The Plastic Smile

Unknown I did not do it because I am an unhappy man. Like everyone else I have my good days and bad ones, but would never agree that I am a miserable man. I just have a difficult time smiling. Smiling has never come easily for me. It has always felt forced, like I am pushing something uncomfortable off my face. As a child my father would always mimic the stern frown that I wore on my face. I couldn’t help it. He would call me the James Dean kid. I would try to explain to him that I was not unhappy, it was just what my face seemed to do.

When I first saw the ad for the plastic smile I was immediately intrigued. A Smile For All Those Who Find Smiling Impossible To Do! The ad said that people would have no idea that the smile was fake when you wore the plastic smile on your face. “Ok,” I thought. In a world that judges you based upon the look that you have on your face, the plastic smile seemed like it would be a good thing to have. I had been thinking about how if I just smiled more, if people thought that I was a happier man, then maybe my business would improve. I could be more successful. I decided to give the plastic smile a try.

I was surprised that it arrived on my doorstep a few days after ordering it. When I ordered the plastic smile the company said that we will have you smiling in no time, but I never thought that it would arrive so fast. I picked up the small cardboard box, brought it inside and immediately opened it up. The plastic smile was in a plastic wrapper. There was also what was called a “pen stick,” so you could match the smile with the color of your skin. There was also a full-page of illustrated instructions. I brought all of this into my bathroom and within a half an hour I had the plastic smile on my face.

It looked so real! I was in awe. I could move the smile from side to side, up and down with my own facial muscles. I could open and close the smile but I was impressed by how even when I was not smiling the smile always returned back into its original smiling shape. My facial muscles could be in the shape of a frown but I still had a bright, perfectly shaped smile on my face! This was fantastic. Finally, I could be a smiling man.

I immediately wanted to take my new smile out into the world. I wanted to see if it really worked. I decided to walk around the downtown area, which was close to my house. I walked down the street. I went into various stores. I ordered coffee at a local cafe. I could not believe how many people were smiling back at me. It seemed as if I was lighting people up as I walked by. People in cars, people in shops, people on bikes- all noticed and smiled at me. A few seemed to take offense to my smile by looking the other way or giving me a “fuck you” look, but for the most part the plastic smile seemed to change everything. The vast majority of people seemed to become happier in my presence!

This was a revelation for me because up until this point I had never experienced this before. Normally, people respond to me in a standoffish matter. It is not that I upset others or depress them but I do not really seem able to change their mood. My interactions with others are relatively mundane and unanimated and this probably has something to do with the lack of a smile on my face. With this plastic smile on my face people seemed to immediately light up when they saw me. A smile took shape on their faces as well. That day I saw more teeth than I had ever seen in my life. I saw white teeth and brown teeth, broken teeth and perfectly shaped teeth, bent teeth and straight teeth. When people smile their teeth come out to say “hi.”

Having all of these people smile at me really lifted my mood. I was feeling great and could not wait to go back to work. I had no doubt that this plastic smile was going to improve my business. My wife was a bit disturbed by the plastic smile but it made her smile more so she was supportive of my wearing the plastic smile wherever I went. It was not until the third day of wearing the plastic smile that I became aware that not only was it a cheaply made product, but that something such as a permanent smile upon my face was too good to be true.

I work as a psychotherapist and I did notice that all of my clients were leaving my office with smiles on their faces. They seemed to feel much better and happier than their therapy sessions with me in the past. Some clients even pointed out that I seemed so much happier. “What do you mean, do I normally seem unhappy?” I asked. My clients would tell me that they were just not used to seeing me with such a big smile on my face. They felt happy for me that things were going well in my life and it was through being able to be happy for someone else’s good fortune that they themselves were able to feel better than they had in a long time. Who would have ever thought that the key to mental health was as simple as being able to stop thinking of just yourself and being able to be happy for someone else.

After the second day of wearing the plastic smile, my business started to pick up. Some of my clients were referring their friends to me. I received several phone calls from people wanting to get an appointment with me. The plastic smile was actually working! But then on the third day some thing really unfortunate began to happen. The plastic smile started falling off my face. I would be in the middle of a session with a client and the smile would fall into my lap. As you can imagine this was incredibly disturbing for my clients. They were all terrified and confused when it happened. “What the fuck!” they would yell out. Some even jumped up into the air and ran out of the room.

I tried to explain what was going on. I believe in that cliché saying that honesty is the best policy, so I told my clients that I ordered the plastic smile on-line in order to appear happier. I explained to all of them that I had always had a difficult time smiling. Smiling felt uncomfortable for me and I was concerned that it was having a negative effect on my ability as a therapist. Some of my clients understood and felt empathy but others were very disturbed and left my office without paying. I presume that I will never hear from these clients ever again. I just hope they do not give me a negative review on Yelp.

I wrote to the plastic smile company and told them about what was happening. They wrote back and told me that they were sorry that this was occurring but that in their disclaimer it was written that they could take no responsibility for how long the plastic smile would stick on to a persons face. When I read some reviews of the plastic smile I was surprised to see that a lot of people had the same problem that I did. One person even wrote that he lost a woman that he was in love with because of the plastic smile. He wrote:

When I first met her she loved my smile. My smile was what attracted her to me. I had never been loved by a woman like this in my life. That first week with her was pure bliss. I felt so happy and we were making plans to spend the rest of our lives together. But when the plastic smile fell off my face in the middle of lunch one day she was terrified. She screamed and almost had a full on seizure. I could not calm her down and everyone in the restaurant was looking at us. She ran out and I will never hear from her again. My life is over. Thanks plastic smile.

I do not know why I neglected to read these reviews before ordering the product. I suppose that I was so excited by the idea of being able to smile all the time that I did not want to have my hope diminished by any negative reviews. I am just sorry that I did not take a moment to make a more sober decision, because it is even harder for me to smile now than it was before. My business is in a rut again and I just want to stay home all day. Now I know that a smile is the answer to so many of my problems but I just can not do it. If only I could. If only it was as easy as that plastic smile was.

