Tuesday, December 29, 2009

On Time and Careening; Electrified Wrists

Man stands on
elevated train track,
sleeves bristling, wind
flapping his lapels and mussing his
Hundred Dollar Haircut and
fifty dollar coat as he
waits in the quiet, the cold

Commuters, not a
group but a
series of islands too
bored to war
too busy shoving
music in ears and
fingers in pockets
to ask each other to move,
instead bump and huddle and
keep each other company

Younger man asks him if the
train is late and he says
yes or
no or
maybe, he's not sure and can't hear himself over the
wind and anyway
so what does it matter and
here comes the train now rumbling and scraping along
and something's wrong, the sparks and the screeching and the
shrieking of brakes as they fail and fumble to
stop it but can't

Cars begin jostling and
metal begins screaming and
younger man's running but
no one's else moving so he
pulls the other away as the
train is derailing, a thunder of terror and a hot wind of reckoning the
commuters all falling and going to pieces,
meat is a murder and blood is a-following and the
dust is a-settling and the
wind sound's returning

Younger man pulls himself
up and the other, helps him to
feet they're the
only two standing in this
newsworthy rendering
"Why'd you not move" the
younger man asks him with
look of confusion and blood and dust spattering

He straightens up tie and rebuttons button and
smacks dirt off his newspaper and kicks off an eardrum to
check on his watch and cross-reference schedules,
doesn't look over just says to the younger man,
"Happens every day, you just
have to get used to it."

Saturday, November 21, 2009

My Heart’s Starting to Bother Me Now (A New Base-Line Condition)

Recently I’ve been reading two things: Kerouac and a book called Obedience to Authority, and both have me thinking about fear. Fear of what others think. A fear we put in ourselves, constant, a worm bore into the brain, put in the ear with our own hands.

Obedience to Authority is about a study that was done in the fifties or sixties that tested the extent to which ordinary people will follow the orders of a superior, even in the presence of a moral dilemma, of inflicting pain on a fellow man. They used an actor and the guise of a fake study on learning in which the teacher (the mark) shocked the learner (the actor) with electric shocks at each wrong answer. But the trick was, the shocks, ever increasing in power, were fake. The learner only pretended to be in pain. The plan was to see how many people continued on with worse and worse and worse shocks, go against their own feelings and the begs of the victim (fake). It was scary and depressing to see the ratios. How many people went through with it, hurt another person, a screaming in pain person sometimes complaining of heart condition always pleading to be let out. Only because a man in a lab coat with imagined power said so. This man had no real authority. He only represented a higher order, a system, a man above. For this they threw themselves out, their humanity, their compassion. Sweating, protesting, still they went on, barely prodded by monotone phrases like "there is no permanent tissue damage." But the ones, the few that stood up, stopped and refused to go on, I was so proud of them. A swelling in the lungs.

Jack Kerouac is a man, a poet, a writer. I read his Book of Sketches, a kind of journal of writings, a transcription of the pads he kept in his pocket over the course of several years describing scenes and moments, and it felt like writing class. I sat with it close to my face unblinking, shocked at the constant command, the honesty, thinking I wanted to soak it in, physically into my pores, the talent, the honesty, the vocabulary, the rhythm, I wanted to have that for myself. I’ve never felt more in my life after putting down a book that I knew the man who wrote it. I know his loves, his lusts, his paranoias, his surroundings, his nineteen-fifties, his cities, his equal compassions and hatreds for the Common Man. Just a journal but it held exactly the reason to write- to talk about the world, document, list what you see, try to find an order to it, say what you think of it, leave a message for after you’re dead, to say I was here, I was angry, I loved, I was here.

