Well Looky Here

McDonalds Ordering KioskPosted about this a few months back, and I’m revisiting the subject because, as you can see, look what just turned up at my local McDonald’s. Yep, that’s what you think it is, an order kiosk.

I haven’t used it yet. Not because I can’t see it, and not because I was with Pam. No, I haven’t used it yet because thus far, no one has walked out of my local Mickey D’s demanding $15 an hour. No one has stood under the golden arches telling local reporters that they deserve more than a paramedic because they “do more.” No one has organized a group of people outside to chant various slogans demanding “living wage” for working a register. So, ’til that happens? I don’t mind going to the counter, ignoring the kiosks, and showing corporate (or the franchise owner) that I’d rather give my order to a human being – albeit one who likely makes more errors than the machines.

If the ‘movement’ takes hold here in FL, though? If the people at my local fast food restaurant start demanding living wage for minimum wage jobs? Well, guess what? You’ll see me using nothing but. Not because I don’t want people to make $15 an hour. I do. But, not as minimum wage. Not to take my order at the counter. Not to take my cash at the drive-thru. Sorry, but that job isn’t worth $15. And people shouldn’t confuse living wage with minimum wage.

My nephews, 16 and 15, just got hired at a local supermarket. And while it’s nice they’re making a little more than minimum, they understand that a first job is a first job for a reason. It’s not a career. It isn’t something you want to do for a living. Collecting shopping carts or taking someone’s groceries to their car or bagging? Not living-wage-worthy. But then, my nephews have a work ethic. They have ambition. They don’t want to be bagging in six months. One of them has already gotten a promotion. That’s how you go places. You work hard, you make an impression, you get raises. You don’t just demand living wage for an entry-level  job that’s meant for HS kids. Want $15 an hour? Good. Earn a promotion. Show the boss you deserve more responsibility and the money that comes with it.

My local McDonald’s has seen the writing on the wall. They’ve invested in eliminating minimum wage jobs because they don’t want to pay $15 for positions that don’t warrant it. For all you cheerleaders of jacking the minimum wage to $15 for every low-skill gig out there? Take a good, long look. The people you’re fighting for? They’re going to lose those low-skill-level jobs, and they won’t come back. They’re gonna be replaced by machines. And, unless they start developing the skills necessary to get better jobs-like they should have been doing all along? Good luck making living wage in a world without gigs like fry cook and cashier. For those who’ve been pounding the $15 an hour drum? This is on you, folks. You brought this on yourselves.
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Currently listening to: “Regret” by New Order

You Only Get So Much

Alarm clock ticking away.True, that goes for just about anything. But I’m talking about time. Clock’s always ticking, there’s no RESET button and no REWIND function. If people can’t understand that, or worse, aren’t willing to, then they’re people I don’t need. I’m not a content guy. Having the creds I have, looking over what I’ve been able to accomplish doesn’t give me a warm and fuzzy feeling. It reminds me of the things I still haven’t done, and want to check off my ever-expanding bucket list.

I have a lot of goals I still want to achieve. When things were going bad with my film? I fought through the petty BS and finished it. Then I got it into festivals. Then I got it distributed-worldwide. Check, check, check. Mission accomplished. When I had issues with my first novel, I hired an editor. Didn’t work out. So, I tracked down the best editor I’d ever had, Marge Harris, who I hadn’t spoken to in nearly 15 years. It was tough, and took over a month, but I managed. Check. Novel drafts polished like crystal? Check. Publication? Check.

If someone around you is constantly dragging their personal baggage into your project? Ditch them. Flat out, cut ’em loose. If someone can’t check their agenda at the door and focus on the work? Why bother? No one is irreplaceable. Besides, you may find the albatross’ replacement is even more talented, or has something to offer you never expected. That’s my .02 cents. If someone’s drama or politics or bitterness is an obstacle, don’t suffer it. Overcome it. Much easier to move ahead without that kind of anchor dragging you down. Trust me on this one.

