Elster's World

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Early Warnings

Just a little warning for the regular reader(s). Anysara has hooked me onto this site where for November, which appears to be National Writer's Month, there is a challenge issued to write a novel (at least 50,000 words) in 30 days.

Well, nobody lays the smack down on Elster. So, I decided I'm gonna go for it. I already have my idea in place and while I cannot start writing for a few days, I can certainly contemplate. It will be, of course, a murder mystery. That's the phase I'm in right now. I actually have high hopes that it can be decent (though not very decent in 30 days - After I submit it, I'll have to clean it up dramatically).

So far, it looks like Anysara and Dayli are gonna give it a try. I invited McAryeh to give it a whirl. Anyone else who is in, drop me a line by commenting here. I think an online, blogworld support group might be helpfull. We can push each other to finish.

As for the title of this post: I'm pretty sure that if I am to complete this challenge, that book (working title: Fireflies at Midnight) will be all I am writing next month. I will check the blog daily of course, but don't know how much I'll be posting or commenting on other sites. Do not be alarmed, I'll be back with a vengeance whenever I (i) finish, (ii) drop out, or (iii) need a break.

Anywho, good luck to me and anyone else who accepts the challenge.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Thursday's Come and Gone

Howdy all. I notice that it's been a pretty slow blogging period, both for me and the "usual" blogs I often peruse. Maybe it's the weather, who knows? Anyway, some random thoughts for a Friday morning:

- How about those New York Rangers? (Fear not friends, this will be the only sports related post) For years true fans have begged for a rebuild, to play some younger talent. All we wanted was a hard working team. Well, all it took was a lockout to get it. The entire 2005-2005 season was lost, but damn if the Rangers aren't fun to watch. They skate around, they play hard. I've been waiting almost ten years to see this. So I guess I am happy that there was no season last year.

- How the seasons change. Nature is truly amazing. One day it's Indian Summer and then, out of the blue, the weather suddenly drops ten degrees, the wind comes out of the north and Fall is here. Perhaps the leaves began their endless descent in late August and the foliage is all now lost to brown, but Autumn has only just arrived. Yet as soon as we will become used to the chill in the air, Winter will have us in its vise-like grips, frozen and barren, until Spring rejuvinates the City once more.

There is great inspiration in the changing of the seasons, but it is specially reserved for those who are willing to open their eyes.

On a personal note, I hate winter. When I was a kid, I looked forward to snowfall; (i) because it was (is) beautiful, but really because (ii) a good snow meant no school. But now? Winter means flu shots, sick kids, muddy pants and a gawdawful commute to a gawdawful job; trains running late, people pissed off and overheating in my big puffy wintercoat. All in all, just a pain in the rear quarters.

- Book news: Not much to report. Letters go out, rejections come in. I recently sent a heartfelt letter to the agent of one of my favorite authors. I don't know if it will make a difference though. The feeling that I have created something that no one will ever really see wraps me up sometimes like a dirty cloak. I am taking a very positive view of the whole thing, I am trying to keep the faith, but in my heart of hearts....When the list of agents run out, I don't know where to turn to.

- On a related issue, my editor friend who I sent my manuscript to in April is getting married in like a month. My wife doesn't even want to go to the wedding. I can't really blame Mrs. Elster, though. My friend really let me down. Forget about the fact that she didn't jump all over it for me (which I would have done for one of my friends had the situation been reversed), but its been more than six months (that's a half a freaking year) and she still hasn't done anyhting. Nothing. No email, no calls, not even a "it's in my todo pile". I mean no offense, but that's bullshit. Even if she hated it, at least she should have the decency to let me know.

Anyway, I might be going to that wedding solo. Or, I might not go at all. I just know that whenever I think about the situation, it gets me feeling depressed. And yes, I did have a long email correspondence with her about it like three months ago. Whatever.

Well, that's about all I have for today. Wishing y'all a good weekend and a fine festival of succos (as applicable). Peace. Piece. Pieces.

