Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Earthlings, part 3

Sandy didn’t feel like going home, so she drove slowly, all over the city, past the houses of friends and acquaintances. It was a Thursday night, late, and most of these houses and apartments were dark. She wasn’t in college anymore. She couldn’t just drop in on a friend at one o’clock in the morning. Some of them had real jobs and spouses and children and had forgotten how great a pancake tasted at two in the morning. “All your Facebook pictures are of your kids, you bores!” Sandy shouted at her steering wheel. She toyed with the idea of stopping by Roger’s place, but Frank could be there. He was there a lot, watching everything from Fassbinder to Street Trash and debating the merits of Led Zeppelin’s Presence and Television’s Adventure while smoking a little dope and drinking a lot of bourbon. She hadn’t spoken to Frank since she moved out of his house three months ago. It was hard, but she felt a clean break was the best way for both of them to move forward, whatever the hell forward meant. She grew angry at herself for her own poor choice of words. Forward. As if anyone’s life moved forward. No, it was all just easily distracted hopscotch limps in every direction. She didn’t need to be free of Frank to go anywhere. They were just bringing each other down. That was all. Somebody had to leave. It might as well be her. She decided to drive past Roger’s house anyway. He was the only friend she had left who might be up this late on a weeknight. Except for Frank. No. Roger was it. She couldn’t call Frank a friend anymore, even though she still had a lot of affection for him. He wouldn’t call her a friend, would he? She dumped him and stopped speaking to him. He’d probably spent the last three months sticking pins in her voodoo doll. None of us can talk to each other. Really, we’ll always be strangers to each other. Every one of us.

Frank didn’t agree with her, she knew. He felt a kinship toward his fellow Earthlings that Sandy could appreciate but never share. She felt terrorized by the fascism of crowds and uncomfortable around most people in her regular daily interactions. The differences might be familial, which certainly exacerbated the breakup. Frank’s family was close, both emotionally and geographically, and his parents visited once a month. She couldn’t bear these visits. She needed solitude, quiet, space. Their comfort and ease with each other pricked her insides. Her parents were divorced, remarried to strange people, her siblings scattered all over the country. No one visited. No one wanted visitors. Her family tree read like a Tennessee Williams plot synopsis, overloaded with death and alcoholism and dark secrets and festering, open-wound resentments. Her mother’s side of the family was full of right-wing lunatics crazy with paranoia about the government breaking into their homes and stealing their guns, the underground homosexual cabal, and the coming Mexican majority. Her father’s people were more refined Berkeley-style left-wing fascists who couldn’t enjoy an iota of their free time or money because people were being oppressed somewhere. They were always threatening to leave the country for Paris if so-and-so were elected and never leaving the country for Paris. They believed the words wife and husband were tools of the imperialist oppressors. They were partners, not husbands and wives and don’t ever forget it. They were always outraged about something. They listened to a lot of Pete Seeger. Both sides of the family were miserable drunks. Her parents got together out of spite and hatred for their own histories. Spite gave them three children before they turned their hatred on each other. Family was just another word starting with F, Sandy thought, like flatulence and famine and fornication and failure. And Frank. Poor, sweet Frank. She liked him a lot. He had a lovably weird sense of humor and didn’t carry himself like most of the other chumps and bores you have to tolerate just to buy a gallon of milk. But his parents visited once a month.

Sandy turned onto Roger’s street and noticed Gary’s car. She looked around for Frank’s, didn’t see it, but slowed to a crawl to eyeball the other cars on the street. If Frank wasn’t there, it might be fun to have a few drinks with Roger and Gary, see what weird movie Roger was watching, make fun of any friends who weren’t there. Sandy always liked seeing Gary at TL’s Grill, and at Frank’s house in the college days, and she’d had a good laugh with Gary at TL’s last week about their new lives as single people. Gary’s former in-laws were a major cause of his divorce. They visited as often as Frank’s parents did, but unlike Frank’s parents, they were malicious and controlling people who’d always hated Gary. “From now on,” Gary had said then, grinning at the words in his head, “I’m only going to date women whose parents are dead.”

