Sunday, January 22, 2012

Pulp Fiction: Meet The Hack

Don’t let the Pulp Fiction-esque covers fool you.

What you need to know about Greg Crites is that he can write a mean story. And by mean, I mean escapist fiction for the masses that includes bigger-than-life antiheros and satirical and/or pop culture related “villains” - who may or may not be a metaphor for all that is wrong (or right) with the world. His writing is a heady feast of linguistic endowment rarely found in commercial fiction today.

Greg Crites is to words what Paula Deen is to butter. But, while both artistes create insanely appetizing fare, the former won’t necessitate a prescription for Victoza - the diabetes medicine for which America’s chubby culinary connoisseur is now the paid spokesperson.

He’d probably never admit this but... methinks Mr. Crites actually has something to say. His work, while entertaining as hell, not only speaks to the pulp zeitgeist and the simple, ironic absurdities of life, but also to universal truths. Thing is, you’re so busy laughing, you don’t pick up on things like exploration of social themes and mores until long after you’ve finished the book.

As an author, I can tell you that’s a good thing.

When asked about the key to his success as a self-published author (by Jeanne Bannon, author of Invisible… read the full article on her blog ) Crites said:

“My stuff is always first draft... I do things the way the Pulp masters did. The guys who wrote Doc Savage, The Shadow, Tarzan, Conan. They got paid by the word and they churned out some words. I don’t do litrachur, which I’m unqualified for. I aim to entertain and I never lose sight of that goal. I keep a steady stream of stories underway. You have to produce. You have to imagine you are a writer for ‘Lost’ and you had better get some words typed or start looking for a real job.”

By his own admission, audio books make up the largest part of his sales, and having benefited personally from his oratory offerings, I can testify to the fact that he’s got a set of pipes Deity-made for narration.

So, without further ado, strap yourselves in and let’s chat with the author, himself. He’s sitting in a comfy chair with a drink at the ready and, now… me in his lap - which is how we’ll proceed with the rest of this interview.

Greg, (may I call you Greg?) I recently read Crusade. Tell the folks out there what it’s about, then kindly explain to us what you have against God and organized religion.

Crusade is my tribute to Hunter S. Thompson. It is my inferior version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Thompson took a cynical look at America during a period when America really needed someone to take a cynical look at it. Not that it did any good. Or changed any minds. Or elevated anyone to at least try and do better.

I started with outright theft of his premise, two crazed journalists on assignment, and went from there. (Or, it could be based on my actual adventures as a reporter, but the statute of limitations has not yet expired on some of the crap we did.)

This will disappoint the thousands who’ve read Crusade, but I actually have nothing against either religion, or God. It is organized religion that I took to task in Crusade. As individuals, being religious has little impact on civilization, and, is actually a positive phenomena. But, when folks get together and start attempting to legislate or force others to adhere to their beliefs, it’s a negative thing and they should be hunted down and killed. In much the same manner organized religions have done throughout the history of humankind.

As in every human endeavor, greed sooner or later takes over, the greedy realize they need fanatics—and they find them. Contrary to new-age, liberal, progressive, hipster delusions, some folks are just smart enough to become dangerous but not smart enough to contribute anything to civilization. Hence, there always exists a ready pool of borderline imbeciles to whip into a frenzy of fanaticism. All that said, I am a spiritual person in that, I take comfort in the knowledge that there is no way my species sits at the top of the food chain.

I see. Well you put a lot of thought into that answer. I’m impressed. Now, you seem like a guy who would take great pleasure in screwing the man - metaphorically, of course. Any suggestions for the sheeple reading this interview? How can they make a difference in the world around them while simultaneously pissing off the establishment?

Stop electing lawyers. Plain and simple. They complicate everything until it becomes unworkable, thus guaranteeing they always have work. Think for yourself. Analyze, don’t just swallow the popular line. Stop giving money to those whom you know are douchebags. Hit ‘em in the wallet. Works every time. Finally, love your friends, plot to kill your enemies.

You seem a little… stressed. On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy are you?

I’m sober now, so I’m at a negative 2 or 3. Later, after a few drinks I’ll hover around the ten mark.

Are you comfortable? Here… let me scoot this way a bit. Don’t want your legs to fall asleep. There. Now, tell me about the worst boss you ever had.

Myself. Way too lenient on the worthless fucker I see in the mirror. I could write a book a month if I weren’t a worthless, undisciplined, lazy bastard.

Pretend I’m interviewing you for your dream job (bartender, professional taste tester - anything to do with a bar, alcohol, and/or sardine packaging plant). What are your three best qualities? What should I watch out for, other than theft and imbibing on the job?

Any bar that would hire me is far too dangerous a place to work. That said, for some reason, I feel it crucial that I actually do the best job I can if someone is paying me. I have no idea why. Some kind of genetic flaw. If you pay me to do something, I’ll figure some way to get it done—even if it requires me admitting defeat and suggesting you find someone else to do it.

I enjoy taking broken/non-functioning things apart to try and fix them. Usually I do, and that shit feels good.

