Every so often (weekly at the moment), I’ll be writing a commentary about a story from EMPTY ROOMS LONELY COUNTRIES. I’ll tackle the stories in the order they appear in the book. Given the nature of this exercise, I cannot guarantee that I won’t spoil specific details from the story. So you may want to return to the commentaries here when you’ve finished reading the book. If I don’t address an aspect of the story you were interested in, by all means leave a question at the end of this post and I’ll do my best to answer it.
“KICKING LOVE’S ASS”
This story was originally published in two parts as “What is Done, Is Done I” and “What is Done, Is Done II”. The original titles for the pieces were “Kicking Love’s Ass I” and “Kicking Love’s Ass 2: Electric Boogaloo”, which were deemed unacceptable for City Style magazine, and for the purposes of this book, I thought it would be nice to finally use the previous title.
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, the events in this story are actually a medley of incidents that happened over the course of several different weekends. But the details are true, such as my waking up at the James Joyce on the couch in the cigar room, which for a brief time had actually been called “Christian’s Room”. There were three or four times I’d wake up in that room to a sun punishing me with light, and I remember one morning when I woke up, went to the bar, poured myself a drink and then watched television for a few hours before leaving. Richard, the owner at the time, was tremendously patient with me, obviously.
This particular evening began with my offhand comment about finding love and Patel and Murray sort of ran with it:
“When we find Love, I say we kick his ass!” proclaims Dr. Patel in the car.
Mr. Murray nods his head in agreement. “Absolutely. LOVE MUST DIE!”
“Okay,” I say,” I think you two may have misinterpreted what we are out to do here.”
Even as this conversation was happening, I already knew there was a story in the making.
While I’m not a huge fan of this story having returned to it eleven years later (again, it’s the overtness of Hunter S. Thompson’s influence), I do like the little details. Such as the “parking lot” nestled between Eighth and Ninth Avenue in Ybor City. This was one of the last places left in the area where you could get free parking; that is if your car didn’t get stuck in the mud or crash into a tree. At the time, it was a little out of the way, and it was often impossible to get out of your car without a homeless person asking for money to “watch your car”. Even if you dropped a dollar, it was cheaper than paying for parking in a lot that really wasn’t any more secure than where we parked. I also like the mentioning of DNA, one of the first clubs I went to regularly. If I had a time machine and returned to it today, I would probably discover that it was a dump, but for a nineteen year old – still discovering the joys of being out all night in dark places with loud music – it was pure magic. I’ve never written stories about DNA specifically, but there are times when I’m feeling nostalgic enough to try.
I like the tricks with the chronology, which I’m surprised I picked up on so early when I started this writing style. Prior to this, especially at university, was trying my hardest to be the next Roald Dahl, and my focus was straight-forward storytelling with dark twists. I never even came close to upsetting a story’s chronology until I was writing for City Style, and I wish I could remember exactly where I picked that up from. I also like the transition from the first part into the second, and how I managed to find a way to re-introduce the previous month’s material without retelling the whole story. I’m surprised I pulled that off back then. I would’ve expected it to be more like H.P. Lovecraft’s “Herbert West: Reanimator” where he spends half the installment telling you what happened in the previous one.
As you can tell from “The Illusion of Swing” and this story, I had a few issues with the Nineties.
The scene with the Banshee and Death was mostly true. This was the kind of thing that could only happen at the Castle. “Death” was wearing one of those black robes with a hood and a kind of cloth over his face so you couldn’t see it. He was talking to someone who I assumed was a Banshee, but upon reflection he could’ve been a number of things. Banshees are, by nature, more difficult to spot. Anyway, they were having exactly this kind of pretentious conversation while urinating, and through the magic of writing, I managed to have myself included in the discussion.
The Cupid is basically the reason I decided to write this story. While the story is a mixture of different evenings in Ybor, the Cupid was spotted the same night that Murray and Patel made the comment about kicking Love’s ass, and the synchronicity of it made my writing the story inevitable. I remember seeing him somewhere near Seventh Avenue and he was wailing and crying, and there was something about it – perhaps him being a grown man in a diaper – that made it sad and worth writing down.
Now that I think about, if I had to determine how my life is different now than it was back then, I’d have to confess that there simply aren’t enough grown men in diapers crying their eyes out these days. And I don’t know about you, but that just breaks my heart.