Greg Bardsley



Greg’s Friends Doing Amazing Things — Kim Kenny

kimkennyWhen I hung out with Kim Kenny in high school, she was one of the funniest people around.

And one of the smartest.

All these years later, Kim is still funny and smart. Now she’s sharing those talents with the world — with the help of her “little” brother, Chris Kenny. The two write and star in their own Internet comedy series, “Siblings,”  which has yet to disappoint.

Every time I watch it, I smile ear-to-ear.

Here’s what I dig about “Siblings”: It’s a great example of people rising from their day jobs, their everyday obligations and routines, their own exhaustion, the noise of life, to create something  really cool. It may not pay the bills, or even pay for itself, but it’s creative — and it’s funny, and it’s connecting with people.

They created something cool, and it’s out “there.”

Get your hit of “Siblings” here.

Or check out my favorite episode so far, “By the Book,” below.

That tux and top hat ain’t gonna change anything


A while back, my wife and I were talking about our early relationship. More specifically, we were talking about those times, 17 years ago, when she’d try to dress me. At least the way I saw it back in 1992, she was trying to get me to wear fancy-boy jackets and shirts — outfits I thought were better suited for backyard-croquet dandies. Never mind the fact I was a serious slob who wore very old clothes that I kept in giant piles. I didn’t like being “controlled,” and at some point, there was a backlash.

So not too long ago, we laughed at it all. And I said the whole “Dress Greg” campaign was like trying to put a tux and top hat on a semi-feral cat. Point being, that tux and top hat ain’t gonna change anything about that cat.

Then I had an idea for a short story. I’ll leave it at that, but suffice it to say that my new short story, “Cool Breeze of Mercy,” is dedicated to all you guys out there who have struggled with deep-seeded fears that someone wants to change you.

I am proud to report that “Cool Breeze” was picked up by Pulp Pusher, the badass U.K. ‘zine run by the insanely gifted crime novelist Tony Black, author of the poweful new noir thriller GUTTED. The only bummer is that despite Black’s repeated best efforts, some limitations to a web-publishing system have left formatting of the story less than what we wanted. With that in mind, you can read the piece at The Pusher here, or if you’re having problems reading that text, you can try the properly formatted “reprint” here.

NOTE: If stories involving peyote, cat diarrhea, extremely hair men and pantsuited crazyladies wielding fire pokers aren’t your thing, you may wanna pass on “Cool Breeze of Mercy.”


And these are the things we say

“Honey,” she says, “I was sprawled out on the floor from exhaustion today, and I was looking at the ceiling, and I was thinking, we should’ve painted it a ligher shade.”

Later, I say sweetly, “I think it might be because of the fact I got two hours of sleep last night, but my vision is blurring and I can’t see colors. Would you mind showing me which piece of paper is yellow? Dylan needs a yellow piece of paper.”

“Oh, of course,” Nancy says, fighting off a smile.

Later, she says, “Honey, maybe it’s because I never fell back asleep aftrer taking care of Dylan’s wet bed at 1 a.m, but I’m losing my equilibrium whenever I walk. Do we have a cane around here?”

And so it goes.

Later, I say, lispy and slurred, “Honey, what’s my middle name again? I’m drawing a blank.”

“Are you serious?”

“Well, it may have something to do with the fact I’ve haven’t slept in 36 hours, but I can’t remember my middle name.”

And so it goes.

“Honey, I was passed out on the floor today, and the boys were running around me and racing Hot Wheels over my legs, and when I came to I think I saw a plate of mac-n-cheese under the couch.  I think it’s from that movie night Jack had last month. Would you mind getting that?”

And so it goes.

Someday we’ll get more sleep. I hope it’s before the boys leave for college.

Huffin’ & pantin’ & moo-moos

About 17 years ago, when I was fresh out of college and at my first daily newspaper, an older, morbidly obese woman would periodically saunter into the newsroom — always huffing and panting, and always wearing a floral moo-moo dress.

She was nice enough, except for her unwanted shoulder rubbing.

What would happen was, I’d be on deadline, finishing yet another story on mosquito abatement, when she’d approach from behind and start rubbing. The first time it happened, I was paralyzed — shocked beyond movement. The second time, I gritted my teeth, cringed and hunched up my shoulders, waiting for it to end.

