Thursday, October 28, 2010

COOL SHIT 10-28-10

GRAVEL #21: I hope this isn’t the last issue, I really do. This is Avatar’s only monthly, and it’s a hell of a fine book. I’ve been a fan of William Gravel since his first appearance in STRANGE KISSES #1, and I’d hate to see the last of him. You see, this reads like a last issue. There are a few loose ends, but a lot of major storylines are tied up and . . . well, Avatar hasn’t been advertising future issues. In this book, Gravel meets his match (kind of) in Bible Jack as the magical fate of London hangs in the balance. If you haven’t read of Gravel’s adventures in the past, you might be too late. If not, buy this book! Save it! Please!

INCOGNITO: BAD INFLUENCES #1: Yes, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips have returned with another pulpy superhero/crime adventure! In case you don’t know, Zack is formerly a super-powered villain, but when his twin brother was killed during a job, he was put in a witness protection program. But staying on the straight and narrow didn’t sit well with him. These events were covered in the first series. Now, Zack works for the people who once protected him, and he enjoys taking down villains like Dark Leopold and his Nuclear Nazis and Zhing Fu, the Asian underlord. But when he’s living his cover-life, he’s bored titless . . . until the day an old man tries to ambush and kill him. Why? Read the book.

Monday, October 25, 2010


Even from outside, Strat’s looks like it was lost in a time warp. One would expect the parking lot to be filled with vintage cars and teenagers with DA haircuts and cigarette packs rolled up in the short sleeve of their white t-shirts. Everything is done up in neon, and golden oldies blare from the speakers outside. Sometimes, you can hear some classic rock, but more often than not, you’re listening to Elvis, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, and their likes as you approach the front door.

Inside, there is a counter running along the back wall, and all the tables have Formica tops. Around the ceiling hangs a train set, and sometimes, you can see the train circling above everyone’s heads. Along with the train tracks is a series of Illinois license plates, dating back to the ‘Fifties, as well as old advertisements for local car dealerships that have long since gone out of business.

There is a cigarette machine in the corner—for display purposes only—which seems to be filled with packs that might have been cellophane wrapped in 1966. There is a coin slot higher up on the machine, declaring that for a penny, you can get a match. On top of the machine is a collection of old beer cans, some recognizable, others not. Who out there remembers the Falstaff brand? On the wall next to the cans is an astray with a hot tip in the middle, long condemned as a fire hazard.

On the opposite side of the room is an antique Coke machine, again for display purposes only. On top is a crate of old fashioned Coke bottles, and nearby is a Coke cooler which has a door in the side, rather than on the top.

On the walls are pictures of Marilyn Monroe, the Three Stooges, the Beatles, and others, side by side with vintage beer advertisements. The most recent of them declares that Schlitz can be bought here in bottles, and surely enough, this is true.

Sounds like a lot of places around here, doesn’t it? Well, there’s a difference: Strat’s actually was here in the olden times of the ‘Fifties. It looks practically the same now as it did back then. There was no tear down and build up. Hell, there haven’t even been renovations. It’s the same as it ever has been.

The atmosphere isn’t the only draw; the food is damned good, too. The hot dogs might not be the best in town, but they’re still pretty good, and the burger will kick the shit out of any other charburger in the ‘burbs, even Portillo’s. The fries are a bit on the soggy side, though, so you might as well order them with cheese on them. That way, you’ll get a fork to go with it.

On Wednesday nights in the summer, they have a car show in their parking lot, which attracts quite the crowd. Sometimes, they also attract the police, as fights tend to break out often at these shows, but people very rarely come into the restaurant, so you don’t have to worry about long service times or finding a place to sit and enjoy your meal.

Overall, you will have a much better dining experience at Strat’s than you would at any other similarly themed restaurants, both in the aesthetic sense and in the quality of food.


231 E. North Ave
Villa Park, IL 60181

Friday, October 22, 2010


Many of you are aware that I was once the editor and publisher of a fiction magazine, TABARD INN:  TALES OF QUESTIONABLE TASTE.  I sank thousands of dollars into the venture, and I made hundreds back.  Yeah, it was a major fucking loss.  Despite a low-print run, I still have a metric shit-ton of these things cluttering up my house.  I've tried selling them at drastically reduced prices, and that worked for a little while, but now they're not moving at all.  I have to get rid of these things, and an idea occurred to me:  why not give them away?

Crazy?  Yep.  But I'm in a loopy mood.  And I need to free up some room in my place.  Here's the deal:  send me a check, made out to me personally, for three dollars.  This is the price of shipping.  In return, you will receive all three issues of TABARD INN . . . for free.  No strings attached.  All you have to do is mention this blog, and you get 'em for free.

Send everything to:
John Bruni
Tabard Inn
468 E. Vallette St.
Elmhurst, IL 60126

However, if you are someone I see on a regular basis, and you want some free issues, let me know.  I'll hand deliver them.  All questions can be directed to this blog or  Thank you!


I hate going to the city, mostly because every time I venture into Chicago, I have extremely bad luck. To give this perspective, the last time I went there, the windshield and rear window of my car were caved in, and my fiancé was nearly dragged out of the passenger seat by a lunatic with a cane, and the time before, I found myself in a situation where I almost committed murder one. [These are stories for another day.]

But Tucker Max was going to be in town, and it had been quite some time since I’d gone to a signing. I was up in the air about whether or not I should go until I was told that I was going to leave work early on Friday (10-8-10). Now that I had the time, why not go?

My friend, Derek, is a huge fan of Tucker Max. In fact, I would go as far as to say that Max is his hero. But he’s a bit off in his fandom. For those of you who saw Max’s movie, I HOPE THEY SERVE BEER IN HELL, you know that Max gave away his cell phone number in a scene. Derek didn’t believe it was really his number, so one day I called it from work and left a message saying how much I enjoyed Max’s work and hoped to read more in the future. Derek sneered at me for leaving such a polite message and told me that I should have talked a bit of trash with him because that’s clearly what he wants.

Why the fuck would I talk trash to Tucker Max’s voicemail? I don’t know the guy personally. I talk shit to my friends all the time (especially to Derek), but to someone who is essentially a stranger? To me, that sounds like a dick move.

Well, now that Tucker Max was going to be in town, Derek had his chance to talk trash to him face to face. I told him that he was going to go with me and do just that. He said he wouldn’t talk trash to his hero. He’d only tell him how much he liked his book and to keep up the good work. I told him that that’s exactly what he’d given me crap for months ago. He denied it.

Sure. Okay. But I wanted him to go, anyway, mostly because I wanted to see if his legs would get all rubbery in the presence of his hero. He said he’d try (despite the fact that he was asked to leave work earlier than I was), that he’d take the train into the city.

As soon as he left, FNG (Fucking New Guy) said, “He’s not showing up.”

“Yeah. I get the idea the next time I see him will be on Monday.”

When I got home, I picked out my favorite abrasive shirt. It says, “Thousands of my potential children died on your daughter’s face last night.” It’s guaranteed not to get me laid, but it’s also guaranteed to get the most nervous laughs out of a room. Just in case Borders disapproved, I wore a button-down shirt over it, since I didn’t want to get kicked out. I didn’t button it, so the message was clear. This would be something I would regret later, but we’ll get to that.

Next, I got a bottle of Coke and filled it up with whiskey. There was just enough Coke left in there to leave a dark tint, so no one would get suspicious. I knew I was going to write about this night, and ordinarily, when I do something like that, I don’t drink. I want to keep my memory sharp. But this was different; this was Tucker Max.

I downed a few shots to help me remain calm for the inevitable traffic jam, and I hit the road. I made it to the Borders on Michigan about forty minutes late. Gripping his two books and movie in one hand and my booze in the other, I glanced around, wondering where the signing would be. There are three floors and a basement here . . . and there were no signs posted anywhere. If I hadn’t read it on his website, I would have no idea that Tucker Max was there.

NOTE TO BOOKSTORES HOSTING SIGNINGS: Advertise that a writer is going to be there. Put signs up in the windows or on placards by the entrances, where people can easily see them. There is no point to a signing if you don’t tell people about it.

After such a long trip, I had to take a piss, so I went downstairs and unburdened my bladder (while drinking down two airplane bottles I had in my pocket). When I got out of there, I couldn’t find the escalator, so I wandered around before I realized that I was in the children’s section. A little boy, maybe about eight years old, looked up and read my shirt.

