Undercover Mother

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

On Sunday night I posted a link to this article on Twitter and let the world know the woman in the article (Doreen Quinn Guiliano) was my cousin. I didn’t think much of it, but within an hour I received reply tweets, emails, instant messages, and phone calls. Being an opportunist, I figured I’d dedicate an entire blog post to this distant relationship.

Yeah, that’s right – distant. Doreen is my mother’s second cousin, so I guess that makes her my third cousin? Fourth cousin? I probably met her at one of our family reunions but, honestly, can’t say I remember it. In fact, before the murder trial I only knew Doreen as the woman with the haunted house.

The Haunted House. Legend has it a pediatrician was murdered in the house Doreen lives in and, as a result, the souls of dead children now haunt the joint. I don’t know what the connection was between the children and the pediatrician and I admit that the legend is a particularly weak legend and seems like the kind of story an old aunt made up after sipping a little too much sambuca. Regardless, my mom swears that the house is haunted.

Story goes: my mom and my cousin Dawn were over Doreen’s house for a Tupperware party when the door flies open and slams against the wall. No-one enters. Anyway, a little while later Dawn goes to the bathroom and while she’s sitting on the toilet she feels something brush by her. She gets so freaked out that (according to my mom) she runs out the bathroom before she’s done…if you know what I mean.

Anyway all the stories come out: the child-like laughing, the sounds of little feet running around, and the constant brushing-by of little invisible children. Apparently Doreen’s little kids all had cereal in the mornings despite the fact the boxes were in the highest pantries, well out of reach. And one day Doreen’s daughter’s feeding tube was turned on and no-one knows how it happened.

I’m not making this shit up. Maybe someone else is, but I’m certainly not.

So that’s really all I knew of Doreen. That and the fact that her devotion and level of care she gave to her daughter Mallory (who would be my sister’s age today) is what allowed the girl to live as long as she did. The doctors certainly didn’t give her four years. So, all-in-all, Doreen sounds like the kind of mom that raises the bar when it comes to “doing anything for your kids.” I have to respect that, at least.

As far as the murder trial – like I said, my mom kept me updated. She actually went to the courtroom once but that’s not my story to tell. To be honest, I heard the details of the case, saw the other defendant was named Russo, and figured my distant cousin was guilty, as well. The Russo name just carries that sort of weight in my old neighborhood.

If the trial was indeed unfair I hope he gets a fair shake. If he was indeed guilty I hope he’s found guilty again. If he’s innocent – well – what a fucking story, huh?

I will say one more thing - seeing these newspapers talk about the Ghetto Mafia and initiations and possibly being a offshoot of the Crips - it's kind of like H.S.T.'s recollections of newspaper reporting on the Hell's Angels. Look, I was in a "gang" as a kid. There are gangs and there are "gangs." Even if the Ghetto Mafia is a gang, the newspapers saying they're an offshoot of the Crips makes them a "gang." It's hard to take anything that was said at that trial seriously if the Crips were even mentioned once. Right now someone from the Crips is reading that story and saying, "Who the fuck are these white boys?"

I mean, seriously. If you read the link in that last paragraph I talk about how I was a member of the 4-Deuce Bishop Crips. Someone moved to my neighborhood from OKC, claimed to be a Crip, and started our little gang. Me. This guy:


Here was my crew:


Yeah, I was a fucking Crip. Not saying my distant cousin is innocent, but I think the media and trial folks need to take a step back and reassess that particular aspect of the story and maybe stop sensationalizing the gang angle.

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Seven Years Later

Thursday, September 11, 2008

I got to work early on September 11, 2001. At the time I was working out in Reston, Virginia. I went to the deli downstairs with my friend Max for some breakfast when the news that the first tower was hit came over the television. We laughed about it. I know that sounds like a horrible thing but the idea of plane hitting one of the Twin Towers was just so absurd when we first heard it. It didn’t seem real at all – the potential loss of life wasn’t even considered at first. We thought it was a little prop plane that went up against the mighty skyscraper and lost. Being native New Yorkers ourselves, we knew about the time a B-25 bomber crashed into the Empire State Building. That B-25 bomber drove right into the upper floors, killing only 14 people. What kind of damage could a little plane possibly make to the Towers?

Then the TV said it was a commercial airliner. Then the TV said a second plane crashed into the second tower. And it wasn’t funny anymore. I think Max said “terrorism” first, a word that will dominate every conversation for months to come. We went back to the office to call our friends and family in New York and try to get an idea of what’s going on over there. By the time we got upstairs there were already TVs and radios in every office reporting the crashes. I kept trying to call my mom, my dad, my friend Gennaro – all circuits were busy. Someone came into my office and told me a plane crashed into the Pentagon and I didn’t even think twice: I call Robin.

At the time we were living across the river from the Pentagon. I knew Robin went to work already, but she worked in DC and she was too close to whatever was happening. I called and called and called and got nothing but busy signals and “all circuits are busy” messages. I went into our main conference room to watch the news on TV, attempting to call everyone I knew from NYC and DC to make sure they’re safe.

Robin’s mom called me. She wanted to know if Robin was alright. I told her I was trying to get in touch with her and I’d let her know as soon as possible. I finally get in touch with my mom – she’s hysterical. My parents live in Red Hook, Brooklyn, directly across the river from the towers. My father was actually in Brooklyn Heights that morning which is basically as close as you can get to the towers from the Brooklyn side. He was heading out to my sister’s High School to pick her up. I calmed my mom down and finally got in touch with Robin.

At this point the news organizations were losing their minds. There were reports of truck bombs at the State Building, attacks against the White House (which was later reported as an attempted attack on the White House by Flight 93), mysterious gases and smells all over downtown DC. I told her to sit tight because her job seemed to be a lot safer than our apartment at the moment.

The towers fell – I watched it live. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. There was another selfish moment where I didn’t even consider the loss of life – I thought about the skyline I enjoyed from the roof of my parents’ apartment and how it would never be the same again. But that’s what happens when a symbol is attacked, lives become secondary.

Phone calls started trickling in from friends and family members. Everyone seemed to be alright and I considered myself lucky for that.

Once the frenzy settled down Max and I made our way back into DC. All of the major roadways were a mess so we took back roads into the district. Chain Bridge to Embassy Row – there were big guards with big guns stationed in front of every building, eyeing us as we drove by. Robin was home before me – she took the metro home despite my concerns. Turns out there was one death in our family on that day – Robin’s Grandfather died but it wasn’t tied to the events of September 11th. In fact, her family kept quiet, not wanting a WWII veteran to know what was happening to his country on what seemed to be his last day alive.

I made the first of many mistakes by suggesting we didn’t take the trip to Framingham for the funeral. We didn’t have a car at the time, airlines were grounded, and Amtrak was pegged with people stranded in NYC, DC, and Boston. Those were the practical reasons for staying put – the underlying reason was the fear. What comes next? An assault on the rail system? That seemed to make the most sense.

That fear guided a lot of decisions over the next couple of weeks and months. Overthrow the Taliban? Hell, I was for that before 9/11 and I’m certainly for it now. Overthrow Saddam? Did you see Powell’s briefing? Do it and do it now. We also bought the “Go out and shop” line. We bought a car. We bought some new clothes and cell phones and some new furniture. We bought a lot of stuff – mainly bullshit – but I’m over that now.

I would constantly hit refresh on CNN.com – I don’t think I got any work done for months. We moved out of DC once our lease was up, moved into Arlington because it was safer. Lee Highway and Glebe Road, a little pocket of nothing. We stayed in that apartment for three years before moving to Rosslyn, within walking distance of Georgetown. At that point we just learned to love Arlington. I also changed careers. I moved out of acoustics and into chemical and biological defense planning, scenario development, and crisis management. Remember bird flu? My analysis of avian influenza was briefed to the President (by someone else, of course). Sorry it got blown out of proportion (a year later, admittedly, and probably having nothing to do with my analysis). You know that guy that probably mailed the anthrax letters? My group worked with him in the past, before my time, admittedly. My new job does good work and we plan for the unthinkable. Believe me; I’m glad it’s only used for sensationalized scenarios and the occasional dog wagging. I’d hate to have it used for anything else.

But my new career did help me deal with the fear. It gives me an understanding of what’s possible, how bad it would be, and how we should deal with it. Understanding the situation, despite how horrible, allows you to cope with it and move on. I still have nightmares, don’t get me wrong. Horrible, horrible nightmares. Nuclear explosions, burning flesh, hijacked planes, chemical caches – I dream about them almost every night.

And that brings me to today, seven years later. Nightmares, asymmetrical warfare planning, and all. And comic books! I can’t forget comic books, My childhood escapism turned into adult escapism. I have to admit, it burns me up to see images of the towers and the pentagon play at the RNC while the speakers take shots at the “elitist East.” To see folks from the corn and bible-belts chanting USA, ragging on us liberals that lived through September 11th, whose lives were drastically changed and still live with a touch of fear on a day-to-day basis, yet using the tragedy as a war cry.

It’s funny – in 2000 I was a McCain supporter. A registered Independent, social liberal, and fiscal conservative. Over the past seven years my love for this country (and the people in it) has grown significantly. I’ve traveled all over the US with my job, met all kinds of people from all types of backgrounds. We have a wonderfully diverse country with hundreds of millions of interesting stories. And yet we’re being torn apart by divisive politics and lies. I fall into it too, sometimes, more often than I should. It’s hard to keep a clear head when both sides grind you down. I do believe this country stands at a cross-road, however. There are too many problems facing us that we’ve been ignoring for far too long. I do believe we’re going to need someone who isn’t afraid to think completely outside the box, who can unify this country, and who can finally move us beyond a Tuesday in September seven years ago and look towards the future.

Hopefully on September 11th, 2009 I can come back to this blog and talk about our recovering economy, baby boomers retiring and having money to live on, new jobs as a result of energy advancements, and promising new medications and treatments that result from our government getting out of the way of science. Hopefully I can talk about America taking a leadership roll in the world again and our improving position in the global economy. Hopefully we can begin to make amends as a country, find common ground, and stop sacrificing our future for tabloid-style politics.

Hopefully.

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The Moose In The Closet

Monday, August 18, 2008

On January 19th, 2005, Jason Rodriguez began a year-long project that would eventually chronicle the first 22 years of his life. He called the project the Moose In The Closet. Jason posted new stories five days a week for an entire year. 263 stories totaling 207,744 words (with daily blog ramblings at the beginning of each story, not included in the final word count). Not all of the stories were gold, of course. Some of them were quite horrible, in fact. It was all unedited and unfiltered. But they were honest, they were often humorous, and Jason's storytelling abilities improved as time went on. Below is the complete index of all 263 pieces. Jason's personal favorites have asterisks next to them.

1/19/2005 - Origin
1/20/2005 - Free artwork! And something about my roof on fire as a kid...
1/21/2005 - Pink Shirts
1/22/2005 - Forbidden Love
1/24/2005 - Moving and a Preview of Things to Come
1/25/2005 - The Roller Coaster...Of Love
*1/26/2005 - The Day Mike Got Shot
1/27/2005 - Random Tomato Paste Breaks
1/28/2005 - Accidentally damning Poppy to hell (or why I never “swear” anymore unless I really, really mean it)
*1/29/2005 - Learning to Drink
1/31/2005 - Breaking Walls and Physics
2/1/2005 - Hulk Smash Puny Sink
2/2/2005 - The housee becomes the houser ("housed" as in "thoroughly beat" - for all the white boys – or black people that don't remember the dope early 90s)
2/3/2005 - Politics and I (or Can it be that it was all so simple...when?)
2/4/2005 - Antidentite and Proud
2/7/2005 - 1986
2/8/2005 - Manhunt Manhunt 1-2-3 1-2-3 1-2-3
2/9/2005 - Luckily They Don't Make Concrete Shoes In Toddler Sizes
*2/10/2005 - The Gang Fight
2/11/2005 - G Gets The Hulk
2/14/2005 - The Perk
2/15/2005 - Porn, Puberty and a Lack of Respect for Personal Property
2/16/2005 - Trumpin'
*2/17/2005 - Prelude to Junior High
2/18/2005 - I totally punked out
2/21/2005 - A Week of Birthday Stories Part I
2/22/2005 - A Week of Birthday Stories Part II
2/23/2005 - A Week of Birthday Stories Part III
*2/24/2005 - A Week of Birthday Stories Part IV
*2/25/2005 - Hooker Hand
2/28/2005 - Disrupting Differentials
3/1/2005 - A Shout-out To Snow
*3/2/2005 - The End Of Pranks
3/3/2005 - Joe Sacco (Not The Comic Guy)
3/4/2005 - Bunny Drug Sex
*3/5/2005 - The Jacking Of Strings
3/8/2005 - Homerian Ethics
*3/9/2005 - Nick
3/10/2005 - Citronella Fire Pit Of Death
3/11/2005 - Having It Made
3/14/2005 - Swallowing Quarters
3/15/2005 - Your Mother Fucking Roots
3/16/2005 - The Fight
3/17/2005 - Dick Trumps Deaf
3/18/2005 - Omar Becomes O-Dog
*3/21/2005 - The Piss-Drunk Piss
3/22/2005 - The Party
3/23/2005 - The Ski-less Ski-trip
3/24/2005 - Coming Clean and Not At All
*3/25/2005 - Prelude to 423
3/28/2005 - The Worst Way to Spend Fifteen Minutes (Not Including Sympathy Sex, Although I Should Have Got Some For It)
3/29/2005 - Uncomfortable Chris, the Potential Sexual Deviant
*3/30/2005 - Sentimental Bullshit
*3/31/2005 - The Opposite of Sentimental Bullshit
4/1/2005 - Ring-Induced Retardism
*4/3/2005 - La Familia
4/4/2005 - La Casa
4/5/2005 - La Invasión de Boston
*4/6/2005 - La Carta
4/7/2005 - El Funeral
4/11/2005 - Born to Fuck?
4/12/2005 - Visiting Arizona
4/13/2005 - SEX!
*4/14/2005 - God's Gift
4/15/2005 - 13 Rules
4/18/2005 - The Big Straw
*4/19/2005 - My Father's Persistence
4/20/2005 - Back To The Swords
4/21/2005 - Thrashin'
4/22/2005 - Picture This
*4/23/2005 - 423
4/25/2005 - The Almost Greatest Accomplishment
4/26/2005 - Two Greeks
4/27/2005 - Greeks Gone Wild
4/28/2005 - Molotovs
*4/29/2005 - Death Says "Hi"
5/2/2005 - Chinskimo
5/3/2005 - The Tipping Point
*5/4/2005 - My Field Of Guilt
5/5/2005 - Invading The Outdoors
5/6/2005 - Pornographic Baby Steps
5/9/2005 - Hanging Out On Ocean Parkway
5/10/2005 - Bootlegs
5/11/2005 - Walkin' On By The Birds And The Bees
5/12/2005 - Type-Herb
5/13/2005 - I'm gonna make you a comic shop you can't refuse
*5/16/2005 - La Famiglia
5/17/2005 - Florida
5/18/2005 - Staten Island
*5/19/2005 - Uncle Mike
*5/20/2005 - Family Business
5/23/2005 - Diggidy Dorks
5/24/2005 - Celtic Idiots
5/25/2005 - Killing Clapton
5/26/2005 - Becoming Moose
*5/27/2005 - Words Fail Me
*5/30/2005 - The Power Of Bad Writing
5/31/2005 - The Aspiring Artist
6/1/2005 - Doing Or Dying
6/2/2005 - Projecting Pain
*6/3/2005 - FASHION RAMPAGE!!!!
6/6/2005 - Magic Shrooms
6/7/2005 - Social Disorientation
6/8/2005 - I Dream Of Strippers
6/9/2005 - Breakdowns
6/10/2005 - Summer Money Attempt #1 (Variant Source)
6/13/2005 - I Don't Mean A Thing (If You Ain't Got That Sting)
6/14/2005 - The Outdoorsman
6/15/2005 - The Mad Gardener
6/16/2005 - Slapping Dat Ass
*6/17/2005 - The Moose Comes Out Of The Closet
6/20/2005 - Shot-puts
6/21/2005 - Lettin' A Playa Play
6/22/2005 - Magic Glasses
6/23/2005 - Tap Water Of Death
*6/24/2005 - The House
6/27/2005 - Ground Zero
6/28/2005 - The Latino Strikes Back
6/29/2005 - Black & White & Red All-Over
6/30/2005 - Movie Making

The following ten stories were from guest writers while I took a break from the blog.
7/4/2005 - Guest Writer: Guam tells "Dangerous Minds - No, Really, They're Fucking Dangerous"
7/5/2005 - Guest Writer: Sean Maher tells "Me and Chuck Down By The Schoolyard"
7/6/2005 - Guest Writer: Jay Busbee tells "Of Love And Hospitals"
7/7/2005 - Guest Writer: My Mom tells "Stories About my Dad"
7/8/2005 - Guest Writer: Chris Fabulous tells "Pep Rally Riot"
7/11/2005 - Guest Writer: Joshua Hale Fialkov tells: "Mike"
7/12/2005 - Guest Writer: My Sister tells "Stories About my Brother"
7/13/2005 - Guest Writer: RJ tells "AZ ain't for Me"
7/14/2005 - Guest Writer: PJ tells "Filling in for the RA"
7/15/2005 - Guest Writer: Robin tells "What Really Happened"

We're back to my stories now. In case you care about this kind of stuff, I never including the above eight stories in my final word count and I actually wrote stories every Monday through Friday for a year and one month. Everyone needs a vacation, though, and the guest writer thing ended up producing some of my favorite stories.
7/18/2005 - The Last Date
7/19/2005 - The Truth About Fireworks
7/20/2005 - Proof That I'm An Asshole
7/21/2005 - The Harshest Critic
*7/22/2005 - My Blow-Up Romance
7/25/2005 - No Knees On Muppets
7/26/2005 - Lining up
7/27/2005 - The Force Was With Us
7/28/2005 - Da Don Dada
7/29/2005 - Pictorial Adventure #2
8/1/2005 - Tales from a Smoker: My Bad Day
*8/2/2005 - Tales from a Smoker: Me Vs. My Mom
8/3/2005 - Tales from a Smoker: The Efficient Smoker
8/4/2005 - Tales from a Smoker: My Weakest Moment
8/5/2005 - Tales from a Smoker: Livin' in a Smoker's Paradise
8/8/2005 - 5 Nights at Jillian's: Bad Feet
*8/9/2005 - 5 Nights at Jillian’s: Bad Ankle
8/10/2005 - 5 Nights at Jillian’s: Bad Lighting
8/11/2005 - 5 Nights at Jillian's: Bad Night
8/12/2005 - 5 Nights at Jillian's: Bad With Women
8/15/2005 - My God: Father Fox
8/16/2005 - My God: The Alter Boy
8/17/2005 - My God: Communion
8/18/2005 - My God: Douches
*8/19/2005 - My God: Losing It
8/22/2005 - On the Way Down: Selling Shirts
8/23/2005 - On the Way Down: The Last Catering
8/24/2005 - On the Way Down: Ithaca
*8/25/2005 - On the Way Down: Back to Boston
*8/26/2005 - On the Way Down: The Lack of Communication
8/29/2005 - A Decade of Dancing: Put On Your Dancing Shoes
8/30/2005 - A Decade of Dancing: Busting a Move
8/31/2005 - A Decade of Dancing: Prom
9/1/2005 - A Decade of Dancing: The Challenge
9/2/2005 - A Decade of Dancing: The Cruise
9/5/2005 - Mindless Destruction: Brooklyn Heights Falls
9/6/2005 - Mindless Destruction: The Roots of Destruction
*9/7/2005 - Mass Destruction: Egg Raid
9/8/2005 - Mass Destruction: The Pool
9/9/2005 - Mass Destruction: The End of Achilles
9/12/2005 - Gridiron: Bumper Passes and Concrete Downs
9/13/2005 - Gridiron: This One Time, In Football Camp
9/14/2005 - Rogue Gallery: Gilbert
9/15/2005 - Peanut Gallery: Sleazy Steve
9/16/2005 - The Peanut Gallery: Abe
*9/19/2005 - Peanut Gallery: Josefrero
9/20/2005 - Peanut Gallery: Mohamed
*9/21/2005 - Peanut Gallery: The Angel of Death and Norbert
9/22/2005 - Peanut Gallery: Dan
9/23/2005 - Peanut Gallery: Eric
9/26/2005 - The Mamms: First Flashes and Flicks
9/27/2005 - The Mamms: Take Two
9/28/2005 - The Mamms: Learning Lucky
9/29/2005 - The Mamms: Boobs for Doobs
*9/30/2005 - The Mamms: Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places
10/3/2005 - Playing with Balls: Blue Balls
10/4/2005 - Playing With Balls: Open Palms
10/5/2005 - Playing With Balls: Rounding the Bases
*10/6/2005 - Playing With Balls: Suicide
10/7/2005 - Playing With Balls: Hall of Fame
*10/8/2005 - Mom-a-dukes: The Cook
*10/9/2005 - Mom-a-dukes: The Doctor
10/10/2005 - Mom-a-dukes: Judge, Jury, and (Lousy) Executioner
*10/11/2005 - Mom-a-dukes: The Compassionate Nurturer
10/12/2005 - Mom-a-dukes: The Patient
10/15/2005 - The New Tech: HBO
10/16/2005 - The New Tech: Getting’ Digi Wit’ It
*10/17/2005 - The New Tech: My First Vibrator
10/18/2005 - The New Tech: Button Mashing
10/19/2005 - The New Tech: I Get Around
*10/22/2005 - The Passion of the ’88: There Was Nothing Wrong With ‘87
*10/23/2005 - The Passion of the ’88: What’s a West Coast?
*10/24/2005 - The Passion of the ’88: Thuggin’ It
*10/25/2005 - The Passion of the ’88: Dr. Octagon to the Rescue
*10/26/2005 - The Passion of the ’88: The Rapture
10/31/2005 - People Who Hate Me: Avenue I
*11/1/2005 - People Who Hate Me: Beck
11/2/2005 - People Who Hate Me: Mike
11/3/2005 - People Who Hate Me: Mr. Levington
11/4/2005 - People Who Hate Me: The Unlucky Parker
*11/7/2005 - The Moose’s Closet: The Tease and Other Fucked-Up Shirts
*11/8/2005 - The Moose’s Closet: Hat Buyer’s Remorse
*11/9/2005 - The Moose’s Closet: Got the Timbos on My Toes and This is How it Goes…
*11/10/2005 - The Moose’s Closet: Mother Fucker Better Accessorize
11/11/2005 - The Moose’s Closet: Halloweenie
11/14/2005 - Taxed! – Everyone Pays Their Taxes
11/15/2005 - Taxed! – Joe Tomo’s Treasure Chest
11/16/2005 - Taxed! – My First Discman
11/17/2005 - Taxed! – Good Eatin’
11/18/2005 - Taxed! – Condemnation
11/21/2005 - The Peanut Gallery: Mormon Josh
11/22/2005 - The Peanut Gallery: Nando and Gieke
11/23/2005 - The Peanut Gallery – James
11/24/2005 - The Peanut Gallery – Steph
11/25/2005 - The Peanut Gallery: Sam
*11/28/2005 - Sex Panther: The Young Cub
*11/29/2005 - The Sex Panther: Challenging the Mind
*11/30/2005 - The Sex Panther: Survival of the Fittest
12/1/2005 - The Sex Panther: Nourishment
12/2/2005 - The Sex Panther: Panther's are Sober for a Reason - I deleted this some time ago because I talked about wanting to fuck a good friends' girlfriend. I regret deleting it and I can't find a back-up.
*12/5/2005 - Definitive Brooklyn: The Extended Family
12/6/2005 - Definitive Brooklyn: The Long Commute
*12/7/2005 - Definitive Brooklyn: The Sweet 16
12/8/2005 - Definitive Brooklyn: The Block Party
12/9/2005 - Definitive Brooklyn: ‘Round Town
12/12/2005 - Alcohol Will Destroy You: What Really Goes Down at Ron’s House
12/13/2005 - Alcohol Will Destroy You: Fuck ‘Em
12/14/2005 - Alcohol Will Destroy You: Dad, College. College, Dad.
*12/15/2005 - Alcohol Will Destroy You: RJ, College. College, RJ.
12/16/2005 - Alcohol Will Destroy You: And the Dining Hall, Apparently
*12/19/2005 - Junior Summer: After Joe’s
*12/20/2005 - Junior Summer: Rewind
*12/21/2005 - Junior Summer: Stutter Stepping
*12/22/2005 - Junior Summer: Turn Back Time
*12/23/2005 - Junior Summer: The Rest of the Summer
12/26/2005 - New Beginnings: Times Square
12/27/2005 - New Beginnings: The Interview
*12/28/2005 - New Beginnings: Not-So-Instantly Refreshed
*12/29/2005 - New Beginnings: Life
*12/30/2005 - New Beginnings: The Choice
12/31/2005 - Busted: Buying Time
1/2/2006 - Busted: Uhh…it’s OK, You’re Not Busted
1/3/2006 - Busted: My Name is Jason. I’m From Maryland
1/4/2006 - Busted: Your Problems Suck
1/5/2006 - Busted: Big Mouth
1/9/2006 - Junior Year: Tales of an RA
1/10/2006 - Junior Year: Romance
*1/11/2006 - Junior Year: The Theater
*1/12/2006 - Junior Year: Turning 21 (Both in Age and Blood Alcohol Concentration)
1/13/2006 - Junior Year: Last Days
1/16/2006 - Reading, Writing and Political Assassinations
*1/17/2006 - The Reunion
*1/18/2006 - Bits
1/19/2006 - Pets
1/20/2006 - My B, B
1/23/2006 - Sweat Shop
1/24/2006 - Paint Ball
1/25/2006 - Putting the Mega in Jesus Christ
1/26/2006 - Gross!
1/27/2006 - Toys
*1/30/2006 - Beginnings: The Speech
*1/31/2006 - Beginnings: Cutting Out
*2/1/2006 - Beginnings: Moving Out
*2/2/2006 - Beginnings: Bye Bye Boston
*2/3/2006 - Beginnings: The First Day

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Jay Dee Kay's Favorite Dance Moves

Saturday, August 18, 2007

I was playing around with my new video capture device and ended up capturing some old home movies. Basically, if you want to see me at 9 years old acting like a complete ass, go to my YouTube page for all seven videos. Below are some of the highlights.





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Greatest Surgery Ever

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Well – the pain is bearable, the drugs are working, and I can position the laptop in a “comfortable enough” position. Let’s talk about my hernia operation. Believe me when I say this story is worth sticking around for. It gets really good.

I had an umbilical hernia. This is something babies usually get. I got it from lifting. I looked down one day and noticed I had an outie bellybutton all of a sudden and it popped out far enough to irritate me whenever I wasn’t wearing overly-loose clothing. So – I needed to get it worked on. I pushed it off about two months so it didn’t interfere with book launch stuff too much.

I had to go to the hospital at 6AM this morning. I went out last night – had a good dinner and some drinks, reminded Robin and my parents that, if anything were to happen, do not sign anything without a lawyer seeing it first, and got to bed at around 10:30PM. Woke up nice and fresh, showered, tried to do a number-2, and had Robin drive me to the hospital.

Originally she was going to drop me off and then come back later. But she saw I was nervous and opted to hang out at the hospital with me – be a supportive girlfriend and all of that stuff. So, I went through the registration process, answered all of their questions, signed their paperwork. I got put into the prep room where I stripped down and donned the gown. A nice nurse took my vitals and explained the process to me. Robin came in and gave me a kiss before I was carted off to the anesthesiologist.

I met another nurse, the anesthesiologist’s assistant, and the anesthesiologist herself. They all noted that I was nervous – this was my first real surgery – and told me that they were going to give me a sedative after I talked to my surgeon.

I got to talk to my surgeon, he forcefully thrust his finger into my bellybutton, causing me to wince a bit, and told everyone to get me to the OR. The anesthesiologist’s assistant put the sedative in my IV line and they started wheeling me to the ER. The LAST thing I remember was feeling tipsy and telling the assistant, “Wow, this stuff works fast.”

And then I woke up.

There was a nurse by my side, asking me if I felt nauseous or in pain. My answer was, “I feel fucking fine.” Except I said it slurred, like I was drunk. I don’t quite remember what I said after that, but I do remember the nurse asking me, politely, if I could stop cursing because there were other people around. That sort of snapped me out of the dream-like state I was in.

We chatted for a bit – some of it is still a blur – and then she wheeled me to the recovery room and showed me how to use the TV. I watched Ninja Warrior while eating graham crackers and drinking apple juice. The nurse asked me if I’d like Robin to come in. I said, “Yeah, I think she’ll like that.”

And Robin comes in…

She kisses me. We talk for a couple of minutes. I tell her that I don’t remember anything past the sedation and that I was reprimanded for cursing too much but I was in La-La Land at the time. While talking to Robin, she glances over at the IV in my hand, sits down while rubbing her face, and says, “I hate these places.”

And then she passes the fuck out.

Falls off the chair and hits her head on the floor. I honest-to-God thought she was trying too hard to make a joke. But she wasn’t moving so I said, “Uhhh…doctor?”

I shit you not, every doctor and nurse in that hospital flooded into our tiny room. They unplugged everything but my IV and pushed me out of the room on the stretcher into a vacant room across the hall. There were a million things running through my head but the one thing that I kept coming back to was how everyone I spoke to asked me if I had a “responsible adult” that would be able to drive me home and take care of me for the next 24 hours. I did…and now she’s getting prepped for the ER.

Yeah. The ER. The put her on a stretcher and rushed her down to the ER, put her on an IV and resuscitated her. Then they gave her a full lunch (I didn’t even get lunch) and watched her to make sure she was doing alright.

I know this may sound horrible to some of you but, honestly, I can’t stop laughing. I was freaked out at first, sure, but a nurse told me she was coming around and asked if I knew of a “responsible adult” that can take the two of us home and that was the end of it. Even the nurse was laughing.

I called Robin’s parents to tell them what happened – this was when I was still in the worried phase. I got their answering machine. Called back when I found out she was alright and Robin’s mom and sister were on the phone. I told them what happened and they just started cracking up. Robin’s sister says, “You would have been better off taking the bus home.” I had to hang up on them because laughing hurts so bad. Apparently, while Robin was still in the ER, her sister was leaving voice messages and saying, “Hey Robin, I just called to…oh, I’m fainting,” and then hanging up.

As I was getting wheeled to the waiting room to meet up with Robin (not surprisingly, she didn’t go into the recovery room a second time) the orderly told me that “all he knew” was that there was a “code 5” and everyone was running to my room.

A Code 5.

I know she’s embarrassed but this story is just too rich. I was so worried about the procedure and the pain and all this stuff – I remember nothing, woke up fine, and had mild discomfort but no hardcore pain since.

Robin passes out.

Well now I know, in the future, Robin stays in the waiting room and I’ll need to have a contingency plan in place.

Anyway – what could have been a horrible day turned into a story that I will cherish forever. I feel bad that it’s at Robin’s expense but she took one for the team – I know in my heart that if this happened to me, she’ll be telling everyone who’d listen as well.

Anyway – I’m fine and Robin’s fine. She’s doing a fantastic job taking care of me. I really can’t stand on my own, just yet, and lying down is damn near impossible (I just have to let myself go dead and Robin lowers me onto the bed). Once I’m up I’m ok. I’m really slow and I can’t bend over or turn around, but ok otherwise. She got me sushi for lunch and picked up my pain meds and some stool softeners (the reason I wanted to number-2 this morning was because it will hurt so bad to do it now).

So – that’s my day. I’m reading TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD for the first time since JHS. It’s weird – I’m finding there are some parts I appreciate more (like Scout, I guess, I was too young to understand the “adult stuff”) but there are some parts that I’m just not feeling that I liked more as a kid. I think my court-drama entertainment is seriously warped these days. I’m going to read WRITTEN ON THE BODY, next – looking forward to that one.

I’ll be in touch. By the way…have you been keeping up with POSTCARDS stuff? USA Today, Daily Candy, Publisher's Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, LA Times, Washington Post, etc, etc, etc.

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Greatest Hits

Thursday, July 05, 2007

I just got a final copy of POSTCARDS – fresh from the printer. Robin brought it to my job today – we went to Panera and cracked it open. Seeing my name on the spine, flipping through all of the beautiful pages - I think this makes today an official Greatest Hit.

It got me wondering what my other Greatest Hits are. It’s tough – there are moments of relief, like when you find out a family member made it through a complicated surgery or something you were worrying about, something that could really ruin your life, turned out ok. But those can’t really be greatest hits – there’s just too much sadness and stress wrapped up with them. Greatest Hits have to be the kinds of memories that would bring about the same feeling of euphoria regardless of the situation you’re in – regardless of what’s going on in your life at the moment. A Greatest Hit is something that gets you to the peak of your happiness – the upper limit – that feeling that you only get several times in a lifetime and you don’t think you’ll ever reach it again.

So, some of my Greatest Hits, in no particular order…

1) Since it’s the most recent one, I have to go with Robin and me getting engaged. Honestly, though, it wasn’t the actual proposal that falls under Greatest Hits. I was too nervous, I messed it up some, and I just wasn’t in the zone – I was bumbling, if you will. No, the Greatest Hit came afterwards, when Robin and I were sitting at the base of the Rialto Bridge, drinking carafe-after-carafe of wine, calling our relatives, kissing like mad, and she was listening to me tell her the stories. How I got the ring. How I asked her father if I can marry her. How I, essentially, told everyone I know that I was going to propose. That was a great moment – one of the happiest moments of my life.

2) Finding out I was going to be a big-brother is easily another one. I wanted a sibling for my first eleven years on this planet and I’ll never forget when my parents told me I was going to have one. I was at my Grandma’s house in Red Hook. My cousins and I were playing in one of those plastic kid pools in the backyard. My parents call me into Grandma’s hallway and tell me my mom is having a baby. I run back into the yard and tell all my cousins and we all look into the window and see my aunts and uncles hugging my mom and dad – everyone crying. It was such a great moment – one of my best childhood memories.

3) My parents have always done so much for me. Too much, at times. And it seems like my college graduation dinner was the culmination of it all – the last hurrah. I wasn’t a kid anymore; I was on my own after this one dinner. I moved to DC less than a week after that dinner following a couple of uneventful days back in New York. But that dinner…

My whole family was there. All my aunts and uncles, my grandparents, and Robin’s parents. It was a great little Italian place in the North End. Everyone was eating the food and drinking the wine. We had so much fun. The bill came out and my father went to pay for it and came back five minutes later with an apron on and started cleaning up the table. It was, without a doubt, the perfect joke. But it also symbolized something more, in a way – the sacrifice my parents made for me throughout the years. Whenever I think about the scene, I get a bit choked up. It was such an innocent gesture from my dad – there was likely no subtext there – to him, it was just funny. But, to me…it was the last moment before being sent out into the world.

4) Walking into Random House’s lobby for the first time – God, what a thrill. You walk into this lobby and you have two bookcases on each side of you reaching to the ceiling. Books like Catcher in the Rye and Ulysses. I had to take a minute to compose myself before checking in at the desk – it was, without a doubt, the culmination of every childhood dream I ever had. Getting my offer, signing the contract, getting the galleys, my first good review…those experiences didn’t even measure up to the feeling I got when I walked into that building.

I’m sure there are more; it’s just difficult for me to put them up there with the one’s I already talked about.

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Italy pt. 2: A Little Bit of Roma

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Last time I talked about all the steps we took just to get to Italy. Today I pick up where I left off.

At Fumicino we made our way to the baggage claim, picked up our bags, and went through customs. We walked towards the Leonardo Express, the train that’ll take us into Rome. Proving my street savvy, I almost fell for the gypsy that claimed I had to buy train tickets off of him. Luckily Robin was there to smack me on the back of the head and we made our way to the real ticket counter where we purchased out tickets. We validated them as our eyes darted around from one group of people to the next. We were warned of the gypsies in Italy and we were dead set on making it through this whole trip without anything being stolen. We were vigilant, watching each others back constantly and making sure that our backpacks were never susceptible to little gypsy hands.

It was thirty minutes on the Leonardo Express, taking in the country side which was covered in graffiti and shanty towns – it was like being back in New York. Robin and I went through our phrase book and studied the map of Termini and its surrounding neighborhood. We charted a course to our hotel so we can simply plow through with our bags, protecting us from, you know, gypsies.

We got off at Termini and were overwhelmed with the size of the station and the amount of people in it. As we exited the station, we started walking in the direction we thought the hotel was in, looking for street signs but finding none. We didn’t slow down, however; we didn’t stop. We kept moving, suitcase dragged behind us, map in hand, screaming, “Where’re the street signs? Where are the fucking street signs!”

Ok, I’m exaggerating. There was no screaming. But it certainly took us a couple of blocks to realize that the street signs were integrated into the buildings. We got our bearing straight and realized we were only several blocks from the hotel.

The Hotel Diocleziano - our first stop. Friendly concierge, gorgeous little lobby, a bar off to the side. The concierge spoke English (as most service people do in the big cities), and the bellhop showed us to our room. I honesty thought they made a mistake. This hotel was the second cheapest of the four we were staying at. I didn’t understand why we had a spacious, gorgeous room with a fancy, fancy shower that seconded as a Jacuzzi, and a private patio that was about twice as big as our hotel room. We apparently got all of this because I paid a couple of extra bucks for the deluxe room combined with a little bit of luck as far as the large patio went.

At any rate, our trip was off to a great start.

We showered and rested for a little while, trying to decide where to go and how to get there. We decided to walk towards the Spanish Steps, get lost a little bit, and had to stop and get some dinner on the way.

We were amazed, while walking around, how much Rome was built on food. Restaurants and cafes everywhere and everyone wanted you to have a seat. We finally picked a restaurant with a name I forget in an area that I wasn’t familiar with. We sat outside, got our menus, and picked out what we wanted. The waitress came over and asked, “Antipasti?” I ordered the mozzarella in carrozza. She turned to Robin and said, “And for you?”

Robin ordered something off of the prima patti menu causing the waitress to ask, “And?” Robin told her that was all and I ordered off of the secondi patti menu. We each ordered a side. The waitress, a little annoyed now, asked us what we wanted for dessert. We were confused and said, “Nothing yet.” We ordered some wine (by the glass) and the waitress was off. Later on, we learned how you’re supposed to order at a restaurante.

Ideally, you’re each supposed to order an antipasti, prima patti, secondi patti, sides, and dessert. Now, no-one will get mad at you if you don’t order every course (which is good because, if you do, you’ll end up spending close to 70 euros per person). But each person should at least order 3 of the five courses. At any rate we got our food and enjoyed our meals and toasted Italy with every new glass of wine. With all of the wine we bought, it would have made more sense for each of us to purchase our own bottle. We enjoyed our first meal and we set off to get lost again…

We walked around Piazza di Spagna. Sat on the Spanish Steps. Ate some gelato. Window shopped. Held hands, kissed, took pictures – we were falling in love with the city. We were also getting tired, the only sleep we had was on the plane to London. So we eventually started walking in the direction of the hotel. We decided to stop for another drink at this American bar. Sat down, realized there was a table fee (along with the fact that we were in, you know, and American Bar), and left before ordering a drink. We made our way to a wine bar near the hotel, had a half-carafe each, and talked about how beautiful the city was.

We headed back to our hotel and feel asleep…eventually.

The second day was more than just food and wine. We got up kind of early, got on a bus, and went out to the Vatican. We weren’t sure where to buy our bus tickets and every time we asked someone they tried to sell us tickets to the tourist buses like the Christian Bus – a double-decker decorated with bright colors and images of Jesus. I heard rumors that they hand out t-shirts on that bus that say, “Please rip me off,” but I doubt it – that would be overkill. We eventually discovered that you buy your bus tickets at the newsstands – we bought a day pass and were on our way.

The Vatican was overwhelming. You walk into St. Peter’s square and you instantly appreciate how much history happened here, good or bad. The fountain, the statues lining the perimeter and, of course, the cathedral itself. Robin and I spent a half-hour just staring and taking pictures before heading into the cathedral. We walked through the tombs of the old popes, first, saw the tomb of St. Peter and Pope John Paul II – he had a handful of mourners kneeling in front of his tomb, praying and crying.

Then we did the actual cathedral. The architecture and artwork were remarkable. An early Michelangelo piece, the tombs and statues of certain popes – the altars off to the side of the main altar where priests were going about their everyday business – holding mass, baptizing babies, keeping confession. I asked Robin if she wanted to make confession at the Vatican and we both decided it was a very bad idea – we’d likely spend the rest of our vacation undergoing penance. We did stop off at a side alter to pray and reflect for a little while, however, and we touched the feet of St. Peter like every good lapsed Catholic making a pilgrimage to the Holiest of Holies.

We hopped outside for some water and a slice of pizza before going to the Pope’s blessing. I purchased some rosary beads for my mom so I can have them on me when the Pope does his blessing – that’s the kind of gift me mom would love. The Pope came out, said something in Latin, and then addressed the crowd in Italian, English, Spanish, German, Russian, and French. Every time he switched up his language the crowd went wild. He was calling out parishes that were visiting from distant countries and the people attending would cheer and hoist their banners into the air – it was quite a sight. It’s just amazing how there can be so many people there, adoring this man that they’ve never met. I have to give it to the Pope, he was charming and funny. I can see how folks would get behind him.

After the blessing Robin and I walked to the Vatican Museum only to find that it’s closed on Sundays. At least I got to buy some sunglasses on the way up there. The guys selling illegal items in Italy are a trip. They have these cases that transform into tables – they can set up in seconds and leave just as quick. You see one guy running down the street, away from the police, and everyone picks up their gear and starts huffing after him. If you happen to be trying something on at the time, it’ll likely be yours, free of charge.

Robin and I quickly realized that it’s best to avoid eye contact when we hear one of the three pitches: “You want to know how much?” “Good price,” and, “On sale.” My absolute favorite moment was when Robin said she wanted a fake Coach bag. I walked up to the guy selling it, and he asked, “You want to know how much?”

I say, “How much?”

And he says, “Good price. On sale.” It’s like these guys are programmed to bring Americans to them. We did the barter thing. “Twenty.”

“Twenty? I can get a real one for thirty.”

“No…no. Twenty.”

“Ten – all I got.”

“No...twenty.”

I open my wallet. There’s ten euros in there. “Look – ten. All I got.”

He says 15, I walk away, and he calls me back and gives it to me for ten. I wish the guys knew more English. I’d love to be able to call them out. “Is 20 the sale price or the retail price? Because if it’s the sale price I’d like to know what the retail price is. Or is there not a sale? Were you lying to me?”

We walked to Castel St. Angelo a medieval castle that used to be connected to the Vatican via a series of underground tunnels. Admission was a bit steep but it was worth it for the view of the city and the statue of Michael the Archangel on top.

After the castle, we walked across the river and wound up near the alleys the surround Campo de Fiori. We walked around and got lost, ended up at a restaurant in a back alley because they had some musicians playing music out front. We were seated after ten minutes – fifteen minutes later no-one even asked us what kind of wine we wanted and one of the waiters shooed away the musicians so we snuck out. We ended up finding a fabulous pizza shop with cheap Peroni and we had a seat outside, enjoyed the nice weather, and ate pizza and drank beer.

We went back to the hotel afterwards. Robin napped as I sat on the patio with a bottle of Chianti, reading Rick Veitch’s Maximortal. I didn’t really get into it, sadly.

That evening Robin and I went to the Pantheon and Piazza Navona – we got off the bus near these excavated ruins that have been turned into a cat sanctuary – that was instantly added to our site-seeing agenda for the next day. We walked up to the Pantheon, got dinner at this nice little place with a view. Cheaper food than the night before and nice, big portions. Seafood, too, and it was real good. Half-liter of wine for me and a liter of Peroni for Robin.

We just sat and ate and drank and talked – two people in love, watching the people walk by. We went to a famous gelati place afterwards; we each got a three scoop, and then took side streets to Piazza Navona where we found an American bar with a table outside. We were both amazed by the waiter’s flawless English – he claimed to be born and raised in Italy. Some of the people at the bar seemed to know him, and their conversations led us to believe that the waiter was, indeed, Italian, and that he just happened to learn accent-less English somehow.

A flower guy came around, like they always do, and I tried to convince him that I can’t buy a flower because Robin’s allergic. And, yes, I tried to do that in Italian. We got into a conversation with some other Americans afterwards about the best way to chase off flower guys. Afterwards we hailed a cab and got RIPPED OFF like mad. I don’t know what that guy was doing but we certainly paid way too much.

Went to bed…eventually. We tried out the jacuzzi, first.

I’ll continue with Rome and start up Venice next time.

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Italy Part 1: Getting There

Monday, June 04, 2007

I never really did a comprehensive travel report of our recent trip to Italy. Since this site is supposed to be a storytelling blog, and I kind of want to record the details of the trip so I have them when I’m all senile and what not, I figure this is as good a time as any to start jotting it all down. This will be in multiple parts, with pictures when possible. Today will just be about everything that went down before we actually got to Italy.

I’ve wanted to go to Italy for a long, long time. It’s been my dream vacation for as long as I can remember. Robin and I talked about doing it for some time but we never really had the money for it. Last year, however, I got a hefty bonus, one that was enough to cover airfare, hotels, and rail passes for close to two weeks in Italy for Robin and I, and instead of doing what I always do and put it into savings, I booked us a trip.

We booked our airfare before we even knew where in Italy we’d be going. Ten nights, roundtrip from Dulles to Rome, that’s all we knew. We tried to get discounted tickets but all of the flights had impossible stopovers – either less than one hour (in Heathrow – impossible) or greater than eight hours. We decided we were adults, now, approaching 30 with money in the bank – let’s get the flight we wanted. So we booked roundtrip on British Airway for a little but more than the discounted fares we were seeing. Of course, the week after we booked it British Airway had a sale to Rome that would have saved us around $200 per ticket. And, no, they wouldn’t give it to us retroactively. And thus begins the circumstances behind our decision to never use British Airways again. The rest will unfold along with the story and, of course, “never” means “never…unless there’s a great sale.”

We had to pick our cities. Our initial idea was Rome, Venice, and Naples. Robin wanted to spend some time on the beach and I was willing to lie out in the sun as long as Peroni would be present. Whenever we told anyone our plan, however, they’d always say, “Naples? Naples is a dump.” On the recommendation of several friends we decided to go with Florence. Good wine and cheese – that’s why I wanted to go to Italy in the first place.

So we booked hotels for the three cities – three nights in Rome at a hotel near the train terminal, two nights in Venice right on St. Mark’s Square, three nights in Florence at a hotel near Ponte Vecchio, and two final nights in Rome at a hotel near the Pantheon.

Plane booked. Hotels booked. I purchased first class train fare for Robin and me, so we can go from city to city. We weren’t being stingy with this trip at all. It was a once-in-a-lifetime trip as far as we were concerned and we wanted to make sure it had the potential to be as fantastic as it could possibly be.

Everything was ready to go. I scheduled my vacation time at my job, we got the pet-sitting taken care off (Robin’s friend watched Becky while we were away and the cats had a sitter). I made sure James Powell knew what was coming up and what needed to be done for Postcards while I was away.

We bought our DK guidebooks. One for Italy and one for each city we were going to be in. We bought a new suitcase since we only had one medium sized bag and neither of us wanted to carry our large suitcase around. We looked into renting a car while were in Florence so we can get out to Chianti on our own schedule but realized we needed to start planning for that particular aspect quite some time ago – special licenses or something to that extent. We got the vacuum sealed clothing bags, an extra SD card for the camera, some new clothes that fit comfortably, and new walking shoes so we don’t spend the evenings complaining about our feet hurting. We researched the mass transit and cab situation in all of the cities we were going to, we picked out some good restaurants and sites that we absolutely had to see, and we researched the local wines so we knew what we had to get and what we had to bring home with us (answer: Chianti).

We were ready to go – we had everything we needed. Almost.

About two months before we were about to go to Italy I decided to propose to Robin. We’ve been together for eight years and, honestly, I’ve run out of excuses. She definitely wanted to get married – she no longer answered that question with, “Eventually.” Eventually has come. It was time.

So I started asking around. I looked at local jewelry shops, saw what they had. I knew Robin wanted something that looked or was antique. She wanted platinum, too. And that’s basically all I had to go with. There weren’t a lot of great options in DC. One dealer, however, pointed me towards several jewelers that make rings like the ones I was looking for. Two of these places had online storefronts and friendly customer service people and I found a ring I liked at each of them. One of them was out of my price range and one of them was not.

Now…I had a book coming out. I had an advance coming to me which, truthfully, was essentially already spent between creators, designers, editors, agents, and marketing. But…technically…I could scrape a little bit out of my company’s share of the money and that would, in essence, get the other ring, the nicer one, into my price range. So I decided to wait…

And wait…

Advances, well, they can get delayed at times. And that’s exactly what happened with my advance. Two weeks to go before the trip and I still didn’t have the ring. I wanted to take advantage of this trip so I ordered the smaller one. It was still a gorgeous ring. Edwardian inspired platinum, a nice rock in the middle with little diamonds on the side. I had to pay for express sizing and express delivery but it was worth it – I wanted to propose.

I had a plan. For some reason, I thought Venice had a Faberge egg thing. So I bought a ring box that looked like a Faberge egg. I was going to pretend I picked it up from a cart or something, open it up, surprise! I planted it! Imagine my surprise and frustration when I found out Venice had nothing to do with Faberge eggs. At least it was a nice ring box, I guess…

Literally the next day Robin and I are at our favorite Italian restaurant in Georgetown for my birthday. During dinner Robin drops a subtle hint. She says, “You know, I think it would be romantic to get engaged in Venice.”

Now – I was rip shit. RIP. SHIT. Who says something like that two weeks before the trip? If you wanted to hint at it, there are much more subtle ways of doing it without risking completely ruining the surprise if it was, indeed, going to happen. So, I lied. I lied hard and took advantage of the fact that she can’t get mad at me on my birthday. I told her I don’t think I want to get married, yet. That I thought we still have some issues we need to work out before making that commitment. That with the book coming out I can’t divert my attention or money to a wedding. I laid it on. And she bought it. And I might have paid for it during the weeks leading up to the trip but at least I had my surprise.

The ring took a while to get to me. I called the jeweler a week after ordering it to make sure it was shipped to me. The jeweler took this very condescending attitude and told me that they realize they need to get it to me before I leave on my trip and that if there’s anything wrong they’ll call me. On the Wednesday before my trip (we were to leave on Friday) I still have not received my shipping notification or my ring. I called the jeweler up to see what was going on and got the same snooty customer relations woman. She said, “Like I told you, Mr. Rodriguez, if there’s a problem we’ll call you.”

I told her that I was leaving in two days and I’d like to have verification that the ring has at least shipped. She reluctantly put me through to shipping. I gave shipping my information and they put me on hold. Five minutes later they get back on the phone, apologized their asses off, and promise me that they are shipping it over night right now. I wanted to get the customer relations lady back on and give her a piece of my mind but I figured it wasn’t worth getting upset over – at least I’ll have the ring.

The ring didn’t come to my job until 4PM Wednesday afternoon – I was getting nervous. But the receptionist brought it into my boss’s office while I was meeting there with another coworker. They made me open the ring right there, I showed it to everyone and they were all pretty excited. I left work shortly afterwards and went home – ready to finish packing and get moving.

I reserved a town car to take us to the airport the next day. The guy picked us up and headed out to Dulles – the two of us were so ready to go. We checked in, checked our bags, and had dinner at the Gordon Biersch in the airport. I excused myself and said I had to go to the bathroom. I went to call Robin’s father to ask for his permission to marry his daughter and, of course, get the answering machine. I needed to get his cell phone, so I text messaged Robin’s brother to get it. He, of course, gave me the wrong number. I texted him to give me the right one and went back to dinner so Robin wouldn’t get suspicious. Her brother sent me the right number and I called her father up and, of course, got his voicemail. I went back to the table.

Five minutes later Robin’s father called me. I excused myself again and told Robin it was Josh Fialkov on the phone – we were finishing up a pitch that he had to get out while I was gone. I answered the phone, Robin’s dad asked what’s up, and I asked for his permission to marry his daughter…

Silence.

After ten seconds or so I asked “So…is it ok?”

He gave me an enthusiastic “yes” and said how happy he was and told us to have a good vacation etc, etc. I apologized for asking so late, but I didn’t want Robin’s mom to find out because she can’t keep a secret. He understood. Recharged and ready to get engaged, I go back to the dinner table. Five minutes later, Robin’s mom called me. I excuse myself, again, saying it was Josh, again, and answered the phone. Robin’s mom asked if everything is alright because I left a message. I told her not to worry about it, I wanted to talk to John, and I’ll talk to her later. She said ok, likely knowing what was going on, and wished us a good trip.

We boarded the plane and took off. We drank some wine, ate some snacks, watched some movies, and slept for a while. When we woke up we were close to London. The plane landed and we made our way through the nightmare that is Heathrow. Brushed our teeth, got some coffee, and walked around the airport a bit – sampling shots of scotch and watching the flight board for any updates.

On the plane to Rome I went through the guidebook a bit and practice my Italian. It was a nice, short flight to Fiumicino airport. We could hardly contain ourselves as we lined up to get off of our plane. Several minutes later we were in the airport – ready for our trip.

And that continues next time.

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Firsts

Monday, May 07, 2007

Well – I got into my first car accident today. I’ve been hit once before but it was just a bit of a tap, no damage, no information exchanged. But yesterday I was at a stop sign coming off 395-S and getting on to George Washington Parkway when some guy rammed me from behind – knocked me into traffic but luckily no-one else hit me. Back bumper was smashed, trunk won’t close all the way, taillights destroyed – but I walked away with a little stiffness and nothing else, thankfully.

It just sucks all around. I planned on trading the car in this week and getting a new Matrix. Now I need to wait a couple of weeks, most likely. Also, I was coming back from the driving range and I was hitting the fuck out of the ball – out of 102 balls I probably hit about 70/80 of them real solid, which is great for me. So I was in a real good mood on the way home.

I decided that there is, indeed, a first time for everything and that sometimes first times can totally suck. First car accident: Sucks. There are plenty of other firsts that suck, as well.

First time getting stitches: Sucks. Christmastime – I was probably around five years old. We had those old-style radiators in the apartment. You may have never seen these but for some reason they had these metal blunted-spike looking things poking out of one end of them. I was apparently really excited that one of our neighbors had their Christmas decorations up and ran to the window to see them. Slipped, fell, and the blunted-spike thing went through my cheek. One of my earliest memories is the doctor putting this white-cloth square over my face during the operation. I guess it was before they put me under, or whatever they did.

First time getting punched in the face: Sucks. Nothing in the world prepares you for that feeling. Playing handball in Junior High when some kids tried to take my San Antonio Spurs Starter hat (that was when the Spurs got their new logo – everyone was wearing Spurs’ gear). One kid grabbed it; we played a bit of tug-of-war until the other kid pops me in the face. I drop the hat, fall on my ass, and clutch my face as blood flows from my nose.

First time getting your finger caught in a car door: Sucks. Thankfully this one only happened once. It was my thumb. I was probably around ten or so – I remember it being my dad’s monster of a car – this big, dark-red Chevy he used to drive. We called it Betsy. It had those big heavy-ass doors and one of them slammed nicely on my thumb. Man – I screamed. I had no idea what to do. My dad opened the door after realizing what was going on and I was in tons of pain. My fingernail turned purple and fell off – freaked me out every time I looked at it.

First time someone catches you masturbating: Sucks. Actually, I can’t think of a single time getting caught hasn’t sucked. Unfortunately I don’t live that life where some girl or girls catch me masturbating and decides to help me out. Usually she calls the cops. Having said that, who knows when I was first caught. We lived in a small apartment and, as an adult, I’ve learned that we’re never as subtle as we think we are. Unfortunately that still hasn’t curbed my masturbating. Just the other day I kissed Robin goodnight and told her I was going to check my email. She told me to put the blinds back up when I was done. Sucks.

First time you blow your entire post-college paycheck in one weekend: Sucks. Man – my first check seemed like the biggest fucking thing in the world. It was like infinite money. I went from about 7k a year in college to 50k. A 700-plus percent raise! In one weekend I bought drinks for a lot of people, bought dinner for the lady, bought new clothes – I bought a lot of stuff. Then Monday came along and I quickly learned that 50k a year, 960 dollar a week, isn’t even close to infinite money. Hell, it doesn’t even cover rent after taxes.

First time you spend a night in Aberdeen, Maryland: Sucks. There is nothing in Aberdeen except for Aberdeen Proving Grounds, a Days Inn, and a Grand Corral. At least that’s all I saw during the week I stayed there for work. I was walking through the woods, setting up microphones and directing army guys as they fired mortars and cannons. Whereas that part was pretty cool, the coming home to do a tick inspection before going out for all-you-can-eat shitty steak and getting drunk in your hotel room by yourself was not a good time at all. In fact, I imagine it’s what hell is like.

First time buying fake Cubans in a Mexican border town: Sucks. I don’t even remember the name of the fucking town. It was south of Yuma. I thought I was the master negotiator after I talked the guy down to $20 for a box of Cuban cigars. The ones in the box he were showing me looked and smelled just fine. They weren’t dry, they burned well – even if they weren’t Cubans they were good cigars. And then I opened my box to find twenty novelty cigars. I don’t even think they had tobacco in them.

(I’d also include the first time you accidentally drive your rental car into Mexico because you took a wrong turn as a big-time Suck. This time I was in Mexicali – luckily I got the car out of there.)