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Currently listening to: “Here’s Where the Story Ends” by The Sundays

 

Take a look at #HowEyeSeeIt

Okay, today’s the day, time to let the cat outa the bag. The team at Catalyst Creativ & Wayfarer Entertainment, and the Foundation Fighting Blindness have officially kicked off the Blindfold Challenge. What’s it like to be a sighted DJ, suddenly forced to do your thing the way a blind DJ does? Well, you can find out by right here. What’s it like to be a cook, or chef, when you suddenly can’t see the kitchen you’re working in? Fun stuff. And, of course, the reason I went to NY 2 weeks ago to work with Justin Baldoni – one of the stars of the hit series Jane the Virgin – who also happens to be a director (hint hint), Diane Guerrero, from the NetFlix monster Orange Is the New Black, and Mrs. USA and Mrs. World April Lufriu.

Give it a watch, and let us know how it turned out!

How I got involved with the #HowEyeSeeIt campaign

Back in June, I got a tweet from someone I didn’t know, asking if I’d be interested in participating in a digital campaign. I didn’t recognize the Twitter handle and had no clue what the campaign might be, but figured, what the heck? So long as it wasn’t promoting the new Ghostbusters

So we share e-mail addresses and Amanda Slavin, from Catalyst Creativ, sends me a note about the project. It’s a campaign being kicked off by the Foundation Fighting Blindness, designed to bring attention to various diseases causing sight loss, helping researchers looking for cures get more funding, raising awareness, that sort of thing. Needless to say, blindness is more than a pet cause, seeing as for me, the lights’ve been out since 2002. I was IN even before finishing that e-mail.

So, dates are set. Other people (including some actors, a pageant winner, two documentary directors and yours truly) would be shooting together in late June. Only, well, it’s entertainment. Things fall through. So, the original dates didn’t work. No problem, right? Just reschedule. But, by mid-July, dates were still being discussed, and a firm deadline to complete our part was set for August 7th. As you can imagine, by the end of July, that window  was closing fast. To be honest, while I was totally stoked about being involved, the folks I was scheduled to be working with are much bigger entertainment industry fish than I am. I mean, by a lot. So, I figured, given that I’m not the world’s luckiest filmmaker, the whole thing might not happen. Before I lost hope, though, August fifth started looking good for everyone. On Aug. 1st, I get word, asking if I can be in New York, not Los Angeles, in 72 hours. Flight, lodging, Uber rides, whatever, that’ll
all be covered. I called up some friends and my sis to see who could watch Mouse and the cats. I hired another friend’s pet-sitting service for the slots I couldn’t fill. Thursday morning? We were on a plane out of Ft. Myers, on our way to The Big Apple.

I won’t get into all the ins-and-outs of the trip there. Suffice to say, it wasn’t bad. The trip back? The voyage from Hell? I already posted about that – but my run-in with TSA? That wasn’t the worst of it. (Sorry, I don’t like cliffhangers or teasers, but I’ll get to that other incident in a couple of blogs).
Joe Monks and Todd Kellstein talking at a table at John Sullivan's in NYC
I will, however, do a name-drop, because I’ve got the okay from the powers-that-be behind the shoot. That pic? That’s me and director Todd Kellstein of Wayfarer Entertainment, one of the filmmakers behind Rebel With a Cause: the Sam Simon Story. For those of you who don’t remember the name, Sam was the co-creator of The Simpsons, who died of cancer in 2015.

Todd, Pam and I hooked up Thursday night for dinner at John Sullivan’s, where we became fast friends, talked not just the following day’s shoot, but movies
in general, how I made The Bunker, films Todd and his partner have worked on and released – needless to say, we wound up taking up a table for a lot longer
than the average dinner-seekers at a place right up the street from Madison Square Garden.

More on the shoot, the other people involved (yeah, yeah, I know, more teasers). But August 23rd is comin’ fast, and on or around that date is when all can be revealed. In fact, probably a lot earlier, but for now? This is how the trip began. Dates get locked Monday night. Flight arrangements made around 10pm. I start contacting people about the pets, rescheduling things planned here, that sort of stuff. Tuesday night? Hotel arrangements get locked down. Thursday morning we’re city-bound. Thursday afternoon? The New York location falls through (that’s shoots for you, rarely does anything but planning go without a hitch). Thursday late, the producer books an even better location, and I get e-mailed that address that night, with a call time of 9am. Sound frantic? Trust me. I’m a writer. Words do not do this one justice. And, there’s a lot more to come. Keep checking back to see how the shoot itself went, what’s left of Times Square, The Village, and some of my favorite old haunts, having grown up traveling into the city a ton.
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Currently listening to: “Monsters” by The Cruxshadows

Go Pound Sand, TSA

Since going blind, I’ve traveled a lot. Many trips to California. A bunch to NY and Jersey. Texas. Tennessee. Georgia. Detroit. Heck, I even flew to Mexico, solo.

