Monday, December 31, 2012

Hopefully, An End

I used to be one for sugarcoating. Back then, when I was a teenager, unhappy truths weren't so difficult to face if I could insert a note of optimism in on the side.

That's not really something I go for anymore. Isn't it easier to resolve a problem if you just, you know, call it for what it is?

So let's be honest. 

2012 was not the best time for me. Between the employment woes, the bouts of only moderately funny madness, and the whole attempted murder thing (which happened, by the way, on my birthday) it's been a year that's worn me down in a lot of ways. And if something doesn't break, I really don't know what I'll do. 

So here's to 2013. 

I'll be blessed enough to begin it in the Goldlands with some friends. If there's been one bright spot to this year, it was them. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Some Days

"You were a very strong candidate, but in the end we decided to go with someone who had a little bit more experience. If anything else opens up you'll be at the top of our list."

"Oh, great. Thanks."

Some days you just have to keep pushing ahead.

Today is one of them.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

And Now We Wait

Being a literary agent is fun. But it's also, when you get paid on commission and haven't sold any books yet, financially taxing, so about two weeks ago I decided I would start looking for full-time work. I'm not putting the agenting career away, mind you; I just can't keep living without a paycheck.

The newspaper seeking a reporter was located about fifty miles south of Mountain Town, and for that reason it was among the first I applied to. I sent them my resumé, not expecting to hear much back, but about two days later writing and editing tests were sitting in my in-box.

"You'll have two hours from the time you begin, but most people don't need that long," the editor informed me in his accompanying message. "Good luck."

I hastily composed what I hoped was a coherent news story from the incomplete sample notes I'd been provided, agonizing all the while that I was omitting something important or mangling what should have been a straightforward sentence.

I can't do this, I thought in one wild moment. I can't do this job.What if--oh, God--what if I've forgotten how to be a reporter?

That gem was laughable a second after it popped into my head; I am, as it would happen, already a reporter with another newspaper.

So I slapped together the important parts of the story, fixed the disastrous grammar and AP as well as I could, and made a tentative click of the send button.

I just hope I didn't fuck that up too hardcore.

Less than three hours later I had a reply.

"Mr. Our Family, well done," the editor said. "A few errors, but better than the vast majority of applicants. We'd like to invite you to come in on Thursday for an interview."

And so I did.

From the beginning the thing went well. The editor and I struck up a friendly rapport that remained undimmed the three or so hours we were together, and about thirty minutes in he asked, "By the way, do you know Blouse Girl? She thought she recognized your name."

Blouse Girl, previously known on the blog as Chief, was the editor-in-chief on my university newspaper and even managed to put in an appearance at my lively twenty-second birthday party.

"Yeah! You know, she told me about a year ago that she was working at a paper down this way and when I applied I wondered if this was it."

"Well, let's go say hi."

Our reunion hug was accompanied by laughter which, to my dismay, continued as the editor reviewed the current-events-and-basic-knowledge test I'd just finished.

"Please tell me you're not laughing at what I wrote down," I put forward with a nervous giggle.

"No, it's not that," he said. "You just wouldn't believe how many people come in here and know nothing about the country they live in. Ah! I think you're the first person under thirty who knew what 'ICBM' meant. And you can spell! What a pleasant surprise. I'm pretty sure all of the spelling ones are right. By the way, the capital of New Mexico is Santa Fe, not Albuquerque."

"Damn it."

The editor then took me out for a late lunch in University City, where our casual chatter over burgers and fries soon turned to politics. This might seem like a no-no, but I count it as a bonus because the editor not only got to hear me speak coherently on complex policy issues but also, by the time the grease was cleared off our plates, felt comfortable enough to curse in my presence (the Republicans' tax philosophy is, evidently, "bullshit").

"You know, I got to interview President Clinton in '97," he confided. "In Martha's Vineyard, of all places."

My eyes widened.

"That must have been wild. What was he like?"

"Very charming, as you can imagine," he said. "But a little too charming after a while. You could start to see the snake-oil salesman come out. And you know, it was funny, the first thing I noticed about him. I went to shake his hand--"

"Stop. I already know what you're going to say."

"What?"

"You couldn't believe how soft his hands were."

Now it was his eyes that went big.

"How did you know that?"

"Okay, this is the weirdest thing ever. I've accidentally bumped into President Obama twice, both times on staircases. Random. But when I shook his hand, I was like, 'What moisturizer does this guy use?'"

"I know!" he exclaimed. "That has to be it! They must use moisturizer!"

So all in all it went well. The editor was clearly impressed with me, but there are three people, hopefully all imbeciles and incompetents, who have yet to be interviewed. I should have my answer by some time next week.

Fingers crossed, people. Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Red Number

The numbers are red
Like passion
Like lust
Like flesh inflamed with desire

The numbers are red
Like hatred
Like grief
Like a molten spear piercing my chest

The numbers are red
Like Rage
Like a divine missive
Whose scarlet words mandate what I must be

When they command it
I'm a god
A ruby
A rose
A bloom of endless power and brightness and bounty
A rising violet light who heralds the dawn

And when they command it
I'm a waste
A garnet
A rotted cherry
A used-up piece of gum abandoned to a dingy bus seat
A pool of fuchsia vomit; an odor of decay

The numbers are red
Like war
Like vengeance
Like indignity

Like me

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Man in the Black Cloak

I am stalked by the man in the black cloak
Whose gaze is so hateful and stride is so strong
His skin has no shine, nor his hands any warmth--I know from when I've felt them
But his footfalls take so precise a path

The man in the black cloak is going to kill me
I've known it for a while

I find him in the strangest places
Standing beside the young men in the park
Where he blasphemes the sunlight with his sallow palms
And turns magnolia trees to weeds

He leers at me with pointed teeth
His mouth a hungry pit of doubt
He smiles from the dressing-room mirror
And from my kitchen window

My kitchen window

HE'S RIGHT OUTSIDE MY KITCHEN WINDOW
Now I can never eat again

No one else sees him
Except those who do
And they all run away
For he is hideous to look upon, and has so fearful a grin

I would run, too
If he would not follow me
With his moonlight skin and gaping mouth
And his bloody red eyes

The eyes are the worst
Their cracked glare a laughing portrait of what I was
And a howling crimson vista
Of what I am

Once you see those eyes you can never unsee them
And they will never unsee you

He drags his talons across my chest
And leaves dappled maroon paths along my hairless back
His legs are long spears of ice that sear when he crawls unbidden to my bed
He's the only man who stays

He whispers sweet nothings in my ear
Of the fat that oozes across my stomach and down my thighs
Like the venom dripping from his jagged maw
Of the rats and spiders that will eat my face should I chance to fall asleep

He is clad in bank statements and cameras and pounds
Beneath his grease-stained cowl
And before he leaves he exacts a promise
Made in putrid breath, that I will keep him in my thoughts my every waking moment

And I always do
I always do

The man in the black cloak is going to kill me
I've known it for a while

Friday, November 23, 2012

I Should Have

I should have been a giant
A monument so high
I should have been the golden oak
Whose arms held up the sky

I should have been the morning
I should have been the light
I should have been the savior beam
That pierced the wall of night

You should know I did not lie
That I did not mislead
I thought that I could take our dreams
And turn them into deeds

I should not be what I am
As powerless as this
The gulf to what I should have been
Is such a deep abyss

You should know my tears are filled
By all I could not be
And by the squalor of myself
By loveless, hopeless me

I should have labored harder
All things I should have braved
Perhaps I should have always known
That we cannot be saved

Monday, November 19, 2012

To the Future


This has been a campaign year to try the spirit of even the most perseverant fact-checkers. The Republican primary season featured a predictable slew of dubious claims, from the assertion that President Obama had "taken over" healthcare to the idea that unemployment was nearing 20 percent, and when a nominee finally emerged he led one of the most willfully dishonest races in modern presidential history.

