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GHOSTBOX: 4

September 14, 2010

I love the Bible. That is something I will say.

I used to read it every night before going to sleep. When I finished it, I reread my favorite parts, then my less favorite. That is something I am proud of. I feel the same way about Ulysses. These are books that take a certain amount of fortitude to finish. These are books that last with you. I love the way they look, all highlighted, marked up, scruffed. I scribbled the names of Ulysses three main characters (Bloom, Stephen, Molly) on the three thick paper edges. My Bible has a dedication at the beginning:

To: Me
From: Her
Date: May 25, 2003
Occasion: I love you.

These are books with character and I turn to them for inspiration in the same way I turn to my friends. My upcoming play with the Right Brain Project needed a title a few months ago as we readied a press release, but we had no title. The play was not written.

So I opened up Ulysses.

The first word I saw? Halfshut. BAM. We’ve got ourselves a title.

I was reluctant at first to crack open my Bible as I worked on Ghostbox. I’m often mocked for the frequency with which I write about God. And sex. And sex and God. But I’m okay with it. Better the passionate musings on a single topic than some bloodless diatribe concerning a topic I’m indifferent about. What I’m actively fighting against in drama these days is the contrivance; whether it’s the need to manufacture plot, motivation, backstory, or even importance, like our desires don’t make good drama, that need to put some kind of “stake-raiser” or “hot-button issue” in there for it to matter. Theatre is about passion. None of us are getting PAID so what the fuck, right? Let’s make what we want.

ANYWAYS…

I did crack open my Bible. Because buried in all that twisty mythology, all those parables, all those contradictions are words that can mean almost anything we want them to mean. I’ve heard the same verse preached on in three different ways, three different messages for three different times and they were all valid. Fundamentalists say the Word is the Word, but the Word is as fluid as the rest of language, something that is as horrifying as it is liberating. I’m constantly at war with my dual desires: one for stability, one for spontaneity. I wouldn’t be surprised if most Christians felt the same way.

I began pulling verses I thought were relevant to the play. Oftentimes, I was disregarding the traditional interpretations of these verses and looking at them through the eyes of either the woman, a lifelong Christian suddenly thrust into lust, or the man in my story, someone who is approaching Christianity fresh after an unstable youth, filled with some kind of unspoken trauma.

Some verses I was playing with:

“He will die for lack of discipline, led astray by his own great folly.” –Proverbs 5:23

“For He said to him, “Come out of the man, unclean spirit!” -Mark 5:8

“‘Food for the stomach and the stomach for food’—but God will destroy them both.” – 1 Corinthians 6:13

It’s my goal to take these out of context. Through the man’s eyes, these verses can all point to the idea that he is a man doomed, that he is one of the unlucky. Possessed by a spirit, perhaps. Worthy of God’s wrath. Some people get saved never feeling God’s love. They hope it will permeate their souls over time, it will cleanse them. But time passes, that feeling never surfaces, and we think there must be something wrong with us. Why didn’t it work? We look to our past. We wonder: Did I commit the unforgivable sin? Or am I simply damned, and was damned from birth?

I spoke earlier of contrivance. I find myself doing it sometimes, wondering: “What can I do to justify this person’s actions? What happened to him as a child to make him this way?” Sometimes it’s One Big Thing. Sometimes nothing happens. Most times it’s a lot of little things that are inherently undramatic. Mamet once said that “Backstory is bullshit” and I think I agree. While I love a good monologue about a beautiful or traumatic moment from someone’s past, I don’t desire them for the purposes of justification. I simply want to know them more.

In the case of the man, I’ve embraced ambiguity and have, instead, allowed the Bible verses to serve as an inner monologue of sorts. This wasn’t a conscious decision as I inserted them into the video element of the show, but a revelation that arrived this week as some dramaturgical questions surfaced.

There are two fragments of verses I had the man repeat on a few occasions. I pulled these specific fragments because I think they speak most to his inner turmoil. The first:

I am afraid that when I come again my God will humble me before you, and I will be grieved over many who have sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual sin and debauchery in which they have indulged.

-2 Corinthians 12:21

In the script I just focused on the first part of the verse, setting up a terror of judgment, both of the God and the one he will be humbled “before.” Is that the woman? His unborn child? Someone from his past? All of them? It’s fear. Fear of something he does not understand. I initially did not include the latter half of the verse, but I think it’s inclusion could go far in setting up the character’s past, a place that he may not regret, per se, but is painful to recall. To give the audience this clue and allow them to piece together his past themselves is so much more interesting to me than giving him some monologue about (insert trauma here). I want the man to be a mystery. He’s a mystery to our protagonist, and I want our audience to identify with her.

The other verse I initially only offered fragments of was the following:

“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

– 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

“And that is what some of you were.”

That line sends chills up my spine. There’s something otherworldly about it. And even though it says “were”, it still feels condemnatory, almost as if it’s being spoken with a sneer.

“And that is what some of you were.”

So, it’s like, “You’re not anymore, right?”

And we say no.

But of course we are.

For him, the fear that he is doomed to be a sinner (or a ‘shadow’ or ‘demon’).

For her, the realization that she always had the soul of one.

“And that is what some of you were.”

Him trying to repress, hoping to find salvation in the innocence of his child.

Her allowing it to flow forth, pouring herself over him, showing him that in the absence of salvation: “love and desire are enough.”

There are other modes of salvation than immersing one’s self in innocence.

Embracing that, yes, “that is what some of you were.”

And that’s okay.

Whew.

Language is fluid. So is salvation.

GHOSTBOX: 3

August 11, 2010

The Antlers: Two

In the middle of the night
I was sleeping sitting up
when the doctor came to tell me
enough is enough
brought me out into the hall
I could’ve sworn it was haunted

he told me something that I didn’t know that I wanted to hear

that there was nothing I could do to save you

the choir’s gonna sing
and this thing is gonna kill you

The Antlers kick ass. I’ve seen them three times now, once last weekend at the House of Blues opening for The National (great show, AWFUL crowd). The song above, “Two”, was my favorite song of 2009 (and I still can’t put it on without looping it five times). Their first full-length record, Hospice, still blows my mind, a sort-of concept record juxtaposing a home-care professional’s desire to save a doomed (and hopeless) cancer patient with a crumbling relationship (that neither parties are able to leave). What I love about it is how it ends, with the narrator accepting the fact that sometimes things can’t be saved. Sometimes things die and there’s nothing you can do but let them die and move on. A lesson learned, sure, but in the record’s chilling epilogue, it becomes clear that it will still haunt the shit out of you.

I love it for its honesty. I’m bored with all these stories about miraculous recoveries, about people being saved from their pits of despair. Often, that doesn’t happen. Often, we die. Things die. And we think, perhaps, that we’re beyond saving at all.

With any play that I write, I try to think of the obvious ending and then go the opposite direction. It’s an inherent quality to my process, and one that brings me all manner of freak-outs. Ultimately, though, I think it makes my writing better. Audiences/critics often tell me my plays went a route much different than where they thought it was going to go. OR, if it did, when we arrived there the characters were of a different mindset than they had thought would be the case.

I take this as a compliment.

Dissatisfaction, I think, is a recurring theme in my work. Those who have found salvation often find themselves bored with it. I’ve seen it happen a million times. I’ve done it. We attach ourselves to destructive personalities because we either want to save them, too, thus giving us more power in our salvation, OR we’re fascinated by their potential to destroy our carefully constructed worldview and give us something new, something fresh, something dangerous.

