High School Rooftops

It was nearing midnight on a cool Arizona night in February when I pulled my old drop-top Chrysler over to the side of the quiet Gilbert street. Jared and Alex stayed in the car while I shifted into park and popped open the door, screwdriver in hand. I moved to the back of the car, looking around the area to make sure we weren’t being watched, then dropped down to my haunches and detached the license plate, throwing it into the trunk.

    I hopped over the door and back into the driver’s seat, pushing my long, scraggly hair behind my ear as I shifted back into gear. My ear still hurt from the stainless-steel stud I forced through it just a few days prior but wasn’t about to ask my parents about the possible infection. As far as I knew they didn’t know about it at all and I’d planned on keeping it that way.

    “What’re we? Robbing someone?” Jared asked as we continued to our destination. Not even Jared would’ve been on board with that. He was a reckless asshole, but not a criminal. Well. If he was, then I was too. Misdemeanor level criminals at best, but we hadn’t been caught yet.

    I replied in my best cool guy tone, “Maybe.”

    Alex chuckled. “Dude. No. we’re not robbing anyone. Just messing around at a school.”
Alex and I had been at this high school a handful of times and knew the best ways to get on top of it. At sixteen, thirty-foot-tall buildings weren’t obstacles, they were challenges.

    We circled the school one time in the Chrysler, checking for security guards or police before parking and heading to the best climbing spot: a lunch table close enough to a pillar that had a huge lip at the top. I went up first and Alex lagged behind to make sure Jared made it up from behind. I was the scrawniest of the three of us, but also the strongest, so that made sense.
 Since 6th grade, Alex always looked to me like if the overweight 70’s Elvis were somehow a kid while Jared had a more Stallone vibe: facial anomaly and all.

    We didn’t really have anything we wanted to do up there, though that really wasn’t the point. Boys sometimes just need to spend time being boys. This night was no exception.

    “Andi is a nutbag,” I said, referring to a former momentary flame of Alex’s. 

    “I could have told you that,” Alex responded, curiosity piqued. “I did tell you that.”

    “Did you try to hook up with Andi? Dude! Seriously?” Jared chimed in, punching me in the shoulder. “That’s messed up.”

    I held up my hands, too slow to deflect the punch. “No! I didn’t. She tried to hook up with me.” 

    Alex picked up a rock from the roof and hucked it in my direction. It clanged against the metal of the AC unit next to my shoulder.

    “I was just trying to be a good guy! She was all upset about the breakup. She came on to me. I swear.” I put my hand up to the square, like that would magically convince them of the truthfulness of my statement. When no more rocks came my way, I pushed my hair out of my face again and stared out past my black creeper shoes at nothing.

     “Whatever,” Alex said. He meant it. Whether my story was truthful or not, it was a given that nothing was worth losing our friendship over. Not even when I snuck into his house with Jared a few years prior and called a phone sex line on his parents’ dime. That’s not this story, though.

    “I gotta drop one. Hold my legs,” Alex said as he stood and dusted off the back of his pants.
    I looked up at his hand, now extended toward me. I gripped it and rose to my feet. 

    “What the— You need to drop a what?” Jared said, his brow furrowed, though he followed us toward the edge of the roof, curiosity getting the best of him. 

    The roof of the school was edged with a two-foot wall. Alex turned around, facing me, and dropped his baggy jeans to his ankles.

    “Woah! Hey, hey, hey! When did you guys become queers?” Jared asked, still unaware of the tradition Alex and I began years earlier. 

    Alex sat on the short wall and I squatted down myself, pinning his feet to the gravel-covered roof. He edged backward and started to do his business. He had hung a little to far out over the ledge and started to slip over the edge. My eyes went wide with the realization I might have to explain any of this to paramedics or worse: Alex’s parents.

    Without skipping a beat I wrapped my arms around Alex’s legs, hugging them snug to my chest, using my weight to counterbalance the effects of gravity on his larger frame. His hands gripped my shoulders in a panic to stay atop the wall as Jared reached in making sure we both didn’t go over the edge.

    Before we were even safely on the right side of the roof, the ridiculousness of the situation hit us. The three of us gripping and grappling on top of a public school with one of us pantsless was too much and the giggles took over. We laughed so hard, tears flowed as we hoisted Alex back onto the safety of the roof.
 

Bike Ride

 I was too young to remember why the neighbor boys were in charge of watching me for the day. What I do remember are the swear words that they threw out when they took me to their house to pick up something they needed. I hadn’t heard most of them before but the ones I did know I knew weren’t nice. I’d have gotten my mouth soaped if I used any of them.

    After leaving the house, the older, thinner one, Scott, perched me between his handlebars and started pedaling. 

    “Why’d you talk to your sister like that?” I asked.

    He sighed and responded, “Because.”

    I wobbled on the padded crossbar of his BMX bike. “I like her. I don’t think she’s a—
 What you called her.”

    His breath a little more belabored now. “Yeah, she is. You just don’t know her.”

    “She seems nice,” I said, signifying what was, in retrospect, one of my first childhood crushes.

    “Yeah. I’m sure you do.” Scott chuckled. “Because you’re kinda stupid.”

I wasn’t a stupid kid. I may have been a little naïve, but I wasn’t stupid. “No, I’m not.”
    “You’re just a stupid kid.”

    “I’m not.”

    “Okay then, what’s four plus two?"

Math. Easy. “Six!” I shouted, making sure the entire neighborhood could hear.

    “Okay. Spell ‘off.’”

I hesitated for a second, mulling it over. “O- O- F!”

I heard him spelling it under his breath, then he laughed. “No. Close though.”
 

I Ruined My House

Monday was my day off from my full time job. I am usually pretty productive on my days off, but occasionally I get lazy and nap and/or watch TV. This previous Monday was one of my more ambitious ones, though I think I ruined my house. 

The master bath (The one I use, naturally. Because: MASTER.) has a standing shower and a full-size, separate tub. Both have been dripping for as long as I can remember. I had not considered fixing them for a two reasons. One: it seems like a lot of work. Two: I have next to zero experience in plumbing and didn’t want to screw it up. 

Screwing up the plumbing, in my mind, is usually catastrophic. If the plumbing is muffed, then so is the ability to shower, bathe, do laundry, do dishes, water the lawn, and use the miracle of indoor toilets. (The first and last one, especially.) However, this day I took the plunge. Thinking what most people think before they do something filled with hubris and stupidity: “How hard can it be?”

I decided to tackle the shower first. The dribbles from the shower head had gotten so bad, we had to keep mold and other bacterial grossness at bay with bi-weekly bleachings. It was time to take care of it. I did a search online for videos and other instruction on how to do it because despite me being super great at a lot of things, I’m not completely reckless and know when I need a little help. 

This isn’t a home repair blog, and so I won’t go into fine detail here. But, armed with YouTube, a few tools, and a lot of twisting things, I dismantled the valve, replaced some parts, and witnessed a dry shower for the first time in years. Man, did that feel good. It was like I won the homeowner Olympics. “Ha! Plumbers. LOL!” 

Having slain that dragon, I went and ate lunch then planned my attack on the bathtub. The bathtub had been dripping for longer than the shower, but once you start counting in years rather than weeks or months, it really doesn’t matter. I went back to YouTube, broke apart the handle, and went to the hardware store to get the replacement parts. Boom. Being more than confident with my plumberial skills at this point, I replaced that valve in no time. I screwed it back together and… drip. Drippity, drip, drip-tastic. Ugh.

Unable to accept this, I took the handle apart again and put it back together, and still. Drip… drip… drip. I took my wrench and cranked it down even further. I turned it so tight, the metal on the outer seal started stripping away. But tighter is better, right? Always. I finished my tightening-fest and had my wife go downstairs (I forgot to mention this all took place upstairs in our two-story house.) and outside to turn the water supply back on. 

I heard the water rush back into the pipes with confidence, knowing my cranking was sufficient. The drip remained. 

Inordinately angry at the pipe-deity that was testing my resolve, I grabbed my wrench and pushed the already shredded cover further. (It is important to note at this point that I did not have the water outside shut off while I pushed the threads past their natural limit.) The cover shrieked as it separated from its base and a fountain, nay… geyser of water shot up and out of the handle.

My house has great water pressure, I thought as I failed to stop the H2O shotgun with my hand while simultaneously redirecting it at my chest and face. 

“Turn it off! Turn the valve off!” I shout-gurgled to my wife. 

She did. 

I refused to change clothes. I would not. I was determined to wear that excess moisture in defiance. A metaphorical shaking-my-fist to the pipe deity that I would not be defeated. In my wet anger, I resolved to fix this tub or die trying.

