END OF SUMMER STORY-THON, Day 9 (more info on Story-Thon here)
Today's suggestion is from Jeff Eckman: "Near-death experiences."
I've come close to Death a couple times this week. It's been pretty awkward.
I passed Death in the hallway of my apartment building on Monday. We did one of those which-way-are-YOU-going-to-go things where you and another person try to get around each other in an enclosed space and you both move the same way at the same time and almost inevitably correct yourselves at the same time and it's extremely awkward and makes everyone involved feel like an asshole. It went on particularly long with Death since his cloak goes all the way down to the ground and you can't see which way his feet are going. Assuming he has feet.
Then on Wednesday Death and I were walking in opposite directions on 34th Street right after I got off work. Death did one of those uh-oh-is-this-guy-gonna-stop-and-talk-to-me-rather-than-just-acknowledge-that-we-know-each-other things. I didn't stop to talk to him or slow up at all. Maybe he didn't even see me, it's hard to tell from looking into the inky infinite blackness inside his hood. I nodded just to be safe. I didn't want to be rude to Death.
On Friday night Death and I were in the same aisle of the video store. We both went for a copy of "Stripes" at the same time. We did one of those we-touched-each-other's-hands semi-intimate physical-contact-with-a-semi-stranger things. It was particularly awkward because when I touched his hand I felt a temperature below absolute zero in the depths of my immortal soul and in that moment I knew The End Of All Things and the Number of Days. Luckily I forgot it shortly thereafter when I went up to the counter and had to remember my 13-digit membership number since I lost my card. Death ended up renting "National Lampoon's European Vacation."
This is the worst: On Saturday Death and I got on the same N train and sat down right near each other without realizing it. We Death went "Oh hey...it's...you." It was not that slick. There are slicker ways to play off not knowing somebody's name, even if you are Death and your voice is the rattle of a sack of crow-skulls. I guess I don't want Death to know my name. But come on, dude.
Also this week, the old lady down the hall from me had a heart attack, the video store clerk's druggie girlfriend finally OD'd, a homeless guy expired on the subway, and four people were killed in a gas explosion on 34th Street. Six are in critical condition at Cedars-Sinai. It's down the block from me but I'm avoiding it like the plague: I don't want to be around anywhere when Death comes for any of those six people. Can you imagine? So awkward. He probably thinks I'm stalking him or something.
END OF SUMMER STORY-THON, Day 8 (more info on Story-Thon here)
Today's suggestion is from Zeke Gilligan Murphy Rodriguez: "Life is complicated, but I'm not one to judge."
Okay, I am absolutely NOT saying I identify with Hitler, I’m just saying that when you dismiss him as a “frustrated artist,” you have to acknowledge who ELSE is a frustrated artist.
Uhm, okay, clue, she’s sitting right across from you in a vintage peacoat and rainbow galoshes!
No, I’m gonna keep it on, thanks, it’s really cold in this bar.
Oh, really, you like them? I got them in Chinatown from this amazing old guy at this amazing junk table. It just sickens me that people would even look twice at a chain store when there’s so much—
I’m NOT trying to change the subject. I’m just saying, sometimes, when it’s like, opening night of my theater company’s latest production—
Thank you for asking. It’s called “Torreador: An Original Group Work In Sound And Pain.” It’s a ping-pong symphony about globalization.
Well what do YOU think it means?
I don’t know: ARE there ping-pong tables?
I don’t know: IS it even a play? We leave these sorts of questions up to the audience.
Well, you could be part of that audience. Our last night is Thursday, but I could probably get you half-price tickets, if you…
See, this is what I’m talking about: everyone has an excuse! “Oh, I have work!” “Oh, I have a date!” “Oh, I’m going to spend my money on something that I know what it is.” When you peek out of the curtain and you see an empty house—
YES there are curtains. When you peek out of them and see an empty house, it’s just like…what do I have to do, y’know? Do I have to FORCE people to come see this challenging work of mine? Is that what it’s gonna take?
Again, I don’t IDENTIFY with him, I’m just saying, the way he felt about Jews is the way I feel about close-minded people.
Well not CAMPS, that seems extreme, but if there were some way to—
No, not trains, although ecologically it’s positive that nobody would be driving.
Are you trying to be funny? Not only do I not have “just one,” I don’t have ANY testicles. God, where did you go to school?
END OF SUMMER STORY-THON, Day 7 (more info on Story-Thon here)
Today's suggestion is from Aubrey Montoya: "dance camp"
In the wake of the success of slasher films (“Nightmare on Elm Street,” “Halloween”) and dance films (“Footloose,” “Flashdance”), in the early 80’s, a new subgenre of movie was born: The dance-horror movie. And then, as soon as it appeared, dance-horror died an ignoble death, like many of its flexible young heroines. But unlike many of its flexible young heroines, dance-horror did not dance, except quickly out of theaters and the public’s imagination.
