Florida Faith

image1The only picture of me from my FL internship. At least I’ve got a sweet lip ring and a cool temporary tattoo.

Back in 2001 I did a month-long internship in Florida. I was 20 and vegan and full of convictions. I had just finished up my first year of community college. I had done a 3 month internship at Farm Sanctuary’s NY shelter the previous year, and that’s how I heard about the campaign to ban gestation crates on pig farms in Florida. I signed up to volunteer and my best friend John and his band, Fall River (previously Manhunt), dropped me off at my internship in Ft Lauderdale while they were on tour in the area. As an adult, it boggles my mind we were able to make the timing sync up like that. But I’m glad we did. After a couple days of van repairs and missed or cancelled shows, we arrived in Florida, ate at Burger King, and then immediately blinded the beaches with our pasty white Pennsylvanian skin. It was glorious.

My job at the internship was to collect signatures of FL residents to pass a ballot initiative. 15 year old spoiler alert: we got enough signatures. And the initiative even passed. I had very little to do with that, however. See, I was terrible at collecting signatures. I’ve always been pretty quiet and shy around strangers. And as a youngin I was even more self-conscious and hesitant. So spending my days approaching person after person and asking them to sign those petitions was not the easiest thing for me. And I’m definitely not a pushy person. I think the signatures I did manage to collect, were achieved with earnestness alone. And maybe a little pity.

But I did have one useful feature for our cause: a driver’s license.

The group of interns I was working with didn’t drive, so I became the chauffeur. Someone had donated a car to our cause. It was a tan Toyota 4 runner that had been used in some other sort of rescue effort and had the permanent smell of cat pee embedded in it. It had no CD player and a broken antennae. So we didn’t get very many radio stations. There was one classic rock station that came in sometimes. And a light pop rock station that basically just played Train’s Drops of Jupiter on a loop, every once in awhile throwing Vanessa Carlton’s Thousand Miles in the mix for variety.

Our saving grace? Somewhere in the intern headquarters we found exactly one cassette to play in the SUV’s tape player: George Michael’s Faith.

We listened to that tape daily. Multiple times a day. For at least the 4 weeks I was in Florida. I had the CD at home in PA and had listened to it quite a bit over the years. But during my drives on those beautiful, smooth, not at all cracked and shitty like PA, Florida highways, I became intimately familiar with the album. We all did. Think about it for a minute – with smart phones and iPods and satellite radio, when was the last time you listened to an album? Like really really listened to it? On a loop. For at least 30 days in a row. I know that in my life, that simply does not happen anymore.

It didn’t take us long to learn all the words to all the songs. One of my fellow interns-turned-friends, misheard the lyrics to “Father Figure” as “Bottle Feeder” and we never let her forget it. And you’ve never really lived until you’ve sung (okay, screeched) GM’s “Monkey” in 3-part harmony. Already by 2001, his 80s lyrics were simultaneously amazing and also totally foreign, and sometimes even rapey (see exhibit: I Want Your Sex Part 3. And don’t ever accept a gin and tonic from GM).

It was a long, crazy, weird, difficult month for me. I was so out of my element trying to collect those signatures. I think it was harder for me than 3 months shoveling literal shit during the dead of winter had been the year prior. But George Michael got me through it. So did my fellow interns, Chris and Kath and a bunch of others. And now, even 15 years later, it’s a sense-memory thing for me. I hear “Father Figure,” and I’m back to those sunny highways, windows down, hair blowing in the somewhat urine-scented wind. I’m back to a time when it felt like big world-wide changes were possible, if only enough people were willing to sleep on saggy air mattresses in tiny offices and go just a little bit insane listening to one cassette tape ad nauseam.

Last Christmas, when I heard that George Michael had died, I immediately thought of Florida. And I was sad that there wouldn’t be new GM albums for future generations of young people to listen to on a loop while they spent insane amounts of time and energy doing the things they’re passionate about. But there will always be Faith. And Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1. And, of course, Ladies and Gentlemen: The Best of George Michael, among others. The dude has left quite a legacy and I’m sure he’s already moved on to greater things. Still, I’m feeling nostalgic.

