BABASIOTAAM (Blogging About Befriending Absolute Strangers In Order To Attract A Mate)

In the year when Kosovo declared its independence, China cracked down on protesting Tibetan Monks, Beijing hosted the Olympic Games and Barack Obama was busy running for President, I was calculating the odds of my dying alone.

Not that I mind being alone, hell, I’m about the only person on the planet that actually enjoys my company after the bloom has fallen from the rose. But there was this odd, hollow feeling in the center of my chest, something I had never experienced before. I believe you humans call it loneliness.

The cure was obvious, I’d have to make an effort to meet another living being on purpose, but because I am me and I have never ever ever been known to do things the easy way—ha! like there’s an easy way—I decided to turn the process into a social experiment to find out if women were actually attracted to intellect—yes, I’m presuming to possess an adequate level of intelligence—or if they were just as shallow as they claimed men to be. So, I joined a free online dating site.

I began a campaign I called BABASIOTAAM, which was short for Blogging About Befriending Absolute Strangers In Order To Attract A Mate, where I posted outrageous and fictitious stories as bait to reel in enquiring minds and open up a line of communication. This might sound a bit odd to you but it actually worked, the problem was my stories (all presented as facts) attracted both women and men who would then debate my postings until they erupted into flame wars, so I eventually abandoned the project.

But in the midst of my botched brilliant idea to attract a mate, I did actually manage to go on a few dates—or at least meet up with a few women in the flesh. The first was SxxQit10 who responded to my initial post on how sometimes the media can implant racist notions unbeknownst to consumers:

            SxxQit10: Credit given for recognizing the thoughts as irrational and wrong. There are an awful lot of people with the same thoughts who think they’re perfectly rational and acceptable. Sad world we live in. Wanna chat? PM me.

Since that post, we had exchanged a few emails, nothing steamy, no cybering or anything of that nature, mostly icebreaker chitchat. Then she stepped up her game by IMing me.

SxxQit10: Hi! Do you have time to chat?

Me: Sure, I was just answering your email.

SxxQit10: Great. Thanks for writing by the way. You’re bold. 🙂 I like that.

Me: What’s the sense in joining the site if you don’t attempt to make a new connection?

SxxQit10: Oh you might be surprised! Are you new to this?

Me: The online thing? Yeah, pretty new to it. The worst you could have said was “Get lost!” I’m thick-skinned

SxxQit10: 🙂 I’m one of the polite ones. I believe in responding politely and staying human. Sorry if you’ve recently been through something unpleasant.

Me: Nothing recent.

SxxQit10: Oh good for you! Most guys jump on here within days of the end of their relationship. You were smart to wait. To me, that’s a real indication of character. If you can’t be alone, you’ll become too dependent and that’s not healthy for a relationship. Anyway, I’m not going to preach! 😉 You’re a smart guy and know all this stuff I’m sure.

Me: Fortunately, I enjoy my own company. So, has this online worked out for you?

SxxQit10: Well it has worked and not worked. It’s been ok. I’ve met some wonderful men on here who have become friends. I’m also on several others and they’re all about the same.

Me: Don’t knock friends, they’re a rare commodity these days.

SxxQit10: Oh gosh, I never do! There’s a guy I met on here who I have to say is one of my best friends. Two actually.

Me: So, what stops these guys from being “the right one” I mean, if you believe in that sort of thing.

SxxQit10: I do believe in it. Geeze… let’s see. Where do I begin? Duncan lives in South Carolina. That about sums that up! LOL Jerry is a bit new to the dating scene and is more interested in sowing some oats (my humble opinion). His wife cheated on him and he’s really enjoying being the single bachelor. We had the option of being “friends with benefits” I suppose, but I can’t do that. I get too emotionally involved and that’s a big set up for heartache.

Me: I didn’t mean to get too personal, I’m just inquisitive by nature. Please feel free to tell me to mind my own business at any time.

SxxQit10: That’s funny. I was just going to apologize for going too deep. I have a tendency to do that. I ask LOTS of questions too but I’m an open book. No secrets and if I didn’t want to talk about something I’d be honest about it. You can ask me anything you like. 🙂

Me: Good, we share that. If I ever cross a line, just let me know. Guaranteed, it was unintentional.

SxxQit10: I promise and likewise, OK?

Me: So, since you only seem to find friends online, do you venture out into the real world dating scene?

SxxQit10: Real world dating scene? Is there one? Ha. I only know of bars I guess but I’m not a bar-going type per se. Then there’s the workplace, but at this point, it’s a dry well.

Me: While I can appreciate a good pub with friends, it isn’t the ideal place to find a mate. So, what do you do with your time when you’re not out finding peace in massage therapy or busting a gut at a Marx Brother flick?

SxxQit10: Hmmmmm… I do love movies. I read, I write, I play with my son, I belong to a theatre workshop in NYC and we’re trying to get something going. I love to walk in the woods, take photos, live music and theater when I can. I’m currently up for a new job in NYC. If I land that, I’ll be moving a tad bit closer for commuting purposes and upgrading my life a bit.

Me: I was about to ask you about the theatre group. Good luck with the job. If you do produce something and if it’s local, let me know. I support the arts, naturally.

SxxQit10: I sure will and thanks! You know I have to say 95% match is unheard of. I don’t know what it means (after all I agree with you about those awards, complete bs). Have you filled out a lot of tests or something?

Me: No, I haven’t done the tests yet (still new to this) but I plan on it.

SxxQit10: You can look at my tests and click on a link to any of those if you fancy them.

Me: I guess if I’m going to do this, might as well go whole hog. Tests, journals and the like.

SxxQit10: I’ve stayed away from the journal for some reason. Not sure why.

Me: I’m surprised, open book like yourself.

SxxQit10: I guess I don’t want random people in my head. It’s crowded enough in there already!!! And most men probably wouldn’t like what I said on there and that would ruin my already sketchy chances!

Me: Not even room for one more?

SxxQit10: There’s always room for one more! LOL

Me: Good. The sound of knocking you hear is me. Open the door at your convenience.

SxxQit10: Enter! That reminds me of The Sunshine Boys. Come in, and ENTER!

Me: Sunshine Boys? You really do like movies!

SxxQit10: Like you have NO idea.

Me: You and I are going to be friends for life, as long as movies exist.

SxxQit10: Fantastic! I’ve been desperate for a good movie-buddy! Where are you from originally?

Me: Manhattan born and bred. Lived in all five boroughs, currently residing in Staten Island. Ick.

SxxQit10: Why there then. BTW – grew up in Hell’s Kitchen myself. Been in NJ since 1989.

Me: Moved to Staten Island because that’s where the job is. Ferry commuting was a pain.

SxxQit10: Ah. I believe it. What’s the job?

Me: I work for a tattoo company, creating and licensing tattoo artwork.

SxxQit10: Seriously?

Me: Yup.

SxxQit10: How many do you have personally?

Me: Not a one. It’s my job, not my lifestyle.

SxxQit10: Whoa. Would you care if I had one?

Me: Not at all. Do you?

SxxQit10: Yes, a map of postwar Europe across my entire back… just kidding…

Me: Awww, that would have rocked!

SxxQit10: ROFL You are funny.

Me: Nope, you’re just an easy crowd.

SxxQit10: I have two. A Celtic heart about the size of a plum at the base of my neck and a small dragonfly on my shoulder.

Me: You also referenced dragonflies in your profile. Any significance?

SxxQit10: The dragonfly is very important to me. It was my spiritual totem during the hardest part of my life. My divorce. If you believe in that sort of thing. I’m a very spiritual but don’t subscribe to any religion. I’m very open to all things. There’s a cool story to all that, but I’ll save it for another time.

Me: Sigh. Typical woman. Always holding out on the good stuff.

SxxQit10: Oh no!

