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.

90 Days in the Amazon

It’s pretty common for people to write blog posts about their failures and successes using Amazon’s KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) and CreateSpace services. I figure, without having ever interviewed a single other blogger about it, that a big part of their decisions to write about the experience is nothing more than a ploy to get more eyeballs on the book or books they, like me, are so desperately trying to get people to read. The results of such bloggings I do not know–and originally I had planned on never writing such a post, out of some sort of misguided desire to keep the goings-on of my own publication a mystery.

Shameless self-promotion that this type of post can be, I’ll try to do something I believe a few might haven’t–and that’s be totally honest about what exactly has happened with my own publication thus far because of Amazon’s services. Clarity is not always my speciality, so let me expand a bit on that last inference: I truly believe that in the interest of propelling their book(s) even further, that some people have drastically inflated their sales numbers in the hopes of making it seem like the book is a smashing success to that post’s readers, believing that very misdirect will spur an immediate sale by the unsuspecting dupe taking that misinformation in. I’ll admit, it is also possible a few of the existing blogs that have covered this same subject were dated in that they used KDP in its earlier stages, before Amazon tweaked it, and as a result did, in fact, garner larger volumes of sales despite also being a first time unknown author.

Writing about Amazon has me feeling a touch of the willies, because while I am extraordinarily grateful for their services and what it has allowed this guy to do, I also find them to be a tad frightening in regards to how much information they compile on each and everyone of us–not to mention, what the company’s contributions to the publishing world might ultimately spell out for various others in the profession. The topic of Amazon Publishing Services itself can lead to some very heated conversations, and for some it is an exceptionally polarizing institution. But, like my politics, I find myself agreeing and disagreeing with bits and pieces presented by both sides of that conversation. Doesn’t mean I’m not a little paranoid that some nut-bag who truly hates Amazon isn’t going to use the other big brother of the world, Google, to hunt me down and put my head on a stake in front of Amazon’s offices as a warning to any future writers thinking of travelling the same path I have thus far–and yet, I press forward with some details for the casual reader of long-winded drivel. Lucky you.

Today will be my 90th day with Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. And in order to take full advantage of a few key services they provide during that time, I had to agree to only sell the ebook version of my novel exclusively through Amazon. I wasn’t even able to sell it on my own website, by which I mean, I wasn’t able to make an actual transaction, money for book, using my various blogs. Linking to the book’s page on Amazon was totally fine, and that’s precisely what I did. Now, bare with me, as I deliver some numbers and a bit of the everything that I did to achieve what I am confidently deeming a successful first 90 Days in the Amazon.

Total copies of My Dead Friend Sarah OBTAINED by readers via Amazon only, ebook and paperback, as of today and at various price points set by yours truly: 13,136

I think this is incredible by the way, but before we get our collective panties in a wad completely, let’s take a look at that number in more detail shall we?

Total copies of My Dead Friend Sarah PAID FOR or CHECKED OUT using Kindle’s Lending Library by readers via Amazon only, ebook and paperback, as of today and at various price points set by yours truly: 688

If this number impresses you, as it sorta does me, then you are in the right. Why? The average traditionally published book, in all forms, sells about 500 copies in a year–or so I’ve read. I won’t be linking to facts, but you are certainly welcome to fact check my facts yourself. On top of that, the average book self-published in paperback using CreateSpace sells a scant 25 copies in a year. So, I welcome any kudos you might want to throw my way, because, as you might have surmised, just putting my book onto Amazon is NOT what led to 688 actual sales, nor is it even solely responsible for the success I had giving away 12,448 copies using exactly two of the five Free Days that Amazon KDP allowed me to use. On that second day of the promotion, for most of the day, My Dead Friend Sarah was the number one most downloaded book in suspense/thrillers by the way, and it felt awesome. It should be noted though that ereadernewstoday.com was kind enough to include my title in their morning post of 5 freebies, and without that having happened, I believe the total of books obtained for free that weekend would have been far less–somewhere around 3,000 to 3,500 I think.

