The Interview by Peter Rosch

Very little green in this “green” room, but it is a quiet place to temporarily cower. Maybe the outrage will be easily dismissed. No more difficult to sweep into the next sunset than making an apology. Own my guilt, even as I try to explain it away with the simplest of rationales: What God-fearing, red-blooded American boy born in the seventies didn’t hope that at some point, like Andrew McCarthy before him, some easy-on-the-eyes mannequin would magically come to life and bone him?

Like I said, simple. But we’ll get to that.

I sat down. I’m sitting now, but I mean earlier. I’d been told to sit down. And that was fine; some of us need to be instructed on exactly what we are supposed to do. The similarities between the heroic take-charge movie characters you only think are me and the actual-me end at the mandatorily crafted physique and bleach-white-toothed-mug. When the overly-caffeinated blonde, in charge by way of the authoritative headset strapped atop her power-crop-do, barked towards me, Let’s do this people! Nicholas, I need you to sit down, I did just that.

Do exactly as your told, my mother used to say. Not the first mother to say it; not the last to say it either.

I didn’t hesitate. That direction had my fifteen-million-dollars-a-picture-ass finding its seat pronto. The hard, ever so subtly curved plank of wood atop four metal legs was trying to pass itself off as a stool. Dreadfully uncomfortable; the same torturous device for the interviewee and the interviewer. It was a backless number chosen for an aesthetic reason, comfort be damned. We can safely nominate the “chair” as the first item on a list of things to blame for the possibly detrimental admission I’d be making just fifteen minutes after sitting upon it—just an hour ago actually.

You can watch my snafu play out with your own judgmental mind later tonight if you watch dreck like this. I suspect you’ll learn about it regardless. My affliction made light of by way of late night monologues or the callous reporting of TMZ. Perhaps your friends, the ones with nothing original to say, will post a link to the clip. It’ll be “trending” as they say. The point is, for a spell, you’ll have ample opportunities to recoil in disgust. Easier to mock another’s sordid perversion than examine your own. Get all holier-than-thou on me, even though my soon-to-be-public confession has finally set me free.

If you follow Hollywood going-ons, gossip, or what tragically passes for news on CNN or Huffington Post, then you already know that Nicholas Devlin (this guy) never had any intention of becoming an actor. I certainly didn’t foresee a life of celebrity, not as a child nor as an adult. The story of my serendipitous discovery by a well-known agent is the kind of modern day folklore the industry loves to perpetuate. It keeps young blood flocking to the polished hustle and bustle of The City of Angels. Were my chance encounter five years ago with the fat man I still call my agent a fabrication, you’d only be the wiser when he and his information agents decided spilling the beans about its falsity would be financially beneficial. The anecdote is the truth though, until it isn’t, so take it as The Gospel. Yes! Some day, you too might be grabbing a cup of coffee in between unspeakable acts, only to be “discovered” by one of fame’s gatekeepers. But only if he or she believes that bilking a mess of pretty pennies by pedaling your veneer to the masses is an almost certain slam-dunk.

You are ugly, you say? Friend, no need to fret. I was as well. Nearly forty years of anything but handsome, in fact. Maybe, like me, you just need to give the features that decorate your face a little more time. Possibly a lot of time. I’m not the first odd bird to wake up two decades into adulthood only to finally find the hawkishly large nose, squinty eyes, and the peculiarly large forehead all of a sudden pulling together brilliantly between deep wrinkles that somehow work. A façade that my agent recognized, or at least surmised, would be sellable under the guise of rugged manliness. Dare to dream, you have my permission to do so. Today’s toad, tomorrow’s prince–you just need a little kiss from father time.

My agent is persuasive. I’ve heard his colleagues use the cliché, Pit Bull, to describe his tenacity. Never to his face, of course. Of all my heaviest-set acquaintances, Marty’s smile works best. It’s a thinner man’s grin plastered onto the puff of a doughboy’s face. One need not be fit to rule some small part of the world. His successes are surely predicated on the combination of that disarming smirk and his ability to coax other players into believing that what he sees in an “aspiring” actor is profitable. A cash cow the world will fall in love with. His track record is impeccable; his sculpting of each new lump of human clay is bonafide. I took some convincing. He slow-baked my indoctrination by simply suggesting that I leave the door open to the possibility of what he’d labeled some “quick” photographs. I imagine he’d already begun greasing the wheels of his social circle with hype about his latest find, me, well before I showed up for the snaps several weeks later. In observing his methods play out with others since our working relationship began, I’ve been privy to his dance. How he twirls his latest finds is likely identical to the behind the scenes moves he’d made with me. We are Marty’s pretty little soldiers, and our entire pre-fame histories have been scripted by him and his small team of storytellers.

Marty is not some black-ops stonemason sort. The naive might be amazed at how much factual information one can bury about oneself with cash and the connections to fabricate non-fiction. Stuffed amongst enough digital destinations, and over time the truth about me (or any of the others) is dozens of additional clicks away from ever being found. All but the most obsessed fans remain blissfully ignorant of actual facts. Even when those tidbits of reality are finally discovered, it isn’t atypical for them to delightfully and dutifully serve as playful sorts of controversy for the media to fill their countless hours of programming, websites, and remaining paper pages with. The sheer volume and churn of modern-day information leaves most “revelations” pertinent for less than forty-eight hours. Say you’ve a film opening, a book due out, a song climbing the charts, or anything else that’ll make my agent’s twenty percent that much fatter, you can be certain he’ll be all for a wee bit of accidental (or manufactured) drama. That aforementioned skinny-man’s smile goes ear to ear when the most inane of facts lights a caustic fire on the World Wide Web.

“Let the sheeple fuss over your supposed nose job,” he might say. “Why the fuck they care so much has always been beyond me. It’s vexing, but let’s hope they stay that dumb forever.”

Marty made me, but he doesn’t know me. he never dug all that deep into who I was pre-Marty. Don’t get me wrong; he wasn’t entirely careless about it. In fairness, very early on, he did ask me three questions. He insisted the trio was all he needed answered truthfully by me, on the spot, so that he could work around any disagreeable responses once our first major motion picture broke.

“Are you a homosexual?”

“No,” I said.

“Do you diddle little kids?”

“No.”

“Is there anything—I mean anything—that you know could become a problem for us down the road?”

“I don’t think so,” I offered with a wavering commitment.

“Come on, Nick. You either know, or the answer is ‘No, Marty. There isn’t.”

“Like what exactly?” I asked.

“I’m not going to laundry list examples of all the fucked-up shit I’ve heard or seen in my three decades at this dog and pony show. I’ll ask again. Is there anything I should know about you that someone can dig up at some point to make our lives at all inconvenient?”

I acted like I had to think about it.

“No, Marty. There isn’t.”

“You know, I don’t believe you, Nick,” he said before squeezing himself back into a two thousand dollar jacket. “Don’t take any offense though, I don’t believe anyone about nothin’.”