“You like that?” she huffed in my ear.

“Um, thanks.” Still cringing. Shoulders still hunched. “Well, better get back to work.”

She panted closer, whispering in her husky voice. “Well, I’m just doing what I wish someone would do to me.”

All these years later, that line is still a favorite around my house, especially after a long day. The kids are finally asleep after another evening of unleashing boyish aggression throughout the household. Everyone’s bones are aching. Everyone is exhausted. Everyone just wants to veg on the couch. But you muster the energy to massage your spouse’s shoulders for a moment, and he or she sighs in relief, eyes closed, totally exhausted, thanking you profusely, which is when you say in a husky voice under your breath, “Well, I’m just doing what I wish someone would do to me.”

Good times.

I know what’s going on

I’m on to you, buddy.

I have to admit, you have a good game. When we see each other, you smile and you charm and you engage. In fact, it’s quite apparent you don’t have a malicious bone in your body. After all, you like people – you really like people. You care about saying the right thing at the right time, and you shudder at the thought of being rude or offensive or hurtful. You want people to like you, just as you like them.

But I am on to you. I’m so on to you. In fact, I have given you a name — the nice asshole (N.A.) — and have identified some of your telling characteristics and behaviors.

Most importantly, the nice asshole does whatever he wants, regardless of who he puts out. So what if someone, for instance, has spent the better part of a Saturday preparing a nice meal for him and others? The nice asshole has found something better to do, and he’ll cancel with little notice — but always in a charming and gracious way, in that special way that doesn’t really annoy the host until hours later.

So what if a nice asshole’s children rev their muscle cars and lay down rubber in front of your house at 2am each night, despite your polite interventions? He will just shake his head, release a concerned sigh and identify with your frustration, saying things like, “I know, those boys wake me up every night, too.” But will the nice asshole do anything about it? Will he be considerate of his neighbors and take the unpleasant step of confronting his overgrown children? Hell no.

That is because nice assholes do not like confrontation. And as a consequence, they will utilize their above-average emotional intelligence to sidestep awkward moments of extreme candor and confrontation. They have found that if you’re gonna do someone wrong, if you’re gonna be exceptionally self-centered, you might as well do it in the most non-confrontational, charming and gracious way possible.

But don’t think you’ve fooled me, Mr. N.A. You’re still doing people wrong. You’re still being an inconsiderate jerk. Your self-obsession still manifests itself in a variety of ways — from your loud cars to your slight-of-hand tricks of corporate-offloading. You’re still more than willing to put people out, to treat others poorly, albeit graciously, to do what you want, when you want.

I am lucky. I really don’t have any nice assholes in my day-to-day life. Of course, we all encounter few from time to time, but my N.A. exposure is minimal. So friends and family and colleagues, please don’t think I’m writing about you. I’m not.


But for anyone who’s suddenly worried they might fit the N.A. profile, reform now. There is hope for you yet.

“She Don’t Like Hecklers”

Gina Dean don’t like hecklers. If you don’t believe me, you can read it for yourself on a pretty damn cool crime ‘zine called Pulp Pusher.

The Pusher today published my short story, “She Don’t Like Hecklers,” which joins recent pieces from novelists Nick Stone, Dave Zeltserman, Ray Banks and Tony Black. As one article about the Pusher notes, pulp-fiction badasses Ken Bruen, Charles Ardai, Allan Guthrie, Todd Robinson and Duane Swierczynski also have joined in for a piece of the action. With a crew like this, I have to admit it feels good to be a fly on the wall.

The Pusher

Pulp Pusher is one of those rare fiction venues that actually has fun, and it never turns it’s nose up on you. Visit its submission guidelines, for instance, and it wisecracks, “If The Pusher gets an odd chapter from your novel in progress, he breaks your knuckles. Oh, and The Pusher finds your story anywhere else, he breaks your sister’s knuckles.”

Pusher, I promise, my story ain’t anywhere esle. I swear.

“She Don’t Like Hecklers” is here, and it is dedicated to anyone who’s had an asshole sling suggestive comments at her from the safety of his muscle car. That said, if you find tales involving peyote abuse and “crocodilian death rolls” to be low-brow or offensive, you may wanna pass on this one.

