MIKE BOCKOVEN

Panic! But In A Good Way!

Jul
20

I’ve written 10,000 words or so in the past 4 days.

That’s a pretty solid run for me and yeah, I’m bragging a little bit. I’m also writing out of fear and I want to talk a little bit about that.

When I wrote my first novel, I wasn’t quite sure what I was doing and inspiration kind of happened in the moment. All well and good. With my second novel I was in a groove but I had to stop on occasion to deal with lulls. That happens, too.

Then I hit a period where I wasn’t writing anything. I was still thinking about writing and still wanting to, but time and, to be frank, motivation got in the way. There was always something else to prioritize and I went about six months without writing. Not good, so I reworked some habits and made writing part of the routine.

Then, a couple days ago (in a Barnes & Noble store, none the less), inspiration struck.

When we got home I spent an hour when I should have been hanging out with my wife feverishly taking notes. I’ve pulled over to the side of the road once to make a note on this story. I’ve gotten up early the past few days and taken every spare moment I could to write and I’m doing this out of fear.

I’m afraid the inspiration is going to go away.

I don’t want to make this sound spiritual at all. “Inspiration” in this case is nothing more than “I had an idea” and “I want to get it written” and, if I wanted to, I could work hard on one of the many ideas I’ve already had. What I think is happening is I’m riding a wave of productivity spurred on by really wanting to get something done and see how this story I’m writing will play out.

I’m sort of panicking because I don’t know how much longer my brain is going to allow me to go crazy like this and I’m curious if other writers have bursts of productivity like this. From what I’ve seen, everyone is different and some folks definitely report something like this happening.

I’m hopping that when I come out of this I can take some sort of wider lesson about how writing while also being a busy person works. Until then I’m going to post this, have a cup of coffee and get back to work.

Call To Arms – Write Something

Jul
03

Warning – I get a bit personal in this post so if you’re interested in some of my writing I’ve got a freebie for you – a gross little short story underneath this post about a food truck and a severed body part. It’s kind of a nasty little piece so…you know…if you’re in the mood for that sort of thing you won’t be disappointed. OK, onto the post.

I’ve gotten a few lousy reviews lately. 

That’s OK. This is only the mildest of complaint and not really a complaint if you spin it the right way. To be honest, while it stings a bit because I’ve sunk dozens and dozens of hours into a story I think is worth telling only to have folks disagree with me, my overall philosophy is “shoot, I’ll get you next time.” Plus, I’ve noticed by reading a lot of reviews of my first novel that people experience art very differently. I stopped putting a lot of emotional stock in reviews when a couple commenters dinged “FantasticLand” for not having any rape in it. 

That being said some of the bad reviews were from people I wanted to impress (I’m looking at you, Emily) so I went through a surprisingly rough night where my brain, which can be a bit of an asshole on occasion, had me convinced I had squandered my opportunities and essentially ended my writing career. Most writers deal with this sort of thing on occasion and my flavor has always been “imposter syndrome” so one critic saying she didn’t understand how anyone could give my book “Pack” a positive review is more than enough to do it.

Why bring this up on the day my second novel is officially put out into the world? Because I wrote a second novel a couple of critics hated and that’s a reason enough for me to celebrate. Because I wrote a second novel and it’s released today!

I know this smacks of the “everyone gets a trophy” mindset that everyone hates but that’s not quite what I’m getting at. For those of you who don’t know, I write novels in the nooks and crannies of my life – at the gym while my kid is in gymnastics, in the car when my kid is at piano, early mornings, late nights, weekends, holidays. I have an iPad with a keyboard attachment and pride myself on writing anywhere and at any time, pounding out a thousand words while mechanics change the oil in my car. That’s how I work and it’s how I have to work because I have a wickedly busy life and writing isn’t my main source of income, not by a long shot. It’s how I unwind, how I get through the day sometimes, how I vent frustration, how I feel accomplished, how I keep my brain from being the asshole it can sometimes be. In short, writing is the art that keeps me sane. 

If you’re like me, you know what I’m talking about. You might have a job that pays the bills adult requirements that seem to come at you from all sides but you also play music or you act or you scrapbook or you paint or you want to do some of those things and if I have anything of value to tell you (other than a good story now and again) it’s to encourage you, with all my voice and brain and heart, to GO DO THAT THING! Buy a paint set. Start that Instagram account for your cat. Draw. Start that blog. Livestream your video games. I don’t care what you do but DO IT because while it might never be your financial escape from your adult life can be that thing that makes your life better, richer, happier. 

