Destructive Criticism

A thick skin.

So many insinuations and finger-pointings made about the habits, ineptitudes, malaise, entitlement and drive of the latest twenty-somethings who are out there trying to make some mark in this “brave-new” world.

I’ll add my own. I often wonder, do they have the thick skin necessary to not let what I say about their work turn them into my killer? Or, perhaps more accurately, I wonder if the way we go about sharing and dismantling ideas with our peers via mostly emails will be the impetus behind my demise. A punishing removal from this plane of me or some other creative who takes the time out of her or his busy schedule to try and help constructively push a youngster who snaps.

Nearly twenty years ago, as part of finding a gig in advertising, I began the grueling ritual of putting my portfolio, ideas, writing, and designs in front of seasoned professionals for their opinions, help, take, connections and wisdom. The process was oh-so-very different from today. It required a physical book. And that book had to be delivered via mail or by hand. And then, though there was email, the dominant method of having these “special” one-on-ones was still mostly over the phone, or if you were lucky enough, in their offices seated across from their sometimes smug faces. It was a far more costly process than today’s, both in effort and actual dollars. Kinko’s printings, poster board, spiral bindings, stamps, travel, dimes or quarters spent on pay phones, the pager and the pager plan, hotel rooms, cabs, trains, and the like. On the plus side though, most of the beat-downs of my work were delivered by an actual voice over the phone or in person with the voice and the added bonus of the human who owned it. They might have hated my book, but most of the time, it was easy to see or hear via those two things that while they thought my work was utter shit, that the opinion was being expressed with my best interests in mind. Sure, sometimes those additional human elements didn’t at all soften the blow-after-blow slaughter of my mental babies by the industry’s in-the-knows. I’m sure I left many an office wishing I’d had the “moxie” to punch faces before finding a bar to nurse the gaping brain wounds.

My experience is that it’s almost all email now. Or even worse, Facebook messenger. And I’m guilty of participating in this new way of exposure and feedback. It’s easier, cheaper, possibly more efficient. It consumes less time I guess for both parties. And if my note back is, “WOW! I think this is the best collection of work I’ve seen in some time. I have a job for you!” or “I’ll hook you up with some other people who have a job for you right now!” sure then, it was a nice win/win transaction for everyone. I get an appreciative email back, saying “Thanks Mr. Rosch!” Maybe the recipient even claims they’ll buy my novel. This is a gross exaggeration of that type of interaction though. I’ve rarely said that; I’ve possibly never said that. Even when I’ve liked someone’s noodlings enough to pass their name along, I’m sure I’ve still found something to try and help better.

There’s talent within all of the people who reach out to me. If I don’t like a book, it’s usually because most of the time there is simply a lot of un-learning to do. Not exactly the same un-learning I had to take-on, in fact, probably a far more aggressive attack on how to go about ignoring the oodles and oodles of heinous real world examples that fester in our brains and sometimes force our own best creative efforts into something passably benign and predictable. We’ve seen it before, it’s the way it’s done, so we put our spin on something that’s been spun.

I don’t care how many emoticons or exclamation points, or “you knows, hey, don’t frets,” I use in an email—at the end of the day, I think it’s far more difficult to get blunt or frank criticism about your work from a digital communication composed of Times New Roman. There are no eye brow raises, no smirks, no shoulder shrugs that subtly say, “I don’t really know what the fuck I’m talking about, kiddo.” It all gets lost. It must sting. It must sting like the numerous form email rejections I get by the dozens when peddling a manuscript. I’d think even more so because I’m not trying to sell someone on a manuscript to get a job or make money or justify the 100K my folks just spent on an ad-education.

I don’t know. I just know that in the past year or so, that a few of the next generation’s 30 under 30 who’ve reached out to me never bothered to write me back after I’d given them my honest and hopefully helpful critique. Just digital crickets after I hit them back.