Recently, during my attempts to minimize my belongings, I found my old journals from college. And tucked away in one of them was the photocopy of a poem/essay/rambling I wrote for my fellow intern a couple days before I left Florida. I don’t know if it makes much sense to anyone else, but this awkward prose perfectly sums up that brief period in my life. And I can’t hear GM without thinking about it.

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Artist’s rendering of the petition form which this was originally written on the back of.

 

 

 

New Release: Air Pirate

air-pirate-kindle

My new book, AIR PIRATE, is out now on Amazon and everywhere ebooks are sold. This is the first book in a 4-part YA series.

Townsman thief-for-hire, Darien North, survives a crash landing when his airship explodes over hostile Woodsman territory. He even manages to ingratiate himself to members of the tribe that finds him, including a beautiful girl with wild hair and deadly archery skills. For the first time in his life, Darien starts to feel at home. But his happiness is cut short when the Town’s commissioner blackmails him into stealing a secret heirloom from the Woodsman tribes.

After years of being a loner, Darien is forced to choose between competing loyalties: friends or family, woods or town. And when he learns of an old, deadly weapon that could put all of humanity at risk, he must decide what—or whom—he’s willing to sacrifice to save them all.

Sign

So I was driving home from my BFFs, John’s & Tricia’s, house tonight and I saw this traffic sign. I don’t remember what it was for, maybe the speed limit. Except it was right before an intersection so that’d be kind of dumb. It was all tilted and looking pretty beat up. But whatever kind of coating it was covered with was catching the light from the street lamp and making this cool metallic rainbow design on the sign. And I thought, “That’s beautiful.” Which I then immediately followed up with: “What kind of hippy bullshit thought was that? Am I fifteen again or something?”

The concern was valid enough. At 31 years old, I’m going through a bit of a midlife crisis, smell the roses sort of phase, so it’s important to keep my douchiness levels in check. But it was interesting because I’d just had a big conversation with my friends about how it can be tough maintaining relationships as you get older and your life paths diverge from those of your friends. It’s totally easier to hang out with people who are like you. That used to mean you enjoy the same books, hobbies, movies, etc. Now it can mean, if you’re a couple, hanging out with other couples. Or if you have kids, hanging out with other parents. Or if you’re super into sleep-away ice sculpture camps, like going to that together, or something.

Point is, as you get older you’ve got more responsibilities and less free time. So it’s just easier to spend that free time with others who are living similar lives. Because a) it’s simpler to sync your schedules and b) you can relate to each other. We talked about how, regardless of what situation you’re in, it feels so good to have someone else in your camp. Someone who really gets it.

This is sort of weird for me lately because my life path is diverging in a different direction than a lot of my friends. Many of them are on the spouse, house, and children trajectory. And that’s awesome! I love my friends’ significant others. I adore their children. And I very much enjoy going over to their houses and lounging around on their couches (in my pjs if they’re lucky). But that’s not really where I am. I’m trying to take a step back from my apartment and my cubicle job and thinking I’ve really gotta figure out what my trajectory is going to be (and if that trajectory is going to be an artsy one, how I am going to continue to feed myself.)

And we were talking about how that’s scary because you’re used to being in the same camp as your besties. But when you go in different directions, it feels…not so dramatic as a betrayal. But of a parting of ways that maybe you weren’t ready for or didn’t want. And you don’t get that same sense of them really getting your struggles anymore because your struggles are different. I think that’s totally natural.

But then I was looking at that stupid sign rainbow and realized I’d been forgetting a huge chunk of my life philosophy: diversity. Years ago I wrote my master’s thesis about cultural hybridity and how that makes a person, and a community, stronger. I believe that. Salman Rushdie wrote, “Mélange, hotchpotch, a bit of this and a bit of that is how newness enters the world.” Agreed. So while I’m nostalgic for the days where my friends and I could share more camaraderie for what we were all going through together, I’m also looking forward to what we’ll get to teach each other through our different adventures. You don’t learn just by finding someone who’s doing exactly what you’re trying to do and copying them. I mean, you do that to a degree. But I’d argue that you learn even more by looking over here and then over there and cobbling together your own path that’s got the best of all worlds.

