Tuesday, February 28, 2012

    Storytime is a collection of my wildest and most popular short stories. Written over a period of 12 years I’ve decided to share them with my faithful readers and those unfamiliar with my work. Due to the new Amazon Kindle program, I am able to offer this 441 page novel for FREE! That’s right, FREE to download to your Kindle, Nook, iPad, Android or any other electronic reader device!
    Don’t have an electronic reader device? Then click here 
to download a free app so you can read Kindle Books on your computer.
    Unfortunately, Amazon only offers this promotional freebee for 5days.
With this offer those who are hesitant to buy a book from an author whose work they’re not familiar with can now, for the next 5 days, read my most popular stories for free. But you got to move fast before the promotion ends and Storytime reverts back to its regular price.  
    What type of stories do I write? I’ve written stories in a number of genres. For example:  The Last Stop Bar and Grill deals with the supernatural. Oh Tonight How We Shall Love is a tale of erotic horror.  Sea Cruise tells of a retiree who believes all life’s joys and passions are behind him until fate serves up an adventure of a lifetime.
    There’s also comedy. In “How to Write a Literary Masterpiece, I explain how any half-wit with a crayon can produce a Pulitzer Prize winning novel just by following my simple formula. In ‘A Treatise on Intellectualism versus Thuggery’, McGruff the Crime Dog and South Park’s Sexual Harassment Panda debate the causes of War and the definition of genius.
    Is Mystery and Suspense your thing? Then have a look at “The Eyes Have it” a tale of an ordinary construction worker who wakes one morning to discover his eyes have changed from coffee brown to neon green. Believing it a temporary thing, he dismisses it and heads off to work not realizing that within 24 hours he and his family will be running for their lives, hunted by the full force of the United States military.    
    Like television? Then you’re in luck! My sit-com titled ‘Bill Collectors’ is included. It features 4 outrageously bizarre characters battling the insanity of corporate in-house politics.
Fan of the Edgy and Off-Kilter? Have a look at ‘Stark’ A man wandering a world where time has stopped, A land of eternal twilight where no one ages, hungers, thirsts, or has sex. His is an empty and desolate life until a seemingly young girl enters and changes everything. Or check out the quirky ‘Yellowbelly’, a narrative in which an unrepentant coward freely confesses to his lack of courage and character, but his words take on a chilling twist when a predatory and sinister undercurrent emerges.     
    Are tales of brave knights and beautiful damsels more to your liking? Then have a look at ‘A Bedtime Story from Uncle Zack’. In it, the Lord High Defender of the Realm, Lord Narsis, comes to the aid of the beautiful but secretly bewitched maiden, Calliope. When the fates throw them together, Narsis falls in love with her and attempts to break the spell. But broken spells often reveal more than just the truths they were created to hide.
How about Science-fiction? If that’s your thing, go right to ‘Testing, 1…2… But before you start, remember that sometimes, what you’re reading, may also be reading you. Or if you prefer the more traditional, then check out ‘The Cloak’, a story set during the cold war featuring a spy whose weapon is a garment that responds to his every command. He marvels at its abilities and touts it as the utmost in advanced technology. Except it isn’t a technical marvel but something far more unsettling and disturbing.     
Ever wonder life’s all about and how we all got here?  If so, the surreal ‘A View Askew’ is the story for you. Battling personal demons? Look for ‘The Art of Lion Taming’. It may be right up your alley.
There are 23 short stories in all, each different and engaging in their own way.
If you’re wondering why I’m giving away this book it’s because I often receive e-mails from fans asking why I’m not as well known as they feel I should be. This is likely my fault as I don’t publicize and market my books as aggressively as I should. Once a book is completed and available for sale I should make personal appearances, do radio and TV interviews and book tours but when I get an idea for a new story, I become so obsessed with getting it down right away, my publicity campaign for my latest published work often winds up on the back burner.
So I’ve chosen a different path. I’m hoping that by providing a broad spectrum of my work for free, people like you will download Storytime, give it a read and want to read more. Perhaps suggest it to a friend. Here’s the link to the free download of Storytime.

Hope you enjoy.
Uncle Zack

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I Collect Dead People.

