March 28, 2013

For Easter, A Sunday In The Peep With George

The WASHINGTON POST used to be known as a august newspaper of hard journalism and investigative reporting. But, like all newspapers in the Internet age, they've had to make some adjustments and lighten up to appeal to a wider (and younger) range of readers. Thus, for the last seven years, the POST has had a contest in which people are asked to submit diorama scenes created with Peeps, those delicious marshmallowy Easter treats. 

This year's contest debuted online today and I have a winner myself--A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of Le Grande Peep.  This one is a repeat finalist from previous years, a man by the name of Mark Rivetti who, so the caption says, has submitted his "master-peep". I know...they couldn't resist. And neither could I. Now I am seriously craving some Peeps. Bring it on, Easter!

March 21, 2013

Sarah Palin's Back...And So Is Tina Fey As Sarah Palin

Over the weekend, Sarah Palin made an address to the CPAC gathering of conservative Republicans in Washington. With a Supersize Big Gulp in her hand, she made sport of Bloomberg's "nanny state" rules about soda consumption while also taking some wild potshots at President Obama as well. It was a highly entertaining speech with a number of one-liners that made the media rounds, like her comment about her husband Todd that "he's got the rifle, I've got the rack." Yes, she actually said this.

Anyway, with Sarah back on the scene it seems only fair that Sarah's comic doppelganger, Tina Fey, should dust off her Sarah act for a few lively zings as well. And she did just that in an appearance on James Lipton's INSIDE THE ACTORS STUDIO this week. On same sex marriage: "The Bible says its gross." And on guns: "More guns on the streets mean less guns in the stores." In an improvised 4 minute interview with the former "governor", Fey shows herself not only to be a brilliant comedian but also a needed counterbalance to the real thing.

March 20, 2013

Phil Collins w/Hair And Other Then/Now Rock Stars

I'm not a Pinterest person. I still don't really understand what it is. But I did find this random board recently called "Rock Stars Then and Now" which is quite entertaining. That's where this lovely photo of a very young and fully-haired Phil Collins resides, circa 1971. He almost looks like a prettier John Lennon!  Who knew Phil so was so flowy back in the day.

It's interesting looking at how some rock stars have aged better than others. The ladies do pretty good, with Pat Benatar, Debbie Harry and Joan Jett all looking quite respectable...and quite like themselves. The men are a bit more train wrecky. Maybe it's just harder to be a male rockstar then a a female one ie. sex, drugs, et al. But Jon Bon Jovi is looking pretty damn good so it's not impossible.

March 18, 2013

A Cool New Video From OMD "Metroland"

There's a new video from O.M.D., one of my fave groups from the '80s with classic hits like "Secret" and "So In Love". My source for all-things-80s Kenneth In The 212 alerted me to this cut from their new album. This new one is called "Metroland" and has a cool Flash animated video to go with it which is a mini-history of suburbanization. But I love that their unique sound is back, with a hint of wistful maturity to it.

March 15, 2013

A New Short Story: HAPPY BEER DAY (part 2)

Today on the blog, the conclusion of my new short story, HAPPY BEER DAY. (For those late to the party, the first half was in yesterday's post). Read it below, leave a comment, forward to a friend. Also, I'm encouraging people donate something for the read--a buck or two would be great. It's easy...just click through to my PayPal to the right and give what you want. As I like to say, the Internet only looks free  :)  Thanks again for your support and checking out my new work. Have a lovely Ides of March (no back stabbing please!) and a wonderful St. Patrick's Day weekend too.

HAPPY BEER DAYa short story by Brian Sloan Part 2

Hooter’s has good food.  At least that’s what Vernie keeps insisting as we all get dressed down to go out for dinner at the infamous chain restaurant that we have all been able to avoid (except Vernie, that is) until now.

“The onion rings are amazing,” says Vernie, yelling from the bathroom as she preps her legs. 

“Yeah right,” says Ty, very skeptically as he slips into a third pair of colorful underwear, unsure which day-glo shade goes best with his russet tan.  “You just wanna go for some of that breast meat, right?”

“Ewww,” says Celia, who is squeamish when it comes to sex and body parts.  Even the one’s she’s attracted to.  “That’s just gross.”

It’s 7:45 p.m. as the four of us run around the room trying frantically to get ready before the shuttle bus leaves at 8. We are going to the Hooters in Matamoros, just across the Mexican border.  This is so everyone can get equally wasted in public since the drinking age there is 18. Previously, we’ve kept ourselves busy (and drunk) by hitting other room-parties in the hotel.  But tonight we’re going public. 

We are supposed to meet up downstairs with our straight posse, Paul and Martine and Gayle and Sureesh.  They missed my official birthday celebration due to a booze cruise commitment.  Still, I’ve asked everyone that tonight not be a sequel because I can’t take more than one 21st birthday. Yet, even before we leave the room, my wishes are not being heeded. 

“Birthday shots,” says Ty as he pulls out a bottle of Jack stashed in his suitcase. 

