A Letter To My Friends at UCSC


Hello everybody, it’s Jason, the guy who for some reason you can’t seem to get through a single day without running into. So… how’s it going? How long has it been since you’ve seen me, a couple weeks? A day? Maybe more like ten minutes? Wait—am I actually in your living room now? Weird. Anyway, no matter how long it’s been since we’ve talked I’m pretty sure you’ve heard me mention that I’m moving from Watsonville to Santa Cruz.

In fact, it’s highly likely that I’ve brought it up even when the topic of conversation has nothing to do with me. Most of our recent conversations have probably gone something like this:



         “Oh—hi, Jason.”

         “How’s it going?”

         “Alright, I guess. I’ve been worried lately, my mom’s been really sick, and we can’t afford—“

         “I’m moving to Santa Cruz!”

         You get the picture.

Anyway, I’m posting this blog as an opportunity to get the word out to you all in the hopes that one or two of you may feel charitable enough to help me with the move.

But first, let me put this move, and how important it is for me, into context.

Many of you have already been to my farm, and while it may have a great view I promise you living here is not what it’s cracked up to be. We moved up to this house with an unreasonable amount of acreage in Watsonville about eight years ago. The plan was to start a little homestead and provide most of our own food, so that we’d survive if the infrastructure ever collapsed or if humanity was mostly wiped out by something scary and not at all crazy and paranoid, like a major earthquake or an invasion of plague-carrying, undead marmots. Hey man—these things happen all the time. The point is, we were trying to learn how to do things ourselves, as opposed to relying so much on first-world, privilegey things like supermarkets, gas-powered vehicles, or actual paychecks.

So we gave it a go, raising animals, putting in a huge garden, and doing all the things homesteaders are supposed to do to at best chug along with a healthy level of self-reliance, and at the very least not die, shivering and emaciated, in a rotting barn.

But after a couple of years I began to realize something that I should have known all along, something that was probably obvious to everyone.

I cannot do any of the things.

I mean, look at me. Do I look like someone who should own a tractor? Or a chainsaw? I shouldn’t even be trusted with a hammer, for fuck’s sake, and I’m expected to whittle my own dining room table, kill and butcher animals, and, I don’t know, make toothpaste out of beeswax, thistle juice and a live duck? And not only can I not do any of these things, I never enjoyed even trying. I hated being out on the “farm.”

But now that’s all going to end. Soon I’ll be right near downtown Santa Cruz, a place where I only need to walk a few minutes in any direction to find beaches, restaurants, clubs, and soiled, lifeless bodies strewn across the sidewalk in front of my favorite olive oil store. That’s right, I can finally leave behind years of isolation, loneliness, alcoholism and despair and enter a new, more normal phase of my life where there’s just the loneliness, alcoholism and despair.

And don’t let anyone knock downtown Santa Cruz, either. It may not have the pastoral charm of the country and more crime, but at least I’m less likely to die by getting run over by my own tractor or by being eaten alive by a family of bobcats.

So here’s, finally, the point. I could use some help moving. Not just heavy things, either; there’s lots of little things too. We will be moving on May 30th and 31st. It’s a Thursday and Friday, but most of the actual moving will be on that first day, the 30th. I would love it if anyone of you had any time at all to pop over and lend a hand. I figure that we’ll be around most of the day, so that if anybody wanted to help at any time there’s a good chance we’ll be there and the doors will be open.

I plan on having plenty of snacks on hand, and of course beer, but I’m sorry to say that we won’t have any mescalin or peyote this time as I finished them both, along with all the hard liquor, on Mother’s Day. If you’re around in the evening I’ll grill something, and I promise it’ll be food I bought from the supermarket and not something I murdered with a rusty tractor wheel out behind the barn while little Sarah watched, frozen with terror.

Actually, and I mean this, you don’t even have to help us move. Just come on by to say hi, see the house, and grab a bite. Or maybe you’ll just want to case it out so you and a friend can come back late at night and rob me. That’s what my aunt Marguerite always does when she visits.

So I’m talking to you Leah, Megan, Anthony N., Ariel, Michelle, Danielle, Sam, Jonah, Zach, Eve, Anthony M., Josh, and whoever else. Many of you have already seen the new place but if you need the address I can message you. If you can’t or don’t want to make it, it’s totally fine. We all know this is just a ploy by me to get people to come over. No big whoop.

Best, and thanks!


A Moon Shaped Brood

I’ve often had to wonder, as I’m sure we all have, just what kind of person I am. Am I the happy type? A fun person? Someone who always sees things in the best possible light? Or would it be better to describe myself as a negative, darker sort of person? You know the type – am I sullen? Do I brood? Sometimes even I’m not sure.

When you think about it, oftentimes the kind of person we are depends on the time of day. Find me in the late afternoon in a leafy park, for example, when the sun is shining, children are playing, and birds are doing their what-not all around me, and I’ll probably look pretty peachy. I may even be barefoot, skipping through the grass. Who knows?

Other times of the day, it turns out – maybe I’m not so chipper.

For example: when you have a job like mine, you often find yourself having to pull shifts you’re not used to, shifts that you wouldn’t call “normal.” For the past couple of months I’ve been coming in for six AM, which means waking up much earlier, in the dark, and I have to admit it brings out a different side of me. A side that, it turns out, is just the right fit, at least in terms of meeting my daily requirements of emo-type thinking.

I may seem a barrel of laughs during the day, but it’s probably true that I’m the kind of person who likes to spend a good amount of time alone in the dark, brooding silently. This could be why I prefer winter time. When you do the math – loads more darkness. In fact, I’m beginning to think that daylight is overrated. I imagine it’s because that’s where most of the people tend to hang out.

