This blog is officially "retired," but my other blog,
"The Lair of the Silver Fox," is still open for business!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Write On, Brother!

Wanna confuse the hell out of someone? I mean, personally, unless I've totally f**ked up someone's mind during the course of a day, I feel that I've wasted that day. Anyway, assuming that your answer is "yes" (or why would you be reading something called "David'Z RantZ?"), here's how I do it:

I tell anyone who asks what I do for a living that I'm a writer. (And I've been saying that ever since I finally got the nerve to kiss my crappy day job good-bye for good.)

No, really. It's that simple. Tell them that you're a writer -- well, if you are one -- and it'll mess 'em up for sure.

Of course, I don't know why this confusion exists, but it does. And I started noticing it with my very first paid writing gig, which was editing a restaurant menu to include cute little jokes among the descriptions of the food that they offered. (This was a Victorian-themed restaurant which wanted to appear fun rather than austere, hence their name, "Tom Foolery's.") Maybe not the kind of thing that would have Spielberg banging down my door, but somebody was giving me money to write!

During that early period in my on-again/off-again writing career, I did a lot of freelance work, mostly for print shops, doing everything from proofreading to what I call "low-grade advertising." (To my date, as we dined out: "See this card on the table, inviting you to 'join us for happy hour?' I wrote that!" And boy, was she impressed. Or not.) And initially, I described myself as a "freelance copywriter," which was evidently far too many syllables for the average person to comprehend. Hence the following exchange, which I endured a handful of times:

Him (or Her): "Oh, you're a copyrighter [sic]? Good, I can use you! I have some really good ideas I need to have copyrighted."

Me: "I think you mean patented, not copyrighted... But anyway, that's not what I do. I don't copyright; they have a whole office in Washington for that kind of thing. I write copy."


Yeah, I always got the "Huh?" accompanied by a blank stare. So I figured it would be a lot easier for everyone concerned if I simply said "writer."


Early in my freelance career, my writing partner introduced me to a young lady who ran a printshop in her basement. (This was shortly before the computer era had really gotten going, so anyone running a business like that was automatically deemed quite industrious.) When she'd discovered he had a friend who was a writer, she enthusiastically decided she had to meet me. I assumed she had plans to put me to work doing the so-called low-grade advertising jobs I was used to, but no. She thought "writer" meant that I could do things like calligraphy. Taking the word "writing" a bit too literally, I thought...

Okay. In typical "David'Z RantZ" fashion, all of the above was just an introduction. Here's the real story I want to tell:

A few years later -- well after I'd had a few articles and what I call "half a handful" of comic book scripts published -- I received a call from the very same print shop that had given me my first writing assignment. According to the owner of the shop, the former manager of Tom Foolery's was now embarking upon a new venture, a franchise called Croissant du Jour, and was looking for a writer. (A while back I'd polished up the business plan that Tom Foolery's manager, Michael Kent, sent to the bank which he hoped would finance this chain. Apparently, his figures and my written organization of same had worked.)

I called Mr. Kent, and was a bit disoriented by what he said he wanted. He wanted graffiti painted on the walls of Croissant du Jour's restrooms. Nothing obscene or even suggestive, but rather, little expressions that somehow reflected the overall dining experience.

In the restrooms.

Anyway, he further unnerved me by mentioning twice during the phone call that he also wanted Croissant du Jour's logo painted on an awning in front of the building. I told him both times that I wasn't a painter, or an artist, so logos were not something I did, but it was almost as if he wasn't hearing anything he didn't want to hear.

The site of the new restaurant was about an hour away from my home, which meant I had to deduct a small chunk out of my anticipated profits for gas money. I drove out there with a long list of suggestions for this "tasteful graffiti." He glanced at the list, and then looked at me as if something was missing. Not "Missing" on the list. "Missing" on me.

"Where are your paints?" he asked, all too matter-of-factly.

"My what?"

"Your paints," he repeated, with a tone of voice that implied that he'd actually wanted to say, "Your paints, stupid." He continued. "Your supplies. How are you going to paint these walls without them?"

