Ah, the glamorous life of an unpublished short story writer:
1 Brother 2070 network laser printer…..$149
1 Wireless router………………………………$80
1 Apple Powerbook…………………………..$2000
1 box 100 ct 9 x 12 clasp envelopes……..$5
1 box 100 ct #10 white envelopes………..$3
1 box 2500 sheets Laser Paper……………$20
1 box 3000 ct return address labels………$20
1 box 1000 ct shipping labels………………..$20
Average payment upon publication: 4 contributors copies
Mags I sent stories to: Brain, Child, Mid-American Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Backwards City Review, Gettysburg Review, Black Warrior Review, One-Story, Post Road, The Cincinnati Review, and McSweeney’s.
At the Post Office, I got a dreadlocked clerk who looked like he just got done pulling an all-night gig with his reggae band. He weighed and posted my manilla envelopes, and then he asked, “fiction or poetry?” He gave me a smile and I said fiction. “I’m a poetry man, myself.” Then he listed off his publication history for me. When he was done, I thanked him and headed for the door. “Good luck with it,” he said.
We can only hope.
Once upon a time, I spent six months in Cambridge, England, living in a closet-sized apartment, reading Shakespeare and Dostoevsky, missing a woman with whom I’d just fallen in love, sketching a world that was 5000 miles away, and losing twenty pounds to a culture of bad food and worse weather.
Around my second term of study, and at a point when my mental health was slipping, I wound up playing keyboards and singing backup for a singer/songwriter named Jeremy Warmsley. Jeremy was rounding up a band to play a series of shows for the May Balls at the end of term, and our mutual friend Mike set us up. We got along nicely: I introduced him to Toots and the Maytals; he introduced me to Kate Bush. J’s songs were straightforward pop songs with a lot of chord changes and complex vocals. Our band consisted of a good bloke named Bob on guitars, two interchangeable drummers who looked about 12 years of age, and a pudgy, pathological liar named Dan on bass. (Dan claimed to have lost his virginity to two 18-year-old lesbians.) Once, we found an old Roland Jupiter-4 synthesizer in the Churchill College practice room–it weighed about 40 pounds and made wild, orgasmically phat sounds until it crapped out on us. We had a punk song where I jumped into the audience banging a cowbell. At one of the May Balls we drank beer until 6 a.m. and took turns riding a mechanical bull. At a time when when I had almost abandoned playing music, it was an escape that I desperately needed.
A year and a half later, across the pond, I got an e-mail from Jeremy: “Long time no hear from. how are you. i am about to sign my record deal. fame and fortune.” I checked out his new stuff on his website, and was pretty blown away: those straightforward pop songs were still pretty straightforward, but the band had been replaced with a backdrop of cut-up drums and Bjork-like arrangements. Not to mention, J. had a fantastic animated video done for his new single, “I Believe In The Way You Move.” Turns out his new EP is coming out in England in a few weeks, and is getting a pretty good amount of buzz.
But Jeremy isn’t the only amiable spector from my Cambridge days that is having good success: my buddy Dave Mitchell has just had an article published as the lead in the DUKE JOURNAL OF COMPARATIVE & INTERNATIONAL LAW. He slaved over this opus in Cambridge many a night that could’ve been spent in the pub. Dave’s not only an academic, he’s also an All-American cross country runner who has a great chance at the Rhodes. Dave was in Cleveland this weekend, and Meg and I met him and his girlfriend Michelle in Coventry, where he presented me with a signed off-pressing of the article.
The moral is this: keep in touch with the people you’ve known–they might be headed for great things.
October’s here, so that means pumpkins. Front page of the Plain Dealer: Jerry Rose from Geauga County has grown a 1,344 1/2 pound pumpkin, winning the annual Ohio Valley Giant Pumpkin Growers competition. It measures 15 feet around, and weighs the same as a cow. As usually happens in these competitions, Rose won a ludicrous amount of money, and the pumpkin’s being shipped off to a Chicago hotel to be carved into a giganzo jack-o’-lantern. (Giant fruit can gain you fortune and fame: my dad’s buddy grew a giant, and sold it to a Six Flags in Fiesta, Texas for a patriotic pumpkin carving competition. He ended up getting all these fan letters from a 4th grade class in Mexico, prodding him for tips. He’s written an article on growing pumpkins in your very own garden.)
My interest? Growing up in Circleville, Ohio, home to the Greatest Free Show on Earth: The Circleville Pumpkin Show. Something that has to be seen to be believed, this year the festival hits on the 19th-22nd. The lady and I have been debating attendence–though my first inclination is to avoid it like the plague, the editor of Ohio Magazine told me he might be interested in a “Letter From…” piece for next October’s issue (these mags plan way far ahead.) So who knows? We might be in for a dispatch…in the meantime, check out the Miss Pumpkin Show contestants from my senior year in high school. Yowsa.
