The Thrift Master


The 4th of July Fill A Bag for $5 was a success! Got 26 articles of clothing in one plastic shopping bag, and it still closed. All those years of packing Army bags, camping rucksacks, even backpacks full of clothes has now become a competitive skill set!
Olga said her record is 36. See you next time, Olga….

‘The number of times I’ve puked in the Walgreens bathroom is becoming way too much for my pride.’

[Writing prompt courtesy of; time = 15 minutes]

The number of times I’ve puked in the Walgreens bathroom is becoming way too much for my pride. Whatever’s left of it anyways. That girl ripped my balls off with volition, sprinkled with determination. My fault, really. The drinking is, well, a problem. The intersection of bars, liqour stores, this Walgreen’s and her house is too convenient. But you know what? Fuck her. We met on a bar crawl for fuck’s sake. She thought it was cute when I slurred my gangta words at her. She was cute too. Ahh, Kendra. With her blonde hair all long and pretty to one side, matted and sweaty to the other. She had to lean against the wall just to maintain eye contact.

Fine. I’m the irresponsible one. Maybe I shouldn’t have lit that cat on fire. Maybe I shouldn’t have cussed out the bouncer as he was throwing me out of the bar. But she’s no angel! Oh no, what about that one time, she took her shoes off, ran across the street and hit that random girl in the head with the heel of her pump, just because she didn’t say ‘Excuse me’ when she passed her from the washroom? There was blood involved, Kendra! But oh no, I’m the asshole. Oh oh, another round into the Porcelain King.

28 days. We’ve known each other for 28 days. Wasn’t that a zombie apocalypse movie? Yeah, same shit. She ripped my heart out and made me watch her eat it. I need help, she says. I have a problem, she says. You know what? You didn’t have a problem with me buying you drinks, buying all your whore girlfriends drinks, buying all their fuck buddies’ drinks! I went the extra mile to fit in. What does she do? NOTHING. I have to hang out with her friends, go to the bar she likes. I bought two silk shirts for her. For. HER. I even know what she likes to drink and how she likes it made. I know her drink.

I know she’s just like me. She’s probably in the women’s room right now barfing up a lung. Lemme check. Whoa! Sorry Miss. Have you seen a tall, hot, blonde chick? No? Hey, YOU fuck off. Meanie.

You know what? I’m gonna tell her about herself, right now. Her apartment is right over there. Hold on, think we’ve got one more contribution coming up. Wait. Nope. Alright, all clear. No, YOU watch where you’re going, you cocksucker! Fuck your mother! Kiss MY ass! You know what, I don’t have time for this, I’ma go. No, YOU’RE the pussy.



“Do you know that guy?”

“No! He’s some drunk talking shit. Oh fuck, his head’s bleeding. Whoa! That dude just took off! Hey man, you alright? You alright?”

“Bro. He ain’t movin’. He’s dead.”

My Day Under $5

We, Gina and I, had it in our heads we’d spend the afternoon at the Tampa IKEA. But that just didn’t happen.


We couldn’t stop talking about the thrift store.

It started so innocently. I needed to get new shoes on the Cool Whip. She needed to see if a certain top was available at Victoria’s Secret. Both were available off of Tyrone Blvd.

So off we went, dropped Cool Whip off to be shod, and to while the wait I says, ‘Hey, there’s a thrift store right across the way,” in response to her comment she wanted a better office chair for our office.


It so happened that particular thrift shop was going to close temporarily, so they were doing a fill-a-bag for $3.00. Lemme do that pheonetically: dey was doin’ a fill-a-bag fo tree dollah. I says, bet!

If you’ve never experienced the adventure of robbing somebody, the next best thing is to do a thrift store fill-a-bag. The goal of such an operation is to be able to put as many things in one bag, able to close the handle, and exit successfully with acquired things. And this is the standard market plastic bag, no tote bag or lawn bag, no. The bag that floats around in the street, the one you use to pick up your dog’s poop. Everything $3.00.

We had one main room and three side rooms to work. The cabinet was sold, but the jewelry in it hadn’t been, and ya’ll who’ve seen me stylized know how I commit to costume jewelry. So I sat there, took small basket after basket and offloaded into my bag. The thrift store manager, Debbie, made a face to indicate, ‘Leave some for others.’ Nah. I’m straight Viking right now. What’s mine is mine.

