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Aug 27

Another Year, Another Dragon*Con

Posted on Monday, August 27, 2012 in Ramblings

Yep. It’s that time of the year again, when tens of thousands of people descend on downtown Atlanta and indulge themselves in a celebration of things that most people looked down on when I was growing up: comic books, superheroes, science fiction, fantasy, RPGs, cosplay, and games. This is my element, folks, and I love it. Dragon*Con marks the beginning of my favorite time of year - the months of September through November - and I can’t think of a better way to ring it in.

Admittedly though, after last year I was a little bit ambivalent about Dragon*Con this year.

Until this morning when I sat down to write this little tribute to it….

You see, last year I had a little trouble with Dragon*Con - something that, unless they were blowing smoke up my ass, other people also had a problem with. And that, ladies and gentlemen, was simply the AMOUNT of people who are showing up to my favorite party. The number is nearing 100,000, and last year I could feel it. Every time I went to go find food or drink that was better than the foil-wrapped burgers and hot dogs the Hilton provided, the path was blocked by literally thousands of people. Many of them were the “face of Dragon*Con” - the costumed cavorters who spend the day giving photo ops, and spend the night drinking flavored vodka out of plastic cups.

I’m thankful for those people in a way, because they have contributed significantly to the pop culture legitimacy our particular subculture can now claim. But when I’m trying to go pee, the last thing I want is to have to push my way through a cadre of Starhip Troopers posing with styrofoam Poke-creatures. They need to get the fuck out of my way.

Also, there’s the noise. I am not an introvert by any stretch of the imagination, and I LOVE crowds. But days and days of shouting to be heard gets old. And I get hoarse. And I don’t like having to say HUH so much.

So yeah. Ambivalence.

But this weekend, as the number of hours until Dragon*Con begins (it begins for me the minute my best buddy Jay Elgin’s plane lands at the airport tomorrow night and only escalates from there) slipped into single digits, I started getting really, really, really, really excited. And I realized as I started writing this that the reason I’m excited is not because of all the gaming and partying and people-watching I’m about to engage in. It’s because of all the people I’m going to be seeing and hanging out with. For instance, I haven’t seen Jay in almost a year. And there’s others - I’m not gonna list any other than Jay because the list is looooong and I don’t want to leave out anyone - but they’re coming, and I’ll see them, and it’ll be like we just saw each other yesterday. (And yeah, Jeff and Ken, I know we did just see each other yesterday.)

If you’re coming to Dragon*Con, come see me. I’ll be the one with no costume other than a big, fat grin.

Apr 7

Will’s Upcoming Journeys

Posted on Thursday, April 7, 2011 in Bars and Booze, Featured Friends of Will, Ramblings

I’m really excited by all the cool conventions and workshops and cruises I’m going on all spring and summer long, starting this weekend. Typically, when I’m about to attend this sort of shit, I always promise that I’m gonna Tweet the whole time and I’m gonna do a write-up of this or that whenever I get back, and then I NEVER Tweet it, and I only do a write-up about half the time.

That said, I DO plug these things quite a bit, both before and after - just not quite to the extent that I imagine I will, usually because I’m so immersed and having so much fun. I certainly hope that those involved - those who have monetary gain tied up in these cons and retreats - appreciate the free press I’m giving them. I hope they benefit from it. I guess if that they don’t benefit from the free press, then there’s no tangible reason for them to appreciate it, other than appreciating my fruitless, often noisy, mostly altruistic efforts.

So what’s happening in the near future? Well, in the months of April and May, which are otherwise filled with more birthdays and anniversaries than I can count, there’s this weekend’s Classic City Brewfest, the World Horror Convention at the end of the month, and next month’s East Atlanta Beer Festival.

Classic City Brewfest. I’m leaving this Saturday afternoon for Athens, GA with two of my best friends, Jay and Eddie. Jay’s an events manager at the  Hilton Atlanta, and Eddie is one of the owners of the Ale Yeah! Craft Beer Market in Decatur. I think they’re awesome company for an excursion like this, and not just because of what they do for a living. They love beer as much as I do (maybe more), they’re fun, and like me, they attended UGA many, many, many years ago. While we’re there, we’ll likely have a few with my friend Matt Simpson, The Beer Sommelier. And hopefully, next week I’ll return to this site with a rundown of all the best beers we encountered at the Brewfest. And maybe with a raunchy tale or two to tell as well. Although not about Eddie, Matt, or me - we’re married. So I guess that just leaves Jay.

The World Horror Convention. I have no idea what to expect from this. All I know is that I LOVE horror movies and horror stories, and that I love Austin, Texas. So when I saw that there was a convention in Austin that covered all things horror, I just HAD to go. I tried to get my friends Darrell and Stephanie to go with me, but they fell through, and I’d like to take this opportunity to point out to them that I think they’re missing out…. I have nothing scheduled for my weekend there, although I did enter the Black Static short story contest, and I’m probably going to sign up to pitch The Talented Boys (it’s a horror novel after all) to someone. Otherwise, I’m winging it - meeting creepy people, watching horror movies, and drinking a shit ton of beer on Sixth Street.

East Atlanta Beer Festival. Not much to say on this one. Yet. Jay and I have gone to it several years running and always had a grand time. This year, Jay might not be able to go, but I think my friend Michael will go with me. And maybe Rob’ll grow a pair and stop bailing at the last minute. The EAB web site says tickets will go on sale early in April, but as of this writing, I’ve seen no movement in that direction. When they DO go one sale, I shall purchase some. VIP, baby - the only way to go.

