The Poet Laureate of Hoboken

By | March 19, 2014 | 0 Comments

Here’s something I stumbled across, written probably more than ten years ago. AND STILL HILARIOUS.

Dear People of Hoboken,

jeffsezAs one of Hoboken’s literati, I have been scanning the pages of the local papers for my name on what can only be described as an obsessive basis ever since an interview with me appeared in the local newspaper, the “Current” last March. Unfortunately, there have been no other mentions of me since then. This distresses me. Although I am sure the local Hoboken papers are not causing me this distress on purpose, it remains a fact that the Hoboken free press teased me with a week of interest in my existence and then, just when I thought they were serious, dropped me like a hot potato for the next “flavor of the week“. I think you people owe me something, especially when you consider how much money I spend in the local bars, which is a lot, unless I can convince someone else to buy me drinks. Which isn’t easy when your face isn’t on the front page of the local newspapers, dig? So we come back to the central point: how can the Good People of Hoboken help a guy out and get him some free cocktails?

I have also noted, in a not-totally-unrelated-although-it-might-seem-so-at-first matter, that Hoboken does not seem to have a Poet Laureate. This really stuns me, as most class-act municipalities and nations have one. I had to go look up who the Poet Laureate of the United States is, and it’s Billy Collins, which is startling because, when you think about it, everyone’s first reaction to that is probably “Who in the world is Billy Collins?” No relation to Phil Collins, Billy, according to the Library of Congress’ web site, “…is Distinguished Professor of English at Lehman College, City University of New York, where he has taught for the past 30 years. He is also a writer-in-residence at Sarah Lawrence College and served as a Literary Lion of the New York Public Library.” Which basically translates to: A man who has not left a college campus in almost his entire life, and probably has forgotten what other human beings look like. Likely Mr. Collins peers out from his darkened lair with his fishbelly pale eyes stinging from the direct sunlight, and then he composes haunting poetry about how he hates all the Normals who mock his Phantom of the College existence, which he then mails off to the President. Who doesn’t read them, because our President can’t read.

Which brings me back to my point: I would like to be named Poet Laureate of Hoboken. There are many reasons for this. One, I would be a lot more charismatic and interesting to talk to (especially over a few gratis rounds of Killian’s Irish Red at, say, Stinky Sullivans, on you) than a freakish shadow-monster like Billy Collins. Two, I live in Hoboken and am the first person, apparently, to think of the idea. Three, I have crippling bar debts that threaten to force me into sobriety, and I could really use some sort of stipend from the government. Four, I think it would be very cool if I could introduce myself at parties by whipping out a striking business card that read, simply, JEFF SOMERS, POET LAUREATE OF HOBOKEN. Finally, I have actually written poetry, and while none of it specifically mentions Hoboken, quite a few deal with the horrors of hangovers, and that could arguably be symbolic of Hoboken. Here’s a sample Haiku:

“A DTs morning,

rats in red smoking jackets!

why do you mock me?”

I would appreciate the Good People of Hoboken‘s help in bringing the “Somers for Poet Laureate” movement to the attention of our mayor, whoever that is, and the other illuminati who run this city. It’s the least you can do after I helped you sell all those papers back in March 2001 without so much as a thank you.

Categories: Bullshit

MWA @ KGB

By | March 19, 2014 | 0 Comments
BUY ME

BUY ME

So, last night I read at the KGB Bar in NYC as part of the MWA Reading Series. Organized and hosted by the great Richie Narvaez, this was a blast. All readings should be held in bars because this allows me to get drunk in a socially acceptable way as opposed to my typical socially unacceptable ways. It’s better for all involved, believe me.

Here are some awful, terrible photos of the event I took. I mean, awful. I obviously have no idea how to use modern technology and may be some sort of time traveler from the 19th Century pretending to be a modern man in service of some evil witchcraft, based on the these photos. I mean, have I ever even seen a camera before? Doubtful.

Here’s the Rogue’s Gallery:

Scott Adlerberg kicked us off with a work in progress, which takes balls – but he rocked it.

Scott Adlerberg

My wife was super excited to see Kimberly McCreight read:

Kimberly McCreight

Next up, Anthony Rainone:

Anthony Rainone

There was a short break during which I attempted to drink five shots of whiskey and wound up, as usual, pantsless in the bathroom. The Duchess and my Fearless Agent had to pull me together, dumps a bucket of cold water on me, and walk me back to the bar in time to see the great Alex Segura read:

Alex Segura

Then it was my turn. I read a chapter from CHUM. I took a photo of the crowd at KGB so I would remember where I was last night:

crowd

And, last but certainly not least, Albert Tucher read from one of his Diana Andrews stories:

Albert Tucher

A good time. Thanks to everyone who came out!