Vernie, having heard the battle cry, runs out of the bathroom with shaving cream on her left leg.  Celia is not nearly as eager as her girlfriend but gets up off the bed and joins in Ty’s celebratory mood anyway.  I, however, do not.

“Oh no,” I say, protesting from my reclining position on The Queen’s Bed.  “My birthday is over.  I’m an old man now.”

“C’mon gramps,” says Ty, pleading with me, boring his dangerous black-hole eyes into me.  Crap.  I am always a sucker for Ty’s eyes.

“OK—but just one,” I say and there is a general rejoicing in the room. 

We all down our shots utilizing the cap from Vernie’s shaving cream.  I point out that the top of her Nivea canister seems to hold somewhat more than one shot (probably 2 1/2) but no one cares.  As each of us down our “shot”, we all scream for no particular reason.  Wooooooo!  Actually, I don’t scream but no one notices.

In the shuttle, Ty grabs the front seat so he can ride shotgun and work the tunes.  He always has to exert some control over the music.  Ty turns the Beyonce way up, to the right, to the right, the noise of the song rattling the mini-van’s windows.  There is a moan of “too loud!” from the back and he modulates the dial. Under cover of the music, Celia leans over to me and speaks into my ear.

“So,” she says, discreetly.  “Did you call Ryan?”

“What?” I say, pretending not to hear or understand what she means by asking me if I have called Ryan to see if he’s okay.  More lame lying.  I’ve gotta work on that.

“Did you call Ryan and see how he is?” she says.  “If he’s okay.”

I shake my head “no” in response. 

“Don’t listen to Ty,” she continues.  “I think you should call him.”

“Thanks Celia,” I say, feeling the effects of the Jack, which means I’m feeling a little bitchy.  “And don’t forget that you can text your vote to IDOL582.  Though a 50 cent surcharge does apply.”

Celia slaps me playfully on the shoulder. 

“I’m sure he’s fine and I’m not gonna call,” I say flatly.  

“Alright,” she asks.  Then she gets mushy.  “Do you still miss him?”

Of course, this is not a yes or no question.  This is one of those questions where the answer displays itself in a news-crawl that scrolls across my newly wrinkled forehead and reads in big electronic capital letters--“DUH”.

“Then call,” she says with her best girlish sincerity. 

It’s a nice idea.  Problem is I’ve had this idea a few times before in the last 30 days.  Alright, truth is I’ve had this idea every single day since we broke up.  Often more than once a day.  Especially, in the evenings.  The urge to call Ryan always seems to hit me strongest after coming home from some illegal loft party in Bushwick, having had three too many beers and finding myself getting off at the wrong subway stop on purpose just so I can walk past Ryan’s on my long way home for no other reason than to see if the light is on and that he still exists. 

But this week, the whole point was that I was supposed to not think about Ryan.  Spring break was going to be a break from not only my second semester of junior year but all my random thoughts of Ryan. The idea was that it would be an uninterrupted seven-day period where I wouldn’t see anything that reminded me of him, or hear his name in overheard conversations, or be in a one-mile radius of his apartment building, or i-stalk him on Facebook or any of that crap.  I would be far far away and, literally, on an island.  And this break would be a relief, not having these thoughts of him obsess me anymore.   At least, that was the plan…

Vernie orders a large plate of onion rings.  They are surprisingly as delicious as she has promised but, then again, we are on our third pitcher of Corona and second round of Petron shots.  And we are having fun.  Even I’m having fun.  All is good as we talk about how gorgeous the weather is, how hot the guys from UT-Austin are and who Martine has hooked up with on the beach that afternoon.  Then the shooting comes up again. This time, it’s courtesy of Sureesh who got a call from one of his housemates.

“One of the cops that got killed was an NYU student,” says Sureesh. 

Everyone at the table is instantly confused and dumbfounded.  Sureesh explains how one of the guys was an auxiliary cop who volunteers and wears a uniform but doesn’t have a gun.

“Oh I get it,” says Ty.  “The dude was a fuckin’ narc.”

The girls are deeply upset by Ty’s remark.  But Ty won’t retract his statement or even amend it.

“The way I see it,” he continues, like an ass.  “If some guy wants to dress up like a cop for fun and get himself shot, serves him right.”

Sureesh then adds a chilling detail.  This NYU guy was pre-law and a junior as well.  His name was Eugene and he was 20.  And suddenly this all sounds sorta familiar.

“You know what?” I say. “I think that guy was in my Political Systems survey last semester.”

“Ohmygod,” says Celia.  “Really?”

“Yeah,” I say, recalling him because of his name. There’s not a lot of Eugene’s at NYU.

But before I can get into more details, there is a burst of tinny music on the Hooters loudspeakers.  It’s the all-too-familiar Happy Birthday song.  As if on cue, everyone starts screaming excitably.  Except me.  My stomach sinks as our table is surrounded by a squadron of perky, booby Mexican babes singing to me in awkward, phonetic English.

“Hoppy Burr-Day, toooo yewwww!!!”

