The Greatest International Scavenger Hunt The World Has Ever Seen

So last week I descended into the maelstrom of Internet madness. Sort of. See there’s this thing called GISHWHES, or “The Greatest International Scavenger Hunt The World has Ever Seen.” It was created by an actor named Misha Collins who you may know from the series Supernatural and a certain SyFy Channel film of note:

Ahem

Ahem

Basically it’s what it says it is – a scavenger hunt. In 2012 it shattered two Guinness World Records: one for the largest scavenger hunt ever, with more than 14,000 participants from 69 countries and the second, for the most pledges to commit a Random Act of Kindness.

Now living in my little bubble I had never heard of GISHWHES and was totally in the dark about its existence until one, then another person emailed me out of the blue thru this very website to ask if I could help their team out. The task they had been given was “have a published Sci Fi author write a 140 word story about Misha Collins, the Queen, and an Elopus (an Octopus with an Elephant’s head)”.

Apparently this “get” was a major one, given that authors and writers tend to be a curmudgeonly lot who avoid doing anything for anybody unless it involves money exchanging hands. But as we all know I’m not one of those writers. And to me the challenge of telling a story (okay, 2 stories) in 140 words or less was too good a challenge to pass up. And also because the people asking seemed really nice and enthusiastic and were doing a lot of charitable work as part of their work, and we so rarely get chances to do good in a world that seems full of bad.

So I wrote two stories. And with GISHWHES 2014 wrapped, I am publishing them below for your reading enjoyment.

***

Story #1: “Investiture”

He tried not to tremble as the sword rose before him, but as she spoke the hairs on his neck stood rigid.

“May I borrow your sword?” he asked politely.

He didn’t wait for an answer, snatching the blade and pivoting clean as the beast released its suction grip on the rafters high above and dropped, trumpeting its battle cry.  He swung the sword, separating the Elopus’ head from its neck. The eight limbed body sprayed ink as it spasmed uncontrollably. The head bounced off the marble floor and landed upright, its trunk limp, its eyes already fogging over. Then, silence.

He handed the sword back. “Sorry your majesty, that Elopus has been hunting me since Cairo.”

“We see we weren’t hasty in our decision” the Queen smiled. She touched the sword to his shoulder. “Rise, Sir Misha Collins.

***

Story #2: “Elopus Apocalypse”

The Elopus lunged, limbs flailing, trunk blaring its battle cry.  It lurched —  and shuddered to a halt. Expletives sounded deep within the rubber suit.

“Goddamn it, CUT!”

Technicians raced in and removed the mask. The sweaty operator gasped for air. The director threw his script down angrily.

Misha handed his prop gun off and took a seat in his folding chair. They were already a day behind on a twelve day shoot and SyFy would not be happy. Someone tapped his shoulder gently. “Cappuccino, he said without looking. The hand tapped again and this time he looked.

“Sir Misha Collins?” the clipped British tones asked. The man was dressed formal, an envelope with the Royal Sigil in hand. Misha took it, opened, and read.

He was on the next flight to Heathrow. SyFy could wait. The Queen could not.

***

I like to think of them as sequels to each other, with “Elopus Apocalypse” being part of a new trend of SyFy Channel movies based on true stories. My only regret is I didn’t get a third request where I’d be able to finish the trilogy. Maybe next year.

And yes I am aware this is the second (and technically third) time I’ve written something for Misha Collins. You’d think he’d return my calls by now.

Pilgrimage

So I mentioned a little while back that I’d started work on Vol. 2 in the Mixtape saga,. That’s the good news. The not-so-good news is that it will be a while before you see it. Scripts need to be written, obviously, but I also need to figure out a way to pay for the art/printing etc. given that each issue runs north of a couple grand. Plus each issue takes 2-3 months to produce (penciling, inking, lettering, assembly), which is a factor as well. In addition I’m debating whether to stick with single issues like I did with Vol. 1 or do a straight up graphic novel telling one larger story. And I’m trying to do all this without crowdfunding it through Kickstarter or IndieGoGo if possible. Chalk that up to crowdfunding fatigue; if everybody and their cat is trying to raise $ what chance do I have? Also that potato salad guy. Fuck that guy.