Sandy didn’t see Frank’s car, so she parked against the curb across the street and grabbed her purse off the passenger seat. She was about to open the car door when she glanced at Roger’s house. It was bright, glowing, neon and purple. Even his grass and sidewalk were purple. She put her purse back on the seat and took her hand from the door handle. She eased back into her seat and watched the giant glowing purpleness of Roger’s house. It felt good to her, this purpleness. It made her happy, made her feel like all her favorite songs were playing at once and she could pick out each individual instrument and melody and riff and beat. She sighed contentedly and stared into the purple for as long as it lasted. She had no urge to enter the house. Out here, in her car, this was just fine. Eventually, or maybe soon, she could no longer accurately gauge the passing of time, the purple glow disappeared and the feeling went away. She sat up, startled, awake, the pleasure gone, the house back to its old, non-glowing color. What just happened? And did it just happen? Sandy felt the sudden urge to tell someone what she’d just experienced, or imagined. Hallucinated? If she told someone right now, that ecstatic feeling might not be lost forever. She had to try to make it tangible again. Who could she call? What time was it? She looked at her wrist, but she’d left her watch at home. She dug her cell phone out of her purse and checked the time. It was two-thirty in the morning. She couldn’t go into the house now that it wasn’t purple, couldn’t ask Roger and Gary what the hell just happened. Sandy didn’t want an explanation, or, worse, proof that she’d somehow conjured up the whole thing from her disturbed brain. She didn’t want to know why. She just wanted to experience it again. And she needed to tell someone. She would call Frank, she quickly decided. Time to break the embargo; end her one-way pact of non-communication. Frank would understand this call. Frank would still be awake at 2:30.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Earthlings, part 2

Gary was tired and ready to leave, but something indefinably pleasant in the physical space of the restaurant held him to his stool. It was a palpable convergence of good feeling and soon it would end. Gary needed to bask in it a little more before going home. Or avoiding home. He sighed happily and slowly finished his beer. Eventually, he remembered it was Thursday and not Friday and worked on getting up and going to his car. He said goodbye to the night crew and to Frank, who was still there all those hours later with no apparent designs to leave, and exited the glass door with a light push from his left fist. He started his ’02 Civic, and put a compilation CD he’d made several years earlier into the player. Gary had been spending most of his free time listening to the crates full of old mix tapes and piles of mix CDs in the spare bedroom, his ex-wife Linda’s former office. Gary had not been crass or shameless enough to woo Linda with compilations when he first met her, but he’d made plenty of tapes and CDs for her after they’d married. She’d taken these with her as keepsakes of a relationship that worked in fits and starts before it became all fits, leaving behind the small mountain of mixes he hadn’t made for her. Gary worried that his current obsession with the homemade anthologies of his twenties was a pathetic retreat into nostalgia, but mostly he considered his recent listening habits biographical research into his own psychological, emotional, and cultural history. It was a way of understanding his life now, or a thoughtful fumble toward a partial understanding. Anyway, he still listened to this music. It wasn’t a nostalgia trip. Songs from his past didn’t conjure up the past as much as they continued to change and resonate with the present of each fresh listen. Music to Gary was the organization of sound into an abstract yet visceral state of being that combined the brain, the heart, and the groin into a large invisible bubble that blocked out distraction and deliberation. It changed the air. It turned everything different shades of color and made his blood bright, made his hair follicles pop. It was not a memory trigger to a teenage crush or a seventh birthday party or a grandmother’s sigh or a first year of marriage. It was a right-now living thing and was not nostalgia. Despite this truth, the physical ephemera of the cassettes – his handwriting, the titles he chose for the compilations, the song choices and sequencing – were artifacts from his past, and they took him back there, for good and ill.

