The Inner Swine

How I Conquered the Country, Grew Fat on the Blood of my Subjects, Tired of Absolute Power, Abdicated the Throne, and Returned to my Ancestral Home

The Nova I drove. Gumby was not present.

The Nova I drove. Gumby was not present.

This essay was written in 1994 and appeared in Volume 1, Issue 1 of The Inner Swine.

(Or, South Dakota and Back in a Few Short Days)

The trip cross-country is an icon of the American Experience, a dream which has lost none of its attraction with the aging of culture. The Unites States’ Interstate Highway system never fails to fascinate, the concept of going anywhere never fails to boggle the mind. You could fit Europe inside the U.S., and we can drive from one end to another, any time we want. I know it made me giddy. I suppose I had the same romantic vision most people have, just me and Jack Kerouac motoring down empty roads bathed in pure sunshine, eating local food and making new friends, laying the local girls and somehow burning my name into this cold land of ours. I guess I figured it would be like the end of that movie How I Got Into College, where the hero’s friend gets picked up by a group of gameshow hostesses driving around the country in a pink convertible with a U-haul attached full of unclaimed prizes. At some point, I thought, MTV would be secretly filming me for use in one of their videos.

And if not that, then I would have the sort of intense experience that bring about books, that bring about movie rights for the complex, moving tale of a young man finding himself in the heartland of America. I could entitle it Wild Country or Dark Roads or something like that and be hailed as the brooding new artist of the shadows, writing biting commentary about our fellow Americans while still managing an epiphany of wisdom, of sorts. I would come back a changed man, I thought: how could I not?

I’ll tell you how. Because there are more Bob’s Big Boys out there than local diners, because no one living out there gives a shit that you’re driving cross-country and finding yourself, because the cops are all pricks when your license plates aren’t local, because gas is too fucking expensive and the local girls don’t fuck the drifters prowling through like thinned wolves looking for a fire to lay down next to. Because the closest things to friends I made were two drunk guys named Todd and Marty who owned a Chevy Malibu with a rusted tailpipe and a trunk full of beer, because the closest thing to an epiphany of wisdom I managed was the realization that there is absolutely no reason to ever, ever enter Nebraska.

So, I suppose in a way I learned a great deal by attempting to drive cross country, since I now know better than to ever want to do it again.



With Age, Wisdom: Advertising No Longer Mesmerizes Me

This blog post is as lousy as it is brilliant.

This blog post is as lousy as it is brilliant.

This originally appeared in The Inner Swine, Volume 16, Issue 1/2, Summer 2010.

THERE is an infamous incident: About 20 years ago, give or take, I was sitting in a living room with TIS Staff Artist Jeof Vita watching television. This despite Jeof’s dangerous and horrifying levels of unacceptable odor, which shall be the subject of another article altogether someday when the restraining orders expire.


This is not the story of Unacceptable Odors. This is the story of our Taco Bell experience.

I’d never been to Taco Bell before, which is strange. By that time of my life (carefree, single, and with a liver that wasn’t the size of a football) I’d been to most of your standard fast-food establishments, this being before I learned to love and respect myself. I haven’t actually had a meal at a fast food restaurant in probably a decade now, I don’t think; maybe I’m forgetting something, but at any rate it’s certainly not a common occurrence. Back then, though, I loved that shit. I also loved Olympia beer and any kind of hard liquor found lying around, so that tells you all you need to know about my level of taste and life experience, bubba.

Anyways, we were watching TV, just farting away an evening, when an ad for Taco Bell came on. This might have been back during the ¡Yo quiero Taco Bell! days with that annoying dog, but who the fuck knows—I can barely remember the incident at all. The amazing thing about this is that it’s the last time, I think, that a commercial actually took control of my brain like a wasp riding a roach and made me do exactly what it wanted, which in that case was to leap up with Jeof Vita, get in the car, drive to the nearest Taco Bell, and order some food.

Jeof and I were in perfect harmony: We stood up and went. No discussion, no doubt. The food looked delicious, we were suddenly ravenous, and so we went to Taco Bell. It was terrible, and I’ve never been back, or even mildly desired to. I mean, it might have been one of the worst meals of my life, although my brain has self-defensively deleted the actual sensory input from the meal, saving me from night sweats and bad dreams.

