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How to Talk to Your Hero (Just Ask)

02/08/2011

I saw an interview with Cameron Johnson a while back. This is a guy who made his first million before he graduated high school and at age 15 was appointed to the board of a company in Tokyo. He did things like sell Beanie Babies for a profit and he was also one of the pioneers of selling gift cards at a discount. Anyway, the interview. He won the reality show Oprah’s Big Give. I don’t generally watch reality TV and I definitely don’t watch Oprah but from what I can tell, it was a show where people run around with money and help people and charities the best way they can. How Johnson won was he managed to get the Blue Man Group to play a charity at this school and to donate $10,000 to the school. Do you know how he did that? He asked. That’s it, he just asked the Blue Man Group.

That philosophy of “just ask” stuck with me.

In September of 2009, James Ellroy was about to release a new book, thus finishing a trilogy he started in the late 90s. I’d been waiting for this book for about 8 years; James Ellroy is my favorite writer by a long degree. His books were so dense and frenetic and violent. He was a writer’s writer. I wanted this book.

I started looking online for any book tour he might do for Blood’s a Rover, I wanted to meet the guy and get some books signed. While looking, I came across a website that said “James Ellroy is now giving interviews and advance copies of the new book for review” and then it listed his publicist’s email address and phone number. Ok. “Just Ask”.

I emailed the publicist (from my work email because it had the company signature and it looked all cool and official) and I told her I’d like to interview James Ellroy for ChuckPalahniuk.net and I’d like a copy of Blood’s a Rover for review. I figured if I can’t interview the guy, I’d at least get his new book for free. Keep in mind, I hadn’t even asked the webmaster at ChuckPalahniuk.net if I can interview someone for the site yet. I’m not employed at the site, I was just a member on the forums. I could be screwing myself.

Ten minutes later, James Ellroy’s publicist emailed me back and said sure he’d love to do an interview and when would I like to interview him?

Really. It worked. “Just Ask” worked. I must have stared at my computer screen for an hour. It didn’t feel real. I even told her in my reply that I could interview him via IM but apparently James Ellroy isn’t very computer literate so in 4 days I’d be calling James Ellroy in LA. I OKed it with ChuckPalahniuk.net (whew!) and wrote down tons of notes and potential questions.

I knew I had to record this interview so I internet-researched voice recorders and cell phone recorders and I drove around to 3 or 4 Best Buys before finally stopping at Radio Shack and finding everything I needed for this ridiculous interview I still couldn’t believe I’d nailed.

Two days after the initial email, I received a very nice hardcover copy of Blood’s a Rover, even though I wasn’t going to review it because there was already a review for it up on the website. I just knew how easy it was to get an advanced copy because I’ve received them so easily before. Just Ask.

I took the day off work even though the interview only took about 20 minutes. With my heart in my throat I called James Ellroy and he answers “Hi, James Ellroy, who’s this?” and I instantly recognized his voice. It was incredibly difficult not to act like a dumb fan. I wanted to sit and BS with the God of American Crime, the Demon Dog himself but I kept it professional. If he didn’t give me an answer I liked, I rephrased it and I made him answer. I had to pull out tricks I’d learned from all that self-help stuff I used to read.

The whole time I’m on the phone, I’m expecting him to get mad and end the interview but it never happened. In fact, the whole week before the interview, I expected his publicist to email me and tell me it was cancelled. Besides, who was I anyway? Just some scrub out of his league or something. Anyway, if Ellroy didn’t like a question, he told me he’s not going to answer it. That simple.

I was scribbling on my notes the whole time and my voice was shaky and quiet the whole time but i pulled it off. I told him I’d email him when the interview went live and he said “Please do” and we hung up. I’d just sat on the phone with my hero for 20 minutes. And all I did was ask.

Where does that leave me now? Well, sometime this year the interview will be published in a collection of James Ellroy interviews. I did back flips when i received that email. I went on to interview Garth Ennis (of Preacher and Punisher fame) and now ChuckPalahniuk.net has been pulling interviews from some pretty big names since mine. I like to think I opened the door and set the standard for it.

Just Ask.

http://chuckpalahniuk.net/interviews/authors/james-ellroy

Dog Days Are Over

01/10/2011

Second verse, same as the first. Last weekend was like the weekend before. Party time then family time then recovery time. Add a bunch of driving to it and there you go, that was my new year.

The words are floating around in my cortex again, angry i haven’t let them escape. I can see them, they’re white and 3d and they float like a Windows screensaver. They drift by like a marquee. I hate them sometimes those words. They carry a lot of pressure; a lot is at stake with those words. And they’re always there, always.

I managed to leave work early on Thursday so i can get to Dallas before nightfall. It’s a stop at Walmart for some motor oil and bug juice and hair-color and then i can get out of town and get away from these burdens, they’ve become too heavy again.

Outside of Walmart, i pop the hood to insert the juices and oils and this old lady is waiting for me to pull out of my stop. Too bad, Ethel, i have business to attend to. When i open the hood, she pulls off and i avoid eye contact because get over it, i’m not even parked close to the door. I dump in the oil and the engine stinks a little because i really need an oil change but i’m bad at doing that. Then it’s the bug juice and as i’m dumping it in i remember my trip to Colorado not too long ago. Only one of the hoses works, the one on the left side of the windshield. That and the bug juice leaks, it’ll be gone probably before i get to Dallas. I decide to put in the other half gallon of it in too, just in case. I go to the trunk to get it but the old lady in her gold Lexus is back, waiting for the spot again. Well shit, she can have it. I toss the empty bug juice jug into the trunk and shove it shut.

