Monday, December 31, 2012

The Best Year of My Life - An Epic Adventure in 12 Parts: December

For the final 12 days of the year, I thought I'd look back at my 2012 and determine why it was the best year of my life. Every month brought new adventures, achievements, bits of awesome that worked to make my world a happier, more fulfilling, more exciting place. Come along with me, won't you?


As I finish up this series of entries about the best year of my life, I sit under the spell of liquid Percocet, trying my best to get over a viral infection I picked up somewhere. This year, everyone has the flu, or a cold, or something severe. I spent much of yesterday in the waiting room of the Walk-In Clinic at Mass General, waiting patiently to be examined, waiting desperately for someone to give me something to take care of the rattle in my chest and the excruciating pain in my throat. Because of my sickness, I had to cancel my trip to Washington DC to see the Drive-By Truckers (twice!) and I had to cancel my New Year’s Eve plans: visiting bears and theater friends at big parties. Am I disappointed? Of course I am. I would have loved to have seen those concerts, and I bit the cost of the tickets, and one of my best memories of this past year was kissing Shawn in a huge crowd of friends, cheering as we welcomed the new year in. And I would absolutely rather not be sick, because I don’t cotton to it well. But in a way, I’ve made my peace with it, because it’s allowing me to do the one thing I didn’t do much of in 2012: relax.

I started off December in Walt Disney World. One of the more hilarious aspects of my year is that, starting in August, I was going to be at a Disney park at least once a month for the rest of the year. That won’t be happening in 2013, for reasons I’ll be getting into soon.

My new sketch troupe, Duct Tape Revolution, finally took the stage on December 20th. We got a huge crowd. Shawn and Ian came. Not only did I get to be super proud of my actors and writers, but I also got to be an actor – my longest time on stage yet. I didn’t speak much (I was in a dentist’s chair most of the time), and it wasn’t anything shocking like showing up onstage wearing a Sasquatch outfit … but it was the best acting I’d done yet. Acting, at least in small doses, is something I can apparently do. How about that?

Though I’d hoped that Drive-By Truckers would complete My Year of Concerts (the tally: Bruce Springsteen with Neil, Blue October with Marty, Patterson Hood with Joe, Drive-By Truckers with Joe, Drive-By Truckers alone, Bruce Springsteen alone, Bruce Springsteen with Ian), getting to see The Gaslight Anthem at the House of Blues with Neil was the best possible substitute. They were fun, they were thrilling, and man oh man were they loud. Neil and I both got T-shirts. My Year of Concerts could well be My Year of Concert T-shirts. I got maybe a zillion Bob Seger shirts this year, a few DBTs, one Springsteen shirt from Neil and one from Jeff for Springsteen’s Fenway shows – an early Christmas gift. An awesome Christmas gift.

Speaking of awesome Christmas stuff: Shawn and I rented a car the second Saturday of the month and, after months of planning and saving, came home with our first HD flatscreen television (and our first live Christmas tree in two years). We also spent our pre-Christmas evening with my Dad and his girlfriend Donna, a Christmas tradition three years running. Dad got me The Last Picture Show on DVD. I got him and Donna Kindle gift cards. Dad got me tickets to the Drive-By Truckers three-show run in mid-January in Athens, Georgia. So, (1) my Dad is the best ever, and (2) there’s a reason I’m not too-too sad about missing the Truckers this weekend.

On Christmas Eve, Shawn and I made our way over to Tracey and Liz’s house for our annual gift swap and meatball eating. I think we’ve been doing this for literally a decade now. I went a little nuts when I realized Tracey wanted Disney movies and stuff involving cheese. (I saw they wanted cheese knives, so I went rogue and got them a cheese serving dish and also some Gruyere. I’m … getting into cheese). Tracey got me Adventures in Babysitting on Blu-Ray, because of course. Late in the evening, Marty arrived bearing cheese of his own. I brought out the Yule Log I made from scratch (from scratch!) and we all dug in.

Christmas morning, halleluiah! From Marty: the DBT documentary The Secret to a Happy Ending and Quarry’s Ex by Max Allen Collins. From Joe: the new Fables hardcover and the Disney movie The Apple Dumpling Gang. From Paul: the Batman: the Black Mirror hardcover. And from Shawn: The Art of Betty & Veronica, which I desperately, desperately wanted. I have simple wants. They’re plentiful, but they’re simple.

When Shawn’s friends arrived, we ate our huge Christmas brunch and I lulled them with the Disney Christmas Parade on TV. My buddy Neil showed up to partake and gifted me with a new sandalwood shaving soap in its own wooden bowl. Then all of us sans Neil went out to see The Hobbit, which I thoroughly enjoyed. After, we all (including Neil) headed out to Kowloon in Saugus to have deliciously trashy Asian cuisine. I had the masaman curry, because some traditions are meant to be kept.

I wrote one article for FEARnet, and one poem, “Lost Boy.” Me and my actors rehearsed for the final World of Hurt show in January. I began to structure next year’s Sketchhaus schedule. I continued (but did not quite finish) the Irving Cycle, in which I inexplicably read or re-read John Irving novels at a pace befitting a normal year with me and Stephen King. As it stands, in 2012 I read: In One Person, The World According To Garp, The Fourth Hand, A Prayer for Owen Meany, The Hotel New Hampshire, The Cider House Rules, and I am about fifty pages from the end of A Son of the Circus.

I also picked up The Color of Light, by William Goldman, a book I first (and last) read fourteen years ago. When I set that book down after first reading it, I went to my computer and immediately began composing my first novel, Spare Parts. Stephen King and my many wonderful English teachers convinced me I could be a writer. The Color of Light convinced me I could be a novelist. I was terrified to start it again, thinking it couldn’t possibly be as wonderful as the book that changed the course of my life. To my delight, it was. (To my further delight, my friend Jeff had actually read the book. People just keep surprising you).

I started this year off a bartender, a box office clerk, a guy who could only get his books on Stephen King published, and someone who hadn’t finished writing a novel in over two years. I’m ending it as a director, producer, monologist, and actor, whose shows did pretty damn well – well enough to give me complete creative control of the night. As a guy who has a short story published in a book featuring Stephen King. As a writer whose short story collection and poetry collection are published by an actual publisher, and whose novel is coming out this winter. As someone who got mentioned in Cemetery Dance magazine. As a guy who finally made it into The Stephen King Desk Calendar. As someone who made at least one amazing new friend. As someone who got reborn in the crucible of rock and roll, over and over. As someone who stepped onto Buena Vista Street and wept, knowing that it was just as beautiful as it had been in my dreams.

All of my dreams came true this year. Fucking all of them, even the ones I didn’t know I had. And when I come home at night, I still come home to the man I have spent nearly fourteen years with, and we laugh at our favorite shows, and cook meals together, and go out to movies, and support each other, because I love him and he loves me and I could not have had my best year ever without Shawn being the best part of it.

So, here it is, for 2013:

1. Get into cheese.

2. Get some abs.

3. See comedy in other cities.

4. Write more sketch.

5. Finish this novel, edit an earlier one, and start a brand-new one.

6. Get a new laptop.

7. Take your friends to Disney World.

8. Write for Archie comics.

Are you ready? I am. Let’s make next year even better.

The Best Year of My Life - An Epic Adventure in 12 Parts: November

For the final 12 days of the year, I thought I'd look back at my 2012 and determine why it was the best year of my life. Every month brought new adventures, achievements, bits of awesome that worked to make my world a happier, more fulfilling, more exciting place. Come along with me, won't you?


The culmination of everything I’d been doing at ImprovBoston all year finally came to fruition. From that very first time I stepped onstage way back in January, to my first shot at directing with Sketch Avengers in June, to my monologue in August … here was my big shot, my big deal, my big idea. World of Hurt, the show I’d poured my heart, soul, and life into for months, was on stage. And selling out.

Vaudeville Night put my actors in the opening slot, giving the big 45 minute slot to the first Vaudeville show I’d ever seen, Groaners & Boners Schtick It to Vaudeville. Variety Show night put us in Laugh-In territory, with random dance breaks and box jokes and drinking on stage. I got to play the Sasquatch, running on stage shirtless wearing a furry hat and mask and gloves and terrorizing the denizens of a North Dakota strip club while the Scooby-Doo theme played. And my Lincoln sketch played out to laughs galore. Shawn was in the audience and he laughed, too. I almost wept.

The theater was closed for Thanksgiving, so our third show – Saturday Night Live week – was pushed to the last week in November. Which kind of sucked, as I’d already made plans to go to Disney World for the annual Reunion event. I gave my actors instructions to record the whole thing; I hoped against hope that every night of my vision would be a sellout show.

I realized at the start of the month that I was addicted to directing sketch comedy, and I wondered if I could do it with a whole new (well, mostly new) group of people. I cast my nets out – to established sketch writers and actors, to students, to sketch veterans – and within weeks, I got enthusiastic responses. Soon enough, I’d formed Duct Tape Revolution, a brand-new sketch troupe at ImprovBoston. We’d have our first show – an opening act slot – in December. Once again, it didn’t hurt that I was the producer … but when you juggle these roles, you have to be careful not to give yourself too much rope. Go through the same steps that every troupe goes through. And then do your best. Always, always do my best.