First time Best Buy pushes you into their extended warranty plan: Sucks. Second and third time sucks, as well.

First time you try to fix something covered by Best Buy’s extended warranty plan: Sucks. We brought a laptop in three times before we just said, “Fuck it,” and bought a new one.

First time you accidentally throw away a receipt for the shirt your girlfriend wanted to exchange: Sucks. The worst part? Every time she loses a receipt from that point on it will be because you threw it out. Even if you weren’t home, if you’re away on business, she’ll wait until you get home and blame you for it. The same thing happens the first time you accidentally throw away her mail and the first time you accidentally eat her box of Girl Scout cookies. Fuck, I have to do a story on the food situation in my house. Next time.

Anyway – I could keep going, mainly because I decided to lie down and do nothing all day to ensure my back is fine tomorrow – but I’ll stop. Robin’s in the office and I think I can pop a quick one without her finding out.

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posted by Jason at 1 Comments


The Gambler

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

I’ve often talked about my love for gambling but I never really talked about my experiences inside a casino. So, you know, why not? Some manly storytelling to follow-up last weeks talk of fuzzy animals.

My first experience gambling came when I was eleven. It was at my sister’s christening part at the Knights of Columbus in Red Hook. They used to have this slot machine in the back. Technically the kids weren’t allowed back there but this was a party, right? Our parents were giving us quarters and we were screaming out, “Come on, lucky 7!”

Well, I hit the three sevens. $250 bucks which, for an eleven year old, is a small fortune. I had to pay the bartender a 20% tip, according to my dad, so my prize money quickly dwindled to $175. But even after my first experience with greasing palms I still had enough to purchase the one thing I wanted to purchase: a new skateboard.

Early in life I learned that gambling = stuff I couldn’t afford. And I was hooked.

I bought a two-tailed Vallely. Decked it out with all new trucks and wheels – hooked it up nice. Couldn’t skate for shit but that didn’t matter – what mattered is how much I paid for this board. Absolutely nothing.

There were opportunities to risk my money after that, as well. I had a friend in junior high that would actually run a gambling operation in for some local guy. Football scores. I was twelve years old and betting a dollar a game, learning about spreads and over-under. I never bet more than I had (thankfully, I was a kid, but I still don’t bet more than I had) but I handed in my picks every week.

We started playing poker in junior high, too. In the lunch room – nickel, dime, quarter style. Poker became my game early on. I played through high school and as often as I could in college.

It was really the only gambling I did in college. No car, no money – my friends and I could sit around a table for hours, drink beer, and play poker. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that, despite my love for gambling, I didn’t play at a casino until I was 22 and out of school.

I went to Atlantic City with Robin and two friends, Max and Brooks. We stayed at this dirty motel off the strip. Robin went straight for the slots. She loves the slots. That girl actually bought a book on winning slot strategies. Since I have a diploma in mathematics, this absolutely freaked me out. I was like an evangelist that just found a Marilyn Manson CD and a bag of pot in my daughter’s room. But, you know, whatever passes the time…

Max and Brooks went to play blackjack. Me? I went to play Let it Ride.

Do you play Let it Ride? Because if you do, you’re playing the game with the worst odds. The one that non-gamblers play. I know this now. I spent the entire night at that table, up-and-down, until I eventually lost close to $200. It was a fun night, not a huge loss, no complaints.

As we were leaving I had my last ten dollar chip. Not wanting to cash it in, I went to the roulette table and put it on 14, my sister’s birthday. 14 came out – I won $350 bucks. I never played Let it Ride again. Of course, I also played the middle with a color someone else was playing. The guy was nice enough to tell the dealer that it was, indeed, my win and the dealer lectured me on proper roulette etiquette. I took my $350, bought lunch for everyone, and went home.

I started teaching myself blackjack.

My boss at my old job loved blackjack. After talking with him one day, we decided that I should learn to count cards. I have that math knack, after all, and I can catalog in my head pretty easily. So, I learned to count cards. By the time I was good at it I was already out of the old job and I never really had an opportunity to hit up Atlantic City with my old boss (you need at least two people to run a successful counting operation).

So, instead of using my new talents to get super-rich, I just used my new talents to burn my money really slowly. Bet a little higher when the deck’s hot, nothing noticeable, and a little lower when it’s cold. If the deck is cold, I’ll bet my win streaks like this:

1 – Minimum
2 – Minimum x 2
3 – Minimum
4 – Minimum x 2
5 – Minimum x 3

Repeat until I lose. If I lose, go back to 1. If the deck’s hot, I bet like this:

1 – Minimum
2 – Minimum x 2
3 – Minimum x 3
4 – Minimum x 4

Back to 2. If I lose, I go back to 1. It’s enough to sustain me for the night. I usually walk away a little ahead.

I’d still play roulette, too. I learned the secret to roulette, for me, is to play carefully. I was a casino in Gulfport, Mississippi playing roulette once. I’d put dollar chips down on five inside numbers. If I hit, a 7.6% chance, I get $35. If I’m ahead early, I get the fuck out of there, because everyone loses in roulette eventually.

Anyway, this one time in Gulfport, I hit the number 7 out of my first 10 spins. $16 dollars in, $245 out. I bought my coworker steak that night. Spent the rest of the evening breaking even at blackjack.

Blackjack is my real love. It’s that rush. One time I was at a casino with Robin’s brother playing blackjack. We were both at least a hundred up, I decided to call it in. He has $250 and he decided to play down to $200 so he goes $50 in. Two kings against the dealer’s three, what do you do? He splits them up - $100 in – and doubles down ON EACH. $200 in. He wins on one and loses on the other – breaks even on his bet. He figures, fuck it, and puts his fifty back in.

GETS THE SAME HAND.

Ends up $200 in again and wins on both, this time. We drink a lot.

And that’s a goddamn rush, right there. I play blackjack 90% of the time at casinos now. When Robin and I went on our cruise, we’d party and drink all night and then after I cuddled her ass to sleep, I’d go to the casino and play blackjack for two hours. I’m just lucky I don’t live closer to a betting establishment.

Robin’s into poker now, too. She comes out with me to my poker matches whenever she’s invited. She even won a local tournament and was invited to participate in the regional tournament but she couldn’t make it. We’re just a gambling family, I guess.

When our genes mix, our kids are going to be fucked.

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posted by Jason at 3 Comments


The Rest of the Family

Monday, March 26, 2007

When you come to this site, you read stories about Hooker Hands and pants shitting and you likely say to yourself, when does he get to the stories about cute kittens and purse-sized dogs? Well, today’s the day, ladies and gentlemen, when I introduce you to the kids.

That’s right, the kids. Because I’m cheese for my pets.

I’ve talked about the pets I’ve had before Robin. A cat as a child that tortured me. A bird that I named after my adopted Grandma Fran that died almost instantly. The goldfish that we couldn’t kill. The beagle that was killed by his vet. And then LJ, who’s still alive – good ole, dumb as a sack of rocks, LJ.

Robin had some pets back in the day, too. A cat called Mittens. Usually, when you call a cat Mittens, it means they’re cute. This guy was an outdoor cat, though, that would drag dead mice and birds into Robin’s room as a kid. She had a dog, as well, but I forget his name. One year for his birthday (a late birthday – shortly before he died) they let him sit on a dining room chair and eat cake. From that day on, whenever the family would sit for dinner, the dog would take a chair and growl at anyone who tried to move him. Robin also had a rat named Sidney but we’ll get to him.

By my count, that’s seven pets total. In the eight years that Robin and I have been together, we’ve owned ten pets. So, let’s go…

The Bird

We lived in Southwest DC for six months. I picked out the apartment, Robin hated it. We’d often travel into neighborhoods we’d rather live in and one day we found ourselves in a pet shop in Bethesda. In this pet shop there was this well-groomed, well-mannered Quaker Parrot up for adoption. We asked the employees about the bird and they told us that the owners haven’t been home much and haven’t had time to dedicate to the bird. He’s eight years old, and Quakers usually live to around 25.

We liked the guy, we took him out and he sat on our fingers and our shoulder. His name was Quaky and we really couldn’t change it because the only thing he knew how to say was, “I’m Quaky.” It’d be awkward if we changed his name to Julius or something. So, we decided to adopt Quaky.

He was great. He’d fly around the house, land on our finger, say, “I’m Quakey,” in case we forgot. We really liked the guy. And then he turned on me, took a chunk of my finger off, and I stopped liking him almost instantly.

Apparently, Quaker Parrots tend to bond to one person and one person only, and usually a female. He viewed Robin as his mate and I was his competition. Because of this, he attacked me whenever he had the chance. We ended up clipping his wings, obviously.

Robin still loved him until he started biting her, too. He doesn’t attack her – doesn’t fly at her face like he does to mine – but he sure as hell doesn’t let her hold him. We decided that he’s just a mean bird. That’s why his previous owners really gave him up.

We tried to soften him up a bit but nothing worked. There are currently two trains of thought in the house. Mine is that we failed, and someone else will do better. Robin’s is that someone else will put him to sleep. As with all things in our household, Robin’s logic wins, and we still have Quaky. On the bright side, he only has ten years left.

Only. Ten. Years.

The Rats

Once we realized that the bird hates us we decided to get a pet that’ll love us. This was while we were still in Southwest and we weren’t allowed cats or dogs. So we got rats (Robin’s idea). Robin’s first rat, Sidney, was a cute little guy – she had him when we first started dating. I wasn’t really down with the “rat thing” but I would let her crawl on me and I’d pet her because, honestly, I wanted to get laid (not by the rat).

So, Robin goes to a breeder and gets us two rats. Macy and Cole. Macy is the lovable, lick-your-fingers type and Cole was likely a butch lesbian. She ran on the wheel all day and would, occasionally, mount the other rats and hump them. Vigorously. We didn’t stop there – Robin hooked up with a breeder that had a dumbo rat (big ears) named Dilly and a blue-haired rex (bluish hair that looked permed) named Penny.

It was fine, they all had their own personalities and they were low-cost pets. I even took an affinity towards Penny – she’d sit at my desk while I was trying to make comics and I’d feed her treats.

The problem is, rats get sick. Real sick. Especially females. Dilly was the first to get sick. One day we see her jumping around her cage and gasping for air. We take her to the vet. Now, we’re new at this. We don’t know about prices or any of that stuff. We take this rat to the vet at night. They take her in, put her on a ventilator, and observe her. The following day they’re giving her meds, back on the ventilator, etc, etc, etc, and they put her down. It was sad – Robin was crying. I was a little choked up, mainly because Robin was so sad. But I started crying when I saw that bill – it was a touch over a thousand dollars.

For a rat. That cost us fifteen bucks. Even Robin, the animal lover, thought we might have gone a bit too far with the treatments. So, we made a pact – every rat gets one chance. Unless their chance involves ventilators, then we say goodbye.

Macy and Cole got tumors; those were reasonably priced to remove and counted as their one chance (we had a better vet now, too). Macy had a respiratory infection that we gave her medicine for until she died. We put her to sleep. Cole ended up dying the exact same way. When there was only Penny left we adopted a fifth rat, Dipper. The only male of the crew – he was a cool dude but Penny got a tumor shortly after we adopted him, which we removed, and the respiratory illness to follow. She died while we were taking her to the vet.

That left Dipper. When we adopted him, he was about two years old. He lived for a year and died peacefully, never a problem. We decided that if we ever get another rat it’ll be a boy. We never got another rat, though, and I think that was a good decision. They were just way too expensive.

The Cats

We were only supposed to get one cat. We adopted her from the shelter. Her name was Crystal but we weren’t having any of that so we just call her Kitty. Some cat-lady croaked and twenty-some-odd cats were dropped off at the shelter – Kitty was the last one. She was nine when we adopted her, she was friendly as all hell, and she’s been in this non no-kill shelter for several months. The way we saw it, we had to adopt her, because no-one else was going to. She has a mullet, she sleeps in bed with us, and she’s clumsy as all hell. A good cat.

Robin was volunteering at the same shelter when she met our second cat, Rogue. Rogue was around seven. Lovable and petite. We took her home; she took a couple of months to get integrated, Kitty would kick her ass constantly. She meows a lot, she wakes us up as soon as the alarm goes off or one of us opens our eyes, and she keeps the other cats in line. All good.

We decided to stop at two cats.

Our third cat, Frisky, was two years old when we got her. She was my Grandma Fran’s cat. Her son got it for her to keep her company/keep her busy; Grandma Fran had Alzheimer’s. When Grandma Fran died, her son said he was going to put the cat to sleep. Robin and I wouldn’t have that so we took the cat. Frisky was hiding in the walls of my Grandma Fran’s apartment and we managed to flush her out. My father drove her down to DC. She got along fine with Rogue but Kitty gave her a hard time. She jumps around a lot, she’s afraid of everything, and I’ve never seen her bat back at any of the other cats. With a cat like that, three doesn’t seem so bad.

Our fourth cat was a foster that we decided to keep. Ashes. She’s a terror but she keeps things interesting. She’s a three-year-old punk, she attacks everybody, and whereas her ass is occasionally handed to her by Rogue, she keeps Kitty and Frisky on their toes. We kept her solely for the entertainment value. We’ve learned how to keep her in line if we need to – when the Nerf gun comes out she knows she went too far. But she’s always the first to greet us, she likes to play rough, and she doesn’t upset the status quo too much.

Four cats. No intention of getting a fifth. Robin’s not allowed at shelters anymore.

The Dog

And then there’s Becky. Robin manages the largest pet sitting service in DC. One of her clients died and left behind a nine-year-old rat terrier. Six pounds, she’s smaller than all of our cats. Her name’s Becky – Robin brought her home to see if I liked her.

I don’t like small dogs unless their beagles or bulldogs. A dog should be at least twenty pounds, that’s how I see it. This dog had large, beady eyes and ears that poked up. Hardly any fur and bad breath. She had a burn on her back - when she was spayed they kept a heat lamp on her for too long. She was just a beat-up, mangy looking dog.

But she loves to play fetch. Seriously, fetch for hours. One day we were having a barbeque and everyone there kept throwing the ball for Becky. She kept fetching that ball UNTIL SHE PASSED OUT. We had to take her upstairs and put her into a tub of cold water to revive her. She fetched until her body shut down.

I was a big fan of the fetching, so I let Robin adopt her. The integration was tough, because I wasn’t too down with some Becky-things, but Robin was patient me. For instance – Becky won’t go outside if it’s cold. Especially not if it’s snowing or raining. You just end up dragging her around. She won’t go to the bathroom. So we had to get her sweaters and booties.

Well, I wasn’t going to walk around with a dog wearing a sweater and booties. I refused to, actually. The first time she pissed on the rug changed my mind about that one, however. So, now I walk her with a sweater and booties.

But, like I said, it’s all about the fetching. On a hot summer day I sit on the lawn in a beach chair with a 32 of Delirium and a good book. I put some water out there for Becky and every five minutes I give the ball a toss. We stay out there like that for hours. Sometimes I’ll use the whiffle-ball bat to get the ball going nice and far. I get to practice my hitting and Becky gets to stretch her legs. It’s the perfect partnership.

She loves cheese, she loves barbeque, and she demands the attention of pretty girls. She’s a good dog.

And that’s the extended family. We currently have five animals – the cats, the bird, and the dog. No plans to get any more.

And I definitely think we’re done with the rats.

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posted by Jason at 1 Comments


This is the End

Monday, March 19, 2007

The whole purpose of this blog, when I first started it, was to tell stories about growing up in Brooklyn and going to school in Boston. January 2006 I extended that mission to include stories about moving to DC/starting a life with Robin. The year before January 2006, I wrote 260 stories. A new story every Monday through Friday. The year since, I wrote about thirty. I admit – this blog became a tenth priority, at best.

But I want to kick it up a bit more. With the first year, I had a definitive ending in sight. I graduated BU – I moved out of Boston. The End. I always felt that, by including DC stories, I really never had anywhere to go with them.

Well, now I do. And I’m going to start at the ending and tell you all about my recent engagement to Robin.

Robin and I have been together for almost eight full years. This June, by our calculation, will mark the start of our ninth year together. And we just got engaged two weeks ago. It’s not like I never considered getting engaged before. Robin and I were both resistant to marriage at different times. A collection of reasons. We’re too young, our commitment to each other without legal obligations says more than anything else, we don’t want to have kids yet, anyway – we always had excuses on hand.

Not like the excuses ever really satisfied anyone. My parents would occasionally rib us a little – Robin’s mom would occasionally have too many drinks and flat out ask me when I was going to propose. This was usually funny, unless she did it in front of Robin’s father. Then it became uncomfortable.

Internally, I kept setting deadlines for myself. The first one was: “I’ll propose once we get out of debt.” Well, we got out of debt. Robin and I were having some issues incorporating our families into our lives and I said to myself, “Well, after we get the family stuff ironed out.” Well, we all get along fine now. It became a joke; I’d laughingly tell my friends, “We’ll get married after I get my first helicopter.”

The final deadline I set for myself was, “We’ll get married after I sell my first book.” As someone who wanted to write his whole life, I knew the odds of me ever selling a book were slim-to-none. And then I sell Postcards to Random House, biggest publisher in America, a literal dream-come-true.

And I said to myself, “Fuck, maybe I should propose.”

I decided to do it in Italy. Of course, I wrestled with my decision for several months. I kept finding reasons why Robin and I will never work in the long term. Important stuff like “she doesn’t like comics” and “we can never share a bottle of wine because she doesn’t like reds.” I fought through all of these issues and picked out the perfect ring…

…and the ring was well into the five-figures. And just like that I had another excuse – I needed to be able to afford this ring. Cash. I convinced myself that this was the only ring for Robin, the only one she deserved. I was being a good boyfriend. There was another, more affordable, ring I liked but I would not settle for second best.

For my birthday Robin took me out to this wonderful Italian restaurant in Georgetown. After several glasses of wine (I was drinking Chianti, she was drinking chardonnay, of course) Robin says, “You know – I heard Venice is a great city to get engaged in.”

It’s funny how one sentence can get you to instantly stop playing games. For the first time in our eight years together, Robin and I jibed. We both wanted to get married at the same time. I got real serious, real fast – so serious that I got angry at her for “ruining my plans” – and I managed to convince her that I feel we’re simply not ready for marriage yet. I laid out some issues we still need to work through. And, since it was my birthday, she couldn’t get mad about them.

It was perfect – and she left that restaurant convinced that I had no intentions of proposing.

I ordered the ring that night. It was from a jeweler in Florida specializing in antiques and replications that a broker found for me. It was a replica 1910 Edwardian inspired platinum ring. A good rock in the middle and a crown of smaller diamonds clasping it into place. The crown was an important feature, one that I was specifically looking for. Robin’s my princess, she knows it, and she always tells me to buy her a tiara one day. I made sure that her engagement ring had a tiara embedded into it.

Getting the ring was a bit of a nightmare. I wanted it fast because, if it sucked, I could return it and get a new one. I paid extra for rush-resizing (I sized it by using one of her existing rings) and rush-delivery. That was on a Wednesday. I should have received shipping notification, at least, by that Friday. I was in New York that weekend and decided to call the jeweler. I got some lady on the line that was telling me to calm down and if there was a problem, they’d call me. I reiterated that I needed the ring by next Thursday at the latest and she said she understands that.

Now it’s the following Wednesday. I leave for Italy on Friday. I still don’t have a ring. I still don’t have a tracking number. So I call the jeweler again and get the same chick on the line. She “remembers me” and tells me, once again, that if there’s a problem they’ll call me. I ask to speak to shipping. She transfers me, I’m on hold for five minutes, and then a guy gets on the line, probably not from shipping, and says, “Mr. Rodriguez, we’re so sorry. We’re sending the ring overnight right now.”

I got the ring at my office the next day.

I also ordered this crystal/Faberge Egg looking ring box. For some reason, I got it in my head that Venice was known for their Faberge Eggs. The plan was to go to some market, put this ring box amongst a sea of Faberge Eggs, and say, “Hey, we should get one while we’re here – how about this one?” She grabs it, opens it up – surprise! Engagement ring!

Imagine my surprise when I get to Venice and I don’t see a solitary Faberge Egg.

My improvised plan was essentially, “Fuck it – we’re in Venice.” Because, honestly, being in Venice, in-and-of-itself, makes for a great engagement story.

We went to dinner at a place called Trattoria alla Madonna. It was off the beaten path a bit. Nothing flashy – the place where the gondoliers went to eat after getting off of their shift. There was an American there, Mike. He asked us how we knew about this place and I told him it came highly recommended. Mike comes to Italy twice a year and he proceeded to give us recommendations for restaurants in Florence while helping us with the food choices on our menu.

I played football in high school; I realize when someone’s throwing a block. As Robin’s back is turned towards Mike I pull the Faberge Egg out of the pocket and put it on the table. Robin turns back around, sees the egg, and asks, “What’s this?” She opens it up, sees the engagement ring, and asks, “What’s this?” I ask her to marry me. She says, “Really?” I say, “Yes.” She says, “Are you sure?” I say, “You know, you’re freaking me out a bit.” She starts to cry and says yes, I put the ring on her.

I apparently convinced her that I was never going to propose to her. Also, she thought the Faberge Egg had sugar packets in it.

The ring doesn’t fit. I resized it at least a size too big, I gather. She has to wear it on her middle finger.

After dinner we walked over the Rialto Bridge to a wine bar situated right at the base and called our parents and siblings. Everyone was excited. Everyone probably knew about it, too.

My family certainly knew. I had to call Robin’s brother to get her father’s cell phone number so I can ask permission, so Robin’s family probably knew. I also told a lot of my family and friends as well as a bunch of coworkers at my day job and in comics that I was going to propose. So, it probably wasn’t much of a surprise to anyone.

At any rate – we’re engaged. I want to get married next Spring, Robin wants to finish school first before she even starts planning the wedding so she’s thinking the following Spring. At any rate, it’s going to be one hell of a party.

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posted by Jason at 2 Comments


Making the Most

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

This is a Tuesday story. I posted a Monday story as well. Real quick, though, I'm interviewed at Scryptic. Go, read it. But, more importantly, the complete Elk's Run is available in Previews. I edit this book, I love this book - the print rights were purchased by Villard (a division of Random House) and the book comes out in March. Go tell your comic shop. Now.
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This coming Saturday is my company Christmas party. In the movies (and on TV), company Christmas parties tend to look like a good time. Young(er) people getting drunk, photocopying asses, and making out in the storage closet. When you work in defense, your parties aren’t like that at all. You usually end up going to same hotel and eating the same food and listening to the same DJ and making fun of the same people.

So you have to make the most of it.

December 2000 I went to my first holiday party. Robin even came in from Boston to go accompany me. This was shortly after I got my first big win at TAO so I was a little bit of a big shot; 22-year-old kid brings in a mid-six-figure contract four months into his time at the company. A lot of the folks at the party knew of me and wanted to meet me – it was exciting (and Robin was impressed as well).

The food was good, the drinks were free for the first two hours (but Robin and I crashed the wedding next door where the drinks were free all night), and as the old folks started to trickle out the young(er) folks danced a bit. Mainly Robin and I. At the time the next youngest person in the whole company was mid-thirties (and that’s including administrative staff).

I worked for an OLD company.

But we had fun and come December 2001 we were ready for another good time. Robin’s company party was at her office – it was fine but, you know. Meh. Mine was at the same hotel again. Same menu. Same attendees. Same DJ. Same music. My boy Mike was at TAO now as well – Robin and I thought we had someone young to hang with until he ate some ravioli made with some pesto (after the waiter told him there were not nuts) and Mike had to get rushed to the hospital.

Robin and I got liquored up and danced by ourselves again.

December 2002 was the same thing. Again. Except this time Mike didn’t almost die.

December 2003 was the supposed to be the same thing. But, having enough of the blahs, I got up on the dance floor and sang James Brown’s, “I Feel Good.” I was shaking my hips and doing spits – making suggestive eyes to my old-ass coworkers’ wives and getting them to giggle. Most of the people at the part apparently hated it but, whatever, I felt good. I knew that I would.

December 2004 and I was no longer at TAO. After a 6-month stint at one or the largest defense contractors in the world I found myself at an employee-owned company making good money. Our party was at a cramped restaurant, I was only working at the company for two weeks so my interaction with folks was low – I didn’t really know anybody except for the two folks I came over to the new place with.

But it was a new atmosphere, new food options, and new conversations. No dancing, however, and after the party a bunch of my coworkers made their way to the bar but I didn’t go over there with them – Robin and I just headed home.

The company realized that we’re getting too big for a restaurant thing so Christmas 2005 we were on a dinner cruise. We sailed the Potomac while eating food and dancing. The car was open all night and the younger folks (and my current company is MUCH younger) got wasted. After the cruise we went to a bar in Alexandria and drank some more. Good times for all.

However, a bunch of the older folks at the company didn’t like the fact that they were trapped on a boat for four hours so this year we’re not on a cruise.

We’re in a hotel.

The same hotel my Christmas parties at TAO were in.

And I’m sure the parties will be there from now on until I retire.

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Where’s the snow?

Monday, December 04, 2006

Today’s the first day I brought my winter jacket out of the closet and it was mainly for stylish reasons – I could have easily gotten away with a sweatshirt. Where’s the snow? The sub-zero weather? We’re digging into December now and I’m still biking around with a fleece on.

Didn’t it seem to get colder earlier when we were kids? I remember going sleighing in December with my pops. Prospect Park – we’d pack up a thermos of hot chocolate and bring the wooden sled as well as the red, round sleds; the ones that spun out of control all the way down the hill.

My dad would always bundle me up until I was sweating. We’d be with my cousin Luis and start with the smaller hill – the baby hill. Two of us would sleigh down the hill while the other watched over the hot chocolate thermos. We’d try to be goofy about it – sleighing down the hill on my dad’s shoulders or something similar. I remember that there was this creek that was quite a few tens-of-yards out from the bottom of the slope – it was nearly impossible to get enough momentum going to get close to that creek yet every time I went down that hill I was afraid I was going to fall in.

We’d always warm-up on the baby hill a bit, gearing up for the real reason we went to Prospect Park when it snowed – Suicide Hill.

Suicide Fucking Hill. I’d come running out of my bedroom the Saturday morning after it snowed BEGGING my dad to take me to Suicide Hill. That hill was monstrous as a kid – the fact that you had to walk up a staircase to get to the top of it was mind-boggling. There’d be a line of kids walking up that staircase, each of us taking a step at a time, watching kids fly down that hill packed so densely that collisions were routine.

Suicide Fucking Hill. You’d get to the top of the hill, get a good running start, and take off with that sled beneath you. There was nothing worse than a bad takeoff on Suicide Hill – the kind where you tumble off of your sled and roll down the hill for a while. You try to regain your footing but kids are aiming for you, taking out your legs and getting you to flip on your as. If you fell of your sled going down Suicide Hill you’d end up at the bottom ten minutes later with open wounds, bruises, and a mild concussion.

Suicide Fucking Hill. Going down face first on a wooden sled was the best – snow kicking up and making your face freeze. You couldn’t see a thing like that; between the chunks of eyes depositing in your eyes and your face being stretched back from the colossal speeds you flew blind all the way down, taking out kids as they scramble for their misplaced sled.

The funny thing about Suicide Hill is the fact that, come spring time, it looks like a baby hill. Seriously – I remember looking at Suicide Hill without snow on it and being so disappointed, you could hardly get a good roll going down the hill when it was grassy. For some reason snow made that damn hill a Black Diamond. The place to be in Brooklyn after a snowstorm.

Suicide Fucking Hill.

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I Said Daily, I Meant Daily

Friday, December 01, 2006

Busy day and I really don’t have a story ready. So I’ll just freestyle a couple of holiday-themed anecdotes.

Christmas 2001 Robin came to visit me from Boston. She took the bus, 8-hours, and was spent by the time she got in. She gets to DC only to discover that I didn’t buy a tree. We went to Cleveland Park to see if we could find someone selling a tree. There was some organic mart with these little four-footers out front so we purchased one. We couldn’t take it on the metro so I just said I’d carry it home – it was only two one metro stop, after all, probably a little over a mile walk, and the tree was light. Well, after walking three blocks, uphill, I realized I made a very big mistake. Not wanting to look like a wuss, however, I continued to carry it all the way home. The anguish on my face was apparent because every five minutes Robin would ask, “Are you sure you don’t want me to carry it?”

_____________________________

One year Santa came to my grandma’s house. I knew “Santa was in our hearts” at this point so I asked my mom who was playing Santa.

“What do you mean? That’s Santa.”

No-one would tell me. I don’t think it was a family member, I remember as a kid thinking it was my Grandfather but then my Grandfather showed up. Looking at pictures of the Santa, now, I still have no idea who he was. I don’t think his red nose was from the cold, though – Santa looks drunk in those pictures.

____________________________

Speaking of grandma’s house, we’d always have a big Christmas Eve thing there where all seven brothers and sisters (plus the grandparents) would give gifts to all of the nieces and nephews. So, the night before Christmas you were guaranteed at least seven presents and they were always the things on your list that “Santa didn’t get a chance to make,” so they weren’t shitty gifts at all.

The adults would torture us. They’d set some time for us to open the presents and it was always hours away. When the time came they’d start taking pictures of us and setting up cameras and finding all these excuses to hold us up even more.

Let’s put this into perspective. The cousins consisted of me, my sister, Luis, Andy, Amanda, Samantha, Keisha, Tatum, Christina, lil-Mike, and, on occasion, big Mike from Arizona. Eleven kids. Each kid gets a minimum of seven presents. There were at least 77 presents under that tree and the adults just kept fucking with us. 77 wrapped-up presents waiting to be torn open. And my mom was using her spit-finger to wipe peanut butter off of my face so I’d look good for pictures.

Torture.

_____________________________

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Christina Aguilera Need to Learn About Meddling Kids, Hoola-Hoops, and Onion Rings

Thursday, November 30, 2006

My mom called me last night to remind me to watch the tree lighting ceremony on TV. I started watching it a bit late, I caught Sara McLachlan’s rendition of Happy Christmas (War Is Over) which went right into Christina Aguilera singing a song from her new album. The song was called Hurt and, as far as I can tell, it’s about a girl that chases away her boyfriend and the boyfriend could possibly be dead now. Not sure.

And while she was singing this song, Sasha Cohen was figure skating.

And then they lit the tree.

And I watched this, mouth agape, and wondered, “What the fuck does this have to do with Christmas.”

It was a depressing song. I mean, seriously:

There's nothing I wouldn't do
To have just one more chance
To look into your eyes
And see you looking back


Does that say “Christmas” to anyone? Only depressed people and they’re the ones killing themselves on Christmas – they’re probably not even watching the tree lighting ceremony. Would it have really hurt Christina Aguilera to sing, I don’t know, Jingle Bells? Oh Christmas Tree would have been a nice lead-in to the lighting of the tree.

It drove me nuts. But it also inspired me to bump back the story I had planned today and focus a bit on Christmas Music.

There are three Christmas albums I remember from my childhood. I used to get them out in December and play them on my little Fisher Price record player. Sitting under the tree, hot chocolate, cookies, and a Star Wars sleeping bag.

A Scooby Doo Christmas is one of the albums I remember. There weren’t any songs on it; it was a radio play of sorts where some ghost was scaring kids at an orphanage for some reason. Scooby Doo and pals get called in to solve the case and it turns out the ghost was some old man who would have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for the meddling kids. I kind of remember Santa showing up in the end although I don’t know why. And I remember one of the clues being footprints in the snow.

A Chipmunk Christmas was another one. My parents hated that goddamn record, mainly because I kept playing Christmas Time Is Near over and over again. It would drive me mad, too, if all I heard was a high-pitched voice singing “Christmas, Christmas, time is near; Time for joy and time for cheer,” ever couple of seconds. I liked the song because one of the Chipmunks sang something like, “Me, I want a hooollllaaa-hoooooppp.” I loved that line. And then all the Chipmunks started fighting and Alvin got punished in the end – classic!

A Disney Christmas is the last album I remember and I still love that record to this day. The entire Disney family singing The 12 Days of Christmas was one of my favorite childhood memories. The song got more chaotic with every verse and towards the end Goofy belts out my favorite line, “Fiiivvveeee Onion Ringsssss.” God that cracked me up as a kid (I was easily amused).

For our first Christmas together Robin got me a working Fisher Price record player. Well, “working.” It plaid the records but the sound was modulating like mad. I got the old records from my parents and we sat in front of our little fake tree and listened to The 12 Days of Christmas while exchanging presents. The record kept sticking; I think we got up to the fourth day of Christmas before we gave up. But it was a nice little callback to Christmas morning as a kid.

We played the Chipmunk album next and it took about two seconds for me to get a headache. How did we tolerate that shit as kids?

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‘Tis Better to Give…

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

I know yesterday I talked all about Santa and how much I love to get presents and what not but I’ve always been a giver. When I was a kid (I’m talking four or five years old, here) I’d go rummaging through the bottom of my parent’s closets and find Christmas gifts for them – wrap them up and bring them out Christmas morning. I distinctly remember this one year I wrapped up some shoes and a purse that I found in my mom’s closet.

When I hit elementary school it was all about the crafts. Making little ornaments for mom out of clothespins and balls of cotton; begging my teacher to let me pull the trigger on the glue gun. Going to the gymnasium armed with the five bucks my mom gave me and buying her some fake diamond earrings for two bucks; using the remaining three dollars to buy a hand-made wallet for my dad and some cupcakes.

I remember making the stuff for the craft sale – the teachers put us kids to work for a day. About a month beforehand we all go through this craft catalog and pick out the items we feel we should sell. Goofy pencil toppers, Chinese finger traps, picture frames – some items required assembly and some were ready to go. When the crafts shipment came in we had to sort everything out before forming teams – each team was responsible for assembling something. Putting googly eyes on a pom-pom or putting glitter on a Popsicle stick. We were all cogs in the craft sale machine, making the items we’d end up buying for our parents for Christmas and the PTA keeps the profit.

I don’t do craft sales anymore, obviously. I have a job. I make money. And with that money comes better, more thoughtful gifts. For instance, my mom’s favorite toy as a kid was her Barbie Dream House. This was like 1963, I believe. It was destroyed when my mom’s house burnt down and she wanted one ever since. So, I got her a 1963 Barbie Dream House for Christmas one year.

I started doing right by my sister, as well. A good keyboard one year, a computer the next. Robin got spoiled, as well. Fashions, movies, musics, tickets – whatever she wanted plus some surprises every year.

But, like I said, I’m a giver. And a giver gives to those that need before he gives to those that want.

Every year since graduating college Robin and I have adopted a family in DC that couldn’t afford their own presents. We’d get everything on their kids’ lists plus some extra clothes. We’d even get some extra luxury items for the mother and gift certificates for whatever grocery store is close by.

We’d deliver the presents ourselves. One year there were two kids, the daughter was out with her father but the son was home. The boy had a ratty Playstation and he wanted a wrestling game for it. He knew we got it for him and while we sat down and talked to his mother he kept begging her to let him open it. She finally caved and me and the boy went into the kitchen to play video games together (he kicked my ass).

The mother shared with me some letters she was trying to get published by The Washington Post. Pieces she wrote about what goes on in her neighborhood every night and how nobody cares. Letters about the idiot kids that live on her block and make her son’s life hell. We’re not talking high school bullshit, we’re talking guns fired through a window as a prank and severe beatings on the way home from school. About how the cops treat her like a criminal when she calls to file a complaint. How they never followed-up with her and were never able to find her report when she called back.

I don’t know exactly why but I saw my mom. The environment was different, sure. My dad was around and he was as much a part of my life as my mom was. As far as I know, my parents never asked anyone for help – my father worked two jobs and my mom took a job when they needed the extra cash. Our neighborhood, whereas not the nicest neighborhood in Brooklyn, was tight – we had great community. But there’s something about the struggle to be a mother, I guess. Single mom, two kids, scraping to get by – writing letters to the papers because the cops don’t take her serious when she’s trying to protect her son.

Struggling. Asking complete strangers for help. Not money. Gifts. For her son. So that he can have a good Christmas. So that he can play a wrestling game on a used Playstation his absentee father bought him.

That’s a mom, you know? You put my mom in the same situation and that’d be her.

Robin and I stayed for a while. Playing video games, talking – the mother insisted we had some cake and coffee, neither of which were good but we swallowed it all down. She cried when we gave her the grocery store gift card – she thanked us nonstop as we were getting ready to go. We drove away and left them on their doorstep, the two of them smiling and waving at us.

And just like that their Christmas is over.

I’m not going to be the guy who just sits here and says that all my sins are cleansed from one evening of charity work. I’m not going to pretend that two-hundred bucks to spend at Safeway, some clothes, and a Playstation game is going to leave any sort of lasting impact on anybody. But that’s also not going to stop me from doing it every year.

I guess this is part story, part plea. I set you up by starting all warm and fuzzy. I apologize. Yes, this is a trap. But the truth is, there are families that need a break for one day. There are families with lives that are worst than yours will ever be. There are mothers out there who just want their kids to have one great fucking day but they can’t afford to give it to them and it kills them.

There’s plenty of time till Christmas. You can still adopt a family. This year we’re adopting two families. One through the Northern Virginia AIDS Ministry and one through the Arlington-Alexandria Coalition for the Homeless. I’m sure there are plenty in your own communities. See what you can do.

‘Tis better to give, after all.

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Making a List

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Ah, Amazon. Fucking Amazon. It’s so easy to make a wish list and email it to all of your friends and family. Here’s mine, in case anyone wanted to buy me a present. You click the link, find something that’s under ten-bucks, enter your password, and commit to the purchase. You don’t even need to know my address. It’s that fucking easy.

Every December I get the emails from Amazon telling me my sister or Robin or one of my boys have updated their wish lists. And every year I go and measure-up how much this person’s worth to me, and I buy them something. It’s a Christmas List broadcast to everyone in the world…

Except for Santa.

What the fuck happened to Santa? At what point was he cut out of this gift giving process?

“But Jason, Santa doesn’t exist.”

Bullshit. I tell you what – it isn’t common sense that convinced me to buy a Coach bag for Robin last year despite the fact that it wasn’t on her wish list. It was some portly mother fucker with a red nose whispering shit in my ear. That son of a bitch spends my Christmas bonus every year. Santa exists, ladies and gentlemen. He’s planted in our heads at a young age and he lives there until we die. He’s your guilt, your need to be loved and accepted. So when you’re making your wish list this year, before you click “send”, look north, tell Santa you’ve been a good boy or girl, and ask him to get you everything you want.

I don’t kid around when it comes to Santa. I never did. I don’t care how your opinion towards me is changing right now but the day someone told me Santa didn’t exist was the first day I said, “bullshit.” My parents, my scraping-to-get-by-working-two-jobs parents, didn’t buy a complete series of Star Wars figures and put the time and effort into tying them all to a string that I pulled on Christmas morning, causing the figures to erupt from the side of the couch in a ball of wondrous goodness. That shit was Santa, and nobody’s ever going to convince me otherwise.

And even when I knew Santa wasn’t a physical person that came in through our window because we didn’t have a chimney I still wrote a list for him and handed it off to my parents. Because I knew my parents couldn’t afford a Gameboy but Santa – that evil, conniving, overgrown elf – sure as hell would convince them to do it.

So I made a list. I said, “Dear Santa, I’ve been real good this year. I did good in school and I was good to my mom and dad. I don’t curse at my mom like Tony and I don’t do drugs like Rafael, and I don’t shoot at people on Halloween like that crazy-ass Jamaican Dexter over on Columbia Street. Please bring me a Cobra Terrordrome.” I always made sure I was writing that letter so that it channeled Santa through my parents. Roughly translated it said, “Dear Santa. Please appreciate the fact that I’m not a douchebag like every other kid in this neighborhood. I have a future. I’ll make money. And when you get old, I’ll put you in the retirement home that doesn’t feed you dog food.”

Make a list. Put it in an envelope. Address it to, “Santa Clause; North Pole.” Hand it to my parents. Smile.

Robin’s my primary Santa now – she gets the Amazon wish list. Before I click, “send,” however, I look to the north and say, “Santa – I’ve been a good boy this year. I haven’t cheated, I haven’t taking advantage of you while you were drunk, and I paid for that vacation you loved. Here’s my list.”

I hope you all start doing the same. It’s time to bring Santa back to Christmas.

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Deck the Halls

Sunday, November 26, 2006

For most normal people, we’re currently at the beginning of the Christmas season. I’m normal nowadays, I think – I’ve purchased a couple of presents online and put some thought into who’s getting what this year. I don’t have a tree yet, I don’t have stockings up. We’ll probably do all of that in two weeks.

When I was a kid, however, I wasn’t at all normal. I was completely queer for Christmas. I’m sure a bunch of you are reading this and thinking, “no shit, what kid wasn’t retarded for Christmas?” But I don’t think you understand how bat-shit insane I was for Christmas.

Let’s start with the decorations, shall we?

Most kids don’t give a shit about Christmas decorations – all they care about is the list for Santa, sitting on his lap to seal the deal, and Christmas morning. That’s it. But for me – the decorations represented what was to come. All of my favorite characters dressed up for the holidays – Superman with a Santa hat, Elmer Fudd hunting in the snow, Spiderman with a sack of presents. It was all of the characters I lived with everyday except they were fighting crime of kiwing wabbits, fuck that, they were getting presents. And, as a kid, that shit was exciting.

Because of this excitement I’d start bothering my father to bring the Christmas decorations up from the basement in September. The start of school was the beginning of the Christmas season for me. My dad would bring them up – they were stored in this Peanuts’ pinball machine box – and I’d go through all of them. I’d see which ones were broken and fix them up after crying for about ten minutes. Our porcelain superman ornament would have a broken body part every year – gluing it back together would become a family event. We had this hollowed out egg with a picture of Santa painted on it; every year I’d take it out of the box and expecting it to be broken. It remained intact for most of my childhood – it finally broke when I was around sixteen; I dropped it.

My favorite decoration was this clay ice skater with my name on it that my Grandma Fran made for me. It was always the first ornament we hung on the tree on the highest branch. That worked out well for the first eleven years, until my sister was born, and she got jealous over all of the pomp and circumstance around my decoration.

So I already had the decorations out. The day after Thanksgiving, for me, was all about getting that tree and I’d harass my pops until he took me to get one.

Another tradition in my family was getting a “Charlie Brown” tree. We (and by “we” I mean me and my mom) purposely looked for the ugliest tree imaginable, the one that no-one would want to buy. Again, this tradition went smoothly until my sister was born. I’ll never forget the year we went Christmas tree shopping and decided on a tree with a big-ass bald spot on the backside. My mother and I fell in love. My sister cried all the way home.

The following year I was off in college when the family went tree shopping. My father and my sister teamed up and purchased a nice, full tree. This time my mom was supposedly crying all the way home.

My father would always set up the tree the night he brought it home. I wasn’t allowed to decorate it, though. According to my father the tree had to have time to “open up” before you were allowed to decorate it. Years later Robin and I would buy our first tree together (keep in mind I was 22 at the time). We took it home and set it up. Robin starts to decorate it and I stop her, telling her we’re supposed to let it “open up” over night. She tells me I’m crazy so I call up my dad to confirm. My dad tells me, “No, I just told you that because I wanted to have a beer and watch some football, instead.”

I then realized that the tree always seemed to “open up” about three hours before Monday Night Football started.

My dad would put on the lights and I’d hang most of the decorations (some were reserved for my mom). I’d put the star on the tree; we actually have a picture of me putting the star on the tree from every year, wearing the same ratty-ass Santa hat. Stockings and other decorations would go up – the Frosty the Snowman candle that I partially ate when I was one, the plastic Rudolf that would go in the window, and, of course, this mechanical minx in a Santa outfit that always went in my room. She wasn’t an elf, she wasn’t Mrs. Clause – she was like Santa’s jailbait niece and I had one hell of a crush on her. The movie Mannequin only made the situation worse. I’d lay in bed and stare at that girl as she shook her little ass and I’d pray to Santa saying, “Santa – listen, I know I said I wanted a gameboy but if you can make that girl come to life I’ll be extra good next year. I promise.” I was 11 at the time, I knew Santa was “in our hearts,” but I’d still pray for that chick to come alive.

Never happened. Probably for the best, it’d make for a great “first time” story but I’d likely be locked up for telling it.

“But it was a Christmas Miracle, dammit! A Christmas Miracleeeeeee!!!!!”


As I got older I started decorating my own room as well. This consisted of throwing lights and fake icicles all over the place. Looked like shit. I continued that tradition in college. Looked like shit and distracted my pot smoking friends when we used my room for our smoking sessions.

“Duuuddee…you know what’d be sweet? If that mechanical chick came to life and totally fucked us!”

“Don’t go near her, dude, she’s mine. She’s been mind since I was, like, nine and shit. You don’t know us; don’t judge us!”

Robin and I just do a tree and stockings now. She tries to put costumes on our pets and they hate us for it. We put our presents out weeks in advance and by the time Christmas rolls around we have a good idea of what’s in every box (except for the year she surprised me with an X-box, that mother fucker was out for weeks and I had no idea what it was). No lights on the windows, no half-eaten candles. The mechanical floozy still stays in the bedroom but I’m not allowed to stare at it while we have sex.

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Black Friday Gifts

Friday, November 24, 2006

This year I celebrated Black Friday by going to the Gamestop in the Ballston mall at 2PM to see if they had any Nintendo Wiis left. The guy gave me a cold, dead stare and said, “no.” I went to Chevy’s with my coworker and had a beer and some fish tacos before going back to work.

Black Friday!

I honestly didn’t even know what the fuck Black Friday was until I met Robin. Thanksgiving 1999 I was in NYC and she was in Framingham – I called her the Friday after Thanksgiving to learn that she’s been shopping since 6AM. I thought she was fucking nuts – who the hell goes shopping at 6AM? Apparently most of America does, I just never realized it.

Anyway, the following December was our first Christmas season together. We didn’t spend Christmas together (last year was actually the first year we were together on Christmas Day, our 7th Christmas) but we had a little thing the day before we left BU in my dorm room – a potted Christmas Tree and presents underneath for each of us.

I got her typical “First Christmas” stuff. Something from Victoria’s Secret. A bottle of perfume (Truest, from Tiffany’s, she still has some of it). I think there was an Indigo Girls CD thrown in there. She got me the typical presents as well: boxer shorts, a funny shirt (Superman using his X-Ray vision to see what Batman got him while thinking, “Great, another tie”), some books, and, of course, several things that she picked up on Black Friday. It was at that moment that I realized what Black Friday really was: five strong sellers discounted and extreme markdown on everything else the stores couldn’t get rid of.

It was all cute stuff, don’t get me wrong, but it was stuff that I would have never have thought to get for myself like a remote control racetrack and electronic battleship. I thought it was cool, still think it was cool, but Black Friday gifts certainly have a signature about them.

I’ve stayed away from Black Friday – never did the early morning specials thing. Robin still does it on occasion and you can still tell the Black Friday gifts. Last year it was 24 Season One. A couple of years ago it was a pair of two-way radios. A non-brand name MP3 player. Risk: Lord of the Rings Edition.

Black Friday gifts.

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Our First Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving 2000. I was living in DC and Robin was still up in Boston going to school. We decided to spend Thanksgiving together, as a couple. I really don’t remember whose idea it was but I remember my parents not being happy about the decision – this was my first Thanksgiving away from them and it wasn’t even like I was passing on the feast at Uncle Chris’ house for someone else’s big feast.

I was passing on it for Tofurky.

Ok, let’s back that up. Robin was a vegetarian when we first started dating. I believe she first went veggie back in high school, made it through college, and then tacked on a couple of more years after college as well. She kind of rubbed off on me and the second half of my senior year in college I went veggie as well, lasted about two years. When I started eating chicken and fish again, however, Robin came along with me (she still doesn’t eat any red meats).

Anyway, our first Thanksgiving feast together didn’t even consist of us gathering around a turkey. It was shaped like a turkey. Sort of. A processed turkey. And it had a drumstick with a plastic bone. You baked it in the oven, smothered it with gravy. And if you closed your eyes tight enough, it looked like a turkey.

Sure as fuck didn’t smell or taste like one.

I remember pulling it out of the oven and putting it on a plate alongside mashed potatoes, corn, stuffing, and cranberry sauce and being afraid to eat it. I thought it would taste horrible. I was surprised to learn that it actually didn’t taste horrible. It tasted like nothing. It tasted like the gravy we covered it in. Seriously, you put it in your mouth and it tasted like a chunk of gravy.

A chunk of gravy with the worst imaginable texture. The type of texture that made you gagged. And Robin and I both gagged upon trying to swallow our first bite of tofurky. Chewed it, swallowed it, and chased it down with a beer. We each took a single bite of tofurky before throwing it in the trash. Our Thanksgiving meal consisted of the fixings – we didn’t even have the foresight to buy a pie.

My family called me up to see how our Thanksgiving was going. I told my dad about the tofurky fiasco and he couldn’t help but laugh. They were eating turkey with all the fixings alongside my Grandma’s fantastic Spanish food. Everyone there was laughing and having a good time – dancing like my family always did when they got together. Watching football. Playing darts and dominos.

Robin and I found ourselves spending the evening at the apartment. My friends were out of town (and Robin didn’t actually live in DC yet) so we just had a quiet night of board games and movies.

At the time, it was sweet. Robin and I did the long distance thing for a year and when we got a chance to see each other we tried to spend as much time together as we possibly could. So lying on the futon, playing Uno, and watching Half Baked while drinking beers was a great way to spend Thanksgiving.

At the time.

In retrospect it was the worst Thanksgiving ever. I think Robin would agree.

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Making Something From Not Much

Monday, November 20, 2006

I’m down in Southern Virginia this week for wineries, postcard shopping, and Bed & Breakfasts. I’m getting some work done as well, have the laptop with me and I’m taking in the brisk air, the smells of fall – the pumpkin cake and cider – and letting the creative juices flow.

I had a memory today and, since Robin’s taking a nap, I decided to turn it into a story. I got a whiff of chlorine today while driving from Williamsburg to Petersburg. Not sure where it came from, there are chemical plants along the way, but the instant I smelled the chlorine I was reminded of this pool we had back in Brooklyn. It wasn’t a large pool by any means. It was rectangular – probably around 12-feet long by 4-feet wide and around 2-and-a-half-feet deep. My family couldn’t afford a big pool but this was really all the pool we ever needed, anyway.

We used to load up this plastic container with chlorine tabs – it would bob around in the pool and, supposedly, clean the water. There wasn’t a filter on the pool so I’m still not sure how this processed worked but all I remember is how strong that water would be after the chlorine tablet dissolved. It would sting our eyes and burn our nostrils but we didn’t care, it was still the only pool on the block.

We treated it like any other pool. We found a way to dive into it – it was more of a head-first slide but it felt nice and smooth. Cannonballs didn’t hurt your tailbone too much, either, so we’d occasionally drop a cannonball in the pool. We actually played Marco Polo in that thing – it still amazes me. It was two-on-one and the polos got to stand and the marco had to stay on his knees. We played a baseball type game where the corners of the pool were the bases. I’m sketchy on how the ball was pitched and hit, I’m pretty sure we did it stoopball style off of the metal bar that went around the top of the pool. We even played that ring toss game except the people looking for the rings at the bottom of the pool were supposed to stay on their bellies and they were supposed to keep their eyes shut.

My parents treated it like a real pool as well. We had a skimmer to pull the bugs and leaves out of the pool. A pH kit to test the water levels. My parents would have the neighbors over and they’d all sit in the pool and have beers. Cleaning the pool was the best. We’d do it every couple of months – we’d start by siphoning the water out with several hoses. Once the water level was low enough we’d lift the pool 90-degrees and rest it on its side; spray the lining with the hose and scrub it down nice. Then we’d fill it back up – we’d sit around and watch the water level rise, anxiously waiting for it to get high enough so that we can take the first dive into the crisp and clean water.

It’s just funny – how kids learn to make the most out of what they have. Is there really any basketball hoop better than a metal garbage can? We can adjust the height of the garbage pail so that we can dunk on it and write the score along the side of the can in chalk. Kids didn’t need tall rims, a net, and a painted court – we just needed something we can throw a ball into, easily, that made a cool sound when we scored.

With a rock you can scratch out a hopscotch court and then used the same rock as your tossing stone. And, yes, the boys played hopscotch mainly so we could beat the girls as a substitute for kissing. If we found a piece of plywood we’d turn it into a skateboard ramp by just resting it on top of a curb. It appeared to give us a bit of lift and provided some fun before the inevitable break that caused someone to take a face-first digger on the sidewalk.

I think the happiest days where those when we found broken or discarded city property. Traffic cones where great for slalom biking or skating; payphones were great for breaking. Every throw a payphone off of a roof? It’s like the Juggernaut vs. Blob argument except the Juggernaut fucking explodes.

Stop signs – oh God I loved stop signs. Someone crashes into a stop sign and knocks the pole clear off and you have a great room decoration and a new grind pole for your skateboard.

I remember one time my friend David and I found a discarded LP deck. A real piece of shit, it hardly worked. We brought it into the house and spent the whole day using it to scratch my old records. “Pump Up the Volume” was no longer playable after that day.

Deserted cars – holy shit. If you were real lucky there were still some unbroken windows left behind – there’s nothing more satisfying than getting that front windshield to shatter. Looking back now, I wonder how many parked cars we smashed because some kid before us broke a window and slashed the tires – we just assumed it was deserted.

We were just all about making the most out of our environment. Good, cheap, wholesome fun.

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Smart People and Stupid People

Friday, November 17, 2006

I really don’t have the time to do this but I’m going to do it anyway. Once this gets posted, I’m going to receive angry emails from at least five people demanding to know why I don’t have time for their stuff but I have time for this. Honestly, sometimes I just need to write, and that’s what I’m going to do.

I hang around Digital Webbing still. I have nothing against the place, occasionally I find an artist with potential there and, sometimes, I’ll find a writer that deserves a boost. But that’s honestly not the only reason I hang around there. The other reason I hang around there comes from one of the two pieces of advice my first boss gave me the day I left my job at TAO.

I worked at TAO for about four years. I was getting bored with the technical life, I wanted to do more marketing and managing (plus I honestly thought TAO was trying to sell themselves), so I signed on with a headhunter and I let him find me a new place. Within a week he sets me up with an interview with a very, very large government contractor, we’ll call them BFC as in “Big Fucking Company”.

BFC had some good people working there and they saw me in a bit more of a leadership role, sort of the think-tank guy that dispatches ideas and orders to the entry level guys (which is pretty amazing considering I was only 25 at the time and, technically, still entry level). It wasn't exactly what I wanted but it came with a 20k pay raise and, well, money makes decisions a lot easier sometimes.

I put in my resignation with TAO. They asked me how much BFC offered me and I told them, they flat-out told me that they couldn’t match that and wished me luck. I filled out my exit interview with TAO and wrote how I think they’re looking to be bought out. The HR woman told me that wasn’t true – I’m only saying this because 8 months later they were bought out (and my stock in the employee-owned company, which I decided to hold on to, doubled).

Anyway, it was my last day there. Everyone takes me out to lunch – I have a prime rib smothered in horseradish, one of my favorite meals. It was a good last day, no hard feelings – I liked most of the people I worked there with, after all. After lunch was when I went into my bosses office, the VP of TAO, and he tried to impart some of his wisdom onto me. I follow his advice like the bible, in my current job and in comics.

1) Always surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. It sounds like you’re shooting yourself in the foot, right? When he first told me this I sort of smiled, thinking it was a joke. But then he explained it – if your group does well, you do well, and they’re your group and people will recognize that. And, if someone from your group gets promoted above you, that’s someone that you helped out along his or her way to the top. That person deserves to be there, they would have gotten there anyway, and now you now have a friend in a powerful position.

You apply it to comics and you see why I still hang around Digital Webbing looking for the occasional diamond in the rough, why I latched onto Josh Fialkov, and why half of Postcards is filled with writers and artists that I believe in and why I’m pumping those guys up, trying to make them stars. It’s because I surround myself with people who are more talented than I am. And, if I invest in them early, not only will I potentially make a good friend out of it and help comics and all that jazz, I’ll also have someone thanking me down the road and, hopefully, helping me get gigs if I need them.

2) You get great ideas from two sources: Brainstorming with smart people and arguing with stupid people. Brainstorming with smart people is an obvious one, but why arguing with stupid people? Because stupid people have stupid solutions and they can’t understand why they’re stupid. If you argue with them, you usually have to counter every stupid argument they make with a well thought-out, intelligent response. Oftentimes, these responses are better than the position you held earlier. In other words: stupid people make you think better.

There are smart people to brainstorm with on Digital Webbing as well as The Engine. But there are plenty of stupid people to argue with on Digital Webbing as well. Just don’t let them get to you; keep countering their stupid arguments and you’ll keep coming up with better ideas.

I follow that advice in the real-world as well, obviously. After six months at BFC (which I like to refer to as my “Comic Making Internship”, I saw the writing on the wall the day I started working there and decided I won't actually do any work) I left (along with two of my coworkers) for a large, employee owned company that I’ll call GFC, Great Fucking Company. Same salary I had at BFC, more creative work, marketing, proposal writing, and management. And I constantly surround myself with people who are smarter than me and my bonuses are thick because my group does good work. I brainstorm with these smarter people and I seek out the stupid people in the company to argue with them.

And our little group is rapidly growing.

Anyway, I realize that I came here to write a story but ended up laying down the foundation for a future “Making Lemonade” column. I’ll go now. Sorry if I haven’t been responding to your emails/finishing the work I said I’ll finish.

