Wednesday, February 27, 2008
This is my February entry for STORYTELLERS UNPLUGGED. For those of you who haven't checked out the site, the link is on my sidebar. Take a peek.
I NAME THEE SIR BRYLCREEM
Wayne Allen Sallee
I had thought about calling this month’s entry “Butcher’s Raindance.” Sounds like a good story title, right? Even though I have no idea what it might be about...yet. Is it a ritual done by a serial killer, the dance being the way he sanitizes his crime scenes? Is it a song by an emo band (or whatever kind of music genre my oldest niece listens to these days), which, now that I’ve typed that, I realize I’d give up that route right now.
Butcher’s Raindance is the name of the floor-cleaning product used by Cardinal Cleaning twice a week at the printing plant where I work. A splash of blue in the mop bucket. There’s a Sundance product, I assume more of a disinfectant, but I’m really not keen on writing Butcher Cassidy and The Sundance Kid. Call my silly. But the other product give me two words that are enigmatic when slapped together, and I have it set aside in my commonplace book to use one day. The title above it is “The Brides of Science.”
Back in the day, Mort Castle offered me a chance to write a chapter for the Writer’s Digest book ON WRITING HORROR. It was already titled “Mirror, Mirror” and the point of discussion was where does a writer NOT get his ideas? Mort, being the wandering sage he is, had chosen me because I could come up with anything from that day’s news to simple scenes of the different levels of hierarchy in the citizens of Chicago, chain smoking executives bumping past the accordion man wearing shorts in November, or the preacher talking about the evils of tobacco and trying to convert shoppers at Old Navy on Washington Boulevard. I also added to the images, taking the “mirror” to be the bus or elevated train window, or even one’s own mirror seen first thing in the morning or the last thing at night.
Well, I’ve got this thing about my story titles. Certainly some images such as I describe above get my mind thinking, but I always, always, need a title before I write a story. I might know the ending line, but I cannot truly squeeze out a good opening line unless I have that title. One of most well-received cop stories, “In The Shank Of The Night,” is an example of where I had the title in my journal. When asked about it, I refer people to an overlooked Dean Martin song, “In The Cool, Cool, Cool Of The Evening.” In the shank of the night, if the doin’s are right, you can tell them I’ll be there. Yet “The Brides of Science” has been around for longer than “Shank”, which was published in 2005 in SEX CRIMES. I wrote a story called “Bumpy Face,” after learning it was slang for a cheap of cheap booze in a beveled pint bottle sold in the Loop. It took me five years to realize what or who Bumpy Face was, at times I even sunk to the point of thinking it might be a mutated hamster. Instead it became a story about an alcoholic and his daughter and statements given to the police. Looks like I’m ready to beat that gap in time with “Brides.” Hell, even my novel, THE HOLY TERROR, was a short story, a nice polack phrase from my childhood was that a kid could be a real holy terror. Peggy Nadramia from GRUE magazine sent it back, telling me that the story had all the elements for a novel. “For You, The Living” by Roadkill Press. A line from “Monster Mash.”
I’m a big short fiction reader, I suspicion it is more because I commute by bus or train instead of the fact that I write short fiction. So, if I have a collection by various authors, I will choose by title than by author or page length. Next to me on my desk, I have a copy of HELL IN THE HEARTLAND, which has stories, including one by me with a title I truly dislike, all written by Illinois authors and set in our state of five month long winters. Looking at the table of contents, I’d likely read “Wet Dog Perfume” by Michael Penkas first. The title stands out. The next book I have here is HIGH COTTON, a collection by Joe R. Lansdale, his ownself. How the hell to choose, right? Mind you, I’ve read many of these stories over the past decade, but sometimes you gotta re-read something simply because you need a reminder of how screwed up the world is through another writer’s eyes. I’d choose “Not From Detroit” right off the bat, just for the quickness of the title, followed by “Tight Little Stitches On A Dead Man’s Back,” because that story could mean so many different things.
