Friday, November 27, 2009

National Novel Writing Month: Completed! with an overview

I finished off the very, very rough first draft of "I don't know if I love you (but I might)" at 50,024 words. This is my third year doing this. I've completed each time. This was by far the most difficult year. I searched the manuscript for something that I could excerpt out here. But there was nothing I really liked. So here is the story pitch:

Jay Boudreaux and David Goldman are driving from DC to New Orleans for Jay's father's funeral. Jay's father, Bubba Boudreaux, was a big man in New Orleans, well loved, but with a troubling past marked by alcoholism and strained relations with his wife, Sally Boudreaux. Passing through Greensboro, Jay and David get into an accident with a motorcycle driven by Sara Smith (the one character I carried over from last year's "The Duke of Sunrises"). Sara goes into a coma, and Jay and David decide to wait it out in the hospital.

Sara is stuck between life and death in something akin to the afterlife-- set in a 1950's federal building with bad florescent lighting and mismatched furniture. There she meets Bubba Boudreaux, who is being guided through his first days in the afterlife by Mason, who has been here for a few thousand years.

The back story on Sara is that she was running from DC after the death of the man she was living with, Aaron Washington. Aaron was an artist who had found recent success in the DC art scene and then committed suicide by metro train.

Sara is treated by Dr. Amir Sindh, who is completely incompetent, but who has a brilliant record of diagnosis and treatment because he is constantly accompanied by the soul of his grandmother, Zayd, who won't allow him to make a mistake. He fumbles through and finds the correct diagnosis for Sara and saves her life.

In Greensboro, David attends an AA meeting and meets two characters who are bound together by ancient history: Mr. Deacon and Missus Circe. I'll admit it here: Mr. Deacon was my favorite character. I based him on Anansi. Note: if you're writing something and can't seem to make it work, put Anansi in your story-- he can do damn near anything. A large portion of the story is about Deacon and Circe-- in reality, they originally were slaves in New Orleans who have been alive since the 1600's. Part of their history bases their relationship on love/hate, but they are inseparable on this earth.

I don't want to ruin everything, but Deacon and Circe end up being instrumental in Sara Smith coming out of her coma. There is a connection between Missus Circe and Aaron Washington, Sara's dead lover. When it is over, Missus Circe passes away.

After Sara comes out of the coma, Jay and David continue on down to New Orleans for Bubba Boudreaux's funeral only to find that Deacon has beat them to NOLA, where he is consoling his old friend and Jay's mother, Sally Boudreaux. Jay, David, Deacon, and Sally attend Bubba's funeral, where we find out that Deacon (Anansi) is able to move freely between this world and the afterlife, which makes for a little comedy with Bubba Boudreaux, the deceased.

At the end of the book, Sara Smith is back in DC, trying to piece her life back together. David and Jay are just arriving in DC, and a friendship with possibilities has struck up between David and Sara. Bubba and Missus Circe spend time in the afterlife together accompanied by Aaron Washington. And Deacon is somewhere-- not tied to any one place or any one life.

I really don't know what to do with this story. If it is like the two previous stories, it will sit on my hard disk and that will be that. I feel like I never want to look at the story again, but I just finished it today and am a little sick of it. I also know that some of my best writing went into this draft. In any case, I'm very proud and very happy to be finished.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

National Novel Writing Month: Excerpt

My buddy Johnny asked me to post an excerpt from my ongoing submission to National Novel Writing Month. I'm a little over 13,000 words into it. The working title is, "I don't know if I love you (but I might)":

Sally Boudreaux held the funeral announcement in her hands and shook her head in disbelief. Boudreaux was possibly one of the most common names in New Orleans; hell, it might just be the most common name. Boudreauxs had been some of the first settlers of this god forsaken place, had probably worked some of the first ships to land at the port of New Orleans four hundred years ago, had most likely populated just about every square mile from the French Quarter to the Lake Pontchartrain. Boudreaux was a pretty damn popular name in New Orleans.

And those dumb sons-of-a-bitches had misspelled Boudreaux on her husband’s funeral announcements. Boudreax.

What the hell was she going to do?

She’d have to deal with it. She’d have to deal with every damned thing. Larry and Michelle would mean well, but they had five kids to take care of—five! And her other son, Jay… well, Jay.

Sally put down the funeral announcement and looked down into her coffee cup. Jay.

She had finished the cup and stood to get a refill. It occurred to her that she could walk down to The Last Drop and have someone make breakfast for her. But Sally just was not ready for all of her neighbors who frequented The Last Drop to sympathize with her, to crowd around her to see if she was doing all right.

She was doing all right. Of course she was doing all right. Bubba Boudreaux—not Boudreax—had been a miserable son-of-a-bitch who had two-timed Sally miserably. He had been drunk and disorderly in just about every bar on Bourbon Street, had gotten his sorry ass thrown out of places it was damn near impossible to get thrown out of, and had gotten her woken up to bail him out of the parish drunk tank more times than she liked to imagine. Things had taken a turn for the better the day that Bubba Boudreaux—not Boudreax—had finally kicked the bucket with an esophageal hemorrhage. She hoped it hurt. She hoped it hurt like a son-of-a-bitch.