GHOSTBOX dabbles in the latter, I think. We just want to FEEL something, I think. And we’d be willing to sacrifice everything in order to do so. The woman in the play remarks to the man near the end, “I could see my damnation in your eyes.”

Sometimes we die so we can find a new savior.

Sometimes the old savior isn’t enough.

Sometimes we just want to be turned the fuck on.

It’s a romantic idea, sure, but I know I’ve denied something exciting in favor or something familiar more times than I can count. And part of me regrets that. Part of me wants to give myself over to desire. That’s what the woman does in GHOSTBOX. She sacrifices her salvation.

She lets it die.

Thanks, Antlers.

First reading is this Sunday. A little nervewracking. Mostly exciting. The play is there. Now it’s about tightening, sharpening, focusing. It’s about sacrificing some cool stuff for some resonant stuff.

Also got interviewed for an article in Chicago magazine about some of the horror plays opening this fall in Chicago. Will post and such when there is something to post. Hoo-ray.

More Antlers:

AON Sessions: The Antlers, “Two” from All Our Noise on Vimeo.

GHOSTBOX: 2

August 2, 2010

Okay, here’s what scares me: God.

Lame, right?

(PS: This shit’s gonna get rambly. Bear with me.)

God scares the living holy hell out of me. It wasn’t always that way, though. I was raised sorta-Catholic-not-really, but still prayed every night. I prayed for girls to like me, I prayed for presents, I prayed for friends, I prayed for parts in plays. I renounced Him in eighth grade after not getting cast in the role of Gutman, a villain in Hurricane Smith, a melodrama my middle school put up.

I remember praying to God and telling him I no longer believed in him.

Sweet Christ, I could never do that now.

Do I believe in God anymore? I don’t like that question. I don’t know how to answer it. I’ll say this: I don’t think I’m “saved.” And while I would never say the religion I spent three years of my life immersed in was wrong, I couldn’t now say that it worked for me or gave me any kind of assurance in either the universe’s fullness or emptiness.

I meet so many people who are so confident in their declarations, that there IS a God and there IS a heaven or WE ARE ALONE and WE ROT IN A BOX.

I remember a house party about four years ago. I remember being very drunk, standing with my friend. I remember us telling a group of eye-rolling hipsters about our nightly trips to the various dives around town.

“Why,” the hipster asked, “have you been drinking so much?”

I smirked, swimming away in my swooning head: “Because there is no love or God.”

I wasn’t serious. I think I was trying to make fun of their apathy.

But still.

That was the first time I’d ever made such an assertion.

And I left soon after, stumbling through residential streets, praying for forgiveness, not necessarily out of contrition, but out of fear.

I can’t make these assertions. I freak the fuck out.

When people ask me what happened, why I gave up the religion I often say, “I failed. I failed at believing in God.”

And they balk. “Well, you failed in that way, in the church’s way. There’s other ways.”

And I know they’re right, sure. But it feels safer somehow, to put the blame on myself. I don’t like blaming God. Not only is it lazy, but it feels like I’m fucking with the universe. I know I believe in something bigger. I most assuredly do not think we are alone in all this energy. I believe something made us the way that we are. Does that mean I don’t believe in free will? Of course not. But I believe that some people just weren’t made to believe. I think I believe that some people just weren’t meant to be saved.

And that scares me, writing that.

And I write plays about that idea. About damnation. About people who are failed by their salvation.

We want salvation for the same reason we want job security. We want an unchanging identity.

Holy shit, somebody just posted this on Facebook:

“We forget that God has never had an identity crisis. He knows that He’s great and deserves to be the center of our lives.”  -Francis Chan

Isn’t that the appeal? We worship people because they know exactly what they are, and we want some of that assurance. But with that assurance comes a desire for rebellion. We want to disrupt.

We want an assured identity so we can go and destroy it again. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Lately, when I’m feeling rebellious, I tell people I’m gonna get saved again.

It’s funny.

I’m joking, but I’m not. I’ve got a great base here in Chicago and overall, I’d say I’m much happier than I’ve been in years past, but I haven’t loved anybody in years. I haven’t been, like, crazy bonkers-ass excited about anyone in years.

There’s danger there. I mean, what will happen when that does happen? I’ve felt flashes of it. A kiss that stirs things up, a few days of panicked expectation, the lack of a phone call, the lack of an e-mail, and then an eventual settling after some bitchy drinking with close friends.

But where does it go if it doesn’t settle? To God, maybe? That’s what happened last time. I put the face of a heavenly savior on that poor girl. And it fucked both of us up, I think, the sheer intensity.

So.

How does this relate to GHOSTBOX?

Simple. What I just said happens. Sort of.

Kierkegaard always wrote about the “leap of faith,” and there is nothing more terrifying to me than that leap.

If there’s anything I’ve learned over the last ten years it’s about stakes.

The stakes, my friends, are high. We so very rarely come out unscathed from belief, from commitment, from worship .

Like becomes love becomes worship becomes disillusionment becomes destruction.

We choose someone (or some God), and we accept eternity. Heaven or hell. We often think we’re choosing heaven. Why else would we get involved? What if we’re choosing hell?

What if there is a hell and I go there when I die because I gave up my faith?

I am haunted by that shit.

But it’s necessary. To live. I think.

“I think.”

Have you noticed an abundance of those?

“Maybe.”

“I dunno.”

“Who knows.”

I live by these words. I didn’t used to.

But I’m gonna have to make a leap of faith again at some point.

Damned to heaven.

Damned to hell.

Damned = Preordained.

We’re all damned?

I think.

I’m scared of choosing.

Okay.

See, I finished the rehearsal draft last night and these ideas permeate the whole script. I am so, so, so excited to hear them, to dissect them, to bring them to life. We have a great cast that I can’t wait to work with. I’ve seen Vicki Gilbert in a ton of shows, most recently Curse of the Starving Class at New Leaf, and think she just rocks. It’s nice writing these crazy-ass monologues and knowing you’ve got someone capable on hand who’s totally enthused about the whole thing.

I’ve never worked with Kevin Crispin before, but I’ve known him for a while now. Not only a helluva nice guy but has a killer reputation and a sharp mind.

Most importantly, they both strike me as actors who are willing to go there. Celise Kalke from the Alliance, one of the most wonderful proponents of theatre out there today, told me once that I need good actors for my plays. I’m not Neil Simon. You can’t just say the lines and make it work. It takes a real immersion. I’ve been so blessed with Pretty Penny and Hesperia, my last two Chicago productions, to have actors that were so willing to dive headfirst into the material. I know it’s not easy, especially when I’m going to the dark, dark places I go. Looks like Ghostbox will continue that trend.

And speaking of Hesperia, we’ve got two weekends left. Check http://therbp.org for details.

Okay, I should probably do some work now.

Stay tuned.

GHOSTBOX: 1

July 20, 2010

I’ve been absent! I am no longer absent. My aim, though, is shifting slightly (as it often does).

