Deep Dive Friday – Pump Up the Volume and Talking Hard

In 1990, the movie ‘Pump Up the Volume’ was released. Starring Christian Slater as a pirate radio dj Hard Harry exposing the hypocrisy and bullshit of that era, it was a favorite of mine back then. Recently, it showed up on the HBOMax streaming service and I watched it for the first time in decades. And to say that my reaction was deep and personal is putting it mildly.

The opening lines here give you a pretty good idea of how things were back then, and how they were fucked up though extremely mild in comparison to today.

“You ever get the feeling that everything in America is completely fucked up?

You know that feeling, that the whole country is, like one inch from saying, “That’s it! Forget it!”

Just think about it, everything’s polluted, the environment, the government, the schools, you name it.

Speaking of schools, I was, uh, walking the hallowed halls the other day and I asked myself, “Is there life after high school?”

  • From the movie ‘Pump Up the Volume’ written and directed by Alan Moyle

I want to start off with what life was like in 1990 for a teenager, such as myself. In 1990, I turned sixteen though without any ‘sweet sixteen’ or even ‘Sixteen Candles’ hoopla. At that time, I was just really trying to stay under the radar in life. At the start of 1990 I would have been a sophomore in high school and it was the first year since sixth grade I didn’t have an Advanced or Gifted class. I dropped my last two of those my freshman year because of the bullying-bullshit I was going through in those classes though in reality I was a shit-ton smarter than most of those preppy assholes ever would be.

In 1990, I just wanted to write. And luckily I had my best English teacher my sophomore year, Mrs. Sena of the house slippers and Elvis Presley picture on her classroom wall (she wore slippers in class because her feet hurt and she loved Elvis). She also taught me how to put a sentence together and how to string a bunch of them into paragraphs and essays that made me get nothing but straight A’s on all my writing assignment for the rest of my high school days. That’s when I think I really began to dig into the idea of making it as a writer.

The thing I remember most about that time, 1990 thereabouts, is the extreme pressure to conform to some bullshit ideal. To be smart, successful, agreeable, and to be on the fast-track to success, and most of all, to know who you were. I call bullshit on that because no teenager would ever know who they are because they haven’t lived long enough and two, who the fuck cares? Because in response to the question at the end of the quote at the beginning of this, there is life after high school. And it gets worse as it gets better though that balance is usually out-of-whack most of the time.

Now before I go any further, I want to say this: we were NOT having the conversations back then like we are now about things like mental health, suicide, sexuality, sexual orientation, or anything of real substance. Back then, if a young person managed to keep their shit together and not lose it or blow their lights out, they were said to have good ‘coping skills’. That was a high compliment back then though it was really absolute total fucking bullshit.

There are two parts of the movie that tear me up now. The first is when Harry receives a letter from a young man asking if he should commit suicide. Harry calls him up and tries to talk him out of it but fails. Like I said in the previous paragraph, we didn’t have the words back then to talk people out of suicide. So many people back then, like now, feel that suicide is a solution. Back then, if you even mentioned it the shit would come down on you, though. It was not met with the level of compassion that it is today, which I’m forever grateful for.

(I’ve never been suicidal and not because I was afraid of roasting in Hell for an eternity, but because I was terrified if I even thought about it and the assholes in my life got a whiff of that, or heaven forbid if I did it, those same assholes would follow me into Hell and torment me for an eternity. This is why I felt like if no one wanted to be around me or hear what I had to say then I just wanted to be left alone to live in my own imaginary world.)

After learning of that young man’s suicide in the movie, Harry goes on a hell of a rant about suicide being crude and honest about it at the same time. Then he says something that jumped out at me:

“At least pain is real.”

In a world where it felt like nothing was real except if some high-and-mighty asshole said it was, acknowledging your own pain as real and your own was a big thing. Then Harry encourages his listeners to do something crazy and loud and plays my favorite song in the movie ‘Kick Out the Jams’ by Bad Brains featuring Henry Rollins, a song I still blast in my ears when I’m really pissed off about something.

Then Harry opens up another letter and calls the letter writer. This time, the letter writer is a young man who opens up about being gay (though he doesn’t say the word ‘gay’) and being abused by several other high school boys. Back then, if gay kids were outed they were horribly abused and hated on. And transgendered kids… well they were hiding out in the basement and the word ‘transgender’ was years away from being said out loud. This why laws barring the word ‘gay’ and also the attempted torture of transgender youth here in my home state of Texas boil my blood and make me want to rage and breath nuclear fire onto those right-wing Republican assholes. So many young people suffered in silence back then and for motherfuckers to want to drive them back into silence or just kill them… hell fucking no and never again!