I know a creative guy, a guy with a lot of passion and talent that I’m not going to name and I heard him say something once that broke my heart. He was asked how he was and he said “I spend all my time at work waiting to go home and spend all my time at home waiting to go to work.” This man is capable of art, I know it, but he chooses not to. How tragic. How desperate. How hopeless. I would rather live a life where everyone hated something I did then to never have never put anything out there and I have a second novel coming out so I’ve proven to myself that I will never be that kind of person and that’s worth feeling good about. 

On the occasion of “Pack” coming out (now available at Barnes and Noble, audible.com and online everywhere) I want to say “thank you” for supporting what I do. It means so much to me, but I’d do it even if you didn’t buy the books. I’d do it because I want to put something out there and Iv’e done it and while it would have been awesome if certain reviewers had gotten a kick out of “Pack”, it’s not the end of the world. Far from it because my book is out and that’s always going to be something I did. Always. 

Let me know when you “make your thing”. I’d love to support you. Now, onto that gross little short story I promised. Seriously, it’s kind of gross but, hey, I like it. 

-Mike

Short Story – Eat a Dick

Jul
02

I never got caught. That was the crazy thing. I know there’s no statute of limitations on this sort of shit but I guarantee you there is no evidence left. Not a shred. As far as the authorities are concerned, I’m some big talker in a city of big talkers. Even if a cop were standing right here, full uniform and everything, I bet you a thousand dollars they wouldn’t take me seriously. Even those hard ass cops. They’d just shoe me away thinking I was a big talker and then tell their friends at the bar or their wives when they talk about how their day was. But I aint talking to a cop, I’m talking to you and I promise you this story is not bullshit. It’s more than a little gross, but it is not bullshit.

How’d it start? Well, the food out here is crazy. With all the casinos, how could it not be? I mean, you’ve got at least 15 entities up and down the strip and they all want to attract the big spenders so you’ve got restaurants that make guacamole by carving out the avocados in front of you and you’ve got the restaurants that use liquid nitrogen to chill your drink and you’ve got restaurants that create shells of chocolate and then pour melted chocolate over the hardened chocolate to reveal the chocolate confection underneath. It’s an arms race and the little guys, they get the shaft every time, I promise you. You could spend your life making tacos, perfecting tacos, being the guy who cracks the code at making the best tasting tacos in all these 50 states and if you don’t have a gimmick, doesn’t matter. You can’t just be good. You’ve got to look good on Instagram, so I kept that in mind when creating my food truck.

My first idea was to go all horror themed, right? I had read that there was a burger joint somewhere in Iowa or Nebraska or some fucking place that named all their burgers after zombies and the idea kind of tickled me so I decided that sounded like fun. I went full on Halloween, dripping red font, burgers with names like the “gut buster” and the “finger fries.” It was all burgers, that was sort of my thing, but it was the gimmick, man. That’s what would bring them in and for a while, it did. I wasn’t on the main strip, I was able to find some spots not far off of Fremont and, on rare occasion, I’d get invited down on the strip too. I did OK business on Fremont because tourists pack that place anymore, but when I went down near the strip I couldn’t sling burgers fast enough. Lines around the block. Those were the good days. I even started dressing the part, wearing those fake tattoo sleeves and and playing old monster movies over a TV I had set into the truck and growing my black beard out and wearing way too much leather than was appropriate for the desert, I swear. I still have nightmares about the rashes I would get but, what do they say, it’s all part of the business, right?

Get out of the kitchen? Well, I guess they say that too. 

So business is great and I’ve got a gimmick and then, just like everywhere, someone sees lines around the block and before you know it there are other food trucks aping my schtick but with different food. There were bloody burritos and gory crepes and festering snow cones and all manner of shit. The audience for my gimmick was big but it wasn’t impossibly big, you know? It was limited and when these other assholes cut in I started to bleed. And they were so smug about it, too. There was Raoul, who worked at the bloody burrito place or whatever he called it. He would follow me around like he was welded to my bumper. Even when I got invited down on the strip, Raoul would literally tailgate me all the way to the gig and try to get in the gate even if he wasn’t on the list. The first few times he tried that shit he got turned away at the door but the third or fourth time they let him in and I screamed bloody murder about it. I was so pissed off I made a scene, apparently, and they kicked me out and let Raoul and his knock off tacos sell at whatever the event was. I was hot after that, like Vegas in August hot, atomic hot, nuclear hot. I was ready to perpetrate some violence and Raoul must have known it, too, because he didn’t show up in my territory for a while.

Any time I get angry, like, really angry, I usually do this thing where I write out what’s making me so mad and see if I can figure out why. In relationships, this can be helpful. So, she texted her ex-boyfriend and it made me mad…why? The reaction is disproportionate to the infraction, why so upset, right? Well, in this case it was an easy exercise. Fucker stole my gimmick, and that’s when it hit me. I needed a new gimmick. The horror thing was playing out. Time to shift gears, right? Stay ahead. I loved cooking and running my truck and if I had to take down the Halloween decorations and put something else up, that’s fine. But what, right? Where to go after you’ve been serving brain salad with bloody dressing for a year and a half to moron tourists who needed a gimmick?