Even if today’s new “news” about Nicholas Devlin had been put onto the table for my agent back then, it wouldn’t have altered our course. I think he’d have laughed it off. I held back the information about my sexual preference on the technicality he presented. In that moment, I chose to keep my habit to myself because I knew (or at least believe I knew) that nary a single soul on the planet could unearth anything to expose that part of me. It wasn’t public knowledge, I’d never ben caught, arrested, or had anyone approach me to discuss it or harass me about it either.

Let’s add the punishing heat of the directional lamps bearing down on me earlier to the list of things we might blame. Unless you’ve sat under them, it’s impossible to have any real idea of just how hot it can become when you are trying to play the part of cool as cucumber. Like my “friend,” Gwyneth, once said, at times, an interview with the press is on par with Guantanamo. Her words, not mine. Nonetheless, the frying effect of those illuminating beams is a fair scapegoat to include. Number two on the list of reasons I’ll prattle off to my agent when he comes back down from livid to help me craft an apology. More accurately, write the entire mea culpa for me. We’ll be blaming a lot of things; we’ll be taking the blame while doling blame.

We could blame Kristen, or possibly KrYsten, the faux-hyperactive talking head, surely some man’s ten-on-a-ten-scale bedpost notch, who’d conducted the interview. She certainly wasn’t waiting around for an apology when the dust of what I’d dished had settled. I’d pin her as aged around twenty-five or six; a touch to young to be trusted with anything other than the kind of bubblegum-pop-schlock a show like this delivers from three to five in the afternoon to the tragically homebound. She’s fit, wrinkle-free, and still a handful of years away from having to endure the painfully repetitive ticking of the Hollywood clock that counts down to the eventual disposal of dime-a-dozen cherubs like herself. I’m sure she’s already blown Marty. It’s fare when any unattended female in the room under the age of thirty hasn’t, usually within the first half-hour of their introduction.

If anything “good” manifests from today, I’d bet it all on it being a slight uptick in her own popularity. Parlaying this thirty-minute interview into a gig with another show, her own show, or even a few bit rolls in C or B films isn’t at all far fetched. Like any sycophant fluttering at the edges of those inflicted with the disease that is fame, she is likely biding her time. Eyes peeled for the the opportunity to hop a coattail to the party, even if it’s tattered and filthy with stink. I’ve no sympathy for her plight. She made the decision to come out here. The mid-western accent that she has almost perfected hiding hadn’t gone unnoticed by me. She isn’t native to SoCal; she’s playing the game too. I’m by no means rooting against her, I’ll be sincerely pleased if the result of her having put my feet to the coals with her semi-hypnotic posits bestows pun her a next-rung-leap with a more respected “journalism” program.

In the pisser, right after we’d wrapped, it’d occurred to me that her voice had mimicked my mother’s, before a two pack a day routine had caught up with her. That was a long, long time ago. It’d be too expected to blame Mom for any of this, though I think we probably could. Any therapist worth a nickel would, you can be sure of that. Marty has already “suggested” to me by way of text message that we are to make therapy a part of the damage control play he’s currently orchestrating. In time, we’ll all find out if Krysten (I’m going with the Y version, call it a hunch) can thank my mom at some point for her future gig. She’d have to find Mom first.

I didn’t kill my mother, if that’s what you are thinking. She’s been as good as dead to me two and a half decades, but I don’t know if she’s dead-dead. Surprisingly, when I “made-it,” there’d been no classic tale of a reunion between the recently fame-ized Nicholas and an out-of-the-woodwork opportunistic mother. If she’s still out there, and if she’d been teetering on the fence about such a thing, lying in wait just days away from venturing to Los Angeles to re-introduce herself to me, I think my little stunt today will knock her solidly to the side of the pickets that have nothing to do with visiting me. You never know though; predictability wasn’t her friend. If she isn’t six-feet under, maybe it’s now more likely than ever that she’ll come rushing to her baby boy’s side. Help see him through the forth coming shit storm. Inadvertently, I may have given her the first real reason to try and re-connect. Even if it’s only to defend her reputation in light of my having implicated her directly. So, if we shine this Devlin-turd up real nice, Krysten might get a promotion and Mom might show up on my doorstep, open arms and all, to “help” her only child.

When Krysten sat herself across from me, I’ll admit, it invoked a fleeting vision of my mother—how my brain remembers my mother anyway. I’d tell you that she and the younger version of my mother could be twins, but I’d be lying, or at least basing the declaration on no real concrete evidence. I’ve never been able to locate any photos of Mom. Krysten’s appearance wasn’t nearly as responsible as her first spoken words had been. Her voice, the pentameter she used to deliver her first phrase that was meant to put me at ease before we began, these had been the culprits.

“Okay, Nicky,” she playfully poked, “this shouldn’t be too, too painful.” Insert huge toothy lie of a smile here.

The double use of the word too was a staple in my mother’s use of that very same fib. The memory of the way Mom used to say the same reverberated within me as the silent count of a stranger’s finger was made from behind one of a half dozen cameras set up to capture the interview in earnest.

“Nicholas,” Krysten began, “let’s get the promotional plug for your new film, Haymaker, out of the way, shall we?”

“Sure, let’s,” I nodded.

“The story of a crooked Detroit cop who becomes smitten with the goody two-shoes sister of a his knowingly wrongful arrest.”

She let the synopsis of the movie hang in the air, having completed it with just enough of an upswing in pitch that it rode the room like a question. It was rhetorical, but she tilted her head to one side, indicating to me that she was looking for an unnecessary confirmation.

“That’s the gist, yes,” I answered.

“I saw the other day that your co-star, Lorna Alden, said that that the two of you kept in character from day one until you wrapped, to keep the tension between you both as real as was possible throughout. True or not, the uncomfortable interaction between your characters was spellbindingly brilliant. Did you find it difficult to keep that fiction up during the long hours between takes?”

Her first question was routine enough, though wordy. An entirely normal ask that I was having trouble replying to directly as I fought to shake of the memory-lane jaunt of my mother that Krysten had instigated with her mimicry.

“How so?” I asked only to give my brain a chance to shake the cobwebs of my past.

“Well, we all know you to be a peach of a guy, but your character, Detective Lazlo Frost, is anything but. I’d suggest he’s a remorseless sociopath, even on his best behavior day, and I imagine keeping that up for six straight weeks must have been challenging for a good like you, no?”

It hadn’t been actually. I’m not trying to be glib. Yes, it was my first foray into that method of acting at the behest of my coach, but pretending to be something you are already pretending to be isn’t that difficult once you commit. I do it everyday. Still, the world wants to hear that I struggled with that duality. So, I’m to confirm that it’s true, admit that it was difficult, and the praise my agent’s insistence that I work with the renowned performance guru, Jacob Crowley, in order to achieve such a realistic portrayal.

“Method acting is not for the timid,” I said through a forced smirk. “Hopefully, the end result of my agent’s insistence that I work with Jacob Crowley to explore extreme method acting is a film in which the viewers aren’t watching Nicholas Devlin at all. I think I owed that effort to the writers.”

“Any sparks between you and Lorna off-set then?”

I’d expected a deviation from a purely film-centric interview. The personal life of the celebrity sells tickets ten fold in comparison to most else. Still, I was bummed she put the lowest hanging fruit on the table so quickly.

