THE ZIPPER CLUB – A 4 page preview!

A lot of radio silence out of me of late, but I’m happy to be reporting back with some good news on the front of The Zipper Club. The book is now fully colored and in the final stages of production before it will go off to the printers in a week or two! To celebrate, I’m in the mood to throw up a little preview of how the book will look in it’s newly colored form.

As of now, the book is fully illustrated and the color flats have been placed while Brenda closes out the color details on last ten or so pages while I work out the whole look of the book, production-wise. We’ve got about 10 extra pages of content we’re adding to the book, including a foreword by Joyce McClain, the woman responsible for creating the real Camp Bravehearts upon which the camp in The Zipper Club is based and took it’s name, a few fun pin-ups with heart-healthy tips for kids from artists Michelle Silva, (artist and co-creator of my first comic, Love Buzz from Oni Press!) Joe Duncan, Casey Bug, Lauren Perry, and young comic book up-and-comer and fellow CHD survivor, Stephan Lapin. The book is finally coming together brilliantly, and I’ve just ordered a large quantity of t-shirts in all sizes for kids and adults that are now available in The Long Odds store!

So, what do you think?! Hit us in the comments or email me directly @ to voice any questions, comments, or concerns! It’s great to be back in the saddle!


Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die – Part II

This post was half written a couple of months ago as a direct follow-up to Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die – Part I, just before I fell ill and lost part of my hearing. If you notice any jumps between past and present tenses, that’s probably why. 


After Dad’s memorial service ended, the family packed up into our respective cars and drove off to get a late afternoon lunch at a local Mexican food joint that our dad was always fond of, where my brother, mom, and I got to sit down to a big lunch with the half of the family that we’d only had rare connections with for such a long time, ever since the divorce of our parents and all the drama that tends to go with that sort of event. My dad’s brothers, my uncles Warren and Ken were great through the process of helping Alex and I navigate through the heart-breakingly surreal experience of losing a parent, and getting to see how all of our younger cousins had grown up and become people we could hold conversations with was pretty cool, too. I really wish I’d gotten more pictures of the family together, but I never really think of using my camera for moments of sentiment, so much as to capture dumb things I see and find funny. (Got one of those coming up, actually!) In the spirit of my the bawdy Ward sense of humor which is our trademark, I couldn’t help finding the apparently filthy sense of humor behind the maker of the restaurant’s menu and figuring this might have been part of the appeal that the place probably held with the Ward part of my brain. It was probably stuff like the “Dirty Sanchez” burrito that attracted Dad eat there so often.

The lunch came and went and the family parted ways, as Alex and I had to get back to Kentucky so he wouldn’t miss work. On the way  back though, Alex and I took a small detour through the town of Macon Georgia, where we were both born and only have a small selection of memories from. As the ride went on, Alex and I began speculating ideas for shit we thought would be funny to do with Dad’s ashes. Coming up with horrible ideas such as driving up beside our Mom in her Prius, opening the urn, scooping out a handful of Dad, and firing it across her windshield. It’s not that my mom and dad didn’t get along. They had made some form of peace over the last couple of years after my dad had decided to stop fucking up, but as I feel is probably likely with any divorced couple who stays in contact for one reason or another, the sometimes it can be fun to get on your ex’s nerves. After the divorce and my dad’s absence from our lives, they made peace when he came back, even becoming friendly with one another, albeit with slight undertones of friendly antagonism. Dad, much like myself, was a needler. If he could find a way to give the people he cared about shit and make it funny, he’d move a mountain to do it.

We also talked about mixing some of my dad’s remains into a batch of weed and bringing Willie Nelson’s prophecy to life. I recently took “my Dad” into an open mic night at a local comedy club, intending to put his urn in a chair on stage and perform a short roast, (which went comically horrible and will make up its own chapter in this story later on) and smuggled his ashes into the movie theater to see the new Jackass: Bad Grandpa movie in tribute to dad’s fascination with Johnny Knoxville and dudes getting paid to injure their testicles.


So, we’ve come up with a few loose plans for funny things to do with Dad’s remains while we keep him around, some of which we’ve already enacted, others of which, we’re planning to space out across the remainder of the year. The point of these little exercises in morbidity are to spend some time giving the man a fun little ride that would be just fucked up enough to be something he would have appreciated. We’ve come up with a couple of ideas that we think would be pretty hilarious, but I don’t want to spoil them just yet. Overall, I’m thinking if I take enough pictures and document the experiences here, it might make for a pretty funny book. The ultimate plan in doing all of this will culminate in an extended cross-country road trip to discover our dad’s final resting place. I’m thankful for the growth of a relationship that happened between my dad and my brother in the last year of his life. Dad and I never quite got that chance, but the way that Alex tells it, he and dad had a conversation on one of his long, quiet trips across the country, driving trucks for J.B. Hunt, where he marveled over the phone about the massive, beautiful view of the ocean on a high shore in a place called Ilwaco, Washington. Dad had apparently at one point, mentioned in passing, the idea of being cremated and having his ashes scattered there. I don’t know if he was ever seriously thinking about this, and neither Alex, nor myself have ever been to Ilwaco, but the plan is to get in the car and begin the long drive across America to cause trouble and scatter our dad and give him the kind of deranged send off he’d have appreciated.

Stay tuned!




Cover Illustration by Casey Bug

So, despite a lot of the setbacks that have befallen me with my NaNoWriMo efforts, I still persist, albeit, about 6000 words behind schedule after a week-long road trip threw me way off course, but I’m bound and determined to catch up and hit 50,000 words by the end of the month if it kills me. In the spirit of this, I’ve decided to share the rough draft of my first chapter with everyone to give a taste for the bizarre story I’m cooking up here.