I pull out and i’m off to Dallas and there’s a small line of cars behind the gold Lexus, including the little Walmart security car with its lights swirling. Whatever, i should have stayed longer. I should have lint-brushed my car before i left or littered the parking lot with empty cans and fast food bags first.

I have some McDonalds to eat, a chicken sandwich. I had a horribly obese craving for a burger but the grill wasn’t working so it was only fried stuff available. “Ew” i said to the nice Mexican lady when she told me. I felt bad she had to repeat saying that all day probably.

I’m tailgated all the way to Dallas, 6 or 7 times total. I’m going 80 the entire time but one after the other, there’s a car right on my bumper. Do they not see the mile or so of cars and 18-wheelers in front of me?? Entire lines of cars slow down and so do i but for some reason, any car that’s behind me doesn’t think they have to slow down. Over and over again i’m dealing with this but i’m not pulling into the right lane because then it’s back and forth between it and the left lane so i might as well stay in the left lane. Fuck. What’s the need to go fast all the time? Is your life that boring that your only thrill is driving 30 over the speed limit and anyone who’s not driving 30 over is an asshole?

I’m hungry and i have to piss when i get to Will’s and the fuel light came on as soon as i got there and i need to shower so i can put this color in my hair and get rid of the grays. Luckily, Will is cleaning house so i can slip past him with my dye and take a shower. There’s a heady pint of beer on the table in the living room but i’m in a hurry.

It’s bitter cold in Dallas, much colder than Houston. Will says he’ll drive to Two Rows for a pint and some food, which usually turns into 5 pints and some food and maybe a shot or two. This is good because my car’s dirty and the fuel light came on and i don’t feel like stopping for gas anyway. At the bar, before we sit down there’s a beer in front of Will, they know him that well. I order myself a red pint and it’s cold in the bar because people keep walking in and out. The only females in the bar are the bartenders and waitresses, just like everywhere i go. I feel like girls are in this hive and lately the hive has decided to not go out anymore because guys are dumb and they just want to get laid and ruin everything.

DJ and Jaime are joining us and there’s a blonde Will knows sitting a few seats down surrounded by weird old men. There’s two seats between her and Will so we put together a maneuver to get Will across those two seats by getting up and moving around when DJ and Jaime arrive. It works flawlessly but the blonde gets up and leaves seconds later. We eat some great nachos with fresh jalapenos on them and order shots of silver Tequila but she pours the house stuff instead. Will is too drunk to drive and the bartender hands him the wrong ticket and he signs it and walks away so she tells me she gave him the wrong receipt and i tell her just to split the tab in half. She asks if it’s the same tip i gave and i say yes and leave so Will tipped her $8 just like me and she made $16 on a $60 tab. He probably doesn’t tip her enough anyway.

The next day Will doesn’t remember falling on his face in the kitchen or that DJ drove his car home and Jaime drove us home. I slept on the bed in the guest room instead of the couch and i woke up confused and i didn’t know where i was and i was full of anxiety like apocalypse had started and i wasn’t ready, i was sleeping off a hangover. I move to the couch and it’s New Year’s Eve and we remember it’s time to watch the season finale of Peep Show so we load it on the internet.

But we want bloody marys. The only problem is there’s no Clamato and we have to go to the store to get it. This will be difficult but we manage it well. Two bottles of Clamato and some organic celery (cheaper than the regular stuff). These will be amazing marys.

I don’t want to get wasted, i’m not ready and i’m sick as shit from last night. Just a mary or two and i’ll be fine. Except it turned into 3 or 4 of them and i’m not sick anymore and we’re both hungry so we order Pizza Hut because i want stuffed crust and for some reason Pizza Hut is the only place to get it even though it’s been around for like 20 years.

Are you still reading? Is this interesting? My little exploits? The weekend’s not even over yet, we still have New Years to celebrate.

——————————-

We’re meeting DJ and Jaime again, it’s a house party this year. I don’t want to be in a bar spending all my money and getting in trouble. Besides, my ID’s expired and i don’t feel like convincing door guys to let me in. We’re going to a place called Blue Mesa even though my stomach is wrecked and i ate all that pizza earlier. I just want to party is all.

It’s a super-nice place and there’s a bunch of people at the table, apparently it’s Jaime’s cousin’s birthday too. The girls at the table are cute, the guys are dorks. Kind of. One of them was funny. I spend my time getting out of my own head and not being arrogant and judgmental so i can actually talk and not sit there and stew like i always do.

I love the way these girls talk, especially this one with the curly hair and the mark by her lip. She talks like she’s from the streets and she’ll kick anyone’s ass but she’s dressed like she’s going to a ball. Her friend has this bountiful cleavage and people keep moving around the table so i ended up sitting right across from her and it was like Seinfeld said; it’s like an eclipse. Look once and look away, don’t stare.

I don’t order a drink because i’m sick and i don’t feel like the waiter seeing my expired ID because i don’t think i can convince him to serve me in my condition and i’d rather avoid the social embarrassment it might cause. I don’t even know if i can eat but people tell me the place’s tortilla soup is good so i look at it on the menu and it does look good so that’s what i ordered. The waiter sucks and i’m downing water after water, including Jaime’s glass that i’ve commandeered.

When i turn to listen to the dudes talk, it’s boring stuff. Computers, video games, racing cars. I turn instead back to the females and it’s hilarious tales of falling in the mud in a nice dress or drunken shopping and i’m much more entertained by them than the dudes. Dudes are boring. The tortilla soup evens out my stomach finally.

