Saturday, May 26, 2012

Whiskey vs. Toboggan Tycoon

Monday marks the 3 year anniversary of my illustrated book Whiskey Pike. The other day I remembered, and I had quite forgotten over these 3 past years, that the original draft of Whiskey Pike was titled "Bowermaster and Begovenit." The character Shane had the latter last name, while another character of industry had the former. It was much longer piece, and had a whole other second section, telling of another man's business dream, and each criss-crossed in an epilogue, a ghost story to close things out. 

After reading the piece to a friend over whiskey way back, it was apparent the second half didn't work with the first, in fact it siphoned the power of it and made it top heavy. Dissipated the focus. So it was cut, the first half reworked, and Bowermaster transferred over to the whiskey making character because I liked the name better. When I was younger I had gone with my Dad to his office one day and noticed the name plate on an office door down the hall from him stenciled with Mr. Bowermaster. I had always liked that name and wanted to use it in something. 

I'm posting the second half of the original draft here as it was enjoyable to read it again, for me at least, like recovering an old photo, and the nostalgic flood. I had originally thought about reshaping it into it's own story but forgot about it the deeper I had gone in revising Whiskey Pike. I'll let it have a life here. It's not a great story, but represents a weird commentary on the ski industry in the face of global warming, though set in an antiquated period. 


(The original draft had this synopsis->) Two men, of different times and different slopes of the same mountain, set out to brew a wicked beverage, a potent spirit to spike pleasure into the veins of its jollified consumers. Memories of high buffoonery roared as each promoted their beverage business down a strange path to where apocalyptic guitars rattled a rusty ballad in the echoes of the valley. Two men of a mountain: entrepreneurs in tragedies of industry.

Part II: Bowermaster

Ian Bowermaster awoke early and stepped out from his canvas tent into the valley of fog and dew. Refreshed by ambition alone, his head pounded a mighty throb. He took a significant chug of water from a metal canteen and set out to get to work. With hammer, nails, and pine boards, he accomplished a significant portion of the top platform for the toboggan run working straight through into dark. Summer was about to cease, he thought. Less than a few months more before the first predicted snowfall and the ribbon cutting for the winter carnival.

Bowermaster worked slavishly over the months of Autumn. Knocking away he built the toboggan run within a matter of weeks, with a solid structured staircase up the slope, and sandpaper along the panel each step for the snow boots to grip. As September announced its arrival with the fall of leaves and yellowing of the grasses, Ian’s son Frederick set up tent next to his father’s as well as working along side him. Both worked steadily to solidify the ski jump, with another set of steep stairs up the slope. A self powered rope tow was set in two different spots. With axes and saws the two rounded out some ski trails from the rope tow pulley on down.

As October rolled around, the three main attractions were nailed, and Ian began a solid daily routine to cut, steam, and curve panels of oak wood into pairs of skis, and birch branches into stiffened poles. Frederick’s new assignment was to erect two large cabins and large shed. One was for the Bowermaster family’s residence, offices, and ticketing. The second was equipped with rows of bunk beds and a narrow extension hall for a dining room and kitchen. The shed was of course for equipment rental. Things were coming along. Ian was pumping out rows upon rows of skis, as well as snow shoes. The lodgings were set, and so Frederick began knocking together a series of five toboggans.

Ian’s wife Abigail soon arrived presenting Ian with a copy of one of the many leaflets she distributed in the surrounding towns inviting residents near and far to the upcoming Inaugural Winter Carnival November 16th, the day the Farmer’s Alamanac predicted the first snow. The leaflet enticed ski jumping, snow shoeing, toboggan runs, hot cider, ice skating. “Put your cold bones to warm action!” Abigail started building a series of ten benches to surround the small pond at the mountain base. As November rolled around, a man steering a horse and wagon came upon the premises and unloaded a hefty supply of leather bound ice skates into the shed with Frederick’s help. Ian wrote the man a promissory note and sent him on his way. With everything attended to, the Bowermaster family felt confident about their invested enterprise. They looked to the skies and waited, sipping hot cider and sweating in the still somewhat humid valley conditions.

“Winter is one hell of a sport,” Ian Bowermaster announced, and put his arm around his wife.

The mid November mark fast approached, and unfortunate for Ian Bowermaster’s investment, snow did not fall. In fact the weather felt much like springtime, moist dew hung upon the air and vegetation was still hanging on. The eve of the opening date was saturated with an anxiety while preparations were made. Mrs. Bowermaster stirred cauldrons on hot cider, while the mountain workers arrived from Boston ready for seasonal work. Mr. Bowermaster dually flipped moods from eager optimism that the following day would go according to plan, to a frustrated edge in his demeanor as he tried to make the new workers, five of them, useful. The pond was still of liquid nature. No snow in sight. The winter games had no venue. A warm breeze softened Mr. Bowermaster’s face and smoothed his hair while his blood pressure boiled.

