Pacific Northwest

The tour continues. Wednesday, June 15 I’ll be reading at Third Place Books in Lake Forest, WA. I’ll be joined by Seattle area writers Samantha Updegrave and Kristen Millares Young. If you’re in the area, come out and see me. If you’re not but you know someone who is, send them this Facebook invitation.

The next night, Thursday, June 16, I’m reading at Powell’s Books. The reading is at their Hawthorne location. Razorcake contributor Keith Rosson will join me. If all goes well, my Ig Publishing tour mate, Ron Tanner, will be there, too.

Now here’s a picture of some chairs that I saw along a bay in the Puget Sound. Below that is a piece I wrote about being on tour in Seattle in 2008.

Chairs on Whidbey Island

Seattle

In Seattle, one of the local weeklies had a blurb about my reading at Elliott Bay Book Company. The weekly said that my new book was about a “bartender [who] goes on a road trip of self-discover.”

The book is absolutely not about that.

I happened to be standing on the Seattle waterfront when I read the weekly, a bit south of the famous fish market but still surrounded by a tourist district that I’d taken a wrong turn into. I paused for a second to remember a time when the independent weeklies that you found in every city used to actually be independent and actually cover events in those cities. In the next second, I wondered what happened to this imaginary bartender’s “y” on his road trip of self-discover.

I wandered as far away as I could from this little tourist district, gradually forgetting that stupid little blurb and remembering, still, that this was my nineteenth and final city on the summer tour I did to promote Train Wreck Girl, and, while it hadn’t been the road trip to self-discover that the Seattle Weekly billed it as, I had seen some things crisscrossing this continent.

Calling Twin Cities

I’ll be in Minneapolis this week, reading at Magers and Quinn on Friday night (June 3, 7:00). Bizarro author, Razorcake contributor, and part-time drag queen MP Johnson will read with me. I’ve never had a dull event in Minneapolis. Hopefully, this one will be as fun as readings in the past. Here’s a link to the bookstore’s events page.

Scroll below the picture to get a Replacements song in your head and read a vignette I wrote about reading in Minneapolis in 2008.

MPLS Skyway

Take the Skyway, high above that busy little one way.

Minneapolis

After I finished my reading at Arise Bookstore in Minneapolis, the God Damn Doo Wop Band took the stage. And, by “stage,” I mean the empty area in front of the chairs in the backyard of Arise. It was one of those perfect Minneapolis days that apparently don’t happen all that often but seem to happen every time I’m there. It was sunny, temperatures in the low eighties, an even cooler breeze. The sun was starting to set behind the bookstore. The band sat on a low wall.

The God Damn Doo Wop Band: three women who know how to spend their money on boots and tattoos and hair dye, who, more importantly, know how to sing doo wop songs. They launched into three-part-harmonies about boy troubles. On the one hand, they seemed like an authentic throwback to the Staten Island doo wop of the fifties. On the other hand, it was something totally fresh and original.

One of the band members is named Annie. She used to be in the Soviettes. She didn’t wear boots. Her Vans were worn through just above the big toe. As she sang, her big toe popped out of the hole in her shoe. A little red toenail kept the beat.

A Tour of Self-Discover

sean_illo_47_by_brad_beshaw

Illustration from Razorcake #47 by Brad Beshaw

7. Seattle

In Seattle, one of the local weeklies had a blurb about my reading at Elliott Bay Book Company. The weekly said that my new book was about a “bartender [who] goes on a road trip of self-discover.”

The book is absolutely not about that.

I happened to be standing on the Seattle waterfront when I read the weekly, a bit south of the famous fish market but still surrounded by a tourist district that I’d taken a wrong turn into. I paused for a second to remember a time when the independent weeklies that you found in every city used to actually be independent and actually cover events in those cities. In the next second, I wondered what happened to this imaginary bartender’s “y” on his road trip of self-discover.

I wandered as far away as I could from this little tourist district, gradually forgetting that stupid little blurb and remembering, still, that this was my nineteenth and final city on the summer tour I did to promote Train Wreck Girl, and, while it hadn’t been the road trip to self-discover that the Seattle Weekly billed it as, I had seen some things crisscrossing this continent.

 

  1. The Dells

There’s a region of Wisconsin called the Dells. On the way back from my reading in Minneapolis, I stopped in a gas station a little west of the Dells. Someone had written on the bathroom wall, “For a good time stop at Dolls in the Dells and ask for Ticia. She is a whore and will fuck you for money.”

