The Worst Student Film Ever Made

katy perry
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*Names have been changed at my discretion

Synopsis:  A college girl is diagnosed with cancer, parties hard in an attempt to hide from her potential mortality, spirals from alcoholism to drug abuse to addiction, overdoses and dies only to find out in the afterlife that her diagnosis was a false-positive.

All of this was to be accomplished in 3 minutes of screen time.

Title:  “Positive.”

Unofficial Subtitle:  “The Worst Student Film Ever Made.”

Let me lay the groundwork for how we brought this abomination into the world.  Foundations of Production was an entry level course culminating in a semester-spanning project of producing a short film.  The class was split into small groups, mine consisting of myself, a girl that I kinda knew (Laurie*); a stoner that used to live in the same dorm building as me (Tyson*); and a best friend destined to betray me in the months to follow (Elle*).

We all prepared short scripts and presented them to the class for feedback. Everyone in our group took their film ambitions fairly seriously, but this whole project was technically “homework,” so inevitably our efforts became very convenience-driven.  This led us to produce Elle’s script, which featured few characters and locations.  We put together an airtight production schedule that would knock out the brunt of production (scenes taking place at parties) in one night.

Everyone resigned themselves to an irritating group dynamic that emerged long before cameras started rolling – Elle insisted on being in charge of everything.  She shot, directed, starred in, and edited the partially autobiographical monstrosity, ignoring everyone else’s input, and calling all of the shots along the way.

Oh yeah.  I forgot to mention that her script was loosely based on something that she was going through.

Now it may seem inappropriate for me to be so harsh about this girl who made a movie about her cancer, but she didn’t actually have cancer.  She had some sort of lady part cyst.  I always figured it would be rude to ask for more details, so I only ever knew what she confided in me (her then-best friend).  It’s not cool to have lumps of any sort growing on your insides, but Elle’s cyst was deemed benign in an expeditious manner.  There wasn’t a prolonged period where she pondered its cancerous possibilities.  Also, this not-cancer could not be blamed for her drinking problem.

The production churned on painfully.  Our character entered a party, did shots, smoked pot, popped pills, snorted coke, shot up heroine.  She changed clothes between each substance abuse escalation to signal that these were different parties – a subtlety that didn’t override the four, practically identical bedrooms in the same apartment where we shot our smorgasbord of parties.

Each scene was terribly lit.  Overhead lighting was abandoned in lieu of a single lamp that we carried from room to room.  Every frame of the footage was grainy or full of awkward shadows, or both.

When it was time to set up the heroine scene, Tyson shepherded extraneous extras out of the shot.  “You only want 3-4 people max in the room when you’re shooting heroine,” he explained.  No one dared ask him how he knew this.

Elle asked what she should do after she pretended to shoot the drugs into her arm.  Tyson’s answer was something along the lines of:  “After you shoot up, you’ll probably just want to lay down on the floor and feel the carpet.”

By the time Elle was ready to edit the footage, I was the only person willing to stay involved with this dumpster baby of a film.  She trimmed every take and pieced it all together while I just sat around and watched.  Rarely, she would ask for my advice, but only on small matters.  This take or that one?  Establishing shot before close up?  Close up, insert, close up?

For the sequence of the main character getting ready to go out and party after receiving her cancer diagnosis, Elle insisted on using Katy Perry’s “Hot N Cold.”  For those unfamiliar, this upbeat pop song is an absolutely perfect soundtrack for getting dressed up to go out drinking with friends on literally any day of your life except for the day that you get diagnosed with cancer.  My polite input on the thousands of reasons why this song didn’t fit the tone was extravagantly ignored.  I mean that. Extravagantly.  Ignored.

Elle considered sneaking the volume down and running the song through the entire substance abuse escalation montage.  Katy Perry – the soundtrack for a downward spiral and heroine overdose.  At least I talked her out of that.

The end of the film played out as follows:  Elle’s character wakes up in heaven, an area of pure white (the white walled hallway of Laurie’s apartment).  “A screen appears.”  That’s what the script reads.  We had no special effects capabilities or budget.  A picture-in-picture effect was edited sloppily onto one of the white walls.  On the “screen” Elle’s doctor (yours truly in a lab coat and black rimmed glasses) is shown explaining to Elle’s mother (Laurie) that the cancer diagnosis was a false positive.  Oh no.  Elle did all of those drugs and died and she didn’t even have a good reason to be depressed!

Each group had to show their films to the entire class. We delivered the final cut to the professor on DVDs.  Thank God this thing wasn’t uploaded onto the internet.

After a brief introduction, the lights were killed and the movie started rolling.  I’ve never blushed so hard in my life.  The class roared with laughter at the substance abuse escalation montage.  Elle’s editing made it seem like the entire downward spiral unfolded in one comically wild night.  To the audience, her character got dressed to go to a party, drank too much, smoked some weed, popped some pills, snorted coke in the bathroom, shot up heroine and dropped dead all within the course of like an hour.  The professor applauded us before admitting that he wasn’t sure whether or not the tone was supposed to be so freaking hilarious.

This was Elle’s mutant progeny.  We let her answer his inquiries into what the hell everyone had just witnessed.

