Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Barcode on My Wrist is Rainbow-Colored

Well, delinquents and degenerates, I come to you today with my hat in my hands, so very sorry for such a long absence.  I've been working so hard on my novels and Contact, this epic essay (that has pushed my boundaries as an essayist, broken my heart and bolstered my spirit), that I really haven't had time to write any fun little bits of crazy for you.  But like a Greek with an olive branch, I hereby extend to you a gift.

I was at local author and Nevada Arts Council Honorable Mention Recipient Tracy McQuay's workshop the other day (which was fabulous--expect big things from this woman), and was given a writing prompt that could not have been more apt.  Each participant was given a word card and a picture card.  We were to contemplate this word and image combined and then just write.  My word?  Success.  (You're already laughing right?--Wait because it gets better.)  My image?  A rainbow.  Not kidding.  The people at the workshop who know me were giggling before I even put pen to paper.

Well, needless to say I got to indulge myself in that whiny way that my critique groups would never let me get away with.  So here it is for you, dead souls.  May it fill your un-pumping hearts with gladness.

 Staring at a Painting of a Rainbow

            It’s not really the money I’m after; it’s the attention, the absence of invisibility.  I write to validate my existence, and so far as I can tell, no level of success will ever be enough.

            I’m sitting here staring at this painting of a rainbow.  This rainbow’s bridging a river—think boulders, tumbling logs on white water.  This proud smear of color stands above it all—glittering, eye-catching—ignoring the turmoil below, as if all one has to do to overcome an obstacle is skate across.

            But what if the rainbow is the obstacle?  What if the rainbow is a tattoo on your forehead and you fear you’ll never move past it?  Well, then you sit down and write about it.  You’ll write your whole story in images and metaphors and names changed to protect the privacy of those you’ve chosen to exploit.  You’ll admit to the most scandalous things, tell your readers all about the first time you let a guy fuck you.  And each time you tell the truth, you’ll breathe a little sigh of relief as if one more chip has been hewn from your shoulder.

            You’ll sell yourself to one of the big six—maybe Random House or Simon & Schuster—gain countless fans and sell the movie rights, buy your big house in the foothills.  And when you wake in this fancy house, the one with real hardwoods and travertine tiles, you’ll stand in front of the mirror in that naked way you always do.  You’ll say, “Josh Galarza, you’re really somebody, you know that?  You’ve really made it and you’re one hell of a valuable human being and there is nothing wrong with you.  No, nothing wrong at all.”

            But of course you won’t believe this because unlike this painted rainbow, this permanent and undeniable image that could be stamped on your driver’s license, contentedness is as fleeting as a real rainbow, nothing more than an optical illusion brought about by all those zeros in your bank account and all those Twitter followers in cyberspace.  Success will always and only be whatever you’ve yet to achieve.  You will need to prove your worth—if only to yourself—over and over and over again.

            So you’ll put on a pair of pants and sit down at your laptop.  You’ll say aloud, “Don’t be a pussy.  Don’t be a bitch.”  And then you’ll start writing.

May all your happy endings inspire dissatisfied beginnings,

Josh

Sunday, August 28, 2011

All My Friends Are Mutilated

OMG, fans!

Let me start by saying that second-person point of view is the most dangerous to write from.  Why?  Well it's extremely risky to try to tell a reader what he thinks or feels or does.  It just sort of pisses the reader off.  It is for this very reason that I love second person.  I know plenty of writers who fear this point of view, who just can't stand it, and that, my delinquents, is invitation enough to use it gratuitously.  When writing in second person I feel daring; I feel young and hip and modern.  In second person, I'm the cool rebellious kid in a leather jacket.  For me, the joy in second person is casting the reader as a character in my work--what better way to make a reader uneasy than to put him naked on a table in the embalming room of a mortuary?  My credentials as a super-villain are secure.

Well I recently wrote what I consider one of my greatest essays to date, but in using second person, I managed to piss off most of my critiquers--those who didn't flat out hate the essay were left scratching their heads.  (I do, however, have to admit that some of the hatred and head-scratching could be because of the content rather than the irritating point of view.)  Either way, this is great news for you guys because I feel free to post the essay here instead of sending it out to magazines.  My critique group's hatred is like a gift to you!  Enjoy!  (Unless you're a devout Christian in which case you probably should not be subscribing to my blog at all.)

Original Recipe

When I was a kid there was this song we used to sing in Sabbath School called “Onward, Christian Soldiers.”  I was a Seventh-day Adventist who was taught that we were the only true Christians, the only ones who really got it right, and looking back I can say we were a histrionic and paranoid bunch.  At the time I’d been brainwashed to believe we good Adventist boys and girls would one day have to run for the hills to set up camp in a cave or in a dam in the middle of a fast-flowing river because of the immanent “Sunday Law,” a law that would force all Americans to worship on Sunday, effectively making criminals of those of us who observed the Sabbath with conviction.  We Adventists could not abide such a direct dismissal of God’s wishes, and so it was necessary to be ready for our flight at any time.  Did we have enough water and non-perishable foodstuffs stockpiled?  Had we pulled out all those tracking devices the dentists called “fillings”?  And which family member could skin a squirrel in under thirty seconds while identifying non-lethal varieties of wild berries?

Once the Sunday Law went into effect, it was entirely within the realm of reason that we’d be imprisoned or put in the stocks if caught worshipping on the Sabbath.  Maybe we’d be stoned or burned at the stake.  When we children sang “Onward, Christian Soldiers,” we were mentally preparing for the fight of our lives, carrying the cross as Jesus once did and committing ourselves to hang from it until dead while forgiving our executioners if it came to that.  I was five years old.

