Tag Archives: Rockstar Storytellers

IT’S OVER, SNOW

I’ve lived in Minnesota for many years. Lately, I’ve been traveling more and I’ve had the good fortune to meet people on social media, particularly the twitters. I keep trying to describe to friends, both new and old, how I feel about snow. I realized the best analogy for my relationship with snow is this: It’s like dating a crazy person. The following is my attempt to break up with snow. It will probably get ugly.

Snow.

You and I have to talk.

We’ve been seeing each other on and off for more years than I like to think about and—no, no—Snow—I don’t want to play. No, I don’t want to throw you at my friends or roll you into balls and make you a man. That’s just weird.

Snow. This is serious.

It’s not you, it’s me, but I think we need to break up.

No, no, Snow, don’t lose your shit. I don’t deny we’ve had some really good times together. Usually in December.

You’ve been away for a while and when you first come back I’m excited to see you. You look fresh and pretty. And, honestly, it’s really nice to have you around for the holidays. I sit by a warm fire and I could just stare at you all night.

But then January 1st hits and I am so fucking done with you.

Why? Because I know you’re going to spend months making ridiculous demands of me.

How many times have I made plans with friends that I have had to cancel because of your bullshit?

I’m sick of the embarrassment of calling my friends and family and saying, “Sorry, I can’t make it to dinner or the show or the family reunion because Snow showed up in the middle of the night and fucked up my car.”

You don’t care what’s going on in my life. You show up whenever you want with all your needs and your issues. Shovel me! Scrape me! Blow me!

Not to mention my favorite passive aggressive game—pour kitty litter on me or I will knock you on your ass. That’s just deviant.

And then you try to play it off  like it’s cute. You’re all like, “Oh, come on, stay home from work, lie down inside me, and let’s make an angel together.”

It’s cute in December, Snow, but by February, it’s just pathetic.

And that’s another thing. By February, you’re not exactly pretty anymore. Thousands of different people and machines have trampled through you, you’re full of mud and filth, you keep melting and refreezing, melting and refreezing. By March we finally start to see the truth: you are a messy, dangerous bi-polar pile of crazy mush.

No, no, I am not being overly harsh. Remember when I said it wasn’t you, it was me? I was lying.

It is totally you. You’re insane. You dictate where I can park my car!

By the end of March, you are downright sociopathic. I’m not playing with you enough, so you start a big melt to try to get my attention back. The second I start to feel a little sad that you’re leaving, you pound me with another ten inches.

That’s it.  That’s the end of the story. Can we just be friendly about it?

Can I have my stuff back?

What stuff?  All the stuff I’ve lost inside you over the years. Hats, mittens, keys, glasses.

No, you do not give them back every year. I wait while you slowly melt to find the stuff I dropped. Somehow, my class ring never reappears but you manage to retain every single piece of dog shit you’ve collected for the last six months.

See? I can’t do this anymore. You drive me into a frenzy of anger and whining. I can’t even complain about you to my friends because they’re sick of hearing it.

All they say is, “If you hate this relationship so much, why don’t you just move on?”

And the answer is: I don’t know.

Maybe I  like to complain. Maybe it is me. Maybe I’m afraid to try a different relationship.

What the hell is out there for me, anyway? I don’t want to date fog. I don’t want to build a life with dry heat. I know you’ll just follow me to the mountains.

I need to be strong. I need to break the cycle. I need to do something crazy like hook up with a fault line.

Until then, you and I are stuck with one another, Snow.

But from now on, we are just friends. And barely that. I’m sure I’ll see you at parties. Whether you’re invited or not.

I’ll do my best to be civil and if I can’t look at you without screaming, I’ll just hide in my house. But if you pile up on my roof and try to break into my house—I will get a restraining order.

Have a good life, Snow, have a good life.

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A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A DEAD MAN

Last Halloween, I was challenged to write a scary story. So I wrote about the most horrible thing I could imagine. It’s not “creatures popping out of the dark, make you scream, run, and twist your ankle” scary. It’s horrible explicit gore. But not physical gore. It’s emotional, existential gore. It’s like a pompous French film version of Saw. It’s a story about fear. Please try to enjoy “A Portrait of the Artist as a Dead Man.”

John Ludd died accidentally on October 18th, 2011.  He is survived by his parents and some friends. I guess. When reached for comment, his parents simply sighed. John Ludd had no spouse or partner to contact. He also had no children. He didn’t even have pets.

I guess it’s safe to say John Ludd is survived,  begrudgingly, by his parents and the not insubstantial amount of mold growing in his kitchen.

And, of course, his friends. If you could combine the hundreds of people John knew, taking bits and pieces of all them, they would form one or two actual close friends. I, myself, am writing this obituary because you can only play hot potato for so long before that tuber starts to cool down and you have no choice but to say yes.

Don’t get me wrong, John was a nice, fun guy. He was interesting to observe in exactly the same way a black hole is: from far enough away that you don’t risk getting sucked into the void.

