The Inner Swine

Jeff Leaves the House: A Drama in One Act

I’ve been saying something along the lines of I am hella old and don’t get out much any more since 2005 or so, and it remains true. The other day, for example, The Duchess and I met our friend Ken for dinner, and Ken made a hurtful remark about luring me out of the house with the promise of cocktails and culinary delights because I never want to go anywhere or do anything or see anybody.

I said hurtful. These comments were, of course, true. I do regard just about any plan that involves me leaving my home as highly suspect and very likely a terrible mistake that will end with me being chased by cannibal clowns or something, and it’s true that the last 50 times Ken invited me to a concert or something I’ve reacted like he just asked me to donate a kidney. How do I know this? Because I also just came across an essay originally published in the Summer 2012 issue of The Inner Swine, in which I more or less repeat my sentiments above. That was six fucking years ago and I was already a curmudgeonly asshole. How do people stand me? Don’t answer that.

Anyways, here’s the essay. Enjoy!

The Last Concert I Went To: The Joy Formidable in New York City

I DON’T GET out much anymore, as I am old and may break a hip. Or, actually, I am lazy, and the idea of trying to remain hip and connected to pop culture beyond fondling my remote control just seems so … extremely exhausting.
Besides, here at the Somers Bunker I have Internet and booze and trained animals to fetch me drinks and books. What more do I need?

Some of my friends still enjoy life, however, and thus I occasionally get an invite to a concert or something. TIS Security Chief Ken West often surfaces from his international missions, breaks into the house, and leaves coded messages written in shaving cream on the bathroom mirror. These messages always decode to an invitation to a concert or film or other social function. Every fifth one or so I accept, without paying attention to what I’ve agreed with, because otherwise I’d never actually see Ken and the property damage would be in vain.

Most recently, I agreed to attend a Joy Formidable concert with Ken. I’d heard a few songs, I was drunk when he asked me, and so it went into the books. Along the way he also invited a guy we went to high school with, a man I had not seen or spoken to in 23 years. And I did not exactly have lots of conversations with him in high school, either. This pushed my antisocial and misanthropic tendencies to their breaking point, but I still went. Such is Ken’s power.

THE ROLLING VOMITORIUM

On the day of the concert, once I had woken up, remembered what day it was, and put on some pants, I was determined not to shame Ken the way I usually do, staggering in to things hours late, confused and shouting. So I took my time, groomed a bit, checked the bus schedule, and made a coherent plan with him to meet for dinner at 6:30 in Manhattan. I actually got on a 5:45pm bus, feeling smug and masterful. I was an adult in charge of his life, heading out for an urbane evening of music and dining.

At 5:55pm, a few blocks later, Vomit Girl boarded the bus. No one knew who she was, as she was not wearing her spandex superhero costume. No one noticed her as she fell into a seat near the front and appeared to nap.

A few minutes later, on our approach to the Lincoln Tunnel, Vomit Girl roused herself to the point of sitting up slightly, opening her mouth, and vomiting all over herself, the seats around her, and one unlucky fellow who happened to be sitting near her. Then, her mission completed, Vomit Girl snuggled into a semi-fetal position, pushed a strand of vomit-soaked hair out of her eyes, and went to sleep.

The rest of us passengers were concerned for Vomit Girl, and alerted the driver that a tsunami of vomit was sloshing its way along the floor towards him. He pulled over and radioed for EMS, and we proceeded to sit and wait.

When EMS arrived, Vomit Girl was annoyed, and insisted she was fine and just needed to get into New York. Having been extremely drunk on public transportation before, I sympathized with Vomit Girl. Once I rode a bus home from New York and spent the entire half hour ride white-knuckled in my seat, fighting the urge to throw up all over every one of those bastards. The sheer force of will required to remain watertight the whole ride into Jersey City remains one of my proudest achievements, and like a true hero the people I saved will never even know they were in danger.

Also like a true hero, I got off at the first stop and went to my Mom’s house to ask her, politely, if I could throw up in her bathroom.

But I digress.