Check it out at the drop!


It was the not-so-distant rumblings of a disagreeable bowel that snapped Bingham Barlow out of the sun-stroked stupor he had slipped into while standing in the center field position on the baseball diamond of Blue Dog County Municipal Park. The weather had reached the mid 90’s, which meant an unbearable time for players like Bing and his teammates in their questionably breathable uniforms, but unfortunately not too hot that it would cause a county wide heat advisory to have the game shut down or postponed.  

Bing’s team, the Owl’s who had no interest in such a boring sport, but whose parents, like many others, had decided that their children should be signed up for the league in between football and basketball season as well in order to keep their little white, suburban boys “off the drugs” and “out of violence gangs”.  In the little league pecking order, the Owl’s while Bing’s team, the Bobcats, would be considered the lowly, bottom-feeding guppies in the league. Every game the against the Owl’s this season had ended in a bloodbath to rival any number of the grizzly stylized murders that Bing and his friends would stay up late to watch on Channel 7 Friday Night Frights. 

The Owl’s had gotten in two more runs that inning before the Bobcat’s got to take another chance at bat. The team’s morale was low enough from the shellacking they usually took from the Owls, the brutal heat of the day was enough to drive each of them out of their skins.  Bing’s best friend, Eric Porter sat down on the bench next to him and offered him a handful from the bag of sunflower seeds he had been eating from and spitting mangled shells onto the dugout floor. 

“So, I’ve almost got enough money saved up for launch day on the Nintendo Wii next week. You down for to stay over and get into some Mario Galaxy shit.” Eric said with a nudge.

“Yeah, man. Sounds awesome. Your folks gonna be cool with it?” Bing replied.

“Dude, my mom loves you. Won’t be a problem.”  

The boys paused and chewed their sunflower seeds. The heat was making even talking a labor of epic proportions. 

“You seen the trailers for the Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition?” Eric finally asked. 

“Nah man, what’s that?” Bing asked. 

“Oh, you’ve gotta see it! Hang on.” Eric said, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a his smartphone. “It’s basically the same game as the Game Cube one, but like… You have all the different weird ass movement controls that come with the Wii, so you can like… Actually slash and shoot at zombies and shit. It looks totally corn nuts!”

Bing took a handful of sunflower seeds and shoveled them into his mouth as Eric thumbed around with his smartphone, trying to find the video to show him, but Bing’s mind had begun to wander elsewhere, back to the big hug he’d gotten from Eric’s mom, Mrs. Porter just before the game started.  Mrs. Porter’s breasts were the things of pubescent boy legend. Big, soft, perfumed, and in the heat of summer, always on stunning display.  The woman was generous with a hug and her cleavage had given Bing a newfound appreciation for the lost art. Mrs. Porter, an enthusiastic sports lover, got excited whenever anything positive happened for the Bobcats with lots of fist pumping, shouting, and best of all, jumping in the stands.  Bing had a crush on his best friend’s mom since before he was ever aware what a crush was and those thoughts kept him preoccupied as he continued to sweat all the moisture out of his body in those dragging, brain cell-sucking moments in the field. 

Aaron McCormick, the team kiss ass who was otherwise known as “the coaches pet” tapped a pen against the clip-board he carried that contained the batting order before looking up and calling out to the team. “Barlow, you’re on deck.”

Bing let out a labored groan as he reached for his favorite bat, an old wooden Louisville Slugger full of cracks and dents and slipped a baseball doughnut around it so he could get in a few practice swings before his time came.  His first go at the plate only served to put him on base with a four ball walk, which meant a lot of standing on first waiting for someone to hit the ball so SOMETHING might happen.  Just as Bing started taking his practice swings and contemplating the easiest way to strike out, he heard a voice speaking lowly to him from behind the fence. 

“You’re gonna wanna swing low, kid.” said a man in an expensive gray business suit with well-styled hair, mirrored sunglasses, and a grin that Bing would later in life come to describe as “shit eating”.

“Huh?” Bing broke his batting stance and looked over his shoulder.

“That’s Josh Mayrik up there, right?” The man asked.

“Yeah…” Bing said, a little weirded out by the questions. 

“Mayrik always throws ’em just low enough to be legal. The reason he strikes so many people out is because they’re swinging too high.”

“Gee, thanks mister!” Bing said in his best ‘aw shucks’ tone “but all I’m looking for is a strike-out so we can all go home sooner than later.”

“Oh, that’s right…” The man said to no one in particular, as if he were just remembering something he’d clearly forgotten.

“What’s right?” Bing asked, finding this guy’s presence increasingly odd.

“Trust me. One day, you’re going to end up really enjoying this sport.” The man said.

“Are you kidding? The only thing I can think of more boring than this is watching golf on TV!” Bing said with a swing and a grunt. 

Bing then slung the bat up on a shoulder and looked at the man. “What’s your deal, anyway? You some kinda weirdo kid toucher or something?”

The older man chuckled dismissively. “We got a chain length fence and a ton of eyes between us. Even if that were what I was after, don’t you think I’d be smart enough to wait it out and corner you over by say, the bathrooms?”

“So you do know your way around the boys room, huh? Buzz off, sicko.” Bing dismissed. 

The man took a pause in his jabbering and Bing smiled to himself, thinking he’d managed to clip Chatty Cathy’s strings before the man exhaled and leaned into the fence. 

“Look, I don’t have time to drag this out. I’m you from the future, kid. Bingham Francis Barlow in…” The man paused for a second, looking him over, apparently trying to figure out how old the boy was. “Oh, about twenty years or so I’d guess?”

Bing stayed quiet and kept swinging the bat, hoping that not indulging this clown would make him go away.

