Friday, January 30, 2009

Slaughterhouse E-mail # 4

Start time: 10:25 PM
End time: 11:13 PM
Word Count: 629
Assignment: “Using only cliches, give a half-time speech.”

COACH:

Hey! Is anybody out there? I can hear you breathing! There’s not enough room to swing a cat in this locker room, but gentlemen, here’s my two cents. I don’t want to beat around the bush. Life’s a bitch and then you die. We’re going to have to go back to the drawing board on this one and put our noses to the grindstone. And we know that it’s time to think outside the box. We’ve got to zig when the other guy zags. We’re going to catch them with their pants down, and we’re going to win one for the Gipper.

I can see you’re on pins and needles wondering how. Well, that goes without saying. I’ll field this one.

Gentlemen, I’m going to cut to the chase: We’re going to hit Jarvis right where it counts, between the eyes, and with a roundhouse right to the jaw. We’re going to hit him with everything but the kitchen sink, send him crying home to his Momma with his tail between his legs. We’re gonna beat him like a redheaded stepchild.

JARVIS:

Coach, I’m over here.

COACH:

Bingo! They’ll never see it coming! When the bell rings and it’s time for Jarvis to put up or shut up, and he’s literally doubled over and for all intents and purposes sitting on the bench like a bump on a log, needless to say, that’s when they’ll know it’s gut-check time, that we looked into ourselves and said, sure, the harder they come, the harder they fall. When the chips were down we said, an eye for an eye, and we’re going to cut to the chase. Look, Jarvis tries to hit the hole and follow his blockers-you poor excuses for linemen, and he gets caught red-handed every time. So if you can’t beat them, join them.

JARVIS:

It seems like the lights are on, but no one’s home.

COACH:

You know what really gets my goat? I’m going to give it to you straight: that you don’t want to take one for the team. Every dog has his day, and sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes the bear eats you. There’s no I in “team,” Jarvis.

JARVIS:

There are several in “debilitating, disfiguring injuries.”

COACH:

Buddy, you gotta keep your eye on the ball. Let’s take it from the top and get our marching orders; you’re supposed to give it to them straight, nothing out of the ordinary.

JARVIS:

So you’re going to beat the tar out of me and all I’m supposed to do is keep talking in clich├ęs?

COACH:

Bullseye. And on balance, I’ll give you that one.

JARVIS:

I’m your man, Coach. Take your best shot. You feel lucky?

COACH:

Way to knock it out of the park, son. I’m going to lay down the law with you people. I didn’t want to let the cat out of the bag, but I know this goes without saying. It’s dog eat dog, kill or be killed, the law of the jungle, and this isn’t going to be fun in the sun. It’s time for our last hurrah, for all the marbles, and no one can ever take that away from you. So keep your chin up. Stand tall. And let’s go out there and show them what we’re made of. We just have to take it one play at a time. Now let’s bring home the bacon!

TEAM:

Yeah!

COACH:

Gentlemen, I also think that now’s a good time to point out that I have a live grenade in my jacket pocket and if you people don’t perform like you’re capable of, I’m going to pull the pin and blow us all to kingdom come.

TEAM:

What?

COACH:

I’m just yanking your chain. Knock ‘em dead.

Writing Project Update

WEEKLY WORD COUNT: 5862, with 3500 going to Implosion and the balance going to other projects. There was also a lot of Wagerfecta-related wrangling this week and I'm hoping to set a better pace coming up.

RESPONSES TO LAST WEEK'S ITEM: Several mentions and emails...I was very glad that I did it. Thanks to everyone for all the kind words.

NUMBER OF NEW SUGGESTIONS THIS WEEK: 7 (Ken, Ken, Ken, Beth, Beth, Beth, JoLynn). Well, the "make it hurt" suggestions led to some people throwing some serious fastballs, which I thought was terrific. If the cards had fallen a little bit differently I would still have been up until 4 AM writing but I'd have been working like a crazy bastard to get an excerpt of something.

THIRD EMAIL IN THE INBOX: Ken Faikus, with: "Using only cliches, give a half-time speech."

500 words on this topic due by 12 AM PST Friday/Saturday, Jan 31

Friday, January 23, 2009

“Write the note President Bush will leave in the desk for President Obama. You can either play it for laughs and try to write in his voice, or you play it more sincerely with things 43 has to convey to 44.”

