Recent Work By Tyler McMahon

Dear Jeff Bezos,

Congratulations on your recent purchase of The Washington Post, one of the finest institutions in American journalism, as well as my hometown newspaper. I further applaud you for immediately speaking up and calming the speculation about what changes might be on the way for the paper. It’s comforting to know that you plan to keep the values and leadership of the Post intact.

I answered the door in my pajamas.  The taller of the two girls standing there asked for my roommate, Sheldon.

“He didn’t come home last night,” I said.

“We know you,” the shorter one said.

“I think I served you once.”

“That’s right,” she said. “In Montana. Like a year ago.”

The three of us nodded, pleased to have cleared up that mystery.

“Would you like to come inside?” I asked.

They called me Pelochucho. My best friends were Chuck Norris, Palo de Coco, and El Socio. Peseta gave us all our nicknames: mine for my hair, Chuck Norris for his beard, Palo de Coco for his height, and El Socio because he was Puerto Rican. Peseta was a local crack-head whose own name came from the Salvadoran twenty-five cent piece. At one time, he’d been the best surfer in La Libertad. Now he begged quarters from tourists and handed out nicknames.

I don’t mind the hate. It doesn’t bother me anymore. There was a time when I was adored by the same brain- dead sheep who despise me now. I don’t miss that. Behind every dead rock god, there’s always some uppity female scapegoat. Why shouldn’t it be me? The public eye sees only love or hate. Fans aren’t capable of anything in between. So let them hate me; I can handle that. The part I can’t abide is having my own history ripped right out from under me, my life rewritten by magazines. It’s true that I’ve made mistakes. But it’s also true that I made the Mistakes.

So you’ve written a Rock and Roll Novel. Obviously you must be some sort of former musician and punk rock insider…

Sorry to disappoint you. I’m no such thing. I was in a couple of bands in high school, performed in several shows, and could passably play the drums for a few years of my youth. But I’m no real musician. I’ve been trying to learn the guitar for like a dozen years, and just don’t seem to have the talent. Like many people, I’m a sort of excited and envious onlooker when it comes to music.

Lettuce Prey

I walked the streets of Missoula all day long in search of a job. At one of the coffee shops accepting applications, a dark-haired barista took pity—she seemed to know I’d never get hired there—and invited me to come see her boyfriend’s band.

She led me to a bar a couple of blocks away, above a laundromat, called Jay’s Upstairs. We climbed a steep and narrow stairway to a tiny room with a sagging floor. Much later, I’d learn that the building was among the oldest in town, built in the 1870s. Arcade seating lined the back wall. A small stage occupied most of the square footage. Skylights in the ceiling had been covered over with black paint. The bar prominently featured a chilled Jagermeister dispenser. The place was nearly empty.

 

This past spring, I found myself mixed up in a series of hiring and job application ordeals. My wife went through a rigorous string of interviews for a new position. I wrote half a dozen recommendation letters for friends. As a member of a departmental search committee, I read CVs from hundreds of potential professors, attended live teaching workshops, had drinks with candidates.

Gregory Bayne is a filmmaker living and working in Boise, Idaho. He’s considered an important element in a rising tide of motion picture artists working outside of traditional industry strongholds—and without traditional project funding.

Born in the Ukraine but uprooted to the Boston suburbs after the KGB blacklisted her physicist father, Alina Simone is responsible for several great indie rock albums. Her 2008 all-Russian-language tribute to the too-short career of Siberian punk-folk singer Yanka Dyagileva, Everyone is Crying out to Me, Beware, was called “lovely and mournful” by Billboard, “mesmerizing” by Spin. Released simultaneously with her third full-length album (Make Your Own Danger), Simone’s You Must Go and Win is an essay collection that chronicles the author’s struggles with family, with her homeland, and with the elusive dream of success in the music world.

Continued from here

The Place

We woke up early the next morning to check the surf. It was smaller than yesterday and all blown out.

“Looks pretty shitty out there,” Marty said. “And the tide’s low. Maybe we should head south and get our morning session in someplace down the road.”

I agreed. I’d break my neck on that reef if the waves any shallower than yesterday.

The Pharmacy

“Let me get this straight,” the pharmacist said, “you have a drivers’ license from Virginia, an address in Orange County, and you’re here in Encinitas to pick-up a prescription written by a dentist from Utah.”

I didn’t mention that I’d been diagnosed by a radiologist from Louisiana.

“Here’s the thing.” Marty said, “The kid works for me. That’s the thing.”

It didn’t help that Marty held the biggest, cheapest bottle of vodka in the store with one hand, his credit card in the other hand.

I first saw a copy of Fishboy through the window of a Virginia bookstore. This was 1997 or so. I was walking through Richmond with Vincent, about my only friend in the state at this time, on a short break from college. He’d read the book; the cover stopped him in his tracks. He swore I’d love it. I went inside and bought a copy.

It doesn’t surprise me that I went back to Montana Snowbowl after Peace Corps. Many of my friends and former colleagues found jobs with federal agencies or NGOs. Several studied policy or took for the Foreign Service exam. Not me. I couldn’t get into that sort of thing.

This wasn’t long after George W. Bush usurped the presidency and squandered the goodwill and sympathy of the world. These were times that the historians of the future will look back on as “The Oil Wars”—when millions of poor people died to secure a soon-to-be-obsolete resource, just as they did for spices, slaves, and religious trinkets in Dark Ages past. The government color-coded our fear and gave us a list of products to purchase accordingly. Electrical tape for yellow alert. Batteries for orange. Rolls of plastic for red. There was talk of a draft.

Note: All names have been changed.

Trainer Howard explains that never, under any circumstances, are we to hug an inmate. Shaking hands is also against the rules. He recommends bumping knuckles, and asks one of the trainees to stand up. They demonstrate fist-bumps several times, to be sure that we grasp the concept.

We’re to keep hand sanitizer in our cars and apply it before and after each class—to fight off hepatitis and other contagious diseases that abound in the facilities. We’re not to discuss sensitive issues with the inmates—like suicide or Hawaiian sovereignty. If we enter the prison with a cigarette or a dollar bill, we might face felony charges. We’re not to allow physical contact between inmates during class (apparently, sex acts in larger classes have been an issue). We’re to have no contact with friends or families of inmates. In the event of a riot or hostage situation, we’re to remain calm.

Jazz Hands

I worked on a cattle-breeding farm in central Virginia for one summer during college. My first week involved long hours of bush-hogging—hauling a sort of heavy-duty lawnmower though pastures of shoulder-high brown grass, so that the cows could access the sweeter green shoots beneath. The tractor was top of the line, with an air-conditioned cab and tape deck. I’d listen to audiobooks and entertain myself by beheading black snakes and watching their decapitated bodies spout blood and slither in circles through the rear-view mirror. In the mornings, I’d often rouse families of sleeping deer that had bedded down in the tall grass. Spotted does and spindly-legged fawns would bound towards the trees like Olympic hurdlers.