Friday, October 14, 2005

The Flood - Some Katrina Perspective

The rains of the last week must have jammed up the sewer systems where I live because starting Yom Kippur evening, the streets between the shul I go to and the house I live in flooded over the sidewalks, causing me to have to walk out of my way to get home.

This annoyed me a little bit. I don't like to make any additional movements when I am slated to fast for 25 plus hours. But, as the night was cool and a light rain was falling, the walk home wasn't so bad.

But last night, things took a turn for the worse. Mother Nature kicked it up to High last. The sky was scorched with rain clouds. I was up hourly, listening to the rain pound off the skylight in my living room. I cannot recall such heavy rain lasting for such an extended period of time. And that's discounting the fact that it has been raining all week non-stop. It's almost like nature is attempting to balance out the arid, rain-less summer with an extra blast of the heavenly sprinklers.

So this morning on my way to shul (synagouge) I was driving down those same flooded streets when I realized that the water was up to my windows. And I was in a jeep. I backed out of chest high waters and found another route.

All this got me thinking. Imagine if, instead of all this rain falling over five days, it fell over the course of twelve or fifteen hours. Imagine if instead of a sewer stoppage, a levee and dam system designed to keep a huge lake (Ponchartrain to be exact) out of my town failed. Then the waters wouldn't be chest high. They would be twenty feet high. Welcome to the wasteland formerly known as New Orleans.

Insert joke about New Orleans here. Maybe the modern day Sodom deserved to be flooded, its corruption washed away by the purifying effects of water. Anyone who reads the Yom Kippur service sees that water is a purifying force. But still, stop and think. How many people died? How many innocents among the guilty? Did not Hashem tell Yona that he didn't want to destroy all of Ninveh because of all those who didn't know their left from right? Many interpretations were that those people were the innocents slaughtered along with the guilty.

Of course, I have no answers to these weighty questions. I only write this because it took this little flooding inconvenience in my own neighborhood to fully sense the destructive event which occurred last month. Perhaps as I have gotten older, I have grown callous to events which happen outside of my self-erected sphere of importance. Perhaps this is true for many of us. Sure, we give money and we say all the right things. But are we feeling it? How many people even care anymore when a roadside bomb kills a dozen people in Iraq? It's almoat background noise at this point.

Wow, I must still be in the Yom Kippur mood. Forgive my preachiness.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

The Interview - Part II

[Writer's Note: Part II of the Interview is actually the begining of one of my dozens of unfinished projects, started about 3 or 4 years ago. I was thinking about posting it here the other day but decided it needed a litte "back story". Thus, The Interview Part I was born. I am not posting the original story verbatim. I have made changes to make it fit better with Part I and to make it suck less than it did when I originally wrote it (I hope). Enjoy]

Cornelious Brown sat in an interrogation room down at the 19th Precinct. It looked pretty much like all such cells in precincts everywhere; stained linoleum floors, metal walls and the only furniture being a metal table which was bolted to the floor and three heavy metal chairs. There was also a big mirror, which Brown knew went two ways. As he sat in silence, he lifted his middle finger at whoever might be watching.

"I guess he ain't gonna get all intimidated just sitting there," Charlie Spangler said. "Let's go roust him and see what he says."

Spangler and Murphy entered the room. Brown looked at them cooly. Murphy took the seat acroos the table from Brown but Spangler continued to stand by the door.

"Whatever it was y'all think I did, I ain't did," Cornelious said.

Murphy took the lead. "We haven't even asked you anything yet, C. Take a chill."

"I'm just lettin' y'all know in advance is all."

"How about we start with an easy one C. Where were you yesterday, say between 9 and eleven?"

Brown smirked. "Would that be am or pm?"

Murphy sighed, as though he suffered from a deep, uncureable weariness. "Look Cornelious, we can do this hard or easy, it's up to you."

"That's a real original line for a cop Murphy. You guys need some new scriptwriters."

Spangler pushed himself away from the wall and approached the table. "Look, Dumbass, someone put three slugs from a .45 in your dealer partner's head. There was enough blood to have about four seperate vodoo ceremonies. Trust me, old Vernon's gonna have a closed casket at his wake. Now, who do you think we'd make for the number one suspect?"

