Sunday, June 29, 2014

Dear Moxie

As one of America's oldest soda companies, one would expect that you have your act together by now.  You made a drink that tastes like the bitter brew of the angels, yet you have continually refused to distribute it nationally.  Anyone that is fortunate enough to taste your little piece of heaven, yet doesn't live in New England, is forced to either pine away until they find you again, or pay exorbitant prices to order you over the internet.  I love your soda, but I refuse to pay almost $1.00 a can.  If I had that kind of money, I would probably finally go to the doctor to find out why I can't feel my right foot anymore.  There is no question that people nationwide would embrace your product, so this stubborn refusal to go national can only be a greedy attempt to control supply and demand.  To that end, I would like to tell you a story, and perhaps use that as a way to illustrate to you that your actions have consequences.

In the summer of 2004, I spent two weeks in Maine. This was more than enough time for you to sink your bitterly sweet hooks into me.  When I got back home, I quickly exhausted the rations I brought back.  Chills set in, the shakes took over, and it got so bad that I tried mixing bitters with cola to try to get your unique taste.  When I awoke confused and belligerent hours later, I resigned myself to the fact that perhaps we were not meant to be together.  It wasn't until later that fall that I was proved a liar.

Some moments are so ingrained in the formation of the person that you are that you remember every small occurrence, every smell.  I was in my friend T.'s apartment, spending an lazy afternoon smoking cigarettes and yelling at people that happened to pass by.  Somehow, Moxie was brought up, most likely as a wish that whatever we were currently drinking was Moxie instead, thus making us both sad. 

A voice broke our melancholy, deep and dripping with honey and poison.

"I've seen some Moxie."

Out of a dark corner, which was hard to find since it was a sunny afternoon, our friend Brian leaned his perfectly coiffed head forward and smiled a toothy, vile grin.  An odor both sweet and sad, like a lost love or a lullabye sung by an orphan with a speech impediment, wafted over the porch, accompanied by the buzzing of a legion of flies.  In our excitement, we were quick to push away these omens and sat in rapt attention as Brian told us how he had seen Moxie on an end cap at the Shoppers Food Warehouse, just one day previous.  No sooner was he finished speaking we were in T.'s Suburban, careening towards our delicious destiny. 

I am not sure that I waited for the car to fully stop before I was out and running through the parking lot to the main doors.  T., being of small stature, took longer to get in, and found me at the soda aisle.  Our enthusiasm propelled us up and down the aisle the first eight times.  It even sustained us as we checked every end cap.  The dawning realization that bad things happen in the world soon crept into our minds, and desperation began to guide our actions.  T. began muttering, slowly and quiet at first, then reach a fevered pitch of, "Where? Where?  No. No. No. Where? Why?" as he began to push sodas away on the shelves to see if they were hiding the Moxie.  I used my superior height to check to make sure they weren't keeping it stashed on the top shelves just for us.  Finally, the commotion attracted a store employee, and Travis begged them to show us where they were hiding the drink.  Panic set in as the woman looked confused, and then she uttered the words that scarred us ever since:

"Moxie?  I've never even heard of that.  We don't carry that."

I was overcome with a sensation that all feeling had left my body.  I was hollow almost instantly, and it was as if I had never had feelings to begin with, like I had never known love, pain, joy, or sorrow.  I was just in the world as an impartial observer.  Poor T., having such a big heart for such a small man, went the opposite direction.  Feelings ballooned so that they encompassed his whole being and his body was a raw nerve, stinging with every breeze  His little legs gave out as he wailed, and he began pulling his body across the floor, trying to escape this cruel Warehouse of Lies and Broken Promises. Our despondency steeled itself into anger and self righteous fury against our deceiver, and we set out for retribution.  Brian was dead to us.  He had been killed by our enemy "Lyin' Brian", and we would exact our revenge.

If my memory is correct, we found him sitting under a giant parasol, hiding from the pure and good rays of the sun.  He tipped his glass of water to us, and taking a sip to quench the fires of hell that burned under his skin, he asked if we found what we were seeking.  Rage prohibited us from forming  real words, and T. was barely able to stop himself from backhanding this new Father of Lies.  Lyin' Brian professed confusion, still adamant that he has seen the Moxie, and he claimed he was so very sorry that our trip was fruitless.  T. and I knew better at this point.  We knew we could never trust anything he ever said again.

