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I grew up in a very small, rural town called Boston,
about thirty minutes south of Buffalo, NY. Boston wasn’t
quite a Rockwell painting but it was close – until recently
we had a 24-hour bait machine at the local grocery store.
Put in 1.50, get a bag of live nightcrawlers. That same
local grocery store didn’t sell bagels until sometime around
1996. As a kid I remember seeing cream cheese on the store
shelves but no bagels. I couldn’t understand what else cream
cheese was used for, so I asked the kind man behind the deli
counter if the store had run out of bagels.
What’s a bagel? he said.
I explained what a bagel was. He pointed to the doughnuts. I
bought a cruller.
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, starting
with war stories and moving onto horror, inspired by my
favorite childhood author, H.P. Lovecraft. I wrote an
anthology in 9th grade called A Murder of Crows, which
consisted of six gory tales. The only one I can remember is
a short piece about a medieval execution, ending with a
hooded executioner stomping on the headless neck of his
victim. Chunks of meat flew into the crowd, stray dogs began
to feast, etc. Nasty, juvenile, fun stuff. My English
teacher gave me an A. She was the best English teacher I
College was at SUNY Buffalo. I majored in anthropology. I
would have chosen history but I liked anthro’s hippie
professors, who stood in stark contrast to the old
historians who smelled of scotch and still bemoaned the fall
of Constantinople. I kept writing horror stories on my old
Commodore 128, but I’d since moved beyond those sophomoric
tales of executioners stomping on necks. I started a story
about a freshman at a small New England college who gets
involved with rich kids – shades of Aberdeen? – and begins
to suspect the rich kids are vampires. I know, I know, and
eye rolls and moans are certainly in order, but writing is
just as much running the faucet until the dirty water turns
clear, as it is coming up with brilliant ideas on the spot.
I ran my faucet for a very long time, and let me tell you,
the water was very dirty.
At 21, and in the midst of post-breakup depression, I tried
a brief career as the country’s youngest motivational
speaker. I gave seminars at Barnes and Nobles on “Mental
Self-Defense”, how to communicate effectively and determine
what makes people act the way they act. My first seminar
drew an audience of sixteen, thirteen of whom were family
and friends. My dad fell asleep in the back row. I paid a
guy twenty bucks to be a shill for an experiment I did with
predicting a person’s mood based upon the motion of their
eyes. The experiment, as you might imagine, was a success.
Junior year I started Aberdeen while working as a
writer/host of my own radio political satire show. For money
I taught kickboxing out of my apartment and held several
jobs in retail. I met my wife at a gym, of all places, and
after graduating we moved to a different Boston, in
Massachusetts. She supported me – emotionally, physically,
mentally, spiritually – while I wrote. And wrote. And wrote
some more. I finished my first novel... And that brings us
to where we are now.
Photography by Greg Halpern