Wednesday, September 24, 2014



For the better part of six months, no one has lived in the apartment units around us in any direction. In the past month, two of the adjacent unit have been let. 
The tenents across the hall are a father and son. 

I haven't asked them over for dinner because I don't like a lot of people and if I don't like him, I'll be stuck being nice to them until one of our leases are up. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A Squirrel With Nerves Of Steel

When I pulled up in front of my apartment there was a squirrel walking across the stoop leading into the house. Overwhelmed by mischief, I honked the horn. Instead of scurrying off as quickly as tiny legs would carry, the squirrel moved slightly out of the way, stopped, quickly surveyed the area, assessed no danger, and continued the journey at the original leisurely pace.

It was amazing. A calculated response to overwhelming stimuli.

In everyday life, I usually try to employ similar restraint.  Two stories of scares gone boring spring to mind.

I was a part of a traveling music group in college. We drove to random churches, and church type functions, and sang for people. Usually, we were in nearby cities or small towns. Once, a church in the Poconos paid to have us drive three hours, stay in their homes and sing at their church. The whole experience with the group was a lot of fun.

For a particular concert we were called out to Absolutely Nowhere, Pennsylvania. I suppose I shouldn’t categorize it as Nowhere. A better name for the place we ended up would be, Setting-Of-a-Horror-Film, Pennsylvania. We survived the drive past tree and shacks that looked like they were snatched right out of Scooby-Doo episodes. The concert went well. I even seem to recall delicious food being served.

As I walked out of the building, and started down the steps leading to the parking lot, a hand grabbed my ankle from beneath the stairs. I was startled, but the only indication of that was a slight pause in my breathing. I looked around, and quickly realized that the rest of my team was looking at me, and not with any measurable concern. Rather, they all had more expectant looks on their faces. And, one member of the team was notably absent. I sighed, and just waited. Eventually, the hand got bored and withdrew. “Dang it Morris, you’re far too calm.”

 The second story is similar. A few friends and I were exploring the mostly empty house that an acquaintance had just bought. Being a clothes and fashion guy, I circled around to the front closet. When I opened it, two of my friends shouted, “Boo,” or some variant thereof. Despite the mild fright it gave me, I managed to stare blankly into their faces as their fright inducing poses were rendered more and more ridiculous. “Well... now this is just awkward,” one of them intoned as they slid past me.

I like to think that, as opposed to defying the evolutionary imperative to escape a potential threat, the squirrel was getting even with me on behalf of those three people, and the host of others who have failed to elicit a reaction to their scare tactics. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Hashtag Furgeson

I asked for a blog post prompt. I was really hoping to get a hilarious prompt and I got Ferguson. So, not the cotton candy piece I was angling for.  That's okay too. I'm not going to research. Or even look up anything I don't already know. I've followed the story to a very limited extent. But, I know the basics of the inciting incident, and the ongoing fallout.

Here's the thing. For me there's nothing special about Ferguson.
The exact measure to which I value and appreciate the police, I fear them. I don't speed when I drive. When I hop on the highway, I settle into the slow lane, set my cruise control on the exact number posted on the often disregarded "limit" signs, and soldier on to my destination without the illusion of control. Because speeding to make up for lost time isn't actually likely to get you where you need to go, any sooner than the 15 miles per hour sooner you would have had if you'd sped. Because travel isn't uniform and the little slowdowns, the tiny equalizers, traffic lights on an intersectioned part of the highway, the side-by-side semis forming a rolling roadblock balance it out, and give me enough time, it's an illusion I surrendered without much of a fight, for a lot of different reasons. The biggest reason, is that I don't know what lay behind the mirrored lenses of the aviator sunglasses which seem to come standard with the highway patrol badge.

Have you ever been pulled over for playing your music too loud?
Have you ever been pulled over for doing 67mph in a 65mph Speed Limit?
How many times have you had to exit your car and "agree" to a search of your vehicle?
Have you ever been followed around a small town by what you imagine is its only police cruiser?

OK, maybe those were a bit unfair. Let me dial it back a bit.

