In the summer of 2019, surrounded by ten air conditioners, Megan Boyle interviewed Joseph Grantham about the meaning of life, boredom, interviewing Stephen Dixon, Catholicism vs. Judaism, The Hurt Locker vs. Avatar, first memories of the internet, Snood, Raking Leaves vs. Tom Sawyer, baseball vs. football, & lots more.

 

Listen here:

 

In front of me, stands a man that looks exactly like I do. Behind me, is another man who looks exactly like myself. In fact, stretching before and behind me, as far as the eye can see, are men who bear the same identical features. The line moves slowly, excruciatingly so. Since we’ve been here we have inched forward only three times. Occasionally, other men who look like us pass by to ensure we remain as we are, in the line. They are armed and wear different clothing. We can hardly remember a day that has passed where we weren’t standing in this line, wondering what’s up ahead. It’s been so long that we’ve forgotten, likely all of us, what lies behind us, passing it so long ago. We must have passed something at one point, but all we can remember is the line. There must have been movement–a history–for we are where we are. All of us, I mean. But for the very life of me–of us–we can’t remember. But surely men are not born in a line. Are men born in a line? I shout. The me behind myself elbows me in the ribs, urging silence so as not to attract the guards. The me in front of myself glares at me, as if he’s somehow better than me. I open my mouth to respond but feel a firm hand on my shoulder. I turn around to see myself, dressed in olive fatigues and a face like ice. Ah I say, I could just–before I can finish, he raises the butt of the gun and drives it into our shoulder, bringing us to our knees. Shut up, I say to myself, then continue on down the line. I look up to my comrades in protest, but I–they–remain silent. I wonder if we were trained–I mean the guards. Probably not, I think. Probably just slapped a uniform on us. I’m fed up with standing in this bloody line. It is said that the lines in which we wait are vast and imperceptible at times. Excuse me, I ask myself (the one in front) but am elbowed in the ribs. Undeterred, I continue. Do you have any idea why we’re–I’m cut off by a more jarring blow now from the butt of my very own (man in uniform) rifle. The sky is so grey it’s hardly worth mentioning. 

Good Luck: Episode Fifty-Nine



My good memories and I were still in that house, hiding out behind the velvet curtains of the theatre where I’d gotten married. Any minute the doors would burst open and the last of my pleasant, fine, joyous memories would be slaughtered. 

I was trying to be quiet. We all were. Except four memories of my brother William kept forgetting, and were soon arguing too loudly about what was the best Final Fantasy video game. And my fathers were annoyed they were missing some important detective show on TV. And the many memories of my mother were taking turns holding a memory of an infant William, which wouldn’t stop fussing, crying out. My aunt Elaine had found some weapons to use in our defense, but they were just props. Foam swords for productions of Hamlet. I started to think I should walk out and abandon all my memories, good or bad, head back to the hospital. Check myself in. Start over. 

But then I heard engines. A great clamor. Machines rammed through doors and walls. Guns going off. Through the wall I heard a great stampede of bodies running and falling. And I looked at my few remaining good memories and told them to come out from behind the curtains, onstage, and out of the theatre. We better go, whatever was making their enemies run was good news for us.

We crept into the memory house proper. I saw the front door of the house had been ripped off its hinges. A great mass of bodies was seen running across the field. Four men on ATVs chased them down. Jean bib overalls, hunting caps, shotguns at their sides. The sun was just coming up. Everything was purple and gold.

I knew of these shotgun men. They’d come from Woodland, North Carolina. A town with a population of 800 people. The town’s lone police officer had quit, and then criminals had begun to rob gas stations and pharmacies and Sunday buffets. A vigilante squad formed. This vigilante squad. However it was they’d arrived here, I was thankful for them.

