Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Time Sean Fought a Girl

Sometimes my whole Fight Club thing got out of hand.

We were living on campus in a trashy town at a dumpy school where High Times magazine interviewed my roommate (Doyal) for an article they were publishing about The Evergreen State College being the most pot-friendly campus in the country. Drugs were everywhere and everybody was a do-nothing know-it-all with something to prove. So there were a lot of crazy people to fight. And I was one of them.

For a guy who grew up as scrawny and nerdy as I did, I sure did my best to establish a reputation as a badass on campus. Usually, in my mind, I was starting fights in a friendly way, finding people who were game. I guess I got impatient. I eventually hit enough people in the face that I could get strangers to back down just by getting in their face a little.

In my fantasy, this was because I was some kind of terror, an intimidating motherfucker of the highest caliber, jackbooting my way across campus and leaving a trail of terror and punk rock destruction in my wake. It didn’t occur to me until quite a while later that maybe I was just a violent drunken asshole and most people would rather leave the party than get in a fight with a guy like that.

Also, the school was almost 100 percent white kids. I don’t know exactly how things would have changed with a different ethnic makeup but I doubt it would have gone down the same. Thank God for easily-frightened white kids.

In the meantime, I was stoked to be such a badass! Man, if I ever ran into the kids who picked on me in elementary school, I’d just show the shit out of them! They sure would be sorry! I took a cheap black jacket I found at the thrift store and sewed a Slayer patch on the left breast, and a tiny Black Sabbath patch on the back. The sew jobs were shitty and the patches began falling off. I was so excited and proud of myself.

Around this time, Tyler began regularly banging a girl named Lisa. Now, anyone (everyone) willing to bang Tyler was pretty messed up to begin with, but Lisa may have taken the cake. We didn’t know this right away, but she was completely nuts.

While everyone still thought she was relatively normal, she’d come by and sometimes she and I would hang out. We talked about all kinds of stupid college bullshit: photography, masculinity and femininity issues, anger at our families.

At some point, she decided she didn’t want people to call her Lisa anymore. Her German name, apparently, was Leila, and she wanted to be called that instead.

I believed I’d been pretty forgiving of some of her pretentious artsy crap, because I thought she was hot, but I decided to draw a line there. I kept calling her Lisa. I felt like it was bullshit to introduce yourself as one thing and then, for no reason, demand to be called something else. I just didn’t have the patience for it.

I still liked her fine, though, and sometimes when she came over we’d hang out. Eventually my whole fighting habit came up and she said she wanted in.

“Well, sure,” I said, “find a girl to fight and bring her over. We could make a night out of it.”

“No,” she said, “I mean I’ll fight you.”

We were in the kitchen. Doyal and Tyler and Molly and Darren and a good half-dozen other people were sitting around smoking weed and drinking whiskey and all of a sudden I felt very much on the spot.

“I’m not gonna fight you,” I said. To a sober man, this is the obvious answer. Any guy will tell you, it’s the worst possible situation for a fight. You either end up the asshole who beat up a woman or the biggest pussy of all time, a jackass who got his ass kicked by a girl.

I said, “That’s ridiculous.”

“Why?” she said. “If you think feminism is bullshit” – at the time, I was in such a foul mood about people that I felt pretty sure every opinion anyone had ever had was bullshit, including feminism – “and women shouldn’t get any special treatment, then why not?”

“Uh, I don’t know. I’m bigger than you.”

“What, so you only fight people your exact fucking size?”

I had a pretty comfortable, brain-killing drunk going on and I was running out of excuses not to fight her.

“Look, you’re gonna hate it. I’m gonna put a choke hold on you and it’ll piss you off and you’ll tap out and that’ll be it.”

Boy, did I love the choke hold. It was my go-to move and out of ten wins, I could thank the choke hold for seven or eight of them. About half the people I beat with it said it was a cheap move. I didn’t think that made any sense. This wasn’t Street Fighter II. This was two real life people in a fight. It wasn’t like I hit them in the nuts.

“What,” said Lisa, “you’re gonna use some pussy-ass choke hold? You’re gonna fight cheap against a girl?”

I couldn’t tell if she was flirting or just being a bitch. But either way the idea of fighting her began to sound really fun.

I looked over at Tyler. Surely he would talk me out of it, and since he was sort-of dating her, I’d have to respect his request.

Tyler was laughing his balls off. He was delighted by the idea.

I had nowhere to squirm and by now I didn’t really want to.

“Okay,” I said. “Let’s do it.”

“Yeah?” she said. She was excited now. The sweaters started coming off. It was go time.

I made a plan in my head. I would back her off, let her get all her crazy out while I had her at a distance, then I’d grab her arms and hold her down until she admitted it was over.

That plan didn’t work for shit.

Lisa was out of her mind. She came at me like a complete savage. I kept cool for a second but almost immediately I was having the time of my life. We rolled all over the kitchen and living room floors and down the hall. People couldn’t get out of our way fast enough and we knocked a couple people down. I was holding back a little bit, still, but she started using her fingernails to scratch me and in my mind, she’d suddenly given up her frailty as a reason for me to fight respectfully. She was fighting like a badass and I couldn’t be happier.

Eventually we rolled into the bathroom, and then kicked our way into the little side room where the bathtub was kept separate and knocked the door shut. We were grunting and breathing heavily and Molly started knocking on the door, asking what was happening in there.

I knew what she had to be thinking, so I decided to do the respectful thing and make it clear this wasn’t a pre-fuck.

I had Lisa bent up over the rim of the bathtub, and I looked down and saw the tub drain. This was a house inhabited by six disgusting men in their early 20s. The drain was packed with hair and loogies and all of it had been peed on a hundred times.

I pushed Lisa’s face down into it.

Lisa lost her mind and screamed and flailed around until she finally agreed the fight was over. We both came out and drank as much whiskey as we could each handle, and that was that. Although Molly was pissed at me for weeks.

I felt like the whole thing had been pretty cool, and Lisa seemed all right with it too, once she’d been able to wash her face off. But later on she started dating a guy named TJ and got into punching fights with him in public all the time and they’d both walk around with black eyes they’d given each other. Somehow I knew where they were coming from but felt it crossed a line.

Plus, another time she and TJ were out walking on campus in the snow. They ended up playing and rolling around in the mud, which, again, I could understand, but then Lisa said, “Oh my God, TJ, I have the best idea. We should both pee our pants!”

Whereupon she actually did pee her pants. TJ told us the story later.

I can’t exactly claim to have been in my right mind during this whole period in my life. And Tyler brought home some pretty crazy women. But I always had love for Lisa for really taking the prize on crazy, Olympia-makes-me-nuts batshit behavior.

Words: Sean Murray
Art: Manuel Martinez

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Bobby the Banker and My Daring 'Do

My best buddy working the bank was Bobby the banker. He was baby-faced and dorky but he was also about seven feet tall. It was amazing. I’m not a short man, but I had to do a lot of neck-craning when Bobby was around.