Sally held the funeral announcement to her face and sobbed into it, the ink staining her cheeks.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

New song: Sitting in a circle

"Sitting in a circle" by Timothy Chen Allen

We are sitting in a circle
in a room above a store
and we're waiting for a sign that never comes

And we look into each others' eyes
and wonder if it's wrong
to be impatient with the process
brings us home

And I would not believe
that you would ever look away
I'd be a sorry friend to think of you that way

But I myself am falling asleep right now
I can't do much more than promise that I'll stay

But I myself am having trouble opening my eyes
I'd like to go to sleep right now if I may.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

New song: Chameleon

"Chameleon" by Timothy Chen Allen
(I wasn't feeling particularly positive about myself when I wrote this)

I'll find out who you want
And be that all night long
I'm a chameleon
I'll be so good to you
I'll treat your mother good, too
I'm a chameleon

I know you look at me
Believing what you see is
Real, real, real
But when you turn around
I'll drop my colors down
Blink and you'll never see

Try all my colors on
See what looks good on me
Don't know quite who I am
Want you to lend a hand
Say what you like to see

The smile that's on my face
It hides an empty case
Nothing behind the glass
Don't like to meet my kind
Two lizards never find
The color of our mask, mask, mask

Try all my colors on
See what looks good on me
Don't know quite who I am
Want you to lend a hand
Say what you like to see

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

New song: Wired differently

"Wired differently" by Timothy Chen Allen

I learned something about you
You're just wired differently
Some of what you see so clearly
I'd need a telescope to see

And I could build a spaceship
And try to fly to the moon
But by the time I get you
You and your wiring move too soon

And if I yield to your wiring
I only start to feel confused
All of my breakers blowing
All of my circuits melt their fuse

Compared to you
My CPU's held in with electrical tape
I try and I try to replace it
But the circuit pins start to break

But that's just how I like it
I'm wired differently, too
And when my system's in complete shutdown
My only warm restart is you
Waiting 'til my meltdown's through
'Til my command prompt comes back
Waiting in the green screen glow
Sorry, I know my drives are slow

And that's not the end of the story
There is no manual for you
I know if I called the help desk
The late night technician never heard of you
Sometimes I feel a fool
Standing next to you
But my wirings in your hands
But you're just wired differently
That's the story of you and me
Don't take a CRT to read it
A kid with a slide rule could see it

Saturday, September 19, 2009

New song: Something about me I didn't need

"Something about me I didn't need" by Timothy Chen Allen

In the midst of the forest I buried the box
With the memory too painful to face
And tore up the map as I turned my way home
Swearing I'd not go back to that place

With the dirt on my hands and the mud on my boots
As exhausted I fell in my chair
As I closed my eyes I felt something was missing
Some old comfort of mine wasn't there

I left a part of me
Within your memory
Something about me that I didn't need
That's probably true

I left a part of me
Within your memory
With each passing day
It's better this way
I try not to miss it
The way that I try not to think about you

In the midst of the forest I found myself walking
I tried to remember the place
Where I'd buried the box with the memory that hurt me
The tears rolling down on my face

After hours of searching I came to the crossroads
Where I'd put our memory to rest
But the site was now empty
The marker was stolen
And nowhere could I find the chest

I left a part of me...

Saturday, September 12, 2009

New song: Eres mi corazón

"Eres mi corazón" by Timothy Chen Allen

Eres mi corazón
Eres mi corazón
Lo que me dijiste anoche queda grabado en mi corazón por siempre

No te digo que todo se arregla
Un cuento en que comemos perdices
Tampoco el mundo no tiene sus hadas
Mi corazón
Eres mi corazón

Eres mi noche en blanco
Eres mi estrella fugaz
El frenazo que deja huella en la calle
Eres tú

A solas en casa
Te oigo la voz
Tan alta que los vecinos se asustan
Tan alta que siento las paredes temblando
Tan alta que gritas que tú me quieres
Eres tú
Mi corazón

Eres mi vida entera
Por bien o por mal
Te deje las llaves de toda mi vida
Encima de la mesa al lado tus gafas
No me las pierdes que no me quedan otras
Y son un pastón y no me pagan hasta viernes
Mi corazón

You are my heart
You are my heart
That thing you said last night is recorded in my heart forever
My heart

I'm not saying that everything works out
To be a fairy tale: happily ever after
But the world isn't without its magic
My heart
You are my heart

You are my sleepless night
My one shooting star
The squealing brakes that leave a tire track in the street
That's you

Alone in our house
I hear your voice
So loud that the neighbors begin to get scared
So loud that I can feel the walls begin to tremble
So loudly you tell me that you love me
It's you
My heart

You are my whole life
For good or for bad
I left you the keys to my entire life
On your bedside table next to your glasses
Please don't lose them, I don't have another set
And they cost an arm and a leg and I don't get paid until Friday
My heart

Friday, August 21, 2009

New song: Everybody wants a plucking time machine

"Everybody wants a plucking time machine" by Timothy Chen Allen


Click here to see the decidedly adult lyrics

There are things in this world I have wished for
Love and kindness and peace with my fellow man
I can smile at the dreams of my childhood
But I still dream a dream when I can...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Safe SQL LIKE conditions in Ruby On Rails

This is a problem that was driving me a little nuts. In this discussion of how to write a Ruby on Rails query without leaving myself open to a SQL Injection, I found this passage:

"Building your own conditions as pure strings can leave you vulnerable to SQL injection exploits. For example, Client.first(:conditions => "name LIKE '%#{params[:name]}%'") is not safe. See the next section for the preferred way to handle conditions using an array."
However, they never show how to actually write the exact query to replace the unsafe one safely. Here it is:

escaped_query = params[:name].gsub('%', '\%').gsub('_', '\_')
@posts = Post.find(:all, :conditions=> ["subject like :eq or name like :eq", {:eq => "%" + escaped_query + "%"}])

Friday, August 7, 2009

New song: Waiting for Winter

"Waiting for winter" by Timothy Chen Allen

Where are you flying now?
The winds have all died
The heat of Summer drove the birds back inside
And if you're with me now
Don't know where to look
Somewhere inside you must be
Somewhere inside of me

I went to look for you one day in the park
I caught a glimpse of you just as it got dark
And I ran screaming for you not to fly away
It did no good I lost you then
I guess you'll always be within

Somewhere inside of me

The year is fading now
The sky has gone gray
I climb the fence and watch the leaves blow away
You're sitting with me now
Looking at the sky
Waiting for winter to be
Somewhere inside of me

Monday, August 3, 2009

Video: Daybreak Training - Parkour

This was a parkour training session I did recently. The background music is an instrumental called "Plowshares" I wrote for the film-- and since I've been too sick to get it together, this is my weekly song as well:

Friday, July 24, 2009

New song: Everything that isn't you

"Everything that isn't you" by Timothy Chen Allen

The end of this song echoes the first song I wrote this year: "If I can find a way I can find you

Sha la la la la bang bang yeah!
You... didn't leave me much to think of you
Just this house... full of everything that isn't you
What a thing to do
You got a lot of nerve
I knew that from the day we met
You're the girl I never could forget
Now you think I'm gonna wait around 'til you're back in town
Well babe, I've got no pride
Don't bother me none to cry
Sha la la la la bang bang yeah!