Start time: 9:41 PM
End time : 11:27 PM




Mr. President:

First off, congratulations. This is The Letter, and this is The Desk in The Office. While your candidacy and election has always been fraught with historical significance, even someone that every acquaintance said was a regular guy and probably understood the inside of the office better than anyone in nearly 200 years has been awed by the power of the history here. I know I kept saying “history will decide,” but a lot of that’s in your hands, right?

In many respects I’m lucky to write this letter at all. In the history of this office, of the 44 men who have held it, think about what PJ O’Rourke wrote: “In our brief national history, we have shot four of our presidents, worried five of them to death, impeached [two] and hounded another out of office. And when all else fails, we hold an election and assassinate their character.” There was no letter to LBJ. President Clinton didn’t only leave me a note, he also left me my dad’s note to him. I can’t explain how much that meant.

We’ve met several times since your election, and I want you to take a look at this picture:




Every one of the men in it except one has something in common. Every one was vilified as uncaring and out of touch. Every one had to appear every day in some newspaper as a cartoon with wildly exaggerated features (Dad’s chin, my ears, Bill’s nose and face, and Carter’s teeth, and I think your ears are next). Every one of us gets to be called “Mr. President” for the rest of our lives. Hell, if I sign enough copies of this picture I could probably buy another baseball team.

History may look back on all of us kindly, but the present never does. Somewhere in America right now there is something wrong that is your fault. Right now in America people think that damned near everything is my fault. There are mothers without sons sent to kill people who would kill us first. There are families without grandparents who died in attics in Louisiana. There are prisoners in Iraqi jails who never walked out. And those ghosts haunt me, every hour of every day.

Carter? The Iranian hostage rescue mission. Dad? 24 dead soldiers during the invasion of Panama. Bill? Somalia. Me? Iraq, Katrina, Abu Ghraib, 9/11.

9/11.

Where were you? How did you feel? Where were your kids? Were you possibly a target as it all unfolded? What were you absolutely certain of in that moment? Could you be afraid?

You may think you know what my answers are, but the view from behind this desk is a little different. I sat there reading that book in front of those kids, knowing everyone I knew in New York, thinking of casualty figures like Antietam - tens of thousands of bodies, realizing that something awful was happening. You were a state senator and I’m sure everybody in Springfield went apeshit, the same way they did in Topeka, in Cheyenne, in Las Vegas, in Chicago. But when billions of eyes looked to the top of the pyramid, what do you think they wanted to see?

However you reacted, they didn’t make a movie about it. Shit, two movies.

Even the ones that hate you call you Mr. President. Your motorcade doesn’t see traffic. I haven’t spoken to a crowd that wasn’t soldiers or prescreened Republicans in years. Your car can withstand a mortar round and go 200 miles an hour with a diesel truck engine in it. Your plane has anti-missile defense on board. They tell the protesters to stand a mile away where I’ll never see them, and I can go days at a time without talking to anyone except relatives and employees. The bubble is deep, the bubble is tight, the bubble is all-encompassing. Try to stay out of it.

The expectations are nothing you’ll ever be able to meet. You think the CEO of Bridgestone can change a tire? You think one MBA can shape the destiny of 300 million people? I’ve seen how you can move people, how you can inspire them. I didn’t appear in public with John McCain after March. I am alternately the dumbest man to ever inhabit the office or a political genius who stymied Congress and led an unchecked expansion of Executive Branch power. Eight years in office and I don’t think more than a handful of people have the faintest idea who I really am and what I really believe.

I guarantee, though, that the other men in that picture do – and so will you. Protect your family, your girls. They’ll be here for you on the other side of this. May God bless you and everyone who matters to you. The job is a God’s burden to bear; your faith can make the work light.

43

Writing Project Update

WEEKLY WORD COUNT: Oh, there were thousands. You'll never see it here. I EARNED a Slaughterhouse penalty this week, didn't just fall into it by accident, but stone cold smashed the line.

RESPONSES TO LAST WEEK'S ITEM: Three mentions

NUMBER OF NEW SUGGESTIONS THIS WEEK: Only three (Sharonda, Ken, Ken). Some of you have been giving me excellent suggestions, but the rule is the third one. Some of these have been fun, but the idea is it's supposed to be an incentive for me to work on the stuff I'm supposed to. C'mon, give me something terrifying! Hurt me! The other projects are each tiring in their own way, but if I know I'm going to come here and have some tequila soaked mandarin oranges, I'll avoid the brussels sprouts.