They all went to bed early that night to avoid the nagging fears they all had about the weather, however none of them truly slept. The next morning they all awoke as sunrise tipped its colors over the horizon and staining the cloud spread. A cold frost settled on the ground, and Mr. Bowermaster’s spirit felt slightly elevated as he looked to the sky. Partly cloudy. Perhaps some flakes of snow were brewing and gaining weight against the gravity. The pond rippled as one of his men tossed a pebble into it. The sun continued to rise, and bursting Mr. Bowermaster’s elevation another warm breeze invited itself. No guests arrived, to Mr. Bowermaster’s reflief, and opening day grew into a bust as the sun dial rotated.

Mr. Bowermaster, devastated both in his investment and ambition, grabbed a bottle of wine from his personal chest and announced to everyone he was going for a walk. He hiked up the mountain, tossing back his shoes and barefooting the terrain. Taking large sips from the bottle that made a strange sound as his lips made an aggressive suction around the opening. Large strides he took up the slope, away from his men, his family, his operation, his endeavor. Thoughts of abandonment slammed around in his head. Was this operation really a good idea? What’s going on with the climate? Is the farmer’s almanac a hoax? How much of a fool did he look to his fellows and family? Will this thing be operational for some winter amusement? As Mr. Bowermaster reached the summit, he stopped and allowed himself to sweat for a good few minutes as a semi cool breeze hit him in waves. He looked back at his site. The ant sized movement, the overall inactivity. Then he looked down the other slope and could see a farm, perhaps his neighbor’s farm. Bowermaster embarked down the other side as he destined to pay the Begovenit family a visit.

Stumbling down the brush and pine, the man was a light weight, with the wine seeping into his head rather quickly. It did not help that he hadn’t ate breakfast, nor much the past few days due to his nerves. Bowermaster aimlessly knocked away branches as he charged forth and made his way to the fields below. From the open farm, he was able to find sight of the cabin. From there he redirected his thrashing and drove his footed path through the remaining grasses of his friend. Ever so often he’d take a break, gulp some wine, and continue. As he arrived, he announced himself.

“Begovenit! Hello from a Bowermaster!”

No response. The inebriated Bowermaster hustled towards the barn and poked his head in but found no one. Turning back towards the cabin, he shouted another hello but noticed a fox run away from the fire pit. Bowermaster stumbled that way and became aware of the center of focus for the scavenger; three skeletons laid in the yellowed grasses. Skin, muscle and organ gnawed away for the most part. Bits of leather and cloth still clung to pieces of bone. He recognized the dress of Sarah in one the carcasses, clumped in a fetal position. Three skeletons. Horrific. Bowermaster vomited red wine and hustled off into the wilderness. His head throbbed and he wished for a creek to be found as he needed to wet whistle. His intense thirst drove him into a painful drunkenness. He lost his bearings and became more concerned about finding a creek then about making his back to his own site. After awhile he stumbled upon a trail, which led to a creek. There he splashed his face with water, and lapped up large gulps. He sat down on the muddy ground, mind spinning.

“Hello new friend,” came a strange voice from behind.

Startled, Bowermaster twisted around to see the oncoming of a man he recognized; Mr.

“No Shit, you’re alive man! What happened to all of you down here?”

“Not too alive friend, in oblivion, wandering. Something’s up when you drink ten barrels and don’t feel nothing.”

“You look like shit.”

“I am shit. Just remnants of a man.”

Bowermaster splashed his face with more water.

“What happened down to here to your family?”

“Bad moonshine.”

“Glad I didn’t accept your offer.”

“Glad I didn’t ship any of those barrels into town. My company is ruined. My family wiped out.”

“Bad time for business on this mountain! I build a toboggan and ski park. No snow! None. How the hell our we going to operate!”

“Winter sports are fading friend, climate is on the change.”

Begovenit kneeled next to Bowermaster and laid his hand on his shoulder.

“But the farmer’s almanac-“

“But the farmer’s almanac is a superstition.”

“For twenty years in was right on with my crop back, a great attribute to my business.”

“Like I said, climate is changing. You can feel it.”

“How are you so wise friend, the lot of you are drunks.”

“Taste the earth.”