From his writing I feel a fearlessness. I don’t know if he displayed that in his real life- I know he traveled, he drugged, he drank, he divorced but also that he hated his life at times, became a slave to his image, his movement, became bitter with the times and fames, died of the drink. But while that means so much to me, it also means nothing. His writing life was not that. It was fearlessness. Never did I feel he held back. He talked about everything. He talked about his brother who died. His sister he disliked. He talked about wanting to be the greatest writer in the world. He talked about his disagreements. About when he thought a friend was wrong. They would all read it at some point, but still he talked. No censor. No fear. Everything he saw and felt. And I need that. I need that. I like style but I love honesty. His writing gave me, more than once, that feeling I search for. The ultimate jaw drop. The shocked eye-open. The Yes, Yes, Exactly, the something that so perfectly speaks to your heart, to your exact sensibilities, to what art can be and how it can shake you and affirm you and connect you to the person who made it in ways that are godly, soulful, impossible to replicate. I’ve gotten that from my favorite bands- Heresy by Nine Inch Nails, human screams used as an instrument while combining acoustic guitar with broken keyboards. The Great Destroyer, a song becomes an electronic cluster-crumble instrumental. Forty-Six and Two by Tool, the sound of that voice and that filter-up guitar sound as it comes back in. Bjork, buying the greatest hits after so many years of thinking about it, sitting on my bed pressing play and just being shocked and sad it had taken me so long but happy to have the short-lived honor of experiencing it for the first time, the reason I always wish I could erase my memory of an album I know too well, heard too many hundreds of times, wishing I could listen to it virgin-like. The very first and perfectly pitched still melodic effortless scream from Karen O the first time we saw the Yeah Yeah Yeahs live. Deftones, Elite, "When you’re ripe you’ll bleed out of control", so heavy and filtered and wrenching. Portugal. The Man, a track name I can’t remember, possibly AKA M-80 Wolf, a song that sounds like Castlevania and 8-bit and southern and electronic and dark and smart and right. Muse, singing of the Apocalypse, being so falsetto calm and then suddenly Stockholm Syndrome hits. Creep by Stone Temple Pilots, the most perfect acoustic. Various moments of Radiohead and their paranoid androids, Pink Floyd and their walls and childhood fevers and numbness. Marilyn Manson when he couldn’t be stopped. Saul Williams singing U2 through Trent Reznor’s sound.

And movies. The long shots of Children of Men. Forrest Gump driven to punch by jealousy and protection. Edward Scissorhands driven to kill by the same. And books. Laughing at Fear and Loathing, smiling while reading but not a popcorn smile, not a sugar smile, a real one, a dark one. Opening House of Leaves by Danielewski and seeing what a book can be. Same for Atrocity Exhibition by Ballard. Perfect sentences of Denis Johnson in Jesus’ Son and his journalistic Seek. Simple sadness from Amy Hempel. Surreal degradation and depravity from Craig Clevenger. Jack Kerouac, of course, everything is poetry. A quote from On the Road before I even read it- the burn, burn, burn, and before that Scattered Poems and after that Sketches and just eyes open.

This is what I want. I want to leave behind fear, shake it from my fingers. I want to earn a living doing this but it would mean nothing without the other. I know I’ll probably never be one of the greats but I’ll be happy to be one of the goods trying to be one of the greats, not selling out, not giving in to the crush of the Franchise, the Pander. No hovering over keys, just saying it. No holding back for marketing. Never putting sales before anything, never becoming a cartoon, a joke, an embarrassment. I try not to be Elitist but I get honestly truly disgusted by what I see on the outside, when I read around other people outside my circle, my type, and I hear things like "Reading? Good for you!" like it’s impressive. The worst was a woman saying "I can’t stand reading," such contempt in her voice, like "Books. Fuh." and what I want to say is, "I appreciate your opinion but you’re the one who shit out two babies for a man you don’t even entertain the idea of marrying and actually laugh at when I bring it up. That is your life and you will die dumb." Like Bill Hicks when he said a truck stop waitress asked him through gum, "Why you readin’? and he said "Wow, why? I never thought about why. I guess first and foremost so I don’t become a waitress in a truck stop." And the few that read, excitedly bragging about reading another from The Five People You Meet in Heaven Guy, pointing to it like "see?" and this is the best of them on a scale of readers. The rest don’t have time. Don’t have time, yet "Did you catch the nine hour season finale of Dancing with Surgery Victims?" but this is also the reason to write, the signal, to find other people like me, share something with them, give them another shield for The Fight. And maybe this never works, maybe in person it will never be an honest, human connection. But if I can have one on paper at least that’s something, and it can only be had by fearlessness, an avalanche, the ability to say it all and mean it all, honesty, fearlessness, pride, and that’s what the poets and doctors are saying.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

This Business of Sweating and Bleeding

To my experience, the act of writing is the act of fighting with oneself. It means constantly questioning- things like, is this good? Could it be better? Should it be more like (blank) writer? Is it too much like (blank) writer? Is it funny? Should it be funny? Is it boring? Is it clear? Is it honest? Can my family read this? Am I wasting my time? Are people just humoring me? Will I have to explain this? Has this been said before? And taken far enough, it all tends to bunch up into one, wrenching question- what's the point?

I think about that one a lot. What's the point of telling a story? I don't think of myself as someone who has all the answers, but I find myself doing a thing that tries to give some. When I was a kid writing was a kind of reaching out to communicate. It still is, I suppose, but that's not a piercing need the way it is during those hormone times. However maybe it is still just for me, maybe the act of writing is how I focus on things other than myself, picking apart a story instead of myself, my working out the answers on paper because I can't do it aloud. Maybe, if you'll forgive a borderline lame joke, it's cheaper than therapy. But if that's the case, why let anyone read it? Doing that might help me, but it doesn't do much for them. On the other hand, finding that someone else has the same thoughts, the same issues, that they're like you in some way, that can be comforting for them. That can be important.

