Monday, December 30, 2013

Jake Kilroy's 2013 Radical Year In Reading

I love end-of-the-year best-of lists. I like them for music, movies, babes you noticed at the local Chipotle, whatever. And my favorite is when friends' do it, because there's a 90% chance it's going to be less snooty and more excitable than critics. My main bag is reading, so that's what I bring to the table around new year's. The problem is that I jump around when it comes to what's on the shelves, so my annual end-of-the-year best-of sorts it out from what I read this year, not what came out this year.

Anyway, here are the best of the books, graphic novels, and audiobooks I took into my mangled brain in 2013! Woo!

1. Freedom
by Jonathan Franzen
For some reason, it's a stunning achievement to make fiction real, and this had the precision of a daily sharpened blade. It wasn't always enjoyable, as life can often prove uneasy, but I had to know if The Corrections was a fluke. It wasn't. This book was just as vivid and huge and beautiful and infuriating (with even less likable characters, really). Just another American family from the midwest, afraid of everything and hungry for anything, simply trying to figure out one aspect of life after another, tripping over nostalgia and desire.

2. Bluebeard
by Kurt Vonnegut
In every work by Vonnegut, there's comedy in the tragedy, no matter how big or small. There's a tone of whimsical shrugging, even when life is explained as one big terrible impractical joke. It's never worked better than in this "autobiography" of the artist Rabo Karabekian, who has an item locked up in his barn that he doesn't feel compelled to show the world. It's absolutely gorgeous.

3. The Subtle Knife / The Amber Spyglass
by Philip Pullman
This series had a pretty wild start with The Golden Compass, but part two and part three of His Dark Materials go for the weird dark madness of kid's imagination and adult-shaped reality. It's atheist mutiny along several worlds (including the land of the dead) that the good folks and bad people are leaping in and out of. The series expects the best of its young characters as well as its young adult readers, and it's one of the most articulate, intelligent young adult series ever. And it's kick-ass fantasy.

4. Live By Night
by Dennis Lehane
In this semi-sequel to one of my favorite books, The Given Day, the youngest member of the Boston cop family, The Coughlins, starts out on his own in the petty crime world as everything goes full swing into the Jazz Age. After getting mixed up with a few bruisers and dames, he takes on the grand, beautiful, illustrious world of Cuba and becomes a benevolent king of the whiskey trade during Prohibition. It doesn't romanticize anything, and it doesn't go over the top with grit. Tremendous.

5. The Garden of Eden
by Ernest Hemingway
It's hard to believe Hemingway wrote this character-driven sexy game. It's about a honeymooning couple that gets involved with a French girl, both in lust with her. Released more than 20 years after his death, after he worked on it for the last 15 years of his life, Hemingway's classic prose is present, along with his borderline poetic and hard-to-follow conversations, but it's unlike any of his other work. It's  wonderfully constructed by the hands of a writer who I assume was losing his grip at the time.

6. Slaughterhouse-Five
by Kurt Vonnegut
Yes, it took me way too long to finally read this book. If this had been my first Vonnegut, I would have a different opinion.  He cracks the jokes and he crafts the misery, and it's beautiful as always (though you can tell fine-tuning was coming in his technique). It's such a wonder how easy and impossible Vonnegut can make life seem simultaneously.

7. 1Q84
by Haruki Murakami
Even though it's one of the strangest sci-fi stories I've ever read, it's not too weird at all. The sci-fi is an element of a love story, but it's slow, meticulous character development instead. It's frustrating at times, since you want it to go big and wild with what's hinted at, but it sticks to the hearts and minds of two central characters accidentally wrapped up in another dimension of 1984.

8. Florence Of Arabia
by Christopher Buckley
A satire, this was among the first to joke about post-9/11 "war on terror and Islamist extremism." The main character, a CIA operative named Florence, travels to the fictional Middle Eastern country of Wasabia to start a women's television channel that suggests equality and pokes fun at male-established power. It's intended to start a culture revolution, but it spins out of control into cultural anarchy.

9. Eragon
by Christopher Paolini
An epic was written by a 15-year-old who understood the elements of good old school fantasy, it legitimately has everything you need or expect from an alternate medieval tale of dragons, wizards, trolls, rogues, and everything in between. It's strong, but it never gets brutal. It hits the spot if you're looking for the most thorough collection of medieval fantasy traits in one series.

10. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
by David Mitchell
This is a gorgeous book, but not because of the story or the narrative. It's actually because of what the book allows you to do on your own. A single sentence about a water drop on a leaf in a Japanese garden gives you an entire scene. It's breathtaking, but it's also tedious as hell for some of the first two-thirds. This book takes patience. The last third is perfect, but the first two acts are a bit slow-going and gives you significantly more than you need to follow the events of late 18th/early 19th Century Japan with employees of the Dutch East Indies settling themselves in and figuring out a new culture.

1. Saga
by Brian K. Vaughn
It straight up feels like a wilder take on Star Wars with sex and swear words. But it's never gimmicky. It has touches of Firefly and Game Of Thrones, and it gives the story all the room it needs to be breathe.  Snarky and wise-ass romantic dude with ram horns and a brutal sword marries an honorable ex-soldier babe with the look of a punk and the wings of a fairy. Fairy has their lovechild, and the two lovebirds are on the run from just about everyone in the universe. This story could legitimately go in any and every direction, and I'm beyond stoked.

2. Top Ten
by Alan Moore
Alan Moore created a city where every single person is a superhero or supervillain, from movie stars to bums. They take the subway, they have day jobs, they have special powers, and they're always wearing costumes. This series follows a particular precinct as they battle radioactive drug dealers and alien prostitute serial killers. It's all so nuts, but the characters are human and complex and surprisingly real.

3. Morning Glories
by Nick Spencer
Described as "Lost at a boarding school," it has all the potential to learn from its predecessors. And if it doesn't, I'm going to lose my mind. If it does, it could be one of my all-time favorites. It's also crazy violent. I guess it's more like Lost meets Hunger Games meets The Faculty meets Archie in a way.

by Jeff Smith
As Smith's Bone has gone down as one of my absolute favorite things ever, I bought volume one of this series on a whim. Turns out it's fantastic, and it's done with bare-bone dialogue and a very small story with a huge sense of history. Former young scientist uses the Tesla's lesser known technology to drift between worlds and steal art to pay for his revenge plan. Yup.

5. JLA
by Grant Morrison
This series crafts these long-known superheroes as their most ideal and definable. It makes each member of the Justice League vivid and concrete. They have motivations, hesitations, and regrets. It's the strongest, most legit version of everyone.

*Special Shout-Out*
I read the entire DC Crisis storyline this year, from Crisis On Infinite Earths to Final Crisis, along with all of their lead-ups. That shit's too hard to gauge or even coherently explain, considering all of it being one massive clusterfuck of every hero and villain ever in the DC multiverse. It's a hell of a time though. I suggest you dive into that madness if you want to understand how DC's universe of characters (Batman, Superman, etc) exist in different variations of past, present, and future. It's not always great, and it almost never makes total sense.

1Identity Crisis
by Brad Metzler
This is what happens when you give a political thriller author a chance to fully embrace graphic novels and get buckwild with it. You get a murder mystery story with the Justice League that doesn't seem silly. It's personal and emotional, and it focuses on history and human interaction instead of anything super.

2. The Joker: Death Of The Family
by Various Authors
After a year-long disappearance, Joker returns more gnarly than ever (cutting off his own face and wearing it as a mask, for starters) to bring individual and very personal trauma to each member of the Bat Family to show how they slow down his beloved Batman. It's dirty and violent, with Joker showing what real insanity is (where murder is indistinguishable from a handshake).

3. Batman: The Black Mirror
by Scott Snyder
This made me feel so weird. In it, Commissioner Gordon's unhinged son is an all grown up serial killer taunting and teasing the Gordon family. It's tightly written and uncomfortable at every turn, and it's pacing and character vulnerability are on-point.

4. Batman: The Court Of Owls & The City Of Owls
by Scott Snyder
It's hard to do something new in a well-known history, but the whole Court of Owls rhyme/legend is slipped in the Gotham mythos so perfectly, it reads as if it was always there. It's a finely tuned Batman working with a fresh, exceptional history of his surroundings and the men that build the doomed city.

5. The Silencers: Black Kiss
by Fred Van Lente and Steve Ellis
A semi-comic story about villains, it makes it all seem plausible within the realm of superheroes (who they refer to as "The Tights"). You never see heroes beyond their arms and legs, but you get the evil-doers in all of their human glory, with the criminal leader, Cardinal, trying to retire and make a quiet life for himself.

