Archive for November, 2012

“I’ve always wanted to sell out.  It’s just that no one wanted to buy me.” – John Waters

“Hey Ma, did you like my last piece?”
“Which one was that?  The “I Hate Paris Hilton Haiku Collection”?
“No Ma, the one after that, the four page satirical observations on the benefits of genital warts.”
“Yes honey. It was very nice. I keep telling you. They are all – very – nice.” – Mom

“Gimme some money” – Spinal Tap

I have finally started collecting rejection letters, or more accurately rejection emails.  It must have been worse ‘back in the day’ to go to the mailbox (“Hmmm, a letter from Tiger Beat. Finally, my Scott Baio, Kirk Cameron and N’Synch stalking will pay off!”), only to be denied with a letter that contains one of the more bitter pills of the English language  “…. we regret to inform you…” In a small way, I sometimes find myself wishing that I did have a folder chock full of rejection letters so I could hold it up for emphasis when my best friend is trying to cheer me up and I’m determined to stay a depressed little turnip. I’m so miserable, that sometimes I even use props. Take that goths. That’s how you really embrace darkness…old school. To date, every rejection email has been cordial, polite and best of all personalized. I have been tickled me Elmo that busy editors have taken 30 seconds to turn me down politely. It has restored some of my faith in humanity which has taken several hits this year (I’ve had to deal with insurance companies, emergency rooms, government agencies and used car salesmen.)

The one bummer about polite rejections is that it denies me elaborate revenge fantasies. Part of me likes to imagine that after Stephen king sold the paperback rights to Carrie for $400,000.00 (True story, and it was the 70s.) that he grabbed the stack of rejection letters he kept impaled on a railroad spike in his bedroom and called every single editor who rejected him and asked them how much they made this year. Fantasies of petty revenge…whatever gets you through the day.

 

Oh, it’s come to this has it? FINE!

Receiving e-mails that say “It’s not really what we are looking for.”, “It’s not exactly what we do here at such and such magazine.”  and “Sorry, this didn’t make our deadline.”  I’m not discouraged. Quite the opposite. I am a product of entirely too much television and too many movies. This is how it’s supposed to work. I get rejection letters until finally I get my big break.  Any day now an editor with a striking resemblance to Dolly Parton, Goldie Hawn or Holly Hunter will accept one of my submissions and we will begin an adversarial writer/editor relationship full of wacky hi jinx of missed deadlines and exclusives neatly typed up and left in the back seats of taxis. “Damn it Scott, you’re the best writer I have, but I can’t publish your exclusive on why Reality TV contests should use firearms…the chief will kill me.”  This happens in every movie and TV show, of course it’s going to happen to me.  Life is, after all, one big John Hughes’ movie.

It’s fascinating that such a heavyweight champion pessimist and curmudgeon as myself remains convinced that he will one day be the next Dave Barry or Stephen King. Hell, I’d settle for being the next Ed Anger who used to write my favorite column in the Weekly World News. (“All the news, that’s shit to print”)  I may be dead by the time my avant-garde potty humor genius is discovered, and discussed by academics in front of roaring fires while sipping a fine sherry, but I can live with that…almost.

I’ve had a rough year, so allow me my little delusions. In the world according to me, everyone gets published or gets the lead in the play eventually. I thank Heavy G for not having given me the acting bug. Having lived in both NYC and Los Angeles I have seen first hand, young people who threw caution to the wind after an excellent review in their high school newspaper for their Brando-esque performance in the drama club’s Spring production of No No Nanette. Upon graduation they immediately moved to the big city, found themselves an agent named Rocco or Shecky who eventually convinced them that George Clooney, William Shatner and Brad Pitt all got their start in low budget gay porn musical extravaganzas.

NOT what I looked like. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

My writing journey has been and is such a Hallmark Channel movie-of-the-week it’s ridiculous. My mom died in March,I tore my Achilles tendon in September (8 weeks in a cast), and I was attacked by six Jersey Shore clones 3 nights before Halloween while on crutches, wearing a vest, bandanna, and cowboy hat. (With the crutches I told everyone I was dressed as “Hop-a-long Cassidy”) The gentlemen who tried to make me taste test  the sidewalk took issue with my impromptu costume and yelled “Faggot” at me. They felt my look was more “Randy the Cowboy” from the Village People as opposed to Wyatt Twerp.  I responded with a middle finger salute and they piled out of their daddy’s car to discuss the latest in fashion with me.

