Saturday, July 25, 2009

Midnight in the Garden of JK Rowling

I am standing on a platform, roughly 9 ¾ of an inch from the center of the room we now stand in. Around me is a sea of wands, robes, cauldrons and palpable excitement. As I rise to address the masses and tell them the time of the awakening will soon be at hand I feel my wig slide down the front of my face and sense a sharp pain in the back of my skull. Is it possible someone hit me with a box of Bernie Botts every flavor bean? I adjust my wig of long flowing red hair and gaze out at the mass of witches and wizards. They are silent for a moment as I look above my head. The metal sign hanging over the information desk that reads “Customer Service” is now titled at 45 degree angle because of its recent encounter with the back of my head. I had just succeeded in cracking my skull while garnering the full attention of a room full of nerds, who at this point were beginning to chuckle at me. There were a few concerned mothers and nuns who put their hands to there mouths to cover their smirks, but they were there.

“Well, I’m Glad no one saw that” I said to the mass of people now obviously staring at me. The laughter that had been bubbling over reached its full brew and the room filled with it. I was relived that I was able to turn the situation to my advantage and regain control of the room, and I now began shouting instructions about where to line up if they had a book reservation and where to cower in fear of us running out if you did not have one. This was an experience like nothing else in life, the anticipation and excitement behind a Midnight release for a Harry Potter book could not be matched.

This particular Midnight release party was for the 6th book in the Installment, which would go on to be my favorite in the series. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the expectations were high as it was the second to last book in the fabled series. If books are a dying form, JK Rowling is not aware of that fact. During a time when movie companies were struggling for new ideas and Mystery books were telling the same tired old stories with dogs instead of cats, JK created a new world. A World to rival that of Tolken and CS Lewis a world of her own creation that captured the imagination of the time.

Rowling provides a good example of why I believe books are here to stay. In a time when technology was developing faster than it could be written about JK Rowling wrote about people who stayed away from technology. Wizards and witches were unfamiliar with technology for they had no need for it, despite living in the modern world. The fact that this idea was believable to children and adults, that we can live in a world without technology and still believe in magic is magical in and of itself.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Books will never Die!

This is the prologue to "Cure for Crazy" which is going to be a collection of the craziest stories i have heard/been a part of in my time working for Barnes and Noble

There are those who say that Books are a dying breed, and to them I have only one thing to say: Your Crazy. Sure, it might be slightly techno-phobic of myself to cling to the leaflets and notebooks of my past, but I still do it with pride. I collect pens and pencils now like they are pieces of the Ark of the Covenant. I keep every magazine and every hand written letter or post-card in the hopes of one day discovering them and proving to my grandchildren that mail used to be delivered by an actual person. In this vision of the future I see me sitting in my rocking chair reading a newspaper, but as time has gone on the newspaper has begun to fade from the fantasy. Instead it is replaced with a book, any of the Harry Potter books to be precise. I can see myself in the future reading the stories to my children, and letting them touch the book itself and see the Special British edition I imported for far too much money. I look forward to this shared experience, to being able to make a physical connection with a memory from my past while creating a new one in the minds of my imaginary grandchildren. The physical embodiment of memory is something that the digital age will never be able to capture, nor should it try. A book can have a life story separate from the one contained within the text. Where did it come from? How did it get that crease in the binding? Is that a coffee stain inside the front cover or an image of the Virgin Mary? Thousands of questions that can never be asked of a blog, facebook update or tweet.

As a reluctant environmentalist I have to admit I see the benefits of digitizing printed works, but at what loss of character? What part of ourselves do we have to give up in order to maintain the status quo? More and more often today we give up what is real in favor of the artificial, with social networking tools helping us stay connected while staying away. It is also through tools like Twitter and Myspace that we are able to connect with people of similar interests, with similar backgrounds and stories. And in doing so myself I have begun to realize that bookseller has been replaced in the digital world by the search engine. There is a third party involved in the book purchasing process in the material world. Or course there is the author and his or her publisher who create the text and send it out into the hands of those who wish to purchase it. In between that connection however is the third party of the bookseller, a book Butler now replaced by Jeeves and Bing.

In the material world it is the seller who makes the union between two like minded thinkers possible, or between two people with the same passions and creative dreams. It is also possible for a bookseller to steer someone’s life in the completely wrong direction resulting in catastrophe for the reader. As a matter of fact when dealing with issues like family emergencies, loss, troubled relationships and trying to fall in love, the bookseller actually has more power than the author themselves. All they have to do is lead someone in the right direction and tell them “I think this will help”. It is that personal touch, that ability to lift someone’s spirits, only to potentially crush them if the text doesn’t 100% meet the needs of the reader, that separates a bookseller from a search engine. Despite the number of online shoppers who search constantly for books, there is always a special difference between the Jeeves of and the Jon of Barnes and Noble. I have worked at Barnes and Noble for more than 6 years now and in that time I have seen and heard the most outrageous stories. All revolving a form many believe to be dying, and it is for this reason I put these stories down on paper (and digital, just to be safe) to preserve the memory of what could be a lost art. This collection of stories is about the art of being a Bookseller, what it means to have that level of personal effect on a customer’s life. To lead someone through troubled times merely with a book suggestion, or to outrage a customer by suggesting a liberal biased book when the are a conservative. These are the stories of customers who are not afraid to ask where the Self-help section is, and of the booksellers unafraid to say to them “Doesn’t it defeat the purpose of self-help if I tell you?”

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Cure for Crazy

Cure for Crazy

After spending several hours crouched in the self-help section I suddenly began to feel better about my life. That is primarily because while scanning the section in (my monotonous robot-like task for the day) I realized that never in my life have a I felt the need to browse the self-help section of any bookstore. Never have I thought one might be a good idea as a gift, nor have I even considered searching for a book to solve whatever problems may be weighing down my soul.