Just got done talking to Suzanne at Mac’s Backs, and it turns out there’s a totally awesome reading coming Tuesday, November 7th, with Dan Chaon, Kelly Link, and Maureen McHugh. Dan Chaon teaches at Oberlin and lives right here in Cleveland Heights. I read his story “The Bees” in the McSweeney’s Thrilling Tales anthology, back in undergrad, and Brandon, Meghan and I saw him read a couple of months ago at the Joseph-Beth over on Cedar Road with the McSweeney’s crew. I’m currently reading his two latest books, AMONG THE MISSING and YOU REMIND ME OF ME; both are great. Toni from my writing group worked with Kelly Link and said she was super-awesome, so I picked up her book, MAGIC FOR BEGINNERS. (Her first book, STRANGER THINGS HAPPEN, is available for free download, here.) Link is also the editor of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, put out by Small Beer Press, which, along with Link’s book, published Maureen McHugh‘s new book, MOTHERS AND OTHER MONSTERS. McHugh has a blog, Hodgkin’s and Me, about her battles with lymphoma. The only thing I’ve read of hers is a story called “Wicked,” which I liked very much. Should be a great, great time.
Outside the OceanView Community United Methodist Church, the message board asks: WHO ARE THE MEEK?
The meek are either working construction or hanging out in the shadows of Palm Beach: the bus boys on break outside the cuban restaurant, the valet checking his cell phone, or the lost, local skater boys watching the tourist girls from the shade of a park restroom overhang. (Historical fact of interest: West Palm Beach was founded in 1894 as a community to house the servants of the hotels over on Palm Beach island.)
You wonder if you’ll ever get a chance to shack up in a town like this. Your best bet is to join the Romanians and get into a nine-month hotel management program, waiting tables at one of these Old Folks Homes. On your day off, you could traipse down Highway 1 and hit the duck pond, where the deformed ducks chase you around for bread. Visit Burt Reynolds park and the Burt Reynolds (and Friends) Museum. Put a fiver through the barbed wire fence around the Turtle Museum and try to bribe the curator to open up for a few minutes on Monday.
Pass PGA National and remember to call your dad and ask him how he did in the annual amputee golf tournament. He’ll say, “Did pretty good with four guys who only had six legs between them.” Don’t forget Christmas is coming, and stop at the Pro Shop.
For a real peek of Florida, check out the Grassy Waters Nature Preserve. After walking around in this beautiful swamp, the lizzards and grasshoppers scuttling at your feet, (disappointment: no alligators) with the dull roar of the highway in the background, it hits you: Florida began inhospitable to humans, and fifteen bazillion tons of concrete later, remains so.
On the way home at the draw bridge, the landscapers, delivery trucks and the rest of the 9-5 Joes wait and wait, while Jocko the Republican sails his yacht out to port. And Jocko thinks, “Well, the world stops on my very whim, therefore, I own the world, so why not steal an election and loot the country and send the sons of the schmucks up on the bridge to war?”
The meek shall inherit thy costs.
Welcome to JebWorld, USA: land of concrete, swamp, and palm trees! For maximum enjoyment of your fall vacation, we suggest the following:
Fly the Continental Geriatric Flight #1446 in from Cleveland, OH. Your life vests are located under your seat, and expired last month. (No matter–if the plane crashes on an island in the middle of the swamp, the elderly demographic will make for a poor network drama.) For your in-flight entertainment, Continental has provided SkyMall catalogs containing page upon page of worthless junk (our favorites: an inflatable hot tub, and a dress shirt with chunks of fabric cut from the collar to “show off that expensive tie”) and the latest Box Office Flop.
At the Palm Beach airport, you’ll be greeted with parque floors and a fleet of wheelchairs. Why not stop at the gift shop and buy a set of golf clubs? Take it all out to the shuttle on a baggage cart tagged YANKEE EXPRESS with permanent marker.
At a busy railroad intersection, Burt Reynolds might give your Grandma the bird. (Burt Reynolds drives a white Cadillac and smokes a cigar while driving.)
For accomodations, stay at a Retirement Community nicer than any hotel you’ve ever been in. Take a stroll on the grounds and follow the alligators from pond to pond: you might see a small dog get eaten. On your way back to the room, admire the ceramic pet replicas that guard the hallways.
For dinner, you can’t beat the Cuban food. It’s paradise on a plate. Try the fried grouper, black beans and rice, and sweet plantains:
If you’re headed to bed and your room’s by the dance hall, you might want some earplugs: those square dancing classes can get pretty rowdy.