Saturday, December 31, 2011


I'm not linking because most of the post is old news, but thankfully the first line says it all.

A few weeks after this picture was taken, Moo got sick.  She vomited everything she managed to choke down and eventually refused to eat at all.  Apart from a malformed heart, arthritic hips, and the withered lungs of a cat twice her age, the vet found nothing wrong with her.  She advised me to make her comfortable and wait.

Bullshit.  With that giant knot of arthritis around her hips, she was probably just miserable in the cold.  As I blogged about, that was the coldest winter of my life.  My arthritis made me miserable, too.  MiniMooMooMaMaMe just needed a reason to live, that's all.

If there's one substance guaranteed to changed Moo Cat from a house pet into a safari savage, it's turkey.  It looks something like what happens to Bruce, the shark from Finding Nemo, when he smells Dori's blood (:33).  I bought two pounds of Boar's Head Mesquite Wood Smoked Turkey and fed it to her gradually over two days, switching to regular food when she ate several slices in one sitting and kept it down.

She stuck around the Treehouse, helped Becky and I move in, and terrorized poor Dylan non-stop.  I assumed that's were our relationship would settle.  She'd be boney and fat-bellied at the same time, we'd play Spot the Vomit when we got home and when we woke up, and she'd purr in bed all night long.  I mean, she was an indoor cat.  We had at least another decade, right?

Then, she started peeing.  As anyone who knows anything about cats will tell you, when an adult cat starts peeing outside her litter box it means something is wrong.  We assumed it was the fleas, which were especially bad this year.  We bathed, we Advantaged, we bathed, we Frontlined.  We made a healthy dent but never managed to erase them.

Moo stopped peeing in the bathroom and started peeing in the hallway instead.  And the living room.  And my closet.  She barely ate.  She became skin and bones.  She developed a weird walk.

She also started being super-affectionate, even with Dylan.  That should have been the big red flag; she was a little snurtbag, and only gave affection grudgingly, but that was her charm.

Two days before we took her to the vet, I dropped her from my arms and she fell instead of landing on her feet.  I thought it was the arthritis, and being underfed.  I started gently placing her on her feet when I put her down.

The day before we brought her to the vet, Moo tried to eat and fell over.  Becky put her foot and water on a stool so she wouldn't have to bend over, and fed her a package of treats by hand.

But she was still pooping, still jumping (albeit to lower heights), still lovey-dovey.  I fooled myself that they'd give her pills for arthritis and she'd bounce back.  Still, I'm not a complete fool.  Before I went to work and Becky and Dylan brought her to the vet, I said goodbye.

I wish I'd gone with them.  I wish I'd taken Moo to the vet sooner, even though they can't do much for kidney failure (at least not much that we can afford).  I wish I never lost my patience and forced her outside when I found pee on the floor.  I wish I'd done better.

Goodbye, Moo.  I hope where you are the beds are cushy, your body is healthy, and they serve turkey three meals a day.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Sweet Wishes You a Merry Christmas

May you be a better person than you thought possible.

May happy music fill your heart.
So you can do this.

May you get everything you asked Santa for.

May you recognize the angels in your life.
To help you avoid the demons.

Merry, merry!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Girl with the Pigeon Tattoo Gets a Tractor to the Forearm

Barack Obama's daughters loved Drummer Boy so much that when Obama wrote a children's book, he picked Loren Long to illustrate it.  The result is Of Thee I Sing:

Buy it, coz.

But toddlers couldn't care less about that.  When you need to entertain a five-year-old, you want something a little more funkengrooven.  You want a friendship between a tractor and a calf.

If that sounds dumb, it's because you're old and your heart is a brittle, numb thing.  It sounded dumb to me when Dylan requested it as his bedtime story, the first time I ever watched Becky put him down. When she read the gentle purring of the tractor's engine that lulls the little calf to sleep, Otis's putt puff puttedy chuff, I fell in love.  Being a family is mostly making things up as you go.  There are very few moments you feel you're getting it right, while they're happening.  That was one.

Also, when it comes to matters of the heart, Becky is my Otis and I am her calf.  In fact, when Loren Long scheduled appearances at Books & Books Bal Harbour and Coral Gables, I wanted to ask for the calf to go with her tractor.  It would have represented her saving me, us as a couple, and the father I became when she brought Dylan into my life.

But I didn't ask, so we'll have to come with another couple tattoo.

You know how this thing with Becky's arm works, right?

First comes the drawing.

While Mo Willems scribbled the Pigeon in about twenty seconds ("The thing is to capture the energy!"), Loren Long was meticulous.  He stopped several times.  He'd stand, step back, stare, erase, and start again.  "I wasn't this nervous for President Obama," he said.

Then comes the tattooing.

Dicky Magoo of Tattoos by Lou (seriously) loves the challenge of replicating other artist's work, trying to get the same effects in tattoo as they did in whatever medium they originally used.  He did Becky's first illustrator tattoo, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and returned to the scene of the ink for Otis.

Side Note: That last link is to the Los Angeles Review of Books, where Lisa Jane Persky writes, "Becky Quiroga’s “Very Hungry Caterpillar,” drawn on her arm by Eric Carle himself, is a piece of body art that soccer moms from Sandusky to Timbuktu would find it [SIC] hard to disapprove of."  But people see what they want.  The more ink Becky gets, the more strangers are wary of the badass tattooed chick.  Few look closely enough to see that they're pictures from children's books.

So it's a tattoo artist's rendering of an illustrator's actual drawing on Becky's arm, get it?  Stop saying, "I guess you'll never wash that arm again."

Becky was able to get Otis between Loren Long's first and second appearances, so he was able to see the finished product.
Pictured: Natural behavior.
Long was soooo nice.  He's the type of nice guy who's so nice that I walk away thinking, "Why can't I be more like him?"  Most people who meet me immediately think I'm an asshole.  Which is 1) not far off 2) why hand-selling books is difficult for me.  So this asshole thinks I should buy "The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet;" whoop-dee-freaking-whoo.

