Inhuman Swill : Page 223
Why is my blog called Inhuman Swill? Because you can unscramble the pieces to make William Shunn.

The Curse of Michael Myers

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Halsted's entry about the SAG commercial actors' strike reminds me of an incident from my past that used to be part of my memoir but is one of those bits that has ended up on the cutting-room floor—not because it was a bad bit of writing, but just because it turned out not to fit. I thought I'd rescue that bit from eternal obscurity and reuse it here:

I have a close friend in Utah named Scott. He's a writer and an actor, and for the past several years he's supplemented his sometimes lean income with guest appearances in television series and made-for-cable movies. He's also a devout Mormon, and more clear-headed about it than just about anyone I know.

One Sunday in 1994, Scott had asked me to drive him the forty miles to Salt Lake so he could attend the callbacks on a movie role he was auditioning for. His car had given up the ghost again, as it did every full moon or so. I readily agreed.

That summer was the last time I attended church on anything like a regular basis. It was my last-ditch effort—or so I thought—to get my life together and back on the right track. I was attending a student ward at BYU—a congregation made of entirely of eighteen- to thirty-year-olds, not all of them college students, but all looking for that certain special someone, that magic mate, that bright twin spirit from our premortal existence whose eyes you would meet with a shock of recognition, and you both would know you had found your foreordained eternal companion at last.

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Here comes the firestorm

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I knew this was going to happen, but that doesn't make it any less aggravating now that it has.

See, as part of this Mormon missionary memoir of mine, I've divulged secrets of the Mormon temple ceremony that I'm not supposed to talk about. In fact, I took gruesome oaths on my life in the Mormon temple never to reveal the contents of that ceremony.

Now that the book is picking its paraplegic way toward publication, I figured I should give my parents a heads-up about the coming betrayal. (Not only will the book contain, early on, this temple material, but I've also culled those pages out as an excerpt for my agent to try to sell to some major magazine.) I emailed my parents, told them about the contents and purpose of my book, and offered to let them see what I had written so far so they could be prepared for the consequences. My mother asked to see the book so I sent it to her a couple of weeks ago.

Well, this morning I received the following loving email from one of my siblings (I have seven):

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The waiting game

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Have you ever experienced Chinese water torture? I haven't either, but it's probably much like waiting to hear from an editor who has expressed a hope of making an offer on your book.

I'm writing this book called The Accidental Terrorist. It's a memoir, really—the first-person story of a loveable young Mormon dissident-to-be who unwillingly serves a mission for his church, only to have it lead him to a terrorist act when he starts taking the whole thing a little too seriously. It's a light-hearted book, really.

My agent submitted the (partial) manuscript to seven publishers last month. About two and a half weeks ago, she wrote to tell me that one of these esteemed editors had called her, and that he loved the book and hoped to be able to make an offer soon. I was stunned.

Then, about a week and a half ago, he called my agent again to tell her that he had a lot of support for the book at his house and was presenting to his editorial and publications boards the next week. He expected things to go well, though he was a little worried about the "dual" nature of the book (i.e., Mormon coming-of-age story melded with terrorism drama).

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By his bootlegs

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The entire purpose of this entry is to announce that I'm currently listening to a friend's bootleg of a recent Beck show at Radio City Music Hall. On CD. With headphones.

It doesn't get much better than this.

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Well, I just received disappointing news. I was scheduled to do a reading—my first really significant public reading—in November, but now, due to circumstances beyond much of anyone's control, the gig has been cancelled.

There were five of us, "up-and-coming" "young" science fiction writers, who were going to participate together. I had compiled an email list of about seventy friends and acquaintances I was going to invite. It was going to be cool.

Originally we were all supposed to read in October. But then Ursula K. Leguin became available for a reading in the same series the same week, and most of the other participants decided they didn't want to compete. So our reading was delayed until November.

It didn't matter that much to me. I would have gone head-to-head with Leguin. Most of the friends I was inviting wouldn't have gone to the Leguin reading anyway. And now it's not going to happen at all.

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Schrödinger's apartment

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So last week Laura thought I had died again.

Here's what happened: As we were saying goodnight on the phone, she offered to call me at seven in the morning to make sure I was awake, since she knows I often sleep through my alarm clock. This is not an unusual offer. I accepted.

Then I did a strange thing. I woke up at five in the morning and decided I wasn't going to be able to get back to sleep, so I got ready and went to the office, figuring I could get some work done on my book before anyone else got there. I was out of the apartment by 6:30.

Well, around 9:30 I got a call at my little cubicle. "This is Bill," I said.

