Elster's World

Friday, September 30, 2005

We Roll and Roll (Help Me Roll Away the Stone)

Random thoughts for a Friday:

- Wow, this week has been long. Painfully long. Waking up extra early for Selichos (special early morning prayers) really takes a toll on me. Also, my boy has decided that 5:45am is the new 7:00am. Not good times.

- I'm freaked out by the Yomim Noraim (High Holy Days) this year. The older I get, the harder it is for me to focus on the things I need to be focusing on this time of year. I always have too much on my mind. My head feels like a computer whose hard drive is overloaded. Now is a bad time for my processor to be running slow. I need a major head cleaning. Unfortunately, in the real world there are no information dumps. You cannot get rid of your problems by deleting garbage out of your recycle bin. Not good times.

- I'm feeling sluggish in the creativity department as well. I have put aside my second novel to focus my energies on getting the first one published. But all I do is send out about five queries a week and then wait for the rejections to roll in like the unstoppable tide. So the only "creative writing" I'm doing is right here in Blogsville. And quite honestly I'm pretty unhappy (for the most part) with what I put here because it tends to be unpolished, stream on consciousness stuff and not anything I'm putting real effort into. Again, not good times.

- I think that I would have made a good shrink. Im a good listener and I have a fairly decent ability to make astute comments about people. With the proper training, who knows. But all the shrinks I know (well, most of 'em anyway) are really weird. So it's probably better that I didn't go down that road. NO OFFENSE MCARYEH - you are, of course, excluded from this harshly unfair over-generalization.

- I recently got a (non-tv watchers can skip this section) Tivo. Tivo owners would always say that Tivo is a "life altering" experince. Of course, this is sillyness. There is nothing life altering about televison in general (at least not in a particularly good way), but it definately multiplies the ease factor. Just pop Lost into Season Pass and never worry about missing an episode. Need to take a phone call? No problem, just pause live tv. Pretty cool stuff. And speaking of Lost, very solid start to the second season. The hatch is open and it dosn't look like the show has missed a beat.

And yes, I'm pressing here. I feel as though I need to be writing but can't even focus myself enough to get anything coherent or interesting out. But I hate opening my blog and seeing stale material. I want to be writng, creating, putting stuff out there. Even stuff that's not my best work. So we roll and roll and then, like a flare of a match, inspiration will be out there, lifting the stone from off my shoulders.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Take This Broken Wing

Alas, 'tis a sad day in Jet-dome. The news has come out that Chad Pennington has torn his rotator cuff for the second time in as many seasons. His season - over. His career - in major jeopardy. And despite early Super Bowl feelings for this club, you can pretty much stick a fork in the 2005 season.

I will echo Mikes' Golic and Greenberg from ESPN radio. I feel worse for Pennington than I do for myself and the fans. He has pretty much been injured his entire career (except for the magical 2002 season). He had a chance at being a very good quarterback in the NFL but will probably never get his shot now. He is a tough guy. He has played through pain, always saying and doing the right things. But the end result is that, with a season ending injury to his backup Jay Fiedler, the Jets will be playig out the string even though it's just week four. Not to mention the salary cap albatross they will probably be strapped with for the remainder of his contract.

My wife will be thrilled, though. This means that I won't have to devote three and a half hours of every Sunday between now and January to the Jets. Maybe I'll even have to start rooting for losses and a chance that the Jets get the Number 1 pick in the draft this year. They are going to need it. They will have to replace their quarterback.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Mailman, Please Bring Me More Blues

Couple of quick notes before we get to the actual post:

- I'm pretty much devastated about the Jets overtime loss to the Jaguars today. The pre-season super bowl vibe was based on three factors: Curtis Martin still had a three-qaurter full tank, the defense really was good and Chad Pennington's arm would revcover quickly. Well, the defense is pretty stout. Otherwise, we are 0 for the other 2. At this point, the guys I play football with Sunday morning would be giving Gang Green a better shot to win. And while C. Mart was certainly better today, he still doesn't look like he will be shouldering the load for the Jets this season. Thus, I am re-setting my prediction of the final record to 8-8. Not good times. I think if my prediction holds true, Herm Edwards gets canned as well. We shall see.

