April 4th, 2011

Extree! Extree! Read all about it!

I’m writing a music column (er, well, not exactly a column, but writing a bunch of music pieces) for my community newspaper.  Luckily, my community is in Brooklyn and there’s plenty of cool music coursing through.

Now, the paper itself has a decidedly old-school ethos, which basically translates to “there is no website.”  But I had fun writing the pieces, so I wanted to share them with you, so I jury rigged a little online gallery (I guess that’s what it is) of the scans I made of the pages where my writing appears.  To read it, I suggest right-clicking/control+clicking on the images on the page, then choose “view image” and that will open another tab where the pictures are big enough to be read.  Yeah, it’s not nytimes.com, okay?  If it’s all just too much of a pain in the ass to view/read (which is a very real possibility), just take comfort in the fact that it happened, and if you’re walking the streets of Red Hook, be sure to pick up a copy at finer bodegas and booze-houses through the greater Van Brunt area.

And, just a note, I did not name the column.

And props to Devo for her uncredited photo of the band on the front page of the paper, above the fold (just another talent to add to the list).

late to the party

November 9th, 2010

Funny Pictures and Gifs - Cat and Baby

Yeah, it’s a little late notice, but I contributed a post to my friends’ well-intentioned but wrongheaded political website.

Funny Pictures and Gifs - Cat Noms Purrito

get it in print

October 6th, 2010

The New York publishing scene’s not so hard to break in to.  You’ve just got to pay your dues.  Or your yellow pages bill:

pay to play

There I am.  Upper left corner.  Under “Associations”:

the big time

What is “The Boroughing,” you ask?  Well, it all started when my girlfriend landed a job slinging yellow pages ads for Idearc Media.  Truly one of the most sickening jobs one could imagine, particularly for someone not generally disposed for a life in sales, particularly not selling ads in the one part of publishing more dinosaur-esque than newspapers.  Convincing businesses to buy ad space in the yellow pages?  Maybe in fucking Timbuktu.  Well, she was working in the Bronx.  But, still…

the bronx is burning... with business opportunities!

Anyway, so she’s not closing many sales, Idearc is monitoring her time on the phone to make sure she’s making the requisite effort (which often meant she would call me and I would pick up and then set the receiver down, allowing the minutes to accrue while I listened to her quietly sobbing on the other end) and meanwhile they close the Bronx office and move shop to Westchester, pushing her commute to the, you know, holyfuckingshit level.  Well, over beers with friends one evening we hatch some harebrained scheme whereby we’ll purchase a series of cryptic ads in the yellow pages to (a) help my gf out with her sales numbers and (b) initiate a new business/secret society/citywide scavenger hunt/mindfuck.  As I said, we were drinking beers.  The name of the project?  The Boroughing.

Well, the next day my gf is at work and alerts me to the fact that, gee, the City Island yellow pages book is closing, like, that day, so if we’re really going to do this thing, I need to sign the contract today.  I was getting the hard sell from my own gf.  And, being the stand-up guy that I am, I followed through (making me the only one out of the previous night’s group to recognize the Boroughing in the sobering light of day).  When it came to the content, I concocted the requisite cryptic ad, aggregating buzzwords from a quick study of City Island’s history, and threw together a logo.  And then, viola, the Boroughing was in print.  It was a reality.  Of sorts.  Was it worth the $300+ I dropped on the ad?  Can you put a price on… whatever the fuck that was?  We never got around to creating www.theboroughing.com, though I did buy the URL.  And we did change the outgoing message on our answering machine to reflect the office of that wonderful “association,” the Boroughing, just in case Idearc should get a bug up their ass to verify that their hotshot new saleswoman was in fact selling ads to businesses and not well-intentioned boyfriends.

standing tall

Fast-forward two months, my girlfriend is laid off by Idearc.  Did she collect the full commission on her sale to me?  Doubtful.

Fast-forward ten months, a new Idearc salesman (one I’m not sleeping with) calls me about renewing my contract for next year’s edition of the City Island yellow pages.  I explain that, unfortunately, the ad has not increased my sales of nonexistent goods and/or services and I would like to cancel the service.  The salesman is understanding.

Fast-forward thirteen months and the yellow pages bill keeps coming.  Frantic at pushing my flushing-my-money-down-the-toilet into a second year, I call Idearc.  After much haranguing (on both sides) it comes out that my contract has been extended an additional three months (which Idearc allows itself to do, by writ of the original contract).  Why?  Because they haven’t closed next year’s book yet.  Are they printing more copies of last year’s book, I inquire?  No.  No, they are not.  But since the new book hasn’t come out, last year’s book (featuring The Boroughing (.com!)) is still the yellow pages of record, and, accordingly, everyone in last year’s book has to keep paying for the privilege, and accompanying avalanche of publicity, of appearing in the yellow pages for another three months (apparently the amount of time necessary to, you know, make the next edition of the yellow pages the very best it could be).

truth in advertising

So, if you should find yourself in City Island, perhaps because of your appreciation of the recent Andy Garcia vehicle, please do pick up a copy of the yellow pages.  And if you find yourself in the market for an imaginary association, be sure to give us a call.

for all your boroughing needs

mushroom boom and gloom

August 22nd, 2010

“I must be a mushroom because they keep me in the dark and feed me bullshit.”