So the other day I’m enjoying a satirical look at war in the movie Mash when what should Hawkeye and Duke break out with?  Yep.  “Onward, Christian Soldiers.”  Hearing the song again for the first time in many years got me thinking about all the martyrs undoubtedly suffering some major PTSD in heaven right now. 

Just imagine: you’re a Sabbath-keeping outlaw hanging out in your cave—it’s not much to speak of but you’ve made it cozy with a knitted-yarn rug and a few silk azaleas that you got on clearance at The Home Depot.  You’re minding your own business, painting giraffes on the walls or wildebeests on the ceiling, when suddenly you’re being knocked in the head with this canister of tear gas that just flew through the cave door.  Well, shit, you think.  I knew I should have gotten something sturdier than mosquito netting and God’s love to cover that opening.  But let’s be honest; you needed the fresh air because you have no running water and your aversion to carcinogens prevents you from using aluminum-based deodorant. 

You scramble out on hands and knees, all animal-stink and feral, all gnashing teeth and wolf-man hair.  You’re coughing and puking your gourmet breakfast of wild rabbit entrails and quail eggs into the dust.  You lift your head, look through burning eyes into the faces of your persecutors—a band of Sunday-worshipping warriors led by a ripped and sneering Joel Osteen.  He’s even hotter in real life, all sweat-glistened muscle bulging through camo pants and a sash of bullets.  His pecs dance and his thighs throb as he angles toward you, as he motions to his men and aims his weaponry.  He wafts sex and violence. 

Under other circumstances you and Joel might have been friends.  After all, you think, he’s not even a real pastor, just a wildly popular self-help guru; perhaps you could have been the secret gay boy-toy sex scandal who would one day surface to destroy his career.  But the National Sunday Law changed everything, brought war right here to American soil—Joel is just doing what he must to survive.  You both know why Joel has arrived at your cave this morning, and so you lock his gaze in yours and start singing—all defiant like—“Onward, Christian Soldiers, marching as to war…” 

Your words ring loud and true in the fresh mountain air, as if your song is a warning meant to echo from the hills and dales.  You can kill my earthly body, hot Joel, but you’ll never kill my holy spirit!  It’s all so wonderfully cinematic, and it’s right about here that some camo-clad beefcake takes his M-16 and pops a few dozen rounds right through your open mouth.  The nerve of these dicks!  You haven’t even reached the refrain!  You’d like to cry out with something harrowing and melodramatic just like Jesus did—Why hast thou forsaken me?—but you don’t have much of a face anymore, so instead you just crash to the dirt where you’ll make a nice meal for a coyote come evening.

*****

When you wake up dead in the trauma ward of West Heaven General Hospital, you’re surprised to find John the Baptist lounging in the chair beside your bed.  He’s holding his head under his arm and leafing through the latest edition of Marie Claire.  When he sees you stirring he leaves his magazine, puts his noggin between both hands and nods it toward you, a knowing and sympathetic sort of nod.  He says—his accent high-pitched and British—he goes, “There, there, brave soldier.  Everything’s all right now.”  You’re surprised by John’s use of the Queen’s English, but he is an ethnic historical figure and you are a movie-loving American, so it seems to fit.  He sets his head on the rolling table and holds a mirror up so you can see the damage Joel and his minions inflicted upon your face.  John says, “It’s best to get this part over with straight away.  Don’t despair, govna; the look suits you.” 

Don’t despair!  Don’t despair!  “But John the Baptist,” you wail, “the top of my head is hanging by a flap under my ear!”  Gristle and brain flop about as you turn your neck; bits of bone fragment crunch together; blood and pus ooze down your chin.  John says, “We have a support group, lad… meets every Tuesday after American Idol.”

*****

You’re the snack person today at Martyrs of the Cross Support Group.  You considered Goldfish Crackers and juice boxes, but you really wanted to outdo St. Agatha and her fake tits—last week she brought those eco-friendly new applesauce pouches from Trader Joe’s, the show off—so you settle upon a variety bucket from KFC, practically a meal.  Besides, you think, St. Valentine is allergic to gluten, and with this new grilled chicken KFC’s peddling, you’re sure to be the hero among heroes.  Take that, Agatha! 

So after calling in your Idol vote, you show up to the basement room under the health and wellness clinic on Milk & Honey Way, bucket of chicken under your arm.  You try not to look with your dangling eye at the poster of the baby orangutan on the wall, the poster that always leaves the taste of bullshit in what’s left of your mouth.  The little ape’s swinging from a vine above the slogan: “Hang in There!”  Easy for him to say; he still has a face. 

Valentine takes one glance at the crispy chicken and crosses his arms over his chest, pulls his eyebrows together in a scowl.  You say, “Dude, it’s cool.  Look, I got you a grilled breast piece and a corn-on-the-cob.”

In an instant Valentine’s expression has changed.  He’s punching you in the shoulder, slapping you on the ass and going, “I knew there was a reason I loved you.”  This doesn’t mean much from Valentine.  The man loves anything on two legs—women, men, the occasional dancing bear—and though he swears up and down he’s clean, you’re almost certain it was he who was responsible for the recent outbreak of Chlamydia that swept through the Garden of Gethsemane Club last April.

Valentine grabs his snack and you take your seats on a couple of folding chairs in the friendship circle, pass the bucket around.  John the Baptist lights the friendship flame and the meeting begins.  Everyone’s gnawing on their extra crispy or original recipe, sharing the triumphs and failures of the mortally mutilated and playing their parts as gallant victims to a tee, when Joan of Arc walks in.  St. Bartholomew, who’s stitched himself up like Leatherface, screams, “Oh shit, guys!  Hide the chicken!”

