Missing my old best friend

From left to right; Morgan, Aaron, Patrick, Christy, Oliver.

I didn’t want to write something about my friend, Aaron, but I couldn’t stop thinking about his death. I didn’t want my thoughts to be about my feelings, because I felt it would betray his voice and his power in doing so, but in the end writing about my feelings is all I can do.

It was a long time ago I knew him. We were kids embarking on a destiny full of sorrow and hope, pain and grand ambitions. We brought such sinful things into our bodies and minds. We bent our souls and bled our hearts. We were seventeen-year-old grownups acting like the wise leaders of tomorrow. We listened to Motorhead, Dead Kennedys, Lead Belly and Muddy Waters. We kayaked in the bay. We ate vegetarian pita pockets at Tilly Gort’s and devised ways to cheat at cards. We played 221B Baker Street like maniacs, cruised the Monterey Peninsula in search of decent cold cut sandwiches, rented Nintendo games, and watched Evil Dead 2 over and over again.

Now there are beer guts and children, debt and divorces, and many from our generation want nothing more than to blink and make it all go away. Maybe we were supposed to be wiser at this age, but we got lost as hell somewhere between 1992 and 2016.

Comic I devised featuring me and Aaron on earth-shaking adventures.

Happiness fades under the pummeling fist of real life and blistering adulthood, but it glows still in our souls, like the burning embers of a distant bonfire. And I haven’t been able to think about the loss of my old best friend. I go through my days pretending Wendy never called me, pretending I never read the Facebook post that his body was found. And I still haven’t read his obituary.

I’ve told people it was a long time ago that I hung out with him. I’ve been careful to avoid anything related to his death. I cannot bring myself to think of his children. I knew him when he was a child. I knew him when he thought he had the biggest muscles in our group. I knew him when we wore boxing gloves and punched each other in the face like a couple of dumbasses. I knew him when our afternoons were spent at Stonehenge near Lovers Point. We’d break open mussels and feed them to passing sea otters.

To me Air is still missing. He’s in Canada somewhere, working at a comic shop and talking about playing Spades to whoever will listen. Maybe he got a job on a merchant vessel and he’s rounding the bend into a Japanese port with a beard like Grizzly Adams. Maybe he’s taken an oath of silence on a remote mountain top just beyond human civilization. He’s somewhere doing just that. That’s what I want to think.

I used to imagine my mom was still alive like that. It made it easier to think of her hiding out in New York somewhere, working at a law office and presiding over a book club in the evenings, than to think of her as being nowhere. Reality took us for a ride and eventually we crashed.


Mantula: Have some discord – book release

Mantula Book

I’m celebrating the release of “Mantula: Have some discord” today! This weird little book started as a handful of blog posts and quickly turned into a full-blown multimedia project. I was having too much fun to stop writing the story of Doug and his curse. When I finally did come to the end, I decided to collect the comics, the chapters, and the fake news stories into this single volume.

I hope you all enjoy reading it as much as I did making it.

Check out the book on Amazon (PRINT COPY)

Check it out here for e-book (KINDLE)

Read the blurb:

Curses, addiction, despair. Add in a couple of Catholic saints and a meth addict-turned quail and you’ve got the makings of Doug’s new life. It isn’t one he wanted. He never asked to wake up in the body of a tarantula, but that’s what happened. And it’s up to him to break the curse. Or die trying. Told in written form, comic form, through emails and news stories; Mantula is part super hero and part monster, and a unique multimedia experience.

SHORT FICTION: Gotta Distract ‘Em All


His finger hovered over the download button. Sweat trickled down his forehead, just a single line, but enough to make someone notice. Morris didn’t press the button. He turned his attention back to the sea of tents placed four feet apart from one another. Two people per tent, he was told. Only the tents were always empty. They’d been empty since he was stationed there five years ago.

“So this Pokemon Go thing?” he asked the sentry nearest him. “This is the one? It’s the distraction?”

His coworker shrugged. “It could be.”

“Wasn’t the primary election supposed to be the distraction?”

Another shrug. “I guess it didn’t work.”

“What about the last fad? What was that one again? I don’t remember.”