Shawn and I traveled up to upstate New York to visit my family for Early Thanksgiving, then headed down to the City for a night of minor debauchery. Marty and his friend Brian and Duncan and I of course took in Rocky Horror in Chelsea – the first time we’d been that the place felt like a sellout crowd. The hot tubby emcee was back, sans bunny ears. We hung out with my friend Mark and watched Happy Endings and Archer and had the most relaxing day and a half. Ever since I learned how to enjoy New York, I have thoroughly enjoyed New York.

I wrote one article for FEARnet, on the Jack Ketchum/Lucky McKee novella, I'm Not Sam. Someone on Facebook shared the review with Jack Ketchum, who reportedly said, "Wow. What a good review. He really got it! Thanks!" Bliss.

My trip to Disney World almost didn’t happen. Money issues and other factors kept my traveling companions from joining me. Happily, my New York friend Jeff had

an extra place in his hotel and invited me to join him. We arrived separately … and then rarely spent a second apart. One of the best things about Disney is the stuff it does to friendships. It made Joe and me closer; ditto Paul and me. It sparked my friendships with Kristen and Doug and Kim and the rest of the Crew. And with Jeff: we’d met at Reunion the year before and hung out intermittently throughout this year, but we’d spent very little time alone together. This time, while we both had brilliants of friends to hang with and catch up with, we spent a lot of the time at Walt Disney World becoming each others’ friend. There was so much new stuff to experience – New Fantasyland, the updated Test Track, the wondrousness of LeFou’s Brew and the Pork Shank – and we experienced it together … not to mention the classic, understated thrill of Tom Sawyer’s Island. Over the course of five days, Jeff and I became the sort of friends I keep thinking I’m done making, and never am.

While I was there, I got word from home: a blackout on the last Thursday of the month meant that Saturday Night Live week of World of Hurt would be canceled. Using only the power of my phone, I simply rescheduled the night to January 10th. Now, not only would we get more than two weeks’ worth of rehearsal, I was actually going to see the show I was directing. Small miracles.

Late in the month, Cemetery Dance sent me comp copies of my new chapterbooks: Stephen King Limited, books 1 and 2. No matter how many times I see my books in print, it never, ever gets old. After the print versions were exhausted, the ebooks would come out and I’d start making royalties.

Cemetery Dance also wrote back to me regarding my short story, “I Am Become Poe.” They were accepting it for inclusion in Shivers VII … a collection that also included Ed Gorman, Clive Barker … and Stephen King. For the first time ever, I would be published alongside Stephen King, and not because I’d written something about him. It was because something that came out of me, something I’d invented, was deemed good enough to be in a collection with him.

On my way. On my way.

My temp boss came up to me near the end of the month and informed me that, due to the strictures of my temp agency, I wouldn't be able to temp there any longer starting in December. She then said to update my resume and that she'd submit it to the higher ups and see what she could do about getting me hired. I did, hoping against hope and remembering the lean, horrible days of last December. The next day, she came into my cubicle and told I'd been hired. For the first time since 2009, I had a full-time job.

I had a job.

The Best Year of My Life - An Epic Adventure in 12 Parts: October

For the final 12 days of the year, I thought I'd look back at my 2012 and determine why it was the best year of my life. Every month brought new adventures, achievements, bits of awesome that worked to make my world a happier, more fulfilling, more exciting place. Come along with me, won't you?


I looked up from my computer with a sense of disbelief. Out of nowhere, with no training and no help, I’d written my first sketch. It was called “Seward’s Folly,” and it was about Lincoln and his advisor, William Seward, who went on to buy Alaska. My sketch started off as a critique of social media and ended up with Lincoln being precognitive, for some reason. Most of the people I sent it to liked it. Some didn’t. But being the guy who’s producing and directing the show gets you some perks; the sketch was going in. However, being that guy also alerts you to the dangers of that, so when it was read out loud for the first time with my actors (my actors, OMG), I listened to their critiques and modified the sketch to focus on the funniest parts. Until you’re there, you don’t know how immensely satisfying it is to write something and watch other people give their all into learning it and performing it. It’s an immediate sort of writing you don’t get from writing novels.

Rehearsals for my three World of Hurt shows launched into high gear. Juggling three completely different shows to be performed in a single month is absolutely not easy, and is probably one of those things only new directors attempt, because we’re full of ambition and vim and vigor and all that. But man, my writers and actors were absolutely bringing their all. Even more thrilling than having my own sketch performed was seeing my idea brought to fruition. I had an idea, brought it to these people, and they ran with it.

I wrote one article for FEARnet – my first non-Stephen King audio review – and one poem, “66 Days.” Work continued on My Agent of Chaos, a work I was gradually realizing could be subtitled Kev Is Working Through Some Shit. Just when you think you’ve examined every aspect of yourself, you launch into a novel about your first time. Or at least I do. And not that I knew it was going to be a novel at this point. I’m going to say at least half the novels I’ve completed have started off as either short stories or novellas. And despite how painful some of the stuff in Chaos was to dredge up, I was so happy to watch it grow.

Midway through the month, Cemetery Dance sent me comp copies of two books: The Stephen King Illustrated Trivia Book and The Stephen King Illustrated Movie Trivia Book. I’d written the afterword for the former – “Trivial Matters” – and a giant chunk of the latter (co-written with Brian, my editor, and Hans-Ake Lilja, a buddy of mine and the fellow who runs the only Stephen King site on the internet more popular than mine). The books would be published in three editions – limited, regular hardcover, and trade paperback. For the first time ever, my work would be published in hardcover. On my way.

I’d also learned that the new Shivers anthology would be released this winter, and that there’d be a “lost” Stephen King story, “Weeds,” included. I wrote to Brian and asked if I had any chance of getting fiction in the collection. He instructed me to give it a shot. I emailed him my short story, “I Am Become Poe,” and waited.

At the end of the month, me and Shawn and Joe and Marty headed down to Walt Disney

World for Epcot’s 30th anniversary, and for the Food & Wine Festival, which Shawn had never been to. It was a trip fraught with peril – all of us lost something, making for some tension – but the memories I’ll take away are Shawn experiencing Food & Wine for the first time, surprising Marty with a birthday trip to Typhoon Lagoon, Joe and I dancing in a hippie circle with strangers to classic Epcot music, and the four of us experiencing Horizons: Resurrected, a fan-made virtual-reality exhibit that allowed you to “ride” Horizons, an attraction I never experienced because it was demolished before I ever went. On our first trip to WDW together, Joe played me the Horizons ride-through video and I fell in love with it. Years later, Joe and I got matching Horizons tattoos. Doing this event together was, for me, a culmination of the me-and-Joeness of going to Walt Disney World. Brothers from different mothers, he and I.

There’s a show at ImprovBoston called The Kerfuffle, which showcases the most bizarre and experimental comedy at IB. I try to never miss it. The morning of the October show (theme: “Running with the Devil”), one of the acts wrote to me and asked if I could be in her sketch. “Are you willing to appear in your underwear?” she asked. “We were supposed to have a naked guy, but he bailed.” I wrote back, “I’ll do naked if you want.” Because apparently that’s how I do. And that night, during a sketch where the director appeared in a bunny mask, I knelt before her, naked, wearing devil horns, and had fake blood drizzled all over my face. Because: comedy!

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Best Year of My Life - An Epic Adventure in 12 Parts: September

For the final 12 days of the year, I thought I'd look back at my 2012 and determine why it was the best year of my life. Every month brought new adventures, achievements, bits of awesome that worked to make my world a happier, more fulfilling, more exciting place. Come along with me, won't you?


My third draft and polish complete, I turned in I’m On Fire in early September. Added incentive? My man Shawn painted the cover of the book for me – our first major creative collaboration. I wanted my main character, Laurie, running into the woods, terror in her eyes, staring back over her shoulder in her trademark red hoodie. Shawn had me stand in that pose for minutes on end, wearing my trademark red hoodie, while he sketched me. You don’t know exhilaration until your life partner pulls an image out of your brain and puts it on paper.

I was asked to contribute an original essay to this year’s Stephen King Desk Calendar, which sounds weird unless you’re in the Stephen King community. It’s one of those prestige projects you don’t get invited into unless you’re considered one of the good writers. It was one of those incremental moments when I realized that I was one of the good writers, and that people were starting to recognize that.

Speaking of which: midway through the month, my signature sheets for Stephen King

Limited, Books 1 and 2, arrived on my doorstep. Here’s the thing with signature sheets: when I was a tiny young Stephen King book collector, one of the things I always treasured was a book with Stephen King’s signature. Objectively, I knew it didn’t really mean anything. King just scribbled a name in a book and passed it on. But emotionally, there was always that tenebrous connection I had with my favorite writer, that knowledge that he had held the book I now owned. Now that I’m on the other side of it, I have a deeper insight. He may not have held the book I now own. He may have just signed a sheet, like I do, that would later be bound in with the book. But I also know that it’s not just scribbling your name in. I had to sign 1,000 sig sheets over the period of a few days, and let me tell you: it’s work. If I wasn’t already convinced that I was earning my flat rate for these chapterbooks with my research and actual writing, I was earning it here.

My show idea, World of Hurt, went out into the ether of ImprovBoston, and came back with fervent approval. I found writers. I cast actors. It was my first time being conscious of myself as a director, and I was some kind of nervous. My month got truncated, too: I wouldn’t have four weeks to do my show, but only three. Immediately, I scrapped my plans to do a scripted “improv” show and focused instead on my three other shows: Vaudeville, Variety, and Saturday Night Live. I knew it was ambitious to do three distinct shows in three distinct styles, but that’s part of why I called it World of Hurt. Part of the other reason, of course, is the song’s refrain: it’s great to be alive. If I can do it, why not do it? My actors and writers were on my side. I knew from the very first pitch meeting that this was going to work.