“Well now, it wouldn’t have been Lorna. After all, she never deviated from player her own character, Caroline.”

A hearty laugh from Krysten followed my attempt at a subtle quip. That’s a mandatory for the role, and she delivered it flawlessly.

“Some people have suggested that if you and Lorna were to become an actual item, that’d it’d rival Brad and Angelina’s power-duo status. Maybe we’re all secretly hoping that the chemistry, which was akin to theirs in Mr. And Mrs. Smith, will also transcend the silver screen.”

“Well, I know Brad and Angie very well, and I doubt that they’d relinquish the crown without a fight.”

I don’t know either of them, but it’s a safe bet the dishonest remark won’t offend. I was simply perpetuating the myth that all of us Hollywood-types hang fabulously with one another whenever possible.

“I’ll be sure to left the know you said so though,” I assure Krysten.

That commitment seemed to genuinely please her. I’m sure no one else detected it, but I caught just the smallest addition of a wrinkle above the already twinkling eyes on that previously smooth and flawless forehead. The tiny crease came and went, but I saw it. Her return to a staged enthusiasm absorbed the defect quickly, but it had popped up over the bridge of her nose just long enough to suggest that my assurance to mention her behind the curtains of the great and powerful Oz was an exciting proposition to her. It pissed me off. I don’t know why. Perhaps I thought I was boring her, believed that talking about only me wasn’t quite enough to satisfy Krysten. Who can be certain, but I’d add that momentary lapse in an already broken self-esteem to the list of potential to-blames.

“Please do!” She tried to play it off. “Now, back to Haymaker. Some critics have already suggested Oscar nods are in the future—in your future for that matter. I believe Rolling Stone Magazine even went as far as to suggest that it was a modern-day Godfather, and that your performance was worthy of the comparison.”

I haven’t seen The Godfather. Absurd, I know. Both that I’ve not seen it, and the comparison itself I’m sure. The compliment pissed me off more than the Brangelina bit, and I was compelled to interrupt.

“That’s just ridiculous,” I started.

Right then, I know my agent, the studio, dozens of producers, and other egos must have shuddered with disgust on the heels of those three bank-robbing words. It’s always a good play to be humble, I’ve been told, but not to engage in blasphemy against one’s own project.

“I’m faltered by the comparison, it’s not really for me to decide,” I corrected myself without overcorrecting for the no-no.

“Have you seen it?” she asked.

“Haymaker,” I pretended, “of course!”

“No, The Godfather.”

“More times than I can count,” I lied. “What actor hasn’t studied it habitually, along with its legendary performances, in the hopes of joining their very ranks?”

I’d asked her a question, also frowned upon. No number of times at bat leaves you prepared to do the pitching. As it was, we’d deviated off the topic of plugging Haymaker too soon. I haven’t watched The Godfather, and the lie suggesting the opposite had left me an open target for the possibility of an even more in-depth questioning about the film and those “legendary” performances that I’ve never seen. If so, they’d have been queries I’d have been unable to field. I’m a fraud. I know this. I’ve always known this, and maybe I was a bit more anxious at that moment than is my norm. She’d ruffled this chicken’s feathers, I don’t know why. Throw anxiety onto the pile of reasons for the admission that had yet to come.

“Who are you a fan of? Who does Nicholas Devlin aspire to be?” she kindly asked, keeping a healthy ambiguity to our subject matter like an old pro. It put me back at ease, momentarily.

For her questions, I already had answers—two actually. My agent prefers for me to list an unlikely pairing that covers the whole gamut of what appeals to the public: a master and a clown; a king and a fool.

“Daniel Day-Lewis and Jim Carrey,” I said with a scripted pause for maximum effect. “Day-Lewis for his chameleon-like ability to be anyone but himself on screen, and Jim because a world without guffaws ins’t a place I want to live.”

I’ve never seen either actor’s films. I doubted it’d matter, as I sensed a growing disinterest in my interviewer’s demeanor. Her attempts at steering us away from something that wasn’t built on stock answers hadn’t succeeded, and mid sentence I witnessed a subtle slump that suggested she was over it. These inane and entirely dishonest responses had her ready to join me in a routine ping-ponging of infotainment tripe until its efficient end.

“I’m sure either would be delighted to know you carry a torch,” Krysten playfully mocked. But then came the curveball. An incident that my agent will later insist (with the video evidence to prove it) simply did not occur. “Though I’m sure you are full of shit, Nicky. Lying, and being just another naughty little boy.”

Mom used to say I was full of shit. She often insisted it was the reason my eyes were so brown. Krsyten had called my bluff. My eyes worked to find faces past the harsh lights of the set, to see if anyone was thinking of pulling the plug due to the curse word and insult. It was certainly unprofessional, but what little I’d been able to gleam indicated no panic from anyone. Marty’s scowl was there, but for the wrong reason. While I tried to find the calm to react to her insinuation, he angrily nodded for me to situate my state back onto my interrogator. She’d jumped to the next related subject, but whatever her words, that hadn’t register with me. Marty appeared trusted with me and indifferent to her prior offense.

“Nicky?” I heard her prod.

“Hmmm?” I stalled, trying to ignore an increasing pulse, that was running rampant due tot he re-use of my mother’s y-ified version of my name.

“I asked if there were any performances from Daniel Day-Lewis specifically that might have helped sculpt your character,” she claimed.

“Which?” I stumbled.

“From Haymaker, of course,” she sternly pressed, “you limp-dick imbecile.”

Again, no reaction from the peanut gallery; no one moved. In fact, everyone and everything around me seemed frozen. Though I knew that Day-Lewis had played a cruel character in some Scorsese flick, I sat in silence, hoping the authoritative blonde might shout, Cut! Allow for a reset after berating Krysten for her disobedience.

“Something on your mind, Nicky? Cat got your tongue? Out with it you pervert,” is what I heard. Though the video you’ll see later clearly shows Krysten asking, “Are you alright, Nicholas? Do we need to pause for a second?” Her verbal concern followed by an equally sincere peer towards her superiors searching for some guidance in proceeding.

Cat got your tongue? Another mom-ism.

“I was lying,” I spat. “I’ve not seen any of his films.”

I heard the word come from my mouth, and I already knew exactly where I was going with it.

By my own count I’ve done in excess of two hundred and fifty of these types of interview for five different films on multiple continents over the past four years. Frankly, the conclusion of each of the previous had always left me one step closer to the moment I found myself riding. The moment I made my admission just beyond the walls of this supposedly “green” room.

“Truth is this: I’ve only ever been a fan of one film.”

“Do tell,” Krysten asked with an obvious cruelty. I swear I saw the flicker of flames behind her eyes. “Come on, Nicky. This is your chance to come clean, pun intended,” she nearly sang.

The racing of my heart stilled. I’d zero left in the way of anxiety, which was odd because I’d not even bothered to take the Xanaz that Marty had handed me in the “green” room when we’d arrived this morning. I cleared my throat for effect.

“I’m sure that during and after the filming of Haymaker, I could have fucked Lorna senseless. I mean, that’s what a guy like me is supposed to be doing, right? Fucking starlets at every possible turn?”