We... we've been through such an awful lot
Such an awful lot of stuff we've got
But it does no good
'Cause everything that isn't you
Reminds me of you
Don't know what to do
Sha la la la la bang bang yeah!

If I could find a way I could find you
If I could know a way I could touch you
If I could find a way that you want me to find you...

Sha la la la la bang bang yeah!

Friday, July 17, 2009

New song: Patient

"Patient" by Timothy Chen Allen

I'm not very good at waiting, but I have to
I'm not good at being patient, but I'm getting that way
And you are so far
And I am still here
I'm not very good at waiting, but I have to

No me gusta esperar mas te espero
No es fácil ser paciente no mi vida
Si allá es de día
Y aquí es de noche
¿Cómo debo recordarte? Quiero verte

I'm not very good at waiting, but I have to
When I said goodbye I didn't mean for always
Close my eyes and I see you
How much longer? It feels forever
I'm not very good at waiting, but I have to

Y tú llevas el mejor parte de mí
Dentro de ti
And I have got to learn to wait a little more each day
Until you find your way
Back home

I'm not very good at waiting, but I have to
I'm not good at being patient, but I'm getting that way
I'm not good at being patient
I'm not good at being patient
I'm not good at being patient

Saturday, July 11, 2009

New song: Icarus wing

I am not afraid
But I am alone here
If I were to fall here...

This place is not so high
But high enough to hurt me
There is no hand to catch me
If I were to fall

Everything is still
The air is filled with sweetness
The tide flows out beneath me

Now I'm flying
Over rooftops
Gravity talks
But I am not listening
It cannot touch me here
The ground must forget me here
If I were to fall

You look up now
You would not see me
I'm high overhead
And gaining momentum
The sun reaches out a hand
I'm not afraid of falling
But if I were to fall

The world is moving fast
The sky catches my wings now
My feathers fall away now

I am feeling calm
The sun shines on the river
The air is filled with sweetness

The final moment comes
I know the ground will catch me
I knew that this would happen
If I were to fall

Sunday, July 5, 2009

New song: Sleep this day away

I'm awake
But I'm dreaming of your face
Some other kind of place
I would rather be
Please don't ask me
If I want to stop dreaming

Tie me down
I know damn well I should be
Wide awake
It'd be a big mistake
To go back to sleep
I can't help it
I just keep on
Wishing I could keep on dreaming

Don't wake me up
I'm sleepy tired
And my head's started aching
I won't be waking
Before midday today
I'll sleep this day away
If I could only find a way
To go on dreaming

Wake me up
'Cause you're a dream
That's just too good to be true
I'm not with you
And that's the way it must be
I'll never be free
As long as you are just a dream
That's dreaming about me

Sunday, June 28, 2009

New song: It doesn't happen without you

Sònia and Daniel are in Spain for a month. I wrote this song about that.

I may think that things are going just fine
And I'll tell you everything is going my way
I may even say I'm better off like this
And maybe I'll convince you that it's true

But in the bathroom mirror facing myself
I know what's the truth
All the things that happen in my life
It doesn't happen without you

I've got a fine collection of memories
I like to polish them and hold them to the light
Times our laughter had no reason at all
Or we cried because our hope was gone

But everything looks different than I thought
The blues turn into gray
And when I only have myself to think of you
It doesn't happen without you

I know this situation comes to an end
I know the day you're coming home
And I can call you almost any time I want
It really hasn't been that bad

But then the moments drag into the days
And the days drag into weeks
My heart doesn't know what time it is today
That doesn't happen without you
Without you

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

New song: United us of you and me

The idea came from something my sister-in-law Liz said in our wedding: Sonia and I would form a nation of two, a "United States of Tim and Sonia"

"United us of you and me" by Timothy Chen Allen
Sònia, I read the paper just the other day
How life is hard in the USA
I don’t believe it and I have to say
Love's still free
United us of you and me
You know that's how it's got to be
United us of you and me
Don’t need no fence to keep folks out
It's you and me and baby there's no doubt
Our only natural resource here is love
But that's enough

Sònia, the Arabs and the Jews don’t get along
Even Andorra wants to have a bomb
I don’t get it, I just get it wrong
But peace still talks and love is free
United us of you and me
You know it's got to be us three
United us of you and me
Peace has to start with you and me
And all the folks we happen to see
We’re on to something and it might be true
Just me and you
It's us three
United us of you and me
That's how we’ll make the people free
United us of you and me
It’ll work on everything we see
United us of you and me
You know that's how it's got to be
United us of you and me

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

New song: We’ll be all right, Sònia

"We’ll be all right, Sònia" by Timothy Chen Allen

My Sònia
It ain’t a question of right or wrong
Sometimes the answer’s to sing along
Don’t get me wrong, Sònia

You’re good to me
There ain’t no place I would rather be
Lost in your eyes is a part of me
And that’s the truth, Sònia

You don’t have to look beyond our door
Everything we need is here and more
And if the paycheck don’t quite reach
Our love is growing each and every day

Don’t try to make all the numbers right
There ain’t a cloud in the sky tonight
We’ll be all right, Sònia
We’ll be all right, Sònia

Sunday, June 7, 2009

First Annual Daddy's Crazy 45 Miler

This was not the craziest idea I ever had, but it came pretty close.

