Friday, March 23, 2018

Leaving Home...A Flash Fiction Story

She killed the engine. The already packed car sat idling for several minutes before she turned the key. The aging Toyota sputtered, then died. She thought she should say a prayer—she’d definitely need any help she could get.

Looking west out the passenger-side window she peered down a long back alleyway and a wave of nostalgia washed over her. That alley—it’s where she played hide-and-seek as a child, where she rode bikes as a tween, and where she snuck in after curfew as a teenager. The alley way knew her secrets, her dreams, her joys, her fears…it knew her.

And she was leaving the alleyway and the only life she’d ever known behind.

What if they hate me at college? she wondered. What if I don’t fit in? She was so excited when the letter came from Stanford. She screamed with excitement as shaking hands held the letter of acceptance, but now, the shy Idaho-born-and-bred girl of migrant farmers wondered if she could make the grade—literally.

I should call Mom—no, it’s time for the lunchtime rush. And, she thought, they’d said their goodbyes that morning before her mother left for work. Besides, sh remembered, she’ll be home for Thanksgiving—only three months away. Oh how she wished she could say goodbye to her father, but a drunk driver make that an impossibility.

Her dad…in all the excitement, she hadn’t even thought of him. All the preparations, the packing, getting the car ready for the trip—she had forgotten about her dad.
The girl glanced down the alleyway one more time, took a deep breath, and fired up the trusty engine. She’ll swing by the cemetery on the way out of town. After all, it’s only a few minutes out of her way.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Spending The Day With Dozens Of Teenagers...

Yes, I agreed to help chaperone several dozen teenagers as they participated in a ballroom dance competition in Idaho.

Yes, I was of sound mind when I agreed to do this.

Yes, I understood what would be involved in making such a decision. 

Actually, this isn't the first time I've attended this particular event. Last year I drove up with my daughter. Having never been, last year was draining. There's just And when you get hundreds and hundreds of teenager ballroom dancers in one place it

The difference between this year and last, last year I wasn't a chaperone. I was just a dad. So far, it's been about the same, except we had a pair of siblings riding up with us. They were well-behaved and pleasant company.

Come to think of it, every teenager I encountered today was well-behaved. That's the amazing thing--so many kids in one place, and they're respectful, kind to each other, and friendly. It's easy to condemn a generation. By looking at examples of poor choices, everyone can be labeled as such. And even though they were loud, that's about the worst of it.

Of course, we're only a few hours into our adventure. We've all got a few days to be together. Thankfully, I'm in a hotel room, away from the masses when I need sleep. I'm sure bunking with everyone would make things tougher. I don't anticipate the kids getting a lot of sleep the next few days.

Tonight my daughter dances. It's an honor watching her compete. She's brave like that--something I most likely wouldn't have dared to at her age. Then again, maybe I would. I know one thing, when I was a teenager, there were times I was very loud.

Yes, I agreed to help chaperone several dozen teenagers as they participated in a ballroom dance competition in Idaho.

Yes, I was of sound mind when I agreed to do this.

Yes, I'm glad I did.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Folks At FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention...Are Good People

My work is having a fundraiser. There's a good chance you have them where you work, too. This time, it's an auction. You know the drill--several employees bring something on which others can bid and the proceeds go to a good cause.

Tomorrow, we're having an Easter Basket auction. Today I built a couple of baskets for the event. And most of the stuff I put in my baskets came from the people at FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention.

They're good people.

Of course, I've known they were good people for years. Any organization that allows me to participate, to rub shoulders with amazing authors, actors, artists, vendors, and geeks from all walks of life is a quality organization. I asked my friend Blake about our fundraiser. He referred me to Kelsey and she hooked me up with some great swag.

In the picture, you can see the FanX bag, the posters, and the patches. What you can't see are the FanX water bottles and shirts, and how the entire posters look (they're very cool, by the way...). I went to the dollar store and bought some candy to sweeten the deal--I thought putting the Nerds in the front was a nice touch.

It seems we live in such a cynical world, a place where all we hear about is how bad people are, how much we all hate each other, and how everyone's selfish, only looking after their own interests. Then you ask for a favor and they respond. Perhaps to them, it wasn't a big deal, find some surplus posters, shirts, bags, and badges. But to me, and hopefully to those who spend good money for the baskets, it means something special. Thanks Kelsey, Blake, and everyone involved in their fantastic organization. You're good people.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

I Could Have Flown To L.A. For The Time I Spent Today On The Train...

I got on a train this morning at 7:39am. I got off another train at 5:22pm. In between I spent three and a half hours on a train.

That's a bit much, and I like taking trains.

Today we had a meeting in Provo. It was an all day affair and the train goes from my hometown all the way to Provo. Another plus to train riding, the train has Wi-Fi. That means, I can spend that time working on an assignment. That's a win-win-win. Of course, trying to type on a train that occasionally bobbles along the tracks can produce more than an one mistake. Still, until self-driving cars, or chauffeured trips become reliable AND affordable, taking a train or bus is the only way I can make the twenty or so miles to work a working commute.

This afternoon, when the train pulled up to my stop, I pried my legs from the chair where I hadn't moved in two hours and made my way off the train. I thought about the day's trips. I could have flown to another state for the same time I spent on the bus. Maybe that's not entirely correct, but since I've only been on one flight since 1999, my mind believes it's right.

