Love and Bullets

Skaz Martin might be my favorite writer. I’m biased of course because I wrote a romantic comedy novella with him and plan on writing at least one epic with him. I’ve known him for years, read his poetry, short stories and the horror novel he’s working on which is like nothing you’ve read and genuinely gave me nightmares.

He’s the writer I click the most with when writing. The yin to my yang and the creative consultant I trust the most. I trust him to help me develop ideas, to prompt me when I’m stuck, to present the questions I hadn’t considered so I might answer them, to tell me when I’m wrong. I trust him enough to bring into projects I don’t think I can handle myself.

Skaz is one of my best friends, the writing partner I’d be truly lost without and I’ve never met him in person. But his brilliance and his talents can’t be denied, at least by me.

For his birthday, I asked him if he wanted a flash fiction from our war epic, from our rom-com or something personalized. He asked for all three. So here it is.

******

Once the region had begun to recover after the Devastation that had wrecked both land and lifestyle, the greatest construction workers of the Imperio Paramesium moved out into the savaged outlands and began salvaging what they could from the wrecked and abandoned cities. Towering buildings were left to deteriorate in the elements, worn down by storms over many years. Some had collapsed, their skeletons draped disgracefully across the ground. Others leaned precariously, a constant threat to anyone who moved around them. Still others stood tall, the dying remnants of a civilization that no longer existed.

Basilio stood in the middle of the city, back pressed against a massive collection of debris. His pistol was gone, emptied of its rounds and dropped somewhere in a muddy puddle during a mad scramble to avoid being shot. He held a long, curved knife in his right hand. Sebastian had given it to him one year as a birthday gift; Bas thought at first that it was a replica and was pleased at its functionality.

The sky above was forlorn, blues and grays holding hands and trickling a steady curtain of rain down on him. He slicked his hair back with the outside of his thumb, careful not to stab himself in the face. His left hand ached and he glanced at the bloody rag wrapped right around it, hoping to staunch the bloody wound where his ring finger used to be.

His wife was going to kill him for losing his wedding ring. Basilio coughed a chuckle and smiled to himself. That’s if Rhoco didn’t find him first and finish what he started. Here he stood, back against what once was a wall, maybe, or a ceiling, with nine fingers and a knife. Jonathan would have laughed that crazy laugh of his and said that ten fingers was too many, anyway, but it had been many years since Jon had said anything.

How he heard the click amongst the pitter-patter of the rain, he couldn’t say. He simply acted instinctively, pushing away from the debris and pivoting. His right arm came up and the knife flew from his hand like an extension of himself. The man with the gun was perched atop the piled bits of rock and metal. To his credit, he merely grunted when the knife sank into his shoulder and swore not at all when the firearm slipped from his hand.

Basilio darted forward, intent on getting the gun. The other man pulled the blade free from his body and leapt down. They crashed into each other hard and continued into the ground, slipping in the mud. Basilio bit into his cheek and tasted blood. Tiny rocks on the ground bit into his side and back. They wrestled for a few panicked moments, each trying to get a grip on the other. Rhoco tried to angle the knife for a lethal thrust. He was met with several strikes to the ear and the side of his neck.

The two men rolled away from each other. Basilio was the first to his feet and lashed out with his foot, catching the other man under the jaw. He stepped in to follow up with another kick and slipped in the mud. A sharp pain lanced up from his ankle. He retreated and his opponent rose up slowly.

“You picked a fitting place to die, Constantine,” the mountaineer said. “Amongst towers that, for all the impressive things once said about them, amount to nothing but being broken, abandoned relics.”

Basilio smiled. He could feel his own blood coating his teeth. “Take it you didn’t like how my boot tasted. Too bad. I stepped in horse shit just for you.”

Rhoco Makara’s eyes went flat. He shifted his legs, pulling his left back and putting a slight bend in his right knee. His hands came up in front of his face in a similar manner. It wasn’t a stance Basilio was familiar with but he had stopped carrying some time much earlier.

“When I kill you, I’m going to take the rest of your fingers and make a necklace out of them.”

********

“Hey, you’re up?”

“Hmm?”

“You’re next. Come on!”

With great reluctance, Franklin pulled his head up from the book he was reading. The line he and his girlfriend had been standing in had disappeared at some point, leaving an open space between the author’s desk and them. He looked at Roz and lit up like a kid on Christmas morning.

“I know, I know,” she said, rolling her eyes. She placed a hand on his back and pushed him.

Together they walked up to the table that had been set up. Books were set up on one side of it to be purchased. The other side just had a plain white sign propped up reading, “Free Signings.” Where two men, co-writers and collaborators, were supposed to be seated, there was only one. The other had developed a severe case of food poisoning. Skyler Martin was there, though, and to Franklin, he was glorious. An angel who wielded a monstrous lexicon as his flaming sword.

Franklin shuffled up to the table and held his book out. Martin took it, glanced at the cover, looked up and smiled.

The Life of Marcus Demastocles, eh? What part are you at?”

“Makara and Constantine’s fight to the death. It’s my third read-through.”

“You can’t pull him away from it,” Roz said. “Even when there are more important things to do. No offense.”

Martin smirked. “None taken. Who should I make this out to?”

“If I had one complaint, though, it would be that you haven’t finished it yet,” Franklin said.

“Blame the other guy. He’s the one who’s always busy with other projects.”

“It’s been years, though. Don’t you think he’d want to be writing this? Or writing faster? Can’t you guilt him into it?”

Martin paused, tilted his head. “What was your name again?”

“Oh. Uh, Franklin.”

“What do you do for work?”

Franklin looked at his girlfriend, thrilled that his favorite author was interested in his life. Roz raised her eyebrows and feigned enthusiasm. As long as he was happy.

“I’m in IT.”

“Like tech support? Like a call line?”

“Yeah, more or less.”

“When do work next? I’d love to help you in your ventures there and I think showing up and encouraging you to answer more calls or resolve issues faster will make the time pass by more speedily and increase your success rate substantially.”

Franklin deflated. “I didn’t mean…”

“I know.” Martin smiled again and picked up his pen. He opened the cover to the novel. “To Frank-”

“Franklin. Sorry. I, uh, never took well to just Frank.”

“To Franklin. May your deeds become lesson and your life become legend.” Martin finished the dedication with a scrawl that resembled his name. He handed the book back. Franklin took it reverently.

Instead of embarrassing himself further, Franklin simply nodded his appreciation and moved away with Roz. His cheeks burned but he was also filled with excitement at meeting someone whose work he respected so dearly.

