Sunday, May 10, 2015

100 Good Memories

I turned 30 today.

And while I treat all my birthdays as days of great, serious reflection, this one especially has sent my mind spinning. So I decided to actually put down what I've done in my 30 years on this planet with this life.

Now, I've had A LOT of good moments in my life with A LOT of good people. This list was just the first 100 that came to mind and I left out any time that wasn't specific enough.

I mean, I've been blessed with recurring episodes of wild laughter at truly terrific hangout venues (Shirley's house, Julia's house, Wall's house, the Mira Mesa house, Chris's apartment, et cetera), and they all sort of blur together as several fantastic parties.

And there's also been A LOT of repeat goodness: barreling through the Sarvas Christmas party, playing "Cliche Guevara" in the garage, cruising in Jeff's old Bel-Air, setting the Christmas tree on fire in Mexico, goofing off atop the parking garage with the Rasta crew, watching Keith turn his order at Jalapeno's into a game show, derber-daying it up with croquet in the Romelle backyard, living through what seemed like every single night at The Madison—the list goes on forever.

This compilation was an attempt to pinpoint certain moments in my life that I look back on and think, "Not many people get the chance to live this good of a life."

So below is 100 good memories.

Also, I've left out all the very good memories of romance, lust, and illegal activities, just so it's not strange for anyone to read. There are a lot of those moments that count for a great deal of space in my head and my heart, but putting it down here in the public lineup seemed too oddball.

I loved doing this and will likely attempt "Another 100 Good Memories." 

Anyway...here's my existence!

100 Good Memories
a 30-year project
by Jake Kilroy

1. Coming up for summer night air in Eileen's pool in Arizona during a lightning storm that wouldn't quit with the southwest downpour, only 20 minutes after Rex and I arrived, just shy of midnight.

2. Starting the dance party to "Party in the U.S.A." at the Shattuck House's Halloween party, all of us dressed as the Village People.

3. Watching Paris light up from our boat on the Seine River. The sky was a dying bright orange, and I was with friends and barely 18. The world seemed gigantic and gorgeous.

4. Taking a long bubble bath in a fancy Sydney hotel room upon arrival with the skyline out in the window frame, realizing I had finally made it to Australia. One of the surrealist moments I've had.

5. Giving my speech at graduation. I had spoken in public many times before then, but that was a lot of people listening to what I had to say about the world and I did my best to deliver.

6. Watching my mom sleep on the family room floor with our new tiny pup Charlie on her chest because he wouldn't stop howling otherwise.

7. Leading a parade of excited drunks in Vancouver when our hostel's bar closed down and we needed to find a new bar that would have us.

8. Spending an afternoon lawn bowling at an exclusive social club in Vancouver because an old lady found me, Chase, Jeff, and Ryan so charming and sweet.

9. Dancing in full rave gear to LCD Soundsystem's "All My Friends" with the Seattle crew at the Anderson family vacation home on the lonely coast of Oregon.

10. Strutting around the World War II karaoke club in Northampton with Ryan, as we barged fake Boston accents without ever letting up.

11. Finding the ancestral home in Ireland with the family after a rainy day of scouring the countryside with only two clues: "it's at the end of a road" and "it overlooks the lake."

12. Playing Grand Theft Auto III for the first time at Shirley's house, and it was like nothing I had ever seen.

13. Winning a game of foosball because my teammate Rex couldn't stop yelling a girl's name and I had never seen him more awe-inspiringly powerful.

14. Sitting around the Romelle living room one birthday with a huge gang of goofs singing Name Taken while Blake played guitar.

15. Jumping off river cliffs with Uncle Fred somewhere in the middle of California.

16. Getting the news that I won the book-writing contest in second grade when I called the school from a hotel room in San Francisco, there for Erik and Stacey's wedding.

17. Losing an entire day because of World Cup 2010 with Chase, Dave, Ventura Grant, and Grant's friend Randy. We started drinking at 8 a.m., were tanked by 11, and blacked out by 1. Became such good friends with the bartender in that time that she drove us to her twin sister's bar when her shift ended. The Jen picked me up close to midnight and by then, I'm sure I looked like the destroyed puzzle of a person.

18. Sitting on an empty beach in Big Sur around midnight with Greg and Scott, sharing a bottle of whiskey, trying to figure out if we could make fire.

19. Sitting on a beach on Vancouver Island with Jeff, Chase, and Ryan. They played Radiohead, and it looked like we were at the edge of the world.

20. Tagging Jay's driveway in chalk with the Rasta crew and then cruising through when the cops showed.

21. Giving Mandy Moore a Del Taco gift card during a school assembly in my communist shirt.

22. Marrying Blake and Adriana.

23. Speeding around the Handy Park parking lot one night in the Deathmobile with Duran riding shotgun, as we faux demolition derby'd the other cars of Nicky and Dennis in one of the great pirate vs. ninja night battles.

24. Playing a drinking game in a cupcake tin at Wall's house as everything around the dining room table spiraled into total madness with people running around half or full naked.

25. Seeing The Replacements live.

26. Seeing Against Me! at Chain Reaction in March 2004. Big crew went and the whole place threw arms around each other and knew every word. The band was shirtless and sweaty by the end and the stage was crowded with fans. It felt like a basement show of a friend's band. Still the best show I've ever been to.

