Tag Archives: Events

Catching Up with JT LeRoy

I was totally into it. I had the signed raccoon penis bone. I read the books. I was a big JT LeRoy fan. Still am.

racoonp

I wrote “him” emails. I even tried to call him once to clarify something for an interview I did for Rain Taxi. I remember having this funny feeling when someone answered the phone that JT was being hidden away somewhere, protected from nosy interviewers. For some reason, I always pictured him living in a squat with a bunch of other young punks. Someone else answered the phone and I got an annoyed vibe from them so I ended up running the interview as is.

Well, thirteen later, I’m getting another chance. And a LOT has happened since then. It was found out that the author of the books was actually Laura Albert (who also went by the names Emily and Speedy). It’s a pretty crazy. Fair warning: A quick google search will send you down a fascinating wormhole for hours.

This Thursday night, I am hosting a night to illuminate and investigate what exactly happened. Writer friends Monica Drake and Arthur Bradford will read a little from the JT LeRoy books and then Laura will actually read some new work, followed by an interview on stage that I’ll conduct, including questions from the audience.

This event is a fundraiser for p:ear, an organization that mentors homeless youth. Many of themes in the JT LeRoy books are directly about the issues that at-risk youth face. So, despite the controversy about the identity of the author and whether people felt “duped” or whatever, the books (Sarah, The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things, and Harold’s End) are all powerful and ultimately artful literary gems. I hope to see you there. (and if you need your tickets at a discount, type in 2for1 in the discount code window)

Also: Laura is doing a similar event in Seattle Tuesday night.

Crotch Rocket

Hey friends–quick update: I’m finishing up edits on my novel this weekend as I battle a bad cold. I spoke to my editor yesterday and we’re both very excited to move this book closer to completion. Next up, we’ll be looking at possible cover ideas and getting blurbs.
But the main reason I wanted to post today was to tell you about the reading I’m part of this Tuesday night. Please come by for this special (and probably intense) event. I’m honored to be the only guy in this book (they added my essay about rape right before going to print).
Get-Out-Launch-Flier2_final
And next weekend, I’ll be part of the Making It in Changing Times conference at Tabor Space, put together by Jessica Morrell. More info about that here.
Now, back to editing and hot liquids!

The Story of a Dirty Picture

I’ve talked about Davy Rothbart before. He’s a great guy and we met several years ago as he was starting up his now-huge Found empire. Right now, I’m halfway through his new essay collection, My Heart Is an Idiot (the title of which is also the name of an awesome Davy documentary by David Meiklejohn). It’s another gritty, beautiful creation by one of the most endearing dudes I know. I’m so excited to introduce Davy at Powell’s on Monday night.

Davy the dreamboat

A couple of years ago I was excited to have a short story in the Found-inspired anthology, Requiem For a Paper Bag (Simon & Schuster). It was a different sort of Found book–instead of photos of actual found artifacts, the book includes stories and essays about found stuff. It included a ton of cool writers and celebrities including Susan Orlean, Jim Carroll, Seth Rogan, Miranda July, Aimee Bender, Sarah Vowell, Andy Samberg, and a bunch of others. My story is one of the strangest things I’ve ever written and I was honored that Davy included it. I thought I’d use this occasion to post it on my blog. So, here it is–now on your Internets for the first time!!

I Was Torn From a Book

A young boy found me between cars in the church parking lot. He held me with both hands and carefully blew the dirt off me. He folded me twice and stuck me in his pocket. He walked somewhere that was silent and full of trees. He took me out and unfolded me. He stared for a long time, his eyes darting off to the side and blinking. The upper right corner was burned from a fire, the mark just a flicker away from my face. He folded me up again, but this time added another fold. I was tight in his pocket for several days it seemed. I didn’t know where I was.

I used to be complete, snug in a book. Warm. Surrounded, I’m sure, by other images of beautiful woman.

I remember being at the photographer’s house, in her studio, posing, primping, drinking wine for five hours. Only one shot from the session was used for her book. I’m on my hands and knees, looking just above the camera’s lens. Biting my bottom lip. Wearing a pair of black panties that fit too tight and a Cleopatra wig. She told me to bend my arms like I was doing a pushup. More, she said. A little more.

My breasts touched the floor just barely and the flash went off.

That’s me. Page 65.

I wonder what happened to the other shots that day. I never saw them. My whole day is captured in a moment when I felt the least in control. But here I am.

This book, this retrospective of an early career, was kept in the library of that photographer. Her students looked at me often and sometimes took me home with them. I noticed the different ways they looked at me. The men would nod at me in some vague way and paw me with their flat, dry fingers. The women were different. Sometimes they would point at me and laugh. A few of them would linger and stare.