And that’s fine. It certainly beats getting an email back in which I’m told I’m an old hack who doesn’t know shit about shit when it comes to what’s creative or a sure-bet-fire-starter in today’s marketing onslaught. But sometimes that silence works my brain to the dark spot, and I’ll entertain the idea that the feedback I’ve just given (even in all its peppy-packaged-you-can-do-it-optimism) might be the final nail in a coffin built on this one man’s opinion on what might make your book (website), your writings and shillings better, award-winning or worth a full-time gig at the next hot shop.

We work hard our ideas, even when they are godawful. And maybe the criticism we wield at one another has never been more deserving of some actual face-to-face time. Of course, then I’d only be giving you a leg-up in your ability to jab a pen through my neck. So, for now, even though I’ve identified it as problematic, I’ll be sticking to winkys and extra exclamation points when I tell you through the most impersonal of correspondence that I think you (and even I) can do significantly better.

Beware of The Bean

spiffCan’t say for sure how many more days our little lad will stay snuggly-safe within the womb of the most amazing woman I’ve ever known. You don’t have to be a paranoid freakazoid to wonder and worry what kind of world, life, and situations your current kids, newborns, or future spawn will endure, take-on, or even conquer. I half-jokingly said to Ariele the other day that I thought our boy would be the kind of genius who’d ultimately do some padded-white wall time. It didn’t go over well, even though I’d meant it as the highest compliment possible. “How so,” you say? I guess I’m a firm believer that (at times) if you are really in-tune with everything going on around us, the good and the bad, that you would go nuts, you’d have to go nuts, I’ve gone nuts and I am most assuredly no genius. “Oh sure, Rosch, you would think your kid was going to be gifted,” some Frenemy might be condemning. Yeah, I’ve got a big ego. Which is odd, because I’m also acutely aware of my simultaneous esteem issues. I’ve also put into the works the possibility that he could just end up being another constructive cog in the machine. A kind cog, hard worker, responsible, respectful, etc. but no more special than shoes. Though recently I heard the phrase, “You’re as cool as shoes.” Think about it, they actually are pretty f’in cool when you remember what they do. Either way, I can’t shut off the brain on this anymore than I can shut it off on any of it. I can meditate it out, run it off, carb-load it out of my system momentarily, but ultimately the endless spirals of what-ifs will always come crawling back. And so then, I got to thinking: maybe The Bean will lead the resistance against the robots or machines. Maybe he’ll be part of a larger group of people his age who actually change politics as usual. Maybe there’ll be no politics. Maybe he and his generation won’t even have to read an article about an NYC development with Rich/Poor entrances. One can hope. Will he write ads for a living? I doubt it. I’ve got a feeling computers are damn close to having the IQs and algorithms necessary to deliver marketing that isn’t too far removed from the shlock and drivel that inhabits a good deal of whatever space me and my cohorts can stick it in, on, and around. I’m not damning the fine-advertising, the kinds that inform and entertain (hopefully both), but if Amazon is working on programs that write books based off of collective-human narrative preferences, you can be sure shorter communications about the latest x, y, and z aren’t far behind. Like so many before me, I’m jumping the gun by twenty years of course. Who can say if he’ll be a rockstar, a writer, a fighter or a lover, or something not yet a thing? But, until he decides in some future unrealized reality on what to “be?” Well, I’m kind of vibe-ing on the notion that he might just become the guy whose decision or insight almost singlehandedly ends wars forever. I mean human wars obviously. After all, by then we’ve got to be taking on locust-like aliens hellbent on devouring what natural resources The Bean and his cohorts have managed to restore and protect, right?

Tales from the Crypt (Except replace the word Crypt with RAV4)

Bare with me through this lengthy tale friends, and I’d like to believe that you won’t be disappointed. Of course, I also simultaneously believe that if you do take the time to read it in full, that you’ll be disturbed enough to possibly unfollow this blog, cancel your friendship with me via other social channels, and maybe even phone the authorities to have me taken away to a padded cell. I’ll take my chances in the name of keeping myself semi-relevant to you for another week.

