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Candy and Cigarettes

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Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Max: I'm too nostalgic.  I'll admit it. 

Skippy: We graduated four months ago.  What can you possibly be nostalgic for? 

Max: I'm nostalgic for conversations I had yesterday.  I've begun reminiscing events before they even occur.  I'm reminiscing this right now.  I can't go to the bar because I've already looked back on it in my memory...and I didn't have a good time. 

                                                                           From Kicking and Screaming, 1995


I miss rehab.

It's hard to explain, unless you've been, what I'd miss about it.  From the outside, it probably doesn't seem like all that much fun.  For one, you're locked down, as in "can't leave unless someone let's you out."  You bunk in these cramped little rooms, like extra small dormitories at a really shitty school with smelly carpeting.  The food stinks.  The company ain't so hot.  Unless you consider being surrounded by twitching junkies, rummy alkies, and blister-lipped crackheads the In Crowd. You're treated like a child; you have to ask permission to do most everything.  Each morning you get woken up at 5 a.m. to have your vitals taken.  There are timers on the showers.  You spend 10 hours a day in groups about proper nutrition and relapse prevention, as if the Hobo Grille takes reservations and your chances of success are better than 1 in a 100 (they don't, and they're not).  Yet, I really miss it sometimes.

It'd be nice not to have to do anything again, y'know?  Just wake up, hit the smoking porch, mack on the pretty girls.  No future.  No worries.  Lighting up cigarette after cigarette, watching time methodically evaporate with the carcinogenic fumes...


It's strange the things we can get nostalgic for.  I was running with Rich on Saturday, talking about when we lived with George Murphy in this dumpy little apartment on Fair Oaks back in 19aught92.  Rich said, "We didn't know how good we had it."  And there was something to being 23 and free; being able to do whatever the fuck you wanted, no mortgage, no divorces, no time-sucking jobs or relationships, no nagging age-related issues like swelling prostates, hair in unwanted places, or busted hips.  Never mind that nothing much ever happened; that George and I hated each other; that Rich was stuck working a shit job at Guitar Center; that no one was getting laid with any regularity except me, and the girl I was sleeping with was an ex from hell who wouldn't go away, like a case of the herpes or a particularly stubborn foot fungus.  Forget that I was drinking too much, doing too many drugs, lost in a big city, lacking any semblance of direction.  It was a good time.  Because it wasn't now, and "not now" somehow always manages to produce favorable review.

How can it not?  In addiction they call it "euphoric recall."  Which is the way an addict mollies the unpleasant parts.  A dangerous proposition for anyone trying to get straight.  Hence the reason relapse rates are so high.  Sitting in a church basement, nursing tepid, stale coffee with powdered creamer that won't sink no matter how hard you push, you don't remember what it actually felt like having the cops pick you up or the time your baby girl saw you led out in handcuffs in the middle of the night; you don't remember fishing the cigarette butts from the bottom of the beer bottles in the morning or shitting yourself trying to make it back up the hill for your wake-up fix or any of the other dehumanizing, disgusting, despicable, deplorable alliterative actions.  Or maybe you remember the bad parts.  You just can't feel them.  And so when they roll around your head, they tumble out, lighter and less significant than the rest, those "good times," which your conscious gloms onto like sticky sweet candy, because, hey, everyone likes to feel good.  So you're back out the door running.

Working on resending this memoir, I've been rereading it (obviously), and the parts about rehab stand out.  There's a fondness there, a warm, summer-y nostalgia. Christ, spent enough time in them.  20 at last count.

In a lot of ways, rehab is like Club Med.  Minus the goofy synchronized dance numbers.  You have to appreciate where I was coming from, the life I was leaving behind (temporarily).  Yeah, the food stinks in rehab--compared to what I'm eating today (freshly grilled hanger steak on my indoor BBQ)--but back then, I was eating from vats of oatmeal at the soup kitchen, the soupy bits of discarded gutter burrito bottoms.  And those were on the good days.  Plenty of meals were skipped.  You're not walking across town just to eat.  You'll walk 87 blocks in the snow for dope. But food?  Meh.*  

(* A good analogy I once heard about the lengths required to get clean.  

Counselor: "You know how you'll trudge for six hours, through three towns, in the middle of a monsoon, without shoes, sick, hungry, tired, to get your dope?

Group: [Nodding enthusiastically]

Counselor: "Well, you have to be willing to go to those same lengths for your sobriety."

Group: [Staring silently]

Fat Bob: "What the fuck is he talking about?")

Rehab was a safe haven, a respite, a time out from the daily grief.  It was never intended to be a permanent solution (at least not in the beginning).  You went from freezing your ass off during rainy season, fishing through the garbage for a piece of pie crust, to being indoors, warm and having a fresh pair of socks.  You had your own room and access to a shower (albeit timed to discourage suicide and/or incessant masturbation), a TV, friends who weren't going to jump you in the middle of the night and steal your stash (at least most of the rehabs I was in; the ones in Boston got pretty rough).  It was almost worth the trade-off.


It was a big fucking trade-off.  Namely, not having any drugs.  I shouldn't say "any," because most--though not all--rehabs usually gave you a little something to take the edge off.  Methadone.  Buprenorphine.  Something.  

Some places, however, were hard-asses.  Withdrawing from alcohol can kill you, so they'll always make sure you're medicated.  You won't die from withdrawing from opiates.  You just wish you would.

Rehab was a vacation from your real life.  Like addiction itself, it created strange bedfellows (often quite literally).  You spend most of your days on the inside in groups.  And you make fun of them on the smoking porch, the touchy feely-ness of it all (yet another run-through of the food pyramid and the importance of whole grains and fiber in your diet!), because being a goofball, mocking the sincerity of others is always an easy mark.  Like the smart ass in high school biology staging fake fights with the dissected frogs.  The burnouts sit in the back and make fun of anyone taking it seriously; it's what they do.  But it's all a process.  

Each time I returned, I sat closer to the front.  Each time I went back, I learned better the jokers to avoid, to take it a little more to heart.  I can see now that each trip was a vital step toward getting well, how they were helping me before I even knew it, finding a way to penetrate this thick skull of mine, getting me to this place I am today.  Even in the beginning when I was treating it like a joke, there was that little part of me, the part that was still good, honest, decent, that saw a light, a way out. And later, when I dug in my heels, it was still without real-world consequence.  A state of suspension.  Just 24 hours a day where you got to work  When else do you get months, uninterrupted, to do that?   

Then again, I sometimes think I even miss high school, even though I know for a fact that it sucked balls.  Maybe I could just look up some former rehab mates on Facebook, rehash the past, post some goofy videos.

