Wednesday, September 10, 2014

10 Books That Made/Make Me Want To Be A Writer

My friend Valerie tagged me in a social media chain that drew up my immediate interest: 10 books that have stayed with you (in some way). Don't have to be favorites or classics. Just gotta be books that dove into ya and swam around each summer since. Shouldn't take much thought.

So here now, in order of my age reading them, are the ten books I remember finishing and thinking, "Dear god, be a writer."
  • The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pène du Bois
  • Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins
  • The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
  • The Shadow Of The Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
  • The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
  • Born Standing Up by Steve Martin
  • House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman
*Most Honorable Mention*
The book Australia: Land Of Contrast by Lesley Van de Velde was the first book to really blow up my imagination. It's just a gorgeous photo collection of Australia, but it's stayed with me in a powerful sense since I was in grade school. It made me want to travel and tell stories.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

My Craiglist Ad for Scott's Piano

The Piano That Can AND WILL Save Rock 'n Roll is Now for Sale
by Jake Kilroy

When I was unjustly kicked out of the greatest Ray Manzarek cover band to ever come out of Cincinnati, I promised myself three things:

1. Get tested.
2. Find love.
3. Never betray rock 'n roll.

The first promise was originally in regards to paternity (the kid wasn't mine, but the dog and No Fear shirts were). Since then, I've made it my life's duty to always get myself tested. Even in my pre-date pep talks, I always make sure to ask, "Are you ready to rock?" And guess what? The answer's always yes.

But, sure, down the road I was, in fact, tested again and diagnosed with "the alphabet soup of hepatitis" by a doctor I'd like to diagnose with poor beside manners. I simply had too many dreams. Though, yeah, okay, one of those dreams was to have unprotected sex with 1,000 Denny's waitresses.

As for the second promise, I did find love. Her name was Dinah, and she worked at a Denny's. The right girl is always where you least expect it, I guess. Months later, she was gone though. Tragically diagnosed with a cheater's heart. And, later, assumedly some hepatitis, courtesy of yours truly. I mean, I'm no saint. Hell, I'm barely even a hardware store assistant manager or a Bob Seger fan!

Now, we come to the last promise. I owe rock 'n roll my life. Literally. I was born to a dice inspector father and a riverboat pickpocket mother, but in actuality, it was the ghost of Eddie "Guitar Slim" Jones using my daddy's dong to pork Janis Joplin in my mama's body in that county fair detainment center. I mean, come on, that's basic science. Just because Neil deGrasse Tyson didn't narrate that cosmo-spiritual avatar sex, which I have to assume was extremely raunchy and somewhat bewildering with two adults handcuffed and drunk off "loonshine" (one part whiskey, one part gasoline from a stolen car), doesn't mean it didn't happen just like that.

Yet, decades later, thanks to Obama, I'm all of a sudden hard up for cash. I need to pay rent or my landlord will evict me. I think. His accent's pretty thick. Might be from Boston. Maybe Laos. I don't know. Geography's pretty dumb, and I did not finish high school (you just need life experience for a resume anyway).

So, after generously donating most of my belongings to local creditors, I am selling my treasured 1983 Yamaha P22.

This is a hard day. This piano got me chicks in every dive bar from Cincinnati to Covington. When I was diddling the keys, those leathered up babes thought I was playing them. And I would. Later. After I'd get too loaded to finish the set.

For the record, though, that's not why they kicked me out of the band. Let me be clear. They kicked me out because their friend Reggie owned a keyboard, and they said it made more sense to have a keyboard than a piano, and I said it made more sense to shred with real musicians instead of band geeks. And that was the last time I saw them. Well, as a member anyway. I saw them a few years ago at a BBQ. They were alright.

But back to the archangel of rock piano! Did you know, according to a survey of Ohio's greatest rock pianist, the Yamaha P22's birth was the raddest thing about 1983?

It beat out the release of the totally awesome and kick-ass Return of the Jedi, the debut of the friggin' Chicken McNugget, and the long-awaited break-up of those asshats, The Carpenters, finally quitting after they single-handedly tried to kill music like the tone-deaf children of the corn. Why Alice Cooper never ate their fingers is beyond me.

Anyway, speaking of fingers, this superbabe-magnet, once nicknamed "88 Keys for 88 Beans" by a guy who looked like Lemmy from Motörhead himself, could be yours for just $3,000.