This feeling of superiority led me to have a rather bemused look on my face throughout the day. This was not diminished by the fact that I found a book titled “Never be used again” right next to “Make people do anything for you” by the same author. The Irony had clearly escaped the author, and more importantly the buyers who seemed to gobble up both texts with glee. Finding self-help books written by everyone from Chuck Norris to Kanye West, I couldn’t help but wonder why anyone would ever read these books. Who would want to tips for living from Kristie Alley? Or Advice on the sanctity of Marriage from Jessica Simpson? Or a book of life lessons written by the 20 year-old actress who played Meadow on the Soprano’s? Who Cares? I just couldn’t wrap my head around the idea why these books would be printed, and who in their right mind would buy them

It was around the time I discovered the Chuck Norris self help book “The Secret Power Within” that I was first approached by a customer. It was a frail looking blond girl, about my age I’d guess, although her malnourished body made her look much older.

“Can I help you find something?” I asked, realizing a moment after I said it what this would entail. Working in a bookstore you can learn a lot about peoples tastes, imaginations and political views. There are also conversations like this one, the kind that stay with you after the customer leaves. The kind you struggle with throughout the day, wondering if you handled the topic with the care and ease it needed. The woman gazed at me with her olive green eyes and whispered something barely audible

“I’m Sorry?” I asked, louder and more forceful than I probably should have been. A pair of tween girls who we’re looking at the sex section giggled and I glared at them. They quickly dropped the guide to fellacio they were leafing through and skidded out of sight. I turned back to the woman to see that she was crying.

Overall I am a pretty empathetic person, but this moment was different. It wasn’t that I couldn’t feel the obvious pain the girl was dealing with, but that I had no idea what to say to her. She knew from the look on my face that I could see she was crying and so, embarrassed she turned and rushed down the aisle in the opposite direction.

“Wait!” I shouted, as I started towards her. She stopped short and turned around, wiping the tears from her eyes. She walked toward me and instinctively, I put my arms out. I had no idea who this woman was, or for that matter why she was crying but there I was standing in the middle of the bookstore hugging her. It was at this moment I realized why people come to this section in the first place. Not because they care what the authors really think, but simply that they need someone. Even if that someone is an author they have never met, or a stranger at a bookstore.

It was at this moment I realized I had not taken a shower this morning, nor had I bothered to put on deodorant in my rush out the house…

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Slow Drip
Fountains of energetic espresso express excitement
Slow Drip
Patient person pats pants in percussion
Froth Foam
Concerned Customer checks Clock
Froth Foam
Angry Asshole Arrogantly Accost’s me
Pour Shot
Manic man momentarily mesmerized by magazine
Spit, Serve, Smile

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Better Man

The Better Man

Dramatis Persona
NATHAN- The Best Man
BRENDAN- The Better Man
CHRISTINE- The Maid of Honor
ELIZABETH- The Honored Maid

Setting: The Entire action of the play takes place within Nathan’s hotel room in the early morning hours before the wedding of Brendan and Elizabeth.

Nathan, a man in his mid-twenties, sits at the foot of his hotel bed. He wears the bare bones of a suit, with tie askew and shirt unbuttoned. He is disheveled and distraught, and there is a deep pain in his eyes, as he remains silent. The room is in chaos; empty liquor bottles lay at his feet mixed with clothes and ripped pieces of paper. He is attempting to write something, but gets frustrated and tears up the piece of paper he is writing on

NATHAN: Words, Words, Words…Hamlet would be disgusted.

Nathan begins to place a few pieces of torn paper in the wastebasket on the upstage side of the bed.

NATHAN: (Nathan screams as he steps on a broken bottle) Damn It!

Nathan slumps back onto the bed and examines his foot, he looks around for something, finds a piece of scrap paper and begins to dab his foot with it. After a moment he looks at the pieces of paper

NATHAN: Great, I actually liked this one…

NATHAN wanders offstage, it is assumed to tend to his wound. BRENDAN enters the room; he is a handsome, but short, man in a suit sans tie. BRENDAN sports a black eye on his right eye and appears to have a busted lip. BRENDAN sits on the bed exactly as NATHAN had moments before; he picks up one of the less obliterated pieces of paper and reads it. BRENDAN begins to sob openly. NATHAN re-enters

NATHAN: Jesus! Brendan, what the hell happened to you?

BRENDAN does not answer, but continues to sob, after a moment NATHAN lifts his arm towards BRENDAN and BRENDAN blows his nose on the sleeve of NATHAN’S shirt.

NATHAN: I was trying to get a better look at your eye, but I guess the gesture could be confused as an offering of sinus support.

BRENDAN smiles for a moment, then goes back to sobbing

NATHAN: Allright, now is the part where you tell me… what the hell is going on?

BRENDAN says nothing, but shakes his head no. A beat. CHRISTINE enters; she is a beautiful young woman. Her eyes sparkle with passion and life, and she is dressed for a night on the town, but is wearing sneakers.

NATHAN: Does this hotel room have locks on their doors?

CHRISTINE: There you are!

NATHAN: Of course I’m here, this is my room!

CHRISTINE: No you dipshit, HIM! (CHRISTINE points at BRENDAN)

NATHAN: Actually the argument could be made that he really isn’t all that ‘here’ right now


NATHAN: Will do

NATHAN gets up and moves away from BRENDAN who now has lifted his knees and has his head resting upon them, covering his face.

BRENDAN: Is…Is she okay?

NATHAN: Wait a minute, Wait a minute, WAIT…A…MINUTE. Did you and Lizzie get in a fight? Is that why you have-

CHRISTINE: I thought I told you to shut up

NATHAN: Right…

BRENDAN: Is she?

CHRISTINE: Of course she is

BRENDAN: Its all…all my fault…I….