Midway through the month, my temp boss told me that I'd be at this position at least until December. No more worries on that front for a couple of months, then. Hooray!

I wrote one article for FEARnet – my first actual assignment (it wasn’t King related), and late in the month, I got a surprise. The Overlook Connection (a publisher specializing in horror and fantasy) sent me the latest copy of Stephen King: Uncollected, Unpublished, by Rocky Wood. Which was weird, because I already had the hardcover and I hadn’t ordered it. That’s when I turned the book over and saw my name: I was a blurb on the back cover. Overlook used my review on FEARnet to hype their book. Never in life did I think I would ever be blurbed. On my way.

Near the end of the month, I did something I hadn’t done in nearly a year. I sat down at my laptop and put a new title at the top of the first page: My Agent of Chaos. And for the first time in forever, I started a brand new novel.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Best Year of My Life - An Epic Adventure in 12 Parts: August

For the final 12 days of the year, I thought I'd look back at my 2012 and determine why it was the best year of my life. Every month brought new adventures, achievements, bits of awesome that worked to make my world a happier, more fulfilling, more exciting place. Come along with me, won't you?


Our dreams get fulfilled at different times, for different reasons.

When I first discovered Disney as a real thing in 2007, I never realized it would become this much a part of my existence, entwined inextricably with who I am and how I live. I first visited Disneyland, way out in California, in 2010. When you look at that year, so oddly futuristic to a boy of the 1980s, it doesn’t seem so long ago. But Disneyland was a whole different place in 2010, and I was a whole different man.

Disneyland is eternal, but California Adventure, its sister park, is new. It opened only nine years before I’d visited, the newest stateside Disney park, and while that should have endeared it to me more, it didn’t, exactly. To call it a failure of vision would be a kindness. I remember walking through the entrance plaza and wondering why they were playing rock music at a Disney park. Wasn’t that a Universal thing?

By the time I’d gotten there the first time, plans were already underway to make some radical changes to California Adventure. Disney pumped over a billion dollars into a refurbishment to add a new land, new experiences, and to completely refurbish the strip-mall entrance plaza into something Disney-worthy. The fresh new land would be called Buena Vista Street, and it would be an idealized recreation of Walt Disney’s Los Angeles in the Roaring 20s. For years, I scoured blogs, watching the construction happen. From various temp-job computer screens, I saw Disney constructing new shops, new worlds, and the new central icon – the Carthay Circle Theater Restaurant. Everything was sparkling and beautiful, and one of the biggest dreams I’d held for years was actually stepping through those gates and seeing this park in person for the very first time, and seeing it with my friend Paul Timm, one of my very best friends.

Standing on Buena Vista Street took my breath away.

The fountain. The Red Car Trolley. The live singers, especially Five and Dime (a jazzy sextet that arrived on Buena Vista Street in a jalopy). The Fiddler, Fifer, and Practical CafĂ© (really a high-end, highly themed Starbucks). Part of it was that I was there with friends – Paul, Steven, Betsy, Lee, Lori, the Braunsteins, Scarlett, Jeff, everyone, all the people who started off as Disney friends and became more than that – especially Kristen and Doug, who spent most of a whole day alone with me until we couldn’t take anymore. (Literally. They wouldn’t go on the spine-busting Matterhorn with me one more time.) Of course also the Little Mermaid ride, and the changes to Paradise Pier, and the Mad Tea Party, and holy hell the majesty of Carsland, a land I never thought I’d like but ended up loving. But Buena Vista Street, that’s where I was in August.

But it’s not all, of course, because no month is made up of a single experience. Perhaps just as importantly, mine and Chris Cuddy’s Sketchhaus show, The August Monologues took off in a biggish way, selling out the first and last weeks. In the middle, it was a bit of a struggle to get an audience, but we were never empty. The most important thing for me, personally, was writing my own summer monologue, a story about the first person I ever fell in love with. It was called “No Strings Attached,” and for three out of the five weeks of The August Monologues, I shared one of the most personal stories of my life with an audience of strangers and friends. I keep saying I’m not a performer, but those moments on stage were major for me. Half of it was catharsis; the other half was entertaining the masses. I think I succeeded at both.

Speaking of which: the idea I had for the four-part show was blossoming. It was going to be called World of Hurt, and it would be four distinct shows focusing on four eras of live comedy: Vaudeville, Variety Show, Improv, and Saturday Night Live. I didn’t have any idea if anyone would want to do it, but my ambition had gotten me this far, and I thought it would get me my show. I read a book about improve specifically so I could write an “improvised” show.

On August 14, I traveled to Fenway Park by myself to see Bruce Springsteen perform for the second time that year. It was a solid show – Bruce’s first stateside in awhile – and of course I went home with my throat hoarse and the taste of Cracker Jack on my tongue. But the next night, I was with my buddy Ian. We sat high up in the bleachers and halfway through, the rain started coming down … and it was still one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen. Later on, the Springsteen news site Backstreets would call it a “stratospheric performance,” and I cannot argue with that. He broke out rarities. He redefined classic songs. He was on, and so were we, and I thanked my lucky stars that I was there with a friend I loved who felt exactly what was happening.

Perich turned in my draft of I’m On Fire with … some reservations. The chief of which was that he didn’t like my main character. Hated her, in fact. So it was back to the drawing board for a third sweep through my novel, in which Laurie becomes a better person. That’s what beta-readers and third drafts are for.

Stephen King came out with two new short stories – “A Face In the Crowd” with Stewart O’Nan, and “Batman and Robin Have an Altercation,” one of his best-ever stories. I wrote reviews of both, plus one for the Peter Straub novella, The Buffalo Hunter. It remains my only month in which I have three FEARnet articles. I also wrote one poem, “A Place to Charge My Phone.” It would be the last poem I wrote until December.

I concluded August with another trip to Georgia, during which my buddy Joe and I took the drive up to Athens so I could once again see Drive-By Truckers. The concert in April had been such a life-changing exhilaration, and yes, maybe I wanted to capture that lightning in a bottle. Joe chose not to join me this time at the concert, but when I got inside the Athens Theater, I bellied right up to the stage, made a few new friends, bought some new merch, and screamed along with the show till I couldn't scream no more. On night one, Patterson Hood saw my tattoo - "It's Great to Be Alive." On night two, he sang the song it came from, "World of Hurt," and that's when I knew my show was going to work.

After my Disney trip, I headed out to Los Angeles for a few days to visit my

friends. My friend Josh and I drove back from Anaheim with the top down and listening to nerd music the whole way. And then my friend Paul Knepper picked me up and we drove through the Hollywood Hills. Paul K has become one of my unexpectedly fantastic friends; like every California Paul I know, he’s quietly infused himself into my life, making it better. Later on, we went to see Wrath of Khan at the theater and the director randomly was there talking about the movie, because that’s Los Angeles. We went to In & Out Burger and ordered off the secret menu. We walked down Hollywood Boulevard so I could find Roscoe Arbuckle. But I’ll keep going back to that drive through the Hills before we headed into the Valley. We were listening to the radio, and without warning, Bob Seger’s “Hollywood Nights” blasted on, and my world was bliss. Sometimes the moments don’t have to be grand to realize you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be.

Books Read: Truth In Comedy, by Charna Halpern,Del Close,Kim Johnson; The Hotel New Hampshire, by John Irving

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Best Year of My Life: An Epic Adventure In 12 Parts: July

For the final 12 days of the year, I thought I'd look back at my 2012 and determine why it was the best year of my life. Every month brought new adventures, achievements, bits of awesome that worked to make my world a happier, more fulfilling, more exciting place. Come along with me, won't you?


For a birthday month I insisted would be low-key, a whole bunch actually happened in July.

After weeks of brainstorming and restructuring, Cuddy and I were all set to launch the re-envisioning of A Night of Oral Tradition, and I can take credit for the name: we were going to call it The Scoop, and position it as the premiere storytelling night in Cambridge. (I was unaware that there was an already-established storytelling night in Cambridge, and it was only on once a month. At exactly the same time as our show. These repercussions would become apparent much later.)

The night before my birthday, I slammed into the Rosebud with all my friends and I sang “Thunder Road” on stage. People bought me drinks and snacks. It was nothing short of bliss.

On July 18th, 2012, I turned thirty-seven. I didn’t feel it. Friends came over to my house and we had a small birthday party with cake. My friend Neil got me a shaving kit, fulfilling one of my New Years’ resolutions. After the party, me and Marty and Ian headed out to the very first presentation of The Scoop. I got onstage and told my story about chasing Bruce Springsteen across the Midwest with my uncle Warren and his Christian friend Kevin. It was well-received by the seven people there.

Speaking of music: the new Gaslight Anthem album, Handwritten, was released, and I immediately fell in love with it. Maybe not as good as American Slang, but few albums could be. Like almost everyone else, I've been guilty of growing more song-oriented, rather than album-oriented. So it's a good reminder, when someone like Bruce Springsteen or Drive-By Truckers or a relatively new obsession like Gaslight Anthem comes out with something new, I listen to the whole thing front to back and live inside their whole concept for awhile. Plus, they rock super hard, and that's awesome for the gym.

