Top Class

Since I’m doing a tech writing series, I thought I’d do something a little fun.
I know a lot of people prefer htop to top, on Linux, and that’s valid, but I
feel like a lot of folks ignore, or are unaware of, the awesome power of a lot
of the built in tools you get with a distro. I love top because you can create
custom views of resources, and make them portable in your .toprc. The thing
that bugs me the most about this, though, is that it can be hard to find this
kind of information in a single location. If you google ‘top’, you get a bunch
of pictures of the default screen, which is boring, and sometimes not very
useful.

Without getting too deep into my philosophy on that stuff, here’s a way that
you can make top look cool, but also make it a bit more functional.

(tl;dr: Open top and press these keys: z, x, c, V, m, t, y, 1, 0. If you want to get real crazy with the cheese wiz, also press b and i. Switch to alternate mode with ‘A’ and repeat that key sequence in each field. Move between fields with ‘a’ and ‘w’. Save your setup to .toprc with .’W’.)

Before we get started, you can write any changes to your .toprc config file with
‘W’. After you play with what we’re about to do a bit, make sure you save your
setup. It isn’t a huge pain to set it up every time, but it could be, if you
use top a lot.

Let’s get started by opening top. The first thing I do when I open a ootb,
unconfigured session of top is put that sucker in alternate mode with ‘A’. That
will give you four fields to work with instead of one. Each field can be treated
like it’s own separate top window. From what I know, you need to configure them
all independently. Once you’ve saved your setup, though, it’s done for good and
it’s portable, so we’ve got that going for us, which is nice.

You can move between the different fields with ‘w’ and ‘a’. In an almost vi like
way, you can use ‘g’, then 1-4 to move directly to a field. Toggle color in each
with ‘z’, or use ‘Z’ to customize the color for each field. Pressing ‘f’ will
drop you into a Field Management menu, where you can select the resource you’d
like to watch. You will notice that the summary field changes color to match the
field you’re currently in. I don’t change the colors of the four fields once
they’re set, because the summary field doesn’t change to match your settings. I
love having the color, though, because it makes it easier to differentiate
quickly between fields if you’re talking to someone about one of them.

Entering ‘1’ (that’s a one) will break your CPU stats out into the number of
cores you’ve got.

The ‘m’ key will cycle you through three different representations of memory
use. The first being text, the next two visual. Once that bar is open, you can
cycle through the various units of memory, like kibibytes or mebibbytes, using
the ‘E’ key. You can cycle through similar bars for CPU usage using the ‘t’ key.

Now your top is a bit easier to read, and looks a bit better. With color, one
can easily differentiate between the fields he/she needs to pay attention to.

If you want to filter out some of the noise, ‘0’ (that’s a zero) will toggle a
mode that suppresses zeros in most fields. That way you’re only seeing what’s
actually being used. On the other hand, ‘c’ will toggle truncated command mode,
so you can see more information about the commands on screen. If you’re really going for that htop look now, you can also use ‘V’ to enter forest mode, which will show you how processes are related to their parents. Using ‘x’ to highlight columns, then turning off bold in favor of reverse using ‘b’ looks pretty neat, too, and will show you very obviously what each field you’re watching is focused on.

So, now your top has four fields of different colors, you’re not seeing zeros,
and you’ve got sweet visual bars in the summary fields that show your resource
use at a quick glance. Write it with ‘W’, and you’re good to move your .toprc
wherever you want it.

There’s a lot more to top, but I think this is a great start beyond what I used
to do, which was pretty much just open the window and watch. It also means that
you’ll have access to a bit more information where you may not have an internet
connection, or repositories that have htop, etc. in them. It’s for cases like
these that I recommend learning the built in tools, like bash, vi, and top. They
may not always be useful for what you need, but they will always be there. Plus,
I think top looks really cool when you tweak it like this.
Know anything else about top that I didn’t mention? Leave it in a comment!

