Nerding Out FTW

Well, crap.  I did it to myself.  Again.

Those French shows I mentioned a while back?  You know, the ones I was watching just to practice the language?

Yeah, I started to get into them.


So now I’m binge-watching the crap out of them…binge-watching them to the point where I’m ignoring American shows and movies.  Hell, I’ve become engaged in them enough that the other day, when I was going out with a couple of friends, I tried to get everyone moving by walking towards the door and calling out, “On y va!”

The others, of course, just stared blankly at me.  I actually had to think for a second to come up with the appropriate English phrase!

And…well…yeah…I’m into the cartoons just as much, if not more.  Yeah the movies are great, and the cop dramas are…well…they’re very French, but the cartoons…

Some of those Gallic otaku can write.

maxresdefaultA big thank you, by the way, to Thomas Astruc for being a hell of a creator.  I know how hard it is to work within the well-defined lines of the “superhero cartoon”, but Astruc’s Miraculous does a very good job — maybe even a fantastic one.  To watch that show grow in development, complexity and emotion from the silly pointlessness of Season One to the depth and meaning of the “Chat Blanc” episode near the end of Season Three is…well…it’s that awkward mix of inspiring and endearing.

I started to care for the characters, I found.  I didn’t realize I had come to care — or, at least, I didn’t realize just how much — until the end of that third season.  But, by then, those characters had become just like beloved characters in other shows, movies and books: they were old friends who I wanted to see succeed.*

*Side note — if you can’t see others’ characters that way, you probably should be writing.  If characters cannot become real to you — whether they are yours, or those of other writers — then I’m not sure fiction writing is what you’re meant to do…

VSSuper_Nerd_PEOkay, look…I’m a nerd.  I get it.  I freely admit it.  Hell, I’m not just a quasi-nerd, or a little mini-nerd…I’m a full-strength, wear-a-Jabba-the-Hut-costume, learn-Elvish, go-to-Ren-Faires, full-time nerd!

I’m also sentimental as hell.

I owned those parts of who I am a long time ago, so I very obviously don’t see anything wrong with them.  If they make you uncomfortable or embarrassed…well…that’s your problem, ain’t it?

But back to the characters…

o_62hkWpLook, Marinette is great, and I think she makes one hell of a role model for young girls wanting a hero of their own, but…


C’mon, y’all know me by now!  Of-freaking-course there was a but!

But, Adrien…

0ddbf326947a38e9ab303ef4a0260b1f7e2aef0b_hqIt’s not the Chat Noir persona that gets me, it’s the fragile, broken thing behind the hero.  It’s the fragile, broken thing behind the alter-ego, too, by the way.  It’s the hero who could sit there and sing (in a Christmas special) about the fact that he has no one…

Of course, I also think one of the most powerful moments in the entire show was when the supervillain — Adrien’s father, for the uninitiated — saw his (supposedly helpless) son falling to his death and screamed in pain and terror for all to hear.

Yeah, they nailed that one.

Look, the show — and it’s writing — has flaws.  It is, after all, a cartoon written for middle- and high-schoolers.  A cartoon meant to be translated into dozens of different xI4QAqNlanguages, countries and cultures, mind you…

In spite of that, I have to raise a glass to Astruc for what he and his crew have been able to pull off.  Characters and plots with real meaning?  friendships with complexity and tension and problems?  Shit, gay relationships in a cartoon shown in Saudi Arabama?**

**No, that wasn’t a typo — I can’t think of two places on this planet with more in common than Saudi Arabia and Alabama.  Both believe in repressing and vilifying anyone who doesn’t toe their insane theocratic line in all its details…

Look, most of you will read this post and offer up a shrug.  “What the hell is he talking about?” you’ll wonder.  Then you’ll go on about your day without another thought.  Some of you will think, even, “Well, he’s just as nuts as I thought.”  Others will mutter curses about silliness and pointlessness and wasting time.

But some of you…

Some of you will understand that maybe you can learn from cartoons…even a French one!




I’ve talked before — a bit — about the friends and family I have lost.  About the friends, siblings, mentors and assorted others…

When I was young, my “list” of the lost dwarfed those of anyone of similar age.  As I age, however, my peers catch up with me in that sad statistic.

Put simply, I have not lost more than my peers…I just lost folks sooner.

Now, I’ve mentioned before the fact that I write stuff in this blog — and in my stories — that I would never say face-to-face to even my closest friends or family.  No one knew I fought depression until I started writing about it here.  Just as no one knew that my entire world changed with the loss of my child.

So I’ll write about something else that no on knows…err, knew.

41137445655_05e5ed14c8_bI’ve never visited a graveside.

Oh, I’ve been to services and memorials and celebrations — crap, I was (unintentionally) part of an Unknown Soldier service in freaking Budapest, of all places — but I’ve never intentionally visited the graveside of a friend or family member.

Why not?

Remember that whole “photographic memory” thing we talked about?

Yeah, that comes into it.  As does grief and weakness, guilt and shame.  Look, let’s be honest — I’m alive.  With everything I’ve done, I’m still alive.  With everything I’ve fucked up…

With all of the danger and drugs and quests-for-escape…

With all of the depression and flirtations with suicide…

I’m still alive.  I’m alive, and my friends and family — who had none of my failures and flaws — are not.

