Book Review: Bright Lights, Big City – Jay McInerney

I ran through this book in an entire sitting where I couldn’t sleep because I’m a dip shit who won’t buy A/C. Fuck You, I live in a city where winter last 9  months out of the year. I figured the odds were in my favor.

I started with page 1 and almost gave up aster the first paragraph. It’s all in 2nd person.  It’s not that I’m against 2nd person but it sometimes feel too much like someone yelling at me. It’s like writing in all commands all the time. I mean who the fuck am I, some one first year Army Recruit? I can think for myself.

No. I’m a reader. I’m not going to do all the things that the Michael does. Then again, he talks to a punk rock girl with a shaved head at a club when it’s 6:00am. That sounds like me.

You clever fuck you, Jay.

So I kept going. Screw it, it’s 6am , 90 degrees and only going to get hotter.

A hundred pages in I WAS HOOKED!

This man is compensating. The boose, the women, the parties, the coke. We all know it. It’s like a six sense that comes out as you turn the page. I don’t acknowledge it. You don’t acknowledge it. But it’s there and it bothers us.

When he realizes a he loves the girl that he always forgets to buy shit for and she tells him to fuck off, I realized I was this man. My friend Jen will call me tomorrow. She gorgeous, has depth, but unless I’m in a super self loathing mood, I probably won’t give a shit.

The majority of the book is centered around this idea of him and his exe wife Amanda. He remembers all these vivid emotional gems throughout the story. But towards the end he realizes he never really knew Amanda at all. It’s a simple story you can hear in line at Starbucks, but Jay paces it quite masterfully. I found myself realizing it just as Micheal did. Well done.

I won’t give away the ending, but it’s where you lost me Jay. I’ve had my fair share of break ups. Sometimes they end before they begin, but very seldom does anyone just “win” in a big way like that. Sure is the main character living in his own world, you bet your ass he his. Does this lead to everything changing, and him not recognizing it? Damn right. But all that kinda sounds like his fault, not hers.

Things seem to work out a little too perfect for Michael. Plus he gets a little needy to Tad’s sister. Why call her at the end, when it’s in the early am during the week and say a bunch of shit that doesn’t matter because you’re hopped up on Coke? We learned in a previous chapter y’all hit it off. A little bit over kill for me.

Overall, I loved this fucking book.

9 out of 10

Everybody Wants to Rule the World

 

I was six beers deep on that Sunday, a common site after my break up. I’d get off my short morning shift at the restaurant, and drink until my head stopped pounding from the night before. The process was simple, just one bud light at a time. The amount it took never mattered since I road a twelve speed Schwinn everywhere.

The new server worked that morning too. She was recently divorced with two boys. I pegged her age at 46 -double mine at the time- but I never clarified with her. She got the job as a waitress after the separation. Before that she was a stay at home mom, so it’s only fitting that she fell into this industry. On that morning, she told me her husband got the seven year itch, which was term I never heard before. That’s why she got short when I asked what it meant.

The Cubs got their ass kicked by Cincinnati that day. I’ll never forget because she wore a Reds T-shirt instead of her uniform. She sat down after her shift and pretended to ask the score. Even though I was already four beers deep, I resisted the urge to punch her in the tits.

She was very handsy, and always had to touch you when she spoke. You know, a hand on the back for a secret, or an arm grab when she got excited about something. Everyone hated it, except me. I think, I just enjoyed anyone who enjoyed me. But that’s typical during a break up.

After her first drink, she told me she had to pick up her kids. She also said that she had plans with her new boyfriend, a tall, dark, and handsome type with a motorcycle. Yet she still ordered another Vodka Sprite. And another after that one. It’s funny how quick plans change when drinks and good conversation is involved.

On the 8th inning, we stopped watching the massacre and quizzed each other over the bar music. I was good. Within the first guitar riff, I knew the answer. She didn’t stand a chance until I finally got stumped. It was that one famous 80’s song, I know you’ve heard it before. It says something about mother nature and ruling the world. I couldn’t think of the name, but I knew the song because my Ex played it all the time.

Anyways, she was shocked that I couldn’t answer, and punched me in the arm. I smacked my bud light and it flew into the air. The bottle shattered against the mirror behind the bar. I don’t remember who the bartender was but she kicked us out right after. Some bullshit right? I mean, we made a mistake sure, but we worked there. I made a joke that I’d been kicked out of nicer shit holes than this. She grabbed my arm and walked out.