27. The friendly fight tournament at the Mira Mesa House that saw Hendrickson put Chase into a wall, Rex kick a guy's earring out of his head, and Chris repeat yell, "Fight that dog!"

28. Drinking a beer at Cafe Tutu Tango after the first New Kissing Techniques show. All our friends came to see Chris, Bret, and me perform, and they went crazy, even though it was only a two-song set at a restaurant, which I agree doesn't make sense. It was very good of them.

29. Seeing the Seattle skyline come up like a beautiful beast in the road after driving up the coast with Chris.

30. Swimming with a beer in hand, wearing my life vest like a chair, and dodging swaying boats on my first day of Seafair. The whole day was perfect.

31. Playing dice game with Tony and Rex while wearing Christmas sweaters and listening to Christmas music one rainy afternoon in October.

32. Playing Super Nintendo for the first time with my dad in lawn chairs in the family room.

33. Watching Uncle Tim nearly blow off his fingers when he lit up fireworks in our backyard. There was a whole presentation and show with the family sitting around in chairs cackling.

34. Sitting at the bottom of the under-construction pool at Orange High one Fourth of July with John (A), eating chips and queso while drinking root beer and listening to the world wail.

35. Sitting at Spoon's writing the script for Sass with John (G) and laughing so hard I'm sure it looked like we were being tickled.

36. Sitting on the dock at Liz and Colby's wedding reception, watching the moon hang wild over the lake.

37. Seeing fireflies for the first time while putting up a tent with Grant in Missouri, before leaving to buy Boones Farm at a gas station for dinner.

38. Cheering as pizza arrived to the Column Five Christmas party with all of us drunk as hell, cozied up in blankets on three-story rooftop, with the twinkling lights of Newport in every direction.

39. Going on a late-night bike ride with Grant, Matthew, and Devon, exploring the long mysterious path by the Romelle house.

40. Copyrighting the pilot for Gents with Scott. I've written many things in my life, but I never had the motivation to put a copyright on anything.

41. Showing up to what we believed was a huge party at the Mira Mesa house with Rex, only to discover that was 100% not true. Entered the house to a very surprised Brian and Brad, both drinking cough syrup, the former because he was sick and the latter because he was bored. Spent the night in the garage playing music and drinking jugs of wine and whiskey.

42. Playing beer bong in Cameron's backyard with nearly everyone from the college paper. Andrew and Jason were kind enough to drive me home in what turned out to be one of the absolute slurriest attempts at directions.

43. Playing basketball with my dad and uncles in my grandparents' backyard because I was finally old enough.

44. Inventing and playing the game William Tell Frisbee at Swaylocks.

45. Attending a house party in San Francisco with Nevada, who I'd only known a few weeks, and ultimately co-hosting the whole thing in the craziest way before sprinting desperately across town so we could make it back to Isabella's apartment before she locked up.

46. Sitting on James's patio in the early morning with San Francisco in the distance, laughing hysterically and drinking separate bottles of Jameson like forties.

47. Waiting in line for the midnight showing of The Dark Knight with what seemed like half the city of Orange. You could roam other lines and just keep finding friends. It was like a huge outdoor party.

48. Coming home to the Madison, seeing the cars of many friends, only to wander a dead-quiet household, finding my friends all spread out in the interior and backyard reading the seventh Harry Potter book.

49. Arriving with Sam at the Madison, completely done up as a fake restaurant with friends all working it in full character: Chris as waiter, John as host, Greg as owner, Randy as busboy, Rich as cook, and Rex as the live entertainment playing our song.

50. Performing "Build Me Up Buttercup" as a slam poem with Lawrence before launching into one of the most obnoxious renditions of that song ever for our high school talent show, ultimately winning us the comedy award.

51. Spending the afternoon of my birthday in La Recoleta Cemetery with Ryan, totally and absolutely enthralled by the Buenos Aires city of the dead.

52. Winning our only game in junior varsity basketball. We went 1-21 and only beat a Catholic school. I can tell you this with total confidence though: If whoever had the most fun actually won, we would've gone undefeated and probably have taken state.

53. Reading A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man with my butt on the dock and my feet in the river, breathing in the Indian summer of Austin.

54. Reading Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves by the Romelle fire alone one winter night when no one was home but Benson the dog.

55. Discovering jazz when I checked out a Chet Baker CD from the local library.

56. Hitting a game-winning double in little league.

57. Seeing the rereleased Star Wars on the big screen with my family.

58. Seeing Gone With The Wind on the big screen with Lindsay. Only movie I've ever been to that had an actual intermission.

59. Playing the first game of croquet in the Romelle backyard for the first time, with all of us realizing we had a new beloved hobby.

60. Seeing Green Day for the first time in Santa Barbara with Jeff.

61. Organizing and rallying the local crowd for an eating contest at our club rush booth for Scrabble Society, a club I co-founded with David and John A.

62. Catching my only wave in Mexico one summer after Brook had the patience to teach me.

63. Getting drunk on Nyquil with Scott while watching Who Framed Roger Rabbit and playing ping-pong on our dining room table.

