Poetry book, 120 pages, cover price $14
($11 if ordered from the MSR Online Bookstore)
Release date: 2008
Every book should have an introduction, preferably by some Eminent Literary Personage who will give it some gravitas and, one hopes, a touch of class.
So one of the things you, as an author, must do is find some well-regarded fellow writer who likes you and/or respects your work. Or, if that fails, you can seek out some moderately well-thought-of person who is willing to do you a favor, possibly for money. And failing that, unless you’re a total loser nobody wants his name associated with, some hack will be desperate enough for a blurb for his book to be willing to write you one in exchange.
Here is my introduction. I wrote it myself.
For something like 20 years, I wrote a column in the Charlotte Observer. I wrote, at various times, four columns a week, five columns a week, and for a year or so, six columns a week.
So my point is, if I am understanding myself correctly, that I wrote what is known as, in the technical jargon of semi-professional journalism, a shitload of columns.
The column was called “OutFront,” a name I didn’t choose. The name made some sense at first, because at first the column was on the front of the “Living” section every day (I was referred to as a “Living columnist,” which caused readers to wonder whether the paper also had some dead ones. I won’t name any names, but in my opinion, it did. The “Living columnist” appellation also caused me to wonder loudly why they didn’t pay me a Living wage.)
It wasn’t all glamor. I did hard-nosed, gut-busting investigative humor. I don’t know how many times I was called out in the middle of the night to cover late-breaking humor, often in low bars with sleazy women. Or behind sleazy bars with low women. Or with low, sleazy women behind bars.
My column was populated by an unusual cast of characters:
My pal Heppel, who sometimes seemed like my alter ego, always getting involved with the wrong women.
The pachydermeous Huge Sisters, Enorma and Elephantina.
OutFront University archeologist Robin Graves, who, in Egypt’s Valley of the Jacks or Better (two valleys over from the Valley of the Kings) unearthed the Temple of Spameses, the ancient god of lunch meat, and his consort, Spammy Faye.
The Ol’ Mail Bag, the elderly postal worker who, in the days before e-mail, used to drag heavy sacks of fan mail up the 647 steps to Stately OutFront Manor, in the trendy Crackhaven section of the city. I never knew who got more tired, her from dragging the sacks, or me from writing the fan mail.
And, of course, private eye Humphrey Buggart, who, when his name was confused with the actor, would explain that “It’s spelled the same, only with different letters.”
There also was diarist Velvel Peeps (pronounced “Pepys”) who died tragically when a supermarket kiwi fruit display collapsed and he was tickled to death.
Which reminds me of the OutFront Endangered Feces list, which kept track of rare and exotic animals whose feces were in danger of becoming exstinked.
Animals like the kiwi, hunted to the brink of extinction for the fruit and shoe polish it gives; the American slim jim, a land eel of the sausage family; the mo, prized for its hair; and the corn dog, which, despite tragically being born with only one leg, is the noblest of all dogs, feeding the hand that bites it.
Oh, the work was hard, but I had to keep going because, as I sometimes pointed out, I was the sole support of my widowed mother and father. But through it all, I always had the heart of a poet (in a jar on my desk). So besides the jokes, I also wrote, to the dismay of many, poetry.
And over the years my poems began to generate more and more buzz—letters, phone calls and e-mails. But I kept writing them anyway, and now I’ve decided to collect some of the least-abominable ones in book form. This is that book.
Treat it gently, dear reader, and remember, the person who bought it for you (I assume nobody would actually buy it for himself) probably meant well.