What?  Huh?

But it’s too late.  Joan’s seen everyone slopping down the crunchy skin, the baked flesh.  Licking fingers, sucking on bone.  And with a great intake of breath her scorched face crumples into a sobbing mess.  She throws up her hands, all dramatic like, and lets them flail as she runs for the restroom.  She locks herself inside.  Valentine nudges your ribs and whispers, “Good one, dude.”

Everyone makes awkward faces and shrugging motions.  This was your fault and none of them are willing to jump to their feet to rescue you.  You sigh, stand and stride to the restroom door, knock softly.  “Uh, Joan.  Joan, honey.  Are you all right in there?”  You turn to Valentine and grimace, spread your hands.  He whispers, “The orderlies at the hospital used to call her ‘Extra Crispy.’” Joan’s sobs drift from under the door; they sound snotty and laced with centuries of pain, they rack deep with memories of her time in West Heaven General’s burn ward.  You go, “Joan… can I come in?”

“Just leave me alone!”

“Oh, God—I mean, gosh—I’m sorry, Joan.  I didn’t realize how sensitive you were, you know… about cooked stuff.”

Two silent seconds pass and then Joan says—her words loud enough for all to hear— “I… I never told you guys this… but… but when they burned me at the stake…”  Sniffle, sniffle.  “The flames… well, the heat was…  my… they had to amputate my vagina.  My fucking vagina!”  And she’s sobbing with abandon once again.

Everyone’s looking at each other like a polka-dotted zebra just walked in the room.  Gasps and murmurs from the group.  “Is that even possible?”  “The poor dear.”  “Jesus, Mary and Joseph bangin’ nails!”

Valentine goes, “So I guess this means no smores on our wilderness retreat?”  And from behind the bathroom door, Joan screams, “Fuck off, genital wart!”  Sobbing, sobbing. 

John the Baptist is so pissed he leaps from his chair, throws his own head to the concrete floor like Moses when he fumbled the Ten Commandments.  A sickening crack, a groan of pain, and the head rolls bowling-ball style until it hits the wall.  John’s head growls, “This is supposed to be a martyr safe space, Valentine; you know that!  And now I’ve got another fucking skull fracture.  Son-of-a-bitch-dumb-bastard-mother… Christ-on-a-cross.  Oh, bollocks.” 

James of Zebedee—who’s got his noggin duct taped in place—concurs, “Dick move, bro.”

John storms to the wall to retrieve his head.  He blows out the friendship flame.  His voice weary, “Let’s call it a night, guys; give Joan a little space.”

The walking maimed file up the basement stairs, dragging their severed limbs and memories of dignity behind them.  You rest your back against the restroom door, slide down until your butt hits the concrete.  You sigh, say, “Look, Joan… I… I know how rough it is for you.  I mean, look at me; I’ve got, like, half a head.”  Silence for a moment.  “Joan?”

A rustling.  The door opens and Joan emerges.  She wipes her empty eye sockets and seats herself beside you; she smells of musk and campfire embers.  She takes your hand in her mummified fingers—skin like caramelized amber.  Her touch doesn’t repulse you quite as much as you imagined it would.  She says, “They don’t care about us, all the other righteous.”  A pause.  “Sure, when you first arrive there’s an awkward award ceremony.  Everyone shows up to watch the big war hero collect a plaque and a purple halo.”  She sloughs a few flakes of fire-roasted skin from her arm.

You nod, chuckle.  “Yeah, my plaque said ‘In Appreciation of His Martyrdom at the Hands of God’s Followers.’  Can you beat that?”

She shakes her head.  “I know, right?  But even as you’re limping from the stage, the angels and Jesus, all the faithful who still have their genitals, they’re already turning away.”  She turns to arrest you in her gaze, her empty sockets like black pits of tar; for a moment you imagine her at the stake, her eyeballs bursting with a boiling squirt as the inferno licks her cheeks raw.  “They don’t want to see us.  Our brand of heroism is only romantic on TV and in the movies.  No one wants to sit down to a green bean casserole with this.”  She waves her hands over her flambéed crust of skin; she looks a lot like a lasagna.  “We’re the pride of heaven until we’re walking down its streets.  The invisible warriors of Christ.  That’s our cross to bear, I guess.  To be revered in name, recoiled from in eternal life.  Some days I just can’t stand it, you know?  I just… I just want to be seen, that’s all.”

“Yeah, I get that.  The other day I was walking down Of Gold Street and The Great I Am himself actually dived behind a cloud to avoid me.  Kinda makes you wonder what the point was, doesn’t it?”  You feel the trace of a smile on your remaining lip as you remember the better times, before the National Sunday Law.  “I mean, I could have been Charlie Sheen’s replacement on Two and a Half Men—Ashton Kutcher was their second choice, you know—but instead I opted for cave life and got my face shot off.”

“Yeah,” Joan says.  “I could have been an award-winning prostitute like my best girlfriends Betty of Crocker and Crystal of Light, but I was too dumb to ignore the voices, so here I am, Joan of Arc, patron idiot of France.” 

The two of you sit in silent companionship for a few moments, and then you give Joan’s knee a little slap.  “You know what we need?”

She looks at you with a face that says, New faces? 

“Baskin-Robbins!  Everything feels a little better with Jamoca Almond Fudge; don’t you think?”  She doesn’t have any lips, but you’re sure Joan is smiling behind the ancient ruins of her teeth.  And then you say, “Joan… I… I know what they used to call you.  I’m so sorry about the chicken.”  You rub the back of your neck with your hand.  “But when I look at you, I don’t see ‘Extra Crispy.’  I see…  I see an ‘Original Recipe.’”

