Archive for the ‘Million Mile Road Trip’ Category

“Surf World”

This is a partial draft of a chapter named “Surf World,” from my novel in progress, Million Mile Road Trip, which will appear in late 2016 or in 2017. It’s in some ways inspired by the surfin’ SF stories I’ve written with Marc Laidlaw. See, for instance, our recent “Water Girl.”

Mount Shasta seen on a road trip in 2014…a moment that inspired this novel.

The cast of characters in “Surf World”: Villy and Zoe are on the point of graduating from high-school in Los Perros, Califorina. But they’ve left town for a road trip. A road trip across the worlds of a parallel universe. Their companions are a pair of “Szep” aliens named Pinchley and Yampa. Villy’s tenth-grade kid brother Scud has come along.

And now they’re entering a zone called Surf World.

“Endless Road Trip” oil on canvas, Sept, 2014, 30” x 24”. Includes images of my alien characters Pinchley and Yampa. Click for a larger version of the painting.

The Surf World light is a honeyed gold, like the light you get in Santa Cruz an hour before sunset. But as for the surf—maybe the waves are bigger than Villy realized before. Hard to judge, with their shapes so strange. And there’s no consistent flow. The waves go every which way, surging through each other, with no apparent regard for physical law. Staring at them does something unpleasant to Villy’s head and, in the weirdness of the moment, everything seems small and overly animated. Like he’s looking through binoculars the wrong way.

“Too gnarly?” asks Pinchley, waggling his lower jaw in an open-mouthed Szep grin. “You know what’s with them waves? They alive.”

“You mean ‘alive’ in the broad, stoner sense that everything is alive?” says Villy, trying to sound all ironic and calm.

“Alive in the sense that the Surf World ocean is ten percent smeel,” says Pinchley. “A brimming cocktail of consciousness, bro. Pure trippiness unmodified.”

It’s not remotely like anything he’s ever seen. The waves really are alive. Quirky, willful, and no two of them the same. Shape, shade, speed, size—everything’s up for alteration. The waves do what they want.

They’re driving a highly modified station wagon which they call the purple whale. They’ve equipped it with enormous paddle-wheel tires, and with a waterproof dark-energy engine. Pinchley issues his considered advice about how to launch the purple whale into massively chaotic wrong-way surf.

“Bomb on in there like you’re crazy and high.”

Four Mile Beach

Yeek!” says Zoe, getting into it. She revs the dark energy engine to the max and rockets into the sea. Almost immediately, a massive pup-tent wave blindsides the car. Like it’s a rival skater in a roller derby. Zoe stays cool. She keeps the wheels churning, turns the steering wheel, and maneuvers them through a stretch of puffballs and onto the backside of a monstrous comber that’s rolling away from the shore.

“When you get to the top, drop and ride,” counsels Villy.

And, yes, Zoe makes it up the back of the hundred-foot wave, teeters on the lip, and then drops onto the tube’s clean, smooth face. She idles the engine and the purple whale begins endlessly to skim along the self-renewing hill of water. It’s like riding a titan at Mavericks. Sweet.

It’s calm for awhile—the big wave is swallowing everything it hits, sweeping a path through the living sea. The greens and blues of the sea are beautiful in Surf World’s golden light. The whale rides the wave for nearly an hour. According to the car’s altered speedometer, they’re moving at four hundred miles an hour.

Blub, blub, bloo!” yells Scud. He’s got his window wide open, and he’s hanging out like a tongue-lolling dog on a car trip. “Here comes a pyramid covered with rice paddies?”

Yes, it’s an Incan ziggurat made of smeely seawater, a water-pyramid with stairstep escalators for its sides. Three times as high as the enormous comber and moving twice as fast. As it angles into their big wave, vicious eddies swirl towards the purple whale. The water’s surface is, like, pocked.

Skillful Zoe adjust their car’s rudder and uses the gas, speeding up and slowing down, and then—behold. She’s maneuvered them off their disintegrating pipeline and onto the rising terraces of the epic ziggurat.

“Ride the terraces to the peak,” Villy advises Zoe,. “Then gun it down the other side.”

Gravedigger monster truck, Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina.