Do store clerks and security guards follow you around stores and public places?
Do you get asked to speak on behalf of your entire race?
Do you constantly feel like you are representing your race?
Do people in their cars, lock their doors if you walk near their cars?
Do women adjust the grip or switch sides of their purse, when you pass them on the street or share an elevator?

But, let's get back to Furgeson. It's awful. But, it's not the exception. It's the rule. When you acquit civilian citizens who kill unarmed black men, how much more emboldened would actual agents of the state become? It's a completely horrible, but totally logical progression.

Are you ready for the left turn?

This is how "Terrorists" are created. People feel victimized by the powers, and utterly helpless to change the system from the inside. And, when protests are met with a militarized police force (one representative of more and more municipalities) a violent spiral is the natural conclusion. Not the right one, the natural one.

This post is part stream-of-consciousness, and part stuff I've reflected on for a while. So, if it doesn't have a conclusion, sorry. If you think I'm wrong, tough. If you want to chat, cool. If you think I'm saying stuff that doesn't have to do with Furgeson... You're probably not black.

Anyway, I'm done for the night. I may pick this back up in a day or two when I'm not tired or distracted.
But, I wanted to rise to my friend's challenge.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Pick a Cover

UPDATE: So, after looking at my blog on my phone, I realized that you can't access the actual survey from the mobile version. So, put your pick in the comments and thanks again for your help.

For those of you who didn't know, I designed the current iteration of my cover of my book. As much pride as I take in my work, graphic design isn't really my area of expertise. I had a few covers made up by this awesome designer (Angie Zambrano). They're kinda awesome. So, here's the deal. I honestly don't know what cover to go with. I was hoping you could help me.

Here are the two new cover possibilities:

Over on sidebar vote for a new cover for my book. You'd be doing me a big favor.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Media Recommendation: The Colony by Michaelbrent Collings

As a general rule, I'm not a big fan of zombie stories. This makes me very unlikely to pick up anybody's  zombie novel. But, I was (re re) listening to The Rocking Self-Publishing Podcast and heard Michaelbrent Collings, author of  The Colony book series. His conversational tone was engaging, and if he brought that attitude to bear in his writing, then even a zombie novel may be worth my efforts. I'm glad I took the shot.

One of the major frustrations I experience when consuming zombie media, is that it usually comes down to a "man vs. nature" story. Zombies as purposeless eaters are either uncompelling as antagonists, or a thinly veiled backdrop to a "man vs. man" tale, or as Collings describes it, "... then it becomes all about the rapey governor or the rapey priest, or the weird guy next door." Collings story is genuinely, man vs. zombie. Although, he makes it clear, that the zombies seem to be darkly orchestrated.

Collings is a bit of a realist when it comes to the depths of chaos into which first world societies would be plunged if half of the population was turned into zombies in a matter of seconds. Even the smallest progressions would be fraught with peril, and crossing town would be the work of a novel. And, that's exactly what he does in, The Colony: Genesis. Very few breaks in the action. If you're the person who needs a lull to make you put down the book... you're going to read it in one sitting.

For all the expected moments of drama, and action, Collings still manages to deliver a few good sarcastic laughs.

"He looked like he had just happened along in between college classes. Or during a break at a fashion photo shoot. As though the impending end of the world was something that probably inconvenienced him, but not to the point that he would leave without doing his hair."

If you enjoy action packed writing about everyday-type heroes and don't mind the zombie catalyst (and maybe even if you do mind a little), I, surprisingly, recommend The Colony: Genesis. But it is part of a series... so prepare to lose a few consecutive evenings... and maybe a weekend.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Romancing the Hilarity...Available NOW!!

From my newly released book, 

Romancing the Hilarity (Available now on in print* and on e-reader):

The Birds


The Bees

To paraphrase The Late Mitch Hedberg (may he rest in peace), I used to be a nerd. I still am, but I used to be, too. When I was about ten, I started to get curious. While Kevin McCallister and my peers were rummaging through the locked chests and sock drawers of their older brothers and fathers, I wasn’t.[1] I waited until no one was around, walked into our living room, pulled out the “S” volume of our family’s 1992 edition of the World Book Encyclopedia and flipped it open to “Sex.” I read the following, “See: Sexual Intercourse.” BAM!! I learned something already. So after turning to “Sexual Intercourse,” I read the article, and learned that it had something to do with “privates” and… really, I didn’t get anything useful out of it. Thanks a lot World Book Encyclopedia Company.

