Steve Grogan is an ongoing contributor to Writer to Writers. He has published several short stories on the site, which can be found on the main page under the heading “Steve Grogan’s Fiction.” He has had several poems and short stories published over the years, some of which are available on Amazon. (See the announcement at the end of this post.)
He is the writer and creator of the ongoing, zombie, post-apocalyptic, Romero-meets-Dungeons-and-Dragons webcomic REDemption. Alternatively, Steve describes the comic by saying, “It is to zombie fiction what KILL BILL was to kung fu movies: everything I love about the genre housed under one roof and mixed with my voice.”
October 12, 2008
There are times when days crawl by so slow that you can practically hear the world turning. That’s when this curse gets me down the most, because I know things wouldn’t be so boring if only I could go outside.
But where am I? Stuck in here, as usual. And what is there to pass the time? Write in my journal, as usual. Well, guess what? I don’t want to do it! This is what I always do to kill time, and I’m tired of it. I want something new.
It doesn’t even matter that I was halfway through a story at the end of yesterday’s entry. Normally I would feel compelled to wrap that tale up, but today the motivation isn’t there. It’s like when you eat the same thing for lunch every day. No matter how delicious it is, you’ll get sick of it sooner or later.
I don’t know why I’m in such a funk today, but it seems there is nothing to snap me out of it. Maybe I just need to take a break from writing. Veg out on one mindless TV program after the next. Just for a day. See what it does for me.
I think that’s one of the best ideas I’ve had in ages.
Before I go, I want to mention one other development. I called the therapist Bob suggested to me. William Mitchell seemed like a nice enough man, but he wasn’t very understanding of the people for whom he is supposed to provide care. Why do I say that? Here is a man who is supposed to help people with agoraphobia, and he still insisted on the therapy sessions being office visits. No house calls, no phone sessions, not even the option to talk via Skype. In my opinion, it is absurd to expect that of people.
I guess in his mind, if someone wants to be cured of this fear bad enough, they will suck it up and march their happy little asses over to his office. Maybe that is his way of getting them started on the road to recovery. Who knows? I’m sure SOMEONE does, but it sure as hell isn’t me, and I don’t care enough to find out either. If I were to try going to a therapist, then it would be better to find one willing to work with me.
But the kind of illness I have can’t be cured by any therapist, so it’s a moot point to even give it any more thought. My search for mental help began and ended with William Mitchell.
Time to let my mind go blank. Until we meet again, dear journal.
October 13, 2008
Turns out a day away from these pages was exactly what I needed. I am completely refreshed. Now I’m ready to finish my chat room story.
My laptop came in five business days, beating the website’s ETA by two full days. I set up everything I needed by early afternoon. Then, after a quick lunch break, the quest for chat rooms began. And man, I sure as hell didn’t anticipate what an adventure my search would be!
I tried Yahoo and MSN again, but I wasn’t sure where to go. They had rooms for all kinds of discussions: Mets fans, hockey, alternative music, artists, authors’ forum, different religions, various TV shows, and the like. Not one of these appealed to me.
I searched some more and found a whole slew of single chat rooms, for singles of all varieties, even some that weren’t “singles” chat rooms: Christian singles, single moms, divorced and looking, married and looking, people in their 20s to 30s to 40s to 50s, gay, lesbian, bi, married and bi-curious. The list went on and on. I couldn’t be bothered with any of them. Why not? Because I just couldn’t figure out how to talk or relate to any of those people.
Then I came across a category called Regional, which listed chat rooms by state. Now this might yield some results, I thought. After all, even if I couldn’t relate to anyone’s hobbies or lifestyle, I could at least relate to where they lived. Right?
Wrong. Most of the people in the New York State rooms on Yahoo and MSN lived in or near New York City. There wasn’t a single upstate dweller to be found. No, wait. My bad. I did find one, but he lived near Syracuse. Once again, no help to me.
