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I Feel Fine

Writing prompt: Write a comedy about the end of the world in 666 words.

Challenge accepted.

Either something was wrong with his vehicle or someone had hacked into the satellite signals of every available radio station. The car was brand new. Simon figured it was the latter. When he started the car that morning nothing seemed amiss. Then, his custom package surround sound speakers attacked him with the surprisingly chipper but wholly unwelcome sound of R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine).” He quickly changed the station. Same song, different verse.

“What the hell?” Simon said out loud before changing the channel again. LEONARD BERNSTEIN. Michael Stipe screamed at him.

Simon looked around to see if he was being watched. Maybe this was some sort of practical joke. He didn’t see anyone. Though, he knew he wouldn’t. None of his friends had a sense of humor. One more channel change. Same result. He pressed his finger against the minus button on the steering wheel controls. The music remained offensively loud. He tried the dashboard controls. Same result. He plugged in his phone and searched through his podcasts. He pressed play. “And Lenny Bruce is not afraid…” Whatever. Simon thought, resigning himself to forgoing his usual assault of terrible, awful, sad, depressing news.

Simon sighed, put the car in reverse, backed into his street. He had already spent entirely too much time in his driveway. He was going to be late for work.

Simon commuted two hours to work, and two hours home, every day. He had done so without fail for 786 days. His own personal record. The podcasts and news programs he listened to during his commute had changed his entire world view. He was becoming a better man. He bought a Tesla, stopped eating meat, started doing yoga. He recycled with a vengeance and composted with vim and vigor. He stopped using plastic straws, gave his friends judgmental looks when any of them didn’t follow suit. He had decided he was done being part of the problem, he was going to be the solution.

Somewhere around the twelfth rotation of this end of the world song, Simon began daydreaming about what it would be like to drive off a cliff and secretly longed for a painful death. Somewhere around the 54th the delirium set in. He was highly interested in throwing a birthday party for Lenny Bruce, with cheesecake and jellybeans. He didn’t even know who Lenny Bruce was. It was during the 104th rendition when Simon realized something strange was afoot. Well. Stranger than his morning had already been.

Because of his commute, the sky was always dark when Simon left his house. Over the course of his time on the road he’d watch the sun come up over distant mountains and revel at the beauty of the sunrise in all its red, orange and yellow glory. It was with a great amount of sadness, wonder, and disappointment that Simon realized the sun was not rising on this day. The sky was decidedly turning a strange and ominous shade of puke green.

Simon slammed on the brakes as he approached a sea of cars that had stopped to look up at the sky and marvel at its wild color. He stuck his head out the window and realized the sky was not what they were looking at. It was what was in the sky that had their attention.

Though he did not believe in aliens, Simon was certain the monstrous thing in the sky that had blocked out the sun and turned it into the color of pea soup was not of this world. People were getting out of their cars and staring up at it, whispering to each other.

Simon hadn’t realized every car in front of and behind him had also been playing the same song, until everything went quiet. The last thing he heard was a strange voice.

“I think I’m supposed to say something like ‘we come in peace’ but I don’t want to lie to you.”

The Shutout

Felt cute. Won’t remember to delete later.

This is a story I wrote for one of my class assignments on Plot. After all this time as a writer I’ve never based a story around hockey. And now that I’m in a class where I’m reading about monsters and androids I write about sports. My brain is dumb.

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Jonathan had kept the puck out of the net for fifty-seven minutes and seven seconds when the ref blew his whistle and awarded the other team a penalty shot. Jonathan voiced his displeasure using several choice words, being careful not to take a penalty himself. He looked up at the jumbotron to watch the replay and couldn’t help but see the scoreboard. His team was up 1-0. He had stopped 33 of 33 shots. Now he was facing shot number 34 without his team’s help. He lowered his head, took a deep breath, and stared straight ahead. Jonathan couldn’t help but laugh to himself. Conner, the best skater, shooter, puck handler, player, in the league, stood just under one hundred feet away. Just like you planned it as a kid playing ball hockey in your basement, Jonathan thought to himself.

His already heavy equipment had grown heavier with sweat and water. His feet ached from standing on half inch blades over a sheet of solid ice. His knees, back and shoulders ached from the weight. Physically and metaphorically. He set himself in place. Knees slightly bent, stick at feet in front of him, left hand up, glove open. The referee blew his whistle signaling the start of the play. The crowd, who had been continuously voicing their anger, fell to a hush. Conner began to skate toward Jonathan with only one purpose. Break the shutout, tie the game, ruin Jonathan’s night. Conner picked up speed, the frozen black vulcanized rubber disc danced on his stick, jumping over the skate damaged ice. His opponent teased him, changing hand positions, moving the weapon side to side, trying not to show Jonathan his intended target. Over his shoulder? Under his arm? Through his legs? Maybe he would aim directly at Jonathan’s head? His enemy was giving him no clear clues and Jonathan knew every shot this guy took was a lethal one. He would have to rely on his instincts and his reflexes, which had been as sharp as his skate blades tonight. He stayed still, holding firm, protecting his home, his shutout, his team’s impending win.