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The Dirtiest Secret

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Since I haven’t posted a new story in, I believe, two weeks I decided to give you all a special treat and post a story I originally decided I would never tell. It’s just too embarrassing. It’s also really gross so if you don’t like really gross stories, I suggest you don’t read this. Anyway, let’s go. I’m going to regret this, expect a story Tuesday to bump this one off the top spot.

This story actually takes place this past summer. I was in Boston, visiting my boy, Guam. I got to his place early on a Saturday – Robin dropped me off (she was visiting her family in Framingham). We made some turkey chili before meeting up with his friends to play some kickball.

We played two games of kickball. I haven’t played kickball since elementary school despite the fact that Washington DC has a large organized kickball league that all my friends played in for at least a season. I was alright – I did a good job fielding, not so good at kicking.

After kickball we went to a pub for some food and to start the drinking. We put down quite a few beers before going back to Guam’s house to pimp out for our evening of partying.

We went out to Improv Boston. Guam was hosting an improv show out there and I was coming along as the surprise guest host. We went to Bukowski’s first, had some sweet potato fries and beer. Afterwards we went to the supermarket and purchased some more beer that we drank at Improv Boston. The point is, we were drinking a lot and eating a lot of fried foods.

Anyway…

I cohosted the show with Guam. It was a good time. I was so drunk that I made fun of an albino kid by calling him “super-white” and told the audience that cops can, “smell the spic in me.” After the show we finished off the two six packs we purchased and went back to Bukowski’s for some more beers and some more sweet potato fries.

After Bukowski’s we went to another bar where we met up with Guam’s improv peeps. This part of the night was a bit of a blur. I remember wanting to fight one of Guam’s friends because I thought he was ignoring me. I remember comparing my cell phone to some underage Goth chick’s sidekick. She had some weird story about how she was living in a convent. I don’t remember much beyond that, though.

Guam and I left and the Goth girl split a cab with us. I don’t know where she came from, she was 18, I think. We get back to Kenmore (where Guam lives) and the Guam thought either one of us could have had the Goth girl. Again, I have no idea where that hypothesis came from since I don’t remember shit. For all I know she was grabbing my crotch the whole ride home.

We get back to Guam’s place. I have some more chili and stay up talking to Guam while I sober up some. Guam’s working on a paper for his class; he’s not even close to drunk anymore. As soon as I feel good enough to go to bed I lay my ass down on this uncomfortable couch, the kind of couch that forces you to sleep in a fetal position.

So, let’s recap: Drunk, full of chili and fried foods, tired, and in a fetal position. I’ll beat around the bush and just say it: I shat my pants.

I shot out of bed, remembering that the combination of beer and greasy foods is enough to give the strongest stomach diarrhea and that laying in a “relaxed asshole” position probably didn’t give me a fucking chance of catching this one before it blew.

I run into the bathroom. Much to my embarrassment, Guam is still awake. He says nothing. Yet.

I clean up. I start washing my underwear in the tub and it’s the grossest thing imaginable. I shower off – I won’t get into every little detail but it was kind of like the chocolate waterfall in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory except not as sweet and delicious, I’d imagine.

I get out of the shower, dripping wet. I crack the door open and…

“Guam?”

“What’s up?”

“Listen. I need a garbage bag, a towel, and I need you to promise you won’t ask me any questions.”

A minute later Guam hands me a garbage bag and a towel. Much to my relief he asks me no questions. I put my underwear and pajama bottoms in the plastic bag and tie it up tight. Wrap the towel around me and throw the bag away in the hallway. Come back in put some fresh underwear on. All the while I’m avoiding eye-contact with Guam but he’s just following me around like a friend concerned. Straight faced and waiting for me to ask for some help.

I sit back down on the couch; I probably looked fine, because it all comes out at that point.

“Dude. Did you just shit your pants?”

We both start laughing uncontrollably. Between gasps of breaths he manages to get some more cracks out, “Good thing you didn’t bring that Gothic chick back here, she would have fucked the shit out of you,” stuff of that nature. We finally calm down enough for me to ask him if he had a bucket I could borrow, I’m going to try and go to sleep again. He doesn’t have a bucket but he gives me a big pot.

The next morning Guam and I are quiet, like two friends who are embarrassed that we just shared a “pants shitting” moment. While I’m packing up Guam’s straightening up his place. He picks up the pot and says, “I’m glad you didn’t have to use this.” I tell him that I wasn’t really queasy last night to which he says, “No, I mean as a bedpan.”

We both start cracking up again. I make him promise to never tell anyone about what happened that night (and here I am writing about it on a website). I doubt he kept his promise; he came close to telling folks at the barbeque the next day. We’d just look at each other and start laughing and people would say, “What?” and Guam would ask, “C’mon, can I tell them?” I wouldn’t be surprised if all of Boston knows about this by now.

Anyway, there you go. Probably the lowest I’ve ever been. I haven’t been drinking much since then, realizing that I may have a little bit of a problem. Puke is one thing. We all puke – that shit happens. The moment you drink too much and shit your pants is the moment you say, “I can become an alcoholic or I can’t slow down the drinking.”

I decided to slow down the drinking.

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...

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Within my first year at TAO we moved from our run-down offices in McLean, Virginia to a swankier setup in Reston. Further west, cheaper real estate. I was now taking two trains and a bus to work which was a pain in the ass but we had a much nicer spread and there were better lunch options/happy hour bars nearby. One of the new lunch joints was this Korean deli right in the lobby of our building – I’d go there almost every day for some breakfast and once or twice a week for lunch.

I was in the deli eating a cheese omelet, talking with my boy, Max, when the first plane hit.

The deli always had NPR playing over the radio. I remember the report first stating that a plane crashed into one of the twin towers; that the details weren’t known yet – the reporter was talking about the time a plane crashed into the Empire State Building and saying that that was on a foggy day. Despite the fact that there wasn’t a cloud in the sky on this morning, everyone thought it was an accident. Max and I, both native New Yorkers, listened intently but not overly worried. We both admitted that it was fucked up but in that boyish way – the one where we have a little smile on our face because the whole scenario seemed unreal. Like it wasn’t really happening. We were picturing the monologue Dave Letterman would eventually give once they found out the pilot was drunk – we harkened back to the jokes we whispered as pre-teens when the Challenger blew up.

As of that morning, we still dealt with tragedy by making light of it and thanking God that it wasn’t happening to us.

And then the second plane hit.

We weren’t smiling anymore. We weren’t talking about bullshit prop-jobs flown by millionaire playboys with too many gin and tonics coursing through their veins. I remember Max saying it first, “This isn’t an accident.”

We cleared our trays and went up to the office.

Our coworkers were already setting up TVs and radios in several offices – huddling around them. I ran into an office and saw the images on the TV for the first time – the smoking buildings. Bob, my boss, asked me if I had any family working in the Trade Center. Shit sinks in – my entire family lives in New York. A lot of my friends, too. I run to the phone and begin dialing but no-one is answering; I’m getting “all circuits are busy” messages. Calling my dad’s cell. The home line. Whoever’s phone number I remembered. But nothing was getting through.

So I start shooting out emails and frantically checking to see if anyone responded. Going back and forth between my office (which had a radio) and the office next door (where there was a TV). I didn’t even try to call Robin – she was at work – started her new job in Washington DC about two weeks ago – and the day’s events didn’t really concern her.

But then the plane hit the Pentagon and I couldn’t get in touch with her, either.

We didn’t have cell phones at the time. I was trying to call her office but getting busy signals and error messages. Robin’s parents somehow got in touch with me – got through to my office line – and they were asking me if Robin’s alright. I told them I was trying to call her but I wasn’t having any luck. I told them that she’s probably fine, her office isn’t near the Pentagon or the Capitol – she was in Northwest DC and there’s nothing but apartment buildings up there.

I hear Max scream my name from the office next door.

I go inside to see a cloud a smoke and a message across the bottom of the screen that says one of the towers possibly collapsed. The room was silent.

The second tower collapsed and that’s when I started crying.

I grew up in Red Hook – directly across the water from The Towers – you could see them from almost any block in my neighborhood. I’d bring dates up to the roof of our building and we’d watch the sunset over the Manhattan skyline and the Towers were always right there. Sitting up there with my father on the 4th of July and watching the fireworks reflected off of them.

There has never been anything more real in my life than when those towers collapsed.

I’ve been through a lot of deaths. Those of you who’ve read this site last year know about all of them. My Uncle Alex, my Godfather, died of complications due to AIDS when I was in college. My cousin Steven – not even a teenager – also died as a result of the AIDS virus. My Uncle Michael, my confirmation sponsor, died two days after Christmas when his liver shut down. Nanny and Uncle Joe both died from emphysema.

But there has never been anything more crushing in my life, more shocking, than when those towers collapsed.

I finally get in touch with Robin. The news down here in DC was going ape shit. We’re hearing rumors of truck bombs going off outside the State Department building and snipers on the Washington Monument taking out suicide bombers on the lawn. Everyone is freaking out. Reports are leaking in about a plane crashing in Philadelphia – it turns out that one is true.

I’m calling Robin every thirty minutes while trying to get in touch with my parents. It takes about four hours but I finally talk to them – my mom’s crying and I can hardly get a word out of her. I find out everyone’s alright – my only relative who worked at the Trade Center was still on his way to work when the first plane hit. He was stuck on a bus in the Battery Tunnel – he climbed out of the window and walked to my parent’s house.

All of my relatives who worked in Manhattan were either at my parent’s house or on their way there. We were the only ones within walking distance of Manhattan – if you take the tunnel we’re only several miles from the Trade Center.

My mom was in the neighborhood when the first plane hit. My father was actually in Brooklyn Heights – right at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge – drinking a coffee – he heard and saw the plane hit, you couldn’t get a clearer view of the attack from Brooklyn. He went to pick Elizabeth up at school immediately.

My parents were telling me that there were papers all over the neighborhood from the towers – they drifted across the river and peppered our streets and back yard. They still have a stack of charred documents and post-it notes they picked up. They can’t bring themselves to get rid of it.

I started hearing from my friends, as well. Everyone was ok and walking back to Brooklyn.

The news was settling down. There was no bomb at the State Building. No suicide bombers on the Mall. Robin tells me she’s going to start walking back to the apartment.

There was this guy Ralph from my job – he was a real douchebag. I’m sitting in my office with a coworker, listening to the radio, and he comes in with a work-related question. My coworker just kind of looks at this guy and tries to answer. I wanted to say something, you know – I really despised this guy and I wanted to call him a cunt and remind him that we’re currently under attack – that people are dying and suffering and worrying right now.

But I held my tongue. I knew if I got started I would have knocked him out. Someone would have had to of pulled me off of him. I was too angry to get into a fight with anybody.

At around 3PM Max tells me he’s going to try and drive home. We both live in DC – all of the major bridges are closed off but we take a back way – Chain Bridge down through Embassy Row. It was surreal – every embassy had sentries standing out front – there were police everywhere and checkpoints at major intersections.

Max drops me off at home. Robin’s already there, watching the television. I go straight to my balcony – we were in Southwest at the time and I could see the Pentagon smolder from out there. The streets were empty – dead quite. Everyone was inside, in front of their televisions. I was watching the Pentagon burn and feeling helpless.

Our phone rings. Robin’s grandfather passed away. He’s been sick – Robin’s mother tells her that they wouldn’t let him watch the news – they hid the day’s events from him because they didn’t want him to see what was happening to his country. He was a WWII vet – he lost a brother in the war – and his last days shouldn’t be spent seeing all of this.

Robin wanted to go to Boston the next day – take a train. I agreed at first but as the day went on, I realized it was impossible. The planes were grounded – the trains weren’t even running and when they got back up everyone trapped away from home was going to try and get home. I had to tell Robin this. It was hard – she was saying she’ll go without me – but she eventually comes around and realizes that I’m right. Maybe I was being chicken-shit; part of me still feels like she blames me for missing her grandfather’s funeral. I think I’d blame her if it was the other way around.

Chicken-shit. That’s what I became after September 11th. I was a bleeding heart liberal before the attack. Now all I wanted was blood. I cheered when we bombed Afghanistan. We went out and bought our first car to help support the American economy. We bought cell phones so if we were attacked again; we had a means of communicating with each other. I supported the war with Iraq. I supported the Patriot Act.

On a flight to Florida I saw a man in full Muslim dress make his way to the bathroom. He was in there for a while so I reported him to the flight attendant. The flight attendants knocked on the door until he came out and then searched the bathroom.

Chicken-shit.

It’s really fucked up how easily I was manipulated – how easy a lot of us were manipulated. I had the fear for a long time. I was checking the news non-stop – hitting refresh every ten minutes at work in case something happened. It’s not until I got a hold of myself – until the fear left – that I realized how much I helped fuck things up. There’s no redemption at that point – I can rally against the administration and make fun of Fox News all I want but no matter how much I lash out I know I’m only trying to cover up my own mistakes.

I can look back at September 11th now and see it for it was. The worst attack to ever happen to this country. The most heartbreaking and terrifying morning of my life. An event that made me realize how much I love my friends, family – Robin – and how I can’t stand the thought of losing any of them.

I realize how helpless and insignificant we are – how our lives are controlled and manipulated by people with more power than us, on both sides. And it’s better to love the ones in my life than to spend time wondering when powerful men were going to kill me.

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Don't Hate. Legislate.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Everyone's doing it, I noticed Fossen doing it first.



In case you have no idea what that's in reference to, read the most read story on the MITC.
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Here’s a little fact none of you know, I sort-of-kind-of came up with the idea behind Civil War. Yup, it was my second horrible pitch I sent into Epic back when I first decided to make comics.

It was called “The Legislation”. Essentially, all of the superheroes (and some of the villains), began to feel inadequate – everything they were doing to “serve and protect” wasn’t really accomplishing anything. So, one-by-one, they started running for public office in order to serve the greater good. The Legislation kicked off at a time where everyone in the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government had superpowers.

But all they ever did was fight each other. The book opened on Magneto and Havok sitting towards the back of the Capitol (out of costume, of course) while Northstar filibustered some bill. Havok has enough so he stands up and blasts Northstar. Next thing you know a huge battle breaks out and the heroes destroy the Capitol. Again. The first issue ends with the Silver Surfer coming back to earth to enlist the help of the heroes only to discover that he needs to make them remember who they really are first.

It is, without a doubt, the worst idea ever that has ever been pitched to Marvel.

And I got my rejection letter within two weeks (before I got my rejection letter for Ask).

Let me backtrack a bit. What motivated me to submit a superhero story was reading a thread on X-Fan where the then-Epic submissions editor, Stephanie Moore, said that they were more inclined to green-light stories that feature their existing intellectual property. So this is what I came up with. Super Senators.

At least this time I sent the pitch to my boy Guam so he can look it over firs. Guam, I should add, never read or wrote a comic script in his life. He read it and told me he didn’t get it. So I changed a couple of things and sent it in without showing it to anyone else. You know, because there just wasn’t TIME to show anyone. They were getting MILLIONS of submissions a day. MILLIONS! And I need to get mine in ASAP. I was overnighting these submissions, no shit, hoping I’d get the edge over a couple of cats.

I still have the rejection letter at home (I have all my rejection letters). I forgot to include a self-addressed stamped envelope with my submissions (because I was in a rush to get it out) and the folks at Marvel were nice enough to supply their own envelope (with Spider-Man on it) and postage. They wrote “Re: The Legislation” on the envelope. Typical form letter, nothing exciting. Addressed to "Writer”. You can see it for yourself:



It inspired me, though. I pretty much realized after sending this in that it’s really not what they were looking for. What anyone was looking for, really. But the fact that I got rejected for this, first – before Ask - that inspired me. So I set out to write my third and final pitch for Epic – a one-shot called “Turk” about a supporting character in Daredevil. I’d get into it today, but it is way too delicious to tack onto the end of a story. Next week you’ll hear all about Turk, I’ll even post the script.

But let me spend a little time talking about what the home life was like – I thought I was going to be the biggest comic writer of all time. ASK was going to be approved, I knew it. Despite the fact that there were no Marvel characters in it and it was way heavy on captions and I plotted and wrote it in a single day I thought that this was it. My fucking ticket to a dream I held for all of three weeks.

Robin put up with me. “Ok, love. Don’t quit your job yet.” It’s funny what our women put up with – I try to wonder how I’d respond if Robin came to me telling me she wanted to be something along the lines of “comic writer” – how I’d respond. I’m a dick, so I’d probably say, “As long as you spend your own money.”

Anyway, Robin put up with a lot of me and my “comic shit”. Nodding and smiling the whole time. I’m making money in it now, though, so she can say, “I’ve believed in you from the start.” And that’s a good position for her to be in.

She still won’t let me quit my day job, though.

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Epic Failure

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Since I’m focusing on stories that take place after college (mid-2000 and beyond) I’m going to have to talk all about my decision to get into comics. I’ve floated a couple of stories around over the pass few years but The Moose in the Closet is all about honesty. So you’ll be getting the true story here for the first time and it is FULL of embarrassing fanboy moments, glorified fan-fiction, and hero worship, everything I now preach against.

The story I tell people is how I wrote a script for a sci-fi play called “Ask”, showed it to my boy Guam, and Guam said, “This is a shitty play but it’d make for a great comic book.” I researched comic companies and discovered Marvel was accepting pitches for their relaunched Epic line. I worked long and hard on an issue one script and beat sheets for the next three issues, sent it in, waited a couple of months, and got a rejection letter that was different from any other rejection letters I’ve seen on-line.

The only thing completely true about that story is that I got a rejection letter for a pitch called “Ask”. Everything else is me covering up my embarrassing decisions.

The concept behind “Ask” came from a conversation I had at lunch with my boy Max – we were talking about what superpower we’d like to have, typical lunchtime conversation. I told him that I’d like to be able to answer any question. So, if anyone asks me a question or if I ask myself a question – I’d instantly know the answer.

We got to talking about an idea for a movie that starts with the main character (who has this question-answering ability) deciding he wants to sleep with some Hollywood starlet. He does something like goes out and buys a candy bar. You then follow this chain of events that lead to the gruesome death of the Hollywood starlet’s husband and, at the end of the movie, the guy who started it all is at the right place at the right time and he has sex with the girl of his dreams.

So, he’s essentially the world’s most powerful douche.

It’s a fun concept, I might dig it back up again, and I’m sure if I put some serious energy into it I could make it sing. The version I sent into Epic, however – a twenty-two page script and four beat sheets that I wrote in…

A. Single. Day.

Reread it once. Said, “This is good enough, if they like it they’ll assign me an editor.”

I saw the call for submissions, published sometime ago, and was like, “Fuck – they probably received a MILLION submissions by now!” And I just started typing. Never wrote a comic script in my life. Fuck, never even seen one, honestly. I typed my ass off, printed it out, and mailed that shit in.

I almost instantly realized that I made a TREMENDOUS mistake. I don’t know, maybe that’s what sets me apart from other people – I know when I just did something stupid. I started, you know, learning about comic production and theory at that point. I’ve done stage and editorial writing since college, I knew how to tell a story, but I had no idea how to write a comic book.

Over the next couple of weeks I’m going to focus on the first pitches – pre-Western Tales of Terror. I ended up sending three concepts into Epic and three other sad, sad pitches before finally deciding to go at it another way.

Hopefully we have some fun over these next couple of weeks. I’ll even be posting some of the original pitches – they’re good for a laugh.

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Business Destinations: Cape Canaveral

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The best part about my first job out of college was all the business traveling. Robin was in Boston for that first year, after all, so it was either stay home, alone, or eat steaks and hang out at strip clubs every night, all on the tax-payers dollar. Some destinations were more fun than others (to this day I have a burning hatred in my soul for Aberdeen, Maryland) and some were supposed to be fun but I never had a chance to go out and play.

Fortunately, Cape Canaveral was one of those cities that were supposed to be fun and we ALWAYS found the time to play. And we went there quite often.

We didn’t stay in Cape Canaveral; we actually stayed in Cocoa Beach. Not the most family friendly beach, due to the fact that it’s kind of nasty and the strip is lined with strip clubs, but a great place for a bunch of dudes on per diem. The hotel we stayed at was a resort hotel where all the cruise lines sent people who had pre-cruise overnights. The government rate, for some reason, was retarded low – it was along the lines of sixty-and-change a night if I’m remembering correctly for a place with a huge pool, Jacuzzi, and pool-side bar for socializing. One of the better hotels I’ve ever stayed at on the company dime, the best one likely being some joint in Boca Raton that had an amazing on-site Cuban restaurant and a pimped out suite where the x-rated videos were actually, you know, rated x and not filled with simulated sex (although simulated blowjobs are really funny to watch when you’re drunk).

As far as the work we did out there – we spent the entire time on a Navy base working on a ship that goes out to sea and records the sounds submarines make when they pass underneath it. We’d do all our work in Virginia, bring it there and test it. Sometimes these tests would only take a couple of hours a day and we’d be free for the rest of the afternoon/evening to go boogie-boarding, eat fish plucked right from the ocean, and get some titties in our faces.

On one trip down there all of our shit got lost in the mail – it was delayed by three days. So we had a little vacation down in Cocoa Beach without any stress from work. We were riding go-carts at noon and lying out on the beach for hours. Hanging out at the pool-side bar and getting bombed.

One time at the pool area some chick joins me and a coworker in the Jacuzzi and starts getting super close to us. She’s in town on business, lonely – just telling us all about herself and making sure we know she’s single. Telling us about her trip to the strip club the night before. It was pretty obvious she wanted one (or both) of us. My coworker could tell I wasn’t down, I’ve never cheated on Robin, and it kind of killed the whole mood in the Jacuzzi. She eventually left and worked the pool-side bar instead. Part of me was like, “Fuck – missed opportunity at a three way” but then the other part of me was like, “Oh – with two dudes, though.” Probably why it was easy to turn her away.

Across from the hotel was a huge adult bookstore. I’d make my way there the first night of every trip and get some porno mags to keep in the bathroom. It was always weird going there, because it’s almost a guarantee you’ll see a coworker there. Fuck, sometimes you go with one, you know? And there’s nothing more awkward than finding out what kind of porn your boss likes, let me tell you. My boss – skinny white dude with glasses – apparently loved black chicks.

Brown sugar, baby. Brown sugar.

The food was great, too. Fresh fish was all I ate for dinner. For lunch we went to Frankie’s for Buffalo wings – 10 levels of hotness. I was able to comfortably eat level-7. I tried level ten’s sauce once and almost died. For the fish – I was all about the mahi. One time I ordered it and the waitress said they were out. She then looked out the window and said, “Hold on”. Two minutes later I see her outside the window, buying mahi off of the back of some guy’s boat. I get that shit on my plate about a half-hour later.

And then there were the strip clubs. The one we went to always got packed. Every fucking night. And I’d know because we went every fucking night. One time we went with the VP of the company. This was our third night on the trip, some coworkers and I went the previous two nights. Anyway, this fucking guy walks in like he owns the place – telling us he’s going to show us how to party. Two minutes into the excursion and I’m sitting in the corner getting a multi-song lap-dance from two girls at the same time. Taking turns, rubbing up on me and each other, giving that little giggle strippers do to drive mother fuckers NUTS. Eventually the VP, who spent the second half of the night sitting at the stage and wasting dollars, tells us he’s going to go back to the hotel. I have a stripper sitting next to me as I remind him not to be late for work the next day.

Light weight.

The funniest part about the strip club is that locals would troll the floor and try to give lap dances for five bucks. Nasty women, no teeth and bad breath. Some people would even take them up on the offer. What the fuck, for ten bucks more you get that stripper skin and that smell – oh god that smell – I don’t get the folks who’d rather have grandma ride them for five bucks less.

Cape Canaveral was always a good time. It was the model of consistency. And it’s always nice to establish the baseline before spending several weeks on the OTHER places I’ve visited.

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Spain: Back Home

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

It might not seem possible, but the trip from Spain back to the states was about as horrible as the trip from the states to Spain. I was leaving a day earlier than Robin but we were both scheduled to land in Boston at the same time. Figure that one out.

Robin went with me to the airport. We make our way to the British Airway counter for my flight to Manchester only to find out they canceled my reservation. Since I ended up getting a direct US Air flight to Madrid (as a result of my US-to-Manchester flight being cancelled) and missing my Manchester-to-Madrid British Airway flight, they assumed I booked a round-trip ticket just to take advantage of the fact that it’s cheaper than getting a one-way ticket. And that’s against company policy.

I spent a good ten minutes repeatedly going over my story – about how my plane was cancelled and they put me on a direct flight and yada-yada-yada. British Airways finally decided to reinstate my ticket; I breathed a sigh of relief, kissed Robin goodbye, and made my way to my plane.

I get to Manchester and make preparations for what will become my 10-hour stopover. I purchase some food, a new book (Catch-22), a couple of magazines. I make my way to a bench in the 24-hour section of the airport and just start reading. With about 5-hours to go before my flight I decide to take a nap, tie my duffle bag to my arm and use it as a pillow, fasten my book bag to my legs and tuck it into my crotch – I catch about five hours of sleep on an airport bench.

It was a very, very, very uncomfortable sleep.

I sleep most of the way home, land in Philly. I have one more flight to Boston which is, of course, delayed. A couple of hours later I’m in Boston – hanging out with Robin and her family.

The next day we pack the U-Haul truck. Our new apartment back in DC, which Robin hasn’t seen at this point, is already pretty crowded – I had no idea how we planned on fitting a second moving truck filled with shit in it.

We’re about to get on the road – Robin’s father pulls me aside and tells me that if I mistreat his daughter he’ll kill me. That was fun.

We begin the seven hour drive – stop off in Connecticut to visit my Uncle Chris and Aunt Jacinda – they just had a baby, Jack, and it was our first time seeing him. I didn’t tell Robin that my entire loud-ass Puerto Rican family was there – she was a little pissed that I surprised her with that one, mainly because she wanted to be there for a half-hour and then get back on the road.

Instead we were there for about two hours.

We get back on the highway and have a smooth trip into DC. I drove the truck from Jersey on. I only had my permit at the time (I didn’t get my license until I was 25) and this was my first time driving on the highway although I told Robin I’ve done it a “bunch of times”. I’m a dick; I think we’ve established that already.

By the time we get to the apartment it’s too late to unpack the truck. We go straight upstairs and Robin sees the place for the first time. I put up these “Welcome Home” signs and what not; she seemed to have liked that. There were also dead roaches in the sink; she didn’t like that at all. Overtime we’ll both begin to hate the apartment, but Robin can always claim she hated it the moment she saw it.

The next day we unloaded the truck and started unpacking boxes – ready to get this whole “new life together” thing started. We even bought a mattress – for the past year and a half I had nothing but the futon. New life, new mattress – we took the U-Haul truck to Costco and picked one up. We also picked up a variety of roach killing products, none of which made a difference over the six months we lived in that place.

After unpacking everything Robin decided she wanted to walk around and see the neighborhood. She quickly realized I moved us into the ghetto. About seven blocks north was the Mall, the Air and Space Museum, to be exact. That was cool – Smithsonian trips and classes were a quick walk away. But a block south was government subsidized housing, a ghetto strip mall, and this weird ice-cream truck that only came around late at night, no markings on it, and now kids going up to it.

Luckily we only ended up spending another five months there.

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Spain: The Rain in Spain…

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Spain was great – I loved Spain despite the horrible trip out there. Madrid is a gorgeous city – I met the people who were putting Robin up for the several months she was out there, shared a hookah with her friends. We shacked up at a hostel right downtown, private room with a balcony – not much for amenities but we had plenty of bars and restaurants around us.

Did the touristy thing – saw the castles and the churches – drank sangria, discovered Spanish calamari is nothing like American calamari. Visited the erotic museum where some perverted old man hung out at the final exhibit which, I believe, was the porno exhibit. Cuban restaurants with sexy Cuban entertainers, drinks that were served out of volcanoes, a late night cafe that served up hot cups of fudge with your churro.

I fell in love with Madrid. I thought it was the greatest city I’ve ever visited (not saying much, considering this is my first real vacation)…until we went to Barcelona.

We flew out to Barcelona – the airport in Madrid was a mad house and when we finally went to get our boarding passes they told us that they were out of seats so they needed to bump one of us to first class. Robin obviously wanted it but I decided to be a bit of a dick, complained about my horrible trip to Madrid to begin with, and got the upgrade. It was an hour flight or so, you know, whatever. She was only pissed for about five minutes.

We get to Barcelona – we’re staying in a hotel right by the water, not at all far from the beach. We check in, change into our bathing suits, and walk right to the waterfront. We purchase some beers from a vendor, pick out a spot, and lay out. When in Rome, as they say – Robin takes off her top and I find it to be a bit of a turn-on. I mean, there are plenty of tits exposed on the beach but Robin’s where nice AND she didn’t have hairy pits – part of me imagined the guys were checking out my lady and that made me feel a bit like The Man.

But that’s what Barcelona was – a bit of freedom for us, a place where no-one knows us, where we’re taking our first vacation, we both finished with college and we have money for the first time in our lives – no worries. And we did whatever the fuck we wanted.

Every night we ended up at the same restaurant, eating mussels and paella and watching the street performers while drinking bottle after bottle of wine. We went to the aquarium – the beach everyday – we even went to a Six Flags park out there. It rained the whole time but we had a blast, rode all the roller coasters, stayed for the fireworks.

I fucked up on the last night, though. Pretty badly.

I was drunk. A lot of you who read this blog have shared drinks with me – most of you have seen Jason the funny drunk, only. The one that cracks-wise, makes fun of people to their faces, and occasionally rips the underwear off of my body without taking my pants off. Some of you, unfortunately, have met the completely irresponsible, violent, and depressed drunken Jason. He’s not a nice guy.

He came out that last night in Barcelona. We called some street performers to our table; they were a guitar/singer combo from California. We bought them wine, shared our food, and exchanged stories. They had some friends come sit with us, girls and guys – we all had a great evening. But it was a weird evening – I think signals were crossed the whole night and at different times different people were expecting different things, the alcohol not helping at all. I don’t know what was supposed to happen but I know what did happen – Robin and I went back to the hotel and she passed out.

And I got angry. Really fucking angry.

I became fixated on the stupidest thing – watching the sunrise. When Robin was in Ibiza she told me that her and her friends danced all night and watched the sunrise. To me that sounded like fun, and for some fucking reason, I wanted that.

I had a bit of a problem back then – I used to equate fun with sex; a fun night is one where you have sex. If you’re having fun it means you’re having sex. If I ended up not having sex, like that last evening in Barcelona, I’d attempt to substitute it with something else, usually the first thing that pops into my head. I don’t really do that anymore, thanks to a couple of therapists, now I associate a lack of fun with not having sex. It might sound like the same thing but for me it makes a huge difference.

Anyway, background aside, I was obsessed with this fucking sunrise. I stayed awake for hours, lying in bed, breathing heavy, until finally I woke Robin up and told her that I wanted to see the sunrise.

She had no idea what was going on but here I was, dragging her ass down to the water.

The sunrises – I don’t know what I was expecting – fucking angels to come down from the heavens or some shit, but it certainly didn’t fill this fun void I was having. So, instead, I started to tell Robin I was having second doubts about her moving to DC with me.

Ladies and Gentlemen, my name is Jason Rodriguez, and I’m the biggest asshole you’ll ever meet.

(Or was the biggest asshole, anyway).

Fuck it, though. If I wasn’t having fun, no-one was having fun.

Robin told me she didn’t feel the same way and somehow maneuvered out of the conversation and got me back to the hotel and into bed, which was probably a good call. I have to hand it to her – she puts up with a lot of my shit. There we were, together for over two years, she’s a week away from moving to a brand fucking new city to live with me, we’re on a vacation, and I’m giving her the break-up prelude. But she knew I was drunk and stupid and just found a way to get me to shut-up and see if I felt the same way in the morning.

I didn’t, obviously.

The next day we were back to Madrid. The last couple of days in Madrid were uneventful – just beer and eating, really – we were beat.

Robin and I – here we are, seven-plus years together – I grew up a lot, thankfully, but I almost threw it all away one morning in Barcelona. Luckily for me, Robin’s too strong of a woman to let that happen.

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Spain: The Longest Trip

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Spain was my first vacation. I’ve done the family thing before, sure – trips down to Florida to visit my Nanny coupled with a few days in Disney World. But as far as those week-long vacations to destinations we couldn’t drive to in order to do something besides visit family, never really had one of those. Not even in college – never did the spring break thing, I had fun hanging with my boys back in Brooklyn. Occasional weekend road trips but that’s it. I just never had the money for a vacation – my family never had that kind of bread (my parents still haven’t had a honeymoon) and working the grill at the dorm’s dining hall doesn’t really pay all that much.

I went to Spain a year after college – sort of a reward for kicking ass at TAO the first year. I was getting paid well, I wasn’t going out that much, Robin was already in Spain (after finishing her schooling at BU she did several months abroad to get a Spanish minor), and I was more than prepared to kick back and have some fun. There were some complications, of course – delays in getting my passport and the fact that I somehow fucked-up booking my airfare but both problems worked themselves out and I was off to Madrid.

Now, the full plan was to leave for Spain from DC and come back, with Robin (but different flight), to Boston. We were then going to pack a U-Haul and drive down to DC together. In order to do this and stay within budget, my trip wasn’t exactly straight forward. The cheapest airfare I could find on such short notice was from Dulles airport to Manchester, England with a stopover in Philadelphia – that was on US Air. From there, I flew British Airways from Manchester to Madrid, Spain. The time between the two flights was close to 8 hours, so any delays wouldn’t really kill me. On the way back, I had all three flights plus an additional one-way flight from Dulles to Boston.

A lot of room for something to go terribly wrong.

DC to Philly was no problem at all – forty-five minutes up and down. I get to Philly; find my way to my gate and my plane’s on time. I crack open BRAVE NEW WORLD and get to reading.

If I remember correctly, my plane was supposed to leave at around 5PM. I think the first delay was only for an hour. The plan hasn’t arrived yet – a common reason for delay. I decide to go and get a beer – there’s a little Mexican restaurant/bar near the gate. I continue to read my book.

The second delay was much longer – two hours or so. Weather was causing the whole system to fuck-up. I wasn’t worried – this was just eating-in to my 8-hour stopover, I had some more beers and some Mexican food to go along with it. Called Robin, told her I was delayed. She just got back from going out with some friends and was excited to see me the next day (late afternoon, I believe, was when I was supposed to get in).

The plane kept getting delayed. First there was no crew available. Then there was a problem with some part. It was a little passed 11PM when they announced they’ll be boarding us shortly (by then I was drunk and I finished reading Brave New World – a great book to read drunk, by the way) – over six hours delayed – and it was about ten minutes later when they told us they were canceling the flight.

I was devastated. I wanted to call Robin but I realized that I needed to get my ass to the ticketing counter before the hundred or so people who just had their flight canceled.

I fucking ran my ass off.

I was probably third online. I realized that I was going to miss my flight from Manchester to Madrid which was by a different airline – I was fucked and, most likely, the airline wouldn’t care. It was time to act and, as I learned in college, I wasn’t that bad at it.

I get to the counter and I’m not fuming, not yelling – my voice is shaky as I give the following sob story (paraphrasing, of course):

“Hi. Listen. I’m not mad the plane was cancelled – I understand – these things happen. But I was going to Madrid, there was a British Airways’ flight I was connecting with that was going to take me there. I’m going to miss it now. In my bag is an engagement ring – I was planning on proposing to my girlfriend in Spain. I have theater tickets, reservations at a very exclusive and expensive restaurant – everything was perfect. This was all going down Friday night (which would basically mean I’d need to get to get to Madrid no later than 24 hours beyond when I was supposed to get there). I can’t fly to Manchester and get stuck there. I’m begging you, please, get me to Madrid.”

The woman behind the airline is feeling it – who knows why. Maybe she recently lost a loved one, maybe at one point in her life the man of her dreams got away because of fucked-up chance – don’t know what it was, don’t care. But I had a 3PM direct flight to Madrid the next day which was at least double the price of my flight to Manchester when I was booking airfare.

I got the complimentary hotel and two meals, as well – took the shuttle there, checked into my room. Showered off, I was smoky, drunk, and depressed. I called Robin, at this point I was supposed to be in Spain in a couple of hours. Told her the bad news, that I was still in Philly – she starts crying. It’s such a lonely thing – being in a hotel by yourself in a city you don’t want to be in, hours away from seeing the love your life whom you haven’t seen for over two months, only to have her crying on the phone because you won’t be seeing her for about another 20 hours. She was excited – excited to see me, excited for me to meet her friends, they even had dinner plans set, got all her Spain friends together, and we were going to go out dancing afterwards.

I calm her down – tell her I’m coming soon. I ask her not to cry because it’s breaking my heart – she holds it back. I tell her I love her and hang up – go to bed.

The next day I need to check out of the hotel by noon. I spend some time in the pool, eat my comp breakfast, and make my way to the airport with three hours to go. This time everything goes smoothly, the plan takes off on time and I’m off to Madrid. I wanted to sleep on the plane but, unfortunately, I got stuck in the back row. My seat didn’t recline and I had an aisle, deadly combination for wanting to sleep. I instead watched movies the whole way there, read some books, talked to the girl who had the window until she passed out.

By the time I got to Madrid I was beat. But I gathered my bags, went through customs, and got the first stamp on my passport. I jogged through the airport, calling Robin to tell her that I made it and I’ll be outside at any moment. She was waiting outside for me, I guess international flights got filtered out a secure door – she was beaming. Huge fucking smile. She runs, jumps into my arms, starts kissing my neck and my face – all over, really.

Took almost an extra day but I was finally in Madrid, with my baby, ready to take my first vacation.

Oh, yeah, and five years later and I still haven't proposed. Fuck you, US Air.

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Adult Parties: Woah – This Ain’t 1999 Anymore

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

I've updated this blog on Friday, Monday, and today. It's like the olden days all over again.

By far the weirdest party I’ve ever been to was New Years 2002. It was at a friend of Robin’s house who just happened to live two blocks from us. It was convenient, lots of people were to be there, and we knew a fair share of the attendees – there was no reason not to go to this party.

The host had a fun theme to her party – everyone who comes in pays twenty-dollars and, in return, gets twenty dollars worth of funny money. As the night rolls on, you need to try and convince other party-goers to give you funny money. By the end of the night, whoever has the most funny money gets 75% the pot, the other 25% goes to the house and pays for food and beer.

So, in theory, someone would serenade somebody else in exchange for a “dollar” or someone would attempt a split on the dance floor for two “dollars”.

In theory.

You see, in one corner we had one of Robin’s coworkers. She spent her evenings stripping down in Georgetown. She was a wild one – married at the age of 19, had a girlfriend on the side that she liked a lot more than her husband. Her stripping schedule was going from weekends to every night and her love life/social life was starting to become less glamorous with live-in separations/live-in girlfriends/abuse of certain substances.

In the other corner was some girl whose name I don’t believe anyone knew. She was an escort and one of the guys brought her to the party as a date.

I should probably add, now, that the person with the most funny money was going to be taking home over seven-hundred dollars.

And we had a coked-out stripper and an escort at a party where one of them could walk away with that seven-hundred dollars.

And there were a lot of dudes at the party since two of the housemates were single dudes, themselves.

You see where this is going – right?

It started innocently enough, honestly. The stripper’s husband was pimping his woman out – a lap dance for a buck. Guys were taking him up on the offer and everyone was laughing about it at first. It got a little more uncomfortable when the shirt came off and the lap-dance price went up to five dollars.

The guy with the escort – seeing an opportunity to make some money back from his nights purchased – started pimping his date out as well with the deal that they’ll split the money (or so I heard after the fact, I’m not sure why she’d agree to the split if she’s doing all the work).

Either way she started giving lap dances as well.

A lot of people left the party at that point. I guess adult parties aren’t supposed to have naked strippers and escorts walking around, giving lap dances in exchange for monopoly money. Robin was turned off – she’s not a fan of women whoring themselves, I guess – and spent most of her time outside with some other folks, chain smoking and chugging beer.

I had to be supportive so I went outside as well. However, when the “WOAH”s started we all ran inside to see what was happening next.

Nothing like two girls going at it with a pile of monopoly money around them to turn a party into a sausage fest.

At this point Robin’s friend had enough and told them to stop. Apparently the girl/girl action (and who knows what else) was moved to a roommate’s bedroom – where every guy without a date squeezed in. While the rest of us watched Dick Clark countdown the apple, we tried to ignore the chants and hollers coming from the dudes room (the girls because they found it disgusting, the guys because we wanted to be in there).

The best part? A genius amongst the living room folks realized that there were more of us than the guys inside the bedroom. We decided to give all of our funny money to one person, another coworker of Robin’s who’s a good guy and everyone liked (and who also lived in a shed, essentially, on somebody’s property) so he can get the money.

At the end of the night when the money was tallied the look on the stripper and the escort’s faces were priceless. They got second and third place and to add insult to injury, Robin’s friend gave them “runner-up prizes” which consisted of some goofy items that were lying around the house.

So, many lap-dances and 69s later, all they had to show for it was a bag of candy.

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Adult Parties: Whig & Velvet

Monday, July 17, 2006

I guess once you graduate college you start going to “adult parties”. I find that adult parties are the same things as college parties except everyone’s trying to size up and see who makes more money than them. My first year out of college I found myself going to the equivalent of frat parties – nothing’s changed, bunch of dudes living together and throwing a party, most people are single.

Which is why I really bombed with my first “adult party”, I think. It was one of Robin’s coworkers, a freelance producer they used on a close-to full-time basis for their shows (Robin’s first job was at a post-production house where they put together various TV shows for Nat Geo, Discovery Health, etc). She was older than us, likely a little over thirty – they just bought a house in Georgetown (which, if you don’t know the area, means they had some serious cake). It was a “Wig & Velvet” party – the invitation said to wear a wig and wear some velvet. Seemed easy enough, right?

The day of the party Robin and I go to the Salvation Army to see what we can find. I find this velvet-like track suit and figure it would be really funny if I went to the party thug-themed. Robin agreed. I went to this Sally Beauty Supply joint next to the Salvation Army and purchased some braided extensions and a doo-rag; I used the rag to secure the extensions. I looked straight thug.

4 Life.

Robin had a velvet shirt and a silvery wig, if I remember correctly. It doesn’t matter – all that matters is that she wasn’t the one who stood out like a soar thumb.

We get to the party, I know nobody there. Everyone’s older than me, it seems, everyone’s white, and 95% of the people there looked like our founding fathers, wearing white wigs all curled up and velvety (non-lounge) suits. Some of the girls had outfits similar to Robin – everyone had dark colors and looked all dressed up and completely comfortable.

I had a bright blue track suit, braids, a doo-rag, and sneakers. I felt like an idiot. I’m usually the woo-hoo party fuck what everyone thinks type but at this moment, I just wanted to go home. And it got worse.

Everyone thought I was a pirate.

I had to explain what I was and all the white bread at the party had no idea what I was talking about.

“You know – I’m kind of like a thug. Like, how they dress in Compton. Well, it’s not really a stereotype, I mean, it’s how they dress in Compton. No – I’m sure white people dress like this too. Ok, so maybe not just Compton…”

It was excruciating. All these cut-off but compassionate white folks with serious paper all thought I wore the equivalent of a modern-day black-face to this party. Robin was having fun, I was trying to have fun but I instead found myself hiding behind the food table and swallowing cocktail shrimp, occasionally escaping for a cigarette.

One girl shows up to the party – about my age, dressed like Robin’s dressed. We get to talking – she’s trying to get a writing thing going as was I (not comics, at the time) so we hit it off well.

One could say I was flirting.

Robin caught me and instantly shot me a look, I excused myself. Told Robin, “Ok, I was flirting a bit, but she’s the only one talking to me. Can we go?”

Robin tells me to chill out and mingle – she takes me around with her. I end up having a good time, meet some new people. With a couple of beers in their system people become less judgmental. Robin introducing me as Jason Rodriguez gave me more minority cred, too, so my costume didn’t seem as racist to them at that point.

We ended up being the last couple to leave. Thanked everyone for the wonderful party and drove home.

We weren’t invited to another one but that one wasn’t so bad at the end of the day.

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Baked and Baked

Friday, July 14, 2006

And I’m back. I guess I just didn’t feel like finishing the “Robin away in Spain” story I was working on, I’ll probably return to it when I talk about my own trip to Spain.

Anyway, I was watching Conan O’Brien last night and Paul Reubens was on, promoting the re-release of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse on the Cartoon Network. Reminded me of a story…

I was a fan of the show growing up. I wasn’t the coolest kind in the world but one thing people seemed to get a kick out of was watching me do the Pee-Wee Herman dance. I was like a fat kid with a magic set – able to fend off insults by being so damn cute and entertaining.

Robin was a different kind of fan. The kind that bought the VHS box set in college and would get stoned every night (and Saturday morning) and watch an episode. It was like a religion to her. I’d come over her place and she’ll be sitting with several people – staring at the TV as if Pee-Wee was their God.

At that point I wasn’t really smoking anymore and Pee-Wee’s Playhouse was a novelty from my childhood so I never really got into that aspect of her life. As the year went on she started watching it less and less. By the time she moved out to DC with me she was essentially done with Pee-Wee’s Playhouse and dope.

Until this one evening, a couple of weeks after she returned from Spain. We were putting up Gerry again and they decided to rekindle the past and watch Pee-Wee’s Playhouse baked. I figured I'd join in and invited my boy, Mark, to join us.

Gerry got the dope. No idea where he got it from. He baked it into some brownies and served them up. About ten minutes into eating special brownies we’re all vegetables. No idea how much he put into those things or if the dope was treated or something but we couldn’t fucking move.

At all.

We sat down on that catch and were mesmerized by Pee-Wee’s Playhouse. Every joke was suddenly sexual – every time Pee-Wee winked he was talking about drugs. It was all so obvious to us. I think that night was the closest I’ve ever come to a revelation.

About two hours in Robin goes into the bedroom. I get up and follow her, find her passed out on the bed. I get so angry, I tell her, “What the fuck? We got guests. Don’t be rude.” She gets out of bed and goes back into the living room.

I lay down on the bed and go to sleep.

She falls asleep on the couch. Twenty minutes later Mark wakes her up and asks, “Hey – I can’t drive – so I’m gonna sleep here. Can I have the couch?”

Robin gets kicked off the couch and comes back to the bedroom.

The next morning Mark is passed out on the couch, Gerry’s on the floor watching more Pee-Wee’s Playhouse. He claims he went to sleep and woke back up but the remaining brownies are gone – I still believe he stayed up all night watching them. Robin’s pissed at me for kicking her out of the bed the night before but she gets over it.

I haven’t watched Pee-Wee’s (or eaten dope) since. I’d rather keep my memories of that magical night pure – go out on top, as it where.

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Man Alone: Apartment Hunting

Thursday, June 29, 2006

The lease for the studio apartment was up and I was tasked to find us an affordable one-bedroom apartment. Robin put a lot of faith in me with this one and I squandered it by going with the first apartment I saw.

It was in Southwest DC. Let me lay out DC for you. You want to live in Northeast DC or certain parts of Southeast DC. The other parts of Southeast DC are the worst parts of the district in terms of crime, Northeast DC is a vast area of nothingness and not-as-bad crime, and Southwest DC is a deceptive son-of-a-bitch with little pockets of nice areas surrounded by low-income housing.

The apartment I went with was on the edge of one of these pockets. 201 I St SW. The management office was in this nice little area, surrounded by brownstones and well-populated by trees. It was close to the Orange and Green lines, primo positioning for commutes and going out at night.

I went to see the apartment – it wasn’t that bad, really. Lots of space, hardwood floors, and a balcony. Kitchen was a bit shabby – aluminum cabinets and a crusty gas stove – but I wasn’t a big cooker at that point, anyway. The residents were typical of an in-the-process-of –being-gentrified neighborhood. Old folks living off social security, couple of low-income types protected by rent control, and a fair share of yuppies looking for a good deal on the place.

It was $900 a month for an almost 1000-square foot apartment with a balcony. I took it without hesitation. Told Robin about it.

“Southwest?”

“Yeah, southwest – it’s fine.”

“Isn’t southwest like southeast?”

“No – it’s fine, it’s right by the Mall. We can go to museums all the time.” (We didn’t.)

“I don’t know.”

“It even has a pool.” (That we never used.)

“Well – it’s a short lease, right?”

“Six months.”

“Ok – I trust you.”

Sucker.

The day before moving day I went to pick up the keys. My boy Max offered to drive me to the management office. I tell him the address but with the Mall fucking up your ability to drive we ended up at 201 I St SE – my first time in the “bad part” of Southeast. Max asks me, “You sure you live here” before I realized we were in the wrong neighborhood. It looked like Compton – straight-up. I’ll never forget this one house that had this disgusting mattress draped over a clothesline in the front yard, some kid sitting next to it smoking.

I realize we’re in Southeast and yell to Max, “No – this is Southeast, turn around.”

Turns out I was only about seven blocks away from there.

Get the keys and go to show Max the apartment. It’s a little darker now. In the dark, the roaches come out. The scamper all over that kitchen like they own the fucking place. But they don’t own the kitchen. The mice do.

Let me tell what Robin’s afraid of. Mice. Bugs. I knew I was in a lot of trouble. But I figured I could get rid of them all before she gets back. We’re not dirty people, they won’t come back. Right.

Max goes on my balcony and lets me know it overlooks the ghetto. I verify his claim – it’s the first time we see the “ice cream truck” that prowls I St at late hours with no song playing. There’re never kids standing near it.

I figure it’s fine – Robin’s a tough chick and worst case scenario is we stay there for six months. Now I just needed to move.

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Man Alone: Idiot Alone

Monday, June 26, 2006

If you’ve been reading my Live Journal you know that I’m a mess without Robin around. She’s spending three weeks in Malaysia and Singapore and so far I’ve managed to shave my head because I fucked up cutting my own hair, eat nothing by beef, get her car impounded, and watch two seasons of Arrested Development over a five day period.

On this site, however, I’m telling stories about the last time I was left alone for a long period time – over two months while Robin was in Spain. I was even worse then. Probably the biggest fuck up over those two months was my attempt to plan a trip down there to see her.

It all started when I delayed getting my passport – this was my first time out of the country and I thought it’d take a week, tops. Once I found cheap airfare (it was going to be something like $400 to go to Manchester and $100 to go from Manchester to Madrid) I went in to get my passport only to discover that I needed to do the expedited service or else I wouldn’t have it in time.

I also didn’t have my license at that point, nor did I have a permit. I had my work ID, which was useless, and a Massachusetts state ID card that didn’t prove my current address. So it took two trips to the post office to get my passport papers filed – I needed to bring birth certificates, yearbooks, current bills, picture IDs – a wide range of shit, especially considering I already had my top secret clearance at the time.

But I had my airfare and my passport and I was ready to go. Except, you know, that whole “idiot” thing I had going on.

You see – I never bothered to check if I was actually billed for the airfare. Apparently, at some point in the confirmation process, I must have thought I was finished and shut down my browser. The fact that I didn’t receive any emails wasn’t at all strange to me. By the time I figured this out, that $400 flight to Manchester was a $1000 flight and I simply couldn’t afford the flight, hotels, etc at that time of my life.

I called Robin to tell her that I had to bail. She was…upset. Especially since she was already staying in Spain a week and a half beyond her classes.

The irony here, of course, is that I spent the past two months worrying that she’d let me down.

I begged and pleaded with the airline and tried to convince them that they fucked up but they had no record of any activity from me – it was a lost cause. I bitched about it all around the workplace and panicked over the thought that Robin wasn’t going to stick around after this fuck-up.

Until one of my bosses that took a liking to me pulled me into his office, closed the door, and said he wants me to go to Spain. That I deserve to go. And, despite the fact that it was highly illegal, he lent me a thousand-bucks so that I can book my airfare and get out there. Needless to say I was stupid excited.

I booked my airfare and told Robin the good news. Needless to say she was stupid relieved.

Of course, the fact that I’m an idiot looms over everything I do. It took me about a year to pay my boss back – I was pulled into his office every once and a while and reminded that he leant me a thousand bucks. I guess that’s why bosses aren’t supposed to lend coworkers money – it could lead to comlications. I guess we both learned our lessons on that one.

But, fuck it. I was ready to go to Spain. And I’ll get to that nightmare eventually – Man Alone continues for now.

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Man Alone: La Isla Ibiza

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Robin being away for two+ months that summer went smoothly for the most part. We’d call each other two or three times a week – send letters and care packages. Aside from hearing wonderful stories about all the places she was visiting in Spain the occasional phone sex was also nice.

Then came Ibiza.

Ibiza is a party island off the coast of Spain. Its primary import is 18 year-old college girls and its primary export is venereal diseases. When Robin first told me she was going there with some friends – I started getting a little worried. I know I should have had more faith but, you know, this was before I found the therapist that actually helped me – I was a bit tipped then.

I found some site that had webcams placed all over Ibiza – needless to say those cams were routinely checked while she was there. As if my life was a movie and a) Robin would actually cheat on me and b) she’d happen to do right in front of a webcam and c) I’d actually be able to tell it was her. Despite how illogical the idea was – that page was bookmarked.

Saturday afternoon I get a call from Robin. And she’s obviously upset.

Here I am expecting long distance confessions and declarations that she’s leaving me for someone else (as if that’s how it would have went down) and I instead get the story about how she got slapped.

Hard.

By a guy.

Story goes, she’s online for a club with her friends when a guy cuts in front of them. Robin, being my little princess, mouths off to them. The guy mouths back and gets a little too close so she pushes him off. He slaps her. She punches him right in the fucking face. The guy gets kicked off the line.

In retrospect, it’s a prime example of why Robin kicks so much ass. I wasn’t as cool about it then. I was ready to kill that mother fucker despite the thousands of miles between us. But I couldn’t, of course, and the whole thing left me feeling useless. I told her to call me if she ran into that guy again and he ended up being a dick, as if there was anything I could do.

Maybe my anger towards Robin in Spain didn’t result primarily from the belief that she would cheat on me – maybe it stemmed from a larger issue of feeling like I wasn’t in control of the situation. Oh…foreshadowing…

Anyway, that night I went and met up with some folks at Café Asia in DC. I chugged several beers before telling the story – I was pissed. Went over to Adams Morgan and drank a lot more. I was super sloppy by the end of the night. I walked home from Adam’s Morgan, piss drunk – about at three mile walk, uphill the entire way. The next day Robin called me before flying back to Madrid. Everything went well that night; they partied until the sun came up and passed out.

I was just happy that I was on my way out to Spain in about a month.

With a couple of wrinkles first, of course.

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Man Alone: My Roommate

Friday, June 16, 2006

Robin was in Spain for two months and I was pissed off about it. I’d always take little jabs during our phone conversations and bitch about my day.

Because I was a baby.

But, if you needed proof that I was firmly under her control despite the miles between us and my angsty disposition, I had a roommate for about three weeks out of that two month period. Robin’s best friend, Gerry.

He was in DC on an internship and Robin asked me if he could stay with me until he found an apartment – a process that took several weeks. It wasn’t the worst thing in the world but sharing a studio apartment with a dude wasn’t the best thing, either.

Here’s what I couldn’t do for three straight weeks:

1) Masturbate

That’s really all that matters. He’d get groceries, though, and occasionally cook, but for the most part he’d just kind of sit around and play video games because what else are you going to do in a studio apartment?

He had his own friends and I had mine, we’d both go our own separate ways at night. He’d something hang out with my people but I never met any of his people. Robin would call and talk to both of us, tell us how her trip was going. She was spending the majority of her time in Madrid but would occasionally take day or weekend trips to other parts of Spain. She had a weekend coming up in Ibiza, something that bothered me to no end at the time, and I was pretty vocal (behind her back) about her need to go to a party island with a bunch of “single bitches”.

Whereas my losing attitude might turn you off, my fears over the Ibiza situation weren’t completely unfounded but that’s a story for another day.

Gerry finally finds a place – he rents a room somewhere off K-street – and I don’t see him again until it’s time to move. Helping me move was part of the deal for being allowed to stay at my place.

It wasn’t the worst couple of weeks. It was weird having a male roommate, the last one I had was sophomore year in college - it was never my thing, it seems. I like living with the ladies. I think the day he left I managed to jerk-off about five times. I get backed up, it’s like genetic and stuff. The really funny Gerry stories come into play when he moves into my new apartment but, again, that’s a story for another day.

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Man Alone: Hope for the Worst

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Robin’s away for almost three weeks – she’s taking an international marketing class in Singapore and Malaysia. This is the longest we’ve been apart for quite some time. After that first summer we spent together in DC, Robin had to go back to Boston to finish school. We spent a year apart but even then we’d see each other every three weeks or so. At the end of the year, however, Robin went to study abroad in Spain. I was pretty pissy about it, I was all jazzed up to get our life really started together only to find out there was going to be a two month delay.

Looking back I now realize I was being an idiot. Here we are, seven years together, and those two months in Spain were nothing. I encouraged her to take the class this time around. But man, the couple of months leading up to Spain – that was me at my lowest.

I guess part of the problem was that R, the two year relationship I was in before Robin, went to Europe for a month and promptly broke up with me upon return. I always had suspicions that she cheated, not so much anymore (mainly because I stopped giving a shit many years ago), and I didn’t want the same thing to happen with Robin.

So I’d always talk about things like ETA bombings in Madrid – I even read a book on the Basque and painted them to be these bloodthirsty savages always carrying out attacks, trying to nonchalantly scare her into staying home. I decided that I was going to move into a new apartment while she was in Spain, this way if she wanted any say in where we lived she’d have to stay in the states. I would find vacation deals for the time she was going to be away and do the whole, “Oh – we should go to Italy! They’re having a great deal the week of…oh…you’ll be in Spain.”