Gary drove south even though his house was north. With Linda gone, it seemed too large and empty sometimes, especially weeknights. Unlike his other divorced or dumped friends, he liked the solitude on weekends, especially with a few beers and the music as loud as he wanted (Linda was a morning person), but the place was haunted by absence after a long day of work. Sometimes his friends came over on the weekends, but he had to keep that to a minimum. Newly divorced men drank like W.C. Fields on payday. It wasn’t a habit Gary wanted to cultivate. He sang along to Todd Rundgren’s “Long Flowing Robe” and Sparks’ “Barbecutie” as he drove past strip malls, restaurants, movie theaters, and pawn shops. He felt lonely in general and glad to be alone in the current floating moment of early dark. He liked his job managing his uncle’s diner. Some of his old friends became doctors, professors, and lawyers. Class bias rose from them like steam from a corn muffin. A ridiculous yet accurate analogy, Gary thought. Giant walking muffins with muffin-top heads and slit-open muffin mouths, steam rising out of the slits, flapping muffin mouthholes waiting to be buttered. I guess I hate my friends, Gary thought, and laughed to himself as the Beach Boys’ “Little Pad” segued into the Kinks’ “Berkeley Mews.”

Gary was about to turn around and go home when he saw a light on at Roger’s house. Roger was Gary’s roommate during the year of college both men attended before dropping out. Quitting worked out well for both of them. Roger owned three coffeehouses that did reasonably well in a city full of Starbucks and bakeries and diners. After three or four years of working 80-hour weeks, Roger created a viable business that mostly ran itself, with limited turnover and managers he could trust. He pulled a couple of long days a week now, but mostly stayed at home and had fun. Gary was mildly jealous of Roger’s good fortune, and the bizarre yet benign events that often occurred in his presence. A few years ago a tiny bit of space junk fell out of the sky and into Roger’s spare bedroom. The tiny meteorite fireball did some major damage to Roger’s roof, but he had enough to cover it and no one was injured. He kept the space rock in a glass case in the bedroom it had damaged. At first, some of his friends urged him to donate it to a museum or university, but they quickly tired of butting up against Roger’s stubbornness. “Let them get their own damn space rock,” Roger said. “This one came through my roof. I’m keeping it.” After his schedule lightened, Roger reacquainted himself with his old habit of staying up most of the night listening to records or watching obscure exploitation films, and he welcomed drop-in visitors at all hours as long as his porch light was on. Roger was a confirmed bachelor who had decided to live like a 22-year-old forever. Gary was glad he wasn’t Roger, though he envied his work schedule, but it was good to know someone like Roger when you couldn’t go home, when the chalk outline of a failed marriage was all over the walls of your house.

Almost as soon as Gary took his keys out of the ignition and opened his car door, Roger was running toward him, actually running, with an uncharacteristically urgent expression.

“Gary, hold on,” Roger said. He was mildly short of breath and red-faced. “If I let you in and show you what’s going on in my house right now, you’ve got to promise not to freak out. I mean it. Don’t lose it.” Roger looked intensely at Gary as he spoke, which Gary found unnerving.

“Huh?” It was all Gary could get out. He’d never seen Roger act this way, and he was curious and alarmed.

“I can’t tell you out here, because you’re not going to believe me until you see it. So you can either follow me in or head back home.”

Gary tried to respond, but he couldn’t. His brain had nothing to tell his voice in response to Roger’s bizarre behavior, so his brain and voice just hung on and waited for the proper stimuli and instruction. What could be in there? Gary quickly and silently ran through a hypothetical list. Did he kill someone? Were his coffee shops just a front for drug smuggling? He had no girlfriend or wife to betray, so he probably wasn’t hiding a woman. Was it a prank? Had he gone crazy? Gary thought he should probably get back in his car and drive away, but questions don’t find answers that way. Gary followed a few paces behind until they were inside the house. Everything looked the same, except for the giant thing watching television on the couch.

“What the hell is that?” Gary whispered to Roger. Roger drew up his shoulders into a tiny shrug.

“An alien, I guess,” he whispered back.

The thing was about seven feet tall and wrinkly. Wrinkly all over. Its skin was grayish pink and its fingers were very long and very wide. Its head was wide and round, with large black eyes that took up most of its face. It had no ears that Gary could see. It was wearing sweatpants. (“Those are my sweatpants,” Roger told Gary later that night, after several glasses of bourbon and a trip to the garage to see the spaceship, which looked like the developmentally challenged offspring of a pinball machine and a Hum-Vee. Somehow, the ridiculous machine had made it all the way from another planet to Roger’s house so was worthy of reverence and awe, even though it was the stupidest, ugliest thing Gary had ever seen. “I had to cover him up down there. You should see his genitals. At least, I think they’re genitals. They look like ours, mostly, but they’re enormous. I couldn’t have this thing in my home, looking at me, communicating with me, with his oversized pecker just hanging there, unwittingly taunting my own manhood. The elastic waistband is a useful invention. There’s no way he’d fit into any of my jeans.”)