Conner pulled back on his stick, looked toward Jonathan’s right shoulder, then slammed the blade the ice. It made a loud cracking noise against the solid surface. The slapshot came at him high glove side. The crowd remained hushed, Jonathan could hear nothing but his own breathing and the puck gliding through the air at high speed. He smiled under his helmet. He hadn’t taken the bait and Conner had made a rare mistake. Jonathan’s glove hand was his strongest weapon. The puck came fully into focus just as he lifted his left arm. The thud of the hard rubber hitting against his palm felt more satisfying than usual. The crowd broke out in a roar. The referee blew his whistle to signal the end of the one on one showdown. Jonathan held his glove hand up and nodded toward Conner then let the black disc drop to the ice in front of him. He turned to face his empty net and waited for his fellow warriors to rejoin him on the ice for the remaining three minutes and fifty-three seconds of battle.

 

The Girl with the Keanu Reeves Tattoo

This is an essay I turned in for workshop in my Creative Nonfiction class. Just the words. The pictures I added just for you. Enjoy 🙂

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Fandom has fueled my life since I was a young girl. My earliest memory of it is sitting alone in my bedroom initiating my stuffed animals into the Goonies by reading the oath from a fan magazine out loud. Sure, at 14 I was too old to have stuffed animals, let alone be talking to them, but I was a strange child and developing a disability in the middle of going through puberty didn’t make that any less true. The normalcy of life slowly started slipping away as my disability continued to weaken my muscles and make my speech impediment more pronounced. As the real world betrayed me, I turned to movies, music, television and sports as my escape. My unnamed, progressive, incurable condition is out of my control. But how much I enjoy, learn about, and consume all things pop culture is. When I become a fan of something, I go in all the way. Collect, consume, obsess. It was true when I was young, and it is even more true now.

While some people wear a t-shirt with the logo of their favorite sports team, movie franchise, superhero or artist (music or otherwise) on it, I collect tattoos. Don’t get me wrong, I collect the t-shirts too. I got my first tattoo at 35. The Chinese symbol for strength just below my left wrist. I went on to add other symbols: serenity in Chinese, a butterfly with the Chinese symbol for courage and a Scorpio sign on the wings, dream and believe written out in script on my wrists. It didn’t take long for the fandom ink to start. My tattoo partner in crime, scratch that, my all things in life partner in crime, Lorraine and I found a way to combine our love of both Tolkien and Doctor Who by having the line “Not all those who wander are lost” in Gallifrayan tattooed on my left ankle and her right foot. It was the first of many matching tattoos we have collected. We’re far from done. To look at my skin is to know where my interests lie. Harley Quinn, Batman, the LA Kings, Harry Potter, The Mortal Instruments, Star Wars, Spider-Man, Captain America, Lord of the Rings, Doctor Who, Prince, Deadpool, Daredevil. And Keanu Reeves.

My love for all things Keanu began in 1989. I was 17 and had just acquired a driver’s license and a hand me down Datsun with a white exterior and plaid maroon interior that still smelled like my grandfather’s medicine bag. If you wanted to freak people out you could put the key in the ignition, start the engine, then take the key out while the engine was running. Where most kids are at the DMV on their sixteenth birthday, I waited a year before I took my test. I had a permit. I’d taken driver’s ed in high school. Scared the bejesus out of my instructor who’d never had to teach a disabled driver using hand controls before. I mixed up the brake (push forward) and gas (push down) on more than one occasion. I feel like the poor man retired after teaching me to drive, but I don’t think that’s true. I failed the written test twice. My friends had cars. I didn’t need to rush. Whatever was holding me back, fear or passiveness, possibly a mixture of both, finally broke free and I got my license. And you couldn’t get me to stop driving.

On this particular day in February my family was gathered at my grandparents’ house celebrating my grandmother’s birthday. There wasn’t much us kids could to do there, we’d exhausted all our usual forms of entertainment, swimming, making up silly games, pretending we were adult enough to understand the conversations going on around us. Somehow my cousin and I convinced our parents let us go see a movie. “What movie?” “I dunno, let’s look in the paper.” Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure was the only PG movie available on that day at that time. After gathering a few more people, a combination of my friends and my cousin’s, we headed to Westwood. That’s where you went if you wanted to see a movie in those days. It was a college hangout town and the designated area for Hollywood movie premieres. Just steps away from the UCLA campus and a central location for the major studios. The town was a mecca for shenanigans, movie going and food.

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I would like to say my first encounter with Keanu on screen was one of enlightenment. I’d love to be able to say I was mesmerized by the way his heart and soul permeated the screen. That didn’t happen until later. My only thought on this day was that of a teenager who’d just discovered their next big crush. “Who is he and where can I get more of him?” The film itself is silly and funny and was the perfect blend of goofy fun and entertainment we were looking for in that moment. My cousin and her friend were 14. My friend and I were 17. They laughed at Napoleon enjoying an ice cream sundae bigger than his head, we giggled at the sexual innuendos we surely didn’t understand but thought we did.

After seeing Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure I went on a mission to find anything else Keanu had been in. Which entailed a great deal more effort than you’d think. There was no IMDB. Hell, there wasn’t an Internet. There were Blockbuster video stores and cable movie networks. Teen magazines and TV guides. Keanu’s roles before Ted were poignant, filled with angst and sadness. From teens dealing with suicide and murder in Permanent Record and River’s Edge to a teen whose father just didn’t understand him in The Prince of Pennsylvania. He had one silly line as a hockey goalie in Youngblood. And then played the easily influenced young lover in Dangerous Liaisons alongside Oscar winning actors John Malkovich, Glenn Close and Michelle Pfeifer. If you needed an actor to play teen angst, you called on Keanu. If you needed someone to play dumb, you called on Keanu. With is puppy dog eyes and his beautifully sad face you wanted to hug him. With his goofy smile and long hair that fell in his face you wondered what was going on in his mind. He was soulful, damaged, a rebel, or anything else you wanted him to be. Film critics complained he had a monotone voice, was void of emotion, and chose roles that were seemingly all the same. I’ve never seen it that way. There’s a subtle nuance to every role Keanu plays. Neo is not Ted. Jack Traven is not Johnny Utah. None of them are Keanu. All of them are my favorites.