Do any of the collected authors here have similar problems with titles? I don’t always use a title that comes back to be a phrase in the story, such as I did with the Bumpy Face image. I have a story about a nice doctor in my old polack neighborhood of Humboldt Park who becomes a vampire, and he chooses to end the suffering of many of his patients by biting them in turn. Most were invalids, or in wheelchairs, and I played on their chronic pain being gone in their new lives, therefore keeping Chicago–or at least the Polish neighborhoods–free from a plague of vampires. The story is called “Skin of My Birthright,” and I simply despise it! I could think of nothing better, nothing that wouldn’t smack of yet another typical vampire story, and, frankly, I have no freaking idea what the title even means!
But where the hell does the title of my essay figure into things, you say? Well, recently someone was screwing around at my parents’ 49th anniversary party and was going to beknight my father. In doing so, he sniffed the familiar odor of my father’s hair, and there you have it, Sir Brylcreem.
I’ll eventually write something using that title, possibly a nonfiction piece for KENTUCKY EXPLORER, my father’s home state. Until that time, I need to figure out what “Butcher’s Raindance” will be about...
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
I cannot start a story without knowing the title. I'll admit that. I can write little stream of consciousness passages, but I'm distracted with not knowing the title. I've always been this way, to the point that I write titles down in my commonplace book (the late Karl Edward Wagner's term for his notebook). Sometimes a title just falls into my lap. At the plant a few weeks ago, I was putting on my long underwear in ther supply closet and was eye level with certain cleaning products for the first time. What do I see but the title above, a product for mopping the floors. What will "Butcher's Raindance" eventually become, who knows? Over this past weekend, thinking that if I read a PK Dick book I could fend off my bipolar demons, I yanked FLOW MY TEARS, THE POLICEMAN SAID off the shelf and one of my old business cards circa 1993 fell out. I wonder why I never followed up on writing "The Brides of Science", scrawled there on the card? It must've been a brainstorm for me to write it on the card, right? My favorite story titles that I specifically shaped the story around, not even knowing the subject matter, would be "Fiends By Torchlight" and "Bumpy Face," the latter of which sat in my head for three years. Bumpy Face was slang for a cheap bottle of beveled glass hooch back in the day, but I could never get around what the hell BF would represent in MY world view. Stories with titles where I knew how they would fall out are "High Moon"--the closest I'll come to writing a western--and "Elviscera" from THE KING IS DEAD: TALES OF ELVIS POST-MORTEM. Man, it always comes back to him, huh? Dozens of zombie books, only one dead Elvis book, and there I am. Along with Joe R. Lansdale's BUBBA HO-TEP, mind you. And that story, along with my own "Rapid Transit," was translated into Danish in HIMON ANATOMIA, God help the Danes. Titles I never used, "Gift of The Elvi," about a husband and wife (who had facial hair) facing the same struggles tas the couple in the O. Henry story, and "Elvis's Ladder," in which, just like Tim Robbin's having to take that first step up the ladder to make all those crazy hallucinations (AKA scenes from MY EVERYDAY LIFE) go away, I intended to have Elvis run through his life with Red & Sonny West, the Col., Charlie Hodge (the guy who brought his water and his scarves), drummer Roddy Tutt, and his dead brother Jesse Garon, until that tiny turd plopped into the bowl and he fell forward on his face that August afternoon in 1977, leaving the building one final time, thank you and good night.
Monday, February 25, 2008
I waited too long and by the time I drove past the old Colony Theater towards Rockwell, the place was already gone. Not a meth lab, not the place where they tortured The Black Dahlia. Nope, it was the place that had the lyrics for "Candy Bars For Elvis" by Barry Tiffin on an actual sheet of type-written paper. This guy is sleeping in the back of his pick up truck, curiously directly behind the back door to the RCA recording studio, when a man came out and gave hom twenty bucks to buy some candy bars for the King. Well, it turned the guy's life around, he got a job someplace, maybe he got married, I forget the idiotic and whiny details. But it gets better. See, this guy was recollecting the nadir of his life--much like I did recently, only this guy owned a truck and was in warmer weather--and in the present(1991, when the record was released), he laments that if could only see Elvis alive again he'd give him some...candy...sniffle...bars. To show you how little there is on this song, I put Jonny Algiers on the job, he went to ElvisPedia and found this:
Candy Bars For Elvis
Jump to: navigation, search
Candy Bars For Elvis is a bootleg on the Mongoose label, released in 1991.