Krysten didn’t’ answer. For me she wore a permissive grin, but for the world she’ll be wearing wide eyes and noticeably parted lips meant to express her shock with what I’d just said.

“No doubt, with a minimal amount of coaxing, you too would accept an invitation to meet me back in the dressing room right after we conclude our business here,” I suggested.

She didn’t verbally respond, but I saw that grin getting bigger. It egged me on; it had a comforting effect that made me want to cop to my charade.

“You, like so many other capable ladies before you I’m afraid, would be tragically disappointed.”

“Why’s that, Nicky?”

“I’ve an unusual way about me.”

“Can you be more specific?”

“I was fifteen the last time I saw my mother—”

“Yes, we know. She left you around then, very sad,” Krysten tried to participate. I wasn’t having it.

“You don’t know fuck all about it. None of you know anything about me really. You’ve been fed a story; you believe only what Hollywood’s masters have let you hear and see about Nicholas Devlin.”

“So, she didn’t leave you then?” Krysten said, trying to remain professionally confused. But I didn’t mind the ruse, it was a good seque.

“On no, she bailed. That part is true. Right after she came home from the Piggly Wiggly one crisp fall day in eighty-eight. She had three things on her: two cartons of cigarettes, and a VHS rental tape she’d snagged from the Blockbuster Video two doors down from that P.W.”

“And what movie was that?”

“Mannequin, actually.”

“The Kim Cattrall flick?”

“It’s funny, you know? You kids who grew up on Sex in the City see it that way. I’m sure Andrew McCarthy is rolling over in his grave, but I suppose it’s moot.”

“Is McCarthy dead?”

“Probably not. But inside, yes.”

“I’m sorry, Nicky. You were saying?”

“My mother had met a guy. I remember that. Uncle Patrick was what I’d been told to call him, and so I did. And maybe she skipped her merry way out of Wisconsin that day in lockstep with that deadbeat, who can say?”

“Wisconsin?” Krysten pries sincerely.

“Yes. Wisconsin. I don’t know why Marty thought revising my history to have me born and raised in Colorado was necessary, but he’s the pro.”

“Again, I apologize. Please continue.”

“Mom handed me that VHS tape. Put one side of it into my hand, while she clung to her side of it and told me this: feed yourself with what you can find around here, and watch this until I get back home. And so I did. Thing is, and you may have already done the math, she didn’t come back home. Yes, I was plenty old enough to leave the apartment on my own. Yes, we had a phone. Maybe I could have rung a family friend or even tried Uncle Patrick to see if she was with him. But I didn’t. Like always, I did exactly as I was told.”

“Watched Mannequin, you mean?”

“Yep.”

“For how long?”

“Until Social services arrived some eleven days after my mother had bounced. I’d paused the film a few times to eat what grub was around–crackers and mostly dry Cheerios, water from the tap. Anyway, before the city intervened, I had been able to watch Mannequin roughly one hundred and sixty times straight, back-to-back-to-back. I know this because I counted as I kindly rewound. Funny enough, the goons didn’t see me snag the tape on our way out. Other than the clothes on my back, it was the only thing that made the trek with me to the boys home they stuck me in two days later. Not surprising really, not a whole many grown men, or women for that matter, working civil service jobs are apt to risk digging around the stuffed pants of an almost grown boy. So, the tape made it with me.”

“Were you able to watch it there?”

“No. There was no VCR at Cleveland Academy.”

“Cleveland?”

“An odd name for a home in Union Grove, Wisconsin, sure. But I was able to keep the tape a secret from the sisters. It found its way under my pillow many nights. I had it memorized, word for word, by the fiftieth viewing, and so I replayed the entirety of the picture in my head while I fought off sleep. Cleveland wasn’t a place you wanted to spend too much time paling around with the sandman.”

“Are you saying Mannequin helped shape your acting? Or that Andrew McCarthy is someone you admire because of that early connection?”

“No. Not at all. Jesus. I’m saying it’s the only movie I’ve seen since the day my mother told me to watch it until she got home.”

“Oh,” Krysten responded. It was feigned concern mustered in the face of something tragic, yet comically un-tragic. It pissed me off. I was laying it all out there, and she couldn’t even be bothered to care.

Fuck it, I thought. I was speaking for me at that point. I decided to carry on for the good of me.

“Now, I wasn’t always this guy,” I said as I pointed at myself. “A beauty the likes of you wouldn’t have given me the time of day when I left Cleveland Academy at eighteen. None of this,” I continued with a circling motion around my face, “was really working together like they tell me it does now.”

“I was an ugly-duckling too,” Krysten chimes.

“The fuck you were, I’m sure. Lots of beautiful women like to pretend that they had to tough it out as teens. I doubt it. And who cares? Would you like for me to interview you instead? I’d be happy to stop and hit you up with some questions.”

“No, no,” she retreated. “Do go on.”

“Right.” I turned my head and body to address camera, to speak directly to the world. “The simple fact of my matter is, I can’t get it up for anything other than mannequins.”

“Well, that’s not so odd—” Krysten tried to cover.

“No. I suppose it would be, say, if I had my own home; if I’d kept it a private matter.”

“What do you mean?” She asked, conceding the floor for good, if even unintentionally.

“Honestly, I swore up and down after the first incident that I’d never do it again. You have to understand, that even at the age of eighteen, I didn’t know how to procure my own mannequin. There was no Google, no Internet—no easy way to order a plastic lady and have it delivered to me discreetly and directly. So, I went to them. Hit the stores where they lived.”

Krysten belted out her biggest laugh. “Are you saying you once masturbated to a mannequin in a store itself?”

“I’m saying, that until Marty found me, that until my recent fame, I used to jerk off to mannequins all over the country. And did it while folks like you were busy picking through bargain racks of useless shit you didn’t’ need. I’m saying that if you’ve been to any major clothing retailers in the malls that sit beside most major interstates west of the Mississippi, there’s a damn good chance you’ve walked over, bought something with, or if you worked there, cleaned my jizz off of something. Because here’s the thing: I’ve never been all that comfortable with blowing my load in my pants. It’s doable, but not preferable. Not, I’m not huge in-between the legs, so stroking myself to climax through a pocket has never been terribly difficult. A quick unzip or tug at my pants to get them down, and I simply shoot my baby-makers onto the nearest garment before tucking my pecker back into my slacks, or jeans as the case may be.”

Krysten wasn’t stunned; she didn’t believe me. “This is a Joaquin Phoenix-type prank, right? Like how he pretended to be retired and a beard rapper instead?” she insisted.

“Wish I could say it was Krysten, but no. The honest truth about Nicholas Devlin is this: I’d been whacking off to plastic ladies for the better part of my twenty years, and fuck me if I don’t miss it. For whatever reason–my own preparation for the deed, people’s self-absorption, inadequate surveillance technology–no one has ever been the wiser, and I’ve never been caught. I used to keep a tally of the time, but I had to stop counting somewhere around the number twenty-two hundred or so.”

