I entered the Teen Arts Festival one year. Unfortunately, somewhere between filling out the entry form and completing my project, I lost interest. I think the festival people even called my house to find out if I’d be sending them some art when I didn’t on the last day of submission. I wasn’t home, so my mother went into my room and just picked out something that was lying around in there. I’m not even sure if it was the piece I’d intended for the Festival. Possibly. I think she chose a picture of an air-brushed glass I started but never finished. I don’t believe my mother realized it wasn’t finished though and just thought the masking tape still adhered to it was part of the design. Even though it wasn’t very good, they still displayed it up with all the really good art anyway. Seeing my piece next to, what I considered, superior art was a real blow to my ego. And while I did receive a plaque for my effort, I didn’t think I deserved even that much. All at once I felt like I was back in the Special Olympics where, everyone, even that kid throwing a fit out in the parking lot, got a medal. Throughout school my parents pushed me to find something that I liked and could do successfully as a possibly career option. My father had an interest in meteorology—that’s the study of weather and the climate. So one summer we went to Two Guys (remember those chain of stores? They sold basically everything there) and picked up a barometer, a thermometer, a weather vane, and bunch of topographical maps. We attached the weather vane to the side of the house and put the barometer in the shed. Using this basic equipment, we attempted to predict the weather together. Part of the experiment entailed us sitting in the backyard drinking sweat tea while watching the fluid in the barometer fall as a storm approached. Sure it was slow—a bit like watching
paint dry actually. But it also gave me a sense of power knowing I could predict the weather before there was even a cloud in the sky. And in the event of Armageddon, I’d be the only source for a reliable weather forecast. I think my parent’s greatest fear was that, if I didn’t figure out what I wanted to do with my life, I’d end up digging ditches. For obvious reason, and after puberty hit, digging ditches just didn’t have the same WOW factor it did back when my father would take me to construction sites and I’d sit in the dirt for hours watching the men work. I guess I thought heavy equipment and dirt was really cool back then. They are kind of cool, actually. Around the same time, I signed up for Saturday acting classes at school. Mr. Schneider, the drama teacher, was the instructor. My mother was happy I enrolled because acting on the stage was always something she wished she could have done as kid. Even though I’d never acted before, I thought maybe it was something I would be good at. I’d always been a real outgoing and gregarious kid such that cracking jokes, and generally acting a fool to entertain family and friends was part of my daily routine. But after just one acting class, I quickly realized the sort of commitment that was involved in becoming a good actor. Apparently being an actor didn’t simply consist of being a goofball. I knew it meant memorizing lines and being on stage, of course. I just thought maybe I’d grow comfortable with the idea at some point. Unfortunately, whether I was on the football field or on the stage, the fear of potential failure loomed large over me. The first day of class we sat in a circle and went around introducing ourselves. Mr. Schneider then went on to explain how we would be selecting a play and, each week, would pick a different character to read for. I guess learning different roles is sort of like learning all parts of a song—harmony, melody and the bass—you’ll know the play that much better if you know all the parts. The last week of class, we would have to audition for a role in the final performance. Auditioning to me at the time seemed like it would be really hard. I could always spontaneously ham it up in front of friends and family, but didn’t think I could endure 6 week hardcore theatrical training followed by a rigorous auditioning process. Well, I’m sure I’m exaggerating. But rather than find out, I faked going to all remaining classes after that first one. My mother would drop me off in front of the school. I’d get
out, go inside and wander the halls for an hour while class was in session. Then I’d reappear out front to be picked up again. I know it seems stupid to think about today, but I felt really bad about deceiving my mother. Not only because I knew she’d be disappointed, but because I disappointed myself by letting fear spoil my success. In the past I had wrestled, boxed, played football—all things I probably had no business doing. And ironically, the one thing I probably could have done with a degree of competence, I didn’t give even reasonable effort. Part of the reason my mother approved of me enrolling in acting classes was the possibility I might meet motivated kids doing interesting things. But I already had met motivated kids. And we were doing interesting things, I thought. For instance, if Chuck, Kevin, Ralph or Mark required an extra person for a game of Manhunt, I would be there. Or if they needed a lookout so they could launch fireworks at oncoming traffic on interstate 78, they could count on me. If Jeff Lambini needed someone to help polish off the last of his father’s beer behind Benham’s Garage & Service Station, he needn’t look any further. Sure my friends might never have aspired to become great thespians, but neither did I it seemed. Besides, who needed a bunch of fake actor friends