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Williamsburg Bridge

September 20th, 2009 by Jeff Simmermon

I live a couple blocks away from the Brooklyn base of the Williamsburg Bridge. Walking over it never gets old. Whenever I have friends visiting from out of town, I always take them on a walk over into the Lower East Side. It’s completely free and the views are so classic, so stimulating. I love how the graffiti on the bridge grows like barnacles, flourishing, dying and getting painted right over. The light’s always perfect from one angle or another, and I always see something that just blows my mind into a million crinkly pieces.

Danielle and Ezra are two of my favorite friends, and when they were here this weekend the bridge delivered. I got this shot on my iPhone — something about the blurriness of the low-budget image sensor really adds to the beauty for me.

Williamsburg Bridge 9/19/09

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Goodbye, Gran

September 10th, 2009 by Jeff Simmermon

My father’s mother was named Juanita Kay Simmermon, but everyone I ever met just called her Gran. She won a beauty pageant when she was in high school in Fort Myers, Florida, back before the roads were all paved and the swamps were drained. She knew Thomas Edison, Henry ford and Harvey Firestone – all their winter homes were in Fort Myers and I think she used to play cards with them.

That’s how I prefer to remember it, anyway.

Gran died last week. She was ninety-seven years old. My Dad and I went out to see her in her nursing home in South Bend, Indiana a few weeks ago, and I’m really glad I did. I’m not going to sit here and pretend it was a complete party, seeing my grandmother lying in a hospital bed suffering. But I’m really glad that I was able to visit and lift her spirits, maybe give her her last burst of joy.

I wasn’t able to make it to her memorial service, which was held this morning. I wrote the following words to be read in my absence:
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Big Black Bird

August 9th, 2009 by Jeff Simmermon

I told this story at my friends Brad and Cyndi’s “Stories at the Creek” a couple weeks ago. It’s a work in progress for me. I’m trying to turn this year’s cancer battles (well documented on this blog) into a story I tell on stage, and this is the first crack.

Like I say in the video, I’m not sure if I’m ready to talk about this or not, but I’m ready to be ready to talk about this, and that’s as good a start as any. I think that telling stories based on our memories helps us get control of them and bend them to our purposes — something I’m really eager to do with this particular experience.

I wouldn’t have told this or posted it if I weren’t ready to see this as material, something to be honed and edited with the help of sharp-eyed, caring friends.

This thing’s a whammy, too — two ten-minute videos about cancer and depression. Not exactly the light and fluffy feel-good romantic comedies I’m known for performing, so brace yourselves. Maybe this is like watching “Requiem for a Dream” (not to flatter myself): good once, but a total fricking BUMMER.

Long story short, I’m used to telling funnier stories with big laugh payoffs, and this sure isn’t one of those.

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Rock ‘N Roll Will Never Die

August 7th, 2009 by Jeff Simmermon

I snapped this on my iPhone last night on Christopher Street while I was waiting for a friend. It’s sweet, sad, and totally bad-ass all at once.

Rock 'N Roll Will Never Die

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Now or Never: Sibling Love is A Voltron of Wolverines

May 28th, 2009 by Jeff Simmermon

Those of you that know me well know that my sister and I love each other with a love that is tremendous, powerful, and savage. Like if Voltron were formed up out of grizzly bears and wolverines with killer beehives for hands.

I told a story about our relationship at The Moth’s GrandSlam a few months back — hope you enjoy it:

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Tom Petty Said It and Now I’m Living It

May 25th, 2009 by Jeff Simmermon

Before I get to the cancer news, let me get something right up front: it has been a spectacular weekend. This weekend was like a commercial for weekends written by writers from the Wonder Years and shot by Robert Altman.

A bunch of my best friends came up to visit this weekend — two guys I’ve known since kindergarten, one guy since the seventh grade, and then my friend Mark Koch who’s been on the scene since ninth grade. He’s the new guy.

It was Mark’s bachelor party weekend. Nobody’s going to make a smash comedy hit out of it, as the whole enterprise was more bourbon and burlesque than blow and strippers. We had dinner at Peter Luger, hiked over the Williamsburg Bridge to have a look at the streetcorner that was the cover of “Paul’s Boutique,” walked the boardwalk from Coney Island to Brighton Beach and saw a hot and hilarious burlesque show at Bar on A.