I’ve never had too many problems with TSA, but I know they get their share of grief. IMO? In the past few years, they’ve more than earned it. On the return trip from the #HowEyeSeeIt shoot I did up in New York, I had my first really bad run-in with the TSA Gestapo, including an agent who thought she could run roughshod over us, telling Pam that she couldn’t record or take pictures of security, and that she had to stop. I told her, no, we didn’t, because I know better. If you want to find out just how well the TSA treated this disabled passenger, who had told agents that he needed assistance and was taken to the checkpoint with my wife, who I was almost immediately separated from, before agents allowed my property to be ripped off right beneath their noses? Click the vid.

 

If the TSA wants to bitch about me posting it? Too bad. If they want to come after me for it?  Go pound sand,  you inept, incompetent mouth-breathers. You know where to find me. Actually, you probably don’t, because it was apparent that you’re clueless, at least in Newark. Hint: I’m from SWFL and I’m still in the e-phone book. Your super security skills oughta at least get you close. Just to start you off, that thing you’ll be sitting on in the plane? That’s your ass. That thing that bends in the middle of your arm? That’s your elbow. Now that you can tell one from the other.

New school & old school.

You all know I write a lot. Day, night, short stories, novellas, screenplays, blogs.the keystrokes pile up fast. The average keyboard lasts me about two years if I’m lucky. When my Dad passed, my old board was going South, so I got his. Lasted me 3 years, which impressed me. At Christmas, it was getting to be time again, so Pam bought me a brand new one. Same model, same everything. I thought I was set for a while.

Unfortunately, no. Despite me being a lifelong Logitech user, in roughly 6 months, my new board was going downhill fast. The ALT key had popped off a time or two. The space bar was so loose, if I pressed it down, Pam could see under the other side. The other night? The backspace key stuck (much to my chagrin), deleting a few paragraphs of work before I could get a toothpick under it to free it up again. In short? Not good. But, not the end of the world. Just go get a new one, right?

Not so fast. Pam and I went to do some browsing. Unfortunately, most places don’t have models on display any more. And Staples? Most of their boards are now of the chiclet-key variety, which I, not being up on such things, didn’t even know existed. My reaction? Again, not good.

So, last night, my space bar is failing on roughly every fifth word. The ALT key on the left is sticking, playing havoc with me whenever I try shifting from program to program. Since I need to navigate with only the keyboard, you can imagine the state this put me in. Tonight? Back to Staples, gritting my teeth, grudgingly forced to accept the fact I may need to move to this low-profile, chiclet-style keyboard. Until.

Pam’s guiding me around, and sees this funky display. Keyboards of a brand (Rock Candy) I’ve never heard of – nor has she. Instantly, I’m wary. If Pam’s never heard of it? I’m gonna think twice. And, when she said, “Oh, look. This one’s washable,” well, that set off all sorts of alarms. Washable? Must be a joke, right? And if not, what do I need a washable keyboard for? Leading to the bigger question: What the hell does a washable keyboard cost???

“Oh, and the keys are round,” she adds, putting my hands on it.

Now, pretend you’re me. You’re a writer who desperately needs a keyboard. You have a new screenplay you’re working on, and two new subs to get to publishers. You don’t want to have to spend time re-learning a board with a different layout or types of keys or that’s as smooth and unpleasant as a laptop board. Unpleasant to me, at least, because I need a little space between the keys. I like a board with a significant profile between the rows. You know – old school.  Round keys? What kind of nutty board is this?

“It comes in different colors,” says Pam, checking it out. “And yes, they have purple.”

Purple? That stops me in my tracks.

