What We Talk About When We Talk About Writing



Hipster Dude: “so, like you’re a writer?”
Me: “ah, yeah.”
HD: “so, like what’d you write?”
Me: “a memoir.”
HD: “so, like what’s it about?”
Me: “heroin, dysfunctional junkie love, bank robberies.”
HD: “so, it’s like a movie script?”
Me: “ah, no…”
HD: “so, like you didn’t make it up?”
Me: “it’s a memoir.”
HD: “so, it’s like real life?”
Me: “ah, yeah.”
HD: “so, like who was the junkie?”
Me: “me.”
HD: “so, like who did the bank robberies?”
Me: “me.”
HD: “so, like wow.”
Me: “…”
HD: “so, like what’s your next book?”
Me: “a memoir on how I saved mankind from extinction.”
Hd: “so, like you’ve lived an amazing life.”
Me: “I’m like a saint, and shit.”
HD: “so, like wow.”

Scruffy Poet: “you moved to LA?”
Me: “yeah, like over ten years ago.”
SP: “oh man, didn’t know that…”
Me: “that’s alright, didn’t send out announcements.”
SP: “what’s it like down there?”
Me: “it’s great. Sunny and shit.”
SP: “no, meant the literary scene.”
Me: “that was the ‘great’ part.”
SP: “really? Always considered LA a cultural void.”
Me: “unlike this mecca of creativity?”
SP: “well, we do have The Beats.”
Me: “who are you, The Go Go’s?”
SP: “and Dave Eggers.”
Me: “wow, hard to compete with all that.”
SP: “well, yeah, I guess it is.”
Me: “um… so how’s the poet business going?”
SP: “poetry is not a business…”
Me: “I was joking.”
SP: “oh, ha ha. Have you seen my new chapbook?”
Me: “no, I must have missed it.”
SP: “it’s my ode to our diminishing environment.”
Me: “um… how ah… cultural.”
SP: “hand printed on tree bark and stitched with hemp…”
Me: “back to the basics, eh?”
SP: “made the ink out of dung beetles.”
Me: “you killed the environment to make your book?”
SP: “all the materials were scavenged.”
Me: “wow, you’re a nutter, huh?”
SP: “I’m totally committed to this issue.”
Me: “you should be committed to the nut ward.”
SP: “you’re very cynical.”
Me: “LA will do that to you.”

Hipster Woman Writer: “you write in French?”
Me: “ah, no. I don’t.”
HWW: “but your book is in French.”
Me: “oh, yeah. I had a book published in France.”
HWW: “how does that work?”
Me: “it was translated.”
HWW: “from?”
Me: “English.”
HWW: “so you wrote it in English?”
Me: “well, yeah, it’s really the only language I know.”
HWW: “and then someone translated it to French?”
Me: “why is this so hard for you to grasp?”
HWW: “just don’t understand why.”
Me: “because my publisher was French.”
HWW: “they don’t read English?”
Me: “they do, that’s how they read my manuscript, but it was published in France.”
HWW: “so, it can’t be in English?”
Me: “no.”
HWW: “why not?”
Me: “people in France read French.”
HWW: “that’s stupid.”

Slightly Inebriated Poet: “wow, great piece of writing.”
Me: “ah, thanks.”
SIP: “your protagonist, so venerable.”
Me: “um…”
SIP: “what was the significance of his duality of selfs?”
Me: “say what?”
SIP: “the juxtaposition of his realities, brilliant, but why?”
Me: “juxta… huh?”
SIP: “such conflict in your narrative arch. Life is your muse, no?”
Me: “life is a motherfucker.”
SIP: “well said! Still channeling the underclass I see.”
Me: “force of habit.”
SIP: “a modern day Sartre in our midst.”
Me: “wouldn’t say that. Awfully hard shoes to fill.”
SIP: “you are too modest, sir.”
Me: “no, I’m just not a pretentious ass.”
SIP: “ah ha ha, so what’s next monsieur wordsmith?”
Me: “bestiality porn scripts and copy writing for adult diapers TV ads.”
SIP: “really?”
Me: “gotta stay fresh, baby. Gotta stay fresh.”