64. Hiking the Narrows in Zion.

65. Floating down the Merced River in Yosemite with my family. I wrapped my toes in the raft's rope and I just let it drag me in a life vest. On one side was forest and the other side was a waterfall blasting out of the mountain.

66. Learning to drive with my dad in empty business parking lots in Irvine.

67. Finding old cassette recordings of my great-grandmother telling old stories from Ireland as a kid. I sat there in front of our family stereo and listened in intrigued silence.

68. Performing "Illkast Endyear" as The Bloodlit Stars at Greg's New Year's party. Jeff took the time to learn it, and it was the only live performance of that fake band to ever happen.

69. Smoking a cigarette on Kristen's fire escape when I made it to New York City for the first time. I watched and listened to the city in close detail. It was like a dream. I had always seen myself doing that my whole life, and I didn't want to forget a thing.

70. Laying beneath the gigantic blue whale in the American Museum of Natural History with James, chatting life and philosophy.

71. Sprinting from the jacuzzi to the house in Big Bear after we got kicked out. Coldest I've ever been.

72. Recording Jenelle's manic birthday music with Jeff in Farrell's garage.

73. Taking a break during band practice and lounging about the lawn with Jeff, Chase, and Rex when my mom bought us ice cream.

74. Listening to Nick get pulverized by fruit at Justin's birthday party in 7th grade. The backstory here is that Justin lived next to a fruit grove and we had split up into teams. The game's objective was simple: peg the other team with fruit. If you were hit, you were out and had to hop the fence back to Justin's backyard. My whole team was out except for Nick. You could hear him get cornered by the other team's remaining three. All of us in the backyard hear Nick drop his fruit and repeat that he's obviously out, so the game's done. But then Justin said something and the firing squad let loose. Periodic sounds from Nick lingered. I'll never forget that sound as long as I live. It was hilarious and terrifying.

75. Playing neighborhood-wide laser tag at the Madison. All the lights in the house off, all of us running around in laser tag gear. It was dark and the entire cul-de-sac was game.

76. Running through an entire street of heavy-duty illegal fireworks on the Fourth of July at the Romelle. It was like that scene in The Sandlot, just no Ray Charles.

77. Attending a 4/20 party of high schoolers on accident as fully grown adults who just wanted to sit in a damn jacuzzi.

78. Sitting on Sam's patio in Austin in my underwear, watching the craziest late-summer monsoon come and go.

79. Looking up at the night sky out in the woods with my arm around my grandmother, out along the Great Ocean Road in Australia, seeing more stars in the sky than I ever had before or have since. It was like a diamond quarry above us.

80. Writing the first page of my novel sitting on a cliff in Mexico while my friends all rock-climbed behind me, except for Greg, who I think was reading a Carl Sagan book beside me.

81. Crashing a wedding in Mexico with nearly 20 of us because the bartender invited us.

82. Opening my restaurant eEvita's in first grade. See, I had wanted to turn our home into a drive-thru restaurant, and my parents helped me get the closest I could. They invited my grandparents, aunts, and uncles for a one-night opening and closing. I drew up menus for the customers and recipes for the cooks. My brother and sister were host and hostess, and the relatives paid me actual money. I was the owner and only waiter. My parents made all the food. We all dressed fancy as a staff. I took it very seriously.

83. Outsmarting crafty Uncle Jim once in a high-low game of poker as a kid. My grandparents, aunts, and uncles went nuts.

84. Playing the game of Shark while night-swimming at my grandparents' pool while all of the Ohio family in town.

85. Dancing ballroom in a pool with The Jen as a wildcard teenager.

86. Kissing a girl for the first time (Sara) when walking her home as a kid on a bike.

87. Drinking and dancing until 6 a.m. with women we'd met in Vegas one mad night for Louis's bachelor party.

88. Playing Starcraft with in the Dufaults' garage with Nick, Greg, Rex, Dave, and Grant while an actual cool party happened inside the house.

89. Smoking a cigarette for the first time with Jeff in front of the pizza place Ray worked at. Julia's older neighbor lit my cigarette for me and I reacted like a nerd in the movie's, coughing like an idiot.

90. Falling out of Julia's treehouse as a kid because I was trying to impress Mallory.

91. Playing Jurassic Park at the Browns with Doug and Jeff.

92. Singing "My Girl" at winter formal with all the Rasta dudes.

93. Receiving a bicycle for Christmas as a kid. It was blue and had a banana seat, and I lost my mind.

94. Playing a wild game of truth or dare in the jacuzzi at Amber's house.

95. Running around the pit at a Tijuana Panthers show with Jeff and Chase, when we felt like the oldest guys at the show who could still run wild.

96. Getting lost on our way to the Transplants show at the Glass House with Jeff and Chase and parking in the dark to figure out where we were. A train whistle sounded and we freaked out. It turns out we parked next to the tracks, not on them. But, man, that was a scary second.

97. Eating Cassano's pizza with Rex, Brian, and Dave and sitting on the hill overlooking the San Clemente Beach one Labor Day. Watched a middle-aged couple somewhat discreetly pleasure each other. It was a fascinating experience for all of us.

98. Giving up meat at the tender age of 10.

99.  Typing the last line of my novel at my desk while the smell of charcoal came through the window along with the summer light.