Mar 22

Adventures in Beer: Sweetwater Brewery’s Brew Your Cask Off!

Posted on Monday, March 22, 2010 in Bars and Booze, Reviews

It’s Monday!!! My original plan was to write about Sweetwater’s cool idea for a festival the minute I got back home from it, thinking at first that it would be an afternoon thing the way a lot of these events are. Turns out it was an evening thing, so I decided to write about it the DAY AFTER. Well, scratch that as well. It’s MONDAY!!! Two days later. I’m OK, BTW.

 And here’s the skinny….

For those who don’t know (And you SHOULD KNOW, because Sweetwater’s beer is among the best that small breweries in America have to offer. If you live in the Southeast and don’t know Sweetwater, then you should probably just keep drinkin’ yer Bud and don’t talk to me.) Sweetwater Brewery is a local Atlanta establishment, founded in 1997 by friends Kevin McNerney and Freddy Bensch. Their beer has won awards year after year, and their rotating “Catch and Release” seasonals are ALWAYS at the top of what I choose to drink.

A while back, Sweetwater put this weekend’s festival into motion - the premise being that 75 local entities, ranging from local bar establishments to organizations like the Atlanta Humane Society to local beer and food celebs, would create casks/kegs of original beer using base ingredients provided by Sweetwater. Then Sweetwater would charge admission to us “lay folk” and have us all come in for a huge tasting.

A worthy experiment, and one I’m happy to have participated in.

My buddy Jay and I showed up about 6:15, got our tasting glasses and a “guide” to all the would-be brewers and what they had to offer, and went straight to our first cask. The weather was awesome - I think it’s a sign that God decided to relent on the Atlanta monsoon season long enough for us to get our beer on.

The beers were laid out in tight rows under a series of big white tents. You walked up to a person manning (or womanning) each station, asked for a taste of what they were pouring, got it, and walked away to drink it. Sometimes the crowd was a little thick, but most everyone was congenial and generous about getting out of the way - we all knew better than to stand between a beer fan and his/her beer. In addition to the rows of casks, we had Mellow Mushroom pizza and what looked and smelled like some curry dish available to us, as well as a variety of informational booths offering… information. On topics.

Whatever.

Also, Sweetwater had their regular kegs available inside, if you wanted to go with the tried and true. Jay and I did that once - at the suggestion of my friend Matt Simpson, The Beer Sommelier, we went inside and got a pour of Sweetwater’s own quad Belgian. It was OK, but neither Jay nor I are huge Belgian drinkers, so we soon returned to the grand experiment.

Jay’s a hop head to the bone. That means he prefers beers with a huge hop kick - beers like Dogfish Head’s 90 Minute and HeBrew’s Bittersweet Lenny’s RIPA. I’m also a hop head (my favorite beer last year was Moylan’s Hopsickle, hands down) but lately I’ve been really into stouts and porters with super complexity and more malt than hops.

I tell you that because we all had the opportunity to vote on our favorite cask, and our current tastes heavily influenced what we ultimately voted for. I’ve checked the Brew Your Cask Off! Festival web site, and as of this writing, they haven’t posted a winner - if they ever do post one, that is. When they do, I’ll follow up this post with an announcement.

 If you ask me, with some exceptions (yes, there were some failed experiments) every beer was a winner, because every beer had a unique flavor and approach. And every person there won a little something, because they quite possibly got to taste things that NOBODY will ever taste again.

That said, let me tell you a few beers I’d LIKE to taste again. Except for my “Number One”, these are in no particular order.

Will’s TOP TEN from Sweetwater’s Brew Your Cask Off! Festival/Tasting:

  • South Atlanta Home Brewers’ Brown-Eyed Cask - an excellent, if common, dark, hoppy, oaky beer.
  • Wild Wing Cafe’s Asshopper Ale - Tastes like a typical dark ale until you let it sit there a second. Then… peppermint! No shit.
  • Green’s Hop Cocktail - Green is the name of the place, and if I recall correctly, also the way the hops tasted.
  • Atkins Park’s Morning After Pill - What was that finish? I couldn’t identify it.
  • Charlie Mopps’s All Hopped Up - For us hop heads, a delicious Double IPA.
  • Brickstore Pub’s Sticky Bun Stout - Didn’t look dark like a typcial stout, but who cares. Sweet, baby, sweet. (Literally).
  • Park Tavern’s Kona Koconut Porter - Yep. Pretty in-your-face coconut flavor.
  • Team United Distributors’ Beer Guys Untied IPA - This one was Jay’s favorite. Quad-hopped = enough to make you pucker.
  • Porter Beer Bar’s It’s Nuts In Here - Really green, almost mossy. Kind of like tea, you know?

And my favorite beer?

Cypress Street Pint & Plate’s Knobzilla Vanilla Oatmeal Stout. Concocted by CSP&P’s Wes Anderson, the Knobzilla was a brilliant mix of outstanding malts with hints of coffee and chocolate and an ingenious infusion of whiskey that made it smooth and sweet and subtly complex. Fucking great beer.

Thank you, would-be brewers, for giving us inspirational, imagination, flavorful beer, and thank you Sweetwater, for helping them along.