1. What Matters Most Is How Well You Walk Through The Fire
by Charles Bukowski
After enough Bukowski, a reader can anticipate him. He gambles at the horse tracks, he's always involved in some weird relationship with a woman that reeks of desperation, he can't stand the upstarts, he acknowledges his fame, he listens to classical music, he watches the city breathe, sure. But as the list grows longer, it becomes this breathtaking observation of everything and nothing. It's an astounding belief that life can be documented and detailed in poetry. He'll write about the grocery store, he'll write about dinner parties, he'll write about writing. I've read a lot of him, and this long-ass collection was the first time it felt like a conversation with the great poet laureate scoundrel.

2. Barrel Fever
by David Sedaris
This was a rare instance of reading a style that I tried to do when I was young. These were just absurd stories of things going wrong for people, and it made me laugh. Sure, short stories can be a powerful, moving, extraordinary medium...but they can also be great for nonsense. A collection of ridiculous premises (one actor's several-page-long Oscar speech, a mother/wife falling apart in a holiday newsletter, etc) that are articulate and well-crafted, so the silliness shines through as a glorious fiction.

3. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything
by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
This was more societal causes and effects than anything else really: how abortion in the '70s caused a decrease in crime in the '90s, how real estate agents go about selling their houses versus selling other people's homes, et cetera. It gets convoluted at times, and there's an air of "this is the real truth" when, in some cases, it seems like that's the entire argument against previous theories. It just doesn't carry the brute arrogance. Instead, it makes me appreciate data for being the truth-sayer it's always been and will always continue to be, boiling it all down to fun, wild, and accessible knowledge.

4. Wake Up: A Life Of The Buddha
by Jack Kerouac
As a total surprise to me, Kerouac wrote a true book about the life of Buddha. It's not jivey or jokey either. It's his retelling of Siddhartha Gautama and how he became the Enlightened One. It goes over concepts as part of the narrative, its dialogue is vibrantly religious, and it's a wildly good take on spirituality in general.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

To Believe In, Or At Least Be Aware Of, Hope

"To Believe In, Or At Least Be Aware Of, Hope"
An essay considering the direction of the Western World, prompted by Pope Francis being named Time Magazine's Person Of The Year.
by Jake Kilroy

I wrote this because I can think and write. I have no expertise in anything covered. My depth of understanding with religion is along the lines of reading a drive-thru menu to say, yeah, sure, I get food. Also, nobody has ever hired me to muse on hope or speak on what drives mankind. I am, however, particularly good at existing and, hey, sometimes observing. And once I started writing this, it was hard to stop.

I'm not kidding. This thing is long.


I'm not saying this church or this world, or any church or any world, is perfect.

But, damnit, you have to acknowledge progress when it's apparent. We rightfully celebrate the progress of each and every civil rights movement, even though racism, sexism, homophobia, and class warfare still exist. It would be unfair to deem them as inherently old world problems, but it's just as unfair to dismiss the progress made in each category to rally the cries of a problem-infested new world. You need to do both, because one way is ignorance and the other is belligerence.

Hope, despite its luminous and gorgeous pull of the heart, is a tricky business. And I can only figure it as one part "you" and one part "everything else." It's a crazy balance of perspective vs. reality and expectations vs. outcomes. Hope can be the spark of man-made miracles, but it can be the cause of emptiness, because it provides a future that might not ever be.

Investing your hope in a stranger comes with its fair share of helplessness. You devote an attitude to a person that you can have no direct influence on, and you believe in a majesty to come that you can't quite control. I did it with Obama in 2008, and while I've been impressed with a lot that he's done, it's brought on quiet fury and embarrassment for the things I've been disappointed and disgusted with, which are just as, if not more, plentiful.

Throughout my adult life, I've paid good attention, though little mind, to Time Magazine's "Person Of The Year." And while I get sick of the feedback it rouses because many people, for whatever reason, still don't understand that it's who was responsible for the most impact, whether good or bad, I don't always agree with it. Their more abstract selections are equally brilliant (2011: "The Protestor") and lazy (2006: "You"), I think their regular decision to include American presidents is the laziest. Also, and it's been rightfully argued for years, there's a spectacular lack of women on the roster. I mean, hell, up until the late '90s, it was "Man Of The Year."

This year, the magazine chose Pope Francis, and he's been a fascinating character to enter the global scene.

Time's managing editor Nancy Gibbs explained the magazine’s choice, explaining:

"The heart is a strong muscle; he’s proposing a rigorous exercise plan. And in a very short time, a vast, global, ecumenical audience has shown a hunger to follow him. For pulling the papacy out of the palace and into the streets, for committing the world’s largest faith to confronting its deepest needs and for balancing judgment with mercy, Pope Francis is Time’s 2013 Person of the Year."