Bobby and I first bonded, I think, over comic books. We were both big geeks about ‘em and we’d try to take a lunch break together every week or two to walk down to the comics shop nearby and pick up our books. Bobby had some cool ideas for a superhero book he wanted to write and wild stories about living in a warehouse when he was young.

So, one day Bobby’s at the bank, and the line of customers is between his desk and the line of tellers. He glances up from his desk at the line and does a double take.

Bobby rubs his eyes with his hands.

Nope. It’s not his eyes.

That guy standing in line... is blurry. He’s standing still, holding his bank slip in front of him, just chilling out. But he looks like he’s in a blurry photo or something.

Bobby sits back in his chair looking at the guy, trying to figure out what the hell is going on. He looks at some other people in line to check, maybe it’s the lighting or something. But no. Everyone else looks normal. Bobby can’t figure it out. And he can’t exactly go ask the guy. So he sits there puzzled while the guy gets to the front of the line, does his business with a teller and walks out.

Bobby gets up and walks over to the teller.

“Hey, am I crazy, or was that guy, like, out of focus? Like fuzzy-looking?”

The teller, a young girl, looks at him with an ashen, wide-eyed look of grossed-out horror.

“He was CRAWLING,” she says, “with LICE.”

They had to shut down the branch for a week to fumigate.

Another day, some jumpy dude walked into the branch and asked Bobby if he could sit down. Bobby thought, “Awesome, nobody even had to work for this one,” and asked the guy what kind of account he needed help with. The dude mumbled something indirect in reply, and for a few minutes Bobby, disappointed this had turned instead into a waste of time, tried to figure out how to open an account for the guy, who was just sitting there fidgeting and half-shivering.

After a bit, the guy jumped up and walked right back out of the bank.

We were slow, so Bobby came over to the teller line to tell me about the weird guy. We laughed about him for a minute and then Bobby walked back… to find the guy had peed all over the chair.

Now, because I held this job during my Fight Clubbin’ days, I sometimes showed up to work with bruises and scabs all over me. Just like Edward Norton does in the movie, I took a sick kind of delight in having people walk up to make their deposits, make a quick second of eye contact with me and immediately turn their faces down to the counter and keep them there.

I didn’t want to scare anybody; I just thought it was funny how uncomfortable they were. Barbie thought it was funny. I got a really brutal black eye and face-scrape one night after racing down a sidewalk in Seattle with Tyler sitting on my shoulders, and when I showed up to work the next day she laughed.

“Did you get in a fight?” she said, the same way you might teasingly ask a soaked person if they forgot their umbrella on a stormy day.

“No, actually,” I said, half-surprised to be giving that answer.

“Did you get drunk and fall down?”

Good ol’ Barbie.

So eventually I decided to quit. My life SUCKED at this job! Olympia was slowly killing me and I was becoming an alcoholic and we were living in the only project housing in town and it was run by meth-heads, and my school was a limp jerk-off of an education and my job was boring and paid little and it was cold and wet all the time and Seattle was too long a drive to realistically visit very often and my girlfriend and I hadn’t had sex in forever and my parents were getting divorced with my brother dealing with it alone down in California, and some of my favorite people at work had been fired or quit to get better jobs and you couldn’t buy booze on Sundays.

All of which had been the case for quite a while, but then my boss said I couldn’t have time off to visit my family for Christmas.

That was when I realized something awesome. I didn’t have to do something just because my boss said I had to do it. I could quit the job. I didn’t have any abiding love for bank work. It would be easy! Holy shit, I couldn’t believe I thought of it!

Soon as I made the decision, life changed up a little. I called my mom and floated the idea of coming back home, and she was so cool about it I was stunned. My boss at the bank decided to quit, too. I went about making goodbyes and wrapping up what little needed wrapping up, and then I got a great idea.

My plan was to go to my last day of work, all normal-style, and then halfway through the shift – I would get a Mohawk.

It was genius. It would totally freak everybody out. It would be hella punk rock. I could tell people for years about how cool and anti-establishment I was, how I stuck it to the man by making them DEAL with a guy who had a fuckin’ MOHAWK, you guys. I was so stoked and full of self-satisfaction it’s a wonder I was able to put on my pants that day.

I brought a pair of clippers in a bag and stashed them in the break room. Then when lunch time was coming up, I walked over to Bobby’s desk and broke him the news.

“Dude, you have to come help me cut my hair.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I brought clippers. You gotta give me a Mohawk.”

“I don’t know how to give you a Mohawk, man!”

“Dude, it’s easy. You clip off one side and then you clip off the other. Come on, don’t be a pussy!”

“Okay, but we gotta be quick.”

I’d made Bobby all kinds of nervous by springing it on him at the last second. We went into the employee bathroom and I took my shirt off and knelt down over a wastebasket and Bobby – still wearing a full business suit – stood over me with the clippers. I wanted a REAL Mohawk so we took the guards off and he was shaving my head bald.

He was seriously freaking out, though, and he kept saying, “I gotta get back, man, they’re gonna notice I’m gone,” and he ended up cutting the shit out of my scalp with the clipper blades by jamming them into my head too fast. He managed a straight line down one side of the ‘hawk but the right side of my scalp had hair coming out farther around the middle of my head, forming a sort of long triangle instead of a long, thin bar of hair. I was bleeding all over the place. I had loose hair all over my shoulders and neck. I put my shirt back on and it was the most uncomfortable thing I’d ever worn.

I went back to the teller line, all set to rock everybody’s world… and nobody gave a shit. A couple people laughed but nobody was freaked out. I was stunned. I came in with a black eye and everyone got shy and quiet, but a freakin’ badass Mohawk and blood all over? No one really batted an eye. Every time someone walked up, I gave this expectant, excited look, ready for them to flip out, and people would just nod and look at my hair and say, “Well, how ‘bout that?”

I went home and showered and looked at it again and I couldn’t believe how stupid I looked. I tried to fix the damn thing and got Molly and Darren both on the job with the clippers but it was never the glory I expected. And Molly made me agree to shave it off before driving the moving van back home, arguing that without any black people to screw with in either Washington or Oregon, the police would likely instead fuck with people who had stupid punk rock haircuts.

I was so glad to finally have someone give me validation that the ‘hawk was, indeed, a very punk rock gesture on my part, that I shaved it clean off and drove through three states looking like Uncle Fester.

Words: Sean Murray
Art: Manuel Martinez

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Banking: Not the Glamorous Life I Imagined

When I was about 16, an older kid I was sorta buddies with got a job as a bank teller and I thought it sounded like the fanciest job ever. Boy, did I have it wrong.

For a year in Olympia, I worked as a teller. I was desperate for the work. Less than a year before I got to town I’d bought an ’86 Ford F-150 that immediately shit its guts out and sucked up every last dollar I’d ever earned.

The problem was, I moved to Olympia just after 9/11 – about six months after the Nisqually earthquake beat the shit out of Seattle and everything in some ridiculous thousand-mile radius. Olympia was split into two sides – the west side was full of homes and had the college campus, and the east side had the capital building and all the local business. The two sides of town were connected by a thin, short bridge that got busted up in the quake, and the already-screwed up economy just completely went to hell. Everywhere you looked there were “Going Out of Business Sale” signs posted in windows.