anyway? My opinion of actors at the time was that they were a bunch of over-stimulated, self-centered, egomaniacs that would eventual leave for Hollywood anyway. Hmmm? Sounds like this guy in the mirror I eventually came to know. Well, at least I had real friends that liked me for who I was, presumably. Jeff Lambini was a tall lanky kid I knew from school that walked a bit like a duck and kept his hand in his front pocket most of the time. One night we met up when I had stopped at Benham’s to put air in the tire of my bike. I think he worked there but can’t be sure. He had a bag in his hand though and asked me if I cared to follow him behind the station to see what was in it. I was curious so I said okay. I followed him to the back but he kept walking and continued on straight into the woods until we reached the train tracks. He put the bag on the ground and pulled out two six packs of beer. I’d never had beer before, or any alcohol for that matter, so I was interested. He immediate grabbed two bottles and opened them. He handed one to me and began drinking the
other. I took a sip and made the kind of face one might expect one to make when first trying the bitter stuff. Jeff, on the other hand, drank it like an old pro; even lighting up a cigarette at one point. I continued to nurse the beer until he told me to pick up the pace because he needed to get back. I wondered if he meant back to work. Not wanting to appear like prude, I ignored the taste and started taking much healthier gulps of beer. I quickly finished the one in my hand and asked for another. Jeff obliged by reaching into the bag and handing it to me. Again, I drank it with fervor, finishing it at about the same time Jeff was finishing his second. This went on until we’d finished both six packs. I’d probably achieved the level of being buzzed by the second beer and was completely bombed by the forth. After the fifth I’d reached a whole new level of intoxication which left my legs almost completely inoperable. The sixth beer wasn’t even close to ingested, missing my mouth by a wide margin and ending up all over my face and shoulders. Given Jeff’s comfort-level with the stuff from the beginning, it came to no surprise that he appeared to be completely fine. Meanwhile I was rolling around on the ground like an animal. Jeff really wasn’t kidding when he said he had to get back but was kind enough to wait until I vomited at least once before leading us back out of the woods. When we got back to the station Jeff stood in front of me for a second, looked me up and down once; and after asking me if I was okay, thanked me for my company and left me to my devices. At this point I was covered from head to toe with dirt and mud and clearly in no shape to be even in public much less about to be getting on a bicycle to ride home. I gathered myself together anyway and attempted the tricky ride. However, I quickly realized that riding the bike would be out of the question after swerving into traffic a few times before slamming into the curb. So instead of tempting fate I opted to walk it the rest of the way. When I finally got home I was still pretty drunk though and now had to negotiate my father who was sitting on the couch in the living room. And with no good way to practice acting sober beforehand, I just had to wing it.
It was unlike my father to ever not greet anyone ever coming into the house by looking them straight in the face and then asking them to ‘come over here for a second and say hi’. My only hoped was that he’d be too tired for formalities, give me a quick ‘hello’ before letting me pass in peace. Luckily he did that. And after saying hello back, quickly made my way to my room where I collapsed in a heap of filth on the bed. When I wasn’t experimenting with alcohol, I was rolling dice in someone’s kitchen. No, not craps. What do you take me for anyway, a degenerate? I was a teenager. And bunch of us would gather together to play Dungeons & Dragons. Playing with Chuck, Ralph, Kevin and I, was also Mike Vascito and Chris Del Lese. Chris was a huge kid; probably 6’ 3”, 270 pounds and who always seemed to wear the same heavy metal t-shirt to school every day. He’d sometimes do these wild dances by the lockers where his head and body would swing wildly around, letting his long, greasy hair slap hard against anyone standing nearby. And if you took a direct hit to the face, the greasecongealed hair could sting like a cat of nine tails. I think he liked to do it when he thought no one was paying attention. How convenient. Incidentally, I went to my senior prom with Chris’s sister. She had far less grease in her hair. Chuck and I were once detained by the police after convincing Chris to drive us over to the Watchung Reservation in his parent’s car so we could terrorize a group of camping Boy Scout with fireworks we bought in China Town. Even though Chris was basically harmless, his huge size, long hair and generally menacing-looking leather apparel, prompted the cops to pull us all from the car. I’m not sure what Chis said to the officers, but it wasn’t too long before they had him leaning against the car in handcuffs. Mike Vascito would usually be Dungeon Master for our games. I must say, Mike made the perfect dungeon master because he was loud, opinionated and disliked playing with Kevin a good deal. Mike would try to dissuade Kevin from using his Asian warrior characters for his Medieval, English-style missions by killing them off every time he used one—which was generally every time. Everyone knew it was coming. You could just see the frustration on Mike’s face as Kevin rolled the dice to see how much damage a samurai sword would do.
