Learn the stories behind my stories as I give updates, discuss literature, and share writing advice. Find all my writing at www.tylerdunning.com.
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Follow the Fox

Monthly Newsletter

November 2013

Despite having the quintessential grit of any Montana Highline saloon, the place gives “dive bar” a whole new meaning. It’s called the Sip ‘n’ Dip Lounge and has resided within the O’Haire Motor Inn since 1962. Designed in a stereotypical Polynesian manner, the building is adorned with straw matting, tiki torches, and fake orchids. But what makes the place iconic, however, is what’s happening behind the bar. Beyond the beer taps and bottles of myriad liquor is a glass wall—a wall acting as a makeshift porthole. Through the glass is an underwater view of the motel’s swimming pool; on the busy nights, mermaids swim in and out of sight.

The only thing trumping the aquatic entertainment is the live music—music which has been performed by the same woman and her organ for the past 39 years, Pat Spoonheim. Due to her age (64) and the years of smoking that have come with it, her voice is nothing more than a raspy croak. It is quite enduring though. She sings ballads and classic hits, but you would never know it; deciphering her performances takes work. Being the first one to solve the musical mystery creates exciting drinking games amongst the patrons.

This place, the Sip ‘n’ Dip, is possibly the closest to a miracle I have ever been. And that is why, during my Thanksgiving vacation in the town of Great Falls, I spent one of my nights drinking out of a fish bowl, gazing at mythical mermaids, and listening to the strangest rendition of “Brown Eyed Girl” I have ever heard.

 
Montana is getting cold, with the high of the day rarely exceeding a negative degree. Staying warm is a constant struggle (perpetual layers are a necessity) and being outside is simply out of the question. My feet ache with the nostalgia of warmth as I write this, and I often fear my flesh is becoming translucent with each passing day, like that of a strange cave animal. For me, however, the greatest challenge is mental; I need the sun and I need long outdoor walks. I need my bike. The winter entombs everything in its dark tunnel here. Seasonal depression is a real thing. This is the Montana I remember.

I awake to snow, to an immaculate valley. I scrape my car window each morning and wonder how I was raised in this and at what point it became something other than my annual rhythm. I feel like my personality goes dormant when I come back here, much like the seeds hiding under the permafrost. Cycles, I think, are good.

But this is my home and this permafrost will never fully thaw from my bone marrow. I was made for the seasons, even the ones set to remind the world what loss is, what death is, and what being cold really means. Books and shitty television are becoming my best friends.

I am currently reading a book called The Drifters by James A. Michener. It is a lavish narrative set in the ‘60s discussing the effects of social, racial, and political issues. I feel at home with the characters, as they are an earnest and afflicted bunch. I linger in each sentence and yearn for a generation of purpose, like that of my fictional drifters. I am feeling the heavy weight of apathy and indifference these days; sometimes I’m afraid this indifference will last forever, frozen in the wiring of my synapses.

Despite this, my spirit is thriving.

I will be doing a bit of my own drifting come February and March. I will be heading to the islands of New Zealand and Samoa and could not be more excited about the prospect. The days will be dedicated to camping and multi-day hikes. There are 14 national parks I hope to explore. And, most importantly, it will be summer there (email me if you have any suggestions for this adventure).

In the meantime, however, I will be finishing up my remaining graduate school applications, working on my storytelling, and daydreaming of the land of Montana mermaids.


[In other news, I've had my first articles published by Active.com. Check them out here and here.]

Two Cents:

I recently watched a 2001 lecture by Ray Bradbury at Point Loma Nazarene University that is littered with great writing advice; it is also quite entertaining, considering the speaker in question has become ornery with old age. My favorite part of the talk is his advice on having diverse influences (he encourages reading one short story, one poem, and one essay every night). You can find the lecture here.

From the Webs:

I struggle with poetry. I don't understand the vast majority of it and my brain is quick to relinquish attention from the art. But slam poetry is a different story. A friend recently sent me this poem and it has had a profound influence on my last month (sometimes it even makes my eyes well—a feat not easily achieved).

Enjoy Buddy Wakefield's "Hurling Crowbirds at Mockingbars." 

Book Talk:

To those who couldn’t understand it, I used to explain my depression as a dull ache in the darker parts of my brain, the rabid gnawing of a feral ghoul scratching to escape my skull, the debilitating daydreaming of wanting to feel anything but this. It is almost like a toothache for your soul.
 
But to those who have not endured it, the disease is like describing a color they have never seen. So, to my family and friends, on those days when I couldn’t get out of bed or had to leave a social event early because I couldn’t function, I was seen as weak and difficult and sometimes embarrassing.
 
It is isolating, especially at that age when it is still too taboo to talk about and when you, yourself, are still trying to understand the plight.
 
I have talked to a lot of people about depression, but I have never found a more clear description or exposition on the subject as William Styron's Darkness Visible. His words bring the solace of finally being understood, of finally bringing description to that which is so eluding.
 
I would recommend this book to anyone who has ever been affected by depression, whether directly or by association (which honestly doesn’t exclude many people). I think one of the best ways to combat this cerebral pandemic is to simply start talking about it, to let those who suffer the darkest of days know they are in good company—and there is hope.

As a warning, this book doesn't get good until about page 15. But then it gets really good.
Thank you for subscribing and thank you for the support! Please keep reading my stories, keep “liking” them (even if you don’t), and keep sharing them. The more support I have now, the more leverage I’ll have later when I start approaching agents and publishing companies. Until next month, love & tear-gas riots.
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