My bedroom where I do my writing is straight out of Joe Gillis’ furnished hovel in Sunset Boulevard where I sit unshaven, chain smoking in a bathrobe, complete with brimming ashtrays and debt collectors calling or stopping by for coffee. How could I not be published in this circus of cliches?  Maybe for dramatic effect I should ask my Super Mario Brother’s doppelgänger landlord; Giuseppe to expedite my impending eviction notice. Anything to get these editors to recognize the F. Scott Fitz-Hemmingway in their midst.

I wont be working on improving my writing or making it more commercially viable. It’s wonderful just the way it is. I know because while in a morphine haze, my mommy told me so…and she studied English lit. I have reached that wonderful pinnacle in life which I haven’t experienced since I was 14 in that you can’t tell me anything. I once again believe in a ruling class, especially since I rule.

Speaking of mothers, last week my step-mother took a magnifying glass to my anthill and responded to the first (and last) piece I ever sent her. A week before she had emailed me about a writing class she was taking and dropped after attending once. (Isn’t it nice being an adult with the ability to tell a teacher they suck and saunter out? I sometimes register for classes for this express purpose. It’s important to keep others grounded.) I responded to her in glowing terms about how thrilled I was to hear about her class. I told her I had been writing for years, and that my college professors described my school paper review of the Spring production as Danielle Steele-esque. I know I have talent. Encouraged that I might finally have a family member who loved writing and with whom I could share my work I immediately forwarded her my latest article on the 2012 post election meltdowns. It was called…wait for it…. “Post Election Meltdowns“.  I guess my prior 6 page gushing email to her about the importance I place on writing and authors was too subtle of a hint. Unfortunately she, like everyone else, was tired of the election and put a lively crayfish in my Calvin Kleins by responding with “It’s nice that you’re writing, I’m sick of the election and could hardly read your piece. Keep it up, just not about politics.”  Awwww. thanks ‘mom’.

So happy I sent you my piece. Pppffthththththththhh

No one can deflate our ego quite like family. I’m thrilled that after my mother’s death, she has picked up the disapproval and discouragement ball and is charging to the net for a lay up. She also has 9 kids and several grandchildren of her own, so it’s nice that she can find time to dash the hopes of another who isn’t immediate family. My father isn’t a big reader, so he is out. He has been known to book mark 2 page Sports Illustrated articles. Maybe I should have waited for Thanksgiving and given the whole family a go at disemboweling my one dream that doesn’t involve Lynda Carter and spandex outfits.  After the “What I’m grateful for” speeches and before halftime in the Cowboys game we could go around the table and everyone could deliver variations of  “Have a back up plan.” in regards to my writing. Two can play at that game. When my uber-conservative step-sister asks me what I am grateful for, I can belch out one word for the benefit of her and her private school brood. “Tits”. Then we can visit the other family Thanksgiving tradition of drinking too much and dreading Christmas. What can I say? I’m a traditionalist.

My reason for writing this is to prod and nudge potential editors that my life in terms of both confidence and financial stability is reaching critical mass. It’s time for the big finale. Last week I went to my bank, punched in my PIN number and the ATM began laughing at me. I’m starting to become a little concerned. So come on editors. It’s time to publish the boy so I can blow my book advance on Johnny Walker Blue and  friendly yet sensitive, scantily clad ladies named “Lola” and thus creating even more cliched things to write about.  I’m ready to finally pay all my bills (in loose pennies to the especially mean and nasty creditors) and to embark on a book tour. I’ve kept my schedule open to write jokes for the President for the correspondents dinner.  “Barry, can I call you right back?  I’m on the phone with Netflix…thanks  youre a dove”

This afternoon, during a phone call with the lovely and talented Ms. Gow, she confessed to feeling a little blue and guilty.