A few minutes later, I rode through the Dells and saw Dolls. I didn’t stop in. I did think for a while about the guy who wrote that note on the bathroom wall. I wondered what inspired him to do it. Did he have a good time with Ticia? Was it such a good time that he had to tell everyone about it? Recommend it to all his friends, or anyone taking a piss for that matter? Was Ticia an ex-girlfriend who the scribe was looking to get back at? Is bathroom graffiti an effective way for a scorned man to strike back? Was Ticia really Tricia and our scribe just a bad speller? Questions like that kept popping up into my head as I rode across rural Wisconsin.

I applauded the scribe’s clarity. He’d taken the time to point out that Ticia was a whore who would fuck you for money, as opposed to a whore who may give it away for free, but would require you to have more game than just strolling up to her and saying, “I read about you on the bathroom wall.”

After a while, I let my tour mates in on all my meditations on Ticia and the scribe. They indulged me, helped me speculate as to who this guy was who penned this note above the urinal, even told stories of graffiti they’d ruminated about. I thought, is this how I pick my friends? Those who won’t say, “Dude, you’re thinking way too much about this shit.”

 

  1. Philadelphia

In Philadelphia, it is not unheard of for someone to steal a manhole cover.

Go there. Get into town too late to do anything but sleep for the night. Wake up, eat a home-style breakfast at a hipster diner. Wander around the old city. See the site where the Constitution was signed. Pass Ben Franklin’s grave. Read the historical markers about the slaves who escaped to Philadelphia: the first free city they reached coming up from the south. Go to a gallery featuring “underrepresented” artists and take your time with the paintings. Then, when the afternoon has made itself comfortable and a thunderstorm lingers above the city, listen to Danielle. She’ll tell you the story about sitting right where she’s sitting now, looking out of that window right there, and seeing a guy on a bike wrestle with a manhole cover, stuffing it haphazardly into his duffel bag, peddling away, the manhole cover ripping through the duffel bag, and the sound of police sirens growing louder.

If you do this, then you too can watch the rain falling on the city and wonder what the scene must be like when someone shows up at a scrap metal yard with a manhole cover to sell. What story does he come up with when the metal yard guy asks him, “You didn’t steal this, did you?”

The possibilities seem endless.

 

  1. Oxford

We stopped in a gas station tucked in the foothills between Atlanta and Birmingham, more just to stop driving for a while than to actually get anything. I wandered through the aisles of the gas station and paused at a sign that read, “Goodies and BC Powder behind the counter. Ask the cashier.” The condoms were displayed next to the sign. I stood there for a while and thought about the shoplifting patterns of this town.

After Carla, A.J., and I bought stuff we didn’t really need, we loitered in front of the store. I said, “They have the condoms in the aisles where anyone can shoplift them, and the headache powder behind the counter where no one can. You know what that tells me? It tells me that people around here get drunk, have unprotected sex, and then steal aspirin when they’re hungover.”

Carla said, “Shit. You didn’t know that about Alabama already?”

A.J. told us a story about touring with the Kings of Nothing, a nine-piece punk band. He’d get so sick of sitting in that tour van that he’d learned how to waste twenty or thirty minutes in a convenience store. When he got done with the story, he lit a cigarette. The three of us stood around while he smoked. Everyone who walked into the store looked hungover and fucked to me.

A.J. finished his smoke and we got back into the car, twenty or thirty minutes after we’d first stopped. I was learning stuff all the time.

 

  1. Cleveland

I’d never seen them at my readings before. I’m used to reading to punk rockers and hipsters in their twenties and thirties. But with this tour, I stumbled into readings with a different crowd. At Mac’s Backs in Cleveland, fully half of the audience was composed of gray-haired women in their sixties. One of them was a nun. I didn’t know she was a nun until after the reading, which seems like such a wasted opportunity to me because I know so many Catholic jokes.

My reading at the Cocoa Beach Library brought out a second crowd of sexagenarians. This made more sense to me because it was a reading in a library in a community with a large population of retirees. I still wasn’t sure why they chose to come out and listen to me, though.

As it turned out, sexagenarians rounded out the audience at most of the readings I did to support Train Wreck Girl. They laughed at the times that I hoped they would. They bought books. One even showed up with a dog-eared copy of the novel and had me sign it to her, then talked to me about the ending.