A sizzling chocolate cake lands in front of me with sparklers instead of candles.  On the cake, purple icing spells out “Happy Beer Day” in handwriting that seems oddly familiar.  I glance over at Ty, equally annoyed and charmed as I realize this is all his doing.  He winks at me from the far end of the table and, for some reason, it makes me feel like crying.  I appreciate Ty’s goofy, heartfelt effort but I want Ryan there winking at me instead of him.  I’m sorry but that’s the truth.  

After the bad birthday singing has ended and the huge cake is cut and eaten, the topic turns away from murder and death to the usual Spring Break subjects, like tans and tits.  Quietly, I excuse myself from the table saying I have to pee.  But really I need to get away from all of this celebration and chit-chat.  I need to call Ryan.  Immediately.

In the “Cabelleros” room, I go into one of the stalls and sit down on the toilet with my pants on.  I feel weird and stupid, like I’m back in high school hiding out from bullies.  But I’m actually hiding out from my friends, embarrassed to be calling Ryan even with the alleviating circumstances of the shooting.  Celia, of course, would understand what I’m doing.  Vernie…no way.  Ty…forget about it.

I take out my cell and start dialing but nothing happens.  I think I’m wasted and have forgotten how to work my phone.  I try again.  Silence.  Then I actually look at the screen and see there are absolutely no bars.  I’m in Mexico.  Even though I’m barely 10 miles from the Texas border, it doesn’t negate the fact that Mexico is still another country. 

I flush the toilet for effect and go to the mirror.  Uh-oh.  I start the old-age stare-down and ask myself the question of the week—21 or 31?  The lighting is slightly better in Hooters than it was in our Best Western bathroom, dimmer and not as florescent.  The answer, though, remains the same.  31, easily.  I look so goddamn old it’s scary.  I wonder if maybe I’ve put on all this age in my lonely post-Ryan month.  And then I hear my true age in my head and even that sounds pretty old.  21. Twenty.  One.  Twenty full years plus one whole additional year of 365 long days, not to mention the somewhat tortuous 20 hours and 47 minutes of this particular day after my 21st birthday.  And thinking about all these numbers I realize something so obvious and profound and simply alarming; the clock is ticking.

“Darren broke the bed.” 

This is what  Ty says when Vernie and Celia enter the room to discover both of us on the floor next to the collapsed corner of The Queens Bed.  I would defend myself from this accusation but I can’t stop laughing.

“You guys are gonna have to pay for that shit,” says Vernie, smoking and gesticulating wildly.  “That is fucked up.”

“It’s all Darren’s fault,” says Ty.  “He tackled me.”

Of course, this is not true.  I could not tackle Ty any more than I could fly.  Ty is huge.  What happened was what usually happens when Ty gets drunk:  he starts wrestling with me whether I like it or not.  Actually, I have to say, this was the rare occasion where I almost sorta liked it.  It took my mind off Ryan and Eugene and how old I had become.  Wrestling with Ty made me feel almost young again.  It made me feel like I was 10.

“Get off the floor and get cleaned up,” says Vernie. “We’ll deal with the bed later.  There’s a kegger in 1203.”

On hearing of another opportunity to party, Ty jumps up from the floor and screams.  Woooooo!  He offers me his hand and I get up too.   But I do not scream because I really don’t want to go to a kegger.  Really.

“Have fun,” I say, kicking off my shoes and throwing my jean jacket on the dresser.

“You’re not coming?” says Celia, confused.  “But you’ve gotta come.”

“Yeah man,” says Ty, punching me in the arm.  “No wimping out on your birthday.”

I appreciate their offer but remind them both, for the 40th time that day, that it is no longer my birthday.  In fact, it hasn’t been my birthday for more than 20 hours.  But they don’t care.

“You’re coming,” says Vernie, yelling from the bathroom as she repositions her hair and gives herself a quick facial touch-up.

Ignoring this, I take my socks off to indicate my true unwillingness to leave the room.  I then plop down on the girls’ bed and look for the remote.

“I’m beat,” I say.  “And wasted.” 

I glance at Celia who stands by the dresser checking her hair in the mirror.  We glance at each other and I give her the third, unstated reason with my eyes.  Ryan.  She gets it and ducks her chin with a very subtle nod.  Then, stepping into the bathroom, she relays this quietly to Vernie so that a) Ty won’t hear and b) Vernie won’t press the issue anymore.  It works.  Ty is fortunately so pumped for the next party that he doesn’t really care that much if I coming along or not. And soon enough, they all head noisily out the door.

“Let’s do this!” says Ty and they are gone.  

Even though I’m back in America with bars on my phone and sitting on the bed all by myself, I’m not so sure I’m actually going to call Ryan.  My Hooter’s buzz has worn off slightly and I’m not feeling as emotionally motivated as I was when my cake arrived.  Besides, I realize that I have no idea what I might say if I did call him.  The last contact Ryan and I had was a very final email in which I said to him that I was “moving on”. I also used the unfortunate phrase “end of the road” to describe the situation between us.  I hesitated when I first wrote it and then deleted it and re-inserted it about 10 times before finally sending it with an ominous sinking feeling in my stomach.  So after all that, what can I possibly say to him now?  That it wasn’t the end of the road after all?  That there was some hidden alleyway I discovered recently?  Or that I merely had made a wrong turn and got lost on a side street?  