My roommate and upstairs neighbor kindly gave up their rooms for the cause and let us spread out in the building a little, too.

Not too shabby at all.

I haven’t laughed that hard in a long, long time. And at points I had my hands over my incision, afraid I was literally going to bust a stitch.

Instead I just stretched. Stretched and healed. I haven’t felt this good in a really, really long time.

So here’s the doctor’s news from the other day:

I’m healing up fine, textbook perfection, basically. The CT/PET scans showed one questionable lymph node up in my throat, but he jabbed around in there with his fingers pretty hard and said “whatever, I’m not feeling anything in there, so let’s forget about that one for now.”

There’s these markers in the blood that cancerous tumors give off — they differ by the type of tumor. But for simplicity’s sake here, let’s collectively call them Carl.

Normal levels of Carl in a healthy adult male might be between 0-5. My Carl quotient was burying the needle at 1,250 before surgery. So they drew blood from me a week after surgery, and whatever my Carl levels were, that’s the baseline right there.

Say I’ve got a Carl of 100 a week after surgery. Then a week later, my doctor expects me to have half as much Carl — a level of 50. A week later, Carl’s supposed to be down to 25. Eventually, those levels will bottom out and kinda flatline. And if Carl flatlines at a level that’s higher than normal, we start chemotherapy.

Awesome. Really, that makes sense to me — it’s careful and cautious, and following the results scientifically. What I wanted was for my doctor to clap and dust his hands off, then say, “that’s it, you’re done!”

But that’s not gonna happen for a good while yet. As a wise man named Tom Petty once said, “the waiting is the hardest part.”

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Roasting, Shaving, Freaking Out

March 23rd, 2009 by Jeff Simmermon

Luna Moth

Originally uploaded by thahawk

On Saturday night I lovingly sauteed a pile of mushrooms with garlic and half of an onion. Then I chopped up some carrots, rubbed about 5 pounds of beef with sea salt (after browning it in a hot iron skillet) and put the whole thing in the oven to roast.

After that, I made a huge pile of chard — again with garlic and onions — and washed up all the dishes and swept the floor. I took a long shower during which I performed my weekly head-shaving ritual.

Then I yawned and started freaking out for real.Those yawns were the voice of God intoning through my body, using my skeleton like a tuning fork to say “YOU HAVE DICKED AROUND LONG ENOUGH.”

All that cooking and showering and shaving was just the elaborate and stylized Kabuki ritual that I perform whenever I’m supposed to be working on a story. They’re all a big deal for me, but this particular show is a bigger deal than most. I’ve worked for about a year to be in it.

I’m performing in The Moth’s Grand Slam this Wednesday at the Highline Ballroom along with Adam Wade, Peter Aguero, Laura Leu, Cyndi Freeman, Andy Christie, Courtney Fenner, Matt Mercier, Boris Timanovsky and Steve Zimmer. Dan Kennedy, author of the book Rock On will be hosting.

I wrote the story a month ago, tested it out with the BTK band, then let it marinate.

Marinating is important. You’ve got to let the details settle, let the over-explanation filter out. I tested the thing on Jim and (my two close friends and storytelling superheroes) and they helped me sandblast it a little more.

But Saturday was when the real polishing had to happen, and it almost happened too late. Which is the way these things always happen. I can’t do a damn thing unless the deadline is dangling right between my eyes.

So I had a couple belts of Scotch-laced espresso (wakes you up but calms the nerves) and stayed up until 5 AM writing, editing, fretting, obsessing. I copied the whole thing out on a legal pad with a magic marker just to learn it a little better, lips moving like a slow-witted sixth grader just to burn it into the synapses more.

And I’m still worried it’s not enough.

Last time I told a story onstage I forgot the critical part, the two sentences that made the whole thing hang together and make sense. It got some laughs, got a few compliments, but you can tell immediately if something hits or not. If it doesn’t, that walk back to the chair is a fricking DEATH MARCH.

