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Excerpt: Chapter 11, Ticket to Ride

On assignment  for the New Yorker in Dublin, Livy has a chance “meeting” with a new band called U2 at Trinity College.

Pictures in grey, Dorian Grey, just me, by the sea. And I felt like a star, felt the world could go far, if they listened to what I say…” – U2

Trinity College. Old stone, arches, the Book of Kells, for a pound you can read it. Everything has a price. Music is streaming in through the corridors. Raw, but heartfelt. One o’clock, I’m late, where’s Hope in all this, crowds. The courtyard is full of hippie-ish kids, some with Mohawks and looking very down, all an extension of the Beat. Kerouac, dead in 1969. Didn’t know what he’d created.
“We’re U2 and we’re calling this one, sumthin’ like ‘Whatever happened to Pete the Chop.’” shouted the lead singer.
Like a little coal-miner he is. Coal-miner with blue eyes and soul. Awkward bunch.
“Thank you, don’t mention it… I’m pleased to meet you…” he sang.
Indeed. There’s Hope.
“Heya lovey.” Livy shouted.
Hope turned to the sound of her voice, stepped away from her contingent of all the contingents.
“Hey Liv, you mind if I call you Liv?”
“Glad you could make it. Aren’t they fuckin’ brilliant.”
“The little one’s like a sawed-off Morrison. Great sound.”
“You missed the first two but these are the best.”
“Come over with me and I’ll introduce ya to some of my friends. Might be a story here.”
“Not looking for stories at the moment. Just cruisin’’ really.”
“Just meet’em. They’re a good lot.”
“The singer keeps lookin’ at me.”
“Look back. Give’m the what for.”
Livy hung with Hope’s friends for awhile but with the volume of the music, they couldn’t speak much.
“Hope says you’re a writer.”
“Sort of.”
“With the fuckin’ New Yorker. I saw that ‘Livy on the Continent’ article. Right down on it girl, hardcore. Sort of, my ass.”
“Thanks love, but it’s really just the one so far.”
“I saw the other bits. Your core girl, core.”
Livy smiled and looked again to the stage. The singer smiled at her and said:
“This next one is for the auburn beauty at the back…
… 11’o’clock, tick tock… one two, three, four….
There was a barrage of guitar and drums. Livy could feel it coming up through her.
… it’s cold outside, it gets so hot in here. And the boys and girls collide to the music in my ears. I hear the children crying and I know it’s time to go…
… I hear the children crying, take meeee home…
Painted face, and I know we haven’t long… we thought that we had the answers, it was the questions we had wrong. I hear the children crying and I know it’s time to go… I hear the children… take me home. *
Livy’s knees went funny and she grabbed Hope by the arm and smiled.
“Seventies are about over.”

* from “11 o’clock tick tock” by U2, Island Records

In chapter 4 of book 2 Livy has come to a crossroads. Having written countless shorts for the New Yorker, she’s tired, frustrated and bored. As it seems she’ll never get a chance to write something of substance, she’s decided to go home and leave her fate in the hands of her friend and assistant editor, Ramie James. This is her lesson in letting go.

Like many of us, Livy realizes that sometimes there’s only so much one can do when attempting to better oneself. Through her letting go, Livy has a vision of what lies ahead.

(excerpt from chapter 4, book 2)

“Maybe I should go now?”

“Maybe you should Livy. The boss’ll give you a leave of absence, maybe even a stipend. You need to live a little. Thoreau’s “marrow” and all that. Bones and all. I’ll talk to him for you. Go home now and rest.”

Livy slunk off to the village. A rundown Brownstone in the heart of it. Late 70’s decrepit and worn. The buildings in it mirrored her soul, her disposition on a downturn. She turned the key into a turn-of-the-century flat. Flattened she felt, and dropped onto the couch. It’s soft and over worn cushions gave in to her weight, her auburn hair falling over her face. Around her was the memory of East Finchley; her mum’s favorite tea cozy, dusty lacy doilies, unopened letters from Hermione, tea cups and toffee, crowded on the table that once stood in her parents home. She’d let it all back in; stuff from home. Just like the whole crowd who’d faded with the passing of the Beatles. Crawling back into familiarity as unsavory as it was. The comfortable cloak of the past was becoming like a choke chain, like a little sister’s knickers, pinching.

