In Moments

I watch you in moments

taking you in
focused, intent, a slight furrow
in your brow

You purse your lips
golden strands, and copper
glance softly off your sun-kissed cheek

These silent moments
are the realest
Sharing space
and a location in time
with you

I reach out to touch
your back
my hand seems so large
Fingertips trace lazy circles
up to your neck
and cool skin absorbs
my warmth

Your soft sigh
of contentment
speaks for me

“I think of Sarah. The rest is easy.”

Frank Miller, The Dark Knight Returns

Valentine’s Day has just passed, another day of loving ovations and broken hearts. My wife and I spent the day job hunting (me), house hunting (her), and packing up our worldly belongings (both of us). As of this past Tuesday, we are in our final two weeks as Angelenos. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel the least bit anxious, yet overall I feel eerily calm.

Spending our Valentine’s Day together, preparing for our impending move was our kind of romance, and it may help explain the gusto with which we are embracing this huge change. You can draw considerable power from a functional relationship. As far as I’ve been able to tell so far, it’s an endless supply.

Commissioner Gordon gets it. In this sequence from Frank Miller’s masterpiece, The Dark Knight Returns, an old and retired James Gordon is being hunted by a gangbanger. His instincts fully intact, he draws upon the only strength he needs to answer the challenge.

There is considerable trust and communication in our marriage, and each feeds the other. The more we trust, the more we communicate. The more we communicate, the more we trust. It’s a perpetual motion machine. I know she has my back, and she knows I have hers.

The rest is easy.

The Bare Facts on Modern Nudism

As published in the Summer 2015 issue of Bachelor Pad Magazine: Nightcap Edition.

by Mr. Snapper

It is an objective, observable fact that volleyball is the sport of choice among the nudist set. There’s something freeing about letting your boingy bits bounce in the breeze as you smack that ball around. And who doesn’t enjoy observing the organically grown (or, for that matter, artificially enhanced) aesthetics of a human mammal in action?

And yet, why do those unabashed babes and boys feel the need to frolic and prance away from where prying eyes spy?  Since the 1930s, Americans have wandered off into the great outdoors to congregate together in the altogether. Both in private nudist colonies and public parks and beaches, you just know those nutty, naked cultists are up to no end of naughty hijinks, most likely set to the tune of “Yakkity Sax.”

At least, that’s the perception many of the textile set have of us nudists. In reality, it is not as “pinch and tickle” as all that. Nude is not necessarily lewd, as they say, but it can be enormously fun.

I like to be naked with my wife, Red Snapper. It’s not what you think … well, actually, it is exactly what you think, at least part of the time. But aside from “Mommy and Daddy time,” we enjoy bathing in the sun and air, free from the swaddlings society insists we wear in polite company.

You may be surprised to learn that California, with its reputation for easy-going, cultural taboo-breaking, sun-worshipping hippyness, is incredibly prudish when it comes to simple, non-sexual nudity.

Our adopted hometown of Los Angeles, in particular, has one of the most restrictive nudity laws on the books. The ordinance reads like the “no-no” section of Grey’s Anatomy (going so far as to list both “pubic hair” and “pubic hair region,” just to be safe). The City Council put the kibosh on skinny dipping in 1974, following a campaign led by the local Catholic Cardinal.

For the law-abiding nudist, where do you get bare? Certainly, there are a number of private resorts that cater to the unapologetically undressed, but what about publicly accessible naked places for the more casual nudist on a budget?

There are two freely accessible and legal public places near Los Angeles where one may greet the fresh air and sunshine in a full-body hug: Blacks Beach in San Diego, and Deep Creek Hot Springs in Apple Valley. Since Red and I are planning a quick Blacks Beach excursion during Tiki Oasis (the beach is a short drive away), this past spring we thought we would let it all hang out in the National Park to our north.

A hundred miles to our north. Easily a two and a half hour drive from Los Angeles, Deep Creek Hot Springs follows the grand tradition of naked places that are well off the beaten path. But before you get to the bone-jarringly bumpy gravel road that takes you from civilization to au naturale paradise, you must first traverse the very well beaten path that leads from the City of Angels to Sin City. You must plan carefully, lest you find yourself in bumper-to-bumper Vegas traffic on the 15.

Eventually, we parked our car and began the two mile hike to the spring. Two miles isn’t bad. Two miles plus a 900 foot change in elevation is a bit of a work out. And keep in mind, the hike is downhill on the way in, uphill on the way out.