“What a way to die, huh?” says Zoe, shooting him the briefest of glances over he shoulder. A pert smile. Okay, fine, Zoe’s not suicidal, but she does have a reckless side. Why else would she hang with Villy?

“Ready to surf?” Yampa asks Villy. “We’ll climb on the roof and mount our boards.”

“Not yet,” says Villy. “Too blown-out. Let’s wait for those giant walls we saw. Archetypal surf.”

The ziggurat is picking up speed, swallowing up a platoon of mammoth comber waves. Cathedral-sized pup-tent waves spawn off of these collisions and come pinballing up the pyramid’s terraced steps.

“Rock it, Zoe,” says Pinchley, “By the way, y’all, we’re flat-out unsinkable with these fatso tires. But a wave could wash a dumb-ass out one of these windows. If they was greenhorn enough to have it open and to be leanin out in a situation like this. Talkin to you, Scud.” Pinchley says the name like, “Scuuuuud.” He’s steadily amusing himself with his Southern accent routine.

Scud closes his window just in time. When they get to the top of the ziggurat, it turns out the very highest level—the square on the tippy-top—well, it’s a hole, an insane horror-movie elevator shaft running down into the dim, churning core the vast ziggurat’s metabolism.

Yeek!” yells Zoe once again. She floors the gas and the responsive dark-energy engine screams. Tires spinning like buzz saws, they rocket into the air and—arcing across the fearsome hole. And nosedive into one of the blocky pyramid’s square terraces, where they spend a full two minutes underwater, tumbling in the complex currents. When they bob back up, they’re on that same ziggurat terrace—or maybe it’s another one—bur for sure they’re descending towards sea level at a steady pace.

Various waves are moving into the smeel-rich waters around the drifting purple whale. Combers, pup-tents, puffballs, ziggurats and—

“A giant corkscrew?” says Zoe. “Like a big drill spinning through the water. Only the drill itself is made of water, too?”

“Catch it!” says Pinchley. “Those twisty suckers can carry you a thousand miles express. Get up to speed, Zoe, and edge onto it while its passing.”

“Yah, mon,” goes Zoe. “I have the whim-whams.”

The corkscrew wave is a helix of of curved, sloping faces, one behind the other, with each face rising out of the sea on the left, and arcing down on the right. A wave-train many miles long. The successive faces are linked by powerful underwater currents. A low bulge runs down the axis of the corkscrew, like the shaft of a ship’s propeller. Zoe has a little trouble getting the whale into a stable position on one of the blades. More than a little. At one point the car is totally submerged—tumbling ass over teakettle like a surfer in a wipe-out, and everyone screaming at once.

Villy and Scud are itching to take over, but Zoe persists. Eventually she finds a sweet spot where the car is endlessly sliding down a glassy face whose vortical motion is lifting then as fast as they descend. Like running on a treadmill. For the moment they don’t need the paddlewheels at all.

“Ready to surf?” says Yampa, leaning right into Villy’s face. She smells like curry and gasoline.


Buk buk squawk,” goes Yampa. Her notion of imitating a chicken.

“Look out there way ahead,” says Villy. “Those giant moving walls. They’re the waves we’ll ride. Zoe will tow us in.”

“Yaar,” says Yampa, parroting Villy. “Make tow ropes for us, Pinchley!”

Surf Pilgrim

Pinchley produces his green spider, and the indefatigable tool critter spins out a pair of lines that Pinchley rolls into two coils, each with a spider-woven tow-handle on one end.

“Need foot straps, too,” says Villy.

Pinchley’s tire-making marker bird pops his head out of the tool-belt and coughs out four fine, padded foot straps with sticky, fractalized ends. Easily on par with the finest tow-board straps that Da Kine makes.

“Tree of Life” oil on canvas, February, 2015, 40” x 30”. Click for a larger version of the painting.

They’re coming up on the big waves very fast. The first one seems to fill the entire horizon. It’s moving away from them. But the long line of the corkscrew wave is faster. Up ahead of them, the corkscrew wave has already drilled through the great sheet. Like a tunnel in a cliff. The surfers will jump into the water before the wall-wave, and the car will ride the corkscrew through it.

“That wall leans backwards a little,” observes Villy. “Towards us. And the top leans forward. Like a long S.”

“Or like an integral sign,” says Scud.

