Death by Deadlines – Best of the Free-Times 2015

Some writing out of Columbia, SC in 2015–little of the backstory and the most striking elements of each piece.

Road Dog Comedian – Dave Stone
-This dude was driving in a blizzard when I talked to him over the phone. That’s a fellow dedicated to getting the word out.

Making it in Comedy – Liza Dye
-How many folks have you spoken to that have got hit by a train? Her spirituality struck me. I understood even if I didn’t believe in the details. Her optimism was infectious.

Keith Roberts – Life as a Cowboy
-I emailed this guy some questions but he said he couldn’t type very well so he wanted to talk on the phone. I couldn’t believe the stories he told me. This dude was a real cowboy talking about herding livestock through Montana and other crazy anecdotes. It was wild. Got the best opening lines of the year– “Keith Roberts has a lot of stories. Today, he’s thinking of the ones that left bruises — or worse.”

A Night with Patti O’Furniture
-I could have written a biography on the fellow behind this drag queen from this one night at the local gay bar. When I arrived the place was pretty empty, about ten people shuffling in. I got a sloe-gin ’cause no taverns carry that stuff. I got roped into one of the opening drag queen’s routine and asked if I was top or bottom. I said either, but I clarified by adding I’m also very straight, “too straight,” I might have said. I wasn’t faulted for that. I spent the rest of the night in a phone booth sized room watching drag queens strip down to their skibbies. I learned a lot about different kinds of underwear and various uses.

The Chronicle of “The Chronicles of Stella Archer
-Oh man, this kid, Matthew Jendrasiak, put so much heart into his Harry Potter fan film. He could convince you that he was going to make it big time off this fandom project. But he just kept having that heart broken over and over.

The Making of Jet Boy
-The editor told me this was the best piece I’d written for Free-Times. He hasn’t updated that remark. I dropped my own voice and let Corey tell the story of his many years in the making comic book .

What Does it Mean to “Sound Gay?” –David Thorpe interview
-My dad, a man who put up a Confederate Flag in his yard following its removal from the State House grounds in SC, said this was my best piece. Strange times indeed. This piece also has the weird distinction of being ran with the worst graphic of any story. I have no clue where it came from.

Bringing Art to the Streets
-Got to write a little about the place right around the corner of my neighborhood. Millwood is a forgot strip in Columbia and is ripe for reevaluating.

Ambushing Billy Gibbons
-This is the shortest piece but with the most exciting back story. No one knew if Billy Gibbons was actually going to be at this  fundraiser concert. The promoters were acting sketchy about it. I got a call from the music editor asking if I could go to the airport and see if he came in. I said I’ll do you one better, I’m going to talk the fellow. Then the promoters got real sketchy when I arrived. I saw a lady with a camera and fellow walking around frantically and asked if they were the promoters. After some major attempts at avoiding me they finally told me they were in fact the janky promoters but that I couldn’t speak to Billy. I said, “we’ll see if Billy wants to talk,” to which they did not respond kindly. Well the bearded one came through the terminal and the male promoter was physically blocking me from getting near Billy. I pushed him out of the way and gave Billy the Blenheim’s Ginger Ale I had brought as a welcome present. He said “Oh man, how’d you know I like Blenheim’s.” The promoters backed off and I got to talk to him for about the 2 minutes it took to walk to his van. When he got in I heard him say “Man, that was really cool.” I also asked him if he had any advice for females in bands since Columbia, SC has  Girls Rock and a lot more women are taking their place in the music scene. His reply was “Stay pretty and play loud.” A lot of folks probably think that’s a lame, cliche response but in the moment it felt like Billy Gibbons might have accidentally deduced the dichotomy of trying to be  heard as a female in a male dominated world.

Waka Flocka interview
-Waka passed me a blunt and wanted me to get in on his card game. A crew member offered to pay my twenty buck buy in, but I hate celebrity clinger types, which there was plenty around. I got my interview then was off to watch the show in a far corner of the crowd. Waka killed it. This part got nixed but I thought it said a lot. “You’d be hard pressed to call [Flocka as the realist] a bluff as you witness Waka burn up the venue, smoke it out — any more sweat pouring, party prowess energy and people would drop dead of dehydration. It’s a miracle the man doesn’t burst into flames as he performs — a sacrifice for the people he makes music for.”

This Man Wants You to Live in a 112-Square-Foot Egg – Michael Weekes and the Life Pod
-When I was given this “Growth & Development” assignment, it came with a forwarded message that said, “Maybe a story for Travis?” I took it as a challenge to make such a typically boring section and break it with a sardonic grin. There was supposed to be a lot more snark, but after talking to Michael Weekes, I was convinced that if he could build an army of Life Pods, he would change the world.

Noelle Stevenson – Local Writer Soars With Nimona
-She was so grounded for having a career trajectory that’s shooting towards the moon. She came close to winning a National Book Award but just seemed like someone you might run into that really dug comics.