Mitt Romney's plan to cut taxes for billionaires while raising taxes on secretaries wasn't popular? Then he wasn't for it after all. The public was angry over high gas prices? Why, the President was to blame for that, never mind that he increased domestic production to unprecedented levels. The auto bailout worked? Hey, guess what: Jeep is going to transfer its operations to China! Even though they're not, which the CEO of Fiat felt the need to clarify.

The GOP nominee may have sustained life-threatening whiplash from all the flip-flopping he did in this cycle, but in retrospect the biggest whopper of them all came after the votes had been counted.

"Status Quo Wins" the Wichita Eagle declared on the morning of Nov. 7.

"Barack Obama will remain president," the paper informed its readers. "Democrats will still control the Senate. Republicans will still control the House. Nothing changed."

And that's where they're wrong.

The voters decided last week to retain the current roster of political leaders, but in so doing they bucked--decisively--a series of long-established trends. Let's take into account two facts:

1. President Obama went into the election carrying the albatross of 7.9-percent unemployment, a major handicap given that no president since FDR had won reelection with unemployment higher than 6 percent.

2. President Obama's opponent, Mitt Romney, won 59 percent of the white vote, comparable to what Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard M. Nixon won in their respective 1952 and 1972 landslides.

Why does any of this matter?

Because according to history, President Obama should have been doomed. Swamped. Obliterated. And instead he throttled Mitt Romney to the tune of 126 electoral votes.

So, yes, the American people voted to keep the same chess pieces in Washington. But they changed the board.

What we are witnessing is not the reelection of an incumbent president but the formation of a dominant political coalition whose inclusiveness renders the old models untenable. In a white, male America that breadth wouldn't matter--as evidenced by most of our history--but in a changing America it makes all the difference. Consider who this coalition is: women (55 percent of whom supported the President), African-Americans (93 percent of whom supported the President), Hispanics (71 percent of whom supported the President), Asian-Americans (73 percent of whom supported the President), and gays (76 percent of whom supported the President).

Then, of course, there's the biggest factor no one's talking about: the young. This one, mark my words, is the real sleeper threat to the conservative movement. Up until recently there was a good argument to be made against this idea. The 2008 election was exceptional, the conservative line went. Young voters' extraordinary support for then-Sen. Obama (66 percent of voters under 30 went Democratic four years ago) could be chalked up to naivete or enthusiasm or sheer frustration with the economic climate of the time. It couldn't last.

But it did.

On Tuesday voters between the ages of 18 and 29 went to the polls and, by 60 to 36 percent, voted to keep Barack Obama in office. That demographic designation, by the way, does not distinguish by any factor other than age; that means that of all American voters under 30, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, income level, or religious affiliation, six in ten went Democratic. Six in ten. We are looking at an FDR-level realignment, one in which progressives will enjoy major inherent advantages.

This is all the more impressive when you consider that the President's base, contrary to media analysis, was actually depressed this year.

Yes, you read that right.



To begin with, a difficult economy always weighs heavily on an incumbent and the Democratic base did erode, however slightly, between 2008 and 2012. Beyond that, the Hispanic vote, rightly hailed as key to President Obama's reelection, still comprised only 10 percent of the national electorate this year. That means that the 2012 landslide wasn't a landslide so much as it was a warm-up.

The Hispanic population is expanding rapidly--with Pew Research predicting it will double by 2030--and nowhere are the numbers more dramatic than in the swing states that are key to victory. Between 2008 and 2012 the number of Hispanic voters rose nationally by a single percentage point; in battleground Nevada, however, the cohort grew by 39 percent in the same four-year period.

Combine that demographic reality with an economy that will presumably be much recovered four years from now and you have a very favorable outlook for Democrats in 2016. Add in the GOP's generational crisis and the crystal ball gets even bluer. It's not just Nevada and Colorado that are in play now. It's Georgia. It's Arizona. By 2020 at the latest, it will be Texas.

That's not to say that the Republicans have no way forward.

The Democrats, who beginning in 1968 faced a situation comparable to what the GOP faces now, saved themselves from oblivion by dumping the Great Society progressives of the 1960s and embracing centrist candidates like Bill Clinton who promised a "third way." Hardliners fumed, but Clinton recognized an essential reality: that the center of the country had shifted and that the Democratic Party had to shift with it. If the Republicans can stand on a platform of social liberalism and fiscal conservatism they will at least be able to remain credible in an increasingly progressive environment.

Republicans like Susan Collins, Bobby Jindal, and even John Boehner appear to have absorbed that lesson, but they face the challenge of corralling a base significantly more inflexible and extreme than the Democratic core of the 1990s. Consider that the Tea Party movement rejects both evolution and global warming. Consider that they support (and managed to insert into the 2012 GOP platform) a total ban on abortion. Consider that they scorned electable Republicans like Richard Lugar of Indiana and in so doing lost the Senate. Then consider that their caucus, even after this election, still holds about a quarter of the Republican seats in the House.

This puts the Republican leadership in the ultimate Catch-22: they need the Tea Party's numerical support to achieve a national majority but because they are associated with the Tea Party's message can't achieve a national majority.

John Boehner and company have to resolve this. If they can't, the GOP will learn the hard way that there is a big difference between an inherent minority and a permanent one.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Home Sick


It's been quite the week here at the Our Family household. At a little past two o'clock on Sunday morning I happened upon Thomas, who was conducting an impromptu Family Guy marathon instead of, say, getting some sleep five hours before he had to wake up.

"Um, don't you have school or something tomorrow?" I asked the twelfth-grader.

He turned to me with a heavy face.

"My stomach hurts so fucking bad. I literally can't sleep."

I frowned.

"Have you taken any of the nighttime Aleve?"

"I took two."

"Okay," I said. "Don't take anymore. That should conk you out. I have to go to bed, but if it gets too bad wake up Mom."

Three hours later Thomas was on his way to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with appendicitis and prepped for emergency surgery. The procedure went smoothly, thank goodness, and Thomas's appendix was removed before it could rupture, but he was fairly well out of commission and would be for several days.

I didn't much mind this. Thomas, like a cactus, requires only token care; a little water, a bit of sunlight, and periodic checks to make sure his stomach hadn't burst open were enough to keep him in good working order. Late Monday morning, however, I received a smaller and altogether more cuddly patient.

"BB, can pick up Pie from school?" my father asked after phoning in. "She has sinusitis and she's been throwing up."

So I brought Der-Der home to the Our Family sick bay and have spent the last few days playing nursemaid to two siblings who don't seem terribly aggrieved by their afflictions.

"Pie, aren't you going to change out of your pajamas?" I asked at the crack of noon as she and Thomas sat at the kitchen table playing Flow on my parents' iPad.

"Um, noooo," she singsonged. "I'm home sick."

"You hobo," I accused. "Tell me, oh homeless person, what kind of soup do you want?"

Thomas, meanwhile, reveled in the sensory experience of post-surgery recovery.

He stumbled while padding through the living room in his slippers and started laughing.

"Hey, BB, I'm on drugs."

He raised one eyebrow and drooped the corners of his mouth in a display of mock impairment before his face brightened with epiphany.

"Oh, my gosh, BB," he said. "I'm on drugs. I really am on drugs. I'm high as a kite!"

