Monday, October 31, 2011

National Novel Writers Month Challenge

Starting November 1st I will be thoroughly engaged in the National Novel Writers' Month Challenge. Known across the internet as "NaNoWriMo", the challenge is to write the first draft of a novel in a month. The website defines a novel as 50,000 words, or approximately 175 pages. That comes out to about four pages a day.

That's the hard part. The good part is that NaNoWriMo brings together amateur and professional writers across the world in an effort to promote writing and this writing endeavor. It is a chance to network with other writers in the same way Basic Training or Boot Camp helps recruits bond - by putting a majority of them in a stressful environment and having them grow together as professionals.

Of course, writers can do the challenge completely alone if they want. Or they can crawl away from their writing hovels every so often and meet other area writers and network, bond, get advice, and lean on. My goal is to meet with other writers at least twice, if not once a week. And there is also my friend Keri from the blog FilthyNerdy who is also doing the challenge. So perhaps we will be exchanging notes, ideas, and shots of alcohol.

To say I am more than a little worried about NaNoWriMo is an understatement. Although I've been writing for a while, the longest thing I have ever written - my Master's Thesis - is only 27,000 words. The novel I intend to write will be double that. Yes, there is no research as there was in a Master's Thesis, but research as never been a problem with me. Focusing on writing and the discipline to sit at one spot and write page after page is difficult.

Second, and probably most challenging, is the unusual fact that writing directly to a computer is not my strong point. Many of my detail-oriented posts or most creative tales are usually written in a notebook or on loose leaf paper. I am better at letting my ideas flow from brain to pen to paper than from brain to keyboard. But because I don't think I can spare a moment in November, outside of an outline or character sketches, paper and notebooks have to be out of the question. I won't have the time to write then type. That's double work.

So what about this great bastion of writing prowess? What will happen here while I am knee-deep in fictional novel writing?

Well, my goal is to put up at least one post a week. Odds are, it will be some casual, like an old poem or a youtube clip. Please don't expect anything extensive - although I will be working on my next article for the Tampa Bay Times and a possible essay on socio-military relations is in the works. And I would like to type a quick book review on a few books I recently finished. And if there are any moments to spare, I would like to finally finish a 50-page short story I've been working on since the summer. And I have a book proposal out there that I hope to hear back on. And I am still looking for full-time work, which might have an effect on the schedule. Perhaps I might try to recruit a guest blogger or two. I've cameoed on enough blogs in my day, maybe a few of those writers could lend me their words during this creatively trying time.

So off I go into the National Novel Writers' Month Challenge. Please think of me in your prayers and send me all of your well-wishes, votes of confidence, atta-boys, and other signs of positive encouragement. I'm going into November a blogger, coming out a writer.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Keeping with the poem theme of the week, here is something I wrote in early 2003.
Twisting words like cotton candy
on a stick
They digest them both
sometimes at the same time

One day my day will come
the bling-bling
Power, sex, respect

Don't you know who I am?
"The Wordman
better than a birdman?"

Listen here
There is something in my stomach

It's going to eat me
Consume me
Control me

I vomit regurgitated thoughts
Puke pink all over your shirt

"If she bails, then it was never meant to be."
If she stays, another victory
For the Wordman

Monday, October 17, 2011

Crossing Paths with Playboy Models

According to legend, I was conceived in New York's Playboy Hotel. So although I wasn't pre-conceived to cross paths with Playboy, I guess I was down with the bunny since before Day 1.

With my creation story as inspiration, I thought it only made sense for me to want to marry a Playmate. For almost all of my teenage years, I wanted nothing more than to follow the footsteps of J. Howard Marshall, old dude extraordinaire and brief husband of Playmate of the Year Anna Nicole Smith. I remember my exact thought process was along the lines of, "she can marry me for my money and I'll marry her for her body. It's a far trade."

(In hindsight, to say I was a bit misaligned in my thoughts on a healthy adult relationship would be an understatement. Yet for some reason no one pushed me back in the right direction. Maybe they thought I was joking. Anyway ...)

My odd fascination with Playboy continued while I was in the Army. While deployed to Bosnia in 1998, I started a very brief (read: three e-mail) correspondence with Miss October 1994 Jennifer Lavoie. I was so super excited to get an email from a Playmate while a few thousand miles from home. I think I even printed out the emails and hung them over my bunk. Next to making a 35-minute movie about alien invaders, my letter from Jenn Lavoie was the highlight of my Bosnia mission.