Plus there’s Real Life Stuff. I’ve been occupied on three different film and TV projects which have ben eating up a lot of time, though if any one of them pops the whole “how do I fund Vol 2″ problem gets solved so fingers crossed.

Which is my way of saying Mixtape Vol. 2 is on the radar but still a ways away.

But if you’re still hungering for your Mixtape fix, you’re in luck, because this is the part of the job I love. It’s where I tell you all about the comics that influenced Mixtape. All are readily available, and all come highly recommended by yours truly. Every creative endeavor is built on the foundations of the work that inspired it, and these books more than any convinced me that Mixtape could indeed be a thing.

LCOAL HC C1-C4 LAYOUT9.indd

The genesis of Mixtape came when I was packing my things to move to the USA.  This involved sorting through boxes that hadn’t been opened in a good number of years – since High School in some cases. Among the many things I uncovered were many comic books, and many mixtapes. And so, rather than packing things, I spent my time listening to these tapes, and reading comic books, and saying to myself “self, there’s a story in this somewhere”. By the time I moved to New York, the idea was already simmering – I knew I wanted to write something about music, and how important it is to a teenager.  I also wanted it set in the 90s. I didn’t have a format – a movie like Dazed and Confused?  A TV series like The Wonder Years? I hadn’t really considered a comic book until I was browsing the racks at Midtown Comics and saw a hardcover collected edition of a series called Local by Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly.  Local follows Megan McKeenan, a young adult, over the span of a dozen years, as she moves from city to city, ranging from Portland Oregon to Chicago Illinois, to Halifax Nova Scotia, and to my old stomping ground of Toronto, Ontario.  I’m a fan of Brian’s from his amazing DMZ and Northlanders series, and as someone with a wanderlust similar to Megan’s I scooped up Local, and by the time I finished reading it, I knew what that “90s era rock and roll story” was going to be. The stories in Local are self-contained, each separated by a year and by the geography of North America as Megan drifts from one city to the next, changing before our eyes from a wayward teen to a young woman looking for a home. It spans 12 years and by the end of Local you really feel you’ve been on a journey. It’s like a comic book version of Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, and like Boyhood should not be missed.

boxofficepoison_lg

So when I moved to NY and started thinking more about Mixtape, I knew I needed to do more research. One book I had heard good things about was Alex Robinson’s Box Office Poison. Largely because the project that became Mixtape was originally a novella called “Daydream Nation” about a 40-something who travels back in time to inhabit his younger self in the early 1990s. Then I read about Robinson’s Too Cool To Be Forgotten and realized that story had already been done, and done well. I picked up TC2BF because to know your enemy is to defeat him, but realized Alex wasn’t an enemy and I wanted to read more of his work.

So there I was in Midtown perusing the shelves, and saw Box Office Poison. I pulled it out and flipped through it, and a customer passing by saaid “that’s a great book”. Then a staffer said the same thing. Convinced, I went to pay and the cashier said “that’s a great book.” And you know what? It is a great book – all 600 pages of it, all deftly charting post college life with an array of colorful characters, a love letter to that difficult time in life when you’re clutching your college degree and going “now what”? I just reread it again too and love it even more.

Oh, there’s an “epilogue” of sorts. At MoCCA a couple years later I was wandering the aisles and found myself at Top Shelf’s booth where Alex Robinson was helping out. A woman was glancing thru Box Office Poison and I said “that’s a GREAT book”. And she bought it. Alex was happy that day.

AC

Hold on, your’re saying. A superhero book influenced Mixtape? Are you hiding something from us, Abraham? Do the teens in Mixtape suddenly manifest super powers? How can a superhero book be an influence on Mixtape?

