Unintentional Reporter notebook poetry: Vol. 1

Unintentional Reporter notebook poetry: Vol. 1

Fatality crash

2 vehicle crash
East bound lost control
over median
hit westbound
driver killed
Don’t know why yet
traffic coming

Boudoir photography convention

Nice just like
that awesome
lean like that perfect
I want you to put your hands on your knees
You’re going to sit
Darts around
Untied bow tie purple
I love that
I love that
I love that


She’s a lady. Whoa, whoa, whoa.

She’s a lady. Whoa, whoa, whoa.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Disgust followed by strident calls for an immediate and far-reaching assault weapons ban rang out from the halls of power on Tuesday following passage of legislation officially renaming the well-known semi-automatic rifle AR-15 the VaginAR-15.

“That is just disgusting,” said a senator who asked not to be identified. “As a proud champion of the pro-life movement, I simply can’t sit by and allow something so associated with death and destruction to be allowed on the streets of our great country.”

The senator added that a panel of elected officials and members of the private sector, oddly enough all named Rod and Lance, would be convening in the coming days to discuss how to proceed with the ban.

He said that possible next steps could include a seizure of all VaginAR-15s currently in circulation and free therapy sessions for anyone whose life has been ruined because of the new name bestowed upon the venerated firearm long associated with manliness and virility.

“This is, or was, the greatest country on earth,” the senator said while choking back tears. “I just don’t know if we will survive something so terrible, to be honest with you. I mean VaginAR-15? That’s just gross.”

Statistics are still being collected, but preliminary data indicates gun violence has dropped substantially and men feeling grossed out has increased 400 percent. Security blankets and hugs are being handed out nationally wherever guns are sold.

Muffled but clearly discernible sobbing was heard emanating from National Rifle Association headquarters, and an NRA spokeswoman could not stop crying long enough to comment.

In the hours following the announcement, Cable News Program contributor Screaming Person said that it was “unconscionable for any God-fearing, flag-waiving American to keep such a disgusting piece of machinery in his home.”

“For God’s sake, think of the children,” he yelled so loudly that broken windows were reported at several buildings in the greater Baltimore area.

“I mean really,” the pundit continued. “This is just very disheartening, and honestly, this is what you get when you take prayer out of schools. We’ve moved away from God in this country, and this is what we get — the VaginAR-15. I think I’m going to be sick.”

Several national business chains immediately banned the VaginAR-15 from their properties citing religious liberty, and Chad Toddson, president of the traditional family advocacy organization Adam and Eve, Not Adam and Steve spontaneously combusted upon hearing of the new name.

A spokesman for the organization, Todd Chadwick, released a statement shortly after the flames were extinguished decrying the “absolute lack of decency that permeates our culture. There’s just no room for such an evil piece of machinery in polite society.”

Reached for comment via phone on Tuesday, Shannon Jones, executive director of the Women’s Rights Group, said, “Are you people fucking serious?”

“No really,” she continued. “This is what it took to get assault rifles banned? Renaming a gun after a part of a woman’s anatomy? I just can’t anymore with you people.”


A non football’s fan football fan story

A non football’s fan football fan story

The temperature hovered around 50 degrees on Friday evening and the skies above Boulder had finally taken on that autumnal greyish hue — perfect weather for football.
By 5:30 p.m., the campus was packed with Buffaloes fans in their gold and black regalia along with a sizeable contingent of Bruins fans in blue and gold.
Parking lots on campus were stuffed to the gills with fans mixing bloody Marys and throwing back cold beers. Buffalo hat-sporting tailgaters played corn hole and any plot of grass worth noting played host to games of tag football.

Actual footage of me in high school.