Over time, as I’ve followed Keanu’s career, my family has taunted me with exclamations of “he’s so dumb,” “he’s such a bad actor,” or my favorite “you know he’s gay right?” As if I cared about any of those things. While they didn’t understand my passion for Keanu the actor, Keanu the man lost his best friend, fellow actor River Phoenix, to a drug overdose. Almost lost his sister Kym and his mother to cancer. Started his own cancer research foundation in Kym’s name. Donated chunks of salary to production crews so his films could continue to shoot and disappeared from the spotlight in between acting gigs. He fell in love, lost a child to stillbirth and then lost his girlfriend to a car accident within a year’s time. He starred in more films that challenged his range. From a lawyer who has a run in with Satan himself in The Devil’s Advocate to a hapless idiot hired killer in I Love You to Death. He took on classic roles including the villainous Don John in Much Ado About Nothing, the title character in Little Buddha and Jonathan Harker in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Critics hated him in all those roles. But I’m a rebel and I insisted they were all good movies.

Of Hawaiian Chinese and English descent, Keanu was born September 2, 1964 in Beirut, Lebanon and grew up in Toronto, Canada. There he discovered both hockey and acting. I saw him play goalie on three different occasions at celebrity hockey events around LA. His name is Hawaiian and means Cool Breeze Over the Mountains. His first agent tried to get him to change it to Chuck Spadina because it was easier to pronounce. Keanu smartly declined. His father abandoned him at a young age and tried to reach out when Keanu got famous. Strangely mirroring my own family dynamic, as my father abandoned my brother and I when were young only to resurface when he went through rehab and had to complete his “ask for forgiveness” portion of the 12-step program. Keanu credits his stepfather for his love for acting and helping him become the man he is today and is close to his mother and sister who steer clear of the spotlight. He drives his Porsche 911 and Norton Commando motorcycle too fast through the Hollywood Hills. A friend and I once saw Keanu zooming through traffic on Sunset Boulevard in his Porsche. My friend suggested we try to follow him. “Oh sure,” I said. “That’s not conspicuous, at all.” We were in my 2001 Saturn Ion with the license plate ION*NEO and I was pretty sure we’d be arrested for stalking. Instead I wrote down his license plate number, like a normal person. In hindsight it might have been fun to see that headline “Wheelchair-Bound Girl in Saturn Ion Manages to Catch Up with Porsche Driven by Keanu Reeves, is Arrested for Stalking.” I carried around the scrap piece of paper for a year. When a paparazzi picture of Keanu next to a Porsche showed up in a magazine, I compared the license plate number to what I’d written down, confirming they were the same, then put the piece of paper in a box with the rest of my Keanu memorabilia.

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In 1991 Keanu became an action star in Point Break, and again in 1994 in Speed, and yet again in 1999 in The Matrix. He gained more fame and went further into hiding when he wasn’t on a movie set. Other than his two stints as Ted, and until The Matrix, Keanu hadn’t really liked the idea of sequels. He turned down Speed 2: Cruise Control to star in a small Canadian stage production of Hamlet. When the opportunity to play Neo again in The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions came along, he not only jumped at the chance, he gave up most of his salary to ensure the films could be made. Today he’s filmed three chapters in the John Wick franchise and just wrapped filming Bill & Ted Face the Music, the third film in that franchise. He leant his voice to the character of Duke Caboom in Toy Story 4 and was just recently announced as returning to the Matrix franchise for a fourth time. He’s also returning to John Wick in Chapter 4 of that franchise. It is his portrayal of Wick, the quietly badass former assassin out for revenge for his dog, that has catapulted him into the pop culture zeitgeist and dubbing of 2019 as “the Year of Keanu.” Recently a fan yelled “You’re Breathtaking!” in a crowded auditorium as Keanu took the stage to announce yet another project, this time a video game. Keanu did what Keanu does. He pointed to the crowd and joyfully yelled back “No, you’re breathtaking! You’re all breathtaking!”

In the late 90’s Keanu had a stint as a bass guitarist in the band Dogstar. I saw them play at least five times, from small clubs in the heart of Hollywood to a bigger venue in Ventura County where I managed to secure a spot in the front row. In a sea of fans screaming at him, Keanu looked right at me and I, in my infinite wisdom, looked the other way. You’ve seen the news stories about Make-a-Wish kids who got to meet their favorite actor, musician or sports star? That wasn’t ever me. I wanted to be invisible. I spent my life trying to blend in despite sticking out and the idea of meeting my favorite people terrified me. So, to have Keanu look right at me was to have him see me and know I exist. I didn’t want that.