The Otis tattoo made Shelf Awareness as well, on September 19th.  Yes, that's how topical I am.  More to the point, that's what Miami Book Fair International 2011 did to me.  It took over all three of my lives, the internet one, the writing one, and the breathing one.

With the presidential credentials on her forearm, can Maurice Sendak's Max be far behind?  Are you listening, Mr. Sendak?  Say the word and we're Connecticut bound.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Five People I Hate (and How They Make a Living in Today's Economy)

5: People who say "I like the one where Ross and Rachel argue" when Friends comes up.

Or "I like when he meets that one girl" when someone mentions How I Met Your Mother, or "I like the episode when they sing" if someone says they love Glee.  I get it, har-har, every episode is interchangeable and they're pablum.  You only watch Breaking Bad and The Wire, or The Office when you're in the mood for a chuckle (the British version, of course).   

These phrases are so self-consciously witty and glib, so wanna-be sophisticated.  This is a person who wishes they could get more enjoyment out of life, a person bitter that they can't escape the prison of their harsh judgements and who must therefore piss on the things others enjoy.  They either become critics or waiters at TGI Friday's.

Fuck these people.  And while we're at it, fuck...

4: People Who Think Out Loud

Because I usually don't know how I feel about something until I write about it, I'm automatically prejudiced against folks whose minds work this way.  Even if you don't process the world by writing about it, I think we can all agree that being used as someone's sounding board is... exactly as fun as that phrase sounds.  I talk to myself but I'm not cruel enough to expect people to listen (unless you count Sweet).

Professionally, there is nothing more annoying than co-workers who have no idea what kind of help they want but who somehow have all morning to slather you with blather about it.  They say things like, "I got this paperwork with your clearly detailed notes on what I need to do with it but I just wanted to be sure..." or "I just sent you an email but I thought I should call..."  Needing help is one thing; keeping me trapped while I get a terrifying window into your thought process is something else.

Outside the workplace, there are few things as beneficial as a friend who's willing to listen to your problems.  But to people whose every thought and emotion needs to be verbalized before they can make sense of it, and who think nothing of spewing forty-minute monologues over coffee or beer, there's a word for the kind of friend you're looking for: a psychiatrist.  

Unfortunately, if you work with these people, you probably work for these people.  Parcelling out when their outer-inner monologue suddenly requires a response from you is the unwritten part of your job.

If they aren't your boss, chances are they work part-time, freeing more hours in their day for jabber.

3: People Who Don't Know How to Act in Parking Lots

When I lived in Syracuse and Virginia, this niggling annoyance centered around shopping carts - when you're finished with your shopping cart, you bring it back to the store.  It's just good manners; you took it out so you put it back.  But living in Miami, poor parking lot etiquette has become a full-blown pet peeve.

Miami is series of neighborhoods joined by population growth rather than urban planning, so cute little lots which should accommodate the attached buildings have become slices of hell where drivers are doomed to circle forever.  To compound the problem, every lot here seems to have been designed by the same dude: Stuffspace McCrammer.

McCrammer saw the hairs on his chin and thought, "I can do this with cars!"
McCrammer's mission is to fit as many spaces as possible into every lot he designs, making spaces so narrow and corners so close that matchbox cars couldn't fit in them.  Keep him in mind while I list these problem people.

Lazy fuckers leaving carts wherever they please?  We got em in droves.  Fucktards who don't pull in all the way and turn the aisles into obstacle courses?  Got those, too.  Dumbasses who miss the space and accidentally take up more than one?  We could fill a stadium.  These are clueless assholes barely paying attention to life.  We forgive them, for the most part, because they know not what's going on while they're on their cell phones.  We don't forgive the domino effect one person parking like this creates.

Also, some winners dump trash in parking lots.  What better place to dispose of that old diaper, or the packages on the toys you just purchased, or the doggie bag you thought better of taking home?  Go ahead and drop it right outside your door and drive away fast, because once one person sees trash in the middle of the concrete, another one thinks, "Oh, so that's where this empty soda bottle / cigarette pack / fast food container goes."  Then the fast food container fucks the dirty diaper to make trash babies, and you can't pull into the space without 1) overlapping the space on the other side, or 2) double-parking, getting out, and removing the offending pile.

We don't forgive litterbugs.
Then there's people who say "fuck it" and double park their car where it lies.  What the hell is up with that, anyway?  "I've looked long enough.  I'm stopping the car right here, right now, and the world can deal with it."  That's a kind of psychosis, isn't it?

And luxury car drivers.  You're really something, aren't you?  Your car is too nice to risk the narrow confines of the parking lot, so you deliberately park your Jaguar / Lexus / Mercedes at an angle?  Not only are you so much better than me with your money wheels, I'm not even good enough to park alongside you.  Fuck right off.

The deliberate angle parker is a successful business person or the housewife / househusband of a successful business person.  Their bank accounts are full but they are living at the very edge of their means.  The only difference between them and the working poor is that the business person stands to lose more stuff if their job gets downsized.  Hence, the angle park.  It says, "Check out the lovely vehicle I can afford, but don't cause any damage because I can't afford to get it fixed.  You see, Johnson is gunning hard for my job and if I took a half day to bring the BMW to the garage, I know he'd make jokes with the boss behind my back while I was gone.  He'd be all, 'Where's Bob hiding out these days? Heh-heh' and the boss would laugh, but inside he'd be wondering."  Or words to that effect.  The house husband / housewife is so overwhelmed with keeping this stressful endeavor of a marriage afloat that they need to stop the car before they burst into tears.

If you are one of the "fuck it I'll stop the car anywhere I want and call it parking" service people bringing the angle-parker his lunch, please keep their sad lives in mind before you make it a sneezer.  Sure, they're assholes, but they're people too.  And who are you to judge with your issues, throwing the car into park at the last second so your head doesn't explode from anger?  Get a grip.