Oooo, math!” says Zoe in mock merriment that’s close to a scream.

“That integral wave is gonna to have a tube on the front,” says Villy. “Up at the top, where it curves over. We’ll shoot that tube, right Yampa? Mucho Goob-goob in there.”

“Tree of Life” oil on canvas, February, 2015, 40” x 30”. Click for a larger version of the painting.

“Yah, mon.” Yampa tosses the two loops of spider rope over her shoulder and grabs the four foot straps with one of her complex hands. She gives Pinchley a hug and opens her window. With surprising nimbleness, she crawls onto the roof of the car. Meanwhile Zoe’s holding a steady course on the slope of the corkscrew wave. Only minutes till they pass through the wall wave’s base.

“So, uh, goodbye for now,” Villy tells Zoe. “Right before you punch through the wave, be sure to veer. So you, like, slingshot us?”

“You’ll fall right back off that big wave. It tilts the wrong way. You just said so.”

“It’ll have a flow to it,” says Villy, hoping this is true. “And a stickiness to it. It’ll lift us up. We’ll be like water-striders.”

“Don’t go.”

“It’ll work, Zoe. The waves are alive, Like Scud said. They want to play.”

“How will we find each other afterwards?” says Zoe, flicking her eyes back and forth between Villy and the wall-wave.

“No sweat,” says Pinchley. “Yampa and Villy ride the gigundo wobbler as far as they can. Zoe and the rest of us ride the corkscrew to shore. And we meet at the Flatsies’ village. Beach party.”

“I’ll be able to locate everyone with my teep,” says Scud.

“And if there’s a prob, the gingerbread men surf out and round us up,” says Pinchley. “The Flatsies are really slick on these smeely waves.”

Villy begins levering himself out his window. He takes one last look at Zoe. And he sees stark sorrow on her face.

“Hey,” says Villy softly. “I’m gonna shred. And then we’ll camp together again.”

“If only,” says Zoe. Her hair flutters in the wind. She fastens her eyes on his. “My dear Villy.”

Before he can properly answer, Yampa grabs his hand and yanks him onto the roof. She’s stronger than she looks. And more organized. She’s already attached the straps to the boards and she’s tied the two tow lines to the whale’s roof rack. The big wall is coming up fast.

Scud leans out the window for a last look at his brother. “Good luck,” he says.

Villy snugs his feet into his foot straps, grabs one of the spider-woven tow handles and—yeek—he hops off the tilting roof of the car.

He’s going so fast that the water hisses when he lands. He hunches and sways, finding his balance. And then he’s tobogganing down the steep, helical pitch of the corkscrew wave. He hears a shrill, exultant cry behind him. Yampa’s with him.

Even in this tense moment, the Surf World light makes everything look mellow. Nostalgic almost. Like the scene is something he’s remembering. Glancing down at his feet, Villy notices that a sizable teep slug has affixed itself to his ankle. An orange little nudibranch with a cluster of lavender feelers at one end. Fine. It’ll heighten his awareness.

The plan is to angle out to the side and hope Zoe can sling them onto the big wall. The supernal wave is making a creepy sound— a deep, endless roar, like the soundtrack in a horror film just before a hideous ghoul appears. Villy is definitely sensing teep from the waves. The corkscrew is purposeful, gleeful, happy about drilling through the immense wall. As for the wall itself—it’s chanting a single cosmic Om—or something like that—a sacred syllable with no beginning and no end. And under that is—not exactly contempt, no, it’s more like the wall-wave is mildly amused. Like a woman noticing two tiny ants on her nail-polished toe. Ants with nearly invisible antennae.

Focus, Villy! Hold the handle tight!

And just as he thinks that, zonng, the slack plays out and the tow rope is like a steel cable, with drops of water flying off it. Villy clings to the tow-bar for all he’s worth. It feels like it’s pulling his arms from his sockets

He catches a glimpse of Zoe’s pale, determined face glancing back at them from the car up ahead. He can’t wave, but he nods. Zoe puts the hammer down, she accelerates down the corkscrew’s slope, veering away from the corkscrew’s axis. In her wake, Villy and Yampa sluice up great fountains of water.