Now, you may be thinking, wait a second. Aren’t you supposed to be a punk rock guy? Aren’t you one of the founders of this here punk rock zine? What’s going on here?

I may be thinking the same thing.

 

  1. Minneapolis

After I finished my reading at Arise Bookstore in Minneapolis, the God Damn Doo Wop Band took the stage. And, by “stage,” I mean the empty area in front of the chairs in the backyard of Arise. It was one of those perfect Minneapolis days that apparently don’t happen all that often but seem to happen every time I’m there. It was sunny, temperatures in the low eighties, an even cooler breeze. The sun was starting to set behind the bookstore. The band sat on a low wall.

The God Damn Doo Wop Band: three women who know how to spend their money on boots and tattoos and hair dye, who, more importantly, know how to sing doo wop songs. They launched into three-part-harmonies about boy troubles. On the one hand, they seemed like an authentic throwback to the Staten Island doo wop of the fifties. On the other hand, it was something totally fresh and original.

One of the band members is named Annie. She used to be in the Soviettes. She didn’t wear boots. Her Vans were worn through just above the big toe. As she sang, her big toe popped out of the hole in her shoe. A little red toenail kept the beat.

 

  1. Atlanta

Above the urinal in The Highlander in midtown Atlanta, someone has written, “Jesus Hates Bald Pussy.”

I did not know that.

Author’s note: This is the fifteenth chapter to a collection of Razorcake columns I wrote.  It originally ran in Razorcake #47.  For more information about the collection, read this post. If you enjoy reading my Razorcake columns, please consider subscribing to the magazine.

The Mexican Break-Up

Illustration from Razorcake #44 by Brad Beshaw

Illustration from Razorcake #44 by Brad Beshaw

Mexico is nothing like I expected it to be. I had a collage in my head of Mexico, pasted together with images of Zapatistas in Chiapas; Jack Kerouac sweating out dysentery in a Mexico City hospital; Jessica Abel trying to fuse back her identity in La Perdida; various PBS documentaries about U.S. corporations blazing a trail of toxic waste and labor outrages across the Mexican desert; and soap operas on Univision that I can only understand about every third word of. So I guess that’s what I expected to find: revolutionaries, artists, hipsters, corrupt businessmen, desperate poverty, and full-figured women with generous displays of cleavage. And, in a sense, I’m sure all of that is here; it’s just not front and center.

So what is front and center? Wine country.

I didn’t even know Mexico had wine country until Jim and Nuvia decided to get married down here. Now, I’m three days deep into it.

The wedding is over. I remember it. I remember the conversations I had and the last drink I ordered and the ride home and going to bed. Nothing too crazy. If, ten years ago, you told me that Jim Ruland was getting married and having an open whiskey bar, I would’ve counted on drinking way too much, sliding into blackout, waking up the next morning not sure how I got home, and wincing when I heard stories about how I made an ass out of myself and generally ruined the festivities. Now, I make a rule of not drinking whiskey like that and definitely not drinking whiskey when Jim Ruland is around. So here it is, the morning after his wedding, and I’m feeling fine. Healthy. I woke up early. I had a glass of Mexican tap water already and even that isn’t bringing me down. It’s time to get to the matter at hand.

I grab my book and a chair and head out to the balcony. It’s a little chilly out here. I’m a couple thousand feet above sea level. The mist from the Pacific Ocean forms into a cloud, drifts east for several miles, and settles in this valley. The mountains are completely engulfed in fog. The grapevines below drip with dew. It’s May in Mexico, I’m wearing jeans and a hoodie, and I’m still a little cold. I don’t pay much attention to this, though, because I’m at the end of a long journey here.

My book is in my lap. Really, at this point, it’s a manuscript. It’s called Train Wreck Girl. I printed it out a few days ago. I punched three holes in each sheet of paper and stuck them in a three-ring binder. On the drive down and during lulls between wedding parties, I’ve been reading back through it. I’ve made little notes, added small paragraphs here and there, and addressed issues that my editor asked me to address. I’m down to the last few pages and it occurs to me that this is it. When I type these changes into my computer, the novel is done. Done done. The changes I make this time are the last changes I’ll make to this book. After this, it goes to the publisher, to the printer, and to bookstores. After this, it’s fixed, set in type. It no longer belongs to me. It belongs to the reader. Is this a scary feeling? Yes. Is it a great feeling nonetheless?