We stood by the side of the building and I lit up a cigarette. I’m not sure if she smoked but she accepted it when I passed it over. She took a drag and started talking about her new Boyfriend. She said he was great, and told me she liked him, but paused. I blew out smoke and she went on.

“I don’t know, I just don’t think I’m ready yet.” She said.

“Ready for what?” I said.

“You know. He just gives me this look, like he knows his future or something. And, I don’t know, I guess I’m somehow apart of it.” She said.

“Sounds kind of heavy” I said.

“It is. But at the same time, it’s not. I know none of that make sense but maybe you’ll understand when you get older.” She said.

“Nope, I’m staying 23 forever.” I said, smiling before I continued.

“But I get it. You just had your plan just get rocked by life. Sounds like you kind of want to hang out a bit. Maybe just take it slow, smell the roses, get lost in an adventure of the day. Have a drink with a cook and get your ass kicked in song trivia.” I said.

“You didn’t even know that last song.” She said.

I was going to take the joke further but she kissed me. I didn’t see it coming. I was so drunk I don’t think I close my eyes. I was going to ask if she wanted to get another drink but there was an interruption.

A guy pulled up in a Suburban and started yelling. He ran out and left his door open. He was a shorter guy, about my height and he just kept screaming at her. She tried to play it off like she had to stay late, but her words slurred at every vowel. I couldn’t tell you what was said, but I remembered him pointing to the two boys in the back of the SUV. Tears rolled down her face and she ran to her car. The guy flipped me off as he got into the Suburban and drove off.

I took a step back until I hit the building. My back slid down the wood until I hit my ass on the cement. I dug in my pocket until I found another Camel. I sat there quiet and kept my eyes down on the white parking lot.

The next day she put her notice in, but it wasn’t until a few weeks later that I saw her again. She popped in on a Sunday for her last check. I was at the end of the bar, nursing a Bud Light by myself. I said hello, but the conversation didn’t go far. She has a motorcycle helmet in her hand and said her fiance was waiting outside.

She left and I ordered another Bud Light. I looked in the cracked mirror behind the bar and gave myself a toast.

She was finally ready.

The First Time I got Laid as a Writer…

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The first time I got laid as a writer, she smiled when I asked to smoke outside. I don’t think she heard me over the bar chatter. She just saw me leave into the patio and came with. I lit a Newport in-between October wind gusts while she filled the silence.

“So what have you been writing about?” she asked.

“Well, I applied for a non-paid writers position at a satire magazine on campus a few weeks ago. My friend told me about it. She gave me her editor’s contact and told me to send a sample of my work. Right now, I’m managing/designing a protection scheme for the school’s solar car. It’s my senior project, one of the most difficult Senior Engineering projects in the school’s history. Between that, not missing a game of the Cubs historic 2015 playoff run, and getting yelled at by my restaurant manager who hasn’t been laid in 20 years, I found time to write the sample,” I said.

The cherry on my menthol lit up my face as I took a quick break from my speech. I exhaled and continued.

“I showed it to every one I knew. I mean EVERYONE. My roommate, my lab partners, my fellow engineering nerds, my friend that worked at the magazine, the girl I had a crush on at work, the girl I had a crush on in my History class, and etc. I got a lot of notes. Some I implemented, some I didn’t. I re-wrote the damn thing four times. Waited to the last minute to send it over,” I said.

“Wow” she said. A piece of grey ash smeared on her blue dress. “So what happened?” she asked.

“Well, days went by. I’d check my email but nothing. I’d hear a ding on my phone, only to read flights from Chicago for only 79.00! Orbits bastards. I got asked by everyone that helped me if I heard anything yet, but I had to give them the same lame answer.

Then a week and a half later, I saw an email from an address I didn’t recognize. I quickly pulled it up and read it.

Dear Darby,

Although your piece was entertaining, we don’t feel you’re a good fit here.

Take care

“Oh I’m sorry to hear that,” she said, ” I know writing can be tough thing to get into.”

The wind from the maple leaves rustled and almost blew out my half smoked cancer stick. We took a couple steps back behind a side of the bar.

