The work of Mike Varley

The Mike Varley Plain Dealer: The Origin of MUMs, 7/21/07 and 11/5/07

July 21st, 2007 by admin

Dear friends, loved ones and curious onlookers,

Another quarter has passed and, yes, it’s time for a Mike Varley update email. I’d like to start by giving you all a collective nickname. It’s hard because you’re turning into quite the diverse group. I can’t call you Blue Knights or Austinites or Dear Friend Democrats or anything of the sort. I need to make up something completely nonsensical. So what to do? Well, I’m going to go to right now. It’s a website that lets you see what people are searching for online. Sometimes it’s really funny, sometimes it’s scary, sometimes it’s sad. I like making up lives for the people searching for “remove black hair dye” or “porn. Japanese internment camp.” So I’m going to go there now – right now – and make a collective nickname from the first spy results.

Here they are

recycle bin virus
air force combat action badge
diaes mellitus type 1 http endocrine abstractsorg ea
leah monsters of cock
sound clip chainsaw
unexplained fever in toddlers
diaes mellitus type 1 http endocrine abstractsorg ea
microdermabrasion livermore california
ira vs roth ira
electron microscope magnification

Okay. So I believe in democracy. I think you all should be allowed to vote on your new collective name. Here are your choices:

–Recyclables (EX: Well, Recyclables, it was another long day at the pet cemetary)

–The Ira Roth Combat Action Badge [TIRCAB for short] (EX: So, tircabs, this woman at the library computer next to me smells like a sizzling porterhouse)

–My Unexplained Microdermabrasion [MUM for short] (EX: So which one should I use, mums? The tactical explosives or the battering ram?)

–The EERRRRR’s (EX: Tell me, EERRRRR’s, do you think this is what a chain saw sounds like?)

–Other. I will entertain all offers.

Respond to this email with your vote and the next email I send out you’ll have a shiny new collective nickname.

So, as yet unnamed friends, let’s cut right to the chase, shall we? Since I’ve talked to you I’ve had the worst three months of my life. I moved up to Syracuse sometime at the end of April. Two days into living there Kaylen told me she was going to need time to get used to me living with her. Six days in she asked me to move out in a month. Eight days in she asked me to move out as soon as convenient. To try and explain any of this in an email would be foolish and futile for all number of reasons. I’ll simply say that she wanted me to go, there are no plans to move up to Syracuse anytime soon and we are not seeing each other. I think how I spoke of my move in the last email will give you enough indication of my recent feelings.

I’ve been living on Long Island since the middle of May. From the The end of May to the beginning of July, I was very productive. I would go to work at the nursing home (I’m very fortunate to have a place where I can get hours to work at any time with hardly any notice), come home, write and go to bed. I started out creating content for my soon to be released webpage, then spent a month writing a 95 page novella/collection of three short stories. I’m not sure what form to call it. It revolves around the concept of fate.

After finishing that, I gave myself a 10 day vacation to enjoy the summer, and today is day ten. I have two big projects coming up now:

1. The neighborhood I grew up in has a pavilion with this interesting lattice work of beams. The beams are arranged in such a way that a game can be played throwing a tennis ball between certain beams. Basically, it’s like beer pong but with a tennis ball and no drinking. The game is called Rafters, and it is completely unique to the area I grew up in. Not only that, there are no written rules around for the game and it’s been around for at least fifty years. It’s a game that’s survived the generations completely through oral tradition, and every kid that has grown up here knows how to play it.

I’m going to write a story about it. I plan on collecting as much information as I can about it from my neighbors and writing a piece on it using their memories and insight alongside my own. In addition to that, Saturday, August 18th I’m going to hold a World Series of Rafters. I’m going to film it, have people act as announcers, do post game interviews, etc. Then I’m going to put the videos up on Youtube. If the whole thing plays out right, it’ll be this strange mix of satire and sport. Think the National Spelling Bee on ESPN. Anybody who wants to participate is welcome to come. You can stay at my house the night if you’re coming from outside of town, too.

2. This is the more important of the two. I’m going to start revising three works in preparation for Saturday, September 1st, when I will be doing a taped reading of my stories along with an afterparty. It’s still up in the air as to where I’ll be reading, but Saturday, September 1st is the date, probably around 7 pm or so. If you can be there, I’d really like to see you. If you’re coming from out of town, we can make arrangements for you. The more people at the reading, the merrier. The stories are:

For sure:
A Tag Sale Fairy Tale (Formally Love, New Dehli Style. Much revised since the Senior reading. It’s a garage sale romance)
A Letter to Curtis (A letter I wrote to a combat medic in Afghanistan)

Not for certain:
30 Days (A Mike Varley short story, A Stephanie Zopp joint and now a Mike Varley revisited short story. It’s about a man dying of cancer.)

September 1st, September 1st, September 1st. It’s Labor Day Weekend. I know, it’s a double edged sword to have it that weekend, but I’m hoping some of you will be inspired to make the trip on your long weekend. Long Island is lovely in the late summer, I promise!

After the stories are recorded, I’ll be throwing them up on Youtube for mass viewing, so don’t feel too troubled if you miss the date. Then, sometime between September 1st and September 30th will be a real webpage and not just a blank WordPress blog. Hooray!

So that’s life in the immediate future. What life holds for me past September is hard to say. I had these thought out plans involving Syracuse that are now useless, so I have to figure out other situations. Maybe moving away again, maybe staying here to save money and write a novel, maybe a lobotomy. I don’t know for sure yet.