“But Why?” asked I. (huh-huh rhyme)

Last week a friend and former co-worker of The Gow died after a battle with cancer. Being a sensitive and kind person (except when driving) the Gow was naturally devastated by this. She is a self-proclaimed emotional mush ball who cries easily and often. She has been sad over this all weekend, and I feel for her. I lost my mom to cancer in March, my dad was diagnosed last year which worried me and of course wasn’t exactly a joyous treat for him and my step mom, and I watched my friend Mark die of colon cancer in the early 90s. It is a very sad and painful way for a person to die. Gow is scheduled to come up and visit me this Friday for a comedy show and a weekend of movies, brunch, football and other things we love to do together. The funeral is set for Friday and Gow felt bad about missing it…then she felt bad about being slightly relieved that she had a prior commitment and would miss the funeral.I tried to comfort her explaining that:

A: She felt bad about missing the funeral

B: She did have a prior commitment causing her to miss the funeral, something she had planned for and spent money on, and thus wasn’t lying to get out of attending a funeral or blowing it off.

C: Funerals are sad, unhappy and unpleasant occasions and it’s natural to not really want to attend them.

I tried to cheer my BFF up and discuss the matter with her. It really was to a certain degree, the thought that counted in this instance. Then I had one of my odd little brain blips. I have ADD and at any given time there are lots of odd and sometimes clever thoughts floating around in there.

“Gow, there should be a word for that kind of thing.”

“What kind of thing?”

“When you have to do something disagreeable…and something legit comes up and you are…excused so to speak….but as relieved as you are, you have to act like you’re disappointed.”

Gow agreed with me that there should be a word for this reasonably frequent occurrence in life. Imagine if you had a sick friend and you called and offered to bring by some hot soup, comic books and dvds for them. Being a good friend, you honestly meant to do this…but let’s say a little later, you’re tired, or had a bad day and you’d like to put off your promised mission of mercy…then, you get summoned into work last minute, or your ill friend calls and says “You know I just took some NyQuil, some Tylenol PM and there is a Murder, She Wrote marathon coming on, so I’m probably going to pass out…. would you mind if I canceled your soup and comic delivery?” Now, you’re excused and you’re grateful, you dodged the bullet and without lying or blowing off…but of course you have to act slightly disappointed. “Oh, are you sure?”

I made up a few expressions for this type of circumstance, but Gow shot them down.

“Those are expressions…not words, honey”

“So it can’t be an expression?”

“No, it has to be a word.”

“OK, I’ll work on it.”

I apologize. I know this is a rather long build up to my piece about words.

 

Other words that I have become fond of recently are:

Turd: This is probably my word of the month. I like its sound. It’s a blunt word resembling a thud. It’s not a swear, but it’s a distant cousin. Turd is also great when it’s coupled with other words to describe something or someone disagreeable. Rush Limbaugh is a turd in a polo shirt. It also rhymes with lots of other words which makes for interesting and lilty speech patterns. Try to use “turd” in a sentence this week boys and girls.

Buffoon: I actually prefer the adverb form “Buffoonery”. Again, it’s not a bad word, but it’s still an insult or derogatory, which is helpful to me since I’m generally a pretty negative person. There is all kinds of buffoonery happening at any given time. Being a YouTube addict and looking up obscure songs and movie scenes, I stumbled on to a wonderful, contextual instance of the word “buffoon

Jim Morrison was a drunken buffoon posing as a poet. Buffoons are mostly harmless, but we’d all be just a little better off without them. Another famous buffoon is Ed McMahon, (or frankly any TV show side kick, yes-man. They’re all buffoons.) This is why I admire Craig Ferguson for using a robot (Geoff Peterson) as his side kick. Geoff is more entertaining than Ed McMahon or Paul Schaefer. Plus I sleep better when I know that buffoons aren’t making in a week what I make in 5 years merely by laughing at late night talk show shills who couldn’t pass funny gas after a Mexican buffet lunch.

