I’m no Monster

April 28, 2018

Yesterday at work, I saw a rat. A real, live, living breathing rat. Keep in mind this is a rare thing for me. Growing up and living most of my life in the suburbs and clean, well-kempt apartments, I’m not accustomed to seeing these things outside of the zoo or on cartoons. Toledo isn’t a trash dump, so we don’t have a bunch of them running around like so many other big cities.

Instead of the revulsion and contempt I typically feel for vermin, I learned something about myself that I’d always suspected.

Let me start at the start…

I work in an office, yes, but there’s a warehouse as well. My office is small and tucked away in the back corner of the building. To get to the bigger, cleaner, more luxuriant office, you have to cross through the warehouse. Freezing in winter and humid as all get-out in summer, it’s filthy, dirty, dark, and the type of place you would expect to find all sorts of critters. Some of the spiders I’ve seen in there, whoo boy…

So last autumn, one of my coworkers mentions something about a rat. A rat the size of a puppy, like a big monster. Other eyewitness accounts agree, so I’m scared shitless of some massive monster jumping out at me, biting me, spreading the bubonic plague, and running off to gleefully find its next victim.

I’ve never seen it. I’m not sad about this.

Anyway, yesterday, I’m walking to my office. I heard something scratching, something rustling. There is a mini dumpster in the warehouse for all of our myriad waste products. It sits right next to a storage area for cabinets that haven’t gone out to their respective customers yet. I figured it was a driver pulling a load to take to his next location, so I kept my talking to myself at a minimum.

Then I realized I was alone. Who was making the noise?!

I tiptoed around the dumpster. Surely, it was a rat. Not just any rat, though. THE rat. Rattus Maximus. A fully-evolved Pokémon ready to hypnotize me and feast on my delicious innards. Holy fuck what is it?!?!?!

Ever the brave little pirate, I leaned forward to look into the dumpster (it’s about 4 feet tall). Amidst boxes and papers, I saw it…

The most adorable little rat ever.

Okay, it wasn’t little. Pretty big, actually. Not the mammoth, though. Unless my coworkers are the biggest bunch of pansies I’ve ever met, there is no possible way that is THE rat.

Its little rat face was so cute. It had a long tail, little ears, whiskers, a twitchy nose…and it just wanted out of its prison. I just wanted to reach in, grab it, and snuggle with it all day.

Then I realized it’ll definitely bite me. It’s got to be crawling with disease and germs. It’s not a pet, it’s a fucking rat!

Still, I could set it free. But how?

I headed back to the office, scared that not only would one of the sadistic warehouse workers try their hardest to kill it, they wouldn’t care about it. The poor little rat was going to die!

Other coworkers told me it would be fine. “Trust me” they’d say, “we get tons of rats in here. They’ll find a way.” Thanks, Professor Malcom, life always does find a way, right?

I realized that they’d dump that trash into the big dumpster outside, where the poor guy could either get free very easily, or certainly find a good meal. I felt better when I remembered that.

So I’m not the vermin hating asshole I once thought. I have sympathy for cute little animal friends…how could I ever wish anything bad for them? They’re just trying to survive, to live, to get married and have babies and live with a white picket fence, just like all the other rats out there.

And plus, it’s a warehouse. What do you freakin’ expect?!

But I still stand firm on my anti-ant and bee stance. Hate those fuckers.

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All Good Things…

April 25, 2018

I’ve been updating my Goodreads page like crazy lately. Not sure why, but I feel like reaching deep into my brain to remember every book I’ve ever read, just so I can catalogue it. I guess that’s what we do, make lists and go back and read them. Because why not?

Today, I wrote a few, including one for the novelization of All Good Things, which I’m sure you know, was the series finale for Star Trek: The Next Generation. I know this review won’t ring true with many people, and I’m sure most won’t even give a shit. I just really wanted to repost it here, because I enjoyed the story within.

So…enjoy!

