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Candy and Cigarettes

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Monday, October 31, 2011

Occupation Street Pt. II

Gotta lot of topics to cover this week.  I plan, in no particular order, to debunk the organic myth, dissect the anatomy of a good mixed tape, and delve into why NorCal soft bodies are so in love with yoga and pilates but seem morally offended when you covert your basement into a high-end health club/weight room.  This will of course be in addition to the usual pimping of my short stories and poetry (because apparently some of that is coming out this week.)

But first up.  Everyone wants me to talk about this Occupy Oakland shit that just went down.  Not sure why anyone would think I'd want to write about that, or that I'd be a good ambassador to the cause.  I guess because I live here.  But have I ever given the illusion that I am big into sticking my neck on the line with incendiary, controversial remarks and/or willing to risk the ire and scorn of those who feel differently?  I'm a goddamn Wonder Bread milquetoast when it comes to Internet fighting.

To get everyone up to speed re: what I am talking about:  (Apologies to Duane, who I know isn't the biggest Jon Stewart fan.)


We had a surprise party for my wife, Justine, who just turned 30 (which is unfortunate, since it means I am going to have to go find a new wife, since I don't date women in their 30s.  Kidding, honey.  Sort of), this past Friday.  Justine is a snoop, and very hard to surprise, so I was quite proud of myself that she was genuinely fooled into thinking we were spending the night just the two of us, on a boat or an island, with this woman.

Which made Justine cry.  Not so much because of this woman, but because she thought no one cared about her anymore.  I'd arranged months ago for this party and everyone was in on it.  Hence, no one was asking Justine what she was doing for her birthday.  Which made her cry.  And you have to admit: this woman is kinda scary looking, beady little eyes, and tiny teeth for gnawing and gumming the flesh... (The woman in the above picture was part of an elaborate ruse of misleading clues I gave to Justine to get her off the scent of the surprise party. Which she had suspected all along.  But after I got done with her, she didn't know which end was up.  Which you could really apply to most of my failed relationships.  [What? Haven't all yours ended too?  Oh, except the one you're in now.  Of course.  No, no, I'm sure this one will last.  I mean, all the...others.])  But then I got her to Jupiter, a bar 'n' grill up on Shattuck, where all her friends and family were waiting, and Surprise!  Then I shipped all the girls off in a limo for a night on the town and to brawl with the limo driver, while I got to go to bed at 10 p.m. (sweet sweet sleep.)

But before that, we sat at a far back table outdoors, and of course the conversation turned to Occupy Oakland and the fracas from a couple days earlier.

Justine's two brothers, both of whom are politically active and progressive, were there.  Like Justine, they are half Puerto Rican, and have had to deal with aspects of race my lily-white ass never has.

"So when we taking Holden [my 14-month-old son] to Occupy Oakland?" Justine's brother asked her.

"Maybe next Wednesday," Justine said.

Her other brother looked at me.  "Gotta the little man out on the front lines," he said.

To which I probably winced a smile, or maybe said something like "power to the people."  Hell, I might've even given a little fist pump.

Then the conversation turned elsewhere, which was fine with me.  I was glad no one pressed the point further or tried to outline the logistics of an actually time and place.  Because ain't no mutherfucking way in hell my son is going to Occupy Oakland.  Are you out of your fucking mind?  You see that shit?  Tear gas.  Rubber bullets.  Police beating people with batons.  Didn't they just shoot some unarmed vet up there? (  Yeah, I'm going to let Holden hang out in Oakland.  Why the fuck would I subject my toddler son to that?  You want to change the world? God bless you.  Really.  All of you who think you can make a difference, a change for the better, superterrificswell.  I'm with ya.  Me and my boy.  We'll just be watching from a safe comfortable distance within the plush confines of our new home gym.

So, OK, I guess I do have to talk about this a bit.  When I last touched upon the subject (, I was teased, good-naturedly, by some friends back east about my return to the Republican Party.  And I freely admit to latching onto some conservative linchpins, especially when it comes to my son (and things like bussing, etc.), in my later life.  I have far less patience for the social causes I used to vehemently champion because they interfere with my morning latte.  Still, I will explain why that (i.e., a return to GOP) can never happen (and I will do so without partisan ideology or politicking--watch this, Duane!).

I've seen too much.

In short, I got to know the same people I once upon a time so easily condemned. And I'm not even saying I was wrong in condemning them in the first place.  Many of them are scumbags, bilking a systems and not doing their fair share. Unfortunately, judging right and wrong is more easily done in the abstract; once you become personally involved, that fucking empathy shit kicks in, and you tuck those stones somewhere safe inside your glass house.  Let me give you an example. We all know, that lowlife junkies probably shouldn't have kids, because doing drugs and being a parent don't mix, and when those same lowlife junkies not only have kids but also accept government assistance, well, it's tough to find anyone willing to defend that.  So until I knew some actual lowlife junkie parents living on the dole, I had no problem sitting back and shaking my fist.  Because, let's face it, lowlife junkies shouldn't be having kids and then taking your tax dollars to buy the kids Pampers (but only after procuring a fix).  Makes you mad, right?  Damn straight. Problem was I fell in with a bad crowd.  Who I soon learned weren't as much a bad crowd as they were lost and hurting and confused, and sure a lot of them were like me, white suburban punks who got carried away, and you don't need to feel sorry for them, or me, but a lot were the other kind, those who were seriously damaged through circumstance. Like the woman I met whose mother used to bury her in a hole in the backyard anytime she had a date, for fear the new boyfriend might find out she had a kid, and if that meant at 7 years old she was locked in a hole in the ground while mom and her new boyfriend went to Vegas for the weekend, so be it. I am not going to list all the horror stories.  It doesn't make a difference.  You didn't meet these people, even if there are tens, hundreds of thousands, and a million more.  But I ate with them.  I listened to them. I slept with them.  Got to know their stories, their hurts and confusion, their skewered perspectives, which was both the result and direct cause of further persecution.  Because that shit ain't a straight line, brother. Moreover, they became my friends, and some of them, flaws and all, were better fathers than I ever had.  Go figure.  I wish I could go back to seeing hobos and street urchins and drug addicts and criminals, and think they are there because of some moral shortcoming. It would make my life easier.  Now all I do is see them and know it's more complicated than it appears; even though I still don't give them my fucking change, because that's my fucking change, and besides what is that going to accomplish? Oh, hell, sometimes I will.  But rarely.  This is a long-about way of saying, like Doc Holliday: my hypocrisy only goes so far.