I went to the garage. And from the garage I retrieved a Dremel multi-tool. I attached a saw blade to that tool and took it back to the master bath (Because: MASTER! Dammit…) and at 9:45PM on a Monday cut an 6 inch square HOLE in the side of the fiberglass tub to get at and replace the guts.

 The Hole-y Tub of the MASTER

The Hole-y Tub of the MASTER

Only to find out it doesn’t have… replaceable guts. Or, it does have replaceable guts, just not ones I can do. Because I’m not a plumber and have pretty close to zero plumbing skills. (See first few paragraphs.)

So I began to accept my defeat at that point. Reluctantly, I texted a friend who does plumbing for a living. He came over and fixed my tub within 15 minutes (with a small spring and a rubber seal) and commended my tub-hole making despite it being wholly unnecessary to do the repair.

I still have my shower repair to be proud of! Or at least, I thought I did. Tuesday night I got an urgent voicemail and text from my better half showing me this:

 For size reference, the largest bubble was roughly 8 inches in diameter.

For size reference, the largest bubble was roughly 8 inches in diameter.

And that picture was taken before the other four bubbles popped up (down?) and they started dripping urine-colored water that stained the ceiling. If you’ve followed this story up until this point, you know precisely where those bubbles came from. Yup. The shower. The crowning glory of my fledgling plumbing repair experience.

By the end of the day, I went from two leaky faucets to: two leaky faucets, (one worse than before) one huge hole in the side of my fiberglass tub, and one pee-stained bubbly ceiling. I win. I win everything.

I already called my friend the plumber. He’s coming over at 3.
 

The Sunshine Blogger award!

What is the Sunshine Blogger Award? The Sunshine Blogger Award is given to those who are inspiring and bring sunshine into the lives of their readers and fellow bloggers through their blogspace and/or their social media. 

I was nominated for the Sunshine Blogger Award by one of the most fascinating people I know: Holly Evans. Holly is a seasoned writer who knows both the nuts a bolts of writing, but also is a expert at the business side. (I pick her brain. A lot.) She is polishing up a new Urban Fantasy series that is releasing on July 1st which you can pre-order here. Also, follow her on Twitter or on her site here

Now let's get on with it. 

The rules of the Sunshine Blogger Award:

  • Name drop and link to the blog of the awesome person who nominated you.
  • Answer the eleven questions from the blogger who nominated you.
  • Nominate up to eleven wonderful bloggers and write (or borrow/steal) eleven questions for them to answer.

So now I'll attempt to answer her questions and then see if I can't dig up a few of my own to ask and pester people with. 

  1. What would your dream home look like?
    My dream home. It would be large, but not enormous. Enough room to relax, entertain, and do just... so many activities. A huge garage with at least 4 or 5 classic cars and maybe a new one too housed within too. Preferably it'd be within spitting distance of a beautiful beach but be near the niceties of civilization as well... I think I just described Tony Stark's house. Okay yeah, short answer: my dream home would just be Tony Stark's house from the Iron Man flicks. 

2. What does your muse look like?
Like Dave Grohl. Quite skinny and hairy. And shouty.

3. How do you silence your inner critic?
It doesn't rear it's ugly head often, but when he does I tamp him back down into his hole by reading back to myself some of the work I've written. (I'm very convincing.) Failing that, I usually reach out to one of my close writer friends to tell me I am being stupid and that what I am doing is awesome. 

4. If you could escape into any fairytale, which one and why?
Hrm... fairytale. I don't know if it counts, but I'd call Captain America my fairytale. He goes from tiny, scrawny, and sick to big, powerful, and awesome. Thing about him is, he never loses his inner goodness and desire to help others. I think that's huge. I'd love to live in a world where that kind of awesome is possible. 

5. If you could choose one celebrity to play you in a movie of your life, who would you choose?
Hahaha well knowing that Holly wrote this list of questions, this one is a loaded can of psychological worms but why not? I want Jason Statham to play me. There. I said it. I want Handsome Rob, star of three Transporter movies and two Crank movies to play me in a movie. 

6. What’s your biggest flaw & how do you make it a strength?
Biggest flaw. Hmm... I'd say it's my ability to procrastinate a work. I can make any number of excuses as to why I am not working on a specific work at any given time. Solution? Be writing many things concurrently. Not sure why my brain works like this, but if I start petering out on one work, I can kick into a different one and step on the gas.  

7. If there were no limiting factors, where would you live in the world?
I'm pretty sure the question above covered this. Big house. Beach. Lots of cars. Iron Man House. Location-wise I'd likely say someplace beachy like Fiji or San Diego.

8. Which of the 7 deadly sins do you suffer from the most?
Envy. I tend to see others' successes and position in life and ask myself, "Why them and not me? They must have done something underhanded or dishonest to get there." Rather than praise them for the more likely causes: hard work, determination, and a dash of luck.

9. If you could become immortal, how would you spend your time?
Bowling, probably. I'd rather not be immortal. Living forever never appealed to me, though I would like to make it to 80 or so. 

10. Which one book had the biggest impact on you?
The Gunslinger by Stephen King. I picked it up completely unaware of the content, only that it was written by my favorite author. I have been in love with the book and the character of Roland ever since. He's not an invincible hero, as a matter of fact, he does some very non-heroic things. I won't spoil the series for you, but yeah... he's not always the good guy. 

11. If you were an ice-cream flavour, which one would you be?
Chocolate and peanut butter. I leave the interpretation up to you, my friends. Heh. 
(But probably include something about how it's sweet, with ribbons of salty thoughtfulness throughout. Maybe.)

 

I'll nominate a few people for this, and if they are so inclined they can answer my questions. Let's begin with the questions first (Some of them are recycled, so sue me.) then on to the nominations!

  1. Name the author you look up to the most or would like to emulate as you begin your Authorial Rise to Stardom?
  2. What is your writer's fuel? Besides Coffee/Caffeine. Because let's face it that's like oxygen for a writer. 
  3. What is one writer's rule you know you probably should follow but you love to bend/break?
  4. You have unlimited resources. What do you do with all of your wealth?
  5. Do you have a book or author that is a "guilty pleasure" for you? You know... THAT one. You can tell me. I won't tell a soul. 
  6. Many writers put snippets or pieces of themselves into their work, whether it be experiences, places they've lived, or people they've known. Roughly what percentage of You is in your work? 
  7. What will make you smile, without fail, even on the worst of days? It can be a thing, person, or even a thought. Everything is on the table. Whatever puts a grin on your face.
  8. Cats. Am I right?
  9. How long have you been writing, and why did you decide to take a run at it despite it being a very challenging career choice?
  10. You wrote a best seller. Hollywood wants it and they're willing to pay you over a million for it. But they want the rights to sequels, spin offs, and remakes. How do you respond?
  11. Enough complicated questions. What is your favorite vacation spot?

 

Now on to the bloggers I'd like to nominate for the Sunshine Blogger Award. Follow them, enjoy their posts, you will not regret it! 

  • First off, I'd like to call out to one Amy Marie. (Twitter) She is a brand new writer who I just recently began following and am looking forward to seeing more of her work. She started a blog where I'm assuming the answers to my questions will be posted so keep an eye on that. She also informed me that she's made a total of two posts so far. Happy to give her a reason to up that by 1/3rd and get to know a new author at the same time. 
     
  • Next, I'd like to nominate Josie Jaffrey. (Twitter) A charming author who also happens to be a lawyer for a UK pub as well. Oh yes, and she's got three books plus a short story on Amazon just waiting to become your next favorite stories. Don't let her serious writing resume fool you, she's a pleasure to talk to on Twitter so look her up there, or check out her website and you won't be disappointed. 
     
  • Third up, we have a saucy author who won't tell me what she wrote before she adopted her current moniker, Rachel Lovefist. (Twitter) However, she assures me she is hard at work on a new set of books that she will be putting up for pre-order soon. Until then you can follow her on Twitter or start following her new blog. (Are you sure you won't tell me what you used to write under, Rachel??)
     
  • Fourthly, I submit that Melissa Elledge (Twitter) should be subjected to the intense questions listed here. She's a young college student studying in England's University of Winchester for her MA in Creative and Critical Writing. She is a gamer, writer, and a self-proclaimed geek. She is also a joy to talk to and has a blog that has all sorts of useful content so follow her!
     
  • Last but most assuredly not least, I'd like to nominate Jessica Grace Kelley. (Twitter) She's a writer who just recently won an award for her book, The Seductress. So yeah, you know. No pressure, everyone. She's definitely one to follow either on her blog or on Twitter and watch her rise to fame as it happens!