Looking back on this film I realize this is where a large part of my own silence came from, and how I learned to solidify those walls in my twenties to deal with what I went through then (watching my mother slowly and painfully die of cancer). And right now, this is why it warms my cold, re-heated leftover Generation X heart to think that someone reading my words might get pissed off at me. I hope they do and that being pissed off also makes them uncomfortable enough to feel just a razor-sharp shred of shame, guilt, and remorse.

Because that’s another thing in the movie Harry rants about: being ashamed. Feeling shame for things you don’t have to feel shame for is so fucked-up wrong in so many ways. I have felt shame and guilt for things I had no business feeling that way for and that’s why I feel Harry’s rage and fury against that. It’s not wrong to feel anything at all, or to want to speak out against things that are wrong.

And yes, I’m going to freely admit here with very loud pride that my reaction to this film after thirty-two years is deeply personal. It was personal back then though I didn’t have the words or the ability to channel my anger, rage, and pain into the written word like I’m doing now. And no, I’m not going to let any asshole off the hook who told me I had nothing to talk about, or bitch about.

To any young person of high-school age reading this: I’m sorry for my generation giving in to silence as badly as we did. And I’m proud of all of you for standing and fighting for what’s right. For all the students in Florida yesterday who walked out of their schools to protest the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill in the Florida Legislature. To David Hogg, Emma Gonzales, and all the young people who formed the organization ‘March for Our Lives’ and have kept it going despite death threats from the gun lobby. To Greta Thunberg who has inspired millions of young people to strike for climate change. To Malala Yousafzi for fighting for the right of all children to an education, especially girls. And to all the young people online who have, and are fighting the good fight against those who would silence you, or worse, deny your right to exist as you truly are. Please know that I see you, and I stand with you.

And as Harry said at the end of the movie, “Talk hard.”

Uber Tales – Do I Like It, Edition

In the almost five years I’ve been driving for Uber there is one question I still get asked a lot, and that still baffles me though I’m not quite sure why.

Do I like being an Uber driver?

I always say yes of course but I wonder why I get asked the question in the first place (I haven’t asked that of my questioning-passengers because I don’t want to come off as rude or ungrateful, or something like that). I think for me the big reason I’m baffled by this question is that in all the other jobs I’ve had, I never got asked this question. In fact, when I worked in call-center Hell most people asked how I could stand dealing with people yelling at me all day over the phone. I told them it wasn’t the people yelling at me on the phone that made that job a crap-fest but the management I worked under (for every good manager I had, I had at least five I wouldn’t piss on if they were on fire).

I wonder if being a gig-worker as Uber drivers are sometimes referred to is still very alien and dare I say, unique to a lot of people. Like some people see us as free-spirits, or losers they secretly admire for not being a part of the corporate rat-race so they have to wonder if we really like it or we do it because we can’t hack it elsewhere.

So in reply to the question of do I like being an Uber driver, I’ll list some of the things I really like about the job.

First thing I like: no set schedule. Uber will post about potentially busy times and also any incentives during certain times (incentives are extra money given in addition to fares and tips- and all tips go directly to drivers). So if I take an evening off the road I can do a morning run (five a.m. to about nine a.m.). My preferred time is currently three-thirty p.m. to about midnight, especially with airport runs because those are usually pretty good money fare-and-tip wise. But if you’re feeling like crap, or if you want to cut out and you’ve got the money to do it, you can and no one says anything.

Because yes, as a driver you are managed by an algorithm. And when asked how that’s going I always say, “I’ll take the algorithm over the human.” Uber’s algorithm has always been good to me as long as I maintain my numbers (customer rating/acceptance/cancellation) which is easy to do with this gig. In call-center Hell, I was micromanaged by people who had no business managing anything other than a stapler. It was so bad I used to get dirty looks from managers when I stood up to stretch or go to the bathroom. With the algorithm, I don’t get any dirty looks for either stretching or bathroom breaks.

Another thing I like is tenure and top status has its’ perks. There is a four-level tier system for drivers and I’ve been in the top tier since the system was implemented. And they don’t keep adjusting the goalposts for this tiered system to make it damn near impossible for anyone to get into the top tier and stay there. It’s like having an ongoing performance review without having to sit down and go through one of those every year and be grateful for whatever pitiful raise you get.

And yet another thing I like- no yelling or screaming people. I’ve had a few people mutter shit about me or just treat me like something they scrapped off the bottom of their shoe at the dog park. And I’ve had a few indecent proposals. But the good thing is I haven’t had to deal with anyone like that in a long time, and if I really had someone go off on me and not back off and apologize I could report them and not be matched with them again.

One of the things I really like about this job is the diversity of the people I meet every day. I’ve met people from all over the world and from all walks of life. I’ve had a ton of conversations about everything under the sun and then some. I’ve laughed my ass off behind the wheel, and I’ve fought like hell not to lose it at some things I’ve heard, too. And yes, what’s said in my Uber stays in there because I don’t have any details about the people I shuttle around and I don’t ask a lot of questions in my line of work. So in response to my top FAQ: yes, I like being an Uber driver. And I’ll keep doing it as long as it works for me, and as long as they’ll have me. Thanks for riding with me today.