Formality and Haircuts

By | March 13, 2014 | 2 Comments
TWO BITS ... Get it?

TWO BITS … Get it?

So, today I had a religious experience: I got my hair cut without once speaking to the barber aside from my initial instructions and the final, murmured approval. In the words of Ice Cube, today was a good day. I went in with enough hair to stuff a pillow (out of laziness; over the summer between High School and Freshman Year of college I let my hair grow and then didn’t get it cut until the next year, and all I can say about having hair that long is never again) and came out looking like Don Draper, if you squint. And ignore the sallow jaundice of a boozehound and the physical fitness of Bluto from Popeye fame. Or Bluto from Animal House, either works.

Sitting there in blessed silence, I was able to contemplate the barber experience and the unnecessary formality forced on us. When I was a kid, there was one thing you did at the barber’s – got your damn hair cut. Later it dawned on me that you could also get a shave, which involved hot lather and a straight razor, so no thank you, psychopath. Now I know there are a lot of intricate things that go on at the barber shop. Shampooing. Neck scrapes. All sorts of fancy hair styling. And the slightly creepy hot towel and shoulder massage they always give you – again, no thank you, psychopath.

Of course, I’ve always been afraid of and intimidated by formality. When The Duchess and I first started dating she insisted we eat at real, actual restaurants. Places that had wine lists. I almost shit my pants, and entered the first few terrified that I would do something to mark me as a Jersey City Rube and be laughed out of the place. This was reinforced on our honeymoon when we entered a fancy restaurant and I was wearing shorts – this was Hawaii, people – and the hostess nearly had a stroke. After a hushed consultation with others she allowed us to be seated, but insisted I drape a napkin decorously over my hideous bare legs.

That didn’t help me get comfortable with formality.

Slowly, I’ve learned to not care so much. Luckily we live in informal times, and luckily most places are much more concerned with your ability to pay the bill after four bottles of wine and six generous whiskies. This is good, because I get itchy in formal wear. Suits never feel right on me, even when tailored. I still don’t know how to properly tie a necktie – no, seriously, I just make up a knot. Who has time for these things? I once started to read an essay on how to choose a suit and almost made it through the second paragraph, which discussed something about the width of the lapel in relation to … oh my god, who cares, you psychopath?!?

I’m a person who is exhausted at the end of every episode of Downton Abbey because of the formal clothing rules those people followed. Sweet Jebus.

So, the barber. I could get all sorts of grooming tasks done there and emerge the best version of myself – well, the best version of myself at this dilapidated age, that is. But who has time for shit like that? Not to mention the opportunity for conversation that sort of lingering would open up. If I never have another conversation with a barber about how I work from home and can get my hair cut any time I want, it will be fine by me.

FERAL 1970s CHILDREN BURN JERSEY CITY TO THE GROUND

By | March 6, 2014 | 0 Comments

This essay originally appeared in The Inner Swine Volume 17, Issue 1/2, Summer 2011.

Growing Up Somewhat Unsupervised
by Jeff Somers

IN 2008, newspaper columnist Lenore Skenazy wrote a column about letting her nine-year old son take the New York City Subway alone, without an adult. I don’t recall the details—where the damn kid was going—and can’t be bothered to research them. I do recall that it was a bit of a kerfluffle, because apparently in this sad modern age that’s insane, because as we all know the streets of New York (any major city, really) are lined with perverts and slave traders looking to either sell your child to Africa or engage in some CSI-style murderin’ with them.

This has since evolved into a ‘movement’ called Free Range Kids, which advocates letting kids organize their own free time and minimizing parental supervision and intervention in their lives. The idea being that this will cause kids to grow up super self-reliant and confident. Assuming they are not murdered or sold into slavery, of course. Although I’d like to imagine that some of the kids sold into slavery emerge years later as criminal masterminds on par with Keyser Soze or as Black Pirate Roberts types, hijacking cargo ships off the coast of Somalia.

I don’t have kids, and I don’t presume to tell parents how to raise their children. If you think your kid needs to be supervised constantly and should never be allowed to be alone, even in the bathroom, even while they sleep, until they’re approximately 24 years old, that’s fine. I have nothing to say, and heck, maybe you’re right. Maybe this kind of supervision will make your kid feel loved and safe and ensure they survive to the age of 24 without being, you know, murdered or kidnapped. Who knows? On the other hand, Free Ranging it feels better to me, because it’s closer to my own childhood.