Jan 6

Almost Finished With…

Posted on Wednesday, January 6, 2010 in Ramblings, Writing and Writers

At this point, I consider myself a qualified success.

I make money by writing. I write every day. I’ve published short stories, poems, articles, and complete fodder in a number of national and international magazines. I maintain this blog, which is growing slightly in popularity every week. Toot, toot, toot my own horn.

Well….

I’ve never published a novel, which would probably be the largest achievement I could hope to muster at this point in my career. And it’s not that I haven’t WRITTEN any novels - I have, as you’ll soon learn - I just haven’t PUBLISHED one. And who knows IF I’ll publish one. All I know is that either later this week or early next, I will finish another one, and I think this one is the most publishable one I’ve written yet.

I finished my “first” novel in 2000. Some of you have read it. It was called The King of Karma, and it had a great premise and some moments of potential genius that I intend to recycle (Cat’s on fire…, the shit dream.) but I’ve looked at it with the jaded eyes of ten additional years of experience and I don’t think it’s ready for the world. It MIGHT be salvageable, but that would take a lot of work - work I’m not willing to give it right now. And frankly, I’m kind of sick of it. I edited the shit out of it for years and I don’t want to edit it anymore.

I chalk it up now to experience: writing Karma taught me how to write a novel, how to carry a narrative over 70,000 words, over 30 chapters, over 400 pages.

My “second” novel, The Survivor of San Guillermo (Get it? Saint William?) has just gotten out of hand. At first it was a shortish book - 55,000 words tops. But it’s a time travel novel, and different aspects of my version of time travel - the what ifs and why nots - planted seeds that made the novel start growing. At this point it’s 60,000 words + and has spilled into another book. I think it MIGHT become a trilogy or more - and I just don’t want it to dominate my life at this point. Publishing a trilogy is attractive, though, and the novel’s pretty good, so I won’t abandon it. But for now, there’s other fish to fry.

For instance, my “third” novel, the first quarter of which many of you have already read or listened to: A War Between States. This novel isn’t even finished - it’s a little over half done - but since I’m podcasting it, I feel compelled to finish it in the future. It looms large on the horizon. (BTW, expect a new podcast next week, after I get my buddy Jeff over to read the part of the leprechaun.)

Yes. I said leprechaun.

Anyway, all of this is just lead-in to what the main point of this post is: that I’m one chapter, two or three sittings, a handful of days away from finishing my ultimate achievement. My “fourth” novel idea, my third completed novel. And like I implied earlier - I am waaaaay enthusiastic at the prospects of this book.

On the phone with my friend Stephanie, and to my wife and mother, I have confessed something that I am certain was true: if I didn’t finish this book, tentatively titled Hood, I don’t think I would have ever attempted a novel again. This one has been a hard road, one I started in 2004, and unless I succeeded on finding the end of that road, I don’t think I’d have had the wherewithal to start the trek another time. But HEY!!! One more chapter and it’s done!

Already, I’ve started thinking about the query letter for the book - that’s how confident I am about finishing it (blogging about it this morning instead of working on it might also be an indication of my hubris). You should know that query letters are fucking hard to write - they have to be perfect, and it’s soooo hard to be perfect. But I’m actually looking forward to writing this one, because I know EXACTLY what I’m gonna say.

And now you’re wondering what this book’s about. Or at least I hope you are.

MAYBE I’ll publish the query letter here once I finish it. We’ll see. For now, here’s a quick soundbite:

The novel tentatively titled Hood tells the story of a group of graffiti artists in south Atlanta, one of whom discovers that his murals, drawings, and tags are coming to life - and that he’s part of a small group of people in the world who have similar abilities and who can travel “between worlds.”

Enough. I’m done. It’s 9 in the morning and I have to take my son to school. When I get back, I’ll put pen to paper and get a little closer to finishing….

Sep 3

Dragon*Con is HERE

Posted on Thursday, September 3, 2009 in Explanations and Excuses

And I’m going. At about 4 this afternoon, I’ll be disappearing for the entire weekend - so it’ll appear that I’m being remiss and abandoning the loyal readers I have amassed. But don’t despair! I’m going to make every effort to send Tweets on Twitter and post things on Facebook, and maybe even post brief posts here to keep you amused and apprised. Check back periodically for anecdotes. I hope they happen….

Jun 1

Novel Podcast: A War Between States, Part Two

Posted on Monday, June 1, 2009 in A War Between States

There are a lot of good comic book writers. The problem with some of the best, though, is that they simply aren’t prolific enough, since they’re expected to churn out a new piece of their story every month or so. If they don’t, readers will still follow them for a while - but after some time (a few months usually), those readers give up and move on to the next writer. They lose interest.

I am not a comic book writer (yet?), but I have given myself an even tighter deadline with this podcast - a week MAX between podcast posts. And already I’ve failed, since I’ve let 11 days pass. I could go into detail as to why it’s taken so long - there are reasons. But there are no excuses.

I’m not going to promise it won’t happen again - likely, it will. But I’m going to try to keep it from happening again SOON - you can expect another podcast post later this week. If you’re reading this, then that means you’re still with me, and I’m glad. Thank you for that. Enjoy.

If you’re just coming to this podcast (or if you already need a refresher, which you might because of my lapse), then you should scroll down and listen/read to part ONE first. Then come back to this a find out what Sarah Dobson ends up deciding about her future.

