mixing paint

Okay, I had fun rambling on yesterday about my old job at Montgomery Ward, and it was a good warm-up exercise for writing, so I thought I’d do it again for a bit. Here goes.

I don’t know how I lucked into the job at Ward’s, but it came at the best time possible. Before that, I worked at an Italian restaurant hellhole as a dishwasher, busting my ass for $3.35 an hour and taking the abuse of the old-school Italian owners. After about six weeks of breaking my back on a sink hung about six inches too low for me, I walked out on a Saturday night during the dinner rush and planned to never come back. The owner called on Monday, cursing in Italian, and said if I didn’t finish out the next week, he wouldn’t pay me. I came back and worked at half-speed, putting greasy plates on the clean rack, never changing the water, and giving them every excuse to tell me to leave. On my last night, I had to clean the cheese grinder, this huge, cast-iron piece that weighed a good twenty pounds, with big screw-threads inside that filled with raw mozzarella cheese. You were supposed to spend a ton of time carefully scraping the extruded cheese out of each thread, scrubbing the insides until sterile. I said, “fuck this,” and gave it a quick once-over on the exterior before putting it away, leaving the cheese to dry into cement inside. The next week, I filled out applications, and basically fell into an interview and callback for Wards, and had the job.

The paint department had two older women and two teen-aged guys. There was me, and another guy named Joe, a year older. He looked like the actor Eddie Kay Thomas from American Pie, except much more sickly and emaciated, and he was even more of a slacker than I was. He perfected the ability to sleep while slumped against the paint counter, so at a distance it looked like he was actually waiting for the next customer. He wanted to go to film school, and his stepdad was one of the top microphone designers in the country. He worked for Crown, designing mics, and wrote articles for many top-end audio magazines. What that meant for us is that he had tons of audio and video equipment lying around the house. Joe got me hooked on punk bands like Black Flag and also on old Troma films like Surf Nazis Must Die and Bad Taste, so we were continually trying to get a band together and/or shoot a movie with no talent, no money, and whatever equipment we found in his basement. Luckily, only a few copies of our attempts actually survived over the years, and I keep tight control over them to avoid shame and embarrassment.

As for the two women, there was Bev, who worked the regular day shift and was our somewhat-manager. She set the schedule and did other managerial tasks, but she wasn’t a salaried manager, and that was a big point of contention for her. Bev was this middle-aged woman that took the job a bit too seriously, and always wanted to claw up a level on the Wards corporate ladder, but would always be back in paints. She helped out the housewifes with their wallpaper samples and worked slowly yet diligently. When there was a shift change at five, she babied us “kids” a bit, and that got old after a while; after all, we were teenagers and knew everything in the fucking world. Joe and I talked behind her back all the time and went on and on with long, mocking dramatic parodies of her and Pearl, but she kept things going during the day, so that worked for us.

Then there was Pearl. Pearl was a crotchety old woman with white curly hair and a constant look of fear and confusion on her face. I felt sorry for her, because she actually worked some other job and needed Wards to make ends meet. I didn’t know her social situation, but I imagined her to be the hermitted old maid, the lady in the neighborhood that all the kids said was a witch, with no family to help her, and this big, scary Reagan-spun world of evil ready to collapse on her at any moment. Pearl was very highly strung, and tended to lose her shit at a moment’s notice. Put her in front of a cash register with a transaction that’s anywhere near abnormal, or have her mix more than four cans of paint, and she would freak the fuck out. She often put cans of paint in the orbital mixer without closing their lids all the way, causing an explosion of pigment everywhere. That and the fact that she was creepy made it difficult to work with her, although maybe it was slightly better than a shift’s worth of Bev’s momming you around.

Me and Joe never worked the same shift during the week; sometimes we’d team up on weekends, but most school nights, it was one or the other of us watching the fort. One of the games we played was repainting stuff in the department. We’d get a lot of damaged, mismixed, or extra paint, and since we’d only get like one or two customers a night sometimes, we’d use the extra supplies to refinish equipment. Joe started the trend by completely disassembling the pigment dispenser one night, and spraypainting the base and turntable with some nice beige spraypaint, the hard-metal finish crap you use on filing cabinets. Compared to the previous million-color splatter, it looked showroom-new. I took apart the paint can closer, that press-thing that seals can lids, and did it up in two different colors. Joe then resprayed our orbital mixer, although shortly after his new paintjob, we got a new one that didn’t shudder and shake like an out-of-balance washing machine during each can of paint.