Annoying Writer: “hey dude, how’s it going?”
Me: “ah, ok.”
AW: “writing?”
Me: “ah, yeah.”
AW: “what are you working on?”
Me: “um, things, ah, sorta like… ah, stuff.”
AW: “what’s that mean?”
Me: “means I’m writing, but not all the time.”
AW: “oh, ok. So when are you writing?”
Me: “like, ahhhh… when I can.”
AW: “oh, got it. So, it’s a time constraint issue.”
Me: “no, it’s just… why all the questions?”
AW: “trying to understand your process.”
Me: “nice. How’s this? I write, then I don’t.”
AW: “my friend, you need a schedule.”
Me: “I do?”
AW: “can’t just go about life unstructured.”
Me: “I can’t?”
AW: “try implementing a strict regime, schedule time to be creative.”
Me: “ah, you know strict isn’t really what I do.”
AW: “no? What is?”
Me: “loose, sort of manic driven. Write when it hits me.”
APW: “oh my god, you’re out of control.”
Me: “huh? Hey, it’s my process.”
AW: “what time is your alarm set for in the morning?”
Me: “what alarm?”
AW: “you do get up the same time everyday, right?”
Me: “wrong.”
APW: “how can you be so disorganized?”
Me: “oh shit, here, let me pencil you into my day planner.”
AW: “I just can’t work with you.”
Me: “didn’t know we were working.”

Overly Tense Poet: “um, nice reading.”
Me: “ah, thanks.”
OTP: “are you, ah… depressed?”
Me: “right now? No.”
OTP: “but your writing is so…”
Me: “depressing?”
OTP: “um, no, it’s…”
Me: “disturbing?”
OTP: “well, yes, but not so much that as…”
Me: “what, you don’t like the subject matter?”
OTP: “no, it’s your language…”
Me: “I have language?”
OTP: “the way you use it…”
Me: “um… yeah?”
OTP: “like you write with ah… butcher knife.”
Me: “what the fuck does that mean?”
OTP: “you’re killing the words, it’s murder.”
Me: “ah, killing, murder, really?”
OTP: “you don’t like your mother, do you?”
Me: “didn’t read anything about my mother.”
OTP: “bet she didn’t breast feed you.”
Me: “you’re like a total whacko, huh?”
OTP: “sure, go ahead, get angry, truth hurts.”
Me: “whose truth you talking about?”
OTP: “I see a darkness in you, screaming to get out.”
Me: “does that darkness have the butcher knife?”
OTP: “I don’t know? Why?”
Me: “because if it does, you should start running.”

Self Obsessing Poet: “hi, you look authentic, like a local.”
Me: “um… not even sure how to react to that.”
SOP: “I just love LA, it’s so… authentic.”
Me: “so you said. Recently move here, did you?”
SOP: “from Brooklyn.”
Me: “of course.”
SOP: “suppose you surf, do yoga, run the reservoir…?”
Me: “well one out of three, I guess.”
SOP: “I need to find a good Pilates studio in Silver Lake.”
Me: “sorry, not the guy for that.”
SOP: “really miss my mat class in Williamsburg.”
Me: “uh huh, imagine you do.”
SOP: “saw me read, right?”
Me: “yeah, that was me in the front row.”
SOP: “always try to personalize my readings with attendees.”
Me: “well, we actually shared a moment.”
SOP: “really? That’s so genuine.”
Me: “that line in your poem, about being dissatisfied?”
SOP: “I can always identify a dissatisfied person?”
Me: “yeah that one, and then you locked eyes with me.”
SOP: “I use intense eye contact, project the poem’s aura.”
Me: “well, we were in complete simpatico there.”
SOP: “really? How sagacious.”
Me: “yeah, you identified the right person.”
SOP: “that is so profound.”
Me: “that’s what I was thinking.”
SOP: “thank you for being so authentic.”
Me: “it’s the least I could do, welcome to LA.”