Derp: Derp is a nonsensical word to describe stupid people, behavior, statements or mistakes. I like how it sounds. I enjoy voice manipulation and Derp is a wonderful word to use in many tones and accents. Try it with me aloud:

Southern Accent: “Derp”,
French Accent “Dairp”
English Accent “Duhrp”

See? Wasn’t that fun?

More pieces on words to come and please write in and tell me some of your favorite words, and why you love them so much.

This piece needs to begin with a tip of the hat to Speaker 7, a blogger I have recently met and become very fond of. This entry is actually in part, my far too lengthy reply to something she posted. After reading it to faithful editor and BFF Gow, she (Gow) told me I was on the verge of hijacking Speaker 7’s thread. I saw what the wise and powerful Gow was saying and immediately posted an apology to Speaker 7. Please check out her work. It’s really excellent.

After reading Speaker 7’s piece about Michael “Heckuva Job Brownie” Brown I was inspired to revisit a piece I had been working on. At any given time I have 50 or so pieces in my “saved/drafts folder” to revisit, or polish. Her piece is called “Heckuva Turd” which was interesting as I was working on a piece about a turd as well. I’m coming to love that word “Turd”. It’s an insult, but not really a swear. My turd in question is Donald Trump.

A turd and a tease . . .
with a bad combover and a spray tan! Ughhh.

A couple weeks ago Trump had a “huge announcement” to make. His “huge announcement” turned out to be the latest chapter in his beef with President Obama. Donnie Dicko offered $5 million to the charity of President Obama’s choice if he would turn over his college transcripts. The country collectively rolled their eyes and internally cursed themselves for even listening to DT (yet again) for even a second. Everyone who paid 30 seconds of attention to this, thought,”When will we learn?” The talking heads, especially the late night comedians, all ridiculed Trump’s move, and rightly so. If anything good came out of this Turd with a Combover’s latest idiocy it was the laughs from people like Steven Colbert. Even highly respected, non partisan journalists chimed in, like Barbara Walters who said “Donald, you are embarrassing yourself.” Trump immediately jumped on twitter and replied to Babs that “she just doesn’t get it”. Funny, I think she most certainly did “get it”. I think she “got it” better than many of us. I was reminded of a standard reply to any bad joke told by any butthurt comedian. “Oh I get it, it’s just not funny.” I think she commented on it with grace and class. Twitter seems to be the ultimate tool for tools. It’s the perfect medium for people who need to let the rest of the world know what an asshat they are, every 10 minutes, lest we forget.

Trump is quite literally in the middle of the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. He has an interest and his name on several casinos in Atlantic City and property in NYC. He could have polished this dog grumpy situation into a diamond with a simple “This is a time for American’s to come together, so I am going to donate the 5 million to the Red Cross and I will house some relief workers in my hotels…blah blah blah”. Hell, he could have made money out of this in the long run and walked away smelling like Calvin Klein’s Obsession. With less effort than he put into his “Huge Announcement” he could have scored a mass quantity of the drug he’s been addicted to since the 80’s; Attention.

Sadly, this was too easy, too painfully obvious for a dink like Trump. So, what did he do? He publicly doubled down on his moronic stunt. He “extended the President’s deadline to release his school transcripts due to Hurricane Sandy.”

Let me pause here to ask: What kind of ego does a private citizen have to give the POTUS a deadline? Many people in this country dislike President Obama for any number of reasons and to varying degrees, but what happened to even a small amount of respect of the office?

Speaking of President Obama; where was he during this? He was in NJ with Gov Fatty Boombalatty, both of whom were doing their jobs like grown ups. A tip of the hat to Gov. Chris Christie for telling the press off and not allowing them to turn the situation into partisan politics. Both he and the President worked together like adults and did their jobs. Meanwhile, little Donnie Trump was holding his breath because Daddy wasn’t paying attention to him. How many times does Trump have to get smacked down by Barack Obama before he learns?

Please click here to watch this,
very well done Brian Williams piece!