I don’t think Kevin fully appreciated why his characters irritated Mike as they did, because he fought with him over the tiniest things. Like the time our characters were all in the tavern and Kevin made it a point of telling the bar wench that his character didn’t much care for gruel and Ale but rather preferred a helping of General Tso’s chicken and rice instead. Actually, that may have been me that said that during one of our games. In any event, Kevin just wasn’t looking at the big picture. And would unwittingly antagonize Mike every time it was his turn by insisting that his character should have the advantage in that particular battle for x, y, and z reasons. It was rather amusing to hear Kevin go through all the trouble of trying to explain, in great detail, his superior Asian weapons, armor and special fight skills only to be killed in that very same round because Mike simply didn’t give a shit. Eventually everyone would get involved in the dispute and a group fight would start. I really shouldn’t heap all the blame on Kevin for our failures to complete a game without fighting. Because it’s possible I tried to sneak my Hulk character from the Marvel Universe in a few times. But Mike liked playing with me; well, more than he liked playing with Kevin anyway; so he would temporarily suspend judgment of my new addition. But it was inevitable that his steadfast dedication for the rules would ultimately override his generosity such that I’d be violently ejected from the game by a dark elf.
Chuck and I worked one summer at his neighbor’s house doing yard work. I’d get up pretty early, get on my bike and meet Chuck across town at his house. On most days, I’d say hello to Chuck’s folks, grab a bite to eat then we’d walk next door and start working were we left off from the previous day.
It wasn’t very difficult work and usually consisted of raking and weeding and things like that. I can’t remember what we were paid, but it wasn’t a lot. We had been working a few weeks and things were going along okay, as I remember it. Usually he’d pay us cash every week. But when he stopped paying us for a few weeks, we started to get a little anxious. The last week of the summer, he finally gave us a couple checks. The next day when Chuck and I went to the bank to cash them, both checks bounced.
I got my first real job when I was a sophomore. It was at the McDonalds close by my house when McDonalds still actually hired teenagers. While I put forth lots of effort for things I liked to do, considered typical work a necessary evil to pay for my growing comic book collection.
A few of my friends had also applied for jobs at McDonalds. Chuck accepted a position. Ralph applied too. But quickly realized he probably couldn’t work with Chuck after Chuck left him there one day before school. Ralph had been chatting with some girls at the counter while we all waited in the car for him. And after putting us perilously close to being late for home room, Chuck suddenly took off, leaving him stranded in the McDonalds parking lot.
The McDonalds interview wasn’t exactly rigorous. And consisted of looking the interviewee up and down to make sure they weren’t drunk or high then scheduling a start date. After successfully navigating the interview, I handed in my available work hours—no Saturdays, no Sundays; nothing too late or early and, at all costs, I wrote, “I’d like to avoid closing the restaurant whenever possible.” To my mind, these hours were completely reasonable given the manager must have been aware of the statute describing how long, and at which times minors were allowed to work in the state of New Jersey.
The manager, Susan, was a large woman with an unfortunate thyroid condition that made her ass and thighs grow to a terrific size while her upper body remained about normal. Susan wouldn’t tolerate any crap from actual employees, much less the kid sitting before her not yet worth his weight in shit. And after correcting my schedule for laziness, handed back the refactored version: every Saturday and every Sunday until closing and early on Mondays. I tried to hide my disappointment, even while gripping the piece of paper tightly in frustration.
While I wasn’t destined to be employee of the month any time soon, Susan loved Chuck because he was willing to work all available hours during the summer and didn’t complain once, not even when tasked with cleaning up the mess around the dumpster that raccoons had left the night before. Meanwhile, I was trying to supplement my income with mass quantities of Big Macs, fries and shakes. Deservingly so, the diet I chose began to grow my ass to match the size of my ego. But I drew the line after a few coworkers started calling me “Mr. Susan.”
McDonalds definitely had few interesting characters that worked there. There was “Bullet head” Bob. Bob didn’t actually work at the restaurant but instead would come in often to receive his veteran’s discount. No one ever charged him of course. He’d show his card and we’d just wave him by. I mean, the poor guy had a damn bullet in his head. And every day I saw him it looked as if that day might be his last. I think a free cheeseburger and cup of coffee was the least they could do. Actually, there was one manager that tried charging him once. But after ringing him up and telling him the amount, Bob just sort of stood at the counter and stared at him. It looked uncomfortable. Bob mumbled something, felt around his pockets quickly, took his food and walked off. The manager didn’t know what to do. But after noticing other employees looking at him out of the corners of their eyes, just sort of accepted it and went to the back. He even asked me: “does that happen a lot?” I just titled my head and shrugged. Bob wasn’t trying to act like he was special or anything. He just really didn’t have any money. Even though Bob was slow-moving and even slower talking, was kind of an interesting guy. And if he was in the mood, might even tell you how he killed a bunch of Vietcong back in ’67. I tried not to push him too hard, but at the same time, really wanted to know. Mostly though he would just ramble on over how hot it was over there and how much worse military food was than McDonalds. Sometimes I’d see Bob sweeping up a little around the tables. He was probably bored and felt he should try to pay his way, at least a little.