At one point I was very forward and just said I really wasn’t too excited about her decision to go. I think this was where my true feelings on the matter started to come out though, and there was certainly a touch of jealousy. You see – I started working the week after I graduated college. No vacation, no time off. Busting my ass five days a week, flying down to Boston when I can and flying her to DC when I was too busy to come to Boston. And I guess the mentality that I’ve adopted was, “Why does she get to go away for two months?”

I’m really good at that, actually. At least I used to be. Really good at feeling entitled.

Anyway – I told Robin that I didn’t think it was fair. I can’t believe she’s still with me. But she knows me, you know, I think a good relationship is one where a woman knows how childish her man can be. She tells me to meet her in Spain for a couple of weeks at the end of her abroad program. It momentarily calmed me down, but I was still a bit paranoid she was going to cheat on me.

The day she lost her passport was the happiest day of my life. It was a couple of weeks before her trip. I thought she was screwed – there was no way she’d replace it in time.

Well, she did.

She was leaving two days after her graduation. The day after her graduation I was supposed to be in Cape Canaveral for a business trip. I actually told her I don’t think I would be able to make it to her graduation, I was so upset that she was going to Spain, but the disappointment in her voice made me change my mind real quick.

I go to her graduation but can’t even make it to the celebration dinner. I’m on an airplane to Atlanta to meet up with a plane that’ll take me to Melbourne Airport. I take a forty minute cab ride to my hotel on the beach. By the time I get in it’s late, I call Robin to wish her a good trip – she thanks me for making it to her graduation.

The she’s off to Spain and I won’t see her for two months.

It’s an interesting two months – filled with loans, fights, houseguests, apartment searching, moving, let-downs, and strippers. It’ll take a couple of months to get through, I’m thinking – especially at the rate I’m updating. I came out of it somewhat changed but still 60% asshole.

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Long Island: Night in White Satin

Friday, June 02, 2006

Long Island: Night in White Satin

Back-to-Back stories! Aren’t you guys hooked the fuck up?
_________________

After MH’s contract went over budget by 10-million dollars the whole thing sort of fell apart. TAO’s money got ramped down and eventually disappeared – we got the stop-work order from MH and never looked back. They just couldn’t afford to pay us anymore.

So that contract was dead and I moved on to bigger and better things, mainly firing canons and mortars in the desert.

A couple of months after the contract ends Roger from MH contacts me and tells me there’s a marketing opportunity at some company in Rhode Island (who we’ll call RI) and he wants me to go with him to sell our portion of the now dead contract.

I had no desire to go but my boss thought it was a good idea so I make plans to go.

Now, the area we’re going towards isn’t really accessible by anything but cars and I still didn’t have my license. I couldn’t rent a car, in other words. The plan that we came up with had disaster written all over it but it was really the only option available to my non-driving ass.

Roger lived in Connecticut. At the end of his day on Wednesday, he was going to swing by JFK and pick me up. I was going to go with him to his house in Connecticut, spend the night there, and drive to Rhode Island with him early the next morning.

If you think that sounds bad, it gets worse.

Roger and I have nothing in common. He’s easily late-50, big guy – so much ear hair that he could braid it. He’s essentially the stereotypical dad. Our drive to Connecticut is excruciating (and puzzling, he made that commute everyday). We get to his house and it looks like the Cleavers live there it’s so fucking homely. His wife is this older, chipper woman that’s dressed like “Housewife Barbie”.

I get introduced and the three of us sit around the table and drink lemonade – she has these horrendous crocheted coasters for me to put my glass on top of. There are religious pictures and stuffed ducks all over the house. It’s just seriously freaky. Roger’s telling me all about his son who cuts down trees for a living and you almost get this vibe that he’s viewing me as what he wanted his son to be.

Seriously. Fucking. Freaky.

I finish my lemonade and Roger tells me about the festivities we have planned for the night.

Church School!

You see, he teaches a bible class. So I had to sit in on his class. Afterwards, we hung around because members of the church brought various foods to eat. So I got to munch on some sausage and peppers with a bunch of Jesus freaks who insisted on knowing whether or not I’ve accepted Christ as my savior.

I just told them “yes”. I love me the Savior Christ.

So, after the riveting two hours spent in a church basement I went back to Roger’s house. They were watching TV in the living room, the news – it was the only TV in the house. I watch with them for a little bit, they ask me if I’d rather watch something else and I decline repeatedly. With my luck one of the characters on a TV show I put on would say something about sex and Roger and his wife would perform a fucking exorcism on me.

I want to back-track a second and remind you all about something – this guy has been trying to recruit me for over a year. This whole night was likely part of his plan.

I decide to go to bed – it’s like 8:30. They show me to the guest room and…

…that’s right, white satin sheets. I wanted to ask if they had, you know, cotton sheets, but it wasn’t worth it. But seriously – who really uses satin sheets? And who puts them in the guest room? I thought the stuffed ducks were as tacky as you can get, but white satin sheets in the guest room takes the cake.

So I stick to the sheets all night, drive with him to RI the next day – a horribly long drive complete with traffic. We get there, meet some people and sit down for this supposed marketing opportunity.

Well, they spent about three hours marketing their products to us and ten minutes listening to us. It was a fucking joke – a complete waste of time. Anyone with half a brain would have seen that there was no opening to market anything to these guys.

I left that building pissed off. I told Roger to drop me off at the nearest Greyhound terminal – the guys at RI tell us where the closest one is, it’s only ten minutes away. I get out of his car and call my boss, tell him I won’t be in on Friday and they’ll still reimburse me for my airfare. I take two buses but finally get to Boston and spend the weekend with Robin. I have some fun and then fly back home on Sunday. On Monday I tell my boss off, saying he should have looked into this marketing opportunity more. I tell him I’m done with this project and with Roger.

Later that Christmas I get a card from Roger. That’s the last I ever hear from him.

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Long Island: My Own Caper

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Seven Harvey Nominations for ELK'S RUN. Told you the book was good. I think this a good time to remind everyone that I'm available for editing gigs.

I owe you guys a story – wouldn’t want to slack off too much. Believe me, I have great reasons. 8 issues of Elk’s Run needed to be tweaked and proofed and delivered and exciting POSTCARDS related news has added substantially to my workload but it’ll pay off. Combine that with my broken AC and the fact that this DC fucking humidity is making my office into a sauna and I have a ton of great excuses.

But excuses only go so far so it’s story time…

_____________________

The Long Island situation came to a head when Roger, from MH, approved additional funds for us but wanted me in Long Island full-time. I was at the meeting where he laid this new plan down and I actually said, “No fucking way.” My boss put his hand on my shoulder to get me to chill out.

It was sort of the breaking point for me. I was tired of going to Long Island, it was lonely. Robin was in Boston and I didn’t get to visit her nearly as much as I’d of liked to because of the constant trips. I already got my raise and my bonus. I told TAO that I want off the project unless they hire somebody else that can alternate these trips with me – that’s how I got my friend since the second grade, James, to join up at TAO.

The first trip we went together – one week on Long Island – so I can introduce him to everybody. Since we were both traveling at the same time (and renting a car), and since we couldn’t get the weekly rate at the Extended Stay America (and the nightly was a hundred and change), we just got rooms at some cheap motel for the four nights we were down there.

We check in that first night – they only take cash and the room’s 40 bucks a night. I give them money and ask for a receipt and the woman behind the counter gives me a blank receipt to fill out on my own.

Let me explain per diem to you. You see, the government only allows you to spend x-dollars per day on hotels and x-dollars per day on meals and incidentals. Every job I worked for so far doesn’t require M&I receipts provided no meals go over 20 bucks. Since the M&I rate rarely goes above 50 bucks, you just say you spent 50 bucks a day on three meals and nothing was over 20 bucks. If you’re diligent you can pocket some extra cash but usually the excess (and then some) gets blown on alcohol and strippers.

Hotels, on the other hand – you need to hand in receipts. The per diem for the area of Long Island we were in, at the time, if I remember correctly, was around 90 bucks per night. You better believe I put $80 dollars on that receipt. You better believe I asked for extra receipts (and the lady behind the counter obliged) and you better believe I turned those receipts in every night I stayed in Long Island, even over weekends when I stayed at my parents house.

If MH was going to trap me in Long Island, I was going to juice them for every fucking penny in our contract.

A two-week trip would total 11 nights in a hotel room, of which I’d actually spend 8 nights there. At 40 bucks a night it would end up costing me $320. I’d turn in $880 dollars worth of receipts, however, and every trip down there would net me an extra $560 just by cheating the hotel system.

I figured how to cheat the taxi system, too – I’d collect blank taxi receipts and fill them out for transfers between the airport and the hotel for 50 bucks. Then I’d take the train out for a couple of bucks and take a taxi from the train station to the hotel for five.

It became a little side business – I’d challenge myself. I’d eat a muffin in the morning, steal people’s lunches, drink nothing but water and have a small pizza for dinner and charge the full 50 for M&I. Every trip to Long Island would fund two trips to Boston to see Robin.

And the best part?

There were five subs working on that contract plus MH, the prime – it was supposed to be a 20-million dollar effort. I went up for the briefing to the admiral in charge of the project and watched MH struggle as they told him that they were currently 50% (10-million dollars!) over budget. But my little piece was under-budget and ahead of schedule.

And the real kick-in-the ass?

I was introduced to the admiral before that meeting by a coworker. At the meeting, as everyone’s going around and introducing themselves and the admiral’s giving them a shit look, he gives me a smile and mini-conversation when they get to me, holding up the meeting and the introduction process.

I looked like King Shit of the group and had the numbers and performance to match.

The project died shortly after that, but not after one last trip and one last attempt to hire me. This one took place at Roger’s home, however, and will forever go down as the worst recruiting attempt of all time.

But that’s for another day.

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Long Island: Learning to Trip (And Failing)

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

About a month after rescuing a project and getting its budget quadrupled I was off to Long Island for the first of my many two-week long business trips. These trips will end up becoming the loneliest chunks of time I’ve yet to live through.

I didn’t have a license. I just got my license three years ago. Part laziness, partly no need to get one, but the fact remains that I couldn’t rent a car. So I took a taxicab from JFK to the office out in Long Island, a trip that ended up coming close to a hundred-bucks (with tip) and left me hoping that TAO would reimburse me (for subsequent trips I reserved a town car – much cheaper).

I get to the office and Roger assigns me to a cubicle which was a pleasant break from the roomy office I had back in DC (that was internet-sarcasm, doesn’t always work well). Thankfully, over the past seven years, MH was the only company to put me in a cubicle. When I ended up applying for my second job my requests were “X-dollars per year and an office” (I got a signing bonus, too, though).

I don’t even know what I ended up doing in Long Island. Same shit I’d end up doing in DC except without any friends, honestly. It was pretty obvious having me work on Long Island was Roger’s grand plan to get me to leave TAO to work for MH and I think it goes on the record as being the worst plan of all time. You want to steal a 22-year-old kid who impressed the shit out of you away from his current employer? Truckloads of money. Don’t take him away from his home for weeks at a time and constantly ask him if he’d like to move down here for good. Money. That’s how my second job won me over. I went into TAO to tell them I was leaving, my boss said they’d like to make a counter-offer, I told them what the new job was paying, and my boss said, “Fuck – that’s a lot of money.” That’s all MH had to do.

Anyway, after work one of the guys from MH dropped me off at my hotel – an Extended Stay America. ESA – no bar attached, no pool – nothing. A snack machine. Two blocks away was a Costco and a Hostess outlet (does that make sense – do they even have Hostess outlets?) A couple of blocks further on and you had a diner and a Wendy’s. And that was it. I was done with work by six or so and had nothing to do but go to Wendy’s or the diner for dinner. I couldn’t even go to Costco’s since I didn’t have a membership.

I watched a lot of TV. Ordered Domino’s. Drank a six-pack daily to wash the “two packs of smokes” taste out of my mouth. Called Robin almost every night. She was back in Boston at this point, finishing up her last year of school. I’d call my parents, read a book at the diner. I didn’t have a laptop at this point so that took out the possibility of playing video games or watching DVDs. It was honest-to-shit the most depressing two weeks imaginable. Luckily I have plenty of family and friends in Brooklyn because Friday I hopped on the LIR and spent the weekend having some fun.

Masturbated a lot, obviously. Had to use my imagination, though, since the room didn’t have pay-per-view porn. There wasn’t even a convenience store nearby where I could get a porno mag. Want to know what the definition of pathetic is? Guessing what potential porno phone-line numbers could be so I can have something to spank to. I’ve never called a porno line but here I was dialing 888-123-4CUM because it could have been one.

It was sad. Sad, sad, sad.

I didn’t know the rules of reimbursement – if I was going to be paid back for cab rides. First business trip and all, you get worried, you know? So I just stayed in that hotel room and watched Seinfeld reruns.

I took baths. I’m not a bath guy. I’ll take a cold one on occasion if it’s wicked hot out but here I was, in an Extended Stay America, taking a bath to pass the time.

No bubbles. Just bath water.

One time I go to the ATM outside of the Wendy’s. The girl in front of me leaves her card in the machine. I get so excited; I think this is my chance to make a friend. I take her card out and flag her down. Give her the card and tell her she left it in the machine, try to let her know I’m a nice guy.

“You didn’t take any money out, right?”

“What? No!”

“You know they got cameras on there and they’ll find you?”

“I didn’t take any money out!”

“Better not.”

She storms off. I get a chicken sandwich from Wendy’s.

That’s it. Two weeks out of every month. No-one at GH got really friendly with me; they didn’t understand why I was there. I wasn’t an employee and all Roger did was say how great I was. I didn’t understand why I was there. My second trip down there they invited me to join their Wallyball league. I’m a decent Volleyball player but the whole time playing Walleyball consisted of me fucking up and my team rolling their eyes.

A couple of months into it all Roger suggested I stay down in Long Island full-time. Thankfully my boss stuck up for me on that one. I swear, I was ready to leave my job, fuck the bonuses and the raises.

Thank God for James coming on-board. That’s when Long Island got a little more fun. That’s when we discovered how to make money on these business trips, too. Fuck it, if we were going to get shipped out to LI every month we might as well make some paper doing it, right?

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Long Island: The Day Trip

Monday, May 15, 2006

Two months into my job at TAO and my boss decided to see if I was worth my salary. They put me on a lame-duck project – I was doing some work for a major contractor, we’ll call them MH. It was actually a fairly large programming project for the Navy, the guy at our company that was working on it up and quit about a month before it was due.

He did nothing.

TAO believed our involvement in the project will come to an end shortly, since we spent a chunk of money to do jack shit, so they put me as the main guy on it in order to get me used to heading a project.

I had to write code – something I’ve never done in the past. But I looked at all the shit we had, read some books, and after a month I put something together that was thoroughly incomplete but looked decent. I also put together a balls-to-the-wall presentation that was 80% marketing, 20% progress report.

One of my bosses (Bob) and ADEA (pronounced ah-dea and stood for A.D. Eats Ass, A.D. being ADEA’s real name – he’ll be in the peanut gallery eventually), and I flew down to Long Island to meet with MH. We rent a car, drive down to MH and check in with security. Roger, the prime on the project, shakes our hands and shows us to the conference room. We all sit down, get comfortable, and Roger starts the meeting off by saying:

“I want to get this straight. TAO will no longer be working on this project. This meeting is solely so you can transition the software to us. We will only release enough funds to transition the software.”

Bob, ADEA and I were, well, speechless. Bob gathers his composure and gives his little update about where we are, money-wise, and then introduces me.

Here I am with this marketing presentation when just ten minutes ago Roger tells us we’re done working on this project. I figure, “what the fuck,” and I just go for it.

I spend an hour up there, giving my presentation and answering questions. Honestly. If any of the MH guys asked if we can do something and we couldn’t do it – I’d tell them “no” but say what we can do. I was just on the ball – commanding the room.

When I was done we decided to take a fifteen minute break. I was in the bathroom taking a leak when Roger asked me if I wanted to work for them. I politely told him “no”, said I was happy with TAO, and if he wanted to keep me on the project he’d need to send us some more funds.

When we reconvened for the remainder of the meeting, the tone was much different.

We had 60k left on our contract. They upped it to 250k and added more work for us to do. Our transition meeting turned into a planning meeting. Afterwards we shook hands, Roger offered me a job one last time, within earshot of my boss, and we were on our way.

The plus side? I got a ten-percent raise and a ten-percent bonus. I also got to hire my friend James to work on the project which got me a 5k referral bonus and a buddy at work. Between bonuses, raises and referrals that little trip netted me an extra 15k that year and job security for as long as I wanted to stay there. 22 year-old kid not only rescues a project but quadruples the budget.

The downside, in an effort to get me to work for them, Roger put a clause in the contract that stated I needed to spend two weeks out of every month working onsite at MH. For about eight months I spent half my time in Long Island. And there’s no amount of money in the world that’s worth that.

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Furnishings

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

I haven’t been around here in a while and I apologize for that. Work, traveling, and POSTCARDS been keeping me busy. Over the next couple of months I’ll be in NYC, Boston, Cleveland, Chicago, somewhere in Iowa, and San Diego – if you’re in any of those cities and if I like you send me an email and maybe we can get a beer.

Real quick, POSTCARDS is shaping up nice, the Live Journal is being updated more frequently than MITC, and I’ll probably have a themed week here next week – all about Long Island.


As mentioned, our new place on Connecticut Avenue had nothing but a suitcase filled with clothes, an air mattress, and some ramen noodles for the first week we lived in it. We didn’t have much money to spend on furniture so we needed to prioritize our purchases.

We stole towels from the hotel so we didn’t really need those yet. We got a skillet and a sauce pan to make dinner. Stole some plastic forks, knives, spoons and sporks from a variety of fast food restaurants. As far as necessities for survival went – we were doing ok.

So the next obvious step was to purchase a TV.

A 32-inch RCA that I got for free at Radio Shack in exchange for signing up for MSN for five years; an agreement I ultimately defaulted on and, to my surprise, they never tried to collect what I owed them. The Radio Shack was about ten blocks downhill from our apartment and there was no way in fuck I was going to carry that monstrous TV uphill. Brought that shit on the bus, pushed everybody out of the way. Even the bus driver said I shouldn’t bring the TV on the bus but I gave him this sad look and explained it was only for ten blocks.

Get the TV home and drag that shit up to our fourth floor apartment. Robin’s chilling at home and I walk in with this TV and surprise her – she was all worried that she was going to miss WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE? The shit we do for love.

Of course, I realized I forgot to buy an antenna for the TV (no cable at this point) so I go all the way back to Radio Shack to buy one. We got everything set just in time for prime time shows and fought with the antenna all night to try and get a better reception. The next day we ordered cable.

You’d think our second purchase would be a futon or, perhaps, a couple of stools to put around the little kitchen island so we didn’t need to eat our breakfast on the floor. What we actually purchased was, well, kind of embarrassing.

A Papasan Chair from Pier 1 Imports.

There was a Pier 1 about seven blocks downhill from us. We were in there pricing furniture when Robin pointed out they had Papasan Chairs, something she ALWAYS wanted, on sale. So we bought one.

I carried it home, of course.

Shortly after that the packages I had in storage in Boston showed up and we found ourselves with a bunch of books and trinkets – things that seem like high priority in college but when you don’t have anywhere to put them you realize how ridiculous they are.

So, third item? A book shelf. Pier 1, again.

I carried it home, of course.

Finally got some stools and a little cabinet for the TV. Around this time, though, the air mattress started to grow tumors. The stitches were popping out and our bodies would be draped across a semicircle as we slept – we’d wake up with back and neck pain. We finally had to buckle down and get a futon.

After getting denied because of bad credit at two mattress stores, we finally found a place that would sell us a futon. Big-ass thing, cherry stained wood frame, queen sized, extra plush mattress.

We got that one delivered, thankfully.

So, after a month we had the apartment relatively well furnished. Most of it on credit, of course.

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Peanut Gallery: The Boss

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Don't forget to check the new Live Journal for musings and fun little bits. This past week I delivered an essay on the Gas Face which'll be part of an ongoing feature on the site (the next one will be an Essay on the early 1990's Back to Africa movement).

___________________

Let’s get this out of the way – in order for you all to understand what my four years at TAO was like, you need to understand The Boss.

And The Boss deserves to be the President of the Peanut Gallery.

Pencil necked, tight collar, big fucking head – looked like Mr. Garrison from South Park and honest-to-shit talked like Bill Lumbergh from Office Space. He’d always wear these suits that were too big for him – big shoulders, long sleeves that went well past his wrists – ugly-ass ties, too – red ones with green stripes, homeboy always looked like he was wearing Christmas Wrapping Paper around his neck.

He lived about an hour and a half away from the office so he worked from home three days a week. I have no problem with people working from home, I try to do it once a week, myself – but the dude was a fucking manager. We’d find ourselves needing him – to sign a purchase order or something – and he just wouldn’t be there.

He was a church going guy, even played guitar, I believe, for his church band. Made him tons of fun on business trips. I go to strip clubs on business trips. Whether with a group or by myself. I’d go to strip clubs during lunch time, bring a notebook and get some work done while eating a burger and stuffing dollar bills in a girl’s g-string. Everyone I worked with knows how much I love strippers. And yet every night on a business trip he’d invite me out to some gay-ass thing like a comedy club somewhere in Podunk, Mississippi – I’m sure it’s quality stuff. I’d tell him, “No thanks – I’m going to get some titties in my face.” Come into work the next day with bloodshot eyes and caked in glitter and cigarette smoke, asking how the comedy show was.

One of my favorite quirks with him is that he doesn’t want people to know he shits. We’ve formed the theory after this one time where he was observed walking into our bathroom, seeing there were people in it, and then caught five minutes later walking out of another office’s bathroom. For those who don’t know – that’s the staple move for a shy-shitter. But, in the interest in fairness, we had to test our hypothesis, it’s bad juju to falsely accuse someone of bathroom complexes.

The Boss couldn’t go to the bathroom without passing my desk. Every time I observed him making a break for the restroom I’d go in there about thirty seconds later. Most times he wasn’t going to the bathroom, other times he was just taking a leak, but after a month or so of stalking him I walked in on him shitting. And I put our theory to the test.

I sat in the stall next to him. For about thirty minutes, reading the paper. Not a sound came from his stall – he didn’t even shift for a full half-hour. By the time I was done my legs were asleep, I could hardly even walk. I wiped up (although, after thirty minutes there’s really no need to wipe, you need a spatula to peel it off at that point), flushed, washed my hands and stumbled out of the bathroom, my legs buckling with every step.

Sure enough, two minutes later The Boss leaves the restroom, stumbling. He sat there the entire time and waited until I left to ensure that I didn’t know HE was taking a shit.

There are so many things to rag on him about and we’ll get to them in time but I’ll leave you with this last tale…

My job flew me out to Yuma Proving Grounds in Arizona quite often to fire off canons and mortars. We’d set up this sound equipment in the field and we’d occasionally sit out by it and left the firing squad alone to do their thing. We had to rent at least one pick-up truck or SUV to haul shit around in the desert and this one time The Boss goes ahead and rents a minivan.

So we drive up to the gates of the military base in a red minivan, the guard looks at us funny, checks our IDs and passes us through. We’re driving out to our storage shed – this minivan is bouncing like mad, it has no clearance so big rocks keep scraping the undercarriage. Equipment flying all over the place. It was such a fucking mess.

Later in the day we’re conducting firing tests – there are a bunch of gunners on the scene loading up the canons and dropping the mortars – while The Boss sits in the minivan with a portable DVD player and watches THE SANTA CLAUS 2. I will never forget that scene for as long as I live.

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Blowing Up

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

I got all of the introductory stuff out of the way – it’s time to start having some fun again. By the way – The Cleveland Plain Dealer named The Moose in the Closet “Blog of the Week”. That’s what I call “dope”.

_____________________

I’m a bit drunk right now – I wasn’t supposed to be, Saul Colt’s in town and it was supposed to be one beer. About seven pints later I find myself at home, needing to write a story that I was supposed to write this weekend but the publishing side of POSTCARDS nailed me down. So now you get drunken story. A short one.

In-between the nice 100+ dollar a night hotel and our apartment on Connecticut Ave, Robin and I stayed in a dump of a hotel. We ran out of money, see – my two-grand relocation check didn’t cover the entire month we had no apartment.

I found a hotel we could afford – forty-five a night – at the Motel 50 in Rosslyn (now called “The Rosslyn Inn”).

Dump. Straight dump. That we needed to live in for a week. When the cab driver dropped us off we asked what Rosslyn was like – he told us not to cross Route 50 or else we’ll get killed.

That’s what he said – I shit you not.

Funny thing is - now I live about four blocks away from the Rosslyn Inn, our cab driver was either full of shit or that neighborhood came up real fast.

After a week of living at that shitty motel we moved into our studio on Connecticut Avenue – got the money order on the way up there (and the crooked ass cab driver charged us extra for the two minute stop at Mail Boxes Etc to pick up the money order).

Signed the lease and went up to our new apartment – all we owned at that point was the clothes within our suitcase. We went shopping – got some soda, peanut butter, ramen and beer. We made a bed out of rolled up clothes and tried to sleep – toss and turned the entire night, woke up with stiff necks and backs on fire.

We went to this outdoor store the next day - a wannabe EMS. Bought an air-mattress – forgot the pump. I sat down with a case of Budweiser and blew up a queen size air-mattress with my fucking mouth – by the time I was done I was blue, there was nothing left in me – no oxygen, no energy. Robin kept offering to help out, in-between black-outs, but being the macho man I was I kept blowing that plastic little phallic, slowly filling up the airbed.

We slept better that night.

Probably because I had fantastic “thank you for blowing up the air mattress” sex.

Anyway, I’m not in the proper state to end this right – so I’ll just salute you all and go to bed:

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All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Only stories here from now on. Go to POSTCARDS for production stuff and Live Journal for everything else.

______________

By the time Friday rolled around I thought I was going to get laid off. I honest to shit thought my boss was going to lay me off after my first week of work. I really didn’t do anything. I read some stuff – sent some emails, met my coworkers and filled out documentation. I left before 5PM everyday of the week.

I was so afraid that my boss was going to lay me off that I snuck out of the office that Friday without saying goodbye to anyone, thinking that would buy me some time.

My relocation check cleared and Robin and I were able to explore the city a bit more. I was excited to look up my boy James, the only person I knew who lived in DC, but he was out of state that weekend at some mini-baja competition. I was the youngest person at my first job, a little over 22 – everyone else was well over thirty and most of them had families. Living in a hotel doesn’t do much for the social life, either. Robin and I were on our own for our first weekend in DC where we actually had some money in the bank.

The concierge at the hotel told us to check out Adams Morgan, the busiest area for DC’s nightlife. We take the metro there and walk outside to find a McDonald’s, a deli and two Indian Restaurants. We were…upset…and figured we just moved to the lamest city in America.

Of course the bumping part of Adams Morgan is about ten blocks from the metro station but we didn’t know that – we just went to an Indian Restaurant, ate well, drank even better and made our way back to the hotel thinking we made a huge mistake moving to this city.

The second day we went apartment shopping but ended up in a whole different type of ghetto. Robin went to look for apartments earlier in the week and came back with pictures of some nice ones but they were all studios – she couldn’t find an affordable one-bedroom in the District that was in a “recommended” area. I was determined to find one, however, so I picked out some places that happened to be in South East DC.

Let me tell you a little bit about DC. One of the worst crime rates in America. People think the whole city is a shit-hole but that’s not true – 90% of the crime takes place in Southeast DC and the surrounding areas.

After looking at one apartment we called the Ellicott House and told them we’ll take the studio. (This apartment wasn’t even Anacostia, either, 90% of the crime in Southeast DC takes place in Anacostia – I have only two stories that takes place there and they’re both fucking excellent).

The Ellicott House on Connecticut Avenue – our first apartment. A six-hundred square foot studio on the fourth floor of a 14-story building. Tennis courts, a gym, an indoor and outdoor swimming pool, a hot-tub – all stuff we hardly ever used during the year we lived there. I took the place based on pictures Robin took and got developed at CVS. We were moving into the place in two weeks. The only problem was that we couldn’t afford to stay in our current hotel for another two weeks – we’ve already been there for over a week and the room cost us over a hundred bucks a night.

So we needed to find a new hotel. And that’s where the Rosslyn 50 or whatever the hell they used to call it came in. Comfort level was about to decrease and it only gets worse.

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Decapitating Corporate America

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Greater resolution!

The Moose in the Closet, the blog you’re reading right now, will only be for stories. POSTCARDS’ Blog will only be for the production of the anthology (and James Powell is posting there now, as well). And now, The Moose’s Musings will be my Live Journal where I just shoot the shit, occasionally lay down some attempts at comedy writing and try to get a little discussion going. So stop by, if you have an LJ let me know so I can add you to my friend list and feel free to do the same for mine.

On that note, it’s story time…

__________________

I woke up two hours early for my first day of work. The hotel was only a couple of blocks away and my clothes were already ironed – the lead time might have seemed excessive but I needed to tie my tie, something I’ve only done several times before.

It was a smart move; it took me about twenty minutes to get a decent knot put together without having the tip of my tie lie somewhere around my nipples.

Robin made me coffee and asked if I wanted breakfast – I was too nervous to eat and I wasn’t going to kid myself and pretend we can afford to go out for some quality omelets. I grabbed a banana from the hotel lobby on the way out and walked to TAO.

Orientation took the entire morning. My boss, David, took me around to all of the offices and introduced me to my coworkers – most of them seemed like a friendly lot with the exception of this guy Curt who will be featured prominently future stories. Curt’s not a bad guy at all, let me get that out of the way right from the start, but he’s everything a storyteller wants from a character.

I had to meet with the human resources woman who was kind of cute and one of my early thoughts upon seeing her consisted of bending her over an office table and pushing up. It was a great image to juxtapose against her talking about the sexual harassment policy. I can’t help it, though; I think I’ve pictured myself having sex with nine girls out of every ten I’ve ever met. I’m always thinking about sex. Seriously, I went to a therapist because of it.

I remember when I was a kid and I’d say my prayers at night, naked women would always pop into my head. I’d feel so dirty, here I was opening my soul to God and I couldn’t stop pornography from running rampant in my subconscious. I’d argue with myself – I’d be on my knees praying and it would go something like this:

“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with [naked woman appears in my head]. I’m sorry, Blessed Virgin. Hail Mary [naked woman]. Stop it! Why can’t you just stop it! Hail Mary, full of [naked woman].”

It would take me ten-minutes to get through one prayer, the Virgin Mary sitting on high and asking me to hurry it up. In order to combat the image, I used to picture a record player in my mind and the record player was reciting the Hail Mary. And then, I shit you not, a naked woman would come and push the record player out of the way.

I had no control in an almost comical way – and it was a pretty destructive behavior in the workplace. Not so much as people knew what was going through my head but that I never paid attention to female coworkers because I kept fantasizing about having sex with them.

I don’t know, remember that for later. I’m actually much better now. Well, better.

After I signed up for health insurance, 401k and life insurance (and I split my life beneficiaries between my sister and Robin in case you were wondering) I had to meet with the security officer. She put this fucking book in front of me, a thirty page application for my security clearance which, as I already talked about, I lied quite extensively on.

The security officer told me to get it in to her “within a week or so”. It took me about two months – paperwork and I don’t get along very well.

Then I finally got to see my office. It’s a great moment, walking into your first office. I had a nice one, too – it was designed for two people but I had it all to myself – it was long and had floor to ceiling windows running its entire length. My computer was already set-up and there were some supplies on my desk already – my nameplate was already attached to the entryway.

My boss told me to take some time to set-up my office and read over the company handbook, a hundred page document that got shoved in my drawer the moment he left, never to be seen again. I called Robin first, I put my feet up on the desk and turned towards my window to try and emulate the executives you see in the movies. I told her all about my day so far, everything except the whole wanting to have sex with the human resources woman, and let her know some of the guys from the office were going to take me out to lunch.

After talking to Robin I emailed my parents, my mom wrote back within minutes to tell me how proud she is of me. I went to lunch afterwards with some people, came back and read some of the stuff the HR woman gave me and left early, around three, telling my boss I needed to go apartment hunting.

My first day at work and I left two hours early. TAO was the kind of company a man can take advantage of, the tales of my exploits at work that I’ll be laying down over the next couple of months will both shock and inspire you. Corporate America is a fucking piece of cake.

On the way home I spotted something out of the corner of my eye, lying in the gutters – it was a New Years 2000 refrigerator magnet. Big fucking deal, right?

Robin and I had the same one back in Boston. But I’m sure they made plenty of them, you know?

Well, the one we had in Boston – it was a gift from Robin’s mom that fell off the fridge, causing the head to break off – it’s the reason we threw it out. The magnet I found on the street didn’t have its head, either. I naturally took it back to the hotel me, Robin would never believe it if I just told her that I saw it, and we still have it today – prominently displayed on our fridge.

I get to the hotel, excited to tell Robin about my day. She’s not in the room, unfortunately – she went into DC to look for apartments and left me a note – she didn’t expect me to be home so early. I leave her a note and go down to the bar, start munching on free mozzarella sticks and putting down Bud Lights on the hotel’s tab.

Robin meets me about an hour later – big kisses and excited talk about my first day at work. She found some apartments that I might have been interested in, but that’s for tomorrow’s story. I told her about the magnet and she naturally didn’t believe me until I showed her the decapitated body of the pudgy woman that played music when you pressed her tits.

We got drunk and passed out early in the comfort of our hundred-plus dollar a night hotel room – having no idea that there was only a couple of weeks of comfortable sleeping left for us before we spend several months with back pains and stiff necks.

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Fun and Games in McLean, Virginia

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

I went to my third baseball game of the season last night, Mets vs. Nationals – it was also my third ballpark. So far I’ve been to Camden Yards, RFK Stadium and whatever you call the park the Phillies play in. I’ll be going to Fenway, Shea, Wrigley, Cleveland and Colorado to catch some games as well this year. Last year I did Shea, Yankee Stadium, Fenway, Camden, RFK, San Francisco, San Diego and Chicago White Sox. I’d love to catch a game in Milwaukee but I really can’t come up with an excuse to visit Milwaukee beyond going to see a baseball game. At least Cleveland has the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Anyway, I guess what I want to say is, LET’S GO FUCKING METS!

Story time…

___________________

Five days.

That’s how much time I had between the day I arrived in Virginia and the day I started work.

Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday.

Five days to get out and explore our nation’s capital (and its outlying neighborhoods). Five days to meet some new people and see some sites. Five days to sample local restaurants, bars and neighborhoods – try and decide where we wanted to live. Five days to stake my claim, to adjust myself – five days to get comfortable.

I was fucked.

We had no money. We had a credit card with a modest limit that we were using to hold the hundred+ dollar a night hotel room and that’s it.

A 75% relocation advance was mailed to me in Boston; unfortunately it didn’t get there before I moved out. I needed to get TAO to issue me a new check that I picked up my second day in the DC area. I had to open a bank account with that check, because I closed my Bank Boston account before moving. It was going to take a couple of days for the funds to clear – I had a couple of bucks cash on me and that was it.

Robin wasn’t in any better shape – her parents gave her some cash but it was essentially enough to cover really cheap meals for a couple of days.

So whereas we got down there early to explore the area, our limited funds restricted us to packing a book bag with bread and peanut butter and staying close to the hotel. McLean, Virginia, unfortunately, didn’t have a lot to offer a couple of 22 year-old kids excited to be in a new city.

That’s where Tyson’s Mall comes in. It was a fifteen minute walk to get there and we could spend a couple of hours there – slowly walking around and planning what we’ll get for our eventual apartment. Checking out Crate & Barrel and picking out a headboard for our bed – the one piece to a standard bedroom-set we have yet to purchase in the past six years. Why buy a headboard when you can buy a 42-inch plasma HDTV is my motto – priorities.

We’d ask the kiosk guys if we can use their computers to check our email and they almost always agreed – we’d spend a couple of minutes searching online for apartments because we didn’t learn our lesson the first time around.

Dinner at McDonald’s – Robin and I were practicing vegetarians at the time (well, Robin was, and I was trying really hard). French fries, salad cup and a drink of water was the standard dinner for those five days (peanut butter sandwich for lunch, obviously).

The hotel had a bar and we were able to charge up our drinks to the room – no matter how broke we were we always found a way to drink alcohol – I think that’s a universal constant. That first Saturday night we tried to go to the hotel bar but they were having some comedy show and there was a cover – we ended up crossing the Pike and going to Mr. Smith’s where we actually had a decent meal and decided to use the credit card, figuring we’ll deal with the potential “insufficient funds to pay for hotel room” when and if it happens.

We found ways to pass the time – we made up theme songs for each other, for instance. Robin’s was sung to the beat of TALK’S TO ANGELS and went like so:

She never takes the tags off
The clothes that she buys
That’s so she can return them
If the neeeedd arise

She says she talks to sales clerks
About their return policy


Mine was sung to the beat of a generic children’s song:

I’m a sensitive homo erectus, a sensitive homo erectus
I have a hard on all day
I’m a sensitive homo erectus, a sensitive homo erectus
Won’t you come out an play

I’m a sensitive homo erectus, a sensitive homo erectus
I got something I’d like you to touch
I’m a sensitive homo erectus, a sensitive homo erectus
I’m sorry that it isn’t much


Ah…inside jokes. This one isn't tough, though - you see, I tend to always be ready to go.

We made it into DC once. The first time was to go apartment shopping – we took the train to the U Street stop because it was the closest stop to the first apartment we were going to check out – our first exposure to DC was a touch of the ghetto. Now, I have no problems with the ghetto, but when you move to DC everyone reminds you how bad the crime rate is there. You just brush it off, say it’s fine, and you step out of the metro to be surrounded by a touch of ghetto – you get a little worried.

I get a little worried, at least, Robin starts walking faster.

We checked out a couple of apartment in the Adams Morgan area but didn’t settle on anything – we made our way to the Mall and saw the monuments for the first time, fed the ducks with the bread in our backpack. Robin discovered the wonders of the Mall popsicle stands – these Asian guys who sell every popsicle ever made, it seems. I shit you not – I actually purchased one of those WWF cookie/ice-cream pops, shit had to be made in the late 80s. Had Jimmy Superfly Snuka on it. There was no way it wasn’t expired but I ate it anyway – Robin had a Pink Panther popsicle with gumball eyes.

That was really it. Tyson’s Mall, hotel bars, theme songs and one trip into DC. No closer to finding an apartment, no money in the bank. I started work on a Tuesday – ironed my clothes the night before and went to bed early. It was time to start making a living.

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The Return of the Moose: Denying the Projects

Monday, April 10, 2006

Early March I wrapped up my year-long, 5 day a week writing experiment where I told true stories about growing up in Brooklyn and going to school in Boston. POSTCARDS was in the early development phase and I figured I needed time to publish the book. I decided to update this site twice a week for a while and eventually come back to the storytelling once I had the time.

Well, guess what? An unstructured blog is much more time-consuming than a structured one. The Moose in the Closet was easy to write after a while - I'd knock down a story in ten minutes. So, I'm going back to the Moose starting today. I won't be doing it five days a week but between this site and the POSTCARDS Production Blog I'll be putting something new up every Monday-Friday. If I was to guess at a schedule, I'd say POSTCARDS and the Moose will alternate between Tuesday/Thursday and Monday/Wednesday/Friday updates.

I'm probably going to try to do this round of stories in chronological order - there's a bit more structure here, this is the story of moving to DC, building a life and, more importantly, building a healthy relationship with Robin. I'll probably drop back to the Brooklyn/Boston stories now and again, there are quite a few stories left to tell.

Anyway - let's just get to the stories, shall we?

______________________

We left off with Robin and I spending our first night in DC - a hotel in McLean, Virginia, actually, several blocks from my first job out of college - a company we'll call TAO. They gave me a two-thousand dollar relocation account and our hotel was over a hundred dollars a night. We realized we were cutting it close but the apartment we secured (online without ever seeing it) will be ready for us in two weeks.

Our friends warned us about putting money down on an apartment but the rent was 800 a month in Arlington - supposedly the hip and trendy DC-metro area.

Let me tell you about Arlington. Ten, fifteen years ago, all of Arlington was straight ghetto. As communities built up around the orange line certain neighborhoods began to become more affluent. First Rosslyn, a quick walk from Georgetown across the Key Bridge - its closeness to DC and the fact that buildings within Rosslyn are actually allowed to be taller than the Washington Monument made it primo location for business development. Following the orange line you hit Courthouse, Clarendon, Virginia Square and Ballston (which is now being built up quite rapidly).

My current apartment is between Rosslyn and Courthouse - I live within a block of eight restaurants, three bars, four fast-food joints, one video store, one grocery store, three coffee shops and one 24-hour CVS - it's everything I expected from the Arlington apartment we found online for 800 a month.

That apartment, however, wasn't on the orange line. It wasn't on any train line, actually - it was an hour long bus ride from our hotel. After trekking across Arlington to get to the building we notice the area around it - it's kind of run down, pawn shops and check cashing joints line the strip malls. Our apartment building has a seven foot iron gate topped with barbed wire. I grew up in Red Hook when Red Hook was bad - but there was always this sense of neighborhood - I rarely felt unsafe walking around Red Hook as a kid - I never felt like people were trying to keep me out. This part of Arlington was filled with ugly mid-rises and people who didn't want to live there - people who didn't feel safe.

We buzz the office from outside the gate and explain to the intercom that we're moving into the building in a couple of weeks and wanted to take a look around. We get rung in and make our way to the lobby - the smell of curry and sofrito hit us like a brick wall. We go to the office and ask the building manager if we're allowed to see our apartment and she tells us, "No."

That's really it. "No." No reason, no apologies. No offer to see a different apartment. Robin and I just decide to check out our floor at least, we get into the elevator that's littered with trash and sticky substances and ride up to the seventh floor.

The place reeks - the hall hasn't been cleaned in a while. Within several minutes we see a variety of bugs. Loud music - people yelling. I grew up in Red Hook, I remember visiting my Aunt Sophie's apartment as a kid - I knew what this was.

It was the Projects. It cost 800 bucks a month, they were probably trying to attract people with money - change the demographic within their building one renter at a time, but beyond that there was nothing about this building that didn't scream Projects.

I need to put you in our mindset and in order to do that I need to disclose some information that I'm not entirely comfortable disclosing. Robin and I both grew up in struggling families - you all know that. I got through college on grants and loans and stipends - the first person in my family to go through the four years. My first job was paying me a healthy 50k a year with a raise after six-months if I was performing - at the time I was making about the same amount of money my father was making.

I was proud - my family was proud. I could not have them visit me to find me living in the Projects. I told Robin I can't live here, she agreed - we walked away from our 300-dollar deposit, hopped a cab and made our way back to McLean, realizing that we'd need to find a new apartment as quick as possible.

Nothing's ever that easy, however.

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Finding Wisdom in the Oddest Places and My Future

Monday, April 03, 2006

Last night I had to go for a little ride and left the Sirius radio receiver in the apartment. Instead of going back in for it, I decided to dig through the collection of scratched up CDs in my car to find one that’ll play for me. I ended up pulling out ODB’s THE RETURN TO THE 36 CHAMBERS – an album I haven’t listened to in years.

I get to the sixth track – RAWHIDE – and ODB drops out some wisdom that I’ll be using as my motto for the road ahead. He says:

Tired of sitting on my fucking ass, niggas I know you run around with mad fuckin’ cash.
Who the fuck wanna be an MC if you can’t get paid to be a fuckin’ MC?


Replace “MC” with “publisher” and you got some words to live by. Albeit words that really don’t flow well with a beat behind them. Of course, ODB goes on to say:

I came out my momma’s pussy, I’m on welfare 26 years old and still on welfare
So I gotta get paid fully, whether it’s tru-fully or un-tru-fully


So, much like I do with the bible, I’ll pick and choose what ODB wisdom I take with me while publishing POSTCARDS.

_________

Thursday’s post about my new food shopping habits inspired Mark Fossen to write this in the comments section:

Once/If you have kids of your own, all those lovely organic goods in your grocery sack get replaced by hot dogs, mac 'n' cheese, and chicken nuggets. It'll go full cycle ...

I realized that I never disclosed mine and Robin’s horribly racist plan for our future. Now, whenever I tell this plan to anyone they think I’m joking. Please, make no mistake, this is the plan – this is what we’re going to do. This isn’t a joke.

Ok, we may or may not get married. I was kind of prepared to, she wants to finish grad school first and now I don’t want to anymore and she seems to agree. I’m sure that’ll change once we hit thirty but, for now, no marriage.

But we’ll still have kids. Three, actually – two adopted kids and one “real” child (what’s the PC term for the non-adopted kid?).

For the first kid – well, Robin and I love baseball. We fucking live baseball. Every season I order up the baseball season pass on cable and we just watch games all the time – doesn’t matter who is playing. Last year alone we went to eight different pro-stadiums. There is nothing that would make us more proud than having a kid who plays baseball professionally – so we’re adopting a Dominican.

Now, that may sound horrible but I’m allowed to make that stereotype because I’m Puerto Rican. And, as some of you may know, Puerto Ricans HATE Dominicans. Can’t stand them. We think they all smell and run through caves barefoot (whether or not there are caves in the Dominican Republic is irrelevant). I am genetically predisposed to hating Dominicans – my family reunion consists of a hundred Puerto Ricans making fun of the darkest family member by calling him Dominican. As kids, when we played tag, you weren’t “It”, you were “Dominican”.

Adopting a Dominican kid, even if we don’t enroll him in school but instead force him to play baseball twelve hours a day, would be considered an act of charity in my family. When he starts making that baseball paper we may even let him eat some pernil.

Now, if the Dominican kid doesn’t quite become the next David Ortiz, we really don’t want to support his ass – especially since we won’t be sending him to school. Last thing we want is some uneducated Dominican sitting around, stinking up the sofa and whistling at girls that walk by our window. Wearing some denim, Dominican flag shirt. So we’re going to adopt an Asian kid and make sure he’s real good at math – make sure he gets some cushy government job crunching numbers for the rest of his life. This way he can support his Dominican brother and Robin and I can focus our love and attention on our real kid.

Our real kid is going to be a healthy male because we already have the name picked out and because we don’t have the time to deal with a sickly kid – a kid is a novelty, not a job. Ty Rex Rodriguez – T. Rex for short. We’ll use our adopted kids as teaching tools to help shape T. Rex into a man – teach him valuable lessons like, “You’re lucky you’re not Dominican” and “The Asian kid’ll do your math homework for you if you twist his nipple.”

Best case scenario - one son’s a famous baseball players, one son’s a noble prize winning scientist, the other son has a hot wife I can hook-up with since I won’t be married. Worst case scenario has me going out for cigarettes and never coming back – admitting that the plan has failed – and never having to file for a divorce.

It’s a good plan.

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What the fuck happened to me?

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Growing up in Brooklyn we were eating Macaroni Junga-Junga and Frankfurter Soup because it was cheap and lasted the whole week. Buying quarter-waters by the case and drinking them until my teeth corroded. Beef jerky, fried pork chops, nestle crunch bars and a milk shake from the Mister Softee ice cream truck. A lucky day was when my pops treated me to a Vanilla Nutrament and a handful of jelly rings.

My lunchtime treat in high school was a hotdog smothered in cheese and barbeque sauce from the cart that used to park in front of Brooklyn College. If I didn’t skip out the school for lunch it was dollar hamburgers and chocolate milk from the cafeteria. It was around this time my mom learned how to make these kick-ass mozzarella sticks, she’d buy bulk cheese and breadcrumbs and make a hundred of them and freeze them only to have G and I polish them off over a day or two.

College was whatever the fuck I could steal from the cafeteria. Fluff and pasta were somehow incorporated into every meal. Pasta-pastamba-roots was my own little recipe – steak-um, pasta and marinara sauce, all fried up in a wok and served with parmesan cheese. One time I spilled tropical Kool-aid in it and instead of throwing it out I called it Tropasta-pastamba-roos.

When I first moved to DC we had jack-shit. Nothing. We didn’t even have an apartment for the first month and when we finally got one it took us another month to get a bed. Meals consisted of ramen noodles and chicken noodle soup. There were actually nights during that first month when we simply couldn’t afford to eat – no money in the bank, paycheck a day away, and you munch on some crackers and go to bed at seven because it’s easier to ignore the hunger when you’re sleeping.

But I went grocery shopping yesterday and halfway through unpacking the bag I realized I officially sold out – I officially got old. Organic beef jerky, goat gouda, Uncle Sam Cereal (full of flax, baby!), dried blueberries, organic blueberry waffles, uncooked sesame seed chicken, fruit salad, prepared chicken parmesan, Santa Fe Turkey breast, sunflower rye bread – every item in that bag was something that would cause my father to smack me with a pernil if he saw it.

This was a true crisis for me – I promptly went out and bought a package of Kraft singles at Safeway. I folded a slice into a stack of sixteen mini-pieces and ate them one at a time like I used to do as a kid. I repeated the fold-and-eat technique for about six slices of cheese. After watching LOST, I spent the rest of the evening in the bathroom doing Penny Press logic puzzles.

Sometimes you just can’t be a kid again, I guess.

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Villes of Brown, Postcards from the Hive, Lovin' Ma Country and Deez Nuts

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Tomorrow is your last day to claim a free copy of Neil Kleid and Jake Allen’s Brownsville – please, go, post, read my review, get a copy of an amazing book.

_____________

There’s a new Hive going up shortly, I’ll link to it when it does (and here it is)– we start talking distribution and I start the column off with a bit of an announcement that ultimately leads people here. Good times are ahead, my friends. Good times.

_____________

I watched DEAL OR NO DEAL from Monday night – I have an overwhelming fascination with that show. I would say it’s the only trashy show I watch except I can’t get enough 24 this season.

And Taylor Hicks is my American Idol.

Anyway, there was this cat on DEAL OR NO DEAL; dude came up to the stage with this Texas Flag Shirt, big ass belt-buckle, tight-ass Levi’s – I’m talking straight Texas Hick. He gets on the stage and Howie asks him to tell the audience a little bit about himself and he says, “My name’s blah, blah, blah. Wife, kids, blah. And I love my country.”

Now, look. Despite its faults, I love my country, too. I really do. I’ve been to other countries and with the exception of England I’ve never have this desire to live in any of them. When it comes down to it, I love America. I don’t really like our current policies, 50% of our population or Connecticut but despite its faults it’s a pretty good place to live 72% of the time. Despite my love for this country, I cannot fathom someone responding, “And I love my country,” when giving a little mini-bio about themselves.

It just doesn’t go anywhere, you know? You tell someone you like baseball and they ask you what team you cheer for. You tell them you like pizza and they ask you what your favorite topping are. You tell them you love your country and there’s really no response beyond “me too” or “fuck your country”.

I don’t understand when loving one’s country became a political statement. And I really don’t understand where political statements, even quasi ones, fit in with gameshows.

“Well, Howie, my name is Jason; I come from Arlington, Virginia where I live with my lovely girlfriend of seven years, Robin. We have three cats, a dog, a bird and I support a gay couple’s right to adopt children.”

Anyway, just found that kind of funny. The guy walked home with over a hundred-grand. That’s a lot of jerky.
_____________

So my boy G sent me this link yesterday, it’s the Wikipedia entry on how to play “Deez Nuts”, complete with the rules of the game. As a kid that grew up in Brooklyn, this has got to be the weakest variation of Deez Nuts I’ve ever seen. According to the guy who wrote this, all you need to do is get someone to say “What” and you can respond with “Deez Nuts”. They even gave an example:

P1. Hey did what’s his name get at you yesterday?
P2. Who?
P1. Deez Nuts!

That’s just fucking insulting. A true master at Deez Nuts knows to wait for the perfect moment – a good Deez Nuts joke is spontaneous, you can sometimes go months without delivering a single Deez Nuts joke. But when you do, when there’s the perfect blend of conversation momentum and background noise, the joke is a thing of beauty. I’d like to give you some of the more memorable Deez Nuts jokes from my own past.

Please remember the good ones only work within the confines of the conversation, you need your opponent to be off guard and not notice the slightly-off pronunciation you’re using. You should never stress the “deez” and never smile, never make it look like this is a set-up, and 9 times out of 10 your opponent will fall for it.
_____________

I was at a bar once in Boston, Mets vs. Yankees. Guy’s sitting next to me with some friends, he’s decked out in Yankee apparel – I have on a Mets hoodie and hat. He’s the typical loud and obnoxious Yankee fan – after his fifteenth “WOOOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHH” I turn to him and say…

“You really like’ta yank-deez, dontcha?”

“Yeah, so?”

“So why don’t you yank deez nuts!”

There was a quite moment where I thought we were going to rumble. Then he laughs and buys me a beer, showing respect to the master Deez Nutsman. This joke can also work with the Rock-deez and if your opponent is drunk enough and not really paying attention, the Pheel-deez.
_____________

Sophomore year in college, I work nights in the cafeteria. Slow night, one of my coworkers brings some home-made chocolates with her – they were quite delicious. She’s telling us how she makes them, we’re all listening intently – she mentions how she loves to make all kinds of candy. I ask her…

“Can you make rock-an-deez?”

“Rock candies? Yeah, you just blah blah blah…”

“Woah, hold up. That’s not how you were rockin’ deez nuts last night!”

No-one gives me a high five, no one gets it – but I was proud of myself, at least.
_____________

My favorite Deez Nuts jokes are the ones where you make up a word that sounds like it could be a real word and your opponent doesn’t question it. Like this one time…



“I don’t know, man, I’m having some insertindeez.”

“About what?”

“About insertin’ deez nuts in your mouth!”
_____________

This one gets credited to G although I’ve used it once. My friend mentions how much she loves Dunkin’ Donuts to which I throw on this disgusted face and say…

“You like dunkin’ doughs-nuts?”

“Of course.”

“Then why don’t you dunk deez nuts in your mouth!”

Again, blank stare.
_____________

Hit and runs are always fun but Robin gets embarrassed so I can’t do it too often. Like last summer at Sea World when we walk by an exhibit and a tour guide standing nearby says…

“And right here is where we house the manatees, Florida’s…”

“Man-a-deez nuts!”

Doesn’t make sense, really, but still fun to say.
_____________

I’m all reminiscent now – I want to start telling Deez Nuts jokes again. It’s so easy to do in comics, too:

“You support in-deez?”

“Yeah, I always try to sample books from Fantagraphics and Drawn & Quarterly, especially anything from…”

“No, no! I wanted to know if you’re supportin’ deez nuts!”

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All Grown Up

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Well, it’s 1:30AM and I just got home from work (got into work at 9AM).

It’s not like I had to be at work as late as I was, I was the last one in the building when I was going to leave (around 8:00PM) and I discovered that the alarm system was busted. Unfortunately, I’m not allowed to leave my building with the alarm turned off (government secrets and all) so I had to call the company that handles our security system and since we’re a DoD system they had to dispatch their “emergency technician” who I was told will be at the office “within 4 hours.”

Well, it was pretty much exactly 4 hours before he showed up.

But it was fine, I got a lot of work done and I’ll probably stay home tomorrow in the name of “comp time”. Plus, I had a pretty cool epiphany last night that I’d like to share.

Last year the DC Conspiracy took a road trip to the Frank Frazetta Museum. I was one of the drivers and I had Chris Piers, Evan Keeling and Deb Orgel in my car. On the ride up there, in between rounds of “Fuck, Marry, Kill” and “Who Would Get Laid First” we’d throw out some profound questions that everyone needed to take turns answering.

One of these questions was, “When did you first feel like an adult?”

At the time my answer had to do with a recent situation with my parents, when they got into a little trouble and needed my help and I actually had the resources available to help them out. Within 24 hours of their request I had everything settled. It was a very “adult” moment – my parents, the people who guided me and helped me through the years, felt like they could turn to me in their time of need and I was able to take care of everything.

Tonight, however, I kind of remembered a moment that pre-dates that story and is likely the true moment I first felt like an adult.

It was my second month out of college, I’ve been working at my new job in my new city and I had my first big project – I had to work late to prepare for a presentation later in the week.

At the time Robin and I were still getting our shit together – when we first moved to DC we spent three weeks living in two different hotels until finally moving into this little studio apartment. The first night we make makeshift pillows out of our clothes and sleep on the floor, the second night we buy an air-mattress but no pump – we spent the evening blowing it up with our mouths while downing cans of Budweiser. The next day I bought a TV, a week later we got a chair.

And that was it for about a month. An air mattress, a JVC TV I got for free from Radio Shack by signing up with MSN for three years and a chair. So, it was still kind of like college except with a $900 rent.

No car, either, so I’m taking the bus and train to work – again, still feels like college life.

But this one night I was working late. The other people in the office began to trickle out until I was the last one in the building. I had my top button opened up, my shirt untucked, my tie thrown in my desk drawer – I reeked of cigarettes because I’d go out every thirty or forty minutes and suck down two Parliament Lights in an attempt to clear my head.

I was putting in the hours and by the time I left work it was a little past 2AM. I set the alarm in the building and took the elevator down to the first floor – step outside to the humid air and the dark streets, this was in McLean, Virginia – a city that shuts down at around 10PM every night, right when the mall closes.

There’re no cars in the parking lot – no cars in any of the parking lots for the neighboring buildings, either – I’m likely the only person out and about on Jones Branch Drive since the street is nothing but a strip of office buildings. I have a cigarette and dig out my cell phone, call a cab company and they tell me it’ll be thirty minutes.