100. Evaluating my life and realizing it wasn't that hard to come up with 100 good memories.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Quick Thoughts on New York City

When I first went to New York City, I had one hell of a time. But I didn't quite get it. I was there for the party, and I didn't understand how people lived there, because it was like trying to read a book or take a nap in the middle of said party. This time, with less lofty touristy aims, it clicked. The town is still a monstrous beast, for sure, but it's so beautiful and wild, and it makes itself stunningly available to you. You sort of create your own New York within the city.

Anyway, an exceptional amount of gratitude goes to Chris, who put me up for the week and more or less played the role of indefinite tour guide and drinking buddy (dude also slayed his play both nights). Thank you to Chris's friends for treating me like immediate local. Thank you to the whole C5NY crew for welcoming me into their trivia night inner circle. Thank you to Nicole, Wyatt, and Danika for staying out late on a school night. Thank you to Diana for planning a radical night out. Thank you to Kristen for offering up a lazy afternoon of pints. Thank you to Emily, Greg, and Isabella for doing up a dinner of old school catching up. Thank you to Greg and Karissa for letting me crash their lunch spot. Thank you to Kenzie, Castle, and Ashlee for trusting me not to be insane. And my most sincerest apologies for everyone I missed out there in the east.

If I were to create my own New York, it'd be the High Line, Little Branch, and pizza all the time. Thank you for having me, big city. It was a lovely time.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Happy St. Patrick's Day (Sort Of)!

Happy St. Patrick's Day (Sort Of)!
by Jake Kilroy

When I was younger, I, like most Americans with Irish heritage, swore allegiance to the Emerald Isle without ever doing the research. Saint Patrick's Day has become a reminder that I still haven't. I've done the bare minimum of understanding a culture that more or less made me who I am. There's beautiful and glorious Italian, German, Polish, and Luthanian blood in me as well, but I tend to most often identify with the pale-as-a-ghost storytellers who consume grief and celebrate everything. I read Dubliners, but not How the Irish Saved Civilization. I read Angela's Ashes, but not Emigrants and Exiles.

The Irish, like any culture ever, are complex. But we do a weird thing with stereotypes in this country when we land on celebration terms, where we boil a heritage down to a few marketable items. It can't be avoided. In a time of dwindling attention spans (of which I take part and promote), there's no way in hell anyone can expect an in-depth discussion of the Easter Rising. At large, it's sort of screwball what comes to represent an entire people with eons of history. The Irish have a billion playwrights and artists, and they invented things like the boycott and the tattoo machine, but last night, Midnight had an Irish-themed hashtag, and half the jokes were about the Scottish.

I don't really have a takeaway with all this, and it's certainly not relegated to this particular culture or holiday. It just struck me funny today, as I saw online photo collections of blackout bros in green throwing down the shaka brah (bless their hearts) and heard radio ads that bordered on lazy with leprechaun impressions hyping a sale that would "make ol' Patty weep" or something even stranger. I just thought, once again, what the hell is today even supposed to be?

Anyway, I'll close on what remains my favorite joke about the Irish (from 30 Rock): "The Chinese built the railroads, the Irish built and then filled the jails." Happy Saint Patrick's Day, all!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Hey, I made some poetry chapbooks!

Hey, hey! I put together three chapbooks of poetry! It’s 28 poems in total. You can have them if you want ‘em. They’re free. Give me your address, and I’ll mail you printed copies. Give me your email, and I’ll send digitals. Or just tell me to bring ya them next time we hang. You also don’t have to read these. I just have hundreds of poems sitting around, and I decided to finally do something with them. Woo!

Monday, February 23, 2015

"now tell it again"

"now tell it again"
written after another doubtful weekend by jake kilroy.

was this whole theater built with the planks we didn't walk?
it's likely, but we'll tell everyone a different story:
they're the hundred thousand crosses christ was nailed to
over the centuries by all who dared charge the mountain.
grief and pity is all anyone here remembers eating.
self-sacrifices slur out with whiplash tongues
at the dinner party too white for comfort.
brain-damaged on the dance floor,
we all cup the body parts
that shouldn't be in public
just to slander our spouses,
so we have something to talk about on the way home.

where do you hail from, all?
what basement lounges? what temple bars?
what cemeteries where you shot photos for school?
it feels like all we do is wake up.
i can't remember the last time i went to bed satisfied.
i can't remember the last time i drummed my knuckles
out of boredom instead of this brutal nervous tick
i scooped up from my grandparents,
once they saw the world for what it was:
ending.

come tomorrow, this will be the same conversation.
it's day in and day out of too many people repeating themselves.
yes, we know you've been trying to eat healthy.
yes, we know you're making time for yourself.
yes, we know that your marriage is working for the time being.
we've seen the pictures. we've heard the fights.
the only true thing we know is that we'll hear it again.

we're like lapdogs suddenly bursting into flames.
get the best painter you know so we can document in portraits
and nail real-world observations to this furiously drunk forum
before we lose our terrible awful nerves in the next round of fits.

god, there's a woman i miss too much on this earth,
and the best i can do is sell myself short on the weekends,
as i stomp around my neighborhood coming up with errands,
just to wait until i can dive head-first into any party
that will have me as good and true as she once did.