I was quite hesitant to use any of the Free Days at all, people should be paying for the creative output of others and all that, but I do believe that because of whatever algorithm Amazon uses to feed Free Books into the display system titled “Customers who bought X also bought Y and Z,” that it most definitely boosted exposure to My Dead Friend Sarah. No question about it really, but while that certainly put my title in front of new eyes, I can honestly say that I don’t believe it was primarily responsible for my books sustained momentum of roughly an average of 7.6 sales/day. Not completely, and maybe not at all.

I’m run various self-administered tests using different combinations of Facebook ads, Google Adwords, blog posts, my own participation among other blogs, boards, etc. And, during the times that I have had absolutely no time to perform those mixtures of hocking my wares, there was a markedly drastic decline in daily sales. Many days, as few as zero. On the days that I have found the time to institute one, two, three or more of those efforts towards promoting my book, the sales have always been better. Even as I work in advertising, I was surprised to see what a difference it tended to make with regards to selling books, when i shouted about the book from digital rooftops.

Total books sold via all methods of selling, including the original paperback run-turned-failure with LuLu, paperback sales made by hand to co-workers and friends, and one or two via Amazon’s expanded distribution offer that put my book onto an infinite number of other online retailers: 720 books I believe.

Given the disappointing figures of other self-published and traditionally published works, and I’m talking the numbers that are far lower than that earlier mention of the industry average of 500/year and the self-published 25/year, I’d have to call the early stages of my self-publishing career a success. In my mind, 1000 units PAID for was a realistic goal for the end of 2012, and I’m not that far off from there. I’ve got a few other promotional tricks up my sleeves that I’ll be unleashing into the world during July and August, and I have a tremendous amount of positive energy going forward, as so many of the reviews for the book have been overwhelmingly positive.

Now, as long as Amazon doesn’t get cranky because of this post, and decide to yank me from their service entirely–I’m off to work on my next book, that, unless I ink a deal with a traditional publisher, I will most definitely be putting out using KDP and CreateSpace again. For me, the 90 day exclusivity clause didn’t really hinder sales. Most of my friends, family and other immediate buyers were cool to take a chance on downloading The Kindle App for their iPads and computers, if they didn’t already have it, or in fact have a Kindle. And for their continued support and purchases I am forever grateful to all of the people helping push my book out there.

Will I do another 90 days with Amazon KDP? I’ve got a little bit more time to hem and haw over it, but as of right now, I can’t honestly say that being able to put My Dead Friend Sarah out on Nook or iBookstore would make a noticeable difference. Not yet anyway.

Hope this answers some questions for some folks, and if you hear in tomorrow’s papers about a suspicious accident involving your favorite paranoid writer, please do be a dear friend and if you haven’t read My Dead Friend Sarah, give it a shot, tell a friend, or in lieu of that, mount up and concoct some charges against the beast that is Amazon–after all, my cat will need some diapers, and kitty diapers aren’t cheap.

One Man’s Lullaby

Why am I the way I am? No one thing could be to blame, but it is worth mentioning that my mother and/or aunt used to sing this song to me as a wee little lad. Found myself humming it this afternoon on an otherwise nice walk with the Mrs. Thanks ladies. xo

Gator Rosch

There are days that my life as a drunk can seem like another lifetime entirely. Days where the disease works hard to position that huge swath of so-called living-it-up as possibly a former life–the kind you pay a penny arcade prophet to tell you about on a sullen day in Coney Island. The more time I earn in recovery, the easier it is to forget that very real version of myself that was tearing through days and nights as he pleased. The world, and her mysterious ways, lend a hand from time to time with the remembering of things. And depending on what that forced recollection conjures, this can either be a real treat or a brutal slap to my non-bendering rosy cheeks.

Yesterday morning, on the Lower East Side, while I stood lost in my own thoughts of all the amazing things I’d been able to accomplish so far this year, and all the things I like to let myself speculate are forthcoming, a young woman ripped me from the safe confines of my own pro-Peter party with this seemingly misplaced question: “Is your name Gator?”