The EMS guys treated Vomit Girl like a dirty bomb. They wore protective clothing and insisted she be removed to the hospital. Which was a good idea, I admit, but I was still rooting for Vomit Girl to win and be taken home. I mean, when I’m sick drunk all I want to do is go home, throw up, take a shower, and shiver in shame until the next morning when I will likely have a cheeseburger for breakfast. Of course, I also understand the EMS guys’ position, which was more concerned with this girl dying of alcohol poisoning after they’d examined her.

They finally managed to carry her off the bus, and everyone thought the adventure was over and if we just avoided that quadrant of the seating we’d be in Manhattan in ten minutes. However, the EMS team came back on board to clean up the area. Which was simultaneously impressive and annoying. I mean, Jesus, if we treated every drunk’s vomit like the Andromeda Strain, I’d have to live my entire life in a Virus Suit. True story.

Then ensued a discussion about whether it was safe for us to remain on the bus for the ten minutes it would take to deliver us to the Port Authority in New York. Seriously. Because some drunk girl had bonked on the bus. This is why I usually follow a strict No Involvement With The Outside World policy, and stay home, wearing tissue boxes as shoes and shouting at people from an upper-story window.

INSIDE THE GREEN ROOM

We were eventually allowed to continue on in the Plague Bus, although I suspect our faces were secretly scanned and transmitted to the CDC just in case we turned out to be a collective Patients Zero. I arrived at The Shake Shack just as Ken and John were leaving, so all I got for dinner was the vague smell of delicious burgers and fries. To be fair they offered to sit and stare at walls while I waited on the immense line, but I said I’d just grab a slice of pizza on the way to the venue.

We saw two pizza places on our way; One was a tiny healthcode violation that seemed to be offering pure Salmonella on each slice, and the next was a too-bright flourescents-on-white box staffed by grinning men who appeared to understand pizza only phonetically. I’d only just survived a brush with The Plague via Drunk Vomiting Girl on Bus, so I was being especially careful with my health.

John, the guy I hadn’t seen, spoken to, or thought about in twenty-three years, knew a divey bar nearby called The Green Room, so we went there for some shockingly overpriced whiskey and non-shockingly divey atmosphere. Whenever a bartender looks confused when you order Wild Turkey, and then looks even more confused when you use the technical term neat instead of just saying no fucking ice goddammit, you know you are in for a humorous ride down the Fail Highway. Throw in a pool table far too large for the space so that everyone was jamming the cues into the walls, a digital jukebox that kept a steady image of Lana Del Rey staring at us hypnotically the entire time, and the vague smell of nachos even though the place didn’t sport a menu, and you have an almost perfect weirdness quotient.

We hung around for two rounds, and then headed for the show. By this point I was getting that lightheaded feeling you get when you haven’t eaten all day but have spent the last few hours drinking whiskey like tomorrow’s Prohibition. At the bar I noticed they were actually selling pretzels, and it seemed like a good idea to eat one, probably because I’d been drinking whiskey on an empty stomach again, which is usually the beginning of all my gastrointestinal misadventures. You’d think there’d be a lesson in there somewhere for me, but you would be: Wrong. I am unteachable.

The thing I received in exchange for some currency was pretzel-shaped. It was not, however, pretzel-flavored. It had the texture of drywall and the moment I bit off half of it I thought to myself, well, here we go, this is how we die, this is the End of Jeff, choked to death on a pretzel-like object in a seedy club in Manhattan standing next to a man he hadn’t seen or thought of or spoken to in twenty-three years.

Whiskey, as usual, saved me, as I was able to wash down the drywall with a good slug of Bushmills, and all was well. The Joy Formidable took the stage, and we moved into the crowd to watch.

The band was okay. Live, The Joy Formidable’s songs blur into one single chord, droned at you while the pixie-ish blonde lead singer leaps about the stage and the drummer dons a lobster costume – all good fun, but I doubt I could pick out which songs they played. Then again, I am old and my ears are shit, so who knows? Someday when The Joy Formidable is the soundtrack to The Singularity people may have 3-28-12 tatted on their backs and ask everyone where they were when the Greatest Concert Ever was played, and I will burn with shame.