The crowd makes one more stop at another bar and the door guy doesn’t notice my expiration date and it’s a cool bar with a cool DJ who plays movie clips and then a song related to the scene. Then we leave and get beer and head to the house party.

At the party there’s girls in dresses sitting around a table playing drinking games and people in the backyard around a fire pit and i’m introduced to several people i don’t remember. It’s less than an hour until the ball drops and i wonder if i’ll kiss anyone this year but i doubt it because the only girl i know so far is DJ’s wife. It’s a pretty typical party, people get in fights or get kicked out and girls fall into walls or puke by the back fence. Some woman and i make fun of some girl who nobody really knows because she’s back there puking and barely alive. I tell Will i found him a girlfriend and the woman laughs and says he might have to wipe her off first and i say nah. Then we’re in the back yard later and this girl Brianna with amazing legs tells DJ to go get her friend (the curly haired street-talker) because Brianna doesn’t like the guy she’s talking to. DJ complies and as he’s bringing her out, the guy she was talking to gets mad and tries to stop him. They’re an inch from each other and the other guy didn’t know how close i was watching the situation and if he made a shift in the wrong direction, i was ready to destroy his night. Finally DJ takes care of the street-talker and i calm down. Some Jewish wanna be Seth Rogens get kicked out for packing a bowl in the hostess’s room, then she goes out back and smokes a bowl herself. We’ve had enough, it’s time to go.

We sleep at DJ’s until the morning time then head back to Will’s and sleep some more. David’s back from vacation and he brought a bunch of shot glasses because i’m collecting them, one from each state. I thank him and sleep for a few hours, then get up and watch Netflix for a few hours, then watch Knight and Day, which wasn’t actually a bad movie. We watch a documentary about Skid Row and i go to sleep again, not leaving the house that day.

The next morning i wake up late and shower and leave to my sister’s house. It’s not far and when i get there i immediately play Halo: Reach with my nephews and i only win once. Then 2 of them leave so i decide to play with the twins instead. They’re still giving me dirty looks but the boy twins warms up to me when i create a game of flinging water on him from an empty bottle and the girl twin warms up when i sit on the couch with her and hand her a toy she can’t reach and take the socks she was carrying in exchange. They’re stomping around the house with Juiceboxes in hand and i chase them back and forth and they laugh and crash into walls and then it’s time to go, which is always sad. I hug the twins and Matthew the millennium baby (he’s 11 now) and head off to my car but my sister runs out with Jacob the boy twin and his head is bouncing around like he’s a doll and he’s laughing and he wanted to say goodbye because i guess he didn’t know i was leaving.

Then it’s back to Houston and this blog is too long so i’ll just say that 2010 was the best, hardest year of my life. I had so many breakthroughs and dreams come true and all i want to do in 2011 is top 2010, build on the foundation i’ve established and it’s already looking good so far. I don’t really have any specific resolutions, i’m constantly resolving anyway. I always feel the need to improve on things. I don’t care how happy and pure i am, there’s always a need to learn more and push it farther. I have a drive now, which is something i’ve lacked for a long time.

Young Liars (My Christmas Story)

12/27/2010

This will be long but if you make it to the end you can see a picture of my adorable niece. DON’T SCROLL DOWN CHEATER.

I’m back at work and and i’d rather be anywhere else. Four days off wasn’t near enough because they’re all back. All these desperate weirdos shuffling around, glad to be back at work. I want to be back in my dark, warm room with the door shut and the fan humming back and forth across me. Instead, here i am writing this, subtly looking over my shoulder making sure nobody’s reading over it. I really should go get the machines in order. Start getting more samples ready for analysis. Answer an email or two.

I wasn’t supposed to go anywhere over the weekend. I was gonna shut myself in and only leave in case of a dire emergency like no more beer or someone cuts the tip of their finger off and they can’t drive them self to the hospital or dial 911.

But ten minutes after i was home from work on Thursday, my mom asked me to go to Sam Moon with her. It’s right next to Plato’s Closet and maybe i can get my mom to buy a couple shirts for me for Christmas. I’m not in the mood to drive but somehow i ended up doing it anyway.

Who cares? Who cares about my mundane holiday weekend? It’s just a bunch of shit that happened and i’m gonna try and make it interesting with my words. But really, not a lot happened. Sam Moon was full of women wandering around and only one pretty girl with a great butt who i hope was following me around.

Jeremy is working. He’s  barely been at work for 30 minutes and i can hear him clinking around with beakers, silently hating himself and liberals. This is a guy who brags about being boring. He slides out his chair finally and sits down. I don’t acknowledge him because if i do, then i have to talk to him and that’s kind of like a special sort of torture at 730 am.

Then that night Keely invites me to Molly’s Pub and that’s not something you say ‘no’ to. Her friends are crazy and pretty and they look like these typical white girls until they open their mouths and speak and suddenly i kind of forget i’m there with Keely, even though she’s the prettiest, most interesting one out of the bunch. Her friends take up half the bar and even though we’re only there a few times a year, everyone knows us and hangs out at the table. Maybe i cheated and came to Molly’s a few times with boisterous friends of my own but still. I’m more well known because of Keely’s friends.

I look at the other guys milling around our table and i’m so different than they are. Guys owe it to themselves to improve upon their insecurities and learn from their idiocies. But they’re not doing it. It’s obvious. I know because i went through tons of self-improvement. But look at these guys and all you see in their eyes is neediness and perversion and the girls are completely unaware of them because of it. Keely’s friends are showing me extra attention this time at Molly’s and it’s only because of how i feel on the inside. You can play it cool all you want but if i can see all that bullshit in your eyes, a girl definitely can. I’ve known the coolest, toughest guys in the world but as soon as a girl shows up, it all gets lost and replaced with this horrible, romantic saint. Pulling on her hair and begging for her love and secretly writing up poems in his own head.

