Included in this section are special contributions from other authors as well as about forty stories from my previous story series, I Am Erick Davidson, which is now available in a "shorter, sharper, stronger" second edition on Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats.
The Halls of Shambala
My friend Hank, who curates the HomoCentric reading series at Stories Bookstore in Echo Park, posted this remembrance to his Facebook page for World AIDS Day on December 1. It's a beautiful story of love and loss that hearkens back to a time that, based on the stories I hear or read from people of this era, I wish I had been a part of with them. With his permission, I'm reposting it here.
All through my Midwestern childhood I dug up rocks. I took them from streams. I saved them from lakes. I rescued them from alongside dangerous country roads. I hunted them while on family vacations. I even became a tweener trespasser sifting through kid-sized giant piles of rocks waiting to be used at the local cement factory. I would hold them in my hand, feel their heft, consider them, contemplate them, evaluate them and those I chose I would take home and smash with my father’s ball peen hammer.
I wasn’t a violent child. I wasn’t even an aggressive child. I peered out at the world from behind thick, plastic, dark-rimmed eyeglasses, my mom-styled haircut shorter than a crew cut buzzed in the basement next to the washer & dryer. I was just a boy waiting to happen, and in the meantime I was always searching for crystal-filled geodes. Arkansas diamonds, they call them. In fact, the first one I owned was one I bought at a souvenir stand while on a family vacation in Arkansas. It was a perfect clear, quartz crystal that immediately found a place of honor on top of the treasure box on the shelf in my bedroom. Crystals have always fascinated enchanted me. I still have several around the house: a few on a windowsill to glimmer back the sunlight, a couple on top of a bookcase and one on the nightstand next to the bed.
Joseph and I had been at the gay beach in Venice. It was the sandy section between the breakers and the first lifeguard stand north of the rocks, a quarter-mile stretch of short shorts, speedos, sunscreen and sexual tension that would be danced & drunk away late afternoons until late at night up the street at the Roosterfish.
Joseph and I had made our way up to the boardwalk in a dizzied bubble of two in the midst of a crush, that way two people can ignore the world. We’d floated past the skaters, past the mobs of sweaty, shirtless black boys -- afro'ed, cornrowed, tie-dyed or in jeans and spinning, twirling, sexy straight man rollerskating backward to music rolling out of giant boomboxes. We drifted around tattooed Mexican street boys West for the day and gay for the afternoon, past the German tourists so pale and indifferent to the fact that their suits were too small and wrong in every way and bounced off the gay boys staring at the French boys staring at the California girls purposely blond and impossibly tanned.
The two of us both smelled like Bain De Soleil mixed with sand and sweat. I don’t remember what he wore but I know it was a tank top with piping and a pair of gym shorts—short ones, the good kind. It was the 80’s and shorts still earned their name. His tan made him look Latin brown even though he was as white as me. His straight hair falling in his eyes, his eyes falling into mine and both of us hanging onto the air around us like we were falling.
We’d just started winding our way down the boardwalk – back then Venice boardwalk was a half-mile flea market of blankets and boxes covered and filled with everything people didn’t want but knew someone else would, all of it mixed with massages and tarot readings, t-shirts and plants and incense and oils but we didn’t notice. We didn’t care. We had to have been obvious because a woman with hair waving like an aura, bracelets chiming tiny peals begging attention, yelled at us to “come look!”
Her table was covered end to end with crystals purple and gold, lavender and clear, earrings and geodes and clusters all gleaming frantic in the afternoon sun. She pointed directly to a particular crystal at the table’s edge and said, “See how this cloudy part goes right deep way into the clear part? It’s a relationship crystal, see?” She looked at the both of us expectantly. Joseph bought it for me right then.
The rest of the day was a giddy sunburnt blur.
We met at the Mother Lode in West Hollywood. I used to go there with my friends Brian and Deb. Deb ran the pool table like Minnesota Fats, much to the surprise and dismay of the boys who came there to show off for each other. I was never very good at pool, more slapstick than cue stick. Still, I ended up playing a game with Joseph that quickly devolved into a laugh-filled, beer-tinged flirtation. The four of us became fast friends and by the end of the week Joseph and I were dating.
That’s when the world was on fire and our culture was burning the worst. The news, the fears, the dying -- constant and seemingly hopeless. Joseph and I both had the virus. It had charred the edges of my life but hadn’t yet engulfed it. We were healthy and didn’t need the AZT yet, so it was abstract for us in a way.
We stuck hard and fast. I remember I gave Joseph my paperback to read – it was a small, odd paperback edition I’d found at B Dalton’s on Hollywood Boulevard before many people outside of San Francisco even knew of Anna Madrigal and Mouse. I thought he’d like it; I wanted him to like it.
I remember we went everywhere fast. Camaro fast. His Camaro with the racing stripes and spoiler fast. So much chrome you had to squint. Rock & roll so loud you had to shout. We even tore upstate and spent a weekend at his parents in the quiet ranch house he still considered home. It was a town called Hanford, famous only because of a radio station that was on a Journey album cover. We spent the night in the twin bed of the bedroom he grew up in. He laughed in my ear and covered my mouth when I came because his parents were asleep in the next room.
I thought it was funny that I’d left the Midwest and ended up falling for a small town boy who liked Foreigner and Boston, working on cars and drinking beer and eating pizza and playing pool. Thing is, he had moved from Hanford to live in a gay city. I was gay and living in a city. There was a difference. We burned out fast too, and not too long after we had cooled to friends.
Eventually, Joseph grew distant, a small town rock song fading into my recent past. Messages weren’t returned. Rumors of illness rolled around. He was no longer seen playing pool at the Mother Lode.
Deb called me one day. “Joseph’s gone,” and silence clear and cloudy went by until I asked, “How?”
"He had a shunt. He microwaved all his meds and injected them. I didn’t know until…” Deb’s voice trailed off. I waited.
“His parents came down and threw everything into trash bags. Everything. His mom wore rubber gloves and screamed at the landlord to get out. He saw my phone number taped on the fridge and swiped it hoping I was a friend. The landlord was in tears when he called.”
Clear and cloudy. I wondered if Joseph had read the book. I didn’t think so. I wish he had. I think he would’ve waited around for the second one.
Cloudy and clear. The relationship crystal from Joseph. All these years later the crystal is still by my bedside. No one knows but me.
I met Jake Soister this past May after having known him for about four years. Once upon that time we worked for the same company – albeit in different offices -- but we communicated frequently via email (and then later Facebook) about work, love and life. Both of us felt unfulfilled in our jobs and were trying to plan our respective escapes. He eventually left and I was fortunately laid off.
Soister incorporates some of that work, love and life experience, as well as some fantastical elements, into his wonderfully-written debut novel, “The Life He Knew”. I knew it was in gestation when we worked together and in the thereafter, but was pleased to find out around the time we met that he finally published it.
Given the new fiction focus of the former Enterprise website, now called “Story by Terrence Moss”, I’m pleased to re-launch (as it were) with this Jake Soister Q&A about “The Life He Knew”.
If you're already sold on the book, it's available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats. If not, enjoy the Q&A...there's another pitch for the book at the end.
1) What was the genesis of The Life He Knew?
The Life He Knew was born out of a very frustrating period in my life. I was barely twenty-five when I started writing it and it was a very therapeutic response to a lot of feelings of inadequacy I was experiencing. I remember thinking – almost constantly – that there had to be more to life than the monotony of what I was experiencing every day and that’s when I began reminiscing about my summers on Candle Wood Lake and the ‘forest elves’ my Aunt and Uncle always claimed were responsible for all the gifts they were so amazingly generous in giving us. It – the whole idea - was like their version of Santa Claus and it lent a very magical element to my childhood.
As I grew up and moved into the “real world”, I felt like that same magic just sort of evaporated and not just in me, but in everyone around me. Expectations seemed lower. Eyes didn’t seem as bright. All of that exuberance and spontaneity and possibility I’d experienced as a kid – all that wonder – it was like it didn’t exist anymore. Now, people wanted to tell you what you couldn’t do instead of lifting you up to dream about what you could. It was depressing – and depressingly all-too-prevalent.
Right around the time that I was struggling with all this, ‘monsters’ invaded and then took over popular culture. Everywhere I looked there was anew vampire romance or some sort of werewolf love triangle. But these weren’t traditional monsters or even creepy ones. These were glorified superheroes and suddenly everyone (or almost everyone) was fantasizing about either dating one or being one. It was a phenomena that sincerely creeped me out and made me think: are we becoming that detached from who we are that we’d rather be something else entirely? I started thinking about putting my own spin on ‘monster lore’ and that’s when the idea of having them envy us (instead of the other way around) occurred to me. Call me crazy but I wanted to humanize these creatures, strip them off all their newly endowed over-the-top super powers and make them more pitiable then enviable. In other words: have them be ready to give ANYTHING to be like us. Everything else kind of took off from there.
2) You've described the book as "The Catcher in the Rye Meets Stephen King". How so?
Holden Caulfield [from Catcher in the Rye] was disappointed with his first taste of the “real world” and so was I. Meanwhile, Stephen King is one of my literary heroes. He is personally responsible for scaring the living daylights out of me and completely traumatizing me as a kid. Still, like the Universal Monster movies I watched growing up, there was always something almost fairy-tale like about his stories. It in particular really made an impression on me (and has had me avoiding sewer drains ever since).
With The Life He Knew, I wanted to combine influences – the increasingly relevant Holden Caulfield now that I was down and out at work – and the semi-spooky, once-a-upon-a-time magic I’d adored so much as a kid. I thought that if my main character, Zach, could rediscover not only himself but the POSSIBILITIES that had always seemed so endless when he was younger than maybe I could create something unique. At the end of the day, I want my book to resonate with people the way Catcher and It did with me. I want them to empathize with the characters and maybe rethink some things in their own lives. Things are more interesting when you allow yourself to wonder instead of assuming you have all the answers.
3) What do you consider to be your writing style?
Painstakingly slow, pseudo-obsessive compulsive. Haha I’ve agonized over sentences before but, really, it all boils down to flow. I like to run a lot of ideas by people. I’m constantly calling people up and asking them what they think of this concept or that. It’s a very social process for me in the fact that it allows me to share things while I brainstorm. Sometimes, someone I least expect will say something about an idea I’ve been circling and – BAM – it’s cast in a whole new and (occasionally) better light. I love that. It gets me very excited when a conversation fills you with that kind of charge.
4) What was your process in writing this novel?
Initially, it was a lot of note-taking and jotting stuff down on random pieces of paper. I also ran up one hell of a phone bill running every little idea I had by my Dad – which was particularly special for me because I love him dearly and cherished every conversation we had. From there, I sat down and just wrote. Some days, I’d struggle for hours just to write a single paragraph. On others, I’d crank out an entire chapter with little to no problem. In either case, writing always took me to a place at once outside and inside myself. It was a very personal experience for me and almost meditative in a way.
5) How much did Jake Soister and his life inform Zachary Blaire and his life? In what ways?
Both Zach and [his cousin] Ben ARE me. They represent different aspects of my personality. On one hand, Zach represents a lot of my frustration with where I am professionally right now. There’s a tremendous yearning there, an almost insatiable appetite for something more. Zach is also sensitive and a bit naïve when it comes to certain things. Like me, he’s been disappointed by people and it’s hard for him to keep looking for the best in not only his fellow man but in life itself. By the end of the book, though, I’d like to think that changes. By then, I think he’s feeling more empowered and much more ready to swing for the fences.
Conversely, Ben represents a lot of the loneliness I’ve felt most of my life. He – like me – very much just wants to be accepted for who he is but he’s very afraid that people will reject him once they get to know him. He wants to belong and be loved and seen for the person he is but who he is isn’t exactly normal or even all that safe. I think writing Ben was almost therapeutic for me in a way because it allowed me to pour all of my heartache and anger and unrequited emotions into a fictional body and once that stuff was out I could appreciate it more. That may sound strange but, in both instances, with both characters, I was able to see myself from outside myself and that sort of view allowed me to identify things about who I was and what I was feeling that I may not have ever been able to if I hadn’t written this book.
