Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Mad Moon Dancing

The following piece appeared in the first issue of XIII Pocket's Seeding Meat. I believe it has all been sold out, printed back in 2008 and only sold via gallery events, theatre shows, etc., but I thought I'd share it here as it recounts a strange encounter I had on New Year's Eve back when I was 8 years old. It's semi autobiographical. If you want a copy of any of the old Seeding Meats hit me up, I may have a few copies leftover on my shelf. I also made a movie when I was 15 of the same title, The Mad Moon Dancing, this was 1997-ish? It was about a mental patient who has hallucinations of the moon coming down and eating him, leading to an escape/chase scene. I did some fairly wild special effects using a sheet of plexiglass to reflect an illuminated moon I made by painting craters on a glass orb normally used to encase overhead lights. It premiered as a finalist at the Maine Student Film Festival as part of MIFF way back. It survives on a VHS tape. If I ever get around to converting it to digital I'll post it here for shits and giggles. Anyway, elements from that little movie poked through in the following short story. 



By Jeff Phillips
Starry eyed dissonance sprang from his twitching, sweaty lids. The child was fast asleep for some time. Drifting into a slumber well before the stroke of midnight, he missed the ball, the potential kiss of his neighborhood crush. Downstairs, the party still throbbed, experiencing the behavior of wild drunkards become of his parents and their pals. Such a party was not his scene, yet.
Nightmarish visions snatched apart his REM sleep. A black and white mind movie jarred a haunt. Sleeping in an old wood house, the large white/silver disk of the moon's face turned to a rabid, predatory persona and crept up the front steps and loomed on the porch. Peeping in, the moon's eyes sized him up and licked its dusty lips. Petrified, paralyzed, magnetized by a chilly bed.  The front porch quickly rotted out from under the touch of the fleshy moon sand. The house crumbled like cards made from salt.  The moon sand sprayed into the child's eyes, further tightening him with paralysis. With the old house down for the count, the child on the bed paled in weight to the gigantic, rabid, predatory moon which drooled high above the child. Each drip of saliva knocked the child in the face and roughed him up. Lungs drowning. Eyes stinging and cloudy, the moon pounced. Moon teeth seized the child's head, ripped it from the neck. And the child's consciousness bounced back from the surreal to a sweaty, pulse heavy reality. Relieved, shocked, the child picked himself up and traded pajamas for corduroy. He emerged from his room, recovering from the horror of having been eaten alive by the moon in some alternate, brain electric expanse.
He peered down stairs from the balcony, and witnessed his father dancing a strange, baboon-esque jig. His mother laughed and spilled bloody mary mix on the man, Mr. Handraddy's lap. The child snuck his way through the crowd of neighbors and parental friends who laughed and slapped him on the back, jesting with the boy for being up past his bed time. He snuck his way to the mud room, and fished for his boots and coat from amongst the sea of others.
Outdoors, the child found fresh air and fog. A chilly breeze rocked the trees and it looked fitting to the beat of the music blast from the house he left behind. He looked up to the sky and found the moon hidden by clouds. At first relieved by its absence, a fear crept back that it might still be watching, hunting.
The street lay silent. His thoughts went soft with the peace of it for sometime. But soon thoughts and reverberated images from the day emerged in flash form. He remembered his mother chopping carrots for the dip, in the kitchen, listening to public radio. A news cast touched upon the announcement of a man who escaped from the loony bin in their county.  The quiet streets and apparent vacancy did not last in its projection of peace with the alarming bulletin that rested all evening in the back of his mind. The moon in man form escaped the tests and attempted soothing analysis behind white, sterile, padded walls to stalk the streets of this sorry city. Just the child and a loose man inhabited the outer landscape. The rest were engaged with parties and winding down New Year's celebrations. The image of loony bins reverberated a deep, scarring scratch in the child's perspective. Once his older brother told him of a time he and his pals trespassed into an abandoned nut house deep in the thick woods.  A hollow, creepy building. Then sounds, footsteps rustling. When one pal felt the grip of a hand grab at his ankle they darted. Racing to the sanctuary of a car, in the overhead light they found themselves covered in bloody scratches and finger prints in the wet blood.
Overwhelmed and on the brink of wicked tears, the child was on the verge of steering back home to the party, desiring an exit to the safe watch of friends and neighbors. In the distance a figure came bounding and skipping in the spirit of his prior dream. The child was again paralyzed, as though moon sand became a vapor with the fog, and penetrated his eyes. Silent, barely breathing, the figure drifted closer and closer. As it became more visible apart from the fog, what stood a short distance away from the child was a man in the flesh wearing only a diaper.
Almost laughable, the child blurted out, "Its baby New Year!"
The fellow approached and greeted the child. One hand held something wrapped in tin foil. The other extended a hand shake to the child. "Happy New Year," he wished.
The man gazed at the child for a moment, then spoke again:
"Want some salami?"
Not interested, the child shook his head with the gesture of no.
"Want to smell it?"
The strange diapered fellow did not wait for an answer, but went forward with peeling apart the tin foil to wield a thick wedge of spiced meat. He poked it under the child's olfactory organ.  The child shrunk from the encounter, deep, disappearing into heavy fog and lived on, untouched. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

