Tag Archives: creative non-fiction

Last 1973 a D.J. Saved My Life. [Part #1: Introduction; Dad]

Recently I made what I trust is a correct decision and opted against that suicide I was planning. [Don’t worry; everything’s great now, even if everything still sucks.] I cannot possibly overstate to you one factor in my decision: I have serious reservations about the availability of popular music in the afterlife, be it as cherub or as wormfood. I would miss music too much.

This close call has led me to think a lot of grateful thoughts about how music got to be such an integral part of my life.

It always knocks me slightly off kilter to walk into someone’s place and not hear music. Why don’t they have music on? They’re just walking around their apartment in silence? Is their version of silence actually silent? They have to have voices like everyone else, right? I would kill to swap the voices in my head with the voices in their head for five minutes. How can these people walk around not wanting to have the voices in their heads silenced? Do their voices tell them things like “You’re lookin’ swell today, Greg! Keep up the good work!”? When they close their eyes do they see one of those old Successories™ posters from the 90s? Do they recite to themselves that “Footprints in the Sand” tale?

My voices say things like, “You know you’ll be first on the conveyor belt when they start up the Soylent Green factories. Let better people snack on you.” I could try to drown that out with “Footprints in the Sand,” but that story just reminds me that the middle toe on my left foot has been hurting for weeks now. I assume it will need to be amputated. That’s why I always have music on whenever I can help it. Right now it’s the “Mellow New Years” playlist and The Posies’ version of “O-o-h Child.”

As a lot of bipolar folks will tell you, our minds tend to wander. Music is a low fence that keeps me from sauntering out of the yard and into dark traffic. Eventually I get back to the task at hand.

As soon as I got a radio in my room around the age of 8 or so, it went on, and it stayed on. The only reason I ever turned it off was I was leaving the room, and I only did that grudgingly because President Ford told us to. I would lay awake at night tuning in far away AM stations, feeling an electricity whenever I tuned in a station that began not with a boring W, but with the exotic K or even the weird-tingly-feeling causing C. Even in far away Canada they listen to the same music we do. Somewhere, some other kid was listening to “Kung Fu Fighting” at the exact same time. I’ll take connection where I can get it. Continue reading Last 1973 a D.J. Saved My Life. [Part #1: Introduction; Dad]

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Five existential horrors found in this Halloween picture…

1971, Long Island, Exit 50
1971, Long Island, Exit 50

#1)

That is not a Road Runner costume; that is a THE Road Runner costume. At this point in his life, the boy is waking up at 7am in order to make sure he is in position for The Bugs Bunny Show to start at 9am. He knows what Road Runner looks like, and he has a yellow beak. This THE Road Runner looks like a radish. “It’s says ‘Road Runner,’” says anyone who will listen. Even if one buys the argument, Mom, that there are probably lots of different road runners, the use of the definite article, THE, implies that this road runner on the boy’s blouse is Road Runner from the cartoons he watches. It is not.

All interaction is deceit.

#2)

The blouse itself… Even if it was Road Runner, which it’s not, there’s no way Road Runner would wear a satiny blouse proclaiming he was THE Road Runner. As it was once said by those far more learned than the boy: “Disco Stu doesn’t advertise.” A five year old shouldn’t have to worry that his costume is too meta. “Trick or Treat. Smell my feet. My costume is dialog about the nature of the signifier.” Besides, Road Runner is naked, free, and fast. THE Road Runner pictured on this blouse doesn’t even have a body to be naked with. Again, he is a radish.

Culture is a ravenous ouroboros that feeds off the assimilationist dreams of children.

#3)

When were these pumpkins carved? Labor Day? This child has not yet learned to delay gratification. Now all is decay. The child wonders, “How long before my teeth rot and fall out and I die?” Culture gives him candy as an answer. The candy is called Life Savers. The boy clutches them because he is pretty confident he understands irony.

Entropy will eventually rend asunder even the bonds between the molecules in your face.

#4)

The price tag is still on the big pumpkin.

All joy is commodity.