New Puppet Series!

I’m back! Things are changing! Woo-hoo!

In the past, I’ve really only written about writing on this blog. That is,
aside from a few rants early on. Now, though, I’d like to do a series on
something that I’ve recently become passionate about. Puppetlab’s horrible
documentation for Puppet.

To preface this series, I should say that I’ve been working as a sysadmin/
engineer for the past ten years. I’ve done Windows Server support, VoIP,
Linux desktop, Linux server, so on and so forth. Mostly, I’m just trying
to say that I’m not a writer trying to break into tech topics. That said,
Puppet is still pretty new to me. The process of learning what I know now
was extremely painful, and I want to put together a quick series that has
the potential to help folks who stumble upon it.

My goal is to have enough information in one place, and in a clear enough
format, that you can go from nothing to having a nice little environment
put together using roles and profiles. I want to show examples of things
I have learned on my own, from colleagues, and from a bit of formal
training. I’ll walk through building a control repo with profiles that
manage a good variety of basic Linux resources. It’s going to be fun!

Where are we going to start? With the simple things that took me way
too long to find online, like Hiera data. Even after the practitioner
course, I was still a bit confused on where and how it should be stored.
It is understandable that no one wants to tell you exactly what you should
be doing with your environment, but my gripe is that the information
largely exists in fragments. If someone tells you how to format an array
in your yaml file, they may not tell you how you should be splitting up
the data among your files.

I may be wrong, but this is what works for me at the moment. Like I said,
I’m still pretty new to Puppet. These will just be examples to get you
going the first time. To remove the seemingly intentional convolution
and mysticism around Puppet as a whole. Once I have a few more minutes,
probably in my next post, I’ll have my control repo set up and will be
linking to it. For now, here’s what I do with Hiera:

In my repo’s data directory, I have common.yaml, RedHat.yaml, and another
file called something like security.yaml. In my common.yaml, I’ll put
things like my ntp servers. RedHat.yaml contains service names and data
on the yum repositories I’m managing with Puppet. Most of my data usually
goes in my security.yaml. Whether I’m locking down access, disabling
services, or removing packages, there is a lot to do that I consider to
be primarily security related.

When I need a single value stored in Hiera data, I keep it simple:

sshservicename: sshd

If I’m storing data in an array, it will look like this:

ntpservername:
   - '8.8.8.8'
   - '8.8.4.4'

So, the first example would be in my RedHat.yaml, and the second would be
in my common.yaml, both files in my data directory. My hiera.yaml,
which is in the top level directory of my control repo, is going to be as
simple as I can keep it. With the data files above, and using Hiera 5, it
should look something like this:

---
version: 5
defaults:
  # Here's where any defaults you want to set go.
hierarchy:
  - name: 'Where my data is.'
    paths:
      - 'common.yaml'
      - 'security.yaml'
      - '%osfamily.yaml'

That will tell Hiera to look in the three files in my data directory. To
test that, you can run the command “puppet lookup sshservicename”.

The goal is to put all of your data in Hiera files, so you aren’t storing
any in your profiles. This keeps them somewhat portable, but also makes it
so you don’t have to dig through a hundred profiles to find the one place
you would need to make a change, if data were stored in profiles. It also
allows you to use cool things that minimize the size of your profiles,
like lambdas. That’s something we’ll save for a later day, but it won’t be
too far off. I really don’t want this series to be spread too thin.

I’d also like to add a quick note. When I first started trying to figure out
Hiera, for some reason I thought that you should use it to assign roles to a
node. While it can be used for that in certain ways, I’ve limited my use of
it, currently, to providing data for profiles. The base role I include in my
control repo is going to be assigned in a simple way, as the default in the
manifests/site.pp file. That’s something we’ll also look at later on.