None of which would change anything.  Like any reminiscing, it isn't the moment you really miss; it's the time, a longing to get back and visit that younger you. Which is never possible.  Thankfully.  Since there is no way reality could stand up the to recollection.

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Monday, January 30, 2012


After the hards rains a-fell last weekend (the night before the 49ers' humiliating defeat), I was in the basement, working out on the elliptical.  Ever since I bought the machine, I've noticed a considerable improvement in my arthritic hip.  Of course the secret with any sort of exercise routine is actually doing it, something the revolutionaries at the local gym should have stopped doing  I don't have to worry about that.  Thank God for OCD.

I've been using the elliptical twice daily, which has made a huge difference, since it harnesses a full range of motion, like running, but without the hard pounding. Anyway, this second run at night before I go to bed has made sleeping and walking easier, less pain, less waking up.  Except for the six times I get up to take a piss because my prostate's probably the size of a pomelo.  Love getting old.

Last weekend, the storm was brutal.  We got these big ass trees up here on the hill and I was waiting for one of them to come crashing down on the house.  The wind and rain relentless, I wouldn't have been surprised if the foundation uprooted and we went spinning into the sky...

So I'm grinding away on the elliptical, flipping through the stations, bouncing back between ESPN and NFL Network, listening to the pundits talk about how Alex Smith has finally arrived and predicting the big game he's gonna have the next day, when I notice one of the basement walls looks like it's sweating.  Not gushing water, or even trickling, but you can clearly see where it's wet, spreading down the concrete. This is not good.  I call my wife to show her, and she's freaking out that it's going to cost a fortune, which gets me all worked up.  Which is not hard to do.  I was actually calm for once, thinking this sort of thing must happen all the time. Concrete is porous; it's gonna crack.  The house was built in 1961.  We spackle some shit on it or whatever and we'll be fine.  By the time she's done with me, she has me half convinced I'm going back to living under the freeway, eating roasted black swan stew.

On Monday, I call our fix-it guy, Mario, to see what we can do about it.  He comes over on his lunch break.  Won't be cheap, he says.  We're looking at close to 10K. Just fucking terrific.

I'm thinking, What the fuck?  I just bought this house and now there might be major structural damage?  Insurance isn't going to cover this.  A full-on gusher, maybe. But not this.  So I'm just going to have to wait until my walls start crumbling? Or shell out ten grand?  Why's this shit always have to happen to me?

Mario says he wants to check under the house, see if the wall is leaking elsewhere (he's guessing it is, hence the steep price tag). We have a crawl space where the hot water heater is, some old paint, a ladder.  I'm cursing under my breath as he crawls up in there.  And sure enough, more water. All along the edges.  We're going to have to reinforce the entire western front.

"You smell that?" Mario asks.

"Smell what?"

"Smells like...gas."

All the drugs I snorted years ago robbed me of (most of) my sense of smell.  I can't smell jack.  Fucking deviated septum.  I spend hours in that basement, never smelled a damn thing.

He asks me to get some Windex, and then he starts spraying around the hot water heater, which was newly installed when we moved in.  He hits one of the valves and it starts bubbling like crazy.  Gas leak.  Even if I hadn't abused cocaine, I never would've thought to spray Windex to find a gas leak.  I'm just not wired that way.

"This is really bad," Mario says, grabbing his wrench.  "Whoever installed this didn't tighten the valve.  If these things are tightened properly, they are designed to never loosen."  He smiles.  "No worries.  I fix."

Mario hopped down.  "That was as bad a gas leak as I've ever seen.  I'm surprised there wasn't an explosion or a fire."

That heater was installed almost a year ago.  Who knows how long it'd been leaking, or the next time I'd have a buddy over who still smokes.  All it would've taken would've been one little spark.

And if it hadn't stormed so hard last weekend, if the concrete hadn't cracked and my walls weren't leaking, I might never have known until it was too late.


I don't believe in coincidences.  That Pink Floyd tune synching to the Wizard of Oz scene is some freaky shit, man.  If you've never tried it, you should check it out. Trippy.  Like the track "Money" kicks in right when the movie switches over to color and the streets turn gold.  I don't think Gilmour and Co. sat down and watched WoZ when they were recording Dark Side, but the cohesion is downright eerie.  And I watched that shit stone cold.  I can't explain it.  It's sorta like the opening to Magnolia.  (You can skip to the 2 minute mark.)  A series of events on a string. Like Schrodinger's cat.

So many years have gone by since my old drug life.  I don't feel it any more.  I can remember some of it, a choice detail here or there, but the bone-ache, gut scrap that once haunted my nightmares, I don't feel.  They are nothing but snapshots, a clipped scene culled from an old movie or book I came across a long time ago. Still, I often ask why.  Especially when I start getting misty over all the years I missed. This hurts a lot when I look at my boy and think of my mom.  She would've loved nothing more than to meet Holden.  But she died before I could get my shit together.  I kick myself, wondering why I couldn't have sobered up faster, at least given her a few years with him.  I knew she was dying, and I tried (oh, dear God, how I tried).  But I was too late.  Why did it have to happen the way it did?

I don't know the answer.  And it's OK that I don't.  It's one of the things that tripped me up in the first place, this pressing need for an answer.  It's why I denied God (or whatever you want to call it).  I used logic and the sum of my vast experience and knowledge and tried to force a picture.  And that might've worked if I had 99 out of 100 pieces. But what if I only had 3 of a thousand?  Six hundred and forty seven million? Pretty distorted view.  It's one of the nice parts of getting sober.  There is no burning need to figure it all out, the whys and hows.  Better yet, you learn not to force your will on the world.  Lord knows, I am not an AAer, but I like their bumper stickers. At first I laughed at "Let Go, Let God."  OK.  I still laugh at it.  But it doesn't make it any less true.  God.  The Universe.  Mother Fucking Nature.  The Collective Unconscious.  Whatever It is.  It's like the old joke.  I've learned two things.  1.) There is a God.  And 2.) I ain't Him.

Really, I'm not getting Holy Roller on you, promise.  But there is a relief, especially when you are an obsessively compulsive mutherfucker, when you accept you don't have all the answers.

Or to quote the old MTV ad.  "What do you do when you are 26 (or 41) and realize you're not meant to save the world?"

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Ride Free

There's more than a few ideological differences my wife and I have when it comes to raising our son, Holden.  I talked about one of these the other day, his eating meat, which was a knock-down, drag-out brawl.  I eventually won.  But not without heavy concessions to the other side (apparently, I have to endure another pregnancy, which was really hard on me the first time).  There was also the heated circumcision question.  To me, I didn't see any room for debate.  Where I'm from, you got circumcised or your name was Barry and we kicked the living shit out of you in gym class*.