“I’m taking you all back with me,” I said. I led the survivors into the tunnel the grandmothers and invalids and children had used to escape. We walked through that narrow tunnel (lit up by the many memories of my father who each carried a pen light flashlight at all times). One of the memories of my brother, thirteen years old, made the comment that the men on ATVs–who’d come in at the last second and saved us all–reminded him of the giant eagles at the end of The Hobbit. “Okay, yeah sure,” I said. My brother William said, “You know, the ones who valiantly ended The Battle of the Five Armies, eradicated the army of goblins.” “Sure.” My other memory of my brother said, “Actually they were more like the Riders of Rohan at the end of The Two Towers.” And then they began to argue over the names of Tolkien’s eagles. “The mighty winged messengers of Manwë.” “Sure, messengers at first, but they became the guardians of all animal life, much as the Ents were the guardians of plant life.” “Great, eagles, that’s all that matters.” “They’re actually Buteoninae, not eagles. Closer to relatives of red-tailed hawks in species, just ginormous. Stupid big. Whoa.” “Gwaihir and Landroval, lords of the birds that saved Gandalf’s ass, how’s that?” I turned around and shouted at them to please be quiet. Thirty other memories clapped.

Now playing on Otherppla conversation with Amanda Yates Garcia. Her new memoir, Initiated: Memoir of a Witch, is available from Grand Central Publishing.

This is Amanda’s second time on the podcast. She first appeared in Episode 444 on December 21, 2016.

Garcia is a writer, artist, professional witch, and the Oracle of Los Angeles. Her work has been featured in The Millions, The LA Times, Time Out, LA Weekly, GOOP, Glamour, The London Times, CNN, Salon, as well as a viral appearance on Tucker Carlson Tonight. She has led classes and workshops on magic and witchcraft at UCLA, UC Irvine, MOCA Los Angeles, The Hammer Museum, LACMA, The Getty and many other venues. Co-host of the popular Between the Worlds podcast, Initiated is her first book.

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Pop-Tart Guy

 

 

Look I get Giving people their space.

Being respectful of communities you entering.

Not imposing.

But that don’t mean don’t engage.

Or it could mean: Not engaging, out of fear of committing the above, can be worse. More dehumanizing.

Like say you kicking it out back and homie pulls up, crouches, and hits the rocks feet from you. Other side of the fence but flagrantly visible. Adjacent to where kids be hooping. 

Is the move really Do nothing?  

To flat-out ignore him? 

Deny he exists?

Like Oh. That’s that dude. That’s what he do.

 

 

So call me crazy but when this happened one morning, what I did was, I went up to the back gate homie was crouched behind. Crouched. Went Bro, you good?

And when he ignored me: You got a spot to crash out?

And when he still ignored me: You need food or anything? A pop tart? I got pop tarts.

He lowered the pipe he was about to torch. Stood. Went Sure, I’d hit a pop tart. 

Yeah? I said. Sit tight!

When I came back with my last Brown Cinnamon Sugar, unopened in case he wanted to stash it, he looked at it. At me. Went It’s not toasted. You can’t toast it?

I started laughing. Bro you serious?

He shrugged.

Bro take your fucking pop tart.

Still feel bad about not toasting it.

Rod McKuen is the Odd Man Out in the history of American pop culture. Music encyclopedias almost never included him even though he released albums for over 40 years. Surveys of contemporary literature overlooked him despite (or perhaps because of) his enormous sales. Rod’s work as a musician and poet didn’t lend themselves to easy categorization. Over the decades, he was associated with the San Francisco beat poet scene, the Twist dance craze of the early ’60, the folk revival, the Great American Songbook school of pop, the early days of New Age environmental recordings and 20thCentury classical music.  Yet none of these genres or movements claim him as even an adjunct member. He remains sui generis by his own choice or otherwise.

His fans didn’t care. Try to see him as they saw him at the height of his fame: a rumpled, slightly stooped 30-ish man with lemon frosting-colored hair ambling into the spotlight to the sound of orchestral fanfare. Inevitably, he is dressed in a sweater, jeans (or chinos) and high-topped sneakers – no amount of success could change his outfit. There’s a laid-back cowboy charm about him, as well as the romantic melancholy of a French cabaret singer. He laughs bashfully, gives wistful sideways glances, rises from quiet murmurs to emotional crescendos. Now close your eyes and hear his voice – hoarse, pitted, compelling in its imperfection. It adds to his pathos and his sexiness.

 

I’d been watching prices on Car Guru for a few weeks. Waiting for used Fords to come down, waiting for dealers to put some up. Waiting and just looking at pictures of trucks while sitting on the toilet. That sort of thing. This was around when Linda called me and said her irrigation system wasn’t working. 

“All the plants are dying,” she told me over the phone. “The arbor vitae is crispy.”

