Writing

The Stoke Is Real

There are things that I will remember until the end of my life, no matter if that is 50 years from today or next week when I forget to look both ways when I cross the street.

  • The smell of neoprene in the hot sun
  • Grape surf wax
  • Cold, soft sand
  • That first trickle of cold water down the back of your neck when you hit the water, wetsuit be damned
  • Pink, shimmering sunrises that dance across the water
  • Plopping down on the board and paddling in
  • Sticking the drop-in on a fast moving wave
  • Sitting on my board past the break (but not for too long because there are waves to catch)
  • Realizing that beach season goes 365 days a year
  • The fast twitch neurons in your brain firing before every popup (and then for like an hour afterwards, even if you are just waiting in line at the grocery store)
  • The endorphin high after a great session
  • Pumping your fist on instinct after catching a good wave
  • Blasting Motley Crue’s “Kickstart my Heart” to get revved up for a winter surf
  • Fighting through a hurricane swell just to see what that’s like
  • Realizing the ocean is so much bigger than you
  • Silent in-water therapy session
  • Flopping on the shore in exhaustion when you just can’t stands no more
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Shameless self indulgence, Writing

Grumpiest Monkey’s More Tales From the City

FullSizeRenderSomewhere in the city, there are Jehovah’s Witnesses standing in pairs outside of every train station. They are unfailingly well-dressed, pleasant, smiling, good looking people. It is only their literature that hints at the extremity of their views.

For religiously-minded individuals, they seem blissfully unaware of the real-life human suffering that goes on all around them. The addicts, the drunks and the homeless. The desperate and the worn out. They look right past them and focus their attention on the the commuters walking by. A cynic would say that is where the money is.


A man and a woman huddle in a corner. They are thin, frazzled, nervous. The man is berating the woman for some perceived slight, but it is clear that this is nothing new. The man takes his frustrations out on her. Yells in her face. Threatens her with his words. Blames her for everything. She looks towards the ground, sucks on her cigarette and absorbs his rage. She has been absorbing rage all her life.


An hispanic worker at a pizza kiosk inside the train station sets a slice of cheese on top of the counter and whistles over at a man in a faded green army coat. The man, a lifelong drifter who usually panhandles outside the station at rush hour, takes the free slice gratefully and returns to his bench. It is a small, subtle gesture.


Four black teenagers have a loud conversation about which one of them is a more important member of the Bloods. One would think that being the member of a criminal gang would be nothing to shout about, but then again they just seem like kids showing off for each other.


Grown men spend their commute playing Candy Crush on their phones.


Grown men commute on razor scooters.


 

A truck rumbling through a tunnel hits a warped manhole cover and launches it into the air. It smashes through the front windshield of another car, killing the driver instantly. What was she thinking about when the manhole cover hit? Her job? Her love life? Her weekend plans? All of that is now gone.


 

And the city lurches on.

Shameless self indulgence, Writing

The Grumpiest Monkey Presents: Tales from the City

FullSizeRender

Somewhere in the city…

A schizophrenic woman sits on a bench inside a train station, babbling aloud about past sexual trauma, completely lost inside her head while commuters brush past her without noticing.

A chunk of the ceiling inside an underground vehicle artery suddenly dislodges, landing on top of  a passing car and killing the occupant inside. She was on her way to the airport. Traffic will be a mess all morning. A cursory check of the tunnel will reveal no other structural defaults. Life will go on for everyone but the woman inside the car.

A worn out man in a faded green Army jacket waits outside a subway stop with an empty Dunkin’ Donuts cup in his hand. “Do you have 50 cents?” he asks the swirling hordes of working professionals as they pass. He is there every morning, always asking for 50 cents. How did he arrive at that number? Does anyone even carry change on them anymore? Would he be better off asking for a dollar? Or getting a smartphone and a card swipe?

A man staggers out of a bar on a freezing cold night without a coat. It is so cold, in fact, that the streets are all but deserted. Forecasters have warned of frostbite in 10 minutes. He wanders up and down the streets of the deserted financial district, then heads out towards the harbor. He disappears somewhere in the icy black water.

A subway train is stopped so that transit officers can remove a woman who has loaded  all her earthly possessions into the corner of the last car. There are bags upon bags stuffed into two fragile metal pull carts. As she is pulled off the train, the woman curses at the officers. Where will she go now? Where did she come from? What happened in her life to bring her to this point, where she is old and alone and carrying her world along with her?

A tall thin black man with braids, a flat-brimmed cap and sagging jeans stops to help a short, middle-aged white blind man cross a busy intersection. It’s a small moment that few people see, but it’s a rare moment of civility in a city that rarely has time for anything.


