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Upcoming Sightings & Appearances

Eric is making signing and speaking appearances to promote A Consternation of Monsters.  (He also occasionally does some acting.)  You’ll find those appearances and roles here.

February 2-4, 2017– (Greenbrier Valley Theatre, Lewisburg, W.Va)  Eric will be directing The Magic of Niagara by playwright Margie Semilof, and will be acting in Barrage from the Garage by Dan Borengasser, as part of the 2017 New Voices Play Festival.

 

April 2017– (Longwood University, Farmville, Va.)  Eric’s short play Fargo 3D will be produced as part of Longwood University’s 0 to 60 Ten Minute Play Festival.

May 19-20, 2017– (Pocahontas County Opera House, Marlinton, W.Va.) Eric will be directing the full length play The People at the Edge of Town by A.J. DeLauder, for the Pocahontas Drama Workshop’s May production.

The Ben Folds Experience in 20 Year Increments (Sorta)

20161007_094141.jpgOn June 8, 1996, Ben Folds Five was to play the New Daisy Theater in Memphis, TN.  I was working in college radio at the time and our station had been given a supply of free tickets.  Unfortunately, I had no car.  Fortunately, I had several friends who did, so I proposed we all make a road trip to Memphis to go see the show.

My experience at WMSV (91.1 FM) out of Mississippi State University, from 1994-1997, was a formative one.  Not only did it finally allow me the experience of being a DJ (which had been a longstanding dream of mine since being told by multiple people in 1989 that my voice would lend itself to a career in it), but it exposed me to a lot of music I would never have heard otherwise. It helped shape my musical taste to a large degree.

I was already a kid who was more at home with Paul Simon than Poison, but getting force fed a steady diet of Live, Dave Matthews Band (and a few years before the rest of the country had heard of them), Ani DiFranco, Barenaked Ladies, Moxy Fruvous, Sarah McLachlan, Phish, the Eels, Aimee Mann, Joan Osborne, Jason Falkner, Primus, Trout Fishing in America, the Subdudes, Taj Mahal, October Project, Ben Folds, and so many others, helped refine my musical taste and send me off in different directions. Most of these acts seem like no-brainers now, but at the time I’d never heard of most of them, nor, in many cases, had much of the rest of the country.

Now Ben Folds and his band the Ben Folds Five went on to have some top 40 hits in the later 90s, but in 1995, with their debut album, they were new to the national scene.  I can even recall the first time I played a song by them, which I believe was their song “Philosophy.”  It was a revelation to me because it sounded like the guy who used to do the old Kleenex Says, Bless You jingles from a decade earlier was now writing awesome rock music using primarily piano, bass, and drums.  (For the record: not the same guy.)  Also the fact that they were called Ben Folds Five and there were only three members in the band was something I found superbly charming.  I played the ever-loving-snot out of that CD on the air. In fact, I played songs from it so much that Ben Folds Five began to encroach upon the play numbers of my standard regular overplayed airshift band, They Might Be Giants.  “Philosophy” was my favorite song on the album, but “Underground” came a close second, and “Best Imitation of Myself” probably third.  Folds and the band had a definite sound that I had heard nowhere else.

So when, in 1996, I heard they were going to be playing at the New Daisy, it seemed a done deal that I would be there to see the show.  After all, we’d done a similar road trip with folks from the station–spearheaded by our fearless leader and general manager, Steve Ellis–back in December of `94, to see Milla Jovovich and Toad the Wet Sprocket.  (Yes, THAT Milla Jovovich.  Check out her album, The Divine Comedy.  It’s good stuff.)  The only difference was that this road trip wouldn’t be a university sanctioned event, and we’d have to carpool it rather than ride in an official MSU van.  It would be awesome!  And it was free!

I got no takers.

Nope.

Nary a soul among my crew of nerd herd friends seemed at’tall interested in attending Ben Folds Five in concert.

So we stayed put in Starkpatch, ate pizza, and probably watched old episodes of Red Dwarf instead.