But is it ever worth it! Deep Creek Hot Springs is a little slice of paradise. After crossing through the desert, we found ourselves in an oasis surrounded by wild desert greenery and the delightfully cool waters of the creek itself. The hot springs are on the other side of the creek, and range in temperature from amusingly tepid to lobster-boil hot. Red was particularly fond of the waterfall that fell from the hot springs to the creek below.

The day we went to Deep Creek, I was alarmed at the number of people who kept their “shame” wrapped up for none to see. Honestly, if you’re making the trip, avail yourself of the full experience. Or, if you will, the full frontal experience. Carpe diem, and all that. The thought of visiting a nudist locale might make you titter, and you may think you lack the cockiness to strut your stuff out in the open. Trust me when I say the hardest thing you’ll encounter is getting there. All the rest is as easy as pie.

Short-Short Story: “The Liar”

I really dig short-short fiction. The stories are more like sketches than portraits; more like short art films than narrative movies. I used to write more of these, and it’s a great loosening-up exercise for me.

Here’s my latest bit of short-short storytelling. Enjoy

The Liar

    He started keeping the log in his youth, almost as soon as he began writing. What precocious urge motivated him is anyone’s guess. Like many — indeed, all of humanity — he had been caught in a lie. It was a simple lie. Feigning a tummy-ache, he had his mommy come and take him home from school. The next week, when his teacher asked him how he was feeling, he lost the details of the lie and replied, “The headache is gone!”

The grief this slip-up caused him was too much to bear. And so he began keeping a log of every lie he told.

Soon, the necessity of reviewing this log on a regular basis became apparent. What good would it do him to keep track of any lie if he was not able to recall a detail at a moment’s notice? If a teacher inquired about some fictional ailment he had claimed weeks prior, he couldn’t very well pull out his Big Chief tablet and track down the misplaced details.

In the beginning, the reviews were every few weeks or so. There weren’t too many lies to remember, you see. Besides, he was young, his memory sharp.

That changed in middle school. Discovering girls may have contributed to it, but regardless, the reviews became monthly. And then weekly, as he left the eighth grade.

He was able to hold it to weekly for the first year of high school, but late Sunday night cramming sessions soon took their toll, and he had to review his log at least twice a week. That exploded to three times a week, date coincident with junior prom. By graduation, he was reviewing the log every other day.

College, and a new town with new friends gave him a momentary break. He broke out a fresh log to keep track of new, more sophisticated lies. He chose a career, courted a fiance, and soon enough his review sessions were back in full force, occupying as much time as he could spare from studying and the obligatory social life that college years demand.

Upon graduation, and weeks away from marriage, he found himself hopelessly bound to his logs. Making time for his soon-to-be-betrothed was nigh impossible, and before long even that one spark of happiness was hopelessly snuffed out. Rather than mourning the loss of what might have been the love of his life, he breathed a little freely for once. Now his time would only be split between work and the diligent study of his lies.

He underestimated, however, the extent to which his chosen profession would multiply his growing library of log books. Soon, review of the books overtook the time he was able to devote to his career, and he felt close to the edge of ruin.

Then, a curious thing happened. He made the determination to merely give himself over to his lies. To make a profession of his lies. Splitting his time would no longer be necessary — he would spend every waking moment either telling or studying his lies. When business associates, fellow employees, or customers looked in on him, he appeared to be a man beyond studious, busily scribbling in logbooks or else studying them. It got so he could transcribe the lies as he told them. His mind became devoted to cataloging the contents of his logs. He was promoted over and again, and found wealth beyond measure.

He lived this life quite contentedly for many years. And then, whilst reorganizing his logs one fateful Autumn eve, he ran across that first Big Chief tablet. With the reverence of a Benedictine, he gingerly turned the first pages of his life’s lies. And he wept as he read.

He rummaged around the house. He knew he had a candle somewhere. Maybe in the bathroom, under the sink, next to the roach cakes and decades-old scouring powder.

Maybe in the kitchen, tucked behind forgotten cans of Sterno and discolored, mismatched plasticware.

Maybe in the garage, near the bucket of oil-soaked rags, beneath a shelf of dusty car repair books.

At last he found it, a single birthday candle keeping company with a hot pink paperclip and a broken pencil. He melted the bottom of the candle and stuck it to a playing card. The Ace of Diamonds. He struck up another match and watched the flame dance to life before setting it to the waxy wick.

“My innocence is dead,” he said aloud, “and so I light this candle.”

The fire started small, as fires often do. From the match, carelessly dropped in a waste paper basket, to the bills torn in half and deposited therein, the fire spread to the desk itself, and faster than he was to retrieve a blanket to smother the tiny flame, the fire spread to his logs.

