There’s no better way to celebrate Halloween than trying to dispose of a body in Monterey Bay. Take a look at my recent short story on Shotgun Honey, “It Otter Be Illegal.”
Read it here!
(Sept. 24, 2018) Look for some cool events this October on the Monterey Peninsula. Cool for writers and fans of the written, and spoken, word at least. And who isn’t a fan of that?
October 21 – I’ll be joining a number of authors in Carmel on Sunday, October 21, from 1-3 p.m. for a book signing event featuring local authors and historians. More details to come, but it sounds like a great place to find some early Christmas presents for the bibliophiles in your family. I’ll be ready to sign my recent book Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History! The event will be held at Carmel Ace Hardware, located at 290 Crossroads Blvd, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA93923.
October 23 – Want to learn more about the craft of writing fiction and nonfiction? Author Dietrich Kalteis and I will hold a workshop on that very subject Tuesday, October 23, at 6:30 p.m. at Old Capitol Books in downtown Monterey. We’ll discuss writing style, guidelines, and the research that goes into works of fiction and non-fiction. Old Capitol Books is located at 559 Tyler Street in downtown Monterey. Learn more here!
October 26 – Noir at the Bar returns to the Central Coast this month! This year’s Noir will be held at the East Village Coffee Lounge, at 498 Washington Street in downtown Monterey, beginning at 7 p.m. Books will be available for purchase thanks to the awesome folks at Old Capitol Books. Donations will be accepted at the door, benefitting the Central Coast Writers group! It’s a sweet lineup of authors too: Terry Shames, Kris Calvin, Tom Pitts, Rob Pierce, Susan C Shea, Mark Coggins, Morgan Boyd, Dietrich Kalteis, and me! Get more details here!
Picture yourself in a dimly lit room. A light bulb hangs from the ceiling, swinging slowly to and fro, as if an ethereal skeletal hand had reached down from the inky shadows and tapped it. Beneath the light are a series of faces with dark shadows for eyes and grim, black lines for mouths. The grimy bulb swings overhead. The faces are there, then swallowed by darkness, then appear again, under the dancing, pale glow. This assembly is here for one reason and one reason only. And there are laws against it.
When you picture an evening of crime fiction called “Noir at the Bar”, that’s how I picture it going down. It won’t be like that. Well, maybe it will be. Who knows? Maybe it will go down like a tea party in a Hercule Poirot novel, or turn into a backstage party at the end of a Rage Against the Machine concert on the eve of a government revolution? Or we’ll pose like we’re trapped in a Hopper painting. Perhaps we’ll just compete for who does the best “drunk Sarah Huckabee Sanders” impersonation?
My money’s on Dietrich Kalteis.
Dietrich is an amazing author and one of many who will take part in the Friday, October 20th, Noir at the Bar at the Press Club in Seaside, California. Starting at 7 p.m., and emceed by Janice Blaze Rocke, this event features not one or three, but nine incredible writers all in one place, and all ready to spill the beans on crime fiction. Authors for this event include Eric Beetner, SW Lauden, Tom Pitts, Rob Pierce, Dietrich Kalteis, John Lansing, Sandra Balzo, Joe Clifford and myself. Old Capitol Books will bring books to buy and the Press Club will provide the rest. What’s not to drool about with this lineup?
The Press Club can be found at 1123 Fremont Boulevard, Seaside, CA. They say the road construction will be done by then, so let’s celebrate. If it isn’t, come anyway, just bring a flask.
Imagine the world before the Internet, before modern medicine and modern science as we know it today; pre-cars, pre-phones, pre-fast food, and you’ve got the world that saw one of the first natural history museums on the California coast. The Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History has been a part of the Monterey Peninsula since 1883, nearly as long as Monterey County has been in existence.
I’ve been lucky enough to work for the Museum since 2014 and am happy to announce I’ll be depicting the history of this amazing place through writing and more than 150 historic photographs. In the short period of time I’ve been here, as the awesome story of this place soaked in, I’ve realized just how lucky I am to be a part of this local institution. History has always been a thing with me, no matter if it’s the history of 1940s and 1980s pulp novels or the history of Tusayan and Williams, Arizona. I daydream about what it would be like to live and thrive in an era where things moved a little slower, but were harder at the same time – for nearly everyone. I can’t think of any writer/bibliophile who hasn’t dreamed about living in a small cabin near a stream or rocky shoreline.
History is a learning curve without a shelf life. It’s a way for us to see what’s happened, good and bad, and carry it with us as we move forward. At the museum, history is preserved with just such a mission in mind. Taxidermy, geology, plants, Native peoples; they’re all there.
“The Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History”, will be published in 2018 by Arcadia Publishing in their Images of America series. It’s an exciting project, which I expect to have completed by October, and I’m very thankful to be the one who gets to write it. From the first Museum building to the arrival of Sandy the Whale, this book is long overdue.
Gulls have been on my mind lately. Why I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I have these two paintings in the living room that I haven’t finished yet. Maybe it’s because the babies born this season in Pacific Grove are beginning to stretch their wings and take flight, yet they still lower their heads and call out for their parents to feed them. The one I saw today, gray and large, stood in the middle of the road pecking at a to-go cup lid. After it decided the lid wasn’t worth its time, the gull turned and began to strut away toward Central Avenue. Only the lid wasn’t done with it. A slight gust of wind, not enough to sway a branch or lift a skirt, blew over the lid and made it roll toward the gull as it walked (they kind of strut though, which I think I said already). The gull flipped out, thinking the lid had come to life and was chasing its ass down. I couldn’t help but laugh. It was a cute sight. The simplicity of it all hit me. And that felt nice. Maybe I’ve been thinking of them because they get a bad rap. I’ve always been a fan of the underdogs. So many may dislike them, but they’ve won me over.