This is why i wasn’t supposed to go out this weekend. I’ve been way too paranoid lately and it’s making me hate people when they don’t really deserve it. Or maybe they do, who cares. They all want so sit in their sad, small worlds anyway.

Hugo walks up and talks to Jeremy about his weekend. He tells Hugo a bunch of mumbles and then says he’s glad he’s finally back here. He was getting bored. Then before Hugo can reply, Jeremy says how next weekend (another 4 day one), he’s not leaving his house, not watching any “Yay it’s the New Year” things, not watching any fireworks. What, he’s just gonna sit and wait for the moment when he gets to return to work again? This 9-5 bullshit is the highlight of his livelihood. This bothers me for so so many reasons.

The next day is Christmas Eve and i’m not at all able to fully function after the night at Molly’s. Whiskey drinks and $3.50 schooners of Smithwicks will do that to a man. I don’t fall out of bed until 1pm and i have to eat something before it’s too late. Somehow i manage to put together a breakfast of scrambled eggs, unevenly cooked bacon, and ham fried in the same pan as the bacon. I toast a bagel and butter both sides and give one half to my mom and my plate is gone quicker than it arrived. Now we have to plant some trees she ordered from the Arbor Day Foundation.

Or house was built on a clay topsoil so the only hard part of the planting was digging out the 3 inches of red and grey and tan clay. We put together a nice mixture of miracle-gro and dirt and fill in the holes around the trees we put in and the whole thing takes maybe an hour but the soles of my work shoes (Adidas) are coated an inch thick with clay and mud and any time i step wrong, i sink down into our work. The outside cats run back and forth in the dirt and grass, attacking each other when they’re not looking. They’re not too interesting in our tree, thank God. They’d tear it up for sure.

I walk to my machines and people i barely know and can’t stand say “What’s up, Stephen” or wave at me  from across the room. The water fountain tastes like pencil lead again. The usual people lean in the usual places. Jeremy still sits there working, glad he’s not at home really making something out of himself.

After the trees are planted, i need to go to town and buy AJ his present from the comic book store. Hopefully they’re open. What kind of comic book store is closed on Christmas Eve? Hopefully it’s still in business.

I force myself into my car and head off but first i have to stop and buy the only cure i can currently stomach for my condition. Clamato juice with hot sauce even though i’d much rather have a beer right now. I’m in no condition to be in public right now but i don’t really have a choice in the matter.

If the comic book store is closed, i’ll have to go to Walmart or Target and it’s not something i can fathom right now but i arrive in the shopping center and the store is open. I can’t see inside because the windows are completely covered in posters of superhero shit i don’t care to read. I wonder if they have Young Liars. I wonder if they’ve heard of Young Liars.

I’ve been at work an hour and the only thing i’ve done is work on calibrating one of my expensive machines a little bit. They’re worth about 100k a piece and i work on 6 of them. That’s more than half a million dollars of equipment i muck around with everyday and i don’t even have a degree. The talkers have arrived and they’ve only been here for maybe 5 minutes and they’re already talking Christmas. Where does this morning energy come from? Crack?? I’ve been here for 4 years and i still can’t get used to being awake this early.

I walk into the comic book store and it’s instantly awkward. There’s a couple people playing computer games across the room and the heavy middle-aged man behind the counter says Hi but i can barely send a response back. I need more Clamato but it’s in my car. I feel like this place will be a disappointment. There’s nothing in the middle of the store but tables and all the comics are on the walls. The trade paperbacks, where i’m most like going to find Young Liars, are behind the kids playing video games. I want to get AJ a nice Spiderman comic or action figure but the only thing i see so far are old indie comic toys or World of Warcraft toys. I almost turned around and walked right back out to my Clamato juice.

There’s no real order to this guy’s comics. It’s Marvel with DC with Image with video game guides. Not even alphabetically thrown on the shelves. I’m not going to find Young Liars here for sure but i look anyway. Some of his books look like they’re from his private collection or something. I find a hardcover of Ultimate Spiderman Volume 1 and the cover’s a little wrinkled so maybe i can talk him down a little on the price. But i doubt it because i’m barely able to hold my head up correctly.

A few more kids jingle the bell on the door and walk in and the guy knows them and they talk game cards for a minute, then this girl who looks like a fat Annie walks in and they talk for a minute but i don’t listen and then she’s gone. The kids are here to play some card game, apparently the place has card tournaments. I see the sign for them when i check out the statues but why would AJ want a statue. I read comics a lot when i was his age and i doubt i’d like a friggin Spiderman bust for Christmas.

I can’t be in this store anymore. All i want to do is move these fuckin card tables and organize everything. His shelf for new comics has no order either. This guy doesn’t care about comic books. He’s a gamer fag. I know i’ll regret it but i ask the guy if he has Young Liars and the look of perplexion on his face lets me down gently. I don’t know why i had him special order it because that means i have to come back here. Maybe i’ll just ignore his call when it comes in and then he’ll have Young Liars for the next guy who comes in hungover.

He knocks 10 bucks off of the used comic book because it’s wrinkled a little and i thank him and this other dude comes in looking for dice and the guy behind the counter knows ALL about dice apparently and this store sucks and he should quit trying to small-talk me and just give me my nephew’s comic book so i can get out of here and go lay on my couch for the rest of the day.