I wrote one review for FEARnet – on the second, more disturbing section of “In the Tall Grass” – and wrote two poems: “Duke’s Temper,” and “Imbalance.” In bigger writing news, I finished my rewrite of I’m On Fire on July 25th and almost immediately cried. It had a more nihilistic finish, stronger characters, better backstories. It had better writing than it had had before. Because I’m learning more about the aftercare of novels, I sent it along to my friend John Perich to beta-read, and I waited.

Near the end of the month, my long-term tattoo artist, Kelly, was back in town to ink his best customers for a couple weeks. I’d written to him earlier in the month and said, “Tom Servo?” He said, “YES.” Before there was Buffy night, before there was Angel night, before there was Desperate Housewives night, my friends and I would all gather round and watch MST3K. More recently, I’d been getting together with comedy people and watching old episodes and remembering how awesome they were, and how much fun could still be mined from them. Not to mention the fact that the show I was producing this month at Sketchhaus was an MST3K-type show called Director’s Commentary. Through enormous, crushing pain, I got myself a Tom Servo tattoo, and Kelly commented that I was looking jacked.

Those twice-a-day visits to the gym actually were paying off, something my oldest buddy Jim noticed when we went out to do a photoshoot out by the Port of Boston. Jim’s something of an old camera nut, so he wanted to not only wanted to shoot me, he wanted to try out his vintage cameras and hard-to-find film. The result was a series of pictures of me that were probably the best I’d ever taken, most in delightful black and white.

As it turned out, the rumors were true. Rocky Horror in Harvard Square was being shut down after twenty-eight years. All that time spent in my late twenties and early thirties going to the show every single week, poof, vanished. I wrote a whole blog post about how much Rocky means to me, but suffice it to say that it was a major, major part of my world for a long time, and I’d discovered (in Chelsea, of all places) that I never had to let it go, not entirely. The theater announced that they would have two farewell shows for the Harvard location, and sold out both nights. Weirdly, it was my friend Vickie – who’d never come to the show with me before – who decided to join me for both shows. On that last night, I swapped clothes with a chubby Rocky virgin on stage (I was wearing my I Heart Chubby Bearded Dudes shirt, so it wasn’t all that surprising). Vickie remembered some of the callback lines. And at the end of the night, they turned up the house lights and blasted “Don’t Stop Believin’,” and I blew out my voice singing along.

One of the most important things I learned in 2012 was that the stuff you love never really disappears. It just waits. And it eventually comes back.

Books Read: In One Person, by John Irving; The Given Day, by Dennis Lehane; The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, by Douglas Adams; and The Buffalo Hunter, Peter Straub

The Best Year of My Life: An Epic Adventure In 12 Parts: June

For the final 12 days of the year, I thought I'd look back at my 2012 and determine why it was the best year of my life. Every month brought new adventures, achievements, bits of awesome that worked to make my world a happier, more fulfilling, more exciting place. Come along with me, won't you?


In mid-June, for the first time ever, a real publisher (Cemetery Dance) published my fiction. Not one but two of my books – the short-story collection This Terrestrial Hell and the poetry collection Surf’s Up – were released as ebooks and became immediate sensations. Actually, I don’t know how they sold. My royalty statements only come twice a year.

Seeing my books for sale by an actual, real-life, honest-to-God publisher overwhelmed me emotionally. For long minutes, I just stared at the computer screen, unable to comprehend what I was seeing. Sure, they were “just” ebooks, but that had a different meaning in 2012 than it had when I first tried e-publishing in 1999. I know for a fact that at least some of my friends bought at least This Terrestrial Hell (poems are a tougher sell, even though they’re scarier), and most who bought it said they liked it.

On June 7th, I took the stage with the Sketch Avengers in my first headlining show as director. For a full 45 minutes, every Thursday in June, the people I’d rehearsed with and directed and helped get ready got up and made real-life audiences laugh. Even I got into the act during one or two sketches, doing that screaming thing that I did. On June 21st, one of my actors had to go to the emergency room (he’s fine now) and I actually had to step in and fill in for most of his characters. I have no idea if I did a good job, but Jesus God, was it fun.

I began brainstorming with Chris Cuddy, who still ran A Night of Oral Tradition. Would she like to do a whole monologue show later in the summer? At once, she said yes, and suddenly I was stepping into the role of producer and co-director of The August Monologues. I assembled a dream cast and gave them free reign to make the monologues as funny or as serious as they wanted. We would start rehearsing in July. Cuddy, apparently intrigued by my drive, asked me if I wanted to co-produce A Night of Oral Tradition with her, too. Immediately, I said yes, and we got to brainstorming.

Stephen King and Joe Hill published part one of a long short story called “In the Tall Grass,” which I reviewed for FEARnet. I also wrote three poems: “Something In My Shoulder,” “Spine,” and “Puddles.”

My love of amusement parks stoked by Canobie Lake, I decided to travel out to New York and finally go to Coney Island. Because I apparently love assembling people from different parts of my life to get together and do stuff, I asked Mark, Duncan, Marty, Kristen, and my new friend Jeff to come along. I hadn’t seen Jeff since Reunion at Disney World nearly six months before, but we’d maintained a casual friendship online and I thought it would be fun. Five gays and a Kristen, what could go wrong?

Answer: nothing. It was a delightful sunny day. We rode the Comet. We ate on the beach. We bonded. As with most of my New York trips, later on there was Barcade, and karaoke, and of course Rocky Horror in Chelsea – something that was steadily becoming a tradition. (And a good thing, too; there were rumors that they were going to be shutting down the Harvard Square Loews Theater, and my local Rocky with it. We had no idea what the future would bring.) What’s neat is that I was at different stages of friendship with all these people, especially Duncan and Jeff. Because I was now coming to New York regularly, I was finally seeing Duncan on a consistent basis, and we were hitting it off. And Jeff, who I didn’t know very well at all, fit in so easily and was so fun, and it was the start of a really terrific friendship.

Oh, and I started thinking about a four-part sketch show that celebrated all eras of sketch comedy. But what to call it, what to call it…?

Books Read: Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck; The Halloween Tree, by Ray Bradbury

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Best Year of My Life - An Epic Adventure in 12 Parts: May

For the final 12 days of the year, I thought I'd look back at my 2012 and determine why it was the best year of my life. Every month brought new adventures, achievements, bits of awesome that worked to make my world a happier, more fulfilling, more exciting place. Come along with me, won't you?


May, the quietest month of my adventuresome year, whispered in with my completed manuscript of Stephen King Limited. Brian, my editor, proclaimed it too long for a chapterbook. So he split it in two and paid me for both. That’s how you do it, folks. Don’t double-space stuff or anything, but if you’ve dedicated yourself to a quality story, let it be as long as it needs to be. You will be rewarded. The book(s) went into their editing process, for physical publication later in the year. The collected ebook would be available in 2013. And I’d get royalties on that.

John Irving’s new novel, In One Person, came out. I slammed my money down and got the first copy.

I’m not quite sure when I started reading Archie comics – the Life With Archie stuff was really well-written, and I was happy they’d come out with a gay character with my name. But it wasn’t until this month’s Archie Meets Kiss that I really got into the weekly books. And AMK was so batshit crazy that I decided to start “tweetwatching” the comic, taking pics of panels and MST3King it (though sometimes I praised it, or fainted when Moose showed up). My friend Joe said that type of thing is one of the reasons he likes me so much, so I just kept doing it.

The Avengers came out. Shawn and I saw it opening night. On Sunday, he called and said he wanted to see a movie. I said, “Avengers?” He said “YES!” True love always.

I was so jazzed that Stephen King recorded himself reading The Wind Through the Keyhole that I asked if I could write a separate audio review for FEARnet. My editors were equally enthusiastic. I also wrote two poems: “Caution to the Wind,” and “Inside the Wall.”

Speaking of enthusiastic, my Cemetery Dance editor, Brian, asked me if I'd write an afterword to his and Bev Vincent's new book, The Illustrated Stephen King Trivia Book. Way back in 2009, I'd written a huge chunk of the Illustrated Stephen King Movie Trivia Book (which remained unpublished ... so far), and I guess they liked what I brought to the table. I wrote an essay called "Trivial Matters," and turned it in.

On May 9th, some of my lady friends – Vickie, Rachel, and Lynn – tweeted at me from the Rosebud Diner in Davis Square, informing me that there was a twice-weekly karaoke night there, and that the place was overrun (overrun!) with foxy hipsters. Well, this was something I needed to be a part of. Besides which – and not to get too weird or deep –karaoke actually means something to me. When we were all going to the Asgard every week, I had to get up there and show my stuff among actors and singers and people who actually use their voices. I forced myself to improve, to the point where it’s not just having fun while I’m up there, but it’s me trying to do an honest-to-God good job.

Maybe even more, though, is the fact that when the Asgard fell apart, I lost my weekly meetup with my buddies, and I’d been missing that like hell. Some things that were important to me – like Rocky Horror had been – had fallen away, and the unsettling truth of life is that sometimes the stuff you love to do just vaporizes, and you can’t get it back. But Rocky Horror had come back. And now, tentatively, karaoke was doing the same. Suddenly, I was seeing Rachel and Vickie again every week, and eventually I would count Todd and Eric and the growing assembled as people I could count on to be there and to sing their hearts out with me.

You think when you’re younger that the stuff you do is stuff you’ll do forever. And when it stops, well, that’s one of the hardest lessons. One of the best things I learned this year is that life might be a little more cyclical than that. You can go back, even as you’re moving forward.