The father of the subgenre is generally agreed to be Italian director Alfonzo Perutti. The story goes that the night Perutti’s film “Il Robe E Le Cose” premiered, he went to a nearly empty screening of the film at a busy Perguian cinema. Across the hall from where his work was playing, people were streaming into sold-out showings of “ Friday the 13th” and “Dirty Dancing.” (Though these films premiered years apart in America, they were released simultaneously in Italy, where Mussolini made the trains run on time but left the motion picture distribution system a shambles.) It was Perutti’s wish that he could get all these people to see one of his films, and he thought it would be easier to simply make a film both audiences would enjoy than it would be to herd people going to see the other movies into his theater by waving his hands and shouting.
The film Perutti made, “Dance Camp,” is considered a masterpiece of the dance-horror subgenre, largely because it is one of the only entries into that subgenre, and the only entry in that subgenre to be released publicly. By his own admission, Perutti set out to rip off both “Friday The 13th” and “Dirty Dancing,” but rather than ripping off “Dirty Dancing” and adding horror elements, or aping “Friday the 13th” and including a few gratuitous dance sequences, Perutti combined elements of many dance and horror films with all the storytelling acumen and filmmaking know-how of a hi-fi stereo salesman, which Perutti was.
The film’s plot concerns Julietta, a shy yet blossoming camper at a summer camp in upstate New York. She’s mentored in the ways of dance by Rafe, the camp’s groundskeeper and hunky dance instructor, who is also a werewolf. Julietta and Rafe must defend their burgeoning love against the disapproval of their peers, out-dance the kids from a rival camp across the lake, and steer clear of a masked ghoul who is stalking the camp and killing people with a cleaver. Also, Julietta is a welder, who ends up using her welding skills to weld coffins shut to keep the dead from rising. Also, the camp is on an Native American burial ground, more specifically, a burial ground of the Native American that invented dancing.
Since both films take place in a woodland setting and feature teenage girls, it is somewhat understandable that Perutti thought mixing “Friday the 13th” and “Dirty Dancing” would be a good idea. Less understandable is why he thought it would be a good idea to end the film with a “Saturday Night Fever” homage in which a zombie groans “STRUT” and proceeds to cruise arrogantly down a city street with a big zombie grin on its face even as its limbs fall off and its skin disintegrates, until by the end of the block it is simply a rolling grinning zombie head which finally comes to rest in a gutter and winks at the audience, before the rest of its skin falls off, revealing a disco ball.
Dubbed haltingly into English and released seemingly on a dare, “Dance Camp” was a failure at both the American and the Italian box office. Cobbling together his stereo sales comissions, Perutti was able to finance two more movies, a “Fame” knockoff in which the protagonists fufill their wish to “live forever” by becoming vampires, and a torture-porn interpretation of “Footloose” entitled “Foot Cut Off,” before retiring from the director’s chair to focus on his goal of selling more tweeters than any salesman in Italian history. He never got over his failure to break dance-horror, however, and is said to have cried when he saw "Thriller" for the first time on one of his electronics stores' 48-inch projection screen TVs.
American indie director Handsome “Gary” Tornado paid tribute to Perutti’s obscure work with his 2006 dance-horror film “It’s Got A Great Beat And You Can Die To It.” Audiences were puzzled, as few are familiar with the conventions the film was referencing. (For the uninitiated, the conventions of dance-horror are combining the worst elements of two movie genres and casting your 42 year old Italian wife as the lead character, a 16 year old American ballet dancer.)
END OF SUMMER STORY-THON, Day 6 (more info on Story-Thon here)
Today's suggestion is from Margen: "ass-kicking bubblegum chewer"
Quote-Of-The-Day Calendar, Tuesday, August 21st, 2007
- Mahatma Gandhi
Back online after some hosting yips.
There are few easier ways to feel like a narcissitic asshole than to call hosting tech support at 2 in them morning regards to a site named...yourself.
Note to anyone whose job involves answering phones: it always makes you sound really productive if you place the receiver down right near the keys and type really fast and really hard.
It makes you seem even more productive if, after typing for two minutes or so, you say "Try it now," and the person on the other end tries it, and IT WORKS.
Thanks, tech support lady in Michigan!
END OF SUMMER STORY-THON, Day 4 (more info on Story-Thon here)
Today's suggestion is from Sean Miller: "nothing gold can stay"
This was the morning I drove over to Mary-Sue’s house to tell her I had decided I was getting out of this nowhere town and ask her would she come with me, not knowing where aside from we were going to blaze down the highway letting my engine rattle our guts and stir our hearts. I had been up all night drinking apple-wine with Augie and Dan underneath the rusted-out railroad bridge, staring into the burnt-up industrial wasteland that was our hometown when I concluded pretty suddenly that if we didn’t get out now we never would. But when I got there, another guy was just pulling up out front of Mary-Sue’s house.
His Chevy was red. Mine was black.
“What are you doing here?” he asked me.
“I’m here to tell Mary-Sue I’ve decided to get out of this nowhere town and ask her will she come with me, I don’t know where aside from we’re gonna blaze down the highway letting my engine rattle our guts and stir our hearts,” I said.
“Me too,” he said.