This is a series I’m very excited about. I hope it helps folks who are new
to Puppet see how easy it actually is to get going. In addition to that,
I want to show that the more advanced topics that they discuss in their
don’t necessarily require the experience they recommend. I was lucky
enough to have two months to dedicate almost all of my time to learning
Puppet. Had information been presented online in an orderly, concise
method, I believe that could have been compressed into a few days.
Hopefully, this series will accomplish that, and anyone who stumbles upon
it will save a lot of time.

If there is something specific you’d like me to post about, drop a comment
below. I’m planning on posting about the things I mentioned above, as well
as Augeas, a few different modules on the forge, and a bit more. I’m sure
there’s something I haven’t thought of, though. Also, if you’ve been using
Puppet for a while, or whatever, and see something that I said that’s
absolutely horrendous, feel free to drop that comment as well. I’m totally
open to criticism and learning, and don’t want to be spreading bad info.

A new light

So I’m streaming my writing sessions on twitch now. I couldn’t find a text editor that looked pretty enough, so I’m using Sonic Pi for now. That way, I can also make a little music for my sessions in addition to the visual bells and whistles.

It’s a pretty interesting experience, having folks watching me right poetry on the screen. My first two sessions were poetry writing based on prompts I came up before going live. I like that, but I think I prefer writing poetry in private, so I feel capable of being more honest, then sharing it. So, what I’m going to do is probably write and edit short stories in my live stream. Since I’m working on a collection of short stories for 2019, I think that will go well. I’ve already got a lot of them started, so I also won’t need writing prompts.

There’s another reason I changed the content for my stream, though. The little experiment I was doing with what I like to call “micro dreams” is kind of rough. I believe I wrote about my goal on this blog before, but I’ll recap, just to do it.

If you’ve read either of my poetry books, or some of the stuff I’ve posted here, you know my writing can get just about as honest as it gets. After my second collection, I felt kind of burnt on that style of writing. My source of inspiration felt tapped. I’d just finished watching Twin Peaks: The Return at the time, and was really inspired by the over-arching theme of dreams. I thought it would be neat to do a poetry collection each page would tell a brief story, or inspire a specific mood. Not super complex poems, but ones that could still be meditated on a bit.

For example, I’d write a poem about driving through the desert at night with a girl in the passenger seat. Her eyes light up the road, so you turn off the headlights. She closes her eyes tight right before a hard turn and you can’t see, sending the car flying off the road.

It’s is a fun exercise in something I didn’t normally do. I think a lot of the poetry that is going into my next collection is some of the best I’ve written. It’s definitely new territory, though, and it takes more thought. A lot more imagination, since my previous style of writing about myself didn’t really require much.

So, the stream. I’ve got the start do dozens of stories that I’ll be working on live. I’ve also got another novel that I may throw into the mix. Either way, I really think I’m going to enjoy this experience. A few other folks stream writing sessions on Twitch, but they’re fairly regular writing sessions. Since I tried to spice mine up a bit, I feel like I’ve got a tiny edge. It’s a late night session (for me), there’s chill music that I program and change throughout the session, and my pink, embedded cam feed fits well with the aesthetic of Sonic Pi. It’s good. I’m trying to make it very interactive, so people can participate in prompts and edits, or whatever. I feel good about it, and I think it’s a tiny bit of the future of writing. There’s much more to come as I stream more and more.

As of right now, I’ll be live at 9 pm MST, Tuesday through Thursday, for an hour or so. My channel, if you’re interested in checking it out, is https://twitch.tv/amlangston.

 

Thanks for reading. If you check out my stream, make sure to say “hi”!

 

Lessons Come

My first novel is in the hands of beta readers now. I edited it, handed it off to my editor, then fixed the millions of things she found. I learned so much from that process! Everything I’m doing now is so exciting. It’s all so new to me.

The first thing I learned is that my grammar was sub-par. Well, most of those mistakes are fixed now for my future work. I won’t mention specific mistakes, but they were pretty stupid. Next, having someone who really enjoys reading and talking about your art specifically is amazing. That’s the most priceless part of the entire editing process.

