August 7, 2013
Episode 6 of The Organist—the podcast produced by KCRW and The Believer—is now online, and includes a bit I did about robbing a record store in 1989. It’s sort of a companion or maybe a prequel to the thing I wrote in Apology Magazine about living in the YMCA in late ’89. It’s a good piece, even if I’m not happy with my own delivery. Reading in front of a mic is goddamn hard. You try it.
1989 was a weird year in my life. Since much of this weirdness involved the music scene in New York, I’ve never really figured out a good way to write about it. Every time I try, I get grossed out on the nostalgia factor and give up. But inevitably I remember those rare music pieces that transcend nostalgia—Brendan Mullen’s Darby Crash profile, ANP Quarterly’s look at LA punk gangs, the untold account of NYC’s skinhead-Puerto Rican wars that somebody (not me) needs to write—and I realize I’m just being lazy. Maybe I’ll tackle the year in tiny increments, like this piece.
August 5, 2013
Last month, we flew to San Juan with the Burkes. Until this trip, I’d always assumed Puerto Rico was somewhere off the coast of the Carolinas. Maybe I’d confused it with Bermuda, I don’t know. The world is huge: I can’t be expected to keep track of all of it.
When one spends time in NYC, or Philadelphia, or Providence, one could easily assume that everyone in Puerto Rico is really, really excited to be from Puerto Rico. That is not actually the case. I didn’t see one car sporting the island’s star & bars flag. Are residents of Puerto Rico aware that their mainland expats are acting like a bunch of Texans?
We visited the Arecibo radio telescope. Arecibo is basically the only safeguard this planet has against a killer asteroid. It’s the size of like 200 parking lots and you feel kind of crazy when gazing at its vastness. After buying some pencils and astronaut ice cream in the gift shop, we hiked back down to the parking lot as a scientist careened up the road in his battered Corolla, frantically working out calculations on the dashboard. As he passed, we heard him shriek, ‘idiots!’
Later, this place happened. Somehow, I convinced myself that this was just the name of the establishment—some nightclub’s ironic take on a cruel tradition—and not a place where cocks were made to fight. It was one of those weird things were the brain tries to superimpose What It Wants To Be over What Actually Is (cockfighting is totally legal in Puerto Rico).
I am going to give this unincorporated US territory a good review on Yelp.
July 4, 2013
June 11, 2012
ARCHIVES, June 11 – A quarter century ago today I graduated from high school. David Letterman had started his Top 10 Lists just two years earlier, and high school kids across America—emulating college kids across America—aped his format in a thousand different lunchrooms. That spring, I made top ten To Do lists for me and my pals Bob, Eddie, and Jason. We were all heading off into adulthood, and it seemed important to prioritize our strengths and weaknesses.
So there’s been some progress. I’ve made great strides on #s 3 & 7. I’m still working on #2. # 4 is a tough one.
# 9 surprises me. I’d just purchased my first vehicle, a pea-green 1974 Chevy Impala the size of a mausoleum. It cost $500, which I’d earned washing dishes my senior year. Running or immobilized, it was a welcome sanctum. If we’re going by meters, it got a respectable 48 MPG (also, what did gas cost in 1987? A nickel? ). I’m not sure what there was to complain about.
Then there’s #8. I didn’t learn to correctly spell the word “lose” until I was in my mid-20′s. The phonetics make it an easy enough thing to get wrong. But this wrong word is still kind of correct, in that I did like to loose (as in, “to let loose, free from bonds or restraint”) my temper upon the world.
I have made considerable growth in this department. But every now and then, at the DMV or in traffic, I still think, I might just loose it.
May 30, 2012
LOS ANGELES, May 30 – I’ll be doing a reading & signing at L.A.’s prestigious Book Soup tonight, at 7PM. Directions are on my LIVE page.
If you haven’t been there before, it’s not actually a big cauldron full of steaming broth and ruined manuscripts and screaming people. Although that would be funny.
May 28, 2012
Dear Rabies Clinic,
Here’s the thing: your sign is written is blood. So I feel like that’s at least Strike One.
Seriously, why so many rules? If I get bored, how come I can’t just play touch football on the sun with W.C. Fields, or go inside a Bugs Bunny cartoon, or hang out with all the fish on the luminous ocean floor??
Dear Global Positioning System,
Could you at least try to act professional until Skynet arrives (August)? Jesus.
Dear Canteen Vending Service,
If I call your toll free number, it’s just going to be this guy laughing, right?
Me again. Why does this kind of thing only happen in my mind?
May 23, 2012
THE INTERNET, May 23 – Despite what I just said in that last post, I forgot that I had another interview come out last week, on the New Orleans-based Room 220 blog.
This uses that terrible photo I let slip into the world, and one question is attributed to me that really belongs to the interviewer. But it’s an OK piece. I’m repeating myself in a lot of these things.
May 21, 2012
HOME, May 21 – I took a week off from thinking about my book tour. Even now, I’m not sure what lessons I should’ve learned. I had a good time. I sold some books. A lot of people were very nice to me. Going into this tour, many of my expectations were rooted in the experiences of a previous millennium. No livid skinheads or uppity lefties took the time to confront me. No one confronted me about anything.
My only antagonist was the wall of rejection. Going into the tour, I knew that indifference would be part of the deal. And small turnouts are far less harsh on a book tour—where you have the luxury of a motive—than on a band tour. But it’s still tough dealing with society’s cold shoulder night after night. As a freelancer, rejection comes in easily-dismissible form emails. On the road, it’s a physical presence, a volume of empty space in every room.
Jesus, here’s a sad photo:
On this trip, I remembered some things about touring I’d long forgotten:
- The colossal waste involved with driving from city to city, all those mounds of wrappers and coffee cups I found myself cramming into garbage cans day after day.
- That weird thing where at least one person, at every show, without exception, will apologize for their own city.
- How much stuff people give me at shows, sometimes as networking, sometimes as an offering. On this tour, there were dozens of fanzines and CDs and albums, and, in one case, a taxidermied tarantula. Some things I had to ship home.
- How very many of life’s opportunities and adventures I will forgo for a little extra sleep, just to clear my head of that constantly encroaching confusion.
To this list, I can add one new observation: blogging about a book tour requires frequent use of the words “I” and “me”. Too much. I’m not happy with how much me there’s been in this blog. My life isn’t yet exciting enough to warrant so much real-time autobiography. Hopefully now I’ll have time to start writing about other things.
May 10, 2012
AUSTIN, May 10 – I’ve had to cancel the remaining two weeks of this tour. My post-migraine photosensitivity has gotten bad enough to affect my driving. In the day I can kind of (not always) make do, with slip-on sunglasses over regular sunglasses. But night driving is impossible – you can’t look directly at oncoming cars – and, of course, I’m not sure if I’m due for more of these. Lack of sleep, a hallmark of all touring, is a big trigger with these things.
My pal Zack drives me to Houston today, for the final reading of the trip. It looks like the weather is going to be gray and crappy, which is both emotionally appropriate and easy on my eyeballs.
I searched my library of prepped blog graphics for the most appropriate image to accompany this post. Turns out it’s this:
If you live in any of the cities I was to cover, please know that I don’t make this decision lightly. I wish it were otherwise.