If you’re reading this now, there’s a decent chance that you heard my story on the “Pro Se” episode of This American Life. I’m told it’s being re-run this week, which just tickles me to no end. It was an honor and a thrill to be on that show. When I told my sister about it, she got all stoked and said “That’s right, dog, build the legend. BUILD. THE. LEGEND.”
If you took the trouble to follow Ira Glass’s mention of this blog, you probably liked the story okay. I originally performed it at The Moth’s Grand Slam back in April of 2009. There’s a video of it here, if you want to hear the story again or watch my hands wave around while I tell it or something:
If you liked that one, I’ve got a bunch of other stories that you might get into, too:
Behold! — The visual and verbal feast of vintage graphic excellence and weird funny-making that is the work of Ryan Abegglen:
This is an absolute oyster carnival!
Sexy like rooster socks.
Shine your shoes, gov? For a sixpence, mind.
The Leprechaun Flute has been passed down for thousands of years.
Engrish No. 1
According to a recent post in his Twitter feed (that’s @RyanAbegglen, if you’re inclined to follow), the man is experiencing a big fat, well-deserved bump in popularity on the Internets. I poked around and saw that BoingBoing and io9 both posted his stuff a few days ago, so I’m hoping to keep the momentum rolling.
Soak it in, pass it on, and maybe even buy a print from Ryan’s shop at Thumbtack Press. (Seriously, holiday shoppers — if one of these were to show up under my tree, I sure as hell wouldn’t be upset about it. Hint squared.)
We were getting off the C train when I heard it – tinny and distant, sure. But unmistakable, still: the theme to “Superman.”
It was coming from some guy’s cell phone. I couldn’t tell whose at first. Then I saw a short, rotund man shoving people and shouting “make way, make way! Here come the KING!”
As soon as he got off the train he spun towards the rest of us and held his hands up in a regal Superman pose, allowing the strains of Donner’s super-score to wash over him. And then he announced it real, real loud, in case any one didn’t catch it:
I saw this peeling, yellowed and filthy sign offering “Easy Credit” in a neglected storefront around the corner from my apartment the other day. I wonder if the store went out if business as a result of offering Easy Credit, or if it went out of business long before credit collapsed in this country.
Somebody came along with a marker and edited the sign to say “Easy Credit For Homicides.” I know there’s some serious gang activity in South Williamsburg – the wave of gentrification hasn’t created nearly as high as it has on the North side – but man, I hope that particular credit market has locked up, too. I just signed a yearlong lease by the Marcy stop on the JMZ …
In early 2004 I was an assistant to a kangaroo shooter in the Australian Outback. Pretty much the only experience more bizarre and terrifying would be if I were to have worked with a kangaroo shooter at the National Zoo.
Before you go getting all fired up, remember that kangaroos are pests in Australia, and people eat their meat all the time. And meat does not just cheerfully lie itself down on the burger bun, either. Kangaroo meat is as free-range and organic as it gets, but you’ve still got to do a fair bit of old-fashioned killing to make it happen — and the process is disturbing, gory, and pretty hideous. Not unlike the rest of nature, the parts they don’t show you on the television programs.
But not a day goes by that I don’t think of that experience in some way or another. It taught me a lot. I learned to get tough, how to do some hard, hard work, and how to put aside all my pussified city liberal ideas and face the realities of the food chain.
I told this story at The Moth on October 22, 2009. I’d told it at the Moth last year, as well as at The Liar Show, Risk!, and Seth Lind’s Told. I’ve also told parts of this story to pretty much anyone that will sit still in my presence since early 2004. I think D.Billy, my co-blogger here, has seen me tell the thing each time, too.
I’ve pitched it to This American Life twice now, and had Ira Glass personally tell me to my face, that while he really likes the story as long as he is a broadcaster in the United States of America, it will not appear on his show. He was actually really nice about it – and he’s right. The story, in its original and best incarnation, has tons of appalling gore in it, the killing of defenseless baby kangaroos and uses the word “cunt” more times in ten minutes than most Americans have heard in their entire lives. And cutting that stuff out kinda neuters the whole enterprise.
If I’m this sick of telling this story, I can only imagine how tired my friends are of hearing it. And I’ve sure made a lot of hay off the experience on this blog.
