Thursday, October 1, 2009

Move along

Blog and full Russ Marshalek/RussComm site now at russ at squarespace


Monday, September 14, 2009

Taylor Swift Boated

(10:43(2:22:27 PM) dr zachary: vmas are pretty much about politics, awards quotas
(2:22:46 PM) dr zachary: kanye’s moment was a single stark mote of
(2:22:58 PM) dr zachary: the only real instance of artistic
integrity in the thing

The only real commentary on last night's VMA debacle that matters, at all

Friday, September 11, 2009

Absentee Survivor's Guilt

It's September 11 in New York, and it's cold, rainy and disgusting outside. A man shoved me arbitrarily as he was walking down Canal street this morning, and my expensive (to my pocket) Metropolitan Museum of Art umbrella was fucked like a deboned chicken hunk in the random hurricane gust that greeted me as I crossed the street to my office.

All of these, I realize, are minor issues that can ruin someone's day but that, today, are supposed to be set aside.

On the train this morning, at work today, it's like a funeral. As though everyone is mourning the death of a mutual friend I never knew.

When September 11 2001 happened, I was in college in Atlanta, GA. I was fighting with my grandparents via phone - they were disapproving of my decision to pursue a minor in gender theory and feminist studies - and getting ready to go to a monologue class with one of the professors who had the greatest impact on me during my time at Oglethorpe, Troy Dwyer. One of my roomates, Rob, had been born and raised on Long Island. Other than my brief and unremembered time in an incubator in Albany and my yankee family that I obviously never developed ties to, he was my primary connection to New York.

I remember the fight with my grandmother, her screeching in the way she did down the line, being cut off suddenly when she told me to turn on the news and hung up.

I did. And the rest of the day, for Rob, myself and our other two dorm-mates, disappeared into history.

Watching Peter Jennings narrate the entire thing, I felt...

I felt disconnected.

And today, that disconnect is nibbling at me. Because where was I when 9/11 went down? I was at a private liberal arts school in Atlanta, having never set conscious foot in New York, trying very very hard to believe anything going on was real.

I mentioned this on Facebook earlier and a friend, author Robert Goolrick, posted the following:

"Sorry to say, Russ. You will never EVER understand what it was like -- for starters, it was the most beautiful day in history. The skies were immaculately blue forever and ever. And then.....

The day never comes that I don't think of and play Patty Griffin singing "Forgiveness," a song I first heard that night, when the smoke and the fumes from the electrical fires were stifling, and the dar was filled with the howl of fire trucks and useless ambulances on the West Side Highway. And I first met Monica Lewinsky, who lived in my building... Read More. I wish there were some way to get you to grasp it, but imagine not being able to breathe and listening to Patty -- We are swimming with the snakes at the bottom of the well. And she promised we would make it through the night, and we did. But nothing was ever the same, or will be."

And I recognize that. I also recognize that I'm ignoring discussing the politics of 9/11/01, and that's completely intentional-this isn't about the political, it's solely about the personal. A personal that never actually hit me at home.

And so I pass through today like a ghost, keeping my head down, quiet and silent for those who lost and for those who remember. Me? I'm at work, and that's what I'm doing. I've smiled today, I've laughed today, and I've cursed, too-and for everything I do, for every time I lift my eyes, I feel guilty that I'm not immobile, that I'm able to go on about my day. But also incredibly grateful. Grateful to be here, and yes, grateful to be able to smile, and laugh, and swear. Guilty that I'm not wracked with or wrecked by emotion today, guilty that I'm putting one foot in front of the other, that the uncle or cousin that everyone on the subway seemed to be mourning this morning wasn't mine, had never and will never be mine.

And so?

So I keep going. Never forget, sure, but remember that this is the gift we have: to keep going.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Sorta Homecoming

I have to note that I am writing this on the flight from Atlanta back to New York. As such, this is an unexpectedly retrospective perspective on the past few days, mainly because, um, I’ve had a welcome respite from the internet out of necessity.

Arriving in Athens, GA to find a lack of internet’s not necessarily what I expected from this trip south, but honestly it’s not something that’s found me bothered, either.


The past 24 hours have found me strangely removed from what’s become, in recent years, my chosen forms of communication-email, Facebook, Twitter (I’d say Myspace but really who the fuck goes on Myspace anymore?), with even my phone refusing to hold a charge, and as such able to focus on that which is what I came back to Georgia for:

Face-to-face communication.
I mean, I have TRIED to hack the wi-fi signals available here from Zach’s apartment in Athens. I have. I have tried accessing this one account, “Rena”, with the following passwords:


(what, it’s fucking ATHENS GA. I assure you at least 65% of households with password-protected wifi have this as their password. Try it for yourself.)

But to no avail. And, at some point, when my phone won’t charge on K’s blackberry charger and there’s no internet? It’s time to live without any of it. And that? That, combined with seeing so many people I’ve missed, has made for one hell of an escape.

That said, I’m sure once I do finally figure out what the fuck is wrong with my phone, my voicemail is going to be overflowing with messages from those threatening to
a) kill me/my children/my family
b) never again send me their book/manuscript/cd/collection of hangable photographic prints of vegetables masquerading as theater patrons
c) wreck a piece of chicken for real

because I’ve been completely unable to access it since early yesterday.

The past day has been filled with a warm, weird sort of nostalgia, walking around Decatur-the city I spent so much time in fighting what felt like an uphill battle for a sense of place and purpose-and finding in it a new sense of charm and peace I had never seen before, but also being struck, really really definitively, by the fact that, sooner or later, I’d have moved north anyway, regardless of timing/job market/relationship status.

That’s a weird realization for me to make, as it was accompanied by the suddenly acknowledgment that, in a way, I’ve been blaming New York a lot, assigning it a place in my heart as a sole alternative to Decatur only realized as a result of the worst possible situation occurring, like a parent losing a child to Social Services as a result of a drug habit.

Ok, that’s actually the worst possible analogy ever, but…wait, no, I have a worse one.

When my friend, who I’ll refer to henceforth as “K” (for the fact that it’s close enough to her real name to not be a cheap veil but also far away enough so that her legal team won’t every be able to file a cease-and-desist on this blog should anything…go astray. You know what I mean. We’ve been through this before, dear readers.) and I got to La Guardia (in a cab, naturally), after having, independent of one another, incredibly difficult and pressure-filled days (inner…city….pressure), we immediately, after navigating our way through a surprisingly uneventful security check given the mad amount of electronics we were carrying, we made our way immediately to the La Guardia B Terminal bar.

For those of you who’ve never flown from La Guardia, simple fact 1: the “b” gate stands for broke-ass traveling. It’s mainly the Air Tran gate, known formerly as “Valu-Jet”, and it’s basically the cheapest way to get in the air and somewhere else and back, as long as “back” doesn’t include going through Hartsfield because that fucking hellhole is like a curse on humanity. As such, the “B” terminal bar, “New York Sports Bar”, everything that its name implies I assure you, struck me as way less desirable than what I began to imagine lay in other concourses for those travelers lucky enough to gain access to them: “Jimmy Ray’s Free Vodka Emporium”, “The Lush Lounge Bar and Vegetarian Grille”, “An Airport Bar That Doesn’t Suck and Hey Also Has Awesome and Inexpensive Drinks”. Regardless, K and I grabbed beers-a Sam Adams Light for her (wtf, those exist?) and a Corona Light for me (wtf, I drink that?). Seated at the bar directly to our right-ok, my right her left whatever-was a perfect example of the saddest form of bro-dude: that too-oft spotted Post Collegiate Broseph, decked out in the attire of his Alma Mater (based on his behavior I’m guessing it was Guna Roofie U)who was attempting to impress the girls at the bar by discussing his time playing college sports and his current job “in sales”, and by throwing out incredible pick-up lines like “do you girls like athletes?” I mean, come ON, girls, that’s a mating call on par with the Beastie Boys’ Ad Rock calling out his is ultra-nasal voice “HEEEEY LAAAADIIIIIIES”-what self-respecting woman ISN’T going to drop panty at that?

The clincher, though, the ultimate win, was when Mr Athlete BroDude (Jr.) was attempting to explain to the bar(while doing the absolutely opposite of holding court, mind you) his perspective on dating. “Women in NY only like jerks,” he said disdainfully, “so I’ve had to become a jerk.”

Right, like that’s been a difficult change, braphistopheles .

(Sorry, temporary break-pilot just announced that “thanks to a nice lil’ tail wind” we’re going to be landing in NY about 30-40 minutes early. This basically means I have to pick up the pace writing this because, let’s face it, if I don’t finish this on the plane and post it tonight it’s never going to get written. See also: my memoir. See also: my novel. See also: everything else ever.)

Continuing on with his anti-NY women rant and his attempt at explaining his shitty fucking attitude, Airport Bar Bro (III) said, and I quote here: “let me give you an analogy, ladies: fish don’t like steak.”



So, my sort-of homecoming. My Labor Day weekend excursion with K. My past few days.:

Relaxing. Exhilarating. Drunk. Happy.

Saturday was spent entirely at the Decatur Book Fest. After thinking momentarily about possibly hopping in to join the lecture by Charlaine “True Blood” Harris, the sight of the line, to get in, a couple of blocks long, shut that idea down.

