The Short Saga of Metales Pesados

• Sunday, August 28, 2011 0 comments
Feeling a little discouraged right now.

Been on tear as of late, not that I've been doing a lot of good work or anything, but I've been writing fairly regularly, and have been pleased with the results. I think "I don't miss the green" [also, special thanks to Lauren and Emi for commenting, and the encouragement] is a bit of testament to that, and I've been enjoying writing everyday again, even if it's mostly just small stuff.

To preface, first I have this fascination with lucha libre, and luchadors, Mexican professional wrestlers known for their masks, and almost super hero-like personalities, which probably doesn't surprise anyone since I'm a pretty well outed pro-wrestling fan. But lucha libre in particular is interesting to me, largely in my youth most of the masked wrestlers I came across were American or Japanese, or worse, Mil Mascaras [so awful], but as I got older I begin to be introduced to these dynamic and interesting looking masked athletes on Monday night television, and thankfully a fellow movie and wrestling nerd turned me on to the films of El Santo. El Santo was probably the most popular luchador in Mexico, save perhaps for the current WWE superstar Rey Mysterio [to hear some tell, Rey is one of the most recognizable figures in all of Mexico - ironic, for a masked man], and "The Saint's" popularity didn't end in the ring, and he also starred in a string [at least 50] of what I guess we'd call B-movies today, where he fought not only other rudo [bad guy] luchadores, but also ninjas, mobsters, and monsters like werewolves and vampires.

I have a pair of luchadores I created, sort of in tribute to that, and sort of just so I could play with the conventions on my own time, a tag team called Metales Pesados, or Heavy Metal, who I occasionally write silly little things for, or, more often, make edits and CAWs of on various wrestling video games. They're a little ridiculous, but I think trying to get across the prestige of these two figures in something slightly more serious - but still fun - would be something that I've occasionally aspired to do.

Anyway, Thursday, I was out running errands, and I got a pretty good idea for a story in the same spirit as "I don't miss the green"... but starring one of my two masked warriors. The story hit me pretty fast, and even though it was quite a bit more light-hearted than "I don't miss the green" I still felt like I could make it work, and sort of dropped everything while out to get it down - this flash of inspiration clearly being of the "have to get this out now, or I may never get the chance" kind. I found myself sort mock punching as I wrote, thoroughly enjoying the experience of getting the story on the page, but more importantly, just enjoying writing the story. When I finished, I had what felt like a pretty unique tale, and even if it wasn't, it was so much fun to work on, I was all smiles - and quite anxious to get it back home to type it out, and work through any problems so that I might post it, or use it for something.

Still, stopping everything to write put me pretty well behind on... well, everything, so I didn't really get to sit down with my story, "Dia de la Vida," until yesterday, and I found myself really disheartened that the short which had brought me so much joy the day before seemed awkward, and fumbling. Repetitive too, not to mention a little lighter on the word count than even I expected [stuff in the moleskin is always shorthand, and always shorter - "I don't miss the green" was literally half its length, originally]. It's the first real stumble since I've gotten started again, so I'm sure it's just stinging more now than it would under normal circumstances, but I'm just... ah, bummed about it. I think what I ended up with after a little proofing isn't all that bad, but with the connection it has, even fleetingly, to a much better story like "I don't miss the green" I didn't feel okay posting it. I might still, in the future, I might actually do more work on it. But it would be a disservice to the better story - and that's hitting me as more important than any disappointment I have about not getting to do right by a couple of Santo-inspired characters.

Which, actually, I think is saying something.

I have been wondering if maybe "Dia de la Vida" might be better suited to be a comic book - sometimes when my prose is this descriptive, yet still clumsy, it's a good sign that what I'm working on would be better suited for a more visual medium. Looking at it now, I can't really tell what sort of commitment that would be, how much work that would be. I guess it really doesn't matter... despite my final call, I still want to do right by Metales Pesados. More importantly, I'd like to get back that big smile I had when I finished writing the damn thing the first time.