So I wasn't making that part up. Oh, and the best line of that Private Eye song was that "he met more chickies than a Girl Scout leader," and that's downright creepy, if you think about it...Wayne
firstname.lastname@example.org Jonny Algiers, P.I. I once planned to write a whole slew of stories about the guy but in the past decade I've had him fight a talking chicken and tell a gushy tale about this brunette on the bus some guy named Indelli hooked him to. Sometimes I think of my original instinct, to go with DrMilesBennell@aol.com--from INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS--but it fell out differently. My cousin Dan Szostak took these photos on about the hottest day of the summer of 04. I've mentioned in the past that most of what I'm wearing belonged to the late Marvin Melone. I had hoped to find a Google image of the Algiers Motel in Chicago--now the Aloha Motel with the words incredulously inside a giant apple--but no luck. So I saved the best of the art deco and flat-out crazy that I found. So why this post? Lana emailed me that she fixed that broken cassette, and the first song is called "Private Eye." All the dollies love a private eye...and you get to hang out with Kooky Byrnes solving capers everywhere..." There are songs on that cassette that I can't even find in the most obscure places, past their existence on Google. On that note, I'll sign off, not mentioning this other song on the cassette called "Candy Bars For Elvis." Yes, for real.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Last night, it was as clear as can be here, and I could see the moon turn orange and then become a sliver. But it wasn't the same. I recall living on 85th, back in the city, and lunar eclipses being a big event. There was one summer, maybe 1973, and the event didn't occur until 1 AM. But all the neighbors came out and mingled, drank beer while the kids goofed off with bats and balls. The Gendusas and Millers, the Petersons and the Schmidts. We stood at the corner house, by Doris and Art Morisette, for the best view. It was a different time. Art Morisette died years ago, he always knew I'd be a writer even when I was in high school. I still have his Chicago Police hardback three ring notebook, Star#8658. One of my proudest posessions. The other families are gone, moved away to Joliet and Las Vegas, the neighborhood now a haven for thugs and crack houses. Last night, I watch the moon turn orange with just my collie outside, Buddy the Mitch keeping busy sniffing for rabbits as I thought back to 1973....Wayne
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
I should have thought of this sooner. When I see the White Castle lady tomorrow and she asks for my order I shall dance like Robert Mitchum and recite whatever arcane crap he said above. That'll show her...
A cop friend always says that when he catches a guy whacking off he refers to the perp as "approaching his zenith." Well, tonight, on yet another sub-zero night, the full moon turning orange with the eclipse...the cashier at the White Castle asked me if I wanted the senior discount. Without malice, not a blind person or a maniac. She just said I looked as if I could use a senior discount. Put me in a room with tiny furniture and no shirt. Call me in the spring. Oh, and just because I have no other reason to post it, can anyone tell me why it was so dat-blasted important for Dan Duryea to spend $53.00 on a phone call?...Wayne
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
