In Which a Dark Story Sees the Light of Day

A couple of years ago, while one of my classes was taking a final, I wrote a short story that was inspired in part by an incident I remembered from my childhood. I was pretty pleased with what I had done, and after letting a couple of people check some technical details, I sent it off to one of the two big magazines in the crime field. I hadn’t realized that the magazine in question moved very slowly — it took nearly a year for them to respond, and when they did, it was to decline the story.

It didn’t surprise me. Not because it was a bad story — I still think it’s pretty good — but because in the intervening months, something happened in the real world that bore a certain disturbing similarity to my story, and the words “too soon” came to my mind. I mentioned it in passing on the Book of Faces, and a friend of mine mentioned that sometimes it’s hard for fiction writers to stay ahead of the world’s ugliness.

However, since I don’t really believe in writing for the trunk, I sent the story to another damned good magazine, edited by a guy I like who has been more than square with me during what passes for my fictioneering career. He took it, and if you like, you can read my story “Slow News Day” at Spinetingler Magazine. I’m glad it’s out there now, and I think it’s cool that it gives me a sense of momentum heading into NoirCon in Philly this week.

Hope you like the story.

Posted in Education, Pixel-stained Wretchery, Why I Do What I Do | Leave a comment

Post-Gig, Pre-Grading Potpourri

Did something last night that I haven’t done in about 35 years, but we’ll get to that. First…

The Berries were the openers at last night’s benefit show for Aurora. We were supposed to go on at about 8:45, and we were originally scheduled to load in at 7. However, day jobs got in the way, and it was actually about 7:45 when Justin and I rolled into the Art Bar parking lot and got the rhythm section’s gear into the venue. (Note to self — it takes just over one playing of The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators to get from campus to Art Bar.) We had known about the delay for a couple of days, and had passed the info along, but unfortunately, the word didn’t get to the soundman, who wound up cooling his heels for a while. Sorry, Alan.

But we’ve gotten pretty quick at setting up, and we got started on time for a 30-minute set. We actually ran out of time before we ran out of set, but while we played, we played well, and folks seemed to have a good time. We debuted a new song — one of Joseph’s — and it got a solid reception, so I suspect it’ll become a regular in our rotation. The only casualty was the cuticle on my right thumb, which got torn during the set-up (pinched in a stand once again. There’s a little bruising there, but I think I’ll live.)

Another unusual feature of last night’s show was Larry’s stage dress. For reasons beyond the comprehension of mere Berries, our eldest member went the Angus Young route — jacket, tie, and matching knee-length shorts. I’ll chalk it up to the approach of Halloween, and folks seemed to get a kick out of it.


As you can see, they got my good side.

We cleared the stage  — or nearly did — for the guys from Longshot Odds. Just before they got rolling, their singer brought my ride cymbal stand to the front of the stage, and said “I think this belongs to the Berries.” Oops. But once I had hustled that out to the van I got to hear the guys tear into their set. It was the first time I had seen the punk trio since what I think was their debut gig some months back. They’re still mixing warp-speed tempos with vocals reminiscent of Mike Ness and frantic-but-melodic fretwork, but they’ve (understandably) gotten even tighter. Justin said to me after their set, “If I had a label, I’d sign them.” I saw no reason to argue.

Next up was Wolfs Blood — a Misfits cover/tribute band led by Bubbs Rubella (also of Berries mainstays Pig Head Dog), who organized the entire show. Indeed, 3/4 of Pig Head Dog are in Wolfs Blood, so it was a chance to see a different side of our buddies. It would appear the guys (plus Moe Clark, who brought her guitar skills to the party as a fill-in for WB’s regular guitarist, who was away on a business trip. Day jobs again.) have really tapped into something. A sizable contingent of Misfits fans appeared, some in full corpse paint and devil-locks, bringing plastic skulls and cauldrons of Halloween decorations to the front of the stage. Before they started, Bubbs told me “We’ve got followers! Pig Head Dog doesn’t have followers, and it deserves them! But this — this has them.”

“It’s what happens when you tap into a pre-existing subculture,” I said. But the band also demonstrated that they’ve earned their following, because they tore the roof off the joint with their set from the legendary horror-punks from Jersey. They opened with “Astro Zombies” and the place went nuts. Plastic skeletons and day-glo rubber spiders were flung into the crowd, and a pit formed in front of the stage, which is where Bubbs was doing a dead-on Danzig-style bellow.

