Eyeballs

Also, today I am going to the retina specialist. I’m freaked out. Everything will be fine. But I’m still freaked out.

I think this is a matter of how we approached going to the doctor when I was young. You went when shit was wrong. So, even though this is completely routine and, in fact, I’m going now, before things go wrong, so that he can watch and catch things before they go really wrong, I’m still freaked out about it like there’s a problem.

I had my mom write up what happened to her and how she came to have to get shots in her eyeballs. And it appears that the thing wrong with my mom is the thing the guy I’m seeing has written a book about. He’s literally written a book on my mom’s condition. Which makes me feel like I’m seeing the right guy if I’d like to avoid having needles put in my eyeballs.

Also, I stupidly told my parents they didn’t need to come down and take me to this appointment, because I am a grown-ass woman. But now, since the Butcher’s car is still sitting in a lot on Trinity Lane waiting for the arrival of its new engine, of course he has a job interview at the exact same moment I am having a medical appointment that will leave me unable to drive home.

Luckily, our friend is going to drop him off at the doctor’s office. But it’s just kind of a logistical headache.

Incoherent Thoughts about Jimmy Page

I won’t watch Woody Allen movies. I don’t intentionally listen to R. Kelly. Michael Jackson, who played such a formative part of my youth, is out.

I still listen to Led Zeppelin.

Which is why, really, I’m not going to look down on you for listening to R. Kelly.

Here’s the thing. I don’t think you can seek social justice through elaborate rule-writing and prohibition-enacting. Yes, in part, it’s the change/exchange problem. Deciding our problems are solved by careful enactment of proper rules of behavior means someone gets to put herself in charge of those rules of behavior. But, more than that, in terms of changing people’s minds, rule-making short-circuits that. It puts in place a practice rather than a change.

(I’m trying to thread a needle here, so let me be clear that I think rule-making serves many a useful purpose, especially in terms of drawing and maintaining healthy boundaries.)

But what I mean is that, I don’t think “If you’re a feminist, you don’t watch Woody Allen movies” is a useful thing for feminists. Sure, it gives a way to police all feminists and make sure that they’re “following the rules,” which, sure, we can disguise as “being supportive enough of victims” but really, it’s just about keeping other women’s behavior in check. “How can a feminist watch a Woody Allen movie?” once you get over the initial “with her eyes” part, is a useful question.

“How can I keep listening to Led Zeppelin, knowing what I know?” is a hard question. But a useful one.

I don’t, honestly, give a shit at this point if people think I’m a good feminist. I am, at best, an imperfect ally. And I’m not interested in signaling to others that my politics are right and getting the signal back from them that they have found my politics acceptable, because I just can’t get over the feeling that it’s a lie, a performance.

I care that, when I settle down in my bed at night, and it’s just me and my thoughts, that I can make sense of and make peace with my thoughts.

Last night, some twitter account started just to harass my friend tweeted at him and me and this other dude about what’s it like to know your wife is sleeping with a murderer. I tweeted back that I was shocked to learn my wife was cheating on me.

So, here’s the thing. I still don’t know how to deal with this. Do I still consider myself his friend? Yes. What does that mean for my friendships with folks who are directly impacted by his behavior, because they now, still, have to deal with the fall out from this? I don’t know. I feel weird about it.

But being tweeted at by an anonymous account didn’t make me feel ashamed to be found associating with him or something. Which I think was supposed to be the intended outcome. It made me feel like I’m already lumped in with the bad guys, so fuck wrestling with how to be a good guy. Which, I have to tell you, in this case, would be a mighty convenient way to view the situation.

I just don’t think it’s the right way. I don’t know if there’s a right way.

I guess the thing I’m trying to get at is that, for me, in all these cases, there’s a line, a moment when you’ve gone too far and you can’t get back to your familiar shore, so you have to stake out some new position. Like, you kind of knew about the Woody Allen thing, but you didn’t really pay too much attention, and you loved his movies, but then, maybe, you read Dylan Farrows account and it just rang true. And maybe you read all the other counter-arguments, hoping that they’d convince you that you could, once more, feel okay about watching Woody Allen movies, but they all seemed to be making excuses or missing the point.

And that’s it. This thing you loved? You can’t love it easily anymore.

