BY Rudy Mars (QSP)

Traverse City, MI — In an emotional speech at the conclusion of his fiction reading at Squirrel’s Book Grotto, Andy Mozina announced that his personal chef had rejoined his Quality Snacks book tour.

“Someone I love is close to me again,” Mozina said. He then invited his audience to look to the back of the room where stood a person in a heavily padded black chef’s jacket, black toque and a black goalie mask from which protruded a voice-distorting mouthpiece. The chef stood perfectly still, staring at Mozina.

“It really is like a marriage,” Mozina said afterwards, waiting to see if anyone would come by to get a book signed. “My chef cooks and puts out snacks and I bare my soul, so to speak, to the reading public. We’re great colleagues and best friends.”

When asked to elaborate on what had soured their relationship, Mozina said, “That’s between me and my personal chef. Sometimes the bone heals strongest at the break, I’ll say that.”

The other half of the tumultuous professional relationship was more forthcoming.

“He owed me money and he finally paid,” the mystery chef said through the voice-distorting mouthpiece. “Just doing what I’m hired to do.”

In contrast to the sophisticated offerings at earlier readings on the tour—prosciutto wrapped gnocchi with smoky tomato vinaigrette and artichoke beignets with ancho mayonnaise had been the twin pillars—the only snack on hand was a single chafing dish piled with what seemed to be microwaved Totino’s Pizza Rolls.

“The menu at today’s reading was about fun, not pretension,” Mozina said, beaming. “Just like my book.”

The disguised chef refused to comment on the afternoon’s fare.

BY Rudy Mars (QSP)

Jackson, MI — In an apparent effort to show the softer side of his creative persona, Andy Mozina shocked listeners at Bottomless Cave Books in Jackson, MI, on Friday night by reading exclusively from a new chapbook of erotic poetry entitled Cuddling by the Shed.

In the wake of recent incidents that suggested Mozina was becoming unstable, there had been speculation that Bottomless Cave would cancel the reading, originally scheduled to promote Mozina’s new story collection, Quality Snacks. Instead, Mozina appeared composed, wearing an extremely tight Kelly green dress shirt and shiny jeans, and read selected poems in a hushed but impassioned voice.

Mozina led off with “You Can Look, But You Can’t Touch,” a free verse poem about an off-duty police officer sunbathing at a municipal pool. The ending–“Your slim shadow slants/athwart my feet/like a nightstick”–was met by polite silence from listeners.

The only tense moment occurred when Mozina demanded an audience read-along to his poem “Wait ‘til We Finish Our Chores.” Mozina distributed Xeroxes of the poem and became visibly upset when no one joined in. Yet, unlike during his recent meltdown at the Droll Unicorn Book Shop, he quickly mastered his emotions, reading the last lines with tenderness: “The cleaning supplies/are stowed,/my love./Now what?”

Still, his audience was wary.

“I don’t think ‘stirrup’ and ‘goddess’ is even a slant rhyme, but whatever,” said Mindy Jones, a cashier at Bottomless Cave. “He was way into it, which counts for something, I guess.”

Mozina claimed he wrote the entire book in a single inspired afternoon.

“I had spilled my margarita and was tantruming about it when my wife told me to take a nap. Little did I know I was about to dream thirty percent of my first book of erotic poetry, pretty much verbatim.”

The next step of course is finding a press to publish the chapbook.

“I’ll be sending the manuscript to some of the best literary agents for erotic poetry,” Mozina said. “Stay tuned.”

You can’t keep this book down with a pair of pliers and a sledgehammer.

Jim Higgins of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recommends Quality Snacks!

http://www.jsonline.com/entertainment/books/getting-a-quick-read-speed-dating-8-short-story-collections-b99314013z1-268624792.html

Meanwhile, QS surfs a Michigan bestseller list:

http://www.themorningsun.com/arts-and-entertainment/20140711/michigan-bestseller-book-list-for-june-2014

BY Dwayne Nelson (QSP)

Chelsea, MI — The Q&A portion of Andy Mozina’s reading at The Droll Unicorn Book Shop degenerated into a shouting match between Mozina and several members of his audience, leaving onlookers in tears and prompting a petition to have Mozina depublished.

Though what exactly caused the meltdown is unclear, several observers noted that Mozina became agitated after being asked whether he wrote longhand or on a computer.