Otherwise, I'm feeling good about my work output. Again, I'm writing every day, it's not as much of a struggle as it was before the hiatus, and I'm just generally feeling like I'm getting better at managing my time. There are a few things on the horizon that could upset that particular apple cart, but I'm going to do my best to keep that from happening.

I wrote something today, a rant on a topic that I feel like I've been thinking about a lot lately, and have been wanting to address in a lot of different ways. What I ended up with was a fairly artless, straightforward essay that was basically an airing of grievances, which also almost got posted here. But I'm holding it back too because I feel like there might be a more clever way to deal with some of my angst regarding the topic. Also, it's possible being so overt about my feelings might just piss people off. And if you're going to do that, there is something to be said for trying to be clever.

On the side, I've been looking at an early draft of a Cheri Borgstrom project [some might recall I wrote some scripts for her webcomic a year or so back] and trying to help get her notes back on that as quickly possible, and Justin and I have been meeting once a week, with comic talk happening there [re: Calamity Cash and the Town with No Names]. I've also gotten back in touch with Ander, but he's naturally swamped [he and Eric's Moonstone work is really picking up steam], though even when busy I never expect to go too long without hearing from him - he's just that damn good a friend. I've had a lot of ideas for VHS Generation related projects, all revolving around the father figure depicted within.

Thank pity for daddy issues.

Not to jinx myself, but I feel back in the game. Current plans are loose, but finishing "The Tagalong" feels like where I'll be headed next, and I've got an old, old, old, old, almost pre-dates "Sulk: The Morning After" script that I'm going to dig up, and see if it's as funny as I remember [re: probably not]. And there's still "Cherry Stone" and a bunch of little ideas I had over my hiatus. A lot of this is going to depend on some things I can't really talk about here, but I'm hopeful life will be stable enough that I can make headway on some of these projects. Of course, right now, it's all just talk.

If you're one of my northeast friends, be safe. I tried to reach out to as many people as possible, but lack of sleep makes me a pretty absent-minded friend. I generally dismiss weather-related worries, especially these days when everyone thinks everything is a sign of the end times, but I'll admit seeing the coverage of Hurricane Andrew in my youth left me with a touch more trepidation as it concerns this particular kind of natural disaster.

Besides, it's New York. Say what you will about the city [I'm kind of fond of it], but when things happen to New York, it always feels a little bit like its happening to the entire country.

I don't miss the green.

• Monday, August 22, 2011 3 comments
I don't miss the grass.

I know I should. A better man should. A poet would probably be able to sit here, and write about that, about how much he missed the green grass, just missed the green, the way it waved in the wind, and the softness of it under his feet. Yes, a poet would miss it. He'd lament it. Yes, that's exactly what he'd do. Lament.

But I don't. I never cared much for it back when we had it. Or the trees, for that matter, or even the blue of the ocean. Back before the shit got in it. Sure, now, the water's all still and dead, all black and gray, and I guess that's pretty depressing. They say if you get in it, that'll even kill you now - but I always figured that was pretty likely before. And anyway, the horizon's still there, and that's all I ever really cared for - out there, endless, encompassing. It hasn't changed - everything else has, but it hasn't changed without the green.

I just wasn't made for this. Being a survivor. I mean, sure, I get along okay, and everyone says getting food here, clean water, that's hard, but it's not - it's just tedious. Right click, save as, right click, save as - that was tedious! And that was fine, and it's the same movement, more or less, to start a fire. Just a little further away from yourself - little more oomph behind it, a little harder. But I miss bad food, you know, takeout, and my anti-depressants. And I miss fizzy soda, with ice, and caffeine. Caffeine! And cable, and electric lights. You know, reasons to stay awake after the sun's gone down. Midnight showings. And IHOP. And reruns of Cowboy Bebop.