In addition to servers, business people, and housewives, "fuck-its" can also be Post Office workers, lawyers, or athletes.

Dumbasses and litterbugs come from all walks of life.

2: People Who Text While Driving

Having a death wish is one thing.  Take up sky diving, mountain climbing, or any other activity where the gun is pointed at your head and no one else's.  The text-driver thinks he's just living his life, but subconsciously he's no different than the pyscho who brings a gun to a public place and shoots a bunch of people before killing himself (or committing suicide by cop).  The text-driver isn't happy putting his own life in danger, he's got to go out in a miraculous blaze that takes as many with him as possible.  

While waiting to cross the street, I used to count how many passing drivers were on cell phones for fun.  Now, I look for people with their phones in the text position.  It's amazing how many people think they can get away with this.  Take your eyes off the road for one second in the city and you've travelled 44 feet.  More likely you're only doing fractions of second, but a lot can happen in a few feet.  And people do it all the time and think nothing will go wrong.

Why aren't cops and legislators working on this?  Because they're too busy busting people for photography?  If waving loaded guns around in crowded places suddenly became a thing, I think cops would react.  Is texting while driving not equally dangerous and irresponsible?  I guess they get a pass on the rarely invoked "everyone does it" rule.

By that rationale, it's okay to listen to this.
Some driving texters are over-scheduled moms.  They have a job teaching or instructing aerobics but they're also shouldering an unfair portion of the child rearing.  They started out trying to be hip by communicating via text to the young people in their lives and it all just kind of snowballed.  We pity their  struggle, but it will be tough for her to bond with her children when she's dead.  Ditto whoever she mows over.

The other texting drivers are high school and college students.  As we all know, God is making an exception for them and they'll live forever.  

1: Jeff Bezos

Jeff... fucking... Bezos

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Book World Just Got a Lot Less Interesting

George Whitman with daughter Sylvia Beach Whitman

If you didn't recognize it, the background photograph of SwF&F is a picture Becky took when she visited Shakespeare and Company in Paris.  Unfortunately, owner George Whitman died yesterday. 

Read his obiturary in the New York Times.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

South Florida's Flash Fiction Contest

The Miami Herald had this contest and I didn't even rate, proving once again that I need to work for the things I want rather than hastily pushing something together and hoping it works.

On the bright side, the Grand Prize Winner is really, really good:

NAME: Roxanna Elden
TITLE: Bright Blue Day (Fiction)
Some days in Florida are so bright the world looks like a flashback scene in a movie. Everything gets bleached this shimmery, champagne color, and people are so busy squinting out the extra light that some of the important stuff gets blocked out, too.
I met Rey on a day like that.
All I could look at were his hands. The veins on them popped out in a way that reminded me of worms. I couldn't decide if it grossed me out or turned me on - but I think that's how I work. I get used to men's most obvious flaws. Then I focus on the little things until it drives me crazy. Rey's most obvious flaw was that he was nearly twice my age. And married. His hands really bothered me, though. But if he was reaching up for some reason - like if he was getting a beer out of the freezer, they just looked kind of strong.
It was a moment like that when I realized I wanted him to be mine. It was the day after our first night in his truck, which I felt bad about, but saying no to Rey kind of scared me. He dropped me off, and said, "Princess, I'd walk you to the door, but we both know your daddy would kill me. Why don't you come by and see me tomorrow, if you're around."
I spent the day figuring out how to walk the mile and a half to his house and still pretend I was just in the neighborhood. When I got there, he was pushing a wire hanger through the top of his garage door, and it hit me, like the harsh white light of the Florida sun: This is a man who can fix things. He can fix my life.

It's easier to lose to something better than you offered.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Model United Nations: The Are Two Sides to the Condom Man Story

My mom and I have different versions of the story, but the facts are clear; I gave a speech in Hendricks Chapel at Syracuse University when I was eighteen, and the New York chapter of the Model United Nations was permanently banned from meeting there.

MUN was one of many organizations I joined during my senior year in a last-ditch scramble to get everything I could out of my high school education.  Even now I can't really tell you what it was about.  MUN appealed to me because countries got to pass notes in classrooms while ignoring the speakers, something I'd never done as a studious lad.

It was 1991.  Hendricks Chapel - an interfaith facility on SU's main quad - was filled to capacity.  While High School teachers and curious college professors stood against the walls looking on, high schoolers across New York state got up and pretended to be delegates from different countries.  Everyone got two minutes to speak for his or her temporarily-appropriated country, to talk about what they expected to get out of the two-day affair.  It was an endless parade of we the people of Argentina are proud to stand with our fellow nations and the proud people of Belgium are delighted to stand with you and Chile stands proud with it's fellow countries, all of it delivered in the same hand-shaking, staring at the page monotone.  Every country was happy to be there.  Every country had an agenda.  Every country had hope for the future.

East Syracuse-Minoa was assigned Nicaragua and. . . some other country.  I ended up speaking for Nicaragua because the guy who was supposed to do it chickened out.  Whether he never wrote a speech or destroyed it in his distress, I'll never know.

Somewhere around the H countries, Mr. Parziale came and squatted beside me.  Mr. Parziale taught accelerated Social Studies to tenth and eleventh graders, taught economics and political science in summer school, and was in charge of MUN.  He was smart, humorous, and fair.  He explained that there was no one to speak for Nicaragua and asked if I wanted to give it a shot.  No pressure, because they could always just bang the gavel and move on to Nigeria, it would be great if I could say a little something to let the New York MUN'ers know that East Syracuse-Minoa was in the house.

"Look at them," he said, gesturing toward the lectern.  "You can do that, can't you?"

"Indonesia stands proudly before you, but gratefully among you, as we work together-"

"No problem," I said.

One thing that's important to keep in mind - MUN is run by students.  The teachers guide and educate, but their most important job is getting out of the way.  Mr. Parziale told me to talk about rapid population growth, an issue taxing Nicaragua's healthcare system, environment, and educational system at the time.