Me: Oh yes

SxxQit10: Gosh, I’d hoped you’d never say those words about me! Nothing typical about me. But I guess I’m wrong… sigh… sob…

Me: Dry your tears, youngling. You can still grow from this…

SxxQit10: The story is better in person anyway.

Me: Sounds like an invitation

SxxQit10: I guess it is. Interested?

Me: Always.

SxxQit10: Ok then. I have to ask this… please don’t be a freak. Not sure I can take another unsuspected freakshow. 😉

Me: “Freak”… hmmm. No, not a freak. But like yourself, not typical. And it doesn’t have to be immediate. You can suss me out a bit before a real-life meeting.

SxxQit10: That’s OK. We can’t be expected to tolerate the typical in a friendship or potential relationship. And that’s very cool of you to say. Already tells me you’re not a freak.

Me: Ask me all those questions that the Feds use to flush out lunatics.

SxxQit10: I don’t know any of them? What are they? Do you floss? LOL Do you wear your underwear on your head?

Me: Did you ever pull the wings off flies as a kid?

SxxQit10: Oh right!

Me: Only when I’m drunk, does that count?

SxxQit10: Ha. No. It doesn’t count. I don’t think I ever did that. But… I might have held a magnifying glass on an ant or two.

Me: Whew! Good…I’m still in the running. You burned ants? Murderer!

SxxQit10: : ( I know. Why are kids so cruel? To animals, each other… I don’t get it. Just pushing the boundaries of right and wrong I suppose.

Me: Actually, I rolled ants into my Silly Putty ball thinking I could open it up and retrieve them later.

SxxQit10: I love it! Silly Putty! Wasn’t that the best?

Me: I loved Silly Putty.

SxxQit10: I have an 8-year-old son.

Me: I was just about to ask.

SxxQit10: He lives primarily with his Dad and Stepmom about 5 miles from me. I have him 2 days a week and alternate weekends.

Me: Is he happy?

SxxQit10: He seems extremely happy and well adjusted.

Me: It’s a sign. Good. Are you happy? With the arrangement, I mean.

SxxQit10: I was separated almost 6 years ago. There’s a big story, well, not big but emotional story about how things fell out, but all in all I am happy with things. As long as Charlie (my son) is thriving and happy. That’s all that matters. He’s a bright, beautiful child. I think he may be a writer someday.

Me: Excellent. The world needs more writers. Well, you seem very fortunate. I’m happy for you. Thanks. I feel fortunate.

SxxQit10: Have you noticed we’ve answered most all of our questions with the same answer?

Me: I’m sure that once I start answering more questions, the algorithm is going to affect my Match percentages, but yes, our basic questions are on track with one another. And I’m glad. It convinced you to chat with me this afternoon.

SxxQit10: I don’t think it convinced me, but I’m pretty amazed. It’s unusual.

Me: Hopefully, I’ve made a new friend.

SxxQit10: You definitely have! : )

Me: Even though you’re probably one of those freaks you mentioned earlier (which is fine, but please don’t be a 65-year-old man toying with people on the internet). Ick, that thought gives me the chills

SxxQit10: Hysterical. Just FYI. My pics are current (the one with my hair in my hands is about a year old) and my information is perfectly honest. I could never lead with a lie. So my advice to you (to assist you on this online dating roller coaster) is to get a couple more pictures up (a full length or close) and complete the rest of your description. It will help you land lots of chicks! 😉 and… Call me Irving. Bahahahahahah!

Me: Yeah, that’s me the “lots-of-chicks” magnet.

SxxQit10: Well, why wouldn’t you be?

Me: I knew it! Irv the perv! Ha! That’s going to be your pet name from now on. No one will know why!

Me: Oh, you know it! I am Irv for as long as I know you!

SxxQit10: So why don’t you think you’re a chick magnet?

Me: I grow on people. I’m the type you have to get to know.

SxxQit10: Like fungus?

Me: Exactly

SxxQit10: : )  Damn. I have a mold allergy. Are you shy? You don’t seem so.

Me: You’ll get a little sneezy at first but it’ll run its course and you’ll adapt to me in time. I’m an ok kind of fungus.

SxxQit10: Cool. Do you have a spiritual practice of any kind? Meditation, etc. I’m just curious, reading your profile again. Your talk of “ego” made me ask.

Me: Sometimes I’m shy, sometimes I’m not.

SxxQit10: I understand. Do you get out a lot?

Me: I am not religious by any stretch of the imagination. I do love theology, though, especially the apocypha and psuedepigrapha… as far as spirituality… I am open to there being a force in the Universe.

SxxQit10: Same here. Exactly.

Me: I’ve started going out socially last year.

SxxQit10: How was it?

Me: Interesting, but nothing to write home about. Mostly wine-tastings (I’m a beer guy) and movies, a few dinners here and there.

SxxQit10: Well, we’re going to change that. I don’t mean me necessarily, but I can help you. I’m almost an expert on women and relationships… after all, I’m a woman and have been in a few relationships! What’s your favorite beer?

Me: Dogfish Head IPA 120

SxxQit10: I’m a wine-chick. Wine and tequila, but I stay away from tequila now…

Me: Tequilla!!!

SxxQit10: Ah Dogfish Head, yes…

Me: Oh, tequilla bad…I see.

SxxQit10: Yeah, Tequila… makes me do things…

Me: Yes!

SxxQit10: ha.

Me: Underwear on the head!

SxxQit10: More like no shirt in the street…

Me: You absolutely rock.

SxxQit10: It was a long time ago. It was very late and there wasn’t anyone else around… REALLY!!! And yes, I do absolutely rock.

Me: Shirtless Irv!

SxxQit10: That’s great!

Me: Irvs Gone Wild! I’d buy that video.

SxxQit10: I’m in the editing room now. Oh, did I mention I used to edit video for a living?

Me: Really? Why’d you give it up?

SxxQit10: I gave it up to be a full-time Mom, but that got sidetracked. It’s another long story for a face to face. There’s a lot to you isn’t there? You’re complex and deep aren’t you?

Me: Deep as a puddle

SxxQit10: Pish Tosh, I don’t believe it!

Me: I’m humble and lovable.

SxxQit10: That’s ok, you’re not boasting but I was asking. Why are you lovable? Your opinion matters!

Me: I don’t know. Can you find yourself lovable?

SxxQit10: Maybe after too many long nights alone in the woods…

Me: with tequilla

SxxQit10: Ha Ha!

Me: Shirtless With The Wolves

SxxQit10: I’m cracking up.

Me: So, what keeps you in on a Saturday afternoon? Why aren’t you out breaking hearts?

SxxQit10: I am, but I can do it remotely. Or remotely do it? Ummmm. I’m writing. I rarely get a free Saturday and I’ve been trying to get this play past my block/wall/stuck-point. I’m never on this site for more than 5 mins at a time and how long have we been at this today?

Me: An hour at least. Am I keeping you from writing?

SxxQit10: Actually no. I signed on here to take a break but never expected it to last this long!

Me: Well, I’m flattered.

SxxQit10: Are you a sports fan at all?

Me: Fan? No. I watch a bit of boxing and UFC and the occasional rugby match, but not a diehard fan. You?

SxxQit10: I go back and forth. Rugby, now that I would watch. You seem to have a more than average European sensibility. Is that true? I grew up a diehard Yankee fan but watching baseball bores me unless you’re at the game. I like watching football, but I never seem to have the time. I’d rather play sports than watch them.

Me: Last time I was at a baseball game, I was 4, rooting for the Mets. I am a bit of an Anglophile (I devour a lot of Brit telly and film)

SxxQit10: I like that about you.

Me: A friend has a British ISP so I get to watch a great deal of Telly when the BBC posts them.

SxxQit10: BBC is the best. I knew that when I was twelve or was it 8?