My name, as you may know, is not. And so it won’t surprise you to learn that I responded with a confused shrug and a grunt that sounded something like, “Huh?” This was followed by mutual shrugs and maybe even an apology delivered by her to my backside as I spun around to get back to the business of celebrating myself on the remainder of my walk to work. Iced-Coffee, check. Smokes, check. Half an hour or more to kill before the feeling of obligation compelled me to sit still at my desk, check. Just another lovely, somewhat silent by New York standards, morning gifted to me by sober living.

A couple of blocks removed from the incident, that aforementioned previous life–at least one of the many special nights from it–spilled from some dark corner in my skull into the forefront of my conscious. As it reconstructed the narrative, I was relieved to remember that the story wasn’t one of the more spectacularly disturbing happenings from those soggy salad days.

It was a familiar opening–me, friends, a bar, too much to drink, and a spontaneous introduction to some female inebriated souls. On more than one occasion, my father has told me that at times when I speak, it sounds like I have a mouth full of marbles. Drinking never made that delightful little defect any better, and when one of the young women asked me what my name was, even though my response had been Peter, she heard Gator. She repeated it to me and my cronies. “Gator?” She Said.

Our sauced minds met collectively without a word spoken and before she could ask a second time, a decision had been made by me and the group to roll with that moniker for the rest of the evening. And so I replied, “Yep. Gator.” What stories might have accompanied the origin of that name–stories I’m sure I told her in my failed attempts to parlay such a ridiculous name into an overnight visit–I can not recall. But, I do remember that all of my friends went well out of their way to use the name for a significant portion of that evening.

“Wanna another one, Gator?”

“Gator, it’s your rack.”

“Gator, we going down south again this year?”

I suspect, my dear reader, that you’d love to see this tale turn into something that it was not. A yarn about how Gator and that gal crawled from one bar to another, deep into the night, ending up in Vegas perhaps–awakening the following morning after an orgy that appeared to my crusty half-swollen afternoon-morning eyes to have included midgets, bearded women, and an attractive mute from some distant cobra-charming country in the East. I’ll regale you with such a tale some other time. But sadly, like so many others, this night ended when Gator went home, alone, and probably carrying enough alcohol in his system to nurse a brood of some fictional baby animals whose lives depend on booze from a stranger’s teet.

So, turns out–or, it is at least conceivable–that the young lady from yesterday morning had every reason to ask me such a seemingly ridiculous question. And, at least for the time being, I can have a good long laugh about a night that didn’t turn most foul, but still served as a charming reminder of the scofflaw that I used to allow out to play back in the day. I miss that dude, sometimes.

I can only hope, that the next time a stranger drags him out of my subconscious, that it is for as seemingly benign reasons as referring to oneself as Gator. After all, what possible harm could I have caused–and I’m privy to The Butterfly Effect–by simply leading someone to believe I had a ridiculous name? If you’ve been paying attention, you know damn well I’ve already mentally outlined a dozen that can be filed somewhere between, “I’ve a baby boy named Gator” and “A party tale gone awry in which a young woman recounts her having met a fellow named Gator, which reminds one of her newly minted acquaintances of how her own son had been torn in half by an actual gator, who becomes so distraught over the incident that she pulls out a bag of pills she keeps handy from her purse, and then chases it with a tumbler of vodka before retiring to the coat closet to see her way off this earth.”

End scene.

Coffee Shop Shakedown

This past Sunday morning, before the onset of a painful, no doubt secret lab accidental release style 48 hour virus that left me somewhat zombified most of Monday and yesterday, I was having an amazing morning. That morning included one of my favorite things of late: meeting my good friend, whose name I won’t use since I’ve no idea what level of paranoia he is rocking these days, for a cup of coffee and a nice chat.

My mood was so spectacular that I wasn’t even bothered by the fact that a stranger sitting across from us had skillfully injected himself into our preliminary conversations about the weather, recent films seen, and other surface level conversation had before getting down to the real nitty and gritty. As the dialog moved along, predominantly led by my friend and me, the three of us had somehow landed on what is and isn’t tax deductible in our various trades.

I took a moment to reflect on how we’d arrived there with this stranger, and came to realize he had used a piece of my own tale concerning an ancient and foolish charge I’d made for my tattoo that reads, “Question Everything. Trust No One.” The irony that this all stems from that is only evident to me as I write this.