 As mentioned in several previous posts I spent my younger years as a starving artist, a singer/songwriter to be exact and to supplement my income had to take various unpleasant and unusual jobs.  The most odd was as an Assistant Mortician at a Funeral Home.
The qualifications for the position weren’t all that demanding. 1) A clean Driver’s license.  2) The ability to lift 100 pounds.  3) And most importantly, the ability not to freak out while stuffing stiffs into body bags. The first two weren't a problem. The third?
Well, we’d have wait and see about that one.
I was in my late teens or early twenties at the time, needed the money and so I applied figuring I’d deal with creepiness of collecting stiffs when the time came. In the meantime I met with the rest of the staff who I quickly suspected were close relatives of a hybrid Munster/ Addams Family.  
My boss was an attractive, girl-next-door type blond in her early thirties. She reminded me of Marilyn Munster due to her complete obliviousness to the strangeness of her profession and the oddness of her employees. Then there was the hearse driver, a man’s with skin so white at first glance one would assume he was an albino. (He wasn’t, still I nicknamed him Whitey) Then there were the two women I called the Horror sisters whose casual remarks about the deceased sent chills up my spine.
Here’s an example. After a burial, the Horror sisters came back chuckling and pantomiming. They seemed like they were having a good time and since they just attended a burial, I figured whatever they were laughing about had to be hilarious.
I was in error.
Well, Horror sister #1 says. “You had to be there, we could barely keep from busting a gut. As we’re all standing around looking solemn as the casket is lowered into the ground, the stiff’s seven year-old son loses his shit and starts wailing. ‘Don’t leave me, Mommy! I want to go with you. Please Mommy, take me with you!’  then bends over and continues to shout into the hole. The kid’s still blubbering when Connie Compassion over here,” she says gesturing to Horror sister #2, “points to the kid’s little ass right in front of me and make the goal post figure, you know, where you hold up your index fingers and press your thumbs together? Then she mouths the word ‘Punt!’”    
 She shook her head as a smile spread across her face. “I had to bite my lips hard to keep from laughing out loud.”
Fortunately, my discomfort went unnoticed because just as she finished the story Marilyn Munster stepped into the room and announced that me, Whitey and the cosmetician needed to pick up an elderly woman who had died overnight in her apartment.
So off we go. I figured we’d be driving in style in that cool Cadillac hearse.
Nope. That’s only used to drive the deceased to the funeral and the burial. The pickup is done in a rickety old station wagon that had a particularly nasty smell.
When we arrive, the family has gathered in the living room and we are told that grandma is in the bedroom. So we wheel the gurney and body bag in and solemnly ask that they stay where they are because to be honest, watching us drop Mom into what is really nothing more than a heavy duty Glad bag, tends to freak people out.
So we roll in and I get my first glimpse of the deceased. Well, to put it bluntly the old babe looks like Bill the Cat from the Bloom County Comic strip. One eye wide open pointed to the left, the other partially opened and looking in the opposite direction.  Tongue hanging out, hair all askew.  I suspected this would be the moment I would say ‘Toodle-oo muchachos, and beat cheeks out the door, all the while screaming like a little girl.
Instead I just felt sorry for her. Death, I soon learned, often leaves us looking pathetic and defenseless and most times without the dignity one deserves.  So I unwrapped the body bag, grabbed her by the heels, (dead bodies aren’t actually cold but they are eerily cool to the touch) and with the help of Whitey and the cosmetologist, slipped her in, zipped her up, strapped her down and rolled her to the station wagon.
  Since I wasn’t licensed I wasn’t allowed in the preparation room while the body was being made ready for viewing. But I did get to see the tools of the trade. The first thing was the porcelain table in the center. It was white, about seven feet long, and had ridges across angled downward. In addition it was tilted, had a hole at the bottom and a bucket hanging under it.
Having never seen the prepping process I can only relate what the procedure was as explained to me by Marilyn Munster. She may have been pulling my leg but it sounded legit enough so here goes.
Apparently once brought in they slit your wrists and ankles to let the blood drain from your body into the bucket at the bottom. Once that’s done they cut a hole in the stomach and insert a machine called an aspirator which supposedly sucks out any remaining juices, gasses and anything no longer properly nailed down. The lips and eyes are sewn closed so not to accidentally pop open during the wake and scare the crap out of the senior citizens. Then the remains are filled with formaldehyde and liquid plastic to plump up the face so the deceased won’t look so dead, finally make up is applied and they’re good to go.
I believe the Jewish Community has the best process. Boxed and buried before sundown. Clean, economical and most importantly, eliminates the annoying neighborhood zombie problem. 