In the fifth grade, my parents sent me to a little Christian school. If you went to a Christian school, it was just like you remember. If you didn’t it was basically the movie Saved! without the pregnant girl, the Jewish girl, or the kid in the wheelchair; which is a shame, ‘cause they were awesome and would have made my school experience way more exciting.[2] Marilyn Manson did go to my school, but that was before my time. And, there once was a sex scandal, but that was after my time. So while I was there, the only thing notable about the school was that it was a Christian school— still rather noteworthy when you have to tackle something like Sex Ed. It’s also a big deal when you have a science class where you can’t ask questions about evolution. But, in middle school, Sex Ed seemed way more important.

In the sixth grade, my classmates and I had the opportunity to study the book, Preparing for Adolescence, by Dr. James Dobson.  Now, if you’re not familiar with him, Dr. Dobson is the founder of Focus on the Family, who left that ultra-conservative organization to found another more conservative organization with even less oversight and academic accountability. Along the way, this guy wrote a book about our bodies, the changes within, and the emotions associated with them.[3] It could pretty much be summed up as: Chew ice chips and pray until you get married; because if you touch yourself or have sex before you get married, you’ll become the next Ted Bundy, and the state of Florida will put you down like a dog and your soul will burn. And, I’m paraphrasing.

Early on in our study of this book, our teacher, Mr. T, opened up the floor for preliminary questions. “Ask about whatever,” he said. His proposal met with deafening silence. It’s not that we weren’t interested; it’s just that this particular teacher had a little bit of a temper. He didn’t respond well to things he didn’t like. One day when the class was a little restless, Mr. T  famously slammed a textbook on a table and shouted, “Shut the door!” to one of the other students. The book slam was more striking than it may have been otherwise because of his reddening face and the bulging veins. You could see him choking back far harsher language and a much louder yell. It really came out, “SHUT THE…DOOR!!”And for the WASPy[*]* kids in that class, that was quite overwhelming. But, this same “Shut-the-door” man wanted us to ask him any question we wanted, about puberty? We passed on that offer. But as a teacher, he couldn’t let it go. He called out a specific student by name. “[Student] I can tell you have a question, just ask it.”

“No Thanks.”

“Just ask!”

“I really don’t feel…”

“[Student] ask your question!”

My classmate looks down at his desk and mutters.

“What was that?” Mr. T demands.

“When I get married, will I stop having wet dreams?”

The room actually managed to go even quieter as Mr. T sent one of the five iciest glares I’ve witnessed across the room to the student.

“Get out… just, go to the office, right now…”

And, that in a nutshell was my Sex Ed experience in a Christian private school.

Well…If the private school system fails you, you can always turn to your family, right? The “birds and the bees” talk wasn’t one of the things which I looked forward to having. It’s not that my dad isn’t a good dude. In fact, he’s one of the better people I know. He’s thoughtful, helpful, and does well with most of the basic dad stuff. He taught me how to throw a football, change my oil, and tie a tie. But romance?  Not his strong suit—nor were the emotions that went along with it. So, telling me about women and sex and all that jazz was going to be as tough as a horsefly filling in on a bee’s day off.

While reading a book in my room one summer afternoon just prior to high school, I was surprised when my dad walked in. It wasn’t necessarily surprising that he was in my room, but he was fairly good about knocking. The fact that he didn’t, now worried me more than a little. He loomed uncomfortably in my doorway for a few moments, while I bookmarked my spot with my finger. “Well…,” he began, “you’re old enough that you have probably figured your own attitudes on dating and stuff like that.”

“I guess,” I responded shrugging into my book and avoiding eye contact while bracing for what would likely be the most awkward conversation of my life to that point.