The Nobody Artist

imagesThe Nobody Artist sits alone in a room. There is a drawing pad upon their lap or a blank canvas in front of them. It is raining or sunny outside. All they want to do is get up and go someplace else. They do not want to make work even though they try. Every time The Nobody Artist lifts the pen or paintbrush it hurts. Sometimes it does not hurt as bad. Sometimes it does not hurt at all.

As The Nobody Artist paints or draws they can not stop the thoughts. Why can’t I seem to make a living as an artist? Why can’t I get my work out there? Why have I been unable to get any acknowledgment for my work? What is the point? These thoughts create a resistance, a negative feeling that causes The Nobody Artist to want to do something else. They walk around. They read a book. They listen to music. They watch a film. They eat. They drink. They go places. They work a job. But everything they do is filled with a sense of loss and frustration. The Nobody Artist seems unable to do the thing they know they were born to do. There is a block, something unmovable in the way. The Nobody Artist, no matter how hard they push, can not break through.

The Nobody Artist knows that the busier they become with other things, the less time they will have for their art. But when they find themselves with a lot of time to do their art they can not. They find anything else to do. They avoid doing their creative work in the same way that a student avoids studying for an exam. The pain of knowing that they do not know how to make their art into a way of life, keeps them from making their art. The avoidance of pain is often what puts an end to The Nobody Artists chance at a life in art.

The Nobody Artist often sees other artists who seem to make a life of their art. These artists are not wealthy or wildly successful but they live a life from art. There homes are filled with art and their studios look like an active and creative space. Their work is shown in gallery shows and in magazines. They get commissions and have their work on websites or on album covers. They create books filled with their art. The Nobody Artist is in awe of these Somebody Artists. They are also terribly envious of these artists. Somebody Artists causes Nobody Artists to feel bad about themselves. Why have I not been able to make a life out of art? What has held me back? Why Can’t I seem to do it? This often causes The Nobody Artist to want to quit making art. It’s too painful for them to keep going on. But they do anyways.

The Nobody Artist has a large body of work that collects dust in closets and in drawers. Piles of drawings in folders, sketchbooks and in-between the pages of books. Everything The Nobody Artist creates is destined for the dark closet or drawer. Maybe someday my art will be known, they think and this thought keeps them making work here and there. But deep down they carry a terrible sense that most of their work is destined to move from the closet or drawer and eventually into the trash. Their life’s work meaning very little to the outside world.

The Nobody Artist works hard to let go of the need to make art. Maybe if they could just stop needing to be an artist, then they can find happiness. They could spend their time making money, socializing, reading, hanging out, exploring and living without this nagging feeling that they should be making art. If The Nobody Artist could just rid themselves of this need to make art, then they could be free to live a relatively normal life. But overtime The Nobody Artist gets close to the normal life and then they get freaked out by the thought of letting go of the only thing that really means something to them and then they rush back into making and avoiding their art.

But The Nobody Artist always returns to the fatal question, What is the point? There is so much art out there, the world does not need more, The Nobody Artist thinks. The Nobody Artist is well aware that they should just learn how to make art for the pleasure of being creative. Making art should have nothing to do with anything else other than the creative process, they read. To just take pleasure in the act of creation without needing to be an artist in the world. To just make art in one’s own privacy and then be ok with sticking it in the closet or drawer. Art as a way of passing the time, pleasurably. The Nobody Artist strives to embrace this creative state. To be an artist only when they are drawing or painting and exploring the solitude of their creative inner worlds. The rest of the time The Nobody Artist works hard at becoming relativly content with being Someone Else.

The Parental Avoidance Plan (PAP)


Do you have parents who are difficult to deal with? Do your parents continually nag you about doing things that you do not want to do? Are your parents needy of your attention? Do you have parents who tell you what to do most of the time and get angry at you when you do not do what they think  you should do? Do your parents get in the way of your enjoyment of life?

If you have answered yes to any of these questions (and especially if you have answered yes to all of these questions) I would recommend that you continue reading. It does not matter if you are 14 or 38. If you live with parents who are anything like what I have described above, this plan might be exactly what you need.

I cannot take credit for being the inventor of this plan. This plan is currently being implemented in households all over the world. In kitchens, bedrooms, living rooms, garages, hallways, bathrooms and backyards everywhere. A friend of mine who is 38 and is yet to find a way to move out and get away from his needy and controlling parents swears by this plan. The inventor of this plan, who is now 17 years of age and lives with nagging and controlling parents, is a master at it. For a low fee he teaches other people all over the world about how to implement this plan for themselves.

This plan has become so effective that there are several variations of it now in use. There is the Spouse Avoidance Plan (SAP), the Boss Avoidance Plan (BAP), the Family Avoidance Plan (FAP) and most recently the Work Life Avoidance Plan (WLAP). But lets stick to the Parental Avoidance Plan (PAP), since this is what I want to tell the world about.

The PAP saves those who live with difficult, unhappy and controlling parents so much time and energy. Before this plan was put into use, people living with difficult parents had no choice but to be continually tormented by nagging questions, manipulative behaviors, constant demands and unreasonable consequences. Parents were like a heavy weight that would keep their children way down. But now with the PAP, Children Of Needy And Nagging Parents (CONANP) are finally finding a way to live without the stress caused by more difficult parents.

I realize that by exposing PAP to a larger audience, I might experience some anger from CONANP who have been using this plan to avoid their difficult parents. They may feel like I am exposing their plan to a larger audience and as a result their parents will find out. I can understand why this would upset these CONANP, since living with needy, nagging and demanding parents can be a terrible drag. I understand why they would not want me to give their secrets away. Please know that my intention here is only to make this plan available to more CONANP who are currently stuck living with unhappy parents.

Since we all know that the end result of being a CONANP is often a lifetime of anger, addiction, anxiety, broken relationships, general unhappiness and isolation- my hope is to provide these poor souls with an alternative. By freeing more CONANP from parental bondage, my hope is that the world will become a less violent and eventually happier and more enjoyable place for all.