Near the end of the month, our former roommates, Jay and Scott, asked Shawn and I to accompany them to Canobie Lake Park. We agreed immediately. Things had been ramping up for me so much, so quickly, that I hadn’t really had a break since the start of the year, and while Disney is my favorite place in the world, I don’t generally rest there (see above re: 24 Hour Day). We went on roller coasters, had popcorn, and just palled around. May is the quietest, most understated month.

On the last Sketchhaus night of the month, my troupe, the Sketch Avengers, did a short 25-minute opening set. I got on stage and, as the groom of a wedding where the best man was making it all about him, got to scream at people. In 25 minutes, I became a producer, director, and actor. On my way.

Books Read: Hide & Seek, by Jack Ketchum; Too Hard to Handle, by John Perich; and The World According to Garp, by John Irving

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Best Year of My Life - An Epic Adventure in 12 Parts: April

For the final 12 days of the year, I thought I'd look back at my 2012 and determine why it was the best year of my life. Every month brought new adventures, achievements, bits of awesome that worked to make my world a happier, more fulfilling, more exciting place. Come along with me, won't you?


And suddenly I’m in Asbury Park, New Jersey, with one of my best buddies, Marty. It’s a bit of a mish-mash, musically. Asbury Park is the Bruce Springsteen hub of the universe. It’s where he got his start. It’s where most of his first three albums take place. Places like The Stone Pony and the boardwalk are legendary. But we’re not there to see Bruce Springsteen. I played Marty non-stop Drive-By Truckers on the way down to the shore, but we’re not there to see Drive-By Truckers, either. We’re there to see “our” band, Blue October, in the midst of their Any Man In America tour. We finagled our way to the front, and the band is on, and we have a lot of fun by the sea.

The next day, we headed into New York City and ate brunch with my friends Kristen and Mark and Duncan. On the eve of Easter, Marty and Duncan and I decided to check out Rocky Horror in Chelsea. Even though I’d known Duncan for years and we’ve been friends, we’ve never really hung out for an extended period of time. This was a chance to change that. He’s an old-school Rocky fan, I’m newish school, and Marty was just happy to giggle along. Plus, the emcee is a chubby goth in bunny ears, so it’s pretty much awesome.

The first meetings of Sketch Avengers began. We ran through scripts. We brought in more actors. I gave some suggestions and everyone seemed interested in listening to me. By the third rehearsal, one of the actors got there late, and said she’d been pulled over for driving too fast. “I blamed it on my director,” she laughed. I asked, “Who’s your director?” She looked at me blankly and said, “You are.” That’s when I realized that I’ve been the Sketch Avengers director for weeks and didn’t know it. On my way.

Drive-By Truckers had become so big to me in such a short amount of time that it was almost overwhelming. I tried to get my friends into the band, to little avail (though my friend Jeff, who lived in New York City and who I’d met at Disney the year before, confirmed that he liked them). I kept returning to the song “World of Hurt,” and that line, “It’s great to be alive.” Already 2012 was shaping up to be leagues better than 2011, and I thought it was important to reflect that, permanently. On

April 14th, I met up with my first tattooer post-Kelly. His name was John and he was talented as hell. Within two hours, he got the band’s symbol (the Cooley bird) and that legend, It’s Great To Be Alive, tattooed on my arm.

My boss at my temp job officially extended my position to August, meaning I didn’t have to worry about finding a new job till then. Hooray!

I pitched an idea to my editor at Cemetery Dance: Stephen King Limited, a chapterbook that would take a narrative look at the world of Stephen King limited editions. He immediately approved the idea and I got to work, dividing my day between writing and researching that and working on I’m On Fire.

Mid-month, my Kickstarter money came in. I immediately marched to the Apple store and got myself an iPad, which I named Tug. That day, I transferred the I’m On Fire file to it and began editing and re-writing work there.

I also started listening to my friend Marty and began doing cardio in the morning, before work. Just 15 minutes on the elliptical to complement my muscle workouts in the afternoon. It was cool – I had audiobooks.

On April 21, I flew down to Atlanta, Georgia to see the Drive-By Truckers in concert for the first time. It was also Record Store Day, and my buddy Joe accompanied me to Criminal Records to see lead singer Patterson Hood play a solo acoustic set. It was the closest I’d ever come to this new icon in my life. That night, we headed to the Tabernacle in Downtown Atlanta; I got right up front, and the music blasted me so hard and so thoroughly it felt like I was being reborn. It was one of the best nights of my entire life.

I wrote one column on FEARnet, the first on my iPad, and I wrote three poems: “Nosebleed,” “Blood Orange,” and “Tinnitus.” That last one was about the rock show.

Books read: Juliet, Naked, by Nick Hornby; The Fourth Hand, by John Irving; The Professional, by Robert Parker; and The Wind Through the Keyhole (again), on audiobook, read by Stephen King.

The Best Year of My Life - An Epic Adventure in 12 Parts: March

For the final 12 days of the year, I thought I'd look back at my 2012 and determine why it was the best year of my life. Every month brought new adventures, achievements, bits of awesome that worked to make my world a happier, more fulfilling, more exciting place. Come along with me, won't you?


Starting the month off in Disney World is never a bad portent. Joe and I eat lunch at Mama Melrose in Hollywood Studios. I fly home on the second, and three days later, Bruce Springsteen’s Wrecking Ball comes out. It’s fantastic and I’m so happy. At the end of the month, my friend Neil and I took in one of the first 10 shows of Springsteen’s tour; unlike with the Working on a Dream tour, a lot of the new material made up the core of the setlist. I blissed out and Neil bought me an awesome red tour shirt. This would mark the first of several times I would go see my favorite bands with my favorite people.

Upon my return home, I began to build programming for Sketchhaus. I started writing my favorite performers and seeing if they want to do stuff. A lot of people did, which I didn’t anticipate. I discovered almost immediately that my physical proximity to the theater was a huge boon for me. I’m forever writing stuff at the Starbucks near the theater, and performers are always coming in. I’d get them to pitch me some ideas, and they would, and I’d give them stage time. Could it really be that easy? As it turned out, it could. Pretty soon, the schedule for May began to form, and I was looking forward to building June.

Around this time, one of the theater people, Sam Ike, wrote to me about maybe putting on a show featuring people from all the existing sketch troupes – like a supergroup of sketch. I thought it sounded like a fine idea, so I started contacting people and they responded. People sent me scripts. I started casting. Sketch Avengers was coming to Sketchhaus in June.

I turned in my manuscripts for This Terrestrial Hell and Surf’s Up, nervous but thrilled. These weren’t maybes. My editor had read and liked my work, and was going to publish my books. On my way.

I wrote two reviews for, and wrote six poems: “Fourth on Green,” “Shackles,” “8:55,” “Passenger Seat,” “Roscoe,” and “Delta County.”

At the same time, I started working on the edits to I’m On Fire … and realized, somewhat happily, that I’m a better writer than I was when the book was first written in 1999. It didn’t need some light work; it needed an overhaul. I also needed new hardware and software to really dig into the editing – my laptop was getting a little too heavy to lug around everywhere, and I thought an iPad would be the answer – and in order to do that, I needed to take as many extra bar shifts as I could. Which then cut into my writing time. It was like a poisoned gift of the Magi situation. On top of that, while my publisher gave me advances for my nonfiction, I would only get residuals for my fiction; nothing up front.

My friends suggested I start a Kickstarter campaign, which I reluctantly did. I wrote a blog entry called “Kickstart My Art” and posted it on March 20th. I did a lot of things wrong. I only let the thing happen for 2 weeks, which is a huge no-no. I offered only digital work for incentives. And I may have asked for too much - $950.

To my absolute astonishment, I got more than what I asked for in a single day. In. A. Single. Day. How humbled, and awed, and stunned I was by everyone’s belief in my writing. The entire thrust of my friends' confidence in me, I vowed to make I’m On Fire the best damn book it could be.

And my arms were noticeably bigger.

Books read: Sixkill, by Robert Parker; Devil In the White City, by Erik Larson; I, Fatty, by Jerry Stahl; Just A Geek, by Wil Wheaton; Archie: A Celebration of America’s Favorite Teenager, by Craig Yoe; and Stay Close, by Harlan Coben

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Best Year of My Life - An Epic Adventure in 12 Parts: February

For the final 12 days of the year, I thought I'd look back at my 2012 and determine why it was the best year of my life. Every month brought new adventures, achievements, bits of awesome that worked to make my world a happier, more fulfilling, more exciting place. Come along with me, won't you?


Let’s not diminish things here: February was huge.

Like, massive. The Winter of Kev Discontent was kicking the snow off its boots and transforming into the, uh, early Spring of New Stuff. Sure, why not?

Early in the month, I had my first meeting with the Sketchhaus folks. I … may have typed up a detailed four-page “Sketch Manifesto,” that I got ratified by the existing producers and sent to my bosses at ImprovBoston. Still trying to get the gold star.

This time it worked. Before I knew it, my bosses at the theater were talking about My Vision for Sketchhaus, like it was a real, viable thing that could be put into action. Would be put into action. Suddenly, this guy who had no real experience doing anything theater-related except slinging beers, selling tickets, and laughing was running a whole night of comedy. Well, would be. In May. I could barely believe it.

I did my due diligence when it came to comedy. I went and saw a night of improv at ImprovAsylum, and a whole standup showcase at The Comedy Studio in Harvard Square. I returned to the Comedy Studio a few times, when some of my favorite acts were performing. I did not return to IA. I also appeared naked in the Boston Globe, due to my hosting the Naked Comedy showcase once a month at ImprovBoston. Naked. In the local newspaper. My Dad saw that with no warning late in the month, and gave me a very concerned phone call.