Now, I didn’t know this until this morning, but it turns out that our staying put was probably a good thing.  Apparently the concert had to be cancelled. One site I found which reprinted old newsgroup posts noted that someone in the bad had gotten sick and they had to postpone the concert indefinitely.  So this puts the resentment I’ve held toward my friends at this missed opportunity in a bit of a different light for me.  It would have been awkward to have made that journey only to learn there was no concert at all.  We would have been left with no recourse but to consume our weight in barbecue and craft beer.  Yeah, that would have been a terrible time.

I kept up with Ben Folds Five after college, as I have many of the college radio bands I became a fan of back then.  My favorite album of theirs is probably The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner, which I hold is a masterpiece, though it was a critical and commercial failure at the time.  The band broke up not long after its release and it took a few years before Ben began releasing his amazing solo work, with Rockin’ the Suburbs.  I’ve picked up most everything since, though I’ve not yet delved into all of the side projects he’s done, such as The Bens, or quite all of his work with William Shatner.

ben-folds-and-a-pianoAfter a semi-bitter 20 year wait, I finally got to see Ben Folds in concert last week when he played at the Clay Center in Charleston, sans the Five.  In fact, the tour was called Ben Folds and a Piano.

I got to town a little early because I wanted to check out Lost Legion Games & Comics, the Rifleman, a comic store on the south west side of town.  It’s the parent store to the one I used to go to in Princeton, but I’d never visited it.  Turned out to be a great shop and very busy for a Thursday night.  My plan was to next head back down town to Graziano’s Pizza.  Unfortunately, there seemed to be some sort of parade or gathering of marching bands and ROTC kids going on near the comic shop and this had brought traffic to a halt.  It didn’t look like anyone was going to clear out any time soon, so I decided to stay.  The Happy Days Cafe was next door to Lost Legion and they had an open-faced meatloaf sandwich on special with mashed potatoes and gravy as a side.  I asked if they would substitute french fries for the mashed potatoes, but keep the gravy–as gravy fries are one of my all time favs. They were spectacular.

Traffic jam having passed, I headed over to the Clay Center for Ben’s concert, which was also spectacular and nearly everything I could have asked for in a Ben Folds show.

Nearly.

After the first song, Ben talked to the crowd a bit, noting that half of his family comes from West Virginia.  He wasn’t sure from where exactly and was awaiting a text reply from his father to find out.  But he said that between his relatives from WV and NC his redneck street cred was pretty strong. It made such lyrics as “my redneck past keeps nipping at my heels” from “Army” ring even more true.

The concert was wonderful.  Ben talked between most of the songs, telling stories–sometimes song origins and sometimes funny stories that resulted from songs–and being the personable dude I’ve heard in his appearances on podcasts like Nerdist and Adam Carolla.  He even enlisted audience participation, such as having us do four part harmony in the bridge to “Bastard.”  Then, after an audience member shouted out a request early on, Ben noted that we were welcome to shout out whatever we wanted to, but he was going to stick to the set list on his paper.  However, we should stick around, cause at the middle of the show shit was going to get crazy.  And he was not wrong.

Just before the last song of the first half of the concert, he explained that during intermission we were all welcome to go into the lobby where we would be given sheets of paper upon which we could write our song requests.  We were then welcome to fold those pieces of paper into airplanes and, upon the resumption of the concert, we would be invited to launch them at the stage and Ben would play the rest of the concert based on those suggestions.

Unfortunately, I could not find paper in the lobby.  Everyone was walking around with multiple pieces of it, but I couldn’t locate the central paper distribution point.  I could have asked someone, sure, but that involves communicating with humans.  I figured it would be fine even if I didn’t get paper, since there was no way the song I wanted to request, “The Luckiest,” wasn’t going to be requested by multiple other people.  Chances were high it would be sung.  Also, my seat was far enough back that there was no way I could engineer a paper airplane that would make the journey to the stage without some added ballast to carry it.  (My seat mates caught a glimpse of the mailing tube my recently purchased Ben Folds tour poster came in and thought for sure I had a brought some kind of paper airplane bazooka.  In retrospect, I could have used the poster to make the biggest paper airplane in the room, which would have certainly drawn the attention of Mr. Folds.  It would also have cost me $30 to do it, but how awesome would that have been?)