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Friday, February 10, 2012

Shameless Self Promotion/How I met Bill Cosby

First let’s get the shameless self promotion out of the way. Although I started this blog in December of 2010, I didn’t post until mid November of 2011 and today I am celebrating my blog’s 1000th hit. That’s right over 1000 people have visited and read my posts in less than three months.  Could it be because my posts are witty, engaging and entertaining? That my work is found to be insightful, thought-provoking and urbane? 
Probably not, but keep coming anyway.  And thanks to all of you out there, many whom I’ve never met, for your kind words and support. By purchasing my books you have made it possible for me to finally move out of the homeless shelter and into my own refrigerator box in a trendy upscale neighborhood.
Who loves ya, baby? Yeah, that would be me.
Now on to how I met Bill Cosby.
In the 1970’s Greenwich Village had a number of venues that promoted up and coming talent. There was The Bitter End, Max’s Kansas City, Folk City, The Other End, CafĂ© Wha? Cockroach Art, The Dive and uptown’s Catch a Rising Star before it changed its format to strictly comedy. That is where I met Freddie Prinze of Chico and the Man fame but that’s another story.
I was a semi-regular playing at The Dive on Bleeker Street. Nice place, good food and most importantly the owner actually paid you.
Late one Sunday night I was playing to a less than enthusiastic crowd. It was raining heavily and most of the patrons, no more than 15 at best, were either drunk or playing grab ass under the table. 
Then all of a sudden Bill Cosby of the Jello-pudding pops, the Hey, Hey, Hey, of Fat Albert and the man who would rise to even greater fame in the years to come as America’s favorite dad, Dr Huxtable comes in, walks up to the bar, hands the bartender a twenty and asks for change, the bartender complies and just as the famous comedian heads for the door, I start playing, he hears me and instead of a wave or a nod of acknowledgement, he turns and takes a seat at a table in the front row.
Back in those days the performer did 5 sets a night, 45 minutes on stage with a 15 minute break.  I was only a couple of songs in when he sat down, but he stayed until I finished my set. When I thanked him, he told me he liked what he heard but that I needed to engage the audience more. “Get them to like you as a person as well as a performer and they’ll keep coming back.”
Only those who have made a living performing knows just how miserable and unsatisfying it is to play to crowd of drunks, playas and people who are only there because it’s a retreat from the weather. And that’s why Bill Cosby’s kind gesture remains as a treasured memory to this day.
And although we met only that one time and spoke for less than thirty seconds, and that a full twenty years had passed since, when I heard his son Ennis had been murdered I was deeply saddened. His son was home from college and had stopped to fix a flat when he was killed in a botched robbery attempt.
In the days that followed the Cosby family was inundated with letters from people promising them that when Ennis’ killer was captured, he’d be killed. The situation became so out of control Mr. Cosby had to hold a press conference to ask that those who wrote the letters, no matter how well intended, to let the LAPD and the justice system do its job.
Having a daughter in college myself at the time who also traveled a considerable distance between school and home, made the Cosby family’s loss that much more real and personal.
Fortunately the LAPD and the justice department did do its job. The killer was caught, tried and sentenced to life.


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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Preachin' Against Preachin'

There is a Monty Python skit that goes something like this:
At door: Knock, knock.
Woman: “Who’s there?”
Man: “Burglar!”
Woman: “Burglar?”
Man: “Yes, Madam. I am a burglar. Please let me in so I may nick your valuables.”
Woman: “I don’t know. You sound like an encyclopedia salesman.”
Man: “I assure you, Madam. I’ve only come to tie you up and steal your jewelry.”
Woman (hesitates) “Are you sure you’re not an encyclopedia salesman?”
Man: “Madam, my only intentions are to rob you, nothing more.”
Woman: “Well, okay then, as long as you’re not an encyclopedia salesman.”
She opens door and a man enters.
Man (looking around): You have a very nice place here. However, no home is truly complete without a full set of encyclopedias.”
Woman: “Oh, damn!”
I love that bit!
Hate when it happens in real life.
I bristle when someone pretends to be one thing and when you invite them in; they turn out to be something completely different. For example: If you see a man walking down the street wearing robes, a big metal cross and a hat that looks like someone split a canoe in half and placed it on his head, you assume that he is either the pope or some other high level church guy.
If you see a man wearing a black suit, white shirt and black hat who also has a beard and curly fry sideburns, you can assume that person is Jewish.
If you see a guy wearing either a turban, or a pill box hat and carrying a prayer rug, odds are he’s Muslim.
If two guys come to your house, well-groomed, wearing a white shirt and tie and carrying copies of The Watchtower. You can safely assume you are going to hide and pretend you are not home.
My point is you can see what they’re selling by their clothes. If we find ourselves in a conversation, I’m not offended when he goes into his sales pitch. That’s his job and I knew beforehand by his attire what I was in for. No harm, no foul.
But what really pisses me off is buying tickets for some entertainment venue and having to listen to some smug, self-righteous sonavabitch start in on how anyone who believes in God is an idiot and starts rattling off chapter and verse of the atheist’s creed.
Bill Maher, Paula Poundstone and Penn Gillette, I didn’t pay my hard earned money to listen to twenty minutes of you proselytizing Atheism. Imagine how pissed off you’d be if you forked over a week’s pay to see the Rolling Stones only to have them play gospel hymns and other religiously related material.
This is not to say I have anything against atheists. I do not. I have atheist friends and we get along just fine. But if as atheists you decide to preach your views to the masses, at least create some bizarre outfit, so when we see you coming, we can run like hell.
It’s only fair.
Why? Well although I am a devoutly religious, none of my friends know it. This is because you don’t convince people of your religion’s value by running your mouth to every poor soul you have backed into a conversational corner. You convince them of its validity by living a life that people admire and wish to emulate. 
And in keeping with one of my religion’s tenets, ‘Don’t point out another’s shortcomings without first addressing your own,” I must therefore point out that I am a hypocrite. I know this because a dear friend of mine, a pagan, routinely visits the elderly, the sick, runs errands for them, reads to them and spent last Thanksgiving and Christmas working at a soup kitchen doling out food to the hungry
Apparently she is a lot better at my religion than I am. I spend the holidays stuffing my face and watching football. Maybe I need to rethink my own beliefs.
Therefore should you see me dressed in glittering robes, wearing a propeller hat, barreling down the street on a pogo stick, holding up a book and shouting to all who will listen that I have ‘found the true way!”