She grimaced then squinted, felt heavy and anxious all at once, took in a deep breath, closed her eyes. A ray of sun from the window hit her left eye as it closed and sparkled, a flash then gone. With a little luck. 5 p.m.

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by philip scott wikel

My roommate keeps telling me to avoid getting political on my blog. It seems he feels that I should try to maintain a sort of sterile position when it comes to writing and that I should keep my focus on the “writing process.” The first problem is: I don’t have much in the way of a traditional writing process. I’m something of a channeler and get struck by the lightning of inspiration randomly and wake to find I’ve completed a couple of chapters. There’s nothing much interesting in that, is there? The second problem is: Ticket to Ride is a very political book, especially when you look at George Orwell’s definition of political as it pertains to writing:

“Using the word ‘political’ in the widest possible sense. Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other peoples’ idea of the kind of society that they should strive after. Once again, no book is genuinely free from political bias. The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.”

And yes, I realize Orwell wrote this quite a while ago and perhaps I should be looking to more contemporary writers for my inspiration (my roommate also feels I’m a bit behind the times). However, I see myself as decidedly old-fashioned and enjoy being such. I like the “old masters,” if you will, and find little in this post, post-modern (maybe it’s three “posts” now) world that suits me. Whatever age or era we’re in right now I like to find my grounding in the solid conviction of our past “masters.” For me they’re like happy grandfathers; full of good, time-tested advice, and even better stories.

My own grandfather, Philip Moser, was quite a mover back in the early days of the Union Movement and believed very strongly in the nobility of the working man. It is with him in mind that I wrote the following passage.

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by philip scott wikel

You may or may not have noticed that one of my greatest concerns at the moment is the state of literacy in the US. For some strange reason some of my blog readers are making the assumption that I’m publishing information about illiteracy because my book sales have been less than great. To this I ask: Is it really that hard for you to believe that I might actually care about something more than book sales? If so, perhaps I’ve failed as a writer and as a person.

Mind you, none of this is new to me. I’ve been second-guessed quite a bit in my life and strangely enough it usually comes from people who hardly know me. These folks seem to enjoy making up their own reasons why I do what I do, say what I say, or publish what I publish. This is not a complaint, it’s merely a statement of fact.

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In Chapter 15 of Ticket to Ride, Morgan finds himself in the town of Lagos, Portugal; frustrated in his search for beauty and truth:

“Once, I wandered around the entire diameter of the town trying to picture it when all that existed was the part of it contained within the old walls; very insular and very much counter to modern sprawl. The new architecture outside of the center was some bastardized, watered down, low-budget version of true workmanship.”

“You just shouldn’t f___ with perfection,” I said to a couple of tourists, snapping away with their camera, she, in a flowery summer dress and a floppy hat and he, in loose trousers, a sport shirt and loafers.

They looked startled, as if I’d woken them up.

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Intro to an excerpt from Chapter 14 of Ticket to Ride

It’s now the spring of 1979 and Livy’s editor has sent her to San Diego to meet with a bunch of surfers for a trip to Cabo San Lucas. Livy has never gone surfing and knows next to nothing about the sport or it’s culture. While on this trip Livy falls in love with the sport and gives us a unique view of the surfing lifestyle and its devotees.

What I’ve tried to do here is to present the world of surfing as realistically and as truthfully as possible. Livy’s experience is informed by the exuberance of Jack London’s introduction to surfing at Waikiki in the early 20th century and is tempered by what I like to think of as Duke Kahanamoku’s vision of the ideal surfer and waterman. Duke was born just outside of Waikiki and, as part of the US Olympic swimming team, won gold in the 1912 and 1920 Olympics, and silver in 1924. He is considered the greatest of the godfathers of surfing and was responsible for introducing the sport to the US and Australia. His integrity and kindness made him a friend to many.

From Chapter 14, Ticket to Ride

In her journal Livy writes:

It’s amazing how quickly you come to know people on the road. The Aussies are three of the coolest people any of us have ever met. Even Rob has warmed to them. They have an uncanny ability to stay in the moment. All of them left their jobs before coming here and haven’t a worry about what lies ahead. They’re here for two months and reside within each minute of the day as if it were made for them. Next to them we, Americans and Britons, seem like worrisome old ladies.