The Written Road – Not Stealing Writing Time Anymore

When I began writing I felt like I had to hide it from the world. A lot of that was because my dad was a major jerk about his writing at times, especially to my mother. My father was like a lot of male writers in that he expected instant and unquestioning devotion and acceptance from my mother about his pursuit of writing, which she refused to give him because that was her choice. A lot of male writers succeed because they have a wife or significant other to take care of their day-to-day shit so they can pursue their high-and-mighty craft.

Female writers as I learned very early on don’t have that kind of support system and sure as hell don’t ask for it or expect it at all. For female writers, writing is something done late at night, early in the morning, and most of all, hidden away. From Jane Austen hiding her manuscripts under a desk blotter in the sitting room anytime someone came over, to Margaret Mitchell and Danielle Steele setting up their typewriters in the laundry room, to Jackie Collins and Nora Roberts writing on spiral notebooks in the carpool line, women write but feel the need to hide it until they achieve some measure of success or at least are able to make it pay for itself. But it’s a hard-fought battle to feel like you have the right to pursue your writing even though you’re doing your best not to bother anyone with it.

In my teens, I tried my best to keep my writing to myself. I didn’t really talk about it with anyone other than my father and I felt like I couldn’t because I hadn’t paid my dues. I wrote in between classes in school, and in class with my papers hidden under my textbooks (my teachers probably thought I was taking notes until my grades showed otherwise).

In my twenties during the years I took care of my mother is when the shit began to hit the fan writing-wise for me. I knew my parents took flack for letting me live at home rent-free and write when I wasn’t busting my ass taking care of much as I could so my mom didn’t have to while the cancer was slowly killing her. I’m forever grateful for my parents for their support of my writing at the time but knowing they were having to waste precious time and energy defending a decision that was no one’s business but mine and theirs still pisses me off now. Back then, that flack dug a fear deep inside me that took me over twenty years to put into words.

In my thirties, I tried to make it look like writing was a nice little hobby because I didn’t want anyone to use it to drive a wedge between my father and me. I was his sole caregiver and it was a choice I made knowingly and willingly, and without regret like the decision I made to sacrifice my own goals and ambitions to care for my mother.

But this sacrifice came at one hell of a price because it’s taken me close to a decade to see that I didn’t need to hide my writing, or justify it to anyone in any way, shape, or form. It’s taken me close to a decade to fully realize my writing is mine, and mine alone. And if someone doesn’t like that, that’s their opinion that they’re fully entitled to. Just as I’m fully entitled to respond to that in any way I choose to, like writing this here.

I wonder how many writers feel like thieves stealing time to do something that they think people will destroy if they find out how much it means to them. I want to say to those writers no one can take your writing from you or destroy you because of it. People who mouth off at you for pursuing something in silence and on your own time are just bullies. And the easiest way to get a bully out of your life is to stand up and call them out on their lies and bullshit then walk away and keep doing what you do.

Most of all, my fellow writers, don’t waste any time trying to figure out why people don’t want you to write or just don’t like your writing. You are not responsible for figuring out other people’s thoughts and feelings, or to work their bullshit. I spent way too much time in my past trying to do that and got nothing in return so don’t even take one step in that direction. Write, and keep writing and do whatever you have to in order to shut these naysaying morons out of your mind.

You don’t have to steal time to write. You have to find the time, or make the time you have work for you. But that’s not stealing time at all if you’ve taken care of your responsibilities.

Just write and keep writing.

Stand or Fall – In the Shadow of the Mushroom Cloud

The title of today’s blog entry comes from the song, “Hammer to Fall” by Queen. I first heard it on the soundtrack to the film ‘Highlander’ though the song was released first as a single from Queen’s 1984 album ‘The Works’. Written by Queen guitarist Brian May, it’s about growing up during the Cold War when both the United States and Soviet Union (now Russian Federation) would get into a dick-swinging contest but swing around nuclear missiles instead of their own pencil-dicks.

Two days ago, Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin said he put Russian nuclear forces on high alert and of course all of us Cold War-babies had flashbacks to duck-and-cover drills, ‘The Day After’, ‘Threads’, and other dystopian nuclear apocalypse imagery. My father used to tell stories of watching nuclear bomb tests on live television in the late 1950’s and also that he got sent to the principle’s office one time for saying during a duck-and-cover drill, “Shouldn’t we all just put our heads between our legs and kiss our asses goodbye?” (when my grandfather came to pick my dad up from school and my dad told him what he’d said, my grandfather said he couldn’t punish my dad for being honest).