And now he surfers are at the edge of the helical wave—a sharp cusp, woven from a thousand flow lines. Villy bends his knees and jumps. Sails through the air for maybe a hundred yards, then slaps down and goes skimming across the eerily calm patch before the sky-high water wall. It’s not quite level, no, it’s sloping a little. Meanwhile, Zoe arcs further out from the corkscrew, then speeds back. Villy’s going faster than he thought possible. When to release the tow bar? All his thinking is in his arms and legs.

The moment comes and goes. Villy’s on his own. It’s hard to see, with the spray in his eyes, but the teep is helping. Come to me, says the mighty wave. Villy crouches low, cutting his wind resistance. He feels a rapid chatter of pulses from his board skimming across the washboard surface, and he hears the sound echoed from Yampa’s board. And then—thank you—they’re on the all but vertical face of the horror-movie Om wave and, yes, it has a flow to it, and they’re sticking to it, and it’s raising Villy up and up and up. Like a woman lifting a child.

Far below, Zoe and the purple whale disappear through the rumbling cliff of water.

Saucerpeople and Smeely Waves

I’m working a lot on my novel Million Mile Road Trip these days. It’s about half done, and I started last January, eight months ago, so I might finish it June, 2016.

I did revisions for most of August, making the plot much clearer and more focused. And now I have an elevator pitch.

Three teens on a million mile road trip across a landscape of alien civilizations. Goal? Stop the flying saucers from invading Earth. And learn about life and love.

“Saucerpeople” oil on canvas, Sept, 2015, 24” x 18”. Click for a larger version of the painting.

The saucers in my novel are living organisms, meaty flying things. And *eeeek* it is in principle for a female saucer to fertilize her seeds with human DNA. They can get the DNA just by kissing a boy—I’m holding back from full-on sex between men and saucers.

So a saucer gets pregnant from a man or boy, lays some fertilized eggs, hatches them…and you get saucerpeople, as shown above! The have saucer-like rims around their waists, and they can fly.

I’m looking forward to writing some scenes with these guys. My plan had been to postpone them till later in the book but—why hoard the treats? Maybe I can work a saucerperson into the chapter I’m working on right now, “Surf World.”

The Surf World basin is edged with high, crumbly cliffs and a wide beach. And from there on out, it’s nothing but ocean. With insane, unnatural surf. Huge glassy combers, lively little pup tents scooting off at angles, and—weirdly enough—giant staircases and glassy pyramids. All made of water. Way out to sea are some waves like mile-high walls, thin and wobbly, steaming along like express trains. Most of the waves are heading away from the shore, and out to sea—which is kind of scary and strange. Catch one of those suckers, and you’re not coming back.

I’ve written several SF stories about surfing with Marc Laidlaw. And recently I was inspired by a big wave on the so-called “Miller’s world” in the movie Interstellar. Generally I feel that you shouldn’t model your novel’s kicks on things you saw at the movies. But that Miller’s world wave made a big impression on me. Terrified me, sitting in the movie theater.

I looked online and found the movie’s consulting physicist Kip Thorne’s ideas about the wave, lifted from his interesting book, The Physics of Interstellar. His explanation is way more complicated than I expected. No surprise, as Thorne is a brilliant physicist—I first encountered his work in the 1973 nonfiction tome Gravitation, by Kip Thorne, John Wheeler, and Charles Misner, a book that was heavy in every sense of the world—and which had a big influence on my SF and science writing.

Thorne’s line is that Miller’s world is “tidally locked” to a supermassive black hole that it’s orbiting—locked means that it rotates in synch with the orbit so that the same side is always facing the central black hole. (Our moon is tidally locked to Earth, and thus we always see the same face of the moon.)

Using “tidal” in a different sense, note that the tides on a planet are in fact bulges that are taffy-pulled up by the gravity of the sun (or black hole) that they orbit. And there’s one tidal bulge on each side of the planet. And (handwaving a bit) given that the black hole’s gravity is so extreme, the tidal bulges might be a mile high and only a hundred meters thick. But if the planet is tidally locked (tidal in the other sense now), then that tidal bulge won’t be moving relative to the planet’s surface. It’s static.

So now Thorne adds the assumption that Miller’s world is nearly locked into position, but it does wobble a bit back and forth, like maybe an hour per wobble. And as it wobbles, the giant wave-wall sweeps back and forth like a windshield wiper. The ocean sloshes, you might say. And this would explain how one of those waves might rush in either direction…including away from the shore.