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In the following excerpt (from Chapter 9 of Ticket to Ride), having earlier described Morgan Blake, my male protagonist, as something of a philosopher and intellectual, I wanted to show a completely different side of him; the side connected to the ocean and the natural world. It’s important to me that he have this connection because a “life of the mind,” as it’s known in intellectual circles, must be balanced with a connection to the natural world. Otherwise we are all mind and no heart.

After Chapter 9, Morgan slips into a solitary life of the mind and spends the rest of the book in search of his heart. I hope you will enjoy this bit and I welcome any commentary you might have.

The Ticket to Ride Giveaway question of the week is:

At what bus stop did Paul McCartney and John Lennon meet for band practice in the early days of the Beatles? The person with the winning answer (posted on my blog as a comment) will receive a free book.

[From Chapter 9 of Ticket to Ride]

By the time an approaching squall had moved as close as the outer reefs Morgan had caught several waves and then decided that it was best to go in before the storm hit. Beyond the outer reefs the ocean had become a choppy white froth. However, close to shore there was a lull in the, until now, consistent sets of waves. Morgan waited patiently, feeling warm, clean, and clear. Then came another set of waves. He paddled over the first two and caught the third, knowing it would be the best of the set. It rose about two feet overhead as he dropped in. He stalled at the bottom, shifting his weight to the rear of his surfboard, and slipped slowly into the curl. He then stepped slightly forward and found perfect trim on the bending face of the wave. It folded over his head as he crouched, and he could hear the internal echo, sounding like the gushing of the primordial soup. From the beach it looked as if he had disappeared, and for a moment, the ocean seemed to embrace him.

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This poem came to me a few days after 9/11. It was originally part of a short story called “Love Among the Anthrax.” It’s now part of Ticket to Ride. It’s about coming together to achieve common goals. Which goals are up to you.

schematic of all things

by philip scott wikel

I think myself not superior,
but apart,
or better,
and at the same time,
a part.
I think of the things I do as not greater,
but lesser,
at least,
of less apparent impact.
I will not shine in your eyes erudition
on the subject
but instead give you a dim view.
And it’s the you of this that must be figured,
you figure,
and I’ll do the same and am doing the same.
because the definitions are that grey;
the sea joins the sky on a day heavy with fog,
that we must do so together. Read the rest of this entry »

Intro to Here We Are Now, chapter five:

In Here We Are Now (the sequel to Ticket to Ride) I present a very conflicted character, Dylan Blake, who, for me, represents the 90s generation and the fractured and splintered psyche of the collective consciousness of the post 9/11 world.

In the book, Dylan Blake is a kid who enjoyed an idyllic childhood and is trying to make sense of what the world has become. This particular chapter is a remembrance of his childhood. From these very innocent beginnings Dylan struggles to reconcile the “reality” he is faced with.

In simple terms this is also just an Easter story, but one that I hope many of you have known in your own lives. 

Here We Are Now will be available at the beginning of next year (2011).  

Note: I may not be making any more posts this week. In the case that this is the last of the week, I wish you a very Happy Easter. I’ll miss our “conversation” but I look forward to next week and meeting with you again here next Monday. Thanks for reading and, as always, your comments are welcome.

Chapter Five

… when I was young and full of grace, spirited, a rattlesnake…

- REM, Life’s Rich pageant

Dylan enjoyed writing poetry. This was a strong connection between he and his parents, but his true love was baseball. Since the age of 7 he’d wanted nothing more than to be the next Babe Ruth, the Big Bambino, the Sultan of Swat, the King of Crash. His grandfather loved baseball too and Dylan wished grandpa Felix had never had to die. The year after Dylan was born, his parents, Morgan and Olivia, had moved to a town in upstate New York. For them it was convenient to the city. For Grandpa it was like visiting Mecca because of the horsetrack and it’s glory of being the home of the Hambletonian. For Dylan, upstate was a vast unexplored wilderness of pine trees, rivers, lakes and rolling pasture land.   Read the rest of this entry »

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