Watching the world go by from a train window is great. And I know many people have two to four hour commutes. I think I could do that, too, as long as someone else is doing the driving.

Monday, March 19, 2018

My Son's Selling His First Car...

Remember the first car you ever owned? I do. It's become part of Taylor family lore. It was a 1965 VW Beetle and we named it Greenie. I had the opportunity of owing it twice, once when I bought it as a sophomore in high school, and a second time when I bought it from a junkyard after the guy I sold it to drove it around illegally for a couple of years and left it at a parking spot downtown Salt Lake City. I ended up giving it away to a father and son team who wanted to fix it up. I hope they did revive it, but it could be rotting somewhere in another junkyard. I think about that car all the time.

The car was special, even though it stranded me more times than I can count. It almost got me killed by stalling while crossing busy streets. I never got it above 55 m.p.h. Still, it was my first car. It meant more to me than four tires, an engine, and seats.

My son is selling his 1999 Toyota Camry for $600. It's got high miles, a cracked windshield, and chipped paint. But it's also got tires with good tread (including a full-size spare...), a clean interior, and a cool compartment for your sunglasses. All in all, it's got more pluses than minuses. It's one color and the heater and A/C work.

My son, like me, has reservations about selling. The car has meant employment opportunities for him. He's been able to go to college, go on dates, and have the type of freedom available to a young man with his whole life ahead of him. It means more than four tires, an engine, and seats.

He's going to ask around to see if anyone's interested in it. Then he'll put it on the Facebook Marketplace and KSL cars (a local digital classified website...). If you're interested, let me know. He'll get another one, as did I. I wonder if the cars and vehicles that follow will ever take the place of his first car. I don't think mine ever did.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

"Gifted"...A Good Film

I think one of the more unappreciated aspects of watching a movie occurs when you choose a film to watch--something you know nothing about--and it turns out to be great. It's one of the trade-offs of not seeing movies in the theater. If the show's a dud, you just spent good money to watch something bad, or something sub-par. And if you see a great movie in the theater,'s supposed to be great, now, isn't it?

Last night, as I was finishing up a first draft, my wife turned on the movie, Gifted. Neither of us knew much about it. I knew it starred Chris Evans, but that's about it. Mr. Evans is one of the most famous and recognizable actors on the planet, having reached this level of success by playing superheroes.

He was a superhero in Gifted, too. Although, in this film, he's not a hero to billions, but to one extraordinary girl, his niece, Mary.

You can probably tell by the movie poster alone, this is not a big-budget/explosions/world-in-peril/ type show. It's a simple story of a fallen man doing everything he can to make the best life possible for his niece. His mother, his sister's ghost, and his past all work against him. The story details his struggles as he fights to keep Mary home with him.

When you see an actor who is known for such an iconic role, it's easy to look past his/her basic acting skills. Not that we do this on purpose, it's just what happens when all of your senses are being bombarded with lights and sounds. In a project like this, the actor's stripped of his uniform. Evans is simply Frank Adler, boat mechanic, guardian. Evans does a terrific job portraying a vulnerable man trying to survive.

Another wonderful aspect of Gifted is the acting from the supporting cast. There's not a weak link among them. They create a world where everyone is either fighting or helping Frank Adler--either pushing him to what he wants, or pushing him away. And Frank's one-eyed cat named Fred serves as a reminder that even Frank's pet has a tough life.

Mary Adler, the niece, is a mathematical genius, which drives the storyline and creates additional drama to the situation. But I believe it could have been a wonderful and effective story without the little girl possessing this trait. People are removed from homes every day for reasons much more mundane.

Gifted came out last year. It cost (according to IBDb...) $7 million, and it made much more than that. Good for it. Good for Mr. Evans to be part of a movie that surprised us and made us appreciate the pure art of storytelling.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Freelance...How Do People Do It?

This week I was contact for a freelance writing job. I eagerly agreed thinking I would just throw myself into it.

I mean, what could go wrong?

Actually, not much went wrong. I spent hours on the project this week. Yesterday and today it encompassed all most of my time. The above scene of my computer screen I will probably haunt me my sleep tonight.

It's interesting, working on a freelance project for the first time. My contractor and I spoke for an hour Tuesday night. He provided me a template, e-mailed me a ton of help. He basically provided everything I needed to write my first draft.

I then went to work. 

In the past couple of years, I've begun projects I had never done before. I thought this might be similar. It wasn't. When you write a new story--one that's not formatted or plotted--you're jumping into the unknown. You make up stuff people ma or may not like. The difference with this project is there was another person out there who has an idea of what he wants or would like to see. My job was to read his mind--in a way--and produce content he wanted.

Tonight I submitted my first draft. I had no idea if he would like it or not. With a story or novel, the decision maker can give a thumbs up or thumbs down. I suppose my contractor could as well. It's just different. Thankfully, I've passed the first test and will continue working it.

I know many writers do freelance full time, and I suppose the more you do it, the better you get, but for the first time, it was a little tough. It's a much different proposition earning a living as a regular 40-hour a week than taking work as it comes. Will I do it again? Time will tell.