While Wolfs Blood had been setting up, a young woman behind me told her date, “If that guy [meaning me] goes into the pit, no way am I going to.” I laughed and told her I hadn’t done that since I was in high school (the summer after my junior year, to be exact, which I spent at Western KY U), back when it was called slam dancing. She said, “That’s good — you could do someone some serious damage.” I told her that wasn’t my style.

And it isn’t. Justin and I were at the edge of the chaos — I felt like a corner post at a wrestling match, as folks would occasionally jostle into me and I’d shove them back into the melee. It was physical, but pit etiquette held; elbows stayed in and if someone hit the floor, two or three folks would pick them up and sling them back in. I caught someone’s boot heel in my shin at one point, but it wasn’t too bad — I have a small scrape there, but that’s it.

And then the band started on “Skulls“, and I just figured whatthehell and dove in to sing along, shouldering my way up to Bubbs and singing along. Bubbles is about my size — maybe half an inch shorter — and the two of us anchored the knot of thrashing bodies. Afterwards, Bubbles and I were laughing about it. “I was not expecting you to be up there, Warren.”

“Neither was I, to tell you the truth, but hey… ‘Skulls’.”

“But then I looked up, and it was like —

“‘Well, hello, Professor Moore!'” Good thing I’m tenured.

It was getting late by then, and while there were still two bands to go, I have grading to do today, and some bolt-tightening for this week’s Philly trip, so I decided to call it a night. I got to bed a little after one, and was delighted to see that so many members of the Real City music scene had come out to support a sweet little girl. I heard that folks were just coming up to the merch table and laying down cash without taking anything, just because they wanted to help. And by the way, if you want to help out, you still can, through the Go Fund Me page.

It’s like the pit. You can get knocked down, but there are a bunch of hands waiting to pick you back up and shove you back into the dance.


The last two days have been Mondoville’s Fall Break, and when I wasn’t doing the rock and roll thing, I spent my time revisiting some of the works of a favorite author of mine. But I also had a little free time on Thursday, so I decided to fix spaghetti for the family. Spaghetti was one of the staples of my first trip through grad school, because I could make enough to last me a few days for a relatively low price, but I hadn’t made it in quite some time, as Mrs. M took over most of the cooking chores years ago.

I’m pleased to report that we all appear to have survived the experience, and it was a nice surprise for Mrs. M after a long day at work. And just as before there were leftovers, so I know what I’m having for dinner tonight.


It appears that Mondoville may be losing a key landmark. The Tomahawk Grill (better known as “Dopey’s”) has been a favorite Mondoville College eatery for generations. It’s across the street from campus, and has been serving loose-meat burgers since at least the 1960s; our associate dean is an alum, and has told me that in her undergrad days, the restaurant was off-limits to the young ladies, so her fiancee would go pick up orders and bring them back to the dorms.

However, when I came to campus a few days ago, I saw a real estate sign in front of the little brick house that contains Dopey’s. The proprietors are ready to retire, and justifiably so —  they’ve been at it a long time. Rumors are that the college may buy the land for additional parking, but while I know we could use that, there’s a part of me that hopes it isn’t true. It would be a shame to lose that tangible (and tasty — I’ve eaten there a few times over the years) link to the generations of Mondovillians who have passed through.


The last week was unseasonably warm, with temperatures in the mid- to upper 80s. However, a significant cold front passed through yesterday afternoon, and it’s starting to feel like fall again. Since that’s my favorite season, I’m glad of it, and it occurs to me that it’s better walking weather as well. One advantage to my recent adventure in alternating feet is that I now know that there’s a measured 5K course just a couple of minutes from my door, and I hope to take advantage of that.

I’d better be careful, though. My sort-of-niece Marina (the astrophysics student I’ve mentioned previously in these entries) was cycling across her campus at the U of Arizona a few days ago when she was struck by a drunken driver. Blessedly, her damage was relatively minor — a few staples to her scalp — but it was another reminder of how tenuous things can be sometimes. Heal quickly, kid, and watch that head — there’s important stuff up there.


Well, grading awaits, so I’d best close this entry, but what would it be without some music? So here’s a classic blues number by one of my favorites, and this morning it reminds me that in the pit, mass can be your friend.