Let me know what you think.

My new love affair … with the chile relleno

All those years, and I never gave the chile relleno a real look. All those years, I was enamored with carnitas and huevos rancheros and tamales. All those years, I was missing out on the wonders of my brand new love — the cheesy, plump and complex chile relleno.

Suddenly, I can’t get enough of her.

In my family, Mexican food always has been serious business. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of things like my grandmother, Maria Cristina, making hand-made tortillas in our kitchen, my mom passing her guacamole secrets down to me, and my family driving into Oakland to buy hand-made tortillas from one restaurant on East 14th so we could have them at another restaurant around the corner. Back then, I found the chile relleno to be a too little exotic; the fact we were talking about a big pepper dipped in egg batter and smothered with a mysterious sauce didn’t help with my picky adolescent sensibilities. Decades went by, and I continued to look right through the chile relleno.

Then something strange happened: By pure chance this past spring, I bumped into her, grabbed a hold for a stolen moment and realized I didn’t want to let go. One thing led to another, and just like that, I have become addicted to her, lidding my eyes at the wonderful sequence of senses unfurling in my mouth — first the extreme softness of it all, then the mild tomato sauce with the Mexican kick, then the pronounced statement of the poblano chile pepper, and finally the creamy comfort of the melted queso Oaxaca cheese, the cheese that had been stuffed inside and was now arresting my brain in pure taste-bud pleasure.

So now here I am, completely enamored with the chile relleno, kind of blown away, thinking of this wonderful dish at unusual hours. As for why, maybe my sensibilities have matured. Maybe my physiology has changed in some mysterious way that advantages the chile relleno. Maybe I am simply in the right frame of mind — finally — to enjoy what the chile relleno has been offering all along. And that’s frightening — terrifying, in fact. What else have I been missing out on?

Six years ago today

Six years ago today
I am a new daddy. Forty-eight hours after Jack’s birth, I am still overcome with joy. When my wife and son sleep, I can’t stop crying. My family is safe, my son Jack is here, my life will never be the same. I am experiencing instant love, and it is the most beautiful thing on earth. I find myself asking, What did I ever do to deserve this?

Three years and three days ago
It is less than an hour after Dylan’s birth. I am a new daddy again, and I am overcome with joy. I look down at him, and he is beautiful. I am still staring at him when a newly minted doctor slips into our room with a grim look on her face. She tells us our new son has a massive tumor in his abdominal cavity. In an instant, our world darkens and swirls and tilts. This can’t be happening. The doc leads me to another room and shows me the x-ray of Dylan’s tiny stomach — on one side, all you see is solid white. I stand there and nod back. I can’t speak.

That night, I cry on the phone with my friend Greg. I hold Nancy’s hand until she falls asleep. I pace the hospital floors until the wee hours. I stare at the walls. I stare at Dylan — he is so beautiful.

Three years and two days ago
A platoon of doctors comes in and tells us that it was all an awful misdiagnosis, that it all was wrong, that the white mass in that x-ray was, in fact, an air pocket, that our Baby Dylan is perfect. A trip to radiology confirms it. I am numb. My family is safe, Dylan actually is healthy — in fact, uncommonly strong. It takes us a long time to truly believe the doctors — months and months.

Ten days ago
Tomorrow is a big day. Tomorrow Dylan will have his own birthday party. And tonight, all is silent. Twenty-four cupcakes are fresh out of the oven, cooling on a “cupcake tree.” The boys are in their jammies enjoying the final minutes of “Walking with Prehistoric Beasts.” Nancy is in the back room. I’m in the backyard setting up the chairs.

And then: “Oh my God, no. …No … No … VENUS!”

We all meet in the kitchen, where Nancy is staring at the cupcake tree — it is empty, except for two cupcakes. I scan the counter, then the floor. No crumbs anywhere. No paper wrappers anywhere. The cupcake tree remains upright. Venus, our Golden Retriever, sits on her giant pillow, her eyes extra large, but not quite apologetic. She knows she has a sickness, and she knows she’ll never stop. Dylan runs over, lowers his brows and squats in front of her. “Bad Venus,” he shouts, and slaps his knee. “No more cupcakes.”

