Friday, November 26, 2010

Article in Slingshot

This summer I spent a lovely afternoon in Golden Gate Park trying to sneak into the Outside Lands music festival. I wrote a piece about it and the good folks at the Long Hauls Info Shop in Berkeley put it in their bi-annual zine. Here's the link (and the body of the piece is copied below, for when the link goes dry).

At checkpoint one, an orange shirted collection of volunteers and semi-professional security contractors organize bag searches and document inspection. This is the only civilian entrance through the perimeter fence that rings all the way around the interior. Uniformed police on motorcycles and dirt bikes or mounted on horses make paces up and down the fence, scattering away anyone who gathers for too long to peek inside. In some places, a layer of horse shit has been applied to the base of the fence, as if to say, "You want to sneak in? Fine, but you're going to crawl through shit first." But this is no militarized zone. This gulag isn't motivated by a national border dispute or a political cold war. This is the atmosphere of a summer day in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, on the outskirts of the Outside Lands music festival.

The festival sits down on top of the park with all the subtlety of a baby on fire, sprawling across acres of normally free land. On the initial approach, you can't help but assume that there has to be some way in. Given this much land, this many people over three nights and all these dozens of bands and vendors and flat beds and sound checks, there must be some weak point. Someplace where you can walk in easily and pass undetected among everyone who paid 125 dollars to be here over the weekend (or 75, just for the day).

A lot of people must have assumed this, because they've all camped out together beyond the fences. They sit in trees and dance with hula hoops on a hill that overlooks the thousands of people on the inside. Policemen sit on horses between us and the fences. Underneath the trees, groups of street kids lay sprawled on mats of pine needles and old blankets, advertising illegal drugs on hastily scrawled cardboard signs. Improvisational hippie folk bands spring daisy like out of the mulch. It's the nightmare of every visiting church group embodied in a thinly packed strip of bare mid riffs and contact juggling.

On the other side of the park, a hill overlooks the main stage. The bass is loud and the lyrics indistinct, and through a long grove of trees the crowd is a kind of hive beneath the far off mega monitors. And here people have laid out blankets and tied their dogs and their bikes around trees. There is a resigned contentment, watching from beyond the gates, catching the echoes of performances miles in the distance. Somewhere, Al Green is singing. The beer must taste just as good here, the grass just as green.

But this is only half of the community. The rest prowl the outskirts, memorizing the locations of loose fencing, where it can most easily be pulled up and slid underneath. A man in his middle forties spends hours attempting to organize a critical mass of bodies with which to ram fences. He has already been escorted out by security twice, with no consequence more than a firm warning not to do it again. He compares the whole business to a video game. Twice I join him in a hesitant mob, marching along the fence, trying to gain momentum, only to lose it as people trail off, flake away. He keeps openly wondering where the solidarity is? Wasn't it just last year that some mythical group of people broke the fence down? So why, he wonders, is it so hard to form a group, at least one group big enough for a cut and run strategy? Just get enough people on the other side of that fence and haul ass in enough directions, and there will be no way the security can catch everyone.

But even on this, little is certain. There are those who insist that the solution isn't to go with the group, but wait them out. They're sure that once the security catches the first group and escorts them towards the exit, a hole will be left open with which a few select folks can slip in quietly and stroll their way inside.

The first problem is the wilderness beyond the fence. Out here with everyone on the outside, the security is nice enough to give you vague advice on where the best place to sneak in could be. Out here, a little bit of flirting or kind words can earn you valuable infiltration information or, at the very least, the acknowledgement of shared humanity. But on the inside, they break out the ATVs.

Sit on the hill long enough and the far off rock concert quickly becomes less entertaining than the spectator sport of watching people booking it across the wilderness between the fence and the stages. Groups of half a dozen sneak looks up and down the length of the perimeter, then duck down to raise the fence like the hem of a couch about to have dust swept beneath it. Then underneath this slides a friend who, once on the other side, raises the fence for their companion to follow. And then they bolt across the woods. Boyfriends ditch their girlfriends. Groups of friends try to stick together, only to lose their composure and split up.

In pursuit come the four wheelers, appearing from stands of trees, the Blue shirts in tow. These aren't the helpful but firm Orange shirted lifeguards of the perimeter. This far in all you get are anxious bull dogs, with linebacker shoulders and bald heads supported by folds of neck fat. They appear from behind bushes, from the crooks in trees, emerging with all the magic of pernicious leprechauns out to defend their gold.