Before my friend could say another word to the balding sly-fox seated across from us, I posited, “Wouldn’t it be something if you were actually some dude from the IRS who hit up coffee shops, to start up chats, move them towards tax returns, deductions, and the like–so that you could then flag folks for audits down the road?”

Our new friend was a little startled by the insinuation–and after a raucous bout of nervous giggles said, “Oh right, like I’m some sort of James Bond of the IRS? And this is what I do, go around and chat up people in posh neighborhoods to find out what they’ve been up to with their taxes.” This was followed by more nervous quips made in rapid succession that moved us quickly into another subject matter entirely.

Had we blown his cover? Maybe. Is Williamsburg really a ‘posh’ neighborhood? Maybe. Did I leave fearing that figurative ‘knock’ on the door we all dread might be coming despite our best efforts to play by the rules? Not really. You don’t live with Level 9 Paranoia, and get all willy nilly on the kind of stuff you know for certain Big Brother is keeping tabs on. I’d say I was most taken aback by his suggestion that he might be the James Bond of the IRS. Maybe the Roger Moore Bond. And that’s a big maybe.

The Worst That Can’t Happen

When presented with opportunities, I’m prone to mentally constructing the worst case possibilites of my involvement with something first, and I do so feverishly. You might regard this as a pessimistic attitude, and a regretfully sorrowful way of living. You’d be wrong. The key word back there, or phrase I guess, was ‘prone to mentally constructing.’ I do not believe in those scenarios. I do not prepare for the worst. In all actuality, I think everything that I am a part of is going to turn out amazing. I go into every project believing that it is a chance to do something great. But, that doesn’t mean I don’t spend a wasteful amount of time dwelling on the outcomes one might deem far far from less than favorable–in the bad direction of less than favorable if you catch my drift. Death is tops on the list, always–but, how that death might occur is different from one project to the next. I’ve probably bored you to tears with other stories about potential near-misses, crazy trains of logic that outline how I might go if such and such happens–at times keeping a blog about one’s inner most sickness can be daunting. So, I’ll hope that you’ll grant me an apology for any overlapping themes. It’s Sunday, so I’m going to get to a point quicker than normal here–ask me to do anything, and I’ll believe (if not full-on know) that there’s a chance it is going to turn out incredible–but, and it’s a big but, don’t think for a minute that I haven’t given consideration to the litany of scenarios my participation in your event my bring down upon me.

When I was asked to participate in The 48 Hour Film Project a month or so ago, after a little bit of buttering up by my good friend Jordan, I enthusiastically agreed to join the crew, as the director no less. I had no doubt we could make something great–it didn’t even matter that I’d not worked with a single soul who would be joining me on that journey. I was confident whatever we did would turn out grand. And, as hopefully the link below shows, I believe it did. But, you can be sure that in the weeks prior to the event itself, I had managed to craft dozens of scenarios that were anything but successful completing a short film with over twenty friends and strangers, having it screened at NYC film center, and watching it enjoy a nice smattering of applause immediately after its unveiling. I believed this could happen, but I also gave quite a bit of thought to some of the following, and a hell of a lot worse:

I’ll be outed as a faker, a man who said he could direct, but actually has no business storytelling whatsoever. (This one is as obvious to a creative as any.)

The police will no doubt take notice of the spectacle we are creating with that little magic video capturing device, and stop us. This will lead to a citation at best, and at worst, would remind them upon running my name that I was due to report to prison for having not completed a DUI course correctly some years ago. Given the location, I’d most likely end up in The Tombs downtown this time–for no other reason than I hear that name mentioned far too frequently on Law & Order SVU.

We’d not have a crew to lock-down sets, and this would of course lead to an acute inability to control the crazies who come out when young people are making a mockery of their miserable lives by enjoying themselves with fancy clothes and cigarettes on their desserted alley streets. (Yes, I am referring to myself as a young person. Deal.) And armed with whatever the city version of a pitchfork might be, would proceed in beating us down for having the gall to do something for the sake of passion.

Getting zapped by electricity due to not really understanding the hows, whys, and whats of modern day grippery. (My word, created by using the word Grip. If you are in the business you know what those surly bastards are up to.)