6) What, as a newly-published writer, do you want to contribute to literature?
At the end of the day, I hope I can just get people to feel something. For themselves. For each other. I think we’re very detached these days and I’d like – more than anything else – to do something that causes my readers to react. Whether that reaction is a smile, a laugh, or a good cry I may never know but I hope what I’ve put down on paper resonates and gets people talking to one another. Maybe they’ll reminisce about things they haven’t thought of in years. Maybe they’ll choose that moment to share something they never thought they’d talk about. Regardless, that’s what I hope for -- feeling, connection, and conversation.
7) In our early discussions, you mentioned that the book is written from the perspective of a mid-to-late twenty something "staring down the barrel of 30". What does that mean for you and what does that mean for Zach?
I think there is a lot of pressure these days to “be something.” It doesn’t seem like it’s about the journey anymore or the process. If anything, it’s all about the destination. People want immediate gratification and 30 is like this giant societal bench mark where you’re expected to be at a certain point in your life. A lot of people I know have given up on dreams and aspirations they were cultivating when they were younger simply because their pursuit was no longer “practical.” It was sad to watch and even sadder to listen to them attempt to rationalize their decisions years later. Zach is struggling with this when we first meet him. In fact, he’s already sort of sold out and ditched his dream for a 9-5. He’s not happy. He’s not fulfilled but he tells himself over and over he’s doing “what’s right.” Last time I worked behind a desk almost everyone in my office had a reason as to why they were still there or still doing what they were doing. It was clear the majority of them weren’t happy with their lives and Zach is a literary embodiment of that. He’s a character built on excuses (many of which I told myself leading up to the writing of this book) and he’s struggling to find the courage to stop languishing.
8) A lot goes on in The Life He Knew -- with several story threads stemming from Zachary himself. Were there any threads that you abandoned and/or cut short while you were writing?
Not really. If anything, there were threads that I added to as a result of feedback I’d gotten from readers. It’s amazing what a fresh set of eyes will do for an existing project.
9) Were there any threads that went in a direction you didn't expect them to go?
Definitely. As the book progressed, I felt like I really began to get to know my characters. I started out with almost 120 pages of notes but the more I wrote, the less I relied on them. As I said to a friend once, “I can’t wait to see what my characters say to me.” It’s true. They began to develop voices of their own and, when that happened, they outgrew the notes I’d written and became much more than the characters I’d originally envisioned.
10) What was the most difficult part of writing this book?
Stopping. It’s still a struggle for me not to want to go back and tweak this or polish that. But, any ideas I’ve had since will lead to future installments, so, I’m pretty excited about that.
11) What has been the most exciting and/or rewarding part of writing this book?
Hearing or seeing what my readers’ reactions are. I love how different people’s opinions are or how certain parts – parts that I may not have necessarily thought were my favorites – have really resonated with them. It’s always amazed me how 100 people can read the same book or see the same movie and experience 100 different things. It’s been an absolute joy to see people respond to my characters.
12) There's an allegorical aspect to a few of the characters that I picked up on toward the end. What, if anything, was your intent behind that?
Oh, there was definitely an underlying message there! Throughout the book, a lot of the characters are convinced that other characters have it a lot better than they do. They jump to conclusions about one another and their assumptions are almost never accurate. I think that’s very indicative of who we are as a people and it was something I wanted to convey in my book. We don’t seem to take the time to get to know one another (maybe we never have) and I think that leads to feelings of resentment, bigotry, and segregation. When you put someone on a pedestal or demonize them or place them in any conceivable variation in between you’re not doing that person (or yourself) any justice. You de-humanize the person in the process and something vital is lost. The characters you’re referring to have all been hurt and disappointed… just like us. They’ve all had their shares of ups and downs but it’s the reactions of the people around them (and their reactions to each other) that I want people to pay attention to. Eddie [one of Zach's friends], in particular, begins to practically worship Ben in a very idealized, very unhealthy way that is entirely unfair to both of them. When everything is said and done, I want people to see a pattern in my writing – one in which characters begin to see their own struggles reflected in people they’d entirely written off or assumed too much about and, in doing so, realized that we’re all subject to the same things.
13) I know this one just came out and you're still getting the word out about it, but have you considered your next book? If so, what might it be about?
I’m actually considering three different companion pieces that will expand on the groundwork I put down in The Life He Knew. The first two will follow several existing characters while the third will introduce someone entirely new. The third installment is especially exciting for me because it deals with some themes that are very relevant in my life right now. It also exists outside the places and people I’ve already written about so I’m psyched to create a sort of “shared universe” that will all (hopefully) come together nicely in the end.
14) You're based in New York. I'm based in Los Angeles. How am I supposed to get my copy of The Life He Knew autographed?
Toss it in the mail and I’ll be more than happy to sign it. I’ll even cover the cost of sending it back.
I won’t actually let him do that.
"The Life He Knew" is available on Amazon and lulu.com in both paperback and kindle formats. Do yourself a solid and purchase a copy as part of your late summer, early fall, late fall, winter and 2015 reading. You won’t be disappointed. Soister spins one helluva yarn and turns one helluva a phrase.
The series immediately drew comparisons to The Cosby Show, which had ended its landmark run the previous spring. But outside of being about a middle-class nuclear black family, the similarities pretty much ended there as storylines were far less idealistic and comparatively more controversial than the earlier series -- particularly with a young star who was rumored to be gay as the series progressed.
The network, the producers and Edmund's parents wanted to handle the situation very delicately. After all, with a popular show on a top-rated network, there was a lot at stake. It was ultimately decided to follow Edmund's lead as he came to terms on his own in his own way in his own time. So Edmund's rumored sexuality never made their way into storylines -- until the final season in a well-regarded scene with fellow child star Danny Pintauro from Who's the Boss?, which also ended its lengthy run in the spring of 1992. Pintauro guest-starred as an older neighbor home from college on whom Edmund's character confessed to having a crush.
A Family of Four was also praised for showing a neighborhood peaceably integrating without significant "white flight", but was also heavily criticized by a vocal minority that found such a development to be unrealistic. Still, the series, which premiered to moderate ratings success, rose to the Top 20 in its third season, the Top 10 in its fourth season and #4 for its fifth and final season.
In the series finale, which aired in May of 1997, the Bennett family spent their last days together before sending Edmund's character off to college -- an event that mirrored Edmund's own transition into college that fall.
Moore was born in Illinois but moved with his mother to live with her mother outside Los Angeles in January of 1992 after his parents divorced. Almost immediately, Edmund was discovered by a casting assistant while he and his mother were strolling the Walk of Fame in Hollywood. She liked his natural look and average build. She asked if he would read and test for a role in a new TV series that they had been having a hard time casting. Though Edmund had appeared in a few school plays, he had no formal acting experience. Since Edmund had exhibited no aspirations for an acting career, his parents agreed to let him audition if for no other reason than it would make a great story to tell friends and family.
After the series ended, Moore returned to Illinois for college and attended Northwestern University, where he majored in Radio/TV/Film with a minor in media studies. He received an Emmy nomination as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series in July of 1997 for the final season of the show but wasn't able to attend the ceremony that September on account of having class the next morning. His entire dorm gathered into the main lounge to watch the telecast, but he lost to John Lithgow for 3rd Rock from the Sun.
"It's alright. It's harder to sleep with an Emmy than it is with my Golden Globe," he joked. (The Globe he won in January of that year was actually still on display at his mother and grandmother's house.)
After graduation, he enrolled in New York's The New School, where he earned a Master's Degree in Media Studies. Tiring of the cold, he returned to Los Angeles in 2003. Though he still had enough Family of Four money to live alone, he opted instead to enter into a roommate situation with two friends from Northwestern, who had an opening in their Westwood apartment. They lived together for six years before a job transfer and an engagement split up the happy trio. Edmund then moved into a one-bedroom apartment in Hollywood, where he remains to this day -- leading a quiet existence well outside the industry despite his proximity to it.
Edmund Moore lives well below his means. He doesn't drive a car. He doesn't own much furniture. And he doesn't frequent any of the LA hotspots where most celebrities go to be seen. From the looks of him, you'd never guess that he'd ever starred in one of the most popular TV shows of the 1990s.
When he does spend money, it's to travel for a few days every month. So far this year he's gone to see his father in Illinois and to meet up with some friends in London. And plans are already in place for a trip to Boston in May to see about a guy to New Jersey in August for a friend's wedding.
Now he just needs to figure out where to go this month.
The Paley Center for Media, in conjunction with the new Net90s network (which will begin airing A Family of Four in June), recently announced plans to commemorate the 22nd Anniversary of the series in September with a cast reunion, a screening of the pilot episode and a panel discussion of the show's impact and legacy.
I used to live in the same building as Edmund Moore, who starred in the series as Jared Bennett. We've kept intermittent contact since I moved out a year or so ago and knowing how much of a fan I was (and still am) of the show, I reached out to him for a brief Q& A and he was more than gracious to oblige.
Since so many of the panel questions will be about the show, my line of questioning is focused on his life as it relates to the show:
It's funny to me that every four or five years or so, there's a renewed interest in the series. The first was after I graduated college and there was talk about my returning to television in some capacity. But I went to graduate school instead. A few years later TV One secured the rights to the series and promoted the launch rather heavily. Then the 20th anniversary of the series approached and the Paley Center tried to put this together then but Anthony wound up not being available and the rest of us saw no reason to do it if we all couldn't be there. Fortunately, Anthony's film career is finally on the decline so we can all finally get together and do this.
2. How long has it been since you've seen everyone in the cast?
A while. Anthony and I keep in touch but mostly by text since his film commitments keep him rather busy. In case it wasn't obvious, that part about Anthony's film career in the previous question was a joke. I last saw Jenifer when she did a one-woman show at the Gay & Lesbian Center in Hollywood about four years ago. And I run into Mario at the most random events -- plays, film festivals or even just at a restaurant I'm always surprised he knows enough about to patronize.
3. Do you ever catch the show in reruns?
I try not to. A Family of Four was a great experience for me but it sucked to be on network television sitcom while going through such an awkward phase of life like puberty. Fortunately, a lot of what I was going through was reflected in the scripts, so in a strange way I didn't feel like I was going through it all alone. Still, I always hated seeing myself on television because I never looked or sounded the way I thought I did as I was acting out a scene, performing a piece of comedy or saying a particular line.
4. You've kept a pretty low profile since the show went off the air. Was that intentional?
In a sense, yes. I didn't come to California to pursue an acting career. That just happened and I'm eternally grateful for it. But once the show ended, I wanted to go to college and then get a Master's degree. Going back to television or doing movies was the furthest thing from my mind at that point. And by the time I returned to Los Angeles, the show had been off the air for six years and I was already considered a washed-up former child star -- which I always found funny.
5. Do you have any aspirations now of getting back into television or doing movies?
Not at all. The industry is so different than when the show was on in the 1990s. Now, if you don't get certain ratings for your premiere, the cancellation clock is already ticking. The broadcast networks seemed to exercise more patience twenty years ago than they do now. I don't want to bust my ass coming up with a great concept, having great scripts written and producing a pilot to either not get picked up for no apparent reason or to get picked up but then pulled after two episodes. And what I'd bring to the table wouldn't necessarily lend itself well to the type of content being generated by cable -- although I'd love to do a guest spot or two on Hot in Cleveland on TV Land.
6. Why don't you do more guest spots then?
I don't have an agent anymore because I haven't done anything since the show went off the air. So when I get a call for a guest appearance, it's usually to play myself or the character and I'm not interested in doing either.
