Writing & Stories

‘Brunch Of The Dead’ Officially Released

BOTD_cover So I’ll start this off by noting that Brunch Of The Dead is currently FREE in the Amazon Kindle store and will be all week, after this week the price skyrockets to $2.99.

Now that that is out of the way…. Brunch Of The Dead is a few things. It’s a short story around 5,000 words about old people and brunch and zombies that has been 12 years in the making. That’s trumped up a bit, it was written initially 12 years ago when my friend Morgen and I used to skip work to hang out coffee shops drinking coffee and trying to make each other laugh with crazy stories. This was one of the few we wrote down, but a serious lack of confidence caused us to shelve for most of that time. About a month ago I dug it out of the archives, still thought it was funny and Morgen and I decided to put some time in reworking and polishing and then publish it. Which we did. Hence the “official” in the subject up there.

It’s also the first piece of fiction writing I’ve ever published, which is a bit nerve wracking. More so than I expected. I really enjoy fiction when I’m reading but I have a horrible time writing it. It’s one of the things I want to do more than anything in the world, but whenever I try I end up writing something that actually happened. I’ve written before about how that scares the crap out of me. I’ve also written before — countless times — about the value of just going for it. About how if you don’t try you are 100% assured to fail. About how anything creative you produce can find a handful of people who enjoy it. So I decided to take my own advice and jump in.

I’m not going to go so far as to say it’s “good” but I will say that I know exactly what happens in it and I still enjoy reading it, and it still makes me laugh. And what I will go so far as to say is that it’s done. I actually made it, and actually shipped it. Which is a huge step for me. And somewhat amusing that it took 12 years for 2 guys to publish a short story that could basically be told verbally in 10 minutes.

But it’s out and that feels awesome. I highly recommend to anyone who is wavering on finishing/publishing something -just go for it.

Knowing the destination before setting out on the voyage

Earlier today I mentioned that there’s never been something I’m so equally attracted to and horrified of in my entire life – as writing. I’ve done it and not done it all my life and I’ve written about doing it and not doing it probably more than I’ve actually done it. I have this problem that I’ve become much more aware of recently, which might actually be making it worse now that I know about it, where I’m petrified of beginning writing if I don’t know where I’m going to end up. Depending on your perspective this has never/always been a problem for me to some extent – or rather, it’s been a problem in other areas that I didn’t realize were problematic, but hasn’t really been a problem with writing.

In my most prolific writing days I had no idea where I was headed until I got there and that was my salvation. Writing was incredibly therapeutic and with just a spark I could dig into my head and spill my guts all over a page and not only feel good about what I’d written, but feel better mentally as well. Like I’d worked through something. Solved something that I didn’t understand before and that drove me to keep doing it. At some point I got the idea that I needed that spark to give me the push, and then at some other point I realized those sparks don’t really happen on command. And then I started worrying about them and how to find them and what to do without them. The spark was like a quick strobe flash in a dark room that gave me an idea of what route to take to get through it, and without that I just keep standing there not knowing which direction to move in.

I told a story last year (and many times before actually) that as a kid I never took first steps, or said first words. I sat around staring at people for ever – much longer than I should have – and then just started walking, and just started talking in full sentences. It’s a story passed on to me from my parents and I don’t even know how much truth is in it. But I guess I convinced myself it was true, and then used it as an excuse by blaming some weird way my head works. I have to know I can do it before I start. Or I have to know the destination before I can embark on the journey. Which I think is bullshit, so that’s conflicting to say the least.

The thing is I love writing. When I’m in the groove it’s easily one of my favorite things in the world. If I could do that all day I would in a heartbeat. When I’m not in that groove it’s torture and I beat myself up about it all day long, which I’m certain only makes it that much worse.

I’ve talked to a number of my “writer” friends, or just my friends who write even if they don’t consider themselves writers. I ask them if they know where they are going when they begin. If they have a roadmap. If they just dive in blind. And their answers, of course – I knew before I ever asked them, are varied. Some people have outlines, some people have ideas, some people barely have a spark. So there’s no one solution, no one answer. And again, I already know that so I don’t know why I keep asking. But I do. I feel like I’m 1 year old just watching everyone walk around too afraid to try to take a step. Does that mean that at some people in the future I’ll just *get it* and suddenly be able to write without issue? I doubt it, but that’s a good excuse to not try today.