If you follow me on Instagram, you likely saw a few pictures of the fantastic place I visited at the beginning of last week. A wonderfully desolate locale known as Alabama Hills. Three days there shooting what I hope we’ll be an amazing thirty second spectacle has left me with many fine tales, but it is the journey home that is the subject of this post. The roughly three or so hours spent mostly alone behind the illuminated wheel of what was formerly my mother-in-law’s RAV4, driving from Lone Pine back to Venice, on the heels of a 12 hour shoot day in the hot sun of a desert not far removed from Death Valley.

Why was I alone in the car with no co-pilot to help guide me or share the responsibility of staying awake to stay alive for one more day, despite having ample co-workers present on set with me? Simple. I had made it very clear that I’m a man who likes to drive at a reasonable speed–and a man who demands that any one driving him also mimics the cruising behaviors of a seventy-year old man. And thus, I was left to my own devices–mostly smokes, caffeine, and the earbuds snaking from my cellphone to the left and right of my brain–to keep me awake and alive on that dark journey back down CA-14.

Fifteen minutes into the trip back home, and despite my best efforts to keep up,  I’d already lost sight of the four souls in the Ford blazing the trail in front of me. “No worries,” I thought. “I’ll just ring Ariele and talk to her for awhile.” I spoke into my iPhone, demanded that Siri ring the Mrs., and believe it or not even my low grumble from time to time results in Siri’s obedience. The phone rang, but alas, Ariele was unavailable to pick up the phone. I left a message, recorded via her voice mail what I surmised might be my last known location on the map and pulled off to what I thought might be the last gas station for quite some time.

In my haste to grab a beverage from the station’s market, I left my phone on the passenger side seat of the RAV4. So when Ariele called me back, she did not find me on the other end either. But, at the moment, I was relieved–as I always am–to know that she was still alive. “I’ll phone her back in fifteen minutes or so,” I schemed. “After I’ve had a chance to drink this diet coke and burn a butt with the windows down.” And that’s precisely the plan I put into action. But, when I finally got around to phoning her again, repetitive rings followed by an almost unfamiliar recorded greeting left me unsure of exactly why we’d been unable to connect not once, not twice, but now thrice.

I didn’t bother with another message. I figured she’d not had the speed to grab the phone before it’s final ring, and was quite certain I’d be hearing back from her within minutes if not seconds. When I didn’t, I put my voice to use again and asked Siri to ring my mother. We spoke for some 40 minutes, and our conversation had certainly aided me in my quest to stay alert while not-quite-speeding down that moon-lit highway. But, in the back of my mind a kernel of concern regarding the whereabouts of my wife began to take hold. “Mom, I must let you go. I’ve got to phone Ariele.” I barked. “I’ll speak to you soon.”

I phoned Ariele again. No luck. I placed the phone back into the passenger seat and assured myself that she’d call me back as soon as she was able. “Perhaps a spot of traffic, perhaps she is consumed with playing with our cat, perhaps her phone died and she doens’t quite realize it yet.” Many logical possibilities were uttered nearly aloud by me, for me, to sooth the twisted mess of a mind that I knew might start piecing together far more heinous scenarios involving my lovely. But my efforts to keep that devious gray beast from betwixt my ears at bay were for not. And within mere moments of having finished the last drag of my umpteenth smoke the very brain that was working to keep me calm with rational thinking, began to paint three distinct possibilities–three scenarios, and only three–that with each passing mile became more and more concretely certain.

Fact: My masters had arranged an after-work cocktail shindig in at Gene Simmons’ joint in downtown El Segundo that evening. I knew this to be true, and I knew via a brief text exchange before I hit the road that Ariele had decided to go. It was a decision that had whole-heartedly delighted me prior to reaching the utterly creepy town of Mojave, CA, as I tend to take great comfort in knowing that Ari gets out and about when I’m not around. Riding into hour two of my now hypnotic journey though, that fact only served as fodder to construct those aforementioned fates.