"yum, yum, eat 'em up."

I first encountered the folksy maxim in the bathroom of my friend’s house.  He was my first friend, meeting in maybe second grade (maybe first), at the age when friendships grew largely from geographic coincidence (my first friend was actually probably next-door neighbor Katie, though our increasingly divergent maturities and genders, and her eventual and premature death by cancer, makes me consider Matt my first friend, though the writing of this paragraph makes me feel bad about it).

"wanna come over and play?"

Matt lived about two blocks away in  a double-headed Allen-wrench direction.  His family’s house was old, which I took to mean haunted (my family’s had been constructed on the border of virgin wetland at the behest of my parents, part of the great Mounds View land grab of the mid- ’70s).

everything must go

The antiquity of his home was reinforced by his parents’ own advanced age.  My youth prevented me from properly gauging the age of others, but his dad had graying hair and his mom, as the spouse of a gray-hair, took on a perceived elder status of her own (jazzercise classes, though, implied a youthful vigor).

lookin' good

The house was also filled with peculiar wonders of a time and sensibility foreign from my own.  Playing cards bearing black-and-white photos of naked women hid in the mahogany desk of a largely unused sitting room bedecked with fabrics and furniture I associated with a generation beyond my own parents.  A rusted cylinder push mower powered by nothing more than engineering ingenuity and muscle strain (which strangely made it more fun than the trembling gas-powered version at my own home) sat in the cobwebbed garage, the shelves of which were pancaked with dust.  And an embossed plaque in the bathroom declaring the aforementioned phrase while carved, faced mushrooms danced along the plaque’s lower border.

this way to the egress

It’s been a long time since I considered the words of those cavorting mycelium (in the interim I saw my first porno in Matt’s living room [and couldn't stop laughing, much to the irritation of most of the other keen and enraptured boys gathered before the television {my retarded pubescence took faces distorted by pleasure and nonsensical, guttural, ecstatic cries to be closer to a The Three Stooges short than the gateway to primal stirrings}]; I got drunk for one of the first times at Matt’s [and being one of my first drinking experiences, I exaggerated my drunkenness in that ridiculous and obnoxious way endemic to high schoolers {here realized in a disproportionate enjoyment of The Kentucky Fried Movie}, again, to the irritation of others, though Matt quietly dismissed the offended parties' inquiries as to 'what was wrong with him?']; despite drifting apart during the later years of primary and middle school and reconnecting briefly over a shared interest in alcohol [particularly Hot 100] late in high school, Matt and I eventually succumbed to the fatal drift that visits so many childhood friendships [and is superficially breached now via Facebook and its ability to alert you to people's birthdays]) but a couple recent events brought the phrase back to me:

YouTube Preview Image

Sadly this deployment of the phrase was a little clunky and exacerbates the folksiness of the wisdom.  Still, Tommy Chong; cool guy.  And, Mike Huckabee, why the shit do you have a TV show?

busy signal

The words also resonated with me during recent dealings with Verizon during a bout of Internet disconnectivity.  Despite a day’s worth of torrential rain and a lightning strike to the fire escape a floor above (resulting in an exploded flowerpot), the Verizon representative to whom I reported the trouble insisted there had been no other reports of Internet outages in my neighborhood and there weather was not likely a factor.  A repairman was to be dispatched the next day, in the bay window of 8am to 6pm.  By 5:30, no one had showed and I called Verizon.  The guy insisted that there had been trouble at one of the company’s hubs and they had to deal with that first and that’s what the computer had told him and that’s all he could tell me.

"sir, the computer is telling me to shoot you."

Then, just after 6, my phone rang.  It was a different Verizon guy.  He was letting me know that they needed to send someone out tomorrow to fix my problem, would a window of 1-5pm work for me?  I pointed out that I had waited 10 hours already (well, Devo had, but we’re engaged and I’m already down with the royal me), that they already said they were sending someone out today.  The guy explained that, gee, it seems like they misrouted the call (whatever that means) and he sure is sorry, but would 1-5pm work.  I need it as soon as possible, I explained, which he took as a yes.  Apparently 1-5pm was the earliest they could get out because they had to get to all the other people they hadn’t managed to get to from yesterday still, which seems to imply there was a widespread problem with the system.  Someone’s not being absolutely forthright with me, and I can’t get anyone on the line to give me a straight answer.  The guy did come out the next day, about half an hour before that day’s window closed.  Apparently I just needed a new modem.  And a mushroom farmer.

what can you tell me about FiOS?

lives a life of danger

July 1st, 2010

So I’ve been working with a sketch comedy group, thanks to my pal Lesler, and we put on a show a couple weeks ago.  I wrote one of the sketches and, being the control freak gloryhound that I am, also acted in the sketch.  It didn’t go off without a hitch, but, shit, what do I look like, Henny fucking Youngman?  Anyway, Devo was able to capture the action zapbruder-style with our digital camera (which isn’t actually a video camera, per se, and has some sort of effect enabled that focuses in on just one color in the scene and makes the rest black-and-white [can you spot the color?]).

hey, lady!

