Short Story (flash fiction) of the day, A Russian Tale by Valery Petrovskiy

“But man is a fickle and disreputable creature and perhaps, like a chess-player, is interested in the process of attaining his goal rather than the goal itself.”
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Notes from Underground, White Nights, The Dream of a Ridiculous Man, and Selections from The House of the Dead

Spring Snow, Richardson, Texas

I was up way too late last night reading. I’m deep into my reading group’s peregrination through The Brothers Karamazov. So here’s a Russian story:

A Russian Tale by Valery Petrovskiy


The Emptiness Below Us

“Anyone whose goal is ‘something higher’ must expect someday to suffer vertigo. What is vertigo? Fear of falling? No, Vertigo is something other than fear of falling. It is the voice of the emptiness below us which tempts and lures us, it is the desire to fall, against which, terrified, we defend ourselves.”
― Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Crystal Beach, Bolivar Peninsula, Texas

Now, here is is, the first day of a spanking new year. And I have these goals for 2018 – I’ve worked hard on these… and the main three are:

  • Read 100 books
  • Write 50 Short Stories
  • Ride 3000 miles on my bike.

Since this is only the beginning, I didn’t want to get behind right at the start. So I cheated on the reading a hundred books – and jumped the gun by starting two weeks early. I’m up to six so far… which is good. I’ve already written one short story – so I’m OK there.

But I am stuck in a beach house with no bicycle and freezing cold… incredible wind… what we used to call a blue norther. I had planned on a little flexibility on my goal – knowing that I get sick over the winter and need other means to keep up with my goal.

At home, I have two exercise bikes – so I decided that riding one of those is worth ten miles for each hour riding. That way I can keep up if I’m forced inside.

At the beach house I thought about it and decided that, in a pinch, I can walk to make up the goal. Only in emergency situations, like now – the first day. After some thought and internet research, I decided on a three mile walk, at a brisk pace, would equal ten miles of riding. I walk at about three miles per hour, so that’s about an hour – which corresponds with riding or stationary. Also, that’s in addition to whatever I walk on a normal basis – the usual strutting around doesn’t count.

So at the end of the day, I layered on as much as I could (the temperature was below freezing and the wind was… really strong. I walked out to the beach and watched the kids fire off the last of their fireworks, then headed out down the beach. There is a little creek that emerges from the dunes and blocks off the rest of the beach from where we were and I knew that to that creek and back would get me to the three miles I needed.

I started out into the wind, pulling my hood closed so I was looking out a tiny circle at the water on the right and the dunes on the left. The moon was full, so there was plenty of light. It was very cold. But I started walking.

And it put me into the thought of all the other times over my life that I had walked on the beach, especially at night. From Panama to Nicaragua, to South Padre Island over spring break (That was a long drive from Lawrence, Kansas) to this very beach over the years with my kids growing larger and larger.

There is a rhythm of walking on the beach, in the wet sand between the surf and the loose part (in Texas it is generally allowed to drive on the beach, so, especially at night, you want to stay close to the surf), as the time and the miles go by all those old memories become telescoped in to the present day, the experience of being and moving along a border between two worlds.

It was a lot easier to walk back with the wind behind me. So now I have the equivalent of ten miles of bike riding on the first day of January. Still on track – so good, so far.

The Path to my Fixed Purpose is Laid With Iron Rails

“Swerve me? The path to my fixed purpose is laid with iron rails, whereon my soul is grooved to run. Over unsounded gorges, through the rifled hearts of mountains, under torrents’ beds, unerringly I rush! Naught’s an obstacle, naught’s an angle to the iron way!”
― Herman Melville, Moby-Dick or, The Whale

Downtown McKinney, Texas

Oblique Strategy:
Don’t be frightened of cliches

Are you making your plans for next year? Do you have fixed in your mind the exact person you want to become?

Your mind, though, is not of one voice – but of at least two. Do you hear the little voice already telling you that you will fail and you will never become the person you think of? “It is too late anyway,” the voice says.

Where will you fall? Who will win in the end? Does it even matter?

What I learned this week, January 27, 2012

Did you miss(skip) the State of the Union Address? Don’t worry, John Stewart has it all for you.

You Opened With “I Killed Bin Laden”?  

“Does Rick Springfield open with ‘Jessie’s Girl’?”