Shortly after leaving Bosnia and exiting the Army, I enrolled at FSU. Not knowing a thing about Tallahassee, I signed up to live in the dorms for my first year in college. Being a 22-year old freshman in a dorm full of 18-year olds would have completely sucked if not for meeting two people: my future apartment roommate Zheke Snow and future Playboy Coed of the Week and Road Rules contestant Mary Beth Decker.

While Zheke Snow has little Playboy affiliation that I know of, Mary Beth and I were friends for her one semester at FSU. She roomed on my floor, we shared Olive Garden, and I also snuck her drinks at Potbelly's bar on our first night in Tallahassee. On that balmy Tallahassee night in August 1999, Mary Beth drove me to Potbelly's in her Mustang and we talked about Tom Green, Pearl Jam, and how she planned to eventually get a boob job because dresses didn't fit her small-chested frame.

After only a few months at Florida State, Mary Beth transferred to Texas A&M, where she told me all of her friends from high school went. Lo and behold, in 2003, shortly before I graduated, I saw a familiar face on Mary Beth had not only gotten her boob job, but changed her hair color from blond to brunette and although she was cute before, her new look made her Playboy model pretty. A few quick internet searches later, I also found out she was on MTV's Road Rules and made a name for herself in reality television. I guess because she wasn't at Florida State for very long, no one in Tallahassee made a big deal of it. But I thought it was cool. We shared cheese sticks.

Playboy girls and I drifted apart after my brief friendship with Mary Beth. In 2004, Playboy made a brief visit to Tallahassee to capture a few pictures for their regular "Girls of ACC" feature. Despite having classes with hundreds, if not thousands of girls at Florida State, I didn't have any classes with Playboy's FSU representatives. I did however shop at the local record store where Playboy took several of the girls' pictures. Sadly, that record store (Vinyl Fever Tallahassee) is no longer open, leaving the Playboy pictorial as one of the few reminders of the place where I could find obscure albums without having to wait five to ten days for delivery.

I went through a Playboy drought from 2004 to 2010. Although I interviewed one-time-Playboy model-now-porn star Angela McLin on my old site, blogged about one-time Playmate of the Year Carmella DeCesare's local charity bowling event, and even saw CJ Gibson, sister of December 2005 Playmate Raquel Gibson, at a Tampa beach bar, Mary Beth was still the only Playboy model I knew in the flesh.

My Playboy drought finally ended in February 2011 when I met cover girl and then-Tampa Breeze Lingerie Football Player Mikayla Wingle. While working as Social Media Adviser and Special Projects Coordinator for All-Stars Wrestling, I learned the Girls of the LFL were going to be featured in Playboy. After discovering who the Tampa Breeze girl was and finding her contact info, I coordinated for Mikayla to visit All-Stars Wrestling, sign autographs, and even cameo on the local shock jock drive-time radio show.

After exchanging emails and tweets with Mikayla for a few weeks, we finally met at the radio station prior to her going on the air. While we sat in the green room - which by the way wasn't green - we hit it off and even kinda became quick friends. Mikayla made her appearance on the radio show and then re-met with me and we headed off to the wrestling event. While there, we took some awesome pictures and watched the show, making jokes, cheering, and booing the wrestlers along the way.

Before she left, Mikayla told me she worked at a bar in a Tampa suburb and invited me out to visit whenever she was on shift. After her visit to ASW, I visited her bar once a month to say hello, grab a beer, and catch up on her career.

About a month ago, I learned Mikayla was following in the footsteps of my previous Playboy pal Mary Beth Decker and making an appearance on reality TV. But Mikayla wasn't going to be on a seldom-watched obscure MTV show, she was going for the gusto and appearing on the one of the granddaddies of reality shows, Survivor. So far, she is doing well. Several weeks into the season she is still on the island, making more friends than enemies, and gaining fans and followers by the bushel.

Sometimes it's weird meeting people who have been in Playboy. I know it's a great career milestone for models, but as I get older it becomes less exciting of an accomplishment. Although I am proud of them, especially if I know them personally, I am no longer that teenager who wanted nothing more than to marry a Playmate.

