Category Archives: write you fool

wild child

I have a small part in the 1987 television movie (failed pilot) version of The Man Who Fell To Earth. Lewis Smith played the titular character. Beverly D’Angelo played my mom, his love interest. (Fun Star Trek connection: Bob Picardo is also in it).

My character was a Troubled Youth, which I gotta tell you was not a stretch for me at all. I was deeply, deeply hurting at the time we made it. I was struggling not to suffocate on all the emotional and financial burdens my mom put on my shoulders, and fully aware of just how much my dad hated and resented me. You need a kid who doesn’t want to be an actor, whose eyes can’t hide the pain? I’m your guy.

Anyway, one of the scenes I was in took place in a record store, where Troubled Youth steals some albums, before he is chased by the cops and The Man Who Fell To Earth, uses a glowing crystal to save his life from … some scratches on his face.

We filmed the interior of the record store at Sunset and La Brea, in what I think was a Warehouse Records and Tapes, and at the end of the day, I was allowed to buy some records at a modest discount.

I was deep into my metal years, on my way from my punk years to my New Wave years, so I only bought metal albums. I know I bought more than I needed or could carry (I was making a point that I was allowed to spend my own money, mom), but the only ones I can clearly remember are:

Iron Maiden – Piece of Mind

Judas Priest – Turbo and Defenders of the Faith

W.A.S.P – The Last Command

Of those, Piece of Mind is the only one I never really stopped listening to, even through all the different it’s-not-a-phase phases. I still listen to it, today.

Ever since I became an Adult with a Fancy Adult Record Player And All That Bullshit, I have kept my records in two places: stuff I want right now, and stuff I keep in the library because of Reasons.

Generally, records move in one direction toward the library, even if it takes years to happen. I just don’t accumulate albums like I once did, because I’m Old and set in my ways, and every album in the library was something I loved listening to at some point in my life, even if I’ve mostly forgotten them.

Earlier today, I decided that I wanted to listen to an album while I cleaned up the kitchen, and because I wanted to make my life more interesting, I opened the library cabinet for the first time in at least five years. I reached in, and pulled out the first album I touched.

It was the very same W.A.S.P album from that day in March, 1987. I don’t have any of the others — I looked — but The Last Command was right there. I looked at it, curiously. Why do I still have this?

Before I fully knew what I was doing, I put it on the Fancy Adult Record Player and dropped the needle.

I watched four decades of dust build up with a satisfying crackle, and there was something magical and beautiful about hearing all the skips and the scratches, realizing I remembered them from before.

The first track, Wild Child, was just as great as I remembered. It struck all the same chords in me that it did in the late nineteen hundreds. The rest of the first side was … um. It just didn’t connect with me, and during the few moments I spent trying to find a connection, I realized that I don’t think it ever really did. I would remember.

What I did remember how much I loved making those mix tapes, and what a big part of them that song was. I did remember how empowering it felt to not just spend my own money that I earned doing work I didn’t want to do, but to spend it on music my parents hated, right under their noses. I did remember how impressed Robby Lee was, when I showed him my extensive heavy metal album collection, and he gave me a cassette with Screaming for Vengeance on one side, and Metal Health on the other, on one of those iconic Memorex tapes.

Remembering all of that, in one of those cinematic flashes of rapid cut visuals and sped up sounds, told me why I kept this record, while I gradually sold or replaced the other records I bought that day with CDs, then mp3s, then lossless digital files, before finally coming all the way back to records, where I started. This record lives in the library for reasons that have nothing to do with the music.

I didn’t listen to the second side. I didn’t need to. I took it off the Fancy Adult Record Player, and put it back into the library, next to the George Carlin records.

have your fondest wish, my friend

In TNG’s first … we will generously say “uneven” season, Q gives Riker his powers, with … unexpected … consequences. He goes on this “wish granting” spree in the fourth act, which includes a moment with Wesley that’s memorable for maybe not the reasons the writers intended. (Here I am, talking about it on Memories of the Futurecast)

This episode and its moment set the stage for this, from Star Trek Wholesome Posting on Facebook.

Some number of you are laughing at this because you recognize the references. But I have noticed that this is the first time a lot of people are seeing The Infamous Clown Sweater, so this is how I answered what became a FAQ:

“I did this fundraiser for EFF in San Francisco in … 2001? 2002? Something like that. It was at DNA Lounge, and after we were done, this person came up to me with this horrific sweater (jumper, for you non-Americans). They told me it was part of The Infamous Clown Sweater Project. What’s that, I asked. They told me they are getting as many people as possible to wear it and pose for a photo, which they would then upload to their webpage — not website, webpage, because it was 2001 or so — for all to see.

“Of course I was down for it, and that face I’m making in the first photo is my very real reaction to the awful stank that was just infused in the acrylic fibers.

“The second picture is from a con about … 2014? Something like that, based on how I look. Someone actually made their own version of that horrible sweater for me. One arm is too long, on purpose, the neck is all stretched out, on purpose, and it fits poorly, on purpose. It’s so damn funny to me, and it came along at a moment when we were doing this “then and now” thing on Twitter (before the fascists took over).