Me: There was a Scottish sitcom called “Still Game” that was hilarious. Developing an ear for the language was fun.

SxxQit10: Yay, Scots!

Me: Yay, Scots, indeed! Every year I watch the Hogmanay celebration

SxxQit10: I love my Scottish heritage. I’ve always wanted to go. I got close, made it to London and Dublin, but couldn’t get to Scotland! : (

Me: So, Miss Play-Writer’s-Block, what’s your play about?

SxxQit10: Sad people, alcoholics, judgment, facades, you know… it’s children’s theatre.

Me: Alcoholic kids? I’m in! One ticket, please!

SxxQit10: It’s about a bar in Clifton, NJ and the regulars who are well… regular. It’s an examination of that lifestyle and the relationships that extend from that.

Me: Sounds simple enough. Where are you stuck at?

SxxQit10: Um… I always get stuck at the end of the “first act” not literally separated by acts, but more the first large chunk. And last night or recently…? I came up with a plan to scale that wall. A big decision about the dynamic that takes the piece in a new direction, but a good one.

Me: Need help? I don’t profess to be great, but I could offer assistance… maybe. Or not. Your call

SxxQit10: That’s OK. I’m really shy about my writing. I appreciate the offer tho!

Me: Fine. Didn’t mean to intrude.

SxxQit10: You didn’t!

Me: Rejected. Unloved. Unwanted.

SxxQit10: I really am shy about my writing. I didn’t even show anyone for 10 years!

Me: Fine, offer up whatever excuse you have to.

SxxQit10: Question: everybody on this site lies about their weight, so how much weight would you like to lose. I’ve got about 20 to lose.

Me: 20’s a good target for me. 30 and I’d be a Greek God!

SxxQit10: Which Greek God?

Me: The fat one. Porkulus.

SxxQit10: ROFL! That is funny. Good one. Man, I like your humor.

Me: Nope, you’re an easy crowd.

SxxQit10: No but see, I’m really not!

Me: Then thank you for lowering your standards for the sake of this chat. Humble! That’s me.

SxxQit10: More like Humbug! 😉

Me: Used to pluck the wings off humbugs when I was a kid. Callback!

SxxQit10: I thought that was handbags? or handsaw? Anyway, now I’m on a real tangent~

Me: I don’t do handbags, sweetie…I carry a murse.

SxxQit10: Murse?!!!! Hahahahah! I need some tea.

Me: I fellow tea drinker…nice.

SxxQit10: Would you mind if I excused myself for a min or two? You can tell me more about your life story if you like. At least tell me what kind of writing you do?

Me: Sure, go do your thing.

SxxQit10: Thanks, back!

Me: Well, about the only things I haven’t written (read as:  Completed) are a play and a novel.

SxxQit10: So what are you waiting for?

Me: I used to write and publish my own comic books (don’t laugh, it’s a mode of storytelling)

SxxQit10: Don’t they call them graphic novels?

Me: Yeah, now they’re graphic novels, when I did them they were comics.

SxxQit10: OK, so comic books, writer, shy, loves the BBC, movies… I’m painting a picture here.

Me: I also write short stories, some of which have been published

SxxQit10: Are these science fiction stories perhaps????

Me: Now I write screenplays, some of which I self-direct and other that I submit into competitions.

SxxQit10: Very cool!

Me: Some are science fiction. most are speculative fiction.

SxxQit10: Speculative Fiction? Like Neal Stephenson? Is that what you’d call him? Dunno.

Me: Yes, and Harlan Ellison and the like.

SxxQit10: So… are you impressed???

Me: By you? When I first read your profile. Stop fishing for compliments.

SxxQit10: You already know me so well! So you must know who Eddie Izzard is, right?

Me: Yes, I know Eddie Izzard, in fact, he was recently in the BBC TV remake of Day of the Triffids.

SxxQit10: Really? I’m a big fan of EI. How often do you get into the city?

Me: Usually whenever there’s an event, but I’m always open for traveling. I don’t hang in Staten Island.

SxxQit10: Would you be up for meeting for tea on Sunday?

Me: Sure, why not?

SxxQit10: Cool.

Me: Wait, are you sure I’m not a freak?

SxxQit10: No, I’m not, but this is the only way I’ll know for sure.

Me: Risk taker… nice.

SxxQit10: My theatre group starts at 5: 30. I can come in anytime before that. Not so much risk taker as incurable curious nature.

Me: Name a time and place that’s convenient for you.

SxxQit10: tea… tea… um… how is The Russian Tea Room? Just kidding. Are you a Starbucks hater?

Me: No love, no hate. We can do it.

SxxQit10: I think there’s one around times square (huh, ya think?) that would be good for me and easy for you to get to.

Me: Don’t worry about me. What’s good for you?

SxxQit10: That is good for me. (see above) What time is good for you?

Me: I’m open. You’re the one with time constraints.

SxxQit10: Let’s say 1? Does that work for you?

Me: Sure. 1:00pm in the general vicinity of Times Square

SxxQit10: I know there is one on 42nd closer to 8th than 7th and on the north side of the street, but I think there is also one on 43rd and 8th. Either one is fine. Wow – that’s tomorrow, isn’t it?

Me: It doesn’t have to be tomorrow, Missy Rushy-Pants

SxxQit10: Yes it does. Monday my carriage turns back into a pumpkin

Me: I’ll help you roll the pumpkin back to your house, Cinders.

SxxQit10: No. I’d much rather it be sooner than later. Am I rushing you? We don’t have to if you’re at all uncomfortable.

Me: I understand. Inspect the goods, see if it’s worth your time.

SxxQit10: No. That’s not it really.

Me: You writers are all alike.

SxxQit10: I think it might dictate the direction of our friendship, but you already are worth my time, silly.

Me: That’s what they all say.

SxxQit10: Who’s “they”?

Me: Them. You. You know.

SxxQit10: The infamous them.

Me: The rest of the planet.

SxxQit10: Well, that’s not us.

Me: So Irv, in order to facilitate this brush-off meeting, do you want my phone number or is that too forward? I don’t want to send you screaming.

SxxQit10: Oh you’re funny. Yes, let’s exchange phone numbers in case the train breaks down or some other thing. I don’t scream usually. I’m human.

SxxQit10: You always have the option of screaming and running yourself.

Me: I’m far too polite for that

SxxQit10: OK then we’ll both be stuck there desperately wanting to run, but not being able to because we’re both so damned polite! Nice. Funny.

Me: Nah, it’ll be fine. We can walk and chat and it’ll be fine.

SxxQit10: I think we’ve been chatting for almost 3 hours. That’s crazy. I could continue but I should get back to the play.

Me: Not a problem. I don’t want to keep you from work.

SxxQit10: Can I call you later?

Me: Sure, anytime.

SxxQit10: OK. Maybe after dinner time?

Me: Fine. I’ll be looking forward to it.

SxxQit10: Me too. Talk to you later then?

Me: Sounds like a plan. Now go write your play so you can show me the completed first act, shy writer.

Sure enough, ‘round about dinner time, the young lady calls and we proceed to engage in another three-plus hour conversation about absolutely nothing. She was a bit more skilled in the game than I was. For every two bits of useless topics or jokes, she’d ask a question to size me up. Did I have hair? How many children by how many different women? How much do you drink? Do you have a temper? Can you solve Goldbach’s conjecture? Okay, maybe not the last one, but she had her list prepared, and I didn’t call her on it. I suppose a woman meeting an internet stranger has to be cautious.

Come the day of the flesh meet and long story short… there was no chemistry. Politeness. Light conversation. And that was all she wrote. Guess algorithms can’t match everything, huh?

Other uneventful dates included an actual rocket scientist obsessed with blueberries and the Frazier TV show, a nature hiker who loved squirrels just a bit too much and a Mensa member who constantly tried to downplay her intelligence because of her mother’s deep-rooted conditioning.