This would never happen today. I’m old and withered, yes, and if I met 1990 Jeff he would be able to defeat me in any sort of Games of Strength or Endurance. But I’m smarter than 1990 Jeff. If nothing else, I now pretty much completely ignore advertising, knowing the central truth of it: That even when it is telling the truth, it is lying to you, somehow. It’s like quantum physics: The commercial can be 100% facts, and yet still equal a lie.

The main thing to always remember about commercials is that they are trying to convince you that you need something you obviously do not need. If you needed it, they would not need to convince you about it; no one has to convince you to eat, after all. They merely try to convince you what to eat, but the necessity of the act is never in question, right? The necessity of, say, drinking Bud Lite, on the other hand, is pretty much given: there is none. Thus, advertising!

Once you realize this, you gain a level of simple perspective. Nothing that is advertised is necessary, because if it was necessary it wouldn’t need to be advertised. Sure, in general the things advertised can be absolutely required—food, again, is a good example. You must have food. But you already know that. You know what food is, where you can get some, which foods you like especially. Yes, advertising can lead you to foods you’ve never tried before but that isn’t advertising’s goal. They don’t want you to be aware of other choices, they want to convince you that you need other choices.

While I don’t doubt that advertising bamboozles me in ways I can’t even imagine every day, shaping my behaviors and desires, I do think I’ve grown more resistant and aware of it. I distrust advertising to begin with, and generally go in to every commercial break assuming I’m going to be lied to, fucked with, and manipulated. This is partly why advertisers more and more target kids—kids are dummies with money, these days. Which is not to say anything specific about the current generation of kids—I was a dummy when I was a kid, too. I didn’t have any money, but times change and kids are now a huge force in discretionary spending in this country, so advertisers like them. See, I’ve got life experience and bills to pay, so I’m a harder sell. Taco Bell is a perfect example: Due to decades of life experience I now know that Taco Bell’s food is like eating plastic that has been flavored with Fail, and I have better choices to spend my money on. Taco Bell doesn’t want to waste time on me.

The most shameful development in advertising over the last few years is, of course, pharmaceutical advertising. The people who come up with these commercials should be lined up and shot in the ass. These commercials all seek to convince us that every little tweak and creak can be best treated with a pill, and strongly advise us to pressure our doctors to prescribe them, with the unspoken admonition, I think, that any doctor who refuses to do so is obviously trying to destroy your life.


Abilify: That’s raw genius, there. If our first pill doesn’t work, you don’t need to reassess your treatment, you need our second pill. That’s like saying, if your first car doesn’t run, you need our second car to pull it along. Convincing people to do shit like this is why advertising is evil, and pharma advertising is like selling your soul to the Robot Devil.

So, my Timeline of Advertising Horror goes like this:


Age 7: See an ad in a paper for plastic milkshake cups I inexplicably think come with milkshake in them. Pester Mom to buy these cups, which she does. 6-8 weeks go buy as I wait impatiently for my milkshakes. Cups arrive, no milkshakes. I almost commit suicide.

Age 12: Advertisements for the Atari 2600 almost make me murder a man in Journal Square in hopes that he has enough cash in his wallet so I may purchase one. Get a Sears knockoff for Christmas and spend 6 months mindlessly playing Pac Man and Pitfall.

Age 19: The aforementioned Taco Bell incident. Faith in world shattered, stomach never quite the same.

Today: You can’t sell me water when my house is on fire. I’ve gone around the other end of crazy: Frightened of being fooled, I just don’t believe anything and buy nothing but whiskey and processed deli meats. Sure, I’m living like an animal, but at least corporate America isn’t getting much of my money.

The lesson here is that you can only be fooled so many times before you just walk away and don’t look back. I will always have the searing memory of what that Taco Bell meal did to my internal organs to remind me that advertising is a strange game where the only way to win is not to play.


Hesitate To Die Look Around Around The Second Drummer’s Drowned His Telephone Is Found

This originally appeared in The Inner Swine Volume 19, Issue 1/2, Summer 2013.

I Used to Have Hella Long Hair

My god, man, have some self-respect.