That's right, only $3,000! And you seem like just the right kind of cool dude or dudette I'm looking for. I can only trust you or any friends or family you may know that want to save rock music and/or have a few grand. Tell them about me and this fierce wooden dragon of rad. Please. At $3,000, this blessed masterpiece is practically a gift, and rumor has it the wood is from all the stakes used in the many attempts to find out once and for all if Prince is a vampire.

This piano is like a jet ski that can magically play the intro to Meatloaf's "Objects in the Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer than They Are" by heart. In fact, this piano may legally be classified as an aphrodisiac. Bet you won't find that section of Guitar Center! Shoot, this may even be the same kind of piano Billy Joel nailed his "uptown girl" on. This piano is borderline a secret that I'm only telling you about (or, again, any friends or family, maybe some well-to-do co-worker you sometimes get lunch with). Tell yourself and everyone you know that this piano could potentially make you the next Mozart (high-flyin' '80s version). Like me, you could become the class act you always promised your older brother Ted you'd be one day.

I'm telling you, here and now, this is the single greatest deal I've heard of since my French landlord told me I could keep half my security deposit.

Monday, July 21, 2014

My Brief Life with Amanda

1990 - 2014

Last Halloween, toward the end of a costume party, my friend Joe flagged me down as I loosey-goosily weaved my way through a crowd toward the booze. He introduced me to his friend and co-worker Amanda, who he declared was a serious reader like me. He also told her I wrote. This intrigued her.

What intrigued me was that she was dressed like a lady version of Alex from A Clockwork Orange.

A group of us did shots. As she drank her chaser, her eyes didn't leave mine. I smiled, she smiled. I asked what she was about, and in just a few minutes I was intrigued by a woman who graduated college at 19 and had read all of Dickens. She turned 23 the week before, and she was working as a data analyst, making more money than I probably ever will.

She came home with me that night, two wildly drunken messes rambling about books, by way of a generous ride of a friend. Once everyone left my apartment, she reviewed my bookshelves, and we discussed Kundera. I learned she had tattoos, and her next one was going to be text from the mind-altering masterpiece, and favorite of mine, House of Leaves.

For whatever stupid reason, I didn't follow up for a month. It's a more complicated story than that, but that's the best I can do right now. So on December 1st, I texted her.
  • J: Amanda! This is Jake, that mouthy idiot you whimsically decided to spend Halloween with, texting you a month later for...well, no good reason. Random? Sure. But just wanted to say if you're interested in goofing off, talking books and getting drunk, I do alright in those departments. Sending timely text messages...not so much.
  • A: Use of the word "whimsically" is just endearing enough to compensate for the lateness. I'll look forward to drunken bookish shenanigans.
On the first actual sorta-date, we ended up at Goat Hill Tavern, part of a joke. She was young and sassy, and both came out when I told her I wear earplugs to concerts.
  • A: "But the music is what's eating away at your hearing. You'll never hear certain pitches because of the music you've loved. You don't think that's beautiful?"
  • J: "No, not at all. I think that's dumb. And that might honestly be the youngest thing you've said all night."
She slugged me playfully, and we once again discussed books. She had not only read all of Dickens, but what seemed to be every dead French and Russian author under the black sun, a surprising detail of someone who major in mathematics.

Books recommended by Amanda:
  • East of Eden by John Steinbeck
  • Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk
  • In Search of Lost Time (specifically Swann's Way) by Marcel Proust
  • White Oleander by Janet Fitch
  • The Flowers of Evil by Charles Baudelaire
  • Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion
  • The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
  • Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol
  • The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
  • Inferno by Dante Alighieri
  • Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  • Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino
  • Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami
I actually bought Ethan Frome weeks later and then texted her.
  • A: That book might make you depressed instead of classy...however, I'll be sure to sport a monocle and raised pinkies around you henceforth.
  • J: Oh...shoot. I think I was always under the impression it was a satire of sorts. Regardless, I need to level up in society!
  • A: Nope...I remember it as an exploration of the many ways love can fuck up your life. It's worth a read, though Age of Innocence is my favorite Wharton and might get you closer to satire.
  • J: Wow. I misjudged this entirely. Thank god it's short. It sounds like it's going to kick me in the dick until I'm done with it. I do want to read Age of Innocence though. Also, I think The Bell Jar will be up next, so I can just feel bad indefinitely.
  • A: Yep, make sure you have a bowl nearby for your tears. The Bell Jar is one of my all-time favorites: I wrote my senior thesis on it in high school.
  • J: Damn. I feel like every other high school had senior thesis except for mine. I've always meant to read The Bell Jar, though I think I was pretty sassy when it came to girls reading excerpts from it to m back then.
  • A: Why would a girl read The Bell Jar to you? I can't imagine that book being used as anything but a repellant against most boys.
  • J: Well, it did seem weird, but I think it was the first intellectual text my female friends grasped and appreciated. Hemingway or Fitzgerald might've been the first for boys? It was during that era of youth where everyone first started having forced philosophical opinions on fucking EVERYTHING. 
We spoke briefly about our oddball relationship going somewhere, but both agreed it would likely not work between us. In the best interests of ourselves, we decided to keep up the romantic outings without putting it to the test of longevity. It was a good mix, and, hot damn, there was fun to be had.