Begovenit dug his fist into the ground, gripped a handful of black dirt and brought it to his mouth. Bowermaster, anxious to learn a secret, dug his fist into the ground and shoved a heap of dirt into his mouth. He coughed and spat.

“What does that do?”

“Maybe you aren’t ready to live off the land if you can’t understand the flavor of dirt.”

“Why is every drunk I know acts so wise and mighty? Hell I’m drunk, feel like I’m getting closer to comprehend what you were going after.”

“You’ll never know what I was going after. Why not figure into what you’re after.”

“I was after my ski business.”

“Why skiing?”

“Recreation, enjoyment, nature and winter frolic.”

“Winter frolic…”

“If we don’t get any snow I don’t know what I’ll do.”

“Sounds like you put together a big operation.”

“A big investment. Everything I had. I thought this was the country to do this sort of thing in.”

“Sadly, climates change, but not the desire of the people for frolic. My business was about


“Exactly. Recreation.”

Begovenit noticed Bowermaster still clutching at the neck of a wine bottle.

“You’re a wine drinking man if I remember right?”


“Have you tasted any of the grapes in the valley?”


“The sweetest juices.”

“I’ll have to pick at some.”

“I can tell something about you Bowermaster. Something I can just tell, you’re like me. You don’t lay yourself at the ground in a fit of hard labor just for it to be swept away by an old God. Like the old timers I lay down to the whim of a good time. I sweat for leisure, you see. My any old God, and I think your any old God, is a God of drink and revelry.”

Bowermaster took another sip from his bottle. When he turned back, Begovenit was no longer present. Footprints pressed soft outlines in the mud, falling away from him. Nothing visible of the man’s body with whom he was speaking. Bowermaster, spooked and sobered, ran straight through the creek, at the middle waist deep, and charged up over the mountain. On his way down, Bowermaster took a few tumbles and rolls. Each time fully recovering and moved down the hill with rapid turnover. At the bottom he slid, and sat. His chest heaving air, and mind steaming to grasp sense, Bowermaster wasn’t sure whether to take his encounter with Begovenit as a hallucination, but he did gather that his ski business might not be the path to take. More than ever, it felt as though fresh blood circulated through his brain, and the idea of brewing his own beverage seemed to have economical weight.

He snuck around his own camp, to explore the valley in the moonlight. He wandered until he found some grape vines. Not an overwhelming population of grape vines, but enough to get him started. Most of the fruit had long withered, however a few still clung to the vine thanks to recent warm air currents. Bowermaster tasted the small fruit. Pleasantly surprised, it had managed to maintain sweet juices, and he could only imagine the vivid flavor of a ripe batch.

That night Bowermaster, with crowbar and bare fist took apart his toboggan run and various platforms, and all of the skis. He tore each apart in haste, and gathered the remains into a large pile of wood. The members of his family and his working man all attempted to pry Bowermaster away from his destructive task, but to no success. Bowermaster, with fevered focus and a crowbar was not the easiest thing to approach. The next afternoon, after a long slumber through the hours of the morning, Bowermaster gathered all who followed him there to tell them of his new grand master plan. The Bowermasters were now in the wine business; The Bowermaster Beverage Company. The announcement was met some disgust, and the men who came to work unanimously decided to leave the operation in a big display of their now lack of faith in this man. His family was skeptical and though him still drunk from his previous night of wandering bereavement. But they knew he was boss, and neither of them had the courage to tell the man he was wrong.

Bowermaster and family delved into an aggressive project of reusing the wood from the
toboggan run and platforms on the hill to create large and small barrels in preparation for wine making. Bowermaster went into town and purchased grape seeds. As an early spring rounded the corner, he planted a grand assortment of grape seeds throughout the valley.

The spring was moist and yielded enough rain to overflow buckets. Bowermaster danced a drunken dance and could taste the imaginary juices of plump grapes. His mouth salivated and his dreams were fed. Midway through the summer months, the rains became absent as the sun continued to beat down. The grasses yellowed as the creeks shrank in width. Bowermaster’s blood deep with concern, stretched to keep high hopes that each new day would bring some rain. Each morning he’d rise to see a clear blue sky, and sweated under another sun. His grapes slowly showed signs of withering. If it keeps this up, he thought, there goes one more of my entrepreneurial attempts to the ditch. Determined not to fail, Bowermaster went on an intense walk away from his operation, through the sun glowing dust that rose from the dying grasses and on up Mt. Footstone. He wanted to once more hear some encouraging words from the apparition of his old neighbor.