And finally, at least for this list, the thought that, not unlike all my creations and co-creations, that some how putting something out there at all, with my name on it, will lead to the harshest form of criticism of praise: a good ol’ fashioned stalking, beating, abducting, torturing, and slow demise. (Oddly, this particular imagined outcome makes nearly every list of every single thing I do, because I clearly have an ego the size of an elephant that my poor self-esteem does a magnificent job of hiding.)

Without further ado, here’s the only real result of having participated in The 48 Hour Film Festival. And it’s called, Pickle.

Pickle

What’s all this Fizz About?

A quick glance at the morning paper would suggest that New Yorkers have–as I’m almost positive had been hoped for by Bloomberg and his cronies–soundly rejected the notion of a full-on ban of sugary beverages over sixteen ounces. I submit here, and I’m sure I’m not the first, that this had likely been the desired effect of the overly bold declaration that your sweet sugar water in mass would be removed from shelves. Has it occurred to you that perhaps the first step in getting people to accept a tax on the very same nectar beverages would be to craft a scenario in which we all started to see a soda-tax as a reasonable concession by Bloomberg and the city, in the face of our pained cries against a full-on ban?

Will we be reading about this for months, watching as they make it appear they are listening to the fine soda junkies of this fair city, while they are secretly galvanizing support for at least a small tax to be bestowed upon our vats of liquid glee? I can’t say. But I’ll be the first to say I told you so, when and if this particular bout of Friday morning Level 9 Paranoia proves to be prophetic. I’ve no skin in this particular game, as my own brand of canned/bottled happiness is of the chemical variety. D.C. for-evuh.

Memorial Elevasion

Last Friday morning I came bebopping down from my Jefferson-esque deluxe apartment in the sky filled with a special kind of piss and vinegar that only the promise of a three day weekend can impose upon a stinkin’ thinkin’ fella like myself. LIke many New Yorkers, I was only mere hours away from hopping into some form of transportation to skedaddle from my Point A to a Country B in order to rid myself of a little of the city’s oppressive this and thats. My mood was aces, my demeanor, spirited, and as I bounced off the elevator into the lobby to head out into the world I might have even been humming Matthew Wilder’s Break My Stride. “Ain’t nothing gonna break my stride, oh no…” and so forth.

On the other side of my building’s lobby’s wall of glass widows and electronically locked double doors were two towering gentleman in orange jumpsuits. They had tool belts, tool boxes, and each smoked a cigarette–a sure sign of questionable character–while standing there, peering into the lobby like sharks on the other side of a flimsy Jaws sequel aquarium attraction looking for the rube who’d set them loose–and after a moment of hesitation, one in which I rapidly considered recoiling back into the elevator while feigning a look that communicated “Oops, I forgot something,” indirectly to these mindless stealing machines–I decided to be their Dennis Quaid.

Precision Elevator was embroidered on the left chest pocket of their matching garb. A nice touch I thought, and as I inched closer I could see that there were indeed all manner of tools in their belts and boxes–sinister in their appearance, think torture table instrumentation from any spy, slasher, or film about dentistry. As I made it through the first set of doors into the foyer, I tried to decide if I the adult thing to do was inquire about credentials. After all, it was the start of a holiday in which countless city dwellers abandon their abodes, and posing as elevator repairmen seemed like a clever way to get inside a building with the very tools required for picking the cheap locks contractors had outfitted my condo building with, if not every condo building in greater Williamsburg.

I opened the second door to the outside world, and before I could utter the first syllable of my credentials request, the first gentleman entered and in the thickest of Russian accents said, “We are here to look at elevator.” He hadn’t even bothered to put out his smoke before joining me in the foyer, and his buddy was quick to put his foot in the door just in case I decided to try any last minute slam-and-go maneuvers–you know the kind; where you let a door close on someone and act like you had your head so far up your own ass that you totally missed seeing them there, so you act hurried and give the person a shrug while holding your cellular to your ear that says, “I’m sorry, so busy I can’t even come back to open the door for you.” Aren’t we all armed with that routine?

