Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Sometimes Hard Luck is the only kind of luck you’ve got.

Final jury process and editorial review is finally completed for the Hard Luck anthology.
This one was difficult to finish for a variety of reasons personal, professional, financial, and existential.
Now that all of the acceptance and rejection e-mails have been sent and I'm waiting for the edits I suggested for the final stories to be accepted or rejected I finally feel comfortable writing the foreword for this anthology and starting to work on the call for the next anthology.
I don't want to jump the gun and reveal the Table of Contents because things have a way of going awry at the last minute and people can change and be stranger than you thought they were, even as far as authors go.
If someone decides to pull their story over the edits I suggested then I don't want there to be a scandal or any bad blood or other evidence at the crime scene.
So please forgive me as I wait for the final drafts to be safe and sound in a single folder ready and waiting to be laid out in twelve point Arial with 1.5 spacing in 6" X 9" Trade Paperback format before naming names and laying them out in a tasteful font on the final design of the back cover.
Those that have been selected have been made aware of their selection.
I know that sounds a bit imperious, but a camel is a horse designed by committee.

Sorry for the suspense, but here's my first draft of the Foreword for your consideration.
I don't have a horse in this race unless you know about the worst kept secret of the literary world since Richard Bachman so please forgive what may seem to some as self-indulgence.