                                * I never really beat up a kid named Barry with an uncircumcised dick.

Justine is from Northern California, meaning born and bred in the Bay Area, the epicenter of liberalism and legislation to protect you from yourself.  Justine has traveled extensively, but her roots bore deeply here.  I'll never forget one couple's therapy session (yeah, I go to fucking couple's therapy.  So fucking what?  We have problems with our fucking communication).  After I'd been bitching about Justine's wanting to foster kids like we're Jolie/Pitt, our wiccan priestess of a counselor says, "Joe, you do know you've married an Earth Mother, right?"

Earth Mother.  Jesus.  Makes my balls shrivel even thinking of the expression.  Just this side of "praying to the burning gods on the playa" in the lexicon of shit that makes me want to move back east, shave my head, and join a gang. This New Age, subculture, third-eye crap permeates everything they do out here.  Now there is a lot that I love about San Francisco.  It is a place where success isn't defined by the kind of car you drive or how high up you work or live; a place where you are free to be who you are (or as much as any of those things can be true in a modern, industrialized society).  The percentage of folks with college degrees out here is staggering, not that having a college degree necessarily translates to intelligence. Some of the smartest people I know didn't even go to college.  But one thing an education does tend to do is foster feelings of inclusion, rather than exclusion.  And even though I hate most mutherfuckers, that is a good thing.

But everything comes with a price; reciprocity is the currency on which this universe runs.  And the by-product of all this is an oversensitivity that borders on cloying.  Hence, a championing of being politically incorrect.  Which is basically people now thinking they have an excuse to not be polite.  And if there is one thing that pisses Joe off it is not employing proper etiquette (my first wife made me read Amy Vanderbuilt's The Complete Book of Etiquette, quizzing me if I wanted to get some.  So hot).

                               You see how thick this shit is?  Cover to fucking cover.  "It's lunch time, asshole.  The napkin gets folded in half."

Most of these "Earth Mother," hippy traits of my wife I can ignore.  Despite her assertion that they form the bulk of her person, I see these characteristics as mostly minor, inconsequential details, like Mandy Moore on Scrubs saying "That's so funny" instead of actually laughing.

Which just proves what we already know.  Really attractive people can get away with just about anything (see Amanda Knox).  Justine is an absolute doll of a woman, smart, gorgeous, amazing mom, so what if I have to deal with the occasional tearing up when they show cat juggling videos from South America?

It's a little tougher to ignore with my in-laws, who are both full-fledged, card-carrying (-burning burner) hippies, who bless chakras and comment on the strength of someone's chi, but generally I let it pass, even when grandpa leads a drum circle procession into my house for my son's first birthday, or when grandma dresses him like a baby monk because chia seeds sprouted all over him.  It's the Bay Area. Drum circles here are like tipping cows back in Berlin.  Just what you do.

Of course, when it comes to actually raising our boy, navigating these issues gets a whole lot trickier.  If you read this blog often, you know I think my old man was a douche.  And he was.  God rest his soul.  But like Mark Twain said, the older I get, the smarter my father becomes.  The guy did get a few things right.  Like raising us in the country.

I am glad I grew up in the wide open spaces without much adult supervision, free to do stupid shit like testing the ice on the pond in the thaw of spring, until you'd hear it crack and rush to see if you could make it back to shore in time (Sorry, Roger; we miss you).  And riding our bikes, zipping down steep hills and over gravel pits, taking air off poorly constructed homemade ramps, doing tricks to impress our dipshit friends.  It's what being a kid is all about.

Seriously, how many chances do you have to feel cool as a kid?  Your mom picks out your clothes, you get those fucking goofy haircuts; you're old enough to crave freedom but too little to do jack about it.  Riding my bicycle--without a helmet--was one of the few moments I felt a reprieve.  Nobody was bundling me up and strapping on elbow- and kneepads.  It was my fucking Huffy and a big ass hill; and, yeah, I crashed a lot, and, yes, I've been diagnosed with brain damage, but no one can prove those things are related.  And don't forget, in the "big crash," it was the rest of my body that got fucked up, not my head.

I aim to win the support of the masses with these posts, and I realize this one is a losing fight.  No one is writing in and saying that encouraging my kid not to wear a helmet is a good idea. Of course he's going to wear a helmet.  It's the fucking law. More importantly, my wife says he has to, and when you win the 2 meat skirmishes, like I said, you have to concede other battles.  I am not even saying he shouldn't wear a helmet.  No way I could live with myself if the boy ever got hurt because of something I did (or didn't do).  I just think the '70s were a pretty cool time to be a kid.

I'll probably get a ticket out here for even writing this.  But hillbillies and rednecks get a few things right.  My son is going to grow up probably speaking four languages and eating kale chips, and he is more apt to do yoga than he is boxing. But never riding his bike too fast down a gravelly ravine, no helmet, the wind in his hair, trying to impress his version of Tracy B. with some ill-advised, hot-shot show-off move, and then fighting back the tears when he scraps his knees and face to shit?  That's what'll make a man out of you.

                                                           Skip to 2:50

Listen, I'd put the boy in a suit made of styrofoam and keep him in a bubble if I could.  I don't want to see him ever stub a toe.  That's what it's like when you're a parent.  But some of the best memories of my childhood came from doing stupid shit, the starting fires and playing with hornets nests, and yes going too fast on a bike without a helmet.  It's a shame, is all.  But I guess that's why we have moms. Otherwise we'd let the kid eat pancakes and pizza and Pop Rocks all day, and stay up half the night ogling half naked pictures of Kate Upton.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Guilty Conscience

Got stopped by the cops on my way to pick up Holden from daycare yesterday afternoon.  The police up here are a little quick with the trigger, especially if they think you live in the flats and are trolling in the hills for...I have no idea what. Scenic, panoramic views from newly restored golf courses?  My license still has me at our old place down by the freeway.  When I explained I'd recently moved and gave him the new address, he seemed to grow nicer.  Maybe it's my imagination. Maybe he was never going to give me a ticket for not using my turn signal.  Which is what I was accused of doing.  Although I am pretty sure I did.  I'm an extremely cautious driver. But we all make mistakes, and I was listening to Tierney and Davis's "The Drive" on 95.7's new sports talk station, "The Game," and a debate over whether Alex "Whiskey Dick" Smith deserves a long-term deal, which was getting me worked up.  So obviously I could've been distracted.

In the end, the cop was a very nice guy and only issued a warning.  He did, however, give me a fix-it ticket, since my proof of insurance had expired.  It'll cost me a few bucks for a transaction fee, and that should be the end of it.

Except cops freak me the fuck out.