Fucking-A.

Patricia Geary once told me that writing a novel is like getting involved in a long-term relationship with someone. Writing a short story is like having a one-night stand: it’s fun and wild and you are emotionally invested, just not that much. Writing a novel, though, is agreeing to get serious with that person. You’re going to start dating regularly. It’ll be fun and exciting. Pretty soon, it’ll start absorbing all your time and thoughts. It’ll get intense. You’ll wonder what it is, exactly, that you’re doing. You’ll wonder if it’s worth it. You’ll go through rough patches that you need to work on. You might even break up for a while. But there’ll be something there that you just can’t walk away from. You’ll go back to it, again and again, it doesn’t matter how many times and how much it consumes you. You’ll make it work.

The difference is, when you get involved with a person long-term, there’s a chance that you can make it last for the rest of your life. With a novel, sooner or later, you have to break up with it. So that’s why I brought this novel down to Mexico with me: to tell her, “I think I gave you all I could, but we’ve gone as far as we can together. It’s time for you start spending time in other people’s imaginations.”

More images flash through my mind. I first started flirting with her back in 1999. I was working as a construction superintendent, spending huge chunks of my day driving from job site to job site, dealing with the stress of work by losing myself in daydreams about barely-formed characters. As those daydreams increased, I realized that things were getting serious. Something needed to be done.

In February of 2000, I quit my job, started teaching part-time at the local community college, did some freelance tractor work when it was looking like I wouldn’t make rent, and spent five or six hours a day for about six months typing away. I wasn’t sure where the novel would go, but I let it do its thing.

I was surfing a lot in those days, so the ocean seeped its way into the novel. I rode my bike most places around town, so the main character got a bicycle and started riding. I read a lot of crime novels—Raymond Chandler, Jim Thompson, Dashiell Hammett, Chester Himes—so a novel about sunny Cocoa Beach adopted some noir elements.

One night, I’d been writing until about two in the morning when I reached a point where I couldn’t go on and I couldn’t sleep. I decided to hop on my skateboard and ride around the neighborhood until I was tired enough to go to bed. I kicked around the vacant streets for a while, full moon shining down on the warm summer night. A rental sedan pulled up next to me. A middle-aged businessman rolled down his window. He was drunk. Clearly. He asked me if there were any hot spots to check out in Cocoa Beach.

“It’s two-thirty in the morning,” I told him. “Everything’s closed.”

“What about women?” he asked.

“What about them?”

“Do you know where I could find any?”

I realized that, in his booze-addled mind, he thought perhaps he’d run into a skateboarding pimp. I told him, “Yeah. What you want to do is go home, sober up, go to work tomorrow, and ask out the woman in the office who you’ve had a crush on for the last six months.”

The guy told me to fuck off and drove away. I went back to riding around the vacant streets, wondering if a skateboarding pimp would make a cameo in the novel.

He didn’t.

 

In late 2000, I finished writing the novel. I titled it Crazy Broads and Dead People. I proudly printed up all 350 pages of it, put it in a three ring binder, and read the complete draft for the first time. When I was finished, I was struck with the realization that this novel—for which I’d quit my job, on which I’d spent several months working like mad—completely sucked. I mean, it sucked bad. I almost deleted it. That might not have been a bad thing.

I spent the next few years trying to fix it. During that time, I did other things. I had a bunch of one-night stands with short stories. I wrote enough of those to put out two short story collections. I also helped found this here magazine. And in the midst of it all, somewhere in late 2003, I made the executive decision that Crazy Broads and Dead People was bullshit and we were broken up for good.

 

During the summer of 2005, I went on two tours to support my short story collection Barney’s Crew. A brutal heat wave hit the northeastern U.S. Joe Meno, Mickey Hess, and I did a reading in the loft of a Pittsburgh bookstore. It was about a 105 degrees. No one bought a book from any of us. The next night, we read in New York City. It was so hot inside the art gallery that we decided to take the reading outside. I went first. It was New York City: loud, hot, smelly. An ambulance raced down the street, only to be blocked by a double-parked car. I stood on the sidewalk for three minutes, mid-story, waiting for the parking violator to move his car so that I could be heard over the blaring horn and sirens of the ambulance. In Boston, two people showed up to our reading. That’s it. Just two. In Montreal, after another hot night of readings, the drunken owner of gallery where we did the reading told me that I needed a shtick. He told Mickey to try to incorporate more props into his reading. Mickey and I went across the street and got drunk.