This one was difficult to put together for a variety of reasons.
This was supposed to be the second collection or anthology I put out on my publishing label.
Collection or anthology.  Pick your poison.  Whichever suits your fancy.
My preference changes day to day and depends on how fancy I’m feeling.
It ended up being the third and the second helped to cause the delay in putting together the third as things that occur in consecutive order which were intended to happen simultaneously often do.
But life also happened and continues to happen.
It was also difficult because of the quality of the stories that were submitted.
I had some hard decisions to make and had to disappoint some really nice people that submitted some really solid stories, but once a theme started to emerge as the jury process evolved I had to keep the central theme in mind.
Thankfully most of the authors did as well.
So why “Hard Luck”?
Because sometimes hard luck is the only kind of luck you’ve got.
Because you have to play your hand with the cards you’re dealt and the house always wins.
Because of any number of clichés.
I looked up the first “because” because I thought it was a quote I heard once and instead I found “The only thing that overcomes hard luck is hard work.”
Thanks, Harry Golden, whoever the fuck you were.
I hope you died screaming.
Because sometimes, no matter what you say or do, things aren’t going to work out the way you planned.
I always say “Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.” But what happens when things get even worse than your worst case scenario?
My van died last October and I’ve been taking the bus back and forth from work.
It’s April, and on every bus there’s someone sitting at the front of the bus that runs into someone they know and they always have to tell their friend everything about their bad luck life.
They either don’t know or don’t care that everyone else on the bus doesn’t want to know about their bullshit and don’t have earlids they can shut to block out their banal bullshit.
Sometimes the only way to get through those bus rides is to pretend that the two people at the front of the bus are avant-garde theater performers workshopping new material for some absurdist modern Brechtian theater of cruelty piece.
It makes it easier to endure if you wait for them to stand up and take a bow at the end of the bus ride and hold out a hat for donations from the other commuters involuntarily subjected to the drama of their lives.
It’s always legal problems and just got out of prison and in a halfway house and got kicked out of the halfway house for being high and they’re living on the streets but they know a guy that owes them some money so when they see that guy they’d better have their money because the mother of their kids won’t let them see their kids because they’re behind on their child support payments so the judge ordered that their wages be garnished and it’s tough to find work when you’ve got a record and do you have a cigarette to spare and a lighter to light it with and maybe a couple bucks because if they can just put together bus fare they can get to where there’s this other guy that also owes them money and all of this is probably true.  At least some of it is.
Whenever someone asks me for something and I don’t owe them anything I make them tell me a story.
Even if the story is a lie, it’s usually interesting.
You have to pay the monkey if you want to hear the music.
And when you’re down on your luck, sometimes the only thing that makes you feel a bit better is hearing about somebody who has it worse off than you do.
One time I was sitting outside a café and nursing a coffee, killing the twelve hour dead time between twelve hour work shifts because it was easier than taking two buses each way to spend six hours at my apartment just to get up and come back for the next twelve hours and a guy wandered over and asked me for some money.
I said I’d give him some money, but only if he told me what he needed it for.
He told me the usual story about a guy that owed him money and how he just got out of jail and that he was arrested for walking around with a machete.
“What did you need a machete for?” I asked.
“Because people were out to get me, naw mean?” he answered.
And I did.
I did know what he meant. 
And I gave him a dollar and thanked him for his time and asked him not to spend it to get drunk or high.  And I was too lazy to go into the café with the guy and buy him food so I’d know where my money went. 
My dollar was his and he could do whatever he wanted with it as far as I was concerned.
I’ve been homeless before.
It’s not as bad as you might think, as long as you have a vehicle to sleep in and a gym membership.
You can shit, shower, and shave without anyone calling the cops and still show up to your job if you have one to go to.
There’s a freedom in knowing that wherever you go you are where you need to be.
To not have a series of interconnected boxes with all of your precious possessions waiting for you to come home and turn on the lights while you’re wasting your time someplace you’d rather not be, doing something you’d rather not be doing.
The only hard part was killing the time between work shifts.
The long cold nights.
Usually parking in a shopping plaza under one of the tall bright lights and reading a book until I fell asleep helped.
You’ve only got so much space for books so the ones you decide to keep matter more than if you have a room to keep them in.
There’s not a lot of sedans that come with bookcases as optional interiors.
I’d mostly read Charles Bukowski and Hubert Selby Jr.  Bret Easton Ellis and Chuck Palahniuk.  Henry Rollins and T. S. Eliot.   The Hagakure.
Books I could read a hundred times and still discover something new I hadn’t noticed the last time I read them.
I’m probably going to be homeless at the end of this month and probably will be when you read this and it amuses me to think of myself as running what might be the world’s first homeless publishing house from wherever I find myself.
