Further Reading: The Cult of Teddy Ruxpin

Cades Cove Methodist Church

PILTDOWNLAD No. 8.5 – The Cult of Teddy Ruxpin

Even though “The Cult of Teddy Ruxpin” is part of a much larger work, that is, the novel A Masque of Infamy, I am loath to label this zine as an excerpt. Those who have read A Masque of Infamy may feel turned off by this zine because of the potential regurgitated material, but there are additional passages, rewritten parts and anecdotes that were painfully cut from the novel. Despite my impractical, I am often told, desire to publish that entire novel as a series of typewritten zines that truly represent what I was trying to accomplish with the novel, this version of “The Cult of Teddy Ruxpin” is the complete tale of how I lost religion, discovered punk and made true friends after moving to a small town in Alabama. It is a story of teenage rebellion, resisting high school conformity and conformity in general as well as subverting the dominant paradigm. It’s about how a seed was planted in fertile soil, a seed that continues to mature to this day.

Available for $2 through etsy.

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Further Reading: INSTITUTIONALIZED

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PILTDOWNLAD #6:

Includes the INSTITUTIONALIZED story cycle.

I started writing about the dysfunction and trauma in my family almost four years ago. My original intention was to write a novel in the tradition of Tolstoy and Faulkner with an omniscient narrator, written in third person from the perspectives of each member of my family. Ambitious, yes, I know. But I figured that if I failed, I would be much closer to what I wanted than starting out on a smaller scale. The first draft was 850 pages and it was, unsurprisingly, a complete failure. I tried to cram too much information into one story. So I rewrote it in the first person, from my perspective this time, as a teenager experiencing the events as they happened. That is what became the novel I published earlier this year, A Masque of Infamy. (On a side note, I really wanted to call the book Sucks, Alabama, which is a much catchier title, but felt like that people would perceive the book as a slam on Alabama, which it most definitely is not. While my teenage self wouldn’t have flinched at possibly alienating readers, I’ve since grown somewhat squeamish in my old age…)

While most of the first draft was scrapped, there were a few parts that I really liked. I thought the part of the story when my little brother and I were first admitted into a mental hospital while our father and Rick waited to be arrested on sodomy and child abuse charges was particularly poignant when told from all four perspectives. So I went back in, salvaged and rewrote those sections for this current version. (Although the other parts in third person, I kept mine in first person.) To get at the grist of the story, as I was writing the first draft, I interviewed my siblings and my father several times and obtained the court records from the trial. I reprinted some these documents herein, along with two of the four newspaper articles on the case that appeared in the Anniston Star. (I had to get these off microfilm stored at the local university, an arduous process that was hindered by the very short amount of time I could spend doing research in a library two thousand miles away. Fortunately, I was able to just send away from the court records, though it took a while for the clerks to find the files in the storage warehouse where they had been kept since 1987.)

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A few additional notes: There is some “creative engineering,” but only to maintain the narrative and flesh out the characters through dialogue. All names have been changed and/or redacted. Even my own. This is consistent with the novel and done to avoid any hassles with certain people (namely, my little brother) not liking what’s been written about them. (There have been threats.) So this way, I can just point out, Hey, it’s FICTION! (Even though it’s not.) It’s a NOVEL! (Only because I use dialogue and a narrative structure.) And anyway, I knew from the beginning that I didn’t want to write a memoir. (Even though, in the end, I kinda did.)

While changing names to protect the victims and innocent bystanders in this story makes sense, you might be wondering why I’d remove the names of the perpetrators? I went back and forth over that point, but decided that since they’d served their time in prison, they paid their debt to society. What they owe me, my brother and the rest of our family is debatable at this point. However, if you are really curious, click here to see what Rick looks like these days after twenty years in prison.

The INSTITUTIONALIZED story cycle is preceded by letter/comment section and an introduction cannibalized from The Nasty Oh-Dear zine (Piltdownlad #4), which, incidentally, is the prologue to the novel and, once the current issues with the silkscreened cover are gone, will no doubt go out of print.

Read the excerpt “Mister Nice Guy” here.

Purchase a copy here.

