Monday, December 13, 2010

Shades of Jack B-side: Dreams

Fuck. Night sweats. My mouth's dry, too. Must have been wide open, because it tastes like the last part off the fence. Massive headache, too. Window's open, so the apartment's cold as hell. Early chill. Soaked through the sheets.

I hate when this happens. Just changed 'em, too.

I got up for the morning ritual, consisting of the longest pee in history, and my brain graciously decides to remind me of the nightmare that woke me up in the first place. Nightmare might be a bit excessive, because nothing scary happened, I just remember the faces of some friends that I haven't seen in a while.

"Mmmrrow." A trilling mass of fur headbutts me in the leg. I know the drill, but other calls of nature are taking precedence.

"Lemme pee, Cat," I think is what I said. She got the message, and purred as she skulks away. I'll feed her when I get my morning started. I shoulder the door open and tend to my urological urgency in the typical fashion, then brush my teeth, a nagging thought festering in the back of my mind.

I brush my teeth, slowly rewinding my morning with self-hypnosis assisted by the metronomic saccade of my teeth brushing, a trick that I have had used far too often in the past. Good thing there wasn't much to go through, so it's an easy trick backwards: cat bumping me, gotta pee, wet sheets, then I feel my consciousness soften, I visualize pushing my head through a barrel of water like bobbing for apples.

I see myself walking backwards in my dream, the last thing that I see is Frankie's face. That's weird, I think to myself. I haven't thought of him in a while. Haven't spoken to him in a while, either. I allow myself to roll backwards some more, but after a while, I decide that this is just my bladder shaking me awake.

"That's what I get for drinking two bottles of wine with dinner." I come to, but when I spit, I fill the sink with blood. "And that's what I get for brushing while under." I chance some Listerine, grit my teeth through the burn, then hop in the shower.

"Mmrrow?" I swear to any God you want that was a question.

"Not now, Cat. I smell like ass, and I gotta go to work soon. Get out of the shower, you're creeping me out."

"Mmrroooooooow." Not any less creepy.

"No, Cat! Stay out there, and wait until I am done in here."


"Wait. Did I just have an argument with my pet? Great. Losing my mind." I make it a quick one, opting out of shaving my head or beard. "It'll keep." I say to no one in particular.

Before getting dressed, I sit at my desk, reading the news from online outlets and emptying my email inbox. "Spam, spam, garbage. Ugh." I checked the news for something less annoying. "Oh, Obama did something that makes me regret living here. Nice."

The familiar pinging from my instant messenger chimed in a little too early to not be important, so as opposed to ignoring it until my second cup of coffee, I opened it.

Crazysausage: Yesterday, Franklin J Morris had a stroke last night and passed in his sleep. He will be missed.

Rakeatthegates: Wait, what? Frankie's dead?

Crazysausage: Yeah, just found out about it this morning.

Rakeatthegates: You okay, Andy? You want I should fly down?

Crazysausage: Nah. Everyone's here. I know that you two weren't close.

Rakeatthegates: U Sure?

Crazysausage. Yeah, it's cool. I gotta go. I got a lot of stuff to handle.

Rakeatthegates: You take care, man.

*Crazysausage has signed off*

As soon as he got offline, I could feel the walls closing in. The old familiar feeling was back again. My stomach churned like it was full of bad tacos, and my pulse sounded like hammer strikes.

"Fuck. Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck fuck no no no no no... not again. I can't do this again." 

I picked up my cellphone and dialed the only number that I could ever be bothered to memorize. After three rings, a tired, albeit familiar voice came on the other end. "Hello? Jack? What's up, man, it's like six in the morning."

"I knew about Frankie."

"How do you mean?"

"How do you think?"

"What- no. No. We fixed it. Impossible."

"Lemme guess... roughly 8 in the PM?"

"But I didn't-"

"I don't think that matters anymore. What matters is that Frankie is dead, and there was nothing that I could do but wait."

"We're in trouble again."

"Yeah, and so is everyone that we know."

Chapter 1

Monday, November 22, 2010

But I Don’t Wanna

I really, really don’t. I don’t want to edit this thing. It’s too much like work. It feels fake to even read it. I just want to write and write and write and write until my hands hurt and my eyes bleed. I only want to stop writing to read. But not read in the conventional sense. I want to gorge on information. To stuff my brain with data until I can feel the vicious tears in the ethereal fabric of my mind as I greedily mash more facts and experiences into my open maw of a brain.

Jeeze, I hate that word, ‘maw’. Okay, I love it: It’s vulgar, it elicits a mental image of a bestial creature, nasty in every imaginable way covered in more kinds of filth that you want to devote too much thought towards, and reeking of seven shades of ****.

With its one remaining eye, milky and filled with filth, it gazes at the sky, rage filling its vision. The foul beast’s skin is scaly and hardly fits its frame, and its more sores than anything else. It ambles upon a rock and angles its horrifying and misshapen head in a manner that shows its neck bend in a way that manages to sicken you further.

As if an attempt to feast on the entirety of the night sky, this hellish monster languidly opens its filth-encrusted maw, teeth ageless, and pointing in multiple directions, and a two tongues to better facilitate this disgusting creature’s lustful appetite.

It roars its anguish as it attempts to eat the night, and ends its own torment by eating a final supper of its pair of prehensile tongues, snapping them off and engorging its belly with its own blood.