Unlucky at blogging, unlucky at love, as the saying goes.

©2008 & 2019 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Creative Commons License


Advertisements

To Sow, Perchance To Reap

book-honbachi2

The world is full of folks who appreciate nature and the great outdoors to the point of creating a mental happy place of some idyllic green pasture.

That ain’t me.

City boy born and bred. Concrete, glass and steel comprise my Garden of Eden. Yet, despite not being blessed with a green thumb, I planted something today.

An idea.

Okay, idea is a bit of a stretch. It’s more like a plot germ. As it stands, it’s a weak and feeble thing prematurely delivered into the world that requires incubation, so I decided to commit it to the ground at the back of beyond in my mind and ignore it until it has the strength to claw its way out of the story grave.

But don’t feel too sorry for it, though. It’s not alone. It’s planted beside random bits of cool dialogue that I’ll never be able to work into a real-world conversation and nebulous set pieces that don’t quite mesh with any of my existing stories. They’re all tucked away in my own personal mental pet cemetery.

The soil of a writer’s mind is stonier; a writer grows what they can imagine and scribes it.

Apologies for the bastardization of your quote, Mr. King.

And no, I won’t tell you what the plot germ is. Not out of fear of it being stolen but simply because:

  1. You wouldn’t understand it in its present form, and
  2. I’m not superstitious but I firmly believe in the dreaded jinx. If I tell you what it is, it’ll never grow.

So, I will go about my business and occupy my mind with trivialities and allow my subconscious to absently weed my preemie idea seed.

I’ll wait until it breaks free of its chrysalis as a brain-soil stained vision with roots that encircle the heart of a story that I cannot wait to write.

Until then, I’ll follow the sage advice of Mssr. Ron Popeil, hawker of the infamous Showtime Rotisserie Oven and, “Set it and forget it.”

©2018 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Creative Commons License

 

The Best Debts Often Go Unpaid (Part 1)

travel-luggage-clipart-graphicsfairy004

Even though it’s true that I’ve written as far back as I can remember, there were people along the way who either directly or indirectly inspired me to create and as a part of my planting memories in a retrievable location for later use, I’d like to acknowledge as many of those individuals as I can recall, while I’m still able to recall. FYI, this will be one of those long and winding roads to a heartfelt thank you, so if you’d rather move on to juicier posts, I won’t hold it against you.

Some stories are meant for you…this one is meant for me.

I’ve lived with a variety of people and families growing up. My mother was an unconventional woman who lived life the best way she could manage, but that lifestyle couldn’t bear the weight of additional passengers, so I was often the extra bit of her life that she couldn’t quite fit into her travel bag when she was bitten by the wanderlust bug.

I won’t bore you with tales and half-remembrances of the various and sundry family doorways I’ve darkened in my youth—not now, at least—but sometime back in the early seventies I landed in the final household of strangers I’d ever be forced to call family. Don’t bother pressing me on an exact date. My mind doesn’t do date-stamped memories all that well. The family isn’t the focus of this story, the kid who lived across the street is. A kid named Gary.

Gary was several years older than me and how or why we became friends is still a mystery, but we used to talk about superheroes into the night—-in particular, Captain America and Bucky. You see, Gary’s take on the whole superhero thing was that it was actually doable, given the proper dedication to the cause and constant training. In the mind of a normal kid, these talks should have been one of those topics that you explored as a fantasy and laughed about when you bumped into your childhood friend years later on some random street corner.

But bugs have a nasty habit of planting themselves in my brain.

I trained every day, sometimes with Gary, but mostly without, trying to duplicate some of the more physically achievable moves found in comic book panels or mimicking fight scenes from TV shows, especially those Shatnerific Kirk-moves from Star Trek. Yeah, I know, but I was a kid, remember?

And I believed in the superhero cause so much that I began recruiting members, much the same as the X-Men’s mentor, Charles Xavier, in order to create my own Avengers or Justice League. Carefully selected individuals who were kindhearted and often bullied, kids who could be taught to fight back for a cause larger than self. It soon blossomed into a superhero big brother program.

Gary hated the team idea, but to his credit, he stuck around longer than I thought he would have and even trained with us on the odd occasion, but eventually, he hung up his cape and cowl and called it quits. Shortly thereafter he informed me that we had to stop being friends because his mother thought I was a bad influence on him.

She wouldn’t be the last mother to have that impression of me.

I was saddened by his departure, sure, I mean it was initially his idea, but I had a group to run, and our roster was growing. We had the nimble guy, the scrapper, the acrobatic guy, the tagalong guy (hey, he was my best friend and I couldn’t say no, even though he wasn’t truly committed to the cause, he just wanted to hang out), and the leader guy (me), but we were still missing one key ingredient… the muscle guy.

Turns out the acrobatic guy knew someone from school whom he thought would fit the bill perfectly. Enter: Derrick. Hated him from the moment I clapped eyes on him and the feeling was probably mutual. We met at our headquarters. The X-Men had the School For Gifted Children, The Avengers had a mansion, the Justice League had the Secret Sanctuary (inside a cave in Happy Harbor) and we had…the public library.

Our first meeting was across the table in the Children’s section of the library (hey, it was the only empty section after school) and Derrick sat there grunting and throwing bits of paper at me for some odd reason. He was weird, to be sure, but I chalked it up to muscle guy mentality, bit the bullet, and despite my intense dislike of the kid, accepted him into our ranks. Not like I was inundated with candidates for the position.

I don’t know how long we kept it going, my memory being the spotty thing it is, but I think we had at least one solid summer of training for The Superhero Thing. Yes, that’s what we called it. Well, we eventually came up with an official name, but that’s a story for another time.

And since all good things must come to an end, the following summer the group disbanded when all the members moved away to parts unknown. The only person who remained was Derrick. We kept the group alive for as long as we could in comic book form, drawing our exploits as we battled Mugly, Schmultron the Schmobot, Quirst (yup, named after the drink… it was a tragic soda factory accident that set him on the path of evil) and other baddies either based on real people or swiped and modified from the pages of our favorite comics. We’d even sometimes swap pages and continue each other’s stories. Derrick would, of course, eventually grow up and live the life of a proper adult, while I went on to publish comic books for a seven-year stint.

So, a tip of the hat to both Gary (don’t worry, your mom was probably right) and Derrick (stop whining, dude, I didn’t use your last name, so your secret identity is still intact) for providing me with creative outlets. Especially since they’re so very hard to come by these days.

Sally forth and be superheroingly writeful.

©2013 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Creative Commons License

PS. Derrick is the only childhood friend I’ve managed to keep throughout the years. Go figure.

P.P.S. If I may be so bold as to quote Elwood Blues, “I’m thinking of putting the band back together.” so if you were a member of The Superhero Thing and you’re reading this, I’d advise you to brush off the latex. It’s crime fighting time!

A Rose by Any Other Voice

???????????????????????????????

“You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows that they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift.” ― Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus

There are different types of stories. Some you share, some that transform themselves into other creative endeavors, some that are stillborn with no hope of resuscitation, and some that you hide from everyone, sometimes even yourself.

When I wore a younger man’s clothes, I wrote a story. One that I’ve never shared, one that will never transform itself into another work of art, one I have not read since its inception. But every so often when my mind settles into a rare resting mode and all my thoughts become inconsequential white noise, the story whispers to me so that I don’t forget it. It does what it needs to do in order to survive.

No, it’s not a true confession, nor is it based on or inspired by true events. There’s no deep-seated ideological conviction behind it. It’s also not the most powerful or hard-hitting thing I’ve ever written. Hell, the thing isn’t even written in my voice. Chiefly because it’s not my story.

The story belongs to someone else, told to me in part before she died.