On a larger scale, I see the importance of storytelling historically. So much of what we know of dead cultures comes from their mythologies, their passed down stories. Writers intending to set a scene end up documenting the minutiae of their world for future peoples. Their words tie generations together. Even the smallest, most unknown books float from store to owner to used store to garage sale to owner. People seem unwilling to throw books away, as if there's a responsibility there to preserve something, pass it along.

My general answer, the one that satisfies me most days, is simple- it's that I love art. I fill my house and my time with media, with frozen, thawable experiences shaped by the fingers and eyes of others. It's the closest I come to worship. Music, novels, comics, short stories, movies, television, video games, paintings, sculptures. I love, love, love these things. So what sometimes satisfies that question of why, why, is that I want to put something back into the pot. If I can make a thing that other people like me can enjoy, use to pass the time, get lost in beloved places, connect to and be part of and take as their own, then I'm paying back the favor and hopefully in the process becoming a part of that massive, messy shape that tumbles on.

I don't know if the fights with myself will ever stop, and maybe they're not supposed to and that's part of the process and it makes the product stronger for it, but the good thing is that these days I win more fights than I lose. I've been doing this thing, this storytelling, intentionally and with purpose at least, for what I estimate to be almost twenty years. And yet only recently did I come to the point where I think I know how to do it. I don't mean that to be deceptively humble or self-effacing for the purpose of compliment fishing, I genuinely think I got by for a long time by writing quick pieces caked in every fancy word and trick I knew, in an attempt to run-stumble to the finish line of decency and quality. That, coupled with youthful impatience, amounted to my inability to reach novel length.

And that was still my problem when I started writing A Chemical Fire. But a few years later, when I quit my job and decided to make that book my job and got down to the actual grind of daily writing, I started the process of learning how to actually write. And now having continued that learning and finding myself some forty-thousand words into The Scapegoatist, I find the whole thing becoming more natural, more authentic. I repeatedly find myself saying "Oh, okay. That's how you do that." I feel less and less like a guy trying to impress and more a guy who decided to tell a story and who is going about doing it. I used to think that making that switch would sacrifice style, and maybe sometimes it does, but I see now there's a balance to find. It's dead middle between dry, chronological recitation and crushing heads with the witty stick.

Things are going well now, better than ever before. I'm aiming to have this book done by year's end into next year's beginning. After that I have two definites lined up and a third eventual. I'm setting myself up on a schedule of a book a year, minimum, so long as I have a job slowing me down. When that's no longer a factor I'll see about speeding it up but never rushing it.

I don't want to sum this up with one, single thought, but there is one more answer to that question of why, why, that seems to answer without answering, to put it to sleep without gutting it, ruining it, demystifying it. It's that I write because I always have. Because I sort of have to. That I can't remember what it was like before I did, and that seems like as good a reason as any. At least that I'm ever going to come up with.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Pushpull Fascinations

They shake their heat all over us,
Lost in their liquor shimmy
To the pulsing, to the
Dwindling wick of fornication
Retro Disco Figurines with Realistic Grinding Action

We stand as land-locked lovers at the
Center of their sweaty sea just
Watching, just
Stage-facing, just
Hugging tight against the Dancestorm

Needful nuclei with
Bonded cell membranes
Refusing to split
"This has always been my rhythm leg."

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Suffocating Dragons

Earlier today, we were swimming in the pool. The day was hot enough for it; a hazy, Sunburn Sunday, the kind where the question on lips isn't "are we going?", it's "is it too early? Should we wait just a little longer and not seem desperate and slothful?"

As I was paddling across the pool, I noticed a dragonfly bobbing in the water. It was floating there- wings outstretched, waterlogged, and entirely still. It was sad to me, seeing this. Dragonflies have always seemed amazing to me, like whip-fast helicopters buzzing through the heat, a sure sign of summer.

I knew I shouldn't leave it there, if not out of some sense of dutiful respect of nature, then at least so someone wouldn't swallow the thing while enjoying their swim. I plucked it by the wing, still surprisingly stiff, and brought it to the edge of the pool. I looked at it a while, admiring its tiger stripes, its hologram-green eyes that shifted shades in the light as I swayed left, right. It may have been dead, the neck appearing broken, but it still had a kind of authority to it. A regal design.

I left for a while, swimming around in the sun, doing what it is you do in a pool. But after a bit I came back to look at the dragonfly, and that's when I noticed something. Only because I was looking so close, I saw that it was breathing. Just barely, but sure enough the abdomen was rising, falling. Rising, falling. This was something it hadn't been doing before, I knew that for sure. Just by laying there, somehow, it had come back from The Pull.

For a while I bobbed in the water, watching this thing. As I stared it went from barely breathing to fully breathing. Then the end of the tail began to manipulate. Up, down. After a minute of that, the wings began to twitch faintly, then rhythmically, until they were trying to fly, trying to gain momentum and get away. The head, still sitting on what might be a broken neck, was moving. Trying.