BRENDAN begins to get emotional again, CHRISTINE comforts him and he leans against her for support

CHRISTINE: She isn’t angry. You should go talk to her

BRENDAN: I don’t know if I can


BRENDAN waits a moment, then exits. A Beat. CHRISTINE picks up one of the almost empty bottles on the floor and finishes it off. NATHAN goes to the mini-bar and grabs two bottles of beer and hands one to CHRISTINE. CHRISTINE takes out a lighter and opens the bottle

NATHAN: I thought you quit smoking

CHRISTINE: Yeah, well…things change

NATHAN: I always thought they just stayed the same, forever and ever

CHRISTINE: Stop being smart

NATHAN: Well that’s one accusation you never threw at me when we we’re dating

CHRISTINE: (laughing) True

NATHAN: Now can you please tell me what happened?

CHRISTINE: With them?

CHRISTINE gestures towards the direction BRENDAN exited.

CHRISTINE: (After a Beat) Or Us?

NATHAN: (laughs) Either, although the later I believe I’m more familiar with

CHRISTINE: You’d be surprised…

CHRISTINE takes a swig from her beer, it is a long one

NATHAN: What happened?

CHRISTINE: They got in a fight over something stupid. Something about their families not getting along, she went and got a little tipsy at the bar, ended up on some guys arm and he saw her. And then…you left…

NATHAN sits next to CHRISTINE on the bed, and he too takes a long sip of his beer. CHRISTINE lays her head on NATHAN as BRENDAN did to her earlier. NATHAN runs his fingers through her hair.

NATHAN: I’m still waiting for an answer

CHRISTINE: (sitting up) I’m Sorry

NATHAN: For what?


CHRISTINE kisses NATHAN, he kisses back and things begin to get heated when ELIZABETH enters. She the beautiful bride to be, dressed as sexy as can be for the night before her wedding. The makeup on her face is running from tears. She stops short when she comes upon CHRISTINE and NATHAN

ELIZABETH: (exiting) Excuse me

CHRISTINE: (chasing after ELIZABETH) Elizabeth, wait!

NATHAN is alone on stage. He waits a moment, goes out into the hall and re-enters looking confused. NATHAN takes a piece of paper out of his shirt pocket and begins to read it

NATHAN: The second I met Brendan I knew he was the man to Marry my sister. Granted we we’re fourteen at the time, but I had height hopes…

NATHAN erases what he wrote and continues; unbeknownst to him CHRISTINE re-enters and watches him for a moment

NATHAN: I had high hopes for the young guy, even if he was lacking in the height department himself…

CHRISTINE: Short jokes, very original

NATHAN: (startled) I didn’t know I was being critiqued

CHRISTINE: (gesturing to all the scraps of paper) Clearly I am not your harshest critic

NATHAN: Yeah…So, about earlier

CHRISTINE: Oh, right.

CHRISTINE paces to the other side of the room

CHRISTINE: Brendan and Elizabeth we’re down at the bar celebrating together, when some asshole made a pass at Liz. Now Brendan had a few drinks in him by this point so he got angry and got in a fight with the guy. Well turns out the particular guy was the son of the hotel owner, and being the nice guy that he is the owner decided to kick Brendan and Elizabeth out of the hotel…


CHRISTINE: I know, and now they need to get a new…

NATHAN: I wasn’t asking about that

CHRISTINE: Well, what are you talk…(realizing) Right, that…Can we just pretend that never happened? A Little Maid of Honor moment of Madness, that’s all


NATHAN puts his arm around CHRISTINE. BRENDAN and ELIZABETH enter together, holding hands

BRENDAN: Hey guys


ELIZABETH: So Nathan, can Brendan room with you tonight?

NATHAN: Of course

BRENDAN: And Chrissy, I was wondering if Elizabeth could share your room tonight

CHRISTINE: Of course, we have to be up in… (Looks at her watch) three hours to start getting ready anyway.

BRENDAN: Great, I’m just gonna go grab our things from the car

BRENDAN exits. There is an awkward silence as all three realize last time they we’re all in the room ELIZABETH broke up a rather passionate moment


CHRISTINE: (exiting) You know, I think I’d better go clean up my room…

NATHAN goes to follow her but ELIZABETH stops him. NATHAN sighs and finishes off his beer

ELIZABETH: How goes your speech?

NATHAN laughs and gestures to the mess of papers on the floor, he continues drinking

ELIZABETH: I figured the speech would be the easy part for you

NATHAN: Easy compared to what?

ELIZABETH: Seeing Christine again

NATHAN: Well, you we’re right

ELIZABETH: I really appreciate you being Brendan’s best man, it means a lot to both of us. He really looks up to you

NATHAN: Figuratively and Literally

ELIZABETH: (smiling) Stop

NATHAN: Sorry. That’s all I seem to be able to come up with so far…short jokes

ELIZABETH: Heavy on jokes, short on substance

NATHAN: Sounds like my relationship with Christine

ELIZABETH: You know that’s not true

NATHAN: It’s easy to convince myself that’s all it was. Just an amusment for a short while, passing time between important moments in our live’s. That’s easier than excepting the truth

ELIZABETH: And what is that?

BRENDAN walks upstage towards the window, as he begins his speech CHRISTINE re-enters unseen to BRENDAN.

NATHAN: I had tasted the very wine of heaven. I had laid my head next to an angel and dreamed nothing but selfish dreams. I let perfect happiness fall into my lap and then pushed it away…

NATHAN turns around and sees CHRISTINE has been listening. NATHAN moves towards her but CHRISTINE quickly turns and exits. ELIZABETH stands and puts her arm around her brother. BRENDAN re-enters

BRENDAN: So, ready for bed roomie?

NATHAN exits quickly

BRENDAN: Was it something I said?

ELIZABETH: No. We’re not the only one’s having relationship issues tonight

BRENDAN: Oh….but our issues are over…aren’t they?

ELIZABETH is silent for a moment

ELIZABETH: Yes, for tonight

BRENDAN: What do you mean?