Ok, so lot’s of you probably know all this already, but this was my first novel. Poetry is different to me because I see it in the same way that I see improvised music. When I’m playing bass or guitar, I’m going with the flow. There’s no going back. That’s the same way I see poetry. Actually, I’m going to start streaming my poetry sessions on Twitch pretty soon. I want folks to see how magical it is. It didn’t hit me, how cool my poetry jams could be, until one of my youtube stream viewers made a comment like “Man, you’re just sitting there pumping out writing on the fly.”

To me, that’s what poetry writing has always been. Novel writing is brand new territory. Before 2017, I’d never written anything longer than ten thousand words. Last year, I wrote two novels, both over fifty thousand. I also started another that’s just under twenty thousand at the moment. Crazy!

I’m not trying to make this one of those posts where I’m talking about all the junk I’ve done and what’s coming up (Falderal will be out April 20!). What I’m saying is, to me, these projects were enormous! It’s all still super new to me.

The excitement is real. The learning is real. I’ll probably post something more specific about all this in the future, but right now I don’t know when. Now that my second novel is about to be i nthe hands of my editor, I’ve got to finish number three.

Thanks for reading!

It’s Been a While

Hey, folks. I’ve been quiet for a long time, but I’m back. It’s been a long, dry winter here in Albuquerque. It’s finally starting to warm up and it’s time for me to post another update on stuff. 2018! We made it!

First things first, I got the first edit of my novel back from my editor, Ruth. She was super helpful. “Falderal” is looking great. In fact, I’m just about done making all of the necessary changes. It’s getting close to time to publish, and I’m super stoked!

It’s been a while since I’ve mentioned this one, so I’ll write up a short refresher:

Bert is a construction worker from El Paso. After a hard hit to the head one day on the job, he’s left unable to understand anything anyone says, even himself. His friends, thinking he’s dying, decide to take Bert on one last road trip. It starts as a goofy adventure, but quickly becomes a string of one dark, surreal disaster after another all across the western U.S.

I’m also excited to announce that it will be available as an ebook and paperback on April 20th! Other than “Falderal”, I’m looking at publishing one more novel for 2018, and another poetry collection. It’s going to be a great year full of reading, writing, and everything in between. I really hope you enjoy my work as it comes out.

After those three books, there’s even more to come, so stay tuned!

More Progress!

I’ve been lucky enough so far this month to be able to keep up with my goal of 2,000 words a day. I’ll be hitting 36k tonight. In my opinion, the story’s going great. It’s still hard for me to believe I started this project with a single line in my head. Anyway, Chapter Eight is pretty short. Right now, it’s about six pages. I figure it’s a nice little tidbit that helps tie the room together, so here you go. Enjoy!

 