He did the closest thing to a jig he could with a stapled stomach.

"I'm on drugs!" he exclaimed. "I'm on drugs!"

I smiled in spite of myself as he cripple-hopped about the room, looking every bit the doped-out vagrant.

He's staying home tomorrow, too.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Unconscionable Delays

First I had important editing to do on a manuscript. Then I was busy drafting a contract for a client. Now Thomas has developed a case of appendicitis requiring immediate surgery, and so instead of writing a blog post I will be spending the evening in a hospital room wooing my brother with Crab Chips and guitar magazines.

Rest assured, though, the post-election entry is coming. Given how things turned out, I'm very much looking forward to writing it.

Monday, November 5, 2012

With Friends

I'm going out tonight to a wine tasting with Norwegian and Progressive Girl at the vineyard of Norwegian's sister, then tomorrow night will head into the Goldlands to watch election returns with Progressive Girl and some others.

I'm quite confident of President Obama's victory, of course, but am happy to know that, whatever the outcome, I'll learn of it in the company of lovely and like-minded friends.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Another Reason

As if I needed any more incentive to vote for President Obama in the upcoming election, I stumbled upon another bit of inspiration this weekend at, of all places, my parents' Halloween party. Remember that one? The one where politics couldn't be discussed?

I learned on Friday evening that the Halloween event I was to attend with friends had been moved to Saturday, so I decided to stay home, enjoy the free liquor, and spend the night relaxing. Politics had no part in the equation.

That, of course, was before I saw the cute girl with black ringlets running around the patio and screaming her head off in the good-natured way of very small children having an awesome time.

"Is she yours?" I asked Progressive Man when I caught him waving at her.

"Yeah," he smiled.

"She's so adorable," I replied. "How old is she?"

"She's actually eight," he answered.

I tried to keep my surprise in check; the child he referred to looked no older than four or five.

"Oh," I remarked. "She's so petite."

"Well, part of that is her health," he said. "She has a congenital condition. Have you ever heard of the bubble boy?"

I nodded.

"She basically has a suppressed immune system. Almost no resistance to germs."

I looked at the girl again. She was flying through the dirt at the tail of a grade-school horde and, but for her small stature and oversized head, seemed like any of the other children.

"How is it that she can be out here?" I asked. "You know, like, with the other kids?"

"Well, we have her on this gene therapy that's been really successful. The condition is pretty rare, though, and the cost for her medicine is through the roof. It's about $100,000 a year."

This time I didn't even attempt to hide my shock.

"That's crazy," I said. "How are you--I mean, I hope you don't think I'm being rude, but how are you doing that?"

"Well, the insurance company is paying for it," he said with a lift of his eyebrows.

"They haven't tried to jerk you around with that?"

"They can't," he said. "At least not now. Since Obamacare passed there are no lifetime caps. So we're in a good situation. But if my wife loses her job or Romney gets elected...it's something we worry about a lot. That we'll lose our insurance if she has to switch employers or that they'll change the law and the insurance company will cut us off."

I cast my eyes toward the children shrieking in the field. What could I say?

But I realized in that moment, more than at any other, the huge import this country's November 6 decision carries. If Mitt Romney is elected president, political theories and abstract concepts of government won't bear the brunt of his policies; it will be people. Real people, real college graduates who can't find work, real senior citizens who have every "preexisting condition" in the book, real men whose daughters are only alive because they have access to gene therapy. The election is the only thing standing between them and something too horrible to speak of.

We have to get this right.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Shame

It's a funny thing about shame. So many people don't feel it when they should and in so many innocents it crops up where it's been neither earned nor warranted. It seems unfair, doesn't it? Shame has a bad track record on checking those who need checking but it's managed to linger as the constant companion of those people's victims.

Oh, shame.

I wonder how long it's going to take me to stop being ashamed of things that aren't my fault, to acknowledge in my heart the things that my logical brain knows to be true?

Maybe never.

That would suck pretty badly. And it would make me frustrated with myself.

Because whenever my former illness is brought up in a derogatory manner--and that's the only way it's ever brought up--I know my first reaction should be one of righteous anger at the two people who, twenty-four years in, continue playing the role of bullies. The fact that I still shrink away, that I still draw in on myself and still have the urge to apologize, is something that causes me further shame, shame at my own cowardice.

I've gotten better at hiding this fragility, of course, and tonight I was quick on my feet.

"When we have our Halloween party this Friday, BB, you and your father are not going to get into politics," my mother commanded this evening. "I'm not going to have that discussed."

A legitimate concern, I grant you; with the presidential election two weeks away and my father regularly referring to the President of the United States as a "dumb nigger," the policy debates between us have been heated. But had I just heard someone tell me what was allowed to come out of my mouth?

"Okay, first of all, why do you think I'll even be here?" I asked. "And second of all, don't tell me what I can or cannot say. I'm twenty-four years old. That's not your place."

There followed a roaring argument wherein my mother essentially posited that she could dictate anything at all to anyone under her roof and I essentially told her where to plant her lips.

"Oh, honey, you are cute but you're not that cute," I said during one exchange. "And you are fucking with the wrong bitch. I pay you to live here, which means that this is my house, too. And in my house, I'm the only one who decides what I say. Not that I want to hang out with your forty-year-old engineer friends, or whoever the hell they are."

"Really?" she countered. "Because our whole lives have been you right there, not knowing where the fuck you are half the time, asking us what's going on!"

There it is. It's never far away when we fight. And I suppose that for someone who's entitled enough to think she can mandate what topics other adults are allowed to speak on, bringing up a childhood illness to score some emotional gouging points probably isn't that big of a leap. But it still hurt.

"Oh, really?" I countered with a quickness that I hoped belied how deep the wound had sunk. "You mean when I was twelve? Well, I'm sorry that when I was twelve and you weren't getting me the help I needed my disorientation was annoying to you. But I'm not twelve anymore. And twenty-four-year-old BB doesn't take this shit. Try me."

And then I went downstairs and got in my shower. And cried. And then felt shame over my shame.

And tried to remember what my therapist had told me several days before.

"You know," she said. "I almost wonder if the diagnosis was wrong. All these things you tell me about, exploring new places with your friends, driving around, flying out to Pacific State by yourself..."

"'With your friends,'" I smiled. "That part is key, though. The instinct to panic is still there. I focus on the people and it keeps me grounded."

"You went to Pacific State by yourself," she pointed out.

"Oh, I know that," I acknowledged. "And it really doesn't present a problem anymore. But what I'm saying is that the tendency to sort of lose track of what's happening to me in new surroundings, to freak out, remains. The diagnosis wasn't wrong. The symptoms are just very controlled."

"Very controlled," she said. "More than I've ever seen. Which, given your lack of treatment, is pretty incredible. I've actually used your story, without divulging anything too specific, of course, to give other families hope."

I couldn't help but laugh.

"That's pretty cool."

So I know I'm better. I know that sick little boy is not the person I am anymore, and I know that I can't be taken advantage of the way I was even at eighteen and nineteen years old.

But with a few words the pain and the mortification can come back so easily.

Will that ever end?

Maybe the only thing for it is distance, distance from them and from illness and from the undeserved shame that all victimizers rely on to prop themselves up.

I want that distance. I can't wait to make that distance as big as possible.

Monday, October 15, 2012

An Anniversary Worth Noting


I keep insisting that I'm going to write a post about my birth-mother Anne's unique family history and, dependable academic that I am, I keep being aggressively uncommitted to actually sitting down and writing it. Given that presenting my readers with any kind of coherent narrative would require not only significant research but also a fair amount of interpretive analysis--we've been a contradictory group of people--my years-long streak of never producing entries on these ancestors is likely to continue.