“You’re not kidding, I ran into my friend who works there. I asked her what the editor thought about it. Now we’d been friends for a while, but she didn’t come clean with me until later in the conversation. Apparently, they spent the first 20 minutes of their meeting talking shit about it. The word choices, the grammatical errors, the sad attempt to be funny. I became a running joke, ” I said.

“Oh my god!” she said. “Did they really?”

I slammed my butt on the ground and looked at her brown eyes. My head slightly nodded.

“Yea they did. I guess one guy kept calling me a no talent ass clown. He even got up and drew a picture of his interpretation of said ass clown. He scribbled the face with red marker and the hair with green. She took a picture and showed me.” I said.

“Wow,” she said. She swayed back and worth trying to keep warm from the chill fall weather.

“Yea I was pretty hurt but what can I do? I just need to get better. You know, work a little harder. I decided to open up a shitty blog. I’m also reading articles about the craft and asking questions daily on a forum.

So as of right now, that’s what I’ve working on,” I said.

She looked back at my wide eyes. Her words hesitated to exit but I already knew what she was going to say.

“Do you still have the piece? Like, do you mind if I read it?” she asked

“Not at all,” I said.

I grabbed her hand and we walked two blocks to my apartment.

The Neighbor and Shape

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Dear Neighbor at 303,

I believe your name is Hannah, or at least that is who the March issue of Shape is addressed to. Although we’ve never met in person, this magazine was sitting in my mailbox a couple weeks ago. I meant to give it back to you then, but I became enthralled with the issue. Majority of the shit I read is a mixture of bad online dating profiles, technical work shit, and lots of fiction. Needless to say, it was a breath of fresh air when I read the 62 ways to nurture my body and brain. Apparently I already do number 36, so I’m ahead of the game.

Unfortunately, not everything is gold in this zine. On page 28, they say Go Bold with your Tights Game! This is horseshit. Every bimbo at L.A. fitness in the DFW area is doing that right now. Fashion is an expression and they’re saying with that is “I got dressed in the dark and I’m replacing my fashion sense with squat reps.” Don’t be that girl. Nobody likes that girl. Also on page 2, they have a picture of Shay Mitchell from the cover standing in a tall grass field when it’s obvious she just had a Brazilian done before the shoot. Kind of a dick move on the photographer’s part, don’t you think? I would imagine her thighs would be itchy enough without the wind rubbing tiny blades of grass on them. But I’m a guy, so what do I know?

Anyways, I apologize for having this for so long, but technically you’re still getting the March issue in March, so I think your still making out okay.

Sincerely,

Your neighbor at 302.

PS. To answer your lingering question: Yes, I was loaded when I wrote this.

Hold Me Closer

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The outside smell of urine oozed it’s way into the stained hardwood floor below me. All the other restaurants I’d been in seemed to have a way to keep it out. Puzzling, considering how the Glenlivet bottles glowed over the glossy black piano. The Woman in the red dress was playing her ass off.

“Sing us the Song of Piano-man!” She belted.

The entire twelve person crowd went wild. Amazing they were still functioning at 3 am. Shit, it was amazing I was still awake but I couldn’t help it. The energy I got from this city was like a shot of cocaine.

“I bet yours is next,” Maria said.

We’d met earlier in the night when I asked if if she’d knew where a bathroom was. She said it was the worst pickup line she’d ever heard. I laughed because it wasn’t one and danced my way into the bathroom.

“I hope so. I have to hear it once before I go to bed,” I said.

DUH DUH DUH DUUUNNNNNHHHH

Just as the skeleton crowd began to cheer, the bright lights fired up, exposing everyone’s facial flaws. It’s the brightest thing I’ve seen since stepping foot in New Orleans. The Pianist waved to the crowd exiting the stage.

“What?” I said. “That’s it?”

“I guess so,” She said, standing up and fixing her jet black hair.

“No, it can’t be! I’ve got to hear it. I’ve just got to!” I yelled.

I looked around, most of the staff were picking up beer bottles. The closest one walked a giant black bag down the isle towards the entrance. “Screw it,” I thought, “I need a good story.”

I ran up the cracked brown steps to the small stage and took inventory of the instruments. “HEY!” I heard someone shout but there was no time. I removed the velvet strip over the seat in one fatal swoop, like a movies when a waiter yanks off a table cloth. The wooden protection cover flipped up, relieving the gold plated Yamaha lettering above the keys. I glanced at Maria, who let out a nervous laugh as I began to play.

