Tag: santa monica

Lab Book for a Novel: Day 1

Today has been a long day. I was up at 4:30 am and caught an early flight to Los Angeles. I then spent my afternoon working, checked into my hotel, and had an early dinner with an eye toward getting to bed early.

After dinner, however, I took advantage of the large balcony my hotel room has, with a few that overlooks the Pacific Ocean a few blocks south. I sat on one of the recliners with my laptop on my lap, and wrote the first words of the new novel.

Santa Monica, CA: A nice place to start the novel.
Santa Monica, CA: A nice place to start the novel.

I wrote the first complete scene of the novel, which came in at a little over 850 words. Getting started is always a little tough for me. With respect to this story, I have a couple of challenges:

  • I’m never comfortable until I find the right voice. Many of my stories are first person and it is much easier for me to find a voice when writing first person. However, this story is not first person.
  • While I initially thought the story could be told in first person, I’ve come to think that the storyline is complicated enough to warrant a third person telling. This could change in the second draft. But for now, I am following Jack Reacher’s example: Never Go Back.

Before dozing off to sleep last night, I jotted down 4 things that I wanted to get through in the first part of the story. It’s possible that these four things (two or three words each) represent the first four chapters of the story. It’s possible they are the first four scenes. What matter for now is that my headlight is bright enough at the moment for me to see what amounts to four moves ahead. I’ll worry about what comes next as I learn more about these characters and their stories.

I am interested in how this all evolves, so when I finish for the day, I’m putting the date (in square brackets) at the end of the last thing I wrote for the day. That gives me a little bit of history on the evolution of the first draft.

So, despite being tired, I feel good about this initial session. And it was nice to get in more than the quota for the day. I can build up a little savings for those days when I just can’t find the time to get in the full word count.

Me after my first day on the new novel
Me, after my first day on the new novel.

Sunrise in Santa Monica

I will in an all-day planning retreat today checking email, and various social media only periodically throughout the day. While I’m away from the Internets, here is a picture of the sunrise as I walked through the Santa Monica City Hall parking lot on my way into the office this morning. I remember this sunrise fondly from the days when I used to work out here. Enjoy:


Santa Monica, then and now

Santa Monica.jpeg

I started working in Santa Monica nearly 17 years ago. I worked there for nearly 8 years, making the 20 miles commute from Studio City each morning and backtracking each evening. Then I transferred to our Washington, D.C. office, which is actually in Arlington, VA. At first, I returned to Santa Monica frequently but as time passed, those 5 or 6 trips/year evolved into one trip per year. As the intervals grew longer, Santa Monica changed more and more each time I visited.

Used to be that I worked in a building built in the 1950s. My office, on the 4th floor faced the West Side. I could see the Getty Museum atop Sepulveda pass, and the building of Culver City, and all of Brentwood and various neighborhoods sprawled out before me. If I leaned back in my Aeron chair and looked across the hallway, I could see the Pacific ocean, always there, so much so that I never really thought about it. That office building was old and dusty and looked its age but its guts were a wonderful collegiate atmosphere that reminded me of the buildings of my university. I recall fondly my morning walks to the McDonald’s  on Colorado and 2nd when it was still dark and the wind blew though the palm trees.

Now that old building is gone, replaced by something much more corporate and not quite as close to the ocean. Next door, the empty lot that housed the old building still remains, fenced off, desolate, a memory cast in dirt and weeds. When I walk by it, however, I can see the ghost of the building still standing, as if shrouded in some coastal mist.

The McDonald’s is long gone, the original structure torn down and rebuilt into something more modern, an avante garde Micky Dee’s. The Philly Cheesestake place next door is gone, too, replaced by a health shake establishment. The pier looks the same. The pier never changes. But the courthouse and the seat of city government is all new. Modern structures flashing with neon replace flat parking lots. The big mall across Colorado was torn down and then rebuilt into something utterly different. Gone are the places a dozen of us would go for our daily lunches, the lot of us together, talking about work and life. Gone are the big group lunches, too. They seemed to die out with the old building.

It’s strange to think of a city aging, but 17 years is a long time for things to stay the same. In many respects, Santa Monica is an old friend that has aged before my eyes.

And I imagine that when I arrive on my annual visits, she thinks the same thing of me.

El Cholo

So last night, after work, a bunch of us headed over to El Cholo for an extended happy hour. Me and Pam and Will headed over. We were met there eventually, by Rita, Carol, Cord, Jon, Michelle, Lisa, Carmen and possibly others that I am forgetting about at the moment.

It was lots of fun. I forgot how good the margaritas are at that place–certainly the best I’ve ever had. People wandered in and out. I’m not sure what time I left, but I think it was around 9 PM. I walked with Lisa, Michelle and Carmen to P.F. Chang’s where we had dinner. I have only vague recollections of this. After dinner, Lisa and Michelle caught a cab. I walked Carmen back to her hotel and then walked by to my hotel.

I drank half a liter of water and went to bed.

Even so, I was up at 5 AM this morning and did a light cardio workout. And I was into the office just after 6 AM. I have an all-day “retreat” today so my updates will be pretty infrequent.

Santa Monica Squirrel

On my way into work this morning, I was walking along 4th toward Pico and spotted a squirrel sitting next to the base of a palm tree, eating. I slowed my pace so as not to scare the thing away, however, as I passed him, he didn’t budge. He just kept on with his breakfast as though he had not a care in the world.

This is very different behavior from Riverdale squirrels, which make a mad dash up a tree everytime someone sneezes.

Santa Monica, Day 6

I was up early this morning because I went to bed early last night. I didn’t have a big breakfast because I knew we’d be meeting up for lunch later on today. So I walked toward the Santa Monica pier and got a donut on the way there. I sat at the end of the pier for about an hour listening to my “Autobiography” playlist on my iPod.

Lisa picked me up at the hotel at noon and we headed over to the Rose Cafe in Venice where we met Andy and Mandy for lunch.

After lunch, we headed over to the Santa Monica pier to check out the Ashes & Snow exhibit at the Nomadic Museum. This was Andy’s suggestion, which surprised me for some reason. It was an interesting exhibit. The films were somewhat hypnotic. But the thing is: I just didn’t get it. I understood it a little bit better afterward when one of the staff explained to us what the longer-term plans were.

Lisa headed home to nap afterward and I went back to Andy and Mandy’s place to meet their new dog Rudy, who is a very cute dog. We went for a late dinner at El Torito Grill, which was very good. I had a couple of Cadillac margaritas there, bringing my grand total to four. I like them.

Andy brought me back to the hotel close to 11 PM.

My flight back home is at 8:40 tomorrow morning.