Coronavirus Diary: Day… Days are meaningless now.

“One with the land”

 

Today on a walk

in my new neighborhood

North Berkeley

At sixteen hundred hours and twenty minutes

I watched a group of young boys

age three to maybe eight

play a game of war with sticks.

 

It was a kind of game I had played as a boy

and I’m sure every generation of boys before me did the same.

There was no anger or hurt feelings in the children,

they were smiling and having fun.

But here the teams were chosen based on race.

 

(team white was outnumbered)

The youngest looked for bigger sticks

but couldn’t bring himself to be too far from his big brother

because he didn’t really know what was going on.

 

Parents were on their phones

eating cheese

sharing their traumatic experience of having heard a helicopter at night.

 

(Berkeley. Verb – to make oneself feel better by telling a stranger how they should live their life.)

 

I wanted to Berkeley the shit out of them.

 

My social crime today is having not done that.

The crime is cowardice.

I considered making a little video of the children in the park as proof

but that’s really, really creepy

so I did not.

 

Humans,

children are watching.

 

Also, pretty sure aliens are also watching

but that somehow has managed to just slip under everyone’s radar.

 

How convenient for the aliens……

 

 

I’ve been social-distancing too long.

 

Now if you’ll excuse me I must muster the courage to go on Nextdoor

and fail at finding a non-triggering way of saying “you’re a bad parent.”

 

Black Lives Matter.

 

Coronavirus Lockdown Diary – Day 3

WE NEED MORE BEANS.

 

These are the thoughts that repeat over and over

despite my girlfriend reminding me

we have a ten-pound bag of beans.

 

But what if there are no more beans, sweetie?!?!??!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

What if this is the end of beans?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

 

I’ve touched my face nine hundred thousand times.

 

In the name of conservation, I’ve eaten leftovers that will likely send me to the hospital

which is all kinds of stupid, but the leftovers have beans in them

and I’m not wasting any goddamn beans.

 

This is why everyone is hoarding toilet paper…

Bad beans.

**

I’ve just realized that there’s a little emoji robot

analyzing my tone and presenting me with an AI mood ring glimpse into my day.

(Just installed Grammarly)

It says my tone is

Disapproving

Sad

and Confused.

 

Touche, robot.

**

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to make a quarantini*

and start an indoor bean farm.

 

*  a quarantini is a regular martini but served with black olives because all you thought to buy at the store were black olives and now there are no more olives.

Oh God, we need more olives.

 

Coronavirus Lockdown Diary – Day 1

Organized an online game night with some friends.

Caught up with some folks on the phone.

Tried to stay as calm and normal as possible.

 

Later, my closest friends, my girlfriend and I will spend several hours

yelling at each other on Skype, accusing one another of being an alien

and trying to shoot people out of an airlock (“Push the Button” Jackbox 6)

digitally.

 

My friend’s dad, who is a doctor and a scientist

said that consuming alcohol can potentially lower bacterial and viral body loads.

I don’t know what any of that means, but what it feels like

in my heart of hearts

is that for the good of all my friends and loved ones

I have to get very, very drunk

and jettison my friends and loved ones into space

digitally.

 

**

 

A few weeks ago

when it was still okay to hug people

my friend Jeff bought me a microphone

trying to get me to take up music again.

 

Astute bloggers may have noticed

I very briefly posted a message yesterday

about how I would be playing some songs on Twitch

and then deleted that post very quickly

due to some unexamined shame/confidence issues.

 

Now, I have nothing but time to examine/confront

said shame/confidence issues.

 

So won’t you join me,

Saturday March 21st at 7:30 PST

for a little Quarantine Concert?

I’ll be playing some old songs on a dusty guitar

maybe a few new.

 

 

Hope to see you there.

Stay safe everyone.

Strick66 asks a very good question.

Strick66 asks: “Where did you go? If I may ask.”

Good question, Strick.

TLDR answer: Taking care of my grandparents and generally trying to hide from America. (Not in a cool “Snowden” way, more of a “I HAS ANXIETY” kind of way.)

 

 

The long answer:

For the past eight years I have been taking care of my grandparents. In the past few, it required a lot of my attention and energy.

Taking care of two people with varying levels of dementia in their nineties is hard. Doing that and trying to take care of myself was more than enough.

I left the blogging space around the time Donald Trump got elected. Comedy/humor culture was already changing, but it was becoming more apparent, although still only a suspicion, that people in the country were speaking two different languages. Identical words meant entirely different things to different people.