June 25th, 2010

A new Mr. Judas came out. I managed to get in. Here’s my fave. There was a guest editor. She was pretty cool. Not like that fucking animal they usually have calling the shots.

@ your service

November 4th, 2009

I’m doing customer service at the bookstore now.  It’s kinda horseshit but it’s kinda okay.  It’s clear there are a lot of sad/mad people out there that feel completely abused and trampled upon by society (“the world” ["society"]) and feel that plunking down $$$ (more like $ or .$ even) entitles them to let out the frustration that usually manifests itself in crying jags and/or frenzied, chafing masturbation and/or bullets fired into mirrors, as sharp-tongued critiques of business practices.

But — but! — there are also weird moments of intimacy passing through the avenues of commerce.  To wit, a person in Hawaii buys a book, sends me a thank-you note about the book, says, hey, you guys do super work and maybe I’ll donate my books to you when I die, though I live in Hawaii so shipping may be a problem.  Well, I thought this guy was just over the moon with  our wonderful book-selling, so I’m just, like, sure, you can donate your books to us when you die, shipping may be a problem, but, hey, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.  Then Hawaii writes back that her brain is full of tumors and she was actually supposed to be dead two years ago but she stopped chemo and started using a vaporizer and she sent along this cartoon she made:

THC cartoon

Well, this is more than I was bargaining for.  More beauty.  More meaning.  I’ve kept up the lines of communication.  We’ve talked about her Uncle Harvey who apparently befriended some stereotypes in New York’s Chinatown.  We’ve both agreed you’ve gotta stay away from that Waikiki bullshit.  And of course we’ve both agreed that THC does, in fact, pass the brain/blood barrier.

To wit:

prince smaller still with text

seemed like a good idea at the time

double whammy grammy slammy

October 1st, 2009

So today (probably yesterday by the time you read this) is (was) a pretty busy day for me, getting-published-wise.  I’ve got a wee bit of personal essay on Opium magazine’s website.  It’s about a painting that has been a part of my family possibly for longer than I have been.  In case you’re curious (and for a little behind the scenes action), here’s a photo of the painting:

who's that lady?  *sexy* lady.

who's that lady? *sexy* lady.

Then, as if that wasn’t enough for one day, I got a piece in the Travel section of the LA Times about Cape May, NJ, and the birdwatching and Victorian architecture mecca that it is.

Me tired now.  Me go to bed.

so this is my birthday, and what have i done?

September 11th, 2009

On 09/09/09 (also known as Wednesday), I turned the big 3-2.  Nothing of particular significance in that milestone, except that it roughly coincided with me landing full-time employment for the first time in over a year (and the first steady gig for me in NYC).

huddle up

huddle up

The job itself is not ideal.  The pay is not great.  The work is not editorial, which was sort of my entire reason for moving here in the first place.  But it is in a bookstore, in fact, the bookstore where I’ve been volunteering for some six months.  So there is some sense of payoff for sweat stains and backaches.  And the bookstore is actually pretty cool, with lots of literary events and concerts (even Bjork).  And it’s a non-profit operation with its sights set on eradicating homeless and HIV/AIDS, so there’s that feel-goodness.  It undoubtedly carries more cache than slinging books at Barnes & Noble or Borders.  And it will help me scratch that nagging itch of “gotta get a job gotta get a job gotta get a job gotta get a job gotta get a job gotta get a job gotta get a job,” which will, in turn, allow me to focus on longer term writing projects such as another book (Deuced 2: Electric Boogaloo?).

the paper chase

the paper chase

And, really, most of my writing life has been spent daily (or nightly) toiling in the salt mines and then cranking out prose in my free time.  A Bukowskian existence of sorts (but without the scarring acne).  It wasn’t until The Los Angeles Times came a’callin’ that I ever smithed words for a well-beyond-livable income.

a fish tale

a fish tale

Which brings me back to birthdays.  September 2007.  The big 3-0 looming large.  A true milestone.  One christened by t-shirts and coffee mugs and knowing looks and nudging elbows and taking stock of one’s life.  I was eying my fourth decade of life saddled with a sizable (though slowly diminishing) credit card debt and a full-time job closed captioning pornography by candlelight (well, at night, anyway).  Not a horrible life, but not a wildly satisfying one, either.  Then, suddenly, my stock shot up.  Just four days before I turned 30, I landed the aforementioned sweet LA Times gig.  A daily newspaper.  A 130-some year old paper.  A fat paycheck.  Debts receded.  Savings ballooned (when you’re starting around zero, ballooning isn’t hard to do).  I was in an office with a bunch of creative people.  Things felt right.  But before I turned 31, I would be out on my ass, thanks to corporate restructuring, executive lunacy, a changing market and a complete lack of foresight.

whos got a tiger by the tail?

who's got a tiger by the tail?