So I'm sorry, Bill, I can't go back.  But I think you'll agree I am still not your typical liberal.  Probably because I am so fucking apathetic.  And I prefer the term radical, anyway. Or maybe like my former professor Tom Hazuka, a Capitalist Socialist. Who cares?  They're just words.  Open-minded and inclusive when it comes to social causes, and stay the fuck away from my money when it comes to practical implementation of those causes.  Like most.  I just don't give a damn enough to argue with anyone about this shit. Just like I'll nod and say, Sure, take my little son to a protest.  I don't want to rock the boat.  I'm not going to let him go, obviously. But I'll deal with that, later, after the party ends.

Still, I'd hate to give the impression that in my apathy I am not incensed, which is what ties all of us, what is being called "the 99%," together.  Even the people who are, like, "I have nothing in common with those protestors," or are calling them a bunch of middle-class troublemakers, whatever the dismissive blowoff may be, I still don't see the people who are actually writing letters like this.

Which is pretty goddamn funny.

There is no getting around one simply fact, left right, middle, yellow, blue, green, whatever: People are angry.  And the number seems to be growing by the day.  I am not saying this chart isn't accurate.

I'm just saying, if I were going to go with any one chart, I'd probably go with this one.

"You're pretty good with words, but words won't save your life...and they didn't, so he died."  Which makes me think we should close here, with someone who can say what I mean a fucklot better than I can say it right now.

Maybe the revolution really will be televised.  I hope so, and that it preempts the Fat Fucking Housewives of the Jersey Shore.  Power to the people...

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Rock 'n' Roll: Invasion and Repulsion

Didn't roll into until about 1:30 last night after the show.  Which I'm not going to write about.  At least not the actual playing part, which had its ups.  And downs. Namely that it started up, ended down, and left a bad fucking taste in my mouth.

The best part about the night was probably hanging with Jarret (keys) and my oldest friend and fellow East Coast transplant, Rich, who finally made the leap to Facebook, ending one of the longest holdouts going (that only leaves you, C-Love. And you will cave.  For such is the mighty, mighty power of the Facebook).

We had to load in at 6 but weren't slated to play until 11, which is what often happens.  So you have a lot of time to kill after you sound check.  And our sound check might've been the highlight of our show.  We played "Teenage Drummers" and "Down on the Farm," and sounded as good as we ever have.

Raviv met his wife, Big Tom went for Austrian food (whatever the fuck that is), which left Jarret and I to fend for ourselves.  So we grabbed sushi across the street at Sushi Rock, where they were showing on not one but two screens that fucking Twilight movie.  I'm not a big fan of the scatological, and I know at least three people who are going to get pissed if I post this.  But every time I see clips from Twilight, I can't help but think of this.

Makes it less painful.  Recently my wife, Justine, and I went to a movie, which has become increasingly rare since the birth of the kid.  They showed a preview for the latest installation, which was two of the more miserable minutes of my life (at least until the encore of "That's When I Reach for My Revolver" last night).  Justine is like a little kid at the movies, insisting on sitting like two rows from the screen, so I had to stare at that creepy-looking bastard Robert Patterson (or "R-Patz" as the kids say), like, 50 feet high.  You could see all the white make-up they pancake on the guy to make him look dead.  And the fucking soundtrack.  And that werewolf kid. Justine was so excited she was literally shaking in anticipation.  Chalk up one more phenomena I will never get.

So Jarret and I are watching Twilight, eating a light dinner of raw fish and seaweed, Jarret's crushing on the cute waitress, and then we go to meet Rich and his friend Mike, who are across the street horking back burritos and milkshakes, with Mike crushing on the cute waitress over there who is telling a fat old bald guy at the counter about her cat, Mr. Whiskers, and I'm thinking, Mike, you might have a chance here...

The funniest part about sitting in that dinner was everyone being on their respective mobile devices.  Except Rich, who like I said is new to this game.  Mike had some app that pulls up every club in every San Francisco neighborhood with clips from every band playing that night.  Except us.  ("I don't see you guys anywhere.  Are you sure you're playing?")  Jarret was checking out his Twitter and reading back these tweets from the Mystery Science 3000 guy about just how much the new Transformers movie is going to suck.  And I really hate not being able to recall any of them.  Because they were brilliant.

By the time we got to the club, which was still pretty empty, Rich, Mike, and I sat upstairs, watching the opening acts, and found the catchphrase for the night.  When Mike said, "I like these guys," I realized what he was was saying was, "this music isn't too invasive."  Which is what live music is.  It's fucking invasive.  It's why I don't want to go see a friend's band or any band, and why they don't want to see mine.  It has less to do with the music or liking/not liking it.  In these small clubs, no matter how good a band is, it's overpowering.  It's hard to latch onto something hearing it for the first time, and then you have the mix and people playing too loudly, and it's hard to listen to.  And it's harder to pull off.  Live music isn't like listening to a CD in your car; there is no volume knob.  It's a blast of obnoxious. Unless, you play quiet funk with a lot of synth, or covers on your acoustic guitar that everyone knows, are slightly ironical, and sing in hushed, easily ignored tones.

But I play rock 'n' roll.  Which I could talk about more.  But I wasn't planning on even blogging at all today, I'm so fucking tired and sore (the difference about playing rock 'n' roll now versus when I was 20?  I had to fucking stretch first.  No shit), and now Justine just called to tell me we are retarding our son because we have the TV on too much.  So I am anxious that I am going to raise a lobster boy. Think it's time to pull out the ol' acoustic and dust off that Rhianna cover...

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Blogger Choice Awards, Red Devil, and Other News

I don't know what the fuck this is.  My wife nominated me.

And that would've been nice, and I wouldn't have cared, except when I went to the site and I saw I had one fucking vote.  From my wife.  I get several hundred hits on this thing every day.  We're closing in on 50K, and I'm hoping to have a chance at 100K for the year.  How do I have only one vote?  OK.  I know it's a pain in the ass, that you have to create an account, give them an e-mail, pick a username and password, verify the info via a link and all that.  But think of all the joy I've brought you.  You know how long it takes to write these goddamn posts?  Well, not that long, actually.  But it also doesn't take that long to create an account.  My ego can't take not getting a shit-ton of votes.  I don't know what the hell this award entails, or if it'll do me any good (doubt it), but I'd like to find out.  So please take the four minutes to vote for me.  Because I am hollow, empty shell of a man, and if I win this pointless, anonymous award, it will fill me with purpose.  For about seven minutes (which is still 7 more than I have now).

And if y'all wouldn't mind doing some pimping on my behalf, Facebook, Twitter, et al, I'd sure appreciate it.