Well, probably because Kurt Busiek’s Astro City isn’t really a superhero book; at least not the way I read it. Sure it’s about superheroes and the world they inhabit, but it’s much more than that. It’s about the people of the titular city and how their lives intersect with the superpowered beings who stand watch over it. It’s about a family moving to this city and wondering if they have a place among the heroes and villains who they share space with. It’s about young woman deciding whether to stay in the cloistered and protected neighborhood she’s grown up in to get an apartment in a different part of town. It’s about a man haunted by visions of a woman he’s never met, only to learn she was part of a life wiped out by a battle between good and evil.

But also because in its earliest issues, each Astro City story had a beginning and an ending; what you call “one shot” stories. And Mixtape’s structure has been the same; single stories spotlighting a single character, with the others running support. There is an overall theme and story that these individual ones comprise, more like a mosaic than an ongoing storyline. It’s the snapshots of life in a city and world where superheroes are real that linger the most when I read Astro City.

The-Waiting-Place-cover

As I’ve probably mentioned too many times to count, I spent my teenage years in a small town, and that was at the tail end of a life spent in numerous cities. To say I felt rootless is an understatement; in fact to a degree I still do feel that way. And The Waiting Place captured that feeling of house parties, aimless driving, dead-end jobs, and deciding what you want to do with your life. Focusing on small-town teens as they navigate the world unfolding in front of them I fell in love with the characters and their stories from the get-go. Also writer Sean McKeever was gracious enough to answer some questions and offer advice when I was in the planning stages of Mixtape. He’s good people. Check his work out.

Ghost-World

Everybody knows Ghost World, right? Dan Clowes’ immortal saga is a definite influence on Mixtape, but when I say influence I refer to the movie more than the book (which I read some years after seeing it). Chronicling the adventures of Enid and Rebecca, recently graduated from high school and realizing they need to get their shit together and soon, Ghost World is one of those stories that somehow manages to be both eccentric and real at the same time.  It’s also a funny, sad, touching look at that monent in life when you’ve drifted away from your closest friends without realizing it until it’s too late. The arc of Mixtape Vol 2 is very much Ghost World’s, as the five mains face not so much the end of their friendship but the moment where that friendship changes, like it does for Rebecca and Enid.

Sleepwalk

Any Adrian Tomine will do, really but Sleepwalk along with Tomine’s Summer Blonde were and are my favorites of his, and probably Mixtape’s true genesis. It was reading Sleepwalk – a gift from one of my wife’s publishing pals – that really crystallized Mixtape’s potential. Because I saw Tomine was telling the type of story I wanted to tell. Stories about the little moments where those moments become, for a moment, important. I knew with Mixtape I didn’t want it to be an After School Special about Big Issues. I wanted it to be about the cleanup after the big party, and about the little moments in everybody’s life where important things happen and you’re too self-absorbed at the time to realize it. Stuff like that last time you were hanging out with a group of friends at someone’s house, and it was the last time you were in a room together.

So there you have it; the foundations on which Mixtape is built. And while I could only hope Mixtape achieves a smidge of the acclaim as these other books have received, it wouldn’t exist without these books. I strongly encourage* you check them out, both to support these creators and their work, but also because these books have meant a great deal to me and my work.

* I also VERY STRONGLY encourage you to buy these books from your friendly local comic book shop. Pretty much every town has one and they’ll be more than happy to order it if they don’t have it.

** And ICYMI Mixtape 1-5  are available for purchase right now with both print and digital options.

Right Here Right Now

So I have this website/blog thingy. I’ve had it for four years now. You can travel back to the very beginning and my very first post in August 2010.

The whole point of this website was to give me a web presence. So whenever someone (like a prospective employer or person I met at some industry thing) punches my name into a search engine, this website popes up, they click through, read about me, read my works and go “damn this dude is good –  let’s throw money at him.” As you can imagine this hasn’t happened yet, but having a web presence in this day and age is essential for a successful yet somehow still struggling creative type. People read or view your work or just want to get some insight into you as a person, they can find out.

But sweet Jeebus I hate blogging. Hate. It.