But…I don’t want to get into explanations like this. Too classroom. I always hated doing Physics homework in college and, truth be told, I wasn’t good at it. No, I don’t want my rubber science to be off-the-shelf physics-homework science. I want insane bullshit that nobody’s ever heard of. Also it’s my sense that biotech, hylozoism, and the philosophy of computation are more interesting these days than old school general relativity.

So, okay, in Million Mile Road Trip, I have this stuff that I call smeel. It’s like an aethereal fluid that “is” consciousness. Smeel is the numeniferous aether, if you will—given that “numen” is Latin for “divine essence” or “magical power” or even “soul.”

As it happens, flying saucers like to vampirically leech smeel from us. They drink your smeel, and then you’re like a like a zombie. Note, by the way, that those sacuerpeople I talked about earlier are not necessarily down with the evil smeel-leeching of the mainstream saucers. Indeed some of the saucerpeople are going to serve as double agents to help my teen heroes avert the impending Invasion of the Saucers!

Anyway, it occurred to me that I can pep up the waves in my planet-sized Surf World sea by saying that the sea happens to be ten percent smeel. Not just water. And because of all this smeel, the waves are conscious and alive.

The smeel makes the waves playful. They race each other across the ocean. They pile way up on the far side, and then they race back. They take on shapes like staircases. It’s a totally surreal Mandelbrotian landscape. My character Villy gets lost and a friendly saucerperson shows up and guides him to his girlfriend Zoe and the rest of his gang.

In using smeel to animate the waves, I’m reprising an idea that Marc Laidlaw and I used in our latest surfing SF story, “Water Girl” — which appeared in Asimov’s in August, 2014, featuring, as usual, our characters Zep and Del.

Like why should I copy a Hollywood movie? Better to copy a story by Rucker and Laidlaw!

In “Water Girl,” it’s a substance called quantum aether that gives the waves consciousness. And the waves are alive, running their mental processes off quantum computations. The mad scientist in our story wrote a paper called “The Quantum-Aethereal Animation of Physical Fluids.” Here’s an extract from that story that I plan to draw on.

Stink Bay was teeming with small, erratic waves, three to five-footers … astir with frolicking shapes, powerful energetic forms that cut through the water like—well, like other water. Waves peaked from the flat surface, curled and gathered a bit of foam at their crests while cupping blue-green darkness at their long tubular hearts. The waves travelled without breaking, moving straight toward the shore then peeling away at clever angles, gouging divots out of the mud and sand. Small forms glided alongside the larger ones, and the “calves” word clicked for Del. The little waves reminded him of whale calves at play near a mother whale…The anomalous hump in the water began gliding towards the Pipeline, a shape like you’d see if something were swimming below the surface. The calf waves were herding…Zep and Del in the thing’s wake, pushing them out towards the unquiet open sea.

Squiddy detail of a painting by Robert “El Rey Magnifico” Williams.

Changing the subject again, shown below is a painful painting I did in August. I won’t go into great detail, but suffice it to say that I may need to get a “revision” operation on an artificial hip implant. It’s situationally depressing. In doing the painting below, I was doing kind of a Frida Kahlo routine—she used to do paintings of herself getting operations. If you do a painting like that it makes you feel better. And at least you’re getting some art out of your bad experience.

“X-Ray of Failed Hip Implant” oil on canvas, Aug, 2015, 18” x 24”. Click for a larger version of the painting.

Flickering flames of pain. I’m glad to be able to paint about it, and I’m glad I have a novel to work on. Writing takes my mind of any worries and cheers me up. It’s soothing to retreat into my own little worlds. Away from so-called reality. “No news is good news.”

Outer Banks & New York #1.

My wife and I went to reunion with all our children and grandchildren at a rented house in Corolla on the Outer Banks of North Carolina for a week, and then we we two went alone to New York city for a week. So I’ll be posting some photos of all that.

[Tail of a Lego-built dragon in New York Lego store.]

Before I get going on the trip pix, I want to mention that on the plane, on our way home, I watched the movie Chappie, which I didn’t manage to see when it came out earlier this year. For some reason the reviews were fairly lukewarm, but I thought it was great.

