Showing posts from 2004

One Thousand, Nine Hundred Eighty-Nine To Go

And, thus far, what’s been learnt? That I can’t write a “novel” in thirty days. At least, not a vaguely autobiographical novel about people and places I knew twenty years ago. Instead, I’ve embarked upon this (at last count) 175 paged self-guilt trip through history and fantasy. Yeah, I thought it’d be noble. One early page of notes reminds me to: Write your pain. Write your embarrassment. Write your regret. And I have. And that is why the Word document is password protected, and will likely never see itself, at least, in its current incarnation, in any printed form. Though, forty thousand words in, I may have finally found my plot. One more thing, if you’ve read the “These Two Ever-Present Scraps” post, then you’ve read an excerpt. I’ll probably post other cleaned-up excerpts in the future.

The Nurse Was Cute, Too.

Christmas Eve, the seven of us were playing Scattergories in Sam’s hospital room. Sam — who is about our age, and who pumps iron (minus the illegal enhancing you-name-it) like Arnold Schwarzenegger did when he was about our age — got several feet of intestine cut out of him last week. And, from the infection and the surgery, he looks about as beat up as Arnold Schwarzenegger did at the end of Terminator 2 (I embellish, a bit). Anyway, Scattergories. The letter was: I. Two minutes (or however not-enough time it was) to come up with all these things that had to begin with the letter: I. Number seven on the list: “Things you replace.” I wrote down, and even spelled it right, “Eyeglasses.” Because I really need to replace my own pair. What I had done, I did not realize, not until JC asked what I put down for number seven; and not until the word came out of my mouth, “Eyeglasses,” and everyone started splitting their guts. Yes, even Sam had to hold (what was left of) his in. You know how r

These Two Ever-Present Scraps

After the remark about movies (and all of Art) serving only as fodder for conversation, I (years later) found, as a response, something that Thornton Wilder wrote. Because, you see, after Dad’s insult, it became my mission in life to find how art mattered beyond simply a diversion for afterward surface discussion — that is, beyond, “Oh, I loved the set, the pretty costumes, the superb acting, the clever writing,” etc. Wilder wrote: “The response we make when we ‘believe’ a work of the imagination is that of saying: ‘This is the way things are. I have always known it without being aware that I knew it. Now in the presence of this play or novel or poem (or picture or piece of music) I know that I know it.’ It is this form of knowledge which Plato called ‘Recollection.’ We have all murdered, in thought; and been murdered. We have all seen the ridiculous in estimable persons and in ourselves. We have all known terror as well as enchantment. Imaginative literature has nothing to say to tho

This Weather?

It’s not cold enough . And what I really love is how it cracks my skin regardless of how much Lubriderm I smear on. Honestly (though I am honest about the blood-cracked-through knuckles), what’s great about the winter is LESS NOISE, no bugs, and less crime. And, with the snow, all the drivers around me are forced to drive the speed limit with me. Finally. Assuming you’re not homeless, you can always come in from the cold. Air conditioning, however, when outside is 90 plus, is not required by law. Also, I love my blue jeans, my heavy leather coat, and my long black overcoat made in England. These things don’t show how chubby my tummy is, or how scrawny my arms and legs are. I feel much tougher, cooler, and richer wearing these things. Also, everything that’s seemingly not religious (but more correctly ritualistic ) about Christmas — the lights, the music, the parties, all those old Holiday TV specials, the sales, the gift giving — bring it on! (Yes, I don’t watch them any more — the

“HE” Gaveth Thee A Lemon

Why is this body falling apart so young? The hearing — like cotton balls smashed all the time into my eardrums. Across the eyeballs, flashes and streaks — like my very own, personal, spur-of-any-moment Fourth of July fireworks. (Only, I DEMAND my money back for this lousy display.) And, inside my skull, dripping (always only on the left side) — like rolling beads of sweat, but on the wrong side of my skin. At least I’ll leave a fairly ship-shape corpse. That is, on the outside. The autopsy, I imagine, will be a funhouse of surprises for the coroner.


get a life. so you can write about it.