Doubt it, though.

When I was a youth, my concerts were fraught with drama. I lost pairs of glasses, got my nose broken, got lost in Alphabet City, met underage girls who stalked me – those sorts of things. That night, however, the band finished, the lights came up, and twenty minutes later I was being driven through the Lincoln Tunnel, dozing off. Sure, I’m older. Possibly smarter. Certainly less likely to puke all over myself on a bus. I’m still trying to figure out if this is a tragedy or not.

Let’s Contemplate Death, Want To?

Death Becomes Me

Death Becomes Me

My brother and I have an old routine where we discuss how we’d like to die, if we had our druthers. He always defaults to this fantasy of being diagnosed with some sort of movie disease like a Brain Cloud and having an idyllic six months to live, wherein he will feel more or less normal and have all his faculties, and then simply drop dead. The idea is he’ll have the time to liquidate all of his assets and fly out to Vegas, there to live like a modern-day Caligula until he simply keels over in a hot tub filled with prostitutes and, I presume, whiskey.

While I salute my brother’s dream of drinking himself to death when the last moments come, I deprecate his plan for the obvious reasons: None of us get that kind of warning, I don’t think. Or at least a vanishingly small number of us do. Most of us will either have a bus dropped on us without warning, or our last memories will be do I smell toast? or we’ll have a long, grinding road of misery and pain until we just sort of enter a new state of existence known as barely there.

In short, I haven’t known much death in my time, but I do know this: There is no such thing as a good death.

####

Writing often means you have to concoct good deaths for characters. The closer I hue to reality when it comes to death, the less satisfying people find my stories. People like to see just desserts, noble speeches, epiphanies, and deathbed confessions. They like to see death matter in fiction. I strongly suspect this is because almost always death doesn’t mean anything in life. It just is.

####

I think this topic has been on my mind (more than usual, anyway) because my agent, the Redoubtable Janet Reid, recently suggested that I take steps to set up a Literary Executor, someone who would be empowered to handle my Empire of Words after I’d died of acute alcohol poisoning (or, possibly, something else). Now, when your agent suggests you start looking towards a Post-Life Strategy, it makes you think. As in, I thought, Do I look like I’m fucking dying? It seemed like just a few years ago we were chortling over whiskies at Old Town Bar, plotting my eventual literary domination! Now we’re gently pushing my funeral barge into the water, the scent of lighting fluid all around me.

I’m no Stephen King or Nora Roberts, but I get royalty checks, which means my books sell and someone is making money from them. I’m the last stop on the Money Train, it’s true, but it’s still money. So, sure, when I die of (probably) drinking a fifth of bourbon and wandering into traffic whilst singing Irish folk songs, someone’s gonna have to make some decisions. And if I don’t designate someone, who knows what the hell happens. For all I know I signed a bar napkin a few years ago promising some rando they could have my literary empire. I mean, it’s entirely possible. I sign a lot of things.

####

On the other hand, you can’t think too hard about death when you create stories and universes. You have to be like god: eternal and unblinking, otherwise why bother? I mean, when I think about all the stories and novels I have planned for the coming years, I kind of assume I am eternal and ever-living, like Mumm-Ra. You can’t think, oh, I’d like to write this seven-book Sci Fi series, but … you know, chances are I’ll be dead tomorrow, probably from drinking grain alcohol with a lit candle nearby. Better safe than sorry!

So on the one hand, I have to plan for my own demise, when I will likely find myself on trial with every fly, roach, and cow I’ve ever murdered standing in judgment in the afterlife. On the other hand, I have to pretend I will live forever, like the aforementioned Mumm-Ra, or I will produce nothing. It’s kind of a mind fuck, if you ask me.

If anyone is thinking they might be the ideal choice to be my literary executor, I’m sorry to report the post is filled by The Duchess, who will not be amused if you make any attempts to seize control after my unfortunate death from beer poisoning.

