Curiouser & Curiouser: I sort of indirectly became acquainted with you through guest-editing at Menacing Hedge. I emailed Craig Wallwork and said “I’ve accepted a story by someone named Court. Isn’t that a hell of a name?” or something similar and he ended up knowing who your were and informing me I hadn’t “discovered” you after all. Is there a story behind your name?
Court: My parents wanted a girl. True story. I mean, my first name’s Courtney. What other conclusion is there to draw? My mom denies it but I don’t believe her.
I’ve always had a special affinity for that one JC song:
I wish I could say that, like the song, that name made me tougher, or that me and my dad once had a rumble in the mud and the blood and the beer, but really all I got out of the deal was a somewhat unique nickname.
C&C: Soccer! Tell me about your first experience coaching. I know it’s a trip.
CM: Oh Lord, where to start, other than to acknowledge that you folks out there who teach preschool and kindergarten and run daycares – you people are saints. Trying to get a pack of 3- and 4-year olds to do anything even vaguely in unison is like herding a pack of rabid centipedes. Do you know what the most important thing in a 3-year old’s life is when they step on a soccer field? Snack time.
But it was really great, kids at that age just love everything. They’re miles away from figuring out how to bully one another and making a chorus of them laugh is surely the closest we get to happiness in this life. Three-year olds can have fun watching a loose shoelace flap in the breeze and they aren’t capable of hating anything. Except when it isn’t snacktime.
The Fightin’ Minnows did win one game this season, which was my fault. I never have played or watched soccer, or understood it at all, really. So I thought that when we scored, it was like football, we got to kick off. Our first game we ran up like nine goals before one of the other parent-coaches kind of pulled me aside and asked if they could have a turn kicking the ball from midfield like, you know, the rules stated. Here I thought I was a idiot savant at this soccer-coaching gig, too.
We didn’t win any games after that. But we did have snacks.
C&C: Do you have sports love? Tis the season. I’ve seen you use the word “Royals” a lot and you don’t strike me as a pop music lover. I’ll warn you I’ll fall asleep if this answer involves stats…
Hey, writing the perfect three minute & thirty-second pop song is a feat to be respected. Too bad it hasn’t been done since what, Michael Jackson? I’ll go find my rocking chair now. I think I left my cardigan there.
I really only follow one sport closely – college football. I grew up in Nebraska, and as any good Nebraskan will tell you, the Huskers are our state religion. We even built a Holy of Holys in Lincoln where 90,000 pilgrims appear decked out in corn suits six times a year. I can no more justify my love of the college gridiron than I can explain why bourbon is the proper tipple for a writer-in-training. It just is. GO BIG RED
I grew up listening to the Royals on the radio, way before those interlopers from the National League the Rockies showed up in Denver. I admit my fandom had gone a bit dormant, I only checked the standings every few days or so, before they made their remarkable run to the World Series this year. Maybe you have to be a grownup to really appreciate baseball? Because I sure did enjoy watching it again, and I haven’t in years. Of course it helps when your team is winning.
C&C: Your wife is beautiful. As a faux-journalist it was my responsibility to look at a lot of pictures of her. When did you fall in love?
CM: We met nine years ago when I was working in Thailand. A blind date, done traditional Thai-style. When I showed up to the beach to meet her, she was there, all right. Along with seven members of her extended family. No way were they leaving her alone with me until I’d been thoroughly vetted. Took a couple months, actually. And by then Nok and I didn’t care anymore – we knew we were it for each other.
C&C: What do you have in your pockets?
CM: As I type this, jack & nothing. Some kind of metaphor there?
C&C: What did you do for Halloween?
CM: Followed my kids around for blocks and blocks of sugar-hoarding. This marked the first Halloween where no one whined until they got carried, though, so … progress? Then we came home, the kids watched something on Netflix and I alternated some reading of Joe Clifford’s latest, Lamentation, and an ARC of The Nickronomicon by Nick Mamatas. Nick’s book pays homage to Lovecraft but unfortunately most of the references are lost on me so I’m sure I’m missing the best parts. Halloween-y, though, right?