An almost equally horrible film took some of the heat off of us.  It was called, “Mrs. Jickle’s Pickles.”  It was about an old lady who can’t open a pickle jar.  She really, really wants a pickle.  She calls her son.  He doesn’t have time to drop what he is doing and drive across town to help her open a pickle jar, because “Really Mom?”  She tries everything before calling 911 as a last resort.  The cops show up and aren’t nearly pissed off enough when they realize that this old lady is wasting their time with such trifling bullshit.  They scold her but can’t stay mad and end up opening the pickle jar for her.  The End.

For a student film that is as awesome as is just as “Positive” was horrible, check out:  Evil Beer.

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The Time I Helped a Blind Lady Cross the Street

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This all took place several years ago, back when I was living in an apartment complex near an extremely straightforward traffic roundabout that still managed to baffle the legendarily awful drivers of Florida.

I had just finished a 5 mile evening run.  A few dry spots could be found in the bottom corners of my shirt, the rest completely drenched in sweat.  Just a short walk separated me from a much needed shower as I approached the traffic roundabout.

There she was, sunglasses that would be unnecessary for most people given the sunset in progress; a stick with the end marked red that would keep her from tripping over curbs and steps but could not save her from the calamity of Orlando’s perpetually puzzled drivers faced with a slightly unfamiliar obstacle.

I sprung into action.

“Excuse me ma’am,” I said, mostly to let her know that I was now standing next to her.  “Can I help you cross this road?”  She obliged and I apologized for my stench and the layer of sweat on my arm as she took it.

As I escorted her to the other side of the road, I asked where she was trying to go.  The Blind Woman explained that she was trying to reach the Wendy’s about a quarter mile from where we stood.  I agreed to join her for the entirety of the odyssey.

Ahead of us, a truck from the cable company was parked on the curb and its driver was tinkering in a large electrical box nearby.  Jutting out like oversized ears, the truck had those wide sideview mirrors that help alleviate some of the blind spots that plague larger vehicles.

With a little prompting, the Blind Woman explained that she lived in a nearby apartment complex.  She told me that she wasn’t always blind, that her vision had degenerated over several years.  Before she moved in with her daughter, she could get around just fine by memory.

The truck was just a few feet in front of us as we shuffled along, arm in arm.

I felt bad for her.  Not only was the Blind Woman new to this area, but she couldn’t even see any of the surroundings to gain her bearings.  I cringed to think of what might have happened to her had she taken on that traffic roundabout all by herself.

She wasn’t even trying to get something to eat at the Wendy’s.  She just wanted to have a general idea of how far apart everything was.  I launched into an explanation of other landmarks and hazardous intersections, told her about the gas station and the Chik Fil A, the office buildings and hotels on the other side of the wide street.

Then, I led the Blind Woman face first into the outstretched sideview mirror of the cable truck.

I was looking at her as we conversed, insisting upon undoubtedly the most unnecessary eye contact in the long history of human discourse.  She staggered backward upon impact, more startled than hurt.  I babbled a thousand apologies frantically, but she wasn’t injured or upset.

The presence of the cable company employee only amplified the throbbing wound to my pride.

I believe that when people have the ability to help each other, they have a responsibility to act.  In my mind, imagining what harm might have befallen this Blind Woman had she stepped foot into that intersection made me responsible for her fate (the same way I felt responsible for the fate of the drunk jogger who insisted upon running 10 miles to his house rather than letting me call a cab for him).

This line of thinking could save the world, but I’m self-conscious about telling stories like this.  I don’t want to come across as patting myself on the back for my good deed, even though I am proud of it.  Or at least I was until I botched it so badly!

The rest of the journey to and from Wendy’s was uneventful, thank goodness.  Upon dropping her off back at her apartment complex, I implored her to be careful around the traffic roundabout.

Hopefully she found no shortage of people willing to help her cross the street.

The Boner Policy

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Before delving into the collapse of my freshman group of friends from college, I think it’s important to describe some of the adventures that we had together so that you can mourn the calamity of our feuds as much as I did back then.

As I’ve said before, our common interest was partying.  In many cases, there was no further connection binding us together.

The group’s demographic skewed female to Jurassic Park levels.  There were basically three dudes, counting me, hanging out with like a dozen girls.  I loved the proportions at the time, but future events would make me question whether or not females are truly capable of empathy towards each other, or if any semblance of girl friendship is just a long con style intricate murder plot.

Bobby is one of those friendships that came out of our group (we called ourselves “K.I.T.T.” – short for Keep In Touch Tuesday) that actually made the enormous headaches that most of these people caused me feel worthwhile in retrospect.

The other guy, well, he had an emotional issue or two (or seven thousand).  We’ll call him “Tommy” because of his ongoing need for anonymity when it comes to the stories I have to tell about him.  Tommy was a quirky stoner with a lot of money and friends that liked to throw parties in their shitty apartments.

One such celebration of alcohol was The Lingerie Party.  Now 19 year-old Brantley had heard legends of lingerie parties, but was skeptical of their existence.  The concept was too awesome and it always seemed to happen to someone else.  I guess skepticism is the wrong word.  19 year-old Brantley thought of Lingerie parties as “winning the lottery” or “seeing a super majestic bald eagle doing its thing” – he knew that those things did indeed happen, but that they didn’t happen to many people despite everyone’s longing for them.