 

Writing

Where this Monkey Stands

What I’m for:

  • Hard work
  • Surfing
  • Kindness
  • Music
  • Good television
  • Real breasts (size be damned)
  • Guitar
  • Patience (even though it is a struggle all the time)
  • Sunshine
  • Dogs (especially Southern rescue mix dogs)
  • Leaf peeping
  • Spotify (for music selection)
  • Tipping
  • Did I mention surfing?
  • Surfing in case I didn’t mention it

What I’m against

  • Organized religion
  • People who cut in line
  • People who don’t hold doors
  • People who don’t clean up after their dogs
  • People who don’t walk their dogs
  • Fast food ( 95% of the time)
  • Fake breasts (chicken or otherwise, see above)
  • Coffee with sugar
  • Country music
  • People from the Northeast who wear cowboy hats and/or boots (see previous)
  • Flourescent lights
  • The Northern Lights (more like the Aurora Boring-alis, am I right guys?)
  • Reality TV shows (unless about surfing)
  • Spotify (for poor artist compensation)
  • Best-of-the-year album lists that trade coolness for listenability (Pitchfork can you hear me?)
  • Ads on YouTube that you can’t skip after 5 seconds
  • ESPN
  • Greyhound racing
  • Greyhound busing
  • 24 hour news network
  • Local news
  • OK, pretty much any televised news unless there is an actual emergency taking place
  • No, a 6″ snowstorm is not an emergency
Writing

How to run an incredibly unsuccessful blog

From time to time (OK, never), your Monkey gets an email from an eager fan asking him how he did it. How did he–a simple typewriting Monkey–manage to fail so spectacularly at starting and maintaining a blog? How do all of his opinions consistently fail to register in the popular zeitgeist? How does he somehow get negative post views?

Well, the time has come for your Monkey to spill his secrets. If you follow the exclusive plan that laid out below, you can be sure that your blog will flounder in obscurity for months and years to come.

  • Jump around from topic to topic with no rhyme or reason
  • Leave blog abandoned and empty for months or years at a time
  • Revisit blog after one such long layoff and write post promising that “things will be different this time, baby…I’ll post all the time.”
  • Don’t post all the time, or so often, or at all
  • Don’t follow similar blogs, or offer encouraging comments to bloggers who are also trying to make it
  • Vacillate between angry first-person narratives and half-baked fiction
  • Pretend to be a monkey
  • Do not ask leading questions or start interesting conversations
  • Do not find unique ways to approach a subject
  • Honestly tell people how many followers you have, especially if it is in the single digits
  • Comment on your own blog posts in a transparent attempt to fake engagement
  • Mash bananas into your keyboard when you get frustrated that the words won’t come
  • Promote blog by visiting playgrounds and asking kids if they want to come over and check out something “really cool online”
Writing

Norman Drafts Another Death Letter

Norman sat alone, at a table for two, in what many patrons considered to be the most undesirable corner of the restaurant.

The table was right next to the kitchen, which smelled like fish and sounded like clanking dishes and angry Spanish cursing.

The door connecting the kitchen to the dining room was one of those double-sided jobs that swung in each direction, allowing for a steady stream of agitated waiters, belligerent busboys and panic-stricken hostesses to rush back and forth.

This steady woosh of motion created a mild breeze that swirled the few thin hairs on Norman’s head, and made him feel like it was only a matter of time before someone carrying a tray full of dishes collided with him.

Norman did not look like the type of man who could survive a head-on collision with a throw pillow, let alone a waiter carrying a tray full of dishes.

He was short, meek, 38 years old, balding, and in possession of a noticeable paunch at his midsection that jiggled when he moved like a bowl full of jellyfish. It might have jiggled when he laughed, too, but Norman didn’t laugh so much.

His eyes were gray and weary and ringed with circles. His clothes were nice-ish, but they showed the effects of too many washings and they didn’t fit just quite right, especially when it came to covering that jiggly paunch at his midsection.

This was not the first time Norman had come alone to this restaurant. He spent a lot of time in restaurants alone.

In fact, it was safe to say that Norman was alone most of the time. Holed up at his cubicle at work. Eating lunch at his desk. Riding the train to and from work, wrapped up in the cocoon of his headphones and books.

Back at his apartment, he spent more time home alone than McCauley Caulkin did in the 1990s. Watching TV alone. Cooking meals alone. Surfing the web alone. Listening to his records alone. Waiting for the sweet embrace of death alone.

In fact, it was on this Thursday night, at this lonely table in this far corner of the restaurant, that Norman had finally decided that he could no longer wait for death to come. He would have to meet it halfway.

Taking a few crumpled papers out of his workbag, he smoothed them out on the table and began to write.

“Dear Cruel World…” he started, then frowned and crossed it out.