“Nicholas?” Krysten finally eked, ” I think we should stop.” No longer of the belief that I was pulling her leg, the mask of go-along that she’d worn had morphed to one of deep unease.

Why no Nicky now, I’d thought. This wasn’t the same woman who’d essentially asked me to do what I’d nearly completed. My admission needed a conclusion. Krysten wasn’t going to get that promotion without a solid finale, and it was evident that she required some help seeing it through to that grand end. I decided to put a bow on the whole spectacle for her.

“I stowed the urge away for a bit. I wanted to believe the famous version of Nicholas Devlin could be something other than a grown man whose only literal release was that which I’ve described. I’ve had every Hollywood Doctor Feelgood hit me with Cialis, Viagra, Coke, Meth—you name it. Shrinks, therapists, pyshcobabblists, all of them, and the bottom line here Krysten? I’m a guy who doesn’t want to stop. I’ve certainly the fortune to keep my own home-harem of the best dummies ever built, but that’s not the same. And I’m done denying myself. This is the happy ending—for all of us.”

There was a long pause. Krysten received the go-ahead from her producer to bring the interview to a close. The only audible sound as of Marty clearing his throat. She corrected her posture for her best attempt at dropping the curtain.

“Nicholas Devlin, everyone,” she forced, “if that is even his real name.”

“Fair enough,” I graciously conceded. “It’s Foltz. Nicholas Foltz.”

That wrinkle over her brow returned. Her curiosity peeked by what, I thought.

“Nicholas Foltz then, everyone. Haymaker hits theaters this weekend. Thanks for talking to us, Nicholas. It was really very enlightening. I mean that.”

The lights went up. Other lights went down. No one spoke. Marty was already on his phone, and Krysten’s handlers had scooped her away from me without a word. A production assistant handed me the obligatory post-interview bottled water and I showed myself back to the very green room I’m sitting in now. Marty was explicit in his instructions: do not leave this room until I come to collect you, he’d said.

There’s a knock on the door.

“Come in,” I mutter, expecting Marty.

The door opens and Krysten slips in through just enough of a crack to allow for the action. She shuts it gently behind herself. Her hair is in a ponytail now, and she’s dropped the professionalism form the face she’d worn earlier. It’s relaxed, no make-up (or less at least). She leans back onto the door, keeping a distance from me, but does so with a casualness that suggests she’s here without fear. She studies my face.

“That was quite a story,” she says.

“Fact usually belittles fiction.”

“Nicholas Foltz, you said.”

“My given name, yes.”

She moves closer, grabs the chair I’m seated in, and slowly spins it around so that we are both looking into the large lit mirror atop the table. She’s staring at me, into me, by way of the reflection of us both.

“Your mother,” she asks suggestively, “was her name Louise?”

I’ve been referring to my mother as Mom for so long, the use of her actual name sends a confused chill up my spine. I meet Krysten’s penetrating gaze with my own. Her eyes, our eyes, the same eyes. She puts a hand on my shoulder, while keeping the mutual stare affixed through the reflection. Neither of us says anything for a minute that feels like thirty. The longer I observe her face and form, the more I find my own features living with a dainty femininity underneath her remaining traces of cosmetics.

“You look just like Mom, you know,” Krysten shatters the stillness.

The calm I’d been clamoring to ever since the interview ended slowly begins to turn. My pulse is racing again, and there’s an unusual tingle in my groin. I’m as horrified as I am relieved when my sister’s gentle squeeze of my tensing shoulder under her hand, a smaller version of my own hand, leaves me semi-erect. I’m certain she isn’t aware of it, but I know this marks the beginning of a new secret for Nicholas Foltz—a new secret for us both. She cements that fate with a reprisal of our mother’s favorite tease.

“Cat got your tongue, Nicky?”

The Best Lie You Ever Told

I heard a while back that the average person tells three lies every ten minutes. When my friend told me the statistic, I was astonished. In fact, I wondered if she was lying just to help us boost stats for our project. We were relating it to strangers meeting strangers when dating or trying to land a date, and so it seemed more believable as a number in the setting of men and women trying to impress/attract/bed other men and women. It’s possible even the stat itself, which litters the internet, was fabricated just to get more clicks.

Nonetheless, for some time, it really had me thinking hard as I spoke, concerned about the validity of every word I put forward during a day. It took me out of the interactions I’d had with others, as I listened carefully to their words, trying to discern what might possibly be lies, mistruths, and minor-bendings-of-reality—some made in the service of advancing agendas, others made in the name of protecting the innocent, and the daily embellishments used to bolster a good tale or fill in the gaps when we can’t quite remember the whole story of a story we are inclined to modern-day campfire with our friends.

Like so many recent subjects bouncing around my head, I got to thinking about lying again as I speculated, hypothesized, “roll-played” in my head how I might address dishonesty with my future boy. As a child, I was notorious for my ridiculous fabrications. As a young adult I think I told my fair share, though I’d imagine it pales in comparison to the total told by much larger fish in this global pond. The phrase “Honesty is always the best policy” has stuck with me since the day some poster in some elementary school classroom introduced the notion. And, of course, now I agree. But I got to thinking in a horrible Carrie Bradshaw kind of way, “Is lying sometimes the best policy?”

Entertaining the thought of writing a book on lying. Non-fiction. More of a collection of stories from people, rather than a bunch of musings from my own head. I wonder how open people would be to discussing their lies. I think we’ve all told at least one or two. Big ones, little ones. Even if it was just to spare feelings or keep a child as a child for a while longer. If you have absolutely, never, ever, not in your whole life, told a lie—well, I’d certainly be interested in your story too. But what I’d really like to know, in a somehow anonymous way, is what lie a person told that had the biggest benefit to either them, a family member, a friend, or even the world I suppose. In other words, perhaps you told the single lie that saved the world from destruction many moons ago? Would you even know? Perhaps some minor fib you told had a butterfly effect, and without it, we’d have already gone into a The Road-like type of existence. (Never miss an opportunity to plug my fear of mass cannibalism).

Conversely, what if you only think the lie you once told has served you or whomever else well? By which I mean, you look at the reality you know that exists around that lie, it seems awesome because it is, but perhaps without the lie, the reality that would have spun forward without your fib might have been even more amazing. Or, what it someone else’s reality is a living hell all because of that lie you told?

I’ll give you an example: You told a lie in college to keep up with the path you were expected to take. The lie worked, you moved forward as had always been the plan. You graduated in a timely fashion and went on to get a job, and other jobs, climbed ladders and so forth. You can look at your life now, it’s pretty fucking perfect, you’ve no issues with it whatsoever, but… what if that tiny fib you told to stay on track cost you your chance at some other even more meaningful existence? Or, perhaps you were never meant to be in the spot you are now, your lie somehow pushed you into the fated spot of another, leaving them out in the figurative cold.

Maybe I’ll need to create a system of measurement in order to keep everyone’s judging on par with the rest, if anyone decided to participate at all. How many of us are ready to cop to the best lie we ever told?