And then. During the Dogstar days Keanu and the band had an in-store appearance at Wherehouse Music in Los Angeles for the release of their third and final album, “Happy Ending.” My friends promised me it would work out fine, convinced me everything would be okay, reminded me he was meant to be in that store at that time, it was a set thing, I wasn’t bothering him or making myself a nuisance. So, I went. My friend Tiffany was kind enough to join me. We stood in line with hundreds of other fans out on La Cienega Boulevard, right across from the famed Beverly Center in West Hollywood. I was nervous and threatened to leave about a dozen times. I didn’t. As the time passed we slowly inched further toward the store until we were next in line. Just inside the front door of the store a table was setup with the three members of the band seated behind it. I slid a CD booklet in front of lead singer Bret Domrose who was excited to see it was from their first album. “You have the first one, cool.” I nodded and smiled, stunned into complete silence. Next up, Rob Mailhouse, drummer. He didn’t look up, didn’t acknowledge me, the cover, anything else. Signed, done. And then, I was in front of Keanu. I smiled like an idiot. He glanced up for one tiny moment, signed his name. Slid the booklet back toward me. That was it. I thought.

The thing about the Dogstar days was that they were also the Matrix days. And everyone was there to see Neo. Not the guy who played bass for Dogstar. This made Keanu a little testy, and lot punchy. I stepped to the side to wait for Tiffany. I was still in a state of shock. I’d done it, the world kept turning. I didn’t turn to dust because he saw me. Dogstar music coming from the store speakers was fading in and out of my consciousness, I was only barely seeing her as Tiffany had her newly purchased “Happy Ending” CD signed by each guy. And then I hear Keanu say to Rob “I took a shit this morning and it tried to swim away from me.” Things started to come back into focus. I stared. Both Keanu and Rob noticed me standing there and politely said “thank you.” It wasn’t the moment I had imagined it would be. But it was a moment. A gentle reminder that Keanu is in fact human. I left the Wherehouse store with my signed CD and a story to tell. Which I do, often. Sometimes I remind people I didn’t want to be there in the first place, sometimes I just chalk it up to the universe reminding me that everyone poops. Mostly I tell it to ensure people I’ve met the man, and I don’t need to do it again.

DeadpoolKeanu

During one of my many bouts with college I met a Japanese exchange student who helped fuel my Keanu fandom by teaching me how to write his name in Japanese and bringing me magazines you couldn’t get in the US. It was Mayuko who went with me to see Dogstar live at the American Legion in Hollywood, the first of the several shows I attended over the band’s short-lived existence. I point out the venue every time I pass by it. It’s been twenty-five years. I practiced writing Keanu’s name in Japanese with the intention of having it tattooed on my wrist. It’s tattooed on my forearm now, part of another tattoo featuring a surly Chibi Deadpool with a talk bubble above his head as if he’s taking Keanu’s name in vain. Or worshipping at his alter. The Japanese symbols are reminiscent of a device comic book writers and artists use to censor curse words in their books. I liked the idea that anyone who knows that would think it was Deadpool saying something naughty, but I myself, and any Japanese speaking person who might see the tattoo, will know what it really says.

Anyone who knows me even a little bit knows of my Keanu fandom. My friends and family, my trainer, a comic book artist friend of hers who was kind enough to draw me a Deadpool portrait in which the character is enticing Keanu with a diamond ring. Anyone who passes me on the street will know now too. In 2018 I got a portrait of Keanu tattooed on my right upper arm along with the phone booth Bill & Ted traveled through time in and some Matrix code which has now been proven to be recipes for sushi the production designer stole from his mother’s cookbook. A white rabbit and the phrase “Temet Nosce” also from The Matrix round out the tribute. My tattoo artist and I watched Constantine during the first session, and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey during the final session.

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When I first discovered Keanu, he was a young actor trying to find his footing in the crazy world of Hollywood and I was a teenager dealing with a disease without a name. He did so with grace, humility and fortitude that you cannot help but admire and I do my best to remember to do the same. Today his reputation for being one of the nicest actors in Hollywood affords Keanu first dibs on all sorts of roles. There’s currently a campaign to get Keanu cast in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. A stark contrast from the days when his name being rumored for any number of roles resulted in a collective groan and the outcry of “why him?!” When asked recently about all the hype Keanu smiled and said, “the positivity is nice.”

In 1989 I was in a movie theater in Westwood watching Bill & Ted remind everyone to “be excellent to each other.” For thirty years I’ve watched as Keanu taught us all what that means. While filming “Bill & Ted Face the Music” in New Orleans he stopped at a family’s house to take pictures and autograph the YOU’RE BREATHTAKING sign they’d left in their yard hoping he’d notice. He did. Because that’s just who Keanu is. A reminder that there is good in the world. That there’s no reason to get angry about the things we can’t control. Loss is a part of life and we must continue on anyway. We should do all the things people say we can’t, or shouldn’t do, if that’s our passion. We should do them without ego, or a sense of entitlement. Make people laugh. Make people think. Make fun of ourselves and make the world a better place. Be more Keanu.

Maytime Lane

This is an essay I wrote for my Creative Nonfiction class. I like the piece but I’m not turning it in because my assignment is due on Keanu’s birthday and I felt it more fitting to write about my adoration for him. 