You walk up the stairs together, arm in arm.  The passersby on Milk & Honey Way lift their collars, pull down on their caps and try to avert their eyes as you skip by on your way to Baskin-Robbins, but here as martyrs hand in hand, you find that you and Joan have become something bigger, something stronger, a creature of substance impossible to look past.  And each time another of God’s children crosses your path, Joan slows from your skip, reaches out her atrophied arm and says, “Hi there, friend.  My name is Joan of Arc, and I laid down my life for Jesus.”

Remember me in your prayers or curses,

Josh

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Have You Heard the News!? Tuna's the New Chicken!

Fans!  It's been so long!  Gracious me, how I've missed our time together.  You're all treasures, each and every one of you, and though your parents have disowned you for your sinful ways, I never will. 

Anyhow, I've spent the last month writing distasteful things for you to enjoy, along with working on this really volatile essay called Contact--which might prove to be my most revealing, moving and poignant essay yet.  I've also been working on novel number two, Silence.  For those of you invested in my novels, you'll be glad to know that after a year of work on this, my most difficult book, I've finally figured out what its shocking twist will be.  I am so triumphant!   I won't give anything away, but let's just say that certain themes keep popping up in my fiction, and one of these themes is "women are dangerous."  So watch your backs, boys!

Here is something completely insane I wrote especially for you.  Enjoy...  Oh, and let me know if it actually offends you and why.  I'm consistently and joyously offensive to Christians (who've totally earned it), but lately my critique group has been pointing out that my work is offensive to blacks, women, the mentally disabled, members of my immediate family and smelly people (I'm not kidding).

Taking Back Tuna


            I don’t eat creatures from the sea.  It’s not that I’m above ingesting things that eat their own shit or anything snooty like that; after all, I love chicken.  It’s just that the four-year-old in me has always found seafood sort of icky.  The taste of it.  The look of it—so often shining with slime.  And then there’s that smell.

Somehow I think my pathological aversion runs deeper than the superficial, though.  It really began at the grocery store where I used to shop with my grandfather when I was a kid.  There I’d be in the seafood section, engaging in an impossible staring contest with one rainbow trout after another.  They’d pierce my soul with those goopy zombie eyes, each paralyzing me in its everlasting gaze.  I’d imagine their little jaws working up and down, speaking all the horrors they’d been through that brought them to this place of indignity.  Pitiful things, the lot of them, gutted corpses wrapped in clear plastic and displayed like slaves at the auction, each fish’s weight trumpeted in bold black ink right there on its packaging.  How humiliating. 

You didn’t see the other animals treated this way.  I mean, I’m sure it sucked for all those cows to get hacked to bits and fed through a meat grinder, but at least you didn’t have to see their frowning faces, each eye open and arresting as if to say, I see what you did to me, to my friends Clover and Maribel here in the Deli Section.  We had hopes and dreams, you know; we were going to open a yogurt shop at the mall and chew grass until we died of old age.  But that’s all over now, isn’t it?

I suppose if I grew up somewhere in the third world, I’d be less inclined today to partake in the occasional lemon-marinated chicken breast served on a bed of rice pilaf.  I’d have been traumatized by the beady stares of the whole chickens roasted on sticks that you could buy for 12,000 dinar a piece at the local open-air marketplace—sure, those crunchy beaks could do wonders for a guy’s colon, but so long as they were attached, I’d only ever hear the strangled clucks of pain and crows for mercy as the birds turned slowly over the flames.  I guess being born into one of the most modern and civilized nations in the world, I just never got the chance to have my humanity called into question by a piece of poultry.

So anyway, the other day I’m hanging out with my roommate-slash-cousin Whitney—tall, beautiful and exotic in a racially ambiguous sort of way.  She’s busying herself in our dated kitchen, mixing up something that smells distinctly like it rode in on a dolphin-drawn seashell carriage.  I’m leaning up against the faded laminate countertop—a remnant of the Cold War era—wrinkling my nose behind Whitney’s back and thinking up distasteful things to say about the tuna she’s about to eat for dinner.  The under-the-panty jokes all seem too easy, so I just keep my mouth shut and head to the fridge like the grazing cow I am. 

I’m neck deep in the refrigerator, sleeves rolled to the elbows for ease of movement and quicker reflexes, like a tracker on safari.  I’m moving things around, hunting for something self-destructive I can feel guilty about later, when Whitney asks me to pass her the mayonnaise.  Oh, dear God, things just went from fish sticks to octopus legs on the gross-out meter—I mean, the only thing that could make fin-food any less appealing is the addition of mayonnaise: the most disgusting edible substance since afterbirth.  With a little shudder, I pass Whitney the jar, held at arm’s length by the tippy-tips of my fingers.  I shake off the disgust and dive back into the wilds of the fridge. 

Searching. 

Searching. 

Ah-ha!  Feta!  I consider making a salad for about three seconds, but decide it’s faster, easier and more satisfying to just eat the cheese straight out of the tub. 

I prop myself back at the counter and start popping curds like they’re marshmallows or something, watching Whitney spread her sloppy concoction on a slice of bread.  She says, “I’ve always loved tuna fish, but I never let my mom make it for me when I was in school because I was embarrassed to eat it in the cafeteria.”

Before thinking I blurt, “Yeah, dude.  That shit totally stinks.”  This from the guy with a mouthful of something that could have been aged under a toenail.

Whitney get’s this light-bulb look on her face.  “We should totally start a campaign to change tuna’s image!”