My god, man, have some self-respect.

WHEN I was a wee lad in Jersey City, my parents took my brother and I to an Italian named Barberlo (not his actual name, though it was equally amazing) to get our hair cut. It was an old-school barbershop and Barberlo was a diminutive man who spoke in a delightfully cartoonish Italian accent and dressed in elaborate suits just to walk to his shop, where he promptly put on a white surgical type outfit for the touching of filthy, lice-ridden heads like ours.

Barberlo had a habit of making groin-hand contact with me when he cut my hair. I was never sure if this was on purpose or not, but it freaked me out. I never told anyone, because it was so subtle as to be in my imagination, and I saw no reason to hurl about accusations when the whole thing didn’t exactly damage me, just made me feel slightly skeeved out. Worse than the occasional groin contact was the fact that Barberlo was an awful barber. Truly awful. I emerged from each session with him looking like someone had attacked me recently, and been unkind.

In High School I developed a hairstyle that I now dub The Moron in a Hurry. It was sort of a Justin Bieber-esque bowl kind of thing, and was truly awful. This wasn’t Barberlo’s fault, really; I was the only giving out orders that he cut the sides and back but leave the top longer. This should have told me that I was not mature enough to manage my own hair (Hell, I don’t believe I’m mature enough now) but I was too young to learn anything. When I went off to college I prepared by resolving to not get my hair cut any more. So I sailed into Freshman year with a shock of a mullet. It was a grand, unruly mullet, just a mess of hair that I often tied back out of my face with a rubber band.

And I just let it grow. There was no effort at shaping, or styling. No cutting. No conditioner, either, so it wasn’t long before my haircut was a frizzy mess of straw on my head. I had these huge plastic glasses and a tendency to wear T-shirts with cartoon characters on them. In other words, it was like someone was paying me to not get laid.



Bring Me Your Finest Single Malts and Cheeses

This essay originally appeared in The Inner Swine Volume 12, Issue 1, 2006.

Ice is for suckers.

Ice is for suckers.

The Inner Swine Goes to Whiskyfest 2005

OPERATION: WHISKYFEST. Generally speaking, I’m not one for overly formalizing everything; there are people in this world who just don’t feel right unless every single activity has been choreographed and arranged according to in-depth bylaws. These are people to whom ‘expertise’ is darling, who love to be able to explain why something is better than some other thing, in great detail. Many of these people are baseball fans, who will bore you to death with long-winded diatribes about the infield fly rule or how to throw a breaking ball. Many others are wine enthusiasts for whom simply enjoying a glass of wine is not good enough, you must be able to feign an appreciation of 655 subtle characteristics, many of which were made up a century ago and still amuse the French to this day.

Despite my appreciation for a good breaking ball, I am not one of those people. I like wine, but my palate does not advance much past knowing what I like, which tends to be just about every single bottle of wine I’ve ever imbibed, with the sole exception of a bottle given to me by TIS Staff Artist Jeof Vita a few years ago, a nondescript green bottle with a plain label that read, in toto, CHEAP WHITE WINE. That wine was. . .not good, and I wish someone had told me it was a joke before I drank the entire bottle and spent a week shivering. I like baseball, too, but I grow weary of endless discussion of minutiae—I just like to have the games on about a hundred times a year and get out to a few games. I am, in other words, a pretty simple person. I like what I like, and I distrust unnecessary complexity.

Despite this lack of sophistication, I’ve come to love whisky in general and Scotch in specific. It’s amazing how you can be a kid and love cheap beer and peppermint schnapps and wonder why anyone pays more than a dollar and change for their liquor, and just two decades later you’re willingly shelling out lots of money for specific types of booze because you actually believe they taste better: Maturity is obviously just a code word for crazy. But I digress; although I’ve always had a taste for bourbon, I’d never really investigated Scotch or any other type of whisky. Partly it’s the cost—you can’t just shell out for bottles of booze on the off chance you’ll like it—and partly it’s just my general lack of focus and energy. I’m a lazy, lazy man and discovering new booze usually falls under the heading of more shit I gotta do. Eventually, however, good sense prevailed and over the past few years I’ve gotten into Scotch and appreciate its subtleties. This translates to: Jeff has been drinking an awful lot of Scotch.