“Snapchat? Facebook? The ice bucket challenge?”

Morris sighed and stared at the empty tents. “I don’t even remember why anymore, John.”

“Why what?”

“Why are we distracting them?”

“Um, to take their guns. But it’s not us distracting them. It’s our bosses.”

“It doesn’t appear to be working.” Morris looked at his phone and rolled his eyes. “Hell with it. I’m downloading Pokemon Go. This place is boring.”

“Put the tin foil hat on first.”

He did as John asked. Better to be safe than sorry. His coworker never took his off. John said the Wi-Fi and television signals doped him up with too many subliminal messages. The hats, perfected over the last fifty years to look like shiny knit beanies, itched the scalp, but were otherwise comfortable. As the game downloaded, Morris looked at his partner and asked if he planned to play it too.

“These internment camps have been here for over twenty years. Longer maybe. I found a TV Guide in the mess hall with Bob Hope on the cover. And why are we taking their guns away and putting them in these camps? It’s stupid. You may as well play Pokemon Go too, John.”

The sentry laughed. His tin foil beanie shifted just over his right eyebrow. “I’m a grown man. I’ve got better things to do than play kid’s games.”

“Says the Candy Crush junkie. Says the guy who puts pictures of his dinner on Instagram. Says the man who plays fantasy football and opens Tinder every two minutes.”

“We need to be ready. This could be the distraction.”

Morris started playing with his phone. “I doubt it.”

But two weeks later, when unmarked cargo trucks began to appear, when soldiers started escorting half dressed, terrified Americans into the tents two by two, Morris couldn’t believe it. He stayed put, just as he was trained, and turned the game off. He’d just caught a Hitmonlee and got a good photo of it doing a high kick in front of some of the internment tents.

John whistled, obviously excited. “This is it. It’s finally happened.”

“PoGo was the distraction. My God,” whispered Morris.

“And you’ve been playing it.” The sentry looked up, noticing a contingent of soldiers heading in their direction. “You’ve been playing it.”

Morris felt his face flush red. “Just playing it doesn’t…”

One of the soldiers yelled at them. “You two. Stay right there.”

The soldiers, who Morris noticed were all wearing tin foil hats, carried their rifles in front of them, ready to use them if necessary. They both froze in place. Morris prepared himself. His phone was in his pocket. There was no way he’d be able to delete the app. It would be futile anyway. They already knew.

But instead of grabbing him, the soldiers converged on John. The sentry fought back for the briefest of moments before he succumbed to the soldiers. Morris shook, but knew not to move. One of the soldiers stopped next to them as the others dragged his coworkers to the camp. He was close enough Morris could smell the vanilla nicotine on his skin. A vaper, he figured.

Morris, his voice shaking, asked, “Was it Pokemon Go?”

“Pokemon Go? No, that’s just a game. Your friend over there is a registered Independent.”


OPINION: Stop Blaming the Media

Interviewing actor Jon Voight during a fundraiser
(and after a monsoon soaked everyone)
for the Granite Mountain Hotshots in 2013.

These days it’s trendy to blame the messenger.

The media is stirring the pot, inciting violence, lying to you, etc., as if they were a giant hive-mind not made up of men and women toiling in poverty, but determined to undermine the stability of every neighborhood in America. In the newspaper business, most reporters can’t afford rent without having a roommate or spouse with a better-paying job. Most of us reading a news story make more than the person who wrote it.

As a reporter I was part of the team that broke the story on the nineteen Granite Mountain Hotshots that perished in Yarnell, Ariz. I photographed President Obama and his family at Grand Canyon. I’ve hobnobbed with drug dealers and celebrities alike. I may not be a reporter anymore, but I still cling to the tenets instilled in me while earning my degree in journalism. I was never a Borg.


There are issues with the media to be sure, one being the drive for money. Newspapers, television news, and the rest are businesses first and foremost. They are out to make money and they go where the money is. Fox News caters and delivers news to a largely conservative audience. CNN the opposite. And in the drive to deliver 24 hours of news every day, they dangerously over analyze and guess at possible answers.