Michael “Brownie” Brown (and what a perfectly appropriate name for a turd) showed what an out-of-touch tool he still is by telling the media “city dwellers need to ‘chill’ ” in regards to what he felt was an over-reaction prior to and after Hurricane Sandy. This coming from the most famous under-reactor in America. Is Brownie so lacking in self awareness that he honestly fails to realize that he will forever be known as the guy who dropped the ball after Hurricane Katrina? Brownie too could have capitalized on this situation and redeemed himself in a huge way and with minimal effort. His slate with America could have been wiped clean by simply “acting”, something that is painfully obvious that he has tremendous difficulty in doing in anything that resembles a timely manner. He could have given blood, gone to NJ and handed out bottled water. I’m sure that after Katrina, Brownie came to realize that hurricanes and their aftermath were decidedly icky things and very inconvenient. He could have remained silent, he could have simply released a statement of sympathy and support. ANY-thing other than what he chose to do. It was as if he was concerned that people just might have forgotten what an ineffective, uncaring, out-of-touch asshole he truly is.

Brown(ie) never should have been head of FEMA to begin with. His background was in Arabian horses. Junior Bush apparently owed someone a favor and as a result FEMA got Brownie and the people of New Orleans got it firmly up the ass without a kiss (Pardon the crude analogy)

After Hurricane Katrina, Daddy Bush and Former President Clinton worked together to bring aid and help. Once again, Poppy Bush was picking up after his irresponsible frat boy son. Where has Junior Bush been during all of this? After Twit Money told him “Thanks, but no thanks, just stay out of sight please.” during the current presidential campaign, Junior was in the Cayman Islands during Hurricane Sandy giving a $4000 a head speech, butchering the English language in front of a crowd of wealthy bankers, venture capitalists etc. Here’s a man who is not only a true humanitarian, but also with his priorities well in line.

It’s true! “There are eight million stories in the Naked City.”

I have said and written many times before that New Yorkers have no excuse for writer’s block. We have the unique privilege of paying way too much to share a suffocating, under maintained hovel with a roommate or 6 and the Roach Family Robinson in one of the craziest, most over-crowded, expensive, stressful, vibrant and interesting cities in the world. All you need is a little imagination, a pen, some paper or a personal recorder (Don’t worry, New Yorkers are accustomed to people seemingly talking to themselves. We even start to get a little worried when we don’t see them regularly). Pack a sandwich and hop on the subway to… well, anywhere in the five boroughs Then watch your fellow New Yorkers and take notes. I even thought this strategy might make a good book of short stories. “50 Sandwiches/50 Subway Stations” might just be that elusive best seller I have been searching for. I can just picture cute, wide eyed, naive college groupies waiting outside my luxury hotel suite in the middle of my record breaking book signing tour. “Oh Mr. Swenson, your book changed my life. I’m am English Lit.major at Columbia and I’m taking a class on Post-Modern American Potty Humor. I haven’t read anything as witty as your piece “Rancid Tuna Salad on Pumpernickel at 59th and Lex.” and the brilliant epilogue “Food Poisoning & Finding a Bathroom Near 59th and Lex”. Will you sign my book and my left buttock?…Here’s a sharpie.”

My warped little famous writer fantasies never seem farfetched to me. They made films out of Julie & Julia and The Devil Wears Prada. The second that pesky cease and desist order Ms. Streep has out against me expires…I can start pitching my ideas again.

I tell aspiring writers suffering from writer’s block to “just write and don’t worry if it’s any good.” I’m currently in a wonderful place with my writing career. Unpublished with no prospects and yet I still have the cojones and chutzpah to pass along unwanted and unsolicited advice to other writers in the same boat. So, this is what I am doing now…just writing, and convinced that it’s not any good. I titled this piece “Suffering from writer’s block” because it really is something that one suffers from. I’m not even a successful writer, and I feel like I have “lost it” if I haven’t banged out a solid piece of writing on the worldwide conspiracy to get on my nerves every 48 hours. I suppose it is similar to what professional athletes feel in the middle of a slump. I’m not even on a deadline or being paid to write. The best I can hope for these days is more than 10 views of my blog on any given day. It’s OK. I remain convinced I am the Vincent Van Gogh of gripey-kvetch essays. I’m not unpublished…I’m avante garde. I may never sell a piece in my lifetime, but surely my ramblings will be required reading for troubled sixth graders in 200 years. I can live with that, just not in a financial sense.

