The Procession Of Death

I can see it now.

Geniuses, wearing their ceremonial garb of grey and blue, march out of the apple store. They hold the symbols of their order: A squat woman in the front holds an apple on a stick. She waves it high, announcing to the world this is a religious matter. Behind her comes the bearer of the iPhone and iPad, one held in each arm, ceremonially checking them every ten seconds for snapchats and tender updates.
After that, the elders arrive, the old MacBooks from the ancient times wheeled in on AV carts. Some say they can’t even process more that sixty-four bits. It’s just a legend, though. Surely, it is but folklore to scare the children. I must consult the geniuses later.

Behind them comes the effigy of Steve Jobs, rolling on a cart made of pure titanium and gold. Black turtlenecks burn in his honor. The effigy stands looking forwards to the future. Behind him comes the past.

My MacBook.

It is carried on a purple satin pillow. A black shroud hangs over it. Two geniuses in dark black robes carry the pillow. Their faces are concealed, but tears can clearly be seen staining their robes. In front of them, two similarly attired geniuses swing thuribles filled with the finest electronic components from the orient. They burn, releasing their toxic smoke so that the whole mall can smell it.

Mourners line the walkway to the exterior exit. They wail and gnash their teeth. They beat their chests and prostrate themselves on the ground. Why? They ask. What sort of god would do this?

What sort of god would ruin someone’s perfectly good MacBook with water damage?

No god of mine.

I take up the rear of the procession, dressed in all black, wearing a veil. I have already gone through one box of cleanex and, poor as I am, I hope my weeping will cease lest more money be put toward the tissue fund.

I am supported by my friends Stacy and Stephanie, as I can barely walk from the grief. They are sad too, though they could never hope of fathoming my pain.

To lose a MacBook…

It crushes your soul like a vice. It is an owner’s greatest fear to have to bury his MacBook. In an ideal world, my MacBook would have lived to a ripe old age while I am comfortably dead, but this is not an ideal world.

It is a dark one, full of terrors, full of things that go bump in the night and spill liquid on your MacBook when your not even there.
Damn whoever did this. Damn them to hell.

I weep as the procession finally reaches the dumpster. There are no dumpster women there today, and the only smell is the stench of death; the rot and decay of components; plastic wrap, burning.

The geniuses recant the five pillars of Agammom, and utter the sacred rhyme of Ulgoch, before they toss my MacBook in the dumpster. They reach for the compact button.

NO! I scream, breaking free of Stephanie and Stacy. My baby! My baby no! don’t put him down there! You can’t! You can’t!

I stroke its lid, running my hand over the humorous bumper stickers I stuck on it years ago. I can feel the air bubbles underneath the plastic. It’s comforting.

The geniuses try to pull me away.

I just need to say goodbye.

I wipe my eyes. My MacBook stares back at me, lifeless.

Remember London? I ask it. Belgium? France? Florida, remember that? The dorm room I brought you too after I picked you up from the student center? Remember the film school sets? The nights we drank together and spun dark tapestries? The rain on the windows of the old apartment? The rattle the air conditioner would make? Remember? Remember?

It remembers nothing, though. It’s hard drive is wiped. It’s dead.

I remember, though, and what is anything, if not a future memory?

I let the geniuses lead me away. I hear the compactor start, and they carry me to my car.

Stephanie drives. I’m in no state.

I write this to you know, gentle reader, on my old, old MacBook from 2008. The future is uncertain. 

What sort of computer will I procure? Will it even be a Mac? What will I do?

One thing is for certain, though.

My MacBook would have wanted me to go on.

So go on I shall.


Out Of Africa

funny ramen noodles

My blog has one reader from Burundi. She’s not a regular, but she reads maybe once a week. I have no way of knowing if it’s the same person every week or not, but I like to imagine that it is.
Even though I won the geography bee in seventh grade, I knew very little about Burundi, so when I was looking over my blog statistics, and I saw that I had a semi-regular reader from Burundi, I had to go look it up.
I learned that Burundi was one of the poorest countries in East Africa, and had suffered a series of genocides and civil wars that devastated the local population and economy. It’s been the focus of a UN rebuilding process since 2006, but it’s slow going.
My computer broke soon thereafter, and I wasn’t able to read any more.
I have a habit of never throwing away expensive pieces of technology, or at least always having one backup. I have all the iPhones I’ve ever owned scattered in boxes about my apartment, and I have a rats nest of power cables that would probably be better at bludgeoning intruders to death that charging any device. It only took a few minutes of rummaging through my bedroom closet.
I knew I had an extra computer some where, I just had to find it. It only took me a few minutes of rummaging to unearth the treasure I was searching for: my white, plastic Macbook from 2008.
The memories.
This little workhorse carried me through the end of high school and all the way through undergrad. Its documents folder is full of classics papers, Latin translations, and German workbooks. There’s a whole section of poorly-crafted stories from my early days, malnourished and deformed creatures who flinch and hiss at the light when you open the folder.
And the pictures. It’s like stepping back into high school. To undergrad, back to Birmingham, Alabama.
It was magical. Like opening an old box and finding treasure from when you were a kid.
When I was younger, the decree would sometimes come down from on high that we needed to clean the house. Invariably, my dad would go clean the master bedroom, and the rest of us would have to do the whole house by ourselves. It wasn’t big, but it was the principle that upset us.
At some point, though, we’d all find our selves in the red bedroom, huddled on the floor around several old shoeboxes. There were pictures in the shoeboxes. Thousands of them. We’d look through, and I’d see my dad’s navy friends I always heard stories about, or vacations I couldn’t remember, or family members I only met once.
It’s weird to think that your parents had lives before you were around.
I wonder if old computers are going to be my generations shoe boxes. Old pictures, old homework assignments, old dreams and fantasies, old games and videos. We’ll clean out our closets and stumble across these heavy pieces of plastic, and our kids will go “wow, that thing rested on your lap? Did it cut off your circulation?”
We’ll show them it didn’t, though it did singe the hair off.
Eight years. It seemed like forever.
It seemed even longer when I tried to get on word press. My computer was running browsers that were too old to use the word press web app. Worse still, my operating system was too old to upgrade the browsers. Worse still, I couldn’t upgrade my OS without paying for it.
I felt like I was trying to use a brick as a flashlight. No matter how hard I tried to flip a switch, it was just a brick.
I didn’t have Final Draft. I didn’t have Scrivener. I was crippled.
You build your life around a profession. You spend every waking moment thinking about it, you sacrifice good paying jobs to give your dreams a try, you lay it all out on the line, and then your tool breaks. My computer. The one thing I needed, and it’s gone.
It was such a betrayal, like finding a spider in the shower. What was once safe and comforting now has poisonous things in it. Using this old computer felt weird. It felt dirty, too much like I was stepping back into my past, turning into something I used to be and loosing all forward progress. I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to have to write in Microsoft word again.
And then I thought about my reader in Burundi. I wonder what she uses to read my blog, or the lengths she went to to even get access to a computer.
I thought about her, and the civil wars, and the ethnic cleansing. I wonder if she lost any family members. I thought about the rampant starvation, and I wondered if she was hungry. I thought about disease, and wondered if she was well.
My friend works for a company that, among other things, repairs macs for studios and production companies. He’s taking a look at the computer tomorrow. He thinks it’s just a corrupted disk image.
Until then, I’m back in 2008.
I’m using a plastic computer held together by duct tape that can’t even access my favorite websites, but I’m going to soldier through it.
If my reader from Burundi can do it, then I owe it to her to try.
It’s probably not as bad as all that, though. I like to imagine a leisurely afternoon stroll through Bujumbura, the streets alive with insects, the humidity oppressive. Spices waft on the breeze that blows across lake Tanganyika. Dogs bark in the distance, but not in a frightening way. No, it’s comforting.
She wears an orange dress and sandals, and she waves at everyone she passes. They all smile and wave back.
She gets to the café and sits down with a cup of coffee, and loads my blog.
I hope I don’t disappoint her.