Uh-huh. 

“There could be commercials and print-ads with little kids smiling and eating tuna together…”  Her gaze roams to the ceiling with the effort of her scheming.  She mutters, “Lots of bright colors…  A mascot.  And… and a song!” 

My cousin, tuna’s publicist.   

She takes a bite of her sandwich, gets that post-bong hit expression on her face.  “Oh, yeah.  It’ll have to be catchy, for sure.  Something you could sing in a round.”  She claps her hands together.  “‘The Tasty Tuna Song!’  Perfect!  I mean, no kid should have to hide behind the library to enjoy a tuna sandwich.” 

For a moment I imagine my cousin at eight years old, hiding her shame in a brown bag and taking quick bites from under her denim jacket with no one to keep her company but the marmey librarian, a horn-rimmed spinster-type who’s used to the particular funk of tuna because it’s the favorite meal of all those cats she keeps as tenants.  Yes, things have been hard for the chicken of the sea, especially on elementary school campuses. 

I let my mind wander to my distant past, to Jacks Valley Elementary School.  In the fourth grade my best friend was this plump blonde with a gap between her teeth, a raging case of ADD, and a Lost in Space fixation.  Natalie, I’ll call her.  I think Natalie chose me as her best friend because she had a philanthropic chamber in her heart reserved for misfits and gutter trash.  I was the kid who didn’t bathe regularly and wore the same two button-ups—one a patterned lavender nightmare and the other a neon green travesty—every alternating day.  I ate far too many Hostess Powdered Donettes, had the spare doughnut around my waist to prove it, and found that opening my mouth was a bit dangerous because the voice that came out belonged not to a strapping boy, but to a delicate little girl. 

Natalie and I were the perfect pair, enjoying many giggles at the expense of whatever bodily function had drawn our attention that day, and Natalie never hesitated to sacrifice herself for a laugh.  This one day she said to me, “So I went to my grandma’s house the other night.”

“Uh-huh.”  I nodded as Natalie spoke, always invested in her jokes.

“I asked what we were having for dinner, right?  And Grandma just jumped on the table, pulled down her pants and yelled, ‘TUNA!’”  As she told the joke, Natalie actually leaped on the cafeteria table and dropped her jeans, the word “tuna” trumpeted with a flair that suggested it might be accompanied by a swinging brass section and jazz hands.  Poor tuna, Natalie and I were about as lame as they come, but the fish couldn’t escape its role as the butt of even our stupid jokes.

This is why I totally understand my cousin’s need to reinvent tuna as one of the cool kids.  After all, with the dandruff caked in my hair and the nickname Natalie gave herself—The Constipated Cow—we were basically tuna’s human contemporaries.

To look at me now one might never guess I was the fat, smelly kid.  I groom meticulously and lament every perceived imperfection in the mirror. I work out like Jessie Spano in that very special episode of Saved by the Bell.  I pluck my nose hairs instead of trimming them because I feel I deserve to be punished for growing nose hairs in the first place, and I buy new clothes that I don’t need just because it feels good to wear something fresh off the rack.  My reinvention took many awkward teen years and the tenacity toward perfection that only a gay with an obsessive disorder could possess, but I’ve effectively left my old distasteful self behind.  And Natalie?  Well she became the coolest kind of kid around—a successful stand-up comedian who converses with her own vagina on stage before live, paying audiences, people who would never have spared her a glance back in the days when she showed up to school dressed as a Power Ranger.

So all of this is going through my head as I’m standing in the kitchen with Whitney, tub of feta tipped to my lips, tapping it gently to gobble down the last bits of feet-flavored goodness.  I wish I had some sun-dried tomatoes right about now.  And here I realize that I actually want to be a soldier for tuna.  If Whitney needs brave volunteers to dance on street corners while wearing tuna-sandwich boards, she can sign me up.  I’ll help a defenseless fish out, sure, maybe lead a special-ops unit charged with infiltrating first-grade classrooms to change how tuna’s seen in the eyes of judgy children far and wide, kids whose palettes are too immature to benefit from the fish’s high concentration of omega 3s and lean protein.  Yeah.  Yeah, why not?

And when one of those little monsters of six years makes a less-than-gracious remark about the tuna samples being passed around the room, I’ll simply ask him to stick his finger in his belly button and smell it.  Man-oh-man!  What a riot that will cause!  “Not so high and mighty now, are we, young Master Timmy?” 

As our Taking Back Tuna movement grows, Whitney will get lots of national media attention.  I’ll most certainly get to accompany her to high-profile interviews with the likes of Anderson Cooper, the sexiest silver fox on CNN.  All my favorite Food Network Stars will line up to meet us for sure.  Heck, maybe we’ll get to guest on Paula’s Best Dishes where we’ll whip up something that even the addition of tuna can’t save from being thoroughly artery clogging.

Yes, it’ll all be so great; Tuna will never again a punch line in a cunnilingus joke, and Whitney and I will be famous beyond our wildest imaginations, the saviors of the most misunderstood fish in the brine.  

Just don’t think for a moment that I’m eating any of that icky stuff.  Seriously.  That’s just nasty.

May your test results forever come back negative,

Josh

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Evidently Babies Aren't So Useless After All

Hey, fans!  Guess who's back and fortified with the words "Award Winning Author" before his name?  This dude!  You'll be glad to know that your Zombie King is now the proud recipient of a Literary Artist's Fellowship from the Nevada Arts Council.  (I'll be rich for about five minutes and then I'll pay my bills.)  This is a huge honor and the greatest achievement of my burgeoning writing career.  These fellowships do not come easily (they are won in a harrowing juried competition), and if you'll allow me to get a little real with you for just a moment, I am truly honored. 

