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Poetry Vignette Writing

Vantage Philadelphia

vantage philly

A city by the river, a city of brotherly love, the skyline stretches the length of the river, mostly white lights and some reds and greens in the distance. From our vantage, a grassy turf shrouded in darkness bordered on our left by a forest patch of trees, music at high frequency plays from jarring speakers, young people sitting in the grass as fireflies pop out of the grass like embers from a fire. The quiet talks of young lovers and the brash speech of young punks drunk and lying on the lawn is seldom. The mood is complacent. I try to capture the city in my iPhone camera but the darkness and distance reveals a blurry photo on all occasions, the essence of the city escaping in tiny pixels. A moon lights the smudgy clouds above, they sit in the sky sunken and heavy, wet and moist. A rain has fallen earlier, a storm has passed. These remnants of a previous age float ominously, suggest a doom. But the city sparkles from this distance and from decidedly low vantages that provide a suspension of disbelief, as the city twinkles off the river, the fireflies spark out of the grass, shooting stars, shy fireworks, that rise above Philadelphia.

Ashish Seth

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Art Poetry Writing

May 14, The Climb Forever

– AS

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Poetry

May 11, Do, Because It’s Hard

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– AS

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Articles Writing

Why I write: “My Writing Process”

sethguitar

A few weeks ago, I was asked by a fellow writer to detail my process of writing. First of all, thank you Michael Paul (Billy Tabbs & The Glorious Darrow) for inviting me to do this blog tour. It’s an honor even being asked to talk about my writing process, which has currently halted. It’s both a chance to learn from other writers and kickstart/restart the process as I get time away from my day job to devote to writing.

 

So, why do I write?

 

This is a question I’ve been asking myself since I started writing. I guess the most honest answer to this question is because sometimes it is enjoyable and sometimes it makes me feel like more than I am. I enjoy being creative and writing has always been of strength of mine.

 

But I write for a deeper reason. I’m searching for something. Sometimes I can taste it when the writing writes itself.

 

I write for these “moments”. Moments when the words disappear and regardless of what I’m writing, I perceive a depth, a chasm, that opens up in what I’ve written. And out of this depth, a realization, something unsaid, is understood by both the characters and the reader. That what they’re reading is a facet of the human condition, of life. The human condition in its most purest form is witnessed. It diminishes when it is put to words in a thesis on an essay. My essays are observations by the reader and writer, translated only into understanding and emotion. It’s the best type of pathos.

 

I write for those real moments, those enlightening moments, those discovered moments. When you understand something more than what is just written.

 

1. What are you working on?

 

I’m currently working on a novel called The Cleaner. It’s a crime drama set in Brampton.

 

It’s a story about a forty something hitman who cleans up crime scenes for the mob. The Cleaner has a code: never ask questions, never get involved. He tries to instill this code on to his young protege.

 

This is the story of that code breaking.

 

The story has morphed a lot since I started it in 2012. It was a bare bones crime noir with short chapters and very little exposition, my aim being to have the readers learn about the characters purely in the moment. I’ve been working currently on finding a balance between how much exposition I want to put and how much we’re in the scene.

 

I’m also working on an album of music.

 

2. How does your work differ from others of its genre?

 

 

I don’t like being judged based on my genre. But the reality is, it’s impossible for any writer not to be judged by their genre until they transcend it and write some classic that teachers force you to read in high schools, ones that you can get an essay out of it.

 

Without picking a genre, here’s what I like to write about: criminals, gangsters, average Joes, regular people, families… complex characters that aren’t so easily likeable, all going through a crisis or personal conflict, not so easily sympathetic with their choices, forced into critical and dramatic situations where the outcomes aren’t usually clear cut and moral and obvious, and the most important thing to take in is not a logic in the construction of the plot and events but the feeling of the situation the characters are in and the realization that realism is just a way to make sense of the world, that unexplainable things happen and that the action happens more so due to illogical character motivations than anything else with the function of the main internal con-…

 

You know what. Fuck it. I’m a crime writer. My work differs only in that now I’m writing the words. If it is different, you be the judge.

 

3. Why do you write what you do?

 

I write what I want to read. I read what I want to write. I’m a writer with literary ambitions but also one who would throw the literary out the window for a guilty pleasure action sequence involving witty wiseguys and humorous situations.

 

I’m like a pizza that’s trying to be gourmet Italian cuisine. Every so often you’ll taste the rich tomato sauce under the cheese that’ll remind you of the best of literary classics… but then you’ll taste the pepperonis and its back to instant gratification and drivebys for the sake of drivebys.

 

4. How does your writing process work?

 

Writing is an act of creation. We take that as a given. But I believe a creator must be comfortable with destruction. A writer that creates must also destroy, destroy the words he writes that are unnecessary, destroy the monotony when the story slows down, destroy the characters to get the vapor of pathos out of their cracked skulls, destroy the process to reach a conclusion and move on. Stories end when the writer chooses to destroy the routine of writing.

