Manfred Bugsbee

It’s finally here, The Reluctant Journey of Manfred Bugsbee. Years and years of work, stretching the imagination, restretching, reorienting, etc, etc. A few years back, Utah was hit by an earthquake, a strange, seldom occurrence. This happened one week(ish) after my job decided that COVID was becoming scary enough that we all needed to work from home. A tumultuous time, to say the least. Morning of the earthquake, I got a very short email from the wonderful Montag Press, “Is Mindiidus still available?”

After spending a few hours checking my very old, very brick, very (already) crumbly, apartment building for cracks, I spent a few moments in the surreality of the potential of a book contract. Writing can be incredibly lonely. It’s an often thankless, sometimes seemingly pointless endeavor. To imagine that even one person spent time with a project of mine and enjoyed it is a magical feeling.

The Reluctant Journey is a side of my writing that is purely imaginative. It’s me tapping into all the things I loved as a kid—and the holdovers in adulthood. Inspired, in large part, by all the sticks turned swords I found in my grandparents’ yards. Grant Morrison’s, Animal Man and Doom Patrol are in there. Terry Pratchett, Akira Kurosawa, even a little bit of Cormac McCarthy can be found. I’m really proud of this book. Mostly because it was just so fun to write. I had to get over myself a few times while putting it together and remind myself to just play.

This project, like all of my projects, is only possible because of the support of my family and friends. During the pandemic, the earthquake, the excitement of book contracts, I was also saying goodbye to one of my most important creative bastions, my wonderful Aunt Nanci. Much of the magic and play in this book is because of her. She never let me lose sight of the beauty and creativity inherent to the world around me. Every object, hollow or whole, real or imagined, brims with light and adventure if you let it. She taught me that. I miss her everyday. So much of her is in this book.

Word of mouth and reviews go a long way with a project like this. So, grab a copy and tell your friends!

For Now

If you’re lucky you have a song. Something you go back to time and time again. It can be a space to recharge your batteries, hype yourself up, confront trauma, confront sadness. I have a few–this onedefinitely this oneof coursethis freaking one. They remind me of times and versions of myself, intense joy and sorrow, frustrations, building-budding empathies, and on and on. They are conversations I come back to. They help me see the change in myself. They help me let go of, even if only momentarily, the baggage of life. Music is a damn thing–I have to remind myself that sometimes. Turn to it, turn off the noise.

I owe a lot to my sister, my sister, my sister. I come back to this a lot, but I think she may be my only true hero. I have a long list of people I look up to, but whenever I try and sort through it, she rises to the top. Anyone who knows her knows she is a force to be reckoned with. We both have the same anxiousness–I think you’d never know with her. Her whole adult life she’s worked in and around good ole boys’ clubs. Always having to prove herself, go above and beyond male dominated hierarchies. She’s very constantly reaffirming that she’s not to be fucked with. As with many things in life, she may not see it in herself, but the world around her knows.

She and I both turn to the same band when we need to reorient, Stretch Arm Strong. That band (and punk rock in general) is a gift of hers to me. Something that I’m able to reach out to when I feel lost. I always know when she’s getting ready to confront something that scares her. She’ll send me a link to their music before and my mom will tell me the next day how well it went. Like clockwork.

The many stories I tell (and want to tell), my DIY mentality, even my fierceness (it exists, somewhere), comes from looking up to her. I’ve been made by a lot of things–music and sisterhood are key. 

Vegas, Beckett, and my Pretty Wife

There I was, swimsuit clad, a vision of intense pretentiousness, reading Beckett’s fantastic anti-novel, while families of fifteen surrounded my wife and me. Heat moving beyond 110 degrees and people were wading about in the hot tub, ordering fully loaded nachos with extra cheese. To try and make sense of it, even now, is dizzying. Of course our dear friend Samuel helped urge me through the absurdity. You can’t go on? You can’t comprehend this place? You must.

Who better to spend time with in the strangeness of Las Vegas than Samuel Beckett? Hopping from pool umbrella to pool umbrella feels a bit like tracking the arc of The Unnamable. You get the sense that there’s an objective, a narrative even, but every time you get your footing the sun shifts ever so slightly and you’re blinded again. Recursion and destruction and an oppressive nothingness. Not as many smoke clouds in Vegas nowadays, yet there is a stench that moves over every object–a sweet smelling repugnance. A place of pure Beckettian quality.

In all the strangeness (ugliness, perhaps) and despair of Vegas there is a profound beauty. That’s why my wife and I decided to get married there. It is a romantic place. Chaotic, yes, but the chaos of neon flesh–of moonlight crashed to earth. To see my wife cast in the flickering purples and yellows, to hear her laugh overlapping the chimes and bells, to kiss her beneath luminescent cowboys, is as complete a beauty as I can imagine. We promised to love each other forever in a pink Cadillac to a pastor whose lips were stained with cherry popsicle and who couldn’t quite remember my name–if there’s a happiness beyond that I’ve yet to see it.