Hollywood Screen Writer: “so, what’s your book about?”
Me: “a junkie bankrobber.”
HSW: “yeah, what’s the creative direction?”
Me: “excuse me?”
HSW: “how did you develop your narrative?”
Me: “um… its a memoir, I lived it.”
HSW: “really? So, it’s based on a true story?”
Me: “ah, not based on, it is, ah, was… my fucking life.”
HSW: “so you’re the emotional impact?”
Me: “the what?”
HSW: “the delivery vehicle!”
Me: “are we speaking the same language?”
HSW: “you’re the hero facing insurmountable odds!”
Me: “if it makes you feel better to categorize it that way, sure.”
HSW: “look, you have to have the basics; character, desire, conflict!”
Me: “ah, you’re gettin’ a little worked up, quit yelling.”
HSW: “there has to be a compelling objective!”
Me: “ok, ok, calm down.”
HSW: ‘there are rules, you know!”
Me: “having a rough day, are we?”
HSW: “pitched a pilot this morning, barbarians!”
Me: “I assume it didn’t go well?”
HSW: “gave them the new Cheers, they wanted a funnier This Is Us!”
Me: “wow, your compelling objective faced insurmountable odds.”
HSW: “oh, shut the fuck up!”


This entry was posted on Monday, February 3rd, 2020 at 1:22 pm. Leave a comment. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

Gratitude 2020


Welcome to the year of the Mad Dog two thousand twenty—well maybe not, but when I see 2020 I can’t help but think back to when I was strung-out on heroin and I couldn’t score, or money was low, and I needed a quick economic high to cut the edge: Mogen David (Mad Dog) 20/20, a cheap rotgut “fortified wine,” mixed with Gatorade Fruit Punch, and a handful of valiums, was my “breakfast of champions” alternative to start the day. Usually that meant I’d be passed out by afternoon and I’d wake up dope sick, desperate, and hating life. So I’m hoping the ominous 2020 isn’t a harbinger to more harsh things to come—please let’s get that idiot out of the White House.

Yet what I can say is that I’m forever stoked that those days are long gone and just thinking about MD20/20’s sickly sweet aftertaste kicks in my gratitude that I no longer have to live like that. Which is my convoluted and vague way of saying that my life has become immeasurably better and now every New Year I’m compelled to write a little something about “gratitude” and reflect, reminisce, and rejoice the previous year and how goddamn grateful I am for all that happened—good and bad—and the amazing wonderful (and not so amazing or wonderful) people that made a difference, influenced, supported, challenged, and inspired me to be a better person.

That fact that I even want to write this hopefully enlightened post is a direct result from a lot of hard work in recovery that has helped instigated some significant internal changes. Specifically I had to fix my core beliefs and values, address my self-centered/self-obsess-ness, while letting go of a ton of preconceived ideas of the way I resentfully thought things should be. My prime motivation was the desire to not live such a depressing life full of anxiety and fear. But it was also that I tend to torture myself with a cavalcade of negative thoughts and critical inner dialogue. Yet if I practice patience, acceptance, and forgiveness on a daily basis I can almost always circumvent my narcissistic tendencies—although I still haven’t quite gotten the seemingly elusive concept of self-forgiveness—but that’s a whole other matter.

So for now I’m doing good and even though 2019 was one hard-ass motherfucker I’m looking forward to what awesomeness 2020 brings… well, it better or else. Although in all fairness I’m not sure what the “or else” would be… but come on, it’s a new decade, get your shit together 2020.

Yesterday, January 8th, I was fortunate to have nineteen years clean off drugs and alcohol. Without Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous and everyone there that supports me through all the ups and downs of my recovery—none of what my life looks like today would even be a reality. I have a sponsor that truly has my best interests and a ton of friends that I can count on. It’s my hope that I give back to all of them what they so freely give to me—because being of service is how this stuff works. But the point is that I can’t do this alone and I want to acknowledge and recognize my tribe and celebrate each and every one of you.

