20 September 2010

"The Blogger's Game" with Perry Block

The Blogger's Game" is a challenging and cooperative effort between two writers to tell one story from different perspectives.  The rules are incredibly simple.  To begin, agree on a very flexible plot wherein you and your partner are the two main characters.  Then, choose a general length for your short stories.  Respect for the integrity of the other writer's persona is paramount.  Share your version of the story with your partner and revise until both parties are satisfied with the outcome.  No one "wins," but you both benefit from the exercise.

As Editor of Peevish Penman, I decided have a go at the game with writer, Perry Block, who blogs at Nouveau Old, Formerly Cute and wins awards for his ability to poke fun at himself.  In fact, Perry's penchant for self-deprecation made him the ideal partner to work with, because nothing I could say about him would be worse than what he was willing to say himself.  Here's his-highly inaccurate-exposition of how we decided on the details of our story:  

Perry Block
“Let’s pull  a swap,” my friend Carrie Bailey, a very good writer,  tweeted me one unsuspecting Sunday afternoon.

“Whatever could she mean,” I wondered.   Oh, how I had longed to hear those words some 20 years ago from at least a half dozen of my male friends!

But that was not her meaning,  that much was clear.  My life could never be that kinky!

I tweeted back “What are we swapping?  Or are you still in the fur-trading business? “

Carrie had a hunter-trapper background, being a United Nations of ethnicities, most prominently Metis (an indigenous Canadian people) and Jewish (a highly indigenous to me people)

Bet you’re just waiting for a Jewish/Metis joke here, aren’t you, dude?  Well, I’m sorry,  in the time I allotted, I couldn’t think of one.  Write your own damn joke!

 “We are swapping stories,” Carrie tweeted back.  “On our blogs.  You write a story to post on my blog, I write a story for yours.”

"Oh," I typed, making sure to spell it correctly.  "But what do we write about?   Do I write about Metis stuff?  Do you write about being un-athletic and insecure?"  

“We pick a common topic and both write about it from our own perspectives.  Any ideas?”

A common topic? Aside from our modest ethnic linkage, about all that Carrie and I have in common is that we are both carbon-based lifeforms.

 “I’ve got it,” tweeted Carrie.  “You and I are in Paris.”

So far, so good.

“And we decide to meet for coffee…”

Hmm, provocative!

“And then we save the world!”

“Umm, Carrie,” I tweeted back. “I don’t even save string, let alone the world!

“Perry,” Carrie tweeted. “It’s fiction and you’re a writer.  You can do it!”

And so, Carrie and I have done it.  Now, dear reader, wanna pull a swap with me??

"Paris France" by Perry Block

I was resting up in a hotel near Montmartre following the successful wind-down of my last assignment, rescuing a warehouse full of stolen art from the hands of my arch nemesis, Anselmo the Insidious. Yes, a Vermeer or two and Van Gogh’s Sunflowers had sustained a bit of gunfire damage, but at least I’d managed to keep the flying bullets away from my dear friend, Helmut Artichoke.

It isn’t every day when a good pal breaks down sobbing in front of you with a “you saved my life, Perry, I’m forever in your debt.” Actually, it’s more like once or twice a week, but who’s counting?

Anyway, it was to be an interesting evening. I was looking forward to meeting a young woman, a writer who had “tweeted” me with an interest in doing a book on my life. The idea intrigued me, although I have always been one to eschew publicity. But …. but….

….. Eschew?” I don’t even know what the word means!

“Boy, you really ran away with yourself this time, jerk!” I said aloud.

Truth is, I did not just conclude a mission against Anselmo the Insidious. I don’t even know anyone named Anselmo, let alone Anselmo the Insidious. I don’t even know anyone named Ralph, let alone Anselmo the Insidious!

No, I am plain old Perry Block, aging boomer and semi-retired HR professional on one of those “If it’s Tuesday, it Must by Dysentery Tours” with the Travel Club from Temple Boray Perry Hagolfen in suburban Philadelphia PA, USA.

About the only thing in my flight of fancy that wasn’t fanciful was that I was indeed about to meet a Twitter friend of mine for the first time in the actual flesh. Carrie Bailey, who tweets under the Twitter name @Peevish Penman, had sent me a missive in 140 characters or less saying that she’d also be in Paris and suggested we rendezvous at a small café in the nearby Hotel des Magottes.

I tweeted back “OK,” but that took me over 140 characters, so I had to cut it back to “O.” I’d hoped she understood.

From her twitterings, Carrie seemed to be everything I was not. She had grown up in the Northwestern United States, trekking from desert to rain forest as her stepfather’s work as a rural proctologist had taken them. She had spent summers on a family homestead nestled in a Washington State valley that looked like the place where God spends weekends in August.