(more…)

Saturday is Guitar Day

By | March 1, 2014 | 0 Comments

Epiphone Les Paul CustomThere are things in this life which make no sense: The Designated Hitter. The Bachelor. How I am not a millionaire many times over. And, of course, the greatest mystery of them all: Why I insist on not only recording my ‘songs’ but on posting them here. Let me know when you figure it out.

Here, songs:

Song619
Song620
Song621
Song622
Song623
Song627
Song629
Song630
Song632

There: Congratulations on another job … done.

The usual disclaimer: 1. I admit these are not great music; 2. I claim copyright anyway, so there; 3. No, I cannot do anything about the general quality of the mix, as I am incompetent.

Categories: Bullshit, gee-tar

House of Cards and the Shakespeare Fakeout

By | February 25, 2014 | 0 Comments
Indeed.

Indeed.

Okey – I like House of Cards, largely because Kevin Spacey’s facial expressions in this NetFlix original are fucking-A priceless. The show itself is fucking-A ridiculous, and suffers from one fatal flaw that makes it almost – almost – an effort to watch. That flaw is simple: Frank never loses. Not only does he never lose, he never convincingly doubts the outcome, ever. Oh, the script pays homage to doubt. It walks doubt through a warm room and buys it a few drinks, flirting, but it never takes doubt home. Spacey’s performance, even when he’s reacting in rage or doubt, always hints that it’s just for show. And the writers always offer up a solution right away – a solution that is always exactly right.

So, you can be entertained by a show like that, but never really affected by it. Frank is a monster, and he always wins. If the final episode of this show in 2033 or whatever shows Frank in an old-age home, hallucinating that he once became President of the United States, that would not surprise me.

Richard the IV

Much has been made of House of Cards and its relationship to Shakespeare, notably its use of the aside as a narrative device and the parallels between several plays, such as Richard III, Macbeth, and Othello. The problem with these discussions is the fact that the plays being cited were tragedies, and while the protagonists did terrible things and often did so with black wit and a saucy lack of guilt, they generally could be said to have suffered for their hubris and power grabs.

Frank Underwood doesn’t suffer much. Now, maybe the next season will be all about Frank’s fall into disgrace and punishment (Ed: LORD I HOPE SO) but so far Frank is simply the smartest man in the room, and his mean-spirited and largely joyless attitude is justified by the fact that his superpower is always being right and never losing. He may be the least Shakespearean character in the modern tradition of using Shakespeare to imbue your characters with classic weight and gravitas.

No Scrubs

And that’s the problem. Frank’s relentless success is fucking boring. The cycle the show goes through roughly every forty minutes is this:

  1. Frank reveals sick, twisted plan to manipulate the shit out of everyone. Sneers at camera.
  2. Unbelievably complex plan that relies on people doing the stupidest thing possible because Frank planted a hint in their ear about it five minutes of screen time previously succeeds completely.
  3. Frank sneers at camera.

The details of the insane scheme are often entertaining, and Spacey is basically having the time of his life playing this character – it’s like going to the Zoo at feeding time to watch some lions devour raw meat in their enclosure. But there are no stakes. Because Frank is going to win, and you know that going in.

Now, plenty of shows require their protagonist to always win – because in TV land we must always have a main character to hang the next season of the show around. So, no points off for Frank actually always winning – but a setback would be nice. A believable threat. Maybe a solid half hour of screen time when it actually seems like Frank might be in actual, real trouble? And then some clever writing. That last bit is the tricky part.

Because, House of Cards is okay at a lot of things. Dialogue. Kevin Spacey Bitchface. Painting everyone in the universe as a sexual pervert and potential serial killer. One thing it is not okay at is plot. It treats plots like a box of feral cats it found on the street which keeps scratching its arms and puking on its feet. Everyone does what Frank wants because it’s the only way the writers on this show can think to keep the plot moving.

In the end, it doesn’t matter: The purpose of the show is to get you to pay Netflix $8 a month, and as far as that goes it works just fine. And there’s always the possibility that in Season 3, Frank will go full on Greg Stillson from The Dead Zone on us, having a threesome with his wife, his secret service agent, and the dead dog from Chapter 1 while he gleefully pounds the LAUNCH button, staring unblinkingly into the camera.

I’d pay to see that.

 

The Disappeared

By | February 19, 2014 | 1 Comments
Your Face Here, Probably

Your Face Here, Probably

As a writer, I have a serious problem: I have the memory of brain-damaged potato.