And then beyond what you can see from the hill, everything turns into rumor. Someone mentions horses in the forest. There is a colorful but unlikely story about bee hives situated in the path of potential runners. The unsuccessful mob organizer in the camouflage provides a single stark warning: "If they tell you to stop, keep running. If they say they're going to get the dogs, stop." Even if you can get past all of that, the cops, the Orange shirts, the first fence, the quarter mile sprint and the Blue shirts in their land rovers, you still have a second fence to jump, and a second mad dash into the anonymity of the ticket holders.

Even this far in there's no guarantee. There are rumors of random spot checks and paper searches. A man with a leashed dog and a vaguely western European accent tells of his son's failure. Not at the hands of the security, he got through them. No, the man says, his son was turned in by one of the spectators, who caught him and pointed him out to security. "Fucker," the man says. "He had rock and roll in his head, and Hitler shit in his heart."

A bearded boy with a mandolin in his backpack tells of being roughed up and threatened by the Blue shirts on the inside, and the experience has drained him. Now he sits with the old men and the dog owners, content on the hill. He says that yesterday he spotted Alex Ebert, of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, making his way past the fence. He yelled his name, and the man sat beside him and they shared break-in strategy together. With this he has found his experience. With that mandolin in his backpack, he never would have been let in anyway. Here at the Outside Lands Music Festival, as detailed in the "What not to bring" section of their web site, musical instruments are strictly prohibited.

My own attempt failed along with most of the others. I joined up with a pair of girls from out of town, who stuck with me past the first fence and all the way to the back end of a police station. And while the police escorted us out, the security guards laughed the whole way out. The girls vanished as they joined up with another group, headed down the fence, looking for that magic spot.

The show soon takes on a sense of self-parody, a border town masquerading as a rock concert. All day people compare the breaking in to video games or heist movies or a complicated form of tag. You can't help but compare the whole thing to its "real life" counterparts. We would likely seem even more silly, in our world without consequences, to anyone who has ever had to sleep out for a night in a rat infested drain pipe or trust their fortune to nameless men in clapboard border towns. This fence may be high, but we still have a guarantee that eludes millions of people eyeing life across artificial boundary lines. Because tomorrow, our fence will come down, while theirs remains. And here we are, playing the Immigration Simulator, the Disney version of the Arizona profiling law.

As the day ends, I walk back to my bike along the outside of the fence, finally done with this whole business of being in the right place at the right time. Everywhere you look there are people pulling up the fences, darting across that old familiar no man's land. People creep through the woods not ten yards from the fence, headed towards what any experienced jumper would know is just another waiting security guard. Do they know about the second fence? Do they know about the second security force hiding in the bushes? Everyone is so conspicuous it becomes impossible to believe that the security is doing anything but laughing at us.

So would it have been easier to sit and enjoy the show from outside, then? I did spend a good ten minutes in a tree, watching Edward Sharpe from above the heads of horses and the spikes of fences, before security kicked me out. Isn't there something to dancing with the mid riffed girls and sharing warm beer with new friends. Doesn't the beer taste the same, regardless of what side of the fence you're on? I can't help but feel a sense of frustration at the sight of all those thousands of honest ticket payers, tucked away safely on the inside. Why do they outnumber the infiltrators? But then again, this is the way of things, isn't it? Everyone being polite while a few people sit on a hill and gleefully misbehave.

And yet if I'd stayed in that crowd, maybe I would have been there for what happened during Chromeo's set; for that moment when a group of kids rose up out of nowhere and rushed the fence. And, to cheers from the crowd within, they knocked the whole thing right over and rushed inside and blended in, disappearing into the crowd. I was just in the right place at the wrong time. I must have missed it by that much. If only that bunch of kids had dodged instead of weaved, if only they'd hopped instead of dug, they'd be on the inside right now. And with that kind of thought in the back of your head, how can you possibly just sit in your tree?