A War Between States Part 2: [audio:http://willkenyon.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/a-war-between-states-2.mp3]

Chapter 1, Part 2: Campaign: Sarah
May 7, 2003

Six hours later, Phil was swearing at the printer in his office and beating his fist on a countertop. “Goddamn dot matrix cheap ass shit!” he screamed.  “If they hadn’t screwed around with the money so much I’d be able to afford a laser printer!”

Behind him, Sarah stood, smiling, waiting.  He stomped back and forth on the commercial-grade carpet as she watched him.  Finally, he turned back to the printer and gently pulled several wrinkled, torn sheets out of it.  He handled the machine with such grace, it was hard to believe that he’d been in a fury ten seconds before. Satisfied that he was calm enough, she strolled up behind him, put one arm around his chest, and the other around his waist to where her freckled hand rested gingerly on his crotch.

“You frustrated?” she asked.  He shuddered, and she could hear him chuckle softly.

“Uh… little bit,” he said.

“How can I help?”

“Well….” He turned around in her embrace, his own hands searching her body — rougher than he’d handled the printer, but more gentle than one would expect. Once again, they kissed, and the printer was forgotten. Sarah loosened his belt as he lifted her onto the countertop beside the printer. They both moaned as she reached into his pants and he hooked his thumbs around the elastic waistband of her slacks. They both began to pull.

A knock on the glass door of the office startled them.

“What the hell?” Sarah groaned.

“Ignore ‘em,” Phil pleaded. “They’ll go away.”

Sarah grinned. “Okay,” she whispered.

The knock came again.

“Mom? Dad? C’mon, I know you’re in there!” Jack banged something metallic against the glass. “Hello? You gotta see this!”

Sarah and Phil gazed longingly and knowingly into each other’s eyes. Someday, they said to each other without words, Jack will graduate and go away like Phil Jr. did. We’ll miss him so much, true, but we won’t miss interruptions like this. Jack had a knack for them.

“Coming!” Sarah shouted, and Phil silently zipped his pants up and fastened his belt, a pained expression on his face. She hopped off the counter and strolled around the corner — out of the office’s copy room and down the main hall to the front lobby, where Jack stood outlined by the orange streetlight outside. He was a massive young man; though relatively short, his shoulders filled the glass doorway. His brown hairline receded a bit — a constant source of frustration for him since he was only twenty-four — but his face shined handsomely and friendly under it. His hands raised to knock again, and Sarah could see that the metallic sound came from the high school class ring he still wore. He grinned at Sarah now, as she unlocked the door.

When she pulled the door open, he pecked her on the cheek, then said, “Get a load of this.” Then he swept his arm in a flourish to indicate the street to his right. “I was drivin’ by on my way to the house, and saw that. I figured I’d stop and get you guys out to see it, since it’ll probably be gone by the time you leave.”

Sarah stared down the street. She felt Phil join her by her side. Down the block, where the side street they were on intersected with Washington Street, which was the main drag down the middle of Marionville, a car rested on the side of the road. Actually, it wasn’t on the road, at least not anymore. Rather, it sat askew on top of a short hedge that separated the house beyond it from the sidewalk. In the shadows cast by the streetlights, Sarah strained to make out the color, make, and model of the car. She saw it was a maroon Oldsmobile Cutlass Sierra, and she recognized it as the car driven by Cyril West, a long-time member of the Marionville city council. Behind Cyril’s car, pulled over on the side of the street, but still safely on the road, was Sheriff Robert Boyd’s brown sedan, its headlights beaming across the scene, but its blue and red flashers curiously not on. Cyril and Sheriff Boyd were themselves standing on the sidewalk, Cyril gesturing wildly, Boyd gazing coolly on, his eyes for once not hidden by his mirrored shades.

“West is probably drunk again,” Phil said.

“Yep. And this time he ran into Mrs. Adell’s azaleas,” Sarah added.

They watched for a while, as Cyril stomped his feet and shouted. Even with his voice raised, Sarah couldn’t understand a thing he said, his words slurring, and his southern accent thick. Cyril was a short, slight black man, with a curly beard and bushy, wild hair that he kept crushed under a crumpled fedora. He perpetually wore a brown suit which matched the hat, and he was perpetually inebriated.

“Isn’t tonight a city council meeting?” Phil asked.

“Yes. Yes it is,” Sarah answered. “It’s at seven.”

“Looks like Cyril’s runnin’ late,” Jack observed.

As they watched, Cyril got back into his car and backed it off of Mrs. Adell’s bushes. He rolled his window down and Boyd leaned in.

“Take care, Cyril,” they heard the sheriff say. “Drive straighter.”

Then Cyril West’s maroon Oldsmobile puttered noisily down the street in the direction of Town Hall. Cyril drove it relatively straight as Sheriff Boyd looked on.

“That’s pretty messed up,” Jack said. “If that would’ve been me, I’d be in handcuffs on my way to lock-up.”

“I dunno,” Sarah said. “Boyd let me go a few times back when I was driving drunk.”

To that, Jack only laughed a little. His laughter sounded nervous and empty.

* * *

 The next day Sarah told Nancy Walker her intentions about running for mayor. Nancy narrowed her eyes at her friend and pursed her lips. Sarah recognized the disapproval in that look.

“You can’t win,” Nancy said.