I need to go check my machines again. My arms are rubbery and tired because i started my regiment this morning. As many push-ups as i can do before my arms give out. Every morning until i’m in shape. It’s pretty bad when my arm gets tired just from moving a mouse around for too long. There’s an odd burning smell in the air but there’s pretty much always an odd burning smell in the lab. Newton is here and he says What’s up Butthead and i tell him to shutup and i check my machines and sit back down.

The rest of that day was spent in front of the TV and by the end of it, my soul has turned black and dead. How do people watch so much TV? It’s all soul-burning commercials showing us people happier than us buying things we can’t afford or don’t want to afford and it’s reality shows about rich people living their rich lives and it’s hard not to see it as this big conspiracy to keep the poor poorer spending all their money so the rich can get richer. TV is horrible.

My brother calls and needs me to bring him some clothes so he can go to this Christmas party and he invites me and i say yes because i want to hang out at his gym for a minute and ride in his giant truck because i haven’t had the chance to ride in his giant truck yet. So i get everything together and head to his gym and the weather has turned cold and a storm is starting.

Joel is working now and the way he talks is he uses words you’re only supposed to read or write, not say out loud. Words like ‘essentially’ or ‘upon arriving’ or ‘en masse’. His voice is way too loud and fake-happy and he can never seem to tell when the other person doesn’t give a shit.

I down a beer on the way to the gym and the rain gets worse and worse. The wind blows leaves directly at my car and it’s nearly pitch black and torrents of rain assault my car so it takes me longer to get to Josh’s gym. I just didn’t want to get pulled over.

When i get there he tells me his windshield wipers aren’t working. Great. I don’t want to drive, i want to ride in the big truck. He insists on driving though, even though the rain is awful by now. I convince him to not take the back roads because i don’t want to die and the freeway is lit up so not having wipers won’t be so bad. He says he can see but my side of the windshield is all fogged and the ride to the party is terrifying but we manage to make it there.

I’ve been at work 2 hours and it’s time to go find coffee. Maybe i’ll run into Callie. I love running into Callie.

There’s a girl from Alaska at the party so we talk about it for a minute, i spent a summer up there. They know how to drink, this should be a good party. I get volunteered to run downstairs and let someone in the gate because this is the ghetto and there’s no code to get in. It’s still raining and cold and i manage to slosh in every puddle i pass but i make it to the front gate and let the dude in and i run back through all the same puddles and my feet are wet and that was bullshit but at least my shirt’s dry.

The gay guy who lives at the apartment keeps telling me to take off my shirt because i’m all wet but i’m not going to. Besides, me shirt’s dry, if anything i’ll only take off my shoes because of those fucking puddles. I tell him i have a beer gut and i’m not taking off my shirt.

The party is a blur of shots and beer and trashcan punch and my brother telling me to watch my mouth because he doesn’t want to get into a fight at this party but how am i not supposed to say something when this one guy had his tongue pulled out in his hands and he’s trying to fix his piercing IN THE MIDDLE OF A PARTY you ugly slob and somehow i manage not to say nigger or faggot which is good because there’s a few at the party. I never actually call gay people faggots or black people niggers, i only call my friends that. I’m not really a bigot but fag and nigger are my two favorite insults when my friends fuck with me.

My brother and i throw glowsticks at each other across the apartment and i deflect one right into this girl’s back and it’s funny because she was mean to my brother and hurt his feelings and i nailed her pretty good with the glowstick but i blamed her friend. Then i did the same thing to her friend’s boyfriend because he looked like an idiot. Oops.

We leave the party early and go pick up my car and race the whole way home and i don’t really remember being at the house but somehow i made it to bed and slept the whole night.

The coffee was terrible because it’s an off brand because the company’s not spending any money until after the new year and nobody really knows how to make coffee with this off brand. Also there’s no creamer because we ran out but Emily appears and she seems really happy to see me even though she’s dating that pale red-headed guy with the beard and ugly teeth and bad jokes and i hate red-headed guys (they’re evil) but i like red-headed girls. Those are some of the prettiest ones around. Emily has great skin-tone but i’ve never told her that because i can’t think of a charming way to say “I like your skin”, it only sounds creepy. Didn’t run into Callie, damnit. I need to see her.

Finally it’s Christmas so we start cooking the organic whole chicken and wrap the last few presents and then we eat the chicken spiced with a rub i made full of Tony’s and salt and pepper and garlic salt and garlic pepper and a little bit of curry and a little bit of paprika and a whole stick of butter and my mom cooks some fresh sweet potatoes and stuffing and everything tastes perfect, especially the first whole chicken i’ve ever cooked. Next time i’m cooking it on the grill.

And now i’ve been invited to lunch at Red Robin even though i hate that place and i can’t really afford it but hey, Callie might go and Emily will for sure go so i think i’ll go. What if i’m still writing this at 1130? That would be funny.

Then my sister arrives and she has all 6 kids with her. It’s so rare to have all 6 kids in one place but it’s always a riot when that happens. Everyone’s tired though, especially the twins. It was a nice gift-opening. AJ loved the comic book, thank God he didn’t have it already. Matthew and Timothy disappeared to play with their Legos and the rest of the time was spent entertaining the twins with talking ducks and Christmas bows and toy cars that light up when you push the button. The twins are barely two and they’re the cutest things i’ve ever seen. It’s Jacob and Abby and they saunter around like they’ve already figured out the world is theirs. Jacob has perfected this hilarious scowl and Abby’s hair is a wreck and she’s gonna break a million hearts, totally adorable.

