Wednesday, December 9, 2009
I've received several questions from readers, and I'll get to those in a minute. But first, here's a little bit about me.
I was born in 1965, so for you non-math majors out there, that makes me 44. Some days I feel younger than that, other days I feel much, MUCH older. I live in Southern California but I grew up in New Jersey so I'll always consider myself an east coast guy. I'm reasonably happy with my job, although there's the usual amount of crap that we all have to deal with. But on a day-to-day basis, it's a lot of fun and extremely rewarding. Why am I not going into specifics? Keep reading.
Knucklehead is actually my second blog. The first one was created in November of 2008, and was not a whole lot different than this. In fact, when I changed over to this one in September 2009, I brought a lot of my old material with me. Those of you that have been along for the entire ride know why I made the change, so I won't rehash that whole debacle here. The end result is a virtually identical blog that allows me to keep my anonymity, which why you won't find my real name or occupation listed on the site. This also, unfortunately, eliminates a bulk of material for me because my workplace is full of absolutely riotous nonsense. It's a drag, but I find ways to dress up those stories to make the source less obvious. I apologize for the "distance" that the anonymity might create, but it's a necessary evil. Thanks for understanding. I'm always happy to communicate with readers via email, where I can be a bit more candid.
On to your questions. Some of these are pretty friggin' bizarre, which you'd kind of expect from the reader pool that exists over here. But I'll give it my best shot. Enjoy!
Q: What major malfunction in your personality, psyche, upbringing or education made you decide to become a writer?
First of all, I'm not really comfortable calling myself a "writer." I'm more of a guy who happens to write things down and hope that people are interested in reading them. I enjoy the process of writing, editing, and revising and I do take it seriously, but being called a writer is unduly complimentary. That being said, as far back as I can remember, there was a lot of laughter in my family. My dad and brothers are hilarious, so dinner time always provided us with a forum for sharing our funny stories. My mom's sense of humor is more subtle, but she picks her spots very well. I was also very lucky early on in that most of my teachers tolerated my wise-cracks and bantering back and forth with them. As a result, I got to be the class clown a lot. Over the years, that's evolved (or devolved, perhaps) into the written format.
Q: Okay, since you don't consider yourself a writer, who ARE some of your favorite writers?
There are probably hundreds, so I'll just pick a few in each genre. In the humor realm, I'm partial to Tim Dorsey, Carl Hiaasen, and Chris Moore. I enjoy the cop/legal thrillers of Michael Connelly, John Lescroart, John Grisham and James Patterson. Greg Iles and Dean Koontz are difficult to pigeon-hole as far as genre, but they're both fantastic. For narrative style, Stephen King and Stuart Woods are top-shelf. And I love the sportswriting of columnist Rick Reilly.
Q: What popular entertainers, other than writers, have influenced your writing style?
It's always hard to talk about one's influences without giving the impression that you're comparing yourself to these people, so I'll start with that disclaimer: I'm in no way comparing myself to the talented individuals I'm about to discuss. That would be absurd.
Since the question says I can't use writers, that leaves me pretty much with standup comics.
I started listening to my friend Matt's Bill Cosby albums when I was in high school. I was taken in by how Cosby simply tells his stories in a hilarious fashion. Even his "contrived" material, like the classic "NOAH! I WANT YOU TO BUILD AN ARK!" bit is told in a narrative style. More currently, comics like Ron White and Mike Birbiglia use this technique with great results. Find Birbiglia's story about his worst show ever, and you'll see what I'm talking about.
For observational humor, Brian Regan is my absolute favorite. "There's actually a list of instructions on a box of Pop Tarts. What, people can't figure out how to partake of a Pop Tart?" Regan takes simple, everyday things and looks at them in a completely different way, and he's a riot. "The guy who invented the 'blank inside' greeting cards must wake up laughing. It's a picture of a tree, with nothing inside. You're buying a CREASE."
Finally, for a completely absurd look at life, I love Steven Wright and Mitch Hedberg. My favorite Hedberg line is, "I like escalators, they can never break. They can only become stairs. You'll never see an ESCALATOR OUT OF ORDER sign. Only, ESCALATOR IS TEMPORARILY STAIRS. SORRY FOR THE CONVENIENCE."