Grimace purple?” I ask, interest officially piqued.

“Grimace purple,” Pam confirms. Me being a worshipper of the big shake-loving guy, that almost sold me right there. Still, I hadda put the thing through its paces.

Rock Candy Keyboard in Grimace purple!

Round keys. In my head, something was rattling around, but I couldn’t put my finger on it (ha-ha) immediately. Not until I stood in front of this thing and started tappin’. And that was when I knew I was going home with this baby. Because something inside had awoken, and I was anxious to see if it was for real.

When I was nine, my Mom bought a $5 typewriter at a garage sale. I found it in the back of my Dad’s closet, and started pecking away. Shortly thereafter, I banged out my very first piece of prose fiction. When I was a few years older, my Dad brought home this monster of a business machine that the bank was retiring. Weighed about 40 lbs, no joke, and had huge ribbon reels. For the rest of my high school career, I banged away on that enormous Smith-Corona (as I recall). I wrote my first professionally published story on that typewriter. I wrote my first shoddy novel on it. I wrote, without exaggeration, thousands of short stories on that machine. I loved that thing.

But alas, all good things must come to an end. Metal fatigue began to set in. It got to the point I couldn’t repair the little things that kept going. And for my birthday, my parents got me my first electric typewriter. And so, I reluctantly put that beast to rest, giving it to the typewriter shop in town as a donation. Not gonna lie. Think I cried over it.

So now here I am. Three decades later, hundreds of short stories published, comic books in collectible guides, a few produced screenplays, couple of novellas out there, a well-received novel, 14 million copies of my work in print. And I’m here, breathing hard, because this new board? The keys, the keys are round. And they’re separated from each other by a significant distance. And, with the feet extended, the profile of the keyboard is, well, a lot like a typewriter.

A lot like a very old typewriter. True, nowhere near as big, and this thing is virtually weightless. But still, the feel of my fingers on this thing? Despite the differences, there was no getting-used-to-it period. I put on even less felt dots than usual, and just started going to town. And the 15-year-old kid in me? That kid started to laugh his ass off. Because while he shows up often when I get into a groove and feel like a teenager again? This? This is different. It feels like that kid is back in the cockpit, falling through the hole in the page.  I don’t know if that feeling is going to last. But I’m hoping it does. Because there’s no denying, at times the past couple of years, time passing, sightless, thinking about opportunities I missed out on, there have been nights when the kid didn’t show up at all. And even though I was enjoying the work, I felt like an adult. No, not just an adult. I felt old.  Something that never used to happen once I got going.

I don’t feel old right now. How my fingers got accustomed to this board in an eyeblink, I don’t know. But I have my suspicions.

And I think the kid wants to go joyriding.  For my part? I’m gonna let him.

 

 

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Currently listening to: “These Things” by She Wants Revenge

A Few Simple Things

Cover to Simple Things, an anthologyLots going on the past couple of weeks and plenty to catch everyone up on, but first things first. The blog. No, not forgotten, but tried doing the trendy thing and using Facebook for updates. Can’t stand Facebook, though, the Replies function sucks, so, while I’ll keep sharing stuff there, back to blogging. That blogging is now considered ‘old school’? Well, that’s tech for you, eh?

On to this week’s good news. Couple months back, got a tip on a new horror anthology that was looking for subs. The book’s premise was, ordinary, everyday, simple things that had the potential to be forces of evil. The kinds of things you’d find in a secondhand store, thrift shop, you know the type of place I’m talking about. Well, the summer’s been crazy what with some family issues, some travel (planned & unplanned), things going on here at the house and life in general. I almost bailed out on the story twice. I started a couple of times, things went haywire outside of writing, and it got real iffy for a while.

The good thing was, I had a concept I felt was solid, had a decent idea of where I wanted to go with it, and figured unless I hit the wall deadline-wise, I’d find a way to carve out the time and make it happen, especially because the guy who tipped me is a great storyteller and was going to be running the show. Lo and behold, got on a roll a few days before relatives came to town, stayed up three nights straight to finish the first draft, went three days on 8 hours sleep to get a really good final done, and, even though Pam was out of town (she always sends out my attachments because my software is so out of date), it got there.

