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.

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!

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.

PEN15

Out on the coastline, a few years back, my fiancée (then girlfriend) and I watched the sunset. An astounding thing when the sun hits the Pacific Ocean. The water upends, melts sideways, and furrows of red-black sky work their way up and into blackness. One of the many beautiful moments from that trip. We’re not huge vacationers, her and I. We mostly just enjoy each other’s company, but sometimes prefer that company to be in front of an ocean.

We discovered Pen15 on that vacation and watched the whole first season from our bed in the small rental. Season 2 has been the perfect respite from the stuckness of 2020. Maya and Anna’s exploits this go-around are an artistic triumph, as far as I’m concerned. Hilarious at its core, but in its risks examines the awkwardness and too often unkindness of adolescence. From the disgusting, unfortunately, ever-topical racism and homophobia, to the universal heartbreaks of growing up. By the final episode I had cried and laughed, pondered and reminisced. The two vehicles of the narrative, women my age, embodying the lives of middle schoolers is such an inspired move — it stretches empathy to its limits and shows the sincere and difficult work required to understand someone else’s experiences.

Great art helps us inhabit other spaces and the space of others. Pen15 did just that. As the world folds over with each new chaos, find time to enjoy art. Right now we’re all feeling a bit cooped up. Luckily, there’s millions of good books out there and some damn good television.

Don Quixote

Books are powerful objects. Magical, even. In the right moments, with the right book, time and space upends. This doesn’t always happen. Sometimes you must read as thief — scour your Joyces and Woolfs for inspiration.

As I read “Don Quixote” time folded in. It’s not that I found myself in the land of Sancho and Rocinante, rather, I was in the company of my grandfather. Clifford — I called him Pa, others called him Angel — has been skiing on the other side for some time, yet, as clear as day, he roamed the pages of Cervantes’ great two-parter. Sometimes as Sancho, sometimes as Quixote. Occasionally, he just sat with me and delighted in the courage and missteps of our hero, Alonso.

Two scenes come to mind, the most romantic in that most romantic book. When Sancho buried his face in the curls of his trusted Dapple after facing the harsh realities of mankind’s brutal unkindness, I felt Pa’s guidance. A tender directive. Why govern a city if you have cheap whiskey (or ginger ale) and the kinship of friends and lovers?

And of course, Quixote’s insistence on fighting a lion. The beauty in stubbornness, something my bloodline is full of. In these moments Pa made sure I looked closer and remembered that everyone’s lions are different. I suppose mine is writing. Everyday I look at this thing and beg it to devour me.

Reading can confront us with our own mortality, and sometimes, if you’re lucky, confuse that finality.

Read books and remember loved ones are there even when they’re not.

Narrative Genealogy: 0

This is something I’ve been thinking about for awhile. And it seems worthwhile, if not important. I’ve often found new authors by seeing who my favorite authors are reading and enjoying. For example, both Yoko Ogawa and Samanta Schweblin mentioned Paul Auster as being influential to them. That led me to the Auster’s New York Trilogy, which — how did I live without it?

I’ve picked up so many books that I’d have been intimated by if not for the direction of others. It’s a bit like when you find out all of your favorite Westerns were inspired by Samurai movies. Good Lord, the well is so deep. Never ending and wonderfully accessible if you dare look.

Over the next few months, and years and decades (if i’m lucky), I’ll be considering the question, “Where do I fit in?” I’ve written so many short stories, and chunks of novels, that are nothing more than poor imitations of the greats. But, slowly, my own brand of prose is emerging. The beauty, and utter terror, is that this will take a lifetime of practice. I’ll discover new works that completely change and dismantle my own processes. I’ll fall in love with new novels and revisit my own work with fresh eyes and tools.

So, be on the lookout for maps and diagrams and thoughts about my own Narrative Genealogy.

An ever-changing, often frustrating, always enriching ride — trying to be a writer.