“What does that mean?” he asked.

If I had been any more boozed up, I would have told him in no uncertain terms what it meant. For those who don’t believe me, you should see my Wisconsin story elsewhere on this blog. However, I was still in a reasonable state of mind, so I closed the outer shirt around me and said, “Ask your mother someday.”

“My mother doesn’t live with me anymore. Grandma says she’s flying with the angels.”

Jesus. Why are kids drawn to me? “Ask your father, then.”


Whoops. Time to go. “Good luck, kid.” I made my escape just as the kid’s father, a hulking brute of a man who would have put the Fear into any Marine or linebacker in the NFL, past, present, and future, arrived. Look, there’s the escalator. Isn’t that fortuitous?

I examined every level, looking for any signs of Tucker Max. I didn’t find anything until I reached the third floor, where an effeminate man asked me if I had a wristband for the signing.

“Uh . . . no.”

“You can get them on the first floor.”

ANOTHER NOTE TO BOOKSTORES HOSTING SIGNINGS: If you’re going to have a wristband system, you should notify people of this THE MOMENT THEY ENTER THE BOOKSTORE, YOU FUCKING DIPSHITS! I sweat when I drink, and the fact that I was scouring the entire bookstore for any indication of where the signing would be did not help matters much. By the time I got back downstairs, got the wristband, went back up three floors, and got in line, I was dripping sweat. It was so much that I just sat down and waited to cool down.

That was when I took my first drink from the Coke bottle. Immediately after, I texted Derek: “Where the fuck are you?!” His response: “Won’t be there. Couldnt get a ride. Have fun and give him a nice stink palm on me Haha.”

Did he just ask me to stink palm his hero? He is referring to the time I stink palmed Oliver North, the story of which can be found elsewhere on this blog. I hereby promise not to stink palm anyone ever again. Ollie North needed it, okay? The stink on my own hand was bad enough to discourage me from doing it ever again. Maybe if I ever run into Glenn Beck or Sean Hannity . . . .

Cliff texted me something about his next plan to fuck with Derek, so I texted him back: “You should do this. As predicted, he chickened out. Now I will be far more awesome than he.” [As to Cliff’s plan, I cannot disclose this information at this time, since the plan has yet to be implemented, and Derek will certainly read this before then.] Cliff responded: “Did he at least go with you?” I said, “No. He texted me while I was waiting in line! The fucker!” Cliff: “What a chicken shit.”

And here, I formulated a plan which would be awesome if it had worked: “He will never hear the end of this. If I can, I will get Tucker Max to call him a douchebag over the phone.” I had heard Max was an accommodating guy when it came to his fans, and I thought it would be perfectly reasonable to have him call Derek on my phone and say one simple sentence: “I am Tucker Max, and you’re a douchebag.” And then hang up without giving Derek a chance to talk.

Another one of my friends, Monika, said she’d be in the neighborhood, so she might stop in for the signing. I’d told her the day before that I was going to talk Derek into showing up. She said, “Tell him that meeting Tucker Max will make his penis big.” Even then I kind of suspected he would not show up. When this became a certainty, I texted her to let her know that he’d pussied out, to which she replied, “Hahaha did you go?” I texted back in the affirmative, and that was the last of it for a while.

It was time to watch people. I have been to maybe fifty signings (not including conventions), and I have to say that this crowd was vastly different from the others. I’ve never seen an attractive woman at a signing before, and now I found myself in a room filled with hotties, elbow to asshole, most dressed in their best fuck-me clothing. I don’t think anyone there was over the age of thirty (except for me and Tucker Max, maybe). Oddly, I noticed the presence of fat chicks, and I wondered if they’d actually read his stories. There were a bunch of poseurs, too, but maybe they thought they were good at wearing their masks, good enough to not be noticed. These were the people who were throwing poisoned barbs at each other in their best attempt to imitate their hero.

One guy stood out in particular. He smelled like he bathed in booze, and he harassed just about every good-looking woman who entered his sphere of influence. Blindly, he charged forward, hitting on every one of them with what could only be loosely termed as “game.” They rejected him, one and all, and he called them bitches and sluts as they went away. There was a guy a few people behind him who was wearing a Superman shirt, except under the giant S, was the word “single.”

“Hey, everyone! Superman’s single! If anyone’s interested, Superman’s single!” He repeated that phrase over and over again, like a child who has just discovered adults will laugh at anything he says. Except no one was laughing. Superman tried to joke back with him until he realized that this guy was beyond the point of cognitive discussion.

Some people called out for Drunk Douche to shut up, and he challenged them to a fight. The guy next to me chuckled and said to his girlfriend, “When you think about it, Borders is the perfect place to get into a drunken fight. There aren’t any bouncers here.”

Drunken Douche eventually lost patience and left with his friends. By then, I had noticed how creepy the guy to my right was. He kept staring at me with dead eyes. He was one of those quiet sorts that people are always warning you about. He looked like he might have been at home holding a gun and stalking the hallways of Columbine. I kept hitting my bottle of Coke in my attempt to ignore him. At one point, I realized I wasn’t drunk enough, so I poured the remaining airplane bottles into the Coke. He saw me do this, but he didn’t say anything.

On the other side of me was a super skinny guy with a very large girlfriend. They seemed pretty happy, but I don’t think they were Tucker Max fans. I got the impression that as they read Max’s two books, they were reading them for the first time. I didn’t find much of an issue with them until later in the night, when the girl twisted around her boyfriend to sit down. She nearly slapped my head with her ass, which was only half-covered by her skinny jeans. (How is a fat girl wearing skinny jeans? Think about it for a moment, and I’m sure you’ll come to the proper, horrifying conclusion.) As her ass crack flashed by me, I distinctly smelled shit. Either she had crop-dusted me, or she wasn’t very good at wiping.

Don’t get me wrong: 90% of these people were cool. It’s just that 10% that bothered me. Sturgeon’s Law in action.

The line moved along, and Monika got back to me: “Oh wow—that’s kinda late? Did you bring a flask at least?” I texted: “Don’t worry: I’m drunk. Almost out of whiskey. Still in line. Maybe an hour to go before I meet him. I’m going to need more booze . . . .”

Right about then, my fiancé called me. She lives in California now. She called me to ask how I was and by the way, one of her friends out there beat the shit out of her the previous night.

Yeah. Exactly. I asked what had happened, and she said that the guy just lost it and attacked her. Knocked her out. She’s had a rough history, and she’s been hit a lot by a lot of different guys. Mike Tyson would have had to struggle to put her down like that, so the guy must have been a beast.

She told me she filled out a police report, but the guy was still stalking her. It was okay, though; she was with friends who would protect her.

I’m sure the conversation must have been weird for those around me. It didn’t occur to me until later that one of them might also be writing an “I Met Tucker Max” story, and I would probably be in it.

Convinced that she was in good hands, we said the usual lovey-dovey stuff, and we hung up. I finished off the Coke bottle at this point. I was only buzzed, or so I thought. I was sitting down, so it was hard to properly judge my drunkenness.

I sent out a mass text, mentioning the thing about the signings I’ve been to and how many hot chicks were at them, compared to this one. Derek sent this to me: “U serious? the guy is average looking at best Wtf. did u get ur book signed?” Jesus Christ. WTF, indeed? Is this the kind of trash-talking Derek had in mind? Anyway, I appraised him of my situation, and then Monika wrote: “Oh oh—what are you going to do to get more booze?” I wrote, “I am out of booze now. I tried begging and crying, but the Borders staff doesn’t like this. Fuck ‘em. I’m flushing my empty bottle down their toilet.” [Empty bottle, meaning the empty airplane bottles I had in my pocket.] I hadn’t really begged anyone, but I was kind of upset with Borders. They were watching the wristband situation like hawks. Only certain wristband colors were allowed in certain parts of the line, and they were dragging people off left and right, pushing them to the back of the line. I was not one of these people, but I recognize fascism when I see it. By this point, I had enough whiskey in my system to cause a scene, and if they’d fucked with me in any way, I would have made them regret it.