See? I’ll do anything to get out of work. GAH!

Give me one word or phrase to write a 300-word super-short story about.


Friday, November 19, 2010

A buggy smear on the windshield of life.

Ew. And not indicative of my mood, that was just the first thing to come to mind after reading Palahniuk and Ellis all morning.Someone should by me another copy of Fear and Loathing, My old copy has taken leave of me.

Yay! Ramble time! I have been eating too much pie and cake, but I’m not going to stop. I had my first shot of vodka in months, and it was hard to do.

This is not good. I need more(any) Russian friends.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Okay, so…

I decided that I’m not going to write a sci-fi anthology next. I just started a sci-fi epic, and I am really excited about the project. I don’t want to talk about it too much, but I will have details soon.

As for Shades of Jack… I gotta stop dragging my feet. I’ll have an update in a couple of days. I’ll keep you updated!

I hurt my back last week, but I am trying to make it to the rally.

Watch the gap, bitches.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Eat Ramen, Fuck Bitches.

Well, the novel is finally fucking finished. I will be spending the next few months on edits and re-edits, but

in the meantime, I will also be researching novel #2 and working on a webcomic.

I haven't been around much because I found myself in a pit of depression that I had no means to pull

myself out of. I still don't know what started it, but I am doing eveything that I can to keep it from

happening again.

So. In an IHOP, drinking black coffee and listening to Thriller. Like a fucking BOSS.

I learned a lesson about enthusiasm: it requires a plan to follow. That I have- well, I am working on the

plan. I just need to stick to it. First step is organization.

I posted earlier about the first step of my depression. When I feel myself going to a place that dark, I

can usually harness much of that for fuel and write my ass off. The problem, is that immediately after a

period of unabated creative productivity, I find myself wallowing in a pool of emotional filth. A well of pain

so deep that I would wish that I was numb. Just a non-stop cycle of zero self control followed by self-

pity, then disgust, then shame, then loathing, etcetera, etcetera, ad nausem, forever.

And the drinking. Good gods, the drinking...

I don't know what pulled me out this time, maybe I was finzally sick of a lack of control of my life. I don't

know, and it doesn't matter. I'm back, and I'm strong, and I'm finally going to be what I say.

With a bit more swagger, and a little less booze.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

I Should be Better at This

You see, depression is a motherfucker. I don't mean having a bad day, or having a case of the Monday's. I mean waking up and immediately wishing that you hadn't. I mean going through a list of reasons that people should like you and coming up with nothing.

Don't get me wrong. Clinical depression is a boon at first. Well, creatively. It's much easier to write when I am winding down and not so elated. I am also a little more prone to get in touch with my more negative emotions, more open to exploring the more hurtful side of life.

Trouble is, if I can't pull myself out of it, then I continue to spiral downwards, which doesn't do me a single favor.

Now is one of those times, and getting out of bed gets harder and harder each time, I just wish that there were fewer people that I am dragging down with me. Maybe in a couple of weeks, it'll all come back together

See you on the other side, yeah?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Earthly Frames

This is the most haunting, inspiring, creepy, awesome new music that I have been exposed to in a very, very long time. Every time I listen to this dude's tracks, I create. Every time.

Check this out for some more info:

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Victim of My Own Success.

I mean, it's awesome that my scheduling idea is working like gangbusters. The problem is that last night, I just realized that I already finished the easiest stories. The hardest to write are to come. These deal with issues that I am not all too ready to put down on paper.

No I won't tell you which ones. Buy it and figure it out for yourself.

Monday, June 28, 2010

50% Never Felt so Good.

I'm a massive slacker, but I love to write, and I want this goddamn book over and done with, so I came up with a schedule. I'm putting it online to keep myself honest and to stay motivated.

July 10

July 24

August 7
Don't Ask

August 21

Sept 4
To my unborn child/Writer's Block

Sept 18

Oct 2
sEx girlfriend/ Lies of omission

October third will be a great day for me.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

scientific-tattoo-ideas-03-580x488.jpg (580�488)

scientific-tattoo-ideas-03-580x488.jpg (580�488)

This might find its way on me. I hate to be unoriginal, but it's that awesome.

FyZt8.png (1127�681)

FyZt8.png (1127�681)

Oh, Reddit. How I love you. You make the internet that much more lovable.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Standup routine excerpt: You do NOT want to see our porn.

I love sharing, and I have to say, not everything is okay to share. Seriously. Some things, yes, you should share. Like VD history, and food allergies. Some things, no. Like porno. I'm not going to say that anyone shouldn't watch porn. I LOVE porn. I'm just saying that you really shouldn't share it. I have been with some straight up whoreish women. Like gutterbutt, nasty, bitches. Like “slap-me-in-the-face and spit-in-my-asshole” bitches. Real marriage material. However, as soon as they asked to see what I watch when I am doing my bass solo, the “relationship” took a nosedive. I'm not into shit like kids and goats, but if any of you caught wind of the stuff that I tug to, you'd call the police, and a priest, and a plumber. And that would be for you. And that's the reason that none of you will date me. I mean that, and the fact that I have been telling the truth up here.