A few months back I ran my first ultramarathon, the HAT 50K. It was fun and a culmination of a careful, scientific training program. In other words, I just pretty much started running really long runs on Sundays with no regards for building up, injuries, or anything. Essentially, I just simply brute forced my way to my first ultra and got away with it.

So, now fueled by unearned success, I decided that that was all and I was done with ultramarathoning. Except... I realized that my normal training run was 22.5 miles. And I was turning 45 this June 30. And that if you run my 22.5 mile run twice, that's 45 miles! That's all it took. I was committed to running 45 miles for my birthday. Honestly, that was my thought process.

Well, my crazy dream happened Saturday. I modified the route to run around my block, because Sònia wanted to give me support. And I modified the date so the run would happen before Sònia and Daniel went on vacation and before the end of school. Because somewhere in there it turned into a fund-raiser for Oyster-Adams School.

I took off at 4 am on Saturday, accompanied by my buddy Jimm. I had gotten a solid 30 minutes of sleep the night before. Just impossible to sleep. I knew that was going to happen. Jimm had committed to seeing me to the end of the run as soon as I announced it. And he did, although he had to drop out for a few miles because his knee started to bug him.

In fact, I was never alone. At around 20 miles we started to pick up pacers. Oyster-Adams parents who came and ran a few miles with us, or eight or nine or ten. First David and Tim R., then Elizabeth and Mike and their dog, then Allison my co-worker and Mike my boss. Then Paco and Andrew and Claire and Mikelle and Diego and Wendy and Elena and Stefan and S'not... I lost count of all my pacers.

Sònia started to bring out a steady stream of peanut butter sandwiches and potato chips and gatorade when we hit the halfway point. Spectators started to show up at around the 30 mile point, when I was really starting to feel the run. Folks I meet for coffee in the mornings, and more parents, and their kids-- and then a group of kids joined the run. My son, Daniel, ran two and a half miles.

By forty miles I had a train of pacers with me. We picked up Mary and Till, some neighbors who didn't even have a kid in the school, who just wanted to see who all of these crazy people were. Jimm was next to me, telling me I could actually run up the hill when I wanted to walk it. And Sònia was yelling with a group of parents at the toughest point of the course. I started to choke up at how much these people were doing just because I had had this crazy idea. Mikelle was running next to me and got concerned about my breathing-- I laughed and said, "no problem, it's just that this is really beautiful".

The last few laps were a blur, and at the same time I felt every step. My hips had begun to hurt in the last 13 miles. Somehow, Jimm got me fired up to run the very last hill, and three turns later we were on the home stretch.

I have never won a race in my life. Not one. No high school track winning memories, not even a weird age-group win in a road race. And this was not a race. But I know what it feels like to win one now. The crowd at the last turn exploded as our group got close. Sònia ran to me and grabbed my hand, and we made the last corner together. When my Garmin beeped off the 45th mile, I yelled out, "¡Cuarente y cinco!" And then we stopped. We didn't have to run anymore.

I thanked Sònia for supporting this crazy dream that I'm sure she didn't understand. And I thanked my pacers and the people who contributed and the people who cheered and set up water stops along the way. I thanked Jimm after forgetting to thank him the first time through. I'm sure I forgot someone along the way.

So that's it. Except... I was thinking that next year I turn 46. And I kind of like the sound of "The Second 1st Annual Daddy's Crazy 46 Miler"...

Thursday, June 4, 2009

New song: With you

My mom asked me to write her and dad a song for their 53rd anniversary. Here it is.
I'm in Albuquerque without a guitar, so this one is A Capella. This song is, essentially, a prayer.

"With you" by Timothy Chen Allen

I don't want to have to grow old
But if I have to
I'll grow old with you

I don't want to have to grow old
But if I have to
I'll grow old with you

When I'm feeling tired
I will lay down
You'll be my last breath

I know that we just met
It's too soon to say this
What I want to say to you
I don't want to spend another day
Not knowing if I'll spend my life with you

When my hair is gray
I want you there
You'll be my one song

I know if I let you walk away
I'll dream my life
About a life with you

I don't want to have to grow old
But if I have to
I'll grow old with you

I don't want to have to grow old
But if I have to
I'll grow old with you

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

New song: Te he visto (I just saw you)

Sonia and I just lost a good friend. This is about her. Adios, Angeles.

"Te he visto (I just saw you)" by Timothy Chen Allen
Te he visto
En la sonrisa de mi hijo
Bailando en camino a la escuela

Te he visto
El eco de tu risa
En la vuelta de la esquina a mediodía

Y por mucho que me dicen que te has marchado
Te sigo viendo por aquí

Te he visto
En la sombra del puente
Que cruzaste conmigo
Te he visto

Te he visto
Y no consigo convencerme que es mi imaginación
Pero te he visto

Y por mucho que expliquen
Que los ángeles son de cuenta
No te quito de mi mente

Te he visto
Y aunque sigo con mi vida
Tomo pausa por un momento para sonreír

Te he visto
En las nubes subrayadas
Por los 747
En el atardecer

Y aunque no lo creyerían
Tu sonrisa me persigue
No consigo olvidarte

Te he visto
En el cajón que nunca abro
En el vaso olvidado
Te he visto

Te he visto
Y no quiero dejar de verte
Aunque ya te has marchado...