I could say that if you, dear Moxie, would have bothered to ship your product further than your own back yard, then perhaps one of my dearest friendships would not have dissolved.  I could also say that perhaps your product did me a service, and showed me that there was a villain that I had showed too much trust and brotherhood.  Either way, it would be nice if I could go to my local grocer and get your soda.  For now, your logo doesn't say, "Drink Moxie!". 
It's a stern reminder of what is missing in my life, and what...

could have god.....

it's a river of slime.    Brian, what have you done?

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Dear Friends Who Run Marathons

Back in the day, it wasn't so hard for you to lord your bodily supremacy over me.  While my friends all played soccer and baseball, I was forced thanks to an enlarged heart to only play for the golf team.  The doctors have never adequately explained why I couldn't play strenuous sports because I was just too full of love.  While I was still able to get into a fight and have to be separated from an opponent during a golf match, the conditioning was not as complete as what my friends went though.  Therefore, while they all had beach bodies, I had the body and face of a massive toddler well into high school.

During college I hit what they call "rock bottom" in the "taking care of yourself department" thanks to drinking "ten beers in a sitting" and eating at "buffets" "every" "meal".  Finally, I'd had enough, and started a slow process of learning to eat better and that exercising could be done.  My formerly awful knees that would pop in and out of place at will and sounded like gravel being chewed felt much better once I was carrying seventy or eighty less pounds around, and things got even easier.  While I am not thin by a long shot, I am in decent shape, and I feel good.  While my friends have recently started grumbling that they've lost their abs, I'm just happy that I can finally see ribs that aren't on my plate.  So, when time and persistence on my part conspire to even the playing field.  I can imagine the meeting, at a long boardroom table, where they all figure out my weakness, and also figure out how to defeat Superman.   They've all gotten desperate, and taken this thing the the streets, where I can only do a halfhearted chugging jog, followed by three hours of groaning and hacking lung butter.

Whenever anyone is asked about how the marathon went, the word "hell" is always used.  It tends to be followed by "cramps", "dehydrated", "hallucinated", "exhaustion", "bowels", and "evacuated".  Immediately after all of that, that person always says, "It was so worth it!  Can't wait for next year!"

I don't need to get kicked in the neck to know it's going to suck.  I certainly am not going to pay for that privilege.  Maybe it's because my body is absolutely not built for running long distances.  Maybe I just miss that gene where a marathon seems awesome.  I am not missing the gene that tells you that extreme thigh chafing and severe bleeding from the nipples is a bad thing.  If I wanted to pay for that, I'd listen to that server they call Weird Ass Daryl from work and go to that "Korean Grocery" he keeps spending all of his time at on the weekends. 

You can have your marathons.  I'm still the best at other things, like dancing to Billy Joel songs, making delicious sandwiches, and yelling at people in Target.  All of these things are on my business card.  Is "Good at running" on yours?

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Dear Gene the Brain Tick

There’s a slightly engorged tick that lives in my brain.  He feeds off of my jealousy, my insecurity, and the tasty little bits of my rejected pride.   Years ago, I named him Gene after one of the biggest pricks I knew.  Gene slobbers up all of these feelings, chortling to himself as he grows fat and happy, then excretes out a crippling feeling of failure and malaise.  Gene is excellent at his job.  

There's the stigma that any good entertainer, be it a writer, actor, comedian, singer, whatever, has a lethal amount of ego and/or a spectacularly messed up sense of self.  I would fall into the latter category, which makes Gene a very happy brain tick.  If there's a bad thing to be said of me, I probably started the chant.  There's no defining moment, no single thing you can point to and say "That's why he's this way."  I had a normal childhood, loving parents, and I was rarely touched by strangers.  Somewhere around high school or college, I grew a fairly unique sense of humor, mostly as a way of coping with the fact that I am wound tighter than a coke head's watch.  At some point, I just stopped censoring myself, and I found out people thought that was funny.  So, I found self-worth there, and that's informed my writing ever since.