Gina found a nutcracker. You have no idea what kind of search that had been for her since she moved to the coast. So that just fueled her quest. More IMG_8993kitchenware, a fish-bird sculpture, a paintball mask, a weight scale, Pictionary, Scattegories, crystal dishes, a queen-sized duvet. You’re thinking, ‘she didn’t get that in one bag.’ Oh yes, Gina DID.



20131114_193612I went to work on outfits. How did a cozy pair of brown ranch boots just end up in the corner? Mine. Oh look, silk scarves from Italy. Mine. Cropped T-shirts that would make Miley Cyrus jealous. Mine. And since the rules were, the handles have to be able to touch, I started stuffing clothes in my kitchenware! A pot I picked up specifically for ramen doubled as a house for an evening gown.

They didn’t say the stuff on the wall was game, but I didn’t feel the need to ask either. So a poster of Daniel Craig as 007 has now been relocated to the opposite wall of my bed. Because…yeah. I also picked up a full dinner setting of steak knives, and some kind of knife that doubles as a manual chain saw. I’ll put that one behind my pillow.20131114_215039

We brought our haul to the counter, and I cashed out with $2 left. It was 3:54pm, so I recommended we celebrate by going to our spot on the beach and watching the sunset, because…at 4pm, they start the 99 cent beer until sunset special! This is why I have a degree in economic development, people.

But it gets better! We get to our spot, see our people, and our bartender says, ‘this round’s on me.’ To which, we got nice and toasty as the sun settled to the West.

We broke into a house afterwards, but that’s another blog for another day.

Reinvention and Reciprocity

You should feel this breeze coming in from the lake through my balcony door. Magnificent. Magical. Mesmerizing. Memphisto…no wait. Wrong M.

It fills my studio with a crisp, cool air, good for the lungs, the sinuses, good to give me goose bumps so I can stay energized. Yup, Blitzkrieg still on, with a NaNoWriMo session this morning as a slight interlude. Both works are progressing wonderfully. A little fatigued, but in a way one feels fatigued after a great workout. Pumped, energetic, slightly sweaty, needing to take a piss.

This year I have the great fortune of being missed while stashed away in the Treehouse. I’ve had guests over, I’ve had people feed me, well-wishers via text, and a few Tweets of love. For that, I am grateful. The last two years were quiet and solitary, what I absolutely wanted. This year, plugging away at the final stretch of the manuscript, mere weeks away from book launch, hanging out with you cool catz on this new bloggy blog, and I’m getting invites to perform, to play and to party, invites I can’t fulfill UNTIL THE BLITZKRIEG IS OVER. I’m treating those invites as rewards. Von, Master of Self-Discipline.

Already fielding Thanksgiving plans. I try to cook at one and hang out at the others. Not gonna stretch myself thin this year, but I am looking forward to cooking for more than myself and Bobby T. I do miss house parties. How’s it go? ‘I hate people, but I love gatherings!’ No, really. I do enjoy cooking, and for lots of people. It’s my form of reciprocity; I have so many people in my life and inner circle I appreciate, I look forward to spending time with them, and I’m grateful they check on me even when I say, leave me alone!

So check this out…I was going through my winter clothes bag, only to discover everything I had was a size extra large or higher. Former Fat Girl Problems, amirite? I found my favorite hoodie I used to rock all over campus, and hated the thought of Goodwilling it, when I was struck with a brilliant idea. I sent a text to The Sprite: I am commissioning you to make a pillow. Her response:

I had a couple of small pillows doing nothing in my closet, so I brought the hoodie and the pillows to her last week. Today at her house, she presented the completed work, noting it was super easy and she watched Futurama while making it. I like the thought of Bender encouraging her creativity forward.

But look at this awesomeness in the gallery! That pillow would’ve cost probably $40 at the bookstore. And it really is gorgeous; it doesn’t look like it ever was a pullover. But that’s Marie for ya; magic at the sewing machine. I told her, you need to Pin Dat Shit!!

