Dakota Escapes the Capital, and a Really Bad Day

First the bad day, two weeks ago I:

  • got fired (which I expected, and would have quit but figured I’d ride the money train to shame)
  • got fired again, kind of sort of, from a different job, in a strange way, more like put on probation but indefinitely, so it was like they were expecting me to quit? But if they wanted me to quit why didn’t they just fire me?
  • got hit by a car while riding my bike and so was
  • late to work for the job I’d just been quasi-fired from.
  • Lost my wallet
  • Broke my phone
  • Went to the hospital with no wallet and no phone and was promptly
  • Harassed by the trauma team who have apparently never treated an anxious person or, more curiously, never taken an x-ray from a patient whose arm is broken or in pain.
  • Left to die and rot away on a hospital bed because………
  • Arrived back home at 1 am, six hours after I’d checked in.
  • Rang a doorbell to be let in (more on this later)
  • Finally resolved to sleep next to the door of the apartment until my housemate arrived home from work to let me in.

Not one to let a horrible day rest in peace, the ramifications of this shit show extended into the following week.

Little did I know that my attempts to avoid sleeping out on the street would lead to exactly that, as the sweet old lady in apartment 1 ran into me in the laundry room the very next day. Having rediscovered my wallet, sans a few items, I offered to pay cash for using her laundry card. This triggered memories deep within of the past Friday and the sweet old lady threatened to report me, ran me out of the laundry room, and then did report me to the landlord, who threatened to evict everyone if the “strange man” hadn’t left the apartment ASAP.

And I do admit, I am a strange man! But I do really wish, if I am to keep getting fired or evicted or thrown into unpleasant misadventures that the impetus be something more grand and notorious than spilling coffee, losing my keys, asking to borrow/exchange $3, looking awkward, etc etc.

Or at least the sex would be stranger.

Lately I’ve been feeling like a walking plague. Almost nothing I leave behind will have ended cleanly. At the job I was half-fired for that I subsequently had to resign from, the manager chewed me out today for losing the room key. A key which I had up until Friday.

I finally got a prescription for new medicine on Friday, lost that over the weekend, was able to get the prescription again, only to find out from a comatose pharmacy staff that my health card was being rejected.

No, DC is a miserable city and my time here ends miserably. Over the week I said goodbye to friends and encouraged them to visit me in prison. The only thing left to do is apologize to people who don’t deserve it, so without further ado:

Javier, I’m sorry I spilled your coffee. And I’m sorry I didn’t mop the floor the way you wanted. And I’m sorry for training at another job which I told you I had when you hired me so I’m not sure why that upset you but I’m sorry for that too.

Sarah, I’m sorry for living next door and making it awkward for you and your drug dealing boyfriend to fight and deal drugs. I’m sorry for judging you and for not coming to you first when I asked for him to stop dealing drugs. I’m just sorry about that living situation in general.

Lady in Apartment 1, I’m sorry I woke you up at one in the morning and I’m sorry for being a subletter not an official tenant and I’m sorry to disturb you with my strange request of $3 cash for a laundry card.

Girl from the Internet, I’m sorry we never met in person but I was starting to become suspicious about how someone who works at a restaurant part time can travel and visit 40 baseball games around the country a year. 

Aranza, I’m sorry that I took away your phone and locked it in the teacher’s lounge but also you should apologize for writing “profesor esta mierda” on that piece of paper because, first of all, that’s really not nice, and second of all it really had nothing to do with the question I was asking.

Marcie, I’m sorry for locking the bedroom on my way out and also for leaving shit in the broken toilet. However, in fairness, you did decline an interest in fixing utilities or turning on the A/C or the lights or not being a scary crazy dog lady. Please accept the towels and piano bench I left behind as recompense. 

I feel better already! Meh.

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Dakota Riddles the Capital (With Riddles)

Riddle Me WMATA

What is always on track but never on time?

And creeps along a thin red line?

Sometimes Running, Never Moving

Public Services Disproving

District of Columbia Fire and Emergency workers at the site of a rush-hour collision between two Metro transit trains in northeast Washington, D.C. Monday, June 22, 2009. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Riddle Me Round and Round and Round and Then Round Some More

It sucks in traffic, bicycles as well

Like the lamest circle of hell,

Round and round like a toilet flushing

(something something something) soul crushing

dupont-circle-parking

Riddle Me Mealtimes

It isn’t breakfast

It isn’t lunch

It’s bottomless but also $39.95

Don’t guess a cheap hooker.

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Riddle Me Racism

What moves as a storm front from west to east?

Shaking the ‘hood’ like a faulting shelf?

Composed of condos too luxurious to be leased,

foreshadowed by white poor students (myself)

Condos-Coming-Soon

Riddle Me A Little More Racism

What has no metro or persons brown,

Where everyone dresses like a fancy clown,

With a harbor where someone will probably drown,

And a happy hour that made me frown.

so_3

Riddle Me Football (and racism but this time native Americans)

They’re like a potato, but maybe more racist

A record that’s low…like a baritone bassist!