Shawn and I get Details magazine at home. He likes looking at the pretty guys on the covers. I was idly flipping through the new Channing Tatum issue and saw they had a 6-week arm workout that looked like something I could do. I’d been spinning my wheels at the gym for years, having gotten on a plateau and stayed there. It finally occurred to me that my gym was in the basement of the building I was now temping at. Maybe I could give another go at building my muscle. I wrote my buddy Mark in New York and asked him to build me a comprehensive chest workout. Then I found a good shoulder one, and decided to rotate days. Soon enough, I was going to the gym every afternoon, not just three days a week. And the results were almost immediate.

Shawn and I celebrated our thirteenth anniversary on February 14th, Valentine’s Day. He got me the Drive-By Truckers album A Blessing and a Curse, completing my collection of DBT records. My interest in the band had sparked the year before and it was just growing, so this was a big deal to me. I got Shawn an iTunes gift card. We’re minimal on our anniversary.

My editor at Cemetery Dance, Brian, wrote to me and asked me if I would be interested in publishing my own books as ebooks though the publisher. My own stuff: novels, collections, you name it. I was immediately thrilled, and began compiling my short story collection, This Terrestrial Hell and readying my poetry collection, Surf’s Up. This time, I got beta readers. And I wondered how ready my early novel, I’m On Fire, would be for publication.

I wrote five poems: “One-Night Stands With Writers,” “Open the Door, Longhair,” “The Perils of Umbrella Repair,” “Early and Close,” and “Sacrament.”

My review of Stephen King’s new Dark Tower book, The Wind Through the Keyhole, appeared on FEARnet. Later, Wikipedia would single me out as having the first review of the book anywhere, and treated me like a real reviewer (which I suppose I am now), quoting me with lines like, “Quigley elaborates on the book's thematic 'bridge' status…” My senior year English teacher, Mrs. Kreinsen, would be proud.

Early in the year, Disney announced a new promotion: One More Disney Day, which would be a 24-hour event at the Magic Kingdom in Florida and at Disneyland in California on Leap Day: 6 AM to 6AM. After briefly considering starting the day off at Disney World and ending it at Disneyland, my buddy Joe and I decided to do the overnight entirely at the Magic Kingdom. We woke up at 4:30 and got to the Magic Kingdom at 5:30. We got glowy hats and bought T-shirts. 6:00 AM at the Magic Kingdom was foggy, ethereal. As bizarre as it was to be here this early in the morning, that was nothing compared to being there late at night. I guzzled a five-hour energy shot at 1:00 AM and couldn’t calm down. I vowed to ride Space Mountain once an hour; there’s literally nothing like riding through the dark at 3:30 in the morning, when you’re so tired you might die, and your buddy is by your side and nothing is stopping you from having the time of your life. We emerged into March at 6:00 AM, the sun just coming up over the Seven Seas Lagoon.

Books Read: The whole Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay, as well as one of the best books I read all year, Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline.

The Best Year of My Life - An Epic Adventure in 12 Parts: January

For the final 12 days of the year, I thought I'd look back at my 2012 and determine why it was the best year of my life. Every month brought new adventures, achievements, bits of awesome that worked to make my world a happier, more fulfilling, more exciting place. Come along with me, won't you?


The previous year had been a rough one, no way around it. I left my long-term temp job in the hopes of something more lucrative, a move that did not pay off. I spent much of the early winter unemployed from a full-time job, but not able to collect unemployment. I was working box office and being a bartender at the theater, and they gave me some odds and ends to do, but otherwise, I was hurting. I eventually took a temp job at a publishing company in one of the less glamorous sections. I did not expect it to go that far.

On New Year’s Eve, I volunteered as a greeter for ImprovBoston’s New Year’s party. It would turn out to be a good omen. Despite the crappiness of the previous few months, I was optimistic. I made a list of eight New Year’s resolutions:


Some of those would come true. Some wouldn’t. It mattered but it didn’t, because in almost all ways I managed to surpass this list in completely unexpected ways. You’ll see.

Shawn showed up just before midnight and we kissed. Sometimes we’re not together on New Year’s Eve, which isn’t necessarily the tragedy I could make of it (I adore tradition, and also emotional moments that movie and books tell me are important), but I was glad for it this night. Surrounded by friends, inside the theater I loved, kissing my sweetie: it was a great way to start the year.

My buddy Marty came down from New Jersey and, on a whim, decided to go to Rocky Horror in Harvard Square. I hadn’t been in a while and I was a little rusty, but the old love of it washed over me again. I’m at the age, I think, where I know that chasing the dragons of your youth can sometimes result in getting burned, but this was different. Familiar. Comfortable. As erotically thrilling as ever. Sometimes, you can go home … even if it’s to a transvestite in fishnets.

Midway through the month, I ran across one of my “Here’s how I met Stephen King” stories, with all the requisite embarrassment and shame and fanboy drooling. And I thought, I could tell this to people and they’d find it funny. Wait, don’t I work at a comedy theater? As it turns out, I did. As it further turns out, Christine Cuddy, one of my acquaintances at the theater, ran a storytelling show on Wednesdays called A Night of Oral Tradition. I asked her if I could get up and tell my tale and she readily agreed. On January 19th, she announced me as “the best friend a theater could have,” and I told my Stephen King story to the gathered assemblage. And my theater boss.

Springsteen announced a new album. John Irving announced a new book. I wrote a column for about Stephen King and his unpublished recent stories. My poem, “DMM,” completed my poetry collection, Surf’s Up, which I thought I might self-publish, like Foggy at Night in the City had been the year before.

Late in the month, the producers at Sketchhaus – the premiere sketch comedy night at ImprovBoston – asked me if I would be interested in co-producing the night. I was honored to even be asked. I’ve had no formal comedy training, I’d never written a script, and except for my hosting Naked Comedy Night and doing my one storytelling thingy, I’d never been on stage. But it seemed interesting and fun, so I said okay. Simple as that.

Things were looking up.

Books Read: Watership Down, by Richard Adams; Cujo, by Stephen King; The Shining, by Stephen King

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I'm the Wind, Baby

When I was but a lad of 18, I worked at a mall bookstore and lived in a rooming house with old men winding down their clocks and junkies trying to get clean (sometimes they did; sometimes other stuff happened). I ate a lot of Ramen and drank a lot of generic Stop & Shop soda. There was a pay phone in the hallway I had to use to call my boyfriend, who was thirty years older than me and worked nights. This was before I discovered Bruce Springsteen and my landscape of entertainment was almost entirely re-reading Stephen King novels and finding Real Truth in Counting Crows’ August & Everything After.

I’d get home from the bookstore late, late, late. The buses from the mall to my house were on a schedule staggered just so that I would usually get out of work forty-five minutes before the next bus was due. We had to wear dress shoes and ties at the bookstore, which I’d always found absurd, so when I shut the door to my little room (checking to make sure that the cardboard around the door jamb were still taped in place, so that the old men’s and junkies’ cigarette smoke didn’t seep in and play hell with my asthma while I slept), my feet hurt and my neck ached and I was exhausted. Too exhausted to sleep, usually, so I’d flip on the little 12” TV set up on the dresser that came with the room … and I’d laugh my goddamned ass off. My salvation in those early days of living on my own was Mystery Science Theater 3000, the show about the guy on the spaceship with his little robot buddies – Crow and Tom Servo and Gypsy and Cambot, for whom I would eventually be nicknamed – who are forced to watch bad movies and survive only my making fun of them. I watched Attack of the Eye Creatures. I watched Crash of the Moons. I watched, dear God, Manos: The Hands of Fate. And I fell in love.

Sometimes Tracey would come over to my rooming house with her then-boyfriend Pete to watch with me. My friend Jim would sometimes come by and fall asleep watching it, because he was a chauffeur and started work at 3:00 in the morning. Eventually, Tracey moved out of Quincy and I moved out of the rooming house, and I’d go to Brookline to watch it with her and her boyfriend Jerry. Yep. It stinks!

Things mutated. I lived in a studio apartment now, at least three times the size of my room at the rooming house. I had a kitchen. In which to put my generic Stop & Shop sodapop. Dave (also from the bookstore, and who introduced me to not only Bruce Springsteen but also Daredevil, making him one of the most important touchstones in my cultural development) and Tracey would come over and watch with me. Eventually, we invented the Geek Sleepover. Dave would pick us up at the train station in Quincy (Town of Presidents, don’t you know) and drive us back to his place in Fall River (conveniently located to New York City, only three hours away!) We’d load up on KFC and Utz and soda and get in our jammies and put puddles of water outside the bathroom every time Tracey went in so she’d step in the puddle and get her feet wet, because we’re grownups. And we’d watch MST3K together. Rowsdower!

We’d listen to the songs. We’d make in-jokes about the show. We’d circulate the tapes. I bought the Amazing Colossal Episode Guide and read it to literal tatters. When I met Shawn, I discovered that he and his former roommate Kenna used to watch the show (Shawn disconcertingly called it Mystie), and it was True Love Always. Soon, Shawn was joining us for Geek Sleepover, and you ever get those moments where your life actually seems like a narrative rather than a series of random stuff that happens? Yeah. That. Eventually, I met my buddy Kenny in Texas, and he was a die-hard MST3K fan. Whenever I would visit Texas, we’d watch the show. When he moved to Boston, I’d go over and we’d watch reruns. For a brief, burning time, Kenny was one of the best friends I’d ever had, and we’d nerd out completely to old episodes. I’ll blame Rocky and get away scot free!