“Hey, Franklin.” He turned. Martin grinned from ear to ear. “Soon. I promise. And if it isn’t soon enough, maybe we can work something else out.” He pointed at the book.

Confused, Franklin flipped open the cover. In the lower left corner, a couple inches under the dedication, was an email address. He hadn’t even seen the author jot it down.

“Roz…”

“Franklin, I love you and I love those books and I’m glad you introduced me to them, but I’ve spent two hours in a line with you reading while the neckbeard behind me stared at my ass and my stomach’s about to consume itself.”

“Lunch, then?”

Roz grabbed Franklin by the back of the head and pulled him into her lips. She kissed him deeply, twining her fingers through his hair. When they broke away, he was breathless.

“I almost ate you just now,” she whispered. “That’s how hungry I am.”

“…let’s get lunch.”

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The Velvet Anchor

“Captain.”

The voice crackled through the speaker installed just above her bed. She hadn’t yet upgraded to the video projector, doubted she would anytime soon. There was something unappealing about the idea of her crew having a chance of accidentally catching her in a state of undress.

“No,” she replied and rolled over, pulling her pillow over her ear.

“You wanted us to let you know when we got near Damocles Station.”

Kylie opened one eye and peered at her clock from under her pillow. She had pre-set it to the outpost’s standard time before going to bed. Accordingly, it informed her she had been asleep for around three solid hours.

“Ffff. That’s two hours earlier than expected, Talos. What happened?”

“Low traffic at the jump gate. That shaved off most of it. Once we were through, we punched it for a while. You made it clear how important this lead was.”

You can’t call him an asshole for being a good crewman, Kylie, she thought to herself. You want to, but you can’t. Put your Captain hat on and deal with it.

“I’ll be up in ten. I want a stim ready, and I want it hot.”

“Yes, ma’am. Sugar? Cream?”

“I want it as black as the space I’ll eject you into if you don’t get off the fucking com and get back to work.”

****

The bridge of the ship wasn’t very large,  but it didn’t need to be. Hers was not a luxury cruiser or a military vessel. The Velvet Anchor was a recovery craft, intended on the seizure and transportation of smuggled goods, illegal weapons caches and escaped criminals. As such, the belly of the ship was where most of the space was, with rooms set aside for storage and a handful of cells for prisoners.

Kylie sipped at her stim and glanced around at her crew. Magda wasn’t present and was likely doing a standard maintenance check throughout the Anchor. Talos was back on the navigation system. Garrety sat at the weapons station, legs outstretched and hands clasped behind his head. If there were any reason to fire upon the station, chances were they would be too late to defend themselves properly anyway.

Ilo, her first mate, sat at his station next to the captain’s chair. He was busy pulling up the schematics for Damocles Station: current population, structural details, command structure and shipping logs. A blue light began flashing at the top of his control panel.

“Station’s hailing us, Captain.”

“Patch him in.”

Ilo pressed a ridged black button next to the light. A moment later, a small blue hologram cast out from the light in the form of an older man dressed in loose pants and a button-up shirt.

“Can you see me alright?” the man asked.

“All fine on this side.”

“You’re coming in clear for me as well. My name is Patch Harding. I’m the dockmaster for Damocles Station. State your name, crew size and starship for our records, please, and the purpose for your visit.”

“I’m Captain Kylie Hendren of the Velvet Anchor, currently with a crew of five, counting myself. I’m a molly contracted currently by the Alcan Recovery Operation. I got a tip that a wanted felon is hiding out on your station. I’d appreciate your assistance and the assistance of your station security in apprehending him.”

Harding looked away to someone not visible in the projection. After a moment, he nodded once and offered a tight smile to Kylie. “Everything checks out. You’re free to dock in AC-7. After you get settled, any of the workers will point you in the direction of my office. In the meantime, what’s the name of your perp? I’ll call in an alert.”

“Appreciated. His name is Dillyn Harridan. He’s wanted on several counts of weapons smuggling so tell your people to be careful.”

“Come again? Did you say Harridan?”

Kylie’s eyes narrowed. “You know him?”

“Haven’t had a molly stop here in close to eighteen months, figures you’d be here for him. We’ve already got him locked up, Captain.”

“On what charges?”

Harding looked grim. “We’re holding him for six murders. I’ll tell you more once you’re landed.”

“Roger that, Dockmaster.” Kylie ended the call and settled into her seat. “Take us in, Ilo.”

“Captain, holy shit. Six murders? That’s not, like, a feud or a crime of passion. That’s psychotic.”

“We don’t know any details yet. Could be anything. Guy’s a weapons smuggler. Maybe a deal went wrong or there was another, pissed off party there. I’ll have to find out.”

“Forget the murders,” her navigator said. “I heard Damocles has a strip club. We got time to nose around the station?”

“Shut up, Talos.”

“Cap, if he’s already caught, some leave time would be welcome,” Garrety said. “It’d be nice to get off the ship for once and stretch out legs.”

Kylie sighed and set her cup aside before rubbing her temples. “We’ll see how it shakes out. I’ve got to talk to Harding first and I may even need to see Harridan. Murders don’t sound like him.”

Ilo frowned and looked over at her. “Do you know Dillyn Harridan, Captain? I thought this was just another job.”

“It is just another job. I don’t know Dillyn, but I knew his brother years ago. We’re mollies, this crew. We’re here to grab a criminal, take him in, and collect a check. All the same, I aim to find out some answers.”

The Anchor settled down into the docking bay, handled expertly by Ilo, who had flown several kinds of craft during the Halfgallon Moor war on Bellam. Captain Kylie Hendren’s crew turned down their systems and began prepping to exit into the station.

For her part, Kylie made her way back to her room and strapped her pistols to her hips. She glanced into the mirror. No make-up. No problem. The weariness in her eyes was masked by the scowl she wore for having slept so little.

She was a decent captain. She was an excellent molly. She had a damn job to do.

The Wrong Kind of Flop

Ohhh, man. When I was 11-16 or so, I partook in a series of text based fantasy chat rooms where we roleplayed characters set in the Dragonlance world. There was a room set in a tavern, the gardens, the caverns, the arena, a tower of sorcery,  and a thieve’s guild. At its height, there were maybe even hundreds of characters played by dozens of people and each had their own backstories and lives that unfolded over countless years. I made some of my earliest and best friends there, stretched my creative muscles and had some of the best storytelling adventures of my life.