Let me tell you, it’s heartbreaking when they cry. I wanted so bad to help them stop crying and they’re not even my kids. They’re way too cute to be crying like that. They love the bells hanging on the wall and like any kids, they’re more interested in the boxes and wrapping paper than the actual presents.

Half of the computers aren’t working right now so maybe today’ll go easy on me.

It’s sad when it’s time to say goodbye to all the kids. I call Matthew nerd-boy until he yells at me and calls me lonely and then i tell him i hope he trips and falls and his face lands in the mud and he tells me he hopes i fall in lava and i tell him that’s impossible and he says nothing’s impossible.

We load all the kids and toys in the van and Jacob is squeezing the car and making it light up over and over again because he likes the little click it makes. He’s barely two years old and he’s already discovered the joys of catharsis. It’s dark and cold and i wish the kids would have stayed longer. But then they’re gone and i promise my sister i’ll come see her when i’m up in Dallas this weekend and that was that. That was my Christmas.

I wasn’t supposed to do anything but i did anything anyway and it turned out beautiful and i wish i could rewind it and do it again and make those twins laugh again.

The Wrap

11/09/2010

I don’t want to write about writing too much longer. Because why? The class is lame and the stories are unmentionable. Not one of them has stood out. I couldn’t imagine any of these things published anywhere. Every class is the same, i’m glad i skipped last week. While i played tennis with coworkers, i imagined Emo Kid unnecessarily talking with his hands and sticking out his chin like he’s just that smart. The big country girl next to him sneers and says “i put here” and looks at her paper and then gives her critique. Diff makes jokes, Greg gives his usual “Um…” speech about whatever story we read. Nathan goes way into too much detail about the shit story. Xavier stutters. The big girl throws bits of her life story into everything. Nightstalker lisps and drones. Pyle misunderstands the story. And there’s the professor, making his jokes and stopping Xavier from talking too long.

And me? I sit there and fume and manipulate my reflection in the window across the room, wondering how much of this i’ll bitch about in my next blog. But i wasn’t in class, i played tennis instead. I couldn’t imagine myself sitting there talking about shit i don’t care about and i’d be too distracted by this friend i got in a big fight with anyway. That’s what she gets for telling me i’m “too quiet”.

I almost skipped the week before that but i weighed my options. Sure i could go play tennis, it’s just another guest speaker in class. Another poet. But there’s free food at the reading, these really good wraps and sandwiches. So i went to listen to William Virgil Davis, if only for the free food. I’ll just say the food was the highlight of the evening.

This guy is the opposite of the poet last month. She was annoying in class but her poems were great. Davis was very interesting and well spoken in class but his poems were just bad. And i think he’s one of those laureates. Really? Anyone’s a laureate then. I’m a laureate, you’re a laureate. I’m a Lebowski, you’re a Lebowski. I can string random sentences together about cows and politics too. I really do kinda hate poetry. Or maybe it’s just the bad stuff. Poetry is easy enough, why write bad stuff?

I guess some people are actually enjoying this class. They have questions prepared for the poet when he comes in. I didn’t even read his poems. I really just came for the food. I was totally exhausted and why do i want to ask questions about something i don’t give a crap about? Complain complain complain, that’s all i do anymore. This was supposed to be a cool class.

On to the reading. I score a nice leather chair again after i fill my plate up with a yellow wrap and a sandwich with a pickle and chips. I have what i came for, i’m not sure why i stayed for the reading. I have other stuff to do, i have to drive this girl to Dallas the next day and i’m not even close to being ready.

We’re told at the reading that we’re part of a writing community now. I defer. Differ, whatever. I’m not a part of that boring pretentious crowd. I was already part of  a writing community. And guess what? We hardly ever talk about writing. We’re good friends, i don’t know if they know it or not. I always refer to them as my “writing friends” when i’m talking about them in real life.

The poet tells a joke or a quip or something and everyone laughs. That’s when i see Emo Kid sitting front row and he laughs robotically on cue, with his hands in his lap. Then he sits there paying attention to these awful poems. I really like the word “awful” lately, by the way. Something i noticed. When the female poet read last month, we applauded every poem. When this Virgil guy read, we didn’t applaud until the end. There’s a reason for that i think.

The wrap was delicious, totally worth the bad poems and awkward crowd. I’m not the type to get starstruck so i was unimpressed as usual. I sat on the phone with James Ellroy. I shook Dave Eggers’ hand. And those guys are my heroes.

Anyway, unless something spectacular happens in class, i’m not writing about it anymore. So say goodbye to Nightstalker and Diff. Forget about Xavier and Pyle. I’m gonna write about cooler stuff now. I did turn in a story though, so i’ll probably mention it once we discuss it in class.

Otherwise, only 2 more weeks until i get to eat more wraps.

Cadence

10/06/2010

I hate bad writing. I made it 6 pages into the 17 page mess that The Nightstalker turned in last week. What a waste of time, why isn’t there a word limit in this class? All i read are breakups and bad fantasy. Breakups are not that interesting, why does every amateur writer turn them into stories? I hate stories about regular people doing regular things; my life is interesting, why do i want to read about someone else getting dumped on their fat ass in the middle of a restaurant? And there’s never a reason in these stories, the breakup is always so vague. I get it, you’re not weird. You’ve been in relationships before, or at least one relationship before.

Then there’s the fantasy. Why do i want to read chapter 2 of The Embedded Hawk or some other lame derivative excerpt from your wordy sci-fi epic? I can think of cool names for other races too. The Gorthuns. They have axes and laser-guns and somewhere in the background there’s Ben Franklin riding a dragon. LOL ANACHRONISMS. FANTASY PWNS.