i wrote this on my phone. I hope it turned out okay.

The Light of Polaris

Office Buildings at Night --- Image by © Richard Schultz/Corbis

I like to write in the dark. I get home after ten more often than not, and the first thing I do is grab a beer from my fridge and head upstairs. Nighttime is when I write my blog posts and other non-fiction stories. The night is magic, it’s full of possibilities, and ripe for reflection. Night time is when you’re vulnerable.

I find music appropriate for the mood of whatever I’m working on, and then I write about myself.

I have really shitty blinds in my apartment. Honestly, they’re terrible: long plastic strips that hang down all the way to the floor. They break and fall off if a spider breathes on them wrong. I always have the blinds shut in my room, but over the year that I’ve lived here, three or four strips have fallen, leaving great gashes in my privacy. It used to make me uncomfortable, but I’ve long since stopped caring. If someone wants to spy on me, so be it. I hope they’re prepared for boredom.

I live behind an office building. Every time I get home, there’s one light on in the building, directly across the alley from my room, on the same floor. It’s almost always the only light on.

The cleaning people travel throughout the building during the night, normally up until twelve or one AM. I’ve watched them, sitting on my ratty couch I bought from Salvation Army for twenty dollars, a glass of Jim Beam in hand, David Bowie on the stereo. They’re very efficient.

Sure, I have a TV. There’s actually two in the house, but when the mood strikes me, there’s nothing as good as watching other people. Maybe it’s the danger in it. This is wrong. You know it’s wrong. That’s what makes it so much fun. It’s like spying. It is spying. It’s Rear Window.

There’s a new apartment complex further down the street. It’s sleek and modern, and the top floor suites have huge, multistory windows that provide a wonderful portal through which to view the occupants. The huge windows don’t have any blinds. I’m sure the owners assumed that since there aren’t any apartments close, no one would be watching the people living there.

They thought wrong. I have binoculars.

The penthouses are occupied by a couple twenty somethings who either hit it big or have very rich parents. They throw lavish parties and have people over all the time.

I watch it all. You’re fights, the slow dances with your girl when it’s one AM and everyone left, the different girl your bring over the next night. The shame. It’s all a show to me. You’re my amusement.

I see it all.

It gets boring after a while, though. Too much like TV. It’s too simple. I can turn on Hulu and watch the real world without having to hold binoculars to my face.

The light in the office building, though. That’s a mystery.

It stays on until two or three in the morning, every morning. I can never see anyone in the room, no matter how hard I look. It’s the angle, I think. There’s probably more to the room that I just can’t see.

Surely there’s someone in there, but why? What are they doing?

I wonder.

A workaholic is a safe bet, sure. I can picture him now, slaving away at the keyboard, crunching numbers, making a list of who to call tomorrow. There are movie posters on the wall. I can see that from my room at least. Maybe he’s a movie producer. He could be staying up late reading scripts, getting ready to call writers and give them notes. Maybe he’s researching other productions, trying to pull some deals together. Maybe he needs to find a tank for a shoot tomorrow.

Whoever he is, he’s a workaholic. I get workaholics.

I’ve always assumed you become a workaholic when you have nothing else. It’s you and your job. You’re a workaholic because you’re scared to go home, your scared to sit by yourself in your mansion or apartment or car or whatever because no matter how late you stay up, how long you watch TV, how high you blast the music, or how much alcohol you drink, you can’t escape that moment at three AM when you’re staring at the ceiling and all you can think is what else is there?

This is it.

I’m going to die.

It’s in those existential moments that we find out who we are. Your soul screams why?

Whatever you’re answer is you.

Stay at work though, he says to himself. Burn the midnight oil. To you, it must be a distraction. Keep working, keeping thinking about deals and packages and actors and scripts. Think about location deals, and music rights, and sponsors.

Avoid it.

I understand. I get the guy across the alley. He and I are a lot alike.

To him, his single lighted window is a distraction. He burns the light to keep away the dark.

I wonder what he thinks about when he looks at me. When he looks across the alley and sees an almost pitch-black room. What demons assail him, then?

I wonder if he can hear the keys clacking away. I wonder what they sound like to him.

I hope to see him one day. I think he’ll be standing in his window, tie hanging loosely, a cup of coffee in hand. There will be circles under his eyes, and the wisps of hair that he combs over his ever increasing bald-spot while be sticking out at crazy angles. He’ll have a white shirt, khaki pants, and a gold watch

I’ll be in my IKEA computer chair, sipping on a PBR and listening to death metal music. I’ll still be dressed in all black, like I always am when I come home form Starbucks.

Our eyes will meet, and what then?