So when my wife, The Duchess, presented me with a ticket to Whiskeyfest for my birthday and informed me that founding member of TISIC Jeof Vita was also planning to attend, I was immediately excited. It’s not often you are handed a ticket to drink—by your wife, no less—and I immediately went into training and plotting, determined to make the most of my sudden opportunity.



Baby Levon Rocks On at The DOT

But it really did happen.

But it really did happen.

Friendos, this originally appeared in The Inner Swine Volume 4, Issue 1, March 1998. That’s a long time ago. This is an absolutely true tale of what I experienced after my car was towed in New York back in The Day.

The fucking New York City Police towed my car the day after Christmas and I travelled to 38th street and 12th avenue to pay $150.00 to get it back. I wasn’t happy to be paying $150.00, but I wasn’t in full-postal mode because it was just after Christmas and I was resigned to the perpetual screwing the universe was handing out to me on a daily basis anyway. Once you get resigned to the screwing, as any prison bitch will tell you, it really stops bothering you. That’s pretty much the definition of resigned anyway.

So I wandered into the tiny, unwindowed, bunker-like DOT office on December 26th and immediately read and comprehended a big 3X6 poster on the opposite wall which explained the proper way to collect your car. It read:







New Inner Swine

cov203-4sizSo, it’s been six months, and that means it’s time for a new issue of that thing you don’t read, my zine The Inner Swine. Volume 20, Issue 3/4 (Winter 2014) is out; I pushed it to Amazon and B&N, and I also posted the whole issue to Ello because why the fuck not. I mean, I literally have no idea what to do with Ello – no idea – so I figured why not do something stupid like post 65,000 words to it in poorly formatted HTML? Since I also have no idea what to do with my zombie-zine since I killed the print version.

So I did. Go read it for free, you filthy animals. It contains an entire unpublished novel of mine, BTW.

For those of you who prefer a bit more sanity, you can pay a dollar for the slightly-better formatting of the


and the


And as is traditional, I now take a moment to reflect on the insanity that was making approximately 1,500 copies of this zine on the office photocopier back in the day.


America’s Next Idiot Model: I Spent a Day Wearing Scrubs

Yes, I was beaten several times for being too pretty.

Yes, I was beaten several times for being too pretty.

This originally appeared in The Inner Swine Volume 19, Issue 3/4.

So, 1:30PM on a Sunday and I’m a plastic surgeon’s office in Manhattan, wearing hospital scrubs and eating a free lunch. I’ve been here since 9AM, along with approximately six thousand other people: A photographer and his assistants, a wardrobe person, a producer, three professional models and many extras, of which I am one.

How I wound up here is unimportant. Suffice to say I didn’t seek out a one-day career as a model, it was thrust upon me. By The Duchess. Need I say more? Probably, but I won’t.

Hurry Up: Wait

I will say this: Modeling, even the half-assed form of it I engaged in wherein I was basically a warm body needed for background shots, a piece of human staging and decoration, is fucking hard work. Obviously not “hard work” in the sense of, say, working in a mine or sewing shoes for Nike in some unventilated Chinese factory, but hard enough for a pudgy boy like myself, used to frequent marinating in liquor and lots of nap time.

First of all: The waiting. You have to show up on time, natch, but then there is a lot of sitting around while they get their shit together or work with other people. So I sat there all morning writing. Not a bad deal, if you’re getting paid – sit around and work on a novel, go home with a check.

But if anyone out there has ever had to put in some serious waiting, you know it’s actually hard work. Reality distorts around you. You begin eating everything in sight. You watch the battery drain on your laptop in despair. After after being somewhat productive for a few hours, you find you just can’t work any more and goddamn you just want the photographer to call your name and ask you to do something. Anything. This is how people are lured into pornography. They hire you to ?model’ and make you sit around for hours and hours until you snap and when they say “Hey, wouldn’t it be fun if you took off your top?” you think God yes ANYTHING to relieve the boredom and six weeks later you’re starring with Lindsay Lohan in The Canyons 2: Electric Boogaloo and weeping in public toilets.

But I digress.



Cocksucker Blues: Profanity When Reading in Public

This initially appeared in The Inner Swine Volume 16, Issue 1/2 Summer 2010.