“Kid, I’m not here to molest you.” The man said. 

“Well, that’s a relief…” Bing said, voice dripping with sarcasm as he kept swinging.

“I’m here because almost thirty years from now, you’ll be going to jail for a simple, stupid mistake.”

Bing stopped swinging then. The bat fell to his side and he looked at the older man through the fence like he had grown a second head. The look on the man’s face had no trace of sarcasm or joking.

Bing indulged him, “What? You gonna tell me to go to church or something?” 

“No, I’m going to teach you how to avoid it. Stay out of jail, stay undetected, and grow up to be a very wealthy old man who will want for nothing.” The man in the slick suit said, narrowing his eyes on the boys. 

Bing scoffed and went back to practicing his swing, choosing to ignore the weirdo in a suit, just as the weirdo leaned into the fence, casually curling his thin, manicured fingers into the chain-length and hanging there.

“Yeah, I wouldn’t believe me either…” the man said lowly. 

“Is this the part where you try and lure me over to your ‘Delorian’ with promises of candy and tickle fights?”

“What? No.” The older man protested. 

“Whatever, Stranger Danger…” Bing said with a roll of his eyes before letting his Lil’ Slugger cut through the wind.

“You’re on the fast track to something really special, kid. You don’t even realize it yet, but you’re going to overshadow everyone on you know in a matter of years. I just need a few minutes to ta–” the older man said 

“I said steer clear, poop smear!” Bing declared, cutting the man’s voice off and doing so loud enough that a couple people in the stands began to look to inspect the scene. 

“Alright, kid… Another time, then.” The man in the three-piece suit said, raising his eyebrows with his hands as he backed away from the fence slowly.

Bing went back to his erratic swinging regimen as he watched the man turn slowly away from the fence and walk away.  The boy could hear him crooning out a song over his shoulder as he walked away.

“Swing loooooow, sweet chaaa-ri-oooot! A’comin’ fore t’ carry me hooooome!” The man sang out in a rise, putting an old blues drawl on every enunciation, before his voice faded off into the distance on the fall. “Swing loooo-hoooow, sweet chaaaaah-ri-ooo-hot! A’comin’ fore t’carry me hoooome…”

Bing gave the man another bemused look as he disappeared behind some trees and snorted to himself and looked up to see Higgins finally struck out at the plate. 

“Me from the future…” Bing scoffed under his breath, making his way to the plate.  

 “Dude must think I’m a bigger asshole than he is.”

“STEP ON IT, BARLOW!” The coach shouted impatiently, ejaculating nicotine-flecked ropes of spittle down onto the back Collin McAfry’s neck, causing the boy to wake from his heat-induced stupor and check the sky for rain with a brief gleam of hope in his eyes before realizing what the brown, viscous liquid really was and being sent into the very driest of heaves. 

Bing hefted the bat onto his shoulder, bumping it clumsily against the side of his neck as he dragged his feet to the plate. Taking a wide batting stance, he white-knuckled both hands around the cudgel’s rubber grip and stared down the mound into the eyes of the Bobcat’s pitcher, Josh Mayerik. Bing knew Mayerik from a couple of different games the Bobcat’s had played against the Owl’s earlier in the season. Mayerik, unlike many of the teammates that Bing had come to sympathize with in a sort of kinship not unlike “brothers in arms”, loved everything about Little League baseball, from the camaraderie to the itchy, hot uniforms. Mayrik’s dad raised him to love every aspect of the game from not long after his little baby brain gained the neural plasticity needed to recognize what a “ball” was. Mayrik was famous for frequently bragging about the extensive baseball card collection his dad had accumulated which would one day belong to him, along with the prize of the collection, an original T206 Honus Wagner, otherwise known as the rarest and first baseball card ever to exist in the history of ever. Mayrik bragged about that card every day in school for a solid month when he finally wore his father down hard enough to let him bring a binder full of cards in for show and tell at age seven. As it stands, no classmates have gone on the record as having seen Mayrik’s father’s supposed Holy Grail of baseball cards, and most people over the years had secretly come to think of the kid as a way-to-obsessive blowhard about a great many things. Josh Mayrik was probably a bald-faced little liar about most things, but his dominance on the pitcher’s mound carried no air of exaggeration.

Mayerik spat in the dirt and proceeded with an attempt to look into Bing’s soul with an icy stare that his dad taught him before his first pitcher try-out years before. Bing had to consciously force his eyes to keep from rolling out of his skull as the stare passed through him for a moment like a White Castle slider without the bowel distress.  The pitcher made eyes down at the catcher, gave a silent nod of agreement and then turned eyes back to Bing, who was just looking forward to striking out and going home already.

Mayrik wound his arm up and fired the ball down the center of the plate as Bing swung at it half-heartedly.

“STRIKE ONE!” The umpire shouted into the air.

Bing watched that smirk beginning to curl on Mayrik’s face and something within him switched from annoyance to pure, vinegary piss. He took his batting stance again to go for another hit and Mayrik threw another heater right past as Bing’s bat cut the wind.

“STEEEEEE-RIKE TEEEW!” The ump called with the dramatic timber and mannerism that would make your overly-enthusiastic high school drama teacher swell with pride.

Bing was annoyed now.  As sick as he was of this game, he was becoming even sicker of the pitcher’s smirk began to curl slower than frying bacon. 

Pitch number three came, wild and outside. Bing stood still, letting it fly right past him. 

“Ball one!” The umpire called in a shorter and clearly less enthusiastic tone. 

Bing looked up at the mound to see a look of surprise on Mayrik’s face. A look of surprise. Shock. He clearly thought Bing was going to swing on that pitch and that fact began to bring that smirk down just a tad.  Suddenly, Bing felt one of his own begin to pull at the corners of his mouth as he took stance again and showed it to Mayrik.  

