#1 Crush of a Lovefool by Jenny Seay

#1 Crush of a Lovefool

I was seventeen years old when William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet, the Baz Luhrmann film adaptation starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes, was released in the theaters. Away at college in downtown Milwaukee, just weeks from my eighteenth birthday, I recruited two girlfriends to see it the weekend it opened. It didn’t matter that we had to shiver our way through a city bus ride on a wintry night to reach the theater, or that while on said bus, we were seated next to a drooling homeless man who almost fell on us on more than one occasion.

What mattered was the opportunity to see Leo, whom I had already fallen madly in love with after discovering him through The Basketball Diaries, make himself even more swoon-worthy in my eyes, through a performance that embodied the zeitgeist of my mid-90’s adolescence. His brooding, impulsive Romeo, amplified by frenetic camerawork, bright, flashy visuals, and a grunge-heavy soundtrack was EVERYTHING I imagined an ideal partner to be. Passionate, devoted, romantic – you have to understand that I’d gone through high school having had only one semi-serious, very short-lived boyfriend, and felt positively starved for emotional and physical intimacy. Watching Leo on the big screen allowed me to temporarily feed my hunger, giving me a fantasy object upon which to project all my unfulfilled desires.

It also fostered an obsession that led me to revisit the film with another group of friends when I returned home to Chicago for Christmas break. And convince myself that this was the BEST. MOVIE. EVER!!!

It was a belief that lingered in the months that followed, a tumultuous period where an unexpected turn of events led me to bail on my second semester in Milwaukee. I found myself back in Chicago, exhausted and completely uncertain about the direction of my life. With things feeling so up in the air, it was only natural that I’d gravitate toward the places and things that provided comfort and familiarity. One of those was the small video store where I’d worked as a clerk immediately following my high school graduation.

My old boss welcomed me back with open arms, and began training me to take on tasks that were a bit above my retail associate pay grade, such as ordering product from our distributor. In doing so, she educated me on the source of recorded videos at a time when they weren’t widely available for mass market purchase. Back then, rental retailers paid top dollar for the right to obtain a limited number of copies of popular new releases, which they would then turn around and rent for a few dollars a night. By controlling the supply, store owners could quickly make back the cost of their investment and then some – taking advantage of a film’s demand until the buzz died down. Even then, it would still generate steady rental income until our corporate overlords changed its status from “New Release” to general rental. At which point it would either be moved to its appropriate genre shelf or converted into a previously viewed tape available for re-sale.

With all of this in mind, you can imagine how eager I was to review our invoices that spring, when my beloved Leo masterpiece was finally released for home viewing. My plan was to increase the size of our order by one, and simply pay out of pocket for that extra tape, so I could take it home and feel privileged to have my own personal copy.

You can also imagine my colossal disappointment after learning that it retailed for $80.

I tried being sensible – telling myself to wait until the price dropped. I’d even entered into my first real relationship by then, so there was less urgency around having 24/7 access to my fantasy boyfriend.

At yet ... the BEST. MOVIE. EVER. obsession remained. And one of my greater faults is that I get super impatient when it comes to my obsessions. The thought of knowing this brilliant piece of cinema was in reach, that I was only a very expensive purchase away from being able to hold it close to my chest and watch breathlessly on an endless loop from the comfort of my bedroom ... it was simply too much to bear.

So it went that I found myself at the front counter of Zap Video, a large distributor warehouse that also allowed visits from the public. And despite merciless teasing from my new boyfriend, I said fuck it, and plunked down the full retail cost for that goddamn tape. I could justify it – most of my income at that time was disposable. And it seemed like a well-earned reward to make up for the turmoil of the previous few months.

I can’t tell you how many times I watched my new prize before a new edition, this one priced to appeal to Best Buy and Target customers, hit the shelves. But I feel like it was only a few months. I felt a little sheepish, knowing how much I could have saved if only I’d cooled my heels. But still, I felt satisfied knowing that I’d taken control, and used my own resources to get exactly what I wanted, when I wanted, despite feeling utterly lost within my world at large. To commemorate this, I bought the cheaper version as my viewing copy, and preserved the original with the help of my video store employer’s shrink wrap gun.