Have fun!

Family Dinner

As a ten-year-old, I watched my father and brother have it out for the first time on the family room floor.  At the time I didn’t know it would be the first in a string of many fights between them: some verbal, some physical. 

We had dinner together most nights. Tonight, the main course was meatloaf, made in the only way our family would eat it: without the sauce, onions, or much more than just ground beef. My older sister Leigh sat across the kitchen table from younger brother Stephen. Baby brother Keith played with his mushed carrots and peas a few feet away in his high chair. 

We were just about to say grace when my oldest brother, Chad, came out from his room on the other side of the table. He was an imposing six foot five and pushing two-hundred-eighty pounds. “Who’s been in my room?” he asked through his shaggy hair; his eyes scanning the room. 

Mom put her utensils down and sighed. “I did. I went in there to get your laundry.”

Chad’s hands flew up and grabbed the hair on top of his head; a tense laugh escaped his mouth. “That’s my stuff, Mom! You don’t just go in my room,” he said through clenched teeth.

“You don’t talk to your mother like that, Chad,” Dad said, his brow creased; trading his look of fatigue for the look of barely contained anger.

“This is bullshit! She has no right to go into my room! That’s my stuff—”

Dad’s attempt to contain his anger failed. “You don’t use that kind of language in this house!” He paused and wiped white spittle from the corners of his mouth. “If you bring your damn drugs into this house, she has every right to go in your room. This is our house and she’s your mother!”

“Oh— Screw you, ‘dad!’ She’s not my mother. I’m the adopted kid!”

My siblings and I sat, frozen. The meatloaf sat untouched and growing cold. The carrots and peas laid motionless in little Keith’s high chair tray. Every set of eyes remained focused down at their plates. At least three of us were blinking in an attempt to ward away tears.
 
Dad jumped out of his seat. “You don’t talk like that in this house!”

Chad advanced toward the table and Dad. “I’ll talk however I want! You’re not my real dad!”
 
Mom clamped her hand over her mouth. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she stifled a cry. No one knows who swung first because none of us were looking.

I sat at the chair opposite the struggle and saw the two of them crash into my field of vision as the fighting began. Chad, despite being only fourteen, was larger than most grown men and he knew it. Dad tried to throw his adopted son to the ground, but Chad threw him to the ground instead by advantage of sheer size.
 
Punches flew accompanied by guttural grunts and muffled curse words. Before the scuffle, Chad spoke like a man; squaring off with a man three times his age. Now, the voice of a boy cried from the ground, “What are you doing, Dad? Why are you hitting me?”

“Stop!” Mom pleaded through her sobs. “Please stop.”

The two men glared at each other. Dad’s eyes softened, pulling himself up and offering a hand to his son on the floor. Chad refused to take it and instead, rolled over and got up on his own.

 “I love you both. Please. Let’s sit down and finish dinner,” Mom said, wiping her tears as her forced smile quivered.

“I’m not eating,” Chad said, chest still puffed up and heaving as he stormed out the door.
 
Dad said nothing but took his place back at the table. Dinner was never quite the same from that day on.

Things I’ve learned in writing my novel, Sakura Softworks

I started this journey a few years back, during a difficult time for me. I found a certain degree of solace and gained a new hobby as I wrote a few silly stories for friends, and more or less tinkered with the idea of writing something real. At the time I had no idea it’d bring me to writing a full novel.

 This book right here, in case you're new here

This book right here, in case you're new here

As a child, I’d always loved reading. I’d read and read and read and then look for more. Then in college, I fell out of love with reading. It could have had something to do with the amount of required reading for my college classes, though I really don’t know that that was the root cause of my disaffection. No, I think what happened was the literary world was exploding at the time with books that didn’t interest me at all. Harry Potter was the only thing going around that even slightly interested me, but not to the point that I actually wanted to commit to reading the canon of books. I’d watch the movies, but that was about it.

The Twilight series was an ever-growing behemoth then and despite the surge of excitement surrounding those books, I just couldn’t bring myself to finish even book one, much less the subsequent three. The Hunger Games was also being touted as a revolutionary series that was replacing the classics in some schools as required reading; but that didn’t interest me either. The YA boom was in full swing, yet it all seemed so… pretentious. If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know I am not a fan of pretentiousness. Music, movies, and books that are self-serious and self-important really don’t do it for me.

 WhY So SeRiOuS? Plus I haven't seen that fabulous of hair since the 80's

WhY So SeRiOuS? Plus I haven't seen that fabulous of hair since the 80's

In essence, the literature of the time just didn’t seem all that accessible to me. I say “to me” because there was no lack of people buying and devouring these books. Books were selling. That’s not what I am saying. What I am saying is that there didn’t seem to be anything out there for me or people like me. (That’s likely my problem, but this is my site so I’m going to complain about it as if it’s the world’s problem for not supplying me with literary entertainment sufficient for my needs.)

I wanted something accessible. Something that knew it was entertainment and not abstract mythology. I wanted something that was fun. That last one especially. I may be in the minority here, but I want my entertainment to be enjoyable on a Disneyland-y, roller coaster-y, I-don’t-care-if-it’s-silly-and-stupid type of fun level. I don’t enjoy crying while reading literature. I don’t enjoy reading about horribleness. I will never pick up a book based on the amount of “social importance” it has. Sorry. Nope. I can see the merit in such books, and on a literary level, I can appreciate them. However, they don’t call to me. Nothing I sampled ever piqued my interest nor held it long enough to engage me.

The book that broke that slump for me was by an author that goes by the name of David Wong with his book, John Dies at the End. It was crude, fast paced, kind of scattershot, kind of gross, and an absolute blast. I burned through that book and picked up its sequel as soon as it was published. Both of them reinvigorated my desire to read and made me remember why I loved reading for all those years. It also drove me to think I could also write a book of similar feel and quality. At the time that was not true. I thought it was true. It was not even close.

I didn’t know the huge amount of work and effort it would take to bring the book to life. I thought that it was a quick and easy road to success. It is not. For every Stephanie Meyers that writes a book that takes her on a meteoric rise to fame and fortune there are thousands of authors that have been writing for years just to put food on the table. When we see authors like Andy Weir write their first book, self-publish it, and then see it become one of the top movies of 2015, we want that to be us. We envision that one day we will have the chance to tell our stories to people and that they will love them.

Some tell me, “I just want to get my work out there. I don’t care if it sells.” Bullshit. I understand not caring about the money and just writing for the thrill of the craft. People sell their books for free all the time and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, what I call double bullshit on is the idea that people don’t care if their books sell. In my mind, a book that is selling is a book that connects. It’s another person taking a journey in the author’s mind and finding it thrilling, exciting, compelling, romantic, erotic, or life-affirming. 

You mean to tell me that you, as an author, don’t want that? Triple bullshit. When that connection is made and that person feels like their soul has been touched or that someone understands them, isn’t that why we write? So when a young boy reads about a character in a book, a character that is picked on or belittled, and he sees that character overcome and achieve greatness and because of that character he feels he can get up and go to school the next day, that's not important to you?

Of course it is. When someone reads the things you’ve put out on the page and they feel those characters are their friends; when they feel their joys and their struggles as their own, that’s magical. That’s a human connection. That is why we write. To share what we have inside with someone else and hopefully make both parties better for it. That is what keeps me doing this.

Do I want my books to sell? Yes. Yes I do. I want them to sell so well, people get sick of them. If that brings me fame and fortune, then cool. I kinda like those things. (At least, I think I do. I have neither as of this writing.) However, I want them to "sell" because it means that my soul has touched someone else's and helped them a bit when they needed it... and that's worth all the effort. 

 

Banana Hammocks and Wedgie Jeans

This coming week I will walk the cavernous halls of the industry trade shows, stopping only for cursory glances at the wares on display. Nothing on display shocks me anymore. Over the years I have seen everything the industry can offer. Low rise, high-waisted, sheer, and denim, the clothing always recycles itself. This season it looks like denim will be a hot ticket item.

Denim. Don't call them jeans. Jeans are old. It's not a jean skirt/jacket/pair of overalls... it's denim.

Isn't denim old as the hills? It's not a new fashion. Well I suppose when you wedge it up in your crack and then cut off the legs you're doing something no one in previous generations thought was a good idea. I am not sure when hacking the length of a jean (sorry denim... pant?) we used to call "Mom Jeans" became a fashion forward idea but hey. More power to you. Good luck sitting down in your denim panties. Sounds very chafe-y. At least Kylie up there keeps them full length. 