THIRD EMAIL IN THE BOX: Ken's suggested it three times and got the timing down: "Write the note President Bush will leave in the desk for President Obama. You can either play it for laughs and try to write in his voice, or you play it more sincerely with things 43 has to convey to 44."

500 WORDS DUE BY: Midnight PST, 12/16 into 12/17

Monday, January 19, 2009

A Very Special Slaughterhouse Announcement

Your proprietor is proud to present the 9th Annual Great Big Honking Superrific Wagerfecta. Details at http://jameslyden.com/wagerfecta.html.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Slaughterhouse e-mail #3

START 10:33 PM
FINISH 11:43 PM

WORD COUNT 1117 (minus Wikipedia details)


Beth sent over the following:
“In your first two Slaughterhouse blog, you reference obsessive-compulsive. I suspect that this will be thematic through out your posts. Mentioning it outright may be redundant as you progress through your writings. But recent scenes around here have had me thinking about OCD tendencies. Your flavor is different than what I experience around me on a daily basis. So embracing the animal head on, the question begs, if OCD was an ice cream shop, what would be your 31 Flavors?”


I encouraged my friends and family to make homemade signs for the triathlon in Chicago. I stipulated that they had to make me laugh or terrify others, and this led to such classic examples as “Only 139 Miles to Go” before the 10K run began (we’d totaled my race mileage for the remainder of the year), “Soup of the Day – Broccoli Cheese” , and my sister’s contribution, “You Can’t Spell Lyden Without OCD.”


I won’t count this towards the word count, but thanks to Wikipedia, I found out that what we’re actually suffering from is obsessive-compulsive personality disorder:

_______________________________


Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) is often confused with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Despite the similar names, they are two distinct disorders, although some OCPD individuals also suffer from OCD, and the two are sometimes found in the same family,[1] sometimes along with eating disorders.[2]


People experiencing OCPD do not generally feel the need to repeatedly perform ritualistic actions - a common symptom of OCD. Instead, they normally place emphasis above all on perfection and arranging objects, their own time, other people's activities and their own. They may feel anxious when they perceive that things are not "right." This can lead to routines and "rules" for ways of doing things, whether for themselves or their families, that can often seem similar to the rituals of OCD. Rather than get something wrong, OCPD individuals will make lists of things to do and how to do them. Then they go on adding to the lists, or find new associated things to do, meaning they may never finish what they wanted to do in the first place. This is most of all a problem at work or for students.

_______________________________


Anyone who has ever watched me complete a spreadsheet organized to ten minute intervals before a triathlon knows that this is right in my wheelhouse. But we’re approaching this as flavors of ice cream with short descriptions, so while I could go several thousand words on the topic at large, I’ll knock it down to five of the major ones right off the bat, the ones that just apply to triathlons. These border on superstition, but I do get anxious if they’re not done.


Culinary Compulsion Crunch: The meal the night before the race will consist of shrimp cocktail with cocktail sauce, grilled swordfish, and a green stalk vegetable or rice (never both) I go to the same restaurants every year for this. In Las Vegas, it’s Tillerman for one fall race, RM Seafood for another. Chicago was Tin Fish in Oakbrook for three years, and they closed it, so I had to go down the street to Parker’s Ocean Grill, and I am praying for their continued success. Tempe has Eddie V’s DC Ranch, three years running. San Diego is Blue Point Coastal Cuisine.

Nannette Nut Crisp: On race morning, I have to hear from, or just hear, my old trainer, Nannette Johnstone. If I hear her voice I’m going to do just fine, even if it’s a saved voice mail message. Usually we talk to each other during the weekend, and she knows if the call comes in before 10 AM, I’m standing in a wetsuit with goggles and a gel pack in my left hand and will be in the water in ten minutes. She’ll pray for me, encourage me, and walk me over that threshold where I’m not sure I’m going to do this…again. I haven’t physically seen Nannette in over a year, as she moved to Mississippi, but for all but one race, she’s performed flawlessly in this role.