But they left me alone, and the line moved on. Soon, I found myself in the primary line, marked by a bunch of zigzagging tape on the floor. There was a lot of empty space with these tape marks, so we did what any reasonable people would: we just walked across them to the back of the line.

“No!” shouted a Borders employee. “Use the tape marks as a guide! It’s a path, people!”

I couldn’t believe what she’d said, so I chose to ignore it. The others snickered.

“You think I’m joking? Do it!”

By then, I was at the back of the line, as were most others. The rest looked at this low level Borders employee with fear and followed orders.

After a while, I noticed that behind me stood a midget! I hadn’t seen her before, but now that we were lined up in that zigzag fashion, I noticed her in all her glory. Immediately, I sent a text to Monika: “Oh my God! There’s a midget here!” She said, “Hahah its everything you could ask for!!!! Hahahah ask the midget to help you find booze. Midgets are good at that.”

Here’s the thing: guess who noticed my text? I was going to say that she’d read it over my shoulder, but, you know . . . .

“I’m not a midget,” she said.

“Are you a little person?” I asked. I hate the term “little person.” I think it’s more insulting than “midget” will ever be. Little people are what the Irish called fairies and leprechauns. I was ready to tear her a new one if she responded in the affirmative.

“No, I’m just not a midget.”

“Well, you’re proportional, so you can’t be a dwarf. Ergo, you’re a midget.”

“I’m five feet tall. I don’t qualify.”

I couldn’t remember if that was tall enough to not be a midget, but I decided to take her word for it. “Okay, so you’re an inch taller than the standard. I apologize.” I was being sardonic, but it went over her head, like most other things. [NOTE: I didn’t notice this until I remembered it later, but no one was pointing and staring at the midget. Since I was the only one, I can only assume my drunken memory of her is incorrect. At any rate, she was really, really short.]

She nodded and let it go. So did I. I later asked Monika (and everyone else, in case you’re wondering) if it was okay to quote their texts, and she asked if the one I wanted was about the midget. I told her that the midget had caught me texting about her. Monika said, “OMG YOU HARASSED THE MIDGET?!?! DIDN’T YOU?!?!?! DIDN’T YOU?!?!?”

Some of my texts are missing (my phone doesn’t save them all, for whatever reason), and my memory at that point wasn’t perfect. Monika and I discussed my fiancé’s call to me, and somehow we got to the point where Monika was asking me if I’d had sex with the midget. I said, “No. I didn’t even try. If I wasn’t engaged, I would have tried.” Honestly, who doesn’t want to have sex with a midget at least once? The younger, unengaged me would have tried.

At some point, FNG replied to my hottie text: “And of course no [Derek].” Kris simply replied: “Giggity.” And for some reason, Fitz sent me a picture of an old Inspector Gadget cartoon.

By now, I was close enough to see Tucker Max. There was a chair and table, where I’m sure Borders expected him to sit, but instead he was standing despite the knee surgery he’d had recently. On the table next to him was beer. I think it might have been Fat Tire, but I’m not entirely sure.

Everyone wanted their picture with him, and he was eager to accommodate them. He was cheerful with everyone and . . . dare I say it? He seemed happy to be there. A lot of the other writers I’ve met were kind of lackluster, going through the motions for their job. No, Max was happy with meeting his fans. Stopping to take a drink between each person, he waved over each new fan and shook their hands, asking them for their names. I paid close attention, and he never had to ask a person twice what their name was. Again, I can’t say how many times other authors have asked me, “What’s your name again?” I’m John, which is one of the easiest male names in the world to remember.

As I came closer to the front of the line, I realized I was sobering up. My mouth was starting to get dry. I was still carting around my empty Coke bottle. I probably didn’t look my best, although most of the sweat had dried. My outer shirt was so wrinkled I don’t think even an iron will fix it.

And then, I reached the front. As the Columbine Creep got his book signed, Max’s assistant, Brittney Cason (who has a great blog you should be reading), approached. I thought she was going to ask if I had a camera, but to my surprise, she was looking at my shirt. Aside from that kid in the basement, she was the only one who noticed it. And lo! and behold! She was giving me the thumbs up. She is one of only a handful of women who have ever liked that shirt. (The others are all friends used to my particular brand of bullshit, so they might not count.)

Max said his goodbyes to the Columbine Creep, took a drink, and waved me over. We shook hands—he has a firm grip—and he asked me my name. I told him, “I’m John. It’s good to meet you.”

At this point, I should mention that Cliff and I recently speculated on what it would be like to see IHTSBIH on Lifetime, so I asked him what it would take to get it played on that channel. He laughed, probably taken aback by the absurdity of the question, but just as advertised, he always has a witty comeback ready: “It would take a lot of editing.”

As he signed my books, I asked him when SlingBlade was going to get his own spin-off. He asked me to clarify, and I said, “Maybe a movie, or something.” He stopped signing and told me that he has begged SlingBlade to write to him every day with his thoughts, because the guy is just so incredibly hilarious. But SlingBlade always refuses.

I looked back at the crowd and realized that we’ve been here for about three hours, going on four, and if I asked him to make that phone call to Derek, they would have probably lynched me. However, I was still holding the Coke bottle, and I have a history of asking authors to sign weird things.

For example, when I met Warren Ellis, I asked him to sign a Zippo. When I met Garth Ennis, I asked him to sign a shot glass. Since I’d been drinking whiskey from this Coke bottle all this time, I figured it would make sense to ask Tucker Max to sign the bottle.

So, I asked him. For the record, every author I’ve asked to sign weird shit for me, they look at me, confused. Ennis had no idea why I wanted a shot glass signed, and Ellis looked at the Zippo and said, “You want me to do something with this?”

Tucker Max didn’t skip a beat. He was not confused in the slightest. If he thought this was an odd request, it didn’t show on his face. Just so I didn’t look like a weirdo, I said, “When I got here, that thing was full of whiskey.”

Understanding dawned on his face, and he laughed. “Just so long as you don’t ask me to drink it. I’m allergic to whiskey.”

Having read his book, I nodded. “I’ve noticed.”

He handed me the bottle, shook my hand again, and sent me on my way.

I can’t stress this enough: it’s hard to reconcile the asshole I’ve read about to the absolute gentleman I met. I don’t doubt the stories. Both of his books and his website are full of pictures and documents and everything that proves he’s done all of these things. But at the same time, he went out of his way to be polite to everyone. He is very personable, he doesn’t talk down to anyone; in other words, he’s a very cool guy. But if Derek actually had shown up and tried talking trash in an effort to seem like one of the guys, I’m pretty sure Max would have torn him to pieces. Politeness is always best when it comes to someone you’re meeting for the first time.

The Borders employee who saw everyone out in the right direction (the same one who made the remark about the tape marks) made a snarky comment about me on the way out in regards to holding up the line to get a Coke bottle signed and reminded me of what a pack of assholes these Borders folks were. I remembered what I’d said to Monika, and I went down to the bathroom in the basement. I took a piss, then threw the airplane bottles into the toilet. Smirking, I hit the flusher, and much to my surprise, the toilet sucked them down with no problem.

Holy shit, I couldn’t even win a battle against a toilet.

Fuck it. It was time to see if I was coherent enough to find where I’d parked. I went upstairs, where I finally saw a sign on a small book shelf advertising that there would be a Tucker Max signing at 7:00. How nice to know. When I went out the door, the buzzer went off. This struck me as odd, since it hadn’t gone off when I’d arrived. I hadn’t touched anything in the Borders except the toilet flusher. What the hell was making me beep?

Speaking as one who is going to be married to a woman with a shoplifting habit (and who has witnessed her do this several times), I knew that no one pays attention to the buzzer. If you keep walking, no one will stop you. If you hesitate, someone will approach you. Safe in the knowledge that I hadn’t stolen anything, I kept going. No one stopped me.

I got to the self park garage and paid up. The price: an astonishing $26. How anyone can get away with this kind of extortion, I have no idea. But once in my car, music blaring (Korpiklaani’s “Vodka,” if you’re interested), I peeled out of the garage. On the way down the spiral, I saw a pack of some of the more vociferous poseurs from the signing. I didn’t even come near them, but I guess the loud music and the fast driving scared them, and they called me an asshole. Don’t these Tucker Max fans know that assholes finish first?