Will he shiver?

Will he blink?

Will he nod?


I think he won’t do anything at all.

Just stare, and then go back to work like nothing ever happened.

To him, his light is his escape. To me, his light is a beacon. A warning. An egg timer, counting down.

A calling.

It’s the north star, Polaris, and it leads me in new and exciting directions. It pulls at me, and my soul is compelled to follow.

You’re days are numbered, it whispers as I traipse over mountains, and sail over wine dark seas, and if your life flashes before your eyes, how much of it do you want to be in an office?

Not much.

Not much.

So I click away, and I dream.


A Circus

circus at night

“I’ve got this thing,” Mary said, brushing the braided hair from her face “this thing that goes on in my heart during the climax of movies and books. All the emotion. You know? When it builds up, it hurts, so I always just skip to the end.”

“What?” I paused mid-bite, my barbecue beef brisket hanging just inches from my mouth.

“It’s like a condition. It hurts my heart right here.” She pointed at her chest and laughed. It wasn’t a happy laugh. It was an embarrassed one. “I should probably tell my doctor. That’s why I watch Korean TV dramas. They’re very emotional. It’s sort of like my own therapy.”

I took a bite. I couldn’t think of anything to say. I had a hard time understanding what she was saying. Climaxes are the best parts of movies. Why would you skip it? Why would it hurt your heart?

I wanted to tell her that it couldn’t be safe. Stories are like creepy aunts: when she smokes in the car, you ALL smoke in the car. You pick up secondhand emotions from stories. It’s how we become invested in them. You feel the protagonist’s joys, their pains, their triumphs and their heartbreaks. It’s how the magic of cinema works. Not for one moment do you think you’re Miles Teller, but you’re part of his obsession as he drums his way to the top. You feel all his emotions. They build up and build up and then…

They release at the climax. It’s called the catharsis moment. If you just skip to the end, you never get that catharsis. They swill about inside you, just like nitroglycerin, and can blow up from a tiny bump.

It couldn’t be safe. I didn’t say anything, though. I simply savored the fact that Mia found some sriracha for my sandwich.

I just didn’t know Mary that well, so hearing that she couldn’t enjoy the best parts of everything I love came as a shock. This was our first day training, and I couldn’t get a read on her. There were some things I could pick up: she’s a very fast learner, but terrified to fail. Smart but self-conscious. She probably lived a really sheltered life.

Out of all the people I’ve trained, she’s the only one that has ever quoted the supplementary training material back to me. It’s really uncomfortable.

Most confusing and annoying of all, though, is that she never made any decisions.

When you train someone, one of the first things you do is teach them how to make a french press. They get to pick any coffee they want, and then we make it. It was a dream come true when my trainer trained me.

“You mean, any coffee?” I asked, wringing my hands, my eyes wide with wonder usually reserved for kids whose parents pretended to be Santa. Who, you mean he really is real?

“Yep, just go grab one,” Sunny told me.

My hand trembled as I reached for a bag of Kenya. It was heaven.

Mary just stared at me. I thought she might have misheard, so i repeated myself. “That’s right,” I said proudly, “go ahead and pick ANY coffee you want.” She still didn’t move. “That’s right,” I said, “any one at all.”

Mary just shrugged. “I don’t know.”

I blinked. “What do you mean you don’t know?”

“Just pick one,” she told me, shrugging, as if she was the trainer, “I’m bad with decisions”

“But you can pick any coffee you want!” I repeated.

“You should pick it.”

I shook my head. “I’ve tried them all.”

“Okay.” She just stared at me, her face utterly expressionless, like a fish or something.

“Fine,” I growled, “we’ll do pike.”

Pike’s place is the worst coffee we had at Starbucks. We made it, and it tasted like garbage.

“Is this how it’s supposed to taste?” Mary asked me, the subtext here being did you do it right?

“Of course it is,” I snapped, the subtext here being god I hope I did. “We just need to pair it with a pastry. That’ll bring out the nutty flavors.” I gestured to the overflowing pastry cart. “Go ahead, pick any pastry you want.”

Mary stared at the cart. “Anything catch your eye?”

She shrugged. “You pick one.”

I stared at her, my face unreadable, like a fish or something. “What?”

“You’ve tried them all. Pick something good.”

“But you can pick any pastry you want,” I said, “surely you have a preference.”

“I’m bad with decisions.”

It blew my mind. When given a choice, how can you simply choose to not choose?

I’ve met people like her before. The sort that refuse to make a decision, but freely complain when you’re forced to make one for them and they don’t like it.

I chose the pecan tart. It made the coffee taste awesome.

Mary didn’t like it. She doesn’t like caramel.

Even rats like caramel.

I bit my tongue as steam billowed out of my ears like a train whistle.

I just moved to the next part of training.

We learned how to warm food, clean the lobby of the store, restock the case with drinks and sandwiches, and brew coffee before we finally went to the espresso bar.

I showed her how to make a latte. She made me one. It was pretty good, so we went on to mochas and caramel macchiatos. She made them all easily and well.

“How are you feeling on the espresso drinks?” I asked her.

“Pretty good.”

“Do you want to practice some more?”

She shrugged. Some people are fast learners, so we went into making iced lattes and other easy drinks.

“Are you good on hot bar drinks?” I asked her. She laughed at me. Her eyes went wide, like I just asked her if she heard that her mother died.

“Good? I’ve only been doing this for twenty minutes.”

I narrowed my eyes. “But you shrugged when I asked if you wanted to practice some more.”

“I’m bad with decisions.”

I grabbed a cleaning rag and involuntarily squeezed all of the sanitizing solution out of it. I gestured sharply to the bar.

“Let’s practice some more.”

The rest of the day went back and forth like that until I couldn’t stand it anymore. I was on edge, jumping at any slight annoyance, barely holding it all in check.

We finished training at 9:00, but we were scheduled for thirty more minutes. I asked Mary if she wanted to leave early. She asked me if I did instead of answering. I told her we could stay if she wanted the hours. She asked me if I needed the hours.

My head nearly exploded. The shift needed our help closing, so we stayed. Mary did dishes. I mopped in sullen rage. Steam rose from where I gripped the mop.

We finally left at 9:30. I told Mary bye, and that i’d see her tomorrow.