Maybe that’ll help me think of the divergence as less of a separation and more of a collaboration. Or maybe I’m just bs late night philosophizing (when you’re in your 30s, 11:30pm counts as “late night”). But after I looked at the rainbow and thought about how it was beautiful or whatever and worried about regressing and acting childish for my age, I thought about if my friends John and Tricia had seen the sign rainbow, that was exactly the kind of thing they would have pointed out to their 11 month old daughter as something cool to look at and appreciate. And then I remembered that we’re always going to be more the same than we are different.

Why Prince Charming Kind of Sucks

I was eating lunch with some friends a few weeks ago when one of them described a wedding she’d just been to. It had a fairy tale theme and the blissful bride kept gushing about how happy she was to have found her Prince Charming. I made an off-handed joke about how I’d prefer Aladdin. But then I thought about it some more and realized I’d totally meant what I said.  Because Prince Charming kind of sucks.

See, I’m a Disney brat. So while I know the general concept of Prince Charming can refer to any number of fairy tale princes, I always envision the one from Disney’s Cinderella. He’s the only Disney prince (that I know of) to be called by that name. He is also the shittiest prince ever.

Let’s look at his role in the movie. His dad, the king, tells him he has to hurry up and pick a wife because he’s not getting any younger and that’s what princes are supposed to do. Charming is all, no dad, I want to fall in love! The king ultimately responds by throwing him a big party and making him choose a wife.

So he’s at this big party when he meets Cinderella. He thinks she’s hot and they dance all night and supposedly fall in love by midnight, though I feel like that’s not nearly enough time. He digs this girl and has to choose a wife anyway. But oh noes! She ran away before he could get her number! Or like, her name. Or literally any important information about her at all. But whatever, because they’re in love.

He’d probably have been content to just let her call him for the second date. After all, how hard could it be to track down a dude in a giant palace? But then his dad puts on the pressure so Charming comes up with the brilliant solution to take her forgotten shoe and make all the single chicks in his kingdom try it on. Because in Charmingham, not only is it not totally gross for hundreds of ladies to shove their feet in the same shoe (with no socks!), every single one has a unique shoe size that could not possibly fit into the glass slipper unless it belonged to her. Clearly we are dealing with a genius.

But by pure luck, no one else fits in the shoe until he gets to Cinderella’s house. Her stupid step-mom tries to lock her away, but luckily she’s befriended some mice who set her free and she’s about to try on the shoe when it’s dropped on the floor and shatters. The prince is beside himself. How could he possibly verify that she’s the one he fell in love with from the ball? I mean, besides like, looking at her face and remembering what she looked like. I’ve heard of love being blind, but Charming takes that to new, ridiculous levels.

Luckily Cindy still had the other shoe and tried it on for the prince and he was like, okay! Now I remember that you’re the lady I love! Phew! Glad we settled that. And they get married.

(Pictured above: two characters more useful than Prince Charming)

What. The. Hell.

I could maybe understand being charmed by him that first night. Cinderella was all dolled up and visiting the palace for the first time. Then a handsome dude dances with her a bunch and sings a cheesy song. Maybe she had some champagne or something. It was exciting times for sure. But then in the light of day, she should have been able to see him for the dufus he really was. His plan to find her was so lame and far-fetched that it’s almost as if he didn’t really want to find her …..

Which leads me to my next theory: Prince Charming wasn’t actually trying to find Cinderella at all. He was a rich, young, bachelor in the prime of his life. His parents were all about marrying him off, but he wasn’t having it. He wanted to be free and have fun with his bros, and keep dancing with all the ladies at all the parties. When Cinderella ran away from that ball, he never expected to see her again. To get his dad off his back, he told him he could only marry the girl with the glass slipper and set about finding her in the most inefficient manner he could think of.

(I’ll be single forever! Muahahahaa!)

It was by pure luck and happenstance that he actually did.

(Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck)

Aladdin on the other hand, besides being way more attractive, actually got shit done in order to be with his lady.

 (Shut up, cartoons can be hot too)

He broke into a creepy sand cavern and befriended a genie and ultimately used his wits to defeat Jafar. Also, he could fucking fly.

Now, some people might not qualify Aladdin as a prince. I assume he becomes one after marrying Jasmine at the end of the movie, but it’s true he wasn’t a real prince when he was doing all his awesome stuff. That’s where Eric comes in.