Couple summers ago I rigged her this simple sprinkler setup that runs off her garden spigot. It snakes all around her yard with these tiny sprayers every five or so feet. Even hooked a battery timer to it so it’d run on its own. I told her she wouldn’t have to touch it. Ever. It’d just do its thing. Easy peasy.

Over the phone I asked her, “Is the system on?”

“Think so.” 

“Is the faucet handle turned all the way to the right or to the left?” 

“Oh I don’t know, let me go look.” She put the phone down and I heard her screen door slam. 

She was gone awhile. I got bored and started munching on some potato chips I didn’t know I had. Finally she came back and said “Left.” Some potato chips shards went down the wrong pipe and I started choking and coughing a bunch. I ran my mouth under the sink and took a big gulp of tap water.

“Are you dying?” Linda said. 

“Not yet.”

“Well, then get over here and fix my sprinklers.”

Steffie Nelson, Heather John Fogarty, and Sarah Tomlinsonare the guests. All are contributors to a new essay anthology called Slouching Towards Los Angeles: Living and Writing by Joan Didion’s Light.The collection is edited by Steffie Nelson and is available from Rare Bird Books. It is the official January pick of The Nervous Breakdown Book Club.

 

In The White Album, Joan Didion famously wrote that “a place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest, remembers it most obsessively…loves it so radically that he remakes it in his image.” Cruising in her Daytona yellow Corvette Stingray, taking it all in behind dark glasses, Joan Didion claimed California for all time. Slouching Towards Los Angeles is a multi-faceted portrait of the literary icon who, in turn, belongs to us.

This collection of original essays covers the turf that made Didion a sensation—Hollywood and Patty Hearst; Malibu, Manson and the Mojave; the Summer of Love and the Central Park Five—while bringing together some of the finest voices of today’s Los Angeles and beyond. Slouching Towards Los Angeles is a love letter and thank you note; personal memoir and social commentary; cultural history and literary critique. Fans of Didion, lovers of California, and fellow writers alike will all find something to dig into, in this rich exploration of the inner and outer landscapes Joan Didion traveled, shaping our own journeys in the process.

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You were born and raised in the Bronx, what brought you to LA?

For better or worse, I really didn’t think about it much, I just did it. I had a best friend who moved out here and I was curious to see the city that Bukowski wrote about. I was only writing for a few years at this point, still trying to find my voice, but I thought throwing myself into a whole new strange world and starting from scratch would give me the kick in the ass I needed.

To be quite honest, it damn near killed me. Writing was the only thing that kept me going… that and booze, lots and lots of booze.

today
will not
get away

it will be
hunted and
stalked

opened
and entered

feasted upon
and finally
laid to rest

well lived
and unwasted.

ROMANS/SNOWMARE

By Cam Scott

Poem

 

[ROMANS/SNOWMARE is a potentially interminable life-poem, to which I add at least one sentence every day. The earliest layers of this project appear in a book of the same name, ROMANS/SNOWMARE, published by ARP Books in 2019, from which the first of these texts is excerpted. ROMANS/SNOWMARE is available in the United States from AK Press.]

 