By the time us Generation X kids came of age, we grew pretty fatalistic about nuclear war. We hoped we’d be close enough to the blasts to get vaporized because that’s a pretty quick death. If we survived, we knew we’d have to forage for Pop-Tarts to survive (Twinkies are the foraging goal for the zombie apocalypse). But we also knew since 1945, cooler heads had prevailed, and there were people who had the balls not to push the big red button or make phone calls to the Kremlin or the White House. Because if those missiles launch, it’s all over and there won’t be anything to do except sing REM’s classic song, “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (and I feel fine)”.

I saw something yesterday online where a teacher asked his Generation Z students if they knew what the strategy of MAD (Mutually-Assured Destruction) was. They didn’t know and he had to tell them and they were pretty shocked. I grew up with that like my dad and his generation did. Because that’s the nuclear strategy the world has lived with since 1945 when the first and so far, only atomic bombs were dropped. The strategy is that if anyone launches a single missile, everyone else launches all of theirs in the totally fucked-up misguided idea that if we launch a counter-strike we’ll knock out some of their missiles. Yeah, I don’t think they thought that one through.

What I will say now is this: pray that cooler heads will prevail and keep the monsters from hitting that big red button and blowing us all to Kingdom Come. Pray for steady leadership like President Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and for people to stand up to a President and tell him to quit joking around about bombing Russia (thanks to President Regan’s White House advisors for telling him to knock that shit off). Pray for their counterparts in Russia who are probably risking their lives and hoping they’re not near a meat-hook or a window to get thrown out of.

Most of all, stand up for what’s right and true. If a politician or pundit has voiced support for murderous dictators like Vladimir Putin, make sure to remind them at every opportunity and hold them accountable. If they’ve taken dirty money to destroy democracy in this country and around the world, hold them accountable. Vote them out of office and support investigations into their criminal and treasonous behavior. There is no middle ground when it comes to preventing nuclear war or the dirty war of misinformation and the destruction of democracy.

As I write this, the people of Ukraine are getting the living shit kicked out of them by the Russians. They’re fighting just to stay alive and hold out long enough to get reinforcements and hope for a coup in Russia. They’re hoping the world doesn’t cave in and abandon them like the world has before.

It’s hard to live in the shadow of the mushroom cloud. Yesterday I looked up at the clear blue sky above me and thought what a total waste it would be to see it on fire. Instead of getting scared and sad, I was pissed off as hell. I was like, “Not this fucking shit again!” I reminded myself all I could do was get on with my day and pray that cooler heads will prevail yet again. I know we got a cool one here in the United States in the White House. The one in the bunker in Russia I’m not confident in at all but I hope enough of his stooges find their balls and keep him away from the red button.

To those who are feeling the terror of that mushroom cloud, come on in. Grab a pack of Pop-Tarts, take a seat, and turn up the music.

Breaking Radio Silence – Standing Up to Bullies

Over the last few days, I’ve been doom-scrolling and watching the news out of Ukraine (and I blogged about it yesterday, too). And I began to ask myself why I’m having such a strong emotional reaction to it other than fear of a huge conventional war breaking out in Europe or worse, nuclear war. But then I realized it was because I was watching a nation of forty-four million people stand up to the bully that is Russian President Vladmir Putin and the corrupt government and military leadership of the Russian Federation.

Now I’m not equating my life with what the Ukrainian people are going through in any way, shape, or form. They’re fighting for their lives, but they’re also fighting to live on their own terms. Under seventy years of Soviet-Russian occupation, the Ukrainian people were brutally oppressed. They were banned from speaking their own language and practicing their culture and customs. And now they’re being told by their neighbor that they can’t determine their own path in this world by joining the European Union and NATO simply because some asshole in the Kremlin is a joyless, soulless ghoul? Fuck no.

Bullies are loud, rude, obnoxious, and totally convinced they’re in the right even when they know they aren’t. And it’s not my job, or anyone else’s for that matter, to figure out why they’ve jammed their heads up their asses and decided being asshole is better than being a decent human being, or to figure out why they have decided to live without conscience, empathy, and compassion. I’m here to talk about the damage these people cause and what I’ve learned to repair some of it.

Some of my earliest memories are of being teased and bullied as a young child because I was fat and clumsy. I am probably one of the most un-coordinated people you will ever meet. I have balance issues like my late mother did though not with her motion-sickness thank goodness. But it lead to a lot of teasing, bullying and worst of all, alienation. Or to simplify that, it sucked and hurt like hell to always be picked last for any team.

While I suffering through the hell that was PE (physical education) class, I was suffering from another hell in the classroom and elsewhere by being shy then proving I wasn’t stupid for not babbling and running my mouth without trying to think about what I was going to say first. I have a brain that runs at about a hundred and fifty miles an hour on a good day and that means I over-think a lot of shit and have since my age was in the single-digits. I still do that though I’m really trying to get that under control.