7. How are you treated by the friends you've made since the show went off the air?
I was very careful about how I made friends in college. Most people on campus knew the show and that I had been on it. I made some errors in judgment early on but the people I gravitated to the most were those who didn't give a shit either way. My best friend from college hadn't even heard of the show and barely knew who I was. So my closest friends just see A Family of Four as something I had done a thousand years ago.
8. What's your life like right now?
Very low-key and I love it. People see me on the street and some of them recognize me but don't say anything while others just nod and whisper. I'm actually quite approachable when it's done respectfully -- but not when I'm eating (laughs). I'm also very active on twitter and often get questions from afar about the show. I don't shy away from that part of my life so I'm happy to answer those questions. Other than that, I go grocery shopping. I walk a lot. I go to readings. I go to comedy clubs. I love LA theatre, so I see a lot of plays. And I occasionally take on temp work that falls randomly into my lap.
It's a good life. And I'm very fortunate to lead it.
Details on the reunion panel and pilot screening are still being finalized, but there will be a full write-up on it in September.
The character of Elyke from my first online story series (then titled “My Name is Erick Davidson”) was based on a neighbor friend of mine at the time. Since then, said neighbor friend moved up to Berkeley to finish up his Bachelor’s degree.
I found myself up there earlier this year crashing on his couch for a bit longer than originally anticipated before I wound up back in New Jersey for a long-term temp job that is still terming. While I was there, said neighbor friend returned to LA for his Master’s degree.
Now we’re both back in LA. To commemorate the fact that we’re inevitably bound to each other for life, I’ve been revisiting my favorite Erick/Elyke stories from 2010 on the blog. Here are three of them – plus one.
“The Dinner” – 8/19/10
My birthday weekend pre-kickoff began last night at the Essex House in Hollywood with Elyke. I
don't know why I continue to do this to myself but I wanted some
"us" time with during the weekend. However, I sent my six-day
birthday itinerary to about twenty people and therefore had no idea who may or
may not show up for what.
“The Parade” – 11/2/10
I hadn't had a lot of down time since coming back from vacation, but I couldn’t bring myself to skipping the annual West Hollywood Halloween parade. My plan was to get in early and get out early before the event became too much for my new crowd-averse sensibilities.
Elyke had come by my apartment looking to kill some time before meeting up with some young ladies at Piano Bar so I suggested he come with me to the West Hollywood Halloween Parade since he'd never been there before.
It was probably not one of my best decisions.
"Ok. I have to go to the bathroom and you need to get me another beer," Elyke demanded after we finally made our way to the opposite corner of Santa Monica and La Cienaga Boulevards. He'd been watching football for much of the afternoon and therefore had probably been drinking for much of the afternoon.
"Did you see Pee Wee Herman ride by?" I said as I pointed out a reveler dressed as the resurgent performer.
"Where? Is he headed toward a bathroom and or a bar?"
"You missed him. Either that or you scared him away with your complaining."
"I don't care about Pee Wee Herman. I care about a bar with a bathroom."
"We're standing right next to one," I said as I pointed in the direction of Mexico, a relatively new bar and restaurant.
Elyke darted into the establishment. "Can you have a Corona ready for me by the time I come back?"
"Haven't you had enough for today?"
"Yes, but that is why I am making room for more."
A few moments later, I met Elyke outside the bathroom.
"Where's my beer?" he asked when he came out.
"Where are you?" he asked.
"I am just east of San Vicente."
"I have to go home."
"It's only 6:45. What happened?"
“The Offender” – December 4, 2010
Bobby Wayne, Hunter, Elyke and I got together last night for a "neighbors
dinner" at the English-themed Cat 'n' the Fiddle on Sunset near our
apartment building. On the way, Elyke picked up a pack of cigarettes from a
nearby 7-11. As we sat down, Bobby Wayne realized he had run out.
“The Holiday” – December 27, 2010
Elyke called me Saturday afternoon while I was on a Christmas call with Chris, who had gone back home to Indiana for the week. Hunter, KP, Bobby Wayne and Mike were also out of town with their respective families. My mother and I were participating in our Fifth Annual December 25th Opt Out -- a tradition for us since The Divorce. She and a friend were going on a road trip up the California coast while I stayed at home taking naps between DVD showings of The Birdcage, The Trip, Soapdish and former Davidson family favorite Sister Act.
Since Elyke and I were both at home and would at some point be hungry, I had sent him a text earlier in the day suggesting that we either go out for a bite to eat or I could buy a few things with which to make dinner for us. After I hung up the phone with Chris, I walked over to Elyke's apartment down the hall and knocked on the door.
"Yeah!" Elyke shouted as this was his way of letting a visitor know that the door is open and to come on in.
I turned the knob and pushed. "The door's locked," I informed him.
Elyke opened the door to let me in. He acknowledged my presence with a combination head nod and eye roll before walking back to his desk. I followed and saw that he was on nfl.com keeping up with football games that weren't being televised in Los Angeles.
"You called me a few minutes ago but I was on the phone with Chris."
"Is that so? How's all that going?"
"You guys married yet?"
"Not yet, but we'll let you know. Do you plan on coming to the wedding?"
"Then you aren't invited anyway."
"Don't be so gay."
"Don't be so stupid."
"Anyway, the reason I called you is to find out if you were still taking me out to dinner."
"What do you mean by 'taking'"?
"We eat, you pay."
"Is this something I agreed to?" I asked as I sat down on the edge of his bed.
"It's something you offered when you invited me to dinner."
"Technically, that wasn't an invite. I was hungry and thought you might be as well so I thought you might want to go with me to get something to eat. What I did offer was to buy a few things and come back here to make dinner for both of us."
"Right, but when I told you I couldn't afford to go out you told me not to worry about it."
"That didn't mean I was going to pay for it. It just meant 'don't worry about it'."
"Then who was going to pay for my dinner?"
"Why does that matter to someone who always tells ME to live in the now?"
"Fine, whatever. Go ahead and eat."
"Okay, are you coming?"
"I told you I can't afford it."
"And I told you not to worry about it."
"Are you going to pay?"
"Are you hungry?"
"What's that got to do with anything?"
"Because I'm pretty sure you'll eat regardless as to whether or not I am paying for you to do so."
"Yes, but at least I get a free meal by eating with you."
"And what do I get?"
"The pleasure of my company," Elyke declared.
"I have Chris for that now," I retorted as I stood up to leave. "Now can we going to eat?"
"Fine, but I am taking this as an invite."
"Okay, then I'll take this as a date."
"Forget it, I'll pay."
"No, I want to pay. This way you can owe it back to me in roses and champagne on Valentine's Day."
"You are so gay," he said to me with an extended Merry Christmas hand.
"And you are such a dipshit," I replied with a smile as my Merry Christmas hand met his.
"Why can't we ever have a normal conversation?" Elyke asked me at dinner.
"Amy Williams Sends an Email"
Andy had been in town for sales calls and Amy overheard him badmouthing her to the Artistic Films client she had been having difficulty with of late. It was her hope that a face-to-face between the client and the station would ease those tensions. While Amy’s plan worked, it ultimately did so at her expense as both had bonded over their perception that Amy was unable to effectively sell the station or service the client. After dropping Andy off the airport, Amy returned to her office to send him an email and slammed the door in such a manner that even her boss Christine hesitated to knock and find out what was going on.
Amy’s email to Andy was a recap of the general situation with the Artistic Films client, the events of that particular sales call and what she overheard. Had Amy waited a day or two before drafting the email, she wouldn’t have included several choice phrases referencing Andy’s personality or listing examples of his tendency to blow things out of proportion simply because he likes to cause trouble for the sales team as a whole. But Amy wanted the email to be waiting in his inbox by the time he landed back in Boston. Unfortunately for Amy, Andy’s flight was delayed so he was still at the airport when her email popped up on his Blackberry.
Christine knew how Andy often treated his salespeople so she wanted to give Amy time to calm down before speaking with her about the email he immediately forwarded to her. Unfortunately, Andy went into overdrive and not only forwarded the email to his boss but also to Christine’s boss in the home office calling for Amy’s immediate termination. He even went so far as to include his own examples of how Amy had been ineffective in selling his station. Andy's overblown conclusion that “her inability to establish effective relationships with our clients will continue to not only be a detriment to my station but to the company’s overall bottom line” all but sealed Amy’s fate with SoCal Advertising.
Though Amy felt justified with the first half of her email, the angry second half concerned her and she had planned to talk to Christine about it before the shit hit the fan – which unbeknownst to her had already occurred.
When Amy walked into the office the next morning, she immediately noticed Christine’s closed door and knew that the prognosis as to the status of her job with SoCal was not good. What she could presume but not know for sure was that behind that closed door was a flurry of emails and phone calls going back and forth between the home office, the station management, Andy and Christine – with Christine serving as Amy’s lone advocate as she repeatedly asked them all to let her handle the situation.
To Christine’s relief and to Amy’s benefit, the final verdict, which came down from the COO shortly before lunchtime, was that the matter should be handled locally between Christine, Andy and Amy. Though she did not share in Andy’s perception of Amy, Christine knew that Amy’s conduct could not go unpunished. Still, she was not yet ready to face her, so Christine sent an email to Amy requesting that they meet at 6pm that evening.
However unfortunate it was, Amy’s potentially career-limiting blunder was inadvertently timed rather fortuitously with the availability of Simon Johnson, whose current contract with Eagle Media was set to expire. Christine had been passively courting Simon for quite some time and with SoCal set to acquire a regional station to represent and sell advertising time for, the timing was right for her to bring him into the SoCal fold.
After a lunch meeting with Simon during which she presented him with an offer that couldn’t be refused, Christine went back to dealing with the Amy situation. Having been granted more control over its handling, Christine immediately went to work calling around to her fellow sales managers – many of whom were longtime industry friends – explaining the unfortunate Amy situation and the unenviable task at hand. The only person she hadn’t called was Janice King, the sales manager at Eagle Media who had heard about the Amy situation through the grapevine of media buyers and members of her own sales team.
At 6pm, Amy reported to Christine’s office for what they both knew was going to happen. Amy didn’t want to hear the words any more than Christine wanted to say them but after an uncharacteristically lengthy speech about Amy’s stellar job performance, her surprising mishandling of the Andy situation and the myriad of “next step” discussions with the higher-ups, Christine fired Amy.
As Amy cleaned out her office, Christine watched as members of the sales team said their goodbyes to her on their way out. Though each had heard about the Andy situation, they were surprised at how quickly she had been fired. Christine listened while everyone made plans for an impromptu happy hour in Amy’s honor and then watched while she was escorted out of the building. As the elevator closed, she checked her voicemail to hear a message from Simon accepting the position and another from Janice asking about the current status of Amy’s job with SoCal.
Six weeks later, Simon’s contract with Eagle Media was officially expired and he reported to work at SoCal.
On the other side of town, Amy Williams reported to work with Eagle Media under the management of Janice King.
"Simon Johnson Gets a New Job"
Simon was an Account Manager in the classic sense – he looked the part, he knew the part and he was the part. Christine respected the fact that he came up through the ranks from the assistant level armed with knowledge of the business and an enthusiasm to apply it.
Simon had been with Eagle Media since that auspicious beginning and Christine considered him to a well-kept secret in the local advertising community. What she liked best about him was that he was pacing himself to rise through the ranks to account management. While many of his peers jumped at the chance to be Account Managers before they were ready, Simon held off. Whereas many of his peers were now jumping at the chance to be Senior Account Managers, Simon continued to hold off.
In piecing together this history, Christine figured that other sales managers would offer him that higher position but she knew SoCal had an advantage in offering him an Account Manager position because most of the TV stations they represented were in higher profile markets smaller firms like Eagle Media had no presence.