If I’m lucky I can knock out one, maybe two posts a month. Contrast that with people who do it every day and I’m failing at it. Often I write and post just to make it look like the website is still active. Sometimes I’m inspired, other times amusing, and occasionally I say things relevant to the writing process. Once I even had a post go viral, though the subject matter – my discovery of David Bowie and Duran Duran – may have had something to do with it.  But my need to keep this website current means too often I fall into the trap of this little nostalgia bubble. I’ll write about stuff that happened years if not decades ago, and try to make some tenuous connection to present day, but more often than more often it comes across – IMO – as being too maudlin. Yes, I did shit when I was younger. Some was fun, some wasn’t, but increasingly it looks and feels like the sad reminiscence of someone past their prime.

That’s bullshit. I’m better now than I ever have been, creatively, personally, you name it. Cool stuff – a lot of cool stuff – is happening right now, and I hope to be able to divulge details on all of it very soon.

But what about the here and now? What is exciting me or entertaining me or making this a very cool time in my life and one that I’ll look back on years from now? What keeps me moving forward by not looking to the past?

Well, I’ll tell you.

jack-white-lazaretto-628x541Yes, I dig Jack White. Yes, I dig his music, his business model, his attitude. Yes, his attitude. Sure he’s a cocky asshole – and one of those types I can’t stand to be anywhere around – but if you were in one of the few genuinely *great* bands to debut at the turn of this millennium, formed your own record label specializing in vinyl albums of all things, while forming two other bands and producing a bunch of other albums before launching one, then another solo album of your own, you earned the right. Plus his new album Lazaretto is really good and you should pick it up now.

(And you should listen to the 7th track at least once a day like I do because it’s my fave)

gregory-s-coffee

Gregory’s Coffee. Picture a less douchey and less corporate Starbucks. They’re a NYC based chain and they do coffee right. Seriously, I need to grab an Americano there once a week, and they have a location conveniently close to Midtown Comics, so you can go grab your purchases and then read them at Gregory’s. Plus they bake their own croissants, biscotti, cookies, muffins, and donuts. Plus the WiFi is free and speedy. And unlike Starbucks their coffee doesn’t taste like ass. Actually screw the rest of this update, I’m going there now.

house_of_cards_poster_2

House of Cards. Apparently it doesn’t hold a candle to the original (nothing ever does), and it gets awfully silly at times but damn if it isn’t totally addictive. I’ve been soaking TV up like a sponge lately as I’m in development on two different TV series of my own so naturally I like to see what’s out there so I don’t fall into the trap of “oh there’s totally a show like that right now, sorry you wasted all that time on your thing”. I’d also add Masters of Sex, Justified, Hell on Wheels, Turn, The Americans, Sherlock, Game of Thrones, Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire, Da Vinci’s Demons, Downton Abbey and Spartacus to the mix. That said I’m not a fan of the whole “binge watch” - I need time to absorb what I’ve seen before speeding through the story. Like reading a really good book you have to apply the brakes to avoid racing to the end and wanting more.  But another thing I’ve found is the most TV I can handle at a time is 2 hour-long episodes. Any more and my eyes glaze over. Probably because I spend most of my day staring at a screen there’s only so much more of that I can take when I want to unwind. I am in awe and a little bit frightened by people who can tear through a season in a weekend, the “binge watch” that has become ubiquitous. Me, I’d rather read a book.  And speaking of reading:

ALL-AMERICAN ADS BOOKS (3)Taschen. In particular their All American Ads series. Partly for research as one of the aforementioned TV projects is set in the 1950s, but also because I find them utterly absorbing. Like:

GAYAnd:

frigid-woman-cold-war-pushbutton-ease

And let’s not forget:

(The "T Zone" is cancer)

(The “T Zone” is cancer)