Someday that’s going to happen to me about Led Zeppelin. Maybe it will be when one of my friends has a 14 year old daughter and I have to stare right in the face of how young that is. Or maybe it will come when my niece turns 14 and I try to imagine what it would be like to learn some rockstar asshole had his roadie kidnap her so that he could rape her.

I don’t know. Putting it that way, it makes me wonder if today might be the day, when one of their songs comes up on shuffle and I don’t say “Wow,” but instead say “Yuck.”

And, you know, fuck Jimmie Page for that.

Stories

One of my favorite things about Nashville is how easy it is to get someone to tell you a story. You just give them a little push and off they go, telling you something interesting. Yesterday, I had to go to the store because I forgot chicken broth and I was telling the guy who was checking me about about how I never can remember the difference between chicken broth and chicken stock and I always send the Butcher to the store for the wrong thing. And he told me about a guy they had in the other day who was buying four gallons of milk and five boxes of Jello among other things and the checker caught a glimpse of his list and realized that the guy’s wife had numbered her list–”F. gallon of milk. 5. Jello”–but dude was reading the numbers as an amount. and they could not talk him out of his mistake.

So, I know this guy who shares the last name with a minor character on True Detectives. It’s a pretty distinctive Louisiana name, so every time it comes up on the show, I have this moment where I’m like “Now, how would she be related to K.?” So, I asked him whether he’s watching the show and if it’s weird to have someone with his name on it. And he said that there was only one original guy with that name, so, even if he couldn’t understand why her family has been living that far below Lafayette, she must be one of them, because everyone with that name goes back to that one guy.

I love this so much. I mean, I love the ways fact and fiction can blur (in fun ways, not in distressing ways) and I love a kind of largesse that says “everyone, real and imaginary, with our name is ours.”

But I think it’s a similar thing–this idea that you have to be prepared to meet narrative with narrative, that people are telling stories and you best be ready to tell one right back.

My family is good at story-telling in some ways. I mean, we can tell a mean story, even a demonstrably untrue one, with the best of them. But we have trouble inhabiting a space it’s so easy to fall into down here–where everyone is kind of bullshitting (I mean, four gallons of milk? Really? I don’t know.) for the sake of amusing each other

Sometimes, when I meet new people, I think that I talk too much. I don’t know how to be quiet with you until I know you. But it’s also that I enjoy telling stories and I have this impulse that, if I tell you a great one, maybe you’ll turn around and tell me one even better.

Not an Excuse, But…

So, I have a friend, or, I guess, you can work with a dude for a year and drink with him regularly and now he’s not a friend, but just some guy you used to know in the course of a “full disclosure.” Saying he’s only someone I used to work with seems, to me, in my case, disingenuous. I liked the shit out of him and have cheered for him at various stages in his career. On the other hand, when he came through town last and saw his “friends from the Scene,” I wasn’t among the people he tried to get together with, though he apologized later, which is how I found out he’d been in town at all. So, that’s, I guess, the accurate assessment of our friendship. We kind of keep track of each other and I’ve been excited to see where his career might go.

So, here’s also the thing. He fucked up. Badly. And now a person is dead.

But, here is also the thing. As much as I read his story and imagined with growing horror what he was doing and what that would mean if he were writing about someone I knew–what if this were my friend V. instead of just some stranger?–I read his story and imagined with growing horror whether I would have written that story that way. And the thing that I keep coming back to is this: I’m not sure. Maybe not in this particular case. Maybe, if the circumstances were that I found out that a person I was investigating for a story about golf clubs was transgender and really, really didn’t want that to come out, I might back off. Maybe I might be smart enough to ask around about how best to handle the situation. Especially if I knew she’d tried to commit suicide before.

But I write about Scott DesJarlais regularly, about what a fucking tool he is. And I know he was suicidal at one point (I mean, say what you want and claim you knew the gun was empty, but sitting around with the barrel in your mouth does not make you non-suicidal) and I know he didn’t want the fact that he’d pressured his girlfriend into having an abortion to come out and I jumped right on the dog pile.

It’s supposed to be better because he chose to be a public person and he’s a vile jackass, but is it? I’m not sure.

I’m also not sure because I think a lot of writing–in my case, a lot of blogging–is pretty formulaic. I think, in fact, people’s own narratives about themselves are pretty formulaic (hence why Tarot cards work). And the whole “scrappy reporter sticks it to the rich and powerful” is a pretty strong narrative. It’s at the heart of the phrase I’ve seen bandied about against my friend–Afflict the comfortable, comfort the afflicted. I feel fairly certain that this was the strong, simply narrative at the heart of the urge to uncover this woman’s fraud (let me be clear: about her education and credentials). How dare you, rich and powerful person, try to pull one over on the public?