They had gained entry, but they hadn’t made me a believer. I decided to situate myself under the steel awning over the entrance of my building under the guise of having a smoke while texting in order to assess what options I was left with. I began mentally cataloging everything of worth in our own apartment. There wasn’t much I cared about losing to these thieves. We live an almost ridiculously minimal existence at this particular address, so if they started or finished with our unit the joke would be on them. If they got around to ransacking our apartment in the middle of all the others, its lack of quality thievables probably wouldn’t have the same impact. But then I remembered our cat, Target. If they were to break in, there was a good chance she’d escape and probably end up in a ditch by the side of a road somewhere, meowing for money, and doing unspeakable things to try to make it by in a cruel world she’d never asked to have been born in.

Panic set in, and I debated going back into the lobby to demand those credentials. I’d noticed the two of them weren’t doing anything other than milling around inside the lobby and staring back at me. I figured they were trying to decide if they should wait for me to leave before emptying out this modern day Whoville, or worse, come back out and throw me into a van they most certainly had parked around the corner (for I saw no van out front while trying to assess their legitimacy) only to deal with me later. I could leave right then, with my life, and hope that the cat might bury herself under the bed until they were gone–this seemed like my best option at that point.

Then, as I was feigning playing words with friends, I remembered, “You have a working cell phone now idiot, and Ariele put the super’s number in there for you.” A simple text was made to that very gentleman, it read something like this: “Hey dude, it’s Peter from Unit XYZ, I just let a couple of dudes in to repair the elevator and I’m concerned that they might be Memorial Day thieves of some sort.” I hit send and waited impatiently. Tick, tock, tick, tock…

“Cool. I’m here. I’ll come get them.” He wrote back.

I would say I was relieved, and I was for a moment, but it was truly short lived and any peace about the situation was almost immediately replaced with the realization that the super was in on it too. And barring that scenario, the elevator needed repairing? When would its cables be snapping, and would me or the Mrs. be the unfortunate rider on that fateful plunge. I headed to work and the sweet docile tones of Wilder’s Break My Stride never returned.

Cereal Killers and Mooood Altering Drugs

If you live in New York City, hitting a bodega for a quick food item in between large scale grocery runs is–at least for me–nearly a daily occurrence. This morning found me making an early morning dash to our nearest mini-mart to pick up a quart of milk to better our coffees with my dears. Even as I am gifted with the very diseased mind that allows me to publish this prose, I still don’t always pay close attention to the items I grab. And, unlike so many who do, when I do pay attention it isn’t just in search of expiration dates–spoiled milk isn’t likely to kill me after all. Seven, maybe eight, times out of ten–when I’m of clear mind–I’ll grab the second, third, or even fourth item behind the ones prominently displayed up front. If you were going to randomly off someone, just to see if you could–or at the very least make them sick, again just to see if you could–tampering with food items the masses purchases so blindly, with very little regard as to their origins, seems like a totally legitimate mechanism to me. That I think this, and admit to thinking it, often leaves me wondering if any readers out there have come to believe that all the things I write about are actually things that I go out and do. A natural byproduct of this blog has been the introduction of several new additions to my brain’s catalog of “Things to Watch Out For.” And high on that list is: Someone out there will eventually come to believe that a mind this demented couldn’t simultaneously be on the up and up with his own life. And if I were to write about, say, how I’ve come to believe that it is possible some sick soul might replace the soap in a Starbuck’s soap dispenser with his month’s long collection of spank aftermath, just to delight in the idea that some suit paying six bucks for a frozen bevi will wash his hands in millions of mini versions of himself–well, will someone out there decide that simply because I’ve thought it, I’ve done it. It would only be natural for this person to then decide to seek me out, take care of the problem he has decided is me, and become some sort of underground hero to all of about ten people, which would be enough, because we are living in an age where it doesn’t require many friends to feel famous. And in the end, I’m lying in a shallow grave–breathing my last breaths buried alive since he determined that was a just punishment–because I thought it’d be a good idea to share about believing it was possible at some point that someone would replace the charms in me not-so-Lucky Charms with something less holy than marshmallows.

