Monday, January 02, 2006

2005-Dead or Alive

If there was one word to sum up the clusterhump that was the year Two Thousand and Five A.D., I suppose it would have to be LOST.

(Entertainment Weekly unwittingly agrees with me since the editors proclaim the cast of ABC’s Lost as their Entertainer of the Year. Ignore the logic and focus on the irony.)

The year started in the minus column with the aftermath of two major disasters-the Mommy of all Tsunamis and the 2004 re-election of President Bush League. There wasn’t even enough time to regain our footing from those events as we immediately slid downhill quicker than Tom Cruise’s approval rating.

In 2005 we lost a Pope, a Supreme Court Chief Justice and an entire American city along with much of the Gulf Coast of the United States of America during the worst storms anyone can ever remember. Add to this the Terri Schiavo debacle, the neverending story known as Iraq, the raping and pillaging by the major oil companies, illegal government wiretapping and wind it up with the preliminary strike in the upcoming Holy Civil War known as the Attack on Christmas…and you’ve got yourself either an ulcer, a substance abuse problem or a reason to take your own life and a few others with you.

(Hyperbole. It’s what’s for dinner.)

To keep our minds off the terrible tragedy that is everyday life, we usually can count on mindless entertainment to pull us through, but even then, it was one disaster after another. We became so beaten down that even mediocre was a cause for celebration. We stood up with our lowered expectations to cry for joy when the final chapter of Star Wars was not as bad as the others.

“Hey everybody, Revenge of the Sith didn’t suck! It didn’t suck! Thank you, George Lucas! Oh, thank you!”

(For the record, my favorite film of the year was Robert Rodriguez’s adaptation of Frank Miller’s Sin City. Flawed as it was, it still showed more flair, guts and balls than anything else I saw last year.)

Several great names were taken this year, many of which had a profound influence on my life, including Johnny Carson, Richard Pryor, Hunter S. Thompson and Arthur Miller.

Because it is my nature to balance my tastes between the sublime and the ridiculous, I also must mention the passing of another great performer, the WWE star Eddie Guerrero, a star cut down in the prime of his life. I have no desire to exalt my fascination with professional wrestling at this time, but I would be remiss if I didn’t pay tribute to someone who was a lot better than any of you will ever know.

Howard Stern left what is now known as “terrestrial radio” for the unknown frontiers of satellite broadcasting. Stern, in his farewell speech, called himself “the last of a dying breed”. While he may not be the last, there certainly will be no star of his magnitude to emerge from the ranks of commercial radio again, a business that has been in free-fall for several years now. I personally won’t miss Howard that much. I’m still in mourning for The Don and Mike Show, pulled from Portland area airwaves last Spring with no hope of revival.)

While I maintain that 2005 bit the Big One almost every day out of 365, I was able to claim a solid personal victory, a memory of which I will always cherish.

My book, In the Dark: A Life and Times in a Movie Theater finally made it into my local library. One down, several thousand to go. This completes the last of the attainable goals I set for myself in the publication of this, my book ever to see print. It also makes up for the fact that my sales have been, shall we say, non-existent (currently ranked #3,345,802 on the sales chart) and that I wasn’t able to garner any publicity whatsoever. The ultimate insult was that I was dissed and dismissed by Portland’s ultra-left-wing radio station KBOO-FM, the radio equivalent of public access. I might as well been scorned by a Buddhist monk. When In the Dark first saw the light of day back in 2003, I knew I was in for an uphill struggle. Publish America, the house that handles my book, is a Publish on Demand (or POD) outfit that is not much of a step above self-publishing in the vast Book World. It also pretty dictates that I market the material myself, something that makes me more of an incompetent boob than I already am. I knew from the first few months that it was going to be a Herculean task to get my material purchased by anyone more than my family and friends since, let’s face it, no one else really knew anything about it. I’m not complaining nor do I believe the people PA misrepresented themselves in any way. Who knows if my book would have ever seen the light of day at all unless I paid for the whole shebang myself? So I had to come to grips with this grim reality and at least bask in what remains of any success I’ve accumulated. First of all, I got published. I have a tangible piece of material that came from my own blood, sweat and tears and can call my own. Second, I am in an honest to goodness bookstore. No, not in theory, but the real deal: Powell’s Books in downtown Portland, one of the world’s great bookstores. How my book got there was that someone, I’m not sure who, resold a review copy to Powell’s as used. Technically, it’s still on their shelf, even if it is just one copy. Finally, a couple of months back while perusing the film section of the Beaverton Library, guess what I spied with my little eye? An edition of In the Dark sitting right next to Crime Films by Carlos Clarens, author of An Illustrated History of the Horror Film, one of the first books I ever checked out of the library. You cannot believe the rush I got seeing MY book-written by ME-with MY name on the cover-resting on a library shelf. I needed this validation more than I ever realized and for the first time in a long time, certainly all year, I was proud of myself. Now for full disclosure, I should tell you that I solicited the library myself. I was just pleasantly surprised they went ahead and decided to carry it. I guess one could say this is the equivalent of saying Star Wars didn’t suck. If so, then so be it. The sales of my book are dismal. It can only be purchased in as bookstore if someone returns a copy. And the Beaverton Library carries it only because I asked them too. So what? What this means to me is that I no longer believe myself to be a literary bastard because now I consider myself legitimate at long last. As far as I’m concerned, it’s all the confirmation I need for now…and that is enough.

There’s my freaking silver lining for the black cloud known as 2005.

I put one in the win column.
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