ELIZABETH: Brendan, there are always going to be other men who say things about me that you won’t like. But you can’t fight all of them

BRENDAN: I know…

ELIZABETH: Brendan, I know you’re nervous that I’m going to leave you


ELIZABETH: And to tell you the truth, for a moment tonight I thought I might


ELIZABETH: Only for a moment

BRENDAN: This is not what I want to be hearing on the night before my wedding

ELIZABETH: (Taking BRENDANS hand) OUR wedding. It was only a moment because I realized you weren’t one of those sleezeballs who hits on me at bars. You are a better man than any of those men, and I can’t wait to marry you


BRENDAN: You really mean it?


BRENDAN: Then why wait?

ELIZABETH: What do you mean?

BRENDAN: We can’t have the ceremony here anymore, and Vegas is only a few hours away. We make the drive and we’ll be back in time for the reception.

ELIZABETH: Okay, lets go.

BRENDAN starts to leave with ELIZABETH, thinks for a moment and stops. BRENDAN picks up a piece of paper and scribbles on a piece of paper and places it on the bed. ELIZABETH and BRENDAN exit. A Beat. NATHAN enters, he sits on the bed and reads BRENDAN’s note. NATHAN smiles. CHRISTINE enters, now dressed more casually, her outfit matching the sneakers on her feet. NATHAN looks up at her

NATHAN: Now I recognize you

CHRISTINE: You couldn’t before?

NATHAN: I pretended not too, the only memory I have of you really dressed up is the night we…you know

CHRISTINE: Ah, that’s right. We really weren’t the fancy party types

NATHAN: Not really

CHRISTINE: That was fine with me though

NATHAN: Was it?

CHRISTINE: Yeah, I mean sure a girl likes to get dressed up every once and a while, but that’s what friends weddings are for!

CHRISTINE sits on the bed; there is a great space between her and NATHAN waiting to be filled. NATHAN hands CHRISTINE the note from BRENDAN as he says his next line

NATHAN: Unfortunately, looks like we won’t need our costumes for tomorrow.

CHRISTINE reads the note, puts it down and looks puzzled

CHRISTINE: I don’t get it,” Gone out for Ovaltine”?

NATHAN laughs

CHRISTINE: Clearly I’m missing something here

As NATHAN begins this speech he moves center, away from the bed. The lights on CHRISTINE dim and a single spot comes up on NATHAN. NATHAN adjusts his outfit during the speech as well, and during the end he looks clean and polished. It should be clear that by the end of the speech that NATHAN is giving his wedding toast at the reception. Applause should follow his speech

NATHAN: The second I met Brendan, I knew he was the man to marry my sister. Granted, he was only fourteen at the time, but I had high hopes. Even if he was lacking in the Height department himself. He was waiting for Lizzie to come out of her room to go to the homecoming game with him and I was downstairs playing video games and drinking ovaltine. To my surprise Brendan actually came over and asked what I was drinking. He told me he had never tried Ovaltine, so naturally I gave him some, and ever since then he was hooked. Every time he would come over he’d ask to have some, as if it was filling some need within him. We’ll I know for a fact that Ovaltine is good for you, and I also know that Brendan has been so good for my little Lizzie. He may not be the tallest man in the world…or the best looking

Laughter, NATHAN smiles offstage towards the invisible BRENDAN

NATHAN: Brendan is something different, he is the kind of guy…the kind of man, who helped Elizabeth deal with our father’s passing. He did one better than that, he helped me get through it too. And when our mother was killed in a car accident, Brendan spent the night wiping the tears from our eyes. Our titles should be switched today, because I only wish I could be groomed to be more like Brendan, the Best Man I have ever known.

Applause, NATHAN raises a glass he has picked up at some point during the speech. He takes a drink and moves back towards the bed. The lights come up on the bed, it is empty. CHRISTINE is gone, and the room has no more clutter. All the pieces of paper are in a single wastebasket that is overflowing. NATHAN sits for a moment on the bed, the lies down for a moment. There is a knock at the door

NATHAN: It’s open

BRENDAN enters


NATHAN: Hey little brother

BRENDAN: That’s right, we’re brothers now…scary

NATHAN: Only by law, and whoever paid attention to the law anyways


BRENDAN laughs. A Beat

BRENDAN: I really appreciated all the things you said today

NATHAN: It was nothing

BRENDAN: I know it wasn’t, Lizbeth told me how hard a time you we’re having because of…we’ll because of Christine


BRENDAN: What happened with you two last night anyways?


NATHAN: It wasn’t about me

BRENDAN: What wasn’t?

NATHAN: The Speech, wasn’t about me, it was about you.

BRENDAN: That’s not all. I’ve gone to so many wedding receptions where the Best Man just makes a half-cocked rambling speech about nothing, even though it’s for their best friend or brother. Why did you care about this so much?

NATHAN: I didn’t


NATHAN: I don’t mean I didn’t care about the speech, but I wasn’t stressing over it

BRENDAN: I saw the pieces of paper everywhere last night, all scribbled with speeches

NATHAN removes a piece of paper from his shirt pocket and hands it to BRENDAN

NATHAN: I date all my writing, old habit of mine

BRENDAN: This is your toast, but if this is right then… you wrote it over a month ago


BRENDAN: Then what…

Before BRENDAN can finish NATHAN has reached into the wastebasket and pulled out a piece of paper, he hands it to BRENDAN, who reads it.

BRENDAN: What did she say?

NATHAN shakes his head no

BRENDAN: I’m sorry

NATHAN: Don’t be, this is your big day

BRENDAN: I could have Lizbeth talk to her, maybe she’ll…

NATHAN: No, that’s allright

BRENDAN begins to exit
BRENDAN: Well, I guess I really don’t know what to say. I’m not as good with words as you are…so…

NATHAN: Goodbye Brendan

NATHAN stands up and extends his hand towards BRENDAN. BRENDAN pushes aside the hand and instead hugs his new big brother

NATHAN: Don’t get emotional now, I had enough of that last night

BRENDAN laughs

BRENDAN: No, no more tears…not for a long time I hope

BRENDAN exits. NATHAN sits on the stage a moment, then removes from his pocket a ring case. He opens it just so the audience can tell it is some kind of engagement ring. He closes it. He opens it again. CHRISTINE enters, NATHAN looks up at her.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009



There is no reason left for me to find.