Next up, and why this post is probably going to be a little on the short side, the Wandering Jews are playing tonight at the 

You can get tickets here:  We have a new wrinkle in our lineup, with Lliam Hart replacing Peter Ffrench on drums (and, no, the double consonants are not a typo), but the rest remains the same, with Big Tom on bass, Raviv (who is allowed to tell Jewish jokes, we've been informed) on guitar, and Jarret "Secret Weapon" Cooper on keys and singing the pretty parts.  We'll be playing all of our latest EP, Down on the Farm (available for preview here:, as well as unveiling some new tracks, which will be on our as-yet-untitled follow-up (I'm leaning toward Up on the Hill.  Y'know, 'cause of parallelism) come spring.  After not having written shit for years, I've been writing new songs (and the world waits with bated breath...).  I think it's the best stuff I've written.  But who knows?  I once wrote a song called "Monkeys in My Pajamas."  (Sometimes I really miss Chris Judd.)

(Have no idea what this cartoon is about, but Chris Judd was the name of my first songwriting partner/bandmate in CT, who got so fat he very well may've popped. So it's kind of funny.  In a sad, life-is-pain kinda way.)  Plus, we're doing an old Creeping Charlies-era tune, "Pretty Girls Make Graves (UK)" about this five-year-old sociopath trying to light concrete on fire (and can this be far behind?

 It's OK.  I can make that joke.  I'm a Christian), and covering Mission of Burma's "That's When I Reach for My Revolver."  All in all, it should be a rockin' good time.

So if you're in the Bay Area, you should stop on in, have a drink with the band, maybe get to poke Big Tom with a stick, because who knows how much longer I'll be able to do this shit.  I got home from band practice last night, and could barely walk. Fucking hip.  That's the beauty of a degenerative condition.  It's as good as it's gonna get right now.

Now just because I fucking hate jazz.


And in other Joe-related news, I've got a bunch of stuff coming out this month at Shotgun Honey ( and Thrillers, Killers 'n' Chillers (, and a couple upstarts, The Sim Review ( and The Railroad Poetry Project (  And we have an outside chance to milk a little nepotism at one of those fancy print journals (with what just might be the best short story I've ever stolen written).

I hope you'll check these stories out (don't worry, I'll plaster the fuck out of my various social media outlets), because those stories (and...poetry) is why I write this blog in the first place.  Well that and the undying love and accolades.  And reconnecting with old friends from Berlin.  And the undying love and accolades. And to improve my craft and... OK.  It's pretty much just the undying love and accolades.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Camping at Big Sur

Went camping this weekend with our go-to couple for all things couple-related, Matt and Angela.  I remember when I told Matt, who already had a daughter, that Justine and I were expecting a couple years ago, he had a smirk.  "Welcome to the other side of that line," he said.  The line that separates the child-ed from the childless. And ain't it the truth, brother.  Since Holden was born, there have been no more invites to keggers.  No wild Halloween bashes.  No one is getting drunk for Spring Break down in Mexico.  Since I pretty much hate all that shit anyway, it hasn't been a very difficult transition for me (it's been much harder for Justine, who likes being social), and the kid is a glorious built-in excuse to get out of shit I never wanted to do in the first place ("House warming?  Why, I'd love to come to your crappy housewarming and eat your shitty carb-heavy hors d'oevres, but you know, it's very important the baby keeps his sleep schedule...").  As you've probably gleaned from this blog, I ain't much of a people person.

It takes a lot to get me to leave my house, and generally the thought of camping and sleeping in the dirt with worms and bugs for two days is right up there with getting tested for chlamydia and listening to Pearl Jam (or any band where the singer singing sounds like he's taking a shit).  But I like Matt and Angela.  Quite a bit.  I was happy to make an exception here, because it was Matt's birthday, and the older I get, the less I feel like making new friends.

I don't require a lot of the people in my life.  I was telling my shrink yesterday, the reason I can have friends walking out of my life and not really miss a beat is because friends fulfill various roles for me.  Matt and I were quite close once upon a time.  Then I did drugs and we lost touch.  I found other friends with whom I also shared witty pop culture banter and for whom I felt a similar brotherly kinship and affinity to take his place, and then right about the time they were getting on my nerves, I reconnected with Matt, and he got plugged back into his original role.  I don't need three Matts in my life.  I don't even need two.  Just the one will do.  It's kind of like when Lacy Gorsenson came back to reclaim the role that was originally hers on Rosanne (from Becky Two, the delectable Sarah Chalke).

Anyway, we all went down to Big Sur to camp, the whole combined clan: two dads, two moms, three kids, and two dogs.  Justine had been trying me to go camping with her since we met.  But our ideas of camping are as radically different as our ideas of traveling abroad.  Whereas Justine likes doing things on the cheap and doesn't mind sharing toilets in hostels with smelly kids who don't regularly bathe, Joe has spent all the time he is ever going to spend with squalor.  When you have lived at Hepatitis Heights (, there ceases to be any romance in slumming it.  I want 4 stars and high thread counts.

For this trip, we did tent cabins.  Which is basically some posts, two-by-fours, and canvas.  And it was fucking cold at night.  So we had to let our son, Holden, sleep with us.  'Cause he's only 14 months and he wasn't having the Pac 'n' Play (more on this later). 

I am a city boy, through and through.  I grew up in the country, on sprawling acreage with a big ol' pond in the back and pulling pike from the crik.  We had deep woods and rolling hills and amber meadows of frosted grain and every other Robert Frost trope.

And it never meant shit to me.  Fishing, camping, hiking.  I did it.  Because everyone in my town did it, at one time or another.  But when I got to the city, I finally felt at home amidst the cold concrete.  I'd talk with my mom about this, back when she was alive, because she was always trying to get me to come back home, and I'd have to explain to her that I was never going back to the country...

I want to go back to the country.  I am sick to death of the city.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the simplicity of a few days without phone or Internet or being able to check my fantasy football roster (fuck you, Peyton Hillis.  Again).  I have to admit there was a whole rustic charm to the weekend. Cooking meat over a fire.  Playing the guitar by firelight.  Feeding Holden lots of chocolate and watching him run spastic around the camp grounds (not to mention Lucky Dog getting yelled at for being off leash and running into the manager's office).

And it's 'cause of the boy.  It's like primal shit, communing out in nature with your son.  We've been doing it for generations.  Showing the kid how to fish and hunt (or if you're from San Francisco, how to cuddle a fish and mold tofu).  I never knew what I missed.  Because my dad was sort of a douche and didn't bother doing that stuff with me.  If I went hiking or camping it was with friends.  Which is a shame. You really need to do that stuff with your father.  My father took my younger brother to hunt and fish, and as a result I grew up hating it.  And pretty much all of nature.  And the environment.  And I am not saying I'm back to being all, "Oh, no, Styrofoam!"  But it did get me to start thinking in different ways about my job as a father, which is pretty much my most important job now.