But it’s at the point that the simple narrative falls short that I feel uncertain. If you discover that your framework for the story is the wrong one–that this isn’t a powerful person fucking over the unwitting–how certain are you that the other simple shorthand ways you have for explaining the situation are workable, not outdated, not so bloody fucking violent? I’ve known my friend a long time and we’ve had a lot of discussions about writing and justice and sticking it to The Man. And it would have never occurred to me that, sitting in his writerly toolkit, unused but waiting in case he needed it, was “trans women are unstable frauds.”

So, I kind of don’t know how to process that. And, frankly, obviously, that’s not just a narrative he had on hand, ready to snap it into place when the story he was telling became strange to him, but one his editors also saw and thought seemed plausible and fine.

I feel kind of disjointed and incoherent about this. But I’ll just say this. A lot of the discussion of this story is about how my friend is some obvious villain. But I am certain that, if anyone reading this had sat down and had a beer with him before this happened, you’d find a guy you liked, a guy you thought was on your side.

And I get why everyone is all “Oh, not me! I would never…” But I just don’t believe it. And, in part, I don’t believe it because I would have believed my friend when he said something similar (and, in fact, as people have pointed out, he pretty much did when talking about the Kellers).

I feel like saying “Oh, not me! I would never…” is a lie. For me, anyway. I feel pretty certain I’d never write about a trans woman this way or go around outing her to her acquaintances. But I’m not certain I’d never fuck someone over in my writing as badly as my friend fucked over this woman. I’m especially not certain because I know I think there are a lot of people who deserve to be raked over the coals. I mean, who cares if fucking DesJarlais has some nights of discomfort?

I don’t know. I don’t really have a point. A woman is dead. And my friend seems to obviously have contributed to that death. And everyone else seems so angry and certain that this is beyond what a decent person would do. And yet, I know my friend and I’d call him a decent person. So, that certainty scares me.

Lucky

The way in which I’m most fortunate in my life here in Nashville is that I have friends that, when I’m like “I am in complete chaos and I don’t know what I’m doing,” are like “I will meet you at 1:30 and pull you through your own shit.”

Everything Changes, But Not as Quickly as You’d Like

I’m a little money ahead going into the new year, so of course my check engine light has come on and both my fridge and my water heater seem to be leaking. I’d be bummed, but I have to admit, I feel really lucky that I got a little money ahead before this stuff happened. Though I was also hoping to set it aside to print the children’s book. Which, I’m hoping, is not going to be that expensive. I don’t know. Ugh. But excited ugh.

The trouble with signs and omens is that I never know how to read them. But I’d like to take this as a sign that the year of things I feel ambiguously about is over, from one dead of winter to the next.

My friend, S., has been waiting to hear about three things and yesterday, she found out that all three things are happening for her.

And the person who is reading the Ben & Sue project keeps emailing me just to tell me that she likes it so far and it makes me feel like maybe this will be the year I find an agent.

Mud

I couldn’t walk this morning because it was so muddy under the thin layer of snow. But I did stand back by the creek for a while and watch the water go by. One of my co-workers wants me to adopt a dog she knows. She doesn’t mean it this way, but I feel like she just wants me to solve a problem she has–since I have pit bull experience. I looked up dogs at animal control and found that I was clicking on all the black and white ones to see their pictures. So, that’s where my heart is. Nothing yet about the lab. That’s also the funny thing about people–they need decisions from you so quickly, but they move slower than you can stand when the time comes.

One of my long-time friends has had a professional disappointment the likes of which kind of stops me short. I thought the problem was solely him not getting the support he needed from group a, but really, it’s that group b–a bunch of people who are all our friends and who have previously had a professional relationship with said friend–kind of forgot about him. In other words, if group b had offered their support to him, the ways that group a didn’t come through for him would have mattered much much less. But b was awol.

So, even though he’s done this good, interesting work, it kind of doesn’t matter. Or, at least, if it’s going to matter, it’s going to happen in a way that can’t be mapped out and counted on.