As such, after seeing Zach read from Anointed to a decently-sized crowd (as he told me later he almost said: “It’s really nice to read to a group of people who haven’t already heard this.”), I took K on a walking tour of the Decatur Square-which, truth be told, has slowly gone downhill in the time since I’ve seen it. Things had been shaky with businesses coming and going since before Wordsmiths opened, but in the time since the bookstore closed it seems a few central focal points, including Saba and the Wordsmiths building itself, have emptied and remained so.

(The new Atlas Sound album, Logos, is playing in my Ipod right now. I think I’m falling in love with the sun-kissed bubbly goodness, but I worry about this album as winter approaches New York. I wonder if I’ll have the time and the mood to love it as I begin switching stuff like it out for Julian Plenti and other darker, more ominous sounds.)

The prevailing mood of the Square and of the entire book fest was one of merriment, and so, despite the tightness in my chest that arose from seeing the building that once house Wordsmiths still empty, I let myself get swept up in it. And in the alcohol. Jesus Christ. We. Fucking. Drank. A. LOT.


Twain’s Pub, a Decatur mainstay/the sight of my going away party was a major part of Saturday and Sunday, as both night friends came and went and beers (I KNOW WTF I DRANK BEER Y’ALL)came and went and I have never felt more grateful for the family I’ve assembled of my own choosing.

Sunday, after finally visiting Athens vegetarian standard The Grit for the first time ever, my friends, K and I went to the GA town of my birth-Marietta-to accomplish a few things.

One: to see the Big Chicken.

Two: to visit the trailer park I grew up in.

I keep getting my Big Chicken history twisted. For the longest time, apparently, I’ve been operating under the misapprehension that the Big Chicken itself (actually a giant landmark atop an operating Kentucky Fried Chicken “quickserve” food establishment…to, uh, put it nicely) was erected as a grotesque monument to a lynching.

Um…I was wrong. Sorry, y’all.

The trip from the Big Chicken to the trailer park I grew up in-on, as one of my friends so conveniently put it, on the “aptly-named” Powder Springs Road-was one of constant pressure on my throat. Having not been back there, having not gone to what I guess normal human beings are supposed to consider “home”, in many, many years, seeing the area remain basically unchanged, a fucked-up dreamless time capsule of unrest and apathetic lethargy-snapped me to attention and snapped my nerve endings, too.

There are pictures and they are here and that is all I have to say other than they are courtesy of K:

(The Big Chicken)

(what is now in the space of the trailer I grew up in)


So, on the flight back-an incredible, relaxed, amazing weekend, seeing the loved ones I’ve come to consider my real family again, eating far too much wonderful food and drinking far too much and exposing K to southern culture the proper way-you know, like the fact that you can’t ask a Waffle House waitress to seat you and your "party of 4"-made for an absolutely perfect trip.

But also…also…something I came to realize very, very early Saturday:

I think...I think…I know…I know now. I now know. That I would have eventually left the south anyway. There’s something about the pace, the pull the constant fucking challenge of New York that’s been racing throughout my heart and my brain since K and I left Friday evening. And I love my friends (who, as I’ve said, are my family), and I love the work I did, we did, in the city of Decatur. I love what’s still going on. But I also know that the amount I’ve fallen in love with New York can’t be competed with.

It took seeing Decatur again, in and for all that is, for that to register fully.

And so now I return, and in about half an hour K and I will touch the tarmac of La Guardia. I have work to do: I owe Collin Kelley and Karen Head book reviews and interview questions. I have a lot of emails to catch up on. I have unpacking to do, and tshirts-purchased from the Book Fest and from my beloved Little Shop of Stories, honestly the best kids book store anywhere-to wash/wear.

"I have unpacking to do." I wish that sounded poetic enough for a last line here. It doesn’t, though, does it? I had hoped that, on this flight, I'd end up with some sort of emotionally wrecking revelations from the past four days-instead, I find a happy, sleepy, tired sort of peace. Or maybe that's the onset of the worst fucking hangover I've ever had.

So hey-thanks, Decatur, for the evenings and the stumbling and the picking back up and the laughs and for being everything you are. And I will, in fact, see you again.


Friday, September 4, 2009

Homeward Bound 2: 2 Fast 2 Furious

You Can Never Go Home Again has been on my shelf forever, but I've never read it. As such, when I, like most people, quote the title, it comes with only the barest working knowledge of the story contained inside.

In a matter of hours, I'll be returning to Atlanta after making my home elsewhere for the second time in my life. The first was after I made an ill-fated relocation to Las Vegas, which saw me returning life asunder and tail between my legs.

This time, though, things are a little different-as in, this time I won't end up in a tortured relationship that finds me writing bad high school-ish poetry on the floor of an apartment that isn't mine at 4am while watching the Grey's Anatomy season finale on repeat. When my friend/former boss/in some weird ways authorclient of mine Zach Steele ended up in the Decatur Book Festival, it was pretty much a guarantee I'd be heading south for Labor Day.

Add into that the opportunity to, as a birthday present, show The South to a dear friend who has probably never been further south than, say, Philadelphia (sorry, but Florida doesn't count as "The South", not in quotes and with capital letters and sweet tea and 'y'all' and hats and gloves and fried chicken/porch swings/girls named Mary wearing dresses that blow in the breeze when screen doors slam...and shit like that. What? That's not your "The South"?), and, basically, you have a labor day weekend extravaganza. Seeing the Big Chicken. Eating a biscuit. Walking really, really slowly. What better way to celebrate the holiday that we Americans know is in honor of the time, in 1849, Christopher Columbus sailed across the pacific to bring pear trees to the Native Americans.

Shut up. I went to a public high school in Marietta.

That's the other thing, too-in Georgia, I always felt like I was very much NOT southern, but after moving to NY I'm fully aware of the eccentricities that part of the country bred into me-you know, like how I like my tea sweet and my women quiet.


About the tea.

(not kidding about the tea)

I wish I could quote Flannery O'Connor here, but I'm fighting a serious sleeping pill hangover, so forgive my lack of hyper-literary southern gothic whatthefuckever, the point is this:

I haven't stepped foot in Georgia since March 27 of this year. Things have changed for everyone. Let's see how this goes. This is, basically, "Russ Goes Home Again Take 2" or something, and it's a little emotional to me. In 2009 I saw Wordsmiths and a major relationship in my life come and go and left a bunch of friends and a handful of really good bands behind (though I'm doing my damndest to relocate the bands...what, friends come and go but Tealights are forever!), and honestly I'm not even sure the depths to which the daily fight that is being on the grind in NYC has changed me. Some, maybepossibly? Not sure. I'm not the one to judge that.

So in a few hours, we depart for the awesome wonderland of a shitshow that is flying into Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, and I leave you and end this opening missive with my book list for the trip:

The Time Traveler's Wife (there's a reason behind this, and no I won't tell you if you don't already know)

The Secret History (nope, haven't read it)

Tao Lin's Shoplifting From American Apparel

a loved-up, dog-eared copy of Karen Head's Sassing

and, what I'm reading now: a gift from Unbridled Books that my lawyers have advised me not to discuss. It's so good though, y'all.

And, with that...hey, Georgia, how you doin'?


Sunday, August 30, 2009

Open Letter #1.

Dear New York:

It's been a while since we had a real conversation, hasn't it? Last time we talked I don't really think it ended well, and we both decided to give it some time-a few months, if my memory recollects correctly, and until the year's end to be specific-and then revisit this relationship and see how things were working.

At the time, New York, I came to you like a lapsed Catholic, only seeking solace in confession when things were going wrong. I would pound the pavement of your stone heart and beg for something, anything, to give, for a handhold or a foothold or just the opportunity for one night to fall asleep with a peace in my heart and in my head.

I was told I shouldn't openly write about or discuss how you were kicking my ass, New York. That it, that my search for some sort of truth or lesson in the experiences I was having, was making me look bad. I only bring this up (I didn't care then and I care less now) because there was talk, whispered hushes that we'd engage in particularly when I was drunk and sad, feeling lost and adrift in a sea of lights and movement that neither welcomed me nor rejected me but rather, as though in full awareness of my life's biggest fear, acted with utter apathy towards my existence, of us parting ways for good. You and I had decidedly amicably and with little fanfare that, at the end of 2009, if we couldn't make this twisted, fucked-up relationship that vacillates from love to hate and back 'round again work, I was going to cut my losses and leave. You'd get to keep what was rightfully yours-namely, everything (though what I didn't tell you then and I hesitate to even tell you now is that you weren't at all aware you'd recently taken ownership of my heart, though I'm willing to bet the stars in my eyes give that game away), and I'd go-well, hell, we never got that far, did we? I'm a runner, as in I like to be able to, and an escape artist of sorts, and I like my opt-outs and my clauses and I've become adapt at skirting out of parties with a "I just need to...I'll be right back" only to retreat to safe grounds of my choosing.

With you, New York, there is no safe ground, and nothing's easy. Being in a relationship with you is fucked up and sado-masochistic in a way, but not without its rewards. I used to swear by the Atlanta skyline at night (particularly when driving into the city with Outkast playing), but in 5 months yours has won me over.

In 5 months, New York, I've lived a lifetime of adventures, good and bad. And when, after meeting a friend/soon-to-be vlog partner for drinks in Brooklyn this week, I hailed a car to take me back to Astoria. When the driver somehow thought "Astoria" meant "Babycakes" and I ended up deep in Manhattan (cough cough WRONG WAY cough), I slammed my palm against the window and sighed, heavily, "I just fucking want to be home."

