Ten Years of Reality Check Column

Aquarian Weekly 8/8/07 REALITY CHECK


Ten Years Of Treachery, Mockery & Felony

The only people who know about mercy are the ones who need it. – Charles Bukowski

I have been putting words in this space for ten years this month. Ten years. I have never held a gig for that long, ever, anywhere, for anything. I am a freelancer. This is not a job description or any kind of reasonable vocation, it is a lifestyle, no, a malady, no, more like a virus one accepts to live with until they find a cure, but then you realize you’re immune to any vaccine so you endure, because you must. But between the years of 1997-2007 I held firm my position here at The Reality Check News & Information Desk, thanks to the bravely insane people at The Aquarian Weekly, four hearty managing editors, the precipitous influence of the Internet, and the most diversified, deranged, and ornery readership in the Fourth Estate.

JC in ItalyMillions upon millions of words, week after week, month after month, about subjects far and wide, opining for pennies, editorializing for catharsis, shoveling wit on the cheap. This is the fate I chose willingly, or not.

A few months after the publishing of my first book, Deep Tank Jersey, written in the shadow of the region’s finest pop culture/music magazine, its then managing editor, Dan Davis, began harassing me to explain myself. I could never quite grasp his motives, but he kept buying me drinks, so I indulged him. Then I began turning the tables; sending letter after letter to the editor’s desk about kidnapped journalists I dated in college, my meager affiliation with local sports figures, and one lengthy missive decrying a barely-cobbled New Jersey State Commission protesting a Marilyn Manson show at the Meadowlands.

Speedwriting senseless junk and repeatedly faxing it to editors seemed like a good idea at the time. I had quit all modes of journalism for almost two years and was sufficiently bored with book-plugs and writing fiction, so I spent enormous blocks of my time aggravating legitimate periodicals with the most rancid and unconscionable spite imaginable.

So to my beloved readers, friends, family, and citizens of earth, I say, thank you from the bottom of my vapid heart, tortured soul, and fractured brain. It has been a pleasure to expunge my bile before you.

Soon after, Davis stopped buying rounds, which I took for an ominous sign, and hired me to pen a sports column for another publication. I did so, reluctantly, having toiled in every mind-numbing corner of sports journalism for six years. But free drinks are a powerful aphrodisiac for the freelancer. Never attempt it. They’ll end up sleeping on your couch and making long distant phone calls to their agent by morning.

Here’s where my affiliation with this magazine becomes hazy. Someone, and it may have been Dan, hired me to lend my voice to some half-baked editorial experiment; three generations discuss issues, one younger, one more grizzled (me), and one more established. Lord knows who those other people were and where they now reside, but I kept plugging, week after week, sending one onerous sentiment after the other, exceeding an impressive personal record for vulgarity and wrath.

And here’s the deal: No one objected. No one. Occasionally I would get a phone call wondering if I had been abused as a child or accidentally doubled the medication, but for the most part I kept sending column after putrid column to press and these maniacs kept printing it. I only walked into the offices once the first year and a half when the surprised receptionist actually remarked that I “didn’t look like a monster”.

It was a venerable laugh-a-minute soul by the name of Chris Uhl who then suggested I take this exercise up from 500 to 800 words and call the thing Reality Check. I wanted to call it Fear No Art. He refused, claiming it made no sense. I asked if he had even read my work, to which he responded, “Mildly”. Later I signed on with a web-based content firm run by a crazed renaissance man called Chief Wonka, where he set me up with a nifty web site and published the first three years of Reality Check in a compendium called, you guessed it, Fear No Art – Observations On The Death Of The American Century.

The demented Wonka and Uhl, who succeeded Davis as managing editor, used their posts to bate me into seducing libel. We came close those first few months, but alas, my years of training had bested us. I would not be going to jail or be successfully sued, although on four separate occasions the weak and stupid attempted it. But we sent them packing, humiliated by defeat and shunned as constitutional pariah. I knew my First Amendment rights and would continue unabated to stretch their limits for a decade. Much of this harangue appears in Midnight For Cinderella – Reality Check Papers Volume II, released late last year.

The new boys on the block, J.J. Koczan and now Patrick Slevin have more or less left me alone or come to my aid when the heat was on. I thank them as I thank my editor Terry Allen, whose preternatural adherence to deadlines would give the most ardent fascist pause. I also send plaudits to publishers Chris Farinas and Diane Casazza, the latter of whom I never met, who I think still gain a measure of profit from this enterprise, and anyone else on the masthead who’ve helped me wax exotic, sell books, and act like a petulant jackass for ten long and painful years.

The Desk has moved several times over two states these past years. We’ve taken on some fine young journalists, radicals, freeloaders, and substance abusers; I met my wife along the way, suckered her into hitching her gorgeous/mad wagon to mine, and help plant our freak-flag on the terra. I have befriended and made enemy of some notable celebrities, politicians, and artists in every realm. They read my stuff, and yet continue to drop my name in respectable circles. I am a better man for having known, spoken to, skewered and lauded them.

I have asked a good many of them to lend their thoughts, recollections, disgust, and blame to this space over the remaining weeks of this month. Why would I subject myself to such a professional roasting? For one, I have not taken two consecutive weeks off from this mess in ten years, and two, I’ve been meaning to get a well-deserved public butt kicking before autumn.

So to my beloved readers, friends, family, and citizens of earth, I say, thank you from the bottom of my vapid heart, tortured soul, and fractured brain. It has been a pleasure to expunge my bile before you.

Here’s to another decade, or not.

IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD AS YOU KNOW IT AND HE FEELS FINE – Observations on Ten Years of Reality Check

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