Somehow, I was able to land the job anyway and, despite being arrested on my way to the first day of training, managed to keep the job.

I got there and my God, the bank was depressing.

For one, we had the Labor Ready payroll account. Labor Ready is based in Tacoma and sells itself as the country’s biggest provider of temporary manual labor to construction sites. What that means in real world terms is basically this: if you’re an alcoholic or a convicted felon, you show up at the work line at 4 or 5 a.m. and hope they give you a job for the day, digging ditches or hammering roof tiles or whatever the hell. You bust your ass all day in the sun or the rain and at the end of each day you get a check.

So these guys would come slumping in, stinking like a homeless guy and tired and hungry and greasy, and they’d wait in line and then try to cash their checks with us. About a quarter of these guys had expired IDs, or the card was so beat-up and weather damaged that you couldn’t read the information and we had to send them away. None of them had bank accounts, obviously, so we’d have to get their thumb prints stamped onto the checks. Some guys would have their thumbs all fucked up from work, scabbed up or covered in paint or glue or tar, and they’d leave these thumbprints that looked like a raccoon’s paw or something.

One guy that came in a lot owed a ton of child support and alimony. He’d been ducking it so long that the courts had gotten involved and forced any employer that paid him to garnish the holy shit out of his pay. You know the walk people get when they’ve just been in a fight? Like a slow stagger, half-deliberate and half-drunk? I never saw this guy walk any other way.

He walked in and stood in line with his stained orange baseball cap and his red plaid jacket, picking at his trucker moustache. He came to me once with his check, signed the back of it and gave me his thumb, and I cashed it out. As I counted out the money, he said, “Do you know how many hours I worked today?”

I looked down; the check was tiny.

“Yeah, rough getting hours these days, huh? I feel for ya, man,” I said.

“I worked for ELEVEN HOURS TODAY."

I looked down at the check again. I pursed my lips.

I took out the cash and counted it out to him.

Nineteen dollars and seventy-four cents. Neither enough for a full twenty-dollar bill, nor a full three quarters in change.

I laid the money on the counter between us.

He looked down at it. Then he looked up at me.

“I can’t even get drunk on that,” he said.

I had nothing to say. What the hell CAN a 20-year-old kid say to a dude in his 40s in that situation? Here I had thousands of dollars sitting in a drawer in front of me. I was making nine bucks an hour – I’d topped this poor sonofabitch’s income for the whole day in a little more than two hours. And I felt poor!

We stood there for about five or six seconds. He looked at me with this confused, demanding disappointment. He wanted me to do something, but he didn’t know what. Or he knew what he wanted someone to do, but he was wrestling to remember that it couldn’t be me that would do it. I just tried to keep as much eye contact as I could – I was completely unable to help, but I didn’t want to leaving him hanging, so I figured the best I could do was look him in the eye.

He took a deep sigh, slowly slapped his hand on the counter over the money and slid it back, jammed it in his pocket and walked out.

Another account we had where people would come to cash their checks was the crazy people. Sometimes a court will declare somebody incompetent to handle their own affairs, right? Well, when that happens, that person’s money (apparently) gets sent to some corporate handler that squirrels the cash all away and portions it out in controlled, specifically-designated doses to the poor old sap.

This stuff was hyper-specific. I’d get guys walking in with checks for five dollars, and in the memo line it would read, “For cigarettes.”

One of my favorites, though, was an old dude named Harvey. He was practically the only black guy in town – Washington State is, in my experience, almost totally white. He was maybe 55 or 60 and the kind of guy you might guess at a distance is homeless, because his coat was ratty and cheap and he wore a knit-wool cap, but when you got up close to him you could see he was wearing clean, modestly-framed glasses and he was perfectly clean-shaven.

The way I got to know Harvey was one day he got in line to cash a money order and the teller who helped him was Barbie.

Barbie was super-hot in kind of a “white trash town in the middle of nowhere” sort of way. I don’t mean she had four kids and an “I’m With Stupid” t-shirt so much as I mean that every white trash dude who came in the place would get to the front of the line and then let people go ahead of him until Barbie freed up for the next customer. Every once in a while, when she wanted a new person to treat her seriously, she would introduce herself as Barbara. I would hear it from my little station a few doors down the teller line and it always made me smile.

So one day Harvey comes in, and as Barbie starts cashing this little money order he brought in, he belts out at the top of his lungs: “Yooouuuuu are so beautiful… to me! Yoooouuuu are so beautiful, to me, can’t you see?”

He did the whole song. Barbie had no idea what to do. The entire bank stopped. Everyone was completely absorbed in this guy and the girl he was singing to. He was good, too! He threw his arms up at the emotional notes, held his hands to his chest for the heartfelt, quieter parts, like a whole professional performance.

Barbie had no idea what to do. She giggled. She covered her face, which was red as a drunken Irishman’s. She tried to compose herself and crossed one hand over the other on the counter in front of her. Then she busted up again.

When Harvey was done, the whole bank exploded into applause. It was the greatest thing ever.

I got the guy’s phone number, and that year for Christmas I bought Molly a steak dinner and had Harvey come into the restaurant to sing to her. Cleared it with the management and everything. To my amazement, Harvey came in wearing a tuxedo! He gave her a rose and sang three or four songs, two that I had chosen and then some improv of his own choosing. If you’ve never tried this with a guy who breaks into song in public for (almost) no reason, I highly recommend it.

The week after I met Harvey, though, somebody else came into the bank and caused a really amazing problem. We’ll tell y’all about that next week.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Time Whisky Made Me Gay

One thing I liked to do when I lived in Olympia was to sit down at the big round table in our living-slash-dining room with a bottle of whisky and a shot glass and get myself good and drunk.

The two state-run liquor stores in town actually sold stuff for a pretty decent price, all told. You could get a bottle of Jack Daniels for about fourteen bucks, Jim Beam for maybe eleven. Evan Williams, the rotgut bourbon made famous by One-Armed Nate, was about eight bucks.

Once in a while, Doyal or I would buy a ten-dollar bottle of Clan MacGregor scotch, which I recommend to no one. Every single time we made the mistake of buying it, Doyal or I would wake up with this grimy, ashen kind of hangover you can only get from drinking dirt-cheap scotch. It soaks into your muscles and makes you feel dirty and gritty. You feel like a lowlife. “The Clan put a beatin’ on me again,” we’d say to each other. We could never figure out why we didn’t learn the lesson, but every month or two another empty bottle of the Clan would turn up in the morning.

On the other hand, I made nine bucks an hour working part-time as a bank teller downtown. Doyal got a job at Subway Sandwiches that took an hour to get to on the bus. Concessions had to be made, and the most important thing to do with our money was to get drunk, so cheap booze often prevailed. You could get half-racks (12-packs) of Olympia Beer at the gas station near our apartment for $5.50 and we ended up literally wallpapering a huge wall in the apartment with the cardboard.

