Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tales From the Tomato Patch #4

Story number four:


The sign read:

The Lonely Artichoke Hearts Club
~ Singles Support Group ~
We meet every Thursday evening.

Bring three artichokes, your favorite recipe,
and any ingredients you need.

We’ll supply the love.

Byron had been lonely, and he liked artichokes, so on Thursday he found himself at a small apartment with a middle-aged mother of three grown boys. They were joined by a former college football star, two septuagenarians (one black, the other white, both life long friends), a transgendered woman, a retired math teacher in a dusty tweed sports coat, and the lovely Lola.

Both the college football star and Lola smiled at him.

He didn’t think he’d be lonely anymore.

Story title from Jason Webley’s and Reverend Peyton's collaborative album 2 Bottles of Wine, 2007

Creative Commons License
Tales From the Tomato Patch #4: Artichoke by Christian Berntsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Tales From the Tomato Patch #3

Yeah, this is a long time coming, and I'm running out of time to get these up, so, here's number 3, with a promise of the fourth one Monday evening.

"Days With You"

H. Chang had shuffled back and forth between stovetop and deep fryer and freezer in the kitchen of the Pensive Dragon Palace everyday for nearly twenty years.

His wife had left him and come back five times during the first five years the Pensive Dragon was open. After the sixth time, she hadn’t returned.

Still, H. Chang walked the walk in his kitchen. He never missed a day, never opened late, closed early.

His wife had called in the morning, telling him she was back home.

“I miss my days with you,” she said.

A crowd stood outside the restaurant at 4:30 when she arrived.

The Pensive Dragon Palace was closed.

Story title from Jason Webley’s and Sxip Shirey's collaborative album Days With You, 2009

Creative Commons License
Tales From the Tomato Patch #3: Days With You by Christian Berntsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Gaiman & Palmer

Here's a tale about a writer and a musician and a little cafe in Manhattan:

Last Wednesday Catherine and I headed into NYC to see Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer at Housing Works for SPIN’s Liner Notes event (the blurry picture above is the best I could get with my iPhone from where I was). It was the second entry in SPIN’s new series pairing a writer and a musician.

It was a very cool night as they traded off spinning stories and singing songs, pausing only to auction off an advanced copy of Ms. Palmer’s photobook Who Killed Amanda Palmer, which Mr. Gaiman wrote stories to accompany; and to interview each other with audience questions, during which it was revealed to the world they have been dating for several months now (and I thought that was lovely for them, good on you guys! I did have to resist the urge to title this post “Gaiman & Palmer sittin’ in a tree…” thought that would just be in poor taste).

You can find other places online to give you a rundown of who performed what during the evening, but I will let you know the auction generated $1,300.00 for Housing Works Bookstore Cafe, an organization that supports homeless and low-income New Yorkers living with AIDS. (Other reported amounts for the auction itself varied, from reports of $1,100.00 to $2,000.00, but being there I watched in amazement as it crept up to the $1,300.00 as both Palmer and Gaiman at times proclaimed “Naked Amanda Pictures!” to the audience.) The night has a whole garnered something like $10,000.00 for the charity. Awesome.

I had seen both of them live once before, each on a different occasion. Neil Gaiman I met at a convention years ago in NYC not too long after I had discovered Sandman. It was a signing, where the convention volunteers wrangling the line made sure to tell everyone not to talk to Mr. Gaiman because he didn’t like that, and generally made him sound to be some sort of fan-hating monster. My friend and I thought this weird, and I was worried the experience would be short and uncomfortable. It wasn’t. He was very pleasant, saying something to me which I can’t recall now as he signed my copy of Death: The High Cost of Living #1 and some random Sandman comic (which I wish was issue number 42, the first one I had read – huh, 42, I just got that – but of course was not). I’m shy in person, and take a while to warm up to people, so I’m sure I mostly responded to his kindness in brief. I do recall leaving there thinking the convention staff at that signing were idiots, probably trying to make themselves seem more important that they were. Mr. Gaiman proved to be nothing more than the incredibly wonderful and charismatic guy he was then and is now.

Amanda Palmer I saw in concert with Catherine on New Years Eve 2007 as she played with her band The Dresden Dolls. It was an awesome show where New Years came six minutes late because someone stopped watching the clock or something. It didn’t matter. The energy of that night was incredible, and though I had only become a fan a few months prior (I sense a theme here), I became one for life that night. It was an extra special night because that was Catherine and my first New Years together, and a grand way to spend it.