Like I said, Holden wouldn't sleep in the Pac 'n' Play, it was too cold, so he had to sleep in the bed with us.  And he ain't an easy kid to sleep with, tossing, turning, snoring, crying.  The first night was pretty much hell, so it was hard to look forward to sleeping with the kid the second night.  And he started in with the same stuff.  It was around 2 a.m., and I hadn't gotten much much rest, and at that point I was trying to think of ways I could put the kid back and maybe wrap him in extra blankets.  I must've dozed off for a minute or two, because I woke up with Holden curled into me, his little hands clutching his dad's arms, head on my shoulder, conked out.  And I fell back asleep like that.  And I slept like, well, a baby.

Not sure our next trip, but I can see me and the boy maybe going to Yosemite and hunting elk someday.  I mean, if they have elk.  And if they let you hunt.  And the stupid stipulations of my plea agreement let me buy a gun again.  Or maybe we'll go deep sea fishing.  Justine, who is a vegetarian, will never let us hang the elk's head or frame the large mouth bass above the TV (where either would look perfect).  But maybe it isn't about the killing part as much as it is about the experience.

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Monday, October 24, 2011

East Coast vs. West Coast

A lot of times when my lovely wife, Justine, and I are having a...disagreement...and I start getting worked up, my arms flailing, I get accused of yelling.  Of course, I'm not yelling.  I'm a 21st Century sensitive man.  This is just how I talk.  I'm an East Coast Italian.  I am discussing things logically (if passionately) in a calm, rational manner, and feel though she is being typically NorCal / new-agey overly sensitive. From my POV, it's pretty much like this.

Of course I realize I am oversimplifying, and that perception is 9/10ths of the law.  I am big, gruff man, and when I get stirred out the half-dead complacency this world forces me to be lulled into, it probably does sound like yelling to her.  Because people don't talk like that out here.  But where I come from, that's just how we talk, how we communicate.  I grew up in a house of loud voices, my friends all had loud voices, and we'd shout and sometimes have fistfights over whether to go to McDonalds or Burger King.  Fuck, I don't think my buddy Jimmy and I used our quiet voices until we reconnected in 2006.  But that's not how they do it in Northern California, where there is probably an ordinance against speaking loudly for fear it will disturb some dumb woodland creature or butterfly.

I brought this up with my psychiatrist, Dr. Goldman, who said maybe it's a cultural difference.  I am, after all, Italian ("Clifford?" you say.  "That doesn't sound Italian." To which I say, Fuck you.  I am more Italian than anything else.  My grandfather was a full-blooded Sicilian.  And I'd love nothing more than to post the Walken/Hopper clip in True Romance here, but it uses a bad word we just don't say anymore.  It's all over You Tube, if you want to see it).

Cultural?  Perhaps.  I see it more as an East Coast vs. West Coast thing.  On the East Coast we are passionate.  We use our hands.  We are wound tightly and intense about everything. We get riled up over sandwiches.

My friend Matt likes to say an individual's anxiety level is directly proportional to how close once grew up to New York City.  I was an hour away.  I am one anxious mutherfucker.

I have lived on the West Coast now for about as long as I lived on the East.  It's weird, because there is so much about the culture out here I abhor (, especially the legislative-happy, do-gooding crusaders (seriously, if a kid bumps his head, within 6 hours someone is trying to pass a law requiring kids to be encased in Sytrofoam and not walk without adult supervision, which is doubly offensive, since it not only hinders one's right to not wear a fucking motorcycle helmet, it also usurps individual authority of one's own life.  Maybe we'll talk about that later).  I also hate, in no particular order, yoga pilates bicycling organic skinny jeaned hipsters.  But there is something here you don't get anywhere else: you are free to be whoever you want.  Which is a big fucking deal, and really trumps all.

You don't get that on the East Coast.  I may loath dirty stinking hippies, but I recognize their right to exist.  Just like I am granted the liberty to fly my own freak flag high, however I define it.  You don't get that lack of judgment back east.  It's not that everyone in SF supports all these far-out, left-wing causes; they merely embrace personal freedom, which gets talked about in a lot of place but not implemented so much.  And, yes, there is a difference between "individual authority of one's own life" and "personal freedom."  The Bay Area is big on you being whomever you want to be.  Gay.  Straight.  Bohemian midget farmer in assless chaps who makes sculptures out of fermented radishes.  But, goddammit, they want you to be safe.

I ran away from the East Coast when I was 19 because I felt stifled.  There just wasn't enough room for me in CT to be the unconventional artist type I saw myself becoming.   I know NYC has its quirky and odd.  But I wanted to get away from the anxiety, not become further entrenched in it.  Of course, you can't really outrun anxiety.  You take it wherever you go.

What's weird is that while I like it much better on the West Coast, and in particular, the SF Bay Area, which I now call my home, if a civil war were to break out between the two, a new millennium Confederate vs. Yankee, I honestly don't know for which side I'd fight.

Because as much as I agree with West Coast sensibilities, I am still an East Coast boy, through and through.  It's in my blood, who I am.  The West Coast is less anxious, more laid back, better educated (in general) and all that.  People out here are friendlier.  On the surface.  A lot of guys I know from the East Coast, I thought were dicks when I first met them.  And we probably fought a lot.  And they might still be dicks, and if you overheard us talking, you might think we were fighting.  But my deepest friendship originated on the East Coast.  Takes a while to get to know people back there, but once you do, they're true blue.  The West Coast? You get more dinner parties, wittier banter, more casual Latin references dropped. But if I need a kidney, I'm asking my buddy in CT, Jimmy.  (Well, probably not actually Jimmy.  But not because he wouldn't give me one.  Its just his organs are kinda pickled at this point.  Then again, maybe I can pull out my assless chaps and start sculpting again.)