 

For me, destruction is essential to creation. What I mean by this is you need to be comfortable with deleting sections and editing to prune away the unnecessary stuff. I like sharp, direct prose because it’s the most powerful, most effective. Before a scene is finished and even during the process of writing it, I’ll read it back and forth and edit over and over. I edit and write at the same time. Destruction is necessary because it refines your ideas.

 

I usually start on an idea before it’s taken too much hold on my mind, while it’s fresh and exciting. I’ve found too much planning is creatively stifling. I also find I’m the most productive in a time frame. A lot of projects have died in development hell and I’ve learned recently that giving myself a time frame to complete something allows me to finish and move on. You need to move on. You need to.

 

If I sit with an idea for too long, it never gets made. The expectations morph and become unintelligible in my head. The idea itself loses creative vigor and nothing seems natural.

 

My writing rituals are quite basic. I try to write when I’m inspired but you can’t wait for it. Instead, I have some methods to get me in that state of mind. If writing while inspired is sugar, than my forced state of inspiration is Splenda. I get to it with a cup of coffee and some music to set the mood. And sometimes it feels like the real thing. But the real thing acted on is the best. Other things I do are organize my work area so the clutter doesn’t affect my head. I usually write at night but early morning writing is great too. It’s all about routine and positive thinking.

 

My process is always changing. I’m still trying to figure what works and what doesn’t. I haven’t completed a major project yet so that’s proof that maybe in a few months, all of the above may be bullshit. All writers know they can write when they realize just how good they are at bullshitting on paper.

 

Look for my work soon. I’ll be writing some articles this year. An album this year will also drop. Maybe a finished novel next year… can’t be too optimistic.

 

With that said, let me introduce Amrita Gill, a writer from Edmonton, Alberta. Amrita writes poetry that’s really observational. Some of her stuff reminds me of Charles Bukowski at his best.  She’s next in line for the writing process blog. Check her out: http://flintsofgold.wordpress.com/.

 

 

– AS

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Art Music Vignette Writing

Ash Seth – The Great Impression

The sounds of young expectation and a paranoid desperation, anxiety ridden, fear bitten, smitten with an infectious idea that the world’s meant for your satisfaction. “You’re special. You were born to do great things.” The great impression imprints on you forever and eventually you can’t remember if you read that on a postcard, a quote of the day on a Facebook page, or if your mother and father whispered swift encouragement in your ears after every fall from grace. Yet all the kids at schools had flaws except you. You believed it, cherished it, developed it, turned every ounce of your finite being into infinite potential. Apex. Apex. Apex. But the world’s opening up and your childhood days are gone, shoved out onto the lawn where you can no longer play. You don’t want to but you already miss it. You linger around the garage and the wind hits you and no longer do the walls shutter. Your chest inflates, cold air, exhale. Are you up to the challenge? The only way to meet the coming hardships is to face them with a confident determination, even if the spirit isn’t there. But you have no patience and all of a sudden, the skills you believed you were born with aren’t there. And it’s a false determination that fails at the first sign of criticism, that has underneath it a fragile yoke of a weak will that takes offensive at the slightest startle. The trials and tribulations of a man who’s been told “the world is yours” by parents, Scarface, Nas, but you’re just someone somewhere somehow shouting in a crowd of other people shouting. And you’re suddenly thrown into the hustle and bustle of the busy life, briefcase and clean briefs under pantsuits and dress shirts with ties and expectations, paranoid desperation, lego blocks and ticking clocks with times running out and the creeping fear and paranoia that you don’t really got what they bought you for.

And childhood is timeless because it echoes in nostalgia for an eternity in your adult soul.

This song is about a person who grows up believing he’s special, then goes out into the world and realizes he’s just as special as everyone else. That everyone is told the same thing. That the belief is a lie.

– AS

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Articles Philosophy Photography Quotes Writing

Dreamcatcher New York: Part Two

By Ashish Seth

A two part series (and a song) about a suburban kid’s experience of the Big Apple.

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Figure # 1: A view of the New York skyline from Central Park.

The Temple and the Building

We are at once from birth born into a temple atop a building looking out, skyscraping above tables and desks, towering above smaller creatures like ants, cats, dogs and beavers. And as we walk with each leg progressing forward momentum, we realize these buildings sway if not properly planted, if not supported stably by our legs. And whenever our supports do give way and the building trips and the temple plummets, making contact with other buildings at dangerous velocities, we realize that the world outside the temples we live in is indeed trying to get in, trying to cause damage. Or so we believe this because the impact of the first, second and even third incursion is so painful, that for some and maybe even most of us, it sends us deeper into the recesses of our temples, in a dark corner, where we feel alienation from the world without. And yet the longer we linger, deeper pits and chasms infest our spiritual centers and the outside world looks colder. Taller buildings loom above us when we glance outside our temple windows. And looking within and seeing the walls wear away and run down, and feeling the supports of the building lesson with the passage of time, we are left with one certain fact and one courageous task. That if the very foundations upon which this temple is situated be undermined, our time inside the temple is finite. And if our time inside the temple is certainly finite, the only way out of this existential despair is to make peace with the world outside. And that is our courageous task in life. To live.