I guess the thing I think is that I do such a shitty job of letting the people I genuinely care about know that I care about them and spend enough time with them. And it’s scary to think of how important it is to show up and hang out with people you don’t necessarily like and who don’t necessarily like you just so that you are a person for whom shit gets done.

One of the Ways I’m a Terrible Person

When I was a kid, an adult did something shitty to me. Not like life-shattering betrayal of trust shitty, but just ordinary shitty. The kind of ordinary shitty, though, that kind of ruins a little bit of being a kid for you. Like “Oh, this person is just pretending to be nice and pretending to be friends with these other adults, but really, she’s a liar who is deliberately doing things to undermine the people who think she’s their friend.” Until her, I didn’t really understand that grown-ups would lie. I thought they might not always tell the truth, but it was just because they didn’t know what the truth was, not because they had some agenda that was furthered by just trying to fuck things up for people.

Anyway, something terrible has happened to her community. She is fine. But I saw her on the news, hugely upset, going on about how she and the members of her church were staying late to help the victims of this terrible thing, because they’re Christian and that’s what they do.

And I felt this kind of rage burn through me so quickly and then burn out and then I laughed. And I realized I was laughing because she was so upset and scared and miserable.

I would like to be a more forgiving person. Not for the sake of the people who have wronged me. But just for my own sake. But I hadn’t thought about this woman in a million years. Isn’t that the benefit to moving away? Folks go on with their lives. You go on with yours. And you don’t have to give a shit about each other anymore. If you’d have asked me yesterday morning about her, I think I would have had to struggle to bring her to mind. My first memory of her would not have even been the shitty thing, but the really awesome thing she’s well-known for in the community (which I’m not mentioning, because it would, I think, make her immediately recognizable).

I didn’t know, in other words, how pissed and hurt I was still by her. Yesterday morning, if you had asked me if I had forgiven her. I would have laughed and said yes, of course. That was so many years ago. And I would have believed it.

But seeing her face. It just opened up some part of me I didn’t even know was walled off. And there I was “Ha ha, this time it sucks to be you.” And it felt good to see her crying.

So, here is my question. If you design an interior space in your psyche that lets you navigate life with as little continuing trauma as possible, if you just wall off the unpleasant shit you have no way of resolving and learn to maneuver around the spot you just don’t use any more so deftly you even forget it’s there, and you base your ideas of yourself on the interior that no longer includes those walled-off spots, how can you truly know you’ve moved beyond something? That you’ve truly forgiven someone? If the wall is there, just waiting to crumble, how can you ever, really, move beyond old hurts?

The Curious Case of the Butt Pat in the Night

Now that I’ve got all of Memphis pissed at me (for those of you keeping track, that’s fans of Gail Kerr, mid-century modern architecture enthusiasts, Methodists, and now Memphis folks), it brings to mind my favorite story.

A million years ago, my friend B., was in college in Memphis and I went to visit her. She lived in a big old mansion in a really run-down part of town. It was her and like ten or fifteen other art students and theater majors.  She was the only one I knew, though.

So, we went to bed and I fell asleep and after a while, there was a tapping on my butt. I looked over at B. but she was fast asleep. Clearly not her. So, I made the reasonable assumption anyone in my situation would make. This must be the time of night everyone who wants to switches partners. And here I was, being called on to be a gracious guest to someone else in the house. I pretended to be asleep and not notice. The tapping on my butt continued.

And I got to mulling it over. I mean, fuck it, right? I’m in Memphis, with a bunch of arsty-fartsy interesting people. So, okay, I guess let’s do this.

I sit up.

It’s her damn cat. There is no exciting debauchery the likes of which would scandalize my parents. It’s just the cat for whatever cat reasons tapping on my butt.

The New Afghan May Be Salvagable

I think the trick is going to be adding borders until it’s the right size. It is really pretty, but I’ll have to take a picture of the back and show you guys how hilarious it is. I mean, you all know how much I hate to tuck ends and I have made an afghan that requires tucking at the end of every single row.

I’m going to make an afghan for the Red-Headed Kid next. Fittingly, he wants it to be red.

I finished entering corrections into the manuscript. I’m going to give it  read-through when I have some quiet time and then send it to nm. I have–as you’ve probably noticed–really mixed feelings. When I’m reading the manuscript, I feel caught up in it, like, yes, this works. But when I’m just thinking about it, all I can do is fret and feel like it doesn’t, in some fundamental way, work. It may be that I’m just not there yet. I might not yet be the writer who can write that book.

