I should mention before we set out that I have made a conscious decision to use my real name on this site. In doing so, my hope is that I have not set into motion a series of events that will end in horrific comic consequences. With a poorly-negotiated fifteen year mortgage hanging over my head and an insatiable appetite for both up-scale Indian dining and premium cable channels, I can hardly afford the interruption in income that would undoubtedly follow my hearing the phrase, “Maynard, what’s all this nonsense I hear about a website?” Pant-shitting and groveling to keep a job are not things I hope to do anytime soon.
So, I’ve chosen to try to walk a line, a line between honesty and self-preservation. I have chosen not to throw caution to the wind and share everything with you, but instead to offer you well-sanitized bites of my life that won’t get me into too much trouble. In proceeding this way, my hope is that I will continue to collect a paycheck, eat and have a wife. These, in my estimation, are all good things.
I will, no doubt, fail on occasion, but it’s my hope that I’ll never dig a hole too deep to climb out of… We’ll see.
Sure, I could have gone the anonymous route, changing the names and places in each of the stories I hope to tell, thus allowing myself to relate everything in excruciating, often hilarious, detail. Instead I’ve decided to be up front and write this as myself, Mark Maynard, the real person. This allows me to mention things like the magazine that I publish with my wife Linette (called Crimewave USA, and available worldwide through Borders Books, Tower Records, Desert Moon Periodicals, and any number of independent book stores), my band (the Monkey Power Trio) and any number of other projects I have going on at any given time. The down side, as I mentioned, is that you only get part of the story.
I will not in these pages, for instance, say things that could hurt my family or friends, no matter how strongly I feel about events or things transpiring between any of us at any given time. I will also not say anything that would in any way jeopardize my employment at a company that I happen to like working for very much. My hope is that I can still, within these parameters, keep a good, honest and fair accounting of my life’s events. In short, I want to keep an historical record of my thoughts and actions, but I want to do so in such a way that the historical document affects the day to day activities upon which it reflects.
Admittedly, this makes things tricky.
For instance, in the next few days I plan to write about a baby shower that my wife and I recently hosted at our home, a shower which quickly devolved into an orgy of sex, drugs and karaoke. While I want to share with you the things that happened that night, in painful, graphic detail, I do not want to criticize or in any way question the actions of my close friends. I have no problem relating to you, however, the far more egregious actions taken by those people who I did not know at the beginning of the evening, but that’s where it has to end. So, just so we’re clear, that’s where I draw the line. If you’re my friend and you throw a drink at me (as did happen), it’s off the record as far as this site is concerned. However, if you’re a stranger, and you come into my house, and you meet another stranger and you take him into my bathroom to fuck (as also happened), well then, we’ve got story. If possible, we’ve even got photos.
As for who I am, my name is Mark Maynard and I live in a small town outside of Detroit, Michigan called Ypsilanti. As I mention above, I’m married to a woman by the name of Linette Lao and together we publish a magazine called Crimewave USA. I also, on one day a year, record with the band The Monkey Power Trio (MPT). Crimewave, after about 8 years, is currently starting on its 14th issue and MPT just rapped its 8th session in Athens, Georgia. Both a new magazine and a new seven-inch record should be released in the following months. If all goes according to plan, updates on both projects will be posted here on a regular basis.
When not working as a marketing manager for a large, local corporation, I read about the past, theorize about the future and worry about the stability of my 401K retirement account. I also draw and paint. I used to sell my pieces through the Baltimore Folk Art Gallery and the Instinct Gallery in Wisconsin, but both galleries have since gone out of business. Draw whatever conclusions from that that you like.
My hope is to keep this up as a running commentary on my life, my thoughts and my projects. I just hope I have the determination and perseverance to keep it going.
Here’s hoping I can pull it off.