Men, dudes. When your old lady asks to see your porno, show her, but show her your 'porn lite.' Never, I say again, never show her the shit that actually gets you off. Why? Because she'll never talk to you again.
Ladies. When you make the rather unwise decision to ask to see what we are into, accept the reality that we so lovingly and meticulously craft for you. Do not, under any circumstances, if you treasure your relationship, press him for more, or in God's Holy Name, look for more. You think that it'll be hot, that it'll make us closer. The only thing that you are going to accomplish is cry and vomit while you try to scrub your flesh off in the shower for the rest of the day.
You know that TV show, snapped? The chicks who kill their husbands and shit? It's nothing but one woman after another who watched her man's porno and was scarred forever. There are just some things that you cannot unsee.

Same goes for our fantasies, ladies. I know that in your crazy little heads, you have the dream that when you ask us about what really gets us going that we'll tell you that it's... you, when in fact, it's your sister, three of your best friends, lumber, the chick with the big ass who bumped us on the metro, Scarlett Johansen, a midget in saran wrap, wood screws and a whole lot of grape soda. You don't want to hear about it, and trust me, you don't want to see the glint in our eyes when we tell you that we're off to Home Depot. Whenever I'm asked, I tell the truth, 100% of the time. That's why I'm single. I always answer, “does this make my ass look fat” with “yes.”

Friday, June 4, 2010

Standup routine excerpt.

So apparently, I think that I'm funny, too. You tell me.

since when did ladies stop wanting sixpacks?

as you can tell, I don't segue shit. probably should. there are a lot of things that I should do that I don't. Like situps. Not eating $100 of sushi with six beers by myself in a single sitting. Like buying bags of marshmallows, and then just eating them. Like a fat bitch. I just hope that I don't get tits. I'll kill myself. The only six pack that I have is in my fridge and filled with Smithwick's. Interesting though, because you ladies, seem to like this. I'm not a total worthless sack of ass, I still hit the gym, I just hit the buffet much, much, much harder. Thing is, you ladies, like this(presents). Hot damn.
When I was thin, I got ZERO play. I hit 360lbs, and I couldn't keep track of all the extra womens trying to take me out for dinner, get me all fat... er. I thought that maybe it was because of some other reason, but the past few years, all I hear about is how women don't want dudes with six packs- you want big arms, a smile and-
Oh, am I letting the cat out the bag? OOOPS!
Anyway, you want big arms, a smile, and you LIKE the belly. I'm gonna get assassinated by Richard Smileyface Simmons, because it's true, fine women, like dudes with bellies. When did ladies stop wanting six packs, because I have never dated a chick that would see me fresh from the gym and not tell me to lose too much. It's mystifying. Sir-Mix needs to come out with a new one; "you can do sidebends or situps, but
please don't lose that gut!"

Sunday, April 4, 2010

I'm Not Dead(yet)!

Been a while since I wrote here. *cough* Pardon the dust.
Since the last one, I believe some people died, the Prez strong-armed a healthcare policy through, and I met a fantastic girl. Read some fantastic books; re-read some fantastic books. I caught some horrible movies, some good, most all horrible, I drank a bit.
I'm counting bottles on my desk, for the sake of my career, I'l not disclose their number.

Moving on!

An old friend from Phoenix moved out here last year after I did, and he is a monstrosity. He couldn't stop writing if his hands were atomized and shot into space.

That's about all for now. Late-night Chipotle and Rolling Rock are making today something regretful, but I promise to write more soon.

Oh, I should have another story wrapped next week!


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Race Traitor Update: Negro Dialect

"Negro dialect."

If the language wasn't so archaic, I would have a better chance at being insulted. Really. I mean, granted, it's a little boorish for a politician to say something like that, but it isn't as if he wasn't telling the truth. White America wouldn't have elected Wesley Snipes. Barack Obama's demeanor was so harmless, so cultured, that anyone who wasn't charmed by him was shamed into casting their ballot at him.

Now, don't get me wrong. The first time that I heard "he's so well spoken", my flesh crawled so much that I expected to have to feed and burp it. It's an insulting thing to assume that Black people lack the basic capabilities of English speech and polite behavior. This is partly due to the media, but much of the blame does, in fact, lay upon the shoulders of Black people. Granted, Blacks are portrayed, and as a result, perceived as a violent, angry, and disenfranchised people, either to be feared and shied away from, or deserving of pity and in need of saving.

Both are insulting and largely false. Black people are as strong, independent, proud, and intelligent as anyone else, but the media as a whole is startlingly comfortable with opting on pitifully stupid, dangerously promiscuous, and seething with indignant rage.

This paints and entire group of people worldwide as being so, even when the majority are not. Even though there are more Blacks in college, and owning their own businesses than ever before, and now one in the Oval Office, the portrayal of a people that make up 12% of the population hasn't really changed.

I'll take it to the box office, for now. The most recent movies with Black leads were what? Precious and The Blind Side. Poor. Not just food stamp-poor. Worst case scenario-poor. Precious was about a girl who was raped as a young teen by her father, and her struggles. The Blind Side is one of my most favorite sort of depictions of Black people in which their only hope for success is that of a White person on a magic horse of money and stability. Oh, and the only reason that the story has any real weight is because he's an athlete.

Now to bring it all together a bit, Senator Reid wasn't entirely wrong, because the language and demeanor that President Obama used on the campaign trail rarely included slang, and the only times that he used anything less than impeccable language skills where when he was unless he was making a joke, or a serious point.

