• Books,  Miscellaneous,  Writing

    Across the Table from David Sedaris

    This piece was originally written in November, 2016 and first published on US Represented. Friday before last, I went to see David Sedaris read at the Center for the Performing Arts in Denver. For those who don’t know, Sedaris is an American author, humorist, and radio contributor best known for his delightfully skewed slice-of-life essays and articles about his family and life abroad. Going in, I hadn’t been sure whether Sedaris would be doing a signing that evening or not, so I was happy to find out that I’d be able to get him to sign a book. Hopping up from my seat, I clambered over my wife, friends, and…

  • Writing

    The Longest Day

    During our fourth week of U.S. Navy boot camp, we found ourselves in the service of the mess hall. The navy called it Service Week, and we’d been warned about it for the previous three weeks. Everyone said it would be a sweet little piece of hell made up of the most interminable days imaginable. To the carefree civilian, we were told, eight weeks in boot camp might seem like nothing, but to the recruit, Service Week was like a month of decades. Still, we wondered if what we’d been told about Service Week was just another example of our collective leg being pulled. Getting a break from being berated…

  • Miscellaneous,  Writing

    A (Last) New Year’s Resolution

    As the new year recedes in the rear distance, at least every other advertisement I see is related in some way to weight loss: gyms, home exercise equipment, diet plans ranging from sensible to so drastic I’d need to swear off tasty food for the rest of my natural life. In that place where capitalism intersects with insecurity, everyone banks on everyone’s desire to lose weight, tone up the flab, and feel sexy. Or feel sexier, at the very least. I mention this because this is the time of year when I’m usually contemplating resolutions right along with everyone else, and they’re all at least marginally health related: lose weight,…

  • Books,  Writing

    Howard Odentz’s Bottle Toss: An Unpredictable, Creepy Ride

    Back in the ancient days of 2013, I came across a book called Dead (A Lot), from an unknown (to me) writer and playwright named Howard Odentz. This was during the salad days of AMC’s adaptation of The Walking Dead, so everyone who was anyone was writing about zombies, and a lot of the stories in the undead zeitgeist were cut from that pattern. That’s not to suggest they were all boring and derivative, but there just weren’t many that were interesting. I was skeptical. With Dead (A Lot), though, Odentz managed to produce something clever and unique, a zombie story unlike any I’d ever read. Since then, I’ve done…

  • Writing

    “At the Malaga”: My Round One, Challenge Two Piece in the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2019

    Drawing a sharp breath, David Thompson opened a pair of double doors and walked into the courtyard of the Plaza Malaga Hotel, the floor of which was currently covered with foam. Someone had wisely turned off the hotel fountain’s water pump, but the damage was done: The place looked like an industrial washing machine had exploded. On the near side of the courtyard, two columns of folding chairs created a center aisle, ending at a beautifully carved stone fountain. At the edge of that fountain sat a woman holding a bottle of beer. David had to swallow twice before he could speak. “Hi, Kirsten,” he said. She smiled at him,…

  • Writing

    “The Diver”: My Round One, Challenge One Piece in the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2019

    Trystan squeezed the chilly water from his hair and pulled it from his face, wishing he’d worn more clothing. Thirty feet above, in the boat with Gwyn, it had been balmy; down here away from the sun, his fishing clothes did little to protect him from the cold. Blind, he reached down in the darkness to a wrapped leather pouch tied around his waist, out of which he extracted a charm. He whispered into his palm, activating the spell he’d borrowed from his cousin that morning. Light filled the cave, and Trystan’s heart sank. Other than the rocks in the cave he’d just risked his life swimming down to, there…

  • Books,  Music,  Writing

    What Started as a Review of an Autobiography but Became a Piece About My Life with the Music of Bruce Springsteen

    Though I love their music, I was too young to experience The Beatles firsthand. For that, I depended on older relatives to school me. I was five when Let it Be came out, so although I remember singing along to the title track and “The Long and Winding Road” with my Aunt Lois and her friends, I wasn’t old enough to appreciate either of those songs or The Fab Four’s musical genius until a few years later. Fortunately, I was a bit more lined up time-wise with Bruce Springsteen. I was ten when Born to Run released, though I remember loving the title track but not noticing much else about…

  • Miscellaneous,  Writing

    Flash Fiction Challenge

    I’m participating in this competition, the 11th Annual NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge. It sounds like fun, and it’s also a good way to get me to write, write, write. Entries close at midnight Eastern Time. Check it out at http://www.nycmidnight.com/Competitions/FFC/Challenge.htm

  • Movies,  Television,  Writing

    Stranger Things and the Value of a Well-Flawed Character

    Recently, I’ve read a few of the “We Need to Talk About Hopper” articles dealing with Stranger Things‘ Jim Hopper’s “problematic” qualities. Some of those pieces, I think, are designed to be clickbait–along the lines of the “Why Are Characters Smoking in Stranger Things?” and “Those Kids Need to Wear Helmets When They Ride Their Bikes” articles–but this sort of discussion always fascinates me because a large portion of my job is talking meaningfully about stories and the characters who populate them. Here’s the simplified version of that argument: Police Chief Jim Hopper is problematic because he’s angry and unruly and he drinks and smokes too much. He has Schlitz…

  • Miscellaneous,  Music,  Writing

    Another Navy Story: Old Milwaukee, Tighty Whities, and the Music of Bruce Springsteen

    When I was in U.S. Navy A School, I knew a guy named Walter. In many ways, Walter was an average late-teen-to-early-twenties navy recruit: homesick, restless, impulsive, and far too immature to be taking on any significant responsibility. That was all of us in those days. Unfortunately, Walter was also prone to getting drunk and inexplicably winding up in his underwear. I’m sure there were a lot of steps between Walter’s descents into drunkenness and the shedding of his outerwear, but none of us knew what they were because we never went out with him. We were young and stupid, and we were known to enjoy a beer or five,…