Once in a while though – my goal was once a week – I’d buy a nice delicious $16 bottle of Powers Irish Whisky. Oh, that was a treat. It was usually freezing and half-the-time raining outside and there’s nothing like a swallow of sweet, hot whisky sliding down the inside of your chest when the world outside the window looks that ugly and cold.

So one day I’m sitting down for my ritual blackout and Pretty John sticks his head in through the big living room window we used as a door.

Everyone called him Pretty John for the obvious reason: he looked like a pretty girl. You could be walking on campus behind him and think to yourself, “That girl’s got a pretty nice ass,” and then it would turn out to be John: Whoops! Pretty John was pretty much the poster-boy twinkie. For those that don’t know, if you're not a genius accusing an Asian person of being "white on the inside," calling someone a "twinkie" in gay terms is pretty much the opposite of calling them a bear. Bears are big, burly, hairy, macho. Twinkies are slight, usually blond, and look kind of like elves. Some twinkies go really feminine in style and appearance, and John was one of them.

Our apartment on campus was right near a dirt walking path and people popped in all the time, and right now Pretty John was sticking his head in to say hello. I’d never really talked with John, but we were in classes together and I was in a good mood and when he asked to come in I invited him to the table. I grabbed a second shot glass and slid it across the table to him, then slid the whisky bottle over right behind it.

My roommates sat around and my girlfriend Molly watched some TV on the couch and I poured myself shot after shot.

At some point, the bottle was half-empty. Pretty John had taken maybe two shots, and the rest was my doing. It was time to be bold.

“Hey, John.” I said. “Can I ask you something personal?”

He said I could, of course, and I was so excited: I’d wanted to ask somebody this for YEARS.

“Here’s something I don’t get. Why would a guy, who likes to fuck guys, who also like to fuck guys… want to look like a girl?”

I didn’t mean anything aggressive or mean by it – I sincerely wanted to know. It didn’t make sense to me.

The truth is, I have no idea what he said in response. The next thing I remember is, John had moved from across the table to right next to me, and he had his hand on my thigh.

I looked up at the table and the whisky bottle was empty.

My roommates, of course, had fled.

Molly was still sitting on the couch. John leaned in and started kissing my ear.

I was frozen. I was piss-drunk and freaked out and I just sat there trying to remember to breathe.

“Molly?” I called.

“Yes, Sean?” she said.

“Am I… what’s, ah… what’s going on?”

“Well, Sean, it looks like you might be about to make out with a guy.”

Somehow, I was panicked but couldn’t move.

“What should I do?”

She paused. John nibbled on my ear some more and rubbed my leg with his hand. Christ, what Molly must have been thinking.

She said, “Do whatever you want, Sean.” Her voice was tight and freaked out, but she was trying to be soothing, too.

I felt relieved by that. Now, whatever I did, it would be okay. I had permission to do it.

John kissed my neck.

I thought, “Well, when am I going to have this exact chance again?”

I thought, “When in Rome.”

I turned my face down, and Pretty John and I were making out.

Surprisingly – to me, anyway – it wasn’t that bad. I mean, I was blind drunk and could barely move, but the sensations were all pretty much the same as kissing a girl. I knew this was a guy, but just at the moment I really didn’t care.

Molly left the room. I was told later she began hyperventilating in the hallway and my roommates had to help her breathe.

I wish I could tell you how making out with John ended, but I was in full-on brown-out mode. Manuel likes to call it “time travel,” when you jump from scene to scene like you’re hitting the chapter skip on a DVD.

The next thing I knew, I was with Molly again. We were in the bathroom. You know those diners made up like they’re from the 50s, and they have the cute painting of the little boy and little girl sharing a milkshake with two straws? It was like that, except we were sharing a toilet bowl, each of us puking into it to save our lives.

And that was the time that whisky made me gay.

A post-script: Obviously, plenty of guys get super drunk and don’t make out with other dudes. I couldn’t really put it on the whisky. So when I woke up the next day, and remembered in little flickers what had happened, I freaked out. For like half an hour. I just bolted up in bed, Molly sleeping beside me, and said, “Oh, my God,” over and over. Was I gay now? What did I do? Could I still have a girlfriend? What did other people see? Every retarded question in the book went like lightning flashes through my mind. I started wondering if I had to invent some kind of new, start-from-scratch second life. I went into full-on retarded melodrama.

(See, until you’ve done something like kiss a dude, and found out it’s not the end of the world and doesn’t actually shatter all your foundations, this kind of thing can feel legitimately scary.)

My roommate Darren, who I’d met freshman year at San Francisco State, was a little homophobic. One time he was riding in a car with us in San Francisco and when we drove through the Castro district he actually got mad we hadn’t warned him. He was like a brother to me but I was freaked out he would have a big problem with this. Maybe stop talking to me. He was the kind of guy to get quiet when he had a problem with you, just get into his shell and shut you out.

I put on some pants and walked into the kitchen, and Darren was there. I looked at the ground and tried to get past him to open up the fridge.

“Hey, good morning, fag,” Darren said. “Careful you don’t close the door on your boner.”

Right there, I knew everything was cool.

Words: Sean Murray
Art: Manuel Martinez

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Delayed this week, yes.

Hey everyone,

Apologies for the late post this week. We got thrown by Thanksgiving and another, more exciting development -- our scripting process is finally fully underway! Manuel and I are chewing over beats and page breakdowns together, beating each other up to bring you a graphic novel next year that will rock your collective asses off.

We're finding a rhythm to get both the blog and the progress on the book done each week, and will have the latest blog story for you shortly. In the meantime, thanks for hanging with us.

In the meantime, try picking up the latest Sons of Anarchy episode. Team Spitball Press watched the season two finale last night and it completely rocked. Although we're about done with Agent Stahl being such an asshole...

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Day a Giant Fat Man Exploded Our Toilet

You might remember Doyal from last week’s story. Somehow, in between his rants about George W. and how Israelis were war criminals, Doyal found time to hate hippies. It was cool and all if you agreed with his politics, but most hippies (in Olympia, at least) were lazy and arrogant, as if growing dreadlocks and wearing wool ponchos was really all you needed to earn a permanent right to smugness. They’d pipe up in political conversations, and often as not, even though they were agreeing with Doyal, the actual point they were making would be inane and ill informed and Doyal’s forehead vein would start to pulse as he tried to tell people who agreed with him that they were complete idiots.

Plus, one day almost all of Doyal’s clothes were stolen out of a drier in the laundromat on campus. All his favorite shirts, a couple good pairs of pants, socks, underwear, all gone. We knew it was hippies, because there really wasn’t any other significant group of people on campus. And Doyal’s already given to getting aggravated all the time, and his roommates are always bagging on him for being short, and he wasn’t getting laid and it was just all bad. Doyal was totally, completely pissed.