You don't easily shake the parts that make you who you are.  They say that your basic personality is formed by age five.  That's what I grew up with.  I am an East Coast boy.  Talking loudly and gesturing with your hands.  Tipping cows. Watching your father get drunk in a field on your 13th birthday.  Almost makes me homesick.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Tom Pitts & Hepatitis Heights Pt. II

Got another piece of flash fiction taken today over at my current favorite ezine, Shotgun Honey (  700 words or less.  Their tagline: a blast of fiction to blow your mind.  They published my short story "Chain Reaction" a few months back, which led to my Bullet Award (, a recognition of short crime fiction on the web.  It might not come with a paid fellowship or booth at AWP.  But it gets my name out there and seen by the writers I admire most these days, a list of modern noir's who's who (Todd Robinson, Thomas Pluck, Paul D. Brazill, et al).  When I got the e-mail that SH was taking my latest "Copperhead Canyon," I wrote my former partner-in-crime, best buddy, and fellow aspiring writer, Tom Pitts, who just read (a record third time) for my non-fiction reading series, Lip Service West (where we believe firmly in nepotism), at this year's Litquake Litcrawl.  I usually don't read at these things myself, since I produce the event, but this was a special occasion (  Though I was careful to separate Tom and I.  Like I told the packed house on Saturday, we tell the same story.

If you read this blog regularly, you know that Tom and I were junkies together up at Hepatitis Heights, the decrepit ol' crumbly house high on the hill above SF General. But I always thought of us more like brothers in a shared, trapped misery, like a Billy Joel song (that works on so many levels).

And when I say Tom and I tell the same story, I mean it quite literally.  The story he read on Saturday night involved injecting mice feces, something I myself have done; and if you are finding yourself shaking your head in disbelief, asking why on God's green earth would anyone do that, all I can say is, you'd understand if you lived the way we did.  Not that I'd wish that on anybody.

When I texted Tom that Shotgun was taking another story, he texted back, Congrats, Fuck You.  Tom had been trying to get into that same magazine but no luck.  Until today.  Because he wrote back a few minutes later, saying to never mind the "fuck you"; he'd just got an e-mail from SH telling him they are taking one of his stories, too.  I asked him, Did you ever think all those rotten years when we living up at Hepatitis Heights that some day we'd be clean, have kids, and getting stories published in the same magazine?

This sort of shit never ceases to amaze me.  Like running into someone from your hometown while backpacking through Europe.  It was like when I went back for my 20th high school reunion. I'd see these people I knew all those years ago, especially the girls, only now they were women, with kids and shit, but you could still see that girl inside you were crushing on at 12 (Hi, Anne & Tracy), and I wanted to be ask, Can you believe we're the same people?  But I didn't.  Because they'd think I was as weird as I was when I was 12.  Which I am.  But it's like we traveled in a time machine, or it's some sci-fi alternate universe.  It's a goddamn John Woo film.

Where I am you, and you are me (and who the fuck is that?)  Because so much changes, and yet so much doesn't.

Of course, you have the regret.

I know Tom does.  Just like me.  I hope you'll forgive an old man a little moment of melancholy and nostalgia.

Tom wrote a song a while back with his band, Short Dogs Grow, which was pretty big in the '80s.  The band.  Not so sure about the song.  But I love this title.  Or maybe it's just a line.  "I don't want the money back.  I just want the time."  We wasted a lot of both.  The first time I heard the song was a few years ago at the Eagle, when Short Dogs reunited for this DVD that had just come out, a documentary about the Chatterbox, a punk bar in SF.  I went to see him play with my then-fiance/now wife, Justine.  It was surreal, running into so many old faces, in such an old scene, everything the same yet somehow radically different.

I'm not being overly dramatic when I say I really thought we were both going to die back then.  And the tragedy of that is, it was no big deal.  Like, hey, it might rain later, or we're out of milk.  Oh, well.  Those times have been reduced to a series of anecdotes that both Tom and I tell, ("Hey, remember doing coke with David Bowie's drummer in that motel?"), but each time we tell them, we do so with less conviction, almost out of obligation, like when ex-Army pals get together over beers and reminisce about the old platoon, because, goddammit Charlie Finnegan might've been an asshole, but he was a good man and a fucking patriot.  And in many ways, there lingers this almost PTSD aftereffect.  Whenever something goes wrong these days in my life, however seemingly small, my mind can immediately spiral out of control back to that place.  If I bounce that check, then the bank will close my account, and I'll get a a disease, and eventually it ends with my living back under the bridge.

Not that I actually ever lived under a bridge.  That's just a euphemism.  Though I doubt it could've been worse than that shitburg on the hill.  No running water. Overstuffed black trash bags, reeking in the hall, because garbage men long ago stopped collecting our garbage.  Which is what happens when you don't pay the bill.  We didn't pay any bills.  We didn't pay rent, either.  We squatted, even if we couldn't actually take a shit in the house, fucking toilet so clogged with Lord only knows what.  We'd have to walk all the way down to the hospital to use a bathroom. The place was crawling with mice. They'd get in your hair, in your clothes when you slept.  There was always some ex con du jour crashing there, and as reprehensible as some of the people I'd hang out with, they were seldom dangerous. But you'd get these monsters just released from San Quentin, who'd come up there, beat the shit out of anyone holding, maybe rape a girl, y'know, a typical Wednesday.  And this was my home.  All I really had was Tom, who'd disappear for long stretches at a time, but he'd always come back.  Like a Yo-Yo. Or a foot fungus.

I remember I'd find Tom, holed in the corner on this beat-up desktop computer he hauled around with him everywhere he went, which contained all his stories, furiously typing away. Made no sense to me at the time.  I still played music, but I'd long given up on its being anything more than a hobby.  My life was scamming, stealing, scoring, repeat.  But I think Tom actually believed he'd get out one day, and that he would be a writer.

When I cleaned up and got my degrees, I was far from San Francisco.  I just assumed that like Junkie Jason and so many others, Tom was probably dead. The odds were certainly against both of us making it out of there.  That's what he said when I finally tracked him down (and I do mean "tracked"...).  I got his email address and typed him a message, something like "This is Joe from Hepatitis Heights."  He wrote back, "Oh, I see you made it out too."

Now we both have families, kids, and are getting stories published in the same magazines.  Life is some trippy ass shit.  But it sure is a nice feeling to know we both made it home.  So here's to my brother from another mother...

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Occupation Street

"You know how we are always talking about being amazed by the fact that people aren't running down the street, screaming," Petersen says.


"Well, they're doing it now.  Over 100 fucking countries," he says.

"I know."

He waits.  "That's a good thing, right?" Petersen asks.

I don't know.

"Maybe.  Maybe not," he says, answering his own question.  "But it's a start."


Believe it or not, I am tackling this whole Occupy Wall Street phenomena.  And since I am committed to not making this a political blog (and I think I succeed more often than I fail, given my obvious political leanings), I feel confident I can do so without going all politico.  Because, honestly, the parts of it that interest me really have little to do with partisan ideology.