I grabbed my camera and took a few photos of it. This was a comeback, and it felt important. This was a living, a struggle, a drowning turned into a waking. It was sadness and incredibility, on a tiny scale.

When I'd gotten the shot I got out of the pool and put the camera on a table, out of the way, then got back into the water. I went back to him, back to see the progress, to see what was moving now. Would it be the eyes? Would his legs be feeling around, trying to get a grip, trying to lift him off the ground and ready him for take-off? But when I looked at him, I knew. Nothing was moving. Not anymore. There were no twitches and no try-spirals. There was no partitioned abdomen expanding and contracting to let in air. There was nothing. Just a dead dragonfly. In the minute I'd been away he had given in to the water and the broken neck and the curing sun. I thought of the saying "A watched pot never boils," and I wondered if it applied to resurrections.

A little while later, I checked on him one more time. His body was dry from the heat, his massive eyes gone from hologram-green to cloudy gray-black. He was an ant treasure, a photograph, and nothing else.

The day could take him now. It was time for lunch.

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Wet Subway Map

A little while ago, I Twittered this:

I wish my Wikipedia page read, "Widely recognized as having invented the 'flatbread pizza of condoms.'"

Sometimes, I feel I should explain my thought process. I think my mind might work differently than some other people's. Maybe not, but for the interest of science, this is a breakdown of how it happened:

Last night, Natalia made cupcakes for a girl at work. For home she made a pan with one big, thin cupcake in it. At roughly 2 pm today I was standing over this pan with a fork. As I'm something of a food vacuum, I ate a pretty good amount before stopping myself. That's when I thought:

1) Natalia will get home tonight, see the damage, and say something like "Jesus! Hungry?"

2) I'll have to explain myself.

3) I'll say, "Come on, it's a really thin cake, how much did I really eat? If you think about it, that's only about one cupcake's worth."

4) Then I'll say, "It's kind of like the flatbread pizza of cupcakes."

5) That's when I think: the flatbread pizza of anything is pretty funny. Like, what would the flatbread pizza of condoms be?

I should interject here. This particular moment, this synapse firing, may be the true illustrative moment. I literally can't explain why this was the example I jumped to.

6) Realizing how great the flatbread pizza of condoms is as an abstract thought, and not being able to immediately picture what it could possibly be, I realize I would love to invent it.

7) Then I think, I wouldn't actually like to invent it. I'd like to HAVE invented it. Be famous for inventing it.

8) I think: that's it. That's what my Wikipedia page should say, for anyone who comes across it to read.

9) Then I imagine people pointing me out across party crowds, saying, "See that guy? He invented the flatbread pizza of condoms." The other person says, "Oh, wow. (pause) What exactly is the flatbread pizza of condoms?" and the first says, "I'm not really sure, but," and rubs their fingers together to mean "there's a lot of money in it, though."

10) Then I think how great it is to be famous for outlandish, peripheral concepts. Like how in the movie "Inner Space" the Cowboy character is said to have made a fortune introducing Velcro to Asia, or something like that, and it makes him seem like a real person, because he's just colorful enough to have done something like that and, really, someone had to have done it.

This was not exaggerated and happened in the span of, I'd like to say, less than six seconds.

As I said, I think my gift of sorts is a unique mind. Maybe not, but I'm aware of all the what-the-fucks I've gotten over the years. I'm also aware that this happens even with the industrial-strength filter I slid over my mouth years and years ago. From a very young age I realized that much of what crosses my mind is not for the public, so that often what I say has gone through three or four edits before being let out. I believe that I define my friendships that way, by how few revisions I need to do. I think I get all my friends by saying all this shit and they not only stick around, but occasionally laugh or say yeah. It also says a lot about my closeness to my family, because despite my frequent tries at removing them I have more filters up around them than most other people, even co-workers.

My saying all this is very borderline for me. Already I've resisted deleting it all more than once, and the reason for that is I have an uneasy relationship with the word and concept of "imagination". It's an inherently silly idea, one that more often than not is used to write off the amazingly random, untainted minds of children. It's easier to look at a kid's drawing and say "you have some imagination!" than to give an honest reaction. That, also, speaks a lot about my relationship with my family, because that's exactly how I've always felt around them. I've always been the weird one there, the one who reads weird things, the one who listens to and wears and likes and draws weird things. My mother has read two books in her life to my knowledge: The Davinci Code and The Five People You Meet in Heaven. My father, also two books- both autobiographies by Chuck Yeager. Chuck Yeager was the first airplane pilot to break the sound barrier. Two books. He read two books written by that guy, because one doesn't cover it. So every story I ever wrote and handed to them as a kid was met with "What is this?" or "You misspelled a few things". When pressed for feedback, they would almost invariably say "It was...interesting." Which, I believe, is code for "Can we FORCE him to like baseball?"

