Thursday, January 29, 2004

Here is the link to my tavern reviews, which were published in today's edition of People Newspapers.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

OK, it's official. The much-ballyhooed Ben Reb, he of reality television fame, who once singlehandedly saved The International Hospital for Women and Children in Peril from going up in flames during the legendary Arson Wars of '77, will be here in sunny Dallas, Texas, tomorrow at 12:58 p.m., provided all trays are locked in the upright position before takeoff. I have taken no fewer than three work days off to accommodate the liquor-fueled revelry that is sure to transpire.

In the meantime, I will pacify with a couple posts in the next few days, the most important and enlightening of which will contain a link to my tavern reviews, co-authored by the insufferable Reid Slaughter. The write-ups will be coming out in tomorrow's edition, and both caused some encouraging scuttlebutt around the newsroom. But all that in due time. I shall follow up on the morrow.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

There is a profoundly humbling moment of self-realization and introspection any writer confronts upon revisiting The Elements of Style after having embarked on a years-long binge of incorrect comma usage and passive thinking. And I found myself wallowing around in that mess in the late afternoon of a rainy Saturday in the Deep South. Had the mandates been Biblical, I would be burning to a crisp in the benevolent fires of God's grammar. My friends are too kind to bring up my abuse of commas during casual conversation, afraid perhaps that I will rake them over righteous coals for having mistaken "anxious" for "eager" back in the mid-90s. Afraid that my zealotry and knack for rhetorical misdirection would successfully turn attention away from my commas, or lack thereof. And but so anyway, I flipped 10 pages or so inward and Strunk confronted me with charge after charge, the only mitigating factor being the fact that I have been known on rare occassions to step up to the keyboard under the influence. Rare occassions, mind you.

So yeah, I'll get better. Baby-stepping my way toward syntactic awesomness. And you will all bear witness, you clever devils you. And yes, I have had drinks of all shapes and sizes, but I am lucid. My commas will heretofore rock your fucking socks off. And my em dashes will ring true like a crisp finger snap. And you will find yourself bearing your breasts in no time. Ah, the power of words. Spoken or otherwise.

This has been a test.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

I’m in the left-turn lane at Lovers and Central, waiting, waiting, then slow-rolling to get on the expressway and as I come out from under the bespackled arc of the DART rail overpass, the oncoming left-turn lane comes into view at street level. Hands at 10 and 2, all blind spots checked and re-checked, my lanemates and I approach the turn under 10 mph, a caravan of vehicular competence and chiseled good looks. And rolling into morning light the scene to my left unfolds with such cinematic grandeur that I have to consciously suppress the urge to laugh. For in that lane are marshalled, bumper-to-bumper, five cartoonishly large, black SUVs. All with frantic yellow signals heralding their intentions from the bumpers and the convex outer shells of the driver’s-side rearviews. There are no white compacts or pickups interspersed. Just this short, black train of affluence, patiently waiting to make a left turn of its own.

In the cars of that train are the denizens of University Park, a slideshow of stereotypes. Golden earring shells and white turtlenecks. Manipulating mochas and lattés, tipping the Starbucks wrappers lipward and lipsticking the rims red. Finely crafted faces on both sexes. Eyes staring over and through, never at unless by accident. I speculate the contortions of sex face these regal mothers and debutantes undergo. Their well-kept secrets. All the truths they’ve forgotten as their chins float through well-dressed crowds of the like-minded.

I saw its shape this morning. The shape of a thing.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

I woke up this morning to an interesting discussion on Dallas’ sports-talk ratings Goliath “The Ticket” regarding newspaper obituaries. Not only were the disk jockeys not real jockeys, but they were also woefully misinformed and self-righteous about the whole obituary thing. To the point that, had I not been in a hurry to get to work, I would have called and asked them if they would ever consider doing free obits on their radio show.

The argument went thusly: The Dallas Morning News is being immoral and opportunistic by charging upward of $400 for publishing death notices. They are taking advantage of families during a moment of crisis.

I was nonplussed. None of the DJs even sought to speculate about why a Major City Newspaper might not want to print extended obituaries at super-cut-rate prices (because, I assure you, the DMN charges more than $400/day for, say, a 20-column-inch retail ad).

My first newspaper job involved a lot of obituary writing, and I can tell you from grim experience that grieving families are staunchly convinced that the surrounding area needs to know, in Faulknerian detail, about every moment of the deceased’s waking life. The Honeymoon in Portland. The Rotary Club. The Elk Lodge. The Comprehensive Collection of Shot Glasses from Across the State of Texas. All of that shit. And it was not uncommon for me to get obits that were some 40- to 50-inches long.

I did not work for a Major City Newspaper at the time, but with a circulation of well over 50,000, it was not a small-town rag by any definition. Like any moderately sized newspaper, we offered cursory death notices gratis, with each segment of additional information coming at 15 bucks or so per column inch. The point being — duh — that no newspaper can afford to run unchained obits for the good of society. (Just imagine a six-page obituary pull-out in your Sunday edition. A pull-out for which the paper won't be within shouting distance of break-even status by charging $10 per column inch.)