Geek Sleepover ended, because everything ends. But, I’m discovering, things rarely end forever. Much like I’m rediscovering Rocky Horror now with Vickie and Duncan and Marty, MST3K as a thing rose up again in my life. Dennis, the funniest man I’ve ever known, decided to start organizing MST3K afternoons. Now, I’ve never really been a gamer, but I did Dungeons & Dragons in high school and I know how the experience is. This was like that, only in my specific area of nerddom. We’d head over our friend Emmy’s house or Dennis’s house and we’d order pizza and drink soda and eat chips, and lose our minds watching MST3K. Lose. Our. Minds.

When I found out my tattoo guy, Kelly, was coming back into town for a few weeks, I booked an appointment with him immediately. I contacted him on Facebook.

“What are you thinking of getting?” he asked.

“I was thinking Tom Servo,” I wrote.

“Are you fucking serious?” Kelly’s a badass who rides motorcycles and listens to psychobilly and tattoos people for a living … and is also a giant goddamn nerd. His huge chest tattoo in progress is the cover of an X-Men comic. He was ecstatic with the idea of doing a Tom Servo on me, and came back with a drawing almost immediately. I loved it, and though I had a brief lapse where I thought I might want a Hitchhiker’s Guide tattoo more, I stuck with Servo. It was the right choice.

Kelly placed the drawing on my bicep and I approved it. I said, “This is going to hurt a lot, isn’t it?”

“Well, only near the elbow and on the side of your arm. Not the guns themselves.”

“Oh. Well that sounds just swell, then!” It wasn’t.

Shawn arrived at Chameleon just as Kelly was setting up his table. His official job was to take pictures of the process. His real job was to let me crush his fingers later, when the needles jabbed into the tender flesh near my inner elbow and I was willing to punch kittens to make it stop.

I got my most recent tattoo done by John, also at Chameleon. His technique is light and long. Kelly goes at it had, but he gets the job done a lot faster. Both valid, both great artists, but you learn how to fool yourself about the pain. My Drive-By Truckers tattoo was (1) in an easier spot on my outer arm and (2) done light and long. So I’m thinking, “Oh, Kelly said it won’t really hurt, and though I know it will hurt some, this will probably be the same deal as before.” Nope.

It’s worth it, though, and here’s why: Kelly’s a goddamn genius at this stuff. Once the outline was in, Shawn – who had been skeptical of me getting Servo – was fully on board. While Kelly has a lot of selling points, dear God is he good at shading. You almost can’t believe a piece of 2-D art on a person’s skin can have depth, but Kelly crosshatched and shadowed until it did. Even before the color went in, Servo’s head looked like a sphere, not a circle. In between bouts of ow, I raised my head to look at the work in progress and said aloud, “Whoa.” At one point, Kelly even impressed himself. “Yeah, whoa.”

Then there’s the collateral awesome. Kelly said, “Since the last time I’ve seen you, you’ve really bulked up.” That was kind of the best compliment ever. (BUCK PLANKCHEST! FLINT IRONSTAG!) Then there were the moments of tattoo euphoria, where there’s pain, sure, but somehow it feels awesome, and you ride that until that more jagged, red, blinding pain rises up again. And the not-inconsiderable fact that Kelly? Is crazy hot.

You know how in the 80s, a stand-up coming knew he or she had done well when Johnny Carson called them over to talk after their set? Well, I know when a tattoo has exceeded Kelly’s expectations when he takes a picture of it when it’s done. He’s only done it three times now: Baloo, Steampunk Dr Pepper, and now Tom Servo. And it deserved it.

I'm the wind, baby.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Finish Line

Finish Line

I’m On Fire: 134, 443 words. DONE.

Here we come to the end.

A couple of times, I thought I wouldn’t be able to push through. I think it happens to every writer, every once in a little while, those dark nights of the soul where you know with certainty that you’re simply not good enough to live up to your ambitions. Those moments pass … but when you’re inside them, man are they debilitating.

I read somewhere recently that the mark of a good writer is someone who sits down and gets words out without being inspired. Inspiration is grand, but it’s rare. If you’re lucky, it hits about a dozen times over the course of a book. It’s those moments you live for, where the course of your novel lays itself out as if from somewhere divine. But the other days, when you’re faced with a bunch of story behind you and a bunch of white space ahead, where you have to sketch out some necessary backstory that you don’t want to do, and you have to make it interesting – those days count, too. They might count more.

Writing is work. It’s good work. It’s rewarding work. But it is work. I find it hilarious whenever anyone says to me, “I have a great idea for a book. All you have to do is write it!” That type of thing assumes (1) I don’t have great ideas, and (2) writing is just some frivolous mischief I’ll busy myself with for a couple of lazy afternoons and then boom, novel. That’s just not how it works.

Confession time: I have never liked rewrites. Ever. I’ve always been, “I just finished a novel? Time to jump right into another one!” And that’s fun. That’s how you get to say, “Oh, yeah, I wrote 17 novels in 12 years!” But you hamstring yourself. Going through a novel once and then leaving it behind does a disservice to both you and it. I wrote I’m On Fire in 1999. It was my second novel and I was still learning. Jumping back in thirteen years later opened my eyes. Words choices I made seemed juvenile. Big twists that seemed so shocking then seemed less effective now. Most characters seemed flat and my main character grew from a cipher to unlikable. Stuff needed to change. So I changed it.

The book has a new ending. It has a new character. The villains have new shades to them, and I added some new, diabolical toys for them to play with. I pulled fewer punches: bad things happen to nice people, and they happen brutally. That was sometimes hard, and I had to be sure I was on the right side of the line between valid storytelling and gratuitous violence. I think I’m okay. I hope I am.

It’s a better book. A stronger book. And doing the rewrite has made me believe I can take on some of my other efforts and make them stronger, too … and also move on and create new things. I have a novella I’ll be working on throughout the summer, as well as a new nonfiction book for my publisher. I’ve got a lot coming up, and I can’t wait to jump right in.

To everyone who helped make this happen: thank you. Art makes us forever. Here’s to eternity.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Thirty-Seven and Halfway Through

Hey guys. You might not have known (despite my MANY social media reminders) that I turn 37 today. I went to Disney World last year, during the muggiest, hottest Epcot day ever. And then I ate steak. So much steak. Oh my God, I want steak. Kobe beef. Can someone bring me some kobe beef? I...

Wait. Tangent. Anyhoodle.

Last night, I took the stage at Rosebud Karaoke. I got in even though I was there late because I know the guy. I grabbed the mic, smiled at the audience, and said, "I'm thirty-seven. Let's party." Cheers! Revelry! "THUNDER ROAD!"

I can even make the ladies swoon. It's the power of Springsteen.

SO! On New Year's Eve this year, I made a total list of things I wanted to accomplish this year. I'm ... very intrigued to see where I am with all those resolutions halfway through my year. Let's take a look, shall we?

1. GO TO DISNEYLAND - Guys, I'll be there in THREE WEEKS. Actually, the resolution was to do it FIRST (before Disney World), but One More Disney Day happened and it all went downhill. So it's modified, but I am STILL GOING. Oh my God, Disney California Adventure is calling me home.

2. GET LUCKY JEANS - Okay, not quite. See, here's the thing. Lucky jeans are expensive. They look great and are awesome, but man do they cost. However, I actually DID try a pair on this year while I was in Atlanta visiting Joe, so that HALFWAY counts.

3. OWN BOWLING SHIRTS - It's a little weird that two of my resolutions are sartorial. Also, do I want to look like Smash Mouth and Guy Fieri? Apparently. This hasn't happened yet, either, but it so will. I will be the heppest cat this side of the Mississip.

4. GET A SHAVING KIT - I became enamored with the art of shaving last year. Like the old school, brush and lather and all that jazz. I think part of me thinks this is the 1920s. A few weeks ago, Shawn got me some aftershave, so that's ... LIKE a kit, right?

5. NANO EVERY DAY - Basically an invective to write every single day. While I haven't STRICTLY adhered, I have written two chapbooks, a score of articles, a bunch of blogs, and I'm nearly finished with the editing of I'm On Fire (which was actually a full-on rewrite). So yes, I've been accomplishing this quite well, thank you.

6. SEE COMEDY ELSEWHERE - I've been to the Comedy Studio twice to support my standup friends, and went to ImprovAsylum once because my favorite all-lady comedy troupe Bearcats were playing there. DONE!

7. TRAVEL SOMEPLACE THAT ISN'T DISNEY - I've been to New York and New Jersey a few times (for concerts, and Coney Island, and Rocky Horror in Chelsea, and buddies galore), but the real coup this year was flying to Atlanta to hang with Joe, get a 2 hour massage, and see Drive-By Truckers in concert. (And I'm doing it again next month, WAHOO!)

8. PAY OFF YOUR CREDIT CARD - Anyone have $2,000 I can just have?

9. WRITE FOR ARCHIE COMICS - The only amendment to my list, and something I really want to try to do. Still working to make it happen!

Stuff I didn't resolve to do but did: became a producer, director, and sometimes actor of comedy at ImprovBoston: roles I sort of stumbled upon and found out I LOVED. Conceived of a terrifying novella I will be writing this year. Published two collections - a short story one and a poetry one - through a real publisher (Cemetery Dance). Got an iPad. Placed a short story in a MAJOR fiction anthology. Became part of the Rosebud Karaoke movement. Got ... kinda huge, arm and chest-wise. And stayed overnight at the Magic Kingdom.