So yeah, I wouldn’t turn down a couple extra hours in the dark, particularly in the morning. There’s always nighttime, of course, but I’ve found that the PM hours are more conducive to things like rocking back and forth with your head in your hands, or standing in front of the refrigerator replaying the day’s humiliations over and over while eating a good percentage of your body weight in soft cheeses. So waking up before 4:30 AM, when I don’t have to leave the house for at least an hour, is actually much better for me. A fresh start, if you will.

The problem is all of this early-morning brooding winds up taking its toll on the old psyche. I don’t know about you, but once I get settled into a dark room at 4:30 AM with my sage green Weezer Snuggie and a hot cup of the previous night’s Avgolemono, sad and weird thoughts start to present themselves. Turns out it’s quite lonely being alone, and add darkness to the mix and there’s no telling where the mind is going to wander. Me, I tend to visualize myself in another, entirely fictional life, a life with no family whatsoever and a job doing something sad and mildly terrifying, like minding a haunted lighthouse or editing YA novels.

It doesn’t end when I leave the house, either; the drive to work in darkness is an extra half and hour of brooding. Of course in that case there’s usually musical accompaniment, as I’ve got a whole bunch of sad and weird things to pop into the CD player to help me along. There’s the Fiona Apple, Radiohead and Bright Eyes kind of stuff, but if I’m really interested in feeling lowdown it’s hard to beat Tom Waits. I’ve been partial to his record “Alice,” which I highly recommend if you’re driving to work in the morning and also happen to be wondering what it might feel like to lie bleeding to death in a rotting pumpkin patch by the light of a full moon, surrounded by faceless, laughing strangers. Just listen to “Poor Edward.” You’ll get the gist. The song “Watch her Disappear” is actually my favorite, because it manages to convey an achingly romantic and sexy sense of longing for someone unattainable while also making me want to die in a pumpkin patch.

And speaking of moons, well that’s just another thing I love about waking up so early. As it happens these last couple of months have blessed us with what seems like an endless number of freaky lunar phenomena. January alone had two Super Moons, and let me tell you – if you haven’t driven up to the hills of Santa Cruz at 5:15 in the morning with one of those babies leading the way then you really haven’t lived. I know it’s out of character for me, but I was even inspired, after a particularly moon-lit commute, to dash off a spot of poetry about the whole scene. Wanting to write poetry is of course a pretty big flaw in just about anyone’s personality, of course, and usually leads to no good, so ultimately I gave up after only one stanza. Take a look and you’ll see why:

If I could sing while I follow the moon

to work this morning, while in blackness blooms

a single crocus breaching soil

to spar with passion’s perfect foil

I’d sing, oh love, I’d sing…

Boy, would I fucking sing.

Bad poetry aside, though, I really did enjoy these solitary mornings in the quiet dark. I use the past tense here because as of this week my hours have changed, and I’m up with everyone else now and driving to work in full daylight. Yeah, I know, it’s a pretty big change for me, but I’m sure I’ll get used to it. I may not be skipping through the grass, but there are people everywhere, birds singing, and lots of sun. I’m even kind of happy. It’s just…not the same.

I guess I’ll manage. At least until that job at the lighthouse opens up. Until then…


An Urgent Warning To Parents.

Normally I don’t pay attention to what the “kids” are doing these days, but I have to say that lately it’s been hard to avoid all of the unsettling news surrounding the younger generations and their trends. I’ve also spent no small amount of time around young people lately, and consequently have become somewhat of an expert on the subject. You may think you know what’s going on with these people, but trust me–you have no idea.

The average adult barely has enough time to figure out what “planking” is (I’m pretty sure it involves kissing a blind-folded friend while jumping off of a pirate ship), when all of a sudden there’s things like “the Dougie” (a clearly x-rated dance move that usually results in drastic mood swings, teen pregnancy, and paralysis, though not necessarily in that order), and even something called “dabbing,” which apparently has two meanings: karate chopping your own Grandparents (often fatally) while covering your eyes to avoid witnessing the carnage, and, I kid you not, repeatedly dipping your head into a large bowl of fresh Marijuana and whole milk. Yep, you read that right: whole milk. And they do these things for fun.

In fact, it turns out that this “Marijuana” stuff is pretty much the operative factor in all of these shenanigans. Worse still, after doing a little research on the subject I’ve learned that–I hope you’re sitting down for this–this deadly scourge is actually legal in this and many other states, and as a result almost every one of our children is currently “high,” or “baked” (that’s just some of the slang meaning “drunk on Marijuana.” Others include “stoned,” “krilled,” “down-bottomed,” “tinseled,” and “gluten-free.”).

Your kids.

I know, I know. It’s all pretty scary. But before you lose all hope in the future of this once-great country, please take heart: there are still adults in charge of things, and these adults will rise to the occasion and take whatever measure necessary to stamp this horrible fad out.

One of the first things we can all do, as parents, educators, and casual observers of teenagers in malls, amusement parks, and on beaches, is to recognize the warning signs of someone who has had way too many Marijuanas, or as they say, has “overdosed.” Fortunately for me, my particular employer has provided, via an obviously well-researched and widely forwarded email on the subject, some of the things to look for.

It’s difficult to even imagine, but apparently, when a child has smoked, snorted or even injected too many Marijuanas (and yes, even two or three can be “too many”), several terrible things will almost certainly happen. So immediately dial 911 if you observe any of these common symptoms (these are straight from the email):

  • The child will NOT wake up—unconscious and unresponsive
  • Unable to stand, walk, or have control of their bodily functions
  • Uncontrollable vomiting
  • Slow/irregular breathing-gurgled sounding
  • Pale skin
  • Bluish tinge to mouth and fingernails

Not so fun now, is it, kiddos? Kind of makes you wonder why they even make Marijuana.

