Smoking With Ira Socol

Read the Story March 15, 2005

Your story reminds me of Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” especially the idea in the line “the man…wants eleven dollar bills but you only got ten.” There’s nowhere to go, no remedy for the sickness. Everything comes up short. What’s a person to do? Where’s a person to go?

You put on a superhero suit and people end up bleeding out all over the fabric. You fall in love and end up alone. You try to be cool and make dinner and the meat gets overdone. So you find the nearest pool or open water and drop into a dead man’s float and see how not breathing goes and usually decide (after a while) that that’s not the best idea either. Then you dry off and get dressed again.

Do you subscribe to the idea of Original Sin? (My mom did, but thought Eve was framed.) If not original sin, then how do you account for it?

Mortal sin haunts me, especially because my fairly creative list of these keeps changing, but original sin? Nah. I don’t like apples a whole lot but when a beautiful naked woman asks you to bite, you do. Anyway, without the Biblical “fall” we’re all just Bonobos playing and screwing in the forest. It’s the misery that makes us both creative and entertaining.

If you stop swimming, you drown. So you take whatever you can to keep yourself afloat. And then it all makes you more likely to sink to the bottom. Who designed life in such a way?

I have one story titled “direction” which begins: “If, as your body twists in the water, you turn your head too far, you will slow down. If you turn it less than necessary, and the water fails to clear your airway, you will drown. If you take too many breaths in the length of the pool, you will slow down. If you take too few your muscles will be without oxygen and you will slow down, or you will drown. It all operates along a very fine line.”

A third of my stories involve swimming. Another third involve cops. And many, like this one, involve both. I think drowning is the perfect metaphor for life. You’re literally surrounded by oxygen and it’s useless.

You write every day? What gets sacrificed for you to keep to such a schedule?

There’s an advantage to having a lifetime of nightmares that makes you happy to do most anything rather than sleep, and, there’s also an advantage to finding jobs with mysterious titles and murky job descriptions.

I just watched Jaws (1975), the story of an ex-NYC cop (like yourself) who leaves the city for the coast (kind of). Unfortunately for him, he learns that the monster lurks within not without. What have you learned from your exodus out of NYC?

The beast is always within and New Yorkers know more about the world than most other Americans (except about cows. New Yorkers know nothing about cows). Anyway, there are interesting people all over but no one else knows how to make pizza.

About the Author:

Ira Socol is an ex-New York City Police Officer hiding out and writing and working with students with disabilities (among other things) on the west coast of Michigan. He is completing a novel-in-stories and tries to write microfiction every day. He is also the head of the Holland Writers Workshop in Michigan. More of his work can be found at

About the Artist:

A native of Ohio, Marty D. Ison lives with his wife transplanted in the sands of the Gulf of Mexico. He studied fine arts at Saint Petersburg College. In addition to the visual arts, he writes poetry, short stories, and novels. See more of Ison's work here.