She took me to bar trivia, because she knew it was a feverish guilty pleasure of mine. I took her to see Swan Lake at Segerstrom, because she was a former dancer who never saw it. The last morning we spent together, I played guitar, making up songs, while she laid up on her couch petting her cat. That was it. That was the last time I saw Amanda.

Some weeks later, after I had canceled on us visiting the Huntington Art Walk (due to a cold), I hit her up, and it was unfortunately the end of the wild.
  • J: Darling Lady Amanda! What say you to glorious delirium next Friday evening, whether it be cultured or bonkers? We can finally see that cowboy documentary I know you're so invested in, or we can attend that exhibit opening of popsicle stick structures I know you had your heart set on. Maybe even burn effigies for...well, fuck, I don't even know where I'm going with this.
  • A: Heyyy. I have a boyfriend now...but if you'd be interested in hanging out without the hooking up part, I really have been dying to see some popsicle stick art.
  • J: It was only a matter of time. You're too rad not to get swept up by some scholarly wisecracker. And, yeah, I'm still down to hang! Let's do it up on a week night then, instead of a Friday evening, so it's easier for me to not get hammered and forgetful. I need more classy art and book talk in my world.
  • A: Sounds good! Hit me up next week when you're free :)
And that was the last time I spoke to Amanda.

I got busy and figured I probably needed a break anyway to shift gears in our hangouts, from young hot bloods to platonic intellectual friends. I sincerely hoped that dude of hers was treating her right, because she was rad. Even if she and I weren't meant to be, I thought extremely well of her.

On Saturday night, Joe texted me. Someone at work informed him that Amanda had passed away, and it appears to be suicide. It's so fucking awful. So infuriatingly deliriously horrifyingly terrible. I don't have the words to describe it. It's just my nerves on alert and my senses all scrambled. I've asked myself every question they say you will. I'm so sad. So confused. So fucking angry. So mad at myself, so mad at the world, so blindly mad at that piece of shit boyfriend she had.

She was an exceptionally gifted person, and she could rock hell like nobody's business. She didn't take much shit from anyone, and the idea that someone somehow made her feel low enough to pass on a future she would've destroyed is fucking gut-wrenching. Fuck that. Fuck all of this. Fuck the whole idea of that girl not being around somewhere in the land of the living. Just knowing there's absolutely no chance I could ever hear her laugh again is fucking worth the fury.

I've left her last name out of this, because I don't want this post to pop up in the search results when people like me harass Google with every possible mix of words to find her obituary. I even had a slight suspicion that she faked her death. Finally, I broke, and on Sunday night, I texted her, "Please tell me the rumors aren't true." No response, and I can't see why there ever would be.

Last night, I bought Blonde Redhead's 23, the album she played the first night I stayed over, and I listened to it as I ran at the gym until the security guard told me to leave. I had to write this, because there's no need for some vague, cryptic "only the good die young" one-sentence bullshit on social media, and I wasn't going to let her leave this world (albeit, on her own terms) without me saying something that acknowledged her very great presence and her very tragic absence. I had to tell the internet somehow that a glorious person that was once here is no longer among us, and it was way, way too fucking early.

I was a recent force in her life, and I can't imagine how her family and dear friends are feeling. It's got to be off-the-charts grief, and, holy fuck, I wish this wasn't what the world was right now. I feel sick to my stomach for them, to have had her for that long and to lose her just as suddenly.

God-fucking-damnit. I wish I had more to go off of here. Even now, this is the only picture I have of us, a Snapchat my friend sent me (with a since-removed dirty caption):

The world is a difficult place, and it's hard to argue the breaking point for each individual. I just hope, next time, she's reincarnated as something close to who she was in this life, because that'd be her best-case scenario.

You're very much missed, Amanda.