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Kid A

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So I bought the new Radiohead album at Tower Records for $13.99 on the way to work this morning. I've listened to it several times now, and I still haven't figured out how I feel about it.

It certainly hasn't grabbed me and shook me up and set me down again to collect all the contents of my pockets like OK Computer did three years ago. This album is very different. I want to say it's not as good. I want to say it's so different that such a comparison doesn't matter.

Whatever I end up saying, I'm going to try to make up my own mind and not let the reviews I will inevitably read put words into my mouth. That happens sometimes, and I'm not proud of it.

(You know, it just occurred to me that Kid A reminds me in some ways of Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space by Spiritualized. OK Computer reminded me of nothing so much as Dark Side of the Moon. At least every Radiohead album is reminscent for me of some astronomical touchstone. That kind of consistency is worth something.)

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Between me, safe in my seat on this bus,
And the decadent majesty of the salmon-red cliffs of eastern Utah,
A ghost landscape stands sentinel,
As if etched into the glass by a cadre of capering goblins.
The residue of a hasty window washing—
Loops and whorls of dirt left untouched, uncleansed,
Unrepentent, at the bottom of the glass on each fluid upstroke—
It sparkles, gritty and salt-sharp in the oblique sunlight,
Like a series of pearly solar flares,
Or a graph of the desert's pulsebeat,
Or spectral negatives of a washed-out sandstone arch,
Photographed in stages over eons of time—
Snapshots from a child-god's flip-book—
Frothing, leaping, peaking, then falling back into the ground
Like fountains of earth,
A time-lapse planetary signature
That will melt and return to dust
With the next unlikely rain.

Originally published in Sunstone, February 1994
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So I commented to Laura at about 8:00 pm last night that we were having a perfect and quintessential New York evening. She had come uptown to meet her friend Liz for some skating training in Central Park, but, rained out, she and Liz went to Starbuck's at 70th and Amsterdam instead. I was at the office a little late, so I wandered over and met them there, and then Liz's boyfriend Jim wandered by, and it was a real . . . well, I hate to say it, but it was kind of a "Friends" moment, a real New York yuppie moment, hanging with our gang at the coffehouse, wandering in and out of each other's evenings like characters in a harmless sitcom.

Laura and I grabbed some soup at a nearby restaurant (Soma Soup—they have a fabulous cheeseburger soup on the menu, and yes you read that right), and we were descending into the subway station at 72nd and Broadway when I mentioned this sentiment to Laura. She was having a brainstorm about e-business, and she completely agreed with me.

Thirty minutes later, we stood outside the gaping doorway of her sixth-floor walkup apartment in the East Village. The metal door was crumpled at the edge, and it stood open. Laura went in—I held her back and entered the living room, then bedroom, first. This was no easy task, since most of her possessions had been dumped onto the floor, in both rooms. The living room floor was covered with CDs from the shelves and purses from inside the coffee table's storage space. The bedroom was littered with clothes, sewing supplies, and costume jewery. The drawers from the dresser were lying everywhere, and the contents of the shelves in the closet were all over.

A quick inventory showed that the television was still there, although it was lying face down on the floor. The DVD player I gave her for Christmas was gone, and so were any plans of watching the Dark City DVD that I had bought from Urban Fetch just that day. The VCR was gone. The portable MiniDisc player/recorder I gave her for the 100-day anniversary of our first date was gone. The digital camera she gave me for my birthday last year was gone. The stereo receiver and the 5-disc CD player were still there, and still functional, but the cordless phone/answering machine combo was gone. One of Laura's suitcases from the bedroom was open on the living room floor. Half a stick of butter on the floor in the kitchen indicated that the fridge had been opened.

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Getting medieval on my ear

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Just got back from the doctor's office, and through the miracle of medieval medical science I can hear again!

I am, as Dr. Kong terms it, "a little waxy." "I am too," he said. "Some people have no wax at all. It's amazing. But you and me . . . like a beehive."

I try to swab regularly, and when things get a little too clogged, I use some Debrox ear drops to dissolve the wax. (It makes a pleasant little cracklings sound in the ear, like Rice Krispies, and the drops sometimes foam right out of the ear canal.)

Last Friday morning, though, I was swabbing and I guess I went a little too deep in my left ear. Tamped the stuff right down, like tobacco in a briar pipe. Even the Debrox, applied twice a day since Friday, didn't make a dent.

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The Accidental Terrorist 30th Anniversary Sale

Signed editions
that even a
missionary
could afford.

Order yours now!

William Shunn

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