Well this time around, I was invited and I looked forward to the event with both excitement and trepidation.  You see, I was still self-medicating a lot of social anxiety at the time and if I didn’t get the dosage strong enough, I had a tendency to sweat like someone with a serious medical condition.  Being in nothing but my underwear, there was a strong chance that I would be making it rain on the whole party unless I somehow managed to attach the keg directly to my face.

I coolly suggested to Bobby that we grab some robes or like Hugh Heffner smoking jackets.  I also jokingly, but actually totally seriously, asked him, “So what’s the boner policy at lingerie parties?”  “Don’t get one,” he replied tersely.  Then the robes were more important than ever.

Helping Girls Shop for Lingerie

For some reason, Bobby and I accompanied a ton of the girls to the fancy mall so that they could go shopping for lingerie.  I thought the idea of being on hand to provide a male perspective to girls looking for skimpy underwear was a dream come true.  In reality, however, there are few responses that a slack-jawed 19 year-old boy can give to a lingerie-consumer requesting feedback (and none of them are particularly respectful).

Now at that point in my life, I wasn’t articulate enough to say things like:  “Women shouldn’t be viewed or treated like sex objects that exist solely for men’s amusement and gratification,” but something along those lines was clicking deep down inside of me.  I realized that these were more than just half-naked girls that I would soon be getting drunk with.  They were friends that I respected.  It was almost as if they were human beings equal to myself, you know?

After a few awkward moments of babbled feedback, Bobby and I absconded to the food court and ate meatball subs from Firehouse.

Bobby’s Weird Lime Chicken

The night of the party, the plan was for the boys to prepare dinner for the girls and then we would all part ways to get dolled up and go to this sexy underwear kegger.  Bobby took head chef duty, and we made this weird lime chicken that most people pushed around their plates politely before tossing into the trash.  Out of stubborn loyalty, I opted for seconds.  In a lifetime full of mistakes, this decision still stands prominently within the regret regions of my brain.

Unsurprisingly, Bobby and I were stripped down and ready to go to the party within minutes and the girls took much longer.  To be honest, I don’t remember all that much of the actual event once we got there.  I remember puking in the bathroom after just a few beers and being a good enough friend not to immediately blame Bobby’s Weird Lime Chicken.  I remember different scantily-clad girls sitting in my lap on the balcony next to the keg.  There really wasn’t any intra-KITT drama at that point, so it was a pretty tame affair as far as shit shows go.

The Purest Embodiment of Douche Baggery

Most importantly, however, I remember The Purest Embodiment of Douche Baggery ever to draw breath within our douche bag infested world.  He strutted around the small apartment with his chest puffed out and his arms held away from his sides like some kind of monkey with vertigo.  “I go to the gym a lot!” his body language shouted.  His hair was thoroughly, thoroughly, thoroughly gelled into spikes.  He wore sunglasses.  Inside.  At night.  Indoors.  At this nocturnal event.  Where there was no sun.  His heart boxers were cute but cliche.  But here’s the best part:  He wore about a half dozen Magnum condoms around his constantly-flexed bicep as a kind of arm band.  I wish I was a talented enough writer to make this up.

Naturally, I played him in beer pong.  Occasionally in a long-tenured beer pong career, you will encounter complaints that the cups don’t have enough beer in them.  The result is that they move around when the ball hits the side and the movement prevents the shot from going in.  It’s a real complaint, albeit an insulting one to make to someone far more interested in beer than pong.  The Purest Embodiment of Douche Baggery claimed that under filled cups were the cause of his beer pong mediocrity.  Every time.  After every shot that bounced off the cups and didn’t go in:  “Is there even any beer in that cup?”  I’m certain that if he acted this way at every party he attended, it was only a matter of time before someone’s fist decided that he had too many teeth in his mouth.

I don’t remember who won that game.  It doesn’t matter.  Pong is just a game.  Beer is a form of enlightenment.

I do remember my partner from the beer pong game sitting in my lap on the balcony later that evening.  The Purest Embodiment of Douche Baggery, who had been hitting on her and being brutally rebuffed throughout our entire game, strutted stupidly out to where we sat and asked her to grab him a beer.  She laughed in his face.  He grabbed his own beer and dumped it on her (and on me by proxy).  Everyone was on their feet and I don’t remember how I talked this girl out of altering some of his facial features.  I think I was standing in between the two of them and lightly shepherding the douche bag into the apartment, but I’m a pretty non-confrontational guy who totally panics in situations like that, so defusing this bomb was most likely entirely accidental.

The douche left eventually and we all kept partying and having a great time, despite Bobby’s weird lime chicken.

When Fate Graces You with an Apology

A few months later, The Purest Embodiment of Douche Baggery landed the task of going door to door in college apartment complexes for some reason or other.  I was hanging out with the girl that he dumped beer on when the douche knocked on the door.  He said his piece on whatever it was that he was doing and then awkwardly apologized for that night.  I laughed at it at the time, but now I know how rare it is to hear apologies from random shitheads that you cross paths with in life.  The potential divinity of the moment completely eluded me in that moment, but really, what are the odds of him knocking on that door in that apartment complex precisely at that moment when I was hanging out over there?

I wouldn’t be enlightened enough to see it this way for hundreds more beers.