But here I go.

John Ludd was a novelist. He was cooking up a great American novel in his head. But there seemed to be an unfortunate blockage between his head and his fingers because, to my knowledge, not a single word of that novel exists in the corporeal world.

John spent his final days on his smartphone playing a game called Words With Friends. Words With Friends should be called A Barely Legal Rip-Off Of Scrabble With Strangers From The Internet. Of course, that’s not quite as appealing. But then honesty never is.

John held a string of crappy office jobs. He would immerse himself in petty office politics—who got to take a longer break, whose key card allowed them to swipe into the slightly nicer bathroom, how come someone threw out his week old frozen pizza leftovers after only giving him three written warnings but no verbal warnings, and on and on.

It was almost as if he needed to cram pointless crap in his head to make sure the great novel simmering in there never had a chance to come to a full boil.

Still, John was not without his accomplishments. He once scored over 120 points in Words With Friends. Even more impressively, he did this by spelling the word “Jazz.” It must be noted, the game only provides one “Z.” So John, in a display of patience and planning rarely seen in his life, had to hold on to the high point letters of “J” and “Z” until a blank tile came up that he could transform into a second “Z.” Luckily, John immediately took a screen capture of the game or this momentous achievement in his life would be lost to the mists of time.

I knew John, as almost everyone did, as that mildly entertaining guy who hung out at the kind of depressing bar that had a really good happy hour deal on Miller High Life. I would call John a bar fly, but comparing him to a weaving darting creature like a fly would not communicate the anchor like weight with which he sat at the bar. John was a bar hippo.

John had an uncanny ability to know exactly how other people should fix their lives with absolutely no ability to apply the same ideas to his own. He would dole out advice like “remember to keep things in perspective” and “just be the best you you can be,” not to mention rhetorical winners like, “Are you afraid to be fearless?”

Sometimes, after a particularly long rant, listeners would comment, “You should write that down, you could use it for your novel.” To which John would reply, “You’re right. Another pitcher sounds like a great idea,”  and launch into yet another cheap beer infused tirade about the mysteries of the universe.

Alas, in my humble opinion, life is like a “life is like” analogy made at a bar late at night. It only makes sense to people who are drunk.

John always said he wanted to die in an interesting, flamboyant manner.  And, well, there’s no way to sugar coat it, he failed at that, too.

John died as he lived. Just fucking sitting there. There was a slow but deadly carbon monoxide leak in his apartment building. Everyone else got out as their alarms alerted them to a problem. Not only had John removed the batteries from his alarm, he had earbuds in and his iPod set to maximum volume. As far as we can tell, the last thing he heard or experienced was Led Zeppelin III. Which isn’t even a particularly good album.

John did not believe in the afterlife. Which should be a comfort to his atheist friends, I guess. And god knows, atheists could use some comfort. After all, atheists are, by definition, cheated out of the opportunity to gloat. When you die and stop existing there’s really no opportunity to say, “I told you so.”

To be perfectly honest, I used to be an atheist.  But after John died, I just can’t. I mean, the man did nothing. It’s frankly amazing that I have so much to say about someone who did so little. I want there to be an afterlife, so John can DO SOMETHING.

Screw the great American novel! Write a cookbook, a haiku, carve a dirty limerick on the back of whatever tablets god’s cooking up for us in the next century. Just make a fucking impression.

In conclusion, John Ludd was a novelist.

He had a great novel.

In his head.

He once tried to shotgun a beer out of a glass bottle.

There will probably be a small, informal memorial service at the bar during happy hour. Maybe we’ll scratch his name on his favorite stool. And we’ll share memories.

One last memory before I go. John often talked about what he would do after his novel was published and he made a bunch of money. He described this moment as “when his ship comes in.” It always struck me as a pretty depressing turn of phrase for someone who lives in the middle of the land-locked Midwest. But in all fairness, I think a lot of us are waiting for our ships to come in.

Allow me to close by sharing my new personal motto. A motto that is, at the very least, co-written with John Ludd.

If all I intend to do with my life is wait for my ship to come in, the least I can do is move a little closer to the fucking ocean.

Thank you.

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WORD PORN

This story was originally written for a friend of mine who loves two things: words and mythology. By words, I mean he loves big words that make him feel smart at the expense of others. And by mythology, I mean fantasy. And by fantasy, I mean cheap swords and sorcery fantasy like a combination of He-Man and soft core pornography. Actually, He-Man pretty much is soft core pornography, isn’t it?

This is a fantasy story starring words.

This is WORD PORN.

Once upon a time in the land of Dictionary, there lived a word called Indefatigable. Indefatigable was a huge leviathan of a word. His scandalously long vowels and hard consonants caused others words to swoon and sway. Their syllables would spread wide–revealing their trembling trochees and gliding diphthongs in an orgiastic fit of phonetic submission.