A couple days later, it got worse. We lived with a guy named Andy Miller The Lady Killer, and Andy had this giant fat bastard of a friend who came over once or twice. One afternoon, when Andy was away visiting his girlfriend in Seattle, the big giant friend came into our house uninvited and took a half-hour shit in our bathroom. I don’t mean a guy with a beer gut or anything, I mean one of those huge fuckers where you pause and wonder how they got that way, like if there’s something medically wrong with them. You wonder if their bones are okay; like, if women with large breasts develop back trouble, and those boobs only weigh a few pounds, what kind of permanently screwed up spinal disaster is THIS guy carrying around with his 100-pound gut hanging off the front of him? It was the kind of fat where, instead of just looking like the larger version of a normal-sized person, you look like a factory screw-up with extra body parts badly stuffed in there.

I don’t mean to be cruel, but I do want you to understand, darling reader, that this was the guy who hijacked our toilet and sat in there shitting for half an hour. It pissed me off. I’d have probably left him alone otherwise.

So the dude finally comes out of the bathroom and we’re all irritated but not quite mad enough to say something to him, and he comes into the living room and he makes a pained face.

“Oh, man, I think I pulled my back in there,” he says, and walks out through the big living room window we used as a door.

Everybody’s nervous as hell. What did this fucking guy do to our toilet? Is it safe to pee in the house, or are we treeing it until further notice?

We waited for the stink to air out and then three of us went in there to scope out the situation. We agreed that the best thing to do would be a test flush, so if it backs up it would just be water and not somebody’s pee getting on the floor. It’s a risk, but we can’t do a test plunge, because the water in the bowl isn’t high enough for that to work.

So we held our breath.

I reached out and put my hand on the lever. I looked at my roommates. They nodded, yes, do it.

I flushed and we all jumped back.

And the water went right down the toilet. No problem. Whew. We all breathed a giant sigh of relief and went back into the living room to have some beer.

Half an hour after that, our roommate Rob goes into the bathroom to take a leak and flushes the toilet and all hell breaks loose.

He flushes, and GALLONS of disgusting shit water come gushing up out of the pipes. To this day I have no idea how the physics of this worked but Rob starts screaming in the bathroom and runs out into the hallway and we all spring up to see what’s happening and the entire bathroom floor is being flooded with brown water. And it wasn’t watered down, either: that foulness was thick.

It flowed throughout the entire little side room where the toilet was, across the middle room with the two sinks, into the bath-and-shower room on the other side, and finally crept up against the little edge at the bottom of the doorway into the hall.

The bathroom had linoleum floors.

The hallway was carpet.

We had no idea how much more water was going to keep bubbling up out of this hellhole that foul tubby asshole had made out of our toilet, so we had to think fast – how were we going to sop up all this shitty water before it overflowed onto the carpet? The entire bathroom floor was wall-to-wall covered and the water was still flowing. This was an emergency.

Inspiration struck: we’d have to raid the free box.

Right outside the student center where the pizza place and the laundromat were, there was a free “box” (aka “wooden dumpster”) where people dropped off old sweatshirts and pants and t-shirts and crappy books and scratched CDs, so the hippies could just raid that when they needed new clothes or a plastic disc that used to play music. We sprinted to the free box, grabbed as many absorbent-looking cotton clothes as we could hold and sprinted back. We threw the sweaters and socks and pants all over the bathroom floor and thank God, there was no overflow – the shitty water was contained entirely to the linoleum bathroom floor. We were geniuses!

We decided to drink a bunch more beer and some whisky and give the clothes time to sop up as much liquid as possible before setting to the gruesome task of lifting those clothes into garbage bags and getting them the hell out of the apartment. The smell was unbelievable.

I don’t think you know just how bad you can hate somebody until his actions force you to lift dripping crap-soaked clothes into a bag. The bag won’t stay open by itself; you’ve got to get somebody to crouch down holding it open while the other guy uses a stick or something to pick up the clothes. You have to be careful not to drip on the outside of the bag. The guy holding the bag has his face right there where you’re stuffing the clothes. It’s awful. Doyal and I took the first round, crouching by the door to the bathroom and switching off who held the bag. When we had a couple bags done, we walked them through the apartment and out the window towards the dumpsters.

So as we’re walking to the dumpsters, I look over at Doyal and I can tell he’s at the complete end of his rope, anger-wise. The guy is ready to kill somebody. First the hippies steal all his clothes and now this. And then I see a little glint flash up in his eye and a tiny smile crack the sides of his face. I know exactly what he’s thinking and he looks at me and I say, “You wanna put these right back in the free box?”

Doyal says, “Fuck yes.”

So that’s just what we did.

Words: Sean Murray
Art: Manuel Martinez

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A note on character names

So, these are all stories about real people from real life.

Me, I'm pretty firmly convinced that everyone's got some insane stories in their lives. Everyone's done stuff we all know you're not supposed to do. Everybody's been selfish, stupid, cruel, horny, reckless, venal. We're frail on all levels: physically, mentally, emotionally. We make our missteps in varying degrees of magnitude, of course, but I've come over the years to acknowledge and believe that we all fuck up, and while those fuck-ups carry consequences they don't always speak with finality to our quality as people. This is a fancy way of saying I used to be up on my high horse about everyone, and then I acted like an asshole and had to come down off it, and I actually like it better down here. Hell, I often like a person better when their damage is up-front and on the surface and accessible. I like the honesty of it.

That said, some of my friends and loved ones live lives more public than others and fall under more scrutiny as a result. And there are still plenty of people running around on their high horses to make life tough for those of us who would otherwise be happy to have our screw-ups aired out and funny instead of closeted and sad. And most of the poor bastards in these stories are my friends, so I have to treat their well-being with at least a pinch of deference.

Starting now, then, I won't necessarily be using folks' real names on the blog. I'm not going to say when a name is real and when it isn't, and I hope everyone reading this will play along. It'll be weird for a minute but then it won't be weird anymore. Like when you realize you're gay.

Oh, there's a story about that. That'll be a fun one.



A note from the artist:

I want to apologize in much the same way Sean has done. At no point did we intend to violate anyone’s privacy. I fell off my high horse so long ago that all this is nothing but fun and love for those times in our lives when we failed in the most amazing way. And those moments more often than not gives us the best stories when we look back at our lives. Again my sincerest apologies.


OH! And thank you at the same time. Having the opportunity to draw these moments has been my most humble privilege.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Doyal gets something scarier than VD

The shortest guy who lived in the apartment was a pissed-off Texan named Doyal.

Doyal had two blue, ropey veins in his forehead that would pop out like angry V-shaped eyebrows in a cartoon when you pissed him off. It was pretty easy to piss him off, too, so the other five of us living in the Evergreen campus apartment always tried to keep him angry as possible so we could see the veins. Plus, instead of saying he was pissed, he would say, “I’m so aggravated right now,” which we also thought was funny as hell.