Before I ever played Dungeons and Dragons or Mutants and Masterminds, I had Tyro Vultheim in the Kender Chats and I miss it so much and I wish I had the time to do it again.

In any case, some of the characters from my experiences there have persisted through my life. Some of the adventures have inspired stories. In fact, I plan on writing a six novel series set in an original fantasy world with some of the characters from those chats, with permission from their incredible creators.

Tyro Vultheim will be one of the main protagonists. The other will be the subject of today’s birthday note. Played by my friend Leonard, Drake originally had a different last name, one no longer useable due to the sudden extreme popularity of a fantasy series. But we compromise.

In the chats, Drake and Tyro had an incredible relationship. They were rivals. They were friends. Their romantic interests would occasionally intertwine until they both settled into routine and then their significant others, friends and allies would develop levels of importance,  affection and irritation with each other as well. They would fight, they would fistfight and afterwords crack open a bottle of wine and sit next to each other, lips still bleeding and eyes swelling, and they would put it behind them.

Drake and Tyro are brothers. But they weren’t always thus, and they didn’t always know each other. For Len’s birthday, I wrote this:

******

Drake Lethos looked over several stacks of cobalt coins with a grin in his eyes. Several coins more were scattered about in the center of the table, bets from the four men seated there. Only Drake and the gap-toothed gentleman who scowled across at him still had cards in their hand.

“What are you holding?” the man asked. He hadn’t been happy when Drake had joined their game, unwilling to trust some stranger blowing through town.

“If I told you, it would defeat completely the purpose of the game.”

“You look nervous. You nervous?”

Drake glanced down at his winnings. “I suspect I’ll be alright either way.”

“Why do you even keep going?” one of the other men asked. “You ain’t won enough?”

“Why does anyone do anything, friend? Are we compelled by the gods? Some think so. Or they think it’s fate. Perchance the subsconscious urge to act in the echoes of a past life.” Drake flashed a mouthful of pearly white teeth. “But frankly, I think I’ve a bit of a gambling problem.”

“You going to keep raising until I can’t bet?” the man across from him asked. “Because if that’s the game you’re trying to pull, we’re done now.”

“Did you want to raise?”

“I’ll check.”

“Then I’ll check, too. Many things can be said about me, but the first to call me a poor sport would out himself as a liar.”

The man scowled and laid his hand down on the table. Three Countesses with a Dragon for a wheel. It was a strong hand and Drake saw his opponent wrestling to keep a smile from his face. He wanted to see what Drake had.

The cards settled on the tabletop, face-up, with nary a sound. Three Dragons and a Jester. The air was sucked from the room.

“Well, hell,” Drake said. “What are the odds of that? One in sixty thousand? Seventy thousand?” He reached out with both hands and began pulling the coins towards his stacks. “And as it will get no better than that, gentlemen, I think I’ll call it a night.”

Now, there was something that should be known about Drake Lethos: he was a man who loved a life of luxury. That meant expensive clothes, with silver buttons and ridiculous frills at the ends of his sleeves. Fine cuisine for all three meals and beds that could fit several people, made up with satin sheets. It meant sly winks at strange women towards the other end of a crowded area and that alone being three steps in the direction of the ballroom or the bedroom or both.

There was another side to him, though. One that involved panicked runs down back alleys, hasty escapes from scummy bars, and an expansive vocabulary that constructed a treasure trove of excuses to pull out when everything went wrong.

It was because of this latter half of life that he registered the ale mug shrieking towards his face, propelled by the angry hand of a sore loser. With his second of preparation, he flung his left arm up from the pile of coins that rightfully belonged to him and deflected the projectile. Deflected it at the wrong angle, but deflected it all the same. As it struck the mechanism attached to his forearm – three inches up from the wrist – and caused it to go haywire, spewing a handful of select cards from his expertly turned cuff, Drake thought to himself that maybe, just once, he should have pushed his instincts down into his gut and allowed himself to be hit in the face.

Slowly, the other three men turned to look at him. Their expressions varied, but only along the narrow margin between disgust and murderous intent. A low growl curled up behind him. Drake turned and saw the half-orc bouncer walking towards him, massive biceps putting his shirt through exercises it wasn’t meant to endure.

“Ain’t no cheaters to be in here.”

Drake’s mind, spinning through his options for a line that could save his ass, blanked at that.

“That’s the best Trader you can manage? This tavern needs to invest in some kind of language course for its employees.”

*****

Drake Lethos leaned against the outer wall of a tanner’s shop. His face felt like a thousand puzzle pieces that jammed together in the wrong positions. He considered the fact the mud and blood would probably never be removed completely from his clothes and lamented that he didn’t even have the money to buy a replacement set.

Then again, there were motherly women in the world who would take pity on a helpless, battered man. After that, there was always another town. In towns, there was always another game.

Drake Lethos spit a mouthful of crimson into the road and smiled his perfect smile.

Six Reasons Why 50 Shades of Grey Sucks, and Why It Doesn’t

A couple years ago, I tried to write an article for Cracked about a SUPER HOT TOPIC at the time. They weren’t biting and I dropped it. But with the release of the 50 Shades of Grey trailer and the fact I have a blog now, I thought I’d resurrect it. Here’s the original article:

Straight up: before writing this article I read both Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey, I did it sober, and holy shit was that the worst idea I’ve ever had. But once the migraines subsided, I tucked back my man-bits, took some Midol and pretended these books were marketed towards me. This is how I came to my conclusions. Note there are spoilers to follow:

1) It’s Fan-Fiction!

For those wondering why I bothered to read Stephanie Meyer’s abortion of literature for a 50 Shades article, let me enlighten you: 50 Shades of Grey started its rags-to-riches fairy-tale life as a rip-off of someone else’s fairy-tale life. Because of that, it’s impossible not to draw a few comparisons. They’ll pop up. I had to be educated.

The fact remains, 50 Shades of Grey was once a humble, smutty, Twilight fan fiction titled Masters of the Universe and I can’t begin to tell you how pissed I was when searching for He-Man/Fisto slash stories and coming across this bullshit.

image

Fuck with the universe, the universe fucks back.

Now fan fiction is not a new thing. If you don’t believe me, Google it! Actually, maybe don’t. There’s a lot of dark shit on the Internet. But while it’s not uncommon, the attention this one got was insane.  What’s more surprising is that it hasn’t happened before. There have been thousands of stories at least of Harry Potter getting Bunghole Expanidicus’d and none of them have come close to drilling the oil of Hell and making the author a veritable tycoon.