The night manager, Lewis, was a tall, sinewy character with a short Afro, glasses, and a penchant for coke and women with large rear-ends. And, like most cokeheads, was really fun and easy going when all dosed up, and an intolerable asshole when jonsing for a fix. Lewis was mentally weak and prone to bad judgment if high and would do nearly anything for an opportunity to stock up on his supply. At the time, I really didn’t know anything about cocaine or how it affected people that used it. I just thought he was a moody son of bitch most of the time. The fact that he’d sometime work at blinding speeds while other times hardly at all, I thought, was just part of his polarized personality. It wasn’t until one day I was scheduled to work late and noticed the break room door was closed when I got there. I never saw that door closed even once before. Hell, I didn’t even realize there was a door there. I didn’t want to disturb anything going on but at the same time needed to punch in. Rather than knock though, I just pushed it open. Sitting at the table was Lewis. And surrounding him was half the night crew. They had cleared the table of everything and were snorting loudly as if they’d all caught the same common cold. I punched my card and never said a word about it.
At first I considered trying to “persuade” Lewis to change my schedule in exchange for my silence. I’m sure Susan wouldn’t mind knowing what was going on in that breakroom when she wasn’t around. I thought about approaching Lewis. But soon, Lewis approached me. I told him I’d keep quiet if he would change my schedule. He said he’d think about it. I said okay. I guess I wasn’t very convincing as a blackmailer back then.
I knew this guy named Frankie—a friend of a friend and townie that dealt drugs from his bedroom window. Besides dealing all manner of narcotics, Frank was a good basketball player actually. I remember playing a pickup game at Columbia Middle school and Frank showed up. After being selected for a game, I clearly remember his superior ability with the rock. He had terrific ball-handling skills and was very fast. His talent was such, had he chose to play, would have been a real threat on the varsity team.
One night Frank asked me if I wanted to go down to the high school to hang out under the bleachers. I had nothing better to do so I went. As soon as a large enough group arrived, Frankie busted out the weed. I knew that’s what they would be doing but decided to go anyway. I had tried pot before I just wasn’t in the mood to smoke that night. Actually, I thought there might be girls there so that’s probably why I went. But there weren’t. Or if there were they weren’t really interested.
After a while, I grew bored of watching everyone else get high and I decided to leave. But no sooner did I get back to the street, did I see the cops blocking the only way out. Suddenly I was approached by two of them with flashlights. “Hey you! Get over here,” one commanded. Since I felt I hadn’t done anything wrong, I figured I had every right to be defiant. But apparently that’s not how cops operate. And after ignoring their request to comply a few times, they quickly moved in and forced me to comply. I was unceremoniously pushed up against the squad car, handcuffed and put in to the back seat. When I got to the stations they sat me down…next to Frankie of course.
In the car on the way over I heard the cops talking to each other about a chase they undertook with some redheaded kid. That had to be Frank. Apparently they were really amazed with how fast he could run after attempting to pursue him on foot. It wasn’t like they were just a bunch of donut-eating, flatfoots after him either. Because there were definitely a few pretty athletic cops on the force. John Del Duca, who was an amateur boxer, was one of the cops chasing him. And Ed Amerlan, a huge, athletic guy that managed to keep in shape despite sitting in a car 12 hours a day was also in pursuit on foot. The fact that Frank left them all in the dust anyway was a testament to his speed. He outran them so badly, the only way they eventually caught him was by staking out his place and waiting. I guess I was wrong from the beginning…apparently he was putting his talents to good use.
Lewis agreed to change my schedule if I could get him some stuff. So I reached out to Frankie and he agreed to sell me cocaine. Looking back, I think if just one person told me I was being an idiot for getting involved I probably would have listened. Not to mention if I got caught I probably wouldn’t have held up very well under questioning.
I went to Lewis and told him about Frankie and, amazingly, he changed my schedule the very next day. No questions asked. Man was this guy a fiend. But no sooner did he change the schedule, did he tell me how Susan called him at home. She wanted to know why he’d changed my schedule. He gave her some lame excuse about some other employee wanting my hours? No one wanted my hours.
Lewis must have been really desperate because he entrusted me with $1000 of his money the day I was supposed to meet Frankie.
I got to Frank’s house and sat by the pay phone across the street at a gas station and waited. Then I waited some more. Finally the phone rang. I answered. It was Frankie. He told me he wouldn’t be able to make it.
The next day I slumped into work, disappointed. Not only would I have to continue to work weekends, but was starting to prove to be unreliable. I approached Lewis with the envelope of money. I told him that my source was giving me the runaround and that I wouldn’t be able to make the buy for him. I then tried giving him his money back. “No no, you hold on to it,” he said. “Keep trying. I trust you,” he finished. He trusted me? I think Lewis was hitting the pipe along with the blow. I didn’t really want to hold on to his money; I just didn’t want the responsibility anymore.
