Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Trick or Truth

Being a horror fan, it's only natural my favorite holiday is Halloween, the season of chilly breezes, longer nights, personified gourds, gory movie marathons, and pop-up funhouses. Most of the gimmicks they terrorized us with at those attractions are a blurred memory, except for the fake—but very loud and vibrating—chainsaws they wielded one year during a hayride!

And another, subtler moment in an exit crawlspace at the end of a haunted house. In the dark on hands and knees, I waited for the dude in front of me to shuffle ahead so the whole line of us could leave, attitudes behind me growing as restless as mine. Eventually, the final actor-ghoul had to peek inside and encourage this guy to move along. I remember hearing, "It's cool man, just keep going!" as I likewise thought, Yeah, what the hell? Move your ass!

It took an excruciating half-minute more of this to realize I was the one holding everything back. Hanging down in front of me was some tattered plastic debris the crew had fastened to the ceiling of the shaft for one last touch of gloom before departure, which to my confused eyesight became a paralyzing obstacle. There was nothing more blocking the path than an illusion, my own presumptive hallucination.

It's the same the other 364 days of the year: so many phantom roadblocks discouraging our way forward.

: - | >

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Drowning Matt


Summers in the 80s were spent at my grandad's condo in Bradenton, Florida. Right on Sarasota Bay, it was a great place to retire but dull as Wite-Out for a pre-internet middle schooler with no driver's license and too much spare time.

Which is why I was so excited to invite my friend Matt down for a week. We were in homeroom, gym, and math together, lived in adjacent neighborhoods, and already had a number of uneventful sleepovers, so it was an easy permission slip from his folks, though it would end up being way more dangerous than any field trip. 

We weren't even fully unpacked when we grabbed swimsuits and hustled over to the pool with a manic urgency only kids can produce. In the sunny, unsupervised water, our excitement shifted seamlessly into sarcasm, insults escalated to splash fighting, splashing to wrestling, and grappling to near murder.

I can't even remember what it wasan accidental elbow to my neck, the intensifying feedback loop of wills, maybe some oxygen deprivationbut I crossed over into a primordial survival space where it wasn't me anymore. Just animal rage personified as it held a dear friend underwater with gritted teeth and a pure commitment to annihilate. 

Matt thrashed violently below the surface... until he didn't.

His lack of resistance broke the hateful spell, and quicker than our horseplay had risen to violence, my determination melted down to horrified regret, like falling off a mountain. Thank the universe, my frenemy finally emerged puffy and exhausted but alive enough to join me in the most awkward silence of all time. 

In trying to win the moment, I almost lost our lives.

I consider myself an exceedingly compassionate soul, the guy who always roots for the underdog and literally helps sure-to-be-stepped-on worms off a waterlogged sidewalk. I feel "bad" for the last slice of pizza. To think that I nearly ended someone makes me fear for us all! If a total softie can see such red, what of the world's leaders with worse weapons than water and more to lose than face in a splash contest?

Or maybe that's all it ever is, no matter the shouting match, brawl, or all-out world war: a moment of petty masculinity exploded to savage catastrophe.

: - | >

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Shakespeare in the Shitter

I'm a connoisseur of men's room graffiti. One of the best parts of going out, really. That cryptic, inside ridicule that only comes from drunken lack of censorship. The grammatically incorrect hubris over the reader's phallic inferiority. And most of all, a calling out of all our moms.

I especially love the dialogues unfolded over months and years, each contribution in a new font, like a pre-internet chat thread on who's doing what to whom (and their mom). Everything so concise due to pressures of time and smell. Obnoxious, hurried haikus.

Does any of this happen in the women's room?

You can gauge the level of a place by its patrons' messaging. I'd much rather hang out in the joint featuring “Mary Poopins,” “The Logfather,” and “Forrest Dump” than the one stating, “Seth rulez and wuz here.” (I've heard some really nice places don't even have anything scribbled on the walls.)

People want to express themselves and, given a venue, they will. Now that we've all got one in the palm of our hand, I miss the days when you had to venture out to a restaurant, bar, or club and then answer nature's call to happen upon the random tabloid musings of anonymous America, akin to finding a coin on the beach.

With so many walls on which to incessantly post, the virtual world has turned that beach coin to hot sand in our shoe and sent the quality of our collective discourse straight down your grandmother’s moldy butt crack.

: - | >

Monday, February 15, 2021


Before COVID-19, we were in an awful hurry to digitize every relationship. Texts replaced talking, kids faced a computer more than their teacher, and love was reduced to an algorithm.

After months in quarantine, we're burned-out blue from more screen light than sun. Demoralized by login errors and connection failures. Alienated by a grid of familiar faces we can see but not touch.

Pay attention to these feelings. Sit with them. Let it all sink in.  

Because now is our century’s chance to rethink this virtual wish come true.

: - |  >

*The Face Zone is also a live show with music.