1) Being the lightweight that she is, two drinks had been too many. (I have no idea why this woman who I know to only have typically one drink, all of the decided to have two, but dammit that’s what she’d had). And thusly, one her way back from El Segundo to the sublet we currently call home, she’d had an accident. Likely on the backroad home along the Pacific. Likely end result: She is no longer with us or horribly crippled.

2) Perhaps at some point in the three days I was away I’d said something that had been misinterpreted by her own brand of crazy as something spiteful, unappealing, or hurtful. The lives of couples frequently separated by the rigors of their profession are filled with phone conversations that walk the fine line of sadness and madness due to the additional strains of having to cope with the daily routine without your favorite companion. It was a possibility, though I could not recall any exchange that’d we’d had that had ended on a less than high note. Even so, option two had me surmising that perhaps some younger buck had wooed her, and they were off to do the devil’s business.

One and two, and they came in that order, seemed highly unlikely. And yet, I’d still received no phone call back. With these two options decidedly difficult to approve by even me, my brain focused on the third far more likely scenario.

3) Ariele had left El Segundo after not even a whole alcoholic beverage, had made it safely back to Venice, had put off calling me back while in the car as is required by the law, had parked a few feet down the road from the entrance to our cottage and while fumbling with the keys to enter the gate due to the extreme darkness of the street had been put to sleep by a chloroform soaked rag in the hand of an abduction van driving lunatic. After all, from the moment I checked into our sublet many weeks ago I was suspicious that the difficulty of working the key in the nearly faulty gate lock would allow for such a tragic event to eventually occur.

And so there it was: the most obvious ending to what come September would have been just over four years of our amazing journey together. Even as I assured myself that this was probably not at all the situation, I began to run through my own fate now that she was likely on her way to being forever tortured in a dark basement somewhere or, if I was lucky, found in a ditch a few months from now. A deep darkness descending upon my car. True, I was relived to know that there was no way that I could be blamed for foul play, with my being so very far removed from Venice that day, but with this knew knowledge I began to wonder what was next for the kid.

If I knew her to be dead, with one-hundred percent certainty, wouldn’t the next right thing be for me to intentionally drive the Rav-4 off the next available mountain cliff? And if I did, could I really be sure that the tumble the vehicle would take would end my own life instead of just leaving me permanently disfigured and facing many hardships ahead? What other options did I have? A life spent in search of my soul mate ala Kiefer Sutherland going after an almost unknown Sandra Bullock was certainly an option. Head spinning, lungs filling over and over again with the bizarre combination of my own poisonous smoke and the rush of clean desert air, it occurred to me that on the plus side–with me dead or living, the relationship we’d forged (our very existence together) might possibly be held up as legendary. Future errors and indiscretions, miscommunications and temporary set-backs were no-longer a possibility. The future, the one baking in my skull, would be filled with phrases like, “They were such an amazing pair, tragic–who knows what a love like theirs might have accomplished down the road? We can be sure of one thing, no man and woman on earth ever loved each other quite like they did–Princess Bride style love that was.”

This was the tarnished but still slightly silver lining to it all. Ironic yes, as I’d not just a few minutes early temporarily placed her with another, but I’d had to have had that thought in order to get to the truth! Before I could commit to anything brash, I decided one last text or two was necessary to remove all doubt. “Text Ariele,” I barked into the phone. After I voice texted one last request for some sort of response to relive my growing panic, I simply assumed the next text I’d receive would be from that maniac–something along the lines of, “I’ve got her. LOL.” Or maybe even, “MLOL” which would be some sort of text version of “Mooohoooohahahaha.”