Which brings me to September 2008.  Jobless, heartbroken, humiliated (I understand it was just business,  but the whole affair left me with career blue balls), a 31-year-old me pulled up stakes and headed east to New York City, land of plenty, publishing capital of the world, desperate to parlay my brief tenure at LAT into another sweet editorial gig.  Thanks to the sweetness of my recently departed gig, I had money in the bank and a fat (phat?) unemployment claim, so, while I didn’t land any editorial gigs (sweet or otherwise) thanks to an imploding national/global economy and the continuing downward spiral of the publishing industry, I was able to explore this amazing city, as well as the surrounding majesty of the East Coast (D.C., Balto, Montauk, Mystic, Vermont, Hudson Valley, Chesapeake Bay, Cape May, hey, hey, hey) without fretting too much (though, admittedly, I did find time for some frets).  But man cannot live by unemployment claim (or sporadic freelance gigs) alone.

out to sea

out to sea

Which brings me to September 2009.  After some six months volunteering and taking the occasional lumps at the aforementioned bookstore, I had made a good name for myself (or at least my name was finally known in the bookstore [in truth, that part didn't take six months]) and was tipped off about an employment opportunity with the store.  The first one slipped through my grasp (a part-time gig),  but then an email alerted me to a second, this one  full-time (though, technically, temporary [a three-month prove-your-worth period, which could very well lead to ongoing goings-on]).  I went for it.  I got it.  In this depressed/recessed/shy economy which has seen people living in cars and tents and eating dirt and each other (last two things being totally fabricated), it isn’t so much to ask of me to take a pay cut (even from my unemployment checks) and roll up my sleeves and get some goddam work done.

hi-ho, hi-ho

hi-ho, hi-ho

Besides, there’s always September 2010, when I will turn 33, the age of a crucified Jesus H. Christ.

do you want it?  you gotta want it!

do you want it? you gotta want it!

man bites dog

July 15th, 2009

So I was volunteering at the book store the other day and came across tthe funny book below.  Made of folded-over and stapled-together 8 1/2 by 11 pieces of paper, the publication bore its full original asking price, a seeming indication of lasting value (though my employee discount and a sale that week brought it to a more manageable 26 cents).

Vroom Drive Comix cover

But the book’s retention of value got me thinking about my own foray into self-publishing.  I looked up “Deuced”s ISBN number on Amazon and then entered it into the book store’s pre-screening software.  (The computer tells you whether to keep a book, send it to a different used book retailer who will sell it at a lower price but give us a cut of the loot, or not keep it all; the last option meaning the book in question went into the “TG” box, which meant either “to go” or “total garbage,” depending on your level of cynicism.)

Vroom Drive Comix page 1

I held my breath as the computer processed the number.  Was I a keeper?  Processing, processing, processing (the book store computers are a bit aged).  Then, finally, a response: “Keep it!” (emphasis not in the original).

Vroom Drive Comix page 3

The decision no doubt came from the fact my Canadian publisher insists that everyone make good money off each sale, which means they keep prices high so there’s plenty to go around.  Oh, Canada, your brutal Socialism gives everyone but the consumer a good deal.  My existential horror (paperback) novel bears a bloated list price of $26.50.

Vroom Drive Comix page 4

At my 10 year high school reunion a few years ago, I was hawking my freshly minted tome (a box of which sat in my friend’s car [I was on a book tour, with readings at the St. Paul Literacy Council and a futon shop]) and told an old classmate the price and he said, “That doesn’t sound like a independent novel.”  I guess he’s not familiar with the economics of mass production.

Vroom Drive Comix page 5

But truth be told, it does seem like more of a $10 book.  I think that’s a nice price.  Hell, maybe even $5.  Something nice and simple and in bill denomination.  Amazon, in its infinite wisdom, now offers my book on its Kindle for a mere $7.99.  I just wonder what I get off of a Kindle sale.  I have this sneaking suspicion it’s zero.

Vroom Drive Comix page 6

Anybody have a Kindle?  I hated the idea of them, then started to maybe warm up to the possiblity, then I saw the screen looks like a fucking Gameboy.

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Lets do the Mario all together now.
Let’s do the Mario all together now.