Tag Archives: The Randy Scuffle Papers

New Orleans ten years ago

Hello all,

Well as you can tell I’ve not been posting. Why should every post start with an apology? No one reads this, so I’m going to stop apologizing. Perhaps I’m apologizing to you in order to make excuses to myself. That has to be it. There. Problem solved without Dr. Phil or whomever is the latest TV psychologist. Except for Dr. Keith Ablow. What a douche.

Anyway, it’s now been ten years since the hurricanes swept through the New Orleans area, and there has been a lot on the news lately about it. I meant to try to dig up some pictures earlier so I could coincide with the media memories frenzy, but it didn’t happen in time. Besides, it all just seemed a bit too self-congratulatory to me, so again, I probably deliberately didn’t get around to it in order to avoid seeming like everyone else. Even though I’m not unique, I sure want to believe I am. I am comfortable with that delusion.

Back to the topic. I was in New Orleans four months after the storms, working with various health agencies that were determined to not only restore health services to the area but to improve on the delivery system. Prior to the storms, you either had insurance, and went to one of the big university hospitals, or you didn’t have insurance, and you went to Charity Hospital. Charity was where you’d also go for primary care. You’d go to the emergency room. Primary care for the uninsured was not prevalent. There were a scattering of privately run, donor-financed operations, oftentimes in collaboaration with a church, but not much. If you lived way outside of the city, you’d ride a bus for a couple of hours, sit in the emergency room at Charity, and if you were lucky enough to be seen that day, great. You’d get back on the bus and head home. If they didn’t see you, you still had to get on the bus to go home, but you’d be on it again the next morning to sit in line again. Great system huh?

In early January, 2006, I took these photographs in the lower ninth ward. The first one is of Fats Domino Publishing. He has since restored the building and it looks much better.


Fats Domino Publishing, January, 2006

Fats Domino Publishing, January, 2006

Kids used to play here

Kids used to play here

When the levee broke, it wasn't just water pouring into the neighborhood. This barge sits across what used to be several homes.

When the levee broke, it wasn’t just water pouring into the neighborhood. This barge sits across what used to be several homes.

Uninhabitable. You cannot just "go home." There is no home.

Uninhabitable. You cannot just “go home.” There is no home.

This used to be a street. Now there's a house there. Not a home. Just a house.

This used to be a street. Now there’s a house there. Not a home. Just a house.

This is what's left of the area near the main breach. Some sidewalks and concrete porches remain, but little else. This used to be a neighborhood.

This is what’s left of the area near the main breach. Some sidewalks and concrete porches remain, but little else. This used to be a neighborhood.

Four months later, there were still abandoned cars all over. The ones they had managed to move, were kept in a pile beneath the expressway leading in and out of New Orleans.

Four months later, there were still abandoned cars all over. The ones they had managed to move, were kept in a pile beneath the expressway leading in and out of New Orleans.



The thing I will always remember about my visits there was the utter lack of sound. In the lower ninth, where these photos were taken, there were no birds. No dogs. No children. No sounds of life. It was dusty, and the air still smelled of mildew and rot. Every once in a while you’d see a child’s toy, but it wouldn’t be next to a house, it would be stuck in a random tree. Powerful silence is quite the reminder of how fragile our little constructed corner of the galaxy truly is.

There’s also a new episode of the Prehensile and Gretel Show podcast available. On this one, Rita was unable to join, so I made up some stuff and then read from The Randy Scuffle Papers. This is your chance to hear it as it sounds from the mind of the author. Check it out here

-Phil Reebius



All photographs are copyright, Phil Reebius. I have the originals, so don’t try anything funny.

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I finally made it to Bad Grammar Theater!

I read from The Randy Scuffle Papers Friday night at Bad Grammar Theater. Thanks to Brendan, the other readers, and audience members for the warm welcome! This was my first time reading at this venue. It’s something I’ve been meaning to do for months, but work, life and other annoyances kept popping up. But this time, everything aligned and it worked out beautifully. I will definitely be back with some new material. Or old. Whatever I have lying around.

Speaking of which, I still cannot find the story I wrote about 30 years ago. I know I have copies of it somewhere, and I will continue to search through the archives. The archives are really just a pile of boxes from when we moved here 14 years ago, and it’s a complete disaster since I cannot find anything. Something will show up, I’ll emit joy-sounds, and then I put it in a “safer place” where I know I will be able to find it in the future. Of course, it is once again missing; thankfully, the ocean currents are dependable, and in another 3 or 4 years, it will come my way again. I’m curious to find it since I suspect it really sucks.

In addition to the story I have misplaced, I am also looking for my old NRA medal I received when I was a kid at camp. We shot rifles at targets, learned weapons safety, and I got a “pro-marksman” medal for my efforts. I think I was about 8. Well, now if I could just find that damn thing so I can send it back to the NRA with a note describing my current feelings for their efforts to fuck this country up. It’s a small statement; I’d like to make it; but I lost the goddamn thing. I know it’s somewhere in the house and when I find it I will send it back. They probably melt down all the medals people send back and just say “fuck ’em.” I cannot believe the NRA gives a flying shit. It was fun when it was about gun safety, personal responsibility, and a right of passage into young adulthood. But now? Fuck me in the heart.