I just saw you
In my son’s smile
Dancing on the way to school

I just saw you
The echo of your laughter
Just around the corner at noon

And even though they tell me that you are gone
I keep seeing you around here

I just saw you
In the shadow of the bridge
You crossed with me
I just saw you

I just saw you
And I can’t manage to convince myself that it’s just my imagination
But I just saw you

And even though they explain
That angels are from fairy tales
I can’t get you out of my mind

I just saw you
And even though my life goes on
I take a moment to smile

I just saw you
In the clouds overhead
Underlined by 747’s
In the afternoon

And even though they wouldn’t believe it
Your smile follows me
I can’t manage to forget you

I just saw you
In the drawer I never open
In the forgotten glass
I just saw you

I just saw you
And I don’t want to stop seeing you
Even though you are gone...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

New song: Flying kites on Tuesday

Daniel asked me to write another song about him and his mom.

Your eyes reflect a promise
I never thought that keeping would be wise
It's in your eyes
But we're flying kites on Tuesday
And nothing else could be as good as that

Nothing I know
Could compare to sleeping in a bed too small for three
The monkey in the middle here is kicking me
And I ain't got a good night sleep
Since the night that you were born

It's got away from me
Sometimes I wonder how it will work out
I don't know
But we're throwing sticks in Rock Creek
And nothing else could be as good as that

Nothing I know
And I'm not in any hurry to put on my shoes
The boy with sunshine in his hair don't like to lose
And the lady of the castle just got splashed from head to toe
How did it get like this?

Now I can't keep from yawning
And I'm sleeping before I can turn the page
Just can't go on
But your foot is in my ribs now
And I straighten up and read you three words more
Before I snore
Then you give up and you take the book away from me
The dogs are driving to a party in a tree
And I am dreaming of a place
Exactly like the place where I am now

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

New song: Know the difference

"Know the difference" by Timothy Chen Allen
I'd like to think that I'm wrong
What I see in your eye
I don't really see
And this isn't goodbye
I did nothing wrong
And the glass didn't break
I won't go home alone
And my heart won't ache

But I'm old enough to know
Sometimes these things don't work
Ain't nobody's fault
No one's got to feel hurt
Start again next week
Sometimes we lose and we win
I think I know the difference

You think today's not the day
You've worked a real long time
Chasing demons away
You know the voices inside
Saying give him a chance
Sometimes those voices are fools
You're old enough to know
Don't want to break your own rules

But you're old enough to know
Sometimes life takes a chance
It isn't all win or lose
Sometimes it asks you to dance
Life don't start next week
This time it's holding your hand
You think you know the difference

I'd like to think that I'm wrong
That I'm not the right man
What I see in your eye
But now you're holding my hand
We don't have enough time
To make mistakes again
You could just drop my hand
I could just be your friend

But I've got a lot of friends
And they laugh at my jokes
But sometimes nights feel dark
And my hands feel cold
I don't need another friend
I need something more
I think you know the difference

Monday, May 4, 2009

New song: Maybeland

One day soon you'll buy all of your books from Borders, all of your electronics from Best Buy, and everything else at Walmart... oops, already there.

"Maybeland" by Timothy Chen Allen
I'm dreaming of all of the good dreams we had
I'm wondering how so good got so bad
I bought the house, I bought the dog
Now I'm moving it all
To Maybeland

Don't tell me you don't play the same game
Under our smiles our weaknesses all look the same
You gave to Greenpeace
You bought the ribbon
Now you're taking it back
To Maybeland

Back then my heroes all were the Angry Young Man
But my heroes got married and their timeshare's
In Maybeland

We need a cup of coffee
We all are asleep
Or we'll be counting ourselves
When we're all counting sheep

But Dole owns the coffee
And the cup is from Walmart
Jesus Christ owns a Starbucks
The grind's Maybeland

Thursday, April 30, 2009

New song: The Mystery of My Girl

"The Mystery of My Girl" by Timothy Chen Allen

I got a crazy feeling
I can't explain it to you
You'll have to feel it for yourself

You talk of mysteries we believe in
I got a mystery I'm seeing
This is the mystery of my girl

It's the way that she screams
And the way that she fights
And the way that she holds my hand all night
You just don't know my girl

She don't say things that she doesn't believe
And it makes me so mad that I want to leave
But I can't leave my girl

If your sweet illusion is a slamming door
That somehow leaves you gasping for more
You may have run into my girl

She don't make promises that she won't keep
And I can promise you you'll lose some sleep
Understanding the mystery of my girl

You don't have all of the strength that you need
And if you want to try be prepared to bleed*
I bleed for my girl

You can't understand and you never should try
But the thing is my girl makes me feel alive
She's a mystery my girl

She's my girl
You'll never get it my girl

My girl
She'd tear your heart out my girl

I got a crazy feeling
I can't explain it to you
That's the mystery of my girl

(*Apologies to Joni Mitchell)

Monday, April 20, 2009

New Song: Batman Loves Wonderwoman

Diana Prince" is Wonderwoman's secret identity here on Earth. Not to beat you over the head with the imagery, but Tim = Batman, Sonia = Wonderwoman, etc

"Batman Loves Wonderwoman" by Timothy Chen Allen
Let's take the Batmobile and just ride
Or throw a picnic in your see-thru jet plane
Alfred can hang out with Robin
While we're flying down the coast
The bad guys have to wait until tomorrow
Just need to talk with you

We're working hundred hour weeks
It seems that evil never takes a break now
It's like we have to save the world
But when's the last time we held hands?
This time I think we've got to save each other
Don't want to fight no more

No one ever has to know
Your secret here is safe with me
It doesn't matter where we go
As long as you are here with me

Up here at 30,000 feet
I swear to you my love for you's forever
Of that you can be sure
And when we both are old and gray
I'm sure by then that Robin will be ready
Leave it to him to save the day

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

New Song: I don't know if I love you (but I might)

This is about how I met Sònia. It's tough enough to tell someone you have a big crush on them, but it gets a lot more complicated when you don't really know how to speak their language. It seems to have worked; we've been married for almost nine years now.

This is one of the few Country and Western songs I've written. I never have owned up to it, but I like how clever the lyrics are in a lot of C&W songs (witness Barbara Mandrell's (sic) "Nobody"1 or even K.D. Lang's "Wash Me Clean"). I guess I still have a little Lumberton in me still.