But enough of all that serious realizing-my-dreams crap.  Today I have something so heinous for you I had to hurry and post it before I chickened out.  A little background... This one time I wrote an essay about masturbation (or the lack thereof), and when the piece was Hiroshimaed by my critique group, I learned a valuable lesson: make sure your thesis has substance before you sit down and write four pages about your penis.  If there's one thing you can take from reading my stupid blog, please let it be this; let my penis's shame save your penis (or vagina, if you've got one) from a similar fate!

Anyway, this one might lack substance, but it makes up for it with its big balls...

Men in Fishnets

So I’m sitting on the beach this afternoon, trying to enjoy the only officially-licensed bit of nature I actually like, picturesque Lake Tahoe.  As a general rule, I place “nature” and all its trappings in the distasteful column of my existence—all that dirt and animal feces can’t be healthful, can it?  Just imagine all the unpleasant creatures out there that can’t wait to take up residence in a guy’s ear or settle down for the long haul in his pubic hair.  Gives my spine a real shiver, it does.  But having said all that, even I have to admit a little sunlight and oxygen is useful every once in a while, if only to remind me to never take the great indoors for granted. 

So here I am, exfoliating my toes in the sand and listening to some Colbie Caillat on the old iPod.  Colbie provides the perfect beach music; she’s like James Taylor… but for girls… and shameless gay dudes.  My gigantic ladies’ sunhat—the type you’d wear with white gloves to a Sunday brunch or a formal tea party—sits beside me instead of on my head; there’re a few other guys on the beach today so I’ve been forced to settled for my favorite baseball cap instead; less sun protection, sure, but you know how it is, wouldn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable.  I’ve slathered myself in half a tube of expensive vegetarian sunscreen in the hopes of making it home without any tagalong melanomas, and I’ve positioned my umbrella in such a way that if UV rays could talk they’d say, “We’ll get you someday, paranoid bastard; you just wait!”

I’m trying to let the lulling sounds of the adult-contemporary carry me off to a warm place of thoughtless meditation, but I just can’t get comfortable.  It’s my ass, you see.  I’d been wading in the water, soaking my trunks, and now the lining of my shorts is yanking on my ass hairs.  I shift in my plastic strappy beach chair.  The movement just sends the elastic cutting into my crotch. Swim trunk liners.  What a crap invention, right?  When you put on a pair of swim trunks you think it’s going to be kind of fun and different.  There’s this moment of anticipation right before your legs go in.  Awesome!  A fishing net to contain my cod and mermaid’s purse instead of restrictive cotton.  How airy!  How daring!  How risqué!  So you pull your shorts up and tie the drawstring.  You wiggle a little and adjust your junk, take a few strides.  Not bad, you think.  Not bad at all.  And as you head toward the sand and surf you’ve got a smile on your face and a draft in your pants.  This fun is short lived, though.  As the day wears on your smile becomes a forced grimace and you just end up spending most of the day grabbing at your business and extracting netting from your secret places. 

Imagine all these executive jerks at the swim trunk factory sitting around a conference table and going, “So what shall we do about this free-balling situation, guys?  I mean, no one wants to wear his soggy briefs under his trunks—all that chafing.”  Theodore chimes in, “Yeah, and don’t forget the possibility of fungal growth.”  Murmurs and grimaces; head shakes all around.  Then one bright fellow, Rupert’s his name, he places his finger in the air to indicate his eureka moment and says with a flourish, “I’ve got it, guys!  Nylon!  I mean, women seem to love it.  Pantyhose are all the rage with our shoulder-pad wearing contemporaries.” 

A collective misogynistic chuckle.

Winston puts on his famous condescending tone and is all, “But isn’t nylon a bit effeminate, Rupert?  I mean, what you do in the privacy of your own home is your business, but…”

“Not if nylon were used in a manly way!  We’ll make a net, something you could aim a soccer ball at or dunk a basketball through, something a dolphin could drown in.  It’ll be perfect!”

The owner of the company—who inherited it from his father after he choked him to death on his own silver spoon—claps Rupert on the shoulder and says—his voice deep and strong like a superhero’s—“Rupert, I like your style.  In fact, I think I’ve got a corner office on the eighth floor with your name on it.  Wrapping one’s manhood in a nylon fishnet lining.  What could go wrong?” 

And with that, the tools take the rest of the afternoon off to congregate at the strip club where they help troubled young women work through their daddy issues.  And me?  I spend my nature afternoon at the beach imagining the unattractive grill marks pressing themselves into my chilled and clammy ass, wondering if anyone would notice if I stuck a hand up my trunk leg to rip the lining out like a street fighter might rip out the spine of truly menacing foe.  A great day had by all.

Thanks, Rupert.  Dick.

Ha-ha!  Zing!  We really showed the National Board of Good Taste with that one, didn't we?!  Anyway, my miscreants, let it be known that all this was but a contrivance to get us to the latest edition of one of Food for Zombies's most popular features,

The Zombie King's Bankably Brilliant Inventions:
Gadgets, Gizmos and Other Such Nonsense

Today's Invention: The Astounding Microfiber Onesie!

While the creators of the swim-trunk lining were out pressing dollar bills into your girlfriend's g-string, we at Food for Zombies were putting our greatest minds to work, looking for ways to make babies useful in ways more obvious than as appetizers to serve your decomposing guests.