Pope Francis has given me hope, but not as a member of the church.

I was raised in a house of manners, mercy, and gratefulness, but not religion. Well, for the most part, that's true. When I was a kid, my father led sporadic but mandatory "Sunday meetings" in the living room. In them, my dad would have a main lesson, which ranged from him retelling a story about stealing from high school to him explaining how to balance a check book, and then he'd read a story from the Bible and tell us how to be a "strong, healthy, confident adult" with an open mind.

My mom and dad are of the same ideal: God, but not necessarily religion.

From that, I took goodwill and appreciation as motives and guidance. I tend to lean atheist though, but because I've always had an overactive imagination, I keep thinking a god of some kind may very well exist. People question this further, but I can only clarify it as, "It's like how I wouldn't wander through a haunted house alone, even though I don't really believe in ghosts." I fear what I'm capable of considering, not what I think exists or doesn't.

To put it bluntly, my religious views fall into a category that has most aptly been articulated by the series Community:
  • "Agnosticism is the lazy man's atheist." - Pierce Hawthorne
  • "As an agnostic, I plan on bringing my winning smile." - Jeff Winger
I love what good people get out of religion, but when it's used without intelligence or justice, it's unfathomable to me why people invest their time in organized and perpetual madness and delirium. I've seen religion make reasonably intelligent individuals total, absolute, uninformed bigots, and, on the total and absolute other hand, I have seen religion motivate not-too-well-off people be charitable far beyond their means.

No church is alike, and no follower of any god is the same. It's important to keep that in mind, because making sweeping generalizations about belief systems isn't always the most efficient use of your time.

When I was a teenager, I thought it was stupid and whiny of adults to complain about the world changing for the worst. Now, as an adult with a Twitter-feed of news organizations, I sometimes find it spectacularly easy to think that. The world has always been dangerous. It's always been scary. What changes is where and how the fear comes.

This is why it's become so important to me to acknowledge progress and rally behind hope.

Negativity, for whatever reason, tastes good. Maybe because it's forbidden. But it's not forbidden in the tantalizing sense (like your private browser history). It's forbidden in the way that you can't just take the stuff you don't need out of your closet and huck it out the window. Because guess what? Nobody cleans that shit up.

We have a problem in this country that focuses too much on belittling both grief as well as joy. The old excuse was the media. The new excuse is social media. A gif of two very different people hugging should not restore your faith in humanity, but these small acts should at least reaffirm it. With easily accessible sites to present you with the warm vibes (Buzzfeed, Upworthy, etc), it's easy to lose sight of the big picture to focus your attention on the good, small distractions.

Whereas years ago, I felt like the Ann Coulters of the world were winning the war on, well, I don't even know what to call it, I've lately felt that being close-minded is starting ease out of style. It won't ever go away, and it's pretty impossible to cite how or why I can even make that claim. I like that conservatives (in general, not specifically political) are reevaluating conversational strategy, and I like that liberals are reevaluating just what it is they're even pursuing (again, in general, not specifically political).

I'm taking Pope Francis as a sign of change, and I find it thrilling.

Now, there are people in epic numbers working harder than him to ensure a more ideal future. There are authority figures in this city/county/state/country/world that are fighting for a better world, that are protesting for an ideal humanity, that are promoting the best of us as a species. And they'll go unnoticed. And humility will remain a bewilderingly triumphant quality.

But the focus here is Pope Francis as a token of "could be."

James Carroll of The New Yorker did a way better job than I ever could with his article Who Am I To Judge? - A Radical Pope's First Year.

Carroll writes, "Who am I to judge? With those five words, spoken in late July in reply to a reporter’s question about the status of gay priests in the Church, Pope Francis stepped away from the disapproving tone, the explicit moralizing typical of Popes and bishops. This gesture of openness, which startled the Catholic world, would prove not to be an isolated event."

And it's true. The man has rejected tradition. In fact, he's done good just by setting an example that hasn't really been there before:
  • He lives in a two-room apartment instead of the palace.
  • He wears worn shoes instead of the traditional fancy footwear.
  • Rumor has it that he sneaks into the city to help and talk with the poor, as he did when he was in Argentina.
Now, to those of us without any Catholic power, it may seem obvious and already be a routine to wear beat-up shoes and not be an asshole. But we're talking about a man who just shrugged off centuries of furrowed brows and closed minds. It's important to remember that.

