artwork for John Minichillo's writing

Everything Tastes Better from a Star Wars Lunchbox
John Minichillo (@thesnowwhale)

Selected tweets (June to November 2011), edited and in near-chronological order.

The only toothpaste in the house this A.M. is Thomas the Train for tots. I am the uncontested most-disgusting creature in the house, one dog recently in heaven, me in my first Steal-Your-Face T-shirt since Jerry died. On the toilet I miss the dog, who would nest in my dropped pants. There are couples wearing Body Glove, perfect for each other. Yesterday, when I was out with the three-year-old, he pointed at the statue of Billy Graham, and said, “Look at this guy! He’s doing a magic trick!”

Occasionally you learn something about someone you can’t unknow. Taking the iPad from the three-year-old gets me assaulted. This kid, who is half me—I’m raising a wild animal. Are we at all surprised no one has shown up to take the role of Octo-Dad?

“Dad,” he says. “I’m hungry.”

“I’m using my iPhone,” I say. “I’m Googling myself.”

I have to explain to the three-year-old that melted ice cream is not a beverage. Nor can it be refrozen. And a big thank-you to The Cookie Monster for giving the three-year-old ideas about breakfast. The three-year-old describes Batman punching a shark as Batman hangs from the Batcopter in the old Adam West movie. The three-year-old bursts into the theme song. The three-year-old attends Kindlegarten. We watch Adele covers on YouTube, which is uplifting. Some little girl will be named Pandora.

Bookstores are going out of business, but why are there stationery stores? Autocorrect changes my spelling of “Yippee” and I’m surprised the word has a standardized spelling. The Doomsday Clock was moved to 11:59 when Taco Bell wrapped a soft taco around a hard one with cheese glue. I am not lazy compared to a tree. SPAM is gluten free. Calling UPS “brown” was kind of a mistake. The announcer on a Subway commercial exclaims, unironically, that I can eat there every single day. I read a web article, “How to Teach Facebook to an Eighty-Five-Year-Old.”

The three-year-old has moved on to physical comedy. He wipes his ice cream hands on my clothes and considers this a joke. I realize that his favorite words, “robot,” “skeleton,” and “dinosaur,” can be combined. We are Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker for laser battles enacted in the living room. Mention Star Wars and like a reflex someone will insist the first three were far superior. As if there were an argument. The three year old likes Amy Winehouse. They try to make him go to rehab.

We settle down to watch YouTube and agree that robot dinosaurs may be the ultimate human achievement. After a few seconds of robot dinosaurs we are Rick-rolled but we like the song anyway. The three-year-old kicks butt at Galaga, and he shouts, “I’m crushing the bees!”

Odd days we send the three-year-old to Kindlegarten and I go to work. I stand in front of rows of students and pronounce my subject “litta-ture,” to fuck with them. The three-year-old’s mom Googles Star Wars pumpkins and asks, “Does Pandora have Rocktober?” A commercial reminds us to vacation in The Gulf and ends with, “Sponsored by BP.” We live in Nashville and the three-year-old wants snakeskin boots.

My students don’t yet know there is a protest movement. I hope to never become that teacher fully decked out in the school colors. The three-year-old’s mother tells me I’m too David Cross and she’ll never sleep with me again. Time to reassess my sense of self and my place in the world. My heart sinks, but she will, she will.

The three-year-old points to an obscure-looking dinosaur and asks, “What’s this?” I say, with a straight face, “Dinosaurus.” I find childhood photos of Johnny Cash in overalls, photos of Elvis as a child with the Elvis smirk. “Please?” I type to an online friend, “We have never seen a picture of you.” The biochemist who killed himself, who was accused of the Anthrax attacks? He was probably innocent. Gas stations warn that swallowing gasoline is harmful or fatal. Seeing my neighbor in a Nickelback T-shirt renews my suspicion that E.T.s are among us. Me and the three-year-old watch Pooh cartoons, Pooh in the thralls of honey obsession, and the three-year-old’s mom says, “You know what honey is in a blues song?” I dream I watch out our window as a penguin wanders the neighborhood. Our three-year-old wakes us in the morning and asks if we want beer. We don’t, but are tempted.

John Minichillo’s Comments

I like Facebook. I find a lot of stuff by going through the feed. As a writer, with a lot of writer friends, there’s always interesting content. And I can promote my writing without being too obnoxious. I can post a link to a favorable review of my novel or I can post a picture of a rainbow, and it’s all the same. People are connecting with old classmates, family members, and strangers with similar dispositions on Facebook, so they can all like each other and be polite, but there are going to be conflicts of interest, which is beautiful and messy, and it’s all good. But then occasionally someone will post something like, “Please God, can I go one day without someone posting a picture of their kid doing something cute,” and they will get 45 likes, and I’m thinking “Fuck you if you don’t like my cute kid,” and this is the same person who will post a picture of a plate of nachos.

I tried to explain Twitter to someone recently and they said, “That sounds like a bunch of Facebook status updates.” But that doesn’t begin to describe the Twitter experience. If you see a long status update on Facebook that cuts off with the “read more” link, you mostly won’t go to the trouble. But it’s not just the length of the status update that differs, Facebook broadcasts what you did, even if what you did was write. Here’s a link to a story. So-and-so listened to The Cure. Here’s a posted picture of a half-filled wine glass with lipstick on the rim and reflected candlelight. These are events. But Tweets are crafted, so the writing matters. The 140 character limit forces everyone to be better at conveying the message, and Twitter tends to be more about the relationship of thought to language, so that the emphasis on Twitter isn’t any activity but the message itself.

A writer can very quickly acquire 1000+ contacts on Facebook, but on Twitter you have to work for followers. I see Facebook as more about self-promotion and Twitter as more about the self. Facebook is the megaphone. It’s about broadcasting information. Twitter is more exclusive, and liberal, and personal. On Twitter I feel a lot more pressure to be entertaining, and so that’s mostly how I use it. I might post the link to the positive review of my novel, but that’s maybe one tweet out of twenty. Whereas on Facebook, the book-related stuff is more than half the feed.

I mostly use Twitter for observational comedy. I see it as throw-away writing. I can write something kind of funny, and maybe 100 people will see it and smile. It went in the brain and then it’s gone. But I think disposable writing is important. You have to throw away a lot of what you write, no matter how good you are, and Twitter is a good outlet for that. I have a secret longing to be a comedian but would never stand alone in front of an audience with a microphone.

Katrina Gray got me on Facebook and then a couple years later she got me on Twitter. She is the funniest person I know, as evidenced by her Twitter feed. Laughter in a relationship is really important to her, and I’m a better writer than a performer, so Twitter has been good for our relationship. We spend a lot of time apart at our jobs, but if I send out a Tweet I know she’ll eventually see it. I can post something funny about my mundane day or something ridiculous our four-year-old did and we connect that way. Once you’ve been in a relationship for a few years and you’re of a certain age, that’s about as hot as it gets, and I’m grateful for that.

There are famous examples of writers who have tweeted stories, but that’s kind of boring to me. You are still broadcasting. With this I got the idea to do the opposite, to take what I’d already written and make something from it. There were some obvious themes in my life, and I feel like they came together in this and it works. You kind of have to know it’s off the Twitter feed to get it, so I put that in the title, but I think that’s enough for a reader to see it for what it is and forgive some of the disjointedness because of the origin of the sentences.

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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 37 | Summer 2012 | The Twitter Issue