The men stared at the creature for several minutes. It ignored them, instead focusing all its attention on the large, plasma-screen television, which was playing Roger’s DVD of Russ Meyer’s Supervixens. After Gary’s shock lessened enough to allow him to communicate coherently, Roger asked him into the kitchen for a private conversation.

“Okay,” Roger said quietly. “All I know is that he landed in my backyard two days ago in a spacecraft of some kind, which is in my locked garage. As far as I know, nobody else knows about him. My neighbors were at work, but you’d think some air traffic controllers somewhere would have picked up on his unidentified flying ass. Maybe he has something to block the signals. I’m not going to tell the government about it unless he decides he’s going to stick around. I don’t need a roommate right now.”

“What does he want?” Gary asked. “Can he communicate with you? This is amazing.”

“He seems to understand me pretty well, but he just points at what he wants, which so far has just been my movie collection. He sometimes makes noises, but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t speak English. I don’t know if he understands it, or if he’s been here before. He’s pretty easy to get along with. He just sits on the couch and watches my DVDs. He’s been burning through my Russ Meyer collection. We started with The Immoral Mr. Teas and we’ve been working our way through chronologically. Honestly, it’s kind of like having a cat, but a cat with a sincere appreciation for the Russ Meyer oeuvre. He’s pretty low maintenance so far.”

“How can you be so casual about this?” Gary asked. “You’ve got an alien here, man. This is serious shit.”

“I’ve had a couple days to get used to it,” Roger said. “This sounds arrogant, but nothing surprises me. If I can wake up every day on this insane planet, in this insane country, then surely I can take the present curious circumstance in stride.”

“Maybe he came here to get your space rock. Maybe he dropped it,” Gary said.

“Hm,” Roger said. “Maybe so. He’s not in any hurry if that’s why he’s here.”

He smiled, sighed, and offered Gary a beer, which Gary accepted.

“Oh, hey,” Roger said suddenly. “Let me show you what he can do.”

The two men walked back into the living room, and Roger tapped the thing on what resembled a shoulder. The creature looked at Roger, and Roger pointed at the wall. The alien stuck out his large hand and touched the wall with the first of his four digits and began to hum loudly. The entire house and everything in it, including Roger and Gary, turned a bright, glowing neon shade of purple. Gary was not frightened, or worried about staying purple forever. Instead, he felt like he’d been dosed with every drug on earth and somehow been given the indestructible constitution to handle it all, and not just handle it but enjoy it without any of the negative side effects, paranoia, or harsh comedowns. He glanced at Roger, who seemed to misunderstand the look of pleasure on his face.

“Don’t worry,” Roger said, his clown face beaming ecstatically. “Don’t worry about a thing.”

Monday, March 28, 2011

Earthlings, part 1

I've been writing short stories for a while now, but this is the first one I wrote that didn't make me vomit. I'm a little embarrassed by it, but I'm going to risk even more embarrassment by posting it on the blog this week. It's 17 pages, so I'm going to break it into chunks. Here's the first part.

Frank Hudson was almost done feeling bad. He knew the badness was almost over when he woke up on the couch, television still on and tuned to celebrity worship, half-finished beer warm and flat three inches from his dangling hand, and no longer felt an affinity for his own mini-ecosystem. He might as well have been half-watching a terrible movie of his life on Sunday afternoon rabbit-ear TV while eating leftover chili, nursing a hangover, and flipping through his ex-girlfriend’s catalogs for women’s dress pants. The real Frank Hudson never watched “Access Hollywood” and never let his beer get warm and flat and unfinished. He looked at his torso and his legs and the slept-in clothes arranged on them and his unfinished beer and the celebrity gossip program on his television like they were Polaroids stuck to the cheap plastic in old photo albums. He looked at these things again, this time staring hard at them, and felt a gentle, forgiving disgust, the kind strong enough to push him off the couch but weak enough to keep him from retreating right back into the cushions, the warm outline of his body lightly imprinted there. Frank stood up, grabbed the beer can, poured out the remaindered warm flatness in the sink, threw the can in the recycling bin, and walked to the bathroom. He washed his face, burrowed out of his sweaty clothes like a naked mole rat, and took a shower that was epic in length and temperature. He shaved the two-day stubble from his face and looked at the clock radio next to his bed. It was 2:16 on a Thursday afternoon. He still had a week, one-and-a-half days, and two weekends before he had to go back to work.