The Bar Epiphany

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I have a recurring epiphany that pounces on me at bars sometimes:  I’m so unbelievably thankful to have found my girlfriend when and where I did.  When I’m at a bar and she isn’t around, I can’t help but notice people looking to make some boozy love connections and realize how hopelessly inept I would be at finding romance in such a way. 

The first time these thoughts and the ensuing gratitude assaulted me, I was extremely drunk before even stepping foot in the bar.  As the friends I came with went and danced, I thought to myself, “Sweet Jesus I hate dancing and if dancing were my only chance at meeting the girl of my dreams, I would certainly die alone.”  I immediately drunk texted my girlfriend to let her know how lucky I was to have her.  

The epiphany struck again last night when I went out for drinks with a few co-workers.  A fairly nice girl was telling me about her hobby of collecting shoes (Air Jordans in particular) and showing me pictures of the pair that she has coming in the mail.  

I wasn’t bored out of my mind, but there was no connection there.  Sometimes I talk to people and feel like I have absolutely zero in common with them.  I don’t hold it against that person and I’m certainly not rude to them.  

I like hearing about other people’s lives as they would tell it.  Mostly because I think that there always exists an abundance of sub-plots, half-truths, and ulterior motives between the lines; but  I also enjoy comparing and contrasting my perception of the person with the perception that they try to project with their stories.  There are three identities at play:  Who I think they are, Who they tell me they are, and Who they really think they are.  I tumbled down the rabbit hole pondering these things as I listened to her life story prior to moving to Florida.  Drinking a Fat Tire, struggling to listen over the din of a mediocre house band, and contemplating some of the complexities of human nature combine for multi-tasking far beyond my capabilities.  I could never have met the love of my life at a bar, and I would have become a miserable, cynical human being had I ever tried. 

Notes From My Girlfriend’s Birthday

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This is over a month late, but oh well.

I’m beginning to realize that I have a tremendously introverted time at bars.  That being said, here are a few of the things that I remember thinking when we went out for my girlfriend’s birthday.

We took Uber, which is basically a freelance cab service.  It was awesome and cheap, though my mom scolded me publicly on Facebook which (aside from providing her with right wing propaganda) seems to be the only way that she uses social networking.  “They don’t do background checks on those people!  They could be bad drivers and/or axe murderers!”  Something along those lines.  You know, typical mom stuff.

Our first bar was Little Indie’s.  It was a hipster dive with provocative pictures of nude pin-up girls providing the entirety of the decor in this building that literally had plywood walls in places.  There were a few booths and high tops for people to congregate around and a VJ stood by the door, playing music in front of a flat screen TV with VH1 Classic on mute.  The music didn’t match the music videos, which was equal parts off-putting and exhilarating.  The unisex bathroom had two beaten up movie theater chairs facing the toilet.  We all know that girls tend to accompany each other to the restroom, but I had never thought of it being a spectator thing.  The bar area was pretty cool and they had a couple dozen craft beers along with some very convoluted cocktails with fascinating names.  

We left and went downtown to Bar-B-Que Bar/Eye Spy/Sky60, which are all connected and semi-indecipherable to me.  I just read on Facebook that the whole trio is shutting down, which is a shame because they’re weird and I like that.  We pushed our way past crowds up to Sky60, which is a rooftop dance party with a decent view of the city skyline.  

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t enjoy dancing, so I occupied myself with getting us drinks and found myself in a purely utopian situation.  The bartender was pretty awful at her job.  Dozens of people were shoving their way to the bar top to assail her for beverages and she was clearly overwhelmed.  I stood politely waiting my turn, taking note of who arrived before me and after me so as to assert my place in the sequence should the need arise.  Some guys shoved in next to me and demanded some drinks.  The bewildered bartender told them that they would have to wait their turns and that because they were being ass holes it wouldn’t be any time soon.  

It was a nice-person-ocracy.  I received preferential treatment based solely on my understanding smile and manners.  I wrote encouraging remarks on the receipt when I signed it:  “You’re doing a great job!”  I added a smiley face just to emphasize that I wasn’t being sarcastic because in reality she was doing a dreadful job.  Even though this bartender seemed flabbergasted by the receipt printer for a solid 5 minutes at one point, I kept going back to her to have my faith in the worthwhileness of courtesy reaffirmed.  

Next to me, a very skinny guy tried to buy drinks for a girl behind him with no fewer than three declined credit cards.  

For some strange reason, a pack of a half-dozen fat girls kept migrating from this side of the dance floor to that side of the dance floor.  Unable to repeatedly part like the Red Sea for them, they shoved their way past us like linebackers and I wasn’t drunk enough that it didn’t annoy me thoroughly.  I contemplated rallying the troops for a game of Red Rover in which we held our ground against the migratory girls.  More comically, I toyed with the idea of twerking on them each time they walked past until they decided to take an alternate route.  

One of my girlfriend’s co-workers apologized to me for buying her so many drinks as we left the bar.  She was staggering forward in front of us as we neared the stairwell.  “So long as she doesn’t fall down the stairs, I won’t hold it against you!” I joked approximately twenty seconds before she twisted her ankle on the third step from the bottom.  