God I miss Cowboy Bebop. And staying up too late to see it, or rather, to see it again. And I miss having someone to talk about it with, even if just in an IRC chat, and bitch about how nothing's ever been as good as that, and won't ever be again. And talk about what could have happened next, about where Faye might have gone, or if Jet Black would have cried. Someone to argue with about whether Spike's really dead or not.

I met a guy for that, once. After everything went down. Like me, he lucked out, never got any of that shit in him. Unlike the grass, or the ocean, or the trees. He said his name was Diesel, and I knew he was lying, but he'd seen Cowboy Bebop, at least, and seemed up for talking about it, and that was all I wanted. And everyone now wants so much, they want everything, I think this skinny kid appreciated that, me just wanting to talk. Which for a while was cool, plus, you know, there were other things too, he'd seen both versions of Blade Runner, made jokes about things looking like Mordor, and he'd collected comics, and toys, and we'd both left a lot that stuff behind. And liked talking about who had left more.

But, I don't know. Diesel liked talking a lot.

Like, too much. And about everything, and not just Cowboy Bebop. Sure, sometimes it was interesting, but he'd just get started and go on. And on, and on, about this happening, or that happening, and all the what-ifs about what it was that cause all this. What if it was the government, man? What if someone did this one purpose? What if we were all that's left? Diesel was actually okay with that, he was actually pretty okay with everything that had happened. Something about his old girlfriend breaking up with him, just before, and then with everything going on, he thought he'd go see her first, before he left, giver her another chance. Maybe save the day. But it was too late. She'd gotten that shit in her too. Oh, man. And what if that happened?

What if one of us got that shit in them?

Just like that he'd be off again. What if weren't all that's left? He loved that one. What if we found a girl, you know? What if she was hot, what if we just didn't know what hot was anymore, what if we just didn't care? What if you couldn't be hot now that all this had went down? But mostly, what if we found a girl? Because if we did, Diesel said, even if she wasn't into us, we'd pretty much have to do her. Wasn't that rape, I asked. No, he said, because look at the world! Look at the shit, in everything. We'd pretty much have to.
It was about the survival of the species, man.

I crushed Diesel's head with a rock after that. It was pitch black out, and he was asleep, and I'd have never found one if there'd been grass.

My So-Called Attempts at Flattery and Other Embarrassments

• Wednesday, August 17, 2011 0 comments
In life we sometimes do things that embarrass us in such a way that our best judgment tells us to bury it. We can, because in the grand scheme these mistakes are not game changers, they do not alter our lives, or greatly affect how people treat us. So we push them down, shove them into some dark space inside ourselves, and do our best not to think of them. They’re a private, but common shame; the stupid thing said to the pretty girl, the malapropism defended too hard on correction, the wives’ tale presented foolishly as fact. The things we think about in front of our mirrors, staring at ourselves as we realize we should have said this, we should have done that – oh yeah, that’d show them. That would save face.

We feel safe doing this. These are not great failings, and on their own they do us little harm. And contrary to popular belief, not dealing with a problem is indeed a way to not deal with the problem.

But so is dragging those embarrassments out into the light.

One thing I try never to be embarrassed about is my influences. Growing up in the 1990s, I felt like nearly all aspects of the decade, both good and bad, became an important part of my identity. In the annals of popular culture, one of the best remembered and oft-cited 90s hallmarks was the ABC teen drama "My So Called Life." Created by screenwriter Winnie Holzman, the show ran for only a single season, a mere 19 episodes, but still managed to become something more than a cult hit. Even compared to other teen dramas of the time "My So-Called Life" was unique, a show reaching out to the very youth it was attempting to portray and forgoing tidy, last-minute solutions for more realistic, less satisfying endings.

I was barely in the double-digit age range when it premiered, but that hardly mattered. Since I was able to sit upright, I was fascinated by teen melodrama, and to this day the still-living members of my family, and probably a babysitter or two could attest to my fondness for the original "Degrassi High School" on PBS, a show that would often follow the usual, age-appropriate fare of my youth - "Sesame Street," "Mr. Roger's Neighborhood," and "Reading Rainbow." I couldn't possibly have understood those Canadian teens and their problems, yet their plight held me at such rapt attention that I'd start bawling if someone changed the channel before the show was over. I was hooked, never to wander far from the strange allure of teenage angst.