No purpose I have yet to discover.

It happened as it was

I can do nothing

Time has shifted my mind towards other things, only for passing moments.

As I wake, as I breathe,

it haunts me.

Madness consumes me in moments of motionless memory.

The covers seem cold on hot nights, the heat to much to bear in the dead of winter.

Questions I can never answer twirl above me, dancing to deride me.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

In Glass Eyes

This is a revision/edited version of the previous blog, trimmed in some areas but with a brand new introduction/ending. Enjoy!

In Glass Eyes

I awake from my nightmare in a room of a thousand dolls. Two thousand lifeless little lenses seem focused on me with contempt. They are my jury, having pronounced me guilty before I utter a sound. Where the Hell am I? I wonder silently
"Hey Little Dude, you allright in there?" A scratchy voice reminiscent of a bullfrog calls to me. The man with the bullfrog in his throat flicks on the light. I must still be dreaming.
Standing before me is a man who bears a striking resemblance to Frank Zappa. More so a combination between Charles Manson and Frank Zappa and he is as disturbing in appearance as that combination implies. His long frizzy black hair seems a web around his skull. His immense salt and pepper beard appears to have eaten his face, as there is no trace of it beneath. I can tell he is stoned, he smells like my brother. His eyes seem like rubies glimmering within puddles of darkness. His breath wafts over my head and I detect strong notes of eggs, mustard and rotten meat. I try to stop myself from gagging under the immense fumigation, but I cannot. I spy a silver trashcan to my left and I lunge for it, expelling all possible remains of dinner.
Frank Zappa Manson kneels down beside me and places one of his leathery paws on my shoulder. Despite the fact I have no idea who this man is I somehow feel comforted. Beneath his wild features there is an aura of calm and peace, probably from all the pot he has been smoking. He smiles at me and I can see that his teeth share a similar color palate to the newly decorated bottom of the trashcan.
"It's gonna be okay man" He whispers as he pats me with his sweaty leather mitts.
"Where Am I?" I ask him, wiping the gross remains from my chin
"Your next door to your parents house" Charlie Zappa says to me
" neighbor?" I ask, but it occurs to me that I haven't ever really interacted with our neighbors in my life. I am however fairly certain I would have remembered if my next-door neighbor bore a striking resemblance to a dead rock star and an infamous psychopath.
"Yeah, I'm Bear" The man says to me. I ponder for a moment and then a thought occurs to me
"You're Mrs. Bears son, aren't you?"
"That's Me"
"So your Name is Bear...Bear?"
"Yeah...The Sixties man...fucked up!"
Not able to help myself I start to laugh uncontrollably, painfully and blissfully. Bear begins to laugh along with me, obviously aware how strange his name is to other people. As we are laughing I try to remember why I am in the House of Bear and not my own, but I can't seem to recall.
"Bear...why Am I here?" I ask
"Kevin, right?" Bear questions me
"Yeah, that's me. I guess you have probably known my name for a while"
"Just since the EMT told me your name"
"Wait...What?" I am frantic now, trying to recall what has brought me here. I can remember pieces, flashes before my eyes. They must be flashes from my nightmare, because I cannot live if they are true. Nothing clear is forming and I am becoming desperate. I stand up and begin to cross towards a window but Bear grabs me
"I don't think that's a good idea dude" He beckons me, but I do not respond. I break free from Bear's claws and rush towards the window...I stand in silence...And I remember...