Now here’s the really shitty part about all this: the human brain imprints repeated exposure in order to learn. Basically, if you hear something often enough you start to believe it even if it’s not true or just plain wrong and awful. And because of that, the human brain itself doesn’t really learn how to filter out things negatively impacting you emotionally as well as it should. Learning not to believe the lies and bullying about yourself is very hard to do. It took me over thirty years to realize that not only were people wrong about me being stupid and weak, but the way I had internalized their shit was wrong, too.

By the time I reached my late thirties, I believed every single person on this planet had their shit together and knew everything, and that I knew absolutely nothing and was a total loser. I did this in the severely-misguided belief that if I beat the shit out of myself first then other people wouldn’t do it to me. But then I realized something: most people honestly don’t give a shit about you after they’re through mouthing off at you about something. Because I used to fear people mouthing off at me then if I made even just one peep of noise or movement, they’d pound the shit out of me and put me in a cage somewhere far away.

That never happened. All my bullies were gutless cowards who didn’t have any heavy weaponry to come after me, and if they’d had access to any of that they wouldn’t have known what to do with it. I realized this when I had this thought come into my mind and started believing it: everyone else is just as full of shit as I am sometimes but that doesn’t make me a bad person. What that means is no one has all the answers, and if they try to bullshit and bully you into making you think they do, call them out on it even if it’s just in silence and not letting them live rent-free in your mind, or saying it to their face.

From that lesson more came to me and they all culminated in the big one: people can say whatever the hell they want to, but I have the right to respond in any way I choose to, even if it’s in a way they don’t like. If you stand up to someone and say they’re hurting you, you’re not wrong.

I think the best way to stand up to a bully in daily life is this: you don’t run and hide. You say, “I’m still here. And you need to go off and ask yourself why you think and feel the way you, and keep asking until you find all the answers you can though I will warn you, you might not like the answers you find. And sooner or later you will have to deal with them. Just like I’ve been dealing with mine.”

The Heroes of Ukraine

This past week Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine and within three days had not taken a major city and their army on the ground was beginning to run out of fuel and supplies. Now I don’t how this war will turn out because no one knows the future but I do believe in one big thing: I think the Ukrainians have one hell of a shot at winning. Why? Because their leadership, their President and all government leaders have stayed to fight alongside their army and regular citizens who have taken up the fight, too.

And this, my dear readers, is what the Russians were NOT counting on. They were counting on the government fleeing into exile so they could roll in and set up a puppet regime like they’ve done before. But when a government stays and fights, that doesn’t happen. It didn’t happen in World War II when the Nazi’s bombed the shit out of Great Britain, and it’s not going to happen now in the Ukraine. Because as Ukraine President Zelensky said to a US government offer to leave: “The fight here. I don’t need a ride. I need ammunition.”

And they’re getting it. The US government is sending an emergency aid package and for the first time ever, the German government is allowing transport of rockets and other armament into Ukraine. Also, it looks like the Russians are about to be cut off from their most lucrative financial source (the SWIFT banking transaction system), and the world is rising up and standing with Ukraine.

President Zelensky is the unlikeliest of heroes, at least on paper. He’s a former television actor and comedian who played a character on a tv show who went from being a history teacher to the president of Ukraine. Real-life mirrored his tv show when on a lark President Zelensky ran for president and won. But he’s not a bumbling fool. No, he’s got balls of steel because he’s stood up to two bullies and not backed down either time.

In 2019, US President Trump tried to bully and blackmail President Zelensky into helping him establish himself as dictator-for-life by providing non-existent dirt on current US President Joseph Biden’s son Hunter. Zelensky refused and lost out on four-hundred million dollars worth of military aid. Then in 2022 Zelensky refused to kneel down and suck Russian President Vladimir Putin’s dick by refusing to back off on Ukraine’s desire to join both the European Union and NATO. He knew that both decisions would cost him dearly but they were the right ones.

President Zelensky is Jewish, and his great-grandfather died in the Holocaust, and his grandfather fought Nazis in World War II. He honors both of them by standing with the people of Ukraine, armed and ready to fight. He knows that by staying he’s not giving in to Putin and the Republican Party here in the United States. He’s not giving in to bullies, and in the Ukraine right now his people and the Ukrainian Army are literally kicking the shit out of the Russian bullies trying to take over their country.

And not without losses and pain. There have been casualties on the Ukrainian side, and they’re Heroes of Ukraine.

Thirteen Ukrainian border guards became heroes when they told a Russian warship who pulled up to their island outpost, Snake Island and ordered them to surrender: “Russian warship, go fuck yourselves.” They all died as vheroes and their words are now a battle cry in the Ukraine (and on digital road signs on the highway to Russian invaders now).

A Ukrainian Army combat engineer, Vitaly Skakun Volodymyrovych, stayed behind when the charges he set along with his team couldn’t be detonated remotely. By destroying the bridge, and giving his life in the process, he stalled a major Russian Army advance and gave his fellow soldiers time to regroup and fight on.