“I still have the second sweater. I have no idea what happened to the original. Last time I checked, the website that hosted all those pictures — so old it was manually coded in html, predating even Flickr — was lost to the sands of time.

“But it never fails to make me smile when this picture comes back around. It reminds me of a specific time, when there was just so much hope for the online future we were all building.”

I’ve done a LOT of things involving The Infamous Clown Sweater over the years. It’s never not funny to me, it’s moment has long come and gone, but when it shows up (which is does, about once a year), I always enjoy it.

And for those of you who are too young to know what Riker giving Wesley his “fondest wish” is, well …

Wesley wanted to grow up to be a blue-eyed blonde who I’m pretty sure the costume designer wanted to fuck?

GEORDI! GROSS! You’re not helping!

Look. I love you, Commander Riker, but … you’re gonna want to try again. Wesley’s fondest wish rhymes with “marathon betazoid orgy on risa”.

precious and fragile things

I remember in the eighties our local ABC station did a summer promotion thing where they broadcast a different 1950s 3D movie every weekend for a month. I feel like we bought the glasses at 7-11; maybe they came with a Slurpee or something like that.

However we got them, I remember watching local weather guy Johnnie Mountain host a movie called Gorilla At Large. He shot the host segments wearing a striped suit and straw hat at Magic Mountain (and my memory insists that it had not yet been bought by Six Flags, but the timeline just as stridently disproves that, so we’re going with the data-driven argument while we stare real hard at people who ignore the data-driven argument because they don’t like the way it feels.)

I’m realizing as I type this that I just described Lyle Langley, so maybe my memory on that specific point is also unreliable. But, you know, print the legend I guess.

Gorilla At Large is the only movie I remember. I feel like there was one other gorilla-focused film, but I can’t say for sure. What I do recall about Gorilla At Large is that it was a lot of a guy in a suit who found reasons to lunge toward the camera, the 3D was cool, but not as immersive as I hoped it would be, Johnnie Mountain’s host segments were SO CORNY, and that I loved every second of it. I watched it on the floor in the den, with my brother and sister, on a huge pile of blankets and pillows we built, with all the lights turned out so there were no reflections on the TV. Mom made us Jiffy-Pop (we did the kind of helping where you watch), and dad must have been at work because I don’t remember him being there.

I just remember staying up past our bedtimes, watching a bad movie that was still fun, feeling the way I imagined families were meant to feel.

Wow. I’d forgotten all of that, but now I can see it as clearly as if the blue blanket was wrapped around me right now. Jeremy is wearing one of his hats, and Amy is still really little, so she falls asleep before the second or third commercial.

This must be from a time I call Before. It’s the most precious time in my life, before my mom sold me and my sister to The Curse, before I knew how my dad felt about me, before he decided to be my bully. Before sadness, loneliness, confusion, and fear filled up all this space in my life that I am still cleaning up today.

I don’t have a lot of clear and happy memories from my childhood, and when I saw this picture on Tumblr earlier, and thought it would be fun to write about watching a 3D movie on TV, I had no idea it would unlock this particular one, literally seconds ago.

But it’s like I’m looking at one of the pictures I don’t have because my mother still refuses to let me have any of my childhood. I can see it all so clearly, how much fun it was, how I felt like the big brother I always wanted to be, even if it was just for that one evening in the eighties.

I’m grateful for that. It’s nice to experience one of these memories, instead of the usual, for a change.

I assure you that I am a fully functional human with a backstory and everything.

Yesterday, in r/losangeles, someone asked folks to share their weirdest celebrity encounter. This comes up about every three months, and regular posters in that subreddit know that it’s only a matter of time before the entire thread is horrifying, shocking, come-on-that-never-happened tales starring Andy Dick. Like, every single time. And the stories are always different, though basically the same.

So I went into that thread to see how long it took for the Andy Dick stories to get to the top (4 hours) and saw someone relate how they saw Gary Busey at LAX, and he was just sort of badgering everyone who was near him. I commented that I have seen him at LAX two different times, separated by at least a decade, and he was doing exactly that both times. You know that Far Side “How Nature Says Do Not Touch”? This is where I gesture toward Gary Busey and his teeth.

In response to that, someone asked me to flip the thread and share my weirdest fan encounter. I don’t know that I have one that’s weird (the space between weird and terrifying in this instance is measured in microns), but I do have two that are especially memorable, so I shared those.

I’ve had people behave in appalling ways, treating me like a thing, like a Pokemon to be caught and displayed. One guy followed me into a bathroom at an airport, literally trying to shove a pile of 8x10s into my face while I was at the urinal. I’m a generally laid back person, and I lost my shit at that guy. In retrospect, I should have just peed all over him. His version of the story must be … interesting.

But that’s a real outlier. I’m so lucky that I seem to draw the attention of kind and gentle people more than anything else, so those are the people who tend to approach and interact with me.