A brilliantly dark curve loomed ahead–the clock was ticking, and the phone did ring. I picked up thinking, “Oh this psychopath is a brave one. Calling me back to deliver his news via his own voice. That’s some 80s type psycho-old-school shit there,” I thought just before Ariele’s voice rang out into my ear, “Hey babe. I’ve called you like four or five times. It went to voicemail, the one you’ve still not set-up, every time.”

And there it was. Ah, yes. The reality that I most often choose to forget: AT&T is shit.

Long Con Turkey

The Long-Con, I’m a fan.

Let me start by asking, has there ever been a legitimate request made via email for the banking information necessary to wire money? Do tell. I should probably back up here. Several moons ago, I received an email from a literary agent in Turkey requesting a complimentary PDF of my manuscript. I believe the agent may have mentioned the particular publisher from Turkey that was interested in the translation rights for my book. The entire email was spelled correctly, and if memory serves (it rarely does by the way, so beware) there were less than two grammatical errors–possibly none. Even so, I immediately dismissed the email, positive it was a scam. Still, I took to Google to do some research. There were other souls out there discussing the very same agency, not too many and not too few, with similar questions about this Turkish agent’s legitimacy. If you are an aspiring writer, you’ll probably want to get cozy with the website Writer Beware, which details many of the various scams used to prey upon the “oh-so-desperate-to-be-published.” But, even after going there and numerous searches, I could find no conclusive evidence that the agent and agency weren’t legitimate. Many legitimate publishing websites even listed the agency as one to reach out to in order to get published in Turkey. In the end, I decided to proceed with sending a PDF of the manuscript. I had detailed all the possible miserable outcomes of even that act, most of which ended with me and my wife somehow be kidnapped and tortured and dead, and surmised that at the very worst, someone out there might publish my book without my knowledge and try to make a few lira. That wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world I thought. “God speed PDF,” I might have said, and probably forgot that I’d even sent by lunch that day. That was way back in June I believe.

Then, sometime around September, lo and behold, I heard back from this gentleman again. He’d found an interested publisher there, and hoped that I’d not moved ahead with someone else (a nice bit of flattery I thought), and said if I was still interested that he’d like to proceed with drawing up a contract. Still one-hundred percent convinced that this was all a scam, I replied, “Absolutely. Please send me the details and I’ll review them immediately.” Again, I heard nothing for several days. I had a new job, was living in a new town, and not unlike the first time, the whole thing fell far into the deep recesses of my brain–probably filed somewhere under Potential Mistakes I’m Currently Making That Will Result in My Demise. It’s a thick file, so not everything sticks.

A few days later, another correspondence with a contract attached. I read it over countless time, consulted with other traditional published writers, googled the names of all partites involved, spun my wheels, and in the end decided to allow possibly ten percent of myself believe it was legit. $1000 advance, and a small percentage of any of the 1500/2000 copies they were planning on publishing in Turkish. Cool by me. “Let my fame grow in Turkey!” I might have internally shouted. I signed the contract, sent two paperbacks, and even then was still certain enough that it was all too good to be true that I decided to hold off on the usual grotesque PRing of myself (something I’ve also often surmised will lead to my early demise) until I received the first half of my advance–then and only then would I allow myself to make a glorious post on Facebook along the lines of, “Friends and Countrymen! I am now also a traditionally published author in the great land of Turkey!”

The receipt of my contract and books was made known via yet another email from the agent. At this point, I might have allowed my belief in the whole thing to shift to about thirty percent. A guy who has “Question Everything. Trust No One.” tattooed on his arm doesn’t go to full on optimism about potential good fortune overnight. Still, I was damn close to making it big news on social media–I’ve got a hole in my soul that needs filling after all.