The next morning, I lay in the back seat of a rented Toyota Echo, wallowing in the hangover brought on by those four readings and a tour that was turning into a bummer. I felt bad for bringing Mickey and Joe into this mess. I felt bad for the tens of thousands of miles I’d traveled and the hundreds of readings in dozens of cities. I felt bad about the wall of apathy and silence that greeted my new book. I felt bad for everything.

But self-pity is the lazy indulgence of emo kids. I needed to snap out of it. I listened to Mickey and Joe, who seemed undaunted. They talked about writing, their new projects, and what their favorite writers did that worked. As I eavesdropped, it occurred to me that the one person who could pull me out of this malaise was Danny McGregor, the hero (or anti-hero) of Crazy Broads. I went searching through the alleyways of my brain, hoping to find him.

He was there.

 

When I got home from that tour, I started working with Danny again. I wrote every morning for five or six hours, using the same basic plot and characters from Crazy Broads, but writing a whole new novel. I didn’t even dig out my old copy of Crazy Broads. Why should I? It sucked.

Within a couple of months, I had the rough draft of a whole new novel. And this one, I liked.

Within a couple of years, I’d gone through a dozen revisions, sold the novel to Manic D Press, worked with the editor there to clean things up even more, scrapped chapters and added chapters, and read through everything one last time down here in Mexico.

And now, here I am. It’s late May, 2007. I’m ready to say goodbye to the writing of Train Wreck Girl, ready to hand her over to my publisher, to printers, and to you. It’s an Annie Hall kind of break up. I wish her the best. I’m better for the time we spent together. But, as the sun burns away the fog and the panorama of Mexican wine country opens into another day, I’m ready to move on.

 

Author’s note: This is the thirteenth chapter to a collection of Razorcake columns I wrote.  It originally ran in Razorcake #44.  For more information about the collection, read this post.

Minneapolis

TWG_tour_poster_MinneapolisAfter I finished my reading at Arise Bookstore in Minneapolis, the God Damn Doo Wop Band took the stage. And, by “stage,” I mean the empty area in front of the chairs in the backyard of Arise. It was one of those perfect Minneapolis days that apparently don’t happen all that often but seem to happen every time I’m there. It was sunny, temperatures in the low eighties, an even cooler breeze. The sun was starting to set behind the bookstore. The band sat on a low wall.

The God Damn Doo Wop Band: three women who know how to spend their money on boots and tattoos and hair dye, who, more importantly, know how to sing doo wop songs. They launched into three-part-harmonies about boy troubles. On the one hand, they seemed like an authentic throwback to the Staten Island doo wop of the fifties. On the other hand, it was something totally fresh and original.

One of the band members is named Annie. She used to be in the Soviettes. She didn’t wear boots. Her Vans were worn through just above the big toe. As she sang, her big toe popped out of the hole in her shoe. A little red toenail kept the beat.

Train Wreck Girl Interview

In preparation for the publication of Train Wreck Girl, Manic D Press emailed some questions over my way.  It was a mock interview, of sorts, that press outlets could use for various quotes or to supplement the press release.  I found it on my computer while doing a search for another file recently, and I thought, hey, this is blog-worthy.

Without further ado, here are my answers to the publisher’s questions about my book.  They are all accurate as of February, 2008.

santa_clara_and_california

While this is fiction, the scenes in Cocoa Beach, FL and Flagstaff, AZ reveal an uncanny familiarity. Did you live in these towns at some point?

I lived in both of them.  I was born in Cocoa Beach.  Most of the novel takes place in my old neighborhood in downtown Cocoa Beach.  I lived there for a few years.  I loved it.  It had its shady elements, but rent was cheap and you could walk to the beach and the bars.  It was also right by the library, which was great.  Cocoa Beach has an amazing public library, especially when you consider it’s a small town in Florida.

I lived in Flagstaff for a couple of years, also.  Though I changed the names of a lot of the places, people who live in either of these towns will probably be able to pinpoint where I’m talking about and pick up on some inside jokes.