“Well, okay then,” he said. Then as suddenly as he’d come, he was gone.
And that, in a nutshell, was the rest of my experience with Sex Ed.

I’m not entirely sure how I made it to adulthood.

* To get the 50% off please use the code, and this link. 
[*]White Anglo-Saxon Protestant

[1] Home Alone. Dir. Chris Columbus. By John Hughes. Perf. Macaulay Culkin. 20th Century Fox, 1990. Videocassette.
In his defense, Kevin wasn’t exploring sex, he was just nosing around his brother’s abandoned room being grossed out by naked women.

[2] Saved! Dir. Brian Dannelly. By Brian Dannelly and Michael Urban. Perf. Jena Malone, Mandy Moore, Macaulay Culkin, Eva Amurri. United Artists, 2004. Film.
I wish this movie was more hyperbolic.

[3] Dobson, James. Preparing for Adolescence. Ventura, California: Regal, 1989. Print.

Friday, July 11, 2014

That's On You...Sorta.

I was driving down a 4-lane highway and a tow truck was on the shoulder. Above the rear window, partly obscured by the winch, and partly faded by time, was some message. My proximity and curiosity grew quickly, and as I passed the truck, narrowly avoiding its side view mirror, my brain finished processing the message. "The, 'Slow Down, Move Over Law' applies to tow trucks." I think he should find a better way to get the word out on that particular issue.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

...Provoke Not Your Children

I'm not a parent. It's on my to-do list. But, in real life, having something on your to-do list doesn't make you an expert, anymore than having an idea about something neat, makes you an inventor. 

That being said, I'm an analyst. I've always been a casual analyst. I dissected most of my actions and interactions at different points in my life. And, I have a few words for parents. I'm not going to give them to you all at once, so today's is: Listen!

My parents did an excellent job on the kids in our family (the four biological ones, and the endless stream of other kids who drifted in and out of our home). They were disciplinarians, but their rules (usually) had a sound internal logic. And they were always tempered with love. 

But, when it came to small things, they didn't always do a great job of listening. 

I tended to do what was expected of me, even as a young child. One day, however, I had committed some offense, for which I was both punished and ashamed. I accepted my punishment, in its justice, and had moved to the differential state of repentance.

The shameful nature of my infraction was still of some humor to my mother. When she decided to share my misdeed with some friend with whom she spoke on the phone. I listened on in horror as she began to tell my story. I loudly, and urgently protested this sharing; which only made the story she was telling funnier to her. So, she told the story. And, I had to sit there and listen. 

While I never loudly and urgently protested any topic of conversation with my parents after that, I was never completely open with them either. 

Actions have consequences. Even parental actions. 

Ephesians 6:4 Parents, do not aggravate your kids to silent, seething fury , but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Morris's Dodgy Paraphrase).

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Southern Comfort and a Very Long Day

When I was six, my mom gave me a spoonful of the brandy she occasionally used in cooking. The bottle was at least my age and hadn’t kept well. So, my first taste of alcohol deterred me for the next fifteen years. I had my first legitimate drink one month after I turned 21. It didn’t really do much for me, so I gave it up again. After graduation I enjoyed the occasional hard cider, for which my roommate mocked me relentlessly. Derision notwithstanding, drinking wasn’t really that high on my to-do list. I wasn’t taking a principled stand, I just didn’t care that much.

My unhurried entrance into the world of booze stood in sharp relief to my peers in the service industry. Unlike many of my co-workers who were self-described professional drinkers, I was playing in the tee-ball equivalent of drinking. My inaugural drink into the world of bar hopping was a shot of Jack, no chaser. It could have been worse, but I don’t recommend it. Even then, I didn’t really dive into drinking. I would have one, maybe two drinks once a week after shifts at the restaurant.

Near the end of a particularly lucrative shift for me, my friend Jenna caught me and shared the highlights of her nightmare shift, which included personal error, kitchen error, and both mean and stingy customers. She insisted that when the torture ended, I must come to the pub and drink with her. “Why not,” I thought to myself, “I’ve had a great evening; I can celebrate and commiserate in the same drink.”