Run like hell!

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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Another Exciting Uncle Zack Adventure!

Like most of my amazing exploits, this occurred back in my rock and roll days. A friend, Jonathan and I were scheduled to play at a Greenwich Village club but there had been an electrical fire so the gig was cancelled.
With time to kill and with nothing to do we decided we’d buy some beers, some munchies, pick up a pizza, then go to his place and play some tunes.
Fast forward. As I’m loading a six pack of Bud into the shopping cart, this woman comes up behind and asks us to move our cart so she can pass. I say ‘Sure’ and move it out of her way. As she walks by she turns and says, ‘Thank…
…but doesn’t follow with the ‘you’. Instead, she stops and just stands there, staring at me. She’s in her early to mid fifties, a little worn around the edges but I don’t recognize her so I’m wondering what the deal is. All of a sudden she breaks into a huge smile, throws her arms around me, hugs me tight and says, ‘Oh, Johnny, they told me they lost you, they told me you were dead!”
“Lady,” I said prying her arms off. “My name isn’t Johnny and I’ve never seen you before in my life. You’ve made a mistake.”
She immediately pales and her big happy eyes get all sad. They start tearing up and I feel terrible. The smile disappears and her shoulders sag.
She steps back and says in an emotionally choked voice. “I…am very sorry. I … I’m on this medication and sometimes…” She wipes a tear away with the back of her hand. “Sometimes I get confused. Johnny, my son was killed in the war last week and you look so much like him that I thought, maybe the government made a mistake, maybe Johnny wasn’t dead. He was all I had and I just haven’t been able to deal with it. I’m sorry I bothered you.”
I feel like an utter, total and complete turd. I try to tell her no harm done and I’m sorry for her loss, but really what can you say after something like this?
So she starts down the aisle and just as I’m about to put another 6 pack in the cart she turns and says, “If I may ask a favor?”
I say, “Sure, anything.”
I never should have added the ‘anything’ as you will now see why.
She says, “Since I’m pretty sure we’ll never meet again, I have but one request and that is if we ever do run into each other again, if I say to you, ‘Hello, Johnny.’ You’ll reply with, ‘Hello, Mom.’”
At this point I can almost hear the Twilight Zone theme playing in my head.
But I figure since I’ve never seen this woman before today and I’ll probably never see her again, what’s the harm?
So I agree. After which Jonathan and I do the rest of the shopping as far away from her as possible.
End of the story? Not…quite.
So we pick up some chips and dip and a frozen pizza and head to the checkout.
And guess who’s on line ahead of us? And since there is only one cashier I have no choice but to get on line behind her. Since she’s bent over unloading her cart, I’m hoping she won’t notice me. Maybe she’ll pick up her bags and leave without knowing I was there.
No such luck.
Just as she puts the last of her items on the cash register’s moving platform, she sees me, smiles and says, “Hello, Johnny.”
So I smile back and say, “Hello, mom.” Then turn to Jonathan and start making believe we’re in the middle of a really important conversation so I won’t wind up being guilted into saying, “Goodbye, mom,” when she leaves.
So she leaves and cashier ring up our stuff and says, “That’ll be $103.50.”
I look at him like he’s out of his mind and say, “How the hell can two six packs, chips, dip and a frozen pizza come to $103.50?”
And he replies…
Because your mother said you were paying for her groceries.” 
Well, I charged out of there determined to grab that woman and drag her back to the store to pay for her own damn groceries. I see her getting into her car, so I run over, grab her arm and try to pull her out. She pulls away and starts kicking at me with her legs.
So I grab one and the next thing I know is, I’m pulling her leg and pulling her leg…

…Just like I’m pulling yours.
Yeah, you hate me now but I guarantee you’ll be pulling that same prank on one of your buddies within the week.

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