Bowermaster settled for the night at the Begovenit cabin. He remained sober, no wine for he hadn’t any yet, and sat on a tree stump outside the old and weather battered barn while tending to a small fire. An assortment of pine cones and tree bark simmered a layer of smoke, surrounding Bowermaster in a haze of smoke as he continued in the throws of deep thought. He prayed for the spirit of Shane Begovenit to return from the dead. Many hours into the night under a black moon, Bowermaster sat alone and desperate. At sunrise, the tired eyed man barked out a raspy request to the Gods.

“Shane old friend, if your restless spirit is hoping to make use of its rattling leftover ambition, I sure could use some precipitation. See my crops are dying. My grapes are shriveling up fast. I’m going to have no business, unless you, my ghostly friend can convince the Gods to shower down precipitation and help my business. Please, I’ll gladly hand over my soul to you at the end of my life, to aid you in an eternity of revelry. I’ll sell my soul to you as a drinking companion in the lonely land of the dead if you would just please, please conjure up some precipitation!”

Bowermaster stood as the last orange embers faded into a crust of gray ash, and stretched his arms into the orange sky of sun up. He kicked dirt onto the last of the smoking fire and wandered up the mountain and back towards his own land. At the top of Mt. Footstone, the man stopped and studied the sky. The sky was consumed by a vast gray, dark fluffy clouds engulfed the regions above and pushed back the bright rays of the sun. A cold breeze slapped upon his face and he strode down the hills with sureness and glee. The proud felt accomplished and relieved that his strange and desperate prayer was indeed heard. However his stride slowed as what began falling from the sky, were not heavenly tear drops ready to splash the dirt and satiate the thirst of every living root. Fat flakes of snow drifted down, and began to, with each pump of Bowermaster’s heart, increase in number, size, and momentum. As Bowermaster resumed hustling down the hill he raved at the skies.

“For crying out loud you knew what I meant, I wanted rain, not just any precipitation, rain! My crops are dying you careless beasts! I don’t need snow now! I could’ve used it way back when you were done forsaking me the first time! Rain,goddamnit, rain!”

Bowermaster crumpled into a raging heap of broken man, beating his fists against the now freezing earth under icy winds that carried sheets of snow. Behind the broken man, perched at the summit of Mt. Footstone, was the figure of Shane Begovenit. Strumming his aged guitar, the figure stared down at his neighbor on the slope below, and reveled in the recreation of seeing a man burn up as an icy climate gnawed at a helpless spirit. Shane Begovenit paused his play of music, as he enjoyed the flow of whiskey from a jug. Ian Bowermaster laid his flat back against the mountain earth and tried his best to breath. As Shane resumed his summit concert, Ian thought he heard some music. He assumed it was his feverish mind and listened to it without feeling.

The End.

That chunk of a story above might have more context for you if you read Whiskey Pike, so the slight capitalist in me thinks you should probably get a copy -> Consider Ordering It!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Satan is Responsible

I recently read the book Satan: His Psychotherapy and Cure by the Unfortaunate Dr. Kassler, J.S.P.S. written by Jeremy Leven. It followed the fictional Dr. Kassler's life of mishaps and how we wound up treating a computer brain that was built by a madman, and came to in fact be Satan incarnated. The read was hilarious, and in parts pretty damn sad. The following passage struck me with much food for thought:

"I arrived when you all decided you were not really a part of nature, when you started telling tales of how lust, revenge, malice, and self-interest weren't really from your heart, but were forced upon you by some outside force."

This comes from a section when Satan is receiving his psychotherapy and is speaking about his birth. And it rings true, not that I'm looking to side with any prince of darkness, but Satan gets a lot of blame placed on him for the world's terror, when in fact, aside from all the beautiful accomplishments the imagination can drive, the imagination can also conjure up some evil lord where one can dump all the bad things they do and see into a sack, "the devil made me/him do it." It's high time people took real time to consider consequences for their actions both in a direct sense...and a not so direct sense, how larger actions, say a nation takes (and we all sit by idly) toward global economic domination, might trigger some violent retaliation that isn't actually caused by the devil whispering in a frustrated people's ears.

And if the devil does exist, does that still make it okay to no longer take responsibility for our actions and shut down the true capabilities of our imagination to understand and cope with and possibly prevent future bad things from happening? Do people really want to let the fear centers of the brain let a specter of a cerebral Satan take up the imagination's projection power? Or do we want to actually use our brain's creative capacities to solve social issues? We're all physically on this Earth and have to find ways to co-exist. And that involves responsibility from all participants. The devil only exists in pictures and cannot be held accountable in any court on this plane of existence. Maybe God's court? But who knows when that trial will get around to happening. We're better off being critical thinkers.