The boy took me out of his pocket and moved me to his pillow. There was a tear in its seam and he put me inside. It was better there. I imagined I was a cloud and when his fingers would brush me, I wanted real skin and a shape. There’s nothing more I wanted than to have hands. To put my fingers through my boy’s fingers and to go under his covers with him.

Yes, I started to think of him as My Boy. His eyes dreaming all sorts of things when he looked at me. I didn’t care that he was so young. He was the only one who looked at me in real awe.

We both wanted me to be real.

A man once looked at me with loud, pounding music everywhere. He would look at another page sometimes too. But he’d always turn back to me and bite his lip.

It would start off calm. And then his eyes would switch from a casual search to a look to a look of business. His shirt would come off. The page would turn. I heard the click of his belt buckle, the sound of leather sliding through belt loops.

The boy showed me to his sister and her eyes danced all around me. “Do you think she would like me?” the boy asked her.

“You shouldn’t be thinking of this stuff yet,” she said.

“Do you think mom would kill me if she found this?” the boy said.

“Maybe,” she said. She scowled at me and then looked at the boy. “Give it to me and I’ll make sure she doesn’t find out.”

The boy folded me back up and told her to go away. I felt myself become a cloud again. I felt a wave of pride like something fought over. Then a nothingness, then sadness.

I remember being ripped out. The man seemed so studious as he folded me back and forth in a careful straight line. His hand pulled me slowly out of the book. Meat coming off a bone. He held me up to the light. I felt suddenly limp in the air. He put tape on me and stuck me to a metal wall. There were pages from other books or magazines that had been torn and stuck around me. It felt dirty and cold all around me, with a pungent smell of rubber and gasoline. The man wore glasses and overalls. He spent most of his time underneath a car, his legs stiff and sticking out, as if he was sleeping. The radio played voices, not music. Sometimes I heard laughing and I didn’t know where it was coming from. Once in a while, the man would look at me like he was looking into a mirror. He’d take off his glasses and rub his eyes and smile. I must have reminded him of something good.

The boy’s mother saw him looking at me. It was late in the day, almost dark outside. The boy looked sick and half-asleep. He had stayed home from school. I was smoothed out on the pillow with shaky fingers. He took something out of his pocket. It was a school photograph of a girl. Her hair was a long swooping blonde wave that ended neatly just above the white border of the photo. Her mouth looked too full and experienced for her age. Her eyes were open wide, as if she had been startled. He placed this face gently on top of mine, positioned it so we might somehow merge in his mind. I felt ashamed in that moment. Like those uncomfortable moments when the photographer kept saying More, more, a little more. But then his bedroom door opened and I was swiped away with his frantic hand. The two elements of his fantasy fell separately to the floor. His mother stood there in the doorway, her eyes alarmed and recoiling. Her whole face grimacing. She turned and walked away quickly, as if she were being chased.

I try not to think of the fire because fire means death. I just remember his legs under that car and the heat suddenly everywhere. His legs did not move. I thought he would shoot out from under there like I had seen him do before. There were loud popping sounds and flames splashing like waves against the walls. The smell of burning flesh and metal. The man’s work boots were flickering torches on the end of his stick legs. One wall collapsed and a burst of smoke rushed to the sky. It was raining. Thank God for the rain. I blew up in the air for a moment, fluttering with a small lip of fire trying to eat me from one corner. When I settled on a patch of concrete, someone stepped on me and the flame near my head stopped.

Smoke and water filled the air for a long time. I realized that it probably wasn’t raining after all. It was merely a couple of firemen wrestling their thick thrashing fire hoses. It eventually became dark after the flames died. Someone turned on a floodlight and people began to pick up some of the debris. Some of them were crying and some of them talked softly and discreetly, even laughing quietly. I was thrown into a cardboard box which was tossed into the back of a pickup. I was smothered by a fireplace kind of smell. Burnt wood, paper turned to ash, the sick stench of melted plastic and Styrofoam. Not long after the truck drove away, a bunch of papers got loose and escaped out the back. I was glad to find myself slipping out too. But then the truck stopped and parked in front of church with a big glowing cross. Church of the Nazarene it said. A man and a woman stepped out of the truck and started grabbing some of the lost trash. But some had already rolled and tumbled away from their view. Screw it, the man said. They adjusted a few boxes in the back and continued on their way. I skidded across the parking lot all of that night, not sure if I was in heaven or hell.

The boy and his father had a talk about me. It was the first time I had heard his voice and it was unfamiliar, too loud for the house. I suspected that the father did not even live in this house. There was an uncomfortable tone to their talk. It sounded scripted, as if they feared the mother was listening on the other side of the door. The boy, my boy, told of how he found me but stopped short of saying why he kept me.

What does it make you think of, the boy’s father asked.

I don’t know, the boy answered without thought.

Let me see it, said the father.