Writing Tips from Coloumbia University

•Break Writing #1 – Write Every Day

•Break Writing #2 – Schedule Your Writing

•Break Writing #3 – Crappy First Drafts

•Break Writing #4 – The Last 5 Minutes

•Break Writing #5 – Resolve to Be a More Productive Writer (Happy New Year)

•Break Writing #6 – Reduce Distractions

•Break Writing #7 – Time Management for Writing

•Break Writing #8 – Time Management, Part 2

•Break Writing #9 – Writing with a Deadline

•Break Writing #10 – Binge Writing

•Break Writing #11 – Your writing environment

•Break Writing #12 – Are you writing the perfect dissertation?

•Break Writing #13 – Keeping yourself motivated

•Break Writing #14 – Making yourself accountable

•Break Writing #15 – Writing versus revising and editing

•Break Writing #16 – Stuck?

I can say with confidence that I didn’t learn anything in my college writing courses. But then, I didn’t go to Colombia.

Upcoming stuff to do:

Sunday, January 29 – Rollerderby!

Saturday, January 28 – Estate Sales

March 2-4 Bridge Opening

February 15, Dallashenge

February 18-19, Mardi Gras in the Bishop Arts

Suggestions accepted.

48 hours in Dallas, what to do.

A great method from “Developing Story Ideas” by Michael Rabiger. I don’t play CLOSAT as a game, but filling in all the items is a crackerjack method for building a story. 


The Game called CLOSAT

Journal observations, your bank of ideas from which to write, will become playing cards for an instant story-making game called “CLOSAT.” To speed retrieval, tag each item in the margin with one or more of these CLOSAT categories:

  • C = description of Characters who could be used in a story.
  • L = interesting and visual Location.
  • O= curious or evocative Object.
  • S = loaded or revealing Situation.
  • A = unusual or revealing Act.
  • T = any Theme that intrigues you or that you see embodied in life.

CLOSAT Definitions and Examples

C (character) is anyone whose appearance, mannerisms, occupation, or activities suggest potential for a character in a story.

L (location) is any place that suggests a setting for something to happen.

O (object) is any that is worth recording because it is eloquent of place,time, situation, or owners. Examples:

S (situation) is a conjunction of circumstances or a predicament that puts its characters under some special pressure.

A (act) is any human deed or action that seems freighted with meaning or potential.

T (theme) is the central or dominating idea, seldom stated directly, that underlies the subject of a story and that comments on it.

There was a time when we all dreamed of flying. Now we are reduced to an addiction to watching other people flying on YouTube.

Want To Lose Weight For The New Year Of 2012 ???

1: The most simple tip to lose weight EVER is “Eat less and move more” – Common sense I know but it’s what every single weight loss plan is based on, TRUST ME !

2: Control the AMOUNT you eat at each meal time – make sure your meals are low in fat. This is not set in stone for instance you might want to also think about calories or portion control.

3: Get weighed – Measure your body, hips, thighes, chest, arms, neck……what can be measured can be managed. Always weigh-in on the same day in the same clothes on the same scales at the same time of day.

There is no point starting on a weight loss plan unless you get weighed first. This is very important. You need to be able to monitor your progress to know how well you are doing and that any changes in your lifestyle and eating are reaping the rewards or where you are making mistakes.

4 Keep a food diary – write down what you eat and what exercise you have done. Make sure you look at Calories n vs Calories out and try to ensure that Calories out is MORE than Calories in – If it helps you write down your feelings.

5.Smarter Shopping The golden rule here is to NEVER EVER go food shopping hungry. You make the decision to eat biscuits and crap food’s when you buy them in the shops, not when you take them from the cupboard. Don’t buy them in the first place.

6, Make a Goal list – write down achievable goals.

I like pens… but this is too much.


We had decided to go downtown to Victory Plaza for the Big D NYE new year’s eve extravaganza. This is Dallas’ small-time answer to Times Square – a free outdoor party for as many folks as can cram into a public space. I thought about not going – it’s a big hassle to get down there with all those folks and, especially, to get back home again, plus – I was feeling pretty nasty with a cold coming on.

But we decided to give it a shot anyway. I didn’t want to hassle with parking so we took the DART train down. Here’s a hint for taking the train to big events, if you live along the Red line, like we do, drive a bit east and catch the Blue line in Garland. A lot fewer people ride the Blue, and the trains won’t be as packed.

So we made it into downtown and the weather was nice and balmy, though there was a promise of a cold front with north winds to come. When I had walked around the nightime skyscrapers for Unsilent Night I was surprised at the amount of activity that was going on in Downtown… I was used to the sidewalks being rolled up when the businessmen went home to the suburbs. I remembered a pizza joint that promised to be open ’til 3AM and had that sort of Italian down-home greasy look to it that promised delicious pizza.