- Writing update: I finalzed four more query packages for agents. That means I've sent over twenty in the last month, plus these four going out. I have fourteen more names to send to. After that i'll have been rejected about forty times and I'll have to start sending directly to publishers (which is even more difficult).

Anyway, this post is a rip off of two others in the similar vein. Credit to Brianna and The Rabbi's Kid (I'm too lazy to link, most of you know where to find them) for inspiration. They both wrote letters to their future selves, giving advice, etc. I'm running the reverse, 32 year old Elster is about to write a letter to 18-20 year old Elster. Let's see how that unfolds...

Dear Elster:

Hey buddy, what's up? It's me, your older self. That's right, it's you at thirty two. Yes yes, I know, I'm old to you. But guess what? When you hit thirty two (congradulations, you made it!) it's not gonna seem old at all.

So, let's see. You're a lawyer (yes, that turned out to be a bad decision, more on that later). You have your hair (!!!), a great wife, two fantastic kids and a pretty good house. Though we all live in different places now, you managed to stay friends with all of your best buddies from youth and you even got to live with many of them in the same neighborhood for a few years after you all got married. Yes, your friends stayed as awsome as they were in Israel and college. Even though you rarely see them now, you would still not trade them in for any other posse. Well, maybe the cast of Lost, but only if they were jewish and you got to live in Hawaii.

So, let's see here. When you were eighteen-20, what did you want to do? Whatt did you want to be? Answer: You had no idea. Another aimless jewish drifter. You decided to be a lawyer because it runs in your family and because that's what dreamless jewish kids do when they don't know what else to do; they become lawyers. Hey, don't sweat it, I don't blame you. I would have done the same thing at your age. In fact, I did!! Hee hee, I slay myself.

But how I wish it wasnt too late. How I wish I coud talk you out of it. Like Red says in Shawshank, I want to grab that kid and shake some sense into him, or something like that. You get the idea. The point is, you don't have to do what everyone else does. Be your own man. Lord knows, I try to be. But again, how can I blame you? You're just a kid, you won't figure out how cool or funny you really are for another five years or so. Your still too worried about your own limitations to realize that everyone thinks you are hilareous. So you aren't Tom Cruise. Guess what, he falls off of Planet Sane in 2005 anyway. Anyway, you'll start "getting" it in about five years. Then it's all gonna start being gravy.

So lemme see here. College/israel? Best "fun" years of your life. You and your friends will have a blast without being destructive to yourselves and others. Good job. You will gradute college with very good grades and get yourself into one of the finest Ivy league law schools in the country. This is quite an accomplishment my friend. It will also be the biggest mistake you ever make.

Here's the advise dad will give you: Don't become a lawyer unless you get into a top notch law school, thus cementing a great job. Heres the problem. He should have stopped after the fourth word. Don't become a lawyer pal.

But not for the "standard" reasons people think. It's not because all lawyers are scumbags. That's stupid. Sure, plenty are, but plenty of doctors. accountants and businessmen are too. It's not because the job eats away at your soul. I mean, it does, but so does any job that's not for you. The reason you shouldn't go is because it's simlpy not for you. Lawyers are I dotters and T crossers. The devil is in the details for lawyers. But you struggle with that my man. You always have and you always will. You're a big picture guy. Also, you are only productive between the hours of 9:00 am and 12:00 pm. Those are not lawyer hours. By the way, this does not apply to your book because that is a labor of love.

Which brings us to: (1) You have a fantastic family. At the time of writing, I have been ,married for 6 and a half years and wifey has cranked out 2 of the cutest little buggers ever (b'lei ayin horah and in my own humble opinion, of course). Oh and one other thing...Congradulations partner, you wrote a damn book!!! I'm serious man, cover to cover, 128,000 + words. Over four hundred pages double spaced. I bet this isn't even a thought in your mind yet. In fact, I know it isn't. And let me tell you something else. I'm damn proud of you. Even if publishers are too stupid to buy it, I can tell you it's good. It's very goog in fact. And no one can ever take away something like that from you.

