Monthly Archives: July 2012

Gordon Highland

C&C: Which came first – songs or stories? And is there really a difference, for you?

Songs. My first attempts were Weird Al-like parodies of others, merely swapping out lyrics and forcing rhymes and testing the depths of my adolescent depravity. Then my favorite teacher gave me a journal for graduation, her inscription directing that I jot down song lyrics and such in it. Which I did, filling it throughout college, refining the depravity in faux-angsty, melodramatic rebellion against the invisible. They sucked pretty consistently. But I do quite like most of the songs I’ve written in the most recent ten years or so. By songs, I really mean lyrics, as only a percentage of them actually get recorded or performed.

 
Short stories are a latter-day activity for me. But you’re right, they’re the same thing. They occupy the same headspace, fire the same synapses, and take me about the same level of effort. And are stories in themselves, just usually more ambiguous in meaning. I’m hoping to focus more on shorts these next couple years now that I’ve gotten my three-years-in-the-making novel Flashover out there. And back to more music-making. Just working on my short game in general, I guess.
 
 
 
C&C: What do you have in your pockets?
 
“This is agent Pat Downing of the TSA. I can confirm that passenger Highland has cleared security with pockets emptied.”
 I’m responding to these questions at 455 mph 39,000 feet over, I dunno, Arizona or Utah maybe. There’s a cute New Zealander (“kiwi” as she says) seated next to me reading about Kanye West. She has a lovely French manicure and stretch marks under her arms. (Strange, the snippets and extremities we focus on when we don’t want to engage the awkward full-head-turn.)
 
 
C&C: Do you wear shoes in the house? Why or why not?
 
I have no rules about such behavior. If I’m not going anywhere within the hour-ish, they’re off. And being one who prefers not to go anywhere, that means most of the time.
 
 
C&C: Tell me about Lady Gaga….
 

Like many, for a long time I assumed she was a tranny, because anyone who calls themselves “Lady” doth protest too much, methinks. Such monikers are usually reserved for drag queens. Plus she had that androgynous Marilyn Manson vibe going on. Not that I care much. I admit she’s far more talented than I first gave her credit for, and I respect how hard she’s worked to get where she is, but I just don’t like overproduced, formulaic pop music in general, and certainly loathe peacocking flamboyance. David Lee Roth excepted.

 
 
C&C: What were your favorite toys when you were little?
 
Legos, especially the space kind (they were smaller and thus more grown-up). They helped spur my creativity, building an outhouse for Cobra Commander or a moon buggy for Boba Fett. I was your typical child of the ’80s, I think. Digging back further, let’s see … I remember having a Stretch Armstrong (jelly-filled though he was), an Evel Knievel cycle jump powered by a ripcord. I had Pong. Then when I was maybe 11, finally got my hands on a few shuriken (ninja throwing stars), which now seems so very Napoleon frigging Dynamite, throwing those things against trees with the kind of velocity and accuracy that should’ve been applied to baseballs.
 
 
C&C: If you could pick five songs to be the soundtrack to your life thus far, what would they be? And conversely, if you could pick 5 songs to be the soundtrack to your IDEAL life, what ould THOSE be?
 
Reality Playlist
“One” – Three Dog Night
“I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” – U2
“Dance to the Music” – Sly & the Family Stone
“One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces” – Ben Folds Five
“Be in My Video” – Frank Zappa
 

Ideal Playlist
“Soulshine” – The Allman Brothers
“Fix You” – Coldplay
“I Write the Songs” – Barry Manilow
“Come Sail Away” – Styx
“It’s a Miracle” – Roger Waters
 
 
C&C: What was the first instrument you learned how to play?
 
1984 or ’85, my parents bought me one of those little Casio keyboards. Not the micro-tiny kind, but small. Had a molded plastic case for it, too, because it was such a big deal. It ran on batteries, and sometimes I’d take it down to the neighborhood pool (where I lived all summer) and play it on one of those concrete tables. The lifeguard showed me four chords and the scale that united them, and I ran with it from there. Picked up the guitar a couple years later, and now I have a home studio for making the magic. Never had any lessons for either, which is especially evident on piano, where I still feel like I’m just plinking about.
 