Will the season be long or end short? Nothing is revealed.

Not even the location of FedEx Field

670px-Prepare-Red-Skin-Potatoes-Step-23-Version-2

Riddle Me Scandalous

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You will find DC at the top of this club,

of men who’ve lost their naughty chub

The moral choice they chose to choose:

is cheating bad if you cheat and then lose?

Riddle Me Cosby

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What’s full of cheesy saucy kitsch?

At two am the lines are a bitch.

While flavor costs extra for you and me,

infamous date rapists still get to eat free.

(also I was drunk last night and got a half smoke there on my way home, that makes me a hypocrite)

 

Please leave suggestions for more riddles; my goal is to have a large pool that I can draw from at open mic nights, I’ll read them aloud and ask people to call out the answers, giving out coupons for a coffee shop that no longest exists to the winners.

My Monthy Python Barista Moment

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Someday, I will say this to my son about my career in coffee shops:

Listen Lad, I built my barista credentials up from nothing.

When I started last year at Soho, I didn’t know the difference between an Americano and a pourover. All the bosses said I was daft to try and serve a latte, but I served it all the same, just to show ’em. I got fired. So, I got a second job at a coffee shop. That started badly, ended on good terms only because Koffee KGB was pleased that I was getting a useful degree, then I came back and Koffee KGB sank into the swamp. Or he was reassigned to deepest Africa. The third coffee shop was also pretty bad and I got fired from that one too because the owner wasn’t pleased with my floor mopping.  But the FOURTH ONE. THE (HYPOTHETICAL) FOURTH ONE. The fourth one I stayed on for twenty three years! An’ that’s what your gonna get out of me, lad; the strongest, yet subtlest cuppa joe in this world or the next, one with a full body of syrupy notes and fine foamy head of flower designs to boot!”

and he will say “but I don’t want any of that–I’d rather just–just—”

and it doesn’t matter what he’ll say next because I won’t begrudge him the fool’s hope of finding a real job.

A Square Peg in a Glory Hole: Dakota Vs…Fan Fiction?

Last week I felt like I was defeated by the internet and this week I feel bad about it so I’m going to defend myself, to myself, right here, right now:

The internet should be a great resource for writers, not only because of the platforms it provides, but because it can open up all kinds of avenues for interacting with other writers and honing your craft.

But then sometimes, “sometimes”, the wide open spaces of the internet yield more to a boom-town mentality, with prospective writers, such as and including myself, prospectively throwing their shit at the firewall and hoping something magic happens.

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As a year-long member of such an experiment, I attempted to stick my square, nonfiction prose where it didn’t belong, “just to see what happens”, over and over again into a space meant for genre fiction, and the result was pretty unsatisfying.

For now, let’s call this site the “The Glory Hole.”

How does the Glory Hole work? You put up your writing sample, a short story or 5000 words of a longer work, and you exchange critiques of other users’ material for credit to put towards getting feedback on your own. In this, the Glory Hole has developed a rather ingenious method for objective subjective feedback; since there are no incentives to write a good critique or to rate a specific person, you’re encouraged to give an honest appraisal of the writing.

Two caveats: Last year the Glory Hole removed their best feature, the literary “quiz”, which was a great way to evaluate whether users had read the whole piece. I assume they removed it because it was time consuming, some of the quizzes were stupid, and/or not enough people bothered to read the entire piece. However, now there is no real way to avoid having someone gloss over your story in about 30 seconds just to get the review credit. 

Secondly, and we will get to this below, there is incentive to write a bad review and force a users’ ranking down, especially if you yourself are near the top. 

The top user stories every month (there are rankings) get a professional glance-over, either by an agent or publisher, and people have gotten book deals out of the process. Since the whole thing costs nothing but a bit of time, it’s a great way to get feedback AND/or notoriety for your writing, even your novels, without the pitfalls of more formal, in-person workshop environments. And I’ve been clamoring (silently) for a novel-critique outlet for years, so the Glory Hole seemed very promising.

But what the experience has taught me about writing and writers in general is not so much to the good. Instead of discovering a community of writers or a treasure trove of untapped talent, I’ve discovered a parade of deluded and vicious dreamers climbing over each other to try and squeeze their way into the Glory Hole. Everything, from the means to the motive, is uncomfortably lame.

E.L.James_

What characterizes a Glory Holer?

