..................................FAR OUT, MAN!
................NOW THE MEANIE IS A BOOK
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Friday, January 25, 2013


I didn’t actually help Roger steal a neighbor’s electricity. However, I did turn my head the other way, which was really all Roger cared about. That, and a chance at earning money legally as a handyman for Mr. Cohen’s buildings.

My first job, however, was to pump him about the Blue Meanie. Roger’s initial reaction when I asked about the guy was vast amusement.

“You’re gonna run him off are you?” he said. Then he giggled his high-pitched giggle. “Let me know when you try. Wouldn’t want to miss it.”

“I’m not crazy, Rog,” I said. “I’m not going to like, pound on his door and demand that he leave. But I have to figure out a way to get rid of him, or I’ll be stuck with dope fiends for tenants until Mr. Cohen gets disgusted and fires me.”

I looked down the walkway to the dark hole that was the open door into the Blue Meanie’s apartment. “What do you know about him? Hell, there isn’t even a rental form left over from the previous owner. Shit, we don’t even know his real name.”

Rog thought a minute, then said, “He leaves the place once a month, or so. Catches the bus out front. And he’s gone most the day. Always seems to be around the first of the month. Why don’t I keep watch, tip you when he’s gone, then you can change the locks real quick.”

I just looked at Roger. I was quickly cuing in to his weird sense of humor and could see the little gleam in his eyes, waiting to see if I’d take the bait.

“Give me a break,” I said. “He’d just bust in when he got back. Then Mr. Cohen would be out the price of an old door and a new lock, plus your labor. Right?”

Roger giggled, nodding vigorously. “That’s what I thought too,” he said. Before I could chew him out for fucking with me, he raised a hand. “How about I follow him,” he said. “See where he goes. Might help you work out a plan.”

“You’re on,” I said.

Although this was no solution, it made Mr. Cohen happy that progress of any kind was being made and he didn’t mind throwing a few bucks Roger’s way to do the job.

It was a good thing, because the mystery of the Blue Meanie took many weeks to solve.

During that time the Meanie seemed to fall into an even blacker mood – if that was possible – and only left his apartment to lumber down the street buy a jug of Red Mountain. Or to trod over to the Venice Circle in his rubber flip flops to collect a few pieces of mail from the Post Office. From what we could gather, mail was sent to him General Delivery, in care of whatever name he used. Like the bikers, the very sensible administrators at the Post Office refused delivery to the Blue Meanie’s lair.

Meanwhile, two young Marines just back from Vietnam rented the apartment adjoining his. They were big, brawny, friendly guys, who decided to edge back into civilian life by spending the summer as lifeguards, drinking beer and chasing girls. They planned to attend Santa Monica College in the fall on the GI bill.

Did I mention that they were big? Well over six feet, maybe 195 to 205 pounds. Lean and mean – in a nice, all-American sort of way – they were direct from the jungles of Vietnam.

The guys decorated their beach pad bachelor style: straw mats, beach chairs, waterbeds, and a mix of Playboy art, Marine banners, and Vietnamese market place items, including a fake tiger head, with plastic teeth bared in a snarl.

On one wall was a makeshift poster – a map/montage of Vietnam, obviously made by the guys -  with skulls-and-crossbones, pictures of nude girls, both Oriental and Western, photo cutouts of Marines on patrol… that kind of thing… the legend on the poster is common now, but it was the first time I’d ever seen it:

"Yeah, though I walk through
The Valley Of The Shadow Of Death,
I will fear no evil,
For I am the meanest
Son Of A Bitch In The Valley"

Recently released from the watchful eyes of Marine master sergeants, the young men were uncommonly neat. Barracks-room perfect. Everything clean and ship shape, their water beds made up so tight you could bounce a quarter on them – no matter what athletics had occurred the night before. The kitchen was also spotless, although the only time I saw food there is when they brought girls home, along with five pounds or so of hamburger for the chicks to fry up. They drank a lot of beer, of course, but kept a trashcan in the alley for empties.