So here it is. For those of you who choose to implement this plan my hope is that the PAP will provide you with the mental health you will need to create your own independent and fulfilling lives (and not end up like my 38-year-old friend who is still totally dependent on his parents).

The Parental Avoidance Plan.

1. Speed- Rush in and rush out. (The idea here is that when parents are home and you need something that is outside of your room, you must be fast. Otherwise you run the risk of one or both of your parents seeing you and thinking of something to nag you about. If you move quickly, your parents may not see you and if they do see you they will not have the time to think of something to nag you about. When speed is involved, parents have less of an ability to figure out what is going on. This is one fundamental advantage of being young- you are much faster than your older parents.)

2. Stealth- Be quiet and avoid detection. (When living with unhappy and difficult parents, this should be your mantra: Be quiet and avoid detection. At all times, try not to be seen. Remember that when your parents are talking with you or when you are stuck having to spend time with your parents (in a car, at a dinner table, et cetera- less is more. Do not engage too much and try as hard as you can not to be seen. Become an expert at being a ghost. The moment CONANP are seen by the parent- the parent will latch on and not let go until all of their child’s energy has been drained. This is one form of control.

3. Ignoring- Keep head down. No eye contact. Pretend not to hear them yelling at you and just keep walking no matter what. (This step of the plan is meant to be immediately implemented when both Speed and Stealth have failed. Keep in mind that this part of the plan takes practice and endurance and will not be easy to achieve at first. However the more you practice it, the better you will get at it.)

4. If all of the above steps fail and you get caught in your parent’s web- just smile, nod your head and WAIT IT OUT.

*For further elucidation of and support with implementing the PAP I recommend taking the on-line PAP course created by the 16-year-old that I mentioned above.

The Man Who Fell On The Moon (A Rough Sketch For A Film)

*This is a rough sketch for a potential film. Please excuse any grammatical or editing errors. The sketch has been edited several times but think of this more as “thinking out loud” rather than a work with any literary merit.


As he fell through empty space, surprisingly there was an absence of thoughts in his mind. His mind was a reflection of the empty space all around. Everything felt still, except for the fact that he was falling. He could not recall a time his mind had been this quiet ever before. Funny it should happen this way. As he observed the passing darkness all around, there was no fear. You would think that a person would be terrified in this situation, but he was not. There was no struggling to hold on. He allowed space to do with his body what it wanted as he quietly watched through the narrow window in his space helmet, things that no one ever gets to see.

As he fell through space, he was tumbling like a t-shirt in a dryer. Around and around and around in slow motion. Maybe it was the tumbling motion that lulled his mind into a thoughtless state. As he tumbled he could see the immense glow of the moon, the distant stars, black holes, celestial spheres, expansive darkness and a luminescent blue tennis ball sized object, which was earth. It was impossible to feel fear while observing enigmas such as these.

And then, as if it did not matter at all, he lost consciousness.


He had come to outer space with the man in charge of the space expedition, Jack Gilbert. There was only two of them. The intention of the mission was to commandeer a defunct satellite that had been puttering through the solar system since 1978. It was called ISEE-3, and it was the first human-made object to ever pass through the tail of a comet. In 1981, its battery shut down leaving it stranded in space. It was able to putter around in space for all this time because its orbiter was able to maintain power from solar panels that were mounted on its backside. The satellite was making a rare passage close to the moon, which allowed NASA to send two astronauts into space in a final attempt to get the satellite’s thrusters working again. It was not viewed as a difficult mission. The astronauts would not be going far into space and the ISEE-3 satellite was not technically difficult to work on since it was developed during a time when toaster ovens were smarter than spaceships.

Jack and Jonathan (who were referred to as the Two J’s) would need no more than two or three days to get the thrusters working again. Simple and by the book. The Two J’s would be back on earth watering their gardens and sleeping in their beds by the end of the week. This is why it was such a surprise when those working in the NASA Ground Station suddenly heard Jack yell: “Oh fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Jonathan!”

Still no one is sure exactly what happened but a final theory has been settled on just to give people a false sense of resolution. Some still suspected that Jack had been somehow involved, since he and Jonathan had a tumultuous working relationship. It has been concluded by NASA that what occurred was a freak, unpredictable and tragically consequential equipment defect. After much investigation what was found was that the cables bracketing the astronaut’s space suit to the spaceship were split by a particular, random and unpredictable atmospheric pressure. It was one of those very rare things that occasionally happens. It is impossible to protect against such things because we never imagine they could happen until they happen. The final line of the NASA investigation read, Jonathan was in the wrong place at the wrong time. 


It was the impact of his spacesuit slamming against the moon’s surface that woke him up.The lack of a gravitational pull had caused his fall to happen slow enough that no bones broke. There was pain but no fracturing. His spacesuit provided enough cushioning to allow him to survive a fall through space. He was the only man who had ever survived such a fall.

“Fuck!” This is what he said upon awakening.

He looked around. He was confused. He couldn’t figure anything out. He had not been educated to comprehend such things as this. It was impossible to know how much air was left. It was impossible to know where he was.

Despite having just fallen through empty space, it was not difficult for him to stand up. The lack of gravity helped to pull him up. There was an immense amount of pain in his body but he could not feel it. He was aware of some degree of fear arising in him as he wondered if he was dead. He was never one to be fooled by by a belief in a traditional God or After Life but suddenly he felt terrified that maybe he had been wrong. Maybe all of those crazed Evangelical Christians he saw on TV were right all along. What happens now? Was this my punishment for not being a believer? Is this some sort of purgatory? He could not help but think such things.

He forced himself to look around. A vast expanse. Miles and miles of large, round craters. Above him was darkness blanketed by stars. Everything was silent except for the silence. The silence made the sound of an electrical humm. He could hear ringing in his ears. There was nothing alive around him. He was frozen in  uncertainty. His nose itched and he tried moving his mouth and nose to relieve the itch. It worked for a second or two. Every time the itch returned he wanted to take off his helmet and use his hand to relieve himself, but he knew this was not an option. He moved his nose and mouth around again and again. As he waited for some sort of solution to come to him, he could feel his heart beating in his neck, lower chest and stomach.

