Archive | April, 2009

Literature Degree

26 Apr

I bet he played a lot of Yab Yum in his day.

I bet he played a lot of Yab Yum in his day.

I guess if I look back on things it would make sense

that I am where I am.

Growing up my only ambition from 12-17 was to be a major league baseball player.

Had I known the amount of work that would be needed to accomplish this, perhaps I’d have turned out a better player than I was.

Too busy chasing skirts.

When I was 14 and made up my mind to make the all-star team, I spent my extra time hitting pennies with a baseball bat to sharpen my hand-eye coordination and playing catch with myself against my apartment building, with a tennis ball.

By the time I was 17, the pressures of living with a tyrant step mom and castrated Dad got to me.

And though I escaped my house by going to other friends’ homes and getting extra practice at school,

it still helped me very little in the classroom.

I slept too much, my study habits were terrible, and I couldn’t pass math. No Pass No Play had just come into effect.

So I spent most of my high school career on the ineligible list. I couldn’t even practice. So all those reps went to other players and eventually I got suspended and kicked off the team.

Books were my saving grace all throughout my life. Growing up, that was my escape.

It was the only time I felt in control.

I really got into it around the 4th grade. Living in Houston with my aunt and uncle, I knew no one and I’d had no real friends to hang with outdoors, all the good cartoons like Thundercats and Transformers, Robotech, and Silverhawks had gone off the air.

So I needed a new escape. I didn’t want to watch Family Matters and Full House with the rest of the family. So I threw myself in the literary world.

Now when I was 4 I taught myself to read. The first book was called Dangerous Fish. I learned abotu the ocean and sharks and poisonous, deadly stuff lurking beneath the depths, and perhaps that is why i have have such a crippling respect to this day for the unknown waters.

I wrote my first love poem as a third grader for my best friend Ricky. he was chasing a gal and I helped by writing “Marissa, Marissa.

It read as follows:

Your eyes sparkle in the night

everyone thinks you’re outta sight

your beautiful hair blows in the wind

I will protect you in the end.

You’re worth more than pearls to me

oh sweet Marissa will you go with me.

I think this is where Steve Martin got the idea for Roxanne, cuz it pretty much paralled Bobby Mickey’s eight year old world (can’t believe I still remember that poem).

So from fourth grade to sixth grade I did scouts, I shared a room with my cousin, and I started my love affair with baseball.

Yet at the same time I felt displaced, like I had no voice, and I was 240 miles away from my parents.

So I read books, Wrinkle in Time, Chronicles of Narnia, Tolkien (the Hobbit is still an inspiration), Harriet the Spy, Anastasia Krupnik… nose was always buried in a book (of course it be buried somewhere else in my late 20’s but how was I to know this then).

I read in class, I read at recess, I read at home.

Stephen King, Edgar Allen Poe all through middle school. Then I discovered Ray Bradbury who I’d rediscover in my early 20’s.

The Martian Chronicles and Dandelion Wine are two of the finest pieces of literature ever written in the 20th century.

Stephen King for all the glandular titilation he’s put out in the last 20 years wrote some really good stuff in the 70’s.

His novellas are pretty solid. The Body, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption are far superior to the movies they inspired.

Salem’s Lot, Christine, Eyes of the Dragon, The Talisman, The Dead Zone, It are classics, even Insomnia has a place in my heart, even though I probably wouldn’t dig it as much today.

The dark stuff was what I read during these young times, when I wasn’t lying to kids who invited me over to their houses, telling them I was grounded so I could stay indoors and watch baseball, and throw my pen up in the air for hours at a time, fantasizing about space ships, ficticious baseball and football games, and legendary battles.

(Which makes me wonder if just a little bit of me wasn’t suffering from an undiagnosed form of autism, my difficulty in sharing with others, my first sentence being “Leave me alone,” my ability to memorize football, basketball, and baseball stats, as well as comic book characters,random actors and musicians, bands, and albums.

I even spent hours organizing my baseball cards alphabetically by team………..hmmmmmmmmmmm am I a chocolate version of Rain Man???)

Once I realized baseball wasn’t going to materialize for me as a player, I decided to be a sports journalist, I wanted to be an announcer, have my own radio show, and eventually by my freshman year of college, perhaps my own columns.

Then somehow drugs, and alcohol found their way into my life and I stopped reading as much fiction and delved into non fiction, reading books on religion and philosphy and sometimes Ayn Rand.

I realized I wanted, needed to be a teacher, professor and also a writer.

I got into Vonnegut, and James Baldwin, and other stuff recommended to me. Kerouac aroused things in me that I never knew were there.

I knew then I was meant to travel and write, but I knew if I was to be a good writer I needed to read more and broaden my perspective, so instead of going the creative writing route,

I took the literature degree.

