Monday, September 30, 2013

The Days of Our Ted

Have you ever looked at your life and imagined it as a soap opera on television?

I have always hated soaps.  I grew up watching them as a child.  Both my parents worked so for about the first 6 or 7 years of my life, I went to a baby sitter, where myself and a bunch of other kids were subjected to each other's weirdness.

Remember the cartoon Muppet Babies?  Yeah, same thing only with less interesting people.

I'll admit I was a blend of Gonzo and Fozzy Bear.  But that's all I'm admitting to.  For the record, the baby sitter's daughters were Miss Piggy.  Both were obnoxious, pushy little bitches.

Back during the summer, we were forced to watch soap operas.  If it was too hot outside, or if it was raining, then we stayed inside.  The baby sitter loved soaps.

Frankly, I never understood them.  To me they seemed like boring sets of dialogue that needed gunfire, explosions and monsters.  And I think the creators of Supernatural and X-Files thought the same thing and that's how we got those awesome shows.

So yes, I watched those cursed shows.  And as I got older, I understood them.  It's a simple formula.

First, one plot line just begins.  A second plot line is in the middle and a third one is just wrapping up.

This is how a show that's a hundred years old keeps snagging and hooking new viewers.  My guess is a hundred years from now, we'll still have that show, only it'll be that time's equivalent to television.  Maybe implants in the brains of people that automatically get a wireless signal that generates memories instantly of that day's episode.  You're in an elevator, you tap your temple, and suddenly you remember being in a fight with your evil Mother-in-Law about the inheritance left to you when your wife, her daughter, was killed by a swarm of bees.  What she doesn't know is how those bees were meant for her because the daughter, your wife, found out about the affair you two were having.

So, yes.  My life would make a great soap opera.

As beer pours out of the tapper, so are the days of our Ted.
All My Tedness.
The Bold, the Beautiful, and the Ted.
The Young and the Tedless.
One Life to Live with Ted.

The plot lines would be easy.  My life is a weird blend of train wrecks, bad choices, unrequited love, paranormal mistakes and watching a lot of people around me have sex.  Well, not watching them, actually.  More like they do it, film it secretly and then tell me all about it later while we watch the video.

The first set would be work.  I work in a call center surrounded by all kinds of people making terrible choices, hiding their pasts, smothering their feelings and losing their minds.  And it's a meat market so they're hooking up constantly.

As a writer, it's a material-rich environment.  Not too long ago, a girl was crying because her boyfriend was teasing her about the um...lack of aromatic pleasantness in her um....lady parts.  You can't make this stuff up.  He was teasing her, other women were teasing her, it was ugly.  She was really upset.

And so I was thinking this could be perfect for a product tie-in.  The advertising revenue generated by a plot that incorporated sponsorship would be huge.  An entire week of Female Character #12 and her angst over the foul smell of her hoo-ha while people make fun of it.  And then a doctor, or Uncle Ted (wink), comes to the rescue.  "Don't be sad, Female Character #12, millions of women suffer from your condition and it's treatable with Corporate Hoo-Ha Cleaner."

I could make millions on this one campaign alone.

The second plot would be the unrequited love Our Hero (moi) feels towards Female Interest of the Month.  She would, of course, be totally incompatible with him.  So much so, it would add to his angst. Soap Operas have a lot of angst, so this would work out well.  Because Our Hero (moi) is too good for her, she will recognize this and hurt him terribly through her dark evil bitch powers.  She will laugh at him behind his back, make jokes about him with the many men she patrons, and generally show just how wrong she is for him.

This brings up the third plot thread.  We would need to have something paranormal and supernatural.

Having a medium or a psychic is great for foreshadowing, but also because they can be used to explain weird behavior.  The Female Interest of the Month is only in her position because Our Hero (moi) was cursed by alien warlocks that abducted him in his sleep.

And then throughout the entire show would be Our Hero's (moi) struggles to be a successful writer as he is tormented by inner demons and loneliness.  We would later learn the unrequited love bit is a function of his alternate personality who sets these things up just to torment the other half.