Then we both just kind of stood there.
I suppose that upon discovering Mary-Sue had been unfaithful to me, me who had made love to her for the first time on the fifty yard line of the high school football field and sworn on everything I had, which was only my no-good family name and my souped-up Chevrolet, that given the chance I would die with her on the twilight streets of our backwards ghost-town in a perpetual embrace, I suppose upon discovering she’d been unfaithful I ought to have been mad. I should’ve stabbed the fella in the guts with the pocketknife that was the only thing my father left me besides his lazy good-for-nothing blood, or at the very least challenged him to a drag race in the old canal. But I was more just impressed that Mary-Sue could string two guys along for long enough that they both wanted to bring her with them on their respective highway-strip freedom bids.
“So…” I said.
Mary-Sue came out onto the porch. She came out pretty much how I’d imagined she would, her dress flapping out behind her like a flag I’d pledge allegiance to a million times before I just one time put my hand to my heart for that rag they’d tried to get us to respect in school, the sunlight dancing in her hair like neon angels bee-boping on the devil’s radiator cap, her eyes full of wild teenage hope. Then she saw me and this other guy standing there in our ripped jeans with cigarette packs rolled up in the sleeves of our white tees, and she stopped looking like that.
“Aw, shit,” she said.
“Do you really have an alcoholic father she’d had to take care of on odd days,” I said, “or is that just something you told me so you could see this guy?”
“She told you that too?” the other guy said.
He looked disappointedly at Mary Sue. She shrugged.
“You boys wanna come in for breakfast, or…?”
“Uhmm…” I said.
“Ehhh,” the other fella said, “I told old man Torgerson I’d come see him. Said he might have a job for me.”
“He got jobs?” I asked.
“Yup,” the other fella said, “Retail. Seems like the town might be undergoin’ a what do you call it…economic recovery.”
“That would be nice,” I said.
“Sure would,” Mary-Sue said. We both glared at her, but weren’t angry enough for real powerful glares or any yelling or anything.
The other fella said “Yup” and tapped the pocket his car keys were in like you do when you’re about to leave someplace. Right then, I became more tired than drunk.
END OF SUMMER STORY-THON, Day 4 (more info on Story-Thon here)
Today's suggestion is from Marcela Mireles: "Dreams of nothing else"
“What’s the matter?” Mariah Carey says.
“I’m fine,” I say.
“You haven’t touched your onion rings,” Mariah Carey says.
“You want ‘em?” I hold out the greasy White Castle fry-box in her direction. She shakes her head “no.” I throw the onion rings in a bag with the rest of our trash and put it back on the floor of the limousine, and go back to staring out the window.
“The Brooklyn Bridge is my favorite of all the bridges,” Mariah says. We’re parked right next to it on the Brooklyn side. The Financial District sparkles. Slow jams thump quietly on the limo’s sound system. Mariah has told me explicitly that this is her “gettin’ busy” mix. She burned the CD herself and wrote “Gettin’ Busy” on it in black magic marker. I watched her do this in the office of her four-story apartment. Mariah Carey has a Dell.
It would be so easy. It would be too easy. It’s all been too easy.
Google hired me right out of college. This is back when they were the best kept secret in search engines, a couple years before they became ubiquitous. Then they exploded, and my stock options became insanely valuable. I cashed out at twenty-eight, a millionaire many times over. The rest of my life was ahead of me to invent and re-invent as I so chose. Entrepreneurship. Education. Philanthropy. My options were unlimited, almost overwhelmingly so.
I was so overwhelmed I decided to take a year off. Some people in positions similar to mine have bought an RV and tooled around the country visiting every baseball stadium. I don’t like baseball. I decided to buy a limousine, hire a driver, and spend a year trying to fuck all the R&B singers listed by Notorious BIG in his song “Just Playin’ (Dreams).”
I did it because I thought it would be hard. In fact, I was convinced it would be impossible. I am white, gangly, and very bookish. I have a hard time even with girls who are also white, gangly, and very bookish, so getting anywhere sexually with even one famous black R&B singer was inconceivable to me. It was inconceivable to Biggie, too: the whole song is about dreaming of having these women. But he was dead and I was alive, and I had money and a year so I figured I’d go to ridiculous lengths to insinuate myself in the lives and shortly thereafter the pants of several generations of R&B stars, and it wouldn’t work and I’d start teaching at some business school in January.
But here’s the thing: it worked. It was easy. I had crossed off two members of En Vogue and Regina Belle before I’d even hit the one-month mark. I criss-crossed LA in my limousine engineering introductions to these women whenever they were in town. I anticipated having to masquerade as a record producer or a Saudi prince to impress them, but I never got the chance. For the most part, they were just happy for the attention. They are no longer in the spotlight and some of them aren’t even singing anymore. Dawn from En Vogue sells real estate in the Valley. She showed me a model home and we ended up fooling around in the master bedroom. I never had a chance to say any of the brilliant lies I’d thought up. She told me she hates her husband.