October 14, however, presents an anniversary at least worth noting: it's our birthday.

Well, kind of.



Our family did not, strictly speaking, pop into existence on the fields of Hastings 946 years ago. It was on that fateful day in the fall of 1066, however, that one of our distant ancestors, a cousin of William the Conqueror whom the Norman prince inducted into his retinue, proved himself in engagement against Harold and was subsequently awarded extensive lands by the newly crowned William II.

Anne's people have commemorated the day ever since, sometimes with large public spectacles, sometimes with private parties, sometimes with pilgrimages to sites sacred to our House. It's a part of who we are.

My consciousness of this was, naturally, not quite so developed when I was fourteen, and I was wont to drift off when my grandmother started mentioning glorious deeds and noble history. She had the tact to let the subject drop when she sensed my disinterest, but as an adult I wish she'd insisted a little bit more.



Grand Ma Weird Family is gone, of course, taken by cancer in 2009. With her died a tremendous reserve of knowledge about a family that has spent much of the last millennium either imposing colonial tyranny or fighting with moving eloquence for the cause of human liberty. That dichotomy is a part of their legacy: the same group of people who strove to end slavery in the British Empire committed atrocities in the British colony of Jamaica; the same group of people who gave everything for the cause of American independence entered the 20th century as banal socialites and gaudy kingpins.

It's hard to pin them down.

So, perhaps feeling guilty that I should let yet another October 14 pass unrecorded, I set myself this weekend to an Internet search and was pleasantly surprised by what I found: photos of family residences from the Old World, places where my flesh and blood actually lived.

It's not as if we don't have any such ancestral seats in this country. In fact, the Weird Family presence in 21st-century America is still bizarrely prevalent, from the Independence City skyscraper that bears the symbol of our bank to the weekend-home-turned-museum that displays our silverware to the family vault that is a national historic site. Even Washington's National Cathedral holds personal meaning; it was the site of my great-grandparents' wedding.



But the buildings across the Atlantic are much older and have seen much more. A few of them are still standing. One, the castle shown at the top of this page, became a heritage center after serving as the seat for an ancestor who died defending King Charles I. You can take a tour for about five dollars.

Most of the structures, though, proud palaces and austere castles and solemn chapels, have fallen to ruin and decay.

"This place is kind of like our family," Innocent Cousin joked in 2007 when we visited the family vault in Independence City. "It's falling apart and no one cares about it anymore."

I'd laughed at the time, but in the crumbling walls and weed-choked floors of our former strongholds I saw a chilling, beautiful testament to time: even the strongest and proudest, which we surely were, will one day fall, and before their glory is an evening old their names will be forgotten by all but a few. Look at us: we spent several centuries dictating Western history pretty much at will and arguably got the American Revolution over its hump, yet today anyone with a few bucks and a fanny pack can be master over the seats from which we reigned. Well, the seats that aren't covered in manure, that is. Because a lot of them are.


Given the brevity of anyone's time in the sun and the near-total anonymity that will descend once that moment is over, one would be tempted to ask what the point is of trying.

My grandmother had an interesting answer.

"What made them matter wasn't their money," she told me before she died. "Never. Certainly, they had means--but so do plenty of people. My father had more money than ten men could have spent in a lifetime and he was still an abominable idiot. What made them matter was their attitude. It was their selflessness, their dedication, their virtue. You know what our motto says about virtue, don't you?"

I've always secretly felt unequal to that standard, and been somewhat relieved I was not raised to bear it, but one can't help but admire a good quality when one sees it.

In our best moments we've been marked by a level of brilliance and self-sacrifice that is truly exceptional. My sixth great-grandfather died in 1781, a casualty of malaria, after spending the Revolutionary War pouring his vast economic resources into the fledgling U.S. Navy and advising General George Washington as a faithful aide-de-camp. His own great-great grandfather gave his family estate and then his life in the defense of the doomed King Charles I, to whom he was fiercely loyal even unto death. Both men suffered the indignity of having enemy forces tear their houses down. And there were many more like them.

When I think upon my Weird Family heritage, that's the part I'd like to remember. And if I ever get around to profiling them in anything approaching a competent manner, it's what I'd like to depict.


Monday, October 8, 2012

Straight Up

She was nestled amongst the blankets and pillows, her brown hair tumbled around her smooth, round face.

"Der-Der, come on," I said, shaking my nine-year-old sister by the shoulder. "You have to get up."

She said nothing, just rolled over and buried her face deeper into a mass of fluffy comfort.

"You have to get uuuuup," I accosted her a second time, still to no avail. "You little hobo! I've never known a child who sleeps in until eleven o'clock!"

She turned again, her eyes twin slits of tiredness and irritation.

"What do you want?" she croaked with all the fatigue of a middle-aged waitress called out of bed to cover a shift in the dead of winter.

"You're going to the movies," I said. "And it's considered bad form to still be asleep when your ride gets here."

"Alright."

She sat up and considered me a moment, then opened her hand and with her right palm lightly cracked me on my left cheek. Then she opened up her left palm and did the same thing to my right cheek. This pattern, so rhythmic I took it for a game, continued for several cycles before I broke in, "Pie, what are you doing?"

Her expression and voice were completely flat.

"Slapping you in the face," she answered, and sauntered out of bed.


Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Verdict

"I don't think you were psychotic," said my therapist. "But I think you were approaching a line where you were maybe a little detached from reality."

"It was scary," I conceded.

I wanted it to be like a vacation. But it wasn't.

"It sounds terrifying," she said.

No shit, I thought.

But my conscious, responsible self said, "I just don't want to be fat."

"And you're not fat," she answered.

"But I am," I insisted. "I know you think I'm imagining this. But I'm not imagining the jelly rolls."

"There's a spectrum with OCD," she said. "And you're having moments where you're on the severe end of it. I know those fears feel real. But they're not. And it's important to remember that. An eating disorder interacting with severe OCD can feel so real. You need to maintain perspective."

I DON'T CARE ABOUT PERSPECTIVE.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Be Gentle

There have been very few times in my four years on Blogger when I've felt genuinely conflicted about putting up a post, but this is one of them. It's not because I did anything bad, not because I feel guilty. But I do feel ashamed. Ashamed, as usual, of something I can't help. Or maybe of something I don't want to help.

No, that's not true. This is beyond my control and has been for years. Who the hell would want to live the way I do? Sure, my world has some fantastic elements to it--great friends, a relative degree of financial stability, a budding career--but there's always been this inner track that's been able to supercede everything else when it rises up.

And at this point in my life it's just so damned undignified to talk about that. I'm twenty-four years old, and, in theory, a young professional. I'm not naive enough to think that my age means I should arbitrarily be past these issues, but is it feasible that maybe my age means I should endure them with quiet grace, maintaining a respectable facade?

I'm not the nineteen-year-old boy I was when I began here. Back then, my periodic bouts of depressed introspection and, let's be honest, total mania, could at least be painted with the romantic veneer of youth.

He's a troubled young man. A teenager trying to figure himself out. He's a confused boy. 

A college student fighting the wars of existentialism and self-hatred. How original.

But at some point that fashionably tortured nineteen-year-old grows up and stops acting like such a drama queen, right? Or he has the good sense not to engage in the gaudy display that is sharing.

I'm afraid.

I'm afraid of making myself look self-indulged and maudlin, ashamed that my employer or a client will somehow find this and decide without too much debate that I'm unfit.

But this is my place and always has been, and what did I promise you (and myself) from the beginning? An honest portrait of my life.