See you soon!

Posted in Alternating Feet, Culture, Education, Music, Why I Do What I Do | Leave a comment

Aurora Means Dawn

Thomas Schmitt is a fixture on the Real City rock and roll scene — he’s a regular at our shows down there, and a big supporter of local rock and roll. He’s also the father of a beautiful little girl named Aurora.


A couple of months ago, Aurora fell ill, and the subsequent doctor’s visits brought bad news. She was diagnosed with a sarcoma and wound up in the children’s hospital in Columbia, where she would remain for more than two months. The good news is that she seems to be responding to treatment (both chemo and radiotherapy), and got to go home yesterday after a 73-day hospital stay.


The more challenging news is that the tumor damaged her optic nerves, and she is now blind.

She’s getting better, and that’s a blessing, but there’s a lot of road ahead for the little girl and her family, and it won’t be cheap. That’s why The Berries, along with four other bands of the loud and fast persuasion, will be playing a benefit show at our Art Bar home base on Friday night. The minimum donation is five bucks, but you can give as much as you wish. And if you can’t make it to the show, there’s also a Go Fund Me account for Aurora and her family. One way or the other, it’d be great if you could stop by and bring a little sunshine to a kid named after the goddess of the dawn.

Posted in Culture, Music, Why I Do What I Do | Leave a comment

I Volunteer…

… to direct the new Tanera Mor branch campus of Mondoville College. Make it happen, administrators!


And we can use it for our film appreciation class!


A tip of the Mondo Mortarboard to Yvonne Kordenbrock, via the Book of Faces.

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A Few Words from the Spawn

As I was grading papers yesterday afternoon, the Spawn came downstairs and we started talking about movies. She mentioned that in her class on the history of madness, they’ve been watching The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser. She said, “I understand that it’s a brilliant work of art, but, wow, it’s grim.”

“Yep, Werner Herzog,” I said.

“Do you think all the movies we’ll watch in there are going to be that depressing?”

“Well, I think one has an upbeat ending.”

“Why do they have to be so dark?” she said. “Well, other than the madness thing. I mean, I get that, but Jeez.”

“Why shouldn’t they be dark? Darkness is a part of things. Movies don’t have to have happy endings, you know.”

“Yeah, but you know what?”


“When everyone is being all grim and alienated and cynical, wanting to be happy is pretty punk rock.” And she went back upstairs.

Posted in Culture, Education, Family | 1 Comment

A Friday Gig and a Saturday Walk: Homecoming Potpourri

It’s been a busy 18 hours or so. The Berries returned to the Soundbox in Simpsonville last night. We were second on the bill, so 80% of us gathered at the college at 7 last night to load the gear. (Lex, one of our guitarists, lives near the venue, so he was off that particular hook.) I drove up with Larry, in a much quieter vehicle. Earlier this week, I took the van to my local repair shop, because it was making a variety of loud and  unpleasant noises. A day and about a grand later, I had a new front wheel bearing, fresh brakes, and new rear shocks. Ouch, but I remember my dad’s advice — “A repair bill is cheaper than a car note.” The mechanic said, “You know, the next step after that noise you were hearing is when the wheel comes off the axle, which can happen at 5 miles and hour — or at 75.” Given that I had heard the noise for a while — including during my previous trip to Greenville — I guess God looks after fools and 51-year-old drummers (if there’s a difference.)

We reached the venue as The Licorice Whips were loading in for their opening set. Hellos were exchanged, and we got our gear inside as they were putting theirs on stage. There was a larger crowd than in our previous shows at Soundbox, which surprised me a little, as a pretty big regional festival began last night, and I figured that was where most people would be.

The regular soundman was unable to make it last night, so Jeremy (Soundbox’s manager/booker) handled the duties. Since that’s not really his thing, we basically went with vocal mikes and a bass drum mike, relying on stage volume for the rest. That’s not a problem for us  — that’s basically how we rehearse, and the Whips were fine with it as well. We loaned them our bass amp, and they got the show rolling.