But it happened with this. 50 Shades of Grey got kick-started by Edward dark-fucking Bella and thousands of people liking it. It’s like a porn parody that doesn’t know it’s a parody.

But it’s not so bad because…
           
Once Stephanie Meyer’s people started shoving Cease and Desists so far up E.L. James’ ass that her off-brand Wheaties tasted like law, she took down Masters, took a second to reflect, and overhauled the whole damn thing.

Seriously. 50 Shades is almost completely different. All you need to do is read them both to see. There are some similarities. Edward and Christian both get their Elton John on with their own pianos and serenades. They’re both abrasive, distant and thrumming with danger. They both rescue their loves from a speeding vehicle (Anastasia’s was an eager cyclist; Bella only had to worry about a truck).

image

I vampired the shit out of that truck with my glitter-pecs.

And that’s about it. The relationship is different, save for the “I’m not right for you, so pick someone else, but I won’t really let you” cliché that exists in every romance with a “bad boy”. But in Twilight, you have Edward, a 107-year old vampire who’s been hanging out in high schools because… who the fuck knows? He’s like the Van Wilder of statuatory rape. On the other hand: Christian Grey, a mid-twenties ridiculously rich entrepreneur who has equally questionable tastes but is far from an undead confessed murderer. Their relationship is not predator-prey, but master-servant. There’s no real danger, unlike Edward’s overt threat that he will murder his lady friend and ditch her body in a different state. (Page 214. And 255. Romance!)

And unlike Bella’s repeated carelessness and indifference in the face of danger, Ana feels, recognizes and addresses her fear. There’s no super-nature, there is thinking characters, and a mostly private romance with a public figure as opposed to a public relationship with a mostly private figure. At most, it’s close to a total opposite, like a picture negative. The same, but different, and that’s no worse than anything already being vomited and re-digested in all forms of media.

2) The Pacing

The cadence of this book is more bi-polar than a sexually confused penguin. It starts out at a pretty speedy pace, devolves into sexy hijinks that are… dubious… and then it fucking draaags for a good third of the book. My god, once you get to the banging, how can you just write a hundred pages of, uh, not banging?

The most egregious example of Rapidash-level plot advancement is our opening. After Anastasia Steel interviews Christian Grey, we’re met with a “the rest of the week” style fast-forward. Using context clues, we can deduce that, at the earliest, Ana interviewed Grey on a Sunday. Assuming that’s the case and following the narrative from there, it is twelve days at the most before 21-year old Anastasia- who has never wanted to kiss a man before in her life – lets Grey be her first sexual partner.

What?!

The only things that could drop a virgin’s panties faster than Christian Grey are gamma hydroxybutyric and the Rapture. Maybe the Flash, but he’s a real hero… and the friction burn would be terrible.

But it’s not so bad because…

E. L. James wanted to leave her mushroom print on literature, so she introduced us to naïve but willful Anastaia and cold-but-sexy-hot boner owner Christian quickly, a little faster than we’re used to. It felt wrong at first, but… so, so right. Then she blew our minds, hard and enthusiastically, with the sex. Then sure, it went slower, but we knew it’s because she was going deeper.

See, the pacing is a little jarring at first only because James hooked us by jumping right into the deep end with no floaties. We got our characters, our basic set-up, our hard sex, all at once. We’re not used to it happening so quickly with anything that doesn’t have “co-ed” or “turkey baster” in the title. But once it’s out of the way, we can slow our thudding hearts, take our hands away from our parts and get to the juicy meat of the story.

3) The Story

But the story fucking sucks. We’re not just talking about the plot, though we doubt the verisimilitude behind a prudish virgin rocketing towards nymphomania at a speed so fast Mr. Fahrenheit would finally let someone stop him. The book is essentially the film Eros zip-tying Never Been Kissed and taking her to Pound Town.

But more than that, the writing style is atrocious. It just hammered home phrases like “Don’t bite your lip”, “inner goddess” and “baby. Oh, baby.” I haven’t seen so many unconvincing usages of the word ‘baby’ since Little Man, most memorably after he romantically removes her tampon, slips it in and says, “That’s right, baby.”

image

No it’s not ‘right’, baby.

I haven’t swooned so hard since The Notebook. And by “swooned”, I mean “recoiled” and by “The Notebook”, I mean “Ichi the Killer”.

The crowning achievement of this masterpiece comes after Grey gives Anastasia Steele a laptop so they can e-mail each other and she’s flustered when the first one arrives. “I got an e-mail from Christian Grey.” Gasp. First off: Lady, you deep-throated the man in his bathtub after less than two weeks of knowing him, you can stop being surprised. Secondly, here are what some of those e-mails entail:

CG: I do hope you had a good day at work.
AS: I had a very good day at work.
CG: Delighted you had a good day.

Fuck you, E.L. James!

But it’s not so bad because…

Like a Rubik’s Cube with Asperger’s, the characters and underlying plot are surprisingly complex. Christian Grey’s disposition and predilection for rough sex are a result of his being seduced (read: statuatory raped/dominated) by an older person at the ripe age of fifteen. No, it wasn’t Edward Cullen.

A big chunk of the book focuses on Anastasia’s sexual curiosity, the chances she takes and her growing experience all while wrestling with the commanding nature of aggressive sex and Christian’s mood swings. They talk to each other, a lot, and in those conversations, they learn about each other and begin to build a connection that starts the crumbling of Christian’s walls. Ultimately, the book even closes on a downer, which is a little unconventional, even for the first book in a trilogy.
 
And yeah, some lines are groaners, but let’s look at some other romance novels:

Lora Leigh’s Nauti Deceptions: “…sent a shard of sensation tugging at the forbidden entrance to her lower body.”

Roxanne St. Claire’s Barefoot In the Sand: “Still looking up, still holding him with her eyes and her mouth… and her heart.”

Laurell K. Hamilton’s Narcissus In Chains: “It was tight, thick, like he plugged a hole with his body…”

ROMANTIC.

Compared to Twilight, which reads like a blind spastic was flailing frantically at a keyboard, 50 Shades is fucking Shakespeare. Plus it has the term “just-fucked pigtails” and the sentences, “I don’t remember reading about nipple clamps in the Bible. Perhaps you were taught from a modern translation,” and that shit is gold.

