Try Not To Die…

I hated reading as a kid. It wasn’t until I discovered the Choose Your Own Adventure series that I fell in love with books. I secretly dreamt of writing my own, scribbling and crumpling up balls of failure, trying all over again, and after only 25 years of attempts, that little dream is here.

“Try Not To Die: At Grandma’s House” is the first volume in an interactive horror series I’ve co-written with Mark Tullius. To celebrate the Halloween launch you can download the eBook today for free!

Get it .

 

 

The Fart Wedding

A few years ago, my wife and I were invited to a wedding in Big Bear, a cluster of mountains two hours outside L.A. There’s snow in the winter and decent skiing. In the autumn, the turning leaves almost transport you to Connecticut (I’ve never been, but I have Google.) But regardless of the season, the best part of Big Bear is escaping the L.A. smog.

The brown, yellow gunk covers the city like a dirty blanket. My wife and I couldn’t wait to take in a lungful of clean mountain air. As we got halfway up, the euphoria nearly sent me driving off the cliff. I couldn’t help but smile. This was how a person was meant to breathe, deeply, without fear.

As we pulled into the tiny resort, Jess kissed my cheek.

“It’s so pretty,” she said.

She’d booked us one of the cottages. They looked like dollhouses for adults – a little pink porch, pink roof, and all sorts of flowers. They were cramped, but cute, lining the winding trails leading to the altar.

My wife had gone to school with the bride. Neither of us had met the groom, but if history was any guide, he’d be a hippie just like her.

Normally, my weak constitution for stink keeps me from attending events with more than two or three of the Patchouli clan, but this wedding was outdoors, high above the sea. No funk could possibly survive.

Little did I know that in forty minutes, the entire reception would have the farts.

Not little squeakers or booming belches. No, these were long, arduous, silent toots, which literally and figuratively took the wind out of you.

The first twinge struck just as the best man gave his toast. I fled to the bathroom. A pretty lady hurried out and I nearly collapsed in what she’d left behind. It wasn’t the worst I’d ever smelt, but it had density.

I couldn’t leave though. My fart was already here. It lasted so long I actually got bored. It’s a miracle I didn’t shit my pants, because my butthole stayed open longer than Macaulay Culkin’s mouth in Home Alone.

Later, I found my wife walking by the pond. She looked gorgeous and happy, tiptoeing the edge of the water. She’d been dreaming of of this getaway for months. We’d been struggling financially and this was our only chance at a vacation. I didn’t want to ruin it by telling her about my stomach issues, so I shut my mouth and walked into a wall of stink.

“Jesus! Jess, is that you?”

“I’m sorry. I just can’t stop farting.”

My eyes widened. “I can’t stop either.” It was like backpacking across Europe and finally running into another American. No longer lost and alone.

“That’s why I came here to the pond,” she said. “I couldn’t be around anyone.”

“What do you think it is?”

“I don’t know. Something we ate?”

I knew the culprit.  It was the couscous, maybe the roasted Brussels sprouts.

“Do you think other people are…?” she asked.

I looked back at the party, the grimaces, crinkled noses, a few blissful smirks. All while the bride and groom shared their first dance.

“What do we do?” Jess laughed. “Are we just going to sit in farts all night?”

“I don’t know. I guess.”

“Then I’m getting drunk.”

And we did. We even stole a bottle of wine after the reception and headed for the pool. Jess turned on the timer and jumped in the hot tub with her dress. The jets were going full blast. I could hardly see her face through the steam.

“Get in,” she said.

I didn’t want to ruin my only suit, so I told her I’d be right back and headed to the dollhouse to get my trunks.

I accidentally passed out when I was changing.

Thirty minutes later, I woke, realized what I’d done. I ran through the forest picturing my wife dead, eaten by a bear or hacked up by some deranged mountain man.

Instead, I found her still in the hot tub. She was alive and the bubbles had stopped.

photo credit: <a href=” Wallis</a> via <a href=”; <a href=”;

photo credit: <a href=”; via <a href=”; <a href=”;

Mr. Miyagi’s Full of Sh*t

I loved The Karate Kid as a boy.