There are other stories, some unknown, of other heroes of the Ukraine. I hope after this is all done a memorial is built to honor them.

And yet another inspiring quote from President Zelensky (a baby girl was born in the subway of Kyiv under intense Russian bombardment this past week): “But today is also the first day in the life of the baby girl born in the shelter in Kyiv metro station… When babies come into this world even under shelling and fire, then the enemy has no chance in this war.”

Short Story Saturday – Two

Last year I wrote two short stories in which the first one started in an unnamed Eastern European country where an American soldier and a Russian soldier met. At the time, there were rumblings of Russian aggression against Ukraine and I thought that if war ever broke out in Europe that’s where it would start.

As of this writing, the Ukrainian Army is fighting like hell to repel a Russian invasion and so far, American soldiers are not in it. But I know the average Russian soldier and citizen is not the enemy here, but the oligarchs and dictators are.

I wanted to give two soldiers a happy ending so I wrote a sequel to the initial story prompt. I was inspired by an old episode of the 1960’s television series, ‘The Twilight Zone’ called ‘Two’. It starred Charles Bronson as an American solider and Elizabeth Montgomery as a Russian soldier facing off in an unnamed war-zone. Now in that episode Elizabeth Montgomery’s character said nothing but I gave my Russian soldier-character, Tania, a voice, and a love of ‘Star Trek’.

I’ve posted the stories here as two Adobe PDF files for viewing. Please note these stories, like all written material here, is Copyright 2022 Michele Sayre with all rights reserved, so don’t try and steal it. You can share it from this page if you want to on social media, though.

I hope you like these stories because as my father used to say, “The world needs happy endings.”

Deep Dive Friday – The Breakfast Club

Deep Dive Friday is where I write out more on a particular movie, book, tv series, music artist/album, or some type of culture topic.

It was thirty-seven years ago this month the movie, ‘The Breakfast Club’ was released (February 15, 1985). I would have been ten at that time and getting ready to transition from elementary to junior high school, which didn’t go well for me. But this film is for all the Generation X kids (born between 1965 and 1980) who went to school in the 1970’s and 1980’s (and finally graduated in the 1990’s- I graduated high school in 1992).

Generation X has been referred to as the first, and last feral generation. We were the first generation raised where fifty-percent of parent divorced and the other fifty-percent both worked long hours outside the home (not a lot of stay-at-home moms back in my day). We came home to empty houses and had very little supervision for the most part. This is why we were into books, movies, and music that were way beyond our age or were before our time. We knew all the bad words by the time we reached kindergarten and knew about sex, drugs, violence, and rock ‘n’ roll all too well by junior high.

So when the kids in this movie seem to be trying to make it in their own world even though they’re still kids, this is why Generation X reveres this movie and can quote it chapter and verse. And in the end when Brian writes the letter to Principle Dick-Head Vernon (the dick-head is my addition, by the way), he writes that Principle Dick-Head has already made up his mind as to who he thinks they are even though they’re all a princess, a jock, a nerd, a basket-case, and a criminal.

A brief summary of the plot: five teenagers at a fairly well-off school show up for an all-day detention on a Saturday. The principle overseeing their detention sets them up in the library and tells them not to move, sleep, or do anything really except write a thousand-word essay telling him who they think they are.

Here’s the detainees:

Claire – the Princess (played by Molly Ringwald). She’s in there because she cut class to go shopping. She’s rich, gorgeous (I still want Molly Ringwald’s haircut from that movie) and closed off though it comes off as top-notch conceit and snobbery.

Andrew – the Jock (played by Emilio Estevez). He’s quiet and you can sense he’s bottling up a lot of emotion.

Brian – the Nerd (played by Anthony Michael Hall). He’s earnest and a bit eager to please so you have to wonder what he’s in for.

Allison – the basket-case (played by Ally Sheedy). She’s dressed all in black (like a homeless version of Stevie Nicks) with dark hair flopping in her eyes and dark eye makeup. She says nothing for the longest time until she opens up.

John Bender – the criminal (played by Judd Nelson). He’s dressed in a long coat, motorcycle boots and has a serious attitude problem as they’d say back in the day. At first, he’s a bullying asshole but like the others, he’s got a lot of shit to deal with.

Before I go any further here I want to say this to anyone who watches this movie and is not from the generation that originally saw it the first time (Millennials and Generation Z), we were not having the conversations about mental health like we are now. Your fucked-up mental health wasn’t something you really talked about and sadly back then, you took it out on other people and fucked up a lot. I’m not excusing bad behavior but I just want people to understand it was a different time.

Now, getting back to the movie.

At first, they’re bored, quiet, and finally Bender starts making noise and gets the others to join in with him. The big scene in this film is known as the ‘group therapy’ scene where they all sit around and finally reveal what they’re in for (except Bender because God only knows what he was sentenced to detention for).