I also enjoy the series because it reminds me of how the mundane and everyday can gain extra meaning once time passes. It makes me think of my parents growing up under the shadow of these same ads. It makes me think of the comic books in my collection from the 80s and 90s, and how the ads and letter columns are what keep me from selling them and converting the series into trade editions; it’s that “in situ” act of reading them knowing how things changed but at the time nobody knew the ending.  In fact I’d say vintage advertising is the best way to get a sense of how people lived decades ago and – aww, there I go again down the nostalgia hole. Moving on. …

coldinjulyposterMovies. I still watch them, I write them for a living. And increasingly the bloom has been off the rose. I enjoyed The Winter Soldier and The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Raid 2 and Days of Future Past and Edge of Tomorrow but I didn’t love them the way I would have once (and I really disliked the Godzilla reboot after anticipating it for so long). And while I could blame The Movies for sucking, it’s not so much them as it is me. Tastes change and the stuff that used to get me excited before just doesn’t anymore. I want stories about people, not explosions, not comic book video game rebooted remakes.  And that’s why I keep watching and looking and occasionally find something unexpected that reaffirms my faith in the medium.

CIJMe and Joe Lansdale go way back as far as “author and fan” are concerned. I interviewed him for Rue Morgue a couple times. And Don Coscarelli’s adaptation of Bubba Ho-Tep was directly responsible for me meeting my wife.

So in 2009 when I was on a set visit to director Jim Mickle’s Stake Land that he mentioned he and co-writer/co-star Nic Damici had optioned a novel called Cold In July, I perked up. “Oh, the Joe Lansdale one?” The fact that I knew this “obscure” novel and “cult” writer grabbed Mickle’s and Damici’s attention too. And as I mentioned already I’m something of a fan:

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As the “Lansdale” shelf in my office would attest. And that’s only half of them.

Flash forward to 2014. That adaptation of Cold in July is in theaters and On Demand as I type this, and if you’re a fan of vintage John Carpenter or just plain good storytelling and propulsive filmmaking, you owe it to yourself and to cinema to see it. It’s also kind of restored my love in the movies. It’s the type of movie I got into the movie business to make. It’s the kind of movie that keeps my faith in the medium.  It does all of those things despite the fact that having read the book several times I was in suspense throughout it (even though I knew how it was going to end). That, my friends, is the hallmark of great storytelling.

And if you don’t support stuff like Cold in July you’re just going to get Tran5former$.

CSCCarmine Street Comics because they’re one of the few brick and mortar stores who stocks Mixtape, and because they’re a great conduit for indie comic creators to find an audience for their niche books. They have artists in residence, they hold regular events and signings and podcasts, and are everything a good comic book should be; carrying the Marvel DC books on one hand, but giving over substantial amounts of precious little shelf space to indie books. Plus, unlike a lot of comic shops they’re not dudebro dickish to female fans and creators so visit them and glimpse the future of comics retail.

TravelI should probably announce right now that I won’t be at this year’s NYCC. My request for an artists alley table was declined, and while I am on the wait list, there’s a thousand people gunning for the same slot so it looks like I’ll be out in the cold. It’s not all bad news; I’ve applied to some other shows and hope to appear at them instead, and while I could apply for a NYCC pro pass and would probably get one, that leaves me to just wander around aimlessly without benefit of a place where people can meet me, pick up some books and so on, which is why I go to conventions anyway.

Besides, if I’m going to wander aimlessly I’d rather do it here:

Stockholm

And here:

Norway

And here:

icelandscenery

My wife and I last got away – really got away, in late 2011 to Paris. And we’ve wanted to go back to Europe since then. We’ve been diligently kicking money into our vacation fund. All we’ve been lacking is time. Stuff keeps intruding. So when the rejection from NYCC came in I told her we were going back in October. Not back to Paris but a tour of Denmark, Sweden, Norway and probably Iceland because why not? And because we only have so many opportunities to have adventures and the worst thing you can do, whether you’re a writer or not, is to pass up that chance to look at the world with different eyes.

So there you have it. Stuff I like in the here and now. And in 20 years time, assuming the Internet is still a thing, this blog somehow still exists and I’m amazingly still alive, you can read my ravings about how awesome things were 20 years ago and hear me wonder where I left my car keys damn it.

 

Supersymmetry

Ever notice how certain days or dates in your life stand out above others? Like, how you can have really specific memories about a certain moment or day, but if you were asked to recall anything about the day before or after you’d draw a total blank?

The evening of August 29, 1992 was a moment like that because it was the last time my High School friends and I were together.