4) The Misogyny

Do a search in any engine asking if 50 Shades of Grey is misogynistic and the results will come back as an overwhelming “Fucking Duh”.

image

Christian Grey’s whole thing, his schtick, is that he likes to dominate and control women. He orders them around, refers to them as his property and physically abuses them. He wants to make Anastasia sign a strict contract on what she can and can’t do with her own body, including her diet, sleep regiment and masturabatory practices, like the Hitler of handjobs.

He makes Anastasia cry on multiple occasions, spanks her – one time with a belt! – chastises and demeans her. And she takes it. And she doesn’t tell anyone about it because he made her sign a non-disclosure agreement, meaning she has to ask permission before she can ask her best friend all the new sex questions she’s got running through her mind. Anastasia is Reverse Rosie the Riveter, a stunning sample of alliteration that will stir the loins of any chauvinist readers.

But it’s not so bad because…

Misogyny: noun: hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women.

Hatred is a… pretty harsh word. And while Christian Grey mistrusts women, he mistrusts everybody, but there is little in the book to support a claim that he hates Anastaia or even dislikes her or even likes her discomfort and distress.

And as far as the distrust goes, the entire book is about how he learns to love and trust her while she trusts in him as he frees her of her sexual inhibitions. So it’s more about the removal of misogyny, if anything.

Shit, if we’re definining misogyny as being wary around people or making them cry, any man who’s ever hurt his girlfriend’s feelings (or vice-versa, you femisogynists) is guilty!

If it’s about the fact that he likes to control and smack her around… I can see how that can be taken the wrong way. But while I would never condone domestic abuse (except in the case of the Muppets and the Flintstones), that’s not what’s going on here. I’ll get to that in a minute, but first let’s analyze the book a bit.

Christian Grey’s got the personality of sexy sandpaper, probably because his mom was a crackhead and he was burned by cigarettes as a kid. But beneath that uncaring visage is something more humane, something that makes him protect Ana from her would-be date-rapist/friend Jose, take care of her when she’s black-out, Exorcist-expulsion drunk, bends over backwards to provide for her, frets for her safety, showers her with gifts, confides in her and makes exceptions with his lifestyle that he’s never made with anyone. Hell, I want to have sex with him now.

The abusive stuff, the debasement and bondage and spanking? The only things that happen outside of her contract signing are asked for and verbally encouraged. The non-disclosure agreement was only to protect Christian Grey’s image, probably because – for some reason – he doesn’t want everyone to know he’s got Marquis de Sade’s wet dream in his penthouse.

The sex contract on the other hand is detailed in pages 165-175. Ten pages. The thing reads like a dissertation and outlines their relationship, the length (a three month trial period) and everything else that will be involved. Anything she doesn’t like or feel comfortable with, she negotiates away. And the debasement and abuse she’s agreeing to? Here’s a list: spanking, whipping, biting, genital clamps, hot wax, paddling, caning, nipple clamps, ice.

Now, while the genital and nipple clamps seem rough (she denies them and he agrees), the rest of that is pretty fucking tame…. wait a second…..

Ice?!

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You sick bastard.

5) The Sex

Here it is. The most talked-about aspect of the book. That’s because when it comes, it is graphic. Believe it or not, that’s partly why it sucks. It’s not a book so much as literotica (from the ancient Celtic phrase “book porn”). And while it’s detailed, it stays just vague enough to be kind of bad.

There are a whole lot of “down there’s” that make it almost sound like she’s getting her ankles fucked, and the “babys” and “inner goddess” references keep on coming and kill the joy faster than John Wayne Gacy. That fucking inner goddess… she grates like Fran Drescher.

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Imagine sex with her voice. You’re welcome.

And it’s all so… weird. Hell, Grey’s completely indifferent to de-flowering his new toy. He approaches taking Anastasia’s virginity in the same manner one would use when scraping the ice off of their windshield before sticking their dick in the car.

The bondage aspects are talked about but only weakly explored. Zip-tied, for God’s sakes? The guy who shoplifted a box of lamb-skin condoms got that far when security fucked the center of his back with a knee.

Dispassionate and unambitious, it’s a watered down Penthouse letter with a plot written by an angsty ninth-grader who sees it as the only way to get the senior prom king to fall for her… and she still imaginary-begs for it.

But it’s not so bad because…

Clumsy sex is still sex. That old phrase, “It’s like pizza: even when it’s bad, it’s still good”? It’s true here, too, if you’ve got the imagination for it. And there’s a reason soap operas have been around for decades. They’re addictive because there’s that dramatic relationship, and in 50 Shades, that same relationship makes each new sexual encounter more passionate, more exciting, especially as Ana’s inhibitions lessen. It’s “Shades of Our Lives”.

That’s actually why this book is so great with sex. Remember when we said earlier that it wasn’t misogyny but something else? That something is the BDSM fetish. It’s been around for a long, long time, and it stands for “bondage and discipline, sadism and masochism” and you should be able to gather from that it’s all about the master-slave thought process. And guess what? It goes both ways; plenty of men like to be “punished” as well.

BDSM has already been portrayed in plenty of movies (Pulp Fiction, Eurotrip, Secretary, to name a few), but the book has done tons for exposing the fetish on  a mass scale simply by virtue of the millions of copies sold. And for those who like being spanked, choked, cuffed, scratched, bit or called filthy things (whore, shitheel, Tila Tequila) during sex… this is part of that. 50 Shades lets those people know, if they didn’t already, that it’s okay to have a fetish and it lets the inexperienced live a fantasy vicariously through Anastasia Steele.

Just don’t get carried away and kill someone.

6) The Lack of Vampires

Do you know why everyone’s writing about sexy vampires who learn to love? Because who doesn’t want that? Vampires are handsome, charismatic, dangerous, mysterious, like to bite and are powerful. Despite that last thing being the only quality separating vampires from Jeffrey Dahmer, the not-quite Draculas just open the goddamn flood gates. Hell, Anne Rice made a kajillion dollars off of it.

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Lestat de Lioncourt. Edward Cullen. Eric Northman. Angelus. Jerry….you know, from Fright Night. What the fuck kind of vampire name is Jerry?

Whatever. The point is that they’re alluring. They’re surreal, something more than the average Jerry, er, Joe, and when they so gently nibble on your neck, it’s easy to forget they’re capturing your heart in a more literal sense as well.

50 Shades, despite being a Twilight rip-off, has no vampires. It’s just a handsome, mysterious, powerful, dangerous, charismatic guy who likes to bite but is ultimately just a man.