This happened last night, but I had wanted to write what I already had in my head. I'm also cheating by posting a cheery motel photo, but, hey, our Budget Motels are pretty dull. This will be a short post, as I'm at work battling the machine again, but the post might as well be as abrupt as the event. That 383 bus I mentioned in the last post? I got off at 86th Street to go to the CVS and buy some Altoids. More to stay warm a few minutes more. I left and continued on my way, not really noticing squad cars or sirens on my way. The tunnel vision of the truly cold. Turns out that about five minutes after I walked across Cicero, Burbank cops were kicking in a door at the Budget Motel at 8540 So. Cicero. Two guys with outstanding warrants, one here, one up in Rockford. How the hell I never heard the full automatic from the guy who shot the first cop twice in his Kevlar vest and the second in his leg is something I'm still amazed at. Both cops are doing well, the vest obviously saving the first cop's life. The shooter dead, the other guy in custody, one of the guy's sisters saying on how the cops just came bustin in and shooting, crap-ass dialogue from a Maury Povich episode. The creepiest part of this whole "what if?" scenario, the whole what if I had crossed at 87th as I do most every night, or what if I had stayed around the CVS longer and then walked right into the big blowdown, well, I'll tell you this. I was kidding, thinking to myself, well, maybe if I was hit by a car and started bleeding, at least the blood would warm me up....Wayne
Monday, February 18, 2008
----- MY-CAST FOR CASTLE FRANKENSTEIN -----
Mon 9PM: 14F (Wind Chill -3F) Wind W 18 Cloudy
Mon 11PM: 13F (Wind Chill -4F) Wind W 18 Partly clear
Tue 1AM: 12F (Wind Chill -5F) Wind W 16 Cloudy
Tue 3AM: 11F (Wind Chill -6F) Wind W 15 Cloudy
Tue 2AM: 11F (Wind Chill -6F) Wind W 16 Cloudy
Tue 8AM: 9F (Wind Chill -7F) Wind W 14 Partly clear
Tue 2PM: 17F (Wind Chill 3F) Wind W 14 Partly clear
Tue 8PM: 16F (Wind Chill 6F) Wind W 8 Cloudy
Wed 2AM: 10F (Wind Chill -3F) Wind NW 10 Cloudy
Wed 8AM: 8F (Wind Chill -10F) Wind NW 18 Clear
Currently: 10F (Wind Chill -9F) Wind W 19 Mostly Cloudy
(on Mon 6:51PM CST at Chicago Midway Airport)
The wind. Unrelentless. I walk out the door from work and fall on ice before I'm across the lot, because yesterday it was 42 degrees and so there is invisible ice everywhere. Once I pass the pipe-fitting plant, the full moon is overhead, so no more falls, the warning streaks are there. The wind is from the west. I open my mouth and realize which part of my mouth will neded dental work in the near future. Something is flapping, somewhere. A flag, maybe, or a banner by the car wash. I do not care to swivel my head. Water squeezes out of my eyelids. I cannot feel my cheekbones at all. The Hawk. Personally, I call it The Cock-Knocking Wind, a phrase all Chicago meteorologists, Tom Skilling, the lovely Ginger Zee, Brant Miller,hell, even Andy Avalos, the poor slob who gets the 5AM shift. should be able to use during their newscasts. Thinking of Ginger Zee doesn't make me feel warm and fuzzy as my stream of consciousness had hoped. The car wash is locked up, the lone light coming from a white on red Pepsi machine. I picture a photo of the Taj Mahal, now a screensaver on my Dell. Sent to me by the most patient editor/publisher on the planet, Ratna Chatterjee. The face of Willy Nelson on a CD next to the computer with the photo of the Tj Mahal. Hearing the lyrics of Willy and Merle Haggard singing "Pancho & Lefty" in my head. "And now you wear your skin like iron, your breath as hard as kerosone." You guys should read this without spell-check. I'm typing with a pencil in my mouth. 10:00, more news on the NIU shootings last week. I started typing this at 9:20, the easiest part being taking the photos with my webcam, because all I had to do was hold something round, not point a finger and hope against hope that something happens. The two photos illustrate me and my inner self, the little clown skeleton at the keyboard telling his story. I kept at it, grimacing against the wind, shaking my fist at the sky, one eye now slowly closing, the idea of a nap nearing the part of my brain that shows me my logical future. Can't blink, my knuckles feel As if they had been individually broken by a huge stick. The 383 bus comes, I ascend. The wind howls from outside, as if we are driving at 2000 MPH, there's the smell of booze from the one crazy guy who is telling a new listener how he can cover motion detectors with cardboard boxes. A woman has a blanket covering her legs and a baby carraige. The carraige is dusted with snow and it