NOTE TO THE CITY OF CHICAGO: Is there any way we can put a stop to these stupid horse carriage rides? It’s not romantic. It’s usually cold out, and the horses smell like shit. What’s romantic about that? All they do is snarl up traffic, and this city is full of enough reckless drivers as it is. This only makes matters worse.

EPILOGUE: I asked all of my friends if it was okay to reproduce their texts. They said it was all cool, but one of them, Kris (who only has one quote in this entire story), said it was fine, but I shouldn’t use his last name. My reply: “As with one night stands, I never use last names.” That seemed to reassure him. I guess he was afraid that the world would find out he’s a FAMILY GUY fan . . . .

ADDENDUM:  I just received an email from Tucker Max in regards to this adventure, in which he gave me some excellent advice on writing.  However, the important part is this:  "And yes, if your friend had tried to talk shit to me, I would have destroyed him."  That's right, Derek.  Doubt me no more.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

COOL SHIT 10-21-10

KICK-ASS 2 #1:  Issue one just came out, and already I’m wondering if Mark Millar sold the movie rights to it.  The man somehow manages to get movies made of his work before it’s even finished.  Does he have a pact with the devil?  Maybe, but regardless, he’s got a metric shit-ton of talent.  If you’re reading this, you probably don’t need me to tell you that.  Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl are back, and if you only know them from the movie, you need to pick up the books.  They’re infinitely more fucked up, although their hearts are in the same place.  Apparently, Dave Lizewski’s antics as Kick-Ass has garnered a lot of attention, and people are imitating him left and right.  It only makes sense that a group of these imitators would eventually form a Justice League situation, and this seems to be the thrust of the new series.  Aside from this, it’s a sheer pleasure to watch Hit-Girl beat the shit out of Kick-Ass before sending a team of “grown men with severe learning difficulties” after him . . . for training.  The best part, though:  Doctor Gravity’s explanation of his Gravity Pole.  I’d tell you to buy this book, but you probably already have.  (I could probably do without the tagline, though:  “Taste the awesome!”  I’d rather not, thank you.)

VERTIGO RESURRECTED #1:  There isn’t a whole lot I could say about this issue.  Most of it contains reprints from older Vertigo books, and honestly, I’ve reviewed them before, waaaay back when I was in college.  The main purpose of this book is to finally release the HELLBLAZER story that got Warren Ellis fired from the book:  “Shoot.”  It was originally scheduled to be released around the same time that Columbine happened.  Vertigo wanted to pull it, Ellis didn’t want to, so he was let go.  Honestly, the story isn’t much at first.  I can easily see why it was postponed (the first page depicts a teenager shooting another teenager in the face, after all), but the first half of the story is about the protagonist pondering about why someone would do something like this while listening to recorded footage of the Jonestown massacre.  Nothing big in the realm of storytelling.  However, the moment when John Constantine shows up in the protagonist’s office becomes a game changer.  I won’t say how it changes (that would be criminal), but it is very, very shocking and intelligent stuff.  The last panel is so chilling, I don’t have the words for it.  This is what art should be, and Vertigo pussied out ten years ago.  And they’re on the cutting edge of storytelling, in my opinion.  Not as much as Avatar, perhaps, but they’re definitely risk takers.  It says a lot that they didn’t run this tale.  It’s a potent story, just make sure you stay with it.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


"Jack!  Long time, no see!"

"Jesus, Christian.  Is that you?  Damn, you got thin."

"Yeah.  Have a seat.  I'll buy you a drink."


"Hey, barkeep!  Two Millers!  Or is that too low class for you, Jack?"

"That's fine."

"Good.  I hate that snobbish shit you drink."

"Heh.  It's good to see this place still looks the same after all these years.  Warms the heart."

"Yeah.  So, how'd you get so thin?"

"Ah, you know.  I had to, if I wanted to lure the rich bitches."

"You still killing rich women?  I figured you would've outgrown that by now."

"It's where the fun is."

"It's way too much work.  You have to spend a whole bunch of time getting on her good side, seducing her and everything.  You should kill prostitutes and the homeless, like me."

"Christian, that is soooooo '96.  Besides, it's too easy to kill those who are less fortunate.  It takes skill to kill rich bitches."

"No, it takes time.  When I want to kill, I want to kill.  I don't want to waste time taking some rich bitch out to dinner in a fancy restaurant."

"It's called the Thrill of the Hunt, not that you'd know anything about that."

"Don't talk to me about the Thrill of the Hunt.  I like to taunt the police.  You know, write 'em letters, send 'em body parts, that type of thing.  Once, I sent them half a kidney and told 'em I'd eaten the other half."

"Please, you ripped that off from the Ripper.  Bor-ing!"

"I didn't rip anything off.  It's called an homage, okay?"

"Whatever you say.  Bartender!  Two more!"

"Don't you ever get tired of being, what do you call it?  Advent gardie?"

"Avant garde, and no, being on the cutting edge is the only smart place to be."

"Okay, let's talk about cutting edge.  Jack the Ripper killed whores.  That put him on the map."

"It's not because he killed whores.  It's how he killed them.  Very nice work, I might add, but I would love to see what would have happened if he had gone after high society ladies.  Scotland Yard would have had leeches on his nuts within an hour of the first kill."

"The whole idea of being a serial killer is release, not creativity.  And in order to find release, you have to avoid getting caught.  Why risk the rich bitches when you can kill someone no one cares about?"

"I think you're wrong.  Serial killing is about having fun, and it's just as creative as any other art form.  You have to be smart if you want to come up with things that shock people in these stalwart times.  That means you have to do things no one else has done before.  That's why Ed Gein is still popular today.  Do you realize how many people have ripped him off?"

"Yeah, but I'm sure you'll recall that Ed Gein got caught."


"So, he didn't get to do much killing after that, did he?"

"I repeat, so?  He got caught.  His name has gone down in history.  Don't you want to be famous?"

"No.  I want to kill people.  It relaxes me, and just for a few minutes, I can forget about all the bad shit that made me who I am today."

"I don't know about you, but I made myself this way.  I wasn't raped or abused when I was a kid.  In fact, my life has been pretty pleasant."

"Then why do you kill people?"

"Because I like to."

"I guess I'll never understand you."

"I don't either, sometimes.  But hey, if the police3 ever catch up with me, maybe they'll get some shrinks to write books about me, trying to figure me out.  Think I could get . . . what's his name?  Vincent Bugliosi.  Think I could get him to write about me?"


"Never mind.  I have a date to meet.  I guess I'll see you around, huh?"

"Yeah.  Have a good time on your date."

"You betcha.  See you, Christian."

"See ya', Jack."

Monday, October 18, 2010


The newest thing about Fred’s Place is the sign outside. Maybe they thought it would class the joint up a bit, but all it did was make Lake Street a little more incongruous. Anyone seeing the sparkling new sign would expect something at least a little bit fancier than the truck stop that they’re going to get. They would at least expect a restaurant the quality of a McDonald’s . . . .

But no. Fred’s Place is the ultimate greasy spoon. Everything inside is a dim yellow, reminiscent of an aged 8-mm film. Nicotine stains the walls, even though it is not legal to smoke inside. Flies buzz at the lights. The counter and booths may have been new in 1973, and they have the cracks and sweat-circles to prove it. The floor doesn’t look like it has seen a mop in a decade, and then it was only to shoot the shit.

It is very easy to see a TWILIGHT ZONE-era Jack Klugman sitting in the corner booth, wearing a wife-beater, cigarette dangling out of the corner of his mouth as he looks over the horse race results in the paper. If Portillo’s is a place where the best of nostalgia is reflected in its surfaces, then Fred’s Place is the dark underside, the part of history no one wants to remember, the part that everyone glosses over.

Anything that you order is so greasy that it eats through the plate on which it sits, and the plates are NOT paper. Anything you dare to eat will move through you faster than any White Castle Slider or Taco Bell burrito. You’ll be in the parking lot, on your way to your car, when the grease-ball burger you just ate will start pecking at your rectum. You had better drive fast to get home, because you certainly don’t want to use the toilet in this place. The less said about this, the better. In fact, it is highly recommended that you not eat in this place while sober.