I wrote furiously, watching the students drone on.  I had a semester and a half of Drama Club and had represented the school in a Shakespeare Competition.  I could do that, I thought.

Or I wake those people up.

Imagine that picture above filled with high schoolers in suits and dresses, doing their best to reenact a UN meeting.  A lot of navy, is what I'm trying to say.  I walked on stage sporting a mustard, leopard-spotted jacket from Chess King and a vintage, dark brown, gambler-crown, wide-brimmed hat.

Oh, the hat.  The hat's I wore in high school could be a blog in itself, and this particular hat would be a week of posts.  I waited until college to do any drinking or drugs, using eighties movies to alter my consciousness instead.  The result was that I often left the house looking like an eighteen-year-old pimp.   If the beaten western Clint Eastwood wore in Fistful of Dollars fucked the hat Jack Nicholson wore when the played the Joker, you'd get something like it.

Increase the width of this brim by 50%, lose the leather band, and flatten the top.
More importantly, the origin story: my high-school sweetheart's father lived in a mental institution; she loaned me his favorite hat.  I literally wore a hat only a crazy person would wear.
If I could make shit like that up, publishers would be beating down my door.

My speech was a hit because it matched my look.  I leaned over the mic and told the capacity crowd that not only was Nicaragua over-populated, it was under-educated.  We couldn't just throw condoms at them and expect the birth rate to level out.  It doesn't do anyone any good if people are walking around with condoms on their ears or using them as water balloons.  We needed a special committee to travel to Nicaragua, and all the underprivileged nations of the world, and demonstrate proper condom use, over and over if necessary.  This Condom Committee would travel the globe, tireless in its efforts to demonstrate proper condom use.  The Condom Committee would not leave any country unsatisfied.

Over a chorus of adolescent giggling, a girl behind me madly banged her gavel.  I don't know what school she was from, what country she represented, or how many committees she'd "won" to get the honor of chairing the opening the ceremony, but I remember the tremor in her voice.

"Delegate, please bring your remarks to a close," she said.

I paused for a moment.  I'd been speaking perhaps thirty seconds, so I was well within my rights to demand my alloted time.  I let the air grow thick, feeling the waves of panic behind me from people who took MUN way too seriously.  I had no doubt if I tried to continue I'd be gaveled to death, so I made it clear I had only one thing left to say.

"In conclusion. . ."

Behind me, dozens of high school students breathed a collective sigh of relief.  But I wasn't doing it for them, I was doing it for everyone else, for the rest of us who'd had to listen to them all morning.

". . . If you're in an underprivileged country, please walk softly, but cover your big stick."

1,100 formally-bored teenagers overlooked the inherent xenophobia of my speech and leapt to their feet.  The hooting, stomping, clapping, and cheering lasted long after I took my seat.  The only ones not laughing were the students on stage and the adults lined up against the wall.

Mr. Parziale cornered me as the students filed out.

"What are you doing to me, man?"  He asked.  He looked like he'd seen a ghost.  At the same time, he looked like he was trying hard not to laugh.  "People are pissed.  Pissed.  One teacher said, 'and in a church, of all places.'  I didn't even think of that."

I was too busy enjoying my celebrity to worry about the fallout.  People stopped me in the hallways to have their pictures taken with me.  Girls who had bussed in from out of town for the weekend-long conference slipped me notes in committee, inviting me to their hotel rooms to practice safe sex.  For one weekend of my torturous adolescence, I was cool.  I stopped being Aaron the loser and became - Condom Man.

Up to that point, it was easily the best two days of my life.

* * *

My mother is a five-foot-eight, silver-haired Mohawk Indian with a voice like a mouse and spine of pure steel.
Don't mess with this woman.
In her version of the story, her youngest son, the only one of her three children to make it to his senior year in high school, was in danger of being expelled.

She sat in East Syracuse-Minoa's Administration office with Principal Santulli and Mr. Parziale.  Syracuse University had already banned the Model United Nations from meeting in Hendricks Chapel, and the MUN wanted me expelled to set an example for any future members.  Mr. Parziale didn't want to do it, but it had to be done.

"I know he's just a child and doesn't know what he did," Mr. Parziale said, "But he went too far."

"That's right," mom agreed.  "He's a child.  He's a child, and you hurt him."

Principal Adams and Mr. Parziale looked confused.

"Do you remember the trip to New York City?" my mom asked.

MUN's biggest conference gathers the best schools from state meetings like the one at SU.  It takes place every year in New York City.  I don't remember the price tag, but it wasn't cheap.  Other parents wrote checks for their children and moved on with their lives.  Despite growing up four hours away, I'd never been to New York.  I wanted to go very badly, but I told Mr. Parziale I couldn't afford it.

I worked more hours in the deli at Leo & Sons Big M Supermarket, but it wasn't enough.  Just before the deadline, my Aunt Jeri stepped in to cover the difference.  I told Mr. Parziale I could go to New York City after all.

He told me that he had limited space for the trip.  I was a senior, graduating in just a few months, and he decided to send a freshman instead.  Over four years, he could groom this freshman to be a real asset to his club.  I told Mr. Parziale I understood, but inside I was devastated.

When Mom told him this, Mr. Parziale's face fell.

"I had no idea," he said.

Ultimately, my speech earned me a two-week suspension.  When I got back, Mr. Parziale apologized for putting me on the spot in Hendricks Chapel, and for not letting me go on the New York trip.

I don't remember anything but the fun part.  When mom told the story last year at Thanksgiving, it was like hearing the plot to a movie that came out decades ago.  It sounded awfully familiar, but I couldn't be sure I'd ever seen it.