“Goodbye cruel world…” he started again, then stopped. He crumpled up that piece of paper and tossed it in his bag.

“Too cliche…” he mumbled.

Taking a second piece of paper, he started writing again.

“To Whom It May Concern;

If you are reading this I am already gone.  Do not worry. I did not take my life out of anger, or despair, or of unbearable melancholy. I have simply decided that I don’t fit in.”

Norman was interrupted by a shout from a waiter behind him. “Hey Raoul! I need a re-fire on the sirloin for table four.”

He crinkled his brow and continued writing.

“I am one of the dreamers, the artists, the intellectuals. I am a giver. This world is for the takers. It is a world of raw physical aggression, of biceps and cologne, of button-down shirts and football games and high fives and internet hookup sites.”

“Dangers lurk everywhere. Terrorists on the subways. Muggers on the streets. Reality TV shows about suburban housewives on every channel.”

“How am I supposed to live in a world where country music outsells jazz? Where fast food restaurants can replace bread with chicken patties and no one blinks an eye? Where Lena Dunham has a TV show and a book deal?

“I can’t run fast. I can’t throw hard. I’m pretty sure I’ve never given a woman an authentic orgasm. I’ve had the same job for 15 years and I’ve never gotten a raise.”

Another shout thundered out from the kitchen: “Jose! Get your fucking ass back here and bring this shrimp to table two!”

Norman’s shoulders tensed and he glared back at the kitchen door. Could they not see that he was trying to write?

“Do not weep for me, dear friends. Weep for yourselves. For I have seen what this world has to offer, and I know it is not for me. I am going on to a better place.”

Sincerely yours, 
Norman.”

Norman signed his name with a flourish and read the letter over approvingly. This was his best work yet, he thought.

He had no intention of actually harming himself, of course. He had thought through all of the various options and couldn’t see anything that wouldn’t hurt or make him feel queasy.

Car exhaust? Yuck. Pills? Too hard to swallow plus he had acid reflux, so they might not stay down. Anything violent was out of the question because Norman didn’t like pain.

Norman reached into his workbag, pulled out a binder and flipped it open.

Inside, covered in smooth laminate sheets, were dozens and dozens of death letters, all written by hand, all carefully crafted and signed by Norman, all making claims about impending self-harm that would never be realized.

He took one last glance at his latest missive, and slid it into an open plastic sheet. Then he snapped the binder shut, slid it back in his bag, and started looking over the dessert menu.

Writing

The Existential Angst of Subject 43415

You wake up in the same brightly lit, glass enclosed room that you have always woken up in.

The floor is littered with wads of cheap paper, and your bed is lumpy and hard. The only entertainment is some kind of bizarre self-powered exercise machine.

You blink and try to make sense of the lights and the noise, but nothing make sense. Nothing ever makes sense here.

Breakfast is a mash of mysterious brown and tan pellets in a bowl of tepid water. It’s disgusting, but it is all you ever have to eat, so you choke down as much of it as you can stand and then turn your back on it.

Once you are done eating, you begin your pacing. Every day you walk back and forth along the edge of the glass wall, searching for some kind of seam, some hidden doorway that will allow you to escape. But where to? What else is there?

These are tough questions. If pressed, you cannot provide a solid answer. You can’t say for sure that there is something else out there…

But there has to be, right? You aren’t just crazy?

Sometimes when you dream, you see green grass and open fields, and dark, soft corners where you can curl up and sleep without the relentless bright lights beating down on you.

Sometimes you dream of tastes that make your tongue tingle. You dream of the sound of air moving naturally through the trees, not of air being pumped through mechanical fans.

But then you wake up and you feel pain.

A searing pain, in fact, right below your shoulders.

They do this from time to time. They drug you and they burn you and then they come in every day and stare at the burn on your back and mutter to themselves.

It hurts like hell, but in a way you don’t want it to stop. As long as it still hurts, they won’t burn you again. It’s when the hurting stops that you start to worry.

Just the thought of being burned is enough to make you want to throw up. It is not so much the pain that troubles you, as it is the anticipation of pain.

It gives you the chills. The shivers. The sweats. The shakes.

The burning is bad, but there are others who have it worse. Some of them get shocked over and over again. Some get drugged and have a leg removed. Some of them even get sewn together into bizarre creatures that have no chance of surviving.

You can always tell when a subject has had enough. The light goes out of their eyes. They get a faraway look. They stop eating. Stop moving around. They usually die not long after.

Some die like that.

Others are euthanized and cut up for spare parts, though you don’t know why they need so many parts, or where they are going. Sometimes they will dissect another subject right in front of you. As if to convince you that resistance is futile.

You want to fight back.
You want to escape.
You want to show them that you won’t stand for this.
But you can’t.

You are subject 43415.
You are a mouse.