Ashish Seth

Now back to your regularly scheduled programming…

Long Island Express

The Rockville City Centre train station of the Long Island Express is not a stone’s throw away from the apartment complex we reside in but we decide to walk it anyway, soaking up the sights and sounds and smells of the area around us. Along the way, I come across another dreamcatcher strung on a chain link fence, its feathers fluttering in the light breeze, beads tapping the metal, strings spun like a spider web around the hoop.

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Figure # 2: A dreamcatcher.

“What is that?” asks Abhi.

“Native Indians, I think the Ojibwe, used to put it near their beds so that they could filter their dreams,” I say.

The fence runs down an alley. The sound of air conditioning units plugged in windows three storeys up. The smell of fresh dry cleaning. Scraps of paper stuff stuck in bushes and shrubs. Uncut grass and hidden weeds. A man in a wife beater struts along the sidewalk with a lunch bag in his hand.

The breeze picks up and the dreamcatcher flutters rapidly, hitting the fence like a flyswatter and then coming to a rest again. I continue speaking.

“The nightmares would get trapped in the net so they couldn’t affect the sleeper. The good dreams would flow in and travel down the feathers to the sleeper.”

After a few moments, we continue on down the road.

We reach the station ten minutes later. The heat is stifling and as we stroll into the station lobby to buy our tickets, I regret wearing my red striped polo shirt and carrying my backpack. The shirt isn’t comfortable and the straps on the backpack are too tight. We decided to bring it along to carry a water bottle and souvenirs we purchase.

Our goal today: Manhattan, Central Park, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Times Square.

After purchasing a one way ticket for two for 18 dollars total, we climb up the cement steps to the platform of the station, walking past a cracked Snapple bottle on one step, a half-eaten pizza on another, and a teenager glued to her cell phone standing erect and self-contained on the landing before the next flight of steps. We reach the top of the platform and sit down on a bench to wait for the train. The platform stretches along the tracks for a hundred meters or so, overlooking the old townsquare, the heart of activity near this station. The top floors of these buildings house law offices, consulting firms and local business headquarters. The ground floors of these buildings, where most of the day to day commerce is held, house the pizzerias, convenience stores, and bars. Rockville City Centre is at once an active community teeming with diversity and liveliness, an old and mature suburb far out from New York City. If New York has every type of person from every walk of life concentrated within a few blocks, Rockville City, Long Island is its equivalent with plenty more room to breathe.

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Figure # 3:  A view of Rockville City Centre’s Long Island Express platform. 

I hear the lull of the train tracks, rumbling metallic, and watch as the platform, containing roughly twenty passengers, starts to get ready to disembark. I take out my ticket.

The train arrives shortly and we take our seats by a window. A few moments later, the train jerks forward. The gears of the train sound like a chorus of moans and screams and crackling Adam’s apples pitched to low frequencies. As the train picks up speed, a fat Italian man comes around and hole punches our tickets. I watch Long Island pass by slowly before about a half hour later, the skyline of the city appears in the distance past a plethora of train tracks and wires and construction debris in the foreground. Then the train dips into a dark tunnel underneath the Hudson River and the hollow sound of a speeding object hustles the final lap home.

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Figure # 4: New York skyline in the background before the plunge under the Hudson.

*             *             *             *             *

Penn Station

The place reminds me of Union station back home in Toronto. Kiosks set up for food and shops selling random items. The whole place is crowded and smells of sweat, urine and tasty sugary treats. People rush around to buy tickets, catch trains, keep up with loved ones or get away from the characters begging or busking or looming in one place for too long. A musician sings Motown hits from the sixties and seventies through a microphone jukebox, his voice amplified and echoing throughout a large portion of the station. His friend accompanies him on saxophone. Their faces wear smiles. White pearly teeth. Fedoras and dusty jumpers. A glimpse at quintessential Americana. Tourists snap photos of them with their cellphones. Some throw quarters or leaves of dollar bills in to their open saxophone casket. Some walk away to catch their trains, tightening their backpack straps.

Abhi whispers in my ear in Hindi, “keep checking your pockets.”

I nod and check. Wallet and phone secure.

We descend some stairs to the crowded subway platform and await our train. Down the dark tunnel, the breeze gets heavier and the hollow sound of a speeding object hustling to its destination gets louder just before the metallic screech of jarring brakes.

“Look at that rat!” says Abhi, pointing at the tracks. I look but only get a glimpse of something whisk under the tracks.

“It was huge,” says Abhi.

The train pulls up. Doors open to a crowd of people. Only one or two exit the compartment. It’s almost completely packed yet the whole throng of waiting passengers, uncountable, moves in from around me. My Toronto attitude would be to wait for the next train but that’s in ten minutes. And I’m swept in by default.

We squeeze through people with no time to worry about personal space.

The doors close. The bell sounds. The sound of exhaust exits a pipe.  We get close to one end of the train. People breathe down my collar. I have no grip on a railing. The train jerks forward. My feet give. I bump into someone. I almost trip. Feet regain control.