But it’s really okay, because…

Yeah, just a handsome, mysterious, powe… look, you get it. He’s all the great qualities that make vampires appealing, but his “danger” comes from his aggressive sex acts and not the fact that he’s trying to EAT you.

Romanticized vampires are done to death. Twilight was the worst offender when Stephanie Meyer wrote out the vulnerability to sunlight and added diamond sprinkles. That’s not even a fucking vampire! That’s a, a… a glampire!

Even having sex with them has grown stale. Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake has been slutting up literature for ten years to the point that she’s not so much a vampire investigator anymore, or even a “fang-banger” as True Blooders would say, but a depository for the supernatural as a whole.

What happened to Nosferatu? Dracula? Dhampir? Do you remember the last movie that made vampires terrifying? No. No one does. Not even Josh Hartnett’s abs could save that movie from flopping so hard it snapped its own spine.

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“’I can smell your blood.’-sexy when Edward says it, apparently.

By keeping Christian Grey human and giving him a whole different and completely regular fucked up mental issues, the story is more relatable and all-around better for it. And as a planet, we can start trying to inject some fear back into our kids with real monsters.

So does 50 Shades of Grey suck or not? I don’t know. I thought I did at first, and it’s certainly better than Twilight, and there is this:

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A Christian Grey rendering, apparently. “Don’t bite your lip.”

But comparing the two is like comparing paraplegia to quadraplegia: you’re still not walking anywhere. What do I know, though? I’m fifty shades of fucked up.

Go Out And Get ‘Em, and a Birthday Note

Through high school, there were teachers I hated, teachers I respected, teachers I had crushes on and teachers who left absolutely no lasting impression on me whatsoever. There are very few, though, that I genuinely consider friends.

I was a teacher’s aid for Chad Sant’s more traditional academic course (History, I believe, though I was more concerned with grading papers and giving girls back massages), but the class I was an actual student in was his acting class.

I had never really done acting before that class. I took it because I needed electives, it seemed easy, and a couple girls I had crushes on were in it. Participation was mandatory. There were a lot of improv games: park bench, questions, sausage…that last one isn’t what you might think. We also had to memorize monologues and perform them for the class.

I liked being a smart-ass. I liked pushing the limits and being a class clown. All the same, I had yet to acquire my comfort for the spotlight. I was nervous being in front of so many people and reciting something or becoming somebody I wasn’t or reading something I had written. So it was with complete skepticism that I met Chad’s suggestion I should audition for the school play.

Now, this was senior year. I had never acted on stage before where others had been doing it for 6 years or more. I had quit band after 8th grade because I was afraid of anything that might get me picked on. But Chad insisted, my friends encouraged me and I went in and did a cold read that I thought went fucking terribly. I tossed the script in the trash on my way out, headed to the mall and – I don’t recall exactly – probably got drunk that weekend. I was an angry, lonely seventeen year old. I had a routine.

Cut to a week later when I happened by Chad’s classroom and found the cast list posted on his door. To my surprise, I had been cast as Dallas Winston in S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. I hemmed and hawed over it for almost a week before grudgingly accepting. I had never read the book. I didn’t even finish the script. Chad brought the movie in for us to watch and that was the first time I discovered that I died in the end and fuck yes, this was actually going to be awesome.

Spoiler alert, but that book has been out almost 50 years and the film for over 30. Matt Dillon played my character. Tom Cruise still had a fucked up nose and crooked teeth. It was truly a different time.

Anyway, the show did not go off without its hitches. In the premiere show for the school, in front of the artsy kids, the special needs kids, several teachers and the principal of the school, the gun I was supposed to pull on the policeman got caught in the pocket of my leather jacket. I let out a frustrated, “FUCK”, at which point I was gunned down, the lights dimmed and I could hear one of the girls backstage say, “Whaaat did he just say?”

I didn’t get in trouble. It still makes me laugh, because it really did warrant at least a detention. At least one. But Chad told the principal to chalk it up to nerves and when I apologized, he turned to me and said, “Huh? Oh. Yeah. Don’t….do that again.”

There are plenty of other stories from that show and the two others (Grease, Pirates of Penzance) I performed in under his direction. But this isn’t about me, as much as I like to talk about myself.

I bring up my experiences in theater because it opened up a lot for me. It opened up a love for the craft I never could have imagined. I’ve only done six shows, some high school drama competitions, a couple Renaissance Faires and a couple short indy films, but holy shit has it influenced my life.

I began writing more – short fictions, poems with plot, starts of novels, screenplays – because I fell in love with the art of storytelling. I owe being an author, screenwriter and poet in part to that.

I moved to Los Angeles when I was 21 because of a want to be an actor/writer. I failed so fucking hard. But that dream led me to one of the loves of my life and some of the best friends I’ve ever known. I felt more at home there than anywhere and I want to move back. The dream of acting led me there.

My theater experience in school led me to a few shows with city theater groups. I met another love of my life through that, in a passionate, ill-advised tryst. Through her, I was introduced to the karaoke bar I fell in love with until it closed. Through experience in musical theater, I was given the opportunity to judge karaoke contests and everything that entailed.

Chad Sant set me on this path as an artist. He took me aside and told me he believed in me. More than that, that he needed me to help complete his casts and bring everything together. Now, that’s bullshit. I was absolutely replaceable. Almost all of us were. But he made me feel like I wasn’t. He drove me to and from rehearsals. He talked to me about life between classes. He treated me like an adult and didn’t hold back when discussing and debating mature topics. He didn’t treat me like I was stupid.

Chad has purchased each book I’ve put out so far. He has brought them into his classrooms and told his students about me. He’s made an effort to keep in touch since I’ve graduated and put in a good word.

And you know what?  I’m not the only one he does this for. He’s gone to Jessica Singleton’s comedy shows. He regularly goes out for dinner with several of his more prestigious former students. He keeps us all apprised on each other and instills in us a sense of accomplishment not just in ourselves but with these former colleagues we suffered through high school with. He helps us maintain a sense of camaraderie through years without communication.

He’s a good man. A kind man. An inspiring man. He’s funny and smart and he sees potential in people. I wrote before that testing doesn’t equal teaching, and Chad is a perfect example of the educator who goes above and beyond to make sure his students are invested in learning, in being something more than themselves. When he sees the capabilities a person possesses, he pushes them to accept that role and pursue that path.

He convinced me to pursue that path and gave me the confidence and encouragement to keep the journey going. Those dreams and experiences have taken me to some of the best, most adventurous, most instructive, most fun, most challenging moments of my life.