“Maytime Lane”

There is a condominium complex in Culver City. Say that ten times fast. A grey cement wall protects hundreds of stand-alone two-story buildings, painted poop brown and bland beige. They look like small houses, with slanted roofs and windows that either face a busy street, a community college campus, the inside of the complex, or the neighbors. There is a smattering of green trees. The entrance has those automated arms you see in a parking garage. There are two lanes going in and one lane going out. If you live in the complex you drive in through the lane on the right. You swipe a key card over an electronic pad and the arm goes up. If you’re not paying attention it’ll refuse to open and you’ll plow through it, breaking the wood arm and causing residents to have to use the visitor entrance. I’ve never done this but on one occasion I watched someone do it and couldn’t help blaming myself for the gaffe. He was someone I knew, he was saying hello to me, a visitor on that day, and in his distraction, he annihilated the gate arm with his Jeep Cherokee.

If you are visiting, the guard has to call the resident before they can let you in. It all seems very upscale and very fancy. It isn’t. One black asphalt street with those speed humps that only wish they could stop cars from speeding runs through the complex which takes up at least three blocks. There are two pools and a community rec center with bland, low-pile maroon carpet and one or two dark brown leather couches. There’s a murky duck pond and trails that wind in and out of the buildings, all cement and grey with small patches of grass and some flowers. I grew up here, though it is not where I spent my childhood. My mother, brother and I moved in when I was thirteen. My first memory of Maytime Lane is a story my family likes to tell about my grandfather, who, at the expense of our not-so-much a Mensch realtor, despite what the license plate on the Mercedes he drove said, pretended to be racist. The exchange as I’m told, went like this: Unmensch Realtor: Magic Johnson lives here. Grandfather, deadpan: They let Schvartze live here? Message sent. Grandpa was not going to overpay for a condo just because a famous person lived there, no matter how popular the Lakers were at the time.

We moved into a three-bedroom two-bathroom lower unit at the far end of the complex, to the right of the guard gate. It faced the local community college campus which we could see just behind the trees as we stared out of our sliding-glass door. We had a gas-powered fireplace adorned with stones and wood paneling. There was a wet bar. It was in this condo I laughed so hard I peed my pants, in front of my high school crush. Sang Madonna at the top of my lungs while a friend and I made up our own choreography. And discovered I was a Goonie for life.

Shortly after we moved in my mom made friends with a couple who lived by one of the pools. I babysat their kids as we all got older. It was their condo where I played video games on a Nintendo 64 and fell in love with a guy 5 years older than me, who looked like Brad Pitt. We are still friends with the family today. Their daughter has two children of her own now. Not Brad Pitt is still in the picture sometimes too. My love for him isn’t.

When I was fifteen a couple moved into the condo above ours. They had a daughter a year older than me. Alice’s parents didn’t really like to drive. In fact, her mother didn’t drive at all. So, we became Alice’s ride to school, and she and I became friends. I had two other friends in the complex. Tiffany lived right near the front gate, and Tammy lived just past it to the left. Like me, Tiffany was disabled. Severe arthritis in her left knee and in her hands meant she had trouble walking, like I did, and her fingers were permanently bent inward. We didn’t let it stop us. The Madonna choreographing, lip sync duo who trick or treated in the complex well past the suggested age of the traditional costumed candy seekers. Tammy was just a normal girl who lived in an upper level condo with her divorced father. Thinking of it now, I met her when her father and my mother dated, briefly. Last time I saw him he was driving a Jeep Cherokee.

My memories of Tammy are vague. We had a lot of sleepovers. We had a lot of teen angst. She got a car right at sixteen and her father sent her to live with her mother soon after she started dating boys. I spent a lot of time with Tiffany. We went to camp and school together. She moved away for college and we stayed in touch briefly but eventually we moved on. Tiffany and Alice got me a singing telegram for my sixteenth birthday party, which we were having in the very bland rec room in the center of the condo complex. I still get hot with embarrassment at the memory of being surrounded by my family and having a very good-looking twenty-something singing Happy Birthday entirely too close to my sixteen-year-old face.

My bedroom walls were plastered with posters of teen idols ripped from the pages of BOP, Teen Beat, Tiger Beat. Kirk Cameron. Michael J. Fox. The Corey’s. It changed monthly as new idols appeared on the scene. Alice liked KIDS Incorporated. Some of you may remember the show. Some of you have heard of it because it’s where Fergie got her start. Some of you might have stopped reading to look it up. I had seen the show a few times. But Alice. She was a Fan. Alice wrote in to BOP Magazine looking for other KIDS Inc. fans. The magazine posted her letter in the pen pal section. In a small town in Pennsylvania a girl our age was also looking for KIDS Inc. fans. Michelle and her cousin had gone to their local market and read Alice’s BOP letter. They memorized her address repeating it to each other as they walked home. Michelle wrote Alice a letter. The magazine had printed Alice’s address wrong. But we lived on Maytime Lane. We knew the mailman. He looked like Richard Greico had stepped off our walls and decided to become a member of the Postal Service. We giggled when we saw him anywhere in the complex. He knew us.

Alice and Michelle continued to write each other letters, also adding Susan from West Virginia into the growing KIDS Inc. Fan clique. They started traveling to Los Angeles in 1988. We all became friends. They the KIDS Inc. lovers, me, Alice’s friend and downstairs neighbor.

Somewhere in the middle of the L.A. KI Fan Exodus, my mom, brother and I moved into an upper unit just past the very tiny playground. It was here I had my YMCA camp friends over for 24 hours of movie watching and whatever else teenagers who don’t drink do to hang out. I fell asleep shortly after they left and woke up in a panic that I’d be late for school. When I looked at the clock it said it was 7. I thought it was 7 a.m. It was 7 p.m. I haven’t taken a nap since. I’m forty-seven.