I'm not really there to look at the fashion-forward women's items anyway. I spend most of my time rubbing elbows with big wigs in the booths of the fine men's clothing area. An area which has gone from taking up the entire hall to taking up a corner of it.

Men don't want to wear suits anymore. Not nearly as many anyway. They've managed to stem that tide a little bit within the last few years by making men's suits out of colored Saran Wrap and making the pants shorter. But honestly, how many men really want a iridescent blue suit that is so tight they can't move paired with a pant that makes no secret of whether they hang to the left or the right? Is that what you really want, men of fashion? 

So let's get to it. Why am I writing about bulging pants and bun-spreading denim shorts (dorts?) on a blog mostly dedicated to writing?

Well because I write copy for the clothing industry. Not the entire industry, but quite a few clients that are in that business. It's the job I'm using to keep the lights on and the bills paid while I try to figure out how to break into the world of best seller-dom. That may never happen though, so I go to these trade shows twice a year as part of my primary career. When I get back I'll whip up some slick copy for my clients to sell the latest and greatest fashion that was just brought back from the dead and I'll soldier on with my writing on the side as I have done for the past few years. 

That is until someone notices my writing genius and decided it's worth all the money.

Notice my genius, dammit.

(Despite the rather click bait-y title, I really have run across a good number of banana hammock wearing dudes in booths on the trade show floor. I never feel more overdressed than when a dude in a sausage-sling approaches me while I'm dressed in a full suit and tie.)

I found my childhood journal

I made an amazing discovery last night. While going through a bunch of boxes I have in storage, I found a whole bunch of things I had forgotten about, thought I lost, or didn’t even remember I ever had. It was such a great experience. I’m sure these treasures will be the subject of many posts yet to come, but today I’m going to start with the cover and first page.

A journal is something nearly every child and adult tries to keep at some point in their lives. It’s much more common for girls, it seems, than it is for boys, but to my surprise, I actually did keep a journal for a short time as a boy. When I found my old blue journal, I almost didn’t recognize it as mine.

 Don't. Not any futher.

Don't. Not any futher.

I started writing in it when I was eight years old. I never make mention of why I started the journal or what the trigger was, but I am going to go out on a limb here and say it was because I was given one as a Christmas or birthday present. Give me a gift, and I will use it. (That hasn’t changed, even today.)

The first entry is from 2/6/1983 and the second, about a week later on 2/13/1983:


The way I talk about my family trip to Disneyland within the same breath as giving the exact date I broke my foot is remarkable. I wouldn’t be shocked if you made the assumption that I broke my foot during my trip to Disneyland, but that would be wrong. Those were two separate happenings in my life and I remember them both very clearly. 

The Disneyland Trip

That trip to Disneyland was when I lost my roller coaster V-card. Up until that point I had never set foot on a roller coaster of any kind. Pirates of the Caribbean was as rip-roarin’ as I got. My older siblings loved the Matterhorn, but not me. I wasn’t going on that rolling carriage of snowy death. Nope. Are you kidding me? They said there was a huge man-eating snowman in there waiting to rip my tow-headed self limb from limb. Screw that. 

 Screw. That.

Screw. That.

One thing I remember about the trip was that we met up with some of our cousins there, so it was a whole bunch of kids 8-15 romping around the Magic Kingdom. You could call this next part a matter of peer pressure, but I call it blatant lying on the part of my extended family. When they heard I was inexperienced in the ways of coastering they insisted that I, being a kid fascinated with Space and the Space Shuttle, would love Space Mountain.

There was a Space Mountain? In Disneyland? How could I have overlooked it? I’d been on Mission to Mars, but never this Space Mountain. I was curious but still cautious, so I asked if the ride was scary. “Nope. Not scary at all,” they told me. So after a little more coaxing, I went; anxious to go on one of the big kid rides and up my street cred with my friends back home.

Upon entering the spired building, it was clear this wasn’t a kiddy ride. What had I gotten myself into? Weird music, metallic hallways, and ominous bleeps and bloops greeted me inside. The longer we waited, the more sure I was that I was going to soil myself on the ride. They’d tricked me. They knew I was of a gentle demeanor and wanted to exploit it. Bastards. 
Disneyland, knowing that there would be a few washouts, did have exits at intervals in the line for those who want to chicken out, but I wasn’t giving in.

I climbed into the cart that looked suspiciously like the one I’d seen flying around the corners of the Matterhorn and cursed my relatives under my breath. How dare they? I’d teach them. I’d… I don’t know what I thought I’d do, but they’d regret this day. Somehow. They’d p— oh great monkey mother pus bucket. It was moving. The light tunnel rotated around me, messing with my eyes. Was the cart actually spinning?

The tunnel spat us out into a pitch black room filled with stars and more bleeps and bloops. These distractions only lasted for a moment before I felt the brakes disengage and my stomach jump up into my throat. The ride felt stupid fast to a kid like me, one who thought the 7MPH of the Autopia ride was amazing. It swirled around and around in the dark for about a minute and a half and then slid back into the loading area with a jolt. Lucky for myself and my traveling companions, I remained continent and loved every moment of my first roller coaster ride. I have been a huge fan of them ever since.

The Broken Foot

This school was the same one in which I discovered the limited ability of jeans to absorb a flood of pee and learned that Mrs. Casillas was more than just a teacher. This was approximately two years after that incident, and my first lesson in gravity.

gravity-theory3.jpg

Part of this narrative has grown a bit unclear over time, though most the important parts still remain intact. The basic idea was a game of team tag, I think, though this is the part that gets hazy. I remember running away from a bigger kid on the playground, but I don’t remember whether I was actually scared or if it was part of a game of tag. 

I remember running away from this big kid through the dusty sand of the playground. I was a scrawny kid at the time, but I was quick. Quick enough to evade the brawn bearing down on me, in any case. I could only run for so long though (because scrawny) and it was at my most tired point that I thought climbing a ladder to the top of a slide would be a good idea.

I don’t know why I thought a game of tag would be resolved by climbing a slide, but I did. Maybe I was thinking that the kid chasing me would just follow me up the slide and when he got halfway up the ladder I would slide down, leaving his bigger, slower body in my wake. I really don’t know. No matter the reason I clambered up the ladder. When I reached the top, I grinned as he began to follow me up the ladder. That grin was erased when I saw my opponent’s compatriot blocking the bottom of the slide. if I slid down the slide, his comrade would tag me. If I didn’t take the plunge, he would tag me himself and I’d be “it.” No one wants to be “it.”

But WAIT! There was a third option. 

Time running out and my two exits blocked, I peered over the side of the slide to the sand below. Sand is soft right? When I play in it, it shifts and moves, I said to myself, of course it would cushion my fall if I jumped over the side!

 They don't make them like they used to... Probably due to tetanus lawsuits.

They don't make them like they used to... Probably due to tetanus lawsuits.

It wasn’t a huge slide. It was a standard slide you’d find on most playgrounds of the era: steel pipes and sheet metal reaching about eight feet from the tallest point to the ground. By contrast I was all of three foot nothing and all skin, bones, with a blonde mop for a head.
 
With glee that I had found a way to escape, I launched my skeletal frame from the top of the slide, landing in the soft sand. My plan to come away unscathed might have worked, had my knees not buckled under what little weight I had. They did buckle, and my legs collapsed underneath me in what they now call “criss-cross applesauce” but we called a more politically incorrect name. When I landed, one of the main bones in my foot cracked due to the impact and I yelped out in pain. One of the teachers monitoring the playground ran to my aid and hobbled me to the nurse, where my mom would pick me up and take me to the doctor, where an x-ray revealed a hairline fracture.

I was resigned to a pair of crutches and a cast for a few weeks, but the whole thing turned out pretty great. Why? Well, since I wasn’t allowed on the playground due to my injury, the teacher asked for someone to volunteer to stay in the classroom with me. One of the cutest girls in the class volunteered and so begins my ridiculous fascination with the opposite sex. 

Oh, you’re asking why I didn’t address the next entry on the same page? What more can I say? It’s Donkey Kong. All that tells me is that my fascination with the opposite sex and my love for video games started at about the same time. Or at the very least, within a week of each other. 

I Am in a Movie, Starring Me.

Over the years I have learned a thing or two about people. Working in sales and customer service for the bulk of your life is an excellent way to study what makes people tick, what motivates people, and why they are the way they are.

However, as much as I enjoy people-watching and observing, at times I will turn my observational eyes inward and observe myself. In the process of doing so, I have come to the conclusion that I am the star in my own movie.

You don’t need to look any further than to see me when I am in my car and left to my own whims and ideas to find proof of my decidedly self-centered and wholly ridiculous belief. When I am in my car, I am king of my universe. I control the velocity, direction, and interior temperature of my speedy steel land rocket and that is enough for some, but not for me. No. Not for me.