The unmistakable aroma of grilled meats meshed well with the monosyllabic grunting of liquored-up and soon-to-be liquored up co-eds who filed on and off the shuttle buses that lurched up and down campus streets.
Chip the Buffalo handed out free hugs to some children and elicited gasps of horror from others.
The game brought out graduates of all ages, among them, Pueblo resident Paul Alfonso, a 1965 graduate of the School of Pharmacy.
“I try to make it out here once or twice a season,” Alfonso said.
He said he was hopeful that the Buffaloes — who came into Friday night’s game undefeated — would take down the University of California Los Angeles Bruins in the Pac-12 Conference opener.
“It seems like things are going pretty well for them,” Alfonso said, adding that he likes to come to the CU campus because its where he met his wife.
“We love to come back every so often and visit the old haunts,” he said.
Cars and trucks continued to stream onto CU campus up to and past kickoff, and the legion of fans gravitated toward Folsom Field like flakes of fish food settling to the bottom of a giant aquarium. Police from across Boulder County lined the streets and patrolled the sidewalks. Scalpers announced that they had tickets.
Fort Collins resident Richard Reynolds stood outside Folsom Field waiting for a friend who had tickets to the game. He said that he is a research scientist for the U.S. United States Fish and Wildlife Service, so he has come to campus to lecture and has taught in the past.
“I love this campus,” he said.
He added that his friend, who lives in Buena Vista, used to play for the Bruins, but Reynolds said he isn’t really a football fan.
Then he paused for a moment.
“If I’m a fan of anything, I’m a Broncos fan,” he said.

I’m still wearing used shoes

I’m still wearing used shoes
Even in the fiery pit of Hades, there is no escaping student loan debt.

I wrote this about two years ago the last time the student loan people jacked up my monthly payments. Today I noticed that my monthly payment went from $138 to $473.

Student loan people are like the mafia. They don’t care where you get the money. Just get the money.

I have educated myself into poverty. I have hanged myself with my bootstraps. I would kill myself but the student loan people would wait for me at the gates of hell.

Anyway, here’s an old column:

After a rather lovely weekend, I finally got around to checking my mail and was somewhat taken aback to see that my student loan payment had jumped from a reasonable $47 a month to a ruinous $450.

I’ve never been prone to wild overreaction (cue insane laughter from everyone who knows me), so I called the student loan people. I was pretty sure what they would say — the six words that have plagued me ever since I reached adulthood — “We go off your gross income.”

Now I make enough money for a reasonable person to live somewhat comfortably on if they live in, say, a real hole in the ground — like, oh, I don’t know, let’s just say, totally hypothetically, Oklahoma.

But I don’t live in Oklahoma.

“Ma’am, I hate to tell you this, but I live in Boulder, Colo.” I pleaded with the nice but somewhat detached lady on the phone. “There’s a sign at the edge of town that says, ‘Yeah, we know it’s expensive, but look at the pretty mountains and shut up.'”

“We’re sorry, sir,” she said, a bored tone in her voice, like she was used to 37-year-old men on the verge of tears begging for mercy.

“Well, I just don’t have it,” I continued. “My rent is enough to make you jump in front of a milk truck if you had to pay it. Couple that with food, gas, car insurance, internet (because I’m not an animal) and medical bills and I’m pretty broke at the end of the month.”

“Well, you have to pay it or we’ll garnish your wages,” she said. “Trust me, you don’t want this to go to legal. Those people are animals. They will eat you. Literally. I’ve seen them do it.”

“I’m wearing used shoes for God’s sake. Give me a break.”

“Is there anything else I can do for you?”

So I’m feeling on the verge of homeless at the moment. I’ve somehow managed to educate myself into complete and total destitution.

I’ve come up with four possible solutions, none of them any good:

1. Do nothing and hope it goes away. This has worked never.

2. Flee the country. Current financial situation makes this prohibitive at best.

3. Blame poor people and immigrants. That seems to be a popular one. But no.

3. Resort to a life of crime. I cry easily, and it wouldn’t look manly on a mugshot.

The lady on the phone did mention something about federal consolidation of my loans, but I couldn’t really hear her over the hyperventilation and teeth grinding. I should probably call back.

Anyway, this is the last time I try to better myself. Or check my mail. If you need me, I’ll be down on Colfax and Broadway selling haikus at a nickel a syllable.


Live from the Ghost Writer’s Dungeon

Live from the Ghost Writer’s Dungeon
True story: This is how most celebrity “autobiographies” are written.

“We really need this deep dive into the life of Mara Sparkle to sparkle a little bit more, John,” The Editor said, his dark, cruel eyes magnified through the lenses of his coke bottle glasses. They looked off brand and 10 years out of style. I didn’t like him before and the glasses made me hate him. 

“We’ve told you before,” he continued. “This isn’t a place for your voice. You need to sound like Ms. Sparkle. She’s 23 and fabulous. You are 40 and fat. Remember, you can write celebrity biographies, or you can be composted like the others.” 

“Yes, sir,” I said, briefly making eye contact but not too much. That was the trick. If you looked at an Editor too long, he or she would interpret it as defiance. If you didn’t look up at all, they would take that as you ignoring their commands. Either way was a sure trip to the compost bin.