Jeff “The Genius” Kay: Friend or Nemesis
I’d wanted to start an on-line diary for some time now, but I haven’t had the balls to actually sit down and start writing. Part of that’s my fault. I, like most mildly-depressed, somewhat overweight, TV-addicted Americans, lack motivation and initiative. The most significant hurdle, however, has been the mere existence of my friend, and sometimes collaborator, Jeff Kay. Jeff, as much as I hate to admit it, is much funnier than I am. I can’t explain it either. As a warehouse distribution manager in a suburb of Scranton, Pennsylvania, he doesn’t necessarily lead an inherently more compelling life than I do. And that’s what eats at me. He’s a regular guy, just like me, but he’s somehow able to wring the humor out his regular, everyday experiences. He crafts beautifully comic artwork out of what’s handed him every time, without fail. Whenever I read his column while at work (only during my lunch breaks, I assure you), I invariably have to fake a coughing fit to cover over a burst of explosive laughter. Jeff is brilliant, and he beat me to the web.
That slowed me down considerably. It’s like getting your nerve up to ask out the coolest girl in school and the day you go to do it, your best friend’s not only sitting there next to her, but there’s a rumor gong around school that he scored with her and her mother and that they bought him the Velvet Underground box set and a silk smoking jacket. Where I would have settled for the girl’s phone number, Jeff redefined the scope of what was possible. Essentially, that’s what Jeff’s done on-line. He’s eaten it up. People don’t know it yet, but he’s slowly taking over. His writing is, I think, the strongest that I’ve seen in the past few years of my cruising around the web looking for funny, engaging personal writing. He is the king, bar none and I hate him for it.
So, my mother fucking, so-called friend, raised the bar so damned high that it frightened me. Recently, however, I am happy to report, his work has become considerably more weak and predictable. I feel as though the ground is now fertile for me to make a move against him. As he sits resting on his laurels, with his prestigious “Funny Bone Award’ by his side, I plan to sneak in the back door and tear his world apart faster than the cast of The Facts of Life can drain a warm can of Crisco. All the pieces are in place. I have been presented this window of opportunity and I am going to take full advantage of it. (O.K. that was all just a joke, but it would have been funny if I’d completely built Jeff up as a great writer and then pulled the rug out from under him, calling him a washed-up has-been, wouldn’t it?)
At any rate, I felt like I couldn’t make as good a showing as Jeff had. I knew that I certainly couldn’t put in the kind of hours that he puts in. And, I wasn’t willing to sacrifice my health or current wardrobe to see it all happen. (Jeff, while a very good writer, has grown to well over 400 comic pounds. The last time I saw him, he looked like Rosie O’Donnel in a fat suit (that’s fat), and I’m not willing to pay that price.)
To check out his writing, visit his site. It’s called the West Virginia Surf Report and you can find it at www.thewvsr.com. I think you’ll find his metaphors brilliant, his stories addictive and his good-natured cynicism refreshing. He’s the Andy Griffith for our generation and he’s on a comedy jihad.
note: I do not praise people very often. My jealousy doesn’t permit me to. When I do, it usually means they’re pretty damned good. You’ll learn this about me over time.
With that said, my mission statement, and I’m sorry to have to say this, Jeff, is to destroy your site and win over your readers.
There, I’ve said it.
Live Nude Softball
About three moths ago, at a staff meeting, it was announced that our office would field a softball team that would compete against teams from other offices in our area. I’d been working in the office for about two and a half years at that point, and this was the first time that athleticism in any form had come into the picture. It just wasn’t that kind of office. Or at least it hadn’t been before that day.
We were more candy and donut eaters than we were runners and jumpers. A few of us had gone out with the intention of bowling once, but that quickly gave way to the more preferable activity of drinking cheep draft beer in the alley’s heavily shellacked bamboo cocktail lounge.
I’m not adverse to the idea of physical activity. In fact, I’ve been going to the gym two or three times a week for the past year now, trying desperately to stay just one step ahead of obesity. It’s just that I don’t see any good coming from these two worlds colliding. Just as I wouldn’t jump at an opportunity to go into business with the guy with the veins popping out of his neck on the next exercise bike, I certainly don’t feel the need to put on my running shorts and leak pools of sweat at the feet of my coworkers. I don’t see any scenario where I should grunt, strain or sweat in front of my boss and fellow employees. I thought that everyone else felt the same way. Apparently I was wrong.