“Bend your knees,” says Abhi.

Lots of tourists. Smiling faces. Holding phones. Holding hands. Backpacks. Cramped.

Relax.

“Relax,” whispers Abhi. “They’re just people.”

Stay positive.

With each. Stop. With each jerk I.

Keep losing my balance. The ground rumbles. Shakes. I grip my palms on a wall beside a bathroom. Who takes a piss in a-. When each jerk slips you off-?

An Asian lady looks at me funny. I look at my brother. Relax, he mouths. The train’s gears sound and it pulls up to a station. Chill. As it comes to a full stop, I fight to stop myself from bumping into the person in front of me, fight to quit tripping.

“Jesus, your flat feet,” says Abhi.

Doors almost close on a couple trying to escape.

Finally we make it to the station closest to Central Park. The doors open and people flood out like water emptied onto gravel.

“That wasn’t so bad,” says my brother.

*             *             *             *             *

Central Park

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Figure # 5: The field in Central Park.

A clear field looks upon a portion of the New York skyline below a blue sky with only few ghostly white clouds puffing by. Well-built athletic men throw around a pigskin. Sexy slim women lie sunbathing on sprawled towels with unbuttoned bras. People picnicking. Couples lying embraced on carpets wearing sunglasses. A trio of young girls in bikinis, lying under the shade of a tree, laughing.

“This is where the final scene in Elf takes place,” I say.

And we continue on.

*             *             *             *             *

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Figure # 6: The entrance to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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Figure # 7: Alexander the Great with his mother.

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Figure # 8: A painting by Mark Rothko, all due respect despite views in article.

“How is this art?” asks Abhi.

We look at a painting that is just red and white smudge on canvas, with various shades fading away at the bottom.

“This just looks like a bad paint job,” says Abhi.

I see a very skinny white woman with short brunetty reddish hair give my brother a disapproving look. I look back the painting. Screw this! Even if there is some deeper meaning to this slob of red murk, the present determines the meanings of the past and this painting here is just a bad paint job. I’m not going to take a six month long course in art history paying a thousand dollars of tuition to appreciate a bad paint job.

“Let’s go look at something else. This piece is giving me a headache with its pretention,” I say.

We go to the next painting. This one looks like mere scribbles on dark greyish foolscap paper, something a kindergarten kid would make if given a large piece of paper and told to go wild.

“This is just scribbles,” I say.

Abhi looks closer.

“Oh, see those curvy lines near the top. I think those are lady parts in abstraction.”

I squint to see what he means. The thigh. Leg. Vagina and some side boob.

I look at my brother and smile and nod.

“Now, this is art.”

*             *             *             *             *

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Figure # 9: Park Ave.

Park Ave.

We pass Madison Ave where the infamous ad men work to make the citizens of the United States and the world beyond go mad for branded cigarettes, boutique eye liner and the bucket list journey of flying coach on an airline.

We head to a Starbucks on Park Ave.

Five minutes later, I sit at a table staring at my iPhone. We stopped here for some coffee and free WIFI. My brother bumps my shoulder walking by and puts an orange drink in front of me.

“What’s this?” I say.

“I just got it for you, drink it.”

“I can’t drink acids,” I protest. “My dentist-.”

“We’re in New York. Take a break.”

He sips his coffee and takes out his cellphone. I look around.

We sit at a long table. A man, grey sweater, white, balding and wearing round glasses, sits at the other end of the table. He switches between typing into his Apple Laptop and writing figures on a tabled piece of paper. Maybe an accountant. Maybe an ad man. Maybe doing his taxes. Doesn’t look rich or well-to-do. Looks tired and old. Looks like he’s trying to be busy. Looks… our way.

The tired tourists sit in Starbucks Cafés chatting and drinking mocha lattes. Their lives are more difficult because they have to search for problems to stay busy. Manhattan. Just twenty minutes ago, we ate at a restaurant on Madison Ave. That’s where Mad Men takes place. The clientele at this Park Ave café are mostly young students, single moms, hipster yuppies and some businessmen doing taxes.

Aren’t we all tourists everywhere, even at home; we just decide what we want to say is familiar on our resumes.

I continue sipping my fruit sugar orange drink.

The queue for the lineup at Starbucks is increasing.

I look out at Park Ave. A tourist taking a photo of the street sign with his iPhone. That was me, 15 minutes ago.

And 15 minutes later, we’re off to Times Square.

 

*             *             *             *             *

Times Square.

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Figure # 10: Abhi in Times Square.

We emerge from the Subway underground once again surrounded by the skyscrapers we saw from the George Washington bridge.

Large billboard plaster over the sides of buildings. The Walking Dead. Madame Tussauds, The Lion King, shiny glass paneled windows and shiny glass panelled pixels of streaming commercials on moving screens. Art Deco archways of old building carcasses stick out of modern office lobbies.