Racing across yellowed pages, up the stacks, into their depth, penetrating through to the walls of his house, up the studs to the joists in the roof, until the entire structure burned brighter than a hundred lifetimes worth of birthday candles.

He stood outside, watching it burn. Watching the sparks that once were the pages of his logs take flight and flutter down into ash. He watched, still clutching the blanket that he intended to use against the nascent flames. He stood, aghast.

The sun rose over the smoldering embers. Firefighters, exhausted from a losing battle, packed their things away. He wore the blanket over his shoulders, but otherwise remained frozen in place, nodding incoherently as the Fire Chief said something about a “total loss.” A business card was pressed into his hand as another hand pressed reassuringly against his shoulder. And then, once again, he was alone.

“Total loss.” The words echoed like laughter. “Total loss.”

He was beaming. He was laughing. He was free.

Running down the streets of his town, looking into the same tired faces he had seen his entire life — childhood friends and school chums now grown; business associates, fellow employees, and customers; the resolute face of a woman who once he loved — he laughed as he exclaimed to each and every one, “I’m a liar!”

“I’m a liar,” he said, and no one believed him.

I’m Not an Actor

Okay, fine. I’ve been known to “act” on occasion. And yes, there was a time when I most certainly was an actor:

ACTINGAh … college.

In my most secret of thoughts, I fancy myself Mycroft Holmes-esque: gobsmackingly brilliant, but too damned lazy to do anything with it. I think perhaps the second part of that computation is the truer part. Anyway, Here’s me, acting:

Frenzy Games Commercial from Kevin Pike on Vimeo.

Some would call that “acting.” I call it “doing a solid for a friend,” the friend in this case being Phillip Kelly, the Mr. Buddy to my Mr. Snapper:


What we do may not be acting, but it is something.

A year (or two?) ago, we mounted a sketch comedy show in Hollywood, “Die Gruppe presents: In the Hooker’s Duffel Bag.” Here’s me, acting:

Die Gruppe

Geez … I guess that was three years ago. We really need to do another sketch show.

All evidence to the contrary, I still don’t consider my an actor. I just want to entertain people, whatever it takes.

Daubs of Paint

I had a crazy idea yesterday.

Finally reading Art Spiegelman’s Maus, and it’s blowing my mind. It’s expanding my perception of what the medium is capable of, much in the same way Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics did. Or, hell — in the same way Krazy Kat, Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes books or Warren Ellis’ recent run on Moon Knight has. I find myself engaged with storytelling that is taking advantage of its medium to tell its story.

It makes me want to do something crazy. It makes me want to turn my play Tracing Sonny into a comic book.


Vanessa Hurd and Jacob Smith as Luci and Sonny in the original production.
Vanessa Hurd and Jacob Smith as Luci and Sonny in the original production.

Tracing Sonny is a romantic comedy about the baggage we carry with us from childhood, and how that baggage has the potential to dominate our personal relationships as adults. If you’re interested in taking a look at the play, you can find it on my writing samples page.

Sonny is a voice-over artist living in Los Angeles.  He has found his soul-mate in Luci, an effervescent animator.  They are madly in love, creating a life together;  they speak the same language.  But two things stand between Sonny and a happily-ever-after:  His parents.  We follow Sonny and Luci through vignettes that capture the arc of their relationship, and the problems caused by the unwanted, ingrained personality traits of his parents.

Here’s the thing that has me excited about this crazy idea: these ingrained personality traits; these “daubs of paint” on the canvas of Sonny’s life are represented onstage by actors who swing in when the parents take over in a scene.  Between the present time vignettes we discover the pain and heartache at the root of Mom and Dad’s doomed relationship.

I made a conscious effort to write a uniquely theatrical piece, a play that takes full advantage of the medium of live theater. I think the comic book form offers just as unique a milieu — if not more — to tell this story.


In the play, Sonny addresses the audience in a sort of “limbo space,” essentially, his mind. In the comic, this could be represented by unbound panels. No borders in limbo. The memories of his childhood could be rendered in a way completely different from how his adult years are rendered, and framed in a unique way. For instance, borders that suggests photographs pasted into an old photo album.

His parents can run their commentary in the “limbo space” just outside the panel borders that contain present-time action. When Sonny’s parents step in for him, the art can shift. Maybe Dad’s reality looks like old Dick Tracy comic strips. Maybe Mom’s looks like Cathy strips.