The next night at work I saw Lewis again. I could tell that he wasn’t in a good mood. So it didn’t surprise me that he wanted to know where his money was. I told him that I didn’t have it on me. He suddenly became irate and was throwing a fit. I told him to calm down. But he wasn’t listening because he was ranting incoherently about some bills and other stuff he needed to pay. I told him I’d bring it in on my next shift. He wasn’t happy but accepted it.
My next shift I had his money. He apologized over his behavior from the night before and told me just to hold on to it until my guy came around. What the fuck!? I told him that this was the last time. And if he blew his stack again, I’d throw his damn money in the French fry oil.
When I walked in to the breakroom, I noticed my hours were back to the original days and times on the schedule. I immediately questioned Lewis about it. He told me that Susan was giving him grief so had to change them back, but that he’d make it up to me in another way. When I asked how, he said he’d look the other way when I emptied the food bins on my way out. I thought about it for a minute. Free food wasn’t a bad second option.
I got home and saw my father outside racking the lawn. I asked him if he had a preference for McDonald’s food. When he asked why, I told him it was because I was buying a shitload of drugs for one of the managers at work that was now repaying me with near unlimited amounts of free cheeseburgers, fries, shakes and things. Just kidding. I lied and told him it was part of an employee incentive program. I doubt he bought it, but at the same time wasn’t about to turn down free McyD’s. He was pretty open to any kind of food I could get but had made a special request for a Filet-O-Fish with extra tartar sauce on Fridays. That seemed reasonable enough.
Eventually I did get Lewis his stuff and things were going along just fine: while I was growing my ass through the mass consumption of Big Macs, Lewis was dwindling down to practically nothing snorting the stuff I got him. Life was good. But as they say, all good things must come to an end.
The store, and actually all McDonald’s stores at the time, was starting to go through many changes. Changes to management and changes to the cooking process through automation technology where afoot. It looked like the fast-and-loose, Wild West days of old would soon be coming to an end. Apparently, owners back then actually wanted to start making money. Gee, what a concept.
They were beginning to look more critically at their staff; and especially, at management. And I don’t think it took them very long to isolate where their profits were going. We weren’t being particularly careful about it—while I was stuffing five-gallon plastic bags full of burgers and fries under my coat, Lewis was stuffing his nose with enough white powder to coat a weeks-worth of French Toast Sticks.
But unfortunately, and given the new management strategy, it wasn’t too long before both Lewis and I were being heavily scrutinized. Lewis was fired first, as I recall. I’m not even sure if they gave him a reason either. And if they did, was pretty high at the time so wasn’t articulating to me very clearly.
Susan was a good manager. But who eventually left the store after she started dating my uncle. They moved to Florida, got married and had a kid. I, after enjoying a period of extreme extravagant living on McDonald’s dime, was also fired for trying to make off with nearly one hundred dollars-worth of Big Mac’s, fries and one Filet-O-Fish with extra tartar sauce.
I once attended a writer’s meetup which slowly devolved into a relationships-complaining meetup. The writers there happened to be having relationship problems so we talked about them. After sitting and listening to the kinds of problems they were having with their relationships, I started to notice a pattern--people were getting into bad relationships that I thought were avoidable. And while most everyone claimed to be able to see the problems with their partners, still remained involved for some reason.
As I listened to these people talking about their awful relationships, a lot of things went through my mind. Chief among them: are these people staying in bad relationships out of scarcity or what? Scarcity is when someone believes they have limited dating options such that they inadvertently behave in a way that actually does limit their dating options. They turn the opposite sex off, in other words.
MORE LIKE THEM THAN YOU REALIZE
If the people at the meetup were describing their partners accurately, I was amazed how they were able to maintain a relationship at all. I heard the term “narcissistic” used more than once to describe them. A narcissist needs constant attention. It seems some narcissists believe everyone is like them as well because will give you undo praise and attention if you let them. Unfortunately, this priase and attention must be repaid in full. If you have confidence you don’t need or want their praise though.
If you find yourself continually being drawn into these little dramas, then you should look in the mirror because you’re probably more like them than you realize.
Inspiration & Belief
While science has all but replace the dark arts of antiquity like alchemy and witchcraft, we here at Dark Arts Publishing still believe the name has relevance. And that a new, and different, kind of modern-age dark arts still exists but that yet lie dormant in the hearts of unique men.
To practice this new order of Dark Arts, one must properly cultivate their cynicism of the modern world. And as an important first step, must understand that cynicism lies somewhere below paranoia but above trusting; is not Nihilism but rather closer to distain; and often begins as a nagging feeling you sometimes get when, and after meeting new people for the first time, soon find you dislike them a great deal.