No, not this one:

This one:

I loved it so much I chose to see it on opening night over a Michael Jackson concert. The King of Pop was in town for one show, and My father asked what I wanted to do as my birthday present. And I chose Daniel LaRusso. I chose a four dollar movie over a once in a lifetime experience. Yes, I now realize I could’ve done both – gone to the concert and seen the film any other night – but I was that obsessed. Because in a time when men were told to look like this:

John G. Avildsen’s said heroes also looked like this:

And at the time, I looked like this:

So the movie gave me hope, it gave me confidence. I practiced “painting the fence” and “sanding the floor.” I even perfected the almighty “Crane Kick.”

I thought it made me invincible, because as said, “If do right, no can defense.”

And I believed him until I saw it on TV the other day.

Indefensible my ass!

He’s just going to kick you with the foot that’s on the ground. He even lets you know when he’s going to do it. As soon as he jumps up, drops the knee, the other foot’s coming up.

This guy could stop it.

I can’t tell you how hard this was to watch. It shattered my childhood, and I’ve dealt with the truth about Santa Claus, my parents getting a divorce and learning my mom hid her sexuality for forty-five years.

I should’ve just gone to the concert.

The Kiss Heard ‘Round the World

A woman stands up, refusing to sit the back of the bus. A bespeckled man decides to fast until the violence ends in Calcutta. Another steps in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square.

No guns. No army. Not a single punch thrown.

But these tiny acts changed the world.

Yesterday, it happened again when two members of the Russian women’s 4×400-meter relay team took a stand against Vladimir Putin and the Russian laws prohibiting homosexual expression.

And they did it with a

Standing on the podium with gold medals around their necks, Kseniya Ryzhova and Tatyana Firova told the world not everyone in Russia believes in bigotry, not everyone is filled with hate.

It was powerful, dangerous and brave, and I hope nothing happens to these wonderful women. They haven’t made a formal statement, so there’s a chance this wasn’t political.

Still, it broke Russian law.

It’s also a blueprint for every athlete competing in the Sochi Olympics.

I know a lot of people want the U.S. to boycott the games, but billions of eyes will be watching, and one simple act of solidarity will mean more than not showing up ever could.

This is how we open people’s minds…with love.

That Which Must Not Be Named

A few days before my aunt killed herself, she showed up out our house. I was chasing my sister around the yard when my aunt pulled up in her shitty yellow car. She was wearing a trench coat and big dark sunglasses. She left my little cousin in the backseat.

My mom, smoking a cigarette on the porch, asked what she wanted. The two of them started arguing. My mom kept saying, “No, I won’t. I won’t…”

My aunt was trying to leave her kid. She said it was only for a few days, but my mom knew this wasn’t a breather. This was something permanent.

“You can’t do this to me,” my mom said. “Now, take your daughter home.”

“This is bullshit!” My aunt screamed as she got in the car and drove off.

A few days later we got the call. I remember my mom dropping the phone on our kitchen floor.

My parents wouldn’t tell me what had happened, but I knew it was bad. Kids alway do.

The next day I found my mom in the living room. There were piles of laundry everywhere. She’d washed everything in the house – every towel, comforter, the Spiderman sheets I hadn’t seen in years. She’d brought in boxes of old winter stuff from the garage. There were stacks of shirts and slacks on the couch and on top of the TV. There were two baskets overflowing with mismatched socks.

My mom just kept folding. I knelt next to her, put my head on her lap. She didn’t say anything.

She didn’t say anything for days.

When it was time for the funeral my parents said I couldn’t go. I had school.

My father said my aunt was cleaning a gun and it accidentally went off.  Even in third grade I knew how filthy the mouth was and that it was a terrible way to clean anything, let alone a gun.

To this day, “suicide” has hardly been uttered.

It’s like Voldemort.