that ain't the half of it, and i don't know what is.
i'm barely able to figure out a budget, let alone solve poetic math.
i'm only a writer, i tell myself. we're supposed to be bad at life.
yet every man knows the tortured artist bit is good for teenagers,
but it's just a madhouse excuse that goes unchecked otherwise.

so pull it together, poets.
we've got truths to sell to the highest bidder.
hell, it's the only way we'll ever make a living,
by telling everyone what they already know
and don't want to hear again.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

"the heavy king"

"the heavy king"
after a long lunch by jake kilroy.

with too many lovers, not enough money,
and no excuses, a man finally considered l.a.
it had been in his nerves the whole time,
mugging classical music,
caroling street graffiti,
making waste of youth.
it cracked sharp teeth
and bled light to attract
the dreamers and the bingers,
offering a home away from home
when all they needed was a map and a blessing.

what good is the pulse
if it stumbles, a bent clock
with hands flagging down anything resembling a passing christ?
jesus, why did we retell all these stories
if they were to mutate into idioms?
is that how it happens?
is that how we all become the patron saints of the afterlife?
yeah, yeah, carve up a grave in reincarnation bulk weight
and tell yourself you'll avoid the madness and kill the cancer next time.
surely, these hands were constructed
by Mother Nature or Lord Supernatural
for more than holding prayer beads
and patting the backs of local desperate monks.

i was wild once!
i was the battering ram of night.
i was the only blanket in a lover's house.
i was clothes on the floor, drugs in the system, blood unsure of source.
and now i'm the last king of land so barren you couldn't plant a foot.
every merchant elsewhere, all churches gone, nobody home but crows.
but here we are waiting to buy into anything that resembles the past.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Jake Kilroy's 2014 Year of Reading

In 2014, I read a lot of books and graphic novels, and I listened to a lot of audiobooks. These were my favorites.

Novels, Novellas & Collections
1. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugendies
What a gorgeous, honest read. What a vivid, heartbreaking, wonderful history created from nothing. All the weirdness of existence is here, especially for a character that thrives as their own anomaly. Cal(liope), the intersex narrator of the tale, reccounts the family's progression through the whole of the 20th Century. Real life is almost impossible to write, and it's done here with majesty, enthusiasm, and sincerity, painting a rich portrait without ever overusing literary devices.

2. Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon
Even at his supposed "most accessible," Pynchon and his chaotic tale criss-crosses itself a dozen times a paragraph. It's all-out jivey in narrative, not just dialogue, and it's written in the immaculate slang of a doper, not as one of the most enigmatic authors of the 20th Century. It's got a mouthful of noir with tastes for surf lit, and it's totally wild to read and rewarding to dissect.

3. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
This book is so much goddamn fun, both in dialogue and narration. Philip Marlowe is the smoothest blend of tough guy, goof, and wise-ass. It allows him to be capable of pretty much anything (without having the luck of a saint). Sly and stylish.

4. The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaiman
With Gaiman, it's always the real world that's been shaken up. And he makes it seem easy, almost obvious. Why not? Why can't our perceived reality be just a shred of existence?  Here, a boy narrator takes notice of the very great darkness that lurks in the corners of the quiet countryside, and then everything goes haywire.

5. Without Feathers by Woody Allen
This collection is just as silly, satirical, and ridiculous as it is thoughtful, philosophical, and diligent. It's so precise with its absurdism with each short story, essay, or play. It knows the bounds of every joke, with a tone that could challenge an academic or crack wise with the class clown.


Graphic Novels
1. Scott Pilgrim (Complete Series, Volumes 1-6) by Bryan Lee O'Malley
All of the details of a man's early twenties can be found here. Those minute, tiny, perplexing cracks in existence every young adult has are evaluated here without ever dwelling too long. This series is so over-the-top goofy (with the premise of a spaz musician defeating Nintendo-like exes) and yet strangely accurate in its tenderness and "What am I doing?" moments of hopeless efforts. It's also legit funny. I loved the shit out of it.

2. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi 
This should be required reading. Written with the ease of a conversation, we witness extremists employ Islam as a cultural weapon and turn Iran into a different country altogether in the late 1970s. Told from the point of view of its author, evolving from naive girl to worldly woman, it's charming, painful, educational, and, above all, sincere. Easily one of the most triumphant examples of memoir.

3. Saga (Volumes 3 & 4) by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples
It's still Star Wars with sex, violence, and swear words, and it continues to be so rad. That's all. It's just cool as hell. You should be reading this.

4. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
Memoirs are an especially delicate bag of tricks, and Bechdel nails it as true without glory and emotional without tragedy. It's breathtaking in its scope of reality, with themes ranging from sexual discovery to familial loneliness. With a focus on the complicated relationship with her father, Bechdel  remembers summers and holidays of the 1960s and '70s. Expansive and engaging.

5. Astro City (Volumes 1-4, 8) by Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson and Alex Ross
No other series crafts its own world of superheroes so articulately and passionately while remaining so balanced. Heroes and villains are created and then given histories and identities as defined as DC and Marvel characters, but their stories are told with way more focus on humanity than unreality.