I wouldn’t be complaining if these were good stories but they’re not. Diff’s stories are okay (he’s a fantasy one) so maybe he’s the exception to the rule but there’s only so much i can take. This is a class to learn to write better, not a place to check and see if your novel will work. I don’t even have a novel, i have to crawl before i can run away and hide in the mountains to write.

And writers are so pretentious, all of us. I try to keep mine in check but sometimes it’s there, rolling my eyes at someone arguing over comic books like i’m too good for it. And i am. I hate how cool it’s become to argue over geeky stuff when i was doing this 15 years ago. I’ve already argued about Superman vs Batman or who should play Green Lantern in a movie (Ryan Reynolds is fine by me) WHEN I WAS 15.

Last class we discussed Pyle’s B.S. story about “The Infiltrator” and how he slices his way through a bunch of guards to get inside the castle and investigate a theft. Really?!? He kills the guards of a castle and it turns out he’s there to help them investigate a robbery? Does that make sense at all? NO. But i don’t say that during the discussion. I wanted to keep my mouth shut but the professor calls me out again.

On the way to class i saw Pyle lumbering around the school and i felt bad for the dude. He weighs like 300lbs and he has a sloping forehead and glasses and a weird voice (why does everyone in my writing class have a lisp?) and i’m pretty sure he’ll never have a girlfriend. So i’m n0t gonna rip apart his story like i’d planned to do. I just tell him it’s a little too dense, like he uses too many words.

Remember in Ocean’s 11 when Brad Pitt is training Matt Damon on how to talk to Andy Garcia and not get caught lying? He tells him “Don’t use 7 words when 5 will do”. That’s always stuck with me, specifically in my writing. So i told it to Pyle. Shave off some words, clarify your writing.

During the break i see The Nightstalker in the bathroom and i politely decide to tell him that i have his story from last week. As soon as i start talking he blows his nose loudly. Funny. I start again and he says “What?!?” all perplexed. So i repeat myself and he nods and his permed serial killer hair bounces. Then when he walks out of the bathroom i see him in the mirror give me this confused look. What, is it bad etiquette to talk to someone in the bathroom at the sink? Did i overstep my boundaries? It’s not like i was chatting it up while you had your wang in your hand, i was being polite, you asshole. Writers are pretentious, remember?

The spastic black guy is back and he seems mad. I tell myself he didn’t somehow stumble across my blog and realize i was talking about him. He’s putting out bad vibes sitting in the corner and i get paranoid he’s going to pull out a gun and make the news. I plan my escape quickly, i’ll just upend the table to confuse him and then lunge into his gun before he has a chance to point it.

The class talks about sentences and some other stuff (Cormac McCarthy again) but really, everyone just wants to talk about peer stories as usual. I want to improve my writing, damnit, not critique crap. I looked at these old blogs i used to write and when i wrote them, i thought they were pretty good and i always received lots of compliments on  them. But now that i look back on them, i don’t like them. I want to revise them and fix the weird sentences. I’m always improving, i don’t want to settle and become stagnant. I heard Bob Dylan say that the artist should never be satisfied, he should always be in a state of movement, of progression.

Now i want to learn the cadence of writing. I can look at a sentence and the words don’t fit well together. It doesn’t flow well because there’s no real rhythm to the sentence. What words you put down and what order you put them in is important, you can’t just throw down words on a page as they come to you. You can do that at first but you have to go back later and craft them into better words, better sentences. That is the craft of writing. That’s what i’m trying to learn right now. I don’t want to read about one more breakup.

The big girl next to me, the one who wrote that beautiful story about getting stung by the stingray? She turns in a story for us to read and i’m excited to read it. But then i actually read it. Sure, some of her lines are interesting enough but again, it’s some BS story about getting dumped. What the hell? Where’s all that great description like in the stingray story? People just want to get heartbreaks off their chest or something. BO-RING. And why hasn’t Greg turned in a story? He’s the best writer in the class i bet.

Anyway, i’m working on 2 stories now. One is an assignment about characters crossing boundaries (of any sort) and the other is a new story about this guy watching this other guy who’s stalking this girl or something. I’m still putting the pieces together. I’m not ready to turn in another story yet, this class is making me burn out on writing a little bit. Besides, i think i’m busy waging a war on bad art.

The Fish Must Fry

09/28/2010

I want to twist my hand until it cracks off, i want to smash my forehead through the wall and out into the cool night, i want to punch through the middle of my chest and implode the world around me. I’m full of words and they’re stuck inside me and flushing out at inopportune moments before i have a chance to grasp them and put them down, black on white. This story that’s been churning in my lungs for years is closer and closer to the vocal chords, ready to be told.

I sat there last weekend on the back porch on Lake Livingston and i don’t quite fit in but i don’t want to fit in. I want to catch it all, every word they speak. It’s my friend’s dad and his dad and another older fellow and a cousin or a brother, i forget which one. I can’t catch their words, these southern gentlemen, hard as i try. Their hands are creviced and well-worked, their faces betray no secret emotion saved only for their wives. Their eyes radiate only respect. Their words escape me.

They’re waiting to fry some fish fresh from the lake just a hundred feet behind me. But it looks like rain, the clouds have already let a few drops slip. I’m holding a cheap beer and i’m listening to their dialect but the important parts i need to memorize are too quickly spoken to be drawn into words. Then the clouds give up and rain explodes all around us, bringing with it that much needed cold front. I’m still awake from the night before and the rain only helps me in my wretched state. That and the cheap beer.

