All things Michael McGrath

“On the Next…”


Episode One: “Time Zones”

Peggy, supine in the city, aims a forceful plume at the sky

“On the next new episode…”

Joan, in an alarming red dress, pivots pointedly in the doorway

Pete in a padded leather office chair, flares everywhere, arm cocked, telephone elbow. “I appreciate you fighting for me.”

Don in a crowded lounge, two male hands grasp his shoulders, pulling his attention down and across his chest

Dawn, in the office kitchen, advises a colleague: “Keep pretending, that’s your job.”

Meanwhile, Jim Cutler grapples with his jaw, shaking his head, drilling his chin into his palm

Roger, comfortable with his angles, slouches into a business call: “It’s Roger.”

Pete, on a couch, wrangles with old ambitions: “Why don’t we just start our own agency?”

Don, darkly drawn, squeezes the phone like a violin and ignores a chandelier: “What did he say?”

Lou Avery convincingly pleads ignorance: “None of this has anything to do with me!”

Roger negotiates a step.

A deflated Peggy, Ginsberg and Stan, zipped into in ominous plaids and leathers, enter the elevator.

Ginsburg: “She’s gonna find out.”

Peggy: “What?”

Don, lingering in the hallway, shakes deceit from his limbs.


My robot butler has taken me hostage. Please help me pay his ransom demand of $3,000. 

Gyro is a prototype, buggy but generally dependable, EXTREMELY strong. We got along great until Sunday night, when he went haywire and taped me to a massage chair in my man cave. 

Gyro and I used to do everything together. He compiled data on singles in my area, tested dollar menu items for harmful bacteria, took my selfies and shaved my back, handled all my Casual Encounters correspondence. 

Any monies received will go toward negotiating my release. 

Who knows what Gyro thinks he’s going to do with three grand. He probably overheard me talking about another $3000 that I owe this other guy (unrelated) and got to thinking, hey I wouldn’t mind some of that. But I’m not made of $3,000 bundles. Aside from my (ex) robot butler I live a very simple life.

DETAILS on how you can help HERE.

Stolen (Fake) Gossip

My interview with John Munson, a man behind the man behind @GSElevator. 

Those who watch Twitter from a certain, occasionally perplexed vantage point took note recently as a long-running mystery was solved. John LeFevre, a former bond trader living in Texas, “was exposed” as the creator of @GSElevator (Goldman Sachs Elevator Gossip). The account passed along supposedly overheard sour nothings (more braggadocio and bon mots than actual gossip) straight from the black heart of America’s favorite financial institution to 647,000 followers. According to Dealbook’s Andrew Ross Sorkin, the identity of the gossip monger became the subject of a Wall Street “parlor game”: just who was GSElevator, and why would he risk his no-doubt lucrative career by sharing co-workers’s private (if insensitive) musings?

Any Resemblance: An Interview with Novelist Kevin Allardice

I had a professor in undergrad who told me a lot about doing his MFA in the early 1970s. There were lots of anecdotal bits I pulled from our conversations, but the detail that was most interesting for me was about being in workshops with returning Vietnam vets, how as a young guy he’d felt intimidated by the intensity of the worldview evident in their stories. That—or at least a twisted form of that idea—stuck with me, how workshops can be places where you develop a kind of “reality envy.” Your representation of the world is somehow more authentic than mine. That’s why I sent Paul to an MFA program. Considering that this novel is largely about Paul arguing with his sister, by way of books, about whose version of reality is truer, writing workshops seemed the best place for a young Paul to develop this kind of insecurity.

My Sweaty Valentine

Ninth grade. Basketball practice. Valentine’s Day Eve. We had this very intense coach whose whims occupied a good chunk of my daily brain space. I worried about how hard we would run that day, I worried about my position in the line-up and in his estimation. He had a powerful whistle, simultaneously shrill and deep. But his surliness had a galvanizing effect, building camaraderie, and we were good. Some games we even achieved a sync and flow that made the other team seem to almost disappear. I remain grateful for those moments of transcendence. It was a welcome respite from the rest of the day’s social jockeying and relentless self-analysis.

We were working on a press break. It was late in practice and we were exhausted. The whistle kept blowing, the defense resetting. Probably some of us had bombed Latin quizzes earlier in the day, some had progress reports on the way home to exasperated parents, and we’d all done another day’s battle with fierce, inopportune erections. One teammate in particular was having a hard time with the mechanics of the play. He apologized profusely, but after thirty minutes the apologies were just another distraction. Shut the fuck up and watch the ball, we grumbled, at first in our heads and then under our breath.

It should be noted that this dude was already under suspicion due to an inability to hide his academic hustle. He lugged giant binders to each class and wrote page after page of cramped notes even when we were just watching a movie or killing the rest of 8th period. That in and of itself was not exactly grounds for ostracization but he also didn’t seem to extract any joy from his hard-earned A’s. He was fueled by panic and anxiety rather than a love of learning or even a love of success. Bottom line, he didn’t adhere to the unspoken code of effortless achievement.