And so, finally, as I’ve surely bored you toward this post’s conclusion, today, seven or so months after the initial contact from this agent from Turkey, I received an email asking for my bank account information in order to wire me my advance. Ha. Of course. After a bout of even more Googling on him, his company, and the whole scenario–I still can’t say one way or another, and my mind has me believing that the party or parties involved are performing an excellent long con. There are numerous sites and posts out there that would seem to prove them absolutely legitimate. And yet, I can not commit. I am absolutely convinced that I have finally met the grifting bamboozlers that I myself have always romanticized myself to be. Patient, attentive, and going after the most skeptical of souls–doing an amazing amount of seeding, cajoling, and crafting in the hopes that a long, long way down the road I might bilk you of your money with something as obvious a swindle as a wire transfer. If I haven’t already.

On a Highway to Hell

Twisting one’s way at a snail’s pace via a rented motor vehicle up or down the West Coast’s famed Route 1, oohing and ahhing at the almost unnaturally natural scenery that envelopes it from every direction, always seems like a good idea. Or at least in my case, has seemed like a great idea twice before. It is true, you’d be hard pressed to find a single other road in these United States that offers as many stunning views in such rapid succession. And the few small towns that exist between Ventura and Santa Cruz, tucked amongst the tall trees of Big Sur, offer a chance at an oft sought sort of peace away from our daily routines that so many of us seek.

Before I paint my brain’s ugly version of the experience, it would be fair to the road to let you know that our most recent jaunt upon it was in a Prius. A car that delighted me with its gas mileage, but left me uneasy each and every time I went to slow its front-loaded chassis as we sailed into declining turns atop sunlit cliffs, and kept me guessing right after those serpentine kinks with the sickly growl it created while struggling to accelerate back up the mountain while various Beamers, Audis, and the like taunted it from behind. Their drivers apparently with bees in their bonnets–desperate to arrive at some future destination as quickly as possible, and not at all making the same journey in order to observe the reams and reams of jagged rocks that lay to the west of what at times felt like eight, maybe nine, total feet of asphalt.

Still, ultimately, the Prius and my steadfast commitment to driving like an old codger protecting a family of seven got us from Point A to Point Portland. Had it rained much, I’m not sure I’d be able to say the same.

I love to drive long distances–few things relax me more, though in a rental I’m less inclined to light up a smoke while I cover those miles. And that section of Route 1, and some section further up in Northern California, on their worst days couldn’t even come close to ranking as precarious as some of the roads my wife and I have navigated in Costa Rica, where at times the only thing between you and certain death is one or two inches of dirt road to the right or left of the vehicle, that is defying all logic with its refusal to crumble into the ocean below it like the previous six or seven inches of road clearly had before. Those drives of 2011 were some of my favorites–a testament to how my brain writes a revisionist history for us both, as I’m simultaneously positive that I must have been silently cursing the beings who believed a road like that should exist in a place where it rains three to four straight months in the fall.

Similar to Costa Rica, there are scars all along Route 1–evidence of previous mudslides, mishaps, fires and huge chunks of landmass missing, the victims of former storms, and often at the most delicate intersections of manmade bridges and the mountain’s desire to shed some weight. Perhaps the reason for such prevalent speedy driving along that road is the theory that you can outrun the potential dangers. I know I gunned it once or twice, as much as you can gun a Prius, believing that the next slide area might be the last slide area we’d ever visit, and our only chance was to dash through it as quickly as possible.

The sounds of sirens, sadly not the kind that coax you into plowing your sea vessel head first into rocks, might have served as a warning of what lie ahead on ol’ Route 1–at least tipped off a more savvy couple of drifters–but not us, no sir. Even after watching all manner of emergency vehicle race North into the hills from the Elephant Seal Viewing parking lot, we hopped back in the Prius to move forward with our plan of maybe catching a quick hike before sunset somewhere around the cozy cabin that awaited us only sixty short miles that same direction.

Let me partake in scribing the utterly overused phrased, “it has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words.” Here’s three that capture the dilema our decision to press forward on that mighty two-lane highway thrust us upon. Photographic evidence of what for nearly an hour and a half felt like the first minutes into a new future that would at some point loosely resemble last night’s season three premiere of AMC’s The Walking Dead.

