Meanwhile, in California… Infested With Vermin

I had the pleasure of attending, reading, and showcasing my vast fake journalism skills at Vermin on the Mount, “a night of irreverent readings,” on February 11th. The show is typically done in Chinatown up in Los Angeles, but on this evening, San Diego was the place where the (black) magic happened. The venue, 3rd Space, is a creative club and my first impression went like this: “DAMN, THIS PLACE IS FANCY. I’M GLAD I SHOWERED”. No, this was not said out loud. Yes, I do speak to myself in all CAPS.

Our host, Jim Ruland, author of The Big Lonesome, was handing out raffle tickets and greeting the literature enthusiasts as they arrived. I really liked his outfit and was excited that the evening had prize-winning potential. I asked Ruland to sum up Vermin in three words: “Filthy, fun, and contagious.” I asked if the shows come with any free testing and he let me know that they were working on the funding.

1. 3rd Space stage, I swear I was not trying to creep those guys out. 2. Sean Masterson looking like a punk-rock usher.

Not only was 3rd Space nice as fuck, but there was also a gentleman doing a check-in list on an Excel document. Being nosy, I stepped behind the desk and investigated what was on the screen. I inquired why there was an actual high school listed as an attendee and wondered if Chris Hansen would be paying us a visit.

Elena Velasquez, a self-published poet, was the first performer. Velasquez delighted us with several poems that she had completely memorized, a skill that immediately impressed me. The phrase “Wishing the objects in his room would change like she can’t seem to” (not a black metal lyric) stood out to me. I also really liked her title, “Scorpion on the Border” (also not a black metal song). She let us know that she “does not write love poems” and then began her version of one entitled “If Only I Could Devour You.” Velasquez is my kind of girl.

1. Dallas’ beanie matched my seat, which was a giant bean bag chair.

Next up was yours truly, and I read my piece “Technical Difficulties,” a tale of dystopia, video games, and sweating. No one tried to physically assault me or started screaming uncontrollably so I am going to assume that the audience enjoyed themselves. Here are some fan reviews: “A cute girl who’s steeped in nerd lore,” and “Not only was my mind blown, but I think part of my soul exploded and now all I want to do is purchase anime for Ms. Katz.” (The second one may or may not have been said by me.)

Dallas McLaughlin, playwright, comedian, and beanie wearer, treated us to a tale about trips to Las Vegas with his friends to draft their fantasy baseball teams. It is a fake sport but they have a real trophy. An important question was asked on one of their trips: What happens if one of us dies? Answer:

1. The eldest son of the deceased will take their place.
2. They must name a successor in their will.

McLaughlin then told us in all seriousness, “THIS IS NOT A JOKE.” He then made this face :[

1. I’m sure Foust’s hair wasn’t that bad.

Traci Foust, author of Nowhere Near Normal: A Memoir of OCD, read her essay, “The Guy at Chuck E. Cheese’s cut my Bangs.” She mentioned she enjoys writing about “state funded vacations, mental health, and funny stuff.” I immediately connected to her self-deprecating and dark sense of humor. Lines such as “My head is kind of big” and “My brother told me I looked like the guy from Kajagoogoo, only gayer” had us roaring with laughter.

Rafael “Baby Boy” Reyes, tattoo artist, musician, and author of Living Dangerously, took the stage and read from his book. Reyes took us into the seedy and dangerous world of the graffiti scene. Not only did I get a glimpse into a lifestyle I know very little about, I also learned some new phrases! “Billys” are a slang term for billboards. I initially thought “35 second boot party” might be a kind of dance move, but I quickly inferred it was more of an ass kicking. “Bitch ass buster” is an insult I have never used before and I am really excited to try out in the near future. As Reyes described a very graphic oral sex scene, the flirty techno music from the gay bar next door provided a muffled backdrop.

1. Oh, hey there, Joshua Mohr! 2. Jim Ruland hosting the fuck out of Vermin.

Joshua Mohr read a selection from Damascus, a book about a dive bar in San Fransisco’s Mission District and its colorful patrons. Mohr read about Revv, a gutter punk bartender who recently got tattooed by a drunk guy. “Does that say sexy time panda bear?”

Although I was not a winner of the raffle, I did manage to obtain several prizes. Reyes gave me a copy of his book and also signed it. I told him he might want to consider changing the spelling of his nick name to “Baby B0i” because it would make it zestier. (Author’s note: It does not seem Reyes has made any changes to his current spelling. Yet.) Mohr was also gracious enough to not only sign his book for me but to also pose for a picture. I asked Mohr if he had any advice for the internet. Mohr said, “The best writing advice is from Pablo Picasso, which is tattooed on my arm. The chief enemy of creativity is good taste.” When asked if he had any advice for the children, Mohr said, “Stop.”

Overall, the night delivered what Ruland promised. Fun, filth, and contagions were had by all.


— Sunny Katz is a writer, gamer, and fake journalist. You can find her aforementioned story, “Technical Difficulties,” at her blog, Mecha $unny vs. The Internet.

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