Bar 6

March 16, 2018 § 1 Comment

He’d come in every night around 6:30, stay for the space of two drinks and maybe a burger. Middle-aged, not a snappy dresser but no slob, either. He knew the owners well enough that they said hi to him, but not enough for special treatment; no free drinks or anything like that.

Always grabbed the same bar stool, if it was open – sixth from the end, by the bend.

Had a name I should remember, but so vanilla it never stuck. Eric, I think, or Allen. I don’t know, I’d only been working there a couple weeks. To me, he was just Bar 6, because that’s how we entered orders in the register.

I called him “boss” to his face, just like everyone else. It’s easier than remembering names.

He wasn’t much for conversation. Some folks want to spill out their problems or chat about the music that’s playing or whatever sport is on the TV behind the bar. Bar 6 would talk to other patrons if they started it, but otherwise would just hunch over his drink until it was gone.

Bar 6 liked his bourbon. Usually neat, unless it was Jack Daniel’s, and then he’d want a rocks pour. I think the longest conversation he had with me was the night we added a couple new bourbons to the shelf, and even that only lasted a minute or two.

Every once in a while, I’d catch his eyes following a woman’s ass as she strolled past. He never made it creepy, though; he’d look, and then he’d turn his attention back to his drink. When the girls served him, he looked them in the eye and thanked them. I never saw him hit on anyone, touch anyone, nothing.

Come to think on it, I never saw him come in with anyone. He was always on his own, but never gave off that hook-up vibe. He came, he drank, he left. Veni, vino, vamoose.

Darrell? I think his name might have been Darrell. Damn, it bugs me I can’t recall.

Anyway, what I’m saying is, he was just this guy, you know? I never expected him to do what he did. Jesus. « Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

Farewell, Dear Phouka

September 13, 2017 § 8 Comments

What’s left of Hurricane Irma lingers over southern Ohio, weeping her gray tears. It’s fitting weather; just past midnight, I learned that my friend Bardi had died.

I laid awake for another hour or so, walking the dark paths one walks when discovering such news late at night. Remembering Bardi, reflecting on his life and his death. Sad and angry by turns, and wondering if I’m on the same path. He got laid off and lost his health insurance and got sick and couldn’t afford to go to the doctor, and it killed him.

If I lose my job, that could easily be me. It could be you.

Bardi’s family is planning a wake in true Irish style, as well they should. His son said anyone who attempts to make it maudlin will be shown the door. In that vein, I’ll keep this small remembrance on the sunny side of the lane.

I won’t claim to know him well, but I knew him a while. We met in the mid-90s, when we both joined in a Star Trek fan club. We met again, years later, drawn together by NaNoWriMo and Firefly and a mutual love of Irish music. I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t remember him at first, but he remembered me.

I knew him by a few names — Timothy J. P. O’Riley and Taedgh O’Riley — but I and most who knew him called him Bardi. Short for Bardiphouka, his nom de net.

The thing I think of first when I think of Bardi is his writing. He could write a 50,000-word novel for NaNoWriMo easily, and often wrote double the word count. I think one  year, he wrote two novels in that month.

Every April, he did APAD — A Poem A Day — on his blog. Once, he told me he had a fan club in France, and they bought him an iPad in appreciation for his poetry. An iPad for APAD.

He also wrote songs and made music. I remember sitting in his den as he played a song he wrote for my friend Annie, plucking it out on an acoustic guitar, singing. He was particularly proud of a song he wrote called “Topper Takes a Toe.” (I think that’s the name of it; regrettably, I never got the chance to hear it.)

Bardi was that rare kind of individual you simply can’t capture in a nutshell. Quiet, kind, an eternal romantic. A gentleman in an age where gentlemen are scarce. He loved unusual hats and unusual turns of phrase. He liked to make people laugh. He gave because he enjoyed giving.

For my 50th birthday this year, Bardi posted this on Facebook:

Today is Random Acts of Kindness day. Also Dave Borcherding’s birthday. Which in a way was a random act of kindness to all who have come to know him.

It was possibly the nicest thing anyone said about me on my birthday.

2017 has been a bastard of a year, to the point that I’m constantly bracing for the next loss. Nevertheless, losing Bardi was one I didn’t see coming, and it’s been one hell of a gut punch.

Goodbye, my friend. I hope you’re dancing a jig with a beautiful lass on Fiddler’s Green. I didn’t see you nearly enough, and I am the poorer for that. And the world is poorer for no longer having you in it.