Yellow Sunburst Swirl: It started out as a way to be visually distinctive, but now it’s getting a little demanding. I wear a yellow shirt in all my triathlons, sleeveless or not depending on the temperature. I started doing it because I had my family at the race in Chicago, which has 8000 participants, and one way to see when I was coming on the bicycle would be if I wore something noticeable. I now have 6 yellow Dri-Fit shirts and haven’t worn a different color in a race since May of 2007, when I snap decided to wear a sleeveless T (and I couldn’t find a yellow one in time, which confused the daylights out of my friend Lea, who was taking pictures and wasn’t looking at me until I hollered, “Blue shirt today!”) Now, as a veritable trademark, yellow is always present in my running shoes, socks, shirt, and my website. If asked to pick a lucky color that would certainly be it.


Banana Bracelet Blizzard: But it’s not just the shirt. I wear a yellow Livestrong bracelet during every waking hour. One of them snapped off my wrist in San Diego Harbor in 2007; I took off my wetsuit and it was gone. I don’t consider it a coincidence that I was kicked in the head during this swim and had my goggles knocked off with 500 yards left to swim; I consider it a consequence. I spent the first five miles of that bike ride seeing halos around objects – this after pouring a gallon of emergency water into my eyes so that I could see again. And since I didn’t have an extra bracelet in the bag, I was forced to ride and run without it. I spent too much time during that race just looking at my wrist, where it was supposed to be. Now there’s always one in the side pocket, wrapped, just in case.


Transitionberry Twist: I use the same red towel to arrange my gear on. To the right of the front tire of the bicycle, in the front will be a white tub that will be half full of drinking water. The caribiner attached to the tub will face to the right. The bike shoes will be right behind that, with one WELCOME TO LAS VEGAS sign sock in each of them. Behind that, facing straight ahead, will be the running shoes, race number belt and number, and a hat tucked into the right shoe to hold in the number belt. On the right aerobar my helmet will be hung by its chinstrap, and inside the helmet is an Under Armour skullcap, Bell knit cycling gloves, and black sunglasses. Everything – shoes, socks, gloves – goes on right-left.


We’ve hit our word limit, and I hadn’t even mentioned the Scottsdale mall trips, the diner lunch in San Diego, and the way I try to make the days nearly identical for each of those trips. I haven’t talked about the counting, the significance of the number 9, or shouting “Good luck today, gentlemen” exactly three seconds before the start horn. (At Silverman in my first mass half-Ironman start, where the whole damned race takes off at once, I amended that to, “Good luck today, everybody.”) And I haven’t mentioned how any of this intrudes on my real life, where I lock my car doors three times and have to see the lights flash on the last one. But Beth is right; this theme may re-occur.

Writing Project Update

WEEKLY WORD COUNT: 5683 (most of them going towards Implosion and a bunch more going to an un-excerptable project, so the penalty applies)

RESPONSES TO LAST WEEK'S ITEM: Three mentions and one E-mail

NUMBER OF NEW SUGGESTIONS THIS WEEK: 6 (Beth, Julie, Beth, Ken, Ken)

THIRD EMAIL IN THE BOX: Beth Badrov, with "In your first two Slaughterhouse blog, you reference obsessive-compulsive. I suspect that this will be thematic through out your posts. Mentioning it outright may be redundant as you progress through your writings. But recent scenes around here have had me thinking about OCD tendencies. Your flavor is different than what I experience around me on a daily basis.

So embracing the animal head on, the question begs, if OCD was an ice cream shop, what would be your 31 Flavors?"

500 WORDS DUE BY: Midnight PST, 1/16 into 1/17

See you then!

Friday, January 09, 2009

Slaughterhouse E-mail 2

START: 9:37 PM
FINISH: 10:34 PM
Words: 922

“The Power of Pessimism”

So I’m talking to Julie on the phone this week, and we’re sorting out some of the various things we’re working on at the moment, and she talks about how being optimistic is a new path for her at the moment. I pointed out that, “One of the reasons I’m pessimistic is I’m that much more prepared when everything takes a turn for the worse.” She laughed loudly and said, “Now in case I wasn’t SURE you were my brother…” At that point she insisted she was sending that in as the topic and wanted 500 words about how “the power of positive thinking” was nonsense. Keeping with the slaughterhouse rules, hers was the third email in the Suggestion Box this week and is my topic for the evening. Enjoy.