This time I don’t have a vehicle, because my last one died, because of the hour commute I had to make back and forth each day and the road construction that tore apart the front end which made the cost of fixing the front end more expensive than what I paid for my van in the first place, but the mechanic I took it to said the wheels could fly off at any time so taking it onto the highway again would be suicide, so I junked it.  They said they’d give me three-hundred for it but when they showed up to take it they offered me two-fifty or to go fuck myself and I took the two-fifty because rent was due.  But then my license got suspended because of an unpaid parking ticket because my job hasn’t been able to give me forty hours regularly since I settled for it because the economy is bad here and has only gotten worse since I moved back, because I figured it was better to be where I was from, near people that said they missed me being around, than to stay in the town I moved to, so I could be with a girl that couldn’t handle her alcohol, but I didn’t know that about her until it was too late, so I had to let her go even though she was the last good thing to happen to me, and I never see the people that said they wished that I was here because they have their own lives to lead and their own problems to deal with.  So now I take the bus back and forth from work and sometimes I make the rent on time and sometimes I don’t and at the end of this month it won’t matter anymore.  I’ve got a broken tooth that I can’t afford to get pulled that always aches, some days worse than others, and a trick knuckle from a car crash due to a slick road on a dark night when I was over-confident and half asleep from working two jobs that almost put me behind bars.  Thankfully I only totaled my car and made a couple ruts in the lawn in front of the church and didn’t crash through the side of the church and the lawyer I paid seven hundred dollars to say “I think my client can speak for himself.” was enough to convince the prosecutor to drop the charges at what I think was my arraignment and that and a court fee dropped the charges down from felony “reckless driving” charge down to a “painted line violation” misdemeanor and I was allowed to keep my freedom and all it cost me was totaling a car I still owed three years of car payments on and seven hundred dollars for a lawyer that met with me twice and only ever uttered a single sentence in my defense, a two hundred dollar court fee for a fifteen minute arraignment, and waiting seven years for the misdemeanor to slide off of my driving record.
That was about ten or fifteen years ago and none of it matters.
I still have a trick knuckle that I never bothered to try to get reset that lets me know when there’s a heavy storm coming from the west before the clouds come over the horizon.
You have to play the cards you’re dealt, and the house always wins.
And if I can get a few people to buy this book then maybe I can save up my share of the royalties and get my license reinstated.  Save up and buy a vehicle to live in.  Pay the sales tax and registration and car insurance like a decent citizen.  Get a gym membership.  Save up for first last and security and get a decent place to put myself between work shifts.  Nothing too fancy, but someplace warm when it’s cold out and dry when it’s wet out.  Start to pay off my student loans again and fix my credit rating.  Meet a nice girl, or these days, considering my advancing age, a decent woman, that will make me forget about the last one I had to leave behind.  Maybe buy a house someday.  Two car garage and a dog in the yard.
And maybe the economy will implode and people will kill each other with smiling eyes and silent knives for trying to cut in line while waiting for a cup of thin soup and two slices of bread and all the salt and pepper you can stomach if you don’t mind having to tear open the single serving paper packets.
But, as I always say, “Plan for the worst.  Hope for the best.”
Maybe nobody will notice or care that I wrote this foreword or anything else I ever have or will write and it will all be a waste of time and I’ll get picked up on a vagrancy charge and finally get to see if jail is as bad as everyone seems to think it is.
It should make for some interesting subject matter for my next book.
I used to work with drug addicts and ex-convicts.
I’ve heard it all.
Go ahead.  Try me.
Murder.  Suicide.  Prostitution.  Armed robbery.
Burning bridges and rebuilding them just to burn them again.
My favorite anecdote as related to me by one of my clients was this.
“You know the difference between a drunk and a junkie?  An alcoholic will steal your wallet.  A junkie will steal your wallet and help you look for it.”
You have to find a reason to laugh when people you came to know and hoped the best for hang themselves from shower rods because they lost the battle with the bottle and couldn’t face themselves in the mirror the morning after.
They usually made more on public assistance than I was making as a counselor but still they killed themselves.
They said that jail’s not that bad as long as you mind your own business and keep to yourself.
Supposedly there’s three meals a day which is more than I can afford on the outside.
The food’s not great, but you always know your next meal will be there.
And there’s probably pen and paper and steady work to help bide the time.
I heard they pay minimum wage and that you can use your wages at the prison commissary to buy what you need to trade for what they don’t sell in the commissary and what you don’t spend they save up for you and hand you a check on your way out the gate.
You’re not allowed to have lighters, but they still find ways to light cigarettes in prison.
When I get out there’s public assistance that can line me up with a cheap place to live and a minimum wage job which really isn’t so far away from where I’m at now.
I’m not there yet, but I can see it if I look over my shoulder and squint.
The rent is always due, and the wolves are always at the door.
And even if they’re not scratching on the outside and nuzzling their muzzles into the corners, you can hear them howling in the distance.  I can hear them howling.  Can you?
If it’s true that “The
only thing that overcomes hard luck is hard work.”, then I hope you appreciate the hard work that it took to put this together.
Not just my time and effort, which I gave with no regret, but the time and effort of all of the authors that wrote these stories.
Most of them did so alone, with little appreciation and encouragement from their family or friends if they have them, and the only thing that they want from you is to read their stories.
That is also all I ask of you if you’re reading this.
Even if you bought this as a favor for a friend, even if you were given a copy for free, please read them all.
The time and effort you’d spend doing so will surely be less than the time and effort it took the authors to write them.  Time they could have spent sleeping in or fucking off or playing video games or getting drunk or getting high or watching movies and living other people’s dreams.
Even if it doesn’t mean a lot to you and seems a simple thing, it would probably mean the world to the authors whose stories that follow.
And maybe if I sell enough copies of this book I can save up and catch the last bus out of town because there’s a guy on the other end that owes me some money and he’d better have it on him when I find him.
So, now that you’ve heard my Hard Luck story, let’s hear yours.

No comments:

Post a Comment