Off to the compost heap with you. Also, can you work a double on Saturday?

You would think that explicitly telling someone he will be killed if he doesn’t produce enough would not be very effective, but it works with writers. I once knew a technical writer who kept a noose slung above his desk for motivation. It worked quite well. He penned 30 volumes of vivid, compelling stereo instructions then promptly hanged himself. He won a lifetime achievement award that year, too. Posthumously. 

Not me though. I’ve not written anything, including stereo instructions, that would justify killing myself. It sure isn’t going to happen in the Ghost Writers’ Dungeon. It’s all bullshit versions of the truth. The politician who loves America and didn’t deserve that securities fraud conviction. The athlete who triumphed at the Olympics in spite of being dyslexic. The celebrity chef who turned out to be a white supremacist but now feels really sorry about it and opened a Thai restaurant. 

Did you ever wonder how these, we’ll call them ‘not writers even in the loosest definition of the term,” managed to put down 300 pages of double-spaced type? 

Neither did I before I wound up here, a windowless subterranean office with ever-flickering florescent lights that cast a sickly green hue on everything. 

The editorial board at the underground Ghost Writers Dungeon

I sometimes wondered where I’d be if I hadn’t chosen journalism as a profession. Being sent to the Ghost Writers’ Dungeon seemed a tad unfair. They were cleansing the ranks, for sure, but this seems harsh. In a country where facts no longer mattered, telling the truth sometimes had it’s price. That would be a perfect heavy handed, self-satisfied quote for an investigative journalist to pronounce as he or she was taken to the compost bin or the dungeon after uncovering the widespread corruption of wherever. 

But not me. I became a journalist because it was a lazy way to make a buck and get to be a writer. When I was 10 I penned a short story about my dog growing to gigantic proportions after a chemical exposure outside of a pharmacy.

Me in college. (Not actually me)

I was the guy they sent to zoning commission meetings because the city council reporter didn’t feel like it that night. I covered night cops in a town with no crime. I went to peach festivals and oatmeal eating competitions. Face it — I was a hack. I’ve never made any secret of it, even if I was always insecure about —

“Hey,” came a gruff voice from somewhere down endless rows of cubicles. “No reminiscing.”

OK, John, get to work. Ms. Mara Sparkle. Born Pearl Bayonet in Texarkana, Arkanas in 1995. Daughter of a long-haul truck driver and a former Miss Miller County, 1994. How would Ms. Sparkle open with the story of her life? 

Ever since I can remember, I always wanted to be a pop star … 

No, John. That’s the opening line of “Goodfellas.” Think, damn you. What would Ms. Sparkle say about it. … 

When you love someone, you’ve gotta trust them. There’s no other way. You’ve got to give them the key to everything that’s yours. Otherwise, what’s the point? And for a while, I believed, that’s the kind of love I had. …

Jesus Christ, man. That’s the opening to “Casino.” Have you watched anything beside Martin Scorcese movies in the past 39 years? And don’t say Tarantino. I could use the opener from “The Departed.” 

I don’t want to be a product of my environment … Hehe. That would be sweet. I wonder if they would notice. The Editor doesn’t look like he’s seen anything that didn’t have Harry Potter in it. What an asshole. I bet he likes “The Big Bang Theory,” too.

The worst show of all time.

I don’t want to get composted. Just write something, man. You always sit around and pretend you are some sort of latter-day Hemingway. Put your money where your mouth is. 

Christ, I don’t know, man. I’ve never even heard her sing. I can’t imagine it being any good. But what’s there to lose. 

I remembered, they put one of her songs on the laptop, this crusty piece of shit lapto—

Settle down. You can gripe about the laptop later. Get something down before they turn

Actual photo of my laptop

you into worm food. If you’re lucky, maybe there’s a way out of here. Like an airduct or something. Note to self: Without being too obvious, look around for surveillance cameras and any kind of air duct that can accommodate a person of size such as yourself. Ooh, I like that. Person of size. That goes down better than fat. 

I looked around the desktop and found the .mp3 file. “U do U, I’ll do me.” Ugh, text messaging really did a number on English. How is anyone going to believe this girl wrote an entire book. She can’t spell “you.”

I clicked on the .mp3 and, after taking three minutes to load during which I took stock of my life, it came on. 

I’m sorry, I just don’t have time for Y-O-U.