Most of the older singers tour the country playing casinos and making appearances on Quiet Storm radio shows at three and four in the morning. Patti LaBelle was pimping her new gospel record when I caught up to her in Kansas City. I thought she would be a challenge because she’s so religious. I was wrong. I thought the same thing about Chaka Kahn, who has also gone gospel, but she just mumbled something about “sex bringing glory to God” during foreplay in her room at the Days Inn in Portland. You could tell she was happy to have groupies just like everybody else.
The next one, I kept thinking. The next one will turn me down flat. Raven-Symone? She’ll laugh in my face. She’s young and beautiful and sits atop a four-hundred million dollar media empire. She’ll call security and have me escorted out of wherever I may find her. I found her signing CDs at a Best Buy. She thought it was funny that I was there in line with a bunch of twelve-year-old girls. She should’ve found it weird, and I thought it was weird that she didn’t. I asked for her phone number. She laughed, which was reassuring. Finally one of these women was laughing in my face.
But then she gave it to me. Raven-Symone and I went on a date. When she found out I was rich, she lit up. We exchanged investment strategies all evening. We had sex on the second date. It was terrible.
This was around August, and this is when I started getting really depressed. Raven-Symone was nine when Biggie mentioned her in “Dreams.” Sure it was gross, but it was a joke. Now she was twenty-one and more corporate and boring than anyone I’d known at Google. It was gross in an altogether different and more serious way.
Sade and I made love on the beach in Jamaica. I boned the two surviving members of TLC: Usher’s ex, and the other one. (For the record, she also thinks of herself as “the other one.”) I cuckolded Bobby Brown and then Whitney had me watch her kids while they went to the Source Awards. Tina Turner’s legs ARE great. I fucked them all and afterwards, every single one of them said something to the effect of “You look sad.” I guess a lifetime signing about heartache leaves you specially attuned to that sort of thing. It wasn’t heartache. It was disappointment, I guess. The world had been without Christopher Wallace for a long time, and now his dream was achievable by any schlub with too much internet money. “You look sad” was most affecting coming from Sade, who said it in French first.
December came around. Mariah Carey was the last one on the list. I was saving her for last because she seemed the least attainable, and the most likely to be exactly how Biggie said in the song. Of course Mariah Carey is gonna be kinda scary, I thought. Even if I get close to her, she at some point she will pull a knife on me or something and redeem this whole enterprise.
I went to see her sing “All I Want For Christmas Is You” for the Today Show in Rockefeller Center. Google’s Sergey Brin was a guest on the show that morning and I had him introduce us. Underneath the big Christmas tree, I asked Mariah Carey if she wanted to go out sometime and Mariah Carey said “sure.” That night, I picked her up at eight.
Now, instead of trying to manipulate my way into the sex that seemed to come so easy, I was trying to manipulate my way into a freakout or a diva moment. I was begging Mariah Carey to be kinda scary for one goddamn second. I showed up late. Instead of some exclusive club with no sign or a restaurant where Mario Batali comes to your table and personally serves you some new kind of fat he’s discovered, I took her to White Castle. I had watched her burn a CD called “Gettin’ Busy,” so I tried to act interested in getting anything but.
“Maybe we should make an early night of it,” Mariah Carey says. “You seem tired.”
“Very observant,” I say.
“I know about being tired,” Mariah says. “When you check yourself into a clinic for ‘exhaustion,’ they think it’s drugs, but sometimes it really is just exhaustion, and it’s way worse.”
“Mmm.” I say.
“There’s something about you,” Mariah says. “You seem very…I dunno…sad.”
“WHAT THE FUCK!” I yell. Joe, my driver, turns his head in the front seat but then thinks better of
it and turns back toward the view of the bridge. “WHY DOES EVERY FEMALE R&B SINGER IN AMERICA THINK I SEEM SAD? Why did you have to clean up and fucking re-invent yourself? Why did you have to become so fucking palatable? Why can’t anything ever be how I thought it was going to be back when I was sure I could never have it?”
Mariah looks at me with pity. It was her idea to come to Brooklyn, she likes the view. I just remembered Brooklyn is where Biggie is from. I felt like I was rubbing it in his face and that’s when I got quiet instead of actively confrontational.
“If you’re going to cry you should take off your glasses,” Mariah Carey says.
“I’m not gonna cry,” I say.
It’s quiet for a second. Mariah’s “Gettin’ Busy” mix is between songs. Then the next one starts up: “No Ordinary Love” by Sade. I start sobbing uncontrollably.
I cry into Mariah Carey’s lap in the back of my limousine while she strokes my hair and holds my glasses and says very nice, not-at-all-crazy things very quietly. We don’t end up having sex, but we might go out for coffee when she gets back from the European leg of her tour. It will be far into the new year, so if anything happens, it won’t count towards my goal.
Whitney keeps calling, wanting me to babysit. I don’t pick up.
You can still submit a suggestion of a word or phrase to dcpierson at gmail dot com with the word "suggestion" in the subject line! It really doesn't need to be longer than a word or phrase. I'll use the first thirty I receive in the order I get 'em.