C&C: What’s your favorite season, and why?
CM: Fall. If you write noir-ish things, what other season could it be?
C&C: You’re absolutely right. Fall is where all the colors and smells are, the rest are a little color-palette-specific. How does this leave you feeling about Christmas?
Tell you what, I fucking love Christmas. The way Tim Minchin loves Christmas, maybe more. That song chokes me up every time.
My family’s far-flung, from New York to Seattle. Don’t get to see them as often as I should. But come Christmastime, we get together.
I think I can trace my love / fascination with genuine country music to Christmas, too (I’m talking real country now, not this plastic bullshit you hear on the radio). I have a distinct memory of sitting in my grandparent’s house at Christmastime. My grandparents had an old wooden cabinet record player. They almost never used the thing. But every once in a while they’d play a record, usually on a winter evening when it was too cold to do any more farm work (for my grandfather, raised on a hardscrabble dirt farm in the Great Depression who came of age storming Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima in the Marine Corps, it had to be pretty damn cold out, Christmas or no Christmas.) On this Christmas, the record was Hank Williams. Us grandkids sitting around the woodburning stove-heated room during a western Nebraska snowstorm, listening to Hank warble. Basking in an intragenerational admiration society with my grandparents.
I can’t say we heard Lovesick Blues, but that’s my favorite Hank song, so I like to think we did.
Pretty much all the other music I’ve ever listened to is just a bonus track to Hank. And all those Christmases, a pale imitation of that one.
C&C: What was your favorite toy as a child, and why?
CM: I don’t know if it’s a toy, exactly, but when I was pretty little I got a BB gun for Christmas (there we go again) and I did as young farmboys do, proceeding to murder whole flocks of perfectly innocent sparrows and pigeons. God, I loved that gun. I’m sorry now for the sparrows although not so much for the pigeons. Flying rats. They did untold damage with their piles of guano to our beautiful barn. Anyway, I shot off whole boxes of BBs until I graduated to a shotgun and then, for one reason or another, sort of lost interest in hunting. I don’t know why, exactly. I own guns and I still love to get out there where the critters are, but I’m just not very motivated to kill them while I’m there. Maybe it’s the fault of that toy?
C&C: Do you “educate” your kids in any specific area of pop culture? Like, movie westerns, classic rock, etc. If you do, how so?
CM: My kids have grown up steeped in country music, beginning and ending with Hank Williams, Sr. They know dozens of Robert Earl Keen and Jerry Jeff Walker and Billy Joe Shaver and Merle Haggard songs by heart, and God knows how many besides. I’m currently educating them on the virtues of Sturgill Simpson, Eilen Jewell, Jason Isbell, and Lucinda Williams.
I do my best to cover the country catalog with them. My daughter used to sing “O.D.’d in Denver” to guests when she was like 3; I always thought it was funny to watch them squirm when she got to the “be damned if I’ll ever do any more cocaine” line.
Sturgill Simpson, by the way, gives me more hope for country as a genre than anyone else going now. Dude’s more Waylon than Waylon, in my opinion, and I named my son Waylon.
I tried to get my daughter to watch Star Wars one time but she wasn’t really into it. A little young, maybe? (I think she was 5.) I also tried to get her to read the Chronicles of Narnia and Little House on the Prairie, which I loved as a kid, but she prefers The Hunger Games and My Little Pony comics. That’s cool. As my kids get older, I’ll try to guide their reading to the good stuff, but not too hard. My parents never guided, instructed, cajoled, or recommended a single book to me – they let me read what I like, for which I’m eternally grateful. I’ll do my best to be as non-domineering as they were. Except for the Disney princess. I fucking hate the Disney princesses.
But hell, this was my favorite book as a kid (I paid way too much money to get my own original 1986 paperback copy as an adult, after the original went lost):