There’s a small cafe that sells pizza by the slice at the base of the stairwell.  It gets mobbed with drunk people around 2 AM.  We joined the line to grab a slice, hoping to stave off the nausea portion of tomorrow’s hangover with tonight’s junk food.  I bought her a slice of cheese, for myself, a slice of pepperoni and sausage.  It came out to like $7 somehow.  The pizza was terrible.  It was like a New York style Totino’s pizza that was over-microwaved and then left out to get cold.  This place stayed in business not because of the quality product that it provided, but sheerly based on its proximity to inebriated people.  Why?  Why would you want to own such a shitty business?  How could you aspire to mediocrity?  They would have been better off ordering Domino’s and selling it by the slice.  I couldn’t stave off the annoyance.  I’ve made homemade pizza without any clear idea of what I was doing and it came out 100x better than these crappy slices.  

I handed my girlfriend her slice, pulled out my phone to call for an Uber, and then turned back around seconds later to find that she had already somehow misplaced her pizza.  

Freelance Writing Update:

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On July 1, I kicked off a more serious pursuit of freelance writing.  It’s been quite an emotional roller coaster so far and I haven’t made enormous gains, but I’m still optimistic.  I began my gig hunting with a wide open mind.  This led me to read a lot of job postings for opportunities that I’m not in the least bit qualified for.  That led to me becoming really bummed out.  Eventually I put that approach on hold to pursue another one.  More on that in a little bit.

My biggest accomplishment in the past month was easily the writing Fellowship that I’ve scored with TheDodo.com.  It’s like BuzzFeed for wildlife and conservation.  I’ve published two articles with them and both have made the front page!  They advertise that they are working with the same venture capital groups that were behind BuzzFeed and Huffington Post, so hopefully I’m getting in on the ground floor of something that could go really big!  

My one complaint about this website is that they pay 45 days after the end of the month that you publish the article (according to a Writer’s Agreement that they made me sign).  I was, however, paid within 10 days for my first post so I have no idea when to expect checks in the mail from this website.  At least I know that they weren’t lying about paying me though!  

The goal of 100% self-sufficiency through freelance writing has both sustained me and pushed me to the brink of a nervous breakdown.  You see, I haven’t shown off my writing very much, and so the idea of putting myself in position to be published in a wider way has been pretty terrifying.  So naturally, I used my go-to technique for handling scary things:  avoiding them at all costs.  I worked on everything but the things that frightened me.  I half-wrote like three articles while researching several more, all the while guaranteeing myself that I would never finish anything that I could publish.  All of my writing has to be squeezed in between my two jobs, so eventually the time drain of never finishing anything weighed on me heavily.  

I was throwing the ball for my dog in the yard as I researched the fates of failed presidential candidates.  I wasn’t paying attention to fetch.  I just picked up the ball when Magic dog brought it back and then chucked it into the pool for him to swim after again.  It wasn’t long before the ball smashed into the little frosted lights that hang from the overhang of our back porch.  Tiny white glass shards spread all over the pool deck and (I feared) into the pool itself.  

That’s when I lost my damned mind.  

I had put so much pressure on myself and I had so little time for writing that picking up these tiny pieces of glass would leave me with less than half an hour to pursue my ambitions.  I led the dog away from the scene of the accident, brought him inside, dried him off, and then went back out to search for glass shards.  

Frosted white glass on a white concrete pool deck on a sunny Florida (read “unbearably hot”) day don’t make for a fun scavenger hunt.  I looked high and low and didn’t find nearly enough glass.  I swept everywhere within a 10 foot radius of the incident.  That’s when I feared that the glass was in the pool and conjured horrifying mental images of my pup accidentally swallowing glass-laden water while joyfully swimming towards his orange rubber ball.  I started cleaning the pool thoroughly, vacuuming and skimming to no avail.  I was defeated.  We couldn’t let the dog near the area until I found more of the glass (which I did find in a small gutter next to the back patio a few days later).

This was the first time that I realized how much pressure I was putting on myself.  

That’s when I came up with what seemed to be a great way of coping with my self-inflicted frustration:  I would write a quirky, charming biography of myself from the point of view of my writer’s block!  I was a half-dozen pages into the project when I realized that I wasn’t all that interested in it and that it only served as a way for me to feel productive about avoiding writing that could be more realistically published.  

As I mentioned before, I abandoned depressing job hunting because it was eroding my soul and undermining my elusive, occasional, and probably hypothetical self-confidence.  I altered my strategy to involve finding out what the market would bear in terms of selling my writing to leads that I had already located.  I would bank articles and then try to sell them in bulk.  (Ex:  This site pays $100/post and they bought 5 posts from me in one week.  Thus they are good for $500/week).  Just to keep myself from regaining too much sanity, I created an arbitrary deadline to strive towards and stressed myself out by forgetting its meaninglessness.  

I had 4 out of 5 articles ready to sell to a website that I had never worked with before.  I would write the fifth article over the course of the week.  That was the plan.  Upon delivering the first post, I realized that hidden on the website as a lengthy list of Writer’s Guidelines that I had never seen before.  Committed to my imaginary deadline, I observed the ones that I could and ignored the rest.  