Since I last visited The Black Hole, several exciting things have happened, thus diverting my attention from the re-visitation of my sixth grade novel, Death in the Making, and subsequent analysis. Several plays are in the works and several commissions have been commissioned. And it’s one of the latter that brings The Black Hole back to life. That project? GHOSTBOX, commissioned by my good friends at Chicago’s InFusion Theatre. For the next several months, this blog will be a place for me to discuss the play, the rehearsal process, and the production itself (which opens October 1 and runs through Halloween). Rest assured, my musings on Death in the Making will eventually resume, especially since it will be presented at this fall’s MORTIFIED Chicago (which I am INSANELY excited about), but for now, it’s all about the ghosts.

So. GHOSTBOX.

It’s a horror play.

My first horror play, which is funny since I cut my teeth on horror.

Take a look at Death in the Making, an adolescent homage to Jurassic Park, rife with blood,  guts, all manner of teeth-gnashing.

Or my second novel, 1996’s Interview With a Vampire rip-off, Period 17, where some cop named Samson got a hole punched through his face.

Hell, my fourth grade teacher went so far as to tell my mother I needed therapy after reading my treatise on Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.

But I didn’t really watch Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.

I listened. With clenched fists pressed against my eyes.

I shook, trembling at the sound of what I knew was slashing and disembowelment.

I begged my friends to tell me, down to the most minute detail, just what had happened, just how they were murdered. Before I EVER looked at the screen I made them promise me there was no blood, no mangled bodies (which led to lots of clever ruses which I did NOT appreciate). I wanted everything about the gore except the visual.

Now I love blood, gore, evisceration. I’ve seen every Saw film thus far. I thought Hostel and its sequel were f**king bomb.Violence doesn’t scare me anymore.

So what’s scary?

I asked Dream Theatre artistic director Jeremy Menekseoglu the key to writing horror (as he has written some sweet horror scripts), and he told me to write about what scares me, not what I think scares other people.

I want GHOSTBOX to be scary.

So…what scares me?

We’ll get there.

In the meantime, let me just say it’s good to be back in The Black Hole.

Death in the Making, Chapter 3: The Victams

December 20, 2009

Note: All spelling and grammatical errors are there for reason. And now… 

 

Chapter 3: The Victams 

Chapter 3, The Victams

“Well kids were almost to the airport!” Sam Drake said happily. He was a tall man in his late 20’s. He had light long brown hair. His kids, 13-year old Jimmy who had black hair and was dark. And 9-year old Andrea. She likes to be called Andy. She was pretty. With blond hair and blue eyes. They were in the back seat of the blue jeep cherokee. “Jimmy would you stop reading that X-Men junk. It’s too violent,” Sam said defensively.  

Jimmy looked up from his comic and just said “Dad I’m thirteen.” 

“And Andy stop playing that game gear,” Sam said.  

She repeated, “Dad I’m thirt nine.” 

“I see where you get your sense of humor.” Sam laughed. They pulled in the parking lot of the airport. “Got all your stuff?” Sam asked. 

“Yeah” they said at the same time.  

“Good I hope Chris is around here.” Sam said while looking around.  

“He’s a dork. He’s mean and he doesn’t like Ruby!” Andy yelled. Ruby was their dog. He’s at the pound.  

“Yeah Dad the jerk’s a total loser. I mean he always smacks me on the back and says ‘hey kiddo.’ He annoys me Dad.” Jimmy said while putting headphones on.  

“Look he works with me and we gotta check it out. Ahh there he is. Hey Chris over here!” Sam yelled. Chris turned around. And started running toward them. He was very tall. In his early 20’s, he had thin black hair that always stayed in place. He wore a gray buisnesssuit with a white shirt under it. He carried a large briefcase that Andy probaly couldn’t carry. He shook hands with Sam and slapped Jimmy on the back and said “Hey kiddo. What’s up.” 

“Nothing.” Jimmy mumbled. Jimmy whould of kicked the craip out of him if it wasn’t for Sam.  

“So what’s this park about? Is it like an old park with just roller coasters and rides? Or anything exciting?” Chris asked quickly.  

“Slow down. I think you’ll like it. You see I don’t know. But my brother Micheal works there, he invited me, and he said it was really interesting.” Sam said.  

“Sounds great.” Chris said enthusiastically.  

“There’s the helicopter.” Andy yelled over the sound of the helicopter.  

“Dude.” Jimmy said walking closer. “Is Uncle Mike in there? Man this is cool.” 

“Well he might be in there. I dought it though, he’s probaly working.” Sam answered.  

They walked in and who else but Micheal Drake was sitting in a passenger seat. “Hey guys.” Drake greeted them.  

“Uncle Mike.” Both kids yelled as they ran and hugged their Uncle.  

“Slow down. Hey guys kids what’s up. I missed you guys!” Drake said.  

Sam and Drake hugged. Then Chris came up. “Hello I’m Chris Links. Assistant manager of Star Fun Parks.” They shook hands.  

“Everyone sit down were going!” yelled the pilot.  

“Who’s that?” Andy asked queitly. 

  

“I’m Jackson Winters. I’m the handyman around the park. It’s real fun. I’ve seen the whole park about five times because I’m always walking around the park fixing every craipy thing that’s wrong. Oh, sorry.” He lit a cigerette and started smoking. “I get a little carried away, because our boss is so cheap. He’d sell his grandmother for five bucks, he-he, Max Wicks. That’s his name. He’s making you guys pay ya know.” 

“No problem. I brung money.” Said Sam.  

“Who else works with you?” asked Jimmy.  

“Well other people well there’s Jackson, Steve Hicks, Kasey Simpsom, Cooper Michaels, Jack Russell, Duran Jones, Agan Bason, George Blanton, Bart Robinson, and there’s others.” Drake informed him.  

“Excited about it now kids.” Sam said. 

“I don’t know Dad. It depends on what it’s like.” Andy said playing game gear.  

“Well were almost there. About five more minutes.” Jackson informed them. “Look down and see the park.”  

Andy and Jimmy looked out the window. “Whoa. Look at that. It’s all trees and mountains, and” 

“Monsters.” Drake said queitly. “Monsters.” 

“What do you mean.” Sam asked.  

“Yeah I don’t get it.” Andy butt in.  

“You see you ride around in a car looking at monsters that run at you and terrorize you. They look real and they come out of nowhere to scare you.” Drake replied.  

“Yeah it’s a real hoot when you get to the mountain and the de–” Jackson started. “Oh sorry again better not give it away. He he. Well down we go.” 

The helicopter lowered down onto the large piece of land. “Stay with Uncle Mike okay.” Sam told his kids.  

“Right.” They both said. They Andy ran out and stopped in their her tracks. It was he most beatiful thing she’s ever seen in her entire life. There were beatiful groves of forests, hills, streams, and a huge waterfall coming down from a huge mountain.  

“Wow. This is great.” Andy said astonished by the sites. 

Jackson jumped out and put his hand on her shoulder. “Like it. It’s a great view. Your hotels up there.” He pointed to the top of the mountain. “You get a view of the whole entire park. You and your brother can share the room overlooking it. Even I took that room. It’s so beatiful.” 

“Do all the workers stay there?” Andy asked.  

“Nope. Only the people who don’t live around here, like your Uncle Mike, and Steve Hicks, and me. You can meet the guys and you can go on the tour. Sounds fun.” 

“Yeah. I can’t wait.” She said enthusiastically.  

Andy was thinking about going on the trip. It was going to be fun. She loved getting scared. Especially while you were getting scared and having fun at the same time. I can’t wa–Jimmy’s voice interupted her thoughts.  