The other problem with what I'm doing is it's much too close to people who say, "Don't mind me, I'm crazy!" as if that's so interesting of them. Like kids in high school who would try SO hard to be weird, and freaky, and the more they said it the more you knew they were secretly the most normal person on Earth. Like Steve once said, the Korn kids who think a t-shirt that says "I do what the voices tell me" is the HEIGHT of comedy. White bread nothings. Ready to anticlimax into the world, flatline through life and be laid to rest in a coffin with a "Beer me" bumper sticker.

I don't know where this goes from here. Don't mind me, I'm crazy.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Footprints in the Sand, Version 2

So I asked God.

I said, “God?”
And he said, “Come on, what?! What now?!”
So I said, “When I look back on the proverbial beach of my life
And see my most difficult and trying times,
Symbolically represented by medical waste
And crusty condoms washed ashore,
And the occasional homeless man
Having terrible sex with beached sea-life,
Why in those times is there only one set of footprints?
Did you abandon me in my times of need?”
And God looked at me with his all knowing eyes, and said,
“You dare question God?! Fuck you! Die now!”
And exploded me.
But many years later,
By the glory of our Lord Satan and all the power he commands,
I was resurrected.
And so I hunted God down,
Surprised him when he least expected it,
And slit his mighty throat.
Then I fought his angels like ninjas.


Thursday, July 30, 2009


I was looking through some older writing and enjoying some of the stuff I found. Some of it I recognize as necessary practice that got me to where I am but serves no purpose now, and some of it I think still holds up. It's interesting to look at things that were written in bad times or strange times with some distance, and appreciate them from the outside as just writing, instead of what they were at the time. Which, were I to say it aloud, would make me sound like the high school kid who wrote them. I think what I mean to say is I've always loved to write, but now I need it for different reasons. Now it's just a part of me.

One thing I always love is finding something I simply don't remember writing. Often it's a note I wrote on the closest piece of paper, a reminder for later that probably wouldn't ever be used. Finding these notes is like finding money in the pocket of an old jacket, but way funnier. It's like a time-capsule self-gift of brain blabber.

This was something for a cartoon I wrote half an episode of before getting bored of it. That's another thing I used to do a lot. I'm happy that with age came patience to stick with an idea until it's finished. Here is the entire contents of a file called "parts that worked", which I guess was salvaged from some larger first attempt that didn't:

"If you keep angering the man, they eventually
censor you into a pale version of your former self.
Isn’t that right, Mickey?"

PAN TO other side of room, where MICKEY MOUSE sits.

He holds up his hands.

"They took away my middle fingers!"

I read that and died, partly because I really don't remember it at all. Soon I'll probably post some more things- notes, poems, pieces, entire objects. I feel this is as good a place as any.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Excerpts Usurped

Along my clicks, I come across quotes that stop me. I read them as part of something, expecting nothing. Then I go back and read them again. Slower. They open my eyelids or slack my jaw or drop my heart, and I say some variation on the word "yes" and I copy and paste them into a notepad file to make them mine, so I can come back to them when I need to.

Most of them have to do with either the creative process or perception. Those are the kind that hit close, the ones I find useful being who I am and how I feel and what I need. This is to share them, and to clean folders. Some quotes:

"They say that the human smile is in fact one of those primordial things - that in fact it's a showing of teeth, that it's a warning. That when we smile, in a primeval way it has to do with fear." -Christopher Walken

"I write differently from what I speak, I speak differently from what I think, I think differently from the way I ought to think, and so it all proceeds into deepest darkness." -Franz Kafka

"Altogether, I think we ought to read only books that bite and sting us. If the book we are reading doesn't shake us awake like a blow to the skull, why bother reading it in the first place? So that it can make us happy, as you put it? Good God, we'd be just as happy if we had no books at all; books that make us happy we could, in a pinch, write ourselves. What we need are books that hit us like a most painful misfortune, like the death of someone we loved more than we love ourselves, that make us feel as though we had been banished to the woods, far away from any human presence, like a suicide. A book must be the ax for the frozen sea within us. That is what I believe." -Franz Kafka

"We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are." -Anaïs Nin

"[The poet] arrives at the unknown: and even if, half crazed, in the end, he loses the understanding of his visions, he has seen them! Let him be destroyed in his leap by those unnamable, unutterable and innumerable things: there will come other horrible workers: they will begin at the horizons where he has succumbed." -Arthur Rimbaud

"The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus." -Bruce Lee

"Criticism is something we can avoid easily by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing." -Aristotle

"We cannot mature and be fully creative by burying or displacing anxiety, but only by moving through it." -Soren Kierkegaard

"I pretty much try to stay in a constant state of confusion just because of the expression it leaves on my face." -Johnny Depp

"The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars." -Jack Kerouac

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Scapegoatist (sample chapter)

A bleached-blonde kid bumps into me, his spray-on tan bleeding at the edges. "Hey, sorry my man," he stresses every syllable with orthodontically-straightened, chemically-whitened incisors.