 (My number 2)

Like Charming, Prince Eric is facing pressure to settle down and get married (a problem all cartoon-aged children can relate to). But instead of riding around on a horse with a lady’s shoe in his hand, he battles Mega-Ursula, who is positively terrifying.

 (This is where most dudes would peace out)

And the list continues. Beast has some anger management problems and is kind of a dick about that whole locking up a young lady in his castle for always thing. But he still risks his life to save Belle from those wolves. And he at least tries to change his ways in order to make her happy.

Simba starts off as kind of a screw up, but he eventually defeats his uncle and saves Nala from that creepy lion harem. The Frog Prince kind of sucks too in the beginning, but ultimately sacrifices his life as a human to be with Tiana.

I could go on. But the gist simple: give me a Disney Prince (or even like, a normal dude) and I’ll tell you why he’s better than Charming.

My Best-Kept Secret

Friends, today I have to tell you something you didn’t know about me. Something crazy, something life-changing.

Okay, here goes:

I did not immediately like Savage Garden when I first heard them.

(contrary to the above evidence)

I’ll give you a minute to let that sink in.

For those of you who have known me for a long time, this will come as quite a surprise. But I assure you it’s true. Now, Savage Garden’s first US single, I Want You, intrigued me. It came out in 1997, when I was still clinging to the grunge/alternative music of the early and mid 90s. But the song was really catchy, and there was something about the video that kept me on the channel anytime it came on.

(this, I think)

So my mom, as a fun surprise, brought home their CD for me one day. By then I’d given in to the single, and couldn’t get its catchy rhythm-based verses out of my head. So I was excited to hear the album. I was pretty impatient and didn’t give track one much of a chance. I Want You was the 2nd track and I listened to that on repeat while happily, uh, whatever I used to do while listening to music. Not multitasking? Then the 3rd track, Truly Madly Deeply, came on and man, was I disappointed. What was this schmaltzy bullshit? I skipped to track 4, and my ears were assaulted by an 80s sounding Prince imitation.

I sampled the rest of the tracks, not giving any of them a full listen, as my stomach churned and I worried that my mom had wasted her money. At age 15, I wasn’t very patient (or at age 29 for that matter). But that was back in the dark ages, when the internet barely existed and we had limited access to new music. So even though I was pretty sure I hated the album on a whole, I kept trying to listen to it. Mostly I’d just play I Want You over and over. But then I’d get lazy and not make it over to the CD player in time and I’d have to listen to the next track, and maybe even the one after that. It was a slow process, but within a week or so, I found that I didn’t hate those other songs quite as much as I thought I did.

 I’m not sure where the official cross-over point was, but within a few weeks I went from “ugh, I think I kinda hate this” to “OMFG GET ME ALL THE SAVAGE GARDEN EVER!!!!!!” You could say I became a bit…

(Yeah. That.)

Somehow Savage Garden became my new favorite thing in the world. For years. I was totally in love with Darren Hayes (still a huge fan!) and was simultaneously aware of the fact that he was married, gay, 10 years older than me, and also that were totally going to be married some day (I’m still waiting patiently ;)). That’s right around when I started taking art classes as electives and I ended up putting Darren’s likeness in everything I ever created.

(In retrospect, this is creepy.)

To this day I don’t know why Savage Garden’s music had such a huge effect on me. I mean, yeah it’s really good pop music. Those dudes have real talent and the songs are catchy, fun, heartfelt, etc. But to me, it was revolutionary. After I opened up to their synthesized pop beats and smooth, layered vocals, I also got into Hanson, U2, Queen, George Michael, Michael Jackson, and many others. Savage Garden opened up a wonderful world of bright, fun, catchy music for me. I was still, of course, a moody teenager. But I think that’s when I started to lighten up a little bit.

But the point of all this is, I think I ended up loving them so hard because I didn’t love them right away. They had to earn my love. But then once they had it, I was theirs for life. I wonder why that is? Is it the reverse of the “easy come, easy go” adage?