You can listen to this in the player in the upper right hand corner of this site.

[1. NB: "Nobody" was performed by "Sylvia". Dang synapses.]

I don't know if I love you (but I might)

I came here to find you
But I don’t know who you are
I’ve been around this block before
Seeing the same tired faces
Wearing the same tired smiles
I know that here I won’t find you
No, here I won’t find you

I travelled to find you
But I don’t know just why
Don’t know the language
Don’t know the place
Don’t know the question that my heart’s been asking
But I know if there’s an answer
I’m hoping you know the answer

I don’t know,
But the moon is shining just as hard as it can shine
I don’t know
If your heart is breaking
But it’s surely breaking mine
And I don’t know if I can walk away
Without putting up a fight
I don’t know if I love you but I might

I’ve got to know you
But I don’t know where to start
My head is saying, “just walk away”
But if you could hear the words
That I’ve got here in my heart
I know that you’d know the answer
Yes, you are my answer

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

New Song: Leaning Forward

Inspired by The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act
(you can listen to this song in the player on the upper right hand side of this page)

I can't meet you more than halfway there
I can only meet you halfway there
When I tried to do it on my own
I found I was alone

I can't do much more than hold your hand
While you're standing up I'll hold your hand
I tried leaning forward times before
And wound up face down on the floor

I know you expected Superman
Bur I'm already doing all I can
But if you want a guy to take you home
I won't leave you alone
We're almost halfway home
We're almost halfway home

I actually recorded two versions of this.  The first one had three vocal parts, rhythm guitar, and slide guitar.  I finished recording it and while it was converting to MP3, I started strumming and singing the melody... and realized it was a lot better without all of that junk on top of it.  One day I *will* write one with a slide guitar part, though...

Thursday, April 2, 2009

New song: Nada es sencillo - Nothing is simple

Ayer por la mañana te miré la cara mientras dormias
Ayer por la noche te miré la espalda en el frio
Si hay algo en esta vida que he aprendido
Es que nada es tan sencillo como creo

Ayer mientras caminaba pensaba en una canción que escribiste
Ayer mientras trabajaba se me olvidó todo que me dijiste
Si hay algo en esta vida que he aprendido
Es que nada es tan sencillo

Ayer por la tarde nos sentamos en el suelo de tu piso
Intentando entendernos, riendo de las palabras que no sabía
Si hay algo en esta vida que he aprendido
Es que nada es tan sencillo como creo

Yesterday morning I looked at your face while you slept
Yesterday evening I looked at your back in the cold
If there is something in this life that I have learned
It's that nothing is as simple as I believe...

Yesterday while I walked I thought of a song you wrote
Yesterday while I worked I forgot all of the words you told me
If there is something in this life that I have learned
It's that nothing is simple

Yesterday afternoon we sat on the floor of your apartment
Trying to understand each other
Laughing at the words I didn't know
If there is something in this life that I have learned
It's that nothing is as simple as I believe

Friday, March 27, 2009

New song: It's a real good day

I wrote this one for Daniel. I got the guitar part and some of the harmonies down on Wednesday and finished the lyrics this morning. You can listen to the song on the player on this page.

Here are the lyrics:
I never told you how
One time I thought that I was having a bad day
A real bad day
And then I woke you up
You told me about a dream you'd had
You were flying without wings

And then you picked me up
Flew over Union Station
Saw our old house on Alt de Pedrell
Somewhere between blue and Barcelona
I knew it was a real good day

It's a real good day for changing my point of view
(things can only get better/and right now is forever)
It's a real good day for spending my day with you
(got to live for the moment / ain't no time like the present)

The city's waking up
The guy next door is singing loud in the shower
The cell phone rings

I climb in next to you
And listen to you breathing, now I am snoring
Just let it ring

And now we are so high
The earth is just another dot in a sky full of stars in the night
Now you look at me and laugh like sunshine
Today, it is a real good day

It's a real good day for sleeping in the whole day through
(leave tomorrow tomorrow, today is getting away)
It's a real good day for spending my day with you
(just forget all that sorrow / we have only today)
It's a real good day for changing my point of view
(things can only get better / and right now is forever)
It's a real good day for spending my day with you
(got to live for the moment / ain't no time like the present)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

HAT 50K - 6:59:30: My first ultramarathon

Predictably, I couldn't sleep last night-- I tossed and turned and got about three hours of sleep before the alarm went off at 4. I reviewed my checklist, ate a bowl of oatmeal, and went and waited to get picked up by my new ultramarathoning friend, Jimm.

It was cold this morning. We headed up to Havre de Grace and sat in the parking lot, shivering, waiting for packet pickup to start. I really was pretty unsure as to what to wear. I had brought a lot of stuff to put on. I got lucky today and hit the right combination. Arm sleeves (affectionately known as "arm panties") are key, I found out. I felt pretty silly putting them on, but they were perfect. I was freezing at the starting line, but the temperature fluctuated all during the race. I was glad I could roll my sleeves up and down. I have a very funky tan on my forearms now, though.

I learned a few things out there today. I thought about it as I ran: In a 31 mile race like this, you have to get it all right on several points:
  • Logistics - in a 10k, you put your shoes on and run. Marathon and above, your race can end because you wore the wrong socks or made a bad choice of hydration systems. At a minimum, you can be miserable for a long, long time.

  • Awareness - this was a trail run, and there were roots to trip on, branches to brain yourself with, and trail markers to miss. I missed the 27 mile marker and almost ran off the course! Thank god someone yelled at me and I ran back, sheepishly. You have to crank up your awareness, even though tiredness makes you want to drift off into la la land.