6. Daytripper by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá
A beautiful story, and an equally alluring collection of artwork; a man's life measured if he died continually. Nothing sci-fi, mind you. Just an abstract acknowledgement that life is valuable and fragile. It takes its time to set a tempo of experience, noting how magical and important the mundane can (or should) be.

7. East Of West (Volumes 1-3) by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta
Sci-fi, fantasy, and western genres mash up and kick ass in one of the coolest, loudest outings ever. Three of the four horsemen show up for the apocalypse. Death's missing, and it pisses off the other three. This is all while the dystopian U.S. comes to a boiling point because of the cowboy-twang of a quasi-religious war.

8. Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughn and Niko Henrichon
A balanced work, Vaughn tells the story of a pride of lions that escape the Baghdad Zoo after the city is bombed by the U.S. in 2003. The animals' interpretations of the fallen world around them is extraordinary (what great beast a tank is, why their keepers have fled, etc). So basic to mean so much.

9. Sex Criminals (Volume 1) by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky
So witty, so endearing, so fun, so self-aware, so alluring, so real, so out there. It's fantastic. A man and a woman can stop time when they have sex. They decide to rob a bank. It naturally gets complicated, and its voice is the best narration in comics.

10. Superman For All Seasons by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale
Loeb takes everything I've ever liked about Superman and carefully assigns him a deep, thorough identity and then examines it. It's a strange, fragile existence for the Man of Steel, as someone who sees the world as a human with entirely different capabilities and, therefore, fears.

11. Ex Machina (Complete Series, Volumes 1-10) by Brian K. Vaughn (and various artists)
Former superhero with enduring power to communicate with machines becomes mayor of New York City and deals with his past heroism and current politics. Humble in its humanity, wild in its weird, the story balances it all. It even makes use of some of the damn good political debates.

12. Pretty Deadly (Volume 1) by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Ríos
Contemporary magical realism meets old-world fable, featuring Death's daughter riding a horse made of smoke. Reads like it's told around a campfire in the Old West. Lush, mystic, and unruly.

13. Clumsy by Jeffrey Brown
Crudely drawn, but conveyed with joyous awkwardness and honesty, Brown tells the story of his first love and adult relationship. It has the most complete collection of scattered moments that I otherwise thought only existed in somebody else bringing them up. Fleeting instances of sex, fights, tenderness, all of it is remembered here in glorious true detail.


Nonfiction
1. Man Without A Country: A Memoir Of Life In George W Bush's America by Kurt Vonnegut
Vonnegut understands and explains humanity as if he were an alien doing a century-long thesis. He gets the humor of bullshit, and, here, he really comes to terms with how much mankind is destroying the planet and, more accurately, mankind. This is the angriest I've seen the poet laureate of the humanist movement, and it's really just a super pleasant man pretty damn annoyed.

2. Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
Success is a hard thing to articulate. This might be the closest we ever get to process: what matters, what should, what doesn't, et cetera. It's easy to get ramped up on rags-to-riches tales, but it's better to look at how and why. Often, it's the right person at the right place at the right time. They definitely work their asses off, but circumstance lends itself to the thrilling story more often than not, and it's so very easy to forget that.

3. SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance by Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt
Like its predecessor, this was a grand time. The economy is a spectacularly bizarre deal, and there's so much happening in the crevices, and the larger picture isn't typically even econ. The book jumps between bold stats and human interest stories, showing how cause and effect might be much different from what you thought.

4. Thunderstruck by Eric Larson
Total history, told like fiction. Mixes the Northend Celler Murder with the development of wireless communication. Carefully crafted, extraordinarily well-written. History is fascinating. It just needs a good storyteller.

5. I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections by Nora Ephron
I just enjoy Nora Ephron. This collection was fun. Even the most saddening observation of aging is told with a "oh, well, you know" class. As a human semi-landmark of the last era of "classic" New York (to me anyway—that late 20th Century New York—pre-9/11, I guess), her writing style reminds me of someone's favorite customer or client recounting a story.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2014: The Why Of It

2014: The Why Of It
by Jake Kilroy

Where​ did you begin​ 2014?​​
Politely ringing the new year with the family, ending a 5-year streak of torching a Christmas tree on a beach in Mexico with the usual beloved maniacs and lunatics.

Have any life changes in 2014?​
I got a resident freelance gig that could turn into actual travel writing next year (not holding breath, but fingers crossed).

Where​ did you go on vacation?​
The usual Big Sur. The very rare Argentina

What'​​​s the one thing​ you thought you would​ never​ do but did in 2014?
Understand how and why people give up art. Consider a future without marriage or kids.

What was your favorite moment?
Not my favorite moment exactly, but I do remember lying on the floor of the Mexico City airport during an 8-hour layover, listening to music and reading. I set my book down and people-watched before I spaced out. I was so content. It was just an odd realization of thinking, "Not many people get to have this life."

What was your biggest accomplishment?
Actually copyrighting something. I kind of always forget that part of the creative process.

What was your favorite TV programs for the year?
Mad Men. Sherlock. Bob's Burgers. New Girl. The Mindy Project. The Newsroom.

What was the best book you read this year?
Middlsex, by Jeffrey Eugenides.