is a faded blue, the baby hidden from view. The fumes from the drunk make me think I could easily warm up if I had some nice Seagram's straight, but I have not had any hard liquor since I was in Toronto last April. (In fact, I have had only four beers since then as well). I can taste the booze on my tongue, the way I can taste the coppery harshness of secondary smoke when I'm waiting at bus stops earlier in the day. I look at my reflection in the window, knowing I did the exact same thing twenty years ago, with other buildings and cars and lives past my changing reflection. My eyes are the same, everything other facial feature warping, melting, melding into this year's model monstrosity. I get off the bus and walk a half mile home. When I get to my house, I lean against the cold brick as if I had just survived a run in with the bad guys and won. Eyes staring at the full moon and the winter stars Spica and Aldeberan and others I cannot name and then the clouds obscure them and I go inside...Wayne
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Hard to believe I haven't been downtown since November. I chaperoned my niece and her friends to see RENT at the Cadillac Palace, taking them on the el, then scooting off for the next two hours. Took the Red Line to the Red Lion, closed but not yet demolished. Took a photo of the faded Crest sign where the also closed 3 Penny Cinema was. Watched a guy sit for about twenty minutes in front of the State of Illinois Building. He wasn't begging, though there were many others on the streets. This guy just seemed lonely and lost. A few blocks over a guy ate pizza from a box in a garbage can, then huddled under a Northwestern University blanket pulled up to his nose. My favorite moment was walking through a very cool section of the subway, near Jackson Boulevard. Anybody could be around that corner. A cool place for a showdown, the famous, final scene. But I had to chaperone the girls back, so this was not the day for adventure....Wayne
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Still snowing, but it was around 20 degrees today, warm enough to go without gloves as I walked between the main plant to the warehouse, black ice as my hand holds as I made the curve past Dynamic Electrics. I won't walk that corner, clear of ice, because of that fellow who got run down back in November. It was fifteen years ago that I was walking down Cermak Road, the weather and the ice landscape about the same, because I had a mission. The Four Deuces, one of Al Capone's pads at 2222 South wabash, was being torn down. The place where Geraldo Rivera wanted to break into that vault and then found nothing. I was on a photo op with my disposable camera, interrupted only once by a rumdum beneath the Chinatown elevated tracks who wanted me to sign a petition using a PURPLE CRAYON and asked to offer a dollar to "the cause." I did get a few exterior shots, I'm picky about my demolition photos. But there was one wall plastered with advertisements for local bands. One of them was House of Pain. This is my body, given up for you...Wayne
Monday, February 11, 2008
I have gotten several dozen of these just plain whack job emails about angels and you have to forward them or you get hemmorhoids or dreams of Ryan Seacrest and Ernest Borgnine with YOU being the cameraman, so I have now decided to simply cut and paste myself as the damn angel. I leave you all to judge which seems to be the best photo to use, and let's send this around the world and I can be known as the face that scared off the angel emails. Yay, me!:
This is a money angel
Pass it to 6 of your good friends, or family
and be rich in 4 Days.
Pass it to 12 of your good friends or family
and be rich in 2 Days.
I am not joking. You will find an unexpected windfall.
If you delete it, you will never know!
This is a money angel
Pass it to 6 of your good friends, or family
and be rich in 4 Days.
Pass it to 12 of your good friends or family
and be rich in 2 Days.
I am not joking. You will find an unexpected windfall.
If you delete it, you will never know!