My favorite (well, most memorable) experience in recent memory was about … maybe six or seven years ago. My wife and I were in San Francisco for work, and we were waiting at a light to cross the street. This guy comes up from our left, jogging, and as he passes us, this sixth sense I have developed to keep me safe tells me that this guy just made me, and I need to be aware of that. Luckily for me, there are endless escape routes in this moment, but something in this guy’s body language tells me I won’t need them. (Hypervigilance, which is part of my body’s response to trauma, takes all of that stuff in, processes it, and blares it all back at like an air raid siren in the span of about a second and a half. WE ARE AT DEFCON 2 PEOPLE.)

He stops jogging and does that jogging backwards thing. He says, “Are you on The Big Bang Theory?”

He’s jogging in place which always looks funny to me, even though I’m a runner and do it myself.

I tell him that I am. His face lights up. “I knew it! Oh man! I love you on that show!”

WE ARE BACK AT DEFCON 5.

“Thank you!”

Then he takes a second while he’s thinking of something and says, “this is embarrassing. I know that your character is Wil Wheaton, but I don’t know what your name is.”

That’s when I got to tell him that I am Wil Wheaton Prime, and that the Wil Wheaton he sees is a character.

“I had no idea you were a real person!” He said. Then, he kind of caught himself, like maybe he’d insulted me or been unkind.

Oh buddy. You have no idea.

“Oh, I assure you, I am a fully functional human being with a backstory and everything,” I laughed.

He laughed with me. The light changed. We did a terrorist fist jab, and went on our separate ways.

I related this to Anne last night. She remembered all these things, because she was there for them.

“Weird shit happens around us a lot,” I said, “because of this weird job I have. But I read that whole thing, and I gotta tell you how grateful I am to know that I’m never showing up in one of those threads as the bad guy in someone’s story.”

“Except the bathroom guy,” she said.

I laughed. “I would love to hear that guy justify how he was the aggrieved party in that story.”

Of course, I know what that guy told himself. He told himself that he waited at the airport for hours and I owed him. That’s a thing that happens all the time, and it’s why I have this blanket policy of never engaging in photos and autographs at airports, ever, for any reason. And I don’t feel guilty about it. I used to, sure, thanks to all my mom’s conditioning, but I gotta tell you, the day I said to a belligerent guy at PDX, calmly and simply, “No, I’m not signing anything for you and I don’t care how long you waited here. You chose to do that, and I don’t owe you anything. Respect my boundaries.” And walked away while he sputtered in self righteous anger? Yeah, that felt great.

I am a fully functional human being with a backstory and everything. 99% of people I encounter know and honor that, and I am so grateful.

Write, you fool! [Arcade Games] [Bagman]

A couple years ago, I gave myself this challenge to post something new to my blog every day in the month of December. I liked the alliteration of Daily December and I needed to practice the discipline of creating and posting something new every day.

At the time, I hoped it would sort of revitalize my blog, which had taken a back seat (in a vehicle that was parked in a garage across town) to social media and the like. I hoped I would be inspired to keep writing in the new year, maybe get that vehicle out of storage and drive it around town.

But I felt like all the effort was for nothing. I wasn’t creating to satisfy myself; I was posting to create content. Eww. Gross. And the numbers on my blog didn’t move at all. Hardly anyone commented, I didn’t see an influx of returning or new readers, and when January rolled around, I remember thinking, “well, thank god that humiliating waste of time is over.”

Until just recently, I didn’t see any value in the exercise. Like I said, the goal was to generate interest by posting new content every day. And I didn’t hit that goal, because generic content isn’t what people came to my blog to read (and it isn’t what I like to write). I wasn’t all that interested in what I posted (though I love the Blades of Steel post I did, and still laugh when I think of calling my team “The Los Angeles Los Angeleses” as they played the “Vancouver Vancouvers”) and the old adage “When you are interested, you are interesting,” has an equal and opposite adage “When you aren’t interested, you’re labored, or trying too hard.”

You can see — I can see, rather — the very meaningful difference between the two. And with the benefit of hindsight and experience, I get why I didn’t achieve what I wanted. I went about it in a way that was unlikely to deliver what I was looking for. Lesson learned.

Yesterday, I saw that my friend John gave himself a Daily December last month, where he wrote about a different comfort movie every day. He said it was to get that daily writing muscle stretched out and warmed up, because he has two novels due this year.

I don’t have anything due, at least not right now, but I do have some things I want to finish and release this year, and the muscles and discipline I need to use them have been neglected while I’ve been focused on mental health therapy and complex trauma recovery for much of the last year.

I’m not ready to commit to daily posts. I’m going to do daily writing (I’ve written this over the last six days), but I don’t know for sure that I’ll have something to publish every day. I’m not going to pressure myself with expectations. I’m going to start out with weekly posts from a list of topics that interest me, in the hopes that I will be interesting when I write about them, as well as looking forward to the creative process involved.

Inspired by a lifetime of RPGs, I made a table featuring all the different topics that are interesting to me. I’m going to roll on the table, and use the result as my prompt.

Today, my rolls landed on Classic Arcade Games: Bagman.

Okay, here we go.

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