And it’s not even a fear of failure. I don’t mind if I suck. I don’t mind if what I write is stupid. I mean I don’t want to write sucky stupid stuff, but if that’s the result then I’m already OK with that because it’s a result, which is better than what I have right now. I’m afraid of getting lost. Afraid of staring at the blank page and not having any idea what to write next. Afraid of trying to tell a story and not having a story to tell. If I don’t actually write it then I can keep telling myself that I have a story that I just haven’t written yet. If I force myself to start writing it and hit a wall, then I have to admit that I don’t have a story. Which is where that desire to know the end before I begin comes from. And again, I know it’s stupid.

I’m not even looking for advice here, just trying to kick my own ass and sort through the crap in my own head so I can better grasp what it is that is actually standing in my way. Like with this post, I knew the first sentence because I’d already written it on twitter, everything else just appeared as I typed the line before it. So that’s something.

Clockwork

Clockwork Orange bar

“Kelly told Alice that she thinks you are cute”

Stereotypical high school grapevine courting. It happened all the time to everyone. Except it had never happened to me. I’d forever been in the role of passing on this kind of message but had never had it directed towards me. Of course I always dreamed about what would happen when my number finally rolled around. When one of the oh so many girls who I stared at for endless hours in school would finally notice me. One of them, which one I hoped it would be changed often enough that it really could have been any of them, but one of them would realize that right there in front of them was the guy that they were dreaming about when they at home singing smiths songs. I never liked the Smiths mind you, but they all did. It would be like turning on a light in a dark room filled with furniture, suddenly everything would make sense and we’d both know it. We’d instantly know everything about each other and understand every thought the other had. We’d do things that people who were dating did like hang out and go to the mall together. We’d hold hands absentmindedly while doing something else – just for the comfort of knowing the other person was there. We’d snuggle up on a couch and fall asleep next to each other while watching a movie. We’d probably kiss. Then we’d have mountains of sex. We’d live happily ever after. It was just a matter of time before all this came to pass, either that or I’d grow old and die alone. But one of those things was sure to happen. It was just a matter of time.

“Who’s Kelly?” I asked.

She wasn’t one of the girls I currently (or recently) had had my sights on, but no matter because she was one of the girls. This was happening slightly differently that I’d expected, but these were variations I could deal with. It turns out that Kelly was one of the girls who from time to time would sit at table during lunch which meant she was at least a friend of a friend. But let’s be honest here, we’re talking about Bradenton, Florida so anyone who was the least bit weird at some point ended up stuck with the rest of us. You didn’t want to be one of the weird ones in Bradenton. You were supposed to want to fit in, to play sports and have rich parents.

Her name wasn’t even Kelly. I’m not changing it to protect the innocent or anything like that, I just can’t remember it. If I really cared about creating some historically accurate document I suppose I could find a yearbook and look her up, but I don’t really care. That, and I threw out all my old year books a few years ago. So for this her name is Kelly, but really it doesn’t matter. This story isn’t about her name, it’s about her and me and it’s about the events of these few weeks.

The next time I saw her I went out of my way to say Hi and be friendly, without being obvious and without letting on that I’d heard the scandalous rumors that she thought I was cute. That would ruin everything. Besides, I wasn’t the one who thought she was cute so I didn’t have anything to worry about. But she was cute, in a weird kind of way. I’d just never noticed it before. Or maybe now that I had this insider information I looked at her differently. I noticed her anyway, which I hadn’t before, so there’s that. She was smallish, both in stature and weight. Her short bleach blond hair was plastered down to her head with some kind of plastering hair product or matted from unwashed grease, I couldn’t tell which. She touched it and looked away and smiled nervously. Her white T-shirt was at least 4 sizes too big and her arms looked toothpicks sticking out of the sleeves. She wore boys jeans with what was probably her fathers belt. Her super pale skin was harshly contrasted by the dark red lipstick she was wearing, or had worn many hours ago because it had turned black and caked up in the corners of her mouth and edges of her lips. I assumed it was lipstick anyway, it might as well have just been remnants from a lolipop or something. She was awkward on every level, and I thought it was fantastic. How had I not seen her before?

[based on a true story]

“Someday you will die. Play hard now”

My pretend career as a writer isn’t a new thing, I’ve been not finishing projects for years. I just found the scraps of one of those projects and was reminded of a more idealistic version of myself when I thought I could do anything, because prior to that point I had. At some point I stopped finishing things, I don’t know why and that’s probably a different story all together, but this was happening right during that transition from “ship everything” to “ship almost nothing.” I thought I’d share some of it with you.