I wrote down a few ideas – surf pizza or everything made with beer, I’d been working on that for a while. I had a whole bunch of bad ideas. At one point I even tried to do a “Danger Burger” concept. It was a solid idea but once you got to the menu, it didn’t work. Some people would think Indiana Jones or James Bond or whatever and others would think, “Danger, Burger.” Like, don’t eat that burger it’s full of salmonilla or AIDS or something. So I abandoned that idea and really got to thinking.

You know who comes to this city? They want to make it seem like “everyone” but that shit ain’t true. That’s marketing. People come here, by and large, to drink with their friends and act like a drunk douchebag in public. That’s the appeal of this city, man. If everyone is a drunk asshole, no one is and as long as you’re not the sort of drunk asshole who hurts someone or messes with the constant flow of money coming into town then you will be left alone. Believe me. I have seen some behavior that would cause riots in some cities shrugged off. Fights, vomiting, public sex of all kinds. One time, I swear, I saw a guy walking on one of those walkways that are above the main strip yelling the “n” word as loud and as fast as he could and everyone was like, “what you gonna do?” In a city not as sick as this one, someone would have ushered the man inside or told him this was not cool or call the cops or something but in this place, that’s a fucking Tuesday.

Anyway, why do people come to this city? To be drunk and to be naughty. That’s it. So, I figured, if people want a gimmick and nobody bats an eye at any bad behavior, why not capitalize. So I changed my gimmick from “Calvin’s Horror Hut” to “Big Dick’s Swinging American Cuisine.” I knew this artist who claims is big into R. Crumb and he came up with this design that was basically a cartoon pinhead with this massive dong but the dongs are covered up by burgers, like they’re on a ring or something. It doesn’t make any sense to describe it but when you looked at it you got the picture. This nutty cartoon had a dick big enough to support five burgers and then, off to the side, you had these cartoon women in bikinis who were gaping at it, like “oh my God, what a big dick” and this one girl wasn’t so much in awe as she was “that burger looks great” and was licking her lips. Their nipples were visible through their bikinis and it was gaudy and gross and the first time I pulled up I got my old lines back, maybe even more. I worked like a dog and pocketed so much money the first day I had to go back and recount to make sure. Drunk bachelorette parties would swarm the place, man, just swarm it. Guys would position themselves so it looks like they were “Big Dick” and when they found out the food wasn’t bad, they came back. Again, good times.

So what does Raoul do? What do you think he does? He redoes his truck too from his bloody burritos or whatever to “Hairy Tacos.” I have to hand it to him. He outdid me. He improved on my concept. He was gaudier and more overt and I was still doing fine but he was doing better than fine business wise.When I first saw his truck I had it out with him, man. I went over there and pounded on his door and, I believe my opening salvo was “what the fuck, man. One idea wasn’t enough” and he just sort of shrugged and said “Whatever you do I do better,” and shut the door and he might have been right when it came to his truck. His personal life, that was another matter.

He had a very attractive wife named Marcella. She was very tall but, like, thin and hot. She had this intimidating sexuality thing going on, like, you remember Sandra Bernheart early in her career. That sort of menacing thing where you wanted her but you weren’t sure if you were man enough? That was Marcella. They would fight all the time, loud and  proud, which I figured was a Mexican thing, or whatever Raoul was. I never bothered to learn because fuck that guy, but they would scream and they would throw shit and they would get so bad sometimes they would drive people away from the truck and that was always a good day when that happened. That’s the sort of business you don’t get back, you know? I’m a scary looking dude and I’ve got the anger issues sometimes but even I know enough to never lose it in front of the customers. Raoul and Marcella, they never got that memo and it cost them a few times. 

I know, I’m going on and on but wait for it. I’m getting to the good part.

So one day the Hairy Taco is parked right next to me, as usual, and they we were pulling decent crowds, both of us, so it wasn’t a bad day. I was still pissed but Raoul knew to say away from me so I very rarely had to see the sonofabitch. He stayed on his side which was the wise play. Like I said, I’m a big dude with the anger issues on occasion. We close down, it’s about 3 in the morning and immediately, the fighting starts. I hear Marcella’s voice, it was low but she could really get the volume up if she wanted to, and she was giving Raoul the business. I don’t know what she was yelling about as I don’t speak Spanish but you don’t need a translator to tell she was laying in to Raoul with all the force she could muster, which was considerable. Then it calms down and gets quiet and I’m doing the accounting for the day when all of a sudden I hear this “thunk” noise on the side of my truck. It sounded like a drunk hitting the side so I went out expecting to have to shoe some overly blitzed white girl away when I see it’s Raoul. He’s in a greyish green T-shirt and boxer shorts, like he was getting ready for bed or something and he’s holding his crotch and there’s blood, everywhere. 