It was a big deal for Obama to support same-sex marriage because of what came before. Supporting same-sex marriage, to me and many, is a no-brainer. But it mattered because he was the first sitting president to do so. Other countries have female presidents and prime ministers. It shouldn't be a big deal in America when we finally vote ours in, only by the standards of proposed and assumed equality, but it most definitely will be (and it most definitely should be) because of what's come before: all men. It's a matter of perspective, and it changes everything.

So what matters here is progress, not perfection.

Pope Francis is not a LGBT advocate, and Michelangelo Signorile said it better in his Huffington Post article No, Pope Francis is Not the LGBT Person of the Year.

The title of that article comes from The Advocate naming him as their "Person Of The Year." On the cover, it featured a photoshopped picture of the pope with a NOH8 face sticker and that infamous quote, "If someone is gay and seeks the Lord with good will, who am I to judge?"

Explaining it, while properly awarding praise to Edith Windsor as well, Lucas Grindley wrote:

"Pope Francis is leader of 1.2 billion Roman Catholics all over the world. There are three times as many Catholics in the world than there are citizens in the United States. Like it or not, what he says makes a difference. Sure, we all know Catholics who fudge on the religion's rules about morality. There's a lot of disagreement, about the role of women, about contraception, and more. But none of that should lead us to underestimate any pope's capacity for persuading hearts and minds in opening to LGBT people, and not only in the U.S. but globally."

He was also responsible for the 84-page blasting of greed, and to a lesser extent, capitalism itself, "Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel)." As you may recall, Rush Limbaugh deemed "pure marxism," so you know it's good.

Limbaugh wasn't the only one. Hearing this, Pope Francis responded, "The Marxist ideology is wrong. But I have met many Marxists in my life who are good people, so I don’t feel offended."

I guess what I like most about the guy is that it's not robotic dogma. I've always found much of the speeches by popes to be repetitive and dramatic bullshit. This pope is mellow and reasonable, but, most importantly, his logic of thought is approachable.

With this, when unfavorable topics pop up, (women's role in the church, the rights of the LGBT community, etc), he sidesteps them with a cautious manner and a gentle spirit. This is one of those times I'd like to enlist the harpy tone of the idealist to say that these shouldn't be sidestepped, but, again, I feel compelled to call attention to past progress while admiring future hopes. However, these issues should be acknowledged.In step with, or in favor of, progress, my favorite quotes from Pope Francis (written and spoken):
  • "I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security."
  • "We must try to facilitate people’s faith, rather than control it. Last year, in Argentina I condemned the attitude of some priests who did not baptize the children of unmarried mothers. This is a sick mentality."
  • "As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world's problems or, for that matter, to any problems."
Now, while it's good to point out hope and change, it's necessary to know where the differences are. Pope Francis and I don't agree on abortion or marijuana by a long-shot. And, to be clear, Pope Francis and I aren't even close to the same page when it comes to women's role in the church and the rights for same-sex marriage. He's not a rousing advocate for equality, but he is creating a dialogue that I haven't seen in the church my whole life.

That, I suppose, is the difference, and it is a big one.

It's what drove me to write this. Just having the church open up a bit after keeping the smug, stale tightness of a shut-up tomb was enough to be inspired to dream of what may lay ahead.

Here's to the (better) future and the wonderful, terrifying, beautiful, epic, wild, tragic, amazing, crazy, awesome thing that is hope.

Friday, December 13, 2013

I Wrote Another (Obnoxious) Craigslist Ad

My dear friend Ashley is moving across the country, and she very generously allowed me to write the Craigslist ad for her exquisite bedroom furniture. The best part is that she said I could write whatever I wanted. So I did.

Four Piece Bedroom Set to Classy Home - $700

Oh, good. You finally decided to get rid of that cheap-ass furniture that only ever impressed your college drug dealer.

Well, buckle up your panties or boxer briefs, because I've got real mature furniture for you to arrange in a way that will let your future rotating front door of hunks and/or babes just keep sparking like you have a teleporter connected to that martini bar you can't afford.

I mean, I get it. You spent your twenties drunk on Popov, watching reruns of Scrubs.

Sure, over the years, between swearing off Jager and reiterating everything you read on Reddit to people who aren't on Reddit, you collected furniture from parents, friends, garage sales, and maybe even that former flame who wouldn't see your cousin's artsy noise band. I get it. You have a "set" of furniture if your interior decorator was Pee-Wee Herman.