But I don’t know. Maybe, also, I’m looking for an excuse to chicken out because the next part–sending it out to try to find an agent and getting rejected over and over and over again sucks so bad.

I think I may have managed to salvage the cooking pot of my grandmother’s I thought I ruined by burning beef stew in it. But I took oven cleaner to it last night and it seems to have finally gotten the carbon off the bottom.

Oh, and this will be exciting. My dad is planning on him and my mom going to Thanksgiving down at my brother’s. He doesn’t think that the Butcher and I can come, because they don’t have a table. So, the questions this raises are as follows. 1. Does my dad not realize that my brother is going to try to sucker him into getting my youngest nephew in North Carolina and bringing him down? 2. How much do you want to bet that he has NOT said that out-loud to my mom, because you know she would throw a fit at the idea of us not being made welcome at Thanksgiving? 3. How long between that phone call and another phone call in which my dad, having endured the “What the fuck”ing of my mom, makes plans for us to join them on Thanksgiving? 4. Do we want to join them? I don’t know. I do want to see that baby, though. And I don’t get to see my nephews often enough. And what are the holidays for if not being too cramped in inadequate places while people fight?

Tonight’s story is kind of how I imagine Coble’s childhood would have gone, had she been a witch.

Kindness in all Places

NM and I went to lunch where I proceeded to fret about the dog and my ability to a.) judge when the time comes and b.) afford it because of some fucked up shit that I’m too angry about to go into. We’re a ways away. But it’s clear we’re talking months, if not weeks, instead of the wonderful years we had before us.

And, as I said to her, I just don’t want to fuck it up. As I’ve said to y’all.

And the woman at the table behind us came over and said that she’d overheard what we were talking about and wanted me to know it would be okay, that I would know when it was time.

And then we went to JJ’s where there was a pit bull puppy waiting on its owner and I wondered that Mrs. Wigglebottom had ever once been so tiny and then I let the puppy give me a million kisses and everything did, indeed, seem like it would be okay.

The Fourth Graders!

They were wonderful. The other two authors were amazing. I think they liked my story fine.

But they were super-impressed to learn that I’d published A City of Ghosts myself.

“Then how did you get edited?”

“My friend, Kristin, did it.”

“Who took the picture?”

“My friend, Chris.”

“But who made the cover?”

“My friend, Beth.”

“Yeah, but look inside. You couldn’t do that.”

“No, my friend, Samantha did.”

“Wow.”

They were blown away. It was pretty awesome.

The Difference Between the Side for Shaking and the Side for Spooning is Substantial

Here’s how I remember my first (or maybe second) Thai meal. One time I ate Thai with Coble and Sarcastro and another time I ate it with JR and Elias. I just can’t remember which order.

Anyway, I was in Colorado for work. But I was hanging out with JR and Elias in my spare time. We went to this little Thai restaurant and Elias ordered everything hot. I remember the waitress trying to dissuade us. I remember it being delicious. And then I remember my eyes watering and snot involuntarily running down my face and my skin melting off the back of my head and all my whole upper body just disintegrating into a beacon of fire. Viggo Mortensen saw me from a distance and was like “Crap, are they filming another Lord of the Rings without me?” Hunter S. Thompson came by our table. He was riding a cheetah named Betty Grable. The ghost of Jerry Garcia was wearing a tutu and singing “Sugar Magnolia” while my arms turned to jelly. The cooks from the back room came out to laugh at us. I started speaking in tongues. In the language of angels, I predicted the world would turn into a giant bread pudding. How many lifetimes did we sit at that table? How did we get home? Did we really dance down the aisle at someone else’s wedding set-up at the Stanley Hotel or was that part of dinner?

I have no answers.

But I was reminded of that experience a little bit last night, because I made stir-fry for dinner. I marinated the skirt steak in Coke, as is my new favorite trick, and I meant to add a few shakes of red pepper. But my stupid hand shook two or three times before my stupid brain realized that the flap on the red pepper flakes I had open was not the one with three holes for shaking on your pizza but the one with one, big gaping maw, which no one ever needs, ever.

It wasn’t as hot as hallucinatory Thai, by any stretch. But it was hot enough to make my teeth feel strange in my mouth.

And delicious.

 

Luck

Yesterday was weird. And I was feeling like I don’t know how to get where I want to go. Like here’s me, trying as hard as I can, and there’s what publishable writing looks like and I don’t know how to get from here to there.