Vegas, Beckett, and my very pretty wife are forever intwined. And if I believed in the sort of thing I’d say it’s by design. The hopefulness hidden in Beckett, the swirling dream of Vegas, and the jovial, mischievousness of my best friend all meld together as if to say, life can be oh so terrible, but not today.

Brother Malcolm, Brother Yort

I’ve been punched in the head, at least, twice by the legendary Copper Age Corpse. When I was a kid it was always a good sign when Troy started dancing. It meant a lot of things. It meant the band mattered–that they had some moral compass, something worth paying attention to. It also meant there’d some crowd-killing in the near future. Either way–the world came into focus. One such time was when the song, Brother Malcom started up. A love letter to Malcom X.

To my mind, Malcom X is as to a true American hero as you can get. The mythology and reality of his life overlap in a way that tells us everything there is to know about the atrocities of America, but also, of its potential. If you haven’t read The Autobiography of Malcolm X–get after it. It’s a brilliant, harrowing, almost fantastical story of a complex, ever-changing person. Malcolm’s courage in the face of systemic and systematic horrors should be a part of every revolutionary curriculum. The evolution of that man’s rage and empathy are almost beyond human. Acquaint yourself with him. Sit with his memory.

I’d have never met Malcom and confronted the many evils of our society had it not been for Troy. He took time in tattoo shops to talk to me. To tell young kids like me that anger was okay, but it ought to have direction–that you should always be punching up. I’m still learning–still trying to develop better empathy technologies. If not for hardcore and tattoos though the foundation may have never formed.

If you’re ever in Salt Lake and want to get tattooed hit up Lonely Hearts Club Tattoo. Troy and crew will take great care of you. And if you listen and ask the right questions you might learn a thing or two about radical compassion.

Current Projects

My current project is a novel. If I’m being kind to myself, very kind, I’d say that it’s The Wind Up Bird Chronicles meets The New York Trilogy with a bit of Ogawa and Saramago thrown in. And, lordy, if I’m being kind to myself, doesn’t that sound amazing? What it really is, if I give it some room, is a disjointed, rambling, wannabe-Beckett (in moments), detective-y thing. It’s definitely ambitious and if I stick with it I’ll have something pretty cool. Something very distinctly—Mikey.

My novel coming out this year with Montag Press is also distinctly Mikey, but in a very different way. This project is a work of pure, unabashed imagination. And I’m talking played-with-action-figures-well-into-my-teens kind of imagination. It’s a fantasy {I think (fantasy adjacent)} adventure story. Here, if I do my best elevator pitch, I’d say this book is Terry Pratchett meets Takashi Miiike’s 13 Assassins. Funny-violent-karate. My wheelhouse for entertainment, not necessarily for literary output. Nonetheless, it’s been a blast to put together and I’m excited for you all to see it.

This was gonna be an essay on my struggles with writing. I’d even go as far to say that, for me, writing is necessarily a struggle. Instead, it’s me trying to lean into some optimism. Writing can feel thankless and when it’s not thankless, it can feel pointless. I mean, I’m going from a Bachelors of Philosophy degree to a Masters in Creative Writing—put all that together and you get a man that’s very good at thinking and writing about not having any job prospects ☺. All of my hard work is paying off, though. I am a writer. I am becoming. I am trying.

If you’re reading this, thank you. You’re a part of a very small group that’s witnessing something emerging and being all at once. My voice is coming together, and who knows, maybe someday people will enjoy my work and want more. But in the end, greatness is for the graveyard. So I’ll just keep cramming words together in hopes of a few moments of clarity.

tulip and Trevor

Trevor Hale is: a punk rocker, a hardcore kid, a DIY dreamboat—and I’m lucky to count him as a friend. Nearly ten years ago I wrote a book called tulip. It’s a decent book, and I’d even say it stands up after all these years. It’s unmistakably the work of a first time novelist with a fresh bachelor’s degree in philosophy. Angsty, slippery ruminations on a world I didn’t quite understand. I still don’t—even less—but I know that now. Nonetheless, it captures something. A clear moment in time for me.

tulip is the story of a young man that worries he can talk to god. One publishing house that asked for a full manuscript said they loved my writing, but in the end the story was a bit too allegorical for their taste. My first of many heartbreaks in the literary world. They weren’t wrong. tulip was born out of a young mind. A Catholic kid turned atheist in the land of Mormons. I was often asked, “If not god, what guides your moral compass?” Versions of that question drove the misadventures of my protagonist and dear friend, Tulip. He was the vehicle for me to unpack and begin to understand my own empathy technologies.