“What is that, bubble gum?” Carl asked.
“Coconut. Is your nose broken?” Bill replied.
“It smells like bubble gum. I can’t help it if none of the assholes in the air freshener factory have ever smelled a coconut before. I’d buy them all a trip to Hawaii if I could.”
“Florida has coconuts.”
“So?”
“It’s closer. It’d be cheaper to send them there.”
“I don’t give a shit where it would be cheap to send them. That’s not the point.”
“No, I’m just saying Florida is still tropical, and it’s closer than Hawaii. It makes more sense.”
“Do you hear what you’re saying? Ah, fuck. Whatever. Bill, give me the diary.”
Bill pulled the writer’s diary out of the glove box and handed it to Carl. Carl picked out the loose-leaf pages and handed them back to Bill. When they stopped at a red light, Carl opened the diary and flipped to a random page.
“God, this guy whined. He was like a little kid, you know that?”
“I know. I read a little of it yesterday. He goes on and on every day about missing his daddy or his sister.”
“Yeah, it’s like, dude, go for a frickin drive. See um already.”
“Why did you say the old guy next door had this?”
“I don’t know. I bet stole it from the house. It was empty for the whole winter.” Carl said. He sneezed into a tissue, then blew his nose into it.
“Carl, if you’re that sick, I’m not sitting in this car for another three days with you. Screw that. I don’t want to be sick right at the start of the weekend.”
“It’s allergies, Bill.”
“How do you know?”
Carl threw the tissue into a plastic bag that he kept looped around his shift knob for trash. He wiped his nose again, this time with his sleeve. Bill opened his window and turned his head towards it, afraid Carl was wrong, and he would get sick breathing the air in the car. The pair were driving back to their office outside of Boston. A few days earlier, they’d received a call from someone saying Francisco had the writer’s diary. Whoever it was, knew they were working on the sequel to their book on Radwin Ali. They were doing their best to turn the house into legend. As they were rummaging through Francisco’s drawers, they saw his stone carving gear. Bill walked around to the back of the kitchen to take get a better look at the sculpture when he saw it through a window that was further away. He shouted to Carl, telling him what he’d found.
“Good. Maybe the bastard will buy the house next door to keep other folks from moving in. If we’re lucky, he’ll die in that house instead of his own. Imagine if that happened. We’d be famous for all this crazy ass non-fiction.”
“I guess we would. I don’t want anyone else dying, though.”
“Bill, he shot a gun into the air to scare us off last time we were here. You better bet at least one of us is dying if he finds us here now.”
“Got it!” Bill shouted. He’d found the diary in the drawer at the end of the kitchen counter.
Carl dashed over. He ripped the diary out of Bill’s hands and rifled through it.
“Shit. This is it. Everything we need to do the next book is right here.”
“Man, it’s going to be nice not to have to stay in this hell hole interviewing grumpy folks again.”
“That’s for sure.”
The two ran out towards their car, parked on the opposite side of the film students’ house. When they were about to pass the front steps of the porch, Bill stopped and ran up them. He put his hands up against the glass of the front door and peered in to see if he could see anything obviously useful. Carl continued to their car, hopping in and starting it. He starred at the wall of the house where Radwin Ali had crashed his car. It was incredible, a miracle that there was no damage. The first few feet of the house above the ground were concrete, but it wasn’t unusually thick. The turquoise paint on the siding above the concrete was chipping. Underneath was a nasty dark gray that must have been the old color of the whole house. How did that car not plow through the wall? Carl wondered.