As I would later find out, there were two people to blame. One was a recent transplant to Michigan from Ohio, a beer drinking softball player. The other was a woman who is no longer in our office. I’m not sure what her motivation was. Maybe boredom. At any rate, they convinced my boss to sponsor a team. And, after a week of constant pestering, I told them that I’d join them ONCE. That’s all I committed to. And, when I saw the season’s schedule posted on the copy room wall, I knew exactly which game I’d be going to, the last game of the season, the one that pitted our office against the employees of the local all-nude strip club.
I live just a few blocks from the strip club we’d be playing. From what I understand it’s one of the nicer ones in the area. Unlike the others, I don’t think it’s been raided by the police since I’ve lived here. (Another place up the street was closed recently due to health concerns. Apparently they had exceded their quota on bodily fluids in public spaces.) And, it’s all nude. (They can apparently do that because they don’t serve alcohol.) I see people go in and out all the time, but I try to keep my distance, like the little spider who tries desperately to keep away from the whirlpool that’s pulling him toward the drain.
Sometimes, I walk my dog by there and turn to kind of peep through the frosted glass doors that look in on the store part of the club, but I rarely see anything other than a sad looking man renting dirty video tapes. A few times I’ve been there when a stripper was reporting to work, but that’s rare.
With a sign outside proclaiming the beginning of its annual “Melonfest” it’s hard not to think about what goes on inside. It’s like China’s Forbidden City, a mysterious and wonderful place that people like me can only dream about.
So, here it was, my opportunity. If I couldn’t go in and see what was going on for myself, I could at least see their softball team, and get a short, fleeting glimpse into the world of high-class “gentlemen’s entertainment.” It wasn’t much, but it was something to cling to for three months and all of us in the office clung to it like it was the last life raft leaving the Titanic.
I, of course, understood that they wouldn’t be playing in the nude. Furthermore, I knew that a majority of their players would probably be their male bouncer steroid monsters, wispy-mustached DJ’s and some of their more enthusiastic and less embarrassed regular customers. I also considered, however, the possibility that a few would be real exotic dancers. According to the rules of the league, they had to have at least four female players on their team. I reckoned that our odds were good. I also entertained the possibility that since it was 97 degrees outside on the day of the game, and since this was the last game of the season, that there might be some shedding of clothing and/or celebratory behavior of some kind.
The folks at work, men and women alike, spent quite a bit of time at the water cooler theorizing as to what might possibly happen. One theory suggested that they might in fact invite our entire team back for fruit smoothies and an endless series of lap dances. Another proposed that we might obtain a psychological edge if we were to wave dollar bills at them. I took the high road and suggested that this might be an opportunity for all of us to learn what strippers looked like without the benefit of black lights, smoke machines and strobes.
I told everyone that I’d be there. I even dug out the baseball glove from a box at my parents’ house when I was visiting them earlier in the summer, the glove that my father bought me in the mid-70′s when there was still a glimmer of hope that I might make him the least bit proud as a junior varsity athlete of some middling talent. (It’s weird, but I remember the evening he bought me that glove, not because of the glove or the fact that he got it for me, but because of the fact that after we bought it, he agree to take me to the theater to see Peter Falk and Alan Arkin in “The In-Laws.” I may be the only eight or nine year old boy in the entire world, that got more excited about Peter Falk than about baseball. I’ll come back to that one day. I promise.)
At any rate, I had the pristine glove ready. I got home from work that day, changed into jeans and tennis shoes and waited patiently for Linette, who told me that she wanted to go with me so that she could walk the dog around the park while I drank beer, played and oggled. I was waiting out on the porch when she drove up, ready to go. The game didn’t start for another hour or so, but I didn’t want to wait around. I wanted to get to the park so that I could practice swinging the bat for the first time in 20 years. She told me that she just had to go in and do a few things first. Hoping to avoid this, I’d already done the dishes and a load of laundry, but she wanted to put the clothes from the washer into the dryer and start another load before leaving. I was standing there by the door waiting when I heard her calling my name from the basement. I got a sinking feeling in my stomach as I made my way toward the staircase.