What was your favorite film of the year?
Birdman, by Alejandro González Iñárritu.

How would you describe your personal fashion concept this year?
Trying my best. Someone at a party recently described it as "that classic Jake Kilroy lived-in look."

What song will always remind you of 2014?
"The House That Heaven Built" by Japandroids.

What did you do on your birthday?
I was in Buenos Aires. During the day, Ryan and I wandered La Recoleta Cemetery (easily one of the coolest places I've ever been). In the evening, we had a radical homemade dinner with his friends and then headed out to the bars at 2 a.m. By sunrise, we were at a local apartment-turned-bar dive (easily one of the strangest places I've ever been). There, I danced with a local woman who told me in broken English, "You don't have to apologize after every move. Also, you laugh a lot."

What was your best month​?​​​
October. I spent the entire month of November detoxing. What a fuckin' time. I was living like an up-and-coming actor in the Golden Age of Hollywood.

What one thing would have made your year more satisfying?
My mom not having breast cancer, that's for goddamn sure (though one hell of a recovery!). Winning the screenplay contest Scott and I entered (placed somewhere in the top 45 out of a thousand or two though!). Also not, to borrow an old phrase of Katy's, "working like an unhappily married man."

What kept you sane this year?
Cleaning.

What celebrity did you fancy the most?
Sandra Bullock. That Sandy is so tight. And that's why Scott and I made an app called Bullock Points (coming next year)!

Drinking buddy of the year?
Scott. Dudettes.

Smoking buddy of the year?
Scott. Dudes.

Whose behavior merited celebration?
Forgiving women folk.

Whose behavior disappointed you?
The government's. The media's. Social media users'. Mine (but not for the usual cooler reasons).

Any regular activities?
Running. Not eating like a scumbag. Reading. Bathing. Drinking. Being a recluse.

Favorite night​ out?
From all third-party accounts, it sounds like my favorite moment was a few missing hours at a cabin mansion in Big Bear the evening after Halloween. I can't remember a time I've fully left my insanity unchecked that hard.

Start​ a new hobby​?​
Making soap. Like Tyler Durden, but more like Jack. Staying in at night to a reclusive degree (by my standards), totally like Jack, not even a little like Tyler Durden.

Any slumps?
Too many.

Been naughty or nice?​​
I'm getting nicer, but I need to be safer with the naughty.

Any regrets?​​​
Too much work, not enough play. Too much brain-dead, not enough creative.

Do you have any New Year'​​​s resolutions?​
Be happy. Doesn't that cover all resolutions?

Overall,​​​ how would​ you rate this year?​​​
50% pretty whatever, 50% trying to arson my own life.

What do you want to change in 2015?
​I want to get what I dream. I want the big goals, and I want the big achievements.

What are you wishing for in 2015?
Thrills.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Unbelievable Day of Grant Brooks

"The Unbelievable Day of Grant Brooks"
a jovial take on the life of the surfer poet Grant,
if it was hastily written by Kurt Vonnegut.
by Jake Kilroy

Grant shifted his toes in the sand like drunk soldiers on sloppy patrol. In fact, Grant looked like a squadron leader with his mustache. A boastful brute napped above his lip. Grant could keep quiet for hours, and passers-by would listen to what his mustache had to say, if it came down to it.

It hadn't (not yet at least!), but that's the kind of respect Grant's mustache commanded. The ample forest above his smirk caught the wind that jogged up the coastline with its fat, heavy breaths. He sucked in the sweet air of the world and then he pushed it out. Grant was talented, but this was basic breathing. You, delightful reader, are too easily impressed.

The beach was quiet. It was the afternoon and only three were on the beach: Grant, his dog, and that trifling wind. The locals were asleep and the tourists weren't there yet. It was Heavenly. Or if you're the type to hate sand in your shoes, it was Hell.

Grant was the first type. The good type. He was a man with a plan, and that plan was to sit on a beach on a beautiful day. There's no better type, really.

That's why bad men are given prisons and good men are given beaches.

God made it this way so men would value the sun and the moon, so that it would become a universal understanding that to lose time is to lose life, and then where would a living man be? Up a creek! But still to this day, nobody's discovered the creek that gives everyone so much damn trouble.

Benson, the dashing rogue that was half dog and half dog, bonked his way through wave after wave. The sun poured over him like lemonade. He was also the good type.

The bad types of dogs are hard to spot. They aren't the ones that bark at the mailman. Those are also the good types, since they make it clear they don't trust government messengers. Actually, the bad types of dogs might just be cats. Cats are mercenaries. And then hamsters are hippies, ferrets are junkies, and so on. People aren't the only ones with society. That's their biggest problem—they think they are.

In a pile next to the lone star of the dune was enough Batmans to form the world's greatest army. It was grand. A pile of comic books is the closest thing a civilian can have to a harem.

Grant's shirt said Big Tits, Small Government, and he had more to say on top of that.

"Benson!"

The dog bounded out of the ocean. He looked like the world's only furry sea creature, the way his tongue flapped around like a tentacle. Benson made it to the man he called dad in a language only canines have the determination to speak.

And then there came a rumbling.

It was the only thing to ever quiet the damn gulls.