The glamorous life of a writer.

The glamorous life of a writer.

FRIENDS, I occasionally read from my fiction in public, which is surprising, since I am frequently drunk, pantsless, and belligerent. Since I am not a BIG STAR in the literary world, I almost never get to read all by myself, which is good because when I’m sharing a stage I can imagine that the audience hates the other readers and not, as would be my natural assumption otherwise, me.

Sharing the bill with other readers does however present me with another problem: Invariably, I am teamed up with writers who read beautiful, lyrical pieces of prose involving elves or Grey Aliens who contemplate the universe and seek enlightenment, and then I stand up and read a piece that is is 84% the words fuck and cocksucker.


There is, simply, a lot of cursing in the Avery Cates books. Well, in all my fiction, actually, because, frankly, people curse in real life. I’ve been peppering my speech with cuss words since I was about nine years old, and I was a late bloomer in my neighborhood. I worry about it when I read in public, though; not because my audiences are filled with blue-haired old ladies who will die from shock—the people who actually attend any reading I do are quite prepared for a little cursing—but because I am the blue-haired lady in this scenario. Somehow I become all guilt-ridden and Catholic when I find myself having to shout cocksucker at the top of my voice in a room filled with strangers.

There are three approaches to this situation:


One, I can bowdlerize my own writing and replace every curse word with its prime-time equivalent, frick for fuck and all that jazz. This has the unfortunate side effect of making me resemble the berries and cream lad.


Two, I can read the text as is but keep the volume low so I don’t feel like a nun is going to time travel from my past, rap my knuckles, and steal my pants.


Finally, I can read the text as is but emphasize every curse word with something that can only be described as gusto, delighting in the sudden freedom of being able to shout curses at a crowd and not be arrested. Generally I choose the latter as it promises the least humiliation, and everyone seems to enjoy themselves.


This hangup only exists when I’m reading out loud to people; when I’m writing I have no problem dropping language so foul it would make your nose hairs burn. In my everyday life I generally go around cloaked in what I have dubbed White Boy Politeness, which is a way of behaving towards people that generally makes folks want to rub your head and call you a good lad, even thirteen-year-old kids who would otherwise be knifing you for meth money.

curses2This sometimes causes a minor bout of mental dissonance when people meet me for the first time just prior to a reading. I am all, shucks, nice to meet you, did you know I was an Eagle Scout? And then I am all fuck you, cocksucker.

curses3Of course, this is nothing compared to my other public reading foible, which is spontaneous and inexplicable pantslessness. So if all you ever experience during one of my readings is some rough language, consider yourself: lucky.


American Wedding Confidential: Will The Real Best Man Please Stand Up?

Out Now. BUY IT.

Out Now. BUY IT.

Celebrating the publication of my darkly humorous novella The Ruiner (out now from Damnation Books at Amazon and B&N), I thought I’d repost this essay I once wrote for the zine.

In which I learn the explosive force of love.

About year ago this Thursday my old friend Emil got married and asked me to be his best man. Emil’s a good friend of The Inner Swine Inner Circle (TISIC) in general, and there was some resentment, jealousy, and harsh words concerning my elevation to Best Man status. There were also isolated incidents of violence. Eventually, Emil managed to cool tempers and remind the rest of TISIC that they were, above all else, contractually obligated to me in perpetuity. After that impassioned speech the members of TISIC retreated to their various abodes to scan the fine print of their contracts, only to return in much more manageable moods.

The Best Man has a lot of duties in the modern wedding. Whereas in the good old days he was merely a responsible member of the groom’s clan who vouched for the groom’s sanity, financial solvency, and lack of venereal diseases, these days the Best Man has lots to do: organize a bachelor party (I’m told it was a humdinger; personally I don’t remember much after that fifth body shot off of Lola the Stripper’s washboard stomach), deliver the viciously hungover groom to the actual wedding the next day (Emil still had his Emergency Room ID bracelet on), manage not to vomit during the ceremony, and then, finally, and most importantly, make a speech at the reception.