And there's tons more in this head of yours too. Do me a favor, keep reading. It's how you eventually develop your style. You devoured King, McCammon, Crais, Burke and Block. You did Harper Lee and Charles Dickens and everything in between. Your friend ______ will eventually become a publisher and send you books to read. (She will also sit on your manuscript for six months and counting, piss off your wife, and make you reconsider the value of friendship in this world, but that's another story.)

Well holy moly, look at the time. 32 year old Elster has to wake up nice and early tomorrow to face the grind. So dude real quick, here's my advice to you:

Don't change a thing, man. You look at yourself now and wonder, how come I'm not cooler, more popular, etc. Don't sweat all that stuff man. You are who you are in this world. One day, a light switch flips on in your brain and you realize what and who you are. If you are happy with that realization (and you, my friend, will be), you'll be sitting in tall cotton.

Oh yeah, and don't do drugs. Please. Don't mess with your brain. That would blow. Blow, get it?

Well, peace. Maybe I'll write again. Oh, and feel free to drop me a line, too.

Your pal,

Elster

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Seriously Dude, Chill Out

We interrupt our regularly scheduled nonsense to bring the bloggers of the Blogosphere the following public service announcement:

I was recently reading Joe Schick's blog (http://jschick.blogspot.com/) and by recently I mean like twenty minutes ago. He had a post about football. Some dude has a comment slamming him for writing about something as inane as football. Joe, the comment goes, you're a smart guy. Why are you writing about something as silly as football?

Huh? What's that supposed to mean? Here's what I don't get. I read something like twenty regular blogs daily (yes, there is some free time at work and in the evenings, my life is not 100% occupied with work and religious observance).

[And before I go any further, let me just say this. Personally, I don't care what anyone writes about. That certaily doesn't mean I agree with what people write, but I think everyone has a right to their own opinion and their own writing style. So no one should read any more into what comes next than the words actually on the screen. But I digress.]

But please bloggers, stop taking yourselves so damn seriously. And no, I do not have anyone specific in mind with this post. (In fact, most of those who am probably unconsciously targeting probably don't even give my blog the time of day - After all, I write unfinished stories and silly, wasteful anecdotes.)

Hey, I'm all for a good, well thought out essay on why Israel did/did not do the right thing with Disengagement. I am endlessly fascinated by the religious struggle by young people in places like Lakewood or Boro Park; people who are trying to break away from certain religious bonds while still living within a true religious framework. I think it's hard enough to find yourself in this world, how much more so when the shackles of some overly burdensome parent or leader clinch around your chest and leave you fighting for your breath. And I mean it, I really am all for these things. I find some of the posts on these subjects humerous, endearing, thought provoking and sometimes even heartbreaking.

But people, lighten up. Why can't there be room for both silly and serious? Did not Zeppelin play White Summer/Black Mountain Side? Is it really impossible to meld the two sides into a workable framework?

Some people hold from never over-posting; they write no more than once a week, maybe even less, and never sqeeuze out a thought or phrase that they haven't analyzed and dissected from every possible angle. Now I don't subscribe to that philosophy, but again, I don't argue with it either. I just say this: Live and let live. You might even learn something.

You don't have to agree with another's blog to enjoy it. You don't have to subscribe to a philosophy to get something out of it. There are plenty of poorly written, poorly thought-out blogs that still manage to set forth excellent thoughts and ideas. There are many extremely well written blogs that are pointless and overbearing. Then there are some blogs with no value to them at all except that they are flat out entertaining. Some are even a mixture of all three.

So whatever your bag, it's out there. But you need to start keeping a more open mind to what you are reading. People can pour just as much heart and soul into a post about music or sports or even, gasp television, as they do into the sorry state of religious wigitism in the state of Slonasia.

And if anyone feels like I'm kicking a soda can up their nose, I apologize in advance. I am not directing these comments at anyone in particular, but at blogger culture in general. But heck, it's my blog so I can write what I want (Sticks out tongue).