I only bring this up because today is my last day in the apartment which has acted as harbor for me for the entirety of our time together, New York, and not for the reasons I'd ever thought. I'm moving, yes, but just down the road-you see, I find Astoria agreeable to me. Yes, New York, it's where I feel like home.

Home. I've lived a nomadic fucking life, New York (one of my favorite Ani Difranco quotes: "I don't keep much stuff around/I value my portability"), and I have to ask:

who the fuck are you to wrap yourself around my brain and my heart and suddenly, without me even knowing, become my definition of "home"?

You've taught me gratitude, New York, in our 5 months together. So much has happened, so much magic and wonder and fucked-up shit and beauty and did I say magic already because magic. You've taught me some debts-like what I owe all those who opened their lives to me-will never be repaid simply because they can't be, there's no currency, tangible or not, in the world that can come close to functioning on that level.

In the past 5 months, I've achieved successes I never thought possible, and felt myself dropped to levels that, though I would love to never again reach, I know I'll approach again. I was never one to wax poetic on a city, New York, but I can do nothing but credit you for the good and the bad. For the rise and the fall, and the rise again. I moved from feeling like everything was crumbling around me in Atlanta to a couch in Queens through the grace of friends, and that one simple act has taught me the definition of "friendship". And now? Now my life just keeps going...and growing.

Between my freelance work and my full-time work, New York...I've clawed, tooth and nail, and I feel like I'm on something. The cusp of something. And I know we'll fight again. But, New York, as I pack the last of my stuff for a move I never dared to dream could happen, namely one that wasn't me leaving you for good? I just have to offer you up a word of thanks. I know now I can never conquer you, but tiny victories inside your boundaries are possible on a daily basis. This is my last day on 24th Ave, New York. And god, what a beautiful, humbling, unexpected experience it's been. And I know there's more.

Fuck you, New York. I love you. And thank you.




Monday, June 29, 2009

This blog, like everything else, is changing.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

If it is to BEA...

All right, folks, I'm off to Book Expo America, aka #BEA09, aka "I wonder how many free books I can stuff into various pockets".

Watch for my liveblog of the conference at BabyGotBooks, and hopefully I'll see you at the "people's party" (Publisher's Lunch)/the "new media afterparty" (other places)/"damn, this was some work"(everyone involved)-the BEA Tweetup

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Worker Bee Thousand

I am busy with stuff.

Here is a list of that stuff.

In the words of the great Arthur Dent, "I seem to be having this tremendous difficulty with my lifestyle." For someone seeking full-time employment (or, as I've come to say, "going in-house somewhere"), I am seriously, seriously busy.

First: this Saturday, May 23, the second monthly Resonator Magazine live music showcase in Manhattan takes form of: RESrawk!

All the info is here, the facebook event (complete with sheep-drinking-from-water-fountain flyer) is here, and my interview with Elizabeth Elkins, of Ghost of Summer Suns & The Swear, is here .

Then: Book Expo America, and the BEA Tweetup. Info's here.

Finally, I'm involved in the 140 Character Conference on Twitter.

OH WAIT-one last thing (like Steve Jobs says):

"Just Working On My Novel"

this is why i have not written a thousand words on tori amos. yet.


Friday, May 15, 2009


Edited, from an email I sent this morning to my dear friend, aka the person who is responsible for me not being homeless in NY:

I have pushed myself, in the past day or so, to the point of two nervous breakdowns, one at one point where I was convinced that I've made the absolutely worst mistake possible, that New York hates me, that you hate me, that the rest of my friends hate me, and that I need to get the fuck out-move to ******, work at ***** for 22k a year and just live a miserable life.

I really sick, and cried listening to the new Tori Amos album on repeat like five times.

So basically my last 24 hours have been akin to my high school experience, only at that point in my life I'd have induced the vomiting myself.

(It's worth noting that now's when I should repeat to myself "Panini Time")

It's not that things are bad-they aren't. I just feel like my parachute's the wrong color, like my cheese has been moved, like despite all my rage I may or may not be a caged rodent.

And so I am spending the next few days (gasp) offline. Disconnecting. Unplugging like I was Natalie Merchant, you guys were all the 10,000 Maniacs and this was MTV.

Basically hibernating and not being on the fucking internet and gathering my pieces back to center.

This may or may not include binging on the Tori Amos' Abnormally Attracted To Sin, it may or may not include my first trip to Coney Island. It will not include hot dogs.

Friends, Romans, Clients: you've all been notified. BEA is coming up, I have a bunch of projects that begin on Monday, and oh, next weekend is the next Resonator Magazine party.

So,if I were to not do this, I'd probably, by the middle of next week, end up shivering in a corner mumbling "Pinkberry BEA Pinkberry BEA" over and over again, drooling on myself and listening to Bat For Lashes on repeat.

So-no fbook. No twitter. Zilch.

When I return, I'll probably write like 18,000 words on the Tori album. You're stoked like the fires in my heart, I know.

(Oh, and you should read this. I wrote it for Creative Loafing's Summer Guide, and apparently it's really, really good. I don't know, I just realy like Meat Loaf. I intend on one day making my karaoke debut with my rendition of "I Would Do Anything For Love".)

Don't think it's slipped my attention that I blogged about not being online.


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sure I'm sober, sure I'm sane

It's funny, when I set out to try and post something here-to bring context to what's going on with me, in New York, right now (because my life is so damn riveting-no, really, it is, it's more than a collection of unread book galleys and empty wine bottles, but if one was to snapshot any unspecified moment you'd think otherwise-or maybe that's just my creeping self-doubt that cripples me and keeps me from writing. It's way easier to think the former, though, because it negates any sense of personal responsibility to this blog), it hasn't worked as of late.

And then I woke up this morning with a melancholy in the back of my throat, like the natural progression of sinus congestion or too much crying (or, yeah, too much red wine). The flurry of Facebook status updates reminded me of what day it is-Mother's Day (or is it Mothers' Day? Are we celebrating the royal, ultimate, Platonic concept of Mother, or is that too pagan/hippie/Ani Difranco concert and granola-shoes for mass consumption?). That explained it. And, like a pensive teenage girl just informed that I can't go to the Tokio Hotel concert with my BFF Jill, I've run to my blog to sort it out.

There are two holidays that rip me up and under, front-to-back but gently and only on the inside, as though my emotions were trying to speed forward over those road spikes used to prevent cars from being stolen off of rental lots.......and those two holidays are Christmas and today. Granted, you could be argue the relative importance of each of those is, well, just that, relative-societally constructed, greeting-card-company-manufactured and all that Freakenomics Free-Market Major/Finance Venture Capitalist minor crap that has my eyes glass over when it comes up as a bar topic.

I mean, first off, you'd be right, and secondly I once got through three interviews to do copywriting and marketing for a not-going-to-be-named greeting card and gifts manufacturer, and in the course of those three interviews I realized that I would, in fact, love nothing more than to spend the rest of my life writing

(outside flap)"So you're six" (inside) "PICK UP STICKS...AND HAVE A GREAT BIRTHDAY!" (picture of clown holding chocolate cake with bunny on head)

and churning out cheap clichéd joy and cards for bridge club ladies to take to their ill friends in lieu of actually caring.

I can, in fact, mentally acknowledge that Mother's Day is all fluff, hype and marketing, just like Valentines Day, Greek Easter and the band Passion Pit. That doesn't stop the simple fact from sinking to the pit of my stomach every Mother's Day that I don't have a mother.

Ok, that's not exactly true-I mean, obv. I have a mother. Semen and eggs and all that shit, right? In the words of Jay-Z, explaining the birds and the bees:

"I was conceived
by Gloria Carter and Agnes Reeves
who made love under a sycamore tree
which makes me
a more sicker MC"

(hah, sycamore/more sicker. get that? God I love him)

I'm not a freak of nature (well, at least not in the "not born of human mother" sense...but wait, her womb was "untimely ripped"...which means, if I was Scottish, I could kill Macbet...I mean, "that Scottish play"), and my mom didn't give some sort of virgin birth. But, in terms of actual maternal figure-someone I can call on, someone I can write to, someone I even know the actual physical street address of-non-existent in my life. And sometimes-not always, not often, not really ever other than when it's waved in my face when I'm trying to shop for bread and the fucking Key Foods keeps the greeting cards, paper products and rat traps on the same fucking aisle-that fact presses a little, just enough, into that space in my chest between my ribs and makes it hard to breathe.

My mom was a single parent after my birth father, a Spaniard, fled this country for his own immediately upon learning of my conception (man, writing it like that fucks with my head-"the dude who fathered me left the United States when he found out that I was a concept"? That's how that reads to me). After weighing the options basically deciding that abortion, like a bud light, tasted great AND was less filling, my fate had seemingly been decided...until my grandparents stepped in and offered to raise me for my mom.

For my mom, possessing a dull wit, a rebellious, partying nature, a weirdly fucked-up affinity to adhere to Catholicism and nothing more than a high school degree, this was the ideal situation.