The reason I feel like I am a star in my own movie is because I can also control the sounds that fill the air with the ridiculous thumps of bass or shrieks of guitar and drive accordingly. Because that’s a movie. Soundtracks make or break scenes, take the action to a new level of awesomeness, and make many soil their skivvies when employed well. As it is with driving for me.

I joke with friends and family that my car is more of an investment in my mental health than an investment in transportation, although I am not really joking. I am never more at home than when I am behind the wheel. No matter my mood and no matter the day, I have a playlist and a full tank of gas that speaks to it.

Case in point, this morning I was feeling empowered and walked to my car with an extra degree of swagger, which means something like this will be playing in my Fortress of Automotive Solitude:

Like it or not, it’s got a raw power to it. Sure, it sounds like a choir girl singing vocals over machine gun fire during a seven car pile-up, but that’s kind of my point. It sounds like something you’d expect during a car chase in the most awesome movie ever made. I am in that car chase. I am that driver.

Give this a listen and tell me you can’t see a stubbly-faced Bradley Cooper, driving in the rain, scruffy hair matted to his head, possibly blood oozing from his bloody knuckles as he slow-mo maneuvers through the downpour en route to pummeling his last enemy and then collapse from his injuries. *roll credits as the police and ambulance lights flash over the scene* To answer the question you’re undoubtedly asking in your head right now, yes. I am comparing myself to BraCoops. At least I am when I hear that in the car and I put my aviators on. Boom.

Give either of those songs a whirl when you’re in your car and see if you don’t feel instantly more cinematic. You will. In the meantime, I’m straight-arm steering my way around my suburb listening to this. Because this is my movie. 

The Christmas List

I have an excuse for not posting much within the last few weeks or so (OK, maybe more than a month) and I think it's a good one. 

I've been hard at work on my first collaborative effort with a fellow author and friend, L.B.Scott. We were talking about our writing and discovered that we both enjoy one another's writing and the styles are similar enough that it might be fun to try a collaboration. 

After a throwing a few ideas around and shooting most of them down, we decided on a Christmas story. In talking it turned out that both of is have a deep fondness for the Christmas season and the feelings it brings, so here we are. Presenting our first collaborative effort and launching it out just shy of a week before Christmas. 

It's an original short story that we wanted to write for all ages and one that people would want to share with friends, children and loved ones. We hope we have achieved that to some degree, and we hope you enjoy it as well. 

It will be up on Amazon shortly, so please  check it out and give it a read. From our families to yours, we hope this holiday is filled with happiness and joy. 

Here it is:

 Cover Design by Lana Pecherczyk Twitter: @lansi

Cover Design by Lana Pecherczyk Twitter: @lansi

And here's the hook:

It's Winter, 1957. The snow is piling up, the days are getting shorter, and children all over the world are eagerly anticipating the night when Santa comes to visit. Except for the children at the Happy Heart Orphanage. No, the children there don't expect visits from the Man in Red. The Matrons who run the orphanage make sure each child there knows that they don't deserve such love from Jolly Ol' Saint Nick.

Santa or no, Johnny is determined to make this year's Christmas something special for the rest of the children. While executing his Christmas plan, he is caught by the Matrons and thrown in the scariest part of the house on Christmas Eve. Will Johnny escape? Will the orphans of the Happy Heart Orphanage ever have a true Christmas?

Find out in this heartwarming story of friendship and the Holiday spirit by L.B. Scott and Douglas B. Wimmer.

Today's Accomplishments

The water rolls slowly toward me, then bounces off my body and the next wave rolls in. The faucet drips every few seconds; a repair I haven’t fixed despite it being leaky for a matter of months. Years even.

The stubble on my face is soothing as I run my fingers across it, although those miniature tree stumps will be gone in a matter of minutes when I drag the razor’s edge over my skin. It’s not that I like shaving, but I don’t like myself with a beard either, so I lather up and let it sit. I have no idea if it really does anything to let my man mane marinate before the shave, but I’ve got a few minutes so why not, right?

There are a few things I could be doing rather than sit in my bathtub, but I’m not worrying about them today. No. Not today.

I have a few books to finish writing, I have a few books to finish reading, and I have a few items that need editing but I will not do any of those. I have a blog to update, a faucet to fix, and as you already know: a beard to shave. That’s six things and I only plan on doing one of them. Lazy? Maybe. So I’ll end up doing two of them, because I could always post this rambling train of thought online for my blog. In fact, I will do that. So count that as two out of six. I accomplished 33% of my goals today. It’s not even daylight and I have yet to put on clothes so I’d say I’m winning at life today.

VICTORIES FROM THE BATHTUB!

A tiny black spot invades my vision. From the relative darkness of my watery wonderland I spy a minuscule harbinger of doom. It could be a trick of the eye. My laptop is bright and the room is dark, so there’s really no reason that it could be anything but- dammit it IS! It’s a tiny little vampire of blood and enjoyment: the mosquito! First ants and now this? Why has God forsaken me and Mother Nature allowed to have her way with my humble abode? I am but a man, soaking in his circa 1994 bathtub, and waxing poetic about how much stuff he’s not going to get done today.

Why now? It’s coming up on the holiday season. How evil are these little gnats of destruction that they don’t respect my sovereignty?!

Oh crap! He’s coming at me! Dive! Dive! Dive! He’s powerless under the water! Maybe it’s a she… it doesn’t matter! I can’t laptop while underwater so if you’ll excuse-

. . .

I’m back up. After staying under the water for as long as my untrained lungs could muster (around 20 seconds) I’m above surface. I wish I had bothered to lather up my hair before dunking myself into the warm watery bastion of safety; that would have been fortuitous. Productive even. No matter now.

It’s on the tiny Wal-Mart table I use at my tubside. Does it think it’s a thing it can bite? You can’t get blood from my $15 table, you stupid bug! Hahaha you think you can get blood from- OH! It’s airborne again! Come at me needle-face! I’ll drown you in my bathtub of emotions! I’m ready…

It lands again on my Wal-Mart table.

 The bloodless decoy. From Wal-Mart.

The bloodless decoy. From Wal-Mart.

I will no longer be a victim. I refuse to let this insect dictate my life. I will not sit back and wait for his or her inevitable attack on my person. I will go on the hunt! The hunter is now the hunted! How does that feel, itty bitty Hans Gruber? I will not tell you where the detonators are. But I will smear your blood… although I suppose it’s not his blood, because when you squish mosquitoes it’s usually someone else’s blood, but anyway. I will smear the blood inside of you and you will no longer disturb my baths!

I catch him as he takes flight, no doubt aware in some animalistic sense that the tables have turned, and I pulverize this tiny flying needle of a bug. Restoring calm to the world once again.

Make that three things I've accomplished this morning.

I Never Wanted to Write a Book.

I am neck deep in writing a trio of novels right now. (No, it’s not a series.)
However, I haven’t always had the desire to write. I don’t know what that says about me in general, but I do take note of so many writers, both young and old who say they caught the writing bug early on in life and haven’t stopped since. I had no desire nor drive to write a novel when I was younger, and why would I? I had bigger dreams, higher aspirations, and I was going to be rich and famous. What would I be rich and famous for? Well that depends on what stage of life we are talking about.

Plan #1 – Become a famous musician


When I was a young boy of eleven years old, the plan was to be a famous singer/songwriter. I even went so far as to record myself singing into my little tape recorder the somber and forlorn lyrics of an prepubescent boy. I do not know where this tape is. However, I do remember a snippet of the lyrics, because genius never forgets genius. This was an actual line from the song that was to make me famous:

Because I’m lost!
Lost in a twisted maze.
Without anyone to hold me.
Or to love meeee!

At this point I think it’s best to play it safe and tell the women in the reading audience to refrain from mailing me their undergarments along with proposals for marriage. This isn’t me anymore. And eleven-year-old boys still think that girls are mysterious cootie factories, so if someone had tried to hold me or love me, I’d have ran as far and as fast as my scrawny boy body could take me. Needless to say, despite my best efforts to write the quintessential love ballad, my musical career never took off. This was due in large part to it never leaving my bedroom. I would revisit this plan again in my late teen years, as I sung lead in a basement band who covered mostly Green Day and The Clash; once again destined to fail as we never left the basement.

 
Plan #2 – Become a famous movie director.