And if you are one of the few who find references to Mumm-Ra, The Ever Living entertaining, y’all are my people.

How I Conquered the Country, Grew Fat on the Blood of my Subjects, Tired of Absolute Power, Abdicated the Throne, and Returned to my Ancestral Home

The Nova I drove. Gumby was not present.

The Nova I drove. Gumby was not present.

This essay was written in 1994 and appeared in Volume 1, Issue 1 of The Inner Swine.

(Or, South Dakota and Back in a Few Short Days)

The trip cross-country is an icon of the American Experience, a dream which has lost none of its attraction with the aging of culture. The Unites States’ Interstate Highway system never fails to fascinate, the concept of going anywhere never fails to boggle the mind. You could fit Europe inside the U.S., and we can drive from one end to another, any time we want. I know it made me giddy. I suppose I had the same romantic vision most people have, just me and Jack Kerouac motoring down empty roads bathed in pure sunshine, eating local food and making new friends, laying the local girls and somehow burning my name into this cold land of ours. I guess I figured it would be like the end of that movie How I Got Into College, where the hero’s friend gets picked up by a group of gameshow hostesses driving around the country in a pink convertible with a U-haul attached full of unclaimed prizes. At some point, I thought, MTV would be secretly filming me for use in one of their videos.

And if not that, then I would have the sort of intense experience that bring about books, that bring about movie rights for the complex, moving tale of a young man finding himself in the heartland of America. I could entitle it Wild Country or Dark Roads or something like that and be hailed as the brooding new artist of the shadows, writing biting commentary about our fellow Americans while still managing an epiphany of wisdom, of sorts. I would come back a changed man, I thought: how could I not?

I’ll tell you how. Because there are more Bob’s Big Boys out there than local diners, because no one living out there gives a shit that you’re driving cross-country and finding yourself, because the cops are all pricks when your license plates aren’t local, because gas is too fucking expensive and the local girls don’t fuck the drifters prowling through like thinned wolves looking for a fire to lay down next to. Because the closest things to friends I made were two drunk guys named Todd and Marty who owned a Chevy Malibu with a rusted tailpipe and a trunk full of beer, because the closest thing to an epiphany of wisdom I managed was the realization that there is absolutely no reason to ever, ever enter Nebraska.

So, I suppose in a way I learned a great deal by attempting to drive cross country, since I now know better than to ever want to do it again.

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With Age, Wisdom: Advertising No Longer Mesmerizes Me

This blog post is as lousy as it is brilliant.

This blog post is as lousy as it is brilliant.

This originally appeared in The Inner Swine, Volume 16, Issue 1/2, Summer 2010.

THERE is an infamous incident: About 20 years ago, give or take, I was sitting in a living room with TIS Staff Artist Jeof Vita watching television. This despite Jeof’s dangerous and horrifying levels of unacceptable odor, which shall be the subject of another article altogether someday when the restraining orders expire.

Anyway.

This is not the story of Unacceptable Odors. This is the story of our Taco Bell experience.

I’d never been to Taco Bell before, which is strange. By that time of my life (carefree, single, and with a liver that wasn’t the size of a football) I’d been to most of your standard fast-food establishments, this being before I learned to love and respect myself. I haven’t actually had a meal at a fast food restaurant in probably a decade now, I don’t think; maybe I’m forgetting something, but at any rate it’s certainly not a common occurrence. Back then, though, I loved that shit. I also loved Olympia beer and any kind of hard liquor found lying around, so that tells you all you need to know about my level of taste and life experience, bubba.

Anyways, we were watching TV, just farting away an evening, when an ad for Taco Bell came on. This might have been back during the ¡Yo quiero Taco Bell! days with that annoying dog, but who the fuck knows—I can barely remember the incident at all. The amazing thing about this is that it’s the last time, I think, that a commercial actually took control of my brain like a wasp riding a roach and made me do exactly what it wanted, which in that case was to leap up with Jeof Vita, get in the car, drive to the nearest Taco Bell, and order some food.