For a while, my mother and I lived with my grandparents, in a doublewide trailer in Marietta, Georgia, which is just like Atlanta only stupider, fatter and with more bacon-grease. This arrangement allowed my mother to come and go as she saw fit, and "as she saw fit" was defined by essentially sleeping until mid-afternoon and then immediately heading out with a different guy every night.

My grandparents (who had their own issues, but that's a therapy session/blog for another time) didn't take kindly to what they saw as my mother's, um, abject fucking refusal to do a damn thing with her life? Yeah, let's call it that. So, they kicked her out, with the understanding that she and my grandparents would share custody of me-my mom would get me on weekends, and, during the week, my grandparents would keep me and she'd look for work.

I remember the first apartment my mother moved into mostly for the fact that it's where I developed my need for background noise in order to fall asleep. With the windows open (she couldn't afford air conditioning, and fuck you New York, you think you know dry, stagnant heat? Try not having A/C in the SOUTH in the summer), I'd drift off every Friday and Saturday night to the sounds of police cars and what only in my later years I realized were gunshots. Often I'd spend these nights alone in the apartment, as my mom wouldn't return from her job as a waitress at Old Country Buffet, choosing instead to go home with...well, anyone, really, I guess. I wouldn't know. I never met any of her guys. So I'd lay in her bed on weekend nights, alone, listening to the popping caps and the wails in the dank, hot night.

Once, my mom did bring a man around for me to meet. He showed either how little he'd asked or how little he'd been told about me by showing up, with her, to the apartment on a sunny Sunday afternoon, before I was to be taken back to my grandparents, with a football to "throw around".

This is way funnier if you know me, trust me. I don't "throw around" a "football". Never have. Never. Will. Plus, at this point I was fat.

I appreciated the effort, though, as my mother let bags of cheetos and MTV (the latter of which was fruit highly forbidden by my grandparents) do the majority of entertaining when I was with her. As far as throwing anything around, she preferred to throw things at me rather then with me. Sometimes, the object that got thrown was me.

Let me say this-I understand entirely my mother's position in resorting to physical abuse with me. I had been unwanted from the start, an accident (as she would tell me many times) and then a thwarted abortion. The stress of being a single parent, of working a job that paid, at best, $2 with minimal tips (coming from the fact that it was a fucking BUFFET RESTAURANT) and being saddled with the societal obligation that is the phrase "good mother". Also, she was very, very frustrated by the fact that, with my only visiting her on weekends, she wasn't really the one doing the raising of me, and as such wasn't really a contributing force on molding me into anything. The fruit of her womb was falling far from the tree as I, directed by my grandparents, fell in love with books (which she hated) and became a sissy (her words), and so she resorted to the only thing she knew to do-rather than gently mold the clay of my forming personality, she decided to pound the living shit out of it.

I can honestly say I've been hit in the face with a hairbrush more times than I can remember, and that's probably because a few of those times knocked me out. The physical abuse was really bad one specific night, when she came home from work (a little drunk, it seems) and found me not-yet-ready for bed. When I had trouble removing my shirt to put my pajamas on and asked for help, she began foaming at the mouth and raging about how I needed to be "mature" (a word she'd always pronounce as "matte-your", sounding very close to "manure"). Her anger escalating, she threw me into a dresser. Or a bookcase. Or a door? Fuck, I don't know. I remember waking up in the shower, cold water covering my head, as my mom touched my face in a gentle way that could only ever be a result, the reaction to an action that had come before-it never, ever happened unprompted.

I remember the ride to my grandparents house that night as my mom realized there was no way she could take care of me. I remember being taken to the hospital because the bleeding wouldn't stop.

Long story short, as I got older, my mother and I ceased communication. My one serious pass at therapy found my therapist confronting my mother with the fact that she'd never be a maternal figure in my life, and the best she could hope was to be my friend.

These are the memories of my mother that float under the surface, like watching fish swimming underneath a sheet of ice on a frozen pond. They're always there, but I don't really ever have to deal with them except on a day like today.

I've had girlfriends try to have me assimilate their moms into being mine. It works to varying degrees of success. The fact is, though, having grown up without a maternal figure, I tend to just genuinely appreciate the kindness.

(I had one girlfriend who actually told me I needed to fix my family so that she and I could get married. Suffice to say, I bolted the fucking shit out of that relationship.)

Child abuse stories, shattered families, etc, are a dime a dozen. If one was to gather up mine and nine others, you'd be able to get soda from a vending machine. There's more to all of this, little facets and fragments and pieces that fall out of the boxes that I've put on the shelves inside me, like emotional packing peanuts. The last time I spoke to my mother was in 2006. She called to tell me she'd lost her job as a waitress at a steakhouse, and wanted to know what, at 47, she should do with her life, because she didn't want to "end up a failure" like me. Her words. I didn't quote the last bit because, well, ok, here's the exact wording, sticklers:

"I don't want to end up a failure like you."

And then she probably said my full name, Russell, to ensure that I was aware she specifically meant me. Her son. The failure.

I hung up. I cried. And that was it.

So when I made the decision to move to New York, I debated: do I tell her that I'm leaving the state? The only address she'd had for me for years was Wordsmiths, having seen my name associated with it in the paper many times (which, ahem, is nothing but a testament to my own major awesomeness at promotion), and I wondered-what if? What if she dies? What would I say-like Tracy Bonham, would I just be "calling to say hello"? What if she's right-I'm unemployed. I'm a failure. She won. What if. What if. What...

and then I realized I just...didn't care. That part of me, where a mom goes, isn't "hollow" or "empty"-it's just non-existent. If there was once a pot hole there, it's been paved over for so long the entire thing has grafted together naturally.

It feels like this is a conversation I've been having a lot lately, that of family and origin and and and Wolverine? No not Wolverine. But of family. I blame the conversation I had with Evan Mandery the other week for uncorking the bottle of ponderance that I'm still pouring out.

So no, I don't have a mother's day card for my mom. I don't know where she is or how to get in touch with her, and I really have no desire to. I have friends that have sweat and bled for me in my life that are across the country that I neglect, never call or write to-what moves my mother higher up than they on the list of people who should get my attention simply because she birthed me?

Now that I've said all of this, my hands are literally shaking in nervousness to hurry me on to say the following:

In Heartbreaking Work, Dave Eggers wrestles with the idea of his personal pain making him special, elevating him to a higher level. I'm the opposite: I do not think any of my familial bullshit makes me any better, worse, or different from anyone else. This is not art. This is everyone's story, everyone has that weird list of things that, if this was Dungeons and Dragons, would be easily listable on a character sheet. I'm just -10 family, really, and I don't regret it. It's not some party-killer, the thing that gets dropped like a bomb at a bar and sends everyone scattering (that's a terminal disease, not my useless fucking family). I've learned self-reliance as a result. And, frankly, if that's her one lasting gift to me (other than an affinity for substances and a fear of everything I ever love leaving me), forced or not? It's the best thing I ever could have been given.

And to those of you who have mothers-loving mothers, who you hate sometimes and who frustrate you to ponder murder sometimes but who you could, who you can, go home to? Hug them. Fuck it-yes it's a Hallmark holiday, so hug them tomorrow, too.

And yeah. Everything's fine.


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Under a sheet of rain in my heart

I can't stop listening to this song, and, despite David Letterman's utterly inane not-story, I think this may be the definitive version.

Seriously, Bat For Lashes (and you all have to forgive me, I didn't pay attention to Natasha "B4L"'s first record, so I've spent much of this year calling her collective BatS, plural, For Lashes...not "Bats Plural", just "Bats". Sort of like how it's not "Mister Manager", it's just "manager") has one of the greatest futuretro albums I've heard in 2009-Two Suns is beautiful and heart-wrenching and witchy, like a freakfolk-doused Stevie Nicks/Kate Bush amalgam. I can replay the entire thing endlessly for hours and get lost.

(I know, I know, a real update is coming here soon).

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Ok, in my ongoing quest to have a venue to bitch about what irks me in every corner of webspace, I just turned in my first post for Creative Loafing's Culture Surfing blog.

And it's about Dan Brown.

Also, I penned my bimonthly entry for A Good Blog Is Hard To Find. Like all the best things, that piece is entirely about me.

One of my favorite albums this year so far is Telepathe's Dance Mother, a jerky, jilted electronic storm, and I wrote a little on it for Resonator Mag.

Last but not least, I most recently talked about sex, bodily functions and a new literary hottie over at BabyGotBooks.

It is my goal to translate net-ubiquitousness to money. Stay tuned for how that happens (it won't).

Sunday, April 19, 2009

And when it was good, it was really really good. And when it was bad...

...So, I had this experience, making a Babycakes run before the REStart show last Saturday, which apparently is commonly shared schema for New York amongst most people who've lived here for any extended period of time:

In the cold, blustery, where-the-fuck-is-the-wicked-fucking-witch torrential downpour of rain that is, apparently, the ONLY setting New York has for liquid precipitation (like, what, there's no gentle summer rain here, is there? Oh, right, that's called a "southern rain" for a reason...), as I (kinda grossly, considering the weather) happily jaunted along my way in the nasty, nasty weather, anxious for my Babycakes fix and to be the vessel which provided it for others, my umbrella, apparently deciding that it did not, in fact, want to do the one fucking function it was created for, flipped inside out.