So the back story here is that a fellow named Jon Resh, who was not only one of my favorite people in the entire world, but also my first roommate ever, had just self published a book called Amped : Notes from a Go-Nowhere Punk Band. It was the story of SPOKE, a band he’d been in that was now broken up. A band that sort of changed my life – though I’d never tell them that – and if I’m honest it wasn’t just the band, it was the people and the scene and the shows and everything. It was a fleeting moment that will always be magical, and helped shaped my life in so many ways I’ve since.

This was 2001-ish, just after I’d moved to Los Angeles and I thought I’d transition my writing career (which I’d recently morphed from my own zines to columns in magazines) into screen writer. Many years before when I wanted to be an active part of the punk scene, but upon realizing I couldn’t play an instrument and was too self conscious to be a vocalist, I started putting out records of my friends bands. I realized I liked that behind the scenes yet shaping things position. I’d always loved movies and now that I lived in the heart of the movie industry I thought similar logic would apply. My first idea – make a movie out of Amped. I talked to Jon about it and he didn’t seem horrified by the idea. I thought I’d use a bunch of his stuff from the book and add some of my own stories and flat out make some of it up for extra excitement value. I started writing. At some point I stopped. I don’t recall why or when, but the text docs I found today were last edited in early 2003. I read them and smiled, maybe it’s me being nostalgic or maybe there’s something more. After the jump you’ll find a very short summary/treatment idea for the whole movie and the intro that I thought up. There’s a lot more done but this is just a bit of it. These are copied directly from those 10 year old docs and entirely unedited.

Maybe you’ll enjoy them.

Tomorrowland

Tomorrowland

The middle aged asian guy who just sat down at the table across from me has the most painful combover I’ve seen in my entire life. It’s depressing just looking at it. He keeps brushing it over with his hand which makes it that much more obvious. I can’t stop watching him and it’s making me sad. Everything about him makes me sad, the combover was just the first thing I noticed. His shorts don’t match his shirt. His jacket is ill fitting – probably purchased in the 90’s before he put on 50 pounds. His backpack is overstuffed, like he’s trying to anticipate any thing he might possibly need throughout the day but instead of being prepared he’s stuck lugging this heavy thing around all day.

Going to Disneyland is easy for me. I live 30 minutes away and have an annual pass. If I have a few free hours and the desire I can go jump on Space Mountain and then go back to my regular life without any real interruption. I imagine that’s not the case for him. When he’s not looking around self consciously he’s focused on a map of the park. And not just casually looking at it, I’m talking hunched over forehead veins throbbing sweaty brow focused. He’s got a pen and is making some notes on it – plans I imagine.

I start crafting this guys story in my head. He’s traveled from far away for this, maybe even been saving up for it for years. Or waiting to collect enough vacation days to allow him to make the journey. It’s a big deal to him regardless and he doesn’t want to miss anything. I imagine him being a lonely guy, distant from coworkers and neighbors. But he’s used to it. I can see that all over his face, he’s very comfortable being uncomfortable. He’s comfortable being alone because that’s all he’s ever known. He can’t relate to other people. He stopped trying a long time ago.

I think about what that would be like. I travel alone when business requires it and enjoy the peaceful time with just myself that provides, I like being alone with my thoughts to help sort through them, but I can’t imagine this. If I go to the movies by myself half of the motivation is to get away from everyone and escape to some other world, even if only for a few hours. This guys motivation isn’t to get away, it’s to go to Disneyland. Being alone isn’t the goal of his trip, it’s just business as usual. I wonder how long it’s been since his last non-transactional conversation he’s had with another person. I can picture years and years of slogging away to an office and never talking to anyone. The same as his trip here to Disneyland – he’s on his own with all of this activity around him that he’s not a part of.

And he’s hiding out in this corner of the park studying this map to make sure he doesn’t miss a thing.

I try to picture him on a ride. Does he enjoy it? Does he smile? Or is he just crossing things off a list. I want to think he enjoys it. I want it to make sense. I want this to be enjoyable for him. I feel his pain and isolation and I desperately want this trip to the happiest place on earth to have an impact on his life. I want to see him stop fucking with his hair and smile. I want to see him content, I want him to feel that this trip was worth it. That the years he planned and saved to be here weren’t for nothing. I don’t want him to go home, back to his depressing life thinking this dream trip was yet another disappointment. One more thing that didn’t live up to the hype.