So I may, within the next few days, come to you with a post that will be difficult for all of us. I'm not sure yet. But if I take that step then please, honor just one request: be gentle.

Monday, October 1, 2012

That Time of Year



They say the first fall after university is a difficult experience. Changing leaves and cold winds bring back memories of dormitory shenanigans, and young people bearing backpacks stand as a stark reminder of one's own mortality and the inevitable march of time. The say that, at this time of year, you pine for the recent past.

I'm not sure what the hell they're talking about.

Sure, I miss my university friends well enough. But with sleepovers and barhopping in abundant supply (see my posts for literally the entire month of September) and a blowout party scheduled two weeks from now in the Goldlands, it's not like those old comrades have exactly ridden off into the horizon.

The things that have been out of my life are a whole lot less laudable: courses and professors and freezing early-morning walks to chilly classrooms and a flu season that intersects perfectly with fall midterms. I suppose fall midterms are coming up, aren't they? It is October now.



Ah, the joys of being out.

Perhaps because I'm one of the few recent graduates to have embarked (I say embarked because I don't have a paycheck coming yet) on a promising career path, I have greeted the turn of seasons not with nostalgia for the glory days of '09 but with a feeling of glee not unlike a thief would enjoy after making off scot-free with your grandmother's jewels.

I get to have fall without exams. I get to have fall without studying. I get to have fall without homework. I feel like I'm stealing something.

It's so delightful.

And just in case I had any delusions that autumn could begin only with notebooks and satchels, the onset of cold weather was particularly early this year. School did not start anew, at least not for me, but the first week of September brought an unseasonable chill, the leaves duly commenced darkening, and, two weeks ago, I found my mother at the stove whipping up a batch of her famed chicken-noodle soup.


Fall had come after all.

That's not to say that all's been well this new season; work and money worries abound as always, and the other day I had an episode that can only be described as disturbing, one I've refrained from sharing here for fear of looking like a total lunatic.

But all in all things are better than they could be. The wonderful friends I made at university are still in my life, though their role is truncated. In a world of burger-flipping bachelor's-degree holders I'm neither unemployed nor working a menial service job. In time I will sell my projects and make my money and have a great deal more freedom than I do now.

In time.

The problem is, of course, hanging on until time decides to keep up its end of the bargain, and if I run out of money before time runs out of excuses then I will be in a fine pickle, indeed.

Anxiety aside, I'm trying to enjoy myself.

I love this time of year.


Monday, September 24, 2012

Quite the Weekend



When I graduated from Major University in December one of my biggest concerns was that my social life would die the moment I stepped off campus.

I needn't have worried.

Things have, to be sure, slowed down a bit from the freewheeling days when I spent my weekends organizing absurd "philosophy" parties, having long conversations in the dining hall about the threats posed by bloodthirsty pagans, and breaking into other people's apartments only to be welcomed into their drunken jamborees. But with a group of friends as large and consistently crazy as mine, things can't stay quiet for long.

I had, for the record, a very different weekend in mind. I was going to spend Thursday night at Laquesha's house and then, after a feel-good slumber party to cheer the friend who just broke up with her fiancé, return home for a quiet few days of movies and reading A Feast for Crows (the fourth book in the phenomenal A Song of Ice and Fire series, which, by the way, you should all go get).

Isn't it funny how God can rearrange our plans?

There I was all ready for a sedate weekend at home, and there He was laughing at my naivete and preparing a care package of Captain Morgan.

To be fair, none of this was intentional.

Laquesha and I were aiming to have a few drinks, certainly, but then we encountered the random black people whom her mother had, for no apparent reason, invited to stay, and by the end of the night a party was had.

I drove home on Friday afternoon with a pounding headache and a newfound resolution to abstain from liquor until I was thirty, never knowing that I'd fall under the shameful influence of Black Dress Girl a mere two days later.


Yes. This one.

Here's how this went. Black Dress Girl and I met up in Western City to have dinner and "a drink" while we caught up on each other's lives, namely her nasty encounter with her estranged father in Humid State.

"I'll have an orange cream," I told our young waitress. "And some of those loaded fries."

"I'll have a Long Island Iced Tea," Black Dress Girl said.

"What?" I asked.

"Load 'er up."

One drink down and Black Dress Girl was feeling mighty fine.

"You should join me, you know," she noted in between telling me about her stupefyingly insensitive parent.

"Wait, are you ordering another?"

"Um, yeah."

"Shit," I said, looking down at the half-eaten plate of food that I knew I wouldn't finish. "I'm not going to sit here and stare at you for twenty minutes."

"Well, then..."

"Fuck it."

About five minutes later I could not imagine why I'd objected to her idea.

The conversation flowed freely as I regaled her with Laquesha's love drama, revealed that my therapist believed I had minor bipolar disorder--"God, we're such perfect friends," she injected. "We're both fucking insane"--and vowed not to let her cats get my loaded fries this time around.

"Just don't bring them in my house," she said. "Because the cats are like fucking Terminators. They'll find them."

At Black Dress Girl's instigation we stopped in at a local bar instead of walking around to sober up, and after a Jägerbomb, a shot of liquor, a mixed drink, and a beer each we were quite the sociable couple.

"BB?" a waitress called out to me.

I turned around and the girl, a twenty-year-old Mountain Town native, jumped forward to give me a hug.

"Oh, my gosh, how are you?" she asked.

We talked about her new job, my brother, and our mutual friends before she excused herself to go back to work.

"Who was that?" Black Dress Girl wanted to know.

"A friend of mine from Mountain Town," I answered before surveying the bar. "Oh, no. You're not going to believe this."

"What?"

"I left my fries in the restaurant."

Black Dress Girl stared at me in silence for three seconds before throwing her head back and bursting into raucous laughter. I joined in and before long we were both sitting there, drunk into insensibility and perched on bar stools as we clutched our ribs and wiped the tears from our faces.

"This--this was a good idea," I conceded.

Such were my Thursday and Saturday nights.

Friday, in case you're wondering, was spent going out to the movies with Black Boy and his absurdly hot nineteen-year-old friend whose name is actually Adonis. Adonis. Come on. The fact that it fit so well only made it worse.

So that was my weekend. All in all, not a bad way to knock off a few days.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Best Friends and Sleepovers


When my parents went on vacation to Mountain Resort last month I had no intention of staying by myself in our isolated, 200-year-old farmhouse. Can you blame me? The last time I took that risk there was, after all, a natural disaster. The clear solution was to have a slumber party in my family's absence, and with my mother's blessing I invited Laquesha, who drove more than two hours to take part in the event.

Many of you will recall Laquesha as the freewheeling college friend who, upon meeting me for the first time, regaled me with the story of how she had blackout sex in front of a New Year's Eve party and who upon learning of my "Flickr page" insisted, "I want to have a black pseudonym! I want to be a black woman!"

That's her.



She's one of my closest friends and, fittingly, the only person featured on this blog who has ever chosen their own pseudonym. I allowed her to christen her boyfriend as well and she immediately dubbed him "Tyrone." He's Korean.

But for all her eccentricities Laquesha is a deep thinker, an unflinchingly loyal friend, and, above all, a very fun time.

"I haven't gotten this good and drunk in a while!" she declared with a happy hiccup as she took another swig of beer.

Norwegian, amused but stone-cold sober despite her row of empty beers, looked at us from across my kitchen table and shook her head.

"You two are...silly."


It works out for us, though.