Ben and request planesBen came back from intermission and gave us the countdown for the launching of the planes.  Maybe ten percent actually made it to the stage.  Many immediately nose-dived back into the crowd.  There followed much relaunching and re-relaunching until more had made it.  True to his word, Ben played the rest of the show from the request planes, including a few songs that weren’t even his to begin with.  He did a great version of “Tiny Dancer,” a song he had learned for some concerts he’d done with Elton John in Australia.  Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” he claimed to know not even a little of, then played a respectable version that he just made up lyrics to as he went.  Then Jerry Lee Lewis’s “Great Balls of Fire” was requested, which one of Ben’s crew said he’d played once before.  He didn’t know the lyrics, though, so he just sang phonetic gibberish for the whole thing and it sounded perfect.  And, of course, someone had to request Ben’s beautifully arranged cover version of Dr. Dre’s rap song “Bitches Ain’t Shit” from his Magnum Opus album The Chronic.  With a title like that you can probably guess the Joseph Campbell Heroes Journey it’s going to take you on.  If anyone there was shocked at the first verse, they were probably even moreso by the second, which around another third of the audience sang in unison without Ben’s vocal assistance.  (He explained that he doesn’t like to sing that verse, probably due to all the racial slurs, so he was going to let us do that.  I was not among the “us,” though, because I don’t have it memorized and am pretty sure that’s a good thing.)  I imagine there were those present who were shocked by the content of the song, regardless of the beauty of the melody.  Some might have even wondered why Ben would have covered it in the first place.  I think the Village Voice sums it up nicely:  “The greatest way to show up musical misogyny for the absurd bullshit that it is, is to break it down into a ballad and have it gently sung by a charming nerd. Here Ben Folds takes a super-sexist, curse-laden track, flips it on its head and makes Dr. Dre look like an idiotic buffoon. What’s more, taking gangsta speak and enunciating it like a middle-class white guy is always going to be comedy gold…”  And comedy gold it was, even if not everyone in the audience was in on the joke.

At one point during the second half, I thought my unlaunched request for “The Luckiest,” was going to be played when Ben picked an airplane featuring a short letter from a girl in the audience.  She wrote, and I’m paraphrasing, that she didn’t want to be the typical white girl who requests “the Luckiest” but she was attending the show with her man who wanted her to feel like the luckiest woman there.  So Ben used the content of that letter as lyrics for a song he improvised on the spot.  I figured that he’d just blend that beautiful and funny tune right into “The Luckiest” afterward.  Nope.  He’d honored the letter of the request and moved on–probably confident that it would turn up in a future airplane.  Sadly, it did not.

It was a great show.  And when Ben returned to the stage for the encore, he announced that he’d received a reply from his father and that his family was from Webster county, which is about as hinterlands as hinterlands go in this state.  His final song was the aptly chosen “Army.”  Once again, his redneck past keeps nipping at his heels.

The “Weird Al” Experience in 31 Year Increments

On September 2, 1985, 31 years ago, I turned 13.  In addition to becoming a teenager, I became a man.  A giant nerd man.  Why?  Because it was for that birthday that I got to see “Weird Al” Yankovic in concert for the first time.

His breakout album, In 3D, had only been released the previous year, ramming his “Beat It” parody, “Eat It,” into the ears of popular culture.  I never purchased the album–at least not with money.  Instead, I traded a cassette of it from my friend Bo.  I forget what he got out of the deal.  Probably some comic books.  But I got the better end of the bargain, for In 3D was a towering achievement to my 12-year-old brain.

“Eat it” might have been the most famous song from the album, but it was loaded with greatness.  I wasn’t always even familiar with the songs and artists he was parodying, but it definitely put those artists on my radar when later I would hear “The Safety Dance” (“The Brady Bunch”) or “Our Love’s in Jeopardy” (“I Lost on Jeopardy”) or “King of Pain” (“King of Suede”). al cassette It also introduced me to the concept of stylistic parody, where Al did not parody a specific song by an artist, but parodied the style of the artist instead.  “Buy Me a Condo” was a basic Bob Marley reggae, without parodying a specific song.  “Mr. Popeil” is a brilliant sendup of the B52s–a realization that only hit me this year when it got stuck in my head one day and I had to stop down and try and recall who it was parodying.  It’s so obvious now.  Sadly, I didn’t know who the B52s were in 1984 and wouldn’t for another five years.  But maybe my favorite song on the album was the final track, an epic five minute long rock tale of about a horror movie called “Nature Trail to Hell.”  The song, I think, is a general parody of heavy metal music–possibly with an eye in the direction of Black Sabbath. Funny thing, though: because the cassette listed all the songs on the album at the bottom, and because of “Nature Trail to Hell” featured the word HELL prominently, and because we were Southern Baptist, I knew there was no way I could ever play that song in my dad’s presence.  I also decided to manage his inevitable unhappiness with my listening material by “accidentally” spilling green metallic paint pen ink all over the bottom of the cardboard insert.  In retrospect, I could have achieved the same effect by spilling it on the clear plastic cassette cover.