He was from Austin, which meant he had all kinds of crazy swaggering Texas pride and cool stories about inner tubing down the river and Lone Star beer and needless near-death experiences with short-fuse rednecks. But he was also the most loudmouth liberal guy in the house and he’d never shut up about whatever Bush was doing that week to end the world, or how Israel was committing war crimes. And 9/11 had happened literally the day before we all arrived on campus so it was kind of a charged time anyway.

One of the mainstay features of our apartment was that at all times somebody was designated Most Hated Roommate. You could get this title for being an asshole, like the time Darren used a blanket from the living room couch to clean up his room after some messy sex, and then refused to wash the blanket. You could get it for drinking all the beer when the rest of us were asleep, which was Tyler’s forte.

But Doyal was the all-time Champion Most Hated Roommate. He held the title the most often and for the longest stretches at a time. He was the perfect storm: we were all arrogant, but he was arrogant and from the south. We were all poor cheapskates, but he was the cheapest of us all and brought home the nastiest cheap food. Plus, if nobody was leading the pack in terms of dickishness, we could give the title to Doyal and he’d be angry that it was unfair and he’d get aggravated and, again, the veins would come out.

So one day, we’re all getting drunk and we start bagging on Doyal again and he gets sick of it. He takes off and goes to some party by himself. And he’s trying to forget his pain-in-the-ass roommates when he meets this totally hot girl at the party. Boring story short, she’s drinking up a storm, he’s drinking up a storm, and they end up back at our apartment, drunkenly pawing at each other in Doyal's bed before they both pass out.

Doyal wakes up the next day and the bed is wet. Right in the middle. And she’s still there.

Thinking quickly, he hops out of bed, trots down the hall to take a shower, cleans himself off and makes some coffee.

The girl wakes up and, since it’s just her in the bed soaked with pee, she assumes it was her. Of course, she’s horrified, and she walks out sheepishly to confess to Doyal. She feels awful. She wants to make it up to him. Doyal is so sweet and forgiving, she balls him on the overstuffed chair Doyal stole from the student center and kept in his bedroom.

Now, it may sound at this point like this is a story about Doyal getting over on some poor girl like some kind of calculating sleazebag. But for one, Doyal was desperate. And for two, in the end, she got one over on him.

See, after the sex and the cleanup shower and, “Oh, that was nice,” she’s almost on her way out the door when she grabs Doyal'sarms and leans in with an ashen look on her face:

“Listen, nobody can find out about this.”

Doyal shrugs and goes to console her, of course not, the thing with the bed is just between us, don’t worry about it, it’s no big deal.

“No, that’s not what I mean,” she tells him. “My boyfriend is a drug dealer. Like, he owns guns. A bunch of them.”


Doyal: “Seriously?”


“Yeah, and he’s really, really jealous, and he’s gonna want to know where I was last night. I'll have to make something up. So just, like, be careful, okay?”

She gives him a quick kiss and whisks out of the apartment, leaving Doyal standing there with the pee on his sheets seeping into his mattress and a pretty puzzling question to chew over: Will the girl who got fooled into thinking she'd wet the bed be clever enough to fool her methed out, gun-toting drug dealer boyfriend?

Doyal told us the story, of course, but he told it in his bedroom, with the door closed, whispering. At every party we went to, for months, he looked over his shoulder constantly, a few times getting so worked up and nervous he made us leave for no reason except he thought "maybe that's the guy" and he was about to get shot.


None of us ever saw that girl again, but I always wanted to throw her the high five. She got him way worse than any of the rest of us.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Super Bowl Boxing, part two: One-Armed Nate

One-Armed Nate was a cool dude, but not the kind everybody would like. He was a total punk rock asshole and he’d come to our house with cheap bottles of whiskey and we’d all get blackout drunk and raise some hell. Mostly that meant destroying our apartment, then going to some party and getting kicked out for being assholes.

He didn’t exactly have one arm; his left arm had grown funny and it was super-short, maybe the length of a baby arm. The hand had three or four stubby fingers and the whole appendage was really only good for hanging his backpack or lifting a bottle of whiskey to his mouth. In fact, it was the perfect size for that, and that was its primary use almost any time I ever saw the guy.

He was pretty pissed about the whole thing. I remember him getting drunk and getting mad and telling me, “I didn’t do anything wrong. What kind of fucked up asshole God just decided I deserved this? I DIDN’T DO ANYTHING WRONG.” He didn’t look at his arm as he spoke -- he just nodded his head back at it, like it was a person he hated standing at the other side of the room. To this day I get kind of a chill when I remember that.

I also can’t separate One-Armed Nate from Evan Williams whiskey. It was his trademark. He was pretty much always packing a bottle. A lot of guys ended up with reliable bourbon brands, stuff you knew they’d have on them if they had scrounged up any money at all, and that was his. He loved the stuff; it had a label like Jim Beam or Jack Daniels, but it was barely better than stuff like Old Crow.

All right, back to the fight: One-Armed Nate is in the ring with some asshole -- I mean, really, who gets in a ring to fight a guy with one arm? -- and he’s beating the crap out of Nate, who doesn’t appear to be trying very hard. He’s just sucking up punishment.

The guy gets Nate pushed up against the crowd, and Nate reaches down with his one, gloved hand and pulls up his shirt, and he shouts at the guy, “Bring it!”

Then, as the guy goes to town beating the hell out of Nate’s chest and stomach, Nate reaches back with the stump arm and tells somebody to give him that bottle of Evan Williams bourbon, which appears miraculously from the crowd. He grabs it, pivots it up to the ceiling and chugs whiskey. Bubbles are coming up from the neck. He finishes drinking and hands the bottle back to the crowd.

It’s like Popeye just sucked a can of spinach through his pipe.

One-Armed Nate drops his shirt, hauls back and knocks that other guy flat on his ass.

Seriously. He beat the shit out of the guy and it took him all of about five seconds. He just pulled back that one fist, powered it into the guy’s face and the dude was out cold on the floor.
The whole room exploded into belligerent joy. We were all shouting at the top of our lungs, overflowing with an insane raucous drive to kick the walls down and huck rocks at everything and chug beers and whiskey bottles and play loud music and punch each other.

It was right around then I decided that One-Armed Nate was the coolest guy I ever met.

A brief epilogue, if the reader will allow: Nate came around the next day when we were making hangover breakfasts and drinking screwdrivers. He was in a t-shirt and he lifted it up to show us the single largest bruise I believe I’ll ever see in my life. It was six or seven inches wide, started at his belly and went up to his armpit. It wasn’t black-and-blue: it was solid ink black, the whole way around.

So, of course, we poured Nate a good stiff drink and raised a glass to the awesome success of Super Bowl Sunday Fight Night.

Words: Sean Murray
Art: Manuel Martinez

Monday, November 2, 2009

Super Bowl Boxing, part one

I was scrawny when I was a kid and got beat up a lot and it scared the shit out of me, so when I discovered in college that if you drink a bunch of whiskey getting hit doesn’t really hurt, I took to fighting all the time.

It got a little rough. In my mind, I was basically a one-man Fight Club. I’d get liquored up and then go around poking at everybody in the house and asking them if they wanted to fight. I thought I was being reasonably friendly. I usually found somebody who’d wrestle with me for a bit, kick my ass and then sit down with me for more whiskey. That part was rad.