I know, nobody likes cops, and most everyone gets nervous when they see the lights flashing in the rearview.  I once got stopped with my buddy C-Love in Miami, and of course I hadn't been drinking.  You couldn't pay me to take Communion and get behind the wheel.  C-Love was a little blotto, and he'd been smoking these clove cigarettes.  The cop that stopped us in Miami was your stereotypical short fucker. Maybe 5'2", hitching up like a miniature cowboy.  Looked like that asshole prison guard in The Green Mile.

And I was nervous.  Despite the fact that I'd done nothing wrong, my hands shook. They see you jittery and and that's always the question you'll get: "What are you so nervous for?"  It's the same question I got when I was carrying $500 worth of dope in the trunk of a stolen car, and it's the same one I got when I was going to feed my girlfriend's cat, stone cold sober.  Doesn't take much to get me worked up.  The answer I gave in Miami was something like "Isn't everyone who gets stopped by the cops nervous?"  Wrong answer.

 "Not if they've done nothing wrong," Percy said, eyes narrowing down.

Then he was on the horn, saying he smelled marijuana, which I'm guessing was from the clove cigarettes because I sure as shit wouldn't be driving with someone smoking pot in my car.  This was long after I kicked the bad habits, and pot was about the last thing I'd smoke when I was fucked up.  He shouted to bring in the hounds.  You can argue over whether weed should be legal or whatever.  Fuck, I think all drugs should be legal.  Regulate and tax, what do I care? But you ain't driving in my car with them until they are.

Anyway, after a lot of short man bluster, no dogs ever showed, and we were let go, but not before I got the ol' stink eye.

           Next bullshit article you read about how the 49ers all had Kyle Williams's back after the fumble, remember this pic.

It strange how fears can become ingrained, the result of a past you may not even be consciously aware of.  I read somewhere once that black people, collectively, tend to be fearful of dogs because back in the 1800s dogs were used by plantation owners to chase after escaped slaves, and that somehow this deep-seated fear has literally fused into their DNA through the generations, making most black people naturally apprehensive around dogs, like an instinct.  I have no idea the legitimacy of that, and I kinda don't want to touch anything that paints an entire race this or that.  Objectively looking at that theory, it seems like a cross between urban legend or something an egghead would propose for a thesis.  Maybe I'm wrong. Dogs used to scare the shit out of me too.  Had this giant doberman that would chase me around Berlin whenever I went running.  I guess that's why we adopted an 8-lb. poodle named Lucky.

                                      Does this look like the face of a scofflaw, Officer?

I only use the above...theory...because it's how I feel about cops.  A distrust and fear, however illogical, deeply ingrained and sewn into the very fabric of my being. I spent so much time getting pushed around and harassed and violated by the police that, even now, when I am a teetotallin' Johnny Q. Law Abider, I still panic. Heart thumping.  Hand shaking.  I mean, I'm a jumpy mutherfucker to begin with, I know, but for those of you who have never been "in the system," it's far worse than what you see on TV and in the movies.

I'll put to rest any James Frey-like grandiose claims of my extensive life on the inside.  I spent one night in a prison, and a grand total of, maybe, fifteen nights behind bars.  I am not a tough guy.  Not even close.  Although I do like this song.

Even Mike Ness gets tamed by old age.  (Was that a fucking jazz intro?)  No, I was just a white suburban kid, who, like Sam once said, was like every book she ever read.  Add my name to the thousands of skinny sickly slinking junkies all over the city, with the doe eyes and outstretched hands, bitching about how nobody ever gives them a fair shake.

I'm not saying the cops pushing me around--and they did push--wasn't deserved. You can debate whether using illegal drugs strips you of your personhood or whatever.  I'm not going to do that.  At the time, I felt victimized.  Now it's later and I can see why I was treated the way I was.  Terms like "deserve" or "fairness" don't really factor in when you are living that way.  I mean, if you are violating and circumventing every law, making special allowances for yourself, it seems a wee bit hypocritical to be bemoaning others not playing it by the book.

Doesn't make a difference, the right or wrong of it.  All that matters is that when I walked away, I was saddled with a PTSD sort of problem (and, no, not like a solider. Like a guy who was fucked up from a traumatic situation).  And that world was traumatic.  Getting rousted at dawn in a squat; accosted in a Nordstrom's parking lot, or outside a 7-11, helmets put on your head and beat senseless; cops walking in and stealing money from bathrobes.  This was my life and my friend's lives for a long time.  You can assign all the blame on outlaws doing wrong.  Fine.  Doesn't change the memories you take with you.

It's not like I wake up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night screaming, "Charlie!", and start humping the nearest doorknob.  But I am still skittish around the cops, and a part of me still thinks, even when it's a routine stop, that something will show in that system, something I thought I'd long ago cleared up and had expunged, or maybe I'll simply enter the Twilight Zone, where there is no rhyme or reason, only suffering and retribution.  Because a part of me still expects to be hauled before a court, cosmic or otherwise, and held more accountable for my past transgressions. It's the old Catholic in me, a burdening guilt that needs to be recognized and punished.

When I went back east to my 20th High School Reunion, I was surprised at how much fun it was.  I got along with everyone.  I still had my hair, looked better than many of my classmates.  I was on, zipping and zapping, felt pretty charming, and had one of the (if not the) prettiest girl on my arm most of the night.  We all joked with one another, and I probably got a little goofier than I'd intended.  I was feeling good.  I figured I would hate something like a high school reunion, and I didn't consider most of these classmates my friends, but with all the years that had passed, I found myself truly enjoying the company.  The problem had been me, all along.

Until one of my former classmates, who is now a cop, came up and whispered in my ear.

"Something ain't right with your eyes," he said.  "I see those eyes all the time on the job.  Something ain' right."

And then he smiled and walked away.

In Berlin, I'm sure everyone knew about my "problem" and run-ins with the law. We were the bad Clifford kids.  Was he just fucking with me?  Did he know he'd just touched on my biggest fear?  Had he been waiting 20-some-odd years for his revenge because he didn't like the way I used to draw cartoons of him with really bushy hair in Mrs. Black's class?  Maybe he was just goofin' too.  But it got to me.