 
C&C: Do you remember your dreams? Tell me the last vivid dream you remember.
 
Rarely. Sometimes on the weekend, allowed to sleep without an alarm, I can remember briefly. Until getting out of the shower, which acts as a mental etch-a-sketch. Usually they involve a familiar cast in juxtaposed locations. Sometimes even people I’ve never met, where I know what they look like but not the sound of their voice, so I’m projecting one onto them, or through them. Weird. Okay, here’s one. And I only remember it because I felt compelled to send the person an out-of-the-blue message about it afterward to see if she was okay, like some kind of premonition. Anyway, an old friend I haven’t seen in over ten years, we had met somewhere to catch up (in the dream), but there were all these nearby protesters in the streets. A militia group came in to try to corral them, which snowballed us into this massive hostage situation with religious extremists (a la Red State), and she and I got separated and I was all paranoid. (Postscript: she’s fine.)
 
 
C&C: Have you ever used really bad pick-up lines? 
 
Not in the usual cheesedick way, but . . . two variations on the same line do come to mind. In high school I’d gone four-wheeling with this girl, both of us covered in mud, after which she asked if I’d like to take a shower. “Sure, if you want,” I said. No humiliation, though, because it was such a longshot—one of those conveniences where it’s a joke if she shoots me down, but sincere if she accepts. It turned out to be a joke. Fast-forward years later, I was staying at a friend’s house for the weekend with a bunch of others. She had this gorgeous friend who I’d been told was quite granola, and late one morning it was just her and me in the house. She tells me she’s gonna take a shower but leave the door open because of the mirror fogging or whatever, and after the wah-wah guitars in my head settled, I said, “We really oughta shower together and conserve water, dontcha think?” Strike two with that line (though a compromise of sorts was reached, which I won’t detail). Rejection stings, so I try not to put myself in many pass/fail situations, opting to get to know them better instead.
 
 
C&C: Give me one interesting AWP 2012 anecdote….
 

Here’s one you won’t get from anyone else. My last night in Chicago, everyone had split town but I was still feeling restless, so I wandered the streets a bit. Coming up to a crosswalk, I heard a gaggle of voices behind me, and this girl catches up to me and says, “You’re probably wondering what a bunch of prostitutes are doing following you . . . Gordon.” (Took me a moment to realize I was still wearing my damned conference lanyard.) I was indeed wondering—especially given how competitive and territorial their profession can be—and told them so in the least-insulting way I could manage. They actually looked like caricatures of hookers—certainly wearing the uniform—with their fishnets and tube-tops and corsets and ultra-teased ’80s hair. In what I presumed was an ironic manner, they were acting all flirty, playing off each other, then they started chatting me up about writing and whatnot (seriously). I’m an easy mark, apparently, but was still trying to suss out their agenda, as there’s no way I could handle the most obvious endgame, much less afford it even if I could. Finally, one of them let me off the hook (pun intended), revealing that they were all there attending a hairdresser convention. I never did ask what that had to do with dressing up like extras from a Motley Crüe video.

 
 
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Charles Dodd White

C&C: What did your grandparents do for a living?

 My grandpa was a civilian contractor for the Army, fixing radios and such for most of his career. He was a tinkerer. When he was a kid he once rigged an electric chair and tricked little kids into sitting in it so he could deliver a jolt. He also built a wooden roller coaster powered by gravity and Taco Bell cooking oil. I’m writing an essay about that.

My grandmother was a cafeteria lady for a while before she retired. For much of her life, she stayed at home. She read bad horror novels like they were made out of chocolate.

 

C&C: Do you own and ride a bicycle everywhere? I have a friend in Asheville, bikes are his thing, and in my mind you’re issued a bicycle when you become a resident. Is the place truly rife with bicycles?

 I am currently without wheels. I do see plenty of bikes, but they’re mostly on trails. It’s nothing like a big Northern city where you can throw a whisky bottle in the air and hit someone on a Schwinn.

C&C: Polecat. Poke. Plime blank? Do you know what all these words mean? I love Appalachian dialect.