So naturally, in 1994, I found myself planted in front of the television set to watch "My So-Called Life."
Like most television watched in the first ten years of my life, I don't remember particulars of plot, or stories. But I do remember the imagery, still photos in my head of a sharp curiosity framed by beautiful red hair, shallow blue eyes working in tandem with strategically non-strategic plaid patterns, regular looks of shock, and a shock of blonde cascading down a particular face. Sounds too, but less so, the contrast of the echoes of the hallways of Liberty High with the unnerving silence of Angela's home. And ironically, I wasn't even as into the show at the time as my mother was [it would famously fall to what came to be known in our family as the Robin Nichols/Grindstaff curse - any show truly loved by Mom was canceled swiftly], and yet, the show imprinted on me, and working together with a few other pop culture mainstays of the time period, flannel and misanthropy followed.

In college, I was blessed with a close-knit group of friends, as well as a relaunch of the show from my salad days which started it all - "Degrassi." Thankfully, the former were tolerant of the latter, and some even became, or already were, as obsessed as I was. One of these was a brilliant young lady by the name of Savannah Dooley, not only a fellow writer but a fellow Degrassi fanatic as too, and a legacy wordsmith, her mother being...well...

Winnie Holzman.

I kept my awe to myself.

I have probably been called an ass-kisser once or twice. I have on occasion been able to endear myself to older people, figures in positions of power [at least academically speaking], and anytime someone older takes counsel from someone younger you're going to have whispering, and I think honestly the most common assumption there is "what a brown-noser." I've probably made they same assessments at times. But generally speaking, I have enough trouble with voicing sincere praise, so shameless flattery that isn't obviously tongue-in-cheek [I'm talking four-speed, Hoover-style sucking-up] just isn't something I do. And even expressing admiration is difficult for me, and sometimes the actual feeling is so close to jealousy, I can't imagine the train wreck which would ensue if I tried.

Besides, Savannah had no end of people wanting to talk her ear off about "My So-Called Life" and I naturally just imagined not hearing about it might be a tad more refreshing for her. Still, I was hugely curious, and more than willing to piggyback and eavesdrop other people's conversations with her about the show, which managed to keep my "too-cool-to-bug-someone-about-something-that-might-bug-them" douchebag persona intact.

Still, I had to admit to being hugely envious of Savannah, not just because of her own talent, but because of the atmosphere she must have grown up in. I couldn't imagine what it was like to have another writer in the house, let alone someone as supportive as Ms. Holzman was of Savannah. My own parents always pushed me, but as with any push it was done at arm's distance, and even today there are few members of my family willing to look at anything I've written. Plus, Ms. Holzman was a writer I knew [a rarity - most writers I knew back then wrote comics, or English novels, or were Quentin Tarantino], and I admired her work and the projects she'd been connected to. And parents visited their kids at college. Which meant... I could get to meet her.

Later, the following exchange happened with a "friend":

"You should get her to mentor you."
"I think... she's taken."
"What, like married?"
"No. Well, yeah she is. But I mean, if she's going to mentor someone, I imagine it'd be her daughter."
"But you get to meet her. It's important to make connections."
"I don't like using people like that."
"Just saying. Brown-nose a little. Maybe she'd look at your stuff."
"Why would I do that? Besides, I could probably just ask her."
"Would you?"
"That's not the point."
"I'm telling you. There's nothing wrong with sucking up a little. Besides, you actually like her stuff. It's not like you'd be lying just to get something out of it."