Watch for an upcoming episode of The Prehensile and Gretel Show; I’ll be reading from The Randy Scuffle Papers. This is hard for me. The self-promotion bit. I know some people love to get out there and say “buy my shit. I’m awesome!” But I have a hard time with that. So here’s my humble pitch: please check out the book. It’s on Amazon. I think you’ll like it. A lot. Bring a copy to a reading night and I’ll be happy to sign it for you. Someday, you never know…

I also plan to read this week at the No Shush Salon in Clarendon Hills. Michael Penkas will be the featured reader, with excerpts from Mistress Bunny and the Cancelled Client. It’s great!

-Phil Reebius


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CreateSpace: My Experience

In my last post I noted that it took me a couple of years to finally get The Randy Scuffle Papers published using the CreateSpace publishing platform. I want to be clear that it didn’t take me two years to do it because of CreateSpace. No, that delay was completely due to my constant re-editing of the book. CreateSpace was easy to use with minor exceptions, which I’ll get to. Seriously, The Randy Scuffle Papers is kind of weird because it was written A, as a series of letters from the main character to his doctor (and a few companies) and B, because it wasn’t written with any particular sequence in mind. I just pulled this stuff out of my darkest places and wrote. In putting it together as a book, it was completely chaotic, as it had been written over a period of years and using many different pieces of software. Ugh. Talk about a formatting nightmare. But I’ll get to that. Today I wanted to clear up any suspicion you might have that CreateSpace sucked. It didn’t.

I actually thought it was preposterously easy to use. Remember, I’ve done publishing the old fashioned way, with typewriters, typesetters, galleys, wax, pasteup and blue-lines. Yes, the whole thing. And I’ve lived through the transition from that to what we have today. It is amazingly easy compared to how it used to be done. Now, if you have your book in shape, and you can convert it to a pdf file, CreateSpace is happy to turn it into a book for you. Aside from formatting issues that would keep their machines from producing a halfway decent publication, they’ll take anything you churn out. If you meet their technical requirements, they’ll print it. It’s a bit of a shared responsibility.

I used the cover creator, which offers very limited selections, but you can modify within those themes. It’s a bit like using WordPress. I did my own photography for the cover. This was the only place where I had a bit of a problem. At one point, the cover creator tool refused to accept a simple change to my title and the way I wanted the lines to break. I went back and forth with their help desk and was able to resolve the issue. It took some doing, and they had to revert my cover to a previous version in order for me to work through the issue. Generally speaking, I thought their customer service was pretty good. Again, you have to be patient with the entire process. Over the years, I’ve dealt with some real idiots who can only read from their scripts. I found the CreateSpace team to be more empowered and more thoughtful about the product, and with how their tools and the process works.

The only other issue I’ve ever had has been with the review process itself, where the automated internal reviewer insisted that there was some kind of content outside of the page print area on every page. Nothing seemed out of place, and I triple checked everything. I just said hell with it and told it to ignore the warnings. Nothing ever came of it; my proofs and final copies have always printed just fine despite this warning which was received every time I uploaded a new pdf for the interior.

The first version of the book had a glossy cover; in subsequent versions I’ve used matte, as I like the feel better. I’ve had one book get trashed in shipping due to something puncturing the side of the box. For me, it wasn’t worth it to pursue this and I absorbed the loss as part of the cost of getting my author copies. But that’s me. – Phil Reebius



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A Short History: “The Randy Scuffle Papers”

I have always imagined writers of serious books to be the kind of people who sit down at the computer (or typewriter, back in the day) and just start writing. The book flows out as a nourishing gift to the world, someone does all the hard work of the printing and marketing, and the author starts on the next book. And every time I have ever tried to write anything remotely serious, I get bored with my own ideas long before it becomes anything beyond a quick essay. I have also found that I cannot write anything without being tempted to address the absurdities within the idea, or that come along as my mind wanders about, looking for the next important thing to say. So I end up, almost always, writing from an angle that I find amusing. Hopefully funny.

The Randy Scuffle Papers has, at its root, characters that go back a long way. One thing I used to do to fend off boredom at work was to write letters to my own company, complaining about something I saw in one of their publications. I thought it was hilarious to send a letter to the editor of a sister publication, knowing that the editor, who sat right next to me, would be reading it and wondering how to respond, if at all. Frequently, I’d use the name “Phyllis Scuffle” as the signatory, and it was her voice, sent through letters, that would form the basis of what eventually became The Randy Scuffle Papers. Of course, it evolved into more than that, as the primary character (and her son) Randy, began to communicate using that medium.

Over the years, I started writing these more for myself, and started keeping a collection. I think that the letters used in The Randy Scuffle Papers were written over at least a 10-year period. Actually, probably more like 12 or 13 years. At some point I thought these may be worth putting together as some sort of book, but I never made the time to do it. Then I had an opportunity to participate in open mic readings at The Tamale Hut Cafe Reading Series. I thought “what the hell” and started showing up with the letters. While my wife has always encouraged me to do something more serious with the stuff I write, I had always hesitated because, well, quite frankly, there’s a lot of stupid ideas in my writing. It’s just my style! Well, people did seem to enjoy them, and after a few readings, I was asked if I intended to publish any of my work. Here’s the thing: once you say “Yeah, I’ve thought about it…I really should do something…” you’re committed.

That “something” ended up as The Randy Scuffle Papers. I won’t lie to you. It took a couple of years to edit, format and finally publish the thing through CreateSpace, but I did it. More about that another time. – Phil Reebius


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