Suddenly, I’m angry. I am thinking about Ryan and (HELLO!) that’s not supposed to be the point of Spring Break.  So, not wanting to think about him anymore, I turn on the TV for distraction.  I watch MTV and then VH-1.  “I Love New York” is on and it is stupidly entertaining and even makes me laugh.  Love on TV always looks like so much goofy fun.  It makes me wonder why the reality is so wildly different.  Is it me?  Or maybe TV just lies about everything. 

Skipping through channels, I stop on CNN and there is a new report on the shooting at NYU.  More awful details emerge:  the gunman had 100 rounds of ammo on him.  Some stray bullets flew by a woman nearly two blocks away. The whole neighborhood was barricaded by police overnight.  Both cops were shot execution style.  Then, they show some pictures of the two auxiliary policemen.  The picture of Eugene is fuzzy but I recognize him instantly.  Front right corner of the classroom in Main, 2nd desk from the window, always dressed respectably in button-down shirts and pants that were not dirty or torn or overly labeled like most student apparel.  He was smart too, one of those students Professor Blackwell called “bright”.  He was 20.  And now, he’s nothing. 

Thinking about Eugene and how he didn’t even make it to 21 makes me start to cry.  A lot.  Two parallel streams cascade down my cheeks and my shoulders shake a bit.  I try not to breath too heavy or make crying sounds in case someone comes back to the room.  But it doesn’t work.  I am basically sobbing and it’s not good.  Jumping up from the bed, I race into the bathroom so that no one can hear me and I cry into the sink. I think that maybe I’m going nuts since I don’t know Eugene that well.  Actually, I don’t know him at all.  

When I’m done losing it, I splash some water on my face and go back to the room feeling utterly hopeless yet oddly refreshed. Must be a post-crying thing, I think.  On the TV, CNN has moved on to the latest “War on Terror” news and I mute the sound.  I pick up my cell and dial Ryan’s number from memory as he is no longer in my phone.  He answers after three rings. 

“Hi Darren,” he says plainly, like we talked yesterday. 

“Hi,” I say baffled. 

I thought we weren’t talking and now…we are.  This is weird.  This doesn’t make sense.  I try to pretend, though, that it does make sense.  I go conversational.

 “So,” I say.  “How’s it going?”

“I’m alive,” he says in his flat, sardonic tone.  And it hits me that he knows exactly why I’m calling.  The shooting.

“I guess you’ve gotten a lot of calls,” I say, realizing that’s the reason for his familiar tone.  He knew I was gonna call.  Like he was waiting for it almost.  Damn him.

“Oh yeah,” he says in an odd sing-songy voice. “Just my entire family and half of the student body of NYU.”

He laughs, barely.  His laugh is so slight, so different than Ty’s.  I had almost forgotten that and how much I loved it.  I want to say something funny to hear it again but nothing comes to mind.  In fact, nothing at all comes to mind.

“Hellooo,” he says.  “You there?”

“Yeah,” I say, trying to cover my nervousness. “Bad connection.”

It isn’t.  At least not technically.  I continue…

“But…uh, you’re okay?”

“Oh yeah,” he says.  “I was at the library during the whole thing, working in the Reference section on my Pysch project.  The worst was that when I got to Houston Street, there was a wall of police and cars. The cops wouldn’t let me go to my apartment so I had to sleep on Keith’s couch.”

Who is Keith, I wonder.  But I don’t ask, realizing that maybe it doesn’t matter that much since Keith didn’t let Ryan sleep in his bed.

“That sucks,” I say.

And then, silence.  I know what he’s doing though.  He’s nodding. This is what Ryan does when he’s not talking on his phone and just listening to the other end.  He nods and waits.  But I don’t know what to say to him.  Fortunately, he picks up my slack.

“So,” he says, fake cheerily.  “What’s up with you?”

I explain to him about Spring Break, which he thinks is pretty funny.  Spring Break is so not me.  Fortunately, though, this means I get his laugh again.  Wow.  Then I tell him about my birthdays, both of them, and about Ty’s cake, something that is also very not Ty.  He laughs about that too and my ear gets a little tingly.

“I was gonna call you yesterday,” he says.  “On your birthday and all.  But I didn’t know if you wanted to hear from me.”

“Yeah?” I say, trying to be jokey about it.  “What gave you that impression?”

Ryan doesn’t laugh at this.  I have hit on a serious topic and there is no way he’s gonna let me get away with a joke about something like this.  

“Well, uh…I thought we weren’t talking,” he says matter of fact-ly.

“We weren’t, “ I say, equally matter-of-fact-ly.

“And now,” he says, not finishing the thought.  Leaving that up to me.  Great.

“I guess…we are talking,” I say.  Obviously.

And then, I try to explain.  I tell him that I was so mad last month that I couldn’t talk to him.  I tell him that things have changed recently. I tell him that I’ve thought about him every day since February 14th.  I tell him that I’ve wanted to call him every single day for the last month.  I tell him that suddenly I’m old and tired and I really really really miss him a lot.  And when I’m done saying all this I hear something I’ve never heard before.  