How do you stand next to the grave of a better person and, well, face them?

Now, that passage above was not what I set out to write.  What I set out to write was a post that would grow, over 500 or 600 words, to illustrate the power of a song.  A post that would provide a hint and a lead-in to a musical interlude that would explain far, far more to those who were willing to listen…and smart enough to hear.

That post has already failed.  With what I’ve written above, I’ve got no way to ease into an anecdote that can lead into a song…  With what I’ve written above, I’ve left myself no real room for subtlety.

Were this blog a novel, I would delete the scene and start over.

But this isn’t a novel, this is a blog.  This is my blog, my seat at the bar.

This is stream-of-consciousness writing with little to no room for editing and revision.

So no subtlety here, no hinting.  Below is the song that — no kidding — was playing on the radio as I drove from the funeral service to the graveside internment for my high school friend.  Even after all these years, I can’t listen to this song without remembering…

Actually, I can’t listen to this song, period.

And I still haven’t visited Mike’s grave.


So I was out writing the other day.

Nothing new in that, except that I was writing a couple of hours before I was to host a bonfire in the staff RV park.

In an RV park, by the way, there is no privacy.  Even in a Yellowstone park — especially in a Yellowstone park, for folks who travel thousands of miles to work seasonally — there is no privacy…

It’s a small village, really, this place.  Everyone knows everyone else’s business…everyone wants to know everyone else’s business…

In the set-up for the bonfire, as my writing finished and I was trying to come down, someone asked me about my stories…

More specifically, they asked me why I write the kinds of things I do.

Now, normally, I dissemble on questions like that.  Normally, I let the stories stand for themselves, and challenge folks to read between the lines to understand the what and why.

Normally…but not when I’m coming down from a writing session.  Not when I’m living a story in my head…and in my memory.

So, in the absence of something else to write, here is the answer I gave to those other Yellowstone workers:

I went to my first real funeral at 17.

He was one of my best friends, and he died because he loved another of our friends — a guy — and he couldn’t deal with that “failure”.

Our society — our “perfect” society, our “lovely” society of forgiveness and tolerance and freedom — told him that he was flawed and broken.  It — WE — told him that he was worthless, that he had no future…that he had no hope.

So he hung himself.

And I went to his funeral.

I have been to many funerals since, three of those for the suicides of friends.

Every single one of those suicides resonates with me.  Every single one of those hurts.  Just as every single one has its own story, and its own meaning — but they all come back to Mike’s funeral, to be honest.  They all come back to when I was seventeen, and just didn’t understand.

“Why do you cry when you write your stories?” I get asked.  “Why do you care so much about your characters?”

Because they are me.  Because Oz IS Mike in a very real way…because the story IS about my own life, and my own friends…

Look, I’m writing this post in response to a bunch of questions from folks who just don’t know…

Those folks don’t know me, not really.  In most respects, they don’t even know the same world I do.  They are folks who have never lacked for comfort, who have never lacked for influence or a voice.  They are folks who never can understand why a rope — or a knife — in the dark of night can sometimes seem like the best answer of all…

”What’s your story about?” I get asked…all the time.

Usually, I give the 30-second “elevator answer” to that question, the marketing and sales answer.

Usually, but not always.

What’s it about?


When you get right down to it, the whole 300,000-word trilogy comes down to one image: one broken kid holding the body of another, far more broken, kid.

That’s it.

Welcome to my life.


Microfiction Friday: “A Hundred Years Ago”

Note – the inspiration of this piece is a song, as it is in so much of my writing.  I wanted to do 300 words on the images that song raised.  I don’t think I succeeded in telling this as a STORY, not in the way I should, but nor do I hate what I came up with in that hour of writing…

A Hundred Years Ago

Who the hell am I to judge those who have come before?  Who the hell am I to judge those who lived lives so different, in times more alien than any far planet?

A picture it was that drove me.  A picture, and discussions about the triumphs and failures of a man who has been nothing more to me than a handful of stories told by relatives already old and fading to my far-younger eyes.  The picture of a man who has never been real to me.

Until now.

Now, his ghost is whispering in the background.  He is speaking and trying to teach, but I have to strain to hear.

I carry the burdens of his sins.  We all carry those burdens, the ones from our ancestors.  The burden of their debts in the economy, in the environment, in our society.  But I — we — carry also their victories, and their hard-won wisdom.

The picture I’ve been looking at is simple.  There is one of me, in much the same pose.  That similarity may have been nothing more than happenstance, but it changed me.  A hundred years ago, in a time so different, among people so different, across a gulf of far more than just years, our faces look the same.  Our bodies look the same.  What else is the same?

There he stood, his newborn child in his arms.  He was trying to look stern, I think, trying to be the epitome of the distant, uncaring father…but you can see it in his eyes, the love.  You can see just how much that tiny child changed the world for him.

I look down, even as I write this, as I try to calm the squirming and squiggling, and I can’t help but think, “Just like me.”

P.S. — I never did find that one special picture to accompany this that I was looking for…