Jeof and I were in perfect harmony: We stood up and went. No discussion, no doubt. The food looked delicious, we were suddenly ravenous, and so we went to Taco Bell. It was terrible, and I’ve never been back, or even mildly desired to. I mean, it might have been one of the worst meals of my life, although my brain has self-defensively deleted the actual sensory input from the meal, saving me from night sweats and bad dreams.

This would never happen today. I’m old and withered, yes, and if I met 1990 Jeff he would be able to defeat me in any sort of Games of Strength or Endurance. But I’m smarter than 1990 Jeff. If nothing else, I now pretty much completely ignore advertising, knowing the central truth of it: That even when it is telling the truth, it is lying to you, somehow. It’s like quantum physics: The commercial can be 100% facts, and yet still equal a lie.

The main thing to always remember about commercials is that they are trying to convince you that you need something you obviously do not need. If you needed it, they would not need to convince you about it; no one has to convince you to eat, after all. They merely try to convince you what to eat, but the necessity of the act is never in question, right? The necessity of, say, drinking Bud Lite, on the other hand, is pretty much given: there is none. Thus, advertising!

Once you realize this, you gain a level of simple perspective. Nothing that is advertised is necessary, because if it was necessary it wouldn’t need to be advertised. Sure, in general the things advertised can be absolutely required—food, again, is a good example. You must have food. But you already know that. You know what food is, where you can get some, which foods you like especially. Yes, advertising can lead you to foods you’ve never tried before but that isn’t advertising’s goal. They don’t want you to be aware of other choices, they want to convince you that you need other choices.

While I don’t doubt that advertising bamboozles me in ways I can’t even imagine every day, shaping my behaviors and desires, I do think I’ve grown more resistant and aware of it. I distrust advertising to begin with, and generally go in to every commercial break assuming I’m going to be lied to, fucked with, and manipulated. This is partly why advertisers more and more target kids—kids are dummies with money, these days. Which is not to say anything specific about the current generation of kids—I was a dummy when I was a kid, too. I didn’t have any money, but times change and kids are now a huge force in discretionary spending in this country, so advertisers like them. See, I’ve got life experience and bills to pay, so I’m a harder sell. Taco Bell is a perfect example: Due to decades of life experience I now know that Taco Bell’s food is like eating plastic that has been flavored with Fail, and I have better choices to spend my money on. Taco Bell doesn’t want to waste time on me.

The most shameful development in advertising over the last few years is, of course, pharmaceutical advertising. The people who come up with these commercials should be lined up and shot in the ass. These commercials all seek to convince us that every little tweak and creak can be best treated with a pill, and strongly advise us to pressure our doctors to prescribe them, with the unspoken admonition, I think, that any doctor who refuses to do so is obviously trying to destroy your life.

FOR GOD’S SAKES, THEY NOW HAVE A PILL TO TAKE IF YOUR FIRST PILL DOESN’T WORK.

Abilify: That’s raw genius, there. If our first pill doesn’t work, you don’t need to reassess your treatment, you need our second pill. That’s like saying, if your first car doesn’t run, you need our second car to pull it along. Convincing people to do shit like this is why advertising is evil, and pharma advertising is like selling your soul to the Robot Devil.

So, my Timeline of Advertising Horror goes like this:

THE INNER SWINE’S TIMELINE OF ADVERTISING HORROR

Age 7: See an ad in a paper for plastic milkshake cups I inexplicably think come with milkshake in them. Pester Mom to buy these cups, which she does. 6-8 weeks go buy as I wait impatiently for my milkshakes. Cups arrive, no milkshakes. I almost commit suicide.

Age 12: Advertisements for the Atari 2600 almost make me murder a man in Journal Square in hopes that he has enough cash in his wallet so I may purchase one. Get a Sears knockoff for Christmas and spend 6 months mindlessly playing Pac Man and Pitfall.

Age 19: The aforementioned Taco Bell incident. Faith in world shattered, stomach never quite the same.

Today: You can’t sell me water when my house is on fire. I’ve gone around the other end of crazy: Frightened of being fooled, I just don’t believe anything and buy nothing but whiskey and processed deli meats. Sure, I’m living like an animal, but at least corporate America isn’t getting much of my money.