The comic relief in all of this, as if you'd need it, would be the moronic people Our Hero and the other characters are forced to deal with daily.  For this, we could take real calls from the people I actually talk to and simply use them.  I couldn't make up a more insane group of people acting as if they were in another dimension where sanity was unheard of and basic human kindness was abhorred.

"What do you mean I called the wrong number?  Why did you pick up the phone if I called the wrong number?  Why didn't you give me the right number in the first place?  I hate you and your company!"  

The season finale would be centered around whether or not Our Hero (moi) finally gets The Girl, or in this case the Female Interest of the Month.  Season Finales are always cliffhangers.  It looks like it might actually might become a reality.  Oh wait, she just wanted to get close to Our Hero (moi) just to talk trash about another women so he wouldn't designate her the next Female Interest of the Month.  And once she made her case, she refused to talk to him ever again. 

Aw, so sad, too bad.  But just before his heart breaks, aliens come and wake up the ghostly spirit of the Female Interest of the Month from last season who died in a quilting accident.  The spirit does in fact love him!  Wow!

I really should be in soap operas.  But I would have to include Larry, my houseplant.  He could be my spiritual adviser in matters of the heart. 

The best part of soap operas is how they never end.  Ever.  Fucking ever.  I'm serious.  There are story lines from 2000 years ago still being played out on TV.  The Greeks had a play they did called General Apothecary.   Socrates called it, "the worst piece of shit I ever sat through" but he never missed an episode and openly wept when the hero, Phisysius, was killed with poison by his lover.  But he was happy to learn a few seasons later it wasn't Phisysius that was killed but rather his evil twin and his lover was just protecting him.

This shit goes on and on and on....

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Peanut Butter and Broken Glass

While working on a short story, I recently realized I cannot write a sex scene worth a damn, no matter how I hard I try. 

Really.  They come out totally crappy. 

Part of me wants to use this as an opportunity to send out a plea for help from the ladies in my life.  You know, ladies, if you really wanted me to be a better writer you'd come over to my dungeon apartment and help out the scene a bit. 

But I won't do that because I know better.  Besides, careful what you wish for, eh?

I avoid sex scenes.  My characters kiss, a little detailed description of some breathing and body language, and then the scene closes.  We come back and they're putting their clothes back on.  Done. 

When I try to write out the scene with details, it always gets weird.  One time I had to write something kinky.  It was for a writing class.  I was told sex should be dirty and a little kinky.  What ended up was this little gem:

Stefan grabbed Lori's wrist and pulled her roughly towards himself.  She looked into his eyes for a moment then kissed him hungrily.  
"Baby," she whispered.  "This is our only night."  
Stefan tried not to think of her husband and failed.  
"I want you to make me remember this forever," she said.  
Stefan walked over to his closet and pulled out a jar of peanut butter and a bag of broken glass.  
Lori's eyes grew large and her mouth hung open a bit, but she said nothing.  
"Oh," Stefan said.  "I'm sure this will come up a lot in therapy."  

Yeah, nobody liked that scene very much, either.  Personally I found it to be evocative of many post-modern sentiments and a wonderful statement on the creative uses for peanut butter. 

But I was the only one. 

I once tried to enter into a BDSM-themed writing contest.  The editor wrote back to me that my submission was, "bordering on Sadistic and sociopathic homicidal fantasy" and wrote at the bottom of the rejection, "Sex is supposed to be fun!"  

In my defense, I will say that one of the characters did laugh a lot. 

My favorite sex scene ever written was the one in The Eve of St. Agnes by John Keats.   Keats was brilliant in his language, pacing and form.  Technically speaking, it was more of a rape than a sex scene, but I'm sure in 1819 it was the highlight of romance.  Plus, this was supposed to be a dream, so she gives in willingly.  This is why it can be great literature and still be a bit rapey. 