Anyway, it was his birthday yesterday. It isn’t much, Mr. Sant, but here you go:

***

The toll of the bell indicated the day was over. Christian watched his students push themselves out of folding seats and pull their backpacks up from the aisles before filing out of the theater. A few kids raised their hands to high five and fist bump him as they passed. He did so pleasantly, a smile on his face, and wished them an awesome weekend.

After the last of his pupils passed through into the lobby, he pulled the faded red doors shut and locked them tight. He turned and strode down the stairs, carpet torn from decades of trampling feet and inattention. At the front of the theater, he lifted one leg and hoisted himself up on the stage. It had been spraypainted the kind of shiny silver-black obsidian was, but each year more and more slivers broke free, revealing the dark brown wood beneath.

Christian didn’t care. This was his dominion. The stage. In front of the crowd and under the spotlight. He glanced out at the seats, empty now by sight but always occupied by the spectres of captive audiences past.

He turned his back to the audience. It was a faux pas during performance, but he stayed behind for himself tonight, unconcerned with the judgement of memories. Instead, he faced the set piece his students had spent the past few weeks diligently constructing and painting. The prized portion was the massive forefront of a castle, twisted through by artificial trees on either side.

The show wasn’t due to start for another month during which he hoped the rehearsals would smooth themselves out a bit more. They often did due to the power of repetition and the growing confidence of his actors in their own abilities. Unimpressed by the standard recycled fare of shows most schools used, he had penned his own fantasy epic with a compelling romantic subplot. His colleague described it as The Princess Bride meets A Midsummer Night’s Dream and implored him to submit it for more professional venues. Christian resisted, insisting he had written it for his students. He wanted to give the kids an opportunity to be a part of something that had never been done before. Something that would be wholly theirs.

Well, mostly theirs.

While Christian had indeed written it himself, he had yet to reveal where the inspiration for the tale had sprung from. Indeed, he didn’t plan on ever confessing. There was too much risk to his reputation, his life, and those who trusted in him.

He lifted his hands and held them before him, palms pressed together and fingertips pointed towards the set piece. He closed his eyes and slowly pulled his hands away from each other. Almost immediately, he felt the fabric separating. A warm gust of air hit him full in the face, fresh with the scent of berries that carried no name. He could hear the gentle songs of four-winged birds as they zipped on by. The fertile soil of a well-worn path stretched out until it replaced the worn wooden floor beneath his feet. He didn’t need to open his eyes to know the passage to the other realm had opened smoothly.

“Mr. Sant?” a voice asked meekly.

The teacher whirled to his right, eyes wide in surprise. He saw Billy Tamlin standing there, a sheaf of papers barely held in his shaking hand. He was a quiet boy that kept to himself unless he was on stage. On stage, he broke out of his shell into a truly wonderful talent.

“I forgot my script…”

Christian swore to himself. He must have forgotten to lock the back door, the one leading out into the side hall, utilized for quick changes and getting any actors who escaped through the crowd back into the theater unseen.

Well. He hadn’t wanted to tell anyone where his inspiration had truly come from, but there was an expression about best laid plans.

Shadow Hurt

“I love you madly,” he said, but he knew not to whom
With the kind of passion that sucks the air from a room
The breath from the lung, the strength from the knee
The writ romance the lonely so quickly consume

He spoke this with eyes turned up to the sky
With his silence challenging the stars to say why
His arms embraced phantoms, his lips kissed but ghosts
Yet yesterday’s dreams still sought fit not to die

So he writes to infinity with no reply on its way
He sits and endures one hundred hours a day
He pictures lives full of bliss, imagines timelines of love
While picking the real life worst things to say

Love is his sunset, his horizonous hue
He pays word service and poetry for the art lover’s due
But his days close out empty, his sighs feed the air
Because the unloved know love more and long for it too

Oktoberfest, Or That Time I Crippled Myself

When I was eighteen years old, four months after I graduated high school, I blew all the money I had saved up to take my 23-year old friend Sean and myself on a three week trip around Europe. We blew way too much money and spent too little time in some places (as little as a day in Rome and Venice, as long as four or five days in places like Dublin and Barcelona), but the main reason we were going, our ultimate destination, was the Oktoberfest beer festival in Munich, Germany.

I have so many stories from my short time in Europe, but this post will be dedicated to our time there and the month or two that followed.

Sean and I arrived in Munich around six in the morning, shuffling off the train that had whisked us away from a flooded Venice. We wandered around the city until we found first our hostel (not the party hostel, but the one right next to the party hostel; it was too early to check in, so we stashed our packs in a pair of lockers) and then the fairgrounds. The festival didn’t open for the day until 8 or 10 or so, so Sean and I backtracked, grabbed our dirty clothes out of our packs, confusedly managed the washing machines at a local laundromat and then took a short nap.

We awoke refreshed, found our way back to Oktoberfest and were promptly astonished at its majesty. Beer “tents” that were more warehouses that could fit hundreds, each with their own signature brew, live music and the finest German cuisine. Frauleins with a half dozen monstrous steins full of ale in their arms, baskets full of fruits, breads and cheeses. Typical Americans that we are, Sean and I found the nearest unreserved table we could, ordered a mug of the house beer and chugged it down.

Holy shit. The beer was strong and delicious but it was also heavy, and the heat coming off of so many people in an enclosed building helped it rush directly to our head. We resolved to take the second one slower and with a meal.

We wandered around a bit afterwards, making new drinking buddies, trying out different tents and marveling at how completely unimpressed the local Germans were. Of course they were! This was an annual part of their culture. It was essentially a massive state fair for them, albeit with a bunch of obnoxiously drunk foreign tourists clogging up the thoroughways. There were games to play (ring toss, balloon/dart games), souvenier shops (we bought two steins. Sean immediately broke his on mine; mine has been lost to time and too many moves), and rides.

We went on a roller coaster. I don’t know why. We were both drunk and I’m terrified of heights. Just seemed like a thing we were supposed to do. When they snapped the safety harness in, however, they managed to pinch Sean’s scrotum. A whole roller coaster ride with a pinched scrotum. He wasn’t in the best of moods after that, and he probably won’t be again when I share this post and tag him in it, letting everyone know what happened to his ball sack.

Afterwards, and after my friend had a few long minutes to recover, we met up with Australian friends Jared and Joanna whom we had previously become acquainted with in Barcelona. By “we”, I mean Sean left to find them at the train station while I got lost around the fairgrounds. I don’t know how we ended up finding each other again, but we did and we continued to drink until Oktoberfest closed for the evening.