I’ve been reading a lot of Kristin Lamb’s blogs and her book We are Not Alone lately, and she’s been pointing out that as writers, our target market isn’t just avid readers and other writers, but also people who don’t define themselves as readers. She explains that if those supposed non-readers become fans of your work, they will be loyal fans for life. I think that is very similar to what happened with me and Savage Garden. I didn’t like pop music, but once they could convert me, they became my favorite brand of that genre.

So who has had a similar experience with a band, book, movie, etc.? Any theories on what makes us so loyal to something we didn’t originally like? Who wants to start a Savage Garden cover band with me?

Buying a Fanny Pack in 2011: an experiment in self-reliance

Seven weeks ago today I broke my ankle. The short version is: I’d been training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for six months (I’m bad-ass like that) when during one of my classes, I stumbled during a takedown and landed awkwardly with my own ass on my right ankle (I’m clumsy like that). I cracked my tibia, fibula and some other ankle bone that I don’t know the name off. For the next six weeks I was in a cast and had to crutch around everywhere, not putting any weight on the injured ankle.

As you can imagine, this created loads of inconveniences. I couldn’t walk, couldn’t drive, couldn’t take out my own trash or go grocery shopping. For years I’ve prided myself in being self-sufficient and independent. And after a year of muay Thai and half a year of jiu jitsu, I was starting to feel physically strong for the first time.

And then, suddenly, I wasn’t.

I became utterly dependent on my amazing friends and family who have been driving me around, bringing me food, helping me clean, etc. etc. etc. I understand that I’ve been very lucky. But also – it totally fucking sucks. Like, so hard you guys.

So what can you do when life hands you those shitty apples? You learn to do what you can. It’s all about the small victories. Can I carry my trash down the stairs and around the other side of my apt building while hopping on one leg and using crutches? Nope. Not unless I want to break my other leg. But I can balance on one crutch and sweep up the litter in front of my cats’ litter closet and then drag my shower stool out of the tub and sit on that while I scoop the litter and then hop up and wedge my left crutch into my armpit and let that carry the weight of my body while I hold the trash bag of used litter in my left hand and hobble the 6 feet to the trash can. I can do that. It’s gimpy and pathetic and tiring and makes me sweaty, but it is something I can do. So you can goddamn guarantee I’m going to do it.

Along those lines, I’ve had to come up with creative and embarrassing ways to carry stuff. For the most part, I can get around my apartment by putting stuff in plastic bags with handles that I can grab while still holding the crutches. Most of my food has been eaten out of Tupperware containers that I can fill up in the kitchen and then carry out to the living room in a plastic bag. It’s like getting take-out, except I don’t have to leave the house!

My purse, however, was more of a problem. I usually carry a small shoulder bag, which fits snugly into my armpit. But the crutches were in the way of that, and I kept having to make my friends carry it for me (I think John looked best with it, just sayin). So then I tried carrying a backpack, but the straps of that were also taking up precious armpit space and it was throwing off my crutching rhythm. I could have tried a messenger bag, but I didn’t want anything swinging around and getting tangled up in the crutches.

So really, the choice was clear:

                                                         (photo by John Collier)

Yep, that’s a fanny pack.

The thing is, fanny packs are really convenient. They snap on like a belt and you don’t have to use your hands or your armpits (which are surprisingly valuable real estate) OR your friends to hold them. That’s a win in my book. And they’re right there at waist level. They allow easy access to my wallet and keys and I don’t even have to take it off to open it. My purse and backpack can’t claim the same.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. It’s not 1989 anymore, so where the hell does one find a fanny pack in this day and age? The answer is, of course, ebay.

I started my search, expecting to find fluorescent relics of our most embarrassing decade. And they had some of those (for only $5 plus shipping!). But I was surprised to find they also had a variety of updated looks as well. Which led to the thought: who, besides broken and shameless people like me, were buying these things?

China. China is buying and selling the shit out of some fanny packs. This is why they’ll take over the world someday; because their arms and hands are free from baggage. All the (relatively) cool ones I found were all modeled by hip-looking young Asian men and were being sold out of Bejing.

I narrowed it down to a few:

I thought this was cute and clean-looking. I think the attraction was that it looks more like a purse that is strapped to your waist (as opposed to a neon, watermelon-shaped, backpack material monstrosity). But it looks a bit stiff, like it might stab you in the stomach while you’re sitting (not being a hip Asian man, I wouldn’t be able to rock it on my side like in this picture). Let’s try another.

