How does where you live influence who/what you write about and how you go about doing it?
Los Angeles is a city of infinite inspiration, especially if you like to rant. Coming to California is what inspired me to write in the first place. All in the same year, I went from east coast to west coast, from military to civilian, from work to school and from blue-collar to white-collar. At first, all the changes frustrated me, and then once I found my way, I found it all pretty damned funny. My fish-out-of-water point of view was my first writing voice. My first column was entitled “Tales of a 19th Grade Nothing.”
One of the biggest challenges I have taken on as a writer was entering the Broo writing contest – because I committed myself to both discovering, amidst my vociferous hating of it, something I loved about this city, and then writing about it. I’m the consummate non-L.A. guy writing about L.A.
My method has always been to make sure I’m passionate enough about something before I sit down to write on it. I usually do this through conversations with my friends, like a comic trying out new material on his family. If I can’t keep them interested or laughing – I move on to the next idea.
Tell us a little about yourself. What is your day-to-day life like?
About me… hmmm. This is just like writing a Match.com profile… Born in Illinois, raised in Colorado, a slightly late bloomer (in the same way that Britney Spears is slightly messed up), I joined the Navy at 18. Got a dream shot, and spent 4 years at Annapolis, studied Math, got a sword. 2 years of submarine training, 3 years on a submarine. Decided it wasn’t a growth business and left for law school (the aforementioned “big change”) up in NorCal. After three years and the bar exam, headed for points south, and a job in Century City. Lasted two years and took a gig with the first client that wanted me to run a company for them. How’s that?
My day-to-day life has changed so much in the past few years… The humdrum days at the firm are a thing of the past. I’m usually up at 6:30 for the gym, home & out the door by 8:30, Robek’s (protein shake), McDonald’s (Breakfast burrito), then 7-Eleven (36 oz Blue Monster). Rally the troops at work for morning meeting, then the work day – which is any number of e-mails, phone calls, meetings, documents, arguments, spreadsheets, check-writing, bills, payroll managing and general worrying. At 5:30-6, I’m back out the door, home to cook myself a decent meal, and watching ESPN in HD. After that it’s off to the coffee shop for writing (provided I don’t have homework) then I finish the day off with a little Guitar Hero/Rock Band or Mario Kart. Lame, huh?
You made big waves with your Broowaha deathmatch series. What was it like writing it? If you had to do it over again, would you change anything (make Digidave the winner :)
It was a lot more work than I thought it would be, that’s for sure. Reminded me of my column writing days – actually having a deadline again! Surprising how much more productive I am under those circumstances. But, I had no idea it would be as popular as it became – I honestly figured it would go one round and that would be that. The praise and involvement of so many of the really great writers at Broo was really tremendous for me. I was humbled and I think it really made the whole thing a lot more fun.
It definitely got more difficult as the rounds went on, however. I got to know so many more Broo writers than I otherwise ever would have. The problem was, I began to realize how great I thought most everyone was, and how much I liked their writing. Eliminating people was tough to even think about. At the end I was parsing between some truly amazing writers – and trying desperately not to offend anyone. I thought about putting in some sort of voting mechanism to take the pressure off of me having to decide. But I decided that would have been intellectually lazy and sort of cowardly. So before I wrote each one – I took the brackets, sat down and decided.
I honestly don’t think I’d change anything about the experience, except, of course, putting you a little further along in the draw – maybe so you could lose to Jen & Tonic, the sweetest way to exit any competition.
In the time you've been part of Broowaha, how have you grown as a writer or interviewer? Maybe you can tell us about your first article, your favorite article to write and your most recent.
Before Broowaha, I didn’t really have an outlet for my writing. I knew that I missed my time writing for the Daily, but it wasn’t like the LA Times was looking for writers. I didn’t think I was really the blogging type, so I started kicking around the internet looking for places that wanted columnists. I happened upon BrooWaha.
My first article: “Red, White & New” an homage to Clippers fans at the start of my second season on the Fan Patrol. My work as a Clippers cheerleader (yes, cheerleaders) has profoundly affected my experience in L.A. and I’m glad that my first article at Broo reflects that same reality.
My favorite article… is not necessarily the “best” one I’ve written, but “Dear Mr. TB, an Open Letter to Andrew Speaker” has the best story. When I heard about Andrew (having known him in college) it was really the first time I had known someone who was in the national consciousness. It had been over a decade since we had last spoken, and the crisis had made getting a hold of him impossible through conventional means. I never expected my letter to get to him, I just wanted to tell the other side of the story. The comments from him and his wife still get me all choked up.
My most recent (not counting the Broo Deathmatch series) would be “Grace” and the follow up to my “Abandoned Ship” piece. Going through serious injury and cervical spine surgery has been a lot tougher than I thought it would be – mostly psychologically. After the selfishness of “Abandoned Ship”, my best friend called me and told me how insulted he was by what I had written – and after he hung up on me, I began my real healing. I actually handed my final draft of that piece, before I published it to Broo, to three people who I felt deserved to read it first: Steve, David and my coach.
Without Broo, I would have never reached Andrew, or had a place to publicly thank the people who have been there for me in my toughest times.
If you could get could write about anyone or any situation, what would it be?