“Are…are you crying?” I ask.

“Yeah, “ he says. 


I am astounded.  Dumbfounded.  This can’t be happening.  Ryan doesn’t cry.  That’s my thing.  Jesus. I don’t know what to say.  I don’t know what to do.  I have absolutely no idea where to go from here.   

“So,” he says, his voice marginally solid again.  “I guess this isn’t the end of the road then?”   

I ruin the emotional moment by laughing.  The reason it’s so funny is that it’s so Ryan to throw my words back at me like this.  He used to do this all the time, quoting me and even imitating my voice solely to annoy the living crap out of me.  But, in this context, I don’t have that much of a problem with it.

“I guess not,” I say.

“Well…maybe we should talk some more when you’re back,” he says in a voice that is calm but clearly emotional.  “Talking on the phone like this kinda sucks.”

“Actually, Spring Break is what really sucks,” I say. 

Ryan laughs at this in his usual, understated way.  Then, signing off, he tells me to tell Vernie and Celia he said “hi” and not to tell Ty anything because Ty will never let him or me live it down.  That’s for sure.

Then, just before he hangs up, Ryan wishes me a Happy Beer Day in his wry, Ryan-sorta way.  Even though it’s now actually March 16th, a full two days after the big event, I don’t point this out or correct him or anything.  I just say…


March 14, 2013

A New Short Story By Brian Sloan: HAPPY BEER DAY

Many who know my work as a writer/filmmaker also know that I started out writing short stories, some of which were published in magazines like CHRISTOPHER STREET and GENRE as well as anthologies like NOT THE ONLY ONE and MEN ON MEN 7. These days, there are fewer venues for short stories in print but the online world is picking up the slack. So today on the blog, an experiment...and, hopefully, a treat. :)  I am presenting a new short story I wrote called HAPPY BEER DAY.

HBD was originally written for a collection of short stories I was enlisted in a few years back about The Ides of March (aka March 15) which bounced around to a few imprints but was never published. So, as the Ides approaches, it seemed like the perfect time to put this out there. The story, which will be presented in two parts today and on Friday the 15th, is about a group of NYU students on spring break, one of whom is in a post-breakup funk as he celebrates his 21st birthday.  

I'm posting this story here instead of publishing it traditionally. Thus, I encourage you to "pay what you want" using the PayPal link here on your right. Also, if you like the story, please feel free to link to it on FB, Tweet it out, or just tell your friends IRL. Thanks so much for reading/supporting my work and I look forward to reading your comments/feedback.

a short story by 
Brian Sloan

I look in the mirror and I look old.   I actually have a wrinkle on my forehead.  Wait—I have two.  Crap.  Not to mention the gray hair.  Yeah, I know…21 years old and I have gray hair.  Absurd.  The truth is I’ve had gray hair for years now, since I was a junior in high school.  Most people don’t notice as it sorta blends into my dirty blond.  But I notice it.  I live with it.  Except today, the morning after my birthday, I look in the mirror and I really look old. 

It’s Spring Break.  I am standing in the bathroom of our hotel room in the South Padre Island Best Western and it is almost noon.  I just woke up and took a piss, a very long one.  There was a lot of beer last night in celebration of my big birthday.  And shots.  Oh man--lots of shots.  And now I am staring at my face to see if I really look 21 or maybe something closer to 31.  This is not good.  

I have been doing this a lot lately.  I look in the mirror and think I’m an old man.  Maybe I’m having an early mid-life crisis.  Why?  Well, this year has been a total suck-fest so maybe that has something to do with it.  

“Yo—you get stuck in there, man?”

Ty is at the door, knocking.  Ty is my roommate.  We used to be boyfriends and now he just annoys me.  Actually, he annoyed me when we were dating way back during freshman year but at least then I got something for my troubles; hot sex.  Ty is built like a god, deeply muscular and perfectly proportioned and smooth as marble.  Not that any of that matters at the moment of my breakdown.

“In a minute,” I say.

I scan the sink top, layered with all sorts of cosmetics.  It’s Celia and Vernie’s crap and, I’ve gotta say, it’s pretty alarming they have all this.  I thought lesbians were supposed to wear plaid shirts, not makeup.  But I’m almost grateful for their indulgence in womanly things when I feel this old.  I find some L’Oreal Daytime Facial RepairTM and slather it on my forehead, rubbing furiously to sand down my two wrinkles.  No luck.  More knocking.

“Darren—I got a deuce brewin’,” says Ty.  “Hurry it up, man!”

This is Ty’s cute slang for taking a dump.  A number two.  Get it?  He thinks he’s hilarious sometimes.  But at this moment, he doesn’t sound that funny.  He just sounds like he really has to go.  Still, I’ve got some work to do.

“In a sec.”

I spy some CoverGirl Instant CoverUpTM  and, dabbing my index finger in it, I trace over the two age lines on my forehead.  I’m hoping this stuff is magic maybe, like invisible ink.  I’m betting that it will just make my wrinkles disappear.  Wait a minute--magic? Invisible ink?  It’s at this point that I realize I’m still a little bit drunk.