Christ, What A Wuss Am I.

Two half cups of glogg; one nearly full glass of merlot, and — WHOA — good morning, hangover!

Please Keep In Mind

Dressed like that , it’s REALLY HARD to maintain eye contact.

A Reminder.

“There’s always a bigger fish.” —Qui-Gon Jinn


This is totally true, and completely unrelated to yesterday’s blog entry… So, for the hell of it, I just did an Amazon search on my stepdad — the sometimes salable author/screenwriter — and what do I find? A long out of print book on group sex! I kid you not! I know it’s my stepdad’s because I also know the co-author of this same book. And let me tell you, my stepdad is one of the reasons I’m so uptight! WHAT THE FUCK??? The short name of this book? The Groupsex Tapes.

And Another Thing

Instead of, “I’m all right. How are you?” I want to say, “Tell me about the orgy. Be specific.” Add to that, “And why wasn’t I invited ??? ”

A Preference.

I’d much rather NOT lose my mind in increments.

Stalwart Nature

Golden leaves still cling to the pair of trees flanking the mouth of our driveway. This is so even after the first two snowfalls of the season. Up and down the street, the rest of the trees stand bare-branched, and envious.

It’s Been Scientifically “Proven”

Live it up, ladies, ‘cause, one day, men will be as obsolete as the rotary phone. Perhaps, they already are. (If nothing else, boys, it’s the ever weakening Y-chromosome that’ll someday do us in.) Fine. Good . No more dicks, nor balls. Nor hairy backs, either.

Ciara Ann

Mom leans the baby niece at me. “That’s close enough,” I say. “Why?” she asks. “What do you think will happen?” A pause. Then, I deadpan, “It’ll explode.” Mom leans the baby niece in closer. “Five, four, three, two…” I plug my ears, squeeze my eyes shut; pray to Almighty God: Please, please for an end!

Forty-Seven Thousand, Nine Hundred Eighty-Eight To Go.

Today, I commenced upon the quest for a 50,000 word novel in thirty-one days. So far, it’s leaning toward the autobiographic. But don’t worry, you won’t be represented in this one. Don’t know if I can swear to that for the next one. If there is a next one. This is my promise: Barring some debilitating catastrophe, if I can’t meet the 50,000 word deadline by 11:59 P.M., December 31, I’ll hang up my writing cap for good — no, I’ll burn it. If I don’t make it, I’m going back to school to learn something practical. Like plumbing. Like tractor-truck driving (growing up, “BJ And The Bear” was one of my favorite TV shows). Or, like hotel-motel management. Or, I hear Halliburton’s still hiring. That’ll be good money and something to write home about. If I survive. So, if I’m not here for a while, it means I’m too busy banging out the day’s word quota.


What I said before? About acting rich? Hogwash. I “clean up” well enough, but if I open my mouth, forgetaboutit. In wealthy settings, as with middle class or impoverished settings, just about everything out of my mouth is mush. This is why I’m always better with a script. Everything I ever say to you is the roughest of drafts. Often, my revisions, while reflecting on our conversation(s) many hours or days later, are much more insightful and amusing. If only you could wait for me to get to the fourth or fifth draft of any given topic. Then, I’d show you some real social intercourse. Fortunately for me, you’ve settled for my mush. And I am eternally grateful. Still, I look sharp in a suit. Even though my preference is always for the 100% cotton-white tattered NYC T-shirt, and the 95% cotton, 5% spandex-black, holes-in-the-pockets-and-one-little-one-in-the-rear shorts you’ll usually find me wearing — should you ever surprise-visit me where I reside. This is my year-round at-home getup. A

Gobble, Gobble

The worst part about Thanksgiving the past five years? Putting on a suit. The only suit. The best part about Thanksgiving the past five years? Acting rich. I was born for the part.

Megadeth and more…

Gonna get drunk, high, and deaf tonight. (Not necessarily in that order.)