My boy reached into his pillow and set me on the bed between them.

Is there any more in there? the father asked.

My boy shook his head and looked at his doorway. His mother was nowhere to be seen. The father took his glasses out of his shirt pocket and scooted closer to me.

Does this picture make you feel excited?

My boy looked at his father sideways, unsure of the question. The father’s eyes stayed locked on me a little too long. It’s not so bad, he finally said. He took off his glasses, slowly folded them into his pocket. Then he picked me up, folded me just as gently, hands shaking a little.

I thought I heard my boy starting to cry.

I was slipped back into the pillow.

The father’s voice got softer then. It’s okay, he whispered. Hush now. It’s okay.

I heard the father’s heavy steps walk over to the door and close it.

I’ll throw it away, my boy said.

No, no, no, said his father. There was a pause. Just hide it somewhere else, he finally said. Don’t let your mother find it. I’ll say that I took it.

Really? I heard the boy wipe his tears, his drippy nose.

They talked a while longer until the mother knocked on the door. Okay, said the father, I’ll see you later. He left his son’s room and talked to the mother in another room.

My boy took me out of the pillow. He unfolded me and gave me a look that was more guilty than I’d seen from him. He walked me to a wall and quickly took down one of the smaller posters. With a piece of tape he stuck me to the back of the poster and returned it to the wall. It felt good to be unfolded and safe. He stood there a moment and inspected the poster to make sure I wasn’t visible. I heard him sigh loudly and then his bedroom light went dark. I knew it might be a long time before I was seen again.

Catch Up (ketchup)

It’s already February? I gotta catch y’all up on some stuff.

Besides doing the final edits on the great Chloe Caldwell book (out in April!) and doing some other Future Tense-related work (for instance, we’re now distributed by Small Press Distribution!), I’ve had some fun readings lately. I read at the If Not For Kidnap party on January 20th (congrats to INFK host Donald Dunbar for his recent Fence Poetry Prize) and then also at a fantastic Planned Parenthood event (which was reviewed the next day).

Reading at the Planned Parenthood benefit on 2/8/12. Photo by Andie Petkus

My next readings are gonna be pretty sweet too. I’ll be wandering around AWP in Chicago through the first weekend of March and reading at the Ear Eater reading series on March 3rd at 6pm at Beef & Brandy.   (also–I am on a panel about publishing fiction chapbooks at 9am the morning of the 2nd on the third floor of the Marquette Hilton.)

The following week, I’ll be back in Portland and reading at this cool event called SongStory. It’s on Wednesday, March 7th at the Someday Lounge. Other awesome readers include Lidia Yuknavitch and Gigi Little.

In other news, I had this essay about my experience with riot grrrl that was just published by Jewcy. This is an interesting piece that I actually wrote about two years ago after I found a letter from Bikini Kill’s iconic Kathleen Hanna that I had buried in a box of correspondence.

Kathleen Hanna’s spoken word single on Kill Rock Stars

I shopped the piece around a little to some music magazines but it never quite fit anywhere. It was going to be published by a Portland paper, but they sat on it for over a year (waiting for a slow news week perhaps) that I finally sent it elsewhere. Thanks to Jason Diamond for taking it on.

Now, to tie this all together with the title of the post, I will tell you my thoughts on ketchup (or catsup, which is how you say it with a lisp):

The only thing positive that I ever learned from my first girlfriend was the trick of mixing ketchup and mayonnaise to make a yummy french fry sauce. We’d go to Burger King and chomp down two or three orders of fries at a time. Since then, I’ve done “the mix” everywhere I go, from burger joints to fancy places with twelve dollar burgers. Thankfully, one of my favorite Portland burger places, Little Big Burger, already has that delightful sauce ready-made for the asking. Thanks, LBB.

The only other time I like ketchup is with fish-n-chips. I’ll always remember filling up those tiny paper cup things at Skippers whenever our family went there on Friday nights during Lent. All-you-can-eat fried fish dipped in ketchup is a wonderful thing.

Okay, folks and friends. Thanks for reading! This post was written while listening to various videos by Eleanor Friedberger, like this beauty.

2011 is Dead. Long Live 1997.

Hey–First off, I have new little stories at Unshod Quills and Hart House Review!

And since 2011 is just about over, I thought I should post a little year-end thingamajig. A few of my favorite things:

Novels: Donald Ray Pollack’s The Devil All the Time and Patrick deWitt’s The Sisters Brothers were both pretty kick-ass rough and tumble kind of novels and both steeped in a dark Americana style.

Mr. deWitt

Short story collection: How many times do I have to tell you. Lutz is a master. Divorcer simply destroys.