I got in my car, turned on the lights and…

The parking lot is divided into three sections: The garage, the outdoor lot, and the far lot over by sports authority, where we had to park during the holidays.

There was a circus in the far lot. It took up the whole thing. A giant circus tent, with lights, one of those test of strength things, a ticket booth, popcorn stand, and all sorts of other attractions. Banners waved in the air, and multicolored lights on strings covered the whole area.

Carnies rushed hither and thither building the tents. Maybe some of them were performers, too. The tent wasn’t up yet. they were probably going to be working late into the night.

A circus.

A fucking circus in the parking lot.


So I laughed. I laughed so hard I cried. Tears ran down my cheeks, and all the frustration and anger flowed out of my. My spring unwound.

It was a real catharsis moment.

I wiped tears from my eyes. I thought about Mary, and wondered what she’d think about the circus, but then I realized that she never would, at least not tonight.

I had walked Mary to her car. She had parked in the parking deck, and wouldn’t drive by the circus on her way out. She might not even know it was there until tomorrow, and tomorrow was a new day.

The timing was all wrong. She’d see it driving into work, look at it and just go “huh” and then drive by.

Parked in the wrong part of the lot. Jesus…

She wasn’t kidding about skipping the climax.

I laughed all the harder. I just sat there in my car and laughed for a long time.

I’m sure the carnies watched me as they built their tents. To the right of the construction, all the performers from the freak show probably stared at me as I howled like a loon in my car, all alone in a parking lot, under a street light.

The bearded woman would lean over to the frog kid and whisper in a voice deeper than Vin Diesel’s “what a weirdo.”

She’d tug on her beard as the frog boy licked his face.

“No kidding,” he’d say, “no kidding”


Run Away


I read a lot of blogs. Most of them are the same thing: Normal people posting about their normal days in which they did normal things that will slowly fade back into the tapestry of their normal lives. One day, their normal lives will end, and they’ll look back on it all and say “that was normal.”

I love it.

I love reading about people having problems wth their laundry machine, or someone with an irascible toothache that tormented them all through the day, or how that bitch Carol wouldn’t shut up about her vacation.

I love hearing that you dropped the kids off at soccer practice and almost hit a squirrel, or how you found a new recipe for lemonade that your husband liked so much he made you make a second batch, or how you finally snuck your son into a rated R movie, just so long as he doesn’t tell mom.

I think it’s the normalcy that keeps me grounded. As a writer, it’s easy to get caught up in your own head, an fall down into a pit of snakes. They latch on and don’t let you go. “Wizards,” they hiss, “wizards and demons and car chases and asteroids about to hit earth and aliens and divorces and rockets and armageddon and death and the universe and everything is just so pointless, isn’t it?”

It’s not though. Carol’s vacation isn’t. Nor is Nathan’s baseball game. Don’t forget about pumpkin spice lattes and mortgage payments.

They’re all important in their own ways, in the right perspective which, to me, is a small rectangle full of black and white pixels.

So I read a lot of blogs. I also go on tinder a lot. What do online journals and a dating game app have in common? Not much.

A lot of people on both describe themselves as run aways. They just get up and go, and, like a leaf in the wind, they just can’t help it. To hear them talk about it, it’s like a compulsion, or maybe a disease. As many hipster instagram posts can attest, they just run.

A few months ago, this guy named Jeff transferred to our store. Jeff was a big guy, maybe six feet tall and around two hundred and fifty pounds. He had this peculiar way of moving, like a grandmother scuttling around a kitchen. It was frantic, and when he worked on bar, wiping sweat from his forehead as his cheeks grew flush, he reminded me of Mrs. Doubtfire.

Jeff was a nice guy. He was jolly, always quick with a joke or a compliment, and always ready to work.

He was an actor, just like everybody. I have this weird thing with actors where I offer them roles for movies I’m never going to make.

“You’re a writer?” I always somehow get them to ask.

“Well, yes, though I used to do some acting in high school,” I pause then, as if suddenly realizing who I’m talking to, “Say, I’m working on this thing — no, no, nothing big just a passion project — and there’s a role you might be perfect for.”


“Really. Are you looking for a role?”

I don’t know why I do this. I’m never going to shoot the damn thing. I guess it makes me feel important. I feel like I’m doing them a favor. All I’m really doing is playing with their souls.

“Are you looking for a role?”

Jeff paused and scratched his head.

“I don’t know…” he said, but the subtextual addendum to the sentence was clear as day: what I’m looking for.

One day, Jeff didn’t show up.

He didn’t show up the next day either.

When someone doesn’t show up at Starbucks, everything goes to hell. You have one lest person and the customers… they sense it. Like sharks around a sinking fat camp cruise liner, they can smell blood in the water. It’s the worst.

So I was pissed at Jeff. Here, I thought he was a nice guy, and then he goes and gives me two no call, no shows. Who did he think he was? Burt Reynolds?

Michael told he had called him and quit. Out of the blue. Just like that.

He just ran away.

Running away never made any sense to me. Well, that’s not true. I’d run from rape-tastic hillbilles. I’d run from a bear. I’d run from the dark lord Sauron.

But a job? A city? It boggled me. One city is the same as any other, really, and you’re going to always need a job, so why run?

You’re just postponing the inevitable.

I still had half the day to go after Michael told me Jeff quit, and knowing why he disappeared didn’t help make the customers any less needy or rude, or make my day any easier at all. I had to close, and we were down a person, so eleven thirty came and went before I got into my car.

I take the freeway back whenever I close. It’s always after ten, and it’s never too busy. It’s much easier to put on some tunes and cruise home without having to stop.

I needed to decompress. I didn’t have a day off until next Saturday. A full week.

Why’d he run off? What was he looking for?

A sign came up. It said 405 north to Sacramento. This was my exit. I take the right lane. Two minutes and I’m home, back to the apartment I can’t afford.

I could go straight, though.

I thought about it.

I could go straight, and follow that sign up north to Sacramento, stop off in San Francisco, make it up to Eugene, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, Anchorage.

I could just drive.

What was holding me here? I had a full tank of gas, there was no traffic, and I just got paid.

It was a weird feeling.

And then I got it.

You don’t run away from something. You run toward something else.

It’s why you’ve got refugees and people jumping over borders.

You might not know what you’re chasing, but for god’s sake, it’s better than what you had.