Being a hopeless romantic and a product of too much television and bad movies I sometimes find myself wishing that I wrote on a typewriter, so I could rip paper out of the feeder in a dramatic gesture of exasperation, crumple it up and throw it into a brimming waste paper basket. Modern technology has denied us many theatrical gestures like this. All the cool writers in the movies did this and I feel like I am missing something. It’s just not the same to daintily peck at the backspace key in a fit of creative frustration. Sometimes in the movies, frustrated writers would sweep everything off their desk in a vexed fit. It makes me want to buy an old typewriter and stacks of paper. I have never swept the contents off of my desk in a fit of hissy before, but I have wanted to. Computers are much more delicate pieces of machinery than the Sherman Tank IBM typewriters of the film noir movies. As much as we would love to sometimes, we can’t or hopefully don’t punch or headbutt our PCs. It also reminds me of when I was a young boy of 4 or 5 living with my mom and grandparents, watching Sesame Street, and they had a reoccurring character named “Don Music” who, I realized much later was really the Guy Smiley muppet with a bad wig on. Don Music was a tortured artist trying to compose songs like the ABC’s or Yankee Doodle on a grand piano complete with a bust of Beethoven. As he composed he would become frustrated, flip out and slam his head onto the piano, which to my 5 year old sensibilities was the highest form of comedy. Like millions of other children I began smashing my forehead against my grandmother’s piano. Apparently so many kids were doing this that parents wrote to PBS and Don Music got 86’d in 1974. But, I remember…boy do I ever.

Maybe the reason I am suffering through writer’s block is because I am laid up. It’s post Hurricane Sandy, I’m still in a cast, I have no money and I have run out of things in my household to write about. I sent my latest: “The Broken Toaster Chronicles” out for publication last week, and instead of the standard rejection letter, I got a hand written note suggesting that I “break the Prozac tablets in half” prior to my next submission. I even wrote about my cats, which I have claimed for ages is the last bastion of the untalented hack. The crazy cat lady or more precisely, The Untalented Crazy Cat Lady. I read the piece to the cats. One left the room to drop a deuce in his sandbox and the other fell asleep. Everyone’s a critic.

Being on injured reserve has kept me from my favorite spots for observing the human condition. No laundromat, competing for folding tables with third world immigrant mothers who like to use them for changing diapers. No grocery store where my blood pressure rises and IQ drops as I fume over the incredible number of people who can’t accurately count 12 items (or less). No work. No school. No gym…nothing. I need to be able to interact with the personal nemesis I have chosen; my fellow man. Then become irritated and annoyed, stomp home muttering to myself and pour forth some observational comedic gold. Then I call the editress-in-chief and BFF The Gow and read it to her. “Slowly please.” she tells me before I read to her. Actually, there is a little ritual we go through after I have written something. In the event that she has the unmitigated gall to not answer her phone, I patiently wait through her lengthy voice mail and scream “Where ARE You???” Unpaid editors are not supposed to go the bathroom without their cell phones. She must feel loved picking up her phone, seeing 16 new messages and patiently deleting my wailing missives.

RING

“Gow!” (That’s how she answers the phone when I call. Isn’t that cute? Yes it is.)

“Hi Gow, I just wrote something. Wanna hear it?”

“What do you think?”

“Um Yes?”

“Yes”

“OK.”

“Slowly please”

I start out slow but my ADD and excitement gets the better of me after I reach the second or third sentence and I speed-read to her, pausing only when I think I have made a funny and want to give her time to laugh. When she doesn’t explode with laughter instantly I start to get worried. She will either laugh and make me feel like I have accomplished something, or she will do her polite fake chuckle and tell me “It’s OK honey, it just needs some more work.”, after which I sulk, moan, bite my arm, ask “Why do you hate my writing?” she will reassure me and after I stop crying I tweak the piece to make it better. It’s an odd process, but it has worked to date.

Now if you’ll all excuse me. I am going to call the Gow and see exactly where I stand with this piece.