Carrie’s early life had been a’hunting and a’ trapping and a’ fishing, a’ gardening her own vegetables, and a’cooking it all up over a campfire, no doubt a’singing about it all over the fire’s blazing embers long into the night.

I, on the other hand, had never done anything that began with an a-apostrophe except a’whining. I’d never even been able to start a campfire without yelling “Hey look, Scouts, Kobe Bryant,” and unleashing a flame thrower as soon as their 8 year old backs were collectively turned. It was clear that Carrie’s formative years’ experiences considerably eclipsed mine, my having majored through 11th Grade in “Being Picked on Mercilessly by Kids from the Chess Club.”

“Let’s face it,” I muttered, “I’ve measured out my life in coffee spoons.” And at 8,427 coffee spoons to date, frequently the coffee hadn’t even been hot!

I headed out into the Parisian night and onward toward the Place des Magottes. Arriving a bit early, the friendly maitre d’ asked if l’d like a table right away or prefer to “francais bouche” Helen Thomas.” Between the two, I thought it probably better to sit down, so I made myself comfortable at a table next to the entrance to the Hotel des Magottes in a special section of the café called Meurde pour les Ameriques. Except for a peculiar aroma, I thought it lovely that there was a unique area in the café set up just to make Americans feel at home!

I was bathed in thought --- a very inefficient method of hygiene, but hey, I was in France --- and then: black and white floral top, smartly matching silver necklace, and black sandals….yes, I would look very good dressed like that, I thought! I must go shopping later today.

Then I looked up and saw a young woman walking toward me dressed exactly that same way! With shoulder length brown hair and a confident gait, she exuded a sort of earthy attractiveness that was at once highly appealing. My attractiveness has similarly been described as “earthy” --- that is, worthy of being buried deep beneath the earth.

“Hello, Perry,” said Carrie Bailey, as she reached the table and outstretched her hand. I rose and plunged mine forward to shake hers.

“Carrie, great to meet you,” I croaked, doing my best to effect a strong hunter/trapper/ blazing campfire kind of handshake.

“Um Perry,” said Carrie, “are you a little nervous?”

“Me? Nervous? Not a chance!”

“Oh, OK. I thought maybe because you were shaking my right breast, you might be a little ill at ease.”

“Oh, no, of course not! Uhhh … I was just, umm, trying to flick away a small insect I thought might be bothering you!”

“Well, no harm done. Let’s sit! How are you enjoying Paris?”

Embarrassed as I was, Carrie had a way of making you feel comfortable, and before long, I decided that the breast–shaking incident was only the 41st Most Humiliating Thing that had ever happened to me.

Carrie told me she had just returned from three years in graduate school in New Zealand, lived for a number of years in Chile, and at only about 35 years of age had raised a son to adulthood virtually all by herself.

Wow! My friend had experienced life on three continents, earned an advanced degree, and produced a grown son at the same age at which I was just beginning to get over my fear of clowns. But as Carrie said “How can a person allow a few scratches on a piece of paper to dictate their life story?”

Whatever she meant, whatever they were, it was clear that I had spent my life staring at the scratches on my piece of paper, scratching only my ass in the process.

Just then, we heard a roar coming from inside the hotel. It sounded plainly and unmistakably like 1,000 voices shouting in unison “AMERICA, YOU REALLY KINDA SUCK!” It might have been “AMERICA, YOU KINDA REALLY SUCK!” but at this juncture I’m not sure. I can research it if you like.

“What was that!?” I said to our waiter, who at that very moment managed to be standing on my foot while simultaneously serving a table of Parisians at the complete opposite side of the room.

“Oh yes, Monsieur,” he said, “That is a wonderful group, the International Coalition of Anti-Americans! They meet here every year around this time. We always give them steep discounts.”

“Perry,” announced Carrie, “I’ve known people like this! We’ve got to talk to them…..understand them … try to reach them! Come on!”

“Right with ya, Carrie,” I steadfastly responded. “But could we maybe order first? I kind of have a thing about getting shot on an empty stomach…”

But Carrie was up and off, and I had no choice but to follow her.

The ICAA meeting was in Ballroom Quatre-Vingt Rhames. It was the last day of the conference and also T-shirt Day. Present were Taliban, North Koreans, pro-Ahmadinejad Iranians, amateur- Ahmadinejad Iranians, jihadists, Golly-Gee-hadists, Neo-Nazis, Crypto-Nazis, Surf Nazis Who Must 
Die, and Nazis with Whipped Cream and Chocolate Morsels.

This wasn’t just an Axis of Evil, it was a Connect-A-Dot of Evil!

“Friends,” shouted Carrie, “if I may, I wish to speak on behalf of America!”

“Carrie, I don’t think we want to do this,” I counseled, “that is, if like me, you crave continuing to breathe oxygen.”

“I’ve lived many places,” she went on “and I know one thing: there is always room for dialogue.”