In light of the way Laquesha and I met it is somewhat surprising that we have become as close as we are. We were introduced in 2009 through Red-Haired Friend, with whom I was but casually acquainted and whose friendship with Laquesha was only slightly more developed. All three of us were still university students at the time and Red-Haired Friend invited me on a whim to cook with her in her campus apartment.

That was it.

Laquesha would likely have remained a distant friend-of-a-friend but for the fact that she spent the summer of 2010 interning about ten miles from Mountain Town and, knowing no one else in the area, hung out almost exclusively with me for three months. By the time school was back in session we'd become so thick that Red-Haired Friend said she wouldn't be surprised if we'd developed our own language.

We know each other well

So when Laquesha called me on Saturday at one o'clock in the morning, I knew something was wrong.

"Hey, are you alright?" I asked as I shot a glance at Black Boy, with whom I was watching a movie. "I'm at a friend's house right now."



"Yeah, I'm not like, in danger or anything," she said. Her voice cracked. "But I broke up with Tyrone."

Tyrone was Laquesha's boyfriend of two years, a handsome math nerd who swept Laquesha off her feet while tutoring her in physics. They'd been engaged for nine months.

"Oh, my gosh, Laquesha, I'm so sorry."

I hopped off the couch and waved an apology at Black Boy as I walked into the next room.

"What happened?"

"He just blindsided me," she said. "He said he wasn't ready for marriage. After everything he said that he wasn't ready."

I understood her frustration.

Tyrone is a recently minted officer in the U.S. Navy who, conscious of the demands his career would place on him, proposed marriage to Laquesha in January so that she could accompany him from post to post and receive the military benefits to which an officer's spouse is entitled.

"I just don't know what the fuck to do," she'd told me at the time. "I mean, I'm twenty-three years old! I love him, but I never thought...I mean, we're so young."

In the end she asked herself if she really wanted to spend the rest of her life with Tyrone, and when the answer was yes she decided to make the sacrifice. Yes, she said, she'd marry him.



Sometime around the start of the summer, however, the tables turned and Tyrone became ambiguous about living arrangements, a wedding date, and even the marriage itself.

"I never wanted this," Laquesha told me in June. "But I love him and I'm willing to do it. Bottom line, I'm not following him across the country, moving from base to base, and having him be gone for six months at a time unless I have a commitment. I'm not."

"No," I replied. "Because if anything happens, you're fucked. If he dies you get no benefits, and if he just decides it's over then you're alone in a strange part of the country without any kind of income."

"Exactly," she concurred. "I won't do it."

The Laquesha I spoke with early Saturday morning was in shock.

"I went to his officers' school graduation in Small State," she said. "And then we drove back down to Southern State and spent the whole week together. It was great. But last night after dinner he sat me down on the bed and was like, 'I'm not ready for marriage. I can't be that selfless.'

"So I just put on my shoes and was like, 'We have nothing to discuss, then.'

"And then he started crying and begging me not to go. He said he still wanted to have a relationship and he still wanted us to live together. I was just like, 'I don't even know what you're asking me. This is over.' And I left."

"Honey, I am so proud of you," I said. "Really."

"Yeah," she said, suddenly breaking into tears. "And I didn't let him see, but it hurts so bad. I thought he was the one. I thought I was going to have his children."

After sniffling away her tears she spoke again.

"Listen, I know it's really far, but my grandmother is going away next week and it might be a perfect time for a sleepover. I mean, I don't want to trouble you--"

"Bitch, you know I got you like that."

Laughter came shaking through the weeping.

"Thanks. Can I Facebook you the address?"

"Sure. Which day works best?"

"Probably Thursday."

"Okay, then. I'll see you on Thursday."

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Magical Place


It seems clichéd to describe any place as "enchanted," but when I first entered the offices of Sentinel of the West Literary Agency I was hard-pressed to find a more fitting word. Mahogany bookshelves lined the walls, filled with titles the storied group had sold. A huge fireplace covered one wall, ready to roar on cold winter days beneath a huge oil portrait of the agency's founder. From the cinematic front window, which you can see above, the office looked down upon rolling hills and the Sentinel Bay. And then, of course, sitting in the center of the room looking like a duchess-turned-business-executive, was La Reine.

I originally introduced her here as Queen Agent, but I've decided to change it to La Reine, the French term for "the Queen."

She was, for one thing, the most impeccably dressed person I'd ever seen. Beyond that, she was a Francophile who spent half the year living in France, a fact that likely gave her aristocratic accent its vaguely foreign flavor.

"BB!" she said, grabbing my palm with her soft, delicate fingers. "So good of you to come out."

As if I'd popped in from down the street.

"Let's sit down, shall we?"



It is a testament to La Reine's great social graces that I felt comfortable around her within twenty minutes. Given the situation, I should have been much more ill-at-ease; I walked in, overdressed in a sports shirt and khakis amidst the women in their tasteful business-casual clothing, and suddenly realized with due gravity that I was sitting across a coffee table from one of the most influential individuals in publishing, a socialite-agent whose reputation was already towering before I was born.

"Hi," I answered with a lame attempt at a smile.

"So, you'll already know Agentess," La Reine gestured with her hand. "And this is Intern Woman, another of our interns."

"Hello," I nodded.

La Reine brushed through the formalities quickly.

"I want you to know that we've been very reluctant to bring people on in the past," she said, her voice almost stern. "We have a reputation we've worked hard to build and work harder to maintain. Because of that we must be very selective about whose name we put next to ours. It's essential for any new agent to be a team player."

Rather than trying to ham up La Reine with some slick professional act I probably couldn't have pulled off anyway, I decided to just go with pure honesty.

"That's kind of how I think it should be," I said. "You know, Agentess went out of her way to get me paid work while I was still an intern. And you've given me this huge opportunity, and neither of you had to do any of that. When someone goes out on a limb that for you it's not hard to want to help them back. And I would want that. I would want to do right by the agency."



I meant every word of it.

La Reine seemed satisfied with my answer, as she smiled and asked, "What kind of literature will you be looking for?"

"Oh, everything in the world," I said, a little too earnestly. "But mostly YA. Lots of YA. And historical non-fiction. And...other stuff."

La Reine smiled again.

"I think lunch would be the perfect venue to discuss this further. Let me call Le Garcon. He's on his lunch break."

La Reine probably couldn't have any more effectively made me feel welcome than by including me at a lunch with her 27-year-old son. The young man and I chatted while La Reine and Agentess grabbed drinks, and by the time the appetizers came La Reine felt less like a publishing-industry powerhouse and more like a friendly older neighbor.

A good way, I thought, to start off our professional relationship.



We arrived back at the office and when La Reine offered me coffee, then stepped in and made my drink because I couldn't figure out how to operate her expensive espresso machine, I was reminded of something that my late grandmother used to say: "If you really want to know the character of a man, BB, look not at how he treats his equals but at how he treats those who are beneath him."

La Reine was one of the biggest names in publishing. And she was asking me if I wanted cream and sugar.

Later that afternoon we discussed how to represent my first manuscript, with La Reine informing me we'd sell it "together" and split the royalties. What this means, of course, is that I will observe, La Reine will do the actual work, and I'll be allowed half of the credit and money. I was struck once again by how gracious my new employer was.

Beyond the job itself and the fact that I had quite possibly the coolest boss who had ever existed, I was thrilled with our physical office. Now, you must understand that the term "office" is a bit of a stretch in this case: La Reine, upon gaining control of Sentinel of the West Literary Agency, decided she wanted a new space and so literally built a house on a hill overlooking Sentinel Bay.