Never mind you what might have been the impetus to that complete standstill–though the rumors floated around by the more curious, and thusly the more annoying, of the stranded onlookers that joined us there atop that mountain indicated something along the lines of a drunk driver who crashed his or her SUV into the mountain side, setting it ablaze. Word on the street also indicated that the occupants of that vehicle had walked away from the wreckage unscathed. So see, your real concern should center somewhere around the safety of me and the Mrs.

“So you were inconvenienced, Rosch? Who gives a flying f-bomb?” You say?

Let me lay a few of my own thoughts from the incident before you for your consideration: Did the engineers of that particular stretch of road ever take into consideration the potential havoc the sheer weight of that many vehicles stuck on that cliff might result in after years of soaking in rains and baking in harsh summer suns? When was the last time a good rockslide had rolled through that passage, and what are the chances that a boulder or two might use the opportunity to make its plunge while there were sitting targets to strike? I know if I were a boulder on my way out, I’d like to take a few folks with me for good measure–go down as the most legendary of rocks to ever slide down the mountain, a sort of folk hero for all the remaining boulders to tell their pebbles about before bedtime. How long does it take for a group of impatient drivers–as evidenced by their desire to pass me at every opportunity–to begin some sort of revolt or riot? How many unwatched children will have to peer over the side of this road until one finally vanishes right before my eyes? Can I make it overnight on only the backwash of the Diet Coke sitting snugly beside me and the four cigarettes left in my pack? If there is a fire ahead, and it decides to make its way south down Route 1, can we outrun it? At what point will this Prius’ parking brake make a mockery of modern engineering by releasing the vehicle backwards and into the BMW behind me? Are there mountain lions perched just above us, feeling frisky and totally stoked to have a buffet of folks with almost no exit strategy before them? And if so, will the Prius’ windows hold up to their advances as well as the windows of the hatchback that protected that little blonde boy and his mother in the 80’s Stephen King flick, Cujo? Do we have any real visual guarantees that all of this has been caused by a car wreck at all? Isn’t it possible that this is just the beginning of some sort of infection, and up ahead the police have begun a useless quarantine roadblock of sorts, and simply hadn’t gotten around to letting all of us know our days were numbered? And finally, certainly not the last thought I had, but the final for the purposes of this post–would they hold our room at the cabin if we didn’t show on time, and if not, are we destined to check into something we hadn’t researched the likes of the Pinewood Motel from the movie Vacancy?

I gave long thought and pause to these and many more potential scenarios, and don’t mind telling you that my money was squarely on that last one. After all, what better ending to an intense story of survival amongst the elements than the surprise twist that finds our heros being butchered for snuff films? The answer, of course, is none.

The Squeaky Wheel Gets It

I can only surmise that a big part of why many of society’s ills remain, by and large, unchanged is that there exists a general fear of unmanageable retaliation. We don’t all know one of the many martial arts that might equip us to thwart the blind aggression that might ensue if and when we point out the perverse behavior of another human being, or for that matter, a corporation. We share our personal stories about all that bothers us at our dinner parties, amongst friends on nights out fueled up on our trusty truth serum, and from behind the only seemingly cloaked key strokes of our home computers. But how often do we stand up for what’s right in the actual moment?

Easier to let things slide. Less hassle to pay an extra dime here or there and not have to do the infinite amount of leg work required to right a painstakingly obvious wrong. “Unbelievable,” we might mutter as we watch a woman drop a dirty diaper from her SUV and into the gutter of an otherwise pristine Brooklyn brownstone block–true story that one. And I did watch a braver soul attempt to get her to pick it back up, I believe her response was, “It’s not even soiled.” You see, a pee-peed diaper is just fine.