It may come as a shock to some readers, but I don’t aim to offend people with my writing. Accidentally hurting someone’s feelings sucks.

(Huge tangent alert!!) Some humorists have a very defensive, or outright aggressive response to people reacting negatively to their work. I believe this is a reaction rooted in the horrible feeling one gets when

  1. The thing you wrote to make someone laugh, instead made them angry/sad.
  2. You are confronted with evidence that you’re not as good at your craft as you think.
  3. You are confronted with evidence that you are not a Socratic gadfly, but just some a^$hole on the internet.

I felt then and feel now like the window for acceptable humor has shifted, and in a lot of ways it has narrowed. I don’t think this is a bad thing. Part of what we are saying is “no more sexist jokes, racist jokes, homophobic or transphobic jokes.”

Tangent within tangent alert: What I think has a lot of comedians up in arms is that the culture is also starting to say “No more sexist jokes. No more enforcing the gender binary with “women be like SDKJFHAK” and “men be like ASKJANCSJBASNCAK” material.  This is also a good thing, but it should be understood that this is the premise of many comedians’ careers. It’s how they make their living, and is a legitimate threat to their livelihood. It would be like telling a pop musician, “Okay, no more C Major chords. The kids get upset whenever you play a C Major chord.” (Tangent over!)

I didn’t have the chops to keep my IRL responsibilities in order and pay close attention to the shifts in culture to stay reliably and consistently funny in a way that was up to my standard. I felt like I would write something that I would regret in a few years time. Looking back at some of my older pieces, I feel like if I were to publish them today, they would not be received nearly as well as they did pre-2016.

There was a part of me that wanted to devote more energy into writing longer pieces of political satire, but again, I had a lot going on, and to “do it right” would have taken more than I could give. While I don’t agree essentially anything with the current administration’s direction, I’m not willing to speak in a way which will ensure that its supporters won’t listen to me. Scorched earth criticism of Trump, however merited, doesn’t seem to change anyone’s mind nor does it encourage anyone to look at the plight of the other. Additionally, I think there are enough voices out there doing that.

To me, the joy of writing is finding ways of being succinctly understood, and connecting with a wide variety of minds and perspectives by way of a single idea, or a verbal image; even better, to be understood by the minds of those with whom you are in direct opposition. I think there used to be a larger space for critiquing social/political issues founded in duopoly or bureaucracy, but in my own experience of the past few years I’ve felt a tremendous pressure to “pick a side.” It felt like I would have to choose between being heard by half the people in a disingenuous way, or authentically by no one. At the same time, I couldn’t bring myself to continue writing escapism-based, inane concept jokes about anthropomorphized animals in light of all the dramatic shifts happening around the world. It felt wrong, like a tacit endorsement.

So the dilemma was this:

In a situation where there’s so much noise and yelling

and you know you won’t be heard in earnest

do you yell and make as much noise as everyone else

or do you stay quiet and save your energy for something else?

Walking away from writing completely was probably not the best overall move I could have made, but it was the best move to make for me at the time. If blogging or forming a career as a writer was my top priority, I might have stuck it out and kept going, but it wasn’t. My grandparents did a lot for me when I was a boy. They raised me for several very formative years, and it only felt right that I be there for them.

If you’ve played through OK Boomer: The Game, (found here: https://poetrobot.itch.io/ok-boomer-the-game) you’ll see some reference to end of life care. You gotta write what you know, right? Caregiving is tough. It was a lot like having small children, but they’re 140 lbs and can turn on the stove.

When my blog started gaining readers, I made a conscious decision to try to keep my personal life out of the content. I would throw out anything that pushed past sixty words because I didn’t want to take up any more of your time than was necessary to get to the chuckle parts. As my grandparents got older and needed more help, it became impossible to keep up the pattern of escapism which helped me produce. I didn’t want to write about my grandparents in a humorous way because it wasn’t funny to me, or them. I don’t like mining my life for material, and I honestly assumed that my readers didn’t care. I didn’t really want you all to care about who I was. I wanted you to like what I was writing in spite of who I was. I hated myself. I assumed you would too, given the time.

Thankfully, I have grown. I had/have a great support network which was able to lift me up when I was falling. Caregiving has been the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life. Most of the time it was a struggle, but I wouldn’t trade that time for anything. Changing adult diapers and helping someone from a wheelchair to the toilet every hour or two? That’s the easy part. Playing it cool when you realize the person you’ve been living with for eight years, who helped raise you, can’t remember your name or how you’re related? Medium. That’s the medium stuff. The hard parts are still ongoing, (and old habits being hard to break, I’m not really ready to jump into them here) but being a caregiver makes you strong enough to endure.