The article was rejected with a form letter.  I crumpled into despair, certain that I couldn’t possibly reach my goal now.  The next day, I moped more heavily than usual as I read carefully through the Writer’s Guidelines and realized that of the 5 posts I intended to sell that week, only one might be of any interest to the website.  I had jumped the gun in a fit of courage and now I had reaffirmed my mercurial low self-esteem.  I thanked them for reviewing the article and adjusted my goal to getting one thing that I had written accepted by the site.  

Once we had a more solid relationship, I reasoned, I would better understand what they would and would not buy from me.  I realized that this would need to be my approach with other leads as well.  

In the meantime, I was a neglectful jerk to my girlfriend who I treated like an obstacle to my ambition.  She confronted me on it and I saw how much of a turd I had been and reevaluated my obsession with fictional pressures that I put on myself and how I let them affect the person I love the most.  

I revised my one last hope, an article about hate groups that was surprisingly thoroughly miserable to write.  Did you know that we live in such a politically divided country that we can’t even seem to agree on who is and is not a hate group?  

I adhered to their guidelines, submitted it, and received a more cordial rejection.  This time it was a human responding.  They said it just wasn’t a good fit, but that they would love to give me feedback on some pitches before I spent the time to write another full article to submit to them.  

You better believe I took them up on that offer!  I pitched about 5 potential articles and thanked them for taking the time to review my much hated hate groups post, also asking if it was rejected for form/style or content.  

Now I’m re-tooling the hate groups post to pitch it elsewhere.  I’ve got about 12 hours of excessive research, rough drafting, and revision into this stupid post so I’ve gotta sell it somewhere!  

In the meantime, I’ve realized that writing web content is enjoyable and fun.  Even though the research takes hours sometimes, it’s a really awesome way to learn new things about this big weird world that we’re living in.  With that in mind, I’m going to take up my job search once more with a narrower focus on the type of writing that I find interesting.  Hopefully it will stave off the boringness of corporate form postings and the depression of confronting my limited professional-experience.  

In the meantime, here are my published posts from the first month of my freelance pursuits:

How You Can Help 6 Critically Endangered Species with Populations of 500 or Less:

https://www.thedodo.com/fellows-pitch-6-critically-end-628725703.html 

A Muggle’s Guide to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Universal Studios:

http://www.americansky.co.uk/blog/muggles-guide-wizarding-world-harry-potter-universal-studios

8 Endangered Species Making Epic Comebacks:

https://www.thedodo.com/8-endangered-species-making-ep-652564299.html

A Muggle’s Guide to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Islands of Adventure:

http://www.americansky.co.uk/blog/muggles-guide-wizarding-world-harry-potter-islands-adventure 

Since Last We Spoke

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Life Update

Dear Blog/Blog Readers,

I’m sorry that it’s been nearly two months since last we spoke!  I’ve made some changes in my life that have taken up a great deal of my time (and my words).  As terrible as I am at keeping my life in balance, my recent freelance writing pursuits have pushed the Brantley Blog right out of my mind.  

I will do my best to sum up the past 51 days in a series of short impressions and updates.  In this post, I’ll only deal with non-freelance writing stuff (that’s a whole ‘nother post!).

Disneyland Avenger’s Half-Marathon  

I just started training for the Avenger’s Half-Marathon in Disneyland.  Months and months ago I was too broke to buy new running shoes, so naturally, I pretended like my old shoes were just fine.  Boom.  Plantar Fasciitis.  I can’t seem to kick the arch pain in my right foot.  It doesn’t bother me when I’m running, but I have to stand for hours on end at work and that’s when it really acts up.  I’m pretty nervous about my training now.  I don’t want to exacerbate the injury, but I have to go on living my life (AKA running my miles)!  Plane tickets are booked.  Trips to San Fransisco and the Redwood forests are planned.  After this half (which is in November), I’ve got another full marathon in January. 

How Not to Make New Friends

Making new friends at work is making me realize that my people skills are weird.   There are definitely some bizarre things that I shouldn’t have said to people who don’t know me that well.  

Example 1:  Someone brings up that a co-worker doesn’t get to see his daughter because the baby momma is “a bitch.”  In an effort to lighten the mood, I pondered aloud the possibility that the baby momma truly is a “bitch” and that the daughter is a dog-human hybrid monstrosity that the co-worker father can’t bear the sight of.  It didn’t so much lighten the mood as bring the conversation to a screeching halt and fill the bar with silence for what felt like a few hours.

Example 2:  I was walking quickly to my car after work because the distance between the restaurant and my car in the parking garage is 100% not-air conditioned.  I passed two female co-workers.  One of which joked that I snuck up on her and I joked back that she should be more vigilante because it’s a big scary world full of dangerous people.  I said this to her in a parking garage…in the middle of the night.  Why?  Why would I say that?  

The Great New Radio Station Sucks

There’s a new radio station in Orlando!  It plays solely alternative music, which is a dumb, moving target industry term that effectively means “weird stuff that doesn’t suck yet still finds its way onto pop and rock radio stations.”  Think an Imagine Dragons station on Pandora. 

They kicked off their existence with 10,000 songs in a row with no commercials, which was thrilling because they play The Black Keys, Bastille, Arctic Monkeys, The Strokes, Imagine Dragons, and quirkier weirder stuff.  