It's what I fear when cops stop me.  That they will take a look in my eyes and see what lurks behind them: the broken, bad parts of a broken, bad man.  Doesn't work that way, I know.  I mean, unless you live in the south.  I feel rest assured that in SF, no one is tying me to the back of a pick-up and dragging me down a dirt road.  It's more the concern that they can see through the slickly polished veneer and facade, to a black heart full of malice, and they will know I am guilty for so many things, so many bad, cruel, selfish actions, so many wicked thoughts.  I fear they will see the sickness inside me.  And if they were to call me on it, how could I deny it?  When I've suspected it's been there all along.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Juju Hexus

Still reeling from the devastating 49ers defeat this past weekend.  Thought the original Wiggles reforming might've tempered the disappointment and disgust.  No such luck.  I take sports seriously.  My wife is just learning this.  To her, sports are a trifling interest, a mild curiosity, like when one's favorite dancer fails to advance to the next round of America's Next Talentless Tart or whatever those shows are she watches where people suddenly burst into song.  (I don't get it.  Cop Rock was retarded enough the first time it was on.)

My lovely wife can't understand how a team losing can ruin my night, next day, sometimes even ensuing weeks, months.  She says she's never seen it before.  I tried explaining it to her, and then we got in a fight, and I said that this is what happens when you date a man with actual testicles.  She said that was mean.  Perhaps it was. But in my defense, Justine had kicked me out of the basement, where I'd gone to watch the NFC Championship Game, and where the 49ers had just taken the lead. See what I'm saying?  When I went to the basement, the 9ers were losing.  When she kicked me out, they were winning.  My wife had just fucked with sports juju. And every guy knows, you don't fuck with sports juju.

I've tried to explain this to a number of ex-girlfriends and -wives.  They never get it, how I can control the outcome of games through my sheer focus, determination, will, and of course my vast array of hexes.  I remember the time one girlfriend came out in the middle of a marathon extra inning ballgame and caught me putting a hex on an opposing pitcher*.  Sitting there in my boxers, chain-smoking, and wiggling my fingers at a TV screen, I am sure I looked pretty silly.  To a woman.  But when I explained the scene to all my dude friends, they were like "Of course.  It was extra innings."

                                                         *Every guy does it.  Apparently they even sell hexes on the Internet these days. 

There are a lot of theories out there posited by eggheads about sports being a substitute for war.  But they're eggheads.  It's what they do, overanalyzing and trying to quantify, not getting laid and being all eggheady.  It's not that complicated, really.  It starts early on, a man's love of sports.  It's how we determine pecking order on the blacktop, a subversion of the weak, a championing of the strong, which later translates to who scores the prettiest girls, because this shit is hardwired.  The ability to dunk a basketball or throw a 40-yard spiral registers on a cellular level with the ladies and makes 'em all squishy.  Only the strong survive and all that. Which I suppose is sorta like war, if you want to break it down to a raping-and-pillage kind of existence.  But, again, I'll leave that to the eggheads.

Now I know there are some dudes out there who don't care about sports, and that's cool.  I mean, we probably can't be friends or anything.  Which I don't think will break anyone's heart.  I can get pretty moody, and I don't like letting people borrow my shit anyway.  I went through this phase where I thought, since I was an artist, I should pretend to revile competitive athletics.  This period, which took place in the early '90s, coincided with my going vegetarian and thinking yoga was an acceptable form of exercise.  It was about the time I got the "Peace, Love, and Understanding" tattoo on my left biceps.  But I was young, impressionable, didn't know any better.

Of course, Justine is a vegetarian.  Even worse, when we started dating she was...vegan.  Fighting to keep my boy from developing the pasty, unhealthy pallor of the undead and grow up a normal*, healthy carnivore was not an easy one.  But it was one I knew I had to take on.  Which made moments like yesterday morning, where my boy ate three hearty sausage links dipped in extra butter, that much sweeter.

*It's true.  Check it out.  Man was meant to eat meat.  My biology teacher at City College told me so.

It's funny, in a way, since I've spent so much of my life running from the stereotypical machismo of my old man and the close-minded rigidity of the East Coast.  Yet, here in my old age (41.  Don't let the rakish features and crisp, flinty glow fool you), I find myself embracing these ideals.  Maybe it's not funny, this returning to one's roots, since it's a natural inclination to go back to where it all began.  Like elephants going to die.  Not geographically, necessarily.  No offense to my Berlin friends, but I don't think I could live anywhere without a Whole Foods and grass-fed, organic meats.

I was raised on sports.  Wasn't very good at them.  Loved baseball but couldn't hit the hook.  Tried football but was too spacey to remember all those plays. And I was smaller back then, my rage not yet fully focused.  Even boxed a year in college.  I think I would've been an OK boxer if I had the discipline I do now.  But I didn't then.  And now I'm too old.  I've always been too pretty for the sport anyway.

My lack of athletic prowess, however, did not stop my rabid fandom, and more importantly my need to compete, excel, and vanquish.  And if you are powerless to determine the outcome on the field of play by actually playing, you learn to impact the game in other ways.

I haven't read the Hart Seely book, whose cover I use above, but if the book description on Amazon is accurate, it sounds fucking awesome (and totally true):

Did you know there is a secret to winning ballgames? It’s not players, managers, money, or luck. It’s the fans’ juju, and no one knows it better than Hart Seely. Seely has spent a lifetime practicing the art of juju from his living room and winning ballgames for the New York Yankees. He paces floors. He yells at defenseless TVs. He rallies the team like Churchill addressing the collective British soul. All this to harness juju energy to influence the outcome of games. And it works.

In this uproarious, unforgettable fan confessional, Seely shares the secrets of juju for the beginner—“Setting the Table,” asking for a called strike instead of a walk-off homer—to advanced juju—“Bringing the Neg,” predicting bad events to keep them from actually happening—to the deepest, darkest secrets of this age-old art. Nostalgic, heartwarming, and laugh-out-loud funny, The Juju Rules is a memoir of a life well lived in service to one’s team that shows how love can be a powerful passion in the best way.

And all this time I thought it was just I who was willing the Yankees to victory. Apparently, I haven't been walking this path alone.  Kind of like Jesus and those footprints.

If you watched the 49er debacle on Sunday and you are looking for whom to blame, you might want to start with the obvious and return man Kyle Williams for buttering up his palms with olive oil before each punt, or you may choose to flex a little football knowledge and highlight Greg Roman's refusal to work the middle of the field with any semblance of a crossing pattern, or you could point a finger at Michael Crabtree's puppy love with the Giant D-backs and his utter inability to maintain any degree of separation.  Then there is always my personal favorite whipping boy, Alex "Whiskey Dick" Smith, whose O-fer 3rd down conversation percentage staggers beyond paltry (sorry, Whiskey Dick, you don't get credit for the last play in regulation when the Giants effectively let you have the underneath).  But the truth is the loss falls squarely on my shoulders.  OK. Technically, my wife's, for kicking me out of my own basement. But I know the power of juju, not her.  It's just that, for a moment, I doubted it.  And that doubt cost a city a chance to celebrate a fifth Super Bowl appearance, an opportunity to revel in excellence and send that mole-faced Eli Manning back underground for the winter where he belongs; and for that, San Francisco, I am sorry.  