Additionally, and I find it difficult to even type these next words, they may experience something called “scromiting,” which my email says is “a combination of vomiting and screaming.” I know, right?!? It may seem crazy, but unfortunately the cold, hard truth is that kids these days are doing these kind of things in droves. Apparently they sometimes even “shart,” which is a similar blending of two words that, unless I’m mistaken, describes a potentially deadly game involving both “shaving” and “darts.” In rare occasions the Marijuana user has even been know to literally “scromit” while “sharting.” I dare say, your own teen is probably doing them both, and with great enthusiasm, even as I write this.

So please be vigilant. I know that some of the above information may seem far-fetched, but don’t make the mistake of ignoring the numerous warning signs of recreational Marijuana use. If we can stop the problem before it grows, then perhaps this trend can be reversed. Best to let our children remain children, doing things we know are clean, wholesome, old-fashioned fun. Things like playing stickball, asphyxiating each other against walls, or eating laundry detergent. You know, kid stuff.

Just as long as they’re not “planking.” That thing sounds dreadful.

I Swear


As a dad, I’ve spent the better part of the last decade denying myself innumerable pleasures that I had taken for granted pre-fatherhood. “Normal” things like spending late nights out without having to pay a sitter, cooking with pepper, completing full sentences without interruption, partaking in monthly HOA-mandated rituals that involve body glitter and anesthetized marmots, and watching The Great British Baking Show in the nude while eating a quart of full-fat sour cream with my bare hands are just a few of my former hobbies that I’ve grudgingly had to live without.

Okay, so I still do that last one, but the point is, we adults with kids give up a lot. And one of the sacrifices that we tend to overlook is perhaps the most common, and obvious, and effects us daily, if not hourly.

We stop swearing at home.

I admit, ever since I was a stripling I’ve had a terrible mouth. Never in front of mixed company, mind you, but still. I was probably raised that way, if not by my parents then by the aunts, uncles, and even grandparents I spent a lot of time around. I mean, those guys worked pretty darned blue.

Of course I swore all through my teens and twenties. But then I got married, we had Sarah, and everything changed.

Sure, I still employ toe-curling profanity at the usual off-site locations such as work, in the car, and on the floor of my gym’s group shower room every day, but at home, with the exception of an example I’ll share with you in a moment – nothing. Honestly, it’s like our house is a place of purity, a hallowed edifice not to be stained or blasphemed with something as base as vulgarity. You know, like the Duomo but without the art. Of course I’ve gotten used to it, but the truth is I’m not sure I’ve ever truly come to terms with the sheer volume of pure verbal filth I must have bottled up inside of me around the house.

As alluded to in the previous paragraph I did get a glimpse of it a couple of years back. I was unfortunate enough to succumb to a debilitating bout of vertigo, an affliction that, at its nadir, found me gasping for air and sobbing on my bathroom floor one night, paralyzed with unspeakable amounts of pain and terror and experiencing what at the time I was entirely convinced was a massive stroke but what was later referred to by my doctor as something he called–rather dismissively, I thought–a “panic attack.”

Psh. Like that’s a thing.

Anyway even though I couldn’t move a single pinky finger that night without feeling like every atom in my body would explode with levels of pain akin to what I imagine the experience of belly-flopping into a thousand white-hot suns would provide, I somehow managed to alert and awaken Lizzy on the second floor (in retrospect it was probably all the screaming). She did the sporting thing and called 911, and after an excruciating ten minutes or so of indignity and agony the EMTs arrived.

I guess I was just naive, but even in my delirious state I assumed that, once I was able to convey to these life-savers through a series of gurgles and grunts that I was unable to move any bit of my body, at all, then they would get up from where I lay on floor, step away from my soon-to-be carcass and, after consulting each other briefly and tactfully out of Lizzy’s earshot, agree that it would be best that I not be moved. I mean, that seems fair, doesn’t it? The way I figured it, for them to shrug their shoulders, cast a sympathetic eye at Lizzy and respectfully tip-toe back to their idling ambulance would have been the work of only a couple of minutes. Pretty easy money, if you ask me.

But no, these EMT types tend to be the tenacious by nature. Where you and I might look upon a tightly curled up man hyperventilating on a bathroom floor with his face frozen in a silent scream and think, “Well, that’s a shame. Looks like not much can be done here. Back to Pictionary!” these guys look at it as an opportunity to act decisively. Faced with a man who wants only to not be moved, they naturally think of moving him. Strange, I know, but there it is.

So they insisted–rather curtly, I might add–that I take measures to get up off the floor. Of course I refused, but perhaps they were unable to translate my guttural wailing, or didn’t see the Morse code in my darting, terror-stricken eyes. Either way they persisted, and let me tell you that whatever it was that previously had kept me from being able to use my words eventually decided to call it a night, and I soon unleashed upon the hapless EMTs what can only be described as a curse-laden torrent of invective and abuse. I mean, I managed to conjure words that I’m not sure are even legal. Longshoremen, had there been any around, would have blushed.

Eventually and with great effort they did, somehow, get me up off the floor, through the kitchen and out the side door to the ambulance, but believe me when I say that every inch I shakily traversed was accompanied by the most terrible and foul things ever to have been spoken by someone who only hours earlier had told his eight year-old daughter a bedtime story involving kittens.

So if I learned anything that night it was that deep down within my soul is a guy who really misses his expletives. And who can blame me? It’s been a long time, darn it, and I’m beginning to think that a few choice words here and there around the little one wouldn’t be such a bad thing. What’s the worse that can happen? Is she going to start ticking off her schoolmates on the playground? Will she obstinately question her Montessori tutor’s parentage in colorful terms? Tell her piano teacher to fuck off? I highly doubt it.

And if she does? Well, so what? I swore a lot as a kid, and look where it got me.

Aw, crud.


My Year in Review

Well, Christmas is over now, and in less than one week it looks like I’ll be able to say goodbye to 2017 and greet the New Year. I have to say, all in all, this last year has treated me remarkably well.