You Can't Control the Chipping Sometimes

I decided to do all of my Christmas shopping at local Chicago businesses. And I did, except a couple of items at a Barnes & Nobel (as some of the small local booksellers didn't have the intended items) but I still feel good about supporting a book store, period, in these times. Among others were; Eclecticity, Bookcellar, & Marbles. I found some gems in Marbles. I could spend a fortune in Marbles trying to get smart. Soothing classical music played, which studies have shown is good for the brain. An all around brain booster, that place. I spent a good chunk on gas to hop around town, so what didn't go to went to Shell. 

My girlfriend and I left for Minnesota Saturday morning, trying something different. Instead of leaving Friday night after work, like we usually do, getting stuck in both rush hour and jams of others leaving town, we took naps after work and struck out at 2am. I couldn't fall asleep for the life of me, despite a bath. For some reason thoughts of various birthday parties popped into my mind, and I couldn't remember for the life of me what I did for my 27th birthday. And it bothered me because I started to feel like my memory is getting fucked up and I thought about spending more money at Marbles to turn that around. Then I started waxing nostalgic on the interior. See, I grew up in Maine from age 10 to 19. My mom has since moved to Michigan. So holiday trips to see family now point us either to Michigan or Minnesota. Which is great! Some swell places to visit. But I started thinking about how I will never get the opportunity to spend time in the house I grew up in ever again. And I got really fucking sad. Little things husked in my sense memory, like the back deck and cluster of pines behind the house. The gnarled tree I used to climb. The rotting tree fort and the compost heap I made with scraps of wood and chicken wire. The feel of the carpet on my toes, the half wall between the kitchen and the family room where news papers were stacked, the finished basement with cold white tile, a jukebox, a bar, an unfinished section of the basement with ski wax ground into the pavement. I desired to have a lucid dream where I just walked around in that old house, like a ghost, but I couldn't fall asleep. Now, it wasn't the most enchanting house in the world, it was a very ordinary residential 4 bedroom, 2 1/2 bath house. But nonetheless it was the place where I spent 10 years of my formative years, and tiny little things that I took for granted happened, all creating an ether of forgotten warmth...and then the worst of it is, I started thinking about how even though I've gone through 9 or so Christmases since my dad's really sunk in that I'll never get to spend another Christmas with him again on this Earth.  Unless he were to drift down as a ghost. Which may not be a complete impossibility. But all of those ghost hunting shows portray such spirits as pissed off or sad or anxious and I wouldn't want that kind of Christmas for my dad. 

My good friend's little brother got married over the weekend in our old hometown of Auburn, ME and there was a pre-wedding party a few days before Christmas at one of the brew-pubs, Gritty McDuffs and I felt a bit of jealousy towards all of the old peers getting to grab drinks and catch up. Something I didn't really think I'd care about at the time of high school graduation, but I do after all feel some interest in the course of their unfolding life stories and seeing it via Facebook is such a tepid leak.

I did have a great Christmas with my girlfriend's family. We enjoyed some great traditions, like crab legs for dinner on Christmas Eve, Vietnamese food a few days later. They were all very generous with gifts and we had a jolly time talking, playing games, just being together, that sort of thing. 

Burning into my late twenties I'm realizing more and more that life moves fast and some things don't get swept up into the time ticking churn. Childhood burns its wick, and some of the wax of its glory doesn't stay stuck to the table. Some of it gets chipped away. But you look at the table next to you and see your buddies getting to play with old wax of theirs that no one chipped away and you feel weird. You can't mad. You can't control the chipping sometimes. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Laughing Problem

When I was a young child, I used to sometimes laugh for no reason at the dinner table. The inexplicable nature of the stimuli that sparked the laughing made me laugh even more. It got uncontrollable at times, especially when a friend was over for dinner or lunch, that energy would egg it on. I would sometimes be made to eat the remainder of my meal in the bathroom if it got annoying enough. 

My friends would tell me that I had a laughing problem.