I received a FB comment from my friend Bill in CT, in response to the Death Penalty post on Friday ( ).  Bill, like many of my friends from CT, leans hard to the right.  His comment was, and I'm paraphrasing here, "Thanks for offering a thought-provoking post without proselytizing."  I took a lot of pride in that.  It's not easy discussing these kinds of topics, especially when it's a such a one-way forum, without injecting personal viewpoints ad nauseum.

Which is the reason I didn't want to touch this Occupy shit.  First and foremost, I don't even really understand what's going on or what exactly everyone is protesting. And apparently I'm not alone.  If the popular, mainstream media is to believed (and if you can't believe your popular, mainstream media [e.g., Yahoo News], who can you trust?).

I just know there are a lot of people pissed off.  Which always catches my attention. It's being billed as the 99% against the 1%, a consolidated organized effort to end...corporate power, the Rockys of the world against the nameless, faceless powers-that-be.  Seems like a pretty good cause, no?  What the protestors seem to be saying, and please correct me if I am wrong, is that having a 450 to 1 wage differential between CEOs and the average worker is unfair.  This, of course, broaches dangerously close to the whole "no big government" vs. "'no big government' is a euphemism for 'less regulations on big business'" argument.  I'll leave you to discuss that quietly amongst yourself.  I think one of the reasons I've been somewhat successful at not delving too deep into politics is that, really, in the end, I don't give a shit.  I look at it like this: Was my life any different under the last two presidents?  Right, left, how has my day-to-day life been affected?  It hasn't. Not in the fucking least.  But here's what does pique my...curiosity.  Dissatisfaction. Anger. People taking to the streets because they are fed up and not gonna take it anymore.  Call it the boxer in me, but I've always liked a good fight.

In my exchanges with Bill one thing comes across: we are each, on opposite sides of the political spectrum, pissed off about the way things are being run.  Now if Bill and I were to sit at a table and try to remedy how to fix the "problems," we'd probably differ radically in our proposed solutions.  But first you have to get to that table, ya dig?  I'm more a "let's storm the bastille and then we'll figure it out" kinda guy.  Or maybe I just like the thought of stirring up trouble.  Or do I any more?

You might remember this post from a little while back with my friend Duane "Lives In But Is Not From Texas" S. (  We were talking about a proposed rehab going into his neighborhood.  He wanted my opinion.  And I admitted to being conflicted.  I think one way as an ex-junkie, but quite differently as a father with personal equity.  Which reminds me of a conversation I once had with a counselor in rehab.  I was bitching about the evils of capitalism (a favorite junkie rant), and he rolled he eyes, saying something to the effect of "Yeah, well, you won't hear too many private property owners bitching about the evils of capitalism." At the time, I was, like, "Fuck you, man."  But he was right.  All those social causes I cared so much about when I was piss poor and didn't have anything? Um.  What were they again?  Now that I have some money, own my own house, it changes. Does that make me a goddamn phony?  Maybe.  But whereas I used to be in favor of things like busing ("Why should the people in the hills get all the good schools?"), now that I have a kid of my own (and live in the hills), I don't want the city telling me my son has to go to an inferior school.  I want the best education for my boy.  So we bought a house in a region that will ensure that.  In short, Joe Version 1994 would want to kick Joe Version 2011's ass.  But if he tried, Joe 2011 could afford a goddamn good lawyer to sue the shit out of Joe 1994.

Because, like my buddy in England, Dave2, says, it all comes down to In Whose Interest... (

I used to have a writing professor, Tom Hazuka, who told this great story about being in an acting class. One of his classmates was trying to play the part of a villain, and he was doing the whole twirling of the mustache and ol' stink eye, and the director stepped in and said, "No, no, no!  Even the villain doesn't think he's the villain..."  Who is the bad guy?  This invisible banker-type on Wall Street?  He's just a man with a family of his own (i.e., his own interests), and I promise you, in his mind, he believes he is doing the right thing.

It's easy to direct one's ire at at pie chart.

 or whatever the fuck one of these charts are called.

But pie charts aren't actually calling the shots, and as much as we can personify evil with the face of an old, wrinkled white man, who is cackling as he burns orphans, that is far too convenient.  Because even the villain doesn't think he's the villain...

My friend and fellow blogger Jenny Dreadful makes an interesting point over at her blog Popsicle Stand (scroll down, past the part about laughable fantasy covers) (, about feeling conflicted when it comes to what's going on over at Wall Street.  

She writes, "My income is in the lowest 10th percentile. I don't have health insurance. I do hold a full time and a part time job.  Have I "occupied"???  Fuck no. I can't take the time off of work. The day before payday all I had for dinner was a can of chickpeas. I sure as hell am not occupying nothing but a goddamn grocery store when I get paid. And that, my friends, is the sad truth about America. I support and cherish those struggling, those counting pennies and tightening belts to make it to the protests, those people for whom it is not easy to protest -- but I'd like to kick the middle-class brats who are mad because mommy and daddy won't pay for college, or because they have to stop shopping at Hollister and work a shit job."

Sadly, or maybe not so, I am no longer struggling like that.  And I feel a strange tinge of guilt.  Because there was a time not so long ago where I was.  The question is, do I owe more to those I suffered with in the past, or to my son and my family and the future?  I don't know what the right answer is, but I sure as fuck know what I am doing.  And my boy trumps all.


I am watching what is going on, if from a safe, comfortable distance.  And call me Robert Smith, but I find it...fascinating.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Hold Steady

I try not to leave the house because I rarely return, from whatever it is I have gone, saying, "Gee, I am really glad I did that."  I have a far better time staying in my big house on the hill, with my computer, where I am able to write, correspond with fans (, and manage my fantasy football teams (fuck you, Peyton Hillis).  But on Sunday, my friend Matt had an extra ticket to the Treasure Island...Music Festival.  Aside from maybe "Barry B." and "Creeping Charlies' Scrapingbooking Project," there might not be a more terrifying phrase in the English language.

There was a time when I loved the fucking things.  In 1990, my buddy Rich and I went to England, where we fought our way to second row, center, for the Knebworth Music Festival.  Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, Phil Collins, Elton John, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd...

Seeing Pink Floyd was especially awesome, since a few days earlier, I had hunted down their reclusive former lead singer, Syd Barrett (, up in Cambridge (#4 Cherry Hinton Lane, Margaret Square.  Don't bother looking for him now.  He's dead).  Although, honestly, the best band that day?  Tears for Fears.  I shit you not.  They were incredible.

That concert was 15 fucking hours.  120,000 people.  How the fuck I was able to stand there, in that swelling sea of stink, and not have to piss sixty times is beyond me.  Of course, I was 19 then and my prostate wasn't the size of a grapefruit.