And I spent way my time reading more crap than stuff I was interested in, and having pretensious literary discussions in the classroom.

Yet I was exposed to some good stuff I wouldn’t have found on my own without those literary anthologies.

Writers such as Carver, Richard Ford, Tobiass Wolff, Tim O’Brien, Chekhov (The Lady with the Little dog–one of my favorite short stories) and Philip Roth with Portnoy’s Complaint, Operation Shylock and Goodbye Columbus (which got me through my first major break up).

Vonnegut is still one of my all time favorite writers, I’ve read more books by him than any other writer except Stephen King. Reading his stuff is like sitting on a porch with some older cat and just having a really nice conversation on a spring or fall evening.

Tim O’Brien’s The Things they Carried is one of the most intense pieces

of literature I’ve ever read in my life.

and Charles Bukowski………..

I was introduced to Bukowski through U2. They’d used a title of one of his famous book of poems (the Days Run away like Horses on a Hill) on a lyric in their album Zooropa (Dirty Day)

but it wasn’t until I was in Toronto kicking it with this gal Abigail that I was first exposed to him. He was misogynistic, vulgar, and most of all honest.

I felt like I was reading stuff I’d been thinking my whole life, stuff I’d wanted to write my whole life, I was sickened and amazed at the same time. His novels were great and parallel my life in certain ways, the feeling of alienation and despair despite my great ambitions, these were feelings I knew too well.

Then the poetry……wow….changed the game for me……stopped all the flowery, pretense and forced em to get to the core……(as Mingus said, stop playing notes and get within yourself)

and so I did and the rest is history………..

nowadays I’m reading more Gary Snyder aka (Japhy Ryder from Dharma Bums) who I plan to meet this fall when I go to Davis, California to visit.

He’s been more of an inspiration as far as traveling, loving, living, and writing. You see his pics and he’s still a striking man…very thoughtful….


but recently I’ve rediscovered Carver, and I’d read his short stories many years ago, Cathedral was my introduction) and I liked them. The simplicity of it. The space in between the words. I found him more likable than Hemingway. 

There was an unspoken pain coming through his words. Blue collar people with real life situations, I loved the way he used the Iceberg technique.

I had yet to discover his prowess as a poet. WOW!!!!!

Whereas his stuff in short stories is sparse. His poetry is so rich and full, and so much imagery. He’s even better as a poet. Beautifully hear wrenching stuff……….

and that’s where I am today…….as i work on the next book, titled “Instant Exchange of Recognition Upon First Glance”

halfway through with the writing, then the editing, then the other stuff…….once you’ve written a book, the way you look at one changes completely.

From the way you look at covers, to dedication pages, prefaces, and boook jacket photos……….hard row to hoe……..

but in some ways I’m still what I wanted to be.

I’ll continue to play baseball my whole life in some way (whether through men’s leagues or even coaching– although I’m done with major leaguer  baseball)

Blogs were unheard of in 1993, but this in my opinion beats a column in the Dallas Times Herald.

I still plan to teach and working with kids has enhanced that passion.

I still write love poems,  I still travel, and I still bury my nose in things other than books.

Yes. You could say live a pretty good life.

I even have friends now.

How about that?

All that along with a Literature degree?


And in a way I’m still that bubble gum chewing, bike riding, comic book collecting, cartoon watching, 12 year old.

Just ask my girlfriend.


Regional Bias

20 Apr

the guy who inspired me to increase my vertical

the guy who inspired me to increase my vertical

I’m ashamed to admit that I bought into the stereotype about Okies being slack jawed locals who were intellectually inferior to Texans.

It wasn’t until I was about 23 when I started questioning this belief that many of us Texans held based on growing up on our side of the Red River.

There was a big game against the Sooners at the “drum” and we hadn’t beaten OU in like eight games. It was a big game, T.J. Ford’s last season with the runnin’ horns.

And it was an exciting game coming down to the last few possessions.

The last time that OU had come to town Brandon Mouton hit a buzzer beating three( happended to be in the corner where I was working courtside security) to send it into OT (and the crowd into a frenzy). It ended up being anti-climatic though and the Sooners won by like 8 or something that game.

But this was different. Texas had yet to beat a top 10 team in a while and OU was definitely among the elite with

Hollis Price running the point, he was tall, quick and smooth, and a pleasure to watch him and Ford go at it. Even Dick Vitale was at the game.

The horns won and the fans stormed the court. Before the game our bosses instructed us to hold the kids off if they tried to take the court. Bad idea.

I had to be taken to the hospital with a concussion. The doctor was asking me questions about what I remembered from the day.

Wide eyed  with what I’m sure was a glazed over look, I replied “I remember……………. Hollis Price.”