I was the type of kid no one ever noticed in life, so when I got in front of a crowd I tended to expand.  Look at me, my behavior screamed, feeding off finally being seen.  I don't believe I gave that speech as some kind of screw you to Mr. Parziale, I was just trying to be funny.  But I didn't even remember being suspended, so how can I know?  More importantly, what did I do with that money I'd saved for the New York trip?  Buy more pimp outfits?

People resent the concept of fate because we like to believe we're in charge of our lives, but what if we don't even need to go as far as Fate with a capital F to see who's pulling the strings, what if all of our actions bubble from some subconscious stew?  What if every accidental sleight or unintentionally cruel joke is deliberate on some level?  What if all the apologizes and smiles between the thought and the deed are just smoke and mirrors, protecting our image of ourselves?

I haven't posted this one because I don't have a shit-hot ending for it.  But some things just end.  This will have to be one of them.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Miami Book Fair International Day 6: The Party Starts Today

This year opened with Christopher Paolini's Inheritance on Sunday afternoon.  The Miami Writers Institute, Student Literary Encounters, and the heavy hitters - Dorothy Alison, Harry Belafonte, John Sayles, Ron Suskind, Calvin Trillin - have been hitting all week long, but these next three days are key.  The Street Fair is its own monster, and Books & Books is 90% ready.

It's ten minutes to six am.  Becky and I are dropping Dylan off at school in the dark so we can finish the job of getting the tents set up.

Some retailers have the holiday season; at Books & Books, we have Miami Book Fair International.

Tensions are high.  Illness runs rampant.  Three of us have almost quit this week, including me.  When the gates open in about four hours, we'll find out if it's all been worth it.

There have been more cancellations.  I read an apologetic email from an author just recovering from the flu.  This author knew that flying down to Miami for the weekend would cause the flu to return, so... he can't make it, sorry.

Not everyone at Books & Books is or has gotten sick but there's a fairly sturdy illness making the rounds on some key players.  I worked a sixty-hour week, spent a miserable Friday night and all day Saturday in bed, and then worked another sixty hour week starting Sunday.  14 and 16 hour days are just as beneficial for your health as you'd imagine.

I'm putting more effort into stocking Authorton McFluwhiner's books than he is into promoting them.

As Becky says, "His loss, don't it so personally."  I don't.  Much.  I just get annoyed when people have the kind of jobs where they can make those choices.  I wonder what it is about me that I have never had the kind of job where I can take a sick day.  It is me, refusing to take one?  People call out all the time at every job I've ever had, so maybe it is just me.

Anyway, I've gone off topic and now the alarm is going off.  My point is, there's stuff I wanted to do.  I haven't written in forever, and not just blogs.  I've been sleeping in until seven, because waking at five would be pushing myself too hard, and this cold keeps nipping at my heels.  I wanted to morph that post about the wedding books into something Book Fairish for The Heat Lightning, because a ton of those authors are appearing.  I wanted to interview someone awesome like Vera Brosgol or Hillary Jordan for THL, too.  I wanted to drink juice and eat soup.

Well, I did that last one.  Just not enough.

By the end of every day, I'm in that mode where I have to keep moving, because if I stop, I'll crash.  It was over a hundred degrees in the tent yesterday.  I think I lost ten pounds of water.  I know I didn't pee once.  It's supposed to rain all weekend.

Wish us luck.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Letter to Miami Book Fair International Authors Who Cancel

Dear Authorton McWriterface,

God forbid you have a successful tour.  Poor you, having to meet folks who adore your work.  You don't want attention, then guess what?  Don't tour.  Before that, don't publish what you write.

Clearly your work has struck a nerve, but screw the fans whose purchases have assured you'll never need a real job again, right?  Screw the folks trying to schedule hundreds of authors around your event, huh?  Fuck that guy in the buying office beating his brains against his desk trying to find copies of your book somewhere, anywhere, because your publisher is caught by surprise and your book is in reprint, yes?

Fuck those people because it's all about you, and flying in an airplane, checking into a hotel, sitting in a chair, and signing your fucking name is just too much.  You know why David Sedaris signs for four hours at every gig, even after all these years on tour?  Because he knows that real work is much, much worse.

Get a fucking job.

Google Images doesn't have much in the manner of book beatings. 

And if your tour is not successful, so what?  You published an honest-to-God book.  In this climate, where publishers are leary of anything not rambled (or co-rambled) into existence by some "celebrity," you did it - you didn't self-publish, you didn't CreateSpace, you didn't offer your book on the Kindle for 99 cents.  A publisher looked at your work and thought, "This.  This will keep the doors open a while a longer."  That's not enough affirmation for you?

I get it, it's frustrating to think you have something to say and that no one will listen, like this is your one big chance to shout your message to a mass audience but the crowd went, "meh."  I have no idea what that feels like.  But you know what it feels like being the guy ordering books for the guy for whom that's not good enough?  It sucks.  It's soul-crushing.  It sets my teeth a-grinding.

So think of me, pull your head out of your ass, and woo the half-dozen people who care what you have to say so hard that they'll have no choice but to tell half a dozen others.

Of the two book beating images on offer, this is the clear winner.

And if this is your second year canceling... oh, Authorton.  Nothing could make me agree to this again, order everything for Miami Book Fair while doing my regular job.  But to see you come in, give your presentation, and melt down because your books aren't here, thinking of that almost makes it seem worth the effort.

Better yet, maybe we'll just have you sign copies of our return paperwork.  Fuckwad.

May All Your First Printings Be Remaindered,

Frustrated in the Buying Office

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

I haven’t eaten in ten days.  For the party I decided to be a Lost Boy.  Not the Peter Pan version but the Keifer Sutherland, Coreys-Haim-and-Feldman version, because there’s this one guy in it with long, black hair like mine.  He wears an open trench coat with nothing underneath.  I don’t want to feel self-conscious so I skip meals until I feel okay in nothing but jeans, black boots, and a coat.