The Professor called me and she said, and I’m paraphrasing, that it’s time for me to stop pretending things are within my control, which is what she thinks my constant fantasy of “just needing to get better” is about.

All the things I want to happen aren’t happening because of something I’m doing wrong. And, if only I can figure out what I’m doing wrong, all my dreams will come true.–that’s the fantasy.

It kind of took me aback to hear this, because that is my fantasy in so many realms of my life. But I forget and then get surprised to discover that I’m saying it to myself about the thing I’m fretting over at the moment.

She says it’s time for me to accept that I need, also, to get lucky. I am a good writer. People enjoy my stories. Yes, of course, I should strive to be better at my craft, but I’m also at a place where I’m not getting rejected because I necessarily am not good enough as a writer, but more because I’m just trying to find an editor who likes it and thinks his or her audience will, too.

Personal preference.

Not talent at this stage.

I’m having a kind of hard time accepting that. I want to be universally loved, or hated for things I can control. But it feels true. So, I’m going to sit with it a while.

And Then There Was Yesterday Evening…

Every once in a while, I stumble across mentions of A City of Ghosts that I just don’t even know what to do with. Someone saying something about how she loved this turn of phrase or someone else talking about how the only thing she wants to do is dip back into it. And it makes me feel so, not even proud, something bigger than proud. I feel so humbled and amazed. I mean, I expected people I knew to buy it and I hoped people I didn’t know would buy it, but to hear people talking about it like they love it–and not for my benefit–just makes me feel like the luckiest person ever. It makes me feel like I made something bigger than me, that can go on without me.

Anyway, I got home and made dinner for the Redheaded Kid and the Butcher. My lawn was mowed and my kitchen was cleaned. The Butcher tried to act like he’d done it, but I think we all know the truth! The Red-Headed Kid is our brownie! And we were all watching TV and the Red-Headed Kid was like “God damn it, Betsy. Your house is so full of ghosts that, if you sit still for longer than five seconds, you freeze to death.” Then he pulled a blanket around him.

“It’s not that cold in here,” I said.

“Because the spirits like you.”

I think I’ve finally become the creepy person I always hoped I would be.

Project X: The Dinner

There’s lots about Writing that they don’t tell you. Actually writing is a craft–a mix of creativity and just sitting your ass down every day to do the work–and you can learn it and become better at it. It’s often hard, but you can look back and say “Okay, I was there in my skills and now I am here.” And you can find plenty of advice for how to do that and become better at it. Hell, you can go to school for it.

But there are two realms associated with writing in a larger sense that you are kind of stuck working out for yourself. The first is how and where to sell shit. This is when knowing other authors who work in your genre is critical, because you know some stuff and they know some stuff and you can pool experiences. And someone can read your story and say “Well, damn, you should send this to [x]” and you may never have heard of [x] but then you spend an afternoon reading the magazine and, yep, wow, you’d love to be published by them. Or someone may say “I think you have to send it to [y] because who else is publishing things that long and experimental?” Even when you’re sure there’s no fucking way [y] is ever going to publish you.

The other is not just who to ask to beta read but when. This is something I’m still feeling out. But I had a group of readers look at Project X back in January and, wow, I got good, helpful insights from them and we fixed some problems, especially a voice problem the last two stories had. Then the head of the project read it and we added a romantic bit and reworked the ending some. And it felt “done.” Pretty much.

So, I asked K. to look at it. Then I had her and C. over for dinner last night to talk about what she was thinking about the project. And not only was it amazing–she hit on something with one of my stories that I kind of felt was a problem (and other readers had indicated was a problem) but I couldn’t figure out how to fix it and she had this fabulously simple idea (I mean simple in the sense of being straight-forward, non-convoluted, and works in the space without a lot of rejiggering) that I just wouldn’t have come up with. Obviously. Or I would have.

And it made me realize that this process of who reads it when is also kind of a crap-shoot of lucky fortuity. How do you get people to read it in the right order so that you can build on their suggestions? I think one thing I’m starting to figure out is that you don’t need, say, six people to read the same draft. What you need are two people to read what you think is going to be a final revision and then two people to read the next thing you think is going to be a final revision and so on. You don’t want all your beta readers to be reading the same draft, though you want to send them something as final as you know how to make it.