Let The Vitriol Begin (Again)

But I Love YouThis week I’ll be pushing my sophomore literary effort, But I Love You, into the world with a plug-it-until-it-makes-people-puke enthusiasm. Then, when the dust settles, the pride built over a two-year crafting of words into story will do its best to withstand the free-flying stink of negativity that might eventually accompany it on its humble sale pages scattered across the internet. They’ll be good reviews (written by moms, friends, and even strangers), and they’ll be stuff that makes me question wether writing is my thing. That’s just part of the game. And like the first time, I’ll abstain from writing any particular individual to tell them just how wrong they are about it. I’ll remain chipper in the face of phrases like, “Do yourself a favor and skip this one. You’ll be glad you did,” and “Such promise to fall so flat.” There’s a bevy of other choice barbs and stinging insults, some written by folks who were kind enough to only read the first chapter before “awarding” My Dead Friend Sarah one or two stars. You take the punches and move on. Hell, if you are me, you secretly hope that your book turns the insides of someone so intensely that they decide to come after you. You wonder how hard it is to get a restraining order. You fantasize about a blurb on some celebrity dot-com rag that mentions how you went to court to testify against the stalker. You aim for the kind of crazy that drove you to write the book in the first place. I didn’t set out to create a polarizing tale the first time. And though I’d toyed with the idea of doing so for the second story, the notion lost steam as I realized that action in and of itself would betray me. In the end, like the first time, I’d like to think that I’ve managed to merge some very real-world observations on the way we live with a story that moves quickly and keeps people entertained and wanting more. There’s more to the story, but I’ll need that material to bug you later in the week as I try and coax you our of a few bucks and some of your time.

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.

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.

The Gross In The Machine

Last weekend, on the way to my wife’s folks’ house in northern New Jersey, we decided to roll the dice on a certain segment of humanity.

Side salad: That would be the same wife someone has been trying to dig up dirt on via search engines, at least according to my blog’s Top Searches feature–an entertaining little deliverer of information most of the time, that on occasion only serves to further grow my paranoia exponentially with its revelations. “Peter Rosch DUI,” “Peter Rosch’s Wife,” “Peter Rosch Kill Kill Kill,” “Peter Rosch Sucks,” and so forth. Is it the private detective that’s been reaching out to me regarding a former business venture? Maybe. Am I the one who entered “Peter Rosch Sucks” into the google search box? Probably. (Many thanks to my old pal Warren for introducing me to the term ‘Side Salad.’ It’s a nice way to deviate from the main story, and I’d not want him to stumble upon this blog one day, see that I’d adopted it, tried to pass it off as my own–even as I’m sure some people don’t care for it–and then also start entering bizzarre combinations of search terms as he plots his version of my demise).

So, as I was saying, me and the Mrs. took a detour on the way out to the in-laws. We decided to pop-off to a small town along the way to test-drive of a new vehicle at a dealership. I won’t name the vehicle, mostly because I don’t want any of my readers judging me by that particular book cover, and also because I don’t want the dealers of that particular brand to stumble on this blog, realize what vehicle we want, and use that information to get the upper-hand in any potential future negotiations. (It’s safe to say, it’s a real level 9 day up in the skull today). All I’ll say is, it’s a car we’ve deemed to be worth considering the notion of actually buying a new car–something I don’t think either of us ever considered doing prior to having to deal with potentially wicked snow-storms up in our future northern stomping grounds.

We didn’t buy the car, we might not ever buy that car or any car, unless…

It only occurred to my several hours after what I had repeatedly deemed as a very successful interaction with not just one, but three different salespeople at the dealership, that maybe, just maybe, having let one of them take our current vehicle for a spin without us–in order to assess the trade-in value–might have given him ample opportunity to capital F with the car. A long shot to be certain, if for no other reason that even if he had put the voo-doo on the vehicle, he’d have almost no reason to believe that we’d come back to exchange our old ride with his dealership specifically. But, I then began to speculate that the rigging of potential buyers’ old automobiles in order to induce a new sale might be a globally fraternal sort of understanding amongst the hockers of shiny new whips. And so, anything he might have done to encourage us to part with our reliable Brooklyn beater, would ultimately serve the greater good of the brotherhood of auto-pushing-sleazesters.

And that realization–made only days after hearing a story about two creatives who loathed a co-worker so intensely, that every Friday they’d urinate on his desk chair, giving it enough time to dry before Monday, but still ultimately stink–had me putting that prank and others into circulation in my head. Did they tweak a bolt or a screw? Did they leave human feces under the driver-side seat? Did they attach a tracking device underneath the fender in order to come and steal it later? (I believe that a timely check on my vehicle to prevent a ticket in Jersey City made just yesterday, might have thwarted that very plan, as I met a suspicious stranger peering into my vehicle who upon meeting me eye-to-eye awkwardly dismissed his activities). Have they planted a small speaker and camera in the car in order to occasionally attempt to frighten me with ghostly Henry Kane coos of “Whooooooooooo, whooooooooooo. You’re gonna die in there, all of you, you are going to die?

Maybe. Probably not. But maybe. Let’s call it a Premium Plus package of Paranoia. Heck, If I was selling something that lost a great deal of its value the minute my customer had it off the lot, in order to put food on the table–I might try at least two of those four options before throwing in the towel. Definitely the last one, as that footage of scared drivers reacting to my Henry Kane impression, while careening into oncoming traffic, might just supplement my legitimate income while making me micro-famous on YouTube.

Keeping the Demon Caged

Having a book out in the world has been a real treat–mostly. I don’t have actual numbers put together, but I think it’s safe to say that for every three people who have taken the time to read it, one point five have liked it. I never expected everyone to like it, even so, it can be difficult to absorb critical reviews of something so very personal to me. Taking in things like, “the best writing in this book was the word end,” is especially trying when the review has been written by a reader who either scored the book for free because of my own promotions or due to a review service traditional publishers use known as NetGalley that I ponied up some dough for in order to expose the book to a broader base of readers. I suppose that’s what I paid for, honest reviews from complete strangers.

I put a great deal of time into researching the pros and cons of that move, and there was one warning that in hindsight seems particularly spot-on, something along the lines of this: when you offer up your book for free, a lot of people who never would have wanted to read it in the first place, will buy it, without making sure that it is something up their proverbial alley, and as such, will proceed to pan it relentlessly even if they didn’t bother to make it past page six. That has happened a number of times, and to some extent, my title My Dead Friend Sarah has also put the content of the book into the wrong hands–people looking for paranormal YA fiction about ghosts and dead folk to be exact.

Such is the case with my most recent panning–the reviewer even begins her umpteen-hundred words long review by making the admission that she downloaded it for free because she thought, “it was going to be a ghost story or at least have some paranormal/scary elements to it.” She isn’t the first to decide to read it for that reason, and I suspect she won’t be the last. I’m not going to belabor all of the things she found wrong with the book after being “compelled to finish it despite its shortcomings.” She was nice enough to give it two stars instead of one, just because of that compulsion by the way. It was her right to review it–her right to express every little dissatisfaction with it and post her beliefs on multiple sights, doing her civic duty of making sure the rest of the actual paying public isn’t duped into reading my book that isn’t about ghosts, or according to her all-bold Amazon review headline, “…isn’t about a dead girl named Sarah.