Doughnuts. I thought to myself, I wanted to learn how to make Doughnuts. And why not? This delicious pastry couldn’t be that difficult if Bess Eaton, Dunkin Donuts and Honey Dew could all master it. I wobbled towards the kitchen in search of a cookbook to give me insight into my glazed gluttony.
"What are you looking for Sweetie?" My mother whispered in her magical voice.
"Just poking through some cookbooks Ma,” I said
"Ok, well let me know if you want my help with anything" She sang back to me, smiling. I love my mother, because she knew I was looking to make something sweet and it didn’t bother her. I am currently on the verge of being obese, my chubby fingers gripping the pages of Betty Crocker, and it didn’t bother her. I was getting slightly out of breath digging through cookbooks, not finding a real solid doughnut recipe. All I could find was a recipe for doughnut balls, munchkins really.
"You find anything munchkin?" Mother asks.
"Yeah...Ma, do you mind If I make cook some doughnut holes?" I beg
"Honey, if you promise not to eat them all yourself. You've got to share some with me" Once again...I love my mother. I really do, I feel as if I am one of the luckier children on earth. I have two parents who have been married for 25 years and still tell each other they love one another every chance they get. I have a mother who dotes on me, and father who is brilliant and always working hard to insure I have a better life than him. I also have an older brother who is so much a rebel that everything he does makes me look all the more angelic. I am the very definition of a spoiled middle class brat...and I love it.
"Of course!" I replied gleefully. Starting to mix together the ingredients I noticed it called for a deep fryer, which I don’t have. I read further and saw that you can manage without a deep fryer if you use a lot of Crisco on a skillet over low. It called for about a cup, which seemed a bit excessive to me. I read the directions again and it did indeed call for a cup of the chunky white fat, which I scooped onto the skillet and turn the stovetop on high. I then began to examine the other ingredients; powdered sugar, brown sugar, granulated sugar...hmm, sounded good. I begin to search the cupboards for flour in order to decide whether or not I wanted to make chocolate or just glazed. I couldn’t seem to locate the Dutch chocolate so I decided on...
Oh...that can't be good. I thought
"Ma?" I said
"Yes?" My mother answers, detecting the fear in my voice
"Where is the fire extinguisher?"
"WHAT?" My mother bolted out of her seat in the dining room and ran around the corner into the kitchen to see my disaster. Unbeknownst to me the pan of grease had erupted into a shooting column of flame. I hadn't read the directions carefully or I would have realized that grease is a combustible agent and must be kept at a low simmer. The flames were almost reaching the ceiling, but luckily they were not coming out of the pan. That is until my mother grabbed it and ran for the sink.
Before I could react she turned the water on. In that instant everything seemed to occur in slow motion. I wanted to shout and tell her that grease fires can only be put out by smothering or with fire extinguishers, but the words never come. She reacted instinctively, as any good mother would. I didn't know water could burn until that night. I watched as the flaming fountain poured across the counter, across the floor, across...her. She ran into the hall leading outside and stumbled on a pile of old newspapers kept there to reflect on historic moments of the past.
All those moments were engulfed in a towering inferno as my mother cried out in pain and fear. She ran outside of the house, flames dancing around her. I was alone...surrounded by a sea of fire that was consuming my existence, laughing at me as it crackles. I slowly allowed myself to take it all in, only a matter of seconds. I can do nothing; there isn't a fire extinguisher in sight.
What have I done? I thought to myself, the same thing my mother shouted out to be as she ran out of the house to put out the flames on her arms. Before she could return I had run upstairs to alert my brother of our slight problem.
I was weeping openly as I told him. He smirks at first, believing this some acting prank. He knew after two seconds that this was not a lie; there was truth in my horror. He bolted past me and ran down to the kitchen. His long brown hair streaking across my face, and I could smell liquor on his breath, whiskey.
"Holy Shit!" I heard him downstairs repeating again and again. I slumped in the office chair as smoke began to waft up the stairs. I wanted to sit there and let the flames consume me, as if welcoming an old friend home. It was what I deserved, so I sat there patiently waiting for death. Tom the Cat jumped into my lap and began to snuggle against my arm.
The Pets, I thought to myself, I have to save the pets. I Immediately I grabbed tomcat and ran outside to my parent’s car, which mercifully was unlocked. I tossed the confused Tom in the backseat and ran back inside to collect our dog Sandy and our other two cats.
Sandy was sleeping in the dining room, mere feet away from the now flame consumed Kitchen. Sandy wasn’t much of a watchdog, because at this point in her incredibly long and loved life she was almost completely blind and deaf. Although old, Sandy was just big enough to make it impossible for me to carry her. I tried to wake her only to have her gaze incredulously at me and go back to sleep. The heat of the fire was becoming too much to bear so I began to drag the dogs bed towards the front of the house. Sandy took no notice of me and continued napping. I managed to drag her and her comfy mattress to the front of the house to our front steps. Sandy remained unmoved as I ran back to look for our other two cats. Both cats were sitting on the dining room table staring at the flames, appearing almost transfixed. I grabbed the two of them and put one under each arm and ran out the front steps, forgetting of course I had placed our ancient beagle there. As I tumbled down the steps I was somehow able to gracefully place the cats down without hurting them. I stood back up and grabbed the cat’s, both who clawed at me for having the nerve to drop them.
After I manage to get the cats in the car and somehow convince Sandy to crawl in as well I realize I haven’t seen any members of my family come out of the house. I see headlights coming down the road and I instinctively jump in the street to flag them down, but they sped past and forced me to dive out of the way. As I collapse into the dirt I am able to look up and see my family safely on the side of my house. Soon I began to hear the sounds of fire trucks and police cars, and a sense of calm came over me. Then I watched the side of my house where my family stood explode.

I am overlooking the desolation that I have caused. The black smoldering remains of my home...of my life. The fire trucks have come and gone and I now stand in a stranger’s house while the rest of my family lay in hospital beds. Bear long ago went to bed as a remain motionless at the window. It has begun to rain and the droplets hit the ashen remains of my home, sending up smoke filled memories. I try to hold myself together, but I cannot. I turn around to face the room of dolls again, and as I look into the lifeless eyes I can see tears

Friday, January 30, 2009

Stuck in the middle

We all have moments of clarity about life, for me this was one of them. My short chubby legs were hanging, covered in shit mind you, out the back of the window of the house until recently i called home. Inside the house was my neck and most of my shoulders, pinned down by an ancient window that probably weighed more than i do (which is impressive considering my love for flaky pastry).

"FUUUUUCK!" I scream to myself, since the inside of the house is currently a desolate wasteland.

"Well...this is exciting" I whisper to myself a moment later, alas still with no audience reaction. I manage to worm my way forward a little more to release the pressure on my chest. I take a deep breath and try and wiggle forward but my protruding stomach prove problematic.


At least now im not at risk of suffocating, just very uncomfortable. I look around what remains of my home and think back to what occured to make it this way. The cruel mistakes i made in pursuit of a sweet sensation that led to the destruction of my life as i know it.

I think its true what psychologists say, that we do try to black out the darkest moments of our lives from memory. I am currently succeeding, trying to recall to the events of that night is like putting a flashlight into the mouth of a black hole. I want to be sucked into a black hole to escape the life i have created for myself.

Can I remember? Can I? Or have i charred the memories from the back of my mind, unable to recollect the most horrible evening of my life?

I remember...I remember

Doughnuts. I thought to myself, I want to learn how to make Doughnots. And why not? This delicious pastry can't be that much of a secret if Besse Eaton, Dunkin Donuts and Honey Dew can all master it. I wobble towards the kitchen in search of a cookbook to give me insight on my glazed gluttony.

"What are you looking for Sweetie?" My mother whispers in her magical voice.