We walked around and never found the place. However, everything was hopping, and we ended up at another, more pedestrian pizza spot, The Original Italian Cafe and Bar at the corner of Field and Main. We sat outside on a sidewalk table and enjoyed a really good pizza, terrible service, and a parade of interesting folks walking by on new year’s eve. There were women in sequined evening wear and impossibly high heels stumbling along, homeless drifters stunned by the activity, and groups of football fanatics (holiday bowl games in town) wearing their teams colors and wandering around staring at tourist brochures. One group called out, “Does anyone know where Main Street is?,” while standing under a street sign that spelled out “Main and Field.”

I only intended to eat a little because the big celebration at Victory park promised a lineup of food trucks, but I gobbled down too much pizza anyway.

Which was fine because, once we hoofed it over to Victory Park, worked our way through the security checkpoints we were presented with the tasty lineup of food trucks, and none of them had a line less than a hundred yards long.

We arrived at about ten and Candy found her usual spot of grass at the corner of Houston Street and Olive.

She set up the folding chair we had brought and sat down to relax while I, as she said, “walked out into that mosh pit.” It’s true, sometimes I like to simply mix with humanity, and a street party on New Year’s Eve is good for that. There are a lot of people, incredible diversity, and everyone is in a good mood. I’m big and tall enough to not feel too intimidated by the crowd, as long as it isn’t pushing, moving, and swelling (like it sometimes does at Mardi Gras on Bourbon).

I managed to get back to check on Candy and she said Lee had come by with his friends. They were out in the crowd somewhere.

The festivities began to heat up and the crowd began to grow as we approached midnight. There were the usual lineup of bands. We didn’t have Lady Gaga, but we did have Sleeperstar. Lee knows that band from their early days – he said he’s gone out to eat with them a few times.

The crowd kept growing, pumped up when the Dallas Stars hockey game ended and dumped another ten thousand or so out on the streets. I tried to get back to check on Candy, but the crowd was getting really dense and I couldn’t move more than five feet. Midnight arrived, we all yelled and the fireworks went off. It’s an impressive display, fired off from the roof of the American Airlines Center and the buildings around it. By that time the cold north wind was really blowing and the smoke and burning embers blinded me to some of the spectacular. At least I was able to see a few rockets blown astray by the wind scream into the expensive balconies of the W hotel next door – that alone was worth the price of admission (it was free).

I didn't want to carry my good camera in the crowd, so this is the best I could do. Fifty thousand of my best friends.

That always fascinates me standing there trapped in the rowdy crowd in the street. I can look up where the skyscraping towers of the W hotel and luxury highrise condominium towers rise up into the night sky until they almost seem to touch their blue-neon lined tops together, far overhead. I can see lonely rich folks standing at their floor-to ceiling windows, in suits and evening gowns, holding champagne flutes in their hands, staring out and down onto the massive dense crowd stretching out, filling the streets for blocks on end. What are they thinking? What is their opinion of the rabble in the streets below? Are they happy? Are they having fun?

I’m sure they are glad they don’t have to wait in line at the porta-potties.

There is nothing more boring than blurry, shakycam, youtube footage of fireworks – but here is some anyway.

This footage is from within Victory Plaza itself, I was outside in the streets, at the foot of the W Hotel – the tall blue neon-topped building in the footage.

This youtube video was taken only a few feet from where I was standing.

Once the fireworks died down I fought my way through the huddled masses to where Candy was and found she had been pushed back behind a line of trees by the growing crowd. I’m afraid that the current location may be about maxed out as far as the number of people that it can support. I would guess that about fifty thousand were down there – if they want it to grow larger they are going to have to figure out how to get some more open space involved.

Walking out, I looked up and noticed the ball on top of Reunion Tower was multi-colored. This was something new.

We didn’t want to get involved in the crowds fighting onto the trains at Victory Park itself, so we walked back into downtown and caught a train at Akard Station. It was packed up until Mockingbird, when the Red line folks got off, and as I thought, the Blue line was fine from then on.

It was fun and I was glad I went, but I think this might be the last year for me to go down for the big crowd event. The crowds are getting a bit large, and I’m not sure what else it will have to offer in the future. I think I might find a nice little party somewhere next year. Even though I don’t think I can afford one of those glass-lined suites overlooking Victory Plaza.