The kitchen overlooked the alley -  their only view – so they hung an American flag there as a curtain.

Remember that curtain.

These were healthy, hearty, patriotic young men who kept their hair short, even though it wasn’t the current style of their peers. With their Greek statue physiques, aw shucks ma’am U.S. military service gentility, even the hippie chicks lined up to soothe their war-torn nerves. In short, it was the perfect little apartment, at the perfect time, for the perfect guys to have a well-deserved helluva good time. It was the R&R the two guys had promised themselves during all those months slogging through the jungle, dodging enemy bullets and mantraps.

Unfortunately, there was a big fat fly in the R&R ointment.

A fly wearing oversized blue coveralls stretched out of shape by way more muscles than fat.

For reasons no one was ever able to determine, the Blue Meanie decided to hate their guts.

Roger and one of the other tenants I befriended, Jack Lishman, reported that Mr. Meanie had taken to creeping around the building, peering through the windows at the young men, or hiding behind bushes watching them set off to work in the very early morning. Moreover he was always hiding and watching when they came home at night.

And all the while he was growling like a dog, muttering, “Lurkers. Fuckin’ lurkers.”

I would have loved to have gone over there to point out to the Blue Meanie that he was one who was “fuckin’ lurkin’,” on them, but he didn’t seem the sort who appreciated being corrected.

The final confrontation was witnessed late one Saturday morning by Roger and Jack, who were working on Jack’s old black Cadillac hearse, which he wanted to turn into a camper.

Suddenly, they heard someone pounding on the Marines’ door. The pounding was accompanied by vicious, Blue-Meanie type growls. Our intrepid duo investigated, staying well out of sight. And lo and behold, there was the Blue Meanie – mountainous as ever in his blue bib overalls and flip flops.

As they peered out, he hammered on the Marines’ apartment door, bellowing, “Come out, you fuckin’ lurkers! Come out!”

The door opened and one the guys emerged, rubbing bleary eyes. He’d obviously been out late partying and was in no mood for shit.

“What the fuck you want, man?” he demanded, clearly unafraid, although the Blue Meanie towered over his powerful, six foot plus frame, and easily weighed 80 to 100 pounds more than the ex-Marine.

“You better quit lurkin’ on me, is what I want,” the Blue Meanie thundered. “You’re getting’ me really browned off, mustard shorts.”

The ex-Marine was confused. “Mustard shorts? Browned off? Lurkin’ on you? What the fuck you talking about, man?”

At that moment his roommate, who was slightly taller than his buddy, came out to see what the hell was going on. His roomie explained, “Guy says we’re lurkin’ on him. Say’s we’re browning him off.”

The bigger guy took this in, albeit sleepily. “Sure,” he said. “My old man said ‘browned off’ when he meant ‘shit.’ And mustard short’s sort of the same – mean’s you shit your drawers. They didn’t curse same as us in the old days.

Suddenly, he woke up enough to be insulted. “Hey,” he said, “You callin’ us shit asses?”

“Damn right,” the Blue Meanie growled. “I been watchin’ the two of yuz. I know what’s goin’ on. Think you’re so smart, don’t you? Couple of lurkin’ son’s-of-bitches, is what you two are.”

The taller guy snorted – deciding to cut to the bottom line. “We don’t lurk on people,” he said, flatly. “Now, get the fuck outta here.”

He turned to go back inside. It was a big mistake.

Later, Roger and Jack told me what happened: “You should’ve fuckin’ seen the Blue Meanie, man,” Rog chortled. “Never knew a guy that size could move so goddamned fast.”

“He grabbed them both by the backs of their necks,” Jack Lishman broke in, eyes aglow at the memory. A serious young man – a biology major at UCLA – even Jack was moved by what followed. “And then he just sort of… well…  smacked them together.”

I goggled at them both. “Smacked them together?” I said. “What in the hell do you mean?”

Roger howled laughter. “He banged their heads together six or seven times and threw them back into their fuckin’ apartment,” he said. Then, in total amazement - “There was blood all over the place.”