Wow. What a great question. I’ve been fortunate to see and do a great many things in my life, and experience things that I could have never imagined. But, I haven’t even been able to share most of that with my writing yet. But, I did put some thought to this, and came up with three things that I’d like to experience and then write about:
1. The Super Bowl. This is the greatest pop-culture marketing and promotional orgasm in our world. It’s an event that actually outdoes its own outsized scale every year. It’s the modern day equivalent of a coronation festival, and I can only imagine the rich sights, sounds, smell, etc. that would accompany a week amidst this sports-fueled hedonism. There are so many things intersecting, and so much conflict and confluence. I expect I wouldn’t even want to write about the football.
2. The Playboy Mansion. I’m pretty sure this is the consummate heterosexual male experience, and it’s almost certain to not live up to my expectations for it. But either taking the shine off of it, or maybe even being surprised and putting the shine back on for all of those who have yet to pass through its gates would be a great exercise in covering modern-day mythology.
3. The CES. Since I was young, the promise of a better future promised by technology has always captivated my imagination and inspired me. The CES (annual Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas) to me is what the Willy Wonka’s Candy Garden is to a fat kid. I think the CES is the last chance for this grown man to feel the true wonderment of a Christmas morning again. That and it’s at the same time as the pornography convention (my other chance for grown-up Xmas morning wonderment).
What artist (musician, author, painter etc) inspires you?
Dave Barry. I was in high school when I first read one of his columns. Up until that point I didn’t think anything I read could make me laugh out loud. I didn’t think writing could be that funny. He was like a stand up comic whose timing was captured in his words. I was captivated. I never thought I had it in me. Over a decade later I tried my best Dave Barry impression, writing about coeds on beach crusiers on the Stanford campus. I still read his stuff today, to see how it’s done.
I think a more contemporary version would be Chuck Klosterman, who is truly the type of writer I endeavor to be. He’s smart, funny, and aged just enough that I get all of his jokes. I also think Dennis Miller and Lewis Black are brilliant. They put so much smart into their funny. I think that’s the type of comic I’d like to be.
Wait, was I just supposed to list one? Can I put El G on the list, too?
Of our topics (city life, night life, culture, sports, etc) what is your favorite? Is there a reason why you tend to write/read more articles in that section?
I think City Life is my favorite, only because it’s observing the world around me that started my pen moving in the first place. One of the reasons that observational comedy is funny is that we can all relate to what’s being talked about. Being able to bring someone’s world to them in an entertaining way they just hadn’t thought about it before is a magical thing. Because they can attach those new ideas to things in their own lives, people take those observations away, and enjoy them long after you’ve gone.
I think second would have to be Opinion, because I think that aside from entertaining, the greatest goal of any writer is to inspire thought in others. Opinion pieces are the chance to take a side, back it up and put it out there. They are likely to invite the greatest criticism, but also have the greatest power to create discussion and the exchange of ideas.
What keeps you contributing at the Broo? Maybe you landed here by accident - but what keeps you coming back?
Well, the first thing may sound a little silly, but it’s really the look of publishing on the site. I’m not certain whether this was a big deal when they were putting it together, or not – but when you publish a story on Broo, it looks like a newspaper/magazine story. The front page looks like a front page, and the whole thing appears professional. I’m always surprised at how much better my stories look once they’re up, than they did on my word processor. I always like sending my friends and family to the site to have a look at my stuff, and they’re always surprised not to have heard of the site before. As we’ve often said, I won’t be at all surprised to see Broo become the leading citizen journalism site in the near future, and I’m happy to have been on board when it was still relatively new.
The second reason is the amazing feedback that the site offers. You get read, ranked and commented to. You get to hear from both casual readers and seasoned authors, each with their own merits. The site had a great audience that keeps you challenged not only to write well, but to write about interesting and topical things. Of course, you do get to hear from the occasional loon or moron, but in that, Broo is much like real life.
Finally, there is a bit of a Broo family – the frequent contributors, the most vibrant personalities have formed a sort of de facto community, which I consider myself a part of.
You have to pick one or the other: A happy but long life of mediocrity - or a short sad life of being exceptional. (Think of it as the classic artist question: Van Gough being a good example of a short, sad but exceptional life).
There was a time in my life where this would have been an ethical quandary for me. But, that’s no longer the case. And I imagine, that with age, most people begin to answer this question with a tendency towards a long, happy life. But, I never much liked running with the pack. There are so many forces pulling us towards mediocrity, it would hardly take any effort – and to my mind finding happiness in such a life would be akin to finding it at the bottom of a pill bottle.
I’ve become more and more certain that being exceptional almost begets the short and sad life you mentioned. And yet, I still strive to achieve it. I guess I believe that very few people have the opportunity to even be exceptional, and even fewer of them are willing to endure the sacrifice necessary to do so. They are also necessarily complex creatures, who aren’t going to find happiness in simple things (at least not enduring happiness). But although it may not be a wise choice, I have always felt like ability comes with a certain amount of responsibility. So, to the extent I have been given any ability to be extraordinary, I want to make sure I use it as best I can – no matter the cost.
I suppose, as with most profound things, it’s been better said by someone else – so, in the immortal words of the Kurgen (reprising Neil Young, who was reprising James Joyce) – “I’ve got something to say, it’s better to burn out, than to fade away.”
May Featured Contributor - Glenn T
Late, but still here: Glenn T is May's featured Broowaha contributor. He kept us on the edge of our seats with the Broowaha Deathmatch - find out what makes him tick.
How does where you live influence who/what you write about and how you go about doing it?
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