Moments To, At & From The Theatre

What’s great about sitting on the second level of a Union Pacific / North Line train is looking down at all the heavenly cleavage. - - - On the way, I every-so-often tear my eyes from the view from above to glance at the Written By in my lap. Harlan Ellison tells the interviewer, “If you’re smart enough to know what the ending is, then the reader will be that smart.” - - - The set for Hughie promises too much. This is a smaller play. In this production (perhaps in every production, save for the one I directed in high school) the choice was made to keep all the Night Clerk’s inner-dialogue O’Neill wrote, inner. Dennehy kicked some dramatic ass, as usual. - - - Every time Metra is my means into Chicago, there’s always a homeless someone perched on a crate or a bucket at one end of the Madison Street bridge, right before (or after) you pass alongside the opera house. Tonight was no exception. On my way back from The Goodman, I dug two quarters out of my pocket to drop into the panhandle

Giving In.

Today, I surrender to the Golden Arches. Today, I start filling the space between my bellybutton and my button-flies. The irony? Tomorrow, I’ll pick up the newly took-in dress pants I let-out five years ago.

“Come And Knock On Our Door…”

See, in my mind, I take the little itty-bitty things people do, or don’t do, and I draw Hindenburg-sized conclusions — which, very often, crash and burn upon closer examination of the facts (assuming I had any to begin with). Did I mention that Three’s Company is one of my all-time favorite shows? Perhaps it’s had a greater (negative) influence than I thought.

Purpose & Intent (Vicariously Stated)

HEMPEL […] Writers like Raymond Carver, Barry Hannah, Mary Robison. These were the three who had the most effect on me, when I started. INTERVIEWER What about their work interested you? HEMPEL They didn’t sound like anyone else I had read. For me, they redefined what a story could be — the thing happening off to the side of a story other writers were telling; they would start where someone else would leave off, or stop where someone else would start. As Hannah said later in Boomerang , a lot of people have their overview, whereas he has his “underview,” scouting “under the bleachers, for what life has dropped.” — Excerpted from Paul Winner’s interview with Amy Hempel for the Paris Review. “…the thing happening off to the side of a story…” — that’s where you’ll find me. “…under the bleachers…” — it’s where I grew up.

At Her Insistence

As he walks by: “Excuse me?” she says. “ Waiter .” He stops. His head turns. The many creases in her brow staring him down; she says, “Yes, um. This salad doesn’t have enough character.” His mouth hangs open a brief moment before saying, “I’m not a waiter.” She nods once; says, “Mm-hm. Would you fetch me one?” He blinks at her once; says, “O… Okay.” And he turns and he walks back the way he came.

And then, I got scheduled to be murdered...

Looks like Mr. Wise wants to shoot me dead in Indianapolis (of all places) on Wednesday in front of a bunch of McDonald's employees. Wish me luck, I haven't played a death scene in quite sometime.

Sore Loser

Fine. But the bumper sticker stays ON.

2 Voters

Pop’s wearing his silver dollar round “Proud To Vote” sticker with the words and its centered flag upside down. I didn’t ask, if on purpose. And, when handed my sticker, I made it a trend. Or, at least, an instant family tradition.


Coccinella novemnotata, & Mr. Frank Out of the house by six AM with Betty, 89; Pop, 92, to pick up Great Aunt Doss, 94. Then, out to a Dominick’s in Buffalo Grove. There, wait — with fold-up chairs — in line, (ideally) until eight AM to get three “numbers.” They’ll give out one hundred fifty, the haggard-sounding voice told me over the phone. Upon securing the numbers, distribute said seniors to their preferred destinations. Later, round up the gang, and return, (ideally) sometime before three PM, for the "as scheduled" shots. Post injections, return Betty to Presbyterian Homes, Doss to her house; make it home in time to make and eat dinner, and for Pop to shuffle off to his adult ( not XXX) Bar Mitzvah class — where he can’t hear a thing the Rabbi says, even when she’s standing steps away. But the Rabbi is cute, and that's why Pop goes. (OK, maybe XXX, but only in Pop's mind .) According to the sheet Dr. Goldberg’s office gave Pop, tomorrow is our second to last

Mm-mm, GOOD

Zits on my ass, what could be better? Yes, my ass breaks out, when I pig out.