Christine had seen Simon at a few industry events but they had yet to formally meet. But she had heard through the grapevine that his contract with Eagle was up for review. Though the deal with the regional station was a few months away, she secretly set up a meeting with him through several trustworthy friends in the media buying community. She had already planned on pairing him with fellow up-and-comer Erick Davidson knowing that a) she and Simon would make a great team because of their similar approaches to their work, b) Erick would learn a lot from Simon and c) she wanted Simon to help her groom Erick for an eventual account management position.
However unfortunate it was, Amy Williams’s blunder was timed rather fortuitously with Simon’s availability. By that time, Christine had already met with Simon at her favorite haunt, Fiddler’s Bistro on 3rd Street. It was a shrewd move on her part as other firms were known for wining and dining desirable candidates with expensive meals at such typical places to be seen such as Morton’s Steakhouse, McCormick and Schmick’s or Spago – which went far beyond Simon’s Midwestern tastes. Christine considered Fiddler’s to be another one of LA's well-kept secrets.
As was her M.O., Christine dispensed with the business at hand before the appetizers were even brought to the table so that the two could enjoy their meal. She explained to Simon that she had heard great things about him from both the rep community, the media buying community and even from various stations he was currently working with where she had contacts. Simon was pleasantly surprised and responded that he was completely unaware that he was held in such esteem. Christine cut to the chase and made him an offer effective immediately following the expiration of his current contract with Eagle. She told him to think it over and keep her in the loop as to any other offers that may come in. With that, the waiter brought out the appetizers and the two shared a delightful conversation about their careers and the current state of the industry.
With Simon still mulling over the SoCal offer that couldn’t be refused, Christine was dealing with the Amy Williams situation. After word came in from the home office that the matter was to be handled locally, Christine immediately went to work calling around to her fellow sales managers – many of whom where longtime industry friends – explaining the unfortunate Amy situation and the unenviable task at hand. The only person she hadn’t called was Janice King, the sales manager at Eagle who had heard about the Amy situation through the grapevine of media buyers and members of her own sales team.
Simon had met with Janice that morning to discuss the offer from SoCal that couldn’t be refused. Being the loyal sort, Simon wanted to be open and honest with Janice regarding his feelings about the offer as well as the possibility of leaving a company that had taken him under its wing when he was a recent college graduate who made his way to Los Angeles from Indiana and turned him into the media man so highly sought after by the likes of Christine Taylor.
Janice had played a significant role in Simon’s rise through the Eagle ranks. From a management standpoint, she wanted to keep him on her team but she knew that Eagle was not going to be able to match SoCal’s offer. From a personal standpoint, Janice had aggressively risen so highly through the Eagle ranks herself that the opportunity to sell stations in Top Tier markets passed her by several years ago and she knew that SoCal provided a greater opportunity for Simon to further his career.
With that in mind, she gave Christine a quick call to recommend Simon for the job at SoCal and to inquire about the Amy Williams situation she'd heard rumblings about.
Six weeks later, Simon’s contract with Eagle Media was officially expired and he reported to work with SoCal where he was introduced to his assistant, Erick Davidson.
On the other side of town, Amy reported to work with Eagle Media under the management of Janice King -- who started off by joking that Amy to come to her first with any station management issues.
I've Always Said I Was Part Irish (Only Because My Last Name is Moss and Moss is Green), but This Proves It: Short Sentiments of Staggering Sadness
I love writing and I love
having so many outlets through which to do so. Most of what I write is
specifically for the blog and never makes it here because I’ve set this aside
for the feature pieces.
I REMEMBER A TIME
I remember a time...a time in my life...
when my parents were together,
when my oldest friends and I lived in the same town,
when I had a career,
when I felt like a local boy making good.
But since that time...that time in my life...
my parents did what was best for them,
my friends and I, we all grew up and I moved away,
the career that I had was derailed by my own hand,
and I felt like a local boy who tried and failed and failed some more.
I remember a time...a time in my life...
when I made smarter decisions,
when the worst thing was not having a job,
when the best thing was happiness,
when the possibility of the latter was all but promised.
But since that time...that time in my life...
I've made some unfortunate decisions,
I've been unemployed,
I've strived for happiness,
and landed everywhere in between.
I think a lot about that time...that time in my life...
WHEN THE TEARS FALL
From what I can understand, part of it stems from the fact that I come from such a solid family background (little do they know). We were a nuclear family -- a mother, a father, a younger brother and myself. We were a middle class family living in a house the suburbs. People from church, in many case single-parent families in an apartment complex, called us the Cosbys.
We were anything but. These Cosbys are now divorced and living in disparate ends of the country. This particular Cosby is largely unemployed but working a temp job near where the former Cosby-lites used to live -- 3000 miles from where I had long since called home.
So there's this feeling that since we couldn't maintain the Cosby status imposed upon us, people think we somehow did something wrong and therefore deserved what came to us.
But I certainly didn't. I still don't. And neither did/does anyone else in my family. Those who delight in such a downfall are assholes who never really cared about the "Cosby's" in the first place -- which begs the question as to why they would associate with them in the second place.
All this said, a lot of people disregard what I'm currently going through as if I did this to myself. Granted, I made certain decisions over the last couple of years that would cause people to believe that. But at the same time, life just happens and it happens in a way that no level of preparation can cover.
So my face gets long, my tone gets auger, my words get dark and my heart gets heavy. On the rare occasion, tears will fall. Some of you may catch them on your shoulder. Others may catch them in their hand to throw them back in my face.
The best case scenario would be for them to fall into the lap of Burbank or Bradley (not their real names), who will gently rub my shaved head, tell me how much they love me and say, "Tonight we rest. We'll worry about tomorrow the day after next."
I talk a lot about death and wanting to die. It's not that I
want my life to end by my own hand, I just want it to end.
So I don't want to be here. I don't need to be here.
Whatever I have to offer to the world has already been offered. It's out there
for people to discover and enjoy. In the meantime, I'm sitting at the train
station with my 92-year-old great-aunt who thought 85 was a good age to die
waiting for our train to arrive and take us to glory -- whatever that is,
wherever it may be.
I had some dark moments (namely, all of February) during my as-of-now short-lived stint in San Francisco. From that darkness came two rather stark pieces. The first one is definitely the graver of the two. It’s about a suicide attempt. The second one is a monologue about a rather unorthodox approach to talking someone off a ledge.
They were originally published to the former Storylanes website. They can now also be found individually on my Howwwl page.
None of these are based on anything more than what was conjured up in my brilliant mind.
AND IN THE END
"Well, it's all over," Donnie says to himself as
he sits on a bench overlooking a small green field. "I don't know else to
The weather is warmish, as if spring is trying to cut the
winter short on this late Sunday morning -- in February.
"That was a waste of my last vicodin," Donnie
thinks to himself. "I don't feel anything."
Donnie walks to an ATM on the next block to withdraw what he thinks is his last twenty dollars.
Donnie shrugs and walks around the corner to a liquor store
to purchase a small bottle of pills and a pint of cheap vodka. With whatever is
left in his account plus the dollar bills and change in his pockets, he somehow
Yes, he is going to do this. This is God. This is ordained.
Donnie walks back to his park bench, happy that no one is
Yes, he is going to do this. This is God. This is ordained.
Donnie takes out his journal and pens a note:
"I want my organs
harvested and the rest of my body donated to science. If they deny me, then
just cremate me and throw my ashes into the nearest body of water. That's how I
really wanted to die anyway. I was just afraid to go that route. So I opted for
pills instead because I don't like needles. Knives are too messy. And I've
never held a gun in my life, so why start at the end of it? DO NOT BURY ME.
Signed, Donnie Charleston."
Donnie opens the bottle pills and the pint of vodka. He
pours a few pills into his left hand, tosses them into his mouth, swallows and
takes a swig of vodka. He pours another few pills into his left hand, tosses
them into his mouth, swallows and takes another swig of vodka. He does this few
by few and swig by swig until both bottles are empty.
Donnie takes a deep breath and smiles faintly. He lies down, stretches out on the bench and stares blankly up into the clear blue sky…
Four days later.
Donnie's eyes open slowly and scan the dimly lit room. Slightly confused, he wonders if he's dead or in heaven...or in hell. He begins to hear beeping and turns his head to realize that he's in a hospital room.
"Damn it," he whispers dryly and sadly to himself.
One year later.
Donnie hands a customer change and a receipt from their
just-completed transaction. He places their groceries into a bag, hands it to them and flatly wishes them a good day. He greets the next customer with the
same flatness. He doesn't smile. He doesn't engage. He simply does the work.
There's very little life and even less excitement in his face, his eyes or his
body. He just goes through the motions of existing.
The life he wanted didn't happen and since he didn't want another life, he tried to opt out. But his request was denied and he didn't try again. He doesn't try anything anymore. He doesn't do anything anymore. He doesn't go out. He no longer answers phone calls. He no longer sends or receives text messages. He no longer sends or receives emails. He doesn't watch TV. He doesn't date and doesn't express any interest in doing so. He's alienated all of his friends and most of his family, but he doesn't care. He doesn't care about anything. He doesn't want to be alive anymore but he wasn't allowed to die.
So Donnie just goes to work, does his job, takes his breaks, keeps to himself, goes home and goes to bed. In between he eats just enough to survive. The way he sees it, that's now his lot in life -- to just survive, but not to LIVE. The result is an alarmingly lean frame, which serves as a striking contradiction not only to his rather robust gene pool, but to his own history of weightiness. And since he won't buy any new clothes, everything hangs ridiculously loose on him. But he doesn't care. He puts just enough effort into his appearance to look presentable as a cashier. And he puts just enough effort into his work to not get fired.
Donnie walks into his mother's apartment. She insisted he move in with her after his attempt. He didn't argue. The money he makes at the grocery store, he gives to her because he doesn't need it or want it. Regardless, she doesn't spend it. She simply deposits it into a savings account she opened for him in the event he ever comes back to life. Everyday she hold out hope that he will.
His mother hugs him when he walks in. Donnie hugs her back, but he's distant. She offers him food and he eats. He thanks her, excuses himself and goes to bed. His mother's eyes sadly follow him. Donnie closes the door to his bedroom. She silently bursts into tears.
Donnie once heard his mother talking to a friend of hers saying that she didn't know what was worse -- almost losing him to death or actually losing him to life. He finds it hard to watch her watch him. And so he doesn't. Because he can't. That would require him to live a life he's not interested in.
So Donnie just undresses, crawls under the covers and goes to sleep until his next shift.
THE LEDGE MONOLOGUE
Mark sticks his head out of the 40th floor window of a 45-story building. He looks up at the rest of the building, down at the street below and then over to the young man sitting on the ledge with his legs dangling.
"Hi, my name is Mark. Mind if I join you on this here um...ledge?" Mark says to the despondent young man.
The young man, Luke, looks back at Mark with incredulity.
"I'll take that as a 'sure, if you must'," Mark says.
Mark slowly climbs out of the window and onto the ledge. He situates himself a few feet from Luke. Luke lifts up his legs and, using the building for support, rises up to a standing position. Mark, scanning the downtown area below, sees this out of the corner of his eye.
"Don't worry. I'm not here to tell you not to jump. If I were out here, I'd be out here for a reason -- and the last thing I would need was anyone telling me that it gets better or life is worth living or that you're loved and people care about you. It may be true, but it's also bullshit. If people really cared, they'd be out here with you. But most people live in a sunshine-and-daisies world. They're always thinking positive and looking on the bright side. Fuck that shit. The world sucks. People suck. And it's become harder and harder to eke out even a shitty existence. They don't tell you that because you're still young and they don't want you to get prematurely jaded about life. But I'd rather throw jade your way up here now than ten years from now. This way you're better informed to make a decision about what you want to do up here. There's no right one. There's no wrong one. There's just yours."