I spray and gel my hair into a mane.  Every inch of exposed skin is Dead Guy Grey.  My eyes look bruised and bleeding, my mouth is a wet, red maw surrounded by splits filled with shining blood that doesn’t run.  I paid fifty bucks I couldn’t afford for a pair of vampire teeth, two little caps you put over your incisors with dental adhesive.  Open Grave colors the hollows of my eyes, neck, and body, Tombstone highlights the swells.  The makeup looks nothing like the guy from The Lost Boys but who cares?  I look cool, scary as hell.

The party is three blocks from my apartment, at one of the houses at the base of the Hill that change tenants with every graduating class.  Even this short walk turns my nipples into painful, chafing points, my nose into a runny mess.  I walk faster to warm up, holding my coat together.  I feel a little dizzy.  I’ve been drinking Gatorade and V-8 all week but I guess I could use food.   

The houses all look the same.  One has cars all around it and music blaring and a bunch of lights  on.  Looking at it makes my heart pound.  I wonder how many people I’ll actually know.  

There’s a crowd on the front porch dressed as zombies in business suits.  The porch cuts the wind but not the cold.  These people must be drunk to be out here.  I pass through them and they stare at my exposed skin and smile.  I nod hellos and one of them says “hey.”  I wonder if I’d recognize her without the makeup.  

“Three bucks, man.”  The guy sitting on a stool by the door.  His breath smells like beer.  He’s wearing a green tuxedo and a top hat.

Three bucks seems steep.  He tells me it’s five without a costume so I pay him.

The living room is darker than it looks from the street.  It’s hot and no one is dancing.  They’re standing around shouting at each other to be heard over loud music I don’t recognize.  Some of them look at my chest and stomach and I wonder what I was thinking.  I carefully blot my nose on my sleeve so my makeup doesn’t smear.  I watch a guy dressed as Beetlejuice and a girl dressed as Wonder Woman enthusiastically groping each other on the couch.

Laura is supposed to be here.

I see a bright doorway I assume is the kitchen.  I further assume I’ll find copious amounts of alcohol there, so I make my way over.

“What’s up, man?”  Scott is obviously drunk and dressed as a Mouseketeer.  Some guys do this, use Halloween as an excuse to cross-dress and tell themselves it doesn’t mean anything.  Scott is actually gay so it doesn’t matter that he's wearing a short, pleated skirt and a sweater pulled tight over falsies.  “You look soooo scary.”

“You, too.”

He slaps my arm.  I ask if he’s seen Laura.  He thinks maybe she’s by the keg out back.  I say thanks and go past him to the kitchen.  Delilah is there.  This is Delilah’s house.  She’s short and loud, with tremendous cleavage and a huge ass, looking like a scene from a porno in a French maid uniform. 

     “Oh my God, dude!” she screams at me.  Everyone turns to look, their drunk eyes crawling over my body.  The kitchen is really bright.  I pull my coat closed, wishing I’d gotten here earlier so I could be drunk like them, but the makeup took a long time.  “You look awesome.”

I thank Delilah.  I tell her she looks hot.  She’s looking at my hand on the coat, the veins popping white, the dark shadows, the long, filthy nails.  She knocks my hand away, slinks an arm around my waist, and pitches her voice low.

“You can suck my blood anytime.”  

She has a lot of flesh and it’s pushing against me.  

I give her a smile, revealing my fangs.  She squeals with delight and offers me a shot.  I drink it and taste fake blood.  I look at the kitchen counter and see liquor bottles everywhere.  She tells me there’s beer in the fridge, a keg out back.  I ask where Laura is but she doesn’t know.  I thank her and fill my empty shot glass from one of the bottles on the counter.  I taste fake blood so I try a different bottle.  I still taste fake blood so I settle on a bottle of Southern Comfort and I fill my shot glass and drain it and fill it and drain it until I don’t taste fake blood anymore.  There are plastic cups everywhere.  No one bothers to find their beer once they put it down, they just get a new cup.  It’s a mess. I pick through them and pour the ones that have cigarettes butts into the sink and I stack them up and the ones that have beer in them I drink - half full, a few swallows, mostly full - and I stack them up and I want to clear the counter of everything except liquor bottles but people keep setting plastic cups down and walking away so the work keeps piling up.  I get a little carried away because a guy wearing a Boy Scout uniform comes in from the back porch and sets down a beer he just got so he can light a cigarette and I grab the beer and start to chug it.  He gets pissed off and spills some on me grabbing it back.

Laura is supposed to be at this party but when I ask Boy Scout where she is he looks at me like I’m crazy so I laugh in his face and grab his shoulders and consider biting his neck but instead I push him aside and kick the screen door open and walk out and he calls me an asshole and I call him a bitch.

Laura stands by the keg, looking like Laugh In from the neck up and Girl Friday from the neck down but the boots are hot and the eye makeup is heavy so I sloppily drape myself over her shoulders and smear fake blood on her neck.  She pushes me away and says cool it, Drunk Boy.  She hands me her beer and asks a Zoot Suit gangster near the keg for a new one.  I take a gulp and I’m looking at a girl who looks like Laura because she’s wearing a wig that’s almost exactly the same and her makeup is the same and her dress is white too but it has twigs and leaves and splots of color on it and when I ask what she is she says she’s a wood nymph.  When Laura has her beer she turns around and her make up and hair are the same as Wood Nymph and it's like seeing double and it’s a little unnerving so I tell them I need to use the bathroom and I’ll be right back.  Before I go I kiss the Wood Nymph, smearing fake blood on her lips.  I taste nicotine and then my arm is being pulled and I’m looking at Laura dressed as a 60's chick and she’s laughing at me, calling me Drunk Boy.

I tell her I thought she quit smoking and for some reason this makes her laugh even harder and there’s a Wood Nymph next to her laughing and there are hands on my back, turning me around, pushing me forward.