We made our way to Jared and Jo’s hostel (the aforementioned party one, next to ours) where things got a little…out of control.

I don’t remember the name of the girl who got up to dance on the table with me. I do know I was the first one on the table, she was the first one to get up and join me, she was from the East Coast of the U.S.A. and I thought she was beautiful.

Between six and ten other people took to the tables and we were forced to cease our shenanigans on threat of removal. Fair enough. One more drink, bartender, I clearly haven’t had enough.

We drank until that hostel shut their bar down. Sean, my American dance damsel and I made our way back to our hostel and proceeded to drink until their bar closed. I ordered extra beers to drink while I used the computer while Sean went to bed.

Time passed. I didn’t notice, lost as I was in a booze stupor and the glory of the Internet.

Around four or five in the morning, Sean returned from upstairs and took a seat next to me. My friend is usually a boisterous man, full of piss and vinegar and ready to take the day by the face and flush it in the toilet. Not this morning, though. This morning he was timid, silent for several long moments. Eventually, he blurted what sounded like a confession.

Sean was sleeping in one of the upper bunks of our eight bed room when a bunch of intoxicated Australian men burst into the room, laughing. They began wrestling each other. Clothes began being removed until the Ozzies were all naked and one hopped up on the bed to try and force feed Sean a cheeseburger. My friend, confused and half-awake, politely refused and excused himself down to the lobby where he planned on waiting for them to calm down.

I stared at him, half-comprehending the story. He said nothing more and eventually left again. I followed him not long after and, to my dismay, found that not only had he been telling the truth but one of these undressed fellows had commandeered my bed and was snoring happily.

I could have raised a fuss. I did pay for the bed, I was within my rights to demand the man to vacate. On the other hand, all of these bunks but Sean’s now had foreign ball sweat all over the sheets. Pass. Back to the lobby.

Somewhat exhausted, I befriended a British man, an Irishman and a couple women from a country I can’t fully recall. The Brit had stocked his backpack full of beers from the train station and was more than willing to share them at no cost. I got my second wind. We drank and conversed for a few hours more until Sean awoke and we decided to hit the festival for a few hours before catching our train out of Munich to Berlin.

Rinse, repeat. I was well toasted enough that Sean had to steer me with one hand on my shoulder back to the hostel to grab our things, from their to the train station, and onto the train. By this time, I estimate that I had been drinking beer and liquor for around 32 hours straight. This happened.

When I awoke, my left hand had fallen asleep. It didn’t go away after five minutes. It didn’t go away after twenty minutes. Six. Hours. Later. I had fucked up tying my shoe. I had struggled to button my pants. My entire hand was pins and needles and curled into a shadow of a claw with zero grip strength and very little control over my fingers and my ability to clench.

We arrived in Berlin and headed to the airport. While we waited for our flight back to Dublin (where we were to stay for a couple days more before heading home), I purchased a box of orange tic-tacs. I shook one out into my left palm and watched pitifully as it rolled off my hand and onto the floor because I was unable to tighten my grip and hold it. I recall the moment as being incredibly sad.

I updated my MySpace – this was 2006, give me a break – with a…what did they call them? Bulletins? I think it was bulletins. I posted a bulletin saying I was almost positive I had permanently paralyzed my hand and that, frankly…it might have been worth it because Oktoberfest was awesome. It was a brave face I put on, though, because I knew something was seriously wrong.

We ended up in Dublin and met with my friend Karen – a local – and her friend. We got dinner, and lunch the following day. I clumsily handled things with my gimpy hand. We went to a performance of a comedy tour where I accidentally implied I tried to fuck a moose once because certain phrases mean different things in different countries.

The highlight was our last night in Dublin. I spent it with Karen and we found ourselves at a university choir concert. A light show was playing in the background and we sat on the steps, she under one arm, while a beautiful rendition of She Moved Through the Fair drifted across the night like a silk ribbon. It’s one of my fondest memories, bunk hand and all.

Sean and I got home fairly uneventfully, considering the hijinks the rest of our trip entailed. I went to the doctor as soon as possible, having seen no progress in my hand in close to a week. After a grip strength test (which revealed I had none) and no answers because of it, he recommended me to a chiropractor, a physical therapist and an electrotherapist.

The chiropractor was a one-and-done. He popped back into place a vertebrate that had rotated 90 degrees. BUT THAT WASN’T WHY MY HAND WAS PARALYZED. Seriously, how the fuck did I twist my spine up?

The physical therapist fitted me with an arm brace and a hand brace that would help keep me from hyper-extending any tendons. I was also given one of those stress balls to try and work my grip strength back up. By the by, if you have zero strength and your exercise is to repeatedly try to squeeze something really hard, you’re going to get really fucking frustrated really fucking quick.

The electrotherapist is where we saw (and spent) money. They taped down a bunch of diodes to my body, along my torso, hand, arm, shoulder and spine and sent electric currents through them one at a time, trying to pinpoint the nerve blockage preventing me from using my hand. And she found it!  Due to thin blood and stressed nerves (likely due to over a full day’s worth of drinking) and some shitty position I must have fallen asleep in on the train, I had compressed the median nerve in my elbow.

Only the median, not the ulnar. The electrotherapist had never heard of a case where the median was compressed but not the ulnar and wanted to submit my case to a medical journal. I looked into it afterwards: it’s rare – the reverse happens more often – but not unique, so no, I’m no medical marvel.

Between electric shocks and physical therapy, I was eventually able to regain feeling and strength in my hand after a month and a half of paralysis. It’s not as strong as it used to be and sometimes it does funny things like shake or spasm, but holy shit, I’ll take that over that static, weak feeling.

I told this story at a party once a year or two later and this guy goes, “That! That right there! I want a drinking story like that!” Hahaha dude, no you don’t. That shit sucks. I mean, if it happens, it happens but please do not try to recreate a freak accident that involved a horrendously inappropriate and irresponsible amount of alcohol consumption.

A few quick, final notes:
1. Drink responsibly. Seriously.
2. GO TO OKTOBERFEST! The beer! The food! The music! The people! The beer!
3. As much as I would love to say I did, performing “the stranger” on myself while my hand was jacked up didn’t occur to me until well after I had recovered. Talk about a missed opportunity, although considering I couldn’t grip for shir anyway, maybe not.

Prost!