If Fred’s Place has all of this against it, then why is it still in business? It has two things going FOR it, and these are so overwhelming that it’s worth overlooking the grime. Firstly, Fred’s is a truck stop, so it is open 24 hours a day (except Sundays). This leads to the second point: it’s the perfect place for drunks. After a hard night’s drinking at bars that are now closed, you can always rely on Fred’s Place being open. Their greasy food is the perfect consumable for such a drunken excursion. It’ll help sober you up a bit for your drive home, and it will help battle your hangover before it even begins. If you need something to pad out the monumental amount of booze you’ve just had, then Fred’s Place is the perfect restaurant for you.

Just don’t go there if you haven’t been drinking.

Fred’s Place
544 W. Lake St.
Elmhurst, IL 60126

Friday, October 15, 2010


Let me give you an idea of what my dental practices are. In the morning, after eating breakfast, I use a Sonic toothbrush on my teeth, gums, and tongue. This was recommended by Dentist Two to get my gums to spring back from my case of gingivitis. It actually worked, too. My mouth was starting to look much healthier, even if my teeth are a bit on the discolored side. Speaking of which, Dentist Two’s hygienist told me to use Sensodyne Pronamel because the enamel of my teeth has faded considerably. I am apparently at risk of having my teeth chip and crack because of this. So when I use the Sonic toothbrush, I put Pronamel on it. Then, I use a proxy brush (also with Pronamel on it) to go between my teeth, rather than floss. Lastly, I use the mini brush and the special mouthwash I was given a couple of chapters ago to keep the cap on my implant clean. And then, just before I go to bed, I do it all over again.

Three months of this, and thousands of dollars. But it will all be worth it.

I went in to Dentist Two to have the abutment put in. It was a very quick procedure. In fact, calling it a procedure seems a bit pretentious. I sat down, and she unscrewed the cap. She then snapped a plastic piece into place, and that was it. My abutment was in.

When I looked in the mirror, what I saw looked like a filed down, miniature tooth with a flat top. Weird, but better than the metal knob. I was then told that I could have the crown put on whenever I wanted. I said I had a cleaning scheduled with Dentist One in about a month, and she said that was fine.

On my way out, I was presented with the bill. “Four-twenty-five,” I was told.

I pulled out a five. That seemed reasonable for a piece of plastic.

“Sorry, hon. I meant four hundred and twenty-five.”

“Oh.” Well, I couldn’t pay that. In fact, all I could offer was the five. I now have yet another bill, this time for $420. Which would be cool, if I smoked weed.

I decided not to wait for the cleaning. I wanted this done as soon as possible. I contacted Dentist One and was told that I could come in for the molding at the end of the week. From there, it would take two weeks to make the crown, and then everything would finally be done.

It’s a good thing I didn’t wait the month, then. I wanted to be done as soon as possible.

I went in for the molding. It sounded simple enough, but it was actually kind of gross. Dentist One popped out the $425 abutment and put this half-tray with goo on it in my mouth.

“This will take five minutes to set,” he said, and he held the tray in place.

I felt the cold goo ooze around my teeth and into the empty spot. At first, it was just uncomfortable, and then I tasted it as it rubbed up against my tongue. Awful. But the worst part was trying to swallow.

I’ve got a bad gag reflex, and it reared its ugly head that day. I started gagging with the thing in my mouth. I tried not to, but my throat just started convulsing. Dentist One tried his best to help, but he couldn’t take the tray out now. We had to stay the course.

“Just lean forward. Don’t swallow. I don’t care if you drool all over the place.”

I took this advice and started breathing heavily through my nose. Saliva ran like a river out of my mouth, down his gloved hand, and down to the bib around my neck. I felt gross and foolish.

But finally, it was over. He yanked the mold out of my mouth and prepared the next one. “Don’t worry, this one sets after only a minute.” It was still bad, but it could have been worse. I didn’t gag on this one, but I was building up to it. If it was in any longer, I probably would have puked all over Dentist One.

After this was done, he held up a bunch of sample crowns against my other teeth, and it took me a moment to realize he was trying to match up the color. As soon as he’d settled on one, he let me out of the chair and said, “We’ll set you up for two weeks, and then this thing will be over.”

We decided that I’d just come in earlier on my cleaning day. We’d put the crown in, and then we’d get my teeth cleaned. And that would be all she wrote.

Between that day and the day of the crown, I received notification from my insurance. This crown alone was going to cost me $1,600. I didn’t think it would be that much. Fuck. And I didn’t expect the insurance to cover any of it, but still.

Let this be a lesson, kids: don’t lose your teeth.

I noticed a paragraph on the letter, though, that gave me some hope. Dentist One’s office didn’t submit all the paperwork. It was possible that some of this would be soaked up by the insurance, if everything was filed properly.

When I went in to get the crown placed in, I mentioned this to the assistant. She said that she’d noticed the discrepancy, and that everything had been sent in per the insurance company’s instructions. Guess what: it’s possible that they’ll pay a good percentage of this. At the time of this writing, I don’t know if this is true. Maybe I’ll write an epilogue some day and let you know.

They led me back to the dentist’s chair, and I was given a cursory examination. When Dentist One determined that everything was good, he showed me the crown, which he’d filled with some kind of liquid. Concrete, I think. He then slid it into place and gave me a cotton ball to bite on.

“There’s a clock up there,” he said, pointing. “Bite down as hard as you can for an entire minute. Then, bite firmly for another minute.”

How, exactly, does one quantify the difference between biting firmly and biting as hard as one can? Just to be sure, I pushed my jaw up against the rest of my head as hard as possible for an entire minute. Only then did I rely on my ordinary biting strength.

Soon, it was all over. The cotton ball was removed, and I was escorted over to the opposite side of the building for my cleaning. It wasn’t until I got back out to my car that I got a look at my new tooth.

It’s passable. If no one is trying to find it, it will look just like any other tooth. However, if given more than a cursory examination, it’s pretty obvious. There is a short distance between it and my gum-line, which doesn’t compare with the rest of my teeth at all. There is a plastic quality to it, and the lack of a filling distinguishes it from the rest of my molars. However, the dentist managed to match the color to the rest of my teeth EXACTLY.

Having gone so long without a tooth there, it feels strange in my mouth, especially if I’m chewing. It’s so much smoother than the rest of my teeth, it feels like I have a marble stuck in my mouth when I’m eating.

But I’d much rather have this alien feeling—a feeling that will probably go away with time—in my mouth than to have a space between my teeth, a space where food constantly gets caught.

I can’t even tell you how many thousands of dollars I spent on this implant (because I don’t yet have the final numbers), but it’s worth every penny.

Still and all, take care of your teeth, folks. As Doc Holliday said in WYATT EARP, “They’re the only set you’ll have.”

Thursday, October 14, 2010

COOL SHIT 10-14-10

G.I. JOE: ORIGINS #20: David Lapham is writing G.I. JOE?! He kicks off his run with a very interesting idea: that Cobra has its fingers in charity organizations. Only 1% of the International Humanitarian Aid Foundation knows who they really work for. But what stake does Cobra have in this? RECRUITING. You see, Dr. Lester Horvath has come up with a test in order to determine one’s “worth as a human being.” Dr. Horvath is an interesting character because despite the fact that he came up with this test and knows exactly what can come of it, he knows he’s “only a four.” He yearns to meet an eight, and Cobra is about to let that happen. Lapham’s intelligent violence is spread all over these pages. I said it before about Max Brooks’ G.I. JOE books, and I’ll say it about Lapham’s: if you grew up on stories about Duke, Snake Eyes, Stalker, and the rest, you should really check in with the new books. The sensibilities have grown up with you. Although they’re fairly clean, these books are not aimed at kids.

THE TRANSFORMERS #12: Guess what else has grown up with you? Oh yeah. It’s kind of weird reading a book about giant robots arguing foreign policy, but there’s a lot here to sink your teeth into. And believe it or not, they finally found a useful task for Cosmos. As things escalate to an international incident (see how I worked the title of the story arc into this?), Bumblebee gives one of the most emotional speeches an Autobot has ever had to give, even moreso than Optimus Prime himself. In fact, no other Autobot could give this speech. And then there’s the surprise at the end. I won’t say what happens other than a major Transformer gets killed. It comes at the perfect moment, to be honest. I know, I know, no one ever stays dead in the TRANSFORMERS universe, but the sheer power of the timing makes this one of the most memorable moments in the story’s history.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


When people ask me why I did it, I tell them that aliens from the planet Fellatio put a chip in my dickhole.  Every time I felt a jolt in my urethra, I would get the desire to piss on anyone wearing a Looney Tunes t-shirt, especially if it's got Bugs Bunny on it.