Anyways I digress, before the game I was walkign around and talking to fans from both sides, and it struck me how ridiculously cocky the UT fans were (especially for not having won a big game yet).

The Sooners fans were okay, but all I kept asking myself was what made UT so much better than OU.

Granted I hadn’t been to Oklahoma yet and soon enough I’d find out what it meant when fans would rationlize a loss by saying, ” Well who cares, at least we live here and don’t have to go home to Norman.”

I’d forgotten how much i liked Oklahoma State’s baseball team as a kid, watching the College World Series every year and seeing them play.

Ventura, Incavaliaga, Monty Farris……

I had no idea then that I’d begin my fourth decade working alongside one of its finest basketball players at a youth shelter in Tulsa.

Despite my departure from the Lone Star State my love for it grows and grows, and although i doubt I’ll ever move back, it will always be special to me. Too many bad asses have come out of this place to ignore the rugged individuality one must possess to be successful there.

It’s actually that sense of confidence that people mistake as arrogant.

Which prompted a series of T-shirt ideas for me based on regional differences.

“He’s not an arrogant prick, he’s just from Texas.”

“She’s not a stuck up bitch she’s just from California.”

“He’s not an asshole he’s just from New York.”

“She ain’t fat she’s just from Wisconsin.”

I think it’s lead to more understanding among the states.

That being said, perhaps we are a bit too “cocky’ being Texans, but i won’t apologize for it. I was born this way, and I think it beats the attitude of many an Okie here, who have this real sense of defeat that follows them around.

In my opnion that is what the typical Okie lacks is a true sense of swagger.

Although they are very down to earth here. Okies make texans seem like Californians in a lotta ways.

Texans are known for being friendly, but we’re also aggressive and mean, and I honeslty believe Okies are a great deal more hospitable.

And although the women in Texas are better looking, I’ll take the Okie women over them any day of the week. Much more down to earth and actually a little crazier (some ways good, in some ways bad).

If things work out to where I stay through Decemeber as I plan, then I’m going to a Jayhwaks game in Lawrence.  I feel like this is a must do before i leave the region.

Also, I’m done with professional sports. Not the games themselves, I’ll watch all day, the games themselves are great (except for baseball that shit is boring to me these days much more fun to play for sure.)

I just can’t deal with all the timeouts, the big sponsored, fand friendly events, the dot races, the promotional stunts, the dancers, the silly ass jumbotron and loud bombastic music. Too much, remember when the game was enough?

That’s why i prefer attending college games because people actually care who wins. the music isn’t piped in, it’s played by the school band, and the energy is much more intense. i feel like a game at the Phog Allen will be an experience that can only be matched by the Perfect game I saw in Atlanta, my first A’s- Giants game in SF, the first time I went to Wrigley Field, or getting my head almost knocked off when I was trampled by the UT fans back in 2003.

When they screamed “OU sucks!!!!” they meant it, and you could feel it reverberating in the stands.

And you know what? I finally did go to Norman, and they were right, OU does suck.  Ask anybody from Stillwater and they will tell you.

Go Pokes.


Longhorns National Football Champions of  ’09.

(barring major injury of course)

Paw Paw

16 Apr

What concerns me most about my Grandpa’s passing is how many people have compared us over the years.

My PaPa was a crusty old man with a few strands of hair who was missing most of his choppers, although he didn’t have drool and spittle on the corners of his mouth like some old people do.

He was a peripheral figure in my life. I barely knew him, he didn’t start speaking to me until I was about 18 and had bought my first car, a blue ’87 Toyota Celica.

He owned an auto shop so he was my mechanic.

I guess by most standards he was a good man. He didn’t drink, nor smoke or do drugs. He went to church.

He even served in the navy and fought in the war.

He’d come home from his shop reeking of motor oil and eat liver, or fish, or chicken, or whatevre my Granny had cooked for the evening.

Then he’d stretch out on the couch, his unclipped toe nails protruding out of his smelly black socks and fall asleep on the couch, until my Granny woke him up for bed. For years on end, the couch would hold the pungent stench of his auto shup within its cushions.

My granny had told me once that she’d have to continually chide him for the holes in his underware.

When she passed away in ’03, a relative asked that night at his house if he could have the radio that was in one of the back rooms, stating that our grandmother said he could have it.

” Well I tell you what.” My grandpa said. “Why don’t you go back there and ask her again.”

We all cracked up for some reason he was surprisingly funny sometimes.

he wasn’t the type to tend a graden, or take the grandkids fishing, and whe he retired, he spent his days in front of the televison reading the newspaper.

I’td be another five years before i’d have to make that drive to Dallas, Texas to send the old man out in style.

He’d buried his wife, two sisters, a brother and all but two of his eight offspring.

If there is a heaven and he’s up there to rejoin my granny, I hope she gives him hell this time. she made it too easy for him on Earth waiting on him hand and foot.