I come out of the bathroom and Ty is nearly doubled-over standing by the door. Without even looking at me, he scurries in and shuts the door with hurried force.  BAM!  That’s enough to rouse the ladies, who stir to life underneath the covers of their queen bed.

“What the fuck?” says Vernie, squinting at me, mistakenly thinking I’m the one slamming the door. 

“That was Ty,” I say in protest.  “Not me.”

“Fuckin-goddamn-asshole,” says Vernie, who has a mouth on her.

Vernie rubs her temples methodically.  Her long black hair, streaked with violet at professionally random intervals, shoots out in multiple directions from her head.  Usually her hair looks great.  Usually she looks great.  Neither is the case on the morning after my boozy 21st birthday party.

“So—how you feeling?” I ask chirpily as I plop down on the other queen bed that Ty and I share (which we’ve taken to calling “The Queens Bed”).

“I hope you never turn 21 again,” says Vernie.  “That shit was too fucking much.”

“Seriously,” I say.  “I think I’m still drunk.”

“Lucky you,” she says, cradling her forehead. 

I click the remote, making sure the TV is on mute, and flip through the channels.  Staring at the TV, I start to remember pieces of the night.  They come to me like scenes from a party montage in a bad teen movie.  The chugging.  The dancing.  The trashed hotel room.  The making out with a girl? 

“I think I made out with a girl.”

“No fucking way,” says Vernie, slowly directing her attention towards me.  “That’s hot.”

I get more detail in my montage.  Said “girl” has long, dyed-blond hair, decent-sized breasts, glittery peach lipstick.  Cara.  No…Karen.  Then, her saying something about me being the best dancer as we bounced to that Killers song.  She told me how most guys suck at dancing. I’m guessing she didn’t know many gays.  I think she was also Southern.  And then, during “Sexy-Back”, she leaned in and said I was cute and I told her it was my birthday and she said she had something for me and….

“She started it,” I say, trying to defend my gay cred.

“Uh-huh,” says Vernie, hardly believing my defense. 

Suddenly, a rippingly loud fart explodes in the bathroom. 

“Holy shit,” I say.  “That is revolting.”

“Ty,” says Vernie sternly.  “You better light a fucking incense bomb in there before you come out.”

And then, the sound of laughter.  It is Ty’s annoying, machine-gun laugh.  Huh-huh-huh-huh-huh-huh-huh-huh.  This makes me start to laugh too.  Despite the condition of her head, Vernie starts laughing as well, so hard that her mascara which is still on from the night before starts to run.  Finally, all this hilarity wakes up Celia.

“What’s goin’ on?” she says, drowsily rubbing at her eyes.

Vernie can’t answer as she is too busy laughing.  She points to me to be her designated speaker.  Not that I’m much better when it comes to not laughing at this moment but I give it a shot.

“Ty is….is stinking…up the…bathroom.”

“And this is funny?” says Celia as she turns over.  Too tired to have a sense of humor, she goes back to sleep.

Still laughing, I look over at the TV.  It’s now on CNN.  Someone being interviewed is captioned as “NYU Student”.  This makes me pay attention.  Then a headline flashes across the bottom—“Police Shootout In New York City”.

“Why the fuck are you watching CNN?” says Vernie, reaching for the remote.  “It’s spring break!”

I try to block her but she grabs it and clicks away to MTV. She is, after all, bigger than me.  Turning the mute off, the wails of Fall Out Boy fill the room.  And I forget about CNN and the headline.  At least for a while…

It’s been five days and I still don’t have a tan.  This is not because of the Gulf Coast weather, which has been as advertised.  That is, gorgeous.  It’s because I am whiter than Napoleon Dynamite.

“Do you have any more 30?” I ask Celia.

She is equally pale and Irish. She rustles through Vernie’s faux-Dolce & Gabbanna tote filled with organic cosmetics, low-fat snack foods and chick magazines. 

“I thought you had your own,” she says.

“I did, past tense.  It’s all gone.”

Reluctantly, she tosses a big blue tube of Coppertone across the towel and it lands with a smack on my stomach.  Ouch. 

“You know, it wasn’t my idea to do this,” I say in protest of our sunny, cancerous locale.  “I wanted to go skiing and was voted down.”

Ty groans, sounding like a husband to my wife.  Which I’m so not.  Well, not anymore.

“Yeah—we know,” he says wearily, sitting up and scanning the coastline for hot straight guys.  “You also like to forget that you’re the only one of us who knows how to ski.”

“You know what,” says Celia, talking to Ty like I’m not there.  “I think he’s getting cranky in his old age.”

I am now, officially, the sage of our group.  Everyone else is solidly 20 and won’t be crossing over until our senior year.  I’ve got a jump on the adult action due to my parents having me skip a grade because of my abilities as a master of penmanship at age 7.

“Not cranky…just hungover,” I say, trying to get everyone off the topic of my birthday.  There was so much buildup to it that I’m relieved it’s finally the day after March 14th.  Yet still, much to my annoyance, the birthday topic persists. 