Memoir: Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy. So, yeah, it was all popular like ten years ago but I just finally read it and it’s pretty awesome. Some people say the Ann Patchett book, Truth & Beauty (about her friendship with Grealy) is even better. Can’t wait to read that one. I’m sad that Grealy is not around anymore.

Poetry: Gregory Sherl is the new leading man of the drug-addled emo poetry scene. Does that make it sound bad? I hope not. Because it’s beautiful. He’s also kind of like the Rob Pollard of the lit world now too–so many books coming out (including Monogamy Songs from Future Tense, summer 2012), so many words coming out of him.

Surprise Manuscript: Chloe Caldwell sent me a query in 2010 that piqued my interest enough to have her send me more stuff in 2011. In that short amount of time, her essays became even more powerful and I signed her on for a Future Tense release in spring of 2012. Legs Get Led Astray is gonna kick your butt and give you a heartache. Helping her edit her essays the past couple of months has been a constant thrill. She’s my favorite writer of personal essays. Watch out for her!

Movies: Oh, man. Has it been a shitty stretch of years for film? It feels like the quality of movies is down lately. I did really like Drive (like everyone else, I know) and Buck was great as well. My favorite DVD release was definitely Dogtooth, the strange and brilliant Greek film about a fucked-up family in a world all their own.

TV: There are many shows that I once really liked and have lost interest in (Dexter, Weeds, maybe even American Horror Story already) but the ones that have stayed awesome are Breaking Bad and Mad Men (in other words, the usual suspects). The saddest goodbye this year was for Friday Night Lights, one of the greatest and most realistic shows about small town living and family life to ever be on TV. Luckily though, FNL writer Jason Katims also does the AWESOME show Parenthood, which has a lot of the same great qualities of FNL. I never miss it–and yeah, I have a crush on Lauren Graham. So what?

Lauren

Music: I feel like I got more and more behind on the music scene this year. I’m just not as on top of it as I used to be. I remember people would ask me, ten or fifteen years ago: How do you find out about all these cool bands that you listen to? I would usually answer that I hung out at listening stations a lot, had friends with record store jobs, and that I read a lot of music magazines (NME and Melody Maker, Copper Press, Spin, or whatever). Now my answer is: the library. I get stuff at the library all the time. Just recently, I snagged a CD by Sarah Jaffe, thinking it was my friend Sara Jaffe. It wasn’t, but now I have a new favorite singer. Also discovered this year: Ayvett Brothers, Blind Pilot, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, and I got to interview The Decemberists’ Colin Meloy and Jenny Conlee for Relix Magazine, which was cool. My 17-year-old son has reached the point where he’s listening to all these weird bands I’ve never even heard of.

The Decemberists

There were a lot of other personal highlights in 2011 as well. Getting married to B. Frayn Masters in January was a beautiful moment that keeps turning into more beautiful moments.

Married Bliss Attack!

Now come on, 2012!

I’m reading at If Not For Kidnap on a special Friday night edition, January 20th. I’m joined by Bryan Coffelt, poet, designer, Future Tense co-hort, and 49ers fan. There will also be Edward Mullany, a musical guest, and a secret special surprise reader at this event. Not to mention booze. House readings: They’re the best.

Alright, folks. Have a great Christmas and New Year.

love,

Kevin

Booty Call’s Triumphant Orgasmic Return!

You know how you go to readings sometimes and it’s kind of boring and then someone reads something about hot horny sex and you’re like, Hey–this just got more fun! Well, that was one of the reasons I started doing Booty Call readings way back in 2002. I wanted to curate an evening where four chosen writers would ONLY read their smuttiest, dirtiest, funniest, and craziest stuff.

Booty Call was sort of a yearly thing for a while and they’ve been held at Disjecta, Plan B, and now The Blue Monk. The first one was held at a church! Some of the readers have been Viva Las Vegas, Wm. Steven Humphrey, Zach Plague, Jodi Darby, Zoe Trope, Shanna Germain, Riley Michael Parker, Lidia Yuknavitch, and poet Casey Kwang.

It’s been about three years since the last one and I even have people that always ask me, When’s the next Booty Call?

The answer is finally here. This Friday night at the Blue Monk, I will again be hosting (with my sexy wife, B. Frayn Masters) this long-awaited night of hot, dirty action.

poster by Fiona Bruce

Just look at that line-up! Not only are these people talented, but they may be the sexiest people you’ll ever see. EVER!

This, of course, will be the best way to get ready for the awesome Wordstock weekend. And if you’re at Wordstock and want to find me, I’ll probably be wandering around for a while Saturday and maybe working at the Powell’s booth on Sunday. Also, there will be some Future Tense books available to purchase at the Reading Local table. Stop by there and say hi to Gabe, the man in charge of that.

I hope to see you somewhere this weekend. It’s gonna be a festive and fun one.

Scott McClanahan: What’s Up With Those Book Covers?