My professor said last class to sit and listen to people and pick up on their inflections and accents. Then your dialog will become real, it won’t be forced nonsense. I’m trying but the southern gentlemens’ stories are too entertaining and i can’t think of a way to put their voices on a page. They speak in cadence and poetry, saying things in this beautiful quick drawl. It almost felt to me like i’d be betraying them by stealing their words for my dumb little stories.

So i let them keep their words, their little 2-second poems. It can’t be done, their words can’t be translated. So they must remain, pulled back into themselves like a turtle tired of the tears.

There, i did it.

On the Craft

09/24/2010

I’m shaking in class and i don’t know if it’s because the classroom is cold or if it’s because the class is about to critique the story i turned in last week. Turning it in was hard enough and now i have to sit here while they talk about the story. It’s a very personal story, i doubt it’ll see the public. Well it’s online somewhere so if you really want to read it, i guess you could find it if you looked hard enough.

We’ve already critiqued The Nightstalker’s story, it was a decent one. It gave me a chance to talk about Cormac Mccarthy, one of the best writers around. I think the professor was surprised at my knowledge of writing, but that’s ok, so was i. It’s funny that something like talking out loud about something can reveal things about yourself that you didn’t notice before. In all the college classes i’ve done, i never really participated in any discussions. I don’t like debating and i have it in my head that most people are dumb and the things they’re debating aren’t worth my time. But this writing class, this is different. I opened my big mouth and contributed and told The Nightstalker what i liked about his story and what he could fix and the class talked about his story for a long time. It was easy to open up and talk in front of the class because it was something i loved talking about. By the time we were finished discussing his story, i was pretty spent. And we still have to talk about Emo Kid’s story.

Emo Kid’s story was too short and i didn’t really get anything out of it so i wasn’t going to say much. I was pretty tired by that point, i’d barely passed a math test earlier and i’ve been up since 6am as usual. Remember, this is a 3 hour class. Anyway, i’m sitting there trying not to fall asleep and the professor says my name and says i’m being quiet, what did i think about the story?

Damnit. I did all that discussing and i revealed my knowledge and passion for writing earlier and now they’re gonna expect it with every discussion. I told them i thought his story was funny but it ended too quickly. He seemed to like that critique. Emo Kid’s a funny dude but just like any emo kid, he rubs me the wrong way. I want them to hurry up and finish talking about his story because there’s not a lot of class left and i don’t feel like waiting until next week to talk about mine. I tell myself the rest of the class really wants to talk about my story too.

I know i’ve been pretty arrogant about the other people in this class, but i feel differently about them now. It used to be a class of about 15 people; now it’s a class of 10. The impostors who weren’t serious about writing are gone (including the spastic black guy, thank God) and now it’s a class of writers who like talking about writing. However, we spent the beginning of class talking about Hemmingway and i can’t stand Hemmingway. He’s boring, like most classic writers. I can’t read classics, i’ve tried to read everything i’m “supposed” to read. The only ones i’ve read and enjoyed are Moby Dick and James Joyce’s stuff because they go crazy with the language and such.

Anyway, now it’s my story’s turn. I have to read the first page of my story aloud and i don’t do it well. It’s a sad story full of real memories so my voice almost cracks when i read it but i don’t think the class noticed. Then i keep my head down and let them talk about it. It’s a complex story, not conventionally written, but the class seemed to enjoy it. The professor uses words like ‘crafty’  and ‘risky’ and draws diagrams on the whiteboard of my story. HA. He didn’t do that for the other stories. Except for the inverse checkmark but he does that every class. He tells me the story could have easily become sappy melodrama but i successfully avoided it and exercised restraint in my storytelling. The class had tons of questions, it was a blast to hear people talk about my writing that way. A couple of times i went into daydream, forgetting that they were talking about my story. I tend to ignore people and i become disinterested pretty quickly sometimes. It’s not my fault, it’s theirs.

One girl said it was “bleak and beautiful”. It’s a sad story but i didn’t mean for it to come off as bleak. Maybe because i didn’t write the story like a romance, i threw it for a loop here and there. And the class noticed, they said it could have easily been “soft” but it wasn’t.

Then i spoke about my story and revealed where it came from and that the memories i put into the story were real, even though they didn’t think stuff like that actually happens. It was a cool experience, anyone who wants to write needs to take a class like this. By the time class was over, i was tired of talking about writing and tired of writing in general. I went home and tried to read a comic book and the narrative got on my nerves because i just spent 3 hours studying narrative.

And Diff…Good old Diff. I liked you better when i hated you. But you have redeemed yourself, even though you’re still a huge dork.

Diff was wearing a shirt with monkeys on it this time. He was respectful about my story and he understood it, it didn’t confuse him like it did a couple of people in the class. He stood up for my story and explained things to the class when they didn’t understand something. Then on the way back to my car, i hear footsteps behind me and i just know it’s someone from the class and they want to talk about my story. I think about speeding up so they can’t catch up because i don’t feel like making friends right now. It’s Diff and he tells me it was a really good story and i could tell it took a lot of guts for him to approach me like that. We talk for a second and he’s actually a cool enough guy, i don’t know why he acts like such a spaz in class. Anyway, Diff is on my good side now and Emo Kid and Pyle from Full Metal Jacket are on my bad side. Their notes on my story were kind of dumb and Pyle almost came across as hateful when he did his critique of it. Mongoloid. And Emo Kid is young, he probably doesn’t have much writing experience so he might be ok.

I’m tired of words now and i can’t believe i wrote so much about them. This blog is actually longer than the story i turned in.