I couldn't believe I'd driven an hour for this conversation. "I'm not a painter. I'm not an artist. I'm a writer."

He looked at me as if I'd just told him I was a photographer who didn't own or use any kind of camera.

I got a sinking feeling when I realized that here was another person who was taking the word "writing" too literally. I thought he'd hired me on the strength of my work on his original bank proposal. Obviously not.

He wasn't very interested in my written list of suggestions (and I knew he wouldn't like the new suggestion which I was aching to tell him!), so I realized that the only way I was going to get paid for this gig at all was if I myself painted my cute little sayings on Mr. Kent's bathroom walls.

One of his employees gave me directions to a local art supply store so I could buy paints, brushes, etc. Yeah, that's right, more money out of my pocket, and thus, my profits.

It was a long walk. I went there, wondering if I could charge him my hourly rate from the very instant I arrived at his restaurant (which would naturally include this walk). I had several other thoughts on my way to and from the art supply store, but... nothing printable.

Using a combination of brushed-on sayings and a couple of witticisms which were sprayed on with a can of spray-paint, I dutifully defaced his walls.

When I was done, he invited his employees to view my work. "What do you think?" he asked them.

"It looks like the bathroom's been vandalized," said the one person who wasn't afraid to admit that he agreed with what I myself was thinking.

Mr. Kent gave the boy a look that implied "I meant to do that!" or, in his case, "I meant to have that done!" I couldn't believe he really liked my handiwork. I don't think he did; I think he just wanted to save face.

I decided to charge him for every minute I'd spent there since my arrival, including my walk to and from the store. What I should have done was charge him for my travel time to and from home as well, plus the cost of my gasoline and the cost of the freakin' paints and brushes. But I was younger then, and certainly not as arrogant as... well not as arrogant as he struck me as being.

As he wrote my check, I asked him to make sure he included my middle initial, and I then began to spell my last name for him. (My last name is almost never misspelled, but I always tell people how to spell it anyway. Just to be safe.) As I was spelling it aloud, he waved his hand dismissively as if to say "I know how to spell it!"

As I walked to my car, carrying the paints and brushes which, obviously, I would never use again, I looked at the check he'd written.

My middle initial was missing, and my last name was misspelled. But at least he wrote the amount correctly, which, I suppose, is what really matters.

Thanks for your time.

P.S. -- Those of you who remember my April 3 post, entitled "Just In Case," may recall that I often think of people for no apparent reason, after not having thought of them for ages... And suddenly, I run into them somewhere, or learn that they've recently died, etc.

Just for the hell of it, I decided to do a Google search for "Michael Kent."

Mr. Kent, whom I'd met only once, back in the late 1980s, and rarely thought of until I began mentally drafting this post, passed away on December 21st of 2007. Kinda close to now, I thought.

Maybe I do have The Power.

Thanks for your time.


  1. I always have kids asking for 'Ghost Writer' comics.

    Paint that on your bathroom wall and smoke it!

    Or something.

  2. I used to love the way comic fans (and some dealers) would screw up pronunciations of titles and creators!

    DNA Agents

    Sub MaREENer

    John Brine, John Byron (Byrne)

    Plus, I'm forgetting a lot.

    So, IANO, how do I get to your store? I wanna show up there for new comic day. Cake says she'll meet me there, too, and I trust her completely. Really.

  3. Quit having The Power unless it's gonna somehow benefit me. Thank you.

    I sometimes tell people I'm a writer even though I haven't been paid to write in about five years. It just avoids the look of terror some people get in their eyes when I tell them I'm an I'm going to suddenly pull out a red pen and stab them. Or criticize their speech. Or something. Though it's a bit flattering to instill fear, I guess...I don't get that very often.

    ::extinguishes "post something new" fire beneath David'z butt::

  4. Hey! My ears must've been burning.

    That reminds me, I'm supposed to be booking my imaginary plane ticket...or did I claim to have already done that? I'm no good at keeping my stories straight...