I like to wander around and drink beer directly out of the pitcher.

Let’s talk politics. If you could pick - er, scratch that. I don’t have time for all the railing against the machine I assume your answer would include. How about this: Tom or Jerry? Why?

Foghorn Leghorn! Because I love that voice and ain’t that all that counts? In this society don’t we all worship the strong delivery of platitudes and vagaries full of sound and fury yet signifying nothing.

Why are you so drawn to me? And, feel free to make use of your mental thesaurus for adjectives and adverbs.

I’ve always been fascinated by Scientology adherents and Kat told me you’re like a twelfth degree moonbat soon to be elevated to Exalted Unicornucopia of Abundance. A level which is rumored to be the highest attainable short of metamorphosing into an immortal butterfly.

As an amateur scientist with no credentials, no formal training, no qualifications, and no slavish need to adhere to long-accepted scientific best-practices, my empirical observations of others always yields verifiably funny lines.

If my feminine instincts are correct - coupled with the full sixty-two seconds it took you to come up with that answer - I believe you may have been trying to decide between a moment of intimacy, and humor. You chose humor. That’s fine. I’ll let it slide… for now. Next question: If you were invited to give the commencement speech at Harvard’s graduation ceremony this year, what advice would you have for the nubile minds about to embark upon the rest of their lives?

Young scholars, we beg thee, hie your numerous skills to another country and elevate them to the next level in civilization. You’ve done enough to us, and collectively, we can’t thank you properly.

To follow up on the last question: What would the hospitality rider in your contract for said speaking engagement look like? (Dietary restrictions, requested items, etc.)

Two bottles of Sailor Jerry rum on ice, an eight-ball, and a fully-charged cattle prod.

I assume the cattle prod will be used when your heartbeat goes on hiatus. I feel you squirming… don’t worry, just a few more questions. How would you design a spice rack for a blind person?

Hanging Scratch ‘N Sniff cards. BAM!

What’s in your refrigerator right now?

Sliced jalapenos, beer, salsa, cheese, bacon, and a long-forgotten science experiment.

Based on your answers to the last few questions, you may not be long for this world, so I've decided that you and I should write something together before you break on thru to the other side. So, what do you think? Fictional tell-all, tele-novella script, collection of poems, manifesto… whatever. If you can curb your enthusiasm for the drink enough to add another project to your list, and I can curb my enthusiasm for Twitter, what do you think we should write?

Bring Kat in and we’ll write some porn. That shit always sells.

Done! But I’m gonna need that in writing, so I’ll have my people forward your people a contract immediately. One last question: What is the meaning of life?

An opportunity to experience long periods of mind-numbing boredom, punctuated by ass-clenching instants of stark terror, sprinkled bouts of abject misery, and priceless moments of pure, unadulterated joy.

Unadulterated joy, indeed. You have been a pleasure, sir. Let me hop off your lap so you can regain feeling in your lower extremities.

I recommend working your way through his massive oeuvre slowly and with great diligence.

On that note, you can get the first of his vampire series, Dunkin the Vampire Slayer: Something Porcine This Way Comes for FREE on Kindle right now.

IN THE INTEREST OF FULL DISCLOSURE: While preparing for this hard-hitting interview, I came across this ridiculous website and shamelessly appropriated a few of the questions. I thought the one about the spice rack was brilliant.

Friday, January 13, 2012

It’s all Fun and Games Till Someone Loses Their Mind

TWEET: How do you make every teacher and kid within a 50 mile radius happy at 5:30AM while simultaneously making every parent weep? SNOW DAY!!!

That’s how the day started. And life was fine…

Thing One headed back to his bedroom to pull up Google Earth, his newest obsession, while Thing Two took to the bathroom to set up today’s Lego universe, as seen through the eyes of a 10 year old, still in Pull-Up’s, slightly verbal autistic boy.

I amused myself on Twitter, joking around with a few friends about this and that and some such nonsense, including an upcoming trip to Las Vegas, that I will, in just a few hours, begin to think can't possibly come soon enough.

At exactly 11:32 AM, I was staring at the alarm clock on my bedside table and praying for something to happen. ANYTHING to shut him up. Thing Two, at that point, had spent an entire hour screaming in my ear, poking and cajoling me, physically and emotionally.

“Mommy, Jake, Jaxson, Grammy, Grammy’s car, seatbelt, Walmart Store, Lego Jungle, Singing Mickey, Gamestop, McDonalds. I wuv… Mommy, Jake, Jaxson, Grammy, Grammy’s car, seatbelt, Walmart store….”

On and on and on and on and on… repeating the same thing over and over and over until I found myself on my bed in the fetal position with my fingers jammed in my ears, eyes scrunched closed and humming loudly enough to get his voice out of my head.

For the first, let’s say, thirty minutes of this tiptoe through Hades, I would like a huge dollop of credit for the patience I was able to exhibit.