Later, after I left that school, former classmates reported that he had started blatantly cheating on exams and tests and even relatively meaningless in-class exercises. A teacher finally confronted him and he broke down hard enough to convince the teacher not to report it. The cheating continued and became more and more obvious, but it wasn’t to make up for a lack of preparation. He was still insanely, comically prepared for every class. It was an illness, a condition, and nobody was surprised or jealous when he got into the Ivy of his choice. But this was before all that and when we went for pizza or took long bus rides nobody ribbed him any harder than anybody else. We were actually a pretty sincere group, happy to spend time with one another.

This practice was not our best moment. In our fatigue we started to see each other as flawed individuals, rather than a struggling unit. We finally executed the play to the coach’s grim satisfaction and headed to the locker room, where we commiserated and changed into street clothes. I looked around the crowded room, thick with body heat, and, not seeing the object of our frustration, ripped into him.

I don’t remember exactly what I said. It was a rant, a release, and it felt good. Others listened, some nodded, most hurried to get out to their parents waiting in the parking lot.

“The guy’s a loser,” I said. “Sorry, but it’s true.”

Unburdened, I got up to take a piss. The locker room was separated from the showers and facilities by a wall of lockers. As I approached the urinal I heard violent weeping coming from one of the stalls.

These were deep, guttural noises, and suddenly a terrible feeling whipped across my entire body and settled in my stomach. The kid lurched out of the stall. His face was red and he was sweating harder than anyone had sweat in any of our practices, even the Saturday morning sprints that left regurgitated donuts under the bleachers.

“Is that really what you think of me?” he managed.

“Um.” My shoulders slunked. The floor’s drain hole beckoned. “I was talking about someone else.”

He ran out of the room amid a flurry of paper towels.

I spent the night tossing and turning, certain my teammate was going to off himself. Despite whatever other pressures he may have been operating under there would be no question as to who had pushed him over the edge.

Somewhere around 3 AM I crawled out of bed and went downstairs to the kitchen. My younger sister had left some Valentine materials—construction paper, markers, glitter—out on the counter and so I got to work and made him a card. To this day it remains the most elaborate and nakedly heartfelt Valentine I’ve ever bought or made.

I was worried I wouldn’t know what to say, but then it all poured out in a surge of guilt and late-night honesty: I said I was jealous of his commitment, as I had a hard time committing to anything, that he was brave to work as hard as he did while so many of us tried to skate by on charm or wile. I said that he was an indispensable member of the team, an invaluable low-post presence, a solid friend. I said I couldn’t imagine the team without him. I didn’t realize how true this was until I’d written it all down. I signed it Love, Mike. I slept for a few hours, showered and skipped breakfast.

Ninth grade. First period. Valentine’s Day. Our lockers were close. This school didn’t have locks, so I pried his open and slipped the frilly card between textbooks. I avoided him for the rest of the morning. During lunch I was scrambling to copy some Latin translations I had been too preoccupied to do the night before. I was cursing myself for always finding these corners—delaying the inevitable, waiting until the last second and leaving time only for a superficial effort that would just lead to more work later, when it would likely be too late—when he walked into the room to begin his own pre-class rituals. We were alone. A confrontation was inevitable. I was mostly just happy that he was still alive. It was okay if he hated me. I deserved that. I said hello. He said hello. He sat down and we returned to our work for a few ear-burning minutes. Then he got up, walked over to my desk and gave me a hug. It was a good hug, too, full of forgiveness, eyes squeezed shut and brows buried into shoulders.

Brunch Cocktails

Vodka Bread Bowl

Red Bull & vodka in a sourdough bread bowl.


The Momosa

Prosecco, grapefruit juice, Abilify.


The Mug Shot

A mug of single malt Scotch.


Moist Cilantro

Listen Tanner, it’s a tub of moist cilantro. Deal with it.


Bottomless Chowder

Two straws.


The Z-List

When Tanner went away to camp her mother rented a house on the other side of the lake.

(Market price)

Vodka Coda

No bread no sugar no escalators.


Irish Massage

A liquorshed moment over coagulated cheese.


The Hot Lunch

A mouthwatering napkin, a blood-flavored toothpick, regrettable DMs, cuticle grime, productive coughs, a Technicolor mustache zone. George sweats, Googles local locksmiths, tongues the Tums clay between his molars and fires up the old excuse mill.


The Brainstorm

A high-pressure system moves north as Seth’s medley of library drugs dreg up acidic memories, podcast recaps, overdraft fees, dusty gossip, bad tidings, kind words sharpened with time, court-ordered epiphanies, damp foreheads and a chalky drip.


 Hair of the Hairless Dog

Tanner endlessly waffles over the cocktail menu. She mentions plans to run later in the afternoon and quotes articles culled from her newsfeed.


The Heavy

Licorice liquor. Smooth but menacing, like the idling armored Mercedes sedans that lined the street outside Tanner’s day school. She is writing a screenplay about a rich girl and her sexy, damaged bodyguard.


The Shit Talker

Riding a wave of drunken eloquence, George unleashes a slew of doozies on most everyone he knows, speculating wildly as to what gruesome childhood traumas might explain current annoying tendencies. Their mothers are narcotized idiots, their fathers are crooks, their horses died suspicious deaths. Heads pivot, brows lift. A slanderous high warms his belly. He smiles, shrugs, prickles.


Upside-down “Expendables IV” hot leak screenshot.
(attn Nikki Finke) 

Upside-down “Expendables IV” hot leak screenshot.

(attn Nikki Finke)