As I write this, Easter was just three weeks ago. For some reason, this particular Easter, a particular memory of another particular Easter sprang to mind. I don’t know why, but I had a good laugh with my dear old mom about it.
So. It’s Saturday night, April 15th, 1995. Easter Eve. My parents and I went out for the evening, like we so often did. I was a freshman in high school, not wanting to be out with Mom and Dad, but I knew that not only would we go to dinner at a restaurant (probably Applebee’s or some other sports bar/family type place that had popped up all of a sudden in Toledo all over the place at the time), we would go shopping afterward. I always had a book or CD to buy (remember CD’s?!), so for a 14 year old kid who couldn’t drive and lived in a tiny suburb where the best I could hope for was the grocery store (long before the days of “grocery stores” having billions of items other than just food), I eagerly tagged along.
Anyway, we went to Target after eating, just perusing the aisles. Under the impression that my mom had already finished her Easter shopping (more than just candy, she love to get all sorts of crap for us and everyone else in the extended family), I figured we were just doing whatever we could.
In the book section, I found the novelization of the movie Stargate, and the novelization of All Good Things, Star Trek: The Next Generation’s series finale that had aired almost a year prior. I was big into licesened properties, namely Star Trek, but also into movie novelizations for some reason. I really don’t know why, but that was my jam at the time.
So I’m carrying these two books with me, and my parents find me. Mom asks what I’ve got, so I show her the books. She took them and put them in her cart, and I just didn’t think about it. By the time we left, she had paid for them.
I didn’t complain, because hey, free books. Not thinking, I didn’t ask for the books when we got home. Chances are, I had been in the middle of another book at the time, and didn’t feel the need to horde these on my already overstuffed bookcase.
The next morning, Easter Sunday, our parents woke us up to find our Easter baskets. You read that right–my at 14, my brother at 16, and my sister home from college at 19, were woken up early on a Sunday morning to find hidden Easter baskets. Adorable.
Oh yeah, the book itself.
I liked it. There was a lot more in the story than they could show on the television episode. I loved how characters that were somewhat prominent on the series but hadn’t been seen for a while appeared, some getting a send-off, others just kind of…there.
To be honest, All Good Things wasn’t the finale it could have been, and I attribute a lot of that to the fact that we knew Star Trek Generations was coming out six months after the episode. It wasn’t like the last time we’d ever see these characters, although it did have a good, heartwarming feeling to it.
That said, the book to me was a bit of a tease, even though I had already seen the show and the movie. I read it expecting a big, hearty GOODBYE, LOYAL FANS! from all the characters, especially those tertiary characters like Dr. Pulaski, Wesley Crusher, and several others, but instead, it ended just like the show, fully prepared to usher us into Generations, and the next couple of movies.
Regardless, I enjoyed this. Maybe it was the memory of how I came to own the book, or maybe it was the nice, warm spring of 1995, a perfect end to a terrible freshmen year of high school, or maybe even something else I can’t seem to recall at this moment.
TL;DR:
Good book. Great series. Happy Easter.

Help Me Help You

April 21, 2018

Over the past few days, I’ve noticed a sheer lack of respect, or even consideration, for other people. I know that can be a pretty broad statement, but several things have really stuck with me and it’s bugging me beyond belief.

At work (yes, I still have a day job unfortunately…) on Wednesday, we had a customer appreciation day. It was busy, and a lot of our regular customers were there. While they were slappin’ high fives and hugging the other employees, they barely brushed my hand instead of shaking it, didn’t look me in the eye, and walked on by. These are the people that ask for specific employees on the phone just to ask if something is in stock, as if I’m so stupid I can’t do it myself.

Did I do something to piss them off? Do they just not adapt to change? I mean, I’ve been there for two years!

So yesterday I took one of these guys’ order. He was patient while I was checking the computer for a specific item that we never sell. I found it, printed out his claim slip, and he made some comment about how I don’t cut him a deal like everyone else. Look, prices are prices, so sorry I don’t break the rules and take money off for a customer we only see once a week, if that.

What do these people expect? I know it’s a competitive market out there, but seriously…I didn’t personally decide to screw you over.

Last night, I’m at a fast food place. The employees clearly don’t want to be there doing their jobs. So a lot of customers were receiving food made incorrectly, waiting way too long, and not even getting the right things they ordered. When someone finally asked to talk to the manager, they had to wait for the lady to come out of her office, grumbling about it, and deal with the problem that never should have happened.

7 PM on a Friday is a busy time at any restaurant. They signed up for this job, and sure, people are allowed to have a bad day. But how hard is it, really? Just to listen, take an order, read it back, and give someone their receipt—none of these things happened!