I thought for sure he’d be next  in line when she booked the great gig in the sky.

I had to give it to the old kook. He was tougher than I thought. I didn’t think he’d make it as long as he did.


10 Apr



Another goal has just been met. Finished school this past week. feel great. I’m the first McFail to get a college degree.

It feels a bit anti- climatic having taken 12 years to get it done after various breaks, but it feels good.


The monkey is certainly off my back, for now.


I see myself moving to Oregon in a few months, working in advertising, writing a weekly column, and starting a country/folk band.

I think it’ll be really fun to let it all hang out for a bit.

Then possibly move to Eugene to study history, and film as a grad student..perhaps they’d let me work on my second novel as a dissertation?????

As for writing, well I’m working on a new project, titled Good People, Bad habits. There are bout fifty poems in it and I plan to have it ready for print by the middle of summer.

other than that, just working on booking some gigs, and doing a bit of traveling this summer.

East coast scheming, west coast dreaming, it’ll be a good time. A great summer. So what now? Well,  work, video games, and  gearing up for the summer activities.

And lots of Blazers basketball hopefully.


Playoffs?????? Playoffs!!!!!!??????

Okie in Texans clothing

5 Apr

Will the play of this 22 year old kid affect the next five years of my life?

Will the play of this 22 year old kid affect the next five years of my life?

My lady-friend and I went to visit OKC for a museum exhibit and the Thunder vs. Blazers game.

I had jokingly said that if the THunder won I’d stay in Oklahoma and if Portland came out ahead then I’d move back to PDX.

As the ass whupping mounted and the Thunder continued to get pummeled

I started wondering if a move to Portland should really take place.

The Blazers will be good for at least six more years, they have a really nice young nucleus and are a big time defender/three point shooter/rebounder/slasher away from being extremely dangerous.

I’m no sure who’d fit but they look good. I wouldn’t even be surprised if they made the conference finals and took two games from the Lakers.

The Thunder should look to emulate the Blazers success. Good draft picks and savvy personnel decisions are what put Portland in the position they are in now.

The Thunder get two first round picks this year, and if the picks aren’t Ricky Rubio or Blake Griffith I say trade them for rebounding and point guard help.

You have to get Durant some help out there. Westbrook is nice but he’s a two guard, and besides Green they have a lot of scrubs on that squad. I’ve even suggested trying to trade for T.J. Ford or someone like that……

I think if they can keep Durant happy, then the city of OKC will have a happy future ahead of itself.

In five years, they can have a playoff contender team, possibly a Whole Foods store in its city, and more revenue to attract business and people.

I wouldn’t be surprised if five years from now it was a really hip, trendy place to live.

There is a good community of good local artists around mid-town area, and it has a down home vibe to it that is quite similar to Austin’s vibe (especially before all the Californians moved there).

I like Oklahoma City and could see myself buying a house there in a few years, the cost of living is relatively low, and it’s close enough to Texas to see my family.

Lots of people don’t know that for a while when I was a kid, I wanted to play baseball at Oklahoma State. (This was before I got into drugs….and women)

Now you’ll find a plethora of squares anywhere, but something I realized after coming back from OKC was how different the vibes are between Tulsa and the capital.

There is a lot more going on in the “city” of course, and getting a basketball team has certainly helped. But it’s a little more folksy, down home and laid back out there than here in T-Town.

It can definitely be squaresville up here. Don’t get me wrong it’s a pretty town with really nicely designed houses, and the people who are cool here are pretty fucking solid.

But there are lots of folks here putting on airs, obsessed with prestige and image, my co-worker Otis calls them $40,000 dollar millionaires.

There is a lot of poverty in OKC but it is what it is. I can really dig on that.

So maybe in five years (depending on whether Durant stays or goes) you’ll find me in Oklahoma City going to 89ers games, and hanging out on my porch drinking tap water (filtered of course Oklahoma water is pretty gross) and listening to tunes in the afternoon sun……..

in other news, working on a second volume of poems that I hope to have ready for print by the end of the summer, the working title is “Good people, Bad habits.” There are about fifty poems that will be in this volume….already excited about what it will look like.

I’ve got gigs in May. Both stand up and poetry reading. Wichita Kansas, check out for the dates and listings.

Still working on getting stuff in Ithaca and Brooklyn, New York, as well as Toronto for my east coast trip in June/July.


This fall I think i’m gonna take a trip to California and visit old Gary Snyder UC-Davis…..plan to spend a week in the bay, doing some open mics, showcases, and hopefully some good hiking….as for Portland well…..the winds just might take me there by the mid fall……..more to come on that later….and Austin, Texas…haven’t forgotten about you…..maybe in August we can have a little time together…..