Holy hell it’s getting hot in here. And why? Because today, exactly one year after we humbly went live, we present Trop’s first ever BEST OF THE WEATHER.
Exactly one year ago today, with a pink and green site, big dreams, and little clue of what was to come, Trop went live—Happy Birthday to us! It’s been a wild year, one filled with surprises, CSS challenges, experiments in social media, and lots and lots of writing. We’ve had fun with it, and to celebrate we’ve compiled the following reflections and secret histories from some of our key people. You can think of this as our version of VH1′s Behind the Music.
Thanks so much for reading, Tom
Riley Raubacher, Popcorn and Ghosts
It was six in the morning when I burst into the media transfer office across from the Pike Place green tomato stand. Gladys, the woman sitting behind the front desk, caught sight of me in my dirt-covered khaki overalls and promptly wagged a finger in my direction. “Don’t you get dirt on my wood,” she shouted from behind the twisted frames of her half moons. “I’ll stay in the doorway, Gladys,” I responded. “But I need a wire sent out immediately.” She opened her desk drawer and brought out the wire tapper, taking her sweet time positioning it properly in front of her. Finally, she waved her hand in a gesture that informed me to spit it out.
“Trop… stop… have discovered the lost files… stop… better than we could have expected… stop… it’s a lost radio program… stop… hundreds of episodes lost in time… stop… it’s the discovery of our generation… stop… it’s history in the unmaking… stop… time and space naked and vulnerable… stop… hidden spirits trapped within the realms of sound… stop… I’m coming home Trop and I’m bringing Popcorn and Ghosts with me… stop…”
Los Angeles, Los Angeles
They kept asking me if I wanted it toasted. They cut the bread and laid it out. “Toasted?” the guy said. “No,” I said. “Toasted sandwiches do not work for me. Keep it soft.”
1: Written on 3/22/13 before I left Los Angeles for Laughlin, Nevada, a place my friend Ian who’s been there describes as a “cluster of off-strip-style casinos on the Colorado River where few visitors are younger than forty.” Also written before I’d read the last ten percent of the book—the Amazon Kindle measures progress in percentages—because I wanted to finish it in Laughlin, on scene. Revised both in Laughlin and back in LA. Revisions in CAPS when convenient, blended into the text when not.
Before we get going here, I just want to clarify something—this piece, for the most part, is going to be about the week (FOUR NIGHTS) I spent gambling alone, reading alone, and loafing poolside at the River Palms in Laughlin, Nevada, an approximately ten-casino town on the Colorado River, across from Bullhead City, Arizona. (ACTUALLY I SPENT FAR MORE TIME IN MY ROOM THAN BY THE POOL ON ACCOUNT OF THE FACT THAT THE POOL WAS CROWDED AND MORE OF A MOTEL POOL THAN A “RESORT” POOL WHICH SHOULDN’T’VE SURPRISED ME SINCE MY ROOM COST $24.99 PER NIGHT… ALSO YOU’LL NOTE THAT I DIDN’T SAY I WROTE IN LAUGHLIN AS IF WRITING DOESN’T COUNT AS A WAY TO PASS TIME.) But the excuse for this piece, and the book that got Nevada on my mind in the first place, is Rachel Kushner’s The Flamethrowers, a novel whose motorcycle-racing and art-making heroine comes from Reno, a place that Kushner refers to as “Spiritual America,” a term that refers to the work of artist and appropriator Richard Prince, whose Girlfriends series repurposed photos of girls with motorcycles from the back pages of biker magazines.
This is the first installment of a new series in which Trop writers answer the discussion questions in the backs of books like The Help.
In order to continue coverage of our own commencement address contest, which is open for submissions only until March 31 and pays real cash prizes, Trop sent out word to its writers, editors, friends, and affiliates looking for examples of the best commencement addresses available on YouTube. We said we were looking for a mix of celebrity guest speakers and high school valedictorians. We said we were looking for lessons and guidance, for speeches we could learn something from, speeches that might intimidate our contestants but might also mostly inspire them. And after the lot of us tested various combinations of search terms— “commencement address”/ “funny commencement address”/ “best commencement address”/etc.—and after repeatedly being tempted by but ultimately passing over David McCullough’s “You Are Not Special” speech at Wellesley High School, we gathered together, cast our votes, and came up with these five examples, known collectively as: The Top Commencement Addresses on YouTube.
This morning I got an email from my aunt Edie. She’d read the interview I did with my cousin—her son—Silas, about what he, a high school sophomore, wanted to hear from his school’s commencement speaker this coming May. Upon detecting the direction of her email, I was nervous that she was going to tell me I shouldn’t tell her son that being an adult was like being alone and marooned in the Sahara. But instead she was writing to tell me about a noteworthy commencement address.