Rare is the day that I don’t encounter a situation that if put into perspective becomes crystal clear in its wrongness. That might be the net result of being a city dweller, an avid walker, and a guy who always has his peepers scanning left, right and back again for potential thuggery–and that’s regardless of the city street I find myself on. I doubt anyone has ever given the quaint sea-side town of Mendocino, CA a more thorough examination, or painted so many possible, though not probable, acts of pure evil onto its ocean-air-fresh canvas.

As tends to happen when I abstain from blogging for a period of time, I’ve made a mockery of getting to the point. I suppose on this evening, when I am looking back at many of the things that actually occurred to me, or in front of me, over the course of the last four or five weeks, I am wondering–when was the last time I made a fuss over something egregious in an effort to end it, better the situation for others down the road, or at the very least point out its absurdity publicly in the hopes that others might see it for the farce that it is. What was the last incident in your life that you took the extra time to do the same?

 

 

The Nicest Skin Poacher Ever

Just a few months ago, I finally got around to having a long-overdue full-body skin cancer screening. I apologize for whatever mental images of me that might provide you. Like the tree I fell from, I am a man of many freckles and moles. And somewhere, buried in the complex history of the extended family, I believe there has been melanoma–and so, I’m never really super keen on getting checked out, for fear of what they might find. This time around, after an exam that included lab results concerning two, I was given a clean bill of health yet again.

“Yes! Another year, free of worry.” I thought.

At least ‘free of worry’ regarding my moles, until of course, a few days before the next exam that I had planned on having with the very doctor I’d just seen around the same time next year. I liked her bedside manner–it was an appropriate mix of motherly caring, put-off and disgusted girlfriend, genuinely interested scientist, and awkward first-time stand-up comedian.

“Good for me,” I thought. “Hard to find a Dermi you can trust.”

Even our recent decision to move didn’t phase me. I surmised that Boston would be close enough to head back specifically to see her. The whole experience had been just that good. Plus, she’d made me promise to come back in a year to see her again, and I had. And this Dermi, in my opinion, was a real keeper. Or so I thought.

Last week, I received a letter from the clinic that she was a part of. The note was brief, and I am paraphrasing here, but it read, “Dr. X, has decided to leave us. She will be opening a practice elsewhere, etc. But, we’d still appreciate your business.” I was simultaneously crushed that she’d decided to go and elated that she too, like me, had decided to call it quits for a bit on NYC.

“Maybe she’s even going to Boston,” I thought. “Wouldn’t that be something?”

A few days later though, while going through paperwork to dispose of before our move, I reread the letter from the clinic. What it said hadn’t changed, not one bit. But, upon this second examination of the words they’d use to explain her absence, I began to formulate a new theory of what had occurred–why they dismissed her, what she had been up to, and how the letter itself was just their way of sweeping the whole ugly affair under the proverbial rug.

Instantaneously, I came to believe the following: She had never had a license, hadn’t even gone to school, had tricked the other doctors who owned that clinic into hiring her with the same bedside manner shenanigans I mentioned before, she loved other people’s moles, maybe their skin, she collected moles and skin bits, moles were like her trophies, she wasn’t a serial killer yet, but you could be sure they’d found tons of small pieces of her former patient’s bodies in the refrigerator of her small studio apartment on the Lower East Side, and in due time, just shaving pieces of moles off for keep sakes hadn’t been enough, a loud scream had occurred from a room at the clinic, and the other staffers ran in, only to find her having attempted to shave a patient’s head or other limb clean off.

Given the other resident Doctors’ oversight, it makes sense that they’d make the claim that “she’d decided to move on.” Obviously right? They aren’t going to pen a letter detailing what you and I now know really happened. Fortunately, I know how to read between the lines, and read between them I do.

Perhaps less fortunately though, I now worry that the entirety of my two visits with her, in which she most definitely took those two little pieces of me with her for her frozen collection at home, was all for not–at least as it pertains to my clean-bill of health, I mean, she’ll have them to pet and love on still.

And so, I’ll have to be a bit more careful in selecting the next Dermi, because ZocDoc.com, really doesn’t detail this sort of thing.