The Licorice Whips proper are a duo — Julie Clark Shubert (gtr, vox) is the principal songwriter, while Melanie McDermott plays bass and guitar and does backing vocals. They do a fair amount of coffeehouse kind of gigs as a twosome, but for shows like last night, they add a drummer/percussionist who goes by “D.W.” — sorry, but I didn’t catch his last name. Their sound is rootsy and loose, just on the right side of sloppy. About two songs in, I told our bassist that they would have been a really good fit on K Records in the 80s, along with groups like Beat Happening. But here’s an example of what they do:

They’re a lot of fun, and there’s just something cute and cuddly about them. They make people smile. The Licorice Whips were a tasty treat indeed, and I look forward to another helping.

After they wrapped it up, we set up and went for it. It wasn’t our greatest set, but it wasn’t bad. Part of the problem was my fault — I misread the set list and got a couple of songs out of sequence, but it wasn’t a clamfest or anything, and we did 18 songs in about 45-50 minutes. The crowd enjoyed it, and I saw a couple of folks dancing over by the billiard tables, so that was a good sign.

The night closed with Greenville-based Serotonal, who brought a nice set of groove-heavy originals, augmenting a power trio with lead singer/hand percussionist Caitlin Swett, whose sweet, flexible vocals provided a strong counterpoint to Andrew Woollens’s guitar heroics and a forceful rhythm section. Influences ranged from Middle Eastern music to Zeppelinesque thud, and I think these folks are a band to watch. Alas, I couldn’t stick for the entire set, as I had to get home for this morning’s activities. I got Larry home and I was in bed by two. Which is good because…


The alarm went off at 6:15. Bleary-eyed, I found my way downstairs for a wakeup shower and put on a pair of shorts, some socks, and a T-shirt extolling the 160-year existence of Mondoville College. I said goodbye to Mrs. M, and told her that if she wanted to see me finish, that I’d be getting to the finish line somewhere between 8:40 and 9. I drank a glass of water, put on my walking shoes, and walked over the hill to the campus, where the day’s 5K was taking place.

If you’ll recall, when I started walking five months ago, I set this Homecoming 5K as a goal. My original target was to complete the walk in less than an hour, and I told people that if I could finish in 50 minutes, I’d be content, and if I could break 45 minutes, I’d be ecstatic. I have in fact broken 45 minutes once, and typically do it in about 46:30, but that has been on a treadmill at the Y. Today was the first time to try it in the real world.

Skies were gray and the temperature was in the low sixties when I got to the registration table. I saw some familiar faces — folks from town and the college, and a couple of former students as well. Several people told me they had been keeping track of my adventures in alternating feet and that they were glad to see me there. As I got my bib (the number that participants pin to their clothes), I noticed that the numbers were in the mid- to high 600s. For an instant, I wondered if I’d get #666, but I was relieved to get 680. I was handed a bag with a bottle of water, a protein bar, and an electrolyte packet to add to the water. A little farther down, I got a T-shirt for the event. They didn’t have any in my size, so I got one for the Spawn.

After a couple of minutes, I saw my friend (and Berries bassist) Justin, who was there to run sound for the event. “I’ve got my driver’s license in my pocket,” I said, “in case they need to identify the body.” He said he’d advise the authorities to rifle through my shorts.

As 8:00 approached, a guy from the runners’ organization that administers the race took the mike and advised us that the race was following a different route than it had in previous years (I was told later that it was a harder, hillier course than the earlier one, but it isn’t like I had a basis for comparison.) He also said that it was an open course, and that while there would be police and course monitors on duty to keep an eye on us, we should still be careful. Justin played the National Anthem over the P.A., and the President started us off. Almost everyone else took off running. I started walking with three women and a couple of guys. Members of the college cross-country team were stationed at decision points to direct the participants and offer encouragements. Occasionally, local residents stood on their porches or in their yards to cheer us on.

I led the walking pack for the first mile, which I finished in 15:50, with two or three uphill stretches. The women passed me about a quarter-mile later, but when I looked over my shoulder, I could see the men in the distance behind me.  The women stayed in my sight at mile markers two and three, and I last saw the men behind me at about 2.4 miles. I took consolation in the fact that at least I was ahead of those guys. I wouldn’t be last. As I neared the football stadium (midfield was the finish line), I saw the event clock reaching 45 minutes — but I hadn’t quite made the three-mile mark. I tried to pick up my pace a little, but there was another uphill stretch. But I knew I’d finish.