The bartender was deeply sympathetic to Jenna’s plight, and when Jenna ordered us a pair of SoCo shots to go along with our standard drink orders, he poured nearly five ounces of Southern Comfort into rocks glasses for each of us. I had a vague recollection of a cautioning about the dangers of SoCo, but I couldn’t quite pin it down so I didn’t stop her from ordering the drinks. I would profoundly regret that moment over the next 24 hours.

“To great and to crappy evenings!” we opined clinking our glasses together, then bouncing them off of the countertop, barely managing to throw back the entire contents of our glasses in a single gulp. I learned instantly, that unlike my shot of Jack, this cloyingly sweet drink didn’t test my mettle at all. Sheer quantity aside, the ease with which this bite-less drink went down washed away all memory of the warning. When a third friend walked into the pub on the heels of our shot and ordered another round to participate in our triumph and defeat, I gladly consumed another five ounces, “To great and to crappy evenings!” Jenna knowing she’d be driving before the night was over, decided to pass half of her shot to me, pacing herself for the rest of the evening.

Ten minutes and ten ounces of Southern Comfort into my night, sipping at the drink I wanted in the first place, Bacardi O and Sprite, I waited for my fries, and relaxed in the corner of a booth. Our tiny cohort migrated to the tables out back to let our smokers light up their wands. If you don’t already know this, the human body absorbs alcohol at a constant rate, so as each moment passed, I became a little drunker than I was the moment before. By the time we settled around the table, drink one was gone, and I was munching on the fries which I don’t entirely remember receiving. Sitting next to me another friend and co-worker realizes that he has to leave and insists that I finish his gin and tonic, a drink I do not like, so that it does not go to unconsumed. The strictures of my personal code demanded I help him out; I don’t condone wastefulness, and he asked very nicely.

Not long after I finished the surprisingly delicious gin and tonic, one of the dimly lit and vaguely blurred faces across the table from me suggested we all play a drinking game. I remember thinking about how horrible that idea was. Then I remember a beer mug in front of me and cards in my hand. I don’t know what game we played, and I’m not sure how well I did, but I remember drinking a fair amount of beer, which also tasted better than normal.

In rapid succession I realized a number of things: First, I had about ten minutes to catch the last train to my apartment. Second, I was far drunker than I had ever been. Lastly, there was no chance that the normally five minute walk to the Metro station would end in anything other than pain and failure. Thankfully, my by then totally sober friend Jenna insisted on driving me to the entrance of the station. I shoved some money into her hand and walked carefully outside. She settled my tab for the fries and one drink I actually ordered and followed to find me swinging around the lamppost belting out Simon and Garfunkel’s 59th Street Bridge Song. Only, I don’t know the song so it was more like, “Dada mm mm, dada mm mm, dada mm mm, dada mm mm, dada mm mm, dada mm mm FEELIN’GROOVY!!” repeated over and over again.

She deposited me at the station, and I made my way deliberately to the escalator and began the next leg of the journey to my apartment. There’s a little bit of a memory gap between the top of the escalator and the actual train, but I was suddenly the only occupant of a metro car. I planted myself firmly in one of the cross-facing handicap-priority seats staring at the wall, to minimize the threat of vomiting during the seven stop trip home.

My dream of a private metro car ride home lasted two whole stops. A very beleaguered man, headed home from a long day of work slumped into a seat not far from me. Noting my ostensible disorientation, the stranger slid a few seats closer to me.

“Hey buddy, you okay? Where are you headed?”

My brain said, “I’m headed to Rhode Island Avenue Station. Don’t worry though, we’re approaching Silver Spring, so I still have a few stops before I need to get off.”
My mouth failed to pass that message along accurately and whatever came out gave my fellow traveler the distinct impression that I wanted to get off at Silver Spring and that I would be unable to in my distressed state.

As our train braked into the station my would-be Good Samaritan walked over and, caught me under the arms. I wanted very much to dissuade him from this course, but words failed me and a fight would not have gone in my favor. So against my modest resistance he lifted me to a semi-standing position and ever-so-gently maneuvered me to the exit as the chimes sounded, and the doors slid open. After being released off-balance my battle with gravity is a bit one-sided as I drift backward into a slow-motion fall.