Bill came running around the corner and slid into the passenger seat. He popped the glove box open and tossed the diary into it, then slammed it shut again. They drove off down the dirt road, going the opposite direction of the town. Neither of them wanted to run in to Francisco. Unfortunately, it meant adding another couple hours to their trip. Because it was early, they decided to stay in the town to the north instead of driving straight home. On the drive to the town, Bill noticed that the scent coming into the car from outside was stronger than the pine scented air freshener hanging from the rear-view mirror. When they put up the windows as it got colder, he noticed the pine scent left completely. That afternoon, as they were walking around town looking for food, Bill bought a new air freshener. It was a brown, two-dimensional tree that was supposed to smell like coconut.
“So, if this Christopher Lawson guy didn’t get shot by his ex-wife, you think he would have still killed himself?” Bill asked, watching Carl thumb through the book.
“It’s hard to say. I had a friend in college who committed suicide. That guy was normal as hell. You never know what’s going through people’s heads.”
“Oh, yeah. He could have moved out to this quiet little town with it on his mind. Maybe he was so nice because he was a little coo-coo.”
“You’re saying you’re not crazy, Bill?”
“I’m not crazy. Plus, if being nice makes you crazy, you’re not crazy.”
“Ha! Got me there.” Carl said. The light turned green and he dropped the diary between his seat and the center console.
Bill lit a cigarette. He rolled his window down a few inches. The smoke from the cigarette between his fingers was sucked right out of the car. Carl wanted a cigarette as soon as he smelled Bills. He lit one and rolled down his window.
Carl and Bill had been working together for five years when they started writing the book about Radwin Ali. They met on a collaboration project between two papers. When they finished the project, they talked about how well they worked together over a few beers. Then and there, a little drunk, they decided to go into business together. Coincidentally, they both dreamed of being non-fiction writers when they were young boys. It was something that always intrigued them. Their fathers encouraged them because, the way they understood it, they thought the boys were interested in becoming journalists. In reality, Bill and Carl dreamed of working on a project similar to Capote’s, “In Cold Blood” or Bugliosi’s, “Helter Skelter”. Four years of freelance writing later, Radwin Ali ran his oversized convertible into the side of his house. Carl and Bill’s days of eating rice and beans for every meal were over.
When wind of the writer’s death got to Massachusetts, they hit up all their sources for weeks trying to find out more. When the anonymous phone call came in, they’d given up trying to get enough information about the writer to put together a book about him. That call solidified their reputation as a non-fiction powerhouse. Years later, they’d go on to build one of the largest true-crime publishing companies of their time. The company, Secret Entrance, would go public fifteen years later. Bill would die of a heart attack before seeing any profit from the initial public offering. His first would weaken him, his second would finish the job. Carl was to ride the crest of the wave until the bitter end, when traditional publishing companies were slaughtered by their electronic counterparts. After that, when Carl finally died in his sleep, of natural causes, he wouldn’t be living in poverty, but he wouldn’t get the plot under the willow that he really wanted.