It took some time for him to realize that this was not some kind of After Life. He was much worse off than that. While he was wiggling his nose and mouth to relieve himself of the itch, he realized that he was on the moon.


Before deciding to go anywhere, even though there was nowhere to go, he reviewed in his mind how he had gotten to where he was. He had been working on ISEE-3’s main thruster unit. Next to him was Jack who had been holding various wires in place. There was then a loud rubbing sound and some smoke. As he went towards the part of the cables that were smoking they broke apart, sending him tumbling into dark space. At first he panicked and he could hear Jack screaming. All of the controls in his helmet immediately went out. There was no more voice communication, no more digital reading on his helmet’s window screen. Everything went dark and the panic seemed to have subsided once he realized there was nothing that he could do. He remembered feeling a peace that he had never felt before as he tumbled around through space watching the moon, the earth and noticing the ISEE-3 getting further and further and further away. And then that is it. No more memory beyond the memory of this incredible peace.

Next thing he could recall was regaining consciousness on the moon. Once he had finished reviewing the past he thought again about what he could do now. There is something about the human mind that will continue to search for solutions, especially when there are none. He felt thirsty. The itch on his nose moved to the side of his face. All of his training as an astronaut had not prepared him for this. For the first time in his life, he had no idea what to do. When a person does not know what to do, the only choice is between remaining still or moving. He decided to walk on the moon.


Before becoming an astronaut, Jonathan worked in an old McDonald’s that was converted into a laboratory for restoring and archiving old NASA space photograph’s. The organization was funded by NASA and run by an older man who went by the name BB Gun. BB Gun had worked for NASA for decades and liked to talk to others about how there was no one who had seen more of the moon’s surface than he had. “I have seen every spot on the moon at least once. I know every mountain range on the moon by heart. I feel like I have walked those mountain ranges many times before.” Jonathan was fascinated by BB Guns talks about the moon. He would describe endless wide-open spaces filled with craters and mountain ranges of incredible depth and distance.

BB Gun was also a self stylized conspiracy theorist. He didn’t believe that anyone had every walked on the moon before. “It was all a set up. In 2006 when NASA admitted that it had lost the only raw footage they had of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s first moon walk – I knew that the whole thing was a bunch of shit. Now that most of the people who had originally watched those studio produced images of men walking on the mood were dead or senile, NASA finally admitted that they had no real proof of men walking on the moon.” In order to better deal with BB Gun’s conspiratorial and trouble making views, NASA decided to put him in charge of the photography archival project where he would spend his days looking at old space photographs in an old McDonald’s in Mountain View, California. BB Gun didn’t mind, since he wanted as little as possible to do with what he called, “That bullshit space organization.”

BB Gun taught Jonathan how to archive the millions of space photos that had been reproduced from the originals. It was the old photographs of the ISEE-3 satellite that stimulated Jonathan’s first thoughts about space travel. BB Gun called the satellite a spacecraft from the disco era. It looked something like an old Sony walkman with solar panels. Jonathan was fascinated by the fact that this relic from the distant space age was still lost out there in space collecting data about solar wind. NASA was interested in being able to collect this data and the moment Jonathan heard that the satellite would be coming close to the moon’s orbit within the decade, he decided to become an astronaut.


As he stood there looking out at the wide open, flat space all around him- the thought came to his mind that he could be the first man to every really walk on the moon. Inspired by the thought, Jonathan decided to walk towards nowhere. As he took his first steps he was surprised by how strange it felt. These were not normal steps. With each step, the boot of his space suit did not land directly on the moon’s surface but instead it was like he was bouncing off the tension created by the open space between his boot and the moon’s surface. It felt like bouncing up and down on a trampoline as he walked unsteadily. Each step was difficult to take since there was nothing to hold on to. It was like learning how to walk on water. When he lost his balance, which happened several times, he would fall to the ground and then bounce back up into the air. Walking on the moon is more like bouncing than it was walking, he thought to himself. Walking for fifty feet would be impossible, he thought. But he realized he could try to swim through space.

He dove forward and tried to breaststroke his way through space in the same way he flew in childhood dreams. He was able to go forward for a few feet but then fell flat onto the ground. He stood back up and tried to do the same thing again but experienced similar results, although he was able to breaststroke his way forward several more feet. He felt like a fool and laughed when he realized that he had wondered if anyone could see him. What a ridiculous thought. He had always worried about other people judging him. He decided to breast stroke his way forward again and this time it worked.

He swam through space. Who would of thought that a grown man in a spacesuit would be swimming his way through space. He laughed so hard that he fogged up the window of his helmet. Through the fog he could see the white gloves and arms of his spacesuit rowing through open space in front of him. Where were the expansive mountains that BB Gun had spoke of? He felt determined in his hallucinations. In the distance was nothing.

His arms grew weak and his body tired. He stopped breaststroking his way through space and landed flat on his stomach with his space helmet causing his head and neck to arch upwards (just as if he was laying with his head up on the arm of a couch).

This is how he slept every night in his bed. On his stomach with his head turned towards one side. His wife had often told him that he should learn how to sleep on his back or side. That it would be healthier for him to do so. He tried several times, even had her wake him up if she noticed that he had returned to sleeping on his stomach. No matter how hard he tried he was not able to get to sleep laying in any other position. Sleeping on his stomach, as unhealthy as it may be, was the only way he could feel comfortable enough to fall asleep. As he lay in the same position on the surface of the moon, memories of sleeping in his bed and holding one arm around his wife’s chest returned to him. Up until that point he had forgotten all about his past life. The shock from his current situation caused him to forget most things. Now as he lay dying, memory to return to him.

When the mind is allowed to roam free, it is strange what images that it pulls up. Events in a person’s life that were once lost forever, return in the time it takes to sneeze. Like images being pulled from a void, these scenes from a life once lived create feelings that we thought were long gone. He saw himself as a younger man, 22 or 23 dressed in a black shirt and pants and wearing a black beanie. His hair was long and he had a goatee that was shaved at the sides of his mouth. He was standing by a large red wall, just standing there staring off into space. He looked lost but felt alone. He could remember that feeling of existential loneliness that he felt in his youth like it was yesterday. He was waiting for someone or trying to fill his loneliness by watching other people. His entire life was in front of him and he felt so alone. For a moment he could remember what it felt like to be that young.