END OF SUMMER STORY-THON, Day 3 (more info on Story-Thon here)
Today's suggestion is from Garrett Palm: "Lunch time at the Apollo"
Dear Members Of The Harlem Entertainment Community,
For decades now, our community has been centered around the Apollo Theater. New acts have risen on the enthusiastic support of the crowd, and other new acts have fallen based on the crowd’s vocal disapproval. As you know, when the crowd seems to disapprove, acts are “danced off” by The Sandman. I don’t mean to rock the boat, but I think it is high time we realize The Sandman may be too hubristic and free-ranging in his dancing-off powers. As a wiser man than myself once asked, who will watch the watchmen? Or in this case, distinguished members of the Harlem entertainment community: who will dance off The Sandman?
Many of you may be quick to call my impartiality towards the Sandman into question, as on a recent Sunday, he danced off none other than my lovely eleven-year-old daughter Shirelle, who was in the midst of a stirring medley of classic gospel tunes. I can assure you, my concerns about The Sandman far predate my daughter’s dancing-off, though I think we can all agree said dancing-off was premature and seemingly out of step with the crowd’s reaction to my daughter, which my wife and I both agree was hushed and respectful. It is simply another case of the Sandman seeming to respond more to his own power-mad whims than the reaction of the assembled polity. It is merely a symptom, not the whole problem. The problem is the Sandman’s brutal executive overreach.
Another case of this overreach occurred a few weeks ago, when a charming group of young doo-woppers called The Dreamlistics were chased from the stage by The Sandman’s jackboot-like tap shoes. Granted, in this case, the audience could be heard to be shouting things like “Get off the stage!” at the performers, but if one really listened to the tone in which these things were shouted, it may have been that the audience was shouting “Get off the stage” in the manner that one might say “Get out!” to one’s friend when they have just said something so amazing and unbelievable you can’t bear it. My wife and I both agree that this might have been exactly what they were doing. A few wags might cast doubt on my unbiased perspective on this particular incident by pointing out that one member of The Dreamlistics is my nephew Charles and another member is my son Dwayne. I would counter that The Dreamlistics have five members, meaning I am not related to a majority of the group. And in a democracy, the majority is what matters. I remember this fact while Mr. Sandman seems to have forgotten it entirely.
Like many cruel fascist dictators throughout history, The Sandman silences dissent. I myself was danced off when I tried to bend the community’s ear about The Sandman’s insane abuses of power. I grant you that at the time, I was onstage at The Apollo, which is admittedly The Sandman’s domain, but I ask you, how long before he expands that domain? How long before ministers will shrink from trumpeting an unpopular opinion at the pulpit lest they be crushed beneath The Sandman’s ironclad soft-shoe? How long before scientists will conceal the results of their controversial studies for fear of being chased out of their own laboratories by an imperialistic shuffle-off-to-Buffalo?
These are exactly the things I would have asked you when I rushed the stage on Saturday, a few moments after my wife and I were danced off in the middle of our tightly choreographed, impeccably pitched “Ice Cream Castles” duet. Of any of the dance-offs I have complained about, The Sandman would seem to have been responding the most directly to audience reaction on this one. I will admit that among the things shouted were: “Boo!” “You SUCK!” and, perhaps most hurtfully, “The Clavis family is like the Jackson family except they were never any good!” The veracity of these comments aside, I would not put it past The Sandman to have greased a few palms in order to get audience plants to scream these things and give his dancing-off the appearance of legitimacy. It is my understanding that The Sandman makes upwards of seven hundred dollars a week; it is not unthinkable that he might put some of those funds towards manufacturing consent. My wife and I agree this could happen.
I have tacked this letter to the door of The Apollo, where I hope a few people will read it and hopefully have their minds changed, before The Sandman’s thugs inevitably tear it down and throw it on the ground for their tapping Caesar to stomp upon. That is the best I can hope for.
Know this, Mr. Sandman: you may be able to kick-ball-change rampantly over the dreams of talented little girls from aspiring show business families, but you will never be able to dance off an idea.
Dwayne Clavis, Sr.
Manager, The Clavis Family Singers (available for parties and dances.)
The rain came down hard as I waited for the 11:15 out of Pemberton. I wanted a smoke, but my last one was rattling around in the box and the little store at the train station was shuttered for the night. I didn’t enjoy much of anything these days so I figured what I could enjoy I ought to save. Pemberton had been a bust. Another half-baked lead pointing to another shitty little town and I still wasn’t any closer to finding my wife’s killers.
I strained to hear the train whistle, or anything over the thunder and rain, but all I heard were her last words, hounding me like they did every second of every day. Maybe trying to exorcise them from my mind, I screamed them into the night:
“IT’S SO LONG!”
“Heh heh. That’s what she said!”
I turned. Standing a few feet away on the platform, someone I hadn’t noticed. A muscular kid, no older than twenty, his hair close-cropped like my father’s was when he got out of Korea, in khaki shorts and a sweater that had “CENTRAL STATE UNIVERSITY” embroidered across it. He held his hand up in the air, open palmed, with a big stupid grin on his face. His second and third mistake.