I touched upon this earlier, but I tend to get very envious of other artistic types that have succeeded where I have failed.  This exclusive group includes almost every person that has ever done anything creative, because, to this point, I haven’t gotten very far.  As my twitter bio says, "Failed actor, failed writer, failed director, excellent at making sandwiches."  Mostly, I've failed because I have always allowed myself to be talked out of things.  I was told I couldn't make it as an actor, so I stopped.  Same with the other things.  My podcast had about twenty listeners an episode, so that went away.  This blog, running on almost three years now, marks the single longest commitment I've made to anything that wasn't smoking cigarettes or the tv show LOST.  Why have I kept doing it?  Two reasons: I'm good at it, and more importantly, it makes me feel good to do it.  This particular letter is roughly the 150th I’ve put out.  We’ve basically hit novel length at this point.  That’s plenty of feel good for me.  

Why did I write all of this?  As my friend Spike says, "I told you that story so I could tell you this one."

I noted on the blog's Facebook page that I went to see Danielle Ate the Sandwich the other night.  This is fitting to the blog, because Danielle actually has a tie to its history.  For the first year or so I wrote this, I would write while listening to a Youtube playlist I made of artists like Danielle, Julia Nunes, Lauren O'Connell, and others, the majority being female singers, mostly ukulele players, who can really sing.  Most play happy songs, because there aren't a whole lot of sad ukulele songs.  It may seem antithetical, but for whatever reasons, this playlist always got me in the mood to write this blog.
Some time early last year, I sent out emails to several of these musicians.  I offered a trade of sorts.  I requested each artist cover a song for this blog, and in return, I would write a letter of their choosing, or write anything really.  It was a bad idea, for certain, and clearly only benefited me as it would get my name out to their largely superior audiences.  These artists are smart, and they saw through that.  In fact, the only two to respond were Lauren O'Connell, despite her cover of "House of the Rising Sun" hitting national acclaim on American Horror Story at that same time, and Danielle Ate the Sandwich.  Lauren offered a thanks but no thanks, and Danielle was gracious, asking only that I write her again in the fall after her current tour ended.  Danielle keeps herself very busy, and was unable again in the fall, but was needlessly polite throughout.

The shorter point to that whole story was that Danielle, in email, seemed much like her on camera self.  This notion was proven when I met her this week.  I said hello to her, gave her my card, and talked with her for a bit.  She remembered my logo off the card, and the emails, and I tried to to fanboy gush on her.  The show was exactly what one could hope for had they seen her videos: funny, earnest, and charmingly self deprecating, three tenets I strive for, but feel like I generally miss as a trio, with my blog.  Moreso, she represented something I could have been.  She did what she loved doing, and she's taking every chance to make her living at it.  For once, though, I didn't get sad about it, or regretful, or any type of typical reaction to something I am envious of.  I was just happy.  I went home, sat on the porch, and smoked a cigar while watching a rainstorm come in.  I may have even smiled, which tends to look like I'm having a stroke.  This was almost a revelation, because normally Gene would have eaten well after I watched someone so happy at succeeding.  Maybe I am getting better as I get older.  Maybe Gene just had a stroke and his carcass is blocking off the bitterness sector of my brain.  Maybe it's something else entirely. 

My friend Cindyloo who gave me a DVD of the movie About Time for my birthday this year, because she thought I would like it.  I made the decision long ago to never apologize for something I like, and I will gladly say I thoroughly enjoyed the movie.  Without going into the nitty gritty on the plot, one of the characters makes a statement near the end, "I just try to live every day as if I've deliberately come back to this one day, to enjoy it".  

For whatever reason, that stuck with me.  Maybe it’s because it was near my birthday, a time where I was already evaluating where I am in life.  Maybe because at this point, I’ll cling to anything that offers a chance at clarity.  Regardless, I’ve loosely adopted that idea.  Every day, I try to do at least one thing that makes me even the slightest bit happy.  It can be listening to a particular song on the ride home, windows down and enjoying the breeze.  It can be letting myself cheat and have pancakes for dinner or sitting on the deck and having a cigar after work.  Before I go to bed, I jot down each of the things I did to be happy that day.  Some days, it’s hard to find the good things that happened, and other days you can fill the page.  The point is, I have to make a concerted effort to be happy every day, even just for a little bit.  Maybe, then, it’ll happen more and more, and Gene the Brain Tick will shrivel up and die.  