I just finished Kerouac’s On The Road . So, who wants to go find Hassel? Who’s with me? Better: Let’s go dig up Dean. Let’s go get “ IT ”. Man, I wanna be the “HOLY GOOF.” My first favorite line in the book? “I made love to her under the tarantula.” (page 92) I did not love this book. I don’t know if I even liked this book. Nonetheless, this book has affected me. Next, I’m gonna pick up some Twain. That’s the beauty of this TIME. Like me, you can have stacked on your desk right now: The Tempest, Uncle Vanya, The Picture Of Dorian Gray, On The Road, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Carrie, Richard Matheson’s The Twilight Zone scripts, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (British hardcover), STAR WARS: Infinities , and Army of Darkness: Ashes 2 Ashes. And this sentence — that you’re reading now — is filler. Because life in the United States of America doesn’t offer nearly enough. Filler , that is. Oh, one more thing: jizzim. Unless it’s: jissum. Or, jissem. Or someth


This week, for a change, I’ve decided to fight off a cold. Great fun. Last night? Absolutely delirious! Not a wink of sleep, though. Special thanks to Ms. Tylenol, Mr. NyQuil, & Mrs. Robitussin. In large part, because of you three, it’s been a d i z z y few days.

Missing Cell

Don’t say Pop lost — say, Pop misplaced — the cell phone he takes everywhere but never uses; never turns on. He doesn’t even know its number. Hunting for the thing in his car, find an undeveloped roll of film lodged between the driver’s seat and the middle armrest. The roll could be as old as the car. And the car’s twelve years old. This was a month ago. The phone still hasn’t turned up, so we got him a new one. The roll of film sits on my dresser, waiting for a dark room. Could pictures of grandma be on it? She’s been gone almost ten years.

Penaeus setiferus...

Nor, Crangon franciscorum… Mommy won’t try the shrimp. ‘Cause then, she can’t kiss step-daddy, who’s allergic to shrimp. This prompts mommy’s sonny-boy to squinch up his face and sigh irritably. Or, This prompts mommy’s sonny-boy to spear the biggest on his plate, push it into mommy’s face — as close as he can get — and say, “That’s the point .”

Expatriate Davy B. (Part 2 of 2)

“One thing no one can take away from America is their superior junk food. I went to Taco Bell three times this trip, because I missed it (they used to have only one restaurant in London, and it closed years ago). Also, all these new soft drink variants have yet to make their way across the Atlantic: Vanilla Pepsi, Lime Coke, Remix Sprite, Baja Mountain Dew, Mountain Dew Code Red, etc. I tried them all. And all the candy bar variants: M-Azing, Almond Snickers, Pina Colada Almond Joy, and so on. I tried all those too.” “I don't think you appreciate how good you have it over there.” “I also drank root beer a lot, because I hadn't had it since the last time I went Stateside.” … “I'm back in London. Now I miss New York. What say you, me, Tom and Jay get an apartment in Greenwich Village together? If a fight breaks out, I'll take your side over theirs.” “I rented four Woody Allen films in the US that I hadn't seen; so no one can say my vacation was a waste.” … “Did you kn

Davy B. (Part 1 of 2)

The FireVaney’s real-life expatriate pally-wally, Davey B., recently paid a visit to The Big Apple. Formerly from my neck of the woods, he’s now a Londoner. Some of what he had to say during and regarding the East Coast visit… “I'm glad you're reading ‘On the Road’. Coincidentally, I spent over twenty hours over several days this last week walking around Manhattan with my ‘The Beat Generation Guide to New York’ in my hand, checking out every Allen Ginsberg apartment, the place Kerouac wrote ‘On the Road’, the park where Lucian Carr killed David Kammerer, etc. Plus I saw the new film ‘The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg’ last night in Greenwich Village. It's only a matter of time before I finally give in and buy that black turtleneck and beret.” … “This has been my only sustained experience of New York, I having only been here once for a week when a teenager, and from what I understand it's a country unto itself. (When I went to Atlantic City today, the ‘real’ America a