Of course I’d finish. I do 5K almost every day that I walk, and more than that most of the time. But that was on the treadmill, where I don’t have to watch for uneven pavement, gravel, or other distractions. This was the real world.

I passed the registration table, and a bit later, some of the cheerleaders told me I was at three miles. “You only have 100 meters to go!” one said. The math doesn’t work, I thought, but I don’t think it threw me off stride. When I came through the stadium gate, I saw one of those “Wacky Inflatable Flailing Arms Guys” guarding the clock and the finish line. I saw the clock. 50:10.

Dammit. I said as much to Justin, who was standing at the gate. “Don’t worry,” he said. “Just finish.” So I kept walking, and saw Mrs. M waiting just beyond the finish line, taking pictures. The earlier finishers applauded as I made it to the line, a metal rig connected to the clock and looking rather like a highway scale. I stomped on it at 50:44.

I hugged Mrs. M, and said there had been a couple of guys behind me. But I never saw them come in, and now I can’t help but wonder if they had just been there to sweep up the end — which would be me.

People asked me what I thought of my first 5K, and told me that I really had done pretty well. A couple of days ago, when I found a map of the route, I tweeted it and said that the course was my real opponent. If I was right, then I guess I won — not quite as well as I hoped (45 seconds!), but I did outlast the course. I thought of something my dad had said: “Nice guys may finish last — but they do finish.” And I don’t know how nice I am, but I did finish. Even off the treadmill.


And since this is a potpourri, here’s some music before I head over to the football game. It’s one of the first videos I ever saw on MTV. It seems appropriate today, and it makes me smile. Hope it makes you smile too.


Posted in Alternating Feet, Music | Leave a comment

In Which the Berries Escape the Flames: Gig Report

Although the Berries were originally conceived as a half-in-jest band of faculty members for a talent show here at the college, and although for most of the group’s existence, we’ve practiced on campus (from the chapel to the theater to our current HQ in the college’s video studio), we really haven’t performed on campus that often over the years. Of course, given that most of our material is original and that even our covers tend to be at least their parents’ ages, we aren’t precisely calibrated for the Mondoville audience, and we continue to do a damned fine job of resisting success.

However, sometimes things fall together the right way, and last night was such an occasion. It’s Homecoming Week here at Mondoville, and the Student Activities folks decided to kick things off with a bonfire last night, asking the Berries to provide a soundtrack. As a consequence, we assembled at 5:30 yesterday evening to load our gear up and take it a couple of blocks to the event site, behind our new education building (a local elementary school that we’ve refurbished, thanks to our ongoing capital campaign. Since we had to provide our own P.A. (fortunately, we own one), I made two trips with the van — one for percussion and one for P.A. equipment.

We got set up reasonably quickly, and the kids began to arrive around that time. Even the Spawn made an appearance, although she couldn’t stay for the duration — she had an astronomy lab later that evening. It was somewhere around that time that we realized there weren’t any lights other than that of the bonfire, which was about 30 yards from the stage. And the sun was setting, which meant that reading our set lists might be a challenge.

However, a couple of us attached our phones to mike stands, and used the flashlight apps to provide a little illumination — although not really enough to reach me behind the kit. Thus enlightened (sorry), we launched into our first of two sets. About midway through the first song, I felt the mushiness that told me a stick had cracked — it finally broke completely during the last chorus, but I made it through before switching to a fresher one after the song ended.

There was a short break about midway through the set to announce the candidates for Homecoming royalty, and we accidentally livened things up a bit when Joseph’s keyboard was bumped in the onstage darkness and spontaneously played  a pre-programmed fanfare as one of the candidates was announced. A little serendipity never hurts.

By the time the first set had finished, the fire had largely burned down and the kids were starting to drift away, but we played a truncated second set before everyone called it a night. We pulled our cars up to the stage and used our headlights to light the stage so that none of us would break our necks during the load out. I did tweak something in my back, however, and my right shoulder is kind of sore this morning as well. Such is the roadie-free life, I guess.

I wish we could have had world enough and time (and audience) to get through both sets in their entirety, but we played pretty well, and folks seemed to have a good time. And I have to admit, there’s a certain charm in playing a gig, being loaded out, and getting home by 9:30. And we have a gig in the more traditional environment of the Soundbox Tavern in Simpsonville this Friday. Maybe we’ll see you there!

Posted in Education, Faith, Music | 2 Comments