Twenty years have gone by and I still have that tape in my possession. It has traveled with me through three moves, and sits prominently displayed atop of one of the cube storage bookcases that flank my bed. Because life and its various troubling circumstances are temporary. But the poetry of Shakespeare uttered by Leonardo DiCaprio? Man, that’s forever.

Jenny Seay was a life-long Chicagoan until the siren song of the Bay Area stole her away in 2015. She has her MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia College Chicago, and has published stories, reviews, and feature articles in publications such as Punk Planet, TimeOut Chicago, Swink, and Gimmick Press's own Working Stiff: The Anthology of Professional Wresting Literature and Art.  She doesn't write as often as she should, but she's been working on a young adult novel about independent pro wrestling that she's ready to approach with more focus and discipline.

Discarded Buttons by Rona Fitzgerald

Discarded Buttons

In a small translucent box they wait

colour coded          full of memories.

 

My Mam sewed all our clothes.

Gathering buttons like sweet treats

to make blouses and dresses our own.

 

I see her bent over vogue patterns still.

 

Let’s make the sleeves silk                           

cover the buttons with the same shade.

 

When chucking out or recycling

I cut off buttons, add them to the box.

          

Smile.

 

Me who was thrown out of sewing

blotches on my run and fell seam.

 

Greens and blues remind me of Dollymount beach

sea stretching to infinity.

 

Yellow and orange shimmer

sunshine on a Glasgow day.

 

My favourite      a heart shaped button

in bruised purple.

Rona Fitzgerald was born in Dublin and now lives in Glasgow. Her most recent publications are Aiblins: New Scottish Political Poetry, Three Drops from a Cauldron Midwinter Special, Obsessed with Pipework No. 78, Oxford Poetry XVI.iii Winter 2016-17, and ten poems in Resurrection of a Sunflower: Pski’s Porch, 2017.

Alphabet Ashes by Catfish McDaris

Alphabet Ashes

Nappy’s dad John was a bricklayer. His mother Winnie was a mobile librarian. She drove all over New Mexico, lending books to the Apache, Navajo, and Pueblo Reservations. At first, Nappy collected feathers, rattlesnake tail buttons, and Pecos diamonds, they were quartz healing crystals. As he grew older, he learned to identify buffalo wallows, where arrow heads or bullets could be found. He collected small clippings of cacti for his grandmother’s garden from his desert adventures. Nappy collected wheat pennies and his grandmother had two duplexes, she rented mostly to Air Force flyboys. She started collecting stamps from all over the world from their letters. Nappy was soon learning geography from stamps, he knew Magyar meant Hungary. Nappy became a bricklayer, he had many side jobs. He went to Montgomery Ward’s and bought five electric lawn mowers with long extension cords. He hired his friends for a lawn service business and his sister Cindy to be the boss. Then he bought a pinball machine and set it up in his garage to earn a nickel a game. Nappy went through a motorcycle phase, buy low, sell high. Then it was marijuana into matchboxes and lids. Before you knew it, he had collected plenty of green paper with dead presidents on it. The law finally got him and he paid to get in the army. While playing G.I. Joe for three years, he sent his grandmother stamps from all over Europe. When he got out he traveled Mexico and finally ended up near Lake Michigan. He collected a few autographs, Elizabeth Taylor, Aretha Franklin, Red Skelton, Robert Duvall, Alan Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs. Over thirty years working at the Main Post Office in Milwaukee and he read and wrote poetry to try to keep his sanity. He was collected by a Mexican wife of thirty-three years and they had a twenty-nine-year-old daughter. Published here, rejected there, chapbooks, fat books, anthologies, broadsides, archives at a college: it’s all become alphabet soup. He remained his biggest fan. In the end he thought all you collect are memories and what are they worth?

Catfish McDaris won the Thelonius Monk Award in 2015. His work is at the Special Archives Collection at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He is listed in Wikipedia. His ancestors were related to Wilma Mankiller from the Cherokee Nation. Currently he’s selling wigs in Milwaukee.

The Golden Ticket by Michael Frissore

The Golden Ticket

It’s funny what you’ll find while rummaging through your deceased parent’s things. When my dad died I found he’d kept articles I wrote for my college newspaper, years of school report cards and Father’s Day cards, and the program for the play I was in in third grade.