"You're over-acting," I tell him before he gets swallowed up.

The hallway flows with fakes- nerds with braces held on with adhesive strips. Girls with pigtails tied in color-treated, gray-removed hair. Full breasts under freshman soccer team shirts, wrapped in gauze and held down.

"What agency are you with," my girlfriend asks through the pink bubble of her gum. She hikes up her skirt, the old tattoo hiding on her stomach, the pom-poms in her hands, crow's feet forming at the corners of her eyes.

"I represent myself."

She scratches under her wig. "Well that's dumb. Everyone needs to be represented by someone."

Kids along the lockers talk loudly, over-projecting with character breakdowns sticking out of their back pockets. Yearbook photos are attached to the sheets and some have lines of dialogue, but most of them, being for extras and bit players, simply say "General Speech."

The Math Club Treasurer says, "We watch it religiously, it's an excellent send-up of modern life in your typical, suburban landscape."

The Class Clown says, "I'm telling you, with the market drowning now's the time to refinance."

The Basketball Forward, recast here as a round guy sharing custody of two kids, says, "Twenty-six. But the Casting Director says I read seventeen."

With her weight shifted to one leg, my girlfriend says, "What school of acting did you study, Method?" Her mouth chewing, chewing, a tuft of too-shiny hair twirled around her finger. I tell her to stick to the script and her face suddenly comes alive. "That's what I'm doing, asshole. My character is supposed to be flirty and distracted." Then she lets the focus drain from her eyes and she's gone.

Here is a remake of the Class of '86, a photocopy that stinks like pancake make-up instead of ozone, a surface-only re-enactment while I keep telling myself I'm Lee Simpson, I'm Lee Simpson, I'm Lee Simpson.

Mister Felner enters stage left, lurching down the hallway in an A-Team t-shirt, working hard to hold the books in his hands and the drink in his head without touching arms. His movements are erratic, his eyes watch feet, and I have to say- he's the most convincing actor in this place.

"Hey, Felner!" I shout. He looks up suddenly. "Did you get fries with that complexion?"

My girlfriend's face says, What the fuck? but the hallway booms with laughter anyway. It's a forced laugh but it still makes me grin, still makes Felner wince, and I realize, watching their glazed, insane faces, that it doesn't matter what I say, that it doesn't have to be the goddamn Canterbury Tales- I'm the Captain of the fucking football team.

Felner looks for an escape as I push kids out of my way, shoulders clanging into lockers saying "hey" and I lock in, going right for him. I knock his books to the ground and say, "Pick them up." He gives me a look, not knowing if I'm serious until I show my clenched fist, and then he swoops down and does it. "So whatcha reading?"


"You're reading nothing?"


"That's dumb," my girlfriend says, "you can't read nothing."

"Hear that, nerd? She says that's dumb."

"Seriously," she adds. I knock them down again and a guy chuckles. I give him a nod, then tell Felner to pick the books up again.

"This time," I say, "with your teeth."

"Hold on a second, I'm not comfortable with this."

I look at my girlfriend and she flashes that hot smile, and I know she wants it, and I turn back and punch Felner right in his hollow, gummy gut, and everyone goes "Ohhh." Fish-gasping for air, he bends to pick the books up again but I get behind him and pull his tighty-whities up so high he's hanging from a wedgie, screaming nasal, and again everyone is laughing.

"He's so lame," my girlfriend says.

I lay down an assault of spit-smelling wet willies, saying "Whatcha gonna do?" Saying, "Gonna do something, Felner?" I hit him with purple nerples, crotch taps and nose flicks until he's red in the face, but still he takes it. He takes it like a queer, hands in his pockets saying, "Lee, please," and no teachers are here to stop me. No principals are here to drag me into the office and rip me up and call my parents. No hall monitors to save him this time. He's mine. I own him and he's mine, and no one's laughing anymore.

My balls explode.

I fall down holding them, my stomach like burning rope, and everything is quiet. I roll in it, white light behind my eyes as I suck air in Morse. My eyes open to Felner over me, breathing heavy, fingers squeezed, face dark red, and everyone is watching him shocked, silent, and then a screeching roar bursts and everyone is cheering. He looks at them as if they're an alien crowd, but then a recognition fills him and his mouth starts to twist, replacing slowly with a smile. "Good job, Felner," someone pats him and he smiles wider. They pump their fists, clap, hug each other, everything a background player can do to shine through. Felner scans the crowd and takes it in. Then he looks down at me, and the smile is gone.