It was a point. A bad point, from a bad friend who I have since excised myself from. But just the suggestion of it seemed to taint things, and it was the last thing I wanted on my mind before Savannah's parents took the lot of us out for dinner in celebration of our senior year. I mean, I certainly had things I wanted to say to Ms. Holzman, had questions I wanted to ask, and compliments I wanted to give. But thanks to the genius advice of my winner of friend above, anything that left my mouth in either of those veins were going to feel like total self-serving bullshit to me. So I spent the bulk of the dinner glued to my plate, letting everyone else talk.

It wasn't really out of character at the time - senior year, I was pretty taciturn anyway, and I liked listening to everyone, probably more than the self-centered art student in me was comfortable with back then. But it was difficult, and it was nice hearing about another writer, a successful writer, her projects, her struggles, things she'd accomplished. One of Holzman's other credits, a fairly large one, was her adaptation of popular retelling of Wicked for Broadway, having written the book for the musical version that had just recently toured Japan. As Holzman talked about the musical going to other countries, and continuing its strong business, and getting to witness that by joining the crowds around the world as the watched it, she seemed legitimately humbled and surprised by how well received it was, even when presented to other cultures.

There was a silence over the table when she expressed. As if everyone was mulling over the achievement of it, and just what that meant. I knew, but I was torn about saying anything. When I did finally speak, I didn't recognize my voice. Honestly, I remember it coming out kind of as a squeak.

"Well. I guess that just speaks... to the ah, quality of the work. That it has such a wide... ahem. Appeal."

The silence returned. My friends let their eyes drop to their plates now, which was kind, I thought. Ms. Holzman looked... embarrassed, but mostly for me. A cliché about flatulence in a holy building ran quickly through my head. And in fairness, I had sounded reticent, even pained when I spoke - like a parroting flatterer in a Shakespeare play, speaking to someone who had never heard an unkind word, so that even a hollow compliment would sound sincere.

And the worst part of it all, I was sincere. I wasn't kissing ass - I really meant what I said, and wanted to say it. Hell, after years of foreign films and anime, I felt kind of like the guy at the table who should say something, about how amazing it was to do something that could survive crossing culture lines, that wasn't slighted by translation and the language barrier. Because it was! But I didn't trust myself. I was still in that mindset that anything nice I said was only to serve me. It made no difference that I wasn't sucking up - it sounded like I was, it felt like I was, and really in the moment, that was all that mattered.

I was mortified. Not only did I come across as some undergrad apple-polisher, I did it in front of my friends, to a writer whose work I actually respected. And all with so little confidence that it left me looking completely scummy and transparent.

Ultimately, no one really cared, and when it came to my friends at Bennington, every personality at that table was so dynamic that it didn't take any time at all for someone else to speak up, say something interesting, so we all could move on. But I felt sort of awful, embarrassed by the execution and failure of my half-effort. I wasn't even without sympathy for my faux pas - Savannah's dad, a bona-fide movie star in his own right and former West Virginian who'd manage to escape the state, took me aside and told me some old jokes about our shared homestead. It was nice, and helped me feel just a little less like a jackass. And I had so much fun otherwise, that I loathe having to tuck that entire dinner away, just to keep from reliving this one embarrassment.

Had it happened between close friends or one of my peers, a fellow writer, perhaps I'd get the chance to talk to them about it later. Apologize, and explain myself. But when it comes to those we respect, those who produce work we admire, that opportunity so rarely presents itself, and I've just sat on this for a long time, hoping for second chance, if not with Ms. Holzman, then with someone else, someone who has had similar impact on me. To not screw it all up again, and get it right this time.

But what is that, other than me in front of another mirror? Rehearsing what I should have done.


Where do you put a mountain made out of a mole hill? This was intended as an exercise, a little memoir to get working again. Is this just me rambling about myself, ala "Busted" or "You're Chasing Amy", or is there something here more reminiscent of "Dante Hicks is Dead"? Or is it crap? Feedback warmly welcomed. With apologies to the Dooley-Holzman clan for the gratuitous name-dropping - it was a lovely dinner, and I am a basket-case. - The Management.