I blunted his grin with my fist, twisted the hanging hand around, and planted my knee in his back.
“HOW DID YOU KNOW?” I yelled over the rain.
“HOW DID YOU KNOW THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID?”
“What who said? Jesus, dude!”
“My WIFE! How do you know what my wife said? WHO ARE YOU WORKING FOR?”
“Oww! Nobody! I don’t know your wife! I was just joking.”
He read real-dumb, not play-dumb. I released his hand and let him up.
“Awful sorry about the haymaker, but just what kind of joke is that, college boy?”
“You never heard ‘That’s what she said?’ It’s like, this classic thing where…ah, never mind.”
He wasn’t such a bad kid. Reminded me a little of Celia’s kid from her first marriage, who blamed me for her death and was now bumming around somewhere in California. I decided to let him in a little.
“I used to be a cop. My big thing was I put away Marcos ‘Tiny’ Velazquez, this big time drug kingpin. Real old school. He swore revenge, and it got so I worried for the safety of my wife. I sent her to stay with her sister for a little while until things cooled off. But ‘Tiny’ didn’t forget. The day she came home, I was still at the office. They were waiting for her. When I got home, they were gone, but it was too late for her. She hadn’t seen me in a while and I hadn’t had a haircut in about as long. She ran her fingers through my hair. ‘It’s so long,’ she said. And that was it. The next day, I put in for my pension and I’ve been chasing Velazquez’s thugs ever since.”
“Wow,” said the kid. “You find ‘em yet?”
“Turns out I ain’t even chasing them. Turns out there’s this whole dirty-cop conspiracy I won’t get into, and my wife…turns out she and my former partner had a thing a few years back. And my partner, he’s in on it. Long story. We used to be best friends.”
“Aw man, that’s fucked.” said the kid. “Bros before ho’s!”
I couldn’t believe it. Nobody taunts me like that and lives. The motherfucker hung that big stupid hand out there again. This time I pulled out my old service revolver and shot it.
“FUCK! SHIT, WHAT THE FUCK!”
“Fool me once, shame on me, fool me twice, you lose your jerkin’ off hand! Now spill it! WHO ARE YOU WORKING FOR?”
He was doubled over, hugging the mangled hand to his sweatshirt. “I’m not working for anybody! OWW! You shot my fucking hand!”
“What you just said, you trying to tell me that wasn’t some sort of clue? The night my wife died. The two men: The Gardenia Brothers. First they assaulted my wife, then they strangled her with her own pantyhose. ‘BROS BEFORE HOSE.’ Very cute, now tell me how you know so much or you lose the other hand!”
“Bros…before…it’s just this thing you say…it means, like…Jesus, man, I don’t know anything!” he sobbed. “Just please don’t kill me, man. It’s cool, okay. It’s chill!”
“That’s it!” He winced like I was going to hurt him again, but I could’ve hugged him: It’s CHILL. Of course!
Tony “Chill” Agribedian. My old informant from my beat cop days. He was the missing link! If I could find him, I’d find the answers. The whole mess snapped into focus for me.
I gave the kid some money and put him in a cab for the hospital. He still wouldn’t own up to working for anybody, but I didn’t care. I had what I needed from him, whether he’d meant to offer it up or not. I apologized about the hand and lit up my last cigarette as the cab pulled away.
The 11:15 whistled in the distance. For all the rain coming down, it may as well have been sunny, I was all of the sudden in that kind of mood. I was on my way to putting this whole slimy business to bed, and I wondered if there would be anyone on the train to play pinochle with.
END OF SUMMER STORY-THON, Day 1 (more info on Story-Thon here)
Today's suggestion is from Phil Wittington: "Fuckparty's first gig."
Our band had its first gig on Saturday afternoon. Our band is called Fuckparty.
I spent all the spare time I had in class on Thursday coming up with a really cool flier. I showed it to Steve and Tom at lunch and they both agreed it was cool. I was going to stop by Kinko’s on the way home and get copies made but I forgot. Tom was already pissed we’d waited ‘till the end of the week to get fliers made up, so there was no way I was going to let our last possible day to promote the gig start with me showing up to school with no fliers.
After dinner, I asked my mom if I could borrow the car. She said no, but that she was going to pick up Caitlin from her playdate and would be more than happy to drop me off wherever I needed to go on her way there and she’d pick me up on the way back. I told her that was fine and really quickly sketched out a new flier. I had to hurry because she was leaving, so I drew it standing up on a piece of notebook paper on the washer by the garage door, but I think it captured the spirit of the original flier pretty well.
“A what party?”
I was sitting in the passenger seat of the Volvo with the new flier on my lap. It had everything the original flier had, pretty much, except it said ____party. Like, blank-party.
“Uhm, well, we don’t really know what kind of party it’s going to be, yet. Tom wanted a uhm. Skater party. And Steve was thinking more like…a hip hop party. This way we can get the fliers up and when we decide what kind of party it’s going to be, we can go back and fill it in.”