  • Glory Hole Writers Don’t Read Enough The literary foundations behind of many of these stories stops after The Hunger Games Trilogy and Game of Thrones. The ideas conveyed, the character descriptions, the conflicts, all bely a special kind of triteness. Every other story has a Harry Potter or Katniss Everdeen proxy going off on a subpar, half-baked adventure involving humans and subhumans wandering around anachronistic, vague dystopias. A serial killer taunts a girl trapped inside his manhole trap back behind the old farm. A fat and lazy interloper makes himself at home in his cousin’s flat. A Catholic woman marries a Jew and they have a secret baby. A boy discovers his parents have been replaced by aliens. These summaries belong as meta-jokes in another, better, story, but here they are the sad attempts to triangulate what may constitute the next best-seller.
  • Glory Hole Writers Aren’t Writing, They’re “World-Building” I don’t think people don’t understand plot. I don’t think plot is a difficult concept. Story is when something happens and good story is when that something that happens is a something that is compelling or gets people to keep reading. The problem is that people don’t seem very interested in telling a good story. Most of the writing within these excerpts is window dressing or portraiture, details upon details that serve to pad the writing and “flesh out” either characters or setting, but with a fundamental confusion, or lack of care, for what details are important or why they matter at all.
  • Anyone can write anything, and use words for nearly any purpose, but just throwing shit at the reader because you were too lazy to edit your work is where things start to smell…smelly. I am absolutely, one-hundred percent, against writing-as-modern-art, here’s-my-nonsense-see-what-YOU-make-of-it, claptrap, maybe because I see that a lot in my own writing. But it takes one to know one, and I know (or think I do) when someone had no motivation or “vision” behind their work other than to hope somebody ELSE would see in their writing what they couldn’t find themselves.
  • This process works, sometimes. But not all the time. Best to pity the lucky idiot who strikes gold in the Glory Hole by accident (the next M. Night Shyamalan) then to attempt to be that yourself.
  • Glory Hole Writers Are Petty and Esoteric Critics After a while, right around the time the quiz was abandoned, I made another round of edits, and my work starting showing up on the Glory Hole top 50 (or whatever), I stopped getting good reviews. And they weren’t “good” bad reviews either, ie constructive criticism meant to encourage a better submissions. I was downvoted because
  • I needed to “learn the craft.”
  • I spelled Anakin Skywalker wrong. 3947959-anakin-skywalker-force-chokeYes, this one still bugs me. In a piece of writing that both nonfiction and decidedly not about Star Wars, the critic down-voted me for spelling the name wrong of a character whose name is actually another name.The crime of “misspelling” Anakin Skywalker is somewhere between misspelling Bruce Wayne and Alonso Quixano, which is to say…okay I’m done with that.
  • They couldn’t figure out what the story was about from the first page. This is a sneaky and disingenuous criticism, that my writing started off too “confusing” or “boring” or something…but here’s the problem with that: NOBODY GOES INTO A READING COLD. That’s right, nobody. Before you pick up a book, or read a story, you know many things, up to and including:
  • The author
  • The genre
  • The description on the back of the book
  • The title
  • The pretty pictures on the cover
  • The word of mouth, or whatever caused you to notice the book or story in the first place
  • So that’s right, saying you’re bored and can’t figure out what’s going on from the opening page(s) is a bit too much like saying you can’t figure out what you’re eating from the handful of buffet glob you just shoved into your mouth without looking. Don’t blame me.
  • My story wasn’t genre fiction. Several people didn’t like my story because it wasn’t high fantasy or low sex dungeon schlockety schlock or whatever. No explosions? No crazy twist? No inter-dimensional beings from the space between the spaces? BORING. Fuck you.
  • My story wasn’t their story. The worst bit of glory hole navel gazing was when other writers would critique me for having a style different from their own. Which is, I guess, to be fair, something every writer-cum-critic has to watch out for. There is a strong tendency to take someone’s work and advise them as if you were the author. But that’s not what good criticism does. And bad criticism, the very worst, goes all the way and says “your story is bad because in my story there are sexy dwarf detectives and your story has no sexy dwarf detectives so I hated it.”
  • Glory Hole Writers Don’t Like Writing This is why I decided to give up. Because after reading story segment after segment, and receiving a slow but dependable stream of critical bile, it was clear that this really was the wrong avenue to hawk my goods. If you can’t trust the people advising you then it’s time to pull the plug, and I couldn’t trust the people in the Glory Hole, not because I didn’t think the writing was good (some of it was okay) but because I didn’t think many of them liked writing at all. And this is not a problem specific to the Glory Hole but to a lot of amateur fiction in general in the age of the internet, which is that people maybe, who like good stories, or bad stories, or watch movies, or are unaware to the extent of their own vanity, see writing as way to get rich and famous really quick. But they don’t actually enjoy or care about the process of sitting down and plugging away at something. So here is something which I feel very strongly about and I’ll end with here:
  • Everyone has a story to tell. Most people have pretty good ideas. The only thing that separates “most people” from “published writer” is the will to grind out a piece of not-shit, which could take a few days, but more often takes years. Time is the only weed out process.***

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***I’m being hypocritical because I’m not really a ‘published’ writer (I mean I “am” but I’m also not), but if I ever was that’s still what I would say, and it’s what I say to myself now to try to motivate myself to keep working on old projects.