Mark takes note of the look of confusion on Luke's face
"Think about it. If you had a chance between a life of uncertainty or a tap-out now, what would you choose? If someone posited that to me, I would tap out before God got the news. Why risk the unhappiness? Most people would come out here and be all like, 'Choose life!' Well, sometimes it just isn't worth living. Sometimes it's worth avoiding. But people don't like to admit that. And those are the people who medicate -- coffee, alcohol, cigarettes, sex, drugs, etc. It's all survival, but who the hell wants to just survive? Surviving is for animals in the wild. We're humans. Humans shouldn't have to fight for a shitty life just because it's life. It's like believing in God just because he supposedly exists. Do you believe in God? I used to. I have no reason to anymore. But a lot of people do. Sometimes I feel sorry for them. I would never tell them that though. I say let people believe what they say they believe. I believe that God's lost control of the world and is just peacing out in Bermuda sipping on a mai-tai. Bottom line, it comes down to a choice: to live and see what happens -- good, bad and indifferent because all that will be at play -- or just go to Bermuda."
Mark looks at Luke. Luke looks at Mark.
"I haven't decided yet. That said, it's cold out here
so I'm going back inside."
Mark backs his way through the window and into the sparsely furnished, largely unoccupied room Luke broke into. An officer catches Mark as he falls back.
"Where's Luke?" the officer asks.
"Is he going to come back in?"
"We'll find out."
Last year I was contacted by the Founder and CEO of Storylane, a website for people to tell stories, to be a contributor to it. It was unpaid of course, but served as another place for me to spew forth my brilliance upon the world and a potential new opportunity to have that spewed-forth brilliance to be discovered by someone who might actually want to pay me for it because I sure as hell don’t want an “actual” job.
There, I said it.
I signed up for the site and began importing some of my favorite story pieces from my blog. Then I received a story suggestion from the site about my ideal job and my ideal boss, which I submitted a few days later.
After that, I began contributing pieces more frequently – including some rather dark ones more appropriate for a journal than a website that I haven’t posted anywhere else. I previously posted three of those more appropriate contributions in a “Three Stories” collection about life in the Bay Area.
A few days ago I received word that the site was shutting down and it was suggested that we have our stories imported back to us in a zip file. So I’ve selected three more “appropriate stories” from that website for a new collection on this website as a tribute of sorts to what was a great website.
The first one is that aforementioned suggested story. The second is a more “journally” entry. The third is a purely fictional piece inspired by a pre-crush of mine about a young man pondering the implications of a coffee date he is about to go on.
I have also imagined a literary e-zine (an online literary
magazine) that sold content sponsorships and unique promotional opportunities
instead of ads and commercials.
In the last blogisode of my online story series, I conjured
up a company that creates, develops, finances and/or distributes web series.
Each reflect the idealization of whatever I was involved with at the time -- TV ad sales, writing and web series (as a writer, marketer and actor). None, however, actually seem to exist in reality but would be the type of creative enterprises I imagine I would thrive in.
As for the organization itself, there is no complicated
hierarchy. There are two primary leaders plus a secondary leader in the event
of a dispute between two primaries. Egos are checked at the door and one's
contribution isn't deemed greater than any other's -- unless some people aren't
pulling their weight. At that point, options are presented and mutual decisions
are made to either step it up or part ways.
Because there are only a few hierarchical levels, promotions
are rare but largely unnecessary because the difference between an assistant
(of a supervisor), an associate (a hybrid between the two and the largest group
within the organization), a supervisor and a leader is just the amount of
responsibility for the work. An associate may handle fewer pieces of business
overall but they're responsible for all aspects of those fewer pieces of
business. A supervisor and their assistant handle more business but split the
And no matter the level of general work experience, everyone
either comes in as an assistant or learns all the duties of that position
(within each division).
My ideal boss has a truly open-door policy. They don't
engage in office politics or corporate bullshit. They support their staff and
aren't threatened by any of them or in fear of them taking their job. All
complaints are taken seriously but not acted on hastily. All ideas are
considered. New, revolutionary and radical ideas are strongly encouraged.
Lastly, my ideal boss handles conflicts in the office by remaining neutral and hearing both sides before using case-by-case common sense to solve the dispute and only turning to the legal team and HR for guidance and/or clarification.
Despite his faults early on, I've always found the evolved Daniel Meade on "Ugly Betty" to be the greatest boss in TV history. He made mistakes but was incredibly supportive of Betty and valued her contributions to his business. He may have leaned on her a bit too much, but that's not an entirely bad thing when there's unwavering support.
And if you could combine the writing staff of Rob, Buddy, Sally and Mel from "The Dick Van Dyke Show" with the news team from "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" minus Ted Baxter and Sue Ann Nivens (both of whom I love but I could never work with either of them), plus Mark Greene and John Carter from "ER", Ellenor Frutt and Eugene Young from "The Practice", Rico from "Six Feet Under" and a few people I've personally worked with, then you'd have the perfect group of co-workers at the greatest company in the history of life.
MY SITCOM ENDING
I love sitcoms -- not all of them, but sitcoms in general. I pretty much live my life as if it were one. Unfortunately, it feels as if it's been renewed for another season but the ratings aren't what they used to be.
Take a moment to digest that metaphor.
What I love most about sitcoms is that even if loose ends
aren't tied up all that neatly at the end of any given episode, things tend to
work out in the long run -- happily or otherwise. Granted, such is the case
only because that's how sitcoms are written.
It'd be nice if my life actually was a sitcom. Then the
storyline for this season would play out as follows (who the hell knows how it
Naturally, people close to my character slowly became the
wiser (because people aren't always as stupid as they sometimes are) and
start trying to help my prideful character out without him knowing.
At a certain point, though, the money runs out and he has to take his father up on an earlier offer to provide some assistance. As
it turns out, my character's father knows how his son is and, not oblivious to
the realities of unemployment, had been socking a little bit of money away each
month to give to my character when he finally asked for it.
It was at this time my character takes stock of his situation and makes a major decision to move from Los Angeles to San Francisco with neither a job nor an apartment -- figuring that he would be in the same situation regardless of where he lived and thinking that after 11 non-continuous years in Los Angeles, it might be time for a fresh start. It's an odd mid-season move for a TV sitcom as these things are typically reserved for season finales.
The final Los
Angeles episodes occur at the end of November. The
penultimate shot of the last episode is an aerial from the fourth floor (where
my character's apartment was) overlooking the courtyard. After I pass through that
shot with a small box in hand, we cut to the front of the building as I wave to the leasing agents in the management office and walked through the glass
doors for the last time. I look both ways, smile wistfully and walk out
of the shot as the camera pans up and fades out.
The physical transition (and simultaneous shift in production) takes place throughout December with stories about the difficulties in finding work (of any kind), couchsurfing and barely surviving but still laughing. There were also guest appearances from former semi-regulars whose own storylines have previously taken them to northern California.
We'll be criticized for our Christmas episode, which will be deemed sad and depressing because my character opts out of any celebrating by spending it alone.
The plan for the remainder of the season is for my character to meet a guy at a bar who owns an independent cafe/coffee shop in San Francisco. It will just so happen that he is staffing up to open a second location and immediately offers my character a job to start shortly after the new year.
At the same time, a local upstart find my character's resume online and calls him in to interview for a freelance position with their digital marketing division.
With a job and a half, my character meets with a potential roommate -- a pierced and tatted up multi-sexual Jesus freak who takes a liking to my character but doesn't want to sleep with him. They hit it off and start living together.
By the end of the season, my character will be settled into his new life in San Francisco, open to what it has in store for him and intent on rooting himself there.
How I wish my life was that sitcom. How I wish I was writing it. Wouldn't that be nice?
Bradley emerges from the bathroom wearing only his underwear and a drying towel draped down either side of his neck. He notices Hart standing by the window, smiles and saunters over.
"Anything exciting going on this morning?" Bradley
"Not really. This woman has been trying to parallel park for ten minutes. It's quite fascinating how much she should not have a driver's license."
Bradley wraps his arms around Hart's torso and rests his head on Hart's right shoulder. "I love when it's overcast -- especially on days when I have a couple more hours to coax you back to bed before I go to work."
Hart tries not to smile. "It'll cost you."
"Breakfast -- waffles, fresh strawberries and applewood-smoked bacon."
Bradley ponders this for a moment. "Deal," he says, grabbing Hart by the back of the sweatpants to the bedroom.
Hart stands at the window facing the street wearing gray sweat pants, a black t-shirt and white socks. He eats sliced apples out of a bag as he looks down on the passing traffic with a pensive look on his face.
Bradley slowly emerges from the bedroom with two suitcases and an over-the-shoulder bag in tow. He stares sadly at Hart for a moment, struggling for words. He thinks about the first time he met Hart at the coffee shop they both worked at when they were in their mid-twenties. Both had been out of college for a few years but work that used to be all but guaranteed by a degree was hard to come by. Plus, neither had any idea of what they really wanted to do.
They stopped off at a bar one day after work, where Hart
mentioned the campus talk show he hosted in college. Bradley suggested they
create an online radio talk show. He quickly pitched an idea about the format
with Hart as host and him as producer.
Hart's affirmative response was in the form of a kiss.
Bradley hashed out a plan with Hart when they woke up together in his bed the next morning. They moved in together for business purposes that occasionally (and then more occasionally) got personal. They quit the coffee shop a year later with enough savings and financing from family and friends to give themselves two years to make the show work.
Within nine months they had amassed quite a following and
quickly became one of internet radio's favorite couple. Personal appearances,
guest spots on other radio shows and nationwide tours followed. They loved
every minute of it and were quite happy.
But then they got an agent, who worked hard for both but
secretly favored Bradley over Hart. Dale's favor turned into interest, which
turned into desire. While he never made a move, he kept himself front-of-mind
with Bradley to become his go-to and confidante. The day finally came when
Bradley went to Dale about a situation with Hart. It could have easily been resolved,
but Dale went in for the kill -- suggesting that what Bradley and Hart have is
a professional relationship that became personal but was really still just
professional. Bradley thought about this for a moment. It made sense to him. Besides,
Dale had been around them long enough to see this more clearly than either
Bradley or Hart ever could.
"I'm really sorry," Bradley says to Hart, who is still looking pensively out the window. "I'll be at Dale's until I find a place. I'll see you tomorrow for the show."
Bradley closes the door behind him. Hart looks down at a woman who has been trying to parallel park for ten minutes. "She really should not have a driver's license," Hart says out loud -- to himself.
Hart stands at the window facing the street wearing gray sweat pants, a black t-shirt and white socks. He eats sliced apples out of a bag as he looks down on the passing traffic with a pensive look on his face.
Bradley comes out of the bedroom and sees Hart but doesn't say anything. He walks over to a cabinet, takes out a mug and pours himself a cup of coffee. He walks over to the refrigerator and pour some Half-and-Half into the mug. He picks up a spoon sitting on the counter and stirs his coffee.
He looks at Hart for a moment -- wanting to say something
and wanting to know something. He wants to tell Hart he loves him but fears it
would fall on deaf ears. He wants to know when their mutual love and affection
went left while they went right. He wants to know if there's still a way to go
Most of all, he wants to know why Hart won't admit that the gap in their income has become an issue. He never asked Hart to pay for everything. He never wanted Hart to pay for everything. He just wanted to be with Hart. Hart was the one who wanted to pay. But Bradley realizes now that the desire to do so may have had more to do with Hart just wanting to maintain his own lifestyle than to elevate Bradley to it.
"This isn't working," Hart says.
Bradley takes another sip of his coffee before responding.
"Well, it'll have to work until the end of our lease."
Hart stands at the window facing the street wearing gray sweat pants, a black
t-shirt and white socks. He eats sliced apples out of a bag as he looks down on
the passing traffic with a pensive look on his face.
"So there is a two-in-three chance of this not working out," Hart says to himself.
An hour later, Bradley is standing outside the Big Cup Coffee Shop, looking at the clock on his cell phone.