So, this has been my way of half assing my dream.  Maybe one day it'll lead me on a book tour, city to city like Danielle Ate The Sandwich, or maybe I'll give up a month from now.  The point it, I've chosen for once to do something that makes me happy, and to keep doing it even when I don't get positive results.  Life rarely gives you positive results, so screw it, and just find a way to be happy, or else your brain tick will burst out of your nose. 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Dear Drunkard

When I get a chance to choose between sitting at home watching The Wire on my laptop or meeting some friends at a bar, I'll eventually turn up at the bar.  I'll pay the cover charge, drink the one beer that comes with that cover charge, and I'll watch whatever coverband is playing.  Mostly, I'm there to see friends that I don't get to see very often because grownup life sucks.  So, when some drunken dill hole mucks up my good time, I am unsurprisingly less than pleased.

Like any predator, you made your move when someone strayed from the pack.  I had been telling my sister that she should get the number of a quiet looking Asian fellow wearing an Ed Hardy t-shirt, because wow, and he turned it up a notch when he climbed on top of the bar with a fiddle and started playing "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" with the band.  My sister and my friend Beaz went closer to the bar to watch, and you swooped in.  Tall, emaciated, and with a mangy mane of hair befitting a sewer poodle, you leaned in and yelled something at Beaz.  He ignored you, so you yelled loud, then proceeded to pick up the trashcan next to you and flail about, banging it on the floor and swaying your hips like a trollop.  You finished with a flourish, set the can down gently, then yelled, "Yeah!  Drum contest!"  You couldn't have known Beaz is a drummer.  You are simply a moron that wanted a drum contest and settled for humping a garbage can at a bar.

You couldn't settle for that level of drunken idiocy though.  You decided instead, awhile later, to push through my group of friends, put your arm around me, and say, "Thank God!  How tall are you?"  I'm not sure how those two utterances were related.  I was too focused on the fact that your greasy arm was on my shoulder.  I proceeded to, in no uncertain terms, explain that I had not given you any permission to come near me, let alone touch me, and that your touch was indeed unwanted.  I pushed you away, and I made several suggestions of other places where you could put your arm, because I am helpful.  You looked like you wanted to cry, and stuttered out, " tall are you?"  My answer, if it were interpreted by a lip reader from across the bar, may have resembled "Duck poop.  That's how tall I am."

Grown men resolve differences with words, and sometimes fists.  You went to the bouncers, pointed at me, and told them I yelled bad words at you.  Like any bouncer worth their salt, they laughed right in your face.  You proceeded to sulk around, looking furtively over your shoulder at me from time to time, as if you were wistful over the friendship that could have been.  I'd have preferred you left it at that, but half an hour later, you wandered back up and placed something on the railing next to me and wandered quickly away.  Somehow, you have found a few flowers.  You took those awful flowers and set them in a beer cup, filled it carefully with water, and left it as a peace offering.

This was sent to me after I posted this letter.  I forgot photos existed.

I almost ate those flowers when you peeked around the corner at me, but I was afraid to put something in my mouth that you had touched.

I told myself I wasn't going to write this letter, because really, you aggravated me more than anything.  The whole thing was ridiculous, and your seeming high school crush was creepy, so I wanted to leave it die.  It would have, except for a server from the restaurant at work asked if I had been to that bar that night.  I told her yes, and asked why she hadn't come up and said hi.  She told me she wasn't sure it was me, because I had been smiling, which she wasn't used to, and wearing street clothes, so she wasn't sure it was definitely me.  She then asked if something had happened with a drunk guy that night.  Shoulder slumped, I asked why she wanted to know.  According to her, a lanky, sullen, very drunk man had wandered around to different groups at the bar, dejectedly pointed me out to them, and said, "That guy is mad at me, and I don't know why."