We did another collaborative art project, which was a book of modern art we created from found objects in the paint department. We only had one or two colors of marker, plus ball-point pens, but we also worked in paint samples, weekly circulars, security tape, wallpaper pieces, and anything else we could find. Once Joe found a cockroach and taped it to the page. We kept the book (really just a legal pad) hidden in the back, and worked on the modern art masterpieces during slow time. I still have the book and often threaten Joe that I will scan the pages and make some kind of web-based interface for it. Just for posterity, here’s a page I scanned in for my glossary; the top piece (“Sunset From Hell”) is Joe’s, when he was in his blue security tape and wallpaper-as apocalypse period, and the bottom piece (“The Analog Kid”) is my deconstruction of the Sunday sales circular into mosaic, representing the complexities of a post-Freudian individual in the new world Reagan era of digital change. Or something.

Any idle time was spent making fun of Pearl and Bev, or devising complex games or diversions. First, both of us would imitate Pearl, and sometimes pretend she led a secret life as a deranged serial killer, mostly because she resembled Norman Bates’ mom’s corpse from Psycho. When that got old, we’d do stuff like put metal can openers in the orbital mixer and hit start to see the thing shoot around; it sounded like dropping a wrench in a large printing press. I manufactured a blood pack from plastic bags and pigment; Joe started a game of seeing who could steal the most can openers a night. We did all of the regular work: dusting off cans, putting away stock, tending to customers, facing shelves, and all of the other usual retail labor. But sometimes, in those non-holiday months, you had nothing to do but listen to Muzak for four hours, and you had to pass the time.

Shortly before I came aboard, our store switched to Nixdorf Point-of-Sale terminals, replacing the old cash registers. These things looked like a slick (at the time) grey PC, with a full keyboard, a tape and form dot-matrix printer, a small greyscale CRT screen on a swing-arm, a magnetic card swipe reader, and a disembodied CPU unit hidden in the counter below, and connected to a main computer, the offices in Chicago, the credit companies, and who knows what else. They gave me a couple of days of training on the machine, but it really took about seven minutes to master them. If you could order food at McDonald’s, you could understand the intricacies of this machine. That meant, of course, that Bev and Pearl were constantly at war with the little grey box. Something as simple as a return and exchange for a different amount would send them into a fit, and I would be asked to step in because I “knew computers”. One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone finds out I’m “into computers” and then asks me to debug something like a garage door opener or a VCR timer. I didn’t learn how to fix a damn toaster in my compilers class, people.

Anyway, I spent a lot of time going through all of the menus on the register, trying to find secret screens or undocumented easter eggs. After hitting all 101 keys in every combination on every screen, I found a way to change the idle screen on the monitor. Normally when you leave the register, you flip around the monitor and it says “Montgomery Ward – Register Closed” with a bunch of asterisks around the text, in an ASCII-art box. Well I found out you can add your own line of text below this, maybe to say “Go to Housewares” or something. Instead, Joe and I found great pleasure from changing it to “Go fuck yourself,” or “Pearl, this is Jesus, you’re going to die.” We had several close calls where we forgot to change a register back and had a manager wondering how the hell the idle screen said “Holiday in Cambodia” or whatever punk anthem we were into that week.

Another time, we were playing with the igniter from a gas grille. It was a push-button assembly with a wire coming off of it, and when you put the wire’s tip near a piece of metal and pressed the button, it would click and shoot a spark across the gap. We had a lot of fun one afternoon shocking each other with the thing, playing games of paper-rock-scissors-electric shock or whatever. Then Joe was ringing up someone’s paint at a register and I found that when you shocked the glass CRT screen, the system FREAKED THE FUCK OUT. The screen would completely blank, even more than when the register was turned off, and all of the peripherals acted like the thing was in the middle of a cardiac arrest, the print heads moving back and forth, spitting out and pulling back in paper. Right when we were ready to fess up and call someone from the front office, we found out that cycling the register to another screen woke it up again and everything was well.