Kids don't like me much, but high school girls who think it's cute to wear kids stuff really hate me.

I don't know what made me go to Six Flags that fateful Saturday afternoon--maybe it was the metal plate the army of African-Asian Elvis Presleys installed into my left ass cheek--but I realized my mistake when I saw the children, all loyally wearing shirts with their favorite Looney Tunes characters on them.  If I felt the jolt, I'd be caught for sure.  Parents lurked everywhere, waiting for their opportunity to catch me.  But I was smarter than that.

I tried to escape, but the Cracker Jack knick knack Abraham Lincoln had surgically implanted into my nose gave me a painful case of gas every time I came close to an exit.

Then, as I approached the cotton candy stand, I felt the jolt in my cock.  Looking around desperately, I had no idea as to who I should piss on, there were so many Looney Tunes shirts.  Finally, the solution appeared as I saw the Rabbit God himself, Bugs Bunny, shaking hands with Sam Kinison for a photograph.  Why settle for a mere image of Mr. Bunny when I had his grim visage in front of me . . . in person?

I rushed over, fumbling with my zipper as I went.  Dick in hand, I stopped a respectful distance from my target and let loose with everything I had.  A 7-11 Double Gulp and a Supersized Coke from McDonald's came streaming out of me, and I doused Bugs with every drop, from the tips of his ears to the toes of his feet.  Sam Kinison pointed at me and laughed like David Lynch at a Cronenberg film festival.

Before I knew it, security had grabbed me (not without violence, I might add) and literally kicked me out--right on the metal plate in my butt--and told me that if I ever came back, they'd put the leeches on me.

But what do I care?  I'm more of a Disney guy myself.

Monday, October 11, 2010


Internet sensation and author Tucker Max has been called many things by both his fans and his detractors. Sometimes, they even say the same things, and many of these are true. Whether he is hero or douchebag doesn’t matter, because at his heart, he is truly an American original. Sure, his influences are clear (imagine if Hunter S. Thompson and Chuck Palahniuk had a baby, and you’ll get the idea), but his approach is so original that he is commonly considered to be the originator of the fratire genre.

Are his stories about drunken debauchery, wild fucking, and degrading fat chicks and other social cripples? On the surface, you bet. But dig a little deeper, and you’ll see he’s saying something more. This is the face of America, kiddies, and most of the people who live here aren’t worth the flesh they’re printed on (to borrow a phrase from DEMON KNIGHT).

Examine his targets. Do you notice something they all have in common? They don’t fight back. By slinging his insults at them, Max is engaging them in a battle of wits that almost no one accepts. Those who do, Max finds infinitely more interesting. He writes more about them, and on occasion (not often), he loses the battle of wits, which he isn’t afraid to write about.

People who don’t defend themselves, or just resort to name-calling (which 99.99999% of the time is lame), aren’t creative and are in all likelihood suckfishes on the belly of the American Dream. As for the stereotype of the slut, which Max perpetuates ad nauseum, in the case of almost every woman he writes about, it’s true. Let’s face it, who the hell would sleep with a total stranger? Or, as is the case later in the book, with a celebrity? Daddy issues, low self-esteem, no self worth, whatever the explanation, if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it probably is a duck.

Did you notice the key phrase above? “Almost every woman he writes about.” That’s the one. He is not a woman hater, as most of his critics claim. For proof, see his stories about a woman he calls HotNurse. And, to a lesser extent, Jess from “The Tattoo Stories.” Nothing is axiomatic here.

But what about the boozing and philandering? This is the best part, you see. In America, as in most societies, we have laws and etiquette designed to keep people in line (and to fill the coffers of various law enforcement agencies). But are they really for the best? Remember, slavery used to be government sanctioned. Years ago, sodomy was a crime punishable by prison. And etiquette used to demand that you challenge people who insult you or your family to duels which usually led to fatalities. Who is to say what laws and social norms will still be around, say, five or ten years from now?

This ultimately means that every person should not depend on society to tell them what is right or wrong, to in other words make up their own moral code. This is what Tucker Max has done. He has blazed his own trail, one that doesn’t exactly match with what society has dictated. As crazy as it may seem, some people may be angry with him because they see him doing the things they wish they could do, but they don’t because society has put the Fear into them. Here he is, getting away with an insane amount of stuff, and everyone else thinks that if they follow suit, they’ll get caught and punished. Why should he have such a privilege?

Well, to quote the British SAS, “Who dares, wins.” Yep. And assholes finish first, ladies and gentlemen.

With the release of his most recent book, this fact can’t be any clearer. Somehow, he managed to top his first bestseller, I HOPE THEY SERVE BEER IN HELL. Most of the stories are exactly as good as the previous stories, but a handful of them are EVEN BETTER. These are “Tucker Goes to Campout, Owns Duke Nerds,” “The Capitol City Clown Crawl,” “The DC Halloween Party and the Worst Girl I Ever Fucked,” and the indisputable champion of Tucker Max stories, “The Tuckerfest Story.”

As with IHTSBIH, he starts off with a hell of a strong story with the Duke Nerds tale. If you have read his work before, you know how abrasive and ruthless he can be, whether he’s been liquored up or not. Add a bullhorn to this mix. That’s all you need to know. And for the second story mentioned above: dress Tucker Max up as a lifeguard clown, give him his bullhorn, and get him boozed to the gills. ‘Nuff said.

The star of the Halloween party, though, is SlingBlade, who should get his own movie, if Max ever ventures into Hollywood again. For those unfamiliar, SlingBlade is the most verbally abusive person one can meet. With his absolute, earnest hatred of aristocratic whoredom, he is easily the most entertaining of Max’s friends. When he duct tapes a fake parrot to his shoulder in this new story, he amplifies his hatred tenfold. Even the most humorless sack of shit would break down in the face of SlingBlade’s verbal attacks at this Halloween party.

If anyone tells you anything about “The Tuckerfest Story” before you’ve read it, it’s probably legal to shoot them. It is astonishing in its criminality, lunacy, excessiveness, drunkenness, and stupidity. How in hell is he going to top this? Could the events of this story be so overwhelming in their awesomeness that he’ll never be able to write about a more extreme incident?

Buy this book so the next one, HILARITY ENSUES, will be a certainty.

Author: Tucker Max
Publisher: Gallery Books
Price: $25.99

[ADDITIONAL NOTE:  I wanted to mention this in the body of the review above, but it just wouldn't be shoe-horned in.  Here is another of Max's great accomplishments:  he gets people to read who ordinarily wouldn't pick up a book.  How many times have I heard people say that they absolutely hate to read, but they absolutely loved reading IHTSBIH?  I don't know, but if I had a ha'penny for each, I could probably buy some top-shelf whiskey for a change.  He has actually helped the literacy problem in America, so much that I believe he should be featured on one of the celebrity READ posters you find in libraries.  Take that as you will, folks.]

Friday, October 8, 2010


The mouthwash sucked at first. The taste wasn’t as bad as I was told it would be, but when it touched the empty spot where my tooth used to be, the pain nearly floored me. It was intense, no matter how easy I tried to be with it. It was as if someone had jabbed a needle into the empty trench in my mouth.

But after a while, it stopped hurting. The worst part about the long wait was keeping the trench clean after meals. Crumbs and stuff sometimes managed to get in there, and the only way to keep it clean was to use a syringe Dentist Three gave me to blast warm water in there. It worked, but after EVERY meal? That shit just got tedious, especially at work. I’d retire to the bathroom after lunch so I could clean out the cleft in my gums. People would then ask me questions. Even back at my desk, people would see the syringe and ask me all about it. It was a pain, and my junkie jokes got old fast.

But finally, there came the day when I would get my implant. First, I had to get the CT scan, to make sure this thing was going to work out. Best part: I had to pay for the whole thing at that moment. Yeah, about $200 for the scan, in advance. You’re starting to get the idea of how much this is costing me, right?

I sat down, and the scan went around my head, or at least it tried to. My shoulders were too high, and it kept brushing up against them. I tried my best to keep my head straight, but they had to do it again. There was no way to adjust it, either.

