouts were dark and noisy and The B-52s are light and zany. But it’s a rock-concert tradition to pair like with unlike. A tavern here in Portland just had Wicked Sin opening for The Punctuals. I didn’t go. I knew it was wrong.

The Blackouts eventually met a heavy-metal industrialist named Al Jourgensen and under his leadership formed Ministry and became even darker and noiser. Filth Pig is a good example. On this disc, Ministry did everything it could to clear the dance floor. The album name was thought up by a 16-year-old boy with bad skin and no hope of getting laid. The cover art is grotesque. The track listing is unreadable. Most of the songs are as listenable as a space shuttle in need of a new muffler. The singing is not so much singing as it is screaming at Orcs.

But! This album has their cover of “Lay, Lady, Lay” (track 9, since you’ll never decipher the info on the CD). The first time I heard it, I thought it was a joke. I listened a second time because I was looking forward to the laugh, but I didn’t laugh. I just listened. Now I’ve heard it many times and I think it’s beautiful. (Dylan does it again.) “Lay, Lady, Lay,” and tracks 1, 2, and 10 redeem Filth Pig for me.

Random Pan of the Day
Fun Boy Three, Waiting (1982)
The musical equivalent of the plastic garbage floating around in the Pacific Ocean. David Byrne produced this thing, after producing another inept record earlier in the year, The B-52s’ Mesopotamia. But 1982 also saw Talking Heads’ first live album,  the excellent The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads. Strange year for David Byrne…The only FB3 song worth its weight in vinyl is one of their two collaborations with Bananarama, “Really Saying Something,” and in that one they let the girls sing the leads.

I know I said I wasn’t going to do anymore music reviewing while the Write-a-thon was on, but I can’t seem to rein myself in. So many bands to insult, so little time.

 

Comments
  1. Helen Dezendorf says:

    Does model building count toward writing time? Are you sure you are not procrastinating?

    • Run-DMSteve says:

      I don’t count it in my daily tally. As for procrastinating, procrastination and inspiration are deeply connected. What do you think Isaac Newton was doing under that tree? Pallin’ around with terrorists? He was chilling until a big idea struck!

  2. Maybe you should try submitting you photograph to a Gardening magazine – hopefully they won’t object to showing their readers how to destroy their foliage with toy trains.

    • Run-DMSteve says:

      I’ve known some gardeners in my time and I think they’d object very strongly! They seem attached to those green growing things. But you’ve got an idea there and maybe I’ll do it. Thanks for the Bartok link. That guy just flat out rawks.

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