When I discovered the stories of Scott McClanahan last year, I was instantly enthralled with his natural storytelling voice and freaky funny tales. There’s no pretense to Scott’s work. It’s like you’re just dropped right into the middle of these fantastic and true stories. It’s like a sweet blend of my favorite southern writers, Larry Brown and Harry Crews. Reading McClanahan is like listening to a good friend telling you his best real-life stories on your back porch on a humid night. And you both got a nice whiskey buzz going.

And I’m going to take a wild guess and say that’s what this Friday night at Ampersand will be like. Scott makes his first northwest appearance at a special outdoor, back patio reading with Portlanders Patrick deWitt (The Brothers Sisters) and Jenny Forrester (Guns, God, and Irony). It starts at 7:30 and there’s free beer from Ninkasi. A good time and hella-great stories are guaranteed. He’s also reading in Seattle on Saturday night.

But what’s up with those covers?! I didn’t mind the first one but the 2nd and 3rd books from the West Virginian sport the weirdest, goofiest cover images I’ve seen in a while.

I looooove Scott McClanahan like a brother, but I had to have a heart-to-heart with him about those covers and other stuff. Here’s what he had to say…

Mr. McClanahan

I like your first book cover, but I thought the 2nd one was kind of gross. Probably because I have a thing about feet (it’s somewhere between a fetish and an aversion). It took me forever to realize there are six toes on that foot. Where the heck did you get this image and why the heck did you put it on a book cover?

To be honest, I just stole it.   I’m actually in the middle of a lawsuit right now over it.   We have the Holler Presents lawyers working it out.   This is going to be a landmark case though and set a real precedent for people who want to use a foot with six toes on it for a book cover.   I’ll keep you posted.

I decided to use this picture for the cover of Stories II because originally there was a story in the book called “Six Toed Russell.”   It was about a friend of mine who had six toes on both feet.  We used to go into coal miner bars and bet drunken rednecks that Russell had six toes.   There is no better way to get free beer than when your buddy has six toes.   The story “Six Toed Russell” was eventually cut from the book, so I was kind of stuck with the cover.

It’s not a joke or anything.   That image feels like a religious image to me, or like a totem of some sort (I’d throw the other covers into this as well).   There was a group of ancient people here in West Virginia called the mound builders.   The National Geographic Society unearthed one of their burial mounds in the early part of the 20th century and they found the skeleton of a man who stood 8 feet tall (8 and a half in heels).   There was evidence in the tomb that this man had been treated like a king in his lifetime, and then worshipped like a god afterwards.

I think genetic abnormalities pretty much explain all religion when it comes down to it—Shiva, Osiris, etc.

Genetic abnormalities make good book covers.

What’s the deal with the cover of Stories V. I looked at it for a while trying to figure out if there was a joke in there somewhere, like maybe she had three ears or a mustache but I didn’t see either. What kind of creepy sexist bullshit is this, man?

My first response to this question would be, “How do you know it’s a woman?”

We were going for a Myron/Myra Breckenridge vibe.   I’ve always described the individual on the cover as “a person.”   It’s the folks on the blogs who keep bitching about “the woman” on the cover.

The problem was we picked the picture (we had a few to choose from) without a real prominent adam’s apple (instead of picking the one where it was obvious).   We decided to be subtle and being subtle always creates confusion.   You have to bang people over the head with something before they get it.

Of course, you should never underestimate the self righteousness of identity politics or independent literature for that matter.   We live in a world of being ashamed about our secret feelings—our secret lusts, desires, objectifications, prejudices, the nasty little parts of ourselves we don’t want to fess up to having.   We can show scars, but we can’t show our pimples.   There are so many Jerry Falwells out there labeling things, and 90% of the time they don’t even understand the objects they’re labeling.

Covers should confront you, piss you off, and contradict what’s in between their pages.   I say let’s bury good taste once and for all.    

What do you think will be on your next book cover?

I’m starting to like the idea of just a face.   I don’t even like the idea of my name on the book or the title of the book anymore.   I also hate blurbs. I think we should pick books the way we choose our mates.  So I think we should just have covers of our ugly faces.   I’m tired of people hiding behind abstract art covers and “pseudonyms.”  

I write under the name my mommy gave me.   We should publish our books under the face our mother gave us too.

There’s a great cover Grove Press did with the Complete Plays of Joe Orton where it’s just this extreme close-up of Orton’s face.  I like that.

Mr. Gian Ditrapano has some great ideas for the cover of Hill William though, but I’ll hold those cards close to my chest right now.

What are your favorite book covers lately?

The cover for Jamie Iredell’s Book of Freaks is great (and I’m not just saying that because of who is asking the questions).    I love the covers Sam Pink has been doing with his Lazy Fascist Press books.   There’s an energy to those covers that the minimalism of the moment just can’t touch.   Tao Lin’s Richard Yates and Mike Young’s Look! Look! Feathers! are pretty amazing covers too.