After a few months there, I could take apart the entire Nixdorf terminal with no tools and no keys, in my sleep with the lights turned off, in probably ten seconds. I knew how the printer worked, and was shocked to find out they were paying some doofus 50 bucks an hour to change ribbons and clean printers, when I could do it for nothing. I even had fun taking off the keys and rearranging them, so nobody could type in addresses unless they were a touch typist. Word got out that I could “fix computers”, and I got called to do stuff like unjam printers, pull out shards of documents that were fed wrong, and re-thread ribbons that were totally fucked by people trying to print on cardboard or something.

Wards wasn’t a “real” job, I mean, compared to stuff after college, but it didn’t involve food or wearing a headset and saying “would you like a drink with that?” so it was a big step up for me. There was a dress code, and I had to look reasonably like an adult: dress shoes, no jeans, collared shirt, a tie, and unfortunately, a maroon smock-jacket for the paint department, where I worked. We did have nametags, and “Master Paint Specialist” badges, which Joe and I would use white-out and marker to change to “Master Pain Specialist” or “Master of Puppets” or whatever. Most jobs a sixteen-year-old can get are places that employ “kids”, like fast food or other places in the mall, and everyone worked with other kids their age. But I mostly worked with other adults, and to a certain extent, was given the same respect as one. I mean, Bev still babied us and kept us in our place, but all of our customers were adults who asked us for advice, and I went from being a 16-year-old punk building model airplanes in his basement with Iron Maiden on the stereo to someone who could have a conversation with other adults in a pretty short time.

I have been rambling – this is about like a book chapter, and I haven’t even started. Okay, I’ll get back to this later. Let me know if you enjoyed it.


Nintendo tapes

I wish I would have kept a journal when I went to high school. Okay, it would have taken more time to carve out the daily entries from the stone tablets way back then, but there are times I wish I had greater memory of day-to-day activities, even if it’s just so I can write another crappy book that’s based on part of my life.

I’ve been thinking back to the past in order to recycle some crap in my head into a new book, and I’ve also been reading threads on SomethingAwful that are absolutely drop-dead hilarious, and I wish I could do something similar. One of the recent threads was about experiences in working at grocery stores, and it contained some of the most hilarious stories about irate customers and general mischief, the sort of thing that is so damn funny because you know there’s no way you could make that stuff up.

And thinking back, I have a lot of funny stories from my days of working at Montgomery Ward back in high school. I worked in the paint department, mixing paint and unloading pallets of boxes of cans, each weighing about ten pounds each. Over the years, I managed to work in almost every department of the store, filling in to get extra hours and unloading trucks at 6AM during the summer for the extra money. I didn’t socialize much during high school because most of my classmates were dicks, so I spent most of my time back in the paint department, huffing mineral spirits and carving wooden paint stirrers into punji sticks and potential ninja weapons.

The general idea of working in a retail store puts you at risk for many encounters with the criminally insane. I don’t know who is responsible for it, but long ago, someone came up with a saying called “the customer is always right,” and that bit of mistruth will make any job behind a cash register sheer hell. There are people who cannot remember how to add two and two who can somehow instantly recite that bit of propaganda. I mean, I would think the small amount of brain matter it would take to store that phrase would also be enough to comprehend why it is impossible to put a lawn tractor on the roof of a Chevette and drive it home, but I’ve seen that one happen.