That’s my story about Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer. I have more to say on both, and will do so soon enough but this was a bit timely and timeless as far as events in my life go, so I wanted to share now. Moby was there, too, but aside from passing ten feet in front of me, he doesn't really figure into this tale.

One odd off-shoot of the whole affair occurred over on writer John Scalzi’s Whatever blog. A reader emailed to scold him for not letting the world at large know via his corner of the internet about the Gaiman/Palmer romance. He went on a little rant about why, even if he had advance knowledge of such relationship, he was not obligated and/or inclined to do so. While he sometimes gets a little too snarky for me (though I hang on because he is damned entertaining in all other aspects), Mr. Scalzi has a pretty much spot on sense of what is right/appropriate, and let the anonymous emailer know exactly what he thought of the scolding. It’s weird how some people view those working in entertainment.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Tales From the Tomato Patch #2

For those who just wandered in, this is the second in a series of stories celebrating the eleventh anniversary of Jason Webley’s first album. This one is 111 words long. For the deal, see the last entry on June 1. There isn’t a “Tales From… #1” , because I didn’t think to name this series of posts until after the first was up.

So as not to be quite as loquacious this time out, we’ll get to the story and I’ll save further commentary for a future post (enjoy!):

"February Relaxing Her Fingers After a Short Winter’s Grip"

Oksana exhaled slowly, watched the tendrils of condensation form, rise and disappear in the air. Her golden hair caught the mid-winter sun and held it haloed around her head.

All about her men, women, children, and animals paused to stare. She paid them no mind as another cloud of breath was fashioned before her, though not quite the same as before. This one was thinner, easier to see through.

The city had all but stopped as Oksana slipped off the ledge of the retaining wall she sat upon, and walked further into its heart. For those who had witnessed her that day, in that moment, hope had touched their hearts.

Story title from Jason Webley’s album Only Just Beginning, 2004

Creative Commons License
Tales From the Tomato Patch #2: February Relaxing Her Fingers After a Short Winter’s Grip by Christian Berntsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

Monday, June 1, 2009

First things last (edit to add: Tales From the Tomato Patch #1)

Welcome to the end of the first day of June, I hope you enjoyed it.

Yesterday I returned from a ten day vacation that had me traveling from New York to North Carolina to Florida and back home again. It was a good trip, but exhausting, so I wound up taking an extra day off from the Day Job to recover (which I have mostly done now, so sadly back to work tomorrow, excuses gone).

Last time I promised to start exploring the things I love here on the manifesto through a series of profiles, and also conduct a separate series of interviews. This post contains neither of those.

Instead, I offer up the first of a series of short short stories inspired by my favorite musician: Jason Webley. I told you here about the awesome concert of his Catherine and I went to last January; this upcoming July 3rd marks the eleventh anniversary of his debut album Viaje.

One of the things I should have done was write a profile of Mr. Webley first, but time is slippy, and, well you know. The profile will now come at the end of this series of stories, and may be the better for it. You’ll learn a bit about him through the story titles, because each is named after a song on one of his many albums.

One thing you will notice about Mr. Webley is he has a thing about the number eleven. It’s the name of his record company, figures into some of his songs, and in general is a good number to have around (he also has a thing for tomatoes, but I still haven’t figured that one out quite yet.). To honor that, all of the stories I write will be either 11, 111, or 1,111 words long, and, of course, there will be eleven of them all together between now and his anniversary concert on July 3rd.

I only have one written, the one below, and a few others sketched out, so this may well end up being a seat-of-the-pants type operation. I hope you’ll excuse that and know this is all in celebration of an artist I admire and am inspired by. Most of the stories will have nothing to do with the songs they are named for, though some might. Some might borrow a few words, others an image or two, but you need not be familiar with the songs to enjoy the stories. I will try and get permission to post the songs in the future (and if I can figure out how), so those who have never heard his music can have some fun at the juxtaposition.

I believe that covers most of what you need to know going in, except that today is also Jason Webley's birthday (a fact which I either didn't know or didn't recall, but works well for this first post anyway). With that, I will leave you with the first of eleven tales (a short bit consisting of eleven words), I hope you enjoy and will see you in a few days with story number two:

“2 AM”

Tired and bone weary. The accordion’s suddenly heavy.
My heart remains.

Edit to add: Story title from Jason Webley's album Against the Night, 1999

Creative Commons License
Tales From the Tomato Patch #1: 2 AM by Christian Berntsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.