The most memorable moment of that concert came with the two hippy girls Rich and I met.  Rich and I were just good Christian kids from CT.  We didn't drink.  We weren't terribly adventurous.  This trip was a big deal.  Three months backpacking through Europe.  Oh, the adventures we were about to have... We didn't have any adventures.  We spent a lot of time indoors, deeply entrenched in a hasidic Jewish community, out by Seven Sisters Station, with a (slightly anti-semetic) man named Pat Sweeney (don't bother looking for him, either.  He's dead, too).  Meeting the two hippy girls from California was a striking juxtaposition.  They were backpacking as well, but I don't think they quite followed the same...agenda. They were cute. Blonde, if I remember.  Of course, being hippies, they stunk, ratty hair and all that. But being a cute girl grants a wide berth.  I doubt we tried to pick them up.  It wasn't the hippy part so much (I hadn't yet developed my disdain for all things patchouli); we simply had no game. But we talked.  I don't remember much of what we talked about.  The part that sticks was when Zeppelin played "Going to California," how they started crying.  It sounds terribly cheesy now.  Actually, it was pretty cheesy then.  But there was a certain sweetness to it, too.  So far from home, being so touched by the power of music.

But like I say, that was over 20 years ago.  My friend in Miami, Scott, tells this funny story about trying to go to a music festival in his 30s.  In the parking lot on his way in, he saw some kids doing drugs, and his first thought was to find a cop and say, "Arrest these kids!  These are bad people!"  And he knew then that his music festival days were behind him.

If it's too loud, you're too old.  I'm too old.

But on Sunday, the Hold Steady were playing.  There are four musical acts I will brave any condition to see live these days.  The Gaslight Anthem.  Tom Waits.  The Boss.  And the Hold Steady.

I'd seen the Hold Steady before, once on the Stay Positive tour, and again on the Heaven Is Whenever tour, and both times they were fucking amazing.

The Hold Steady is basically Craig Finn, who is probably the best lyricist going. This is no small compliment.  I take words seriously.  I love the Boss, but even he has a "Glory Days" and "Pink Cadillac" to throw the curve.  I can't think of a single Finn miscue. Check out the opening lines to the chorus to "Stuck between Stations."

         She was a really cool kisser / and she wasn’t all that strict of a Christian.
         She was a damn good dancer / but she wasn’t all that great of a girlfriend.

Fuck, man, there aren't that many lines I'd kill to have written.  But that's one of them.  And, really, I could say that about pretty much all of Finn's lyrics.

They come from Brooklyn, and like the Gaslight Anthem, make no secret about the debt owed to Springsteen.  I suffered through the 80s, clinging hard to the Replacements and the Smiths, and then came the 90s with that fucking grunge and singers who sound like their trying to take a shit.  I've waited a long time for bands like the GA and Hold Steady.  Which is why I see each every chance I get.  Even if it means a musical festival on Treasure Island, which was a pain in the ass to even get to, since they don't allow parking on the island; and now that Burning Man is over, the island was crawling with the soiled crafting vermin.

But, holy shit, was it worth it.

Before the HS played, Matt and I walked around, ate overpriced wraps, drank a pinot or two, listened to a couple other bands, one from England, whose lead singer danced like Elaine from Seinfeld.

(Speaking of Seinfeld, Craig Finn really does look like he could be George Costanza's long lost younger brother.)



We squeezed up front.  The Hold Steady (strangely playing without their keyboardist) kicked off with "Constructive Summer," a summer-of-youth rock anthem, which comes out of the breakdown, "I met your savior and knelt at his feet / he took my ten bucks and he went down the street / I tried to believe all the things that you said / but my friends are all dying or already dead" with "Raise a toast to St. Joe Strummer / I think he might've been out only decent teacher."  You really need to hear that shit in context.

One of the things that works in the Hold Steady's favor is just how unlikely a frontman Craig Finn makes.  A mix of Constanza and Elvis Costello, he's not the guy who gets the pretty girl.  Well, maybe he gets her, but only because he's been holding her hair while she throws up in the bathroom after drinking too much on the rebound and she tosses him a mercy handjob.  Finn is everyman.  And his songs are the songs of everyone's youth.  At least those of us who were never quite cool, except for our taste in music, books, and film.  We weren't the quarterbacks, and, yeah, we went to college, but we didn't do well; we fucked up, and we partied and got lost.  This is pretty much the prevailing theme of all the Hold Steady's songs. Killer parties and bad batches, pretty girls you can't save, shitty jobs, and hoping against hope that the summer doesn't end.  Essentially Springsteen 2.0, for a new nostalgia-starved generation.

After nailing "Constructive Summer," the band reeled off, in no particular order, "Magazines," "The Swish," "Your Little Hoodrat Friend," "Hurricane Jesse," "Southtown Girls," "Rock 'n' Roll Problems," and "Chips Ahoy," with the line "She put $900 on the fifth horse in the sixth race..." (Ever since first hearing that song, now every time my brother and I go to the track, we have to put some money on the fifth horse in the sixth race.  It never wins.)

They tore that shit up.  It was as perfect a set as I've ever heard.  Flawless, high octane rock, each song picking up where the other left off, and how they pulled off all these songs, which rely heavily on keys, without a keyboard player, is a testament to just how well these songs are constructed.  A really great song needs only a guitar and a voice, that's it.

In the words of Marty DiBergi, but enough of my yapping.  Here are some clips from the Best Rock Band in America.


I met Matt on Treasure Island.  He lives on the south side of the city.  I live in the El Cerrito Hills.  Matt got there early.  The Hold Steady were playing at 8:30, so I got there around 6:30, just as the sun had started to set.  I'd never been to Treasure Island, which offers a beautiful, up-close view of the city from a totally different perspective, its light twinkling colorful, Alcatraz and the Golden Gate shining bright. Because Matt was already inside the festival and was holding my ticket, I had to text him to meet me.  While I was waiting, I saw two hippy girls, clearly not from this country, dressed a little too funky to be American.  I heard them talk. They spoke English but sounded German.  Or maybe Polish.  Young, pretty, taking pictures of each other making goofy poses in front of the water, San Francisco in the background like postcard.  I asked if they would like me to take a picture of them together.  It's good to have mementos from times like that. 