Monkey Ward was a step up from Target or K-Mart and akin to Sears in their paint offerings. They had their own brand of paint (which was actually superior to almost all other paints, because Wards owned a chemical company from back when it was part of Mobil Oil, and they made an incredible paint for a steal of a price) and we custom mixed it to one of 768 or 863 colors on a chart. We also sold all the fixins’ as far as brushes and drop cloths were concerned, and there were a few bins of wallpaper. But we were peons and jerk-offs, not trained interior decorators. I don’t know how you’re supposed to tell, as there is no accreditation program or professional degree for decorators. You can’t just go, “oh, he has a PhD from Rutgers in wall coverings, he knows his shit.” So I guess price is the only real gauge, and when you’re paying ten bucks a gallon, you aren’t getting shit in the way of design help. Most of the time, people came to me and said “four gallons of #221 in semigloss” or whatever, and I slung that shit out like I was making chocolate shakes in McDonald’s. I’d take their money, tape a can opener to the lid of the shit, and tell them to come back soon. If they got really crotchety about it, I carried the paint to their car, mostly because it gave me a chance to check out the ladies of Housewares on the way back in. But then I quickly forgot the home project in question and went back to seeing what I could break by putting it in the paint mixer.

About once a week though, I’d get one of Them. They would come in with a piece of tile, a scrap of carpet, some wood off of a door frame, a few slips of paper, a magazine cover, and who knows what else. They would then slap all of the shit down on the counter and say “what looks good with this?” I would refrain from saying, “my dick would look good on it, you wanna see?” and tell them that I was, despite my professional appearance as a 16-year-old jagoff who could barely tie his tie plus an ugly maroon paint smock that had more paint explosions than cloth visible, not a professional decorator. My car was six different shades of bondo; I couldn’t match my ties to my shirts, so I bought all white shirts and all grey ties; the biggest thing I’d ever painted in my life were the Led Zeppelin runes in four-foot high letters on public property. And when I told them that they were up shit creek and I would not hold their hand while they compared each of the 863 colors twenty two times to all of their samples, they looked as if I told them I’d just told them I was selling their house to the Viet Cong.

The paint department lived in Four Seasons, which held a mix of different merchandise, depending on the time of the year. In the summer, the lawnmowers, tractors, and weedeater paraphernalia rounded out the area, with kiddie pools and lawn furniture and the barbeque grills. When fall came around, they moved to snowblowers, plows, and tire chains. And as the season started (usually after July or August), the Christmas trees and lights and toys made our department the default playground, as shoppers dumped their cold virus-saturated bumdles of doom in our aisles the terrorize the shelves and convince us all that breeding was a bad, bad, idea. As the defacto toy department of the store, we also had to field the calls and inquiries about the Big Thing of the year. Cabbage Patch dolls made a comeback one year, and we got exactly four of them from the Franklin Park warehouse. In a strange bit of irony, we got all black Cabbage Patch dolls. Even though these insane screaming mother robots were willing to crack someone in the fucking head for one of these dolls, they would dodge into our store, look at the four remaining items in stock, mentally think “I’m not givin’ mah kid a black doll” and then rush back out to look for a “REAL” cabbage patch.

The Nintendo was the sure kick in our collective balls, and that one happened twice in a row. The first time, we got two shipments of four; one in October, and the other on December 24th. We got approximately 427 million phone calls about it for three months straight. I started answering the phone “Montgomery Ward, we have no Nintendos, this is Jon, how may I help you?” 50% of the time, the people would still ask us if we had Nintendos. That remaining four that came in on the 24th was probably a mistake, but when they showed up, I had the front desk page over the intercom that we had them for sale, and they were gone in 20 minutes. Of course, the next year, you’d think they would order 200 dozen of them per store and make up half the company’s profits on game consoles, so they gave us exactly six of them. And twice as many phone calls. And every person that called would ask me, “Do you have any of the TAPES left?” “Do you have any Intendo TAPES?” “TAPES? TAPES?” THEY ARE NOT FUCKING TAPES! THEY ARE CARTRIDGES! THEY CONTAIN A ROM CHIP! NO MOVING PARTS! NO TAPE! NO MAGNETIC MEDIA! IT IS NOT A GOD DAMNED 8-TRACK! “Um, so you got them Mintendo Tapes or not?”

Christmas music was on a loop. It played about 5 hours or so, because there were many times I heard the tape three times. We opened early, we stayed open late, we had extra hours and mad dash sales events and special sales and I usually got a couple of 40-hour weeks, even with school. Our only escape during the day was to go to a boarded-up, cigarette-infested, paneled back room that was our break area, or go out in the mall and fight every fucking degenerate to get a spot in line at the pretzel stand for a lunch of corn dogs and soggy fries. It’s almost sad that I now miss the food at that place, especially considering the number of years it took off my life.