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Two Sides of the Same Kiss

Sarah and Jennie sat cross-legged, across from each other under the shade of the giant oak which spread itself out like a canopy on the corner of the beautifully manicured property which made up the Samuel G. Kirsch High School for Girls. Their lunches remained in the brown paper sacks they had been brough in, forgotten and un-eaten in the noonday sun. Although the last days of September were bleeding away the termperature remained warm, as though summer had decided to extend itself over the first tendrils of fall. All around them girls sat in groups or alone, depending upon social status, across the lush, green campus grounds. Sarah and Jennie would normally been seated at places of high honor in one of the larger groups of freshman girls but today was one for private discussion.

"So how was it?" Jennie asked breathlessly, as though the recounting of last night's tale would somehow transfer the physical action of her friend to her own lonely nocturnal being.

Sarah smiled and her eyes held the promise of future fullfilled wonderments. "It was amazing Jennie," she said softly. "It's like, I can't even describe it."

"Try, hun."

She sighed. "Hmmm. Well, it's like...like all of your favorite ice cream flavors touching your lips at the same time. It's like having magic. It's everything you see in the movies only so much better." The words had come out in a rush. Now she leaned back against the rough bark of the oak's trunk and looked at her friend expectantly.

"Oh my gosh," Jennie replied. "That is amazing. You are so lucky Sarah. I can't wait for my first kiss. Are you going to see him again?"

Sarah affected a southern belle accent. "You can be sure of that dahling," she answered.

The girls giggled uncontrolably, the first chains of their innocent pasts removed from the endlessly bright futures they saw for themselves.

*** ***

David and his friends sat on a picnic table at the park half block down from their school. The sun beat down on the half empty pizza box and sodas which rested on the table. The boys looked at their unquestioned leader, his face flushed with heat, his button down shirt untucked and ringed with sweat.

"How was it man?" they asked, tones hushed and reverential. "Did she give you the tongue?"

David smiled at last night's pleasant memories, gathering the experiences and his thoughts before replying. At last, he spoke. "It was awsome, dude. Hey, did you guys see the Jet game last night?"

Monday, September 19, 2005

Because I Just Have To

So I was sitting at the computer last night, trying to squeeze out a blog entry. Why? Because it was time. This is not supposed to be a once a week blog. I want to write early and often. But last night, the words would not come. There were no ideas, no bright lights, no sparks of inspiration. Only a deep sense of tiredness and an endless expanse of blackness where my imagination lives. So I ended up staring at the screen digesting pizza and going to sleep at a stupidly late hour.

So now here I am; even more tired than last night and with even less to say. But goldernnit, a post will be written tonight. So, without further ado, a recap of the day (JOE, what you want is at the bottom. Feel free to scroll down):

Woke up early. Always a bad combination with going to sleep late. I went to play in my weekly pickup football game. As is the way my life is currently going, I ended up injuring myself on the very first play. I limped through the rest of the game, wondering if at the ripe old age of thirty-two it's time to hang up the cleats.

Now it's nightime. I prepared five more agent query letters for my wife to send out tomorrow. I have spoken to a number of professional writers who all told me the same thing; be prepared for a lot of rejection. Well, I have been rejected all right. And as prepared as I am (every time I open an envelope, I already know what it says), every form letter (sorry, they all say, this work is not for us) is a slap in the face. It's to the point where I dread writing the things.

The problem is that I have stopped writing book II as I wait for something (anything!!!) to develop with book I. Eh, whatever. I have thrown the whole thing up to my Higher Power. Whatever is meant to be will be. All I have to do is send the letters.

Oh yes, I also watched the Jet game today. A couple of thoughts - As always, feel free to stop reading:

- Curtis Martin still looks slow to the hole. But this week, he only looked half a step slow, not three steps slow. And on a couple of plays, he looked faster in the secondary than at any time last year. So we had improvement there. But I have never seen him stopped behind the line of scrimmage so many times in one game. The must have had negative yardage on at lease six or seven plays. Terrible. Derrick Blaylock looked ok, though.