“Well,” Sarah said, suddenly on the defensive, “Phil seems to think I can.”

“Then you’re both wrong.”

Sarah grabbed a sheaf of bills, banged them on the desk to straighten them, and slammed the stapler down on them.

“You forget, Sarah,” Nancy stated evenly. “I’m not the only doctor in town. Cox has his following, too. And unlike me, who has to actually charge patients to stay in business, Cox gives medical help free or cheap. He’s been in Marionville sixty years. He’s been practicing for thirty. He’s made a comfortable living — and now it’s easy for him to give medical attention in exchange for votes instead of money.”

Sarah stopped and gaped at her friend. “You really think he does that?”

“I know he does. I’ve only been in Marionville a couple of years, but I hear stuff. I think I’m charging someone a phenomenally low price, and then I find out I’m not the lowest. I can’t beat Cox’s fees, and you can’t beat his politics. Don’t even try.”

Sarah considered this for a moment. Then the bell above the door rang, a patient came in, and the busy day resumed.

But on her way home that evening, Sarah puffed on a cigarette and thought more about her situation. She thought about everything she’d seen and heard in the past two days, and decided that despite Cox’s impenetrable incumbency, local politics was still her life’s work.

She would run for city council instead of mayor— and she’d run against Cyril West.

The Cast

  • Sarah Dobson: Jennie
  • Phil Dobson: Jeff Carter
  • Jack Dobson: Jonathan Freitag
  • Nancy Walker: Paula Towry
  • Narrator/Sheriff Boyd: Will Kenyon
May 20

Novel Podcast: A War Between States, Part One

Posted on Wednesday, May 20, 2009 in A War Between States

Here it is! Finally!

When I jumpstarted this web site again after its long hiatus, one of the things I decided to do with it was podcast one of my novels - one that was unfinished but that I felt COULD BE strong enough to warrant attention. The idea was to read it in 7-10 minute intervals, and “publish” those intervals in serial fashion once or twice a week. (A secondary idea would be that I’d be forced to FINISH the novel, which has been floating around for a few years.)

For the last couple of months, I have been working on it in all the nooks and crannies that I got, and the end result is this: just shy of 7 minutes of material - the first half of the first chapter of the book.

So, you probably want some background, a “book jacket blurb” if you will. OK.

The book, which is a black comedy of sorts, takes place in the fictional town of Marionville, which is situated in the southwestern corner of Georgia, butt up against the Alabama state line and not far from Florida. It also has a few scenes in Atlanta and Warner-Robbins, as several of the characters actually live in Atlanta and are only dealing with Marionville because they have to. In the opening chapters, you will be introduced to five main characters (and a whole soap opera cast of secondary ones) whose lives intersect as they deal with the backwards politics, racism, corruption, and overall depravity which lurks in the water oak- and magnolia-lined, almost empty streets of Marionville.

That’s enough for now, I think.

OK, here is the podcast. Below it is the actual “transcript” of what’s being read, so you can follow along. Enjoy.

A War Between States Part 1: [audio:http://willkenyon.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/a-war-between-states-1.mp3]

Chapter 1, Part 1: Campaign: Sarah
May 7, 2003

Sarah Dobson sat in her armchair, wearing slacks and a loose, billowy, floral print shirt — her favorite shirt.  She clutched a Diet Coke in one freckled, slightly wrinkled hand; a Kool Menthol dangled from the other.  She watched the TV set in front of her.  She had no idea what was on. 

If her friend and employer, Dr. Nancy Walker, had taken her pulse right then, Nancy would have remarked that Sarah’s heart was racing, that maybe Sarah should relax, though she hadn’t moved at all for nearly an hour. 

She was waiting for her husband Phil to come home.  When he came home, it would begin.  After fifty-five years, two sons, a bout of alcoholism, a fight with cancer, a long career in education without ever being a teacher, and countless Diet Cokes and cigarettes, she would begin.

Her life’s work.

Her destiny.

As calmly as she could, she took a puff from the cigarette and a swig from the soda, but then her heart nearly leapt out of her chest when she heard Phil’s car door slam.

She rose, put out the cigarette in her soot-dirty ashtray, and spun the cap back onto her soda bottle.  She turned on her heels and met the opening door with the most spectacular smile she could manage. “I’m gonna run for Mayor,” she said when Phil nudged the front door of their house open.

He stood flat-footed in the doorway, his lean frame outlined by the afternoon sun.  He carried a brown paper sack in one arm, held a pipe wrench in the other.  For a moment, he gaped at her, caught off guard. But then she saw him collect himself — she knew that even after thirty-five years of marriage, only she could throw him off, and even then not for long.

“Well, that’s it,” Phil said, a grin starting at the edges of his mouth and creeping across his face until it threatened to touch his large, prominent ears.  “That’s what you’ve been pushin’ for.”

“I’ve been thinkin’ ‘bout it, Phil.”

“I figured you had….”

She stepped back and put her fists on her narrow hips, the Diet Coke still held in one.

“You figured?”

He crossed the room and placed the paper bag on his own armchair, which was situated beside Sarah’s. “You’ve been preoccupied for the last week or so, so I figured somethin’ was on your mind.”

“And you didn’t say anything?”

“No.  When somethin’s botherin’ you, it’s best to wait until you clear it up in your own head before pursuin’ it.”

She sighed and let her arms drop.