I was sent the contract for Simple Things, by Lycan Valley Press, last Friday. Cover appears.well, somewhere in here. Damned if I know. Release date is – you guessed it – October, just in time for Halloween. I’m not gonna spoil anything, so click thru to see who I’m lucky enough to be sharing the table of contents with – it’s an impressive list of fellow sickos. Also have subs out at a couple of other new places, and will update on that as I hear those tales’ fates. In the meantime,  working on two new stories, one that’s likely to go into my next anthology because I’m not sure there’s a mag or publisher out there looking for material this unspeakable, but if any fellow scribes or avid readers are aware of an outlet looking for a story you’d describe in a word as: reprehensible, let me know. Hope all you guys out there are doing well, and enjoying the summer as much as I am.

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Currently listening to: “Let the Day Begin” by The Call

This bathroom thing’s getting’ out of hand.

Illustration of standard male and female restroom figures, both crossing their legs and holding because they have to pee. Male is wearing blind man shades.In case I haven’t shared this before, I usually use the women’s room. No, not because I identify as such, or am considering the transgender thing, but, because being blind, I have a choice. Either Pam guides me into the men’s room (not exactly the most comfortable of situations for anyone concerned), or, since I can’t see anything, she leads me into the women’s room. In 14 years of sightlessness, this has never been a big deal.

Thursday, we’re out having lunch, and nature calls. The place (a popular chain I won’t name) is pretty slow, but as always, Pam checks, waits for the bathroom to be empty, and we go in. Moments later, a manager enters, telling her I can’t be in there. Pam explains that I’m totally blind and need assistance. The woman says, “I’m just explaining our policy. He can’t be in here.” So, Pam asks, “Should I take him into the men’s room? Is that what you want?” To which the manager says, “No, you can’t be in there.”

Now, I’m in the stall already, about 45 seconds into what’s usually about a 90 second pit stop. Still, I did think about calling out, “No problem. I’ll just go into the dining room and piss on the floor.” Better judgment prevailed, though, and so I finished up, Pam led me out, and the manager finally left, after staring Pam down the entire time. I did wonder, had I simply told her, “This is how I identify. Ignore the goatee and moustache, call me Laverne. I’m covered whichever toilet I pick now, right?” But then, making the news wasn’t on the agenda. Because, I had no agenda. I just wanted to empty my bladder.

Before leaving, we got the place’s phone number to call someone more senior and to get a clarification on rest room policy for the handicapped. Pam posted on Facebook, and got a slew of responses. Everything from folks wanting us to give out the chain’s name so they could torch ’em to considering a campaign to try and take it viral, to folks suggesting we sue. (What for, I don’t exactly know, wasn’t like there were any damages, per se, but I guess that’s kinda the way folks think nowadays. Have an issue, even a minor one? Find an attorney.

So, we called up the next day, spoke to the manager-manager, who was tremendously apologetic, and promised that someone from even higher up the chain would be in touch. Sure enough, few hours later, my phone rings. Someone from corporate. Also, terribly apologetic. Aware of the whole situation, had already addressed this with the staff-particularly the mgmt team in question. And, as I’d suspected, barring assistance for the disabled is not their policy, and that point had been made clear to those who work there.

You know, I get it. This whole LGBTU thing has made a lot of folks jumpy. If you don’t have a unisex or family rest room, you may run into a situation from time to time. I wasn’t terribly bothered by anything about the incident, save for the fact that Pam was made to feel uncomfortable while I took a leak, and the situation was handled poorly. Mishandled, truth be told, but then, so be it. I know what I would think if I were working somewhere and saw a couple heading into the can without one obviously needing assistance/being handicapped. “Damn. Floor’s gonna be really sticky now.” I used to go to a club in Miami where you couldn’t even get into the john without seeing a tryst of some sort going on in one of the stalls. So I understand where the manager was coming from. But.c’mon. You can’t just expect a blind guy to go into an unfamiliar bathroom and start guessing. Plus, I’ve been in places where there’s been a sign on the stall door saying: Out Of Order. But – how would I know? If I’m in there, guess what? Out of order or not, I’m gonna use it, and then, well, the consequences? Your fault, not mine.