Do you ever get tired of your husband tracking mud and school-girl entrails across those just-polished hardwoods?  Are your children forever kicking their classmates severed heads across the living room, leaving trails of gore as far as the eye can see?  Why-oh-why will no one shake off that soil they collected while clawing their way from their graves before coming to afternoon tea?  I mean, Jesus!  Is a clean home too much to ask for?

Well, the answer is no!  Zombie clean-freaks rejoice, for the makers of Vita-Cigs and Little Diablo Snack Cakes have the solution for you... The Astounding Microfiber Onesie!  Just slip one of these adorable onesies on your otherwise useless infant, set him on the floor, and let his need to escape his worthless existence do the hard work for you!  As your baby crawls or rocks his way across the floor, the super absorbent microfiber onesie will polish and shine, attracting seventy-eight percent more dust motes and allergens than a mop or broom.

And here's the best part: you'll be the proud parent of the sassiest baby on the block, for each onesie comes with a uniquely abhorrent catchphrase silk screened on its back.  "You.  It's What's for Dinner."  Zing!  "I See Dead People (And Then I Eat Them)."  Pow!  "Your Sister Tasted Like Chicken."  Ouch!

The Astounding Microfiber Onesie--available at Babies "R" Us and other fine baby boutiques.

Until next we meet to bring our parents shame,

Josh

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

God and All His Judgy Friends

Well hello, fans!  It came as a surprise to me too that we didn't get raptured the other day--I was so looking forward to feasting upon the heavenly brains of all those do-gooders and chatting fashion staples with Mother Teresa--but being left behind isn't all bad.  After all, you get to read another one of my pointless and entirely self indulgent blog posts!  I'm such a gift to the world.

Anyway, today I've got more Heavenly Father issues to work out.  I blame this little phase on the world religions class I took this semester which required me to write five million or so essays on such nonsense.  This one's not nearly as good as Dinner at Adolf's, but I needed to post something, so, you know, you get the second rate essay--it's like listening to a Ke$ha album when Lady Gaga accidentally doesn't sync on your iPod...

Hold the Sacrificial Lamb

            I often ponder how well-adjusted and high-functioning I might be if there was no God to be disappointed in me.  I imagine the craftsman style bungalow I’d share with my husband, the beefy anesthesiologist.  He’d teach me how to install a sink while remodeling our master bath.  Yeah, he’d be that guy—owner of numerous power tools—but he’d be sensitive, too.  Our adoptive kids—Watermelon and GumBaby—they would adore him because each night he’d come home and wrestle with them, and when the three crashed into the end table, knocking the antique lamp to the floor where it would shatter into a million pieces, I’d walk into the room and just smile because I only ever pretended to like antiques.  Then we’d all laugh and eat mint chocolate chip ice cream and watch The Princess and the Frog together under our family-sized Snuggie.  I would have a great life, because here’s the thing.  I would be sensitive, too.  If the world were religion free, I wouldn’t have had a reason to abandon my own humanity; I wouldn’t have needed to become an automaton who couldn’t tolerate the touch of other humans. 

I would have a lot more sex.

            Of course I don’t believe such a world could exist.  It seems impossible to me that the cave folk or Cro-Magnon men or whatever could have enjoyed their primitive existence without worshipping fire or the sun or a pile of rocks; after all, they needed some way to pass the time before the invention of basic cable.  And we’re such an inquisitive race.  Could humans have evolved without answering the unanswerable question of what happens when we die?  Could we have come to this great age of modern technology and social enlightenment without constructing various means to oppress and vilify and exalt?  I don’t think so.  But it wouldn’t have hurt the human race to try.

            The other day, I’m sitting with my aunt, wasting a Sunday afternoon; we’re watching this show called Ruby about an obese woman who’s evidently interesting because she’s obese, and I ask my aunt—who’s crazy religious—I say, “So what do you think the world would be like without religion?  You know, like, if it didn’t exist?”  She got this look on her face like I was coming at her with dental tools and says, “Well, that’s just disturbing.  Imagine the mayhem and sorrow.  The suffering.  If people didn’t have God to guide them and protect them…”  She let her sentence fall away before her words could navigate into that dark place where vocabulary fears to tread.

            I just sighed and turned my attention back to Ruby who was crying and beating on a table with a Styrofoam bat, working out her complex-carbohydrate issues I guess, and I thought to myself, You should have seen that answer coming like the second coming.  And I really should have.  I won’t speak about all religious people, but those I know have proven to me time and again that when you have faith in a higher power, you don’t have to have faith in humanity.

            In the religion-free world that I imagine, people are still innately good.  In this fantasy world, I may have sex with dudes, but it’s cool because who cares?  Sodomy isn’t sinful because there’s no such thing as sin, at least not as it’s defined in religious terms.  In my world there isn’t a bunch of made-up stories taken as truth used to regulate what is right and wrong.  Right and wrong are defined instead by the effects actions have upon us and others.  Sure, sure.  It isn’t a perfect world.  You’ll still meet your occasional dick or sociopath or telephone survey operator, but if humanity is generally a well-meaning species in the real reality, why wouldn’t it be in an alternate, religion-free reality as well?

            I didn’t try to explain this theory to my aunt.  I just kept my eyes on the screen and imagined taking my own Styrofoam bat to a coffee table, imagined letting my feelings toward religion out with a melodramatic wail and a barrage of tears.  Ruby’s therapist would encourage me.  She’d say, “Tell that table how you feel!  We’re all here for you!  Just scream it out!  Just scream!”  Of course this behavior would be out of character for the carefully controlled robot-human I’ve become, but I find that the further I get from my religious upbringing, the closer I get to a life outside of the judgments and scorn that have stood in my way for such a very long time. 