“Is there any pools at the hotel?” 

***********************************************************
 
They walked into the control room to meet the workers. Jimmy stared at everything then spotted the long window stretching all around the room looking out at the park. “Wow.”
 
“Jimmy listen.” Sam whispered in his ear.
 
“–and people will pay lots of money to bring and pay me to come and look at the park. Find that interesting kids?” Max went on.
 
They didn’t answer. “Now you can meet the group.” Max said happily.
 
 
Jimmy noticed a strong man with uncombed black hair, tanktop and jeans. A tall weak man who didn’t look the least bit interested. A short teenager, some mexican people, a fat guy in a police uniform, and a guy who looked like a used car salesman, and a man with long blond hair.
 
“–and so thats everybody you need to meet.” Max finished. He noticed Andy looked quite bored too. At the end they gave Sam a flare gun and six flares. Just in case. They finally went to look at the hotel. They walked outside through some grassland to the hotel. Drake led them to their rooms. It was on the top floor and Andy and Jimmy had a great view of the whole park. Sam and Chris’s room wasn’t as good. They had a nice room in all but the view just showed some grass. What Jimmy didn’t understand was why there were bars on the windows. He found it quite rude. I mean it’s not like the monsters are going to attack us.
 
***************************************************************
 
“Now your sure you got everything under control?” Jack asked Raymond.
 
“Yes everythings great. The only problems that chip. I need to get it.” Raymond said.
 
“You mean this chip.” Mac walked in holding a computer chip.
 
“You took it!” Raymond yelled.
 
“Uh what. I-I don’t get it. I found this lying around in the hall someone should of dropped it.” Mac said nerveosly.
 
“Did you see who took it?” Jack asked.
 
“Um no. It was just laying there.” Mac replied.
 
“Well thanks Mac. Now go back to work.” Raymond said.
 
“Well looks like you got everything under control now, huh.” Jack said happilly.
 
“Yeah I guess.” Raymond replied.
 
What I remember: When I gave a finished copy of Death in the Making to my sixth grade English teacher, Ms. Conlon (later Mrs. Bracken), I included a short questionnaire on the back. I asked her who her favorite character was, why, and if she had any additional comments.
 
 
Her favorite character? “Jimmy.”
 
Why? “He reminded me of you.”
 
Any other comments? “Keep writing. You’re good :)”
 
Is there a more affirming thing a teacher could write to an 11-year old aspiring author? About 12 years later, Arthur Kopit would scrawl a similar sentiment to me in the front cover of a collection of his, a gesture that I cherish almost as much Ms. Conlon’s simple words. Granted, Ms. Conlon only read the first five chapters of the novel before becoming “too busy” to finish, but I digress.
 
Jimmy was me. Well, perhaps some idealized version of me. One where I was a few years older, bratty but assured, a hero who had loved and lost (we’ll encounter Jimmy’s heroics and failed courtships in later chapters), a kid on the verge of adventure and affection. Okay. I’m giving him a little too much credit. There’s nothing very interesting about Jimmy. He’s rude and boring, as was I at the age of 11. I honestly didn’t have much of a life. Not many friends to speak of. When I think of sixth grade I remember the following things:
 
1. Wrestling with the YMCA. In one of his many bids to foster my athletic side, my father signed me up for wrestling classes. We practiced at a local Detroit-area high school that was littered with bullet holes and smelled like sweaty plastic. I kinda hated it, but not really. I hated getting up at 6AM to drive to Southfield for tournaments, but I still have my one gold medal I won (as well as the one silver and several bronzes). I used to write when I came home from practice, often while eating a TV dinner and watching The Monkees.
 
2. Andrea. My “girlfriend(?)”. Tall, blonde, awkward and bespectacled, Andrea was my first girlfriend. My brother saw a photo of her and famously quipped that she was “ugly as sin”, a phrase I still attribute to him. She had a birthday party and I told myself I’d kiss her but I never did. She was much taller than me and I broke up with her while my friends listened in on the line and giggled. It was awful and so was I. I may revisit this (and other) middle school crushes and romances (so few, but so potent) in later chapters, as I remember Jimmy does have some emo moments.
 
3. Jeremiah. My best friend and worst enemy. I still write about this kid. We met in first grade and rekindled our friendship when we both ended up at the same middle school (L’Anse Creuse Middle School North). When he found out I was writing a book, he began one to spite me. He never finished. He went from being wildly supportive to oppressively demeaning at the drop of a hat. He was, in many ways, my only friend. And my only enemy.
 
4. Yesterday I was discussing (tongue-in-cheek) several of my life’s most traumatic events with a psychologist friend. We were trying to pinpoint those moments you can concretely recognize as catalysts for your deepest fears, etc. We spent the bulk of our time discussing the last five years or so, but I’d be remiss to not bring up Wagon Wheels West, the first of two melodramatic Westerns my middle school produced during my tenure at LCMSN (the third was a melodramatic jungle adventure titled Hurricane Smith, which bears no relation to the “black rage kung fu” epic of the same name starring Carl Weathers). 
 
Stakes were high on getting cast in Wagon Wheels West. As one of about 20 students in the Beginning Drama class, we were looked at as the kids to beat, as the kids to carry LCMSN Theatre to the next level (I smirkingly realize how ridiculous this sounds). These were also our “expected friends”. A tight class like that, built on interaction and team-building, meant that these were your companions, but also your competitors, for the next three years. We were all on the verge of stardom or failure at that time, just waiting for the first big audition.
 
Now, Wagon Wheels West’s sub-villains were three goofy gunslingers with alliterative names I can’t recall. At the time, I thought the comic stylings of myself, Jeremiah, and another “sorta-friend” would be perfect for the roles, but they (unsurprisingly) went to eighth-graders. This was fine, there were at least thirty roles and there had to be a place for go-get-’em wildchild such as myself, right? Jeremiah got cast as Josiah Aimless, a minor role. Sorta-friend Darren was cast as a soldier with no lines. And sorta-friend Chris got Chuck Wagon (yes, Chuck Wagon), the lead (as a sixth-grader)! When I opened my slim envelope (Mrs. Hannert, the director, left envelopes in her classroom to pick up in the morning), I didn’t see the colorful cast list and rehearsal schedules that everyone else had in their fat ones. There was simply a white piece of paper and a few cocktail words about how there were only so many roles. I was devastated. I cried in front of my friends. I watched them high-five, watched them giggle as the eighth-graders patted their backs, raising their eyebrows in a sort of paternal admiration. I remember walking through the cafeteria on my way to the buses every day, passing the stage where Jeremiah and co. would be laughing and practicing, getting a wave maybe, nothing else.
 
I was an instant loser. It was sixth grade and every single one of my friends/sorta-friends was cast in the play and I was not. And every day in drama class, every time I hung out with Jeremiah or the pretty girls or any of those sorta-friends they regaled me with stories from rehearsal and how amazing all of it was and sad it is that I didn’t get cast. It was a dark time, honestly, followed by a much darker time the following year (one which also relates to an LCMSN play and is on the traumatic list).
 