“He started twitching and karate-chopped the side of his own head a couple times,” explained Marion Wyatt, 74, a retired tax preparation specialist. “Then he said, ‘Let me tell you what’s wrong with America,’ like that, and things got ugly.”

Sporting a fake beard dotted with crumbs and matted with dripped sauces, Mozina derided attempts to get him to stop his rant or to respond to questions about how to get an agent and whether self-publishing was a legitimate avenue for aspiring authors.

“You don’t own me!” he shouted at one point.

“So rude,” said Sandra Koepeke, owner of The Droll Unicorn. “And the book itself is repulsive. I’m circulating a petition asking the publisher to destroy all remaining copies.”

In his second appearance without his personal chef and his first since a brief hospitalization for “nervous exhaustion,” Mozina appeared disoriented at times, addressing the audience as “my fellow Martians” and telling ten minutes of knock-knock jokes before reading a few pages from Quality Snacks and abruptly calling for the ill-fated Q&A.

BY Dwayne Nelson (QSP)

Grand Rapids, MI — The rigors of a book tour that has brought both high sales and high drama apparently caught up to Andy Mozina at Schuler’s Books in Grand Rapids Saturday afternoon. After thanking his host for her “shamefully generous introduction,” Mozina mumble-sang the opening bars of “The Star Spangled Banner,” then suddenly tipped backwards, bounced off a table covered with books, spun sideways, and fell face down on the floor.

The three audience members were shocked when Mozina moaned, “It’s a lectern, not a podium!”

Under questioning from paramedics, Mozina confessed to eating a “half pound, maybe more” of peanut M & M’s just a few minutes before addressing his audience. In his pockets were several “buy one get one free” coupons for 64-ounce bags of Twizzlers.

Mozina’s appearance on the sidewalk outside the Clinton Public Library in Clinton, MI, has been postponed pending his return to health.

There were several reports that Mozina had been quarreling with his personal chef in the days leading up to his collapse.

The heavily disguised mystery chef, a fixture at Mozina’s readings up to this point, was not a part of Mozina’s entourage at the Grand Rapids reading, sparking speculation the two had had a falling out over Mozina’s increasingly unhealthy diet. In a voice distorted by a mouthpiece that alters the timbre and inflections of the speaker, the chef had been overheard yelling “you’re not taking me down with you!” in the parking lot of a KFC in East Lansing just days earlier.

Mozina issued a press release from his home in Kalamazoo where he is recuperating, calling on his readers to “remember why we started this book tour in the first place” and exhorting them: “SNACK FREE OR DIE!!!”

By Rudy Mars (QSP)

Kalamazoo, MI — In a wide-ranging interview with local media—the first he’s granted since his book tour began—Andy Mozina admitted to being “incredibly humbled” by the success of his new book of short stories, QUALITY SNACKS.

“Never in a million years did I expect that people would love the book so goddamn much,” Mozina said, lounging on the porch of his surprisingly modest Kalamazoo home in a skin-tight body suit, including head-piece, of the sort worn by speed skaters. “It’s amazingly humbling to get this much praise. I couldn’t be more humbled if I were dragged naked behind a Chrysler PT Cruiser.”

Mozina took a long sip from a tumbler of pineapple-flavored vodka and gestured vaguely at the small tree standing between his sidewalk and the street.

“You know, when you set out as a writer, eating peas out of cans and stealing peanut butter from the pantries of clueless elderly neighbors who leave their kitchen doors unlocked right on the fire escape so you can basically walk in and take what you want while they watch TV, you can’t imagine how it’s all going to pay off. But it has. By god, it has.”

Mozina suggested that if anyone could stand seeing him humbled further, they were welcome to purchase the collection and post an extremely positive review of it on Amazon.com and Goodreads, as well as to vote for the collection on various Goodreads “Listopias,” including “Best Short Story Collections,” “Best Humor Writing,” and “Books Which Provoke Inner Thoughts.”

Dogs I Have Known

May 22, 2014 — 1 Comment

Below is a heavily abridged version of “Dogs I Have Known,” which I read at the formal launch for QUALITY SNACKS in Detroit on May 21st. This text accompanies the “Dogs I Have Known” video and indicates where that video played in the presentation. Thanks to all who sent me dog photos and video!