Naturally, there are exceptions. If someone famous dies, they will probably get a free obit. Some green reporter might even pen a short article about Famous Guy’s life and times. Confronted with this, the DJs will likely say “Well what makes that person more important than my dead dad?” to which I will answer: “Your dead dad’s not famous, Nimrod. But if you dig him up and drop his carcass off the Space Needle, I bet you money he gets at least 10 inches free-of-charge in the Post-Intelligencer.”

I feel tight, but good.

Friday, January 16, 2004

I know, my posting has been spotty. But if you only knew.

Back in college, I was one of a core group of loyalists working at the campus newspaper. There were maybe eight of us. Eight of us who lived to slog through the shit five times a week. We couldn’t breathe without that joint. And if we still work at newspapers, I’m sure we all blame that experience — or credit it — to some degree. There is something about being deeply involved with creating a publication. I mean, maybe it’s different for other people. Maybe they look at selling widgets or trading options the way I look at newspapers. And in the professional world, when it begins to seem like you’ll never recapture those halcyon days, you string yourself along, all the while holding out hope that someone will come along and kickstart the operation. Make it into what you had before. Remind people that while paychecks finance the beer and cigarettes and hookers, you haven’t really experienced any kind of wealth until you’ve tasted the satisfaction of making something successful. And then, when it’s successful, making it the best. And I mean shit man, like seriously the best.

So yeah, those people are leading us now. And it’s taking a lot of hard work to get this thing where it needs to be. And when we top out it will take even more work to stay there. So those mornings that used to be spent typing in and tuning and posting are now spent catching up. Cleaning up yesterday and the day before.

In the meantime I’m trying to find time. To juggle here and there to make time. Cleaning out under every cushion and shaking pants upside down. Checking coin slots. Morning bells. Wake up. Get dressed. And all that loose time scatters and I have to gather it all up again. And it’s been tough, really. So my bad. I’ll get it sorted out.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

In a short while, I have to embark on an editorial planning meeting that will last the entire day. We will be having lunch at the Country Club and discussing such pressing questions as “Why do our headlines continue to suck?” and “Are you accusing me of fucking your grandmother?”

Yes, yes. I have ideas. And I’m not afraid to use them. In two short hours, a majority of the newspaper staff will be sitting at the round table and I will be under the table tying their shoelaces together and measuring their ankles. Toes will be licked. There will be much rejoicing.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

"You are a blight on this neighborhood."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"It means what I said."

Traffic on Central Expressway was a bitch this morning. Road rage was at a fever pitch. Fever was on sale. People were flipping their lids left and right. People were flipping their lids in the middle. It was fucking insane. I'm lucky to be alive.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Carlos Shavers could be a full-time resident at the bus depot. His jeans have degenerated, blue to white to brown, and they have holes in them. Carlos has holes in him, punched through by years of self-abuse. Holes in his memory where trauma used to dwell. Every day spreads out before him with the nakedness of fresh-split wood, and he compiles events. They wind through neurons, synapse, across the corpus collosum and back again and gather somewhere near the bottom of the born-again stacks. A virgin scape where there used to be memories. Mental renewal came and paved over. For his own good. Tattered knit cap diadem, Carlos Shavers is transient royalty. He is not a resident of the bus depot. Half time spent out on public concrete drinking new into his brain’s fresh spaces. Quarter time spent coping with action, walking more public lands and living off public works. Nickel and dime for days just to make one day a few days down a bit more livable. His old pockets can still hold coin. His fingers remember what his mind has long since forgotten — value, currency, commerce. The importance. And the places that got him here — Westcott Liquors, Beer Stop, Leona’s, U-Liq. Fighting the days off a pint at a time and gathering legs and arms and ass and tits. Putting everything where it belongs because he needs a memory to live. Holes in the heels. Callous underneath.

“Yo Shave. Lem’ get sip off that sack.”

Ah yeah, them vultures though. He lives with the dirtiest of ‘em.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

For your reading pleasure, here is the text of a junk email I just received from An image at the top of the mail heralds the sale of secret government documents or some shit. Weird:

frontiersmen batik algorithmic co swathe bombastic stonecrop arsenal ferry economic arcsine globular obstacle mastic menagerie ephesus sleuth indubitable bennett butterfat vis degrease crevice dorothy exploitation amphibology bangladesh chordata clamshell camille visitor turf cerium difficulty biltmore dear infringe flimsy creole pate numerable apocrypha pensive byrne basis terrier upriver arlen idiosyncrasy odysseus arhat baltimorean libel dropout huntsville momentum borderland amphibology spree djakarta cooky discipline emerge ypsilanti letterman monsanto hydrodynamic soldiery engineer nice cudgel capstone cultivable longleg clifton practicable earthshaking hermitian remittance cultural infer ace woman doolittle tori teet denude drapery lottie music necromancy partisan celsius irishmen headwater isotopic buzzsaw justice apocalypse canyon brig sixty actinic recalcitrant folio kay dialectic tattler absentia mathematician coachmen multiplicative handyman moriarty jiffy ape passe nuisance flatland detergent addendum earl contributor nguyen carload plate eventide lotus thence alvarez levy blatz michelangelo castillo comparison act floral diadem cyanide burbank prefect pastor bakhtiari row postmaster rookie ernestine alpine traffic thank rosebud nationhood caribbean buddhism helicopter contrivance diphthong dour inviolate defy drizzly applause salivary usher surcease crochet ambidextrous wit handicraftsmen confuse dying ascend blair finger ginsburg handymen dynast astound armature cypriot catsup alden autocracy nile eavesdrop panacea fayette topcoat concrete rudy eileen bitch backlash implementation bar grammarian consequent waterfront flippant bathurst diacritical dugout needlepoint wherewithal ambitious avoid mustache ri recession icosahedron alaska rube blvd crate bail mamma meaningful iconoclast dogwood thiocyanate clarity backyard samoa layman shortcoming geophysical nov ideolect retrovision gloomy coauthor mulch pickett thayer coralline calcine

There’s something to be said for; If there was ever a time to start thinking about; I’ve seen a lot of crazy things in my life, but; I brilliant, she jejune, we managed somehow to; Reports from our sister station indicate; Please smack that fucking trollop; Flummery anyone?; Those winds, they used to whip around that corner and; “I was just standing there, we were talking and he-”; She was hysterical; Mark that, yeah, right there, just mark it if you have to and show, be sure to show Mr.; I wasn’t inspired by anything in particular, I just felt; Two hours, two lonely hours; Just try a little harder and we can come to some kind of; Father called last night and said mother’s been getting into; The conclusion illogical, the data half-baked, we opted to go out for; “Are they ever gonna’ come see the baby or are they just-”; The back wall covered with a patchwork of spherical reflectors; I tried but I couldn’t; D underhand-tossed the empty bottle and it cut an arc over the side and silence. It was 11 p.m. and sky black. Fifteen or so quiet on the rooftop. Tar and pebbles. The spent casings of fireworks scattering to the Four Winds. Air in my face. D turns and walks back. He lights a cigarette. The bottle ends up in the windshield of a Grand Prix. The rest of us — who can remember? And what difference now?; Reserve judgment until all the facts are;

Friday, January 02, 2004

The woman down two doors down who has cats everywhere. Every neighborhood on the map. Her name a Delores or Blanche or some archaic derivation thereof. Doesn’t wash much, probably ever. The cats rule the roost. Cat house. A fine mess. I nail down her mailbox with the tail of my skateboard and she leaves a dollar on the front porch. Those boys ‘cross the street were at it again last night, and her mailbox is a casualty every time. I wonder if she speaks in sentences. She stalks her own porch for days muttering then shouting, saying nothing. The front of her dress awash in vomit. Hair tangled in red yarn. She speaks the language of currency, so I reseat her mailbox at least once a week. She laughs when I grab a stick and walk up and down the block pretending to sell hotdogs. True story. She laughs every time. She is drunk on her own broken brain. So yeah, we see eye-to-eye. And I am profoundly frightened.

When I turn 12 or 13 my family will move north. This neighborhood is a breeding ground of bad fortune. One Thursday night, we gathered all of us did and watched a conversion van burn to bits down on the interstate — a canyon cutting through. The flames licking the rails. The heat hot, passengers are awed, clinging to the steep embankment. We lesser devils hovering above with orange grins.

We are united by the spectacles. They only happen here and seldom make it out. The rape on Harrison made local papers. But not the burning van. Not the kidnapping. She just disappeared, the girl, and I can’t remember seeing one cop on that block. The pastor’s son carried a butterfly knife. The Thunderbird decomposed in the church lot. A canopy of wooden fingers clutching at this mess. We emerge years later with cuts and bruises.

Tonight, I shall buy orange juice in quantity. For it began last night, this cursed congestion. This pernicious post-nasal drip. My sneezing fit of morning has turned my tubes into a crime scene. Orange juice, yes, several cartons of. Tonight, I shall drink.

I will refrain from making stupid observations (e.g. “I have been sick the entire year” or “2004 has been the least-productive year of my life”), because they are not funny. Some people will do this for the first week — sometimes two weeks — of the new year. They will make these stupid observations. They have found a loophole. They will exploit it for life. In all likelihood, they will eventually be punched in the face by me. In the passive voice. Pow.

I want my 2004 to be as eventful as loriebug’s 2003. I want it to be a year I can tell my grandchildren about. Because that seems to be the unit of measure for life events: Would you tell your grandchildren about it? Grandchildren love listening to their grandparents’ waxing. Really. Make sure you save them stories. Have meaningful life events. Make a difference in your community. Start a non-profit. Call it UNICEF. Make it a vehicle for delivering truckloads of pennies to the poor. They love that shit. And banks, too, they love that shit. Banks love it when the unwashed show up to open an account with fucking pennies. (Insert transition here.) If not, you might as well punch yourself in the face. Active. Pow. Tell your children’s children.

Happy New Year. You know who you are.