Their cardinal sin is that they are still a radio station.  Anyone finding themselves iPod-less/CD-less/Spotify-less and doomed to listen only to what the radio has to offer can attest:  There is a music industry belief that people can only handle a few new songs at a time or else _________ (fill in your own dire consequence here.  Mine would probably read “the public might realize that there are millions of music options and that the radio is an outdated tool for discovering worthwhile songs,” but “the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man will destroy New York City,” would be an interesting fit too).  This belief has infiltrated my beloved alternative radio station and we are currently engaged in the following frustrating yet inevitable exchange:

Radio:  Oh you like the Arctic Monkeys?

Brantley:  Yeah, they’re pretty good.

Radio:  Okay, then we will play them twice an hour or maybe just every time you get in your car and tune in.

Brantley:  But won’t that make me hate them?

Radio:  You like The Black Keys too, right?

Brantley:  Yeah, but you didn’t answer my last question.

Radio:  Okay, then we will alternate almost exclusively between the Arctic Monkeys and The Black Keys on our station since we know that those are bands that you like.

Brantley:  But that will make me hate both of them.

Radio:  Shhh!!!  We’re playing “Fever!”

Brantley:  Look, there are tons of bands that I like and even more bands that I would like, but haven’t heard of yet.  You guys have a captive audience in this guy right here.  Maybe just give me the illusion of respect and use your position to promote interesting new music that people might really fall in love with.

Radio:  Okay fine.  We will throw in Cage the Elephant, but for every one time that we play them, we are going to have to play “Rude” by Magic thrice.  

Brantley:  I’m going to listen to an audiobook instead.

Also this radio station needs to change their batteries because they come through staticky just about everywhere in the city.  I’m pretty sure they were being overpowered by some dick with an FM transmitter listening to The Police the other night.  

Margaritas Are An Art

In an attempt to occasionally order something other than beer, I’ve discovered crappy margaritas at numerous bars.  I don’t know how to make them myself, but I don’t feel like they should be so hard.  My girlfriend makes an orange juice heavy margarita that is tangy and delicious.  Rocco’s Tacos (which is in my opinion, heaven on earth) makes tasty margaritas that are simultaneous smooth and crisp by some feat of sorcery.  

I’ve noticed that ordering a margarita occasionally raises eyebrows.  I’m not sure if it’s a “girl” drink or just an uncreative way to choke down liquor.  Either way, I don’t care.  Margaritas bring back fond Taco Memories for me, and Nacho Nostalgia.  

Maybe my love of margaritas is heavily influenced by this little Brantley Trivia tidbit (and this will shock regular readers of the blog):  I’ve never had too much tequila.  I’ve never puked or suffered a tequila hangover.  I don’t know how I’ve accomplished this, but I think that some credit goes to the booze-sponginess of Mexican food which seems to absorb 2-3 drinks in terms of alcohol tolerance.  

Remove the Nuts Before Jacking It Up

I helped a co-worker change a flat tire in the parking garage after we left the bar last night.  It was surprisingly not all that bad.  My worst memory of changing a flat tire involved me jacking the car up before removing the lug nuts.  The wheel spun as I manhandled it with the tire iron.  Frustration ensued.  Also it was hot, as it always is all the time everywhere in Florida.  Don’t get a flat down here.  

My Anti-Drug is:  Non-Existent

Many of my co-workers express enthusiasm for smoking pot.  After smoking a select few times early in college, I quit to pursue a job that I was certain would require drug testing.  Though I did get the job and they never tested me, I still abstained.  I just didn’t miss it that much.  I’m a junk food fanatic with motivation problems.  I’m practically stoned 24/7 by sheer virtue of my personality.  

That being said, people ask if I smoke and I tell them no.  Being an illegal hobby, they sometimes want to know why as if I’m on the verge of calling the cops.  I honestly don’t have a good answer.  I just don’t smoke.  I don’t care if other people do.  I just don’t.  I’ve got allergies and I’m not interested in putting smoke in my lungs (which don’t even seem that fond of air).  I’m either convincingly uninterested or off-puttingly strange enough that they don’t bother trying to peer pressure me into joining them when they light up.  

Smells Like Twenty-Something Despair

Our restaurant plays a boring, elevator music playlist of only about a dozen songs. All day.  Everyday.  On repeat.  They have a muzak version of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”  Every time it plays, a little piece of me dies inside and I fear that I will soon be no more than a shell of a human being, a dried up husk with a soul made of dust.  

Dear woman that found a 15 minute wait to be “unacceptable,”

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Dear woman that found a 15 minute wait to be “unacceptable,”

I was unsure of whether to laugh or frown at your overreaction.  I’m sorry that your blood sugar was low and that you had a long day, but after the way that you raided the chocolate covered mints at the host stand while you pouted, I’m certain you would have survived the next quarter hour without keeling over.

When you spat “I live locally,” you may never know the tidal wave of Brantley sarcasm that you so narrowly escaped.  “I’m sorry miss!  Why didn’t you say so!  Let’s just give the shaft to the 15,000 tourists in town for the convention, especially the ones that had the common sense to make a reservation.  I’m sure they will be completely understanding because you live in Orlando whereas they are just pesky invaders that came to spend money in our city.”

We’re a tourist economy.  If you think that anyone other than citrus farmers would be living in this muggy, landlocked chunk of Florida if not for Disney World, you are completely out of your mind.