ROMANS. Do faces have headlights, or windows? I’ve never slept the night before a trip, too busy planning about packing. Dark chocolate parching, an excellent source of magnesium. The stream of everlasting life is owned by Nestle, too. What’s on tap in the master bathroom? I’m so thirsty I could suck a faucet. If we’re going to have to suffer anyway, why wait? One must life equal parts in heaven and on earth. Is freedom a state or a road? “The law does not construct a subject who simply and unequivocally has a desire, but one who rejects its desire, who wants not to desire it.” Her dad was a cop or something. There were bagpipes at the funeral, no one wept. I’m a vicarious sensualist, lingering near second-hand smoke as one might have loitered at the mall. All atmosphere is lightly used. Nothing originates. Made with natural flavours, derived from natural sources. Breakfast at Tiffany’s, bus depot Thunder Bay. The lion’s mane has fallen off but carries on in name. Catching cobwebs in my hair, a silk proximity to skin, I bless the sickening illogic of it all. A putrefying factory or mobile lobe, courting contempt foot over fossil. Am I that bowl of brains, a swollen bag of blood? But then you never see a corpse that isn’t made up on TV. Slept past the water pipe emporium. Catastrophism is “for all”—no nukes, a meagre veganism. As she neared moral perfection, her to-do list dwindled to a few pressing mistakes. The region’s richest silver mine reduced down to a supple islet. A panoramic view inside a rock. O Sponge, your own name is a verb—conatus, indifferently sexed. One can’t mix poetry and politics without theft of necessity. Start with the ideas then. Nostalgia has no bearing upon justice: neither as fidelity to an event, nor as speculation on the resurrection. Imagine a world in which one may adequately mourn. The meadowlark tried in its way. A tradition that extends toward Antigone. The bowaldrome across the courthouse lawn was busiest at lunch, the nearby Travelodge stuffed with incumbent Christs. I hate to see a crust punk hustling on behalf of a suffering pet, as though one nervous system weren’t elaborate enough to bear the succulence of this privation, like one needed a proximate gullet to taunt. That’s my stingy conservative talking, he lashes out at any show of friendship he can’t monetize. No smoking, for example. What’s that odd smell wafting off the parking lot at dusk? Omega 3s, the nutritionist said, are to your brain as oil is to a car. But that light had been on for years, unblinking so ignored. I take the bus so I can tell my story, charmless braggart ambling least. I haven’t shit in Ignace in three years. It’s the acoustic boogaloo that sunders you. Like playing racquetball without a wall, writing a villanelle without a line rule. Galoot forgot his hairnet, had to wear a hat. His colon killed him. Dad’s cologne. A better question asked in bad faith. Who misses the Burger Family? At what point do free spirits go solo? I said that on a whim to see if we were listening. Whoever lingers longest takes the cake. 

grow sick of gilets
and the posturing of
redundant letters

lie down

recognise the fissure
for what it is

take out a loan and
employ an artist’s
impression

obliterate savings
and proliferate
suspect via
billboards and sky writing

lie under breach
until face comes
forward

Budwulf

By Bud Smith

Short Story

Good Luck: Episode Fifty-Eight

translated from Old English by Frances B. Grummere & Bud Smith



LO, praise of the prowess of people-kings

of spear-armed New Jersey, in days long sped,

we have heard, and what honor the athelings won!

Oft Scyld the Scefing from squadroned foes,

from many a tribe, the mead-bench tore,

awing the earls. Since erst he lay

friendless, a foundling, fate repaid him:

for he waxed under welkin, in wealth he throve,

till before him the folk, both far and near,

who house by the whale-path, heard his mandate,

gave him gifts: a good king he!

To him an heir was afterward born,

a son in his halls, whom heaven sent

to favor the folk, feeling their woe

that erst they had lacked an earl for leader

so long a while; the Lord endowed him,

the Wielder of Wonder, with world’s renown.

Famed was this Bud Smith: far flew the boast of him,

son of Scyld, in the Scandian lands.

So becomes it a youth to quit him well

with his father’s friends, by fee and gift,

that to aid him, aged, in after days,

come warriors willing, should war draw nigh,

liegemen loyal: by lauded deeds

shall an earl have honor in every clan.

Now playing on Otherppla conversation with Milo Martin. He is the author of the poetry collections Poems for the Utopian Nihilist (Echo Park Press) and the forthcoming sublemon/sublime. He is also collaborating on an upcoming art book with Gigi Spratley and Jack Waltrip.

A poet by trade, Martin has toured extensively throughout the United States and Europe. He has been invited to perform at international literature and poetry festivals in France, Italy, Germany and Croatia as well as numerous venues in Estonia, Switzerland, Holland, Liechtenstein and Serbia. His works have been translated into four languages. Educated at San Francisco State University and the University of Southern California, he currently resides in Los Angeles. He contends that birds and insects are manifest angels.

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Arrows

By Bud Smith

Short Story

Good Luck: Episode Fifty-Seven

 

Now I will get to the battle part. I hope I tell it all right. I am not very good at writing action scenes. How are you at reading them?

Earlier this year, I was thinking about how I needed to try and write down this event in my life, and I was absolutely dreading it. I thought to read and study War and Peace to see how Tolstoy handled Napoleon and all his friends at Austerlitz, and the horses and the sabres and the cannon fire and all that, but I never got around to it. It’s probably fine. 

This battle had no horses, or sabres, or cannon fire. There was only one gun.

We had it. 

But we were outnumbered, ten to one.