I should talk about this more, because I haven’t even started to discuss the people I worked with. As an aside, this isn’t the stuff I’m researching for a book – I have found a great new idea and I’m working on it, but this is just a way to get the cobwebs out of my head. Anyway, ER is on in 15, so I better get situated.


writing about not writing

I uploaded a “preview” of Dealer Wins to lulu today. If you go here, you can download it for free. I say “preview” because on lulu, you are supposed to upload a PDF of a chapter or whatever as a preview, and then people can buy the full PDF as an ebook. Well, the full PDF of the book in press-ready format is 23 megs. I made a crunched-up PDF that’s only about a meg and a half, and made that the preview. So the preview is the whole book, although the photos are all lossy-compressed and dithered and a bit blotchy. They aren’t bad, though. Anyway, click that link and download the preview if you want to look at it without buying it. But you should buy it, of course.

I still haven’t been writing much of anything, other than writing about not writing. I’m at the start of a cold and I tried to avoid eating any sugar all day except for a Coke or two, and now I have a tremendous headache. Yesterday on the train coming home, I tried to think of things besides writing that I really wanted to do to keep busy, things I wanted to research. One was that I wish I could find a lot more information on making my apartment more liveable. Like, on one hand, it would be cool to do more things to make the place soundproof, or put down some nice rugs or different art or whatever, to make it a better environment. Or I always think I should throw out this desk and get something that is really ergo-oriented that would make it more productive to write. And I wish I could find things to make an apartment more efficient, as far as storage or whatever. But most of the sites I find are Pottery Barn sort of bullshit. I’m not interested in buying more things to have more things; I would, however, buy better solutions that would replace things and make the space more usable.

The other thing is I want to plan out my travel schedule for next year much better. I would really like to go back to Hawaii again, but I’d also like to do a lot of other things. Like, I’d love to go to Tucson and visit the Pima Air Museum. It’s across the street from Davis-Monthan AFB, better known as “the boneyard”, or the big place in the desert where old planes go to rest and eventually die. Some new planes go there for temporary storage; older stuff sits in formation, with crew chiefs occasionally scavenging parts to keep other jets current. And some planes are destroyed, which sucks, as I’d really like to buy an old B-52, either for my own personal use, or just to convert into a house out at my place in Colorado. Anyway, that might be an interesting long weekend, and I’d like to think of a few more of those and line it all up in advance.

Blah, this headache is killing me. I think I may nuke it from orbit with some Tylenol PM and go blotto.


More dental horror

Now that I have the new book done, things have gone back to normal, and I can get back to my regular routine of dental horror stories. I went in Saturday for a session that ended up being fairly pain-free, except for the fact that the TV set was tuned to the VH1 top 20 video countdown. Maybe I’m getting old, but I guess I am totally out of touch with what kind of music is on the radio these days. It’s bad when you watch a half hour of videos, and the best one is by Velvet Revolver. Anyway, I got my crappy, always-falling-out temporary crown replaced by a nice, new, expensive, firmly adhered crown. When they had to take out the old one and the assistant went after me with a medieval-looking pair of pliers, I got a little freaked out, but then I remembered there are no nerve endings there anymore. A few minutes later, I was on my way, my tongue constantly running over the new, glossy porcelain. The bad news is that I have to go back next week for another root canal and some kind of involved dental cleaning that will probably resemble some kind of North Vietnamese torture technique.

That said, I don’t seem to be creating much of anything these days. Maybe I should end this entry and find something better to do.


Dealer Wins

I am happy to announce that I have finished my fourth book, which is called Dealer Wins: Misadventures in the New Las Vegas. (Click that link to go to my pitifully underdone web page for the book, which I am trying to finish as I overindulge in fun-size 3 Musketeers bars.)

The book is a collection of my travel stories about Las Vegas, plus a handful of new essays about various Vegas-related stuff. It also has a ton of black and white photos that I took. The stories and photos are the same as those on my travel site, but I heavily edited the stories. This isn’t a guidebook, or a tell-all “I worked as a stripper” or “and then we buried the prostitute in the desert” sort of book. It’s just me and my observations on the place, and hopefully you will find it funny and interesting.