I’m still angry that you got a table.  You acted like a child and should have been treated like one.  Throwing a tantrum over a 15-minute wait should have earned you a time out with your nose in the corner so that you could think about what you did.

In a Brantleytopian future, people like you will have to wear a scarlet letter so that all of society will know that you are rude and can treat you with the disdain, indifference, and discrimination that you deserve.

If you must be the portrait of despicable human behavior that you were yesterday, I suggest that you ask yourself, “Is the $7/hour motivation enough to keep this person I’m being rude to from head butting me?”

I couldn’t help but overhear you bragging to your business associates about how the hostess told you there was an hour wait and how you were able to force us to seat you immediately.  The man sitting across from you called us in advance to get on the waiting list and we told him 15 minutes as well, so that makes at least two people at that table who knew that you are full of it.

The most impactful thing you may ever do in your life is to piss people off, because yesterday you taught me something:

First impressions are powerful, 

but only impressions are absolute.

I hope I never see you again, but if I do, I just want you to remember that the only thing I know about you is that you are a deplorable turd of a human being.

 

Maybe you should think about the perceptions you give those that you treat with disrespect,

The Blonde Guy at the Front of the Restaurant

A Brief Explanation of Chicken Pot Pies for British People

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Followers of the blog know that I’ve recently started a new job at a fancy restaurant on the tourist-y side of Orlando.

Many of our guests are from all over the world, especially the UK and Brazil.  While customer service encounters with Brazilians could be an entire blog in and of themselves, today I want to address an issue that I’ve noticed with the British.

Last week, I overheard a friend telling a British family:  “The vegetables are inside the chicken pot pie.”  It was the only sentence that I picked out over the cacophony of the entire restaurant and it was so random that I laughed about it and shared it with some friends, who also chuckled.

Then, it happened to me.  I dropped off a chicken pot pie to a British couple and was asked:  “Weren’t there supposed to be some vegetables and mash with this?”  I politely explained:  “The vegetables and potatoes are inside the chicken pot pie.”

Now I can’t be bothered to Google the history and origins of the Chicken Pot Pie.  I can only assume that it must be an American invention.  Working with that assumption, I will try and define this dish for those unfamiliar with it:

A flaky pie crust is filled with a creamy mixture of carrots, peas, chopped potatoes, and chicken.  It’s completely sealed with more crust on top and then baked together.  It’s a pretty magical little thing the way that we serve it at my restaurant, but housewives also like to freestyle with it in more casserole-like variations.

The problem with Chicken Pot Pie Unfamiliarity is that the above stated location of the vegetables and potatoes is impossible to say without coming across at least a little bit condescending.  I know that my friend came across that way, and I did too (hopefully just minimally though).  Neither of us were trying to be snooty, it’s just an impossible sentence to say without that tone.

Obviously I don’t expect people from all over the world to memorize the construction of American dishes.  If they don’t have Chicken Pot Pie where you’re from, I’m not judging you or looking down on you for having some questions.

I mostly just wanted to apologize to anyone who felt belittled by the sentence:  “The vegetables are inside the Chicken Pot Pie.”

 

 

Strange Encounters with the Strangest Strangers

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Facebook friends will find this post a bit familiar, but I got a like or two on it so I wanted to share with the WordPress crowd.

My beautiful brindle dog has only increased my magnetic effect on quirky strangers. On a long walk, Magic and I pulled off of the bike path to let a woman in a motorized wheelchair pass. This was necessary because he is a dog and so he has absolutely no idea what to do with the fact that motorized wheelchairs exist and that people ride in them, thus making this woman appear like some sort of cyborg centaur that was stalking us on our walk. Seriously, he wouldn’t stop looking over his shoulder to track her pursuit of us.

Of course when she caught up with us, she had to stop and talk to me. According to this lady, my adopted mystery mutt Heinz 57 is “Part Pit, Part Shepherd, Part Dingo, and Part Wolf.” This diagnosis accounts for his brindle coat, large ears, and something about the color of his eyes makes him Part Dingo/Part Wolf – though he was allegedly found in Georgia Animal Control and I’m fairly certain that the dingo population in The Peach State are confined exclusively to zoos and people’s imaginations. But this woman knows her stuff because she volunteers for SPCA and was born on a reservation and has two wolves at home.

Then, she wanted me to bring my terrified best friend closer to her mechanized mount for closer inspection. I halfway tried to politely oblige, but Magic dug his heels in and I soon found myself scrambling to come up with a genial way of saying: “Dog isn’t about your Hoverround, ma’am.” Luckily, she caught Magic’s meaning and dismounted her whip to introduce herself. This only further baffled my dog, who before today has never ever in his entire life met a human being that he didn’t assume wanted to be his best friend.

At this point I was trying to wrap up the encounter, which probably didn’t do much to relax Magic. The problem was that I was cornered. If we walked away, she would resume stalking us on her Jazzy (to the dog’s tremendous dismay). She had to be the one to drive off into the sunset in order for us to conclude our walk. Magic tentatively sniffed her hand and let her pet his head for a couple seconds, which thankfully was enough for her to climb back aboard her wheels and go about her business (whatever that may be for someone driving their wheelchair on a bike path).

Why do these people always find me?”