#5)

The flash of the camera’s un-blinking eye also illuminates the back inside wall of each pumpkin, giving each gourd a two-dimensionality that masks the trauma they underwent weeks before. They scream, but no one hears. They are now just images of pumpkins, trapped in a chilling rictus. A child can only ape their frozen grins as he, too, has been flattened by the gaze. Also, his hair looks stupid, and it will look stupid forever.

Guy DuBooooo-ord put it best: “…Imprisoned in a flattened universe bounded by the screen of the spectacle, behind which his own life has been exiled, the spectator’s consciousness no longer knows anyone but the fictitious interlocutors who subject him to a one-way monologue about their commodities and the politics of their commodities. The spectacle as a whole is his “mirror sign,” presenting illusory escapes from a universal autism.”

Did you really expect faking amnesia would get you out of this?

[As part of WordPress’ “Blogging 101” I received an assignment to write a post based upon that day’s writing prompt question.]

QUESTION: You’ve come into possession of one vial of truth serum. Who would you give it to (with the person’s consent, of course) — and what questions would you ask?

First, I would head to the 99¢ Store to round up some duct tape, Saran Wrap, chicken wire, and a teaspoonful of neutronium (behind the counter, next to the watch batteries). Yes, I know that much neutronium would weigh 100 million tons, but I think if I bring the granny cart, I’ll be able to get it home. After getting the stuff home and up the stairs, I would combine them in the usual manner to create a wormhole in my hall closet. After carefully adjusting the tension on the duct tape, I would step thru the closet to the campus of Bowling Green State University in June of 1983. There I would hunt down the seventeen-year-old version of myself, who would be up there for a week to participate in the American Legion’s Buckeye Boys State, and I would ask:

“Did you really expect faking amnesia would get you out of this?”

For the roughly five years after my mom passed away, from junior year of high school then through three different undergraduate institutions, a quick tally comes up with at least a dozen trips to the emergency room. Of course, some of these were for bona-fide emergencies, but way too many times I ended up in the back of an ambulance because of –for lack of a better word –“escalations.” In this case, I had run into a doorjamb… Continue reading Did you really expect faking amnesia would get you out of this?

The night I sang “The Night My Dignity Died.”

The white cassette tape with no writing came from that particularly messy corner of my bedroom. I knew exactly what was on it without playing it: Me singing Paper Lace’s #1 hit from 1974, “The Night Chicago Died” in a karaoke bar. In Burbank. With seven vodka tonics in me.

It’s not perfect.  It starts late and drops out once or twice.  Also, I suck.  Come, discover why my brother-in-law wouldn’t allow me to sing the “Please don’t eat all the morsels” song to my future-niece in utero:

 

But, you have to admit, those voddys sure gave me some stage presence. Continue reading The night I sang “The Night My Dignity Died.”

Why ORNAMENTAL ILLNESSES?

As I was typing the introduction, I knew the name of the blog was going to be an issue. For 30+ posts, it’s been just been a cute little bit of wordplay, shiny stories just hanging there. But now that I’ve declared the blog’s dual purpose of being a writing blog that also deals with my struggles with mental illness, it just seems about four clicks past cute… Continue reading Why ORNAMENTAL ILLNESSES?

Welcome to ORNAMENTAL ILLNESSES…

Back in the early 90s, I was in Los Angeles embarking on what was sure to be a promising and lucrative career in arranging words on pages. A screenplay I had written as a masters thesis at Michigan won the Hopwood Award. With the hubris only a 23 year old could muster, I took to telling everyone that this was the same award Arthur Miller and Lawrence Kasdan won when they were at Michigan. I took the prize money, plus a thousand dollars I won on a 900-number version of Jeopardy! while drunk at 3am, and moved into a bougainvillea-encrusted dingbat apartment building called The Pink Flamingo in Studio City (but really North Hollywood). And, most amazingly of all, through some tenuous connections I was working with an agent who went on to be Jeremy Piven on Entourage. There were meetings in Burbank and a desk on the Universal lot between where the Classic Hollywood impersonators hung out and the Backdraft ride. Rhett Butler reeks of weed.

Then I went crazy. And I left. And I stopped writing. Continue reading Welcome to ORNAMENTAL ILLNESSES…