While my dad would have had a negative reaction to his son listening to songs with the word HELL in the title, all I really needed to do to counteract this was let him listen to the other songs, which I did.  And thereafter he was a Weird Al” fan too.  When Al was going to appear on the Tonight Show in July of `85, I got to stay up and watch it.  I wondered what song he would do.  Probably “Eat It,” but maybe “Rocky XIII,” I thought.  What I didn’t realize in that moment, though, was that Al had a new album out, that was only a month old, called Dare to Be Stupid, and the song would be from that.  He came out, with his Stupid Band (as were called) and did a parody of a song by the Kinks’ I was unfamiliar with then called “Lola.”  Al’s version was the now classic “Yoda.”

I lost my damned mind.  Not only was Yoda one of my favorite fictional characters, the cleverness of the song just fractured my 12-year-old funny bone.  I told EVERYONE about it.  (And forever after, whenever I heard “Lola” on the radio I was disappointed, because it wasn’t as good as “Yoda.”)

DIGRESSION:  Okay, I just went and looked up the lyrics to “Lola” to see if it was as nonsensical as I remember.  WOW!  That song’s about things 12-year-old Eric didn’t realize it was about and 44-year-old Eric is shocked it took him this long to realize it.  Don’t let the weak-sauce spell-singing put you off as it did me.  That song’s both layered and in-your-face all at the same time.   Pretty impressive, Ray Davies!

Turns out I only thought I lost my mind then.  Not too long later, I learned that “Weird Al” would be appearing in concert on the Mississippi State University campus, scant miles from my house, and BOOM it was gone again..  Not only that, but the concert would be in early September, just in time for my 13th birthday.  Dad said that not only could I go, but I could have a sleepover party and invite all my friends to go as well.  Why the heck not?  The concert was free!

The concert was in a big open grass space in front of Frat Row on the Mississippi State campus–an actual amphitheater is located there now, but in those days it was just open space.  We got there extra early, because it was all lawn seating so we needed to get a good spot.  Then we abandoned this idea to instead go hang out near Al’s tour bus in the hope of getting a glimpse of him as he ran to the stage.  And after much waiting, out he flew and we were mere feet away from “Weird Al” himself.  Then we booked it back around front, as close as we could get for the concert.

The concert was everything I wanted it to be.  He played lots of stuff from In 3D, but also a good mix from Dare to Be Stupid.  (This isn’t from memory.  I found his set list online.)  And there I was, with fingers crossed and prayers uttered, that one of the new songs would be “Yoda.”  But he finished out his set without it, and he and the Stupid Band left the stage.

20160923_092343.jpgBeing a fairly new concert goer at that point in life so I didn’t know much about encores.  (I’d been to some gospel and contemporary Christian shows and about five Tammy Wynette 4th of July concerts in Malden, MO, but I somehow didn’t know from encores.)  But everyone stayed put and continued to clap and cheer until Al took the stage again and finally graced us with “Yoda.”  And I lost my damn mind again.  It was one of the most satisfying things I’d experienced in my life to that point.  Before leaving, I purchased one piece of Al memorabilia, a “Weird Al” button.

Cut to this past summer, when I learned that Al would be playing the Clay Center in Charleston, W.Va., a scant 112 miles from my house, as part of his Manditory Fun tour.  As soon as tickets went on sale to the public, I was on their website.  The wife, unfortunately, could not come with as her new job didn’t let her out until 6p, leaving us not much time to get to Charleston by show time.  She liked “Weird Al” well enough, but is not the life long fan she agree to marry nearly 17 years ago.  As much as I regretted the wife not getting to go, running solo meant I could buy a better seat because the only ones we could have gotten together were in the far back.  I picked an aisle seat, midway back from the stage.  Turned out to be a good choice.