The TSA New Author Program

Like many fine Americans, I tend to think the rigmarole in place at our airports is an offense to the human spirit. I’m not going to belabor its effectiveness but Vanity Fair did a great eye-opening piece on it for those still in the camp of ‘TSA as necessary annoyance for our protection.’ Recently, on a trip to LA, they added the act of dipping some sort of chemical detecting stick of paper into my already opened Diet Coke that I had purchased within the airport, right as I walked down the gate ramp just a few feet from the plane itself. So, they are thorough, I’ll guess you could give them that.

Yesterday, on our way back from Mexico, our layover in Miami found us right back in that all too familiar line, shoes in hand, laptops out, jackets off, nothing in our pockets. My wife and I did what we were told, as did hundreds of others, amid the thick air of animosity and frustration that tends to hover amongst the guiding ropes that pre-lead us to all of our favorite destinations. I’ll admit, back in my drinking days I found all of this much less of a hassle, you could have stuck me with a cattle prod and I’d have thought very little of it, but with a sober brain I am able to see the whole experience for what it is: a major pain in the ass.

We made it through, with just enough time to spare to execute a little plan we’d hatched earlier in the week for My Dead Friend Sarah. We thought it would be fun to leave a couple of copies in various places – some hotels in Mexico, and one or two at different gates, with an inscription in the back that simply suggested that if the finder of the purposely-left-behind book read it and enjoyed it, that they pass it along to a friend. The cynic in me was certain nothing would come of this infinitesimal amount of guerilla marketing, but I was happy to drop off a few novels along our way to lighten our load.

Watching Ariele attempt to leave the book behind, in a most nonchalant manner, on one of the few seats available in the clustered pod of gates D-7 to D-1 was at first quite humorous. She is gorgeous, and from afar I looked on as many a lonely male traveller gazed upon her, a delectable mirage amongst the barren wasteland of broken spirits that tend to collect at our nation’s numerous gate waiting areas. It made the accidental act of leaving my to-be-discovered prose that much more difficult. But true to her skills of chicanery, after a few aborted attempts, she left the book alone on an empty seat and mere seconds later we were strutting down the ramp to the mechanical bird that would take us back to home.

I thanked her for her efforts, beaming triumphantly – allowing myself to think of all the wonderfully optimistic possibilites our ruse might invoke for just a millisecond, until the following thought snuck in through the backdoor of my brain and began savagely beating all that head-sunshine with a crowbar: Surely some goon manning one of the many airport cameras had also been drooling over my wife, and had witnessed the entire supposedly accidental book drop. No doubt he was making a mad dash, solo or with friends, possibly on Segways, to inspect the book immediately. Upon reaching the book they’d immediately see my name as author, and then through a walkie shout, “Code red, code red! I need you to check the AA travel manifest for one Peter Rosch! Pronto!”

As I crossed the threshold between ramp and plane, I readied myself for the inevitable outcome of our sinister doings. I was sure that within moments of cracking open American Way Magazine, I’d hear the pilot come on the PA and announce, “Folks, I’m sorry, we’re gonna have to head back to the gate momentarily – apparently some jack-ass on this flight thought it’d be cute to leave one copy of his precious first novel back in the terminal, in the hopes that what? Someone would give a damn? Anyway, TSA is waiting for this guy back at D-5, and we’ve most likely lost our place in the line-up out there, so I’d prepare to get comfortable with the idea of a long stay out on the tarmac. Perhaps you can rest easy once we’re out there, comfy in the knowledge that TSA will most likely put a full arm up this budding young author’s posterior. He is sitting in 16-A if you feel like taking a few swings at him while the air marshall escorts him and his cohort off the plane. Thanks Rosch, thanks a lot. We’ll be sure to tell people all about your book.”

With that very last thought, all the building panic inside me left my body instantaneously – I couldn’t hope to buy this kind of publicity for my novel. I buckled myself in, peering out the little oval window back towards the terminal – wondering if, possibly even wishing desperately, that maybe this time my level 9 paranoia might turn out to be bonafide fact. It wasn’t until we were zipping amongst the clouds at around 26,000 feet that I finally gave up on the idea altogether and moved my train of thought back to the all important task of evaluating strange noises being made by that damned flying machine.