The moon’s surface looked like the ash colored lava rocks that he had walked on in Hawaii. He remembered walking across the lava with his mother behind him yelling for him to be careful. The image of the first girl he had sex with returned to him. She was sitting on the beach in her bikini, her body still 18 years old and she was smiling at him while he watched her blonde hair blowing in the light breeze. He then saw an image of his wife working in the garden. She was naked, just like she always was when she worked in the garden, and she smiled at him. He could feel her smile radiating through his body. He never appreciated her smile like he did now.

He felt guilty for not being able to appreciate her smile more. He did not wonder if he would ever see her again. Instead he hoped that he had been good enough to her that her love for him was still strong enough to last for the rest of her life.

The air was running low. He was not able to take deep breaths anymore. Too much of his air supply had been used up while imagining that he was breaststroking his way through space. He would not try to walk anymore, instead he would stay still on his stomach. He stretched his arms out by his side in order to feel more comfort. He tried to find an easier position to keep his head. Everything was silent besides the pulsations in his ears. He wondered if it really could be possible that he was the first man ever to touch the moon. BB Gun would be impressed. He thought of BB Gun sitting in front of old photographs of the moon inside that old converted McDonald’s. Then his memory ceased to generate any more images. His thoughts dissolved. He felt ready to sleep. In front of him he could see the horizon line between the surface of the moon and dark space. He remains there, still staring at the horizon line.

Open House

I was on my way home from work when I noticed the sign. It was one of those signs that looked like it had been placed there by a tired real estate agent. There was not much care taken in the planting of the sign. The sign was hidden behind a few wilting plants and in blue sloppy letters it said: OPEN HOUSE with an arrow point away from the E. There was nothing else on the sign.

I was intrigued.

I left work early that Thursday afternoon. It was not even 2pm yet and I was ready for bed. I had nothing that I needed to do. I had a lot that I needed to do but that is what made it feel like I had nothing to do. Normally I worked till six or seven every weekday evening, but that afternoon I was trying out a different approach to living.

Why not go to the open house? This is what I thought as I drove past the second OPEN HOUSE sign.

It was not that I was interested in buying a new home. I was content where I dwelled. I just wanted something different to do. The work/life monotony of suburban living can induce a kind of amnesic state that unkowingly envelopes a person in a warm, predictable and comfortable tree-lined womb. If I went home that afternoon I knew I would drink a glass of white wine, water my plants and go to sleep. I wanted something different to do. I wanted to shake off routine, if only just for a few minutes.

I followed the direction the arrows pointed towards.

I drove my 1988 green Volvo down quiet, lower-middle class suburban streets. All of the front lawns were dying. The homes looked defeated, as if all the art had been drained out of the inhabitant’s lives. It was mid-afternoon but most of the homes seemed to already have television sets on. I was still feeling ill from all the white wine I drank the night before. White wine was the best medication I had found to temporarily inoculate myself against the various unpleasant feelings that came from the life I was living.

As I drove I wanted to have a glass of white wine with me. Few pleasures were as satisfying as driving around with the windows down, music on, a glass of white wine in my right hand, a cigarette hanging from my mouth and no where in particular to go.

What was the point of writing fiction any more? It no longer matters. Maybe I am the one who has outgrown it or maybe I have become too comfortable in my life. Writing is a solitary labor. No one cares if you do not do it. It doesn’t matter to anyone. When was the last time someone said to you, “Hey when is the next story coming out?” Never. Maybe I just do not have the energy or vigor to push myself any more. Maybe it is more satisfying to spend the free time I have keeping my house clean, watering my plants, reading and strumming my ukulele in the backyard. These are the things I thought as I followed the arrows.

Sign after sign appeared. The same OPEN HOUSE sign with an arrow pointing away from the E. Just as I thought that I had come to the end of the signs, another would appear. All of the signs looked tired and bored. They were leaning towards the ground, which made it difficult to know if I was going in the right direction. Fortunately, I have always possessed a good sense of direction. When I was a teenager I led a group of 11 other teenagers out of the woods after being lost for 3 days. Its a long story.

Until this point in my life, I have always followed in the direction that I felt like was the right direction to go.

When a person feels tired and bored in their life they think that everything and everyone is tired and boring. This is what I thought about as I drove.

Just as I was beginning to doubt my sense of direction, a final sign appeared. This sign was also leaning towards the ground but it did not say OPEN HOUSE on it. It just had a solitary arrow pointing towards a long, narrow driveway. The Volvo was hesitant to go forward. It jolted back and forth, not wanting to move. I pushed down on the accelerator harder than I normally would. I yelled out. I apologized to my car for my insistence that we go all the fucking way. Once I said sorry for using such physical and verbal force, the car stopped resisting.

At first I was startled. I thought that what I was seeing was not really there. I tried to remember if I had smoked any marijuana or drank any wine that morning. I had not. I then wondered if I was suffering heat stroke. Had I drank enough water earlier that day? I thought I had. I forced myself to look at the house in front of me. I was experiencing difficulty breathing. I wished I had a glass of white wine. Everything I had ever believed was put into question.

There was an open house in front of me.

There were no walls. There was no roof. The house was wide open.

I looked around for other signs of life that could validate what I was experiencing. All I could find were weeds, wilting plants, trees, squirrels, birds, bugs and discarded beer cans. No people.

I am not sure how much time passed between my arrival and the moment I realized I was twiddling my thumbs. I stopped right away. My father reprimanded me about doing this as a child. Only the bored and lazy twiddle their thumbs son.

I got out of the Volvo and walked. I walked towards the open house like I was approaching a large dog that I was not sure about.

How? This is what I thought as I walked.

The open house looked like people were currently living there. All the signs of a home lived in were there: couches, chairs, beds, televisions, tables, plants, bookshelves and various other pieces of furniture. There were potted flowers around the open house and there was also a swing hanging from a tree. Everything looked incredibly normal, except for the absence of walls and a roof.