I sit outside chain smoking, on the steps of my building, just thinking about life, DC, Robin – whatever was going on at the time. Cab pulls up and I tell him where I live, he lets me know it’ll be expensive to go all the way to DC and I just kind of smile and he understands – I really don’t have a choice.

We talk all the way home – I tell him I’m new to the city and that I’m starting to like it, starting to feel comfortable. In retrospect he likely took me for a ride because we’re coming up Connecticut Avenue from Adams Morgan (a route which makes no sense) when I see the 7-11 and ask him to let me out.

I go into the 7-11 and get a coffee, just felt like drinking one, and walk the rest of the way. It’s about two miles (uphill) but it was a nice summer night, I was already late, and I just felt like doing some thinking. I put the headphones on and walk slowly. By the time I get home it’s close to 3:30 in the morning, Robin’s already sleeping.

I take a shower, go on-line and check some email and lay down to fall asleep. And I was laying there drifting off, I distinctly remember feeling proud. I think that night was the first night that I really felt like I was “on my own” – and that’s a pretty adult feeling.

It popped into my head tonight when I was leaving at 1AM, no cars in the parking lot. Driving home on the empty streets – looking for a parking spot – finally getting home and seeing Robin sleeping in bed, dog barking at me from under the covers. I remembered exactly what it felt like on that night.

Anyway, I should go to bed. – what about you all? What was the first time you felt like an adult?

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Only in Brooklyn

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Things are moving along with the book, very exciting stuff. I predict March 23rd’s The Hive will have a pretty big announcement attached to it.

Anyway, trying to have some fun today with a little piece I’d like to call “Only in Brooklyn”. You see, I haven’t dug through the photos in awhile and there are so many good ones that I should share with you all so I picked out a couple that seem to frame events and situations that can only happen in Brooklyn. For instance…

Only in Brooklyn can ten year-old kids escape from hospitals and hide out in your house:


Only in Brooklyn can a kid be sitting in a plastic pool situated in his gated, concrete front yard:


Only in Brooklyn can a baseball fan through like this and wonder why he wasn’t the starting catcher:


Only in Brooklyn can a kid nonchalantly show off the smallest bowling trophy in recorded history while standing in front of 99% of the paneling produced in 1989:


Only in Brooklyn can one’s grandfather take his Birthday present for a spin in front of the neighborhood garbage dump:


Only in Brooklyn…well…you can say something about anyone in this picture, really:


Only in Brooklyn are children so happy to share GI Joes:


Only in Brooklyn can your prom picture be taken in front of a paint-chipped stoop:


Only in Brooklyn can a Moose roam free:

_______________

24 was good tonight, by the way. No complaints – a fun hour of television. It would have been more fun of the attack was with mustard gas, though. See – mustard gas doesn’t kill you usually – it just peels your fucking skin off and leaves you in agonizing pain for days. When it does kill you it’s only because you breathe in enough vapor to burn the inside of your lungs. Let me tell you something – I know what a lot of chemicals and diseases can do to you – there’s nothing worse than getting sprayed with mustard. That and radionuclide poisoning are the two worst ways you can possibly die.

Well, on that note, have a nice day.

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Today You Tell Me Something (Y Manana Es Otra Cosa, Mentirosa)

Thursday, March 02, 2006

What a fun week. I worked 15+ hours on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I was pretty tired, having already done 45 hours this week I was going to take today off and catch-up on some good ‘ole fashioned comic editing and publishing. My boss had other plans. You see, he wanted to “reward” me for working so hard so he booked me for a two day conference that he thought I’d enjoy.

It’s in Virginia; mind you, not some exotic island somewhere. That would be an actual reward.

So now, after averaging four hours sleep the past two nights, I need to be in McLean, Virginia at 7:45AM to register for a conference that’s going to go until 4PM. I have to give Josh notes on WORLD’S END, I need to give JJ notes on ROSE-COLORED CRASH, I need to follow-up with a couple of creators that want to contribute to my book – all this shit I need to do and instead I get to hang out with old people and eat a boxed lunch.

Fun!

I got to watch 24 last night, though. I’ve been making fun of them this season for doing no research into nerve gas but the shit they pulled this past Monday is unforgivable. All the nerve gas shit, I can let that slide, because they made up a gas. That’s fine; I really don’t know the rules of this “sentox” gas. It doesn’t behave like any other nerve gas but that’s cool. It’s magic gas.

But holy shit, when Jack Baur went into the contractor’s office building and didn’t need to have a badge or an escort – that’s just fucking nuts. Nuts, I tell you. And the people that were watching saw he did the thumb print scan and his picture came up and you were all saying, “Wow, that’s some high tech shit.”

Let me tell you about clearance.

When I applied for my clearance I had to fill out this form. It was about twenty pages long filled with wonderful questions about my psychiatric history, drug use, debt and criminal record. I lied my ass off. MY ASS OFF. I’m thinking to my self, “I’m 22 years-old. My job is paying me crazy money. There’s no way I’m fucking this up.”

Ever done drugs? Nope.

Ever been to a psychiatrist? Nope.

Are you currently in debt? Nope.

Hand that big ass form in and get an “interim secret” clearance. I get to go to meetings and work on secret shit. That lasts for about a year. During that year some agents visited my father and my neighbors, asked a bit about me, and I was granted a secret. With a form I lied my ass off with.

Couple of months later I needed a top secret. You’d think I’d need to update my form but I didn’t, all the information still pertains, nothing to update.

The day of my interview comes. Agent comes into the room, tells me how important it is that I’m honest – they won’t get me in trouble, they just need to know if there’s any information in my past that can be used for blackmail. He goes over the application I handed in almost two years ago.

Ever done drugs?

Yep.

You wrote no.

You know new job and all.

What kind of drugs?

Marijuana.

Anything else?

Shrooms.

Anything else?

No.

How many times have you done marijuana?

Couple.

Shrooms?

Once.

Have you done marijuana in the past six months?

Nope.

Ever been to a psychiatrist?

Yep.

How many times?

Three.

For what?

Well, the first time was after my cousin died. Having problem dealing. Second time I went because a friend was going and needed support. Third time I went because, I don’t know, relationship problems.

With who?

Girlfriend.

Abusive?

No, just kind of like, you know. [makes gesture with hands]

Ok. Are you currently in debt?

Yeah.

Is everything on this application a lie?


After about an hour of this grueling ordeal where I admitted to lying on everything on my application except my name the agent gets up, thanks me, and leaves.

A month later I get my top secret.

So, basically, clearance is a joke. This was all pre-September 11th and admittedly I’ve never worked on anything so secret that I’d have to report you if I accidentally told you about it but still, not the hardest thing to get.

But god-dammit it, if you ever get caught walking around a base or a contractor’s office without a badge on you are FUCKING DONE. Game over. Guys with walky-talkies will swoop on your ass in ten seconds and go to work on you with gloves. Right now, Jack Baur should have a lubed hand up his ass.

The nerve gas, fine, it breaks all laws of physics. Not wearing a badge at a company that makes nerve gas? I’m sorry, 24, but you went too far.

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NYCC Report and Reminisce Over You

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

EDIT: I'm getting emails asking me about Speakeasy. You should go to Josh's blog for anything about the fate of Elk's Run. As far as my own opinions and what I'm getting from all this, I learn from it - just like I always do.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I had a blast at NYCC – and I was there on Saturday, the day everyone got turned away, fire marshals showed up and people were waiting on line for hours to get back onto the convention floor. I stole an exhibitor badge so I can come in and out freely, only got held up on a line once, and we were passing exhibitor and press badges back to the outside to sneak folks in. If I was one to trivialize struggle and elevate the importance of 32 pages of excessive cleavage I’d say we were like the NYCC Underground Railroad. But I won’t, ‘cause I’m not that guy.

But it was good, talked to a lot of people about the book I’m putting together, got a couple of people to commit to the project and have a couple of people at (hopefully) a halfway point. One cat in particular would be a dream come true, so much so I’m holding off on following up with anyone else until I hear back from him.

Pop Culture Shock’s after party was pretty dope, good turn out – good people. DJ was bangin’ and I always thought white people dancing was funny because, you know, I’ve seen video of myself dancing and it’s all my momma’s side, but goddamn there’s nothing funnier than white comic fans dancing. They were spinning some funk towards the end of the night and this one cat looked like James Brown doing the Humpty Dance while having an elliptic seizure.

And we'll do a little old school Moose style story, why the hell not...

___________

I got to hang out with my cousin RJ all day Saturday at the con which was a blast. I don’t get to see the dude enough and it’s too bad, we’ve been through a lot of shit together. Back when his brother got sick, me, RJ and Luis used to chill every Friday at my place and just watch stupid B-horror movies until three in the morning.

Some good, some bad. The best call we made back then was renting SALEM’S LOT. Not that it was a good movie by any means, but some dude dubbed over the VHS copy of the movie at the video store. He did it well too; it took us a little bit to catch-on as to exactly what the fuck was going on.

For instance, when the opening title came on you heard the guy say, “Salem’s Lot: The Movie. Staring George Duzunddrada…” We were sitting around and wondering why the guy reading the credits didn’t even bother to pronounce the actor’s name right. During the opening scene a car whizzes by the camera and you hear, “Mee-meep! Hi!”

We couldn’t stop laughing, you know? We just figured it was the worst fucking movie ever made. It wasn’t until the old dude “farted” that we realized some genius laid his own audio embellishments down. Pegasus Video closed down recently; I wanted to stop by and buy the dubbed SALEM’S LOT but kept forgetting to.

We found other gems, of course. 976-EVIL PART 2 was a favorite of ours – the scene when the nerd on the moped says, “See ya later, doll” and then crashes. Good shit, right there, many a laugh. Of course there was the Jerry Springer TOO HOT FOR TV joint, the scene when the redneck says, “Oh dang, I’m falling!” as he’s falling. We watched that scene about fifty times in one night, 49 of them in slow-motion.

We’d always get into arguments over the movies we watched. RJ and I firmly believed STAR WARS was the greatest trilogy of all time. Luis thought it was POLICE ACADEMY, despite the fact that there were six of them made at that point. But there was one thing we always agreed on, THE LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM would be better if it was called THE LAIR OF THE WHITE DILL.

Ah, inside jokes.

But it was all escapism, you know what I mean? We were teenagers, we could have went out on Friday nights and prowled the streets of Brooklyn, we occasionally did, but at home – ragging on shitty movies and eating calzones from the House of Pizza – it was the kind of entertainment that was guaranteed to take your mind off of what was going on in the family at the time. We all needed it, RJ the most, and the time spent hanging with cousins on a Friday evening will always be one of my favorite memories from my teenage years.

The night Steven took a turn for the worse, RJ was over my place. I remembered pretending to sleep on the floor when my mom got him, I remember him stepping over me and trying not to wake us up. Shortly after Steven passed away – it just goes to show you that escapism only takes you so far. When life wants to be fucked up, it just gets fucked up.

Sorry for depressing you all – but at the heart of it, RJ and I can still get together for 15 hours at a crowded convention and the whole time act like we did over thirteen years ago – a couple of goofy kids obsessed with pop-culture and hell-bent on making fun of everything and everybody. You take something away from all your experiences in life; I took a friend out of this particular one. Hanging with him now-a-days just brings it all back – you’re not supposed to forget shit like this and you’re not supposed to hide it, know what I mean?

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Travelin' Man

Monday, February 20, 2006

Let’s start with a little secret project hint, shall we:


Ok, moving along. Yesterday was my birthday. I didn’t do much – I had to work and Robin had class until 10. Plus I had a ton of fun at the DCC meeting on Sunday and that held me over fine. Tonight I’m getting dinner at Ray’s the Steaks, the best steak joint in the DC area that’s conveniently located next door to me and yet I’ve never been there. So, you know, happy birthday to me.

June is going to be crazy – I’m going to be in Cleveland, Chicago, Fort Madison and San Diego. Robin will be in all four of those cities plus she’s spending two and a half weeks in Malaysia and Singapore.

It’s just weird – I never really traveled as a kid, you know? Parents just didn’t have the money; vacations were limited to the occasional 20-hour drive down I-95 to visit my Nanny in New Port Ritchie, Florida. Every so often we’d stop off at Disney World and brave the long lines and the sweltering heat – a rare treat that resulted in a weekend of fun for me and a year’s worth of debt for my dad.

That was most of our vacations, though – visiting family somewhere. Titi Sophie moved to Virginia and that became a popular vacation spot for us. We’d sometimes couple the drive to Richmond with a trip to Virginia Beach – it was during one of these trips that I slept through the gunshots, helicopter noise and looting that is now known as the Greek Fest Riots.

My dad, like all men who struggle to get by while trying to make a good life for their children, got offered opportunities that seemed like dreams come true but in reality there was some sleazy guy in a knock-off suit behind it all. My dad finds out he’s in the running for a free car and we just need to spend a weekend at Outdoor World to see if we’ve won – hear a pitch about their timeshare program.

Two months later we’re locked into some multi-generation contract where we pay monthly fees for the right to rent poorly constructed log cabins in such beautiful locals like Southern New Jersey and The Poconos. My father goes into it because it seems like a good way to get the kids out of the city for a while, vacations close by that are relatively cheaper than Disney World and Virginia Beach. Years go by and we stop going to Outdoor World and there’s basically no way out – I remember my dad on the phone with these guys, trying to find out how he can get out of this contract, and even then you can sense that feeling of being trapped – again – lied to again.

My parents never even took a honeymoon – this January was their 30th wedding anniversary and they never even went away to some island for a week and sucked slushy pina coladas out of coconuts. When I first started working, out of college and all, there was a pang of guilt that went with every trip. Most of them were business trips so you chalk that up as paying bills, but after my first year of working I went to Spain for two weeks. The following summer it was St. Lucia. Than Robin and I started doing two vacations a year, cruises, visiting London a couple of times – just going to cities we’ve never been to on a whim, four or five mini-vacations and one long vacation each year.

Sometimes I wouldn’t even tell my parents we were traveling. If it was a weekend trip I figured it would be better to just keep it to myself. I’d accidentally let it slip occasionally, my parents would ask me what I was doing for the weekend and I’d say, “Going to Miami – oh – I told you that, I think, yeah?”

Anyway, with the house sold and money in their pockets I think they’ll finally be going on that honeymoon soon – maybe my mom will leave the country for the first time – even if it’s just to an island. It’s funny, even my 16-year-old sister is going to Eastern Europe in a couple of months, her first time leaving the country. It’s just a testament to how my parents always put their kids ahead of themselves.

And on that note it’s bedtime. I did end up having a nice dinner tonight, actually, Robin got home from class early and took me to Il Radiccio, got me some of the best Italian food the DC Metro area can offer. I’m going to bed well-sexed and stinking like garlic – 28-years-old and feeling confident about the coming year.

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In Too Deep

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Couple of comic things before I talk about strip clubs.

I’m editing JJ Khars’ very first graphic novel. Honestly? One of the best concepts I’ve heard recently. Seriously, the kind of pitch you hear and you go ape-shit insane because it’s so perfectly simple yet full of potential. We’re working on the execution of the plot now but I promise you all – when this is molded and ready to go, you’re going to want to get your hands on it badly.

Neil Kleid’s serializing his novel THE COFFIN. Trapped on a NYC train after a suicide bomb and how the passenger’s cope and survive – sounds like some good suspense and drama right there. I’ll be following along; I suggest you do as well.

And finally, I wanted to drop another hint about the secret project:

There’s a website in the works.

But you can’t see it yet.

________________________

The weekend of the Super Bowl my dad came up, excited to watch the game on my new 42-inch Plasma HDTV. Robin and I threw a little party, about eight people – can’t fit a lot of people around the TV – and we all had a good time, plenty of sopressata and mozzarella was washed down with tasty beer.

The Saturday before the game, we dragged my dad out with a group of friends – probably about 15 people – and played pool all night and, you know, drank a lot of beer. Towards the end of the night my friends were going out to a strip club and I really couldn’t go with my dad AND Robin, if it was one or the other we’d tag along but all parties agreed that going to a strip club with my girlfriend and my father was just weird. So the three of us hopped in a cab and went home.

Anyway, got me thinking about strippers and how much I love them. It’s probably the one “masculine” trait I still cling to. I mean, I leave tags on my clothes in case they don’t provide me enough “impact” the first time I wear them, I buy skin care products, I occasionally take baths and god dammit I love me some good candles now and again. I’m 80% chick, honestly. But man, that all goes away at a strip club.

When I decide to restart the Moose story telling there will be plenty of strip club stories. In the past six years I’ve been on around 30 or so business trips – I can remember two trips where I did not visit a strip club at least one night (and on one of those trips my coworker and I drove around San Antonio looking for one only to end up at some sketchy joint where this guy outside told us, “Parking is free but if you pay me a couple of bucks I’ll make sure no-one breaks your windshield.” We left, obviously).

And that’s just business trips – there are strip clubs in DC and trips home to New York were almost always partnered with at least one 3AM cab ride to The Wild West over on second avenue and 39th street in Brooklyn (if the girl with the bar code on the back of her neck is reading this I want you to know I still love you and my drunken promise to take care of you forever still stands – just look me up, baby).

The problem with strip clubs is, sometimes you get a little too into it. And I’m not talking about the times when you blow two hundred bucks or get tricked into the VIP room – that shit just happens and is directly proportional to the amount of alcohol you’ve drank. I’m talking about when you get a little too caught up in the “stripper lifestyle”.

My first year out of college my job was sending me to work out on Long Island two weeks out of every month – there wasn’t much to do during the week except visit the closest strip club. Eventually, my coworker started traveling out there with me and we’d hit a club together. This one time, G hopped on the Long Island Rail Road and met us at our hotel – we all went to a new place together to see what it has to offer on a Wednesday night.

For the most part we were the only guys there. We sat by the stage and one girl at a time got up and danced only for us. One of the girls got really friendly with us, sat down next to us (naked, of course), and actually bought us drinks which, if you’ve ever been to a strip club, you’d know is not just rare – it’s fucking unheard of.

Anyway, she was cool shit and she kept inviting other strippers over. As the night progressed the three of us were sitting amongst a group of naked chicks – having beers and chain smoking cigarettes. The original girl was the ring leader – she’d occasionally declare boredom, point to one of the other girls, and tell her to go dance for us.

I shit you not – it was like having our own harem of women – even if it was only for an hour.

We were talking about real shit too, you know? Asking them about life outside of stripping, talking about some of the most mundane shit – it’s amazing how much the nudity becomes wallpaper when you just sit there with a bunch of naked women and shoot the shit.

We were getting along fine until the ringleader stripper asked us if we wanted to go into the back with her and do some blow. The three of us just sort of freeze – we’re not fans of the llallo – and realize that we went too deep into the stripper world. We politely decline, she goes into the back and comes back high as a kite, the other strippers aren’t sitting with us anymore and the night ends rather abruptly.

That was my last time really engaging strippers on that level – I realize I would just be setting myself (and them) up for disappointment. No – I’ll just throw some dollars in the g-string, get my lap dance(s) – smell that sweet stripper smell that only they have, feel that soft stripper skin lightly rub against my arm, get that perfect stripper leg placed firmly against my crotch – and walk out with as much dignity as I can muster. I can’t party with them. Offer to “take them away from it all”, sure, I did that once (bar code girl, I’m looking at you, my love).

But I can never truly “hang”.

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A Ninja in a World of White Shirts

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Couple of things going on in my little world of comics, first.

First off, Josh made the Punk website public (and shared some pages). Great little book, first issue is massive amounts of fun, art by Kody Chamberlain – get on it early. And while you’re getting on books early, swing on by the World’s End blog and give us some love.

Caleb Monroe’s Red Chapel is available for preorder over at Dimestore – get yourself a copy, it’s illustrated by Noel Tuazon (from Elk’s Run) and there’s a five page back-up story in it I did with Jacob Warrenfeltz (of the soon to be released Alberic Heresies). So please, go, order the book – you’ll like it.

Also, since I’m now 92% sure the secret project is going ahead and I’m starting to bring more and more people into the fold I think I should start teasing you all a little bit – you know, to keep this blog interesting (just keep in mind there's a chance this may not happen). So every time I post I’ll drop a hint. And today’s hint is…

It’s going to be using ideas we come up with at The Hive – essentially putting my money where my mouth is.

Juicy. Speaking of The Hive, the third column is up – it’s all about handling preorders and getting your book to pay for your book. Go, read, comment – throw out your own ideas. Keep in mind you’re not just mouthing off – the output of these discussions are going to guide the production of an attempt at creating a new market for comics - so please, people, spread the word - the stakes are likely going to get much higher.

__________

So yesterday I had a meeting with a guy who’s notoriously long-winded – there’s no “quick chat” with the dude, he keeps going off on tangents and he’s so bad at it that people call him on it, to his face, and constantly remind him to stay on subject. I did what any sane man would do when confronted with such a meeting, I text-messaged Robin and told her to call me in seven minutes.

Seven minutes later I’m free and my coworker is left to deal with the rambler.

Back a couple of years ago I was much more efficient with this process – I had this dinosaur of a phone, all the keys exposed with nice, big buttons so it’s easy to guide my finger along the key pad. If I found myself stuck in a position I didn’t want to be in I was actually able to put my hand in my pocket and within thirty seconds – without once looking at my phone – send Robin a text message that said, “Call me”.

It looked like I was playing pocket-pool, of course, but I was usually pretty smart about when I made my move.

I’d use that technique all of the time – seriously, certain people would comment about how weird it was that my cell phone would always ring whenever I talked to them.

“I know, right? How weird…”

Now my phone is this crazy-ass Motorola that’s only available in China. Touch screen, fucking stylus – I can’t get out of those impromptu meetings anymore and I when I find myself stuck; I need to start making up excuses as to why I need to leave.

So – someone needs to invent a little device that can be used to trigger your cell phone in five minutes. You don’t want to be, well, this guy…

One day I was at a friend’s place and just needed to get the fuck out of there – unfortunately Robin was with me and I couldn’t use my mammoth phone to text message her discretely. So I kept ducking behind walls and quickly setting the alarm on my phone since it’s essentially the ring tone. Except I kept fucking up – setting AM instead of PM, finally getting it right only to realize the phone is on vibrate (and you really need the ring – the ring just feels more urgent – tells the person you’re talking to that you need to take this call).

After several attempts at getting my phone to ring (accomplished by me inexplicably disappearing for thirty seconds every couple of minutes), I finally get it right – it rings, I take it out of my pocket, put it up to my ear and walk away from my friend while saying, “Hello”. I have some fake conversation in the kitchen for a minute, come back and tell Robin we need to go.

It was honestly the most pathetic attempt at conversation dodging of all time – and everyone knew it.

I need a device that saves me from ever doing that again. I mean, I can’t put my hand in my pocket and have my phone ring instantly – it needs to work on a timer so no-one correlates my hand being in my pocket with my phone ringing.

But until that day…

During the five minutes I was at the meeting yesterday, the guy went off subject about four times and said “like what I did during the Gulf War,” about 20 times. Nothing better than someone who’s still ego-tripping over something he did fifteen-years ago.

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Beginnings: The First Day

Friday, February 03, 2006

Well, this is it. 263 stories with 207,744 words – averages out to a 790 word story every Monday through Friday for a year. If you count the blurbs and the 10 guest stories (which I edited a little bit, did some work there) that’s 286,582 words published on this blog since mid-January of last year – 1,090 words every Monday through Friday for a year. If you count NanNoWriMo that puts me at 336,914 words this year. Plus editing two books, 17 Here’s the Thing… columns, two comic shorts, several pitches, full-time job, keeping the lady happy and heavy drinking.

I’m proud of that.

So, story time…

____________________

My family offered to bring me to DC but I had this inexplicable need to go my own, get set-up, and then have them come down. Play the roll of an independent man. They offered me extra money but I didn’t take it – it’s not like they didn’t need it anymore than I did. I was going to get by on my own now, I didn’t need to burden them anymore – the only way for me to do this was to throw myself into it, unprepared, with only five hundred dollars and a suitcase of clothes to my name.

I graduated on a Wednesday, got back to New York on a Thursday. That Saturday I was off to DC, no time off. I was to start work on the following Wednesday. My mom was sad, she wanted me to stay home for a little longer, kept asking me to call up my boss and see if I can start work a week or two later. He’ll understand, she tells me, he was a college graduate once too.

My friends all shared similar philosophies as my mother. They’re getting odd jobs and traveling, letting off some steam before going out into the real world – before putting the things they learned in college to work. I was just never that way, with the exception of the summer between sophomore and junior year I held a job since I was thirteen and now I’m going to have a job where I’ll be making a decent amount of money – I was too excited to take time off.

Here I was – 22 years old – first in my family to graduate college – making about the same amount of money as my dad (making more than most of the people who graduated with me). When life presents you with that, you tend to jump right into it.

My father takes me to JFK, on the ride up there he’s telling me he’s proud of me, I’m feeling good about the move, new city is scary and all but sometimes things just feel right – they just click. We get to the airport – he parks in the short term lot so he can walk me in. I go up to the ticket counter only to discover my flight is about an hour and a half delayed. No cell phones for any of us at this point, neither me nor Robin, so I get to the payphone and call Logan Airport and have them leave a message with Robin to tell her I’ll be late.

My father hangs with me for a bit, we just talk for a while – going over everything, the job, the apartment.

Robin and I actually found an apartment online; we put our deposit down without even seeing the place. It was in Arlington – I asked around a bit and found out Arlington was a relatively hip place to live. The price was right, if I remember correctly I believe it was $850 for a one bedroom, much cheaper than the places we were looking at in The District. Best part was that it was a short term lease – 6 months, I believe.

All of these things should have been warning signs but what did I know? I never even had an apartment before – there was the house I grew up in and then the dorms throughout college. My resident director at the time told me that I might have been making a mistake, I should have at least checked the place out first having never been to Arlington and never seeing the place in question.

But it was perfect, you know – ten minute bus ride to the metro station which was going to be clutch since I wasn’t going to have a car.

Or a license.

I believe the move-in date for the new apartment was June 9th – I say believe because, well, we never actually moved in. As far as what happened that made two broke-ass kids give up the three-hundred dollar security deposit, well – that’s not today’s story, now is it? But the two weeks where we didn’t have a place to live we were staying at a hotel – The Tyson’s Westpark Hotel in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia. A nice little place that we snagged for about a hundred bucks a night – with the three-grand relocation money I was getting from my new job we were going to be fine, right?

Let me introduce you to the college mentality, in case you never had it. Costs like food, entertainment, clothes, transportation – they don’t really exist. Whatever your biggest expense is – that’s the only thing that matters – that’s the only thing that counts towards your budget. The two weeks staying at a hotel for a hundred bucks a night – that’s our only expense. 1400 dollars of our 3000 dollar advance. No tax. No nothing. We were going to be just fine. Anyway – that’s not today’s story either.

Finally my flight begins to board, I give my dad a big ass hug, he wishes me luck one last time, and I’m on my plane and off to Dulles Airport – I can’t get there fast enough. The flight was a little bumpy, bad weather in the area – I was putting down a couple of beers because that’s what adults do, right? They drink beer; even if it’s an afternoon and you’re traveling by yourself, you’re supposed to drink beer.

Playing the role, still with no idea what was coming.

I land in Dulles and make my way to the arrival board, check on Robin’s flight – it’s delayed and isn’t scheduled to land for another two hours.

Two. Hours.

I make my way outside the terminal to get some fresh air, sit down a bit. Smoke a cigarette and watch the planes come in – go over some notes for my new job – take out this trapper keeper we bought with all the information on DC in it.

Papers on our apartment with floor plans and directions, metro maps, lists of restaurants and bars we found online that looked interesting, monument information, directions to the National Zoo – my friend Max’s phone number since he was the only person I knew in DC. I spent some time looking through it all, killed close to an hour smoking cigarettes and shuffling through hundreds of pages of information.

I get back into the terminal and see Robin’s flight was delayed an additional hour.

I call home; tell everyone I had a nice flight. My mom’s asking me if I’m excited and I sarcastically reply that I’ve spent an hour in the airport and have two more to go – the excitement is waning.

I get off the phone and just sort of wander. Go through the gift shops, the bookstores – I found the smoking lounge that used to be at Dulles airport and spent some time in there reading.

There’s nothing more disgusting than the smoking lounge at an airport. No ventilation – you come of there caked in cigarette smoke and coughing up a lung after spending just five minutes in the hotbox. I spent closer to forty minutes, chain smoking and doing crossword puzzles.

You get restless, obviously – you build up this excitement over starting a new life only to be delayed in an airport all day on both sides of the trip. I haven’t seen Robin since BU which wasn’t ridiculously long but when you’re taking a plunge like this with someone – new city, new job, and a new life – you tend to miss her a lot more when she’s away. Mainly because doubt starts to creep in, you begin to wonder if you made the right decision in inviting her – you wished she was with you so you can remember how she feels, how she makes you feel, while at the same time trying to make sure you 100% made the right call.

She’s the one and she’s not going to let you down. You’re starting a new life with the right person. That’s the kind of shit you remember when you pull her in and kiss the top of her head and smell her hair – you feel her smile as her nose buries into your chest. That’s why I wanted her plane to land – for that.

Finally her plane lands – I’m waiting by the gate. She must have been the last person out – she looks worn down but she smiles the instant she sees me. It’s a tired smile but there’s a lot behind it – I walk up to her and bring her in, kiss her hard and smile back. She apologizes for being late – as if it’s her fault – as if I could even be mad – and we make our way curbside to get a cab.

We end up getting in one of those blue airport shuttle vans you share with several parties. Hop in and tell the guy we’re going to Tyson’s Westpark – he’s pissed off as if we’re going an hour out of the way. That’s the friendly greeting we get upon stepping out into our Nation’s Capitol.

We pull up at the hotel and I go to check in. Go through the motions and the receptionist asks me for a credit card.

Here’s a story – this was my first time checking into a hotel. My father, he never used a credit card – he’d always pay cash for the hotel room. I wasn’t clear on the details but I guarantee you I’ve seen him bust out cash every time we were at a hotel together and use it to pay for our room. When the lady asked me for a credit card I kind of laughed and told her I’d be paying cash.

But I need a credit card either way, apparently. So I bust out my little Bank Boston Visa card, three-hundred dollar spending limit and about two-hundred and fifty bucks already on it. She swipes it – nothing.

She tells me there’s not enough on it to use the card. I ask her what she’s authorizing and she tells me it’s for a week staying at the hotel.

A week? But I’m paying cash.

I needed to front the first night.

But I don’t have the cash yet, the check needs to clear.

And here comes Robin, asks what’s wrong. I say to her, “They’re saying I need a credit card.” For a moment you see nothing but regret in Robin’s face. She loves me, sure, but I think she just realized that I have a lot to learn.

A LOT to learn.

She busts out her credit card – she’s always been the one with the good credit and the five-thousand dollar cards – and give it to the lady behind the counter. Card gets swiped and we’re good to go, we make our way to the room.

Nice little place – comfortable enough to spend two weeks in. In the information book it says the hotel has Happy Hour every day from 5-6 with free appetizers, we get down there with several minutes to spare and eat what’s left of the mozzarella sticks and fries – our first dinner in DC, conserving money from the start. We hang at the bar for a little bit, dollar beers, we toast almost every drink get a little tipsy, make our way back up to the hotel room.

Robin wants to stay in but I want to explore, thinking there’s actually something to explore in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia. Having no idea where anything is we walk down Leesburg Pike, pass several car dealerships, McDonalds, a Container Store, a Toy’s ‘R Us – some place called McCormick & Schmick’s that we make fun, it’ll later turn out to be one of our favorite restaurants.

Tyson’s Corner is not New York, though, I learned that one pretty quick.

We finally find this place – some Mexican place with a patio bar and a bunch of people our age drinking and having a good time. We get to the bar and have some drinks, they’re closer to five dollars a pop here but the atmosphere is much better. Get to talking with some guy, tell him we just moved into town and ask him if there’s anything going on in Tyson’s. He tells us Tyson’s is whack, the district is pretty cool, but Arlington’s happening. We couldn’t be happier; we’re going to be checking out our place in Arlington for the first time the next day.

We walk back to the hotel – there was this almost perfect moon in the sky – no clouds to even hint at the shitty weather we were having earlier in the day. Make our way upstairs and take a shower together, sneak in some tired intimacy and get to bed.

A good first day in capitol area. Despite the frustrations and the lack of money and the seclusion of Tyson’s we had each other, a bed to sleep in for the moment, a good job waiting for me and no cares in the world.

Life was about to get interesting.

______________________

But you won’t hear about any of that until I decide to start this up again (and yes, you can classify the next group of stories as a “Romantic Comedy” so, you know, things change). I need a break. A lot of stories told; a lot of words written. For over a year something was posted on this blog every Monday through Friday – 263 new stories. A lot of you guys became regulars and I thank you all for reading and linking, seriously. I think I grew a lot as a writer but more importantly – I learned a lot about myself and my past relationships. This has got to be the most therapeutic exercise I’ve ever undertaken.

I had fun doing this, it became routine, you know? Every night I’d sit down, look through some pictures or some old writings to get the brain going and just write. It was hardly ever forced, especially not towards the end. You’d think this kind of thing would become a burden as time went on but it actually got easier – go figure.

I’ll still be here every Tuesday and Thursday, doing something low-key and low-stress writing. Seriously, if you come by, expect some rambling, some stories (both fiction and non-fiction), some talk of comics and some updates on the soon-to-be not-so-secret project.

Additionally there’s The Hive. New columns the 2nd and 4th Thursday of the month (growing schedule available here) – moderated discussions popping up pretty regularly in the forums beyond that.

World’s End Production Blog, I’ll be popping in there, giving updates on the book. Please come by and share your thoughts, make us feel loved. Likely taking on another editing gig, helping out an unpublished but talented writer – I’ll be updating you all on that. DC Conspiracy – I’ll be hanging there, posting from time-to-time, especially as the secret project ramps up, I’d imagine.

Everything will be announced from here, though, so keep checking back. I mean, when I announce the call for submissions I’m sure you’d want to be one of the first to get your pitches in, right?

A man cannot dominate comics by himself, after all.

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Beginnings: Bye Bye Boston

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Two stories to go. One quick thing, first. That super secret project I’ve been hinting about? Well, after an inspiring phone conversation with Bob Tinnell (Feast of the Seven Fishes, Terry Sharp, The Black Forest, The Living and the Dead, and The Wicked West) last night I’m going to just start calling it the “secret project”. Taking off the “super”. This is so going to happen. And you’re all going to shit your pants when you see it.

Anyway, story time…

___________________________

A couple of days before college graduation my mom came down to spend some time with me. Robin and I hung out with her; there was some tension but nothing huge. I went to a party one night after dinner, left my mom at home – she says she understood, the end of college and all – but you can tell she was disappointed, I invite her up and then ditch her in a city she’s not familiar with.

The next day my father came up with my grandparents and my Aunt Connie. We all went out to dinner before everyone went back to the hotel – I had another party to hit up; the last week of college is full of parties.

Then came graduation – almost the entire Rodriguez family showed up. Titi Anita and Mario drove up from New York with Titi Lisa and Hervin. Uncle Chris and Aunt Jacinda came up from Connecticut. Tio Andy and Titi Denise came down from Buffalo. They all came to Boston and crashed the hotels to go to my graduation – the first in the family to graduate from college – the oldest cousin setting a new bar for the rest of them to aspire to.

Not everyone in my family made it to the university-wide ceremony held on Nickerson Field – Tom Wolfe was our keynote speaker and that doesn’t do much to excite my family. Fuck, it doesn’t excite me and I’m the aspiring writer. BU, not counting scholarships and grants, ended up being a 120,000 dollar investment – you’d think they’d bring on Clinton or something.

Everyone showed up at the smaller, college ceremony, though. I had the biggest cheering section out of everyone there. They called my name out and I went up, all smiles, my relatives acting like the families from the Junior High ceremony, cameras going off and my Tio Andy screaming at people to move out of the way, he’s trying to get this shit on video.

I get my diploma, it’s in this portfolio, shake the hands and walk off the stage, all smiles – open up the portfolio to take a look at the diploma to find a bill there instead, quietly tuck it under my arms and make my way back to my seat.

After the ceremony my family wants to see the diploma, I’m reluctant. They want pictures with me holding it open, shit like that, and after avoiding their requests for a couple of minutes I finally breakdown and open up the portfolio to show that there’s nothing in it but the bill.

My parents – they’re a little embarrassed, to say the least. Of course it opened the conversations up for a whole slew of “Puerto Ricans can’t pay their bills” jokes but, you know, we can’t.

My father gave me a check, I ran down to the treasures office, settled up my balance and get the real diploma and we all start taking pictures again. I said what turned out to be my final goodbyes to a lot of people I rolled with in college – mainly the people that where in my major, I didn’t hang with them as much senior year. They were all fighting with each other, hooking up with each other – even R was dating one of my good friends. It was all just kind of – sleazy, I guess. My RA friends didn’t sleep with each other and made for much more comfortable nights out.

My entire family and Robin’s parents all made our way to La Familia for a nice Italian meal. I got plenty of envelopes totaling about five-hundred cash – this is going to be all of the money I end up going to Washington DC with. My father paid the massive bill but only after coming out of the kitchen with an apron on - as he started to clean up the table the family starts to crack up – my father has some jokes up his sleeve.

After dinner some of the family left – not everyone was staying the night in Boston. Robin and I went out to Crossroads with my Uncle Chris, Aunt Jacinda, Titi Lisa and Uncle Hervin. We drank and smoked all night, played some darts, played some Clue. Guam came out to meet me there. Honestly, out of all the friends I met in college Guam’s the one I most wanted to have drinks with on my last night in Boston. Homeboy was a partner in crime like I’ve never had and haven’t had since – creatively we jived together, we were always bouncing ideas around – I honestly think college would have sucked if I didn’t meet Guam junior year. He got me into improv, got me into acting and inspired me to start writing again.

Shit you not, you can trace it all back to the dude. Me, right here, over 240 stories over a year’s time, one more to go – this all started at Guam. The comics, the plays, the movies – it all started at Guam. So it was fitting he was the last guy I toasted that night, the man was one of the few muses I’ve ever had and likely the strongest.

After drinks we go back to my brownstone. At this point I’m the only person left in the building, I had two residents who were seniors and they moved their shit out earlier. I set up a room for my family that went out drinking with me – they crashed the night and hit the road early the next morning.

Robin went to the green line stop to take the train out towards Framingham, her mom was picking her up at Riverside. Next time I’d see Robin will be in Washington DC – ready to start our new life together.

I pack up the car with the remainder of my stuff – the stuff that’s not going into temporary storage. I go to the RA office and check in my keys, shake my director’s hand, and give hugs to the RAs who are handling closing. I want to stay longer but my family’s waiting for me in the car.

I get in the back seat with my sister and my Aunt Connie. My mom asks me if I’m all right but realizes my eyes are tearing up and I don’t answer her, she leaves me alone. We pull away from Bay State Road; my sister puts her head on my shoulders and gives me a kiss on the cheek. I try to keep myself together as BU disappears behind me and I fail miserably – but my face is turned towards the window the entire time.

We turn around on Commonwealth Avenue and there’s Warren Towers – the dorm I stayed in during summer orientation, the dorm R lived in freshman year. For us RAs Warren Towers was a nightmare – everyone who got assigned to what was primarily “the freshman dorm” had to work three times as hard as the rest of us. Or they just had constant sex with their residents, whatever.

Drive down Commonwealth and hit Kenmore Square. I used to walk down to the Store 24 in flannel pajamas and my Jesus Kicks. One day we’re down there and the place is closed, I see the guy behind the heavy glass door and begin to pound on it, screaming, “24 hours, man! It’s in the fucking name!”

The Pizzeria Uno in Kenmore was the place to go freshman year – it almost felt like a bar and the four cheese pizza was delicious. We’d always hang there and catch the first three innings of the Sox game, make our way to Fenway and get the severely discounted tickets from the scalpers who are just trying to get rid of them.

Go further down Commonwealth and you get to Angora Café who changed their name to Ankara Café but fuck that. Frozen yogurt with over fifty mix-ins, a night out consisted of waiting on a line that snaked out the door just to get some magical Fro-Yo. Stop upstairs when you’re done eating at the head-shop and fantasize over the glass pipes that cost too much to ever justify purchasing – why spend fifty bucks on a pipe when fifty bucks will get you enough dope to last the week?

Passed Comicopia – the comic store I’d stop in once every couple of months and say to myself, “You know, I want to get back into comics.” Buy an issue of the X-Men to discover Wolverine’s a horseman of Apocalypse or some shit and remember why I stopped reading them to begin with.

Get to Copley Square – a bunch of us got dressed up freshman year and went to a Valentine’s Day dance there – rented a hotel room that cost about as much as I was making in a week. Believe it or not, that was the first time R and I had sex – and yes, we’ve been dating for almost seven or eight months (shit, last week is full of revelations, first Unstrung Heroes and now this). She wanted to wait until she was 18; I guess I can appreciate that. Of course, she turned 18 the last days of December but I had this crazy notion that I’d make it right for her, first time and all, and after waiting so long what’s another month and a half, right? So we got the nice hotel, danced all night, set the mood at the hotel and I was done in about two minutes. Five minutes later we went again and that time it lasted about three minutes. You see, you can’t make it special when you haven’t had sex in almost a year.

And then it’s on the Mass Pike, heading west. You see the school one last time, all the dorms and the university buildings – that one last look at PJ Killroy’s, my favorite bar, and then it’s nothing but Newtons and Framinghams and Walthams and Peabodys.

After ten minutes I wipe my eyes and start talking again, the car ride feels like it takes forever but once we’re back in New York all I can think about is the coming move to DC.

All I can think about is Robin.

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Beginnings: Moving Out

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Three more stories to go before The Moose turns into an “at most two times a week of whatever the hell I want” type of blog – for now. Couple of things before getting down the business…

First off, I posted a little bit of information on the World’s End Production Blog that gives some insight into the editing process and how it’s the kind of job you adapt to depending on the project and the team. I don’t know, if you’re interested in what editing comics is like that’s a good place to start. You can also read the Plot to Page piece I wrote for the Elk’s Run Bumper Edition – layouts on that done by the amazing Jason (Jaco) Hanley.

Speaking of Jaco, he’s busy doing some promotional material for me to bring to New York Comic Con regarding my super secret project. Since the decision to go ahead with the super secret project won’t come down until April (so, yes, this might not happen…but I think it will) I really can’t say too much about it but trust me when I say I can't fucking wait to blab my ass off about it.

And, finally, before story time – my fellow Moose in the Closet has some comments for all of you on the similarities between her site and mine. You know, despite the obvious differences like how mine has stories where I piss all over myself and she has stories about panties. (I’m just getting a kick out of the whole thing – it’s like Bizzaro Moose.)

Story time, savor the flavor, only three of these to go…
_____________________

Don’t remember much about high school graduation, mainly because nothing memorable really happened. Midwood was a competitive school, I think I finished up with a 92 or 93 average and my class ranking was something along the lines of 125. No awards, no special honors, got my diploma, took my pictures and called it a day.

By this point I was already set to go to Boston University and had a handle on who else was going – there’s a comfort zone to moving on when you know what’s coming next in life and you realize who you’ll likely never see again (upcoming ten year reunion aside). You give your hugs and jot down the phone numbers and email addresses and say goodbye and never look back.

You know what I remember about graduation? I remember it was held in Brooklyn College and we marched out to “Consider Yourself” from the Oliver Twist musical. Is that some kind of weird ass tradition I never heard of?

Consider yourself well in
Consider yourself part of the furniture
There isn't a lot to spare
Who cares, whatever we've got we share


I mean, what part of that song really signifies high school graduation?

The day of year book signing was much more fun – the book passes through many hands, cryptic things are written that make no-fucking-sense ten years later.

Jason, it was fun chilling these four years. We’ll always have B.P.O., right?
No. We won’t always have B.P.O.. The person who wrote that didn’t even leave a name, as if B.P.O is enough for me to know who it is. As if when I’m fifty I’ll look back on the book and say, “Hey, I wonder whatever happened to Jimmy and his plans for B.P.O.” I’d like to think B.P.O. stands for “Butt Plug Optimization” and I do hope “Jimmy” remembered it and is still working on it, only because I’d want to talk to him at the reunion and see how far he’s come. Currently, butt-plugs require way too much lube – it’s an expensive hobby.

There were certain people who I didn’t ask to sign my book and every time I saw these people outside during the signing there was a very awkward pause. M was one of them, at this point R already confirmed that she was indeed cheating on me, excuses have run out and I couldn’t deny it anymore. So there was never a proper goodbye, never some phony message scribbled down in a high school yearbook reminiscing over the good times we shared – I don’t know, I guess I was never an overly sentimental guy.

Over the summer there was orientation for college. I already told the story of the dope smokers I rolled with, getting the party started right.

My parents threw a going away party for me where The Moose was spawned in the wee hours of the night. Earlier in the evening family members gave me cash and well wishes, a couple of days later my father packs the car and it’s off to college – the first member of the Rodriguez family to make it.

They help me settle in; hang out for a couple of days. I’m making friends but already relying too heavily on R. The parents leave, my mom makes me promise I won’t smoke – ten minutes later she catches me smoking when they realize they left something in my dorm room.

I get drunk that first night and throw up all over the place.

Take the lumps – many a night doing the typical freshman thing of walking around Allston, looking for the party that your friend’s friend’s brother’s girlfriend is supposedly throwing. I’ve walked up to many barren houses, windows dark, and rang the doorbell – the middle of the boondocks, no party in sight.

Smoking dope, meeting “dealers” who are essentially kids with an extra ounce of weed they sell at a 200% markup but it’s not like you’re getting the shit anywhere else. Eventually find that guy that sells dope, heavy drugs and magic cards – sophomore year is over from that point on.

Try to keep in shape, remind myself I was an athlete in college while putting on twenty pounds over the first year. Going jogging with Mormon Josh and waiting over five minutes for the elevator – we’re on the fourth floor – realizing it’s a lost cause and we’re never going to be who we were in high school again.

A couple of fights – a couple of drunken almost hook-ups or attempts at hook-ups that caused me to be paranoid about what R’s doing when I’m not around. I used to read her email and then spend the night depressed, wondering what happened to get me so paranoid. In retrospect, the Hooker Hand wasn’t a huge surprise after all.

Nothing was, really.

Getting the job – I was so fucking proud to get a job in the dining hall; everyone else thought I was a bum. I was the grill man for the first year – I even had my own burger on the menu. The Jurger – a burger with pineapple and bacon, all grilled in teriyaki sauce, topped with muenster cheese and served up on a toasted Kaiser roll with spicy curly fries. It was one of the most popular items in the dining hall. The vegetarians loved me to, they called me the Stir Fry King because I wasn’t skimpy with the baby corn like the other grill men. I’d come home smelling like grease and my roommate would be playing video games, spitting his dip into a Snapple bottle which chain smoking Marlboro Reds.

Fighting with the mom – almost every conversation had me getting annoyed for the stupidest reasons – feeling guilty over it. Called her one night at around 11PM and just talked with her – it was freshman year, more than halfway through. I finished watching a movie that always reminded me of her (and I won’t say the name because I’ll never hear the end of it – never). Just got me upset – I don’t know, at myself – we had a nice talk. But it never really stuck back then, there was always something – smoking, not talking to Elizabeth enough – always some shit that I was getting mad at her for when I was the one being the idiot. My poor dad caught in the middle of it all and trying to keep his cool.

The newness rubs off quick and makes way for laziness and repetition. Get drunk on Fridays, smoke dope on Saturdays, study on Sundays, smoke dope Monday through Thursday. Arguments with the girl get worse as time goes on, I remember cursing at her several times, actually telling her to go fuck herself – I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone else to go fuck themselves and meant it – it’s not what I say, it’s not how I roll.

But everything was fine.

Friends from high school dropping off quicker than you ever imagined – even people who went to college with you slowly move away – the ones who went elsewhere never had a chance. Distance only makes the heart grow fonder for the first year, after that it becomes too much work to deal with.

Looking back at college, it amazes me how fast I adapted, how fast I fell into a routine and how fast I stopped giving a shit. Beyond that, it amazes me how one thing flips it all on its ass.

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Beginnings: Cutting Out

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Well, we’re coming to the end (for now). As far as where I’ll be on an almost daily basis after this week is done you can find me at The Hive, there are new threads starting up on a daily basis besides the scheduled discussions. There’s still the DC Conspriacy blog – and I’ll even be writing stories and catch-ups here twice a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays – probably just a bunch of short “Peanut Gallery” types of stories when I’m in the mood for one.

Beyond that, and beyond my super secret project, I’m taking on a new gig. I’ll be editing Josh Fialkov and Scott Keating’s upcoming World’s End, a full-color action/adventure romantic romp through post-Apocalyptic Earth filled with mutant freaks, radioactive wasteland, tricked out motorcycles and tough guys with really big fucking guns. We have a production blog started up where I’ll be dropping by once or twice a week to give some insight into the editing process (got my first post up, actually). Josh and Keating will be by as well to drop their thoughts, ask for opinions and keep you all up-to-date on the book’s progress. So stop by and say “hi”, please – you’re going to love the book and we want you involved from start to finish.

One more thing before the story. It turns out there’s another Moose in the Closet. When I first caught wind of this I admittedly got a little territorial – it’s not a big closet I live in, you know? But after some careful consideration I realized that if I had to share my closet with anyone it might as well be a lady – it’ll be like back in the day when I used to play “Seven Minutes in Heaven” – the girl I shared the closet with would lovingly tell me, “If you even look at me I’ll kick you in the balls.” The only downside to sharing my closet is that there’s a chance it'll ruin the best Google image search query of all time.

Ok, story time…

_________________

Most of you who’ve been with this site from the beginning understand of how horrible Junior High School was. Between friends turning, the muggings for some of the most ridiculous things and the awkwardness of trying to fit in – Junior High was two years of my life that I was more than happy to put behind me.

My boy G was the valedictorian at JHS142; Alex was once again the salutatorian. G getting valedictorian was the worst thing that could possibly happen to the kid. He was already kind of timid, wasn’t much of a public speaker and didn’t want much attention turned towards him. If he had to do a speech in front of twenty friends and family he’d probably be a bit weary.

But in this instance, he had to do a speech in front of a thousand people, 90% of which didn’t give a shit about the valedictorian – 50% of which actually harbored a level of hatred towards the valedictorian.

That’s like George Bush giving a speech in Palestine about how Israel is doing a bang-up job keeping the peace.

The graduation ceremony was a joke. People were bringing beach balls and toilet paper, yelling and shouting during the entire event. No shit, when cats went up to get their diploma they were jumping across the stage, crying out to the audience, singing – grabbing the microphone from the presenter and making fucking speeches – it’s all well and good to be proud of yourself for making it through the difficult two years of junior high but Jesus Christ, I haven’t seen people this proud when receiving PHDs.

My father, always the sarcastic one, made the quip that these people were so excited because, most likely, this is the only diploma they’re going to get. And it’s sad but it’s true. This has nothing to do with race, the thugs in our school were evenly distributed across all races, but the fact is they were straight thugs. And whereas some of them were capable of straightening themselves out the majority of them had two destinations – Bishop Ford if they could afford it and John Jay if they couldn’t. And most likely they weren’t going to make it through either of those schools.

Side note, I got a full scholarship to Bishop Ford and my mom insisted I went because it was free when it would otherwise cost a couple of grand a year. The logic is retarded, because Midwood High School is consistently one of the best schools in New York (and easily one of the best free public schools) and tens of thousands of people apply to it and get rejected each year. But Bishop Ford was obviously a better choice, because most people going there are paying for it.

Nothing wrong with that mentality, it’s the kind of thinking a lot of families who don’t have much take. Even Robin went to a famous prep school solely because she got a free scholarship there – she hated it, transferred after three years. But that’s her story, not mine, and this little digression isn’t today’s story, either.

So – toilet paper and beach balls and people screaming out words of praise every time someone grabbed a diploma. Then it was G’s turn to take the stage and man-oh-man was that some hostile environment type of shit.

Can you imagine some people actually booed? And by some people I mean half the people who were there – parents and their kids. I shit you not, thirty year old women sitting in the audience and booing G when he took the stage.

What the fuck is wrong with these people?

I didn’t hear a word he said, everyone was talking and screaming and booing and throwing shit. G kept his head down, read his cards, and walked off the stage without once looking at the audience reaction as if it was possible to ignore it. I felt so bad for the kid.

The marching band came out after that and the place exploded, people dancing in the aisles – singing, just rocking the fuck out, the entire ceremony falling apart.

There were two days of classes left after graduation, if I remember correctly, and I didn’t go to either of them. I was done. G went to both days and told me they were fun, everyone was just hanging out; they played lots of basketball, no fights, no nothing. I felt kind of shitty for not going but that feeling was completely erased by the exhilaration of starting high school.

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Beginnings: The Speech

Monday, January 30, 2006

Before I get to today’s story, the first story in the last week of Moose stories (for now), I just wanted to ramble a little bit. I’ve been working pretty fucking hard on my super secret project and this weekend I literally did nothing except write, think, and design while visiting a variety of coffee shops and book stores (sometimes to get work done and sometimes to do some research and talk to the owners…ohhh…cryptic hints).

Anyway, Robin went out Friday night and I fell asleep on the couch at about eleven – just passed the fuck out. She comes home and our little rat terrier purse-dog jumps off the couch and starts barking at the person at our door like she always does. So I wake up and starting thinking to myself, “Fuck – did I lock the door – Robin’s sleeping,” and then find the door opening up. I flip out man, total adrenaline rush, jump off the couch and charge the door ready to fuck up whoever comes through hit. Stop just in the nick-of-time when my brain processes it was Robin, I almost took her out.

Not twelve hours later I get a package from my mom with some stuff she was supposed to send. Being a good mom, she included some scratch tickets. The object of one of them is to match my cards to the winning cards. My cards were an 8, 5, 4 and Jack. I’m scratching off the cards I need to match and I’m winning like mad. 5-bucks, 15-bucks. I scratch off a five-hundred dollar spot and lose my mind, I’m so psyched. Than I get to the last one, it’s a jack and the prize is 500,000 dollars. Total adrenaline rush, again – I’m flipping the fuck out, obviously. Turns out I needed to match suite and card – I didn’t even realize that – and I won nothing.

Moral of the story – I almost had two heart-attacks this weekend and I desperately need some fucking sleep. Bitch slapping comics is going to be the death of me.

Announcement tomorrow regarding the next project I’m editing (and it has nothing to do with the super secret project). For now, story-time…
________________

I might as well get this out of the way so you all can laugh about it and then get on with the rest of the story: I was the valedictorian at my elementary school. That’s right; my elementary school had a valedictorian. Get all the laughs out now and then we’ll get back down to business.

Towards the end of the sixth grade there was this intense race for the valedictorian between me and this kid Alex. Alex was a character – I knew him from kindergarten straight through high school – he’d always try to impress the ladies with his piano skills which were really good in elementary school but never improved significantly beyond that.

But that was his thing back in 58s, man – he’d play that fucking piano for every assembly, get down with it too – head swaying like he’s Stevie Wonder and shit. When he wasn’t playing the piano he was making these comic books which featured our friends as super heroes. Everyone had these cool powers – G could shoot ice and Ross was a ninja – everyone except me who had the ability to stretch. I was basically Mr. Fantastic except I wasn’t super intelligent – I just kind of reached shit that was in high places, that was my job. I was always getting killed or injured five pages into the story, dying the hero’s death after I got the key that was dangling thirty-feet in the air and was needed to open the door to the secret temple.

There was a bit of a rivalry, you know? He’d always try to push me out of hand ball games in the school yard by using the “it’s my ball routine”. We even went to swords over a girl in the fifth grade, this chick Laurie, hairy like a fucking gorilla at a ridiculously young age. Alex and I went head-to-head for her until G pointed out to me that she has arms like my father’s – that’s enough to get me to back off and let Alex have her.

But it was all shit like that – the girls and the comics and the handball and the piano – that defined the relationship between Alex and I – childhood rivals that played humanly together – and it all came to a head towards the end of the sixth grade.

There could be only one valedictorian.

Mr. Ringston pulled me out of class to tell me I got it – I wasn’t even happy for myself or proud or anything like that, all that was on my mind was that I was going to be able to rub it into Alex’s face. That it was going to be me giving the closing speech at our graduation, the last kid standing on the stage. When I walked back into the classroom I looked over at Alex and smiled, he immediately knew what just happened.

I fucking won.

I wrote my speech with the help of my parents. It was pretty straightforward, talk about friendships and teachers – the usual sixth grade valedictorian shit. I had this one line I was proud of , I was to say, “…as we walk through THAT door for the last time,” while pausing reflectively to point at the door at the back of the auditorium, reminiscing over my childhood while mentally preparing for junior high – that, right there, was my fucking money shot.

When graduation day came I was prepared, king of the fucking world, index cards in hand and ready for my five minutes of fame. They went into the awards – I shit you not when I say I won twenty-four awards. Everything from attendance to these special city-wide awards signed by the Brooklyn Borough President himself, whom I believe was Howard Golden back then.

I was called up for every one of them. Language Arts. Math. History. Three awards from Field Day. I was like the Lord of the Rings crew at the Oscars except five times dorkier.

Then came time for my speech. I took the podium and rocked it, all eyes on me, moved by my spirited words and especially touched by my “walk through those doors for the last time” line.

We all stood up, marched out, our parents cheered us on.

The next day they added my name to the PS58 plaque of valedictorians. Right there, etched in gold-painted metal, it said “JASON RODRIGUES”.