This manifests in a variety of different ways. Have I walked out of the house without keys, wallet, or identification? Of course I have, and the end result is me on several Terror Watch Lists. Have I promised my wife The Duchess I would perform certain chores for her during the day without fail and then totally failed to even momentarily think about them? Yes, I have, and have the literal scars to show for it. Have I forgotten appointments, commitments, occasionally to show up to jobs?

Yup.

But worst of all, worst by far is the simple fact that I forget my own life. I forget things I’ve done, places I’ve been, and people I’ve known. I literally forget people so thoroughly I sometimes can’t even remember them when I reminded. Based on a recent experience, let’s call this the LinkedIn Rabbit Hole Hell.

The LinkedIn Rabbit Hole Hell

A few years ago when I lost a job I joined LinkedIn, like everyone who loses a job does. In fact, the moment someone shows up on LinkedIn you can assume they have lost a job, hate their job, or suspect they will lose/hate their jobs very soon. It’s kind of amusing, when you yourself aren’t looking for a job, to see everyone wash up on LinkedIn’s shores like unemployed cosmic flotsam, furiously network for a few months, and then suddenly disappear once they’re employed again and all this networking rubbish is too much work again.

So, the other day I was “invited” to link in with a former co-worker. Since I do nothing with LinkedIn these days, I have applied my usual policy when it comes to social networks, which is to say I accept every invitation and request sent my way. Why not? I never go to LinkedIn and rarely read my Facebook Wall, so what the hell do I care if I have 200 friends I couldn’t pick out of a police lineup?

Anyways, this person I did actually remember and while we were far from friends, I popped over to LinkedIn to accept their invite and promptly fell down the Rabbit Hole of LinkedIn’s algorithms, as it reminded me of a million people I used to work with. Including one name that didn’t ring a bell. But the dates matched up: I had once worked with this person for a year in an office of five people.

I had zero memory of them.

None. Nada. Bupkus. I have every email I’ve ever sent or received since 1996, and I have emails from and to this person. We interacted on the physical plane. I couldn’t tell you a single thing about them. I have no visual memory of them, or any other memory.

It’s fucking creepy, sometimes.

Writer Skills: Activate!

For my writing career, there are two possibilities here. On the one hand, my terrible memory might be a super power, as it forces me to invent details constantly, keeping my alcohol-softened brain functioning and limber. On the other, having zero memory of things and people might mean I’m missing out on formative memories that I could be using to create my prose. Obviously I prefer to imagine the former.

Or maybe it has no effect at all. And it’s not like I don’t remember everyone: I can remember and reliably (I think) picture friends and teachers from Grammar School. But there are these oddball holes. Maybe they’re just folks who didn’t make much of an impression on me (in fact, it generally is these folks) but it’s still disconcerting. I lived those moments. I earned those memories. And I’ve been robbed.

Kiss Them for Me

By | February 15, 2014 | 0 Comments
This story originally appeared in “Bare Bone #3″ edited by Kevin L. Donihe, in 2000.

“They want you to tuck them in. Read a story.”

I tried not to flinch. I swallowed the last of my drink and stood up, wobbling a little.

“Okay.”

Her eyes were on me, disapproving.

“Jesus, Hal, you know I don’t like you drunk around the boys.”

I nodded, my fists clenched. I couldn’t turn to face her. “I know. Don’t worry. I’ll be careful.”

After a few moments of silence, I made myself start walking, through the living room, down the hall to the boys’ room–decorated just five years before with such love and hope. I’d painted the walls and varnished the cribs myself. I didn’t understand how it was that I’d been rewarded with children like these. Now I pushed the door inward reluctantly. Stood framed in the light of the hall for a moment, hearing their little bodies squirming around.

“Daddy’s come,” one of them whispered.

“Under the covers.” I croaked.

I could hear compliance. They were obedient children.

“Daddy’s drunk again,” the other whispered.

Shuffling into the cool, dark room, I was suddenly aware of my liquor fumes, my unshaven beard, the stink of another day on me. Unlocking my fists, I went to one bed, leaned down, and brushed my dry lips against a smooth, calm forehead.
“Good night. Sleep tight.” I cawed into the dark, a rough whisper.

“Good night, Daddy.” came the tiny boy’s voice, followed by giggles. I shivered, but forced myself to turn and leaned down to my other son. I pushed my whiskers into another small cheek, and more soft giggles appeared in the hidden air.

“Daddy,” the second small voice drifted up, hot and close to my ear. “I’m going to kill you, when I get big enough.”

(more…)

Categories: Free Short Stories

Why the Incompetent Should Not Own Homes

By | February 5, 2014 | 6 Comments
It's a Metaphor. For Me. DO YOU GET IT?

It’s a Metaphor. For Me. DO YOU GET IT?