But there was only one word in the entire land of Dictionary that Indefatigable had eyes for: Pulchritude. What a noun. Pulchritude’s undulating flow, harsh rhythm, and wanton popping of her plosive P was almost unbearable. There was no adjective to describe Pulchritude with the exception of her sister. Pulchritudinous.

But all was not well in the land of Dictionary—a word of great evil was gathering power. A flabby, jaundiced, heinous word known only as Oleaginous.

Oleaginous had hatched an unspeakably odious plot to slaughter every word between himself and Pulchritude so she would be forced to live directly next to Oleaginous and endure his fetid polysyllabic advances.

Oleaginous, together with his lugubrious henchmen, Squamous and Feculent, marched through the lower O lands of Dictionary—murdering O word after O word with feckless disregard for their antiquity. They silenced Oration! They beheaded Overpass, defenestrated Overthrow, and ripped a gaping hole right through the center of Ozone.

Word of the atrocity traveled to our hero, Indefatigable. Together with his chatty sidekick, Loquacious, Indefatigable set off on a perilous venture to rescue his coveted noun.

As Indefatigable raced through the land of Dictionary, Loquacious babbled and chattered in a desperate attempt to provide comic relief that was neither humorous nor particularly successful in facilitating an emotional catharsis.

“Looky there,” squawked Loquacious like a socially challenged eunuch, “Larceny is having a lark with Laxative!”

But Indefatigable could not be consoled. He raced forward pausing only to wave a friendly hello to his good friends Libido, Liqueur, and Lubricant.

Meanwhile, the villainous triumvirate of Oleaginous, Squamous, and Feculent plundered a path through the hills, valleys, and streams of P. They perforated Penetration! They plastered Pedantic and sent Perdition straight to Hell! They pricked Promiscuity and popped Prophylactic! Oleaginous was almost within propinquity of Pulchritude. All he had to do now was pass through Puberty.

Suddenly, Indefatigable burst upon the scene. Pulchritude told him to capitulate to Oleaginous as she was more than capable of defending herself. But Indefatigable was intransigent.

“You’ve killed a lot of good words today, Oleaginous,” said Indefatigable. “And I’m going to make you pay.”

The two big, hard to say words stared at each other with mutual loathing. Wind whistled atop the rocky plateau upon which they stood. Lightning slaked the dark clouds’ hunger for illumination. And all the other words in the land of Dictionary gathered to witness this apocalyptic conflagration.

Tension paced back and forth. Histrionic wailed and moaned. Ellipsis waited to see what WOULD…HAPPEN…NEXT…

Suddenly, the titanic battle began!  Swindle barely had time to collect bets before it was over. Without breaking a sweat, Indefatigable had ripped Oleaginous into his component parts leaving a hideous splatter of flaccid letters pooled in their own fluid. An Alphabet Soup of death.

The crowd began to disperse when Indefatigable cried out, “Oh, I’m not done yet!”

And his tireless eyes met with the unfathomable beauty that was Pulchritude’s pupils.

And even Loquacious was speechless as Pulchritude mounted Indefatigable like an umlaut on a U. They copulated for what seemed an incalculable time—an astounding epic of hammering, pounding, and punctuating—the two words riding one another like prurient asterisks!

It was too much for most decent words. Hell, it was too much for most naughty words. Fellatio’s jaw fell open in shock. Sodomy turned his back. Even Fuck blushed.

And finally, in a swelling exclamation of teleological bliss, Indefatigable and Pulchritude climaxed–their syllables intertwined in an obscene mockery of a compound word.

And that, ladies and gentleman, is the true story of the invention of the word: In-pul-chrat-ah-ga-tude-able.

Or to describe this linguistic union in more pejorative terms—their disgusting, spasmodic lovemaking had created a lovely new word that simply means “tireless beauty.”

Because sometimes even ugly things can be pretty.

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May The Tweets Be With You

As an important writer (who was probably trying to avoid spending time writing) once wrote, “Write what you know.”  The internet tells me this quote is from Mark Twain.  According to the internet, everything ever uttered in the universe tripped lightly from the lips of Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, and X where X equals a famous person who died recently.

As a writer, I follow an amended version of this common wisdom: “Write about the stuff you keep thinking about that is preventing you from writing.”  This motto has caused me to write stories, sketches, and entire plays about donuts, squirrels, video games, Kinko’s, kidnapping theater critics, horrible blind dates, the French, legitimate 1099-C tax deductions, whiskey, and much more.

This summer, as a deadline loomed for The Rockstar Storytellers, a spoken word group based in the Twin Cities, I found myself obsessively making jokes about Star Wars on twitter.  Knowing that procrastination is just a really negative word for muse, I wrote a new piece about the plot of Star Wars as told through the twitter feed of the main characters.

The performance in this video, filmed at the sci-fi/fantasy convention CONvergence as part of my geek flavored show, The Comedy of Doom, is the ultimate result.  Please, ignore your writing or other important life tasks and enjoy.

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