It might take me some time before I’m ready to write about certain things, but understanding how isolating and difficult caregiving can be, I’m happy to share whatever I can. If you are a caregiver, know one, or think you might become one in the near future (spoiler alert, you probably will at some point), and you have any questions, I’ll do my best to answer them. Or just ask me anything. F#*& it. I’d like to try connecting and communicating with you all on this different level as I work on my next interactive fiction project which will hopefully be done by Christmas. Don’t worry, it’ll be silly, casual and attempt to solve none of society’s problems.

Thanks for the dynamite writing prompt Strick,

and yeah, sorry for just plopping back into existence with no explanation like some bad ex-boyfriend.

 

Love you guys

 

 

The Captain’s Society for Happy Cannibals – Now Available

Hello everyone,

Tomorrow is my birthday, and as a present to myself I’ve decided to publish The Captain’s Society for Happy Cannibals in its entirety on this site for free. It’s a hobbit habit, I guess, but I feel like giving you guys something special and dear to me, since you all have given me so much already in your kind words and positive feedback. You have all brought me such great happiness, and I would like to do my best to return the favor. My initial intention was to try to get it published, but for reasons that will become immediately clear I’ve decided that this is probably a better option for everyone.

Get it here: TheCaptainsSocietyforHappyCannibalsFinal

***WARNING***

Before you go off and read this to your kids, know that it has some adult content. This includes, but is not limited to graphic descriptions of violence, corpse mutilation, social contracts where one party negotiates for the right to defile the dead, cannibalism, group sex, masturbation, fondling low-wage workers, blasphemy, infanticide, casual racism, unquestioned misogyny and the anthropomorphic depiction of a baby pig.

Can’t imagine Penguin wanting to take a risk on that…

I wrote this piece in the summer of 2014, initially as a joke writing exercise, while trying to teach myself how to write with a fountain pen. I wanted to create “poetry” that was first and foremost, entertaining and digestible. I wanted it to be silly, and not at all try to make the author’s thoughts/feelings seem deep, misunderstood and tortured. I wanted it to be about making other people feel better; tricking them into chuckles and forcing them to be a little happier, and not a validation of my own intellect, or a showcase for all the classics I’ve read and referenced ever so discreetly between the lines. The bulk of the content was created over the course of a month and a half, with the first draft being written out on a 99 cent notebook I got at a craft store. It was one of those rare writer moments where I couldn’t wait to get home from work and write some more of it.

The plot was determined using a Dungeons & Dragons style of paper RPG rules. I created the characters and the world, gave everyone their motivations and set them loose. The idea was that I could make it exciting for me, then some of that excitement would impart on the reader. I had no idea what was going to happen. This could have easily been a two page short story, but ended up unfolding into something more wild and insane than I could have ever imagined. I know its corny to say, but the story began taking on a life of its own.

The “second draft” was actually just me typing up the transcript, trying to decipher all my fountain pen rookie splotches. At the time, though, I didn’t actually have access to a functional PC. Here’s a little peek into my process: I do 99% of the blog related stuff on my phone. I don’t have home internet. It’s distracting. I come to the library or use a coffee shop if I need it, but yeah, everything else is on the phone. Anyway, I had just learned about this Japanese phenomena of ebooks that are composed and meant to be read on smartphones. I thought it was interesting, and because I initially planned on doing a self-published Amazon type release, I figured it would be a perfect thing to experiment with. The process of typing a book into a malfunctioning iPhone 4 takes exactly as long as you think it would. A really, really long time. But it forced me to edit, which has always been my weakness as a writer. I came from the school of “first thought, best thought” because I’m lazy. After my first round of editing, I sent it off to my dear friend Alex Harvey-Gurr (thebewildered20somethingwriter.wordpress.com) who did a second round of general clean up, and then I sat around and twiddled my thumbs for three months. Seriously, she’s really good. If you need editing/copy-editing services, she’s your girl.

This was for a number of reasons, all of which boiled down to a lack of confidence in myself. That’s when you guys came into the picture. Becoming part of this blogging community has been one of the most enriching experiences of my life. The connections and conversations I’ve had with some of you have been truly touching, validating and inspiring. You guys made me the writer I am today. You gave me the confidence and self-esteem to not need the validation of money. I have you guys. You’re all cooler than the five dollar footlongs I would have bought with all that book money.