With the “S” – continuing a long tradition of getting my name wrong and proving that sixth grade valedictorian means shit.

And on that note, I was off to Junior High.

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Toys

Friday, January 27, 2006

One of those fucking nights, man.

Saw pages from Josh Fialkov’s and Jay Busbee’s upcoming projects – both of them were beautiful. This was the day after seeing pages of Jay’s other upcoming project and reading the script to Josh’s other upcoming project. I’m talking gorgeous, here. Different. The kind of shit you just read and never complain about, try to order prints of the pages so you can put them up on your wall.

Then I had a two hour phone call with Chris Stevens. You don’t know him yet but you most likely will. His book looks gorgeous – Art Adams, Jae Lee, Farrell Darymple, James Jean, etc, etc, etc. Best part is the dude is a ridiculously talented writer so it’s more than just eye candy. It’s practically done and we’re talking about where he should take it. When your book is so good you’re deciding what publishers to go with instead of what publishers will go with you, you’re in a good position.

Meanwhile I’m learning Illustrator CS which I just installed, trying to get some copy and graphics together for a little something-something so I can send it to the ridiculously talented Jason Hanley to make up some material for me that I can bring to New York Comic Con and maybe, you know, beat the shit out of this industry with it.

Just one of those fucking days, my man. The kind where you see change coming.

_______________

Going through some old pictures today, trying to get inspired to write a story, saw this one with my old Castle Greyskull in the background and started thinking about all my old toys. Way I see it, next week is all the sign-off shit, the closing out the story drama. So, you know, let’s just talk about toys today and leave the heavy lifting for next week.

But not the good toys, that wouldn’t be very “Moose in the Closet” like. Let’s talk about the shitty toys.

Like Madballs. What the fuck was up with that? I mean, whereas it was cool having a ball that looked like a deformed head they didn’t really throw all that well, they just sort of went with the wind and never really traveled too far. The only thing they were good for was soaking them with water and lunging them at someone’s head, giving them a face full of wet ugly.

But no matter how useless the Madballs where, nothing will ever top the #1 gayest toy I ever owned. Worst than my Pound Puppy. Worse than my Care Bears. I owned a Popple.

That folded into a soccer ball.

Popples where these plush dolls that tucked into them selves and became plush balls that were great for…I don’t know, rolling. I guess in an attempt to get boys to buy them they made the sport versions. Well, it worked, because – you know – I had the soccer ball Popple.

Only soccer ball I ever owned. And yeah, I used to walk around the house kicking it. It got old after a little while but when I first got it – hot damn I was rocking Pele-style with my plush soccer ball that transformed into something that vaguely looked like the type of bear that loves to be the bitch in bear-prison.

I was always the fan of the big Playsets. I love my Castle Greyskull. Boulder Mountain – my dad drove his ass out to Toys R’ Us after working two friggin jobs to get me the Boulder Mountain Playset from M.A.S.K.. Wasn’t my birthday or anything, I just wanted it; he knew I wanted it, he got it. Got the Cobra Terrordrome for Christmas one year, big ass playset. I had the original G.I.Joe base, the Dagoba Playset from Star Wars as well as the Ewok Village which was easily my favorite fucking toy as a kid next to my AT-AT. Hell, even my Snake Mountain playset was dope despite the fact that the Horde started as a She-Ra villain. The friggin thing came with a snake hand puppet that you can use to swallow He-Man whole – bad ass.

I swear to God, I don’t think I ever had a playset that I didn’t like.

Vehicles, however, almost always left me disappointed.

Like the G.I. Joe Bridge Layer, for instance, which I didn’t ask for but got it anyway this one Christmas. What a piece of crap that turned out to be – it was a playtime killer. If at any point you’re playing with your G.I. Joes and your plot calls for the Bridge Layer you instantly realize that your thread is dead and you should just put away your toys and try again tomorrow.

Vehicles – if ain’t the Millennium Falcon it shouldn’t exist.

I also love the weak figures in an otherwise powerful line. Like the Rock Guys from He-Man. This was He-Man’s attempt at cashing in on the Transformers craze – they were these figures that “transformed” into rocks. And by “transform” I mean you bend them over and they look like rocks. And by “rocks” I mean boring-ass rocks that you end up using as background scenery during playtime.

Even Transformers, the greatest toy line of all time, had their shitty toys. I had these guys - they essentially folded over and became drills. You pull them back and they roll on their own for about three seconds before popping open and landing on their feet. So, it was essentially a transformer that took a second to transform and was capable of moving on it own for a little bit provided your room wasn’t lined with carpet which mine was.

Shitty toy.

But nothing beats the Go-Bots. Talk about a line created solely for the shitty toys. I remember this episode of Go-Bots where this submarine Go-Bot needed to go under water. He turns to this kid and says, “I’m just happy to help. I’m sure you can imagine there isn’t much need for a submarine on Gobotron.” And here I am, a little six year old kid, and even I said, “So why the fuck is there a submarine on Gobotron?”

“Oh. To sell toys.”

And I bought them, obviously. And complained that they weren’t transformers.

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Gross!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Well, technically my second article for The Hive should be up this morning but Buzzscope’s been acting up all night so I don’t know if it’ll be there. I hope so, trying to build some momentum with this bitch. UPDATE: It's up!

I’ve been busy. Busy, busy, busy. Some of your have been contacted, some have not been (but you will be) and some of you will have words with me at New York Comic-Con whether you like it or not. Busy man – exciting things. Tease, tease, tease…

Updated my business cards for NY, coming to town with a fresh batch. Suit’s in the dry cleaners and ready for that Saturday. I still need to go get a new hat for the suit, I’m thinking I might get a kangol to go with it. You really don’t give a shit about any of this, get on with the story you say, we’re almost done, next week is the last week.

The Moose is almost out of the fucking closet…

___________________

Today’s story is not for the faint of heart, prudish, or squeamish. Everything today falls under what Chris Piers would call “too much information”. It’s not even a story, really, just a collection of little tales that are meant to make you laugh a bit and perhaps remind you that you’re not alone in this world – we all have our gross moments.

Like when I was thirteen and had diarrhea and thought I could hold in. Instead I sharted and it ran down my leg and out my pants, left a nice little present on the living room floor which I didn’t notice and instead kept on walking, tracking mud as I went. Five minutes later I hear my mom yell, “ill” and telling my dad that Elizabeth, my sister, had an accident on the floor. It took me all of three seconds to put it together and check the inside of my pants – sure enough there was a mudslide running down that I was somehow oblivious to. I didn’t speak up, though, it’s not like they were going to punish an almost-two year old for shitting on the floor.

Oh, I’m just getting warmed up. Wait until you hear about the love sock.

But first, how about I tell you about the vat. The vat was this gallon jug half filled with apple juice my roommate and I kept in the close freshman year in college. As part of a year long science experiment we tried to see how disgusting we can make it’s contents. We threw everything in there – cigarette butts, pieces of bread, banana peels, bugs – every once and a while one of us would be holding something in our hand and we’d decided that it NEEDS to go into the vat.

We’d have to lift our shirts over our noses because the smell would make you puke. We quickly take off the cap, throw the object in, put the cap back on, mix it up and leave the room for several minutes to let it air out. The fucking vat became its own ecosystem eventually, new strains of bacteria and molds were springing up daily – you’d look inside it and see shit moving and wonder how it got in there –the stuff we were putting into the vat was spawning new life

Eventually my roommate wanted to get rid of the vat but I refused to let it go. There were only a couple of months left in the school year and there was no way I was willing to pull the plug prematurely. Besides, I’m pretty sure if I tried to get rid of it the vat would revolt.

On the last day of school, before we were kicked out of the dorms, we blocked a sink in the bathroom and filled it with the contents of the vat. I still feel bad for the poor fuck that had to clean that shit up.

And sometimes you don’t realize how gross something is until someone tells you…

My Grandpa John – he gave me handkerchiefs one year for Christmas. It’s such a weird present, the kind of thing a kid would only get from some old man that doesn’t believe in tissues. Not wanting to waste the present, I started using the handkerchief.

It was all good until I got a nasty cold, my nose was running like mad and every five minutes I’d pull the handkerchief out of my jacket, blow my nose, fold it up and put it back in my jacket. I was dating M at the time and after watching me take this crusty, snot filled rag out of my jacket pocket ten times or so (and even then after using it for a week straight) she stops me and tells me that what I’m doing is quite possibly the most disgusting thing she’s ever seen and I should use a tissue like a normal person.

I didn’t use the handkerchief after that. It lasted an entire week – unlike my torrid affair with the love sock.

Ah, the love sock. When you’re just hitting puberty and learn the joys of masturbation you try new and exciting things out. Usually these new and exciting things are along the lines of, “hey, I wonder what jerking off is like standing up?” or “hey, I wonder what jerking off is like if I invert my right hand so it’s like an upside down left hand?”

Every once and a while us guys (or me, at least, really putting myself out there), go all MacGyver and try to figure what we can stick our dicks in so as to emulate fucking. I don’t remember every object I tried to have sex with at that young age – I think toilet paper roll is standard, I know of several other guys who tried that. Rolling the blankets into a tightly packed ball never worked. Shampoo bottles always seemed ideal – you screw the cap off and there’s a natural lubricant in there, luckily for everyone in my household I never rocked a pencil dick – what I don’t have in length I make up for in girth (and my dick is above average length which means it’s girthy as all fuck if you’re doing the math).

Turns out the best item in the household I could use for a jerk-off assist was a nice, cozy sock – my thermal socks, actually.

The thing is, I was paranoid that my mom would catch on when she pulled my sock out of the hamper and it was stiff as a board. So the only logical thing to do (to a young teenager, that is) was to keep using the same sock. I’d hide it under my mattress and take it out when I needed a little “extra” attention – it was like a special treat. Well, a year into that and the sock was practically walking on its own – I finally decided to throw it out.

That sock was by far the most disgusting thing to ever exist. The cum was so crusted that the fucking thing made this scraping noise whenever I put it on – little white flakes falling on my muff and making it look like I have pubic dandruff.

God, it was so gross.

Oh, and I was also a picker/sticker as a kid so the wall behind my mattress was caked in boogar, in case you wanted to cram one last image in your head.

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Putting the Mega in Jesus Christ

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

I'm putting together two pitch packages - one for this site and one for a super secret project you'll hear nothing about until April at the earliest. While putting together the pitch for The Moose I'm compiling some stats on what I've done in the past year here. I isolated the publishable stories, not the blurbs or the ramblings. My original estimate for words published for this year-long project was 168,000 words – 240 stories in a year at around 700 words a piece. That’s close to three industry-standard novels.

The count so far, with seven stories left to go - I’m a couple of hundred words away from 200,000. If you add in the blurbs and the two weeks of guest stories there has been 276,443 wordspublished on the Moose in a year. If you add that little 50,000 word novel I wrote in November the number climbs up to 326,443 words in a year - and that's not counting the 17 Here's the Thing..., two books I edited and full-time job I worked. Not to pat my own back but "fuck yeah".

I don’t know - something to be proud of. And they’re entertaining, I think, people keep coming back – you know? The Saturday after this is all said and done I’ll post the numbers for the pitch packet including some thoughts on the experience, my favorite stories, shit like that.

But for now, seven stories to go.

_____________________________

First semester senior year I decided to try my hand at directing for my troupe’s Fall One-Act festival. I decided on a play, “Judgment Call” by Frederick Stroppel – a ten minute show about umpire’s dealing with life after a bad call leads to a player committing suicide.

Of course I did a baseball show, what did you expect?

I presented the play to my troupe and it was accepted, I began to prepare for auditions. There were three one-acts in the festival – Q was doing Nina Shengold’s “Anything for You” and this girl Katie was doing Israel Horowitz’s “Line”. Since my cast was all men and Q’s cast was all women we didn’t butt heads. But Katie – oh man did we get off on the wrong foot.

She wanted all of the best actors that auditioned with us and she wouldn’t budge. It got to the point where we had to get the president of the troupe involved and he had to basically tell her that she couldn’t have everyone she wanted, Q and I had the right to at least two of her first picks. I ended up nabbing two of the three actors I wanted and Q got one of the two he wanted.

Directing was fun and working with an all male cast made it more of a bonding thing than a work thing. We went to ballgames together, watched baseball movies – I tried to get these guys in a baseball state of mind. I stressed timing as being more important than the lines themselves – we’d have exercises where we’d sit around a table and deliver our lines while staying stationary to ensure we grasped the beats between lines, I was kind of notorious for putting a ruler to the knuckles if a line came too fast or too slow.

Another advantage of an all male cast – no-one will complain if you physically abuse them during rehearsals.

By the time the one-act festival rolled around my play was the tightest, and that’s more than my ego talking – everyone was saying it. Just delivered perfectly, everyone hit their lines just right and the comedy came out strong as did the drama. After the show people who’ve worked with us in the past were telling me they wanted to be in the next show I directed - I was even considering pitching a full length for next semester I was so excited with the response for this one.

But the theater gods had something else in store for me.

Before the second night of the one-act festival I was messing around on stage and belting out some show tunes. Greg, the troupe’s president, overhears me and asks if I’d want to do a one-man musical. I tell him, “sure, let me write one.”

Guam and I sit down and within a week have a pitch for Jesus Christ Megastar. We pitched it to the troupe and it was instantly turned down. Didn’t have a “story”, as if a musical really needs that.

We retooled the story and repitched. Greg loved it but the other two people in charge; they weren’t so down with the one-man musical that’s potentially offensive to every religion on earth. We got the go ahead to put it on BUT we had to produce it ourselves. Every penny for that play came out of mine and Guam’s pockets.

I already talked enough about the play (right here and here, mainly, along with audio samples) so I won’t rehash all those details.

We recorded the soundtrack in the Tower’s music room; a little place none of us knew existed until the day Q showed it to us. We had a little two line mixer and recorder, made the cheapest recordings imaginable and sold the CDs at 5 bucks a pop to turn a slight profit on the show.

The recordings and the writing sessions and the rehearsals – it was all captured on film. For Robin’s project she was doing a documentary on the making of Jesus Christ Megastar. It was entirely her idea, she followed us around for a couple of weeks with lights and cameras and make-up kits, interviewing us and pulling quotes for her film.

She screened the documentary one evening for some subset of her film school. I couldn’t make it, unfortunately – I actually never got to see the final version although I helped out a bit with the editing. Apparently there was one line that caused a lot of discussion amongst the people she screened it for – I said that JCMS was my last creative endeaver – that after it was all said and done I go into the real world, put on my tie and start earning a paycheck.

That sparked a bit of back-and-forth over why I felt like I couldn’t find time to create just because I was going into the “real world”. Robin couldn’t answer for me and I wasn’t able to defend myself but, six years later I’d say they were all right – you can create and work full time, JCMS wasn’t my last hurrah, just the start of a thought I’ve yet to finish.

The following year the people within the troupe who refused to pay for the play decided to try and emulate what we’ve done with JCMS and produced what they called the “Senior Play”, completely cheapening what we managed to achieve. For JCMS, there were people who came out to every show. We were signing autographs when it was finished. I was getting email requests for the video, people who were willing to buy a copy off of me. From what I understand, the Senior Play couldn’t even compete with JCMS, a five man musical, written and produced over one semester.

There are people with vision and then there are the blind people who try to follow in their footsteps – it’s true in theater much like it’s true in comics.

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Paintball

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Gearing up for the second article for The Hive dealing with supplemental content. The last one got crazy busy and I’m hoping this time has even more people showing up – a good chunk of people popped on by the introductions thread since the last discussion so that means we should have a light increase, at least. These first three weeks aren’t very sexy, either way; it’s all the preliminary stuff. Financing, distribution and marketing – that’s when The Hive blows up.

Anyway, The Moose continues…

__________________

Senior year in high school I played paintball for the first time. It was outdoors, in the snow, a bunch of kids from high school playing this massive 30 on 30 game of capture the flag – it was a great time. People hiding behind snow banks, climbing into trees and laying down cover fire. The snow made the paintballs wicked frozen and, in turn, it felt like people were pelting you with rocks. At the same time, when they didn’t jam in the gun, they rarely burst so the games where over pretty quick – a speedy runner can grab the flag and be back at base without getting a single paintball opening up on him.

I was the general for one round – I ordered half of my troops to take a frontal assault and sent a small group of ten to circle around the back and surprise the enemy.

They were the first to get shot up, we lost that round.

After hours of playing and having fun, both guys and girls alike, we left that snowy field with a newfound love of paintball, ready to play again, talking about getting our own guns and making seasonal trips out to the countryside to play wargames.

Freshman year in college was the second and last time I played paintball.

My boss from the dining hall organized a trip out to Brockton, Massachusetts – the fucking white trash jewel of the East Coast – to play some indoor paintball. Pretty much everyone who worked in the dining hall signed up and some of us brought friends along – I brought R, for instance, and we were ready for an afternoon of frolicking fun and paintball goodness.

We were supposed to have the place to ourselves – at least that’s what the owner told us. Ten minutes before we were to start this pick-up truck pulled up out front, guys jumping out with full camouflage and a variety of paintball guns strapped to their body. Thick glasses, flat feet and fucked up teeth – these were the guys that couldn’t make into the marines and were pissed to all hell about being stuck in their jobs at the gas station.

The owner tells us that these guys are going to play with us and we’re obviously not too happy about that but, we figure, what the fuck, right? It’s only paintball. Meanwhile these guys are talking about flanking patterns and practicing their cover formations and hand signals, looking at paintball magazines and saying how they need to invest in a scope or some paint-mines.

These games went fast as well – not because the paintballs weren’t rupturing or because they were getting jammed but because we were getting fucking killed. R dropped out within an hour, two deep bruises on her skin from well placed paintballs. I was taking my lumps, spending most of the days in a “defensive posture” which basically meant I found somewhere to hide and only shot if my opponent was alone and within three feet of me.

The indoor game – it made the paintballs hurt a lot more, people turning corners and shooting you in the gut from five feet away. The professionals we were up against had these automatic guns and they’d lay down three or four shots within a second and a half, hit you first on your arm that’s brandishing the weapon, twice in the chest and once in the mask for good measure. They were fucking insane.

One time I was “defending and there was a hole in the wall above my head. A fucking paintball gun comes through the hole while I’m not paying attention and presses against my head. The inbred idiot quietly whispers, “You can take it or throw your hands up.”

Seriously, who the fuck would take it? Who’s the tough guy that would take a paintball to the cranium from two inches? If there was any doubt that this was a dangerous situation we got ourselves into it was erased right there – these guys were future fucking killers.

I throw my hands up and walk through the building yelling, “Dead Man coming through”. I see my boss sitting in the neutral zone, drenched in paint, and I tell him this was the worst fucking idea he’s ever had – why Brocton? Of all the places we could have went to, why did we need to pick this shit kicking town?

We had a ROTC chick on our side, she was the only one that was really producing for us, she’d just run through rooms popping shots. One time me and her where laying behind this shield, there were two of our opponents across the room from us and holding us down. She looks at me and tells me we’re going over, asks if I’m ready. I say yeah, I’m with a fucking marine for shit’s sake. She yells “simper fie”; I get amped and bring my body up about three inches before taking a paintball to the head.

I shit you not – worst pain of all time. You see stars, your brain hurts, and you’re dizzy. Ms. Marines asks me if I’m all right and I just whimper. I finally have enough in me to stand up again and I just yell “Dead Man coming through” and get the fuck out of the hot zone, call it a day. R’s pissed at me, the whole crew is beat to shit, we never won a single match – paintball just isn’t for me, I guess.

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Sweat Shop

Monday, January 23, 2006

Two weeks of Moose left.

I was away this weekend, got to relax a bit and read Fables V6 as well as the first issue of Miriam’s jobnik! Fables is just such a guilty little fun. It’s not great comic booking but it doesn’t have to be – it’s just a shitload of chuckles and “ohhhs”, isn’t it? Watching Little Boy Blue wreck shop in the Homelands, cutting people in half and lopping off heads – that’s good ole’ popcorn flick comic booking right there. I’d love to see this made into a movie – probably more so than any comic book around now – it’s just made like a movie, a healthy dose of sex, violence, adventure and fantasy.

jobnik!, completely different but just as good. It wasn’t at all what I expected, subtle little things that you need to look over several times because you’re not sure whether you’re seeing what you thought you saw the first time around, an interesting character study where the writer is the character she’s studying. Miriam puts it all out there, I give it up to her – readers of this site know that I’m a fan of honesty and reflection. I learned a lot about myself by doing this site – you kind of see a sense of self realization within Miriam as you turn the pages of her book.

Good comic booking all around this weekend.

And I got a hot stone message. Goddamn that felt good. And my masseuse had some sexy-ass feet. I love feet.

_____________________________

The summer before I started college my father convinced me that I needed to get a real job and make some money before going off to Boston – the video store wasn’t going to pay me enough to get through the summer and buy my school books. So my father set me up with a job at the print shop he worked at in Queens.

My father, at this point, was a hot shot printer. He was running a big-ass press, running off baseball cards and what not. His press was on the second floor of his shop, all clean looking and right near the corporate offices. He never really got to see how the other half lived, the downstairs people who were running the collating machines and the shitty printing presses – it was essentially a sweat shop.

And I worked down there for two summers – earning minimum wage – while my bourgeois father got air conditioning and a clean, safe working environment.

I was the only American born in the massive, windowless bottom-floor, the only one who spoke fluent English, really. There were three groups of people – the Hispanic women who were fresh off the boat and did the most mindless jobs imaginable like labeling boxes, the Hispanic men who worked the dangerous presses like the ones that applied ultraviolet ink and corrosive chemicals, and then there was Tony, the Asian guy who fixed everything.

My first couple of weeks on the job I was just sort of filler, if someone didn’t show up I took their place. This had me occasionally applying labels with the Hispanic female crew, rumors started going around that I was hot for one of them. She was the only young one of the bunch, probably 19 or 20. She was cute, had a little bit of a femme-stashe but the kind that was still a little on the sexy side in a weird sort of way. She didn’t speak a word of English though, when the rumor that I was hot for her got to my pops he joked with me that the only word that girl knew was “Green Card”.

Anyway, nothing happened there – I can’t even say I was interested and the fact that she was attractive didn’t even occur to me until people started telling me I was supposedly hooking up with her. It’s hard to notice things like cute girls when it’s 95-degrees with no air circulation or sun light and you’re getting paid five bucks an hour to huff boxes across the print-shop.

Usually the only thing you see is spots.

One time Tony, the Asian fixer-upper, needed my help for something and we fixed a printing press together. Tony took a bit of a liking to me and I became his assistant for the rest of the summer, hung out in his workshop until we were needed.

Life got a lot easier.

We spent a lot of time outside, one of the projects we got tasked involved installing a new ventilation system on the roof of the print shop. Tony had a thick Asian accent and one day he was telling me we need to do some extra work on the roof because it’s not “yevow”. I kept asking his why the roof being yellow matters and he was yelling back, “No, no, it’s not “yevow”. Finally I’m like, “Ohhh…level…”

That pretty much summarizes every day with Tony.

One time during the roof project my ladder fell and Tony was nowhere in site. I had to climb down through the window of the third floor (which was a floor much like the first but with more immigrants and windows) and ran through the floor, embarrassed, no-one up there knew who I was and I didn’t want anyone to accuse my ass of trespassing. People were getting all freaked out because some white boy came through their window and started running around, they likely thought I was INS or some shit.

And that was that summer, every day it was a different story involving me looking like an idiot (like the time I broke the sink). The following summer working there, however…that was a little different.

This guy Cliff picked me up before Tony got a chance to – I worked the boxing machine all summer, the most mindless job imaginable. I don’t know if it was called the boxing machine but that’s what I did – the boxes came to me folded up and I put shit in them, taped it up, and put them on a skit. That was my day. For eight hours, five days a week, all summer. I’d actually count boxes to past time – when your best entertainment is to count the hundreds of boxes that pass through your hands, you know your job sucks.

If someone ever needed me to run some other errand I’d just disappear and never come back, no-one knew I was missing. I’d get called away, some Hispanic woman would take my place, and I’d finish my task in two minutes and then climb on top of a massive pile of boxes and take a nap. I used to actually refer to myself as “Silent Ninja Deadly Cat” and I’d crawl around these fourteen foot high pile of boxes (and skits) until I felt confident in finding one outside the line of sight of anyone on the floor.

And then just sleep. Maybe read some comics. Punch out five hours later.

My father told me he wanted me to work at his shop to make some college money but, in all honesty, I think he wanted me to do it to teach me a lesson – do good in school, no college grad will work the jobs I was working no matter how you do.

I got a new level of respect for my dad out of it. When I was going up he worked in the windowless print shop, the big-ass machine and the lack of circulation – he worked the day and night shift when I was kid to do right by his kids. And he made well with it but it took him over twenty years to get there.

You respect someone a lot more when you see where they started as opposed to where they ended up.

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My B, B

Friday, January 20, 2006

Two weeks left to the Moose. I’m excited. Monday's story may be late, spending some time out of the city with the Lady.

Story time…

______________

I think I’ve grown over the past year. There’re two weeks left, I’ve written over 240 stories so far, there’s no way I haven’t grown. At the same time, though, this little writing experiment has proven to be wicked therapeutic. I’ve learned a lot about myself and my relationships and in some instances I’ve come to realize that I was the asshole.

Like with B, for instance.

B stopped talking to G and I sophomore year in college – no return phone calls or emails. G and I always assumed it was because we played strip poker with his girlfriend. Hell, we were told that by his boy Jimmy. But already on this site I told the story about how we almost killed him and I now realize that there might have been other things that sent the relationship sour.

Like Speed Pool, for instance. B was the only friend of ours with a pool table so we always found ourselves getting a game on at his place. Sometimes that game would turn into Speed Pool which is regular 8-ball accept if you hit the cue ball after it stops moving you scratch. Whereas it’s a remarkably fun game the ball has a tendency to fly off the table, hit people and, at least once a game, put a hole in a wall. We put quite a few holes in his wall.

There was also the chauffer factor – B was one of the few kids with a car and he was also the only one that didn’t drink so we had him drive our asses all over Brooklyn, calling him up in the middle of the night like he was our own personal car service, inviting ourselves out to his place in Bay Ridge but insisting that he picked us up first. I can imagine that would get pretty annoying.

He was also one of the first kids to have AOL and we’d always use his screen name to either talk shit to the people on his buddy list or to have cybersex with someone who claimed to be 17 and a female – he’d always get weird IMs pop up from people asking if he wanted to have another go and he would have no idea what they were talking about.

One time a bunch of us were hanging out at his place and while he was out doing something we ordered a porno movie through his cable box. It was over in five minutes and someone dared me to order another one so I did. At the end of the month 16 dollars in porno movies showed up on his mother’s bill and we had to fess up – he wasn’t too happy about that, obviously.

And then there was the whole “taking Mike over to his place so the mother can patch him up after he got shot in the neck” deal.

On the whole, I think you can say we were bad friends to B.

Then there was the fact that he started dating Jackie who, back then, I had a bit of a thing for. I don’t know, it wasn’t a “thing” thing but there was certainly a little bit of thing – certainly a level of jealousy, like I was stuck at the friend level and yet he managed to find some way to jump it.

And then you take that into consideration and you look at everything else, all the attempted murders and strip poker games, and you start to realize that maybe, just maybe, that was behind it all.

And you realize that for the past eight years, the reason you and B stopped talking may not have been as cut and dry as saying, “I saw his ex-girl’s titties and her fine, fine ass.”

But, the fact of the matter is – I did see his ex-girl’s titties and her fine, fine ass.

And they were good.

Either way, my b, B. Too late now, I doubt you read this site, but I just wanted to say I’m sorry.

And that your ex-girl’s titties were spectacular.

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Pets

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Harvey award nominee ballot is out and after talking it over with Josh we came to the conclusion that we, you know, want one. Or two.

So here’s the deal – I encourage all of you to fill out the ballot and vote for your favorite books but, if you’d like to be a Friend to Hoarse & Buggy, I went ahead an made this ballot that you can start out with (and there’s plenty of room to put all of your other favorite books down). Now, the ballots are due by March 3rd. You can print it out and mail it to:

Paul McSpadden
605 West Arapaho Road
Richardson TX 75080

Or email it to: pjcjmc2 @ comcast.net

Because fuck it, if we can't get people to buy the book we'll at least win a shitload of awards.

Anyway, I started filling out my own ballot – this is going to take some time but here’s where I’m at so far.

Story time…

____________________

When it comes to pets there is one simple rule life applies to me – if I like them they die a horrible death, if I don’t like them they live forever.

My first pet was a bird – a parakeet, I named her Frances after my Grandma Fran. I must have been seven or eight years old, woke up after having Frances for about a month to find it dead at the bottom of her cage. I buried her in the backyard and Grandma Fran asked me to not name any pets after her again.

That pretty much set the tone.

Garfield was my first cat – nasty son of a bitch but I loved him. He was just wicked playful, he’d always hide under the bed or behind some furniture and jump out, scratch up your leg and run away. The scratches didn’t hurt, it was more of a playful thing, but holy fuck did he scare the shit out of me every time. He’d also used to like to sleep on my head – literally, he’d lie down on my head while I slept and fall asleep with me, purring all night. If I ever tried to push him off he’d come back instantly, bat my forehead for good measure, and set himself back up.

About six months into having him he started walking funny, acting fatigued. My father took him to the vet – feline leukemia – they put him down.

My next pet was a dog – Chewy. A little beagle, cutest fucking thing imaginable. We got him when he was a puppy, friend of the family’s dog dropped a litter and we swooped one up. He was very timid at first; this little guy would always hide when there were people in the room. Eventually he started opening up to me and my sister, followed us around, played with us. It was cool shit, never had a dog and for the first time in my life I was seeing what the fuss was all about and I loved the experience.

A couple of months in we took him to the vet for vaccinations. One of the vaccines was for parvo virus. Two weeks later we were back at the vet – Chewy had parvo. Had to put him down.

The real kick in the ass? The vet ran us through the collection agency when we refused to pay the bill – how’s that for customer service?

“Sorry I killed you dog, that’ll be a thousand dollars.”

But my fucking hermit crab that I won at a festival? That goddamn thing lived for two years, I never gave it a new shell, hardly ever fed it. Finally I gave him to a neighbor because I didn’t want him and she did.

I had a goldfish – neglected to shit. Never cleaned the bowl, never fed it. We kept it on top of the microwave and hoped his integrated exposure of low-level radiation was enough to shut its liver down or something. It just kept growing bigger and bigger. Two years pass – you’d walk up to the bowl and the water was so murky that you couldn’t even see inside. Sure enough that fucking fish would swim up to the glass and mock you, let you know he’s still alive and doing quite well.

And then there was Yoda and Obi-Wan, my Siberian dwarf hamsters from college.

R and I purchased them together, kept them illegally for over a year. They were cute little guys, we’d put them in the ball and watch them run all around the dorm floor – they became mascots of 4-West after some time. One of the hamsters must have broken his leg at one point and we just left it be, I know it’s horrible but this was before Robin really turned me into an animal lover – back then I didn’t think to take a hamster to the vet – he was still walking around, still active and was never squeaking of anything.

When R and I broke up I had them at my place in Brooklyn – they became an extension of her and I kind of started to neglect them. My mom was the one to first discover that Yoda, the one with the broken leg, was dead. I buried him in the backyard and during on of my lesser moments I decided to let the other one go free because I was sure that was what he wanted.

Seriously, I 100% thought that.

So I set him free – in Prospect Park – and I still feel like an asshole about it to this day. I even felt like an asshole then, when it was done, but it wasn’t until Robin that I realized how much of an asshole move it was.

Robin had a rat when we first started dating named Sydney. Female rats are tumor prone and when Robin noticed a tumor on Sydney she wanted me to accompany her to the vet. I asked her, “For a rat?” The look she shot me was enough to know I should shut up.

Took the rat to the vet and the surgery to remove the tumor was something like three hundred bucks. Now, here I am saying to myself, “Three hundred bucks? The rat only costs eight bucks.” Robin, on the other hand, didn’t even hesitate to agree to get the tumor removed.

The next day we went back to the vet to pick up Sydney – the rat was wrapped up in bandages and the doctor told Robin to watch Sydney, she’ll try to take the bandages off. Robin stayed up all night watching her. Eventually there came a point when Sydney was unsupervised for an hour or so and she instantly tore the bandage and the stitches off. The rats bleeding, I figure this is done, right?

Nope, we get wrap her up, get in a cab, and go back to the vet who restitches Sydney. This time Robin stays up with her constantly and the times when Robin’s sleeping or not with Sydney, I or a friend of Robin’s is watching over her. The stitches heal.

A couple of weeks later I go over Robin’s place and she’s sitting on her bed crying, a dead Sydney in her hands. Robin tells me the rat died in her sleep. I take Sydney, put her in a shoe box and we go to the Charles River to bury her. It’s winter time, the ground is frozen – I have no shovel and I’m digging a fucking hole with a spoon. We get it just deep enough to put her in a couple of inches without the shoe box, cover her up, and Robin says some words.

During all this, the vet visits and the last rites, I’m standing there and saying to myself, “Holy fucking shit – I can’t believe I let a hamster go free in Prospect Park.” I shit you not, you want to talk about rehabilitation – watching Robin go through all this made me one of the biggest animal lovers in the world. Over the past five years living in DC we’ve had six rats. We currently have a parrot, three cats and a dog. Our vet bills cost us more than our own hospital bills. We go to animal welfare fundraising functions, volunteer at shelters, Robin runs the largest pet sitting business in Washington DC and I love hearing her talk about her day – changed man through and through.

And I look back at the past pets, the one’s that I liked that died on me, and I kind of have to wonder how many of those deaths could have been averted with a little more attention and without immediately deciding to put them down.

Perception is a tricky bitch sometimes.

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Bits

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

My sister was born when I was eleven-years-old, my dad was supposed to take me out of school when my mom was ready to drop but instead I got the message relayed to me afterwards – she was born at 2 PM on March 14th, being part dork I like to think she was born at 1:59 PM so her birth date and time would be 3.14159, the first six digits of pi.

I was with G when my Titi Anita told me the news; I danced around like a silly monkey before getting in her car and going out to the hospital.

My mom wanted to call her Elizabeth Margaret, after the two grandmothers. Being eleven, I thought Marel would have be a great, truly original name. Just because I was always creative didn’t mean I was actually talented. Thank God my parents didn’t listen to me otherwise my sister would have gotten ragged on everyday for having a name that sound like a comic book company and, if I remember correctly, was also close to the name of a paper tower company. And you think my mom wouldn’t name her Marel but you’re talking about the person who wanted to call me Alawishes Isadore.

I loved my sister big time from the start – the eleven year age difference meant we never fought or anything like that. For the 6 years before I went to college she didn’t have a room, though – my parents put up one of those false walls in their bedroom and put her crib behind it, eventually a little bed – but that’s all the space she had. As she got older she started to nomad it a bit more, sleep on the floor of my room, stuff like that, but it wasn’t until I went to college that she got her own room.

She always called me Jay-Jay which made me think I was all Dy-no-mite! No kids can say “Jason”, I realize – all my cousins called me some variant of “Jay” when they were little.

Except my cousin Andy. He called me “Gay-son” or, sometimes, just “Gay” when he realized every kid called me “Jay”. Yes, there’s nothing better than walking down the street with a three year old kid calling you “Gay”. Anyway, her nickname started as ‘Lil Bit but then moved to just Bits. We had one rule in our family – no-one was allowed to call her “Liz”. No-one listened, even my sister started to like “Liz” as her nickname.

The weirdest thing about getting a baby sister when you’re eleven is that you instantly become a babysitter which means you also need to learn how to change diapers. In this day and age, no eleven-year-old kid should have to learn how to change diapers – we don’t have the coordination or the stomach for it. I’d stand there, cleaning up the noxious strained-corn poop, constantly gagging. I was trying to potty train her before she could walk so I wouldn’t have to do that anymore.

Yuck. Someone needs to invent the self-cleaning diaper.

The worst was when you accidentally get some baby shit on your hand. You don’t even know what to do, you just stare at it for five minutes in shock, completely ignoring the naked baby lying on the table, and you go through your day and try to remember if you had chocolate at any point. As soon as you realize the warm substance on your hand is shit beyond any reasonable doubt you freak the fuck out, running to the sink and wash your hands for twenty minutes – naked baby on the table so long the remainder of the shit is now crusted to her ass.

I hated changing diapers.

But beyond the diaper thing it was all fun and games. As soon as your parents went out you’d start dressing her up in your clothes and throwing her all over the apartment. Feed her food she’s not supposed to eat like pizza and hamburgers. Teaching her at a young age that mom jokes are the funniest jokes in the world.

As she got older she got wicked talented. Viola, cello – she taught herself piano, she reads music and can even play back songs she’s heard without ever taking a lesson. She plays softball, basketball, soccer and is one of the fastest swimmers on every team she swam for. She was like the anti-Me. I played the baritone for two years and was a starting lineman for three years on my high school football team because I was really good at knocking people over, came with my clumsiness.

We became really close, I got very protective of her, I already told the story about The Letter (which, to tie it into yesterday’s story, happened after the family reunion). But I was the type of dude that when someone made the “Dude, when’s your sister going to be 18?” joke that every guy makes I’d go with the double slap to really lay on the disrespect (yes, I am one of those people who believes that there is nothing in this world funnier and more disrespectful than a man slapping another man; I love to slap men and come back with the backhand – it’s hysterical).

When my mom and I were fighting she’d occasionally use my sister as a bargaining chip and that would get me going. She’d especially do it when she caught me smoking, tell me I’m not allowed to talk to my sister until I stopped. That shit would get me pissed like nothing else.

She looked up to me; too, but you guys already know that.

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The Reunion

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

I must have been way too young to really understand exactly what the fuck happened at the family reunion but it was obviously bad. Maybe I was just too busy having fun to notice it but during the canoe races, barbeques and water balloon fights the Rodriguez family was cracking in half – the shit that goes on when you’re busy being a kid amazes me sometimes.

Somehow my family got hold of this campsite that the boy scouts use in upstate New York. No idea how it happened but we had cabins and tents and full use of the facilities – we were the only people up there and had to share the land with nobody. We got a bunch of these charter buses to get our asses up there and I think things first started going bad when a new boyfriend in the family went to the back of the bus, pissed in an Evian bottle and then dumped it out the window.

That didn’t make a lot of people happy.

When we got upstate we all started staking out our land – the adults were getting cabins and the kids were getting tents. While we were pitching our tents in pure Brooklyn-kid fashion (as in poles whacking people in faces, fabric getting torn and many declarations of “fuck the woods, man”) my father’s siblings were digging into their own little corner of the camp grounds and staying there, a tension surrounding them that I’ve only heard about years later.

I guess that didn’t make a lot of people happy, either.

But I had all my cousins around and we were having a blast. The property was right on this lake – we canoed out to a wooden platform and spent the afternoon diving off of it, raced our canoes back to shore – the kind of shit city kids never get to do. We rode our bike through the woods, roasted marshmallows and told ghost stories at night – played a variety of pranks of each other. I’m telling you, you put a teenager from the city in the woods and he’ll revert back to being five years old. We didn’t have summer camp or relatives that lived out in the woods. We had Red Hook during the summer; our relatives lived in Red Hook. We occasionally had Florida or a trip to the Jersey shore. I was twelve years old the first time I even saw a tent that wasn’t for sale at Models.

But we were hicks, through and through - we cooked rice and beans on the grill like every Puerto Rican family would do – woke up the bears with our music. We even busted out a karaoke machine one night. The kids slowly took it over, my cousins and I did Pharcyde’s “Passing me By”, I did a rendition of “Sabotage” where I kicked over a picnic table, prompting my family to shut of the karaoke machine and call it a night.

We had some fireworks, some smoke bombs. We’d lock people in a cabin and chuck several stink bombs through an open window, leave them there for ten minutes or so – they’d come out reeking of shit

At the end of the weekend we all packed up and went home. The cousins all hung out together on the bus, laughing having a god time telling the same stories from the weekend over and over again – describing the look on so-and-so’s face when he fell or how funny it is when so-and-so ran over the camp screaming while being chases by a bee. We couldn’t wait to do it next year, so many aunts and uncles we hardly ever see – everyone just having fun together, eating and reminiscing about the past.

It was a great time for us.

I didn’t see my grandparents for close to five years after that weekend.

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Reading, Writing and Political Assassinations

Monday, January 16, 2006

Anyone watch 24? How’s that for fucking housecleaning?

I’m trying to figure out what I want to do three weeks from now. Fact is, The Hive looks like it’s going to be taking up a lot of my time (there are plans - oh, there are plans) and I really need to get some comics going.

The original plan was to take three months off and then get into Year II which would basically be the DC years, after college. I was going to do it three days a week instead of five and once again keep it going for a full year.

But now I’m looking in my notebook at the list of stories I planned to tell about the pre-DC years and realizing there’re close to fifty stories left to tell. So here’s what I’m thinking – after this month is over I come right back and do more of these stories but only twice a week, Tuesday and Thursday, maybe pop in every once and a while to do an update on the comic thing. I do that until whenever and after whenever is done I take on the second year of storytelling.

This way I still have a steady schedule, I’m still putting stuff out, but I free up time to work on The Hive and various comic projects. I also want to do guest stories again like I did last summer – maybe Wednesdays can be guest story days or something. How does that sound?

Ok, for now, story time. The next two weeks have no real theme; I’m just telling whatever the hell I want to tell. Third week ends a lot of stories and sets-up the DC stories for whenever I get to them.

__________________________

It’s funny how your brain remembers some things – not what it actually remembers but how little details make no sense to the big picture and you’re not sure if you’re making it up or if something similar happened. Looking back at Preschool, for instance, it all seems like one big acid trip.

I got accepted into the Brooklyn College Tutorial preschool program – it was this program that was almost impossible to get into and parents from all over Brooklyn tried to get their kids in. It was a bit progressive; we called our teacher Kathy and spent a lot of time studying art and watching plays.

There was a test we had to take before going to this school. We had to make an appointment, it was me and Kathy and she asked me all types of questions about shapes, tested to see if I at least knew the alphabet and was able to do basic math. There were also all of these memory tests and puzzles, it was all so odd but at the same time it’s one of the few memories I actually have from that far back. After she was done testing me she sent me to this backroom and this part is one of those “tripping balls” things I alluded to in the introduction.

Kathy’s assistant teacher was there, I forget her name. The room was all black like a sensory deprivation chamber and for some reason I remember it having these shapes projected on the wall and moving all around. I remember the lady testing my hearing and music perception, asking me how certain songs made me feel and if certain beats were faster than others – things like that. I shit you not I think she put some type of psychic trigger in my head, like when I turn 30 I’m going to start assassinating people when I hear the word “zucchini” or some shit. It was just fucking weird as I remember it – Clockwork Orange weird. You don’t think about shit like that as a kid but as an adult I look back at it all and wonder what the fuck that preschool was up to.

Other little memories – I remember board game time. Every so often we got to play board games, games like perfection and checkers – not Chutes and Ladders of Mouse Trap or other games kids wanted to play. We had fun, no doubt, but again looking back at it they were all games that inspired concentration and strategy.

We used to do a lot of arts & crafts type of stuff, too. Complicated-assed Christmas decorations – reindeers out of clothespins and these little Christmas pillows that someone sowed and I’m not sure if it was me. This wasn’t glitter and paper shit; we were busting out glue guns to get the reindeers eyes to stay on. Cards for our mom’s using photographs and a variety of mixed media.

Pipe cleaners were huge during arts & crafts, we used them for everything. Another one of those weird memories that makes no sense is running through these sheets that were hanging from the ceiling for some reason and this kid Nick running up behind me and jabbing me with a pipe-cleaner repeatedly while laughing.

Just weird shit, man.

They actually taught us to cook. I remember Kathy’s assistant making this zucchini dish and telling us what she was doing step by step – what’s really crazy is I don’t recall there being a kitchen in the school but there was obviously something there that was capable of cooking up the zucchini.

We put on “Twas the Night Before Christmas” and I got to play Santa Claus. The set was this large piece of canvas that we pained to look like the wall of a house, window, door and chimney. I remember they had us contribute to painting the set – what the hell kind of school has four year old kids painting sets? I look at pictures of the set now, though, and think we were either wicked talented or our “help” consisted of them telling us exactly where to paint what color and then fixing it up when we were done.

And I think that’s it, that’s the extent of my memories from preschool. Just weird little pieces of a story that, when taking out of context, make preschool look like a scene from The Manchurian Candidate.

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Junior Year: Last Days

Friday, January 13, 2006

I wan to thank everyone who contributed at The Hive yesterday. It came off better than I imagined it would and next column will only be better.

With The Hive my readership here went up more than a little bit. Before I get to today’s story I need to ask you all once again to please, please, please support Elk’s Run. Order some copies. Go to our website and print out the order form, bring it to your retailer and ask him to order up some copies. We really need it – the book is solid, you’ll enjoy it – and it’s a shame that all we can do is ask you go through the convoluted ordering process but that’s all we can do, at the moment. Over the next year, at The Hive, we’ll supposedly come up with some new ideas but for now – if you like this site and you like The Hive and you want to show your appreciation in some little way I’m asking you to please get behind this book. That’s all, begging done – we appreciate all the support we’ve gotten already and I know it’s selfish to ask for more but we just want to be able to tell our story and I know a lot of you want to be able to finish it. So please, support the book. Thanks.

Three weeks of The Moose left. Today’s story is a bit light because The Hive took a lot of my time yesterday – I’ll try to make next weeks bang up for ya, promise, and the last week is already written.

Story time…
_________________

Junior year started good and ended better. I was staying in Boston for the summer, hooked up with a job for the Office of Resident Life doing skits for incoming freshmen – I was working with Sleazy Steve and this girl that I had a little bit of a crush on – that’s a good set-up. Interviewed with Jillian’s and got my job game-teching at night which was a great job for the first few months but it got old after a while.

Meanwhile I checked out my new apartment on south campus, met my two roommates whose names I don’t remember. One was Asian and one was Russian – that’s all I got, honestly. Once Robin and I started hooking up I never stayed in the apartment anyway (she had air conditioning).

We had our RA awards dinner – it was a sit down ordeal with key-note speakers and the like. I actually won an award for outstanding RA. This wasn’t the “outstanding student” award they gave to every kid in kindergarten – this was the type of award only ten or twenty people got. You see, it’s funny, because…well…I friggin’ blew a police operation to save my resident’s from jail time. Good person, bad RA.

I don’t even know where the award is anymore. I don’t even remember what it looked like.

Classes ended much better than junior year, as in I passed and you can’t complain about that shit. I spent the last couple of weeks looking for a lab I could work in over the summer but had no luck. I really wanted to work in a controls lab – there was one professor who was doing this thing were stabilizers were placed by your ears and they kicked out a platform you were standing on and measured how much you swayed with and without the stabilizers turned on. I would have loved that job just to watch people fall.

I wrote the first draft of Sleaze and started working out actors, schedules and movie equipment – all of which fell through by the second day. A little bit later Guam and I got started on Mr. Sandman and that one made it through editing.

On the whole – a lot better than the way sophomore year ended – a lot better than I imagined junior year ending up.

I wrote a letter, nothing at all like the letter I wrote to my grandparents. It was sort of a “thank you” letter except I don’t recall it being THAT cheesy but it probably was. I reproduced it, sealed it, and dropped it in a bunch of the RA’s boxes. It just sort of explained how last year ended (minus the pill thing) and how this year was better than I ever imagined it to be and that I don’t think it would have been as good without them. Yeah, it’s cheesy, and very Golden Girls, but you’ve all been reading this site for the past 11 months and you know I have no idea expressing my feelings.

Packed up and “pre-moved” to Warren Towers for a week. Didn’t unpack anything, just lived out of a suitcase and tried my hardest to never spend extra time in that room if I didn’t have to. Warren Towers was the freshman dorm and I luckily never had to move there – the place was just depressing.

It was a good year but when all was said and done, I was ready for something different.

And that’s when Robin came in.

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Junior Year: Turning 21 (Both in Age and Blood Alcohol Concentration)

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Is anyone even here today? The Hive is fucking blowing up – go there, read, post, share – be positive mother fuckers.

EDIT: First column is up.

Well, read the story first (sorry if it’s a little sloppy, I didn’t get to edit it – The Hive has been keeping me busy). Then go.

______________________

Before 21, college life was shitty beer and cheap liquor at your friend’s house. House parties with keg stands and Evil Dead running on mute in the back ground, maybe some porno projected on a wall. Homemade jello shots and special brownies served next to a bowl of Doritos and a bag of Hershey Kisses. People hooking up in closets or hallways. Thirty people standing out on a freezing cold porch smoking cigarettes and throwing the butts into a flower pot that didn’t sustain life since 1983.

But after we turned 21 – all that stuff above – that became the after party.

My 21st birthday was a pretty big ordeal. It started with dinner where all the not-yet 21-year-old people came out to the Sunset Grill and chowed down with me – must have been about 25 people. After dinner we went to Ri-Ra’s for dancing and heavy drinking, about half of the party left because they were underage but for every twenty year old that left, two twenty-one year olds took their place. We owned that bar all night, everyone having a good time. Even R came out, with her new boyfriend – which was awkward but I didn’t really care too much.

Interesting fact about that night. As far as I can tell, everybody got really drunk. Also, everybody except for me got laid – I got sick, instead.

After I turned 21 I was at a bar every night. I went to the BU Pub with friends in-between classes, met up with professors and tried to get knighted but I just couldn’t drink the shitty mixed drinks to do it. Getting knighted at the BU Pub was relatively easy – I think there were 52 different drinks you needed to put down to do it unlike other places where there were hundreds of different types of drinks you needed to consume before getting your mug on the wall.

But, easy or not, I couldn’t make it. No way in fuck a free mug with my name on it was worth drinking a Long Island Iced Tea.

Then there were our local bars. I already talked about PJ’s, the home of my infamous “pissing on myself” incident. Crossroads was one of my favorite places- great pizza and onion strings, the board games were a plus.

One time at Crossroads a friend of mine told me she’d kiss me if I chugged a pint of Guinness – not even a challenge, dropped that shit down in ten seconds and collected my booty. We used to go there and drink straight from the pitcher – one for each of us. We went there for my first 21+ St. Patrick’s Day. We had two tabs going that me and three friends were going to pay. We were buying drinks for people all night and by the time we were done the tabs totaled about three hundred bucks each, so 600 bucks split between the four of us. Now-a-days, that’s a good night out – in college that’s a fucking nightmare. But we paid it and left the bar with plenty of phone numbers which ultimately turned into absolutely nothing.

Wednesday Night was karaoke night at T’s Pub – we used to take that joint over. When everyone else would do “Hotel California” and “Respect” we’d roll twenty deep and do “We Are the World”. One time me and two friends did “No Scrubs”, choreographed dance and all.

I had a routine where I’d dedicate a song to Guam’s mom and sing it to her.

“Although we go! To the ennnnnddd of the road…
Still I can’t let Guam’s mom go…”

Or the now classic:

“And it got so good to Guam’s mom, you know what she told me?
Let me tell you what Guam’s mom told me, she said:
´Stroke it Jason Rodriguez, but don´t stroke so fast
If my stuff ain´t tight enough, you can stick it up my...´ WOO!

I be strokin!”

We also had this friend Eddie who did a mean impersonation of Kermit the Frog doing “Rainbow Connection”. It was awesome.

Ahh…alcohol.

When we were slumming we found ourselves at The Dugout which is everything you’d expect from a place called “The Dugout”, spit and all. I think we only went there when we didn’t feel like walking anywhere else – that place was just sad. It had a great location, besides the BU Pub it was the only bar in the middle of campus, but Jesus Christ it was a fucking dump.

There were the more haughty taughty places that we could never get a seat at and waited ten minutes for the bartender to even look at us like The Cactus Club. It was always some girl who’d suggest going there and every guy would groan – nothing better than spending twenty bucks on a communal margarita made with rail tequila.

But we went because we had to – because we always dragged the ladies to our dingy holes in the wall and it was only right we combed our hair every once and a while and paid it back.

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Junior Year: The Theater

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Hey, thank you all for stopping by The Hive forum and saying “hi” yesterday. If you didn’t get a chance to, please do so – it’ll be nice to have a strong showing right from the start.

________________

Theater and me – we’re old friends, we go back to the first grade when I played the policeman in Frosty the Snowman. In the fourth grade, I believe, I was a zombie in our school’s production of Michael Jackson’s Thriller video, the best play an elementary school has ever put on. In the fifth grade I played the father in the Thanksgiving play because I was the only kid in the school that was almost six feet tall.

In high school I started getting more involved in theater, joined the drama club, played Grandpa in “You Can’t Take it With You”, all the usual rites of passage for a slave to the stage.

NYC high schools had Sing – did any of your high schools have that? Sing was when each grade had a coupe of months to write, produce, direct and perform a musical. It was a competition that was almost impossible for the seniors to lose – we had a bigger budget and the judges wanted to send us off with our victory.

For senior sing I played the roll of “Hoodlum 1”. I had my hair braided, wore a visor backwards, Hilfiger from head-to-toe, timbos on my toes and five beepers attached to various articles of clothing. I had memorable lines such as:

HOODLUM 1: Yo, that ice-cream look dope!

HOODLUM 2: True, true, I want ‘dat too, yo!

Then I just sort of stopped doing theater in college – for the first two years, that is. I had better things to do like smoking dope and failing my classes, I had no time for theater. But along comes junior year – along comes a little brown kid called Guam – and me feeling free and refreshed and out of my sophomore year rut, I agree to go to improv with him.

Fuck it, I had a blast my first day of improv. I was loud, I was obnoxious – Guam and this kid Ryan ran the show and Guam loved my style but Ryan…Ryan wasn’t too fond of it. But I started performing and part of my shtick was to beat the fuck out of Guam in front of hundreds of people. We got laughs and Guam got hurt every night – it was good times.

There were fucking CHARACTERS at improv though.

Like Corey. The dude would fuck anybody who moved. If you complained of a stiff neck homeboy would materialize behind you like he got beamed down from the Enterprise and start massaging it. Boy, girl, inanimate object – didn’t matter, Corey will try to fuck you.

I talked about Chris. Christina was this Unitarian chick who was loud as all hell and rarely funny. In certain light she looked sexy but that light was some rare shit. Either that or her voice cracked the good light bulbs.

And then there was Ron. Ron was the definition of nerd. You know those girls who wear shirts that say, “I love nerds” or something like that? They’re not talking about Ron. Ron is true nerd. O.D. – Original Dork. He would tell these convoluted jokes that in order to “get” them you would need to know laws of thermodynamics.

I’m not kidding. We’d be at practice, Ron would be up, and he’d deliver some joke and awkwardly wait for us to laugh, follow it up with some shit like, “Don’t you get it? The Relativistic Boltzmann equation doesn’t supply an EXACT entropy differential so we wouldn’t know the room’s true state if it was indeed on fire.”

Fucking crickets, man. Every time.

We did it all for the cast parties, really. I honestly believe the cast party was the reason theater was invented. Same thing every party – show up at ten, get drunk, hook up with some girl from the troupe, sing show tunes, throw up, hook up with some other girl from the troupe, go to bed.

Of course, I usually skipped the hooking up part and sung show tunes all night – I can do a mean Colm Wilkinson, especially when I’m drunk.

Second semester found me sticking with improv but also acting in the spring one-act festival. A great little play called “The Whole Shebang” where I played white trash, wife-beater t-shirt and all.

As I’ve mentioned in the past I had a nipple complex of sorts and wearing the wife-beater in front of a large audience wasn’t really my thing. I spent the entire first show fixing my shirt – tugging on it, crossing my arms. R and I were friends again at that point and she came out to my show, commented afterwards how I need to stop playing with my shirt and my nipples aren’t that bad.

That’s an awkward conversation to have with an ex-girlfriend, right there.

The show went off well – I kept my hands away from my shirt for the next two nights – and the cast party was a good time, or so I was told. According to Guam I was “close to” making out with one of the girls in the troupe – a cute one, no-less, who was wearing these sexy leather pants and I’ve carried a bit of a thing for her during the year.

I honestly don’t remember almost hooking up with her but guaranteed, to this day, when Guam and I are drinking he’ll ask me, “Remember when you almost hooked up with ____ at the cast party?”

No clear definition of what “almost” means, unfortunately.

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Junior Year: Romance

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

A couple of things before today’s story which will be shorter than yesterdays – that’s kind of sad when you consider the subject matter.

My forum for The Hive is up at Buzzscope. Please drop in and say “hi” in the introductions threadbecause, well, they don’t know me there yet and I feel like the new white female teacher on her fist day at an urban school where the kids are livin’ in a gangsta’s paradise.

Michelle Pfeiffer. I feel like Michelle Fucking Pfeiffer.

So please, do me a favor, and just go introduce yourself. And Chris, please don't go there and just say "poop"; I'm trying to run a serious show over there. You can say it on my site all you want.

My boy Jacob, who’s illustrating The Curse (page one posted yesterday), dropped an article on the DCC blog where he charts his page-count progress as an artist. It’s interesting because I find myself writing less each year while he’s writing more. I think as an artist gets good they reach a comfort level and can start churning out pages whereas when a writer gets good they begin to mull over a single idea for a lot longer and spend more time in rewrites.

Actually, who am I kidding – I think I broke 220,000 words since last January thanks to this site. I meant I don’t write comics a lot, also thanks to this site.

I went to a meeting today at a government agency that isn’t necessarily all hush-hush secret but you’d only know about them if you were looking for them. The guy leading the meeting looked just like Michael Douglas in Falling Down if he didn’t go bat-shit insane and start shooting up LA but instead stayed at his shitty job. Some other guy in the meeting looked just like Alec Baldwin. It was just weird.

