[Transcript from an interview exclusive to The Nervous Breakdown.]

Milton: Since Halloween was last night, and October 31st is his birthday, I am here talking with Satan, on Skype, from his holiday villa Pandaemonium deep in the depths of Hell. Satan, let me first wish you a Happy Birthday!

Satan: Gee-wiz, thanks, John. So kind of you to call. I am touched, really, I am. I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for you. And may I say you look marvelous for a 400-year-old? What is your secret? Who is your surgeon? You could pass for a teenager. It must be the poetry—Paradise Regained.

I’m digging in my archives. The computer’s early promise of freeing us from paper was not only wrong, what was right was the reverse. I have more paper than ever, and most of it is the same size, the same readable white, the same slick, lifeless feel. Hefting paper-wrapped bags of paper, ripping them open like cartridges of gunpowder, and fitting blocks of cloned blank sheets into the trays of copiers and printers is a normal part of my day.

Author’s note: The following are annotated highlights from the morning show playlist on WTMD 89.7 out of Towson, Maryland on the morning of Wed. April 13, 2011. I would like to extend my sincere thanks to the DJ Erik Deatherage, who has unknowingly nursed me through many a difficult morning.

Somehow, I’m still expecting that, in another six months, year tops, I’ll be able to preorder the next Amy Winehouse album. Somehow, I’m still expecting word that she’s joined the 27 Club to be just a rumor, like the sudden death of Zach Braff that bobs through the tide of Internet grotesquery about once a year.As news outlet after news outlet confirmed the countless Facebook statuses I’d seen to be factually true, I still found myself, if not surprised (not exactly), then in shock.

Hard to get sentimental about a big box bookstore, especially when it was partially responsible for forcing independents out of business. And still.

When I moved to LA, Borders was already on the ropes, the one closest to my apartment a ghostly affair, a museum of unloved titles; they were too expensive to ever find a buyer who would want them enough to forgo Super-Saving Shipping on Amazon. You didn’t even feel like staying to browse magazines.

I’m very late to the TNB fifth birthday party, but I didn’t want to let it recede too far into the distance without writing a few words of appreciation.

It was late 2006 when I first heard of the TheNervousBreakdown.com. This was the first iteration, back when there were maybe twenty-five or thirty contributors writing mostly to amuse each other. Zoe Brock suggested I contact Brad, and she kept after me about it when my first reaction was lukewarm. After all, I was authoring a popular blog on MySpace, generating a large amount of conversation with every post, so the unimaginative guy in me saw no reason to branch out. Like I was really going to take the time to write a post that maybe only twenty people would read?

I live a charmed life.It wouldn’t work for most people I don’t think, but for me it is a skin tight glove, molded and designed to fit perfectly.My schedule is hectic.There are planes, and hotels, and stages, and radio stations, and studios, and rental cars, and so many different skylines that the whole world begins to bleed together like a chalk drawing in the rain.

I

We mad fly; we
Dream dry; we
Scribble drunk; we
Fake the funk; we
Keeps it real; we
Sly conceal; we
Royal hall; we
Southern drawl; we
Bleed tears; we
Clink cheers; we
Fling curves; we
Gnaw nerves; we
Break it down; we
Class clown; we
Write raw; we
Down by law.

For a while, I’ve kept what I’m about to tell you to myself. Why I’m sharing it with you now, dear writers and readers, I’m not exactly sure. Maybe it’s because TNB is celebrating its fifth birthday, and being one of the site’s original writers I’ve always done my best to be as open and honest as possible in every piece I’ve posted.

In 2006, the year I turned 30, I graduated Magna Cum Laude with my BA in English, my fourteen year old daughter was repeatedly attempting suicide and failing in school, and my four-and-a-half year old ADHD twin boys were rapidly being kicked out of every daycare center in the city – all of which was the death knell for my failing marriage. Around this time, I created a MySpace account to stalk my daughter, who, I discovered, had a clandestine account herself. On my profile I listed writing and reading as two of my hobbies and one day I got an invitation to read a blog written by some “author” named Brad Listi. Everyone was an author on MySpace, it seemed. Most of them were trying to sell me something and the ones who weren’t tended to write boring blogs about finance or essential oils or some other subject I had no interest in.

I was, as a matter of course, rejecting nearly every “author” who invited me to read his or her writing – but for some reason, I went ahead and accepted this Brad Listi fella’s invitation.

 

Look at this earnest face.

Look at this earnest face.

When Brad first wrote to remind us that TNB was coming up on its 5th anniversary and suggest that some of us offer our thoughts on this milestone, my response was, verbatim (though not in its entirety), this:

 

My teeth already hurt and nothing has even  been posted yet.  TNB’s syrup cup shall runneth over for that week.

A Rebuttal.

To the recent short essay by Tawni Freeland, “Let the Eagle Sour, Er, Soar” (and an excellent one, at that) concerning the employment of fireworks by the local citizenry.

Back when I was young, my father went on sabbatical from the college and packed us all up and dragged us down to Mexico.

Frankly, I’ve received an unfair amount of credit and attention for my affiliation with TNB over the years, particularly lately. Yes, I’ve brought some great writers on board, and I’ve done my share of recruiting, and spreading the word, but Executive Editor? Really? I’m thrilled and honored to have this title, but I always feel a little guilty wearing it, because what I do for TNB is so easy, and such a pleasure, that my title hardly feels earned.

Dear Dust

Almost five years ago I started a literary website. My initial expectations were, frankly, minimal. It was  a scrawny and unattractive little thing at first, traipsing around the Net in a shoddy brown dress. Just a few contributors, no real direction, no idea how to wear its makeup. But it has really blossomed. Five long, hot years later? Now it knows how to work an IP frock. Wear a string of embedded pearls. Shake it for the pixelverse. My little site has become a lithe, glowing thoroughbred. She’s one of the sauciest destinations around, literary or otherwise. She has a huge stable of users and fans and an unbelievably high quality of content. Actually, if I’m being truthful with myself, I think I’m a little bit in love with her content. The way her page breaks move and flow. The way she downloads and buffers. Her short, supple fonts and nubile sans-serif bolds.

In Australia, we generally call malls ‘shopping centres’. I feel it’s my duty as a Nervous Breakdown representative from the south to the U.S. to inform you of this. We may call them different names, but friends, I love them as much as you.