On my second day in Pacific State, Agentess and I walked into the office at around nine in the morning (quite briskly, too, considering that we had a night of tequila shots behind us) and I began rummaging through a cabinet looking for sugar to sweeten my coffee.

The item that caught my eye made me laugh just because it fit in so well.

"Agentess," I grinned, walking into the main room brandishing a coffee mug with a golden, diamond-studded handle. "If fabulous were a person, that person would be La Reine."

"I know," Agentess chuckled. "I have marveled over that cup many a time."


Before long my Pacific State trip was over and I was climbing on a plane headed east. Agenting, as I said in a previous post, is a commission-based job, and seeing as I won't make any money until my royalties begin to come in I'm staying put in Southern State for the time being.

I will, however, begin certain aspects of the job right away. My e-mail account is set up, I've already started receiving queries, and sometime this coming spring I will attend my first writers' conference (so to all of you bloggers who go them--get ready).

I'm excited and eager--and nervous. That trust fund won't last forever, after all. But whatever my reservations, I now have no choice but to press forward. It is at least a thrilling passage.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Best Boss Ever

"I think I'll just have a Coke," I announced.

"Oh, come on," the Queen Agent prodded. "Are you sure you don't want a glass of wine? It's eleven-thirty."

"Yeah, in the morning," I replied.

"All the same, my dear," expounded the Queen Agent as she downed a vintage red. "I don't want you to think we're lushes, though. We just like to drink."

My immediate spasm of giggles likely didn't send off quite the professional impression I'd been trying to convey, but the Queen Agent didn't seem to mind.

"The Agentess will take you out for dinner tonight," she proclaimed. "Tequila, I think."

And so we did.

"This is a special place for special people," the Queen Agent called as the Agentess and I left her exclusive office in City by the Bay.

"Oh," I responded confidently. "We're definitely special people."

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Departure


I leave tomorrow for the West Coast, where I'll finalize the terms of my employment with Sentinel of the West Literary Agency. It's difficult to believe that's actually happening.

When I started this blog in the spring of 2008 I was a nineteen-year-old college sophomore, and thus in all the time you've known me my story has been one of dormitory escapades and summer jobs and fights with my parents, in essence a chronicle of adolescence.

Yet in two days I will, after an eight-month internship and a five-and-a-half-year university tenure, begin my career. It's one of those steps that once taken is irreversible.

And I am so happy to put that foot forward.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Fortunate Days


I had my suspicions when I received the e-mail but I didn't want to read too much into it.

"Thanks, BB!" Queen Agent gushed. "This is so helpful! I really appreciate you! Hey, do you have a Facebook page or a blog?"

Now why would she want that? I wondered, but I sent the link along anyway.

"Thanks!" she responded. "The Agentess and I have been discussing your talents. She's going to call you."

It seemed, I suppose, an appropriate enough time for them to be having such a conversation; August marked my eighth month interning at Sentinel of the West Literary Agency, and I'd essentially just given notice of my intent to jump ship by asking the Agentess to write me a letter of recommendation. I was even, through grumbles and moans, preparing to spend the Fall in the City of Fate.

Apparently, though, it was not to be.

"So, BB," the Agentess said by way of greeting when she called me that evening. "You have quite impressed Ms. Queen Agent."

"Yay..."

"And she'd be willing to have you come on."

"What?"

"Come on. Like, be an agent. With us."

"What?"

Cue the shock.

"Agentess...wow."

"That's why she wanted a link to your Facebook page. So we could have a picture for our website."

"Um...wow."

I was surprised to the point that I said almost nothing, which she may have mistaken for a lack of enthusiasm. While I wasn't unhappy, I was definitely conflicted. Being a literary agent you see, is not your typical nine-to-five gig; your primary job function is to read books, you will never have to put any work into soliciting clients (they flock to you), and there's no particular reason to go into an office unless you just want to.

All of that is great. But some of the industry's quirks, such as the fact that most agents don't receive salaries but instead make commission on the books they've sold, aren't so awesome. The knowledge that I could go more than a year without my first paycheck was really daunting--and made me a whole lot more grateful for that trust fund.

"I understand that it can be rough," the Agentess said. "A lot of agents really struggle at first. But here's my advice: if you don't have anything better going on, take this opportunity. Queen Agent is really highly regarded in the industry and this is an amazing chance for you."

And that's honestly what decided me. Most of this job will consist of my doing what I've been doing already for the last eight months, with the sole differences that I'll now negotiate with publishing houses and be able to get paid for my finished projects. So what's there to lose? My modest trust fund affords me the unique opportunity to pour myself into this work, live without a paycheck for some time if need be, and spend less money than I would have as a Fall intern in the City of Fate. To me, it's a worthwhile investment. One that could yield huge dividends, by the way.

For while it may sound charmingly bohemian that I'm willing to live on pennies pursuing my love of literature, the reality of publishing contracts is not quite so artistic: 15% of a book's royalties go to the agent who represented the manuscript. In many cases a single bestseller is all it takes to fill an agent's bank account for a very long time.

So I'm excited to start my career in earnest. A week from today I will board a plane, likely in Native City, and fly across a continent to Sentinel of the West, the great lighthouse of the Pacific and now an open door to my future. I'm not moving just yet--that will come after I've made some money--but Queen Agent wants to meet me in person before I actually start.

And when I embark on the flight headed home, I will leave the West Coast as a literary agent. It's incredible to believe.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Brush

"BB, your mother is gravely ill. You need to come up here. Today."

I think I can be forgiven for at first failing to grasp the seriousness of the situation. Anne, after all, is known for hysteria in episodic bursts and melodrama in, well, everything, so the news of another illness did not strike me as worth, say, interrupting my lunch for.

I actually laughed when I got the voice mail message.

"BB," Anne croaked, her voice ragged and pitiable. "I'm in the hospital. Call me."

I tossed my head back and cackled, because it was just such an Anne thing to do. Call someone, inform them you've been hospitalized, and then offer no context whatsoever. For all I knew she could've had Ebola, and maybe that was the point. Several years ago she sent my brother into a panic with a frenzied voice mail about a "spot on her lung" that later turned out to be nothing but a bout of the recurring pneumonia that's followed her since she was a child. I figured it was more of the same.

"I bet she has pneumonia again," I told Thomas. "I bet that's what it is."

And I was right--in part.

"BB," Uncle Nose-Hair's voice came through the phone. I was speaking with him because Anne was physically unable to talk. "She's pretty bad. The doctor said that if they hadn't gotten her in here when they did she would have been dead by tomorrow morning."

"How is she now? Is it still life-threatening?"

"We're just not sure," he responded. "They've been trying to give her a CAT scan but she can't lie down on her back without suffocating. I think she's going to make it but it's not one hundred percent. This is really bad pneumonia."

So Powell and I are headed north, because whether she dies or not, and whether she's awful or not, it just feels indelibly wrong to let a very sick woman suffer alone in a hospital bed. And a part of me really hates myself for getting sucked back in, for letting myself be compelled once again to do something I don't want to on behalf of someone I really don't like.

But we're going.


Monday, July 30, 2012

Selected Entries: October 2004



In October 2004 I was sixteen years old and awaiting the final result of the presidential campaign whose progress I'd followed obsessively since the summer. As the month drew to a close my father smuggled me into a voting booth to cast an underage ballot for John Kerry and our family experienced the passing of Grand Ma Hick Family, the second death we'd endured since August. 




October 1, 2004


John Kerry was brilliant last night, doing better than even I would have thought. President Bush seemed irritable and immature, while John Kerry was calm, as if he was so far above petty bickering that Bush’s truthless rhetoric meant nothing to him. As numerous reporters (including some Republicans) remarked, Senator Kerry looked and acted very presidential, but President Bush did neither. 