I know I’m glossing over the break-up, but like I said I don’t really know what to say over email. You’re welcome to ask questions and what have you, and I’ll do my best to respond. For now, I’m better than I was, at least.

To conclude, a poem. First in text form:

At the Crossroads of Smart and Beautiful

Relationships change. Mountains erode.
The times you have come to know will up and leave you.
Do your best to look surprised.

Fill it up. Cast it aside.
Take it all and call it yours.
Describe a scene in your head.
Change the contours and call it home.

Release the sensical;
Embrace this canticle.
Picture yourself on an island.
Change the fauna and call it home

Sleep off the real world.
Let your throat go sore from snores.
Dream yourself at the carnival.
Change the goldfish and call it home.

Understand it’s not malicious.
It’s life (n.):
Revolving involving unvolving.
Pride, Agony and folly.

Do your best to look surprised.

Now, go to here to download the audio form:

It gets deleted from the server automatically after a week or so, so if you want it, get it while you can.

I’ll be sending more updates about September 1st as the time draws near. Remember to do your patriotic duty and vote for your collective nickname!


Dear MUMs,

First thing’s first, folks: we need a title for this little group. As you can see, “My Unexplained Microdermabrasion” was the winner from last letter’s little experiment in democracy, beating out the competitors in a very tight race. No, really. Every choice had at least six votes and MUM’s only won by one or two. So now that we have that settled, we need something I can put as an email header that isn’t boring vanilla cardboard like ‘newsletter.’

So for starters, it has to have the word “Varley” in it, and possibly “Mike” as well. Not because I’m conceited and I want my name in the title, MUMs – in fact, I know a much awesomer newsletter title could be constructed without my name in it. But see the problem is, if my name isn’t in the email title, there’s a potential spam filters will block it out or people will flat out delete the message thinking it’s garbage, and that’s not good for business.

If you go here, you will find the titles (and emails) of 100 different newspapers in the country. Below are my favorite altered suggestions, narrowed down to five:

The Mike Varley Citizen-News
The Mike Varley Post-Intelligencer
The Mike Varley Commercial-Appeal
The Mike Varley Plain Dealer
The Mike Varley Tallahassee Democrat

If you come up with a suggestion that tickles my fancy, I will send it out to the masses for consideration. As of this instant, I’m leaning toward The Mike Varley Commercial-Appeal. Send me votes!

Now, onto Varley news. The World Series of Rafters was a success. Twenty four people showed up to participate and all of it was captured on film. I only just recently got the footage into a form I can edit, but expect to see the fruits of this labor around Christmas time. I haven’t gotten to the story yet, either, but I got tons of insight from all the interviews I did and I expect it’ll be ready around the same time. To tell you who won would ruin the drama, but I will tell you there is an awesome homemade trophy involved.

Thursday, January 10th is the next reading at the Book Revue in Huntington, New York. This place has hosted mayors, senators, sports stars, talk show hosts, holy men and four presidents, but in a little over two months its purpose will finally be fulfilled. I’ll be reading two stories: the yet unpenned Rafters piece and “A Night at the Rinks,” a story I wrote about going to a minor league hockey game in Austin. You should all come and save all your book shopping for that date because if you buy books it makes me look good. Thursday, January 10th. is up and running. Thanks to Ramsey, the site is looking sharp and running smooth. The two stories from the September 1st reading are now up in MP3, video and PDF form. There are also four art projects to blow you away, an interesting about section, and lots of other little things throughout the site. I’ll be updating the news section regularly like a blog as well, so check more than just the first of the month. When have I ever steered you wrong, people? Check out the site and tell your friends, it’s officially the best thing on the internet.

I’ve started to learn piano. I’ve been practicing an hour a day, five days a week since October 1st now. I really enjoy it, and I think I may be a natural. I’m still just using my right hand, but I have about 8 songs memorized and it only takes me two sessions at most to memorize something. I love how pressing the right buttons produces a corresponding proper sound; I can practice the same thing for hours without getting bored. December 2nd I’m doing a little recital for the old people at the nursing home. It’ll be a half hour of songs and then me serving coffee for a half hour. A change of pace from trivia for sure. There are four pianos at the home, so I spend my spare moments practicing. Man am I glad I stole Francis Poli’s keyboard. But he has most of my video games, so it’s fair.

In general news, my dear, sweet MUMs, life is good right now. I’m so much happier than the Mike Varley that wrote the last email. I go into the city a lot, the website is up and provides me with many possibilities and my job at the nursing home fulfills me beyond money. I’ll be glad to be on my own again after I finish off my college debt and save up some money, but for now I’m okay with my situation.

To conclude, my project for the month of October, The Death of Common Sense // The Death of Innocents.

So in a two week span I ruined three pairs of pants with pen explosions. I decided that rather than get upset about losing my pants I’d get creative. I hadn’t had an inclination to work in the “art” medium since college, but this effort made me remember how much I enjoy the process. I think I’m going to take the effort to make two or three similar pieces a year.

But this is the first. They are two poems, six lines each, painted on with stencil and then bleached white. The purple is acrylic paint and the gold is oil paint. I included pictures of me wearing them, but don’t get used to that. The context of wearing them around is all wrong for this piece, for reasons I’ll describe when I put them up on the webpage. For now, just enjoy the images.

That’s it for now. See you all January 10th at Book Revue. And don’t forget to vote (for the newsletter name).

Mike Varley


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