I brought these treasures home and stashed them all away. I couldn’t tell you where the program or report cards are now, but the one thing that’s sat in my bedside table since then is a single, torn ticket stub.

It was August 1992. Tom Seaver and Rollie Fingers were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, Hurricane Andrew killed 35 people in South Florida, and Clint Eastwood’s film Unforgiven premiered in Los Angeles.

And, perhaps most importantly, my band, The Poor Boys of Rock, played our very first show at the Escape Club in beautiful Salisbury Beach, Massachusetts.

If I recall correctly, we were the only band that night because the other band that was supposed to play cancelled. So we had all the time we wanted. And we actually killed. Our second show there turned out to be a dud, but the first was pure magic. We dazzled ‘em with Eagles covers, wowed ‘em with our takes on Guns n’ Roses songs, and bowled ‘em over with original songs.

The ticket is general admission, seat number 1569, even though there were no seats to speak of in the club. Then it says, “Escape Club Presents…” and there’s a big blank space (where our band name might have been if the other group had cancelled a couple weeks earlier) until you read down to “Salisbury Beach, Doors Open 4:00 PM.”

There isn’t even a date on it. It’s the most lackluster ticket to anything I’ve ever seen. It’s basically a template of a ticket and could have been to any show at the Escape Club. It could have been to a GWAR or Accept show, two bands that played there within a year from when we did. Yet, my dad held onto it because he loved me.

Of course, this ticket is also a reminder of my failed musicianship. About a month after this show I went to college and wouldn’t play with the Poor Boys again for three years. It’s a souvenir of the stifling of my ideas, as every song I tried to introduce to the band, the lead singer and guitarist would either brush it off completely or relegate it to the portion of our show in which he played drums and I was the sole guitarist. It’s a memento of when I got to play one of the simplest guitar solos in the world, that of the Beatles’ “Helter Skelter,” and chickened out because I was afraid I’d mess even that up.

Yeah, on second thought, I don’t want this ticket stub. I mean, the Escape Club ended up being shut down for drug trafficking and our singer would later go to prison for statutory rape. This ticket might have been printed by Satan himself.

I do have some old Red Sox and Patriots tickets my dad kept that I can show you instead.

Michael Frissore is currently writing a series of novels about professional wrestling, tentatively titled Dead Wrestlers. He lives in Oro Valley, Arizona with his wife, two children, and a little cartoon alien only he can see.

Be Dialing! by Josh Olsen

Be Dialing!

Don West, poet laureate of home shopping networks, bullhorn voiced, mustachioed pitchman supreme, is selling a Michael Jordan card, and not just any Michael Jordan card, but a refractor, an oversized, limited edition, serialized, Upper Deck authenticated, Command Performer refractor, the most resplendent of all Michael Jordan refractors, and when you order this Michael Jordan refractor, you also get a Shawn Kemp refractor, and a Penny Hardaway refractor, as well as a selection of not one, not two, not three, but four, count ‘em four, National Hero commemorative die-cuts, but only while supplies last, so “Be dialing, folks!” because there’s only 31 sets remaining.

Don West insists that the Michael Jordan refractor, alone, is trading for up to $200, “If you’re lucky enough to find him!” but despite this, he’s selling the Michael Jordan refractor, along with the Kemp and Hardaway refractors, as well as the Gretzky, Ripken, Griffey, and Marino National Hero die-cuts, for $149.95 total. “That’s $21 and some change, per card!” Don West’s similarly-coiffed lackey interjects, solar calculator in hand. “HOW can they do that?”

I know the scam. I’m familiar with Don West’s home shopping sideshow circus, but I don’t care, I’m all in. I pick up my phone and proceed to dial, just like Don West tells me to do. The Michael Jordan refractor is from 1996, so this Shop At Home segment originally aired over 20 years ago, and still, I dial the number on the screen, aware that the “National Hero Commemorative Refractor Blowout” is sold out, and the phone number is long since out of service, and the refractors are barely worth the paper they're printed on. “Be dialing!” Don West implores, and I dutifully comply.

Josh Olsen has written two collections of prose poetry/flash fiction/micro essays, Six Months (2011) and Such a Good Boy (2014). He's the co-founder of Gimmick Press and the editor of Working Stiff: The Anthology of Professional Wrestling Literature & Art (2015) and Three-Way Dance (2017).