So I guess think of this as a little party-favor in the digital gift-bag you’re getting from my imaginary birthday party. I hope you enjoy it, and that I may return some of the many smiles you’ve all given me.

All right,

I promise never to make such a long post ever again.

Shutting up.

-Eric

Here’s the PDF again, in case you really hate scrolling up

TheCaptainsSocietyforHappyCannibalsFinal

A sample can be found on the page that says “The Captain’s Society for Happy Cannibals”

https://notesfromanarcissist.wordpress.com/the-captains-society-for-happy-cannibals/

You can download the PDF there as well.

(Photo from zeebam.com check her out. She’s awesome)

Congratulations, You’re An Addict And I Love You!

Greetings and Salutations My Good Fellow,

I had a landmark performance yesterday at Cafe International: the first bomb of 2014.

But wait, Eric!
I thought bombing was bad…

Wrong again, asshole. (I don’t think you’re an asshole, you’re great.)

First of all, it was a great experience because this was the first time I tried doing a mixed open mic that included musicians and poets. There were a lot of differences between that and regular comedy mics that I was aware of, but hasn’t experienced first hand.

And I’m not trying to make excuses for myself. I sucked because I sucked.

But it was interesting to see the different dynamic. Everything was more low key. The host took minutes in between performers, which I can understand with the music context. Another factor that threw me off was that the order was given at random. That lack of control over where I was also threw me a little.

However, my biggest mistake was leading with a hacky gross dick joke and blasting it out with way too much energy. The atmosphere was so sterile from all the very lovely music performances. I thought if I just came out guns blazing, I could just slap them in the face.

Then I saw most of them were drinking wine.

How often have you seem a bunch of people having sips of coffee shop wine, and being SUPER IN THE MOOD for weird/dirty comedy?

If you answered zero, then you are correct.

To top it all off, I had just started and not finished, probably one of the more intense discussions I have had with my dear friend Hayley, who had to suffer through me eating raw shit on stage.

I won’t get into the specifics of what we talked about
But if I could give you some idea out discussion went like this:

Eric: hey!
Hayley: hey!
Eric: so is it okay if we hit up that open mic?
Hayley: sure! I have cancer. Good luck making people laugh about life!!

That’s not what happened.
Hayley doesn’t have cancer.

A snippet of the lighter side of our conversation can be found here

http://soundcloud.com/cedar-waxwing/hayley-zuercher-talks-mind-and/s-aWmVp

But in spite of all of that, and now that I see it all on the page, I’m thinking, “yes that was a lot.” But in spite of all of that, as far as my experience as a stand-up goes, there were a lot of good things.

I had a great discussion about comedy with Zorba Jevon Hughes. He is a comedian who has been at it for over twenty years and has probably seen me bomb more than any comic on the scene. If you ever get a chance to see if, I suggest you do because the man knows how to work a show. We talked for over an hour about the craft and theory of comedy.

Then after my set, I had another talk with a very nice comic named Misha (I didn’t get his last name). He was really supportive and gave me some great advice about what was going on in the room. He helped me learn a lot. Some rooms require different material. I’ve been used to dive bars where raunchy is good, and to get people’s attention, you have to blast them. This place was different and I didn’t recognize that.

Also, when I say bomb, that doesn’t mean that it was just silence the entire time. I did get the a little at the end once I pointed out just how much they all hated me.

I started heckling myself.
They loved it.

Then once we were all on the same page/side of hating my guts, the material actually started to work.

At the end of the day though, the experience left me with this desire to go right back to the mic and try again. I got off stage knowing “these people hated me.” And it made me want more.

A licensed therapist might tell you that this is mentally deficient behavior
But a comic will tell you, “ok, now you’ve got the bug. You’ll be good.”

Some of the first pieces of advice came from comedian Joe DeRosa. He was coming through town with Big Jay Oakerson and I asked him what it took to do what he does, and that’s what he told me.

If you have that drive to get right back up there, even or especially after you bomb, then that means the life style could work for you.

When I first started doing open mics last summer, I would bomb and not go back for two weeks. It would really bother me until I “figured out what went wrong.” I knew I still wanted to go back, but I wasn’t excited about it like I am now.

Finally, the experience as well as the advice from Misha and Zorba helped inspire me with the next step of my writing project. So all in all, a great day.

Love,
Me.

Eric Wong is a writer and comedian. He will show you, Cafe International. He will show you all.