Letters From Suburbia

musings from the throngs of bored twentysomethings

Ten Things I Want To Ask When Ordering February 1, 2013

Filed under: Blogger--Justin — lettersfromsuburbia @ 8:27 pm

1. McDonald’s: “So….Chicken McNuggets…Are those still a thing?”

2. McDonald’s: “I know there are 10,000 different cows that go into each of your burgers…but is one of those cows REALLY delicious? Would make it totally worth it.”

3. Taco Bell: “Can I get my tacos with real meat this time?”

4. Dunkin’ Donuts: “Tell me the truth…I won’t tell. Who really has the best donuts? You, or the Dunkin Donuts half a mile west, or the Dunkin Donuts half a mile east?”

5. Subway: “Is there a place I can eat fresh and eat something that actually tastes good? Oh right. Anwhere that isn’t here.”

6. Burger King: “What exactly are you the king of? Wherever it is, I think they should switch to a democracy.”

7. Taco Bell: “I know you stick your ‘meat’ into a dirty refrigerator for weeks at a time…it’s like a dorm room! No wonder every college student eats here! Wait…that isn’t really a question.”

8. Starbucks: “Is there anything that is one buck here? Shouldn’t you call yourself starstarstarstarstarbucksbucksbucksbucksbucks?”

9. Wendy’s: “If you can promise me that Dave Thomas’s frozen corpse wasn’t accidently put into the meat…I guess I’ll have a double.”

10. KFC: “Maybe you should switch to turkey. Chicken isn’t really your thing.”



Maybe Poet Laureate Makes Sense, Part Two January 28, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — lettersfromsuburbia @ 8:40 pm

To continue the track by track analysis of quotes from the Mountain Goats’ Transcendental Youth…

Track seven: “Night Light”

“Jenny calls from Montana/She’s only passing through/Probably never see her again in this life, I guess/Not sure what I’m going to do.”

It’s hard not to find songs about lost loves, and I’ve always been particular to them…how do you feel about the girl you probably will never see again? Do you treasure the time you spent together, or mourn the fact that they will probably only be remembered in photographs?

Track eight: “The Diaz Brothers”

“Hear my rivals on the western wind/Hard to know who might or might not be your friend.”

This song was hard to find a good quote for, although it is one of my favorites due to the extreme catchiness…who is a friend and who is not? Who do you feel is a friend today, but not tomorrow? Life is full of these choices.

Track nine: “Counterfeit Florida Plates”

“Wait for the coming disaster/I could do this all day”

Patience may be a virtue, but man was not very well equipped with that trait. One thing I know about myself is that if I just sit around and wait for bad things to happen, eventually they will.

Track ten: “In Memory of Satan”

“Locked up in myself/Never gonna get free”

Similar to the themes of the previous quote. The more time you spend inside your own head, the more trouble you’re going to face. I’ve always been an overthinker, and that is about as bad of a trait as you can possibly have in this life.

Track eleven: “Spent Gladiator II”

“Stay alive/Maybe spit some blood at the camera/Just stay alive/Stay forever alive”

This sounds so Hunger Games-ish to me. I read it for the first time a few months ago and it is a pretty common theme in our minds…that we are being watched closely by everyone. And it probably isn’t that true. People are not thinking about every move you make. Meaning…relax and enjoy it.

Track twelve: “Transcendental Youth”

“Sing/Sing high/While the fire climbs/Sing one for the old times”

Go out in a blaze of glory…



Maybe Poet Laureate Makes Sense…(Part One) January 26, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — lettersfromsuburbia @ 12:45 pm

A few weeks ago, a petition was making the rounds on the internet calling for John Darnielle, the leader (and, truthfully, only member) of the indie folksters The Mountain Goats, to be named Poet Laureate of the United States. It seems extremely doubtful that this petition is going to gain any traction whatsoever. However, listening to Darnielle’s latest release, Transcendental Youth, I’m thinking the petition may have a point.

It’s rare that a record has so many memorable lines. In nearly every song, there is at least one line that makes me think, something quotable that leads the brain to ponder something noteworthy about the human condition.

So, for fun, let’s go through Transcendental Youth and think about some of these lines.

Track one: “Amy (AKA Spent Gladiator I)”

“Do every stupid thing that makes you feel alive/Do every stupid thing to try to drive the dark away.”