When you think about ultra-famous people who have more money than many small countries, it’s hard to not think about celebrities in general and for me, directors specifically. Some would lump my #1 plan and #2 plans together, but no. Those people are wrong. Becoming a famous director is an entirely different animal. Not only do you get to showcase your vision and tell stories (either your own or those of others) you get to tell those spoiled primadonna actresses and pompous actors what to do every day all day. Heh... and get paid literal truckloads of money to do so. Where’s the downside, right?

With those thoughts of grandeur in mind, I set out to film my first indie film on my parent’s Hi-8 camcorder. Somewhere in a shoebox at my parent’s home exists footage of me recording while driving in my parent’s car, recording nothing more than the streets in my hometown. That’s it. First-person shakycam view of the quiet suburban streets clipping by at 35-45 MPH. I don’t even think there are any people on the streets I filmed, because who walks in the Phoenix area? No one, that’s who. Next, I took to my ancient computer and overlaid ridiculously crude credits over the riveting passing-street scene. Yes, in my teenage mind, my first thought for my epic movie was to do the credit roll. Given, this may have been yet another exercise in vanity, as every single credit had my name by it, but that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise if you’ve known me for very long.

Again, this avenue would not yield the fruits I so desperately wanted. 

Plan #3 – Become a doctor

Clearly my attempts at fame were not going so well. It was at this point I decided that becoming a medical doctor was the way to go. If I couldn’t have fortune and fame then I would settle for fortune. It’s no secret that medical doctors in the U.S. are highly paid, particularly if they are in a specialized field. This plan differed from the previous two in that it would rely more on learning and acquiring a certain skill set and applying knowledge to achieve the desired goal. I’m a smart guy, that much I know. So my thought process was that as long as I apply myself, I could make it. There would be no need for luck or waiting for my “big break” because I would create my own opportunity. At the same time I would be enabling myself to help others in the most fundamental of ways: improving their health.

Those who know me for any length of time know that I am always looking to help others. Whether it be by being there for someone emotionally or lending a physical hand, I try to find opportunities to do so. I love helping others in any way I can, so this method of making a name for myself would allow me to become relatively rich (not small-country rich, but not-wanting-for-money rich) while sating my need to help others. As I went through the required coursework to prepare for the MCAT and continue on to medical school, I would find this road to success would not come to fruition either for a number of reasons I won't delve into now.

Plan #4 – Just write

Until I started this blog post today, I didn’t think my past aspirations held any bearing on where I am right now. Right now I want to write. I truly enjoy writing and the sense of accomplishment it provides, and I also enjoy entertaining others even if I am not aware of everyone that sees or will see my work. I love creating characters, places, and stories to transport myself along with the reader to a different time and place. Come to find out those are not too different from the other three goals I had. 

For Plan #1 and Plan #2 one of the goals was of course to have mountains of money; however, the underlying theme was one in which I could entertain and provide something memorable for others. Even though I wouldn’t get to yell at actors and actresses, I found that I could position my story’s characters to do what I want and say what I want them to say. Do they do it all the time? No. There’s definitely some improv going on in my writing, just as there would have been had my Hollywood dreams been realized. Sometimes my stories veer off course, but as the writer, director, set designer, and producer of the whole show, I can correct if needed. It’s not so different it seems. 

For plan #3, the underlying goal of being well-to-do was secondary to helping people once again. Making people happier, helping them to enjoy life more, and being a force for good in their lives is what a good medical professional does. 

In my mind, this is also the same goal I am striving for now (minus the fame and riches) when it comes to writing. I should have caught the idea sooner, because others were more than encouraging when it came to my literary skills, but my fame-seeking self wasn’t having any of it at the time. I’m now older and relatively wiser, and here I am, in the middle of three books and trying to make a name for myself in the world of books. I’m a late-comer, but I’ve never felt like an outcast, and for that I say thank you.

So about my overwhelming self-confidence...

It's been said that I am kind of a cocky bastard.

I like to think I'm simply confident in my abilities and not ashamed to show it. My friend and fellow writer, Mia, has commented on my unauthor-like self-assured demeanor on more than one occasion. Until recently (read: yesterday) I was under the impression that my healthy ego was a relatively new thing. Something that I developed as I grew and matured as an adult. 

While digging through some old boxes my mother had set aside (that my father was about to toss), I found evidence to the contrary. I present to you the cover of what may very well be my first published work. (Publishing in this instance means simply putting into a book-like form.)

Nope. No confidence here. 

This autobiography was written when I was a proud 8 and a half year old. I'm sure that yesterday was the first time I have seen it since then. Even I am amazed at the ridiculous amount of ego that is displayed on this cover. A cover that I illustrated with remarkable skill for such a young guy, if I do say so myself. 

I mean- wow. 

After the Doug W at the top and the name of the assignment, it's a tour-de-force of boldness. Take note of the way I placed my own (much more appropriate) title in the middle of the page and relegated the instructor-supplied title of All About Me to the upper corner.

I even drew a big gold star on the front to further establish my cover dominance emblazoned with an emphatic "Awesome!" on the side as if that weren't clear enough already. At this point the ego train is well off it's tracks so why not draw a picture of myself with a unequivocal BEST scrawled diagonally on the page, the "t" even touching my cheek as if to point directly to the BEST! In case there was any doubt, I made sure to indicate that the BEST one was "me" with an arrow. 

The rest is just further establishing my awesomeness with a gigantic hand displaying the universal sign for "number one!" in the bottom center, and a numeral 1 (written backward to show the "establishment" that I won't be controlled with their "rules") to drive the point home.

I don't remember being this confident at age 8.5, so I couldn't tell you why I was this way. I am a middle kid, I was always kind of introverted and quiet, and so to see such bravado in my young self is surprising and hilarious. 

I write this and share it with my tongue planted firmly in my cheek. I had an inordinate amount of confidence then, and I do have confidence in myself and my abilities now. However, I spent my junior high and high school years wallowing in insecurity and self-doubt just like most of us did.

I had a good laugh at my own expense when I found this and I thought you might get a kick out of it as well. If not, then just write me off as a cocky little bastard and I'd be fine with that.

Bathroom Bobby and the Kingman KFC

For the most part, my trips to Las Vegas are pretty uneventful. It’s a long, boring drive that I can almost do with my eyes closed; which explains why I have the time to create dramatic readings for my site from profoundly silly literature. Like this one. The level of crazy I am driven to on these trips is evident in the tone and timbre of my voice in those recordings. I do this trip twice a year. I’m used to it, boring as it is. 

When I tell people it’s a business trip to Vegas, many give a nod and/or a nudge and say something like, “Business, eh? Riiiiiight. Vegas for business.” 

Yep. Twice a year, the clothing industry (the one I currently work in) holds a massive group of trade shows there and I am required to go as part of my company. It’s anything but glamorous, despite the locale. I am in meetings from 8am to 1pm and then on the show floor from 1pm until 6pm, and then many times I go to dinner, then go back to work on presentations and spreadsheets until I crash at around 10. No time nor energy for clubs or shows or even gambling. It’s why Vegas is forever ruined as a vacation destination for me despite visuals like this:

It's like Megamind and the T-1000 had a fashion-forward child.

Or this:

Because even furry-legged, light-up-shoe-wearing, nearly-topless girls need their pizza and Diet Coke.

The interesting part of this trip was in a KFC bathroom. An experience I will never forget, no matter how much I would like to.

It’s not unusual for me to stop in Kingman for dinner on my trip up to Sin City. As a matter of fact, I stop there more often than not just because it’s usually close to dinner time when I blow through. It’s simple timing for the most part. 

Having imbibed the bulk of a 44oz Dr Pepper Polar Pop plus a can of Monster energy drink, my bladder was beyond full. So full that all someone would have to do is accidentally bump into me as I made a break for the bathroom, and the need to reach the bathroom would have been negated as I would have burst like the world’s largest toddler on his first day in real underwear. As such, I pulled into the parking lot of the Kingman KFC and knock-knee pinch-walked my way through the red double doors and back toward the men’s room as fast as possible. 

I made it, but with only seconds to spare. The men’s room was dirty. Toilet paper in various states of use were strewn about the floor and nearly everything looked . . . wet. The toilet appeared to have been cleaned on a quarterly basis and I was greeted by a mirror with graffiti, telling the reader that a former patron had conjugal relations with another patron’s mother in this single toilet/single sink bathroom. I have no reason to doubt that the tale on the mirror was a true one. The room couldn’t have measured more than 5 feet by 6 feet, leaving little room for much more than what was already in it.

I turned to lock the door and was faced with yet another sign. This one was handwritten on a recently moist piece of paper and written by a staff member. In bold letters it admonished, “DO NOT LOCK THE DOOR! IT WILL NOT UNLOCK AND YOU WILL BE STUCK IN HERE!” Having no desire to live out the rest of my days in a Kingman KFC water closet, I left the lock undone.