“I guess you’re right,” she said, and went to peer into the sack.  It was full of all the grocery items she’d asked him to stop off and buy on his way home from work:  bread, milk, eggs, Doritos, Folgers, Diet Coke and cigarettes.  While she inspected the bag, Phil strolled through the dining room and kitchen to the back porch, and placed the wrench on his little workstand there.

“So what do you think?” Sarah shouted after him.

“I think it’s a great idea!” he shouted back.  “Kyle Cox needs a swift kick in his pants, and you runnin’ against him might just do it.”

She eyed him as he returned.  She moved the sack to the kitchen counter, then moved out of the way to let him empty its contents, put the sundries in their respective places in the cupboard and refrigerator.

“Do you think I can win?”

Without missing a beat, and without looking at her, he answered, “If you work hard at it. Remember, Cox is a Marionville institution.  He’s been mayor for almost thirty years.” His manner told her what he thought, even if his words didn’t.  He did think she could win, but he believed it would take phenomenal amounts of work — work he doubted she would be willing to exert.

She scowled behind his back.  He was right.

As if to reassure her of things she didn’t need reassurance about — she knew he loved her, no matter what he thought about her ability to win — he put the last can away in the cupboard and crossed to her. “Come here, let me get some lovin’,” he said, and scooped her into his sinewy arms.  Still clutching the neck of her soda bottle, she let herself be scooped up, and hugged him passionately.

“Are you happy about my decision?” she asked.

“Ecstatic.”

“If I win, I’ll be your boss.”

“No you won’t,” he said, and kissed her.  After the kiss, he pulled back only a little, and whispered to her, his full lips only inches from hers, his breath musky and pleasant in her nose.  “Remember, I hold the city’s purse strings.  You won’t do nothin’, spend nothin’, without my say-so.”

She laughed, and they kissed again.  Their kiss might have moved to the bedroom and to more, but the phone rang.  Sarah broke from Phil, and he grunted.  She loved to talk on the phone.

“Hello?” she said into the receiver.

“Mom, it’s Jack.”

“Hey, honey.  To what do we owe this phone call?”

“Well… I was thinkin’ about swingin’ down your way for a couple of days.  I don’t work tomorrow, or have class.”

She smiled at the thought of seeing her youngest son, even though she’d just seen him a week before.  So much invested in those boys — they were her mark on the world. So far.

“That’s fine.  I just put new sheets on your bed.”

“Got any beer in the fridge?” His voice held that pitch her boys had learned from their father — that inviting, imploring lilt which indicated that they were kidding, but only just a little.  Jack was teasing her about her sometimes fanatic scramble to “stock up” before Phil Jr. made one of his infrequent visits.  Phil Jr. loved his beer, and her refrigerator was usually void of it.  But Jack liked his beer too, and he’d be pleased if there was a six pack waiting for him.

“I’ll get some,” she said.

“Don’t sweat it.  I’ll pick some up on my way in.  Does Dad want anything?”

She looked up at Phil.

“You want anything to drink?”

“I’ve got tea,” he said.

She knew Phil was being coy.  He enjoyed his scotch now and then, but he acted like he didn’t sometimes for her benefit — he figured teetotalling around her made it easier for her to resist “temptation.”  Which was silly — she’d been sober for fifteen years; the temptation wasn’t even there anymore.

“Booze-wise,” she said, smirking.

“Oh… ginger ale, I guess.”

She turned back to the phone.

“Ginger-ale, he says.”

“Done,” Jack said.

“I have some big news, Jack,”  Sarah said suddenly, unable to resist.

“Yeah? What’s that?”

“I’ve decided to run for mayor.”

“What?  Is Kyle Cox steppin’ down finally?”

 She hoped her voice didn’t carry the irritation she felt.

“Nooo… I’m gonna beat him.”

“Well, that’s cool, Mom.  Do  you think you can really do it?”

“With hard work.  You gonna help my campaign?”

“Heh. Much as I can.”

“Great.  When do you think you’ll be here?”

“‘Round seven.”

“Okay.  Your Dad and I may be over at his office when you come in. I’m gonna help him print and collate some forms for the tax commission.  Just let yourself in.”

“Okay.  Bye.”

“Bye.”

Finally, some credits….

The Cast

  • Sarah Dobson: Jennie
  • Phil Dobson: Jeff Carter
  • Jack Dobson: Jonathan Freitag
  • Narrator: Will Kenyon

Special thanks (on the technical tip) goes to: Oshine Najarian, Jeff Carter, and Will Levin

See you next time….

May 4

Vegas vs. The ATL, Part Two

Posted on Monday, May 4, 2009 in Geopolitics, Reviews

So what is about Atlanta that makes me dislike it so?

I thought about it, and came to a whole BUNCH of conclusions – a range of assorted things that irk me on a daily basis, every time I step out my front door and go to interact with the city. But then I thought – is there some underlying thing which foments my daily dismay, some underlying cause of which all these irksome things are only symptoms?

I think the answer is yes, and I think the answer is this: Atlanta is in the throes of a perpetual identity crisis.

I think about all the cities I mentioned last time I posted: New York, Las Vegas, Austin, St. Augustine. I think about a whole bunch of other cities that I’ve visited: New Orleans, Chicago, Nashville, Milwaukee. And when I think of them, I think of specific things which identify them, at least to me. You know those maps for kids that have a bunch of major U.S. cities marked on them, and where each city is, there’s this picture which kind of shows you what that city has to offer: like New York has the Statue of Liberty, and Orlando has Disney World? That’s the sort of thing I’m talking about.