“I didn’t know it was going to be a party,” Mom said. “I thought it was going to be your bands’ first concert.”
“Yea, well, we decided we weren’t really into the whole band thing. We decided we’re going to get
into party promotion.”
“Well, I don’t remember giving you permission to have a party in the backyard on Saturday afternoon. I don’t remember telling the neighbors we were going to have a party. I remember telling them you and your friends were going to play for a half an hour and you were going to try to keep it down.”
“Uhm…well…this will be pretty quiet. And it won’t be any longer than the uhm. Concert was gonna be. It’s really more of like, a test party.”
“You can fill that in on your flier,” Mom said. “‘Test party.’” She smiled at me. “‘Quiet party.’ ‘Reasonable party.’”
When we got to Kinko’s she gave me ten dollars and told me to meet her out front in a half an hour.
“What the fuck is this?” Tom said in school on Friday. “Steve, can you fucking believe this?” It was Tom’s idea to call the band Fuckparty.
“I forgot to get the fliers copied on my way home,” I said, “so I had to get my fucking mom to drive me. So I had to make a new flier that didn’t say, y’know…”
“Couldn’t you just fold the flier up in your pocket?” Steve said.
“If I told her I wanted to go to fucking Kinko’s to get fliers copied, she’d say, oh, can I see the flier? And I’d have to fucking show her!” I say “fuck” a lot, but never as much as Tom says “fuck”. I think I was saying it a lot to prove to Tom that I didn’t have anything against the word “fuck.”
I told them about my party lie.
“What the fuck is a hip hop party?” Tom said. “That’s so fucking stupid.”
“It’s my mom, okay? All you have to do is say a bunch of words like ‘hip hop’ and ‘skater’ she doesn’t understand and she leaves me the fuck alone, okay?”
Tom and Steve were pissed. “The whole point is that it would be cool to hand out fliers with the word ‘fuck’ on them, and people would like, hide them in classes and be secret about them, and it would seem cool!” Steve said.
“They’re still cool!” I said. “They still have the same lettering and the same robot and everything!” I was able to draw a pretty okay version of the robot I had drawn on the original flier when I was sketching fast on the washer the night before. It’s a robot I draw a lot. It’s kind of my signature robot.
Steve suggested we write the word “fuck” in the blank on the fliers. Tom thought that was an okay idea, but the only writing utensils any of us had on us were pencils, and Tom said that in pencil on a printed flier, it might look like somebody else defaced our fliers. And we wanted to look cool, not like somebody else was cooler than us.
We kept debating and before long lunch was over and we hadn’t handed out any fliers.
“Still a pretty good turnout,” I said. It was Saturday afternoon, and there were six people in my backyard besides Tom and Steve and me. Tom’s big brother and his friend, two girls from school and two guys Steve is in the drumline with. After we didn’t get to hand out any fliers, Tom had said he’d send a MySpace message to everybody he knew on Friday night, but Tom’s profile got hacked and spammed everybody with porn two months ago, so I think people might not really pay attention to Tom’s MySpace messages anymore.
We had the amps and drums and guitars set up on the porch and had people standing in the grass. The girl Caitlin had her playdate with on Thursday night had invited her to go to the movies with their family on Saturday afternoon, and my mom was supposed to go pick her up right around the time our gig was scheduled to start, so I figured I’d be safe and all I’d ever have to tell her was that nobody showed up to our hip hop party. Or our skater party. Or whatever. We only had three songs so we’d be in and out.
It was almost four so I called Steve over from where he was talking to the drumline guys and I pulled Tom away from the girls so we could start. Tom’s big brother and his friend swooped in once I pulled Tom away.
“Fucking guys,” Tom said.
I told him it was okay, they’d forget all about Tom’s big brother and his friend once we started playing.
I slung my guitar over my shoulder. Tom picked up his guitar. Steve climbed behind the drums. It wasn’t exactly like I thought it was going to be, but I almost thought that was kind of cool. Like, “Can you believe there were only six people at the first Fuckparty gig?” I could see myself coming back to the old backyard on an MTV special: “It seems so small now.” I could hear myself telling the funny Mom driving me to Kinko’s story.
All the bands we like have really long song titles. We ripped into our first song, “I Claim This Land For Spain, Spain Claims This Land For I.” None of those words are in the song.
We reached the end. I thought I was going to do this cool windmill arm thing at the end of the song but I had been really focused on getting it right so I hadn’t. I thought I’d make up for it by starting the next song facing away from the crowd. That’s a move I always liked. I turned around and pretended to be tuning. When I looked up, I saw my mom standing inside behind the sliding glass patio door.
“We’re Fuckparty,” Tom said into the microphone. “Thanks for coming.” Tom’s brother’s friend hooted.
My mom didn’t come outside or go inside or do anything. I turned back around and started the song facing forward.
“Oh fuck, your mom was still here?” Tom said after the show when we were breaking stuff down.
“Yea,” I said, “I’d better go talk to her.”