I suppose it’s that way for most families. We talk about cancer, torture, abuse, being gay, atheism, alcoholism, amputation, depression, plane wrecks, car wrecks, jihad, Agent Orange, slavery, heart disease, schizophrenia, adultery, sodomy, STDs, dogfights, poverty, starvation…

But the mention of suicide turns everyone into a librarian.

Maybe it’s too awful, too disturbing. Since we were little we’ve been told this existence gift is paramount.

How could someone destroy it?

It unravels the fabric of, well, everything.

Religions condemn it. Governments make it illegal (yes, it’s against the law to kill yourself.)

But it doesn’t prevent it from happening, even when they belittle it, say it’s the “cowards way out.”

But try touching a stove or stepping into traffic. Our instinct is to survive.

To take your life is to override the very thing that keeps our species going.

Imagine what that person must be going through to take this step.

Another Gay TV Show

About a year after my mom came out, I sold the idea as a TV show to FX. They were the only network that would listen to the pitch. The others had said they weren’t looking for “another gay show.” It wasn’t long after Ellen had been cancelled.

Anyway, my agents had paired me up with another writer who’d won an Emmy. It helped us get past the initial pitch and paid to write the script.

The show never made it to air.

I’d like to blame the other guy, but the truth is, I was the one who fucked it up. I fucked it so hard I should be forced to introduce myself to neighbors every time I move.

We called the show “A Suburban Story,” pitched it as the idea that no one knows what’s going on behind closed doors, especially in the suburbs.

My parents, after all, had been living in the same house pretending to be together, even after my mom had come out. They were waiting until my sister finished high school.

Once she graduated, my mom got her own place, and I started getting paid to write about what was happening with our family.

Every night, I’d call my parents and ask them questions. Then I’d show up to the office and write everything we’d discussed. It was disgusting. I felt like an exploitive asshole, but I needed the money.

We beat out the story on note cards and taped them to the wall. The pilot, we decided, was going to be about my character coming home for Thanksgiving and discovering his mom is gay. It was exactly the way it had happened.

That was our first mistake.

It blurred reality, made me think this wasn’t just TV; this was my actual life.

I couldn’t tell what was fiction.

My writing partner wasn’t happy with the structure, but I argued that this was the way it happened.

I said that phrase a lot, used it to veto anything I didn’t like, like when he wanted to open with my mom having an affair. I said it when he tried to insert jokes into “serious” scenes, like my father crying in the car, telling my character that thought once he and my mom reached their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary that they were going to make it.

My dad had actually said that to me when he was crying. He was doing that a lot, and it was fucking me up.

I’d make my writing partner leave the office so I could write these sappy monologues.

Back home, my parents were going through a divorce, but in the script, they were still together.

I was trying to save our family on the page.

I was ruining the show.

At one point, my mom flew out to California so we could get her perspective. I started with the basics:  “How long have you known you were gay?” “What made you come out this late in life?” “What’s it like to be a lesbian in Kansas City?”

She was nervous, but she answered everything and smiled and made a few jokes. I asked whether she thought this would hurt our family, if she even considered her kids in her decision. My mom was clearly uncomfortable, but I kept pressing and pressing until she started crying.

My writing partner looked at me like I was a monster, and I was.  I was just angry, not at her being gay, but for our family falling apart and realizing there was nothing I could do.

I should’ve quit the show. Clearly, I wasn’t ready to write about it, but I was so broke and I’d already spent the first check.

So I kept showing up to the office, kept typing garbage until they forced us to turn it in.

FX passed.

It was for the best.

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Reblogged from My Gay Mom:

2001

I’m standing in my parents’ garage and my mom tells me she’s gay.  Her face is red and she’s laughing, which is what happens when she’s nervous or drunk.  It’s obvious she’s both.  She’s talking a mile a minute, but I don’t hear a word.  “I’m gay!” just keeps repeating in my head.

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This can’t be how she planned to tell me. 

Read more… 542 more words

Here is the tale of how my mom came out.