Growing up I was always one of those people content to just do my own thing, preferably alone. Read, listen to music, even go to the movies by myself. I wasn’t a “loner” – I had friends and did things with them but I generally was fine with being by myself, even to the point where I’d pass up an invite to a party or other social gathering just to stay in. This is a personality quirk that’s been with me my entire life (and much to my more social wife’s chagrin). Largely because we moved around so much I was all too used to starting a new school, making friends, and having to say goodbye to them when we moved again, I started a new school and the process repeated itself. I generally did make friends, but there was always that first couple of months when I was more often than not forced to come up with my own fun. And even after making friends there was those occasions where I was more content to be by myself.

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

Yet it was during my senior year of HS that I discovered I actually had a sizeable group of friends - a core group of guys and girls who I hung around with. Sometimes as a group, sometimes one on one. It fluctuated in size and number – from 3 or 4 of us to upwards of 20 — but when you boiled it down there were 10 of us and on this particular evening that 10 were were doing our best to make that night feel like it was any other Saturday night – like we were trying to brush off the importance of the moment. But it wasn’t like any other night; at best there would be no other night like it for some time. At worst it would be the last hurrah, the “American Graffitti” moment that becomes legend and the basis for countless coming of age movies.

And comic books

And comic books

It was a party, and like any party it had its arc. It began slow at first as people began to arrive, then it hit that sweet spot where everyone’s there, there’s drinking, talking, laughter. Then it creats, you glance at the clock and realize you have maybe an hour before you have to motor. Then people start to leave,m and evenrtually theres just a few stragglers left, heroically seeing how long they can stretch things before they realize the party is in facto over.

So that was one of those parties with one notable exception; after this one ended it really was going to be over. It was fun but a little sad too. We knew this would be the last time (for a while at least) we’d all be together, but probably didn’t know it was in fact the last time we’d all be in the same room.

I was actually the first to leave the party, not by choice mind you – I had to be up early the next day to drive to Toronto to get settled into my dorm. My friend Nathalie was going to the same school and the same rez as I was so there’d be at least one friendly-ish face at my school (“friendly-ish” being a private joke between Nat and me). Moira and Elliott would be at a different school in the same city, and Chuck would be at one of the colleges nearby. Janet was also going to be in the same city though her campus was much further away from the rest of ours, and we drifted apart pretty quickly. Same with Jill, who went to school in a different city, as did Anthony; I think I saw them all that Thanksgiving weekend and maybe once the following summer, but after that I never saw them again.

But that core group – Elliott, Moira, Nathalie, and myself — we convinced ourselves college would be like High School only bigger. We’d still see each other regularly, and to be true the first year, more or less, we did see each other relatively frequently. We’d gather at a bar, or a restaurant, at one or the other’s residence and strike out from there for adventures. We’d hit our favorite spots, the Dance Cave at Lee’s Palace being something of a regular hangout.

Still there after all these years

Still there after all these years

But what we didn’t realize was we were already in the midst of growing apart. Other people started joining us – friends of our friends who were perfectly nice people but felt a bit like interlopers ot the rest of us. School also took a big chunk out of or time and the fact we were making friends with people in our programs studying the same things we were also drove a wedge.

I think for me the big wedge moment came in November of that year when I skipped going back to my town for my High School commencement (cap and gown, get your diploma and yearbook) because I had tickets to Mudhoney and Ned’s Atomic Dustbin. So while everybody I went to school with –friends and acquaintances – were returning, I was in a mosh pit with some people from university I barely knew, and some I met just that night. I had already moved on by that point, and by the same time the following year had settled into my new life, the old one a memory.