But then I try to remember why I came here in the first place. It wasn't for some spectacular musical line up. It wasn't for any kind of atmosphere. The fences, the guards, they're a challenge. An opportunity to say that no matter what is built, myself or someone else will find a way to smash it down. Though we may not have as much at stake as a people faced with true and permanent borders, this is more than some dumb game. It's one hand fighting the other hand, human ingenuity and creativity up against walkie talkies, metal detectors, horse shit, night sticks, dogs, bees and machismo. With the whole masses of private security organized against you, how can you not be tempted to give the whole operation the finger, shouting "I'm smarter than your machines, I'm faster than your dogs, I break down fences and damn, I look sexy doing it."

Volume 24

Well, in the quickest response time in history, a piece I submitted two hours ago was just put online by the folks over at The Fringe. But then again, I wrote this five years ago, so maybe that's a longer turnaround time than it seems. Either way, here's the link.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Nomination 2

...and also, for what its worth, The Emerson Review as put my story Centralia Illinois up for a Puschart nomination. So good for me. And good for you for reading.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Gold Dust magazine has posted their PDF of my story Believe. It has lots of pretty pictures. Here's the link.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Just thought I'd mention that The Easter Machine, recently published in The Dead Mule School Review, has been nominated for the Best of the Net anthology.

Saturday, June 5, 2010


Here's my short story Driscol, as it will be appearing in the Decameraon Literary Journal

Officer Driscol wished it would snow. There was too much quiet in the above places. Last week it had slushed. The snow came in the night, he’d slept through Sunday morning, and by the time he’d woken up, Driscol had found nothing but dirty gums of brown muck shoved up against the curbs outside.
He rolled over in bed and pulled down a finger full of venetian blinds. He searched the world outside for snow. There were clumps of power lines, Virgin Mary statues in the yards, but nothing coming down. Winter had told a joke, and now it was holding back the punch line.
“Come on,” Driscol growled, “Snow. Snow.”
He rolled onto his other side. Through the open door of the bedroom, he saw into the bedroom and through the glass of the gun case in the living room. He imagined crawling his way towards his Sub Compact Baretta. Imagined himself standing in the back yard, firing into the sky, demanding snow, from anyway, snow. But he wasn’t on the ranch anymore. Boulder was over.
Now it was all city on and on forever, and the mountain snows were gone. Now it was just suburban gray. Winter here was the color of a stainless steel sink. All the fences here were chain linked. All the yards rubbed up against each other.
He wondered how long the house would take to fall down if he were to abandon it at that very moment and never return.
Texas hobbled towards the doorway. He lurked there every morning, waiting for Driscol to show signs of life. He whimpered, tried to look pitiful. He didn’t have to try. Arthritis racked the old dog’s legs. How old was he by now, forty, fifty? Driscol was waiting for Texas to die.
That was all he was waiting for. But the dog just lived and lived.
“I’ll be up in a minute,” Driscol muttered, with another furtive look towards the window, one more hope for snow. The dog made some guttural sound from inside of itself. Driscol hoped it was a death rattle. He didn’t even have to read the words of the will in his mind anymore. They had ingrained themselves into his brain.
“And to my youngest and only surviving son, I leave Texas. I trust him to keep my beloved Texas in good health, and keep him comfortable through the end of his days, whenever they may be.”
“Move back to Evansville,” Driscol muttered to himself. “Sure. Great idea. The force is hiring there. Just until the dog dies, and they you can make it back to Boulder.”
He pulled himself out of bed. The dog’s stomach rumbled. Ugly old thing, Driscol thought. Looks just like mom.

Eminence, MO

Here is my poem, Eminence, MO, as it appears in the upcoming issue of The Lamplighter Review:

Eminence MO, October
Outside the ranch, it's raining on the herd.
Forest noises crack and break and no one knows the hooves that form them.
In the morning we’ll find tracks approaching the trailer.
Then turning back the way they came.
As if bored with us.
As if saying, “You remain here because we let you.”
Outside the ranch, a blue school bus with Kansas plates dies rusty in a gravel lot.
The final mosquitoes of the year try to suck blood out of a discarded leather couch.
Outside the ranch there are ruins of old cabins.
The cigarette butt leftovers of broken meth labs.
The exoskeletons of falling swing sets, pushed forgotten to the back of the yard.
Goats stand alert in the pastures.Waiting for something.
A horse sticks its head between the fence rails.
Aware of that same signal.
There’s a Missouri winter coming and there’s no stopping it.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

New fiction coming soon

Acceptances from Kaleidotrope and Decameron Annual have just come in and, as usual, will be posted when the issues become available.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The 4th Dimension of July

Here is a story from a few years back. It appeared in the 2007 issue of the Green Fuse Literary Journal, the annual review for Webster University. Its in the pdf below, on page 66. They spelled my name wrong, but I still like them.