The lesson here is that you can only be fooled so many times before you just walk away and don’t look back. I will always have the searing memory of what that Taco Bell meal did to my internal organs to remind me that advertising is a strange game where the only way to win is not to play.

Hesitate To Die Look Around Around The Second Drummer’s Drowned His Telephone Is Found

This originally appeared in The Inner Swine Volume 19, Issue 1/2, Summer 2013.

I Used to Have Hella Long Hair

My god, man, have some self-respect.

My god, man, have some self-respect.

WHEN I was a wee lad in Jersey City, my parents took my brother and I to an Italian named Barberlo (not his actual name, though it was equally amazing) to get our hair cut. It was an old-school barbershop and Barberlo was a diminutive man who spoke in a delightfully cartoonish Italian accent and dressed in elaborate suits just to walk to his shop, where he promptly put on a white surgical type outfit for the touching of filthy, lice-ridden heads like ours.

Barberlo had a habit of making groin-hand contact with me when he cut my hair. I was never sure if this was on purpose or not, but it freaked me out. I never told anyone, because it was so subtle as to be in my imagination, and I saw no reason to hurl about accusations when the whole thing didn’t exactly damage me, just made me feel slightly skeeved out. Worse than the occasional groin contact was the fact that Barberlo was an awful barber. Truly awful. I emerged from each session with him looking like someone had attacked me recently, and been unkind.

In High School I developed a hairstyle that I now dub The Moron in a Hurry. It was sort of a Justin Bieber-esque bowl kind of thing, and was truly awful. This wasn’t Barberlo’s fault, really; I was the only giving out orders that he cut the sides and back but leave the top longer. This should have told me that I was not mature enough to manage my own hair (Hell, I don’t believe I’m mature enough now) but I was too young to learn anything. When I went off to college I prepared by resolving to not get my hair cut any more. So I sailed into Freshman year with a shock of a mullet. It was a grand, unruly mullet, just a mess of hair that I often tied back out of my face with a rubber band.

And I just let it grow. There was no effort at shaping, or styling. No cutting. No conditioner, either, so it wasn’t long before my haircut was a frizzy mess of straw on my head. I had these huge plastic glasses and a tendency to wear T-shirts with cartoon characters on them. In other words, it was like someone was paying me to not get laid.

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Bring Me Your Finest Single Malts and Cheeses

This essay originally appeared in The Inner Swine Volume 12, Issue 1, 2006.

Ice is for suckers.

Ice is for suckers.

The Inner Swine Goes to Whiskyfest 2005

OPERATION: WHISKYFEST. Generally speaking, I’m not one for overly formalizing everything; there are people in this world who just don’t feel right unless every single activity has been choreographed and arranged according to in-depth bylaws. These are people to whom ‘expertise’ is darling, who love to be able to explain why something is better than some other thing, in great detail. Many of these people are baseball fans, who will bore you to death with long-winded diatribes about the infield fly rule or how to throw a breaking ball. Many others are wine enthusiasts for whom simply enjoying a glass of wine is not good enough, you must be able to feign an appreciation of 655 subtle characteristics, many of which were made up a century ago and still amuse the French to this day.

Despite my appreciation for a good breaking ball, I am not one of those people. I like wine, but my palate does not advance much past knowing what I like, which tends to be just about every single bottle of wine I’ve ever imbibed, with the sole exception of a bottle given to me by TIS Staff Artist Jeof Vita a few years ago, a nondescript green bottle with a plain label that read, in toto, CHEAP WHITE WINE. That wine was. . .not good, and I wish someone had told me it was a joke before I drank the entire bottle and spent a week shivering. I like baseball, too, but I grow weary of endless discussion of minutiae—I just like to have the games on about a hundred times a year and get out to a few games. I am, in other words, a pretty simple person. I like what I like, and I distrust unnecessary complexity.