But before I get into that I feel that I should recap; some of you may remember that there had been published, some years ago, excerpts from my personal diary (check the archives). This was done without my consent and under the erroneous belief that I had somehow perished in either a fight with a gun-wielding quadruple-amputee, or in a fire that – according to the intro to the published diary – consumed my “home, garden, and life-sized wax figures.”

Most of this is not true. There was no fire, I am not dead, and damn it all my wax figures are not life-sized (they’re 7/8th scale). The guy with the gun (street name: Nugget), well, that happened, but I was only maimed, not killed. Now – how the excerpts had come to be in a stranger’s hands has never been revealed to me, nor has the reason for the publication. I can only assume that some rival held a grudge. Consequently, I had no one to sue and was forced to confront the newspaper that published the excerpts with threats of legal action. But who knew the Canton, Ohio Repository had access to such big-time lawyers?

Anyway the point that I’m trying to get at is that while the story of my demise was untrue, I have to admit that the content of the diary was, in fact, written by me.

The truth: Lizzy did take Sarah and run off to the Batu archipelago with Marcos, the pool-boy (not our pool-boy, someone else’s). This life-changing event set me on a downward spiral that manifested itself in many terrible ways, not least of which was the introduction of Prancercising® into my daily routine, and the week I spent in bed in the dark, sobbing and covered in sprouted Kamut.

But, as they say, all wounds eventually heal. I did meet a woman along the bike path in Long Beach, and for a while I thought that our relationship would be a game-changer. Ultimately, though, her lengthy criminal record, lack of a home address, and inability to communicate in anything other than grunts proved a deal-breaker.

Also true: a film was made based on my novel on the migratory habits of the Black-tailed Godwit. Sadly, though, the actor C. Thomas Howell proved an ill fit for the subject matter, particularly considering the challenges of playing not one but two major roles: the heroic male lead Riz Gluant and his 4 year-old niece Dakota. There are some non-disclosure issues here, but let’s just say that after the ninth on-set meltdown the production had to be suspended. I just feel bad for the director, Dustin Diamond, who was trying in good faith to turn a new corner career-wise after so many years playing “Screech” on Saved by the Bell.

But that was years ago. Last I heard, Lizzy left Marcos and has taken Sarah to Paris, where they are both wildly successful snow-suit models and are dating the same man, a twenty-two-year-old Mime named Guy (pronounced like “Ghee”) who busks next to a dumpster behind the Fragonard Perfume Museum. They seem happy.

But back to 2017. Over the years I have become increasingly disillusioned with life in California, particularly in regards to the people there just being cool with everything and constantly saying things like “it’s all good,” and “no worries,” so last January I decided to take the leap and finally relocate to a place where I know I will be happy and where I will be accepted for who I am. Maybe you’ve heard of it – it’s an “Intentional Community” in an unincorporated patch of fallow land about 50 miles west of Tobyhanna, Delaware, populated only by Native Americans with a paralyzing fear of Bundt cakes. That they have accepted me – I mean, I love Bundt cakes! – is remarkable. It’s not much, but it’s home.

And I have, against what seemed like terrible odds, found love again. She makes acorn flour all day and wears the pelt of an albino Marmot on her head. Her name is Adsila, which I’m told means “Gathers Blossoms.” However she won’t let me touch her and calls me “Mafu-shanna,” which I’m told means “Hides Behind Bush.” Still, though, I am happy.

Professionally, I’m fine. I’ve stopped writing novels and essays and prefer to restrict my literary output to tiny, meaningful things that I scratch into the port-o-potty walls. I never get any feedback, but I, personally, think they’re pretty good.

So that’s been my year. In just a few short days I’ll be celebrating the start of 2018 with all the members of my new community. I’ve looked into it, and apparently they spend New Year’s Eve engaging in a meaningful, contemplative ritual that involves interpretive dance, chanting, homemade lotions, over-cooked noodles, and lots of male nudity. I can’t wait!

Oh, and I’m hoping they’ll let me bring my wax figures! Fingers crossed!

Happy New Year!


40 Minutes – A Commercial Script on Spec.

40 Minutes – A Commercial Script on Spec.


A young man, LAWRENCE, sits quietly reading in a comfortable chair in his home office. There’s a cup of tea on a small table by his side, a decorative lamp emits a warm, soft light nearby, and classical music plays in the background. He’s wearing a comfortable sweater, and the book he is reading is “How The Mind Works,” by Steven Pinker.

Behind him his bookshelf reveals Lawrence’s taste in literature: philosophy, English history, a large volume of Shakespeare’s works. Several tasteful pieces of framed art decorate the walls around him, and a small window overlooks what appears to be a well-groomed garden.

It is the room of a scholar, an academic – a man of refined tastes.

The door opens and Lawrence’s wife SANDRA enters quietly.

SANDRA: Hey hon – sorry to bother you…

Lawrence finishes the sentence he’s reading before responding. He closes his book and smiles.

LAWRENCE: No, you’re not bothering me. I was just taking a bit of a break from all my blasted research.

SANDRA: Oh, poor you. Any breakthroughs?

LAWRENCE:(shakes his head)Not yet. I’ve gone through everyone – Ben Jonson, Christopher Marlowe, the Earl of Derby, the Earl of Rutland, the Earl of Southampton, the Earl of Essex, Sir Walter Raleigh…

SANDRA: What about Bacon?

He waves a dismissive hand.

LAWRENCE: Don’t mention that name! He’s old news honey – old news. There are already volumes and volumes –

SANDRA: (interrupting)Um — sorry. I just wanted to tell you that I’m going to meditate now in the sunroom.

LAWRENCE:Oh, fine…that’ll do you some good. Sorry love, here you are trying to break away and I’m just rambling on…

SANDRA: No, really, I love to hear about your work! I just want to start now so that I’ll be done before the duck is finished.

LAWRENCE :(nodding)Sure. So, forty minutes?

