Eric Spitznagel has been a professional journalist and humorist for well over a decade. He’s been a frequent contributor to such national magazines as Playboy, Spy, Harper’s, and Salon.com. Actually, to be honest, he’s only written for Harper’s once, and that was back in 1994, so he feels a little weird about mentioning it, as it’s such an old credit at this point. But he’s included it in his bio anyway, because it makes him appear more successful than he might actually be. And as for Playboy, he hasn’t written for them in well over a year, so calling himself a “frequent” contributor is not entirely accurate. He’s been a contributor, sure, but more sporadically than frequently. In fact, the last time he wrote for them, it was for a photo spread called “The Women of Porn,” and he was not even given a byline, so he couldn’t prove it even if he had to. You’re going to have to take his word on this one.

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Speaking of the aforementioned article, he was initially reluctant to accept the job in the first place, as it involved interviewing dozens of female porn stars and asking them explicit questions about their sexual proclivity. This should not have been a difficult assignment, considering that these women have sex for a living and obviously don’t suffer from anything like humility or a sense of dignity. But the author still found it to be a surprisingly unpleasant experience, if only because he is not accustomed to calling strange women and demanding intimate details about their cunnilingus technique. During one of his most uncomfortable phone conversations, an actress casually mentioned that she was, at that very moment, Christmas shopping at the mall with her 6-year old son. She would often interrupt the interview to speak with her child, saying things like, “No, sweetie, I told you. No candy until later. I don’t want you getting a sore tummy-wummy.” The author still feels guilty about this.

Eric Spitznagel has also written four humor books, including Planet Baywatch (St. Martin’s Griffin, 1997), A Guy’s Guide To Dating (Doubleday, 1998), Cigar Asphyxianado (Warner Books, 1998), and The Junk Food Companion (Plume, 1999). The astute reader will surely notice that the author has not written a new book in over three years, which may seem unusual, given that he was churning out books every year for most the late 90s, and then just stopped for no reason. Could it be that the author has fallen out of favor with the publishing industry? While that is certainly possible, a more likely explanation is that the author no longer has the energy to write silly humor books that no one will ever read or buy. He realizes that he has no right to complain, as he was paid handsomely for his words. Considering the number of unemployed writers in the world, he should consider himself fortunate to be published at all. But there was a period after the release of his last book when he was waking up in the middle of the night, his body covered in a cold sweat, trembling violently from the existential horror that only comes from realizing that you’re the artistic equivalent of the guy who writes all those Pollack Joke books.

Now that he has abandoned his literary ambitions, and the magazine assignments have started arriving less consistently than he has been accustomed to, the author is uncertain how he intends to continue paying his bills. It’s quite possible that he’s hoping for some act of divine intervention. With a cunning aptitude for survival usually seen only in the wild, he has managed to evade all of his collectors, mostly due to his ongoing reluctance to pick up the phone. On those rare occasions when he’s been forced to cough up a payment (which tends to occur when such sentences as “we’ll be turning off your power tomorrow” are uttered into his answering machine), he has still found means to beat the system at their own game. Recently, he’s taken to mailing checks with a few notable omissions. His signature, for instance. Or the exact dollar amount. He’ll often include an indiscernible figure, or use numerical symbols not commonly found in our current system of currency. When confronted by his debtors, he’ll feign ignorance, or promise to correct the error, only to resubmit the check with a new series of inaccuracies or oversights. Thus far, he’s been fortunate enough to elude the vast majority of his financial obligations, though he’s well aware that his ruse cannot work forever, and soon enough he’ll have to pay the piper. But for the moment, he’s rather enjoying his immature antics, and is more than a little curious to see just how long he can toy with The Man before the heavy hand of justice comes down hard.

With his days free, he’s able to wander the streets of San Francisco, a city that offers virtually thousands of distractions for a lowly writer with a total lack of inspiration. In his expeditions through the Bay Area, he’s stumbled across numerous second-hand stores specializing in products that are, to say the least, quite unique. In one of these shops, he discovered a large bin filled with nothing but Mexican wrestling masks. This intrigued him. He can’t say that he’s ever thought to himself, “Hmm, you know what my wardrobe is lacking? Mexican wrestling masks. I wonder where I could pick up a few?” The thought has not once crossed his mind. Not once. But upon being presented with the opportunity to purchase not one, but dozens of Mexican wrestling masks, at criminally low prices, well, he just couldn’t resist. These aren’t those shoddy, psuedo-Mexican wrestling masks you might find at novelty stores. These are Mexican wrestling masks made for professional Mexican wrestlers. They’re constructed from the finest silk fabrics, ornamented with colorful beads and sequins and lightning-shaped felt carefully stitched around the eyeholes. At $20 a pop, he had no choice but to scoop up as many masks as he could carry. But what does one do with over two dozen Mexican wrestling masks? If he was employed, he might occasionally show up to work in a mask just to “freak out the normals.” But he remains a househusband, and loitering around the apartment in a Mexican wrestling mask doesn’t exactly make the sort of artistic statement he had anticipated. The prevailing opinion, set forth by his wife, is that it’s just creepy and sad. And yet, despite an overwhelming lack of reasons for wearing his cherished masks, he can’t be coaxed into taking them off. He wears a different mask for every hour of the day, and he’s easily spent entire afternoons making dramatic poses in front of the bathroom mirror. “I am Spitzy the Avenger,” he’ll scream at his own reflection. “You’re mine, bitch! You’re going down!” No one has been more alarmed by this than his wife, who has refused to speak to him while in his ethnic disguise, and has even asked him to refrain from wearing his masks in the bedroom. Mexican wrestling masks have become such a standard part of his daily routine that he’s completely forgotten that the outside world does not operate under the same set of rules. Occasionally, he’ll feel compelled to venture outside the apartment, and without giving it a second thought, he’ll strap on a mask and head off to the nearest bar or diner. More than a few places have politely declined his business. So far, he’s found only one establishment that welcomes Mexican wrestlers (or people suffering from the delusion that they’re Mexican wrestlers), which just so happens to be a local biker bar. As you can imagine, it’s a truly frightening place, decorated with the same homey charm one might expect from the dining hall of a state prison. The regular clientele come dressed entirely in leather, with the names of their biker gangs embroidered on their jackets. Any reasonable person would say that it’s probably ill-advised for somebody like the author –  who has never owned a piece of leather clothing in his life and infrequently, if ever, uses a phrase like, “Let’s take a ride on my hog” – to spend his afternoons loitering in biker bars. To make matters worse, his fondness for wearing Mexican wrestling masks and loudly introducing himself, typically in the third person, as “Spitzy the Avenger” (for example: “Spitzy the Avenger needs a beer! Spitzy the Avenger will not be denied!”) should be enough to make him an obvious target for a good old-fashioned shiving. And yet he remains unmolested, despite the fact that he is, as a frat boy might say, “begging for it.”