  5. David M.
    I used to tell people that I sold comic books. Then I started telling people that I sell funny books. Then, for quite a number of years, I told hundreds of people that I had been a roadie on David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust Tour. Now I usually say I'm an astronaut.

  6. Cake:

    "Quit having The Power unless it's gonna somehow benefit me."

    Stand in line, hon. I'm already trying to win the lottery so I can split the take with Jayne.

    P.S. ~~ See you Wednesday, right? Right?

  7. Cousin Saul:

    I remember your "I sell funny books" era, as well as those serious fans who'd bristle at your use of the term "funny books." They're the same people who now insist on saying "graphic novels" and "graphic literature." Ever notice that the nerd and/or geek characters on modern TV shows almost always say "graphic novels" and/or "graphic literature" instead of "comic books?"

    Ah, yes. "Comic Books: The Hobby That Dares Not Speak Its Name."

  8. David: They're not "graphic novels" but "pictoral reading implements".

    And I thought Cousin Saul was a roadie for Barnes & Barnes.

  9. Dude, with that gig, the writing was on the wall from day one.

    I REALLY loved this post.

    Follow-Up Questions:
    1) WHAT did you write on the bathroom walls? The "magical fruit" rhyme? 867-5309? Grateful Dead lyrics? "I'm gonna beat Kathi up after school coz she stoled my boyfrien"?
    2) Uh-oh. When you refer to "your crappy day job," you don't mean Cousin Saul's shop, do you? 'cause that would be cold. Cold. Stone cold. Brrrrrrrrrrrr.

  10. You should have painted a picture of a hairy arse on the wall.

    Go back. Go back and do it.

    Go on...

    GO GO GO

  11. SubTorp: You're close. Cousin Saul and I have both met Bill Mumy... But my favorite Cousin Saul anecdote can be found here: Check out chapters #88-90, and 110!

    Jayne: Even if I do, Mr. Kent's gone, so the figurative slap wouldn't be in the right face, y'might say. Good idea nonetheless.

    Sparkle: Awww, you're so sweet. I was hoping you'd like it, seeing as how you all but demanded I write something.

    1. Truthfully, I've blocked out everything I wrote except for the one expression of Mr. Kent's which he wanted: "Pig out with class." Yeah, it does nothing for me either, but he'd made the artist who did illustrations for the old Tom Foolery's menu draw it on there, too. He liked the expression and "carried" it with him everywhere, so to speak.

    2. Was Cousin Saul's my "crappy day job?" Oh, Lord, no! Until recently, I worked for Charter Communications, the cable/internet/telephone company. Worst! Job! Ever!

    I worked for Cousin Saul from 1985-1988, and in almost every respect, that was one of my favorite jobs ever. And I swear I'd say that even if he didn't read my blog.

  12. Why do you end every single post with Thanks For Your Time?

  13. David M,
    Man...are you trying to make me cry?! (Not that I could, since I'm a guy)...I miss you! Next season, you really should plan a trip to Florida.

  14. David:I just knew you'd get the Billy Mumy reference. He's a real cool guy. Wonder if Cousin Saul will remember or may-be he was on Mars with those spiders, at the time. It's been so long...

    As for a vacation in that you're writng you'll have loads of time.

  15. Cousin Saul:

    Don't get so emotional, or IANO's gonna start the gay cracks again!

    I caught myself starting to get emotional off & on once I hit middle age. One night I was watching "The Wizard of Oz" on TV and got a little misty-eyed when a sepia-toned Dorothy went through her "there's no place like home" speech back in Kansas, said "f**k this," and had my tear ducts surgically removed.

    And whenever I get too nostalgic for the old days working for you, I re-read that part in your memoirs where you talk about under-paying Patrick and myself! (Juuuuusssst kidding!)

    Just Wondering: I don't remember when I started using that sign-off, but it was very early in my writing career. Articles, editorials, etc.... I guess I figured it was a way to show a tiny bit of gratitude (for lack of a better word) to anybody who took time to read my stuff. I've even used it as a closing to articles where I knew the editor would remove it. It was (and is) sort of a good luck charm; as long as it existed in the original version, I didn't care if it was edited out.