At that moment, I knew not only how Joan of Arc felt but also what it must have been like to find out and actually care that Milli Vanilli were fake-everything true and dear about the way the world operates, good and bad, right and wrong, soycheese and all, had been, literally, turned inside out.

Oh god, bad pun. Ready for another?


Blame it on the rain.

Told you. Anyway, so...

So after talking to Suzan and Choyce, my Resonator Mag co-conspirators and, more importantly, people who do this New York shit every day and have been doing so for a while, I discovered that this whole "umbrella making itself stupid and useless" thing happens pretty regularly, and is, in fact, a major deterrent from spending, say, $55 on a Madonna 2008 Tour Umbrella (not that I would, mind you, but I know a guy).

This, to me, was just one more unexpected twist in a script that I'm sure is being shopped around, tagged "southern boy who isn't really all that southern, or doesn't think he is, moved to the big city and says stuff like 'this sure is pretty' and 'all the flashy lights' and 'do y'all have Firefly Sweet Tea vodka' and 'what do you mean the Yeah Yeah Yeahs show is sold out?', and everyone laughs". Maybe I'm old-fashioned, maybe I'm just a good ol' boy at heart who on a daily basis misses cornbread and laughs at Larry The Cable Guy jokes (I am particularly fond of the one where he objectifies women and insinuates that all blue-collar southern workers are beer-swilling wife-beating belching trailer trash,that one's really hilarious), but where I come from umbrellas do one damn thing and they do it well.

Umbrellas as disposable product, like toilet paper, tampons or books (oh, sorry, too soon? Too soon)? That's not something I can fully support. Also, it kinda freaks me out to think that something that I only used once or twice in my life in Atlanta (seriously, I'm not a fan of sunglasses or umbrellas, though god that Rihanna song kinda haunts this entire post so far, hm?) is now constantly on my mind in New York:

"Should I take my umbrella? Will I leave my umbrella? Did I lose my umbrella? Is that bar playing 'Umbrella?'"

(ok, there's your one reference to it. Sorry, had to.)

Finally, though, Suzan made a comment that resonated (get it, Resonator Mag, resonated, ha ha it's funny ok I give up):

"Living in New York is so awesome", she said, "that God has to punish the people who live here daily." I think she then compared umbrellas turning inside-out to the MTA.

Despite the layer of snarkcasm frosting the comment, it really, really struck me how damn lucky I am to be living in New York. It's something that just, I guess, kind of gets glossed over when I complain about stuff like cafes not having wi-fi. Like, I wrote about that as opposed to writing about how, say, I got to meet Maud effing Newton.

And I guess...I guess I wanted to put something down about the positives. It all kind of hit me last night, when I made my first trek to Bergen St Comics, a place I plan on frequenting often. It's been far too long since I've had a real comic shop or the impetus to actually completely geek out inside one, and Bergen St kinda unleashed that, to the point where I actually got down on my hands and knees to flip through the collected set of Alan Moore's run on Wildcats.

I'll shut up with the geekdom, sorry.

The point, though, is when I was introduced to one of the owners (courtesy of Bookavore, who happens to be manager at what's quickly become another favorite place of mine, Greenpoint bookstore Word)as a new NYC transplant, she casually brought up the New York Magazine "Arrivals" article that I (to a middling extent) was a part of. When I mentioned that, the conversation reached the inevitable point of the question "so, how's New York treating you so far?"

When I gave my honest answer of "well, other than trying to find a full-time job, it's gorgeous and glorious and hard and frustrating and I love every second of it", I realized, right then, that the truth that I'm living doesn't always necessarily come out in this blog. That, like, yeah, I'm cobbling myself together on freelance work and staying with friends. That, yes, I'm seeking a full-time job like whoever it was in that Madonna movie was seeking Susan (I dunno, never seen it).

But by the same token, I've made friends and have seen things and have done things and am in the process of doing things, living things, that I never, ever, ever thought possible. And maybe it's the fact that it's the third consecutive gorgeous day in a row in New York. Maybe it's the fact that my coffee this morning was really good. Maybe it's the fact that I just listened to that one Coldplay song. You know, that one. YES, that one. But, right now, right at this very moment, yeah-New York is cruel and heartless and mean and absolutely lovely and I know I will at some point call this statement right now premature but I will then go back later and say no it wasn't and I'll probably vacillate on it for the rest of my life but at my center will know I mean this, this right now:

I am kinda falling in love with New York. Little by little. And sometimes, the fact that I've had a job of some sort pretty much since I was 15, constantly basing my worth and my sense of purpose, happiness and well-being around that and nothing else but that, clouds my ability to seriously sit down and say things like "this, right now, is fucking amazing" or "last night, just being out with people I can talk to about how the way to save publishing is through _____ (it changes nightly)" or "oh my hellish damn god that is Lemony Snicket". The flurry, the exchange of ideas and the pace and the constant motion and and and and I think this is what, when I was in high school, I'd always hoped college would be (it wasn't). And yes, it's harsh and cruel but damn it if I don't think it is, and shall continue to be, worth it. And it's funny how one revelatory moment in an awesome comic shop made me realize that yes, indeed, I am falling for New York. Hard.

I mean, I see that sign pretty much every day. How could I not be falling for NY? Panini time? Yes PLS.

When I lost my job at Wordsmiths and people heard I was moving to New York to find work, I bristled at the number of times the word "congratulations" came up-as though everyone was seemingly unaware that, in what was my ideal world, I wouldn't, in fact, be moving. That there was absolutely nothing to congratulate me on. I saw myself as an unemployed loser sleeping on a couch and hoping to make something of himself in a city that eats people daily.

Maybe, just maybe, I'm starting to get it now.

Henceforth, when I lose my shit, when I become emotionally unhinged at the seams and begin taking serious hacks into my own self-worth, be it over looking for or having or not having or wanting or needing whatever, I will make my new mantra "panini time", and hope it reminds me of this, right here and right now.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Y So Wifiless

I realize that, in terms of recent entries on here, I'm jumping in chronology a bit by talking about something that just happened, like a topic that I'm still in the process of relieving the resulting back tension from. But I feel it is vital, and urgent, and vitally urgent, that I allow the universal governing force, GodBuddhaStalinBono,to use me as its mouthpiece and speak out on the single biggest plague facing New York right now...


Not to turn into Jerry Seinfeld (but, I mean, really, fuck is the deal with airline food, for real?) here, but this is the third consecutive time I've had to claw, kick, bite and spit in Manhattan to sit down in a cafe, open my laptop and get any sort of work done. I genuinely don't understand what the hell New York freelancers do with their days, but I guarantee you one thing: my ventures into the coffee wilderness here have yielded nothing but shoulders rubbed raw from my laptop back, fractured emotional nerves and weird debit card charges from my assuming a cafe has wi-fi, buying a latte and then tossing it only to find out that I have to trudge on to another coffeeshop because the one I'm at has no public internet. I then, at the next stop on my "tour of indie coffee places", buy ANOTHER latte (since I wouldn't DARE enter one indie with another's beverage), sit at a table and find the exact same problem-no wifi.

Eventually, I just end up at Starbucks. I've actually upped my T-Mobile/Blackberry plan to include a monthly T-Mobile HotSpot plan since this eventual Evil Coffee Empire endpoint seems unavoidable, and, frankly, I've lost too many potentially productive days to inept New York coffee shops.

Yup, inept. Sorry. In this economy (oh my god he said the phrase!), any independent of any breed whatsoever needs support. I'll agree with that. But they also need to, regardless of what type of store it is-sporting goods, books, coffee, cream cheese sculpture-foster a sense of community. This is something my initial read on New York had me praising. The neighborhood bar that my friend with whom I'm currently staying took me to in Astoria had wifi.

A bar! With wifi! Where I come from (Y'allsville Cornbreadnation, I mean, erm, Atlanta), that's unheard of. "What community", I thought. "What a fostering of brand loyalty in what's truly the global economy that's contained within New York."

Yeah, calling bullshit on myself for that one. I think I spoke too soon.

Every indie coffeeshop in New York that doesn't have WiFi is begging for the steamroller of Starbucks to come through and crush it. For everyone one B Cup Cafe that I've found, where I'm invited in, given a slip of paper with the WiFi password and thusly positioned myself to stay a few hours (spending money as I do so), there are a billion others-every other one, really, that I've encountered-where this simple acknowledgement of what the cafe/coffeeshop/whateveryoucall it is at this moment in time-less a venue for the "perfect cup of coffee" and more a thirdspace. Not work, not home, but a location away from either and made to feel reminiscent of both and oh, shit, I just regurgitated Starbucks' marketing material, didn't I?

Hm. Food for thought, innit?

All I know is this: when Wordsmiths, which never in its time actually achieved the cafe that it wanted (and perhaps that could have changed things, perhaps not), was in the initial planning stages, there was never even a question that part of its commitment to community-building and relationship-fostering would necessitate wifi and comfortable seating. This "get the hell in and get the hell out" attitude that seems pervasive of so many independent coffee shops, restaurants and, sadly, bookstores (I can name one book store specifically, in Atlanta, that is the single least-friendly establishment ever created, ever, like the Roman Coliseum was more hospitable) right now signals to me that this idea of community is falling by the indie wayside into the gutter, to be picked up and capitalized on by those who pay attention. Unfortunately, most of those who are paying attention in my field of vision are the Starbucks, the McDonalds (they all have free wifi), the Popeyes Chicken (ditto). In the words of the great 12th Century metallurgist and poet James Hetfield, "it's sad but true".