  Beyond a mortal man impassion’d far
  At these voluptuous accents, he arose,
  Ethereal, flush’d, and like a throbbing star
  Seen mid the sapphire heaven’s deep repose;
  Into her dream he melted, as the rose        320
  Blendeth its odour with the violet,—
  Solution sweet: meantime the frost-wind blows
  Like Love’s alarum pattering the sharp sleet
Against the window-panes; St. Agnes’ moon hath set.

Isn't that just the loveliest?  Much better than when I tried writing a sex scene after spending the whole summer reading Kurt Vonnegut novels.  His novels should come with a script for Prozac and other mood-enhancing drugs.  I was less depressed after reading Elie Wiesel's Night while listening to Henryk Gorecki's Symphony No. 3 (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs) on a rainy Sunday afternoon. 

When I tried to write it out, the characters didn't even like each other much.  They didn't hate each other, either.  And their disinterest in each other made the sex so joyless I couldn't help but feel sorry for them.  Killing them off was an act of mercy.  They were eaten by a bear who was angry his favorite tire swing was removed from the oak tree near the woods.  As he chomped bitterly at their flesh, he reflected upon their acceptance and stoic reactions. 

That story didn't sell, either. 

What I'm reading always has a huge effect on what I'm writing.  So you can imagine how fucked up the sex was during my Hunter S. Thompson phase. 

She looked and talked like a Texas debutant.  But this was Day Three of the GOP Convention and she was on Day Two of a meth binge.  The hotel room was completely destroyed as if a twister from her hometown of Tyler, Texas, had done meth right along with her and together they made this awful mess.  

I had gotten myself into this terrifying position because the manic bitch promised me an interview with Senator Smith in exchange for some drugs.  But earlier she and I had done them all and she'd forgotten the whole affair.  Now she was on top of me and screaming Republican gibberish while tearing off her clothing.
It just got worse after that. And note that I never really got into the sex part.  I just can't do it! 

When I play with the language, it just doesn't work.  I'm just not good at softening things up. 

He gently opened her legs to reveal her hoo-ha.  And it was a stunning hoo-ha, indeed.  In fact, of all the hoo-has he had seen in his life, her hoo-ha was the prettiest.    

When I was in college, I had the assignment of writing a sex scene that was supposed to be realistic.  The professor said it should be embarrassing.  No problem!  I have a ton of those stories to tell. 

Instead, everybody laughed when I read it in front of the class.  But that laughter stopped when I began to describe in great deal the horrible things our bodies produce, do, smell like and feel like as you discreetly try to wipe them off your skin. 

The human body really is a disgusting bag of rotting chemicals.  Once you understand that, sex just isn't all that great.  It's a nice idea, but in practice it's kind of gross.  This is another reason I don't ask women out.  Sure, they're wonderful, pretty and full of light--but once you see them without the illusions of fantasy, they are all just bags of slimy, rotting fluids.  Men are, too. 

This is the crux of the whole problem I have with writing sex scenes.  Flesh is a lie.  Flesh is a putrid, fetid prison for our spirits.  So the last time I tried to do any kind of sex scene at all, it read more like an autopsy report done in the middle of the night by a drunken coroner.  Things fell on the floor with a wet splatter, etc. 

This is another reason why I like necrophilia stories so much.  They're already dead, so you can't insult them by holding your nose.  Plus, if you stop what you're doing to wash them off, even the reader understands.  And just by the act itself, you can allow your character a certain amount of insanity. 

I'll end by telling you this story.  It's true, sadly. 

I was in a bar in Albany, Illinois with a friend of mine.  We were intercepting somebody on the way back from the drag races in Cordova.  While at the bar, we joked about kinks and freakish things people do. 

I said, "Yeah, she's a freak.  But she's not into peanut butter and broken glass."

The 50-something bartender, who looked like a surfer girl that had seen plenty of better days, overheard me and smiled.  She said, "Mmm, that sounds kinky!"

I almost named this blog Peanut Butter and Broken Glass.  Truth.