I understand this may all sound rather trite (it does to me as I write it), but I suppose one of the points of this blog is to gain a kind of understanding about who I was at this age as I wrote this book. And where it came from. And where I came from. See, middle school was a formative time for me. Middle school was a horrible time for me. But, shit, when I was in middle school, I would’ve died for the girls I had crushes on. I would’ve sold my soul for a good role. I would’ve sliced my wrists onstage, bleeding out in the name of some shitty melodramatic Western. Emotions were almost impossibly high at that time in my life, and I think so much of that began with not getting cast in Wagon Wheels West as a goofy gunslinger (or a solder with no lines).
 
In lieu of all of that, every day I came home and wrote this book. And when I think of loose timelines, I was probably writing this chapter (or something near it) around the time I didn’t get cast. In the same way my play Lamp & Moth brought me comfort as I adjusted to Char being gone and losing God and faith, Death in the Making brought me a comfort as I reconciled myself with being an outcast for the very first time.
 
But wait! We haven’t really discussed the chapter! That’s okay. This chapter is, more than any other, the most blatant ripoff of Jurassic Park, from the helicopter ride to the “beatiful” scenery to the bars on the window. My continuing obsession with setting up Steve Hicks as a character stands out, as does Drake’s pointless list of other employees, some with names so aggressively fictive that I wonder what method I was using to create them (Agan Bason?!). The introduction of Chris Links is fairly important, as that character offers a surprising amount of pathos later on. What I’m perhaps most struck by, though, is age.
 
I was eleven, writing this book. Park employee Jack Russell is described as being in his teens, Chris Links (an assistant manager for a major theme park corporation) in his early twenties, and Sam Drake (assumed owner of a major theme park corporation) is in his late twenties with a thirteen-year old son and eight-year old daughter. Clearly, I didn’t understand age. And to wonder where I expected to be when I was in my teens or my early twenties is a sobering thought. Where did I expect I’d be? What did I want to do? Write books? Be the next Mark Paul Gosseler? I dreamed, as we all did, of being loved and respected and famous with no doubts, no filters, no expectations, no heartbreak, no understanding of what it was to fail. What Wagon Wheels West gave me was my first true failure, and is there any more potent? I say yes, but only half-heartedly.
 
The fact that this chapter is called “The Victams”, and victims is spelled “victams”, and beautiful is spelled “beatiful” and so on and so on speaks to my then-innocent desire to know things that I did not yet understand. I was so young, right on the verge of so many life lessons, so many aches and pains and friendships whose violent end vomited loss and heartbreak upon an heretofore bright sky. 
 

Keep writing. You're good 🙂

 
Sure, it’s life, I know…but to remember an age where age was practically irrelevant…well, it makes me feel old. And a statement like that brings us to the edge of a deep, dank well that nobody needs to look into just yet.  
 
So…yeah.
 
Coming soon: Chapter 4, The Tour
 
 Beautiful: “Is there any pools at the hotel?”
 
 They finally went to look at the hotel. They walked outside through some grassland to the hotel.
  
Embarrassing: “Well other people well there’s Jackson, Steve Hicks, Kasey Simpsom, Cooper Michaels, Jack Russell, Duran Jones, Agan Bason, George Blanton, Bart Robinson, and there’s others.” Drake informed him.

Death in the Making, Chapter 2: The Heist

December 7, 2009

Note: All spelling and grammatical errors are there for a reason. And now… 

 

Chapter 2: The Heist 

Raymond sat in his office typing on his computer. He was tired. He tilted back in his chair. He opened his drawer and pulled out a pack of cigerettes and a liter. Raymond lit a cigerette smoked it and checked his watch “6:30. Half an hour left.” He said breathlessly. He lay back and fell asleep. Then there was a knock on the door. “Hello.” Someone said. “Anyone there.” The person opened the door and walked in. “Allll right. Now let me look for this.” The man said. The man opened drawers and looked. “Man. Where is it! Ahh the computer!” The man said. He opened the disk package and pulled it out. Then the man left. “This is finally gonna get me some respect.” The man said quietly.  

*********************************** 

“Hey yo, bro, what’s up.” Drake was on the phone with his brother Sam Drake.  “Yeah whadayya need.” Sam said groggily. “Look we finished the park and we need some people to come and test it. And I thought you and your kids and whoever else you want to bring.” Drake proposed.  

“I’d love to! Great I can’t wait to tell the kids! I’ll bring the assistent manager, too. Chris Links. That’s his name. A real smart fellow.” Sam said excitidly. 

“Where’s Jimmy and Andrea now?” Drake said. “There in the family room watching some dumb predictible show. Full House I think. And Andrea hates her name so call her Andy. She really likes it.” Sam said still excited.  

“Okay go to the airport on Saterday and there will be a helicopter waiting for you at about 8:30am. Got it.” Drake said.  

“Got it. See ya.” Sam ended.  

Drake hung up smiling. He was happy. He liked seeing those kids. He got up from his chair and left his office. Right when he left he heard fast footsteps coming at him. Suddenly he felt an arm push him into the wall and he watched a dark figure burst past him with something in his hand then he ran on the elevator. “Man who was that in such a hurry?” He wondered. Drake checked his watch. “Well time to go.” 

*********************************************** 

Raymond burst through Maxs doors screaming, “Why’d you take it!” 

“What are you talking about!” Max yelled back.  

“You stole the computer chip that runs the whole stinkin park! Y’now what could happen if that fell in the wrong hands! It could destroy the park entirely!” Raymond was still screaming.  

“I didn’t steal a thing so shut up!” Max yelled at the top of his lungs.  

“Then who did steal it!” Raymond said so high he didn’t recognize his own voice.  

“Okay, okay. Slow down. We’ll find out who it was.” Max said trying to calm him down.  

“Your right. The person who stole it probaly doesn’t even know how to use it. I mean there probaly won’t be any problems.” 

************************************************** 

“Okay, okay, that was funny but watch this.” Jack Russell said. He, Kasey, Drake, Steve Hicks, and Cooper were making jokes and faces. Jack blew his cheeks and pulled out his ears. “I’m a monkey! Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.” 

“Oh, that was good but watch this. A clam tongue.” Steve Hicks made his tongue look like a clam. He was in his fortys and had long blonde hair. He was quite normal.  

“7:00 time to go.” Cooper said quietly.  

“Bye everybody. And remember tomorrows the tour.” Drake said waving.  

“Yeah it’s gonna be fun.” Casey replied.  

What I remember: I’ll begin with what I can’t remember, and that would be where Steve Hicks came from. Or why I felt the need to give him, the “quite normal” one, a special introduction in this chapter. More “worker” characters are added as the story continues, minor ones whose main purpose was to die a ridiculous death. Yet, with an already full palette of characters to choose from, I included Steve Hicks, the “quite normal” one in this scene, goofing off with the others. Steve Hicks actually goes on to play a major role in the story, but I’m completely puzzled as to his origin. I don’t even think he had an action figure counterpart, although the “long blonde hair” description makes me skeptical of such an assertion. Maybe I just wanted somebody older. I take great pains to point out his age, something I didn’t do with any of the other characters. Regardless, keep your eye on ‘Ol Blondie. 

I’m also drawn to several other things when I read this chapter: 

The first signs of my love for the seemingly banal. The scene of the guys making dumb faces serves only to introduce Steve Hicks, something that could’ve been easily done in a more plot-serving way. It’s a pointless scene, but I kinda love it. Why? Because it makes the characters more than just devices. Plot is not my strong suit. It never has been. I would say I handle plot more effectively in this book than in any of plays. The prologue gives us a beast and a mysterious death. Chapter One gives us the threat outsiders in an unstable environment. And Chapter 2 gives us a “heist”. Of course my 11-year old self wasn’t quite sure what a “heist” was, but a villain has been established and Max’s ambivalence is a bright flare of doom. I’ve even manufactured a magic “computer chip” that HOLDS THE KEY TO EVERYTHING (but ends up becoming fairly MacGuffin-ish, if I’m not mistaken).   