What he did was avert political suicide, and show the world a different kind of Black man. There are so few positive examples that I am eagerly awaiting a time when acting like a respectable adult doesn't mean that you are trying to “act White”, and will finally mean something along the lines of “being polite”. Reading books and sounding like it shouldn't be something that you should feel like you have to hide, or feel like a race traitor.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Flashback story- The Watchmen Are (is) Coming (2007)

I think that a great way to introduce you to the writer that I am is to also show you the writer that I was. Here is an older story that I wrote in anticipation of the Watchmen film.

So, Zack Snyder, the man that we have to thank for the latest Dawn of the Dead, and this spring's 300, has been given the comic movie director’s Holy Grail-The Watchmen. Arguably the best story to be put to pen and hewn from CMYK, this has the community in an uproar and the fallout could result in an absolute 360 for the DC Comics’/ Alan Moore relationship, for the better, no less; or it could be the final nail in the coffin for the total breakdown between the true fans of his work and the Warner Brothers/DC Comics corporate office.

Alan Moore. Chaos magician, vegetarian, anarchist and comic book legend, decided to never lend his name to movie adaptations of his work, assuming that it would leave the story’s integrity unsullied. After the back-to-back slaps in the face of From Hell and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, the first of which missed the mark so much, co-creator Eddie Campbell went as far as to say “Anything that meant anything was ditched”. He never intended the silver screen for any of his work, and it showed. His deep, imaginative and extremely complex stories were way too heavy for a single, feature length motion picture. We the fans would have to live without seeing Tom Strong or Rorschach on the big screen, but that is simply the nature of things.

Unfortunately, DC doesn’t see things that way. From Hell was panned by critics and dissed by moviegoers and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was a shade of it’s true potential and instead of reaching the same potential as the source material, it instead ushered in the new era for the pattern of poorly executed movies made without the support or true blessing of the man holding the pen. Constantine was a chance to truly create a character-driven and engaging, unique story and show what Moore had in mind. Not only did they enrage fans, they didn’t even get the casting right. John Constantine was based off of the appearance and swagger of Sting. The singer, mind you, not the professional wrestler.

If you managed to catch last year’s V for Vendetta, you probably cheered along with me as a story from 1982 still rings loud and true for an entirely different audience. Though the drug use and themes stemming from Moore’s own anarchist views were omitted, there were enough parallels to today’s modern political landscape to leave one thinking. Much to my chagrin, after reading up on the original books, I found that the best parts were left out. The fight for freedom and the agony of responsibility were barely touched on and the best, wasted opportunity was taken down from it’s pedestal and turned into random spouts of semi-satirical, anti-something diatribe.

Now The Watchmen is slated for a possible 08 or 09 release and Alan Moore will have nothing to do with our Zach Snyder. I, for one, will be in line with my ticket grinning like an idiot; though inside I am hoping that four times would be the charm. Don’t take my word for it

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

I saw this and thought of Warren Ellis

Because we are secretly engaging in mortal combat. He doesn't realize it, but it's my life's goal for someone to mention us in the same sentence. Someone aside from me, that is.

Shades of Jack exerpt: Fixer- Chapter One

"Just get comfortable, I'll put the kettle on." He made his way through his smallish apartment, his large frame heavily leaning on his cane. He hazarded a glance at his guest, slowly regaining his objectivity, but duly noting her beauty. Short, about five-foot even, a little over a hundred pounds. Her hair was
dyed in a "suicide girl-style" look that he actually took a liking to; one solid base color, and stark contrasting colors for highlights. Her arms were tattooed with ink, mostly roses and thorns wrapping from shoulder to wrist- on the walk up the stairs he noticed that it connected across her back as well. Both ears and one nostril were pierced, and she had both cheeks pierced in a fashion that looked like jewel-encrusted dimples. Though noted, this collection of adornments were not going to make this easy. Jack disliked putting people on the couch when he felt attracted to them. It ruined his objectivity, and if he becomes biased, his advice loses it's weight.

"Cassie, right?" He tried to modulate his voice to find a timbre that would put her at ease, but not entice her, or imply a sexual tone.

"Yeah, and you're Jack, right? I was told that you were a 'guy who fixes people'"

"I wouldn't say that I fix people. That implies that something is wrong with them. I merely help people see what is already there."

"Whoa, that's kinda Zen."

"I would hope so," He found an octave that was in a nice baritone, yet still maintained a friendly pitch."Otherwise, all of those books are going to waste."

For the first time since she sat down, Cassie looked around Jack's apartment. There were very few possessions, zero photographs of people, but stacks of books everywhere, on every subject that she could imagine, and a few that she was unfamiliar with. He poked his head from around the corner, taking a last look while she was distracted. He cleared his head- now, he can get to work.

"How do you like to take it?" He let the ambiguous question hang in the air like a lobbed basketball, and almost on queue, came the confused response.

"Excuse me?"

Jack stepped out with a cup of tea in his hand, "Sugar, milk, black...?"

"Oh," she started to blush, Jack was hoping for this reaction, he normally would create a minor embarrassing scenario. It broke the tension, and it would let him know how far he could push his clients. "Just two sugars, please."