But who chooses the news? You do.

News is often created by what you click.

What is trending on social media? Let’s do a story on it, Obviously that’s what people are interested in. And it probably has something to do with a Kardashian. Let’s look at our website and see what our most popular stories were last month. Let’s do more stories on that, even if it’s got something to do with an unfounded conspiracy dreamt up by a sociopath. The readers loved it.

You feed the algorithm

It’s that simple. You clicked on it. You scanned headlines and chose something, and that was recorded by a simple algorithm and reported to the folks who gather the news. In any business, you give your customers what they want, and they base what the public wants by what the public clicked.

Still want to blame the media? Go right ahead. Should the media behave more responsibly and operate in a vacuum? They won’t be in business long if they do. Should they become non-profits, controlled by the state, or produced for free? Think about it.

Let’s just call it a conspiracy.

It’s easier to click on questionable news sites where those educated in journalism are nowhere to be found, where you find lies that conform to your beliefs, whether left or right, rather than looking in the mirror. These sites sell you hyper-sensationalism and trade on paranoia. But trust them if you’d like. Trust they are telling you a truth not to be found anywhere else, even though there’s no way to know where these stories really came from – that these sites don’t make money from every click.

Do you really want mainstream media to behave differently? Stop clicking on the stories you complain about. Lay off the sex, the death and the cute animals acting like humans. Redirect the flow. Bring back the news that matters to you.

It’s in your hands.


Short Fiction: November 8th Soon


Charlie skulked from building to building. He had to avoid the middle of the street and stay as close to the buildings as he could and off the main sidewalks. Gunfire rang out a block away. Charlie flinched at the pops.

Citizens protecting themselves. Taxpayers at work, he thought.

He could see a huddled mass near an alley about a block away. There weren’t a lot of police on patrol that day. Not much they could do against a hail of gunfire, especially with only one or two on the force that day. Charlie didn’t see any law enforcement near the people, not even private security, only a lot of folks with bug eyes, terrified they might drop dead any second. Luckily a few of them were armed. They carried rifles slung over their shoulder, had pistols at their hips, and had no problem shooting anyone who looked like they might be bad news.

Charlie packed too. He’d gotten a pistol on pay day, two days before the last bombing and a week after the last school shooting. Before heading out he loaded his pockets with ammo. It wasn’t cheap, but it made him feel better. No one wanted to be a cop anymore. Bullets tore into the concrete wall near him. Looking over his shoulder, he realized there were a bunch of people on the rooftop across the plaza. Charlie thought about being a cop once, but the pay wasn’t great considering the danger. Another bullet took out a window a hundred feet from him.

Not a good day to be out, he thought.  He made his way to the crowd and waited in line. They were shuffling inside, thankfully out of view of the people on the roof. An older woman held her right shoulder. Blood dripped from a wound there. One of the armed men watched her suspiciously. A shiny-headed bald man stood next to him, also armed. He flexed a cold stare in Charlie’s direction.

“Are you even registered to vote?” the man asked him.

He looks like a turkey vulture, Charlie thought. He’s like one of those birds that feed on the dead. They have no feathers from the neck up, only mottled, nasty flesh. It’s so they can stick their entire head inside dead animals. He’s looking at me like I’m a dead animal.

Charlie nodded. “Of course I am.”

“Let’s see your voter identification card then,” the turkey vulture replied.

“Are you with the elections office?”

The man laughed, “Are you?”

Charlie reached into his back pocket. “It’s fine. I’ll show you. I’m only here to vote.”

“He’s going for a gun!”

And then Charlie was dead.


Winchester Mystery House: take a tour of this rich pad


It’s tough to be absolutely terrified of something when you have to go through a gift shop first.

Surrounded by mugs, tees, bottle openers, and God only knows what else, a sense of creeping fear is in limited supply. Until you see the Ouija boards. Creeping fear comes then, but it’s just a tickle. At least it’s there, breathing on the back of your neck like a breathless hound from the depths of Hell. And you see the board’s hefty price tag. Heavy fear comes into your stomach, like a three-egg omelet dripping with cheddar cheese and chorizo an hour after you ate it.