SANDRA: Yep. Twice a day!

LAWRENCE: Well you go meditate, and don’t worry about that duck. I’ll check on it – you just enjoy your nirvana!

She chuckles.

SANDRA: Yeah, right. I’m lucky I can remember my own mantra!
They both laugh heartily for a sustained beat. Eventually the laughter trickles off.

LAWRENCE: Alright, go on now. There’s a small chance I may be napping later, but if not I’ll see you in forty minutes.

She blows him a kiss.

SANDRA: (smiling warmly)Thanks, hon.

She closes the door quietly behind her.

Lawrence looks at the door thoughtfully for a beat, smile still on his lips.
Suddenly, in one motion, he loses the smile, tosses the book aside and jumps out of his chair.

He tiptoes excitedly over to the door, holds his breath, and carefully opens it. He peeks out.


At the end of the hallway and through the house a bit of the sunroom is visible. Sandra, who has just entered the room and is partly visible, puffs up a pillow on the couch by the window, sits down, and settles in for her meditation.


Lawrence slowly and noiselessly closes the door and exhales. He looks around the room, then rushes over to his desk. He opens a small drawer, digs around inside, and pulls out a hand-held digital stopwatch.

He sets the stopwatch to 40:00.

He pushes START.


It immediately begins to count down: 39:59…39:58…39:57…

He rests the stopwatch on the desk, then opens a different drawer. He quickly tosses its contents onto the floor, winces at the noise, and reaches deep inside, to the back of the drawer.


His eyes widen as he pulls an unopened pint of whiskey out of the drawer.


He turns to the bookshelf and removes the volume of Shakespeare. He reaches into the gap between books and pulls out a large pack of cinnamon gum. He quickly places the gum and whiskey on the small table next to his cup of tea. He picks up the mug, drains it of any remaining tea, cracks open the pint of booze and fills the mug, with the used tea bag still hanging out of it, to the brim.

It’s too full to move without spilling, so Lawrence takes a long, careful slurp from the mug before putting it back down on the table.

He sits down in the chair, rubs his face with both hands, and exhales.

LAWRENCE (CONT’D): Forty minutes.

He takes another swig of his booze.



It reads 36:00

Lawrence is on his chair, laptop obscuring his middle. There’s a large bottle of lube on the table next to his mug of booze. Classical music is still playing softly in the background.His arm is clearly moving in his lap and he appears to be in a state of deep concentration.




Lawrence fidgets with the stereo in the corner of the room while simultaneously wiping his hands with a decorative towel and juggling the stereo remote. After a bit of a struggle, he manages to navigate away from the classical music. He scans over several stations: Country, Jazz, Pop, Mexican Bandas music.

LAWRENCE: (under his breath)Aw, fucking shit…

Finally he finds some speed metal. He winces at the volume, taps it down a couple of notches on the remote, and nods.

He tosses the remote on top of the stereo and it tumbles, unnoticed by Lawrence, onto the floor behind it.




With speed metal in the background, Lawrence is in the middle of finishing his mug. He looks around furtively, pours more booze into it, and drains it.

In the process the old teabag falls out onto his face. He flicks it off his cheek and flies through the air, landing with a SPLOT on a framed picture of Lawrence and Sandra that sits on his desk.

Lawrence looks at the picture.



28:00 and counting.

Lawrence, at his desk, does a rail of coke off of the picture.




Lawrence whispers into his cellphone.

LAWRENCE: (slurring) No, no baby…I fucking love you…you know that I fucking love you, Crystal, right? You know I miss you…

He’s suddenly distracted by a restrained RAPPING sound. He looks around, startled.

LAWRENCE (CONT’D): What the fuck…(into the phone)I gotta go babe…yeah, I’ll call you tonight…

He hangs up his cell and struggles to listen over the Metal in the background.

More rapping.

It’s coming from the window.


Lawrence helps a man enter his office through the window. They’re both struggling, swearing and laughing under their breath.

LAWRENCE (CONT’D):What the fuck are you doing here, Mickey? This is fucking crazy…



22:00 left.

Lawrence and MICKEY, goateed and scrappy-looking, have pulled up another chair and are playing cards at the small table.

Lawrence pulls from his pint, now nearly empty, and Mickey fishes out a bottle of his own from the pocket of his flannel shirt. They’re both smoking.



It reads 16:23…16:22…

Lawrence and Mickey pass a funky, glass-blown pipe between them. Smoke fills the room.

LAWRENCE: (really slurring now)…and I was like, “what the fuck?” I mean, there’s feathers and blood fucking everywhere, right? And I’m supposed to get out of there in time for my 10:30 class? What the fuck?

Mickey exhales with a deep cough, and nods.

MICKEY:I hear you man, I hear you…


Lawrence and Mickey, a few moments later and still at the table playing cards, are frozen in their chairs, listening. Lawrence holds the pipe in one hand and the other hand rests over Mickey’s chest, as if to still him.

LAWRENCE: Shhhhh….did You hear something?

They’re both very still for a beat.


Lawrence awkwardly shoves Mickey through the window and back outside. Micky is only visible from the waste down, but his voice is audible from the other side of the window.

MICKEY: Alright, alright, I’m fucking going…what the fuck, slow the fuck down, man…




Lawrence sits on the floor near the stereo. His eyes are closed and he’s moving his head to the Speed Metal in the background.

On his lap is a plate of greasy duck bones. He has grease all over his face and hands. He’s holding a bone up to his face and chewing breathlessly.



10 minutes left.

Lawrence, his face a greasy mess, his hair and shirt disheveled, is back in his chair, laptop on his lap, his arm jerking furiously.