Rose loved to tell stories to take her mind off her illness, so we’d meet occasionally when her health allowed or sometimes talk over the phone and she would spin her vignettes. She wasn’t a professional writer so the stories were uneven and structurally unsound, but they were enjoyable nonetheless. She was witty and articulate and sometimes, but not too often, a good telling trumps structure.

And she continued telling stories until the pain became too much to bear, but before Rose died she said to me, “complete it,” and slow on the uptake as I can often be, I didn’t catch her meaning until months later.

It wasn’t an easy process. When I finally wrote the story down as close to verbatim as my past-its-sell-by-date memory could manage, I looked at the work and was confounded by what I could actually do with it. At first, I wanted to restructure and outline everything so that I could plot a logical ending, but that wouldn’t have been true to Rose’s storytelling style. A style I had become very protective of.

In the end, I decided this wasn’t a story that could be written, only transcribed, so I sat in front of a mirror with a digital recorder and recited the fragments Rose left me as a parting gift and traveled down a nonstructural road to see where it led me.

And I didn’t go it alone. I could feel Rose’s hand in mine, leading me down the path to the story’s final destination.

Sally forth and be damn-the-structure-and-just-tell-your-damned-storyingly writeful.

©2014 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Creative Commons License

 

First Saturdays

child-watching-television-silhouette

Hi, my name is Rhyan and I’m a movie addict.

And an insomniac.

Native New Yorker, born in Manhattan, raised in The Bronx, and because I inherited my mother’s transient nature, I’ve managed to live in each of the five boroughs. Poor as a skunk’s misery, a church mouse, Job, Lazarus, and dirt. Hell, I’m still poor, and most likely always will be.

The best thing about growing up without anything is that you learn to make the most of what you’ve got and distract yourself from what you haven’t got. My major distraction was television.

It was my babysitter, my tutor, and my secret friend that entertained me as the rest of the world slept. Its siren call would lure me into the living room, where I’d toss my blanket over the both of us so the light didn’t spill out of the room and give away my position. Then I’d plug my mono transistor radio earphone into the headphone jack and marvel at all the noir, horror and science fiction movies that played on CBS’ The Late Show, The Late Late Show, and The Late Late Late Show.

wcbs-1970-lateshow1

I was always a wreck in school the following day, but man was it worth it.

The only thing that trumped this near nightly process was the first Saturday of the month. Like most poor folk, we were on welfare and this was before the Food Stamp bill was passed in 1970 which meant everything, rent, bills, and food monies arrived in the mailbox in one convenient check. The Saturday that followed check day was always considered my day. Wherever I wanted to go, wherever I wanted to play.

Tads

My playground of choice? 42nd Street. The first stop was Tad’s Steak House. Sure, the broiled steak was thin and more gristle than meat, the garlic bread was oilier than Brylcreem, the chocolate pudding coated with that yucky skin and a fountain Coke served in a large red plastic tumbler that smelled like the previous beverage it held… but to me, it was pure heaven.

42nd

Then my mother gestured at the movie theaters that lined both sides of the street and said the most perfect thing anyone could have said to me at the time, “You can see all the movies you can stay awake for.”

These were once majestic movie houses that slowly transformed during the decline of New York City starting in the late 50’s into grindhouse theaters before grindhouse was even a word. Each one ran three films, usually one current and the others whatever was on hand.

On these magic Saturdays, I tore through Roger Corman flicks, Hammer Films, the Toho tokusatsu imports and so much more. All uninterrupted viewing aside from the occasional mom hand that would clamp over my eyes during nude or sex scenes. Only when I started to nod off was it time to head home, despite my protestations.

automat.net-1

On the way home, we’d stop off at the Horn & Hardart automat and my mother would dump tokens into my hand and send me off to fetch dinner from the individual glass door compartments. Even though it was only plain food — sandwiches, beef stew, and the like — there was something about slotting coins and retrieving a prize that appealed to me.

Optimo

The final detour before reaching home was the Optimo Cigars shop that had a spinning wire rack of comic books where I’d select my month’s reading material.

I realize this may not seem like any great shakes to you, but it remains the only positive memory I have of my mother — too long and too personal a story to go into here — and I can’t think of a better way to honor the anniversary of her passing.

Sally forth and be playground exploringly writeful.

©2014 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Creative Commons License

 

Vacancies, Vacancies Everywhere, Yet None of Them For Me

no-vacancies

My secret self—the bit of me that hides in plain sight just behind a corner of reality—has been wandering my memory palace of late, searching for an empty room in which to steal a bit of solitude for I sometimes need to swaddle my internal dialogue in silence when even the quietest place on earth can offer me no rest.

You might have surmised correctly that I’ve been met with very little success.

Oh, there are rooms aplenty in which I enjoy the occasional lounge-about, each filled with bric-à-brac I’ve accumulated along the way. Items or concepts or vagueries that may or may not find their way into a story, plot germs that piqued my interest for one reason or another, displayed neatly on shelves beside those things kept precious, but each of these pieces of me gives off unique vibrations that assault my mind’s ear like anamnestic tinnitus.

A few of my unused characters who can afford the steep rent have made the suggestions that I either choose my favorite among them to room with or take turns bunking with every one of them for short periods as not to overstay my welcome.

But that really isn’t my style. I like the idea of knowing where characters are so that I might visit them and engage in brief social interactions when I’m in the mood, and leave them to their own devices when I’ve had my fill. And although I am quite capable of being alone in a crowded room, I cannot find solitude with people around, not even the people in my mind, the ones that I have breathed life into.

My irritation at not being able to claim residence in a place that I have been constructing since childhood is beginning to infect other areas of my life. My current location annoys me. My inability to write annoys me. The presence of other people annoys me. The sameness of the day annoys me. Even my annoyance at everything annoys me.

And so Wednesday comes ’round and I am attempting to build a new foundation for the memory palace extension on the lone and level sands of ground-down ideas, in a new territory where the old housing rules may not apply. Eventually, when my hoarder nature reveals itself and this section of the palace becomes filled with miscellanea most likely better left forgotten…

I’ll repeat the process. Search for my own patch of solitude. Light a candle and still curse the darkness. Build another room. And fill it with possessions that squeeze me to the point of eviction.

But until then, sally forth and be buying me a nice room-warming giftingly writeful.

©2014 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Creative Commons License

 

The Tam Commandments

10crack-commandments

My past often crossed paths with my present, but never with the people I desired to see again. Because of this, I’m always filled with an odd mix of embarrassing nostalgia and unwanted reflection, followed by the inevitable introspection. I see where old acquaintances are in their lives and I can’t help but look at where I am in relation to my dreams and aspirations.

No matter if you’re the outgrower (the disinterested party) or the outgrown (the rejected party), neither are comfortable during a random meeting. Also, dealing with people from my past have had the effect of feeling like I was moving backward. As if all the growth I’d experienced after being separated from that person vanished because they’re present in my life again.

And these chance encounters happened in the damnedest places. At the time the incident that is the subject of this post occurred, I was tucked away in a small town in a new state on the opposite coast when I ran into a childhood friend. Well, friend might have been a bit of a stretch. She wasn’t really friends with anyone. Truer to say we ran in the same circles. Even truer than that, we ran in different circles that sometimes overlapped like a Venn diagram of societal misfit kids.

Rough and rugged, tough as nails, she took no shit off anyone, not even her parents. She went her own way, did her own thing, and everyone in the neighborhood, kid and adult alike knew she’d most likely end up either dead or in prison. Some people only left their future open for those two options.

Anyway, I was at the local thrift store when I heard someone calling my name. I assumed it couldn’t be me since I knew exactly zero people in Los Angeles, but as this person kept calling, my curiosity got the better of me and turned to see her: Tamika.