Frank’s stomach growled, the noise startling him. He’d eaten just enough to live during his wallow in numbness, and the rumblings from his gut surprised him into action. Frank decided a cheeseburger from TL’s Grill was the only way to begin his reengagement with life. His good cholesterol was high, but so was all the bad stuff, and Frank’s doctor wouldn’t leave him alone about it. Frank made a silent but firm decision last year to ignore the man. He would stop eating the foods that made him happy when he was dead. Until then, deliciousness reigned. Frank decided he’d rather have his heart crap out in the early days of old age than live long enough to waste away in a purgatorial dormitory. He thought of that Redd Foxx joke about health nuts feeling stupid dying from nothing and smiled.

Frank stepped outside his door and watched a grackle fly overhead with a tiny string of thin-bulbed Christmas lights wrapped around its neck. The bulbs on the ends of the string bounced in the thick, summer air as the bird flew toward a tree. Frank stared at the grackle and then started walking, laughing quietly to himself as he imagined the ugly bird stringing the lights up in a nest littered with miniature beer bottles and tiny bongs, a tiny television with the Cartoon Network on mute emitting a mini-cathode glow as the world’s tiniest pressing of Pink Floyd’s Meddle played on a little record player, “Echoes” coming from wee speakers.

TL’s Grill was a neighborhood institution and had changed very little in the 35 years since T.L. (no one knew what the initials stood for) Moore bought the place with money saved from working construction during the day and cooking in restaurants at night. The place looked just like it used to when Frank was in college and lived in a dilapidated shithole a block from the restaurant with three other crazy, brilliant idiots. The video stores and record stores he frequented were disappearing fast, but cheeseburgers, like diamonds, were forever. Frank took a seat in a red chrome diner chair with a diamond button pattern on the back at the U-shaped counter. T.L.’s nephew, Gary, was working the slow afternoon shift. Gary used to hang out at Frank’s dilapidated manse for young adults, and while the men were not close friends, they’d remained friendly. Frank watched Gary pound a hunk of raw beef with a spatula and pour a little melted butter and sprinkle some spices into the meat. On a stereo near the counter, Big Bill Broonzy sang to his woman that he was tired of eating her cornbread and beans. Gary was in a blues mood this week. He had eclectic musical taste, like Frank, and Frank never knew what he was going to hear when Gary was working. Tuvan throat singing, British post-punk, Appalachian field recordings. Gary liked it all.

“Gary,” Frank said. “How you been?”

Gary turned around briefly and waved, then turned his head back to the burger he was cooking.

“Good, good. I’ll get you in just a second, Frank.”