When it was done, the technician said, “Do you have a cold?”

“No,” I said.

“You’re going to have one soon.”

Sure enough, the next day I was sniffling.

I should mention that the people who did the scan were not affiliated with any of the dentists I’d seen by that point. However, they were in the same building as Dentist Two, who is the person who needs to see the scan results. I scheduled this thing a couple of weeks in advance of the implant appointment, to make sure there was plenty of time.

Just to make sure everything was going to go smoothly, one week before the appointment, I called Dentist Two to make sure they had the results. Guess what: they didn’t, and when they called the scan company about the issue, they claimed to have sent it off. Yeah, it got lost in the mail.

The mail. They are not only in the same FUCKING building, the scan company is on the floor below Dentist Two, almost directly below. All it would have taken was for someone to walk it up.

Well, things worked out anyway. Dentist Two got the scan just in time, and she said she thought everything was going to go well. It was time to get ready and get shot up with Novocain.

This time, when they put the blood pressure cuff on me, I scored well below the threshold. They congratulated me on this, and they decided that before, I was just too stressed out by having a tooth pulled. There was no real problem here.

They injected me and went to work drilling me. I tried to watch TV, but having so many tools shoved in my mouth was kind of distracting. In the background, some radio station played Mellencamp’s “Hurts So Good.” How fitting.

At one point, Dentist Two had to fit an extremely long, thick drill into my mouth, so I had to open up as widely as I could. There was barely enough room to fit it in. If not for the missing tooth, it wouldn’t have made it.

Now, they numbed me as much as they could, and for the most part, the procedure was painless. However, keep in mind that they were drilling all the way down into my jawbone. Yep, I felt it a bit. Every once in a while, they had to reload me on the Novocain, but it never reached down far enough to be completely painless.

Finally, it was time to put the implant in. Actually, it looked kind of like a wood screw. They experimented with different sizes until they realized that it would go in a little bit low on me (because of the crown lengthening). But then, after looking at my x-rays again, they saw that I bite with my back teeth (so much so that my front teeth don’t come together), so this tooth was not going to come into consideration when it came to chewing.

Now that this was determined, they started screwing the implant into me. I felt it getting tighter and tighter until I heard a click in my head.

“Wow, did you hear that?” Dentist Two asked. I couldn’t speak because I had a giant screwdriver in my mouth, so she continued: “That’s good news. Honestly, I didn’t know for sure if this implant was going to take hold. You lost a lot of bone, so much that I wondered if you actually got the bone graft. But that click means that this is going to stay in place. This is going to work.”

Well, that was good news . . . wait a minute! This she wasn’t certain?!

I let it go. Things were going to work out, so why quibble?

She snapped a cap over the implant and told me to use some of the mouthwash stuff she’d prescribed for me before to keep the cap clean. She also gave me a miniature brush to use to this end. If I didn’t use this, then it would get discolored and nasty and food might slip in under it.

When I looked at myself in the mirror, I saw what looked like a metal knob in my mouth where the tooth had once been. It looked tiny, and I wondered how they’d get a crown on that thing.

She told me to come back in three months, at which point she’d put the abutment on. Then, I’d be free to get my crown. At long last.

I was presented with my bill and sent on my way.

Tune in next time for the stunning conclusion. And remember to brush twice a day, floss, and all that jazz. You don’t want this to happen to you.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

COOL SHIT 10-7-10

UNKNOWN SOLDIER #24: I have always been a fan of the Unknown Soldier, from his WEIRD WAR TALES origins all the way up to Garth Ennis’ Vertigo mini-series. And I love what I originally thought was a re-imagining, but now I know better: it’s a continuation. Writer Joshua Dysart’s vision was a brand new man behind the Invisible Man bandages, but now he’s brought the original back into the mix. For those who aren’t familiar with the character, we get a recap of all that has come before, and Dysart even drops a bombshell into our laps. It would be criminal to give it away, but anyone who read Ennis’ take on the old soldier can probably figure it out. There have been rumors that DC might torpedo Vertigo. Since the character has such a rich DC past, I don’t think they would get rid of this book, but the subject matter will never be quite as mature as it is now.

LIBERTY ANNUAL 2010: This is the annual anthology from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, a cause I hold dear (hell, I’d better; at $4.99, the book is a bit pricey). Sorry to say that most of its contents suck, and some suck really bad, but the gems are worth it. We have a Conan the Barbarian story from Darick Robertson. It’s paint-by-numbers storytelling, but such a grand map never fails to entertain. Conan’s just such a conqueror and destroyer that it’s fun to watch him in action. Sorry guys, but Conan could kick seven shades of shit out of Chuck Norris and the Dos Equiis guy. At the same time. With both hands tied behind his back. One problem: Robertson’s illustration doesn’t make Conan look tough enough. His stoic humor doesn’t come through. To see what I mean, check out Joe R. Lansdale and Timothy Truman’s Conan series, SONGS OF THE DEAD.

My favorite part of this book, though, is the RETURN OF EVAN DORKIN’S MILK AND CHEESE! For anyone unfamiliar with this duo, I shake my finger in shame at you! Did you even live in the ‘Nineties? You fool! For those of you in the know, my friends, you don’t need me to explain these “dairy products gone bad.” For the rest of you—you scum—a sentient carton of milk and wedge of cheese live out their violent whims, wreaking havoc everywhere they go. It is not uncommon for their comic strips to be covered in blood and pithy banter. Here, they slaughter a convention’s worth of costumed nerds, knock a guy’s eyes out, decapitate several people, and kick an unsuspecting baby. But their brand of bloodshed this time comes with a message: that comic book readers must defend their own right to read whatever they want. Because, in the words of Milk, “Poor defenseless little comic book industry! No Superman will fly down and save you! No Wonder Woman will deflect the bullets aimed at you! No Aquaman will do whatever it is that idiot does!”

And then there is a small THE BOYS story from Garth Ennis and Rob Steen. Let me be clear: the art fucking blows, and the story is kind of silly, but it serves its purpose in defending the freedom of comics creators. Finally, we know how The Legend got fired from Victory Comics: with a story about two major female superheroes being driven mad and attacking each other with their breasts. BUBBA DUBBA DUBBA DUBBA! And speaking of THE BOYS . . . .

THE BOYS #47: If any of you have the guts to tell me that Garth Ennis sucks as a writer, fuck you. Fuck you with a seven-foot barbed dildo. After I’ve violated your holiest of orifices (and rubbed salt in the anal fissures), I will point you to this issue of THE BOYS. It’s not all goofy violence and obscenity, folks; the man’s got great emotional chops. This issue is just fucking heart-rending. I’ll be honest, I almost teared up. My eyes got a bit wet, and my vision went blurry. The tear didn’t get shed, because it’s really, really hard to get me to cry, but Ennis has come the closest any writer can get. But then, if you’ve been a fan for as long as I have, this shouldn’t surprise you. PREACHER and HITMAN also brought me close to the brink, and when John Constantine hit rock bottom in Ennis’ run on HELLBLAZER, he almost got me again. My only problem with this issue was that Russ Braun, who is usually a good artist (not great, but good) has somehow made every character except for Annie look like pompous assholes. Butcher and Queen Maeve literally look down their noses in every panel they’re in. I wish Robertson would come back . . . .


I couldn’t let this one go without talking about what twisted my heart so badly. (I don’t usually do spoilers, as I consider my job here to sell these books, so I offer my apologies. You may leave if you wish. Be back next week, though.) You see, Butcher recently tricked Huey into watching footage of his beloved Annie sucking the dicks of several superheroes in order to get into the Seven. He brought it even further by telling Huey that she’d probably been playing him the whole time, that she was a whore, and she was laughing behind his back at him. Maybe Butcher believes it, but one way or the other, it’s a total prick thing to do. It poisons the way Huey feels about Annie, and when he starts to tear up himself, Butcher does something my step-father did to me when I was a kid: he points his finger at Huey and says, “Stop it. You’ll feel a fucksight better if you don’t start cryin’ in front of another bloke.”