When not cheating death at biker bars, he also enjoys wandering the city streets and spying on the locals. There are a staggering number of emotionally disturbed and often physically deformed individuals who call San Francisco their home, and the author can’t seem to get enough of them. Thus far, he’s met a street vendor who claims to communicate with extraterrestrial life, a hooker with two (not one, but two) prosthetic limbs, and a drug-store owner who insists that, before moving to California, he was employed as a professional pirate. The author spent the other day listening to a street preacher try to convince a small crowd that God is a Pro-Lifer. His logic, if the author followed it correctly, was that a women has no right to abort a child even if she becomes pregnant by a rapist, because the Virgin Mary was impregnated against her will and had she aborted the child, Jesus might never have been born. The author is not entirely sure if this means that all fetuses have the potential to create oppressive religious organizations or if God is actually a rapist, but he supposes that either explanation is equally as head scratching.

It has come to the author’s attention that he is expected to find regular employment immediately, as the author’s wife is no longer willing to support the author’s “sorry broke ass.” Although he has made some earnest attempts of late to secure something like a day job, there seems to be little call in this town for a man with few practical skills outside of a bone-crunching wit. He briefly considered offering his services to the field of advertising, but much to the good fortune of everybody involved, nobody is hiring. So far, he has managed to bring in some income as a writing teacher, though he hardly feels qualified anymore to tell anybody how to write, especially since he hasn’t written a word in months. Somehow, though, the students keep coming. And some of them are far more successful in their chosen fields than the author could ever hope to be, which makes him wonder why they’d ever want to give it up to become an unemployed journalist who spends far too much time wearing Mexican wrestling masks. He’s told them as much, but they don’t listen. He’s recently learned that one of his students is a guitarist for Poi Dog Pondering, and being the obsessive music aficionado that he is, he cornered the student after class and requested stories about the band’s rise to semi-rock glory. The author asked, completely in jest, if the band might be holding auditions in the near future. “Maybe,” the student told him. “What instrument do you play?” “Not a damn thing,” the author admitted. “I was mildly proficient at the trombone during college, but it’s been years since I touched the thing. Overall, I would say that I’m utterly lacking in any musical ability whatsoever.” The student just shrugged. “Honestly,” he said. “I don’t think that would be a problem.” Well, the more the author thought about it, the more he realized that this made perfect sense. He’s seen Poi Dog in concert a handful of times, and they’ve never had less than 30 people on stage at any given moment. Only half of them are actually contributing to the music in any discernable way. So that leaves a fairly large portion of the band that has absolutely no role whatsoever, other than possibly fetching coffee and making hotel reservations. Surely they wouldn’t resist taking on yet another member with nothing to offer but an infectious enthusiasm for bland rock n’ roll and a lot of free time. What could be more perfect for a disillusioned writer with few other options? The author hasn’t yet determined what his role in the band might be. He imagines himself as a sort of Professor Griff for the Poi Dog set, but without the blatant anti-semitism. He’d just loiter behind the horn section, his arms folded, a stern, vaguely threatening expression on his face. Maybe he’d let loose with a little tambourine solo during “Jack Ass Ginger,” just to prove that he’s a team player. After the show, he’d hang with the band for the obligatory after-party, trashing hotel rooms in a haze of light beer and green tea. He might wake up with a groupie, only to break her heart by telling her that he can’t stay. “We’ve got more towns to rock,” he’d tell her, kissing her lightly on the cheek before disappearing inside the tour bus. “I must… ramble on.” Yes, the author thinks that sounds quite good. In fact, he’s so committed to this course of action, he has decided to cease writing the article that was to accompany this author’s bio. The road is calling his name, and he can’t resist its sweet siren song for much longer. Though he regrets abandoning the reader, who no doubt was looking forward to the author’s article, especially after committing so much time and energy into reading his bio, the author hopes that you will find some comfort in knowing that he has finally found something approaching real happiness. While you remain resigned to a life of dull and predictable routine, he will be tearing across the globe as part of the touring rock circus that is Poi Dog Pondering. The next time you hear “Lackluster” on the radio, he hopes that you’ll remember him, and maybe think to yourself, “The author – whose name eludes me at the moment – is out there somewhere, standing near the back of a stage, probably listening to this very song, nodding along to the music like some kind of rock god. Oh, what it must be like to be him, where the world is still ripe with possibility, and every day presents yet another opportunity to sink his yellow teeth into the sweet nectar of life.”

Goodbye, my gentle children. Goodbye.