I will be the first to admit that my worldview has moments where it’s a little bit dark and a little bit cynical, and that surprises a lot of people who meet me very quickly. There are some things that I can be very driven about, but I don’t believe that some things can happen just because you wish they would. But I don’t have the kind of pessimism that believes that “bad things can happen and there’s nothing you can do about it.” That’s pessimism AND fatalism. No, I am well aware that the glass is half empty, and that’s why I have two extra gallons in the trunk. I even brought this extra glass, and thank God I learned how to make a paper cup out of a square of 8.5 x 11 paper in Ms. Birmingham’s seventh grade science class because there have been at least three occasions where there were no cups to drink from, and I’m not going to drink straight from the fountain because that would have been a sure-fire way to get water on my tie.

My brain’s filled with this sort of useless knowledge. Did you know that there’s a space at the Oak Brook Mall in the western suburbs of Chicago on the second level, right next to the stairwell in the MIDDLE of the stairwell, that you could duck into and your car would be right there, steps ahead of your pursuers and your taillights are fading while they’re still running down the stairs to their vehicle in the open lot, or even better, they saw you go down the stairs and lost you, thinking you went all the way to the lot? Yep. There is. And I would insist on getting that parking space at any given opportunity, hoping it was available, even though it would involve backing into it and taking an extra 15 minutes of driving around the lot, despite the fact I have never been chased by ANYONE through a mall. But when the moment came, I would be ready for it.

My pessimism kind of commingles with paranoia and is cooked in an obsessive-compulsive sauce. When I first started doing triathlons, I would bring two of everything, unless I could bring three. My overpacking for things is the stuff of legend. I am a heterosexual male who has gone away for a race weekend, where I was staying for only one night, with five pairs of shoes. When I was five and was playing a game of tag, my friend Dawn, just before we were to leave Ally-Ally-Oxen Free, quickly reached down and untied my right shoelace. I , new at the shoe-tying game but aware it was dangerous to go undone, was powerless to head anywhere until it was fixed. I think I lost the next 732 games of tag on that alone.

It’s not that I think everything is going to go wrong; I KNOW things will fail, the plans will change, the plane will be late, the driver will get lost, the bus is not coming and sometimes your only way out of a mess like this is Plan Zed. Like I was doing one night when I had tickets to the last night of a show (Out of Order at Candlelight Dinner Playhouse, 1992) and my only recourse as a deep snow began to blanket the area was to hear that my date was prohibited from driving, and I was prohibited from driving, so it was time to hit Speed Dial 4, Hinsdale Limousine, and leave this to the professionals. (I had never used Speed Dial 4 because the phone book had worked just fine, but you’re starting to get the picture, right?) I was a well mannered child who shouted loudly, “FUCK IT! I’m hiring a limousine.” My father, who would not normally abide such outbursts comfortably (either the profanity or the profligacy), sat me down and calmly purchased both tickets from me. My date, the very patient woman who had several more years ahead of watching me veer out of control, took about thirty minutes to calm me down and reassure me that this really didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

The good news is, the world is adapting to people like me. A cell phone that’s web-enabled with GPS? Can recharge in 20 minutes and I can have two power adapters and keep a spare battery in my desk? A solar cranked weather radio and flashlight? I can’t even look at a SkyMall catalog, specifically Hammacher Schlemmer, without thinking, that makes sense. I don’t want to pay that much for it and I would never use it and people would mock me unmercifully, but that makes sense.

So when my mind drifts to how many separate exits there are from my workspace and how many proxy cards you need to get to my desk and what kind of notice I would have that someone is coming (four including the roof, three, and about 45 seconds) you shouldn’t think of it as pessimism, a certain knowledge that something is going to go wrong. Think of it as chronic overpreparedness, but for the most unlikely, bizarre scenarios.

And therein lies its power. A positive thinker will stay calm and think, you know, everything’s going to be fine. Meanwhile, I know where the failure points are. I know better.

And those five pairs of shoes? One of them’s going to have speed laces. You never have to tie them. Take that, Dawn Swanson!

Writing Project Update

WEEKLY WORD COUNT: 4157 (most of them going towards Implosion, so no excerpt this week)

RESPONSES TO LAST WEEK'S ITEM: Several allusions, mentions and 3 e-mails

NUMBER OF NEW SUGGESTIONS THIS WEEK: 6 (Ken, Ken, Julie, Nancy, Beth, Beth)

THIRD EMAIL IN THE BOX: Julie Lyden, "The Power Of Pessimism"

500 WORDS DUE BY: Midnight PST, 1/9 into 1/10

See you then!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Slaughterhouse E-mail #1

“Cubs finally win the World Series. You can tackle it from a city or a Brian perspective.” -Brian Mascheri

10:48 PM Friday January 2, 2009
Done 12:03 AM Saturday, January 3, 2009
1131 words

It’s well established that it was 1908 since the last Cubs World Series victory, and 1945 was their last World Series appearance. They didn’t even taste the playoffs for another 39 years after that. But did you know that we’re only six years away from one of the most out there, wild sports projections of all time?