Starting off the album, “Amy” opens by throwing caution to the wind. Today there are simply hundreds of things that we can’t do and very few that we feel comfortable doing. It’s scary sometimes. But as another noted philosopher (Homer….Simpson) exclaims, stupid risks are what make life interesting.

Track two: “Lakeside View Apartments Suite”

“Days like dominoes, all in a line/We cheer for the home team, every time.”

Sometimes life gets too monotonous. We need to spice things up or we start to go a little insane. Doing the same thing over and over again is going to get the same result, over and over again.

Track three: “Cry for Judas”

“Some people crash two or three times and then learn from their mistakes/We are the ones who don’t slow down at all/And there’s nobody there to catch us when we fall.”

Most people feel that they do a terrible job of learning from their mistakes, and everybody else is able to stop a problem when it starts. But, in truth, in most cases people make the same mistakes over and over again, and eventually there is no safety net. We are flawed beings.

Track four: “Harlem Roulette”

“The loneliest people in the whole wide world are the ones you’re never going to see again.”

I think there are two ways of looking at this. One, in a negative way, that we can’t save the lost. I tend to look at it in a more positive way. The people who have hurt us usually do it out of something lacking in their lives. They can’t solve their own issues, so they (intentionally or uninentionally) lash out at others. Reading this reminds me that the most terrible people I have ever come into contact with are, for the most part, out of my life forever, and I can resolve to meeting people who are not ready to strike at any given moment.

Track five: “White Cedar”

“I don’t have to be afraid/I don’t want to be afraid/And you can’t tell me what my spirit says isn’t true, can you?”

It’s easy to be afraid when you listen to what other people say more than your own intuition. Life is about trusting our instincts and knowing the paths to follow.

Track six: “Until I Am Whole”

“I think I’ll stay here until I feel whole again/I don’t know when”

Sometimes taking the first step is the hardest. But we always want to wait until everything is ready and we are perfect. But that will never happen. Something will always be amiss. It’s part of the human experience.

(Tracks 7-12 in part two)



Drive, drive, drive January 21, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — lettersfromsuburbia @ 9:36 pm

One thing that has clearly been lost due to the increase in gas prices over the past decade is the joyride. It still exists, sort of. But we always feel a little bit guilty about it, or at least there are little thoughts in the back of our minds that we need to accomplish something while we’re out. It’s hard to rationalize just getting in the car and driving just for the fun of it.

I remember–and this may be apocryphal–seeing gasoline for 97 cents in New Jersey when I was a teenager. It may have been from when I was four, it is impossible to recollect for certain. However, it just brings to mind visions of how things would be different if you could fill up your tank for that kind of price again. I can’t say my life would be 100% different, obviously. But would I drive more? Absolutely. Would I drive out of state for no particular reason? Take more day trips? Take more weekend trips? Without a doubt. That is what we are missing by being born a few decades too late, in some respects.


Keep on Driving November 18, 2012

Filed under: Blogger--Justin — lettersfromsuburbia @ 12:48 pm

I don’t think there is anyone on the planet who doesn’t have something in their past that they look back on and say, “what was I thinking there?” I feel I have more than most, but there is one thing in particular that instead of thinking I was being stupid, I was simply acting strangely.

When I graduated college and was taken aback by the fact that no major magazines were lining up to hire a creative writing major with no magazine experience, I realized I had to get some sort of job so I didn’t just sit around all day and play video games (a 22 year-old’s dream, but not exactly realistic). I began by looking for positions in retail, and as an active reader/writer, I initially focused my search on bookstores. Noticing that a Borders (RIP) about 35 minutes away was hiring, I applied and was hired.

Of course, 35 minutes is a long way to go to work a retail job, and there was a Borders location about 8 minutes away from where I was living. So did I try to transfer to the nearby location? Never.

There were two reasons for this, one logical, one totally unlogical. The logical reason was simply that I liked my co-workers, and didn’t want to leave them. However, there has always been a part of me that wants to have nothing to do with my past, and I didn’t want to work at the nearby location for the simple reason that I would run into people I went to school with. So rather than seeing somebody from my past once a month or so, I decided to run and hide.

There is something about reflection that makes what is sensible at the time crazy, and this is a definite case of this. I was painfully shy in high school, a quality that I quickly shed once I got to college. But I realized that the people in my hometown had an expectation of me that I had no interest of ever revisiting. So I avoided the situtation to the best of my ability to running away, even when jobs at the closer location opened up, rather than be reminded of my younger self.