Then, he starts to kick.

Connecting with my stomach, saying, "who's the queer now," his foot in my side, saying, "who's laughing, you fucking beast, who's laughing now?" The hall is whispering, everyone watching, weighing the gig against their fear of seeing a man beaten to death.

The Trombone Player says, "Should we stop it?"

The Class President says, "Should we leave?"

The Future Leaders of America say, "Will we still get paid?"

Someone clears their throat conspicuously but Felner doesn't hear them, doesn't see them, because right now there's only him and me in this hallway, and not really me at all, just these clothes and what they mean and who wore them and what that person did to a little, oily kid a few decades ago. And still, he's kicking. Through the blows, despite the ribs, I'm proud of him.

When he's had enough, Desmond the butler steps up and stops him, telling him to calm down, waving the actors away. Felner's breathing slows as the crowd files off telling each other how great it was to work together before collecting their checks at a table by the door.

I'm coughing when a hand is put in front of my face. The palm is made of mutilated skin, a knotted twist of flesh. The scars look old and caused by fire and I look up- it's Felner, his arm out offering a lift. I take the hand and feel it soft and waxy against mine as he pulls me to my feet.

"How can I thank you?" His eyes meet mine for the first time.

"With one of those checks."

He looks over at the table, the bored worker handing out envelopes. "You don't want one of those, they're only getting paid scale. I'll write a better one for you."

I feel my ribs and they're barely bruised. "Whatever they're making is fine."

"Suit yourself."

"Is there some place I can change out of these clothes?"

He looks at them with new eyes. "Keep them, they're just clothes." He turns and calls an assistant over, walking down the hallway. He says, "Take out a pen, I'm about to make a million dollars."

Desmond comes over with an envelope. "You're some kinda idiot, aren't you?"

"How did he burn his hands?"

"Him? I told you, he doesn't tell the little people shit. All I know is the rumor, which is something about fireworks." He hands me a bag with my own clothes in it. "I hope you're not planning to use those." He nods to my clothes. "Those belonged to Lee Simpson. They aren't replicas or some shit, they're legit."


He steps back as if I should know all this, as if Felner tells us little people shit. "And? Motherfucker died wearing those. It's disgusting."

I watch Felner walk out the front door of the school, leaving it behind. I ask Desmond how long ago Lee Simpson died and he says, "Like twelve years ago."

Thursday, June 25, 2009


Sometimes, the ideas I have just wouldn't work.

These concepts that come to me, for stories, novels, shows, movies, media, most of them don't belong in reality. Some of them fall within reason and I follow them, see where they go. But most of them couldn't be pulled off, or it's just because they're funny, or they'd take too much patience, or funding, or six people would enjoy them and the rest of the people would be shoving pitchforks through my windows, lighting Molotovs for having their time wasted, their brains jostled. And they'd be right, I suppose, so I'd have to let them in.

Here's a partial list.

I'd love to write an incredibly long and elaborate Victorian novel about honor and nobility, full of sweeping panoramas, fanciful dinners, aching romances and marriage proposals, and title it The Cum Fuckers. Or ditch the name, keep it dignified, but on the last page every character in the book commits ritual, orgiastic mass suicide.

I'd love to make a movie, plot and genre unimportant, centered around two people. One person would whisper every single line of their dialogue, just barely loud enough to be heard. The other would scream their words as loud as a person can scream. No explanation would be given, and no mention would be made of it at any point.

I'd love to produce a completely vapid television series. One of those like Gilmore Girls or The Hills or whatever. It would run for six seasons as expected- gaining popularity as it went as reward for it's predictability and ability to cater to the basest of audience needs- then, three episodes into the seventh season, the zombie apocalypse would set in. That or a gateway to Hell, or a brutal alien invasion, or some other survival horror scenario, and viewers would watch in shock as half of their favorite characters died within minutes, leaving the rest of the witty, self-centered gang to fend for themselves within this crumbling and fiery version of the town they've come to know and love. The next morning in workplaces across the world, water coolers would explode. A huge portion of the viewersheep would instantly abandon the show while a whole new audience would flock to it, run to stores to purchase DVD collections of the first six seasons to catch up and understand. And hopefully, some of the original fans would stick around, too, exposed to a kind of story they never would have sought out actively.

Some ideas could work, if I had skills beyond an overreaching imagination. For instance, I think an entire story could be told in a real-time format through updates of blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and maybe a few other outlets. Something multimedia and modern, something that can be experienced somewhat out of order and still make sense. People would experience it "as it happened" to the characters that owned the accounts. The amount of planning it would take is staggering, though, and the real trick would be getting people to watch from the start or close enough to it so they could get the true feeling of it, instead of the after effects.