But it turned out I was a little too excitable. One morning I came out of my room and I saw Darren, who was the sweetest, gentlest roommate I ever had, and he said, “You gotta stop punching people in the face, dude. It’s, ah, not very cool.”

I was pretty stunned, as most folks wouldn’t sign up for punching and so the Fight Club thing was usually more like wrestling. I developed a pretty savage choke hold headlock move that a lot of people told me was fighting dirty, but I figured was just a technique that worked for a guy like me who had no actual fighting skills. All I really wanted was the tap-out. Or to be shown that, no, in fact tonight it would be me who tapped out. Either way was fine, really.

So, the fact that I’d been not only punching people, but punching them in the face, and without their permission, was pretty surprising news, but this was a time in my life where “strange things that happen when you’re blacked out” was a pretty broad category of events and I just shrugged and told Darren I’d try to knock it off.

Super Bowl Sunday comes around, and I don’t give a crap about football but I am all kinds of excited about grilling meat. So we set up a barbecue outside the apartment and I stood out there with about 15 pounds of hamburger meat and some chicken and some hot dogs and a 12-pack of Miller Genuine Draft.

All my roommates and my girlfriend Molly and a bunch of other people gather up in the living room to watch the game, and I just grill burger after burger and pass them in through the window, cracking beer can after beer can, and for maybe an hour-and-a-half that’s my whole world. I loved it. Beer. Fire. Sizzling meat. Man. I am MAN.

So I drink all 12 beers and then somebody I know comes walking by and I offer him a hamburger, because at this point I’ve cooked up two big packages of hot dogs and I’ve crammed two hamburgers into everybody’s hand that’s inside the apartment and this fire isn’t going anywhere and this meat isn’t getting any more fresh. I’m not backing down from this barbecue. And my friend says, no, thanks, I’m going to go over to the boxing ring they set up in that apartment over there.

That was when I completely lost my shit.

“There’s a BOXING RING? Can anybody fight?” I shout, and my buddy says he thinks so. I put the lid on the barbecue and forget about the remaining meat and run over to the apartment where, yes, some people have set up a boxing ring of sorts. Really, they just got a bunch of rowdy people in a room, cleared out the middle of it and found two pairs of boxing gloves. The ring is bordered by people instead of ropes.

I am completely in heaven. This is the greatest thing I’ve ever seen. I can’t wait to fight. And guess what? There’s my buddy Tim!

Loyal readers will remember Tim as the big Alaskan dude who got his face scraped across a gravel driveway trying to stop a fleeing car with nothing but his mitts and his attitude. Tim and I have done a lot of bonding over our shared problems with anger and I figure this is perfect! I run up to him.

“Tim! Tim, you gotta fight me!” I shout in his face, a giant smile plastered across mine. “This is awesome!”

Tim’s not too drunk, and as much of a tornado as he is drunk, he’s a pretty reasonable guy and a great friend when he’s not completely off his ass. So Tim holds his palms up in faux-surrender and says, “I’m not gonna fight you, Sean, don’t worry about it, buddy.”

I see what he’s doing – he’s not going to fight me just because he’s way bigger than me and he’d completely destroy me in anything that resembled a fight. But remember, I’m on the outside of a dozen beers and I’m all testosteroney from barbecuing. I feel stoked and invincible and I won’t take no for an answer.

So I start calling Tim a pussy and pushing him a little and teasing him and prodding him, and he sticks to his guns and won’t fight me so I decide I have to turn up the punk rock attitude in this place even more.

“I’ll fight anybody here,” I shout at the top of my lungs, waving my fists in the air like I’m already the champion. “Who’s man enough to fight me, huh?”

Well, it turns out there’s a guy there who has actually competed in Golden Gloves amateur boxing competitions and actually knows what he’s doing and recognizes me for the foul-mouthed obnoxious asswipe I’m being and decides to teach me a lesson.

I don’t remember too much about the actual fight except that I got my ass handed to me, but I never fell all the way down. I was incredibly proud of that. We’d come at each other from across the ring, me windmilling like a lunatic and him ducking my first punch and then pummeling me for a bit. He punched me into the crowd finally and turned around to brag it up a little, holding his arms out for applause, and I ran back into the ring and punched him hard as I could in the back of the head.

He turned around and pummeled me again.

Then he turned around to gloat, and I punched him in the back of the head again.

This went on for a while. Tim told me later it was the longest fight of the night. I don’t know if I can describe, actually, how proud that made me at the time.

Eventually I can’t even really hold my hands up and Tim convinces me it’s time to admit the other guy won. My head is ringing so badly I can hardly see. I run outside and throw up in some bushes, and then run back inside to see the next fight, because, dude, there’s fighting in there!

I run inside to find two guys in the ring. One of them, I don't know. The other one? He's a guy we called One-Armed Nate.


Words: Sean Murray
Art: Manuel Martinez

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Misadventures of Isaiah Flowers

Guess what? There were drugs all over the place at The Evergreen State College when I went there. Shocking, right?

Some of it was intense. Some kid took too much Special K (which I’d theretofore thought was a breakfast cereal) and died foaming at the mouth on somebody’s kitchen floor.

Another kid went to a party at a house right on the lake near campus, where he started by drinking a bottle of Evan Williams and shoveling ten or twelve lines of coke into his face. Then he ran down to the little dock behind the house, hopped in a canoe and bailed, never to be heard from again. Nobody could figure out how he managed to disappear with a canoe, but there you go.

Mostly people just smoked weed and drank cheap-ass beer, but another fun one was mushrooms. I thought once that I had killed a man in our apartment, and mushrooms were a part of that story, but for now I want to share the tale of Isaiah Flowers.

Now, if there’s really some dude out there named Isaiah Flowers, I want to emphasize that this story is not about you and you shouldn’t sue me or Spitball Press. This is about some douchebag who called himself Isaiah Flowers and had some mushroom adventures on campus and in the Olympia woods and ended up a campus legend.

Isaiah Flowers was pals with a couple of my roommates and a total Trustafarian – one of those children of financially-comfortable white families who came to Evergreen and stopped washing their hair and started pretending they were poor. In the women’s cases, they cut out shaving their armpits, too, which struck me a touch insincere as a form of protest since they continued shaving their legs. A lot of these assholes grew dreadlocks. I’ve come to forgive and even embrace a lot of hippie practices over the years, like Merle Haggard before me, but damn, I cannot abide a white guy with dreads. I mean, I like to pretend I’m black sometimes too, like when I’m in the car and a really good angry DMX song comes on and I start rapping along as long as no one is looking, but come on, guys.

Anyway, one day Isaiah’s going about his day, talking about Michael Moore and smoking pot and banging on a tribal Native American drum, when he lucks out and gets access to some shrooms and chews a bunch of ‘em down with my roommate and a few other people.