Frank hummed along quietly to the Broonzy song and watched the afternoon sunlight shine through the windows. He was starting to feel good again. Gary took his order a few minutes later, and ten minutes after that Frank happily ate a large medium-well burger with sautéed mushrooms, two slices of Swiss cheese, lettuce, and fresh tomatoes, sliced thin. He silently called his doctor vulgar names before each bite and thanked both the cow that made the cheese and the one that became the beef. He wondered if the two cows had ever met each other, and if the cows that got milked were the house Negros of the bovine world. Then he wondered if that was a racist thing to think. In the long minutes between the handful of afternoon customers, Gary and Frank talked about music and women and politics and movies and childhood and music again. Frank had a milkshake about an hour after the burger, and then he switched to beer. He drank the beer slowly and watched the crowd change over from retirees and the unemployed to college kids and high school students on summer vacation, families, and the after-work crowd as afternoon became evening. Frank was still there when Gary’s shift ended and the evening crew arrived. Frank watched them put on their white aprons and switch the radio to a hip-hop station. They rapped along with Jay-Z and Lil’ Wayne and Big Boi while they grilled burgers, ham steaks, pork chops, and chicken breasts and dropped French fries into baskets they lowered into bubbling, hot grease. Gary sat next to Frank on a stool and joined him in a beer. They drank quietly and watched the other people in the restaurant. A short man in the early stages of mid-life with stylish, expensive eyeglasses and blonde hair just beginning to gray held the door open for a small blonde girl. The man was wearing doctor scrubs, the girl a Miley Cyrus t-shirt and pink shoes that lit up when she stepped down. The doctor said hello to Gary and took a seat on a nearby stool. He hoisted the girl up by her waist and sat her in the adjacent stool. “Hey, doc,” Gary said in response. The little girl was pretty, with a pair of grown woman’s eyes that looked out of place next to her childish nose and mouth. Those eyes were remarkably blue, the blue of swimming pools in Technicolor movies. Casey, one of the evening shift workers, walked from the grill to the counter to take their order. Casey was a large man with a permanently sweaty forehead and one of history’s great smiles. The beads of sweat on his forehead were affixed there like a crucifix in a Catholic home and never ran down his face. He pointed his infectious smile at Frank and Gary, who smiled back, and then at the doctor and his daughter. They smiled, too. Casey said hello to the doctor and turned his attention to the little girl. “Hey, pretty-pretty,” he said and pointed his fist toward her. For a brief moment, her smile disappeared, and she made a fist and bumped it into Casey’s fist with intense concentration, her brow furrowing and her bottom lip disappearing under her top lip. After their fists met, her face relaxed and her grin returned. It was one of those early evenings full of fleeting contentment that Frank wished he could freeze in time and extend for a week or two. That it was happening on a Thursday and not a Friday was even more reason to capture it and magically lock it into place.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Middleage Fanclub - Unemployedesque