The wind-up. 

The pitch.

High, outside, and would have hit the umpire in dead center of his chest if the catcher weren’t some kind of clairvoyant. 

Bing felt the wave of tension that he usually got when he was in play on the baseball field leave his body suddenly. Almost as if watching Mayrik squirm on the mound and try to hide the fact that he’d been thrown off his game was giving him some kind of power.  Maybe he was turning around on his opinion of America’s favorite pastime.  Or perhaps he was appreciating his newfound ability to get in another person’s head as he roamed around inside Josh’s and started knocking things over and kicking his dirty shoes up on the furniture.

Mayrik took a full minute to shake it out and get his head back in the game. The icy stare came back, burning with more intensity than Bing had ever seen. Bing choked up on the bat as the pitch left Mayrik’s hand as a melody came into his head.  The pitch came in hard, straight, and fast, but Bing’s eyes followed the ball like it was spinning in over-produced bullet time.  The ball came in low and right down the center. Bing swung hard, connected, and sent it flying.

He didn’t even get an eye for where the ball was headed as he made his run for first base. Just before he hit the mat, he cocked an eyebrow as the Bobcat’s in the outfield began to slow their pace while looking up at the sky. Suddenly, a frenzy of hollering applause began to erupt from the comatose parents of the Owl’s and Bing looked up to see his ball landing with a thump, just six inches away from a blue BMW in the parking lot. He then looked around to see his team mate, Brett Welker, who had been stuck on second for the better part of the inning taking a leisurely Sunday stroll across the home plate.  Seeing this, Bing slowed his own pace and began walking, nay, strutting around the diamond, reveling in the disgusted smirks of the Owl’s base men as he passed them by. As he rounded third base he found himself humming a familiar tune that it took him a moment to place as the tune that weird attempted pedophile guy had walked off singing. 

The Bobcat parents in the stands cheered as Bing stamped his foot down on the home plate and proceeded back to the dug out for back pats, high fives, and adulation but all he could think about was the song, the guy’s advice, and the fact that without even consciously realizing it, the ball he’d swung on to wipe that smirk off Mayrik’s face was a low one. For a brief moment, all his talk of being “from the future” or whatever seemed a bit more eerie than coincidence.  

Soon, the inning ended and the Bobcat’s took to the field for the start of the eighth inning, Bing found himself scouting the areas outside the fence to see if the man had stuck around, but alas, Bing couldn’t find hide nor hair of him as far as the eye could see. Eventually, his mind drifted back to the fascination he had with Mrs. Porter and her giant boob hugs and forgot all about it. 

As the last two innings of the game went by, the Owls managed to score three more runs on a fumbled catch by the center fielder and a walked in runner on third.  It wasn’t enough to win them the game, what with the Bobcat’s having a nine point lead in the first place and no “slaughter” rule in place for the Blue Dog County Little League Association to mercy kill a game like this.  A final score of 13 to 4 brought them a little less humiliation than some of their other losses, and for that day, Bingham Barlow was the hero of the post-game consolatory pizza party.


Love it? Hate it? Either way, I’m gonna finish this damn thing if it kills me! Feel free to leave any comments or criticisms in the comments sections and if you feel like spreading the love by tweeting, ‘liking’, Facebook-ing, Tumblr-ing, or even Linked In-ing the link here around, I’ll come and dance at your wedding!

“Roll Me Up And Smoke Me When I Die” – Part One

The response from friends, family, and strangers on the internet has been overwhelming. The impromptu eulogy I wrote to my dad the day after his passing is so far, the most views this site has had so far. I’m glad I had enough clarity to put it out there and share that little bit of the odd relationship I had with my father with people and let them get to know a little bit of him in the same was that I’ve always known him. I’m sitting here looking at the calendar and wondering how it’s already been two months since it all happened and I’m just now realizing it.

As a little follow up to that previous story, I figured in the interest of first and foremost, helping me to personally find closure, as well as to continue to honor my dad in a way that only a Ward can, I’d share a few of the highlights of the last couple months and what we’ve done since then.

Days after Dad’s passing, my brother and I made our way to Georgia, where our Dad had resided and where his brothers and his mother still live. It had been the first time I’d been back to Georgia since I dropped out of school at the Atlanta Art Institute after my “stupid-kid-end-of-the-world” scenario that came after Nycki dumped me in 2002. This was the state where I’d been born and had intended on visiting again, sooner than later, but somehow never made my way back down there under happier circumstances.

Alex and I arrived in Atlanta via plane where we met our Mom, who’d driven down from Tennessee and made our way overnight to Statesboro. The trip was meant to be a very quick one, with Alex having to be back at work in two days. The three of us made our way to our old hometown of Macon, Georgia.

The family decided the best place to hold the service was in the field outside the barn-made-house that he, his brothers, and my grandmother and grandfather had raised them. The family had moved out of there long before and it was my first time back on the property since I was a little man in short pants. Luckily, when we asked the barn’s current residents if it would be okay for us to come and hold the ceremony out there in the field next to the pond across the back yard. Mom, Alex, and I had shown up first, getting a little time to explore the old farm before the rest of the family began to roll in. I remember sitting down in the grass looking out at the lake, and having fragments of old memories come back into my head. As I’ve said before, I have a difficult time remembering the first several years or so of my life before the second surgery and my second chance, but seeing the lake again reminded me of two things. My dad trying in vain to teach Alex and I how to fish, how bored I got with it, and how my brother or I (I can’t recall which) ended up getting a big bite on our line and just as Dad was coming to help reel it in, threw the entire rod and reel into the lake.