Opinion There are five possible ways of dealing with the harsh realities of life. They are: alcohol and/or drugs (prescription or otherwise), melodrama (bullshit, really), ignorance, religious practice, and our personal favorite,—writing.
Writing offers a special kind of release that doesn't necessarily involve drugs but that allows the author to place the drama where it belongs: on the printed page.
Our main focus is on publishing books and stories that satirize and, often, criticize culture and human behavior. Submissions can be anywhere from biographical nonfiction to complete bullshit.
Problems with the name
We here at Dark Arts realize that, by calling our company Dark Arts, it may be confused with publishers that publish fantasy and/or other supernatural themes. And while we’re not opposed to publishing in those genres, we recommend your work at least be somewhat critical of human nature, groups of people, and (hopefully) all other ethnicities from that of your own for whatever genre you're writing in.
“The knight rode up to the hitching post in front of the old village tavern. A wishing well nearby had an odd smell to it. A sign out front read: ‘curb your horse’. But the sign must have gone unheeded because there were huge piles of shit everywhere and on the grass too. Suspecting elves were to blame, the knight tries to apprise the tavern manager of the of the situation but the manager ignores him because he'd been placed under a spell by wicked elves ...”
Extended core value
Another foundational principle here at Dark Arts is that we will literally do anything for money. In fact, we just recently published a series of legal disclaimers because the law firm paid us a good chunk of change to do it. Below is an excerpt.
"Proper use and handling instructions of the "Shake weight" must be adhered to at all times. Avoiding physical harm to "person" or "persons" or damages to the Shake Weight itself, is the sole responsibility of the owner. Common hazards to watch out for are: (1) punching one’s self in the face after losing control of the Shake Weight because you misused the Shake Weight. (2) possible sexual arousal achieved by men close by with the potential of them raping you because you used the Shake Weight in a provocative manor. [A "provocative manor" may consist of using the Shake Weight as per the instructions on the back of the Shake Weight].
If the user in question accidentally sits on the Shake Weight, do not panic. Simply relax your sphincter and depress the emergency shutoff button on the bottom of the Shake Weight [...]"
Thank you for your interest in Dark Art Publishing
If you’ve moved around as much as I have, you know how difficult it can be to find a new barber or hair stylist. I’ve probably moved at least 7 times over the course of my life and each time I struggle with this same problem. And while there’s plenty of technology and other things around I’m sure could help me out, I never usually think about it until it’s basically too late and I’m now looking like Don Henley circa 1972.
I recently moved again and found myself in this situation one Saturday. Luckily, I had woken up extra early so theoretically had plenty of time to find a place, make an appointment or even get a walk-in spot. But instead of prioritizing, I procrastinated until nearly 12PM. Finally I stopped what I was doing long enough to notice how my thick growth and massive hair sideburns started making me look like some bad Elvis impersonator. So I shut my computer and decided to get dressed.
CORPORATE CHOP SHOP
At about 1:00PM I began making my way over to Supercuts. I didn’t really want to go to Supercuts. But at this late hour, I didn’t feel I had a choice. The quality at these franchises is barely suitable for kids let alone adults that perhaps care about their appearance. I had gone to this store before. And while I was happy with my haircut at the time, it was during off-peak hours. Not that I’m all that fussy about my hair anyway. And so long as the cut is reasonably even, and absent of visible tuffs of hair sticking out anywhere, I’m generally okay with it.
The time I’d gone previously was in the middle of the week and in the middle of the day when they were slow. Otherwise they probably would have rotated me out inside of five minutes, paying little to no attention to the long sprouts of golden hair jutting from my ear lobes like some kind of wild, grassy meadow.
I walked in and the girl at the desk took my name. I stood for a minute in the waiting area. But suddenly changed my mind after noticing a line of kids coming towards me with haircuts that looked like a blind person did them.
LOCALLY OWNED AND OPERATED
My only option now was to try and find a local, independently-owned hairdresser. But first I was hungry so got something to eat at Panera Bread. After eating, I started driving around town looking for something. I knew there were a few high-end-looking places close by to where I lived—walking distance really—but never went in to avoid a potentially uncomfortable situation requiring me to immediately leave after hearing the price for a man’s haircut. I didn’t want to pay more than 20 dollars for a haircut. Why should I pay more? I think 20 bucks is more than fair for what I wanted.
I finally convinced myself to stop at a joint that had a barber’s poll out front. But when I got inside the girl greeting me said I needed to sign up for a membership. A membership? Where were the old men cutting hair since WWII and using straight-razors to shave the backs of other old guy’s necks? Not here apparently. The deal was, for 38 dollars a month, I got one haircut and discounts on manicures, pedicures and other spa treatments. Just based on this story so far you can probably imagine what happened next.