I queried the hell of it. Had some bites, but nothing stuck. I confronted a reality all writers must at one point or another—sometimes writing the book is the easiest part. When I was a kid I figured once the project was finished publishers would be lining up. I was a dumb kid.

Trevor and I mostly saw each other in passing—at coffee shops and laundromats and during the “hardcore handshake”, an after show ritual that was tough on a shy kid like me. Trevor is a cultural institution. It’d be easier to say what bands he hasn’t been an integral part of in the Salt Lake Hardcore community for last twenty years. Some of my blurriest, happiest memories as a kid involve Trevor playing guitar as other tattooed bodies piled on the stage with him in sometimes violent, always chaotic attempts at sharing the microphone—all the while I was somewhere in the middle genuinely trying to hurt myself. A sure fire way to get the wiggles out and the occasional black eye.

So when Trevor offered to publish my book I was a bit in disbelief. The person who had been the soundtrack to so much of my youth wanted to help me get my first novel into the world. But a few months later I stood next to him and held the first proof of my book and probably wanted to cry but likely just muttered some “hell yeahs” and some “wows”. Trevor has always had faith in genuine creators, the most central axiom of a true punk rocker. To somehow be part of the output of the most outputtingness, real dude on earth is quite the honor.

Go to his website, buy some stuff. Listen to the generations of Hardcore he’s participated in and influenced. And if you see Tulip, be kind to him, he’s my firstborn.

Running

Here’s a little prose poem (what is a prose poem?) I wrote at the beginning of last year. I live in Utah and the day after my work decided it was unsafe to continue having folks come to the office because of Covid we had our first large earthquake in fifty or so years. Stress was high. The day of the earthquake I also received a request for a manuscript of mine from Montag Press. And my Jiu Jitsu gym decided, rightfully so, to close down for a few months. It was a heck of a year, March 18th 2021.

Anyhow, I’d been taking some Creative Writing classes at time to see if this oldish man (certainly a relic to the majority of kids in my class) had it in him to go back to school. Professor Lance Olsen‘s class to be exact, wherein which I was introduced to the work of Young-Hae Chang and Jesse Ball among many other wonderful creators. Lance’s class was fantastic and if you ever have the chance to work with him, JUMP! If not, read his work, it’s brilliant.

Our final project was meant to be a reading in class, alas, we zoomed. I’m proud of this project, not so proud of my terrible facial hair and messy apartment. Would love to have some folks interact with it.

Thanks for checking it out.

Updated with closed captions!

Jump Rope

Many of us have been struggling over the last year and into the new one. It’s been impossible to keep our rituals up—at least without changing some of the rudiments. I’m a lifetime Martial Artist and a full time wasps’ nest of anxiety. Every since I was a kid, I’d buzz, buzz, buzz. Thankfully my mom took me to a Kung Fu class and said, son, get your wiggles out. And, by god, I’m lucky in a lot of ways, but the chance introduction to Martial Arts has given me a consistent guiding light in all my follies and the occasional victory.

I’ve written about Jiu Jitsu elsewhere but it’s worth mentioning it’s almost been a year since I was last able to train and… it’s fucking killing me. As scared as I am of most people, and as difficult as I often find interacting with them, communal Martial Arts spaces have always been my therapy. It’s redundant, but again, I’ve never felt so welcomed (in spite of my, sometimes, awkwardness) as I do at the school I train at. Come visit someday. Please.

For now though, to get out those wiggles, of which there are many, I jump rope. I don’t like jump roping, I’m bad at it, the rope often hits my shins and splashes city dregs into my hair. When I mess up I want to cry or punch a wall—a sure sign that my wiggles need exorcising. I’ve always loved boxing, but I’m a terrible boxer, have always been a reactionary fighter and anyone who knows fighting knows that only takes you so far. A good boxer can set me up for just about anything, all my dodging and weaving only ever amounts to postponed agony. But while I’m out there skipping along, listening to my current go-to, Sincere Engineer or the always driving Orange 9mm, I imagine the foot work of Muhammad Ali, or the power Mike Tyson generates from his legs and it all feels a little less tedious.

I still can’t do the freaking crossover with any consistency. But I can two-step like a champ, #thankstohardcore.

Lazarusmas

Every year for the last fifteen or so my friends and I have a holiday party called Lazarusmas. It’s bonkers. It’s crazy. It’s transformative. People have met their lovers and worst enemies on the dance floor there. Sadly we can’t do it this year because of the pandemic. I always send out a special video invite, so this year I decided to make something a little more involved. There’s a poem, there’s an excerpt from the novel I’m working on and there’s a whole buncha love. It also happened to be the last thing I made on my old computer before it went tits up. A swan song, of sorts. Here’s to whatever is around the corner.