    SubTorp: I hope I don't have too much time, or I'll be hitch-hiking to Florida, and everyplace else!

  16. Well, we could always car-pool( wait a minute, that wouldn't work, as I plan on heading WEST, not south ). Not to mention all the chicken grease and peanut-butter I'd, I mean you'd, have to clean out of the car seats( juuuuuust kidding )

    ***sighs*** and goes back to reading New Yorker cartoons.

  17. 1) WHEW! I didn't THINK you were referring to Cousin Saul's shop, which I think sounds like a great place to work after having read Cousin Saul's cool online book.
    2) I like that you end every post with "Thanks for Your Time." It's kind of like your little Carol Burnett ear-tugging thingy.
    3) Mr. Kent=A Lunatic.
    4) At least you didn't get saddled with the nefarious set of hormones that makes one SOB at HALLMARK commercials and then feel dirty afterwards.
    5) I've met Billy Mumy! AND, more importantly, I've met Edie Adams (different category of celebrity, but a very cool lady)--at the same convention, which also featured a balding Charlie from the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and a non-balding Veruca Salt (can't remember the actors names--trust you, Cousin Saul, IANO, or No Oprah to fill in).
    6) Clinky has some most excellent convention pictures for heterosexual males up on his blog!
    7) What the HECK am I doing? Back to work, back to work, the tax man's hot breath is 'ponst my neck. Hold on. That's LILY. Stand down, pooch!
    8) Thank you for reading this overly long comment. Condensed versions are available.

  18. Please note: Am very confused about IANO's identity--thus the "IANO" and "No Oprah" double naming above, when I meant to type "Lamont".

  19. I just found this out:

    Here we are, all discussing Bill Mumy, and guess who's showcased at the very top of Mark Evanier's newsfromme blog today?!?!?

    I HAVE THE POWER! (We Have The Power? My Blog Has The Power? Whatever.)

    To Sparkle:

    1. Careful, you'll make Cousin Saul almost-cry again.

    2. Loved Carol's show, and hey... There are worse things to tug. Especially on TV.

    3. You shouldn't speak ill of the dead. Who do you think you are, IANO? (Hey, wait. You are IANO. I am, too. Almost forgot.)

    4. No comment necessary.

    5a. I think everyone on the planet has met Bill Mumy. Cool guy.

    5b. Edie Adams?!?!? Not only is she cool in her own right -- I loved her 1950s Marilyn Monroe impersonations -- but she was married to Ernie Kovacs. That last fact alone makes her somewhat of a goddess.

    5c. Peter Ostrum and Julie Dawn Cole are the names you're looking for, I believe.

    6. No comment needed. I'll check out that blog sometime soon.

    7. I thought IANO was going to pay your taxes.

    8. I prefer the full, uncensored versions of your blog posts & comments.

    Now, if I can only stop commenting on my own and everyone else's blogs, maybe I can finish the new post I started this morning.

  20. I can officially no longer keep up with the comments.

    *takes self outta the race*

    IANO (I think...I'm confused)

  21. Damn! This subtorp guy is yet another Lamont character! (i.e. doesn't have a blog)

    Who keeps letting these sneaky devils in here, anyways?

  22. Cake, Cake, Cake...

    I see how it is, now. It's not ALL blogs about which you're stopping your comments. Just mine.

    I saw your brand new comment on IANO's blog. You're busted big time!

    Hell, I'll bet that's how you found out that SubTorp doesn't have a blog. You tried to go there so you could leave comments for him. I feel so betrayed. I'm so glad now that I had my tear ducts surgically removed years ago!

    And after all we've meant to each other for the past... what?... two months?

    Was it something I said? Perhaps when I called you retarded? When I referred to you as a hissy-fit doo-doo head? When I said you were insane? Or when I implied you'd stop talking so much only if and when Hell froze over?

    Nahhh, it couldn't have been any of those...