 


Bardi with our friend Brooke, New Year’s Eve 2012. (Photo Credit: Steve Blanzaco)

bardi

Knocking off the Rust, Sharpening the Blade

July 11, 2017 § Leave a comment

The wonderful Maureen McHugh once told me, “Writing is a skill, like basketball; not a body of information, like biology.” Her point being, you get good by writing, not by studying it, or thinking about it, or reading other writers talking about it. You grab the ball, get on the court, and start dribbling.

I like to think of it more like carpentry. Pulling and hauling, grunting and sweating, sawing and hammering until a dead tree starts to look like something else entirely. « Read the rest of this entry »

Choices

October 29, 2016 § Leave a comment

Choices are on my mind his morning, as I sip my coffee and feel the synapses begin to fire. It’s chilly in the house, but summer is staging another strike. I just ducked outside to look at a passing airplane, and it’s wonderfully warm; the perfect day for riding rollercoasters, which I will be doing with my wife and friends today, before we costume and go to a Halloween/birthday party tonight.

But choices. We make choices in almost every moment, and each choice alters the course of our life in some way.

Some choices are so small we don’t even notice we made them, yet they have a butterfly effect nonetheless: turn left instead of right, and avoid an accident; choose one word over another and cause a misunderstanding that damages a relationship.

Others are larger, more gut-wrenching decisions: to leave a job, or keep a difficult secret, or say goodbye to a beloved pet, or end a friendship that you realize is no longer a friendship.

One right choice can push your life in an amazing new direction; one wrong choice—no matter how small—can bring it all crashing down. Choose well. « Read the rest of this entry »

Before Coffee: How to Tell a Great Story

August 24, 2016 § 2 Comments

I came across an article this morning with the terrible title “A Writer’s Guide to Hacking the Reader’s Brain in 5 Steps.” Because everything has to be about hacking these days. “Hacking Your Diet with Oreos and Bacon Fat,” or “Hacking Your Cerebral Cortex to Never Need Sleep (Without Becoming a Murdering Hobo),” et cetera ad nauseum.

A better title for the article above is “How to Tell a Great Story,” or maybe “5 Steps to Bringing a Story to Life.” Or maybe those are just as terrible.

Regardless, the article is very good. You can skip the first half of it if you’re in a rush and just start at this bit: « Read the rest of this entry »

Before Coffee: Serendipity

August 8, 2016 § Leave a comment

Full disclosure: I have never read anything by Malcolm Gladwell and can’t even name a book of his off the top of my head. Punching his name into the face of the hive mind, I see he writes non-fiction, which explains the dearth of Gladwell titles on my Goodreads list.

I saw the quote below today, though, and it hit me at just the right time. I’m feeling guilty for a total lack of movement on the novel-in-progress, especially since I spent a great chunk of hours yesterday working up a D&D game to run next Saturday. Part of the reason I’m not making eye contact with the manuscript is that I’ve been feeling it’s irredeemably awful.

So Gladwell’s words simultaneously give me hope and make me want to saw my head off with a bread knife. Because the thought of trudging through five more drafts of this book, regardless of how good it might be on the other side, is just more than I can bear right now.

Of course, Gladwell stops short of saying anything about the drafts after Number Eight. Maybe nine through sixteen are mediocre, seventeen through twenty-four are almost good, etc. Where does “publishable” fall on that timeline? Where does “great” show up? Draft 64? Draft 80?

I suspect innate talent enters into it at some point. Writing may be a skill that can be honed with practice, but something tells me you don’t become Shakespeare just by rewriting your manuscript 120 times.

-The first eight drafts are terrible.-

A Blast from the Past

July 6, 2016 § Leave a comment

All issues of bOING bOING, The World’s Greatest Neurozine, are now online. This means that you can read my first (and only) published magazine article!

A little background: I was obsessed with the promise of nanotechnology in the 90s. I thought K. Eric Drexler was a techno-prophet who would lead us to the Promised Land of nanosalvation.

I can’t remember how I glommed onto bOING bOING, or even what made me write and submit the article. But my weird little article on nanotech fashion got reprinted in Carla Sinclair’s Net Chick: The Smart-Girl Guide to the Wired World, and just last year I found out it had been referenced in a book called Full Metal Apache.

Also, Carla Sinclair appeared in Playboy shortly after the article was first published, so I kinda knew a Playboy model. 1990’s me thought that was pretty cool. (Actually, I still think it’s pretty cool, but since I never actually met her, it’s probably not.)

If you want to read the article as it first appeared, though, now’s your chance. Click and be underwhelmed!

boing boing

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing the writing category at Kicking the Pants.