Claire reveals her parents use her to get back at each other and her peer group is super-strict and it’s either go along with them or go it alone. But back then you couldn’t reinvent yourself too easily but Claire also makes some valid points when she tells the others that on Monday when they’re all walking the halls they probably won’t even look at each other, much less say ‘hi’ or anything like that. And yes, peer pressure to stay in your own lane as its’ said in the modern vernacular was that bad back then (I don’t know how it is now for high schoolers so I won’t speculate about that here).

But the pressures to succeed I think is just as strong now as it were back then as I read about young people today feeling enormous pressure to get into a good college and get a good career going. Brian the Nerd and Andrew the Jock certainly feel this as Brian was in there for having a flare gun in his locker which he planned to use to kill himself because he got an F in shop class. And Andrew was in there for taping a kid’s buttocks together in a hazing ritual. Andrew was carrying around a shit-ton of guilt and shame over that as was Brian for wanting to kill himself. Bender had revealed his parents abused him badly and he felt like he was sentenced to be a lifelong criminal though like Clare he could call out bullshit when he saw it. Allison said she was in there because she had nothing better to do but did reveal her parents ignored her and she felt totally alone.

After that, they get high on marijuana from Bender’s stash in his locker, rock out and dance to some music. Claire gives Allison a makeover (basically combs her hair and removes her ton of makeup) and Andrew and Allison connect as do Claire and Bender (though speculation is rife as to what Claire and Bender did in the closet Principle Dick-Head had locked Bender in (he broke out by crawling through the ceiling duct-work back to the library to get high and dance and talk).

In the end, Brian writes the short letter to Principle Dick-Head telling him he sees them as they are and that it’s a stupid idea for them to tell them who they think they are.

I can tell anyone who will listen that who you are will change over your lifetime. And if you flash-freeze yourself to who you were in high school or college then you’ll be a major dick-head everyone will probably hate or try to ignore. Life will change you, sometimes for the better, and sometimes for the worst. But I think the most important lesson to learn from this movie is that we’re all fucked up messes but that doesn’t mean we’re irredeemable hoodlums, or that we’ll always be the same throughout our lives.

The things I love most about this movie are:


Bender’s absolutely brilliant contempt and defiance of authority culminating in such classic lines as, “Does Barry Manilow know you raid his wardrobe?, and “Eat My Shorts” (which Bender said years before Bart Simpson made it his catchphrase).

I love Claire’s look and fashion sense and her ability to call bullshit on a lot of things like how you don’t really resist peer pressure when you’re a teenager. It takes a lot of years to stop giving a shit about what other people think of you because it takes so long to realize these shit-heads never had any real power over your life to begin with.

I love Allison being in there because she was bored and kind of a witness to the dysfunction of the others.

I loved how Andrew was so tender with Allison in the end and how he didn’t rise up to his dad’s bullshit when his dad picked up at the end of the movie.

And Brian, well he probably wrote the best less-than-a-thousand-word essay ever. I wish I’d written something like that to the dick-head authority figures I put up with in high school and beyond. Lucky for me I have the internet now.

Uber Tales – Origin Story

Created by my friend Deborah Ratliff

On March 31, 2017 I became an active Uber driver. At that time I was working a part-time gig as a contract delivery driver for Amazon and needed some more money. Then at the end of May that year that contract gig ended and I went full-time with Uber because I needed to keep earning money and no one was responding to my resumes being submitted. Then I discovered I liked being an Uber driver and managed by an algorithm with no human support available at that time.

It’s now been almost five years, over twelve-thousand rides, a lot of miles, my own vehicle followed by four rentals, and numerous app updates. I’ve also survived the business crashing in March 2020 when the covid-19 lockdown happened here in San Antonio and the usual ups and downs of the ridesharing business in general.

One question I’ve been asked a lot over the years with this job is, do I like it?

I find that question odd even after being asked it for five years because before I started doing this job, no one ever asked me that before. But then before I started doing gig/rideshare work, I worked in call-center Hell. When I told people about that job the number-one question was how I put up with people yelling at me over the phone all day. I’ve told people the worst thing about call-center work for me wasn’t the yelling over the phone, but the incompetent to downright-sadistic management in the call-centers I worked in. I told them the places I worked where were run by penny-ante, nitpicking, bullshit-loving assholes for the most part. So when people say that I’m managed by an algorithm and not a human I say in return, “And your point is?” After five years of being managed by an algorithm I’ll take the algorithm over the humans because I had only a small handful of human managers I actually liked and respected.

Now I will freely admit I have not taken my Uber job nowhere as seriously as I probably could have, or should have. I mean I’m not the most organized person in the world with it nor am I the most ‘rah-rah-rah, go team!’ person about it either. For me, it’s been something I can do with the least amount of fuss and muss and as long as I maintain my numbers I’m good to go. But I’m also good to make my own schedule and take it one ride at a time. Because there has only been a few times when I came off the road flaming-hot mad unlike call-center Hell where that was almost a daily thing.