I could have done it, but I went home. I like to think it’s because I know what I’m chasing, but sometimes I wonder if it’s just because I’m scared.

Running away is scary, and Jeff…

Jeff never came back.

Sometimes, when it’s two in the morning and I can’t fall asleep, I stare out my window, up at the moon, and I think about an old chevy pickup. It’s brown, and has a lot of rust damage from being in the snow too long. It’s headlights paint weakly through falling snow. It’s not night, but it’s dark, and the trees bob left and right from the wind.

A big, coated figure scurries from the cab over to a payphone. I like to imagine it’s at a tiny gas station, but it could be anywhere, really. The figure has a hunting cap on, and long, black, beard, almost too bushy for civilized society.

He dials a number, and speaks into the receiver through a frost-stained beard.

Don’t worry, he says, I’m alright. No, I haven’t found it yet.

There’s a pause, and I get the feeling the person on the other end isn’t saying anything. I wonder if it’s his mother, or maybe someone else, a friend or a lover.

I haven’t found it yet, he reiterates, but I’m going to keep looking.

I like to think he says I love you. Maybe he does.

He hangs up, gets back in the pickup, and drives away.

Off, down a road, and into a blizzard.

It looks grim, but as we crane up over the wilderness, and everything fades away, and the music comes in and the credits roll, I get the feeling he’s going to be alright.


He’s going to be alright.

Witches And Other Such Nonsense

three witches

Some of my more loyal followers may recall the dust up I had with a coven of witches about two years ago, so it might come as no surprise that the real reason I moved from the East Coast to California was not, in fact, to chase my dreams of selling words to people, but was rather simply to get away from witches.

I don’t have a peculiar odor, I don’t leave food out overnight, and I don’t feel attuned to any sort of magic, and yet I attract witches like a playground attracts creepy forty-year-old men in sunglasses. At least the witches don’t sit on benches, legs spread wide, and toy with their mustaches while muttering “yeah, that’s good. That’s real good.”

But I digress.

I moved West to get away from witches. Imagine my surprise, then, when I woke up yesterday to the sound of someone bouncing pebbles off of my third story sliding glass door. I rolled over and curled a pillow around my ears. This had little effect on the pebbles, which bounced and pinged off the doors with  abandon.

“Hells bells!” I roared, throwing off my sheets and rising like Nosferatu from my slumber. I manhandled the sliding glass door open. It had fallen out of the grooves months ago, and now slides as easily as the boulder in front of Jesus’s tomb did.

Divine help is required.

I looked over the balcony ledge. Three women in ratty black robes stared up at my balcony. One was short, one was tall, and one was pretty. I’m not saying that the other two weren’t pretty, I just know witches, and I know that’s how they prefer to categorized.

“Can I help you?” I asked them.

They entered into a conversation with each other. I couldn’t hear what they said. Minutes passed.

“Okay, I’m going back inside. Don’t throw rocks at my windows anymore.”

“We weren’t throwing rocks,” the tall one said. I looked at the stones in her hand.

“Pebbles. Whatever, look, the point is I don’t want you throwing anything at my window short of gold doubloons, okay?”

“We were just trying to get your attention! “The short one said. She twirled her brown hair around her index finger.

I waved my hands in the air, irritably. “You have it, madame! But to what end?”

“Well,” the pretty one said, “we’re three witches –”

“I already know,” I shouted.


“Because, sadly, the only women who would come into the creepy alley behind my house and hurl projectiles at my broken sliding glass door to get my attention wouldn’t be anyone normal!”

They balked at the world normal. Red crept up my neck.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean normal. You know what I meant.”

“We know exactly what you meant,” the tall one spat, with the sort of vigorous hatred only an old person could muster, “we fly on broomsticks, dance naked in the moonlight, seduce young men tour our beds, kill them, talk to frogs and commune with the devil, but since it doesn’t fit into your WASP worldview, it isn’t normal, right?”


“Ass hole” the tall one said.

“Now look here, if anyone’s the ass hole, it’s your three… or should I say you three are all ass holes, for throwing rocks –”

“– pebbles –”

“– things at my window!”

“We just wanted your attention,” she short one began.

“But again, ladies, why?”

The pretty one straightened her robes. “We were wondering what you were doing tonight.”


“Yeah. Maybe you’d want to come over, watch some Netflix and chill.”


“Why not?”

“You just said you lure men into your beds and kill them.”

The pretty one shoved the tall one. “Damn it, Gretchen.”

“Well I’m sorry,” Gretchen said, not sounding sorry at all, “but he got me all riled up talking about normal this and normal that. Normal! What the fuck is normal, anyway?”

“Normal is not telling our prey we’re going to lure him to our beds and then kill him.”

I rested my head on the balcony’s ledge. “I didn’t think California had witches.”

“We’re everywhere, buddy.”

“Yeah, get used to it.”

“I’m going back inside,” I told them.

“Wait wait wait wait wait!” the pretty one shouted. I stopped.


She fished around in her robe for a few moments and pulled out an apple. “Want a shiny red apple? I swear there’s nothing sinister about it… ” The witches covered their mouths and giggled.

“Sure! Toss it here!” I said with fake enthusiasm. She threw me the apple, and I hurled it down the alley. A cat screeched.

“Hey! It took days to poison that!” The pretty one shouted.

The short one hit her. “Shut up, yah idiot.”

The pretty one made an aggravated noise and tried to poke the short one in the eyes. The short one intercepted the poke.

“Oh, a wise guy, huh?” The short one waved a fist around in the air, ready to strike. The pretty one watched it. The short one smiled, and then kicked her in between the legs.

I swear to god, the pretty one’s eyes crossed.

“Hey,” the tall one said, coming over and knocking the other two’s heads together, “knock it off!”

SLAM! My sliding door shut, and I was gone form the balcony.

The witches stared at the balcony.

“Our stooges routine didn’t even work!” the short one said.

“Fuck LA. This place is no good for witches.” The tall one said. “There aren’t even woods to cavort in.”

“Lets go back east.”

“This guy wouldn’t have been good anyway.”

“I bet he never gets lured into people’s beds.”

“Hah, burn!”

I threw the sliding glass door open. “I CAN STILL HEAR YOU! I’M CALLING THE POLICE.”

“Fine, fine,” the tall one said, holding up her hands, “we’re going.”