I went to Google and ran a search for chat rooms in upstate New York. Eventually I found out there was an Albany-Troy room made available via one of the oldest names in the world of Internet service: America Online.
So this is the end of the road, I thought. There was no way in hell I was going to shell out money for the overpriced services of AOL. Last I knew, they charged their subscribers by the minute. I guess they finally modernized a few years ago and billed a monthly fee for unlimited use. Still, I didn’t feel like paying even a single penny. Maybe there was some way around it. After all, today people seemed to be able to avoid paying for just about anything. Movies, CDs, video games, computer software, and even books can be downloaded for free via file sharing programs.
A little more research revealed there was nothing complicated about getting AOL for free. Turns out they had an option where their services could piggyback on your cable internet for free. (In the Capital Region, this service is called Road Runner.) Having learned this, I went to AOL’s homepage and downloaded the software. One quick installation later, I was on my way.
All I had to do now was create a screen name. This made me pause. A screen name was like a quick snapshot of your personality. To all the hundreds and thousands of people who would never meet you, your screen name was the only thing that could pique their interest. If that caught their eye, then they could choose to read your profile and learn more about you. And who knows what would happen after that? Maybe they would send you an email or, better yet, an instant message (IM) if they saw you online.
However, the screen name was where it all began. That was like the first glimpse you ever had of that lovely young woman walking by you while you sipped coffee at that street side café, moving down the sidewalk like a holy vision, like an angel carrying a burning sword of truth with the intention of eradicating all the deadly lies that the world tries to poison you with. And you just had to know more about her.
After about ten minutes of brainstorming, I finally thought of the name LittleBigMan2003. The number would be an inside joke, corresponding to the year when size curse began. I felt this would generate interest. People would see a new kid on the block with an old year in his name, and they would wonder what that was all about. They would engage in conversation, ask questions. Naturally I would be vague, not only because I didn’t want to reveal my secret but also because there would be no interest left if I spilled my guts all at once. The more I thought about it, I realized there might not be any interest with such a long name, so I shortened it to LBM2003.
Late one lonely Saturday night, I finally went into the Albany-Troy chat room. A list of screen names popped up on the right side of the screen. I’d been in chat rooms before, and I knew some of the “people” in them were “spam bots.” These bots had screen names that seemed to belong to females (for example, SexEKttn or TiggerCutie). They post messages in the room like, “25 female Troy, lonely and looking to chat…IM me!” But if you fall for it and send them a message, the response you get is a link to an X-rated website. Sometimes these sites are what I call “grenades.” You try closing the first window, and seven more open. My name for the extra windows is “shrapnel.”
In short, spam bots are too much trouble to deal with. What I did that night was go through the profiles of the users in the rooms to see which names were bots and which ones were real people. How could I tell the difference? Same way you could with the Instant Messages: the profiles would have links to adult sites in them. Usually these links would be preceded by a brief statement like, “Come look at the photos on my new website!!!” Also, the profiles would say extravagant, unbelievable things. For example, under “marital status” it would say something like “horny, lonely, and looking!” Real women don’t make profiles like that. They don’t need to rely on tools like the internet or personal ads to get laid. And even if a woman did go online for that purpose, she wouldn’t be that blunt about it. Women approach online hook-ups with a lot more subtlety than that.
There were thirty-five uses in the room. Once I blocked all the bots, there were only twenty-three members left. I put my fingers to the keyboard and fired off my first AOL chat room message.
LBM2003: hello, how’s everyone doing this evening?
My message popped into the room. I sat there with my fingertips hovering over the keys, waiting to communicate.
I sat there.
And I sat there.
My single line was the only one in the room. I looked at the clock and saw five minutes had passed. Still nothing. What the hell was going on?
While I waited, my stomach started growling. I went to the kitchen and whipped up a package of Ramen noodles. As I stood there, it dawned on me that other users might be away from their computers for the very same reason. But then that begged the question: what were the odds of everyone making food at the same time?