So, c'mon, indie coffee joints, step your game up. You can justify, as one of my favorite indie coffee places in New York that actually doesn't have wifi but that does have cupcakes provided by the comedienne who is unaware that I've adopted her as my mother does, that to invoke the beckoning call of "free wireless internet" would only encourage customers to camp out all day (some not actually ever even engaging in the act of commerce with the establishment, thus not really counting as a "customer" at all). I can understand that logic, I can. For the record, every venue I plop myself to pilfer the wireless net-tubes gets some of my hard-earned government-provided unemployment check, because, well, I've been on the side of the indies. I cried at the loss of an indie that put my blood, sweat and tears into. I root for the underdog. And, well, I'm a socialist.

But Jesus H Christonacross, do you really think that "oh, people might come and stay" is a valid point for not providing a service? Also, do I have to illustrate what seems painfully obvious to capitalist me-the longer people stay, the more they will either need more of or may possibly need for the first time the goods you purvey. Isn't making a first-time customer of someone who's taken up nothing but ass-space and oxygen in your establishment (and the potential of repeat business and brand loyalty from said ass-space-taker) better than never having that person come in?

I don't know. I can't answer that question. I do know this, though: until a bunch indie coffee places wise up like that Aimee Mann song, I'm going to be seeing this a lot more:

Starbucks. Third Place. Wifi. Loyalty. There's a lesson in business to be learned there.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

REStart photo recap

In the long list of things that I have yet to recap, Saturday's Resonator Magazine party is one of them. And now, the photo recap from the party is up. And there are some great, great photos.



Wednesday, April 8, 2009

New York The First

Oh, hello, I didn't see you there.

So, it would appear (in case you haven't heard) that I'm in New York. The Big Apple. The center of the universe. The place, really, where they make the salsa. But not that you'd know, dear reader (he arrived), because I haven't been blogging.

To quote Ani Difranco's banter on the Living In Clip album (a record I used to listen to obsessively before she cost me a week of my life and like 10 lbs), I walked around NY with my mouth hanging open for about three days. Though, honestly, that's a gross underestimation, because my mouth is, in fact, still hanging open.

But I'm jumping ahead of myself...

That's the one-way ticket.

(The first one-way ticket that I've ever purchased. There's something weirdly emotive and poetic in that, and I just chose to ignore it.)

To briefly recap the story of our protagonist thus far, for those who either are unfamiliar with it or (more likely) just really don't pay attention:

Moved from Atlanta to NYC to "pursue opportunities", which is polished and spit-shined verbiage for "job hunting". Staying with a dear friend in Astoria who, once I actually acquire enough funds for my own abode, will be repaid in spades. Not WITH spades, though, because really what kind of appreciative gift is a fucking garden tool?

Anyway-in the couple of weeks I've been here thus far, everything's happened in a bit of whirlwind rush, to the point where, having this massively-delayed blog being as, um, massively delayed, as it is, has only resulted in everything smearing and smudging in my brain and in my (poorly kept) notes, like so much fingerpaint on butcher paper. Rather than attempt to string this out and back together, I'm going to resort to getting this birthed through poorly-captioned cameraphone photos and brief anecdotes. So, basically, like my life.

To begin with, immediately upon landing in LaGuardia I splurged and took a cab (omg, a cab) from the airport to my friend's apartment in Astoria. Lest you raise an eyebrow at this extravagant indulgence for someone living on government cheese (what I call my unemployment benefits), realize: I was traveling with the single most obnoxious suitcase ever, as a result of me, stupidly, replacing a worn and battered carry-on suitcase with a suitcase even smaller than the original. In addition to that, I had my full-to-the-point-of-exploding laptop case. So a cab was beyond a luxury-it was a necessity for my own sanity.

Speaking of sanity, and the keeping/losing of it: I arrive at the apartment building in Astoria. I make it inside the first door. My mind turns off at the excitement of finally being able to put my heavy bags down. Also, lest you need reminding, at the excitement of being in New Fucking York, which is what the entire state is henceforth retitled.

I walk to the apartment door. I attempt to open it with the keys my friend had passed to me on my last New York trip. The door, my friends, the door-it does not open.

I can assure you, good folks, that that was the loudest not-opening door I've ever heard. My brain was screaming. I tried scratching at the locks, I tried running my debit card (credit card? What's that? Oh those things that mean you don't have to actually have money to buy things? Yeah, those are bad) through the side of the door, I stopped for a minute and checked my phone to see if I had the cellular number of either Jack Bauer or MacFuckingGyver (who gets a similar re-titling to the state of New Fucking York).

I called my friend whose apartment I was trying to get into. Who was at work. She, politely and calmly, apologized to me, explaining that, not being 100% sure she'd checked both keys before she gave them to me, my inability to open the apartment door was entirely her fault. I shushed her, we hung up, I spent another two hours clawing, crying and fighting the damn door to try to get in. I sliced the top of my right hand open from trying to force a key that didn't fit into a lock that didn't want it.

All together now-story of my life.

Finally, after having given up, restarted my assault on the apartment door, given up again, begun trying to read a book, and then repeated the entire scenario several times, I made a frantic phone call to a different NYC friend. After she calmed me (for the record, it took like every person I encountered that Friday to calm me, including, like, various homeless people), she told me that I was, in fact, in a safe area, and that I should leave my awfully-full suitcase, take what I needed, and go to Brooklyn, where I had plans that night. After confirming with my friend whose apartment I couldn't get into that she'd bring my suitcase and such inside later that evening, I left my suitcase outside the apartment door and took off, bloody hand and all, to go to Brooklyn.

(Does anyone else think "To Brooklyn With A Bloody Hand" would make a great album name?)

The next morning, I awoke to the most amazing revelation. A voicemail from my friend informing me that, amusingly, she'd found my suitcase, but that it was outside the wrong apartment. She gave me the benefit of the doubt-that I was obviously super-intelligent and knew which apartment I should've been trying to get into.

Obviously NOT, folks. OBVIOUSLY. NOT.

My very first night in New York, and I had spent two solid hours trying to get into the wrong apartment. Break into, actually. If whomever actually lives in that apartment had come home, they'd have had every single legal right to call the cops and have me arrested for attempted break-in.

Me, to New York: Let's be friends.

New York: Fuck. OFFfffffffffff.

The rest of the past couple of weeks has been a weird juxtaposition of insane, theme park ride-ish heights (running into Daniel "Lemony Snicket" Handler in a Starbucks) and equally insane, bipolar freakouts as a result of my inability to find a full-time job.

There was also last Friday's very, very strange and unexpected New York magazine "Arrivals" photo shoot (for new/recent arrivals to NYC), which I participated in and is sort-of online here. Excuse the fact that the quote they pulled from my written interview basically makes me look as though I'm a serious loser by trade and by choice, and also excuse the fact that the photo is basically the promotional still for my forthcoming film, "Russ Goes To Prison".

For a photo representative of that day, I much prefer this:

Yeah. New York Magazine couldn't afford real name tags that weren't mailing labels. Whatever. And whatever to the awful quote and the atrocious Nick Nolte-worthy mugshot. I haven't found a full-time job yet, I'm still imposing on the good graces of wonderful folks for a living situation, but, fact of the matter is, I am, to some extent, in an issue of New York Magazine. And, unless you're one of the two famous people who read my blog, you're not.

And, for having barely put my bag down yet? That's not too damn bad.

In terms of my recap? We'll stop there for today. There's more to come, involving fucked-up flipped-and-destroyed umbrellas, a potential mugging, and drunken DJing. But that can wait til next missive.

Now, um, about that job...


Saturday, April 4, 2009

Once more into the shameless self-promotion

You have a week to plan:

Further info is here. Yes, that does mean I'll be DJing.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


I am, indeed, in New York. And alive-ish. Not as "so alive" as that Love and Rockets song, nor am I as alive as Frampton was (and I don't have that cool talkboxy thing that turns your guitar and voice into a robot anthem). 

And I am getting sick. Apparently everything in New York is a functioning disease buffet for my southern immune system. Smallpox subways, indeed.

Don't bother clicking the "continued" link below, this is it. There's an update coming. Until then, go read this


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Last day of the Farewell Tour (the future of the future)

Years ago:

I remember feeling young, free and so damn alive, driving I-85 into the bright lights of Atlanta listening to Outkast's "Cruisin' in the ATL" album interlude, having those four words (ok, three words and one abbreviation) speak to me like words dripping from the God of the Wasted, the Wild and the Unforgettable.

I couldn't yet legally buy alcohol but I was city-drunk, on possibilities, on potential, on hope and on reckless abandon.

(Strange disclosure to let the record show, vol 1 of what is sure to be many: I once made out with my improv teacher, a woman then about 20+ years my senior, on the top of the Equitable building.)

At the time, it-all of it, those cars those lights- felt like something that no one outside of this city would ever understand. 

And I possessed that and turned it into something. Whether that something has legs, wheels or wings-well, that's about to be tested, now, isn't it?

Bye, Atlanta. You ate some of my dreams and gave me new ones.

I don't believe in long goodbyes, I don't believe in goodbyes at all, actually. But I feel I'd be remiss without taking a second to acknowledge the give-and-take in the relationship we've had for the past 26 years.  