Now, I’m sitting on the ground outside starring up at the last train into the District of Columbia and home to my apartment knowing that in a few seconds the door will close, and I will have to try to come up with a new plan. Considering my options, a bus trip which includes a transfer, or a six mile walk to my apartment, I realize that if I don’t get back on the train, I’m not getting home. After two failed attempts to stand, I begin the absurd exercise of crawling frantically back to the train when I hear the operator’s voice over the PA system. “I think I might need Metro [police] for a possible disturbance in car four.”

Assuming that the conversation I’m about to have with the summoned cop will go better if I am not lying on the floor, I pull myself hand over hand up the rail and plop myself back into my wall facing seat just in time to see the familiar uniform appear in the window of the car in front of mine. He opens the door and inspects me for a moment, “Hey buddy, where are you headed this evening?”

Drawing from the lesson of the communication fiasco with my “rescuer,” I opt for the simplest answer “Rhode Island Avenue.”

He considers my answer, then considers my state, “Are you gonna be able to get there?”

Brief and deferential, “Yes, sir.”

A very tense few moments later, the cop wishes me a good night, walks through the door to the adjacent car, and says something into his radio. I can only assume that he green-lighted me to ride because we’re back on our way. Whatever I may feel about cops on the whole, Metro cops seem almost human. A drunk on the train isn’t behind the wheel, and they get that. He disappeared from the window, and I attempted to recover from my unintended pit stop. Unfortunately, after being shaken like soda can I popped like one.

After my violent expulsion, the rest of my trip was uneventful and blessedly short. I barely remember the slow, deliberate steps from the station to my home, but I made it to my sanctuary without further incident. Despite my chemically altered state, I am mindful of my nauseous state, and take a few precautions as I ably prepare for bed, and put myself down for the night.

The next morning, my precautions don’t seem nearly as effective. The bucket next to me was a good call, but the fact that I was sleeping in the recliner in my living room isn’t quite as much of a point in my favor. The detail which makes it clear that my wits weren’t exactly about me is the fact that I woke up wearing not one but two t-shirts. The first of which was exactly where a t-shirt belongs. The second however was stepped into by way of the neck hole, like some avant-garde skirt from a Salvation Army fashion show. So, maybe my chemically altered mind wasn’t the ally I believed it to be.

As I close my eyes and ears against the assault of light and sound, the full warning comes crashing back into my memory like something out of a bad movie:

“Don’t mess with SoCo, Mo. It’s the drunk you don’t see coming. You’ve always drunk more of it than you think you have, and by the time you realize it, you’re absolutely wasted. Worst of all, because of the sugar content, a Southern Comfort hangover will redefine the word for all time. You will hurt worse and longer than you’ve hurt for a while. Like the trees in the garden, partake of whatever you want, but drink not from the bottle of SoCo, for on the day after you do it you will surely wish you’d died.”

Monday, January 13, 2014

Some Gardens Grow Discontentment

When it comes to music, I’m a little bit of a snob. When it comes to Church Music, my snobbery inflates into this massive Godzilla-like monster, and we all know that story. As long as the monster was on the little island it was happy to fight vastatosaurus rexes… Oh, wait. That’s King Kong. When you take the monster off the island and drag him to the city where he ends up listening to “Jesus is My Boyfriend” songs, he resentfully stands there and staring at the praise team wishing that they actually learned real harmony, or tempo, or volume control. He tries not be too hard on them, knowing that  the minister of music is likely not actually a student of music, but more likely, a friend of the pastor and a fan of Jesus, which is fine in a certain sense. But maybe the song writers should take a poetry class or two, and then perhaps the lyrics will be thoughtful application of actual concepts described in scripture or real theology. When he realizes this will never happen he climbs to the top of the steeple. Wait, that’s me, and I have yet to climb a steeple in frustration.

If music be the food of love, most of the churches are serving cotton candy.