He left his cane in the kitchen, motioning for her to join him at his dinner table, the only other surface in his apartment not covered in books, where he had already laid out some scones as well. As they sat, he took note of her body language, and after assessing her level of comfort, he decided to get to business.

"We haven't been properly introduced. My name is Jack Stuyvesant. I am told by a mutual friend that you are looking for some help. I want to go over a few particulars-"

"Oh, your fee, right. I can pay." Cassie reached into her purse to retrieve an envelope of cash.
Jack smiled softly as he placed a giant paw of a hand on her waifish arm. There was a common misconception about him that he had to stifle at least once

"No, there is no fee. I do not charge people to do what I do."

"I don't get it. Everyone says that you charge two hundred for two hours."

He flinched. Geez, they are getting generous.
"No. Though I take it as a very generous endorsement of my effectiveness, I do not charge for my time. Those who gave you my name were telling you to pay me because I don't accept money in return for what I do.

An all-too familiar look flashed across her face. "Oh, I think that I should-" She started to get up "I-I didn't know it was like that."

Jack grabbed his cane and held it to block her path. "No. I don't accept that either. Sit. Drink your tea before it gets cold. I wasn't finished." Cassie stood for a long moment, but after looking into his eyes, then at the rest of his ursine frame, she realized that he could physically force her to do what he wished, but his intentions seemed noble. Still wary, Cassie sat down. "Where was I? Oh, yes. Your name is Cassie Steadman, age 24, you live with your boyfriend. I don't know much more than that, because I don't take information second-hand. I will need for you to tell me everything. The embarrassing parts. The shameful parts. If I am to help, you must be honest. You can be assured that what you tell me does not get repeated. I do not ask anyone else for assistance, and no one else will hear of what you share with me." His face softened, and he took a slow breath, when he opened his mouth, his timber changed slightly, to a more soothing baritone "As I said earlier, I don't 'fix' anyone. I merely use perspective, logic, and common sense in order to help others make their own decisions." He stood up. "As for the compensation, I don't accept money for three reasons; first, I am not a professional. It wouldn't be ethical for me to take your money, when I am not a trained pro. Second. I can't guarantee my work. I have about a hundred percent success rate with those who take my advice, but I cannot risk it. If you are finished with your tea, we can start whenever you are ready." Jack picked up his cane, and started to walk to his living room.

"What is the third reason?"

"Oh, that. That I keep to myself." He sat down heavily in his overstuffed armchair.

"If you weren't going to tell me, why would you bring it up?" Cassie made her way over to the sofa, and sat down, hands on her knees.

"Because I believe in total disclosure. Even about the details. That way, there isn't something to lie about or omit later." He paused, and turned to Cassie, locking his gaze as if to accentuate the point. "If I demand it of you, I cannot do otherwise." That seemed to do the trick as it appeared as if a weight started to lift off of Cassie, and she laid back on the couch, arranging a pillow under her head. Jack dimmed the lights, and turned on some John Coltrane on a low volume to assist the mellow mood. "Get comfortable. You are going to be here a while. Let's start with taking some deep breaths.”
End One

Good Hair(cut)

With a deeply saddened heart, I have to admit that at the tender age of twenty-seven, I am prematurely balding. I blame my mother. What I cannot blame her for is my inability to handle relating to Black people when I was younger. As in- complete inability to have a conversation with Black people. It's a total mess, but that's for another day. I digress.

Issues notwithstanding, I don't handle the brunt of my hair maintanence, and ever since I was in the Army, I would rather patronize a barbershop than take a blade to my own head. Now, growing up in the area that I did, the only places that I could go for a long time was a Supercuts, and that's something that I wouldn't wish upon anything else. However, I moved around a lot, and after a while, I managed to find a few that fit the bill.

Keep in mind, I have only seen real barbershops in television and movies up until I was well into my twenties, so I looked for Black-owned whenever I could. I felt odd walking into anything else and asking for a fade. It just seemed... wrong. Even when I was living in Phoenix. I couldn't place the feeling, but it wasn't a good one.

The one time that I did, I frequented a particular place that was White-owned, not that it mattered. They were friendly enough, but I would go in for the same thing- a straight razor to my head and a simple trim to my beard, and half the time, it was either underdone, or he would cut me. I was young, and figured that everyone had to deal with that while the barber got used to their hair, but after a couple more times in his chair, I realized that he wasn't getting any better, and I never went back.

It took another three years before I was able to find a Black-owned barbershop, and boy, oh boy, was it something else. It was run by two twins who used to work for the original owner, then got enough to buy it from him later. At first, it was really nice, but as to my aforementioned awkwardness, when the place had any other patrons inside, I was not able to strike up a conversation with anyone. They all just seemed to be on a different wavelength than me, but the real issue was that the place was a cacophonous mess. It was freaking loud. And stank of several different kinds of food, and strange people were walking in and out constantly.

I stopped going there, too. Ice Cube movie it was not. I wanted the feeling that Cedric the Entertainer's character was talking about- a sense of community. That
was not what I got. What I got was an assault on the senses, a feeling of unease, and a half-assed, overpriced haircut. I tried another in an adjacent city, but soon thereafter took to taking care of it by myself.