You gave me an almost ridiculous love for hip-hop and took my faith in the world to naturally right itself. You took my naive and impassioned love for theater and replaced it with the fledgling kernels of undying, endless self-reliance.

(also, for the record, ATL? You pumped like 8 million dollars into a PR campaign I could've improved in my sleep, but, as Tupac said, I ain't mad atcha. Wait, this is about you, isn't it, Hotlanta? I should quote a southern rapper. As such, insert all of T.I.'s "Dead and Gone" here.)

You told me there were things that would never happen, things I'd never be able to do and never be able to know, as long as I was contained within your walls, and then you offered me the opportunity to make my own path.

I'll see you again, I'm sure.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

What my life is worth (last days in Atlanta)

I feel like I have a massive, mad amount of catching up to do, in terms with chronicling the Amazing Adventures Of Russ As He Moves To The North (TM). Fact of the matter is, though, I feel less "amazing" at the present moment (cue a Kanye West rant from his VH-1 "Storytellers": "Russell Stovers-AMAZING. Russ Marshalek-AMAZING. Russ, you know that company that makes the stuffed animals you buy at the greeting card stores? Are they not amazing?") than I do "in stasis". Things feel weird , because every activity I engage in in Atlanta is the "last". The "last" time I'll ever go to Your (mine?) Dekalb Farmers Market, aka the Greatest Damn Place On Earth. The "last" time I'll ever walk to the Decatur square and get angry about all the happy people. The last time I'll ever say "oh, dear, this is the last time I'm..." And really, what good does any of that serve? Basically, my brain is fabricating nostalgia at this point. "Hey, remember the time I ran into the Indigo Girls while I was shopping for coffee at Target?" No, because that didn't happen. I've run into an Indigo Girl ONCE in my entire time in Decatur (a city that they, like, own, or something. Shhhh. I'm trying to tell you something 'bout my life.). My "getting sassed by Michael Stipe" quotient is like eight times that, and Stipe lives in, like, an underground cave carved to resemble an independent coffee shop somewhere below the 40 Watt in Athens, GA, right?


Anyway, things feel weird. I'm four days from landing in LaGuardia, hopefully on-time, maybe even early (yeah, right, flying out of Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is like actually attempting to coherently make your way through all of Roberto Bolano's 2666: essentially, have fun with that and call me when it's over). My entire life (six boxes of books and four of clothes) has, thanks to the child-like wondrous unicorn magic of UPS,been assigned a monetary value.

My life is officially worth $177 dollars.

I think I spent that much on the high-gravity beers that I consumed far, far too many of at my going away party...which, um, you can read about here. Basically it looked like this

only plus or minus about another 20 people throughout the course of the evening, and me seriously embarrassing myself only thrice or four times. Oh, and not all squished up due to Blogger's size restrictions. That would have sucked, huh? 

(It's flattering, though, that every person I can point to in the peripheral of that photo was there for me. I mean, that's what I *think*. Some of my friends may have just been like "ooooh crap that's right Russ's thing is here....ooooooh we better say hiiiii.......dammit he saw us" etc.)


"So Russ: your life is en-route to Queens via UPS, you've had a going-away party where you basically consumed your body weight and your bank account in alcohol AND there's four days left of your time in Atlanta, what are you going to do now?"

Well, first I'mma watch Twilight. And I did. And oh, god, it was bad.

(For the record, that whole "dazzling" vampire-in-the-sun-glittering bit was WAY less impressive than it should've been. Less "dazzling", more "I think Henrietta in styling used too much body glitter on R Patz".

Also, the acting. Oh, god, the acting. There's more sexual tension in a nursing home on shuffle board day than there was between Edward and Bella.)

And second? I'm going to see one of my favorite Atlanta bands, Tealights, on Wednesday. I wrote a brief bit about that on Resonator. You should read it. There's a song there, too, It's incredibly pretty and about traveling and I am avoiding at all costs applying it to my (worth $177!) life because that would just end with me being stupidly emotional.

Too late?

Four days left and counting.


Thursday, March 19, 2009


Not to completely overwhelm you, gentle heart, with Russ-generated content all at once, but my BabyGotBooks interview with N. Frank Daniels is up right now.

Daniels is the author of a stunning, harrowing first novel, titled futureproof. Whether you care about that or not is irrelevant; read the interview anyway, as it's one of the most blissfully candid takes on the current state of the publishing industry that you'll experience anywhere:

...More than anything because I only recently realized that the ’story’ behind futureproof’s being published was the main reason why HarperCollins decided to pursue me to publish this book.

Read the rest at BabyGotBooks.

The Old Apartment

My very first girlfriend, in 10th grade(I know, right, I was a slow bloomer but I, um, flowered, or rather, deflowered, quickly...and...often? Oh, god, very veiled reference to me being a teenage slut), was a huge fan of The Barenaked Ladies. Before you go rolling your eyes at me for ever having been involved with someone possessing such mainstream oriented rock tastes, know a couple of things:

1) I really like Fleetwood Mac. So much so that I call them "Tha Fleet" both affectionately and with reverence.

2) I really, really like u2. So much so that I call them "Tha Fleet" both affectionately and with reverence. Also I really still am convinced that I can grow up one day to be Bono.

(HELLO HELLO! See, that's me practicing to be Bono.)

Besides, this was right as the Barenaked Ladies' Rock Spectacle live album was just starting to get a push, mainly on heels of that one single on there about the fat dude from Animal Collective going belly-up at a Chinese buffet, what was it called...oh, yeah, "Brian Wilson".

Anyway, Barenaked Ladies were coming to Atlanta on tour right around the time of Miss M's birthday, and so I thought, like the good puppy dog boyfriend I was at the time, I'd get tickets for us to go see them. The morning of the ticket on-sale date, I went to my local Ticketbastard affiliate (aka the grocery store across the street from the trailer park, excuse me, mobile home community) and proceeded to ask the woman behind the customer service desk for two tickets to the Barenaked Ladies.

Her mouth dropped. "Son, what you wanna see?" she asked me.

"Um, the Barenaked Ladies. Two tickets, please, to the Bare.."

I couldn't finish. She was laughing so hard tears were streaming down her face. "Y'all be wantin' to see some buttnekkid women? Charlene, Charlene get outta the office and come out here, this kid wants tickets to see some buttnekkid women!"

Needless to say, Charlene came out and also marveled at the fact that I was apparently willing to pay $25 plus service charge for tickets to see some, ahem, unclothed members of the female persuasion. They laughed. They hooted. They hollered. They slapped various parts of their very large bodies and chuckled 'til we were all red-faced. Make no mistake, though, I was not amused.

(I was also probably wearing an Indigo Girls t-shirt at the time, which makes things all the worse, always. )

The show was sold out anyway.

All of this is a roundabout way of introducing the fact that, a week and a day prior to relocating from Atlanta to New York (you know, the place they make the salsa), there are a couple of photos from my Flickr account that I need, for my own emotional sanity and mental house-keeping, to put here and caption.

Soundtracked, appropriately, by...

....the Barenaked Ladies' song "The Old Apartment"

The Old Apartment (Live Album Version) - BARENAKED LADIES

As we were cleaning out the industrial, converted-icehouse studio that had held our lives for the past 2/12 years, for me, this song kept playing in my head. A friend/excellent photographer and I recently went back to Icehouse take photos of me (everyone needs professional-quality Facebook photos, yes?), and it started up again. Probably because, like the song's narrator details, the location of past-home holds a certain romance for all the trials, tribulation and heartbreak contained therein. "Broke into the old apartment/this is where we used to live", and all that.


And, despite the mom-jam status that Barenaked Ladies have, well, the song's not leaving my head any time soon.

Thing 1 and Thing 2, respectively (aka the reason for this post, aka documents submitted for your review regarding what once was):

Thing 1

A living-room dumpster scene made with all the Ikea furniture that didn't go with us. That lamp, man, if I could tell you how far that lamp has traveled with's heartbreak, it's change, it's art. I call it "Merriweather Post Pavilion".

Thing 2

This, indeed, is the old apartment. Taken at 10am on the 27th of Feb, 2009. I then shut that door for the last time.

(get it, it's a metaphor?)

In the words of the Barenaked Ladies:
Only memories, fading memories
Blending into dull tableaux

It's all different from here.


Monday, March 9, 2009

Resonator Magazine presets: REStart-the birthday party

One of my other projects, Resonator Magazine (which I'm one of the co-owners of and write for under my thinly-veiled pseudonym Shaun Bateman) is having a birthday party and launching a new live music monthly, about a week after I relocate to New York city:

For more info and MP3s from all involved bands, check the Res post


Sunday, March 8, 2009

A fish with a bicycle on myspace is still a fish with a bicycle

I generally tend to shy away from posting about my chosen industry, that of publishing (if one can define "chosen industry" to mean something akin to what you'd call it if you keep sticking your finger into the exact same electrical socket, possibly with each new insertion choosing a different angle to approach said outlet, thinking that a new approach, a different technique, might warrant something other than heart-breaking, bone-frying shock), here. It hasn't really been much of a conscious effort, rather my world, after becoming "underemployed", has focused on three things: one, my moving, two, my chronicling of it, and three, finding a full-time job in New York, preferably even before I'm there.