NaNoWriMo Progress

It’s been a long weekend of not getting as much work done as I should have, but that’s alright. I still got enough done to be on track for finishing my second novel this month. Enough talk about what may or may not be, though. Here’s a bit about some paintings:

The Russian writer wore a gorgeous purple robe. The feather on his pen came from a magnificent peacock, which had been owned by his king. His robe was a gift from a lady who believed he was the best writer that had ever lived. She’d only read half of his second book. It was the book everyone talked about when his work first became popular.
There were two scars on his face, one on his chin and one on his right cheek. His right eye had a squint to it, believed to be caused by the same injury as the scar on his cheek. He was balding, but not completely without hair. His teeth were yellow, except for a few at the front of his mouth.
The book he was writing in was thick. It was believed that he wrote about topics no man had contemplated prior to his writing. While his peers discussed Christianity and the Orthodox religion, he wrote about his love for a druid’s daughter. She lived in a far off, warmer land that he would only be able to visit once every decade. If he wanted to see her more often than that, he would have to abandon his wife and children. He loved his family, though, and chose to visit his druidic love as little as possible. It was his effort to keep them together.
The druid woman spoke no language his companions recognized. She chose to abide by the practices of her culture, and its religion. Once a decade, when he visited, she abandoned her family’s traditions to provide her body for the use of the Russian writer, as he saw fit.
“The shape of your body matches the rolling planes of your homeland.” he told her, knowing she wouldn’t understand.
It may have been that he loved her because the women in her community lived their lives unclothed, as the men did, and she had the most alluring physique. The writer speculated that it was a ray of sun shone down from the sky upon her by God himself, that highlighted her spiritual goodness. To truly save her from the hell she was destined to as a pagan, they were required to copulate.
She was caught in a field between her home land’s rolling planes by Radwin Ali’s mind. He saw her there, nude and hurting for her writer. Her ear held a small, beautiful flower, that had been given to her by a suitor. That is where he painted her. In a way, the druid was his mother. To him, she represented the ideal woman: strong and understanding, with unhindered sexualily.
“What is it you want with me?” she asked him when the painting was complete.
“Nothing now. You are done. I will leave you in a sleeve to be sold for a fantastic amount of money, then some drunk businessman will ejaculate starring into your eyes.”
Radwin Ali was a curious man, both in his interest in the world, and others’ interest in him. Before he was famous, he painted in a single bedroom apartment in Rochester, New York. He survived off the occasional garbage plate, ordered in the middle of the night while college students were recovering from their nights of partying. Radwin Ali was not much of a socialite at that time. His dream was to be seen as the world’s greatest living shut in painter. If he ever bought a house, he wanted to fill it with hundreds of painting that wouldn’t see the light of day for ten years. He planned to then flood the market with his work, once it was worth enough. After he accomplished that, he wanted a famous independent director to make a film about his life. These were all things he wanted before he died.
Instead of moving to the country, he’d originally planned on buying a loft in the center of New York City. A feud he started with a famous gallery owner left him unable to find either a loft to live in or a studio to work in. Radwin Ali quickly learned to be more pleasant to others, even though he didn’t appreciate them. He had an epiphany one night, while having sex with his girlfriend on the roof of their apartment building. The people who would first spread word of his work and those he met in the city at that point were the same. Cultivation of their support needed to happen as soon as he met them.
The strange thing about Radwin Ali was that no one remembers what happened between the time when he was a starving artist trying to make it in the big city, and when his paintings were appeared in galleries across the globe. It seemed to be an instantaneous transition. In interviews, his friends would say that they knew him when he and his girlfriend at the time were poor. They would say they loved her, and it was her fault that he became so well known. At the same time, no one could pinpoint the one event that sky-rocketed him to the top. Because his girlfriend eventually ended up hating even the mention of his name, she wouldn’t tell anyone what had happened to trigger his rise.
Even when he became rich and powerful in the art world, Radwin Ali still had trouble finding a good studio to work in. The feud from his younger years haunted him in one way or another for the rest of his life. Instead of trying to repair the damage he’d caused in the city, he decided to take his city out to the countryside. He bought a car, had a truck packed full of everything he owned, and moved to a small town in Wisconsin. It was a few short months before he moved out of the Midwest, back to the area he’d grown up in. Being too far from New York City was very difficult for him. Something was calling him back to the east coast.
Radwin Ali spent months travelling the north east in search of a new place to call home. During that time, he painted on smaller canvases that were easier to carry from place to place. He completed his most famous painting while on the road. The work was titled “Procession”. It was a picture of a dirt road, splitting a corn field. The road led to an enormous factory building that had been shut down. A handful of children were chasing tin cans that the wind was blowing down the road. The painting was a summary of the feelings Radwin Ali had and the sights that he’d seen exploring the Midwest. It became part of his series of smaller paintings, titled “Moving Still Images”. The series as a whole was labeled as mediocre by critics, save for the “Procession”. No one who was anyone wanted to see the representation of the bleak midwestern American states, they said. Art museums strewn about the midwest were quick to pick up a painting or two. They were the most affordable Radwin Ali’s, and boosted their number of visitors for a good amount of time.
It was while he was working on the last painting in the series that he found the house next to Thomas and Francisco. The entire town was tucked away in the back corners of a beautiful forest. That forest hid it so well, that Radwin Ali drove past the town a dozen times before noticing the road to it went somewhere. He became enchanted with the place at once. First, he’d realized that it was closer to an airport than any of the other towns he’d visited. That would make for an easy escape back to the city. Next, everything on the main street running through the town seemed like it belonged in a different part of the country. The New Orleans café, an exotic pet store next to the antique store, and cevicheria across the street, which was only open in the summer. Moving into that house lifted a massive weight from his shoulders. It gave him the space and solitude to paint non-stop.
Every Sunday in the early summer, Radwin Ali had a bottle of wine and ceviche. After his meal, he would walk to the café for a café au lait and a small plate of begniets. Once the number of guests attending his parties rose enough, he was not seen in town. Someone who’d stayed at his house the night before would come pick up his food for him. Usually, this person would arrive at the cevicheria with a headache and sour stomach. After the third time, the chef started including coconut water in the paper bag along with Radwin Ali’s choice of dishes.