"Hi. Bradley?" Hart asks.
"Yes. Are you Hart?"
"That, I am. It's great to finally meet you."
"I'm sorry I'm a few minutes late. I was held up by my window -- quite literally."
Bradley tilts his head quizzically. "There's a story behind that that I'm really going to want to hear. But don't worry. It was well worth the wait."
"Would you have said that if I was twenty minutes late?" Hart asks with a smile.
Bradley chuckles and looks Hart up and down. "Eighteen, yes. Twenty would have been pushing it."
Hart laughs. "Are there any tables inside?"
"It's pretty crowded."
"Yeah, this is a popular place."
"I don't live too far from here, why don't we just grab a couple of lattes and head back there?"
“Aunt Angie’s on Eighth”
"I'll be right with you, sweetie," said the woman behind the counter as she rang up a customer, tended to a phone call and checked on a batch of chicken winglets in the fryer -- all at the same time.
I looked around the independently-owned establishment. It wasn't much by way of aesthetics, but it had a definite home kitchen feel to it. I don't know if that was intentional, just more affordable or a combination of the two.
A sign on the opposite wall saying "Follow Your Dreams" caught my eye. Below it was a picture of the proprietress in front of the store on what I assume was taken around the time she opened. Both the sign and the picture were surrounded by several local "Best Of" designations and a few congratulatory citations from local luminaries.
"Do you need a menu?" Angie asked.
"Yes, thank you." I responded as I walked toward her.
Angie handed me a menu and I took it from her hand. She smiled warmly and took the wings out of the fryer. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched her scoop some potato salad into one compartment of a plastic takeout container and place a small cup of hot sauce into the other compartment.
A man walks into the restaurant. He waves his hand to get Angie's attention and points to the postcards in his hand once he does. Angie nods and points to the waiting area where a bulletin board is filled with flyers and postcards that cover up the top of a long narrow table.
"Have you decided?" Angie asks as she places the chicken wings into the plastic container and places it in a brown paper bag with napkins.
"I'd like the catfish plate with collard greens and potato salad."
"Anything to drink?"
"For here or to go?"
"Pick a table and I'll bring it over in about ten minutes," she says with a wink and a smile.
The eatery was largely empty save for two men at one table and a young family at another. I looked around for an empty table near an outlet so I could plug in my dying phone. The only one available hadn't been bussed yet. Regardless, my priorities were such that since the table was large enough for me to push the dirty dishes aside and still eat, that is the sacrifice I would have to make in order to recharge my phone.
"I'll be over there in a minute to clear that table," Angie said to me. I looked over at her and smiled, which she returned with a curiosity as to why I would choose to sit at a dirty table.
"You don't mind if I plug in, do you?" I asked.
Angie rang up what I presumed to be my order. "You're a paying customer, so you technically own about ten minutes worth of electricity."
"I never thought of it that way."
"I hadn't either until just now," Angie admitted. "Your meal comes out to ten seventy-five. Do you want to pay now or after you eat?"
"Do you have a preference?"
"Yes," she answered with a smirk.
I chuckled to myself and got up to pay the bill. I pulled eleven dollars out of my wallet and handed it over to Angie. "How long have you been here?" I asked.
"Thank you. It's a dream come true."
I pointed blindly behind me. "I saw."
"Happiest day of my life -- so far," Angie added.
A woman rushed into the eatery. She was wearing a black smock. Her hair was immaculate and she smelled of shampoo. "Thank you for putting this together so quickly, Angie. It's been back to back to back. This person was late and that person had a hair emergency. This is the first time today I have had five minutes to leave the salon. Who's the cutie?" the woman said as she grabbed the brown paper bag and rushed out just as quickly as she walked in.
Angie checked on my catfish in the fryer. "Another couple of minutes," she said as she walked by me to my table to clear the remaining dirty dishes.
"What were you doing before?" I asked Angie as I walked back to the table she was clearing for me.
"I spent about ten years working a series of administrative jobs after high school. I hated them all. About five years ago, I started working up a business plan for my own restaurant. I researched how to put one together, then spent the last three years tweaking it, fine-tuning it and making it as unrejectable as possible." Angie paused for a moment with a grateful smile on her face. "It's funny how rejectable unrejectable is -- especially when you're dealing with the banks," she added with a chuckle.
Angie rushed the plates into the kitchen beyond the swinging doors and then rushed back out to take my catfish out the fryer. She set the basket on the basket hanger to let the grease drain as she prepared my plate. The phone rang again. She started to answer it but decided against it. A passerby knocked on the window and waved. She smiled widely and waved back. With a pair of tongs, she carefully took my catfish out of the fryer baskets and placed them onto my place. On her way back to my table, she took a can Dr. Pepper out of the refrigerator.
"So how did you finally get the funding?" I asked as she placed my meal in front of me and sat down in a chair on the other side of the table. I got up to get a fork, a napkin and a straw.
"It's a funny thing about those jobs you hate," Angie continued as I sat back down at the table. "I was working a reception desk when a local client came into the office for a meeting. It was a disaster of a day with delays, reschedulings, missed flights, double-booked conference rooms, lost hotel reservations and a general state of airheadedness throughout the office. I managed to work all of that out but when the restaurant I ordered lunch from didn't deliver that client's meal with everyone else's -- I got my ass handed to me. The client was mortified. As she left, she gave me her card and said, 'there are places that treat good people better than that.' Now I was not one to take risks with my life. Shit's hard enough without adding uncertainty to the mix. But it's a funny thing about certainty. It doesn't exist. Yet something told me to call her. And so I did. The very next day. She told me they were pulling their business away from the company I was working for. She gave me a contact at the investment firm that would be handling their business going forward. "
"So they hired you?"
"No. That interview did NOT go well. I called the client, told her what happened, apologized and thanked her for the lead. She laughed and told me that she didn't give me that contact for a job. She told me I was an entrepreneur -- that it was written all over me. I told her about the business plan for my restaurant. She told me to send it over to her. I just continued working as if I had no idea what was going on. That client called me a nerve-wrecking week later with a few modifications and told me to meet her and an Account Manager from that investment firm for drinks after work."
"..And the rest his history."
"The rest is history," Angie confirms proudly. "I have never worked so hard in my life, but I love every minute of it."
"Can't ask for much more than that."
"Well, I would like to be in the black soon," Angie says with a laugh. "But the dream doesn't end with its fulfillment. I'll leave you to your meal. Enjoy."
I looked down at my meal as Angie walked away. I took a bite of the catfish. Score one of Aunt Angie. I took a bite of the potato salad. Two points for Aunt Angie. I took a bite of the macaroni and cheese. It was really good, but I had ordered collard greens.
“The WOACA and I”
I was walking north on Broadway in Oakland to drop off a resume for a position like many others I have applied for that I am perfectly capable of doing but probably won't get hired to do. As I was walking by the 19th Street BART station, I was stopped by a woman of a certain age (WOACA) with a young child.
"Excuse me, sir."
"Yes?" I respond with a little hesitation.
"I hate to bother you but if I give you five dollars, can you watch my little boy for a moment?" She asks me as she looks around. "Where is he?"
I look around for a moment and locate him a short distance away playing with some rocks embedded in cement.
"There he is."
"He wears me out. He's always running off. Can you watch him for a moment?"
"Sure," I respond with a chuckle.
"Thank you. I need to go to the store down the street and pick up some...'survival' to smoke later," she explains.
I let out a bigger laugh. "I completely understand. Have at it. I'd be more than happy to watch him."
"Thank you. I'll be right back."
The little boy stops playing in the cement embedded rocks to watch the WOACA walk off. There's a hint of concern on his face. He goes back to playing, but with a bit less fervor.
"She'll be right back. I promise," I say to the little boy. "She's just going to the store. Do you want to come hang over here by this tree with me? Or do you want to sit down with me over there by the rocks?"
The little boy doesn't answer but gives me a look that lets me know he knows I'm not going to hurt him. Still, he keeps his distance. For a moment I ponder the possibility of the WOACA not coming back at all and me getting stuck raising this kid. I start planning how I would orchestrate that magnitude of hurdles.
"What's your name?" I ask.
The little boy doesn't answer, but he does make his way closer to me. Since he didn't provide a name, I decided to call him Philemon -- don't ask me why. I kneel down to his level -- as low as I can.
"How old are you?"
The little boy doesn't answer, but he apes me by kneeling down.
I put up three fingers. "Are you this many?"
The little boy nods.
"I used to that many too," I inform him with three fingers still up.
The little boy looks at me dubiously as the WOACA returns.
"Whew! Thank you. I'm going to need this."
"See, I told you she was coming back," I say to the little boy.
"I can't tell you how grateful I am."
The WOACA starts to hand me a five.
"Absolutely not. Please keep that. It was not a problem."
The WOACA starts to sit down on a nearby retaining wall while the little boy starts playing around a nearby tree. She introduces herself to me and I to her. We shake hands. She tells me that the little boy is her great-grandson. I was taken aback because she hardly looked the age to have one.
The little boy was wrong about his age, though -- or he would have just said yes to anything just to get me to stop asking questions. He was actually two instead of three. And his name was Marcus instead of Philemon like I had in my head. The WOACA went on to tell me how she was temporarily raising him. She notices Marcus starting to get restless when he lays prostrate on the ground.
"Are you ready to go?" she asks Marcus.
Marcus nestles further into the ground.
"He's getting tired. I'd better get him home."
The WOACA walks over to pick him up. "C'mon, let's go. We're going to go home now."
I help the WOACA pull Marcus up to his feet. Marcus leans against me -- presumably as some sort of a hug.
"He likes you."
I smile at the WOACA and look down at Marcus.
"I have a nephew your age."
The WOACA takes Marcus by the hand.
"Alright, let's go. Say goodbye to Terrence."
"Good bye!" Marcus says, looking up at me before running off.
The WOACA points in the other direction. "We're going this way, Marcus."
Marcus turns around and runs back toward us. He stops and looks at me as if to ask if I was coming with them.
I point in the other direction. "I'm going this way," I tell him.
Marcus sadly pulls at the WOACA.
"It was nice meeting you. Just so you know, I wouldn't have left him with just anybody. You can't trust everyone. But you just had a trustworthy face."
"Thank you," I say, smiling widely. "He's a cute, sweet kid."
"Thank you. Well, you have a good night."
The WOACA and I hug.
"You do the same. Take care," I say to her as we come out of the hug. "I hope to see you again soon, Marcus!"
The WOACA waves at me one last time as she and Marcus head off in their direction and I in mine.
“The Roommate Motherload”
I recently moved to San Francisco and for the first time in seven years, I have a roommate. Though I had my concerns about entering into such a situation after living alone for so long, my new roommate Jackson has proven them unfounded. I want to live with him for the rest of my life.
Jackson is a tall, well-built, affectionate, pierced and tatted up multi-sexual Jesus freak with spiked hair of varying colors. We took an immediate liking to each other -- both on a spiritual and physical level. But he doesn't want to sleep with me. He claims this is because he respects me too much.
Sometimes I hate being respected.
I questioned him on this point and he told me that he dates for sex, not for relationships. He admitted that if he had to choose, he would rather have a relationship with me beyond our current friendship. Therefore, making man sex (as he calls it) with me would come from dating, which he doesn't want to do with me because it would not lead to a relationship with him, which he feels he might could want to have with me.
It's disjointed but somehow makes perfect sense -- to me and people like us who don't make much sense at all.
So Jackson dates frequently - men, women, transgendered (in either direction) and cross-dressers (in either direction). They can be tall, short, fat or skinny. They can have blond hair, brown hair, graying hair, silver hair, red hair, blue hair, green hair, orange hair or yellow hair. They can be black, white, Latino, Asian, Indian, Native American, Eastern European, South American, Scandinavian, Australian, Spanish, French, German, Pacific Islander or anything in between.