JIM LONGS UNISEX SALON
As I got back into my car again, I recalled seeing a few places on the main drag near Morris Avenue. So I hightailed over there. A small place on the corner looked promising but when I got inside, no one spoke English. What were the odds of me getting what I wanted out of this place?
Back in my car again, I pulled into the parking lot of an establishment with a sign out front that read: “Jim longs unisex salon”. As fantastic a name as that sounded on the outside, wasn’t nearly as exciting on the inside for some reason. But it looked inexpensive and approachable so I decided to give it a try. Upon entering I saw all the barbers were busy with customers already. And with at least 4 other people still waiting, I figured I’d be there for a while. As it turned out, one of the customers was actually a barber. He saw me walk in and immediately ushered me over to his hair station.
WHERE WERE HIS CUSTOMERS?
There were three other customers waiting before me. So why wasn’t he servicing them, I wondered? But I stopped trying to answer this question after he'd adjusted the height of my chair and laid a hospital gown over my body. He then finished his preparation by wrapping my neck with toilet paper. He asked how I wanted my hair cut and I told him: “a number 3 on the sides and short with the scissors on top, please”.
DON’T JUDGE A BOOK
He went over to his station, opened a drawer and started going through it. It appeared he didn’t know where anything was because he was messing about like he didn’t know where anything was. It took him a minute to find what he was looking for but after that everything was fine. Actually, it wasn’t fine at all because none of the clipping heads fit the electric razor he had and he seemed genuinely confused by this.
At about this time I was starting to take more of an interest of the inside of his drawer anyway. It was pretty disgusting actually, with hair and filth everywhere and looking like it hadn’t been cleaned in a week. After witnessing the filthy drawer, I started to get nervous. And the more he fiddled with his equipment the more I suspected that he didn’t know what the hell he was doing. One would think that a man of his age and experience would have all the ancient, barber wisdom necessary to cut hair with the same ease that most people can turn a door knob. I guess you can’t judge a book by its cover. At least I knew then why none of the other customers were letting him cut their hair. Would you let a disgusting slob that couldn’t even manage to affix a number three clipper to the head of a razor cut your hair?
Finally I had seen enough. I threw the barbers robe from my body, yanked the toilet paper off my neck, got up and told the guy: “actually, I changed my mind”. I felt a little bad when his head slumped slightly and he replied “are you sure?” I’d never been so sure about something in my entire life, actually. I existed quickly and didn’t look back.
Figuring I had just avoided a potentially brutal, imprecise butchering and a severe case of head lice, I felt relieved.
HOME SWEET HOMEAt this point I’d pretty much exhausted any or all salons or haircutting places that didn’t require an appointment, I did the only thing I could think of to do: drove all the way to my home Town of Berkeley Heights and paid 28 dollars at Hair Art.
Here’s a health tip for all you gym rats that have limited time during the week: start going to the gym on your lunch break. I started going during lunch a few months ago and ever since have had more energy during the day than ever before. Of course, I had to join another gym near where I work for convenience, but it was totally worth the 20 extra bucks a month. One way to look at it is: what would you rather pay, 20 bucks a month or thousands in medical bills when something really serious happens because you let yourself go?
In addition to the workouts, I’ve stopped drinking coffee in the afternoon and, because I’m drinking lemon water as a substitute, haven’t had a craving for junk food before I leave work. I think lemon juice is an appetite suppressor along with aiding in digestion.
I try to make the most of my workout, so I don’t half-ass in there and I break a real sweat; as real, or more real, than even after work. Working out at lunch forces you to shorten your routine or, at least, go through it really fast which makes it more intense. But Instead of feeling tired and worn out, you will feel energized for the rest of the day.
When you first start going, you’ll probably feel hunger pains right around lunch. This is perfectly normal of course. But you can ignore those; because they will soon subside just as air is hitting your body on the way to the car.
Workouts suffer in the evening because, whether you realize it or not, you have less energy. Conversely, between the hours of 12 and 2 is when you’re at peak energy levels; and will have plenty left in the tank for the second half of the work day and beyond.
It may feel strange at first breaking your usual routine of sitting in the lunch room eating a cold turkey sandwich with no mayo but you’ll feel pretty fantastic if you can make this your new routine. So while familiarity is comfortable, and part of healthy living actually, it can also be stifling if too inflexible.
Since I started exercising at lunch, I've had to modify my work out for brevity. I used to use heavy weights and it would take a while to go through everything because I needed to rest between sets. But now I do a more intense, CrossFit-style regimen without much rest in between. Including: singlehanded strap pulls from the floor with a kettle bell in one hand, pushups, burpees or platform jumps, shoulder presses and, lastly, lat pulldowns on the machine. I do this circuit 3 times and I’m done. It may not sound like much, but if you do it fast enough, you’ll feel the burn.