Over the years I’ve come to appreciate that community is important. In fact it’s everything. Which might seem odd to some as I can be a bit of a recluse. I’m the first to admit that I don’t exactly “over indulge” in social activities. I’m not of the Bukowski, “I don’t hate [people]…I just feel better when they’re not around,” school of thought. However I may be more the Albert Camus, “In order to understand the world, one has to turn away from it on occasion.” Its sort of like I have to live in a state that isn’t landlocked, but I can’t tell you the last time I saw the ocean or walked on a beach—I just need to know its close and if I do so choose I can be there in minutes (okay, its LA, depending on the time of day, it may not be minutes). Yet, the point I’m trying to make is that I have and belong to numerous communities, all of which contribute to make me whole, healthy, and inspired.

Jenn, my best friend and someone I’d steal horses with—which if I have to explain that last part to you then I’m at a loss, but here I’ll just borrow someone else’s definition: “someone who can be all things to you, with you and for you, and you can rely on, no matter what, they always have your back”—well we’re are coming up on our three-year anniversary (and eight years together). She graces my life with her presence and I hope I grace hers. Along with our two butt-head cats: Mercer and Jagger, we have persevered through a shit-load of rough times (eviction due to gentrification, family health issues, loss of employment, etc. etc. etc… Thanks, 2019!), and made it out not only alive but stronger and better. The secret that no one ever told me was that having your own family allows for a confidence, security, and a sense of purpose that I never had when I was alone. I am forever grateful for every moment our little band of misfits has together (although I could do without the cat barf).

My awesome niece Dylan gave birth to a baby boy, Hendrix—the first “grand-child.” Which I guess makes me a great uncle (another nail in my “old-as-fuck” coffin)—big love there. Both my sisters, Scott and Elizabeth, are amazing and wonderful and are always in my heart—more big love. And Jenn’s family, my extended family, the Courtneys, who have always welcomed me as one of theirs—even more big love. My parents had health issues—I’m not always the best at communicating (see the above “a bit of a recluse” statement) and when both of them were separately hospitalized I realized I needed to be less distant and keep them closer than I have. I made the trek east in the middle of winter to visit with my father as I feared that if I didn’t I’d never see him again (thankfully he is doing better), and I made the resolution concerning my mother, who is in San Francisco, to visit more as it’s only an hour away by plane. Internally, I had to address that my parents aging and health had me confronting my own impending death, and perhaps that is why I was in a bit of denial and avoidance?

I got mad love for my literary community. In fact the Los Angele’s literary community is why I moved here from San Francisco ten years ago. It’s why for the last three years I co-coordinated the WTAW-LA reading series and continue to support local authors, friends, bookstores, and other reading series. Whenever I can I promote other people’s work. In turn I get to invade other people’s classrooms, do a little guest lecturing, and generally bask off the accolades of being a published author. I also get to be involved with projects such as Natashia Deón’s REDEEMED, and PEN USA’s Emerging Voices. I write a shit-load of articles and actually get paid to do so. I’m currently working with PEN USA’s Prison Writing Program and somewhere in all that I’m deep in the edits for my newest memoir, Anarchy At The Circle K, which tentatively has a publisher. Being a writer is the gift that keeps on giving, or is that the gift no one wants? It’s hard to tell sometimes. But for now, at least most of the time, this trudging through life stuff is pretty damn good. So yeah, 2020… you better be awesome, or else.

This entry was posted on Thursday, January 9th, 2020 at 3:23 pm. Leave a comment. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