“I hear that hangovers are rougher when you get older,” says Ty, keeping my demons alive.  After all, that what ex’s are for.  “The bounce-back is longer.”

He is laughing that rat-a-tat-tat laugh of his. I turn to him and grin, trying to be above it all.  

“Sure—laugh it up now,” I say, feeling superior if only for a moment.  “Just see how you feel when I won’t buy you a drink back in the city when your fake ID fails.”

“Harsh,” says Celia, putting on her sunglasses and picking up a rolled copy of STAR magazine with Britney on the cover. “Hey—did Ryan call you for your birthday?”

 “I don’t know,” I say, lying.  “Haven’t checked my phone yet.”

There is silence for a moment.  The lonely sound of the Gulf lapping against the flat, pebbly beach fills the conversational  gap.  That and the sound of Ty breathing.  Thinking and breathing. 

“That’s such a lie, Darren,” he says, propping himself on his elbows to accuse me directly of my misdemeanor.  “I texted you when I went to 7-11 to get coffee. And you replied.”

The thing I hate the most about Ty is how he always feels the need to point out my lame lies. I know that means that I probably shouldn’t lie about lame things in the first place.  But I do.  I have this habit of petty dishonesty when it comes to things that don’t matter.  Like whether or not I checked my phone to see if Ryan called me on my birthday.  Which, of course, he didn’t.

Celia, not even looking up from her engrossing tales of Britney, shakes her head and sighs.

“So I guess that’s a ‘no’ then,” she says re; Ryan.  “That’s too bad.”

I shrug and put on my sunglasses. 

Actually, it wasn’t that bad.  I didn’t expect Ryan to call me.  In fact, no person in their right mind could have reasonably expected that Ryan would call me on birthday. The reason is that Ryan and I haven’t talked since February 14th.  That was the day that I gave up on Ryan.  No—it wasn’t one of those tragic Valentine’s Day horror story breakups.  It all happened the night before VD when we got into this colossal fight that started with Ryan cruising a random guy on the L train and ended with me telling Ryan that I loved him (which he already sorta knew and pretended he didn’t) but that I just couldn’t deal with his non-committal crap anymore. In the month since, Ryan hasn’t called or emailed or even texted me which, I’m guessing, means he gave up on me too.  And that’s probably for the best since, after only being together for barely 5 months, we both clearly hated each other enough to not care anymore.  Even if one of us was turning 21.

“Hey—did you all hear about this shooting at NYU?” says Vernie, returning to our towel with a large Iced Mocchachino and a pack of Parliaments.

“I think there was something on CNN,” I say. “But you changed the channel.”

So Vernie tells us how she ran into Paul and Martine from Third Avenue North at the local Starbucks.  They’d gotten a call from a friend in who stayed in New York over break who’d relayed the details.  Apparently, there was a Wild West-style shootout on Sullivan Street, just a block south of the Square.  60 shots fired.  Four people dead.  Two of them cops. In the end, the killer was gunned down next to 1849, a popular senior hangout known for its Dollar Beer Happy Hour.

“That’s insane,” says Ty. 

“There’s never shootings in the Village,” I add.

“I know,” says Vernie.  “It’s totally fucked up.”

“Doesn’t Ryan live on Sullivan?” asks Celia.

“Not really,” I say, trying to be blasé about it.  “He’s on Houston. Between Sullivan and McDougal.”

“That’s where the pizza place was,” says Vernie, getting a bit spastic. “DeMarcos!  That’s where it all started.”

I know DeMarcos.  I’d been there with Ryan a number of times for a late night slice.  We’d even had one of our big fights in there when he claimed I never had any money and always made him buy my slice.  It was true that I never had money.  However, I couldn’t “make” Ryan do anything.  If that were true, we would still be together.

“Some guy walked in and shot the bartender,” she says, exhaling a plume of smoke for emphasis. “15 times in the back.”

“Fuck,” says Ty.

“Ohmygod,” says Celia.

“That’s insane, “I say, thinking about Ryan living in the midst of this madness.  “Maybe I should call him.”

“Uh-oh,” says Ty shaking his head.  “Here we go…”

Ty doesn’t like Ryan for one reason and one reason only; because I love him.  Ryan, of course.  Not Ty.  I certainly felt a lot of things about Ty.  (Did I mention the hot sex?)  But never exactly that.  And Ty will never let me forget it.

“I think you should,” says Celia.  “Just to see if he’s okay.”

“That’s Ryan’s block,” adds Vernie.

“But if he got shot, don’t you think we woulda heard about it?” says Ty, a little too callously.

“Ty you are too fucking much,” says Vernie, taking a deep drag.  “People are dead.  On his street.  Jesus.”

There is a solemn moment.  Even Ty is silenced by the simple fact that four strangers died violent deaths in our neighborhood.  The sound of the Gulf waters sloshing against the shore make it hard to imagine the bloody reality of lifeless bodies on the street.  Ryan’s street.

“Maybe I’ll try him later,” I say. 

