Don’t Read is a collection of old work. And when it’s old, that means I wrote it when I was young and more apt to offend.
In 1995 I moved from California back to Texas to become the managing editor of the Boerne Star, a twice-weekly newspaper for a town of about 6,000. Boerne–now literally a suburb of San Antonio to the northwest up I-10–was still relatively small at the time and had deep roots in a farming/ranching lifestyle, along with a strong identity centered around Germans, which originally settled the area in the mid 1800s.
I was fresh out of San Francisco, and as usual liked to stir things up. I decided to write a weekly column–probably as a vent to spew out weirdness in a small town–and decided to call it “Stuck U,” in reference to my writing on a 1935 Underwood typewriter, which had a “U” key that stuck on each stroke. My publisher, who was more in tune to the sensibilities of his readers and advertisers, nixed that title. But he gave the go ahead to “Stuck Key.” The columns were a mix of local reporting, remembrances of my experiences traveling, and thoughts on my life as a reporter. I’ll dig up the post on what this references, but here’s a pretty typical reaction I got.
The older of the two old men next door dumped a can of beans on the lawn. It was just one of many dishes fed to four or five cats that hung around their house and lounged the day away sunning on their fuchsia wooden porch or yellow stone walkway. The men who lived there were strange. One was in his fifties, the son, the other in his seventies, the father. Both were wid¬owed, both clothed eternally in plain white T-shirts that hugged their …
Horatio Alger may have made it big with nothing but elbow grease, ingenuity and a few breaks. But behold! You can make it with nothing more than a dollar and a weird combination of numbers based on birthdays.
The Austin Satyr Salon was a short-lived creation of mine that attempted to get together satirists for a salon each month. We’d meet at the Church of the Friendly Ghost on Pedernales Street in Eeast Auston to share our work and drink and hopefully inspire new content. Never really took off. But it did get me to write (and do) a few absurd things.
The recent revelation that U.S. interrogators in Guantanamo Bay used a horrific video of John Wayne beheading a detainee to shock other prisoners into talking has reignited a long-standing debate over using
clips of dead movie stars for roles they never signed off on while living.
Advances in digital filmmaking in the 1990s led to the use of deceased idols, primarily for advertising. Humphrey Bogart graced Pepsi commercials, Gene Kelly danced with Paula Abdul, Groucho Marx shared a Coca-Cola with Cary Grant, and John Wayne helped sell Coors beer.
I was regularly involved in neighborhood politics and served as a steering committee member for my neighborhood association. I found the rather strict guidelines for no commercial content on the neighborhood’s Yahoo Group listserv rather stupid. In particular, the list’s moderator—who had the power to add or delete members—often took harsh stances to violators. After watching one poor woman, a neighborhood massage therapist, get booted from the list for posting her services, I decided to create two fictional neighbors who get in a rather nasty dispute over commercial content.
What can I say other than I always yearned for my own surname in Old English type on my rear window. (I didn’t have a truck, but I did have a Pontiac Bonneville passed down from my late grandfather.) But “D’Amico” sounded almost Latino, so I opted for an experiment to try “Smith.”
Spirito was an attempt by myself and two of my buddies to help fund our trip around Europe in the mid 1990s. We sold subscriptions to this collection of short stories and satire pieces, laid out the pub the best we could depending on what software was around, then mailed it back to subscribers in the states.
I’ve always heard that gypsies were a problem, that they were thieves, but I never worried about it. I figured I’d be able to spot a gypsy and everything, since they’re always traveling in bands with covered wagons and scarves on their heads and everything. Anyway, I was walking down the Piazza Madonna Fortuna with this Irish girl I’d met by a public toilet, and these two little girls come up to me like they’re going to ask me something. They were dark haired little things, with skin that looked like it had been dusted in dirt or soot. But they had the eyes of angels…