Over the weekend, through Christmas party ale drinking and hang over recovery meditation, I had some moments of uncontrollable giggles. They felt good. It reminded of those younger days when I was made to feel weird about inexplicable chuckles. I realize now that was a great problem to have. I'd like to have more of that problem. The laughing problem.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Cake Frosting Tear Drops

I've been watching a lot of space documentaries lately. The Universe is in my Blockbuster queue. It's made me thing about how creative and destructive space is at the same time; black holes engulfing, stars ejecting fused elements, clouds condensing to become stars, meteors smashing bits of dust off of a m0on, which later becomes another planet's moon, etc. Indeed it has inspired me to incorporate a bit of destruction in my own writing process. In fact, the process of revising my novel is very destructive, stuff being chopped, sentences being bashed and rearranged. 

I started writing a new novel this week. I had been wanting to since the summer, an idea brewing since then. But I waited because the summer was busy, and then I moved. And then I thought I should wait until I have my current novel finalized. But really I need to spew down this new prose. My current novel is at a point where its feeling like a destructive process, as mentioned above. In a good way, maybe. But I felt the need to get this new idea in pen. I'm writing it all free hand, in a notebook. This excites me because computers are starting to remind me of business, and I start thinking of e-mails to follow up on, etc. I like the unplugged feeling of writing by hand. I like getting to a feverish point where my hand hurts. I also like the feeling of exploration that comes to me when jotting shit down with pen and paper. Which is what I feel like a first draft of a novel should be; an exploration, not a final product. When I did more acting, it used to frustrate me when directors treated rehearsal performances like it should be the final show. It's not. It's rehearsal. It should be about exploration. 

I feel like my revision process is a black hole right now. And my new writing project is the white hole.

I could go on and on about space. I almost had a mini panic attack in the bathroom at work this morning when I tried to think about what existed before the big bang. Certainly something other than a super dense primordial atom. Can something really be created from nothing? Which leads me to think that the big bang may be the off shooting matter from some other universe. No beginning? The ancient gets more ancient. The thought makes me dizzy. I had dreams last night that hinted at some absence of matter. Black space, small specks of things happening. My brain had no framework to compare it to reality other than a planetarium with a dim bulb. 

I also had a dream that I was at my high school reunion. I stepped in some cake frosting that had fallen to the floor and everyone pointed out that it looked like crusty cum had smeared on my shoe. It was humiliating. Cake frosting tear drops. I woke up depressed. Are such embarrassing events really that depressing in comparison with planets out there getting ripped apart by magnetars? It gives me hope that getting made fun is really actually a chill time. 

Friday, December 9, 2011

Turban Tan's 2 Year Anniversary Thoughts

Today marks the 2nd anniversary of the release of my novella Turban Tan. Books deserve birthdays. Below is the main character, The Drippy Man celebrating.

Two Years Later, Some Thoughts.

Turban Tan began as a piece of spontaneous prose, thrown up here on this blog in fact. I developed it some more for one of the Seeding Meat releases, written almost as a play, with dueling philosophies on the parts of The Drippy Man and The Dry Advisor. As the economy continued to hover in a recession throughout 2009, I became quite interested in economics, the complicated facets of it, of derivatives, CDOs, mergers. I wanted to play around with an economic “drama” of sorts and The Drippy Man character continued to surface in my mind.

I became interested in dystopian literature as a sort of economic ghost story.

I liked the idea of starting not from his race to escape a fucked up world, but of exploring his tendency to go back to it after being offered a sanctuary. In a lot of ways I think people are masochistic. We make things harder on ourselves than need be.

Below is a video of me being really excited about this book. 

This is 2 years ago. I look pretty much the same. In fact I am still quite excited about this piece. I’ll be the first to admit that it isn’t a perfect piece of literature. But I hold fast to the fact that it is a wild, unique crack at dystopia, at a fucked up spy novella, at a novella in general. Though flawed, I am confident in its fascinating trek from Maine to Dubai. The writing came together fairly quickly when I set out to expand it into a novella. I had a lot of shit floating around my head from reading the news more actively than I ever had before. Turban Tan is a bit raw, simple, ambiguous, and I appreciate aspects of that. The novel manuscript I’m currently working on, I’ve been working for two years now. I’m in a bit of perfectionist mode, chopping, refining each sentence structure. I’m less reckless as a writer now since Turban Tan, for good or ill. I suppose every writer goes through phases of development, after all, I’m working on strengthening my craft. Yet something I learned from my high school athletic days, sometimes you get worse before you get better, while the muscles rip and grow and ache.