Chappie is a real cyberpunk robot—he’s got graffiti on his body, he wears chains, he bops when he walks, he curses, he robs an armored car, he beats a militaristic paramilitary guy to death, and he saves the life of his maker. How? He saves his maker’s life by uploading the man’s consciousness into a robot body.

Just like my robot character Ralph Numbers did for his maker Cobb Anderson in my 1980 novel Software.

I know I’ve said this before, but the uploading-human-mind-to-robot-body is something that I frikkin’ invented—in Software, and I elaborated it in all four of my Ware novels, which you can still buy in paperback or ebook (and you can also read it for free in a CC edition.)

I don’t know why I never seem to get much credit for inventing this move, which has been in, like, two hundred movies by now. It’s not like it was an obvious idea when I wrote about it, anymore than a time machine was an obvious idea when H.G.Wells wrote The Time Machine. It took me nearly a year to really figure out the idea, simple as it now seems. I was studying the philosophy of computation at the University of Heidelberg, reading and pondering the essays of Alan Turing and Kurt Gödel. It’s some serious shit. But I chose to present it in cyberpunk format. So no po-faced serious analytic type high literary mandarins are ever gonna take my work seriously. At least not till I die. Or maybe not even then—posthumous recognition is a classic writer’s pipedream, and WTF diff would it make anyway. Rant, rant, rant, rave, rave, rave. Am I eighty years old yet? Move over, Harlan.

The Outer Banks is a long thin island, or group of islands, running long the coast of North Carolina. Back around 1975, Sylvia and I used to drive down there from Geneseo, NY, where I had my first teaching job. Us and the three kids. The Outer Banks were sparsely built then, and we stayed a couple of times in 1940s vintage motel, plywood shacks with linoleum floor, right on the all-but-empty beach, the Lamplighter Inn. Paradise. Those wheat-like plants atop the sunset dune in this photo are called sea oats.

Dig this treasure hunter, just a guy on the beach, not somebody I know. Our son Rudy was very keen to get one of these devices when he was about ten. Mostly he found cans.

Kites are still big here. Lovely to see them at sunset, and sometimes with a crescent moon.

Anyway, the OBX (as they now term the Outer Banks) are fully built-up now, the coast lined with developments of McMansion style beach cottages. We were there as a party of 14, and we got a three story house with a pool and an elevator and a movie room, and the rent was about fifty times as high as that of the long-gone Lamplighter.

But it was great to be with the children and grandchildren, and the ocean was very swimmable—not too cold, and the waves not too big—and there were some good shells.

As the jesting fates would have it, there was a huge OBX shark scare in progress when we arrived. Initially we were nervous, but when I didn’t get bitten in the first ten minutes, I pretty much stopped worrying. The human mind’s risk assessment. Anyway the closest shark attacks had been about a hundred miles away, down in Ocracoke. We were all the way up north in Corolla.

The crabs didn’t eat us…we ate the crabs. A bushel of crabs. What a concept. What if someone snuck in while you were sleeping, and poured this many live crabs onto you in bed? There’s a Grimm Brothers fairy tale along these lines, about a boy who couldn’t feel fear, and he learns when someone dumps a bunch of fish on him in bed like that.

One of the fun attractions on the way down was the home of the monster truck known as Grave Digger. Lots of earlier versions of Grave Digger on display here in Grave Digger Garage. In yo’ face, mofo! My grandchildren are endlessly fascinated by YouTube videos of Grave Digger in action, accompanied by the Grave Digger theme song, George Thorogood and the Destroyers playing “Bad to the Bone.”

Plus the original ur-Grave-Digger prototype vehicle, an awesome sight, like seeing the first fish with legs. Or like seeing the Wright Brothers’ original plane. One reason I’m so interested in these vehicles is that my characters in my novel-in-progress Million Mile Road Trip are driving a station wagon that’s been tweaked into something like a monster truck.

At the beach we saw a lot of awesome clouds. Imagine if there were only a few places on Earth where you can see clouds. How you’d value them. And yet we tend to ignore them, take them for granted, or even gripe about them.

We saw a thunderstorm or two as well. I loved this bright white puff beneath a vast dark anvil. So invigorating to see rain, if you’re a Californian.