It's been a great year so far. Let's make the back half of this piece sing!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Movie Never Ends

I was fifteen years old when I first saw The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I watched it with my uncle and his then-girlfriend on my old floor-model TV that took up an unknowable amount of space in my teen-age bedroom. Freddy had seen the film dozens of times, but me and Harriet were noobs … or, in Rocky parlance, virgins.

The film bothered me in a lot of ways I didn’t sort out until much later. This was 1991, remember, and I was struggling with my identity as a wee gay. The cross-dressing and bodybuilders and all that did nothing to convince me that gay was the way to go for me, because I knew in my heart that I wasn’t interested in those things. But midway through the film, Meat Loaf shows up on a motorcycle and a leather jacket and boy howdy did things light up there. Seeing him, and subconsciously understanding the implication that he and Dr. Frank N. Furter had had some sort of affair, fired something in my belly. Wait. Fat guys can be gay? This changes everything.

I probably can’t give Rocky sole credit for me having the courage to come out, but it deserves at least some of it. Still, the movie itself – beyond Meat Loaf’s all-to-brief appearance – rankled me. Then this kid, a friend of my downstairs neighbor, had it on video and insisted I see it again. I did … and something changed.

I’ve never been quite able to figure out what that change was. Maybe it wasn’t the particulars of the gayness, but the fact that it existed at all, in your face and loud as life. I came out at sixteen and while I was never an activist, I went to marches and was a peer leader and one time showed Rocky in my Gay Youth afterschool program. This kid Justin dressed up in fishnets, something I’d never had the balls to do.

Speaking of fishnets: my high school crush was into that part of it. His name was Mike and let me paint you a picture. He was seventeen, a year older than me, and could grow a beard. He was hairy and tall and a bit chubby and I was in love with him. I don’t mean like I admired him or I looked up to him – I mean those things, sure, but I was head over heels in love with him. He was the first man I ever loved, even though we were both boys at the time, and 1992 seems so antique now. He was into Rocky big time, and even after he found out I was in love with him, we talked about going into the Big City and seeing the show in the theater. I was wild to throw rice and toast and see Meat Loaf on the big screen. He was wild to put on fishnets and a bustier and girl it up a little bit. I encouraged this behavior, because I thought cross-dressing was akin to bisexuality, and that if he indulged his predilection for lady clothes, he might actually fall back in love with me. Of course that never happened, because first crushes never work out. We had sex, though, and even though it was a tiny bit disastrous, it’s still one of those memories I’ll always carry with me. I had the soundtrack to Rocky by that point, and during the floor show, Frank sings about, “erotic nightmares beyond any measure / and sensual daydreams to treasure forever.” Those lines helped me so much then and they still do: it’s a sex-healthy and a kink-healthy message; you let yourself be yourself and the rest just falls into place.

I never saw the show in the theater until I started seeing Shawn, now my de facto husband. I can’t actually quite remember my first time, but I know it was with my friend Tracey, who was just as scared as I was. Everyone was dressed up as the characters. I was not. I was scrawny and nervous and wearing used clothes I got from Savers, the Thrift Department Store. I knew to call out stuff, but all my information came from a series of comics that came out when I was still in high school; the callback lines were printed in the back. Bad: they had been sanitized for comic-reading kids during the last days of the Comics Code. Worse: there were three issues, and I’d somehow missed the last one. So while I was fairly confident in knowing the lines for the first two-thirds of the film, the end of it remained a mystery to me. But I’d get it eventually. That stuff comes in time. (In this movie, even time comes!)

I started going regularly in 2000, when Shawn still lived in Davis Square and I lived in Quincy and Tracey lived in Brookline. Shawn came once or twice, but it was a real Tracey and me thing. We’d meet up at Shawn’s and put our gear on (our gear at that point consisted of Tracey wearing angel wings and fishnets and right shirts, and me wearing devil horns and my Thirty Odd Foot of Grunts shirt, and putting my hair up like Xander from Buffy; I never said I was cool or subversive), then head out to the show in Harvard Square. After the show, we’d come back to Shawn’s – I’d get in his bed, Tracey would get the guest room – and in the morning, I’d walk Tracey to the train so she could get to work at 10. (One night, she’d forgotten her normal clothes, so when I walked her to the train, it looked like the tattered remnants of a particularly slutty one-night-stand. As she got in the train, I smiled and said, “Well it’s not mine, but I’ll pay for the scrape.” Her mouth dropped open. The doors slid shut. It was a good morning.)

We kept telling ourselves we’d do it every other week, to save money. Eventually, we realized we were going every weekend. So we just embraced it. The people there got to know us. Other regulars started to hang in our section. Because I’m a nerd, I spent way too much of my free time coming up with callback lines. The greatest thing that could happen to a Rocky regular is when one of the callback lines you make up continues when you’re gone. I brought in this silly “Skeletor! Skeletor!” line when Rocky’s in the tank; after being gone for a while, I came back and found out they were still doing it. It’s maybe dumb, but it made me so giddy. I contributed to this. It’s not high art, probably, but it’s art, and when I add to something like this, something big and traditional with a history as old as me, I can’t help but take a little pride in it.

The cast knew us by name. All the straight guys played it up for me because they knew I was into them. All the ladies and the gay guys did it for Tracey, because she was into them. It was a nice little give and take. Tracey and I became so well known that one Halloween, we went as each other, and everyone got it. Not to get too grandiose about going to see a movie over and over, but at one point I was struck by an epiphany: I was living my 20s in exactly the right way. I was writing novels, Buffy was on TV, I was in love with a man who loved me back and I had plans with my best friend every Saturday night. Those feelings come rarely in a life. I think I’ve had them four of five times over the course of my existence. I’m doing just what I’m supposed to, and I’m having a blast doing it.

I saw Rocky in Texas with a group of bear friends. My buddy Joe introduced me to an outtake song I’d never heard of. And when it came out on DVD, I bought it and watched all the special features. Rocky wasn’t the whole of my life, but it was major.

Things, of course, fall apart. Tracey drifted away from the movie before I did. I liked going alone, but I didn’t like it enough to keep going alone. So I drifted away, too. Wrote books. Found theater. You find ways to keep yourself afloat in the wake of good stuff ending. Some people accuse me of chasing the dragon, of trying to continually replicate the original best experiences by doing the same thing over and over. But that’s not true. There is no try. I revel in repeat experiences because there’s safety in recurrent joy, yeah, but because there’s also nuance and change and history and tradition and friends. It’s that way with improv and karaoke and Disney and Springsteen concerts and King novels and everything I do, every thing I love. You form a structure for your life and you live inside it, because it’s comforting and warm, but it’s never exactly the same. It’s always just different enough to keep me coming back.

I was heartbroken when I found out the Harvard Square theater was closing. It's moving to Boston Common in August (yay!), but Rocky had been In Harvard for twenty-eight years – most of my existence. I’d come back recently with my buddy Marty, which reignited my love of the show (since, I’d been to the show in Chelsea in NYC twice with Marty and/or my buddy Duncan, who has a poster of the show up in his house). Last week, the penultimate week, I came back with my friend Vickie and everyone knew my name. Vickie had only been to the show once and she had a great time; she indulged me in my callbacks and did the Time Warp and threw rice with the rest of us. I had a legitimate panic that she wouldn’t want to come this week for the final Harvard Square show, but she showed up in her fetching black dress with her hair pulled back. I came in my I HEART CHUBBY BEARDED DUDES T-shirt and my yellow bunny ears and my pink Chucks, for that is apparently how I roll.

At the start of the night, they usually do a Virgin Ceremony, where they find a bunch of folks in the audience who have never been to the show and have them do something degrading, and then pop their cherry onstage (it’s a red balloon, like in Lucky Charms). Last night, they changed things up and asked people who had been over 350 times to come up onstage. Folks, I have wanted to be on that stage for years, and now there I was, up in those lights looking back at that giant, rowdy audience of hundreds. I used to have this insane fantasy that the guy playing Brad got sick and his understudy wasn’t available, and they had to scour the audience for someone who knew the role well enough. I did.

Only then did they ask for actual virgins, and then we, as lifers, got to pick our own. I of course went for a chubby, bearded guy in the front. Because hot damn was he foxy. Our mission, we learned, was to switch clothes on stage. Now, I’d seen this guy in line and thought idly about getting into his pants, but this was a dream come true. His shirt was huge on me, and he managed somehow to squeeze into my I HEART CHUBBY BEARDED DUDES shirt. Erotic nightmares. Sensual daydreams. Night. MADE. We lost … but did we? Did we indeed?

The whole show was a little bittersweet, but I wasn’t at all rusty this week (even though I forgot some stuff). I got the bun dance line down. A guy near me and I were trading lines off. A lesbian couple in front of me found most of my lines hilarious. After the show, they turned the house lights on, and all 300 of us freaks and weirdos and outcasts in the theater stood up. And they blasted “Don’t Stop Believin’” over the loudspeakers. All 300 of us sang along and cheered in unison. If I ever needed another moment for an epiphany, there it is.

Things change. The center doesn’t hold. Friends drift away and people are never the same way that they were when you knew them best. But it’s like Bob Seger says: rock and roll never forgets. Rocky changed me, saved me, made me feel like being myself was okay. Whenever I want it again, it’ll be right there, waiting for me. The movie never ends. It goes on and on and on.