Regardless, the wheels are turning. It has begun. But that doesn’t change the fact that, more than anything, I just love to see characters existing in their element, acting like idiots. Sure, we’re defined by what we do, not what we say, but we shouldn’t discount our moments of fellowship. I feel as if a great deal of my personal character can be gathered by simply watching me quote shit with my friends at the bar, or tell a story about some relationship that went horribly, hilariously wrong. The way we react to people, the way people react to us at our most comfortable, so on. 

I’m also reminded of a recent reading of my play, Pretty Penny (which opens this Feb. by the way!), wherein an actor questioned a scene where a character gives his credit card information to a phone sex operator before the “fantasy” begins. His claim was that it was long and pointless. My claim is that more character could conceivably be found in that moment than in the rest of the play. There’s so much there, and even in Death in the Making I seemed to understand that. That there is a value in the seemingly mundane.   

I also can’t wait to dissect the villain’s “chilling” exit line in later chapters: “This is finally gonna get me some respect.” Why? Because (SPOILER ALERT) it has nothing to do with “respect”. I suppose at the time I was just trying to offer him some sort of motivation. I also wonder if I even knew who the villain was at this point. Either way, if I remember correctly, the villain’s motivations end up being much less interesting than if they were fueled by inadequacy. Too bad I abandoned what could’ve been fertile ground for something much more base and superficial. 

Lord knows it’s not the first time. 

Beautiful: He, Kasey, Drake, Steve Hicks, and Cooper were making jokes and faces. 

Embarrassing: There in the family room watching some dumb predictible show. Full House I think. (I have no idea what my beef was with “Full House” at the time. I thought I loved it. I thought that’s where my current nostalgia came from.) 

Raymond’s deduction that the boss stole the “computer chip” that “runs the whole park.” 

Stay tuned soon for Chapter 3: The Victims, wherein we officially meet Sam, Jimmy, and Andy Drake, as well as “assistent manager” Chris Links, who was modeled after this doll: 

Pee Wee, motherfuckers.

Death in the Making, Chapter 1: The Meeting

November 23, 2009

Note: All spelling and grammatical errors are there for a reason. And now…

Chapter 1: The Meeting

Chapter 1

“What are talking about Silas disapeering! That lazy bum is probaly just lying around at his house!” Max Wicks yelled. He was the leader of the company “Max Parks” “Max Amusement Parks.” He was at a meeting with his associates. He was a greedy man who looked just like a used car salesman. The assistint manager Raymond Perry who was quite weak and skinny was across the table yelling back. “We found his body! How could you think he was lounging around at home?! And anyway from the looks of it he died about a week ago.” Now he was scared because he needs to pay his rent and if he gets fired he can’t pay.

“Guys, we still have to decide who’s going to test it out.” Kasey the sound engineer said. He was the strongest of the group. He had scraggaly black hair and and always wore tank tops and jeans.

“Any Ideas?” Jack Russell the youngest of the group said.

“Hey I have a brother who owns a chain of amusement parks. He could bring his kids and anyone else.” Michael Drake said. He had white hair and he was the cutest one.

“We’ll call ’em and they’ll we’ll see what happens.” Raymond said quietly.

“Waitm what’t this about kids! Kids are a pain in the butt. Those whining little brats annoy me!” Max yelled.

“They’ll pay.” Mac, the nervous one, said.

“Okay, they can come.” Max said.

“Um, Mr. Wicks you have the park documents to fill out.” Cooper, the security guard said as he opened the door. He was a fat slob who hardley ever talked. He had a crew cut and wore a police uniform.

“Meeting ijurned. Go back to work.” Max said going back to his office. “Oh yeah Jackson. You finished the track right.”

“Right.” Jackson said. He was a resourceful person. Wearing a white shirt and a yellow sleeveless jacket. And a light brown shorts.

Everyone walked away. Drake stopped Mac in his tracks.

“Yeah. Um yes Drake.” Mac said nerveously.

“How do you think Silas died? Cause he had those scratches on him and he had that weird mark on his head. Drake said scratching his head.

“Um. I don’t really know. I mean I didn’t do it. I mean…I don’t know okay!” Mac yelled and he ran on the elevator and was gone.

“Kasey, hey Kasey c’mere. I need to ask you something.” Drake yelled. Kasey came up to him. “Do you know what happened to Silas?”

“Don’t ask me. Me and my family were at home eating dinner when that happened. I mean it happened at 8:00 and we had a late dinner.” He looks at his watch. “Look man I gotta go. Bug in the sound machine.” He threw some cable on his shoulder. “See Ya.”

“Yeah bye.” He watched Kasey walk in the elevator and go down.

In a minute the room was empty and he was alone in the room. He stared at the window fogdusted window. He wiped off the fog off the window and stared. Then he thought he saw something burst through the trees. “Just my imagination.” Drake said to himself. “Just my imagination.”

What I remember: Where these characters came from. If you read the previous post, you’ll know that each of these characters was based on an action figure from my collection.

Max Wicks, the owner of Max Parks Max Amusement Parks:

Pacino!

Big Boy from Dick Tracy! (Could not find the action figure pic.)

Raymond Perry, the weak and skinny one:

Not making this up.

Worf from Star Trek! (NOT weak and skinny. An odd choice.)

Kasey the Strong Sound Engineer:

Like a nice Jason Voorhees.

Kasey Jones from the Ninja Turtles cartoon and films (played by Elias Koteas!)

Mac, the nervous one:

As played by Dustin Hoffman in the film!

Jack Russell, the young one:

This one makes the least sense.

Corporal Dwayne Hicks from Aliens.

Michael Drake, the cutest one:

I had such a crush on this dude.

 Corporal (something) Drake from Aliens.

Jackson, quite possibly be my favorite character of the novel:

This looks nothing like the actor in the film.

Robert Muldoon, a small character from Jurassic Park.

Cooper Michaels, the security guard who wears a police uniform:

I had an earlier, less stupid version of this action figure where his arm wasn't grafted into an eternal clothesline.

The Big Boss Man!

As you can see, my tastes were all over the place. My love of Dick Tracy facilitated an early interest in the mystery and variety of genre fare. Jurassic Park and Star Trek bred within me a love for adventure (not to mention my early leanings towards heavy themes). Aliens satisfied my bloodlust. TMNT offered the goofiness and humor (not to mention backflips). And WWF taught me there’s nothing wrong with a good ol-fashioned ass-whoopin.

What these disparate entertainments have in common is ensemble. They created worlds that focused on many journeys, not just one, offering a slew of interesting and diverse characters, all coalescing in the wake of one (or several) catastrophic event(s). 

This is what I wanted with Death in the Making, to bring these action figures, from such vastly different universes, together into one. To break down walls. To create dialogue. What would happen if they were all brought together? What would they become? Who would be good? Who would be bad? Who are these people in relation to one another? These are the silly questions I still ask myself because I love character. More than plot, more than theme, I love characters and I love ensembles. And Death in the Making is where that all began.