    I'm so down-hearted now... I'm going to go heat up some leftover fried chicken for Orson and myself, and wash it down with some Molson Canadian Infrastructure.

    Yes, you read that correctly. Molson. Imported Canadian Infrastructure! OH, THE IRONY!

    The only way I'll ever recover from this is if you give me a full explanation tomorrow when we meet at IANO's store. Otherwise I may tie a towel around my neck and jump off my back porch singing "Supe - er - maaannnnn!" to the tune of "The Mighty Hercules" theme.

  23. Dearest David:

    Ooooooooooh you wrote a big long comment and it's not even numbered!

    ::throws self on ground, thrashes around having a tantrum::

    No, wait, in the true spirit of a Montreal Canadiens fan.

    ::riots, burns blog, loots::

    Okay, now that that's outta the way, from the top...

    1) I never said I was stopping my blog commenting, I said I was...oh, wait, I sorta did. Okay, never mind.

    2) Who's subtorp, anyways? Is s/he IANO, too? I can't believe how much time IANO has to go around being all of us. That's pretty cool. Wait, does that make me a guy?

    3) Has it been two months already? You missed our blogiversary?! Where are my flowers?

    4) How was the fried chicken? Where's my share? And where's my infrastructure?! ::drinks::

    5) I'm now losing track of my own comment.

    6) I wonder if it's time to fess up that I can't make it to IANO's store tomorrow and I'm ever-so-slightly bitter about it...nah, maybe not yet.

    7) Of course...if I am IANO...see you tomorrow!

    8) Please don't jump off a roof...or, if you do, make it a high one. Otherwise it's just broken limbs and stuff and a real bummer.

    Love and crumbs,

    The retarded, hissy fit throwin', yappy doo doo head Canadian in the crowd

  24. To Just Wondering:

    (NEW ANSWER) I end every post with "Thanks for your time" because that's the way that cutie-pie Super-Cool-Plus Sparkle Plenty likes it!

    To Cake:

    Montreal Canadiens fans act that way, too? Boston sports fans do that when they win. One of the reasons why, for the most part, I'm not really into sports.

    1) Consider it "never-minded," I guess.

    2) I don't think SubTorp is IANO, although I've never seen IANO and SubTorp together in the same room. Then again, I have been in the same room with SubTorp, and I am also IANO, so I guess he -- SubTorp is a "he" -- isn't IANO because he isn't me.

    (What the hell did I just say?!?!)

    I saw your photo, and you definitely don't look like a guy. Well, except for that unfortunate Hitler mustache.

    3) I started blogging (on Blogger, anyway) on February 11th. Shortly thereafter, after being steered toward IANO's column by Cousin Saul, I started commenting on IANO's blog and others he was linked to... but I have no idea when I started reading your stuff or when you started reading mine.

    And I don't give flowers to married women (well, not any more).

    4) The fried chicken -- not KFC, but at least it wasn't chicken fried steak -- was great, and sorry, but you don't get any because you hurt my feelings. So there.

    5) Huh?

    6) I WILL be at IANO's store tomorrow, if for no other reason than to return home in the late afternoon and write something to the effect of "Cake, you didn't show, you insanely retarded naked-with-a-Hitler-mustache Canadian hissy-fit doo-doo head who wouldn't shut up even if Hell froze over!"

    7) I guess...

    8) "Please don't jump off a roof...or, if you do, make it a high one." Oh, thanks a freakin' lot!

    P.S. ~~ I took an early evening nap, and "coincidentally" woke up less than ten minutes after you posted your comment.


  25. "She thought "writer" meant that I could do things like calligraphy. Taking the word "writing" a bit too literally, I thought..." I couldn't believe this happened once..and then when I read on and saw it occurred twice? Oh my! When I say I am a writer I usually experience the look...the one that says in a silently loud way that this person is thinking, "If you are a writer, why have I never heard of you?" I suppose I could use the term author...that is what my goodreads and shelfari profiles insist on labeling me...but I have never really been comfortable with that term. I have always preferred writer. After reading about your experiences, though, I might change my mind on that. hahaha


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