Bumper Sticker

- - ------------------------------------- “If ignorance is bliss, why aren’t more people happy?” ------------------------------------- - -

A. M. Shower

This morning, gave myself an enema. By mistake. After that, strange things…


Life’s a potholed one-way street; you, you’re barreling down it full speed in your jalopy on your chopper or your luxury SUV Behind you asphalt’s falling away into oblivion So there’s no — there’s NEVER — any turning back. The dashboard red warning, it’s not blinking the fasten seatbelt icon It’s flashing: Dwelling is putting on the breaks Dwelling is putting on the breaks Dwelling is putting on the breaks And putting on the breaks the asphalt’ll just crumble under your tires And then you’ll have to hop out and run the rest of the way And running the rest of the way’ll wear you down faster sooner than later ‘cause the whole point is later than sooner right? Then faster than later asphalt’ll give way beneath your feet. After that some say you’ll float Others they say you’ll fall. (Narrator sighs. Shakes her head.) But if you must dwell, dwell ONLY upon the page. Dwell that way keepin’ the pedal to the metal Or one foot poundin’ after the other… ‘Course that way any way really, you

Any Day At The Deerfield B.T.F.

To the young, snot-nosed punk letting the weight plates slam on every machine, don’t say, “Kid, keep doing that, you’re gonna break one of those.” Say , with a smile, “Yo, dude. I think you’re stronger than that machine.” At the gym, this gym, the pulchritudinous people — these six foot plus tall, tanned, chiseled, perfectly haired, six-pack tummied Olympian Gods, or, the toned, just-the-right-size breasted, slender legged, perfectly assed, glowingly skinned, silkily haired Amazon Queens — they don’t look at you. They only look at the other pulchritudinous people. And the ugly, the elderly, or the plain lookers, they’re eyeballing everybody . They’re comparing and contrasting. Or, they’re tryin’ real hard not to. This bunch, most the time, they look pissed. Or just tired. Sweaty and tired. The pulchritudinous people, you note, they’re all smiles. They’re pulchritudinous. They’re why the word exists. And they know it. And they know, you know it, too.

Left For Deadite

We never first met. Never, really. Never in any formal, “Hello, my name is…” / “Nice to meet you, I’m…” sense. The recital, that was my first sight of you. You never saw me enter, you couldn’t have seen me sit, you didn’t see me applaud, you shouldn’t of seen me depart. Okay, maybe you saw me applaud, but there were hundreds of patrons applauding, so, it isn’t likely. You were on stage, behind that big, black Steinway. Everyone else? They sat in the dark. And, my seat was at the back of the mezzanine. Neither was I, somehow, conspicuously dressed. So, no way did you see me — me, in particular. Only, upon my second sight of you — really, the first time we legitimately “met” — several years later? You knew me. Treated me like an old friend. While this was flattering, it made no sense. And I hadn’t the courage to ask how you knew me. Perhaps, I’d forgotten. But, no. Having reflected long and hard, it is undeniable: We never first met. Had you seen me perform? That’s doubtful. Beside

A Compliment

Pop says to Betty before they leave for temple, "You're a pretty picture."


During my last show, I Know What You Did Last Shermer (no joke, surf on over to the New Millennium website on your right for evidence), the Big Lesson learned pertained to broccoli. That veggies — especially broccoli — will give you gas. Seriously, for me? This was very useful information. Since my sphincter has a mind of it’s own. Especially when it’s in the presence of a really beautiful woman, or shortly before an audition. Also, on the treadmill, you don’t wanna be near me. Speaking of treadmills, how many of you ran ten miles in 95 minutes or less today and Tuesday? You’re reading the words of someone who has. (Take Two) Kicking and screaming, I dragged myself. Into loving Country music.