Anyway, for dinner, I served roasted grapes as an appetizer, my favorite brussel sprout dish (once again, thanks for that), and my apple pie. It went swimmingly. They seemed to love everything, not only in words, but in eating it! So, maybe I need to start playing host more often.

And by more often I mean at all. Other than my family, I can’t remember the last people I cooked for.

Gone to California

I saw the Professor at her Nashville apartment for the last time yesterday. I was bummed the whole way over, but then it was just a bunch of us hanging out in her apartment and it was nice and fun. I consider this a testament to the Professor that her going away gathering was less “Oh, we’ll miss you so much!” and more like people seeing off a ship.

Still. Ugh. Where are our transporter beams?

I could much more easily stand the Professor and the Butcher being in California if it still meant the Butcher and I watched Batman cartoons together or the Professor and I went and got coffee and shat the shit.

I guess Skype is supposed to kind of make up for this shit.

Ha ha ha. You know, a few years back I went and saw JR and Elias in Denver and we went up into the mountains and I thought I was going to die. I had to shut my eyes and, when we got to the highest point, I begged them to leave me and told them my parents would understand because I couldn’t go any further. (Note: My dad did actually understand.) The winding roads, the sheer drop-offs right next to those roads, the feeling like there just wasn’t enough between you and the sky. If I had been born 200 years before now, my ass would still be sitting in New York with the Phillipses who didn’t go anywhere, because fuck that shit.

But I was also thinking about this part of it. How in the hell did you pack up your beloved sister or your kid and put them in a wagon heading west knowing you probably would never hear from them again?

I get texts from the Butcher all the time. I will get regular phone calls from the Professor. I will see the Butcher at holidays. Once the financial stupidity is passed, I can go visit the Professor easily and then go see Dr. J and her baby and, hell, the Butcher while I’m making my grand tour of California.

And I still want to just never leave my bed! And I am the product of my ancestors. Is there a whole series of stories I’ve missed about the aunts of my ancestors who just then laid by the fire for the rest of their lives, back home, once the boat sailed?

The Red-Headed Kid Had a Birthday!

The Red-Headed Kid is mowing my lawn. It’s awesome because it means Mrs. Wigglebottom gets a visitor once a week, which I can tell just delights her. But it bums me out because I don’t actually get to see him except for like the five seconds when he arrives before I leave.

Anyway, he turned twenty-eight on Monday and he’s having a hard time of it. As you might imagine. Since I’m sure, no matter how much you’re like “Oh, I’m not going to die at thirty now!” it’s probably very hard to get that deadline out of the back of your mind. It becomes a number around which a lot of psychic energy gets expended.

He told me that he’s having a hard time, too, because he realizes he’s going to have to come up with some long-term plans, or goals, or just something to work toward, and, really, he’s never had to do that before.

I didn’t have any good advice for him. I tend to flounder. It goes with my wallowing. I mean, practically, they’re the same motion, just one is less fun.

But then something becomes unbearable–for me it was the thought that I wasn’t going to at least try to be a writer–and you do it because not doing it sucks worse.

Lucky for folks who get that feeling early, I guess. But you can’t time it.

Surprises from The Red-Headed Kid

The Red-Headed Kid came by yesterday to mow my lawn, after we broke the gas can trying to figure out how to undo the child-proof nozzle. It is indeed child-proof. Good job, gas-can manufacturers. It’s now also broken and useless. Oops. Glad there was another gas can then.

Anyway, he started mowing and I went to work. Then like at 1:30, he called to say he was done mowing and that he’d run the dog out and was now leaving. And I was like “Christ Jesus, did it take him five hours to mow the lawn?” Because I’m not sure I want to spend five hours on a lawnmower should the task ever fall to me.

But I came home and found he’d eaten a pork chop (but not any asparagus, which is his loss), left a bunch of Gatorade in the dining room, watched some TV and, I’m guessing by the towel in the bathroom, taken a shower.

All things that are fine. And he is more than welcome to do any of those things in my house as often as he wants. Hell, especially if he’s going to mow my lawn for nothing.

But it still startled me when I got home, to see all this evidence of someone else, going about his ordinary day in the house, coming and going, and doing things.

It made me miss the Butcher.

But the best part was how happy it made the dog. From her perspective, she had a visitor. The Red-Headed Kid appeared when no one else was home, and hung out with her, and then left. And she was exhausted when I got home, but happy, and that made me happy.