I’ve been thinking about August 29, 1992  a lot lately but not for the usual nostalgic “God was it really so long ago” reasons, but because I’ve finally begun scripting the next Mixtape arc which in many ways is about that last night when the gang was all together. If the first volume in the Mixtape saga has been about bringing Jim, Terry, Siobhan, Lorelei, and Noel together, this next one is about pulling them apart, preparing them to say goodbye to their town, school, each other – their world.  There’s a teaser for this story in Mixtape #5 if you know where to look

Or if I just show you

Or if I just show you

It’s easier to stay in touch with people now, with Facebook and the ubiquity of social media. An 18 year-old can go off to college and still “see” their hometown friends every day if they’re so inclined.  We’ve lost the means really to completely lose touch with people. That’s supposedly a good thing though I think much of what makes friendships special is that so many of them are fleeting, lasting mere months or years, and then one day you wake up and realize it’s been even longer since you last saw them. They say familiarity breeds contempt, but in this digital age the familiarity of seeing someone’s picture every day and reading their daily update is a poor substitute for actual friendship. You’re getting the highlights package as opposed to the real deal.

Friendships rarely end because of an argument or a fight (though some of mine have). They more often end because we spend our lives moving in different directions and intersect with the lives of others for only a brief time when our paths cross. We may take the same road for a little while but eventually one of us takes our exit leaving the other to continue on their path.

So for Jim and Terry, Siobhan and Noel and Lorelei Vol. 2 “Daydream Nation” will be the end of that safe environment of being around each other. They’re going off into the worlds to meet new people and experience different things, feeling the pull of their old life and those old friendships lose its strength. Staying in touch and staying together will be the challenge in Volume 3, which right now has the working title of “Come As You Are” coinciding with the rise of Nirvana and Grunge nation.

There’s a lyric in the final track on Arcade Fire’s Reflektor album. Titled “Supersymmetry”, the song opens with the following lyric;

I know you’re living in my mind; it’s not the same as being alive.

The context in “Supersymmetry” is death but it might as well be memory. Those people and those moments are alive in my mind but only in my mind. And no, it’s not the same. It never will be the same. That’s what makes those moments and memories magic and special; because they never come around again. And as I delve back into Mixtape scripting it’s shocking to me to see how many of those memories only needed words on paper to come back to life.

NOTE: Mixtape #5 is available on iBooks and Indy Planet, as are the other issues in the first Mixtape arc. I also have copies available through this website and I’ll even sign them for you if you like. Just let me know through the normal channels.

1994

Time. When you’re younger it passes so slow. Summers seem to last forever until you’re back at school come September wondering if summer actually happened at all.  Your life is organized into school, then weekends, then holidays.  And post college it’s work, weekends, holidays and — if you’re lucky to have them – paid sick days.

Then a decade passes. Then another. And despite vowing never to be nostalgic for “the good old days”, you can’t help but let your mind drift back. Your brain filters out the not-so-good and paints everything else in a golden glow where all is well. Time seems to move faster and memories get jumbled, merged or disappear altogether.

You never appreciate the good moments, and those rare bits of transcendence  when they’re actually happening.  Except once twenty years ago when I *did* realize things were changing, and I was living through one of those final rare moments of true freedom I would ever have.

This is a story of the last carefree summer I ever had. It was 20 years ago. And it changed everything.

***

Summer 1994 began for me on Friday April 29, after completing my last exam and facing four months in Toronto. I had opted to remain in the city and work there thru the summer rather than go back home. Home had become awkward with my parents’ divorce and I just couldn’t handle being back in a place called home that didn’t felt more like Santa Mira after the Invasion of the Bodysnatchers. It looked the same but wasn’t the same. Plus, year 2 of university had been a long hard climb to recover my GPA after my grades nosedived in the back half of my first year when my parents announced they were getting said divorce.

Pictured: my soundtrack

Pictured: my soundtrack

So to me this summer meant freedom. Of course I had to work, but a confluence of events meant I had the freedom to be free (to do what I want any old time). I had money left over from the school year that was – enough to pay my share of rent and bills on the house I was living in with five others. So, I worked, crewing music videos, paid under the table, five days of intensive work followed by a couple weeks off. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I worked but only enough to feed myself and fulfil my obligations. There was not much room for fun, with the exception of the money I’d saved to buy my ticket for the 1994 installment of Lollapalooza. That happened in early July and while I didn’t know it at the time, it ended up being the last big outdoor festival I ever attended.