  • Efficiency - at this distance, it's not about being the strongest and fastest. A lot of it is about expending the least amount of energy. I found myself shortening up my strides and just grinding up the hills. I remembered how pounded my legs would feel at the end of my 22 mile training runs, and I knew that if I didn't take care of them, it would be a lot worse at the 30 mile point.

  • Determination - it just takes pushing through sometimes, the determination to stick to concentrating on good running form, and running when you feel like lying down. This sounds trite, but this was key, especially when I really hit a rough patch around mile 28.

So that's my formula for getting through the 31 miler: LAED. Either get LAED, or you get screwed.

At one point I looked down at my GPS watch just as it clicked over 26.2 miles. I had just run a standard marathon distance and I still had about five miles to go. A few steps later, I realized that I had just run further than I had ever run in my life. In fact, every step I took was the farthest I had ever run. Wow.

Some great people out on the trail helped me. The volunteers in this race were magic. There were peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and Chips Ahoy cookies at the second rest stop, and I am sure that I have never tasted a better PB&J in my entire life. I really don't understand what motivates race volunteers. Those people froze for eight hours and prepared food for sweaty, sometimes grumpy runners. Maybe it's just my depleted glycogen reserves talking, but I love those people.

And the other runners encouraged me. When they heard it was my first ultra, they gave me advice, salt pills, and encouragement. At mile 28 I started to fade really badly. I knew I would finish, but I had no idea how it was going to happen. I just wanted to lay down. A lady from Annapolis whose name I never learned ran up alongside, and I just whispered, "I'm really having a rough patch." She listened to me for a while, and eventually we started running again. She ran with me for about two miles, until we could hear the crowds cheering at the finish line. By then my adrenaline had kicked in and I really started running again.

My last mile was one of the fastest of the race. As I ran up the field, I could see Jimm waiting at the finish pavilion. He ran out to me and started yelling for me to pick it up. I heard one specific thing: "Tim, there's food". I yelled back, "Jimm, tell me about the food". He told me there were hot dogs and soup and Jambalaya. I yelled back, "Jambalaya?! Let's go!". We ran in as fast as we could. Jimm had finished the race more than half an hour before and still paced me in. I'm sure I could not have sprinted it in without him (okay, I am being very generous with myself saying "sprint").

When we turned the corner and I could see the finisher's clock, I could not believe that it was at 6:59:25. I was going to break seven hours! I put in a final push and crossed the line in 6:59:30. One of the race organizers congratulated me and gave me a hat (of course) and a stadium chair. No medals were awarded-- and I'm not sure I wanted one. I've got my medal right here inside.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Night before the HAT 50K

Tomorrow is the HAT 50K run. It will be my first ultramarathon, and the farthest I have ever run in my life (if I finish!). I'm not nervous... okay, a little. Over the last couple of long runs I've made a list of stuff to carry:

Pre race: Bike Shorts, Blinker, Butt pack, Camelback, GUs, Garmin chest strap, Garmin watch, ID, Credit card, Injinji toe socks (two pairs), Insurance Card, Keys, Lucky Towel, Money, Montrails, Nike Trail Runners, Nike Blue Shirt, Phone Carrier, Reflective vest, Road ID, Support underwear, Toilet paper, Water bottle, Whistle

Post race: Jeans, shirt, new socks, sandals, money, sandwich?, camera?

The HAT is logistically easier because I'll pass back through the starting point several times during the race. Then I can make any equipment changes I may need to make. I'm getting picked up by another runner at 5 am. I'm truly exhausted, but if this goes anything like previous races I won't be able to sleep tonight.

Someday I'll look back at this and laaaaugh.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Songwriting Cliches

I finished off February Album Writing Month with fourteen songs written: mission accomplished. And oddly, I've gone back down to write twice at 5 am this month as well. I didn't expect to want to continue, but I did.

A question came up on the songwriting forum for FAWM: "what are your musical cliches?" In other words, what words, musical themes, etc keep showing up again and again. Kind of like the word "Sunshine" in James Taylor's old stuff.

Here was my answer:

Mine are simple:
1) Lots of E6. I get extra excited if I can end a song on E6. At least three of my songs started in E6 this year (wait... 4... 5... shit, all of them did) (If you don't know what E6 sounds like, the Beatles use it to end "Help!")
2) 7th chords. I just wrote one with E6 into A7 and I thought I saw Jeebus (This morning in "Deer in Headlights").
3) Most of my songs have the word "darkness" in them somewhere. I think this has less to do with any emotional darkness and more to do with the fact that my family life requires me to get up at 5 am to write.
4) I almost always have a section of two or three voice parts going "Dah... Dah dah dah duh". My seven year old son pointed this out to me.
5) I won't write a song in which the primary phrase is three chords. I'll mess up a perfectly good song just so it will have a more complex chord progression.
6) Three part harmony!
7) Oh, and finishing the song by singing the first line of the song again, slowly for dramatic effect (pause to barf on self). I did this on like 16 of the 14 songs I wrote this time.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

FAWM: 13 songs written

February Album Writing Month (FAWM) is winding down.  I have 13 of the 14 songs written and have started the 14th song.  Several important things have happened this month as a result of attempting to write 14 songs in one month.  

The first and most important is that my wife, Sònia, has noticed that I'm a lot happier guy this month.  Apparently something about writing music makes me feel good.  

The second is that I have gotten a lot better at coming up with songs, figuring out harmonies for them, and recording them.  The time pressure is the thing.  I think I normally try doodling with the guitar and singing a little, then I realize that what I'm doodling with could go off in four different directions.  So I get flustered trying to decide between the options.  When you have to write a song every two days, you just go ahead and develop the first idea that comes into your head.

The third is that, of the 13 songs so far written, I have three that I really, really love and another four that I think are good enough that they should be developed further.  There are a couple that I am actively embarrassed about.

The fourth is that I am absolutely exhausted.  The idea of getting up at 5 am tomorrow to go write music makes me ill.  Part of me wants to give up at 13.  Except I won't.  I actually have *two* days to complete that last song.