She had calmed down, seduced him out of his clothes and cut his dick off with a knife from the truck.

The second I figured out what was happening, he screamed and sort of fell in my direction, his hands still on his crotch, and I sort of half catch him and he half falls into my chest. I never bothered to take off my smock so he got blood all over it so I scoop him back up and had this collapsible deck chair by my truck so I put him in that and it immediately folds up and he falls down screaming, blood streaming through his fingers and as he’s crying, I swear to God, Marcella comes around the corner with a bloody knife in her hand. A blood knife! That happens in bad movies, it doesn’t happen in real life, but there she is, nearly six feet of her with a serrated, 12 inch kitchen knife pointed down like in the movies. Fucking crazy.

None of this really scares me. I was definitely alarmed because Raoul the dickless wonder blead all over my smock but Marcella didn’t scare me. She was already screaming at Raoul, again, I don’t know what the hell she was saying and she’s waving the knife around but she doesn’t seem to care that I was there. Raoul is too busy bleeding to give her much of a fight and after a minute of screaming she disappears for a second and comes back and throws something at Raoul and she misses and hits me. While, yeah, of course it’s his dick. She wasn’t about to chuck a taco at him, I didn’t figure. But, yeah, she chucked his John Thomas and it hit me in the chest and it fell to the ground somewhere and she’s off again, screaming while he’s crying and bleeding so I pull out my cell phone and call 911. I’m able to get through the entire conversation without mentioning the word “dick” or either of them noticing and in this town, you call the cops and they show right up. I swear it wasn’t 4 minutes before there were at least 10 cops on the scene and that crazy bitch was in handcuffs and old Raoul was on a stretcher before you could say “what happened to the dick.”

Well, I’ll tell you what happened to the dick. I picked it up, that’s what happened to the dick. I had a dick in my pocket of my smock, that’s what happened to the dick.

Why? It seemed like the thing to do, to be honest. I don’t mean to be flip about it, but, honestly, it just seemed like the thing to do. I mean, he was going to want it back at some point and fuck that guy. He stole two of my ideas and was sucking blood out of my business. I don’t want to seem like a psycho or something but I had fantasies of cutting off his ear, his tongue, his dick because I hated that guy. I’m not normally a hateful kind of person, I’m the guy who breaks up fights and tries to avoid conflict if I can but I hated that guy and all of a sudden his crazy knife-wielding wife throws his dick at me. What was I supposed to do? I put it in my pocket and went back into my truck.

A couple minutes later the cops start poking around with their flashlights, clearly looking for something and I knew it was only a matter of time before they knocked on my door. I had taken the smock off at this point but hadn’t taken the dick out, so I quick found it and tossed it in the meat grinder I keep in the truck and throw some raw meat over the top of it and just start grinding away. I grind and grind and grind and by the time the cops knocked on the door his dick was indistinguishable from 10 pounds of ground beef I was getting ready to put in the freezer. 

The cops, they knocked and they were pretty chill about the whole thing. This one cop, he was bald and clearly the no bullshit type, he was like “have you seen Raoul’s dick?” that’s the language he used. So I gave it right back to him, “no, sir, I have not seen nor do I want to think about where Raoul’s dick is,” and he laughs and his partner chuckles and that’s the end of it. They take off and I clean up and go to sleep with a big old grin on my face. 

The next day I keep that “special” batch in the freezer until I get my first bachelorette party, a drunk, whooping bunch of girls wearing sashes and dick shaped hats and lugging around yard long margaritas and I fry it up and serve it to them and that’s that. They don’t notice or say anything and that’s fine. It would have been weird if they noticed I had put a dick in their hamburger meat, plus the cheese and the onions and the pickles are more than enough to cover up anything funny. But one of them noticed that I was smiling and thought I was hitting on her so she was over under the awning of my truck and was all flirty. I flirted back a little and she gave me a quick kiss on the lips before she and her friends got back in their limo to go wherever they were going. It was a great day.

Raoul? Never heard from his sorry ass again. He’s out of the food truck game. Truth be told, if I were him I wouldn’t be in the mood to do anything ever again, but if I ever see him again, I’m definitely going to tell him. I’d make a meal of it, too. I’d include detail, kind of as a courtesy. If someone had made a meal out of me, I’d want to know exactly how it went down. 

Until then, it’s a hell of a story.