These days, I'm not the type of person who will pose with a woman in a one-off meeting (unless it's Reese Witherspoon, then all bets are off). However, if she is a fun person with a kick-ass sense of humor and she is wholly enamored by the power of the afro then you can bet your sweet bunny ears we will be taking plenty of pics.

And, if by chance, she ends up on a reality TV show, you can also guarantee I'll be tuning in to support my friend on there as well.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Stormtroopers storm the Tampa Bay History Center

This past weekend, Darth Vader and a contingent of Stormtroopers from the 501st Legion invaded Tampa. They were instructed by the Emperor to see to it that the Out of This World: Extraordinary Costumes from Film and Television exhibit at the Tampa Bay History Center opened on time.

After a short stay at the Channelside Marriot, Lord Vader marched his troops along the Tampa Riverwalk to the cheers and applause of many Tampa residents.

Accompanying the Imperial contingent was the Real Tampa Ghostbusters. They were called in by the Empire as a special detachment because hiring an intergalactic paranormal specialist was too expensive for an Empire still reeling from the wasted cost of two Death Stars. So the Empire went local.

Although I refused to talk to any Imperial Officers (#occupyCoruscant), I did speak briefly with the Ghostbusters. Before we talked however, they checked the 'fro for ghouls using their EKG meter.

(For more videos of the march, check out this youtube channel.)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Literary Comparison of Out of My League and Odd Man Out

For someone who writes a lot about baseball, I don’t read too many books on the sport. Although I have my favorite books such as “The Curious Case of Sidd Finch” and "Boys of Summer", my baseball reading is usually pretty sparse.

This year however, I’ve been on a bit of a baseball literary kick. Before the season I read Jonah Keri’s "The Extra 2%", the story about the assembly of the Tampa Bay Rays. I’m a Rays fan, so that was a must-read. I also of course read our book “The Bus Leagues Experience” (cheap plug).

But in the last month, I’ve turned it up a notch, put down the books on international politics or ancient Greek warfare, and read not one, but two books about baseball: “Out of My League” by George Plimpton and “Odd Man Out” by Matt McCarthy.

Written in 1961, “Out of My League” is legendary writer George Plimpton’s account of being a big leaguer for a day. As part of an assignment for Sports Illustrated, Plimpton is able to take the mound for a charity event prior to an MLB all-star game. “Out of My League” talks about the conception of his idea, how he pitches it to his editor, how he gets his equipment, and how he fares facing the likes of Willie Mays, Ernie Banks, and former Pirates slugger Frank Thomas (not the ex-White Sox great).

Matt McCarthy’s “Odd Man Out”, written in 2009, is in some ways the opposite of Plimpton’s book. Whereas Plimpton played professional baseball player for a day, McCarthy is a former Yale pitcher trying to make baseball a career after being drafted by the Anaheim Angels in 2001. “Odd Man Out” is McCarthy’s account of his trials, tribulations, struggles, and successes in a year playing for the Provo Angels of the Pioneer League.

There is an interesting dynamic between these two books as both authors take the perspective of outsiders. And to a point they both are. Plimpton of course is the consummate outsider, an everyday Joe put on the mound for the sole purpose of eventually describing the feeling of playing baseball at the highest level.

McCarthy is also outsider, albeit to a lesser degree. His outsiderness comes from the fact that he is a college graduate (from Yale, no less) on a team full of recent high school draftees and “Dominicans” – a catch-all phrase for all Spanish-speaking players in the low minors. But McCarthy is part of the system as he does make a few friends and there are people he can lean on and relate to as he faces life as a minor leaguer. Although the struggle to the big leagues is a solitary one, McCarthy is definitely not alone.

Plimpton, on the other hand, is definitely alone. He is completely uncomfortable every step of the way, and he writes about his struggles to find a mitt, the help he needs in the clubhouse, and the fear and nervousness of standing on the mound and pitching to the greatest names of the early 1960s.

Neither Plimpton’s attempt and McCarthy’s minor league career end well. They both face the tragic reality that they are not fit to do what they are trying to do. But both of their failures gives us a perspective that we wouldn’t normally be privy to and we are reminded how supremely difficult it is to be a successful pitcher at the big league level.

As someone who once tried out for a Major League organization, I enjoyed both Plimpton and McCarthy’s books. Both are great writers who made it further in their baseball careers than I did.