 

Dogs I Have Known

  1. The Dog I Have Never Owned

It is said that dogs are good. People with dogs live longer, are happier, and are less likely to have their homes burglarized.

     I have never owned a dog. This is in part because I am afraid of them, but also because I do not want to take care of an animal. My daughter Amanda would love a dog, but I will never buy her one.

     So I guess you know what kind of person I am.

 

  1. One Dog’s Neighborhood

The dog has his memories, a street where trees don’t grow very tall. South Milwaukee. Small houses with complicated rooflines: dormers, additions, awnings, and porches. Gutters sag, downspouts dangle, shingles grow moss. Inside are dining rooms with old built-ins, upstairs bedrooms with slanted ceilings, tiny closets shaped like mathematics problems.

     On the corner, stands a tavern, also like a house, with the bar on the first floor and a family–my family–upstairs.

     The dog was a nipper, yet loved by all. At first communions, he was always invited into the picture, sitting on his haunches by the girl in her white dress or the boy in his little suit. I have such a Polaroid of Max, the dog, with Ginnie Lee, my first love.

    

  1. Mitch and Susan’s Dog

The closest I have come to being mauled and killed by a dog was at a Thanksgiving party thrown by my brother-in-law and his new wife.

It was a strange time for me. I had been experiencing a high level of conflict in the workplace. There was a particular set-to I had in a conference room with a colleague who was advocating, to my view, a manifestly losing legal strategy in a case she and I were on together. The problem occurred when she did not see something I felt was obviously apparent and true–and still think is obviously apparent and true. But she would not see it, and my voice rose and rose, and neither of us could stop. The managing partner personally escorted me to HR, where I was debriefed about my behavior, which was apparently part of a pattern. I was put on a sort of probation, and the decision about whether I would be a partner was postponed.

My wife, Beth, did not appreciate these developments.

“I’m wondering about you,” she said.

“What are you wondering?” I asked.

She never told me, exactly.

     

  1. Murray, My Favorite Dog

 

  1. Revenge of the Dog

We all started barking, and our fascinating neighborhood enemy, John Nelson, retreated to his sandbox and methodically dug between his knees. We congregated on the basketball court of Divine Mercy, which was close to his lot line.

     I turned to Ginnie Lee, my first love and next-door neighbor, and tried to kiss her ear, but it was a moving target. “Cut that out,” she said.

     How to go about being Ginnie’s boyfriend was not clear to me. I didn’t like hanging out at her house because of her dog.

     Max, her smallish mutt, had almost been killed by Dozer, John Nelson’s Great Dane. A few months later, Dozer was hit by a car and killed.

     We had been barking at John Nelson to taunt him with the loss of his malicious pooch, andI barked the loudest because I knew my imitation of Dozer’s bark was uncannily close. Still kneeling in the sandbox, John Nelson finally unearthed a coffee can and reached inside. His long bowl haircut swayed as he rose to his feet, holding what I was pretty sure was an M-80. He pulled his prized Zippo lighter from his T-shirt pocket and soon

the long, customized fuse of his M-80 was burning.

     “Eat me!” John yelled, and he hurled his bomb toward the basketball court.

     Mesmerized, I stood and watched while the others scattered.

     The M-80 landed; I calculated ten seconds left on the fuse, enough time to throw it back.Even as I bent to grab it, wild emergency shouting went off in my blood. Nevertheless, very conscious of Ginnie watching me, I picked up the M-80. I realized I was wrong about how much time was left; I spastically shoveled the M-80 into the air. It arced toward Ginnie, who shrieked. I heard the lightning crack, and Ginnie convulsed and reeled.

     I ran to her. She was bleeding from her ear. There were powder burns on the side of her face. She looked at me with her mouth open, but no sound was coming out.

    

  1. The Dogs of the Dow

Having lost my wife and, eventually, my job, I searched the important aspects of human experience for new terms by which I could judge myself A-OK. I came up with two. One of them was money: I had more money than most other people, and if I could secure another job I would have even more. The other was trying to make myself a better person. It is said that money and soul-improving activities don’t mix, but when I failed at being a better person, I could fall back on having money. This in turn gave me the strength I needed to renew my attempts to be a better person.

     Karen, a law school friend, took pity on me and invited me into her mediation practice.

     “Are you sure?” I asked over lunch at the Hard Rock Café in downtown Chicago.“I tend to create conflict, not resolve it.”