Grant looked up. The sky was as bright as it was when he arrived, and then the sun disappeared. In its place was a spaceship. An unpolished junkyard piece. A bluish-gray disc that had either come from another dimension or from being kicked down the whole of an astroid field. Campbell's Soup could've sponsored its launch.

It floated down with the grace of a paper airplane filled with thumbtacks. It did everything post-WWII Americans expected it to: hummed, beeped, blooped, jabbered, the whole deep-space nine yards.

Grant, who had never seen a spaceship before, wasn't having any of it. It was dirty and noisy. He stood up and brushed himself off.

"Now what's this shit?"

Blue lights swirled. The ship coughed up a few measured exhales. The door dropped as slow as a half-hearted apology. In its frame stood two dark green aliens—one tall, one short. They waited for applause. Or maybe horderves. Neither came. It was only Grant, Earth's most respected and only host, and he still wasn't having it.

The two aliens scurried down. They moved like octopuses who dabbed all their puckers in some bad speed. They looked tired, but they forced confidence. It was the only time in history anyone had ever hoped for a nosey photographer.

"Now, listen," said Grant gently, "before you launch into some wild spiel about me taking you to our leader, it's my day off and I don't know the guy. He lives on the other side of this country, and I'm not even sure he follows me on Twitter. Besides, he's only got this country under his belt and maybe a good number under his shoe. The rest have their own leaders. I don't know them either. They live even farther, and I know they don't follow me on Twitter. Now...what can I do you for?"

"We're here for the dog," said the taller alien.

What a thing to say!

"This dog?" said Grant, pointing at Benson, who rolled around in the sand, taking just enough notice of the aliens to pass the final.

"Yes, that dog," said the shorter alien.

Grant's eyes wobbled. He clicked his tongue and crooked his neck and put his hands on his hips and then he said this: "Well, you can't have him."

And that was that.

The aliens were confused. "But we've come from so far, and we aren't even invading," said the taller one.

"Listen, I don't care if you came from Timbuktu or Mars," said Grant.

"It wasn't Mars," said the shorter one.

"And it sure as hell wasn't Timbuktu! Let me finish, little man."

"We aren't men," said the shorter one.

"Dude. On your planet, is it customary to interrupt another human being?" asked Grant.

"We don't have human beings on our planet," answered the shorter alien.

This made Grant laugh. His laughter was the good kind. It sounded like a flute that could dance. They don't have those kinds of flutes on Earth. They might not even have them where the aliens came from. His laugh was unique. It tickled the air, and it could make a girl go weak in the knees. Hell, it could make a skeleton go from wallflower to prom king too.

"Alright, well, you got me there," said Grant. "But you still can't have Benson."

So the aliens' shoulders sagged. It was a sad day for them. They'd have to slump into their spaceship (a lonely deal, no matter what species you are) and get in trouble at their jobs back on their planet, once called Smeenok, now known as Hyperbase. They changed the name because it was flashier. No matter where you travel, someone has something to sell.

"But do you not wonder why we want this dog and—"

"No, I don't wonder why you want Benson. Of course you want him. He's Benson! He's been with me through four houses and a dozen couches. I finally taught him how to play NBA2k, and Bridget's got him on Pinterest now. He's perfect."

"But he's destined for—"

"Destiny's the universe's way making it look like it has 20/20 vision. I'm not buying that philosophy, and I sure as shit ain't selling this dog."

"But—"

"Look, you seem like nice enough dudes, but...you can't always get what you want. I mean, come on...right?"

Grant and the aliens shook hands (were they hands?). He wanted them to be happy. He also didn't want to start a galactic war on account of bad manners.

"Good luck though."

The aliens nodded. Their shoulders sagged (were they shoulders?). Disappointment is a universal language because math is a universal language. It's just always a ratio of 0 for 1.

The spaceship drifted into the wild west of stars, sluggish in its exit. Grant understood. Who would want to leave Earth? It has dogs, Dylan, hip hop, and slow-motion videos of cheetahs running.

Oh. And breakfast burritos.

Grant picked up his belongings and turned to Benson. "You earned a burrito for once. Thanks for not leaving the planet."

They walked toward the parking lot. Benson nuzzled his face into Grant as he trotted.

"But don't forget," said Grant. "I could always decide to eat you one day."

And so the story ends here. Or at least this particular one. Master-commander and destined dog have other adventures, don't worry. But we don't have time. This is just the one about the beach and the aliens. Have a good day. How could you not? You're on Earth!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

10 Books That Made/Make Me Want To Be A Writer

My friend Valerie tagged me in a social media chain that drew up my immediate interest: 10 books that have stayed with you (in some way). Don't have to be favorites or classics. Just gotta be books that dove into ya and swam around each summer since. Shouldn't take much thought.

So here now, in order of my age reading them, are the ten books I remember finishing and thinking, "Dear god, be a writer."
  • The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pène du Bois
  • Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins
  • The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
  • The Shadow Of The Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
  • The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
  • Born Standing Up by Steve Martin
  • House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman
*Most Honorable Mention*
The book Australia: Land Of Contrast by Lesley Van de Velde was the first book to really blow up my imagination. It's just a gorgeous photo collection of Australia, but it's stayed with me in a powerful sense since I was in grade school. It made me want to travel and tell stories.