I later left Phoenix for the DC area. Rife with Black-owned business, and barbershops all over the place. I picked one relatively close to my home, and with a huge smile that I dared not wear on my face, stepped over the threshold to a real-life barbershop in a Chocolate City, and- immediately wished that I hadn't. Everything that I hated from the Phoenix barbershop was even worse here. The television was so loud that I had to yell to to find out who was open. The stink of food was so heavy that it threatened to kill my appetite for the rest of the day.

I finally settled with one barber in particular. He was fast, courteous enough, and didn't smell funny, so I was already paying attention. However, he was prone to rush, which I thought that I could counter with tipping better, because he was worth it, and when I made the mistake of sitting in another barber's chair, I was less than happy with their work. It didn't help. "Seriously?" I thought to myself, "How did that not work? That works with every single establishment in the States. You pay extra for a service, they do more to deserve it." I didn't get it. Until I did. I was a sucker. I was trying to show my appreciation, and he thought that I was praising him for his "good" work.

It came to a head in two parts; first, I came in early, and told him that I was in a rush, as I had somewhere to be, and I was a couple weeks past my last shave, but I could still wait for him to see me. He had a long queue of people waiting, but he said that he would do what he could. When you normally tip someone 50%, that is code for, "you just hopped the line". What he apparently meant was: I'll get to you when I get to you. I would give him the little polite "I'm here, don't forget about me," wave between customers, just to make sure that I wasn't lost in the fold.

It wound up being an hour and a half, and when there was a break in the line of customers, he walked out! Just draped the cape over his chair, grabbed his cellphone, and walked right out the door. It got better, because when he got back, he grabbed another patron who walked in ten minutes earlier, and walked right past me. I told him that I was waiting, and really didn't have much more time, and he replied, stating that he had forgotten about me! I stood there in the middle of the shop, partly embarrassed (mostly angry), yet still, somehow, managed to maintain my composure enough to gather my book (which I had nearly finished), and walk out without a word. I remember him calling after me, telling me that he could see me the next day. I tried really hard not to reply. It would have been fun for an instant, but there were children present.

A week or so later, I was chatting up a good friend of mine, and consequently, the person who got me to see that barber in the first place. I was asking about his shave, because it was way sharper and nicer than usual. I inquired if he was still going to the same barber, whom for the sake of expediancy I will call "Ralph". "Oh," my friend sucked his teeth. "That ." He then confided in me that he no longer goes to him. His story was eerily similar to mine. He is also a heavy tipper, expecting that the repeat patronage and substantial tip would garner improved, or at least consistant service, yet in his story, he was also in a rush. He only had about an hour and a half, yet wound up spending two hours waiting for a cut, and when he was finally sitting in the chair, Ralph rushed throughout the entire shave, and my friend had to tell him to go back and fix it twice. When time came to settle up, he realized that he was bleeding from both sides of his mouth. He paid him less than a third of the cost of a cut, and walked out. Hasn't been there since.

I was horrified. I could understand being busy, but such an amateuristic display wasn't just shameful, it was embarassing. If it was an isolated occurance, I could understand, but seeing that it wasn't just

Shades of Jack excerpt: 90 Days- Chapter One

Jack always had a thing for winter. He loved the way that the cold air made him feel alive, the way that the snow covered everything and it almost seemed to completely hide the harshness of reality. He disliked the way that reality always seemed to ruin a perfectly good situation. “And that, my friend is why I'm not a Buddhist.”, he said aloud to no one in particular. He opened the door of his late father's restored Charger, and stepped into the driveway, pausing to allow the falling snowflakes to land on his face. He imagined that he was being kissed by a cloud, and breathed the cold air in through his nose deep enough to almost make him cough, and exhaled slowly. In his mind, he had become a benevolent dragon, simply enjoying the sensation of the world at his feet. For a moment, he almost forgot about the unpleasantness to follow.

Snowflakes still melting on his dark skin, he trudged up the steps to a two story brick townhouse. The perfectly manicured lawn and hedges seemed like marshmallows on top of a sea of confectioner's sugar. “Great, now I'm hungry, too.” Almost as if to answer him, his stomach growled low and long.
Jack removed his left glove and knocked on the door three times. Loud, hard, and with no rhythm. He waited a beat, and could hear movement, so he stepped back from the stoop, retrieved a key from his pocket, then replaced his glove.

A young woman in her mid twenties opened the door, she was wearing a thick knit sweater, light jeans and a pair of brown Uggs boots. Her large blue eyes brightened when she saw him, and she flung the door open, “Jack, I didn't know that you were coming, I called six or seven times today but-”

She stopped when instead of greeting her with a typical hug and kiss, he simply held the key in front of her mouth. She could tell from his expression that he had no intention of discussing the matter, but she still did not want to accept the fact. “Look, Jack. I know what you said about your three month thing, but why-”

He didn't raise his voice. Or change his expression. Or react to her tears. With a practiced meter and tempo, he began to speak, almost as if he rehearsing a dull speech rather than speaking with a lover.
“We're done, Staci.” he began. “It's been ninety days, and so that's it.”

“What do you mean 'that's it' Jack?” She was becoming hysterical, almost on queue. Jack almost felt ashamed for noticing, but he pressed on, still holding the key in front of her, hand unmoving, almost as if it wasn't attached to his body.

“It means that we are through. You knew my terms for our relationship. You get three months, and that's it. Lose my number, here's your key.” She batted his hand away..