Hours later, he takes off all his clothes and wanders out into the woods. Nobody sees him for the rest of the night, but everybody’s high and they don’t want to call the cops because, you know, what if they get arrested?

So the next day everybody wakes up and through the hangover fuzz they start realizing, Oh shit, our buddy ran off into the woods naked! I hope he’s okay! What should we do?

The answer, of course, is to make some hangover screwdrivers and agree to revisit the issue later in the day.

Well, they were saved the trouble, because Isaiah comes stumbling out of the woods in the mid-afternoon. But here’s the thing:

He’s covered in blood. From his face all down his chest.

He has no idea why.

A week or so later, the legend goes, rangers found a deer carcass out in the woods that had odd teeth marks in it. “Odd” as in “not recognizably made by the teeth of wildlife in this area.”

So, you tell me what happened there.

The next time I heard of the exploits of Isaiah Flowers, he was already in a jail cell.

Again, our hero ate a bunch of mushrooms. And again, he left his home to seek his balls-tripping fortune.

This time, he wandered around campus until he met an elderly couple walking their dog.

Now, nobody knows the provocation, here: maybe the old man was grouchy. Maybe the dog growled at Isaiah. But whatever the reason, Isaiah decided to keep it real and teach these punk idiots a lesson about trying to walk your dog.

First, he punched that dog in the head. BLA-DOW!

Then he punched the old man in the face! BOOM!

Then he knocked the old lady over. KARATE PUSH!

Isaiah fled the scene of his awesome victory over the retired couple and their golden retriever. Along the way he knocked in some people’s windows for fun, because he was super excited about how he just overcame the adversity of having to walk past four pairs of legs.

Then the police found him.

Flowers led the dirty, stinkin’ coppers on a chase all over campus, because apparently he was all juiced up on adrenaline or something by this point. He ducked behind trees, knocked over trash cans to create confounding roadblocks and ended up in the parking lot.

They had him cornered. He had no choice.

Isaiah Flowers jumped up onto the hood of a green SUV, shouted, “Fuck you, pigs!” and head-butted his face through the windshield, knocking himself out cold.

The next day, he was arraigned for seven or eight felonies. Somebody made a banner for him that was posted in the student center: “Free Isaiah Flowers.” There were little drawings of flowers all over it.

I’m pretty sure the banner didn’t work and they didn’t free him. But you never know.

Words: Sean Murray
Art: Manuel Martinez

Friday, October 16, 2009

Tim's Face Proves an Ineffective Substitute for Brake Pads

I lived in Olympia, Washington, for a year-and-a-half beginning the day after 9/11. The drive up there was pretty intense but I’ll save that for another day.

One of my favorite people I met up there was my buddy Tim. Tim was from Alaska so he was crazy as a shithouse rat. He was a big dude, like 6-feet-2 and burly, with a bald head and a huge red beard and a bull ring in his nose. He was huge, and he liked to get piss drunk and break into our apartment in the middle of the night and grab all the food out of our freezer and throw it down the hallway. He almost got me killed at a monster truck show in Tacoma. He was a former private investigator. One time he was asking where the bottle opener was and I told him to stop being a pussy and open that beer with his teeth and he did.


So, one day Tim throws a party. He gets all his batshit Alaska friends out there, and all his stoner hippie friends, and all his alcoholic friends (like me) and his gun-collecting scary-as-shit redneck friends all in this one house stocked with Olympia beers and Fighting Cock Bourbon and vodka mixed with Kool-Aid mix.

So, Tim’s high as a kite on playing host. He’s completely stoked. And he’s totally tanked. And a little group of three or four people goes to leave, ‘cause they’re not super excited about the rednecks getting ready to beat the living shit out of the hippies.

They get in their car in his driveway, and he asks, “Where’s so-and-so?” Somebody says, “Oh, they just left, you might still catch them,” and Tim goes sprinting across the living room – THUD, THUD, THUD – and out the door. He catches their car as they’re turning around to drive out the gravel driveway, and he runs up in front of the car and starts slapping the windshield and shouting at them.



Everybody in the car is terrified. Only one person in the car knew Tim and everyone else just sees this giant pierced drunk blur of shouty crackers roaring and slapping the car. The driver rolls down the window and Tim comes around to lean his head in and start shouting at everybody to stay. I’m standing on the porch watching all this and loving it.

The driver says, “Okay, we gotta go, thanks for the party, good night,” and starts to pull away slowly.

But Tim ain’t having it. He grabs the driver-side door where the window is rolled down and pulls on it to try and stop the car. He’s a huge dude, but it’s not enough. The driver keeps moving. And everyone in the car is screaming at her to hurry up, because now they’re all terrified. Mind you, Tim’s only trying to be friendly, but he can be a scary dude.

For a few feet, Tim manages to hang on to the car and skid on his feet, like he’s water skiing or something. Then he looses his footing and goes to fall down. But he refuses to let go of the car with his right arm. He goes down, the car keeps moving… and Tim gets dragged for 20 feet, face down across the gravel driveway, before he finally lets go and the car rolls into the street and away down into its own future.

Everyone on the porch is horrified.

A moment goes by.

We all look at each other, mouths wide open in that half-laugh you can’t help when you don’t know for sure just exactly how fucked up what just happened was.

Another moment.

And Tim gets up. He trots on back into the house and the entire side of his face is scraped raw, covered in blood. He looks like Two-Face. And he’s got a big fat smile on his face and he wants another beer and some whiskey.


Boy, his girlfriend was pissed.

Words: Sean Murray
Art: Manuel Martinez

Monday, August 24, 2009

Welcome to Spitball Press!

The best stories are conversations.

I mean, I love the Lone Traveler trope as much as anyone. "A stranger comes to town," as the feller said. But even then, it's not so much the silent man on the horse that makes a story; it's the conversations about him. The buzzing of the townspeople. The inevitable clash when the man apart comes in out of the rain.

It's not just the dialogue, though my favorite writers all share a great talent for it. A conversation isn't all words. But the meaty bits all come when one character finds another, and the verbs start coming in to play: talk, demand, ask, wonder, worship, adore, despise, embrace, destroy. These are all elements of conversation.

The blog you're presently visiting is the result of conversation. This blog, the publishing house that necessitated it, the story that necessitated the publishing house, the friendship that necessitated the story.

Manuel Martinez and I met working in a restaurant. We got along right away, but I remember clearly the moment I knew we were friends. Standing in the kitchen, waiting on food to come out or customers to come in, Manuel told me a story.

That story led to one of mine, which reminded him of one of his, and in short order we were in a bar with empty shot glasses and half-drank beers on the table between us and we were making up a new story.

Conversation: it's both the form and the substance of the best stories.

This is Spitball Press. We are new, and we make comics. We are:

* Manuel Martinez, who will shortly be one of your favorite new comics artists,

* Denise Auerbach, affectionately and fearfully known as The Boss, and

* Sean Murray, your humble writer.

This blog will, in the coming months, be a record of our struggles, a showcase for our art and a home base for our comics.

But most, I hope, it will be a conversation. Please, come make yourself at home.