Despite this lack of sophistication, I’ve come to love whisky in general and Scotch in specific. It’s amazing how you can be a kid and love cheap beer and peppermint schnapps and wonder why anyone pays more than a dollar and change for their liquor, and just two decades later you’re willingly shelling out lots of money for specific types of booze because you actually believe they taste better: Maturity is obviously just a code word for crazy. But I digress; although I’ve always had a taste for bourbon, I’d never really investigated Scotch or any other type of whisky. Partly it’s the cost—you can’t just shell out for bottles of booze on the off chance you’ll like it—and partly it’s just my general lack of focus and energy. I’m a lazy, lazy man and discovering new booze usually falls under the heading of more shit I gotta do. Eventually, however, good sense prevailed and over the past few years I’ve gotten into Scotch and appreciate its subtleties. This translates to: Jeff has been drinking an awful lot of Scotch.

So when my wife, The Duchess, presented me with a ticket to Whiskeyfest for my birthday and informed me that founding member of TISIC Jeof Vita was also planning to attend, I was immediately excited. It’s not often you are handed a ticket to drink—by your wife, no less—and I immediately went into training and plotting, determined to make the most of my sudden opportunity.

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Baby Levon Rocks On at The DOT

But it really did happen.

But it really did happen.

Friendos, this originally appeared in The Inner Swine Volume 4, Issue 1, March 1998. That’s a long time ago. This is an absolutely true tale of what I experienced after my car was towed in New York back in The Day.

The fucking New York City Police towed my car the day after Christmas and I travelled to 38th street and 12th avenue to pay $150.00 to get it back. I wasn’t happy to be paying $150.00, but I wasn’t in full-postal mode because it was just after Christmas and I was resigned to the perpetual screwing the universe was handing out to me on a daily basis anyway. Once you get resigned to the screwing, as any prison bitch will tell you, it really stops bothering you. That’s pretty much the definition of resigned anyway.

So I wandered into the tiny, unwindowed, bunker-like DOT office on December 26th and immediately read and comprehended a big 3X6 poster on the opposite wall which explained the proper way to collect your car. It read:

1. REMOVE PANTS

2. BEND OVER AND PLACE PALMS FLAT AGAINST WALL

3. WHEN WE ARE SATISFIED WE WILL LET YOU KNOW

4. BE POLITE! IMPOLITE BASTARDS WILL BE CHASTISED WITH MORE SCREWING.

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New Inner Swine

cov203-4sizSo, it’s been six months, and that means it’s time for a new issue of that thing you don’t read, my zine The Inner Swine. Volume 20, Issue 3/4 (Winter 2014) is out; I pushed it to Amazon and B&N, and I also posted the whole issue to Ello because why the fuck not. I mean, I literally have no idea what to do with Ello – no idea – so I figured why not do something stupid like post 65,000 words to it in poorly formatted HTML? Since I also have no idea what to do with my zombie-zine since I killed the print version.

So I did. Go read it for free, you filthy animals. It contains an entire unpublished novel of mine, BTW.

For those of you who prefer a bit more sanity, you can pay a dollar for the slightly-better formatting of the

Kindle

and the

Nook.

And as is traditional, I now take a moment to reflect on the insanity that was making approximately 1,500 copies of this zine on the office photocopier back in the day.

America’s Next Idiot Model: I Spent a Day Wearing Scrubs

Yes, I was beaten several times for being too pretty.

Yes, I was beaten several times for being too pretty.

This originally appeared in The Inner Swine Volume 19, Issue 3/4.

So, 1:30PM on a Sunday and I’m a plastic surgeon’s office in Manhattan, wearing hospital scrubs and eating a free lunch. I’ve been here since 9AM, along with approximately six thousand other people: A photographer and his assistants, a wardrobe person, a producer, three professional models and many extras, of which I am one.

How I wound up here is unimportant. Suffice to say I didn’t seek out a one-day career as a model, it was thrust upon me. By The Duchess. Need I say more? Probably, but I won’t.