Thumping techno bass crackled through the cheap headphones and a clapping noise hurt my ears each time it popped. A frenzied, twisting symphony of synthesizer violins tangled violently with a tinny piano.

You do you … I’ll do me … I’ll do you, too … And you do me …

I pulled the headphones off. I raised my hand and wagged it back and forth. 

“Hey Editor!,” I yelled loudly enough that the 300 or so people in the Ghost Writers Dungeon all stopped typing and turned toward me. “I’ll just take the fucking compost heap, please.” 

Free at last.

Can I just get my prescription, please?

Can I just get my prescription, please?
Shit, it’s only Tuesday! Are you kidding me!

Hello, welcome to your automated mental health help line. Before we begin, we need some information from you. 

If you are experiencing auditory hallucinations of a religious nature, press one. 

If you are experiencing an implant in your head that was placed there by some sinister organization, cabal or secret society, press two. 

If you are depressed because your job is not fulfilling, but you don’t really know what else to do with your life, press three.


It seems like I should at least get to choose the voice on the automated call. I choose Sam Elliott.

You have selected three. If that is correct, press 1. If that is incorrect, press 2. 


OK, you have selected “Depressed because you job is not fulfilling, but you don’t really know what else to do with your life.” We are sorry you are experiencing existential anxiety. In order to help you better, please enter your insurance ID number. 


You have entered *654123987* If that is correct, press 1. If that is incorrect, press 2.


Great, just out of curiosity, is this automated mental health help line making you feel better? Press 1 for yes and Press 2 for no. 


Why is hold music always so awful? Why can’t you at least play some public domain light classical?

We are sorry to hear that. Maybe you should go get help somewhere else. If you would like to — hold on, we just got your insurance information. Oh, looks like you have high deductible insurance that is essentially useless. If this makes you sad, Press 1. If you stopped caring 10 minutes ago and life is beginning to feel like an endless horror show, press 2. 


You have selected mashing the keyboard. OK, I have a few more questions. Are you experiencing suicidal ideations but without any concrete plan to do yourself or others harm? Press one. 

sam elliott
Yeah, Sam Elliott. Definitely

Do you feel like jumping in front of a train right now? Press two.


You have selected 2. If that is correct, press 2. 


Please hold.

[Literally a 30 second loop of muzak for 20 minutes]

Hello, you have reached a live operator because you have indicated that you would like to jump in front of a train. I’m sorry, but I’m not available to answer the phone right now. If you would like to leave a message, press one now. 



Their/There, don’t let ’em get you down

Their/There, don’t let ’em get you down
Get it?

Whenever I spend an entire day gathering information, tracking down 10 people who don’t really want to talk to me, and making sure I get the facts straight because it’s a story about someone dying unnaturally, it’s always heartening to have someone send a condescending email pointing out a typo.

For example, I used the wrong affect/effect in a story that appeared in today’s paper, and I was told it was “time to review.” That was mild. Sometimes people get really nasty and act like writing “it’s” instead of “its” is the moral equivalent of killing their dog and pouring sugar in their gas tank.

The worst is the dreaded “there” versus “there” typo. I once received a longwinded email from a woman explaining the difference between the two. “There” is an adverb, a pronoun, a noun, an adjective and an interjection. “Their” is a possessive pronoun.

Confession: I had to look all that up just now. But I know the difference. I just can’t explain it to you. Nevertheless, I sent the woman a highly sarcastic, intentionally misspelled reply — which she promptly sent to my editor.

True, I should get these things right. I more or less know the difference between affect and effect, its and it’s and their and there but not always they’re. I do have an English degree, after all. At least I think it is an English degree.

It doesn’t matter. If you feel the need to send me a jerky email or pray for my failure as a journalist every time I misuse a word, go effect your yourself. Or is it affect?

You have to understand. Getting dressed down for misusing a word is very stressful for me. My grandmother used to yell at me for using a first person objective pronoun when the situation clearly called for an objective first person pronoun. I still don’t know what the hell she was talking about.

The bottom line is if you send me a grammar lesson email, I’m coming after you. I will be bringing your name up at the secret liberal media meeting/orgy at our bunker beneath Denver International Airport on Tuesday evening. That’s right. We do have meetings where we worship Fenrir, the ancient Norse destruction demon, basically a ferocious wolf monster chained up at the end of the world. We also drink the blood of the innocent, and usually there is a guest speaker and little sandwiches.

I read this through several times. If it has a typo, please keep it to yourself. I’m feeling fragile today.