Monday, June 16, 2014

"a night in the canyon"

"a night in the canyon"
without slumber or sense by jake kilroy.

clank boots stuffed into my ears,
as the wood rattled below me,
the burial ground of incorrigible poets
that i inhaled with hot breath to speak
this bombarding mess of words
roaming, conquering, and devouring.

twas hot light in morning memories,
tis forever a white bed in daydreams,
and now it's all friends in good suits
waiting for a funeral march
that wouldn't demand
much work.

my head in the bed of an el camino,
i slept under the stars
with more fools,
here for a spell,
without magic,
finally come to terms
with imagination
only a close second to reality;
but still the background regardless.

went wanting into my heart,
dug up in the summer dirt,
blown clean and whispered truth,
set back into the wilderness
to eat what it could find.

so out here in the canyon,
what good is the sun and the moon
beyond telling time?

all of our energy lost to age,
we swung at each other
with fists that felt like gavels,
come down to the earth,
noiselessly calling our bluffs.

and when the creek lit up,
chatting up this ol' storm,
all that we wanted to hear,
as we stood there in a row,
was that we could take back our youth for once.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Tim Duncan's Pump-Up Mix

A list of the songs Tim Duncan (assumedly) listens to all day to get pumped up for the NBA Finals, with takes from Tony and Carlos.

1. "Jump, Jive an' Wail" - The Brian Setzer Orchestra
2. "Everybody Have Fun Tonight" - Wang Chung
3. “Hey, Soul Sister” - Train
4. "Wild Wild West" - Will Smith
5. "Mambo No. 5" - Lou Bega
6. "Uptown Girl" - Billy Joel
7. "Macarena" - Los Del Rio
8. "Don't Stop Believin'" - Journey
9. "We Built This City" - Jefferson Starship
10. "(Everything I Do) I Do It for You" - Bryan Adams
11. "Iris" - Goo Goo Dolls
12. "Amish Paradise" - Weird Al
13. "Love is a Battlefield" - Pat Benatar
14. “Hotel California” - Eagles
15. "Come With Me" - Puff Daddy
16. "Livin' la Vida Loca" - Ricky Martin
17. "You Oughta Know" - Alanis Morissette
18. "Born In The U.S.A." - Bruce Springsteen
19. "One Of Us" - Joan Osborne
20. "Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)" - Green Day
21. "Closing Time" - Semisonic

Friday, May 23, 2014

"without shutters"

"without shutters"
all things considered by jake kilroy.

we couldn't bury the shadows.
we dug and discovered.
we glowed and burned.
we went hungry and mad.
but we couldn't pull out the blood.
the curses spoke for us,
leaving our tongues black.
we went to the churches,
but even man can't save spirit.
we stayed indoors and let the ghosts drift,
out there in the wilderness of the city.
good or bad, we weren't sure,
but no holy men were on parade,
and we were mere workers and artists.
the lanterns beat their final breaths.
the beds were as warm as they were cold.
hot showers felt like a new limbo.
with no decisions to be made that bare.
we valued our fingers for their tempest nature,
and we hurt like hell but we felt like heaven.
it was the longest year we had in us.
we were only a stone's throw from the bottom
and just one chance leap from the top.
we were all things considered.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

4 Things I Feel Like You Can Stop Saying on Social Media

This is in jest, and I wasn't thinking of anyone in particular when I wrote it. It's just recurring phrases I've seen across the breadth of social media, and I think they're fascinatingly ludicrous.

1. "I can't even handle this."
By this point, you've probably experienced the rampaging adrenaline-fueled sweep of flames and madness that is love, and you've just as likely done that dry-stare harvest of heartache, but, sure, this eight-second video of a baby penguin tripping into the water has finally broken your brain. If it's limited to just "I can't," then it's nothing short of a miracle that you made it out of kindergarden with your debilitating sense of wonder. You must've shat yourself for days and begged some sort of god for the apocalypse upon witnessing the first 10 minutes of Avatar.

2. "This is seriously the most amazing thing I've ever seen."
Oh, not a majestic sunset after an already good day? Not the first time seeing a person naked? Not anything you've seen on any trip you've ever taken? This old picture of your friend with slightly longer hair is the most unbelievable sight you've ever had the absolute privilege to behold? We already did this to the word "best," and I don't know if we can afford to lose "amazing" to such totally concentrated and controlled hyperbole as well, because it may just be the single thing that will with take down American society and, in turn, western—nay!—all of civilization do you see how this fucks up the scale and makes everything crazy.

3. "Sorry not sorry."
Next time Fugazi is blasting of our your car speakers when your Camaro jumps the curb and sends your arch-nemisis to an early grave after you strike him on only two wheels, you should yell this. Next time you post a picture of a slightly messy burrito, maybe tone down the sass with your hashtags. Leave this to people who worship the Kardashians like goat-gods and blaze up their controversy level by dropping truth-bombs like, "I don't care what anyone says, I love spring."