And while Atlanta usually has something on those maps, that something is usually a giant peach.

What kind of identity is a peach?

My wife says Atlanta is just trying to offer something different for each individual. I think that’s admirable. I also think it’s impossible. Whether you’re a person or a city, I say figure out what you are and BE THAT. Las Vegas has a lot to offer people, but it is defined by the Strip. New York is among the greatest cities in the world, because it embraces its metropolitan air: its overabundance of skyscrapers, taxicabs, and multilingual inhabitants. Austin is a the quintessential college town situated at the heart of a bustling Southwestern city, where you can see a hybrid parked right beside a rusty pick-up sporting a gun rack.

Atlanta, though. What is Atlanta?

Is it an “international” city, what with its enormous airport and international businesses? Well, we do have communities of first and second generation citizens, and visitors from around the world. But they come and go, and most people from other countries tend to stick to themselves. If we are an international city, I get no sense of it. Most of the people I interact with are very white or very black – and very American.

Is it a cultural city? Well, we have museums, theaters, a zoo, lots of festivals, and plenty of places to hear music. But they all seem to pale in comparison to other museums, et. al. that I’ve visited. It seems rare to me that we actually get a top tier museum exhibit, or a once in a lifetime show at the Fox. We have the Georgia Aquarium now, and that’s something, but I want more. I want a museum that approaches the Smithsonian, theaters that can compare favorably to Broadway, festivals like SXSW.

Is Atlanta a Southern city? A lot of great cities embrace their “Southernness”, but Atlanta, at the heart of Dixie, sometimes seems to be ashamed of its history. And some of that I understand – but could there be some way of positioning ourselves such that we recognize the past and embrace the lessons learned from it?

Is Atlanta a sports city? A decade ago, I would have said sure, what with the Braves consistently making the play-offs and the Falcons actually making the Super Bowl. Lately, even though everyone in Atlanta seems to be a fan of some team or another, most of the teams based in Atlanta or near Atlanta are doing only fair-to-middling to outright shitty. There are shots at glory – like Georgia’s College World Series appearance last year and the Hawks’ current shot at the play-offs – but these always seem to be losing propositions.

Is Atlanta a business city? This comes closer to hitting the mark, I think, than anything. We are, after all, the home of Coca-Cola, CNN, UPS, Home Depot, Chik-Fil-A, and Delta Airlines. But, unless you’re an employee of one of these companies, does their proximity to you affect you substantially more than it would if you didn’t live here? I can watch TCM in Las Vegas. I can drink a Coke in New York. Besides, how many of the metro area’s 5.5 million people actually work for a “name brand” business?

The fact that Atlanta can be construed to be any of these things, with NONE of them standing out, means we’re having an identity crisis. We’re all of these things without being any of them.

And this identity crisis, I believe, contributes to the odd contrasts and utter stupidity that I find when I go out: some people don’t know how to behave, politicians don’t know how to govern or manage money, hostilities arise from misunderstandings and misconceptions, and everything seems like a tug-of-war. If you want to get all macrocosmic, then it’s like Atlantans are all pawns in some great power struggle – except that no one knows who the powers are, no one understands the rules of the game, and no one knows what we’re struggling over.

As I said, I love the life I’ve built for myself and my family. I value my friendships and business relationships here. Hell, I like my actual HOUSE and the street I live on. I just wish the city I lived in was a city that I could point to and say, “Yeah. Here in Atlanta, this is what we do. This is who we are. ”

Hopefully, Atlanta can figure out what its identity is. Other than a peach.

Apr 30

Vegas vs. The ATL, Part One

Posted on Thursday, April 30, 2009 in Geopolitics, Reviews

I just got back from Las Vegas. I’ve been there about a dozen times, and I think it’s one of the coolest towns in the United States.

I also think it’s one of those dichotomizing cities, one that you either love or hate, with no in between. I’ve personally never heard anyone say that Vegas is “okay.” It’s either, FUCK YEAH or HELL NO.

Granted, this trip wore me out – four days of running around in the sun and gambling amid the ding-ding of nearby slots and the garish lights of the Strip (although my favorite casino is actually not ON the Strip). But I think my weariness was more world-weariness than actual physical exhaustion, and we can talk about what’s making me world-weary some other time.

When I got home, I was glad to be home, with my children and my wife, in my own home and bed, with my computer upstairs, my notebook at bedside, and my favorite bar down the street.

But I wasn’t glad to be in Atlanta.

I remembered something I said to my buddy Thomas as we were driving around Vegas one evening: “I love my life – my friends, my family, my occupation, my hobbies, my overall lifestyle – but if I could have all those things in another place, I would.” And this is true. The city of Atlanta and its surrounding suburbs contribute absolutely nothing unique to my situation – everything I enjoy can be duplicated to some degree somewhere else.

This is not to say that I don’t treasure the friendships and relationships which I have with unique individuals here in Atlanta – I do – and these relationships are a significant reason for why I stay despite my disdain for the city itself. It’s just that I can imagine that, were I to have spent the last 10 years elsewhere, I probably would have cultivated similar relationships with different people, and quite possibly loved those people as much as I love my friends here.