So while you enjoy your weekend, I will do the same whilst my fingers go clackity clack clack and my brain oozes amazing plots and twists. If you’re still rockin’ out on NaNo, kudos to you homeskillet!

Working sans music tonight. It’s gettin’ REAL.

WE BE ARTY! (WARNING: Gratuitous Shower Scene)

dia de los muetros 012
Von. Artist. Swigger of Wine.

Hello, I am an artist. No, wait! Stay! Seriously, I’m cool. I’m an artist, and my arty name is Von Simeon. Because that’s what artists do; they give their creative persona a catchy name. Besides the naming convention, I also have arty tendencies to do arty things with other artfolk. We cruise events like we can afford the 26,000$ price tags, we sip pinot grigio by the gallon, and we try to outdo each other in explaining the slashes in our titles. We become fascinated by the works we behold, then turn grey with self-doubt. And we drink some more. Then someone pulls out the weed. And that’s pretty much a night out with the arties.

And so we did, we artists, we slash bearing title holders, we ventured over to Duncan McClellan Glass to enjoy a glassblowing demonstration by Rob Stern, and to marvel at the gallery’s other fine pieces by talented people. I gotta admit, I walked in there having no real knowledge of the art form, but ignorance be damned, I made sure to enjoy myself. And if I didn’t, well, I was surrounded by the coolest arties this side of the Mississippi (not validated, but I just like typing the word Mississippi. Try it. Yeah! Amirite? Mississippi.)

Let’s break down the stars of the evening. Starting with the Man With The Plan, the one who invited us to this event, Stone Handy. Stone’s slashes are poet/spoken word artist/percussionist/potter/designer/writer and Stone knows Duncan from working with him years ago, before the gallery owner even owned a gallery. So for us to be roaming around his friend’s success, it made me think, damn, I’m glad Stone is my friend!

The man I sidled up to most the evening was Johnny Roth. His slashes are musician/guitarist/composer/recording artist and he’s the most laid back dude I’ve ever had the honor of knowing. Seriously. You stand in his wake and immediately, life is grand, and you have no earthly idea why.

Then there’s Ian Tracy. Slashes are videographer/editor/director/writer and pretty sure more, that’s just what I’ve experienced thus far. The best part about Ian is he’s WAY taller than me, and can capture better shots than my 62 inches of fury. No, that’s not the best part of him. The best part of Ian is he’s the only guy I’ve met in Florida who doesn’t flinch at my lewd language.

And finally, the sprite of my life, Marie Chapin. Her slashes are chef/children’s book author/writer/wardrobe designer/caterer/comic book artist/painter who also has the glory (misery?) of being my writing partner and recently commissioned cover art designer for I Blew Up Juarez.

And now to the glass…

Rob Stern and his artistic team invited us in the audience to draw something, and they’d in turn make it into glass. Marie and I chomped at the bit for our chance to bring a random vision to life. She held the drawing tablet close as she moved the orange crayon with soft, brisk strokes, creating with minimal effort a Tyrannosaurus Rex. ‘You’re pretty good at that,’ I complimented. ‘Shit, better be. I’m drawing with kids all day!’ Oh yeah, other part of the slashes: nanny. That’s an artform. She passed the tablet to me and I flipped to a fresh page, where I jammed the orange into the sheet and with heavy pressure, ground crayon into the shape of a very volumptous animal. Rubenesque, is how Marie described it, and when everyone remarked I drew a horse, I blew their minds by extending a horn from betwixt its ears. A unicorn, gawddammit! Yes! Rob, make me a glass unicorn. Ian delivered our art to the team, to discover they will likely not be successful in replicating our non-existent creatures. Fooey.

S. Powell, Insatiable Sassy Gasp
S. Powell, Insatiable Sassy Gasp

Onward and upward, we enter the main exhibition room of the gallery and find these amazing, HUGE pieces of art. I’m immediately antsy, worried I’m going to knock something over with either my purse or my ass. My anxiety softened at the sight of one particular piece, Insatiable Sassy Gasp, by Stephen Powell. The lighting behind it made the red and magenta and purple of the glass seem to swim, colorful oily bubbles in an organized flow. Each one working alongside the other to embrace the light, to demonstrate the proletarian forces of detail and color and texture unified to be admired. Stone caught me adrift in adoration, making the right comment, ‘It’s alive, isn’t it.’ Yes, yes it’s alive. I was humbled. Glass was taking me to a whole ‘nother place.