“How dare you. What makes you think that you can just decide when we are through? Do I not get a say?”

Jack blinked three times, slowly and deliberate. He inhaled slowly while he considered his next statement. After a few moments of staring into the tear-stained face of a woman whom he no longer had any feelings for, he took her hand. Expecting consolation, Staci allowed him to do so, and he delicately spread her fingers from her palm in a manner that made him think of a lotus, and placed her key inside.
“No.” he said wish absolutely zero emotion, “Lose my number.” He turned and headed back to his car without looking back. He always this part, and it never got easier. Jack tried to ignore the sound of a large oak door slamming as he got into his car and tried to not feel bad because his only thoughts are that of breakfast. “That is the last time that I break up on an empty stomach.”

Jack was on his second stack when he got a text message. Shoving a huge forkful of buckwheat pancakes into his mouth, he checked and when he saw that it was friend Suri, he immediately called her without reading the message, as usual. He chewed while it rang.

“Either you don't care that I am busy, or you never read my messages. Either way, Jack, I can't talk right now.” She was obviously annoyed, but Jack disregarded it. As usual.

“Doesn't matter. I'm at the diner around the corner from you. I'm hungry as hell, and I could use the company.” he said between bites.

“No. I have a million things to do, and I can't spend the rest of my day fooling around with you.”
Her speech was starting to come out in a sharp staccato as she felt more pressured. Which he loved.

“'Fooling around'? Suri, I just want some company to go with my pancakes. I would never besmirch our friendship by 'fooling around' with you.”

“Jack, I cannot. I am behind in class, and I cannot spend today shopping with you. I seriously cannot.”

“Even if I take you shoe shopping?”

“Well, you didn't say anything about shoe shopping. What? No, Jack! Not even if you take me shoe shopping.”

“Okay, what class are you behind in? He shoved another forkful into his mouth.

“Creative Writing. I have a paper due.”

Jack struggled to get the mouthful down. The shock almost choked him. “Are you serious? I'll write it for you, meet me at Pepper's in twenty minutes. I need someone to blow some money on.”

“You can't do that, Jack. That's plagiarism.”

“No, silly. That's cheating. Besides, how do you think that I paid for college? Now put a turban on or something and meet me at Pepper's in ten minutes.”

“You just said twenty minutes.”

“Yeah,” he replied, “but you take less time to get ready than any woman on the planet, and I'm running out of space for these pancakes.”

“Where do you put all of that food? Have you considered eating fewer pancakes for breakfast?”

“What would be the point? Hurry up. I'm ordering you a stack along with my next one, so they'll be here when you get here. Don't let them get cold.”

“I'm more worried about you eating them first.”

“You should be. Bring your notes.”
Just as promised, there was a piping hot stack of pancakes waiting when Suri walked into the door of Pepper's Diner. She took off her heavy coat and muffler at the door, hung them on a coat rack, and shook a long jet black pony tail down her back. Jack, with a mouthful of pancakes, was charming a waitress, but when Suri came into view, completely ignored the server, and stood. “Took you long enough,” he said with a grin. “you look good.”

Suri hugged him, and took a seat. “Thanks. What did you order for me?”

“Buttermilk pancakes and chai. Oddly enough, no one had even heard of masala pancakes.”

Suri smiled. Her full lips parted in a most flattering manner that Jack sometimes believed to be practiced. “Because they don't exist.”

“Well, they should.” He snapped his fingers as a lightbulb went off in his head. “Come over Saturday, I'll make some.”

She crinkled her nose and laughed. “No. I don't think that I want to be party to that travesty. You can count me out. Oh, here's my notes.”

“Aright. You should come over anyway.” He took her notes and placed them directly into his brief bag.
“When is it due?” He started to pour an obscene amount of syrup on his pancakes.

“My morning class is at 10:30. Is that too soon?”

Jack's eyes widened in semi-false shock. “Suri, my love. You wound me. A three thousand word paper won't take me more than a couple of hours.”

“Actually, it's only fifteen hundred words.” She said sheepishly.

“What? Wait. Normally, I would be upset that you doubted me, but how is it that you weren't able to put something like this together on a trip to the can?” A slow, wry grin spread across his face. As it did, Suri's cinnamon-hued flesh reddened. All the evidence that Jack needed.

“I thought so. There is a very lucky person whom you are practicing some Kama Sutra moves on. Which ones? Octopus kisses the biscuits? Upside-down monkey cake? Face full of soup?”

“First of all, how did you know, and second, why were all of those fake Kama Sutras about food?”

“I'm still hungry.” Jack said, pouting and giving Suri his best puppy dog eyes.

“How? You have to be on your third stack of pancakes.”

“Fifth, actually. I had two at once. Menage e' breakfast. Yummy.”

“You aren't human. But you are changing the subject. How did you know?”

“Suri, my love. For anyone else, I wouldn't disclose my secrets, but you are really easy to read.

She replaced the syrup decanter long enough to give Jack a quizzical look. “How so?”
Jack shoved another gigantic forkful into his mouth, finishing the plate, and signaled to the surprised server for another round, and when he finished chewing, he took a long slug of Suri's chai. “If you must know. Listen; there are few people that I know who are more career oriented and focused than you. I don't know of anyone who could study for the GMAT and tutor me in calc and hold down a full time job. You never missed a beat. You're an academic juggernaut. For you to not be able to put together a fifteen hundred word essay based off of Hanuman fighting Goku and Piccolo or some other crap in your sleep means that something is actually important and is preventing you from getting your school work which means that you are touching someone's pee-pee.”