Another benefit of this type of kinetic training over heavy weights is: the pain from the Bursitis in my elbow has subsided somewhat. There’s still swelling that probably won’t go away until I get it drained, but I can deal with an ugly, distended elbow for a while.
Okay so maybe you don’t have Bursitis. But if you don’t want to get it, or other injuries, stay clear of really heavy weights. I’m not saying stay away from free weights altogether; just make sure you mix it up.
Now when I get home from work, going to the gym is a pleasant option—yes I still go after work sometimes actually. But for those dreading the possibility of having to suck out an hour of your evening, this idea is for you.
A Ghost Story is, in a word, excellent.
I liked this film. I liked it so much in fact, I'm not going to disrespect it by give away the plot. So they’ll be no spoilers here.
There’s plenty of symbolism in this film that needs to be examined further. But without going into any detail, there were a couple scenes, in particular, that jumped out at me as being highly political. While difficult to say exactly what the director meant to imply without asking him, I have my opinion. But I won’t reveal that here because that would be giving away too much of the plot. So see the film and judge it for yourself.
Apart from any hidden meaning I thought the film may or may not have had, it evolved rather nicely from a simple love story to something much grander without losing the simplicity of the original story. So even though the film jumps around a little, you still feel the presents, pardon the expression, of a basic story of loss.
Ghost Story keeps you focused on the basics of what's important to the film--love, life, loss, the afterlife, and god perhaps without sounding preachy.
I was lucky, in that, I had the entire theater to myself since, presumably, everyone else went to see Dunkirk, which I’ve heard is great by the way. So if there was ever a time to cry in a theater, that was the time. Luckily for me, I don't do such things in public even if there's no public to be found. Augh! I guess I was in the mood for something different than a war movie that night and made the last-minute decision at the ticket booth.
One thing I’ve realized about love stories is, if done right, it doesn’t take many scenes to give the audience a sense of deep love between characters. The people that go to see these films definitely want to feel that connection. But it takes good direction and acting to give it to them. And I feel the director and actors definitely delivered on that here.
It’s a slow moving movie but probably the perfect length at just about an hour and a half so it doesn't feel drawn out and boring. Basically, the film appropriately gives you your sadness fix and then you get to go home.
I think anyone that enjoys a good non-traditional love story will like this film.
Since finishing my memoir The Other Side of town, the amount of writing I’ve been doing hasn’t decreased and in fact remains about the same. A word to aspiring authors: the writing doesn’t end after you’ve typed “the end” on the final page of your book. There are blog entries, media kits, countless tweets, Facebook posts just so you can get 10 people to visit your website or Amazon page. To date I’ve probably written 5 bios and maybe 4 book summaries to this end.
While writing one of my many book summaries, it occurred to me that, to the kids today, the 80’s were like the 50’s were to my generation.
The Channel you watch when You Only have basic cable
A couple days ago I turned on the television and an episode of The A-Team was on TV Land. Watching that show, I felt really old because the show now felt really old—the colors looked dull and the script felt canned in comparison with modern TV dramas.
My grandmother used to watch The A-Team with me as a kid. But she didn’t seem to mind the repetitive nature of the show and, coming from black and white I suppose, any color at all was probably a vast improvement. The fact that my grandmother also accepted the fact that thousands of rounds of ammunition were being fired but no one was being killed shows her ability to suspend disbelief.
The Show You Watch When you've lost the Remote
After the A-Team was over, I started to watch Bonanza next just to see how a 1950's show stacked up. I’ll be honest, and except for it being a western, the two shows felt equally old. Bonanza did have better writing than the A-team, I’ll admit. But even with its superior plot and dialog, I doubt I would have been able to sit through a whole episode as kid—the pace of the old western would have been far too slow for my young self I reckon.
No One Wants to Read a List of My Favorite Shows
In the book, I edited out any and all mention of television shows I used to watch because, in reality, who the hell wants to read about that stuff anyway? But thinking about it now, I believe the 80’s ushered in a whole new wave of empowered women on television after noticing how men started looking particularly stupid just as women’s station seemed to be markedly improved.
Back then Married with Children was the only show featuring a bumbling husband while today it’s every commercial and sitcom that’s broadcasted. Wow! Now I'm really dating myself. I still laugh at how, in his defeated state, Al Bundy gave money to the dog.
I think some of my fondest memories of television were when Rascals Comedy Hour aired on cable. I was pretty young, but my father basically looked the other way and let me watch even while Dice and Kinison cursed up a storm. Comedy has definitely changed as well. And I doubt for the better either. Just ask Chris Rock how many college campuses he plays now verses how many he used to play. And Rock is considered a contemporary too!
I remember watching Bob Nelson for the first time and thinking his act depicting a football team was hilarious. I doubt comedians can do anything like that act anymore. Or if they did, perhaps no one would laugh.