Pennington started terribly but made some key plays when he needed to. He doesn't look like 2002 Chad but he didn't look like Last Week Chad either. 2 tds, no picks are certainly more Chad-like. His arm seemed to get stronger as the game wore on. And he didn't fumble six times either. The line also settled down which helped too. Adrian Jones may not have been as ready to step in for Kareem McKenzie as Bradway promised, but whatever.

The defense looked good. The Linebackers were quicker, the line got a better push, and Barrett looked like an NFL corner again. C'mon Joe, admit it, Ty Law is pretty awsome. He looks like he can still be a shut down corner.

3 more quick hits

- It will be tough to continue to hate John Abraham if he keeps playing like he did today.

- Ben Graham is the best Jet punter in the last 10 years. And yes I proclaim thuis after just 2 games.

- I'm a little concerned about Nugent though. he hit his one field goal attempt (41 yards split the uprights) but his kickoffs don't go very far. What will happen in the swirly winds of the Meadowlands in December?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Junk

I haven't really posted recently. I've been swamped at work (where I do the majority of my blogging - at least on slow days) and I don't seem to have much to write about. The creative juices have been on vacation; Florida I think. They never really leave me a forwarding address. But as they say, a stale blog is an unread blog so here goes nothing (literally).

My new blog discovery, Brownsvillegirl (http://ilovejewfood.blogspot.com/ ), wrote recently about how she hates fiction. She hates writing it for her writing classes in school and she even hates reading it.

Got me thinking. Why would someone hate fiction? What could be so bad about something I love so much? Which got me thinking some more. Why do I love fiction so much? Couple of reasons. Bear with me, it's all I have for this evening.

1. Escape. - Nothing can take you out of the "real world" like a good book. I know, I know. Waste of time, say the naysayers. Just like television. The dreaded boobtube. What's the point? Blah Blah Blah and all that jazz. Look, everyone needs to blow off steam. Anyone who claims to be productive with 80 to 100 percent of their time is either full of it or living a seriously impaired lifestyle. It's like the person who claims their lives are "perfect". No one's life is perfect. If thou protest too much, thou is lying.

But I digress. The point is, there is time in everyone's day for a little escapism. Maybe it's right before bedtime. For me it's my forty five minutes each way to and from work on the train. I can't do work on the train, it makes me queasy. So I get my fiction done then. Right now I'm going through the collected works of James Lee Burke. If you haven't read him, your missing out on a real treat.

Sometimes we just want to be someone else, or see the world through someone else's eyes. Some people want to read medical thrillers, some horror, some romance (wince), some drama, whatever. To each their own.

2. There's Beauty in it. Art and music can be beautiful. So can liturature. Words can break your heart just like the perfect sad love song. Certain authors can describe mundane events in ways that will make you chill over. I secretly dream to one day be able to craft sentences that make people see the beauty/anger/sadness/hatred/love/despair in the words on the page. Come to think of it, it's not a secret dream after all.

3. Practice for the Future Fiction Writers of America. There is a particular sports journalist who writes for ESPN.com. His name is Bill Simmons. He's a funny, solid writer. Good grasp of his field. Anyway, he says people email him all the time and ask him how to get gigs as sportwriters. He always asks them, what are your favorite sports books? What styles do you like? He writes that he is amazed by how oftewn the answer is "Uh, I dunno". Well, he asks, how can you know what kind of writer you will be if you don't soak up all the greats, see the styles that are out there, and eventually use a mixture of those styles to create, eventually, your own. This is true of all writing. How could you develop your own style if you don't know what's out there?