Everything about the room is a mess – speed metal plays endlessly, there’s smoke in the air, the table is out of place, there’s a dirty plate of duck bones overturned on the floor near the stereo and the bottle of lube is laying sideways on the floor near Lawrence’s desk, leaking out copious amounts of goo onto the framed picture of Lawrence and his wife. Several of the framed artwork now hangs off-kilter on the walls behind Lawrence. The Tiffany-style shade of the decorative lamp is askew.

There’s a small, torn-up baggy with some coke still visible inside it strewn carelessly over the top of the desk.

The pint of booze, empty save several dirty, crushed cigarette butts at the bottom, sits on the floor near the office door.

Just visible behind the bottle are two feet – the camera pans up to reveal Sandra, a look of utter horror on her face.

Lawrence is in his chair, his eyes closed. His laptop balances precariously over his knee, the screen revealing the homepage of some ghastly porn website. His pants are unzipped widely.

Sandra coughs.

Lawrence opens his eyes with a start. He looks around, disoriented, before settling on Sandra in the doorway.

He stares back.

A beat.


Black screen

ANNOUNCER’S VOICE: (V.O.)Want to get away?



Lawrence stares at Sandra, his expression growing more pained.

He opens his mouth to explain.

He’s interrupted by the loud, clear BEEPING of his stopwatch.

Lawrence closes his mouth as the beeping continues.



Just Your Average Guy

I sometimes wonder how well many of you know me. Oh, you’re probably aware of my myriad successes in any number of fields – for example you’ve no doubt marveled at my ability to write and direct flawless, Oscar-winning films. You’ve also likely seen me on TV winning countless debates with some of politics’ heaviest hitters (George Will actually cried). If you’re lucky you’ve eaten at my four-star restaurants (the words Moules à la crème Normande and Mignonette de poulet Petit Duc ring a bell?), and if you’re really lucky you’ve seen me sell out Madison Square Garden with just a microphone, a Hyperbass Flute and some oven mitts.

And I haven’t even mentioned my parkour videos.

But do you really know me?

Here’s a bio no one has ever asked for: since I started this blog I have been a resident of California. We moved here back in 2006, just months after Sarah was born, spending seven or so years not too far from L.A.  before becoming disillusioned with the area – specifically its complete lack of natural, green habitat, my inability to get even one paycheck in the independent film industry, and the likelihood of dying in a riot. We then moved to the Central Coast, just south of Santa Cruz on Monterey Bay.

That means that we have been Californians for ten years, but before that I was a life-long resident of the Northeast, born in 1971 in a small town in north-central Massachusetts, just near the New Hampshire border. If this sounds to you like an incredibly exciting time and place in our great country’s history to be spending one’s formative years then I feel it’s my obligation to tell you something.

You are absolutely correct.



I grew up in Townsend, Massachusetts, about 50 miles west of Boston. Population around 9,000. It’s your typical small, leafy, and occasionally spooky New England town wherein nothing too exciting ever occurs other than the daily commute on rte. 119 to Boston, some run-of-the-mill teenage townie antics, and the occasional triple murder. My first job, at age fourteen, was for the Cemetery Department mowing grass, raking leaves, and digging graves. Average stuff.

So average, in fact, that my home town was recently the subject (that is, if you call 2011 recent) of an article in the Boston Globe that ranked Massachusetts’ towns by looking at several typical statistics – population, age, income, crime, sexual deviancy involving quadrupeds, the likelihood of being chased by hoards of high school football players wielding damp towels as weapons – and found that Townsend, more than any other town in Massachusetts, placed pretty much right in the median on just about everything.

In other words the town I grew up in is, statistically speaking, the most average town in the state.

Of course as I said I grew up in the 70’s, which, come to think of it, is a decade that can actually be called above average. That is if you’re looking at metrics like divorce rates, bad governing, soul-destroying home décor, alcohol and cigarette addiction, casseroles, and child molestation. But hey, we got to ride bikes without helmets! Let’s hear it for the seventies!

As a young stripling my elementary school was Spaulding Memorial, a large, brick 1930’s era monolith that for reasons unclear to just about everyone still to this day sports a menacing, black metal bat (the flying mammal, not the baseball thingy) atop its weathervane, looming over the children below. Does that sound sinister? Well take a look and you tell me:


Nope, not sinister at all.

My High School was North Middlesex Regional High, the population of which included the teenagers of neighboring Ashby (lots of forest, pop. 3,074) and Pepperell (the bad side of the tracks, where I learned to smoke, spit and almost have sex, pop. 11,497). I don’t really recall my teen years at NMRHS as a time in which I was particularly productive and/or successful at anything, but then again, who is (that is, besides lots of people)? As far as I can remember I wasn’t particularly popular, but nor was I unpopular. I didn’t get great grades, but I also didn’t flunk out. Didn’t do sports. I just kind of was.

You know, average.

Anyway, even though Townsend is in many ways a lovely town I left it for good once I hit eighteen, escaping to the big city of Lowell, MA for college and then, after a few years here and there, the Boston area before marrying, spawning, and then coming out West. Being a true New Englander I will always miss the Northeast, but it’s not as if I don’t get plenty of chances to get back there. In fact, I still occasionally visit family, though only when there’s a funeral and I have enough miles.

And hey, so what if it’s a literally average town? It produced me, and as the first paragraph of this post clearly outlines – and if you’ve forgotten it already I strongly recommend that you read it again, it is quite good – I’ve accomplished tons.

If that ain’t above average then I don’t know what is.



Binge, Lather, Repeat

Here’s a confession: I’m not a fit person. I’m paunchy around the middle and I lack cardiovascular stamina. I couldn’t run a marathon or engage in any of those Iron-Man type competitions wherein the contestant has to crawl through a minefield under two inches of electrified barbed wire. Heck, I couldn’t even complete a half-hour of Svaroopa yoga without collapsing in pain.

And muscles? Put it this way: I’m 45 years old but I have the strength of a slightly larger-than-average nine year old girl. With diphtheria.