But, now, here you are in the dying twilight of your youth, holding authority over an empire of unframed posters and stickers on your window. Yet something has changed. A lightness has come to you, and you're surprisingly not high.

You've finally realized that, now that you're slowly and strangely creeping up to the age of 30 like the westside strangler, it's dawning on you that, holy shit, I should have furniture that doesn't make it seem like I still grope homecoming royalty in the backseat of a borrowed car.

You want furniture that screams you know how to use commas and that you're aware half of the inspirational quotes on Pinterest don't even make sense.

Well, guess what? I've got furniture to change all that. I'm selling four pieces of bedroom furniture that are basically tuxedos and ball gowns you can't wear.

Here's what I have to save your I-never-got-over-the-90s ass:
  • A NIGHT TABLE for you to stash Russian literature instead of your accidental collection of used condoms.
  • A BED that would impress every member of The Fellowship Of The Ring with its beautifully crafted wood and elegant-as-glass-titties iron work.
  • A WARDROBE that would make both the lion and the witch as wrathfully jealous as Steve Guttenberg rewatching his VHS copy of Three Men And A Little Lady.
  • A DRESSER WITH A MIRROR that's made for easy transport, just like you in all those limousines you can now expect to see in your driveway.
These pieces were made from the finest of oak trees, which I have to imagine were immediately replanted because whoever made these was capable of the greatest love for both mankind and Mother Earth.

These pieces were also expensive, but I'm selling them all for ONLY $700 because I'm moving across the country. Shit, I'd tell you where, but now that you know how fine my taste in furniture is, you'll want to date me, and, hey, I've already got a phone full of potential husbands BECAUSE of this furniture.

Get these while they're hot.

Just kidding.

They'll always be hot.

Call me.


Monday, December 2, 2013

Manboy & Boss: An Excerpt

Author's Note: The characters of Manboy and Boss were created by Chase Menen ("Manboy") and Chase Ruiz ("Boss"). This piece was intended for a radio show interview with Jake Kilroy and Scott Barman that never materialized.

The following is an excerpt from "Chapter 14: The Mean Ol' Jungles Of India," from the soon-to-be-published autobiography Manboy & Boss.

“Boss, I think I have jungle fever,” Manboy croaked.

Now, in my heyday, I was quite a ladies man, often bopping with the best of the players, so I naturally assumed he meant he was after the chocolate babes. As it turns out, jungle fever is what the locals called getting a fever in the jungle, which, granted, makes more sense.

After several confusing moments of Manboy making choking motions and me bustling through my mental rolodex in the game of what I presumed to be charades (“Halle Berry? Beyonce? Rosario Dawson?" I bellowed, though, to be fair, the latter is a halfie), I finally realized my beautiful mocha man was dying beneath a canopy of birds that truly, no matter how many rocks I hit them with, wouldn’t shut the fuck up.

“Manboy!” I cried, hoping my face wouldn't become the waterfall I knew it could be, though, honestly, I hadn't cried since the ending of Hellboy.

My dear assistant, who had come to save my life on several occasions (including repeated instances of me falling overboard), was now asking – nay, begging – for me to return the favor. His face darkened as he made frantic motions that I believed to be obscene. As I considered fulfilling Manboy’s strange last request of indecently pleasing him, it became quite obvious that he was, in fact, mimicking the action of a hypodermic needle in his satchel.

In his bag, I found the needle, but not after rooting through Manboy’s other belongings, which included several bananas, a pouch of opiates, two severed yet preserved monkey hand-wands, and a surprisingly pristine copy of the novella Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

Taking the medical instruction I received from that one Pulp Fiction scene, I jammed the needle into Manboy’s chest, a move that he later explained nearly killed him, since I was only supposed to treat it like a vaccine shot. He gave me a book of medicine the following Christmas, an item I’ve come to cherish but have never so much as glanced at. Sorry, Manboy, those Dan Brown epics aren’t going to reread themselves.

Once the medicine coursed through his lanky, dark body, Manboy sprung up, alive and excited. He hugged me, visibly grateful for my saving his life, though, due to the manner that I injected him with the medicine, he immediately complained of chest pains and collapsed.

When he awoke a day later in what I thought was a dilapidated hospital but turned out to be an upscale roadside cafĂ©, Manboy said, “Boss, you are good man.”

To which, I answered, “And you are a good Manboy,” and then patted him on the head.