Aside from comics, the only other possible influences are my favorite sitcoms. Currently I'm stuck on The Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men, but in my opinion, Taxi is the greatest television show ever. Jim Ignatowski and Louie Depalma are the funniest characters ever created.
Q. Who's number one in your spank bank?
I'm not even sure what that means, but for the sake of argument we'll go with Sandra Bullock.
Q. If there's one thing you hate more than anything else and would move Heaven and Earth to never have to deal with again, what would it be?
There's so much to choose from here. My first instinct is to say Will Ferrell movies, but they're easy enough to avoid while still leaving Heaven and Earth in their proper places. I could also do without freeway traffic. But if I can pick just one, I guess I'd have to go with pathological complainers. You know, those douchebags who never have anything positive to say, aren't willing to help solve problems, and just want to bitch and whine about everything. They're just a gigantic pain in the ass, and should be forced to spend eternity sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic watching Will Ferrell movies.
Q: How the heck did you end up on the inferior coast, and would you move back east if you had the chance?
When I was in high school, my dad's employers transferred him from their offices in New Jersey out to Fountain Valley, California. I'd just finished my sophomore year of high school, not the best time to be uprooted, but I got over it after, oh, a couple years. I still consider New Jersey "home", and I'll always be an east coaster at heart. Go Yankees! To be completely honest, Southern California is overrated (except for the weather), and has no culture of its own to speak of. And you can't find a good pizza or hoagie anywhere. Regarding the second part of the question, I would absolutely love to move back when I retire. I'm thinking Connecticut or North Jersey.
Q. What do you miss the most about the New York/New Jersey area?
There are a lot of things. I miss Mike's Sub Shop in Dunellen, Mr. Assante's Pizza on Route 22, Stuff Yer Face in New Brunswick. I miss being able to go to Yankee Stadium regularly. But if I had to pick one thing, I think it would be the overall "attitude" of the culture back east. New Jersey gets a bad rap from people that have never lived there, but what is seen as snarky and rude by outsiders is just the way Jersey folks banter back and forth. The way they connect with each other is funny and friendly, and gives the east coast its character.
Damn, now I want a sub sandwich. I wonder if Mike's delivers to the west coast.
Q: Do you have any ambition to become a paid writer?
I AM a paid writer. According to Google AdSense, I made seven cents last month. Seriously, though, while I have the desire to make writing a full-time gig, I don't currently have the time to focus entirely on that. I'm still enjoying my "real" job too much. Maybe after I retire.
Q: What was your purpose for starting a blog?
Oh good, back to a simple question. I would eventually like to write novels, so I thought that blogging would be good "practice", and at the same time provide me with feedback from actual readers. It's worked out pretty well so far, I think. When I first started blogging, I had no idea that such a wonderful community of writers and assorted whackos (I'm looking at YOU, Suldog) existed, and these connections have been as much fun for me as the actual writing. So thanks, all of you!
Q: Why does the sun set in the west?
Because it prefers spending the morning on the east coast, munching on bagels and lox at Katz's Deli.
Q: Where did Knucklehead come from?
Knucklehead the person (me) came from New Jersey. Knucklehead the blog comes from the dark corners of what passes for my mind. Generally speaking, this blog can be broken down into three types of writing: "based on a true story" anecdotes (all my childhood stuff, for example), satire (What Ever Happened To . . . ), or observational humor.
Regarding the true stories, I will admit to a certain degree of artistic license. All of these tales are based on actual events, but some are more "true" than others. For instance, and I hope I'm not bursting any bubbles here, the post entitled "The Parker School Merry-Go-Boom" is about 60% factual while "Helga and Me" is practically verbatim. A lot of it depends on how well I remember the actual event. The merry-go-round thing happened when I was in third grade and involved a head injury, so my memory of specific details is probably a bit hazy.
Well, that was fun. Thanks for your questions! Keep them coming, the weirder the better, and maybe this can become a semi-regular feature.
Until next time . . .