A crowd of people of mixed ethnicities roams aimlessly on a long narrow strip of sidewalk as the road beside is cramped with taxi cabs and cars in gridlock. Cab drivers honk inoffensively to signify their presence. Some honk at cars. Some honk at pedestrians. Some pedestrians hold plastic shopping bags. Some hold their partner’s hands. Some hold their hands in their pockets. I use my hands to check my pockets. Safe. The smell of sewage and the smell of sugary pretzel grease. Piss. Meat grilling. Barbecuing street meat. Safe and unsafe to eat?

“Check your pockets,” says my brother in Hindi.

We move through the crowd. Like two rolling marbles moving against other rolling marbles, fluid, in a wobbling zig zaggy motion, a mix of forces pushing each other.

Doors open to bustling restaurants. A line up to see a theatre show.

Tables set up at the edge of the sidewalks sell fake jewellery, random paraphernalia of stereotypical NY perceptions, plastic encased photos of old and new pop stars, Elvis, Drake, Jay-Z, Bieber, and nearly forgotten wise guys from the fifties. Middle-aged Asian proprietors sell beads with mandarin letters that mean nothing. A greying white man with a stained white shirt sells his wife’s homemade something. Young street artists spray paint neon metropolis vistas from the eighties on perfectly cut rectangular slabs of dry wall. Cartoon portraits for paying customers, five minutes a face for some odd dollars.

Everything is alive.

“This is it,” I say to Abhi. “This is New York.”

New York. A city that never stops. New York. A city that keeps going. New York. A translucent skyline apparition that blends with the sunset in the distance. And then with the flick of a light, glows bright in the night with rays streaming far into the country and the Atlantic, a full lit metropolis born of immigrant sweat and successful treks to the edges of dreams.

A track produced during my time in Long Island will be posted soon, probably some time next week. 

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Articles Photography Writing

Dreamcatcher New York: Part One

By Ashish Seth

A two part series (and a song) about a suburban kid’s experience of the Big Apple.

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Figure # 1: The ethereal skyline of New York city seen from the highway to Long Island.

The female voice of the GPS crackles out in low quality tones, “Keep left on interstate-.”

I press a button.

“Shut up.”

We drive down a three lane highway somewhere in New Jersey, heading for New York, trees passing by in a whir, windshield viper fluid shooting out in lines on the front for the sliding vipers to wipe the bug muck away.

“Let’s stop at a coffee shop or something,” I say.

“You need to take a piss again?”

“I wanna see Jersey. This is where The Soprano’s took place.”
“God!”

“I’m just saying. It’d be cool to go to a place and say, ‘hey, that’s where that guy got whacked!’”

My brother Abhi drives. I navigate the GPS on his phone. We’re heading to Long Island where Abhi has a rotation at a hospital. He needs to complete this rotation in order to get his medical degree and become a doctor. It’s late July and I’ve been on vacation from my teaching job in Brampton for weeks now.  It’s been a long ride and we’ve stopped as seldom as possible.

Abhi’s phone shakes. A text message.

“Who’s that?” I ask.

He looks at it.

“The hospital. Says ‘545 Merrick Dr. Price don’t worry.’”

“Don’t worry? What’s that supposed to mean?”

“I don’t know. It seems shady doesn’t it?”

My brother puts his phone away.

“What if we get there and it’s all a big scam?” he says.

“I don’t follow,” I say.

“They haven’t told us what the rent is for the place. What if we get there and they put us in a place and then rob us of our shit.”

I consider it for a minute. New York. The city that never sleeps. The city of cities. All modern metropolises ape the style of the Big Apple. I’ve been bombarded with perceptions and depictions of New York. A lot of the depictions have been negative: The Godfather, Goodfellas, Grand Theft Auto, Taxi Driver, countless New York rappers telling street tales of drug dealing, drive bys and homicidal shootings.

“Don’t worry,” I say. “If they scam us, we’ll sue the hospital and Ross University.”

“They won’t scam us. I was joking.”

I rest my head against the window and stare out.

Stay positive.

*             *             *             *             *

The George Washington Bridge to The Bronx.

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Figure # 2: The George Washington Bridge coming from New Jersey.

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Figure # 3: Hudson river and coasting skyline.

After paying a heavy sixteen dollar toll, the cost to escape New Jersey, our white Honda Civic turns on to The George Washington bridge.

Through the metal railings of the bridge in the far distance I see the New York skyline, a long stretch of translucent skyscraper outlines in the airy orange sky. Planes take off at La Guardia and glide silently in the clouds above the city. The eight o’clock setting sun paints the horizon a stained orange glow. Sunlight reflects a green color into the Hudson River.

“We’re finally in the city,” says Abhi. He looks excited.

I take out my iPhone and start snapping random pictures: the skyline, the road ahead, the low rise buildings along the river, anything.

“We got to make a list of places we’re going to go,” I say.

“Think of some places,” says my brother.

“All the places I think up come from movies, tv shows and songs I’ve heard about the city.”

“We need to check out food spots,” says my brother.