I stayed in the kitchen for the entire time it took the water to boil, which was about five minutes, and then another three minutes while the noodles cooked. It wasn’t until they were done that I realized I didn’t have a clean bowl or fork. After washing up one of each of these, I dumped the noodles into the bowl and went back to the computer, stirring in the flavor packet as I went. I’d say I was in the kitchen for roughly ten minutes.
When I got back to the computer, I was shocked to discover that I still had no reply. I couldn’t help but fire off a sarcastic comment.
LBM2003: wow, busy room
Now there were two messages from me, sitting there ignored. I was pleasantly surprised when someone finally responded to that second line.
DandyAndy: everyone’s camping out
LBM2003: camping out?
LBM2003: sorry, I’m new here…don’t know all the slang yet
DandyAndy: no problem…it just means everyone is in the room but not talking
LBM2003: then what the hell are they doing?
DandyAndy: might be having private conversations, or they might have gone away from the comp and were too lazy to sign off…who knows
LBM2003: right because it takes a lot of energy to click on “file” and then “exit”
After that, our conversation stalled. How exciting. I’d been waiting for days to get this computer so I could chat with people, and now I was frozen up. What could I say to this man? I tried asking the basics: how old he was, what he did for a living, and so on. Andy tried to keep the conversation going too; he asked me where I lived, so I described the general area my apartment was in. After that question, the discussion took a sharp turn south.
DandyAndy: hey, that’s not far from me
LBM2003: where do you live?
DandyAndy: up on sausse ave., just off 15th street, near the back entrance to saint Mary’s hospital
LBM2003: yeah, I know where you’re at
DandyAndy: cool…you wanna come over?
LBM2003: uh, for what?
DandyAndy: watch a movie, drink some beer… you know
LBM2003: I have that stuff here
DandyAndy: so are you inviting ME over? *wink*
What can I say? I’m not always operating at full capacity. It wasn’t until I saw that wink that I realized why he called himself “Dandy” Andy.
LBM2003: I’m flattered, but I don’t swing that way
DandyAndy: how do you know? ever tried?
At this point his persistence was starting to annoy me. Why couldn’t he accept no for an answer? So I fired off a good zinger at him.
LBM2003: tried once…with your DAD!
DandyAndy: was he any good?
LBM2003: yeah, way better than your mom
At this point I decided to leave the room, not realizing it wouldn’t be enough to avoid his harassment. A second later, an IM window opened in the upper right hand corner of the screen.
DandyAndy: come on, man, let me suck your cock…I guarantee I can do it better than any of these bitches out here on AOL
Beneath his message there was a button that said I could simultaneously block this user and report him to AOL. Before doing that, I had one more thing to say.
LBM2003: show this persistence at a job interview and you’ll go far in life
Then I hit the block button. If there is one thing positive I could say about the experience, it’s that at least now I understand what women go through daily, when they’re pursued by some asshole that won’t take “no” for an answer.
I finished my noodles and tried to watch some television for a while. There was nothing on, and besides that I was sick of always passing my time the same way. About an hour later I decided to give the chat room another try. The fag pervert was blocked, so what harm could it do?
I went in to Albany-Troy again and said hello, then waited. Just like before, there was no immediate reply. Ten minutes later someone said hello, but not to me; it was another AOL user who had just signed on and was greeting the entire room.
I said hi and asked how he was doing.
He left the chat room.
Realizing this wouldn’t supply me with a cure for loneliness, I signed off and went to bed. I was restless throughout the night, wanting to give the room yet another chance. With so many users it seemed impossible the room would be dead all the time.
In the end, I decided I’d wasted enough time on it for one day. If no one had been replying at 11PM, what were the odds that anyone would be looking to chat at 3AM? Having realized that, I was finally able to let it go and fall asleep.
October 14, 2008
Another off day.
When will this madness end?