Of course, there is always one central figure at the center of these stories, whether it be Dick Tracy, Jean-Luc Picard,  or Sam Neill. You guys have yet to meet that central figure. That’s what Chapter 3 is for, and it’s something I’m excited to explore.

The idea of the “main character” is something that has oft-frustrated me as a writer. When Arthur Kopit saw my play, Lamp & Moth, in Kansas City, his complaint was that it had no central character. Further revisions have remedied that to a degree, but not without some grumbling. I often find myself disassociated from “main” characters in most art. They’re often bland everymen, heroic in all the wrong places. Or raisonneurs from the author who can’t help but smash his grubby fingers all over a perfectly good story. Or genre robots so patched together from the canon that they trade blood and guts for empty cardboard witticisms.  They’re written with such blandness because we perpetuate the idea that audiences need to identify with someone  to enjoy something, which is, of course, bullshit. It is in this identification that we remove all the shit that makes us human, all the things that anyone could actually identify with on a more profound level.

Having said that (who caught Curb last night?), Sam Drake, my ostensible “main” character, is guilty of at least a few of those crimes. And Jimmy Drake, my childhood surrogate and likely main “main” character, is a lot worse. But these guys, this group, delineated (like the TMNT) by only the most base character traits, are at the heart of this story…at least as I remember it.

There will probably be a lot more talk about ensemble as we continue this journey. There’s certainly many more characters to meet in our immediate future since my 11-year old self was a kindred spirit to one David Milch, who never met a character on Deadwood he didn’t want to spin a yarn about.

And so it goes…   

 Beautiful: In a minute the room was empty and he was alone in the room. He stared at the window fogdusted window. He wiped off the fog off the window and stared.

“We found his body! How could you think he was lounging around at home?!

Embarrassing: Now he was scared because he needs to pay his rent and if he gets fired he can’t pay.

He had white hair and he was the cutest one.

“Um, Mr. Wicks you have the park documents to fill out.”

“Don’t ask me. Me and my family were at home eating dinner when that happened. I mean it happened at 8:00 and we had a late dinner.”

Death in the Making: Prologue

November 18, 2009

A prologue to the Prologue (wherein the author laments the loss of his previous concept and explains the new one):

This blog began as a way for me to chronicle my interest and analysis of shitty entertainment. I love shitty entertainment. It makes me smile. But alas, it proved too hearty an endeavor in a stretch I best describe as “doldrumtastic”, a stretch where getting laid just wasn’t enough, a stretch when I didn’t much feel like analysis of any medium. It was a dark time for your humble narrator, but I’ve bounced back and retooled. I miss having a place to upchuck and since I find blogging for the sake of blogging boring (and since I’ve been revisiting Sufjan), I’d prefer to couch my thought-vomit in a concept of sorts.

001

The cover.

My decision to post my childhood works, chapter by ridiculous chapter (with commentary), is two-fold:

1) I’d like to chronicle this shit. My hard copies are fading a slow fade.

2) I’m in the mood for self-analysis. And where better to begin than my first major work?

006

"The text on some pages are bad. So please don't kill me. He-he. Now this copy won't be perfect but when I review it top to bottom it will be better."

The first major work in question is DEATH IN THE MAKING.

003

Title page.

004

Lightning!

The following is a piece I wrote two years ago about it. Seems like a good place to begin:

I was 10 or 11,

whatever sixth grade is,

and this was my life.

My novel

I wrote this novel then, in sloppy pencil.

My first real major work: Death in the Making.

I know, horrible title.

My process began with my action figures.

I rounded up every one I had:

a plastic party of WWF wrestlers,

movie figures from Aliens, Jurassic Park, and Star Trek,

humans from the Ninja Turtles cartoons.

My characters came from grabbing one I liked and building a personality out of it.

Kasey Jones, the hockey mask wearing martial artist from the Ninja Turtles became Kasey the sound engineer with his scraggly black hair, jeans, and tank tops.

WWF’s Big Boss Man became my secret villain, Cooper Michaels,

a security officer with a crew cut and police uniform.

The big, blue, slimy alien from the Alien movies even took the role of the main monster.

I spent hours after school, creating scenes,

developing relationships,

and staging deaths over and over and over.

It brought me such joy then,

and I’d sometimes ask my weary mother to watch while I acted out scene after scene,

taking on 10 different voices, 10 different characters with personalities I’d so painstakingly developed. 

Once I could no longer play, I wrote.

And for three solid months, I wrote every day after school,

kneeling on the blue carpet,

writing on the coffee table in front of the TV.

Every time I grabbed a new sheet of notebook paper

and wrote a new, higher, page number in the top right corner,

I felt like I had climbed another mountain.

I even drew little flashy lines around page 100,

which was, at that time, the greatest accomplishment of my life.

There was no revision.

I found a way to make everything I’d written work in the grand narrative.

And a grand endeavor it certainly was.

The book boasts about 20 main characters, and probably 20 more minor ones.

There’s backstabbing, murder, love, longing, memory, loss, grief, treachery, you name it.

And I was 11.

In complete and total love.

 Now I remember, so many years later,

coming home drunk and high,

alone

blurry-eyed.

And I grabbed this book.

I began to read.

And I cried.

Because at that moment I realized it was the greatest thing I’d ever written.

A boy who knew nothing about craft,

who knew nothing about pain,

about disappointment, or depression.

A work not written to be published, or produced,

but it was fun.

I was playing. 

And I was in love.

“Jackson dove off the ledge of the huge mountain into the crashing waterfall feeling pretty nauseous. He has never been that nervous in his entire life. Will I live or die? Will I live or die? The question kept going through his mind. Suddenly he felt a burst of cold cover his body. I’m in the waterfall. Falling. Cutting through water like a bullet. As he damped in water he opened his eyes. It was a blur of wondrous colors. From light blue to fluorescent green. It was beautiful! Suddenly Jackson started to feel loose and happy. He spread his arms out far and put his legs together. Then he twirled and twirled in a circle while falling. He didn’t know why he was doing that. He just felt it.” 

In retrospect, I realize this 11-year old was describing his craft. 

Now I’ve always believed that change is a cosmetic illusion.

At our cores, we never change.

We are who we are who we are who we are. 

And so the same desire exists between this boy and myself.

But what he seemed to grasp is what I now strive for. 

“Suddenly Jackson started to feel loose and happy. He spread his arms out far and put his legs together. Then he twirled and twirled in a circle while falling. He didn’t know why he was doing that. He just felt it.”

 Abandon.

Writing was abandon.

And the elation I find now as I create,

An elation which shoots sparks, saves my soul,

It seems to pale in comparison to that 11-year old boy

and his piddly handwritten novel.

 

007

Prologue. Probably too faded to make out.