Yeah, and there’s always room for a lynching too! I practiced carefully what I was going to say when it was my turn to address the throng: “Folks, pardon her, she’s delirious from too much tweeting…we’ll be going now….”

“America is the Great Satan!” shouted a Taliban in the front. “Or at least an average to very good Satan!

“They seek to destroy our cultures by their control of the media,” snarled a Nazi Frozen in Butter Sauce. “It is the Jews!”

“Yes,” bellowed a North Korean, “The Jews force us to watch According to Jim”

“And if you try to date one of their women,” hissed an Iranian, “I understand it can take up to six months for you ...you…you know what!!!”

And at that, I realized exactly what I must do.

I called Al Rothman, who was in charge of the Temple Boray Perry Hagolfen tour. And then I waited.
“It’s true the CIA overthrew the Allende government in Chile,” Carrie was desperately explaining, “But they really did believe Allende had weapons of mass destruction. A cache of very high powered slinkies was found; they could go down any staircase in record time!”

Sincere as she was & hard as she tried, I had a feeling Carrie wasn’t getting through. An entire phalanx of Anti-Americans were actually projecting a visible thought bubble that showed her slow roasting over one of her pre-pubescent campfires. For my part, the thought bubble depicted me as a handsome lamp adorning an end table in the tastefully decorated den of a leading Surf Nazi.

Suddenly, the door to Ballroom Quatre-Vingt Rhames flew open and in poured the original Broadway cast of “The Temple Boray Perry Hagolfen Summer 2010 Tour of the European Continent!”

“Ahh, this is the group!” said Al Rothman. “Hello pischers, we’ve got kugel!”

“And I’ve got the video of the new Judd Apatow movie “Funny People!” said Harry Blitstein.”Wall to wall Chosen People in the cast, if you know what I mean!”

“Look at this bunch!” exclaimed Hilda Slotnick. “They don’t have a clue how to dress for an American Haters conference. … Sheila, they’re under our wing!

There was silence ….. Then the sound of frantic and excited talking…. and talking. And talking. A roomful of yentas, if you’ll pardon the expression.

Then laughter!

“That’s what you call a schmata? For me? Sheila, that’s beautiful!”

“I see! I see! The Jews don’t want to control the media to dominate the world, they merely want to share their gift of laughter with us! That Andy Dick, he is Jewish? I find him most amusing!”

“Oh, so it is only the ones called J-A-Ps that make you wait upwards of six months! I understand at last, I will avoid them!”

All around, it was a veritable Woodstock of Peace, Love, and Understanding! Only without the rock and roll, drugs, nudity, sex, and other cool stuff that would have made it probably the Best American Haters conference ever.

“The Jews, they are wonderful people, who knew?” A Surf Nazi exclaimed, slapping himself on the forehead.

“And that means the Americans are wonderful too!” exclaimed a Taliban, breaking his Kalashnikov over his knee and then excusing himself to go looking for the remaining shards of his leg.

“Perry,” beamed Carrie, “how ever did you know this would work?”

“I realized,” I said, “that these guys who so hated America really didn’t know anything about us --- Americans or Jews. And also… and also …..

…… because it was similar to the ploy I worked in St. Petersburg,” I went on,” when we turned the notorious double agent Gail Gobo into the opening act for Bobby Vinton in Branson Missouri.”

“If it weren’t that I have always been one to eschew publicity,” I told Carrie, “I’d let you write about it someday,”

Following a vote to rename themselves The Andy Dick Fan Club, the ICAA officially disbanded, and Carrie and I bade each other goodbye.

I thought about heading back to the Place des Magottes to find that waiter who had stood on my foot. 

Time to provide his groin area with a standing ovation of my own!

Still, I had to wonder. Why do I often wonder about how life might have been were I more like the typical Baby Boomer, and why had those thoughts flashed so strongly before me when I was confronting the Coalition?

Maybe I too once had choices other than the scribble-scratches I had long ago seen on my own personal piece of paper.

I said a silent thank you to Carrie Bailey, the Travel Club of Temple Boray Perry Hagolfen, and to my esteemed alter ego.

And though the darkened streets of Paris France, I headed back home.

And Perry adds: I wake up looking at my neighbor’s wash. What do you wake up to?

Carrie's Family Homestead in Washington (not DC)
To read the better version of the story visit Nouveau Old, Formerly Cute wherein I, Carrie Bailey, writer and editor of The Peevish Penman save America.  Perry was there, too.  

If you're interested in finding a partner and trying out your own version of the "Blogger's Game," leave a comment below.


  1. I thoroughly loved this piece!

    Please have Mr. Block write guest posts again and again!

    Umm, you guys pay for this stuff, don't you?

  2. Absolutely, I give you 95% of our income from our google ads which you may notice being all over my site. :P

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