The service was pleasant. No religion, no frills or anything like that. Just the family and a few close friends gathered up in the field where my dad grew up, listening to the music he loved, sharing the stories that we all loved about him, and just trying to bring something positive out of the unexpected bad circumstances. Lots of small touches that Dad would have probably appreciated, like my Aunt Linda, with whom Dad was constantly bickering and mutually getting on one another’s nerves as only family can, holding the urn of his ashes as the service went on. A little detail that probably would’ve irritated him to no end. The service began with a boombox being brought out, playing Willie Nelson’s “Always On My Mind”, a song that’s done a number on me emotionally well before the ASPCA started using it in their manipulative little TV ads. Courtney, an old girlfriend of mine, used it as one of her standards every time we went out to karaoke and it always brought the house down. Needless to say, using it in the context of a funeral for a father that I’ve had a rocky relationship with for many years was only going to lead to uncontrollable blubbering at a point where I just wasn’t ready for it. Fortunately, my Aunt Diane saw where the song was taking the amassed group and hit the next track on the CD. Something that got a laugh out of all of us and couldn’t be referred to as anything other than extremely appropriate for the kind of man my Dad was.

Dad, in his days as a truck driver, spent a lot of time on his XM Satillite radio to get him through long trips. His favorite channels were the comedy stations and Outlaw Country. He called my brother and I immediately after hearing the song and told us to look it up. We got a good laugh out of it and it became part of my regular iPod rotation for a little while, and then when it came on at Dad’s service, I couldn’t think of anything other than how well it just fit.

He’d begun attending AA meetings again. He’d spent the week leading up to his surgery attempting to earnestly quit smoking once and for all, which was something he’d never really attempted in over forty years. A couple nights before the procedure, he called me up and we talked about the operation he was about to go through. He had an honest to God sense of worry in his tone as he talked to me and in one of the most frank and honest conversations the man and I ever had, told me he was scared of the surgery. He told me that despite his fear of going under the knife, the thing that kept him going, kept him from running away from the problem as he sometimes liked to do, was me. My “for shit” memory usually forbids me from having any recollection of his words, but what he’d basically told me was that after watching me go through serious surgeries as a child at such young ages, what did he really have to be scared of. It was one of those rare moments with Dad that didn’t involve joking around, being nasty, or tap dancing around “feelings” like typical closed off cavemen. It’s a conversation that I’m now very grateful to have had with him in retrospect, although it does give me pause in thinking about how much dad may or may not have known about the riskiness of his operation. If there’s one thing Ward men are good at, it’s keeping secrets.

The night before my birthday, the night before his surgery, I saw a missed call and a message from dad on my phone soon after we had a brief last exchange of words. I didn’t return it because I was headed out for a date that night and I figured the surgery would go fine. We had talked an hour or so before and I made a point of telling him I loved him, but in retrospect, I’m honestly gonna feel bad about that one for a while to come. It’s just one of those little regrets you can’t change and need to learn to live with.

More soon, folks. Til then, I am my father’s son…

Coming This NaNoWriMo – The Once And Future Bing!

I’ve wanted to try my hand at NaNoWriMo for a couple of years now, but every November when I feel like it might be right, I’ve always found myself otherwise busy with other writing or work or personal life fires to put out. This year, while I won’t have any shortage of other things to get done, I’ve fortunately got a bit less insanity on my plate and better yet, I finally have a story idea that I think would read better as a novel than a comic, screenplay, or interpretive dance. Then, over the last couple months, I began concocting an idea for the most bizarre young adult novel I could muster

The story of the book is as follows:

“No one ever says ‘I wanna be the world’s biggest asshole when I grow up’.”

Bingham Barlow was 13 years old when he was first visited by a man claiming to be his future self on the field of a Little League baseball game. After shrugging him off as a perv and sending him away, he’s noticed the man popping back into his life across different points of his growing teenage life with the same story and an important agenda.

The man’s goal is simple. To train young Bing to become a more cunning and subversive criminal mastermind in hopes of avoiding a sentence of incarceration that will ultimately last him enough years to make up several natural lifetimes.

Bing wrestles with the whether the man stalking him is just an advantageous liar or worse, if Bingham Barlow really could become one of America’s most famous and reviled white collar criminals. As his older self’s arguments become harder and harder to call shenanigans on, Bing begins to find himself being slowly sucked into questioning everything about himself. What could lead him to becoming this man in 20 years time and is there any way to stop it?

An absurdist story of what happens when the idyllic person we want to be comes into conflict with the person we will ultimately become.

Sounds fun, right? That’s what I’m going for and so far, it’s only just scratching the surface. I’ve been spending the last few days of October since recovering most of the functionality of my brain on laying out plot in preparation for the coming of November 1st.

I’ve plotted the book’s beginning, it’s ending, and about 90% of what’s going to happen in between. I’m hoping to have the whole thing outlined in full before November 1st rolls around, in order to make the whole  ordeal at least a little bit less difficult. I can already tell it’s going to be a hellish month with beginning my final module of college, taking a week long road trip with my mom and brother across the West Coast, and whatever other nonsense will inevitably come up between November 1st and November 30th. I’ll be doing some brief commentary posts here as my NaNoWriMo trek progresses when I have the time, and I’ve spent the last week tightening up a series of half-finished TLO entries to post over the course of the month so as not to leave you hanging, dear reader.

I’ve even commissioned a cover for the project from my friend and amazing cartoonist, Casey Bug. It’s still a work in progress, but as we’ve been talking out the concepts for the cover, she’s been sending me a lot of different progress shots. I’ve always loved her style and her Spumco-with-a-shot-of-estrogen sense of humor. She churned out a pin-up for The Zipper Club‘s first book that I think will get a metric ton of laughs.  If you’ve never seen the girl’s work, I implore you to check her out.