"Just poking through some cookbooks Ma" I say

"Ok, well let me know if you want my help with anything" She sings back to me, smiling. I love my mother, because she knows I am looking to make something sweet and it doesn't bother her. I am currently on the verge of being obese, my chubby fingers grip the pages of Betty Crocker, and my mother doesn't care. It's not that she doesn't want me to be unhealthy, far from it, she knows the the medicine i take for Asthma has an effect on my metabolism. Or so she tells herself, unwilling to prevent me from self-destruction. I'm getting slightly out of breath as i dig through other cookbooks, not finding any with a real solid doughnut recipe. All i can find is a recipe for doughnut balls, munchkins really.

"You find anything munchkin?" Mother asks. Well i guess that munchkins will have to do.

"Yeah...Ma, do you mind If i make cook some doughnut holes?" I beg

"Honey, if you promise not to eat them all yourself. You gotta share some with me" Once again...i love my mother. I really do, i feel as if i was one of the luckier children on earth. I have two parents who have been married for 25 years and still tell each other they love one another every chance they get. I have a mother who dotes on me but is always willing to give me help when i need it. I have a father who is brilliant and always working hard to insure i have a better life than him. I am the very definition of a spoiled middle class brat...and i love it.

"Of course!" I giddily reply. Starting to mix together the ingredients i notice it calls for a deep fryer, which i dont have. "Darn" I say. I read further and see that you can manage without a deep fryer if you use a lot of Crisco on a skillet over medium. It calls for about a cup, which seems a bit excessive to me. I read the directions again and it does indeed call for a lard of the chunky white fat, which i gleefully scoop onto the skillet and turn the stovetop on high. I then begin to examine the other ingredients; powdered sugar, brown sugar, granulated sugar...hmm, sounds good so far. I begin to seach the cupboards for flour and decide wether or not i want to make chocolate or just glazed. I cant seem to locate the dutch choclate so i decide on...

Oh...that can't be good.

"Ma?" I feelby reply, approaching the stovetop with caution

"Yes?" My mother answers, detecting the fear in my voice

"Where is the fire extinguisher?" I whisper

"WHAT?" My mother bolts out of her seat in the dining room and runs around the corner into the kitchen to see my disaster. Unbeknownest to be the pan of grease had erupted to to a shooting column of flame. I hadn't read the directions and realized that grease is very much a compustable agent and must be kept at a low simmer. The flames are almost reaching the ceiling, but luckily they are not coming out of the pan on the sides. That is untill my mother grabs it and runs for the sink.

Before i can react she has turned the water on and in that instant everything seemed to occur in slow motion. I shout out "No" to tell her that grease fires can only be put out by smothering our fire extinguishers. But she has reacted instinctively, as any good mother should. I didn't know water could burn untill that night. I watched as the flaming fountain poured across the counter, across the floor, across...her. She ran into the hall leading to the outside and stumble on a pile of old newspapers kept there to reflect on historic moments of the past.

All past historic moments engulf in a towering inferno as my mother cries out in pain and fear. She runs outside of the house. I am alone...surrounded by a sea of fire that is laughing at me as it crackles. I slowly allow myself to take it all in, probably within a matter of seconds. I can do nothing, there isn't a fire extinguisher in sight. What have I done? I think to myself, the same thing my mother shouted out to be as she ran out of the house to put out the flames on her arms. Before she can return i run upstairs to alert my brother of this slight problem.

I am weeping openly as I tell him

"Brian! The House is on fire!" He smirks at first, beliving this some acting prank. I don't blame him, as a child i would lie pathologically to convice both him and myself of things untrue. He knew after two seconds that this was not a lie, there was truth in my horror. He bolted past me and ran down to the kitchen.

"Holy Shit!" I heard him downstairs repeating again and again. I slumped in the office chair as smoke began to waft up the stairs. Tom Cat jumped into my lap. The Pets, i thought to myself, I have to save the pets. Immediatly i grabbed tomcat and ran outside to my parents car which was mercifully unlocked seeing we live in the middle of nowhere. I toss Tom Cat inside and run back inside and collect our dog Sandy, our other cat TC and Spot. I can't find anyone from my family anywhere, they are gone. After bringing TC to the car i spy a car driving down the street and risking everything and run to the street in front of it.

The last thing i see is blinding lights

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Guillotine

Recently I've been working on some "creative non-fiction" , here is a second-ish draft of a piece from what I am imagining will be a series. Inspired by the humorist styles of David Sedaris and Augusten Burroughs, with more emphasis on the emotional aspects due to the influence of the later.

The Guillotine

The air spits ice into my eyes as my lungs seem to freeze with each breath I take. It was only about the length of two football fields to my temporary new home; however at present I feel that it is more likely I will become Frosty the snowman’s cousin before reaching my destination. Simple things like replacing winter coats and hats were forgotten in the aftermath. I wrap the violently violet scarf I am wearing, my mothers, around my face and press forward. I am wearing a purple sweatshirt and orange mittens with bright holy orange snow pants which revealed my black pants below. I look like the offspring of Barney the dinosaur and Fred Flintstone. If I have been able to survive a day as a high school freshman looking like this the long walk to the farmhouse should be easy. At the moment however I would rather be in the warmth of my earlier humiliation that this piercing bitter cold. This was all my fault of course, so I force myself to endure.

I realized today that it would most certainly be years before I could live this down. Years before I’d be able to get a date with any respectable girl, let alone have the courage to speak to any girl I admired. After finding my locker filled with Dunkin Donuts boxes earlier today I knew my return would be far from a refreshing change of pace from my lonely days of isolation. Instead of sympathy for my plight I was met with the harsh reality of high school: public ridicule. There was some hope; the laughter that had followed my donut discovery was only that of a few select Neanderthals. Males with less pronounced frontal lobes and girls just shook their heads in disgust at what was a very unnecessary humiliation. The article in the newspaper was surely embarrassment enough for one lifetime, and I would certainly have appreciated if the part about my carbohydrate catastrophe had been left out. There was no escaping it, the story was public and all of my fellow classmates had heard about it. Those who chose to help me relive such a wonderful moment in my life were the type of boys who would grow up someday to make wonderful impotent alcoholics with daddy issues. Not knowing their real futures or my own I still feel like I will never be respected again. I felt as if I was a tiny ant who on a sunny day had decided to hand these kind young gentlemen a magnifying glass.