There’s a lot that can be said about the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California. The mansion is reminiscent of Hearst Castle (found just a few hours south). The mystery house is beautiful, oddly built, tight-quartered, sunshine deficient, and obnoxious with old world luxury. There are thirteen hooks in the closets, windows with thirteen panels, thirteen bathrooms, and so on. That number sends creeping tendrils of mathematical grief up my spine.

There’s the staircase that leads into a wall and a door that, should you walk through it, will drop you to the cold earth a floor below. The creeping horror grabs your shoulder with invisible skeleton fingers. The ghosts of all those killed by Winchester’s rifles shuffle zombie-like through the claustrophobic halls; they fill dark shadows with smoky semi-human forms, and wait for the call of Sarah Winchester from her now empty séance room.

It could be they’re rehearsing for the movie slated to be made there starring Helen Mirren. Out next year. It’s on IMDB even.

You follow the tour guide into the next room, listening with dumbfounded anticipation as she recites a well-rehearsed litany of stories – from earthquakes to hired help –  and you realize you could have been considered just as odd as Sarah if you had a home like hers, only there’s a difference. A creeping epiphany gnashes its teeth in your face.

She was rich and you are not. Helen Mirren will never play you.

Had Mrs. Winchester taken her quirky building habits and applied them to a tiny home, or an RV (or even an old VW bus), chances are no one would care. But she took a farm house and kept adding on, and adding on, ad nauseam. For us, putting a bed against a door or hanging a map sideways takes out our budget. That’s as “Winchester” as we can get. But was Sarah really crazy?

The folks at Winchester Mystery House do a great job of leaving that up to us. They tell you what people tell them, share the stories of what some believe were her battles with ghosts (and a few employees have stories to tell as well), while they also share more mundane brain fodder (the great quake and how it damaged her pad, for example). Could it be she was simply one hell of a Freemason or a nutty Bacon fan? There’s a lot that proves this could be the case. Or was she down with the demons?

I got a mug with a creeping skull on it from the gift shop. That means the place is ghosting it up. The undead creep up the walls, leaving snail slime behind, and they make sure that logo makes sense. If their putrid hands weren’t foggy I’d high five them.


Book Review: An Average Curse (Book 1 of The Chronicles of Hawthorn)

Book Review: An Average Curse (Book 1 of The Chronicles of Hawthorn)

Fantasy is that genre that always sticks with you. It’s a brain freeze that never quite thaws, a Starburst fruit chew that glues itself to your teeth, and a pair of kick ass slippers that never gets tossed – no matter how many times you’ve slipped your smelly bare feet into them.

Wands dripping with sexy magic are one reason why that taste never leaves, as are iron swords and sparkly elves, mystical lands readers will never actually set foot on, and dreams of conquering boiling evil; they’re all reasons why we get turned on by the genre. In those worlds, which many authors actually map out, readers find spells, prophecies, elves, ogres, fairies and all the rest. And it’s the best.


In Rue’s recent fiction novel, “An Average Curse (Book 1 of The Chronicles of Hawthorn),” readers will find almost all of this, including a map. Unlike other fantasy tomes, however, (where 25 pages go toward describing the local fauna), this is efficient fantasy – punchy and light, but never missing a beat. While written for the young adult crowd, it’s not a bad read for grownups either. Most of us adults have revisited Harry Potter, Narnia, the Hobbit, at some point. This is that kind of fun, especially for those of us into stories of youth and experience.

In the first Hawthorn book, readers are introduced to Flynn, Hazel and Po. These three friends always seem to have something going on, and find themselves knee deep in the thick of trouble before too long. The book is a magical trip inspired by New Zealand’s Maori culture – and deftly navigates fiction, mythology and reality. You can tell Rue did a bit of research here.

And, thanks to her, the fantasy realm is another spell richer.

Those who like fantasy, with a hot helping of magic wands included, and strong female leads ala Hunger Games and Vampire Academy, will find An Average Curse a worthy addition to their genre bookshelf.

Check out the newly released second book in the Chronicles of Hawthorn, “Key to the Journey: A Magical Adventure,” right here.