A Holiday Announcement From TSA



TSA Agent: “happy holidays.”
Me: “um… do I know you?”
TSA Agent: “well no, no you do not.”
Me: “then why you wishing me happy holidays?”
TSA Agent: “because it’s the customary thing to do.”
Me: “so then you don’t really mean it?”
TSA Agent: “well, I guess in your case, no, no I do not.”
Me: “then why don’t you just say what you mean?”
TSA Agent: “ok, how about, I hope your holidays suck!”
Me: “now you’re talkin’ – fuck you and you’re damn holiday cheer!”
TSA Agent: “right!? Here’s to a shitty New Year!”
Me: “ahaha! No resolutions for you, eh?”
TSA Agent: “hope your plane crashes and y’all die!”
Me: “whoa! You didn’t just say that, did you?”
TSA Agent: “what? Was that wrong?”
Me: “hells yeah, not even funny.”
TSA Agent: “but you said to say what I really mean.”
Me: “but there’s limits as to what’s acceptable.”
TSA Agent: “this polite banter thing is so confusing.”
Me: “yes, awkward social interactions are pretty taxing.”
TSA Agent: “how’s about I just pat you down and we don’t talk.”
Me: “absolutely yes, that’s my favorite.”
TSA Agent: “geez, for a deplorable degenerate you’re not so bad.”
Me: “ya know, for a fascist stormtrooper you’re all right.”
TSA Agent: “happy holidays, buddy.”
Me: “same to you, pal!”

TSA Agent: “Merry Christmas!”
Me: “Um… what’s the catch?”
TSA Agent: “What do you mean?”
Me: “Why you wishing me a merry christmas?”
TSA Agent: “Can’t I spread the holiday cheer?”
Me: “Your entire stormtrooper facade screams, ’no’.”
TSA Agent: “But we’re the new TSA!”
Me: “New TSA?”
TSA Agent: “Trump’s TSA!”
Me: “Um…”
TSA Agent: “…”
Me: “So… strip search and all my rights violated?”
TSA Agent: “Absolutely!”
Me: “Merry fuckin’ christmas.”
TSA Agent: “Ho, ho, ho!”

TSA Agent: “Sir, is this your bag?”
Me: “Um… yes it is.”
TSA Agent: “Any food items inside?”
Me: “There could be…”
TSA Agent: “You don’t know?”
Me: “Hard to say in absolutes.”
TSA Agent: “Man should know if he’s carrying food.”
Me: “Really, this some kind of unwritten rule?”
TSA Agent: “No man, that’s survival of the fittest stuff.”
Me: “Ain’t we top of the food chain?”
TSA Agent: “I know I am…”
Me: “What about the apocalypse, end of the world?”
TSA Agent: “I’d eat you.”
Me: “You win.”

Girl sitting next to me on the plane says to me: “I’m a normal regular college kid and I’ve never met anyone that’s gone to jail or even talked to a real drug addict.”
I just didn’t have the heart to tell her: “we’ll, you have now.”

Tiny Child: “I gotta go bathroom!”
TSA Agent: “not now you don’t.”
Me: “come on TSA dude, let the kid go piss.”
Tiny Child: “I gotta go now!”
TSA Agent: “you shut up, and you kid, hold it.”
Me: I’m confused, am I the hold it, or the shut…”
TSA Agent: “shut up!”
Me: “ah, okay, got it.”
Tiny Child: “I need bathroom!”
TSA Agent: “where the hell are his parents?”
Me: “don’t look at me.”
Tiny Child: “gonna wet my pants!”
TSA Agent: “oh hell no!”
Me: “I’d say ya got yourself a red alert here.”
TSA Agent: “listen buddy, I’m not going to warn you again.”
Me: “warn me about what?”
Tiny Child: “I gotta go bathroom!”
TSA Agent: “shut the fuck up!”
Tiny Woman: “did you just tell my 5 year old to shut the fuck up?”
TSA Agent: “I certainly did not!”
Me: “lady, I heard him swear at your kid.”
Tiny Woman: “you sir, are a vile man!”
TAS Agent: “ma’am, I assure you I…”
Tiny Child: “I gotta go bathroom!”
TSA Agent: “jesus, take your brat and get outta here!”
Tiny Woman: “I want to talk to your supervisor!”
TSA Agent: “please, all of you, just go away!”
Me: “they train you for this shit in TSA school.”
TSA Agent: “I don’t wanna do this any more.”
Me: “excellent, my work here is done.”