Around 10pm, I’m in line at Albertson’s with two more boxes of Betty Crocker. The pregnant lady behind me is buying just one item — a two-gallon jug of prune juice. She looks at my Betty Crocker, I glance at her prune juice, and we nod in silent affirmation. You don’t go to Albertson’s at 10pm unless you’re in trouble.

It’s Jack’s first day of first-grade. He’s smiling and joking with his classmates. Mrs. Stapleton sits them down and leads them in a sweet song about friendly faces, and Nancy fights back tears. I look at Jack and think of all the times I slept beside his bassinet with my fingertips on his chest, worried he’d stop breathing, all the times I changed his diapers, all the times he needed to be rocked, all the times I had to put a favorite toy in “Daddy Jail,” all the times he cried out in the night and we’d come padding down the hallway, all the times he needed Mommy and no one else would do, all the firsts — the first steps, the first words, the first day in big-boy underwear, the first haircut, the first rush to the hospital, the first time he saw something that truly ignited his imagination, the first time he insisted that his mysterious and elusive friend, “Abey Dabey Cabey,” was real and so very complex.

Now I look at my son, who’s ready for this new adventure, and I think back on that first day in the maternity ward, when Mommy and Baby Jack were both asleep, when I stared at him and imagined a time way off in the future, a time when this child would be running and jumping and laughing and discovering, a time when his laughter would fill our house, a time when he’d run off to new adventures all on his own.

Just like today.


An aside: My wife Nancy started her own blog, and I’m loving it. My favorite post so far is Tantrums 101. Be sure to check it all out at 40 Something.

I’ve been fooling myself

The past few years, I’ve been cocky about two things: my ability to sleep-train a baby and my success with homemade guacamole.

Last night, I came plunging back to reality. Last night, I realized I wasn’t quite the man I thought I was. Last night, my guacamole delusions shattered into a thousand little green globs.

You see, I’ve made a big deal about my guacamole. I’ve puffed my chest and sighed contentedly. I’ve nodded in silence as friends and family tasted my guac and widened their eyes in delight.

But now, I’m questioning all that. Maybe people have been humoring me. Maybe friends and family have been too kind to tell me the truth, too kind to tell me my guacamole isn’t really that special after all. Maybe I’m just a big joke.

It all happened last night. I came home, and my wife mentioned casually that she’d whipped up some guacamole. On any other day, this would have been a blatant attempt to strip me of my power, akin to her saying, “Honey, I think there’s a leak in the bathroom, so why don’t you stay here with the boys while I go crawl under the house?” But on this night, I was starving. I was thrilled to see the guac sitting there on the kitchen table.

And let me tell you, it was phenomenal. My eyelids lowered. My brain melted in pleasure. My mouth was on drugs. And I wanted more — more more more. Nancy smiled to herself and went about her business.

Then I realized. I realized Nancy’s guac was better than anything I’ve made in a long time — maybe better than anything I’ve ever made. Hers had the personality that I love in good guac, but it wasn’t trying too hard. It contained nearly all of my secret ingredients (don’t ask, because I won’t tell you). But there was a light-touch sophistication that my guacamole has lacked. This guac was like a symphony, and mine suddenly seemed like a one-man band on “America’s Got Talent,” some needy freak with eight different instruments attached to his torso.

“This is beyond anything I’ve ever accomplished,” I said, taking a pull off my Tecate.

Nancy was at the counter with her back facing me. She adopted the gentle, motherly tone she’ll use with the boys at critical moments. “Well,” she soothed, “I just think the best thing about guacamole is the avacado.”

You see, Nancy likes my guacamole. And she likes my ingredients. But she has told me over the years that maybe I need to take it down a little. Maybe I don’t need to put so much of “this” and so much of “that” in my guacamole. I agree with her, but at the end of the day, when I’m there at the counter and I’m doing my thing, and the Latin Jazz is playing and my can of Tecate is open, and I’m having a grand old time there slicing and mashing and sipping, I can let it go too far. I lose myself.

Thinking about it last night, I wondered if there were any parallels between my guacamole and my writing. After all, isn’t it funny that I have learned that sometimes it’s better to tone down my fiction, that a little “personality” goes a long way? I shuddered at the thought. How deep does this problem go?


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