This week, I won a few ebay auctions. All from the same seller, so I paid right away and eagerly awaited my shipment. It arrived today! I still don’t have positive feedback—why? Oh, that’s right, they’re waiting for my feedback to determine what they say about me. Not how it works, folks, but what do you care? Well guess what else—one of the items is wrong!

I am totally forgiving on this. Of all the auctions that person was running, every item was in the same packaging, and from the same product line (miniatures, of course). But still, were they in that much of a hurry that they couldn’t read a few simple words on the package?

I emailed, and hopefully will get a response today. Not to be cynical, but I highly doubt it. (I also requested positive feedback, so we’ll see how that goes.)

Why do I make mention of this? Well, I’m just sick of people not fulfilling their end of the bargain. I’m sick of people acting like no one else matters but them. What ever happened to working together? What about banding together in face of all the horrible things going on in the world today?

Yep, I’m going to relate this to the struggle of a writer. Behold.

Back in November, I submitted a story to a fairly large publication. They pay well, and have a large readership. More than that, their website is phenomenal. I mean really, how many online magazines have shitty websites? It really detracts from the experience.

But I digress. On January 28th, I received an email from them. My story is being held for the next round of scrutinizing! That’s awesome—it might get published in that magazine! Happy me.

The big thing to remember with this was that it might take up to three months to hear back. 90 days. That would be on or around April 28th, would it not? Sorry, I suck at math, but let’s go with that. And isn’t April 28th a week from today?

I still haven’t heard from them. I honestly don’t think I will.

Their submission guidelines basically say not to contact them unless they have said to do so. If they’re not interested, and they don’t say this directly, but pretty much, they won’t get back to you.

There are a metric ton of publications like this. I’m not kidding—ask any writer.

Rude. Irritating. And a definitely lack of respect for their writers. Look, you made us wait all this time, and you’re not going to give us the common decency to let us know you don’t want our stories? Fine, we’ll just let other people know how you treat hard working writers, and that it might not be worth their time an effort to submit to you.

Petty? Sure. Immature? Of course. But at least I’m helping others. And it’s more than I can say for a lot of these publications. Because I care about more than just myself—I care about helping others, and making sure they know what they’re getting into.

Because if not for others to help, how would we get along in this world? Not very well, and that’s what frightens me the most.

Books Books BOOKS!!!

April 15, 2018

Yesterday, my wife and I took a little adventure to some of the cooler parts of southeast Michigan. I’m not talking chic nightclubs and fashion outlets, but bookstores. The place where all the cool kids hang out! Hey, we were there, so that counts, right?

But seriously, there were a lot of interesting folks out. It’s good to see that reading, and books in general, are still so popular. I’ve always loved reading (hey, that’s good for a writer, huh?), and when I have a chance to get my hands on something that is damn near impossible to find, I’ll relish the chance.

First, we went to John King Books in the great city of Detroit. I found out about King Books about a year ago, maybe even sooner. It’s odd, too, considering how much time I’ve spent up there, and I used to live there for a short while. I get that I’m not going to know about everything up there, but still, something like that you’d think I’d have heard of it.

So we braved the rain, sometimes a slight mist, others a torrential downpour. At one point, traffic stopped completely due to an accident hogging two lanes. I love having to merge all the way over! I realize it was one lane, but there was no reason for it to take that long to get past. Typical with accidents, though, people love to gawk, people love to think they are obligated to get out and help, even when cops and rescue squads are on the scene.

Anyway, we got there and once we were inside, the stench of old, musty books slammed into us at once. No surprise, because there were tons of books. Literally. This is a four-story building that is crammed to capacity with used books. Anything and everything you could imagine—except romance, apparently, because neither of us saw any of those. Not that we were looking, but you’d expect to see a huge selection.

So I was looking for many titles, but two in particular. Did they have them? Nope. In fact, most of the stuff on my list wasn’t there. Plenty of other titles by those authors, but not the ones I wanted. It was okay, though, because I found two books I’d had my eye on for some time.

Dreamsnake, by Vonda McIntyre. I’m pretty sure this recommendation came from a list I was looking at on Goodreads, but possibly from somewhere else. It sounds interesting, not like all the typical fantasy that you always see. I’ve read a few of her Star Trek titles before, a long time ago, sure, but she didn’t make me throw the book across the room, so there’s that.