We get off the bridge onto a highway that cuts through a tunnel and straight into the Bronx. A few miles down, my eye catches movement at the far roof of a brown run down building. Three figures sit beside each other, sitting against a marred billboard, knees against their chest. One wears a red hat. Black faces.

They’re kids. Looking out onto the George Washington bridge. Watching the mass of cars flowing in and out of their city. In the summer heat, they’re huddled as if shivering. Do they know they’re being seen? Pondered about from a mile’s eye?  What are they thinking?

My attention turns to the sights we pass by. Graffitied walls. Narrow alleys with cracked roads and dilapidated walls of shops. Dry cleaners, laundries, convenience stores that look like a rain made them droopy and decayed and leaky. Old posters of actors with eighties hairdos on windows of barbershops and cramped convenience stores. Old cars from the nineties parked with their heavy beaten bumpers scratching the sides of low curbs.

We leave the Bronx and get on a highway towards Long Island.

*             *             *             *             *

Rockville Centre, Long Island

The sun is dimmer.

“What do you think of the area?” says Abhi.

I stare out my window at cracked roads. I see a dreamcatcher hanging off a chainlink fence of a plot of residential townhomes. The civic pulls up to a curb just after the intersection of Malverne and Hempstead.  A row of stores; a Subway restaurant, Dunkin Donuts and some Cleaners.

“I got to take a leak,” says Abhi.

“Dunkin Donuts is everywhere. It’s like our Tim Horton’s. I wonder if there are any Timmies in New York,” I say.

He turns off the car, exits and goes into the Dunkin Donuts.

An African American woman comes out of the Subway Restaurant ahead of me. Three kids follow her. She wears blue scrubs. A hospital must be nearby. My brother’s hospital. She gets into an old model Lexus and drives away after moments of idling.

A beat down old Ford blaring heavy metal music cruises slowly by me. In the driver’s seat, I see a white man with dreadlocks bobbing his head, smoking a cigarette. A younger clean shaven white man hunched over, a bit more innocent looking, smiles at dreadlock dude, turning his head and saying something.

My brother returns moments later. We drive down Malverne.

“You didn’t buy anything?”  I say. “You just went in there and pissed.”

“There was a lineup. I slipped away unnoticed.”

At the intersection of Malverne and Merrick, we pass a grassy field of graves. No gravestones. Placks in the ground mark where the bodies lie, some with flowers, some with birds picking worms out from the grass. It stretches up a hill and I can’t see where it ends. A factory smokestack in the distance past it. Around us, chained fences. Private properties. Businesses in offices. Roads that intersected like confused worms in an orgy.

As we turn an intersection, I see five or six people crowding around a spot on the sidewalk. A white lady and a white man, both chubby and messy looking, seem upset and in a panic, talking loudly pointing fingers at each other as the others look on, arms crossed, heads shaking and on the ground near them, a complete and still body of white fur, unmoving, fur fluttering-.

The light turns green.

The engine kicks. My body turns. I look straight ahead. A feeling of dread settles in. I miss my dog.

Grow up, says a voice in my head. Sounds like my brother.

“Seems like a decent area,” he says.

*             *             *             *             *

545 Merrick Dr.

We pull into an apartment complex that is well lit. White stucco walls with square windows of a dark brown wood. Clean. It looks recently built.

We get out and stretch our legs. and walk around the front area of the complex.

“You’re expecting just a room? I think they’re giving you a whole apartment,” I say.

“Let me call the superintendent and let him know we’re here,” says Abhi.

Five minutes later, a large white Ford van pulls up in the parking spot in front of us. A fat middle-aged man, probably late forties, with sunken pink cheeks, wearing a grey superintendent’s uniform, emerges from the driver’s seat.

“Hey, how ya doin. Let me show guys the place.”

We shake hands. He talks in a New Yorkian accent. He walks past us. We follow him to apartment 201.

“Did they say anything about a monthly rate?” asks Abhi.

“I don’t know what the deal is you guys made, I just give you the key,” he says.

I look at my brother, a bit worried.

He unlocks the door. 201 opens to wooden stairs that we climb to a wide open living room and kitchen, fully furnished, couches, chairs, TV, Internet router, fridge, stove, microwave and cabinets. Deep brown wooden pantry doors. Clean white walls with no etch marks or imperfections. A hall with wooden flooring leads to two bedrooms and two bathrooms, wide and spacious and ready for people.

“Wow,” I whisper to myself.

“This is nice but I don’t think I’ll be able to afford this,” says Abhi.

The superintendent smiles and shrugs.

“Look guys, you’ve had a long drive and you probably want to just freshen up and not worry about all this. Take the apartment for the weekend. Enjoy yourself. Go see New York.”

My brother and I look at each other.

“Don’t worry about a thing,” the superintendent continues. “We’ll deal with everything Monday. Talk to Jill. There are some papers you need to fill out for the hospital and property. Take it to Anne. Just down the street in front of the hospital.”

A few moments pass as we look around.

“Internet and TV passwords are over on the table. As you can see, it’s fully furnished and ready. Where you guys coming from?”

“Toronto.”