 

So we begin:

Silas Burton wandered helplessly through the huge forest of the unfinished amusement park. It was nighttime and everyone was gone. Something scurried across his feet. He screamed and fell. He wiped off the dirt on his khaki shirt he noticed a footprint. “Oh great! Someone’s around. I gotta follow the…Oh my god. Oh man.” He stared at the footprint. Only it wasn’t a footprint. It had three toes and a strange marking by the hoof. Then he realized the marking was the marking of the company he’s in. And the markings are on the bottom hoof  of each main attraction monster. But those were locked in the storage area. And no one was in the control room. “Oh my god I gotta get outta here!” He started running until he came to the mountain. He stared at the beatiful scenery. A 500 km drop. Deadly. Well there’s the ladder better go down it,” he said. He heard a rustling sound in the bushes. “Aaah!” he screamed. He felt something stab him in the shoulder. He grabbed his shoulder and pulled out a claw. He pulled out a packet of band-aids. He took one out and put it over the bloody wound. He put the band-aids back in his pocket and headed for the ladder. Suddenly something wacked him in the back and he fell and grabbed the side of the mountain and hung. He saw a figure of some sort but was too dark to see. He felt a sharp pain in his hand he went to grab for it and suddenly remembered he was hanging. He let out a bloodcurdling scene and toppled into darkness.

What I remember: Jurassic Park. I saw the movie some rainy afternoon. I bought the book at a SEARS. I read the book in Science class. I didn’t get half of it. I liked the bloody parts. I don’t remember beginning, although I vaguely recall writing this section long before I wrote the rest. The off-color appearance of the pages, coupled with the especially faded script, contribute to this theory.

I recall reading it to Mike Ethier’s mother. I recall her being struck by my use of “khaki”. Rightly so. I barely knew what khaki was. All I knew was that Michael Critchton’s characters wore it. Which is really where much of this began. When I met Vernell Lillie she told me how August Wilson’s earliest writings were simply imitations of writers he admired. John Guare wrote about how he’d type out the first three acts of Chekhov plays and then write the fourth act himself.

Art often begins with mimicry. Many writers never grow past that stage. 

Critchton was my Chekhov. Death in the Making is Jurassic Park. There’s even a Velociraptor.  Anne Rice took over eventually. But we’ll get there later.

Beautiful:  Silas Burton wandered helplessly through the huge forest of the unfinished amusement park.

Embarrassing: Then he realized the marking was the marking of the company he’s in.

And so, some brief thoughts on a brief intro. Chapter 2: The Meeting coming soon. Prepare for shit to get intense.

Rock of Love Bus, Episode 2: The Black Hole of Britney

January 18, 2009

First off, my apologies for the tardiness of this post.

Secondly, is there a more pathetic creature in all of humanity than Britney (aka Cleavageface #6)? I speak to the endless conflation (and this dovetails nicely with my previous post) of lust and idolatry that constitutes so much of what passes for love in this day and age.

Hunky Uncy Bret Michaels is not that attractive. He’s not that talented. He’s a greasy bundle of hair, mascara, genitals, and doggie barks. And he does not like it when people want to express their undying love for him. It clearly makes him uncomfortable. Why?

Because Hunky Uncy Bret likes boobs. Big ones. And nasty old-man Michaels sex.

But even moreso: Because you don’t know him. And Bret has enough self-awareness (having done this for two seasons), to acknowledge this.

The women who’ve been on the show have openly spoken about how they literally spend minutes with the man during the filming of the show. Yet this woman believes so desperately that this man is her soul mate. We laugh at people like Britney from our comfortable distance. We laugh at her because God, how could anyone ever fall in love with HIM? And so quickly?! It’s just all so ridiculous and unbelievable!

But there’s more truth than meets to the eye to Rock of Love.  I look around me, I look at these people who morph their lives for people they barely know, who utter “I love you” like it’s just a logical step instead of a complicated emotion. I look at these people so desperate to hold, to kiss, to fuck, the way they turn themselves inside out for it. I look at myself, at the self-control it takes to never let lust, or desire, or idiocy to dictate a relationship. At how often I fail at that.

And then I look at Britney on Rock of Love Bus, the girl who wrote five pages of wedding vows for Bret, who embarrassed herself with a sloppy lapdance in an even sloppier bikini, who was mocked incessantly by the rest of plastic furnaces (at times justly due to her blatant racism against Cleavageface #12 ((the black one))), and I can only witness another example of a woman (much like Femi on Bromance) made empty by our country’s slick and slimy amalgamation of lust and worship.

Does Bret want lust? That goes without saying.

Does want worship? Sure!

But how does he want them? In check. In equal measure. Worship him onstage, bone him off.

Like politics and religion, you just can’t mix the two.

This shit is depressing.

From the ether:

  • How clever was it to put Britney in the alien bed? Ah, the othering of the other.
  • Cleavageface #20 (Ashley) is a prime example of how excessive plastic surgery can freeze you in time, if not nullify large clumps of your brain. This woman exists in the black hole of ninth grade frosty whore.
  • I like when Bret gets drunk and drops the loving, best friend act.
  • Brittania thinks Bret is the hottest man she’s ever seen. And I believed her when she said it. I just…I…this, this is absolutely ridiculous…
  • This show is hard to watch.

Bromance, Episode 3: Friendship vs. Idolatry

January 17, 2009

One of the main goals of modern Christianity relates directly to one of the buried themes in the latest episode of Bromance.

When we think of the sermons of Joel Osteen and other “hip pastors” we see, over and over again, the idea of God as Friend as opposed to God as God. For many fundamentalists, this creates an uncomfortable tension. How can you be friends with something you worship, something you revere, something you emulate? 

Our Man Jenner is obviously an idol in the eyes of MTV. He is a goal, something to be achieved. He is a Pop God, evidenced by MTV’s long-lingering eye of gratuity as Brody lathered his lean, tattooed body in the shower. He is what MTV believes America wants to be: a man made famous by the life he was born into, a man with beautiful genes, a man with talents that have no bearing on his fame. Brody Jenner is a desirable personality. Thus the reason Ryan Seacrest thought it was a good idea to create a show revolving around his ego. Thus the reason thousands of people from all over the country applied for his friendship.

So where do our contestants fit?

Do they want friendship? Or do they want worship?

And more importantly, what does Brody want?

In this latest episode, Brody challenged the guys to plan an activity for them to engage in. Luke built a mini-golf course, Chris F. did some pathetic stand-up, and Femi…well, Femi went a little off the deep end.

In previous episodes, Femi has come to tears discussing how this show is an opportunity. His past is littered with loss and legal issues, and as much as Femi talks up his neighborhood and his lifestyle, it’s obvious the man is miserable. Femi wants a savior. Femi wants the escape his friends who’ve been “shot in the back” never had.

This means his stakes are exponentially higher than his comrades. And this makes him dangerous.

This showed more than ever in this latest episode when Femi decided to get a tattoo as part of his planned activity. The tattoo was his last name, written along his left side in Olde English. Femi emphasized the importance of his family as his reason for getting it. What made everyone a bit unsettled, including Our Man Jenner, was the fact that this was an exact replica of Brody’s tattoo (showed to us so cleverly during the obnoxious shower scene between Brody, Frankie, and the Sleaze).

All of the guys (all more than bothered) pointed this out to Femi, but he didn’t say much to that. This was an act of friendship to him, something to make him stand out.

We see here the embodiment of the Friendship vs. Idolatry conflict at the heart of tonight’s Bromance. Femi’s tattoo is an act of worship, buried within the justification of his “individuality” (which he links to friendship). Like Christians who grow Jesus beards or flagellate themselves, desperate to feel closer to their Lord, Femi’s act is one of sacrifice and idolatry.

Yet Brody keeps him. Why? Because Femi has “passion.”

Or: Femi’s character is one above the others, and the producers see the potential.

See, this is not friendship to Femi; this is salvation.

Bromance as religion.

I like where this is going.