I feel like I've competed in some kind of marathon that took the last five years and is finally over, which is funny. Not funny jokelaughs, but funny odd. Things aren't going well professionally. I'm in very bad shape there, and it's getting worse by the minute. There is no place for me in this world. I've finally stopped expecting to have any kind of success. I'm a failure in that aspect of my life. It's time to accept that and figure out what to do next. I will never have a good job, make any money, do something for a living that fulfills me in any way. I have hit a wall that cannot be moved. I don't fit in this world. I think I was born too late. I should have been alive when you could get a job at a newspaper or a movie studio as a mischievous teenage imp and work your way up through the haze of cigar smoke and bourbon fumes and do something real without having to piss around in academia listening to some sandaled bore talk about the symbolism of his eating disorder. Of course, those days were not kind to women, gays, or people lacking a pallor reminiscent of peach and chalk, but some kind of shit is always fucked up in every era. I may be an idiot, but I think we're going to see the collapse of industrialized, capitalist society in my lifetime, and I'm probably going to die of starvation and/or murder at the hands of a marauding gang of post-apocalyptic hooligans because instead of honing my survival skills, I went to college like a fucking tool. I don't like the options life gives you. For the most part, I don't like life. It's so mediocre and repetitive and dull. I don't believe you make your own luck, because I've been alive longer than five minutes. This place is a shithole, for the most part, and we're all idiots, for the most part. All you can ever be is just a lousy janitor, unless your uncle owns the store, to quote a song by a guy with an exciting mustache who died of cancer.
Here's the funny odd part. I'm not depressed anymore. I don't know why. I should be. The job situation is bleak and getting bleaker. I have been rejected by seven of the nine MFA programs I applied to, and I fully expect to be rejected by the other two. My resume is confusing and unpromising. I don't know what I want to do for a living or how to make something besides mediocre office jobs happen for me in perpetuity. I'm stuck, which pays about as well as you'd expect. Sometimes worse.
Why am I not depressed about all this? Why am I approaching near-happiness for the first time in at least five years? I have no fucking idea, but I do know that professional failure isn't as big a deal as personal failure. Until recently, I romanticized the latter and made myself sick with depression, anger, and worry about the former. I didn't want to be a nobody. I wanted to do something important, etc. I put all my energy into negativity and it poisoned all the good things in my life. It's time to stop doing that.
In forty or fifty years, when we're old and out of oil and all the major economies have collapsed and our cities have been bombed by terrorists and natural and environmental disasters have made huge swaths of area unlivable and the roving gangs of Mad Max S&M punk rock gearhead cannibalistic CHUDs are eating our brains, I don't want my final thoughts to be, "Hey, stop eating my brains. I was a big man once, who did important things and changed the culture and made the money and spent a lot of time at work and schmoozed with the best of them and impressed people." I want my final thoughts to be, "I'd prefer you stopped eating my brains, but if you insist on continuing, who gives a shit? I had a great wife, and great friends, and I played lots of music, and ate tasty food, and did some traveling, and wrote a lot of stuff that nobody cared about but I had fun doing all of that, and I love music, and film, and literature, and jokes and gags, and Friday nights, and drinking beer, and I wasn't a total square. I got chased by the cops a few times, and I did some fun drugs, and I met some great people, and I tried not to take things from other people, and I tried to share, and I tried to get to know myself a little, and I didn't worship money, and I did some terrible things but I was sorry about it, and I didn't let life turn me into a robot or an animal, not like you, brain-eater. You're the animal. Come on, baby. That's what life is, brother! In the words of Ric 'Nature Boy' Flair: Whooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!"
I have an awesome wife, and great friends, and I like the band I'm playing in, and I fill my free time with all the things that give me pleasure. That should be enough. If I never find a job that makes me happy, I need to live with that. I'm working through my parents' divorce, and the onslaught of deaths in the family, and my own predilection toward despair and rage, and my many failures, and my almost comical bad luck, and my tendency to get irritated by the slightest, tiniest thing. I'm trying not to poison and sabotage my whole life because a few aspects of it are terrible. But, yeah, I really think I'm screwed in the job and grad school departments for the remainder of my life.
I will give a variation on this motivational speech to Rotary clubs, high schools, business seminars, rehabilitation centers, community theatres, mud wrestling emporiums, adult bijous, chautauqua exhibitions, World's Fairs, taco carts, tent revivals, hospices, pie-eating contests, Scientology centers, your grandma's basement, lingerie modeling centers, Tommy Lee's house, and skeet-shooting contests for a handsome fee. No state fairs, please.
To conclude, here are three live performances of my favorite Teenage Fanclub song by the Fanclub itself, the Afghan Whigs, and J Mascis & The Fog, featuring Mike Watt on the thunderbroom. The latter also includes a bit of "Range Life" and "In a Rut."

P.S. Since grad schools, magazines, and journals want nothing to do with my writing, I am going to start posting a few of my short stories here for free. I'm kind of embarrassed by them, but if life has taught me nothing else, it is that every person on earth should feel constant embarrassment because of the way we live our puny lives. Vitriol and hurtful criticism will be welcomed. It beats the onslaught of indifferent rejection I am used to my work receiving.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011


"All his clothes were fresh from the tailor's and were all right, except for being too new and too distinctly appropriate. Even the stylish new round hat had the same significance. Pyotr Petrovitch treated it too respectfully and held it too carefully in his hands. The exquisite pair of lavender gloves, real Louvain, told the same tale, if only from the fact of his not wearing them, but carrying them in his hand for show. Light and youthful colours predominated at Pyotr Petrovitch's attire. He wore a charming summer jacket of a fawn shade, light thin trousers, a waistcoat of the same, new and fine linen, a cravat of the lightest cambric with pink stripes on it, and the best of it was, this all suited Pyotr Petrovitch. His very fresh and even handsome face looked younger than his forty-five years at all times. His dark, mutton-chop whiskers made an agreeable setting on both sides, growing thickly upon his shining, clean-shaven chin. Even his hair, touched here and there with grey, though it had been combed and curled at a hairdresser's, did not give him a stupid appearance, as curled hair usually does, by inevitably suggesting a German on his wedding-day."

- Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment, Constance Garnett translation