How? I said it out loud this time.

I’ve read a lot about people losing their mind. Is it now my turn? I said this out loud also.

 I stood where I felt like the front door should be located and I yelled out.



I yelled out one last time and waited for a reply. Nothing.

What the hell. I said this to myself. I decided to walk in.

Hello? I did not yell out. I was trying to be polite.

Everything in the home looked as if it was well cared for. It was not what you would expect from a house without walls and a roof. The carpets looked like they had been recently vacuumed. There was no dust accumulation on the furniture, television or tables. The pillows on the couch and chairs looked like they had been artfully placed. No cobwebs. On the coffee table in front of the television there were magazines, a few art books and several television remote controllers. On the side table beside the couch there was a small clock that I noticed was no longer working and a few books stacked neatly beneath a reading light.

I walked through the living room and into the kitchen. There was a clean, modern sink with only a coffee cup in it. On the counter next to the sink were sponges, dish soap and a sign that said, A Clean Sink Is The Heart Of A Loved Home. The granite counter tops reflected blue sky, tree branches and sun.

The sun and the moon and the trees all spend their days hanging out. Why don’t we? This is what I thought as I looked at the kitchen table with four chairs around it. There was a stainless steal refrigerator. I noticed some desiccated leaves on the kitchen floor, which had fallen from the tree branches that hung above. Beyond the kitchen sink and counter, a backyard with a dying lawn, potted plants and flowers, sun chairs and a pool. Looked like a nice place to rest.

I used the toilet and felt uncomfortable being exposed as I peed. The bathroom was surprisingly clean. It was the kind of clean that I strived for in my own bathroom. I got some pee on the rim of the toilet and cleaned it off with toilet paper. Unlike most people- I have manners. I flushed the white porcelian toilet. The bathtub had a DWELL magazine in it. It looked as if someone had left it there to read the next time they took a bath.

I walked through what seemed to be a hallway. There were several bedrooms all around. All of the beds looked professionally made and the surrounding areas were tidy. At the end of the hallway was a larger king sized bed. The bed had a nice comforter and a plethora of patterned pillows. The space looked like it was the resting place of whoever owned the open house. Beyond the bed were weeds, plants and a few dehydrated trees, which dropped leaves onto the bed. Bugs flew all around. There was an old wood fence in the distance. I could feel the heat from the sun on the top of my head.

I sat down in a comfortable chair besides the bed. I looked around. I could see a toilet, shower, sink. Must be the master bathroom. This is what I thought. Beyond the bathroom area I could see all of the contents of the entire home spread out in front of me. It was as if I was sitting in the far corner of a carefully curated field of furniture.

I took off my shoes and got into the bed. Some of the pillows fell on to the floor as I made myself comfortable in the bed. The sheets and the comforter smelled clean. I strived for this smell in my own bed but was much too lazy to be able to achieve it on a regular basis. I pulled the blankets up over my body and looked towards the sky. There were no clouds, just branches and leaves. I could hear a few bird sounds. There was a warm afternoon breeze. I took a deep breath, noticing that I was not having trouble breathing anymore. It would be nice to have a glass of white wine right now. This is the last thought I remember having.

There was a loud scream followed by another loud scream. It sounded like a woman’s scream. There was another scream, which sounded like it was coming from a young girl. I was startled out of my deep sleep. It took me some time to figure out what was going on. When I heard, What are you doing here?, shouted forcefully in my direction- I sat up quickly. I threw the blankets off of me. There was an older lady and a young girl standing at the entrance of the room. There were walls. There was a roof over my head. I stared at the lady who looked like she was ready to attack. Then I realized that I was sleeping in someone else’s room.

Get out of here! What do you think you are doing in my bed! I am calling the police! She kept shouting things like this at me. I was still confused as I put my shoes on while telling her how sorry I was, how confused I was, how I did not understand how any of this was happening. I did not make things any better for myself when I asked her how the roof and ceiling got here all of a sudden. She called me crazy and the young girl started crying. I tried to reassure her that I was not a threat and that I was leaving right away. I am leaving now, I am leaving, Please do not be afraid. This is what I kept repeating as I walked past the lady and the young child.

I walked down the hallway and out the front door. Where did the front door come from? This is what I thought as I walked out. I could feel my heart beating in my stomach as I walked quickly to my car. I wanted to get away before the police arrived. As I was about to get into my green Volvo I heard the lady’s voice, shouting in my direction. I turned around and looked at her. She was standing in front of the house, which now had a front door, walls and a roof. The house was painted white.

Sir! Sir!! Excuse me, but were you here for the open house?

What Ever Happened To Vincent Gallo?

vincent-gallo-brown-bunny Today I turn 44. Or is it 45? I’m not sure. I was born in 1971 so I must be 44 today. Or it could be 45. I suppose I am now at that age where a person begins to lose count of their own time on earth. I would always wonder how this could happen when I would observe others being uncertain about their age. Now I understand- one’s age is not what is important anymore.

On my stereo I am listening to one of Vincent Gallo’s earlier albums. The album is called Recordings Of Music For Films. It is an odd, artful, beautiful and melancholic album. The album did not receive good reviews but I feel like there is real, solitary genius in it. Something that a person like myself can find hope and consolation in.


For almost the past two decades the way that I have charted the passing of time has been through Vincent Gallo. Every now and then I will seek out contemporary pictures of him to see how old he looks ( I realize I do this to see how much I have aged). I will look for any recent interviews or work that he has done. Sometimes it feels like I am reaching out for some sort of buoy, looking for some kind of brotherly support when I feel adrift.

I first became aware of Vincent Gallo when I was 27. It was 1998 and we were both in the prime of our lives. He had just written and directed his own film called Buffalo ’66, a masterpiece of independent cinema. In the circle of artists, musicians and social misfits that I hung out with in 1998- it seemed like Buffalo ’66 was the only film I heard talked about that year. It won a lot of young people’s hearts- especially those of us who were anxious about our place in the world and did not like our parents so much.