Plus, it rained.

Yours truly (L) seeks shelter under a Pizza box

Yours truly (L) seeks shelter under a Pizza box

The show ended and I went back to Toronto, staying a couple additional days at my friend Mark’s place, making plans to return to my place downtown and … do nothing basically. And at one point Mark asked “why go back?”  Rent was paid, bills were taken care of, and I had nothing to do down there.  My next paying job wouldn’t be good to go for a few more weeks, and with Mark’s family away on a cruise for the next few weeks the house was basically empty.

Plus it was summer and they had a swimming pool.

Why yes that is Daily Show Correspondent (and my then roommate) Jason Jones talking to my friend Pete (in army helmet -- don't ask)

Why yes that is Daily Show Correspondent (and my then roommate) Jason Jones talking to my friend Pete (in army helmet — don’t ask)

So I stayed there for almost three weeks. The day began the crack of noon with coffee and donuts, we’d rent movies, hang by the pool, barbecue for dinner, pile into the car and cruise the city streets all night, return for a swim and turn in as the first rays of dawn streaked the sky. Parites were thrown, parties were attended.

My roomates wondered what the hell happened to me. In typical fashion I left for Lollapalooza and said I’d be back early the following week.  But once I realized “hey, nobody knows what the hell happened to me,” that necessitated a trip to my place to grab some fresh clothes and let the world know I was in fact still alive.

This was life for those three weeks that felt like an eternity even back then.

Pictured: Me, sort of. Kinda drunk.

Pictured: Me, sort of. Kinda drunk. Also 1991.

And I knew – we both did – that things would never be this relaxed, this carefree ever again. And they weren’t. I think that’s why we recall this period with such fondness. Because we knew it wasn’t going to last. We knew we’d have to get our shit together sooner than later. It really felt like our last hurrah while it was happening. In fact we’d talk about that fact while this was all happening, like we were narrating events as they happened, like in a movie.

And we both decided then and there that we had to start getting serious about the future. Mark had dropped out of college but was already making moves to return early the following year. I was at the rough midpoint of my college life and in hindsight I should have scrounged up more work. I should have been more responsible, but I also knew this was the last chance I’d have IN MY ENTIRE LIFE to be so carefree.

And 20 years later I’m glad I was irresponsible because I never did experience that freedom again. The following year was a tough one for school. My education, which had been paid for by my parents thus far was now my sole responsibility (hello student loans). My parents’ divorce turned nasty as all divorces do.  Summer 1995 I worked 5 days a week at a home electronics store. I worked, I had weekends and the occasional day off. I saw friends and hung out on occasion but much of that summer was work. But it was after that summer of 94 that I really got a sense of the person I wanted to be.

Because it was over that summer that I realized what I really wanted to be was a writer.

Pictured: Writer, not as drunk

Pictured: Writer, not as drunk

Routinely I’d wake up early while the rest of the house slumbered – the place being a flop-house for our friends over those weeks – dig out my notepad and pen, and write. Journal entries, short stories, the scribblings of what would be my first screenplay.  I still have the notebook too and looking through it I glimpse the person I was twenty years ago.  A person who was still young and still naïve, but also a person who was on his way to becoming the person he is now. Some people took a year off to see the world, travel, find themselves. But for me it was those three weeks in 1994 that made me picture the future I wanted for myself, and made me see what I needed to do to make that future happen.

In 1996 I graduated and scraped out a living saddled with student loan debt and barely kept my head above water. But I stayed focused on writing and being a writer. All because of that aimless, listless summer of freedom where I had time to ask myself where I wanted to be. On graduating I I gave myself five years to make my career happen.  It happened in 2 and a half years.  Exactly five years after Sumer 1994 I was working on my first big job as a screenwriter. Twenty years later, I’m still here and still doing what I decided my career would be.

***

That’s the story of my last carefree summer. And on reflection it wasn’t carefree; I was becoming the person I am now.

But that’s not my *best* summer. No, my best summer was 2008 when I moved to NYC to marry my beloved wife.

But that’s a story for another day.