TSA Agent: “Mr. Idol, there’s an irregularity with your luggage.”
Me: “I’m not… irregularity? What the fuck does that mean?”
TSA Agent: “well, Mr. Idol, seems the x-ray detected an dense object.”
Me: “and that means?”
TSA Agent: “we have to investigate.”
Me: “think I’m detecting some density as well.”
TSA Agent: “how so, Mr. Idol?”
Me: “dude, this ain’t a medical procedure, open the damn bag.”
TSA Agent: “so you’re givin’ us permission?”
Me: “you have my blessing, TSA dude.”
TSA Agent: “see, I told you Mr, Idol would understand.”
TSA Agent 2: “no, you said he’d kick my ass!”
TSA Agent: “shut up, Agent Conroy.”
TSA Agent 2: “um, Mr. Idol sir, what is this object?”
Me: “looks like a plaster antique severed head of Jesus with the obligatory crown of thorns.”
TSA Agent 2: “and the origin of said severed head?”
Me: “I refuse to answer, you know, 5th amendment.”
TSA Agent: “Ah, Mr. Idol, may I call you Billy?”
Me: “um… no.”
TSA Agent: “well, okay then. Why the head Mr. Idol.”
Me: “ahhh… it’s Easter?”
TSA Agent: “fair enough. You gotta permit to transport object d’art?”
Me: “it was a gift, um, from a fan.”
TSA Agent 2: “Mr. Idol, for the love of christ, why Jesus’ head?”
Me: “you’d rather it was his butt?”
TSA Agent: “good point.”

Flight delayed three hours due to “extreme weather” in Southern California. Twenty minutes out of Oakland we hit turbulence, and it continued all the way down. Drinks got spilled. Babies were crying. The large woman next to me had her rosary out. The drunk woman across the aisle wanted to know if I was Billy Idol. I screamed,” leave me the fuck alone, we’re all going to die!” The stewardess asked me to keep my opinions to myself. We circled Burbank Airport two times, the pilot said we only had an extra fifteen minutes of fuel and if he didn’t make it down through the crosswinds this next pass he was flying back to Oakland. We did a bump and grind across the sky, dropped 100 feet straight down, and everyone clapped as he slid us sideways onto the tarmac. When the plane came to a stop the drunk lady handed me an unused barf bag and asked for my autograph. I wrote, “your life was flashing before your eyes and you were still annoying” – love Billy. I did not kiss the ground when I deplaned. It was only fucking Burbank after all.

TSA Agent: “ticket, ID.”
Me: “here, okay?”
TSA Agent: “this you on the ID?”
Me: “who else it gonna be?”
TSA Agent: “don’t know, but you don’t look like him.”
Me: “I don’t look like what him?”
TSA Agent: “that’s what I’m asking.”
Me: “you want ID, I give you ID.”
TSA Agent: “but I want your ID.”
Me: “you got my ID.”
TSA Agent: “this ain’t you.”
Me: “says who?”
TSA Agent: “says me.”
Me: “how you gonna prove that?”
TSA Agent: “I don’t gotta prove it.”
Me: “exactly.”
TSA Agent: “exactly?”
Me: “just what I said.”
TSA Agent: “who said?”
Me: “me, the guy on the ID.”
TSA Agent: “this you?”
Me: “uh huh.”
TSA Agent: “have a nice flight.”
Me: “don’t mind if I do.”

TSA Agent: “ID, boarding pass?”
Me: “Yes, of course, here.”
TSA Agent: “Leaving the country?”
Me: “Why yes, yes I am.”
TSA Agent: “Purpose of your trip?”
Me: “I already told you, leaving the country.”
TSA Agent: “Business? Pleasure?”
Me: “I just want to leave.”
TSA Agent: “Why?”
Me: “Have you seen the state of things?”
TSA Agent: “What do you mean?”
Me: “Hurricanes, earthquakes, a Nazi in the White House…”
TSA Agent: “Its not that bad.”
Me: “It’s the apocalypse.”
TSA Agent: “Have you tried talking to Jesus?”
Me: “too afraid of what he’d say.”
TSA Agent: “He’d probably say, ‘Make America great again.’”
Me: “Exactly.”


This entry was posted on Monday, December 2nd, 2019 at 9:10 am. Leave a comment. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.