Brown shook his head. "Shit man, Vernon's got more enemies than Martin Luther King, Jr. at a KKK rally. Don't be trying to pass off this crap on me. Y'all mind if I smoke?"

Murphy shrugged. "Kill yourself."

Brown took a crumpled package of Marlboro's from his coat pocket and Murphy leaned across the table to light it for him with a cheap plastic lighter.

"What can you tell us about the murder?" he asked.

Brown laughed. "Come on, man. What makes you think I know anything about 'em? And even if I did, why would I tell you anything? Helping out cops isn't exactly good for my business, you know."

Spangler came around the table and knocked the butt from Brown's mouth. He leaned very close and grabbed his coat with both hands. "You listen to me you puke. I don't give a crap that Hart got it. That scumbag had it coming. In my opinion, so do you. But we both know that you know something about it. And you aren't walking out of this room until you spill it. You reading me on this?"

Brown stared at him defiantly. 'So you playing the Bad Cop this week, huh? Do you take turns or were you just born for it Spangler?"

Murphy glanced at his partner. "That's enough Charlie. Take a break, ok."

"Yeah, yeah," Spanger said. He released Brown's coat and walked to the door. "I'm going to get some air. This puke stinks to high heaven." The he left, the door clicking shut behind him, the sound heavy in the silence of the room.

It was no secret that Brown was deep in pretty much every drug deal that went down in the Bronx and Brooklyn. He also was well connected with all the major players in the drug trade. Brown was so plugged in, he often knew about crimes before they were actually committed. Which is why he was sitting in this uncomfortable chair, in this room that hung with the stench of unwashed men, cigarettes and fear.

Murphy looked at him for a long time without speaking, as though he had something on Cornelious which he hadn't yet put on the table. Brown held the gaze then finally broke the connection.

"You're a two time loser, C-Brown. You know what that means, right? The next time you go down, you go for the full roll. And the time after that, you get life in the box my man. Right now, we got you on attempted kidnapping with attempted forced prostitution. We know where you were gonna take those girls."

Brown was shaking his head. "You don't know nothing man. You can't make that stick and you know it. You won't even be able to find those two bitches again."

Murphy shrugged. "Maybe yes, maybe no. You want to take that chance? You'll do down in general lockup, Cornhole. A good looking guy like yourself, you know what they'll do to you? They're gonna take you apart. You'll be anyone's screw in there. Is that what you want?"

Brown started to look uncertain. "Look man, I want my lawyer. Right now." he looked at the mirror. "Y'all hear that?" he shouted, "I want my freaking lawyer."

"You don't need a lawyer. You need to give me a name. Just a name. Then you walk out of here. We don't want you, we want the guy who did Hart. No one will know where it came from. No one even knows you are here. Be smart Cornelious. Drop a dime and make for the hills. Besides, you two were in bed together. Whoever did this to him might have eyes for you next."

Brown sat silently for a long time, weighing options that both seemed to have consequences he didn't want to face. He rubbed his hands over his face and stood up. "Here's my answer man. I'm walking out of here right now. This is a bullshit roust and you know it. You wanna keep me here, arrest my ass. But I'm not saying another word without a lawyer. In fact, I might just sue you guys for illegal detainment or whatever. You reading me on that man?" Then he walked to the door, opened it, and walked out.

Murphy made no move to stop him. Sometimes even the lowest man on the pisspole held a full house. He looked at the mirror and shrugged.

Monday, October 03, 2005

The Interview - Part I

Cornelious Brown gave most career criminals a bad name. He was the kind of guy you instinctively walked across the steet from, even in broad daylight. Cornelious, or C-Brown as he was known on the street was a two-time loser. He'd been down the road for selling crack to two undercover police officers in a low rent bar on the West Side then did a second, two year bit for breaking a pool cue across the face of the poor guy who beat him at billiards and putting him in a coma for three months.