The witches shuffled off and left.

I watched them go, and then felt kind of bad, so I checked my phone.

October fourth. Twenty-seven days to halloween.

They’ll find someone.

Maybe I will too.

sexy witch

In Line With The Coffee Girl


She wore a pink dress, the kind I imagined you would wear to a sorority recruitment party, or maybe a little soiree to a Connecticut country club. She had a pearl necklace, and smelled like lilacs. She was on the phone.

I was working customer support, restocking things, making whipped cream and caramel, and pre closing the store, so I was walking by the register right when she said it.

“I’m sorry,” she said with that bitchy sort of lilt Emma Roberts would use in a Ryan Murphy show, “I’m with the coffee girl, one second.”

The coffee girl.

My manager is in her thirties, and she wears a special black apron that says Coffee Master. It’d be difficult to mistake her as the “coffee girl,” unless of course you weren’t even paying attention.

Which she clearly wasn’t. Which tickled me all the more.

Working the support role at Starbucks is kind of like being a ghost. You float around, doing things that people don’t really notice, and the troubles of the mortal realm (people on bar and at the registers) don’t really bother you.

They don’t just not bother me, though. They amuse me.

Here a fat woman complains about not getting her venti caramel frappacino fast. She flushes in anger. There, somebody spills their coffee after a pitching a huge fit that it didn’t taste right. Over there, a child screams in line, wanting more and more madeline cookies. If you were affected by these mini tragedies, they wouldn’t be funny. To me though, the friendly ghost, they are better than TV.

So I laughed. Out loud. My manager and the woman turned to me. My manager gave me a sort of motherly “what are you doing? Stop right now,” look, The woman looked at me like I was an unruly servant.

I looked back at her and tried not to laugh out loud. She wasn’t laughing. She still wasn’t even paying attention.

I wondered what her life was like.

She’d leave this land of the coffee people after she got her drink. Maybe she’d do some shopping at Bloomingdales, interacting with the clothes people, or maybe the makeup beings, in their natural habitat, before hopping in her Mercedes and heading over to the pet groomer, where she’d pick up her small, white dog from the dog person. On her way home, undoubtably, she’d stop off at another Starbucks to refuel with another trenta gren tea from the coffee girls, because a dry mouth is no mouth at all, as the cleaning monster used to say. She’d swing by whole foods on her way out of the valley, where the foodlngs and meat creatures would supply her with whatever she desired. On to the 101, where undoubtably she wold speed, a law thrall pulls her over and give her a ticket. It doesn’t matter, though. He number demons would have this sorted and paid for as soon as an assistant thing brought it to them.

Money was no issue.

Finally, back in Beverly Hills, where the civilized world lives, she would park in her driveway. Danny, the handsome actor, would wave at her from his yard. I bet his wife doesn’t have to interact with the northern beasts, she thinks to herself as her heels clack across the imported paving stones.

Inside, she passes off her dog to one of her many assistant things, and inspects the work of the cleaning monsters. Flawless, as usual, but creatures of their status excel at menial jobs.

She sits down on a perfect couch. After a hard day of shopping, who doesn’t need a rest?

She’d hear a squawk, and turns around. There, inside the gilded cage, would be the parrot her husband bought her last week. A cleaning monster finishes polishing the outside, and then bows to her and leaves.

She’d walk up to the cage, and gently pet the gold. The parrot would cock its head, look at her with one eye.

“I love you,” It’d say, and then she’d be sad.

She’d be sad because she didn’t know from whom it learned the word.

I clutched my mop to my chest. I was no longer laughing on the inside.

The woman was staring at me. My face just changed from comedy show to funeral in less than ten seconds, with no apparent stimulus. I must have looked incredibly insane. She ordered her drink and left.

“Coffee girl?” My manager laughed once the woman was out of shot. “Can you believe that?”

“This isn’t the 19th century,” Jac laughed.

I didn’t laugh. “She might not have meant it,” I sad. They both turned to me.


I searched my thoughts, and then I gave up.

“Never mind.”

I kept mopping, stealing glances at the woman in the pearl necklace, looking for something other than sadness behind her eyes.

The Parrot Cage

I’m Back


I’d hit a rough patch about four weeks ago. Hit it so hard I think the wheel came off.

It wasn’t writer’s block. I don’t believe in writer’s block. Writer’s block is simply you not having fun with whatever you’re writing. It’s a blanket explanation, I know, but not having fun could come from dozens of hard to pen down causes. Things like: lack of research, wrong direction, stinkin’ thinkin’, and getting bored with a project.

I didn’t have any of those. I was working on WARLOCK COP, my TV PILOT about a guy who is a COP and a WARLOCK. WARLOCK COP is awesome. I was having fun writing it but…

I just couldn’t focus. I’d find myself drifting away, checking reddit, watching videos on woodcarving and guitar fabrication. Hell, I’d watch videos of other people playing video games.

I’d go on facebook and just scroll around. I’d write blog post around blog post. I’d fiddle with my fantasy football lineup without end.

I’d do all these things and then sit back and go “huh. I should finish warlock cop.”

I never did, though.

Then the internet went down.

I was outside, smoking my pipe and writing down ideas in a notebook when it happened.  There was a truck working on the power lines outside.  I heard screwdrivers and electric sizzles as the worked the pole next to my apartment building.

They finished after some time. My notepad was on the floor. The only markings on the page were pipe ash.

I was busy reading movie reviews on my phone.

Then, suddenly, the next page wouldn’t load. The WiFi wasn’t working. I switched to the LTE network and finished reading the movie review, and then checked the router.

It was working fine, just no signal. I unplugged it and plugged it back in.

It didn’t work.

The first tinglings of fear began to creep up the hairs on my back.

“It’s not supposed to happen like this,” I told the router, “this isn’t supposed to be possible.”

No internet. A millenial’s worst nightmare.

My life is spent on the internet. I pay my bills online. I get paid electronically. I find jobs, send queries, submit stories to magazines, and even write blog posts entirely on the internet. Hell, I get my television, movies, and entertainment form the internet.

The internet turns me into a sappy Nicholas Sparks story. I want to cuddle the internet, stoke its face and tell it “I’m nothing without you. Nothing.”

It was gone.

What was I going to do? What was I going to read? What was I going to WATCH?

Here’s out movie collection:


The thought of putting any of them in the blu-ray player disgusted me.