They might be on my mind because of a Facebook post. I recently learned the book “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” was the best seller the year I was born. This led me to want to read it. Can you believe the book is $11.99 for a digital download? Must be a special read I suppose, and my Facebook friends seemed to think it is.
It could be a gull’s relationships fascinate me, its upbringing, how they all cling to California’s coastal cities with flippered tenacity; these things are so different than what we do. Some of it’s the same, but so much is different. Gulls hardly even bother to make much of a nest for their offspring and they’re a fierce lot. They communicate like crazy and seem totally okay with sharing the sidewalks and roads with us, though there aren’t a lot of us who could say the same. Maybe they’re not all that smart, but some are, and I find myself hard pressed to look away when I watch them interact. Human relationships veer and careen in so many directions, often leading to dead ends, often leading to some quiet spot where clothes are rarely worn and moaning speaks louder than promises, and often there’s shouting – the best ingredient for the best sex, the best novels, and the best telenovelas. Sometimes human relationships stay right on the course they were meant to take, despite the best efforts of the intellectual minds involved. For whatever reason, I find the simpler model the better one.
This isn’t to say people watching at the Monterey Fairgrounds won’t be a blast this year, but I bet I’ll notice the gulls hanging out waiting for some food to fall. And plenty of food will fall. They’re not that stupid.
The gulls are perfect for us.
I’m very excited to announce I will be joining authors Dietrich Kalteis and JoAnn Smith Ainsworth for a special event at Old Capitol Books in Monterey, CA, on October 16th, om 3-5 p.m. We’ll be discussing our assortment of books and talking about all things literary. Dietrich is launching his new book, “House of Blazes,” which I look forward to reading. I hope to see you there!
Read more about this event here!
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.
There is a kind of hunger for free time. Real free time. Without the damn dishes, the weekend laundry, or any chores whatsoever, without feeling pressured to write by my own OCD mind and just read any of the books I feel like reading, or paint. Or write. Or all of the above.
There is a kind of hunger that makes me jealous of Aquaman. It’s a desire to swim without breathing air, to swim all day long, to explore the sea alone. Damn that guy.
There is a kind of hunger to eat pizza and cheeseburgers all day every day. Only I can’t. If I want to know my children as middle-aged adults I will have to know cheeseburgers and pizza a little less intimately.
There is a kind of hunger that grows as you get older. It rises from your stomach, telling you to finish those lifelong bucket list items and do it soon. Checking off the list becomes all you think about. Write those five novels you’ve fleshed out or die.
There is a kind of hunger for acceptance, but only kind of. We all accept in one way or another, just rarely in the way you hope. You can try to tame them, steer people into accepting you in the way you want them to, but you end up being the weirdo, the misunderstood understand. It’s okay. Just accept it.
There is a kind of hunger for death. When the kids are old enough. Or when the grand kids are old enough. That hunger is for life’s goals to lose their luster, for acceptance to go to hell, for there to be as much free time as you would know what to do with (maybe sell it?), and best of all, maybe I could BE Aquaman.
Driving home through the Monterey Peninsula isn’t always easy. Black Jaguars speed like bullets. Audis are a blur. It’s hard for the cars of the working class to weave in amongst them and join the commuting fray but it’s okay. No one wants to see the wrinkled face of the privileged. Bottle Blonde women in their Porsches, hurrying to have their skin stretched, go too fast to see the homeless encampments built like barricades between the cities of the peninsula along the famous, camera-ready Highway One.
The encampments aren’t meant for their eyes. This collection of cardboard boxes, broken lawn chairs, and mildew-covered tarps are meant for the eyes of history, not those vainly attempting to fight their own age. We lie and twist the historical record, like a tiger gnawing on a bloody stump of food. There’s no telling how the truth once looked. We know there was once something pure there, before the gnashing teeth and lies came calling. We’re a part of the story, not the tellers of it.
Monterey Bay swells to accommodate cruise liners come summer’s end. Floating cities glazed in economic frivolity smother the surface of the marine sanctuary – here for that reason and also affecting it. Not far from where the plump boat anchors, where smaller boats transport shoppers back and forth from its pristine walls, but just far enough away to never be seen, a squeaking shopping cart conveys an old woman’s life possessions to a shady spot where this invisible wretch can watch the big boat depart and wonder what the rooms are like within it. She knows all too well of the six encampments along Highway One.
The stretch of highway between Carmel and the Del Monte exit is a short one – full of pain and discomfort. Those who cower in the encampments are thankful there’s a drought. Rain and survival are anathema to one another. At times the homeless thirst for warmth, for a coat not covered in whatever slime they were sleeping in last night, and for a moment to catch their breath without fear of being rousted.
These vulnerable souls are visible to the working class who find themselves parked in thick Highway One traffic, hoping it moves just fast enough for them to be home in Salinas or Seaside before dark. Commuters see the marginalized and wonder if they could sleep on hard ground, wrapped in an unwashed sleeping bag, should their life veer, should they miss that next paycheck. Those who see them shop far from the more expensive organic aisles at the grocery store, not out of ambivalence, but out of necessity. They’re secretly thankful for dollar stores and dollar menus, appreciative for the local farmer’s market, but they themselves rarely shop there, afraid of sustainability’s expense.
Unlike those who turn away, whose dark sunglasses and tinted Audi windows shield them from the dirty tarp walls hung at the edge of the highway. History sees the encampments. History will remember the six areas within view of those who choose to see it, populated by those who fear the rousting and marvel upon the cruise ships.
History will remember the encampments long after the Audis and Jaguars have wrapped themselves around a tree, and centuries past the Dollar Store’s report of unprecedented growth.