“What’s wrong?” I asked. “The dryer isn’t working, the button isn’t staying mashed down when I mash down on it.” “Have you tried taking some stuff out? Maybe it’s too heavy,” I suggested. I made my way down the stairs, leaving my glove on the kitchen table and hoping for the best.
When I stepped in front of the dryer, Linette abandoned me and headed back upstairs. I tried pushing the button down and it worked fine… as long as I stood there and held the button down. I thought about taping it down, but then it wouldn’t shut off, I thought. I imagined the house bursting into flames as I struck out on a number of different levels across town. I pulled the dryer forward as the first beads of sweat seeped up from beneath the leathery skin of my forehead and from the expanse of skin between my man breasts. Nothing seemed wrong behind the dryer. There was no scorched patch of metal and no sign that said, “This is what’s broken.” So, I took half the clothes out and tried it again. Same thing. I took everything out except for one gold toe sock. Same thing again. It ran as long as I held the button down. I tired pushing the button harder and even kind of putting some spin on it. Still nothing. I considered the feasibility of my holding it for forty-five minutes a day.
About this time, Linette came downstairs with one of our absolutely useless “How to Fix Everything” books. I turned to the section on dryers and was greeted by a schematic that looked like something from the damned Hubble telescope. There were entire pages on how to check the circuitry of the start button using some kind of voltmeter or some such shit. It was insane. If a middle-eastern guy had photocopies of these pages with him as he tried to board an airplane in the US, you’d never hear from him again.
I slammed the book closed and decided to get into the dryer and have a look a look around.
The dryer by now was good and hot from all of my testing. I climbed inside with my screwdriver and started taking screws out at random.
The last time something like this happened, I had to call the repair guy to come and fix it. It was our washing machine that time and it wouldn’t run either. The guy came out to our house, sauntered into our basement, lifted the lid, pulled out the plastic agitator, then yanked out a metal wire from some prehistoric kind of underwire bra that must have belonged to a past owner of our house and handed me a bill for seventy-five bucks. I don’t remember him laughing in my face and muttering “mama’s boy,” but he might as well have. I wasn’t going to see that happen again. I decided to crack this baby open and see what she was made of.
“Reveal to me your secrets, dryer.”
Of course, this entire time I was growing more desperate by the minute. In less than half an hour, our team would be taking the field against the all-nude synchronized strip softball team and here I was in my basement, dead bugs ground into the knees of my jeans from crawling around on the floor, a sweat stain that circled my neck and formed two over-sized arrows, one pointing down to my gut, the other pointing down to, and almost reaching, the crack of my ass. My mouth was full of cobwebs. Wiping handfuls of sweat from my furiously blinking eyes, I turned the screws with reckless abandon.
With the third screw fully removed, and about five others partially loosened, a sudden shift took place. It was more like a collapse really than a shift. Something behind the piece that I was unscrewing moaned, heaved suddenly, jolted to the right and then plummeted. There was a bright blue flash of light and with it my chances for any kind of insight into the world of local adult entertainment was forever squashed.
I sat there, head in the dryer, like Sylvia Plath in a stove, stunned and considering my quickly evaporating options.
Have you seen the film “Escape from Alcatraz”? Do you know the scene where Clint Eastwood and the guys are all supposed to bust out of their cells, but that one guy finds that his escape hole is blocked by a pipe? Do you remember the expression on his face as he sat there on his bunk thinking about his buddies heading over the wall with their raft made of raincoats, making their way to shores of San Francisco, the free love capital of the world? If you could have seen my head in the dryer, you would have seen that same expression. Images rapidly course through my head of my coworkers dancing around the bases with tall, statuesque women patting them on their butts, saying suggestive things to them and winking as I wiped the hot, salty tears from my face.