Not that Kyle Williams, Greg Roman, Michael Crabtree, and Alex Smith shouldn't all go get fucked.  And not in the good way. 

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Monday, January 23, 2012

Ranking the Kids' Shows: the Cutthroat World of being a Wiggle

No one ever said rock 'n' roll wasn't a cutthroat business.

The big news over the weekend, and by "big" I mean if you have a kid under 3, is Greg, the original Yellow Wiggle, is coming back.  Yes, I'm fucking serious. (And, no, I am not talking about the 49ers' suck job and Alex "Whiskey Dick" Smith picking a fine time to come up limp again.  And Kyle Williams?  Fuck you too.)

I'm a huge fan of the Wiggles, my fondness well documented.  When Greg Page, the singer/songwriter--and let's just say it, visionary--behind the Wiggles was forced to step down due to a debilitating illness that caused him to faint a lot on stage (something that might be hard to explain to kids), he handed over lead singer reins to Sam Moran, a nebbish understudy who quickly became the de facto face of the franchise.

I never liked Sam.  I honestly don't know what he contributed in terms of songwriting, my exposure to his fronting the Wiggles limited to a few seconds of "Day-O" in a Sprout promo, but he seemed to me to lack the stature, both physically and metaphorically, to lead the band.  But in all fairness to Sam, it's tough to follow the genius of "Fruit Salad" and "Hot Potato."  Kind of like stepping into the shoes of Joe Montana and Steve Young.  Jeff Garcia never had a chance.

A few of you might be wondering where the joke in all this is.  There isn't one.  Yes, I may, technically, be a tattooed, big-gunned, former felon, but I'm a dad now.  And if you are a parent, you know how fucking important a vital Wiggles are to your sanity.  Without the Wiggles, it's goddamn Disney playground, Justine Beiber; it's fucking Barney.

Once the elation subsided, I did a quick Google search to see how the big move went down, which though not quite as cool as David Lee returning to Van Halen, is still a fairly big shakeup in my rock 'n' roll world these days*.

(*Speaking of Diamond Dave's return, anemic new single "Tattoo" notwithstanding, Gluehead used to date a former groupie of the band, who told this funny story how after a VH show back in its heyday Roth would cherry-pick the prettiest girls to take to Burger King in his boogie van.  They'd get a large order of onion rings and sit in the parking lot. The girls would play horseshoe.  Whoever got one on was allowed eat the onion ring off.)

The behind-the-scenes angles always fascinate me, the rock 'n' roll soap opera. And, boy, did Yellow Sam get fucked.

Tough exit for yellow Wiggle Sam Moran

By Holly Byrnes
January 19, 2012 12:30PM

THE rift between former Yellow Wiggle Sam Moran and the reformed original kids super group deepened today, with Anthony Field dismissing the dumped singer as "a hired hand."

Responding to The Daily Telegraph's revelations that Moran was mocked as the "salaried Wiggle" and paid a fraction of the group's $28.2 million earnings, Field told Today show entertainment reporter Richard Wilkins he hadn't spoken to "the guy" he shared a stage with for five years--replaced yesterday with original member, Greg Page.

"What Sam does now is Sam's thing. His contract has come to an end," Field said. "Sam was just doing a job.  He was a hired hand ... I haven't spoken to him"...

The cold "hired hand" comment totally echoes what Morrissey once famously (and heartlessly) said of the Smiths' rhythm section, Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce, when he called them "as readily replaceable as parts of a lawnmower" over a dispute concerning royalties.  As far as Rourke and Joyce go, they were pretty damn good, but you can understand the lead singer hubris.  Here, Moran was the lead singer.  

Apparently, of that $28 million in yearly income, Sam was paid a pittance of $200K, with his buyout being 3-months' salary, or about $60K.  Rather than take a dig at Anthony (he's the Blue Wiggle for all you keeping score at home), whose former band was, coincidently enough, called the Cockroaches, Sam took the high road, posting this upbeat, if heavy-hearted, video, urging the children to "keep wigglin'." That's very good advice, Sam.  Both when you are unceremoniously dumped from a children's singing group and, you know, if you are a fish.

This can't come as a total surprise to anyone.  At least not anyone who saw the documentary Death to Smoochy (at least I think it was a documentary), which chronicled the seedy underbelly (and rampant backstage sexcapades) of kiddie shows.

The best line in all this came when Jeff (that's the Purple one whose superpower is a Wonder Twin-eque napping) said this will "give Sam the chance to spend more time with his family."  You think, Jeff?  Ouch.

Frankly, I've never been able to figure out what Jeff (Purple) or Anthony (Blue) even do in the group.  Murray (the Red Wiggle) at least plays the guitar.  If any two should be "salaried Wiggles" it's those two dead weights.  It's funny when you strip away the family-friendly veneer and realize that what lurks behind all the smiles and Big Red Cars is the evil, petty heart of man, who will fuck over just about anyone if it means an extra dollar to add to their pile of millions.

I'm sure Sam will be OK.  He's an avid Star Trek fan and has his own "grown-up" singing career.  If ever two skills could be combined for guaranteed success...

Not that I care.  I'm just happy to have Greg back.  It simply wasn't the Wiggles without him.

Who's up for a little celebratory "Fruit Salad"?

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Friday, January 20, 2012

And Here's How You Can Help Pt. II

You know it must be a big deal if I am posting on a Friday.  It is.  Sort of.  Not really.  OK, maybe.  But I could use your help.

You probably remember my telling you (i.e., bitching about) this one particular editor at a publishing house, who loved the memoir, read it in one sitting, passed it along to her sales' team, and they said "Fuck you" (i.e., they didn't think they could sell it).  This was little over a year ago.  Anyway, when I split with my agent last month, I wrote this editor back, saying, Hey, I know you passed, but you seemed to really like the book, and since we (my agent and you) spoke I've built up a pretty decent marketing platform (via my Shameless Self-Promotion Tour and this blog), any ideas where I can send it next?  She never wrote back.  Wasn't surprised.  These people are busy.  You get one shot and that's it.  And this was a long shot.  I was violating protocol by writing directly.  Didn't let it hurt my feelings (any more than they already were).  No big deal.  I started targeting smaller indie houses on my own.  And I am still awaiting my first rejection response.

Yesterday I received an e-mail from that editor, apologizing for the delay in responding, and saying that, yes, she indeed liked the book very much and though her house passed at the time, circumstances sometimes change.  She said that I should resubmit the proposal, highlighting the recent press I've been receiving and anything else I can think of to aid my cause.  It was a very nice note.  Don't often get second chances, and I appreciate her taking the time out.  Not sure how much of a second chance this is, but these houses are busy and editors aren't in the business of blowing smoke up your ass.  They just don't respond if they are not interested (like the folks at NBC, to whom I pitched my pilot).  I am mildly optimistic.  And of course I am going to send the manuscript and proposal back in.