Knight of the Black Rose, by James Lowder. This is from the Ravenloft series, D&D’s horror line from the 90’s. Someone still does Ravenloft, but I’m not sure who. That’s not important. What is, however, is the fact that I had tried to get into Ravenloft bigtime in the 90’s, but never managed to afford the books and boxed sets, let alone find friends willing to play it. I had read a few of the novels, but never followed up on it because I never knew which ones were worth reading and which were trash, in addition to not wanting to devote myself to a long series like that. This was one I’d always had my eye on, and Lord Soth was always a cool character, so hey, why not? Plus, the other night I went through my Goodreads list and filled in a lot of books that I had read over the years, which included three Ravenloft books, which led to me reading reviews of other ones, and that led me to having the idea fresh in my brain.

So that was that. We left, and went over to Lafayette Coney Island for lunch. It was okay, but not spicy enough. Not the issue. We jumped on I-96 and stopped at RIW Hobbies in Livonia, my old gaming store/hangout from way back when. I mean, it’s in a different building now, but I still love the place. I was hoping to find paints I needed, and they had them! Plus I found a brush that doesn’t look like it’ll wear out on my in two weeks. Back on track!

Finally, we went over to Ann Arbor. Isle of Dogs had been playing at the State Theater for a while, and yes I am aware it is in wide release finally, but we wanted to see it up there. The State in as independent theater, and an Ann Arbor institution, so why not?

After getting a coffee, we walked over to the Dawn Treader Bookstore. Not nearly as huge as King Books, this is a quaint, quiet place with a nice selection. Plus, Star Wars toys hanging from the ceiling! And the owner is super nice (which you’ll find out in a moment). Again, the main books I wanted they didn’t have, but I did find several others.

The Deep, by Nick Cutter. A horror book I’ve never managed to find. Even my library system doesn’t have this! So, I snatched this up at once, not even thinking about it. Excited, and probably next on my list.

The Riddle Master of Hed, by Patricia McKillip. I found this while searching for Riddler merchandise on ebay, of all things. Having never heard of it, but liking the cover art, I read the synopsis. It sounds interesting, and yet another fantasy novel that breaks the mold. A lot of longtime fans speak highly of this book and the series as a whole, so I figured I’d get it when I saw it.

Under Enemy Colors, by Sean Thomas Russell. I have always loved pirates and books about them, which has spilled over into an interest in nautical fiction. I saw this in a bookstore a while back, and couldn’t seem to find it ever again. It has rave reviews, and supposedly the naval battles are incredible, which is right up my alley.

So the owner who was ringing me out saw Under Enemy Colors, and asked if I was into O’Brian at all. I never really wanted to read any of the Aubrey books; I mean, they sound cool and all, but it’s a long series, and I just couldn’t find an interest in them. We got into a big discussion about the movie Master and Commander, which is nothing like the books supposedly, so he ultimately went to the shelf, grabbed the book, and told me to take it. If I read it and like it, pay him. If not, bring it back and he’ll recommend something different.

That was a cool move, but I still don’t know if I want to read it. I’m sure I will, because I keep seeing that it’s a quick read. Plus, hey, another “classic” I can put on my list.

So after that we saw Isle of Dogs (awesome, as usual for Wes Anderson) and ate dinner, then came home. All around, a great day, and one with some new books as well.

You’re probably wondering, Myke, why don’t you just get those books from the library? Or off Amazon for that matter?

Look, I love supporting small, local businesses. I realize online shopping is often easier, and sometimes cheaper (not so in this case), and oftentimes you don’t have to drive around and hope to find something. But being in those bookstores, around people, finding new things, sometimes getting into conversations with perfect strangers about all sorts of stuff is not an experience you get on Amazon.

I’m into gaming, and a lot of gaming stuff is readily available and cheaper online, but my friend’s store might collapse because I didn’t buy from him. That particular bottle of paint I need for my miniatures that none of the five shops in Toledo have in stock? I found it at RIW in Livonia, plus other cool stuff I didn’t know existed, which I subsequently didn’t know I needed.

Please, ladies and gentlemen, buy local. Support small businesses. Support authors and artists and musicians! You’re helping a good cause, and might just find your next favorite thing while you do.

Be cool, my sexies. Always nice to know you’re there, and I can’t thank you enough for that!