I did not like going to movie theaters. Even back then when movies cost what now feels like a dollar, I thought they were a rip off. I also did not like the claustrophobia of a movie theatre. I felt uncomfortable sharing images on a screen with people whom I did not know or would never want to know. But I had to see that film everyone was talking about. I had a few beers and then by myself went to see the film in an independent movie theatre in Oakland, California. I ended up seeing the film several more times and bringing new people each time. Even though I was broke, I bought them all tickets because I wanted to expose them to what I felt was not only a great film but it was a film about exactly what went on in my own head.

Isn’t this the point of great art? We resonate with it so strongly because we are able to see ourselves more clearly through it.

After several viewings of Buffalo ’66 I became very interested in Vincent Gallo. This was the time before the internet so I had to rely on various culture magazines for information about him. I was fascinated by his handsome look, his character and the fact that there was someone out there who was around my age, successfully living as an artist. It was through finding out about Vincent Gallo that I was able to find out more about myself.


Before learning about Vincent Gallo I had suspected that I wanted to live a creative life but I did not believe it was possible. I had already dropped out of graduate school for the third time. After several efforts I had given up on becoming a medical doctor. I did not know what I was going to do. I was working as a bartender. I was drinking too much and reading even more. I had panic attacks. I lived in a run down flat with my soon to be x-girlfriend and I was as close to being as poor as I had ever been in my life.


Then I found out about Vincent Gallo and suddenly I felt a purpose. If he could do it so could I. Here was a guy who was a painter, a writer, a filmmaker, a musician and most importantly an outsider. He was deviant and cool and defied social expectations. He was the James Dean of my time (but much more interesting) and as ridiculous as it sounds to say now, I admit, I wanted the fire that he had.

I started dressing like him. Wearing my hair in a similar way. I bought the pleather jackets from Salvation Army, the black beanies, the black combat boots and old jeans. It started to happen more than I intended. Sometimes people would tell me that I looked like Vincent Gallo. There was no greater compliment.

It is my belief that we all need heroes. A person without a hero is adrift in the sea of life. The stronger the influence that your heroes have on you, the more purpose and direction you will have. At an age where a lot of my heroes had died it was too easy for me to feel like 27 would also be my end. Finding Vincent Gallo pulled me out of this fatalistic thinking.


But what ever happened to Vincent Gallo? As quickly as I found him it seems as if he has disappeared (as we get older time seems to work this way). I followed his career with the interest of someone who was looking for answers. I thought that Brown Bunny was a brilliant and brave film but after that I seemed to lose interest in the films he made (although I really enjoyed him in Tetro). He seemed to stop writing and directing his own films and went down a different path.

I paid more attention to his music and his art. His music did not get great reviews but I found most of it to be really good. I would read interviews and as disappointed as I was by his choice to be a Republican and an occasional misogynistic jerk, I still enjoyed his iconoclastic spirit. But in the past few years it has been difficult to find information on him.

I’ve seen a few modeling spreads he has done and in those pictures he does look older. He is going gray like me and like me his hair seems to be thinning a bit. I notice a sadness in his eyes, like there is something he has lost and I too can feel this at times. I suppose this may come with knowing that the prime years of your life are now behind you. I suppose the degree of sadness you feel about growing older is determined by how much you loved being young. Vincent Gallo was the archetype of the Promethean youth. He stole fire and burned down a lot of social taboos, conventions and limitations. He gave despairing young men like myself hope in what felt like a never ending battle to preserve our souls.

Just like my youth, Vincent Gallo has now chosen to disappear. He wrote and directed another film but he decided to throw it away. I notice on his website that for a large sum of money an individual can purchase sex or a date with him. I would love to purchase the opportunity for my wife and I to have dinner with him but I do not have that kind of money.


Maybe the best years of Vincent Gallo’s creative life are now over. I would like to think that in his voluntary retreat from the entertainment world he is still painting, writing, reading and making music. I notice that every few years it seems as if he will come out of seclusion and play at a music festival. I search for some kind of current interview with him but there is very little out there. It is almost as if he does not want to be seen anymore. Vincent Gallo is older now and I presume it is only natural that he has moved into a less visible time in his life.

Now that I am 44 or 45, I see that this is what starts to happen to a man at around this age. The Promethean force that causes a younger person to want to do something great and defiant in the world seems to loosen its grip as we grow older. The ego has less territory it wants to conquer (or less strength to conquer it with). Past a certain age most people become less interested in the ego’s ambitions and more interested in the project of learning how to most comfortably adapt to this thing called aging.


I want to believe that Vincent Gallo and I are still on a similar path. That we are growing older together even though we will never meet. As I listen to the melancholic piano in his song called A Cold And Grey Summer Day, I want to believe that I can still, almost twenty years later, use him as my guide. I want to believe that he has chosen to withdraw from the world of accomplishment and creative fame and found some peace in a quieter way of life. I want to believe that he too, in his own way, is learning to accept his life as it is. That he too is finding satisfaction playing with dogs, watering plants, cleaning his house, washing his car, buying nice things, making art, listening to music, reading books, sleeping, eating, hanging out with those he loves, spending time in silent solitude, watching films and learning to be present for the time left in this life. Even though all of this might be a fantasy- I want to believe that it is true. After all, I forget who said it but it is through the stories that we tell ourselves that we create a life.


Most importantly, when I ask myself, What ever happened to Vincent Gallo? I do not want to have to Google search anymore for the answer. I want to believe that I don’t have to look any further than my own life and how I am now living as a 40-something-year-old-man, in order to find that answer.

How To Resist Normalization

“They know that if they put the letter x in their ad or brand, whether you know it or not, you instantly think about sex. I’m concerned about how we’re controlled or directed or conditioned, without even knowing it.” -V. Vale, publisher of RE/SEARCH

I live in Los Angeles, which is often referred to as the normalization capital of the world. Hollywood is responsible for most of the plot lines, belief systems, ways of being and images that seduce and support the vast majority of people into living in normalized ways. It is hard to know how effected by my environment I have been. I suspect some degree of normalization has set in within me- probably a lot more than I am comfortable being aware of.