I hope you’ll follow my progress. I’ll be posting a full preview of my first completed chapter here later in the week!

Aaaaand We’re Back!

Man, I gotta tell ya, of all the ways I figured I could ring in my 31st year on earth, I had never expected the absolute shit show that has encased the entirety of my September.

So, the last month got particularly ugly. (If my admittedly bitchy last entry is any indication.) On top of the loss of my father at the beginning of September and all of the inherent stress that came from that just got compounded by the sickness that hit me harder than a drunk driver in a Buick. As resistant as I am to going to a doctor after seven years lacking insurance, after about four days of spinning and being unable to leave home, I finally gave in and went to one of the walk-in clinics at Walgreens. After that, I came home with a couple hundred bucks lighter with a gaggle of pills. Took those for a couple days to no real effect and broke down and made an appointment to an ENT doctor. After getting my hearing tested and being told what I already knew (I’m dizzy and pretty deaf) they prescribed me with some steroids to go on top of the rest of the pills I had. I started taking those for a couple more days, still no effect, so I went for a follow up with the ENT, who told me that they didn’t know what was wrong with me, but they had three options left for what to do to me.

1) An fMRI to check and see if I might have a brain tumor. (Which they admitted wasn’t very likely and would have cost me at least a grand without insurance)

2) They could inject steroids directly into my ear drum, which only had a 1/3rd chance of doing anything productive with my hearing loss or the vertigo.

3) Go with my original plan to stay home and wait it out like I had already planned before I dropped a thousand dollars on tests and meds that did sweet fuck all to help the problem.

My lividness with the situation aside, I stopped the medications all together, almost as an act of defiance and, under the advice of a friend, went out and got my “New Age” on, getting my first experience with acupuncture. The way I figured it, it’s a new experience, it might help my ear, and really, what’s another $80 on top of the pile of cash I already flushed down the crapper, anyway? So, I made an appointment and got my prick on. The whole experience was interesting, getting needles stuck in different areas in my back, arms, legs, hands, feet, and some centralized attention around my dead ear. I walked out of their office feeling no better from the vertigo, but my mood was amazing. All the tensions that had built up in me just went away for no discernible reason other than the fact that the turning my body into a pin cushion had unlocked something really pleasant within my mind and body. I walked around that day, still dizzy and a quarter deaf, but walking on air for several hours.

This feeling went on until a couple of hours after I got home, when I found myself thrown into the most disgusting, ugly, bile and excrement filled rage I’d felt in the last two years… And I couldn’t tell you why or what was making me feel this way to save my life. I went from the soundtrack to Singin’ In The Rain to Black Flag’s Damaged like a snap of your fingers. I paced around the apartment wanting to put my fist through the wall for ABSOLUTELY NO FUCKING REASON! It was bizarre and the fact that I couldn’t figure out why I was so pissed off just served to make me angrier. I went and jumped in the shower and started doing some deep breathing, racing through my own head, trying to figure out if I was going crazy or if maybe, just maybe I did have some kind of brain tumor pressing down somewhere on my brain’s limbic system. The hypocondria began to spiral out of control when the answer finally hit me out of nowhere.

In my trademarked bullheadedness, I decided to go cold turkey off the Prednazone prescription (of which I’d been taking six pills a day of for a solid week) and it dawned on me exactly what was going on in my frezied brain.

I was having ‘roid rage!

‘Roid rage is a real fucking thing and I was experiencing it.

I’d been on steroids before as a kid when I was recovering from my second surgery. I don’t recall the dosage, and I don’t recall any incidents of irrational anger for no reason, but then, I was 7 years old and on a myriad of drugs. There’s not much from that time period that I remember. The only reason I had no desire to use them now was because they caused the small, but still massively annoying gynecomastia (AKA: “man boobs”) that I’ve had ever since and won’t go away, no matter how many push-ups or butterfly curls I do. So it was with great hesitation that I went downstairs and took a smaller dosage of the pills. I managed to ween myself off of them within the span of another four days.

It’s been about a month since labrynthitis has knocked me flat on my ass and pretty much made me useless for a couple of weeks. Luckily, the extreme dizziness and puking into a bowl until I had nothing left in my body to throw up ended within the first 12 or so hours of it happening. The unfortunate part is, the vertigo has persisted for the entirety of the last four weeks and still hasn’t completely cleared up. Worst yet, the loss of half the hearing in my left ear still hasn’t improved and it’s pretty likely that the loss will be permanent. The thing that gets my hopes up about the possibility of regaining most if not all of my hearing is the faint, tinnitus-like bit of high-pitched white noise that I hear in the ear whenever I’m sitting somewhere quiet. It’s pretty much exactly like that running gag from Archer.

Fortunately, I’m not completely deaf in that ear, I’d say I’m at about 30 to 40% of what I’m used to on my left and I’m trying to strengthen the possibility of the hearing coming back by listening to music and especially lots of audiobooks with only the left headphone going. Then there’s the unintended plus sides of the hearing loss, like having an easier time ignoring bad music blaring out of some asshole’s car when I ride around with the windows open. Also, I can (and have) used it at times as a more reasonable excuse to ignore people or requests for things I’m in no hurry to do. Furthermore, now that I’m off the drugs and not sleeping away 80% of my days, my brain is firing back up and I’m back to writing. Wrapping up production on The Zipper Club in the next couple weeks after all these setbacks, writing more entries for The Long Odds here, and preparing an outline for my first year of participating in NaNoWriMo. I’ll be writing a little more about that in the next week or so and give everyone the all the information they’ll need to follow my progress across the month of November.