SO, here was my morning:

At ~6AM I was in bed, having an unusual dream involving a cousin I didn’t recognize who refused to leave my house. He kept slinking around and grinning and every time I told him it was time for him to leave he would smirk and saunter away. It was probably Sean Ferrell invading my dreams. Again.

At some point I realized that in my dream my doorbell was ringing. You know where this is going. My doorbell was actually ringing in real life. I woke up to find myself smothered by cats, none of whom seemed to like this new idea of me getting out of bed. Getting them to release me was like conducting negotiations with warlords in a language you don’t understand.

In my skivvies, I answered the door. It was a neighbor who’d gone out for a run and locked himself out of the house on the coldest, wettest, snowiest morning ever. Serves him right for exercising. My neighborly duty done, I went back for another hour of sleep.

HELLO I MUST BE A MORON

Upon waking, I discovered a leak in the living room, in a spot that’s been leaking no matter what we do to fix the problem, for centuries now. It is some sort of Eternal Leak, placed there by god as a fixed point in time or something that can’t be changed. It’s frustrating.

Knowing that sometimes our gutters on the roof above get frozen and this contributes to the problem, I grabbed a broom and hauled myself out the window onto our second-floor roof to do battle with the gutters. I carefully stepped around the skylight, cleaned the gutters as best I could, then turned and saw a cat about to leap through the window I’d left open.

Our cats are not wild animals. They are fat, lazy, aristocratic animals who think they can wander on the roofs in the snow for a while and somehow not get lost and freeze to death. So I panicked, and began running for the window to prevent disaster. And my feet went out from under me, and I fell backwards, right onto our skylight, which promptly cracked open like an egg. How I didn’t wind up dead on the dining room floor below remains a mystery. It might have something to do with that fixed point in time I mentioned.

SO now our skylight is wrapped in a blue tarp and I am preparing to write checks to contractors. Probably for the best. That money was just going to get me into trouble anyway.

Categories: Bullshit

Jeff is Almost Famous and Also: Manly and Competent

By | January 28, 2014 | 8 Comments
Jeff Takes a Meeting

My Next Meeting with My Agent (Artist’s Conception)

So, I had an adventure. Not much of an adventure, just something slightly more exciting than my usual evenings which are filled with liquor and muttering and bomb-making and throwing things around for the cats to chase while The Duchess demands that I watch whatever awards show is on that night. (There are now 1,356 awards shows on television. True fact.)

It’s been really cold up here for the past week. Not, you know, Kill-Me-I-Live-in-Minnesota-for-Some-Reason cold, but cold. I’d recently been featured in the local alt weekly paper (hey, read the interview here!) so my neighbors on our little cobblestone street have been offering me awkward compliments of the “Jebus we all suspected home arrest or perhaps mild brain damage and yet you have written books for money” variety, which is nice.

The Duchess and I had gone out to dinner with some friends from the block and we were sitting on the couch afterwards watching someone – Taylor Swift, Idi Amin, who knows – accept an award of some kind when I got a call from a neighbor asking if I knew anything about boilers.

“Boiler Makers? Absolutely!”

No, boilers, as in, those thingies that heat the house. The neighbor in-between us lived with her elderly mother and their boiler was stopped working and it was about seven degrees outside. I knew what this was: This was a Call to Manliness.

The Call

There is, as there is in every neighborhood, that one older man who everyone calls for help with things. I am not that man, but that man was out of town and so they called me on the slim hope that I would know what to do. So I strapped on my trousers (after locating a pair) and headed on over to my neighbor’s house, where I was greeted like a conquering hero.

Did I manage to get that boiler lit again? I sure did. It’s not rocket science. You turn the switch to PILOT, you light a match, you start thrusting the flame around until you figure out where the pilot is and pray you don’t set yourself on fire (because of course you’d been drinking a bit and so such things are entirely possible if not entirely probable and now that you think about it several of your ancestors died from setting themselves on fire when drunk), then you hold the button for thirty seconds, let go, and if the pilot stays lit then the thermocoupler is working and you turn the switch to ON at which point the flames should leap up to start, you know, boiling.

So, I was an hero. As I left, my neighbor kept saying how amazing it was that a “famous author” had just fixed her boiler, and I kept looking around to see one and then realizing she meant me. Now, when people say “alcoholic author” or “asshole author” or even “failed author” I generally know they’re referring to me. But the famous part? Not so much.

Although at least now I know that if this writing thing really doesn’t work out, I can always get into boiler repair. And finally set myself on fire while drunk just like the Ancient Somers’ that came before me.

Categories: Bullshit

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