     “But that’s what will make you so good!” she enthused. “You really understand how conflict happens.”

     I really wanted to date her, but she told me, apropos of what, I don’t remember, that her relationship with her boyfriend was “unusually strong.” In fact, when the check came, she added, “My relationship with my boyfriend has recently grown stronger.”

     I am not good at seeing or hearing myself. The thing that helps people know how they’re coming across to other people doesn’t work very well in me. It’s one of the reasons I fear dogs: because they might see what I don’t want to show. To this day, I have no idea what I did to make Karen say those things to me.

     When I was signing for the bill, “All Along the Watchtower” was playing. It happens to be my favorite song. It seemed clear during the trippy guitar solo that I would mediate and have stronger relationships and become a better person. And also make money.

 

{Play “Dogs I Have Known” video}

  http://youtu.be/BLEFCWcWIrk

 

    7.  Seldom Known Facts About Dogs

    8. Rufus

Though I was litigating again, I never abandoned my dream of becoming a better person. Even after I jumped ship, Karen sent me some pro bono work for a local hospice, and when the director mentioned a volunteer drive, I said, “Count me in.”

     After training, I was assigned to Wilbur Tesch, a former US marine and hardware store manager who was slowly dying from C.O.P.D. About once a week, I would provide respite for his wife, Caroline, so she could run errands for a few hours.

     Caroline greeted me at the small Tesch home in Cicero and invited me inside. In a cage in the kitchen was a dark brown muscular dog. He barked vigorously. “He’s just a big baby,” Caroline told me. “His name is Rufus.”

     “Hi, Rufus,” I said.

     “I just took him out,” Caroline said. “You don’t have to worry about that.”

     Wilbur was watching The Price Is Right in a brown leather recliner in the family room. He was wearing oxygen tubes. His left arm trembled and was mottled with wine-colored bruises. Still, he rose and shook my hand firmly.

    

The following week the hospice nurse came and before I knew it she let Rufus out, and the week after that, Caroline came back early. Then one day while Wilbur and I were watching a fishing program, Rufus began to whine intermittently, and by the time a reindeer-hunting program came on, Rufus was whining piteously and continuously to be let out. His whine was high-pitched, loud, coercive; it shredded my consciousness. I rubbed my damp palms on my knees. I thought Wilbur might turn to me at any second and say, “Could you please let him out?” Instead, Wilbur repeatedly tried to shush Rufus, but the dog’s whining found an extra gear, an even sharper pitch.

     “No!” Wilbur shouted, though he was dangerously short of breath. “No!” He rose from his chair, his left arm shaking, his fist curled around a phantom newspaper. He almost toppled as he turned laboriously toward the kitchen. If I were to help him, I would have to open the cage and quickly move my hand past Rufus’s jaws to grasp his collar. I would speak soothingly while I did this and pray that whatever it was that gave me away to people wouldn’t give me away to Rufus. I would let him drag me outside. I would let him go. Wilbur shuffled six feet to the kitchen doorway. It took him a full minute, the dog whining frantically. “No!” Wilbur hoarsely shouted. “No!”

     Wilbur tottered. I sprang from the sofa and dashed to him. He tipped in my direction. I went to one knee, as if fielding a grounder, and took his falling weight against my shoulder. But he was heavier than I thought, and I sprawled backward, and Wilbur collapsed onto me.

 

  1. Meditative Dog

Dogs circle me in fluorescent moonlight, in some rectangular South Milwaukee backyard. Their unruly loping. Their narrow mouths and oversize teeth. The thing I would never do, the thing I am afraid of, barks at me. I have the ability to hear dogs barking at great distances, in any weather. Every dog confirms for me that I am not near it.

     My daughter is ten now and she calls occasionally to renew her pleas. I tell her, if your mother can handle a dog at her apartment, I won’t stop her, but I can’t have a dog over here.

     “Dad, you hate me,” Amanda says.

     “No, I don’t, sweetie,” I say. “I love you.”

     We hang up with something between us, I’m afraid.

     Wilbur is of course dead now, but how did things turn out with Rufus? Did I ever wrestle with him in the backyard? Did I ever fill his pool with a hose? Did we play fetch? He was purebred Doberman, a beautiful dog, trust me. Once, I simply put the back of my right hand against his cage, and he licked my fingers through the bars.