My shiny happy sober brain has me knowing that reviewing her blog, So-and-So’s Dark Fiction, here, and discussing its merits as determined by me, a highly decorated marketing/design/communications professional, would be a colossal defeat to higher-road types everywhere–and not becoming of an aspiring author either. But, The Demon, as I’ve come to calling that part of myself that still lurks within me even in sobriety, wants out of his cage. He has a wicked tongue, and he’d love nothing more than the opportunity to put into words a verbal assault to strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy the naive brother he shares a body with. (I guess he, The Demon, also likes butchering quotes from Pulp Fiction, thus really revealing his age to the kiddies out there).

Nope, gotta keep that slick son-of-a-bitch caged for at least another day. Thus, I’m off to try and run him into submission with a four of five miler–but only after his morning smoke. After all, her own demon is an unknown, and if I were to let mine pick a fight with hers publicly, there’s always the very real chance hers would come find me and snuff us both out. The Demon would love that.

Sunny Central Park Stroll With My Demon

As I’ve mentioned before, a good deal of my brain activity in any given day is put against speculation of what dark deeds other people around me are scheming or engaged in at that moment. Typically, I don’t have to work very hard to fabricate exactly how their actions are going to impact me, directly or indirectly. These individuals aren’t always out to get me specifically, on occasion I’m sure I am only fated to be the collateral damage of whatever plans they have for someone else that day. It isn’t always about me, but as of late, I find myself wondering more and more if maybe I shouldn’t turn additional attention towards myself. What things am I doing daily that serve to destroy me?

I’m a big believer in the Shadow Self. Carl Jung defined the Shadow Self as “that which we think we are not.” To shed a touch more light on the concept let me just plagiarize a bit with this little nugget from the interwebs: You may believe that you are not like your neighbor who does this or that bad thing, but if those negative qualities you judge, were not also a part of you, then they would not trigger your emotions. You might be nodding in agreement, you might also be nodding the other direction in disgust or boredom–wondering how come your gracious author isn’t just talking, per usual, about something like, how he thinks the recent uptick in the number of hangover cures, morning-after recovery kits and beverages, is actually all part of a big brother style black-ops operation to slowly rid the world the chronically underachieving. Perhaps I’ll post proper about that little gem over the coming weekend, and so if you aren’t into a more meta post right now, I encourage you to come back in a few days for something only seemingly more disturbing that what follows here.

Part of any proper recovering addict’s or alcoholic’s Shadow Self, would be the disease of addiction itself. AA oldtimers are big fans of the saying, “While I’m in a meeting, my disease is out in the parking lot doing push-ups.” My knee-jerk reaction to the utterance of that phrase is usually something along the lines of the silent version of this sound, “Pffffft.” Most likely because the disease itself wants me to believe I’ve been cured. One need not look any farther than Zelda Rubinstein’s declaration, “This house is clean” to understand that if you’ve had demons, those suckers aren’t really ever leaving for good. And if you don’t keep making smart decisions (for example, in the case of the family from Poltergeist, moving out of the house immediately after that supposed victory) the spiteful little bastards will speak to you from time to time, coaxing you back into the very hell you left, with promises of renewed, consequence-less good times. They, or in my case, the other me, is shrewd. And I’ll be damned, because yet again, those cutesy bull-shit-phrases that litter the walls of the rooms of recovery are wickedly on point.

My life is a sensational dream; I couldn’t ask for more than I have, and my gratitude for all of it is through the roof. And yet, as recently as yesterday, just mere moments after finding near peace with everything going on in and around me thanks to an hour on an Upper Eastside couch, the voice of my demon was as loud as it had ever been. Wondering–almost aloud–as we strolled through Central Park on such a lovely day, “What would it be like if we made an effort to throw it all away? Wouldn’t that be quite the experience? To go deeper down the rabbit hole of madness and filth than ever before, if only to see if we could resurrect ourselves yet again.” My Shadow Self knows the way to my heart; my disease knows I’m always up for a challenge, and as twisted as its coaxing might sound to the average Joe, I found myself drawn to the idea. To destroy everything I’ve worked so hard to create, just to rebuild it again–from scratch, heck, without even scratch to get started. That’d be something.

On the other side of Central Park, we could get started. We still knew a few bars there from our first six years in New York City. We’d be well on our way into this new journey before lunch, and any of the various paths it might lead us down would only serve to strengthen our own understanding of what is at first hedonistic and sinfully enjoyable, until it also further educates us on what it truly means to be without hope, scratching from dark corners, without so much as a dime and not a friend left. With rapt attention, I listend to my disease, the demon within, as he held me close, shielding me from the beauty of the park and twisting the reality of what I have, while feeding me truths about many of the world’s injustices, the worst in people, reading me the troubling and sensationalistic headlines from the discarded rags that pass as news that we occasionally found underfoot. He had my curiosity, he had my attention, he had everything but my smart phone–which buzzed in my palm, only to tell me that someone had hearted the picture of my cat that I had posted on Instagram earlier that morning.

The Demon, smart SOB that he is, didn’t curse me out, didn’t continue trying to talk me into something other than heading to the subway to make a beeline to work, and didn’t let out some twisted tortured yelp as though I’d vanquished him once and for all–nope, he simply wished me a good rest of the day, and right before he left said, as casually as my very best friend might, “I’ll see you around, Rosch.”

Hostel Dentistry

Blame Delta Airlines, that’s my motto. Sunday evening I took a red-eye to Prague, CZ. When I got on the plane, I had nothing wrong going on in my mouth other than the nearly lifeless tastebuds smoking gifts me that currently inhabit the surface of my tongue. But when I awoke, there were the beginning inklings of what I surmised might be a loose filling. How Delta Airlines is responsible for what by Wednesday had turned into a full-on tooth ache isn’t really important. It’s simply important to have someone to blame, and I have chosen them and not the tobacco companies, the M&Ms I crunched upon relentless pre-nap, nor am I willing to blame the age of that particular filling, which I think has been riding around in my head for over twenty years now. It’s a trooper that filling! A gutsy little metallic mofo that refuses to let go and die. How do I know that it is still clinging to what’s left of that tooth like a champ? Because I caved and had the production company book me a visit to a dentist here in Prague.

I was pretty proud of myself, “This is a real adult move,” I said to no one with near visible self-high-fives. “An adult doesn’t let everything he thinks of the Eastern European Block, that he has based almost solely on the flick Hostel, prevent him from seeking the pre-emptive treatment he deserves.” My rah-rah-Rosch moment was short lived, and slowly the very things that movie and its successors taught me about the inhabitants of this part of the world grew, until they were large enough to stomp any delight in my decision. That said, it was too late to turn back. This whiney baby had made quite the fuss about his tooth, and arrangements to see a specialist had been made on his behalf–to tell them I wasn’t going to go through with it might brand me a liar about toothaches, and that’s a particular type of liar I aspire not to be. Filthy buggers that lot.

So, I laid my head to my pillow, quite late I might add, and did the only sensible thing a man in my situation could do: I watched a slightly crappy, but full version, of The Descent on YouTube. My mind quickly relented and those slimy cave-suckers all but erased any thoughts I was entertaining about the possible outcomes of my visit to the dentist a short six hours from that moment.