The CNN and Gallup polls this morning showed that Kerry won the debate by 50%-60%. Bush, on the other hand, was thought by fewer than 40% of the people to have been the victor. Powell's American History teacher said that the final polls showed 70% believing that Kerry did better compared with roughly 30% for Bush. I don’t know if I believe that the numbers were quite that high, but one thing is indisputable: John Kerry emerged the champion. I only hope that he can win the election. 


October 6, 2004

I saw Michael Moore (a liberal civil liberties activist) give a speech last Saturday in which he offered Ramen noodles or underwear to anyone who would register to vote. It was so crazy and I was really glad Dad took me. 


October 7, 2004

My biological clock is hopelessly out of sync. Fall just doesn't happen here. I wake up every morning and vainly await the sight of golden leaves and the dash of chilling winds, the smell of timber and pine. Alas, fall, that glorious precursor to winter, journeys not into the tropical regions. It was about 80F today, and my whole soul ached. My mind ached, too, as I was pulled out of first period so that I could waste the entire day taking the state exam we must pass to graduate from high school here. It wasn’t challenging, just…stupid.


October 14, 2004

Today is our family's birthday! Anne and Grand Ma told me. Our family was founded in 1066 because of something that happened with a knight and a king, and people have marked the day ever since then. Apparently they're going to have some kind of celebration up in Independence City, but we're not doing anything here because that's Anne's family and Dad doesn't care. I think it's kind of cool, though. 

I subtracted 1066 from 2004 and saw that it makes 938 years. That's a long time for a family to be around. I wonder if someone 938 years ago looked like me?


October 15, 2004

I went to Alice’s house tonight and a bunch of people came over, among them Leia, Nichole, Kyle, Powell, Jack, and others. We were daring each other to make prank phone calls.

I made a first-rate prank phone call from Alice’s cell phone in which I stated, “I’m from Sears Electric. Is your refrigerator running?” 

“Yes.” 

“Well, you had better go catch it.” 

I went on to ask the man if the power outages had led him to have genital warts, at which point he hung up. 

I tried to prank call Perfect Cousin as a member of the Kerry Campaign since she LOVES politics, but she recognized me straightaway and then everyone started laughing and the whole thing fell to pieces. Perfect and I talked about a lot, especially her transition into college and the election. She said that college is very difficult but that she loves the independence. She advised me not to live at home while I go to school.  I agree. 

At the end of the conversation she said, “Happy 938th,” which I thought was funny.


October 17, 2004

I have to find a map of Germany in the 1400s or 1500s for AP European History. And it's impossible to find one. So random. 


October 23, 2004

Last night we all ambled about, finally going to the park. I opted to walk home alone in the rain, and I wound up stopping at the security guard’s little booth. Well, it’s not really a booth, more like a small building. She let me in, and I remarked that she had a cozy little arrangement. There’s a computer, a screen showing various images from security cameras, and a television with VCR, where she was watching It, appropriately enough. 

The girl on duty was a bubbly, twenty-year-old girl with long red hair, bright eyes, and a glowing face. I was just saying how scared I would be of someone sneaking up from the back of the booth when Alice did just that. I screamed like a little girl and they laughed so hard. I spoke a bit more with the guard (who turned out to be a pagan--who knew?) and then hurried home to watch the movie that we rented, The Day After Tomorrow.



October 26, 2004

["I Voted" sticker posted in journal]

It’s true, weirdly enough. I went with Dad to the polls today, and, after waiting in line for about an hour and a half, it was our turn. Dad told the election monitors that he couldn’t see well and needed my assistance, and so I got to go with him into the voting booth itself. 

And then I got to mark the ballot to select John Kerry as the next president of the United States. It was so awesome. 

I talked to Innocent Cousin and she said she's been praying for John Kerry to win. I have been, too. I just don’t understand how anyone can think of voting for President Bush after his blunders. His recent mistakes show dangerous incompetency, ineptitude so profound that it borders on truly life-threatening to the people of America. This man cannot be Commander-in-Chief.




October 29, 2004


My grandmother Hick Family has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and is going to die within two to four weeks. My mother came home today more emotional than I have ever seen her, crying all over the place. 


I hugged and her and asked what was wrong and she just cried more. She dug her hands into my shoulders and my shirt actually got wet from the tears. My father walked through the front door at that moment and I called out, “Dad!” He entered the kitchen, mouthing “What’s wrong?” 


I shrugged and he took hold of my mother. 


“What’s the matter?” he asked. 


“The cancer went from the size of a tennis ball to the size of two basketballs, and she has two weeks to live!” my mother screamed. She flung herself into my father’s embrace and her whole body convulsed. I wish I could do something to comfort her, something that would alleviate this terrible weight of despair.




October 30, 2004


Grand Ma Hick Family died today.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Quotes of the Week

In Black Dress Girl's car:

Black Dress Girl: "I'm so hot for her." 

Me: "I thought you weren't into chicks anymore."

Black Dress Girl: "I mean, there's nothing I want in my life more than an Asian with rainbow hair."


At my house:

Thomas: "Dude, you know you're like batshit crazy, right?"

Me: "I am not!"

Thomas: "BB, you run around the house screaming, 'My dick is on fire. Someone put out my man-torch.'"

Me: "Point conceded."

Thursday, July 26, 2012

When Bros Talk About Their Feelings

A good number of you commented on my last post wanting to know if I'd survived Friday night in my house of the undead. The answer is yes, but it was no thanks to Black Boy, who flaked and left me only my dogs to stand by my side while I faced the legions of the Underworld. 

As you can imagine I was rather peeved, even if I did come out of the thing alive the next morning. My irritation only increased the following day, when Black Boy blew off me and our friend Stocky Guy ahead of a planned bar excursion.

“Have you heard from Black Boy?” I asked when Stocky Guy answered his cell phone.

“I was actually just about to call and ask you that,” Stocky Guy answered. “I’ve tried him like three times and he won’t pick up.”

So Friday night was haunted and Saturday night was shot.

Men. So unreliable.

In light of all this I was in no mood for conversation on Monday morning when I strolled into the grocery store where Black Boy works.

“Hey,” he called out, friendly as a butterfly.

“Hey,” I regarded him coolly and walked past.

A quick glance at his confused face told me all I needed to know.

He really doesn’t get what he did, I thought. Otherwise he wouldn’t be looking at me like I just sprouted two heads.

The guilt then was pretty instant, but the check-out line wasn’t the place to deal with it. Instead I called him up after he got off of work.

“Hey,” I said.

“Hey, man, what’s up?”

“I’m sorry that I blew you off today.”

“It’s okay.”

“Do you get why?”

“Um…”

Okay. He’s a guy. You’re going to really have to lay it out.

“I was pissed off about this weekend.”

“Yeah, I know, man. I’m sorry. I just didn’t even have my phone on me.”

“But you knew that we were supposed to do stuff.”

“True. I mean, my girlfriend just wanted to hang out, you know?”

“And that’s fine. I’m not that friend who needs you to hang out with him all the time, and neither is Stocky Guy. It wouldn’t have bothered me that you couldn’t make it, but you just left both of us hanging. All you needed to do was call and say, ‘Hey, I can’t make it.’ That made me feel pretty shitty.”

“You’re right. I really am sorry.”

“It’s good. But, hey, I have to run.”

“Alright, man. I’ll talk to you soon.”

“Later.”

Black Boy turned to Thomas, who was with him when I called.

“Well,” he told my brother. “I might have fucked up.”