It was here I consumed countless pints of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and pieces of Pioneer Chicken which I got by paying my brother hard earned babysitting money to walk to the shopping center across from Maytime Lane. There was a supermarket, a pizza joint, a sandwich shop and the Pioneer Chicken which is now a Chinese restaurant. Why struggle up and down a full flight of stairs when you can pay your younger brother to do it?

This condo became the KIDS Inc. Fan Summer Exodus hub. Alice’s condo had parents in it. My brother and I tended to be left on our own. Summer after summer the KIDS Inc. pen pal group would descend on Maytime Lane and we’d take over the condo and terrorize the city. And by terrorize, I mean drive around Hollywood, eat at Ed Debevic’s and Jerry’s Deli and hang out on the set of KIDS Incorporated. That story will have to wait for another time. The summer I was twenty, two new KIDS Inc fans came in to play. Michele from New Jersey and Tatiana from New York. It was an infamous summer. Another story for another time.

Michelle moved to Los Angeles when we were twenty-one. It had been her dream all along, to move out here. She stayed in the loft of our condo until she and I, along with Alice, got an apartment a few miles from Maytime Lane. We lived there for a year. When our lease ended, we came back to the condo complex in Culver City. We rented the condo below Tammy’s father who was still living there at the time. It was in this condo that we experienced the Northridge earthquake. The worst in my lifetime, so far. It was here Michelle and I edited a video of Mario Lemieux, the greatest hockey player in the NHL, using a VCR, a video-camera, and a cassette tape player. It took three days to do what it takes three minutes to do today. It was here I promised our landlord our two cats, Lemieux and Ziggy, were good boys who’d never do any harm. They promptly destroyed the wallpaper in the wet bar.

We lived in this condo for a year.

Michelle moved into her own place by the beach with her high school friend Amy who’d moved here from Pennsylvania and had been sleeping on our pull-out couch. Michelle lives in Hollywood now, Amy’s in Texas. Alice bought a condo in the complex and is still there today. I live in Westchester, not too far from Maytime Lane. Michelle and I are still close. A series of unfortunate events forced Alice to take sides in a dispute with Susan. She chose the one that wasn’t mine, as did Michele who is still in New Jersey. Tatiana is still in New York and actual Mensch that she is, never took a side.

There is a condominium complex in Culver City. When I drive by it now it is tradition to tell anyone in the car with me “I know someone who lives there.” Their job is to nod like it’s the first time they’ve heard me say it, even if it’s the millionth time. Behind the grey cement walls sits buildings painted poop brown and bland beige where I made life-long friends, laughed until I peed, scared myself out of naps, fell down and fell in love. Got my heart broken and broke the rules.  I am someone who lived there.

A Recipe for Success

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If you’ve never experienced next level anxiety but always wanted to know what it’s like, go back to school at age 47. Better yet go back to school at age 47, go into a Master’s level program, and do it in a field you’ve always wanted to be in.

Also. And this is a very important part of the anxiety experience. Do it all online. Because it’s always a good idea to interact on a message board. Anyone who knows me from the online world, yes, I said message board. Yes, I have PTSD. No I’m still not over that place.

I’m writing this entry today, while I can form the words, because so far I’ve done pretty okay with it all. It’s a lot of reading, writing and interacting with others who’ve read and written about the same things I have had to.  I even got to watch a movie and break it down by plot points, which is something I used to do with friends, for fun. No one is yelling. No one has told me I don’t belong there. (Yet).

But next week I post my first creative work. A story, from my brain, with words, I wrote, that someone other than my aunt will read, for the purpose of being raked over hot coals so that I can be a better writer.

Oh, I almost forgot. And this is key to any successful anxiety attack. Go back to school at age 47, in a Master’s level program, in a field you’ve always wanted to be in, online, and go out of town the weekend your final project is due.

Yep. All that. On purpose.

I think that about covers it. You now have the tools to enjoy your first experience with high level anxiety. Good luck. Enjoy. I’m here for you.

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Should’ve Known Better

A few days ago the LA Kings tweeted out a note that two of their players were featured on a podcast. Instead of going with my gut and ignoring that tweet, I sought out the podcast and downloaded the episode. As soon as I saw that it was produced by Barstool Sports I should have hit delete and moved on. But I didn’t. The podcast episode was 1 hour and 59 minutes long. I lasted roughly 30. Thankfully the Kings players were on early and I had a way out. This is how the segment went.BizNasty – haha isn’t it funny how you’re young guys living in LA and on the dating scene, let’s delve deep into your dating profiles and make you uncomfortable about the pictures and songs you’re using to get dates

Matt Luff / Cal Peterson – deflection, uncomfortable laughter

BizNasty – haha isn’t it funny how you’re young guys getting more money than you’ve ever seen in your life after and choose to spend it on designer belts?

Matt Luff / Cal Peterson – deflection, uncomfortable laughter

BizNasty – haha I can have your teammates traded ‘cause left-wing libtards are taking over everything and we can call their behavior bullying, ya know if you want me to, i can do it (this was repeated 3 times)

Matt Luff / Cal Peterson – deafening silence

BizNasty – Luff looks like one of Trump’s kids

Matt Luff / Cal Peterson – deflection, uncomfortable laughter

Thirty minutes. I felt my soul leave my body and my brain cells die.