The following day I would have to skip lunch, walk to Sears, and pay nearly $400 dollars for a new dryer as my coworkers would no doubt be exchanging scandalous stories of hedonism.
The Flying Cell Phone
That night, as I lay in bed dreaming of what could have been, I was awakened by Linette. She threw an elbow into my ribcage and mentioned something about a cell phone being thrown into the side of our house. It must have registered it on some level because I remembered it the next morning, but it apparently didn’t seem to be too important to either one of us at the time. We both went back to sleep without another word.
The next morning I asked Linette, “Did you say something last night about a cell phone?” She took a second and then responded, “Yeah. Last night I heard a thud as something hit the side of the house, right by our window, and I heard people running.” How’d you know it was a cell phone?” “A second later, I heard a guy yell, ‘He threw the cell phone.’ I think someone must have snatched a purse up the street. He was probably tossing stuff out of it as he dug through it, running away from the people chasing him. A few minutes later I heard people come back into our to search for it.”
There wasn’t much I could say to that. I just went outside and started checking for dents in the aluminum siding.
I soon realized that there were too many dents in the aluminum siding to do much in the way of substantial Columbo-style work. It never occurred to me before to inspect the siding for dents. I’ve lived here two years now and I’ve never paid to much attention to the small scratches and dents. There are lots of them though. They weren’t all what I’d characterize as cell phone caliber, but there a number of marks. I begin to think whether any, or perhaps all, of them were caused by the high-velocity pitching of stolen objects. I then begin to wonder how much a metal detector costs. I don’t find a cell phone though, or much of anything else. This was a slow day for yard trash. No receipts from the XXX store up the street, no tiny rock cocaine ziplock baggies, not even a cigarette butt.
The yard was clean… but not for long.
“A Good Deed for Urine Hands”
OK, I was getting upset with myself and how difficult this first post was getting, so I decided to walk down the street with Linette and Foxie (our dog — more on her and her origins in a later post) and get a cup of coffee. We were turning the corner toward home just as I finished my coffee. Foxie had shit, the caffeine was starting to hit my system, it looked as though we were making it home right before a colossal thundershower. Things were good. I hadn’t gotten any burst of inspiration, or any divine guidance as to how to edit this huge, meandering first post down, but I was home and ready to give it one more shot….
“But what’s that in the street in front of my house? It looks like an overturned white bucket. It’s in the middle of the street. I wouldn’t want someone to run over it. They might get hurt. Even worse, they may get a flat and come to me for assistance. I’d better pick it up.”
OK, I’ve got the thing in my hand now and I’m looking at it… It’s not a bucket. It’s got no bottom. It’s a round piece of plastic about seven or eight inches tall and with a diameter of about the same. Shit! I recognize what it is suddenly. The dark yellow streaks running up and down the inside of the white plastic surface give it away. I know exactly what it is. I remember it from the trip we just took to California to visit Linette’s 100 year old grandmother. It’s the liner for an elevated toilet seat commonly used by the elderly. The realization that my hand is touching urine that it’s not my own, or even that of a friend or loved one, is overwhelming. The puzzle as to why this was sitting in the street in front of my house moves with lightening speed to the distant background. All I can think now is, “Urine must be removed from hands. Old, caked-up urine is filling in the grooves of my finger prints like wood putty filling a nail hole. It’s integrating itself with my body’s chemistry. At this moment I am part me and part this person’s urine. We are one.” I yell for Linette to open the door, throw the urine/shit funnel into my trashcan and make my way swiftly into the house, cradling my urine hand like it was an injured baby. Once inside, I thrust my right hand beneath boiling water. My bathroom within seconds becomes a set from CSI. There are cotton balls, tweezers, rubbing alcohol, a magnifying lens. I dry heave and begin the lengthy process of becoming clean, reclaiming my fingerprints from urine.
That’s it for now. I need to rest. In the future I promise to make these things much shorter and to wear plastic gloves when leaving my home.
Another day in Ypsilanti, Michigan.