The US-99 Effect

Into loving Country music, I dragged myself. Kicking and screaming. Used to be, I’d go through Country music “phases”. They’d last a week or two, and I’d have my fill for the year. Only now, looks like I’m hooked. Though, of some of the tunes, I’m not too crazy about the thinly-veiled right-wing agenda. Today, was a beautiful summer day. No rain. No wind. Hardly a cloud in the sky. And yet… Many grocery shoppers abandoned their carts willy-nilly throughout my local Jewel-Osco’s parking lot -- these people being, evidentially, either blind , or in too much of a hurry to seek out one of the many “Return Areas”. It reflects negatively -- Does it not? -- on the civility of the community at large. Could it be the effect of Country music on the Suburban Soccer Mom? Does sitting so high, so often, in their SUVs make them lightheaded? Does the air get thinner way up there in their H2s, their Cadillac Escalades, in their Lincoln Navigators?

Chuck Plug

Right now, Chuck Palahniuk, along with the Minimalist school of writing he touts, casts the most influence over my writing. Used to be Mamet. Used to be Shepard and Guare. But, as my stuff is moving away from playwriting, and more toward fiction, Chuck’s got my full attention. If you’re interested in learning a little about Chuck’s approach, or understanding why my platonic crush on him is so strong (and you’ve got a high-speed Internet connection), listen to the short (and very amusing) interview he gave to NPR’s Andrea Seabrook by going here: Amy Hempel’s short fiction is one of Chuck’s biggest influences. Upon lending someone a copy of Hempel’s Animal Kingdom , Chuck said, “If you don’t love this, we have nothing in common.” Chuck’s said of Hempel’s writing: “Every sentence isn’t just crafted, it’s tortured over.” At first, I didn’t get it. When I read her short story collections, I saw only the thinnest thread of a connection

The Crowd We’ve Waited For

Arguably, the crowd that turned out for last Saturday’s performance was our most receptive yet. In this kind of show, when the crowd’s big, and they’re really diggin’ it, actors are often tempted to try out new material, take risks, and/or milk the laughs a bit. Case in point… My line: “Screw it. Sheila, he said those things to you only to get you into bed with him.” Became: “Sheila, the man wanted to pop your cherry. Pop your cherry! Pop it! ­And, my line: “Just go, see if you cannot get some rest this night. I’m sure you’ll want to see our Promised One when he returns.” Became: “Just go! See if you cannot get some rest this night – If not, I’m sure the blacksmith can rig up some sort of vi- brator for you!” Upon exiting the scene, I checked for the director’s reaction. He whispered, “You’re fired!” But it was said with a smile. This upcoming Friday night, I’m adding three little words to the end of that “vibrator” line, which, I hope, will really rouse the audience reaction I’m look

The Sound Of Everything

This is a promise: Before I hit 40, I’ll be deaf. Blasting music into your ears is a great motivator when you’ve upped the treadmill to its full speed, and you’re on your ninth mile, and it’s an hour and a half since you’ve stood still. Yes, I’ll be thin, but I won’t be able to hear a word your saying. Luckily, one of my stepsisters knows sign-language. Only, once my ears stop hearing, my motivation to run will wane, and I’ll turn into a fat sack of shit again. Hopefully -- while I am thin and gorgeous, with large, chiseled arms; with six-pack abs (which are just now beginning to appear -- I think -- although my tailbone skin is dark red, scabbed and rough, and my underwear is bloody after the first 50 tilted-bench sit-ups) -- I’ll have gotten enough tail so that letting myself go at 40 won’t be such a big deal. Honestly, all I need? Just one knock-out, knows-what-she’s-doing, sexually adventurous lover for a year. After that, I’ll gladly drop my Bally’s Total Fitness Card through t

Making 18 This Week...

Most Tuesdays and Thursdays, he runs between six and eight miles. But today, for the second time in his life, he went to ten. In ninety-five minutes. Ladies and Gentlemen, your enthusiastic applause, please, for the FireVaney.

The Noggin

You may look at me, and you may think: The wheels are turning. Really? Usually? I’m doing my best to jump start the engine. ‘Cause… Really? Usually? It’s stalled out.

There She Is

At this moment, this very moment, starving appears to inspire the muse. Only, I’m getting a little dizzy. And, starving makes me angry. So maybe I’ll have an apple. Or a Fig Newton. But not both. The muse wouldn't like that. She'll flutter away...