“Jesus,” I said, alarmed. “Should I call an ambulance, or something?”

“I treated their wounds,” Jack said. In time he would become a sort of unofficial medic to the apartments. Fixing cuts and scrapes, bringing people down from the dope crazies. “There was more blood than hurt,” he continued. “Head wounds bleed a great deal, you know. I think they were more humiliated than anything.”

“Christ, I have to go over there and apologize to them,” I said. “Make amends somehow.”

“Don’t bother,” Roger said. “They already moved.”

As you might imagine, I was rather surprised. “You’re kidding?” I said – succinct as ever.

Roger and Jack looked at each other. Who goes first?

“Loaded up their cars and took off right around noon,” Roger said, taking the ball and running with it.

“But they have a deposit coming to them,” I said.

Jack sighed. “They were pretty embarrassed,” he said. “My bet is that you’ll never hear from them again.”

He was right. I never did hear from them. All my hopes sank along with the departure of the Marines. It seemed like the Blue Meanie would be there forever.


COMING MARCH 15-17: THE SECOND ANNUAL EMPIRE DAY Celebration! Fan Fiction Invited. Kilgour Jokes, New Recipes From The Emp, Commando Tips From Sten. Plus Prizes Galore! Click Here For Details

During the Vietnam war, GIs who managed to survive their tour of duty were flown home in chartered airliners, which they called “Freedom Birds.” This is the story of three young men – from  wildly different backgrounds – who meet on such a plane and make a pact to spend three days together in San Francisco. Their goal: to spend every cent of  their mustering out money in a party of  a lifetime. And they’ll get more than they bargained for: because when they land, it is July 1967 – in a time that would come to be known as “The Summer Of Love.” A place and time where each young man will have to confront the ghosts who followed them home from the jungles of Vietnam and contemplate a future none of them had imagined. 


The entire 8-novel landmark science fiction series is now being presented in three three giant omnibus editions from Orbit Books.  The First - BATTLECRY - features the first three books in the series: Sten #1; Sten #2 -The Wolf Worlds; and Sten #3, The Court Of A Thousand Suns. Next: JUGGERNAUT, which features Sten #4, Fleet Of The Damned; Sten #5, Revenge Of The Damned; and Sten #6, The Return Of The Emperor. Finally, there's DEATHMATCH, which contains Sten #6, Vortex; and Sten #7, End Of Empire. Click on the highlighted titles to buy the books. Plus, if you are a resident of The United Kingdom, you can download Kindle versions of the Omnibus editions. Which is one clot of a deal!
Here's the Kindle link for BATTLECRY
Here's the Kindle link for JUGGERNAUT
Here's the Kindle link for DEATHMATCH



Two new companion editions to the international best-selling Sten series. In the first, learn the Emperor's most closely held  cooking secrets. In the other, Sten unleashes his shaggy-dog joke cracking sidekick, Alex Kilgour. Both available as trade paperbacks or in all major e-book flavors. Click here to tickle your funny bone or sizzle your palate.  



Venice Boardwalk Circa 1969
In the depths of the Sixties and The Days Of Rage, a young newsman, accompanied by his pregnant wife and orphaned teenage brother, creates a Paradise of sorts in a sprawling Venice Beach community of apartments, populated by students, artists, budding scientists and engineers lifeguards, poets, bikers with  a few junkies thrown in for good measure. The inhabitants come to call the place “Pepperland,” after the Beatles movie, “Yellow Submarine.” Threatening this paradise is  "The Blue Meanie,"  a crazy giant of a man so frightening that he eventually even scares himself. Here's where to buy the book. 


Diaspar Magazine - the best SF magazine in South America - is publishing the first novel in the Sten series in four 
episodes. Part One and Part Two appeared in back-to-back issues. And now Part Three has hit the virtual book stands.  Stay tuned, for the grand conclusion. Meanwhile, here are the links to the first three parts. Remember, it's free!

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