So now I’m antsy. If I can think of something to do to prepare, I have to do it. Immediately.

I jumped out of bed at 3 AM to make some edits that came to me in a dream last night. I’m rubbing my script on the subway with my fingertips. I fingered its yellow pages gently this afternoon while I walked on the stage at the Highline Ballroom this afternoon, just getting the feel for the place. I’m testing the thing out at Stories at the Creek tomorrow night — Tuesday, March 23rd.

If I seem nervous, it’s because I am. I’m tense and a little gassy and I can’t think about anything else.

But my God, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Living at the edge of your own ability, half-sick and terrified because something beautiful’s about to happen … that’s how to do it. Screw all that Buddhist bullshit about eliminating desire. I want to make art and bash myself against the bulb until I’m burning up and then start all over again. Feeling nervous is a sign that I’m on the right track.

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“Foreign Soil”: More Storytelling at The Moth

March 6th, 2009 by Jeff Simmermon

In 2003, back before online dating was remotely acceptable, I met a woman from Perth, Western Australia over the Internet. As many of you know, I ended up selling all my stuff and flying across the planet to meet her in person. It was pretty much the adventure of a lifetime, and even though parts of it were really hard, I don’t regret a moment of it.

This is me, telling that story recently at The Moth:

If you’re just here from BoingBoing, you can see other stories I’ve done at The Moth here:

Royal Quiet Deluxe, Chicken Band: Now the Story is Told on Video
Reverend Al Sharpton Hates Royal Quiet Deluxe, Chicken Band

I do a lot of talking about The Moth on here, and very little explaining. Here’s how it works.
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Time Travel Via Shiny Plastic Marketing: The New York ComicCon

February 8th, 2009 by Jeff Simmermon

I spent most of the NYC ComicCon lurching in circles with my mouth half-open, hunting for a copy of Detective Comics # 587 and spending way too much money on plastic bullshit that reminds me of my childhood. The experience was spectacular.

I haven’t been to a comic book convention since 1991, in Virginia Beach — the whole enterprise was dusty, pasty and pungent. Not now, baby. Now that comics, computers and sci-fi are billion dollar businesses, nerds are out of the basement and blinking in the klieg lights. Pop culture’s always been a byproduct of marketing campaigns, but we are now in a golden age of hype and shiny bullshit.


Today’s thirtysomethings were the target audience back in the ’70s and ’80s when Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and other pop mythologies did the first Triple Lindy into the collective consciousness. Now we’re just old enough to have kids who get just as pumped about Star Wars as we did, and fetishizing fictional universes is a family affair.

Whenever alien archaeologists unearth whatever temples we leave behind, they’re gonna think that Spiderman was our God and stormtroopers were some kind of high priests. Frankly, I’m thrilled. Digging through comic boxes and buckets of chipped action figures gets me all stoked and unstuck in time and I get the same sense of wow, cool wonder that I got when my dad took me to see Star Wars for the first time.

But this thing was for everybody. Really, it was just like the Mermaid Parade except indoors and marginally less sexualized. The people-watching and the costumes were spectacular and totally worth the admission price.

This is my favorite photo from this weekend’s NYC ComicCon, but there’s a lot more after the jump:

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Yes We Did

November 9th, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon

It’s been a couple days now, and it keeps happening — and at the oddest times, too. Sometimes I can control it and sometimes I just let it happen, let the people on the subway stare. My breath hitches kinda funny, hiccups, and my throat and voicebox shake like a bus on a bumpy road. My eyes tear up every time and I’ve just sort of stopped wiping it away.

I can’t tell if I’m happy or sad when it happens, mostly I’m just swallowed up by the enormity of the feeling. It’s like being a particle of plankton and getting swallowed up by a gigantic, benevolent whale.

America elected Barack Obama to be the President of the United States on Tuesday night, and the emotional aftershocks just keep coming.

So along with the spontaneous, random sobs of joy and relief, I’m having this recurring hallucination. Or maybe it’s a daydream. But whatever.

Every time I see, hear, or imagine somebody doing something incredibly well, that person has Barack Obama’s head.

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