I’m just spitballing here. When I work with an artist — or artists — on bringing this to fruition, I’ll want to collaborate with him/her/them on the exact look of the thing. And that’s another exciting possibility! I could work with one artist who can shift styles, or a number of artists who each take on on aspect of Sonny’s story. One artist who does Dad’s panels, one artist who does Mom’s, etc.


The play premiered in 2009 in North Hollywood, and did pretty well. It resonated with people, which is all that mattered to me. My one regret with the show is that so few people got to see it. And it’s over. I can look at the photos, remember the performances, but like any other piece of theater, it’s all just ephemera. Memories.

A graphic retelling will last. I can always pick up a copy of the finished work, and it will be as fresh as the first time I read it. I had that experience recently with The Dark Knight Returns, a book I hadn’t read in close to thirty years when I picked it back up a couple of months ago. (Side note: Folks who bitch about the book probably haven’t read it in a while.)

I’m going to do this. I think I’ll enlist Pamela’s help to adapt it. She groks me, knows the play better than most, and she gets comic book storytelling. I’ll probably ask Phillip for some editorial help, because he’s actually done this sort of thing before, and he also understands me and this play.

As for the artist or artists, I don’t know yet. I have so many incredible artists in my life, but I feel way too humbled to approach any of them. Maybe I’ll post an ad on Craigslist. We’ll see.

Lovecraft and Racism

HP LovecraftH.P. Lovecraft was a unique artist with a powerful gift of imagination. Unfortunately, his wildest flights of fancy left him incapable of seeing past his ethnic and racial prejudices, which were extreme even for his time.

A writer who created worlds as fantastic and detailed as those of Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, and Edgar Rice Burroughs, Lovecraft’s place in literary history is indisputable. His purple prose, thick and tendinous, can be difficult to read. But once you give yourself over to his words, relax into the soupy dread he cooks up, you cannot help but become a fan.

Lovecraft’s racism, bald-faced and stubborn, is nevertheless the gristle that irritates, oftentimes making his delicious prose otherwise unpalatable. Born of a genetic predisposition towards anxiety and possessing of an incipient xenophobia, his racism and ethnicism is the expression of a morbidly frightened man. Whatever the source of his racism, it matters little. It is the most odious thing about his writing. (He wasn’t particularly science-positive either.)

I could draw out specific examples — it’s frightfully easy. The poem that WFA 2011 award winner Nnedi Okorafor quotes in her petition to have Lovecraft’s name and visage removed from the award is a particularly horrifying example. “The Rats in the Wall” is nigh impossible to stomach for what Lovecraft chose to name the black cat that features prominently in an otherwise fantastic yarn. Even on the rare occasions where Lovecraft attempts some semblance of equanimity towards other races and ethnicities, it falls painfully flat, reading as the worst sort of backhanded pandering. “The Transition of Juan Romero” comes to mind:

It was not long after my arrival and employment that Juan Romero came to the Norton Mine. One of the large herd of unkempt Mexicans attracted thither from the neighbouring country, he at first attracted attention only because of his features; which though plainly of the Red Indian type, were yet remarkable for their light colour and refined conformation, being vastly unlike those of the average “greaser” or Piute of the locality. It is curious that although he differed so widely from the mass of Hispanicised and tribal Indians, Romero gave not the least impression of Caucasian blood. It was not the Castilian conquistador or the American pioneer, but the ancient and noble Aztec, whom imagination called to view when the silent peon would rise in the early morning and gaze in fascination at the sun as it crept above the eastern hills, meanwhile stretching out his arms to the orb as if in the performance of some rite whose nature he did not himself comprehend. But save for his face, Romero was not in any way suggestive of nobility. Ignorant and dirty, he was at home amongst the other brown-skinned Mexicans; having come (so I was afterward told) from the very lowest sort of surroundings.

Juan Romero is noble, see, just not that noble.

It’s not my intention to beat up on Lovecraft. That’s the job of clickbait sites who have just discovered what fans have known all along, and who are trying to give an author who, three-quarters of a century after his death, has soared in popularity, the Mel-Gibson treatment. And maybe he deserves it.

The point is this: We know better. We can correct Lovecraft’s mistakes, apologize for his character flaws, and make some measure of amends as we create in the sandbox he left behind.

This is what we humans do: Celebrate accomplishment, condemn failings, and build on a reconciliation of the two. It was a slave-owner who wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The history of my country has been one of building on the accomplishments of men who were all too fallible. The struggle goes ever on.