Perhaps I do prefer the cold. I’m finally here, gazing up at the rickety old farmhouse wafting with the smell of fresh cow pies. I wander past a particularly flatulent Bessie, appreciating the warmth while regurgitating my starch laden Sheppard’s Pie from lunch.

Lunch wasn’t so bad, the comfort of my true friends made it somewhat easier to cope. The questions I had to endure from them were certainly unpleasant, but to those who I knew cared for me it was a relief to be honest.
“So it’s true then?” Emily asked in her soft musical voice. Her exceptionally long curly brown hair bouncing on her massive shoulders as she asked.
“Yes.” I reply while quickly becoming intensely interested in the inner contents of my Sheppard’s Pie. I knew Emily was still shaking her head in disbelief as I could feel her bushy hair brushing across my arm. She put one of her motherly arms around me and leaned her head on mine. Emily was the biggest girl I’ve ever know, not fat but tall and well-built. She was more than a foot taller than I was which says more for my lack of height than for her overabundance of it. We had been friends since Kindergarten; as a matter of fact everyone seated at the table with me had been my friend since our first days of school. Barton, Nicole and Emily and I had spent so many years helping each other get through tough situations. This particular situation took the prize for the most complicated issue we have ever had to deal with together. It was hard for them to come up with the right words, but I knew from the looks on their faces they were trying.

Barton especially bit his lip, trying to refrain from criticism and instead look inside himself for words of comfort. Barton was an extremely handsome olive skinned soldier of fortune, and he was my best friend. Since our days setting off bottle rockets in his backyard I knew he was destined to be a great hero in the military. And he made sure to always keep his appearance tidy incase the enlistment age was suddenly lowered or the draft was re-instated and he was forced to forge a fake ID. Then again there was of course the time he came back from his cruise with his parents last December and when he returned I mistook him for a new Jamaican exchange student. His olive skin was as dark as any African-American’s as he had spent all his days tanning and drinking in the Caribbean sun. He had gotten so drunk on one particular island that he had gone and gotten his exceptionally long hair (he had been going through an anti-establishment phase) dreadlocked. Needless to say when I greeted him upon his return from that said vacation it was not the greeting of two old friends but rather me introducing myself to this friendly looking new student. This was not how Barton looked earlier today as he tried vainly not to be to blunt with my wounded ego. Barton’s crisp features were highlighted by his crew-cut and his eyes darted frantically in search of the right words.

“What the fuck were you thinking?” He finally blurted out, trying not to sound cruel and miraculously succeeding.
“I was…I was hungry?” I feebly lied. The truth is I don’t know what I was thinking. I Just assumed given the circumstances that had transpired that hunger would have been the obvious motivation.
“Kevin…Donuts? I mean C’mon it was Nine O’clock at night and you know I’ve been telling you that your gaining all this weight because…”
“I Know” I cut Barton off, not irritated but ashamed. Bart had been doing so much trying to help me fit in and lose weight. High school seemed so much easier for him, Barton was outgoing, charming and very popular because of that charm. I was fairly certain there were a large number of people who wondered why he was my friend, and at this moment I wondered why he was as well. I was pathetic, not worthy of the comfort of any friends
“Well if you ever want to get out of that creepy farmhouse, you’re always welcome to stay with my family” Nicole said, surprising myself and from the look on her face surprising herself as well. “You know, of course, if you want, I mean…” Nicole’s voice trailed off as she too became increasingly interested in her lunch. Nicole was your classic geeky girl with an immense underlying beauty. Her black square rimmed glasses slide down her nose as she kept her head down from embarrassment. Her black hair hid her delicate features for a moment until she looked up at me, waiting for a response
“That sounds great Nic.” I smiled.

At the moment I am wishing very deeply that I had taken Nicole up on the offer. As I am just now realizing as that I can’t seem to locate the key to the farmhouse. The wind is starting to pick up around me as I begin to tear through the pockets of my hunter green LL Bean backpack. I notice that my initials KFK have subsequently been edited with black magic marker to read KFC.
“Great…” I groan to myself, continuing my frantic search to no avail. Desperately I bang on the windows hoping the farmer is home, I can’t even remember his name
“Mr. Farmer Man! PLEASE! ANYONE!” I shout for what seems like hours but is in reality only a few minutes, the cold wind is beginning to cause my face to bleed. I slump down behind the barn and start to cry, immediately realizing that I have sat in a large pile of cow manure. I can’t stop crying, and the smell is absolutely disgusting. I suddenly feel a warm and moist feeling on my right cheek. I turn to face another tongue lashing from the Farmers Border Collie. Despite the fact that I was now freezing and covered in shit and wet dog slobber I started laughing. I laughed as uncontrollably as I was crying seconds ago. I have very few options at the moment, sit here and wait for the farmer to come home which could be hours, or venture the few hundred yards back to my old home and hope I could find some way in. There really wasn’t an option as my skin was beginning to match my mother’s garish scarf. I begin to jog the several hundred yards back to the house I grew up in, now abandoned and desolate. I run around to the back and desperately search for something, anything I could use to stand on. I spot a large rock at least a meter in diameter and several feet high and I begin to roll it towards the back window. Standing on the rock I am just tall enough to be able to lift the heavy window about halfway and wedge my backpack in to keep it up. As I begin to climb in through the old window I slip and roll the rock out from beneath my feet, causing me to knock the backpack out of place. I hear a loud crack and I am just able to turn my eyes to see the heavy, old-fashioned window plummeting towards my neck.