Enough of my thoughts. Turban Tan is swell. It has an orange cover and a strange story told from a strange, coded point of view. You should buy a copy! I really think you should! For your back pocket and for your Occupier’s stockings. You should also eat cake today and read a book for at least a little bit.

I’ll be getting drunk tonight. I hope you do as well and offer a little toast to The Drippy Man.

Buy a copy and read it too!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Coat Funk

I have a theory. 

Certainly city buses and trains tend to have some bodily odors wafting about. But it increases exponentially as winter happens. Most likely people don't ever wash their winter coats. Last year's funk comes out to play. I know I'm guilty of it. I recently noticed my coat smelled like shit and I couldn't remember ever washing it. I've had it at least 6 years. I have since washed it and feel good about it. I feel like I fulfilled a civic duty. I know the economy is bad and coats take up room in washers and dryers, hogging real estate from other urgent clothes, but I hope more people decide its time to throw their coats in the hamper on laundry day. 

 This morning I was all disoriented when I woke up. I thought it was saturday. My girlfriend was up and atom in the kitchen. All showered, dressed. I was like "why the hell you up so early?" She was just like "you up or going back to bed!" I said "goin' back to bed!" I went to pee and while I was peeing I realized it was Thursday and my alarm would be going off any minute so I couldn't actually go back to bed. 

Then on the train to work I realized my smelly coat theory. I hope they all find some extra quarters in their couch. We'll worry about mitten funk some other time.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Today I had lunch at Subway.  A shitload of teenagers came in, on their off-campus lunch break. Most had their own lunch boxes, or pizza from the place a few storefronts down. Clearly outside food to be munched on in Subway as though it were some cafeteria. None of the Subway staff said anything to them. A juice box was spill near the cuff of my sleeve. 

One teenager was eating a slice of pizza. Another one came in, referred to as Daniel by some girls, reached over to grab the slice mid mouth. 

Teenager: Naw man, this is my pizza.
Daniel: Give it to me!
Teenager: Naw!
Daniel: Remember that time you asked me for a bitch and I hooked you up!

Then Daniel and the other teenager started to wrestle. Some girls laughed. Daniel tried to splash them with streaming fountain soda. The girls shrieked "Daniel! Stop!"

Subway staff went about their business as usual. 

Daniel wrestled with other teenager again and knocked his styro-foam pizza box to the floor. Then he left. Through the window I could see him run out into the street to pick up a discarded Subway beverage cup, still half full, and proceed to chase after some other girls who were hanging out down the street. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Deleted Prose 1

The following is from a section of my (in revision process) novel manuscript. I've been trimming the fat. Chopping out stuff that doesn't fit. This particular item I felt messed with the logic of the first section as far as the narrator's perspective goes.  But I still enjoy the prose here. So I thought I'd share. The manuscript is continuing to come along nicely. The text is getting stronger. Top heaviness reduced.

The gray steel spanned great lengths. Conveyer platforms churned up magical boxes, fat slabs of black fiber glass encasing what is most important; the screen! An army, inciters of vision pumped down the flattened rubber track, running them to the next arm that finished the job and sped them onto yet another.  If the arm had conscience it would revel in the glory of finishing the job.

My father, Bruno, walked the concrete between these rows of conveyors and arms and boxes with glossy screen. He managed the inspectors and technicians, ensuring that the scheduled output of boxes, which will soon flash visions, was up to par. It was indeed. The newest box was flatter than the norm and quite vibrant in comparison to more decayed models. His toe tapped a tube; glass rolling. He bent and picked it up. He was not quite sure what it was doing on the floor, all by its lonesome. This wasn’t a good sign. If one had hopped off the assembly and went loosey goosey from the unit…this was a bad sign and SOMETHING was not up to par as he had expected upon first glance. He recognized the possibility that sure, it was most likely one box with a missing tube and it would account for only one faulty television abstaining from colorful display. But if more boxes began to share the same problem and more cathode ray tubes began to join in the free radical summersault on the oily pavement… then the accrued return, shipping, and replacement production would be the skinning of his ass. They had a deadline to meet and a nation of department chains to stock before the Holidays, and this being September, well ho! Three months is right around the corner. Mush, mush you automated arms!

But if you’re going to do a job right, do it right the first time around, and Goddamn if more cathode ray tubes escape the cage of glass. Then the evidence of his knowledge on this possibility – the security feed that ran to another screen (not manufactured by this factory, believe it or not) would indict his professionalism and pinpoint him as the culprit that neglected the prevention of a costly recall, during the red periods after the fucking Holidays! Fucking lose – lose situation! Pull the plug and halt the assembly!