Then I got angry.

Paul Bissonette, known on social media as “BizNasty” is an NHL veteran. He can say and do whatever he’d like, his time in the NHL as a player is over. Matt Luff and Cal Peterson are two young prospects looking for their place on the LA Kings. Cal has been up and down from the minor league affiliate and Matt is with the big team but only sees limited ice time. They are in no way, shape, or form, going to engage in this kind of conversation. To their credit they engaged in as much of the dating app talk as they were willing to share.

Mr. Nasty prefaced this interview with “these guys were a bit shy. Kind of quiet and boring.” And then came out of the interview, which was a taped segment of the podcast, re-iterating the same sentiments.

He called Luff’s recollection of banter between himself and teammates during pre-game soccer ball kick arounds bullying then proceeded to bully the kid about designer belts and his looks. He seemed to find Luff the easier target as he left Cal Peterson alone for the most part. He put both of them in tough positions by suggesting he could “get rid of players” for them and then called them quiet and boring because they didn’t have an answer for that. Or if they did, couldn’t say anything because they’re trying to make the team he’s threatening. You don’t get to act like an asshole and then accuse the people on the other end of being boring because they couldn’t/wouldn’t engage.

I’m embarrassed that I listened to this piece of trash and even more embarrassed that I listened to the entire interview. I’m angry that the Kings PR team allowed their players to be subjected to it and tweeted out the evidence so that we could hear it. But I’m mostly saddened that it did exactly what I knew it would do. Remind me that the less I know about the things I enjoy the better.

I’m never getting that time back. And what few brain cells I have left have been focused on the asshattery of the whole thing. Matt Luff and Cal Peterson probably don’t even remember doing the interview or are long past worrying about it despite it just now dropping. It seemed to be recorded a while back when both Luff and Peterson were with the big club. Peterson has returned to the minor league team as both of the Kings goalies are healthy now and he’s still the younger of the two backups trying to find their spot as the number one. Which is damn near impossible with Jonathan Quick in net in said position*. As for Matt Luff. I’d imagine he’d happily take a few “bullying” jabs just to be able to be in the lineup every night instead of once in the last month.

*Ask me about this in 5 weeks after the trade deadline passes

A brief side note: Mr Nasty casually mentioned “hitting the pen too hard” in the opening segment of the podcast which I took to mean vaping. He should maybe look into who legalized the substance he’s smoking so freely before railing against those “left-wing libtards” who are “taking over everything.” Just saying.

Because, hockey, I went into watching the Kings game just 12 hours after enduring this podcast stupidity. And just like it always does, it brought me back into the love category in the weirdest way. I encourage you to look up Snoop Dogg doing play-by-play for the LA Kings on Youtube, like, right now.

New Year, Who Dis?

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Honestly.

This blog space is neglected. It’s also boring. I’m hoping to fix both of those things in 2019. This isn’t a New Year’s resolutions entry. I try not to make them anymore. Remember how I just said I was trying to not be boring? You’re welcome.

However…there is one thing.

Guys, guys, guys! You know how I was all: I’m going back to school! But then I was like: Never mind! I can’t go back to school!

I’m too old to be a freshman. I mean, there’s no age limit. I just feel like I’ve been a freshman enough times. Also, there’s this small (giant, it’s actually giant) problem of the cost of starting over. 80 grand. I’m too old now, and will definitely be too old for $80,000 in student debt in 2-4 years depending on when I’d finish the program.

In an act of sheer insanity, the advisor I’ve been working with at National University is actually doing her job. Advising me. She has patiently listened (read, via email) as I recounted my struggle to get my transcripts (she took over from the previous person I’d been communicating with). She’s laid out what would be required of me once it was determined my records are gone. And then, when I explained that the cost of another Bachelor’s degree would be too high to even think about now, she said the one thing I needed to hear.

“Have you thought about a Master’s degree?”

Yes. Yes I have. Every time I consider going back to school the first thing I look at is the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing degree. No matter where it is I’m looking at taking courses, I look at their MFA program. Every time. Without fail. I looked at NU’s program. I looked at the one at University of Phoenix. I’ve looked at the art school up the street from me before I even looked at those schools. And then I moved on, because it didn’t seem practical. Until I realized a going after a degree in psychology at 47 isn’t any less impractical. It’s considerably more expensive, but still, quite silly.

Both degrees would enter me into the workforce, and both degrees are ones I’ve been after my whole life. But truly, an MFA in writing is the one thing I’ve wanted to accomplish and never went after.

So this year I’m going after it.

There’s only one requirement I need to meet to qualify for the MFA program: can I write at a college level. The nihilistic part of me says “no, you can’t” but the fact that I’ve strung together nearly 500 words in this blog entry begs to differ.

That’s my 2019 plan. Write, read, consume as much material as I can, learn. And instead of spending a stupid amount of money on a 3rd Bachelor’s degree, I’ll be spending considerably less for the Master’s degree I should have gone after in the first place.

Happy New Year!

For the Record

This is a follow up to the entry Life, The Universe, And Everything 

For those of you who don’t want to read that one again: In March I began inquiring about a degree in Psychology at National University. I have two other degrees, one in Business and one in Graphic Design. I can only prove one of those degrees exist. Both colleges have since closed down. Westwood College, where I got my graphic design degree, was nice enough to transfer their records to an online facility. I requested transcripts. They were sent to National. Easy peasy. ICT College, where I got my business degree, were not so efficient. They transferred their records to an entirely new college. Attempts to acquire those transcripts were met with “I don’t have them” and subsequent ghosting after that. One sentence, no other information. Thanks for the help, good to know you’re in charge of people’s education.