Speaking of rain, I cranked my awesome Fujifilm X100T digital camera down to 1/2000 sec exposure time, turned on the flash, and got some shots of raindrops in a storm outside our 10th floor room in Manhattan the next week. That’s not rain on the window pane, you understand, that’s raindrops falling in midair, frozen (more or less) in flight by the magic of postmodern photography.

Here’s another shot of the raindrops, I took this picture about ten times in a row, trying to get it right. Surprise: raindrops do not look like cartoon teardrops. They’re wobbly globs, although, yes, it seems the larger ones are indeed fatter on one side.

After I finished shooting the raindrops in New York, I took a shot of the building facing us across 41st Street, and later, when I examined the photo, I had this Antonioni Blow-Up type discovery that a man in an office across the street was staring at me, probably wondering what I was doing taking flash pictures out my window.

My camera has a fixed wide-angle lens, and really high resolution, and I was able to zoom in on previously unnoticed details in a lot of my Ney York shots. Like here I’m in the lobby of the Chrysler Building, taking a picture of a weird pseudo-digital Deco clock labeled “TIME” in case you don’t know what a digital clock is (and who did, back in the 1930s). And a guard is looking out at me from a door in the wall, smiling, like the friendly bird inside the cuckoo clock, and I didn’t even know he was there.

Another cropped-down zoom photo from NY: a chic woman among the marching ants in a crosswalk at 41st and Madison, which is where our hotel was.

Such awesome people-watching in the big city. We saw this woman at the new Whitney Museum, down on the old meat-packing district. Awesome building, same old collection, but with more of it on display than before.

I’ve never been sure if I liked Willem de Kooning, but I saw a kind of landscape by him called Door to the River, and it really knocked me out. There’s something about it, maybe hard to see in a reproduction or a tiny computer screen image, it’s like the painting captures the glancing quality of light, the way that when you look at something you see patches of brightness and glare even before you overlay your notion of what it “is.” And the title “Door to the River” is kind of uplifting, I mean that’s what we’re always looking for, right, a magic DOOR to the river of LIFE. And, while we’re at it, a frikkin plot for our novels.

As chance would have it, right while I was standing there admiring this painting, my very favorite of that day’s visit to the Whitney, a woman my age walks over to me and says, “Looking at this painting, I’ve finally decided for once and for all that de Kooning was a fake.” I tried to disabuse her of her errorneous opinion, with little effect. Oh well!

Yet another street-photograph of a New Yorker. Note the big fan. It was about 95, incredibly humid, with the sun like a sledgehammer. You had to walk on the shady side of the street.

The beach on OBX was really hot, too, but there you had the option of jumping into the water. And then a half hour in the waves I’d even be cold.

That’s it for today. Naptime. I’ll post more photos of New York later this week.

Art, Journals, Grandkids, Beat Shindig, Rbt. Williams

I’ve been away from my regular blog posts for awhile.

I had that thing with the art show and the talk at Borderlands. I made a nice video of the “art tour” part of my talk¬—I figured out how to use this free Microsoft Windows tool called “Movie Maker” to cut still photo in with a video I’d made, and I overlaid a good audio tape that I made while I was talking. I filmed the video itself via a camera hanging around my neck so it’s kind of random cinema verité. Check it out.

Then I got into a bloodlust hacking frenzy creating a full-on podcast station for myself, Rudy Rucker Podcasts. Googling for advice, but, when it gets really specific and weird, you don’t always find anyone who is talking to your precise situation. The process morphed into a nightmare of addiction, me compulsively standing in front of my computer from dawn till ten at night a couple of days. But now it’s kind of over. Maybe. For a little while.

Painting by Robert Williams.

I got a ticket to go see the Grateful Dead concert at Levi’s Stadium on Sunday. Last night I dreamed about almost setting up a deal to buy four ounces of pot. Talking to the dealers, debating the price, them giving me a free sample pack to slip into my jeans pocket. I didn’t get around to smoking it. And then I was lost in a museum.

And we had two of our grandchildren here for two nights, the twin girls, almost eight. We took them down to the Boardwalk in Santa Cruz and I went on this ride that I went on when I was their age, 61 years ago, still the same ride, it has the special chaotic quality. Called the Tilt-A-Whirl, although in Cruz the call it Rip Tide. Same sinister clown painted on the Tilt-A-Whirl chairs, amazing. Just about killed me to ride in it.