Then, Huey confronts Annie in the park in a knockdown, drag-out condemnation. He hurls all sorts of accusations and ugly statements at her, calling her a bitch, a cunt, and a whore, and teary-eyed, he tells her that he never wants to see her again. But you see, we know Annie. She isn’t any of those things. She was just in a bad situation. Huey doesn’t understand because Butcher poisoned his mind. Has this irreparably destroyed one of comicdom’s greatest new romances?

The thing that got to me the most: “The strange thing was, he knew she was right. Without being sure exactly why, he knew he was making the wrong choice. But he dredged up what he needed to keep going. To put one leaden foot in front of the other.”

Powerful stuff.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010



The Quality Paperback Book Club says to write a story 55 words long.  Very difficult.  What should I do?  Stream of consciousness?  No.  I could go metafiction, but I don't want to be pretentious.  That's something John Barth would do, and he's a big whiner.  I'm too good for that.

Shit!  Piss!  Fuck!

Monday, October 4, 2010


Where were you when the Japanese invaded Pearl Harbor? What were you doing when JFK was assassinated? Where were you when the World Trade Center was attacked on 9/11? These questions are unimportant. What you should be asking yourself is, where were you when Mac banged Dennis’ mom?

IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA begins its sixth season on FX Network at 9:00 pm central time. If you’re not there every Thursday, you are probably a moral, upstanding citizen. In other words, boring.

Mac, Dennis, Charlie, Dee, and Frank are the most immoral, vile, lower-than-whale-shit, back-stabbing, filthy, insane, obnoxious, exploitative, insincere, and untruthful characters you’re likely to run across on any television show in history, and that includes THE SOPRANOS and FAMILY GUY. Yet, because of these overwhelming flaws, they are very delightful to watch. It’s fun to see them hatch these incredibly empty-headed, enterprising schemes, and to stare in disbelieve as everything falls apart because of their shortsightedness, their infighting, and their ADD, to say nothing of the fact that all of them are certifiable sociopaths.

It’s almost Machiavellian, except without exception, their plans end in misery and them getting their come-uppance. Still, no matter how spectacularly awry their plans go for themselves, it seems that those around them suffer exponentially more. Take poor Rickety-Cricket, for example. When he first appears on the show, he is a priest, happy in his vocation. With his last appearance, he has devolved so far that he’s homeless, insane, and missing every other tooth in his head, all because of the gang.

A few people escape this formula.  The McPoyles, for example, manage to escape the gang's black-hole of disaster, but only because they are more disgusting than Mac and company.  There is also a lawyer who seems to always benefit from their failures.  But that's about it, really.

No, this isn’t a masturbation fest for those wishing misery on others. That would be too easy. To truly enjoy this show, you must have a heart. You must feel pain every time the gang comes up with a new scheme, or you’ll never be able to give yourself the inevitable face-palm.

And it’s okay to chuckle. You’ll feel guilty about it later, but it’s good for you. Tune in, get the DVD’s, and enjoy.

FX Network
9:00 pm central, every Thursday

Friday, October 1, 2010


Why wouldn’t I be nervous? I was going to have a tooth pulled, and if that’s not enough to make one jittery, I don’t know what is. I settled into Dentist Two’s chair as best I could, and I tried to be calm. I could feel my heart jack-hammering away, and I knew I was good at hiding it whenever I was nervous, but there was no hiding from the blood pressure cuff.

She slid it on and checked the results. Naturally, they were off the chart. She asked if I was on medication to ease this, and I said I wasn’t. My problem was, I don’t know, I WAS GETTING A TOOTH PULLED! She explained the process in an attempt to get me to relax. She said they weren’t just going to yank it out, but they were going to wiggle it back and forth until it was nice and loose. Then, they’d pull it.

This did not ease my mind. Nor did it ease my heart. While my blood pressure came down considerably, it was still not in the range she felt comfortable with.

We tried a few more times before she finally said, “Would you prefer it if you were unconscious when getting this tooth pulled?”

Unconscious? You bet! I nodded. “That would definitely help.”

“Well, we don’t do that here, but I know of another dentist who would be able to help you out with this. He would also take care of the other implant preparations. Would that be better for you?”

I would have preferred to do it that day, since I was running out of time off from work. But there was no way I’d be able to take a tooth-pulling while I was awake. She recommended another dentist, and I thought that was that.

Whoops! Actually, that wasn’t it. This guy who could have been Dentist Three was located too far north, and I wasn’t driving at the time due to a few legal issues. I needed someone closer to Elmhurst.

Lo! and behold! Dentist Three was found five minutes away from home. They said they could fit me in for a consultation, and best of all, my grandfather was familiar with them.

If you’ve been following my non-fiction work for a while, you know that my grandfather knows EVERYONE in Elmhurst. There is no escape from his acquaintance. As it turned out, this other dentist had done some work on my grandfather, specifically the pulling of several teeth. In fact, he’d known this guy for so many years that we eventually got a 10% discount from the guy.

But as it turns out, Dentist Three is actually that guy’s son. Dentist Three is a young guy, and he apparently remembers shopping for a suit when he was a kid . . . at the clothing store my grandfather used to work at.

Dentist Three took a look at my mouth, and then he explained what would happen. As soon as the tooth is pulled, they need to put a bone graft into the remaining socket. If they don’t do this, I will lose bone tissue in my jaw, so much that an implant would be impossible. The bone graft slowly becomes a part of me, and when it’s solid, they can drill an implant into my jaw. This takes about three to four months.

By the way, you may be wondering where one would get a bone graft. As it turns out, it comes from donors. As in, people who are dead. Yep, I was gonna’ get dead fella’ bone in my mouth.

He then told me that before the implant goes in, I’d need a CT scan to make sure that there was enough bone there to do the job. Three months after the implant, I would get an abutment installed, upon which my new crown will go. Good times.

Can you pull the tooth today?

Well, since I was going to get put under, no. I had to fast and everything in preparation for that. After I got the tooth pulled, I’d be given antibiotics, pain killers, and mouthwash.

“Will I be able to drink booze?” I asked.

“What? Of course. I would never recommend the procedure if it meant quitting drinking.”

I think I came to the right place.

“Just don’t drink while on the antibiotics, or they may not work. And if you take the pain-killers, avoid alcohol. That’s bad news. After that, well, don’t drink to your heart’s content, but you know what I mean.”

I found this agreeable.

The next week, I went in, ready to rock and roll. They started prepping me to go under, and they got me ready for the needle. Dentist Three looked at my arm and said, “Jesus, that’s a big vein. If I miss this, I need to go back to medical school.”

It was surprising how fast everything went. I closed my eyes and when I opened them again, it was over. I had this vague memory of coming out of it for a moment, but they turned up the general anesthesia and put me to sleep again. That was it. It felt like five seconds had passed, and the next thing I knew, Dentist Three was telling me to bite down on a bunch of gauze.

I was led to the recovery room, which was really just a closet with a couch in it. I lay down, and after a while, Dentist Three came back with my meds. Antibiotics twice a day, Vicodin as needed. (Sadly, I learned the next day that I am immune to Vicodin.) After a day, I could use the mouthwash stuff every morning and night. There were stitches in my mouth once again, but this time, they were there to hold a plastic platelet thing down over the hole in my gums. This was going to keep the bone graft in until the gums were closed enough to keep it in. Best of all: the stitches would dissolve and fall out on their own. When the platelet comes out, just throw it away. Come back in a few weeks.

Groovy, right? Well, after a few days, the platelet was feeling pretty loose, and I kept feeling like I had grit on my tongue. I started getting the paranoid feeling that the bone graft was splintering and slipping out. I called Dentist Three, but he told me that it sounded like the stitches were coming out, which was natural. A bit early, but natural.

When I went back in to see him, he said, “Wow, that is pretty loose. I’m just going to cut it out of there.” He snipped it away and pulled out the stitches before giving me a quick examination. “It looks good. Just keep up with the treatment, and you should be fine.”  He also gave me a syringe, so I can flush food out of the trench in my gums after every meal.

The bill for his services: more than $1,100, and that’s with the discount. Dentist Two gave me a credit for the crown lengthening, since I wound up losing the tooth, but I still owed her about the same amount for whenever the implant would go in. I was never billed for Dentist One’s root canal, so I can only assume that he wasn’t going to charge me for it. Still, that’s a lot of fuckin’ money, and none of it was going to be covered by my insurance.

Tune in next time for the implant . . . .