Back then, I had an overwhelming desire to be a new person, and I still think that desire is present on occasion. There are parts of my past I have no interest in thinking about, and parts I want nothing better to revisit. It all depends. However, I look back and think how silly it was to completely avoid the past. Some things we just need to confront, whether we like it or not.


The Steps in Writing a Novel June 28, 2012

Filed under: Blogger--Justin — lettersfromsuburbia @ 12:36 pm

I refuse to comment on whether or not this is autobiographical.

1. Around 1 am, have a brilliant idea for a novel.

2. The next day, write the first three chapters in a burst of inspiration.

3. Get a little stuck. Take a break for a few days.

4. Write the fourth chapter, but have a little bit of a brain freeze about what should come next.

5. Instead of going further, edit the first few chapters. It’s best to make them coherent as possible before really attacking the next couple chapters.

6. Write chapters five and six after realizing that you are an “artist” and have a story to tell.

7. Start to realize that the story is too autobiographical. Try to think of ways to make the novel a little more unique.

8. Write chapter 7, which ends up being half the length of the previous six chapters, simply because you can’t think of anything else to say.

9. Put the novel on the shelf for a few weeks, or months. Whatever it takes.

10. Start a short story, which will be abandoned about 11 paragraphs in.

11. Get annoyed at yourself for ignoring the novel. Write one more chapter.

12. Realize you have very little interest in the main characters anymore. Maybe this could be a novella?

13. Send the novel to a friend to see if they can give you feedback.

14. Get no more feedback then “I love it.” Gives inspiration to write another chapter.

15. Back on the shelf for another few weeks, or months, or however long it takes to want to write again.

16. Have a great idea for the rest of the book. Outline the remaining chapters.

17. Look back a few days later, and outline is terrible. Try another short story.

18. Outline again. This time, aliens may or may not be involved.

19. Get really frustrated at yourself for not sticking to anything. Write one more chapter.

20. Now, you really hate the characters. They are so incredibly boring and not life-like. Re-edit the chapters, finding more things you can’t stand about the novel and “correcting” them, only to be re-edited later.

21. Blog to avoid writing a novel.

22. Repeat steps 9-21 until book is finished or thrown out of the window.


Casting A Type June 22, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — lettersfromsuburbia @ 5:19 pm

I found this article online, and I found it incredibly fascinating to see how people with disabilities respond to television characters with a similar handicap.


Since it debuted, I haven’t exactly hidden the fact that I think Community was the best show on television, not just for the breadth of humor but for the complexity of its characters. While most sitcoms are just looking to fill a role with a one-dimensional representation of a certain type of person that works for the show, Community has a lot more depth and features a full cast of characters that are not simple.

In her blog post, an autistic writer named Julia talks about how Abed Nadir (played by Danny Pudi) is the first autistic character on television that she can actually identify with. We all know that there are numerous characters on television who appear to be on the autism spectrum–House, Sherlock, Sheldon Cooper, etc. But Julia found Abed to be the first character that wasn’t a characture, and that it made her finally feel like there people on TV like her. The others just don’t cut it. As she writes: They are socially awkward/anti-social/socially maladapted, eccentric geniuses free of any serious adaptive functioning limitations, motor issues, sensory sensitivities, or language differences, able to manage independently in all major areas of daily living, with a bonus side of savant skills and the empathic range of a rock. They’re awesome, but they’re a stock character, and they manage to simultaneously hint at the autistic experience without actually meaning it.

However, Abed is different. Abed Nadir walked around like a bird or a giraffe, and he couldn’t do thumbs-up and he talked too fast and knew too many things and he was sharp and suspicious and easy and trusting. He did things that were simultaneously uncanny/creepy and sweet/thoughtful, and he couldn’t do bills or read clocks but he could tell psychiatrists to fuck off and he could fight with his best friend when his best friend tried to take charge, and he was jealous and sharp with his crushes. He had friends and private worlds, and all the scars that come from growing up a mistake, and things were imperfect and messy and painful and visceral but he always emerged okay.

I do think we forget sometimes that our television characters don’t represent the groups that they are supposed to, simply because it’s easier to write for one-dimensional people than it is for three-dimensional. A good read that gets the LFS top recommendation.