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Monday, October 17, 2011

Down in the Trenches

When I was a very old undergrad (*actual conversation overheard by two 20 year-old girls on campus.  "That guy who works in the Writing Center, Joe, is really hot!" "I know.  But he's really old.  He's, like...34!), I edited the school's literary magazine, Helix.  Until I got there, the magazine was basically Xeroxed and stapled together, so I petitioned the school for a bigger budget, and by "bigger," I mean "any."  I worked my way through the various channels, eventually tapping into media funds available to students, and got us 20K a year, which I then used to publish my own poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and artwork, along with the work of my friends out in SF and my ex-wife, Hadley, in Minneapolis (this was before the second ill-fated marriage), promoting nepotism in glorious four-color, perfectly bound glory (my paintings graced the cover of all but one issue, if I recall).

The Internet had been invented while I was a junkie, and outside of Dan Jewett, none of us knew what the hell it was.  Terribly excited by getting sober, I was discovering things like e-mail and the web, the whole exchanging of goofy video clips of chipmunks playing the piano (I hadn't even yet tapped into the endless sleazy sea of online porn).  I forget how I stumbled on this one, but, fuck, it still makes me laugh.

It's right up there with Li'l Brudder and the Dramatic Prairie Dog (80's edition).

I wanted "I Am Better Than Your Kids" for my penultimate issue of Helix, and wrote the author, Maddox, a very humble and professional-sounding letter asking if I could please reprint his comic.  I was thrilled--and shocked--when I received a response in about four minutes, saying, sure.

"I can't believe he wrote me back!  And that I can use it for the magazine!" I said to my then-girlfriend/soon to be 2nd ex-wife, April.

"Why wouldn't he?  He's just some guy sitting around a computer in Idaho."

I didn't understand how all this shit worked, that pretty much anyone could get a website and/or blog for pretty much free.  (And, actually, Maddox, recently just signed a book deal and his I Am Better Than Your Kids comes out this November [Gallery Books], so I'd say he's got more going for him than most.

But I got April's point.  It's what we do, as people, assigning weight and importance to visibility and prominence.  I mean, Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian, all those talentless fucks, bank on it.


I've been receiving a lot of these letters (e-mails) recently.  Got this one Saturday morning.  I'll whittle it down to the essential parts...

  • unknown poet on other side of pond contacts established writer because he has nothing to lose‏

To see messages related to this one, group messages by conversation.

Dear Joe Clifford,  

I hope you do not mind me contacting you directly regarding your writing. Although I have only just discovered your work, I have been reading my way through your blog and I am a big fan. The post that prompted this email is Poetry (19th September 2011).
I have recently set up an online poetry magazine called Railway Poetry Project. I am admittedly influenced by American writers – the usual suspects – Bukowski, Kerouac, Ginsberg...
Railroad was set up in an attempt at tackling the problem of work simply not fitting time, place or style. We hope that it will showcase the work of talented writers who face this problem. It has generated a lot of interest in a short space of time...
We consider you to be a writer, who writes on his own terms, who refuses to tailor his writing to suit anyone, and this is what we hope to achieve, even if it is, in some small way.
Back to the post... “It's tough to understand poetry, at least in terms of its functionality in a modernized world"...  As writers of poetry this is something that we are concerned with... I was discussing this point with a friend and they asked if you wrote poetry. After searching your archives I found this post, and also found that if you have poetry lying around, you are reluctant to turn it out. 
I am not crazy enough to tell you what to write, or ask you to write for us, but since you have issues with all things poetry, I am crazy enough to ask, if you would be so kind as to donate one of your rare pieces to us?
If not, and I'm pretty much expecting 'not', it would be much appreciated if you would check us out and give your support.
In return all we can do is tell people how good a writer you are and send them in the direction of your work.
Many thanks for your time in reading this email and all the best with your writing. 
PS It really is refreshing to be in touch with a writer whose work really speaks to me - as most of them are dead. 
Such a courteous greeting!  I know the Brits are better mannered, but still.  It's almost an apology for disturbing me, as if I am this terribly busy, famous author run ragged between appearances on Letterman and The Daily Show.  Why would I care if someone writes me telling me how awesome I am?  I'm just some guy sitting at a computer in California.
A little later, my buddy, Rich, was telling me as we went running for our weekly Saturday jog (which was especially fun this week, since in addition to the arthritic hip, I now have a fucking plantar wart on the ball of my left foot),  how one of his friends at work is trying to create a "choose your own adventure" app for the iPhone.  This friend says he is going to contact some writers and wants to know how much he should offer to pay them.  And I was like, "Pay them?  He could fucking charge them."  That's how desperate writers are for validation and acceptance.
I wrote back Jade (in about four minutes), and was, like, Fuck yeah, you can publish my poetry.  Reluctant?  Here, take it all, whatever you want.  A "writer who writes on his own terms"?  Yeah.  Because no one gives a shit; I have nothing to lose.  I have an agent, who is essentially a pen pal.  I have no book deal, no publishing contract, no tour, no groupies offering hand jobs.  I'll take love wherever I can find it. I'm just a guy with a computer and a handful of stories floating around the web.  
Oh, and I have this blog.

Now I don't know if people find me unapproachable because I have this thing (, or if it's because I kind of sound like an irritable dick on it.  (I am actually a very nice guy.  I mean, I fucking hate people.  Conceptually, as a whole.  But on a one-on-one basis, I am very found of the fuckers.)
I tried to break into the "literary" world, and they didn't want me.  My personal trainer (at the time), Adam, suggested (as I bitched endlessly about not getting published) that I start a blog, because the art of exposure is a changing.  I've always considered myself a man of the people, a voice from the streets, so I figured why not?  And it's worked out splendidly, since it's become how I can justify not getting a prominent fellowship, invited to a colony, or accepted into a PhD program.  It's not that I'm not good enough; I'm just too lowbrow and common for the pretentious mutherfuckers (and I find the noir world imminently more friendly than the snobbish pricks who pen literary fiction anyway).
I have a showcase for my talents, people seem to like my stories, and it keeps me feeling like I am forging some sort of career, however delusional those assumptions may be.  And I get to interact
So if you want to write me, by all means, please do.  (It gives me an excuse to take a break from surfing that endless sleazy sea of online porn.)  You don't even have to be particularly polite.  I am honored that even one person gives a flying fuck what I have to say.
And now let me plug Railway Poetry Project (, since they clearly have excellent taste. Yes, I think poetry (in general) is a pretty stupid and a colossal waste of time.  But I like writing.  And I like Bukowski ( and the Beats, and Jade over there in England likes those things too.  And since Jade says nice things about me, I like him/her ("Jade" is a gender neutral, I think, and I'd hate to be accused of...something). 
So check them out, read, submit, share, and pretty soon you'll get to see some of my...poetry.
This is how it works down here in the trenches.  

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