“Touching someone's pee-pee'?” Suri was cutting her stacks into manageable slices while talking.

“Only explanation. You're touching weiners or vaginae or something. Either that, or someone is dead. If so, I hope it's Raj. I hate his ass.”

“Don't worry, he still hates you as well. Now that you mention it. He did say something about his last book outselling yours.”
Suri smiled while she delicately opened her mouth for a piece of her food, an act that she knew that Jack would take notice of regardless of how much he tried to hide it.

“Great. Now I hate you both.” He frowned at his empty plate.

“So how did she take it?” Suri asked.

“Staci? Not well, but better than I had expected. Not too much yelling. Bunch of crying, though. Nothing to write home about.” He signaled for the check.

“Like you would ever write home.” She paused for a beat. “I have been thinking.”

Jack raised an eyebrow as he sat back in his chair. “Izzat so? What have you been talking about, pray tell?”

Suri laid her fork and knife down as she gathered herself before speaking. “These women. You aren't a womanizer, so that isn't the word, but I'm sure that you don't take their feelings into account when you break up with them.”

“Of course I do. I always do it in person, I always tell the truth, and I am direct. Everything that I say is done with finality.”

“But the way you talk about it...”

“Listen, 'Ri. As soon as it gets serious, I let them know that on the sunny side of three months, it's all over. It's practically an agreement. I'm not going to apologize because they don't take me seriously.”

“I'm not just worried about them, but I am also concerned about you.”

“What? Me? What's to worry about? No one has ever gotten all stalkery. It's nothing that I have ever had an issue with.”

“But how good is this for you?”
“Oh.” The gravity of their conversation had begun to set in. Jack dabbed at his chin with a napkin. “Suri. There are what, 6.7 people on the planet? Half of them are women, yeah? What's wrong with meeting as many as I can?”

“You say 'meeting', but in truth, you mean 'having sex with'.”

“Mayhap.” The server dropped the check off, and Jack tossed his credit card onto the tray and handed it back. My treat, but you're doing the tip math. Make it nice, and add my number to the back of the ticket.”


“Cherise was a gymnast in college.” Jack grinned, and the glint in his eyes was that of a predator. Suri bristled in feigned disgust.

“You're a cad.”

“How so?” His honest reply would have given anyone else pause, but by now, Suri was used to the displays of his strange philosophy. “What's wrong with a little sexing? Or in my case- bunches and bunches?”

“Well,” She started.

“I mean lots.”

“I know, but-”

“Oodles!.” Jack outstretched his hands like claws as his eyes doubled in size. “I mean lots and l lots! Hours upon hours of sweaty, profane, dirty, pornographic stuff. I mean. She will either renounce her religion or find a new one.” He paused, allowing himself to digest the thought, “Maybe both...”

Suri ignored his mania and thousand yard stare as she thought back to their night together. It was the first week that they met, three years ago. They were both freshmen, and they saw each other at a party. Jack was playing some drinking game that she didn't understand, and she couldn't tell if he did either. Suri had no idea what it was that attracted him to her, but she was compelled to speak to him, as were most of the people surrounding him. She took him into one of the empty rooms and then took his virginity.

“You know, I slept with you, and I'm still an atheist.”

He shrugged. “Not my fault. Besides, I was like eighteen.”

“What are you talking about? You couldn't even find my-”

He cut Suri off. “Oi! That was a bucket of years ago, I was drunk as tits, a virgin, and I got plenty good since, yeah?” Suri giggled. Whenever Jack got defensive, he started talking like a British football hooligan. He never knew when he was doing it, but it was his only tell. She loved playing him at poker.
“Besides, you could always ask Staci. Or Mina. Oooh, Angie. Definitely ask Angie.”

“Jack.” Suri started.

“Seriously, the things that we did together.”


He grinned “Practically criminal.”

“Jack! Yuck. Why do I always feel like I need a shower when I am done talking to you?” Her look of mock disgust only served to prove to him that he was getting under her skin.

“I dunno,” He started, “Maybe you're sick of taking them alone.” The server came with the check, and thanked them for coming in, he held her hand, just enough pressure to make her turn back to speak to him. While Jack continued to woo Krystal, as her nametag stated, he slipped his card to Suri, who as promised, filled out the check, and also added his phone number on the back. Unbeknown to him, she also tipped her three times the amount of their meals. With a smug smile, she folded it back up and handed it to Krystal, who took it and left.

“You about ready to go?” Jack reached over and finished Suri's chai.

“Looks like I am now. Hey, I thought that you were going to have another stack of pancakes. What gives?”

He flashed a toothy grin. “I did. You took too long, so I ate your stack then ordered another.”

“Good God.” She looked at him with playful incredulity.

“Whatever. You totally want some of this.” He reached and grabbed his full stomach, gorged on more pancakes than anyone has any business eating.

“What do women see in you, really?”

“It's not what they see in me, it's that they see me in them. That, and I'm kinda rich. Let's go. I want to get a new pair of shoes before food coma kicks in.”