Holy fuck I wish I had never seen that video.  I used to sort of like that song.  The Alan Cummings cut is never a good look on a man.

You can't ignore the importance of a marketing platform.  As a writer, your first instinct is, Fuck that shit.  That ain't my job.  I'm the artist!  Then you spend a few years sleeping in a park and eating at Glide Memorial, and realize that there are rules, and that publishing, like every other enterprise in this world, is about making money (we're not talking about those pinko commie bastards).  Walt Disney didn't erect theme parks around the globe to provide wholesome family entertainment. Actually, he did--so he could then turn around and charge a shit-ton of money for a turkey drumstick and the memories of a lifetime.  And ain't nothing wrong with that. Publishers, lovers of books though they may be, are not in this business for charity. I am sure many are nauseated over having to publish tomes from illiterate fat tarts in New Jersey.  But most books lose money.  Everyone is a goddamn writer, and printing up these things isn't cheap. The rejection hurts, but the onus falls on the writer to convince a publisher otherwise.

Which is what I've been doing.  Since getting turned down by this house (I can't say the name yet, but they are one of the bigger ones) is to start a grassroots effort, do my own promotion, reach out directly to fans of my work.  Mostly I use this blog, whose readership has steadily grown to over 10K visitors a month, or my reading series Lip Service West, my website (currently under construction), Facebook, Twitter, basically anywhere I can pimp myself.

And now here's how you can help.  Next week, I have to resubmit a proposal.  It'd be great if folks could repost, share their favorite blog entries with friends, put them up on their walls, e-mail them, print them out and leave them with your uneaten chips at your favorite taqueria.  I don't give a shit how the word spreads.  But the more people who read this between now and next week, the better armed I am to do battle.

Also, I need more followers.  77 ain't gonna cut it.  On the right hand side of this blog, there is a place to sign up and follow.  So if you haven't already done so, please sign up to follow Candy and Cigarettes, though doing so offers no benefits whatsoever.  Share with your mom.  C&C makes a lovely gift.  Because it's free. Unless your mom doesn't like profanity or jokes about Chlamydia, or just can't navigate around the Internets.  In which case it makes a very bad present.

All I can promise you is to remain as clever and handsome and not go bald for as long as possible, and if the miraculous happens and they take my book this time, I will not abandon you.  I will continue to provide quality You Tube clips and funny pictures of cats with religious regularity.  This is my guarantee to you.  So, please, just sign up and follow the damn thing.

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Reciprocity Redux

If you were on the FB yesterday, you probably already saw this, since I pretty much bombarded the fuck out of everyone with it:  It's an interview I recently gave with the East Bay Express following last Friday's Lip Service West reading at Pegasus Books in Berkeley ( What's funny is that it came on the heels of yesterday's post, which focused on the need for constant outside validation in a writer's life ( OK, maybe not so funny, since I write about the same fucking thing, in some form or another, fairly often.

The interview is a goddamn love letter, even by my low standards, where I would be tickled pretty if they even came close to spelling my name correctly.  The article, written by Rachel Swan, heaps on the praise, and I don't blush easily.  It mixes up a few details.  For instance, she gets the order wrong.  "Wife #1" was the one I loved, not the other one (Wife #2 was a punchline to a bad joke that never broached funny.)  My first wife's name isn't really "Kathy," but "Kathy got pissy last time we spoke about my using her real name.  People get pissy over that sort of thing a lot. Except for Dan Jewett, who insists I use his real name and that I spell it correctly, something I failed to do for the first ten years I knew him.  Swan's feature, in all its glowing glory, paints me as a righteous mutherfucker, a good-looking cat who projects a cool persona as it outlines my work with the San Pablo Arts District and Lip Service West, which is a lot harder than it sounds.  Not the actual work part, the coming across as anything less that a basket of jumbled nerves.  Sometimes I can pull it together long enough socially.  That isn't the remarkable part.  I realized after the interview posted just how radically it altered my mood, like an e-ball of pure unfettered adoration, the good, hard stuff.

I had just finished posting yesterday's "Why We Go There (and Away We Go)," which was in response to fellow writer, Lip Service West alum Kyrsten Bean's blog post of same name (but without the clever parenthetical).  And I was feeling burned out.  You got the kid and the pain, and the bright morning light streaming through a house made entirely of glass, and I had no desire to start my day, which, in all likelihood, would end the same way as countless others before, neither good nor bad, a break-even affair; and who wants to work so hard to just to end up kissing your sister?  (Not literally.  This is the Bay Area, not West Virginia.)

*Apologies to my readers in West Virginia.  It was a slam-dunk joke.  I had to take it.

But yesterday morning was a particularly rough one for me, and the last thing I felt like doing was heading down to the basement to work out this broken old man's body, a fleeting germ that morphed into self-defeating inaction, culminating with a High Fidelity "What's it all mean?"

And then I saw the article was up, and that someone had written nice things about me, and it was up on the Internets for all the world to see, and somehow, miraculously, I felt fine again.  I know.  How very meta.

This is how it so often works for me.  Which as you might imagine is not the greatest coping mechanism, as such relentless praise is hardly feasible, let alone self-sustaining.  I'm not that bad.  Many days I get on fine with just a story acceptance, or during baseball season a solid Yankee win might carry me along. This past weekend we had the 49ers. There was fantasy football.  You get the point. Not sure if it's entirely all "Look at me!  Look at me!"  But I also don't mind admitting that's some of it, in part because that's my sense of humor, self-deprecating, and it's easier to analyze the whys and hows if I can point out a personal shortcoming.

Yesterday afternoon I was a, I guess you'd call it, "guest lecturer" for a writing class in Miami, which is being taught by a former classmate from my grad school days, Tania Lopez, who'd asked me to speak to her students on...blogging.  And since we're kicking it old school, quite literally, let's go back to the beginning and how this all started with the Ghost of Ricky Smith.  Don't worry.  I'm gonna tie this fucker together somehow.  Blogging isn't an exact science.  More importantly, I am far from an authority on what constitutes good, bad, or otherwise.  For that I directed them to Chuck Wendig.  But people do read Candy and Cigarettes enough for me to believe I am doing something right, and that begins, and ends, with audience, and this theme presented itself quite often throughout the lecture.