Ok, story time…

____________________

Romance was…lacking…junior year in college.

I wasn’t trying too hard, in my defense. I was getting into theater, making new friends, going out every night and having fun. I would occasionally get drunk and try to hook up with some chick at a bar but it rarely ever worked out – I’m not a pick-up kind of guy, I’m a slow burner – I have to get under the girl’s skin, infect her like the plague and pop painful nodules up on her body. So I don’t ever work well in bars; I need to account for the three day onset of illness that comes with my “mojo”. But there were a few attempts at getting a little steady action – none of them worked.

I think my first post-R attempt was with a fellow RA’s sister. We were all out at dinner together; the sister was mighty cute but seriously out of my league on a physical and social level. She was just really nice, played the violin or something – all high class, healthy, fit, non-smoking and wine drinking - compared to me, the wise-ass, beer gut, porn watching guy with the jeans I haven’t washed in three months.

Her sister left early that night so me and her got to talking, I walked her back to her sister’s place and got her phone number – wished her a good night and went home a tad tipsy, where I most likely violently masturbated while picturing her doing crazy shit with her violin bow, horse hair thrown all over the bed room, rosin flakes sprinkled all over her ass like glitter.

Because a guy like me, I know what the classy ladies like.

I had no chance, I knew it and she knew it, and when I called to hook something up I got the polite, “I’m busy until 2006.” So, you know, I think I have a date coming up – Robin’s not happy about it but I can’t get the violin bow fantasy out of my head.

My second attempt at a relationship was with this chick Danielle. Danielle was good friends with my college friend Kim whose best-friend Kristen I did ended up hooking up with later in the year. Truth was I wanted to get with Kim but instead kept picking off her friends.

Eh, whatever.

She was cute in a southern girl kind of way even though I think she was from Connecticut. She looked southern, though. But she had this laugh – it was more of a cackle but not in the evil witch way – sort of like the evil witch’s cute sister who brought dope to the party and wants to get tore up.

A tolerable cackle.

I think I had Kim plant the seed that I was interested and we hooked up a little date action. We went traditional – dinner and a movie. Italian joint, La Familigia on Newbury Street – we talked a bit and seemed to hit it off really well. Now, I don’t believe that a movie makes for a good first date – I think it’s actually the worst first date you can go on besides a baseball game. There are several reasons:

1) If the movie’s no good, date’s done. Not only is the date finished but it’s essentially wiped out. If you get that second date you’re basically repeating the first. Bad movie is an instant date killer.
2) If the movie’s too long the date is done. There’s no ice-cream afterwards, no walking through the park. You just sat through two-and-a-half hours of film that was moderately entertaining, not at all funny, but for the most part made you both too sleepy to continue on.
3) If you go to hold the girls hand and get the awkward dead fish – you need to decide whether to remove the hand and accept defeat or persevere and hope she likes the feel of cold, clammy flesh.

So, movies – horrible first date. That said we went to see the 2+ hour snooze fest piece of shit “What Dreams May Come” with Robin Williams and Cuba Gooding Junior and I went to hold her hand about twenty minutes into it, got the dead fish, and decide perseverance was the best course of action.

There was no second date, obviously, but the story doesn’t end there.

She got sick, supposedly, that’s why she wasn’t returning my calls and when I caught her on the phone she rushed me off. Her sickness was verified by all of her friends so I had no reason to believe she was faking the funk. So, I did the nice thing, went to Ankara Cafe, bought some chicken noodle soup for her and delivered it right to her door.

Knocked.

Let me tell you something, in case you didn’t know this. First off all, if you have tile beneath your door or some similar reflective surface, people can see when you walk up to it – they can see the light shift. Also, when you look out the keyhole and you happen to have a big ass fucking window behind you, opened up and letting light in, people know you’re there staring at them.

And when someone knows you’re at the door – that you’re looking at them through the peephole, you see them standing there with a steaming cup of soup in their hand and yet you still don’t answer the door – that’s just fucked up, right there.

I slowly backed away and make my way to Kim’s room where I ask her what the deal is. She tells me Danielle’s ex-boyfriend’s been calling her and she’s confused. I don’t really buy the story but I’ll tell you what – Ankara makes some kick-ass chicken soup and that shit warmed my soul right up.

And that’s it. If you count Kristen there were three honest-to-god attempts at companionship all of junior year. And then Robin came along but you all know that story already, both my version and her version.

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Junior Year: Tales of an RA

Monday, January 09, 2006

Couple of things before I get into today’s story. First of all, I’d like to share the first page to the back-up story I did with Jacob Warrenfeltz for Caleb Monroe and Noel Tuazon’s upcoming Red Chapel:


The other four will be available for the first time at Wizard World LA, more information in the future. Red Chapel’s turning out to be a tight little book – I already love Noel’s work and Caleb can lay down a story really well – it’s an all-ages magical/fantasy book and the story Jacob and I put together used the rules of the world to explain the Curse of the Bambino. Jacob is a workhorse, I kind of dropped the ball on this project due to other commitments but he’s just banging out the pages now that he has the script. Honestly – the finished project will be 90% Jacob, I hope I didn’t scare him off from future collaborations. Jacob’s first big project, The Alberic Heresies, is going to receive much pimping from me when that book gets ready to drop – it looks fantastic so far.

The Hive #1 was edited and sent out to Guy for publication on Buzzscope this Thursday. My forum over there should be set up today at some point. For the first couple of weeks we’ll be starting at the very beginning and brainstorming on how to build a better comic – more accessible to new readers and moving away from the collector’s mentality where every page must be aesthetically pleasing at the expense of functionality and being inviting to new readers.

I’m starting a new thing on the DCC blog that’s talked about here – it won’t stick to any sort of rigid schedule but it’ll be a way for any aspiring comic writers to learn a bit about writing for comics. Because you don’t necessarily suck, as some people would say, but a lot of you could use some work.

I gave some feedback on a pitch Josh is working on with an extremely talented cowriter and I have to say it’s one of the better ideas I’ve seen for comics in some time. Going back to my twelve days of Christmas wishes so far we’ve seen Sam Keith go exclusive to DC and Josh getting pitch time that will hopefully turn profitable for the dude. I’m going to start charging for Christmas wishes.

I saw Munich on Saturday; it made me think that Hollywood needs to hire a top-secret team of people who will go in and kill the last twenty minutes of every Spielberg film. Jesus Christ – when was the last time he didn’t overextend an ending, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade?

I found out that I’ve been using “jive” whereas I should have been using “jibe” my whole life. Why doesn’t anyone correct me?

Finally – with four weeks left of The Moose before my needed break I foresee these stories getting a bit longer. If you read these stories yet hate them, my apologies in advance.

Story time…

_____________

Let me tell you something – becoming an RA was the best decision I made in college. Whereas sophomore year was kind of weird – I became the RA on the floor since a) I was already applying for the job and b) my RA quit after somebody shit in a bucket and left it on the sixth floor. Due to the whole “being thrown in last minute” combined with the fact that all my friends lived on the floor the whole semester consisted of us drinking our asses off without any threat of getting in trouble. I think everyone involved knew 4-West was getting a free pass for a couple of months and I’ll come back junior year ready to be the best fucking RA of all time.

It didn’t exactly work out that way, though.

I wasn’t drinking with my residents or anything like that but there was certainly a “don’t drink or smoke dope in the hallway” rule that was leniently enforced. Honestly, my philosophy was a lot like my parents and my friends’ parents growing up – I know they’re going to drink, I’d rather them stay close to home in case they get stupid.

I would routinely find a resident roaming the hall who had too much to drink, hardly able to hold himself up, or passed out over the bathroom stall and instead of calling the cops I’d call his roommate, get him to bed and give the roommate instructions on how to take care of him, check in every thirty minutes or so until the situation seemed to be under control.

So a good neighbor but by the books a bad RA.

And then there were the things that were just wrong.

You see – I wasn’t 21 until February of my junior year and amongst the underage RAs there was an unspoken rule that it was fine to drink, just do it off campus and don’t come home that night. Since I wasn’t getting laid junior year, at all, I came home drunk quite often because sometimes a brother just has to masturbate.

Or play playstation.

Or both.

So there were many times I’d come home and puke in the bathroom sink while my residents took pictures. Honestly, if I ever wanted to get them in trouble, I’d have no case. But I was never out to get them in trouble – we had a great time on the floor, everyone was doing well in their classes and with the exception of the two kids that were dealing dope everyone was doing the right thing and staying out of trouble.

As for the two kids that were dealing dope – well.

One day my building’s resident director tells me that Boston PD is coming by and they have a warrant to search their room. I go upstairs, bang on their door, and tell them Boston PD is coming – we’ll talk later about what the fuck they’re doing but for now get all their shit the fuck out of the room. Boston PD finds nothing. Later on I ask them if they’re dealing anything heavy and they just tell me they sell some dope to friends and friends of friends. I take a dime and tell them to cut the shit out. Not my proudest moment but they had some primo shit and I kept their asses out of jail, least they could is hook a brother up.

Once a week or so each RA had to go on-call. There were two RAs on-call per night, we’d be in the RA office from 7 until midnight and then be by our phone until 6AM to handle lock-outs or people reporting disturbances. Getting a call at four in the morning could go several ways – it can be an incredibly hot, drunken chick that makes you pray to the good Lord she’ll invite you into her room after you open it up for her, you can get the rowdy-ass drunken guy with his three friends who are about to go circle jerk on a cookie, you can get the princess who demands you to get to her room within five minutes – there’re really a whole mosaic of people who can find different ways to bust your balls.

The worst is when the person calls because they believe there’s a party going on next door. Holy shit that’s awkward.

Ever break up a party? Every do it with bed head and pajamas on? Try demanding respect from twenty drunken college kids when you’re wearing glow-in-the-dark boxer shorts, an A-shirt and a robe.

I had to respond to two parties during my junior year. The first one I handled by myself. I went to the room in question and asked if anyone there was 21 and had some ID. One guy showed me ID and I asked him if all this beer was his. He claimed the hundreds of cans of beer and empty bottles of liquor as his own. I informed he wasn’t allowed to have more than a six pack in the room at a time and let him off with a warning – asked them to keep it quiet because I didn’t want their bitch neighbor to wake me up again.

That’s how I handled parties.

This other time I had to go break-up a party with another RA and she made everyone who was 21 get out of the room and wrote up everyone who wasn’t and then confiscate all of the alcohol. It took an hour plus all the paperwork we had to fill out afterwards. The next day we had to give a report to the senior RA. All this to ruin somebody’s good time – it was such a waste.

As the year goes on you get an idea for which RAs were cool and which ones followed every rule and you tried to schedule your on-call dates to be with the ones that would guarantee a smooth night. Every night you were on-call you had to go on rounds once between 7 and midnight which basically meant the two RAs would sweep the halls looking for any rule breakers. When I was with a tough RA I’d send out an IM to my floor and let them know we were coming. If I was with a cool RA we’d sweep through all 16 floors in five minutes and then laugh about who was likely having a party on what floor.

But on the whole it was good times – we were all friends and did a lot of stuff together. We all went out for each others 21st birthdays – when word got out that an RA was 21 the residents went nuts because the dorm was guaranteed empty of any authority figures except the two cats on call. There were 16 RAs in Towers – for my 21st birthday about 10 of them came out - the rest weren’t 21 yet.

It wasn’t just going out and drinking, though. We went to movies together – started workout regimens with each other and broke them in unison – every morning I had breakfast with RAs and almost every night I had dinner with them - it was a pretty stressful job and you find yourself connecting more to people who are going through the same things you are. You gossip about residents, trade horror stories – all that good stuff you can’t do within the dorm’s walls.

Then we had the big “event” days. Dorm closings – that was always a nightmare. We had to start going around to people’s dorm rooms and knocking on their doors at 7AM to remind them they need to be out by noon. Now, this is the morning after the last night in college – before these kids go back to their families in Oregon or Ohio or some other “O” state – do you think they were in any condition to be woken up at 7AM?

Fuck. No.

You get cursed at many times. You get shit thrown at you. I’ve walked in on rooms with a girl and a guy passed out naked in bed. The funniest story like that was I walked into a room and it looked empty. Lights were off, all of the residents’ shit was apparently packed up and moved out – when you see something like that you assume that the person is gone and you walk into the room to start the closing procedure. Check to see what was left behind, that all the windows are closed – shit like that. Well, a minute into the closing procedure I see some dude passed out on one of the room’s beds popping the early signs of serious morning wood. No blankets, nothing. Not wanting to deal with him and his erection I sneak back out, come back two hours later and he’s gone. The rest of his story will remain a mystery.

Another great closing story was over Christmas break when one of my friends comes back and says a resident had a cat in their room but besides the cat the joint looked cleared out. Not wanting to leave a cat in a room without food and water for three weeks he goes back to get the cat. Doesn’t see the cat, thinks the cat is in the closet and finds the mother of all bongs in there. I’m talking one of those six-foot tall bad boys with hookahs coming out of it and chairs attached – the thing was fucking huge. Took up the whole closet, no shit.

He comes back with the bong and the cat in his hands, not because he necessarily wanted to get the resident in trouble but mainly because it was too good of a joke to pass up – walking into the office with a little kitty and the apparent centerpiece from Snoop Doggie Dog’s living room.

Seriously, some of the best groups of people I’ve ever met. There were relationships that formed – Guam is still my boy to this day and one of the better friends I’ve ever had – it was a good group to fall into after all the shit from the year before. You go through a lot of shit with these people, deal with a lot of issues that you all keep amongst yourselves because when you’re in front of the residents you need to look like you have your shit together. Who’s dating, who got pregnant – who’s been sleeping around with Matt Damon’s best friend (no shit – tons of stories from that one).

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Busted: Big Mouth

Friday, January 06, 2006

Too late for edits, I apologize in advance for any grammatical errors that might appear below. Four weeks of The Moose left after this. I need a break so bad.

____________________________

Ever since I was a kid my big mouth has gotten me in trouble.

I’ll never forget the first I said “fuck”. I was in PS 58s, fourth grade, a bit of a late bloomer with that one. We were playing tag in the schoolyard; there was this big-ass cement flagpole that we would use for base. I was running towards the pole and whoever was “it” was coming to intercept. When he got close enough I did this fucking Barry Sanders move – geeked left and went right – and the kid fell on his ass, busted his ankles, the only time I’ve ever been able to shake like that. I get to base and without regard for my surroundings I screamed, “Nice fall you dumb fuck!”

Then I hear the loudest, most manly, “HEY” a boy of ten can ever hear. I turn around to see Mrs. Gambino (or, as we called her, Torpedo Tits) barreling down on my skinny ass – big ass titties flapping behind her – the shine beaming off her balding scalp – spittle flying from between her gapped teeth. Torpedo Tits was easily the scariest woman God has ever created and all 300+ pounds of fright were huffing it towards me.

What the fuck do I do? I run. I run my fucking ass off and she gives up chase – her thunder thighs good for the quick sprint but lacking the slow-twitch fibers necessary to keep up pace. She bends on her knees and puffs and wheezes and forgets about me.

Here’s one I talked about last January but since it was two weeks into the site when five people were reading it there’s no harm in repeating. In the 58s cafeteria, sixth grade. This girl Nicole was ragging on me, saying how I wasn’t mature. In an attempt to counter her position, I tell her (loud enough so that anyone within earshot will hear my declaration), “I know I’m mature, I got hair on my dick!”

The school librarian, Mrs. Shea, comes right over and grabs the fuck out of my ear – pulls me to the side – and tells me that she doesn’t want to ever hear anything like that from me again and it’s disgusting behavior. She told my teacher, Mr. Ringston, who sent for me to meet him in the auditorium.

Now, Mr. Ringston – great guy though he was – was never the most masculine fellow. He had a yearly tradition where he hand sowed tuxedos and gowns for the sixth grade boys and girls, respectively, for them to wear during the dance festival. So – while I sat down with him and got his lecture – you need to keep in mind that he was sowing this outfit, right here:


He told me that it’s not gentlemanly to say things like that in front of girls and how I should watch what I say and treat women with respect. He then told me that guys don’t grow hair on their dicks, they grow it on their testicles, and I’m likely lying. I got dissed by a guy sowing a dress.

As I got older the things I got busted saying a bit too loud got a little more embarrassing. One of my ALL-TIME favorite stories right here. It’s so bad…oh man…

High school, probably sophomore year or so. I was hanging out with my boy David and his crazy ass brother, Jose. Jose had the license and apparently was going to pick up some girls and David and I tagged along with him.

We pile in the old station wagon and shoot out to Sheepshead Bay, the whole time Jose’s telling us how much better it is around here than in our “spic infested” neighborhood – I’m telling you, that kid was one self-hating son-of-a-bitch. We get to the house were where the girls live and Jose beeps his horn. The first chick out the door is all right, not the cutest girl to ever live but certainly a lot better looking than the type of girls one would expect to be hanging out with Jose.

Now, the second girl out the door wasn’t BAD. She was a little heavy, sure, a bit mannish from afar, but she wasn’t horrendous by any means.

Do you remember that remote control car called The Animal? It was the one that, when challenged by difficult terrain, would pop claws out of its wheels to help get over them? It was a pretty cool car back in the day and the theme song was pretty catchy. It was just some dude in a manly voice singing:

“The Animallll. The Animalllll. Nothing can stop! The ANIMALLLLLL!”

Anyway, I see this girl get out of the house and for some fucked up reason I just instantly start to sing that song in what I thought was a low voice.

Apparently I don’t have a low singing voice.

The girl goes back inside and the friend follows her in. She comes out five minutes later, we’re all sitting in silence and wondering what’s going on, and asks us if we were singing “The Animal” theme song when her friend came out.

Now, I should have said “no” or that it was in no way correlated to her friend. But, let’s face it, I was fucking amazed this chick remembered the jingle for The Animal and, well, that’s exactly what I said.

“Holy shit – she actually knew where that was from?”

Well, Jose works out a deal with the girl that’s essentially:
a) They get in the car
b) They drop me and David off back in our neighborhood
c) They go out
I’m pretty sure the word “spic” was in there somewhere as well.

That car ride back to the neighborhood was the most uncomfortable thirty minutes imaginable. The Animal is just sitting there – her eyes are red, she must have been crying – and you can just tell she’s fucking fuming. I’m sitting next to her in the backseat of a fucking station wagon, expecting her to fucking eat me at any moment. My friend David can’t stop laughing – just can’t stop – giggling like a mother fucker.

Jose drops us off as soon as he gets off the highway, doesn’t even take us the block, and peels off as fast as his wood-trimmed beast of a car would let him.

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Busted: Your Problems Suck

Thursday, January 05, 2006

My buddy James Patrick sent me the PDF of the first issue of Death Comes to Dillinger, currently soliciting under Silent Devil Productions. It’s a good read, a nice little western tale about death riding his horse into town and going about his business while the people around him sit and worry about who he’s going to collect. You should talk to your shop and have them order one up.

(EDIT: Newsarama has some preview art up)
___________________

I don’t know who in this story was technically “busted” but I’ll let you be the judge. Some might say it wasn’t as much a “busting” as it was an “owning” but said person is an idiot who can only express him or herself with overtly annoying internet slang.

LOL, mother fuckers, let’s do this shit.

I went to a psychiatrist down in Park Slope for several months back in high school. I had some shit I was dealing with, it was around the time when people in my family were dying left and right of not-so-normal diseases and relations with my parents were going the way of Iraq to the point where me and my pops had a rather large falling out.

Back then, I had good reason to see a therapist. My head wasn’t in the game.

Sophomore year in college, you know, before prophetic dreams and pill swallowing, I made a second trip to a therapist but not because I thought I had problem – no, no, I was fucking perfect back then – but because a good friend of mine was going to one and needed some moral support. So, in a showing of solidarity, I told her that I would see one as well.

I don’t know, made sense at the time.

We make our appointments and I go with her to the student health center, wait with her in the lobby. When the time comes for our respective appointments I wished her good luck, told her it would be fine, gave her a hug and left her to see her very first therapist while I went in to see my second one.

I sit down, the guy asks me what’s up and I start slow – tell him a little about myself, my past. He’s giving me the nod so I start to snowball, telling him all about the deaths and the girlfriend and the parents and on and on and on. It was like a replay of my past therapy sessions, honestly, I wasn’t bringing anything new to the table except for some minor issues with R and how I don’t feel like she gets where I’m coming from sometimes, but even that I was relating to shit from the past.

He must have let me go on for about a half-hour, never really saying anything, just nodding away and letting me talk my ass off about all types of shit. When I’m done I felt spent, honestly, like I just finished reliving every horrible thing that’s happened to me in the past. When I’m done, the therapist asks me:

“So, what do you want to talk about?”

I just stared at him. I mean, I went off for quite some time; I think we could start with any one of those things and talk about it, right? I thought I clearly outlined several issues in my life. I thought I did, at least, I’m a bit more level now to realize what the therapist ended up telling me made sense:


”Because…you only get eight free sessions a semester and we tend to deal with more serious, immediate problems.”

Like I said, I fully realize how right he was now. I came to him and bitched for thirty minutes about stuff that’s already behind me and here I am – doing OK according to my monologue. He could have been more tactful but at the same time I could have been more straightforward with the way my life was going at the moment instead of living in the past. He kind of sensed my shift in mood and tried to back track with a:

“If you want to deal with something like this I can make some recommendations for other therapists that handle more long term issues.”

I was offended, obviously, I got rejected by a therapist – someone who’s supposed to be there to listen and help. I was honestly ready to knock him one but instead I picked up my bag, told him, “No thanks – if I need a REAL therapist I’ll find one on my own,” and stormed the fuck out of his office like a dicksucker who got a D.

I waited around for my friend; she thanked me for coming along with her and told me she already feels a little better having somebody to talk to. She asked me how my session went and I told her it was ok but I don’t think I need therapy.

There was nothing wrong with me.

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Busted: My Name is Jason. I’m From Maryland

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Well. I just got the email – steps are being made to put together the 10 year high school reunion in the spring of ’06. I’m fucking terrified. Not because I put on some weight or lost a shit load of hair. This has nothing to do with expectations or whose dick is bigger or anything like that. I am terrified because I have NO IDEA how many people from high school have been reading this site. I know some have stumbled across it. I know some talk it up. As far as I know, my entire graduating class has checked this out at least once.

That’s some scary shit right there.

___________________

I got my first fake ID at 19. I was home for winter break and Mary, Jackie and I went into the Village to pick up some fakes from a guy that’s supposedly good and cheap.

Cheap – yes. Twenty bucks for a fake ID.

Good? Well, about as good as you’d expect a twenty-dollar ID to look.

I wish I still had it, honestly, I wish this story didn’t involve the ID getting taken away – I wish I could scan it in and show it to you all so you can truly appreciate how ghastly this laminated piece of shit really was. But, alas, you’ll have to settle for a description.

It was from Maryland, for starters. It didn’t really look like a Maryland ID, though – it looked like a fake Maryland library card or some shit. It was just this solid blue color that said “Maryland” across the top in a very plain looking font, my 19 year-old smiling mug plastered on the left and my name and fake Maryland address to the right. I don’t remember the address but I do remember Mary and Jackie were my next door neighbors and that wasn’t at all suspicious when we went out together.

The best part about the ID was the white trim that went all around it – like the thing was belted out on a laser printer but the borders weren’t set right. As if the fact that the design looked nothing like a Maryland ID wasn’t enough the trim made it beyond impossible to use – and by beyond impossible I mean downright embarrassing.

But it worked on occasion. Mainly in bodegas and liquor stores where they didn’t care how shitty it looked as long as I looked too young to be a cop. In Boston it wasn’t such an easy pass – I remember one time the guy at a liquor store in Kenmore Square just sort of gave me a “Come on, dude” look to which I told him he’d never have to sell me liquor again but please let me get this bottle of wine – he gave me the pity purchase.

Clubs, however, were a completely different story. I always needed to walk in with a group of people and pretend I wasn’t shitting my pants with fear of getting caught – the ID usually got an extended look, an occasional request for back-up, but almost always it ended up with the dude simply not stamping my hand or giving me the band – the dreaded under 21 admission – or as we liked to call it, the “getting no ass tonight” admission.

I never tried it in a strictly 21+ place, not in Boston at least, just wasn’t worth it.

Then one day we all went out to Jillian’s. Jillian’s was a place I eventually ended up working at, there were a series of stories already dropped on this blog here, here, here, here and here. This was before my employment days however and, not knowing the bouncers, I held out my fake ID and prayed for the stamp.

The bouncer looked at it, looked at me, and then called the other bouncer over. The other bouncer looked at it and laughed. The original bouncer looks at me, smile on his face, and says:

“Are you fucking kidding me with this?”

“What?”

“This is the worst ID I’ve ever seen.”

“It’s real.”

“It’s not real. I’m from Maryland. I’ve never seen an ID that looks anything like this. Where’d you get this, seriously?”

Him and the other bouncer are just laughing it up, by the way. The people in line behind me are having some chuckles as well.

“New York.”

“Fuccckkkkk. I hope you didn’t pay a lot for this.”

I’m sort of laughing now, too. It’s kind of funny, I can appreciate a good joke, and the set-up was too rich to pass up.

“Nah – like twenty bucks.”

Everyone fucking loses it. I’m laughing to. Even my friends at the top of the stairs who were pensively waiting to see my fate start to laugh – this ID has been the butt of many jokes for so long it’s amazing that it took so long for something like this to happen.

I stop laughing, though, when the bouncer puts it in his pocket.

“Can I have that back?”

“No. I’m keeping this one.”

What the fuck do you say to that, you know? You technically committed an offense, he can get you into some serious trouble, and are you really going to fight for your twenty-dollar piece of shit ID?

“Can I get in?”

“No. Not tonight, pal.”

I hate being called pal and if it wasn’t for the fact that the bouncer was huge I might have maybe told him that as I walked away.

When I ended up working at Jillian’s two years later the bouncer in question was still there and I talked to him about the ID incident. He remember it, claims it was one of the funniest fake-ID stories he has and regretfully tells me he likely misplaced the ID but assured me it entertained many of his friends.

That’s something, I guess.

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Busted: Uhh…it’s OK, You’re Not Busted

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

I didn’t have time today to prepare anything besides my story. But, I will say that Jacob supposedly picked up the pages Chris penciled for my Shear Terror Anthology story and I’m psyched to see them. Also, Jacob’s getting started on my back up story for Caleb Monroe’s Red Chapel (which will be Noel Tuazon from Elk’s Run’s next project). So, exciting day for my comic booking thing. Last year I got two stories put to print. Three days into this year and I have two being worked on for March print. Not a bad start to a new year.

____________________

Question: What do you do when your girlfriend tells you she cheated on you?

Answer: Well, if she has the biggest tit to waste size ratio in all of high school you tell her she didn’t REALLY cheat on you.

M was my girlfriend for the better part of junior year and, as you can probably tell by my little intro, she had the body that most high school kids that didn’t wear black trench coats and/or white shit on their face actively tried to press up against. And when you have a girl like that in high school, you tend to ignore her faults and fuck-ups. If M was flat-chested, that shit would have been done months earlier than when it actually did end.

But that’s high school, what can you do?

There were always suspicions that she was cheating, amongst me and my friends, but anything shy of a video of her fucking some other dude being broadcast onto my television set wasn’t “definitive proof” in my book - even when she confessed to me about her philandering ways.

She had to make a last minute trip out to Ohio to visit her friend who supposedly attempted to commit suicide. All well and good, suicide attempts aside – her friend John, the likely recipient of the O.P.P. that was My P.P., was going down as well. Whereas that should have been a warning sign of some sort I didn’t really pick up on it, I wished her titties goodbye and a safe trip and masturbated every night she was way awhile thinking about them.

Seriously, I’m not lying when I say they were sent from heaven. But that’s high school.

When she gets back to NYC we make plans to go out. She shows up at my place about an hour late, she claims that John gave her a ride instead of her taking a cab and he accidentally went through the Battery Tunnel and ended up in Manhattan.

A likely scenario – I was, indeed, the last exit before the Battery Tunnel so I can see something like that happening – that’s not proof at all that she was fucking some other dude. Her titties, in my mind, still belonged to me and me only.

But, that’s high school so, you know, what can you do?

We leave to go to the movies, turn the corner and in the most exasperated voice imaginable – as if she’s frustrated I didn’t notice, she tells me, “I want you to know why I’m wearing this turtleneck – before you find out for yourself.”

Now, with a preface like that there’s only one reason she’d be wearing a turtleneck and I’d be happy not to know and in case I did end up seeing it I’m pretty sure I can convince myself I left the mark. But, sure enough she pulls down the turtleneck, shows me the fucking mother of all hickies, and just when I’m expecting her to tell me John left it there, thus ending our relationship, she tells me that her suicidal friend placed it on the neck.

She’s fucking crying, no joke, apologizing and saying she never wanted to hurt me and that it was a one time thing and more of a dare – her friend’s boyfriend dared them to make-out and it got sort of heated and next thing you know they’re feeling each other up and sucking necks. And while she’s telling me all of this shit that just doesn’t hold with the big picture I’m convincing myself that my girl making out with another girl is in no-way cheating, even if she did it in the presence of two guys that weren’t me.

And I tell her that. Baby, it’s OK. It’s not cheating if it’s experimentation. Blah, blah, blah now let me at those titties.

A week later she gets her pictures from the trip developed and lets me look at them. Flipping through them I see pictures of what appears to be her, her suicidal friend, suicidal friend’s boyfriend and John taking pictures of each other lying in bed, pseudo-naked, smiling big-ass smiles for the camera.

It was at this moment that I realized M wanted me to break up with her because she didn’t have the tits to do it herself.

But, as long as she had the tits to make me get instantaneously aroused, I wasn’t breaking up with shit.

But, that’s high school – that’s how it goes.

So I convince myself that it was just a couple of kids having fun, cheering up their suicidal friend. Shit – it was practically fucking charity – hearts of gold on all these fuckers – I should be honored to be standing amongst them.

Then my good friend told me he 100% saw M and John making out.

I tried to find a way around that one but my rep was at stake. I broke up with her while standing at the bus stop – put her on the B6 and gave her a “Take care now” smile as her bus drove away.

But that’s high school, you know?

Got back with her three days later after she wrote me a note saying how much she missed me. You know how some guys in high school break up with girls before Christmas so they don’t have to buy them gifts? I’m the only dude who got together with my ex-girlfriend and confirmed cheater two weeks before Christmas. Got her some nice gifts to “celebrate my rekindled relationship” with her spectacular titties and she got me some shit she found on clearance racks and yard sales.

Then broke up with me a week later.

The next day her relationship with John goes a bit more public and I’m sitting around in some collarless Geoffrey Bean piece of shit shirt she found on the floor of Macy’s and reading this shittily produced book on the Beatles that looks like it’s been through three different owners, none of which read past the tenth page, and wishing I could see those titties one last time.

But that…that’s just fucking high school, right there.

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Busted: Buying Time

Monday, January 02, 2006

Five weeks of The Moose in the Closet left before I take my much needed break. I had a great vacation, by the way, and I’ll try to get some video and pictures up tomorrow. I just got back to DC today and I’m fucking BEAT. New Years was nuts, we had a bottle of champagne for everyone at the party but the ladies drank them all – so all the chicks were drunk off their asses and the dudes were taking care of them, complete roll reversal from our usual parties.

Quote of the night goes to my very own Robin. We’re walking down Court Street, after midnight, on our way to Magnetic Fields and all the girls are wasted. We’re carrying beers and Red Bull’s with Vodka when G spots a cop car. He drops his drink down and says to our entourage, “It’s the Popes. The Benedicts.”

Robin turns to G and very, very, very loudly proclaims, “I call them a dick in my ass because I don’t need that shit!” We all start laughing, quite hard.

Robin also told someone, “If you want the chips you gotta get through the bitch,” while pointing at herself. She was pretty funny last night, to say the least.

__________________

Getting busted is a very stressful ordeal. That moment when you stand there, your mind racing – trying to make up excuses – the only words coming from your mouth are “um” and “uh” – the sweat forming on your brow, the shakes running through your body – the way you look for inspiration and strength somewhere near your twitching feet as you shift about and silently pray the person who busted you gets a cell phone call telling them their wife was in a car accident or some other event so horrible that it’ll pull them away from their accusatory posture and buy you at least another week to come up with a viable excuse and find some ingenious way to work it into conversation.

Once you’re busted you should just face the music and get it over with – like a fucking band-aid you take all the hurt up front instead of dragging it out. Like when I cheated on Jessica, my Junior High “girlfriend” and I was 100% positive she saw me making out with some other chick. The next time I saw Jessica I broke up with her before she can even accuse me of shit. I was busted, I knew I was busted and I just said, “Fuck this,” and handled it like a man.

An emotionally detached man but a man none-the-less.

What’s the worst is when you get busted, you decided to make an excuse instead of facing the music, and the excuse is JUST good enough to buy you several weeks of agonizing wait.

Boston University had a very strict “no cheating” policy. If you were caught cheating you were fucked – as in potential college career ending fucked. And when you’re paying one of the highest tuition rates in the country – that’s a fucking you don’t want. Needless to say, we cheated all the fucking time.

Copying homework, buying completed work from students who already took the class, drifting eyes during tests – I don’t know of a single student at BU who didn’t cheat at least once in their four years at that school – either giving away answers or happily accepting them. The reason I never met a single student that didn’t cheat? Because students that didn’t cheat had no friends.

One day, junior year, this guy Loc asked to borrow my lab report. It’s such a common occurrence you don’t even think twice about handing it over. Who the fuck looks that closely at a lab book, right? Well – my professor, for one.

The next day she sends me an email telling me to come to her office. I get there and she doesn’t just voice her suspicions – she tells me she knows I cheated and she’s going to fail both Loc and I. Not wanting to fuck around and get an F in a required class, I play dumb – something that instantly gets shut down the moment she shows me Loc’s paper.

And it is basically my paper, word for fucking word.

I was ready to kill that dumb fuck. Common courtesy, when copying, dictates that you rewrite the entire thing using the data and you even purposely make a mistake or two. But you don’t sit there with the person’s homework in front of you and scribble everything written onto a blank sheet of paper without taking the time to process the information and reformat it for your own homework.

I knew I was fucked, no matter what, so I said that the other day Loc asked to see my lab notebook because he was fucking up somewhere and he wanted to see my notes. I said my paper was in the notebook and he must have copied it then. Although I shouldn’t have handed him the notebook – I was still in a little trouble even with that excuse – it’s a lot better than premeditated cheating on my part and since Loc was the asshole who fucked up a routine copy-job there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be the person to take the burn.

My professor, however, didn’t buy my excuse – she picked up her phone and called Loc up. That had to be the worst thirty consecutive seconds of my life, I had no idea what she was going to say but I can only imagine she was going to try and catch me in a lie. When it became obvious she was talking to his voice mail I breathed a little easier – I bought myself some time.

She dismisses me and I fucking RUN to the nearest phone, call Loc and leave him a message highlighting everything that just happened, how he fucked me, and how I will kill him if he doesn’t take the fall on this one. After I hang up the phone I run back to the dorm and leave him a note. I go to my computer and send him an email. I make sure that there are several different ways he can receive word about his impending death at my hands if he doesn’t act like a man and take the F, get me in the clear.

The day goes by and I don’t hear from him.

The next day I call again, email again. His roommate says he wasn’t home the night before. Another day passes – still nothing – I don’t know what to do so I just sit and wait for either Loc or my professor to contact me and each day is exponentially more stressful than the previous day.

Finally lab comes along and I still haven’t heard from Loc. The professor asks me if I’ve seen him and I tell her I haven’t – she doesn’t believe me but it buys me more time. She tells me she’ll let me stay in the class for now in case my story ends up holding up.

Finally, about four days later, Loc calls me up and tells me he’ll take the hit and clear this up. I’m furious at this point – my professor is harassing me everyday, no-one’s spoken to this guy – he just fucking disappears at the worst possible time and leaves me making excuses left and right to cover up his fuck up.

He tells me he went to the school nurse, discovered he had chicken pox and they quarantined his ass or something. The whole story sounded seriously suspect, I never heard of quarantining a dude for chicken pox, but it wasn’t the kind of excuse I could argue with.

Why would it be? He had a week and a half to come up with it.

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New Beginnings: The Choice

Friday, December 30, 2005

This is a continuation of Tuesday’s story, just so you know.

The company I interviewed with called me several days after the interview to tell me that they’re working on an offer for me that’s within my range. I made the mistake of telling them a range and in doing so I knew “within my range” meant that it was the low-end of my range. Knowing how the interview went I decided to bring up the fact that I’m broke now and asked if they can throw some relocation money onto that since I had no money to my name and my parents weren’t in a position to help out. David told me the max he can give me to relocate is 3-grand and I jumped on that, thinking 3-grand was going to last me months and I’d still have money to spare.

I told Robin the news and she was a mix of excited and worrisome – I wasn’t lining up any interviews because I liked what this company was doing and I liked the money they were talking. We pretty much both knew that if this was to go down I’d take it.

A couple of days later David called to tell me they sent out their offer letter, contingent on a drug test, and whereas it was the lowest value in my range (with a 3K relocation allocation) my lowest value was most people’s high value.

Again, Robin was excited but she wanted to celebrate by smoking some dope so, you know, there might have been some subconscious attempt to sabotage a brother.

I went and took my drug test – all good, I stopped doing drugs some time ago. The offer letter came in, without the relocation check, and I signed it up and sent it back in FedEx style. Called my parents, told my friends, at this point they all thought I was working for NASA and I was too embarrassed to correct them. My future employer sent me some stuff to read over so I can hit the ground running on May 30th, only a week after graduating, and my first project was indeed for NASA, doing some wind-tunnel acoustic analysis so I didn’t feel as bad about living that particular lie.

I called my company to see when I would be getting my check. Once again, not understanding the concept of “broke-ass mother fucker”, they told me that they’ll reimburse me once I give them receipts. There was no fucking way that was going to work out since I’d be literally living on the streets so I told them I’d have to pull-back on my acceptance if I don’t get some of that money up front. Robin was a bit of a rebel rouser on this one, what type of company wouldn’t send you money upfront – shit like that – she didn’t want me to go.

I didn’t want to go, really, but I wasn’t getting shit in Boston and I didn’t have the luxury of waiting around. Life was pushing me towards DC and away from Robin whether I liked it or not.

The company sent me 75% of the check as an advance which I used to get airfare out there and set-up with a pack-storage-ship type of company. The deal was set, I was going to DC.

Despite the problems we were having, however, and the fact that I had this blank check on my life and the opportunity to start a whole new life in a brand new city, I didn’t want to leave Robin.

So I invited her to come with me. At least for the summer, so we can feel out the whole “living together” thing. Parlay it into a long-distance type of thing; I was making enough money to see her once or twice a month. And then, when she finishes college, if we’re still doing well she can come down and live with me for good.

It says something about our relationship that she said “yes”, almost without hesitation. About 8 months together, no engagement or talks of marriage, agreeing to move with me to DC – no money to our names, only one friend out there (my boy Max from the neighborhood), further from her family than she’s ever lived and staying by me while I got on my feet.

We both knew it was going to be hard and lonely, at least for the first few months, and she took a huge chance on me by agreeing to go.

I took a huge change by inviting her. It was sort of the culmination of my new philosophy – I didn’t need to leave it open, I didn’t need to go out there and make this glorious life by myself, start completely from scratch and wait for the romance to come to me.

I brought the romance – despite how small of a romance it might have been.

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New Beginnings: Life

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Before I get to today’s story I just wanted to check in with you all – tell you I went to the Buzzscope drink-up and it was mighty fun. Since Guy (pronounced “gee”, believe it or not) shook on it I feel confident in announcing that The Hive, my new column talked about in my last Here’s the Thing, will be hosted by the wonderful folks over at Buzzscope instead of the DCC blog. I’m happy about the move, I think Buzzscope is producing some of the greatest comic content today and after talking about Guy about the site and his vision for it I think it’s safe to say that if there is a comic revolution going on, and I believe there is, this site is going to be our focal point.

I do have a SOLID fucking idea for the DCC blog but it all depends on how much juice I bank off The Hive since that’s going to keep me busy as fuck.

Also got to have a couple of drinks with Jeremy, better known as The Pickytarian, and he’s cool people with a cool little comic blog – he has The Moose seal of approval which is worth somewhere between a Peoples’ Choice Award and George Bush’s word. But, hey, at least it’s worth something.

Ok, folks, story time…

_________

This is a continuation of yesterday’s story, all the information you may need can be found there. After reading over the 423 story I realize it needs some editing and tightening as far as how it ties into me and where I’m at right now but hopefully for the more astute reader this serves as a nice little window into my motivation and philosophies. I can tighten it up when I get some publisher signed on to publish The Moose.

Things were going well with Carolina – we talked on the phone a few times and she came to our first volleyball practice and she was probably the best player on the team. I started talking about things we should do together – feeling out what movies she might like, restaurants she might enjoy. In Boston I had several date restaurants scoped out, different atmospheres and types of food, all depending on what the lady might like.

All the while I was back in my routine. The grades were picking up but I was just sort of fantasizing through life – writing poems about depression and novels that basically had me playing the life I wanted to have. I still had this weird delusion that life was going to hand me everything I ever wanted – that it was all going to drop it on my lap and that what happened the past several months was just a hiccup in the grand scheme of my destiny.

I was seriously delusional, living in a fantasy world, and that’s what you need to know.

After the first volleyball practice, however, Carolina stops returning my phone calls. I wasn’t calling constantly – I called the day after practice to see if she wanted to go to the movies. I called several days later to remind her of our next practice. After she missed practice I called her one last time to see if she was alright.

My perception was starting to fall apart, again.

I talked to her RA, eventually, after several weeks of not hearing back from her. She tells me Carolina’s father pulled her out of school for personal reasons. If I was just a regular ‘ole resident it would have stopped there but I pushed on and used my “friendly fellow RA” label to get more information.

Turns out Carolina was an insomniac. She was taking steps to deal with the problem but this one night she blacked out and fell onto her nightstand – knocked a candle over and started a small fire in her room. She was fine; a little choked up and worried but thanks to thin walls in the brownstones her neighbor came by to check up on her before the fire alarm even kicked in. When word got back to Carolina’s father he sent for her to come home and put her in a hospital closer to home to help her with her problem.

Now, when I heard this, I was shocked. You see – I instantly went back to the dream – where the girl with long back hair was engulfed in flame, holding the piece of paper that read “423”. I started wondering what it meant – if the early morning fire started at 4:23 AM and coming up with scenarios that explained what this means to my life – how this all ties to together with my grand plan, with my delusional sense of importance.

Then I just sort of stopped thinking.

Some would look at what happened and call it fate or destiny or coincidence or a fluke. For the first time I saw it for what it was – a story. That’s all it is, I don’t need to be anyone besides myself to make this story any better – it’s perfect just the way it is. I don’t need to think or fantasize on a point anymore to make it a more viable story.

In other words – life gives you a story every fucking day. I just needed to start writing it.

I realized that everyday life, from the most mundane to the most fantastical shit, is more exciting than any story some Hollywood think-tank can come up with. You can take an ordinary, everyday event and grow it into something that entertains the masses – something relatable and real and personal and therapeutic to put down on paper.

It was a realization that turned me around like nothing ever has before. I stopped dreaming and started doing. I started my quote book that day – a tome of quotes I compiled over the past seven years. I started a journal – jotting down feelings and situations and drawing on them for stories. I stopped writing poetry, it wasn't my thing, I was only using it as an outlet to express my depression – I stopped placing myself into every story, I stopped writing Jason ROdriguez fan-fic which is what I call it now when I look back at it – I started studying other people’s lives and making them characters.

I started seeing stories in people on the train – complete strangers. I’d look at someone and try to work out who they are, what they do for a living, how many kids they have, when they got married. And I started writing it all down.

In my writing books I have stories for hundreds of characters – you’ve been reading a bunch of them for the past eleven months, I’ve drawn a lot of them from my own life.

This may not sound like a huge revelation to you but the minute you realize your life has more substance than the life you fantasize having is the minute you start living. It’s the minute you start taking more chances, appreciating the small things, realizing what’s going on in your own head and how it relates to your own life. It’s the minute you start letting people in – you start to draw from their own stories and find threads to your own life. It’s the minute you start accepting blame, realizing mistakes and become motivated enough to start making something of your life. It’s the minute you really feel hurt instead of finding excuses for it. You start to realize how selfish you’ve been and start taking steps to rectify it. You start to realize how important other people are in your life – how they’re major players in your own story and how their stories interact with yours.

You take on a new responsibility – a story teller in life – someone who appreciates the needs in somebody else’s life and rewrites your own story to fill it.

You start connecting – and you put that down on paper and you can connect with complete strangers within minutes.

I became a writer that day. Not the best writer that ever lived and certainly not the most prolific but I learned how to reach people, which, at the end of the day, is what a writer is supposed to do.

And, in turn, I started dealing with all my shit the way it’s supposed to be dealt with. One day at a time – and always understanding it is what is and it’s that way for other people as well.

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New Beginnings: Not-So-Instantly Refreshed

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

There’s a big story on this site called “The 423 Story”. Some people love it, some are bored to tears. The bottom line is, to understand what you are about to read you would have had to of at LEAST read this story. If you want to read the whole thing, from alien attacks through self-destruction, you can read, in this order: A Prelude to 423, 423, The Tipping Point, Breakdowns, Summer Money Attempt #1, Hooker Hand, Movie Memories, Sentimental Bullshit, Movie Making, Selling Shirts, The Last Catering, Ithaca, Back to Boston, and The Lack of Communication.

I woke up to the phone ringing. Despite the alcohol and the pounding headache I instantly remembered what I tried to do before going to bed and thought that only a couple of hours had passed and I was still dying. That’s a scary thought, you know – waking up and thinking you were going to die at any moment. You have all this shit running through your head – you think about going to the hospital, calling 911 and getting the whole thing turned around, admit defeat as if you didn’t admit defeat several hours ago. You don’t notice clues – you don’t notice the sun is shining through your window or the alarm clock is reading a little passed nine-AM.

I roll over and answer the phone – expecting my father to be on it – just sort of made sense, made for a great story. My life was always about the story. I’ve said this in the past but I’ve always had a hard time keeping my fantasies in check – this whole story starts with a dream that turns to a fantastical belief that I was going to somehow play a roll in the end of the world. The mind just goes – I was never the kind of guy that can truly appreciate what other people do – I’m the kind of guy who imagines myself doing what other people do. The problem was, then at least, was that I never applied it – never did anything except write crappy poetry and half assed attempts at novels and convince myself it was literary gold – eventually picture myself as a musician or movie star despite never even trying any of those things. Thinking about stopping terrorists during math class. Dream about being a famous scientist. Always picturing my life as a clichéd Hollywood story and doing nothing to live it out, expecting it to come to me.

It was a courtesy call from my cell phone company; I didn’t pay my phone bill since I bought my phone almost three months ago. Here I am, waiting for this almost cinematic moment – that life saving call where my father says a couple of things that turns me around – bring me back from my death and reminds me that life is worth living. Instead I get a girl named Julie, telling me that my cell phone bill is passed due and that I need to send in payment before they cut off my service.

I tell Julie the check is in the mail and hang-up – check my clock already realizing it was the morning and I made it through the night. It’s an embarrassing thing – you can lay in bed all morning but eventually you’re going to have to look at yourself in the mirror. The whole “looking at yourself in the mirror thing” is, admittedly, an overused cliché but until you do something that truly shames you, not just saying something stupid or playing a malicious prank on somebody but something selfish that has the potential to really fuck up a lot of lives besides you own – you’ll be amazed how fucking hard it is to look yourself in the eye.

Head pounding I go into the shower, I need to get to RA training – I’m already late. I take a hot shower and try not to think about anything. I try not to thing about my Uncle Alex or R or Josh or Mickey or my grades or my family or the troubles my friends are going through. I try not to think about attempted suicide. I make a conscious effort to keep a song in my head, to just wash it all off of me and get on with my day as if last night never happened. I try to push everything I wasn’t dealing with aside, not realizing that practice is what got me here in the first place. I’m crying my eyes out in the shower and all the while pretending that everything that’s happening is still not happening.

And I do well with it. I make it through training. I get cheery when I need to get cheery, serious when I need to get serious and through it all I continuously push all my problems aside. My father calls me from Arizona - tells me how everything is going – and I just nod it all away, get a little sad and write some shitty poem about it.

Move-in day comes and goes. I help people with their bags; deliver carts to their cars so they can unload. I make my rounds around the floor and meet all of my residents. I go to lunch with the other RAs, take a break.

About a week later I see Carolina in the dorm – the girl from the dream with the long-black hair. She cut it short, it doesn’t look the same, but she’s looking cuter than she was on the night of April 23rd and I, being single for the first time in two and a half years, work up the nerve to invite her to sit with me on our bench by the Charles River.

She smiles at me a flirtatious smile and says, “yes”.

We get to talking when we’re at the bench. Last time I talked to her was right after a fight I had with R – she had a fight with her boyfriend as well. Over the summer they broke up – as did R and I. It was a piece of information we both found obviously interesting and we started bringing ourselves a bit closer on the bench – flirting a bit more.

I tell her I’m starting an intramural volleyball team for the third year in a row – she tells me she’d love to play and she’s actually quite good. I invite her on the team and use that as a perfect excuse to get her number. I ask her if I can call her sometime and she has no problem with the prospect. We walk back towards Towers together – once we get to Bay State Road she turns towards her brownstone and I make my way to the dorm.

It took some time but I felt happy – I felt refreshed. I was doing better in school, I loved my RA friends and wasn’t missing my old friends as much, the pain of Uncle Alex’s death slowly faded away and the separation between Boston and Ithaca where Mary and Jackie were greatly took away from the impact of that drama. I was protected, again, and it felt damn good.

I didn’t learn anything yet but I was nicely set-up for the lesson life was about to deliver to me.

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New Beginnings: The Interview

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Christmas came and went – my family got along really well with Robin’s family. Apparently there was a rumor going around in my family that I was going to propose to Robin this weekend – suckers. Seven years strong, bitch! No, no – for the record, if anyone cares, we both decided to wait until Robin finishes school because I sure as hell ain’t planning a wedding and she just doesn’t have the time now. So, it’s either be engaged for three years or wait another year-and-a-half (although, I likely won’t wait a whole year-and-a-half anyway).

Anyway, Christmas was good. Got plenty of fun stuff – got a Sirius radio set up and a home kit, plenty of new shirts, a couple of video games, some DVDs. The nice thing about having Christmas with the two families is not only do I get Robin’s gifts (and we ALWAYS spoil each other) but I get gifts from my parents, my sister, Robin’s parents and Robin’s sister – that’s a good Christmas. The tree was packed with presents for everybody and although I didn’t get Robin an engagement ring, I got her a Coach bag to go with all the little things which, in the end, is what she’d rather have anyway.

Hope you all had a good holiday. I’ll be back in NY Tuesday. I might take G to the Buzzscope drink-up and meet some cats, play some poker some other night and then New Years at my boy Colin’s house followed by bar-hopping on Smith Street. But I’ll be checking in here everyday to drop a story and some words and some of them – they’re going to be pretty revealing.

________________

I went on several pre-interviews when I was in college. Various companies would come in and do quick 15-minute interviews to gauge how good you were at lying about your qualifications so you can get a real interview. Out of three pre-interviews I didn’t get a single invitation for a real interview. Same with job fairs – talked to plenty of people, got plenty of business cards and shook tons of hands – dropped off my resume and never heard from anyone.

It was the GPA – when you’re graduating college all you really have is your GPA – the ability of schmooze could technically get you in but you need to find the right people and have enough time to make it work. I wasn’t having much luck – so I signed on with a headhunter.

I got a couple of calls here and there but nothing really panned out. I was trying to stay in Boston and those were the most contested jobs – no-one wanted to leave Boston. I mainly wanted to stay around because Robin was doing another year of school and I didn’t want to risk losing her during a years worth of long distancing. But the head hunter got a hit for me in Washington DC doing work for an acoustic company (which is what I was doing my research in) and paying the high end of what I was asking for. He also sold it well – he told me I’d be a NASA contractor and, having no idea what the fuck that meant, I heard the word “NASA” and rolled with – told all of my friends and family I was interviewing with NASA.

I have an hour long phone interview with this guy David and it seems to be going well – he finally invites me down to DC to interview. I agree to come down and he tells me to book the airfare and they’ll reimburse me. I stall for a moment and say, “OK”, hang up the phone and try to figure out how the fuck I was going to afford airfare.

In college I had no money and a credit card with a five-hundred dollar limit. I found airfare for around three-bills and almost maxed out my lone credit card to book it. The day of the interview came and I was looking fly in my DKNY suit, sunglasses on and a fresh haircut. Robin was primping me up, wishing me luck and I was feeling confident as all hell.

I fly into Dulles airport in Northern Virginia, get off the plane and look for the limo driver with the white poster-board that says, “Jason”. I don’t see him so I find a pay phone and call David who says he’s glad I made it in and to get a cab and ride it on over to the address.

Suffice to say at this moment I realized the interview process was nothing at all like I imagined it to be.

I guess I just expected them to make a big deal about me and, you know, make it convenient and easy for me – impress me a little bit. I was broke – I hailed a cab and hoped the twenty bucks I had in my pocket was enough to get me to the interview since I had no other cash to fall back on. I get into the cab and go happy when I realize that they take credit cards – the cab ride cost enough to truly max out my credit card but at least I got to the place.

The cab driver has no idea where I’m going, or so he claims, he makes several wrong turns and continuously consults his map. This was out in McLean, Virginia – not a well known part of town for the cab drivers, I’d imagine, and I was on an obscure street.

When I pull up to the office I instantly know where I am. Across the street was the Hilton I stayed in during my sixth grade trip to Washington DC. I kind of believe in omens and I took that as a good one. I go up to the office and the receptionist instantly strikes me as a mildly retarded woman with a cat obsession who won’t shut the fuck up – later on I’ll realize how wrong I was - she’s fully retarded.

The receptionist is making me nervous with all of these idiotic questions she’s asking me and awkward attempts at small talk. David finally comes into the lobby, shakes my hand and asks me if I want to get some lunch. We exit the building and he starts listing off what’s around.

“Let’s see. There’s a sandwich shop next door. Another one across the street. The Hilton has food. Or we can drive to the mall and eat in the food court.”

I was getting pretty frustrated at this point but I thought of the money and pushed on.

We ate at the Hilton and it was pretty cool – I remembered the inside of it so well from when I was there in the sixth grade. The two of us just shot the shit for a little bit, David was likely one of the biggest dorks I ever met. There’s a huge difference between school dorks and working adult dorks – a whole new level of sadness to them. But I’m cordial and don’t let my diagnosis of dorkiness affect the interview more than it should.

After lunch we go back to the office to start the interview process. First it’s sort of a gangbang – several guys from the company sit opposite me in a large conference room and take turns throwing questions out at me. They’re interested in the research I’m doing and it turns out one of the guys interviewing me is good friends with my mentor – that’s a breather right there.

I get through the group interview well and they all start to pass me around and talk with me one-on-one, showing me demos of their products, the labs and introducing me to all of the employees. The HR chick goes over the benefits with me and I have no idea what the fuck she’s talking about. All I know is that they sound good, mainly because she’s smiling while she tells them to me and she’s wicked cute.

When it’s all said and done I say my goodbyes and hope a cab back to the airport, use the last of my cash to get there. I thought the whole process would take a lot longer than it did, the flight home I booked didn’t leave for another three hours. But I called Robin, told her how it went – she was excited even though in a way you can tell she didn’t want me to move to DC about as much as I didn’t want to go out there. But I needed a job – I needed to get some money – and it’s hard to argue against that.

But the interview went well, no denying that, and I was talking to Robin on the phone the idea that our relationship was coming to an end was already starting to sink in.

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New Beginnings: Times Square

Monday, December 26, 2005

Well, it’s Christmas. I’m a little drunk. I don’t feel like writing a story but with almost a month to go in my iron man writing experiment I sure as fuck ain’t going to let it die now. So, I have no idea how this is going to come out but either way, Merry Christmas ya’ll.

_________

The themes for the last five weeks are going to be pretty vague so I can wrap up storylines before I’m done with The Moose. Just letting you know – it’ll likely have a different feel everyday. Today, however, is “an easy” story that does nothing for the big picture but instead keeps me writing like I said I would.

No New Yorker goes to Times Square for New Years Eve – no respectable one, at least. It’s the kind of thing the tourists do – they all go out in the freezing cold and stand on a crowded block half of a mile away from a stage where the flavor of the month sings some pop-song with the flavor of last year – no bathroom to piss in and no booze to drink unless you had the foresight to sneak some along.

Having said that, me and some friends broke the rule once and went to Times Square on New Year’s1998.

I don’t know whose idea it was to go but we got quite the little crew. Bundled up for the cold, forties in hand, it was Jackie, her cousin, Mary, Ron, Matt, Jerome and I. G, Max and some other people were supposed to meet us out there. This was before we had cellphones – it’s impossible to meet in Times Square without cellphones.

The crew of us gets to Time Square at like 8PM, thinking we’re going to get a spot a couple of blocks from the stage.

The stage is on 42nd ST. We were on 53rd. Four hours early, eleven blocks away. I don’t know how early people get there to get closer to the stage but they’re fucking nuts.

Fucking. Nuts.

But we have our forties, we’re all bundled up, and in four hours we will celebrate 1998 with millions of people. We were having a good time – until we had to pee.