4. "All the feels."
This is straight up inaccurate. If you are, for some insane reason, experiencing every emotion that exists, then I have a hard time imagining what you're looking at beyond a potentially Lovecraftian scene of Cthulhu and his minions overwhelming your nervous system. If "all the feels" isn't proceeded by a feverish exclamation of "dear god," as you clutch your head, while it pulsates in the presence of a horrifying alien existence that causes your nerves to slam together, as your own mindful wires get crossed and cut up inside you, I kind of feel like you could just say, "This picture of an otter cuddling another otter is pretty cute."

Monday, March 31, 2014


written after revelations by jake kilroy.

19 years engulfed in flames,
barely a typewriter for a heart,
i swallowed the madness like a prince.

and then,
hellbent on irony, i let it swallow me back.

golden years poured out of me
when the time finally came to let go.
the great cosmos taught to me came undone,
churning my eyes, pinwheels aglow.
all that was left of me was breath in the wind.
and then i was present,
now, now, now;
a lifetime in oxygen,
a head without space,
a drooling idiot at the helm.

packaged for bedlam, i conquered the senses.
my broken ears radiated a hum as i tossed and turned.
magnificent earth below me, afternoon sky above;
the breeze was gentle here, away from the city for once.

my fingers slept like snakes, holed up in pockets
usually left for lucky coins and old keys,
now turning around themselves nervously,
waiting for the dreams to be penned with damage,
wringing the tendons and puncturing the bones.

the truest freedom is sanity.
it's what every man says when he looks back on history
and refuses to acknowledge the dead bodies and blood on his hands.

for every lover, there's a war.
and for every war, there's someone to come home for.
for every writer, there's a lie.
and for every lie, there's a bed to come back to.
but all of it, if it was indeed worth the trouble,
is the romantic jive of new age spiritualists,
finally coming from somebody who knows how to drink
and say goodbye at every turn, unafraid of death,
without faith in a god or hope for humanity,
happy with the way things were, are, and will be,
cutting the past, beating the present, and talking the future,
all along knowing how to build fire and light the way.

Monday, February 10, 2014

"the black and white"

"the black and white"
written on instinct and request by jake kilroy.

how many cities can a drunk goddess carve
out of the soul of a teenage boy
raised on cinema?

what are these addict gods doing to the young women,
the ones who treat their hearts like empty rolodexes?

scavenger types, from the above, below, and beyond,
roam and slump through the dance halls and the dive bars,
and here we are, two people who can't stand the noise
or believe the silence that comes in pounding waves.
here we are, blinking in black and white,
rolling our tongues, tasting the sweat,
believing in divine intervention,
as we come to rest,
backs broken
in a bedroom field
of harvested moonlight.

we were pulling dark yarn from the sky
and sewing together a patchwork quilt
of the past and hanging it out to dry,
thumbing our way up our own coasts,
the land that is soft and vulnerable
with shores that don't need lighthouses.

we are fruitful energy in the making,
starved sinful and hungry for the appetite,
waiting for the hearts to be dragged like lakes;
all we need now is more firepower forever.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

"when the hunger bites back"

"when the hunger bites back"
written after months of jesterdom by jake kilroy.

my biggest mistake was seeing time as linear
and not a scrambled celestial body;
human faculties slammed bloody against the future,
memorizing mesmerizing accidents colliding
as if these hands we see as ships weren't wayward.

what done can be undone and opened,
or ripped apart, closed and broken.
these grains in our bones, this lust in our eyes,
all of our senses can be beaten to a pulp
and taken in a glass bowl to be sipped by a god
or a dream or a magnificent nothing
we built to be either,
when we needed it.

but this is a sleepless pact,
made halfway between home and dawn;
drowsy slurs coughing up the hope,
the dreaded weapon we used in battle,
just as sharp as it's ever been,
without a set direction
or a clean throat to burn.

when i was young, i believed in the empires.
as i aged, i couldn't believe in anything else.
in that time, i learned noise and truth,
and i realized the difference isn't passion;
it's words.

it's what keeps a salesman fed.
it's what can quench any drought.
it's the magic that gets kicked in the gutter
to give a rat the future in a city of more rats.
it's buried in waste, where it belongs,
because any museum piece can be stolen,
and we want the pauper to be the prince
instead of the royal veins that bleed just as bad.

so whatever i gave to myself in church
is still whatever i give myself now,
and it is anything i can stomach.