Yep, break out your hoverboards and self-adjusting Nikes, because according to noted prognostication source Back to the Future II, the Cubs are scheduled to win the World Series. They’re also supposed to make 14 more Jaws movies, I think, so there’s time.

But let’s say, as the sloganeers and T-shirt hucksters are wont to do, that “it’s gonna happen.” Let’s say that Brian, my friend of nearly 30 years and lifelong follower of the North Side team, actually gets to see his team win the World Series. What would that be like?

Well, for one thing, Brian’s life would probably change the same way that mine did after the White Sox won the World Series. There was a feeling of relief, and the knowledge that the phrase so many of us heard about baseball while growing up-“They killed my grandfather, they killed my father, and now they’re coming after me” would simply not apply. Brian is a fanatically devoted sports fan who could probably tell you right now who the top lefthanded pitching prospect is in the Cubs’ organization. He can name the starting left fielder for each of the last ten seasons. And the problem is, he’s not a typical Cubs fan.

The typical Cubs fan, particularly the bleacher denizens, is a subset of humanity that is not normally affiliated with the phrase “lovable loser” and would point frantically at their Abercrombie shirt and VW Jetta keys as evidence to the contrary. They’re atmosphere junkies, and over the years that would be enough to get them through some positively awful baseball…if that’s what they were there to watch.

But not Brian. While Brian appreciates and respects the mystique of Wrigley, and I can say even as a Sox fan that it is a very picturesque place to watch a game, he wouldn’t care if this team was playing in a sandlot. Consider the Cubs’ recent history as near-miss contenders. More than most sports, the ebb and flow of baseball demands patience. And even if you show that requisite patience, as the Cubs displayed this past season, compiling a record in which people who ought to have known better were gleefully predicting that This Was The Year, it can all be snuffed out in three days of mediocre play. You watch the season for six months. In three days it can be gone. And fans like Brian were angry, no matter how pretty the ballpark was.

I got to experience the flip side of this scenario this past year as well. My team, the White Sox, was faced with a scenario in which they would have to win something like eleventy billion games on the road to even make the playoffs, despite leading the division for months at a time. As the last three games appeared, there I was, in front of my television or computer, swearing like a dockworker at every miscue and pumping my fist at success, as involved as if I were somehow able to will the desired outcome to occur. As a rational human being I know that my actions have no effect on what happens. As a White Sox fan, I wore one of five khaki shirts during their World Series appearances and refused to sit anywhere but one prescribed area of the house to watch the games. You should never combine an obsessive-compulsive personality with a baseball team. They went on to win one game in the playoffs, but at that point, I think even the team was exhausted from the journey, like a small child who saw Tropic World AND the bears AND the dolphins AND the monkeys AND the tigers and really just wants to go home now.

And I know Brian would be the same way, and a Cubs World Series victory would give him the same sort of placid ability to look back and realize that all the money, all the time (and you would be astonished at how much time it actually is) and all of the effort did not go to waste. And while the living and dying with every pitch doesn’t stop, it is tempered by a knowledge that you’ve seen the best of where it can lead and you did not find the moment wanting.

I was accused of a level of shallowness for becoming teary-eyed upon the White Sox winning the World Series, when I had not become teary-eyed at other events such as my wedding, the birth of my children, or dicing onions. I pointed out, rather feebly, that my involvement with the White Sox predated any involvement with the others, so I should be given a pass. This did not help to burnish my reputation as a Sensitive Guy.

It’s unfair of me to speculate on what a Cubs victory would do to the city, because there are certain lodestones that my life depends on, such as the Cubs won’t win, the compass will show me true north, Mick and Keith will outlive me by about ten minutes or so, and I won’t want to see the movie if Freddie Prinze Jr. is in it. In a life where change is constant, you need things to hang onto. Hunter Thompson believed in breakfast, even when he’d work all night and not have that breakfast until 4 PM. Warren Zevon, bless his dark little obsessive-compulsive heart, bought so many gray Calvin Klein T-shirts that they gave them away, still wrapped, at his funeral. Mine are those four things, and in time I know that I’m going to be stuck with just the compass. It’s the law of averages. It HAS to be.