Back in the kitchen Delilah is doing a keg stand.  Eraserhead holds her on one side, Han Solo on the other.  Delilah’s Spiderman boy-briefs don’t match her uniform.  My shot glass is gone so I set my plastic cup on the counter and take a swig of Jack Daniel’s right from the bottle.  It burns my throat so I take a swig of Frangelico and it tastes like hazelnut candy so I take the bottle into the dining room.  The dining room is darker than the living room and louder because the stereo is there.  

I can barely see but somehow there are people at the table playing cards because it doesn’t require talking and there’s a couple slow dancing because it doesn’t require talking and the music is fast and it beats in my body harder than my heart but the couple's swaying like they’re underwater kissing like they’re in love or at least ready for sex and the music has a weird beat and it’s making me feel strange.  I take a pull of sweet liquid candy and scream at them that I’m a Lost Boy but the music is too loud for anyone to hear.

I grab the kissing guy by the shoulder and shake him and he looks at me and I tell him he’s not wearing a costume and he can’t hear me so he laughs and they walk away from me toward the stairs.  I walk behind them, mesmerized by his hand on her ass, her hand on his hand, and I bump into someone in the dark.  I mumble an apology and see a guy dressed in black with a small number on a button on his chest.  He waves me off and I wander back into the living room.  

Laura’s there dressed as a Wood Nymph making out with Pan on the love seat and my hands tighten on the neck of the bottle and I take a big pull and I walk toward them and Laura is wearing white go-go boots, talking to Scott, telling me she thought I was going to the bathroom.  I scream at her, asking why that makes it okay for her to make out with Pan and I thought she was standing by the keg and she laughs at me again and cups my chin in her hand and points it toward the love seat and there’s Wood Nymph making out with Pan and I feel like an idiot.  Laura tells me not to worry, Drunk Boy, just remember the boots and she points my chin at her feet and I try to nod but I can’t because she’s holding my chin and she tells me they came in because they got cold.  People are staring at me again and I wonder how loud I was yelling and then I realize they’re not listening to me, they’re looking at the novelty of naked flesh in upstate New York in the fall and I wonder why the house is so hot and I drink some more hazelnut and ask where the bathroom is because I realize I actually need to use it.  Laura points up the stairs and offers to take me and Scott offers to take me and I assure them I can make it. 

The stairs are crowded with people sitting down talking to each other but mostly to their cell phones.  It looks like a conference call with monsters and celebrities and college students.  The stairs are moving slightly or else they were made at wrong angles so I have the banister in a death grip with one hand and the other hand keeps feeding me hazelnut and I can’t let go of the banister even if this guy in prison stripes won’t move so I accidentally on purpose step on his hand and he says hey so I tell him I’m sorry then I knock his cell phone down the stairs and he says hey! and I tell him to fetch and he does but he makes sure to call me an asshole first so I make sure to laugh at him.  I keep moving up and I can’t let go of the banister, not even for Josie and the Pussycats sitting around Elvis.  They try to steer their bodies away from my feet like they do for people going up and down the stairs they’re lounging on but it’s hard for me because of the weird angles they used to build the stairs and my boots are pretty big so I kick a rib or two trying to find a spot where I can safely step and I mash a finger or two because the spot keeps moving but it’s not on purpose because they’re trying to help me because that’s what Josie and the Pussycats and maybe even Elvis do and looking at the Pussycats' naked flesh in upstate New York in the fall doesn’t make it any easier for me to concentrate on my footsteps but I do the best I can and somehow I’m standing in the upstairs hallway and I consider spending the rest of the party up here because thinking of navigating the stairs again is like thinking of my life. 

There are plenty of people up here too and plenty of doors and some of them are open but three of them are closed and there’s no line because most of the people on the first floor just piss around the side of the house.  I don’t know which of the closed doors is the bathroom so I grab a passing mime to ask him and when he spins around there’s a bullet hole in his forehead and blood dripping down his face and I laugh and I forget what he was going to say and I drink hazelnut and let the mime go and the first door smells like pot and I open it just to pop my head in and scream I’m a Lost Boy! and take a whiff and close the door and the music is muted up here so they heard me and I can hear them laughing from behind the door.  The second door is dark and doesn’t smell like anything.  The knob turns but the door won’t open so I give a shove and the door inches open and so I shove a little more and the door opens a little more and then an arm shoots out of the dark crack and I scream and the arm pushes me back by the chest and the door slams shut  and a male voice tells me to get lost and another guy laughs and a female voice calls me a pervert which makes me think of my crotch with reminds me I need to find the bathroom.  It must be the third door but it’s locked.  I hear someone talking so I shout hey but no one answers so I knock and say I have to pee and no one answers so I pound on the door and say let me in and the voice stops talking and yells that they’re occupied so I kick the door open and there’s a Witch with her skirt bunched around her waist balled in one fist and her white panties and green tights rolled down to her knees sitting on the toilet and she yells at me to close the door so I tell her I’m sorry and I close the door only I’m inside the bathroom and I’m unzipping my pants and I’m walking toward her and she’s got hairs growing out of the warts on her nose and her white thighs don’t match her green face and her green hands and she’s on a cell phone and she says