I had nothing to do.

So I wrote.

The first day, I figured out the ending to WARLOCK COP.

Unplug, plug, the router still flashed red.

The second day, I wrote fourteen pages.

I fell to my knees and prayed in front of the router, extolling it with livestock sacrifice. It remained silent, and blinked its wicked red eye at me.

The third day, I wrote fourteen pages.

I itched all over. I had trouble sleeping without being able to doze off with south park on my TV.

While I was downstairs getting coffee, I ran into Adrienne, who is staying at my place until the end of the month. I told her how productive I’ve been.

“I guess it was all the internet,” I said, slurping on some hot-brown-bean water, “I kind of hope it stays down so I can finish my script.

Adrienne agreed.

The fourth day, I woke up to a text message from Jared. It just said “Internets up!”


The next thing I knew, I found myself in my computer chair, about to hit enter and blast my monitor off to REDDIT land.

My finger hovered over the key.

I went downstairs to get some bean water. Adrienne and Jared were watching the Real World and Road Rules MTC Challenge.

“So the internet’s back up.” I told them.

Adrienne spun to face me. There was fire in her eyes. “No,” she said, “get back upstairs right now and finish WARLOCK COP.” I turned to get coffee. “No,” Adrienne commanded, “write.”

So I went back upstairs and finished it.

The internet’s an amazing thing. I don’t need to tell you guys why, because you’re on it right now, you already know.

Sometimes, though, it makes writing impossible.

So I guess I need to find a place to write that doesn’t have internet.

Either that, or find someone to yell at me every time I start to dither online.

Maybe this guy.

batman write


And a Madness Came to Sherman Oaks

The Shining

You meet a lot of people at Starbucks.  People who are nice, and people who aren’t.  People having a good day, and people who aren’t.  People who are Steve Carell, and people who aren’t.

It’s tough to make a mean person not mean, but it isn’t that hard to change someone’s bad day into a good one.  A dash of kindness here, a dad joke there, a smile, a laugh, and voila!  You have a happy customer and, more importantly, a happy human being.  It’s my favorite thing to do at Starbucks.  If I can cheer somebody up, I feel like it’s a job well done.  I’ve not yet been able to transmute the not Steve Carell’s into Steve Carell, but I’m working on it.  It’d be a big get.  He tipped me five dollars.

Steve Carell

Even if someone’s order is wrong, there are ways to fix it.  Corporate suggest simply apologizing and saying “what can I do to fix it?”  The fact that you want to help changes so many situations from bad to good.  If you care, people notice.

The one thing you can’t change is crazy.  At last I can’t.  Maybe with the proper medication and counseling a psychiatrist could, but I’m a writer.

We had a regular who came in practically every day over the summer.  I never caught his name, because he only ordered brewed coffee, but I did catch his scent.  It was a miasma of body odor and halitosis, not the kind you might find on a homeless person, but rather on someone who just doesn’t care.

He always wore sandals, cargo shorts and colorful Hawaiian shirts.  More often than not he would have a Fidel Castro hat on.  He was a weird guy, but he’d always been polite, and I enjoyed chatting with him just as much as anyone else who came through that I only sort of knew.

It was a May afternoon, and I had been on register all day.  I was looking forward to getting home, cracking some beers, and playing League of Legends.  I fiddled with the cup holder below my register.  The springs were always cracking and falling out.  I was trying to fix it.

A stench overwhelmed me.  I stood up, and there he was, standing at my register, smiling with this sort of vacancy in his eyes, and lack of movement in his face that made him seem very insane.  He practically starred right through me.

“One coffee, please” he said with a mad lilt.

“Of course”

I got him his coffee, and he just kept smiling.  He took it, and passed me two dollars.

“If they come by, don’t sign it.”

“I’m sorry?”

“The people.  They’re coming around with a clipboard and getting you to sign things.  Don’t sign anything.”

I looked over at Andrew, who shrugged.  I decided to do what I always did in difficult situations: pass the blame up the food chain.

“Oh, it’s Starbucks corporate policy not to sign petitions.”

The smile remained.  He pointed a finger at me.

“It’s state sponsored terrorism.”

“I’m not going to sign anything.”

He smiled, nodded, and raised his coffee cup to me.  Once he was out of earshot:

“What the actual fuck was that?”

Andrew was laughing.

“I don’t know.  He was…”  Andrew stopped.  He starred at the coffee bag display.

“What?”  Andrew just pointed.

The guy was back.  He was still smiling.  He pointed at me.

“It’s state sponsored terrorism, okay?”  He shouted.  I didn’t know what to do.  Normally, I just ignore crazy people.  I’ve learned the hard way that if you even look at them, they might direct whatever is happening onto you.  I couldn’t ignore a customer at Starbucks, though.  I smiled a nodded.  “Don’t sign anything.  I’m serious, okay?  Not kidding.”  He laughed.  It was terrifying.

I just nodded again.  He dismissively waved me away and went to put cream in his coffee.

Why couldn’t I just turn him into Steve Carell?

“Welcome back, Mr. Carell.  I loved you in the office, and basically everything you’ve ever… what’s that?  Five dollars?  Thank you!”

A hispanic woman as at my register.  She seemed nice.  Nothing crazy about her.

“Hi, welcome to –”


I turned to the coffee again.  He was back.  The smile was gone.  All that was left was rage.

“9-11 was an inside job.  The planes, the oil, jet fuel.  It’s state sponsored terrorism!”  He was shouting.  I looked around for help.  Everyone was just as scared as me.  I raised my hands to signal my passivity.  He just kept going.  “No one else heard what you said, but I heard it.  You know.  9-11 was a fucking INSIDE JOB.”

He twitched.

“They’re after me.  I’m a wanted man.  It’s state sponsored terrorism.  They want me because of what I have in here.”  He jabbed at his head with his index finger.  “In my brain.  They know I know and they’re after me.”

This was possibly the most frightening thing he said.  I searched for a weapon with which to defend myself.  I could use our serrated knife, but we only had one, and we might need it later to cut a bagel.

I settled on the broom.

I heard a snort.  Slater was on the floor, counting over the money from the safe.  He was laughing.  He was actually laughing.  I looked at him and mouthed “what” as in “what the fuck is funny about any of this.”

He just shrugged and kept laughing.