We’re living in an age of prog-rock when it comes to covers. We need to punch it in the face. No more paintings of animals! No more line drawings! No more brown! Please!

Nobody is buying these books anyway, so let’s have some fun.

 Are you excited about coming to the northwest?

I couldn’t be more excited   I feel like Lewis and Clark.   I have such a horrible fear of flying that it’s ridiculous though.   I get on a plane a couple of times a year and each time it’s a panic attack.   I’ve tried flying drunk or drugged up, but then it’s just being drunk or drugged up and having a panic attack.

I always hear Buddy Holly’s “True Love Ways” in my head when I fly, or the last line the Holly character from the movie Labamba says, “Don’t worry, Richie.   The sky belongs to the stars.”  

Of course, then they fall from the sky.

I’m getting ready to have a panic attack right now.  Stop thinking about Buddy Holly.   Stop thinking about Buddy Holly. Think Lewis and Clark.  Think Lewis and Clark. Lewis and Clark it is!

Who Is B. Frayn Masters?

B. Frayn Masters is reading at the Smalldoggies reading series tomorrow night at the Blue Monk. It’s been a while since she’s done a reading, what with all her time being occupied as producer of the super-popular live shows, Entertainment For People and Back Fence (which she also co-hosts), freelance writing, and getting married to me earlier this year. I told her that I wanted to interview her for my blog, to catch people up on what she’s doing, and to also excavate some of her personal secrets myself. Here’s what the smokin’ blonde bombshell had to say for herself.

What is it that you do all day while I’m at work?

It depends.

If I get really anxious about something I might suddenly watch three episodes of Project Runway in a row, making a deal with myself to work extra hard to get what is on my list done, quickly. Slowly I get up from the couch and have the show on in the background until I can fully engage in work. Then I mute the show. Then I turn it off. It is a form of weaning myself away from my anxiety. I usually do get it done. Also, I’m really embarrassed about this practice and often think of you and think, Shit, if he knew I did this…like I’m some kind of coke whore or something.

If I’m decently motivated I sit at my computer and work in my underwear with unwashed hair, maybe some food in my teeth. The tabs I have open while I work are various email accounts, Facebook, twitter, Gawker/CNN/Jezebel/Forever21/McSweeney’s/This American Life, and toggl.com. The latter because when I stop working on my scriptwriting/copywriting project I can easily stop counting my freelance writing time. It wouldn’t be fair to make my clients pay for my voracious surfing appetite. Usually in the middle of the day I open Photobooth and horrify myself with how I look. I pose several different ways and take pictures. Sometimes I let out little screams because I’m scared.

Then I put my hair in a bun and put a hydrating mask on my face. Whenever I work at home I make tons of lemonade. Juicing four lemons at a time, adding cayenne pepper or ginger and always stevia. I suck down glass after glass with a straw so as not to damage the enamel on my teeth. You know how much the dentist loves my teeth. I think, if he could, he might like to unload on them. That’s gross. I’m gross and dirty, but you knew that when you married me. You like it.

If I’m feeling really motivated (read: there is a deadline looming that I have procrastinated) I get up really early and go to a coffee shop to write. The coffee shop across the street—this comes in handy because I usually forget some very important document/research I need to complete my writing. I leave my purse and my laptop at the coffee shop and walk back to our place to retrieve whatever I’m missing. I leave them there, these valuable things, like a total bitch dumbass. I need to stop doing that. Recently I’ve adopted a strange workout behavior. I call it ‘cumulative bathroom exercise.’ I read some article in Glamour Magazine in like 2001 about some similar practice. It really stuck with me I guess. Though I guarantee you I’ve made it my own. When I go into the large unisex bathrooms at coffee shops around town, after I’ve done my business, I either do 25 wall push ups or 25 full-on squats. This has been great and I do feel stronger. I end up doing about 125 of each before the end of the day. Sometimes I do both exercises and typically more than 25…I *really* focus on form…I only do both if there is no one waiting. When I say both, I mean both exercises. Not both 1 and 2.

I also clean a lot to avoid work. And I try clothes on in hopes that they fit. I play with the cat a lot too, but that’s no surprise.

What are some other jobs you’ve had?

Ima try to think about stuff I’ve done I’ve never told you that much about.

I had a job for a half day where I was selling something like the Chinook Book over the phone. Most of the people who worked there were in their 30’s and 40’s, the place smelled like the fumes from people circling the cul-de-sac of their lives. I went to lunch and never came back.

I had a job at a juice bar for two days. I just couldn’t care less about memorizing what went into each drink, so I applied for and found a job at an art gallery.