This one is cute and sporty (I have a thing for Puma bags) and doesn’t look like your grandma’s fanny pack. Also, it is clearly labeled as an “amazing item” so it’s hard to imagine going wrong with that. Still, I was hoping for something a little more rugged. Something sturdy and enduring and maybe even a little adventurous. I wanted the Indiana Jones of fanny packs.

YES. A thousand times, yes.

So I ordered this baby from China and it arrived within a week. I was relieved to see it looked just like the picture and seemed made of sturdy material. Then I noticed this tag on the inside of it:

This company understands its target market.

Indeed, this is technically a fanny pack. But I prefer to think of it more as a hip satchel. Or maybe a wallet holster. Or perhaps a shutthehellupbecauseIcancarrythismydamnself sack.

So, anyone else want to own up to having one of these?

Fight or Frak? My thoughts on Battlestar Galactica Fan Fiction

So I’ve been laid up with a broken ankle for the past six weeks (more posts on that in the future, I’m sure) and one thing that has helped me pass the time is watching hours and hours of Battlestar Galactica. In fact, I just finished re-watching all four seasons. It is just that awesome and I am just that desperate.

In what will become related news, I have also been reading short stories from the Machine of Death collection by Ryan North and friends. For those of you not familiar with it, it’s basically fan fiction based off an idea T-Rex had in one of the Dinosaur Comics he stars in. Basically there is a machine that prints out a slip of paper that will tell you how you will die. No when or why, just how. It’s an interesting concept and a lot of writers are doing really cool things with it. I haven’t come up with an awesome idea yet, but sometimes I like to think of surprising or funny things that could be printed on the slip.

So anyway, then I was at work the other day and a co-worker was laughing over a form we got back where someone filled out his social security number as “3”. It got me thinking about the Machine of Death and what the story would be if someone got a slip that just said a single number on it. How could one be killed by the number 3?

See where this is going?

For those not familiar, in Battlestar Galactica, there are human form cylons (cyborgs) that are distinguished by the numbers of their models. The 3 is played by Xena Warrior Princess, so there are already a lot of sweet crossovers happening here.

Anyway, with Battlestar on my brain, I started thinking about the people of the colonies before the cylon attacks. If they had a machine of death, what would their slips have said? How many would say “6”? “Centurions”? “Explosions”? “Radiation”? “Gaius Baltar?” Cheery topic, I know.

For a split second, I got really excited about exploring a Machine of Death/Battlestar Galactica crossover. Then I realized that any abomination I came up with would be fan fiction of fan fiction. Eep! Aside from a very disturbing Naruto aniparo I looked at awhile ago, I’m not very familiar with fan fic. But from this limited experience and what I hear on the internets, my understanding is that it often starts off as an interesting take on existing characters, settings, and story lines and then quickly devolves into all the characters having gay sex together. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I’m just not sure I want to get involved.

JUST KIDDING!

Here are my matchups:

  1. Sam and Lee – I mean, come on! So hot, right? Lee would be all, forget Kara and her special destiny, I’ve got a “special destiny” right here. Get it? And Sam would be like, Yes. I got it. In my butt. Then Helo is like, Hey guys, me too! And they all have sexy times together.
  2. Gaeta and the Chief – Not your traditional hunky types, but still a cool match. Maybe I could focus on when they’re in New Caprica. Confidential information wasn’t all they were sharing in that tent behind the flipped over dog bowl, am I right?
  3. Saul and the Admiral – Let’s face it, nobody wants to see that. But just, enough already guys.  Galactica is constantly struggling not to buckle under the weight of all your sexual tension.
  4. Kara Thrace and me – What I’m saying is, I’d gay sex the shit out of Starbuck.
  5. Caprica 6 and Dromiceiomimus – Robot and dinosaur action? Yes, please! That’s basically the only thing missing from the original.

And now you understand why I’d make a terrible romance/erotica writer.

What are your thoughts on fan fic? Is there worthwhile stuff out there? Who would your BSG and/or Dino Comics matchups be?