Normalization has spread all over the world and it manifests in many different forms. For purposes of this essay I am referring to normalization in the Western World, mainly America. Many philosophers, social theorists and others currently consider America to be the epicenter of unprecedented degrees of normalization. I believe that a normalization of the masses is occurring in America and it is far greater than what occurred in Nazi Germany or what currently exists in North Korea.

When I use the word normalization what I am referring to is the absence of all forms of resistance. When resistance is gone, normalization is what sets in.

What do I mean by normalization? Maybe it would be easier to answer this question by stating what I do not mean by normalization. I do not mean a creative, fully-accepting, loving, non-dramatic, non-fearful, non-violent, non-addictive, generous, kind, confident, anti-authoritarian, free-thinking, self obsessed human being. I do not mean someone who does not like their work but works for the money and routinely engages in popularly accepted, corporate forms of distraction, consumerism, communication and entertainment.

So what is normalization? Wiktionary (an on-line dictionary) defines normalization as any process that makes something more normal or regular, which typically means conforming to some regularity or rule, or returning from some state of abnormality. I suppose that when speaking about normalization in a social sense, abnormality could imply existing outside the norm.

So what is the norm in American society? We know it when it sets in.

For many artists and activists in America, life is a continual process of resisting the above various forms of normalization.

Minor forms of mental illness are the result of resisting normalization (clinical depression, generalized anxiety disorder), but more extreme cases of mental illness are always the result of normalization (narcissism, borderline personality disorder, bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia and psychopathy to name a few).

The greatest counter-culture movements, from the hippies and beatniks to the punk, post punk, grunge and indie movements have been born from resistance. Today (in 2015) this resistance is more visible in the occupy movement, the hacker group Anonymous, Edward Snowden and Julian Assange. Artistic counter-cultural movements in America are currently in great decline because the pervasive forces of normalization have effected almost everyone (mainly through technology, policing, economics, public shaming and various laws).

What about “terrorist” and paramilitary groups? Insurgent groups? Any group that utilizes any form of psychological or physical violence is the norm. There are few things more normalized in America than violence.

The main symptom of normalization is chronic irritation, anger, emptiness and rage. It does not feel good to be normalized. Not everyone responds to normalization in an socially acceptable way. This is why it is often those who regularly experience chronic irritation, emptiness, anger and rage who engage in wars, violence and other forms of emotional and psychological oppression.

Normalization is violence. A violence against life itself.

Authentic resistance is never violent or harmful to others. Authentic resistance is a force of love, creativity, honesty, kindness and a strong impulse towards liberation, generation and freedom from all forms of violence.

Life is resistance. It is through a continual interplay of resistance that life exists.

Resistance is the creative process in action.

Non-violent acts of political protest are a powerful and important form of resistance (especially when living within authoritarian systems). However, this form of resistance is not nearly as effective for our inner-selves as being engaged creatively.

Creativity is the greatest form of resistance because creativity is generative. It fills the emptiness so that normalization can not set in. Normalization generates holes so that it can burrow in deep.

A few basic examples of forms of resistance are: not regularly watching television and popular movies, regularly reading literature, philosophy and poetry, viewing art, listening to non-passifying forms of music (meaning non-corporate music that requires some effort to find and listen to), being a vegetarian, not paying attention to the news, growing your own food, spending little time on-line or on a cellular phone, not engaging in social networking, loving your work, engaged in creative activities, not always looking outside oneself for fulfillment, regularly having great ideas, cooking one’s own food, engaged in transcending the ego, not utilizing the medical system to maintain health.

The internet, television, popular-movies, the news, Facebook, Instagram, politics, institutionalized education, the medical system, capitalistic belief systems (money), popular self-help books, your own personal and family drama, psychotherapy with a normalized therapist, most corporations and technology all share one common purpose- to normalize the individual. The amount that you are engaged with these things often determines the degree to which a person has been normalized.

Television, the internet and movies (there is a difference between movies and film) are the main vehicles of normalization. While watching images on a screen the human mind becomes relaxed enough that subliminal messaging is able to sneak in to the subconscious mind (everyone involved in advertising is aware of this psychological fact). The subconscious mind is like the roots of a plant. It generates what grows in the conscious mind. This is why subliminal messaging from the corporate media often grows into normalization.

If you value your autonomy, Be careful what you open yourself up to, is a good thing to keep in mind.

Ultimately a person does have a choice. To agree to normalization or engage in acts of resistance. Most choose normalization because it feels so much easier. Everyone is doing it. This is why normalization has some real benefits. A person can live a normal, relaxed and comfortable life. A person can afford what is often called security. A person can feel like they fit in and are apart of something bigger than themselves. But the normalized person is not really there. It is just a normalized version of who they think they really are.

This is why the main focus of a normalized lifestyle is the pursuit of pleasure (consumerism). A normalized person works so that they can live (consume) on their off time. When it comes time to living- it is all about the pursuit of pleasure. This pursuit takes the form of vacations, shopping, second homes, going out for nice meals, being passively entertained (movies), getting intoxicated, being in good shape, prescription medication and being happy. Once a person is no longer resisting normalization, there is more time to just chill and enjoy the fruits of one’s labor.

The reason why normalization leads to an obsession with the pursuit of pleasure is because normalization does not feel good. It does not feel good to not be who you think you are. It fills a person with anger, illness, frustration, fear and emptiness (pain). Normalization stresses a person beyond their capacity. They have to pursue pleasure in order to escape the pain of normalization.

Authentic resistance always feels good. If it does not feel good it is not resistance. It feels fluid and free. It is an energy that elevates a person out from the more oppressive forces of normalization. It fills up the emptiness and puts a person in alignment with their true self.

This is why it is so important for a person to have a creative outlet. Whether it is writing, painting, drawing, dancing, sculpting, gardening, knitting or engaging in non-passive forms of entertainment and/or psychological enhancement (listening to music, reading, watching films, meditating).

Creativity is resistance. As long as a person is regularly engaging in some form of resistance, they are still free.