Every cloud has a silver lining!

Sit And Spin

So, on a lark, since I’ve got literally nothing better to do than lay here on my back and never, ever move my head, lest I go into a vomitous heaving frenzy into the polished chrome bowl beside me, I will sit upright and tap out a rant on my smartphone. (Oh, the future…) Seriously though, I have no idea how bulimic people can do it so often.

It started this morning when I woke and sat up to a spinning room that sent a creeping feeling into my guts. Initially chalking it up to sitting up too fast, I got up with intentions of taking care of your standard morning bathroom duties  (Right?!) and instead ended up puking up the remains of the previous night’s meal. After voiding the contents of my stomach, I sat up, expecting the relief that usually comes with a good barf sesh, before the room started spinning off its axis again and sent me back into another fit of heaves. I ended up laying on the cool floor of the bathroom for a good 20 minutes, fully intended on staying there until I sweated this whole thing out, but eventually, laying on a hard tile floor start to take a toll on the neck, back, and ass and I made my way back to the bed with the bowl and a big bottle of water in tow to sleep it off.

I woke up again around 4 PM feeling refreshed and rather level-headed. I also hadn’t been to the bathroom since last night, so I decided to risk a venture across the 10 feet of room space from my bed to the toilet. The second I got up was the second things got all “fun house mirror” again. I luckily had the foresight to bring my phone and my trusty metal purging bowl, which I used 3 times along my journey. After puking a few more times, I finally managed to pass out, being mindful to lay myself on my side, lest I go out like the late Jimi Hendricks. I’ve woke up several times in between, and after getting far more sleep than I need, I’ve found a position where I can comfortably prop myself up to type out this rant.

I really hate politics. It’s just absolutely fucking disgusting to feel the need to sit and wait it out in bed next to this reeking bowl, wanting desperately to go down stairs and eat all three of the daily meals I’ve missed at once, since being an American citizen with a pre-existing medical condition can deem me “uninsurable”. I’ve spent seven years of my life praying that nothing too bad would go wrong with my health in the time before I could get a career up and running. Working as a freelance writer, fun as it is, does not come with health and dental.

Seven years. Now with the passage and now constant contention surrounding healthcare reform and the Affordable Care Act, I feel more on edge about this crap than usual. Laying here as I spin inside my own head makes it even worse. A man shouldn’t have to wait until the worst case scenario before he goes to a doctor. He shouldn’t have to feel overwhelmingly compelled not to seek treatment due to the possibility of financial strife, even when feeling his worst. The fact that this is common place is horrendous. The fact that so many people who don’t have to worry about these problems have the authority to try and contest giving it to those who need it is deplorable.Of course, I have a whole long argument that I’d like to throw in here, but instead, I think I’m going to go pass out again.

The moral of the story: Don’t get sick.

Like, EVER!

The Unspectacular Exploits Of The Immobile, Hyphenated Squid-Boy

It didn’t take long before my chest had healed enough for it to be unbandaged, I got the real shock of getting to see and be able to assess the stark changes that would now be a permanent fixture of my bodily landscape. Not only was the old, faded scar beneath my left breast now accompanied by a long, puckering, scabbed over wound with prickly translucent sutures running up and down the full length of my sternum, but I also had a series of four long rubber hoses jammed two by two into either of my sides to drain the fluid that had been accumulated in my lungs while I began to recover. Those creeped me out far more than the fact that some guy had cleaved open my chest and proceeded to root around with my organs while I slept it off. As cool as a kid might think looking like Doctor Octopus would be for a little while, it’s a whole ‘nother bit of unpleasantness to feel bits of sharp, hard plastic shifting around just beneath your skin whenever you try and move or turn around even slightly.

You get to have that much constant discomfort as a consistent part of your daily routine, and you learn to adapt yourself. Making mental note of how which degrees of movement would cause the tubes to shift or grind against my innards, and doing my damnedest to avoid them, which was easier said than done. The level of mobility that lent me was exactly the level of mobility of spending most parts of my day playing Nintendo with my feet and urinating into a medical-grade jug. I guess that’s a fine lifestyle, if you’re into living like a semi-functional beached whale. Eight year old boys however, are a peculiar breed who are typically hyped up on sugar and a special form of cooties. Even in my weakened state, I wasn’t having with any of that noise.

One day, I made the cocky mistake of rejoicing aloud in triumph to my mom and a nurse at my unexpected emancipation when one of the tubes fell out of my side and hit the floor with a wet thump. Unfortunately, this sense of newly liberated freedom was short-lived as the nurse walked over, knelt down and grabbed the tube and took it away for a moment before coming back with a new, sterile one. She muttered an apology to me and told me to try and stay calm as she inserted the new tube where the old one had been. Not much warning, no anesthetic, I just felt a quick, hard push accompanied by a lot of screaming on my part. My young mind may have exaggerated the pain of it, but the way I’ve recalled it ever since, I can’t think of any physical pain I’ve encountered in my life that was worse or more disturbing than being awake for my “stabbing”.

From there, the road to recovery was slow. I spent over a week in a hospital bed at Mayo with my Mom and Grandmother staying in the room with me for as long as the doctors would allow visitors and periodic calls from my Dad back home while he worked to keep the bills paid. The time I spent at Mayo after the surgery was finished and I woke up added up to about a week, but I remember the time passing as if it were a month. Fortunately, I had a huge stack of comics, video games, and cartoons to help pass the time.