“If she’s pissed, just say a bunch of stuff she doesn’t understand,” Steve said, “like hip hop party and skater party and stuff.” Tom laughed. He and Steve went to catch up with the girls, who’d gone around the side of the house as soon as we finished. I put my guitar in its case and went inside.
Mom was sitting at the kitchen table not doing anything. She looked at me when I slid the patio door open.
On Monday I told Steve and Tom that my mom yelled at me for hours. That she called me all sorts of names, like the stuff Tom says his stepdad calls him when he’s mad. That she said I couldn’t hang out with Tom and Steve for a week.
Really, she didn’t do any of those things.
You can still submit a suggestion of a word or phrase to dcpierson at gmail dot com with the word "suggestion" in the subject line! I'll use the first thirty I receive in the order I get 'em.
Like a year or two a go I did a month of stories based on suggestions people sent in. I think I'd like to do that again. One a day for a month, starting next Monday. If you would like to contribute, please send a word or a phrase to me at dcpierson at gmail dot com with the word "suggestion" in the subject line, along with your name so I can say who the suggestion is from (if you don't want me to use your full name, that's cool, just be sure to specify). I'll use the first 30 I get in the order I receive them.
Do it up!
clarification: just a random word or phrase is all that's necessary for the suggestion. Thanks to those of you who've already submitted.
An Open Letter To Sean Mulcafferty, Bassist Of The Black Metal Band That I Started.
I guess it’s a good thing we called our band BETRAYER, since that is in fact what you turned out to be. Wait, come to think of it, Sean, wasn’t it YOUR idea to call the band BETRAYER? It was, wasn’t it? Perhaps, in those early days of the band six weeks ago, you were trying to send myself and the other members a message. I can’t even think of a name that would be more descriptive of the situation we now find ourselves in. If you’ll remember, I wanted to call the band LEGION OF SORROWS. Actually, that would’ve been pretty appropriate too, since sorrow is exactly what your betrayal has caused us. How many sorrows, you ask? Let’s see, one, two, three, four—OH WOW, a whole LEGION.
I guess it’s a good thing we put five songs on our first EP, since five is the exact number of ways in which you’ve hurt me. In your betrayal of BETRAYER, you’ve hurt my sense of myself, my sense of what it means to be a musician, and my sense of what it means to be a man. You’ve hurt my faith in black metal, and you’ve hurt my faith in Satan. Wait, come to think of it, Sean, wasn’t it your idea for us to put five songs on our first EP? Or not your IDEA, exactly, but it was you who insisted we leave off the sixth track, “CHILD-HEART DEVOURER,” because it wasn’t “punishing” enough? “Punishing,” Sean. Your word, not mine. Well, I’m being punished now, Sean. I’m being punished for trusting you.
I guess it’s a good thing we named that first EP “TAKING A DUMP IN GOD’S MOUTH.” Because I started Betrayer from nothing, so I guess if Betrayer was the world, and it was certainly my world, Sean, then I was God, because I created it. And when you betrayed Betrayer, it was as though you stormed the gates of Heaven, slaughtered angel after angel before finally breaking into the most high throne room of the divine and confronted me, God. Then you asked me to open my mouth, and because I am an infinitely loving and trusting God, I did. Then you unbuckled the tri-skull belt buckle that I, God, bought you at the smoke shop at the mall so you’d look more metal for our first gig, took down your black leather pants, and filled my mouth, the mouth once spoke the words “let there be light” and called the very universe into being, with a big steamy dump. Wait, come to think of it, wasn’t it your idea to call the EP “TAKING A DUMP IN GOD’S MOUTH?” Well, I may only be God, a weak-willed crutch of a deity vastly inferior to the dark lord Satan, but I know dump when I taste it. Well, I’m tasting it today, Sean. And there’s some in my beard, too.
What betrayal are you guilty of? What crime could be so great that I would start writing a letter to you and stop writing lyrics for our forthcoming album, “GOAT SKULL FULL OF VIRGIN PUS?” I’ll tell you, Sean. When this band started six weeks ago, I made one thing very clear. The band description on our MySpace profile would be “METAL. BLACK. SPEED.” First and foremost, we are metal. Second, we are black metal. And as a VERY distant third, we are speed black metal. You went in and changed the description to “METAL. SPEED. BLACK.” If our band is a baby, then METAL is the egg, and BLACK is the sperm. With one stroke, you’ve pierced the womb with the razor-tipped cock you call “SPEED,” and completely decimated the baby that is our band. I trust the reference to our song isn’t lost on you. You must know the one I’m talking about: “Razorcock Fuckbortion?” I mean, you wrote it. It’s a beautiful song. I wish I could say as beautiful as the soul of the man who wrote it, but after this…well, I just don’t know anymore.
I want you to apologize to me. I want you apologize to the other members of Betrayer. And most importantly, I want you to apologize to Satan. You know what it takes to apologize to Satan, and YES, my cat did just have kittens and YES, you may have one to sacrifice. It should come easily to you. You got a lot of practice when you sacrificed my trust.
Founder of the Black Metal Band You Ruined