And then, my whole story is shattered when his family joins him at the table with a tray of food. His wife, his kids. They speak english. He smiles. They smile. His wife kisses him without even thinking about it, like it’s just this second nature thing. It doesn’t even require a reaction because it’s so common place. He’s loved and he knows it. Nothing I thought about him is true. Visiting Disneyland is as second nature to him as it is to me. He can come here anytime he wants, and his family and friends are easily in tow.

I’m suddenly so happy for him, and at the same time horrified about what all this says about me.

Waiting Room

Keychains. Scented candles. Bumper stickers. Floor mats. Assorted cheap tools in vacuformed plastic hanging cards.

The coffee pot has been left on all day for years at a time. The burnt layer of bake on coffee crust is an inch thick, but no one seems to care as they refill their styrofoam cups from the pot one after another. Sugar. Powdered creamer. Plastic straw.

There are no shortage of snack for weary patrons, available for purchase of course. Most hilarious of which is the rack of ENERGY CLUB QUALITY SNACKS! THE SMART ALTERNATIVE! All graphics suggest this is the healthy stuff. The rest of the shop is filled with junk food but if you want a smart alternative while you wait, this is it. The gummy bears are flavored with “real fruit” – the glo-worms have 0g fat – the trail mix is “natural” though my definition of natural doesn’t include brightly colored candy coated m&m’s. This is why we can’t have nice things.

Every chair is full. Every eye is glassed over. It’s the usual suspects.

There’s the lady 3 sizes too large for the armchair she’s sitting in, wearing sweat pants that have been printed to look like denim and a black and white leopard print scarf that’s the size of a table cloth draped around her neck blending almost seemlessly with krinly product filled mountain of hair. She hasn’t looked up from her blackberry once. Continually clicking its surface with her lee press on purple sparkle nails.

Next to her is the older asian guy, white hair and spotted skin, who is using a vons grocery store plastic bag as a tote, filled with paperwork and folders, maybe some keys and an old style brick of a garage door opener. This isn’t the first day he’s used this bag for this purpose judging by the wear and holes in the corners. His hiking boots are less than apropriate for sitting in a tiled waiting room for hours on end and he knows it. Keeps looking at his watch. Has some place else to be. He’s sitting directly across from the TV but in the hour I’ve been been here he hasn’t looked at it once. Something distant off in space has his attention.

Connections

Sometime in summer, 1991 I guess? I was hanging out at Rob Sexton’s house in Tampa. He’d offered to teach me how to silk screen t-shirts and we’d ended up talking about records. He pulled out a box of I don’t even know what anymore, a stack of 7″s he’d traded for an equal stack of the recently released Slap Of Reality 7″. This was how you sold records then, you’d press 300 and then trade 10-15 at a time to other people for records they released and soon you’d have a mini record store, a distro that you could take around and see off one by one. The records weren’t important, the story was. Rob told me how pissed he was at the guy who sent him the records because he’d shipped the records in a box but hadn’t included any kind of note. In punk rock / hardcore at the time, this was an unparalleled dick move. Who sends an order and doesn’t include a note? That wasn’t punk at all.

It’s funny what sticks with you, but Rob’s reaction that day definitely did and a few years later when I started my own label (Toybox Records, which I shut down around ’97 I think? ’98 maybe.) I took that to heart and went out of my way to include a note, no matter how short – just something personal, in every order I shipped out. It was important. This personal connection we all had with everyone else in the scene, even people we’d never met. There was this thing that tied us all together and we knew it, and a little note in an order, a “thanks, hope you like it” or whatever made all the difference in the world.

This was a long time ago. I communicated with people online via BBS’s and #irc and wouldn’t have my first email address for another 2 or 3 years when I moved to Gainesville and took over my roommate Anatol’s email account because he couldn’t imagine ever having a need for it himself. Anyway, point is back then we wrote real letters to people and when you ordered something getting a note in the package said “you aren’t just a customer, this isn’t just business” and we all knew it.

Bits and Pieces – Wonderful

I was introduced to punk rock in 1987 while attending Cistercian Prep School in Dallas, Texas. Actually it was a year or two earlier that I’d gotten my first taste of it thanks to a Skate Rock compilation produced by Thrasher Magazine. I just didn’t realize it was an actual genre of music so much as something scary to freak out the grown ups. I mean, when a magazine with a monthly column called “skarfing material” (that was really just a collection of snack recipes calling peanut butter and jelly sandwiches “bloody guts and vomit bread” ) released a collection of bands with names like Suicidal Tendencies and Red Hot Chili Peppers, it had to be a joke right?