On March 19, in order to lend a hand to potential entrants in Trop’s short fake commencement address contest, which is open for submissions for just barely one week more and promises prestige, cash, and publication in Trop to its winners, I got on Gchat and interviewed actual high school student, Vermont resident, and cousin of mine, Silas Farwell Mead.
This is the first fantasy story in Tom’s new collection.
I’d boil it all down to sexual intercourse, with the kind of women I’ve seen on TV. Pretty ones. Busty ones. Then it doesn’t go right at all. That’s a horrible ending.
As you may know, Trop is having a commencement address writing contest. And as you may be able to infer, we’d like you to enter it. But we here at Trop would be the first to acknowledge that writing a commencement address worthy of winning our contest is extremely difficult given the extremely high standards under which we operate. We acknowledge that you, possible entrant, might feel daunted. But we want to say: Don’t feel daunted. Respect our extremely high standards, but don’t feel daunted. Because feeling daunted is counterproductive, and we here at Trop don’t like that. We want you to succeed. We want you to take our money. We want you to grace our online pages. We want you to win the affection of Celebrity Judge Amelia Gray. So, we’re going to give you a guide.
JR Nutt is an actor known for his work with DiGiorno and Arby’s, and he was kind enough to agree to show us how it’s done. (Also: Thanks to Jake de Grazia for the pep talk, the microphone, and the overall audio know-how.)
We have an announcement: We’re having a contest. It’s a commencement address contest—known in full as the Trop Short Fake College or High School Class President Commencement Address Contest—and I’d like to tell you about it.
The Trop Short Fake College or High School Class President Commencement Address contest is an opportunity to write in the wisest, most bombastic, most grandiose way possible. Most of us didn’t get selected to give our commencement addresses. Most of us had to sit in our gowns sweating, enduring wisdom of a particularly harsh variety—the sort of wisdom that sounds kind of possibly good when you’re hearing it (“Yes! I will pursue my dreams!”), but that you know won’t hold up the moment you take your gown off and go back to your normal life. That’s the problem with commencement wisdom—you’re sitting there, and you’re energized, either because you’re swallowing wholesale whatever’s echoing in your ears or because you’re rebelling full-throttle against those same echoes, but you know that whatever you’re hearing will dissipate, and you’ll be back to complaining about traffic and the fact that you don’t know what to do with yourself. It’s no good. It’s a faulty system.
With the Trop Short Fake College or High School Class President Commencement Address Contest, we hope to curate a better, funnier form of commencement wisdom. A kind that, even if it doesn’t inspire anyone to become an astronaut, will make for good reading.
The prize money is good: $500 for first, $250 for second, and $100 for third. Amelia Gray, author of Threats, will judge.
Author’s Note—The Head and Neck Consultation Suite is a bad health memoir. It’s a memoir of the boy that I was—a stricken boy, a boy with all the odds against him. Odds which, you will soon learn, the boy—the man—overcame.
’Tis the season. The season for colored lights, hot drinks, and truck commercials that put big red bows on big bad masculinity. ’Tis the season for making sure the presents you’re given confirm that your family loves you, and for reading your family’s faces as closely as possible while they unwrap the presents you’ve given them, to make sure they appreciate how thoughtful you are. Yes, ’tis the season of Christmas, of Hanukkah, of cookies, of candles, of wreaths, of dreidels, of mistletoe. Indeed, ’tis the season of holidays all around.
Trop went live eight months ago. At the time, we were a loose assembly of people who’d gotten together to put our writing side by side, in our columns. Our columns would be our silos for serialized creative writing, whether fiction or non, and they ran the gamut, from John Teschner’s meditations on city and self in Concrete Jungle to Liz Billet’s precocious open letters from a middle schooler in From the Desk of Matilda Darling. We saw Roger Sollenberger’s The New Kroger begin as a series of essays set around a rural grocery store, and become a story about a pigeon-keeper and pot-grower named Vincent. We saw William Torrey learn as much from his students as they did from him in Song of the Adjunct. We saw Hesiod James converse with Socrates about The Beatles in Charlatans of Pop. We saw A.C. DeLashmutt swing through the revolving doors of history in Welcome to Our Home. Evan Allgood’s inner infant took up residence at an artists’ colony in The Millay Diary. Chris Black affirmed his love for his fiancée in Love and Sensitivity. Cara Bayles brought unexpected corners of New England to life in Rustic North. And in Walkabout, we saw Jonathan Ward roam through China armed with a command over the language, a willingness to sleep anywhere, and the conviction forged by boundless curiosity.
On October 20, 2012, a frantic downtown Los Angeles nightspot patron made a frantic 911 call, claiming that four verbose and still-relatively-young people who were way overdressed, dressed as if they were going a distant cousin’s mid-budget wedding, had come inside, taken over the restaurant’s most oblong booth, and ordered dessert. Click on these links to read Detective Patrick Benjamin’s interviews with suspects one, two, and three.