20160922_191957.jpgCut to last night.  I turn up to Charleston, eat some excellent pizza at Graziano’s down town, and make it to the theatre.  I hung out in the lobby for a while, looking at all the other tubby white guys with facial hair.  Some people wore aluminum foil hats.  Some–I believe the ones who had been to the special Al signing beforehand–wore red revolutionary berets.  Some people were dressed as the Amish, I presume either as costumes related to Al’s Amish Paradise, or perhaps the real Amish are just fans.  Regardless, I saw more than one instance of other attendees being extra polite to those dressed like the Amish, which amused me.

I went to find my seat, but went down the wrong corridor and wound up behind the box seats.  I turned around and went back, moving past some nice wooden wall-paneling in the process, then found the left rear entrance to the theatre, which led to my seat.

The show began with the band taking the stage as “Fun Zone,” an instrumental track from UHF, played.  Then a screen lit up above the stage and Al could be seen walking out of one of the other smaller theater spaces at the Clay center and into a hallway, singing his “Happy” parody “Tacky” to camera.  As he moved down the hall and into another lobby area, I began to recognize some of the guts of the Clay Center building itself.  I’ve performed there on a couple of occasions before and have been all through it.  Then I saw a familiar looking area with steps leading up to box seats and then the familiar wood paneling of the corridor leading there and knew Al was approaching the lobby of the main theatre itself.  I think I was one of the first people to turn around and see him come in the back doors of the theatre on my aisle, the camera man and cable tech moving just ahead of him.  Once again, Al passed within mere inches of me on his way to the stage.  Part of me wished that I’d taken a picture or even video of that, but the rest of me told that part of me to shut up and enjoy the moment.  I’m sure the moment was captured by one of the 300 other phones being aimed at Al anyway.  That wasn’t going to be the only brush with Al of the evening, though.

The concert was spectacular though, much like when I was a 13-year-old, I was often unfamiliar with the music being parodied, now due to the fact that I simply don’t listen to the radio.  And between many of the songs were intermissions featuring video of Al from other media throughout his history, such as his appearances on the Simpsons, Scooby Doo, My Pretty Pony, etc., or clips from the ALTV takeovers of MTV.  Usually these would thematically lead into the next song, and gave he and the band time for some pretty impressive costume changes, including into a fat suit for “Fat.”  One of the intermissions featured a very funny ALTV interview with Eminem as the lead in to Word Crimes,” which may be my new favorite Al song ever.   But it was his song “Wanna B Ur Lovr” that brought him out in a sleazy pimp outfit, then down into the aisle again, where he proceeded to sing directly into the faces of a number of ladies, climbing onto the seats on occasion to gyrate in character.  He continued on up the aisle, singing to ladies along the way, until he past my seat again and began singing cheek to cheek at the girl directly behind me.  And she could not have wanted the attention less.  Which he sensed.  So he kept coming back to her with perfect comic timing.  Every time she thought he was finished, he would press his microphone between their faces and sing away again.  It was fabulous.

The songs were great and a nice mix of classic and current.  And even old standards like “Eat It” were spruced up a bit by being sung in the acoustic style of an MTV Unplugged concert, complete with candles.

20160922_212058.jpgAl ended the evening with “Amish Paradise,” said some slow goodbyes and left the stage James Brown style.  (Though, unfortunately, not with the accompanying “Living with a Hernia” which would have made me even happier to see.)  The crowd stood and chanted “Weird Al!  Weird Al!” until at last his band filtered in, dressed in Jedi accouterments.  Then a variety of storm troopers, what looked like a female Jango Fett and Darth Vader himself filed out as backup dancers for Al in Jedi robes, singing “The Saga Begins.”  And this, of course, led right into “Yoda” which made the 13 year-old-boy inside me lose his damn mind all over.

Horribly True Redesign

I’ve had this WordPress version of my website for a couple of years now, and it’s gone through some alterations here and there.  At one point I’d had a theme that allowed me to conveniently organize my 40 plus Horribly True Tales in a manner that allowed for easy navigation.  You could see all of the HTT title displayed in one place, giving you a better idea of what they were about rather than having to scroll through page after page as if they were originally written as blog entries.