The gallery was owned by a fucking crazy lady. She was married to a man who was 16 years her junior. He was 27 at the time and far more mature than her. They would scream at each other across the Chihuly glass sculptures. It was ridiculous and she was MEAN. They would actually drive customers (agog people actually herded their children) out of the store. I took notes thinking they made for good characters. I quit after three months. I had taken a study guide about the art home with me when I was hired. Totally forgot I had it. A week after I quit, the owner sent a notified letter to me from her attorney saying that if I didn’t return the notebook filled with Kinko’s-copied pages immediately she would file a notice with the police that I was in possession of stolen property. This was her first attempt to contact me about returning it. Her methodology worked: I returned it, in person, with a big smile, post-haste. I had that letter for a long time. Wish I still had it.

I worked at the reception desk at the hoity toity San Francisco Press club as a fill-in for two weeks. I was in town visiting friends and ran out of money. My friend found me the job. It was a fancy place with dark wood and the lilting fabrics of the Brat Pack. Rich, old people went there. I read Writing in Restaurants by David Mamet while I sat there doing very little, but getting paid a lot. There was an essay in that book that made me cry. I still think about it. It nailed a huge flaw I had/have so perfectly, so pointedly, I could no longer be in denial. I read it over and over and cried over and over.

What was the Mamet essay about?

It was about performance. The thing that stuck out was a passage about how if you get all pissy when you perceive yourself to have done a bad performance, or get a bad review and, conversely, soak up the glory when you perceive yourself to have done a good performance or get a review then you’re headed for a life of trouble. You have to, he says, take account of what you set out to improve on, like say, ‘did I hit my marks, not lose my British accent, and make my partner onstage/screen look good’? Whether you did or did not do those things is the only thing you need be concerned about. This is the only way, he suggests, for you to become a better artist—to look at the tangibles. Petulance will get you nowhere, you will build no character, and you’ll be unhappy.

I was a really petulant 21 yr old. Not surprising, I’m sure. I loved to sulk and to supplicate compliments. “I’m so bad. I suck. Bad. Did you *really* like my performance? Really? Can you sign this document saying you *liked* it? Blah, blah, blah.” I don’t react to that shit as much now, but those synapses still fire with little silencers on.

What are you working on, writing-wise?

These projects are in all states of progress.

1. A novel called, HUGE.
2. An untitled screenplay.
3. An untitled video short series.
4. 2 personal essays
5. A short screenplay based on a Mary Miller short story for Spork magazine. It is way more work and pages than I anticipated.
6. Stuff for different websites I’d like to get published on.
7. Pitches for a magazine I’d like write for.
8. A couple of animation scripts for corporations. They even have a little humor in them.
9. A pitch for a radio show I’d like to be on.
10. Other flotsam and jetsam.

Who are some of your biggest inspirations?

For various reasons…
1. You. And Zach.
Then, in no particular order…

  • 2. Jenny Lewis
  • 3. Wes Anderson
  • 4. Alexander Payne
  • 5. Jason Bateman
  • 6. Preston Sturges
  • 7. Ray Bradbury
  • 8. Dorothy Parker
  • 9. Drew Barrymore
  • 10. Lidia Yuknavitch
  • 11. Jack Black
  • 12. Nikoli Gogol
  • 13. Jim Thompson
  • 14. Katherine Dunn
  • 15. Dolly Parton
  • 16. Miranda July
  • 17. Cheryl Strayed
  • 18. Joel McHale
  • 19. Louis CK
  • 20. John Hodgman
  • 21. John Moe
  • 22. Arthur Bradford
  • 23. Chris Ballew
  • 24. Judy Blume
  • 25. Chris Ware
  • 26. Daniel Clowes
  • 27. Eric Spitznagel
  • 28. Charlize Theron
  • 29. The Guppy’s
  • 30. Dan Kennedy
  • 31. Rothko
  • 32. Sam Lipsyte
  • 33. Barbra Stanwyck

So many more…these are off the top of my head.

Who were your childhood heroes?

I really didn’t have any childhood heroes, I guess. If anyone was they’d be on the list above. Is that sad? It’s not sad to me.

Here’s a stab at it. STAB.

Ray Bradbury because he could see the future. Katherine Dunn because Geek Love showed me a kind of writing that absolutely marked my brain. And Nancy Drew because she had the cool job of detective.

What are five of your favorite things to do in Portland?

1. Go to Ringside Steakhouse happy hour. I especially like it when we order three orders of steak bites and they pile them all on one plate. Every time I’m surprised that we eat them all. Every time. (There are about six or eight small bites in each order. That didn’t help. It still seem glutenous.)