As of right now, I don’t have any truly insane, off-the-wall bonkers story to tell but I’ve got a lot of other ones to tell. Also, I’ve got a good number of observations about human nature, the world we live in, and life before and after the covid-19 epidemic.

I’ve read a lot over the years from economists and other egg-head types about how gig work truly sucks and takes advantage of people. Some of what they say is true but as someone who also worked for wages for a lot of years, I can make a lot of comparisons and contrasts between hourly-salaried work and independent gig-work. I went into this job with my eyes wide-open and no expectation of a red-carpet roll-out experience. To me, it’s just about making money and leaving it behind at the end of the road for the day. No two days are the same with this job and I’ve always said that the only predictable thing about this job is its’ unpredictability. Sometimes you hit the financial jackpot and some days you can’t get any action going at all.

One time after I’d answered a rider’s questions about my job he said to me (this is an exact quote): “So basically, you drive around all day, meet new people, and listen to music.” I told him that was about right though in addition to that I dealt with traffic, bad drivers, weather, and on occasion delivered food (back then I was doing food delivery to offset the reduction in regular rides).

So each week here till the book is published, I’ll share stories and behind-the-scenes bits like with my other three books. Hopefully I’ll get something off-the-wall nuts before I go for publication.

The Written Road – An Origin Story

I started toying with the idea of doing a how-to writing book around the same time as “Breaking Radio Silence” and “Stand or Fall” with some personal experiences mixed in. But then I had a thought one day:

My relationship with writing is complicated.

And as I asked myself why that was, I fell down another rabbit hole like with the other two books and had to take a whirl around the demented Wonderland of my past to answer that question. One answer that jumped out at me and knocked me back hard was this:

Did my father try to use writing to deal with his untreated mental illness?

All my life my father told me he had been diagnosed as manic-depressive, now referred to as bi-polar depression but had refused treatment. I can’t independently verify that diagnosis (as my father is dead and he had no proof to show me when he was alive). But after reading about bi-polar depression… let’s just say he would have checked pretty much all of the boxes for symptoms and behavior.

I was about eight years old when my dad blew an ulcer and in recuperation started writing. He wrote at first on yellow legal pads then hammered away on a typewriter in the bedroom next to mine late into the night. He was obsessive and a major pain the ass about his writing at times especially to my mother (who he raged at in incredibly-horrible ways). And when I began writing when I was about ten years old, I put myself in a precarious position of not wanting to be an asshole about my writing like he was but wanting to pursue it with the same passion like he had.

I’m sure people who knew my father, and even others who didn’t, won’t be comfortable with me referring to him in the ways that I will. But my father, and my mother (both of my parents are dead, by the way), would be the first ones to tell you they weren’t perfect. One thing I’ve read about bi-polar illness is the extreme mood swings people with that illness have and my father had those in full-blown stereo. But my writing journey is about me but he will be along for the ride just like my mother is along for the ride with my ‘Breaking Radio Silence’ project.

I was around twelve years old when I decided I wanted to be a full-time working writer. In junior-high I wanted to be a songwriter/lyricist but I couldn’t find an Elton John to my wannabe Bernie Taupin. Then I wanted to be a journalist, then a screenwriter, a filmmaker-director, then a novelist. When I graduated high school I just wanted to write and my dad went to bat for me with my mom (though my mom only agreed to let me live at home and write if I did chores and errands, which I did without a second’s hesitation). Then my dad had his first heart attack when I was nineteen and my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was twenty-one. But all throughout my twenties when I was living at home and taking care of them (and later working part-time then full-time), they supported my writing. They paid my writers’ group dues, conference fees, and made sure I had time to write. This wasn’t a popular decision of theirs with other people in my life at that time but my parents asked me not to say anything and I stayed silent to keep the peace. But the damage was done (and a lot of it you can also read about in my book ‘Breaking Radio Silence’).

In the years since my parents died, I didn’t fully pursue my writing and creative endeavors due to the extreme bullshit of my twenties that twisted me into a huge knot of fear. Luckily I’ve worked through that shit and un-knotted that fear and am now pursuing my writing with a passion and determination like never before.

Most of all, I have never taken writing for granted and it’s never felt like a grind to me. And I will never let anyone try to make it a grind for me, or shit all over me for writing. Despite all the bullshit I’ve been through and the time away from it, writing has always been there for me. And yes, it’s been a form of therapy for me, too. My father kept journals that he destroyed shortly before he died so I have a feeling that writing was his therapy, too. Mine is just more public than his, and I’m also not prone to huge mood swings and raging paranoia like him (just anxiety I’ve learned to gain a significant measure of control over).

So I would say ‘The Written Road’ is a memoire of my own writing journey, a conversation with my late father, and any writing how-to I can work in.

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