It is currently available from Their price for the book is $9.99 plus shipping, and it’s 150 pages perfect-bound, with a nice color cover that I designed myself, using my own photos. I think it’s the best cover design of all of my books. I do have an ISBN (1-4116-1460-7) and it is listed in Books in Print and distributed by Ingram, which means it will be listed in all of the online stores (Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Wal-Mart, etc.) But it won’t start to show up for 6-8 weeks, and the bad news is that the MSRP of the book is actually $12.99, so you pay more for the same thing. I know a lot of people are well-rooted to Amazon, because I am too, but you can buy this for three bucks less and get it months earlier.

And while you’re there, you can also get the new edition of Summer Rain, or pick up one of John Sheppard’s books. I am going to order a couple dozen, so if you want to buy one in person, I will sell them for ten bucks. I also, for the first time, am offering review copies to anyone who will post (on the web, at some googleable site) a review and/or some linkage back to me. So contact me about that.


Dealer Wins

I finished and submitted Dealer Wins, the Las Vegas book, last week. I’m waiting for a proof to approve, and apparently the USPS tried to deliver it yesterday to my office, but since nobody was there, they got a slip. Or maybe they didn’t, I’m trusting the USPS web site on this one. Anyway, I might or might not get to actually see it tomorrow. I’m pretty happy with how it looks in the PDF, and the pricing turned out about as good as I could have hoped. It will be available on the publisher’s site right away, and be on Amazon et al in like 6-8 weeks, or whatever. It’s kindof stupid because it will actually be $3 cheaper to order from the publisher, and I make like 40 cents more and it’s faster, but I’m guessing most people will wait until it is on Amazon.

This, like other books I have done, doesn’t really feel done at the end. It seems like finishing a book is a qualitative thing, and it’s more a matter of “I’ve looked at this 937 times and I’m sick of it” rather than “it’s end-to-end complete”. I mean, it’s not like building a brick wall where you can just say, “it’s this tall and this long and this thick and the cement is dry – it’s done.” When I send a book out, I always feel like there’s something missing, something I didn’t do with it. And usually, by the time I actually look at the finished product weeks or months later, I like it. So we’ll see.

I have no idea what I am doing next. I have a book of short stories about Bloomington that I want to finish, but I hate them all and I absolutely can’t motivate myself to work on that. I would like to write another book in the vein of Rumored to Exist, but I don’t even know where to start. I actually had a good start on one, and I guess the notes are okay, but it was a false start and I really need to think of something new.

I haven’t done much else this weekend. I did go to Best Buy with the intention of blowing several hundred dollars on CDs. I ran the gauntlet, going from A to Z twice, picking out everything I wanted, and I think I only ended up with like five things, and two of those were remasters of Queensryche albums that were very low on the “buy someday, but in no hurry” list. I mean, I even got a George Lynch solo album, I was grasping at straws so much. I don’t know if I was just in a bad mood (which I was) or if Best Buy has no good music anymore (they don’t – but at least they are cheaper than Virgin) or if I simply don’t know what I want in music anymore. I still want to push to get the music collection above a thousand at some point. It’s roughly 75 away, and it’s getting there, but won’t happen by the end of the year or anything.

I’m bored. I’m tempted to go into Manhattan and shop for books or something, but I have a pile of books taller than me to read, and I should think more about this whole writing thing.



I have a blank emacs buffer open for the filename “cover-text.txt” that will become the back cover of Dealer Wins, the Vegas book. I can’t think of what to write. I’ll drink about nine more Cokes and then use whatever appears.

My temporary crown came off this morning when I was flossing, and fell behind the toilet. You’d think that, even with 97 minutes of rinsing with hot water and Listerine, I’d have serious germophobic fears about putting it back in my mouth, but I guess the sheer panic of popping the thing out and the anticipation of a metric fuckload of pain overrode all other senses. The pain didn’t happen, though. And it looks really weird with the thing off; there isn’t just a metal post, but rather what looks like a little, rounded-off tooth under it. I bought some Fixodent at the drug store and all is well. I also got a waterpic, which I might or might not use regularly. Maybe I will just fill it with Coke and use it to drink a steady stream while I’m sitting at the computer.