We entered a back room with an impressive frosted glass impression of a sun against one wall, and several large pieces leading towards an outdoor deck. As we mingled, Ian noted ‘This is his shower.’ Everyone else figured it to be an artpiece, the design of a shower with glass doors. ‘No. Look, there’s his shampoo. It’s his shower.’ We all looked in, and, yep, this was a fully functioning shower. Duncan McClellan lives in his gallery. Of course! Sign of a dedicated artist. But why not take advantage, right? Be part of his daily living? To which, Marie entered the shower, and gave us a right show:

What's this?
What’s this?
Oh yeah!
Oh yeah!
There it is.
There it is.

The arty crew moved outside to the deck, designed with way more phallic pieces than I think the gallery was not aware of. And out came a cat! Fuckers were everywhere. Calm down, I like cats. I just don’t like them all of a sudden being there, in the way only cats and, well I, have mastered. My eyes stopped on this particular piece, because of a very familiar symbol. You 90s kids should notice it immediately:

Artist Formerly Known As Prince
Artist Formerly Known As Prince

Stone drummed against a large metalwork as he freestyled words to the beat, until Marie noted there was a suspended round piece inside it on the verge of falling out. Maybe we should keep it moving.

The group splintered into two cells, those who wanted to keep looking and those who wanted to stop moving. My old lady self needed to rest my arthritis, so we chillaxed against turquoise cushions under a blue-black sky. We were lucky that Duncan McClellan walked past us, and Stone asked him about the piece with the symbols on the patio. Duncan explained they were 14th century symbols used in alchemy. Awesome.

I no longer feel ignorant about glassblowing as an artform. I love this gallery, and I encourage anyone visiting Florida to fuck Disneyworld and come over my way. This art district is a-happenin’ and you should experience it for yourself. The whole point of the evening was to eventually hit the Downtown St. Pete ArtWalk, but we never made it. Marie ended up at ARTPool Gallery, while me and the fellas ended up at Everything Dolce, where I sighted this beautiful local artist piece:

For Sale By Artist At Everything Dolce, Central Ave., St. Pete
For Sale By Artist At Everything Dolce, Central Ave., St. Pete

What’s interesting about Everything Dolce is that it used to be Cafe Bohemia, which was the first place I visited once I moved to St. Pete to start writing. Now I’m blogging my ass off and you’ll be reading my book in a few months. Talk about full circle!

What’s Your Theme Song?

Fall 1997 semester at Southwest Texas State University started with moving boxes to my new dorm, Retama Hall. My steps slowed upon the sound bursting from my neighbor’s room. Was ist das? Deep bass grooves mixed with grinding electric guitar and harmonic vocals? I noticed a sticker on her door, a graffiti drawing of the number 311. Cool. I found out later the sticker was the band’s name, and the song that mesmerized me was “Down.” Everytime I hear the song, I’m reminded of the joy of new beginnings.

Flash forward memory lane to Penn State University. To appreciative applause I concluded my thesis defense, and felt the weight of two years’ intense work slide off my shoulders. With a brief convening, the review committee accepted my defense, and I earned my new distinction, Master of Science, the day before Thanksgiving, 2007. I thanked them, returned to my office desk at 311 Armsby, and celebrated with a solo air guitar/dance performance of Metallica’s “Master of Puppets.”

Metallica Performs ‘Master of Puppets’ on The Colbert Report

Music massages the creative lumps of my brain. A barrage of beats can move my hands for six hours straight. Listening to lyrics helps me design the right tone for a conversation between characters. And this is applicable to any project I have going on. Recently, this song streamed through my mashup, and it triggered an enhancement to the storyline of Book 2:

Every writer’s got her thing, this is mine. By now, every character in I Blew Up Juarez has a full mix tape worth of theme songs. They are the club bunnies, I’m the DJ.

Here’s a few songs that popped up in my head, or were playing in the background, as I did clean-ups to Juarez recently…

Johnny Heads To Mexico 

Army Base Freakout

Interrogation Room