And even though I may never take up a Styrofoam bat and let it all out, I’m waking up to my own humanity a little bit each day—I can almost feel the woodenness softening in my limbs.  This husband from my musings, he’s out there somewhere; I’m sure of it.  He’s just waiting for me to find him so we can gay up that bungalow with new hardwoods and recessed lighting.  I think his name will be Burt and he’ll wear driver’s caps with abandon.  And when we’re ready to have all our friends over for the big housewarming party, Burt and I will be sure to leave God and all his judgy friends off the guest list.  After all, God wouldn’t really want to attend our party; Burt and I will be serving hors d’oeuvres, not sacrificial lamb.

 See you at the next scheduled rapture,

Josh

P.S. Resist the urge to attend the party in your pants--God's watching, sinner!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Dude! You Shot the Gandhi!

Well hello, fans, 

I know it's been far too long and you've probably disowned me, but I've been very busy eating children (which is Zombie-code for earning paychecks).  Perhaps the morsel of awesomeness that I have for you today will quell the font of unrest that always takes hold in my genius's absence.  Someday when I'm famous you'll have to pay for crap like this, so do enjoy while you can...

Dinner at Adolf's

           So my bat-shit religious family believes in this mythical place called Heaven where good people go when they die.  This promised land of golden houses and snow-white turtle doves where you walk with Jesus and don’t need to eat or shit or anything unpleasant is somewhere on a cloud or in outer space or something—evidently the specific geographic location is unknown, but my family is sure that Heaven exists because the Bible told them so.

            Anyway, we’re sitting  at the dinner table the other day—this is my cousin, my aunt and me—and I ask them how a guy’s supposed to know if he’s good enough, you know, how he can be sure he’ll make it in.

            “Well, no one can know for sure,” my cousin says.  “Take Hitler for example.  Perhaps in his final moments he repented for his sins and God forgave him.  Maybe when we get to Heaven we’ll see Adolf there and embrace him as our brother.”

            You mean to tell me that Adolf-fucking-Hitler could be allowed safe passage into Heaven, even after murdering and torching thousands of God’s chosen people, even after the travesty that was that little mustache?

            My aunt, “Only God can truly know what’s in a man’s heart.”

            This is incredible.  Has anyone told Gaddafi about this clause? 

            I’m sitting there thinking, wouldn’t it be awesome if you show up to Heaven and you’re looking around for your favorite peacemaker of all time, Mahatma Gandhi—you want to treat him to a Starbucks or something because, after all, he’s Gandhi; he’s earned it.  So you’re going through the Town of Heaven directory and you’ve exhausted the Gs and you're half way through the Ms, thinking maybe God organizes his followers by first name, when Zachius comes up behind you and goes, “You looking for Gandhi, dude?”  And you go, “Oh, yeah, man, do you got his digits?”  And Zachius just laughs and points downward.

            What?  Gandhi’s in hell?  You say, “Zachius, you wee little man!  You must be shitting me.  He’s fucking Gandhi!”

            Zachius just shrugs and asks if you’ve filed your income taxes yet. 

It’s time to get to the bottom of this.  So you pet a few friendly lions and ride a dolphin on your way to God’s house, ring the doorbell (which chimes with just the Hallelujah-chorus-of-angels cliché you’d expect), and go, “God, man.  What’s up with Gandhi?”

            God says, “My child, I get this question a lot, and the simple answer is look, when I say thou shalt not commit suicide, I fucking mean it.”  He places his hand on your shoulder like a history teacher or a football coach.  “Do you know how many times Gandhi tried to starve himself?”

            “But, Yahweh,” you say, “he saved thousands of lives in India with his non-violent protests.  Shouldn’t that count for something?”

            And God, being the wily old fellow that he is, quickly changes the subject.  He says, “So, have you heard about these Pillow Pets?  I mean, they’re a pillow and a pet!”  Then he passes you a lollypop (a bright red one that materialized as if by magic when he reached behind your ear), pats you on the head, and slams the door in your face.

            Well that was rude, but you chock it up to the fact that the guy is spread so thin.  It’s a lot of work birthing every butterfly from its chrysalis and keeping track of every new conspiracy theory Glenn Beck thinks up.

            Oh well.  In God's defense, Gandhi's last words were used to take his name in vain.  You turn from God’s porch and meander through his front garden on your way back to Of Gold Street.  You unwrap the lollypop and toss the wrapper on God’s lawn, stick the confection in your mouth and resist the urge to make that obscene fellatio gesture that always gives you a giggle.  If your date with Gandhi isn't meant to be, you think, maybe you’ll just ring up old Adolf instead and enjoy a dinner of knockwurst and kraut.  You can shoot the shit about art and facial hair experimentation.  You’ll probably have a great time.  He’ll be in excellent spirits.  After all, Heaven is the perfect place for a guy like Hitler.  Just ask your family—evidently Jews aren’t allowed in unless they accept Jesus into their hearts, and, as your cousin so succinctly put it, “We all know how the Jews felt about Jesus.”


What is the moral of this story, my legions of degrading misfits?  Two things: first, I'm a terrible person who may in fact get to meet Gandhi in Hell, and second, catch phrases are awesome!  Which brings me to the latest addition to Food for Zombies:

The Zombie King's Catch Phrases for Degenerates

Today's catch phrase: "Dude!  You totally shot the Gandhi!"

Etymology: Who the hell shoots Gandhi, right?  I mean, he's Gandhi!  When one "shoots the Gandhi," he screws up big time, not just Charlie-Sheen big, but shooting-Gandhi big, hence the catch phrase.

Until next time, may all your meals be raw and quivering,

Josh