“Blue Jean Baby. LA Lady. Seamstress for the Band.”

“OH Hell Yea!” someone in the back shouted and began singing along.

The keys hit like a sharp knife in hot butter. Due to earlier hand grenades, I expected to be screwing up somewhere but I didn’t. It was as if the late night audience wouldn’t allow it. I looked over and saw the trash bag waiter making his way up the stairs. Not now. At least let me get to my favorite part.

“Oh how it feels so real, Lying here, with no one near!”

More people started joining in, even the annoyed bartender cleaning the glass hummed along. I was almost there, one line away.

“When I say softly, SLOWLY!”

I felt to hands grab my shoulder back and two more grip my side. My hands slapped several notes making disdain come out the Yamaha. “Knock it off! That’s a $10,000 piano,” one yelled. They carried me down the stairs, but the song wasn’t over.

“HOLD ME CLOSER, TINY DANCER! COUNT THE HEADLIGHTS ON THE HIGHWAY!”

The full 12 person crowd came to life singing along and cheering as I tried to kick my way free. Their noise grew louder and louder as we went past the bar. One dark hair man with a trucker hat stood up clamping his hands at me.

“LAY ME DARLING, SHE’S SO BLANDLY!”

The two men tossed me threw the door and slammed it behind me. My elbow hit the aged brick sidewalk below. Faintly, I could hear the crowd still singing behind the door. I looked to my left and there stood Maria.

“Well what do you have to say for yourself, sir Elton?”

I glanced down at the dirt on my Levis, then looked at her pretty brown eyes and spoke.

“So… You wouldn’t happen to know where the bathroom is, would you?”

 

Still Fool

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Mary turned the corner of 12 and main sharply like she always did. Bonk! She looked back in the rear view and saw rubbing his head.

“Window caught you again huh. I’m sorry but you know that how I wake you up on long car rides.” She said.

Sly rubbed his 12 year old head, checking for the pain spots.

“He smiled awkwardly yea I know mom,” he answered.

The Lincoln roared as it pasted Houston street. Although the backfire problems had been fixed, the hole in the muffler had not, which made Mary wonder how Sly could sleep in the back.

Mary started, “Yea, how do you get any-”

She stopped herself as she was looking through the mirror. Typical. So typical. That boy is already back asleep. Looks like I’ll just wake him up when we get to the driveway.

The Lincoln squealed to stop at the red light at Kilgore. This light took forever. She could remember once how it skipped her several runs. When she finally got the nerve to run it, there was a black and white waiting at the Dunkin’ Doughnuts. Entrapment if you ask her. Just then something caught her attention.

“I’VE GOT MY PISTOL POINT COCKED NON STOP, READY TO SEE YO’R MONKEY ASS DROP!”

The sound pierced over the muffler and the popping of the smoke from the back of the tail pipe. Her eyes flailed around looking for the source. Not the Camry behind them, or the F150 in the left turning lane. She looked ahead and could see a tall man’s hand moving about.

“CAUSE IT’S DIE MOTHER FUCKER DIE MOTHER FUCKER STILLLL FOOOLLLLL!”

There stood a tall man caring a Panasonic, the newest boom box to come out this summer, on his shoulders. She could see his right arm are bulging, while the left was keeping the flow.

“Well this some bull shit music,” Mary thought. “Who is his mother? Where do you even find this music?”

The light finally turned green and she hit the gas on the old Lincoln. The Music got louder and louder, to the point where you could even hear it over the leak with the engine at full boar. She had to do something. so she slammed on the breaks. Donk!

“EXCUSE ME!” She yelled.

He turned the music down. “Yea can help you?” The tall man answered back.

“What the hell are you listening too? Talking about killings and STEALING!” she asked.

The tall man laughed a bit and grabbed his gold chain for good luck. “That’s the new Geto Boys. It’s fucking awesome!”

“Watch you’re mouth! Man I’m glad my son doesn’t listen to this stuff,” she said. Pleased with herself.

The tall man turned his head and noticed Sly rubbing his head. He smirked.
“Shit you mean Sly? Haha. He’s the one that dubbed the tape for me.”

Sly’s eyes got big. He’d wished he was still asleep.