Monday, February 16, 2009

24 Miles - 4:06

I'm ramping up my long run mileage some to get ready for the HAT 50K in March.  This run was a little different in that I tried out my race strategy after about the first hour of running: I ran a mile and then stopped to walk for 45 seconds.  I'm glad I practiced.  It had some good things about it-- I was able to sustain a 7:50 - 8:30 mile pace much further into the run.  And it was pretty damn hard to start running again after walking in the later miles.

The last two miles were just garbage.  I was just trying to tack two more miles onto my normal 22 mile run.  It was pretty unsatisfying.  I just felt like I was running in circles for the last two miles, just waiting for the mileage meter on my Forerunner 305 to click over.

That said, I was satisfied with the run overall.  When I finished I thought honestly: could I now go on to run another 7.1 miles?  And I think I could have.  It would have been painful!  But I woud be able.  Cool.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

22 Miles/3:22: War of the Worlds

The HAT Run 50K (31.1 Miles) is coming up on 21 March 2009 and I'm signed up for it.  It will be my first (and perhaps last) ultramarathon.  I say it might be my last because Sònia's just made it clear that she doesn't want me to disappear for an entire day while I'm running a race.  Sigh.  I can still run my 22 milers on the weekends, which I love doing.

Except that the last 22 miler I ran was the one I ran right at the beginning of December, a week after the Northern Central Trail Marathon.  So I was due to run another.  I finally made it work-- I got out of bed at 4:30 am this morning after DVD marathoning with Sònia until almost 1 am.  Yipee.

I normally do not like to run with an MP3 player.  It's all part of my drive towards experiencing the moment I'm in, "when running only running" etc.  But for some reason I strapped my MP3 player on my wrist and listened to stuff while I was running.  Most of the run I ended up listening to Jeff Wayne's musical version of "War of the Worlds".  This thing is a classic-- it came out in '82, but I only heard about it when I was in my Junior year at the Academy.  I bought it on cassette tape at Harrod's in London just prior to spending a semester at Edinburgh University.  It brought back memories of that time-- my first time overseas, smoking Dunhills and dating this French girl from Centrón named Gabrielle Jouet-Pastre.  We spent the summer skipping class and knocking the cork into wine bottles with a ballpoint pen.  It never occured to us to buy a corkscrew.  Frankie Goes to Hollywood had just brought out "Welcome to the Pleasure Dome" and we had matching "FRANKIE SAY RELAX" t-shirts.  I read Alasdair Grey's Lanark for the first time and found it to be pretty disturbing.

All of this was swirling through my head when my cell phone rang and Sònia told me I had to be home in an hour.  I was at mile 15 now... I had to make seven miles in an hour and my legs were pretty dang beat by then.  Reality hurts sometimes.  So I tucked my chin in and ran as hard as I could.  And I made it.  It was actually pretty good, I need that ability to find some speed when my legs are really pounded.  But I'm not sure where I found the speed.

Overall I felt good about getting my long run going again.  I'll try and extend it a bit next week, maybe to 24 miles.  I want to have a 26 miler under my belt at least before the HAT run.

Friday, February 6, 2009

FAWM: Three new songs written

I've written three songs so far for February Album Writing Month (FAWM). I'm pretty happy with them and have posted them to the music player on this blog.

FAWM is pretty similar to National Novel Writing Month, in which I've participated two years running. The idea behind FAWM is to write (and ideally record) 14 songs in the month of February.

I know this is all crazy-- I try not to be so naive that I think that I'm creating an actual "album", any more than my two "novel" manuscripts are anything more than first drafts.  But there really is something that simply feels nice about having a couple of songs completed, songs that no one else wrote.  And it's a lot more writing than I've done recently-- before last year's FAWM, my last song was one I wrote to get Sonia to marry me (it worked) and before that my heaviest production time was when I was in Peace Corps.  In 1992.  In Seychelles.  That's too far back.

The point of all of this is simple: like most things, the only way to get better at writing is to write.  The evidence is clear.  My second novel manuscript is a hell of a lot better than my first.  And the songs I've written so far this year are just better than the ones I wrote last year.  

Most people have trouble writing because they are so ashamed of their first attempts.  They write something, then the next day they read it and realize that it's not perfect and then they hide the thing and never try to write again.  I have an advantage here because I lack what my wife Sonia calls el sentido del ridículo: the sense of the ridiculous.  This probably would best be translated as "I have no shame".  I don't get embarrassed easily.  Or rather, I do, but somehow I have the ability to swallow hard and press on.   This also made learning Spanish easier.  I'm pretty sure I left a sturdy swatch of laughing Spaniards in my wake when I first moved to Spain (ask me about the cone of chocolate ice cream some time, I'm amazed I ever lived that one down).

As far as the novel, I actually found someone to edit it, a West Point grad (I try not to hold that against my editor).  I'll get a look at it when the editing is over and see if there is anything to be done for it.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

14 years! My songwriting page

I celebrated 14 years since 15-January-1995 today. Pretty good, a day like any other, really. A little chilly, really.

Who am I kidding, I was over the moon.

One thing I finally got around to doing was sprucing up my songwriting page on MySpace. I wrote a few songs last year for February Album Writing Month and posted them there. I'll be participating in the FAWM again this year, so hopefully my listing will get longer this year:

Saturday, January 3, 2009

5 minutes in the Internet Café

I'm in an Internet Café in Barcelona with 5 minutes on the clock. Sònia, Daniel, and I have been having a blast. We still have over a week left. It's been rainy since the first day, but I love being here. It's hard to belive I lived here for five years... there are a lot of memories in these streets.

I went out for a seven mile run yesterday, which was great. I made it down to Pz Catalunya and Barceloneta, passed Sònia's old house, and back to Pz España. Beautiful.

I saw some old friends in Plaza España tonight as well... always good to catch up.