 
Polecat sure, and Poke is a bag or sack. You don’t hear it much anymore, but in older slang sometimes. Plime blank is a new one for me. In terms of new words, I don’t realize if they’re new or not. I like to invent and play with verbs especially, something Cormac McCarthy does beautifully. Someone recently wrote to me that I “twisted the milk toast of grammar” and I liked that description a lot. I like integrating formal language with parlance. Something I guess a linguist would call “code merging”. Words have to venture something dire on the page to hold my interest.
 
C&C: Tell me about movie genres you enjoy besides dramas – you don’t have to go into Malick influence and all that, I know you’re a fan. But what do you just plain enjoy?
 
I really love horror and revenge movies. I like Re-animator and other similar schlock. I once watched Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive and was so unnerved by the lawnmower scene I had to watch a couple of old Pink Panther cartoons and drink a beer just to calm down.
 
For an all-time favorite though, I have to say 2001. I think I’m the only person in the world who actually gets misty when HAL is dying and he begins singing “Daisy”. Also, the original Planet of the Apes, that holds up. And Vertigo–that movie made me understand how story can bend back on itself.
 
C&C: Have you seen those Paro Pets, the animatronic seals they use as pseudo companions?
 
I just had to have my 13 year old dog put down and it nearly broke me. There’s nothing more frightening to me than the tyranny of convenience. This is as gross as gross gets.
 
C&C: Can you think of a logical reason that anyone would keep llamas as pets? And what’s the oddest pet you’ve ever owned?
 
I like llamas because they have attitude but I can’t imagine owning one. All my pets are odd. My cat is the biggest asshole you’ve ever met. I tell him so daily.
 
C&C: What’s in your pockets?
 
 My missing lottery ticket.
 
C&C: Who was your first crush?
 
I was obsessed with Linda Hamilton for a while. Also Wonder Woman. I guess I’ve always been drawn to strong women.
 
C&C: Were you into ‘artistic’ pursuits as a kid? Writing, drawing, etc. or did you pick that up later?
 
I drew a little and wrote lines of description. Most of these tales were a bastardized version of Star Wars. My first novel was a sequel to Terminator 2.
 
C&C: What’s the strangest question you’ve ever been asked by a student?
 
After screening the Dicaprio Romeo and Juliet, one student asked me if Juliet shot herself with a pistol in the original version.
 

Dan Donche (Janden Daniel Hale)

 

C&C: Have you ever broken into a pool/hot tub area at the Hilton in Los Angeles at 1am?

Y’know, come to think of it I have. It was last summer (2011), and these two broads really wanted to go sit in the hottub, which was outside, surrounded by a wall with a fence on top of it. So I demonstrate how to get in there, and we all do – me, Roger, and these other two gals – and we end up sitting in there for about 20 minutes, all quiet as kids fresh out of tonsillectomies, before a handful of security guards come out and surround us. They asked us how we got in there, then made a joke about us not seeing the chain around the gate. Anyway, we ended up doing it again the very next night, except it was the four of us, plus two other guys, and then I went and grabbed these two British gals who were making a lot of noise outside of their room. We were way over the recommended number of people in the hottub, and these Brits were being too raucous that we all thought we’d get caught again for sure. Well, our lookout spied another security guard come out to do a little patrol, so we all ducked down and stayed shut up. We ended up being out there for over an hour that time. Security guards never came out. It was the damnedest thing.

C&C: Tell me how you feel about Batman.

Batman is legit. I have a tattoo of him. I think he gives a lot of people hope that they can be superheroes, too. All you really need is a billion dollars and a personal trainer. It’s really easy to suspend disbelief with him. Plus, he gets all the girls. He doesn’t care. And he talks different whilst in uniform. No, but seriously, I like Batman. Why? Because fuck Superman. Don’t get me started on that concept. All these magical superpowers just because he’s from a different planet? Silly comic writers. On a positive note, I don’t believe he was ever drawn by Rob Liefeld.

C&C: How many tattoos do you have?

I have to count every time someone asks this, but I think I have six. That’s before counting, mind you, I just want to see if I got it right. Stand by…indeed. I have six. From oldest to newest: forearm star, bicep dragon, kanji on stomach, latin words “SINE METUS” on forearm, tiny magical creature with awesome destructive powers on forearm (it’s a fucking fairy, okay?), giant Batman on forearm.

C&C: What do you have in your pockets?

