on writing a memoir

dweye

I’ve been serializing my story of doing stand-up in high school, 35 years ago, over at www.plrknib.com.  We’re up to about 25 chapters so far.

Plrknib is a memoir.  And initially I was uncomfortable about writing it that way.  I could have easily written it as fiction, but decided to keep it as a memoir for one simple reason:  the place I performed regularly at – d.w. eye – and all the comics who played there were real.  Are real.  The club, itself, no longer exists and some of the comics have left us as well.  But many are going strong today.

Drew Hastings performs regularly and is mayor of Hillsboro, OH.  Chili Challis performs regularly and teaches comedy at well-revered “dojos” across the Midwest.  Will Durst has been going strong beating the crap out of both political parties, lately.  Bob Lambert, Rico Diaz, Chip Chinery, Riggi, Roger.  Most still write or perform, at least occasionally.  The list goes on and on.

So, while I was certainly capable of fictionalizing the story – it seemed criminal not to celebrate the people who were so incredibly inspiring to me when I was a stupid teenager.

So, it’s a memoir.  Real.  True.

And once upon a time we were giants.

plrknib

Scrabble1a

I was playing Scrabble the other day with my identical twin sister.  Boy, is she ugly –

I rationalized:  this is a joke by a not-famous comedian hundreds of miles away, on the other side of the world, on an alien planet.  If he lived here, in Cinti, then no, forget it.  If it seemed like he might ever even come to town – then no.  But he would never know.  No one here would have heard of him, heard this bit before.  We were on two different planets completely.  Two obscure, young comics on two different worlds, hundreds of miles away from each other.

Telling the same joke.

Of course, no one would know.

 

The true meaning of Plrknib is revealed today over at www.plrknib.com.  You don’t want to miss this one.

fourth of july

fireworx

Fireworks were so abundant and so easy to get when I was a kid, that I thought you could get them anywhere – the grocery, the local drug store.  I didn’t realize till much later that my father – and everybody else in town – had to go all the way across the river to Kentucky to get them.

He always bought a good selection – not just sparklers, but bottle rockets, black cats, cherry bombs, and big stuff like roman candles.  He showed us how to set them off, but we were not at all graceful.  We’d light them and run, 20-30 feet off.  And if the thing didn’t go off, you’d have to decide whether or not to go back and check.  Was it a dud?  Delayed?  Should we light it again?  What if it exploded the moment you got near it?  I can say that I never knew one of those kids who lost a body part over a firecracker.  (Although I did meet a kid on a bus once who shot himself in the leg with his dad’s rifle.  But that’s another story.)

But the best fireworks were firecrackers.  The ones they sold (and still sell I’m sure) in bricks with the fuses all tangled up and you could separate them out or light the whole thing at once.  We’d put them under cans and watch them explode into the air.  Miniature dynamite.

The biggest badge of honor was finding a loose, unused firecracker somewhere outside.  The kind that had been dropped or abandoned.  Bottle rockets that flew off but never exploded.  If you found one in the street or the woods, it was better than money.  And after a typical Fourth of July, kids would scour the streets for them.  Most were duds, but one in a hundred worked.  I held onto one for about a year that was perfect and dry before I tried it.  When I did, I had no idea what was going to happen.  I blew a Folger’s can to kingdom come.

One time, at camp, we did this show that we knew would be perfect if we could end it with big special effects.  What we wanted was dry ice – but my friend Kenny said, no problem, he’s got black cats and some cherry bombs.  He’s on it.  Fortunately, it was at the end of the show, and it didn’t matter so much when the entire building filled up with smoke and everyone ran out of the place, screaming and coughing.  No one got hurt.  But ten minutes later smoke was still pouring out of the windows.

the navy

Navy1

So, in the latest installment of my stand-up memoir Plrknib, I steal one of my friend Bob’s jokes – The Navy – and perform it onstage.

Which was really, really uncool of me.

Do I get a pass because I was a stupid 16 year old?

You can read the whole thing, here

 

the bone nest

owl-pellet2

My short story The Bone Nest is up at Defenestrationism.net.  Here’s a brief excerpt.

Farel, the eight-year-old wolfboy, squat upon the banquet table unceremoniously devouring what was left of a large pheasant, much to the Queen’s distress.  The Grand Hall was an utter mess:  chairs and tables were overturned, the buffet had been routed, and all decorations lay mangled.  The Queen’s horrified guests had left hours ago, and now she stood, fists clenched, staring violently at Farel.

“He should be with the dogs!” she snapped.  “I’ve half a mind to put him there myself!”

“Darling,” started the King, trying to keep a calm demeanor.  “We need to be patient.  We must give him time.”

Zanon – the boy’s elderly instructor – hid behind the King, trembling fearfully. 

“We’ve given him time!” she wailed.  “He’s ruined three parties!  I’ve hardlyany friends left!”

“We need to give more,” said the King.

“Why?!”

“You know very well why,” he said.  “Because he is family.”

Your family.  Not mine,” she said.  “He’s barely human!”

more

liquidity

Gi60

I’m excited to announce that I’ve got pieces going up in both the Gi60 and Gi60 Next Gen play festivals in June.

Here’s a look at one of my pieces from last year’s festival:  Liquidity.

opening night

16_031816e_OpeningNight

I was onstage.  And my heart stopped pounding.  I was simply there. Talking.  Moving.  Trying to be funny.  No sense of self, time, technique.  No sense of anything but the here and now, the lines and the people in front of me.  And I waded through my bits.  At home they had clocked in at three-to-five minutes.  Here, they took twelve.

This is my first stand-up.  If I throw-up it’s part of the act.

 

Back in 1980, I performed stand-up for the first time in Cincinnati at age 16.  It was a pretty good show, until I got banned from the bar for life.  Click here to read more

 

clifton

Clifton was a hippy town, a mini-Haight Asbury, but smaller and a bit cleaner.  It was the University of Cincinnati’s campus and during the 70’s the town was alive with bars, boutiques, head shops and restaurants like Zino’s Firehouse Pizza, In Cahoots with its mile-high reubens, and the Beacon-sized Bogarts, where any mid-level name band could make you feel like you were at a happening.

On Calhoun, sandwich row, you could start at one end, say, Adriatico’s Greek deli and work your way down, eating and barhopping.  Towards Clifton Ave you’d hit Arby’s, Wendy’s, the Acropolis, and then it was bar, bar, bar, bar, campus bookstore, bar, laundromat, Tony’s Pizza, bar, bar.

Chapter 6 of Plrknib begins

album

Bortai

My short story, Album, is up at MidAmerican Fiction and Photography.

Here’s a brief excerpt:

I wonder what I can get at the prize booth for my 37 ski-ball points.  There’s not much you can get these days for 37 points – but another seven and the rubber spider ring is mine.  And I see her standing in front of a funky-looking, ancient machine, definitely from the 50’s – checking it out.  She puts a buck in and tugs on this incredibly-difficult-to-pull stamper.  The thing stamps out whatever you type onto a tiny metal Lucky Key Chain, embossed with horse shoes and four leaf clovers.  She stamps something out, knowing she can’t go back and make changes.  If she makes a mistake, it’s set in there.  It plops into the dispenser and she hands it to me:

BXRTQI LXUS CHMGA

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