Unless something tremendous happens, I feel like I can safely say that this story’s been done to death and put to bed here in New York City. It feels good to be all the way through this one and kinda wipe the slate clean for a batch of new stuff.
On the other hand, I’m about to go to Australia again for two weeks starting Saturday. And if I can claw my way in front of a microphone after a couple or six VBs, this thing might rise again. If any of you know of storytelling shows or reading series or something similar in Adelaide or Melbourne, please let me know. I’d love to try this or other stories in front of an Aussie audience.
Emmet is my neighbor. He’s a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig. His owners found him in a gutter in Louisville, Kentucky, a tiny little neglected piglet crying and dying in a pile of wet leaves. They rescued him, nursed him back to health and it looks like he hasn’t missed too many meals since.
Emmet is the physically densest mammal I have ever seen -he feels like he is made out of warm, bristle-covered cannonballs. He loves having the spot between his little piggy shoulder blades scratched.
I only ever see Emmet on misty, overcast mornings – the kind of mornings that really activate New York’s greyness, the ones that give this grey city some serious character and color. It’s like Emmet emerges from the city’s hazy, sleepy dream state. Nobody else is ever around to see him except for me, my girlfriend, and Emmet’s leash-holders.
We always talk about the South, me and Maggie and Emmet’s people. We talk about how great it is, what an amazing, rich and Gothic creepiness the South has and how we are so glad it runs through our blood. And how glad we are that we moved up here, too.
The South is a spectacular place to be from, but not always a good place to be at. Love the culture, hate the crippling willful ignorance, I say.
This guy is not posing for the camera. He’s posing for the WORLD. I saw him at the Grove Street PATH station Sunday night. He strutted past me and my roommate and coolly struck this pose up against a pillar:
He did it for a good while before my camera came out, too. He just stood there, coolly surveying the platform until the train came.
And it got me to thinking about culture and subculture, and the way we signify our memberships in large, medium, and small overlapping circles. There’s more peacockery and showmanship on the streets of New York (and the surrounding area) than almost anywhere in the world, even though most people are more alike than different. A lot of people use clothing and attitude not to put forward the person that they actually are, but the person they want to be. It’s aspirational, not necessarily reflective.
People run their perceptions of another person — their aspirational outfit — through their own set of prejudices and filters, too. And it’s a flawed system at best. The end result is that nobody knows what’s really going on, and all you have are these clumsy, lumpy mysteries. Most people have a hard time articulating what’s on their mind when you talk to them directly, so how can you tell if someone’s a tool or not just by looking at them?
I don’t know, but man, it sure works a lot of the time. The world is pretty magical that way.
Kurt Vonnegut said “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be.”
And whenever I see a person in baseball hat that’s in any position other than brim-forward, cap-on-scalp, I think the wearer is sending a very clear message. They’re saying, all with the turn of a hat:
I am a proud and defiant member of a subculture that places absolutely ZERO value on intelligence. We place so little value on intelligence that we don’t even value the APPEARANCE of intelligence.
I’m not a colossal Woody Allen fan by a long shot but most mornings I’ll click on any damn thing to avoid starting work. This passage from an interview with Woody Allen really hit home for me, though:
One of the things that’s so fascinating about an art form is that it may be good, mediocre or terrible but it’s not perfect, so when it’s over you’re constantly impelled to try another one because you suffer from the delusion that you can get perfection. Intellectually, I’ve given up and I’m happy that the picture is not an embarrassment. I start out thinking it’s going to be the greatest thing ever made and when I see what I’ve done I’m always saying, ‘I’ll do anything to save this from being an embarrassment.’
There’s some delusions you don’t want to get over. And maybe that’s why creative people are all kind of nuts. Because you have these delusions, and some of them really, really work for you and others hold you back. And the problem is, you have NO idea which ones to keep and which ones to get over.
My roommate found this flyer on a trip to Milwaukee last week. It’s just so spectacular — I have no idea where it comes from or what it means. It doesn’t even seem to be referring to a specific location. But man, I love just THINKING about what kind of a crowd this things draws. There’s nothing like the idea of a bar full of drunk furries to get the imagination going.
If anyone can shed any light on this, please let me know in the comments section.