Left pocket: $2.75, wallet, Hello Kitty credit card outside of wallet, business card for Blue Throne Creative, LLC. Right pocket: Burt’s Bees nourishing lip balm with mango butter. And just for the hell of it – Inside motorcycle jacket pocket: passport (lost my DL), pack of Trident original flavor gum, 1x marble memo notepad with notes, 1x Uniball Signo gel grip pen. I knew it was a good idea to include the jacket pocket!

C&C: What’s the most money you ever spent on a book, which book, and why?

I honestly can’t remember this. I will say – probably to answer both – I had to borrow the money to get House of Leaves. I was out at the mall with some friends, because at that time it was the only thing to do, and I was cruising through the bookstore and saw HoL sitting there. I swear a light shined down on it and a choir broke out in song. No, it wasn’t like that. But I’d heard about it and I made a note to come back and adopt it for my own, but then I started flipping through it and I forced my friend to front me the cash so I could get it then and there, because it was obviously something I had to explore further. Thanks, John, for that. And for not breaking my thumbs while you waited for repayment.

C&C: Did you ever have a crush on a cartoon character as a kid? If so, tell me all about it.

Yes, for sure. I think there were lots of them actually. I can’t remember the name, but I think Prince Adam’s mom on He-Man, of course that other girl, the blonde one who was Man-At-Arms’s daughter. Can’t remember her name. Cheetara. Can’t forget her. Every dude had a crush on her. My first real-life crush – serious pants, I’m putting them on now – Daisy Duke. I was barely in kindergarten, age 4. (I remember this because we lived in Anchorage then, and they let me start school at age 4.) I got caught touching myself while watching that show. But I didn’t care, because I just pointed out how the neighbor girl would get loose and run around naked outside, which was obviously something I would never do. I could have been a kid lawyer.

C&C: How did you get involved with all things occult – namely tarot cards? Tell me about tarot and fortune telling in general and your thoughts.

I haven’t really been into it for too long. I thought the concept of tarot was fascinating and intriguing. Basically someone told me a story about a reading they had and I was like ‘I have to check this shit out.’ So basically I bought a deck and then read a lot of blogs and sites, along with Tarot for Dummies. Just to see. Once I learned it all mystique vanished and I was left with this new hobby that I knew I wouldn’t put in the work to become great at. But I didn’t want it to go to waste, so I started doing asshole tarot readings on Facebook and it just went viral. Now my Inappropriate Tarot Readings is going strong, I’m designing my own tarot deck (I love the art aspect) called the Darkana Tarot, and all is well.

As far as fortune telling is concerned…I actually piss a lot of people off about this. I’ve become sort of an insider in the tarot community, and I guess the fortune telling circles in general (astrology, numerology, psychics, etc.). Knowing what I know now…how it all works…I would say that well over 95% of the people in the industry are deluding themselves. They are frauds. I’m not psychic. I make the shit up as I go. I know how to word it so it’s good advice for anybody. And I tell people that. Other people don’t tell you that. I’d also bump my estimate up higher, but to be fair there is no way for me to be 100% certain that some people might not have some obscure, strange gift going on. You can thank Twilight Zone and people like Stephen King for making me wonder about things.

 

C&C: What was your first job?

How do I make this story even remotely interesting? Well…my first job was doing this intern thing for the Bureau of Land Management through some job force firm thing for high school students. I might have been seventeen. Basically I assisted a geologist for a summer. There’s nothing more to tell there. It was boring. I got paid.

However…

This was 1997. They gave me computer access for some of the things I needed to do, but you have to remember at that time there was no such thing as porn filters or anything. It. Was. Everywhere. There were porn ads all over the damn place. This was also the first time I had ever had internet access outside of a school setting. Lets just say I had no self control over what I clicked on. I had no idea, though, that the government could REALLY track what I was doing. Don’t ask me why I thought this capability was beyond them. Anyway, at this big meeting the boss addressed everyone about it, except he spared me by saying that a “gentleman” in a neighboring town had been caught surfing internet porn on the government computers. He reminded us of the consequences. So I made it out of that one unscathed. But what about killed me was one of the guys looked over at me during the meeting, jokingly, and asked if it was me.

C&C: Do you ever wear your pajamas all day? If you could, would you?