Feats of strength just aren’t my thing. My thing? Bingeing. Like, I’ll binge-consume anything. Inhaling a box of Cheez-its in front of Netflix on the couch at midnight, cradling a quart of whiskey is for me just an average Tuesday night, and when you think of it that’s three binges in one sitting. In a sense, isn’t that itself a feat worthy of praise? You’ve got feats of strength, you say? Well I have feats of binging!

On an unrelated subject, another one of my “things” is struggling to keep my weight down.

Oh, believe me, I’ve taken comfort in all the usual excuses: I’m middle aged, my metabolism betrayed me somewhere in my thirties, I’m biologically Samoan – you know, the same excuses you probably use. But if I stopped eating at night and abstained from alcohol consistently then I would be much healthier and, consequently, thinner.

But let’s just say, for arguments sake, that I don’t get around to making those changes. I can still make moderate adjustments to the old lifestyle. I mean, why throw out the baby with the bathwater, as they say.

It is in that spirit that I try to make it to the gym most weekdays. My gym is nothing fancy, just your average low-budget dive with barely enough functioning equipment to support the occurrence –however unlikely – of more than two people wanting to do “quads” or whatever on the same day. I’m sure you’ve seen gyms like this. The carpets are all worn. The lights flicker. Most of the members are in their sixties or seventies, and everyone seems really tired. It’s like an early David Fincher movie.

This is the way I like it. In fact, I like most things about my gym.

But oh, using the locker room – that I can do without. I enter that locker room every day knowing there are numerous perils awaiting me within. It’s bad enough that the floor is basically a large petri dish culturing countless new life forms, or that the hot tub is a potent soup of dead skin cells and short gray hairs, or that no one – and I mean no one – seems to wash their hands after doing lord-knows-what in the bathroom stalls. The worst aspect of the locker room for me, though, is the likelihood that there will be other men in there. They will be old-timers. They will want to chat. And they will not be wearing any clothes.

Now my workouts may not be the most intense, but it’s very difficult for me to maintain an exercise-related endorphin high, particularly after a challenging 15 minutes on the treadmill’s Belly Fat Blaster setting, when upon walking into the locker room I’m faced with several septuagenarians, all of whom seem to really love being naked. They’re not just quietly getting into or out of their clothes, either; these guys are walking around, actively puttering about. Often they’re standing up, face to face and within inches of one another, nudely chatting about things like their recent trip to Alaska or how their doctor told them to quit dairy.

Even their personal grooming at the sinks goes on while au naturel, which I find odd. Think about it – you’ve finished your shower, you’ve toweled off, and now there are two things left to do: get dressed, and spend the next half an hour over the sink plucking your nostril hairs. Which do you do first? Well I’d get dressed, of course, since being stark naked is not a requirement of doing anything other than showering. Not these guys, though. For them getting dressed is apparently the absolute last thing they plan on doing, and even then one gets the impression that they do it only under protest.

Me? I’m in and out of that locker room with zero chatting and a minimum of nudity. In fact, I’ve perfected the skill of positioning my self in such a way while quickly going about my business that to even the keenest eye it would appear I don’t even have any private parts.

And at least I wash my hands after using the restroom, even if it does mean that I’m often sandwiched at the middle sink, flanked at both sides by naked, lathered grandpas.

Now that I think of it, it’s no wonder I seek the comfort of food and drink in the middle of the night. It’s the only thing that will erase the memory of the day’s locker room experience from my brain.

Netflix and Cheez-its, anyone?





On Notice

A month or so ago I received a notice in the mail from the Long Beach Police Department. Unlike the typical parking ticket or traffic violation, though, this letter came in a nondescript white business envelope. Not overtly intimidating, perhaps, but still vaguely threatening, as I guess any unsolicited missive from the Police would be. Now I don’t know if you’re at all like me, but if you are, then any overture from the P.D., whether by mail or in person, would certainly elicit from within your soul no small degree of terror. It’s not that I’ve done anything wrong – well, not too wrong – it’s just that I tend to assume the worst.

What’s this? An official letter from the Police Department? How nice!

At the time of its arrival I was puttering in the yard (being one of those outdoorsy types), and Lizzy happened to intercept the mail at the front door. It was she who brought the letter to me, so consequently I had to act pretty damned casual as I took the envelope from her hand.

In the few seconds subsequent to my wife’s words (“Here’s something from the Police!”) I experienced a quick moment of panic. I scanned my memory for any recent offense, but the more I thought about it the more it became clear that this letter could portend punishment for damn near anything. Was I caught on camera failing to come to a complete stop at an intersection? Could a vigilante-inspired coffee shop denizen have witnessed me helping myself to extra java without dropping a quarter in the little cup they put next to the urn? Did my ISP call the cops after learning about the video I downloaded – you know, the one with the dwarf, the bucket of warm mashed potatoes, and all the marmots?

Could they – oh god help me! – could they have found out about the chickens?

But as I say, I tried to remain nonchalant. I opened the letter, and sure enough, I’m told in plain, cold, accusing black lettering that I’m to report to the Long Beach Police Department on the date specified for something very, very serious.

A job interview.

Wait – what?

A bit of history here: a couple of years ago I started the process of interviewing for what was advertised as a municipal job with the Port of Long Beach. It seemed like just the thing for me – one of those clerical spots wherein the applicant need only prove that he or she can type around 10 words per hour, as well as display a proven ability to show up at work with a pulse.

Note the dreaded description “Perm/Full Time.”

Having worked for about five years with the Massachusetts Department of Revenue – a job that not only required an absolute minimal amount of brainpower and effort, but also imposed upon its employees several breaks during the day, two or three “personal days” a season, a few sick days, some vacation time, and a nice, fat, holiday off a month even if there wasn’t an actual holiday (“Evacuation Day, anyone?) – I new that this Port thing would be right up my alley.