2. Read/write at a coffee shop with my feet touching yours.

3. Hang out with friends. Hiking, eating, drinking.

4. See friends kill on stage

5. Curate and co-host Back Fence. I meet really cool people who tell me intimate details about their lives. Also, Entertainment for People. I like doing things that I can bring my massively talented friends into.

What’s it like to live with me?

It is the absolute best. We can really let our indoor selves come out to play. Not to mention a hot cup of coffee is handed to me each morning with a smile. I like the running jokes and stories we weave out of the blue, we make up lots of stuff about our kitty, Boo. I like that we blame any spillage or dirt pile on him. Maybe we could shoot an episode of Hoarders where he has a bunch of humans running, sleeping in, and pooping around his house. Boo just takes them in off the street. It is hard for him to keep the place clean because paws just ain’t hands, you know? And he has a bit of a shopping problem. He buys clothes, but never wears them. They just sit in piles, piles that grow like the Matterhorn out of the carpet. What I like about you is that you would go along with the story and simply add to it.  I often think about how many people would  be perplexed by this sort of antics. But, you get it, baby. You get it. According to the ideology of hack stand-up comics I ‘ve got it real good when it comes to the “Men are like this….” stuff. You are super tidy and you are the opposite of an asshole. You are the whole ass baby, the whole ass that has no hole whatsoever. 

Tell me something that I don’t know about you?

I’m trying to think of something positive. I need to end this by painting a better picture of myself than I did with the answers to question one.

I have at least 50 items in various shopping carts all over the internet. Wait, that’s not positive.

When I was an ice skater I could skate perfect figure 8’s. I would skate them forwards and backwards over and over. I don’t know why but it filled me with immense joy to do this. It must have been my 7-year-old version of mediation. I still think about skating them. Whenever we’re in Lloyd Center I always want to go to the rink, rent skates and see if I can still do it. Maybe that’s just cheeseballs, but I don’t think you know that? Do you?

The Laura Gibson Connection

I’m excited to reveal that the secret musical guest that will accompany me at the Entertainment For People shows this Wednesday (Portland) and Friday (Seattle) is Laura Gibson. The acclaimed and beloved Portland singer-songwriter has released music through Hush and has played shows with The Decemberists, Rocky Votolato, and Sean Lennon!

Laura Gibson: Angelic Songstress

We’re going to try and record it somehow (audio and/or video), but if you really want to experience this, you should go to the show (which also features B. Frayn Masters & Jason Rouse, Emmett Montgomery, Jimmy Radosta, and host Dan Kennedy of The Moth!).

I’ll be reading two stories with Laura at these shows, including a new story called The Soul Singer. Hope to see you there!

 

Dudes I Love

Sometimes I got to celebrate the dudes I love and a couple of them are coming to Portland town soon. Check it out:

1. Tom Franklin

Tom and his foxy wife, Beth Ann Fennelly

Last summer, when B and I went on our Southern voyage, we stayed in the awesome guest house of Tom and his wife (the great poet, Beth Ann Fennelly) in Oxford, Mississippi–for two nights! It was one of the highlights of the trip. I’ve loved Tom’s writing since his debut story collection, Poachers. He has put out some other beauties since then and his newest, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, is a stunner. He’s reading on Tuesday, June 14th at the Powell’s at Cedar Hills. It’s gonna be good.

2. Davy Rothbart

Davy hangs out with star all the time. Here he is with "Hurt Locker" star, Jeremy Renner

I’ve been pals with the Found Magazine boss since he came into Powell’s several years ago and dropped off a copy of his then self-published story collection, The Lone Surfer of Manhattan, Kansas. I see him every time he comes to town now because the dude is so entertaining and awesome! He once told me that he gave his dad a copy of the first edition of A Common Pornography when his dad wanted advice on writing about his life. That, my friends, is sweet. Also, he published a story of mine in the Found fiction anthology. (I published two of Davy’s stories–one in The Insomniac Reader and this one in the Spork that I guest-edited.)

He’s in town on Wednesday, June 15th, to talk about the documentary movie about his love life, My Heart Is An Idiot. It was created by another cool-as-hell sweetheart of a man, David Meiklejohn. This will most likely sell out, so get your tickets fast.

3. Dan Kennedy

DK: Nice hair and a tasty drink

Like many folks, I discovered Dan Kennedy through his awesome writing that would appear on the McSweeney’s web site back in the early days of Dave Eggers empire. He’s had a couple of awesome humorous memoirs published since then and has been to Portland a few times to read from them.

He’ll be here, at The Woods, on Wednesday, June 22nd to host the next Entertainment For People, which I will also be reading at (with a special secret musical accompaniment)! We’ll also be doing the show in Seattle on Friday the 24th. DK is a genius of the deadpan and his writing shows up in all sorts of big-shot places now, like GQ and also on The Moth. Don’t miss this show!

Thus ends this episode of Dudes I Love. Thank you.