Brown was out on Seventh Avenue and Thirty-fouth street, across from Penn Station. The late September sun was still strong and warm midday, but Brown was wearing a leather car coat over a black t-shirt and dark blue jeans. His skin was black too, the color of charcoal, and his ensemble made him stand out like a malignant shadow moving against a light blue sky.

He bought a ziploc bag full of sliced mangos from a Mexican street vendor and surveyed the crowd. Despite the season, the streets were packed with tourists, all desperately trying to look as though they were not intimidated by the never ending rush of New York's bare wildness.

Brown spotted two pretty girls at the corner, not quite yet college age, who were staring confusedly at a subway map. They each had one small suitcase on wheels standing at the sidewalk near their feet. They dressed almost in uniform, tank tops that didn't make it to the navel and tight jeans stretched over thin legs. Two white fish, he thought. He patted down his tight cornrows and walked over, the white flash of his smile a stark contrast to his darkness.

"You ladies need some help?" he asked, smile locked in place like a rictus. He kept himself between the girls and the crush of people, as though he were cutting off a lifeline.

"Um, no we're ok, one of the girls responded, refusing to make eye contact.

"You don't look fine to me," he replied, his voice full of false sympathy. "You look lost. You girls hungry?"

They looked at each other in surprise, as though the man in black was a mind reader or magician. In reality, they gave off an out-of-money, low-rent tourist vibe that was almost like the strong scent of phermones.

And no one could spot prey as well as a lifetime street hustler like Cornelious Brown. The hook was set and now it was time to slam the trap. "You know, he ventured, almost timidly. "I got a place for kids like you. Kids who are hungry and with no place to stay." If it was even possible, his smile widened, like a grinning black shark. "Let me take you there."

"I dunno," one of the girls replied.

"What's the matter, you not supposed to talk to strangers? You're big girls now. You know safe from stupid don't you?" They nodded with offended looks. Now it was time to reel them in. "And I'm safe, you know that too, right?"

Brown was so focused on his next meal ticket, that he didn't see the two shadows over his shoulder until it was too late. A hand was on his arm, spinning him away from the girls, before he could even think. He found himself staring at two homicide dicks he recognized from his many stays in the local pen.

"Well, well, what do we have here?" the taller of the two cops said. He was in his early forties, his back hair starting to go gray at the edges. "You wouldn't be trying to pull anything on these nice young ladies, now would you Cornelious?"

"Whatchu' talking about Murphy?" he said, the street back in his voice. "I aint done nothin'. I was just talkin' here, no laws agaist that. Back up out my space."

Murphy looked over at his partner. "Get a load of this guy, Charlie. He wants us out of his space. In a minute I'm gonna really be in your Cornhole buddy. So you better shut your face." He grabbed Brown by the arm and spun him around to face the two now terrified girls. "Take a good look at this mug ladies. The only place he wants to take you is to a place where you will never been seen again. Ol' Cornelious here's been arrested three times for trying to turn nice young ladies like yourselves into heroin addicts and hookers. Stay away from strangers in this town, this isn't Butthole, Kansas. Now beat it." The two girls grabbed their suitcases and took off up Seventh Avenue.

"Don't you think you were a littel hard on them Murph?" his partner asked as he eyed the two fleeing girls.

Murphy shrugged. I'd rather scare the crap out of them than zip them up in body bags," he said. "As for you shitheel," he said to Brown. "You're coming in with us for some questions."

"Questions? You got a warrant or something boss? You cain't just be takin me in dumbass. I got rights too man."

Murphy looked at his partner and shook his head incredulously . "He's got rights. You're a materila witness to a homicide, you big black moron."

"Homi..., what you talkin' man? What homicide?"

"Get a load of this guy Murph, he's a real comedian" Charlie Spangler said. "Hey Cornelious, you remember Vernon Hart? You used to run drugs with him out in the projects, selling dope to ten year olds. And when I say used to, I mean like last month. Well, someone decided to decorate his apartment with Vernon's brain matter. But you wouldn't know anyhting about that, right? You coming quietly or do we need to cuff your ass?"