Long story short, several months of waiting, a background check, two tests, three interviews and one economic disaster later, and I didn’t get the job. It’s okay. I moved on.


But now it’s a couple of years later, and I’m suddenly being told to report for an interview for a completely unrelated government job. The letter was threatening in tone, not unlike a summons to appear in court or an order to pay a decade of back child support because of one little mistake you made in Chinatown during a particularly crazy Qi Xi festival. On reading it I got the impression that if I didn’t respond I would most certainly be physically removed from my home and thrown in prison for an extended stay, the duration of which I would no doubt spend as that prisoner who wheels the book cart around to all the other inmates, passing out copies of Mein Kampf and taking furtive orders for things like cigarettes and Rita Hayworth posters.

You are ordered to respond to this letter!

Now I know all these police officer-types tend to operate on the serious side, but was this really necessary? Frankly, it was damn unsettling. And what if I were to show up for the interview? Can you imagine what that would have been like? I can hear the questioning now: “So, Mr. Miller – have you ever been beaten with a bar of soap and a sock?” or, “It says here on your resume that you were once a Boy Scout. Could you, then, construct a shiv out of an 8-track cassette tape and a kitchen spatula?” or, “Mr. Miller, where do you see yourself incarcerated in five years?”

And whoever wrote this dreadful thing must have felt that it needed an extra dose of intimidation, because a little further down the page I was told in no uncertain terms that I had exactly two weeks to respond, or else there was a chance that I would never be allowed to work in municipal government again.

Scary prospect, I know, and such a tempting offer. But I steeled myself and decided to ignore this warm, welcoming invitation. I figured I’d be better off looking for employment somewhere else – perhaps a job less confrontational in nature. Somewhere where I’d be less likely to have my body and spirit beaten down on a daily basis while enduring humiliating verbal assaults and other indignities from my superiors.

Okay, so that rules out a Hollywood production company – but I’ll keep looking. I’m sure I’ll find something.


Don’t Go Out the Front Door (Or Under the Kitchen Sink)!

It’s funny how being a parent alters the way you look at things. If you’ve been there (or currently are there), you know what I mean – cleaning up traditionally repugnant substances like poop, vomit or any other of the vast variety of sputum becomes, through some reverse transubstantiation, as mundane and ho-hum a task as sweeping up cracker crumbs. The point being, if you’re a parent, then you just don’t get freaked out about the same things you used to.

The same could be said for situations that don’t involve the body’s by-products. For example, a couple of evenings ago while Lizzy and I were getting supper ready, Sarah popped out the front door unattended for a bit of pre-dinner running around. We don’t normally have a problem with this sort of thing, as long as we know where she is and we’re able to check on her every few minutes or so, so we let her do her thing while we went about setting the table.

Upon coming back into the house Sarah proudly informed us that she had made a “garden” on the front step (see picture). We went out to have a look, and, sure enough, she had gathered various flower petals and arranged them in a neat pile, surrounded by carefully chosen twigs, on the stone tiles in front of our door.

Lizzy and I both oohed and aahed accordingly while Sarah bounced into the house, proud of her achievement. And really, who can blame her? Look at her choice of color, the arrangement of the material, her selection of found objects – quite impressive, if you ask me.

“It’s my garden!” Sarah beamed, hopping about in the living room.

“How nice!” Lizzy beamed in response.

“That is beautiful!” I offered enthusiastically, beaming even brighter.

“Yes!” Sarah beamed some more.

If you haven’t noticed, we’re one of those families that tends to beam a lot.

We were just at the point where even the cats were about to start beaming when Sarah, buoyant as ever, added:

“Somebody died there!”

Now I don’t know if you’ve ever seen one of those movies where the family moves into a new house and the littlest one – usually some dour, brooding type – stands at the top of the stairs and utters an ominous and foreboding non sequitur like “It’s in the cellar,” or “Why is the floor all red, Daddy?” and the parents brush the statement off with a distracted tousle of the kid’s hair and a casual “Aw, how cute…now go play with your new Heretic Necklace, Dakota!”  Well if you have then you know that the child’s announcement would have in actuality portended the demise of both the house and family, most likely at the hands of some ancient daemon or disgruntled Native American’s curse. Additionally, you’ve probably shaken your head incredulously, questioning how any adult could possibly have be so clueless as to have missed the obvious warning.

But there we were, all smiles in the living room as Sarah, skipping over to the dinner table, reiterated her statement that her creation commemorated some poor soul’s demise. Lizzy and I exchanged a chuckle, mused on our daughter’s creativity for a moment, then went back to the dining room.

I mean, are we crazy? Sarah’s flower and stick arrangement turns out to be not just a spontaneous and girlish burst of creativity but instead memorializes some imaginary person’s death and here we are, thinking, “Oh, kids….” Next thing you know walking out back and finding Sarah drawing chalk pentagrams on her Melissa & Doug easel while speaking in tongues will be a common occurrence, as will waking up in the middle of the night after some fitful dream and finding her standing over our bedside in the dark, brooding silently.

Of course, just this morning while getting ready for school Sarah amused herself by opening up the cabinet door under the kitchen sink, happily muttering “Monkeys, monkeys, monkeys…” so maybe the whole death-shrine thing is nothing to worry about. I mean, I’m certainly not going to believe a four year-old’s claim that there are anthropoids under our sink, so why give credence to anything else her healthy imagination feels like producing? Just encourage and move along, right?

I guess the desensitizing aspect of parenthood serves a pretty good purpose. Otherwise we’d be far too grossed out to clean up any of the messes, or too concerned about monsters in the closet – or, say, monkeys under the sink – to function properly. And while I may never know if anyone did ever die on our front door step, I can say with a pretty high level of confidence that there are no monkeys, under-sink residing or otherwise, anywhere in the house.

At least, I don’t think there are.

Aw, crap.