We rode on this chairlift that coast along above the rides. A statue of a cavewoman and a caveman in two of the chairs, like live cartoons.

Some of the rides are insane torture. On the third day our three-year-old grandson showed up as well, and we had a big cookout in our back yard with Rudy Jr. and his wife.

The girls found about a hundred varicolored gumballs in the town park, along with two transparent miniature plastic baseball bats that the gumballs had been inside of. The bats’ handles pulled off, they were like tapered plastic jars. The size of billy-clubs. And the girls gathered the balls and put them into the clubs and marched back and forth on our porch pretending they were police. And then I hid the clubs, as I worried the girls would spill the dirty gumballs all over the house or the yard. And then eventually Rudy let them dump the gumballs on the street to watch them roll downhill.

Rudy and I were into it, especially Rudy, lying on his back in the street being hyper. A good time. The three-year-old was excited about the bats, and it was a fresh feeling to be seeing them through his eyes, they looked magical, totemic, glinting in the yellow light from our kitchen door. The little boy like an urgent dwarf in a fairytale. I pick up on the mythic, magic feeling of childhood. Everything in rich color, in depth. Profound, incomprehensible, magical.

Dig these reflections of fluorescent lights on the tiles at Xanath ice cream on Valencia Street. The squiggles look like Arabic script.

I like to play with the grandchildren, grubbing with our stash of random old toys. They’re so at ease, so cuddly, sturdy, in the moment. And I’m lying on the floor, playing along, and looking at at the little kids, and I get the dizzy time-tunnel feeling that I’m peering back to 1949, looking at three-year-old Rudy. Me. A smart little boy who doesn’t yet know he’s smart. Unworried. Playing. Back into the land of magic. The peaceable kingdom. I might work some of these feelings into Million Mile Roadtrip.

Robert Williams Painting.

I haven’t really written much about going the Robert Williams art show in Santa Rosa, but oh well. Fun to talk to Williams, even if he is kind of brusque. Has this great hick accent, and is fairly intimidating—I think these feelings of mine are a carryover from studying his cartoons back in the 70s. “Rude Chuckles With A Negative Charge.” I managed to give him a copy of my art book, Better Worlds, and he said he’d look through it, “Lookin’ for stuff to steal.”

In fact he was flipping through my book in the gallery real fast, and he came to my painting “The Sex Sphere,” it’s of a giant ass with boobs on it, with an A-bomb explosion in the background, and this was very much to the Master’s taste. “Now you’re cuttin’ to the chase,” he says.

Purses are a lot like vaginas, you know? I think that might have something to do with why women like to carry big fancy purses around. Like a man carrying a bat or a billy club.

Wild ponytail on the Tornado ride at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk.

Anyway, I have a couple more things to mention. I’m going to appear for fifteen minutes at the tail end of V. Vale and Marian Wallace’s presentation on William Burroughs at a conference called Beatnik Shindig (ow!) at Fort Mason tomorrow at 4. I’ll be talking (briefly) about my novel Turing & Burroughs: A Beatnik SF Novel. I don’t know that Burroughsians are really aware of my book. Why would they be? No matter how tiny a splinter group I join, I’m always the outsider, the one who’s beyond the pale.

Sure, sure, wheenk, wheenk, wheenk. Anyway, I had two tough tasks in writing this novel: (1) To get my head into a place where I could believably describe a gay love affair. (2) Come to terms with the lingering tensions around Burroughs shooting his wife. (She comes back to life and shoots him .)

[Rbt. Williams cowhand lassos empty space. I used this fine, vintage move in Spaceland and in Realware, but never thought to try painting it. The Master at work.]

Also there’s a big feature article about my Journals in this week’s Metro Silicon Valley newspaper. Article by Dan Pulcrano.

Audience at my Journals event at Borderlands, June 13, 2015. Click for a larger version of the photo.

And, finally, here’s a zoomable photo of those loyal fans who showed up at my Borderlands talk. There’s a link for the talk in a previous post.

And here’s my portrait of the Master, yeah. Outta here now…

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