Get the hell out of here!  Not you, dumbass, the guy who just walked in.  Because I’m in the bathroom.  Keep your pants onNo, I didn’t call you from the bathroom - what’re you doing? - you called me and I picked up.  Yes, I’m sitting on the toilet right now and this drunk piece of. . . don’t take it out!  Do you hear me?  Do not - get that thing out of my face, I’m sitting here!  I don’t know, use the sink or the tub, use the window, it's really not my problem.  Yeah, he’s drunk.  Well good, then get over here and kick this guy’s ass.  You hear that?  My boyfriend’s gonna kick your ass when he gets here!  (. . .oh, God he’s peeing. . .)  I don’t know, big.  What am I, a nurse, Victor?  How the hell do I know? Like Fred’s size, maybe.  No, Fred Savage.  Yeah, Fred Parziale, who the hell do you think?  Are you fucking kidding me?  Watch what you’re doing!  This guy almost - Hey!  Goddammit, you drunk piece of shit, this hat’s a rental- fuck, fuck, stop it, stop it!  Victor, where are you?  Shit!
     or something like that and then she’s not saying anything into the phone she’s throwing it at me and she’s yelling at me and it’s a really good shot right across the bridge of my nose and my eyes fill with water and I stumble forward and my penis hits something soft and hands are pushing me and through my tears I see my penis has turned green and I start screaming and she’s screaming and something dark and wet hits my face and her hair is hanging wild and her make up is smeared and she has hat head and she jumps off the toilet and she’s slapping me and she tries to kick me but her tights are still wrapped around her thighs and she slips in my piss and falls and I run out and slam the door behind me and I just have time to put my dick away when the knob starts to turn so I grab it and brace myself against the door jamb and there’s screaming and pounding and kicking and Alex from A Clockwork Orange walks over with his three toadies and asks me what up and I tell him nothing and then he asks what I did in there and I tell him nothing and he takes his cane from over his shoulder and rests it against his thigh and he tells me to let go of the door but I tell him there’s a wild animal in there and there’s more screaming and pounding and he tells me to back off so I let go of the knob but nothing happens except for more noise so Alex opens the door and his three thugs kind of surround me but they’re not touching me so I try to back away but they’re not moving either so I zip my pants up and stand still.

I take a swig from the bottle but it’s empty so I hold it to my bare chest.

"His dick touched my face," the Witch yells, pointing at me.  The witch yells that I pissed all over her and she’s holding the dripping hat in one hand and they look at me and I shrug and Alex raises the cane this time with real intent and I wonder if he’s on something but I don’t wonder long because the cane is at shoulder height and I have to do something before it gets any higher because if it gets any higher it will swing down and hit me so I toss my empty Frangelico bottle at one of Alex’s droogs and he’s so surprised he tries to catch it and before I can see whether he does and before I can find out if Alex really means to hit me with that cane I plow into him with all of my weight and maybe I overdo it because we’re flying down the hall and we split open a door and end up in a closet and I’m on top of him and I punch him until I can’t see his eyelash because of all the blood and my hand feels nothing so I punch him a few more times and I get up and his droogs are too stunned to move so I buckle my belt and I look at the girl in the bathroom and her mouth is hanging open and I bend over and pick up the cane Alex dropped and everyone in the hallway is staring at me but they’re not looking at my bare skin they’re looking at my face and their eyes are wide like children and I sling the cane over one shoulder and the pot door opens and someone says damn dude and the door closes then Delilah is at the top of stairs looking pissed and asking me what I did what happened and I ask her where Laura is and she looks scared and she doesn’t answer so I thank her for having me over and brush past her and I try to navigate the bodies on the stairs but it’s tricky so I kind of fall-walk and I’m in the dining room and I’m in the kitchen and I need something in my stomach right now or I’m going to puke so I open the fridge and it’s all beer so I pull a drawer and it comes out in my hand and everything spills and there’s a block of cheese so I pick it up and unwrap it and bite the moldy part off and spit it on the floor and I wolf the rest down in four huge bites and it’s disgusting and chalky in my mouth but it feels good and heavy in my stomach and I think I can make it home without being sick so I kick open the screen door and Boy Scout is standing there so I swing the cane and knock his beer out of his hand and he’s yelling and rubbing one hand with the other so I offer him the cane and tell him to take his best shot.

Boy Scout stares at the cane but doesn’t move.

I drop it and take off running around the side of the house because I’m going to be violently sick and even though most people who know me have seen it for some reason maybe because of the holiday I don’t want them to tonight so I force myself to slow down to a fast walk and I think someone is calling my name and I think maybe it’s Laura but I don’t have time to stop and talk to her because I’m going to be sick and I want to be home when it happens.  I manage to open the door to my apartment building even though the key and the lock don’t want to connect and I’m running up the stairs and I hear my name and I drop my coat on the stairs and my belt on the landing and I’m in front of my door and somehow I open it and get one boot off and I run down the hall and take my jeans and my underwear off and I try to step out of them but I can’t because I’m still wearing one boot so I drag it all with me to the bathroom and I hit the tile so hard I wonder if I’ve fractured my kneecaps and my face is in the toilet and the edges are cold against my arms and I heave chunks of slightly melted cheese and a torrent of Frangelico and beer and whiskey and bourbon and bile and the buzzer is going like mad someone wanting to get in and I shut my eyes and I heave more and my mouth is forced open wide with it and I hear someone pounding on the door downstairs and I realize I left the door to my apartment open and I heave again and most of it goes up my nose and hangs in burning strings so I blow my nose weakly and I heave and it’s just as violent but there’s less to it but it smells even worse and my stomach clenches weakly a few times and I make some odd hitching noises and I slap at the handle until it flushes my stink away.

It’s a long time or maybe only minutes before Laura is there pulling my hair from my face and the toilet with one hand and stroking my back with the other and telling me it’s okay that everything is going to be okay and I know she’s lying but I let her because it’s going to be a long night.   

I walk down the hall from the bathroom.  The tile has tattooed its pattern down my hip from dozing over the toilet.  Sunlight spears through the curtains of my living room.  My bedroom door is closed.  I open it and see Laura sleeping in my bed.  She always smiles in her sleep.  I wonder how we got here.  

My head throbs, my stomach feels vile, but there’s no way I can go to bed without a shower.  It takes a lot longer than it should for me to remove my other boot and the pants and underwear still clinging to my ankle.  I stand under the spray for a long time but the water never gets cold.  My right hand hurts.  The knuckles are swollen.  I wonder if I made new people I need to worry about last night.  I have to work tonight at five.  I’m exhausted but glad the room isn’t spinning.  I tuck myself behind Laura, making spoons.  The minute my damp hair hits the pillow I’m drifting.  The last thing I hear is Laura telling me we need to talk.

No one ever needs to talk for anything good.