“No, honey. Not today. No store today.” I said it as many ways as I possibly could, very sweetly and calmly, interspersed with portions of time where I ignored him completely - going about my daily routine of laundry and dishes, with him trailing behind me as I continued to hope the broken record would finally skip to another song.

He was on a roll. It was as far from a “normal” tantrum as one can possibly get. Because I can’t reason with this child. He doesn’t “get” words of reason, with the possible exception of “NO!” which I finally screamed - having done everything else I could possibly do, starting with TRYING to reason with him - hoping it would be the one time he would understand - “Mommy can’t go to the store today. The roads are icy and even if they weren’t, Mommy doesn’t have enough money today… and even if I did, I’d have to use it to pay the phone bill, not buy you another set of Legos to add to your ever-expanding collection…”

Reason. Ha! The universe mocks.

I knock, knock, knock on his little head. Nothing’s getting thru. So I try ignoring him, closing myself in the bathroom until he breaks in to join me - because we don’t have locks on ANY of the interior doors in the house. Locks? Are you crazy? Two autistic kids live here. The last thing I need is to have to crowbar either one of them out of a room they’ve barricaded themselves into with a lighter and a four pack of generic toilet paper.

Okay, so Thing One wouldn’t do that, but that’s totally within Thing Two’s modus operandi.

So, I’m in the bathroom and he’s at my feet and he’s whining and crying and it only takes ten minutes of this sheer hell to realize that the acoustics in the bathroom - coupled with his hysteria and the decibel level of such - is not conducive to me retaining a sanity level that is greater than or equal to a sanity level necessary to keep me from being carted off to a padded room somewhere.

For a moment, I laugh - the horrible guffawing of the clinically insane - as my mouth waters for a few moments in that goddamned padded room. I bet it’s quiet in there… and at this point I’d take ten seconds of silence over a ten minute orgasm.

I flushed (at least I got something done while I was in there), stepped over Thing Two and escaped to my bed, where I burrowed under the covers. Unfortunately, he burrowed right along with me.

I tried the finger to lips, “Shhhh.” A gentle cue for him to SHUT THE HELL UP BEFORE MOMMY LOSES IT!!! - one I’m certain he understood. But, then come the tears. Tears in earnest, as if I’m torturing the kid because I won’t take him to Walmart. He doesn’t understand. He’s not getting it. And there’s not one goddamn thing I can do about it but ride the tsunami of dysfunction till he tires out or I have a stroke - whichever comes first.

And he’s poking me. Non-stop poking. This is not the hard, barbed, LISTEN TO ME poking at this point, but the very gentle, almost-a-tickle poking that says, “Please give me some attention because it seems, Mommy, that you’re not understanding my wants and needs and all I require is a little understanding.”

It is so sweet and so sad and so damned absurd… and if the little guy only understood that I completely understand his wants and needs, but his wants and needs, at this precise moment, juxtaposed against my particular wants and needs, seem to be at loggerheads.

I need him to stop touching me.
I need him to be quiet.
I need a cigarette - which I cannot have because I’ve recently quit - ironically, for my kids because if it were only me I had to worry about, I’d gladly smoke myself into an early grave while enjoying every menthol-y drag on my road to emphysema.

Poke, poke, tickle - he continues his non-stop refrain, quiet, soft and accompanied with tears, and it is worse than the screaming of earlier: “Mommy, Jake, Jaxson, Grammy, Grammy’s car, seatbelt, Walmart Store, Lego Jungle, Singing Mickey, Gamestop, McDonalds. I wuv… Mommy, Jake, Jaxson, Grammy, Grammy’s car, seatbelt, Walmart store….”

I lay there thinking about my flippant early-morning tweet and how the universe is a sarcastic bitch, (and how I could probably put this torturous situation to good use by inventing something similar as an effective form of torture for our government to employ on “enemy combatants”) when I start to laugh. It’s so over-the-top, having gone on almost two hours, so ridiculously, morbidly horrifying, that I’ve now reached that point where there’s nothing to do but laugh.

So I laugh, taking a brief few seconds to GROAN LOUDLY in frustration, then continue my hysterical laughter of the insane…

Then, it happens. Thing Two stops, the record skips to another song and suddenly he’s in the living room and I’m on the bed alone and I’m not quite sure how I got there, or what I did to make the bad thing stop, but it has stopped.

I close my eyes and do some yoga breathing I picked up somewhere, who the hell knows where because I’ve never done yoga in my life, and would most certainly risk pulling something vital like my aortic valve if I did.

When the coast seems clear, I tiptoe over to my computer and jot down this rant - which will never get properly edited because there are only so many hours in the day…

“Mom, look. Mom…”

Now, he’s at the computer, watching some Lego video on YouTube and pointing to something he wants me to help him build. I smile wanly and nod as he pulls the huge box of Legos into the living room.

Then, I sit down next to him, dreaming of a day, 79 days from now, when I will have four consecutive days to do whatever the hell I want to do …and I assure you, whatever happens in Vegas, it won’t include Legos or Walmart or me being screamed at or poked.

…and for 4 days, life will be fine.