This morning I was greeted by a lovely woman by the name of Veronika. She assured me she would sit with me to translate, and I found that reassuring, but I wasn’t entirely convinced that she wouldn’t be in on the sale of my body to others for the sport of torture. Perhaps she was too nice about it all, and as we took a cab, instead of a sanctioned production van, to a part of Prague covered in the most sure tell that indicates bad parts of town, graffiti–graffiti I couldn’t even understand at that–I began to more than suspect, and indeed decided to believe that she wasn’t above dropping off some ad schmuck from the states at a place of the illest repute imaginable (Cameron, I know illest isn’t a word, go with it).*

We went inside, the office itself smelled delightful. “Very nice,” I thought. And then began a brain loop of an old Wendy’s commercial where there is an Eastern European fashion show taking place–”Svim Vear, Very Nice. Svim Vear, Very Nice.” My escort introduced me to the dentist himself. That struck me as odd, and yet I proceeded into the next room. I lay down upon the chair, a horrendous looking beast of a contraption next to all manner of deadly instruments, nothing unusual about that. Veronika left the room. The moment of truth: This would be where I finally met my Level 9 Destiny, I would be dead soon, but victorious when my current partner was forced to utter at my funeral, “I guess he was right, that poor bastard was right.” We’ve made an arrangement to this, and I trust he’ll come through for me.

The dentist asked me to open my mouth in better English than the Starbucks baristas I hold so dear back in NYC. And so I did. He proceeded to slam a small hammer into the tooth in question, a gigantic pain coursed through my skull. “That’s the one!” I shouted. And he agreed then said, “Let’s have an X-ray, shall we?”

I got up and followed him to another room, farther removed from the front desk, and with my companion nowhere to be found. He opened a door. There was an X-ray machine there, and it looked legit, but I still couldn’t shake the absurd idea that maybe they’d tweaked it to render you unconscious upon firing it up. No struggle, no messes. Just ZAP, and I’d be ready to be moved to the dungeon that lay below that mini-mall. He exited the room, and the machine began to whirr. I took a deep breath, had a momentary panic about being radiated, and then it was over.

He opened the door, smiled large, and asked me to come have a look with him back in the first room. By now, my fears were subsiding, and I was ready to admit that today would not be the day I’d concocted at all.

After politely telling me that he saw noting, and that there was little else that could be done, he sent me on my way to pay and rejoin Veronika so that she may see me back to my hotel. And so I did.

I asked her if it was possible to walk back to my hotel, as I didn’t believe there was much point in allowing this charade to continue. It was very nice of them to make sure all my teeth were in great shape to charge a much higher price to the suit who’d pay top dollar to destroy a perfectly good pair while wearing a pig’s head in a dark dungeon and all. Very nice indeed. She seemed puzzled by my desire to forgo the cab ride back, but agreed to drop me off half-way so that I could enjoy a perfectly nice stroll on a beyond perfectly nice day here. I’d tell you that I thought this was nice of her, but a more accurate way to end this story would be tell you that I am pretty sure that just about the time I was ten feet from the cab and headed into a menacing looking park, I heard her say, “You’ve von for now Mizter Rozch, enjoy your valk, for it will be you’re very last.”

That I have turned her into some sort of vampire-talker at this point is a sure indication I’ve got no business finishing posts at one in the morning in foreign countries in the hopes of hitting my commuting friends back in the states in time for them to be able to read this post before climbing aboard their respective trains.

Thanks for taking this ride with me friends.

* My nephew assures me that actually illest is, in fact, a word. Thanks Cam.

Beep, Beep. She’s Dead.

I run to clear my mind. That makes me one of millions who do it for the very same reason. Just how much crazy can actually be removed during a run of three or four miles is debatable. Most days, if I’m blaring my music loud enough and mimicking the structure of what the guitar player in each track is doing with his hands, with my own left and right hand, I can put a good deal of my lunacy off for the duration of the run itself. But, somedays–like yesterday morning–no amount of music, pounding, increase in speed, or anything else will remove the thoughts I’d rather not have. And, again like yesterday, too often the impetus of something disturbing only occurs to me because I am out there running in the first place.

I’ll admit, yesterday morning I had the music down pretty low. I was already feeling a bit skittish about the possibilites of either vehicular manslaughter or early morning muggery. So, let’s call the volume of my iPod Shuffle a four out of ten. My wife was out running as well, which is also the norm, but had left sometime after my own start–so I had no visual on her, and due to our recent return from vacation (cat burglars, you missed your chance. our cat is still here by the way) Ariele’s house keys were still at the sitter’s. Girl is always on my mind, but knowing I’d have to keep a keen ear out for her return to our abode was the thought leading the majority of the crazy parade marching within my skull. Would I be showering? Would I be on the roof? Is the buzzer broken, and how long would she be locked out? Basic stuff.

As I crossed an intersection, with the light, a lone black SUV with tinted windows sat awaiting the green indication that would allow its driver to proceed to their destination. For no particular reason that I can figure, the driver honked his horn–beep, beep. There wasn’t anyone else around at that ungodly hour, this is Williamsburg, Brooklyn after all and hipsters–even the ones who jog, and many do–don’t usually patrol the street prior to seven AM. After a quick scan for the intended recipient of those devilish toots, I made a quick spin to see if the driver was trying to flag me down for directions, or if it was even someone I knew using their horn to say, “good morning.”

Couldn’t make anyone out, there were no additional honks, and so I continued on my way. So did the SUV, making a right turn at that intersection and fading off into the distance behind me. Panic set in, and in less than two seconds my brain decided it knew exactly why the SUV’s driver had made those honks. Clearly the driver had Ariele bound and gagged in the back, and either she had managed to scream my name or, and far more likely, her abductor had been tailing us for sometime and already knew that I was her husband. Being the sick twist that is an entry level requirement for purveyors of such misdeeds, he had decided to take the game up a notch–in his head, his own thinking was, “I’ll give this guy a sporting chance. I’ll honk the horn, if he has either the courtesy or balls to come over to the SUV to see if I need something, I’ll release his wife and never bug them again. And if he doesn’t, well, then what happens to his wife is meant to be–I gave him a chance, one last chance to save his bonnie lass (he’s a Depp fan apparently) and he blew it.”

I didn’t bother spinning around to chase the SUV to at least get a plate number, something I might have done a decade ago. Nor did I spin around and attempt to immediately find my wife out there, to verify her safety–zig zagging up and down every block at double speed in the hopes of catching at least a glimpse of her to reassure myself that my brain simply hates me and gets a kick out of making the rest of my body perform ridiculous tasks. Ohhhh… if I didn’t need that brain for other things, I’d give it a good punching for certain (shake of head to self).

Ariele made it home of course, which was a real relief to our cat, because in the time between my safe arrival home and hers, I had informed our cat that it was possible her mother wasn’t coming home that day. Laying the ground work for the kitty version of the seven stages of grief–after all, they are like twenty stages in human stages.