I say this but, honestly, I don’t really mean it.  As much as I’m concerned, calling Ryan would be problematic.  Extremely.  But I say this anyway, figuring it will end the conversation.  It does. 

Celia nods and returns to her magazine.  Vernie gets comfortable on the towel, smoking horizontally.  Ty, plugs his ears up with his iPod and settles back into another of his tanning naps.  I absentmindedly rub on more sunscreen and think about Ryan and wonder, and maybe even worry a little, if he actually is okay.   


March 12, 2013

Someone Made A Music Video Of My Film WTC VIEW

If you happen to make a movie, these days it can often end up on YouTube with "tribute" videos where people clip their favorite scenes together with a song they like. It helps if you have cute boys in your films too as people have done some videos of my films POOL DAYS and I THINK I DO (now removed by the distributor) featuring cute guys smiling or shirtless. I never thought my post-9/11 drama WTC VIEW would get this sort of treatment. But I was wrong.

Trusty Google Alerts led me to this video with a song about a window as the soundtrack. The song, by a group called Double O Zero, is catchy and appropriate given that the window of Eric's apartment is a central focal point of the film (due to its former view of the World Trade Center).  It's nicely edited by a "Alex O'Dogherty" who has done a bunch of these and features all of my film's smiling and shirtlessness, of course. I often tell people that WTC VIEW is not the film about 9/11 they may expect and this video definitely proves that point!

It almost reminds me of those music videos popular in the 80's where a band would play a song from a big Hollywood movie on a soundstage that would be intercut with scenes from the movie (see ST. ELMO'S FIRE). Except here, there is no band which is too bad. I'm curious to know more about this group and the somewhat mysterious person who put this all together.

March 8, 2013

New STAR WARS Dream Team Cast Confirmed By Lucas

The culture Vulture at New York Magazine reports today that the storied "dream team" return of Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) are officially set to return in the new Disney STAR WARS sequel scheduled to shoot this year.        

There had been many conflicting rumors of deals and negotiations for months along with hints by the actors themselves. But it wasn't until series creator George Lucas let slip in an interview that they were lined up for the new film that it was somewhat officially confirmed. It makes sense in a way that this had been a done deal a while ago, otherwise why would Disney risk rebooting the series without it's key players on board?  That would have been messy and simply bad movie business to boot.

Anyway, I'm excited to see that they will all be back. I only wonder what has happened to their fictional selves in the intervening 30 plus years since Episode VII. Will there be allusions to Fisher's real life dramas with addiction? Will there be in-jokes about Ford becoming a blockbuster star in his own right?  I do hope that there will be some humor this time out, something that was sorely lacking in the prequels which seemed so disconnected from the fun-loving nature of the first STAR WARS that I loved as a kid esepcially for that reason.  That and all the cool gadgets and spaceships.

March 7, 2013

Intl. Herald Tribune Gets Name Change, Lives On In BREATHLESS

When I was at the Berlinale Film Festival for the first time in 1998, one of the first things I did in Berlin was buy a copy of the International Herald Tribune. The paper, an European version of the NY Times in English (run by the Times with the assistance of the Washington Post since 1967), is iconic in many ways but especially to me as a filmmaker from it's memorable role in the French New Wave film BREATHLESS. Jean Seberg's character sells the paper in the streets of Paris and her uniquely wan barker's call is burned into my movie memory -- as is that film in general.

There's a piece in today's TIMES about the coming name change for that paper to the International New York Times (happening this fall) which, of course, doesn't quite have the same ring to it.  The article which is in the City Room blog, is fascinating for its mini-history of the NY Herald (for which Herald Sq is named after) and the Tribune (which spawned a sunday supplement which became New York magazine--who knew?).

I love reading about the old papers and how there used to be some many of them until television killed the daily print beast. Now the Internet is trying it's best to knock off what remains. But it's great to read about the way things were and all the different flavors these different papers brought to the coverage of old New York.

March 6, 2013

The Original BUCK ROGERS Theme Song Had Lyrics

One of my favorites TV shows from way back is BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25th CENTURY. Starring the 70s-sexy Gil Gerard, it was a reboot of a character that had been around in comic books and serials since the 1920s. It ended up on TV as part of the post-STAR WARS push for scifi shows on the major broadcast networks. BUCK was late to the party arriving in the fall of 1979 and lasted only two seasons.

I always amaze people when I tell them the TV series theme song actually had lyrice (sorta the way I LOVE LUCY had lyrics). BUCK's pilot was originally released as a theatrical film in March of 1979 (which I saw when it came out!) and they had an elaborate Bond-esque sequence of Gerard floating around in space with co-star Erin Gray and other buxom space babes. It's a totally cheesy 70s rock pop love song about being frozen in suspended animation while traveling in a 500 year long orbit!

March 1, 2013

SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK!'s "Interjections" Meets STAR WARS

This is my second two-of-my-favorite-things post this week, but I couldn't resist. Someone has done a mashup of STAR WARS clips to the "Interjection" episode of SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK. It's pretty damn funny and a good thing to watch if you're at work on Friday. I found this feature over at Towleroad today and had to share as it just made me smile. Happy Weekend!