The characters in Train Wreck Girl are very three-dimensional. Are they entirely fictitious, or based on people you’ve known?

Well, people who are close to me will probably read about the Bart character and think, oh, he drives the short bus during the day and picks up dead bodies at night, so he must be based on Sean’s friend so-and-so.  Or they’ll read about Sophie yo-yoing in and out of rehab and being the nicest, sweetest woman when she’s sober and think she’s based on an ex-girlfriend.  And if they want to believe that, they can.  The more you want to believe about the book, the better, as far as I’m concerned.

A lot of the characters do have a great deal of back story written about them as well.  They’ve popped up in other stories and books of mine.  If I can use a main character from one story as a minor character in another, I try to do that.  This way, if you read all of my books, you can get a richer experience than if you just read an individual book.  It’s kind of like what Faulkner did with Yoknapatawpha County.  Only Faulkner wrote all these amazing novels worthy of his Nobel Prize, and I write a bunch of stories with characters who get drunk and say dude a lot.

There are so many coming-of-age novels, what makes this one different?

When I was getting into my early thirties, I noticed that a few of my friends were going through a little crisis that basically amounted to: I always thought I had no future and now I’m living in the future.  I lived fast and didn’t die young; what do I do now?  And I had noticed this about my friends because I was going through that same crisis.  So that’s why I wrote Train Wreck Girl.  It’s my way of trying to answer those questions I didn’t really have an answer to.

Most coming of age stories deal with the realization that the world is a lot crueler than we all thought, and that realization generally comes at the end of the adolescent years.  This novel is about the realizations we hit a little later in life, at the end of the dude years.

When did you start writing fiction?

When I was in second grade, I was getting into a lot of trouble because I had a teacher who taught to the dumbest kid in the class, and I wasn’t him.  I was bored all the time, looking to start something.  So my mom gave me a little notebook and told me to write a story in it whenever I was bored.  Ever since then, writing has kept me out of trouble.  More or less.

Has being a publisher at Gorsky Press changed you as a writer?

Yes.  Being a publisher has taught me that the world doesn’t owe me anything just because I wrote a novel.

Does Train Wreck Girl have a message that it’s trying to impart to its readers, or is it strictly entertainment?

First off, I hope it’s entertaining.  That’s the most important thing.  That’s what all the fart jokes are about.  But there are definitely some serious themes that I explore and I hope the reader leaves the book thinking about things they haven’t thought about before.

You’re teaching college these days but you’ve had many varied work experiences. What were some of your favorites and why?

I worked in a school board warehouse for a while and I only had to do about three hours of actual work in an eight hour shift.  The rest of the time, I’d find a remote corner of the warehouse and read the obsolete library books.  It was great.

I also worked in a rock and roll bar for a while, and just about everything we did was illegal.  I don’t think we had a liquor license or even a business license.  Everything was cash, right down to the kickbacks we gave the police department bi-weekly and the five-dollar bills we gave to the crackheads to mop the cement floor after the shows.  All of my favorite local bands played while I was working there, and even a few of my favorite out-of-town bands.

I liked being a carpenter, too.  It was very fulfilling to walk onto an empty slab on a Monday morning and see the frame of a house on that slab by Friday afternoon.

Do you surf?

Yes.  I started surfing about twenty-five years ago, when I weighed ninety pounds and the tiny Florida waves could push me around.  Some of my best memories of Florida are attached to the names of storms.  Like, I remember the day after Hurricane Floyd swept through Cocoa Beach, I kept checking the waves every couple of hours until the water was calm enough to actually paddle out into.  And just about everyone in town had evacuated before the storm hit, so when I did get out to where the waves were breaking, there were just two other surfers and me and all the overhead waves we could surf.

Now I live between a few world class breaks in southern California, so I don’t have to wait for a tropical storm for the waves to be good.  I still surf a couple times a week, if I can.  I surf more in the winter when the waves are better.

Other Possible Titles, Part 2

I always like to learn about novel titles that were rejected.  One of the possible titles for Thomas Pynchon’s V. was Of a Fond Ghoul.  It’s absolutely the wrong title for that book, but a great title nonetheless.  With regard to Train Wreck Girl, I had a ton of titles.  The final one came very late.  At no point in the composition process did I have that title in mind.