He hustled off towards the window that shined its fluorescence, bouncing light from a mountain of spreadsheets stacked on top of his desk. The paper still clung to the side strip with holes that gripped the perforated river of paper through the chunk-car-chunk of an ink ribbon rub down, and beside this hub where he could trace the success of his management through numbers, was the yellow lever that stopped it all and made the white and grey arms take a hissing break.

The gears hummed a low note and the conveyors slowed and stopped and peace was too much to ask for – an arm held still the glass pane a centimeter from the skeletal encasement of the box and a visceral static did spark and pop and blew the glass into shards.  The shards carried the microcosm of lightning storm on its back until it slapped into the hot wires, the hot wires that talked to the arms and gave it the day’s direction. The heat jumpstarted a black simmer and burst of red-then quickly to a blue flame which hustled down the length of a friction rubbed conveyor. The rubber did not hinder the conduction of the dance party of angry static and electron charges. The whole of the place, every arm and box exploded and the symphony of flame and smoke and debris consumed the body of my ducking father, who pulled down his face and gripped the tip of his hard hat. This is the machine’s consequence for a moment taken to reflect upon, not participate in production. The shockwaves of angry televisions put a sinking dent in the Holiday inventory and made a victim of my father. 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Rock Opera for the Digesting

Last night we went to a 2nd Thanksgiving dinner party thrown by my girlfriend's good group of friends. After a week of digesting turkey & an assortment of leftover carbs, we did it again. A good problem to have no doubt. Any food, an overwhelming amount of feast food, is a good food, nothing to complain about. I will say though my body has been "de-energized" since digging in a little over a week ago into the traditional foodstuffs. Some talk about the fact of tryptophan making us sleepy as only a myth, but some recent scientific studies talk on tryptophan being enhanced by the sheer amount of carbs in the typical Thanksgiving feast, thus making such a meal more coma inducing than a turkey sandwich at the local deli. Whatever the science may be, the sheer amount and variety of food items is certainly causing a load on the digestive tract. Particularly this variety. You have thick potatoes, green beans, french fried onions, turkey meat, gravy fat, stuffing, cranberry sauce, sugary pie, etc, all of which digest at different rates. And being eaten in conjunction with one another makes for a strange fight to sneak ahead of the acid line to be broken down at it's ideal speed. Yet the pie you ate at the end of the meal, breaks down quicker, due to the sugars, than the meat hunks ahead, so the sugar sits there for a bit, gets impatient. This big belly party exhausts the guts.

A colleague of mine once brought up the diet theory of eating all food groups separate from one another. So you eat your meats in one meal, wait a good couple of hours, then eat your pasta. Then a few hours later eat your fruit. This allows for an ease in digestive flow. And it makes sense. You don't want that fruit to rot while it waits behind the sirloin steak. I've yet to commit to such an eating standard. And clearly Thanksgiving breaks the rules of this diet. Though I'm thankful to be privileged enough to enjoy pounds of food and indigestion. Again, these are good problems to have. 

After the massive feast last night, I was quick to desire bed when we got home. I drifted into intense dreams derived from the images of outer space my girlfriend and I have been subjecting ourselves to in watching The History Channel's: The Universe in our Blockbuster queue. One of these dreams started out with swimming through space, hopping from asteroid to asteroid, until I swam from the depths of this black vacuum to crawl up the shores of some European country, looked perhaps a bit like Portugal. The outer space behind was indeed just some big black ocean waters. Once on the shore I stepped on a snail, and this I could feel in my dream, a vivid slime ooze between my toes. I wound up starting my own small business refurbishing apartments. During the course of one project I kept ordering food from a diner. The owner himself delivered the food and we developed a good friendship. After this project I decided I was going to swim back out into space, and so I went to say good bye to the diner owner. I stopped in at the diner and he laughed at me, telling me I couldn't go! He was retiring and liked my business sense and wanted me to take over! I resisted, but then he asked me to follow him into the kitchen. He led me through the kitchen, into another larger, seemingly unused kitchen. Gates made of jagged spikes closed off one section of it. He told me to wait to the side. He wanted to show me something special locked inside a secret tomb, but he had to go in and disarm the booby traps first. I watched him dodge swinging blades and dropping spikes to disappear through a sliding glass door, down a long dark tunnel. He was gone awhile. Then he returned, on fire, playing the electric guitar, singing! I wasn't sure if this was his doomed body from the detriment of a booby trap, or if this is what he wanted to show me. But the rest of this dream took on the feel of a rock opera.