I can't get a woman to give me a second glance, but apparently, I am quite the heartbreaker for drunken goons.  I watched as you slunk out of the side entrance, in shame.  I won't lie, I made sure to check under my car to make sure you didn't Cape Fear yourself back to my house.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Dear Bryan Fuller

What happened to you?  Did your brain finally snap when NBC refused to pick up Mockingbird Lane?  I feel like the weight of so many genius level projects that you birthed being bludgeoned to death before your eyes may have finally strangled the whimsey from your word processor.

Your first stint as show runner ended after only six episodes.  Dead Like Me was a macabre yet somehow still lighthearted dark comedy.  It had poignant and sad moments, but made me laugh more often than not.  You quit that show due to creative differences right as it hit it's stride.  It continued on fairly well with your blueprint, but once that ran dry, it crashed and burned.  The abomination that was the wrap up movie made me sterile, so the world must mourn the loss of what children I may have had.

Next came Wonderfalls, where you introduced the world outside of Canada to a wonderful little snarkbucket named Caroline Dhavernas.  Equal parts pithy and enchanting, this is where I truly fell in love with your world.  And with Caroline Dhavernas.  Seriously, can you tell her to call me?  Unfortunately, few remember this wonderful Wonderfalls, and even fewer watched when it aired.  Another ignominious cancellation.  Another broken Greg heart.  I wouldn't see Caroline again until her brief stint on The Pacific where her 1940's period clothing and hair awakened some new fetish in me. 

What can only be described as your utter masterpiece followed in Pushing Daisies.  It pushed past what would under any other circumstance be an unacceptable and dangerous amount of whimsy, and captured the hearts of all that gazed upon the bright, vivid, and glorious world of Couers d' Couers.  It was like a pop up book come to life, and I relished every episode.  Even while dealing with dark themes, the show was funny, lighthearted, and made the viewer feel wonderful, wishing they could enter that world and have a cup-pie at the Pie Hole.  Like everything I have ever loved, this too was taken from me.

I confess, I didn't watch Mockingbird Lane that Halloween it aired.  I grew up watching The Munsters on Nick at Nite, and you doing a remake with Eddie Izzard seemed too good to last.  I was right.  It was one episode.  So, when I heard you were tackling a show about Hannibal Lector, I didn't know what to think.  Surely, this would be an odd mix.  One doesn't think of the mixture of dark comedy and pure joy that burst from your pen when one thinks of Red Dragon, Silence of The Lambs, or Hannbal.  I stayed away initially, because I needed to know I wouldn't love this, only to have it ripped away from me again.

I made myself a deal.  If you got to season three, a feat you've never accomplished on any of the other shows, then I would watch.  I almost made it too, until my friend Dave convince me of how good the show was halfway through season 2.  I read up, and a third season seemed a foregone conclusion, so I dove in.  Yes, I dove right into the congealed, dead miserable quilt of sadness you have made for the world.

If this show had a spirit animal, it would be a widowed beagle about to be evicted from its house. There is no whimsy, there is no stylized patter, and there is no hope.  Everyone is grey, until they are covered in red.  Even my beautiful Caroline Dhavernas is muted and sad.  Her eyes scream out at the bleakness of it all.  I made the mistake of marathoning the first season on a couple of my days off.  I was forced to watch The Deer Hunter as a more cheerful option to pull myself out of the malaise I was thrust into.

What has happened, Bryan?  Has it gotten so bad that this is what you look like happy? Somehow, this grave look is what the critics finally accepted.  You are garnering universal acclaim for the series, but at what cost?  It is a great show, well written and well acted, so why can't I enjoy it?  I find myself craving a scene at The Waffle House with Daisy Adair, listening to Rube berate the cook over how well done the eggs are, or an afternoon at The Pie Hole with Olive Penderghast eating a slice of pear and gruyere pie.  Can't I just sit one more time in Jaye's trailer as she fights with the wax lion?

My life is already crummy.  I go to TV to escape.  This feel like salt on a wound, not a vivid Bryan Fuller dream like I wished for.