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Further Reading: The Murky Realm

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PILTDOWNLAD #7: The Murky Realm

“The Murky Realm” is a biographical sketch of a tragic union with some creative engineering…

My parents never should have gotten married. But even though my father was gay and my mother was chemically imbalanced, this was the 60s, when single men in their forties did not identify as queer and people with personality disorders were rarely diagnosed, much less treated. And marriage was inexorable. The tragedy, of course, is that, besides ruining their own lives, five children came out of this unhappy coupling. But that’s not the point of this story. That comes later. “The Murky Realm” is about how these two people got together, fell apart, came back together, then fell apart again only to get back together again…

I pieced the facts together from what we were told growing up, what I remember from talking to my parents as an adult before dementia set in. I used my imagination for the rest, after walking many miles in both their shoes.

The text is typewritten on my Olympia Manual.

Ordering information here.

Further Reading: Sucks, Alabama

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SUCKS, ALABAMA: The Unexpurgated Adventures of Louis Baudrey in Small Town Alabama

Louis Baudrey is a teenage metalhead who moves from Los Angeles to Saks, a small town in Northeast Alabama.

The year is 1987.

Things do not go well…

At Saks High, he tries to fit in, but the rednecks and the Bible-thumpers don’t take too kindly to his outlandish wardrobe and burgeoning punk rock attitude. At home, it’s even worse, as Rick, his father’s “friend,” tries to coerce him into conforming to something even more insidious than the social mores of high school.

This is an expanded version of the first part of the novel A Masque of Infamy and includes what was published in the book with additional chapters and sections that were cut due to space limitations and the flow of the novel’s narrative.

This is the complete and authoritative story of Louis Baudrey and his time in Saks, Alabama.

Only available as an eBook for 99 cents.

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– – – – – – AN EXCERPT – – – – – –

Before I left California, all I knew about the South was what I’d seen on TV: The Dukes of Hazard, Roots,Deliverance… So that’s what I expected: racist, good ole boys, playing banjos and speeding around the countryside in souped-up muscle cars, murdering and sodomizing strangers. Despite the old man’s assurance that I shouldn’t believe everything I saw on TV, my enthusiasm waved from one moment to the next. But the truth was, I was ready for a fresh start.

I wasn’t leaving much behind in Rosemead. Just bad memories and the rest of my crazy family. I figured I could write my own ticket in a podunk Alabama town. Nobody needed to know that I was born in the crappy part of a crappy suburb on the wrong side of Hollywood. But while Rosemead was nothing like the Los Angeles depicted in movies and television, I looked totally LA. It was 1986. My style was an amalgam of punk and heavy metal. My hair was long and my pants were tight. My ears were pierced three times in my left and once in my right. I wore the same Iron Maiden shirt almost every day and never left the house without at least one bandana tied around my ankle.

How could I not ride into town and just take over?

Shit, in my mind, as soon as these bumpkins in Alabama got a look at me, the guys would idolize me, the girls would lust after me and all their parents would fear me.

I would finally become the person the audience in my head had always cheered for.

All the way across the country, as I sat in the backseat of my father’s low-rent Cadillac, alternately picking fights with Joey, talking back to Rick and zoning out to the soothing sounds of heavy metal on my Walkman, I felt it in my gut, a rising excitement that everything was about to change.

For better or worse, once I fulfilled my destiny, the name Louis Baudrey would be synonymous with infamy.

Further Reading: Piltdownlad

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A common response to the novel has been that it ends abruptly and there is no tidy conclusion, no sense of what the future will hold for Louis or his brother. Because I tried to make the novel as close to the real experience as I could, within the limits of memory and the constraints of narrative, A Masque of Infamy is a story about real life, and real life is almost always messy.

At one point, I contemplated writing a fictional ending that would tie it all together, but it just didn’t seem genuine. And as much as this is billed as a “novel,” I only changed names to protect my family, and because I used a lot of dialogue to tell the story, I couldn’t in good conscious call it a memoir. But it is a true story. This is how it happened.

If you’d like to read more about the experiences of Louis Baudrey, check out my zine Piltdownlad, which is where I print stories from before and after the events depicted in A Masque of Infamy.