Ok, that's enough. You get the point. Besides, this is a throwaway post anyway. I don't know if people have as strong an opinion about this stuff as I do. I suspect most people read fiction for straight entertainment - pass the time reasons. That's cool too.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Throw It At a Wall and See What Sticks

Random thoughts for a pre-Holiday weekend:

- I don't have many irrational fears but I've had a few doosies in my time. When I was about 15, our burglar alarm went off in the middle of the night. My dad checked out the house and it was clean. Everyone went back to sleep. As I lay in my room, blanket over my head, I suddenly realized that there was someone in my room. I didn't see him, but I felt his presense. It was black. Evil. I felt it dripping off him like malignant ooze. I was facing away from the desk and I was scared. in all honesty, it was probbaly the most scared I've ever been in my life. I couldn't move or breath. I was frozen in fear. I lay like that until my lungs ached for oxygen. When I couldn't take it anymore, I summoned up whatever courage I possessed, flung off my blanket, and shot out of the bed with a terrified yelp, ready to die like the scared little boy that i was. Of course, there was no one there. But the terror I felt that night stays with me to this day. And yes, I had an overactive imagination as a child (still do).

Why do I mention this? Because I'm also irrationally afraid of vampires. I don't believe that they exist, but if they did, I think that would royally suck for us all. Before my writing career is over, I will write a book about vampires trying to take over the world. Unlike the vampires themselves, vampire books are cool.

- On my walk to the train yesterday I was thinking about Zeppelin. They are my favorite band of all time. They broke up in 1980 after their drummer, John Bonham died "turning the wrong way" after a night of heavy drinking (basically he was an alchoholic and he choked on him own vomit - sorry). Anyway, in 1980, I probably had never even heard of Zeppelin. I discoverd them in college, many years later. But during my second year after graduating law school, my mormon buddy Fred, a card carrying member of The Black Crows fanclub, tells me he's got two tickets to see Jimmy Page playing with the Black Crows at one of those small theaters in the city and did I want to go with him? Did I want to go with him? This was my only chance to see one of my absolute music heros of all time. Of course I did. And so, we wnet. Me and Fred and a couple hundred other people packed together in the room. There was no place to sit. I was shoulder to shoulder with people I wouild normally cross the street from. But it didn't matter. There was Jimmy. He looked old. He looked like his years battleing the demon heroin had taken their toll on him. When he started playing, it took him a while for those famous fingers to loosen up. But when they did, oh boy. it was awsome. I left that night with a cool t-shirt, a cd, and Jimmy's guitar ringing in my ears. I can only imagine what going to one of thier open air stadium shows in the 70's must have been like....

- I don't have any plans for the weekend but I know this; I'm blasting out of work early today. Really early. Like before 2:00. It's like a ghost town in the office. I could probably walk the halls naked and no one would be around to see. I apologize for the imagery. I'm also going to send out a bunch more query letters to agents this weekend. I just used the company high speed photocopier to make 20 copies of the first 25 pages of the book. I am such a thief. But hey, if they are allowed to steal my soul, I can hit them for some paper, right?

- My wife told me that my daughter just got her ears pierced. She's four and a half. I am so proud of her. She took it like a big girl. She also went on the roller coaster last week at Sesame Place. Go her.

- I went to the US Open last night and watched two good tennis players dismantle two mediocre Russian tennis players. So it was a little boring. But as I always say, never look a gift (free sports tickets horse) in the mouth.

- McAryeh at A Whispering Soul was asking about dating stories (great /interesting dates). To be honest, I didn't really have so many of those. Most of the girls I went out with were kinda dud-like. Which always made me wonder why I was getting set up with dud-like girls, but I digress.

Anyway, when I was in law school, I once went out with this girl from Monsey. She had a load of self-confidence and a Jennifer Aniston haircut. We were eating at a now defunct kosher establishment on the West Side and I excused myself to go to the bathroom. When I got back my date said to me "the lady at the next table leaned over to me when you left and said 'you are lucky to go out with a guy like that, he is hysterical'". We both got a good laugh out of the fact that this woman was listening in on our date. But deep down I felt really good that this random person though I was so funny. When I strike it rich, I will ask my shrink what he thinks about that.

Here's my other favorite dating story: About seven and a half years ago I took my girlfriend (different girl) to Battery Park. We sat at an umbrella table and had a picnic in the pouring rain. I read her a poem I had written (my first and only), told her I loved her, and asked her to marry me. She said yes. That was a pretty good date, too.

Have a good weekend everyone.