The Best Man’s Speech is supposed to accomplish a few minor but cherished conventions: it’s supposed to compliment the groom, his choice of bride, and form a verbal bridge between the carefree days of the groom’s prior friendships and the more complex but equally rewarding years of mature friendship to come. In other words, the Best Man’s job is to reassure the groom’s buddies that they will indeed see him from time to time despite the nag he’s chaining himself to, and to reassure the groom that his buddies will always be there to say mean things about his wife in private if he needs them to.

I worked very hard on my speech in the ambulance, riding with Emil to the ER after the bachelor party had taken a dramatic turn. The transcript which follows is taken from the wedding video, and more accurately reflects what was actually said than the scrawled speech written on cocktail napkins in the ambulance. I think I accomplished the goals of the Best Man’s Speech admirably:

“Ladies and Gentlemen, friends and family, I’ve known Emil for sixteen years. When we met back in prison we didn’t like each other very much; he always wanted to pitch and I never let him. Being cellmates gave us time to get to know each other and by the time our parole hearing came up I was proud to stand next to him, hold his hand, and testify that we had each found Jesus and would dedicate our lives to upholding the laws of the land if we were released.

“In short, I’ve known Emil long and well. And in many ways, most of which I don’t wish to discuss here.
Over the years Emil and I have gone through a great many things and we’ve always supported each other: when my dog Skippy died, Emil was there to help me through it, tenderly digging a grave for poor Skippy and getting me drunk later that night before we traced the plate number of the car that hit Skippy and set it on fire, in revenge.

“When I became addicted to Internet Porn a few years ago, alienating my friends and family, losing my job, ending up at one point getting busted for public lewdness in The @ Café in New York City, Emil was the one who came to my apartment one July evening, knocked me cold and kidnapped me. Emil kept me in a cold, dark basement for six months, deprogramming me. To this day whenever I see a computer keyboard I shake and vomit helplessly. While this has caused me difficulty and unpopularity at work, it saved me: if not for Emil and the vicious torture he put me through in that basement, I would be in some asylum somewhere, trying to log onto from a pay phone.

“Emil has always been there for me, and I am pleased to be here for him today, the day he marries Petra.

“In the four and a half days I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Petra, I’ve realized that Emil’s life was but an empty and meaningless melange of sex, drugs, and progressive jazz music. In less than a week, she has become not only a dear friend of mine, but a dear friend of all the members of The Inner Swine Inner Circle, The Inner Swine being the magazine I publish which I really think you all ought to read and purchase subscriptions, because you see that large black guy in the back standing with several dozen men in fatigues? That’s Ken [REDACTED] and he’s going to be waiting for you after the reception, and all I can say is that he’s much nicer to people who have subscriptions than to anyone else, and I can also say that I have less and less influence over him every day.

“What? All right, all right, Emil, Jesus, calm the fuck down, okay?

“Anyway, as I was saying, Petra has not only redeemed Emil from his obvious descent into damnation and syphilitic degeneration, but she has entered and improved the lives of all of us. She’s a rare and delicate flower of womanhood, she’s a compassionate and beautiful creature who’s….energy and….emotion….and….and….ladies and gentlemen, I love her. Petra, I love you.

“I cannot stand here and pretend that everything is okay, while I am dying inside! Petra, I’ve been dying inside all these past few days! Ever since Tuesday night I’ve been tortured by my love for you, while you marry this troll, this monster, this syphilitic mistake masquerading as a man! Oh, the stories I could tell you! Emil, the whoremonger! Emil the petty thief! The man he killed in Mexico! The drugs he dealt to little kids while on work release! The Kiddie Porn! Oh, Petra, you’re making a mistake!

“Ladies and gentlemen, keep that madman away from me! Excuse me….pardon me….Ken! Help! Ladies and gentlemen, I beseech you! Petra! Petra!”

(At this point the audio becomes garbled as many voices intrude and the action on-screen gets a little hectic. Occasionally you can here me shouting “Not the face!” but I don’t think technically that’s part of the speech. At this point I felt the explosive power of love, and it certainly beat the shit out of me)

I often wonder what became of Emil and Petra. I suspect he still communicates with other members of TISIC, but none of the bastards will admit it, and the court order prevents me from finding out for myself. If anyone has heard of Emil and Petra’s whereabouts, please contact me. There’s money in it for you.