There's more, of course. There always is. Most of this stuff, I just live with it. I use it to laugh when there's nothing else to laugh at, or think about when the going gets gray. They're the things I usually don't even put in my file of unused ideas. Which I do have, and it seems to get staler and staler. For instance, the idea about a story told from the first-person perspective of someone trying to figure out their indecipherable, oddly gesturing captors that reveals at the end to be told by a dog, it just sounds dumber the older I get.

Maybe a few of them will cough to life eventually. Until then it's as the song says. And All That Could Have Been.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Build-Up, The Reset

Today I'm taking a break from writing my second book- a story about holding on versus letting go- to do some cleaning. You see, the mail piles up. The leaves fall, the dust builds. Rolling up your sleeves and attacking it, it's all you can do to keep from getting buried under.

Part of it is cleaning the cage of our most recent hamster to die. If that sounds blunt or in any way down-played, it's because having hamsters means seeing them die. You don't like it, but you get used to it. You get a good year out of them, if you're lucky, and then one night you go to feed them and realize you don't have to. All that's left then is to find something to dig with and to bury them, in soft voices and a wet rose garden and an envelope that will have to do.

This guy's name was Jett. Not to say they're all not special, we all know everything is, but he was our Monster. We called him that because he had no morals. Just a dirty, shameless little man who liked to hang on the cage bars and show you the balls he wasn't supposed to have.

The story with how we ended up with, at the high point at least, something like twenty hamsters all comes back to Jett's balls. After seeing our first hamster die very quickly from a sickness we decided we wanted another. This is what you do, instead of learning and moving on you cover it up with an even bigger mistake, that way the first doesn't burn so bad anymore.

When we hit the pet store we found a different breed altogether, a smaller type called Dwarf Hamsters that the sign claimed were semi-social. A term as it turns out that means non-social. So we took home not one but three supposed sisters, a little family that could crawl on each other and share seed. Where that went, well, it was sharing seed all right. It was one hamster with undeveloped, undetected nuts coming of age and developing an attraction to his sister, and two owners walking in on the whole, shameful scene. And that led to babies. And that, led to more babies.

He'd been named Jett after Joan Jett, the female punk icon. This was when we thought he was a she and because he had markings like a mohawk and the fact that, with rodents, you don't have much to go on. Luckily it worked as a boy name, too, until we settled into the more accurate nickname Monster. As you can imagine, watching a fat hamster air out the balls he used on his own sister, it doesn't cast him in the best light. But through all of it, you had to admire his sheer lack of apology, his continued hedonistic outlook right up to the day he went to his usual sleep spot and really meant it.

After the burial, the next thing is you clean out the cage. Wipe away the piss and fur, dump out the half-eaten sunflower seeds of something that isn't alive anymore, and that's what gets you. Seeing the teeth marks and signs of a thing that once was here and able to make teeth marks and leave signs. Not to make too much out of it, but it's an odd feeling. All that constant moving, that munching of pellets and sleeping like a Buddha, the running in wheels, the climbing bars to display covert testicles, it all comes down to a quiet dehydrating and the shit and piss you leave behind, the piles of fluff arranged just so, the cardboard you chewed to pulp. You do what you can and you hope to leave an echo, a smile and a story at your name. But sometimes, all that's left is someone cleaning up your mess, spraying to sanitize where your corpse fell, dealing with your children, illegitimate or otherwise, and watching them go and go until they go.

This is what I did to take a break from a story about what we leave behind and what we bring with us. Which is to say, I never left it in the first place.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Tirede (Between Asleep and Awake)

Oh Fire Emblem, the Chieftain makes the prettiest remarks in regards to your benevolent hotel rooms. Fall, motel rooms. FlyfullspeedbreackneckcrackBOOMyou've got to stip the bleeding.

If I was of sound mind and could extradite the whole group of you anarchist thuggs, I would have. All the waking up with typewriter keys under fingers, the problem is they get gummy and they trry to stick on.

What it is with the wsawllling x x x swallowing, as long as we're rewinding grab these, grab my fooot, i forget whywe're fighting so lets say it was valid and i won.



I wish you could see this, the letter framing in soft, at channels set three dementia. it's like this foam has moved in for good, But really we have to discuss the premonition phenomoni this. vent piece GR+ID

Terndu ty syd, the Piano March lights for you, and this candle raised a war ghost.

Iff i take the heel in my voice, the foam will go out of control. the dog will be LOUD freeking out freeking out SOMEONE SE T THE CONTROLS FOR THES E KNEES WRO NG. myspit has entered that city, that city of texture and false sentiments
bk n frth bk n frth

W e have to, have to stop the sugar. It tries to smothher the colorfull; and licking went as chaoticc as pland

I will now try marching if marching means stomping nauseous to the mirro r and seeing a gray-green monsterchilld unbliink at you

my alarm is the eighth bit.