In regards to the third, thanks to a spiffy resume remix by my good friend Wayne Fishell of the wayne fishell experiment and cleaning expert slash resume-rejiggerer for hire extraordinaire, I'm feeling as though what was told to me by the GA Dept Of Labor's Unemployment Office, henceforth called the "unemploymentarium", just might be true: things are looking up.

Don't know what those "things" are yet, or in what relative direction this "up" might be, but it's the name of one of my favorite R.E.M. albums so it has to be good.

About the rest: admittedly, I've not done a very good job of writing about that here, either. Improvements in timeliness and topicalness shall be made on all fronts. To wit, yesterday I fulfilled a year's-outstanding obligation and gave a lecture (I really don't like the word "lecture", it makes me feel like what I was doing was talking in harsh tones to a room full of 3 year olds about why one shouldn't eat dirt and that the poo poo should go in the poo poo place and all that...which, I mean, having taught for a few years, I can honestly say that sometimes rooms full of high school students need to be told the exact same things) on the topics, and oh yes I do mean topics, of book marketing, publicity and events in this weird age of skies falling in and books that you can read on your computer and social networks being more important than leaving the house, at the 2009 Spring Book Show in Atlanta. I put that bit in bold and put it right before the cut so that, in case you're finding this blog as a result of picking up one of my cards at the lecture, you know you're in the right place. Continuing on...

I'd initially been scheduled to talk at the 2008 Spring Book Show, but I ended up breaking the hell out of my foot (that's right, my foot had hell in it and it needed to be released) a week before, and as such I couldn't make it. This year, though, it felt pretty vital for me to wrap my head around what I was going to say-not having a post like Wordsmiths to tie my ship to or some other horse/nautical metaphor that means "not having a steady job means I need to get my ideas out in front of as many people as possible", injected a serious sense of urgency into me to make sure my points coalsced. Ask any of my former students from years ago, or, hell, anyone who has ever held a conversation with me ever-I can digress. I OWN digression.

As you can see, I was scheduled to begin right after Hollis Gillespie ended.

Now, Hollis is someone I'm a bit of a fan of. Reading her collections of very, very personal, very trashy and sometimes heartbreaking essays enlightened me as to the format I want my forthcoming memoir ("forthcoming" as in "whenever the hell I decide I'm going to write the damn thing so shut up") We Give Ourselves Habits In Order To Live, to take. Also, she's a huge draw consistently in this area for the exact reasons I listed above-trashy, heartbreaking, brilliant, successful, CONSISTENTLY PUBLISHED. That last one's key, by the way. In 2008, I was actually supposed to lecture concurrently to her, and it terrified me that I'd be speaking to a room full of those tiny glass bottles of Coke that convention centers love to fill the buffets with and nothing/no-one else. I have no comment as to whether or not that fear actually caused me to break my foot.


Anyway, lingering outside my classroom, going over my notes, head both in the clouds and attempting to get focused, low and behold I saw Hollis, in a rare moment of respite from book-signing/advice-giving. Without thinking, I approached her. Again, without thinking, I actually let myself speak.

"Hollis", I stammered, words falling out of my mouth accidentally like change through a hole in a coat pocket, "I...I...I'm your friend on Facebook!"

This is a nationally syndicated columnist, a best-selling author, someone who has fucking been on Jay fucking Leno for fuck's sake. Your mom's cat is her friend on Facebook, and so too probably is Tori fucking Amos.

The conversation went down hill from there as I proceeded to basically blather all over her. She took it kindly and in-stride, since I can't possibly be the only drooling idiot to ever tell her that her books have "made me think it's ok to write my story about growing up in Marietta eating ketchup off of paper plates."

I immediately had to jump, red-faced from the fan-boy moment, into a sense of authority and give my talk.

The lecture I'd prepared (and I use the word "prepared" very loosely) I titled "A fish with a bicycle on myspace is still a fish with a bicycle" as a way to frame out the thesis statement of all of my points made therein, which was this:

There's no simple solution, no easy way, no quick and fast solution to marketing yourself and your book that works for everyone, all the time, without fail. As such, authors and publishers, playing the game (which is what it is, possibly a highly-intellectual game but also one that's dirty and cutthroat) and wanting to play it well, must be ready and willing to make themselves able to play on any field, with any tools, by any means necessary, at any time.

I asked Barbara Friend Ish, who, with her Mercury Retrograde Press, is a Sci-Fi/Fantasy publisher and one of the few in the industry I've found whose ideas for utilizing new means to make reading a fully immersive and interactive experience for all involved far outweigh what current technology is capable of doing, to accompany me and offer her insights as an editor, writer and publisher. Together, we touched on a handful of points that I know we both feel are essential to the publishing world today: about the value of treating people with respect and dignity, the slow dismissal of the negative connotations of self-publishing (fuck, if Wil Wheaton's self-publishing, why shouldn't you?), and my personal feelings on how Borders is now the single most abjectly useless bookstore in existence. Mostly, though, our joint message orbited around the point that one cannot take for granted the value of relationships. With bookstores, with publishers, with publicists, with authors, the nasty, dirty, lovely game of books is all about relationships.

See, you know I mean it because I have that part in bold.

Lecture concluded, questions answered, I gave out nearly all the RussComm business cards I came with, so I feel as though it was a success. I mean, if I'd come across as an uneducated twat no one would've wanted my card, right?

I'm going to keep thinking that.

Seriously, though, I feel that a publishing shock doctrine: forcing folks to wake up into cold water and realize that the industry has changed so much that adaptations, accommodation and assimilation must be made and made immediately, that there's no time to sit and ponder the ramifications of, for instance, a Facebook page, helps way more than it hurts. But by that same token, there is not, and there will never be, one hard and fast answer to what's going to "properly promote books" or "save" publishing. Although, if one vendor at the Spring Book Show I happened to overhear is to be believed, the salvation for the entire publishing industry will come in the form of crockpot cookbooks.


Sunday, March 1, 2009

The night of the eggplant parm

In the past few days, I have moved. Vacated one life and am now in a holding pattern until the next begins. Scary times strange steps and a lot of the new Yeah Yeah Yeahs record holding my hand in a way the first one didn't but the last one more than did.

This is where I'd post a picture of the page from my old black spiral Mead notebook on which I scrawled, in landscape orientation (that's a little page layout humor, yo!), "I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT IT'S LIKE NOT TO GO BACK TO YOU. NO MYSTERIES.", but I got freaked out living in a moment between past and the future like that Kate Bush song says and deleted my entire old Flickr account the other night, so that picture's long fucking gone.

I don't think I have the emotional or mental reserves at the present moment to get to anything major. Too tired. Too hung over. Too much of one thing and not enough of another, with all of that being some sort of obnoxiously vague metaphor for something. I'm reaching here, people.

Rather than have this sound like a bad LiveJournal...

...I'll give a big "thank you" to the super-awesome Megan "SuperBadass" Volpert and the restorative powers of her eggplant parmesan for making the tail end of a really, really long set of days something that will eventually inspire a self-referential prose piece entirely composed as a parenthetical aside and called "(Had never really had eggplant parm before but even if I had 'twould not compare, nor shine as bright nor flicker like the firefly's tail glistening against that reflective surface, to this incredible creation of magic and wonder and OMFG IT WAS GOOD Y'ALL)".

(Side-note about parenthetical asides: an ill-executed one will fucking keep me up at night. While reading an advance copy of Jennifer Egan's The Keep, I came across a passage which was prefaced by an open parenthesis...that was never closed. Ever. Now, granted, that's why Advance Reading Copies, or ARCs in the stupid world of stupid publishing that I love so stupidly with all my stupid heart and it makes me so angry and frustrated and I even love that and anyway I digress, have gigantic slappy copy all over them reading "THIS IS AN UNFINISHED COPY. UNFINISHED. IT MEANS NOT DONE. NO ONE HAS PROOFED THIS EXCEPT FOR THE INTERN, AND WE FIRED HER THOUGH REALLY WE SHOULDN'T HAVE SINCE SHE WORKS FOR FREE AND AS SUCH IF WE POPULATED ALL OF THE PUBLISHING HOUSES JUST WITH UNPAID INTERNS WE COULD SAVE PUBLISHING"-because, um, they've not been proofed. So typos happen. Words are misspelled. The ARC I have of the forthcoming English translation of the late Stieg Larsson's The Girl Who Played With Fire has a bunch of oddly typeset underscores prefacing random words. But when a parenthesis isn't closed? How is someone raised on a diet of modern and post-modern lit and literary criticism NOT supposed to just ASSUME the entire book, from the open parenthesis on, ad infinitum, doesn't take place as an aside? Seriously, I say this with as much calmness as I can muster when even thinking about it makes my hands shake and brow sweat again, the unclosed parenthesis in the ARC of The Keep kept me up all night, tossing and turning. To assuage my fears, I had to both reassure myself that the next time a closed parenthesis appeared it would, in turn, close the initial open one also AND hunt down a finished copy in a Borders later to prove to my obsessive-compulsive brain that, in fact, the entire book actually did happen in real-time and not as some digression.)

In the fridge right now sits this:

A tiny bit of left-over love from the night of the eggplant parm. A little more of that, and a little more thought-gathering, and I'll be ready to, erm, write down the bones? I think after this year I'll never be allowed to say that again.