“Toronto? Long drive.”

“Hospital owns this whole place?”

“Yup. Mostly hospital employees living in these units. About half and half. I had another unit open that was first floor and smaller but the air conditioning was fried so I put you in here.”

“This is place is amazing,” I say.

“How’d you like the city when you came through the freeway?”

“We couldn’t believe people had actually built it,” says Abhi.

“First time in New York? It’s called the Big Apple for a reason.”

“How do we get to the city?” asks Abhi.

“Yeah, you’re probably gonna wanna know that,” he chuckles. “Let’s see, you’re gonna wanna take the Long Island Express into Manhattan. Especially on Saturday, don’t drive down. You won’t find parking. Sunday you can drive down.

“Go to all the areas. Hey, don’t worry. New York is a safe place. I know you guys have seen all the stereotypes. Honestly, it’s a safe city. You can go anywhere.”
“What about the Bronx?” asks my brother, implying it’s a bad place.

“The Bronx? What’s in the Bronx?” for a second, I think he’s being sarcastic. He’s only just thinking about a place. “Check out the Bronx zoo, it’s amazing. You know, guys, I mean,” he waves his hands like he doesn’t know, “it depends on what you’re looking for, you want girls, I wouldn’t know about that stuff.”

We all chuckle.

“How long you here for?” he asks.

“Three months,” says my brother. “I’ll be doing a rotation at South Nassau Community Hospital.”

“See? Relax, you’re a doctor, you’ll be fine. You get the dough. Don’t worry about the rent. We’ll get that taken care of Monday. Just take it for the weekend. What kind of doctor?”

“Paediatrics.”

“Oh very cool. Nice. Man, good thing you guys came this year. Last year, Hurricane Sandy. Stirred up a shitstorm, excuse my language. Water came all the way up to here.”

“Where, here?” I ask.

“No, Rockaway beach. Oh yeah, you guys’ll probably wanna check out the water. It’s beautiful. Well, you’re probably tired and hungry. I’ma leave you to it. Freshen up, If you’re hungry, there’s a Bonbino’s Pizza round here. That’s where I’ll be going to get dinner.”

“Is this a bad area?” asks my brother as we walk the super out the front door.

He hesitates for a moment and then says quietly.

“Well, that’s up to you.”

We all chuckle.

“Haha yeah I’m gonna make it a bad area,” says my brother, sarcastically.

“Hey don’t talk tough, enjoy yourself. Welcome to New York. Follow the signs. ”

Ten minutes later, my brother and I sit in the living room. I speak.

“I bet this is a marketing ploy. They get you in here make you love it. And then you can’t say no. Business.”

“Dude relax. Stop thinking so negative.”

Stay positive.

___

Continued in part two, coming soon. Also coming soon, an exclusive song I produced while in New York

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Categories
Vignette Writing

Old Boy

By morning, the little light of the rising sun painted the room a dull monochromatic blue. And the sheets. And the carpet. And the rows of books stacked in rows of two on the dresser. On the cabinet. On the desk where the computer hummed sleeping. The yelp sounded from down the hall. The dog sat, dirty paws from the 4 AM call. He heaved, his pink tongue hung out and his belly gestated in and out. And his face, which used to be brown, was faded to a white, the color sucked away with time and worn out.

I heard his yelps that grew louder as I realized my own urge to urinate. And I got out of bed. And I went downstairs. And I opened the door. The damp, moist spring air. Chilled frost on the sliding windows. The morning light threw a dark monochromatic blue on the wooden fence of the backyard. The dog hopped out and down the steps into the grass. He trotted to the middle of the plot and stood wide. He urinated a stream that sprayed at parts. When he finished, he began to roam the frost-ridden grass, licking at leaves and drinking the muddy water accumulated at the slope of the backyard.

I slid the door closed and let him have his time. I poured myself a bowl of cereal, sat down and ate my early breakfast. He’d been asking to go out more frequently now. Sixteen years old for a dog is a milestone. Yesterday I dug out an old photograph from the dresser beside my bed. I put old relics and secrets in there. It was all the way at the bottom, past my high school student cards in which I still had baby fat in my cheeks and looked tubby. His photograph was nestled there all neat and tidy, unlike the mess of everything else.

There was so much color in his face back then. So much brown under his eyes and on his head. His muzzle looked soft and his snout still wet. I guess all things get worn out as they age.

I finished my cereal and put it in the sink, then heard the muffled yelp and let him in. He shook and shivered and then went to his carpet and before he sat down, he walked around on a spot in a circle a few times to find his groove and then nestled down and curled close to gather warmth. I sat on the sofa beside him and watched the clock. Momentarily he raised his head and panted heavily. I brushed my hand on his head and he nodded to acknowledge it then put his head back down and I waited again. A few minutes later he got up and went to his bowl and drank some water, taking pauses to take a breath and he drank some more.

I went to the sink and filled a glass of water and then I walked to his bowl and filled it up to the top. He drank half of it and then some more and went back and curled up next to the sofa that I sat on. Minutes passed and I lay down on the sofa. He eventually settled and when I heard slow and steady breathing, I got up and crept up the stairs to the bathroom and urinated.