"I love people, I love sex and I love Jesus," he said to me when we first met. "And if Jesus manifested himself in the flesh today, whether he's copper-toned, bronze-toned or a pothead, I'd definitely want to have at him."
I love blasphemy.
Unlike a lot of your Jesus freaks, Jackson tells you where he stands on Jesus
and his faith but leaves it at that. There's no judgement.
"There couldn't be," he claimed.
There's no converting.
"There shouldn't be," he said.
There's just unconditional agape love.
"As it would be in heaven," he concluded.
He also confessed that he likes to listen to, as he calls it, "his Holy Jesus music" while getting ready for his bartending shifts.
"It helps prepare me to face the people," he explained.
Then there was the red alert. Do NOT call him Jack. I tend to shorten people's names but I'm glad I didn't make that mistake with him. Jackson is open, low-key and lackadaisical about everything except that. He wouldn't tell me what happens when people call him Jack by accident or otherwise, but he showed me a picture of the "Jack Face" that hangs above the doorway outside his bedroom. It was a bit scary -- Clair Huxtable meets Walter White.
Jackson inherited the house we live in from his grandparents. He used to work in construction and occasionally still does it on the side so he was able to spend some time remodeling the house before renting it out. What once was a single-family home that his grandparents raised his mother, aunt and uncle in now has three separate units on three separate floors.
A young family with a toddler rents the two bedroom, one-and-a-half bath unit on the bottom floor that has its own washer and dryer. He and I share the two bedroom, one bath unit on the second floor and there's a top floor studio that is currently vacant.
"I had to kick the previous tenant out because he fell behind on rent. It's the only time I ever get physical -- that doesn't involve sex."
“Good afternoon Beacon Hill Barons, thank you for tuning in this week for another hour of ‘On the Air with Mark Henry’. We are coming to you live on WMOS-FM 89.7. Today’s first guest is Ronald Jay from the Beacon Hill University Theatre Department. Jay recently attempted to stage a production of the play he wrote titled Bob and Joe, which featured a legal marriage between two men. Bowing to criticism from a handful of very vocal students, the Administration ordered the Theatre Department to cease production on Bob and Joe citing—and I quote—'an attempt by Mr. Jay to push his own personal agenda'. End quote. Our discussion today is centered on an age-old topic that has caused great debate and controversy for decades: censorship. Later in the show we will also hear from Dana Jordan, who spearheaded the campaign against Bob and Joe. Ronald, thank you for speaking with me today. Tell us a bit about your play.”
“Let me first start by thanking you for contacting me to speak on this situation. I’m a big fan of the show."
"Thank you. Please continue."
"Bob and Joe is the story of the handsome and confident Bob’s efforts to forge a relationship with Joe, who can’t understand Bob's interest in him and doesn’t feel worthy. At the end of the show, the two marry.”
“Considering the current political climate regarding gay marriage, did you anticipate any backlash?”
“I really didn’t. I made no judgments for or against it. The marriage was intended to be presented as a simple foregone conclusion that the world had moved on from the topic. I wrote a typical wedding scene that just had two men instead of a man and a woman.”
“Why do you think Students for Moral Clarity, backed by Focus on the Family, has reacted as they have?”
“I'm not sure. They never spoke to me about it. From what I have heard and read, one of the actors who auditioned for the show is a member of that organization and opted out of the audition once they read that scene. It was the audition piece. I wanted to make sure the two actors involved would be comfortable with both the material and the kiss.”
“What is your purpose for a) writing the play and b) having the two marry? Why include the kiss?”
“It’s a love story. A lot of your love stories end in a wedding and most weddings end in a kiss. My purpose was to present more than a typical love story. It has been done ad nauseum from every viewpoint imaginable with a man and a woman. I just wanted to tell a story from a different point of view.”
“Why include a wedding? Why not just have them get together and that be the end of it?”
“Thinking as an audience member watching this, I needed the closure of a wedding.”
“Nothing less, nothing more?”
“Nothing less, nothing more.”
“Where do you stand on gay marriage?”
“It doesn’t matter where I stand. Including the wedding and making no mention of the obvious fact that there are two men involved, the audience member doesn’t have to grapple with the issue or make a decision. As the playwright, I don’t have to present or choose sides. Within the context of the play, I made the issue a non-issue. If I have done my job correctly, the crowd will be more concerned about the characters of Bob and Joe than the fact they are gay and getting married. The wedding comes in the last ten minutes of a seventy-minute play.”
“I want the audience to know that I am not ambushing my guest with this next question. We discussed this prior to broadcast. Ronald, are you gay or straight?
“I am straight.”
“Of course. Most of the gays here wouldn’t have the balls so do this play on their own. Are you looking to cast gay characters in these roles?
“I don’t care who play the parts. As long as they can pull it off.”
“How far along in the process were you before the Third Reich got involved?”
“Students for Moral Clarity hounded the Administration for three weeks before I was included in the discussions. By that time, their decision had already been made without any say from me.”
“Did anyone from the Administration read the play?”
“I'm not sure. I can’t imagine they did if their response was based on what they said was my own personal agenda.”
“Sounds to me like a classic case of ‘let’s do whatever they want to shut them up and get them out of our hair without any regard for what is proper.’ What was your response to the Administration once they shut you down?”
“I asked them to read the play. They told me that if I wanted to appeal, then I had to go through the proper channels and fill out a form. Of course, the person that would make the final decision is away on business and can’t be reached but will be returning next week at which point they will be very busy and blah and blah and blah.”
“That’s what they say when they just want something to go away. What communication has gone on between you and Students for Moral Clarity?”
“None. They never called me and I never called them. All of this has just been handled very badly by both parties involved.”
“Well, we also want to speak to the other party. Dana Jordan will be in the hot seat when we return from this short break. You are listening to ‘On the Air with Mark Henry’ on WMOS-FM 89.7.” Mark takes his headphones and starts to walk out of the booth. “That was a great segment, Ronald."
Mark walks around the studio looking for Dana. WMOS is a state-of-the-art production and broadcast facility that was made possible by a grant from actor-producer Edmund Moore and writer-director Shawn Elias, two alumni who came through the school’s Radio/TV/Film program twenty years prior and found their way to Hollywood, where Moore had a supporting role in the hit series Twins of Anarchy, on which Elias was a writer.
In college, they wrote and produced a radio comedy and a television talk show. They came to the attention of another alumnus, who encouraged them to make them move and helped them make their way up the ranks. After earning a bundle from Twins of Anarchy, they donated a significant amount of money to the University with which to upgrade the burgeoning TV production program. Mark hopes to follow a similar path. He runs into Dana as he returns to the booth.
“Dana? You're on after this break," Mark says. She follows him in very pointedly, eyes Ronald and sits down.
“I certainly hope you will be as easy on me as you were on Ronald,” Dana states accusingly as Mark takes his seat.
The station’s student manager, Karl Miller, comes into the studio looking worried. “Mark, Frank just called. You need to watch the flippant comments,” he says.
Mark looks surprised. “What's he talking about?”
“You and I can discuss that after the show. Just be a little more mindful of what you say, please.” With that, Karl leaves. Mark checks the clock, heads back to his seat, puts on the headphones and waits for the last PSA to finish. He takes a few moments to think about what he might have said in the previous segment that would cause Frank to call Karl. A quick station promo snaps him back to attention.
“Welcome back to ‘On the Air with Mark Henry’ on WMOS-FM 89.7. Thank you for sticking with us. Joining us this segment is Dana Jordan, President of Students for Moral Clarity, who successfully campaigned to the Administration to have production halted on Ronald Jay’s original play Bob and Joe because of a scene depicting a marriage between two men. Thank you for joining us today, Dana. Welcome to the show.” Mark is about to ask his first question, but Dana starts right in. At each pause, Mark tries to get a word in, but Dana will not be interrupted until she is finished speaking.
“Thank you, Mark. Let me begin by saying that I did read Bob and Joe and found it very well-written, well-paced, humorous and heartwarming. However, I had to take an exception to the gratuitous closing scene promoting gay marriage and even having the two men kiss. As an audience member, all we need to know is that the two of them did make their relationship work. That’s fine. To each his or her own. However, why not stop there? There are people in your audience who find the prospect of gay marriage completely reprehensible. It goes against everything that is right and American. Ending Bob and Joe in this manner aggregates the increasingly ambiguous morals that serve as an affront to the standards this great country was founded upon. We, the Students for Moral Clarity, can not allow such a display of moral decay to permeate the campus of Beacon Hill University. Local backlash to Bob and Joe not only affects the cast and crew of the show but also the Theatre Department, the Administration, the University community, this fair City and all of its inhabitants, putting a lot of hard-working, upstanding Americans in a negative light. We, the Students for Moral Clarity must take a stand to prevent that from happening.”
Mark and Ronald stare at her for a few minutes as if they are not sure whether to slug her or burst into a chorus of “America the Beautiful”. After a seemingly interminable pause, Mark clears his throat and continues.
“Ok, that about says it all right there, doesn’t it?” Mark says with a sheepish laugh, still unsure where to go from there. Dana sits high with her back straight, pleased with her words. Mark looks down at his production notes and asks her his first question.
“Dana, would you mind telling us the purpose of Students for Moral Clarity?”
“The Students for Moral Clarity is an organization made up of people raised with the proper morals who wish to maintain them at all costs.”
“And what do you guys do besides bulldoze individual rights?”
“First of all, we do not bulldoze anything Mr. Henry. We, the Students for Moral Clarity operate by the standards outlined in the Constitution, the Ten Commandments, state Laws and local Laws. When we see affronts to those morals such as the closing scene of Bob and Joe, we draw attention to it and call it out for what it is.”
“Are you a religious organization?”
“No we are not. We simply use the Ten Commandments for its historical significance.”
“Let me get this straight. You take the Laws of God and apply them for your purposes because they are historically significant?”
“Right indeed. Very Right. Extreme Right. Far Right. What if someone in the organization, a non-religious one at that, doesn’t believe in God?”
“Every Student for Moral Clarity believes in God.”
“Interesting. Is your membership open?”
“And everyone involved just happens to believe in God?”
“I don’t believe in God. What if I want to join Students for Moral Clarity?”
“How do you know?”
“No one that doesn’t believe in God wants to join our organization.”
“How do you know?”
“Because everyone that joined and didn’t believe didn’t stay very long.”
“Interesting. What happened to them, Jim?”
“Excuse me? Nothing. They came on their own, they left on their own.”
“With your glowing personality, I can’t imagine why.”
“I didn’t come here to be insulted, Mr. Henry.”
“You’re right. I apologize. I’ll go back to my original line of questioning, but I would suggest you not make it so easy. Given your stance on this particular issue, why didn’t you attempt to contact Ronald prior to going to the Administration?”
“We, the Students for Moral Clarity, needed to act quickly. Going to Mr. Jay would have delayed our process.”
“Did the Administration suggest that you speak to Ronald first?”
“Yes. We refused on grounds that were most likely going to be greeted by Mr. Jay with scorn, ridicule and a complete lack of cooperation.”
“Can you blame him? I know I would have laughed in your face. Not to beat a dead horse, but how would you respond to an allegation that you are trumping on Ronald’s right to freedom of expression?”
“Nothing. I exercised my right. He should have exercised his.”
“I would have if given the opportunity before being unceremoniously shut down by the Administration,” Ronald interjects. Dana gives him an angry look and then directs her ire back to Mark.
“Aren’t there issues of greater importance for the Students for Moral Clarity?” Mark asks.
“Aren’t you supposed to be fair and balanced?” Dana charges back.
“Fair and balanced can’t always apply to twisted self-promoting. I’m sorry. That just slipped out. Instead of shutting down Mr. Jay’s production, why don’t the Students for Moral Clarity simply mount their own production?”
“We intend to. It is about a young man who realizes that it is his life’s calling to find a good woman, marry her and multiply.”