Then came the nightly blood tests. Nurses, entering the room quietly at night with needles and prickers and menacing, snarling nurse fangs, drooling for their nightly fix on my sweet, sweet O negative. These nightly acts of aggression were neither appreciated nor enjoyed. The repeated assaults built a level of aggression into me that would fill more and more with each encounter. Incensed with rage, I became a scourge to every nurse in the place. I didn’t trust them and I made it a happen to tell every single one of them as much when they walked through the door. Turning towards the inner darkness that kept me immobile in my bed and frustrated in the world around me as these four tubes in my chest held me into place, looking like some eight-armed octopi, I resigned to my fate.

I would become the Squid!

The toys I had accumulated from friends, family, and mystery donors had become the weapons in Squid Boy’s arsenal for this great battle. Come at a guy twice daily to prod him with needles, and I don’t care how good your intentions are, there will be hard feelings. Having had enough, I made my intentions known to this poor woman, with as much venom as a seven year old boy could muster.

“Come any closer with that needle, and I will shoot you in the head.”

Fortunately, the only shooting taking place would be from the barrel of a spring-loaded accessory that came with a Batman action figure (Circa the first Michael Keaton flick) that would launch little plastic projectiles as far as maybe three or four feet with the ballistic power of a beetle crashing repeatedly into the face of a lit lightbulb. The nurse, feeling sorry for me, played along in the interest of humoring me and getting her job done, allowed me to “shoot her in the head” while acting like it really hurt before I let her go at me with the needle again. It wasn’t the last of the blood tests in my time at Mayo or beyond, but the nurse’s willingness to play along with exorcising my frustration was enough to get me over a certain degree of the frustration that had been plaguing me. After that point, I swore I’d never get touched by another needle as long as I lived. Despite this, my do-gooder nature coupled with my universal donor blood type make me a frequent target of the Red Cross’ Vampire Call List and I got my first tattoo on my 30th birthday with intentions on probably getting a couple more before too long. (Again, sorry Mom…)

So much for that, Squid-Boy.

A Badly Drawn Boy Presents: The Sunday Night Sketch Dump (Vol. 2)

Aaaaand we’re back!

As many may have noticed from the previous entry, things kind of got thrown into upheaval here in Casa de Wallace with the unexpected loss of my father. First of all, I want to thank everyone for the gigantic outpouring of support and kind words over what I wrote about Dad. Overall, it was the blog’s most viewed entry so far. It’s hard to believe it’s already been two weeks since I woke up to that phone call, but the older I get, the more I find that time gets away from me at times. I’ll have a lot to write about on the subject of my father, our relationship, and how I plan to move forward in light of what’s happened in the coming weeks, but I figured I’d spend my first entry back in the saddle keeping things light and fun with a  new installment of The Sunday Night Sketch Dump.

If you know me well or follow my exploits on Facebook or Twitter, you know I’ve had a borderline unhealthy fixation on AMC’s rapidly concluding drama Breaking Bad since almost the first day it aired. As the ongoing saga of high school chemistry teacher turned crystal meth kingpin Walter White winds to it’s dark and twisted conclusion, I find myself increasingly panicked about what new show I’ll be able to use to fill the void that this one will leave, like The Shield and The Wire before it. With only two episodes left as of tonight, and the absolute barnburner of an episode that went down last Sunday night, I figured now would be a good time to bust out another BB-centric sketch for the hell of it. This one of the only character on the entire show who could be considered a “good guy”, full-time DEA Agent and part-time cheeseball and mineral enthusiast, Hank Schrader, as played by actor Dean Norris. After the performance he’s put forth this season, if Norris doesn’t get an Emmy, I’ll be a very sad man.

Next week’s sketch dump will more than likely be an all Breaking Bad retrospective in honor of the show’s grand finale, so stay tuned for that!

Early last month also saw the passing of one of my all-time favorite authors, crime writer Elmore Leonard. The wordsmith behind books (which spun off countless movies) like Get Shorty, Rum Punch, (renamed Jackie Brown for Quentin Tarentino’s stellar adaptation) and most recently, Raylan, the lead character on the FX series, Justified.

Born in 1925 and died in 2013, Elmore kept the train rolling until the day he died, having put out his last book 2 years before his passing and being a writer and producer on Justified. Anyone working in a creative field should consider themselves lucky to live to be 90 years old and still kicking the shit out of most of their younger competition.

Here’s a fun little portrait I did for a friend of mine whom I’ve known for years. Jessica Smilie and I knew each other back in high school, and over the course of 2012, when my life was going through a lot of personal turbulence, we reconnected through Facebook and got to talking on an almost daily basis. If I had to describe her sense of humor in a manner that most people might best understand, it would be to say that she’s basically a real life version of Pam Poovey from Archer. The woman loves a well-placed poop joke, as noted above. She’s become one of my best friends and ever since I’ve come back to Louisville for my periodic stay, I try to hang with her and her boyfriend at any given chance. I drew this picture for her months ago when she was going through a small health scare and needed some cheering up.

Last but not least, a little teaser image for an upcoming project of my own concoction. Quite possibly the most

It will also be the first comic that I will fully attempt to do on my own, for better or worse.

I won’t give pretty much anything away for you plot-wise, since the project is in it’s formative stages, but a little hint of the kind of story we have to tell, in the all too popular way of comparing it to other existing works, I’d have to say…

If you took My Little Pony, mixed in the addiction story of Hubert Selby Jr‘s Requiem For A Dream or the recent Steve McQueen/Michael Fassbender film Shame, with the morbid sense of humor of the FX Network’s Louie, you would get Ponyboy Harry Hates His Life.

I’m hoping to have the first couple installments in the can before I launch in early 2014. If we do well enough with it, I’ve got enough ideas in my twisted brain to keep the story running for at least five years. Most of the jokes practically write themselves. 

As always, thanks for visiting, folks!