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Greg Bardsley

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Cuckoo for Crazy Larry?

Not too long ago my story, Crazy Larry Smells Bacon, had quite the day.

First, in the morning, I received the news that Crazy Larry, which originally appeared in the transgressive-fiction journal Plots with Guns, had been selected to appear in the anthology, By Hook or by Crook: The Best Crime and Mystery Stories of the Year: 2009 [Tyrus Books], edited by Ed Gorman and Martin Greenberg.

Then, that night, I learned that judges for the storySouth 2010 Million Writers Award had named Crazy Larry a “notable story” of the year (along with pieces by many others, most notably Kieran Shea, Kyle Minor and Mike MacLean), and that it’s still elligible for higher praise, however unlikely.

For all the love Larry is now receiving, I can thank PWG editor Anthony Neil Smith. Neil’s push-backs on the piece, and his suggestions for spry ol’ Larry, really made a difference. … I’m also glad to tell you that Larry has a solid role in the novel I have been writing; it’s a relief to see that Larry actually ineterests more people than just Neil and me.  

Not that there would’ve been anything wrong with that.

Now I know

Now I know.

Now I know that when you’re visiting a communist compound deep in the heart of  China, you shouldn’t wander. It doesn’t matter if the grounds are lush and inviting. It doesn’t matter if the guards clearly saw you arrive with the your company’s delegation. It doesn’t matter if you’re from the West and you assume you have protections. It doesn’t matter that you have this open-mouthed, couldn’t-harm-a-fly goofball look to you as you saunter the grounds.

Now I know.

Disregard the fact everyone seems friendly enough. Disreard the fact you hear hundreds of men singing nearby and would love to investigate (and in that case, didn’t). You are a visitor from another country. You don’t stroll. You don’t investigate. You should just be happy that you’re experiencing something (visiting a communist compound) you never could’ve predicted six months earlier. You should stand there, stay put and appreciate the moment.

A couple weeks ago, I did not stay put. 

I had come to China on business. During the trip, my bosses had several meetings with the Chinese leadership in Chongqing (both parties are planning to do some good things that will help a lot of people of China).  I was more or less a fly on the wall. In the course of the meetings, we ended up at this compound. And because I wasn’t in that meeting, I had time to kill.

So, yes, with time to kill, I did go for a stroll. I don’t think I ventured too far, but in retrospect, after telling my bosses (and my family) that I had gone for a walk and even wanted to explore further,  I realize I should’ve stayed closer to the area where we had arrived. I guess you just don’t go for adventurous strolls on communist compounds, especially when you’re a visiting American. Luckily, I didn’t have to learn that lesson the hard way.

He smells bacon, and it drives him cuckoo

Badass noir zine Plots with Guns came out with “one bar fight of an issue,” as its editor Anthony Neil Smith puts it. And I’m thrilled to report that my story, “Crazy Larry Smells Bacon,”  is included — along with pieces by Mark Raymond Falk, Frank Bill, Jason Hunt, Keith Rawson, Jonathan Woods, Neil Richter and someone called Anonymous-9.

pwg1

I had a lot of fun with “Crazy Larry.” I smiled a lot when I wrote this one. I gave myself the creeps when I read it back to myself.  I think about the namesake of the story, and I grin. There’s something about potentially dangerous oddballs that makes me smile. Not sure why, but there it is.

Once again, as was the case with my story, Funny Face, which appeared last year in Storyglossia, I have Smith to thank for helping me strengthen the piece. ANS came back hard with the straight dope, and I am grateful for it, because the piece is stronger for it. 

Feeling kinda verklempt over here on the left coast. …. You make me wanna be a sicker writer, Neil.

 

Minutiae Monday — “it’s gonna be a zoo”

Let us begin the minutiae …

My 6-year-old son likes to take his guitar and “serenade the neighborhood” with his original songs. It’s proven to be a great way to attract lots of adults and children, which of course is his primary objective. … Plots with Guns just released another really strong set of stories, including those from Chimichanga friends Bryon Quertermous, Patti Abbot and Todd Robison. Added bonus: the stories are accentuated by some great art and another really cool design. Cool shit. Real deal. … I have to admit it felt good to see my short story, “Funny Face,” included on a short list recently created by DOGZPLOT. … This weekend: three birthday parties, three park adventures, one wet bed, four sleep relocations, one tee-ball game and one lingering cold. … I’m happy to report that my employer Sun Microsystems was named one of the world’s most ethical companies. … My wife and kids are participating in a school field trip to the San Francisco Zoo tomorrow. It’s gonna be a zoo there.

Hotel Grandma

We should all be so lucky to check in at Hotel Grandma.

At Hotel Grandma, located in the Cow Hollow district of San Francisco, you are treated like a prince the very moment you check in. You are greeted with open arms and a gushing smile. A fancy glass bowl of “chocolate balls,” as you’ve come to call them, awaits you. Your “transportation” to Hotel Grandma (Mom or Dad) is graciously sent back to San Carlos, and once they are gone, it’s just you and your host, Grandma, who will grant you nearly anything your heart desires.

You’ve decided you’d like to ride Muni trains through the city all day? Let’s go.

You’d like to walk Nickie the St. Bernard to the Marina Green? Let me just get his slobber towel.

You’d like to plant seeds in the lush city gardens at Hotel Grandma? Would you like a cookie in the garden?

Oh, a grilled cheese and a rich vanilla milkshake at Mel’s sound nice right now? Let me get the keys.

You’d like to enjoy my undivided attention as we hug in the front room for 90 minutes? Let me get the blanket.