As a way of adding a blooper sections to the novel, here’s a list of prospective titles with some commentary attached:

Crazy Broads and Dead People
In 2000, I wrote the draft of a novel with the same characters and same basic plot as Train Wreck Girl.  I called that novel Crazy Broads and Dead People.  For a number of reasons, the novel was as bad as its working title.  I finally gave up on the novel in 2003.  A couple of years later, I decided that the characters were good and I liked the basic plot, so I used them to write a new novel.  I started from a blank Word document and completely rewrote the book.  I didn’t reread the original manuscript.  I didn’t even dig it out of the box in the garage where it may have been (provided I hadn’t thrown it out in the intervening years).

Red Bus Right
There’s a story in Barney’s Crew called “Sid and the Dragon.”  The characters in the story surf at a spot they refer to as the “red bus right” because there’s a red bus on shore and the waves break to the right.  After the book came out, Jack Lopez said to me, “You should’ve called that book Red Bus Right.”  I agreed.  I wish Jack had said that to me before the book came out.  I would’ve changed the title.

This became the working title for Train Wreck Girl.

Toward the end of the novel, Danny dreams of surfing the red bus right.  I stuck it in there just so I could use the title.  It was a little too forced.  When Jennifer at Manic D asked me to scrap it, I was ready to.

The red bus right is actually a real place in Costa Rica, by the way.  My buddy Jimmy Koch and I surfed there several times on a trip we made in the late nineties.  Here’s a picture of it.Red Bus Right

The End of Dude
I’ve already talked about this.  Women tend to hate this title.  I didn’t want to alienate women.

A Special Kind of Stupid
At one point in the novel, the main character’s brother refers to him as a special kind of stupid.  I got this from my father, who would sometimes refer to me as such when I was a kid.  He didn’t say this to be mean.  His point was that I was an intelligent kid, but I tended to stupid things.  And not just stupid things in general, but a very specific kind of stupid thing.  It was his way of trying to teach me to consider my mortality before engaging in extremely dangerous activities.

Danny in Train Wreck Girl is a different kind of stupid, but his stupidity is likewise specific.  All of his mistakes are a result of the exact same flaw in his ideology.  The title seemed to sum up what he was wrestling with.

I knew I couldn’t go with this title because it’s a way of giving book reviewers a weapon.  There’s no way to title a book A Special Kind of Stupid without a book reviewer somewhere using the title as a club to bludgeon the book.

Twilight of the Idles
It’s a pun off Nietzsche’s Twilight of the Idols.  I was briefly and moderately amused by it.  In the end, though, I never really considered using a pun as a book title.

Darkness and Sweet
I pulled this phrase from a Jim Thompson short story.  When I was writing Train Wreck Girl, the mood of Jim Thompson’s and Chester Himes’s novels was always in the back of my mind.  I wanted to do something as an homage to them.  I don’t remember why this title fell.  It just wasn’t catchy enough, I guess.

Beyond these, there was a long list of titles that I bandied about but never genuinely considered.  There are many puns, many variations using words like barnacle and knucklehead, and many embarrassing ideas.  I’ve listed them below.  I’ll blush and feel a little ashamed every time you read them.

All the rest:

The Break Up of the Monkey Duo

The Way of the Knucklehead

The Wayward Barnacle

The Ingenious Gentleman of Cocoa Beach

Love and Death and the American Knucklehead

The Evils of Betty Boop

Make a Monkey out of Me

Too Late to Die Young

The Knucklehead Chronicles

Love and Death and the American Asshole

The Way of the Barnacle

Shit City

Surf in the Hurricane

Seeing Scars

The Barnacle Chronicles

Surfing the Hurricane

Superheroes and Sidekicks

A Crazy Swamp in the Atlantic

Galaxie Repair

Love and Death in a Surf Ghetto

Bird Trouble

It’s More Fun If You’re Scared

This Only Gets Better

Waste It All on Me

The Face that Launched a Dozen Greyhounds

Alive for a While

Monkey Screams and Rifle Fire

A Rookie Mistake

Love and Death and the American Numbskull

The Droids You’re Looking For

Wild Women and Dead People

Pink Speedo Lambada

Run Away

While the Getting’s Good

The Drunken Barnacle

A Drunken Barnacle and the Exquisite Corpse

The Knucklehead and the Exquisite Corpse

Hurricane Surfers and Dead People

Where the Waves Break

The Four-Hundred-Dollar Tie Rack