Once you got admitted onto a block, after the weapon checks and dogs sniffing you, you weren’t allowed to leave. The one Korean store on our block took crazy advantage of the situation. As in five bucks to use the bathroom advantage. Whereas there may be some legal diction that explains how fucked the situation was doesn’t matter – the fact is if you’re drunk and putting down forties and there’s one bathroom you can use – there’s no amount of money that you would consider “too much”.

I waited online for about ten minutes. Finally I get in, taking the john while someone else was still pissing in the toilet, and the guy behind me said, “Fuck this” and followed me in – the guy behind him followed him in, too. Two toilets – four guys – what do you do? Well, one of them pisses in the sink. That’s fair.

The other one – breaks THE FUCKING WINDOW and pisses out onto the street.

I’m standing there, taking a leak, and thinking I’m going to be associated with this fucking idiot. The glass breaking was loud, you know? No-one comes in while I’m there, though, I finish up and shake and get the fuck out of there – tell everyone outside what just happened. Jackie swears she heard the glass break and laughs.

It’s getting closer to midnight now, we’re out of forties but it doesn’t matter, the guys next to us brought some dope and had no problems with sharing with us. We smoke some dope, have a good fucking time, and eventually cut down to midnight.

The street explodes at midnight – everyone cheering, ticker tape and toilet paper dropping from the windows. We all start hugging everyone – strangers, friends, doesn’t matter – everyone screaming “Happy New Year”, kissing, hugging, passing joints and spraying 40s into the air.

Within ten minutes the streets cleared out. It was fucking weird – ghost town just sprung up in no times. New Year party favors on the floor, empty glasses – streets lined with colored paper, soaked in beer and piss. Everyone must have ran back to their hotel or afterparties – we had nowhere to go so we just hopped the train and went home.

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Holiday Wishes and Junior Summer: The Rest of the Summer

Friday, December 23, 2005

EDIT: A "before I drive to NYC" shout to Greg from Comics Should be Good who spoke well of Elk's Run and my fighting ability. For the record, for those new to this site, I'm actually a lousy fighter. Read most of the stories about me getting involved in some type of fight and it's usually me getting my ass kicked.

Robin and I love baseball. We order the baseball package through our cable provider and from late spring through earlier autumn there is a baseball game on in our house. We hardly see eye-to-eye on teams (she’s Sox, I’m Mets), players, policy or rules but there is one thing we both whole-heartedly believe: Baseball will die without a good farm system.

Indie comics is the farm system for the comics industry. While everyone is talking about the spider-mans and the exclusive contracts and the crossovers we’re down here doing our own thing and playing our heart out in an attempt to bring fresh and innovative ideas to an otherwise stagnant industry. We don’t get a lot of attention but we get just enough to do what we love and sometimes that attention is enough to bring us up to major-league level.

With that in mind, I want to send some holiday love to the comic fans that pay attention to us. To the ones that talk about our books instead of the books everyone else is talking about. Anyone can review a Batman book and almost everyone does. But the comics industry would dry out mighty quick if people weren’t talking about the stuff we were doing. If someone wasn’t noticing us, talking us up, and lifting us up to a point where we can bring our game to a bigger audience.

I’ve always show love for Sean Maher, Mark Fossen and Guy LeCharles Gonzalez for supporting the indie books they liked and doing it loud, making their voices heard. But this holiday season I also want to throw some well wishes to Johanna Draper Carlson, Ian Brill, Jog, Shawn Hoke, and everyone else who seeks out small press and indie work and promotes it. People like you keep our farm system strong and, in turn, keep comics relevant.

Happy Holidays, all.

Story Time…

___________________

The summer of Junior Year came and went.

I took a job in a lab so I can do my senior research project. I was in an acoustics lab – studying how people localized sounds. The interview was pretty informal – I sat down with the professor and we talked for a while – she discussed some project opportunities her lab had and it all sounded pretty exciting. Within no time the conversation went casual – she told me all about her kids and I told her about what I was doing over the summer, mainly the skits and working at Jillian’s. We had a pretty good connection and the year working under her was one of my better college experiences.

I was excited to land the lab job – Robin and I went out and celebrated. I was never really book smart, you know? In high school I was but in college I became more of a problem solver and power talker – my GPA in college was almost touching 3.0 and that was fine with me. But it kept me out of labs; I got several rejections before charming my way into the acoustics lab. I never had an interest in acoustics and in a way that made it a better fit.

My friends and I shot Mr. Sandman – a screenplay cowrote by Guam and I. We pulled it off in three days – had about 30 people bouncing in and out for around 18 hours a day. The Bastard directed it and he had one major philosophy – in order for pain to look real it has to be real. For a romantic comedy that’s a perfectly fine philosophy. But for a slapstick comedy?

We got punched, dropped out of trees, hit with hard objects including some stinky-ass salami– by the time the shoot was over we were all bruised and broken. One scene in particular consisted of Guam getting his ass kicked by a kung-fu fighting female angel. We all cringed every time we heard the dull sound of bone hitting flesh – we felt bad as we watched Guam curled up on the floor after a sucker punch, crying. It’s one thing to get beat up by a girl. It’s another to have it filmed over several takes.

Robin, being the film student, helped us out here and there. She even made the trailer for it as part of a film project. In return she called on us later that year to help her with some of her films she had to make for school.

One day Robin pulls me behind the George Sherman Union to show me a tree she sat in all day. She was working for Buildings and Grounds over the summer and the job was filled with these ultra chivalrous dudes who believed the ladies shouldn’t do much work – so Robin sat in trees a lot, occasionally tended gardens. She shows me where she carved “Robin –N- Jason” into a tree, big letters, put a heart around it.

Towards the end of the summer she was getting kicked off campus and I had to report for RA training. I was moving into this newly renovated Brownstone – hard wood floors, big, deep windows, spacious bathroom – it was a great apartment. Robin didn’t want to go back home for a week so I told her she can stay with me. I gave her my key and I used the building’s master key – she came and went as she pleased while I spent ten hours a day at RA training – playing various team building games and taking whiffs of marijuana so we can identify it if we need to – as if I haven’t smelled it before. As if none of us had, really.

But you pretend – you take a big whiff and you make this face like you’re storing the odor in your head. “Oh…so that’s what marijuana smells like. I’m usually too fucking stoned to remember.”

Every night the RAs did stuff together – I couldn’t really bring Robin along all the time because she wasn’t supposed to have a key to the apartment so I didn’t want people to know she was living with me. But she’d come out occasionally and everyone was down with her – she’s a cool chick to be around, that’s for sure.

My senior RA found out Robin was living with me but she didn’t care too much, she just told me to make sure none of the directors found out.

After training Robin packs up and moves into her apartment – across the street from mine. She doesn’t stay there too often – my place was a lot nicer than hers. We stole an extra bed and tied it to the one that I already had, dropped an egg-crate on top of it and covered that with some bootleg flannel sheets and just like that you had a college-grade queen-sized bed. I gave her a drawer, she kept the necessities like undies and pajamas in there - eventually she started moving items into the wardrobe.

She took over half of the medicine cabinet and the shower started getting stocked with all of her shampoos and the four different types of soaps she uses when she takes a shower. She had her own key – all of my residents knew her because she was always over. I’d sometimes come home from class or a meeting and she’ll be cooking up some grilled cheeses

It slowly became comfortable.

I made her a mix-tape, the first step every guy takes before he tells a girl he loves her. “Something in the Way She Moves”, “Here, There and Everywhere” – standard love-tracks. I told her I loved her for the first time shortly after and she smiled a big smile and dropped it back on me.

We rolled around the make-shift queen size bed and kissed each other repeatedly – she’d occasionally stare me in the eye and smile, repeat, “I love you, I love you, I love you…” over and over again. I was the first guy she ever told that to. Although she wasn’t the first I said it to in retrospect she was the first where it was really there. It’s funny how you can look at things differently as time passes, you wonder if it’s your bias that’s slanting your perception or if it’s the honest-to-god truth.

It’s the little things. Robin and I have been together for seven years – I can’t remember a time when I didn’t kiss her on the lips when seeing her or departing – even if we were fighting. Always a kiss – always an I love you. I never really had that before. I actually remember telling R, several times, “Fuck off” or “Fuck you” while walking away.

Anyway, it was a good first summer. Visiting the Gardner Museum, watching movies – we took this three hour long walk to a Friendlies because Robin swore it was close and she really wanted a sundae with peanut butter sauce (we took the bus back, obviously). Drinks at PJs – putting down Killian’s and listening to Cash play on the jukebox – playing strip poker on the Megatouch machine, one of our favorite pastimes to date. I play with naked women, she plays with naked men. I complain that the woman are all ugly, she complains that they don’t show dicks. A seven year tradition that started that summer.

It was a good fit right from the beginning, despite my reluctance to get it started.

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Junior Summer: Turn Back Time

Thursday, December 22, 2005

I feel like rambling a little – I’ll get to today’s story soon enough but, you know, I got the itchy fingers tonight and I feel like typing out a little extra.

First of all, did you all enjoy Elk’s Run 4? There’s been a few good things on the blog-o-sphere said about it already. Mark Fossen wastes no time in putting his review up and David Welsh pauses to reflect on the Speakeasy happenings and how it relates to issue 4.

I hope you also got to pick up Jay Busbee’s Sundown:Arizona #3 from Arcana while you were at the shop, too.

And speaking of books from yesterday let me just say that I am currently breaking my number 1 rule when it comes to comics which is, if you don’t like something don’t buy it. I first bought Infinite Crisis after someone told me how bad the first issue was – he sold the badness so well that I needed to check it out. I continued on to two and now three – I sat at Five Guys for lunch yesterday and sucked down a cheeseburger with jalapeños and A1 Sauce while reading it. I shit you not – I hardly understood a thing. I had to go online and read a summary to get it. I didn’t realize Atlantis was destroyed, no-idea what was going on with the Lex Luther thing – I didn’t know that Tower thing was supposed to be significant – nothing. I knew nothing. And I READ Detective Comics and Wonder Woman and yet I knew nothing.

It amazes me how people are going ape-shit over this book. There are five different storylines going on, tons of poorly-written exposition-heavy chunks of dialog, storylines that require you to read every DC book ever made to appreciate – what’s so fucking great about this book? I can’t stop reading it, though, I just can’t. I’m captivated – I would use the old “can’t keep your eyes off of a train-wreck” analogy but this isn’t a train wreck – this is a train crashing into the fucking sun and causing it to super nova – turning our solar system into a scattering of atoms. Who could keep their eyes off of that?

Also, I want to give much love to Shawn Hoke who named this site one of the 365 things he enjoyed about comics this year.

I tightened up three of the new columns. I’m excited for this. As of right now I’m calling the column “The Hive” which was sort of the name Jay Busbee, Jorge Vega and I were going to apply to our little group but we never used it and it’s a damn good name. Bit if they object I won’t use that. As far as how I perceive the quality of the columns, I don’t really like to brag so I’ll let the column's PR-representative, Adam Warlock, offer an official statement:


Two more days of Holiday Cheer left. Who makes the list? So far there’s been loved delivered to Josh Fialkov, Sam Keith, David Lapham, Larry Young, Nicholas Gurewitch, Chris Staros, Chris Pitzer, Frank Miller, the DC Conspiracy and a last-minute Holiday Wishes group hug to Saul Colt, James Patrick, Neil Kleid and Carla Speed McNeil.
Today’s sort of a double whammy, a convention and an organization I love and always call on when someone has the nerve to tell me about the irresponsibility of the comic community.

SPX is my local show and although I only went the past two years I’ve had more fun at that show than I’ve ever had at San Diego or Chicago. It’s low stress – the people there are looking for good stories more than flash and megaphones. Everyone’s talking, being sociable – the bar at the Holiday Inn afterwards is packed and if Steve Conley even knows your name he’s giving you free drink tickets. It’s the kind of show where you can have a book with high production values on your table and be able to sell as strong as someone with a critically acclaimed mini – that’s rare for a small press show. Plus the CBLDF auction is always fun.

Speaking of the CBLDF – they get some Holiday Love towards them as well. Talk about responsibility, while we’re all making comics with blood, adult themes and the occasional titty these guys are watching our asses and protecting us when some local prosecutor or federal agency wants to make a name for themselves. Seriously, have you ever seen CBLDF director Charles Brownstein at a convention? That dude’s working harder than us schmucks peddling our books. You go to his table and he’s pushing signed copies of Sin City on you while looking like he was taking into a back alley and beaten. The dude is tireless, and you got to appreciate that.

Well, you can show your appreciation by becoming a member of CBLDF as part of “Yet Another Comic Blog”’s Second Annual CBLDF Membership Drive. If ten people sign become members of the CBLDF (a 25 dollar donation) or renew their current membership, YOCB will donate $250 to the organization. So go, sign up, and then forward the confirmation email to the address given on YOCB. They need three more people and you’ll be helping a great cause.

Story time…

___________________

Cher once said, “If I could turn back time. If I could find a way. I’d take back those words that hurt you and you’d stay.” Now, I normally don’t take anything Cher says too seriously but goddammit that plastic-faced, long-legged, half-breed vixen sure got that one right.

Towards the end of summer I invited Robin down to Brooklyn with me. She never really got to roll in New York the way us natives rolled and she was going to be able to meet my family which is kind of important at some point. We were probably close to three months together and it seemed like a good idea at the time.

My mom had heart problems a week before and she was feeling pretty out of it. They made a request to leave Robin in Boston for this trip and have her come up the next time I visit. Since I already made plans and got her all jazzed I didn’t want to mess things up by telling her we had to postpone the trip.

That was my first mistake.

I was driving down to New York with my pops and taking the Greyhound back up. There was a reason behind this – he had to bring something to me or I needed to bring something home, I honestly forget what the circumstances were. The drive down was pleasant enough, my sister came along as well and we were all just hanging and chatting and Robin was getting her first taste of the drama that is my family.

A little background, here – my mom and I had the tendency to go toe-to-toe quite often back then. It started in High School and carried over through college and was even present the first couple of years after college. We’re all good now, though, time and near-death experiences changes a lot of things. It helped that I grew up a bit too and she calmed down a bit. But, during these years – it got pretty crazy sometimes.

So we get to New York, Robin meets my mom – she doesn’t look that bad, honestly – she’s not laid out or anything, just tired. We all hang out and talk for a while – later that night Robin and I go glow-bowling in the city with Jackie and her cousin.

That could have been my second mistake.

The next day Robin wanted to go into Manhattan but Elizabeth, not knowing that, wanted to go to see a movie with her older brother since it’s sort of a tradition we had every time I was home. I agreed and Robin, Elizabeth and I went to see Iron Giant. Robin didn’t want to see Iron Giant and the fact that I broke our plans and dragged her to see a cartoon – it wasn’t that she was upset, she doesn’t really get upset – but it became obvious to her that she picked the wrong weekend to come up. That maybe I kind of should have cancelled this weekend and done a family thing. And that didn’t make her upset, but it made her quiet.

My mom – she doesn’t like quiet.

My mom is the type of person that feels the amount of talking you do is directly proportional to your happiness. So when she picked up on Robin’s quietness, combined with the fact that, you know, she was emotionally charged back then, her heart was all fucked up, she felt weak and she just wanted to see her son this weekend but I was spending the whole weekend out and about – kind of got her to asking me if Robin has a problem with them.

It’s an honest question, a bit heavy on the drama but if your son brings a girl home and her buttons up I guess you’d ask it. It upset me, though, because I always used to look for an excuse to get mad at my mom – heart problems or not. So when I told my mom it’s fine, Robin’s headache prone and gets tired sometimes, I could have left it at that. Despite the fact that she questioned more and really seemed to pick up a vibe that there was a coldness there

Really, I could have. If I listened to Cher, that it is.

They might have still felt a little bad but it would have eventually gotten better. Instead, when I went back into my old room and Robin asked me what’s wrong I might have nonchalantly said, “I don’t know, I don’t think my mom likes you too much” and by “nonchalantly” I mean “spitefully”.

Guess who I was spiting? Myself, apparently, because that quiet turned to a cold and that cold lasted for quite some time. They’re both stubborn women, or were, I should say, and I keep proving myself to be an idiot.

But we’ve all grown up a bit since then. A lot, actually. This Saturday my parents are driving up to Boston to spend Christmas with Robin’s family so that’s indicative of something. But man – so many stories evolved from that one stupid fucking sentence that I found myself, quite often, saying, “If I can turn back time. If I can find some way. I’d take back those words that hurt you and you’d stay.”

To which Robin replies, “Grow some stones and stop singing Cher, Nancy-boy.”

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Junior Summer: Stutter Stepping

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Elk’s Run #4 is in stores and Josh has a nice sell for issue 6 (contains cartoon nudity).

This is going to be a quick Holiday Wishes – I’m tired. I stumbled across Perry Bible Fellowship earlier this year; someone was posting cartoons on a message board. I spent a couple of hours catching up on the strips and have read it religiously since. It’s the only webcomic I read right now, the humor is reminiscent of Far Side but sometimes a bit smarter, sometimes more on-the-nose. Either way it makes me laugh every Sunday and for that I’m sending Holiday Cheer over towards Nicholas Gurewitch – in a time when the funny pages are crammed with the standards and suffocating on their own lack of creativity it’s nice to know there are people like you creating strips that matter.

______________

Robin and I – we had problems.

First time she met my friends was a bit awkward. I don’t know what it was – you know when you get together with a bunch of people and they sense the outsider –the jokes aren’t as funny and the chemistry is thrown off. That’s sort of what it was like – Robin just felt like an outsider and the night didn’t go that well – it was just slow and uncomfortable and filled with recaps of events that were apparently only funny to us. It was no-ones fault; really, there just wasn’t a lot of jive.

It was because of our majors.

Me – biomedical. Robin – communications. In BU, that’s the equivalent of Tom Cruise dating a giraffe – it just doesn’t fit. And my friends called me on it when I first told them about Robin – they didn’t understand why I was dating a Com major and not a Physical Therapy major like we were supposed to date. I think she was at a disadvantage from the start and no-one gave her the benefit of the doubt.

But we persevered. My RA friends liked her and I liked them better so, whatever – friends come and go in college.

Then there was the fact that she’s racist.

Not against black people, no. Nor Asians. No, no. Robin hates Puerto Ricans, apparently. When I first realized this I thought she was joking – she kept telling me she wasn’t, she honestly does not like Puerto Ricans. They always try to hit on her, apparently, and molest her in clubs. Five minutes into this I cut her off and tell her, “You know I’m Puerto Rican, right?”

“But…but you’re white.”

“Rodriguez.”

“Yeah…but…”

“Puerto Rican.”

You know she was honestly upset. She thought I was from Spain. She said the Puerto Ricans won. That we tricked her into dating one of them. And I joke about it, even to my family – she does to – but the fact is to this day Robin just doesn’t like Puerto Ricans. It’s kind of cute, really – in a close-minded way.

Great story. One day over that summer we were going out to meet some people for drinks. I needed to take a shower but we were running late so Robin tells me, “Just take a Puerto Rican shower.” I asked her what the hell is that and she told me to put some deodorant on and spray cologne on myself.

“Oh – you mean a Dominican shower?” I asked her.

We laughed and wondered what Dominicans called it. We both agreed upon “Haitian Shower”. So, the loathing for Dominicans my family raised me to have makes it impossible for me to get mad about Robin’s Puerto Rican thing – and she can’t be too serious, anyway,

But, we persevered.

We didn’t connect too well intimately at first, either. My fault, really – I never connect well at the beginning. What goes on in my head as opposed to what actually goes on is usually two completely different things and it throws me off my game a bit. I’ve definitely discovered I’m more of a one-night man in that arena, no expectations and lower inhibitions makes me one hell of a lover.

But, we persevered.

I wish I could say we persevered because of some deep connection we had. Like maybe both of our parents were killed in the same plane crash and the two surviving children managed to find each other years later. But, no, fact of the matter is she had an air conditioner in her apartment that summer and I didn’t – you’d put up with almost anything for that.

I stayed at her house every night, her roommate didn’t seem to care so neither did I. One morning, though, I wake up to find Robin’s not in bed. I go out to the living room and she’s eating cereal in flannel pajamas, playing Genesis.

I think that’s when I fell in love.

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Holiday Wishes and Junior Summer: Rewind

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

I haven’t done this in a while because I always feel like an idiot. I’ve been getting crazy traffic the past three weeks. This site was always a nice little ego-stroke but lately it’s been an ego blowjob. This may seem like a boys club but please check in on the comments section or drop me an email, I’d love to know who you all are.

Anyway, some more Holiday Wishes going out. I discovered Scott Mills this year. When we were putting together the team for Western Tales of Terror #5 Josh told me this cat Scott Mills was going to be doing Steve Niles story and, like a good editor, I went and got a few of books. The following week I got the rest of them. His style is captivating – it’s so loose and free-flowing yet definitive and original. It’s easy on the eyes yet pack so much story. I fell I love with Cells, Trenches, Big Clay Pot, Master Plan and My Own Little Empire.

My Own Little Empire, however, was published under a company I was also unfamiliar with – AdHouse. I tracked down some of their books and discovered Joshua Cotter’s Skyscraper’s of the Midwest which I never hesitate to label my favorite book of the past year. When people ask me what I’m looking forward to in 2006, I say “Skyscrapers of the Midwest #3 and the Eisner we’re winning or Elk’s Run.”

Chris Pitzer from AdHouse can see a good story. Empire, Skyscrapers, Project Superior, Bumper Boy Scott Morse’s upcoming Noble Boy. I expect big things from AdHouse and I’m throwing some holiday love to Chris and all the fine talent he wrangles up. Please, people, buy every book these guys put out – I want to see them succeed and so should you.

_______________________

Junior Summer was the first summer in which I didn’t go back to New York. After spending Junior Year as an RA (award winning RA, I should add – yes, we had award ceremonies) I made a lot of connections at the ORL and was offered a position doing writing and acting in skits for orientation groups over the summer. I honestly spent about a week or two at the beginning developing the skits and then an hour a week putting them on. This job, this one hour a week job over the summer, got me free housing in a brownstone on South Campus. That’s what we call dope, boys and girls.

The “day job” gave me a lot of free time. I practically worked full-time at Jillian’s to pay for food, nightlife expenses and my cell phone bill. The rest of the money went into the blooming “Closet Elvis Productions”.

For some of you, Closet Elvis Productions reminds you of Closet Elvis Living, the website I was doing before The Moose in the Closet. Closet Elvis Productions was the brainchild of me and my boy Guam and started when the theater troupe we were involved with didn’t want to put its name on our movies we planned on filming. I wanted to call our little group Moose in the Closet Productions, Guam wanted to call it Velvet Elvis Productions so we settled on Closet Elvis Productions.

One of the first things to get the label was my screenplay for a movie called Sleaze which, I can honestly say, was the first attempt at making a movie where a sleazy guy pretends to be gay to get a girl. There have been many people to do it afterwards, and I highly doubt they “stole” my idea because, well, production stalled on that one real quick – I’ll get to that soon.

After the first draft was completed we had a read through over at Warren Towers – the readers were basically a bunch of directors from our troupe that were in town for the summer. There was an uncomfortable moment when this girl Katie read a line that was essentially a vulgar facial joke to which Guam said, “Don’t use any facial jokes,” and everyone agreed – facials are not funny, apparently.

We pulled the female lead from a play we produced last semester and the male lead was actually this recent high school graduate that Guam somehow knew from an instructional improv thing he did, I think. The guy’s name was Matt, we met him for pizza and talked about the movie as if we were Hollywood big shots.

Everything was in place – unfortunately we didn’t have access to the equipment we were promised by our film-school connection. She was going to “lend” us some serious equipment and get us editing time at night but wussed out in the end and landed us this VHS recorder they used in the mock newsroom and could no longer promise us the editing time.

We decided to make the most of it and work out the editing problems later – figuring we can transfer it all to digital and edit it on the computer. Quality would suck but, whatever. Except, of course, the first day of shooting was terribly pathetic. Just the look on the actors’ faces when they saw the camera was heartbreaking. I told them it would be fine, we set up the dorm rooms and shot a couple of scenes. I decided to watch back some of them and was hoping to do it in private but my leading lady came in to sneak her peak.

Her comment, and I’ll never forget this, was: “It looks kind of…cheap.”

I had nothing to say except, “It’ll look better after editing.”

She knew I was lying. I knew she knew I was lying.

After the shoot we went back to my apartment and talked over the script some more. I made promises that I’d get some better equipment and sent my people out to lunch one me, told them to talk up some chemistry between the two of them. While they were gone Robin showed up – but I already told that story.

We never shot another scene for Sleaze. Mainly because we could get the equipment we wanted but also because Guam and I had our own little project we were cooking up – Mr. Sandman. Directed by The Bastard. A cast of about thirty people. An hour and half movie that we shot in three long-ass days.

But that’s tomorrow’s story.

And not to depress the fuck out of everyone but Matt, our male lead, passed away around this time last year. I didn’t know the dude that well but Guam was his good friend. I feel kind of cheap talking about him without paying my respects for a moment.

The dude was gold. Seriously, he knew comedy better than a lot of people I’ve ever met. He ended up being one of the main guys in Mr. Sandman and him and Guam became really good friends out of that. After he graduated he moved out to LA were he was making some serious moves in the entertainment business. The guy had it all. He was attractive, funny and a great writer – he honestly had his shit going.

My boy Guam had some serious heart problems a couple of years back, he’s still suffering from them. It wasn’t a result of hard living, it was all biological, and he even made an amazing play based on it called “Tales of a Broken Heart: Not a Love Story”. Shortly after, Matt had a heart-attack as well. It’s kind of fucked up – you don’t think of kids our age having serious heart problems and I knew two.

Matt was getting better but one day last year it caught up with him. He was engaged, had it all going on and just like that the shit was over. I know it’s Christmas time and all and you likely don’t want to hear shit like this but I just wanted to bring home the fact that even though my stories tend to be lighthearted and detachable – these are some real people I rolled with despite the fake names. Matt comes into play a lot this one summer, he’s in a lot of these stories, and I just wanted to honor the man’s memory a little bit.

I just wanted to make sure you all know he was a genius and it’s a shame we lost him. He’d be making us all laugh one day if it wasn’t for how fucked up life can be sometimes.

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Holiday Wishes and Junior Summer: After Joe’s

Monday, December 19, 2005

It’s 1AM and I just realized my Holiday Wish for today was more of an insult than an honest to god Holiday Wish and I want to be more positive. Plus, I still have more work to do before I can go to bed. So, I’m going to send some quick holiday cheer to Saul Colt because he’s a good guy and a hell of a publisher. James Patrick who’s Death Comes to Dillinger is currently in Previews, being offered by Silent Devil Productions, which means you know it must be good or else I would not be pimping it (implied negativity – nothing wrong with that, right?). Neil Kleid whose Jewish gangster graphic novel Brownsville is currently soliciting, as well, published by NBM (and he also got engaged yesterday – congrats). And Carla Speed McNeil – I never read Finder until she announced she'll be distributing the single issues for free online – here’s to being innovative and actually doing something about the state of the market while the rest of us sit around and say, “We gotta do something.” It’s inspiring, really.

I also want to say that the response to my new column idea has been huge. The comments are one thing but I've been seeing links pop up everywhere and I've gotten a ridiculous amount of emails. You know what, there's a lot of fed-up people who all agree it's time we start listening and putting our heads together. I think it's going to be a good year. I took a first stab at the FAQ and the first three ideas. I am absolutely IN LOVE with the third one which means it probably has the most holes. But that's where you all come in. I'm excited for this, I almost want to start this Friday but I'll wait until the Holidays are over.

Ok, story time…

________________________

The day after Robin and I first hooked up (and here's her version of the story) I had the blind date from hell, my punishment for being such an ass. The day after that was Joe Sacco’s graduation party. Joe, whom I’ve talked about, was my scooter bound friend in college – he had MD and despite the fact that it made his life hell, he was always this cheery, funny as hell kid that was the first to joke about his affliction. He was a year older than me and was going off to Stanford for Grad School which I personally found amazing – this was a whole new city for him, no friends there and no family – and he’s trapped in a scooter. That’s some brave shit, right there.

A bunch of us pile into several cars and drive on out to Rhode Island where Joe lives. I get into a car with Sleazy Steve and I’m telling him about my night with Robin and the blind date – saying how I think I want to give this Robin thing a shot. He’s telling me I should be careful with her, she has a “reputation” and could be diseased.

Yes, I shit you not, he told me that – but we don’t call him Sleazy Steve (to his face, I might add) for nothing. At the same time he was telling Robin that I’m not the type to get serious and I’ll just lead her on until I’m done with her. Always a cock-blocker, that Sleazy Steve.

We get to Joe’s house and eat some burgers, offer our congrats and spend some time in his pool. Joe does go into his pool quite often but he claimed it was this big ordeal to do it and won’t be going in for his party – I felt a little guilty splashing around in his pool but how often do college kids get to go in one? Besides, there were plenty of people hanging out with him.

After speaking to several people about Robin and what I should do (and after ignoring Sleazy Steve’s advice, naturally), I called her almost immediately after returning home and asked her if she wanted to go out for ice-cream the next day.

It was pretty awkward, really. Here’s this girl that pursued me quite aggressively, finally got me to make my move only to have it followed by me going on a blind date the next day and not calling her for a couple of days afterwards. I know there are all these stupid “don’t call for x-days” rules but we had enough history to ignore those rules and come to terms with the fact that something’s finally happening.

So when I called her, she made had no qualms with informing me that she didn’t think I was going to call. She also had no problem with outright stating that she assumed my blind date didn’t go too well.

To say I was at a disadvantage is a bit of an understatement.

We went to Maggie Moos down on Newbery Street and were lucky to get the tea-cup seat. The tea-cup seat was the actual tea-cup from one of those old carnival rides – the ones were you grab the steering wheel, of sorts, in the middle to spin your tea-cup around. That damn seat is never empty – it’s the most sought after seat in Maggie Moos. We just happened to finish paying and got off the line the exact moment the tea-cup sitters were getting up and we swooped in for the seat. It sort of alleviated the tension, somewhat – any day you get the teacup seat is a special day and usually a sign of good things to come.

We ate our ice-cream – talked a bit. I told her about the blind date and made light of the whole thing, tried to remind her I was committed – I already had the baseball tickets – and I just needed to get it over with. She didn’t believe me, obviously, but I encouraged her to make fun of me and the situation.

After ice-cream we went to Urban Outfitters, window shopped for a bit before making our way back home. I dropped her off at her place and stopped upstairs for a little while. It wasn’t what you think, we were taking it slow at this point, and we just ended up eating Pizza Bites and playing some Sonic the Hedgehog. After an hour of hedgehog goodness I told her it was time for me to go and we decided to go see Austin Powers the next day.

The movie went well – that’s where the hand-holding and kissing started coming back in (taking it slow doesn’t mean that slow) and the following dates were all similar in tone and pace. About three weeks in we got into a bit of a tiff, I guess I in some way questioned her sexual past – obviously inspired by the shit Sleazy Steve was still feeding me which, as it turns out, was basically all untrue (goddamn Sleazy Steve – goddamn me for believing him) but didn’t mean it was easily ignorable. Let’s put it this way, there’s no easy way to ask a girl if she’s ever been tested for HIV. Especially not after you JUST finished fooling around.

I’m an asshole sometimes; you all know that by now.

It was more of an uncomfortable “I gotta go now” than an actual argument. The next time I saw her I brought flowers and we talked it out. Only years later I discovered she was going to break up with me – but the fact that I brought her flowers and acknowledged I fucked up before she told me I fucked up was worth giving it a second shot. I agreed to stop listening to Sleazy Steve, obviously, and she told me all the stuff that he was telling her. Goddamn Sleazy Steve. Plus I pick out really nice flowers, roses are for uncreative chumps.

Now here we are, seven years behind us and doing well. It all started the summer of Junior Year and it took a couple of years of good, hard work before we were able to pop it into cruise control. But that first summer, there were a couple of close calls.

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Holiday Wishes and Alcohol Will Destroy You: And the Dining Hall, Apparently

Friday, December 16, 2005

There's a new Here's the Thing... up. The last one, actually. But I suggest the idea for my new article in the end. Please give some feedback in the article's comment section on what you think. It's either going to be this or nothing and I think you're going to like what I have planned - I already dreamed up some interesting ideas. Not great ideas, some aren't even good ideas, but hopefully it leads to discussion and revelations. The first one will run first Friday in January.

Continuing my twelve posting days of Holiday Cheer. So far I’ve giving love to the DC Conspiracy, Chris Staros, Larry Young, David Lapham, Sam Kieth and J.H. Fialkov. Today I’m going to one of the most polarizing men in comics.

Frank Miller teaches us a lesson every time he puts pen to paper and the lesson is, “Fuck you, this is my story.” He has the Sin City movie, a beautiful film to gape at even if the story doesn’t do much for you, a movie that got him national praise and a newfound interest in the graphic novels. He follows that up with Vicky Vale walking around in panties, talking into a tape recorder, for several monologue heavy pages.

Don’t get me wrong, I love All-star Batman and Robin; I honestly feel it’s one of the most entertaining books to come out in the past year, but you get two pages into it and you just KNOW most people are going to bitch. Frank Miller knew most people were going to bitch. You can almost see the meeting at editorial when Dan Didio must have said to Frank Miller, “You and Jim Lee are getting a Batman book and you can do anything you want.”

“Anything?”

“Anything.”

And what Frank Miller gave us was page after page of wild, crazy, insane, fucked-up Batman as he should be, as the world he lives in likely perceives him to be, and it fucking rocks. And a lot of people make fun of it. He knew they would. There is no way this man did not know he would get a bunch of people saying “This is not MY Batman.” And he follows it up with Batman calling Robin retarded. Reminding Robin he’s the goddamn Batman.

He followed it up with a “Fuck you, this is my story.”

Happy Holidays to Frank Miller. I’d never want to meet you in a Dark Alley but I love to have your books under my Christmas tree.

______________

As I’ve mentioned before I was a manager in the dining hall through out my four years of college. The fact that I was the Late Night Café manager meant I got keys to the dining hall, as well. Having keys to a massive dining hall in college is more than just having keys to your own personal kitchen. It really means having keys to your own private, spacious room. And that could lead to some interesting stories.

For instance. Anyone who reads this site ever go to our visit BU? Ever eat in the Towers Dining Hall? If the answer is yes, and you’ve done it after the class of 2000 graduated, I think I should inform you that I had sex on the salad bar one night. Not in the wells, obviously, but I propped her ass up on the salad bar counter and violated every health code possible. Even though it was one of those “heat of the moment” things that just sort of happens, and even though I did wipe down the counter afterwards, I still think it’s safe to say the salad bar at Towers should be replaced.

But seriously, it was the passionate kind of thing you’d see in a Hollywood movie except between two people who aren’t Brad and Angelina. Unlike when I had sex on my bosses desk – that was just to say I had sex on my bosses desk. That was totally planned – like a week in advance at least.

But it wasn’t always about sex. I used to use the dining hall to study. One time, in fact, I needed to get some serious studying done but I was stuck on the night shift. The dining hall closed at midnight and it took an hour longer to get everything cleaned up and shut down. I was kind of fucked, had a test the next day. So I had my friend deliver me some Ritalin, gave him ten bucks and some free chicken fingers (yes, this was my Magic card/drug paraphernalia connection).

This was my first (and only time) snorting Ritalin. Supposedly it’s supposed to make you concentrate. Instead I spent about two hours in my boss’s office, staring at his bulletin board, my leg shaking, and singing a variety of show tunes (yes, I’m a show tune singer). Funny part was that I snorted it with an hour to go in the shift – the people working that night kept knocking on my door and I just shouted “I’m studying, do whatever you want.” I came out of the office once to make sure everything was clean but that took all of two seconds because in reality I only peaked out the office door and said, “Looks good – you can go home.”

I flunked my organic chemistry test because of that which really wasn’t a big deal – I flunked all of my organic chemistry tests. There’s a reason I’m not a doctor right now.

But of all the illegal shit I did in the dining hall, nothing would beat the party I threw freshman year.

It started out pretty simple – the RAs make rounds twice a night before midnight which means you can’t be too loud then. Everyone else is sleeping after midnight so you can’t be too loud then. The dining hall, however, is in the basement and there are no bedrooms in the basement or on the first floor – we can be as loud as we want all night.

We started the party at ten – we let people into the humongous kitchen in the back and served them up alcohol while the unsuspecting people ordered burgers from the grill-man in the front – we had about 20 people in the kitchen. When midnight rolled around we locked the front doors and started letting people provided someone knew who they were. At one point we had close to 60 people in the dining hall.

We had the blenders going, mixing up rum smoothies. We had pizzas in the pizza oven – we turned the Belgian waffle machines on and brought out the batter, whipped cream and strawberries. Everyone had access to all of the tonics and juices they could possibly need to mix their drinks. Someone even supposedly made some “special” rice krispy treats but if that’s true I never got my hands on one.

Everyone had a good time – we had some music, some dancing. Like all parties in college a couple of people drank too much. Like all parties in college a couple of those couple of people left when they felt ill but there’s always that one guy that throws up all over the place.

I don’t even remember the kid’s name anymore – he was a sixth-floorer I believe – but he shot projectile vomit towards the end of the party. We all laughed at first but then I realized that I was the one who was going to have to clean this shit up. I tried to get him to do it but he played drunk and said he needed to go to bed. I look back at the puke build-up and realize, to make matters worse; it was on the rug and not the tiled floor.

I felt kind of bad for every person who’s house I threw up in or near while I was cleaning up some unknown bastard’s vomit at four in the morning – trying to hurry up and get it done before the breakfast crew comes in – but the empathy only lasted about a week.

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Holiday Wishes and Alcohol Will Destroy You: RJ, College. College, RJ.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Continuing my Holiday Cheer because brother, we need it. So far I’ve given love to Chris Staros, Larry Young, David Lapham, Sam Kieth and Joshua Hale Fialkov. Today I want to give some love to a group of people who, for the past year, had nothing but love to give.

With comics, it’s easy to get caught up with the online community. There are message boards available for whatever you’re looking for where you can talk to anybody you want, fan or pro, establish a base relationship you can expand upon at a convention and you can seek out people who share the same exact opinions as you and have the same taste in books and creation style.

I hated it.

Around January of 2004 I started looking around for local folks to get-together and talk comics. I stumbled across a fledgling group called the DC Conspiracy which was a collaborative of primarily cartoonists who got together once a month and talked producing comics over beers. I joined the group and, knowing I had a slight disadvantaging by being “just a writer”, jumped on the opportunity to make their webpage/blog before meeting them to give myself a bit of weight.

I didn’t need to – these guys are sociable, friendly and full of great ideas they want to share. You know what’s great about a non-online community? When you sit down with them for several hours you don’t have the option of turning them off. You need to listen to an opinion that might be different than yours and, in turn, you usually learn to see things in a different light. I attribute more than half of my growth as a creator over the past year to the DC Conspiracy.

And we’ve had fun. We organized a convention for fuck’s sake. We took road trips and rolled out support for our respective projects. We created an anthology and are in the process of creating two more. We’ve started columns on our blogs that people actually read and learn from, we share the knowledge we build by talking to each other over a pint of Dogfish Head and a plate of Chicken Fingers.

Happy Holidays to the DC Conspiracy, the lot of ya. I know we all have projects we’re putting together for the New Year and I know we’re all going to help each other make those projects the best they can possibly be.

_____________

Well, this fluff week is almost over and then I start my 7 weeks of solid storytelling to essentially finish The Moose in the Closet. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll beg for more (I already wrote the last week and I will say I’m damn proud of it). But for now, lets get this week’s stories over with, shall we?

This story was sort or told once many months ago in the comments section by my cousin RJ, semi-regular poster on this site. I figure it’s about time it gets the proper Moose treatment.

RJ came to visit me sophomore year in college. His first time visiting up in Boston, he came by himself – I remember waiting for him at the bus station and eating this crappy-ass Quarter-Pounder with Cheese at the McDonald’s Express that got me sick.

The first night we just sort of chilled, I believe. We spent the day after walking around Harvard Square, RJ pulled me into some comic shop which, ironically, I found ridiculously juvenile and was slightly embarrassed (my how the times change). He got some Godzilla bootleg and we made our way out somewhere for dinner.

All-in-all a nice, relaxing, weekend in beautiful Boston.

Then there was that second night. I had this blue plastic footlocker thing in my room; I kept it under my bed. This was where I kept all of my liquor in college. The no-frills vodka that tasted like rubbing alcohol, the peach schnapps for “the ladies”, the bootleg rum, the Kahlua, the mixers – every piece of shit bottle of alcohol a college student typically buys.

That night I bust out the locker and everyone on the floor starts having some cocktails. In college, none of us knew shit about alcohol. There were two drinks: a screwdriver with or without peach schnapps and a rum and coke. That was it. So we were pouring up the drinks when I gave RJ a standard screwdriver. He puts it down and complains, told me I made it too weak.

Now, if you had a footlocker filled with cheap alcohol and someone called out your drink – you’d get a little evil too.

“Too weak? Fine.”

Do you know those super-sized plastic cups you get at McDonald’s? I filled one of those up with a drink concoction that was about 9-parts every alcohol I had in my trunk and 1-part orange juice. You smelled this drink and your fucking nose hairs fell out. It was by far the most disgusting drink ever made. I give it back to RJ and he tells me he’s going to my friend Eric’s room to play Star Wars: Tie Fighter. I make myself a drink and go to Max’s room to smoke-some.

There are several of us in Max’s room, having a good ‘ole party, when not ten minutes later RJ fucking BURTS into the room like Kramer from Seinfeld, trips over himself – his hair is fucking wild, his eyes are huge and bloodshot – and asks us (very loudly) “what’s going on”.

“Where’s your drink, dude?”

“I finished it.”

“You fucking finished it?”

“Wooooorrrrddddd!”

“There was like a liter of alcohol in that shit!”

RJ was fucking bouncing off the walls all night – we couldn’t stop laughing. Eventually he just crashes, hard, falls asleep on my floor and doesn’t move until the next morning. It was RJ’s first introduction to how we roll in college and I don’t recall him ever letting me mix a drink for him again.

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Holiday Wishes and Alcohol Will Destroy You: Dad, College. College, Dad.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

I’ve gotten a couple of emails asking me about the Speakeasy thing, for those unfamiliar the always impressive Mark Fossen has a nice recap. Whereas I do have a couple of things to say, I don’t have them prepared yet. I’d expect a mammoth Here’s the Thing… by Friday at the latest and I don’t think it’s going to be what anyone is expecting. But for now, Holiday Cheer, following the love I’ve given to Larry Young, David Lapham, Sam Kieth (who has a righteous looking Batman mini coming out, thank you GOD) and Joshua Hale Fialkov I have some love to give to a man who’s editorial vision I have nothing but respect for.

I wanted to thank Rich Koslowski for The King, my favorite OGN of the past year. I wanted to thank Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele (who has a blog now) for The Surrogates, an entertaining read so far. I wanted to thank James Kochalka for Superf*ckers, a lighthearted, entertaining romp that tickles the part of my funny bone that hasn’t grown up yet. I wanted to thank Alex Robinson for Box Office Poison which I read this time for the first year, Andy Runton for Owly and Kolchalka, Brown and Thompson for their Conversation books. And after trying to sort out who I was going to thank over these twelve posting days to Christmas I realized I should be thanking Chris Staros.

Chris Staros is in a difficult position; he’s the publisher for what can arguably be called the largest American comic company that has significant indie-cred. Which means he’s expected to take a chance and break new ground with every book he puts out while at the same time not going completely broke. In a market dominated by superheroes, Hollywoodization and dumbed-down plotlines that play with the fact that people don’t want a good story – they want something they themselves can do, Chris Staros continues to publish stories that people need to work for – that don’t come easy – that don’t necessarily have a movie coming down the line.

Happy Holidays to Chris Staros, for being an innovator, a risk taker and a tireless promoter of comics that take full advantage of what the medium can be instead of trying to figure out what other markets want the medium to be. It’s a tough industry yet Chris Staros has found his niche in it, despite putting himself at a disadvantage from the start.

______________

My dad didn’t go to college. He entered the Navy at 18, did his four years, came out and married my mom who also didn’t go to college. Now, he has some Navy stories – the man went all around the world and partied like, well, a sailor should. But despite trips to Amsterdam and Germany and being stationed in Hawaii and living what would be considered an ideal 4 years of life if it wasn’t for the whole “on a ship with a bunch of dudes” thing – my father wasn’t ready for a night as a college student.

Freshman year he drove up to Boston by himself and spent an evening hanging with me before taking my back to Brooklyn, presumably for one of the breaks – I’m not sure which one. He just wanted to have a night out without the rest of the family – father and son stuff. He even stayed in the dorm, first time he ever did that.

He gets to Boston and we just spend some time around town, get some dinner, and see some sights. On the way back to the dorm we stop off at the liquor store because my pops wants some beer to bring back to the room. Seeing this as an opportunity to restock the microfridge I tell him to get a case and we’ll have a couple of beers together. We have to sneak the case into the building because, you know, I’m not allowed to have beer in the dorm at this point but we put it in my trusty bookbag I carry everywhere and the guard doesn’t think twice about the Jansport on my back shaped exactly like a case of Bud Light.

We get to the dorm and have a couple of beers. Then a couple more. Some of my friends come by and the case is polished off in no time. My pops and I are both feeling a bit drunk so we decide to get out for a bit instead of hanging out in the dorm all night.

I take him to Lansdowne Street which, as anyone from Boston will know, is the street right next to Fenway Park packed with nothing but clubs and bar – it’s where everyone goes out on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. We’re going to Jillian’s which is the bar I used to work at. Jillian’s was three stories, nightclub on the first floor, arcade on the second and pool hall on the third. We figured we’d play some pool, have a couple of more beers (I needed to bust out the ‘ole fake ID), play a little skee ball and head in for the night.

On the way to Jillian’s, on crowded-ass Lansdowne Street, my pops and I are walking along; I’m talking about something or other when he just drops out. Seriously, he was in my peripheral one moment and then he was gone. I look back behind me and he’s sprawled out on the floor – he was taken out by a fucking parking meter. Everyone walking by is laughing and my father is on the floor, cracking up, his gut and balls hurting because he slammed into a chunk of metal.

I help him up and he can hardly walk and I’m just ragging on him. I mean, seriously, how do you walk into a parking meter? It’s like walking into a wall. You grow up in New York City, every street is lined with parking meters, you think you’d learn to look out for them.

After making a spectacle of himself we get to Jillian’s, play some pool and have a few more beers. We don’t spend too long there – he’s starting to get tired – so we go back to the dorm after an hour or so.

At the dorm we start drinking again. There were a couple of dudes in the lobby having some cocktails so we join up and tip back. We’re all telling funny stories, my father is telling us tales from his Navy days and those are always fun to listen to, all the while putting down beers and vodka shots.

After an hour or so of that my father says he has to go to bed, something about getting up early the next day to drive my ass back to Brooklyn but it was pretty obvious he was feeling more than a bit tipsy. I roll-out the flip-flop and he crashes – KO’d in like two minutes. My friend Max asks me if I want to step outside with him and dope-up and I, obviously, agree. We continue partying while my father slept, his crotch bruised and swollen from taking a parking meter to the nuts, likely dreaming about all the fun he missed by not going to college while we all talked about how cool it would be to go into the Navy.

Alcohol Will Destroy You, despite how hard you were in your past.

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Holiday Wishes and Alcohol Will Destroy You: Fuck ‘Em

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Before I get to today’s story I want to continue my 12 posting days of Holiday Wishes. So far I’ve sent love to David Lapham, Sam Kieth and Joshua Hale Fialkov. Today I want to send some cheer to a man who’s an integral part of the comic production business.

I can’t deny the fact that indie comics needs a Larry Young. I’ve been to a lot of conventions and talked to a lot of people. I think it’s safe to say I’ve heard every word in the English language applied to Larry Young. Every word of praise, every insult and every declaration of neutrality possible from all walks of the comic community.

In a world were publishers try to run their business by emulating Vince McMahon (owner of the world wrestling federation for those that don’t know), Larry Young opts to be the Bill Gates of comics. The Martha Stewart. The Donald Trump. A business man through and through, with all the positives and negatives that come with it – someone with a public image that’s endearing to the masses but intriguing to the people who like to steal a peak behind the curtain and make conjectures of their own.

Larry Young is a man who views comics as a business and because of that, he keeps the rest of us on our toes. There’s nothing more embarrassing than a Larry Young burn and you can’t fight it, publicly, because more people listen to him than listen to you. So you step on eggshells, double check your steps and no matter what you think of the man you ask yourself “What Would Larry Young Do?”

Whether or not you follow that guidance or do the opposite is a matter of preference.

So Happy Holidays to Larry Young, for introducing new talents, producing entertaining books and constantly remind us comics, at this level, is a business and not a hand-job.

_______________

Alcohol brings out the worst in us, that much is true. Sure, you can have a few cocktails and get a little playful – loosen up a bit and have a good time. Or, you can drink a lot of cocktails, get belligerent, throw fists and, occasionally, become guilty of attempted homicide.

Jackie’s parents had a timeshare in the Poconos. Now, the Poconos was the middle-class vacation destination of choice for New Yorkers. For some reason the thought of spending the weekend in the woods, living in a cabin near a lake, is the definition of fun. This one summer, several of our friends went up to the house in the Poconos for two nights of drunken debauchery.

The first night it was a smaller gathering – I think there were maybe 4 or 5 of us there – playing monopoly and drinking cans of Miller High life. It was an innocent enough night, no-one really got stupid drunk and many a laugh was shared. The second night, on the other hand…

Let me preface this by saying our friend B never drank in high school. He was proud of his ability to turn down the alcohol and we didn’t care too much, he was just the driver every night. He started drinking freshman year in college because it’s impossible not to at that point. So, he wasn’t learned in the ways of booze.

I’m sitting outside with a beer, grilling some burgers, my friend Jimmy and I taking turns spraying each other with a hose to cool off when B pulls up in his car, busts out a bottle of Goldschlager, open it up and chugs about a fifth of it and declares he’s ready to get “fucked up”. This was our first time seeing B drink, mind you.

We should have cut him off then.

As the day goes on B gradually polishes off the entire bottle of Goldschlager while the rest of us were putting down cans of High Life. I took a break from the group to talk to Jackie for a little bit – I might have mentioned this before but I had this huge thing for my friend Mary, it was one of those “Should we be more than friends” things and it’s been bugging me for some time. I was asking Jackie if I should say something to her. Whereas the correct answer was, “No. You’re drunk.” she instead told me I should go ahead. And I was going to, who knows where my story would have went.

But then B threw-up.

Several times. Then he starts dry heaving. Then he starts puking up some chunky red which could have been from the Swedish Fish he was eating but we were likely making excuses for the fact that he might have been throwing up blood. In other words, B wasn’t doing too well.

Four of us made our way to the entrance of the camp-ground-type area we were staying at to use the payphone. We call 911, get the operator, and ask her what we should do if our friend was throwing up blood.

The operator, naturally, says she’ll send us an ambulance.

Now, we’re all under 21 and would likely get in trouble for drinking in the woods. So we tell her that we can’t do that, but we’re just wondering if there’s something we should do to make him feel better. She tells me that she needs to send an ambulance now. I look to my friends and say that the operator wants to send an ambulance.

We all look at each other, one of us waiting for someone else to make a decision. I take “responsibility”, hang up the phone and say, “Fuck ‘em. He’s fine.”

Everyone agrees and says he shouldn’t have drunken so much anyway. We go back to the cabin and B looks horrible. Our friends ask us what’s going on and we told them the operator said he’ll be fine and to give him some water. We’re force feeding water down his throat and B is telling us he wants to go to the hospital. We’re telling him he’ll be fine, just drink the water, and he keeps telling us that we can just drop him off out front of the hospital but to please, PLEASE, take him because he thinks he’s going to die.

He slowly starts to feel a little better so we drop him on a bed and take turns watching him, making sure he stays on his side and doesn’t roll onto his back.

Luckily he didn’t die. But the experience certainly reinforced the fact that Alcohol Will Destroy You. Or, you know, your friends will.

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Holiday Wishes and Alcohol Will Destroy You: What Really Goes Down at Ron’s House

Monday, December 12, 2005

Before today’s story I want to continue my twelve posting days of Holiday Wishes. So far I gave some love to Sam Kieth and Joshua Hale Fialkov. Today goes to the man behind my all-time favorite comic series.

It was at Mid-Ohio con last year (2004). I was doing my first convention as an exhibitor, met Josh for the first time and tried to push copies of Western Tales of Terror #1 onto anyone who glanced at our table. Josh told me to sit tight; he was going to get me a “thank you” present. He comes back twenty minutes later with Stray Bullets #1-10. I devoured the first issue while sitting at the table, breaking my own rule that I should always be approachable when I work a con. On the plane ride home I polished off some more and as soon as I got back to the apartment I finished up the rest. I told Robin how I needed to track the rest of these issues down and she told me to wait until Christmas. While I waited a month I read those ten issues 4 times, picking up new things each times and formulating theories as to how it all ties together. For Christmas Robin got me the rest of the run up until that point.

I read them all that night.

And over the past year I’ve read them all several times.

Stray Bullets is, in my superior opinion, the greatest comic series every produced. I’m not talking mini-series; it’s hard to top a great mini-series. But I am comparing it to books like Sandman, Preacher, the Marvel and DC mainstays, etc. 40 issues in the can for Stray Bullets so far and every one of them is exceptional. Dare I be so bold? I dare. Each issue is damn near flawless, even.

Happy Holidays to David Lapham. Over the past year he not only delivered several issues of Stray Bullets but did a good job on his Detective Comics story-arc and a damn good job on his Daredevil vs. Punisher mini-series. I hope to see more mainstream work from you over the coming year (because you deserve to get paid) while continuing to blow my mind with Stray Bullets. And I hope you finally get the original art sales going on your site; that was supposed to be my “big present” this year.

Happy Holidays, you violent fucking genius.

__________________

I’ve talked about Ron in the past. He was this dude that I was friends with throughout high school. He lived with his divorced, constantly traveling father. In other words, everything I ever need to learn about alcohol I learned at Ron’s house. I already talked about the big party we threw there that sort of solidified our place at Midwood HS. But there were many, smaller, intimate moments where a bunch of high school kids got together and discovered exactly what alcohol is capable of.

Most of the time it was just a couple of kid’s sitting around and acting like kids. Ron had this laser tag set-up that included several guns and this battle-station type of device that detected people in the area and shot at them if they got too close. We’d turn all the light off in the house and play this hide & seek type game where the hiders got to put the battle-station anywhere in the house in an attempt to alert them that the seeker is coming. We played drunk, usually, obviously, and only occasionally the game went to fisticuffs. Like when a seeker would pin down a hider and shoot his target three times to “kill” him. Since physical attack is illegal in laser tag, that behavior usually resulted in a punch to the chest.

There was the occasional drunken barbeque. Kids don’t know how to barbeque and when alcohol is involved you get a bunch of undercooked chicken that was marinated in Bud Light. A bunch of people sit around the grill drinking 40s and talking loud about the sex we imagined we had. Saying how much a freak so-and-so was whereas, in actuality, she cries during sex or something similar that happens when you’re trying to figure out what the hell you’re doing down there. Only occasionally the barbeque came to fisticuffs.

I remember being at Ron’s house the night Kurt Cobain died. We went to the Arab store down the block from him since we wanted 40s and the father used to only keep hard liquor around the house. We never went to this store before; we usually had certified 40-purchasable stores in our own neighborhoods where the owner was a friend of the family and would sneak us malt liquor while telling us to tell our moms he said “hi”.

So we get to the store, it was Ron, Max, G and I, and grab four forties. The man behind the counter wouldn’t sell them to us – not without ID. We give him the ‘ole, “I left my ID home.” The guy shakes his head “no”, he’s kind of weak-willed, you can tell – it’s like blood in the water. So we’re begging him and he just keeps saying “no”. Finally he tells us that he’ll sell us one 40 if we leave. So we buy one 40 and walk back to Ron’s house, each with 10oz of Colt-45 allocated to us.

We get back to Ron’s house and watch MTV all night, debating whether or not we should go back and try to buy another 40 before raiding his father’s liquor cabinet like we should have done from the start. We crashed at Ron’s house that night, as usual, and at one point we took turns going into Ron’s bathroom and measuring our dicks, witnessless, which is only slightly less gay. It was total honor system but it was that night the legend of The Brajole started which has since been confirmed by girls we knew.

And then there was the really weird night.

Let me start by quoting Ron’s yearbook entry:


I don’t quite recall all the details, we were drinking obviously, and down in Ron’s basement looking through shit. I know that we were looking for something in particular, something he claimed his father had and for some reason I think it had to do with Mickey Mantle. We get to a box that contains his sister’s clothes, she didn’t live at home anymore, she lived over in Brooklyn Heights. There was this one horrendous looking outfit in there – it was like the definitive 80s outfit – and as a joke I took it into the bathroom and put it on.

It looked hysterical, honestly, and Ron decided we need a picture of it. So he gets his camera and we start looking through the rest of the box and there are tons of really bad clothes.

So, as a joke, we all start putting Ron’s sister’s 80s clothes on and taking pictures of each other.

It was all fun-and-games, a good drunken romp amongst male friends. Until we got the pictures back and realized how weird a bunch of drunken high schoolers trying on women’s clothes and taking pictures of each other really is.

It was at that moment I realized alcohol is evil.

And no, I don’t have the pictures anymore.

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