You’d like to bake cookies all day? But of course. I have the butter right here.

You’d like to stay up late and watch insect documentaries? At what volume would you like the TV set at?

My sons Dylan, 3, and Jack, 6, love Hotel Grandma. Can you blame them? At Hotel Grandma, and at Hotel Grandma’s affiliate establishment, Hotel Jennifer (run by their aunt in Lower Pacific Heights), you are loved and cared for extra-special and taken to the far corners of this world-class city. You enjoy a close bond with a loved one, and it’s a gift you’ll likely carry with you the rest of your life. You are granted furlough from the tougher realities of your regular life in San Carlos and all its time-outs, household “jobs,” strict adherence to bedtime parameters, parent-sharing with an annoying brother, and (the horror) limited say in what is served for dinner.

Needless to say, checking out of Hotel Grandma (or Hotel Jennifer) and returning to San Carlos can level quite a shock to the system. A sense of injustice permeates your mind, and tirades seem to be the favored response. You sob and mope. You sigh loudly. When you are given a consequence for failing to do as you were told, you fold your arms and shout, “You are a bad … bad … bad Daddy,” and your lower lip pops out. You announce, “You guys are torturing me.” Sometimes it is all too much, and you are compelled to collapse into a mound of tears (a favorite tactic of Dylan’s).

The injustice.

To which your Daddy replies, “More content for your memoirs someday.”

As I write this, Dylan is checked in at Hotel Grandma. I know he is having a wonderful time and is enjoying my mother’s undivided attention — and what a gift that is in life. But I know that when he returns, there will be that adjustment period, just as there is for his older brother Jack. But the way Nancy and I see it, it’s the price we gladly pay for the boys to have such special people — a loving aunt, an adoring grandma — in their lives.

Do any of you parents out there have similar problems with your kids after they’ve returned from Grandma’s House?

Introducing, “Minutiae Wednesday”

On other days, I might use this space to tackle lofty topics like “Eat Pray Love” and the 2008 Greg Bardsley Guacamole Season. But on Wednesdays, I think I’ll dive into the minutiae of life. This is, after all, a blog.

Here’s the minutiae as I saw it last night around 11:30 …..

“I’m currently wearing dark-blue sweats with double white stripes on the side. … My wife says she’s determined to beat me in some kind of hit-count battle between our blogs. …. I’m wondering how this one family down the street can afford to spend so much money. … Last night I stayed up way too late writing … I had to give my oldest child several time-outs tonight, and forever take away two of his toys. … I called another man “a jerk” today … Yesterday, I received my first-ever payment for fiction. … Our dishwasher broke again, and it will be weeks before the replacement part arrives. … Tonight I ghostwrote a letter for my sister, who is demanding that the guy who committed a hit-and-run against her pay to have the back bumper of her VW Bug dipped in chrome. … I took the garbage out to the curb tonight. … I like Debra Messing’s hairline. … I love the way my wife laughs. … Both our boys fell asleep by 8:38 tonight (so nice!). … When driving, I am forced to wear the most insane pair of volleyball sunglasses. … We’ll have to move out within a month so our contractor can get started with our add-on project. … I got a story accepted for STORYGLOSSIA‘s noir edition. …Tonight, my wife and I got a real kick out of Brett Michael’s “Rock of Love” reality program (great editing). … I’ve been listening to “fast-paced spy music” the past 24 hours. … I’m thinking, This list could go on forever. … Cutting off the minutiae — for now.”

I like to look

Hey, what can I say? I like to look.

I like to look at people. They interest me. What they do interests me. What they look like can be fascinating. I guess the way I see it, looking at people is one way to really “get” a person. And hell, it’s just fun to look.

The family next door put a hot tub right outside our bedroom window. My wife Nancy says to me, “Stop looking over there. What if they see you?” I turn the lights off and keep looking, gazing out the window, whispering, “I wanna see what Jim looks like with his shirt off.”

You can’t blame me. Jim and his family have lived next door for eight years. We adore them. They’re quality people. But come on, let’s be honest here — I wanna take a look at Jim in his trunks, and I bet you would, too. And why can’t I look out my own bedroom window? Should I bow my head and gaze at the floor whenever I pass that window?

When we’re out and about, I really like to look. We’ll be walking, and I’ll be looking, and then I’ll say something like, “Hey, there’s that guy from that salsa-dancing class in ’95.” I’ll wave to him while Nancy pulls at my arms. “Please don’t,” she’ll whisper. “Not here. Please don’t. It’s not him.” … I will admit that on several occasions (or maybe it’s more accurate to say, on many occasions) these people aren’t who I think they are — rather, they’re complete strangers, and it makes for some awkward moments. Really awkward moments. Nancy doesn’t like those.

Now, to be fair, I do have a freaky way of remembering faces. As a teen at a water slide park, a friend and I spent about 40 minutes standing in line behind a very amusing fellow in a blue Speedo. He was about 50. The two ladies with him were in their 30s. My friend and I had a wonderful time standing behind them, taking note of this guy’s “scene.” A year later, this guy walks into the Dublin Uhaul, where I’m working behind the counter, and I say, “Hey, you were at the Manteca Water Slides last summer, the last Sunday of July, and you had this blue Speedo on, and there were two women with you, and you had this puka-shell necklace and … and … and.” When this stunned man confirmed this was all true (and confirmed that he’d never met me in his life) one of the Uhaul lifers walked up to me and mumbled, “Dude, you’re psyschic.”

Nah, I just like to look.

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