I was unsure about what I wanted to do next and I gave up the idea. But I didn’t move on. I still want a Psychology degree. So I investigated further and thanks to one good person at the Bureau of Private Postsecondary Education who shed new light on the situation I am able to move on to the next step. You see, as it turns out, the idea that there’s no way the records were just gone isn’t actually true. They are just gone. Under California law schools are not required to hold on to student’s records for more than 5 years. It’s been 17 years since I got my business degree. That was a bit of information I could have used in March.

In the meantime I found print outs of my business degree transcripts which are useless because I can’t prove their not doctored. I can assure you they’re not, but looking at them you can understand why someone would think otherwise.

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The journey continues. I may yet have a Psychology degree in my lifetime.

Recalibrating a Moral Compass

The day the news broke about Bill Cosby being a serial rapist I erased his comedy albums from my iTunes library and gave up on him. It was simple. He was an individual who I could let go of. Then as a shitstorm of news upon news about everyone and their father started surfacing my moral compass was tested.

What behavior am I capable of looking past?

Several months ago information was released about Joss Whedon being a lying liar who lies. Mainly in the area of being a feminist. Turns out he was pro-female alright. Pro having sexual encounters with females that were not his wife. This account came from said wife. I believed her. It made me sad. But there were no comedy albums to erase. There were decades of fandom. I met several of my best friends because of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Serenity…to this day we connect over it. Do I discount hundreds of people who worked on the show because one guy did something stupid?

Cheaters are gross. If you marry someone with the agreement that you do not have sex with anyone outside the marriage, and you do, you’re gross. I’ll never excuse it and I’ll never be okay with it. But there’s a big difference between engaging in consensual sex and rape. Joss Whedon didn’t rape the women he slept with. So I gave him a pass, with caution.

When Roseanne went on her racist Twitter rampage, it was easy for me to just not watch the show I already wasn’t watching, and continue to dislike the woman I already disliked. I felt bad for her colleagues. But that didn’t make me any less certain I’d never watch a episode of Roseanne in whatever era. Bottom line is, I wasn’t a fan anyway.

The Harvey Weinstein situation gets into even more grey areas. His actions were excused and overlooked by many in his organization including some of my favorite directors. Kill Bill & Pulp Fiction don’t become any less a part of my film collection because Tarantino failed to put an end to Weinstein’s bad behavior. Yes, Tarantino and the others who had awareness but chose the Blue Pill approach could have done something years ago. But Harvey Weinstein wasn’t just wielding his power over the women he raped. He was holding these men’s life’s work hostage. Excuses, for sure. How I handle the guilt I feel is up to me.

Today’s news broke about one of my favorite nerd icons, Chris Hardwick, sexually and mentally abusing an ex-girlfriend. She wrote an essay online about the behavior, in detail. I believe her. I deleted his podcast from iTunes. I stopped following him on social media. I’ll likely start erasing his comedy albums from my iTunes library next.

Chris has been open about being in therapy for years. He’s talked about anxiety and depression and I’m sure he’s had to come face to face with a lot of his insecurities that brought him to a place where he abused a girl so badly she stopped eating. She herself ended her essay noting that he’d become a different guy, now. Is that enough to excuse what he did, then? Not today. Will it ever be? We’ll have to see about that.

Christ Hardwick and Bill Cosby are the art. They are responsible for their behavior.

Kevin Spacey is an ugly piece of the painting. He is responsible for his behavior, the rest of the people in the painting aren’t.

Harvey Weinstein is the curator of the art. He is responsible for his behavior, the art isn’t.

Joss Whedon is the artist who paints the pictures. He’s responsible for his behavior, the pictures are their own entities.

There are many good guys out there. We rarely hear about them because it’s the batshit behavior people want to read about. It’s why TMZ exists. Selfishly I blame social media and the 24-hour news cycle for how much we know about celebrity behavior and I wish it were 1989 again. When I could be obliviously infatuated with an actor I can honestly say I’ll be devastated beyond help to discover isn’t who he appears to be.

Learning to Fly

Some day I’ll be comfortable being the “unless something better comes along” person. Today is not that day. If that’s how you see me there’s not much I can do, but I’d like to say to you specifically, either lie to me about plans you might already have or be honest with me about what you’d rather be doing. I’m a reasonable person, when you talk to me. But when you don’t, I make up my own narratives. And as a fiction writer I’m really fucking good at it.

Some day I’ll be comfortable being that person who follows up after one text or message but today is not that day. In fact I’m not sure that some day will actually come. I’d rather die alone than live my life knowing I bullied you into something. I’m not going to chase you down and force you to respond to me in whatever capacity I’ve come to you in.

The thing is, I’m perfectly happy in the comfort and safety of my own home. So if and when I reach out, I really want to be doing that thing I asked you to do.

Some day I’ll learn not to let these things fester in my brain, but today is not that day. I needed to get this out in they only way I know how: a passive aggressive blog entry where I give no indication of who I’m talking about or what it is that set me off.

Now that I have this off my chest I will do that, Loki. Thanks for always being here for me.