“Who is playing the woman?” Ron asks.
“Probably me. I am also an actress,” Dana says proudly.
“Good luck finding a co-star.”
“No. Thank you. We have to take another break. Please come back for more cruel and unusual punishment. You are listening to ‘On the Air with Mark Henry’ on WMOS-FM 89.7.” Mark takes his headphones off. “This is going very well,” he says to Dana and Ronald.
Karl returns a second time with a stern look on his face. “Mark, Frank called me again. He is not happy. A representative from the Administration called him about one of your first segment comments comparing them to the Third Reich. Also, the Faculty Advisor from the Students for Moral Clarity is upset over how you are favoring Ronald over Dana. On the other hand, 64 emails came in from students all over campus praising the comedy.”
“I remember that Third Reich comment. I thought it was funny.”
“Tread lightly, Mark. Very lightly,” Al advises as Mark looks at the clock, puts his headphones back on and listens to the conclusion of another station promo.
“You are listening to ‘On the Air with Mark Henry’ on WMOS-FM 89.7. I’ve been speaking with Ronald Jay, whose original play Bob and Joe was shut down after the Administration bowed to pressure from the Students for Moral Clarity. Their president, Dana Jordan, is also with us. To kick off this last segment, I would like to read to you a copy of the official letter sent from the Administration to the Theatre Department regarding their spineless decision to cow-tow to the pressure from Students for Moral Jocularity. It reads as follows: To Philip Granger, Director of the Theatre Department, College of Fine and Performing Arts, Beacon Hill University...
Why can’t they just say Dear Phil?
It has come to the attention of the Beacon Hill University Administration that one of your senior students, Ronald Jay, is mounting a production of his original piece, "Bob and Joe", which features a closing scene where two men marry and kiss. Due to significant protest from the University community, we are ordering an immediate cessation of production on this project and suggest you find a more suitable venue for your effort. Beacon Hill University cannot be a part of one’s individual effort to push their own agenda. We wish you the best of luck in your future ventures and thank you in advance for your cooperation.
Pardon me whilst I hurl. I’m not supposed to laugh at such an official document from the upper echelons of the University community, but I could grow prizewinning roses with this. At this time, I would like to offer each of my guests some final comments before we close out this first half-hour. Dana, ladies first.”
“I’ve said all I needed to say.”
“I don’t mind the backlash. I just think the Students for Moral Clarity and the Administration could have been a little more forthright with me about what was going on before making decisions without my involvement. I am sure we could have worked something out that was beneficial to me, the Administration and the Students for Moral Clarity.” As he is finishing, Mark locates a patriotic track on the computer and begins to play it.
Dana is not amused. “Don’t you think that is a little much?” she asks.
“You didn’t want to say anything. If you had, you would have gotten an underscore as well. But in the interest of fairness and balance, I would like to offer you another opportunity to spew forth.”
“Students for Moral Clarity meets every Monday at 6pm in Robinson Hall Room 222.”
“That’s it? I didn’t get a chance to play 'How Great Thou Art’. In closing, I would like to ask the listening audience to join me into pushing the Administration to grow a set, read Jay’s Bob and Joe, hear Jay’s side of the story and make a better decision. I would like to thank Dana Jordan and Ronald Jay for joining me today. My co-host K-Dag will be with us with some musings when we return from this extended break. You are listening to ‘On the Air with Mark Henry’ on WMOS-FM 89.7.” Mark takes off his headphones.
Mark, Dana and Ronald get up. Mark comes from behind the desk and extends his hand to Ronald, who returns the handshake. Dana shakes Ronald's hand but rebuffs Mark's extended hand. After an awkward moment, she turns around and walks out. Ronald and Mark follow. They walk through the station to the front door. Mark’s co-host opens the door and Dana walks out. Kate walks in and greets Mark.
“Mark! I was listening to the show on the way over here! You are too funny!” Kate says as Ronald turns to Mark and extends his hand again.
“Thanks again for letting me be on the show. I’ll see you around.” Ronald says as he walks out.
“My pleasure Ronald, I want to have you on again once you mount the show. Hey Kate.”
“That must have been Dana. She doesn’t look too happy.”
“She really got mad when I told people to push the Admin to reverse their decision.”
“Ouch. Let’s head to the studio.” As Kate and Mark turn around, Mark bumps into Karl, who is not happy.
“Why is it that when I say, ‘tread lightly’, you dance and stomp? I just got off the phone with a LIVID Frank, who wants the both of us to be waiting for him when he gets here at 8am tomorrow. I hope you don’t have a class because you're going to miss it.”
“Am I in trouble?” Mark asks.
“Not until he sees the whites of our eyes in the morning. Hi, Kate. Can you control him for the next half hour while you two are on the air?”
“About as much as you can,” Kate replies as she and Mark head over to the studio for the second half of their broadcast.
The next morning Frank Kaplan, the station manager, pulls up to the radio station. Mark and Karl wait apprehensively at the front window for their heads to roll. They watch as he drives into his parking spot, turns off the car, sits for a moment, grabs his briefcase, opens the door and emerges out of his 2008 Honda Accord. Frank catches Mark and Karl's eyes, which he holds as he closes his door, marches to the front of the building, opens the door and walks in. Mark and Karl follow him into his office, where he takes off his coat, places his briefcase on his desk, turns on his computer and begins to brew a cup of coffee. Mark and Karl watch in bewildered amusement. Frank watches the coffee maker as it begins brewing. He takes three mugs, wipes them with a paper towel and continues watching the coffee maker brew. When it finishes, he pours three cups of coffee, walks over to his desk, places two cups on one side, one cup on his side, sits in his chair and invites Mark and Karl to sit down as well. Slowly, so as to not startle Frank with any sudden movement, they both take a seat on the other side of Frank's desk. Frank begins to speak. And then doesn’t. He does this three more times before finally putting words together.
“My next door neighbor has a crush on me,” Frank says. Mark and Karl take a beat, turn to each other and then turn back to Frank, who continues. “It’s very disconcerting. He’s married.”
Mark and Karl stare blankly at Frank. “Does that make me gay?” Frank asks.
Mark is surprisingly at a loss for words. Content with not speaking at this moment, he offers Karl the opportunity to respond. “Frank, I understand. And I'm very sorry. And I don’t think your neighbor thinks you're gay.”
“Mr. Henry, if I had seen you yesterday I probably would have hoisted you up a flagpole," Frank continues. "I want you to know that I spoke to nine angry members of the Administration who didn’t appreciate your comments in the least. On the other hand, Karl showed me 110 emails from students and town residents applauding your skewering of the Administration and of Ms. Jordan. However, 14 people called to tell us that they found you a little brazen. I shared this with the Administration. Though they want to take disciplinary action, I told them that would not be in their best interest to do so. But they are issuing you a warning. You are free to dissent their policies but further comparisons to Nazi Germany will not tolerated.”
Mark looks to Karl for some guidance as to how he should react at this point. Karl avoids eye contact this time.
“Understood.” Mark replies, figuring it was best he keep his response rather succinct.
“You two may go now,” Frank says, ushering them out. Mark and Karl rise out of their chair and head out of his office as if they’d been fired off The Apprentice. Mark and Karl hear Frank's door close behind them. Karl gives Mark an angry look and heads off to the office he shares with the station’s program director. Mark decides to give him some time to calm down and heads to the cafeteria for a bite to eat on his way back to his on-campus apartment to take a nap before leading a campus tour later that day. As he passes by the nearby Administration Building, he notices several students crowded outside.
"What's going on?" Mark asks a student.
“A bunch of us are gathered here to get the Admin to let some guy do some gay play.”
“How did you find out about it?” Mark asks.
“A friend of mine told me about it. She was listening to Mark Henry’s radio show. He had on the play guy and the nutjob who got the Admin to stop the play guy from doing the gay play. Mark suggested people talk to the Admin and get them to change their mind. It’s exciting, you know, doing something for the cause.”
“Free speech, man. It’s all about free speech. There’s a whole bunch of people inside. The whole campus is talking about it.”
“Really? I didn’t know people cared that much.”
“Most of us didn’t even hear the show, but when people found out about it, they just knew it was bullshit and then Mark told us to do something about it.”
“Is he here?”
“Mark? Don’t know. I don’t know what he looks like, but he’s awesome for bringing this to our attention.”
“Thanks, man. Take care,” Mark says as he continues walking toward his apartment. Jan Ebbets, the Dean of Students, squeezes out of the Administration Building past all the students waiting outside to be heard. She notices Mark walking by and rushes down the stairs after him. He hears the footsteps and turns around, then wishes he hadn’t. Mark had known Dean Ebbets since his freshman year when he was randomly selected to attend a retreat for a newly-formed leadership development group. The Dean was very impressed with how he carried himself and also with his active participation in each session. Being a third-year student, he’d been in some trouble with her before. Mark isn't a mischievous student, but his vocality has previously landed him in various meetings with various people from various departments for various reasons. Mark stops walking to give Dean Ebbets a chance to catch up. She is not happy.
“Mark, it is my understanding that you are somewhat responsible for all of this chaos?”
“Hi, Dean. I understand the same thing.”
“They’ve been coming in droves for almost an hour. This is not how I like to spend my Friday mornings.”
“I just got blasted by Frank at the radio station,” Mark explains.
“What were you thinking?”
“I was just speaking my mind.”
“I would suggest that next time you actually mind what you speak. You do realize that I am part of the Administration that you took aim at."
Mark hadn’t. He likes Dean Ebbets and was happy to have her in his camp whenever his mouth got him into some hot water. She had warned him many times about his comments. He hoped she didn’t take these comments personally, but they needed to be said.
“Now come with me. You are going to help us do some damage control.” Dean Ebbets says as she escorts Mark through the crowd.
“It’s Mark Henry!!” a student exclaims. The crowd starts cheering and applauding, to the embarrassment of Mark and the increasing frustration of Dean Ebbets. She isn’t angry, but she isn’t thrilled to have to deal with this. Dean Ebbets was out of the office when the final decision was made by her immediate supervisor, the Vice-President of Administrative Matters.
Once inside the Adminstration Building, Mark is greeted with more pats on the backs and “good jobs” from people he had never met or seen before, but feel empowered by his stand against the Administration. Dean Ebbets takes him to see Mr. Rayka, the Vice-President of Administrative Matters and Dean Ebbet’s boss. She knocks and is invited in.
“Good morning, Mark. Please take a seat,” Mr. Rayka says as Mark and Dean Ebbets walk in. Mark prefers to stand but he doesn’t want to ruffle any more feathers than he already has. Mark obediently takes a seat and says nothing.
Mr. Rayka speaks very gravely. “This is quite a mess you’ve gotten us into, not to mention yourself. What do you suppose we do about this?” Mark turns to Dean Ebbets, who offers him nothing. He turns back to Mr. Rayka and chooses his words very carefully.
“Let me begin by saying that I stand by my comments but, in hindsight, I should have chosen my words more wisely.” Mark doesn’t remember exactly what he said on the air and hasn’t yet heard the playback, but now understands that he probably crossed a line somewhere in the broadcast. Dean Ebbets turns her attention to Mr. Rayka, who is slowly processing Mark’s carefully chosen words.
“I would very strongly suggest you remember that or the run of your radio program will be very short-lived. Do we have an understanding?”
“You may go now. But before you do…regarding that crowd outside…they are here because of you. I want them gone because of you—quick and in a hurry.”
“Yes, sir. Thank you," Mark replies. "I will be. I mean, they will be...gone.”
Relieved, Mark turns to leave. As he approaches the door, he hears the faint din of the students on the other side who have skipped classes and risked their own disciplinary action on account of his apparently very influential words.
Mark turns around. “Mr. Rayka?” he asks as Dean Ebbets throws him a “get out of here with your head” look.
“Yes, Mr. Henry.”