It took me a moment to work out who she was. Not that the years hadn’t been kind to her, it was just that she wasn’t a person I had ever thought about remembering.

She, on the other hand, treated me like we were lifelong buddies. Big hugs and kisses and a smile that could have lit the Hollywood Bowl. Time has a funny way of altering the past. She remembered our relationship very differently than I had.

So, we did what people who hadn’t seen one another in ages do. We shared past stories, gave abridged accounts of our lives since then, and painted the brightest possible picture for our futures. And me being me, I remarked on how I never thought I’d see her ever again. Of all the people, not including those that had passed, she was easily the last person I ever expected to clap eyes on.

She hadn’t taken offense. She knew better than anyone the type of person she was back then and she said she probably would have fulfilled everyone’s prophesy of jail or death if not for Chickie.

Chickie was the only other person who could’ve matched Tammy pound for pound. Cut from the same cloth, sisters from a different mister, they were thick as thieves. And probably would have been for life, had Chickie not met her maker at the claw end of a hammer in a drug deal gone horribly wrong.

That’s when Tam found the way.

My internal groan was so loud I feared she might’ve heard it. I myself am areligious, and though I don’t begrudge anyone their spiritual beliefs, I have a hard time listening to the sanctimony of proselytizing born-agains.

But she hadn’t found Jesus, at least not in that way. Nor had she joined a cult. She claimed she simply hit rock bottom and having no one to turn to, sat down and wrote out a list of commandments for herself. A self-imposed list of rules in which she would like to live by.

And while I wish I could remember the list verbatim–my memory, unfortunately, has a mind of its own–I instead offer up a similar list that contains many of Tamika’s instructions for living a good life:

The 82 Commandments of Alejandro Jodorowsky

659077-jodorowsky

1. Ground your attention on yourself. Be conscious at every moment of what you are thinking, sensing, feeling, desiring, and doing.

2. Always finish what you have begun.

3. Whatever you are doing, do it as well as possible.

4. Do not become attached to anything that can destroy you in the course of time.

5. Develop your generosity – but secretly.

6. Treat everyone as if he or she was a close relative.

7. Organize what you have disorganized.

8. Learn to receive and give thanks for every gift.

9. Stop defining yourself.

10. Do not lie or steal, for you lie to yourself and steal from yourself.

11. Help your neighbor, but do not make him dependent.

12. Do not encourage others to imitate you.

13. Make work plans and accomplish them.

14. Do not take up too much space.

15. Make no useless movements or sounds.

16. If you lack faith, pretend to have it.

17. Do not allow yourself to be impressed by strong personalities.

18. Do not regard anyone or anything as your possession.

19. Share fairly.

20. Do not seduce.

21. Sleep and eat only as much as necessary.

22. Do not speak of your personal problems.

23. Do not express judgment or criticism when you are ignorant of most of the factors involved.

24. Do not establish useless friendships.

25. Do not follow fashions.

26. Do not sell yourself.

27. Respect contracts you have signed.

28. Be on time.

29. Never envy the luck or success of anyone.

30. Say no more than necessary.

31. Do not think of the profits your work will engender.

32. Never threaten anyone.

33. Keep your promises.

34. In any discussion, put yourself in the other person’s place.

35. Admit that someone else may be superior to you.

36. Do not eliminate, but transmute.

37. Conquer your fears, for each of them represents a camouflaged desire.

38. Help others to help themselves.

39. Conquer your aversions and come closer to those who inspire rejection in you.

40. Do not react to what others say about you, whether praise or blame.

41. Transform your pride into dignity.

42. Transform your anger into creativity.

43. Transform your greed into respect for beauty.

44. Transform your envy into admiration for the values of the other.

45. Transform your hate into charity.

46. Neither praise nor insult yourself.

47. Regard what does not belong to you as if it did belong to you.

48. Do not complain.

49. Develop your imagination.

50. Never give orders to gain the satisfaction of being obeyed.

51. Pay for services performed for you.

52. Do not proselytize your work or ideas.

53. Do not try to make others feel for you emotions such as pity, admiration, sympathy, or complicity.

54. Do not try to distinguish yourself by your appearance.

55. Never contradict; instead, be silent.

56. Do not contract debts; acquire and pay immediately.

57. If you offend someone, ask his or her pardon; if you have offended a person publicly, apologize publicly.

58. When you realize you have said something that is mistaken, do not persist in error through pride; instead, immediately retract it.

59. Never defend your old ideas simply because you are the one who expressed them.

60. Do not keep useless objects.

61. Do not adorn yourself with exotic ideas.

62. Do not have your photograph taken with famous people.

63. Justify yourself to no one, and keep your own counsel.

64. Never define yourself by what you possess.

65. Never speak of yourself without considering that you might change.

66. Accept that nothing belongs to you.

67. When someone asks your opinion about something or someone, speak only of his or her qualities.

68. When you become ill, regard your illness as your teacher, not as something to be hated.

69. Look directly, and do not hide yourself.

70. Do not forget your dead, but accord them a limited place and do not allow them to invade your life.

71. Wherever you live, always find a space that you devote to the sacred.

72. When you perform a service, make your effort inconspicuous.

73. If you decide to work to help others, do it with pleasure.

74. If you are hesitating between doing and not doing, take the risk of doing.

75. Do not try to be everything to your spouse; accept that there are things that you cannot give him or her but which others can.

76. When someone is speaking to an interested audience, do not contradict that person and steal his or her audience.

77. Live on money you have earned.

78. Never brag about amorous adventures.

79. Never glorify your weaknesses.

80. Never visit someone only to pass the time.

81. Obtain things in order to share them.

82. If you are meditating and a devil appears, make the devil meditate too.

Not being a fan of dogma, creed, or commandments in general, I admit I can find merit in many items on this list as suggestions for people to find their own path in life. Hell, if it worked for Tamika, it damn sure couldn’t hurt giving it a go.

So, sally forth, true believers and blasts from the past, and be making your own commandments and living by themingly writeful.

©2014 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Creative Commons License

 

JCBMX or One Set of Footprints (Alongside a Set of Tire Tracks)

christ-on-a-bike

For as long as I can remember, my mind has been a hornet’s nest of thoughts, worries, stories, alternative timelines in which I live the dream and face the consequences for daring to do so. It gets to be maddening every once in a while. To calm the hornets to a dull buzz, I often take brisk long walks, always alone, except today.

There’s a saying you grow accustomed to when you live in El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles del Río de Porciúncula: straight out of Central Casting, which applies to a person who happens to strongly match a particular stereotype.

My guest on today’s journey was Christ on a bike.

The man, in his thirties, kept pace with me on his bicycle for a bit before flagging my attention, as I was otherwise occupied by my trusty dusty travel companion, ye olde iPod.

Before he said a word, my first thought was, Man, he looks just like the actor who played Jesus in that Son of God film. Long hair. Mustache and beard that teetered on the edge of becoming unkempt. No white robe, though, this cycling prophet rocked a denim shirt and jeans, but he did pedal in open-toed sandals.

He stated who he was, but as I am the infamous forgetter of names, I’ll simply refer to him as Jay. Polite enough, he attempted to engage me in conversation, but as I’m a New Yorker born and bred, whenever a stranger approaches me, I’m predisposed to assume they either want money or trouble. This go-round I placed my bet on money and smirked, thinking, You’re seriously barking up the wrong tree here, dude. Turns out I was wrong on both counts. All he was interested in knowing was if I had “a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?

Doesn’t take knowing me for long to realize I cannot abide proselytizing. It always carries an air of condescension, despite the best intentions of the Born Again speaker. Once you’ve asked and I tell you I’m not interested, your following action should be to move along to the next hopeful convert. This almost never happens. But as I said, Jay was polite, so I let him cycle through his spiel, occasionally answering

  • Yes, I’ve read the Bible, but I can’t quote chapter and verse.
  • No, I haven’t accepted the Lord into my heart, just as I don’t take in any of the other belief systems I don’t embrace.
  • Yes, I’ve heard the saying, the greatest trick Lucifer ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.