I imagine the city and the outlying areas will be swathed in hats and jerseys, and the parade will be amazing. I’ll watch as the participants are canonized in that manner unique to small towns more than major cities-there are members of the 1985 Bears who probably haven’t had to buy drinks since that moment. And I’ll smile for a number of my friends who will find themselves at peace with choices they committed to well before knowing what they were getting themselves into, even though it means I’ll also be smiling for the likes of Jim Belushi and Ronnie Woo Woo. But if either of my sons announce themselves as Cubs fans in the wake of this development, be they eight, eighteen, or eighty, I will swiftly denounce them as frontrunning, contemptible, traitorous little pigs.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Re-Introduction

I'm not a big believer in New Year's resolutions. They are usually made by somebody at an hour where no good promises are made anyway, and every goal that I ever had that was worth a damn and that I accomplished had a date on it for completion, not a day that I started it. Besides, as someone who trains like a bastard and needs access to a swim lane and a running track with a high degree of frequency, there's nothing worse than a resoluter hogging the track, taking a ten minute break on the pulldown machine, and generally doing five of the fifteen things that you can do at the gym that really piss me off.

But this year needs a new set of goals. Most of my goals over the past couple years have been fitness related, and I'm expanding my selection on that front. 2009 will be the year I complete my first marathon (Las Vegas in December), I plan to do the Silverman half again, still want to race Chicago in less than 3 hours (maybe less than 2:50 would be nice), and there are several other races that are on the table. I'd also like to drop 25 more pounds and turn myself into a Very Dangerous Person. There is also the one remaining fitness goal of my ten from 2005, and that's to be able to do five pullups. And starting Monday I'll go back to full tracking of everything via CalorieKing.

But there's something else.

While I've doing these race recaps, I've been writing a lot. It's not uncommon for me to crank out 2000 words a night, either in letters, the books, stories or anything else. And seeing as I have three book projects running concurrently, I want to get one of them finished up. I have had double-digits worth of people tell me that I have a way with words; this is the year to do something about it.

To that end, I'm making a bet with myself. One of the things that I want to do in six months is get a working draft of one of the projects done-ANY one of them. Implosion, which is the memoir I mentioned on my website (a friend of mine who's read some of the excerpts said, "Wow...I had no idea"), is currently at about 80 pages, and I could probably jump that to 100 with an email search. The training and goals book is skeletal but would be relatively easy to put together. And the hotel book is at about 20 pages or so, and won't get me sued into oblivion.But each week, I should be able to get 4000 words pumped out toward any one of those very diverse projects.

But what if I don't?

It's time to reopen the slaughterhouse-this site. At the time I was originally doing it, about five years ago, it was strictly a place for quick, dashed-off work that didn't have a place anywhere else. But this time, I'm not choosing the topic.You will.

I've set up an email address at slaughterhouse@jameslyden.com. Rather than writing just about anything that comes to my mind, if I don't hit my target, I'll pick the third topic in the Inbox and do 500 words on that. If I do get the target, I'll put up an excerpt. My deadline is every Friday at 9 PM, so the results will be up Saturday morning. I'm hoping that you guys, and a whole host of other people I'm going to tell about this plan, will give me both the necessary incentive to keep moving forward on this and to get my mind unstuck when I get trapped in a particular section.

I'd like to try this for 12 weeks. As it was many years ago with the slaughterhouse, speed is key. And I'll write about anything. If you get a moment and you think that I might have something funny or insightful to say about something, suggest it. Let's dance.

Thank you in advance for your help!

James

Hey, they didn't change the locks!

Wow! Look at this place! Sure wish I hadn't have left that carton of Chinese food in the fridge. It's been what, four years? Five? Hmm. Maybe I should change some of the pictures on the walls...

Anyway, there's certainly not enough yellow around here for my tastes, but I'll adjust.

Ladies and gentlemen, the home for the Slaughterhouse Challenge. Peruse the archives if you choose. New posts will be going up by midnight Pacific on Fridays. Criticism is welcome-that's the point. If it's lousy, tell me. If it's good, forward it to somebody else. Thanks!

James Lyden
Raconteur - Triathlete - Strategist