Monthly Archives: March 2019

Mike Baron, Lesson One in Writing

LESSON ONE

When people ask what you’re story’s about, you have to be ready. You can’t hem and haw about orcs and trolls. You’ve got to hit them between the eyes with a concise and enticing description.

FLORIDA MAN: Gary Duba’s having a bad day. There’s a snake in his toilet, a rabid raccoon in the yard, and his girl Crystal’s in jail for getting naked at a Waffle House and licking the manager. With his best friend, Floyd, Gary sets out to sell his prized Barry Bonds rookie card to raise the five hundred needed for bail. But things get out of hand.

THE DREADFUL LEMON SKY: Around four in the morning, Travis McGee is jarred awake by a breathless ghost from his past: an old flame who needs a place to stash a package full of cash. What’s in it for McGee? Ten grand and no questions asked. Two weeks later, she’s dead.

HELMET HEAD: Nazi biker zombies.

MOBY DICK: Captain Ahab pursues a monomaniacal quest for revenge on Moby Dick, the white whale which severed his leg.

Jazz by Mike Baron

JAZZ

I was Music Editor of the Boston Phoenix back in the day. It was my job to go out night after night, talk to musicians, and listen to their bands. One night Les McCann was playing. Most people know his brilliant breakout hit, “Compared To What,” with saxophonist Eddie Harris. Eddie wasn’t with Les that night. At the end of the first set, he introduced his side players. “On drums, Wilson Smith! On bass, Todd Jones! And on guitar, #!@$Q@##$ Q#%#ESFAD.” The guitarist was Polish.

During the break, I talked to Les. “How do you spell your guitarist’s name?” I asked.

“Well isn’t that interesting,” Les said. “I have three side players and you only want to know the white guy’s name.”

I looked at my notes. “On drums, Wilson Smith. On bass, Todd Jones.”

Les blanched a little bit. After that, he could not have been kinder. https://www.google.com/search?q=les+mccann+compared+to+what&rlz=1C1GGRV_enUS751US751&oq=les+mccann+com&aqs=chrome.0.0j69i57j0l4.4284j0j8&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

Sopranos by Mike Baron

SOPRANOS

Watching the Sopranos is like watching a train wreck. Horrible but mesmerizing. At the end of the series, only a handful of characters are likeable. Tony Soprano is one of them because he’s charming, magnetic, and empathic. When he says he loves Big Pussy or nephew Christopher, you believe him, because he believes himself when he says it. That doesn’t prevent him from killing them when it suits his interest. Big Pussy bites in the second season because he was squealing for the Feds. The same thing happens to Christopher’s fiance Adriana. Her death was particularly horrible.

Most of the characters have the impulse control of infants or mad dogs. Most of them have scenes when they take something the wrong way, or the right way, and explode in violence often with horrendous results. You marvel. All these adults, most of them doing very well for themselves, who can’t control themselves. But it is a criminal enterprise. Violence is the glue that holds them together. Paulie, Christoper, Bobby, Silvio, Vito, Janice, they all go off like hand grenades spraying blood all over itself. I lost track of Tony’s murders. The federal fink in the first season, the dumb shmuck who did a drive-by on Christopher, Ralphie, and most deliciously, Richie, who slugs Janice because he’s a thug and she’s a bitch. You hate Richie from his first appearance. “Don’t give me those Manson eyes!” He looks mean, like someone who has never enjoyed anything but other people’s pain. So when Janice gets Richie’s gun and shoots him twice, you cheer. He had it coming. Then Tony comes over and cleans up after his sister. Early in the series, they dismembered the bodies at the sausage factory and then… Shudder to think.

Tony shags one gorgeous broad after another, despite his resemblance to Little Huey. It’s his animal magnetism. He exudes power. Gandolfini’s portrait is one of the great acting jobs. Every word and gesture was natural. The other actors were great too, but it’s Tony you remember.

Florida Man by Mike Baron

FLORIDA MAN

Gary Duba and his best friend Floyd Belmont sat on the deck of Gary’s deluxe double-wide, raised four feet above Florida on cinder blocks in case of flooding. Two hundred foot tractor chains stretched over the house like massive belts, anchored in concrete plugs on either side, in case of hurricane. The night was hot and humid, alive with squadrons of mosquitoes dive bombing the deck, oblivious to the citronella candles, tiki torches, yellow wrist bands, and ample applications of Deet on both men’s fully tatted arms. Home-made mosquito traps hung like obscene fruit from Gary’s hand-made awning, stitched together from Harbor Freight tarps.

It was just past eleven, Little Big Town playing on WBCW, Florida Country Radio through the tinny speakers of an old Sony boom box Gary picked up at a garage sale. The boys had been drinking shine, smoking reefer, and snorting a little crushed oxy since nine, when Floyd had arrived in his eight-year-old Chevy van with Belmont Pest Control emblazoned on the side, along with his logo, a dead cockroach in a mint green oval.

Floyd hawked and spat a loogie over the rail. “That fuckin’ bitch still owes me three thou for her boob job. Only reason she dated me, so I’d pay for her fuckin’ boob job.”

Floyd was five feet six, built like a fire hydrant, sideburns like a Civil War general, chest, shoulders and back covered with black fur like a bear.

“You gotta admit,” Gary said. “She’s got a nice rack.”

Gary sipped shine, causing his Adam’s apple to bob up and down like a bouncing basketball. Tall, bony, with thick, knobby wrists, a brush mustache, and a full head of hair concealed beneath a cap, Gary was the picture of Southern manhood. He wore a sleeveless Lynyrd Skynyrd T-shirt showing off his tatted arms which included a skull with a dagger through it, a skull with a snake through it, a heart with the legend “Mom,” Johnny Cash, and barbed wire bracelets.

“My advice to you,” Gary said, “is not to worry about that skank. She gone. Be grateful she’s out of your life and didn’t give you the clap or something.”

Floyd lit a Camel. “I just wish I had that three thou. I could really use it.”

“Look at it this way. It’s worth three thou just to have her out of your life.”

“Now she’s dating some Cuban slickee boy from Coral Gables who says he can get her modeling work. My ass. Only modeling she does is on a pole with a G-string.”

“That’s what you get for dating a stripper.”

Floyd sucked a Dixie dry. “She told me she loved me!”

Gary barked. “You told her you wouldn’t come in her mouth!”

Floyd belched luxuriously and reached inside his torn denims to scratch his balls. “Got anything to eat?”