The woman from corporate? Sure seemed to be relieved that I wasn’t calling to bitch, or threaten, or talk lawsuit. I was just calling to be sure that, should I need to use the facilities at this particular restaurant in the future, everyone was on board with Pam leading me in there. And, the woman I spoke with went above and beyond in promising me that would be the case. So, tomorrow, Pam and I plan on going back, and having sex like greased weasels in the handicapped stall.

No, just kidding. But, sure is a relief to know I won’t have to whip it out on the side of the building and pee on a bush.

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Currently listening to: “Miss Construction theme” (Dance) by Miss Construction

Here you go, Facebook, my reaction

Being a blind computer user, there are hassles. Unless they’re significant, though, I don’t usually call attention to them. I just live with it, find workarounds, etc. So, when Facebook rolled out their new Reaction buttons, I didn’t much care. Meant nothing to me. Why? Well, because I’m not so lazy that my attention span needs to be limited to 6 goofy icons.

Facebook's Reaction Buttons: Like, Love, HaHa, Wow, Sad, Angry

Last night, I commented on my feed about this, and in short order, my sister-in-law replied with an emoji. Sure enough, the programmers at Facebook hadn’t coded in any sort of descriptive tags. Meaning, it shows I have a new message. But when I click the Comments button, all that’s there under my sister-in-law’s name is a field of utter silence. Nice, huh? Way to go, Facebook! Why not just create a bird-flipper emoji for all your blind & visually impaired users?

The other thing that gets me about this whole ‘Reaction button’ thing is: has social media really made us this lazy? Is the effort required to type out “Wow” so onerous? If it is, boy, society really is going straight down the toilet.

I’ve made people angry with my posts before. In fact, I’ve outright pissed off some folks. Know what, though? No one, ever, has posted “Angry” over something I’ve written. Now, though, regardless of a position I put forward, which might include several different points, I can expect to occasionally get “Angry” as a response, sans context?

I want the ability to turn this function off on my timeline. If people want to use it, great, good for them. But I want the ability to make sure I don’t throw away my time when it shows I have comments only to find out that unless I call in my wife, I can’t tell what anyone’s ‘reaction’ to my post is. I don’t spend much time on Facebook as it is, but I’ll be spending even less if I start seeing nothing on my TL but spots where someone posted something–but I’m prevented from knowing what it is. I mean, it’s called “Comments” for a reason, right?

 

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Currently listening to: “Who Was In My Room Last Night” by the Butthole
Surfers

Taking Another Step

Photo of Stepper with tension cords and twisterYeah, I know, cheap lead-in to this one, but I’ve been working a lot and didn’t have the time (or energy) to put any more effort into the title. Sue me.

Pictured, is the newest addition to my office. A stepper, with some nifty bells & whistles. I was looking for one before Christmas because when Pam is watching TV in the living room, I don’t do my walking in there. And, since we’re still reworking things in the garage until we get the new treadmill, my old one is currently unreachable. So, for the past month or two, I’ve been using the phone dock in the living room and walking to cool ’80s and ’90s tracks. A lot of new wave, goth, alternative, and, just added, WLIR, a station I grew up listening to up in New York.

Still, Pam likes watching How I Met Your Mother on Netflix when she’s cooking or taking a break, and since sometimes my exercise and her break schedules overlap.

Back to the beginning. I’d been looking for a stepper. Found a bunch for around $50, and understandably, most of ’em had so-so reviews, a lot of user complaints, etc. So I went back to Craigslist, and sure enough, if you wait a little bit, you’re gonna find what you’re looking for. I grabbed this thing brand new from someone here in town who couldn’t use it, the thing works great, and, best of all, it fits right there in the corner, so I can take my own breaks when I need to give the fingers a rest or hit a wall and need to.uh.take a step back. (Ouch. I know.) I don’t even have to fold it out to use the stepper part. Sweet. And, paid less than a third of what it costs brand new. Yee-ha.

Work, exercise, cool tunes. All right in my office. No complaints about how 2016 is startin’ out, let me tell you.

 

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Currently listening to: “Poison Heart” by The Ramones