I actually don’t own many clothes anymore, having left everything in storage in Seattle. I have a few sets of clothing, but yeah. If I had pajamas I would wear them all the time, everywhere. I mean, Ruby Tuesday is classy, but I’m a rebel.

C&C: Are you a good liar? Cite specific examples as to why or why not. 

This is kind of a self-incriminating question, lady. I would have to say that, yes, I am. I once had a run-in with the police when this guy got loose and started running down the street. He managed to located a cop, who questioned me about this near-nude guy trying to get away. I convinced the cop it was just a lover’s quarrel and he let us go. Then I killed the guy. Wait, that was Jeffrey Dahmer. I think about the only example I can give you is an ex of mine used to bitch at me constantly about a giant variety of things, like she’d get mad that I didn’t do certain responsible things. I just convinced her that I was stupid. Can you believe that? Me? Stupid? Pshaw.

C&C: Tell me few things people don’t know about you.

1.When I was 18 I tried selling Mary Kay because I thought, hey, chicks need makeup and I need chicks. I didn’t know the type of chicks that used Mary Kay. 2. Once got bit by a brown recluse on my leg. I could put my entire pinkie inside the hole. The Air Force doctor said surgery didn’t think it was big enough for them to waste their time, so I did the procedure myself. Rubbing alcohol, Neosporin, and Bandaids are all I need. I could reattach a severed head with just those. 3. I lived in a homeless shelter with my mom and brother when I was in 1st grade and I’ve been in four foster homes. Yet I’m not rapey or anything. I’m pretty normal.

Camille Alexa

 
C&C: What do you have in your pockets?
 
Bobby pins with bulby black tips. Nearly always.
 
C&C:  Do you enjoy shoes, or wear them only because there’s glass and gum in the street? How do you feel about being barefoot in general?
 
I love beautiful shoes more than they love me. I never wear shoes inside if I can help it, but I do wear a small sterling band on one toe. My mother once asked if my toe was getting married.
 
C&C: Who was your first crush?
 
I was madly in love with my kindergarten boyfriend, John David Shannon. His eyes were two different colors and he was glorious. I’ve not seen him since I was six.
 
C&C: What was the Halloween costume (your own) that made you the most happy?
 
As a child? Pirate. Always a pirate. And not a lady pirate either — moustachio and eyepatch, please. And a big sword.
 
C&C: You have a tiny tattoo. What’s it all about?
 
It’s a mystery, even to me. I can tell you it’s circular and I designed it myself and it’s the exact diameter of a Canadian quarter.
 
C&C: What do you do with your hands when you talk on the phone or have a conversation in person – do you have conversational gestures, like finger-tapping or doodling?
 
I fear I might make periodic chopping motions, like a martial arts mime trapped in an invisible box. Please don’t ever catch me on video.
 
C&C: Is the X-Files incredible? Please explain, either way….
 
Fun, yes, but television has never really captured my imagination the way books and film and music have. For me, watching tv is to pass the time, not a pastime.
 
C&C: What is your most prized possession (a rock, book, whatever)?
 
Well, I do like rocks. Have lots of them around the house, in fact, and out in the garden. Bring them home from beaches, interstate roadsides, country lanes, dry creekbeds. But my most prized possession would probably be one of my mother’s paintings, or my brother’s.
 
C&C: Do you have a pet or pets?
 
Always. Right now I live with a large geriatric dog in decline. My poem “Dog”  in Cutaway Magazine was written after him. It makes me cry when I read it. Is it strange to cry at your own writing? Because usually my writing cracks me up. I sometimes start laughing during my own readings because I think it’s funny.
http://cutawaymagazine.co.uk/
C&C: What do you collect/keep and why?
 
Rocks, especially fossils. Dried willow branches. Mummified sea horses and bits of bug trapped in amber and faded wildflowers and yellow grass stalks with painfully serrated edges; pine cones and old snake skins and driftwood and shark teeth and poppy seedpods and paper-stiff hops vine and wispy-puff dried clematis; sand dollars and lichen curls and broken shells and butterfly wings I find on the sidewalk: beautiful dead things, basically. Things I find walking and bicycling and travelling. Nothing killed just so I could possess it. (Well, maybe some of the wildflowers. . . )