Hurry Up: Wait

I will say this: Modeling, even the half-assed form of it I engaged in wherein I was basically a warm body needed for background shots, a piece of human staging and decoration, is fucking hard work. Obviously not “hard work” in the sense of, say, working in a mine or sewing shoes for Nike in some unventilated Chinese factory, but hard enough for a pudgy boy like myself, used to frequent marinating in liquor and lots of nap time.

First of all: The waiting. You have to show up on time, natch, but then there is a lot of sitting around while they get their shit together or work with other people. So I sat there all morning writing. Not a bad deal, if you’re getting paid – sit around and work on a novel, go home with a check.

But if anyone out there has ever had to put in some serious waiting, you know it’s actually hard work. Reality distorts around you. You begin eating everything in sight. You watch the battery drain on your laptop in despair. After after being somewhat productive for a few hours, you find you just can’t work any more and goddamn you just want the photographer to call your name and ask you to do something. Anything. This is how people are lured into pornography. They hire you to ?model’ and make you sit around for hours and hours until you snap and when they say “Hey, wouldn’t it be fun if you took off your top?” you think God yes ANYTHING to relieve the boredom and six weeks later you’re starring with Lindsay Lohan in The Canyons 2: Electric Boogaloo and weeping in public toilets.

But I digress.

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Cocksucker Blues: Profanity When Reading in Public

This initially appeared in The Inner Swine Volume 16, Issue 1/2 Summer 2010.

The glamorous life of a writer.

The glamorous life of a writer.

FRIENDS, I occasionally read from my fiction in public, which is surprising, since I am frequently drunk, pantsless, and belligerent. Since I am not a BIG STAR in the literary world, I almost never get to read all by myself, which is good because when I’m sharing a stage I can imagine that the audience hates the other readers and not, as would be my natural assumption otherwise, me.

Sharing the bill with other readers does however present me with another problem: Invariably, I am teamed up with writers who read beautiful, lyrical pieces of prose involving elves or Grey Aliens who contemplate the universe and seek enlightenment, and then I stand up and read a piece that is is 84% the words fuck and cocksucker.

COCKSUCKER BLUES

There is, simply, a lot of cursing in the Avery Cates books. Well, in all my fiction, actually, because, frankly, people curse in real life. I’ve been peppering my speech with cuss words since I was about nine years old, and I was a late bloomer in my neighborhood. I worry about it when I read in public, though; not because my audiences are filled with blue-haired old ladies who will die from shock—the people who actually attend any reading I do are quite prepared for a little cursing—but because I am the blue-haired lady in this scenario. Somehow I become all guilt-ridden and Catholic when I find myself having to shout cocksucker at the top of my voice in a room filled with strangers.

There are three approaches to this situation:

BOWDLERIZE

One, I can bowdlerize my own writing and replace every curse word with its prime-time equivalent, frick for fuck and all that jazz. This has the unfortunate side effect of making me resemble the berries and cream lad.

THE CURSE WHISPERER

Two, I can read the text as is but keep the volume low so I don’t feel like a nun is going to time travel from my past, rap my knuckles, and steal my pants.

GUSTO, MOTHERFUCKER!

Finally, I can read the text as is but emphasize every curse word with something that can only be described as gusto, delighting in the sudden freedom of being able to shout curses at a crowd and not be arrested. Generally I choose the latter as it promises the least humiliation, and everyone seems to enjoy themselves.

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This hangup only exists when I’m reading out loud to people; when I’m writing I have no problem dropping language so foul it would make your nose hairs burn. In my everyday life I generally go around cloaked in what I have dubbed White Boy Politeness, which is a way of behaving towards people that generally makes folks want to rub your head and call you a good lad, even thirteen-year-old kids who would otherwise be knifing you for meth money.

curses2This sometimes causes a minor bout of mental dissonance when people meet me for the first time just prior to a reading. I am all, shucks, nice to meet you, did you know I was an Eagle Scout? And then I am all fuck you, cocksucker.

curses3Of course, this is nothing compared to my other public reading foible, which is spontaneous and inexplicable pantslessness. So if all you ever experience during one of my readings is some rough language, consider yourself: lucky.