*

In the evening, my parents were going off to someone’s marriage. All my peers were getting married. It was the thing to do. I suppose every age comes with an instruction booklet, every life with a checklist.

My father stood in the hallway, in between my brother and I. We were seated opposite each other, me on the stairs, my brother on a brown ottoman. I had a tired face on, one I put on because it was easy. My head in my hands. I had a lot of marking stacked on my desk upstairs.

“Why do you look like Devdas?” asked my father.

Devdas. He was referring to the tragic lover Devdas who died filled with unrequited love, who drunk his sorrows away. It was an Indian classical tale.

“Just tired.”

“Don’t be tired. You’re at a young age.”

Young people can’t get tired in the eyes of old people because every complaint out of their mouths is an insult to an old person wasted youth.

Then my father slapped my cheek lovingly with a wide smile.

“No matter how old you get, I’ll always love you like a child.”

I smiled and scratched the back of my head. My father went over and grabbed my brother’s right cheek and squeezed it. My brother pushed him away, embarrassingly.

“Stop it.”

My father stepped away and paced the hallway, a smile on his face, checking his clock. The light was dimming outside. Clouds were dispersed, the blue of the sky fading to darker navy. The light that shone into the living room was a monochromatic blue. The hallway was quiet. We all waited for my mother to finish her prayer and come downstairs so my parents could leave and their sons could close and lock the door.

My father spoke.

“This shirt, you know how old this shirt is?”

“How old?” I asked.

He turned his head and looked at the ceiling and thought, the thumb and index finger of his right hand squeezing the fabric of his brown dress jacket, savoring the feel.

“Ten years. I got it in 2002-2003. Eleven years now. Last time I wore it was a wedding. I forget who.”

“It’s too big on you now,” said my brother.

He turned and looked at my brother, a smug smile on his face, strutting on the spot.

“Guess how much I got it for?”

“What?”

“Guess.”

“I don’t know?”

“Guess.”

“Why don’t you just tell me?”

My father looked at the shirt and felt its fabric. The color was a dark brown. It didn’t look old at all. It looked neat and consistently pressed.

“Around two-hundred and thirty dollars. That was the original price. I bargained it though. They brought it down to one hundred and seventy. Plus there was a sale going on. Seventy percent off. I ended up paying, roughly, seventy something bucks for it.”

“Wow.”

“How many times have you worn it?” I asked.

“Not many,. It’s a good shirt. Good fabric,” he said.

My father called for my mother.

“What’s taking you so long? Do you want us to come up there and give you an aarti for you to come down? God!”

My mother came down eventually and my parents left for the wedding. I sat and watched some TV. I wasn’t going to work today. No.

In some ways, all things lose color over time. That’s a truth. Eventually we’re all just fossil fuels for future generations, preserving ourselves for a longer passage through time with, frequently changing how we value things when we lose the things we value, in order to value something else, in order to convince ourselves we’re content.

And it works.

Categories
An Evening of Sex and Romance Film Wordslingers Writing

A Long Hiatus (Jan 23rd)

Convergence – Jody Aberdeen

Mommy’s Little Playgroup – Lucianna LiSacchi

You may have noticed activity dropped on this blog from mid September until, well, now. At the time I was completing a teaching assignment at Louise Arbour Secondary School, an assignment with a very heavy  workload. In order to focus on the students, I had to stop productivity on this blog and my creative work. However, the teaching assignment was a lot of fun and a very rewarding and creative experience. I taught English and Global Studies. I designed some really cool assignments and activities. Best of all, I had some of the best students a teacher could want and I probably won’t be forgetting that experience until dementia hits at age eighty. I am now restarting this blog with a renewed perspective. Those students inspired me with the hope they saw in their future. This is going to be a great year because I plan on putting out a lot of new content in the fields of writing, music, photography and film.

So let’s get to business. First the blog has a new look, as you can already see.

Second…

On February 1st, my writer’s guild, Toronto Wordslingers, is having our first ever book launch, An Evening of Sex and Romance. This event will be happening at the Arta Gallery, in Toronto. It will commence at 7PM and tickets are on sale in various packages at this link here. The event will be celebrating the launches of debut novels by writers Jody Aberdeen and Lucianna LiSacchi. With a $50 purchase, you get admission for one and both books. With an $80 purchase, you get admission for two and two copies of both books.

In order to promote the event, I decided to use my film production skills and create two trailers for their books. Watch them above. If you’d like to simply purchase these books, there are links below.

Jody Aberdeen – Convergence PAPERBACK

Jody Aberdeen – Convergence eBook

Lucianna LiSacchi – Mommy’s Little Playgroup PAPERBACK

Lucianna LiSacchi – Mommy’s Little Playgroup eBook

Ashish

Categories
Photography

August 11, Aspirations

You regret not following your dreams and you want a shoulder to cry on. Well, you look real silly crying about nothing.

By Ashish Seth