That is what we are doing with Miskatonic West. MW has a diverse cast representing a broad spectrum of race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. Lovecraft created a wildly heterogeneous cosmology. To meet it with a homogeneous cast would be a sin.

The first season also touches on the Pacific Coast Native American tribes, treating them not as the ignorant primitives of so many Lovecraft stories, but rather as brave human beings who stood up against the unspeakable unknown. Running the risk of cultural appropriation is a concern. We don’t want to go too far in fetishizing other cultures, pandering, or engaging in a superficial multi-culturalism for the sake of multi-culturalism.

Harry, Noah, and I can only go about this with the best of intentions, open honesty, and sensitivity. And by acknowledging that we are making reparations for where an otherwise incredible author fell horribly, miserably short.

It’s not difficult.  Writing for a diverse cast of unique characters is an absolute delight. We are all people with universally felt desires and fundamental needs. In a cosmic sense — certainly in a Lovecraftian cosmic sense — we are so excruciatingly small, painfully impotent, our differences are infinitesimal. Unnoticeable.

We all go mad in the end, no matter what we look like on the outside.

Help Kickstart a Lovecraft-inspred Webseries

I’ve blogged before about Miskatonic West, the Lovecraft-inspired webseries that I’m co-writing with Harry Kakatsakis, and that was created by Harry and Noah James Butler.

The Kickstarter campaign to get the ball rolling on production has gone live:

To contribute to this project, follow this link.

The first Lovecraft story I ever read was “The Tomb.” Being the sort of person who is drawn to musty, old paperbacks, I’ve found myself perusing many a shelf in many a used book store over the years. I say “found myself,” and I mean it. The mere sight of a used book store is enough to trigger a kind of somnambulistic trance; a waking sleepwalk wherein I follow some unnamed spirit to those dusty, worn shelves crammed with long-forgotten yet perhaps once well-loved books.

How intoxicating! The aroma of binder’s glue and paper breaking down, mixed with the faintest trace of mildew. The muffled silence of those shelves.

It was on one such shelf I found a Del Rey-published copy of The Tomb and Other Tales. The cover, depicting a human figure cocooned in spider’s webbing, mouth frozen in a scream of terror, promised hideous delights within. I began reading “The Tomb” there in the aisle, and soon after bought a treasure worth so much more than the dollar-fifty pricetag scratched in grease pencil on its inside cover.

I had heard of Lovecraft before, via my favorite author, Robert A. Heinlein. In his book, The Number of the Beast, a group of adventurers find themselves hopping through different literary universes. For instance, they visit Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom and L. Frank Baum’s Oz. The only catch is that all four adventurers must have read the same book prior to their journey. They write up a list of all the books they’ve read and compare notes:

“Is H.P. Lovecraft on that list?”

“He only got one vote, Zebbie. Yours.”

“Cthulhu be thanked! Sharpie, his stories fascinate me the way snakes are said to fascinate birds. But I would rather be trapped with the King in Yellow than be caught in the worlds of the Necronomicon.”

I knew him by reputation, and he did not let me down.

It is a delight to play in the singular, unnatural sandbox Lovecraft left for us. Along with Harry and Noah, I’m having way too much fun building our own eldritch sandcastles, and I can’t wait to share them all with you.

Bad Telemarketing Poetry

I did a brief spin through a telemarketing gig a week ago. It lasted for less than a week, but not because it was unbearably awful — it was surprisingly pleasant! Nope, I landed a long-term temp day job that is paying me handsomely for my brainpower. That’s a nice feeling, and it’s keeping the lights on at Maison du Snapper.

While I was at the telemarketing gig, I got the idea to write way-too-sincere poetry about telemarketing. It amused me to no end. Perhaps it will amuse you, too:

Bad Telemarketing Poetry 1I.

don’t hesitate

jump right in

waste no time

get to work

to dial …

… dial …

… dial …

and hope someone picks up



dregs seeking out dregs

hoping chance will sweep us away


desperate for a connection

we did not know we missed

longing for that voice

we’ve never heard before


carressing plastic

trying to remember what the

real thing feels like



some people

just want

to defeat you

don’t listen to their words

their broken, hurtful words

listen to their motivation

their true



and pity them their inhumanity



madly dialing numbers

desperate to hear a voice



pick up

hear me speak

talk to me

tonight I’m not selling

tonight you’re not buying

tonight we are two




it is not a personal failing

to miss a connection

no one is to blame

for bad timing

to hear your recorded voice

is not to resent you

(how much I would prefer

a conversation!)

I am here; I know you’re out there

living our lives

Bad Telemarketing Poetry 2