What magical words or potions could lift this curse?
And why can’t I find them?
October 15, 2008
I’m tired of writing to pass the time. All I want to do is go outside without fear. Why is that asking so much?
I wonder how many hours I have wasted, asking myself that question.
Hey, maybe I could go back through my memory and tally up the exact number of hours! THAT would certainly kill some time! Let’s get to it!
October 16, 2008
I’ve got movies, books, and video games to entertain me but, for some reason, writing in this journal is the only activity that distracts me from the monotony of my existence, so I’m praying this writer’s block goes away soon. Back in the day when I used to write horror stories, I had the ultimate way to give writer’s block the finger.
Simply put, my technique was to write about writer’s block!
How it frustrated me. How it angered me. How it pissed me off. How I didn’t understand where this wall in my mind came from or why all my ideas were trapped on the other side. How I hated the unseen hands that built the wall and wondered who those damn appendages belonged to. How this wall couldn’t have come along at a worse time because I’d just thought up a great new idea for a story, and now it was unreachable.
After mentioning that I had thought of a story, I would start to describe the idea. Kind of like writing an outline. Next thing you knew, I was writing the story itself. And that was how I used to overcome writer’s block. These days, things are different. There is no story I’m trying to tell, no point I’m trying to get across. All I’m doing here in these pages is detailing my life, and life has no plot, or maybe I should say there is no grand design we humans can see from down here anyway.
That leaves me with the question: what do I do? Maybe I could resurrect my old writing habits just long enough to break this block. No, that wouldn’t work. Not only did my writing disappear with my rage, but there was another reason that caused me to stop hearing the songs of my muse.
I’d always been aware of the belief many writers have, which is that every story has already been told. The only thing a new author can do is put a spin on one of the old yarns. But with so many books being written out there, what are the odds you can do even that? Again, not very good.
No new tale to tell.
Hell, even saying that is old news.
This sense of futility was what signaled the beginning of the end. I spiraled into deeper and deeper despair. Then one day I simply stopped writing. There was no internal discussion, no weighing of pros and cons. Just a sudden feeling that I shouldn’t waste my time writing anymore, and that was it.
I don’t know how I’ve made it this far in life. Writing used to make me feel so pumped up, so important, so alive. Nothing since then has fired me up that way. And in my mind, there’s no point in living if you can’t be passionate about something.
What has been sustaining me all these years since I gave up creative writing? I couldn’t answer that any more than I could answer why one person survives a car accident that killed all other passengers on impact. It’s just something I wasn’t intended to understand. And what kind of greedy schmuck am I to expect an answer anyway?
I’m looking down at my crotch, watching my cock change size for the first time in weeks. It expands and widens, giving me the experience of having a small beer keg attached to my groin. Seeing it like this makes me realize something: maybe the force that put this size curse on me is what’s been keeping me alive all this time. Through subconscious control, it has willed me to live so I could endure this torment. But why keep someone alive just to torture them?
There’s only one answer that comes to mind: the gods are cruel.
And that’s probably the best answer I can ever hope to get on that subject.
If you like what you have read and would like to purchase this serialized novel as one complete PDF, then please send $3.50 to Steve via PayPal: firstname.lastname@example.org
Also, don’t forget to check out his other writing at the following links below:
Author: Redemption Comics
Steve Grogan was born in the often-filmed city of Troy, NY. He has written in a variety of formats (novels, short stories, poems, screen and stage plays, blogs/articles) and genres (horror, science fiction, fantasy, mystery, drama).
Steve is also a father, a boyfriend, a musician, a fitness fanatic, and a martial artist. He has been studying Wing Chun Kung Fu since 1995, and he maintains a blog/YouTube channel that describe his training habits, epiphanies, and advancement. It also candidly discusses his stumbling blocks, such as his struggle with nutrition and mental health issues.
He is no relation to the New England Patriots quarterback from the 1980’s.