Also, I'd love feedback on how these posts are going. Are the links easy to navigate, or would anyone (if anyone is out there in the first place) like to see things posted in this site itself. Let me know, I'd love to hear from whoever decides to read my work.

Latest News

I received the very good news today that my story, 'Believe' has been chosen by the editors of Gold Dust Magazine as their favorite piece from this season's issue. I'll be posting it as soon as the issue goes online.

My story, 'Centralia Illinois, 1947' will be appearing in the 2010 edition of the Emerson Review, a literary journal published out of Emerson College in Boston. They won't be posting the story online, but I'll be sure to post a link to their site when the issue goes up, and maybe write up a little something about the real life disaster that inspired the piece.

The same goes for my poem, 'Eminence, MO', which will soon be appearing in the Lamplighter Review. Though it won't be appearing online, i'll be posting a link when the issue comes around, and maybe posting the poem here as well, if it really is unavailable.
I ghost wrote a piece for a program that the United Way of Greater Cincinnati has been working on in the rural community of Felicity, Ohio. It appeared in the August 2009 newsletter for the Clermont County Chamber of Commerce, and you can find it on page 3 in the link below.

The Epiphany Project

A few years back, I wrote a story about scientists working on a particle accelerator who get distracted by a vending machine. So I was excited to finally find a home for it in the most recent issue of the Oddville Press. The PDF is available free for download.


My flash fiction piece 'Better' appears in this season's issue of 63 Channels. It is no longer available online. Here is the piece.

It was the second my fist closed over the stick shift that I knew things would be better back west. Just had to get west, had to go sunset, go Pacific, full tanks of gas and running on fumes and coffee filter power. Things had to be better there. State lines fixed everything. So drive, all engines drive girl, I kept saying to myself, drive.

And I knew that all my friendlies and happys would be there, standing in the front of all the yards, behind the gates of the front doors. And I knew that drive in would be wall papered by everyone waving at me welcome home with sandals on and no coats in sight. All the clinics would be wreathed and garland covered and smelling of rose water and lavender oil, and all the nurses there holding fresh white linens would join hands with the preachers of the all inclusive churches and beckon me back.

No more stares, ever again. No more fish stickers on the back bumpers of pickup trucks, no more revival drums coming from the mouths of blue haired church ladies and their decomposing husbands. No more notes pushed under the door of my apartment, telling me about damnation and showing me pictures of what the baby must have looked like, that’s what they keep calling it, not an embryo or a fetus but a full blown, thumb having baby. No, just a couple more state lines and then I could see what waited for me there.

Ticker tape would fall, it would happen for sure I could see it, like war was over day, like troops back from the front day. And endless marching bands would snake down palm tree lined boulevards, and movie stars would put their arms around the hobos and sigh together, “She’s back, thank god, lets call it for good this time.”

There would be horns blaring and keys to the city waiting, chocolate foil gift baskets on the laps of Chanel mommys. Gay pride parades would simultaneously erupt beneath rainbow flagged balconies, floats would construct themselves out of gutter water and wind blown newspapers. The tides would start to lap faster, like the tongue of a happy puppy, all of it echoing “welcome back friend, welcome back,” with music blaring from the eighteens in the backs of the whips and my whole skull filled with my smile shaped jaw.

Soon the desert would give way. I’d come too far to stop, no hitch hikers thanks you, no motel rooms
thank you, only west for me from here on out forever. The desert would give way to hills, and finally the

concrete embrace of all those million miles of house and street, and all the corner taco stands burning like eternal


The Easter Machine

My short story, The Easter Machine, was recently published in the online journal 'The Dead Mule School'. They focus on writing that has a connection to the southern United States, and you can find my work in their April, 2010 issue. The link is below.


I created this blog about a year ago. Then I realized I didn't have anything to say, or anything interesting to present, and I never looked at it again. Since then I've begun attending San Francisco State University, where I study creative writing in their graduate ficiton program. In the last few weeks, I've been having a lot of success in the publishing world. So I'll be using this space to post links to all of my writing online, as it appears in journals and smalls press literary magazines. I hope to post a lot of work now and in the future.