Recently, my sister-in-law and biggest Horribly True Fan of all time, Amber, requested I do a reading of one of the stories.  And when I went to try and find one I could barely make any sense of how to find the one I was looking for.  Not sure what happened, but somewhere along the way one of my redesigns inconveniently ditched the convenient all titles on display feature.

So I’ve added them all back on the main Horribly True Tales page.  There you’ll find  list of all of the tales in reverse chronological order.  (I’d love to have some sort of widget that would allow me to make them sortable, but so far my coding skills have not allowed this.)

Furthermore, let it be hereby noted that during a recent spelunking session into the depths of my hard drive, I found a handful of previously unpublished horribly true tales in draft form.  Most are in pretty good shape already, but did not see publication for various reasons.  I have also located a number of Horribly True Tale worthy stories I’d written for previous blogging efforts, some of which involve lost tales of our dogs, that I plan to publish as well.  And, as if that weren’t enough, there’s a horribly true Alaska tale or two to come as well.

SO keep your eyes on this space for all new/old horribly true material.

Dream journal

In last night’s dream state, my recent RV trip to Alaska was replayed as a Wes Anderson movie. My mother-in-law, Susan Holloway, was played by Anjelica Huston. Actress Imogen Poots also had a prominent role, except everyone kept calling her Imogen Poots instead of her character’s name, cause it’s just fun to say Imogen Poots. The RV’s interior dimensions did not always match its exterior, which looked like a hand-crafted toy model of a 1960s era Winnebago. And the title of this little road movie kept changing from scene to scene, yet consistently contained the word “Coterie” (as originally used in the brilliant SNL Anderson parody, “The Midnight Coterie of Sinister Intruders”).

This is what I get for watching The Royal Tenenbaums and eating pizza after 8 p.m.

Wes Anderson – The midnight Coterie of sinister intruders from MisterB on Vimeo.

 

Skinwalker Waltz (a ghazal)

skinwalker waltz photo

SKINWALKER WALTZ
a ghazal

Beneath constellations sewn into night’s veil, we meet in the shadows,
Our motion disturbing only leaves, casting only moon shadows.

We turn gracefully in time to cricket song, our tails entwined,
Retracing the steps of solstices past, gliding through the shadows.

On all other nights, I dream only of this one. Of you. And of our
Two shapes blending into one among the trees and shadows.

We discard the vulpine forms we wear within our separate packs,
True faces revealed only to one another, under cover of shadows.

Spheric sun will soon pierce night’s veil, leaving us in its cruel light,
Tearing us, another year, from the warm embrace of the shadows.

 

Jorn1

Written by Eric Fritzius, author of the short story collection A Consternation of Monsters.

Art by Jorn Mork. Jorn is a Minnesota native living in Lewisburg ,W. Va.  Jorn creates paintings, hand-colored etchings and etching constructions as well as whimsical mobiles and wall pieces. Her artwork is a reflection of her emotions as they relate to her family, nature, spirituality and her personal view the world. Jorn has exhibited nationally and has won numerous awards in Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Minnesota and West Virginia.

This exhibit was part of the 2016 Lewisburg Literary Festival.

 

Sightings & Appearances

August 5 – 6, 2016– (Lewisburg Literary Festival in Lewisburg, W.Va)  I’ll be attending the Lewisburg Literary Festival (August 5-6, 2016) as an author, playwright, and member of the LLF planning committee.

  • Throughout the weekend, I’ll be selling and signing copies of A Consternation of Monsters at the Literary Festival Bookstore, located on West Washington Street in the Greenbrier Valley Visitor’s Center.  Lots of authors, publishers, and booksellers will be on hand there, so please drop by.

  • On Friday, August 5, at 9:30 p.m., my short play, Playing Cards by Twilight’s Shine, will be performed at Hill & Holler Pizza, on Jefferson Street (the old Fort Savannah Location, for those who’ve not been here in a couple of years).  The 12 minute play, co-starring Dr. Larry Davis, Chally Erb, and myself,  will kick off an evening of improv comedy from the Wilmington, NC, comedy and film-making troupe, LosCaballeros.  Come on by for beer and funny in equal parts.

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