Clearly, the standard approach wasn’t working, so Jay switched gears and attempted to relate to a wretch like me. Turns out he, too, had fallen from the path of righteousness, lost his way and his faith in The Almighty, and it wasn’t until he was in his thirties (thirty-three, perhaps?) that a man approached him in a similar manner, directed by God to save a particular soul. Not once, but thrice did Jay try to stop me in my tracks and get me to pray with him in order to receive an instant release of all the burdens in my life. And like Peter, I denied him three times.

When it was evident that I wasn’t going to break stride, even if just to be rid of him, Jay shifted to the movie route. He offered me the red pill/blue pill Matrix option, tried to twist my melon with the Inception angle of this life being Man’s dream within Satan’s dream within God’s dream, before going off on a Jacob’s Ladder tangent that he couldn’t quite bring around to make his point. To his credit he didn’t challenge me with that time-honored favorite, “You don’t believe in God because you can’t see Him, but you believe in air and you can’t see that, right?

But eventually, he did ask, “Well, if you don’t have faith in God, what do you believe in?

I believe I’m not smart enough.” I answered, as I always did whenever anyone bothered to ask. But it’s a poorly constructed answer that required clarification. I should change it, but it had become an almost automatic response at this point. That, and I’m just too damned lazy to do so.

Expanded, my response is:

I, myself, am a non-spiritual entity who believes that when it comes to the origin of things–the universe, life, etc.–that I am simply not smart enough to know the truth. And when I say I, taking the full weight of ignorance upon myself, I actually mean we as in mankind or peoplekind or whatever passes for politically correct phrasing nowadays. This does not, however, mean that I do not applaud attempts to gain answers, I’m just not satisfied with any of the options presented to date.

And that’s not just with religion. Creationism versus evolution? I’ve got no dog in that fight. I proudly ride the ignorance fence when it comes to our humble beginnings because, in my opinion, religion and science both offer up a series of theories yet to be proven as fact.

You believe differently? Good on you. I sincerely hope that works out for you, sincerely hope you’re right, and sincerely hope you receive your reward for being righteous.

I’m not in the habit of knocking people’s spiritual beliefs. It’s none of my concern what system you choose to embrace, and with all due respect, I couldn’t care less who or what you worship. Totally your business and I’m cool with it all, especially if it gives your life some sort of balance and leads you to do no harm.

This isn’t to say that I don’t find the Bible a fascinating read, but I view it as–again, no offense intended–mythology. Same as with Greek, Celtic, Aztec, African, etc. writings that deal with the human experience in relation to the worshiping of gods. I also enjoy apocryphal and pseudepigraphal texts, all of which eventually finds its way into my work.

Jay didn’t agree with a lick of this blasphemous nonsense and after a good forty-five minutes of loggerhead debate, he gave the “stop and pray with me” one last-ditch effort. When I refused, he gave me God’s blessing and cycled off politely as he arrived.

So, in honor of the noble efforts of Jay, today, I urge you all to sally forth and be true to your own belief systemingly writeful (and should you wish to add this sinner to your prayers, I surely won’t stop you).

©2014 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Creative Commons License

 

Tales From The Set: “Call My Ex, Please?”

In order to support myself until I acquire the fortune that is my birthright, I’ve had to secure employment working background — also known as being an extra.

Greys 1019The simplest game of Where’s Waldo ever. Look for the clever clog in the gray suit on the left blocking his face with his own champagne glass. A star in the making.

As I have no aspirations of being an actor, I’m pretty easygoing regarding my placement in the crowd. Tucked behind tall people? Facing away from the camera? Set in a position farthest from the principal actors? Not a problem. I’m glad to be working and I kinda like being on set and watching the crew set up shots. Other perks include:

  • Absolutely no acting ability is required (thankfully)
  • Being booked on a series or feature gets me out of the house and breaks the monotony of my average day
  • I get to slip into the skins of different people (hospital administrator, construction worker, churchgoer)
  • I’ve seen myself on TV three times to date (freeze frame is my best friend)

The downside?

  • The pay could be better (but I’m non-union, so dem’s da breaks)
  • Lugging around your own wardrobe (always bring at least two options) on public transportation (guess who never learned to drive?) can be cumbersome
  • The hurry up and wait… and wait… and wait… and wait… can wear on your patience, especially later in the day
  • Craft services for extras is a bit of a dice roll
  • And sometimes other background actors. Not all, mind you, you come across some interesting people chock full of stories and experiences who are willing to let you pick their brains… then there are the others.

Before I get to the meat of the nutshell, I need to set the stage. Picture a room that holds one thousand people. Only one person in that thousand is crazy. Do you know how you’d be able to spot the nutjob? It would be the only person speaking to me. Got it? Good. Let’s proceed.

On my most recent outing, I was in extras holding (just as it says on the tin — a place where background actor lounge about while they wait to be called to set) minding my own business, when an attractive young woman stood close to me and started speaking. She clearly wasn’t looking at me, so I followed her eyeline to see if she was perhaps conversing with someone behind me. Nope. no one there. So, I assumed she invited her imaginary friend to the set to keep her company, and shrugged it off.

For the record, I do not discriminate against people with invisible friends as I know full well the difficulty in making and maintaining worthwhile friendships, imaginary or otherwise. That, and I once dated a woman whose older sister was pretty chummy with Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Pluto and the rest and they would often go on Magic Kingdom adventures in the solitude of her bedroom.

A story for another day.

But this woman kept repeating the same sentence, loud enough for me to hear, but no one watching would ever accuse us of having a conversation. Like we were secret agents who daren’t risk breaking our cover, she was giving me the sign and awaited the countersign.

You’re not the first one to live in a strange place with strange people, nor the last,” she repeated.

I looked at her. She, however, refused to make eye contact and simply waited for my reply. Never one to resist the urge to poke the mental tiger, I finally said, “Sometimes it feels that way, though.”

The sluice gates were opened and I wasn’t prepared for the rush of conversation headed my way. Among the many topics she introduced:

  • How women are Christlike when they menstruate, as they suffer for mankind.
  • How she’s happy not to be dancing for biker gangs anymore.
  • How pigeons are truly blessed and carry our prayer up to heaven.
  • How she gave up selling subscriptions to a specialist magazine for ukelele players because she made a decision not to give up her integrity for money.
  • How the government was concealing the fact that chicken fried steak was the cure for cancer.
  • How her stepfather used to send Chinese pornography to her Toy Yorkie.
  • How July always smelled like shades of red.
  • How okra smells like sex before you cook it.

And a host of others I can’t recall at the moment (I’m sure they’ll haunt my nightmares). Throughout the day, I tried my best to avoid her. Trips to the restroom, striking up conversations with strangers, hiding within crowds of people, but she always managed to sniff me out and made other people uncomfortable to the point they drifted away and gave us space. I had been designated friend-of-mental and no one wanted any part of providing me shelter.

After the scene I was in wrapped for the day, I stood in line for one of the shuttle vans to take me from the set to base camp. Okra-Sex-Smell-Girl was nowhere in sight and as the van pulled up I thought I’d made my getaway. But the Transportation Captain held the van because there was still an available seat. I know I don’t need to tell you who the seat was next to, or who filled it.

Okra-Sex looked straight ahead. To my knowledge, her eyes never once fell on me. I was an entity that existed in her peripheral vision. “Can you call my ex from your phone, please?” she asked.

What? No.” Okay, not the best response, but she blindsided me.

Please? I tried calling him but he won’t pick up the phone, probably because he recognizes my number. I think he’s still mad at me. I just want to make sure he’s okay because my friend threatened to beat him up.”