I am listening to The Fight Club Score by the Dust Brothers for the first time, and I really, really like it. I realize I’m like four years behind the curve, but this has to be the coolest background music ever. I don’t know anything about techno or the Dust Brothers or anything else, but I have a feeling this CD will be on during a lot of the writing of the next book.

I have decided that after this Vegas book goes out the door, I will seriously get on Zombie Fever, the tentative title of the next book. It will be, in a stylistic sense, a sequel to Rumored to Exist, and it will share some of the secondary characters, but it will be a new, start-to-finish fiction piece. I probably have about 20,000 words of notes and snippets, but I need to take a big step back and think through the whole thing again before I get started.

As far as media consumption, I finished reading John Sheppard’s Home is Where You Hang Yourself last night. It’s a pretty tight little book; at 136 pages, it seems like it’s a lot longer. Some of the short stories continue loose threads from his other books, but for many of them, he created new characters a lot different than the punk cast he’s used before. The stories aren’t all the beginning-middle-end typical MFA creative writing workshop format, and tend to spend more time building up characters rather than pushing people through the movements. I like that, at least that it makes you think a lot more about the people rather than the events. Anyway, it’s only $7.75 on Lulu, so check it out.

I also got through 3 of the 4 discs of the Star Wars trilogy. I haven’t watched Jedi yet, but I might do that this afternoon, just to see if Lucas admits that the Ewoks were simply a bad idea. He probably won’t. He’s given little time in the commentaries to mention the obvious about the special edition additions or the stormtrooper hitting his head or anything else. This is outweighed by him spending a ton of time talking about stuff I had no idea about. If you even vaguely like the original trilogy, you should immediately lay down the $42 on Amazon to get a copy of these. I know, everyone thinks there will be some big 6-movie set coming out later, but it’s worth it to buy this now, especially at the cheap price. I have mixed feelings that I spent $100 on the super-ultra boxed edition of the original films on VHS, but at least I can go back and see Greedo shoot first if I really want to.

Okay, I better get to those Ewoks. I was thinking of going into Manhattan and spending some cash, since the tooth debacle ended up being cheaper than I thought, but I have such a huge pile of DVDs to watch and work to do on this back cover, I guess I will stay here for a bit.



There is a period of time that happens at about four or five in the morning on a Friday night when my neigborhood is deathly silent. I usually wake up around then to stumble to the bathroom because I have a bad habit of drinking a few glasses of water right before bed, but I enjoy this stillness so much. It reminds me of when I lived in Indiana and slept in my bedroom in the basement, where it was pitch black with no windows, and no sound could get through the poured concrete walls. This hour is perfect because it’s after the teenage tough guys who yell at the top of their lungs at each other and throw beer bottles in the street have passed out, and before the career car-movers that shuffle vehicles to avoid the alternate-side parking rules wake up and start their work. For that small period of time though, I have complete silence, the kind of quiet I could only dream of. And then, an hour later, garbage collection starts, and it’s back to normal.

Round two of the dental trauma happened yesterday. I got a titanium post implanted in the remains of my root-canaled tooth, which now holds a temporary crown, and will later suppport a porcelain crown. It’s an evil-looking thing, inches long with a close resemblance to part of a Terminator robot. I didn’t think they could jam a piece that big into the tooth canal, but they did. It hurt like hell after I left, but as the cement dried, it got to the point where I could touch it with my tongue and not feel extreme pain. I’m eating a pop-tart now, and there are no problems. I think the worst part of it all (other than paying for it) is just the general fear of dental procedures. I feel like Rambo in that scene in First Blood where the cop is trying to shave him with a straight razor, and he’s having flashbacks of the ‘Cong torturing him. Every time I sit in a dentist’s chair, I expect the worst to happen, and my blood pressure instantly doubles. I think I need to find a guy that’s much more liberal with the nitrous.

That’s all. The Vegas book is almost done, BTW.