Sunday, February 10, 2008
I bought the NaturallySpeaking voice activation software last week. It got to the point that by denying it, Terry O'Quinn was going to shoot me. Even Kimble's and Gerard's ghosts were whispering about how to haunt me. As expected the going is slow, Wayne is weighing, crap like that. A new set of headphones I've bought might help. It gets easier each time I practice, though some sentences come out like some link on page 57 of Google, you know, bikini beef hotdog gold coast monkey pee money Jessica Alba Biel Savitch money lucky numbersAlan Alda sensitive bukkake Snickers bar public banana. But I'm looking at things different now, instead of thinking I'm surrendering my humanity by using VA, I've become more daring. I've walked through the looking glass and I'm not looking back. And the white knight is talking backwards and the red queen has lost her head...Wayne
Saturday, February 9, 2008
The day the running stopped, as narrated by the late William Conrad. Richard Kimble exonerated, Lt. Gerard slowing his car down with a nod of his head--he really was more of a chin pointer, though--at the man he tracked for four years. His memorable line: "It doesn't matter what I think, Kimble was found guilty in a court of law." Barry Morse died earlier this week at the age of 89. Outlived the entire main cast, the one-armed killer, David Janssen himself having died in 1980. One of my favorite shows as a kid and as an adult, I intend to have the theme music (which I have on CD) at my funeral. I'm the one-armed man typing with one finger. I'm chasing myself, an ethereal figure always nearby, moaning that it didn't matter what he believed, I was found crippled by an act of God. So my gang of three have finally all met up; Barry Morse was a great actor, underneath that fedora he haid hair like a lit match the way it stuck on his high forehead. And for years, I would send postcards from Kimble to high school buddy Paul Bervid, a D.A. in City Hall, he'd do the same as Gerard. We'd find old postcards from Wisconsin Dells or I'd mail gas station postcards from Omaha, Denver, or Dallas, when I was at the writing conventions. At least its was something to get in the mail besides flyers and applications for CapitolOne cards. I'm doing OK, I really am. But at the end of the night, when its me and the clacking of the keys and my collie at my side, I think of my funeral, my dirt nap, seeing the Grim Reaper and saying "There's my ride!" but hearing an echo in my dying brain...The Day The Running Stopped.
Friday, February 8, 2008
Its a film about giant cockroaches that attack Chicago after escaping from Rantoul AFB, and the film was surprisingly correct in geography, mentioning towns that do exist along I-57. I want the effing bugs to descend upon us already. Just like Funky Nassau would agree, three guys who look like they'd be right at home in the Jaxter Hotel of my previous post. It was 42 degrees today and tomorrow it will be 7 degrees. Sunday the wind chills will be twenty five below. I'm really getting tired of dressing like Rorshach from THE WATCHMEN because I am this close to just keep the damn mask on all year round....Wayne
Thursday, February 7, 2008
At work today I was talking with the Xerox Repairman Supreme, Joe Flores, and we got to talking about the old days when we could live off just about nothing and enjoy ourselves. Joe Curtin, my boss, brought up the old Jaxter Hotel, at 58th and Kedzie. That was a dive with a strip bar in the basement and you could pretty much see bar fights like in "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown," knives and poolsticks and all. But back when I worked with the Elvis band, we'd leave our gig at Laurel & Hardy's on 63rd and St. Louis and hit the Jaxter. One guy in a jumpsuit, the rest of us in sdilk shirts and suitcoats. Looking back, I could've passed for Mr. Furley. The looks we'd get, but we got our beers at a scoot a piece, and those were the days. Joe Flores said he was happy with a pack of smokes and a longneck. I've also posted a photo of O'Banion's, which used to be on Skid Row in River North. It was a late night place that ranged from punk to new wave. I recall getting contact highs from pot smokers clothing and opening bathrooms on kids dry humping. Again, dressed as we were, this time from playing a dive that's long gone. As is O'Banion's and the Jaxter. Ghosts of the city again...Wayne
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
Well the rain became snow. I've gotten quite tired of bringing multiple pairs of socks in my backpack to work, so I trudged to the Salvation Army near the bus stop at 89th and bought a dead guy's shoes. Frankenstein shoes, not steel-toed, though. And black, not brown, because anyone from the south side of Chicago (or ALL of Chicago if you are Polish)can only wear white socks and black dress shoes. Well, forget the hell of the day, sleet like hatpins, yet I trudged along, happy with the shoes. No doubt the previous owner was a ghost, the shoes beneath a rack of jackets and slacks all the same size. We die and our identities become public domain, our clothes go to the thrift shop. When I got off the bus tonight, I did a Sgt. Rock and just plowed through everything, my feet never once getting wet. Walked through an empty lot that used to be a Citgo station, just straight through the biggest piles of slush and felt pretty happy about my purchase. But I still feel like Frank Rock in the book cover, only its not a war, its the winter I want to get out of...Wayne