Call your friend and ask him if he beat up your ex.” Mystery solved. Columbo was on the case.

He wouldn’t tell me if he did. He knows I’d be upset.”

I shrugged an oh, well.

You’re not going to call?” She seemed genuinely surprised.

Nope. Not happening.” By this time I stopped looking at her, as well, figuring maybe the cold shoulder would silence her for the rest of the ride. As if.

Why not?”

Hmmm, because not my ex, not my problem?”

But he doesn’t know you. When he answers, just say you dialed the wrong number or something. Then tell me if he sounds beaten up or not.”

If he sounds beaten up. Under different circumstances, I might have let the exchange play out a little longer, but it had been a long day and I was tired and hungry, so the best I could manage was, “What did I say? No? Then that’s what I meant,” before I officially checked out of the conversation.

Not that it mattered. Even without my participation, her side of the discussion continued without skipping a beat:

If you call, I won’t have to stop by his house tonight. You’d be doing me a big favor.”

You’re so mean.

Do you think I should just leave my ex alone?”

Well, you obviously don’t know what being in love is like.”

I’d do it for you. Do you have somebody you want me to call? Give me your phone, I’ll do it.”

And it went on like that for the entirety of the trip. When we reached our destination, she smiled, still not looking my way and said, “Thanks, for being sweet.” Maybe it was my imagination but as she walked away I thought I detected a spring in her step, like she’d made her decision on what needed to be done.

Since then, I’ve been following the local news for reports of a lovers tiff gone horribly wrong in a room that reeked of sex… or maybe uncooked okra.

Sally forth and be careful which mental tiger you go pokingly writeful.

©2014 Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Creative Commons License

Open Mic Nite

Staten Island is easily my least favorite of New York’s five boroughs and there ain’t a damned thing I miss about it. Okay, there is one thing. A pub. A tiny mom and pop tavern with that everybody knows your name ambiance that I didn’t discover until the final two of my nine-year stint on the isle. Bored, I popped in for a quick pint and stumbled upon Thursday karaoke night. It made my stay in hell a little more tolerable.

Shortly after leaving Staten Island, I found myself in Los Angeles (that move is a story in itself, believe me) and I’d been casually searching for a neighborhood tavern with a similar vibe. A drinking hole that was non-touristy and non-themed, frequented by locals that had the benefit of being divey without being stabby. And one weekend when I wasn’t even looking for it, I found a contender.

I was on my way home from a day of sightseeing and decided to wet my whistle before hopping on the bus. I used the scientifically proven picking rhyme method of ip, dip, dog shit to select from the three bars within my line of sight.

I chose the smallest of the three and when I opened the door, a guy was suddenly in my face, “Hey, cabrón, you didn’t even say what’s up, cabrón, da fuck’s up with that, cabrón?” Before I could respond, he got in a good look and followed up with, “Oh, sorry, bro, thought you was some other dude.” Less than ten seconds in and no stab wounds to speak of. I knew that I had chosen wisely.

It was a beer joint, not a wine glass in sight, narrow with an alcove for a pool table and video poker machine. The bartender was dive bar attractive (if you’ve ever spent time in a dive bar, you know exactly what I mean), and

  • was on the back end of her forties
  • used to own a restaurant in Santa Clarita
  • had to find a job after her boyfriend dumped her
  • her friend taught her the ropes behind the bar
  • dropped $500 at bartending school
  • went on a dating site that rhymes with No Way Stupid and met a guy
  • on their second date, he took her to Kolkata (formerly known as Calcutta) and he promptly turned into a dick, so she dumped him and enjoyed her free 10-day India vacation

I knew all this because as the bartender was draping a vinyl cover over the pool table, she was being bombarded by questions from a woman who hailed from Kew Gardens, New York, and was only in town a few days visiting her parents.

So caught up in this conversation, and patiently awaiting the bartender to take my drink order, I failed to notice the graying, horseshoe bald, rail thin near double for Malcolm McLaren setting up equipment. He wore a faded Led Zeppelin tee, skinny jeans and weathered suede cowboy boots and I hadn’t become aware of his presence until he tuned his guitar and interrupted Sade singing Hallelujah with a “check one, check one, check one.

In Staten Island I had stumbled upon karaoke night, here, according to the handwritten poster behind McLaren’s head, it was Open Mic Nite.

A guy in camouflage walked in, lugging an oversized backpack like he just returned from a tour of duty and placed his name on the sign-up sheet. He was a twitchy fella and at first, I thought it was drugs but he asked the bartender if this was a smoking bar.

She replied, “Dude, this is California. You ain’t gonna find a smoking bar anywhere near here,” which forced Twitchy Backpack to feed his addiction out back in the parking lot.

McLaren took the mic and set the ground rules:

  1. Every artist on the list gets two songs the first round and one song each round after until closing time or everybody runs out of songs.
  2. Originals or covers, all songs were welcomed.

A woman popped her head in, attempting to bum ciggie butts but was promptly told to kick rocks as she was in violation of the No Cigarette Bumming sign plastered on a nearby wall.

McLaren, as the official host, was first up and opened with the joke, “Cherokee, reservation for a thousand. Your land is ready now,” before launching into his folk set.

It’s amazing how the bar cleared out as soon as the open mic went underway. No more than ten people remained and every last one of them was accompanied by a guitar… except for me and Twitchy Backpack.

I’m pretty hazy on all the performers and most of the songs were original but what I can remember is

  • An older gentleman who performed lyrical impressions that all seemed to sound exactly like him.
  • A Russian guy who brought a little R&B to the joint. Not only was his broken English jokes kinda/sorta amusing, but he wasn’t half bad (a compliment coming from me).
  • Twitchy Backpack, who stripped out of his camo jacket down to a filthy white tee with what I assumed was fake blood stains to add a little character. At least I hoped they were fake. He plugged his smartphone in and played a beatbox track that he recorded for his Eminem wannabe set.
  • An African American gym rat who was on a serious John Legend love tip. The three female performers in the remaining crowd loved him.
  • A wet-haired model-type who looked like he just swam there via Dawson’s Creek. He rocked a banjo and stomped on a tambourine as he improvised his way through original songs that he had forgotten the words to.
  • A lyrical comedian who broke out a little ditty rallying against songs about tits and ass and lamented the loss of songs about sweet, juicy pussy (don’t look at me, I didn’t write it).
  • And the all girl, all blonde, all guitar rock band. That’s right, three acoustics. More guitar bang for your buck. Their aim was to resurrect Ska but when their set was done, I still couldn’t detect a pulse.

There were others but as I’ve mentioned before, my memory downgraded to working a part-time job. Anyhoo, all the performers that remained (most departed after the second round) had gone through their material and McLaren tried to squeeze one last song out of the performers but had no takers. He looked my way and asked, “What about you?”

I shook my head. “Not a performer, don’t play an instrument and I sound shitty a cappella.”

Without missing a beat, Dawson’s Creek pulled his banjo out of the zippered bag and chirped, “What are you singing? I’ve got you.”

I’m normally not susceptible to peer pressure, but I’d knocked a few back so I was a little loosey-goosey and the clapping that accompanied the chant, “One song. One song. One song.” was kinda heady.

Know any Billy Idol?” I asked. Dawson’s Creek nodded and I wound up scream-singing White Wedding. to patronizing applause, hooting and hollering.

Although it was closing time and everybody was ready to go home before I took the mic, I preferred to see it as I officially closed the joint. All the other performers were my opening acts and I was the headliner. One song and done. How fucking rock and roll was that?

Shhh. Lemme have this one.

A happy, healthy and prosperous New Year to you few, you brave few, you band of bloggers who take the time to read, like and comment on my stories and random musings.

Catch the lot of you in 2018!

-Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

Creative Commons License