I joke about this outside validation stuff a lot because, like I said, that's my sense of humor.  Just about every topic, however, is at the center of a circle, and you can view it from whatever vantage point on the outside that you'd like.  Doesn't change what it is, only how you see it.  So while it's true, as I mentioned yesterday, that there is an overwhelming need for the writer to share his or her story, however personal, intimate, or embarrassing the details, to gain the mass acceptance of strangers he may or may not even give a shit about, it is equally true that there are other equally valid reasons.  Self-improvement.  Hot chicks.  I like the discourse.  I fucking miss academia.

Nothing occurs in a vacuum, and all good writing must acknowledge the reader. When you're starting out in writing, you'll often hear advice to "write your book," which could easily be misconstrued as Fuck what everyone else thinks; as long as you stay true to your own vision and integrity, it doesn't matter.  Which

Of course it matters what others think.  If you don't pay attention to that, you're left with a book about six tiny monkeys the size of field mice on a mission to assassinate God (but because he's invisible [and living in Delaware], go around visiting America's smallest cultural attractions instead).  And ain't no one publishing that shit.  Trust me.  (Seriously.)

So how far of a leap are we talking about?  Or maybe I should be asking, How do you divorce one from the other?  If you set up your craft to be contingent on audience approval, it would make sense that such validation would be the fuel source it runs on.  But like the fossil variety, there is not a limitless supply.  Or maybe it doesn't come in such neat order.  For as long as I can recall, I've run on unleaded accolades.  And for as long as I can recall, I've called myself an artist.  I can't separate the two anymore.  Then again, I don't really try.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Why We Go There (and Away We Go)

"They sure as hell wouldn’t write a book which had a faint threat of becoming a bestseller that would eventually be made into a big screen movie so that everyone and their mother could analyze their utter moral degradation."

Fuck yeah I would.

That is from Kyrsten Bean's The Stifled Artist's Blog (, which you may recall ran an interview with me a while back (  Kyrsten's fate and mine have become somewhat intertwined.  In addition to the interview for her blog, she also interviewed me for the paper where she works (  Kyrsten contacted me a few months ago after having read this blog and discovering we lived in the same town (El Cerrito) and shared a similar...background.  She's since read for my reading series, Lip Service West, a couple times, and, a musician as well, she'll be playing a few songs the night of the big LSW fundraiser, Friday, Match 9, 50 Mason Social House, SF.  See you there.

You might've also seen Kyrsten's name in some of the same online journals I've been in lately, like the inaugural issue of PoV (  We are an incestuous lot.

I was reading her Stifled Artist yesterday (which is a huge compliment, since I read so few of them.  They tend to be pretty self indulgent, y'know?), and she touched on an interesting topic, or at least one that has always interested me. Discussing one of her favorite books, Jerry Stahl's junkie memoir classic Permanent Midnight, she asked a somewhat rhetorical question about why an author like Stahl, having cleaned up and left that life behind, would want to delve back into the muck and mire and relieve painful, humiliating memories.  

She speculates that "[w]riters and musicians (of this kind) are some sick fuckers. We like to go there.  Not because it feels good, necessarily, but because we feel compelled to dig in the dirt, to get to the grit of it, to cut ourselves open and peer in with a giant magnifying glass — like we’re ants who use the light of the sun to fry our own selves, and plan on documenting the experience later."

I wrote to Kyrsten that while I found her subject compelling, I, respectfully, disagree with her reasoning.  Of course, I have no authority to speak for ex-junkies everywhere, but there are a few governing characteristics of our ilk, the primary one being the incessant need for outside validation.  Which is where the drug came in in the first place.  Our self-worth is like an SUV; it gets shitty miles to the gallon, forever in need of fuel in the form of compliments and accolades to keep running, seven feet at a time.

Permanent Midnight is a terrific book, and a really good movie.  Or at least it was. I've since gone back, and like re-watching Heathers, it didn't hold up so well with subsequent viewing.

Re: Heathers, I remember reading somewhere that the writer, listed by IMDB as Daniel Waters, only listened to the Replacements and Cocteau Twins while writing the script.  You can see that influence pretty clearly.  Plus, the fucking school is named "Westerberg."

I don't know what was inside Stahl's head when he was writing.  I know a few people who've met him and say he's sort of an asshole.  Which isn't surprising.  His book reads like he's an asshole.  But there are probably people who say the same of me, and if I ever attained his level of success, I'd probably say it about myself.  The only thing that teaches humility is being humbled, and it's a lesson that can be quickly forgotten.  Permanent Midnight has had a huge impact on my work, writing, and life, regardless.

I've often asked that question myself.  Why go back and write about that past?  Or rather, I've had it asked of me, mostly by Big Tom.  But it was never really a choice. What the fuck else am I going to write about?  My life of privilege?  Want to hear what I benched yesterday? (310 lbs.)  Maybe you'll find my game of fetch with Lucky compelling? Good writing is about conflict.  I don't have much of that these days.  Except the war that rages in my head, and I pay a psychiatrist to listen to that shit so you don't have to deal with it (much). You're welcome.

The truth is I have no qualms about offering an intimate glimpse into my life, past, present, future, and clearly enough of you like reading about it (we finally cracked 10K page views for last month) that I must be doing something right.  And a lot of what I write about is the past.  What else can you write about?  Like a keyboardist who only knows one song...

It's a trade off.  A few embarrassing stories, of which my memoir is chock-full, for unconditional love.  Like Lowe and Varitek for Heathcliff Slocumb, you make that trade every time.  

It isn't that tricky, really, when you break it down.  It's what I do.  I make art.  And I share it with anyone who wants to see it.  I've been doing this shit since I was kid in grade school, drawing cartoons of classmates, basking in the attention those pictures would receive.  It's how I was known in school.  I couldn't throw a ball far, wasn't tough enough for football (I used to be a lot smaller).  Pretty girls weren't going to notice me.  The only way I could distinguish myself was with the writing and words and drawings and songs.  It got people to pay attention, and it made me feel like I mattered.  And despite my contempt for mankind (as a whole), I need to be noticed and feel like I matter.

Kyrsten proposes that there is a thrill, like returning the site of a murder, for both writer and reader, in "going there." I think that's somewhat true, but more so for the latter than the former.  When I had an agent and we were pitching the memoir, I'd written as such in the proposal, highlighting the voyeuristic qualities of the drug memoir, which, lousy current publishing climate aside, do have a long history of selling, and when they hit big, like Stahl's, they hit huge.  For the writer, however, I don't think it's that convoluted.  

And writers write.

Problem is there are a lot of us ex-addicts with a story we want to share.  The trick is convincing someone that yours offers what the others do not (and to all the publishers out there, mine has lots and lots of tits).  I'll let you know how that turns out.  And you know I won't have to go far to do that.

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