I clutched my broom all the tighter.

“I’m calling corporate on you.  You won’t think I’ll do it?” He threatened.

Steve Carell wouldn’t,  I thought,  He’s a nice man.

I didn’t say anything, though and he went away in a huff of anger.

I went to the back ten minutes later.  Michael and Slater were counting the money.  Slater was laughing again.

“Here he is,” he said, looking at me, “he can probably tell it better than me.”

“Slater was saying some guy was yelling at you?” Michael asked.

I told him the whole story.  Michael took it very seriously.

“Okay, I’ll call corporate,” Michael said, and I thought thank god!  He’ll get banned, or arrested or something! “Just in case he makes a complaint, I’ll let the district manager know he should just disregard it.”

Disregard it?  Disregard it?  The dude’s crazy!  He’ll probably babble on about moon rocks and the dark lord Cthulhu.   I don’t care if they disregard it.  I wanted a body guard, a Starbucks employed strong man than could protect me for when this man inevitably returned with a gun.

He’d motion with a little wave of the barrel.  “Come on,” he’d say, “we’re taking a walk,” and then he’d take me up to the roof of the parking deck for a murder suicide so we could both board the galactic ferry on it’s way to Cariathor to meet the Lord Xenu or whatever.

I’d stare at him, and I’d say “I’m sorry.  Is there anything I can do to fix it?”

Who knows what he’d do then?

I know one thing, though.

If he was Steve Carell, he would have tipped me five dollars and taken his adorable daughter to the Disney store.

Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 10.07.59 AM

When it Rains


Los Angeles is a desert.

I remember the first time I saw it.  I was driving in from the West, up and over the mountains, and careening down the 210.  We were coming up from Vegas, Jared, Sonia and I, and had just come through the Mojave desert, where it was so hot that my Garmin wouldn’t stick to my windshield.  I had to awkwardly wedge it up against the dash.  The smallest bump would send it tumbling.

I was coming off a night of heavy Vegas drinking and a bad chicken sandwich that I bought from a gas station in Nevada.  There were signs all over it that told me aliens were real.  I should have taken that as a sign, but I was starving, and ready to make it to my new home.

I crested over sandy hill and there it was, stretching on forever.  In florida, I was used to greens and blues.  In Los Angeles, it was blue and tan, the dry khaki of dirt and sand.

It was a dry land, a land without rain, where it’s tough for things to grow.

It rained once on our trip, on the way back from the Grand Canyon.  It was almost otherworldly.  The Arizona landscape didn’t know what to think.  Here we were, Arizona and I, in a desert, and it was raining.

I love the rain.  I used to sit out on the back porch with my dad during thunderstorms.  This was about every weekend, because, if there’s one thing South Florida has, it’s thunderstorms.  We’d watch the rain, and I’d wonder what would happen if lightning struck the pool cage.

We’d probably fucking die.

It was alright though.  I had a cup of taster’s choice instant coffee, and it kept me warm.  It was cheap, sure, but after years of drinking it, you can even associate cheap with being happy.

It doesn’t rain in Los Angeles.

I would take the 405 to get downtown to my internship every Monday and Wednesday for the first four months I was in LA.  The Santa Monica mountains are basically piles of dirt with a few dried up old scrubs clinging to their slopes.  It was so weird.  The last mountains I had driven in before I came out west were in Tennessee and Missouri.  Those mountains were green and had stuff you could grab onto if you fell off.  These though…

Internships pay you in experience, not money.  I tried eating experience for a while, but it left me hungry and feeling sort of dumb, so I started looking for a job.  No one was hiring.  Not even movie theaters.  It was tough, but I had some money left over from student loans, so I could afford cheap meals:  Ramen with a side of experience.  Chicken broth with a dash of practical skills.  Baked chicken marinated in experience sauce, and a nice cup of experience to wash it down.  Being an intern was working out pretty well.

And the days got hotter, and the nights got drier.

I had never really worked a highschool job.  I was always doing theater or sports or robotics or band, so I didn’t have time.  In college I scanned people’s cards at the gym.  It was amazing.  I worked at summer camps three out of the four summers I was in undergrad.  Besides that, I’d never really worked, so I wasn’t averse to working something like Panera or Chipotle.  McDonald’s was where I drew the line, though.  If I was going to work fast food, I’d at least like it to pretend it wasn’t fast food.

Days turned into months, and November rolled around, and it started to rain.  The city had no idea what to do.  There was a drought, and you think people would have been outside with pots and pans, running around, screaming, trying to catch all the water they could.

Nope.  They were just hitting each other with cars.  I wonder if the driver’s handbook for California recommends flooring it at the first drop of water.  “When it rains,” it must say, “stoplights don’t count anymore.  The only rules are what a man makes for himself.  Hit or be hit.  Him or me.  Blood in and blood out.”

It’s an old joke, but seriously, don’t drive in LA when it’s raining.

One weekend, the streets actually flooded, and I got a call from Starbucks.  My first interview.  I was hired later that week.  I was on fire with writing, too.  I wrote every day.  I finished three screenplays.  I finally got my film industry mentor assigned to me.  I was talking to some other industry people, too.  It was magical.

And it rained, and it rained, and it rained.

And then it stopped, right around my birthday.  Days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months again.  The savings dwindled away, and I just kept working at Starbucks.  I didn’t place in a screenplay competition, and then in another, and another, and another.

I just kept waiting for it to rain.

Stephanie bought a basil plant soon after we moved into our apartment.  She set it on our kitchen windowsill, which gets light for a good portion of the day.  She watered it daily.

It got neglected when she got her editing job.  Either that, or it felt restrained in its pot.  Who knows what plants are thinking.  Probably “wow.  I wish I was something else.”

It was July, and I was home alone.  I walked downstairs for some water, and I saw the plant.  It was brown, and leaned to the side.  It’s pot was encircled by decaying leaves.

I stared at it.  I was holding a cup of coffee.  It was warm in my hands.

I stared at the plant and I wondered if it was waiting for it to rain, too.

So I watered it.  It was right next to the sink.  I can’t believe I never thought to do it before.

It’s getting close to rainy season again and, if the weather people are correct, this El Niño is going to make it a doozy.

I can’t wait to see what this next rainy season will bring.

I keep watering the plant anyway, though.

It seems to be doing better.



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