Mrs. Muse: My Wife Thinks She is a Rich Vein of Material

This article originally appeared in The Inner Swine Volume 15, Issue 3/4, Winter 2009.

My Main Reference Material

My Main Reference Material

“You should write about this.”

I hear this phrase pretty often, usually when I am complaining about something The Duchess is making me do, like watching terrible reality television or following her from store to store in an endless shopping mall. My hell, I am convinced, will be an infinite shopping mall filled with women’s clothing stores. I used to think my hell would involve dried up beer taps and indoor league football, but now I am older and wiser and the ways of the universe are clearer to me.

At first, early in our relationship, she only used The Line when she truly believed that what she was putting me through was Inner Swine material—like most people, she thought at first that being mentioned in my zine would be kind of cool. Everyone gets quickly disabused of that notion, trust me, and it wasn’t long before she demanded her name be obscured in all issues so no one might Google her and discover her secret shame: That she is married to: Me.

Nowadays, The Line has a new function for The Duchess: She uses it as a way to justify any activity, no matter how torturous I find it. No matter how horrified I am at the turn my life has taken, I am assured that it’s all right because I can write an article about it.

The Marathon Man

Now, my wife is a fascinating, intelligent, feisty girl who is endlessly entertaining, and if I did not live in abject fear of being punished by her (she is stronger, faster, and in better shape than I ever will be; she runs marathons and works out and eats healthy—I drink gallons of booze and the last time my heart rate went up I was watching a baseball game and almost had a stroke) her antics and adventures would make admirable material for this zine.

This is a compliment. The more interesting you are, the more likely you will eventually be in this zine, albeit sometimes obscured.

Since this zine is primarily about me, I leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine what this says about my healthy and possibly delusional self-image.

However, this is getting out of hand when she starts justifying just about any mistreatment of her husband with the assurance that someday I will be able to use it as material for this zine. I make shit up for this zine; I don’t need material. I can walk to the grocery store, buy a loaf of bread and walk home, and make that entire experience into an article for this zine. Actually, I don’t even have to leave the house; I can just sit on the couch and stare at a wall and six months later there’s an article in this zine called Staring at the Wall: I Am Old and Dulled by Liquor which will be just six pages of me insulting myself in clever ways. See how this works? No actual experiences needed. It’s like Sir Laurence Olivier said to Dustin Hoffman on the set of The Marathon Man when Hoffman showed up to film a torture scene looking like hell because he’d stayed up 48 hours straight in order to be suitably exhausted for the scene: “My dear boy, have you tried acting?”


1. Bad Television. I’ve complained before about the quality of the television programming The Duchess enjoys. I don’t mind sharing a little TV time now and then, and the fact that she favors shows I don’t much care for is just the way things are—she doesn’t like most of my choices, so it’s fair. But there are some shows that are just so terrible, so awesome in their terribleness, that I try to wriggle out of my husbandly duties to watch them.
And then she hits me with The Line, suggesting that I should watch Two and a Half Men and then write about how horrible it is. And it is. Horrible. It is.

2. Shopping. I’ve already defined my new vision of hell for you. Believe me, I get to live it every now and then, and my wife actually apologizes to me whenever she lures me into a store these days. Then, after apologizing, she suggests that my many sufferings at her hands in the retail world would be perfect fodder for an Inner Swine article. Do you see what I’m up against? I’ve taken to carrying a flask with me everywhere just in case it turns out we’re not going to the local Beerfest as promised, but instead to a sample sale.

3. Travel. My childish aversion to exploring the world is famed, and I’m sure some folks feel badly for The Duchess in that she has to beg and plead to get me to leave the comfort of my own house. Whenever I find myself in some godforsaken part of the world, going rapidly broke and—adding insult to injury—usually being led into some sort of foreign mall in order to purchase shoes, The Line is invariably tossed out as an impromptu justification for my treatment.

You can see, I’m sure, why it is that I drink. When any kind of horrifying shit can be justified as comedy material, you’re doomed.

Of course, The Duchess only wields this power in order to educate and improve me—and, actually, since I am now using all of these experiences to create content for this zine, I suppose, in the end, she’d been right all along.