God, that sounds coldhearted. I don’t mean it to be. I want you to understand where I’m coming from, and that I’m don’t want to be coldhearted. If you know me and you think I love you (or at least like you), then I probably do. I just wish I loved you in a different city.

Anyway, this train of thought naturally led me to another one: wondering what it was about Vegas (and New York, and Austin, and St. Augustine – hell, even Fort Gaines where my parents live and Dothan-Fucking-Alabama where my youngest brother lives) that makes me like it more than Atlanta.

Was it the nightlife? No. There’s plenty of nightlife in Atlanta, and it tends to be less expensive than in Vegas and New York. You gotta drive everywhere, and that’s a bummer, but you gotta drive a lot in Vegas, too. Also, although gambling’s something I enjoy occasionally, it’s not something I long to do a lot of.

Was it the traffic? Well, yes – and no. I hate Atlanta traffic, and it’s worse here than in Vegas. But Atlanta’s better than D.C., L.A., New York, even Baltimore – and I prefer all those cities over Atlanta.

Was it the people? Maybe: Las Vegas is a friendlier town than Atlanta. But again, that’s no measure – people in Atlanta are friendlier than people in New York and Philadelphia, IMO.

So what is it? What makes me not like Atlanta so much?

I have thought about it for several days now, and I think I know what it is….

Apr 19

The Next Time You Come To A 4-Way Stop, Think Of Me

Posted on Sunday, April 19, 2009 in Ramblings

Every once in a while I have to rail against some of the silly, innocuous things which – in the grand plan of the universe – don’t matter. Things like toilet paper that’s been put on backwards, like soggy French fries, like Nicholas Cage’s hair. I’m sorry if I’m wasting your time – but hey, I’ll pretty much warn you every time I do this, and you can just skip over these tirades.

Actually, this particular tirade is about time wasters – a certain group of idiots who have collectively over the years robbed me of a least a day, maybe more, of my life, several long seconds at a time. I have asked for, and hope to receive back, all the time these people have stolen from me. I guess God could tack it on at the end of my life to extend it for a few days, but not if I’m in pain or anything, please. I’d rather have these moments inserted into some day when everything is just awesome, so that I can enjoy whatever awesome thing which is happening a little longer.

A few years ago, I heard a routine by Bill Hicks (at least I think it was him; otherwise I apologize to whichever comedian it really was) where he went off on people who sat at stoplights for several seconds after the light turned green. So he pretty much covered those assholes. My complaint is about people who apparently passed the driver’s test, but obviously either missed the part about how to handle four-way stops and turn signals, or have simply forgotten the rules.

This is the stop where I have lost the majority of my precious moments.

This is the stop where I have lost the majority of my precious moments.

So here it is. Please, if you don’t know or follow these rules, memorize them and use them, so that people like me aren’t sitting at a four-way stop wondering what the fuck you’re gonna do. And if you DO follow these rules, please share them with your family and friends, in case they forgot. Evangelize THIS, ye evangelists.

As you come to a four-way stop, the person who has the right of way is ALWAYS the first person who has stopped at the stop sign. So if you get there first, you can go first. For God’s sake, please don’t expect me to go first if you got there first. I’m gonna wait on you, and if you don’t take your turn in a timely manner, know that I’m sitting in the other car remarking on what a dumb shit you are.

Now, sometimes you’ll get to the intersection at the same time, or close enough so that it’s difficult to tell who got there first. In that case, you YIELD to the right: the person to your right gets to go first. Once again, if you are to my right, I will wait on you. Please don’t make me wait too long, or I will say nasty things aloud about your intelligence, and if my children are in the back seat and hear me and become foul-mouthed hellions because of that, I blame you.

Finally, if you come to a four way stop directly opposite from someone, and you’re both going straight through the intersection, then there’s no need to concern yourself with these rules. Simply stop, then go.

However, if you’re going to turn, please indicate this by using YOUR TURN SIGNAL. I swear, the use of this little device seems to be lost on Atlanta drivers, and I personally think that cops who bust speeders are missing the best targets. Please, cops – bust these idiots who don’t use their blinkers to let everyone know their desire to turn or change lanes. Please, please, PLEASE. Dear government of the state of Georgia: please stop increasing speeding fines and instead increase the fines related to this infraction. I bet if one of these morons got slapped with a $500 fine for failure to use his turn signal, he’d fucking use it the next time.

Back to the last rule: if you come to a four way stop and you want to turn, then put on your blinker. If you’re turning left, then YIELD to the guy who’s going straight or turning right. And if I’m the guy who wants to turn left and you’ve got the right of way, then please GO. My blinker will be on, I swear. And I will wait for you, because I don’t want your dumb ass to sideswipe me.

Naturally, if you’re both turning in opposite directions, you don’t need to wait – you shouldn’t be anywhere close to each other.

See how easy it really is? And yet, some people just don’t get it: they yield when they shouldn’t, don’t use their turn signals, and sometimes even stop when they don’t have a stop sign. And I wait on them, because I don’t want them to suddenly decide they ARE gonna go and slam into me. Not only would that screw up my car and possibly hurt me and my family, but ironically, the accident would be MY FAULT – for failure to yield.

So there you have it. Please, learn the rules, follow the rules, and spread the word. I know it’s not a lot of my time these people waste at intersections, but it happens a lot, and it’s starting to add up.