Needing to ease the immense pressure on my bladder but well aware that sitting down on the provided seat may give birth to a new catchphrase: “What happens in a Kingman bathroom, stays with you forever,” I chose to use my God-given right as a man, and remained standing as I relieved myself. No sooner did I start my business when the handle on the door started turning. 

I assumed whoever was attempting to use the bathroom would open the door a bit, see me in there shaking the dew from my lily and close the door out of embarrassment. He did not do that. He only paused for a second before opening the door all the way, coming into the tiny bathroom with me, and closing the door. 

I froze. My entire body tensed as this man stood two feet behind me. What the hell was he doing? This is against every single tenet of the Man Code! You stay as far apart as possible when someone else is draining his pipes. It’s a Man Code Felony to do otherwise! 

I didn’t dare glance back for fear that my worst assumptions would be confirmed and that he’d be standing behind me, trousers around his ankles, with a grin revealing all three of his teeth.  With a snicker, he’d lock the permanently locked door, and then it’d be all over. Twelve hours later, the police and fire department would resort to using the Jaws of Life to pry the door open and find my battered and used remains.

Desperate to vacate the den of filth and fear that the tiny room had become, I finished my turn at the toilet early and eschewed the sink (hygiene be damned) before bolting from the bathroom door and making a beeline for my car. I’ve never been more thankful for a key-less push-button start on my car. I punched the button and was out of the parking lot, back on the road, and away from Bathroom Bobby in a matter of seconds.

That may be my last time stopping at the Kingman KFC. Or . . . Maybe I’ll just hit the drive-thru next time. 

I Am Bigger Than The Burj Khalifa (And I Hate Ants)

A few nights ago I couldn’t sleep.

I crashed at around 11PM, optimistic that I’d get a decent night’s rest and wake in the morning at the usual 5AM as rested as that time span would allow. Instead, my eyes popped open at 2:30AM and I found myself unable to convince my brain that it needed to shut back down.

Rather than toss and turn all night in an unsleeping stupor, I slid out of my bed and went downstairs to the main room. I fixed myself a snack, sat down on the couch and fired up my Xbox One with Witcher 3. 

As I played what is arguably one of the best games I have ever played, I felt a little bit of a pinch on my knee. I didn’t think much of it until I felt a similar twinge of pain on my other leg. I paused my game and reached down to see if there was something actually there or whether my sleep-deprived mind was messing with me.

I was surprised to find a tiny dark ant on each of my legs. The little bastards had bitten me. Being a member of the top of the food chain and peeved that such small creatures would even try to nibble on me, I squished them both then put my feet up on the ottoman to prevent further breaches to my personal sovereignty.

After a little while I grew drowsy and decided to try my hand at sleeping again. I headed upstairs and as I lie in bed, my mind was drawn back to those ants (or more exactly, former ants.)

Proportion-wise, I am a gigantic mountain of a being compared to those ants. I am, by height comparison alone, approximately 592 times bigger than either of these little ants that bit me. Using another comparison just to drive the size disparity home, a being 592 times bigger than myself would be 3650 feet tall. The Burj Khalifa in the UAE is only 2700 feet high. This fictional me would be just shy of 1000 feet taller than that building, which is the tallest in the world, currently.

So now that all of that is established and you are up to speed, one question still remains.

Why in the blue hell would an ant bite me?

Now before we get too far, I know that ants aren’t the brightest species on the planet. But they aren’t the dullest either. They have a complex hierarchical structure, they can lift and transport many times their size and weight, and they create complex tunnel systems where they live, work, and reproduce.

Why are they biting me?!

They can’t possibly think an opponent the relative size of a skyscraper is something they can take back to the anthill. I’m clearly not a viable food source. I’m not even very sweet. As a matter of fact, I’m as close as you can get to being a human salt-lick. I’m beef jerky level salty. I may be a pretty sweet guy, personality-wise, but even mosquitoes say no to a drink at the DBW Cafe. It's science. 

So why are the ants attacking me?

Surely in their tiny little stupid ant brains they don’t think they can slay me and then invite their little family of millions of ants to each take a piece of me. Maybe they do though . . . maybe they are searching for the weak spots in the human anatomy and testing them. Like the raptor in the original Jurassic Park. However, unlike the Clever Girl Raptor, I don’t think these little asswipes of the insect kingdom remember much of anything like that.

It makes no sense why they’d dig their pincers into me!

Screw you bug! You little waste of protein and… and… FLUIDS! Yeah, so you bit me. Guess what I did? Took my thumb and forefinger and popped your little exoskeleton like a tiny little gross piece of crap grape! Three grapes actually. Head, thorax, abdomen: all less than a speck of dirt between my fingers. That’s you, ant. You’re dead. Your stupid little mission to scout out and collect food ended in you smeared on a deity-sized thumb. How’s that feel? Was it worth it? WAS IT??? Hope you took a good chunk out of me because it was your last frikkin' meal! HA! Judge, jury, and executioner right here!

HAHAHAHAHA I GOT YOU ANT! I GOT YOUUUUUUUUUUU!

So… in any case. I bought some ant traps...

 Eat LIQUID DEATH!

Eat LIQUID DEATH!

Things I Learned In College Writing Classes

About six months ago I decided to take a few college writing courses to gauge my skill as an untested writer. Having never had my work evaluated and graded in any professional manner, I took the classes to see if I really had the chops to make it as a writer or if I was just delusional in thinking I had any business in the realm of writing. 

These two courses, Creative Writing and Fiction Writing, were the first courses I had ever taken that focused exclusively on the craft of writing. I was nervous because despite my outward confidence level being high, the inner me whispers, "Everyone else was just being nice, these professors will laugh at the crapfest you call writing! BAHAHAHAHA!" 

Although I learned much about the things I was doing right or wrong when it comes to grammar, structure, and the art of writing fiction, that is not what this post is about.

Before I started these classes, I hadn't ever been tied to a deadline. Never had someone said, "You must sit down and write X number of words about X topic and you must submit it by X time." No, up until that point in time, writing for me was a thing that I had to feel "inspired" to do. It was an endeavor in which if I didn't "feel" the words flowing through my mind and hands, it just wan't meant to be. In effect, I'd give myself an out if I wanted to dink around on Twitter, play games, or Netflix the night away because I just wasn't inspired to write. 

My thought when I turned in these pieces on a deadline was that they were going to be terrible. The low marks would prove that inspired and quality writing couldn't be held to any arbitrary time frame! I needed the proper drink, the proper snack, the proper lighting! I needed to be seated at my desk, with the right music on, and wearing my writing sweatpants to create these worlds! Without all of those elements in place, writing... would simply be sub-par if not impossible. Expecting confirmation of my belief, I waited for my papers to be graded.

The grades came back. With instructor comments.

When the first grades were in the 95 percentile and up. I wrote them off as flukes. The instructors' notes were complimentary, but what does that even mean on an introductory paper? Surely they were just playing nice to keep students enrolled long enough to get past the drop/add deadline so their class size would remain large. 

So I turned in more papers, sure they were garbage and would be graded accordingly. Because deadlines

They came back with similar scores, with comments much more enthusiastic in addition to being helpful. 

As it turns out I am not delusional with regards to my writing ability. I have a strong skill set that I can now verify with scrutinized and graded coursework that says as much. The professors (one of whom has a masters degree in Creative Non-Fiction, a field I did not even know existed until I saw her credentials) are now friends who are active in encouraging me to get out there and write all of the things. They have had no problem telling me where I need to improve and where I excel, but enjoy my work on an academic as well as a personal level and that's a good feeling. After finishing the course, I now consider one of them a friend, and am unsuccessfully attempting to convince her to start up on Twitter.

As I wrote under soft deadlines each week, I found that the idea that I needed the proper time, place, and inspiration to write was obliterated. When the deadlines came, I had to turn these pieces in, come hell or high water. (Though to be fair, I did turn in a couple of things a day or two after deadlines.) 

So what does that mean to me now? Well, it means that I need to change my mindset. I can absolutely write whether I'm in my suit or in my jeans. I can most certainly write when I don't have my refrigerated Reese's Mini Peanut Butter Cups and ice water. I can definitely write when I'm having a bad day. I can write whenever and wherever I choose.

If I can crank out 16,000+ words on a schedule and deadline in a matter of weeks as I did with these classes, I need to stop making excuses and as my good friend Debi would say, "finish that shit!"

Mrs. Casillas and The Early Recess

This is a true story. As a matter of fact, it's one of my earliest vivid memories. It's pretty funny too. Enjoy.

I didn’t want to interrupt. Mrs. Casillas was in the middle of teaching us about some kind of math. I didn’t mind math normally. In fact, I really enjoyed math under any other circumstance but this one. I couldn’t concentrate on what she was teaching right then because my bladder was in the red zone.

Once I got over the idea of being away from mom for the first time, the next challenge was not wetting myself. In kindergarten, I learned to hold it like a pro since I only had to worry about half a day. First grade was different from kindergarten; it was a full day. But there was no way I was dropping my Brittania brand corduroy jeans to my ankles in some cold concrete excuse for a bathroom; there was a drain in the floor for crying out loud! Therefore, my other option was to hold it.

So there I sat in my molded plastic chair, squirming while I attempted to hold my urine until Mrs. Casillas finished teaching us about addition. Or subtraction. Or something. I couldn’t concentrate so I didn’t know what she was teaching. She just kept going. I was just hoping she wouldn't call on me to answer a question. I didn’t want to answer a question. I just wanted to run home and pee.

What if she never stopped talking? What if I had to hold my pee forever? What if I couldn’t hold it until she was done and I unleashed my lemonade all over my new corduroy jeans? Mom would’ve been so angry at me.

It’s doubtful the blonde girl in pigtails would have been very happy either. She and I had shared a desk since first grade started. She always seemed to want to borrow my pencil. She was using my pencil right then, as matter of fact, and oh my goodness I had to pee!

Crossing my legs seemed to make it worse, and the girl next to me was glaring at me fidgeting, so I had to do something. Then the perfect idea came to me.

Every time I went to the bathroom at home, no matter how well I used the toilet paper or how many times I shook my Optimus Prime, I still had a little bit of pee get into my underwear and sometimes even my pants. So my idea was to let a tiny little bit come out at a time and my clothing would absorb it just like it would that little bit of pee at home!

Why hadn’t I thought of this before? It was genius! Now it was time to put my plan into action.

I waited until I felt like I was going to explode before I attempted to relieve myself in short, controlled bursts.

However, upon releasing my bladder I discovered two things:

1.      I grossly overestimated my underwear’s ability to absorb urine.

2.      There is no such thing as short, controlled bursts when it came to peeing.

The concavity of the plastic chair contained the initial wave of the flood. However, I had a feeling the small chair was not likely to contain the second. As I sat in a rising tide of my own making, I had another brilliant idea. If I leaned back in my chair, the chair would probably be able to hold all of the warm yellow liquid I was expelling from my six-year old bladder!

I leaned back and prepared to savor my victory, forgetting entirely about the sizable hole in my plan. That hole being the rectangular one in the back of my chair. The one that was now eagerly creating a spectacular sunflower-colored waterfall that attracted the attention of Mrs. Casillas.

She stopped her lesson, sent the other children to an early recess, and tended to my needs as the newly saturated and now fully relieved first-grader I was.

At least I didn’t have to use that dirty, cold, concrete bathroom.

I am in this to succeed. Otherwise I wouldn't be doing it.

When I first started writing a while ago, I did it in isolation. I didn't have any frame of reference for how the writing process worked when it came to fiction. Because I was never classically trained in writing other than basic mechanics, I wasn't familiar with things like editing or even what the purpose of an editor was. 

I may be showing my ignorance in spades here but I honestly thought the prose poured from the author's pen or keyboard pretty much as-is. The author knows what he/she wants to say, scribbles it out and the publisher says, "Yes. This is good. We shall make it into a book so it can make mountains of money for you (and for us as well.) We hope this $100,000 advance is enough for you, Sir Author. Once Hollywood options it to make a movie, we shall give you $1,000,000 as well for making something this awesome."

A small part of me still hopes that is true. However, now that I have been meandering in the world of writers and authors for the past year, I've come to find that while such a success story exists, it is roughly as probable as winning the Powerball. I've found that most writers either struggle to make a living from their work or have a full-time occupation in addition to their authorial endeavors. In light of that knowledge, it's a good thing I didn't quit my full-time job in a mad rush to begin my writing career. (Yes, that's a thought I had. It may have been for only a split second but it did exist.)

So after knocking that pipe-dream out of my head, I went about researching exactly what it takes to be a writer, or more accurately, a successful writer. Before you head to the comments, let me say that yes, the successful part is a goal of mine. I have little desire to write for months, or years on end only to have a pat on the back and a "Hey! Cool! You wrote a book!" for my troubles. Nope. If you can be completely satisfied with simply finishing a book crafted from your own blood, sweat, time, and tears then you're a better person than I. I would no more consider doing that than I would if I were an automotive engineer designing a car from the ground up. 

As such a designer, I would be expected to spend every minute of my working day and more likely than not, time of my own at home thinking about, planning, designing and ultimately building the perfect car. I'd work on it for months, years even. Everything that is in this car I wanted it to be there. It works exactly as designed, and it's all from my hard work and ingenuity (along with a few helping hands along the way.) It's all my ideas about automotive excellence rolled into a singular expression of awesome. 

Is the design a success? By all practical measures it is. Does it function as designed? Yes, most assuredly it does. Is it pleasing to look at? I'd venture to say that most people would think so if they saw it, but that is up to each individual's taste and personal preference. As a designer I think it's a winner. 

If after all of that work, I humbly swagger into my bosses' office anticipating my compensation (both monetary and recognition-wise) and he says, "Good job, Wimmer! You should be proud! You made a car!" and that's all I get, I'm not liable to be a happy camper. The boss doesn't even offer to compensate me for my time or talents, but instead tells me that because I spent the last two years on it, I can keep it and they'll even put a nice coat of wax on it. How does that affect my work that has already been done and my work going forward?

Can I still be proud of my work? Sure and no doubt I would be. Can I still say I've done something that not many others have done? Yep, because how many can say that? Is it still an awesome car? That's silly, of course it is. (Hello! I designed it, it's gonna be a-maz-ing.)

In my eyes that's not right. I'm expending all I am for writing. Every moment I'm not working at my full time job, I'm thinking, plotting, planning for the next scene, chapter, or book. It's a dichotomy I deal with each and every day and it runs me ragged.

Some would call me self-serving or greedy. As a matter of fact one of my closest friends jokes with me daily that my official title should be "Your Greedy Prickness" for setting a goal for having people actually buy my book and tell their friends about it. But is wanting the thing I do and love (writing books, stories, and blog posts) to be the same thing that provides a steady and decent income for myself a bad thing to strive for? Is wanting to create something that others gain enjoyment or insight from a wrong-headed way to think? I don't feel that it is. 

It is often said that if you love what you do for a living, then you'll never work a day in your life. That is what I want. That is why I strive for excellence. That is why I write and edit, and then re-write and edit some more. That is a noble cause to me.

My thought process here may be flawed. You may disagree vehemently and you're welcome to do so. However, I have a feeling that I'm not the only one. I'm not the only one who wants to succeed in their authorship in both a personal and monetary way, and there is nothing wrong with that. 

I am a six year old girl inside.

I am convinced that I have a little six year old girl inside of my mind somewhere. She makes her appearances with alarming frequency, and when I generally would rather her not out in the open. She weeps, gets choked up at movies about family, love and friendship, and is just an emotional little softie. Watch the following clip (although seeing it on youtube is nothing compared to in person) and if you cry like an infant then maybe you have a little girl inside your head somewhere as I seem to have. I wept like a little baby girl at this part of the show

As a manly, testosterone-filled, heterosexual male there really isn't any reason that song clip should affect me at all. It is powerful in a musical sense, but as a burly man I should not have a connection with that clip really. My proof of little-girldom isn't based solely on Frozen either, because that's just silly. It's based on Tangled too. The romantic song where they are floating in the boat with all the damn paper lanterns.... crap here come the waterworks. Son of a... It's just more proof that  in a former life I was a little girl in pigtails.

This is my kryptonite.7

 

Wait. There's more.

I love female singers. Oh and before you say it, I'm not talking about the sultry, sexy ones either (at least not only them). I am talking about the ones who in general, only girls like. We're looking at Lenka, Paramore, Miley Cyrus (...shut up), Ellie Goulding, and Selena Gomez. I'll even throw in a Colbie Caillat and Demi Lovato to prove my point. That point being, I enjoy music that is tailor made for girls. Possibly because I am one. I am one inside at least. Definitely not outside. My belly and distinct lack of female traits would attest to that.

I still enjoy working on cars, rocking out to the Foo Fighters, and building stuff from chunks of metal and wood. So I am a man. A man who just happens to love girl songs, girl movies, and girl singers... and cooking. I love cooking too. :|